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#Systemicracism

  • BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

    BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

    By

    Paul Thomas

    Chuck's Note: Paul Thomas is an educator and a self-described "geek" and  "mutt." On his personal blog, A Reston Kid Rambles (restonkid.blogspot.com), he writes about race, music, politics, economics, and many other topics. An education consultant who does business as Docent Learning (www.docentlearning.com), Paul also blogs about educational topics at Driven to Learn (blog.docentlearning.com). Paul lives in Reston, VA with his wife and two kids. Paul originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission. 

    So... I have seen articles about why Black Lives Matter is gaining such traction now. Why didn't it gain this sustained attention after the deaths of Trayvon Martin or the Charleston Nine or Philando Castile? I know that the movement has been building in strength for years, and that the current political climate helps shine a light on the issues. But I think we have something else to thank for the current focus: The Pandemic.

    Thanks to the pandemic, the normally short news cycle is lengthened. There are no playoffs or movie premiers or new seasons or political rallies to distract us. We aren't splitting our time between conference rooms and gyms and brutal commutes and Little League and band concerts and parties. Instead, we're sitting in our homes and focusing on the problems around us. We're worried about the heroes caring for the sick and the underpaid workers who are barely hanging on. We're worried about widening opportunity gaps for students who are falling farther behind. We're worried about how small businesses will recover. We're worried about how we are all going to move forward!

    u-g-F8N5AE0.jpg

    In this sea of worry, we see this horrific video, and there is nothing to distract us from it. Now we have something for which we can stand up and fight. We can't do much about many of the things we worry about, but we can stand up and protest the systemic racism of which police brutality is a symptom.

    Thanks, pandemic!

    You've made us a captive audience that can't turn away from the structural racial issues in our society that we haven't made the time to focus on before. They aren't new, but now we are giving them the attention for which they have been screaming for years!

    Copyright: Paul Thomas; all rights reserved.

    >>>Want to share your thoughts? Send them to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

  • Lessons in Racism: A Tribute to Donal Leace

    LESSONS IN RACISM--
    A Tribute to Singer, Songwriter, Teacher Donal Leace
    by
    Chuck Cascio

     

    It has been present all of our lives. We can look around and still see it. But it hits us hardest when something spurs our awareness and reminds us: Racism is real...it has been real...we have seen it ourselves, personally.   

    Donal Leace (no "d" at the end of his first name) was a Washington, DC-based Black singer, songwriter, entertainer, scholar, and teacher whom I met many years ago when I was 16 years old and working one memorable summer at my cousin's folk music club, the Shadows, in Virginia Beach. (Note: That club is not related to any club or restaurant that may have the same or similar name in Virginia Beach today.) I learned recently that Donal died of Covid in December 2020, and though I had not seen Donal in many years, hearing of his death brought back many memories...memories made all the more significant to me as the country engages in heated discussions about race. 

    One of my many jobs at the Shadows was to book hotel reservations for performers and then to greet them at the designated hotel when they arrived. Donal was scheduled to sing at the Shadows for a couple of weeks as the opening act. He drove down from DC (he lived in an apartment above the famous Cellar Door club in Georgetown), and I met him at the hotel where I had reserved his room. As we walked into the hotel together, a noticeable silence overtook the lobby. 

    When I reminded the man behind the desk, whom I had interacted with before, that I worked at the Shadows and that I had made a reservation for Donal, the man looked confused. He browsed a ledger intensely, flipped some pages, then finally looked up and said, "Sorry, got no reservation for him and no rooms are available. Fully booked." He scribbled something on a piece of paper and shoved it at me, saying, "But here is the address of a place where he can stay."

     

    Donal_Leace.jpeg

    Donal Leace: Singer, songwriter, teacher...

    I started to argue since I knew I had made the reservation and even had a confirmation number. But Donal tapped my shoulder and said, "I know what's going on here. Let's go." 

    We went outside into the beach sunlight and I started to blurt, "Donal, I'm sorry, I..."

    "It's not you, Chuck. This is what it is. You see what it is, right?"

    Of course I did--everywhere in Virginia overt racism was evident daily: The "Colored" restrooms and water fountains separate from "Whites Only" ones. The swimming pools with signage stating boldly, "No Coloreds." The segregated schools and neighborhoods. But in that moment with Donal, it all hit me hard, personally.

    We rode about 20 miles inland to the address the hotel clerk had given us, finally coming upon a dilapidated, sad building with a sign in front that read "Colored Motel." 

    "Guess I'll be making the trip from here to the club and back every night," Donal said matter-of-factly.

    Something swelled from inside me, and I said, "We have room at our house, Donal. Come stay with us!"

    Donal hesitated, then asked, "Are you sure? Will your roommates be okay with me?"

    "Yes," I said without hesitation, and we climbed into his car and rode back to the house I shared with three guys all in their early twenties. When we arrived, I explained to my roommates what had happened, and there was no hesitancy. Donal was given a room and throughout his stay, we all laughs and music together…but we shared other things, too, such as:

    After Donal's first night performing at the club, we all finished our closing chores, and I asked Donal if he wanted to join us at a local diner where we always went for our late-night/early-morning food and laughs. He came with us, and as we all entered the familiar diner on the main beach drag, I immediately recognized the evil quiet that blanketed us. We were quickly seated in a far corner booth by a waiter who knew us all, except for Donal, by name. 

    We introduced the White waiter to Donal, but the waiter simply turned away, refusing to shake Donal's extended hand. A minute or two later, the waiter returned and handed menus to each of us. Hungry, filled with the nightly relief of pulling off another successful club experience, we all started enthusiastically blurting out what we were going to order...except for Donal. He quietly perused his menu and, once the rest of us had quieted down, said, "Um, this place seems a little pricey, doesn't it?"

    In those days, you could get a club sandwich or scrambled eggs or fried chicken pieces for a dollar or two, so we were all surprised at Donal's comment. He smiled sadly, knowingly, and flipped over his menu so we could all see. Every item on his menu was at least 10 times the price shown on the rest of ours'! 

    One of my roommates angrily waved Donal's menu at the waiter.

    "What the hell is this?" the roommate said.

    "What do you mean?" the waiter said with a shrug.

    "You know damn well what I mean! You gave him a different menu than ours! Everything on his is much more expensive! Give him the right menu!"

    "That is the right menu...for him," the waiter said matter-of-factly. "So what can I get you guys?"

    With that, we all climbed out of the booth, and one of the guys got in the waiter's face and said, "We won't be back here. Ever."

    "Suit yourself," the waiter said, "but don't you go around saying we wouldn't serve him...and his kind. If he wants to pay, we'll serve him. If not, that's his choice."

    Yes, some things have changed since those days on Virginia Beach. But not enough. Racism still exists. It is, and has been, all around us. Think about what you have seen personally. Think about how it hit you. Think about how it hits others, daily.

    Racism is real. It is systemic. It must be addressed. 

    Thank you, Donal—for your music, laughter, friendship..and for the difficult lessons I learned from you during that brief stretch of summer.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

    (Readers: Tell me your story, if you like. Nothing will be reprinted without your permission, and you will retain all rights of anything that is printed: chuckwrites@yahoo.com.)

     

     
  • The Day of the MLK Assassination-April 4, 1968

    Prof. Staunton Speaks on the Day of the MLK Assassination-April 4, 1968:

    An Excerpt from my novel, THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN 

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074V8CRGX

         “Langston Hughes asks us if dreams deferred dry up like raisins in the sun or if they stink like fetid meat and, of course, he must know the answer is yes to both—we know both are true because we see those truths in people every day, people who dry up with their dried up dreams, shrivel with their emaciated love affairs—and yet Hughes tries to convince us that it is wrong to give up on dreams because if we do, as he puts it in another poem, ‘Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.’

         “So the same man who poses the question in one poem, ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’ warns us in another that without dreams our lives will not fly. If you are writers, you are dreamers by definition, so you must wrestle with Mr. Hughes’s thoughts—some of you will, some won’t, some will be haunted by dreams deferred, some will forget about dreams altogether, some will look around and dream of outrageously ostentatious houses—the measure of opulence today being size and amount whether in square footage of homes or horse power or number of cars—and exotic vacations and perhaps beachfront mansions and cabin cruisers.

    856872_v9_aa.png 

        “So many of you will be fickle to the dreams and words and passions that move you now, and by letting it all dry up or trading it all in, you will become vulnerable repeatedly to what we should have seen coming:

        “The squeezing of the trigger of the rifle whose scope was focused on Martin’s round black head, the assassin waiting, holding steady, calm, a horrifying distortion of Hemingway’s grace under pressure, slowly focusing on the hairs that covered the epithelial cells drawn tight across the cranium that stored one man’s extravagant and bold dreams—the perverted assassin turning his perverted dream into reality as he fired and felt the powerful kick of the rifle butt warm against his shoulder, and in the instant that he blinked from the explosion and smelled the acrid odor of gunpowder, he watched through his scope Martin’s exploding head, while inside that broken head confused and gasping dreams now spun madly in milliseconds into blackness and then hurtled out the exit wound or dripped out of the entry wound.

         “The assassin ended those dreams, betting that all of us will let them all dry up along with our own dreams, which we will trade in for comfort; in so doing, the assassin hopes to turn you all into assassins, murderers, killers, hypocrites. After all, he had the courage to act on his perverted dream and to gamble that we are not as courageous about pursuing dreams as he is. So what happens, I ask you, to a dream deferred and deferred and deferred and deferred…” 

         Staunton repeated the word, banging his fists on the podium while we sat in a silence only death itself could duplicate, until, finally, after screaming the word “deferred” one more time, his voice cracked into falsetto, and the blue veins in his neck bulged like tree roots, and his face shone like a beacon, and he looked up, panting, into the face of the tall woman with the long hair, who was noiselessly crying, and extended his arms to her. She embraced him, his white hair touching just below her mouth.

    Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved