A Promise to My Two-Year-Old Niece

Dear Niyah,

I promise you that I will do everything I can to ensure you are safe and supported (legally and emotionally) if:

  • You love, and wish to marry, a woman;
  • You decide you will be happier living as a male;
  • You want to use birth control; or
  • You want to get an abortion.

I promise to help your parents and grandparents teach you that EVERYONE is equal and deserves justice, no matter their ethnicity, national origin, religion, ability or disability, gender identity/expression, or age.

I also pledge to do what I can to slow the advancement of climate change. The current outlook on this is terribly bleak, but many Americans are mobilizing and ready to fight those who choose to ignore scientific research.

I admit that I’m scared for you (and every other American including myself), but hope is stronger than fear. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Light and love will see us through.

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The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois is #31 on Modern Library’s list of Top 100 Nonfiction. It was published in 1903, so as I read it, I asked myself how far we had come in erasing the color line 113 years later.

Not far enough.

Du Bois talks about the blacks of the South in his book. He believes education to be a powerful tool to help black people raise themselves out of poverty. He also talks about the need for blacks to be able to vote and describes the importance of religion and music in their lives.

Due to particular current events (senseless death after senseless death of blacks at the hands of police) as well as my recent reading of this article in Utne Reader by Kevin Powell, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me, and Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, I am starting on a journey to further understand “the veil” that blacks see the world through and to learn more about white privilege. I feel so powerless regarding the color line, but knowledge is power, right? One has to start somewhere…

If you have any recommendations for books about white privilege or the color line, I would love to hear them.

Courtesy of npr.org
W.E.B. Du Bois (Courtesy of npr.org)

The Little Things

My heart is heavy…three tragedies this week. I am in a state of disbelief. How do we fix this? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that white people need to step up and help change the future.

I’ve heard a few times over the past few days that “this [police brutality] has been happening forever; now we just have cell phone videos to document it.”

I used to walk around “not seeing color.” (I’m white.) I saw no difference between me and someone with different-colored skin. Over the years, I’ve realized that that’s all well and good, but I needed to start SEEING that these people with different-colored skin live with discrimination and bias ALL THE TIME. They are different from me because they have different experiences because of their skin color.

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me in a book club and a light bulb went off. I got a glimpse of what it is like to feel unsafe in your body because of your skin color. As a black person in the club said, “I don’t have to read this; I’ve lived it.”

I don’t know how I will help right now, but I will find a way. Inaction is an action in itself, as Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

And one last quote:

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate can not drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I’m taking a short break from my swirling thoughts and feelings of anger and despair and reminding myself that life is precious and to cherish the little things.

Like brunch. I love brunch. So I’m not sure why it took me 17 years to check out a diner near me called Johnny’s Luncheonette.

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Allen and I went for Sunday brunch and it was superb. The food was great and I loved the diner decor. The waitress was nice and the menu was impressive. I’ll be back to try lunch or dinner sometime.

I’m getting to the end of my list = five more things to report!

The term “self-care” seems a little New Age-y to me, but I’m going to encourage you to partake in it this weekend. Attend a vigil or walk in a march if that’s what you feel you need to do. Thank local police officers for the work they do. Or go to brunch with a family member or friend.

Ending Rocklessness in Girls Forever

My boyfriend is a drummer, so when I spied a sticker with an illustration of knuckles and drumsticks on a coworker’s water bottle at a meeting, I asked her about it. And that’s how I found out about an international movement to empower girls called Girls Rock Camp.

Girls Rock Camp helps girls “find their voice” by teaching them to play instruments and perform in a band at the end of a weeklong session. Girls also learn about empowerment and social justice along the way.

A wonderful and life-changing experience, right?

My coworker, who volunteers for the girls’ camp, told me about Ladies Rock Camp, which is a condensed three-day version of the girls’ camp for women 21+ held each spring. The money raised from this camp is used to fund scholarships for girls who want to attend the summer camp.

Music is a HUGE part of my life as is volunteering = I HAD TO volunteer for this camp and see what it was all about. (And it would conveniently count as a birthday list item.)

I arrived at the orientation the night before the weekend started, having no idea what to expect. The camp was taking place at a community center in a neighboring town. There were about 25 women there, and as we introduced ourselves, I learned that most of the women had been campers themselves and had been volunteering for a while. They all talked about what a positive experience it was for them, and I sensed that I was entering a community—one that I’d enjoy being a part of.

Camp started the next morning (a Friday), but I arrived at dinnertime because I had to work during the day. I would be on “site crew” for the weekend, meaning that I would set up spaces for workshops, stock the bathrooms, and help out wherever I was needed. My cohorts were two veteran volunteers who gladly showed me the ropes.

The weekend was intense…each day started around 9:00 am and ended around 11:00 pm. If I remember correctly, there were about 50 campers who split up into eight bands. Most bands were composed of a lead singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist. The daily schedule was packed full of practice time, workshop time, social time, and meals.

On Saturday, I helped set up two sessions of a screenprinting workshop. Each band came up with a name and a logo and made screen-printed T-shirts. I loved watching creativity at work. Ladies had a choice of three workshops in the evening. Luckily there wasn’t much setup needed, so I attended one about standing up to micro-agressions in daily life.

On Sunday, the energy was palpable because the campers would be performing in public that evening at a popular music venue. After only three days of lessons! Campers had their hair “did” by volunteer hairdressers and could choose among hundreds of temporary tattoos to wear. Band photos were taken and I helped set up one last workshop on relational aggression.

The camp ran like a well-oiled machine. Every camper and volunteer whom I met was friendly, curious, open, supportive, and loved music. Watching the campers onstage on Sunday night was truly inspiring and empowering. I can’t wait to volunteer again next year.

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Drum Lesson

My friend Daisy came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Before she arrived, she searched for goings-on for Saturday night and discovered that a taiko drumming workshop was being offered in my neighborhood. She asked if I was interested.

But of course!

This beginner’s workshop was being taught by a mother and daughter who are members of a local pan-Asian American women’s art and advocacy organization called Genki Spark. Kumiko and Mayuko were amazing teachers. So fun, kind, and patient.

There were nine of us taking the class, and we rotated among five taiko drums and four drums fashioned out of garbage cans.

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As Kumiko mimed our first hits to the drum, “Right, left, right,” I thought, “Shit.”

Here was yet another activity in which my left-handedness is a bit of a hindrance. I hit the drum using my right hand first = awkward! I ended up playing in a left-handed/right-handed hybrid for the rest of the workshop. I tried to listen to her verbal directions, but I found that when I stopped fully concentrating, I would slip into using my left hand first.

Although I was having trouble finding the “flow” of the drumming, I was still enjoying myself. We learned different rhythms until we were able to play five of them in succession. Then the group split into two, with one group playing a steady beat and the other playing the melody.

It was a fun way to spend a Saturday night, and I am glad to have learned about Genki Spark. See Genki Spark in action here!