Tag Archives: philando castile

Youth-Led Protest, Avoiding Falling Into The (Donut) Hole of Trying To Enlighten Those Inflicted With Blindness To Their Racism, And A Big Thank You To The Artists Who Do The Spiritual Lifting

9 Jun

Artist, Nafis White, in front of her mural piece on performance of care and need of sustained action @nafis_white. Breonna Taylor mural by Kendel Joseph @lucidtraveler_art

On Friday, June 5th, Providence, Rhode Island Black youth and youth of color, organized and led a Black Lives Matter protest. 10,000 people of all races, ethnicities, and ages came out to support. As I marched along downtown streets leading to the State House with my eighteen year-old daughter, I looked around, and said to myself, finally, we all showed up–meaning, finally, us white people have showed up. I had been disappointed at past rallies–for example, memorials honoring Mike Brown, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, where I would look around and see that the crowd was much more sparse than the much larger numbers of white people who attended the Women’s march or Anti-Gun Violence march.

But all of us together on Friday was a beautiful sight. Despite the heavy police and military presence, our young people inspired. Young Black women were the leaders, the glue that held the community event together. When a good number of people carried on the march that night throughout the city despite the imposed 9:00 p.m. curfew, young Black women were the ones to deescalate the crowd when police created moments of tension. Let us praise, elevate and continue to support our Black youth and youth of color, and not forget them, or let the glow from this day, and the purpose of this day, fade from our memory, or our duty to take action to continue to support the movement for Black Lives until all of us are free.

Youth led Black Lives Matter protest, Providence, RI, June 5, 2020
BLM youth led protest, RI State House
BLM march continues, James Street, Providence, RI

While I continue to stumble along the way in how to best support and use my voice to call out blatant racism, and to deconstruct racist systems that exist in every sphere of our lives, over this past weekend, I let myself stumble into a hole, a big ole’ donut hole. An owner of Allie’s Donuts, a Rhode Island institution for over fifty years, posted on social media that in support of breaking down systemic racism in policing, and to support Black Lives, they would no longer be honoring their 10% discount for the police or military.

Cue many white people losing their minds over this. Insulted white people took to social media to repeat the very words they said when Colin Kaepernik first took a knee. “How could they disrespect the police and the military like this?” “A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl…” Well, they didn’t say that one exactly, that being a line from a 1970’s Osmond brothers song, but the bad apples reference showed up a lot in said posts on Facebook and Instagram.

I found myself getting so mad, and unable to resist the voice in my head saying “Don’t engage, Wendy.” “You know they won’t hear you.” But, alas, the voice that said, “Don’t stand for this racist foolishness. Call them out,” won out. I responded to a few posts, and comments on posts, made by co-workers. As expected, their focus remained on the disrespect they perceived was being placed on the police and military, and their blinders did not allow their hearts, even when pressed, to acknowledge, to have empathy, or to even utter any word about the racial violence perpetuated upon Black people.

Today I decided, despite my continued pandemic comfort eating of way too much sugar and fat, including the intermittent donut, that I will pull myself out of the donut hole, and take better care of myself. I will continue to call out racist bs when I hear it, but I will place most of my energy in supporting Black people in my community through word and deed.

As hard as it can be to lift ourselves up through trying times, I am forever inspired and grateful to all the artists in our communities, in our world. I will have to do a whole separate post soon about the artist project, Gratitudes, that master printmaker, Jacques Bidon, and artist, Nafis White, both affiliated with the local non-profit art organization, AS220, carried out, but wanted to mention it to illustrate a point. Briefly, Nafis and Jacques, in response to COVID-19, conceived of and created print care packages consisting of thank you cards and fine art prints with inspirational quotes which they gifted to staff at Rhode Island and Miriam hospitals, and for the psychiatric hospital I work for, Butler Hospital. The prints are being distributed to our frontline essential workers–housekeepers, nurses, doctors, mental health workers, etc.–and they have been much appreciated by our staff.

One of the prints included in the print package, is a photograph of a flowering tree with this Toni Morrison quote: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

Yesterday, I got so see Toni Morrison’s words put into action. After work at the hospital, Jacques, let me know that there were a number of artists downtown creating murals on the boards that had gone up to cover small businesses’ windows–some that had been vandalized earlier in the week by youth not affiliated with protestors protesting for the purpose of racial justice–and others to prevent damage feared that might occur during Friday’s protest. However, there was no more damage done that night.

When I arrived, it was heart-opening to see so many artists working on creating beautiful images, and words–art created which reflected the beauty of Blackness, art that supported and called for the safety of, the equality of, and the justice for Black and Brown, Indigenous and Queer people, and art which called for us white people to recognize the call to do the work for the long haul for freedom to come to fruition for real.

The work, I’m told was de-installed today, but will be displayed at 1 Eddy Street, along with a gathering Tuesday, June 9th, at 6 pm, at this location, by the Breonna Taylor memorial mural. The gathering, as shared by Nafis White, will be “to celebrate Breonna’s life, to dance, lay flowers, and honor her and all the other women and men who have perished at the hands of the police.”

Defund The Police, Support Funds For The Community chalk art
Black Lives Matter mural in progress
Breonna Taylor mural by Kendel Joseph, @LucidTraveler_Art
More Mural art on Westminster Street, Providence, RI, by @Lunabadoula, @lizzysour, ysnel.com
Mural in progress by @naturalsnatural
Breonna Taylor mural, on corner of Washington and Eddy Street, where celebration of Breonn’as life will be held, Tuesday, June 9, at 6:00 p.m.

While I feel this post is a bit scattered, much like my mind these days in trying to ground and center myself so I can be an effective anti-racist, I’m going to close by sharing an article I wrote for local, Motif magazine: Be A Support: Five Do’s and Don’ts for White People Taking Anti-Racist Action. I thank, friend and poet, Christopher Johnson, for so generously encouraging me to write and send something to Motif, and thank, Motif editor, Emily Olsen, for her help in editing the piece, and for publishing it.

Have a beautiful day. And, fellow white people, please take anti-racist action today, and every day.

Thank you.

Conspiracy Theories, Freedom, Mirrors: What Reality Are We Running From?

12 May

A couple of years ago I was dating a man. A man who, in the dating world, would be considered “good on paper.” An engineer with a good job, healthy, kind, intelligent. He lived in a beautiful mid-century modern home fitted with all of its original built-in fixtures and furniture. My girlfriends and family can probably attest to the fact that I have pretty much ignored those “good on paper” facts throughout my romantic life. That it’s always been heart over head. And since my divorce eight years ago, I have added something to the “look away from practicality and reason” factor when searching for a mate. I now also possess the need to find something wrong with someone to prove to myself that I shouldn’t like this person, thereby saving me from being seen, and letting someone inside my soul, inside my heart. To do that, would mean I would have to look in the mirror and see myself, my desire to love and be loved, to see myself in all of my flaws and vulnerabilities, to not hide, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d have to love myself, before I could say, hey you, will you please love me, and I will love you back?

In the case of the engineer, aside from me realizing there was somewhat of a lack of chemistry–you know, the kind that wears off after the first few dates where you think maybe it was the wine at dinner that made it seem like you two really hit it off–I found out he believed in several conspiracy theories. I don’t remember the details exactly, but something to do with the government, and tracking us, as most conspiracy theories revolve around. Looking for a reason not to like, or allow myself to be liked, I asked one of the approachable psychiatrists on the inpatient psych unit I work on, what he thought about people who believed in conspiracy theories. I prefaced my question by saying this was someone I knew, and not a patient.

His response was that he didn’t feel concerned about people who believed in them, that people have their own views of reality, and that he in fact has, as time goes on, questioned his own thoughts and the reality, or validity of them. I understood what he meant. In the eight years I have worked as an Activities Therapist in a psychiatric hospital, and the many years before that working with homeless adults with mental illness, many living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, I have had conversations with people who have shared their intricately detailed realities with me, which has opened up my own view of what “reality” and “normal” means, and has made me feel, at times, that my own view of reality is quite limited, dull, or predictable.

My excuse to break up with the engineer for believing in conspiracy theories dashed, I had to just break up with him for some other reason, which I did, at least proving to myself, I wasn’t going to hold onto him for the comfortability of his economic situation, and that super cool house which I was sad to not see again. In a way, I was being true to myself, able to look in the mirror and say material comfort doesn’t matter nearly as much to me, as real love.

Living in the age of the coronavirus there are new conspiracy theories swirling around. These include ideas that the virus is a hoax, or its impact grossly overstated, and that our government in this country is using the virus, the shutting down of our economy, the placating of the masses through stimulus and unemployment checks, the restriction of our ability to move freely in open spaces, all as a means to take away our freedom and impose martial law.

In the video, Plandemic, which surfaced and then was removed from Youtube, and which I only watched a little bit of, but read about, these theories are expanded upon, and include a bid to discredit Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a controlling, research grant money-grubbing scientist, who held back information during the HIV/AIDS crisis which put off the development of life-saving drugs to combat the illness.

I have a hard time understanding the belief of the coronavirus conspiracy theories when there is scientific data shared about the toll the virus is taking in this country and world-wide, and facts shared discrediting the story of the scientist making claims in the Plandemic video. People believe what they believe, and I should not judge, lest I be judged myself. But what troubles me regarding the virus conspiracy theories, is how believing these theories, impacts people.

There is data that shows how the virus, and living under quarantine has impacted Black and brown communities. We now know, as I shared in my most recent post, Let Us Not Forget Racism In The Time Of Covid-19, that the death toll has been higher for Black and brown people in this country. This is because of racist policies and laws which created health and economic disparities, and inequity in access to quality healthcare, which led to Black and brown people possessing more underlying health issues, making them more susceptible to having complications, or succumbing to the coronavirus. We also know in the hardest hit areas, our urban centers, it is Black and brown people who are the majority essential workers who have had to keep working, who have had to be in spaces with many people, thereby exposing themselves to a much greater possibility of getting the virus, and/or exposing their families and communities to it.

We can say, let people, and I am going to say, us white people, believe what we want to believe, even though I know people of all races and ethnicities are prone to believing in certain conspiracy theories, but when those beliefs put Black and brown people in even more danger, like the coronavirus conspiracy theories are, I question the will of the person who is investing their energy in an ideal that harms others. I wonder with all the energy it takes to get to this truth about the man and what they are trying to do to us, with all of this running to get to the truth, what is the truth my fellow white people are running away from?

When I hear white people, and not even the obvious state house-stampeding, gun-toting, confederate flag-waving, swastika-wearing, I Want A Haircut sign-holding, white people, saying their freedoms are being impeded upon, the virus isn’t so bad, and we should reopen the economy pronto, I hear white supremacist self-interest. I hear hypocrisy.

Yes, I know that many people are hurting economically. Yet, with the phased, or no-holds barred re-openings of states, it will be the low-paying service jobs in restaurants, retail, and factories, that get called back first. The people who are economically disadvantaged and living in densely populated areas, and who will be majority Black and brown people will be putting themselves at greater risk. If they refuse to go back to work, whether it is due to wishes to maintain their health if they or their family members are health or immuno-compromised, or simply fear risk of exposure or spread of virus, their employer can fire them, and they will have their unemployment benefits cut off. The freedom of choice you wish to have about whether you wear a mask or can sit in a restaurant, is one that not everyone has.

I have heard people worry about the right to assemble and protest being taken away during this time, another sign of the government taking away our liberties. When I hear this, I remember the same people complaining that the Black Lives Matter protest several years ago that blocked the highway, was inconvenient. I remember when you said Colin Kaepernick taking a knee was unpatriotic and disrespected our military, ignoring the fact that Kaepernick said, time and again, he was protesting the racial profiling and killings of unarmed Black men, boys, and women by police officers. I remember you saying this isn’t the place for protest. I remember you saying if only Black people didn’t riot, if only Black people didn’t run, if only Black people complied. But now, you are saying it is un-American that we are not allowed to “protest” our right to use our voice, to claim our freedom to get our nails done.

When I heard Black people, Black people I work with, Black people I talked with on the phone, Black people I see posting on social media, Black person after Black person saying they are so tired, so exhausted of the murders, the lynchings, of Black people, at the hands of white people, when I heard Black people asking, “Why?” “Why do they hate us?” I know it is not enough for me to be sad, to be enraged. I know I, I know we must do something. Yet I am enraged when instead of more white people around me speaking about being sad or enraged and doing something–and certainly there were many that were–there were still the voices who did not speak the name Ahmaud Arbery, but instead used their breath to wonder about re-opening.

When I hear us white people question this video and flip the question this time, asking, why didn’t he run, I want to shake us. In the past, it’s been, why did he run, why didn’t he just do what the officer said, why did he fight back, why did she talk back? Now you want to ask, why didn’t he run! Has our consciousness not been raised by witnessing, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Amodou Diallo, Sean Bell, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Ashton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, and on, and on?

Are we white people spending our time chasing the reality we want to believe so we don’t have to, as James Baldwin has said, look in the mirror and truly see ourselves, and the horror of our reality–the brutalizing of Black, brown and Indigenous people for over four hundred years? Is it we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable to that? To surrender to our good, our bad and our ugly? Would we rather look to make someone else the ogre, like the government taking away our rights? Is it easier to make the Black person, the one who did something wrong, by taking a jog in his neighborhood in broad daylight, or by placing one of his knees on the ground?

It is, right? It is easier to do that than it is to accept the white supremacist ideas ingrained in the fabric of our souls, easier to do that than to implicate ourselves, to implicate our whiteness, which leads to white violence.

Some might say I am doing some chasing myself. That I am tying together threads that don’t belong together–like dating a conspiracy theorist, one’s right to freedom, and the killing of a 25 year-old Black man out jogging, to justify my reality that in this time in history, the belief in coronavirus conspiracy theories is harmful and fueled by white-supremacist values.

Some might say when will Wendy stop trying to make everything about race? My answer to that will always be: when we are all truly free.

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Photo credit: ksltv.com

What Whiteness Does, And Doesn’t Do, Or, Some Things I Learned During The North Smithfield, RI Proposed Nike Ban Resolution

23 Oct

nikeban resolution

North Smithfield RI Nike Ban

Beauregard’s Nike Ban Resolution

I wish I was an “in the moment” blogger. The kind that writes about a newsworthy event right after it happens and posts it within the same twenty-four hours. But I’m not. I seem to take my time these days, thinking that perhaps letting the dust settle, helps me process, and consider the story worth telling.

On September 17, 2018, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed in order to distract myself from writing, my eyes fixed on a post from a friend telling of a Town Council meeting taking place that evening in Smithfield, Rhode Island.  The Town Council president called the meeting to put forth a resolution “suggesting” the town schools and businesses not purchase Nike products.  In my immediate WTF reaction, I typed in my Facebook status that I would be going to that meeting wearing full Nike gear. I asked if anyone cared to join me. Never mind that I don’t own any Nike. I am not sporty. I also decided years ago to stop buying their goods when I heard of their labor practices employing children, and paying horrible wages. But I knew I needed to show up. I could not let this meeting in the state I now live in go by without being there to protest it.

Smithfield, Rhode Island is a suburban town of about 12,000 residents, and is situated about twenty minutes north of where I live in the diverse city of Providence. Smithfield’s demographics: 96% white residents. John Beauregard, the Town Council president who called for the resolution, is a former State Trooper. He claims working as such gives him a perspective different from the average citizen. Beauregard stated in a news article about the meeting, that he feels Colin Kaepernick has a high disregard toward police officers, and that Nike’s ad featuring Colin’s image, with the tag line: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything, is insulting to police officers. In his words, Kaepernick has sacrificed nothing, nothing like the sacrifices that police officers make every day, hoping that they’ll make it home safe to their families. Mr. Beauregard, apparently also part of the gaslighting committee in town, is yet another human being who has done the mental gymnastics necessary to turn Colin’s taking a knee in protest of police brutality and racial inequality, into a threat–in this case–to the very fine town of Smithfield. He sees as the natural solution to the worrisome Kaepernick: have the town not buy Nike products endorsed by Colin Kaepernick. But we know better what his resolution implies, right?

I thought I’d be going to the meeting alone that night without any friends saying they’d join me, but shortly before I was about to go, […]

Philando Castile: As My Friend Marco Said, Killed Twice. Once By A Police Officer. Once By The Judicial System.

26 Jun

Philando CastileI look at you, and don’t know what to say. Well, it’s not exactly you, but your likeness. The color photo I found of you when I Googled your image after you and Alton got shot and killed by police officers. Alton on July 5th, 2016, and you the very next day on July 6th, 2016. I cut the background out of both of your likenesses and gently taped them onto the umbrella I decorated for the Second Line Memorial organized here in Providence, Rhode Island last summer.

You were surrounded by white lace that draped the umbrella’s panels. You and Alton were regal kings. But I immediately felt profoundly sad that this object without words told the world that your life was cut short. Cut short at the hands of a police officer. I thought of your girlfriend, and her four year-old daughter who had to watch you be killed.

After the memorial that started at the Providence River and finished at India Point Park by the water, I kept the umbrella in my living room. It was propped up on our window seat, a shrine I wasn’t ready to dismantle. When I finally did two weeks later, unraveling the lace trim that edged each panel, and wrapped around the handle, I carefully pulled your photo off as well. I placed your and Alton’s images on the glass side table by the couch, with a candle, not lit, but as a symbolic indoor memorial. The candle also reminded me of how in my religion of Judaism, we light what’s called a yahrzeit candle on the anniversary of the death of our loved ones.  The one year anniversary of your passing is approaching.  I will light a candle for Alton, on July 5th, and for you, Philando, on July 6th.

From the table, I moved your image to my writing desk. First you laid flat right by my computer screen, and soon after, beside the mini-easel displaying my daughter Darla’s artwork on the upper ledge of the desk. It’s where you still are perched. Alton on the left, the Dread Scott print that reads: Why Do We Assume That You Are Racist, and you. When I look at the images of the both of you, Alton is smiling, looking straight ahead, but you, your face, your eyes hold a more serious gaze. When I look at you, your eyes meet mine, and seem as they will meet the eyes of anyone that looks in your direction.

This is the social media poem I created on Facebook (something I did daily for five years) from my friends’ Status Updates, the day Philando Castile was killed: […]

2016: The Year In Review. 2017: You Have To Do Better

31 Dec

Philando Castile Alton Sterling Umbrella

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling Mourning Umbrella

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling Mourning Umbrella for Providence, RI Memorial March

You know. I don’t even have to say it. 2016’s posts pretty much say it all, and this isn’t the half of it.  Thanks for following along throughout the year.

In January, I was barely done pondering how my father shaped my views on race relations, when the 2016 celebrity death avalanche started out, shooting an arrow to the heart with the loss of David Bowie.

In February we lost the great Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, and Prince’s muse, Vanity 6’s, Denise Matthews.  We didn’t know then, what was to befall our Godly Prince.  In between those losses, I thought about how integration plays out in our day-to-day lives, noting that while we may have more diverse work settings than in the past, we still pretty much all live, and spend most of our time, apart from one another.

I got to highlight the first play written by friend, poet, Christopher Johnson: Invisible Upsouth that showed at the Wilbury Theater in Providence in March.

In April…in April..our hearts cried..Our Prince left our earthly presence and went up to make music with David, Maurice and Denise.

In May and June I became quiet on the blog, and in July I shared why, after a month of yet another, and another killing of Black men by police officers. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile lives were taken, July 5th and 6th.

Then I got quiet again.

In October I recalled a conversation with a friend, an anti-racism activist, who questioned my willingness to truly stand up against racism, all while standing in line for gourmet donuts.Later in the month I got to revisit Trinity Repertory Company’s Every 28 Hours plays, and their new Community Response plays, noting the sad state of the plays’ continued relevance this year.

And, just when I was hopeful for our future after hearing about the dynamic work of local community activists, and arts activism programming by youth from AS220Youth, at the AS220 FutureWorlds panel, I, along with much of the country, were devastated by the election of the new President, and what that will mean for Black people, women, and the Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQ communities. I channeled the memory of my mother, and she channeled Kendrick Lamar to let me know, with resistance, fighting the wrong, and love, we gonna be alright.

First setback after the election: the mistrial of the police officer who killed Walter Scott.  It was caught on video. And the judge called a mistrial. It’s December–and still you wonder why Black people don’t believe their lives are valued. As I stepped away from my writing desk this year to learn how to be an activist, I gave a tip of the hat to all those that came before me, and those currently working day and night to fight racism. On the cusp of 2017, I vow, like many of my friends, to stay vigilant, to stand up for what is right, to fight hate, and work for positive change. I vow to love. Sending love and light to all of you, and many thanks for all the love you’ve shown me this year. <3

 

 

 

 

What Can I Even Say?

27 Jul

wendys back writing-2I haven’t written here–not since my post on Prince’s passing.While I still lament the loss of our Purple genius, my mourning is not what has kept me from writing. Instead its been my decision over the past four or five months really, to instead of writing about it, just live my experiences with race–the thing I most think about in my day-to-day existence. (Yes, white folks, we have a race, too–well, we’re all one human race, but, shout out to Debby Irving,  to say race, that made up construct, is not just something other people have, and we don’t.) I’ve spent so much time going to this talk, that play, reading that book, having that conversation, all the while, feverishly taking notes so that I could write about my experience afterward.

Only thing is, when you are at a play called Every 28 Hours, a compilation of fifty one-minute plays on race, the […]