Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018

Ayyyyyyeeeee!

As 2017’s time on this earth fades to black, 2018 is waiting to take its place in the sun. As I mined through the events of 2017 — from national disgraces to local blemishes, there are many themes at a macro level that I believe will forever be attached to the year 2017: sexual assault, overt racism, and youth suicides. When assessing local patterns, 2017 for “progressive” Nashville will be the year for moves that work against its poor and Black populations.

Many events grabbed my attention throughout the year, but the themes that bore down and pierced my core derive from behaviors that I’d like to leave in 2017. For instance, America’s fleeting appreciation of Black women, the stance against charter schools and the families who choose them by the “oldest and boldest” civil rights organization in America, and the complicity of those witnessing egregious acts without saying a word.

Out With The Old…

Oddly enough, I feel as if I have a spiritual tie to 2018 and the message is clear: there is no room for nonsense as there is much work to be done.

So as we leave 2017 in the dust, here are 4 things that should stay with it:

Faux-Inclusion of Black Women

Screenshot 2017-06-13 at 12.39.08 PMYou think we don’t know. A superficial hire here (see Omarosa), a board appointment there. A couple tweets celebrating our votes that secure your place at the table. A cursory invitation to the table only to discover there is no chair (see #BlackWomenAtWork). And that one Black girlfriend… Yep, we know and it’s old. Like 2017.

In 2018 and beyond, please honor our worth. This is of far greater value than our vote or what we can lend to your credibility.

 

Fake Progressivism

giphy-downsized

I read once about Nashville being a progressive city. If progressive means clearing out poor, Black residents to make room for richer, whiter ones; or prioritizing soccer above indigent care; or acting as a city on the rise while more than 85% of its public school children in poverty fail to read at grade level then Nashville is progressive.

Nashville is 6th in the nation in both gentrification and homelessness. Most Black and brown renters’ pay upwards of 50% of their salary in rent. The city needs more than 30,000 affordable housing units. Meanwhile, robust efforts are employed to secure support for $5 billion transit plan and $26 million soccer stadium. I suspect these are not the values of a truly progressive people. The faux concern for our fellow sister must go with 2017.

In 2018, let’s be honest about who we are or restore our moral obligation to our sistren.

Pro-Public Education Bit

giphy-downsized

It’s no secret that the righteous indignation that cloaks this proclamation is a direct shot at education reformers. From political candidates to the PTA, pro-public ed supporters want you to know they are not here for your reform shenanigans. It doesn’t seem to bother them that they are pledging allegiance to a system ill-designed to fully educate its diverse population. Further, there is a refusal to accept that Black families are making choices and without anyone’s permission.

Please get a new label in 2018 – one that supports children and values families.

Complicity

img_1116

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said silence is complicity and if we’ve learned anything from this year it’s that silence is no longer an option (see #MeToo, #Resist). While 2017 will be forever tethered to the rebirth of brazen racism (Charlottesville and the POTUS who supported it), it will also be known as the year powerful bullies took a tumble thanks to the power of one brave voice that led to a collection of courageous voices.

In 2018, our voice is our weapon against bullies, racists – blatant and unsuspecting, misogynists, and the people who protect, hire, and groom them.

 

In With the New… 

As I look to the new year with optimism and a healthy supply of badassery, I must recognize 2017 as a formidable sparring partner. The gut punches that come from racism, sexism, and educational malpractice hurt like hell and stay with you, coloring relationships and decisions for the rest of your life. But thank God we have a choice!

I choose to take the lessons from 2017 and rock them into and throughout 2018. What does that look like? 

  • It’s honoring my worth even if you don’t and especially if you won’t.
  • It’s being my sister’s keeper
  • It’s relentlessly supporting parent choice
  • And fearlessly exercising my power through the use of my voice. 

Excuse me while I adjust my crown.

crown

Wishing the best for you and yours! Have an amazing 2018.


DSNhIYNX0AAx-fBThis post is dedicated to the social justice work of Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who was killed by NYPD. Erica joined the Black Lives Matter movement to fight for justice for her father and remained on the battlefield until she suffered a heart attack on Christmas Eve. Erica is currently fighting for her own life and needs our prayers and positive energy.

In Times of Upheaval, Teachers and Spiritual Leaders Calm Minds and Feed Souls

Exactly twenty-eight days ago, filled with anger and a hint of disgust at the display of hatred and depravity at Charlottesville, VA., I tweeted out:

Classroom and The Pulpit

As I wrangled with the events at and surrounding Charlottesville, I couldn’t help but think about today’s youth entering classrooms to learn about the various battles during civil wars when there is no shortage of history-making battles occurring just outside the schoolhouse steps. Since it was Sunday morning, my mind shifted to adults looking to their spiritual leaders for two-thousand-year old answers to modern-day mysteries.

In my mind, the classroom and the pulpit are the most influential platforms in our lives -save for media. Teachers and spiritual leaders have captive, pliable audiences ready and willing to receive instruction and wisdom. These trusted public servants help us think critically about the world in which we live and equip us with the tools to navigate toward a better tomorrow.

I’ve heard from teachers instructed not to mention the events at Charlottesville to students and witnessed teachers on social media working creatively to integrate current events into lesson plans in a valiant effort to satisfy both state and moral obligations.

Thankfully, in the four weeks since that tweet, I’ve been fortunate to experience answers to my questions.

Teaching and Preaching

Last Friday, I joined the ProjectLIT book club at Maplewood High School, where the LIT teacher Jarred Amato leads discussions on the book of the month, books relevant to current day issues and to the students he teaches. Two days later, I visited a church whose theme for September is “Timeless Principles for Perilous Times” and the sermon for the day was “Silence is Not an Option.” The unvarnished, powerfully delivered sermon offered by Pastor John Faison, Sr. of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church is one for the ages and just the tea the nation needs right now. In the words of Pastor Faison, “silence recycles injustice.” Amen.

Amato and Faison are not the lone agents of courage and compassion who have accepted the enormous and unpopular responsibility of influencing social justice change through their respective platforms. And since Charlottesville our country was again shaken, this time by the president’s announcement to dissolve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), removing protections for undocumented youth.

In response to the DACA debacle, I’m reminded of a group of teachers, the DREAM keepers, and the strong message widely distributed defending their current and former DACA students. I also think of Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin courageously tweeting statements of unconditional love for DACA recipients and denouncing actions against them.

 

I am grateful for these acts of love for our sisters and brothers by protesting injustice through teaching and sharing. We need more of it.

mlkmeasure.png

It’s Not My First Call with This Councilwoman and I’m Positive It Won’t Be the Last

This member of Nashville’s Metro Council does not run from a controversial subject or hesitate to challenge her opposition, or even vote according to our preconceived notions. I’ve received two calls in as many years from Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher challenging my social media posts.  The topic of the second call, just this morning, is concerned with a late-filed memorializing resolution introduced by Councilman-at-Large Bob Mendes in response to the events in Charlottesville, VA over the past weekend.

You see, Bob Mendes, a White male, is the author of an effort to stand against white supremacy and attempt to separate Nashville from the nation’s most recent display of racism (as he explains in this blog post). Tanaka Vercher, a Black female, voted against (and ultimately, delayed) the effort and naturally, I was thrown for a gigantic loop and tweeted as much. 

No Email Dialogue for This Elected Official

In this morning’s call, the Navy veteran acknowledged my tweets and proceeded to calmly (and confidently) explain her opposition to the small, but optically vital gesture toward denouncing hate. Vercher offered many reasons for slowing down the resolution, but the one that resonated with me is the attempt to put lipstick on a pig (my words).

I wrote a blog post two days ago expressing my anger, not at Charlottesville, but the response to Charlottesville. American citizens expressing utter shock at the sight of tiki torches carried by a uniformed gang wearing white polos, khaki pants, and red MAGA hats. But, for many, Charlottesville is just another day in the land of perpetual and institutional racism. What has shaken me to my core is the cosmetic efforts to detach and decry the physical representation of the more nefarious and clandestine racism many of us deal with daily. 

After our phone conversation, the councilwoman unwittingly forced me to reflect on my own feelings (which surprisingly aligns with her thinking) and question the intent and expectation of the resolution. Councilwoman Vercher’s quote in the Tennessean, “This is too serious of a matter to not have actionable legislation and what was proposed tonight doesn’t address the racial disparities that we have in the city.”

But It’s a Resolution, Councilwoman. Right?

In our conversation, Vercher listed ways Black and Brown Nashvillians are constantly discriminated against, noting specifically “our schools, unsafe working conditions for certain populations, and the paltry percentage of minority contracts awarded by local government (2.88%).” Further, “we are responsible for establishing the narrative within our communities and these issues were here long before Charlottesville.

Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done in Councilwoman Vercher’s position. What does one do with the responsibility of an entire city while trying to navigate personal feelings about a system setup to work against you? Is she obligated to support feel-good efforts that seek to give our city a pass when you know the real work lies outside the resolution and within our workplaces, churches, and social networks?

It wasn’t fair for me to judge her actions without first pausing to think that she, too, might be struggling with our current state of affairs. Whether we like it or not, she voted her conscious over political expediency. How easy could it have been to reject a resolution rejecting white supremacy? 

So while the halting of the resolution doesn’t help those looking for ways to respond to the tiki torches, it does force each of us to look beyond Charlottesville and take an assessment of our own back yard. 

And with that, I’ll have a cup of tea and wait for the next call from the distinguished councilwoman from southeast Nashville.

tea

Why I’m Not Joining You in Protest of Charlottesville

I probably read hundreds of angry, tear-filled tweets denouncing the physical manifestation of white supremacy in Charlottesville. My timeline was filled with Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus. Women and men, mostly white, in sheer disbelief that 2017 looks like bygone centuries, a time only experienced through history books. Lady Gaga, the “woke” millennial superstar lighting the Twitter-path with #ThisIsNotUs and her followers falling in line.

These are the things currently informing my space. The space built long before the organized domestic terrorist protest at the University of Virginia. Decades before the homegrown terrorist rammed his car through a parade of civil-seekers killing Heather Heyer. Years before Jocques Clemmons (Nashville), Eric Brown, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon…

This crazy space that occupies America’s view of white and wrong through a monochromatic lens. Where a peaceful, non-threatening stand (or knee) for one’s rights leads to dire and sometimes fatal consequences. This funky space contains the knowledge that for some a traffic stop is a mild inconvenience while others must deploy life-saving respectability tactics even before the officer’s advance toward the car.

This sorrowful space also includes acts of discrimination against one’s social standing. The haves versus the have nots. Private education over public education. Zip codes. We suffer from both racial and economic supremacy.

Because in my eyes Charlottesville is more about the rest of us than the wilting madmen.

So, I’m not with you in this.

Because nothing is enough and everything is too much.

I don’t want your sympathy, your best Brainyquote, or well-worded passage highlighted from some highfalutin book that’s really intended to represent your intellectual prowess.

I’m not interested in your safe platitudes, stale calls for kumbaya, and short-sighted disavowing of one supremacy while reaping the benefits of another.

I’m not with you.

Because this is us. This is America. I can’t—with your lack of acceptance, ignoring the generational cries of black mamas, condemning slavery yet slow to recognize its transformation into mass incarceration, coddling the public school system for personal benefit even as it perpetuates a cycle of poverty for black and brown children.

Recognize your dissonance. It’s easy to stand against injustice through memes. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who is in your circle?
  • Who do you invite into your home?
  • Who do you invite to your place of worship?
  • What’s the complexion of your staff?
  • Do you desire to socialize only with those that match your ideology, money, and education?

Charlottesville is us. Always has been and will be for the foreseeable future. And because too many acknowledge problems only when blasted in the face with tiki torches and others remain quiet to protect or further one’s own station, it’s best I go solo on this one.

Don’t mind me I’m just a blogger in a weird, painful, bitter space. I’ll try to do better, I promise. See meme below.

This is me trying to do better

 

Guest Blog: White People, Time to Get Louder

In my most recent post You Wanna Fight About Education? Meet Me Outside…  For Coffee, I wrote of olive branches and efforts to achieve peace over coffee. I wrote that our children deserve our best efforts.

Published just a few hours before the Charlottesville devastation, I’ve since had little to say. Since invaded by images of fearful white men wielding fiery torches that match their ire for anyone not fearful white men and the women who cover them. My anger is too raw to share –immature and, possibly, irrational. No invitations to coffee are in motion at the present time. I need a moment. 

Incidentally, I’m grateful for friends like Erika Sanzi who recognize their own privilege and uses it to inform privileged others while spreading love to those in her world personally affected by the effects of a racist America. 


White America, Time to Get Louder

by Erika Sanzi

There is a special kind of cognitive dissonance when on the very day I head away for a few long awaited days on a lake in Maine, Charlottesville, Virginia is under siege by white supremacists and anti-Semitic people, mostly men, who have us all wondering how this can be happening in 2017.

Except it isn’t all of us who are wondering. It’s those of us who haven’t been the victims of discrimination because of the color of our skin who are most surprised. Black and brown folks have been telling us forever that they see and feel racism all the time. And while we may have believed them, we didn’t have to see it. Or feel the pain of it. Or explain it to our children as a way of protecting them from harm.

You see, I can quite literally take a vacation from racism because I’m a white mom of three who lives in a suburb and drives a minivan. I get polite warnings when I have a tail light out or make an illegal left hand turn. I reach into the glove compartment or under my seat while the police approach my car and to this day, no one has ever escalated or screamed or pointed a gun in my face. I get profiled as someone who isn’t a threat. Or dangerous.

I did nothing to deserve that profile.

I can’t think of a more quintessential example of privilege than being able to take a vacation from the hate that is on on the march in Charlottesville this weekend. And the truth is, I don’t want to stop thinking about it. In fact, I want to make more people think about it. The images coming out of Virginia are a huge wake up call to all of us who haven’t raised our voices enough, as white Americans, to condemn and fight against the hate that others who look like us feel emboldened to spew in the public square and on television in 2017. The hatred that would drive someone to drive a car, full speed, into a crowd of people (photo below). We are so quick to rail against ISIS without a second thought so how is this any different? ISIS plows vehicles into crowds of people too. ISIS hates Christians and these white supremacists in Virginia hate Jews. And Blacks.

Yet there is a silence this weekend that is deafening from those who have been so loud after other forms of protests and acts of terror. Those who couldn’t stop talking about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem now seem to have nothing to say. How can that be?

I don’t pretend to know the answers but I do know that white America must be a much louder, braver, and stronger force in standing up to the hate and racism that has always existed and is now bubbling up into public view where we can’t pretend we don’t see it.

Let’s not avert our eyes. Let’s not try to explain it away. Let’s have the courage to call it what it is even when the moment is an uncomfortable one. Let’s come together to put pressure on our lawmakers to actually take action that will begin to chip away at the systems and institutions that continue to discriminate against our fellow Americans.

And then let’s imagine how lonely and betrayed we’d feel it were us and our families who were under attack and nobody – not even our friends – showed up to stand beside us and fight back.

We’ve got to be better. Let’s start now.

And let’s say a prayer for Charlottesville too.