Tag Archives: wendy jane soul shake

Accountability, Artivism and Action: Where Are You On The Continuum?

23 Apr

George Floyd
Photo credit: Vanity Fair

The world was watching, and waiting, anxious, holding our collective breath, in hopes we could breathe again, if even for the one evening of Tuesday, April 20, 2021, the day the Derek Chauvin verdict came in.

Three counts of Guilty!

Relief, tears, breaths given for the ones George Floyd could no longer take–his life viciously taken by Chauvin last May. And we all watched it happen, only because brave 17 year-old, Darnella Frazier, recorded it, herself still pained that that’s all she could do. Yet, through her unwavering courage in bearing witness, the world saw what happened, and thankfully, the jury did it’s job to make Chauvin pay for his murder. Now we hold our breaths again to see what the judge’s sentencing will be.

Many have said this is not justice, it is accountability, and I agree. It’s not like this conviction means racism is ended. It doesn’t mean police brutality, use of excessive force, killings of unarmed and innocent Black people will end. It does not mean the system of policing, with its slave patrol origins, can be reformed without tearing the whole house down, and creating a new way of ensuring public safety in all of our communities.

As a white person who desperately wants a world where we all are free, I know this moment, most of all for me, doesn’t mean I can stop thinking about, or stop doing anything about ending racism in this country. And, I know it means that all of us white people have to stay doing something about it. I know I can’t just care about racism when I hear about yet another police shooting in the news, or someone I work with says something racist, even though those are times I must take action. As I always say here, I have to be thinking about, and acting every single day to break apart racism–whether it’s personal attacks, inequities in our communities in housing, schools, businesses, workplaces–or whether it’s policies and laws that uphold racism and privilege to people who look like me. I pray that we white people who were glued to our televisions on Tuesday evening, don’t go back to thinking it’s all good. It is hard for me to grasp the thought, conscious or not, of “if it doesn’t effect me, I don’t think about it, or do anything about it.” I remember the calls from Black friends and those speaking out against racism:”You must love Black children like they are your own” I remember what Darnella Frazier said when she was recording. She said when she saw George Floyd on the ground, helpless, she saw “my dad, my brothers, my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black.”

And so why can’t we all say, especially when a person is on the receiving end of racism, whether a micro-aggression, a racial profiling incident, and most of all, when under threat of physical violence, why can’t we feel, and say to ourselves, I need to protect this person, because they are part of my family? And, every day, why can’t we self-examine, and be aware, and say why should I have access to this school, and the majority of people who don’t look like me are sitting in under-resourced schools, or, why do I get to have my voice heard, my ideas and perspectives centered in decision-making in this meeting, and why does almost everyone in upper administration look like me–where is the real inclusion?

I am not working across all these areas that I noted all of the time. One person cannot do it all. But we can find an area where we can do the work. Together we can all make a difference. We are part of the continuum of fighting for everyone to be free, and we have to keep on fighting.

If part of my way of doing the work is through my writing and my poetry, I know that I am just one of a vast number of artists who throughout history have used their art, and continue to use their work to reflect what is going on in the world, and who call to us to reflect, and take action. Call it art + activism, or artivism, it is definitely something that stirs my soul, and is an avenue that keeps me passionate about being part of the change to create a racially just world.

One of many local artists who inspire me to be a part of the fight against racism is Providence poet laureate, and playwright, Christopher Johnson. Christopher is in the process of workshopping his most current multi-discipline performance piece, which answers the asked and not so obvious unasked questions about race and racism. I was honored to be able to write about the workshop performance, Invoice For Emotional Labor, for Motif RI, which you can read about here. I invite you to think about the artists–visual artists, poets, dancers, actors, storytellers, musicians, writers, and the arts organizations, who inspire you, and who spur you to take action, and keep engaging in, and supporting their work. It will keep them creating, and keep us keeping on with the fight to make things right.

It can also help us build community, and not feel alone, or stuck in the thought of “but what can I do?..I am just one person..” We are all connected, and it is that realization, and acting like we are all connected, and all family, that will keep all of us alive, and well taken care of. I know that probably sounds naive, and Pollyanna, but is there any other way to get there?

I write daily poems on Facebook made up from my friends’ status updates. These poems, especially in times of chaos, horrific tragedy, and hate, help me make sense of what is happening, gives some order to my thoughts and feelings, and provides solace for my anxious, grieving heart. The poems, I always hope, in their documentation of the moment, honor all of the people who are grieving, and struggling with the same questions racing inside my brain.

This is the poem I created from my friends’ status updates on Tuesday, the day the verdict came in. Let us each day we wake up, ask ourselves who we are going to be today as we move through the world, and let us ask ourselves at the end of each day if we would want ourselves as a member of our own family? And remember each day who is a part of our family. (Hint: every one)

4/20/21

on pins and needles

it’s going to be

a long

30 minutes

it’s about to be

all the way on or

all the way off

george floyd is

21st century symbol

for 400 years of

lynchings and murders

come to a nexus

he represents

the thousands of

nameless, faceless,

unknown bodies that

lie decaying in

countless bogs, fields

and marshes

forgotten with

no headstones to

even mark

they ever existed

the verdict is in

guilty on all charges

I’m crying

the relief

god

guilty

all three charges

good!

but just a start

the people

have spoken

this is not justice

this is accountability

the whole system

is guilty

anybody else

emotionally exhausted

I wonder what the

verdict would’ve been

had the world not

been watching and

there was

no video

redesigning rooms in

a burning house

isn’t progress

I am thinking of

darnella frazier, a

17 year old girl

who had the courage

to film something that

was wrong

thank you to all

the bystanders who

bore witness to

this horrific tragedy

this didn’t happen

without you

blessed are those

who are

keepers of justice

this is justice for

my sons and yours

1 down and

countless others

to go

but his conviction is

no substitute for the

deep and deliberate

changes we need to

prevent further

police killings

and misconduct

makiyah bryant

I’m not black, but

I see the injustice

that you face daily

I’m not black, but

I will stand, kneel

& fight with you

justice would be

george floyd unharmed

please know

the difference

black men deserve

to grow old

“daddy changed

the world”

yes your dad

has definitely left a

historical mark

on this world

Thankful for Poem Contributors: Wendy, Christianne Warlick, Ronald Petty Jr., Warren Leach, Heather Parsons, Ntombi A. Peters, Jason Thompson, Kortez Artise, Sharlene Ebirim Downs, Ally Henny, Denitra Letrice, Michael Eaglin, Ulysses Prince, Angie Bannerman Ankoma, Orange Live, Innocence Project, Melissa Potter Laundry, Michael J. DiQuinzio Paintings, Patrice Jean-Philippe, Billy Porter, Johnny Washington Jr

Sources:

AMERICA RECKONS WITH RACIAL INJUSTICE
Darnella Frazier, Teen Who Filmed Floyd’s Murder, Praised For Making Verdict Possible
April l 21, 202111:15 AM ET by RACHEL TREISMANTwitter

Photo credit: Vanity Fair

Catching Back Up With Artist, Kenya (Robinson), And The Luck, Or Lesson Of, Finding What You Seek

20 Nov

Artist, Kenya (Robinson)

“We can’t just jump into one another’s lives, and expect to know each other right away…”

That was artist, Kenya (Robinson), at the pre-reception for her lecture at the Providence Public Library’s HairBrained Exhibition, held in 2018. HairBrained was a look at the ways in which hair defines and reflects culture, self-identity, agency, and politics. Kenya’s talk, as stated in the library’s announcement, “offered a critical analysis of blondness, baldness, and beauty related to our collective hair politic, identification of gender, and normalization of whiteness.”

A small group of mostly white women stood around the oak library desk used to display a variety of blond hair bundles, which included: two-inch snippets of corn-silk smooth locks tied at their tops with elastic bands, long, textured ponytails with combs provided nearby, and a wooden hand-mop whose bristles were replaced with lengths of bleach blond hair. Kenya, who reminded me of how artists so well model the example of dress as self-expression, and whose outfit I envied, wore a white cowboy shirt with fuchsia fringe, similarly colored-velvety leggings, and high-heeled, sleek ankle boots. She did not have,  or wear, as we’d later learn of Kenya’s penchant for wigs, blond hair, but instead sported a short, natural style. Her comment about jumping into another’s life was in response to a woman who was yanking at one of the textured ponytail with a comb, creating a snarl midway through that seemed to be impossible to comb out.

“If that hair was attached to your child’s head, you wouldn’t be tugging on it that way. That would hurt, right? With our hair, we start at the bottom, and hold the hair above the snarl so that the person doesn’t feel the pain..well, sometimes people do pull like that, and the child complains, but you get what I mean?” Kenya said to the woman. The woman acknowledged Kenya’s comments, and moment of education, and re-arranged her grip on the ponytail and carried on with less resistance.

I attended Kenya’s talk and was struck how she managed, aside from her endearing vulnerability and sense of humor, which was a gift in itself, to ask us to think about inclusion, exclusion, racism, gender, and all the other “isms” as Kenya called them, without necessarily naming them. Instead, she challenged us to believe someone when they shared their lived experience with you. And, by the existence of her work dissecting “blondness,” and in turn, femininity, gender and racial identity, she asked others to see her and her work for what it is, and not through the gaze of gender or race. Kenya shared there were, and still are times where she has felt literally rendered voiceless, or her work not seen as intended, because of her gender (she did not clearly say, also because of her race) until she erased herself out of it. I cannot do Kenya, or the experience of her talk, as well as her work justice, but please know, that I was deeply moved and inspired by it, and thank her for that.

Another event I attended was Dr. Quincy Mills‘ talk which focused on the book he wrote on the history of Black barber shops from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America. Dr. Mills is currently Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland. I learned how black barbers during slavery and shortly after emancipation, were employed to service white men with shaves and cuts, as white men liked to have their domestic services performed by black men and women, and as the role of the barber was looked at as too inferior a service for a white men to perform. Mills also asked us to look at the fact, in allowing black men to be their barbers, they had to trust that an enslaved, or freed man with a razor blade in his hand, was still inferior, in order to dismiss any internal inkling that he would ever consider slitting the throat of the very man that once enslaved him.

We learned of the prominent black barber, George Meyer who served President McKinley, and how doing so, made him a central figure in Republican politics, as he was seen as a gateway to the political office, and the associated favors that came with voting the President in. Of course, white clientele in the newly developing Jim Crow laws years didn’t want to sit side-by-side with black men, who they considered less than them, so black men were shut out from black-owned barber shops, until black barbers started to open shops in black communities beginning in the 1920’s and 1930’s. With the Depression era upon them, the black-owned barber shops became a space that was much more than a place to get a haircut and a shave, but a free, public space, or cultural center, where the politics of the day could be spoken about without worry, pass the time talking about the joys and struggles of daily life, and coming-of-age life lessons for young black boys.

Aside from the great interest I had in learning about the history of the shops, Dr. Mill’s talk brought back to the surface for me the time I spent working in a black-owned barber shop and salon in Boston in 1980-81. In a city, highly segregated, and rife with racial tension at the time, Danny’s His and Hers Salon was situated on Massachusetts Avenue, in between the bordering black neighborhood of Roxbury, and the more affluent, white neighborhood, the Back Bay. I got to experience firsthand the cultural space and conversation that Dr. Mills speaks of in his book, and from the customers’ perspective, too. I wrote a little about that experience in the 2012 post, Black Beauty Back In The Day: What I Learned About Jheri Curls From The Grown-Ups, And Interracial Marriage From A 5-Year Old.

As I revisited this piece, I see how much there would still be to say about the social atmosphere of this space, as well as how I’ve grown to more understand the how and the why of the much deeper, necessary teachings about the relationship between black men and white woman that showed up that day in the presence of a five year-old Black boy who was a teacher I did not yet fully recognize as such.

Kathy, me, Kim at Danny’s His and Hers Salon, 1981. Where I learned more than a backgammon lesson from the 5 year-old boy noted above

Inspired by this artist and scholar, I had to attend to my own craft. I went to the HairBrained writing workshop led by local writer, Mary Kim Arnold, and had lunch afterward with my writer/artist friends. I was reminded how artists really break down life, and their experiences, and even though I suppose I do that very thing in my writing, when in conversation, I always feel much more surface and superficial, and much less of a critical thinker when I hear my friends’ critical thinking, reflections and making meaning of an experience–whether it be a book, movie, art exhibition, or the writing workshop we just attended.

In reflecting on making meaning, and understanding myself better as a white woman with a strong desire to connect across race, and to be able to communicate without over-analyzing, or worrying about how I’m coming across, which gets in the way of being myself, and in the way of a true connection, I reconnected last week with Kenya (Robinson)’s work, this time, on Instagram. I listened to her video, titled, WHITE BITCHES IS CRAZY (or the creativity of passive aggressive language) Another tool for hacking the IZM

In this video, Kenya shared on the concept of the lexicon of passive aggressive language, and in particular, on her experiences with this language exchange with white women, both recently, and in her past. These experiences, she said, left her at first confused, unaware it was happening, or knew and sometimes would let go, but, most often, got her mad.

Kenya began by making it clear, with what she called her “pure positive love energy miracle tone healing music” playing in the background,  that her aim in this talk was to approach these lexicons as a language which we are acculturated into, and to personally, get away from a judging framework, so that her vibration and energy can stay high, and won’t get trapped in judging, which brings her energy down. Kenya generously wanted to share the tools of creativity with others, so they could use them to hack these languages, and have the ability to open up to the infinite creative possibilities that lie within us.

Kenya looked at the etymology of the words, passive and aggressive. She shared how while Black people’s style of communication is said to be ‘real’ or ‘authentic,’ as if it is compelled to be so due to feeling safe or comfortable, it is actually a tool of survival, learned by always being surveilled, being watched, so that Black people feel they need to respond, to give answers, to be reporters.  It is an acculturation learned as a response to a stressor; a survival tool. White women, in their closeness to white patriarchy, are acculturated to conform their communication in response to the stressor of patriarchy, yet Kenya wanted to also be careful to not  give all credit to that idea because it can get in the way of the creative possibilities that can come from the investigation, dissecting, and understanding of this behavior, which is more complex than stemming from a single source

Kenya believes by working within that middle space between the dichotomy of passive and aggressive, and understanding how acculturation of Black people’s and white people’s lived experiences under the framework of all the isms, impacts our language and styles of communication, we can practice using creativity to hack our communication, instead of the survival technique which we were programmed to use. This will open up tremendous possibilities for connection, and to those places inside of us where our cores, our entity, our energy, is the same, and where we can learn and grow and help one another.

I listened to her talk twice to absorb and process all that she said, and will listen to it again, I’m sure, to have it soak in even more. There is definitely more detail about how and why passive aggressive communication shows up, about our inner and outer racialized “programming” and how to creatively hack our communication, so I encourage you to listen, one, two, three, or however many times you wish to so that you, too, can learn and grow through Kenya’s offering.

 I know for myself, as a white woman who has always considered herself definitely passive, and indirect in my communications with others, I have not considered the impact, and the how, when, where, and why, of my own passive or passive aggressive style of communication with Black women or men. I will here on in, be alert to this, and as Kenya asks us, will begin with the outer creative hack every time, and the longer term inner-programming of acculturation under all the isms, every day, every time. That is the only way to open up creative possibilities, to open up a new way of being together in this world.

Kenya finished by saying that in practicing this creative language hacking tool, she, and we, can be responsible and active in our communications, and she finds when she doesn’t allow this passive aggressive communication to be heaped upon her, to burden her, she feels more power, and more energy and positivity, which allows her to be more creative, and more engaged with her creative process.

To put it more beautifully, I will share the closing words of Kenya’s talk: “I need to talk to whoever, I need to be creating with my fellow human beings because this is going to make me…so I can tap into that source inside of me. (Holding up fortune cookie fortune) “If you seek it, you’re going to find it.” You’re going to find creative ways to interact with other people. And, you’ll find creative ways to make beautiful things happen. Its going be gender non-specific, intergenerational, non-binary, transracial, cut across class, geography…none of these things are going to be impediments because it comes from a source that is timeless, that is ultimate creativity, that is unknown, in the most beautiful ways.”

I have deep gratitude for finding my way to Kenya’s talk this day. If you seek it, you’re going to find it.

To follow Kenya (Robinson)’s work, visit her at www.kenyarobinson.com, and on Instagram @kenya9

To Race Together Or Not, That Is The Question..Or Is Knowing Who You Are Talking To The First Question?

20 Mar

race-together-baristaOh boy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the new Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign where the printed hashtag written on a coffee cup by your friendly barista aims to spark a conversation on race.

While I’ve seen a few supporters of the initiative on my Facebook feed and on twitter, some just friends, some more famous, like Common and Van Jones, the overwhelming majority of feedback by both black and white people has been […]

Keith Thompson: The Interview, And The Roadmap Into Black Life (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)

17 Oct

Keith Thompson

Keith Thompson

 

Seems I can’t meet with my new friend, Keith Thompson, without him plying me with little gifts each time I see him. This time it was a […]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz

27 Jan

I think the song , and especially the video, Thrift Shop, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, is destined to become a classic.  Sheer fun, and I can relate, since 90% of my clothes come from second-hand stores.

Watch and listen, and tell me if you can keep yourself from singing the rest of the day….”I’m gonna pop some tags…only got twenty dollars in my pocket….”

Enjoy!  and, don’t forget to rock your grandpa’s style.  No, seriously…can I have your grandpa’s hand-me downs?

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com

Wendy Jane Moves Mountains One Football Fan At A Time (and in other ways, too:)

27 Nov

I still feel like I’m at the beginning of my journey with this blog.  Still don’t exactly have “the answer” when someone black, or white, asks me, “what do you find so intriguing about black people and black culture?”  I cringe at the word intriguing because it makes me feel like they think I’m examining black people as some kind of curiosity, much like the time my daughter Leni’s assistant pre-school teacher in Tulsa (who I’d learn later was an evangelical Christian out to convert us) said to me, “I just found out you were Jewish, and that is so neat.  My father has always been fascinated with “your people” and has studied them for many years.”  That freaked me out.  I hope I don’t freak black people out when they try to get at the premise behind my blog, which Leni, who turns 13 next week,  seems to think is all about  my “obsession with black people.”

The one thing I have come to value immensely is the connections  I make with my readers.  While sometimes I feel vulnerable and exposed when a friend tells me that they enjoy getting to know me better through my writings, or sad when I’ve offended anyone, I am overwhelmed with the positive support  I receive from so many people because of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.

There has been dialogue via the comments section about race, about how white and black people connect in sometimes negative, but also positive ways.  I have gained knowledge of how black people’s lives have been impacted by the way society views and has constructed the idea and practice of race and racism.  I have heard from white people who have shared their experiences and point-of-views regarding race.

One of the most fun and touching ways I experience these connections is through the stories and materials that people send my way because of the blog.  I get web articles sent to me:  a book review with race as it’s topic, a link to a blog about a white girl who started sporting an afro just for the fun of it, a link to an NPR show on soul music.  I’ve started keeping a list of these materials by my desk.  Some of these items make it into a blog post; the rest I am enriched by personally when I make the time to explore them.  I’m grateful for my friends and readers who thoughtfully send these gems my way.

Finally, I love when people spontaneously tell me of a connection they’ve made across colorlines, and that they tell me this because of my blog.  Like when Leni told me I’d be proud of her because she made a new black friend in her gymnastics class.  Like when a black person tells me they appreciate my bravery for speaking honestly and openly about my feelings on race.  Like when a white person admits their awkward white person moment of catching themselves saying something patronizing to a black person.

My Dad just started reading my blog, and made me feel proud when he told me in a phone call two weeks ago how wonderful he thought it was .  Here is a phone call I received from my Dad just last weekend:

“I called because I thought you’d get a kick out of this.  I’m at a football game (Dad’s in Florida for the winter) and football is huge down here, so this is a big high school game–one of the teams fan’s are mostly all white, the other side is mostly all black fans.  Guess which side I’m sitting on? ”

“The all black side?”

“Yes…I just wanted to tell you that–thought you’d get a kick out of it.”

I had my own proud daughter moment just then. While my Dad couldn’t see through the phone, I was grinning from ear to ear.  My Dad raised my sisters and me to treat everyone equally, and even though he has coached high school girls basketball teams for over twenty-five years and through his athletic work has worked with diverse groups of girls and adults, he just had to share this anecdote with me.

 

Question?  While y’all might mix it up in your day-to-day life and not even think about it, when’s the last time you consciously made the effort to connect across colorlines?  Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Erykah Badu featuring Stephen Marley Sing I’m In Love With You via Melodies and Harmonies FB Page

25 Nov

An old high school friend of mine, Warren Leach, recently created a Facebook Open Group page, titled Melodies and Harmonies (The Unsung, Underplayed and Underappreciated)

–I’ve reposted Warren’s words on Melodies and Harmonies’ About page which gives you the lowdown:

This is an Informal page to Post, Share and Enjoy Unknown, Un-Hyped, Unsupported, and Under-appreciated Artists and Music… Artists with Ability, Heart and Skill… Leaning towards Neo-Soul, R&B, and Anything Breaking New Ground…Also this is a Page to support local artists with a story to tell

All Good Music is Welcome…
We all Appreciate good music and the vision and voice of the artists… I just ask we keep cursing on the page and in the music to a minimum..
There is quite a range of titles featured, and you are welcome to post your own.  As Warren admits, there are posts by well-known artists like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Curtis Mayfield, but there are also posts of artists that are lesser known–to me anyway, like sultry R & B singer, Sy Smith,  or singer, multi-instrumentalist, and dj Vikter Duplaix, who started out his musical training singing in church choirs in Philadelphia and Augusta Georgia, where he was raised.
There are lots of 60’s, 70’sand 80’s soul and funk songs I remember from my youth–perhaps a reflection of the age of the group members who are posting songs.  That’s all good with me, especially for when I’m in a nostalgic mood.  Finally, there are also posts of up and coming local talents from my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut.  I enjoyed a wonderful rendition of The Black Keys’, Tighten Up by Brittnee Maia.

I am posting a song that was posted by Kevin Perry on Melodies and Harmonies that I’ve always thought was beautiful, but hadn’t heard in quite some time:  Erykah Badu’s I’m In Love With You, featuring Stephen Marley.  Makes me wanna slow dance in my living room–too bad it’s just me and my cat here right now.  Enjoy! …and please visit and join Melodies and Harmonies.  That way we can all share with one another our untapped music discoveries, and I can keep building my music library.

SOURCE:

www.youtube.com

www.wikepedia.com

http://www.facebook.com/groups/267682003335056/

(Melodies and Harmonies facebook group page)