Summer time … the sun does shine, or does it? Plus, can the Queen and Halle come over?

Oprah’s book club selection for this summer is a really excellent book, inspiring and yet it’s a tough read: The Sun Does Shine, by Anthony Ray Hinton. “A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice and the gift by a man who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.” My blog this week is on the sun shining, times when the sun doesn’t shine, and amazing summer thoughts from a school teacher on how to have your best summer ever.

“Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me. … I still had some choices. I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice.”

“I missed my family. But sometimes you have to make family where you find family, or you die in isolation. I wasn’t ready to die. I wasn’t going to make it that easy on them. I was going to find another way to do my time. Whatever time I had left.

Everything, I realized, is a choice. And spending your days waiting to die is no way to live.”   — Anthony Ray Hinton

I saw Oprah interview Anthony Ray Hinton this past Sunday on OWN. The interview had me smiling at times and at times I wiped tears from my eyes. His journey has been truly incredible. The Super Soul podcast of Oprah’s interview can be accessed here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/id1264843400. It is a wonderful way to start your summer and see that the sun does shine. When you have a dark day and wonder whether or not the sun will shine again, think about Anthony Ray Hinton’s 30 years on death row, watching 54 men and one woman inmates walk past his cell to be executed and wondering if he will be executed too.

The book reads like a novel but it is a true story of faith, courage, friendship and hardship. Mr. Hinton has a friend named Lester, they’ve been friends since Mr. Hinton was four years old, who visited him every week that he was imprisoned for those 30 years. That is friendship. I wonder if any of us have a friend who would do that. The reason Mr. Hinton was released is because of Bryan Stevenson, an advocate with an organization who worked on Mr. Hinton’s case, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, resulting in the overturning of his conviction.

Truly amazing book. One of the things that finally helped Mr. Hinton to survive is that he began to live through his mind. Now, here is where his book intersects with summer in my mind. I think summer is a great time to let your mind imagine and wander. To help him survive where he was, he began to imagine many scenarios. So, if you’re imagining things, you may as well imagine big things. Mr. Hinton imagined himself flying to London and visiting the Queen of England. They had tea, played croquet, she showed him around the castle and the gardens and secret rooms in the palace. He was completely of sound mind but this imagining kept him from feeling confined.

Mr. Hinton read books, many books. He read books by James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and he started a book club.

“Not everyone has my imagination. All day, every day, guys are drowning in fear and death. Imagine knowing the day you’re going to die. How could you think about anything else? These guys have to find a way to think about life.”

Mr. Hinton married Halle Barry in his imagination. He is sane, don’t go thinking he had lost it. Just remember, this man was on death row not knowing whether he would ever make it out of that prison alive. In his interview with Oprah, he says that it was not a sexual thing, that it was an inspirational situation to cope through difficult times. He was married to Halle for 15 years then dropped her for Sandra Bullock because Sandra could drive a truck to help him get away from the prison. You will enjoy hearing him talk about it in the podcast.

In his book, he intersperses reminiscing about his imagination with the petition filings being done on his behalf, the execution dates that were set for fellow inmates, security guards mistreating them, and the experience of his mother’s death that nearly broke his spirit. You do get what it is like to be on death row but you understand how he learned to survive it by believing in something bigger than the prison system.

I think you will smile, cry, laugh a bit, cringe a bit, but ultimately just like Mr. Hinton, you will believe that the sun does shine. Put it on your summer reading list. But, even if you don’t take the time to read the book, listen to the podcast and I hope you will feel inspired. An excerpt from the Super Soul Sunday broadcast can be accessed here: http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/anthony-ray-hinton-time-doesnt-exist-on-death-row

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/the-powerful-lesson-death-row-taught-one-inmate-about-hate

The past week has seen some dark days for those who admire Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, with their decisions to end their lives. Their suicides are certain tragic and my thoughts are with their families, friends and colleagues.  I am reminded too of the many veterans who don’t recover from the mental anguish and emotional wounds they suffered while in the military. Statistics show that on average about 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the US. The headlines don’t talk about them and we didn’t mourn for them as loudly as we did for Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain but we probably should have. We live in a society that puts a lot of attention on the celebrity at the expense of the ordinary tragedies, that actually are more extraordinary, going unnoticed.

Three weeks ago nearly two billion around the world celebrated the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was a beautiful occasion. I got up myself early on that Saturday morning and totally watched it. I loved it all.
20180519_164546.jpg

But neither Prince Harry nor Duchess Meghan are just about the royal life. Just this week, Prince Harry brought attention to suicides of veterans:  https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/prince-harry-pleads-with-soldiers-to-not-commit-suicide/ar-AAyuA2h  I hope that others in the US will do more to prevent suicides of the veterans and the vulnerable, not just focus on the celebrities. When the sun doesn’t shine, we need to be there for those having a tough time, let them know they are not alone.

Lastly, I read an article about a parent asking a teacher for a summer package for her child. I remember those days when teachers would give our children things to do over the summer. This teacher’s response to the parent was awesome, you can read the entire article here:  https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/whats-hot/teacher-doesn’t-give-students-summer-homework-but-what-she-assigns-instead-is-amazing/ar-AAyjhzI?ocid=spartanntp

The teacher has some fabulous summer thoughts that are simple yet in these times they might be revolutionary:

  • encourages the families of her students to spend time together by having dinner together – how many of us are so busy with our schedules that having dinner together has gotten lost in the process

  • have the students have regular bedtimes – occasional nights without a bedtime are okay but generally having a routine is good for children (Butch and I followed this with our kids, we extended the time during the summer but there was still a regular bedtime. The teacher gives some rationale for this in the article.)

  • find a pen pal – what a great idea. Maybe an aunt or uncle in another state or a grandparent. Teaching the art of communication or writing without the student realizing that is what they are learning. It’s a wonderful way to disconnect from social media too.

  • put the phone away – yes, that means all of us actually putting the phone down for a certain time period and playing some games together or talking or just being with each other. Wow, what a concept.

  • relax – really. seriously. chill. (you can do it!)

As the summer gets under way, I am looking forward to the sun shining, to long days of beauty, and evenings of imagination. For those without a chance to feel the sun on their face, I hope to find a way to bring some sun into their lives with some volunteering to provide some meals for kids out of school for the summer and continued talking of suicide prevention tools. As lazy days of summer come, I will take some moments when I don’t check social media and I will relax and set the phone aside, sip some sweet tea and open good books to read. I hope you will have some moments to let the sun shine on your face too.

Beach 20180216_181933

 

 

Advertisements

Forks down, ears open

Just some common sense thoughts to get through this thing called life. Rushing through life not treating ourselves well and not treating others much better, that may not be the best formula for this thing called life.

When you’re eating, are you eating for the next bite to put in your mouth or are you enjoying the food that is already in your mouth? When you’re with someone, are your ears open to listening to what they are saying or are you thinking about what you want to say next?  Now, how are these related? I think the common thread is how we treat ourselves and a reflection of how we treat others.

Rushing through life without really taking the time to actually taste and enjoy the food, let alone chew it well enough to digest it well … that definitely isn’t good for you. We must treat ourselves better. Slow down. After you put the food in your mouth, put the fork down. Taste what is in your mouth. Chew it so that it can digest well once it is swallowed. Savor the tastes. Take a moment before you pick up the fork again with another forkful of food. Mindful eating instead of just eating for the sake of eating. So yeah, forks down. That is advice I am reminding myself of too. Slow down, taste the food. Slow down, savor life. Slow down, don’t get so caught up in the minutia. Put the fork down.

plate of vegetable salad
Photo by Victor Jung on Pexels.com

Of course those same thoughts can be applied as good advice on how you treat yourself. Take some time to taste life, don’t rush through it every day. Digest it well. Slow down. Savor it. Really see how life tastes instead of running from one thing to the next thing. Take a moment before you pick up and move on to the next bite of life. Breathe …

20160204_091237

Memorial Day is coming, the unofficial start to summer. Slowing down and telling ourselves to put the fork down is a good way to start the summer period. Enjoy the long evenings.
20160831_161826

Enjoy the casual Fridays. Take an extra day off and enjoy a long weekend. And yeah it sounds like a crazy cliché, but put the fork down and savor the tastes of late spring and early summer.

adult business businessman businesswoman
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Ears open. How often are you in a conversation with someone and find that you aren’t really listening to what the other person is saying but rather waiting for them to stop talking so you can pounce with what you have to say? It’s got to be happening a lot because the responses come too quick, don’t you think. Just think about the dialogues going on in the country today, people aren’t fully listening to each other, they’re talking but not listening. In every day conversations, there’s way too little listening.

photo of men having conversation
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

People want and need the validation of being listened to. And if true understanding is to occur, we have to listen not just hear each other. And I want to clearly state that hearing and listening are not the same. We sometimes hear the other person talking but we’re not really listening to them. Disconnects and lack of understanding of how someone feels can happen when we don’t listen to each other. So, next time you are in a conversation, open your ears and stop your brain from churning. Wait before you pounce. Listen, truly listen.

people laughing
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Friendships and relationships thrive from listening. I have had friends who only called when they needed something from me, that’s not necessarily a complete friendship. I have friends who know they can call me to talk even if we haven’t talked in many months.  I have friends who are good listeners too, we give and we receive for each other. My goal for the second half of 2018 is to be a better listener. I think in some ways I’ve started to approach the edge of talking more than listening. Listening in fact may be approaching the status of being a lost art. The country is on edge and it has made us edgy. Falling back to the art of listening just might be a good thing right about now.

So, next time you’re in a conversation, ears open. Don’t wait to pounce to respond. Just listen, sometimes people want to be listened to more than they want you to solve something for them.

Forks down. Ears open. It might help us get through this thing called life with a little less stress.

20160430_175528

 

 

 

 

Which bag do you want?

If you put your troubles in a bag and put that bag on a table and others that you know did the same thing with their troubles, there would be a table with many bags of different troubles. Then if you could make a choice of which bag you want, which bag would you want?

I was talking to a friend recently as we discussed some issues that a mutual friend was having. He relayed this bag analogy to me and thought that no matter how difficult our own troubles are, most of the time we wouldn’t actually choose to trade our troubles for what someone else’s troubles are. I think he’s right, given the actual chance to fully know what someone else is dealing with, live in their situation, my troubles might not seem so bad after all. I probably would go get my own bag from that table. Which bag do you want?

Life is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, good days and not-so-good days. Every day is not perfect and some days we just might wish we were living someone else’s life. Problems that we might have with our health or on our job or in our families or relationships, they might seem overwhelming. Stop and pause for a few minutes. What you are dealing with might indeed be awful. My parents used to point out to me that no matter how bad I thought I had it, there was probably someone worse off than me. They encouraged me to take what I’ve got, the hand I’ve been dealt and play it the best I can. It probably could be worse and if I had to randomly choose a bag with someone else’s problems, I think sticking with what I know might be a better deal.

pexels-photo-718975.jpeg

The year 2018 is four months down already, that’s one-third of the way. Where are you with plans for this year? If your troubles are weighing you down, time to check in and revise your plan. Troubles can indeed take over our thinking, they can consume our waking moments and even cause us to be awake long after we should be asleep. I had someone that I mentored and I cautioned her on “paralysis-analysis” on her problems. There are times we get so enthralled in what we think are our troubles that we literally don’t move forward at all. We get stuck. We overthink everything. We go through “what if” on just about every decision and end up not making some decisions.

Whatever it is that we perceive as our troubles, lay out the options, make a decision and then get going. And, don’t go back and beat yourself up over the decision. That doesn’t mean you won’t learn from the result, it just means don’t rehash the decision-making to the point that it’s “paralysis-analysis.” Just do it. Then learn what you can learn from what happened. Success comes from trying and greater success comes from learning what to do, in part based on what not to do.

If you were one-third of the way on a journey but encountered some troubles at that point, that’s still progress so you wouldn’t give up.

pexels-photo-775779.jpeg

How many of us have abandoned all of the New Year’s resolutions for 2018? How many of us are thinking about the weight-loss goals and the stop-procrastination goals and the spend-more-time-with-family goals that have been abandoned? But, there’s still two-thirds of the year left! Troubles don’t last always, get back on track. You really don’t want to get somebody else’s bag. Open your own and get to it.

I heard someone say that we have more choices than we give ourselves credit for. Even with a job and family commitments, we can make choices on our time and our schedule. We can decide our health is important. We can decide to spend just five minutes of quiet time in the morning to get centered and take some deep breaths before facing the day. We can take the kids on a walk in the afternoon or evening or get out of bed 20 minutes earlier to get in some physical activity. There is someone who can’t physically do that but many of us can.

pexels-photo-551997.jpeg

We can eat better for our bodies, the vessels that carry us through life. Making a salad and putting it in a container to take from home for the day doesn’t take more time than walking to the lunch counter or corner restaurant to buy one. Starbucks doesn’t need our money every single day, especially not after the Philadelphia incident. Save some money and choose a different option.

Some of our troubles are self-inflicted by the choices we’re making. So, one-third of the way into 2018, make better choices. I know I can do better and I know I have choices to do better but I haven’t. For four months of the year, I was still choosing cookies and was forgetting to take my blood pressure medicine, despite my New Year’s resolution. Not any more. Those five pounds I picked up have got to go and the blood pressure medicine will be taken every day.

I have a good friend who recently had a stroke. Prior to this, she was very healthy and unaware of any health problems. She didn’t take any medicines, followed a nutrition plan that was very focused on eating right, in fact she was a nutritionist by training. She used to exercise three or four times a week but got out of the habit a few years ago when her granddaughter was born and she started helping to take care of her in addition to still working herself. She was still slim though, hadn’t picked up any noticeable weight.

pexels-photo-433267.jpeg

So, what triggered her stroke? High blood pressure … she didn’t even know she had it. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer.” Thankfully she’s recovering. But, she said she is so happy to be alive after going through this, she is making some very different choices from now on.

I count myself very fortunate. I will keep the troubles that are in my bag.  What’s in someone else’s bag might be even heavier than mine. I am grateful.

pexels-photo-424517.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

What is real?

On Easter night I watched the movie, Heaven Is Real. I don’t know if you saw this when it was in theaters a couple years ago. At the end of the movie, a pastor concludes:

Heaven is real. And if we all really believed heaven is for real, we would all lead different lives, wouldn’t we? God is love. Don’t we say, “on earth as it is in heaven.” And so, haven’t we already seen heaven in the cries of a baby, in the love of a mother and a father, in the courage of a friend. Haven’t we already seen the heaven of love but yet we choose the hell of hate, the hell of fear.

Is this life we’re living each day real? If we believe it is real then why do we do some of the things we do? And if we believe it is real, then should we be doing something different? I challenge myself on these questions often. And I look at the question through the prism of what is going on in my family, my city, my state, my country, churches, politics and communities across the groups I interact with.

Last week we commemorated 50 years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the last several years of his life, he was a hated man by white nationalists, KKK and white southerners who didn’t want the improvements of life for blacks that he was fighting for. Even in black communities, some feared the change he was seeking but many were courageous enough to stand with him and support him. His courage and the courage of those who stood with him was real.

To persevere for what we believe is right even when the odds are stacked against you, that is real. The struggles that many people endured for civil rights, human rights, women rights, the rights of blacks & Latinos, etc., to have access to what the constitution and laws provide … all of these struggles are real. These struggles take perseverance despite others telling you that your rights aren’t real. You almost have to be more than human, a magical super hero to overcome the massive struggles of slavery, reconstruction, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow-era, segregation, post-segregation and even the era we’re in now. Jesse Williams, the actor, spoke very eloquently at an awards show about the strength it takes to get through these struggles:

Jesse Williams quote on real

When we stand up for what we believe, that is real.

Sometimes though, there are occasions when we use what is real / what is truth as a weapon. When we defame others or tear down others in the process of truth / reality just to make ourselves look good, that tarnishes our cause and in a way it invalidates what was real. Is it still real when you take truth and contort it or taint it to make you look better? We may be doing it without malice, maybe out of self-preservation but the result is the same. What was real no longer looks real. To be honest, I personally have had to check myself sometimes on this and I have ended up chastising myself. Beware of those times when self-preservation or self-defense turns into contorting what is real.  I doubt that I am the only one who has done this.

It’s no longer real if we change what was real to the point that it is no longer recognizable truth, no matter what our motivation is. That’s what we would call “incredible,” as in not credible. Not real.

I started writing this particular blog several days ago. It doesn’t usually take me anywhere near this long to write my blogs. I wasn’t sure how to frame what I wanted to say but I had this topic on my mind to share. I thought about whether to put things in the context of the zany “fake news” that we’re hearing so much about because that is clearly not real. But this thought of “what is real” has been on my mind and not just in the political sense so I didn’t want to overemphasize that. So, just a few words on the politics of what isn’t real.

It’s not real when the facts are one thing and we refuse to believe the facts. As they say, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. No amount of lying or fooling the public will make the facts change … lies still don’t become real no matter how many times they are said. One of the areas that has annoyed me the most since the presidential election of 2016 is blatant lying as if those lies were actually real. I just can’t get over it and can’t imagine the gullibility of ordinary people going along and the complicity of knowledgeable politicians going along. Oh but I digress … enough of that.

Here’s the thing, I think what is real is felt in our bones. I think it’s that simple. I think you know when it’s not real, you truly just know it.

I think people instinctively know what is real, feel what is real. We might want to ignore those instincts but we know what’s real.  I believe that love is real. In fact love may be the only sustainable thing that is real … love extends across life forms.

That’s why heaven is real. That’s why truth is real. That’s why struggles are real because they lead to truth. That’s why civil rights are real because fighting for them lead to truth.  That’s why courage is real because being courageous is love. Love=truth=courage=real. And that is heaven here on earth.

sky 20170901_071342

 

Love … because that’s what love does

This past Saturday, I went to a funeral of friend. She and her husband had celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2017. They had thrown a big party in November for their anniversary and then went on a six-week travel adventure to commemorate their 50 years of love. They said they acted like kids during those six weeks. Little did they know, in February she would find out she had pancreas cancer and be gone a month later.

Her husband spoke at the funeral. I don’t know how he found the strength to speak as he did at the funeral, I have seen it happen before but I know it takes a lot to do so. He talked about how much time they spent together. He talked about how they did things together because they enjoyed each other. Golfed together, went on trips together.  He talked about the sacrifice she made for him to go to medical school more than a thousand miles away while she took care of their children. All of us sitting in the church could feel that they loved each other but he said she used to always tell him that she loved him more than he loved her. I will never know if one’s love was more than the other because the most obvious observation we had was 50 years of marriage had happened and it was clear it was mutual to anyone who knew them. And for that, we had true respect, admiration and maybe a tad of wonderment.

truelove

My older brother recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety. Our family thinks it’s a milestone worth shouting to the mountaintops. He often speaks to groups, particularly to people in recovery, about his journey and how he keeps himself on the sober path. Key to getting sober was love. In a prior blog post, I talked about a mother’s love and yes, a mother’s love is strong. But, I believe it was my brother’s love for his son that may have actually made a significant difference in making that final turn onto his road to recovery.

Our mother had made several attempts to get him into recovery. He wasn’t ready yet at those times. She didn’t give up and always let him know that she would be available to help him get into a program. So, the strength of a mother’s love had the presence in his life but it would be another love that made it happen. When his wife had died recently from breast cancer, that sent him into a downward spiral but it also left him with a toddler son to take care of. I believe what finally woke him up was realizing that he had to be there for his son. A father seeing that his life had to get better to raise the son that otherwise might lose two parents. Love.

Love is powerful and can make us do amazing things. Hopefully the things we do for love are good things. Love can motivate us to turn our lives around and we become stronger. Love can create a foundation for us to see the beauty of life around us in a different way.

I do know a few couples who have been married 50 years or more. I know several couples who have been married 40+ years. It takes a lot to make it that many years. Some would call it commitment, it is more than that in some ways. It’s a decision. Some days you decide one thing, other days you may decide something else because every day isn’t the same. Love is a like a thread that needs to be sewn into a fabric, strengthened and reinforced.

Love can inspire us, but to last it takes doing something. You make the fabric strong by what you sew with and how you reinforce it. To last 50 years, whether one spouse loves the other more or not, whether it’s a parents love for a son or daughter, the fabric of love is sustainable because of what we do and the decisions we make. It’s not easy though. Tough days come but tough days don’t last forever. Sometimes you don’t see things the same way and that can be difficult. Strongly sewn fabrics of love can last forever and I do believe strongly constructed love will transcend all space and time.

love fabric

 

A woman … nevertheless she persisted

Yep, it’s women’s history month. That crazy slang saying, “women, can’t live with them … can’t live without them.” She will persist, a woman knows how to not take “no” for an answer when there’s something that needs to be done. A friend gave me a note pad that says: “let’s assume I’m right, it will save time.” A little tongue-in-cheek for sure but sometimes women are treated as if we think we’re right all of time. If it works, good. I’m fine with being right all of the time but I do know that isn’t the case. I can’t say for sure that I am right all of the time but Sir Charles Barkley wrote a book that is a grandiose idea on this subject: “I may be wrong but I doubt it.”

Well, one thing we know for sure is that none of us would be here without a woman. I love myself and my mother so clearly I have a love for and an appreciation for women. Any of the male gender who wants to stay alive will do well to follow my lead on this. So this month, tread lightly and appreciate greatly when it comes to the women in your life. There are times when a woman’s persistence pays off. Never underestimate the power of a grandmother or mother sticking up for a daughter or son and being there for them when all others have given up. Nevertheless, she will persist and have faith that this person will make it.

So, the month of March is Women’s History month.

womens history month 2018 theme

Tracing back to as early as 1909, celebrating National Women’s Day has been an institution. In 1910, the first International Women’s Day was observed on March 8th and has been recognized on that day ever since, gradually being recognized by one country after another. In 1975, it had become so widespread that the United Nations formally adopted March 8th as International Women’s Day. In the US,  the month of March finally became a Women’s History Month in 1987.

Although there are many accomplishments that we could rattle off by women throughout the world and in the US, the list is missing a lot that still has to be done. And within many states and at the federal level, discrimination and rollbacks of rights & privileges for women occurred in 2017 and recent years at alarming paces. Whether someone believes in the same religion or not, we should always believe in respect for a woman to understand her body’s health and decide how to manage what happens with her body. Whether someone believes in whether a woman should be working or not, we should all believe in a woman not being harassed in the workplace. Some things should be easy to agree on. Discrimination isn’t good for any of us. So bravo for the 2018 theme for Women’s History Month.

There are still more women than men struggling with workplace gender discrimination, pay discrimination, hiring discrimination and misogynist behaviors. The US Senate race in Alabama was not an outlier. Women are often not believed, by men and sometimes even by other women. I heard a man in Alabama say that it should have been considered an honor for a District Attorney like Roy Moore to be interested in a family’s teenage daughter. I heard women say that they were bothered by the credible accusers having waited 30 years to tell their stories. Yuck. We’ve got to move past those sad commentaries. Women and young girls deserve better.

We’ve come a long way… or have we??

It is quite informative that countries other than the United States of the America have already elected a woman leader. Some of them would be considered less “advanced” than the US but yet they have elected a woman leader. The US is much more male-dominated and misogynistic than we want to admit. The 2016 Presidential election wasn’t just about Hillary’s emails or lack of enthusiasm or black-lash from Obama or a flawed candidate. It was a lot about a country not yet ready for a woman to be its President. That it took until 2016 before a woman was even the nominee for one of the two major political parties is instructive. How much longer will it be before we elect a woman President? I don’t know. I do know it wasn’t just Hillary’s emails, especially when we look at who was inaugurated on January 20, 2017.

This year for the International Women’s Day, I choose to persist. I will persist in helping other women achieving as much as they dream. I will persist in believing that we are capable of being the CEO, the Chairperson, the leader, the shot-caller, the director and yes the President. I will persist in sharing the tools so that every woman has a better than fair chance to tell her story. I will persist in engaging other women in the political process so decisions are made that reflect parity and reality. I will persist during Women’s History Month and every day of the rest of the year because women are changing the world every day.

women history calendar

Whites only? Tell them we are rising.

Certain landmarks or scenes are reminders to me of the days of segregation and “whites only” signs. It seems crazy to me that I am only 58 but I have memories of segregation and segregation really wasn’t that long ago. My children don’t know what segregation was like but I amazingly still remember it. Black history month is ending, segregation has mostly ended but the memories haven’t. Through it all, I borrow the words of the recent documentary on black colleges and universities, “Tell Them We Are Rising” because that is still the challenge that motivates me.

When I was visiting my hometown recently, I saw a few of those reminders of segregation. The Don CeSar Hotel is in the featured photo of this week’s blog. As beautiful as the hotel is, unfortunately for me it brings thoughts of segregation. Until last week, at the age of 58, I had never been inside the hotel. It’s on St. Pete Beach, which at one time didn’t welcome blacks. There were grand old hotels, smaller hotels and many businesses in our town that didn’t welcome blacks for a lot of years. I told my husband that I wanted to walk inside, he thought I was kidding when I said that I never been inside. Of course he has visited St. Pete and St. Pete Beach with me before and didn’t imagine that I wouldn’t have been in there. But for real, I had never been inside there until 2018.

There are many things we take for granted today that not so long ago were not available to us. There are many things our twenty-something and thirty-something daughters and sons can’t imagine. As a little girl, I have a vivid memory of my mother driving me and my siblings to a then recently opened fast-food restaurant. My big brother went inside to place an order, then walked out and started to walk around the side of the building. My mother rolled down the window to ask where he was going. He said the counter clerk told him that he had to go to the back door to place the order and get served. My mother said oh no, we won’t be eating here.

Integration LifeSept1966

Schools were segregated in my city until forced to integrate in the early 1970s. There were many court challenges, many protests. I attended a segregated Catholic elementary school through third grade. Then, the Catholic diocese decided to move to integrate the Catholic schools in our city even before the public schools did. In fourth grade, I went to my first integrated school. It was not without some incidents but they were minor. Not so much for the public schools though.

I remember the protests by white parents and white students who didn’t want integration of the public schools. I remember busing being very controversial. My neighborhood was in an uproar and my parents, both local public educators, were enthralled in it. I had friends who were caught up in which school they would be bused to.  There were meetings at our house by NAACP officers and local groups. My parents were actively involved in speaking out for integration.

ST. PETERSBURG CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE

We had a high school, Dixie Hollins, whose mascot is the Rebels, as in Confederate Rebels. That was interesting for black students having to attend there. And some of the white students took advantage of having a Confederate Rebel as their mascot to jam it down the throats of the newly admitted black students. When integration at Dixie Hollins finally happened in 1971 under court order, our county was one of the last in the state of Florida to do it.

Dixie, along with Boca Ciega High School — where actress Angela Bassett attended high school, finally accomplished integration with busing. A bit rocky and not without incident but it happened. Angela Bassett was the first black to earn admittance to the National Honor Society at Boca Ciega High School.

angela bassett in high school      Angela Bassett

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re in 2018 but it really wasn’t that long ago. And incredibly there are things going on in 2018 and 2017 that make us feel that we have stepped back in time. What happened in Charlottesville with the KKK, White Nationalists and neo-Nazi rallying should be from the past but it’s not. There are people who today are holding signs literally and virtually saying “whites only.” What we thought we had left behind is trying to be brought back by people who don’t want to let go.

I watched the documentary on black colleges and universities, Tell Them We Are Rising.

tell them we are rising

That documentary isn’t just about black colleges and universities, it’s black history. It begins with history of slavery and recounts how slave owners enslaved blacks not only by slavery but also by depriving them of education. If you have seen the Black Panther movie and were impressed by Wakanda, you should see the documentary Tell Them We Are Rising. The documentary is just as uplifting. The struggle and commitment that blacks went through to get an education is empowering. The number of times that we encountered “whites only” but pushed forward anyway is why we finally had a black President.

From slavery to Jim Crow to segregation to HBCUs to a black President to Wakanda, we are still rising. No matter how many times we see a sign that says, “whites only,” we will keep going and eventually find a way. This time the revolution will not only be televised, it will be in marches, on Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Snapchat, Google TV and YouTube. We will not be silenced or denied. Tell them we are rising.

obama-howard-university-2016-05-07t172935z