Sunday, August 9, 2020

BLM book list #2

 I started a list on this post - Books give insight- and I have more to add after another few weeks of reading plus a stack that I look forward to reading soon. While protests are still happening across the country our own community has hosted a few community events and peace walks where people are allowed to share their stories. It's good to listen as a person and as an educator yet I feel like the real people that need to hear the message are in our city councils, police departments,  and other government positions. Our Black mayor was at the last organized Peace Walk. I'm sure he has his own stories from before he took office and during as I know just from reading the paper he has a few foes that stand in his way. 

We have two sister sisters close together and while I happily have my feet in both communities the one I live and teach in does not seem as pro-change and I'm personally trying to figure out how to create good trouble for our new and so far ineffective Mayor Green.  

But let's segue back to books! For people interested in BLM stories this list gives you a great place to start. Some of my book choices come from The Brown Bookcase an independent bookstore run by 9-yo Rylei and check out The Brown Bookshelf for more inspiration.


1. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2017) : This YA novel recounts Justyce's story as he tries to be like his hero Dr. King and finds himself in several unnecessary situations with police including one off-duty officer when the music volume is in question. "Stand your ground" is a terrible law because it gives credence to any average G.I. Joe wannabe who carries a gun.  If you have this mentality that someone is infringing on your own well-being and claim you feel unsafe or just simply anger for being disrespected. Ugh. This book! Too real. Justyce is pre-judged as gangster instead of the good student that he is. We see this happen all the time when we are shown "thug" photos instead of high school grad photos. I'm a new fan of Nic Stone and look forward to reading the next book in this series. 

2. Clean Getaway by Nic Stone (2020) : After reading Dear Martin I quickly put this one on hold at our local library.  This story, more for elementary/middle school, shares Scoob's journey with his grandmother as she retraces her steps through a few Southern locations using Scoob's grandfather's Green Book. His G-ma picks Scoob up for an impromptu road trip leaving Scoob's dad in the dark. This would make a great read-aloud to help students understand Jim Crow laws and other not-so-subtle rules to keep Black people segregated. 

3. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2020) : Donte, a mixed-race middle schooler, is getting used to a new prep school filled with mostly white students and staff. The first chapter has Donte in the principal's office defending himself against a teacher who sees him as trouble. His sibling Trey presents as white and has a much easier time at school. This book is not my favorite JPR chapter book but I appreciated the issues raised. It's maddening as an educator to hear how Donte is treated by people who should be supporting him. This would make a great read-aloud for 5th-7th grade to discuss the inequality of experiences. 

4. Ways to make sunshine by Renee Watson (2020) : I'm in love with Renee Watson's writing. What I love about this particular story is that while it is realistic fiction; it isn't a "problem" story.  The biggest "crisis" that happens is that the family has had to move to a new/old rental house because her dad's postal job was eliminated. So relatable at this time. Ryan has fun with her friends, she goes to a pool party, her grandmother spends hours straightening her hair, she gets into trouble yet she loves her brother, her parents, and her extended family. This is the beginning of a series and I am so excited to read more about Ryan!

and one adult book-

5. A Good Neighborhood by Theresa Anne Fowler (2020) : Valerie Alston-Holt, a professor of forestry and ecology, lives in a beautiful older neighborhood where she raises her mixed race son. While her son, Xavier, was very young he husband died in a tragic accident. Enter in the Whitman family who've built a new home and pool and perhaps avoided a few property line codes along the way. Brad Whitman is new money and he's not concerned about the environment like his neighbor. He only wants to make the three women in his life happy. His downfall is that he has a crush on his teenage stepdaughter Juniper. When Brad and Valerie collide major problems abound. I really couldn't put this book down. I felt for Valerie as she stands up for what she believes in yet those decisions come with a price. 

Books I'm looking forward to reading soon:


1. Take the mic: fictional stories of everyday resistance edited by Bethany C. Morrow (2019) : A compilation  of major authors contributed stories to this book and I'm excited to see what they have to say. 

2. Count me in by Marsha Bajaj (2019) : This one is about finding an unexpected friendship and how to deal with a hate crime when it happens to you and your beloved grandfather. 

3. Love like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood (2018) : Another teacher read this and offered it to me. This is a realistic fiction story set in Atlanta. 

And two adult books: 

4. I'm still here: Black dignity in a world made for whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (2018) : This is one I ordered early in April and it took until end of May to arrive. I heard Reese talk about it on her book club website and had to read it. Hopefully I will get to it soon. 

5. Behold the dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (2016) : A friend passed this on and the story which takes place right before and during the Lehman Brothers collapse is about a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem.  

Ahhh, so many good books, never enough time. School schedules are starting up. Groovy Girl heads off to college on the 20th. We are all hoping Covid-19 doesn't affect schools but really I'm just worried. WORRIED MAMA.

**None of these books are linked to a store. I cannot promote Amazon and hope that you can find any of these at a local bookstore, bookshop, or simply from your local library. Have you read any of these on my lists or have other suggestions for me? Let me know via email or a comment. 



Sunday, August 2, 2020

Gratitude for what is


 

My people:
friends and family are vital to a good life; you have to have a strong crew to support you through life. Old friends, new friends, young friends, and older all lend me support in innumerable ways every day. I'm a glass half full generally happy hippie-spirited person and we all need our own crew. Thank you to those of you who support me every day. This past weekend I was able to reconnect with an old friend from 30 years ago-wow-it was amazing to talk with him even though we haven't spent physical time together; there's a certain cool connection you have with people from your past. It filled my heart to be in person and not on Zoom or FaceTime. The top photos is me 20 years ago and the one with two of my brothers is 30 years ago. To be honest I love looking at those young faces. I appreciate all my experiences through the years but that fresh face and wide smile....not going to lie, I miss that. The photo below shows my Pete family and I miss them. Hanging around young people united in a common and vibrant cause is uplifting as hell.  Same for the 2008 family photo after Obama was elected. Same elation.

This Pete team made me smile!



My health: I'm quite a lucky person to have experienced two open heart surgeries before the age of 18 and still be in really good health. Yes, I struggle with baby bulge/ menopausal belly and I'm not muscle bound but my heart is strong and I walk, get my yoga on, and am trying to add weight lifting to my routine. Meditation and yoga keep me focused which helps me deal with the highs and lows of my family. And I've been fortunate enough to birth to beautiful babies that I love very much. Plus I was gifted an amazing step-daughter who loves to read and write like I do. Below photo shows part of our back yard and some of our garden flowers in bloom right now. 





My house: I love my brick Tudor-style home with it's wild garden spaces. I love my girls who live in the backyard squawking and laying eggs for us. I love their personalities and don't know how I lived without them. We love showing them off and talking chickens with other flock families. We jumped into gardening this year with all our extra time and have red cabbages, broccoli, cucumbers, and eventually pumpkins growing in our backyard. We took out a pond that was not functioning and added a birdbath instead and we have birds fluttering back and forth. When we head back to school I will miss watching all the birds but especially the gorgeous cardinal family. There is a certain spiritual thing that happens in the outdoors, in nature and I’ve purposefully added more time enjoying state parks and nature centers during this unique summer. I made a little movie of recent hikes and adventures just from July.


This year an old friend of mine from my Colorado days died in a tragic accident in California. This broke my heart and reminded me how important it is to stay in touch with people we care about. I hadn't talked to him for a few years and that caused me a lot of grief and anxiety. Why hadn't I called him? He showed up in a series of dreams and that should have been the catalyst to pick up the phone, say hi on FB, something.  In the world we live in today every day is a new day with joy and horrors, embarrassments, and lessons to learn. Keep moving, keep loving, keep growing...hold hands and hug (even virtually). United together.



Friday, July 24, 2020

Make your VOTE count

The presidential race is really just around the corner. We will vote for a new president before we have a vaccine for this virus and before we all make out our Christmas wish lists so it's important to stay educated on what matters. There are a lot of smaller but important races happening around the country and it is crucial to pay attention to these races AND donate to help them stay in the race. Let's start small-right here in Black Hawk County. I'm going to give you a link for all the candidates on the progressive side so you can find out more information and/or donate to their campaigns. I've donated a ton this summer because I'm not out shopping or eating out so you can do it too. These are the ones I'm paying attention to; let me know if there are others you think are crucial.

Kelly Dunn vs LeaAnn Saul : this race is for Cedar Falls City Council and Kelly needs to win because she will make a positive difference in our community while Ms. Saul is homophobic and narrow-minded.

Theresa Greenfield vs. Joni Erst : Greenfield has the endorsement of the League of Women Voters, is against Citizen's United and will be a good senator for Iowa. We really need one!

J.D. Scholten vs. Randy Feenstra (he won Rep ticket against Steve King and shares his views) : this is a very important race and it is crucial that J.D. win this one. He was close in 2018; let's hope this is his year.

Sara Gideon vs. Susan Collins : Maine Senate race, time for Collins to go.

John Hickenlooper vs. Cory Gardner : It would be great to see Colorado flip blue.

Jaime Harrison vs. Lindsey Graham : It's been time for Lindsey to go...

Amy McGrath vs. Mitch McConnell : We definitely need Amy to win Kentucky!

Jon Ossoff vs. David Perdue : Georgia needs Jon Ossoff.

And the top of the mountain is of course Joe Biden. I caucused for Pete Buttigieg and I'm still a major fan.  I am not a huge Joe fan but I am happy to vote for him because I know he will right the shipwreck we are in right now. Encourage others to vote too so we don't end up with the non-voter apathy we had in 2016.

And if you are interested in Black Democratic candidates running right now, check out this state-by-state list in Marie Claire.









Friday, July 17, 2020

July Ramblings

I'm taking a BLM class through Iowa Safe Schools-what an amazing organization this is!  The class is great, learning a lot, and I'm almost finished. The homework keeps me busy though as I worry about school openings and life surrounding Covid numbers rising all over including Iowa.


I''m still reading Ibram X. Kendi's book and I realize I have a bad habit of setting nonfiction down in order to pick up fiction. I had a turn to stroll around our public library last week (by appointment only) and picked up the first in a mystery series by one of my favorite authors William Kent Krueger. He wrote Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land. He has 17 books in this mystery series started in 1998 and they feature an Irish/Native detective named Cork O'Connor and are set in northern Minnesota.

My book club this month is reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Murial Barbery. I'm barely half finished and it's got a lot of big words in it and I'm not really pulled into the story yet. It's interesting mind you but not like "ooh, I don't want to stop reading..." I'm also reading a book for school, Lalani of the distant sea by Erin Entrada Kelly.  I'm also still reading to a group of students using Google Classroom. I upload videos of my reading in my backyard and they listen at some point in the day. I just finished Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak and I just started Carl Hiaasen's Squirm, which is on our state award list for this coming year.


When I need a mind break I've been catching up on HBO's Insecure with Issa Rae. It's one of my favorite shows because I connect with her humor, her awkwardness, and the shit she goes through on a daily basis. I get her and I think of her like a friend. This is the perfect reason for watching shows outside of your regular comfort zone. You can learn things about people.

I'm still pretty much hunkered down at home. I venture out to the grocery store every once in awhile, fully masked up and disappointed in a world of people that can't seem to do the same. What the heck people?!? Ridiculous-we could lower our numbers if you all would just get on board. I also go to work because I've got three boxes of new books to process before school starts (if? Yes, I'm looking at you mask-less people) and I want to get them finished and do a massive clean-up there. I've only spent a couple hours total just reading away in my beloved orange hammock~I trust there will be more before the summer is over...


Sunday, July 5, 2020

I'm judging you by Luvvie Ajayi


This 228-page book is filled with love, hope, snarky humor, and a whole lot of wisdom from a young activist.  This is a library copy and I have a ton of pages "ear-marked" for re-reading or talking points. I'm gonna have to iron it before I return it to our library. Speaking of our library they are opening tomorrow for browsing by appointment!  Masks are required and very limited amount of people at the allotted time. We have one hour in the library with like 5 other people. For the last month or so they've been doing holds with curbside pick-up, which has been great but how nice to browse...I'm reminded of all that we've taken for granted.

I follow Luvvie on Instagram and thought about ordering her book but money being what it is I checked the library and was very grateful they had a copy. I love that she refers to herself as a "professional troublemaker"!  She blogs at Awesomely Luvvie and has a podcast as well. This book published in 2016 still touches on all that we are experiencing today. If she could add on a chapter concerning Covid-19 I'm sure she would. And she has a new book coming out in 2021!

I just want to give you a little taste from I'm judging you...

"Racism is not just perpetuated by the people in white hoods. It's also the well-meaning "I have Black friends" people who help it remain upright and unmovable. They refuse to see the part they play in the system because they're two busy making sure everyone knows how NOT racist they are. 
Listening to Black music and loving Beyonce does not give you a free hall pass out of the system of structural racism. Just because I enjoy a salad from time to time doesn't mean I'm a vegetarian. Being able to live w/out having to be defined by your skin color is the hallmark of privilege." (84-85)

and another: 

"So saying you don't see race is saying you have nothing to fix. 'Colorblindness' and cultural erasure help perpetuate this crappy system of oppression, because forced politeness and fear of the 'race card' trump actual work and progress. In the words of my beloved cousin (in my heart) Kerry Washington, "I'm not interested in living in a world where my race is not a part of who I am. I am interested in living in a world where our races, no matter what they are, don't define our trajectory in life." (88)

If you think at this point I'm going to quote most of the book it is a little like that...Plus I'd like to think Kerry Washington is my distant cousin as well.

In the feminism chapter she questions why can't we all get along, why do we need a dip stick to test out who can be a "real" feminist and that it isn't just reserved for white women.

"By the way, fellas, you can be feminists, too. We need more of you to say you are. That's sexy. I mean, don't say you are just to make it a pickup line. Actually believe it. Hey, boo. Call me sometime, with your respectful ass.   
Become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Stay at home and raise your children. Keep the name you've always had. Change your name to your husbands. Hyphenate it. Refuse to cook because you hate it. ...Be Martha Steward, Be Oprah.  ...Wear short shorts. Wear a cloak. Wear heels." (128)

and in the homophobia section: 

"...many of those who are yelling about the sanctity of marriage are married men who are so far in the closet that there's a lion and a witch by their favorite wing tips. Their wardrobe of denial is so deep, it can get you to Narnia. How many conservative, publicly and boldly homophobic male politicians have been found to have side dudes? More than we can count." (136)

And then there is a whole amazing chapter about religion and Luvvie identifies as Christian but definitely not the sanctimonious kind. And that's as far as I've read; I still have a couple of chapters left. I'll leave you with this last thought on who we are:

"There's power in believing that there's God in each of us because if we are made in His/Her/Their image, then aren't we all like good Horcruxes for God, because a piece of Them is in us all? (144)

Beautifully said and if we all felt that in our hearts and souls we could see each other as humans worth love and kindness and treat each other as such. I hope you had a good holiday weekend, resting and taking care of your well-being. 

I, for one, am not a champion of this holiday for to me it's like Columbus Day and why in the heck would I celebrate him.  I think we should have some new holidays and some new positive statues like John Lewis, William Monroe Trotter, or James Baldwin. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

More on being anti-racist...

I am continuing my journey to better understanding by watching and I want to share the most interesting with you.  We should keep learning and pushing ourselves while we actually work to dismantle the racist systems in place that keep people of color from succeeding at life. We need to push our schools, banks, city councils, police departments, landlords, and neighbors to do better. If you work in an area that should help more get your people on board.  If you are a parent, teacher or administrator you need to push for real change in what and how we teach. This video shares how students in the South were explicitly taught to respect the Confederate flag, and it's so-called "heritage".



Also I read this great article, When black people are in pain white people just join book clubs, by Tre Johnson in The Washington Post about how easily white people dismiss the struggle. I feel like I'm stuck in this myself by how much information I'm taking in yet in order to be a better ally and teacher I have to understand how and what to say. I was asked to be on our district's equity committee, which I understand has been in place for years w/out getting much done, so we are still dealing with a lot of old/same hurt, outrage, and anger.

Teaching Hard History in K-5 is a webinar I watched from the Teaching Tolerance website, which is filled with valuable resources. This webinar already took place but if you register they will send you a link to it within a few minutes. I'm going to keep an eye on other webinars they may host as I would like to be part of the real-time Q/A




This video with Emmanuel Acho is helpful and he has several others to watch. I either stumbled upon this one or someone shared it on their FB feed.  It's shocking that people still don't understand the mental trauma and racist systems that Black people have experienced. This is one of many areas where the race has not been fair for generations. I encourage you to subscribe and take a look at each of his videos.

And one last one that I found on our list of resources for the school equity committee about micro aggressions. I love the dialogue that happens in this particular classroom. My head cannot wrap around things that people say out loud; like stop people and think before you speak and also how about a little mind-you-own-business! What would it look like to be more welcoming and accepting of people who don't look just like you.



Be kind out there and seriously do better. There are many ways to get involved and help even if just by donating or making phone calls. 8 can't wait is a great tool to help you. Breonna Taylor's murderers are still out there and here is a good article talking about this. And Elijah McClain in Colorado. We need to stop this before the list continues to grow...
Thank you for continuing on this journey with me...

Monday, June 22, 2020

Books give much needed insight...

Between Spring Break and Covid-19 (still happening) I've been doing some reading which is not something new for me but my book numbers have definitely increased. Reading books by Black authors has always been important to me. It's like traveling or meeting new people; I appreciate learning and understanding about culture, people and places.

I prefer fiction and have learned from books like Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. I am appreciative of  Jacqueline Woodson, Renee Watson, Angie Thomas, Aisha Saeed, Sharon M. Draper,  Nic Stone, and Hena Khan. Mildred D. Taylor is one of my favorite authors with her Logan family series about life in segregated Mississippi. All have enlightening me on their own race experiences through fiction. There is one scene in Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen that helped me feel what it was like to be approached by an officer.  I could feel her fear.  Me reading that in no way gives me the real experience yet it gave me a huge sense of the negative adrenaline rush if your driving while Black.

I am reading How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi and I find it interesting to learn about the history of racism and I'm waiting on White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo from the library. I want to read I'm judging you by Luvvie Ajayi. Non-fiction takes me forever though like I'm still working chapter by chapter through Eat to Beat Disease-fantastic book but does not call to me in the same way.

It's the fiction stories that fly by for me and teach me about another person's experience.


Jerry Craft's graphic novel New Kid: demonstrates how horrifying school can be for students of color because of teachers, administrators and students.  I am so glad this one won a Newberry Medal and hope that opens it up for more readership.


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I liked Between the world and me and thought this beautiful fiction writing was an amazing piece of magical realism that brought new depth to the time of slavery. I look forward to whatever Coates writes next.


The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: Native dystopian about how we continue to dehumanize and hunt Indigenous people. Well-told story and I fell in love with some of the characters and wanted to read more...

I can make this promise by Christine Day: I purchased this book for school and read it right away. There are not many realistic fiction books about BIPOC and this debut book shares the difficult times today that Edie experiences through bullying, misappropriation of Native stories and artifacts and her own curiosity about her ancestors.

Genesis begins again by Alicia D. Williams: Also ordered through school and brought it home straight out of the box. This amazing debut book talks about the hard topic of skin color through the eyes of Genesis who has dark skin tone like her father and she wishes so much she were light-skinned like her mother. The learning that went on as Genesis tries to figure out her life was mind-blowing for both of us. She gets such mixed messages from family, friends, and enemies that it's hard for her to know what is real. She tries bleaching and whitening creams and relaxers and plays mind games with herself. So good.

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely: Jason Reynolds has a gift.  This alternating POV narrative sat on my shelf for awhile bc I ordered for school just because it was Jason but then read a review that said it was better suited for high school. It is but only due to some perfectly placed swear words. This story places three people at the scene of a crime; Rashad the victim and Quinn the bystander as a police officer over-the-top reacts to a simple misunderstanding and wrestles Rashad to the ground, pummeling him into submission over a bag of potato chips.  Rashad spends time in the hospital as his family,  friends, neighbors, and basketball team come to grips with what really happened.

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington: I finished this book just last night; its a powerful story of adopted Makeda living with her white family in the desert as her adoptive mom struggles with mental health.  It's difficult for children to not take the burden of their parent's anger and frustration and Makeda and her sister Eve spend too much time parenting their mother as their papa travels overseas playing for the symphony. Makeda dreams of her birth mom as she tries to deal with racism in her everyday life in New Mexico.

I encourage you to go out and find these books either at your public library or a small independent book store. Here is a list of Black-owned book stores for you to access. I'm not a fan of Amazon until they pay their fair share of taxes-I understand Bezos is willing to lose customers because he supports the Black Lives Matter movement but I 'd like to see that in taxes back or better work support, unions, etc. Right now as our smaller stores work to recover from Covid closures its a great time to support them.



Thursday, June 18, 2020

Where is the love? asks Laverne Cox



Some days I have no words for what is going on in these United States of America. Other days I am bursting with words and often cursing is involved. What the !@#$* are we going through and why isn't it fixed already? How is it possible that people are simply not enlightened enough to treat everyone they meet with respect? I realize this is simplistic for the racial strife our country has experienced since the first European settlers arrived on the shores of this beautiful land. The first settlements of people stuck it to the Native tribes and then when our ancestors needed help building the country up they stole people from a far away country and forced them into a caste system that continues to keep Black and other people of BIPOC as marginalized citizens, lesser than their white counterparts, continuing the history of slavery through our police forces, banking systems, and government structures. I cannot even say his name anymore but the man living in the WH who has specifically shut down the plan to rid military bases of Confederate names...I have no words for that $#%^&.

I am staying informed by listening to various podcasts, live webinars via Zoom, and Instagram BLM moments.  I started following Kendrick Sampson on IG (kendrick38) because I love Issa Rae's Insecure on HBO and Kendrick is leading the LA BLM protests and he is fierce. I heard him first on Kerry Washington's account after she lead a short yoga session.  I am getting inspiration from Tori Williams Douglass's podcast White Homework as well as Brene Brown's Unlocking Us. Yesterday I listened to a new episode of Unlocking Us with Laverne Cox and heard about her new Netflix documentary Disclosure dropping this Friday night! After the deaths of Riah Milton and Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells I think this is an important piece of information for better understanding.

I cannot say that George Floyd's death started this all because it's been deeply brewing for quite awhile but I am grateful that an uprising may come out of this event. Every time I've been part of a "moment of silence" for George Floyd those almost 9 minutes drag out and cause me to cry because it's a long fucking time. It shows me intent from that officer to do great harm. It is a dehumanizing act.

I am also reading a ton of books and I'll save that list for another post...

Stay brave, Stay kind, Stay informed~Think outside your everyday life. Empathy is such an important skill. Err on the side of positive through action...