Tired of Derailment: #TakeAKnee Or Take A Seat

24 Sep

Black Lives MatterIf I had a dollar for every time a white person derailed a conversation about why unarmed Black men, women, and children should not be shot and killed by police officers and fellow citizens, and what it means when we say Black Lives Matter, I would not be [Read more…]

Happy Monday. How Was Your Week?: An Ode To The Ascension Of Rats And Why I’m Thankful For The Rhode Island Writers Colony

21 Aug

From the hate in Charlottesville illuminated by tiki torches, to Heather Heyers becoming today’s Viola Liuzzo, to a peaceful protest of upwards of 40,000 people countering the “free-speech” rally of about 100 haters in Boston, to a co-worker posting memes on Facebook indirectly, but directly, showing his support of things that I’m sure unbeknownst to him, made me, a Jewish woman, feel his gaze on me as someone less than human. I think we’ve all felt either overwhelmed with anger, grief, and some even, with disbelief, with the disbelief coming primarily from white folks, who haven’t been listening for the past however many decades, centuries, really, when Black people were trying to tell us what life has been like for them, and we were kind of like, yeah, uh-huh–yes, I get it, slavery, Jim Crow, housing discrimination..yup, I’m listening..they brought drugs to your neighborhood–crack–and then just let your community implode, and took all your sons and dads and uncles and put them in jail for a long time…I see…and the cops aren’t there to help you, you say…and on and on…and then: Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland, and Tamir Rice and that Walter Scott video, and Philando Castile..and, we’re finally, like OHHHHHH, now I get it. Only some still [Read more…]

Becoming “Woke” Is A Life-long Journey and Why I’m Taking The Racial Crossfit Challenge

8 Aug

I read, I educate myself, I talk with people of color, not only because I believe it makes life richer to connect with and learn about people whose life experiences and culture is different from mine, but also in an effort to learn and understand how the history, and lived experiences of Black Americans in this country, and how the structures of racism and white supremacy, have afforded me, a woman with white skin privilege, to move through the world with an ease and truckload of access and opportunity not granted to them. But still, just because in June 2017, the word woke was entered in the Oxford English Dictionary, it doesn’t mean [Read more…]

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: [Read more…]

Let’s Not Let Intersectionality Spell Erasure

26 May

I first heard of the term intersectionality from my friend, Diana Fox, an Anthropology Professor who studies and teaches across a variety of subjects including Caribbean culture, feminism, gender and sexuality. The topic came up some time ago after she read a particular blog post of mine which she felt looked at race as simply Black and White, thereby creating a potentially divisive, binary effect. She went on to say that individuals possess many layers of identities, many blends of culture and heritage, and that we must be careful to address the complexities of Black identities, because there is Black Caribbean culture, which in itself can be broken down by island, there is Nigerian culture, and so on.  Diana also said that when we look at a person and the many different kinds of identities that make them who they are–women, Black, cis-gender, Jamaican, middle-class—we  find some commonalities, or intersections of identification, among some of those points. This recognition of our multiple identities enables us to look at ourselves, and one another, as more whole human beings.

Diana was careful to add that our racial, ethnic, and cultural identities are also linked to the varying layers of privilege and oppression each one possesses. She did so, by sharing about the work of Black lawyer, feminist, and scholar on critical race theory, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, who first coined the term intersectionality, and developed an intersectional theory, in 1989. Diana made it a point to say that our layers of identities and their varying degrees of privilege and oppression are inextricably linked to one another and cannot be separated out. Therefore, if we consider all of this, we can see how looking at race as a singular identity can be problematic.

Crenshaw came up with the term intersectionality when [Read more…]

So Much Whitesplaining, So Little Time

17 May

Segregation Shifts I admit it. I sometimes click and share an article on Facebook I’ve only skimmed, or haven’t even read, simply because the title implies it’s something I’m interested in, or something I’d stand behind. Which is what I did last week when I shared a piece titled, Samantha Bee’s Husband Fights To Keep Poor, Black Kids Out Of His Children’s School. Rereading the title now, I hadn’t initially noticed how over-the-top it sounded. But I clicked on it that day because everyone—read: white liberal friends—seems to love Samantha Bee, the comedienne alumnus of The Daily Show, and currently host of her own news satire series, Full Frontal. I also wanted to read it because the sticky matter of white people maneuvering themselves to have their kids attend the good public school, is of great interest to me. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting the best for our children, but when we [Read more…]

In Disappointing News, Providence City Council Postpones Voting On The Community Safety Act

28 Apr

Providence City Council Meeting Community Safety ActLast week there was excitement from Providence, Rhode Island community members over the fact that the City Council, in a preliminary vote, voted yes to pass The Community Safety Act (CSA), an act designed by community members to protect communities of color, and individuals, from acts of police racial profiling, and use of excessive force. Three years in the making, the CSA, had the backing of Mayor Jorge Elorza, who said he would sign the bill into action once passed by the City Council.  Last night, in what angered, and deeply upset those in support of the CSA, was the hedging of City Council members, believed to be both intimidated and pressured by the Police Department, and the Attorney General, who do not want to see the bill passed. The City Council voted to table the bill until June so that it can be reviewed once more.

Please read the RI Future post for it’s excellent coverage of the City Council meeting.  I am not surprised by the [Read more…]

Farewell, But Not Goodbye, To My Good Friend, John (JD) Dolan

9 Mar

My dear old friend, John Dolan passed away unexpectedly this week. He was 58, and had a quick onset of complications from Parkinson’s disease that overwhelmed his body, and now he is gone.

I had not seen John for a long time, because he moved to Costa Rico fifteen years ago. He started out going there even longer ago, for a few weeks, and then a few months at a time, to surf, and because he had psoriasis, and he said the sun was good for his skin. He kept going back for longer and longer, going back to his hometown of Darien, Connecticut, in between visits. Eventually John just stayed and made Costa Rica his permanent home. Not too many people do that–uproot and move to another country to live. But John was anything but regular.  He dared to [Read more…]

Five Years of WJSS, and Valentines, I’m Shook

14 Feb

Wendy Jane Soul Shake Valentine CookieWe’re all shook, aren’t we?  But what has got you shook the most?  Yes, we’re overwhelmed and angry and fearful of what we’ve seen in 2016, and the early months of this year.  If it wasn’t unarmed Black men being shot and killed by police for having a broken tail light, or running away from them with their hands up, and your workmates gaslighting you with statements like, “well, if only he had complied…” that shook you the most, then maybe it was the election and its aftermath of Executive Orders that will keep A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People” all too relevant for quite some time, and if it’s not that, perhaps it’s the swell of hate crimes since November 8th, or the never-ending feed of articles and tweets that tell us we’re clearly doomed, or that things aren’t that bad, or that this is true, and that’s an alternative fact.

Yet, these things are all out there on the grand scale and so the horrible sometimes feels surreal, feels so how can this be? Yes, all these things have me shook. But, what is really shaking me is the [Read more…]

So Proud of Our Young People: Providence Student Walk-Out Should Inspire Us All

24 Jan

Our beautiful city students practicing civic engagement.

Young leaders of Providence Student Union Walk-Out

On Friday, January 20, 2017, at precisely 11:08 a.m., a thousand students from over eight public, charter, and private high-schools in Providence, Rhode Island, walked out of their classrooms, and poured into the streets for a unified march to the State House. They rose to action to show their solidarity for those they felt were endangered, and at the least, would not be well represented or cared for under the new presidency. (I still refuse to say his name.)

When plans for the march were first announced, there was concern from some high schools students because the march fell on a day of mid-term examinations. For about a week leading up to the walkout, there were conflicting reports of whether students who participated would be penalized or not, or given zeros on their exams. I have two daughters, a freshman and a junior at Classical High School.  They wanted to march, but were concerned about missing their exams.  I knew I wanted them to want to march, but that it wasn’t my decision. We talked about the fact that making decisions to stand up for something might mean you put yourself at risk, make yourself uncomfortable, because the people you care about who are being oppressed are often at risk, and live uncomfortably, and don’t have the luxury to choose to forget about what it means to be Black, or Muslim, or an immigrant, or gay or trans, and if it means you sacrifice something to stand up, then maybe that’s what you should do, and not worry about the zeros. In the midst of the girls deciding, with them still leaning strongly toward marching if they knew they wouldn’t get zeros on their mid-terms, an announcement came from the school saying [Read more…]

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