I just read a story about friendship that developed between two people who began playing an online Scrabble type of game called Words With Friends. After browsing stories on my blog hosting service WordPress I found an article about Spencer Sleyon, 22, of Harlem, N.Y., who has played Words With Friends, which is an online game similar to Scrabble, with 81-year-old Roz, of Florida, since last summer. I decided to go onto twitter and found that the Rev. Amy Butler of the Riverside Church in New York had arranged for the meeting in the retirement community where Roz lives. After playing more than 300 games together, the two met face-to-face in West Palm Beach last Friday. Spencer told The Root ”it was a cool experience,”meeting his online best friend.
A hastag #relationshipschangeus has spread across twitter with news of the story. I am touched by this because I sometimes feel I spend too long talking with Facebook friends instead of with people face to face. Increasingly however I have been attempting to create some overlap so that I have people I contact regularly online and in person. In fact I was moved over the weekend by a conversation I had with a friend who I talked about on Facebook.
I have connected with several people from my old high school and met one of them. I learned some things about my old school that I was unaware of and it gave me a greater understanding of where I came from.
Another benefit of using social media has been my debate with a group of friends on Facebook about the best sewing machine to buy my eight-year-old niece. Having this medium allowed me to talk with several friends even though we were never in the same location together. I liked reading about which machines and stores everyone preferred. I shared these observations my my sister and my significant other. Tonight I finally ordered the machine and my next step will be talk about the wonderful things my niece does with her present. When you share words with friends, either as a game or a Facebook post you can create relationships.
My overseas readers have deserted me. Meanwhile I was reminded of the power of in , person friendship. I attended a workshop today on the problems created by adverse childhood experiences. I had experienced several including racism, alcoholism, metal illness, domestic abuse and being exposed to smoking. But education, resilience, friendship and having a goals and hope helped me overcome my ACES. I saw myself as young gifted and black, not poor me.
This picture shows the stress that my translators are under. They struggle to keep up with the demand created by my expanded readership. Today’s readers come from Cambodia, Argentina, Lebanon and the United Kingdom which speaks an entirely different of English than we do. United Kingdom had to create a type of English that could be understand all over the world: in Nigeria, Canada, India and, Pakistan. And that wasn’t enough. England had to invent games that were boring enough ie, soccer and cricket, so that nobody would notice that they were being invaded. I mean here this tiny county is that had stuck itself into every corner of the globe. But of course, after England got its paws bloodied by all those colonists telling them to bugger off, we decided to put our greedy little paws in. So I wonder if my readers in Argentina and Lebanon are thinking, here is one of those imperialist yanks taking over what should be blogging space for our writers or are they thinking, probably another CIA agent, best avoid him. One can never be too cautious.
Meanwhile the afternoon shift translators have arrived.
I have been checking my readership stats lately and noted an uptick in my readership in Ukraine and Bangladesh. Hours of work by my marketing team have borne fruit. This is great. I wonder what they are thinking when they see my golden words spewing out at them? Who is this character? What are these Unitarian Universalists? Is this connected with Russian hacking of the American elections?
I should do some research and find out what interests people in those other countries. I could develop a real following, even become like a cult figure. Perhaps I could visit my loyal followers.
I just returned home from an appointment at the Veterans Administration where I was able to reflect on my much improved life. Years ago, when I turned my life over the the VA, I was down on my luck. Today things are much better. I am feeling optimistic about life. I might be able to go to New Orleans next month for a conference. MC3, the mental health quality improvement board, sent me an email asking whether I would like to be a part of their steering committee. The Department of Health and Human Services for Milwaukee County is asking me to participate in an environmental scan to help them understand what is going on. And I am finishing a book Americanah about Nigerian refugees in America and Great Britain.
I am uncertain whether any of these things are related. I am a regular at the MC3 events and I am reasonably articulate. I participate in the small group discussions. MC3 is the group that recently nominated me for the Mental Health Board. It is possible that there is some connection between being on this steering committee and being on the board. My sister Chris would say that I am marketing myself. Let’s get this guy out there in the community.
There have been a few people who were marketed, awarded, publicized in the newspaper and magazines as knowing what there is to know about living with a mental illness and or helping those who have a mental illness. Suddenly, there might be an awareness that they need to have black men as part of these discussions. Too often, black men are the victims of the mental health system. There was a memorial recently regarding Dontre Hamilton a young black man with a mental illness who had fallen asleep in a downtown park and was killed by police. The first thing I would tell this Mental Health Board is to stop killing young black men.
When you check the staffs of agencies that are providing services such as case management you don’t find a lot of black men and yet the people who we have the most difficulty understanding are black men. Is that a surprise? So, hire some of them.
I asked a Milwaukee County worker, ask yourself, what can I do to help? She called my supervisor and told her she thought I was telling her how to do her job. Eventually, the county worker did what I was asking her to do.
The book Americanah tells about the differences between Africans in American and Britain and African-Americans. I have told my facebook friends about this and invited them to comment on the book. It was a very big seller not so long ago. The main character was a Nigerian woman who became a successful blogger. Maybe people will offer to sponsor my blog and I will not be working with people who are living with a mental illness? I seriously doubt that but perhaps something more interesting will happen. Stay tuned.
I am reading this book by Ngozi Adichie that was a major best seller. It is the second book I have been reading since buying new glasses last week. I had been struggling with reading previously often crying as I tried to read. I took off my glasses because apparently the part of the lens where one does close reading was too small. There was much about my eyes that was unknown to me. It seems that I am not very good in buying glasses, sometimes keeping them way past the time when they are to be discarded. Other times getting glasses that don’t fit and look ridiculous. Now I have good glasses, my eyes are dry and the streets are damp. Now to find out why everyone is reading this book.
My first Nigerian novelist was the much beloved Chinua Achebe who made me feel the struggle of Africa being ripped apart by colonizers. I read him when I was in college either running from the police or trying to find a girl friend. Now I have these new glasses which make me feel like reading and writing once more. The book puzzles me as it seems to make a lot of jumps in place and time. At first, the main character Ifemelu is a smart mouthed blogger in America getting ready to return home to rekindle an old relationship and being tortured by an African hair braider who seems to be having a mental breakdown. Then she is a child enduring her mother’s religious fantasies in Nigeria. I will see where this leads.
This post is to announce that I am returning to leadership within Unitarian Universalism. Many years ago I chaired the racial justice committee. That committee promoted diversity, organized a Kwanzaa event, organized a drum circle and tried to change the church culture. Unfortunately, the committee seemed to attract the same core group of people. I underwent a personal transformation that led to a divorce, and the development of a whole new career as a certified peer specialist. There were years in which I was barely active.
The committee was dissolved but in recent years new people have entered the church with a different set of ideas. One person in particular Mary Devitt has been a catalyst under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Mary has involved the First Unitarians in several events, most recently organizing a showing of a film about the 53206 neighborhood, which focused on the impact of mass incarceration on the low income community. She was also in the campaigns to change police practices after the killings of black men by police in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. Her most recent accomplishment was a workshop on racial justice at Alverno College that featured Chris Crass, a speaker from Kentucky. Over 350 people attended the event which was organized with a remarkable coalition.
Mary has been a sort of one woman committee within the church which lead to her being given a designation as a change agent. At the same time Mary recognized that it was problematic for her to be in charge of black lives matter. She has what she calls her “cabal” that she can pull together on an ad hoc basis to achieve goals. However, that could easily lead to burn out. So we began a conversation this week about my leading a transformation of the black lives matter cabal into a committee to carry on the things she has started.
I have agreed to take this on at a time of turmoil within the Unitarian Universalist movement. There is more happening every day and it demands that someone from Milwaukee help give direction. The UU is a place where I feel comfortable sometimes. When my allies aren’t present and people ask me, where have I been, I feel like becoming invisible. That needs to change. A lot needs to change. Let the drum speak.