Our Black Lives Matter Movie

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Black Lives Matter Committee at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee which I chair, manged to have a successful event on Nov. 18th. We had a screening of The Blood is at the Doorstep which tells the story of the killing of Dontre Hamilton by Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney on April 30, 2014. The Black community arose in protest and people from across Milwaukee including the Unitarian Universalists joined in solidarity. This movement achieved many positive results including the firing of Officer Manney, a commitment by Mayor Tom Barrett that police would undergo 40 hours of training to help them better  understand how to deal with persons who were living with a mental illness. In addition the City of Milwaukee made a $2.3 million settlement with the Hamilton family after they filed a lawsuit. However, neither the District Attorney John Chisholm nor US Department of Justice filed charges in the case against Manney and he was later awarded disability based upon the stress that the shooting had caused him.

The story was well known throughout the community and the movie has been shown several times since its premier at the Milwaukee Film Festival in 2017. However, there is still interest in learning more about what people  could do to assist the Mothers United For Justice, an organization which Maria Hamilton, Dontre’s mother, founded. News of the event took place through word of and Facebook. Black Lives Matter successfully recruited three co-sponsors: Mothers Against Gun Violence, Mothers For Gun Sense and Progressive Mothers of Wisconsin.

I chaired the event and helped recruit the sponsors. Maria Hamilton was the featured speaker and spoke about her goal of being able to mentor parents like herself who lost loved ones to police violence.  Mary Devitt, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, spoke of her commitment to finding justice for the Hamiltons.  Khary Penebaker of Mothers For Gun Sense spoke at the event. He detailed his experience as the son of a mother who had committed suicide with a gun. People from the co-sponsoring groups contributed  a lot to the success while coping with illnesses and injuries. Like the song said, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Was young, gifted and black only for my generation?

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If there was ever a song that changed my life it was Young Gifted and Black. I heard the version by Aretha Franklin which was the title track of an album in 1969. I was graduating from high school and going through a lot of changes. I was depressed, becoming more politically radical, facing the Vietnam war and wanting to surround myself with more black people. I was trying to decide which college to attend. There was St. Bonaventure a local Catholic university or Howard in Washington, a traditionally black institution. I was also struggling with depression and my role as a support for my younger brother.  i was desperately in love with a woman I had met at a campaign headquarters a few blocks from our family’s house. And there was Aretha and young gifted and black. And I knew that somehow I would survive even if my brother did not.

Since that time I have attempted to live up to the vision of that teenager I still have some years to go, maybe even 20 or more years. What surprises me is that this seems to be a song that most impacted the baby boom generation. Music has changed. Maybe one of younger performers has already created the song for this generation and I have yet to hear it. But I will be listening. She told us “yours is the quest that’s just begun.” There are new quests out there.

 

The news needs to pay attention

I decided to go to the gym yesterday at a time that the March for our Lives was taking place in  Washington and elsewhere across the country. I was on the treadmill when the young people were taking the stage. I read their words on closed captioning. It was an amazing sight.  My generation sought tremendous social change and I am proud to see a new generation dissatisfied with the status quo.  During the 50s and 60s I never feared for my life in school. No one came our schools with guns and opened fire. I never thought that those I disagreed with would try to kill me. But now with Facebook, computers, social media, all kinds of new technology, come higher tech weapons and more people with anger and vengeance on their minds. We need news media to report truthfully what is happening or get out of the way. We need to keep changing the times. It is once again a time for hope and change.

The third phase

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The third phase of life begins just before retirement  and includes the lose of one’s siblings, the death of your spouse and the separation from one’s work colleagues. That is where I am at now. I discovered, much to my surprise, that I am at the age where I can collect full social security benefits. I was also told that I may be losing one of my siblings sooner than I had expected. And I cried off and on. It is difficult to have someone as your main support over almost 70 years and then face the possibility that person may no longer be around. In pre-retirement, collecting social security while still working seemed appropriate. Paying off bills and creating new investments while paying off debts seems like a realistic plan. I expect to live well into my 80s so I need a means of making money that won’t involve working all those years. I don’t intend to be anyone’s Walmart greeter. I will be working on the computer and talking with retirement experts to make this happen.

struggling

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I am struggling. I thought I had found some answers for my foot problems by getting new orthopedic shoes from the VA on Friday. But today my feet were as painful as ever and I did not put on the shoes. I also was hit with some potentially devastating personal news that may or may not be true. I will have to wait for about a month to find out. I have cried a few times and tried listening to music. Joan Baez and Simon and Garfunkel mostly. Meanwhile I received confirmation that a fitbit is on the way as a reward from my insurance app. I have been earning points for exercise and the new shoes were going to help me. I made 11,000 steps Friday. I had noticed that my pattern had been to go all out for a few days and then be practically inert. I am hoping to become more consistent. But the wild card is what will happen with this personal news.

Being grand parents

 

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Sometimes I regret not playing more of a role in my nephews’ lives. My oldest nephew, John, was born the year I graduated from high school. When I was graduating from high school, I was experiencing deep depression. I felt loss from a woman I loved. I was protesting the war in Vietnam. I wanted to be a part of history. I was a horny male teenager. The depression was the most difficult of those things to understand. I remember writing letters back home in lower case to try to make them understand I was not doing well. Depression was a family characteristic. My mother and older sister have also lived with it. When you are 17 or 18 everything seems so overwhelming. The depression was about what my mind was saying about feeling empty and lonely.

Nobody who is that age is old enough to understand. If there is one thing I regret I wish I had learned to understand myself sooner. My younger brother also lived with a mental illness triggered by use of hallucinogens. I believe that I survived because of a combination of nature and nurture. James left home as a teenager and went west at a time many people were feeling alienated and wanting to get away from home. I was old enough to go to Howard University and be a part of history and the largest anti-war demonstrations in American history.

When you are young and you are struggling you have more options than I saw as a teenager. For me, the best choice after dropping out of college was the military. But when I returned to civilian life, I struggled with economic security. I heard the voices of my nephews but I was in no shape to be able to help them. Now that things seem to be different and I have gotten help I am no longer being driven by depression or mania. I am doing well. I was part of my niece’s life at an event to retire the flags last week. I cannot go back into the 1970s but I am proud to part of the present.

Farewell, old friends

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A friend is feeling sad these days because of the loss of her long time companions. People who know you from 30 or more years ago are really special. The people who were there through different hair colors, relationships, songs, concerts, having children and having grandchildren and stuff in between. The ones who you could tell anything. People who know what to bring and what not to say.

We meet these people at a certain stage, maybe when we have just arrived in the city and are wondering what will happen. Or maybe we meet them when they move into our neighborhood at a potluck and ask, who made that dish. And before weknow it we are sitting down and talking together.

A lot of this is theory for me because I have difficulty maintaining close friendships. I remember an old girl friend asking me about who were my close friends and not being able to figure that out. But for people who do remain close over a long time, letting go is so painful. But at some point our bodies give way. It can be sudden, in an accident or it could be the gradual wearing away due to diseases. And then there is sadness.

You will always have those many years of memories but you won’t always have those friends. This is the circle of life. Farewell, old friends. Know that you are loved and will be in one another’s dreams.

 

Old Friends

by Simon and Garfunkel, who ironically, were not friends

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears