SOLITARY

Albert Woodfox was a teenager when he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Louisiana prison was called Angola and those incarcerated there were treated like animals. They were strip-searched sometimes multiple times a day and were made to work for two cents per hour. Woodfox tells the story of his more than forty years in solitary confinement fighting for his freedom. This is a heartbreaking true story and it should surprise no one that Albert Woodfox is a black man.

I recommend this book particularly if you are interested in the correctional system in this country.

“White Fragility”by Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo is an antiracist educator with years of experience. Her book, “White Fragility,” is thought-provoking on many levels but her main thesis is that all white people are racist. That is an explosive statement but throughout her writing, she gives examples of how the white race has maintained a culture of supporting racism as a structure of the social order.

Michael Eric Dyson, who wrote the book’s forward, states that it is a “ vital, necessary, and beautiful book.” DiAngelo not only points out how we, as whites, get things so wrong, but why and what we can do to overcome our fragility.

I highly recommend this New York Times bestseller.

“White Rage”

From the Civil War to today, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson Ph.D. defines the powerful forces opposed to black progress in the United States. Anderson wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in response to talk of black rage. She proposed that the problem was instead white rage that brought about the unrest in this country at that time, 2014. Her book, “White Rage” followed. 

Our cursory study of the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment would have us believe the struggles of African Americans ended in 1865. The author details how Blacks were met at every crossroads to be turned back by powerful Whites. 

Every American should read this award winning book, no, should study it, to finally understand what Black Americans have faced and why the struggle continues to this day. 

“12 Years a Slave”

Solomon Northup, a black man, was born free in 1808. He lived in New York State with his wife and three children. He worked and supported his family and loved playing the violin. One day he was kidnapped and following being sold multiple times he ended up spending twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. During this time he was brutally beaten and existed working on little to eat and sleeping on a dirt floor. He had no idea whether his family was still alive when he was finally freed.

Published in 1853 this detailed and true description of life as a slave became a best seller. This true story is spellbinding and heartrending. It was eventually made into a popular motion picture. I recommend this book.

Paradise

MONDAY BOOK REVIEW

“Paradise” by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winning author and “Paradise” is one of her many bestselling books. That being said, it is not an easy book to read, especially at first. Each chapter is named for a different woman who is a pivotal character in this convoluted tale. 

The book starts out with violent murders and the reader has no idea where it is taking place or why.  Eventually the story winds around to a town settled by black Americans who hope they are building their paradise. It turns out to be anything but that.

Many of the names are difficult and characters blend together in a stew that eventually goes from simmer to boil. This book has racial tension, social issues and sexual intrigue.

Overall all I give it a 4.5 score out of 5. I believe that a writer as talented as Morrison could have told this fascinating story with less frustration for the reader. D5709C90-C5A2-4E8D-A4DD-DC53B57BF123_4_5005_c

Red Summer

Tonight, the President of the United States will hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many believe the rally should not be held there because of the city’s history of violence against African Americans almost 100 years ago. Tulsa was only one of many cities wherein Black Americans were tortured, beaten, burned, or hanged during the so called “Red Summer.”

Red Summer occurred in 1919 and lasted from late winter through early autumn and took place in over three dozen cities in the United States. The NAACP and other activist groups organized peaceful protests that were soon overrun by white supremacists leading to the months’ long riots that burned Black-owned businesses, homes, and families.

I wonder what city might be exempt from the history of such events and therefore appropriate for political rallies.

I wonder how many of you readers learned about this time in American history during your years in school. I know that I did not. I don’t think it is by accident that we were not taught about this and other times of conflict between White and Black Americans.

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This photograph taken June 1, 1921, is part of a collection at the University of Tulsa.            (USA Today)

St. Louis Red Summer
Photo from Bing

20 Bucks

Case 1

Several months ago, a college student was shopping at a craft store. She paid with a $20 bill which she had received at another retail establishment. The clerk checking out her order looked at the bill and said, “I’m sorry, but this is counterfeit.” The student was shocked and produced another bill that was accepted. Except for the embarrassment that was the end of that.

Case 2

On May 25, 2020, a man was in a grocery store. He paid with a $20 bill that was deemed counterfeit. The police were called. Four officers arrived and handcuffed the man. He died while being restrained by an officer’s knee.

What do you think was different in these two cases?

I know the person in Case #1 and she is white.

I do not know the black man in Case #2 but I have witnessed his murder.

“The Bluest Eye” – A Book Review

Toni Morrison wrote her first book, “The Bluest Eye” in 1970. It was controversial and poorly accepted at first but later became a National Bestseller. Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her book “Beloved.”

“The Bluest Eye” is an honest, but painful account of various African American families. The protagonist is an unattractive, abused little black girl who longed to have blue eyes like the dolls available for play and like the beautiful girls at school. If only she had blue eyes her world would be different. No doubt she believed her parents would love her and her friends would treat her kindly. Her attempt to have her dream come true is really only a tiny part of the book, but points out the pain of being an innocent child in an incomprehensible world.

I recommend this well known book by an accomplished author, Toni Morrison who died this year at age eighty-eight.

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“A room without books is like a body without a soul” Cicero

Alice Walker Book Review

“You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down”

This book by Alice Walker is made up of fifteen short stories. The stories vary in content from pornography to the civil rights movement in the sixties. Her stories are about the poor as well as the successful, such as artists and academics. The main focus of each, however, is the struggle of black women. Those struggles are surprising, in that they often come from within or from other African Americans.

Some of the stories I did not enjoy, but others I found very interesting. Probably my favorite was the last and the longest story entitled “Source.”

Walker is fierce in her willingness to tackle any subject. I recommend this book to anyone who is not easily offended. In my opinion, its purpose is certainly not to offend, but to inform.

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Movie Review – The Green Book

The Green Book

First, an explanation for the title; unless you are familiar with “The Green Book” the movie title can be a bit off-putting. The movie is not about the book, but about the fact that the book was necessary during the 1962 setting of the movie. Once I had seen the movie by this title and had done some brief research I felt differently. The book was actually entitled  “The Negro Motorist Green Book” (and sometimes “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book”). 

This guidebook for African-American travelers during the Jim Crow era was written by a New York Postman, Victor Green. “The Green Book” at first covered only New York City, but later the author included most of the US and much of Canada. It was published annually from 1936-1966 so that African-American travelers would know where they were allowed to eat, rent a motel room or even buy gas. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was no longer a necessity for black people traveling. Interestingly the book is in print once again for students of the Jim Crow period. 

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+green+book+negro+motorist&sprefix=The+Green+Book%2Caps%2C140&crid=1KCQ7UEC1ACT0

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The Movie

In a word, the movie is great! It has comedic moments, but the serious subject is racial discrimination in America during the Jim Crow era. Mahershala Ali plays Dr. Shirley, a black genius who holds various degrees, speaks several languages and is a gifted pianist. He is pretentious and except for his butler is pretty much alone in the world. Dr. Shirley’s passion is classical music, but he has to compromise and play the music expected of a black man, jazz. When he books a tour that takes him deep into the South he hires a driver for the eight-week trip. The story unfolds during that timeframe.

The driver is “Tony Lip” played by Viggo Mortensen. He’s an out of work Italian club bouncer who takes the driver’s job because he needs the money. Tony is somewhat racist and one wonders how this arrangement can possibly work for these two men. It is rocky from the start and I will leave it there rather than spoil it for you.

This true story about real people is well worth your time. 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Little Professor of Piney Woods

Inspiring Story

Over this past weekend, I read a book recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Christine Goodnough. You might want to check out her blog. https://christinegoodnough.com We’ve never met, but I enjoy the posts of this prolific writer in Canada. 

The book, written by Beth Day, was published in 1955 and is entitled “The Little Professor of Piney Woods.” It is about a young black man right out of college who opens a school in the deep woods of Mississippi in the early twentieth century. Laurence Jones’ obstacles were many, but he persevered and that school is still in operation today.

The story is folksy, happy, sad and at times maddening, but well worth the read if you like history and happy endings. I recommend it.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_C._Jones

http://www.pineywoods.org

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Race in America

A Tough Subject 

racism | ˈrāˌsizəm | noun       prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: a program to combat racism. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races: theories of racism.  Source: Webster’s Dictionary. 


White Privilege 

This is a subject I approach with much trepidation. I fear I will not state my opinions and thoughts clearly. Being misunderstood on such a sensitive topic is a real danger, but I feel this subject is important enough to take that chance. Reader opinions will vary just as our life experiences vary.

I, as a white person, know I have advantages and some I am not really cognizant of most of the time. The dominant race is always assured of unearned assets and privileges even though members may be poor or uneducated as was my early family.  This notwithstanding I know I am a recipient of white privilege and I desire to even the playing field when I can. It begins by acknowledging that advantage.   

Racism

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The sender of this Christmas card which I received as a child meant no harm but it clearly demonstrates racial prejudice as does the advertisement from an old catalog of the same era. I am aware each is offensive, but that is why I have included them, to demonstrate that racism is a part of our collective history. 

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I realize this delicate subject can bring about controversy but that is not my intent. I will talk about my own experiences and evolution and each reader can, and I hope will, examine their own feelings on this delicate, but vital, subject. 

Childhood

I was born into a rural white community. My first memory of encountering a person of color was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was with my parents when they stopped at a small store in Harrisonville, KY. I had never been there before and I was shocked to see the dark-skinned proprietor. Mr. Buesey smiled at me and extended his hand offering me a cookie. I did not take it, because I thought surely the black had rubbed off on the cookie. Although I remember nothing else about this experience, to this day I regret my childish reaction knowing I must have hurt this kind man’s feelings. 

The next such memory I have must have been at around the same age because I still had a curiosity about the permanence of that black color. I was shopping with my Mother and Aunt in the big town of Frankfort, the capital of KY. When I saw a little black girl about my age I apparently had the courage to attempt to solve my question because I reached out and touched her arm. Again, I know I was rude and regret it. I definitely was not raised in an environment where I came into contact with other than white people on any regular basis. 

Growing Up

All this changed when I moved to the small town of Taylorsville. While black children went to a separate school, I did see people of color around town and began to feel more comfortable. I hope I was also more polite. I was in High School before black students were allowed to integrate our “white” schools.

As an adult, I recall the busing era of the seventies when my own children were in school. I remember the demonstrations, the marches and the shouts at buses filled with black children being brought into the suburbs to integrate schools. I am ashamed to say when one of my daughters entering the ninth grade was assigned to an inner city High School we moved to another county. We were a part of white flight even though it was not the integration that concerned me but the fact that my child was being taken into an unknown community many miles from home. Regardless, I was part of the problem, not the solution. 

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Change

So much has changed in my lifetime and especially in my own mind and heart. I wish my journey had been different. I wish I had been brought up in an integrated community and that it had not been necessary to work to overcome a racial bias I did not even realize I had until later in adulthood. 

Our country has a long way to go to overcome racism and even further to achieve racial equality. This is my opinion.  

“It’s the people who don’t recognize the racism within themselves that can be the most damaging because they don’t see it.” Sterling K. Brown


Recommended reading about racism in America: the distant past “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriett Beecher Stowe and a contemporary account “White Rage” by Carol Anderson. 

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Black & White

Her wardrobe is almost exclusively black and white, but I did not notice this over the several months that I had known her. In fact, it wasn’t until that day when I was looking deeply into her eyes. She was grieving the death of a family member and needed someone to listen to her sorrow. 

While she spoke of her loved one’s last hours tears brimmed over her lower lids and as I watched in empathy I almost expected her dark eyes to stain the tears and leave a trail on her cheeks. Her eyes were inky black. Solid black so that I could not discern the pupil from the iris. It was then that I noted the contrast of her white hair. At 78 she was beautiful in black and white. 

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable.” Khalil Gibran

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay