weekend update 9/29

panda wtf

This is a weekend in which I really would have loved to have been spared further aggravation, indignation, etc.  But enough about me.

Here are three news items that ruffled my feathers, and apparently I think you should know about them.  What these stories say to me is that there is something to be said for opening up the dialogue.  I know I’m always posting pictures with words on them.  I’m certain that if I went thru these archives of “inspirational” images I would find that I do not actually believe the message in a large percentage of them.  Here’s one I recently came across that sent up a red flag:

freeman stop racism

Mr. Morgan Freeman, I love and respect you.  Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Shawshank Redemption, whatever that movie that you played God in was called… I freaking love that shit.  And to top it all off you funded the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi.  Major Mahalo!

But, Mr. Freeman, do you really think that if we stop talking about it, it will stop?  Maybe you meant to say stop identifying and categorizing by race.  Which would mean me not calling myself a black girl or a biracial girl, and you not calling yourself a black man, and George Bush (either one) not calling himself a white man.  An inside-out kind of shift.  But if we just stop talking about it, Sikhs will continue to be perceived as terrorists, black folks as criminal/dangerous/depraved, and white people will be perceived as… perfectly normal.  I think we have to talk about it.  But from a place of seeking to understand the unity, not defend the separation.

For the record:  Tiffany Jones, do you really believe that Morgan Freeman actually said that just because you saw his face above those words on some random Facebook page?

All of THAT being said, on to this news.

I’m not at all surprised by Mississippi and the need for a civil rights lesson there… FOR the judge!  I am a bit surprised to come across another instance of Sikh-abuse so soon.  I suppose I’m tuned in to that community now.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have clicked on that story three months ago.  Not proud of that, but it’s the truth.  When you have experience unity and fellowship with an “other,” there remains no such thing as “other.”  How will we ever get to that place if we stay silent?

Omg, the middle one….my heart was racing and I started to sweat at the part in the story when the cop put gloves on…

Punky Brewster was a hero of mine.  By proxy Cherie also has a big piece of my heart!  SO, how dare they!?  Of course not because she’s Punky’s bestie, but because she’s a human being.   A human being who is conscious enough to approach her heritage openly and with reverence.  It truly makes my blood boil.

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I did take a nugget of love and hope from Dennis White’s narrative of the incident though.  The love and respect with which he speaks of and treats his partner struck me as truly beautiful.  The way he handled the situation…I’d wager to say this guy meditates or something fantastically woo woo like that.  Most do not expect that of a black man.  On a bad day I include myself in that group.  So, just in case it seems otherwise, everything I post on this blog is a note to self.  That makes the title “diary” a little more digestible to me.

So,the third one here is an improvement of a situation.  If that wrong is righted, there will be clear-cut, undeniable manifestation of something positive coming out of something tragic.  The positive will be an acquittal for Marissa Alexander.  The tragic is literally the verdict in the George Zimmerman case.  Figuratively, I suppose it’s the death of Trayvon Martin.  What a huge universal purpose that youngster served.  Sat Nam.

Mississippi County Gets Civil Rights Lesson From A Harassed Sikh Truck Driver

AUTHOR:  SEPTEMBER 28, 2013

In a move that Mississippi might be regretting, a Sikh man was arrested and humiliated in the state over refusing to remove religious attire. The incident happened last January when Jagjeel Singh, a long-distance truck driver, was stopped by state police officers for driving with a flat tire. During the stop, they harassed and mocked him for wearing a turban, while one officer stated that all Sikhs are ‘depraved’ and ‘terrorists’.

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 Jagjeel Singh

Finally, the officers told Singh that the small, sheathed ceremonial sword, called a kirpan, that he was wearing was illegal. This isn’t true, but they ordered him to remove it. The kirpan is sewn into the waistband of a Sikh man’s trousers and is a sacred religious object, which Singh tried to explain. He declined to remove it and asked that he not be forced to do so. The result of this request was that he was arrested for refusing to obey a police command.

Matters got worse from here. The rest of the nation has long been accustomed to hearing about the abuses of Mississippi police officers when it comes to members of minority groups. Usually, the justice system isn’t much better — and that’s certainly the situation in this case. In March, Singh showed up for his hearing before the Pike County Court. As he sat in the courtroom waiting for his case to be called, four policemen approached to eject him from the room — at the judge’s behest.

Judge Aubrey Rimes ordered the removal because he didn’t like the turban Mr. Singh was wearing, which is also of religious significance. In chambers, the judge confirmed to the defendant’s lawyer that not only did he order the removal, but if Singh didn’t take off the turban, he would wait until all the cases were heard before calling up that one. And that’s precisely what happened. Singh spent the day waiting for his ‘turn’.

However, unlike many who have been targeted for discrimination in the state, Mr. Singh was not all on his own to face the Mississippi ‘justice’ system. First, the United Sikhs organization got involved, providing him with legal representation. Local lawyer LeeAnn Slipher not only stood up for her client in court, negotiating for charges to be dropped and her client released, but was a vital witness to the abuse that took place at the hands of the judge.

With irrefutable evidence available, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division opened an investigation and the results have been relatively immediate. Pike County agreed to institute sensitivity training and to revise their nondiscrimination policy in return for an end to the investigation. The county’s policy now specifically says that religious discrimination includes:

 … requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons.

Although Mississippi has been notoriously bad at dealing with civil rights issues, there is hope that the good news doesn’t stop there — especially since federal intervention has already taken place at the county level. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, asking for an investigation of its officers on harassment charges. The ACLU also announced plans to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, in cooperation with United Sikhs, asking for an investigation of Judge Rimes and for the imposition of consequences for his actions.

The outcome, of course, will depend on watchful eyes from elsewhere in the nation.

 

Two Hollywood Actors Get Stopped, But Not For An Autograph

by: Krystol Diggs  Posted September 28, 2013

Being violated is something that many haven’t had a chance to go through. Although we never want it to happen at all, it does and it happened to actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White. Cherie Johnson, who is known for her roles in Punky Brewster, Family Matters, etc and Dennis White who was in the film Notorious, a story about the late Christopher Wallace also known as “ Biggie Smalls” never imagined their vacation to be an experience they would never forget. As an African American myself I must say that this situation is has saddened me. Racism should cease to exist. Ms. Johnson and Mr. White should never have been violated to the fullest extent that it entailed. I hope that this article will show that we as people should be united as one and not divided.  Dennis White explained to me the terrible ordeal, here is his story.

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On September 22nd, 2013 at approximately 3:40pm, I was reminded that at the end of the day I can be harassed by the police at their will. Regardless of how many movies or TV shows I have been in. Regardless of my education at WSSU. Regardless of how much money or accolades I have garnered. Regardless of my journeys across the globe. I will be forever at the white officer’s mercy.

My lady and I have had a long trip teaching our Acting workshops in NYC and in Fayetteville, NC, my hometown. We have been out of L.A. for about 10 days and we needed some R&R. I suggested Myrtle Beach because she has never been there before and it can be romantic in nature. Myrtle Beach was the place in which I acted in my very first film, “Swimming”, so there is a special place in my heart for that town. Well, we decided to leave Sunday afternoon between football games and to avoid heavy traffic and to make it to Myrtle before the Steelers(her favorite team) played. We laughed, kissed, held hands, talked and had a pleasant time traveling from NC to SC. We had no idea that our trip would turn into a horrible nightmare.

We entered South Carolina and within 20 minutes or so we were pulled over by 2 police cars. They stated that I was driving 40 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone. I disagreed but there was nothing I could do. He presented me with a citation that I planned on fighting. So, the Officer began to warn us that we should be careful because there are other officers on the prowl. We heeded his advice and continued on our “romantic” getaway. Once we entered the highway to reach Myrtle beach, We began to see cotton fields. I was cognitive of my speed limit. Didn’t want to attract any other police interactions. Well, there was a cotton field that was on the right side of the road and my lady was intrigued by it. The history of our ancestors picking cotton and being enslaved tugged at her heartstrings. Being a man who desires to accommodate his woman, I decided to pull over and let her experience the connection with the angst of our ancestry.

There was a paved driveway that led to a small cotton field. The oil change light came on so it was the perfect reason to pull over. I pulled over and we both exited the rental vehicle (Ford Fusion, great car! I need one of these in my life) and we took in the history and the oppression that those little white balls created decades ago. Tears welled up and the vindication of being free and willing to pursue our dreams unabashed gave us power. We took several pictures just to document the experience. I grew up in North Carolina so this is nothing new to me but to experience this with the woman I love was monumental. As we walked back to the car we noticed a cop car with it’s lights on making a u-turn and parked right behind us. My lady, proceeded to walk towards his car and state, “I just wanted to take a picture!” The Officer, S. Barfield, grabbed his gun and told her to sit in the car.

While in the car, we chuckled and connected on the thought that this is just the icing to our trip. The officer approached my side of the car and asked for license and registration. I complied and he went back to his vehicle to run my identity. Everything came back clean. He began to ask me a plethora of questions. I showed him the flyer from the Acting workshop we just held in Fayetteville the previous day. I informed him of our credentials and what we do for a living. He told me to exit the vehicle. I complied. He brought me to the back of the car and asked me more questions. He asked me my woman’s name and I answered, “Cherie Johnson”. He left me and questioned her. I assumed to validate my answers. He returned to his car and approached me and told me that there was a warrant for her arrest. I told him he had to be mistaken. He presented that info to her and she disputed that. He returned to his vehicle and within 5 minutes he approached her and admitted that she didn’t have a warrant. By this time I am hot, confused and annoyed. He asked me several more questions and then asked if he could search the car. I am not a lawyer but I know some of my rights. I refused. He walked over to Cherie and asked her several more questions. He left her and entered his car and put gloves on.

Cherie-Johnson-Child

Officer Barfield approached me and told me to turn around. I asked him if I was being arrested. He said, “No”. He proceeded to put handcuffs on me rather tight and aggressively. I inquired why was I being cuffed. He had no specific reasoning. He then proceeded to approach my lady and tell her to get out of the car and he handcuffed her. At this time I became distraught. I have been racially profiled several times in my lifetime but it touched my core when my woman was included. The officer put us both behind the car and chided us. Another cop car arrived and he was very nice. He asked me my name. He immediately recognized my lady.

The first officer began to ask us about drugs. He continuously made reference to the fact that if we had marijuana he would just write us up for a citation and let us go. We refuted the claim of us possessing anything illegal. He told Cherie that we could be hiding a dead body in the trunk. He threatened to arrest us for trespassing and petty larceny. At that point, I decided that I should let him search the car. The bugs were eating me up and I felt guilty for having my Woman in handcuffs.

He searched the inside of the car ,went through her purse and found several hundred dollars. He questioned the possession of that money. He then searched my bag and found a stack of money, which he questioned as well. As he looked into the front pocket of my bag he told me to come closer. “Look what I found”, he stated. “Is this marijuana? “ I looked and told him, “No, that’s a tea bag”. He had to agree. He then told me he has a tester to see if it was marijuana. I told him to do as he wishes. He finished searching the whole car and found nothing. He un-cuffed us and let us go. No apology, no nothing.

At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age. The equality that our forefathers fought so hard to obtained does not stretched across the board. South Carolina has been known to treat African-American as second-class citizens. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I will not stop until this incident is made public and that racist cop, Barfield, is reprimanded and punished. That was one of the worse days of my life and I plan on making it one of his as well. If you are reading this, please share, please discuss, please inform your family, friends, co-workers and associates that “Officer S. Barfield” in Marion County, SC is a racist cop and his punishment is imminent. We will not stand for this injustice anymore!!!

Marissa Alexander, Woman Sentenced To 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot, Gets New Trial

By GARY FINEOUT 09/26/13

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida woman serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot at her estranged husband during an argument will get a new trial, though she will not be able to invoke a “stand your ground” defense, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville mother of three, has been used by critics of Florida’s “stand your ground” law and mandatory minimum sentences to argue that the state’s justice system is skewed against defendants who are black.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the trial judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.

The ruling, written by Judge Robert Benton, said the instructions constituted a “fundamental error” and required Alexander to prove self-defense “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But the court also made it clear in its ruling that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state’s “stand your ground” law as a way to defend her actions. That law generally removes people’s duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger.

Faith Gay, one of the attorneys representing the 33-year-old Alexander, said she was grateful for the “thorough consideration” provided by the appeals court.

“We are looking forward to taking the case back to trial,” Gay said.

Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Alexander has maintained that the shot fired was a warning shot.

The sentencing sparked criticism from the local NAACP chapter and the district’s African-American congresswoman, who said blacks more often are incarcerated for long periods because of overzealous prosecutors and judges bound by mandatory minimum sentences.

State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.

Jackelyn Barnard, a spokeswoman for Corey, said that the conviction was reversed on a legal technicality and that the office was gratified that the “stand your ground” ruling was upheld.

Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the ruling a “welcome development in a case that represents the double standards in our justice system.”

“From the streets to the courthouse, race continues to influence the judicial process, and it certainly seemed to have played a role here,” Jealous said in a statement issued by the civil rights organization.

The state’s “10-20-life” law was implemented in 1999 and credited with helping to lower the violent crime rate. Anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies gets an automatic 10 years in prison. Fire the gun, and it’s an automatic 20 years. Shoot and wound someone, and it’s 25 years to life.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Alexander was working for a payroll software company. She was estranged from her husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him, even though they’d had a baby together just nine days earlier. Thinking he was gone, she went to their former home to retrieve the rest of her clothes, family members said.

An argument ensued, and Alexander said she feared for her life when she went out to her vehicle to get the gun she legally owned. She came back inside and ended up firing a shot into the wall, which ricocheted into the ceiling.

Gray testified that he saw Alexander point the gun at him and looked away before she fired the shot. He claimed that she was the aggressor, and that he had begged her to put away the weapon.

The judge threw out Alexander’s “stand your ground” self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside. Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her.

Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on Gray. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served.

Supporters of Alexander have asked Gov. Rick Scott to pardon Alexander, but her case has not yet been taken by the state’s clemency board.

Mandatory Minimums Marissa Alexander, seen here purchasing cosmetics in Tampa, Fla. Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prion. (AP photo/Lincoln B. Alexander)

get him

beard force

The news story below is profoundly upsetting to me.  Not only because I become indignant in the face of injustice and cruelty, but also because a major and beautiful element of my super-special summer was a Sikh.  A Sikh taught me how to free my mind and body (through kundalini yoga and mantra) thereby connecting me back into my heavily guarded heart.  Her name is Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa, and I obvi think the world of her.  So, I read this news item and I think of Nirinjan and her family and my heart becomes heavy.  And then I think of all of the black people who experience(d) the constant threat of this type of… terrorism incident.  Back when there was no such thing as a hate crime, but there such a thing as nigger hunting.  I don’t mean to be rude or abrasive.  I mean to be truthful.

ATF 1995 nigger hunting liscense

 

 

 

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How many black men, young and old heard “get him” as they were walking down a street?… or in their nightmares?  What kind of armor does that compel a person to take up?  In 2013, when a man is aquitted for shooting a black teenager armed only with a bag of skittles, what message does that send to a community about the value of it’s lives in this society? I think we can look around and see the answer to that.  Heavy armor,  is all I know to call it. And a message of meritlessness.

I hope you will take the 6-7 minutes it takes to watch the video interview with Professor Singh.  Here are a few things that stood out as insightful and relevant to this discussion at large:

  1. (In) the Sikh community, having a turban and a beard is…a trigger for fear in the mind of a large fraction of Americans who may not know that it’s an integral component of the sikh tradition. (That) is part of the problem.
  2. ….reach out to people so they don’t feel afraid to ask, “What’s that turban? What’s that beard all about? Who are you? Are you American or not? …Learn to invite people to ask those basic questions.  People have to not be afraid to ask those basic questions.

My thought on item number one is that there are stereotype-upholding attributes (physical and/or behavioral) of “african-american” people that trigger fear in the mind of a large fraction of Americans.  And that must be a really large number because this fear response thing has been so deeply ingrained our collective subconscious that even “african americans” can be fearful of other “african americans” for no reason other than that they “are” “african american”.  (I know that that was a lot of quotation marks.  Every one of them deliberate, btw.)  That is indeed a part of the problem.  A solution may be a conscious effort on everyone’s part to understand the roots of those particular attributes and to hold the intention of healing the historical trauma.  That may mean, if you’re white, consistently seeking to understand even after you are met with the discomfort of knowing that it is truly a privilege not to be laden with such a heavy historic burden and that, while you have every right to that freedom, you are no more entitled to it than any other living creature.  If you are black it may mean seeking to understand the suffering, overcoming,  nobility, and grace that come along with this history, but not ignoring the dysfunction and self destructive ways born out of a system designed to maintain a certain heirarchy.  A system that is so well implemented that we take it for granted.  We take it for truth and we create our reality on it’s baseless foundation.  We form our identities around it and we become another fragment of the illusion unwittingly yet obediently holding it in place.

The second quote struck me as wise and necessary.  It also took me back to Maui.  The moment I met Nirinjan.  Backstory- I was in Maui for The Daily Love: Enter the Heart retreat led by Daily Love founder Mastin Kipp.  Mastin Kipp = major catalyst for my growth, so I obvi think the world of him as well- Anyway, we all gathered for the first time and Mastin introduced Nirinjan and immediately asked her to explain Sikhism and her turban and to assure us that she was not a terrorist.  Point Blank.  Just like that.  He made it safe to ask, to be curious.  He acknowledged the stereotypes and the triggers that may surface in the presence of a turban.  There was nervous laughter amongst the group.  Some expressed shock.  But Mastin was like, “we see turban, we think terrorist.”  Just like that.  Point blank.  With no judgement about any of it.  Just focusing on the truth and then… the Truth.  We all need to do that.

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But the responsibility does not fall completely on the shoulders of the one perceived as different.  The one with the questions has a duty here, too.  The way I see it that duty is to ask the questions in a way that acknowledge your ignorance and does not impose a sense of “otherness/strangeness/weird” on the person who has piqued your curiosity.  Also be genuinely interested and curious.  Seek to understand and see it from a fresh perspective.  More simply, be respectful.  So much of this has been born out of a lack of respect.  All around.  It’s really all just one big misunderstanding.

Sikh Professor Attacked in Potential Hate Crime

VIA

On Saturday night Dr. Prabhjot Singh was brutally attacked in his neighborhood by a large group of young men, who yelled the words “Osama,” “terrorist,” and “get him.” He says they grabbed his beard, punched him, and dragged him to the ground where they continued to beat him. He was rushed to the hospital with a fractured jaw and several missing teeth. Singh is Sikh and wears a turban and beard, and says he’s been profiled as a Muslim and attacked in the past, although never so violently.

Singh is a professor at Columbia University, and is also a practicing physician. In addition he has also been an advocate for addressing historic discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S., which he says goes beyond mistaking this ethnic group for Muslims. The suspects have not yet been detained.

Video Interview with Professor Singh

Click here to Meet a Sikh Family

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Jy0TOw1sBkU

by the way…

…you’re free.  Have been for two and a half years, but who’s counting?

I mean, can you even imagine!?  Finding out you’d just slaved away for, well, nothing.  I suppose that’s an oxymoron or something.  It’s also what happened in Texas back in 1865.  Somehow it took 2.5  years for news of the end of the war and emancipation of the slaves to reach Texas.  Word finally arrived on June 19th, 1865.  We call it Juneteenth.  It’s a national holiday.  Nobody wished me a Happy Juneteenth though.  I don’t think it’s common knowledge.  And I do think it should be.

Be free!

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Juneteenth celebration in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900 (Austin History Center)

Today in Texas History: Juneteenth

Hillary Sorin

On this date in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger (November 6, 1822 – January 10, 1876) read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus officially ordering the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. Since then, many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth as a distinct Independence Day, marking freedom from bondage.

Most Americans assume that President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, on January 1, 1863, abolished slavery. In truth, the majority of African Americans remained enslaved after that date. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to Confederate States. The Proclamation did not free black slaves in Border States like Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia and Delaware, where slavery was practiced. The Proclamation targeted the Confederacy, precisely where American law held no emotional or political authority.

Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in Texas. The news of freedom inspired celebrations by African Americans across the state, as well as reflections on and strategies regarding the future of the Texan black community as freed people. Historian Palomo Acosta writes, “The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies to teach freed African Americans about their voting rights.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau organized the first official Texas Juneteenth celebration in Austin in 1867. Since 1872, Juneteenth has remained a part of the calendar of public events. Juneteenth often includes a host of events and activities which people of all ages can enjoy. The day is often marked by dance, theater and musical performances, as well as by sport activities and barbecues. “Lift Every Voice” remains a popular and traditional song performed at most Juneteenth celebrations held across the country.

Juneteenth declined in popularity in the 1960s as the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Calls for integration lessened the importance of black only events as African Americans tried to end de jure and de facto segregation. The rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1970s renewed interest in Juneteenth as many African Americans advocated for recognition of the uniqueness of the African American experience while also advocating for integration and equality in the country’s political, economic and educational spheres.

In 1979, state Rep. Al Edwards, a Houston Democrat, introduced a bill into the Texas legislature calling for the recognition of Juneteenth as a public holiday in the state of Texas. A state-supported Juneteenth celebration took place a year later.

Juneteenth illustrates two challenges facing the black community in the post civil rights era — fighting racism and the ideology of race while, at the same time, communicating the fact that, although the concept of race has no scientific basis, the color of one’s skin in America continues to inform the American experience on both a personal and community level. Simply stated, race may not be real, but it is lived. Juneteenth reflects this dual reality for the African American community.

Today, Texas and 29 other states recognize Juneteenth as an official public holiday. Last year, Representative Sheila Lee Jackson spoke in support of a resolution commemorating the historical significance of Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the United States.

Today, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced legislation honoring Juneteenth Independence Day as a federal holiday. In a statement released by the senator, she stated, “By commemorating this day, the U.S. Senate will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African-American culture in Texas and throughout the Southwest, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom.”

what Loving and loving are all about

I don’t feel quite right about focusing more on Cheerios than on the Lovings yesterday.  Perhaps I did it because this is the 4th Loving Day that I’ve had this blog so felt that I’d covered that already. Or, perhaps I did it because I knew I had this one in store for today.  This article, written by the Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis (Ph.D/black woman married to a white man/woman of color and of God who stands for equal rights for all re:gay marriage) for the Huffington Post Religion blog, is all about liberty and justice for all.  On a good day I’m all about liberty and justice for all!  That there’s a place called “Middle Church” makes my heart swell.  I want to go to there.  I love knowing that Reverend Lewis exists.  I find inspiration in that knowing.  I love knowing what Mildred Loving thought and how she felt about life and love and equality, and am inspired by that too.

Let’s encourage one another to stop saying no to love.  Let’s encourage love in whatever form it arises.  Let us love that.

P.S. I also love that Willy Wonka meme, yet I have no idea what Mr. Wonka has to do with this, if anything.  That was my own find on the world wide web, not part of the Reverend’s article. Just for the record.

P.P.S. It is nearly impossible to be depressed and inspired at the same time, so let us also encourage one another to be inspired.  Or, even better, start living an inspired life yourself and watch the inspiration and the health of your community grow.

Making Love Legal

Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church

Posted: 06/07/2013

Central Point, Virginia. 1958: Richard and Mildred Loving jailed. Their crime: marriage. He was white. She was black. “We were married on the second day of June. And the police came after us the fourteenth day of July,” Mildred Loving said in the documentary “The Loving Story” (HBO, 2011).

An anonymous tip sent police to their house in the middle of the night. Making love was a crime, too, for people of different races. The police found them sleeping. They were arrested for “cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” Their marriage was illegal in 24 states in 1958.

Richard and Mildred pled guilty, and received a one-year prison sentence, which would be suspended if they left Virginia. They moved to Washington, D.C., sneaking home to see family and friends. Mildred wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who referred her to the A.C.L.U. Richard told their lawyer, “Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

Love was not enough to mitigate the racial fear and hatred that resisted their union. It was not enough to unravel the complicated narrative of white supremacy that led to segregation, to Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws.

In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision held that the prohibition of biracial marriage was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren and the other justices claimed that “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival … Under our constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

No matter what society asserts about race, no matter what religious institutions teach about race and no matter the ethnicity of the couple, marriage is a basic civil right.

The Supreme Court changed the narrative, changed the story. And it changed the culture. According to Pew Research study of married couples (February 2012), the share of interracial couples reached an all-time high of 8.4 percent. In 1980, that share was just 3.2 percent.

The narrative of homophobia in our nation is also complicated and tragic. The culture has shaped it, religious institutions have often reinforced it, and fear feeds it. I believe that no matter what the culture asserts, adults have the civil right to marry, no matter their sexual orientation.

gay marriage is illegal so was interracial wonka

And I believe this is also true: Wherever love is, God is. The writer of 1 John says, “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” I think it is important for congregations that teach “God is love” to also affirm the marriage of same-gender loving couples. They should have the civil right to marry and their love should be blessed in our churches.

On Sunday, June 9 at 6 p.m., at Middle Church, my white husband and I will celebrate Loving Day (celebrated nationally on June 12) and the landmark case that gave us the right to marry and live with each other. We will celebrate in hope that the Supreme Court will once again change the story, that it will rule on Prop 8 and DOMA in such a way that all couples have the right to marry in every state in our union.

Original gospel music by Broadway and television actor Tituss Burgess will be performed and there will be a renewal of vows for straight and gay couples. Burgess (Jersey BoysThe Little MermaidGuys and Dolls and 30 Rock), Alyson Palmer (of BETTY, whose music has been heard on The L-WordUgly Betty and Weeds), and Broadway’s Jenny Powers (Grease and Little Women) will solo at the event. Middle Church stands for the freedom of all couples to legally marry. During the commitment ceremony, all couples — no matter their ethnicity, or their gender or sexuality — can renew or make new vows to each other. We will celebrate loving, because we know for sure that love heals. Come and bring someone special with you!

Commenting on the similarities between interracial and same-sex marriage in 2007, Mildred Loving said,

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That is what Loving and loving are all about.

Amen, and may it be so.

loving

…and then

It happens to be Loving Day which is what prompted me to finally get around to posting about the Cheerios.  Happy Loving Day! Interracial Marriage (black/white) has been legal for a grand total of….46 years!  That’s only ten more years than I have existed!  So in the grand scheme, if there is still a small to medium segment of the population who simply has not taken advantage of any opportunity to grow out of this debilitating mindset, well, that’s only to be expected… and it’s too bad for them… and absolutely ok with me actually.  Love people where they are, right?

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.32 PM #5 (compiled)

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.26 PM #5 (compiled)

Here’s a nice article that brings together the Cheerios and the Lovings.

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor’s note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day’.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples – or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong.

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high:

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.”  In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech approaches.

On June 15th, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children’s spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing, April, 1965

 Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing April 1965

now…

cheerios meme

Certainly you’ve heard of this, right?  The barrage of hateful comments left under the commercial featuring a mixed race family on Cheerios’ YouTube channel.  Comments so offensive that General Mills deleted and disabled them.  “It’s 2013!!!” is the gist of the typical response from “normal” people on the internet.  “I want to eat so many Cheerios right now,” was quite literally my response.  And I got a little choked up.  Not about the comment fiasco.  I stopped getting choked up about youtube comments years ago, thank God, and it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that hateful voices rose from the trollers. None.  So all I’m left with is this beautiful commercial, with this adorable child who makes some sincerely delightful faces depicted in a family that almost resembles mine in a way that I cannot recall having seen before.  Ever.  I am 36 years old.  I was in commercials as a kid.  I have never seen a commercial like this.  That is what is shocking.  That in 2013, this near-revolutionary advertising.  People took note, did double takes.  Heads were scratched.  Fears and tempers were flared.  Clearly this is long overdue.  So, thank you Cheerios!! Thank you for looking at your community and your consumers and seeing what is actually in front of you. And being “bold” enough to “endorse” it.  By endorsing reality, you make us face it and give us the opportunity to adjust to it.  Maybe even to like it You reflect me and all the others like me who had never experienced the normalization of our lives in a television commercial. This makes for a healthier society.  That makes for a healthier me.

And then there’s this! Maybe it’s not as bad as it seems after all.

Turns Out Americans Love ‘Controversial’ Cheerios Ad

Perhaps Racist YouTubers Not Representative of Country as a Whole

By: 
June 5, 2013

Last week, a new ad from Cheerios was deemed controversial when media outlets discovered that the racist contingent of the idiocracy known as the YouTube comment section trashed the ad for featuring a mixed-race couple and a biracial child.

But according to data from Ace Metrix, Americans like the ad. In fact, “Good for Your Heart” (called “Just Checking” on YouTube) tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores 9% and 11% “above the current 90-day norm for cereals.”

General Mills rightly decided not to be swayed by the rantings of deranged internet comments, telling USA Today that the supposed uproar would not affect future casting decisions.

According to Ace Metrix, the ad — created by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York — “appealed to all age/gender demographics with the exception of males over 50.” While that could be taken as a statement on racial attitudes, Ace Metrix noted that ads with babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child.

The report, which surveyed over 500 consumers, went on to note: “The ad scored best with African-Americans, who collectively scored the ad a 721, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics. While African Americans and Hispanics generally award advertising higher scores than their ethnic counterparts — the 721 score is 100 higher than average for African-Americans.”

And filtering verbatim commentary from those surveyed, those who specifically mentioned “couple” did so in a positive manner.

“I liked that the couple is mixed race,” wrote one respondent. “Good to see that on TV, but in a subtle manner.”

WordCloudCheerios

word cloud from Ace Metrix survey comments

no shame in crazy

 

crazy marliyn monroe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

crazy lyrics

 

“What does it mean to be crazy? To have a disorder of the mind. But “disorder” can only exist if there is some kind of pre determined “order” set in place. And who decides on order relative to the human mind? Human society. Sane and insane is a judgment based on perspective. And according to many other perspectives within this universe, it is human society that is rampant with disorder. So there is no reason to think of yourself as insane; if the very mindset of the society that determines whether you are sane or insane… is in and of itself insane!”
-Teal Scott-