Tag Archives: Jr

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Always and Forever

10 Apr

In honor of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. who was taken from us 50 years ago. All I can say is this:

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARTIN

 

50 years

like yesterday

motel. balcony. sky.

remembrance of reading book

was it elementary school when

I turned pages

got queasy from

birds-eye view of crew cut

blond bristles exposing pale skull

eye glasses, gun rising

hands up don’t shoot

didn’t see it coming

except night before

you intimated

we’d have to

go on without you

but how

when you led us

mountaintop full of hope

dashed

thine eyes have

seen the glory

dashed

grateful, reverent

reverend king

dream not deferred

dashed

what would you preach today

what salve soothes

seeing arms not linked, but

not german shepherds

hoses spraying in selma, but

hands up don’t shoot

 

instead: teargas, tanks, rubber bullets

over ferguson

bodies of young men,

boys, women

falling from balconies

armed with dreams

of living while

walking while black

dreams of

not being

pulled over

felled not by

officers with dogs

but officers with real bullets

now you have birds-eye view

you see the voices of

the unheard

rise up

once again

you see fannie

pass the baton to

alicia, patrisse, opal

you see your principles

in action in streets

across this make

america great again nation

and see the jail letter

still holds water

salt water tears

stream down cheeks

us missing you martin

live on everlasting promise of

promised land

I promised you

I wouldn’t forget

and told my daughters

to promise

to remember

when they march

the streets

arms linked

with fellow students

so that one day

your dream for them

comes true

 

A Tip Of The Hat And A Fist Raise To All The Anti-Racism Activists Past, Present, and Future

23 Dec

freedom-project-photo-w-text-web

light-brown-raised-fistI want to give major props to all the activists out there fighting the good fight. The good, hard, exhausting, frustrating, dangerous fight against racism. Personal racism. Systemic racism. Institutional racism. Jim Crow racism. The New Jim Crow racism. And every other kind of anti-Black racism in-between.

See, I’m like a baby taking its first steps when it comes to learning what it means to organize, to march, to protest, to take concrete political action to fight against racism.  Before this year, the only two things I could put on my activist’s resume was […]

Sadly, A Still Timely Encore: The Every 28 Hours Plays and Community Response Plays at Trinity Repertory Company

20 Oct

e28hours-2016-2

Every 28 Hours PlaysIt didn’t matter to me that I had already seen The Every 28 Hours Plays at Trinity Repertory Company last October.  I wanted to see them again.

Trinity Rep actor, Joe Wilson, Jr., was one of a group of fifty actors, playwrights, artists and activists invited to be part of the non-profit organization, The One-Minute Play Festival’s, Every 28 Hours Plays project. All fifty went to Ferguson, Missouri a year after the young, unarmed, black teen, Mike Brown was killed by a white police officer , and met with […]

Reading Debby Irving’s, Waking Up White

13 Feb

In Waking Up White: And Finding Myself In The Story Of Race author Debby Irving gives us a window into her journey of self-discovery, and her new found awareness of how her whiteness had shaped her ability to achieve success,  as well as her perspectives on race, racism and race relations.

Part memoir and part history lesson, Debby begins with her self-described, ultra-white suburban, upper middle-class childhood in Winchester, Massachussetts.  Here she shows us how things said and left unsaid, like her mother’s telling of how the “poor Indians…lovely people who became dangerous when they drank liquor..it ruined them really..” shot down Debby’s enamored view and curiosity of Native Americans that came from visiting a beloved mural at her local library.

Born in the early 1960’s, Debby, shares she came from a strong WASP background, and enjoyed and never really gave much thought to, the entitlement of belonging to exclusive country clubs, attending prestigious private schools, and having access to the network of successful business people, primarily white men in corporate positions of power, who could do favors for her as she grew up and made her way out into the world.  She also had instilled in her the Yankee/WASP attitude and belief system that if you work hard, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can achieve whatever you want in  life.

Becoming conscious in her early twenties when she moved into Boston and sensed for the first time neighborhood racial economic disparities, Debby began working in arts administration, bringing the arts to “inner-city” schools.  She believed she was helping, giving mainly people of color, access to the rich arts experiences people in more affluent white neighborhoods have easy access and exposure to.  Yet, in a haunting scene in her book, while doing work as general manager for First Night Boston, the city’s premiere New Year’s Eve arts celebration, Debby shows us maybe her help wasn’t welcome.  Maybe it was even hurtful.

After one year’s celebration, Debby and the First Night staff gathered a group of families of color to debrief about the initiative to bring more diverse participants to the annual event.  Feeling proud and that the pilot was a success, Debby is stunned and wounded when a black teen answers her questions about whether people had fun. “Man, it was freaky!  I’ve never seen so many white people in my life! I was scared!”

Immediately Debby is forced to look at how her conditioning to not consider how people different from herself might feel being put into an environment that is overwhelmingly white.  She learns it might make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, instead of grateful for a white woman’s actions to selflessly give under-served communities access to the arts–something she assumed everyone should want and feel good about.

And that is why Debby’s book is so wonderful, and so important.  Not only does she take the journey of “waking up” to her own whiteness and how that has impacted her interactions with people across racial lines, but she shares it with her readers in a way that is unflinchingly brave and honest.

There were so many places in the book where I said to myself, wow, that is brave she is admitting having what she describes as racialized thoughts, such as realizing how she internalized via family discussions and the media, that black people had an affinity for being great athletes, entertainers, and dancers, and yet doing a double-take in her younger adult years when meeting a black doctor, because there weren’t examples of black people in high-achieving professions in her white circle, or again, in the media.

Most white people wouldn’t want to admit they have these racialized thoughts, especially if it means they think they will be considered racist.  Yet, Debby doesn’t run away from them.  Instead she embraces them and confronts them head on in chapters that reflect upon race versus class, the construction of white superiority, her questioning of why she didn’t “wake up” sooner, concepts of color blindness, re-thinking her own good luck, her Robin Hood syndrome, the matter of diversity training, the culture of niceness, leaving her comfort zone, and transitioning to being a bystander to full engagement in learning and doing racial justice work.

Through learning about black history and the construction of systems of oppression–both invisible and visible, such as the GI Bill, that enabled her family to obtain new, affordable homes, but discriminated against black families, or her access to prestigious social connections, Debby took the call to action.  She enrolled in a class on Racial and Cultural Identity that Debby says blew the lid off and revealed to her how her whole life of not seeing how her race (she thought being white meant you were raceless) set her up for a life of invisible privileges and a clear, easy path of opportunities, while people of color who have suffered centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, urban renewal, inequities in education, housing and business loan discrimination, and more, had many more hurdles and obstacles keeping them from so easily achieving the American Dream.

As someone who started a blog because I became more in tune with my own attraction to black people, black culture, and a hyper-awareness of racial inequities, and who wanted to explore the how and the why of that, and not fear broaching the topic of race with people of color, I have deep admiration and respect for Debby for taking her journey of self-discovery, and for fearlessly and generously sharing it with readers, white, black and brown.  Also as someone who likes to think about race from an experiential point-of-view, rather than academic, I now know that I still need to understand how racial inequities came into being in the first place, to be able to talk about them from a personal point-of-view.  I read books on black history. I read black author’s books on their experiences on what it means to be black.  I stay current on topics of race and culture by reading on-line posts on social media from The Root, For Harriet, HuffPost Black Voices, Colorlines, etc.  I talk with, and listen to black friends, acquaintances and strangers share about their experiences with racism.

Am I perfect in all this?  No.  Do I worry that what I might say may not be politically correct, might come out as sounding racist or patronizing?  Yes.  But, as I hear many black people say when bringing up matters of race with white people, is it more important to worry about being called racist than to worry about committing a racist act, or not working to dismantle racism?  In other words, I need to get over myself, and do my best to not get defensive when approaching the topic of race, or take everything personally when a black person expresses their frustration or anger when it comes to white people’s role in creating structures of racism, and/or idly standing by, unaware of how one’s own white privilege has gotten them to where they sit in life today.  Or even worse, realizing it, and doing nothing about it.

I am inspired that as Debby’s journey unfolded from waking up to learning about the systems of oppression in our American history that afforded her these seemingly invisible privileges, has led her to a place of deep engagement and action.  Debby now works as a racial justice educator who describes her mission on her website as to “educate other white people confused and frustrated by racism and transform anxiety and inaction into empowerment and action, be it for an individual or an organization.”

I am grateful to Debby for writing Waking Up White, because it has given me some tools to delve more deeply into learning about how my own whiteness has shaped my life experience, and for giving me some history lessons on how institutionalized systems of oppression came into being.  As a resource, Debby includes study/discussion questions at the end of each chapter for readers who want to further explore how race has shaped their lives.  At the end of her book, Debby provides further reading and film resources, and ways to become engaged in your community and beyond in the conversation on race, and in racial justice work.   There are notes on individuals and organizations doing work in racial justice, such as the noted white privilege work of anti-racism activist, Peggy McIntosh, a white woman, and the White Privilege Conference, founded by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., who is black, and leads a multicultural Diversity Consulting and Research Firm, which strives to “provide a challenging, collaborative, and comprehensive experience to empower and equip individuals to work for equity and justice through self and social transformation.”

Debby’s book, Waking Up White,  gives me the history lessons I need to back up what I talk about when I talk about how white privilege impacts my life, other white people’s lives, and the lives of people of color. Her personal journey gives me the courage to keep moving forward in my own self-discovery, and in my engagement in conversations on race.

You can find out more about Debby Irving and Waking Up White, including speaking engagements, Book Club discussions, as well as resource material on race at www.debbyirving.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selma: The Movie and Community Dialogue in Providence, RI

12 Jan

This past weekend, I attended a private screening party of Ava DuVernay’s film, Selma, which was held at the Providence Place Mall Cinema.  The event was sponsored by the Providence NAACP, and the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

DuVernay’s Selma, focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and planned marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965, and the many working with him, and against him, to further civil rights causes, in particular the fight to pass the Voting Rights Act.  Like many who  during the post-film dialogue referenced the ages they were during this time period, I remembered how old I was– […]

Wendy Jane Goes To The Mountaintop

3 Feb

Okay, I’m not that grandiose or flip to compare my journey with the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I did, however, go to the play, The Mountaintop, at Cambridge’s Central Square Theater (CST) this week.

The play, written by renowned African American playwright, Katori Hall, was directed at CST by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, and stars Kami Rushell Smith and Maurice Emmanuel Parent.   CST houses two theaters under its wings, The Underground Railway Theater, (Artistic Director, Debra Wise), and The Nora Theater Company (Artistic Director, Mary C. Huntington).  The Mountaintop was an  Underground Railway production.

The entire play takes place in […]

Wendy Jane’s Quote For The Weekend: Please Save The Day, MLK

24 Aug

This Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, said decades ago, and posted by my friend, Tracy, on Facebook yesterday, seems oh so timely this week in light of the comment made about “legitimate rape” rarely causing pregnancy by Republican candidate for Missouri Senator, Tod Akin.  Another frightening deduction, while made some months ago by Tennessee Senator, Stacey Campbell was also posted on FB just yesterday.  In it, Campbell is quoted as saying how we “all know how AIDS came from the homosexual community, and how it “started with a monkey and a man having sex, an airline pilot, and then…” well, you get the picture.

 

Please, please listen to Martin, people!