In a whirlwind, the month of May is almost over. Last week I did a few things out of the ordinary.
I attended The Spring Reception at the Adult Learning Center where I tutor. It’s a celebration of the achievements of the students for the year which began last July. I was asked to give the welcome address to the attendees. I happily accepted. I gave a summary of the program, discussed how tutoring has inspired me and how encouraged I am by the students determination to enrich their lives.
Several of my students have had improved test scores, perfect attendance and two of them received an award from a sponsor, that will help them build their own home library. I am so proud of their accomplishments. One of my students pieces was published in a book made of student writings from all the Adult Learning Centers in the program.
Selected students read some of their writings to us. Knowing where some of them started, made that so very special. It was an amazing evening. The tutors we’re thanked, applauded and given tokens of appreciation. We then had a lovely catered dinner and mingled with one another. It was a fun and fulfilling evening.
The next day, I took some time for myself and attended an exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, David Bowie Is. David Bowie Is runs through July 15th. These archives have traveled for the last 5 years, beginning in London, with Brooklyn Museum being the final stop. It contains lyric sheets, personal items, contracts, costumes, records, interviews and much more. No photography is allowed of the exhibits. At the end, there is some fan art of Bowie which we were allowed to photograph.
What made this different from any exhibit I’ve seen before, was that you are given headphones upon entering. Wherever you are standing, Bowie’s music plays in the headphones and it continually changes, depending on where you are in the exhibit. There is music and videos covering 50 year’s of his career. It takes about an hour and a half to see and hear it all. There were videos and costumes present from every stage of his illustrious career. He drew, he wrote songs, he acted in films and on Broadway. He was filled with ideas that didn’t all come to fruition but all these efforts were on display. I really enjoyed it. Catch it if you can.
One other exciting thing is on the way for me. I am being interviewed by fellow creative, Stephanie Johnson who is better known on Facebook as MELANINQUEENPENFAN. She is starting a new interview series called InnerView 3-5. I am honored to be her first guest. Her guests are people that wow and inspire her. The interview will be posted to her FB page on June 3rd. Please give her some love, likes and support. You can find all of her other writing on her page – MELANINQUEENPENFAN
I don’t know what June holds in store for me yet. I’m hoping for more fun places to go and even more fulfilling things to do.
I’ve been teaching my adult students about The Civil War. They learned about the Lincoln Memorial and saw a play about Cathay Williams. Cathay, was the first African American female Buffalo Soldier. Cathay was a freed slave who first worked as a cook and laundress for just pennies for the Union Army. After some time, to earn more money, she disguised herself as a man in the all African American unit the Native Americans called Buffalo Soldiers. They marched for 2 years throughout the South doing mostly clean up and guard duty and other jobs the white soldiers wouldn’t do. They never saw a battle. Williams became ill many times with cholera and smallpox. She was hospitalized but she was never discovered to be a woman. She finally revealed herself and got an honorable discharge from the army. She died young and her family never received the pension she worked for. We all learned so much from the actress who played every part in the 45 minute show.
Now we are studying the causes of the Civil War. We are beginning our study of slavery. The students are reading about the Middle Passage and its aftermath. Since I love history, I’ve been able to supplement the book that we are using with my own knowledge of the subject. What I tried to explain to them is that although the war ended in 1865 and slavery was abolished, that it really hasn’t been that long since Black Americans have had all the same rights as White Americans.
Using myself as an example, I said that many of the civil rights we gained occurred only one year before I was born.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 happened the year I was born. The students were really surprised to know that women couldn’t vote until 1920. More history lessons about that are forthcoming.
I brought current events into the discussion. I often do this so they can relate the past with the present.
They easily understood and agreed that all the recent happenings of the police being called by white people on black people, for no good reason were examples of white supremacy which began over 400 years ago.
In the last few weeks , we’ve seen black people, just living and also being seen as threatening .
We can’t go to The Waffle House for food without either being senselessly murdered by a racist or the cops are called for minor infringements (questioning or disagreeing with staff). Three officers assaulted a woman on the floor, exposing her breasts.
We can’t depart an AirBnB, packing luggage into our car to leave. The Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood waved and smiled at them through the window. The young women didn’t acknowledge her. So, of course, she called the police who detained them when they were on their way to do a show. That department is being sued by the young women.
One of my students asked me, Why do they treat us like this? I didn’t even speak for a few seconds because, I didn’t have a reasonable answer. I still don’t have a reasonable answer. However, I said white slave owners felt that we were less than human. We were property. We were not their equals. We were beneath them just because of our melanin. Today, some people still hold those mindsets.
We should not have to continue suffering the humiliation and pain that racism brings. Yet, somehow we still do. I feel there are people who would love to see us back in shackles without any rights.
We need to stay out of Waffle House. We need to frequent food and coffee establishments owned and operated by people of color. Let’s hit them in the wallet. Let them lose business and dollars. That’s what they understand. Black people boycotted buses in 1955. They walked and car pooled for over a year. The bus company went bankrupt. We have the ability for that to happen to all types of establishments. We have to be unified for this to happen. Our ancestors did it, why can’t we?
So, as my students and I drift deeper into the Civil War discussion I’m sure I won’t have all the answers. I’m hoping these current events will calm down. With #45 and his ilk in office and being supported by the Fox News loving fan base, it will be some time before we feel and experience the change.
Old behaviors are new again. But did they ever really leave?
It’s the final day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and today’s topic is more than appropriate.
Topic: Your highs and lows for the month
The highs have been incredible. I’ve been so elated by everyone’s encouragement. I have spent a great deal of time in my life keeping my emotions in. I never revealed too much about myself. Now, I am able to not just write about my thoughts and feelings, but I actually publish them on this blog. People read and tell me that they enjoy my writing.
I’m so very grateful that people kept up with me throughout this month. It takes 30 days to develop a habit. This month, I started two habits: drinking one cup of decaffeinated coffee and writing every day.
This month I’ve written so much. I was excited to see the topic of the day. The blog gained a few new followers. I’ve been so inspired to keep going.
I felt challenged like my adult students do. They have to write every time we meet for class. Some days they have a hard time their writing short paragraphs. With my help, they expand and edit their work. I may start using some of their writing prompts on days I don’t know what to write. I don’t want to lose this newly found momentum
The lows were the days I couldn’t write due to a migraine and days where I fought through body pain to just get anything done. I have to see so many doctors in a week it can be a bit daunting and discouraging. I realize that this is my fight in life. How I react to all of it is what counts. I surrender on the days, I realize I won’t win a battle. But, in this war I am fighting with chronic illness, I will be victorious. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will win. My Buddhist faith helps me every day to gain courage, wisdom, and strength.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Life is best lived by being bold and daring. People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions.”
This month has made me very reflective and introspective. It has been an overall positive experience. I learned a few things about myself.
I’m so happy I was able to share this month with all of you. I’m determined to share more of my thoughts and musings. I suggest trying this challenge, you may learn a few things about yourself. I know I did.
I can’t believe this 30 Day Challenge is almost over. The days really flew by.
Today’s topic- What are your goals for the next 30 days?
This challenge has shown me, I can be more consistent with my writing. I know I can write off the cuff and within an hour if I have to. Writing more often is one of my goals. I will post as often as I can. Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement and began following the blog during this month.
Since spring has decided to show up and stay around, I’ve gone back to tutoring adults twice a week. It’s fulfilling and gets me out the house for four hours every week. I really like my students and want to help them reach their personal goals of getting their high school equivalency diplomas, getting better jobs or just being able to read to their kids. I’ll do my best to assist them. Juggling multiple health conditions can be a challenge but my goal is to tutor everyday that I’m scheduled to be there.
I recently re- joined Weight Watchers to keep my weight under control. I’ve eaten healthy but I gained back some pounds I lost last year. I’m not happy about it. Taking medications with side effects of weight gain and not moving enough has been an issue. Tracking what I eat allows me to see when I’m about to overindulge. I can also see when I can give myself a treat. Over the next 30 days, I plan to adhere to the program.
Winter was rough on my body and I didn’t physically feel good or pain free enough to exercise. Yesterday, I got myself back in the gym and rode on the incumbent bike for awhile. I’m taking it slowly. I hope to get there twice a week over the next 30 days. I also walk 9 city blocks each way when I tutor. That’s a bit more exercise. I rest half way there, drink water and then start again.
Another goal is to meet up with a few people and catch up. It’s been awhile. I have also lined up a few “out of my box “ adventures that I’ll do by myself. I’m trying to have some fun, with little expense.
I joined a women’s study group in SGI-USA where we will be studying the history of our lay Buddhist organization as written by our mentor and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. There so much to learn and so much guidance on how to handle situations and life in general. I’ve been part of this group before and it’s always rewarding at the end to see how in-depth study can change your perspective and understanding. We meet once a month, in addition to the other monthly activities that we have in the SGI-USA.
My practice of Buddhism has helped me learn and understand how to make myself better and how to help others. President Ikeda writes, “Altruism is the most effective means of self-realization and self-perfection. Doing good for others is the best way to develop one’s own character and find greater happiness for oneself.”
With this in mind I’ll do by best this month to attain my own goals and do good for others at the same time.
Tomorrow is the end of the 30 Day Challenge, the start of new goals and the continuation of challenging myself everyday.
Today’s topic- Write a letter to someone, anyone.
This one is hard. I couldn’t figure out who would be the receiver of this letter.
Dear Police Departments in America,
I have been watching over the past few years as more and more videos are revealing to everyone, what black people have known all along. We are disproportionately shot and killed by police, due to racial bias. We seem to fit the description, even if we are not guilty of doing anything. Our skin color appears to be a weapon to you. We cannot remove it. You are being called to take us away for doing minor things that are not breaking the law. Is there one law for white people and another for people of color?
We cannot sit in a car, own a licensed gun, make an error on the road, sell DVD’s or loose cigarettes. We can’t wear hoodies or run in the rain. We can’t run for a bus, ring a doorbell and ask for directions. We can’t hold a cell phone or a wallet. We can’t ride a train to a wine vineyard and laugh too loudly. We cannot question paying for plastic utensils or question you as to why we are being arrested without being violently knocked to the ground to be handcuffed.
We can’t sit in Starbucks doing exactly what everyone is doing. We can’t even go golfing without you being called because we are golfing too slowly in someone else’s eyes. We can’t live in our newly gentrified neighborhoods, doing what we’ve always done without you and your colleagues showing up in force.
Please tell me how you are training your people? White people can commit crimes, shoot people and known to be armed. These people are taken away without a scratch on them.
A black person is holding a cellphone and is riddled with 10 bullets in the back. A black person reaching for their wallet is killed with 41 shots. The officers who are murdering innocent black people are rarely convicted of any crime. They get to keep their lives, jobs and pensions. Sometimes, they get promoted. If they get fired, they find another position in different department. The families of people murdered by the state are never the same and seek justice they rarely receive.
There has to be a way to weed out biased and easily terrified people out of your ranks before they get a gun and badge. People who “fear for their lives” and always shoot to kill should not be on the job. Maybe you should have more police of color working in neighborhoods of color. Do you get psychological counseling before you are hired? Is there a question asking if you were bullied in school? Are you asked if you fear people of color? Why do you want to be a police officer? Your job is dangerous, but if you are afraid of danger, this is not the career for you.
There must be a way for black people and the police to co-exist without deadly force. What are your suggestions? Surely you know that our lives are valuable. Surely you know, that we feel, live and breathe just like you. We do not deserve to be killed by those sworn to protect and serve us.
We don’t hate the police, but we are increasingly becoming afraid of you. We may want to run when we see you. That doesn’t mean we are guilty of anything. We are afraid to be another hashtag and statistic. We don’t want to be another life taken too soon. A visit to the dentist is more welcome than an encounter with the police. We have to have special discussions with our children on how to survive police encounters and make it home alive. This should not be our relationship.
We want to find a way to work together for the good of everyone. We want to live long, healthy and productive lives. We want to be with our families. How can we make effective change?
A Representative for Black America
The challenge continues… Today’s topic called for 10 songs but, I added a few more. Why not? You will discover my tastes run the gamut of everything.
Put your music on shuffle and post the first 10 songs