Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

FRED ROGERS 

He comes into the house singing and full of joy, changes his shoes, unzips his jacket and opens the closet door. He puts on a forrest green sweater, settles into his chair and smiles gently towards the camera. He makes me feel good about him, me and my life. My childhood was full of great memories and cool TV shows like Schoolhouse Rock and Sesame Street, but Mr. Rogers stood out from the rest. 

A few months ago I saw a huge poster board of Mr. Rogers. My heart started beating faster and I looked around to see if anyone else saw it. I didn’t see any reaction from the rest of the moviegoers. I said aloud to myself. ” Mr. Freaking Rogers.”

I kinda hid the fact that I was super geeked to see this movie. I never saw one preview or trailer and didn’t need to. On Thursday I saw the movie times available online and turns out it was playing everywhere all damn day. I texted my group of friends a list of movie times and waited for a reply. My friend Mina hit me back quick and we set a time to meet.

We met up at the movie theatre and she seemed happy to see the film, but I was real life excited, no BS. The movie quiz game seemed to go on forever and then the 50-11 trailers that don’t come out until fall.

Finally the film started, and I was instantly confused. Uhhhh I thought I was about to watch a movie about Fred Rogers. I was prepared to scrutinize the actor playing him and ready to see who would play his wife and sons. To my surprise, this was actually a documentary. I have seen most of the Netflix docs, along with the on demand 30 for 30’s, and Friday night’s 20/20 series. I had to change my mindset and was shocked when Mr. Freaking Rogers came on the screen talking directly to me.

Now remember, I am a Mr. Rogers fan and have been since age 6 but I didn’t know shit about this man.  This documentary was not about Mr. Rogers; it was about Fred. It was time for me to learn about who he was and how he lived.

Fred Rogers was a man born to an upper middle class family. He had great parents and was raised with conservative morals and values. He went to college right out of high school and then went to school to be a minister. #1. Mr. Rogers was a pastor. He loved to spread the love of Christ and was set on preaching the gospel until he began watching TV shows.  He noticed that the quality of TV was lacking and there was nothing positive geared toward children.  He hated to see the slapstick shows where characters threw pies in each other’s faces. He sat in front of the tube and watched cartoons where bullies beat up on the little guy. He was horrified and vowed to create something better and more meaningful.

He always had a love for children and he merged his passion with television. His first idea was to use a tiger hand puppet to teach social skills like manners and compassion. That was going well but he wanted to go deeper, and boy did he. He created characters that had value and traits that could be taught to children. He found a great cast to help round out the six  characters he played himself. #2 Mr. Freaking Rogers played all of those characters and did all of those voices. WTF

The show was becoming successful as the season progressed. He could have been happy with the way the show was going, but he wasn’t. While Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was growing and being viewed by millions worldwide; the world was in turmoil. Racism was still very prevalent in the late 1960’s. A group of black children were swimming in a city pool when a group of vile white adults poured bleach in the water. That sent him into an anger that could only be quelled by immediate action. He taped an episode where on a very hot day, he and a black mail carrier put their feet in a small tub to cool off. This was his way of saying that anyone who wants to swim should be able to without prejudice. #3. Fred Rogers was not silent when it was convenient, he took action in the face of discrimination.

When the country was at odds over The war in Iraq, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood reflected the feeling of confusion. He used the puppets and actors and actresses to address the fears and anxiety that children were feeling. This issue was being discussed among America’s adults but who was helping the children? Fred made that his job to educate and do so in a loving way.

Mr. Rogers became a TV personality who loved and advocated for children. He went before congress to plead his case regarding children’s programming at PBS. He didn’t use the normal political rhetoric; he simply sang a song about children being themselves and loving themselves. Doing so awarded him a grant for millions of dollars.

He had his critics, those who said he was strange, weird and even gay. But the rumors never seemed to bother him. Fred kept busy visiting schools and showing children love.  Those who felt he was some pedophile would have to speak their madness while Rogers spoke self-love and love for others.

At the end of the documentary they showed numerous clips of the lives he touched. It showed children of all races, ethnicities and nationalities enjoying life; singing and dancing. As the final scene flashed across the screen all I could hear was sniffling, blowing noses, and a man took out his handkerchief. I tried to hold my tears back because I had not cried in a theatre since Will Smith’s Seven Pounds. I felt the tears fall as Mr. Fred Rogers said, “all I want to do is to have you think of all of the people who made you who you are. Think of all of the people who love you unconditionally. Think of those who have been there for you every moment of your life and share your love with them.” 

His sons, his coworkers, his wife, and many who admired him entered the frame all naming the people who made them who they are, loved them unconditionally, andwere there for them each moment of their lives. I thought of my family members and ugly cried. I  implore you after reading this blog to do the same. Think of those who made you who you are, loved you unconditionally, and were there for you each moment of your life… and share your love with them

R. Hoosier

 

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My Everyday Racism; MSN Town Hall Meeting

Yesterday I had the displeasure of watching MSN’s Everyday Racism; Town Hall Meeting. The meeting wasn’t bad or inaccurate, it just angered me. I don’t need anything else to bring out my rage, intolerance and hopelessness regarding systemic, institutional racism. But as much as the conversation brought out emotions, it also made me think deeply and reflect. One topic was about the things that we as black people do to not rattle, scare or make the white folks uncomfortable. I started to think back…far back into my twenties and thirties.

I worried about what white people thought at all times. I worried that if I took too many samples in Sam’s Club or Cub’s, I would look broke and hungry. I loved the different colors that could spice up my hair, but I would only do dark reds that you only see in the sun. I didn’t want to be the “ghetto black girl” with the orange, purple or blue hair. When I would speak, instead of speaking the King’s English the way my voice comes out of my mouth, I would talk one octave higher and sharpen my words.

As I moved into the workplace, I would never speak up for myself. To add insult to injury, my self esteem was very low. Instead of having opinions in performance reviews; I would do passive aggressive things like talk to the other black women about our white supervisors. I would perform the way I thought they wanted me to perform, and my conversations were geared toward the topic that interests them. None of this made a difference in my performance reviews or paychecks.

As I entered my thirties my children’s education and getting into good universities was my focus. When my son would act up, the first thing I would address is how he’s making me look to our white neighbors, instead of addressing his actual behavior. If a white mother brought my children home, I would feel queasy when they pulled up to my home. I would prepare to be “on”. That meant discussing the things going on in their lives and pretending to care. Behind our doors we were sacrificing and working our asses off just to stay in the school district, but I’m in my driveway talking about how her husband never puts his suit jackets away.

After my children were accepted to top Universities, I told every white person I knew. And I mean EVERYONE OF THEM. My mindset was look over here at what my children have done. They succeeded and did better than your privileged children. My daughter received a full academic scholarship to The Ohio State University.

Once I turned forty, things changed drastically. My two close friends, white women( Hey Dawn and G) began to have conversations with me regarding race and privilege. We would have hour long conversations on the phone and one day out of the blue, I was told that I was fine the way I am. I was told that although I talk a lot and come into the room with lots of noise, I was loved. They said I shouldn’t be working for the approval of anyone who doesn’t have love for me, whether white or black.

These last two years I have made it a priority to be my authentic self. I do exactly what I want to do. I don’t live my life to make sure someone who gives zero thought about me is comfortable. I take samples when I want them and wear my hair however the heck I want-my life is not run by trying to fit in with my oppressors. I am a black woman ; strong, courageous, intelligent, funny and proud. I am free to be who I am with not one apology. Tomorrow morning I plan on mixing a few colors and having fun with my hair. And this weekend I’m gonna spend time with the people who love and appreciate every single part of me.

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Marshall *spoiler alert*

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Last Thursday I went to see the movie Marshall. It’s a movie celebrating the first black Supreme Court Justice , Thurgood Marshall. I was thinking this would be a biopic detailing his life from childhood, rise to fame and the struggles he faced. Boy was I wrong!

The movie was actually about a case that Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman) took on as part of the NAACP. There was a man named Joseph Spell( Sterling K. Brown) who was being accused of the rape and the attempted murder of a white woman. The narrative was that Spell raped her in her home multiple times while her husband was away. He then took her to a bridge and threw her into a reservoir.

The incident happened in the northern town of Greenwich, Connecticut. Marshall traveled from New York City, the headquarters of the NAACP to this little town because he believed Spell was innocent. When he made it to the small town he realized he would need some help, and that help would come from a Jewish insurance attorney.

Samuel Friedman( Josh Gad) was hired by the Bridgeport NAACP. Like most white people in the area, he thought Spell was guilty. The area was certainly not known for hospitality to black people. Friedman tried to get out of the case three different times but something in his character caused him to help Marshall and he became co-counsel. It was a good thing they were both on the case because getting past Loren Willis( Dan Stevens) an unreconstructed bigot would be close to impossible. It didn’t help that there were two attorneys; a black man and a Jew.

The other obstacle was that the victim Eleanor Strubing ( Kate Hudson) came from old money. She was the daughter of an investment banker. Her husband John Strubing Jr( Jeremy Bobb) an ambulance driver in WWI he also played for The Tigers football team. After being married for a while Strubing became a business man and he and his wife lived a charmed life. This lifestyle is how Spell came into their lives; he was their chauffeur.

Marshall and Friedman never really believed Eleanor’s story. She claimed she was raped four different times. She was kidnapped from her home, thrown off a bridge and then hit with rocks. At trial they quickly pounced on the prosecution’s case. Why would anyone rape a woman in her home when her husband could have come home at any moment? Why leave the house and drop her off of a bridge on the side where she could swim to shore? Why not drop her where the jagged rocks were located? And the story about the rocks was just ridiculous, not to mention there were no rocks on that bridge; only pebbles.

It came out at trial that her story was a complete farce. But she wasn’t the only one who lied. Spell said he never touched her but it was proven in court that the pair had consensual sex. Eleanor’s husband was always away on business and when he was home he often abused his wife. The night that Joseph came into her room to ask for money she had been drinking and invited him into her bed. They shared a night of passion but soon Mrs. Strubing became nervous.

The alcohol and paranoia got to her. She begged Spell to drive her away from the house. Then as they drove she asked him to pull over. He assured her that everything was fine and they wouldn’t get caught. In complete hysterics she screamed out rape. She jumped from the bridge into the Kensico Reservoir. It was revealed in court that she was a trained swimmer. She swam to shore, flagged a truck driver and started this whole tragedy with her cries of rape.

Thurgood Marshall and Friedman taking this case was like taking on the stories that black men are so scary and threatening, hell bent on raping poor white women. This made me think of how often that happens in today’s court systems. Our men are seen as brutal and menacing when in fact, there are rapists and murderers of all races.

Marshall and Friedman’s hard work was successful in gaining Spell an acquittal. The result catapulted the NAACP to start a chapter in Greenwich. Thurgood Marshall was in Oklahoma helping another client when the jury came back. He didn’t even have time to celebrate due to his full schedule.

For those of you who don’t know much about Thurgood Marshall. He was instrumental in The Brown vs The Board of Education desegregation case. He was the first black Supreme Court Justice from 1967-1991. And was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Spingarn Medal.

It was great seeing Chadwick Boseman in this role. He is fast becoming the go-to actor for biopics. A surprise was Josh Gad in the role of attorney Friedman. I am familiar with him in many comedic roles but he played this serious character and exceeded my expectations. He was excellent in this role and has me excited to see him in more dramatic pieces. Marshall is a movie I look forward to buying. I give it 4 stars.

The Missing D.C. Girls, Fact, Fiction and Emotion.

I have spent the past few days researching this story so I could write about it with all of the factual information I could find. After 5 days I was able to speak with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and email them. I actually researched and watched local media. I was able to contact local news reporters and received responses and I hope I did my best in weeding out the fake from what is real. Although this story brought up many emotions I wanted to know the facts and what I could do to help.I didn’t want to rush and put up a blog without even having valid information. This blog will be longer than most of my posts. You’ve been warned.

These are the facts that I’ve uncovered. Last Thursday 3/25/17 NBC’s Washington Affiliate published on their Twitter page that a dozen teens ranging from age 14 to 18 were missing. The Washington D.C. Police Department tweeted that there were 10 girls missing who were considered critical cases. The latter was retweeted by a well known personality on Twitter who added the comment and I quote, “No one is saying anything about these girls that are missing.” That tweet went viral and the story began. 

I am sure we all know that when stories are carried they grow additions, people add their own pieces,  exgagerrations. So…let’s talk about facts. According to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children there were from 450-500 missing children in Washington D.C. This number has been consistent since 2014. 95% of those cases have been closed. Lets talk about the term “missing.”  There are children who are critically missing, children missing from care, family abduction, runaways, and long term missing.  Critically missing usually means there is an elevated risk of danger. A child missing from care is one who is missing or has been abducted from the foster care system. Family abductions are missing children who have been abducted or wrongfully retained or concealed by a parent or other family member. Runaway children are missing youth who have run away from a parent, guardian or state care facility  A long term missing child is a case that has remained unsolved for many years. 

As of 3/27/17 there are approximately 250- 300 children missing in The Nations Capitol. No one will verify how many are African American or Hispanic and I’ve asked that question many times. Nearly 2,000 children go missing every five years. If the police department and news media had not posted this story none of us would be discussing these girls. 

Washington D.C. is much like many metropolitan cities; the problems are the same.  Missing teen girls is a huge problem. D.C. police have tweeted 27 photos of missing teens since starting their Twitter page. Most of them have been found. One teen who was reported  missing on 3/21 was found on 3/26 and wouldn’t tell her mother where she was staying. Her name is Katherine Hunter and she has run away many times. There are issues at home. She says, “Many of her friends who run away just want out.”

Here are a few more unfortunate truths. African American and Latino girls are at more at risk of becoming abducted, runaways, and to be critically missing. Just as African Americans and Hispanics are at risk in many other areas of life. Poverty, single parent homes, and abuse are all at the top of the list as to why. Also when a Caucasian child is missing there is more media attention, especially for little girls. When a black or brown child is missing she or he is usually deemed a runaway; a child who is bad. D.C. Councilman Trayon White says, “There was a 10 yr old African American girl missing a week ago and there was no Amber Alert inacted.” He feels if this was a white child or even a child from a better neighborhood this wouldn’t have happened. Most African American girls are labeled as runaways who left home freely. Then after leaving the home they often become victims of rape, sex trafficking, and prostitution.

Now on to the fiction, there were never 14 girls, or 10 or any double digit number of girls missing in a 24 hour period. One of the girls in a few online post has been missing since 2014, her name is Relisha Rudd. There is no spike in missing girls of any race in D.C. , social media is simply being used to shine a light on the issue. Much like the Internet opens the word to things that have happened for years but were hidden. The fact is most of these girls became missing over the past month or two. Which is still scary.

There is hope in the face of despair. Mayor Muriel Bowser says her office will implement 6 new initiatives to tackle the missing person problem. They include boosting the number of officers assigned to missing person cases and expanding the local missing person website. With all of the facts and fiction being uncovered it still doesn’t negate the pain I feel. I am sad that so many girls are running away from home. What are they running from?  All of these children are not just bad. Why run from heat,food, their iPhones? Some run from abuse; sexual, physical, and mental. Some parents don’t give a darn about their daughters. ” Let her go, get out of my house.” What if she runs into the arms of a manipulative pimp, some punk or the local police officer? 
Just a few more truths.  Two D.C. Police officers were accused of running a prostitution ring just last week. Officer Marc Washington is accused of setting up 16 year old girls with adult men for sex acts. One of the girls had been reported as missing. As many as 6 teenswere found at a SE Stanton Rd apartment.Washington was also accused of child pornography for placing the girls pictures on the website  backpage. He also had a mirror in the home with the names of young girls on it. The other officer’s name has not been released.

There are so many layers to this devastating issue. When you break this down whether you believe the facts or the social media sensation, black and Latino girls are endangered. Some are being hurt in the homes of their own families and they run away searching for something. Others are betrayed by officers who have sworn to uphold the law. They are accosted by people who prey on them with promises of money only to rip away their innocence. We as a community must protect our princesses, the first place is in the home. We can’t rely on mainstream media to report them missing. We must use all of our options; TV One, BET, Univision, Telemundo, Black Twitter our publications and our voices.  But we must be accurate and we must be collaborative. If you have any ideas of what we can do comment below or hit me on any of my platforms.

Sources
Youth & Family Division D.C.

NBC Washington D.C. Affiliate 

Washington D.C. Missing Persons

The Center For Missing & Exploited Children

Washington D.C. Police Department

The Washington Post

WJLA ABC7’s Yolanda Traylor 

   
   

12 Years a Black Woman

image                                                               Rachel Dolezal’s name has been all over the media. She is the Caucasian( yes woman you are white) lady who had been passing as black. Yes there is actually a person who attempted to pass for black. We will come back to my feelings on that. As a child Rachel had blonde hair and looked just like your favorite white doll. She says she has always felt like was black.

The first signs of her “blackness” showed when she attended prestigious HBCU Howard University ( my middle daughter received a full ride scholarship there). She says that when asked what race she was, both white and black were selected. She went on to do quite well in college.

Rachel became an Africana Studies professor and was respected by most. She wore her hair in ethnic styles mostly worn by African -American women. She even permed her hair to obtain a curly texture that would mimic the natural hair of many black women. She was brilliant at imitating all things black, the struggle, the culture, the outward appearance.

Rachel Dolezal then made her way to one of the most respected organizations among African -American people, The NAACP.  She became the  president of the Spokane, Washington chapter.  Again she was able to fool those around her until her parents contacted the media and told her secret.

So that’s the tale of Rachel Dolezal. I have so many questions, was it not enough being Rachel? Would she rather be Rhasha? Would she rather be followed in stores? Why not just love and appreciate our culture? Go to Howard as a Caucasian woman. Express your love of our hairstyles as the white woman you are.

I can’t take off my blackness for a moment and freely operate as a white woman. I would love to be judged and evaluated by only my merit and not experience any type of racism. I don’t have that luxury. The truly sad conclusion is that Rachel could have been white and still attended Howard. Rachel could have been white and been the president of The NAACP. She could have been white and embraced our culture. African -American people are known for accepting others. We know how it feels to be shunned, disrespected, and treated poorly,which is why even though Rachel made such a misstep she will still be welcomed and forgiven.