Welcome to Lit Night @ Sandaga 813

Big congratulations to my friend Sanderia Faye on the successful launch of Lit Night on Wednesday, 13 June at Sandaga 813 on Exposition in Dallas!

Readers included:

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Demethius Jackson kicked off the evening with a reading from Realmsic Conquest.
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Susan Norman read from her eco-novel about Paolo Emilio and honeybees gone awry.
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My friend Scott Branks read three pieces

 

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Featured writer Joe Malazo read Homeopathy for the Singularity #40 and #16

 

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I Am Will the Poet: Poetic Justice and Twelve
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Namdi was reluctant to read . . . but he did it well!
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Monica Bell treated us to Lemon Curd!
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The barefooted Carlos presented a sensual poem
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Stone and Rope by Darius
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Sanderia Faye ended the evening with a reading from her current work-in-progress, Eleven Days

Check out Lit Night every second Wednesday . . .

Hope to see you next month at Sandaga 813  on Wednesday, 11 July!

And don’t worry, I am still outraged. There is more outrage to come!

Outrage!

There is so much to be outraged about these days that I have been nearly paralyzed by my anger and dismay for the last two months. For a while, my words failed me. But, I am doing my best to be over that now, so I’m back!

A month ago the U.S. government — Health and Human Services [HHS] to be exact — admitted to losing track of nearly 1,500 minor children who showed up at the US-Mexico border sans parents. Because they were unaccompanied, they, along with over 6,000 other children, were placed with sponsors, and now HHS can’t reach their sponsors or account for the children’s whereabouts. One concern is that these unaccounted-for children may fall prey to human traffickers. And as far as I’ve been able to discern, not much is being done to find these kids because they “are no longer [the government’s] responsibility”! Maybe, maybe not. I say #WhereAreTheChildren? What a scary, outrageous mess!

Yet another outrage is the government’s decision to split up undocumented families  at the border in a effort to dissuade people from coming to the US illegally. There is no law that requires this separation of families. Mr. Trump has tried to blame the policy on the Democrats, but there is no evidence to support that claim. The whole situation is absolutely outrageous!

Television star and Trump supporter Roseanne Barr, who is famous for her outrageous behavior, delivered an ugly little political twitter rant on 29 May, but she is not Teflon-coated like her president. Within hours of the twitter posting, ABC had cancelled her revived — and vey popular — show, the eponymous Roseanne. It’s a shame that her costars and scores of others are now out of jobs because of Barr’s mean-spirited, racist words. As for Barr herself, well, every once in a while the harm a person inflicts boomerangs right back. Ambien indeed!

More outrage next time . . .

 

Alive in Memory

Nine years ago, in the fall of 2009, I realized that I was losing my mother.    That is when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  We, my sisters and I, actually had begun losing her a few years before that.  We just did not realize or understand what was happening.

Mother’s inability to find her way around the ship during

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4 July 2012, Southfield Michigan.

a family cruise in 2007 had alarmed me, but neither of my sisters were concerned. When she was completely unable to find her way around the hotel during a conference we were attending, I insisted on getting her assessed by a neurologist.  She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Despite the diagnosis, Mother did not believe it, and she seemed in command of her environment. So she continued living on her own until we got a call from her hometown police.  She had called 9-1-1 to report a robbery in progress, but when the police arrived, all was well and there was no evidence of a break-in.  The police officer who called me explained that this was not the first false alarm Mother had reported; it had happened a number of times before we were called.

Mother lived in Nevada; my sisters and I live in Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas.  We definitely did not want the police to involve Adult Services.  So, with no prior planning or knowledge of what the next steps would be, my sisters hustled her out of Las Vegas to my sister’s home in Michigan which is where Mother had said she wanted to go if she could no longer live on her own; but she did not remember that, and she did not want to leave. Heart-breaking as it was, we had to remove her; and against her will, she went to live in Michigan with my sister, a transition that was not easy for either of them.

I felt a lot of guilt about my mother’s plight. As with any disease, early detection is critical.  However, in part because we were so far away, it took us a while to realize that Mother was slipping away.  By the time we understood that we were losing her, she was probably already half way through the seven stages of Alzheimer’s.   And though I know it is not my fault that she developed the disease, I can’t help thinking I should have noticed earlier, that I somehow should have known she was deteriorating and done something; what, I don’t know.

Over the six years she lived in Michigan, Mother forgot our birthdates, her wedding date, friends she had known for decades, and where her daughters lived. She no longer remembered the rules of bridge, a game she had mastered and enjoyed playing for over sixty years.  Fortunately, she still remembered and loved all three of her

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On a family reunion cruise to Bermuda, July 2013.

daughters, her son-in-law, her one remaining brother, and her deceased husband.  What I learned to do until she was actually gone – all I could do – was adjust to and love the mother I still had – the mother we lost a little more day by day, week by week, and month by month – while cherishing the strong, capable, resourceful, brave, nurturing, charming, and often amusing woman she had been for most of her life and mine.

 

* * *

Lois Tabor Ice died 29 March 2015 at the age of 93, and though I am grateful for her longevity, I miss her terribly; I missed her even while she was still here, so in essence I lost her twice.

Now I keep Mother alive in my memory by thinking of her daily and talking about her with my sisters, relatives, and friends, sometimes with sadness but more often with affection and laughter. And always with love.

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              Lois Tabor Ice                       14 June 1921-              29 March 2015

 

 

 

Dallas Marches for Gun Sense

On Saturday, 24 March, I went to downtown Dallas to march with our young people and their families to demand action against gun violence and for stronger gun control. It was a beautiful day for such an action: sunny and in the 80s, but not too hot.

IMG_0497There were people of all ages and races, and the crowd was huge and friendly. Because it was on the move for the first hour or so, it was  hard to get a handle on the size of the crowd, but I am confident there were many hundreds on the move in downtown Dallas that day.

And signs! Lots of signs; here’s a tiny sample: “Students Demand Action,” “Moms Demand Action,” “Books Not Bullets,” “I’ve Seen Smarter Cabinets at Ikea Stores,” and my favorite, “Give Teachers a Raise, NOT Guns.”

There was lots of spontaneous group chanting as well. One favorite subject of the chants told the National Rifle Association to get out of the way. Another demanded, “Tell me what democracy looks like!” The shouted reply from the marchers was “This is what democracy looks like!”

The march was huge but it did not go a long distance — just a few long blocks from City Hall and then back. The march lasted a little over an hour and then there were speeches.

Because I had somewhere else to be, I couldn’t stay for the speeches, so I can’t say how long the crowd stood on City Hall plaza listening. Regardless, the march was a success in my estimation. If you live in the Dallas area and you weren’t there, you missed a great opportunity to support the Metroplex’s young people and stronger gun control. I hope it made an impact on our elected officials.

 

It’s Only 30 Days! How Hard Can It Be?

You may have heard of the Whole30, an eating regimen during which people eat whole fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish while eliminating four basic food groups from their diets for 30 days. The eliminated foods are grains, legumes (though sugar snap peas, green beans, and snow peas are allowed), dairy products (except eggs and clarified butter), and sugar in all its forms – honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and, of course, granulated. Whole30 is not a weight loss program, but many people do lose weight during the 30 days. That is one of the things that drew me to it.

The purpose of the Whole30, according to founders Melissa (and Dallas) Hartwig, is to help people “put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal [their] digestive tract[s], and balance [their] immune system[s].” The foods Whole30ers eliminate might be “having negative effects on [people’s] health and fitness” without them realizing it.

I don’t generally believe in eliminating whole food groups from one’s diet, but after the 30 days, participants begin adding the eliminated foods back into their diets to determine if there are any adverse effects from any of them. So the only foods folks would permanently ban from their diets are those they learn are causing digestive or physiological problems. That makes sense to me.

So why am I telling you about the Whole30? Well, I planned to try it myself. Sadly, I have yet to get started. My first planned start date was Ash Wednesday, 14 February, but I was out of town and decided that would not be a wise start date.

My next planned start date was 1 March. Starting the Whole 30 takes planning and foresight. I was back in town and the 1 March date would give me time to get the things I wouldn’t be able to eat on the Whole30 out of my house. But I hadn’t felt well since I was out of town, so on 28 February I went to the doctor’s office only to learn I had the flu. Though it was the less virulent strain, I was foiled again because I needed comfort food, and I still had not purged the kitchen and stocked it with Whole30-approved foods.

Now Spring has sprung, and I still haven’t started the Whole30. I still want and I plan to, and hope I will, but I am a sucker for both bread and popcorn which aren’t allowed during the Whole30. Hartwig constantly reminds those considering the program that it is only 30 days that one needs to eliminate the four food groups, but I am very aware that it is 30 whole days!

As of today, I’m still working on ridding my kitchen of other Whole30 inedibles such as grits, Crunchy Cheetos, oatmeal, bottled juices, honey, sugar – and developing the discipline not to buy more forbidden foods.

I am determined (I think!) to do the Whole30, and I will let you know when I start. Meanwhile, wish me luck!

 

 

Gun Violence Is Everybody’s Business

It has happened again. On Valentine’s Day 2018 seventeen people died at the hands of a murderer wielding a legally purchased firearm in an American high school. This time the crime scene was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a Miami suburb. The confessed murderer, Nikolas Cruz, took an Uber car to the campus and began his assault outside the high school with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. By the time he stopped shooting, 31 people had been mowed down; 17 of them died.

The 19-year-old Cruz is a former Stoneman Douglas student. After the rampage, Cruz was arrested as he walked down a street in an adjacent town after blending in with students fleeing the school he had just attacked. He has now been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

What in the world is to be done now?

On last Thursday’s Megyn Kelly show she suggested that President Trump divert the money he wants for his border wall to trying to solve the problem of gun violence. That is a good idea. According to the Brookings Institution, estimated cost for the border wall ranges between $12 and $70 billion. That should be enough money to put a dent in the problem.

But the things that will do most to stanch this murder epidemic do not cost money. They simply require backbone.

First, we must start calling these episodes what they are: mass murders. Although Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, the media insists on calling them shootings rather than what they really are.

Next, the state legislatures and the US Congress must strengthen the gun control and background check laws currently in existence and make it harder, not easier,  to obtain weapons. Yes, getting a gun should be at least as onerous as buying a car or truck, and it should require the of purchase liability insurance on each firearm.

Finally, a conversation about gun violence in our country – at the local, state, and national level – must commence.

I anticipate that Trump will say that now is not the time to discuss gun control and gun violence. He and other national “leaders” have called for unity and prayer.  He has already has laid the blame for Wednesday’s murders at the door of the mental health community. He managed to talk about the latest AR-15 rifle massacre without once mentioning guns. Instead, Mr. Trump plans to discuss mental health with governors and attorneys general by the end of the month.

Dare I say it? Unity and prayer alone have not staved off  additional mass murders in the past. It is unlikely they will this time.

Contrary to those who are afraid of the gun lobby, I say now is the very best time to discuss and to act on gun violence and gun control. We, the people, must do our part by communicating our points of view to our representatives and senators; and the Congress must do its part by passing legislation that strengthens gun control laws and background check requirements.

So, whatever your point of view or your age, it’s time to put pen to paper, begin an email, or place a call to your congress persons. Why not even send a letter to Mr. Trump himself? Gun violence and gun control is everyone’s business because gun violence is epidemic in our country, and that, my friends, constitutes a national crisis.

 

Opioids vs. Crack: Good vs. Bad Addicts?

I am a little angry about the current opioid epidemic or crisis. Why should I be angry about that? There are people in trouble and they need help, right? A week hasn’t gone by in the past six months or so that I have not seen at least one sympathetic feature about the opioid epidemic and its poor, needy “victims.” Somehow, opioid addicts rarely seem to get arrested or even detained. And their addiction is not the addicts’ faults. It is those over-prescribing doctors and Big Pharma who are to blame.

My anger stems from the fact that when there was a crack cocaine epidemic and crisis back in the 1980s and ‘90s, a war was declared on those who fell under crack’s sway. That crisis and its victims were met with an entirely different attitude than today’s opioid crisis and addicts. Users were arrested by the thousands. Little or no counseling or other kinds of assistance were offered. No sympathy for them! Crack cocaine addicts were portrayed, not as unfortunate victims, but as depraved, lawbreaking evildoers. Yet powder cocaine users were not portrayed in the same way, and if they were arrested and tried at all, their sentences were much lighter.

What is the difference between opioid, powder cocaine, and crack addicts? To my way of thinking, not much, except that the majority of opioid addicts today are, and the majority of powder cocaine users in the 1980s and ‘90s were white, while during that same period, crack was primarily used by African-Americans and it ravaged the inner-city communities in which they lived. However, it seems those communities and the people in them – addicts or not – were expendable.

For it wasn’t only the addicts who were hurt by crack cocaine. As today, the addicts’ families and friends, and the very neighborhoods in which they lived also suffered. Now that the majority of opioid addicts are white and white families and neighborhoods are being adversely affected, it’s a crisis and they – all of them – must be helped. The proof is that included in the president’s budget proposal today is a large chunk of money earmarked to alleviate opioid addiction.

I don’t really begrudge these opioid addicts the help they need. It’s just that it is unfair that addicts of color got NO help when they were in distress. I do not even know whether the crack epidemic is over yet. The “war on drugs” in African-American communities certainly doesn’t seem to be. It may just be that the news media lost interest in crack and the people addicted to it. I hope I don’t sound paranoid. It’s just how this opioid crisis looks through my eyes. . .

 

Diane Nash: For Generations Yet Unborn

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Activist Diane Nash

On 13 February 1960, 12 days after the student sit-ins began at lunch counters in Greensboro NC, students from Fisk University, Baptist Theological Seminary, and Tennessee State University entered three Nashville stores that had segregated lunch counters. After making their purchases, the students sat down at the lunch counters. Thus began weeks of sit-ins that culminated on 10 May with the desegregation of lunch counters in Nashville, the first large Southern city to desegregate its eating establishments. The Nashville student sit-ins were organized and led by student activists Diane Nash and now U.S. congressman John Lewis.

Nash, architect of those successful lunch counter sit-ins and later, the Freedom Rides, was in Dallas last weekend to speak at the Fisk University Southwestern Region Alumni Conference Luncheon on Saturday, 20 January. She had a lot to say about the future direction of justice-seekers. Though she told a few anecdotes about her years at the forefront of the modern civil rights movement, her focus was on today’s activists and activism.

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The soft-spoken Nash made a number of cogent observations including that

  • oppression always requires the cooperation of the oppressed;
  • the only person one can change is oneself; and
  • racist whites and their progeny are benefitting financially from the legacy of the modern civil rights movement by creating museums, “Freedom Trails,” and other moneymaking ventures.

Nash’s advice to African Americans included these suggestions

  • Liberation struggles should be intergenerational;
  • Blacks need to change our self-image to see ourselves as leaders of the country;
  • Don’t count on elected officials to do what needs to be done, because they are more concerned with reelection than anything else;
  • Identify objectives and plot a strategy to achieve them; and
  • Build things that will generate tourism revenue so that we can reap the financial benefits of the civil rights movement of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.
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Congressman John Lewis, Justin Jones

A personable, young 2017 Fisk alumnus named Justin Jones delivered the response to Ms. Nash’s remarks. He was quite the orator, revealing his familiarity with Nash’s accomplishments and the work of Martin Luther King. And Jones had ideas of his own, including exposing Donald Trump’s notion that Congress can help the DACA recipients or the CHIP youngsters, but not both as the false dichotomy it is. I expect to hear more from this young man who is living and working in Nashville as a lead organizer with the Forward Together Moral Movement, Tennessee.

The message I got from both Diane Nash and young Mr. Jones is that African Americans need to stop looking for “leaders,” and instead become leaders ourselves. They certainly gave me — and I hope you — something to think about.

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In Memoriam

The Reverend Roger C. Miller

 1937-2017

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Although I had not seen or spoken to Roger in at least three decades, I loved him, and his death leaves a hole in my heart.

I met Roger Miller when he came to Detroit as associate minister at Plymouth Congregational Church UCC. He and his wife Gloria Bradford, an interracial couple, arrived in Detroit in the early 1960s. Within 18 months, Gloria had died of cancer.

One of Rev. Miller’s responsibilities was the Youth Fellowship. That is where I first got to know him. Rev. Miller prepared us for confirmation, taught our youth Sunday school class, and took us to cultural events. The one I remember best is the play JB by Archibald MacLeish.

My younger sister Patricia was with Rev. Miller at Youth Fellowship 23 July 1967 when the rioting began in Detroit. When I returned home from dropping her off at church, the telephone was ringing. It was Rev. Miller saying he was bringing her home because there was a riot going on. He loaded all the kids into the church van and took every one of them home. I was worried about Rev. Miller’s safety driving around with a vehicle full of black kids during a race riot, but he was fearless, and his mission was a success: In less than an hour, Patricia was back home.

I saw Roger each time I came to Detroit throughout my college years and beyond. Our relationship evolved, and he visited me in Knoxville TN and New York NY. I visited him in, of all places, Grand Junction CO where I am sure I was the only African American in town.

I turned down Roger’s invitation to go to Mbandaka, Zaire with him in the mid-1970s. We corresponded by mail for a few years after that and then lost touch.

This summer, I saw on Facebook that Roger was ill, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to reconnect. The next news I had was that he had died on 28 November 2017, 2 days short of his 80th birthday. Roger was an important influence and early love in my life, and I miss his presence in this world. I couldn’t be at his funeral, but there will be a memorial service for him this year, and I hope to be there . . .

 

Is the Cart before the Horse? A Clarification

I don’t know Zachary Thompson or Garrison Keillor, and my concern is not about them alone. I know it can be next to impossible to get fired from a bureaucracy, but my concern remains. I am not condemning the #MeToo movement or anyone else. I’m asking a question I think is valid. Is the cart before the horse in some cases of men being fired because of sexual harassment allegations.

Because of my own experience I tend to believe every woman who says she’s been sexually assaulted or harassed, but I don’t want people losing their livelihoods with no investigation into allegations against them. If there has been an investigation, it is incumbent upon employers to reveal that when someone is fired because of one single allegation.

A good friend wrote to me about my previous post on this subject. I’m sorry she didn’t post to my blog so everyone could have seen her concerns. I hope this clarification is helpful. I don’t want anyone thinking I have an issue with #MeToo, because I don’t. It’s partly what gave me the courage to tell my own #MeToo story.