Sunday, August 30, 2020

I just love the picture

This evocative image was taken early in the morning before last Friday's March on Washington, fifty seven years after the first March on August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. told us about his dream. Folks are still out here fighting the good fight, six feet apart and masked now, but still dreaming about getting to that mountaintop, being judged by the content of our character, all of that. Photo by Omar Guinier

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Goodnight King

The losses pile up. Everyone I know was reeling last night at the news that Chadwick Boseman had died, and that he had been fighting colon cancer for the past four years. The painful press release put out by his family ricocheted around our electronic devices. We didn't know. We weren't prepared. He did amazing work between his surgeries and chemo appointments, portraying Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and the iconic Black Panther in that time. He also starred in 21 Bridges and Da5Bloods in those four years, creating a body of work most people never achieve with decades more of robust life. He understood that representation matters, and must have decided to live into his legacy in the time he had left. By all accounts, he was a kind and loving man, his smile like the sun. My cousin called him "that adorable chocolate drop of a king," and he visited children fighting cancer and brought them cheer till he couldn't anymore. He is a hero to me, as to so many who had never had a Black superhero to celebrate before. Parents of every color are sharing how their children lived in their Black Panther costumes for weeks on end, greeting everyone with "Wakanda Forever." I wrote about the resonance of Chadwick Boseman's performance in the film here and here; wrote about how at the end of a Marvel superhero movie, my husband and I sat with tears washing down our faces as the credits rolled. We felt deeply the power of that fictitious universe with Chadwick Boseman as our undisputed king. As Trevor Noah put it, "Yes, he was our king. Not because we served him or because he ruled. But because of how he served us in everything he did. He played a hero on screen and lived like one in real life. From South Carolina to South Africa, he made so many of us proud of who we are and for that, he will always be our king." Thank you for your life and your art, brother. Your legacy lives on.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Thoughts from the center of my Black self

People are clucking over how awful all the looting and rioting is, as if the looters and rioters aren't white supremacist militia members infiltrating peaceful protests to give the protests a bad name. Also, why aren't those people so disturbed by the looting and rioting equally as disturbed by police shooting and gassing and brutalizing innocent men and women?

I am trying with everything I am to hold on to love. I remember when my daughter was five years old and a girl on the school bus who had watched Mississippi Burning with her family the night before, told my girl about the KKK for the first time. My daughter came home from school that afternoon and stood in front of me, her sweet face serious. She urgently wanted me to know something. "Mommy," she said, "do you know there is a group of white people and they hate black people and they kill them? They're called the KKK. Chelsea told me." This was the face that looked up at me, except the dancing innocence was gone from her eyes.
Oh we had a conversation that day, even though I had naively thought I'd have more years before we had to have this particular talk. "Yes," I told her. "I know about the KKK." When I assured her that her dad and I would keep her and her brother safe, I quickly saw that her greater concern was whether we would be safe. Makes sense, right? How could we keep her safe if we couldn't keep ourselves safe? I said something like "We cannot allow other people's hate to stop us from living our lives. We simply have to be careful about who we choose to be around, and if it becomes clear that someone means you harm, get the hell away from them. But never let another person's hate cause you to be hateful, too, because hate is corrosive to the body." "What's corrosive?" she wanted to know. "Poison," I said. "Hate poisons the hater. Don't let other people do that to you. You hold on to your loving heart, even when you're fighting against hate." She nodded. "Okay, Mommy," she said. I was glad, then, to have sent her to a school that didn't shy away from social justice conversations, a school that was instead actively raising children who would grow up to change the world simply by the way they live their lives. 

A friend sent me this photo of the window of Shakespeare and Company at 68th Street and Broadway. There's the book I co-wrote with Linda Sarsour on the lower right. The mask is a nice touch. The book's title, a quote from Linda, is a whole mood. We Are Not Here to be Bystanders.

That's Linda in her Until Freedom shirt. She looks like a freakin super hero cause she is. She and her Until Freedom cohorts have moved from New York City to Louisville, Kentucky to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor. That's commitment. May she be safe.

By now you've heard about the 17-year-old baby Trumper who drove from Illinois to Kenosha with a long rifle and began shooting into the crowd of protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where unarmed Jacob Black was shot seven times in his back, in front of his three sons. People tried to tackle the teen with the assault rifle when he started shooting, but he ran. He tripped and fell and from the ground shot some more. He hit three people. Two are dead. Yet the murderer got up, walked away, waved at police as they rolled by and police waved back, offered him water, even though people were yelling "He's shooting people!" The shooter went home and slept the night in his bed before being arrested gently the next morning. His white privilege was a goddamned bullet proof shield. As Hannah Jones says, "No greater summary of America exists."

One of my friends posted this yesterday. It resonated so hard for me that tears spilled from my eyes. Rage and sadness. Anger and exhaustion. I imagine this is how LeBron James and Doc Rivers and all the other Black men in professional basketball were feeling when they walked out on Game Five of the playoffs on Wednesday night. Their white teammates stood in solidarity, and soon, so did the rest of the NBA, the WNBA, Major League baseball and the NFL. It was the fourth anniversary of the day Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem as the former 49ers quarterback, for which he was drummed out of football. Movement leaders are always ahead of their time, and are too often met with hostility and violence. We must protect them, mentally surround them with our love if that is all we can do. I pray the world is catching up to Colin and Linda and all the other warriors out here fighting for our very souls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

American carnage

The man and I had an anniversary, 34 years. Our son and his love came over. The afternoon was lovely and low key. I thought I’d post pictures of us and write about the sweetness of that. But that Sunday night another unarmed black man was gratuitously shot by police. And I couldn’t form the words. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake had just broken up an altercation between two women, was walking back to his car, where his three sons, ages 3, 5, and 8 were waiting for him. One of the boys had a birthday and their dad was taking them to celebrate. Someone apparently called the police about the two women fighting and when they arrived they followed Jacob to his car and shot him seven times in the back. How is an unarmed man walking away from you a threat? I think I need to take a break. I’m so inexpressibly tired of writing about black bodies being brutalized by police. It never ends. And yet I feel a responsibility to bear witness. Imagine the trauma of those three little boys? Jacob Blake lived, but the bullets severed his spine, paralyzing him. As long as I live I’ll never forget that the police bought that white boy who shot nine black worshippers in church in Charleston, South Carolina a meal from Burger King after arresting him without a scratch. Yet they pump seven bullets into the back of a father who tried to be a good citizen and break up a fight. Attempted murder in plain sight of his children. Also, the cops in Louisville, Kentucky who shot innocent unarmed EMT Breonna Taylor in her bed have still not been arrested. Fuck the police.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Warrior women

I'm suddenly swamped by work again, and have fallen behind on reading your posts. I'll be back around soon. In the meantime, here's a photo of a young Kamala Harris. Our next vice president has always been a badass. I'll be watching her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention tonight, and also Elizabeth Warren and President Obama. I hear that Obama will be pulling no punches in his address this evening. I'm so here for it.

Also, while I'm posting pictures of current political stars in their fierce youth, how about this one of our next first lady, Jill Biden, who gave a wonderful speech last night. "How do you heal a broken country?" she asked. How I ache for a return to compassion, intellect, and decency in the political sphere. 
And here's one more photo currently making the rounds, in the vein of women who slay with their brilliance and commitment. Michelle Obama, my Forever First Lady, isn't running for office this year, but she's still a force to be reckoned with. All these women are incredibly beautiful beings, and you know what makes them so? The righteous fire coming through them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Family in Boston

This is the best we got in terms of photos this weekend, there was a lot going on. We helped transport our girl to her new digs in Cambridge, a campus apartment that was even smaller than she feared, but she and her love will make it work. It's a beautifully appointed space, with washer, dryer and dishwasher right there in the apartment, appliances that made my girl very happy, as such things are not standard in New York. 

We had rolled out of Harlem early in the morning, while the movers were still packing the truck, and left Boston on toward evening, having decided to do the round trip in one day. My daughter's in-laws will remain in Cambridge until tomorrow, helping the lovely couple unpack and do shopping runs. I get periodic videos of the progress they're making. The place looks good, though they haven't yet figured out how to position the bed in the very cozy bedroom so as to also fit the dresser. But they're far enough along that my girl is starting to think about accessorizing. "Need to roll out the rug and get some curtains in here," she texted me this morning. "Everything is hard and sturdy, like a hotel." 

I am trying not to call her obsessively to see how she's doing, knowing her as I do, knowing change is always a bit hard for her, it takes a moment for her to emerge from that place where she wonders what on earth she's done. It's fascinating to me how that part of her co-exists with the adventurous spirit, because she is that, too. She's tender-tough, feels the fear and jumps like a champ. And now she has Munch, her adorable emotional support puppy, and also her live-in love, who arrived hours after we did, as he'd stayed back in New York to supervise the movers. When he walked in he wrapped our girl in his arms and they both held tight for a long time, eyes closed, it was a moment. I think he understands how she manages transitions, too. 

And no, we won't talk about how I'm managing this transition. You already know. But here's the good news. While he goes to grad school, she will be continuing to work remotely for her job, so when people eventually go back into offices in New York, rumored to be happening sometime this fall (barring another covid spike), my girl will be back and forth between Boston and the city twice a month for work, staying with us each time. Now there's a silver lining.

Also, that rapidly growing pup Munchie, who we now think is a cross between an English bulldog and an Irish wolfhound, has completely stolen my heart.



Thursday, August 13, 2020

Hauling ourselves into the sun

My daughter's friend Tiffany did this portrait of my girl and her pup. In addition to being a very fine artist (she's on Insta at @made.ineden), Tiffany is a working engineer who's starting at Harvard Medical School studying bioinformatics this fall—clearly an abundantly gifted woman with full access to both hemispheres of her brain. I love the joy she captured in my daughter. 

I'm an emotional mess today. Crying over everything. I called my old therapist who several years ago moved to a different state. It occurred to me that she must be doing phone and Zoom therapy now, like every other therapist in the covid era, so maybe it's time to get back on her roster. Everything feels welled up inside me and now it's spilling over. I feel so raw, so without protection. We've endured so much as a nation these past three years. We try to be stoic and carry on, but the endless slings and arrows and body blows take a toll. 
My friend Brittany posted this from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo today: "For those of us who have suffered, who hauled ourselves into the sun, anything exhausted beside us is family." I'm exhausted, y'all. But I am among family.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Meet the woman already being called MVP as in Madame Vice President. California Senator Kamala Harris is Joe Biden's pick for his running mate on the Democratic ticket. At the moment her name was announced, a feeling slipped down inside me that said this is just so right. I hadn't even realized that I'd feel so re-energized. She's the American-born daughter of a Black Jamaican father and an East Indian mother, both career academics who met as students at UC Berkeley. Now she becomes the first Black woman and the first Asian woman to run for VP. Kamala is tested on the campaign trail. She's brilliant and resilient. And she's tough. This woman will not shrink from the incoming fire that the party of Trump will certainly bring. Kamala has the best words, and she's not scairt. Bring it on.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The weekend before

I woke up this morning with a hollowness at my center. It finally hit me that my girl will be moving to another city in a week. The world is so in flux. I've been hiding out from my feelings. Next week, our son will help us drive our girl to Boston. Her partner will follow with his mother and sister and the moving truck. I'm going to miss these two lovely young people being just across town. It evening now, but not yet dark. "Dinner's ready," my husband just said. He made his delicious zucchini noodle lasagna. I'm going to eat with him, and then I'm going to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head.

This blew me away.


Saturday, August 8, 2020

Pop some more

Josie Colt went to the same progressive little farm school that my daughter attended. Josie is a wonderful artist and cartoonist now, and she's creating some thoughtful serial art. Follow her on Instagram if you can. She also does a thing called "Portraits as You Pass" of people who commission her to draw them on the street or hire her for events.  Her comic strips are funny, wry, nostalgic, political, feminist, humanist, gender-nonconforming, planet loving, all of it. As I've noted here before, almost all the kids who went to Manhattan Country School—founded in the sixties by Gus and Marty Trowbridge after they watched the March on Selma with tears rolling down their faces—all those kids come down on the woke side of history. Josie posted this comic strip earlier this week. It's a portrait of true allyship. She has no idea who she might have reached in the conversations she dared, but it doesn't matter. She deepened her own commitment and consciousness. I love that little school my girl attended, and I love the friends she made there. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Venturing Out

I'm at loose ends again. The magazine has shipped for this month, and the second draft of my manuscript has been turned in, and even though I have more work in the pipeline, none of it is as steal-your-breath pressing as the book I just finished has felt, and really, I'm grateful to be out from under that pressure. Yet I seem to have no idea what to do with free time. For the first time, the reality of the pandemic lock down in my city is hitting me—no movie theaters to lose myself in the dark. A socially distanced visit with a friend is an option, or should I just climb back into bed and binge watch a series? Any suggestions? I seem to be tapped out, having watched everything that called out to me.

What I ended up doing: I sat on a bench with my friend who lives two buildings over, and we chatted for a while. Then I met my daughter for dinner on the "patio," aka the sidewalk, at one of our favorite restaurants. It was just the two of us, as my niece is in Long Island with her former college roommate (all four years) and best friend. I see photos on social media of them at the beach, making margaritas, laughing. My girl and I laughed, too, sitting outside at our socially distanced table, our masks on till the food came, the waiter, who recognized us and welcomed us back, with his mask on, too. The menu was bare bones, none of our usual favorites, but I supposed they have to figure out how to stay open on a shoestring like everyone else.

It was our first time eating out since quarantine started in March, and I had meant to bring two forks from home, but I forgot, so we sanitized our hands and then wiped the restaurant cutlery with wet wipes and dried them with napkins. I have no idea if that made us safer, but we felt better after that. My daughter chuckled and said "I knew you were the person to do this with," by which she meant venturing back out to restaurant dining. We both ordered baked branzino and the usual Malbec for me and rose for her. This was on of my daughter's "Goodbye New York" bucket list, to have a girls' night with her mom at Community Food and Juice. I love that I am on her list of peak New York experiences.

Her "in laws," as in the mother and capable take-charge sister of her partner (which is what my girl and her boyfriend call each other these days) drove from upstate to help them pack earlier today, and to transport back to his mother's house all the things they will be storing in her garage, like their dining table and chairs, as their student apartment, while renovated and lovely, is tiny. Apparently the university isn't playing around with this covid thing. My daughter's boyfriend, a brainy engineer, is doing an executive MBA, and for the first couple of months at least, classes will be entirely virtual. They decided to move anyway, so that they'll be all set up for when in person classes come back on line. But since my girl will be able to keep her New York job and work remotely (soooo happy that worked out for her) they will have to have separate work stations in their cute but tiny apartment.

We were talking about the fact that quarantine actually gave my girl a lot of gifts: It showed her bosses that she could be super productive working remotely hence she got to keep her job. It showed her and her love that they are very congenial company even when forced to spend every hour of every day together. It also gave them an opportunity to figure out how to work together in the same space, which they will have to do in Boston. The building they're moving into has beautifully appointed common areas with plush chairs and tables, I suppose for when people want a change of scenery from working in their apartments, but with the pandemic, there's no telling if those spaces will be open. My girl seems happy, though. Her spirit reads very much as if she feels like this is just another life adventure.