When The Photo You Want To Use For Your Blog Post Belongs To A Racist Photographer

28 Feb

Young Protestors, Ferguson, Missouri, Photo credit: IB Times

I wanted to find a lead photo to go with my most recent blog post, Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence, and I wanted the photo to represent black and brown youth who cried out in pain over the unjust deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Florida, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. I wanted to represent the black and brown youth who have worried for years about gun violence in their neighborhoods, and have had to carry a fear heavier than their backpacks, as they pray to make it to and from school without being shot. I wanted to represent the black and brown youth who have been crying out for years when no one was watching or listening. Though the nation watched on television only when the protests took to the streets in Ferguson, and in Baltimore, there has never been the swell of support like we see now for the young people in Florida who have risen up in the midst of the Parkland school shooting. And, while I, and as I have gleaned that many black people and people of color, too, have great admiration and stand by these rising, young activists, the lack of inclusion of the gun violence issues faced by black and brown young people in their communities is sadly noted.

As I searched online for the photo to accompany the post, I found one of young black children with a placard that read, We Are The Village. It was a deep and beautiful photograph. I downloaded it. I looked up the photographer, who turned out to be a white man, and emailed him through his website to ask permission to use the photograph. Then I searched his site because he seemed to be a prolific artist–a photographer, journalist, and author. I clicked on his Essays tab, and landed on a piece he wrote, titled, The Negro Racist. I began to read: [Read more…]

Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence

21 Feb

photo credit: IBTimes UK

While this nation mourns the losses of the lives of the seventeen students and teachers who were killed by a former student with an AR-15 assault rifle on Valentines Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation is also inspired by the student survivors who are speaking out and taking action.

I am inspired by their passion, conviction, and ability to rise up after the devastation and trauma they experienced just last week. These brilliant young people have had enough, and are calling on the adults to keep them safe so that what happened at Parkland never happens again. And, yes, it is a pity that the adults who possess the political power to create better gun control laws, and to ban assault rifles, have thus far done nothing to heed the calls for change–not after Columbine, 19 years ago, not after Virginia Tech, not after Sandy Hook,  not after the Florida night club, not after Las Vegas, and not after Parkland.

Through tweets to the President, and videos gone viral, our young people know how to use social media to mobilize, and to gain widespread attention. The young students at Parkland, out of self-proclaimed necessity, have become overnight anti-gun violence activists. Student Emma Gonzalez’s 10-minute brave and direct speech, has been seen by over 1 million people. Reporters and journalists are contacting and following the students’ activities, which include a planned National March Against Gun Violence in Washington D.C. on March 24th. Here is Emma’s inspirational speech, if you have not yet seen it: [Read more…]

The Crack Cocaine Center Of Excellence

2 Feb

Crack Vials Candy Jernigan

From the art piece, Found Dope II, by Candy Jernigan, 308 crack vials and caps she found over a period of 16 days during her walks in mid-eighties East Village, NYC. Photo Credit: Susannah Breslin

The Crack Cocaine Center Of Excellence. You can picture it right? Oh, wait, you’re saying you can’t? But, here in Rhode Island, established in 2016, are our first, Opioid Centers of Excellence, or certified treatment facilities that “meet or exceed established requirement for providing medication-assisted treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin and other opioids. Certified facilities are authorized to provide the treatment to residents with opioid use disorders, including those enrolled in Medicaid.”

Our governor, Gina Raimondo, who has been working with health officials on a plan to combat what is being called “the opioid crisis” said this at the time of the opening of the first center: “Rhode Island’s first Center of Excellence will make it easier for patients struggling with opioid use disorders to get treatment, and will help healthcare providers on the front lines to best support their patients on the path to recovery.”

This makes me mad. Why would I, or anyone, be mad about this effort to help those addicted to heroin and other opioids?  I am not mad at these current efforts. I am mad about the following. [Read more…]

2017 Showed A Lot Of Ugly. And How White People Can Do Better In 2018

1 Jan

We made it through a year of this current administration’s agenda which stood for the hatred of those they consider “other” and a threat to their “making America Great again” dream. We became angry, and our hearts broke, over and over again, with each dismissal of a case of a police officer who got off after killing an unarmed Black person. We watched Puerto Rico’s call for assistance be placated with thrown paper towels. We saw our sisters and brothers from other countries who have lived and worked here trying to build their own versions of the American Dream be torn away from their families and deported, all to make us “safer.” We just learned that all the members of the White House Advisory HIV/AIDS Counsel were fired. I could go on and on, but you get it. You lived through it, too.

In my own life in 2017, I strove to go beyond “waking up” and to take committed action to fight racism, and break down the systems of structural racism that exist in our lives at even what may seem, the smallest of levels. Day to day, I work to model what it means to question the micro-aggressions I witness, to share what I’ve learned about how structural and institutional racism works so that when someone brings up things like “the everyone should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps like my immigrant family (with white skin–that part left out) did line..” I can respond to that notion.

As, I’ve mentioned here before, one of the main things I focus on in regards to race and cross-racial connections, is how white-centered many physical spaces are, and how white European-centric everything–workplace employment, policies and norms; arts spaces; educational institutions; businesses, is. Every day, pretty much every minute of the day, I am looking at life through an inclusion/exclusion lens. When I came across the following, of course, it gave me pause: [Read more…]

My Daughter Darla’s Essay On Culture

23 Oct

Two years ago I featured my daughter Leni’s school essay  on the topic of how she considered her own culture. Her younger sister, Darla, who is now a sophomore, got assigned the same essay in her English class, and I am proud to share it here.


A Reflective Essay on Culture

“Wait, you’re Jewish?” he said.

With that question, I began to see the eyes of my classmates swiftly settle on me, observing, perhaps judging. Trying to answer the boy’s question for me, trying to determine if I was in fact a Jew. Did I look like one? Could they tell?

“Yeah,” I answered, nodding slightly and awkwardly smiling.

“Huh,” he remarked thoughtfully, “I thought you were Catholic or something. You look Catholic.”

That statement raised a question in my mind immediately, how does a person look Catholic? Thankfully, most of my classmates were thinking the same thing, and many laughed, telling him he was [Read more…]

Following Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas With My 10 Things I Do Every Day To Fight White Supremacy

10 Oct

Damon YoungDamon Young from Very Smart Brothas (VSB) posted a piece on The Root a few days ago, titled, 10 Simple and Subtle and Easy Things I Do Every Day To Fight White Supremacy, and in his usual comedic genius style, got to the essence of how he defies white people’s systems of oppression simply by being himself.  He makes you laugh, but if you’re white, and have a conscience and care anything about racism and lived experiences of people of color, you have to nod in recognition of how we get in the way of Damon Young’s freedom. And, he shouldn’t have to work so hard to fight white supremacy. That should be the job of white people, right? I mean, we’re the ones who [Read more…]

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…]

%d bloggers like this: