The death of Michael Brown reminded me of my students and the one moment this past year that left me mute; temporarily unable to respond and redirect them to the geometry lesson at hand.
They were talking about where they wanted to be buried.
At 15 and 16 years old, they were picking out cemetery plots, highlighting the pros and cons of one hometown cemetery over another. They went on to discuss where in the cemetery they wanted to be buried.
“…Along X street, where the black fence has the intricate design and the ground is raised, so I’d always look out over the city”
The everyday, casualness of the conversation stunned me as did the conversation’s content.
Cemetery plots are the future plans they carry, along with the college & career goals we talk about at school, along with the families and friends they have and hope to gain.
I want their dreams to be wrong. I want to reassure them that there’s no need to pick out cemetery plots, but I can’t. Not when a fellow classmate was murdered this year, not when Black and Brown youth their age are routinely murdered.
I read a lot in a year and want to highlight my 2013 favorites.
Articles/Blogs/Posts/Things Written on the Internet
NPR’s look back at 1963, including the @Todayin1963 timeline and the Summer of ’63 series – including Karen Grigsby Bates’ talks with the children of slain civil rights leaders – Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and Viola Liuzzo.
Diane McWhorter’s op-ed in NYT: Civil Rights Justice on the Cheap
When the Lights Shut Off: Kendrick Lamar and the Decline of the Black Blues Narrative by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
If You Live Your Life On The Move, Where Do You Call Home? By Joshunda Sanders
26 Women Share their Abortion Stories in New York Magazine
On PRISM, or Listening Neoliberally by Robin James
What’s Killing Poor White Women by Monica Potts in The American Prospect
Harry Belafonte’s Speech at the NAACP Image Awards
Imani Perry and Jelani Cobb’s podcast on President Obama’s comments at the March on Washington commemoration
Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s look back at Nelson Mandela’s life
Jesse Williams on Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast
the short “Coach” on C. Vivian Stringer, part of ESPN’s Nine for IX series
Writers I discovered this year:
Writers whose writings I eagerly await.
The story that I read the most about was the turmoil in the Philadelphia school district. From the closure of 23 schools in June, the draconian budget cuts deemed necessary to open the schools in September, to the ongoing budgt crisis and continuing labor negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. An assortment of sources provided coverage: the Philadelphia Public School Notebook is my number one stop for Philly education news. Also: Helen Gym’s twitter feed, Susan Snyder, Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daniel Denvir at City Paper and the team at Newsworks. In national media, there were good pieces in the New York Times, NPR, The American Prospect and more.
There were many parallels in the school closings in Chicago, DC, and more and the systematic dismantling of public education in US cities.
This is what I’ve got for now.
Onward and upward for 2014.
I started this after Whitney died and never finished it. Since today is her birthday, I decided to tackle it, hopefully without too many tears.
It’s been over a month since Whitney Elizabeth Houston died. This celebrity death has lingered with me much more than any other. Since I was born in 1986 with the first name of Whitney, there was no way that I could escape her presence. But I didn’t grow up with her music. I was barely cognizant of current-day music until 94 or 95. Whitney wasn’t what was played in the house unless a song came up on the rotation on WDAS while my mom was cooking or cleaning.
But the later Whitney I embraced, and I was thrilled to hear her live at Mann Music Center on tour for the My Love is your Love album. And I of course dug into her entire catalog.
More than the music and her immaculate voice, the later Whitney is the one that I wrestle with in my thoughts. Her sureness of her relationship with Jesus despite the turmoil & challenges is one that helps me understand that I am worthy too no matter what’s gone on I’m my life. I feel surprising envy for that type of relationship with God and Whitney’s talk about hers helps me better understand what my mom talks about when she calls me every Sunday.
That sense that I am enough, flaws and all is what I see in Whitney in her later interviews. Embracing what she evolved into and living fully in that present. Something that I am not currently doing in my own life. The gift and talent that was her voice and making use of the talents and gifts that you have is the other thing that listening to old Whitney records brings to the forefront. It makes me question myself, am I doing enough with my gifts and talents?
I listen to her music and strive to get better and embrace my whole self and to be enough as I am.
Happy Birthday Whitney. Rest in everlasting peace.
Alexis Sumpter, a 15 year old Harlem resident, was handcuffed and detained at a NYC metro station by the NYPD for 90 minutes after she swiped her student metro card, on her way to the first day at her marketing internship. Two plainclothes police officers approached her and told her that “she looked older than her age to be using a student metro card.” Sumpter told them that she was 15 years old and that she didn’t have any ID because it was recently stolen.
“They called me liar, then they grabbed me by my arms and flung me up the stairs. I kept saying, I’m only 15 — why are you guys doing this?”
A third cop joined them and he pressed her face against the wall while the other two cops handcuffed her.
The police called her dad and he told them that Alexis is 15 years old.
But the police didn’t believe him.
The police called her mom and she came to the metro station to tell the cops that Alexis is 15 years old.
But the police didn’t believe her.
Alexis’ mom went home, retrieved Alexis’ birth certificate and brought it to the metro station.
Only then did the police believe that Alexis is 15 years old and released her.
So many issues come to mind while reading this story. “Papers please” by the NYPD in a Harlem metro station, like the “papers please”Arizona SB1070 law. A law that presented as targeting immigrants but invariably affecting all people of color in the US. The police don’t believe the truth of Alexis’ parents, only the papers.
The demand for identification in an era of increasingly strict voter ID laws, when blacks, Latin@s, young people and the elderly are least likely to have valid ID. The lack of valid voter ID leads to reduced ability to effect change via the political process.
The fragility of Black girlhood. 15 years old but seen as a grown woman by the police. The innocence of adolescence is far gone. Alexis no longer rides that train line, accommodating her life to the mistreatment & poor behavior of others.
Check the NY Daily News video to listen to Alexis tell her story.
Last night the US women’s gymnastics team won a gold medal in the team final. Gabby Douglas led the team, winning 1/3 of the 183.596 total points as she competed in all 4 events: floor, vault, beam and uneven bars. All 5 members; Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber; contributed to the win.
However, I opened up my Express this morning and there was no mention of Gabby Douglas in their writeup of last night’s victory. The only picture of Gabby Douglas anywhere in today’s edition is a small pic in the upper right corner of the front cover. It is a picture of her mid-tumble, so her face is obscured and her legs are most prominently displayed. The picture isn’t labeled or captioned to reference Gabby Douglas.
Page 11 is all about the winning gymnasts yet Gabby Douglas isn’t mentioned at all in the article and she’s not included or captioned in the picture of Team USA:
Closer look at the photo used:
The caption reads: Alexandra Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, and Kyla Ross celebrate the U.S. gymnasts’ win on Tuesday.
When I say all about the winning gymnasts, it’s really about Jordyn Wieber. The only other team member mentioned was McKayla Maroney. The Express excerpted an AP report on Team USA’s victory poorly; excluding any mention of Gabby Douglas and highlighting the disappointments & challenges of Jordyn Wieber bouncing back from not qualifying in the all-around individual finals.
Gabby Douglas was an integral part of Team USA’s win last night and deserved to be recognized. Let the Express know how you feel about their coverage via email
Giving this writing thing a go…
Lots of people, family, friends, twitter pals, etc have encouraged me to write and here I am to take the plunge.
This blog will primarily focus on politics, policy and the news via the perspective of a mid-twenties black woman.
“People never get the flowers while they can still smell em'” ~ Kanye West
This blog is dedicated to my grandmom who, besides my immediate family, is the one with whom I always talk politics. I’ve always read a lot and grew up discussing the news and politics at home, over the kitchen table, or on the way to school. She worked in constituent services for state politicians in Pennsylvania when I was growing up which I thought was the coolest thing. And I want to let her know while we are all here together.
So Cathie Black is out and Dennis Walcott is the new NYC Schools Chancellor. Walcott was previously Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for education. In DC Michelle Rhee resigned after Adrian Fenty lost his mayoral reelection and was replaced buy her #2 Kaya Henderson.
Both Henderson and Walcott present different faces but neither proposes and changes to the fundamental policies of the school districts. Yes they may be nicer and more polished in dealing with students, parents, and the press but the underlying policy that you were upset with it still being implemented.
On a larger scale this same principle can be seen in federal education policy by comparing the policies of the Department of Education under former Secretary Margaret Spellings and under current Secretary Arne Duncan. Race to the Top has been an extension of the principles of No Child Left Behind, just with the states competing among each other to receive federal money instead of the money being shared among all 50 states. There has been no shift away from high stakes testing, charter schools or criticism of public school teachers.
A new fresh face isn’t enough to clean up the problems and bring change.
Updated: Exhibit A: NY Times article detailing Dennis Walcott’s plans to continue the same policies as Joel Klein and Cathie Black