I joined onto the hashtag #OscarssoWhite very late although in a way I have always used it. To me, it symbolizes more than than handing an award to an actor or a movie. To me, it speaks to the issue of inclusion or exclusion from society. Although I have good memories of high school, I don’t recall seeing a single black staff member. In fact, the last black staff I remember from school was before I transferred from the black school system in our city into the white one.

So, who were my mentors? Good question. Where I lived, they didn’t use colored people. If your live in a society where no one looks or sounds or acts like you, what does that say? {I should interrupt at this point to tell you I am hearing voices. There is the John Coltrane song Afro Blue playing and singers are belting out the lyrics.) I don’t remember seeing a black police officers during this period, either. It is not surprising that I was alienated from authority. Now, black children have the luxury of deciding whether the black authority figures are more respectful. No, that doesn’t mean getting an Easy A in a class.

When I saw the hashtag I thought of who would you see as an every day person. Yesterday I went to assist a couple of consumers and we went to a grocery store in their neighborhood. I was delighted to see black workers helping to manage the store and provide good customer service. In a way, I way part of the black scenario as I am a deep dusky brown skinned man. When I watched television Monday night I looked to see roles for people who looked like me and was rewarded. I even found black people in commercials.

If your image cannot be shown in the public, then of course you can’t be crossing guards, senators, teachers, doctors or store clerks. Those are the people we value in our society. No, I don’t think that hiring black police, electing black police or giving Spike Lee an Oscar Award will solve our problems, but they are important steps toward equality.







many different colors



Dark Girls


I just finished watching a movie called Dark Girls on you tube and it made me think of the two most important African-American women in my life. They are my mother and my older sister. And they have remained my constant through times of grief, despair, self-doubt and triumph. We have grown older together. It was that background that I brought to the movie along  with a history that included viewing other films likes those of Marlon Riggs about blackness and sexuality.

I found out about the Black Girls movie from a new Facebook friend who has a group called Secular Sistuhs. She is reaching out to other women of color who are conscious and thinking for themselves. The group is planning to have a discussion of the movie so I decided I would learn what it was about and was pleasantly surprised. I have never been listening to a more positive group of African-Americans. There were also several comments by and about Asians who are also grappling with their own issues regarding skin complexion. While the movie dealt with a very sensitive subject, it also provided hope and offered solutions that we can also use.

We can all take ownership of our skin tones and love who we are. We don’t have anyone if we don’t have ourselves. We are a multitude of skin tones and we must stop giving up our power. We need to also work on changing the structure of political and economic power in this world. The election of Barack Obama as president was a step but more needs to happen so that those of us with dark skin no longer find ourselves at the bottom rung in society’s ladder. That is what i got from the movie Dark Girls and I hope you will see it and respond to this blog entry. Thank you.

A little local color consciousness

English: Curtis Mayfield performing for Dutch ...
English: Curtis Mayfield performing for Dutch televisie in 1972 Nederlands: Curtis Mayfield tijdens een televisieoptreden in Nederland in 1972 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I just took part in a discussion on the Black Unbelievers Facebook page about color consciousness. A young woman talked about an African-American co-worker who is ashamed of her complexion and may be passing along her values to her children. She has said that she does not want them becoming involved with dark skinned people. In fact she encourages them to stay out of the sun during the summer. My response was that this is a woman with a deep self hatred and that there are volumes about this topic.


I googled the term color consciousness in the African-American community and lots of books came up. I also remember that Marlon Riggs was very interested in the topic. Song writers like Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield sang very movingly about this subject. It was no surprise that they were also very dark skinned. My sister told me you’ve got to play the hand that you’ve been dealt.


African-Americans have had difficulty accepting that concept as we continually attempt to lighten our complexion, straighten our hair and reshape our features to look more like the dominant culture in our society.

In this blog I usually deal with mental illness and rejecting one’s color represents a singular type of distress. If you look in the mirror and see yourself as lighter than you really are, that will impact everything you do. At times I have spent a lot of my time with white people, not because I wanted to be like them but because we shared certain ideas about how society should be changed. At the same time, I was not a part of the black church which cut me off from a large segment of the community. I believe that my life is more balanced and I can share what I have learned with others the way I did tonight with the Black Nonbelievers.


English: This drawing (pencil on a4 paper) dep...
English: This drawing (pencil on a4 paper) depicts singer, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone in the mid- to late sixties, the high-point of her commercial career. Her hair style (she was one of the first artists to publicly wear an afro) and emotive, slightly agressive expression are illustrative of her character at the time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Lenox heights

Milwaukee is real big on naming its various neighborhoods. The sign outside my apartment window proudly proclaims I am now living in Lenox Heights. I don’t know who Lenox was or how he got high but the weekend I have spent here has been okay. Except for the guy who broke his neighbor’s window on my first night. The window was boarded up and let’s hope that the window breaker gets what he deserves.

But as far as neighborhoods go, this area is surprisingly well serviced. We have a Redd’s Snapper restaurant, a gyro place, a drug store and a bank all within hollering distance of one another.  But the best thing about this place is that it’s very near the Capitol Drive shopping district called Uptown. Uptown replaced something called Capitol Court, a failing shopping mall, several years ago. Today it is filled with bright restaurants and stores filled with wonderful young African American workers. It is also near both of my jobs: my “old” job of 4 months and the new part time position I will be starting this week.

One of the things that a good neighborhood should provide is opportunities to earn a living and this place has those. A couple of amenities I would like include a movie theater and a reasonable priced fitness center. But so far, so good. Now, if we could teach some of these young workers not to say things like “dark skinded” (sic) this would be even better.


An argument with my neighbor

I decided to ask my next door neighbor, who has strong opinions, what he thought about the Affordable Care Act. He proceeded to hem and haw and talk about how he didn’t know what was in it, my goodness the law passed in the middle of the night and it was so long, who could have read the whole thing.

This made me impatient so I said, it was a simple yes or no. Then I told him about several provisions.

1. Coverage for pre-existing conditions

2. Eliminating the gap in medication coverage for the elder, the so-called “donut hole.”

3. Allowing young adults to remain on their parent’s health insurance up to age 26

4. Creating health exchanges to help people buy health insurance on the open market

5. Funding for health are cooperatives.

6. Subsidies to help the middle class and businesses afford health care coverage

7. Expanded Medicaid coverage for the near-poor.

8. Reforming the student loan program so that the federal government directly operates the program without private lenders, the way it was originally designed.

In other words, I know a lot about what this law includes and I said I approved of all those things. In fact, I compared it to Medicare, in terms of being the greatest social benefit created since the Johnson administration.  I even pointed to a young boy who was sitting in front of my house and said that he probably benefits from the new law. Now, mind you,  my neighbor is insured through a single payer system called the Veterans Administration. But he ultimately refused to give a straight answer about the things that were in the health care law.

I wrote on Facebook that I believed the decision by Justice Roberts, a conservative appointed by George W. Bush, was the equivalent to “only Nixon could go to China.” You could go back and refer to Chief Justice Earl Warren  writing the Brown school desegregation decision. He had been appointed by President Eisenhower. And of course Harry Justice Blackmun, wrote the Roe v. Wade decision and was generally considered part of the liberal wing of the court.

There are fights to come as repugnants try to hinder the implementation through more law suits, delaying tactics, distorted campaign commercials and talk show blather but today, a bitter battle was fought and our side (barely) won.


Renzo Gracie: Legacy

Terrell and Phil Lamarr
Terrell and Phil Lamarr (Photo credit: Quinn in San Diego)

I just finished watching a movie “Legacy” a documentary by Tod Lending that told the remarkable story of three generations of Black women who recovered from a family tragedy to make important changes in their lives. From a website about “Legacy” I found this information. “The film was awarded the Reel Screen Innovation in Documentary Award, was nominated for a national Emmy and two IDA awards and was broadcast internationally. In addition, LEGACY inspired the creation and passing of a federal bill entitled: The Legacy Act of 2003. This bill provides low-income housing to grandparents raising grandchildren.”

In its way the movie helped make possible for other people to make changes in their lives.  The movie began with the murder of Terrell the 14-year-old son  of a drug addicted mother and the one on whom the family had placed much of its hopes. He was the “Golden Child” in their Chicago family who was seen as their best bet to break out of poverty. Terrell had an argument with a boy at the basketball court one day in September and the next day the boy he had argued with came back and shot him as he was walking home.

The movie title “Legacy” refers to the resilience that his death inspired him family to find inside of themselves. The addicted mother completed a drug treatment program, got a job and was finally able to afford an apartment for herself and her children. Her sister got a job and completed her GED  on the path toward becoming a teacher. Her daughter was the first in the family to graduate from high school, and then college and married her high school sweetheart.  She made a conscious choice to postpone the decision about having children until after she completed her education. This was her effort to break the cycle that had trapped her mother and her grandmother into being single uneducated low-income mothers. She wanted her children to know their father and for him to be there in their lives.

There is a strong religious message throughout the movie: attending a Catholic high school, being in a traditional 12 step program and having the big church wedding at the end. I have no problem with that emphasis. This was the faith of this family and it helped them find the way to change. Not everyone uses religion, but these people did. I hope that their story inspired others to use the help that is available in our communities to better their lives. That is why I am passing along “The Legacy” to reach more people.