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Sat Aug 15 @09:00 - 11:30AM
Downtown Mobile Medical Clinic
Sun Aug 16 @05:00 - 08:00AM
Koinos Church
Tue Aug 18 @05:00 - 07:00AM
Mobile Clinic
Sat Aug 22 @09:00 - 11:30AM
Downtown Mobile Medical Clinic

Reminded

I haven’t seen Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave yet, but I did get to see the Best Actress in a Supporting Role acceptance speech of Lupita Nyong’o. It was my favorite of the night. Earlier today I ran into a video of another speech Ms. Nyong’o made several days earlier at another awards presentation. Here’s the kink, if you’re interested:  http://www.upworthy.com/oscar-winner-lupita-nyongos-speech-on-beauty-that-left-an-entire-audience-speechless?c=ufb1. I think her speeches are both inspiring and important.

 

I sometime hear people talk about racism in the past tense - as if it exists now only in our faded memories. There are also times I hear it referred to as a cultural malady that has improved not at all. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I think to deny its existence is ridiculous, and to leave it unaddressed, unconscionable.

 

Here’s the thing: issues like racism can never be finally addressed by means of legislation or "official" measures - no matter how important these may be. It can only be addressed at the most personal and visceral levels by each person. It requires looking inside myself, and refusing to project blame onto the person whose overt hostility is more obvious than my silence or inaction. It requires acknowledgement of my complicity in systems that continue to marginalize people based on the color of their skin, denying the innate worth of every human being.

 

I had my first encounter with the ugliness of racism when I was about 7 years old. I never forgot it. A few years ago I wrote about that encounter in a poem:

 

 

DEWAYNE’S FENCE

 

We were just grade school boys

Doing what grade school boys do:

Playing baseball in the back yard

And imagining I was Al Kaline.

I don’t remember who you were,

Or who Jim pretended to be…

Actually, come to think of it,

We all wanted to be Al Kaline,

 

I was the oldest and biggest, and

Regularly, I’d get ahold of one

And most literally “go yard,” on you,

While Jim went over or around

The fence that divided our small yard

From the next-door neighbor’s,

Endlessly running the path to

Retrieve both the ball and our dreams.

 

It turned out, that fence segregated

More than just the families’ spaces.

Jim, exhausted and frustrated,

Asked to swap places for awhile,

So you could be the rabbit

And hunt all the homers down,

While Don Spaula cheered our

Real game and imagined heroics.

 

I didn’t know. Honest, I didn’t.

When you ran after the first homer

Just like Jim had been doing,

I didn’t know Mr. Spaula would be mad.

I didn’t understand his words:

“Youare not welcome in this yard,”

But by the look on your face

I could tell you were not confused.

 

As if it were yesterday, I can see

The hurt, the disappointment,

The humiliation and the knowing

Casting a shadow on your dark face.

The innocence of boyhood play

Ravaged by a devastating reality;

The contentedness of friendship

Shattered by such cruel intent.

 

“I didn’t know” wasn’t an excuse then

And it can’t be claimed now.

Your memory etched in mine

Has refused to let me resign

To the cultural status quo.

I wish I could tell you I remember,

And how your pain shaped my life.

As if that would erase the wrong.

 

Words are cheap.

The difference that counts is to live it.

My life has been too often silent

About those wearing shoes like yours.

Thatdarkness is on my soul.

I must – we must – do more than

Avoid the same prejudices.

We must tear down the fence.

 

 

I’ve posted this poem before, but I always need reminding that there is more work to be done on this arena, and that spectatorship cannot be an option.