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…]

Happy New Year: WJSS Weekend Sounds: George Michael and Queen – Find Me Somebody To Love

1 Jan

George Michael

George Michael, photo courtesy of www.shauntwax30.com

On Christmas Day, after a year of tremendous loss of once-in-a-lifetime artists like Prince and David Bowie, among others, the soulful George Michael passed away at the age of 53. I must say that as I listened to and watched video after video of his hits like Freedom, Faith, and Careless Whisper, and going back even earlier to his Wham days with Wake Me Up and Everything She Wants, I realized what a [Read more…]

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

31 Dec

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

 

 

 

 

A Tip Of The Hat And A Fist Raise To All The Anti-Racism Activists Past, Present, and Future

23 Dec

Black Lives Matter Founders, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi

light-brown-raised-fistI want to give major props to all the activists out there fighting the good fight. The good, hard, exhausting, frustrating, dangerous fight against racism. Personal racism. Systemic racism. Institutional racism. Jim Crow racism. The New Jim Crow racism. And every other kind of anti-Black racism in-between.

See, I’m like a baby taking its first steps when it comes to learning what it means to organize, to march, to protest, to take concrete political action to fight against racism.  Before this year, the only two things I could put on my activist’s resume was [Read more…]

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