WJSS: Looking Back on 2015; Wishing To Find Hope

31 Dec

Black Lives MatterAs 2015 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at this year’s blog posts and share some highlights from each month. I am of course hoping that you’ll find the posts of interest to you.  I know for me, I thought it would be a good way to see what was going on around me, what I made note of, and recorded.

In January, I saw the movie Selma at a special screening/community dialogue hosted by the Providence NAACP, and shared a guest post on the Oscar nominations, and what they called the “Selma Snub,” by my two favorite 13 year-old twin filmmaker, film reviewers/bloggers, and up-and-coming foodie/chefs, Dylan and Ethan Itkan, aka Flick and Flack of www.flickflackmovietalk.com

In February, I had fun reaching out to WJSS Readers and asking them to submit their favorite love songs for a special Valentines Day post.  In March, we witnessed the fail of the Starbucks campaign, Race Together, and I wrote about a personal fail of my own when it came to me thinking I was so cool when it came to crossing over color lines back in the days when those lines in 1980’s Boston were highly divided.

In later March and throughout April we lost several music legends, and one with a major 90’s dance hit:  Percy Sledge, Louis Johnson of The Johnson Brothers, B.B. King, and Johnny Kemp.

For Mother’s Day I shared a memory of how Minnie Riperton saved me, and then right after that in June, Rachel Dolezal happened. Better than that, was my high-school friend, Kevin Ivester’s son Tyler Ivester’s essay on unconscious bias. In July I stayed closer to home, and wrote about how people from the Mt. Hope neighborhood were working to improve conditions for young people in the city.

In August I reflected about my summer trip to Jamaica, highlighting my encounter with the magical Ga’amang Mama G. A talk on “The New Civil Rights Movement” given by New York Times journalist and author, Charles Blow, at Brown University prompted a September post.

In October, at the suggestion of a friend, I reflected back on my three-+ year journey with the blog, in an effort to dig up new thoughts/discoveries about my attraction to black history, culture and people. The month ended with a most inspiring viewing of the national premiere of  Every 28 Hours: A One-Minute Play Festival, at Trinity Repertory Company.

In response to my October post, guest writer, Elissa Butson, shared her own take on why she’s always been attracted to black culture. I also wrote in November on the Black Major Movement rally in Providence, which is working to bring attention to the call for high ranking officials of color in the Providence Police Department.

On this New Year’s Eve, I already knew, without first looking back, that I have not written as much this year as I have in years past.  In one post I wrote about just that, and don’t make excuses with regards to writer’s block, and do point out that as a white person, I have the luxury to not have to write about or think about race if I don’t want to.

The other thing I noted when I looked back writing this post, was that there is so much that happened this year that I didn’t write about.  The rise and evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement, and other individual and collective activists of color.  The many killings and unexplained deaths of black men, boys, and women, mostly at the hands of police officers. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. Laquan McDonald, Bettie Jones, Quintonio Legrier, and the nine people murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, and Myra Thompson, and I am sure I am missing more.

I wrote some, but think about every day the invalidation of black people’s experiences and the lack of the very human act of compassion toward black people’s experiences as shown by the refusal to press charges against the majority of police officers involved in these shootings, in the misconstruing that the Black Lives Matters movement is anti-police–it is simply asking for justice, and for us to look at what is wrong with certain police tactics and reactions, and how bias–whether conscious or unconscious–plays a major role in law enforcement, and perhaps all of us, as seeing black men and boys as threats, as opposed to their white counterparts.

I’ve witnessed this invalidation on the grand scale–in the news, and the presidential debates, and on a personal level, through conversation and social media comments. I was trying to find an author’s writing from this week that spoke to how I feel when I read and hear these comments.  It said something like…”it takes some kind of mental gymnastics for white people to come up with the ways an 12 year-old boy is responsible for his own death….”

Which brings us to the most recent news of the police officer who killed Tamir Rice not being indicted for the 12 year-old boy’s death.  If this makes me feel heartbroken, tired, ill, angry, defeated, hopeless, I know, as expressed by friends of color close to me, and black people of wider note who are writing, like Shay Steward-Bouley of the popular blog, Black Girl in Maine, and Ta Nehesi Coates, author of Between The World And Me, that their pain, despair, anger and tiredness of all the death and injustice is beyond anything, that I as a white person could ever imagine.

Yet, heeding the advice of friends, black, white, and brown, I know at times like these we must look for the light.  We must be, and we must send out, love. When I started this blog, it was to explore why I was attracted to black history and culture, and why I cared to connect with people across color lines. Yet with all that has transpired in these past few years, I can’t help but focus on the matter of racism and it’s impact on black people in this country.

I know I also have to take more action than simply caring about the inequities and injustices, and talking and reading and writing about them. I ask you readers to help me with that.  To tell me what I can do.  It is white people that have to work to break down that which we have put into place–these systems of inequality, the construct of race and racism–the kind of things that lead to the kind of year we’ve had.  Please, let us begin 2016 with hope that we will take big actions to bring about positive changes for the lives of black people in this country, and recognize that we are all one, and that we should all be able to live free without fear of losing one’s life because of the amount of melanin in one’s skin.


Thank you for being a part of the Wendy Jane Soul Shake community, and for all of your support throughout 2015.

Peace. Happy New Year.




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