Like a lot of 6 year olds, my daughter Maddy has a very particular bedtime routine. Maddy’s is a little more routine and a lot more particular than most. She has to have her water on the nightstand and all her stuffed animals tucked in just right around her. She writes squiggly lines – or cursive writing as she calls it – in her journal BEFORE I read her a bedtime story. Promptly after story-time comes “Goodnight to Maddy,” a song I’ve been singing to her every night since she was a baby and will every night until the dreaded day she stops me. The song is followed by “snuggle time” and repeated requests for “snuggle just one more minute” until she falls asleep. It’s a lengthy process that sometimes demands inhuman patience, but I love it. I get to hear how her day was, what new things she’s learned, and important stuff like the names she gives her different types of farts. “Bubble farts” are her favorite. The other night she threw me a curve-ball.
“Daddy, can I read YOU a story tonight?”
Heck yeah you can, I thought. She’s getting better at reading and I love watching her “tap out words” like she learned in school. As an added bonus, I’ll have a reason to not suffer through the GOP presidential debate, which promised to be far less educational than a kindergarten student struggling with a book.
She told me she wanted to read me her journal. I knew it was just filled with the aforementioned squiggly lines, but OK, why not. Let that imagination rip. I figured this would at least be cute. My wife was working late, so I held my phone off to the side and started recording for her to watch later, because I’m one of THOSE annoying dads that thinks everything their kid does is the best thing ever. I wasn’t expecting what happened next.
Maddy opened her journal and started flipping through the pages, looking for something among the doodles, scribbles, and random practice letters. Adorable. For the first time I noticed that her journal also had occasional numbers at the top of some pages. I would soon find out this book was much more than I gave it credit for.
In her words: “Chapter 4. When love is spreaded, people get happy and kinder.”
Love? Hold up. What? I’d better start loading the tear missiles into my eyeball cannons. This kid was going for the heart right out of the gate and I was completely unprepared. Well played little girl. And by the way, Chapter 4 rocks. You give me hope.
FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP
“Chapter 16. Sad, happy, anger, fear, and disgust, are all called feelings. They are like little people in your head.”
Thank you Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. My daughter is now in tune with her emotions enough for the Presidential debates where 4 of those 5 will come in extremely useful.
FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP
“Chapter 12. When someone is sad and a bigger person sees that someone else is sad, they feel sad too and their heart starts to break. They don’t feel happy but they try to cheer someone up.”
Empathy? Holy shit. My little girl just explained it in a way that even the many adults lacking it can understand. By now I had figured out this journal was not at all random. These are her thoughts. She doesn’t yet have the ability write them down succinctly but she is writing and thinking. This was important to her and she wanted to share it with me. This was awesome.
“Chapter 13. When someone has dark skin and someone has bright skin, that doesn’t mean you have to fight about it and be mean to each other. You could be friends and make a happy happy life.”
Equality. YES! My kid is not an asshole. Not that I think kids are born into assholedom. I believe ignorance is learned or force-fed. It’s just good to know that she is conscious of the fact that people are different and that it’s OK, even good. Equality – a simple idea that sadly still needs to be taught to so many these days.
FLIP FLIP FLIP FLIP
“Chapter 17. When you are shy of someone else, don’t just walk away from them when you want to talk to them. They may even look angry and mean but they’re not. Just try to talk with them for a minute.”
Tolerance. This kid is ahead of the game. Sure, I’m probably reading too much into this, but maybe not. Maybe in her own 6 year old way, she understands that tolerance isn’t a bargaining chip or a politically advantageous term used ironically to divide people. Maybe she’s “tolerant” because she feels being tolerant is just the natural, right way to be, even if she doesn’t know the word.
After she finished, I sang her song and we started snuggle time. I asked her, like I do every night, “What was the best part of your day?” Like every other night, she gave the same response: “Right now, Daddy.”
Those words meant something different that time. It usually makes me melt inside while proudly (being THAT Dad again) thinking she is wise beyond her years. That she lives in the moment… that’s something many adults strive for yet fail at and she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. Just as she loves, cares, views everyone as equal, and tries to be understanding of others, she does it all without trying or knowing she’s doing it.
Then again, maybe she does. Maybe all kids do. Maybe it’s just robbed from them. She just summed up some of the most important things in life without writing a word. Things many adults will never learn or value. It’s a terrifying prospect to consider: how do I, as a parent, preserve that and protect her from losing it as many people do? How do I prepare her to weather the swarming negativity, cynicism, bigotry and loss of innocence as she grows? Is it even possible to protect that innocence?
I think of the GOP debate that night and what a hate-filled, ignorant debacle it turned out to be. The whole thing was a horrible uneducated mess. Men that want to LEAD us are given the nation’s ear and what do they do? They pound their chests and call for war, killing, hate, bigotry, and division, while making promises they have no plans to keep with no clue about how to keep them if they were actually willing. THEY are our country’s best? NO. They’re not even close to being as rational, caring, or genuine as a six year old scribbling in her journal. In reality, they are just a large part of what rips the good out of our children. In a sense, we all share some of the guilt for this. If it were actually true that they’re “only saying what people want to hear” what does that ultimately say about us? And if not, we’re still guilty of providing a spotlight to the wrong members of society.
In my extremely biased Daddy-opinion, Maddy made all those guys look unqualified and out of step with a one line summary of her efforts. After reading me her journal, she said, “I forgot to tell you the title of my journal, Daddy; “This Is Life.”
Yep. It is.
Chadwick Boseman Forever!!
It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)
Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.
Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.
Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”
If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.
R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.
10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1
We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.
Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.
As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.
Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.
1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.
While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)
When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.
I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.
2. Seating for Black People
While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.
3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier
In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.
4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook
The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.
5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide
During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.
6. Ice Cream stand Scene
In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.
7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign
This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.
8. The billboard across from the gas station
While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.
9. Sundown towns
Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!
10. White walls
Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!
I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.
OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS
Dear Members of Congress,
The tipping point is here and we need to put aside our political differences to save this country right now! Silence and remaining behind party lines is no longer an option. A unified address by our elected officials in Congress on the issue of police brutality and equality under the rule of law is required to begin the healing process as well as ensure the future of this nation.
There are three steps that immediately need to be taken to bring this to fruition. The arrest and charging of the three remaining individuals involved in the death of George Floyd must occur as the first step of good faith. The second step requires clear and transparent action items stated to the public in order to address the issues at hand. Those action items should include:
- The revision of Qualified Immunity to specifically address the problematic assertion that “Qualified Immunity means that government officials can get away with violating your rights as long as they violate them in a way nobody thought before – Institute of Justice“
- The reforming of Civilian Review Boards with the purpose of increasing the decision-making abilities on the disposition and discipline of police officers.
The third step is the creation and funding of a systemic racism task force with the goal of dismantling systemic racism.
- Accelerating judicial system reform
- Equating the public education system
- Eliminating redlining
These are just the preliminary steps that will begin the framework of the changes we need enacted to better the experiment called the United States.
I look forward to seeing a response in the form of action on the behalf of the citizens of this country.