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 infiltration of these things into our daily reality.  It is no longer “out there.” It is right beside me. And it’s not that I’ve been living in my white bubble and am now, after the election, just noticing that things have been shook for Black people for centuries, and immigrants, and Native people, and the LGBTQ community, and women, and that I don’t know my white privilege has afforded me the space and distance to not be affected by the daily micro-agressions, and the larger impacts of white supremacy and oppression.  I’ve been educating myself and making sure I am not ignorant of the realities of people whose skin doesn’t look like mine, or who came here seeking asylum, or who want to love who they love, have to face on a daily basis. My focus in life now is to work to not be complicit in all of this, and to work to break down the structures of white supremacy and oppression.  Still I have white skin, and I have not had to feel shook like they have. Though I am Jewish, and I have felt shook by what happened to my people during World War II, and have had several moments of feeling fire run through my veins with the news of recent anti-Semitic actions, the thing that truly shook me is something that occurred last week at my favorite coffee shop.

Every day I walk or drive the few blocks to Coffee Exchange at the bottom of Wickenden Street.  The wonderful baristas greet me cheerfully. I order my medium spicy chai with almond milk. When Olivia is working she’ll often inscribe my cup with the words Wendy Darling across the middle, and sometimes even draw a sprinkle of hearts or stars around it for added delight.  I wait by the side of the counter for the 4-minute tea steep, in the warmth of this dimly-lit, wooden nest of a cafe. I’ve always welcomed the wait because from morning on, the cramped rows of tables are always bustling with neighborhood regulars, with contractors, lawyers, Brown professors, artists, college students, making it a perfect spot for eavesdropping on the lively and varied discourse all around me.

Last week though, at my 6:30 in the morning chai stop before work, it was still quiet inside, just me and three or four other men who are always there too, sitting at their usual spots by the window, or the row of tables lining the adjacent beadboard wall. I placed my order and stood by the side of the coffee bean bins. The retired public high school teacher with the loud booming voice who I knew to be a Trump supporter stood up to leave. I hadn’t caught any of the prior conversation between him and the slender, artistic-looking man with the fluffy grey hair that I always think looks like he was plucked from a cafe seat in my old East Village neighborhood. I’ve never spoken to him but imagine him as someone who would be interesting to talk to.  He’s almost always reading The New York Times. The teacher, who is over six feet, bald on top, and broad, walks up to the other man’s table and says, “I know you like Obama, but, you know a lot of his policies did a lot of damage, and it’s going to take a long time for all that to be fixed.  There’s a lot of bad things festering as a result of what he did.  And, that Elizabeth Warren, the nerve of her and what she did last night…”  The teacher started to walk away, heading toward the door…”I wish people would just move on.  I mean, I’m tired of it…all of this should have ended November 8th.” and out the door he went.

The man with the fluffy grey hair looked up at the man throughout the exchange, and if he said anything at all, I could not hear from where I was standing.  His voice, when I’ve heard it, is soft. Much softer than the teacher’s.  The teacher’s manner in that moment was threatening. It felt like a warning. Like, I’m sick of you East Side liberals, and you’re disrespect for the new President, and all the good things he’s trying to do after Obama messed everything up. And the man with the fluffy grey hair knew there was nothing he could say in that moment.  The teacher didn’t give him a chance to. The man, after exchanging a nervous chuckle with the other regular sitting at the table across from him, let out a big sigh, and simply said, “I need a vacation.”

I wanted to go up to the man and commiserate with him, tell him I admired his grace in such a situation, and to apologize for the threatening manner of the teacher. I wanted to let him know that I felt a boundary had been crossed. Ask him if he felt violated. I know I did. But, Olivia called out that my chai was ready, and instead I retrieved my daily cup of morning joy, and left.

I know we have much to be hopeful for.  We can be hopeful for all the resisters who are showing up to protest the hateful actions this new administration is trying to push upon it’s people.  We can be hopeful that beyond protesting, people are organizing at the community and national level to make sure this country finally stands up for what is right for ALL people. Above I tried to show how I was woke enough to not just be waking up after November 8th, to win some kind of points for that. I admit I did that thing us white people do to show we are not ignorant to our privilege. I am sorry. I also told you I was Jewish, to gain some more points, for sharing that my people, too, have been oppressed. Again, I am sorry for trying too hard to be that perfect white person. But, in this time, I am hopeful that we will not look to what separates us, or look out for solely our own interests that we fear are being taken from us, and that we will unify, and do that in a way that does not erase people of color, or other marginalized groups of people, or puts them on the back burner for other causes, but in a way that brings us together to fight for the good of humanity, and equality, and justice, and love for all people.

Happy Valentines Day.  It is the 5th Anniversary of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.  I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of this community, for reading and supporting my work over the years, and for caring about Black people and race relations, and for taking a look at yourself, and what matter of importance you give to race and racial equality in your life.

What has you shook?  Please share in the Comments below.

4 Responses to “Five Years of WJSS, and Valentines, I’m Shook”

  1. Vickie February 15, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    It’s frightening! People – people you’ve known for years have been given a license to show their True Colors. Every day I’m more shocked than the day before by the actions and words of people I thought I knew. I’m both afraid and heartbroken.

    On a happier note…. Happy Anniversary!

    • Wendy Jane February 15, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

      Hi Vickie,

      It is frightening, and I share in those feeling states that you are experiencing.

      I thank you so, so much for your unwavering support over the years. I really appreciate you being there for me and this blog, and for sharing the work once it’s up.

      Here’s to our keeping on, keeping on and pushing through the fear and fright to make it all right!


  2. Sherry Gordon February 15, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Well, hello, there, my so, so very For Always awesomely precious and dearly special Jewish and white sister and friend who you’re For Always so, so very much, Wendy Jane!!!!! Happy Valentine’s Day and I hope, pray, and wish that all of you and you and you and yours had such an absolutely fabulous Valentine’s Day!!!!! Wendy Jane, you are just absolutely awesome and amazing with now 5 years with your very brilliantly insightful blog at Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake!!!!! Being created also on a Tuesday in 2012 back on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2012!!!!! What a beautiful creation you have made here for each and every one of us for all of these sweet and very empowering five years, sisterfriend!!!! You are a gifted woman of very many talents, Wendy Jane!!!!! Sister, I know what you mean about being shook, too!!!!! Sister, you are one of us anyway being the absolutely fabulous YOU who you are for sure and you are one of us also knowing oppression, hatred, prejudice, and discrimination as a white woman because you, sister, and other so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful white women are very egregiously oppressed by perniciously pervasive and evil sexism and misogyny, sisterfriend. Sister, you know all too well the vile oppression of antisemitism as the absolutely awesome Jewish woman who you are facing, enduring, and experiencing such hatred, oppression, and discrimination, Wendy Jane!!!!! You are one of us anyway just by being the so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful YOU who you are as my and our Wendy Jane as our so, so very dearest and darling sister and friend, and you, too, know what it’s like to be targeted, sister!!!!! You are in this with all of us, too, and we are all in this together, my so, so very sweet friend and sister, Wendy Jane!!!! I am shook, too, being concerned but still having faith but on the alert for how I could be targeted being a member of so, so very many oppressed groups myself like with me being a woman, a lesbian, being disabled with very many multiple physical disabilities and other disabilities, too, being an indigent person with my low, fixed income with my disability benefits, and being black, sister. I have such great faith and an expectancy of such great hope with my For Always eternal positive optimism as a black Pollyanna but I’m concerned about what could happen to me and to all of us but I still have such a strong faith and hope with my positive optimism, Wendy Jane!!!! It is so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful white women like YOU, Wendy Jane, who keep this indigent, disabled lesbian black woman keep on keeping on in keeping my very faith and hope alive with my positive optimism, my so, so very dearest and darling friend!!!! I thank-YOU so, so much, dear, dear Wendy Jane!!!!! :)!!!!! I know that you are shook, too, along with each and every one of us, my and our sweet sister, Wendy Jane!!!!!:)!!!!!

    Sister, the teacher at the coffee shop was so totally out of line just as you say, Wendy Jane!!!!! He was just downright threatening and abusive!!!!! Wow!!!!! This Trump supporter needs to take much more responsibility!!!!!! Sisterfriend, I can’t help but to think that this very impudent man and a lot of the other Trump supporters and conservative Republicans must be delusional because there is definitely no validity to their false and baseless accusations that our former President Obama did very many bad things for our country!!!! Wow!!!!!! Wendy Jane, I think, too, that these people are being less than forthcoming and that they are being dishonest in their whining and wild claims against our former President Obama and in all of the other abhorrent assertions they are always making, sister!!!!! Wow, I think this teacher who is a Trump supporter and a lot of the others of this mentality have such unmitigated gall!!!! Wow, sisterfriend, wow!!!!! They never ever cease to amaze me, my so, so very dearest and darling sisterfriend!!!!!

    Wendy Jane, you have just by being the very loving, kind, caring, friendly, sweet, and awesome YOU who you are have helped me very blessedly in such an immense manner as you do for so, so very many people, our dear friend!!!! With the blessing and the gift of your inspirational Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake you have very greatly blessed me and all of this all of these years with your brilliant mind, precious heart and spirit, and with your sharp descriptive clarity, and beautiful creativity working in such a very diligent and conscientious manner to be an anti-racist(and anti-all other oppressions) and in gaining even more racial and other awareness. You have been there for me and for each and every one of us, sisterfriend!!!!! Your enlightening and so, so very fun Facebook with your very uplifting Facebook Status Update Poems and your Facebook in general, your Twitter, and all you do in such a very fine and excellent manner help all of us in emboldening and encouraging each and every one of us to persevere and to never ever give up and to lose heart!!!!! Thank-YOU so, sister!!!! I love you so, so very much, and in fact, all of us love you so, so very much, Wendy Jane, and we all appreciate you dearly from the very bottom of all of our hearts!!!!! Yay for YOU, Wendy Jane!!!! Yay for our sisterhood and friendship, Wendy Jane!!!!! Yay!!!!!!

    My friend, please have such a wondrously wonderful Wednesday and may all of your days be so, so very especially blessed, sister!!!! I’m just bursting with such very eager and delightful anticipation to respond the way I do with all of my responses as soon as I am at my computer and at home more often. I just can’t wait, sister!!!!! Now I feel even better and brighter with even more cheer after joyfully reading this very endearing and delightful blog post article of love for us from you, and very joyously responding with my very heartfelt, detailed, and thorough thoughts, ideas, and comments!!!!! We will for sure all make it together and we all will for sure survive and overcome come what may, sister!!!! Yay!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very For Always absolutely fantastic white and Jewish sister and friend who you’re For Always so, so very much, Wendy Jane, with such Peace and Love For You For Always my soul sisterfriend, and with Such Blessings and Such Very Even More Blessings For You For Always, my so, so very dear friend,

    Yours For Always soul sisterfriend black woman and For Always in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa

    • Wendy Jane February 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

      Hi Sherry,

      Thank you so much for this note. I hear you with the fear you have about having what a friend of mine called “three strikes” against you–being Black, a lesbian, and having a disability. I would never let any harm come to you thought. I will fight for you as your white-counterpart Pollyana. I love how you call yourself a Black Pollyanna. Yeah, Sherry, I wish you were at that cafe that day. Perhaps the two of us could have poured a bin of coffee bins over his head.

      But, seriously, I appreciate your support these past five years so, so much, and as I’ve told you before, I don’t know where I’d be without it. You keep me going with your words of encouragement, so, thank you, thank you, thank you.

      Wishing you the best my soul sisterfriend in solidarity.

      Wendy Jane

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