Category Archives: social justice

Not just another day

It’s hot. “The news flattens one spirits,” is one way to put it. A neighbor uses chalk to #saytheirnames

She inspires me.

It is hot enough for the season’s first batch of gazpacho.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, a random act of kindness.

And a kitty looking Finn over as we pass.

And in case you didn’t already know that consciousness loves contrast, after a brutal catch up of the news this morning, look what greeted me to the East.

If nothing else, give

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RIP George Floyd.

A post shared by Chawne Kimber (@cauchycomplete) on

It’s heartbreaking that Chawne Kimber had cause to repost her “I can’t breathe” quilt. After nearly every comment, Kimber asked, “but what are you going to DO?” A drumbeat. A call to action. “What are you going TO DO?”

Here is a link to Minnesota Freedom Fund, which among other things, pays criminal bail for those who cannot afford to do so. I gave a little this morning.

And here is a Medium article titled, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” It was written in 2017 and things have only gotten worse since then, so it’s still relevant. You could get lost for years doing the suggested reading and movie viewing. Don’t. Get a parallel course of action going.

Massachusetts has been reforming their criminal justice system in recent years, supported by a number of advocacy groups, like Citizens for Juvenile Justice. I made calls to my reps about some aspects of these efforts back in 2017 and am putting the task front and center again.

In “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander describes the devastating impacts of mandatory minimum drug sentencing and forfeiture rules. In the case of mandatory minimums, judges lost the power to consider a person’s circumstances. Sentencing that should have been calculated in months was imposed in five and ten year chunks.

When I worked for Aid to Incarcerated Mothers in the 90’s, I met inmates who had received mandatory five year sentences for possession of small amounts of drugs. Drug sales were often motivated by poverty or to support a habit. If parents, these women were almost always in danger of losing custody of their children — a secondary and devastating consequence to ridiculously long prison terms.

Alexander delineates how the forfeiture rules not only created incentives for law enforcement to grab property, it incentivized the vigorous continuation of the drug trade itself.

I’m jumping all around here, but there is a through line.

When making investments, you can either choose a socially responsible fund (an ESG investment) or have an otherwise ordinary fund apply filters. We chose Trillium as our ESG fund and applied the filters of fossil fuels and private prison corporations to others.

Privatization of the prison system creates incentives for keeping incarceration numbers high. More bodies equals more profits. ICE has been housing people in private prisons as well.

While I’m not sure that I fall all the way on the side of prison abolition, I most definitely want the racist and other inhumane policies to undergo reform. Our numbers are beyond shocking.

In closing let me say how gratifying it was to watch Amy Cooper go down in real time. From “twitter do your thing,” to her identity being posted within hours, to her voluntary surrender of her dog before sundown, her termination from Templeton Franklin the next day, and finally, her being banned from Central Park. She went full Donham* and deserved every bit of it.

*Woman who cried rape and effectively killed Emmett Till. She recanted a couple of years ago.

This quilt is from my Middle Passage series.

Opinion fact and doubt – a personal issue

We don’t go out much anymore but did last night. It was lovely. The hosts are terrific cooks (always such a treat!) and another neighbor couple that we enjoy attended. We used to see these people more. There is abiding affection and we really welcomed the chance to catch up.

But here’s the thing. Self-doubt mucks up the works for me.

I rocket between bombast and feeling silenced. I interrupt. I’m curious but impatient. I want to know what people really think but I don’t want it to take forever. I want them to know what I think but sometimes have trouble inserting myself. So I launch grenades. Abbreviate myself to the point of inscrutability.

ADD has a role in this. Irish word drama, too. But self-doubt might be the MOST operative factor.

I want to be believed and failing that, I want to believe myself. At least, when I’m pretty certain of a thing. Instead, I reflexively grant my questioner more authority than I grant myself.

I do excruciating post-mortems. Just ask K. Or, read on.

There I was in bed last night ranting and googling. Googling and ranting. SEE? Roxane Gay DOES live in LA! Of course I know this. I’ve followed her forever on Instagram and am a little star struck, and so why did I question myself? Why?

SEE? It says right there: Ayanna Pressley co-chair of Warren’s campaign. I’ve been carefully following how Warren is trying redress her “lack of receipts” in the black community, so of course I know this, knew it in real time, celebrated it, so why did I question myself.

Soon after the appointment, I took the time to watch a fraught moment of EW’s at an arena in Atlanta and scanned enough black Twitter to get a sense of why it was controversial (Pressley took the mic when black protestors interrupted — EW using a black woman as a shield?!) Seen challenges at how the three co-chairs were depicted in the announcing photo (racial stereotype much?) I mean, we’re talking a granular level of attention here. So why didn’t my assertion carry more weight?

Did it carry weight?

(On the point of close attention, I was the only one at the table who’d listened to EW’s New Year’s Day address and noted with approval, therefore, her use of the term “enslaved” when referring to our first black poet, Phyllis Wheatley. Applauded out loud how artfully EW wove facts about the poet’s life into her remarks. Not at all facile. It’s an inspiring speech not just because of how thoroughly EW seems to be integrating lessons about race, but for everything else she says, too).

What’s with all the doubt?

(Another relevant example: how the #KHive on twitter practically ruined Warren for me. Together with the whole “unelectable” thing, I’ve been in pretty full retreat. Is this realism or doubt?)

Gay and Pressley were the easy issues. Verifiable.

But what about Bernies’s terrible record on guns or his faux “outsider status” and what exactly is black opinion on Kamala’s prosecutorial record?

So yes I misspoke (for effect!?) about sex trafficking and Robert Kraft, but immediately joined in the correction because of course I knew that the questionable trumpian Chinese proprietor no longer owned the place at the time of the incident.

Oh, do you see?

I want to occupy my sit bones and speak from a place of quiet authority. To listen better, too.

To end, let me reference a very upsetting dream from last night (talk about doubt!)

I am being questioned by a black woman about what I have actually done to promote justice or to inform my writing about black characters and slavery. I lamely answer, “I read a lot?” She nods as if to say ‘that’s not nothing,’ but… Another black woman has stolen ALL my sewing needles. I take some of them back. Somewhere on the wall, a quote of mine is posted. It’s old and unevolved and embarrassing. I can’t remember now what it said.

Green medicine and harsh questions

Saturday. Wellesley. Green medicine.

Sunday, we saw a moving play in two acts about a conversation between a white professor at an elite private college and a black history student. It was moving. Tough to watch. Didn’t answer any questions. “The Niceties.

From the article about white playwright, Eleanor Burgess, and the play’s creation:

The imbroglio at Yale made Burgess, a former high school history teacher, realize that smart, educated, and well-meaning Americans couldn’t talk to each other about race. ‘ I started to believe that we actually disagree much more than we think we do.’

…the advantage of having the debate unfold on stage, where audience members are not taking part in the conversation directly. ‘You’re not personally being attacked, and you don’t have to think of a next thing to say. So you can actually hear the entire conversation and just let it wash over you.’

The play was set prior to the presidential election and all of us wondered how much starker the terms of the argument would’ve been today.

Questions:

Who gets to decide what perspective is important?

What role does the insistence on source documents in writing about history play in discounting the history of slavery in general and the lives of the enslaved, in particular?

Where should people in positions of power draw the First Amendment line when it comes to triggering images and content?

What would happen if professors were more open to the strengths of millennials (and less reflexively dismissive)?

If saying “sorry” isn’t enough in the wake of a problematic encounter, what sorts of reparations are?

Should change be approached incrementally or in dramatic sweeps? And, who decides?

What actual supports do students of color need and deserve on college campuses, particularly bastions of privilege like the ivy leagues.

(The role these institutions play in perpetuating a closed loop of power is particularly on display this week with the Kavanaugh revelations).

Back to work.

PS is it weird that all four of us who watched the play think that Kavanaugh will be appointed and yet nevertheless find the many ways that protest and pushback are having an effect in real time, inspiring?

Who gets named: Ida B. Wells

Women We Overlooked aired on The New York Times podcast about a month ago. It features an interview with a New York Times obituary writer/researcher and went on to discuss the life of journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells.*

I learned on Sunday’s 60 Minutes feature about the Alabama memorial that there’s a special part of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice dedicated to Wells.

My #unreadshelfproject includes relevant history in: “News for All the People, The Epic Story of Race and the American Media” by Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres.

“When she took over as editor of the Memphis “Free Speech” in 1889, Ida B. Wells had already made something of a name for herself challenging racial bigotry.” In 1892, Wells wrote a stunning editorial following the lynching of eight men, after which the offices of the paper were burned down and her life threatened. Wells happened to be out of town that day and subsequently moved to Chicago. From there she “launched a systematic investigation of the hated practice [of lynching] around the country” and wrote about her findings in a series of newspaper articles and a book called “Southern Horrors” … Wells was also active as a teacher, feminist and civil rights leader.

Amy Goodman’s podcast, Democracy Now, interviewed the authors of “News for All People”, here.

Finn was just picked up and I’m off to Salem. Time to order a fridge and hire movers. If time, we will jaunt over to Kane’s — the greenhouse over by Trader Joe’s. My sister’s new place has wide windowsills, perfect for some potted geraniums.

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This post is a placeholder, containing some homework for myself — I hope you don’t mind. Wanted to capture these things while they’re still fresh. 

*  If you don’t know about The Daily — you’re in for a treat. Each episode is only 20 minutes long and yet manages to do interesting and in-depth reporting. They’re an essential part of my news fare these days.

Onward and upward

Poster talk

I thought the March for Our Lives rally in Boston would be bigger than the Women’s March but not so sure at the time we left (early to get to The Paramount).

CNN: there is something decidedly different about this rally.

Me at home: yeah. Youth.

Me at Boston Common: and vaped pot.

The day warmed up beautifully. I squatted as part of a human obstacle for a street performer at Downtown Crossing which you may never see since K filmed it with a lovely view of my ass as I bent over.

And now a play. What a day!

Palm sky house



Too much blue? Added more today including at rooflines. Those are the pieces I’m considering taking off.

The bottom dark blue floral strip came from a pair of rayon pants I bought a couple of weeks ago.

More progress shots, just for fun.


Another rainy day here. Spent part of the morning at a program for the 21st Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.