For People of Color, Halloween Often Isn’t Just About Candy & Cute Costumes



Team Westport’s own Ramin Ganeshram, posted an essay today on Medium, entitled “Why I Hate Halloween” that reveals a truth not often discussed when we talk about Halloween–it’s not a holiday that everyone loves. For people of color, immigrants, and communities of “othered” individuals, Halloween can often be a holiday fraught with real fear and intimidation.

In the essay Ganeshram writes: “Halloween is the embodiment of our American myth of “benign mischief” — malice masquerading as “innocent” fun.”

You can read more here: Why I Hate Halloween by Ramin Ganeshram

Black Women Who Wanted a Revolution

Celebrating the Power and Persistence of Black Women Artist Who ‘Wanted a Revolution’

I just read about this exhibit and its importance. It’s at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

There is so much I don’t know from my position of white privilege.

The article, from Atlanta Black Star, says, “The 20-year time frame the exhibit spans notably gave rise to the women’s liberation movement, but many Black women felt marginalized by mainstream white feminism. They began to identify as womanists (coined by “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker) rather than as feminists to embrace their specific take on women’s liberation and the double jeopardy they experienced being both Black and female in a white supremacist and patriarchal society.”

I do not recognize the names of the artists referenced in the article. But I do not recognize many artists’ names, white or Black.

I was especially struck by this: “Remarkably, ‘We Wanted a Revolution’ shows how the social issues of importance to the Black community during the 1965-85 time frame, such as the prison industrial complex, are much the same today.

We have so much work to do!

A Real “Duh” Moment

I just saw a quick headline from The Economist saying, “A study suggests that black Americans are unfairly fined by police.” I was surprised. All one would need to do is ask to find that out.

Still, a study is good. It can provide the basis for legal challenges at some point.  I’ll give you the link, but you probably can’t read the article unless you’re a subscriber.

This was for me, not an “Aha” moment, but a “Duh” moment. Didn’t everyone know this already?

What do you think?

Do We Really Know American History?

By Catherine Onyemelukwe

I get regular emails from Atlanta Black Star. In the email I receive, the online journal declares its point of view: “Atlanta Black Star is a narrative company.  We publish narratives intentionally and specifically to enlighten and transform the world.”

This week they published a story on America’s history and our lack of knowledge about it. The author of the article, D. Amari Jackson, says, “A 2012 [American Council of Trustees and Alumni] ACTA survey found that less than 20 percent of college graduates could identify the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. A 2015 survey revealed more than one-third could not place the Civil War within the correct 20-year time frame.

“Such widespread historical ignorance is problematic for a nation currently grappling with deeply entrenched issues of economics, power and race,” she says.

The lack of knowledge is frightening. But there’s so much more that many of us don’t know or don’t think about. She cites Gerald Horne, the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, who says, “America began as a slaveholder’s republic.” According to Horne, the American Revolution was fought because the slaveholders wanted to maintain their slaves, not for some lofty principle of freedom. The colonists also wanted to continue the practice of dispossessing Native Americans of their land which they feared Britain would halt.

He believes that today, “the exoneration of police officers who kill us [Blacks] on a regular basis tends to show” that there the Constitution does not really pertain to everyone. There is a “disconnect between the official stated policy of nondiscrimination and “what’s actually happening to Black people in the streets.”

Harsh words! I find truth in the article. What do you think?


Black and Queer On The Appalachian Trail

by Catherine Onyemelukwe

I just read a fascinating article about hiking the Appalachian Trail. But it’s not about the hiking at all. It’s about the experience encountered by Eritrean American writer Rahawa Haile (@rahawahaile), a queer Black woman hiking the trail. What she meets along the way is frightening. Early in her article she describes a well-intentioned white man who insists on knowing where she is from – her parents are from Ethiopia – and then tells her she isn’t Black because “Blacks don’t hike.” Micro-aggression, this is called, when a person from the dominant culture labels a person from the minority culture as he/she wishes, with no regard for the person him/herself.

14309957_255830871477646_1479426284_nYou can read the full article here. Be warned – it’s not easy reading. And it’s full of hyperlinks that whisk you off to other amazing articles. So you may need a solid 30 minutes, or several hours if you want to explore all it offers.

An example of what she encounters is this experience in a town in the Smoky Mountain region. “It isn’t until I’m about to leave town that I see it: blackface soap, a joke item that supposedly will turn a white person black if you can trick them into using it. I’m in a general store opposite the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The soap is in a discount bin next to the cash register. I’d popped in to buy chocolate milk and was instead reminded of a line from Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: ‘The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow.’ ”

She says, “It is no understatement to say that the friends I made, and the experiences I had with strangers who, at times, literally gave me the shirt off their back, saved my life. I owe a great debt to the through-hiking community that welcomed me with open arms, that showed me what I could be and helped me when I faltered. There is no impossible, they taught me: only good ideas of extraordinary magnitude.”

Rahawa Haile is a brave woman whose work has appeared in Pacific Standard, Brooklyn Magazine, and Buzzfeed. She lives in Oakland.

BOOK REVIEW: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad


by Judith Hamer

A good book can provoke an impassioned discussion about plot or character or theme. A friend and I were discussing The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. “ I don’t see why we need to know what happened to Mabel,” I stated flatly. Mabel is the missing mother of Cora, the book’s protagonist. My friend, having read the book twice, disagreed with me vehemently. We agreed to disagree. Now that I’ve re-read Whitehead’s fictional account of Cora’s escape from a Georgia plantation and her run for freedom by way of an imagined underground railroad, I’m coming around to my friend’s point of view. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad”

Fifty Years On, Have We Progressed?

by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Fifty Years Ago Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s book, Where Do We Go From Here? was published.

Beacon Broadside, a Project of Beacon Press, noted the occasion. The article said, “King’s acute analysis of American race relations couldn’t be more prophetic. Written in 1967, in isolation in a rented house in Jamaica, King’s final book lays out his plans and dreams for America’s future: the need for better jobs; higher wages; decent housing; quality education; and above all, the end to global suffering. King’s dreams are very much our own today.”

In honor of the anniversary of the publication of Where Do We Go From Here? Beacon Broadside provided a collection of quotations from the book. Each one reminds me of what King worked for, longed for, and was not able to achieve. Have we progressed at all? I have to wonder!

Here is one.

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

King does not say this ignorance is willful or evil. But it is real.

The quote makes me think of Jodi Picoult’s latest novel Small Great Things, which I discussed with my book group recently. The main character is Ruth, a Black nurse. When she is on trial, she works with a white attorney named Kennedy. Kennedy believes she is liberal and non-racist, but over several months and many conversations, the attorney becomes aware of how much she doesn’t know about the lives of Black people in the U.S. today. It’s a good read!