Commentary

We are not welcome…

In 2018, there are no signs that say, “Whites Only;” nonetheless, it is becoming more and more apparent that African-Americans are not welcome in public venues that civil rights activists fought hard to integrate.

Recent news reports about white persons calling police to remove a black man or woman from a coffee-house, department store, gym, university, public park or restaurant suggest that our mere presence is offensive to some.

At Yale University, Lolade Siyonbola, a Nigerian graduate student, fell asleep in her dorm’s common area after a night of studying; a white grad student, Sarah Braasch, told her that she should be not sleeping there and called police.  When they arrived, Siyonbola explained to officers that she was a student. Nonetheless, after presenting her student ID, they called it in.

Really. No crime had been committed.

In an earlier incident at Yale, Reneson Jean-Louis, black male grad student, who had been visiting Siyonbola, reported that Braasch said, “you do not belong here.”

Was she questioning his right to be in the dorm or at Yale, or both?

Actually, black and brown Americans deal with “uncomfortableness” daily in encounters with police officers, white homeowners, store clerks, or anyone else who deems us less than worthy of civil treatment.

While some incidents receive widespread attention, I venture to guess that there are countless less publicized encounters like these in cities across America.

Age is no guarantee that you won’t be targeted for verbal abuse or manhandling.

Earlier this month in Atlanta, Rose Campbell, a 65-year old black motorist with diabetes, was surrounded by several officers after a traffic stop and forcibly removed from her car, handcuffed, and arrested.

Black teens, black men, black women, black grandmothers, black persons with mental illness, even black professionals, are often considered suspect, even suspects, by whites.

Unfortunately, I don’t hear many black political leaders speaking up or speaking out.

Consequently, ordinary citizens need to take action—boycott, protest, make noise about those who abuse their authority, who injure or kill without cause, or who disrespect and demean fellow Americans.

To quote Sojourner Truth: “I will not let my life’s light be determined by the darkness around me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Commentary

The season finale of Blackish: I was holding my breath. (Spoiler alert!)

I am a big fan of Blackish.

So, the last few episodes–dealing with the slow unraveling of what seemed like a perfect marriage between lead characters, Andre (Dre) and Rainbow (Bow) Johnson–have been nerve-wracking to watch.

Dre, a successful advertising executive, and Bow, an anesthesiologist, sniped at each other with criticisms, word jabs, and finger-pointing. Great acting but upsetting for a loyal viewer like me.

Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross have such incredible on-screen chemistry, I wondered why the producers were messing with a winning formula.

For most of tonight’s season finale, I was holding my breath. It seemed as if the smartest, hippest African-American couple on TV was seriously moving toward a permanent separation, with Dre leasing a new “dream” house, and Bow flexing her wings as a single mom.

Blackish also engages me because it seamlessly weaves social commentary into the story line. One episode dealt with the release from prison of a male relative, and Dre and Bow’s differing ideas about how and if they should help him.

In another episode, Dre questions the relevance of a print ad campaign that targets only white families.

Likewise, while shopping for a doll for younger daughter, Diane, Bow confronts a white saleswoman about why the only black doll in the store’s collection is dressed in what looks like “slave” attire.

With so much to offer, I desperately hoped for a happy ending for the Johnsons and their quirky kids. Thankfully, I got it.

I actually clapped when Dre returned home to help Bow deal with the death of her father. This led to a re-kindling of their love and a commitment to save their marriage.

I look forward to finding out what direction Blackish will take next season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary

New year, new outreach to mothers with sons involved in the justice system

As we approach 2018, I am excited to announce my new venture, the “Heart-to-Heart Speaking Tour” for churches in the Las Vegas area titled, “Mass Incarceration and its Effects on Families and Communities.”

The goal is to encourage churches to advocate for criminal justice reform and/or to consider a ministry to support/mentor those in jail or prison, on parole or probation, or families with a loved one involved in the justice system.

As the mother of a now-deceased son who spent much of his adult life in New York State prisons and the grandmother of three grandsons currently in custody, I know the huge impact incarceration can have on families.

For too many years, I felt helpless and hopeless about my son’s incarceration.

Other mothers should not have to face these feelings alone; hence, my mission to support, educate, and empower mothers.

To promote equal justice in America, those most affected by failed criminal justice policies should have a voice in any reforms. This should include the mothers of inmates.

Through One Mother’s Voice: In the Name of Justice, I will continue my outreach to the thousands of mothers with sons in prison.

To that end, we are developing a revised format for 2018 that will include interviews with mothers who can give voice and witness to the collateral damage of incarceration for families.

If you would like to share your story, contact omvforyou@gmail.com.