oh happy (loving) day

I love surprising intersections of the things I love the most.  Such as Volkswagen and Loving Day.  I’m not sure if I am more passionate about any other subjects.  That may be an exaggeration, but anyway I am super into VW as well as the progression of our society toward a more loving, open way of living.  Without Loving v. Virginia it is likely that there would be no me nor so many others. This is inspiring and undeniable progress for which I am grateful.

b:w beetles

That being said, you can imagine my delight when the Volkswagen ad below hit the circuit just in time for Loving Day- commemoration of the day that the Supreme Court declared interracial marriage to be legal nation wide with their verdict in the Loving vs. Virginia case.  48 years ago.  That was basically yesterday folks.  And though we’ve come a long-ass way in the last 48 years, we still have a long-ass way to go before we’re free from the fears and limitations and separations of race.  And our addiction to perceived otherness.  Can you imagine how lovely things might be if we defaulted to perceived sameness? Le sigh ❤

So here’s the Volkswagen commercial and here’s to normalizing blackness on the road to normalizing togetherness. Baby steps.

VOLKSWAGEN USES HUMOROUS AD FEATURING YOUNG INTERRACIAL COUPLE TO MARKET ITS CARS

By 

What we regularly see depicted in the media is often what we subconsciously regard as being normal. It’s hard to deny the influence that television and movies has had on impacting the way that people of color are viewed by society. As inconsequential as it seemed when the popular television series 24 featured a black man as the president, this depiction did undoubtedly condition a segment of the public to the idea that it was not inconceivable that a black man could be the President of the United States.

Although inter-racial dating is widespread, television continues to shy away from featuring this reality. That’s why it’s interesting to see Volkswagens choosing to promote this ad. We will be watching to see if other major advertisers follow suit. As any step to normalize how black families are depicted is a welcomed development.

Richard & MIldred in checked skirt and top Loving

loving-kids

color-pic

Mildred and Richard Loving

(also pictured: their children Donald, Peggy, and Sidney.)

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W. T. F!

I mean… I just don’t have words… which is weird for me… a little sick to my stomach over this, actually… talk about a different fourth grade experience…

I’d love to believe that were I subjected to this horror show I would have been able to poke fun at the situation.  That maybe I would have been able to choose one male white friend and taken the ‘performance’ to a whole ‘nother level by crying, “Oh please don’t sell me away, father…” However, being nine or ten and shy, I probably would at best have refused to participate, but, more likely, gone along, swallowing my anger, humiliation, and shame until I got in the car after school and told my mother who would promptly have taken care of it.  I assure you of that.

My mother would have gone to school and ripped the teacher, and anyone else who was walking by, a new a**hole had this happened to me.  She did that when she didn’t like the way they taught about the Mayflower and the Indians in first grade.  We did it together in the fifth grade when Sr. Mary Ann said some offensive b.s. about MLK and used me, the only student of color, as a reference.  She got fired.

As a “black” student who nearly always served as a speck of pepper in a sea of salt, I can tell you that it is uncomfortable enough to go through the history lessons on the Civil War when the class is simply reading straight from the textbook, but to actually be used to physically demonstrate the atrocity….  It feels bad enough when you’re in geography and your friend accidentally reads the “river Niger” aloud as the river nigger and a hush falls over a crowd and everyone is looking at you in your desk at the back of the room even though their eyes are facing forward… but THIS.  I just can’t… Jessica Boyle, imho, you officially suck as a teacher and a human being.  Hopefully this will open your eyes to all that you have had the privilege of being blind to, and you’ll come out of this a better person.  Good f***ing luck!

Norfolk principal apologizes for mock auction of black students

By Steven G. Vegh The Virginian-Pilot © April 9, 2011

NORFOLK

The principal of Sewells Point Elementary School has apologized to parents for a teacher’s classroom exercise last week that cast her black and mixed-race fourth-graders as available for sale.

The apology came after the teacher separated the students from their white classmates and auctioned them, division spokeswoman Elizabeth Thiel Mather said. The exercise was part of an April 1 class on the Civil War.

In an April 6 letter sent to parents of students in the class, Principal Mary B. Wrushen wrote: “I recently became aware of a history lesson that was presented to the students in Ms. Jessica Boyle’s fourth grade class. Although her actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students.

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“The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation,” Wrushen wrote.

Wrushen said the exercise was not supported by the school or division. “I will follow up with the classroom teacher to ensure nothing like this ever occurs again,” the letter said. “In addition, the guidance counselor is available to discuss any concerns your child may still have concerning this classroom lesson.”

Wrushen declined to comment Friday. Boyle, who has been with the division since 2005, did not return a call to the school. She has taught at Sewells Point for three years, and before that was at Dreamkeepers Academy, according to the division website.

Mather said the division was responding to the incident with “appropriate personnel action.” She did not give details.

Wrushen became aware of the auction exercise after receiving complaints from two parents, and spoke to the class about the incident, Mather said.

“This lesson was not part of the approved curriculum,” Mather said.

Chris Lee, whose daughter is in Boyle’s class, was among parents picking up their children Friday at the school on Hampton Boulevard near Norfolk Naval Station. He said he’d heard no details about the exercise, though he received Wrushen’s letter.

“My wife and I were trying to figure out what the letter was about, because we heard nothing about it, we just saw the letter,” he said.

Letter: Principal Mary Wrushen wrote to the parents of students at Sewells Point Elementary to apologise for the controversial history lesson

Told by a reporter about the auction, Lee said, “That sounds inappropriate to me. Wow. That’s interesting – that’s something I have to digest.” He said he would ask his daughter to tell him about the incident.

The school has 590 students.

Contacted Friday by The Virginian-Pilot, School Board Chairman Kirk Houston said he had not known about the auction.

“That’s very disturbing to me, extremely disturbing to me,” he said. “Mock slave auctions involving children are absolutely unacceptable in a classroom. At this point this is a personnel matter, and the School Board will monitor its outcome.”

Peggy Scott, treasurer of the Norfolk Council PTA, also first heard about the incident from The Pilot.

“I’m sitting here with my mouth hanging open,” Scott said. “There are some things you don’t do.”

In a statement Friday, Superintendent Richard Bentley said: “The school district does not condone this type of lesson in any way. It was wrong. It was outside the boundaries of the curriculum and appropriate instructional practices.”

London Illustrated News, February 16, 1861, depicting a slave auction in Virginia. The sign on the podium reads “Negroes for sale at auction this day at 1 o’clock.”

Dealers inspecting a negro at a slave auction in Virginia.

Dealers inspecting a negro at a slave auction in Virginia.  [The Inspection]

Slave Auction, Virginia

by Lefevre James Cranstone Image rights owned by the Virginia Historical Society

Silvia Federici’s Slave auction, United States

profiled

Yes, I believe they were… Disturbing.

Teen With Asperger’s Arrested: Were Callers Racial Profiling?

by Ken Reibel

VIA

Reginald Latson loves to walk.

“He’ll walk five or 10 miles, it’s nothing to him. Sometimes he walks five miles just to grab a bite to eat at Chili’s,” says his mother, Lisa, who lives in Stafford, Virginia. “Walking is his release.”

Neli, as his family calls him, is 18 and has Asperger’s, a mild form of autism. Three Mondays ago, he rose early and left home without telling his mother. “When I entered his room at 6:30 am and didn’t see him, I assumed he had gone for another walk,” she says. It was a school day.

Four hours later Stafford County authorities had ordered a lock down for eight schools, and Neli was in police custody, facing one count of malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer, one count of assault and battery of a law enforcement officer, and one count of knowingly disarming a police officer in performance of his official duties. The cascade of missteps that led to the arrest suggest a combination of public racial profiling and the over reaction of law enforcement officers who are unfamiliar with autistic behavior.

* * *

After Neli left home early that morning he walked two miles to Porter Library on Parkway Blvd. “He goes there frequently. There’s a teen room there, and he enjoys it,” says Lisa. The library was closed, so he sat under a tree, in the grass, at the front of the building. The parking lot at Park Ridge Elementary, about 400 feet to the west, was filling up.

According to officials reports, someone at the school called police at about 8:38 am to report a suspicious person sitting outside the library, “possibly in possession of a gun.” A bulletin went out with Neli’s description, and officials, concerned that a gunman was on the loose, ordered a school lockdown and set up a search perimeter.

When police arrived at the library, Neli was gone. Unaware of the report, and impatient for the library to open, he began walking in the direction of the high school. A forested green belt of trees some 500 feet-wide with a well-worn path separates the school from nearby homes. At about 9 am, a “school resources officer” who is also a Stafford County Sheriff deputy approached Neli. That’s when accounts begin to diverge.

Lisa said her son complied with a search, which failed to find a weapon. Police say Neli “attacked and assaulted the deputy for no apparent reason.”

Neli told his mother that the school officer threatened him, and that Neli said “You’re harassing me. You’re not allowed to do that. I know my rights,” then turned and walked away. According to Neli, the officer grabbed him from behind and choked him. Police reports say a scuffle ensued, during which the officer pepper sprayed Neli. The police version, which you can read here, says Neli then took the spray from the officer and turned it on him.

According to Lisa, Neli said he took the spray and ran into the woods. The deputy, Thomas Calverley, reportedly suffered a cut to the head and a broken ankle, and underwent surgery.

By this time sheriff deputies were combing the area with search dogs, and at least one TV news crew offered a breathless live report of the manhunt. Neli somehow eluded the dragnet for another 45 minutes before being spotted and arrested in the high school parking lot, shortly before 10 am.

No gun was found “and subsequent investigation has indicated that that a gun was not actually seen by the reporting parties,” according to the official report.

Lisa learned of the arrest at 10:30 am, when she called the police to report that her son was missing. “I was told that he was in custody and was currently being questioned but I was not told why,” she said. “They wouldn’t tell me anything, and wouldn’t allow me to visit him. I told the police that Neli has autism, but they didn’t seem to care.”

For the next 11 days, Neli was held without bail, and in isolation at the Rappahannock Regional Jail. Police allowed Neli’s school counselor to visit, and she relayed messages and information to Lisa, who was allowed only one visit. “He wasn’t able to speak or communicate with me. He appeared to be in a catatonic state,” Lisa says.

She is understandably frustrated and angry.

“The actions that were taken by the police that day were excessive in the least and grossly mishandled,” she wrote on a website started to counter inaccurate local media reports. “Someone says ‘I see a suspicious black male’ and he ‘could’ have a gun, while all my son was doing was sitting in the grass at the library. And you shut down six schools and go out on a manhunt for this dangerous black man who was sitting in the grass. Anyone can read between the lines and see that this just doesn’t add up.”

2010-06-13-Neli61310.jpg

Neli is from a military family, and during his 18 years has lived in Florida, Germany, Oklahoma and Georgia. Seven years ago his family moved to Stafford, a sprawling bedroom community about an hour south of Washington, DC. The family struggled to find appropriate school placement, finally settling on a private school. “The public high school was crowded, with about 30 kids to a class. Neli wasn’t getting the attention he needed, and his self esteem was slipping.” But he had never been in serious trouble. Never like this.

Lisa heeded the warning signs. A month earlier, she asked Neli how he would feel about wearing a medical alert bracelet that identified him as a person with Asperger’s. “He said that he didn’t have a problem with that, but I didn’t follow up. I’m just kicking myself for that,” she said.

Lisa, who works as a defense contractor, had also asked for a two month leave of absence to spend more time with Neli. That Monday was her first day off work. Her husband, Neli’s stepfather, retired from the Army and is currently stationed in Iraq as a military contractor.

* * *

As Neli’s time in isolation dragged on, police interrogators found him non-responsive and disturbed, and a judge ordered the young man transferred to a state mental institution for 30-days of treatment and evaluation. If the case is not resolved by then, he will end up back in jail.

The hospital is a two-and-a-half hour trip from Stafford, which Lisa says she has made four times. Horrified, she watched her son’s mental state worsen with each visit. “He is locked away and doesn’t understand why,” says Lisa. “He’s been through an ordeal.”

That ordeal has also changed Lisa, and the way she thinks about race, the police, and her community. She suspects Neli’s arrest was in part racially motivated, but it is not a charge she makes lightly.

“I used to donate money to the police benevolent society. I never imagined something like this could happen,” she says.

“I don’t think in terms of ‘watch out for those kinds of people’ or ‘you need to be scared,'” she says. “I grew up in south Florida. That’s a melting pot of cultures. I know there are good people and bad of every race.” Her life in the military, she says, has brought her friends “of every racial background.”

Has the ordeal changed her views on race and racism?

“It has,” she said, her voice trailing off. “It most definitely has.”

* * *
Cross posted at AutismNewsBeat.com

gum springs

Gum Springs: A Slave’s Legacy

By Michael K. Bohn

This is an excerpt from a four-part series on the history and future of Gum Springs, a historically African-American community in the Mount Vernon area.

The founder of Gum Springs, a mixed race man named West Ford, began his life as a slave. His path to freedom started when his owner, George Washington’s younger brother, John Augustine, died in 1787.

West Ford, shown here in an 1858 drawing, founded the African-American community of Gum Springs in 1833. Fairfax County Public Library, Virginia Room.

John’s will left a third of his slaves to his wife Hannah, including a couple named Billy and Jenny, their daughter Venus, and her son West. Upon Hannah’s death in 1801, her will stipulated that young West be freed when he reached the age of 21. She also asked her heirs to inoculate West for small pox and bind him to a “good tradesman.”

Hannah’s son Bushrod assumed ownership of West, then 16 or 17. Also, Bushrod inherited Mount Vernon when Martha Washington died in 1802, and he moved there and took West with him. Following Hannah’s will, Bushrod freed West in about 1805. According to oral family history, West adopted the surname Ford upon gaining his freedom.

Ford remained at Mount Vernon, working as a wheelwright and carpenter. He could read and write, and ultimately became foreman of the house servants and a guardian of Washington’s tomb. In 1812, he married Priscilla Bell, a free black woman from Alexandria. Because of her status, their four children — William, Daniel, Jane and Julia — were also free.
Virginia required freed slaves to register, and the 1831 entry for West Ford described him as “a yellow man about forty-seven years of age, five feet eight and a half inches high, pleasant countenance, a wrinkle resembling a scar on the left cheek ….” Ford was a mulatto, a term of the time that was used to describe a person of one African and one European parent.

Bushrod Washington died in 1829. An associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years, Washington left West Ford 119 acres of land on the south side of Little Hunting Creek.

Ford sold his inherited land and used the proceeds in 1833 to purchase Samuel Collard’s Gum Spring Farm, a 214-acre tract on the north side of Little Hunting Creek. Collard sold the property to Ford for $500 and five annual installments of $84.80.

In 1857, Ford deeded his Gum Springs land to his four children, dividing the tract into equal parts of 52 3⁄4 acres. The property lines of those parcels coincide exactly with many of today’s lot lines, as well as the main north-south roads in Gum Springs — Holland, Andrus, and Fordson.


The present limits of Gum Springs correspond with the 214-acre parcel bought by West Ford in 1833.

By 1860, Ford and his daughter Jane’s husband, Porter Smith, were growing cash crops of corn, oats, and potatoes. The total tract was assessed at $1,800 in 1860, making West Ford the second-most wealthy freedman in Fairfax County.

Ford was near death in the summer of 1863 when staff members at Mount Vernon brought the weakened man back to the estate for his final days. He died on July 30 and The Alexandria Gazette marked his passing: “He was, we hear, in the 79th year of his age. He was well known to most of our older citizens.”

WEST FORD’S FATHER

“George Washington is my fifth great-grandfather,” Linda Allen Bryant declared on the CBS News TV show, “Sunday Morning” in February 2004. Her assertion, which she first made in 1996, created a stir on two fronts — historians regard George as childless, and Ms. Bryant is African-American.

Bryant, a descendent of Gum Springs founder West Ford, maintains that General Washington was Ford’s father. A health writer and pharmaceutical representative in Aurora, Colo., Bryant seemed to take advantage of the publicity surrounding the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings revelations in 1998 to draw attention to her claim.

The issue of southern plantation masters having their way with female slaves has simmered for years, largely among historians. But the controversy boiled over into the larger public consciousness following disclosures of Jefferson’s relationship with Hemings. Mulatto slaves were a common sight on Virginia’s plantations in the 1700s. They were the product of what some men then considered sport, and the slaves viewed as a loathsome manifestation of their plight.

THE FORD FAMILY ARGUMENT

Linda Bryant has written that John Washington sent Venus to comfort his brother George as a “sleep partner” during a visit by George to his brother’s home. The two surviving portraits of Ford show a resemblance to Washington men, and Ford’s freedom and inheritance reflected special status. Bryant expands her version of the family’s allegations in her novel, “I Cannot Tell a Lie.” She called it a “narrative history,” but the dialogue she injects into the subject is all hers.

Knowing that DNA testing resolved the Hemings’s family claims, the Ford descendents have pressed Mount Vernon for hair samples from the General. The Ladies Association has refused the request.

THE LADIES ASSOCIATION’S POSITION

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has adamantly denied that General Washington fathered West Ford. “The Ford family contention is based on a family tradition,” said Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon’s associate director of preservation in 2000. “We respect that, but if this is true, there should be other evidence to support it.” Pogue’s polite approach took a sharper edge in 2004, when he said, “there’s not a shred of evidence” to support the Ford family allegation. In late 2009, Pogue again reiterated Mount Vernon’s position.

Linda Allen Bryant continues to press her case in the court of public opinion, but her views are creating less and less interest.

SOURCE