Seeds of Change

I went to the grocery store the other day. Happened to notice all of the Uncle Ben’s rice boxes were gone. Most shelves were empty.

Mrben

Please don’t fret if you are a big fan of the rice. It will be back! Same taste. Just a bit of rebranding. The company made the announcement that it is removing the image of “Uncle Ben” who is the Black man on the box.

Here is the company’s statement.

“Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our Associates and our partners in the fight for social justice,” Mars said. “We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us — individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world.”

If this really bothers someone or if it matters to them personally-like interfering with a cherished memory of parboiled rice on the kitchen table-I’d ask them just one thing.

“Why?”

As I was strolling down the aisle that day I did happen to notice something else. The shelves weren’t totally empty. Up on the top there were still a few boxes. No, not Uncle Ben’s. Those are totally gone. These were called,”Seeds of Change.”

Mrben

We all have a choice.

Keep things the same. Or be the seeds of change.

History Matters

Happy Father’s Day.

My dad died five years ago and I think of him all the time. Many folks are experiencing the first Father’s Day without their Dad. It’s tough. And a lot of us know exactly how you are feeling today. Sending big hugs.

One of the many things I miss about Dad is our frequent conversations about family history and genealogy.

I became obsessed with genealogy more than a decade ago. Mine and anyone else’s family history! I was completely fascinated with so many narratives. Reading old newspapers and veering off into the stories of strangers. As a result I learned. So much. Still learning.

Came across this story during my research.

It’s about a woman named Charity Palmer Southgate who lived in Falmouth, Pendleton County, Kentucky. Not a story you hear every day in the African-American narrative.

Most of the Black population of Falmouth descends from Charity. I was fortunate to correspond with one of her descendants who is an African-American playwright and author.

I copied the following excerpt from a history site.

The story of Charity Southgate is based on information compiled by Pendleton County Circuit Clerk Marvin Sullivan.

The story starts about 1806 or 1807 in Louden County, Va., where a woman named Patsy gave birth to a daughter.

Patsy, whose last name was spelled various ways in legal documents as Parmer, Palmour and Palmer, had been living in the home of her brother-in-law Robert Foster.

The birth was treated as a family disgrace. Not only was the woman apparently not married, but the father of her child was apparently a black, a house servant of Foster.

The family moved the child, named Charity, to Bardstown when the girl was 2 or 3 years old. She lived there with the family of a man named Asher Pullen until about 1822 when Jonathan Reid appeared, armed with a power of attorney papers signed by Philip L. Palmour. The letter authorized Reid to take possession of the girl, which he did. He moved her to Falmouth where she was placed in the custody of Samuel Wilson.

The girl, who apparently had not been treated as slave up to that point, was treated as a slave by Wilson. With the aid of a friend, Joshua Powell, Charity filed suit in 1824 asking the court to declare her a free woman.

That began a 26-year court battle with several legal issues raised.

Among the legal issues was the question of exactly who her parents were. If the accounts of second-hand witnesses were true about the birth to a white woman than the issue was raised as to whether Charity was born a free woman because her mother was white.

It was fairly common at the time for children to be born with a white slave owner as the father and a black slave woman as the mother. In those cases the child was usually considered a slave because the mother was black. But the situation was reversed in Charity’s case.

If Charity was legally a slave, there was the question of testimony that her “owner or guardian” had declared Charity was to be held as a slave only until she reached the age of 28.

While the court battle waged, Charity apparently was sold twice – once to Andrew S. Hughes and then by him to Martin Willett. Records also mention a daughter, Lucy, who was sold as a slave.

Charity apparently had another daughter by a black man and a son by a white man. Then she apparently married a black man named Allen Southgate, with whom she had several children.

Those relationships explain the differences in the way some of her children are listed on a 1850 Pendleton County census.

In that census her oldest daughter living at home, Rebecca, 25, is listed as black; the oldest son, Elsey Hughes, 23, is listed as a mulatto like his mother; while the other children, all with the last name of Southgate, are listed as black like their father, Allen Southgate, who was identified as a 45 year old laborer. Charity at the time was 42 years old.

The Southgate children were listed as Charlotte, 20; Amy, 18; Lucinda, 16; Polley Ann, 14; John A., 12; Abraham, 10; Edmund, 6; and Minerva, 4.

Also listed as living with the Southgate family in 1850 was a white man, John Morgan, who was 70.

The records are confusing but the courts apparently eventually declared Charity a free woman. She died in the spring of 1868.

Next two paragraphs were written by her descendant.

Charity was born a free woman of color (she was sold into slavery (illegally) at the age of 16 by someone representing her white maternal family. (Charity was the daughter of a white woman and a man of color).

Charity (with the help of a white attorney friend) pleaded her “legal free status” for years until she won. She won the case because it was proven she was the daughter of a white woman in Virginia. (Not that she was simply half white). Charity knew that children of color born to white women, by law, were considered free because white women were free. Charity got her freedom back because she was specifically the daughter of a white woman.

Very interesting case.

History matters and while much of it can be painful every one needs to learn it.

Right?

There is, in my state, a curriculum on African-American history that was created by a commission five years ago. Just sitting there waiting.
The curriculum is not just about slavery although that is how the story begins for African-Americans. I have written, as others have, to my Representative in the House, asking for support. It is just a matter of providing legislation to authorize RIDE (Department of Education) to include this. The Representative has already responded and said she has taken the issue up with another House colleague. A woman of color and a Providence teacher. Will keep me posted.

History matters.

It is really difficult to hear so many ugly things being said in this current environment. I am here to tell you (no surprise) that racism is definitely out there. Make no bones about it. Everywhere. North. South. East. West. So there needs to be a change.

But can racist adults change their way of thinking? One person told me there is absolutely no way racists can change. 100% guaranteed me. I don’t know if that’s true but….

If not-then how do we combat this? So people do feel safe. So their children feel safe. So they feel like valued members of their communities.

Maybe, just maybe, teaching every child in our Public School System the history, trials, tribulations and contributions of African-Americans will allow those little people to grow and embrace (not just tolerate) our differences. And be adults who appreciate inclusion and not divisiveness.

Here’s hoping!

It’s definitely worth a shot.

Note: My support of the curriculum was as a result of listening to the voice of someone who was on the commission that created the curriculum.

Just Do It

I know you are thinking, “That Mary sure is busy writing.”

You are not wrong. And I’m sticking to one topic.

Writing helps me release my thoughts in a healthy way. Instead of duking it out on social media like the president. Which I have also done.

So many people want to help their fellow citizens and just don’t know where to begin.

Listen to their voices when they tell you the ways to support them.

Then just do it.

Or do like this lady.

blmlady

First weekend of protests in Providence. Most marchers were in the city center. This lady, all alone, stood in front of the Providence Police Station, holding that sign.

After The Casserole

When the death of George Floyd occurred I was outraged. Just like many American people. We watched him die. This was no video game. This was a living/dying nightmare.

So what can I do? As a white person?

I can march and show solidarity. That’s important.

But then what?

The way I view marches/protests is this. I liken it to a death.

Everyone gathers immediately to support the bereaved. Show up at the wake. Attend the funeral. Leave the casserole. Order flowers. Make a donation. Be the emotional support that the mourner needs at that very difficult time.

But then what?

Everyone goes back to their own lives. They’ve fulfilled their obligation. It’s just the way of things.

The mourner, however, is all alone-after a week of frenetic emotional activity. And their life is now very different.

Let’s all be mindful of the time ahead. That is when we will be needed and there will be plenty to do.

We cannot allow our flames of passion to be extinguished once the protests have stopped. Because if we do nothing then we are just waiting for the next death. That’s a guarantee.

The casserole is appreciated and necessary. But what happens after the casserole is also appreciated and necessary.

Exhausted

blmbristol

Black people are telling us they are exhausted. Of racism. Of having to comfort their children. Of schooling them on ways not to get hurt or killed. Of fearing for their safety.

I’m white and I’m already exhausted just after the last month. I can’t imagine what they must feel.

I’m going back and forth with people on social media, in person, etc. and this is what is getting to me. People are so steadfast in their opinion and not budgeable (not sure if that is a word but I like it and it’s staying) in any way.

But wait, Mary, you are also stubborn and have strong views! You’re not really budgeable either!

That’s only partly true. I am prone to a stubbornness on some matters and I am passionate. But I am budgeable.

Every day I am trying to grow. Reflect. Help. Listen to others who are begging to be heard. I read.

I am fifty-five years old and I am trying.

I just don’t understand the inability or lack of desire to engage in thoughtful dialogue. Or to do anything at all.

Our vice-president, when pressed during a meeting, resisted saying, “Black Lives Matter.” He instead said, “All Lives Matter.”

Leaders have an impact.

My cousin in Northern Ireland (a place once riddled with violence, oppression, prejudice and a minority Catholic population) told me that change has to start from the bottom up and not the top down. It has become quite apparent that this is true.

So there is hard work ahead for all of us.

Cousin also told me that it does no good speaking to people who already think like me. Also true.

So there is hard work ahead for all of us.

What can we do? How can we help our fellow citizens?

We can start by doing something very simple.

Listen.

The Difference

Recently, I had an on-line interaction. A Facebook friend had posted a thing about policemen. In support, of course. The tough job they have and all that goes along with it.

I was on a Grand Jury for six weeks and I saw with my own eyes, what the police deal with on a daily basis. Examples might be child abuse, rape, assault, gangs, murders, etc. Can’t go into detail because they are secret proceedings. But seeing and hearing testimony is not like reading it in the newspaper. Trust me on that.

But here is the thing. We have witnessed, on camera/video, the deaths of Black folks (mostly males) at the hands of the American police. Hopefully, with the video footage, justice will eventually be served. Hopefully, we can somehow ensure this never happens again.

People are coming out in droves to support the police. A few bad apples in every bunch. So many good ones out there doing the best they can. Don’t judge them all by a couple of rogue cops.

My point is this-and my comment to the person was along the lines-don’t worry about the police. Rogue or not. They have union support. Media support. Community support. Brotherhood support. I truly believe this. Especially in my state.

They are absolutely fortunate to have that support.

So let them get to work on cleaning up their houses. Revamping policies or/and procedures. I don’t think any police department wants their employees splashed across the media due to abuse or have to experience unrest in their cities. So they are perfectly willing to make changes if they can.

Please stop dragging them into every posting on social media.

I am tired of people stealing someone else’s air time. And making it theirs. The people who are posting the police stories on their social media are not usually posting anything at all about racial injustice. Or they say they support both but never actually post anything individually about the movement for justice in our country.

So, this friend of the friend (a stranger to me) types, “I hope you never need them (the police) and blah, blah, blah.”

We have got to do better. It’s not about choosing one side or the other. It is about supporting those in our society who are screaming and dying for help.

I might need the police one day. And I won’t be afraid to call them. They’re supposed to help me. I trust that they will not hurt me. I, as a white person, trust them wholly. That’s our society. That’s my personal bias. My experience.

So, is it wrong for me to say (and know) that the police are not the marginalized folks here in America today?

This doesn’t make me anti-police. At all.

This makes me honest. Today.

Please know the difference.

Positive Change

How can I (or anyone) take action, to help my fellow countrymen/women, in a positive way?

First of all we need to be honest. And that is really, really hard.

Racism is alive and well in the United States. I don’t have to tell you that. Just turn on the television.

Someone asked me, at a socially distanced barbeque, what percentage of Americans I thought are actually racist. I quickly pulled out a 99% and I included myself in that number. The person who asked the question-along with my husband-did not agree with me.

Maybe I should use the word biased and not racist. Everyone has some bias. Not our fault. It’s in our politics. In our growing up years. In our society. Inherently. We don’t even notice it.

There lies the rub. We don’t even notice it.

We need to notice it. In order to create change we need to take notice and start questioning.

Not too long ago there were only white males in power or positions of authority. We (white people) didn’t even think about it. Until we did. And made changes.

I will share a story from my beloved father’s own mouth. He wasn’t telling me out of pride.

My mother, a bright lady, was a Registered Nurse. She skipped a grade in elementary school, graduated high school and was soon in the nursing program at a Rhode Island hospital. She loved her job and her nursing friends. I can still remember one evening, while I was upstairs in bed, hearing them while they laughed and smoked. I think that is probably the first time I also became aware of someone who was gay. One of Mom’s nurse friends.

Mom worked on the first heart/lung machine in Rhode Island. She also taught others. Pretty cool stuff.

My Dad was always so very proud of her. Almost to his dying day, if he was at a Drs. appointment-hers or his, he always mentioned that she was a nurse.

In the 1960s, when my parents married, three kids quickly arrived on the scene.

So, back then, life gets a bit tricky. And my mom was going to have to quit or cut back hours.

Dad told me, that a male Doctor from the hospital actually called him on the telephone. Asking if Mom could still work. Dad nicely and respectfully told the Doctor that they had a growing family.

When I was listening to my Dad tell this story I was sort of shocked. My stomach kind of lurched. I felt terrible for my mom (although she did work as a nurse part-time for years before going full-time again) -that the decision was not really hers.

I appreciated my father sharing that with me across their dining room table. I also appreciated that in the 1950s and 1960s things looked a whole lot different for women.

Did my Dad’s views change as he got older? Of course, they did.

Why?

Because people took notice and things changed for women.

But how many years had passed before someone noticed?

Now is the time for all of us to pay attention and listen.

Most importantly it is time to take notice.

Juneteenth

I trust that you have all established some type of routine in this time of Covid. I sincerely hope that you are all healthy and well.

Today is “Juneteenth.” This unofficial holiday commemorates the day, in 1865, that a proclamation was finally delivered in Texas. It was announced that the slaves were free.

When I say slaves I mean Black people who were taken from Africa and brought to America.

Taken.

They weren’t packing their bags for the long journey, double checking their itinerary and looking forward to exploring a new place.

These people were stripped of everything. Their homeland. Their families. Their Moms and Dads. Their children. Their religion. Their culture. Their language.

And then abused in a foreign land for decades and decades.

I am currently doing research on a family that had ties to a town called Falmouth in Pendleton County, Kentucky. The amount of “Mulattos” in any one family (on census reports) is astonishing and sickening. Because we all know what that means. We are not talking about love stories. Women were raped and impregnated by their owners or other white men. That’s a fact.

So today is a day which should be a cause for celebration. Weirdly.

And yet, the African-American experience is not even taught during the academic year in all U.S. public schools.

I am going to continue to write about this issue in each posting. It is time for me to reflect and figure out how I personally can take action to promote positive change.

It is time for all Americans to reflect.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

To my Black friends and fellow Americans-I hope this year brings positive change in your lives and the lives of your families. I stand with you.

#8 Delete

One thing that I am sure you all noticed once this pandemic hit. The amazing amount of emails sitting in your in-box. Basically businesses sending a “How we are responding to COVID-19” message.

Started off slowly. I received an email from the following:

The Optometry Center in Texas where my daughter (now twenty-eight years old and hasn’t lived in Dallas since she was in ninth grade)once had an eye exam.

A mom group selling spirit wear. Also from the grand old state of Texas when my daughter was in Middle School.

Tempo Air. Again from our Dallas days. Those fellas were in high demand at our house and regularly scheduled.

Realtors from our Southern California years. Left there in 2012.

And then came the onslaught.

Megabus. Airlines. Parishes. Restaurants. Delivery services. Theaters. Groceries. Charities. Department of State. Blogs. Blood Banks. Social media sites. Tourist spots. Hotels. Inns. Travel sites. Local shops. Schools. Universities. Sports teams. Cultural groups. Gyms. Genealogy sites. Museums. Petition groups. Social justice causes. Voting information. Banks. Craft sites. Auction houses. Utilities. Book stores. Clubs.

Etcetera!

Not just me, right?

I’ve received correspondence from anyone (and everyone) I might have nodded at or greeted in the last fifteen years!

Honestly, why does the government even need an app to track our whereabouts? Here’s my email address. This is a contact tracing of my life. Just gonna leave it right there.

There is a positive side to this. Besides taking me on a trip down memory lane! It provided me with an opportunity to get organized. I unsubscribed from many of these lists and then deleted the mail. Took the time (a little bit each day) to bang these bad boys out, resulting in a much tidier in-box. Saving me time in the future.

Feeling better already!

Have a lovely weekend and stay safe.

#7 Release

Hope everyone is enjoying their Friday and looking forward to the weekend.

Of course, you might be at home like me and the weekend looks alarmingly like Tuesday or Wednesday. I am sure, one day soon, the days will once again define our weeks in a real way.

In the meantime, release your inner artist! I know there are some who are reading this and thinking, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.”

I’m not talking about whipping out supplies and painting a beautiful landscape.

It could be as simple as crayons and a coloring book. Painting a flower pot. Making stakes for an herb garden.

You will find moments of peace.

We chose rocks. I know my girls probably thought it was goofy at first. But they later said it was therapeutic.

First we painted some for a friend of ours who recently lost her husband. We made plant markers for the garden that he once tended with his little grandsons.

rocks1

Then I painted a bunch for my garden so I will actually remember what’s what!

rocks

I know that there won’t be any prizes for “Artist of the Year” awarded but it was a nice, calming way to pass a little time.

So, release your inner artist. Have a lovely Tuesday! Oops! Have a fabulous weekend!

Stay safe.