Click and See if You are Man Enough to #EvolveTheDefinition

While watching television today I saw an advertisement that spoke to me. It made the hairs on my arm stand up and by the end of it I was smiling. I was completely shocked when when I saw what company was behind the ad. Typically there are just a few types of commercials that consistently make me emotional: Apple with their yearly Christmas commercial, Publix Commercials, Proctor & Gamble Olympics commercials, and Super Bowl Commercials. These companies make commercials that are happy and sappy and make you you tear up. This commercial, however, made me emotional in weird way. I was happy, and sad, and insecure, and optimistic all at the same time. And of all the companies with the potential to make me emotional, I was not expecting it from the clothing company Bonobos. Watch the commercial and then I will unpack my feelings.

I really like this commercial for several reasons, the first and foremost of which is the innate simplicity of the commercial. The next thing that immediately that jumps out to Preppy-Shoesme is the multi leveled types of diversity that the commercial employs. In addition to having equal amounts of races and ethnicities present throughout the entire commercial (and having them accurately and fairly portrayed no less!) the commercial features a fairly wide variety of ages and body types as well. That may sound odd to consider that a point of celebration in a Men’s Clothing company commercial, but when you look at ad campaigns for similar companies (see picture) they don’t look like me – the average American man. I don’t have a jaw law or a chin chiseled from marble. Or abs. Or biceps. Or calves for that matter. Actually, I take that back. I like my calves. Check ’em out next time you see me. And While I don’t think I’m ugly or undateable or anything like that (I know I am a catch), I do know I do not fit into the mold of a traditionally physically attractive man.

All those things aside though, the message of the commercial is what I hope resonates with you the most – it sure did resonate with me. Now that I am sitting here thinking about it, watching the commercial was the first time I have ever truly reflected on just how God-awful-terrible the definition of masculine happens to be. In case you need a refresher, here it is below.

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Why would anyone in their right mind want to be known as that at all. The only thing that even sounds half-way descent about that is the strength part. I don’t want to be known as aggressive. I feel like that gives off a negative, mean, rapist type of vibe. Everything I have read about Harvey Weinstein suggests that would be an appropriate word for him, but when I think of the positive traits of masculinity that is not the first one that comes to my head. Words like confident or determined come to mind. The way he carries himself and the way he treats his partner (whether she be a woman or a man). That is sexy masculinity – in my opinion at least.

In addition to all of that why are we even concerning ourselves with what has been traditionally defined as being associated with men? Why aren’t we passed the era in the world where blue is for boys and pink is for girls? Where women are nurses and men are engineers? Or worse yet, where the woman is chained to the sink only to be called out to make a sandwich for her husband when he wishes it? Why does everyone suddenly freak out if a little girl wants to play with hot wheels or a boy wants to play with Barbie dolls? Please tell me how that little boy is somehow not masculine enough? Or the little girl not feminine enough? The only thing we are doing by continuing to perpetuate the antiquated and outdated ideals of what is masculinity is harming both boys and girls of the future. You may scoff and tell me I am overreacting, but I don’t think so. Axe recently waded into the conversation with a brilliant commercial. So have NBC News, Karamo Brown from Netflix’s Queer Eye, and Tedx Talks from around the country.

While you might not think about it, continuing to push for this toxic masculinity has done two things. It has told the little boys out there who know they don’t fit society’s traditional type of masculinity that they should hide it, be ashamed of it, or that there is something wrong with them. But they aren’t broken toys from some plastic toy mold. They are uniquely and exactly who they are supposed to be- their true self. It is not just the boys that are being harmed, either. When we talk about feminine, you never see or picture in the back of your mind a woman as a scientist or an outspoken women who tells you her opinions on political issues as sexy. She is pushy, bitchy, or bossy (As if that’s a bad thing). Our current version of masculinity teaches boys they are superior to women instead of teaching them how to process feelings like anger and jealous, and I would go so far as to wager that this is what landed us smack dab in the middle of the #MeToo movement as well.

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Is he really that insecure about his height? Are we really that insecure that it bothers us to see the journalist as taller than the baseball player?

On a personal note, I have been a part of this debate for over 10 years now. And I have one word to thank for it: Faggot. In a weird way, the word faggot is interesting to me. The first time I heard that name hurled at me I was a freshman in high school and it hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. I wasn’t 100% sure what it entailed, but I knew it was not something you wanted to be called. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve been called that word before – certainly not as many times as some have, but more than I ever cared to count. You get used to it and then if you are a history person like me you just tell the people who yelled “faggot!” at you from across the street that the original definition of faggot is a bundle of twigs bound together ultra tight with flammable cloth and that these bundles of twigs were sometimes used to light up the tunnels of the Roman Coliseum, but sometimes they used actual gay people instead of the twig bundles. That sorta takes all the fun out of their “insult,” and If you say it in one massive run-on sentence like that it has the ability to make you sound super academic and smart.

Eventually it doesn’t phase you because you grow into your own skin and start realizing your not the one with the problem, they are. For some reason even though they are the masculine ones who are strong and aggressive, the sight of a man who portrays some qualities that could potentially be associated as feminine threaten them. If you are the top of man who won’t wear a pink or lavender polo you really need to think about your self esteem issues and how they relate to you and your masculinity, because at the end of the day, that has nothing to do with me or any other man that doesn’t fit your definition of masculinity. To prove that, my last two points are going to come from people who would not traditionally be considered harbingers of masculinity.

 

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The picture to the left is of Kameron Michaels, a man who lived a normal life and had a normal job in Nashville before recently finding fame as part of a show you might not know based on his traditionally masculine look. Kameron Michaels was a contestant on the most recent season (11, I think?) of Rupaul’s Drag Race, and before some of you ask, yes that is the show with Rupaul, and yes, that is the show that is basically American Idol for drag queens. Sidebar: If you have not heard of Rupaul and Rupaul’s drag race you must have been locked in that bunker with Kimmie Schmitt so I suggest you start trying to catch up.  The pictures below will show you what Kameron Michael looked at most of the time during the season as the show was filming. In addition to being a kick ass lip sync assassin (which you can see here, here, and the best one of all time here), Kameron exudes masculinty and feminity throughout all of his performances because masculinity and femininity aren’t something you either are or you are not – it is a constantly sliding and evolving scale. That is part of what makes sexuality so fun. If you still have issues with it though, I would tread carefully- I am pretty sure Kameron can take care of herself if you feel like name calling.

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The last point I am going to make comes from another contestant on a different season of Rupaul’s Drag Race. When Latrice Royale was asked what she wanted to accomplish by coming on the show and what she wanted to tell people she had this to say:

I love this. Nothing says silencing your haters in a way that doesn’t involve violence, a jail cell, or a ton of extra work like keeping your head down, knowing whats in your heart, and succeeding in the one life you get. So to the men out there who have never been able to see themselves in society’s definition of masculinity, know I feel like that sometimes too. More importantly, however, to the younger boys and teenagers who feel weird, or different, or not enough – know that your weirdness is something you will embrace one day, what makes you different is what will give you your strength, and that you are exactly the amount that you are supposed to be. When they come for you over who you are, just smile – and tell them to eat it!

-WB

Dear Jo, An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling

b38a75aec6.pngIt seems weird to be writing you for the first time, because I feel like I have known you for far longer – 20 years to be exact. Even though I haven’t written before, I wanted to take a second to write you now and say two things. The first one of those would be Happy Birthday to both you and to Harry! I hope today is as magical for you as the series has been to me.

The second thing I wanted to say is far less easier to put into words so please forgive me if I ramble- I am far less eloquent with words than you are. It would be impossible for me to truly tell you what the magic of Harry Potter has brought to my life, the lives of my brothers, and so many other people we care about. My only hope with this letter is to give you the smallest of ideas as to how much your world has influenced us in becoming the people we are today.

20 years ago I was a overly dramatic 9 year old who knew nothing about the world of Harry Potter. It was not until 2 years later when the second book came out that a family friend who was an elementary school teacher recommended the book series to me. As 11 year old Harry was introduced to life at Hogwarts I was being introduced to life with him. Over the past two decades I have relished the book release parties, movie premieres, Harry Potter Trivia competitions, quidditch tournaments, and debates about which death was the hardest to take (for the record, I still have not forgiven you for the death of Dobby). I have two sets of the series – my original copies and my updated copies. My original copies are so dog-eared worn that many are falling apart at the seems. Every time I open up the covers of those original copies and see the handwritten notes from my grandmother and great aunt (they bought me most of my originals) it brings a smile to my face.

Just like Harry, there have been ups and downs in my life. I have been through the loss of loved ones, fights with my best friends, first loves, and becoming an adult. The one constant in my life throughout all of that has been the beautifully magical escape that you brought to the world. Growing up as Harry grew up we often faced difficulties at the same time, but there were many times when Harry faced something before I did. Being lucky enough to have all 4 grandparents until the age of 26 I had not experienced the death of someone I loved deeply like Harry had. I struggled at first with his death, but not long after I re-read The Prisoner of Azkaban for the umpteenth time. When I read the quote from Dumbledore below, it changed my outlook and allowed me to move on through my grieving process. you-think-the-dead-we-loved-ever-truly-leave-1

My brothers and I have many similarities and many differences in our lives. Being 4 years older than one and 6 years older than the other we didn’t have very many similar interests all at the same time other than swim team and Harry Potter. Even in our love of Harry Potter we are different from one another. I was sorted into Slytherin. My middle brother was sorted into Gryffindor and my oldest brother was sorted into Hufflepuff. We playfully tease each other about our houses, but when I look the characteristics that make up each of the houses, they oddly match each of us perfectly. My middle brother is strong and has quite a bit of nerve while my youngest brother is kind, loyal, and hardworking. I was originally disappointed with my sorting into Slytherin, but as I have aged two things have changed. With age has come my view that ambition, cunningness, and self-preservation were not traits that had to be viewed as deceitful or negative, but traits that had be used in the right way for the right purpose. Sirius was a shining example of how our life’s choice can define the type of person we become.

 

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As a teacher, Harry Potter speaks to me on another personal level as well. The school I teach at has students who face socio-economic difficult situations on a daily basis. Many students are dealing with situations that would leave me curled up on the floor in the fetal position. But those same students come to school and work hard. In the world you created, education is important and many of my kids know that. I am inspired by them and their accomplishments on a daily basis. It is the reason I get out of bed in the morning and it is the reason I work so hard to make my classroom and my school exactly what Hogwarts was to Harry – a safe, warm, and inviting home that will always welcome them. You have also provided me with the easiest proof of a lesson I have to teach far too often. Many high school students today use profanity far to often. I think it is because it makes them feel grown up or cool. Each time I hear the words used in a flippant manner I always tell my students the same thing: save those words for when you really mean it, because if you use them all the time the word has no weight behind it. When they look at me puzzled all I do is describe the battle of Hogwarts and tell them Mrs. Weasley’s now infamous line. I tell them part of the reason it is so remembered and known is because it is one of the only times I can remember in the series that there is a word that is considered “profanity.” (and if you don’t tell my principal I will secretly tell you that I play the clip for them on YouTube).

In my early twenties, I would have other coworkers or friends who are muggles ask why I was so obsessed with Harry Potter. The verbosity that flowed through my lips was so quick and so loud that I am sure few people could understand what I was saying. After I would calm down and tell them as plain as I could. Harry Potter at this point has been a part of my life longer than he has not. He has taught me many great lessons. And most importantly, he has taken me on a great adventure. When I was done, some people would get it, and some people would not – and that is ok because I don’t need them to understand. I know what it has meant to me, and so does Harry. And that is enough.

Before I go I did want to say one more thing. The world we presently live in is not always the world we wished it was. Sometimes the world we occupy is sad, and frightening, and mean, and cruel, and unjust. If there is one thing the people of Harry Potter have done time and time again it is speak up and speak out against those things. Time and time again I watched the characters of Harry Potter do this. I watched Sirius do it by going against his own family. Neville did it time and time again when he stood up to his friends. Albus Dumbledore did it against the wizarding government. Severus Snape sacrificed his life for it. In addition to these important people, I have watched time and time again as you continue to speak out and speak up against the injustices of our world and those who seek to further it. Watching you speak up against the travesty that is my country’s president at the moment and other important causes has given me and so many others the courage to find our own voice and speak out. You have given us permission to use our voices as our wands to bring light to the darkness and those trapped by it.

After 20 years together saying thank you doesn’t feel like enough. It feels so inadequate, but I have nothing else to give, and I know you wouldn’t want it even if I did. You have given this muggle world far more magic than it sometimes deserves. In  another 20 years you can expect another letter from me to build on this one. God willing, if I live another twenty after that you can expect a third letter. And just like Dumbledore asked Snape, people who don’t understand will look and ask “After all that time?” My response will be the same as the response Severus gave – ALWAYS!

With great love and admiration,

Wynne Boliek

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Demi’s Disease and America’s Apathy

Over the past few days I have watched the train wreck that has been Demi Lovato’s overdose; and let me be clear – when I say train wreck I mean the discussion of Demi Lovato’s private life with anyone outside her family, inner circle of friends, and the media. I have watched as shows like Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, and “reputable” news organizations like NBC and CNN have reported misinformation, untruths, and disgusting speculations. It is almost as if they are celebrating an earth-shattering event in the private life of someone for sport.

What has disheartened me more than the media’s ass backward’s commentary has been the comments from average Americans as the relate to both a celebrity struggling with addiction and as they relate to the disease that is addiction. It is 2018. Doctors and scientists have studied, investigated, and released reports ad nauseam. Just about every report or study has told us virtually the same thing – addiction is something we don’t fully understand, but we do know enough to state that it is a lifelong chronic disease that is very hard to beat. So all you Judge Judys shouting for people to stop being lazy, put the crack pipe down, and get off the couch so you can find a job can have several seat, pick up a book on addiction and educate yourselves.

I minored in sociology while I was in college. After the intro to sociology class I took at Clemson I had to take 5 more upper level sociology classes. I tell you this not to try and prove that I am an expert in the field because I am NOT. However, I am interested in the subject and that is what led me to choose 3 of those 5 classes on addiction and substance abuse issues. The professor who taught those three classes and the information I learned while studying the information changed my thoughts on addiction, mental health, treatment for substance abuse, and criminal justice involving drugs in this nation.

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Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world that she is an addict. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world numerous times what she does to stay sober. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world how hard it is to stay sober. Demi Lovato has bravely shared with the world that she has relapsed. We should get one thing very clear about that last sentence:

Demi Lovato is NOT a morally weak person or failure in life because she suffered a relapse!

What do addiction, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and high cholesterol all have in common? All of those chronic conditions has relapse rates that fall in between 40%-60% chance of having a relapse in the condition at least one time after diagnosis.¹ None of those other conditions carries the same stigma that addiction has. None of the people suffering from high cholesterol or asthma are looked at like degenerates or moral failures that those who are battling addiction do. It is wrong and unfair to label these people as weak and cast them out of society. They are not lepers and we have got to do more to first, change the conversation on addiction and second, help this people who are struggling get back on the road to recovery again.

Addiction affects 21 million adults in this country and another 2 million people between the ages of 13 and 17.² It does not discriminate and no racial group or economic bracket is more predisposed to suffer from addiction than any other group. This nation spends 442 BILLION dollars every year on drug abuse.³ Imagine where we would be as a country if we spent some of that money on effective treatment, education, and prevention of drug abuse instead of spending it on funerals and incarcerations. There would be many friends and family members of many American families that were still living their best lives.

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I care about this more than because it involves Demi Lovato. While I do consider myself a fan of her music her openness about her struggles with mental health and addiction are what I respect her for most.  On a personal note, I lost someone very close to me to a drug addiction. We went out on quite a few dates, but life brought us together at inconvenient times so it never progressed to much more at that time to us remaining Facebook friends. A year or two later we reconnected after drifting apart, but his addiction kept us apart. After it got worse than I had seen it in any of the previous instances I made the decision for my own mental health to break contact for some time. It was one of the most excruciatingly difficult decisions I have ever made, but at that time I could not watch this person  waste away and become this shell of the person I knew.

I didn’t here from them for a couple weeks. I just prayed everything was ok and they would get help. Then I got a facebook message. It came at 2:45 Thursday Night/Friday morning so I knew they were using. I sighed and went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep much the rest of that night. For the next six weeks I didn’t hear anything. Talking to a mutual friend of my friend who was fighting in a general conversation a comment was made about him that confused me. When I asked what he was talking about he told me that our friend died of an overdose several weeks back. I immediately googled and found the obituary. They died 2 days after that last Facebook message on Sunday morning.

It took all my strength not to throw up at the restaurant table we were sitting in. I had not even known. I didn’t get to go to the funeral. I never got to say goodbye. There are so many things I never got to say. Addiction does not just hurt the addict. The people who love someone living with addiction suffer as well. It changes relationships and can cause wounds that never heal. There will always be a part of me that is stuck on this. I still think about whether or not I made the right decision. I wonder what I could have done. There has to have been a way for me to help more.

Maybe if I had responded that night then Andrew would still be here. That I will never know. But I do know this: Staying sober and in recover is really fucking hard and If we don’t stop looking at people who are living with addiction as terrible failures and start treating them with the love, care, and compassion they need then we are going to lose more than my friend Andrew. And for the rest of my life, losing that one is more than enough.

-WB

If you are suffering with an addiction, please seek help! If you need help reach out and ask a friend or a loved one for help. I love you and will be there for you. So will your friends and family! Here are some resources local to the Greenville area if you need them! All you have to do is take the first step.


¹https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

²https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders

³https://www.usnews.com/news/at-the-edge/articles/2016-12-19/drug-and-alcohol-abuse-cost-taxpayers-442b-annually-new-surgeon-generals-report-finds

The Intentional Harm from an Unintentional Governor

Those of you who live in South Carolina may not agree with my views of our current governor, but you would definitely agree with me on one point about Governor Henry McMaster: like him or not, he is a very polarizing figure. For the most part there is no middle ground with McMaster. Many people, including myself, find McMaster to be wrong on just about every issue. Personally, I feel the only reason he got to be governor is because he took a gamble on supporting President Predicament knowing that he would return the favor and select Nicki Haley for his cabinet allowing McMaster to get the job he had failed numerous times to get. Obviously, not everyone agrees with me. Many people think our Governor is doing a fine job – even if he does sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

In yesterday’s edition of The Greenville News an article was published addressing the new Budget that McMaster would either sign or veto for the state of South Carolina. Before I continue to discuss why I disagree with some of McMaster’s decisions, I have a challenge for you: I want you to watch all of the following clip. Don’t skip them, and make sure to watch the whole clip. There is a reason I want you to watch them the whole way through.

All of the above clips were brought to you by Kleenex – because if your face looks anything like mine after watching those clips then we look like Russel Crowe looked in the film Gladiator when he found out his wife and child were both murdered. There is a reason I wanted you to watch each of those clips. I think every single one of those clips is a work of art in some way. More importantly, however, every single one of those clips moved me to tears the first time I watched it. Whether it was the actor, the singer, or the dancer, something about each of those performances touched a part of me with its joy, or sadness, or just straight beauty.

In the first clip, Taraji P. Henson plays Katharine Johnson in the film Hidden Figures. The beauty in her performance when she mortifyingly has to explain why it takes her so long to go to the bathroom. The second clip is three dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio who represent the main character at three different stages in his life as they dance to the score from the Oscar winning film Moonlight. I would give my pinky fingers and pinky toes for my body to be able to move as beautifully as those dancers. When added with the music from a phenomenal movie movie it takes my breath away. The third clip is from the tv show Parenthood. When Max’s parents have to pick him up early on an overnight field trip after an incident with his classmates because of his Asperger’s, it breaks my heart. The look in Peter Krauss’ eyes and his face as he so desperately wants to take the hurt and the pain away from his child is something everyone can relate to – regardless of whether or not they have children. The last clip is from the musical film version of RENT. Rent is one of my favorite musicals and this scene finds Jesse L. Martin (most will remember him from Law & Order fame) as Tom Collins sing the reprise to the song “I’ll cover you.” Earlier in the film “I’ll cover you is song as a duet between Tom and Angel. Now Angel has died from AIDS complications leaving Jesse heartbroken. It is true love at its finest.

Now that I have explained the clips, back to my purpose for writing this post. I guess that Governor McMaster has not seen any of these films or TV shows. I can tell you for sure he never saw Moonlight or RENT and has never listened to Wrabel. Because god forbid a republican be anything but ass backwards when it come to gay people. Since they don’t exist in the eyes of most republicans. My guess is our illustrious insignificant governor doesn’t make time to see movies, tv or dance performances. He most certainly doesn’t go to the theater so he doesn’t associate with gay people. Otherwise our governor would not have vetoed $500,000 for the South Carolina Children’s Theater, $250,000 for the Charleston Public Library, or $100,000 for a statewide music education program. Out of the 26 billion dollar budget, the moron in charge of our state that it was a good idea to veto those items that count for 0.025% of the over all budget. The asinine excuse of “earmarks and pork” that the governor gave is just downright insulting as well. We all know good and well that if we went through the budget line by line we could find things that were far more worth of the “Earmarks and Pork” title than arts education programs.

"I see the art budget's been cut again."In an effort to keep this post short (especially since I had you watch those videos) I am not going to write about why arts education is vital to every student’s overall education. I am going to post several infographics below that explain why our governor is being shortsighted and is downright idiotic when it comes to these vetoes. Look over them and share them with your family and friends. And then write your state representatives and tell them to please override our governors shortsighted veto. They are easy to find. All you have to do is google “Who are my state representatives” and it will prompt you to type in your address and tell you exactly who they are. Finally, I will leave you with two important pieces of information.

First, As someone who has taught in schools for the past 7 years, one of the greatest things in the world, is to watch a student who most would label as lazy, disengaged, or not interested in school light up with passion on the stage or in the chorus room or at an art exhibition as they proudly discover what they love and were born to do. It is a miraculous moment to watch as a teacher and one I cherish every time it happens.

And Second, since Governor McMaster does not think art has a purpose in the lives of South Carolina’s students, I leave him with this quote from Pablo Picasso:

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Certainly from those two things alone, we can all agree that these intentional vetoes will harm our students and our accidental governor needs to figure that out quickly. $750,000 is a small price to pay if we want our students to succeed in a global world.

Have a great Monday everyone! Don’t forget to check out the infographics below!

-WB

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The Fictional Non-Fictional Fatherhood Triumvirate

In honor of Fathers Day, I was going to make this about some of my favorite fictional character who also happen to be fathers. In order to do this, I decided to write about the best fathers from books, television shows, and films that I enjoy. In order to be as rational and fair as I could I started writing down my favorites and compared them and their qualities head to head. I ended up with about 8 on each list, but in my opinion, there was a clear winner in each category. My favorite fictional father in a book was one the greatest fictional characters of all time, Atticus Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird. My favorite fictional film father (try saying that 5 times fast) was Mufasa from the Lion King. My choice for best TV dad might surprise some people, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear: Phil Dunphy from Modern Family was the clear winner for TV dads.

Before the Roman Republic fell and became the Roman Empire, it was ruled by Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus in a triumvirate – three powerful men who made a one year alliance to lead the largest political body in the world at that time. Usually, one man was opulently wealthy, one man was militarily gifted, and the third man was diplomatically gifted, but it did not always have to be this way. When mapping out this post I came up with a list of qualities why these were some of the best dads with every intention of making them the “Dad Triumvirate,” but as I looked at the list of qualities I knew there was no need to create a fictional fatherhood triumvirate. The reason I did not need to create one is that there already was a fatherhood triumvirate in existence. So my fictional fatherhood triumvirate became the nonfiction fictional fatherhood triumvirate, which in case you haven’t already figured it out, I like saying those words together.

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The more I thought about it the more I came up with similarities between those three fictional characters and the fathers in my own life. My father and both of my grandfathers have served at various points in my life as my Mufasa, My Atticus, and My Phil. While each of those three men possesses qualities of all three fake dads, for the sake of brevity, I chose one for each to talk about. I could write 2,000 words on each and still not run out of things to talk about, but my posts are already verbose enough as it is I will let each these examples serve as ample justification for my claim.

I will start with Mufasa. I see so much of my maternal grandfather, called Papa, in Mufasa. The Lion King is the first movie that I can vividly remember seeing in the movie theater. I was 4 or 5 years old and my maternal grandmother (Nana – who is married to Papa) is the one who took me to see it. I was riveted to the screen. Aside from the Papa – Nana connection, as an adult, I can see many similarities between my Papa and Mufasa that I did not pick up on as a child. Throughout the movie, Mufasa guides Simba from above just as my Papa guides me – but this is just one of many reasons they are similar.

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Another one of the things I love about Mufasa is that he is voiced by James Earl Jones. The voice of Mufasa and Darth Vader immediately touches you. There is something calm and soothing about the voice that also projects strength and safety. You can just feel everything is going to be ok when you are near it. My Papa had the same kind of voice. It was deep, but quiet all at the same time. When he spoke, you listened – not because you were afraid or out of some sort of “respect your elders” type of thing – but because you actually wanted to. You felt like you were being told something very important. Papa had a way of doing that when he talked. It is one of the things I miss most about him. I have a four-second voicemail saved on my phone. On June, 29 20014 my Papa called and left the voicemail “It’s Papa. Call me.” on my phone. As stupid as it sounds, when I think of him or when I have a rough day I sometimes play that voicemail. It may not solve my problem or whatever I am thinking about, but it also makes me feel less upset.

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Mufasa had a majestic and regal exterior but was not too important to play with Simba and goof around. My hambone playing Papa was the same way. Serious when he needed to be or thought he should be, but not too important to make his grandchildren smile by doing something silly. Mufasa had the loudest roar in The Lion King and so did my grandfather. You might think it sounds weird saying, my Papa roared, and you’d be right. My grandfather didn’t roar when he wanted to be heard; he whistled to be heard instead. Growing up my siblings and I all were swimmers. When you swim with a cap and your head underwater, most swimmers either don’t hear the yelling of their friends and family (or at least I didn’t hear it). The only noise I heard was the whistle that came from Papa as I would come up for air. I would almost wait on the whistle before I kicked it into overdrive.

Mufasa was a teacher to Simba and Papa was a teacher to me. Although I wished he had taught me how to do that whistle, he taught me how to do something far more useful when he taught me how to drive. When my backseat driving mother (love you mom) was trying to teach me how it almost started World War 3 in the Boliek House. My dad was not much better than my mother. That’s when my Papa stepped in. He was patient, provided just the right guidance at just the right time, and didn’t critique harshly or yell when you made a mistake. Had it not been for Papa I would probably be ubering to work every day. I cherish those moments just the two of us in his big golden brown Oldsmobile.

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The final similarity with Papa and Mufasa is one of the strongest. Simba thought Mufasa was brave and strong and not scared of anything. For the longest time, I thought the same about Papa. Papa was always strong. He worked out regularly and although he was old he was in much better shape than all his friends for the most part. I never thought about Papa not being strong until he got shingles and was put in the hospital when I was around 17 or 18. That was the first time I realized Papa was not always going to be invincible. that was the first he looked old to me. I was lucky to get 10 more years after that. In and out of the hospital over the last 6 months of his life, we did lots of visiting. It will never have been enough, but it was important and we talked about things I still hold onto. Mufasa and Simba go on a walk together and Mufasa admitted to Simba he was afraid of losing Simba. We did not go on a walk, but I did visit Papa in the hospital and there was a time it was just the two of us, and while I will keep the conversation between my Papa and me, the love and bonding that was shared is something I will cherish as long as I live.

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Moving on to my favorite book father and one of the greatest books of all time. Atticus Finch is probably one of my favorite fictional characters ever, and most of the qualities that Atticus Finch had I can also pinpoint in my Pop – my paternal grandfather. The demeanor with which Atticus Finch carried himself reminds me so much of my Pop in many different ways. Quieter than garrulous, but when he spoke you listened. The way he carried himself and treated his children with both love and respect. His strength has a man was not showy, but you knew it was there because you could point at Atticus/Pop and say “He is the kind of man I would like to be.”

One of my favorite things about Atticus is he is always honest with his children. He may not tell them the full truth and he may put rose-colored glasses on the truth, but the truth is always what he gives them out of a respect he feels they deserve. I cannot pinpoint a single instance in my life where I feel like my grandfather has lied to me or not respected me enough to tell me the truth. When I asked why something was the way it was or any other philosophical question that a grandson asks their grandfather I always felt valued by getting that honest answer. It is one of the reasons Scout loves her father and its one of the reasons I love my Pop.

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One of the things I value most about Pop is when we disagree he doesn’t just tell you that you are wrong. While we do not agree politically on most issues, I have never had my grandfather look at me and say with a matter-of-fact type of feeling “You’re Wrong! Instead he always calmly tries to make me see his point of view or the other side. Sometimes that might be a discussion or conversation. Other times it is by him forwarding an email to me or saving me a magazine or newspaper article to look at. Sometimes it works and sometimes we agree to disagree. But every time it is done in a respectful way and I never have had him discredit or demean my views. Atticus does this every time he talks to Scout. One scene on the front porch with Scout is similar to the way Pop tries to make me see the other side. In that scene Atticus says

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I see so much of Pop in that quote and I do try to listen to it before I make up my mind. Sometimes I am successful at listening. Sometimes I am not. Atticus wouldn’t judge me for it. Neither does Pop.

One of my core beliefs in the life is that every human being is worthy of equality, dignity, and respect simply because they are a person. It is part of the reason Atticus take the case in TKAM and it is one of the reasons I love and respect my grandfather more than I respect other people. Throughout my life, I have seen my grandfather be respectful, kind, and equal to all sorts of people and one thing stands out. My grandfather treats the CEO of the company the same way he would treat the custodian or janitor. My grandfather has respected people who have less money than him in the same way he respects those who have more money than he has. He even gives the kindness and respect to people who do not reciprocate those ideals in return.

At a Clemson football tailgate one time we arrived to find people sitting in our reserved tailgate spot. My grandfather approached them and calmly and politely let them know that this was our reserved spot and was immediately talked to in a tone that was both disrespectful and crass. The person immediately got defensive in their body language and at one point was so disrespectful to my grandfather that I blacked out in anger so fast I was standing in between my grandfather and this individual letting them know my two cents before I realized what was happening. Luckily my dad followed my grandfather’s example that day better than I did and talked me off the ledge because I was about to read this person to filth. And I would have done it Bianca Del Rio style.

My grandfather’s reaction still astounds me. In response to a woman who was rude, dismissive, and just downright ugly, my grandfather was firm but polite. He still called her ma’am instead of the names I wanted to call her. Our family still talks about this event at a couple of tailgates every year. My grandfather’s reaction still impresses me, and Atticus Finch would be very proud as well.

 

My Reaction

My Grandfather’s reaction

Last, but certainly not least we come to Phil Dunphy/my father. When I originally watched Modern Family Phil was one of the characters I liked the least. The “cool dad who is also slightly nerdy but everybody likes” trope has been done so many times, but the more I watch Modern Family the more I began to have a change or heart. Now I think Phil is one of the essential characters needed to keep the show running. My dad is not completely like Phil, but there are some great similarities that are worth exploring.

First, just like Phil defers to and lovingly dotes on Claire, my dad has always been loving and supportive of my mom. My parents have always shown each other the type of love that most people could go 4 lifetimes without every finding. My dad has always supported my mom and he both shows and tells her this (thankfully, in ways LESS corny than Phil). Phil is the nice dad that loves spending time with his kids, and my dad is the same way. Throughout the years, my dad has played PlayStation and Wii games, read books, discussed politics, sang along to Missy Elliott’s “Is it Worth it?” and a myriad of other things because it allowed him to spend time with his kids. While all three of us loved the Harry Potter series my dad joked about the books with “Quibbitch” (he knew the real word) he never really got into them. However, when the movies came out, My dad slowly watched his way through all eight films. He would study the Wikipedia pages and ask questions. He did all of this, not because he loved the series in the way my brothers and I loved the series, but because it allowed him to spend some time with us.

Phil is a realtor and he is good at his job. He also thinks his job is important. My dad is an accountant who is good at his job (I think) and I am sure he thinks what he does is important. The similarity here though is the way the rest of the family deals with Phil. They humor him when they all know the truth (his job is boring). We humor him and we all know the truth as well (except for me. I still am not 100% sure what he does.

My dad is Phil made over when it comes to how he deals with his family and friends. Phil puts his family (and sometimes his friends) before himself. My dad is kind, caring, and respectful, but watch out if you finally “poke the bear” one too many times. When provoked too much, Phil will explode and my dad is the same. My brothers and I can all describe the look his face goes into to this day; if I am being completely honest I am still scared of this face.

Last and most importantly, I feel like the writers of Modern Family based the most important aspect of Phil off of my father. Phil is always loving and supportive of his children. Throughout the entire series, Phil has loved and supported his children through whatever situation the room of Hollywood writers decided to throw to the Dunphy family. My father has done this for me and my brothers throughout the 29 years I have been lucky enough to be his son. I freely admit there have been times in my life when I screwed up, did something wrong, or wasn’t the person that my parents raised me to be. However, in every single one of those instances, I never felt like I lost my father’s love or support. There have been times where I probably should have and there have been times when I wish he would have (by giving me some space), but it never happened. I was stuck with the love and support just as the Dunphy kids are. And quiet as its kept, that is quite alright with me.

To my Papa – I miss and love you! I think about you every day and I will see you on the other side at some point.

To Pop and My Dad – thank you both for continuing to show me how to be a good person and a great man. I couldn’t be even halfway there on that journey without your example leading the way. I love you both!

-WB

 

 

Two Years Later, Pulse Still Pains our Pride

This is the Second Post in a series of posts that will run throughout the month of June. June has been Pride Month for many years. To honor that history, I will be talking about different aspects of why I am proud during Pride Month.
To read the first post on pride in Chosen Families, click here.

As long as I live I will never forget waking up on June 12, 2016. School was out so Humphrey and I were sleeping in, but when I woke up I had tons of text messages and news alerts on my phone. In the early hours of the morning, a cowardly gunman* walked into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire with semi-automatic weapons and went on a killing spree. Before taking his own life after a hostage standoff that lasted for several hours, the gunman killed 49 people. A club that I have been to twice before, now held the bodies of 49 people. 49 people whose only crime was dancing with their fellow members of the LGBTQ community. 49 people who were the brother of someone. Or the daughter of someone. Or the mother of someone. 49 people would not go home that morning.

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Two years later, the pain has not diminished. The sorrow and the hurt have been moved to the back burner, but they are still present. To be completely transparent, I have not fully processed my own feelings about it. It hurt too much to work through them at the time; but in an effort to honor the 49 beautiful people who were robbed of their dance that night, I dedicate this post to their memory. I will continue to feel proud this month, because they can no longer feel proud for themselves. Tonight’s post, I take pride in the bars and clubs of my community. Tonights post is pride in OUR places.

The Complex.

The Armory.

The Abbey.

The Castle.

Haven.

Sanctuary.

The Factory.

Olympus.

The Fortress.

Pulse.

If you look at all those names of Gay Bars past and present, what do they all have in common? What do all of those names say or symbolize to you? Every single name on that list projects one of two things: Strength and Safety. The reason for this is simple. Even in 2018, The United States of America is not always a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ community. We are harassed. We are discriminated against. We yelled at. Spit on. Beaten. Raped. Killed. All of these things are done on a regular basis and have been done for years. Sometimes society cares (mostly when it is a white LGBTQ person). Sometimes society does not care. In an effort to make life the best we can for ourselves, the LGBTQ community did what it has always done. We rallied around ourselves. We provided each other with bars, dance halls, and night clubs. Places were we could simply BE.

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If you are a heterosexual cisgendered person, you will never know what I mean by that. Especially if you are also white. I don’t say either of those things to be exclusionary or inflammatory; if I could somehow connect my consciousness to yours so you could feel what it feels like I would. But this is not Avatar and James Cameron did not write the story of our lives. I wish you could feel the feeling I am talking about. Maybe then my community would not have struggled so long. But take comfort in NOT having to feel it. It is better that way. There is less sadness. Less Shame. Less Loss. Less Worry. When I thought about feelings to try and describe that feeling, those are the 4 words I would combine to describe it.

Sadness. Sadness in your gut when you see heterosexual couples sit on the same side of the booth at a diner or lay on a blanket at the park.

Shame. Shame in yourself for caring what other people think of your shorts and your tank top as you walk towards the club in November (Yes some of us do wear tank tops and short shorts in November. Deal. With. It.).

Loss. Loss of equality and protection when the word faggot is yelled at you from across the street or a passing car. Or God Forbid the loss of a friend who was simply killed for living while gay (For the record, my friend was Sean Kennedy and he was the first gay person my age I ever met who was confident in his own skin and nice to me. And he changed my life because of it).

Worry. Worry that creeps into every other thought that runs through your head because you are in public with your significant other and are terrified someone will see you and tell your family, your place of employment, or your friends.

In order to suppress those feelings – because for some people they never go away – we did the only thing we could and gave our bars and clubs names that project strength and safety. They became our churches when we didn’t have a Sanctuary to go to. They became our castles and retreats when the world would not protect us. They became the very beating hearts of the gay community. That is part of the reason Pulse was aptly named and part of the reason it devastated my community. The attack on Pulse was an attack on the heart of the gay community. For some queer people, gay bars are the only place they have ever truly felt safe. If we don’t have those spaces any more, what else do we have?

28167431_10160006809000048_3723469264959415588_nAsk any of your close family and friends who are part of the queer community about their first trip to the gay bar. I promise you that in addition to the name, they will remember their age, their outfit, their drink choice, and who they went with. I was barely 18 years old and my first bar was The Castle in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world- there was terror and excitement all at the same time. I must have had a terrified look on my face because a drag queen named Robin Redgrave came over to me, hugged me, and pushed me towards the bar so she could buy me a drink. I was half-way through the first sip when she saw the X on my hand and slapped the drink out of my hand (which she then finished herself). I had never felt so welcomed and at peace surrounded by so many gay people in my life; and all of it happened in a run down, leaky when the rain came building. The Castle wasn’t much, but it was mine. And that was all I needed.

Pulse affected me and still affects me more than I realized. I couldn’t watch the news without watching Anderson Cooper breakdown on live television as he read the names of my dead brothers and sisters. I couldn’t listen to the radio without hearing the first responders say their dreams will be haunted by the ringing of cellphones of the deceased as family members tried to check on their children. I couldn’t read the news online without seeing the story of a mother (Brenda McCool) who jumped in front of the gunman and used her body to shield her son from the bullets. To this day, I still cannot watch the video of Christopher Leinonen’s mother tearfully talking to the media as she waited for the news of her son.

To those around the world who rallied around us, you will never know how much that meant to us. In one of our darkest hours, you gave us the strength with your hugs, your love, your vigils, your memorials, and other messages of support. Because of you, we were able to grieve for our loss, but still remember that rainbow that comes tomorrow. To the celebrities who wrote songs in their memory, we thank you.

And to those of us who still wish harm to us, know that we found strength in our sorrow. And our love for each other will not be broken and if you doubt that, he a warning from every queer person’s fairy gaymother:

I did not go out for months following the Pulse shooting. A lot of us did not. We did not know if we should and we did not know if we could. Would it be disrespectful to those who were killed? Would we be safe? Would we be able to escape if something bad happened? We did not know how to answer those questions so many of us subconsciously chose not to go out. Further removed from our shut in status, this saddens me. Because it means for one brief moment we let that piece of shit who riddled our safe space win. Because not going out would have been a slap to the face of those who could no longer out. Because for one brief moment, we let the hate shine darker than the love. Time eased the pain, but we continue to worry about our safe spaces. Worry about our friends’ safety. Worry about our own safety.

To this day I do not go out as much as I used to. Partly because I am getting old and partly because gay clubs typically aren’t welcomed in city downtowns so they end up in building on the outskirts of town that only have one entrance/exit. But I make it a habit of going to safe place in our community at least once every couple of months. This month will be no different. This Saturday I will go and honor our PULSE with my people. Out in whatever outfit I want with my people. I will dance with my people. I will drink with my people. I will laugh with my people. I will feel safe with my people.

And with my people, I will remember why I go. I go to The Fortress because Edward, Stanley, Luis, and Juan cannot.

I go to Sanctuary because Eric, Peter, Kimberly, and Luis cannot.

I go to The Armory because Eddie, Darryl, Deonka, Alejandro, and Anthony cannot.

I go to Olympus because Jean, Franky, Amanda, Martin, and Daniel cannot.

I go to Haven because Mercedez, Xavier, Enrique, Ramon, and Simon cannot.

I go to the Factory because Oscar, Miguel, Javier, Jonathan, and Joel cannot.

I go to the Abbey because Jason, Cory, Juan, Luis, and Shane cannot.

I go to the Complex because Jerald, Leroy, Tevin, Jean, and Rodolfo cannot.

And I go to Pulse because Brenda, and Christopher, and Angel, and Frank, and Paul, and Antonio, and Joseph, and Akyra, and Geraldo cannot.

This post is for them. And when I do a shot and dance to Whitney, or Cyndi, or Beyonce, or Mariah, or Ariana, or Celine, or Adele – that will be for them to.

-WB

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Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy: 3 Jokes, 2 World Leaders, and a Buzzsaw

Today is Hump Day! Also known as Wednesday. I felt like it had been a few days since I have posted and there has been a lot to discuss so I am starting a recurring segment called Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy (See what I did there?). W³ will be posts where I talk about whatever moves me or whatever is currently going on in the world – that’s the whimsy part. The wisdom part is me telling you how you should feel. Because I am usually right on things (today’t things especially). So, without further ado, here we go!

3 Controversial Jokes

People love to laugh and it used to be that people watching a stand-up comedian perform or a sitcom knew that a joke was just that – a joke. But in the age of being ultra-politically correct, our society has gotten so overly offended by stuff that was designed to make our days less tense its ridiculous.

The first is Roseanne Barr’s joke. On Twitter Roseanne tweeted the Picture below. And boy was the reaction a doozy of a news cycle. The “vj” in the tweet refers to Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett was a senior advisor to President Obama and is a highly accomplished woman in the law field and now in the private sector once again.

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I am unsure of a lot of the information on this joke or how to feel. On the one hand I think its sad and disgusting and as Bill O’Reilly said it just proves to Black America that racism is still an issue. With that said, I believe Roseanne Barr when she says she is not a racist. Scoff all you want, but I have watched her stand-up as well as her show long enough to know she most likely isn’t racist. On an episode in season 7 of her show DJ (her son) did not want to participate in the school play because he had to kiss a black girl. In the episode (you can find in full below) you can find the important since eight and a half minutes in. Roseanne says in a way that only she could, Black people are just like us and anybody who thinks differently is a banjo-picking bigot who gives respectable white trash a bad name.”

Roseanne’s reaction is not the episode a bigot would produce – especially when the episode was an addition to the season and aired shortly after the Rodney King/LA Riots fiasco. Is Roseanne an idiotic jerk for some of the conspiracy theories she retweets? Was she an asshat for tweeting at Valerie Jarrett?  Of course. But nothing in that tweet was as vile as some of the stuff the president has tweeted. I do not think Roseanne should have been cancelled either, but seeing as how that’s what happened, it is what it is.

The second joke is Samantha Bee. To make a long story short (too late!), Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” The backlash in America over Australia’s favorite swear word was fierce. Bee apologized, TBS condemned her, and sponsors pulled out. But here is thing about this whole ordeal. When the administration in the White House feigns indignation over over Michelle’s Wolfe’s supposedly sexist jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Bee’s joke’s over Ivanka, the hypocrisy comes though loud and clear. Guess what Trump Administration and Trump Supporters? You don’t get to cry foul over jokes you deem sexist when the misogynist-in-chief brags about grabbing women in the pussy. That is more than locker room talk. That is sexual assault. And Lastly, You don’t get to criticize jokes and say Samantha Bee should be fired when you have a woman working in your administration who makes a “bad joke” about John McCain. We all know there is a liberal slant to the media, but if you want people to be fair, you also have to be fair.

The last thing I am going to say about the Samantha Bee situation in regards to why she wasn’t fired and Roseanne Barr was is pretty simple. Roseanne Barr compared a black person to a monkey This is wrong, disgusting, and a way back in the day of saying black people were less than white people because they were not human. Samantha Bee used a bad word in a truthful situation. Thousands of us who did not vote for Trump had optimism and hope when we found out Ivanka and Jared Kushner would be working in the White House because it would be a way for the more moderate Ivanka and Jared to help guide policy on women, the queer community, and the environment. People know Trump listen to Ivanka because she is his favorite. He values her advice so we hoped she could guide policy. Since this not happening Samantha Bee’s comment ring true. She is most definitely feckless. The word cunt is what is bothering people, and although it is not a word I personally use or like all that much, the joke in and of itself is pointing out a truth. Ivanka isn’t helping and she could. Change the word cunt to bitch, bimbo, or butthole and the statement still isn’t wrong.

The last joke comes from a valedictorian in Kentucky Coal Country. Ben Bowling trolled a bunch of coal miners by reading a quote and then saying President Trump was the person who said it. After people started to clap, Bowling told people he was kidding and it was actually President Obama who said it. The applause quickly dies. A few boos can be heard as well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of petty and shade I aspire to.

 

2 World Leaders

CNN reported today that President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into a heated discussion over new tarriffs the US put on Canadian steel and Aluminum. President Trump apparently originally assured Trudeau that Canada would be exempt from these tases, but has since changed his mind. I could care less one way or the other to be honest, but I now want to speak directly to President Trump to explain something.

President Trump,

If you get into an argument with Prime Minister Trudeau because you change your mind more than a boy-crazy 13 year old teenager, you will lose the war of public opinion hands down. For someone who seemingly cares what people think of him a whole lot, you have not thought this through.

And last, but certainly not the least (its actually the most damning), Mr. Trump, I give you this piece of evidence:

Mr. President, it is time to face the facts. There is not a jury alive, not a millennial voter, not a thirsty middle aged women, or any gay alive that would pick you over Trudeau in any kind of discussion. So Tread lightly.

The Word Buzzsaw

For those of you who do not live in South Carolina, here is a little bit of context. It is currently primary season and we are getting ready to vote for governor. The incumbent (Boss Hog Henry McMaster) is being challenged by Catherine Templeton. I am not a fan of Henry McMaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I equally loathe Catherine Templeton at this point; however, at this point, I loathe the word buzzsaw more than both of them. At some point somebody labeled Templeton a buzzsaw, she likes the label, and McMaster thinks its an insult to her. I don’t know how in God’s Green earth being labeled a buzzsaw can be a good thing or a bad thing, but every five seconds I am reminded that Catherine “Buzzsaw” Templeton is a buzzsaw. So there is that. At this point, I would be fine if McMaster and Buzzsaw Templeton stood on the edge of a cliff and ole Buzzsaw used her skills and sawed them both right off because both their commercials are terrible.

There is your wisdom and whimsy for the week. I will close in the style of “Auntie Maxine.”

Have a Good Night One and all!

-WB

The Chosen Family that Pride Built

This is the First Post in a series of posts that will run throughout the month of June. June has been Pride Month for many years. To honor that history, I will be talking about different aspects of why I am proud during Pride Month.

I have been unbelievably blessed in my life when it comes to the people who make up my family. I really do believe I won the family lottery that the universe put on before I was born. My immediate family includes my two parents and two younger brothers, but when I say “my family” I mean the extended family. The aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended familial relationships as well. For the most part, they all live within a day’s drive from where I live, we all get along really well, and we love each other. But this post is not about that family. My biological or blood family. They know I love them beyond words already anyways. This post is about the pride that I find in my chosen family.

You might be slightly confused by the phrase chosen family (partially because you more than likely do not have one) so allow me to explain. Some people in the LGBTQ community have a biological family and a chosen family. Sadly, there are many people in my community that only have a chosen family. There is not one academically agreed upon definition but in the most basic sense, a chosen family is a group of individuals who deliberately choose one another to play significant roles in each other’s lives. It is a group of people whom you are emotionally attached to that you love and consider ‘family’ even though you are not biologically or legally related to one another.

I am sure many of you have friends that you consider “they might as well be family.” Down here in the south we call them “Back Door Friends.” But Chosen families in the queer community are more than just your best friends or the friends you are closest to. They validate our very existence as a community. As individuals who want to be seen and heard and told they matter. In ancient Greece, there were many types of love; Eros would be love between people who are in a committed relationship and Agape would be an unconditional love from God. The reason chosen families are so important is that they combine two types of this love in philia, a friendship or fondness type of love, with storge, a familial love. Chosen families became a sense of strength within the LGBTQ community and they remain a pillar of pride in this community to this day.

Chosen families arose from the necessity of being part of the LGBTQ community. In our community’s past, many were told by their families, or churches, or schools, that they were no longer welcome. We became outcasts in our own blood families. Many LGBTQ kids were kicked out of their homes. It is why the queer community has a disproportionately large share of homelessness – especially within queer youth. Personally, I will never understand how a parent can cast out their child or a sibling can turn its back on a sibling; To me, that is an unforgivable sin that you will never be able to justify (but that is a story for a different blog). When these outcasts of society had nobody to turn to for love, guidance, and the sheer acknowledgment that they existed, they turned to themselves. They replaced biological mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers with their chosen alternatives. They cared for each other while they were sick. They loved each other when they hurt. They buried each other when they started to die from AIDS. They did everything that their blood family was supposed to do. That is how chosen families were born in a community forced to take care of one another when nobody else would.

The majority of the time the people in the chosen families we created were fellow members of the queer community (although they do not have to be – allies are always welcome). The shared loss of their blood families served as a common thread uniting people. Feelings of sadness and loss give way to strength and love. One of the things I love about the queer community is the resiliency of my brothers and sisters who are also part of it. A self-created family becomes a support system that allows people to continually go out into a world that continually puts them down. In some cases it allows people to do more than just go – it allows them to thrive and prove everyone who doubted them wrong.

Chosen families can be known, but more often than not they are unknown or known simply by the people who make up that family. Some of these chosen families have become famous or well-known throughout the world. In the Voguing and Ball Culture that developed in New York City, these families are known as houses and they were often named after famous fashion brands (House of St. Laurent, House of LeBeija, etc.). They would often have a “mother” and/or “father” who functioned as the parent of their “children.” These chosen families are especially close-knit and exclusive. They consider it an honor and a privilege to be asked to be part of their family. Other chosen families are more inclusive and not quite as bougie.

While pulling up next to a car the other day I had my windows down and sunroof up while B93.7 was playing while a Dua Lipa song was playing on the radio. A few seconds I hear “YES QUEEN!” come from the car next to me. I blushed and looked over embarrassed someone called me out on my dancing, but that feeling immediately disappeared. One shared look between me and the black man driving it I had never met told me he was part of the queer community and that was an exclamation of agreement and not ridicule. He turned up his volume as he pulled away. I smiled as I heard Dua Lipa fade off into the sunset. In a way, he is part of the extended larger chosen family that falls under the LGBTQ umbrella. If you have never seen us communicate with just a facial expression, it is hard to describe. With just a look we almost tell people, “I see you.” We see the authentic you. The fabulous you who loves jamming to bad ass diva songs.

I started building my chosen family in high school and it has never stopped growing. I don’t share blood with these people, but I don’t have to – we share something more powerful than that. Most people don’t understand, but it is easier to tell someone you consider an acquaintance than it is to tell your family. Most of it stems from the fear of rejection. It hurts less to be cast aside by someone you have known for a semester than it does by someone whose blood courses through your veins. The clip below is one of the most famous scenes from an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Every episode ends with the 2 drag queens who did the worst having to lip synch and the bottom queen is eliminated. I left the lip synch in because it is one of the greatest in the herstory of the show, but the important part is what happens at the end. Watch and listen to what Rupaul says to Roxxy Andrews story.

I have been incredibly blessed in this life. I have never experienced the pain that Roxxy Andrews suffered. My family loves me unconditionally. Through the good and the bad. Growing up I always knew that they would never stop loving me, but for those of you who have never had to work through how to accept yourself in a society where you are not looked at as an equal, telling your family is the hardest part. My chosen family helped me work through feelings my blood family could not because my chosen family had already experienced what I was feeling. The very first time I went to the dinky LGBT club in my city I was a hot mess. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I was so nervous I bumped into someone and made them spill their drink. A drag queen named Robin came to my rescue and diffused this situation. The instant addition to my chosen family always greeted me with a shot and a hug once I got there. She is passed on now, but I know we will meet again in the next life. It will be easy to find her there anyways – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” will be blaring from her cloud up in the great beyond.

We love to share our joys and triumphs with our families. I am lucky enough I get to do it twice. I have found many times when we hurt in this life we want to be with our family. I have found a subtle difference in the way the two families deal with hurt. Blood family wants to do something. They want to take the pain away somehow. They want to fix what is broken. This is both admirable and helpful sometimes; My real family has always been there for me when times are good or bad. But sometimes you need the love that your chosen family gives you when you are hurt. Sometimes chosen families try to do something, but more often than not I have found my chosen family won’t do anything but be there. Just simply showing up, acknowledging your hurt, and giving you permission to hurt however you want is the most cathartic and loving thing they do.

My blood family has given me more than I could ever ask or dream for. In a different way, my chosen family has as well. My chosen family has picked me up when I was utterly broken: working through break up with my first real love, losing my grandfather a couple of years ago, and episodes of self-doubt would have been impossible to deal with without them. They have also cheered, and yelled with me at some awesome high points: Witnessing my first pride parade, my first trip to San Francisco, and teaching me to vogue the house down will be experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of this life time and all of the next. They have changed my life simply because I have known them. I love them. And I chose them. But more importantly, they chose me. And for that, I am luckier than I ever possibly thought I could be.

Here’s to all the chosen families all across the world. This one is for you. Happy Pride!

-WB

 

 

Teaching in Terror: The Lives Lost to Gun Violence in Schools Since I Started Teaching

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The picture above was one of the happiest days of my life. In the picture along with me are 16 other people, many of whom I consider my friends to this day, were just about to receive our diplomas from Clemson University with a degree in secondary education. We were all so excited. Not all are teaching currently, but at that point we were thrilled with what the future held. We graduated in 2011 and it was not a great time to graduate with a teaching degree. That didn’t matter. We were just excited. This was one of the most emotionally draining articles I have written.

I grew up in a family full of educators that placed huge value on education. Educational success was seen as key that could open most doorways. Upon taking teacher cadets in high school, it quickly became the only career I considered as something I would do long term. I became a teacher to change lives. There is something indescribable about being able to show a 14 year old that they can accomplish something they previously thought was not possible. I have experienced more joy from some of the successes of my students than I have about my own successes. Likewise, I have cried more tears about some of the things my students face than I do about my own life’s hardships.

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I went into the educational field to spend my days that should be spent teaching about cultural diffusion, market economies, and the difference between a megalopolis and a megacity. I did not go into education to spend my days worrying weather or not my students would go home to their parents and if I would go home to my boston terrier. I did not go into education to attend the funerals of my students or my colleagues. But at the rate we are going I have a greater chance of attending the funerals of my students  (or my students attending my funeral) than of living long enough to see Greenville become a Megacity – even with its explosive growth.

America is a great nation. The perks of living her far outweigh the downsides. If you are one of those people who thinks we do not have flaws or that says “America is the greatest nation on earth.” or “America is better than any other nation to have ever existed.” you may want to stop reading now because this will just piss you off. America is not the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation on Earth does not offer up thoughts and prayers after a classroom full of 6 and 7 years is riddled with bullets during show and tell. The greatest nation on earth does not vilify students who after walking over the bodies of their dead classmates decide that they should advocate for sensible gun control. If you do not agree with those past two statements then you are delusion as as the politicians that have been bought by the gun lobby.

I started my educational career as the replacement for a teacher in March. I have added up the days I have spent teaching since my first day as a teacher that March all the way up until today (Wednesday May 23, 2018). As of today I have been a teacher for 619 days. The pictures below are the are the victims of gun violence in the classroom since I have started my career in education. There are 120 pictures. One day out of every week since I have become a teacher, a student, teacher, or parents was gunned down on school grounds. What day should students play hooky? What day should teachers take a sick day to ensure this never happens again?

As I tried to find the pictures of the fatalities I had to take breaks. This post took days to finish because I couldn’t take that much sadness at once. So many of these kids would have been the best leaders of tomorrow. So many of these courageous teachers were found shielding the bodies of their students. So many parents have had their lives shattered. For at least a dozen of  these fatalities, a parent was dead within the next several years – some from suicide, others from drugs they became addicted to as they tried to survive their pain. I will continue to update this list as these tragedies continue to happen. I pray to God this list doesn’t get to long, but I know it will. The day we decided you needed a bullet proof vest for show and tell is the day we lost our nation’s soul. God have mercy on us all.

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk- The Hero Who Gave Us Hope

Today would have been the 98th birthday of Harvey Milk. For the average American, that might not mean anything to you. You may not even know who Harvey Milk was. But to the LGBTQ+ community, Harvey Milk is a hero, an icon, and a martyr for the cause of LGBTQ rights. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. 11 Months after his election, Milk was assassinated by a fellow member of the Board of Supervisors. The Mayor of San Francisco was also assassinated. In the few years before his election and his short time in public office, Milk became the Hero of Hope to the gay community.

harvey-milk_happybirthdayI am a history teacher. I am the person who was more excited to register to vote than I was to go buy a pack of cigarettes. I follow politics and current events so much that I can see my family tune out as soon as I open my mouth about politics 97% of the time. You would think I would have learned about Harvey Milk at a young age, but this could not be farther from the truth. I did not learn about Harvey Milk until 2008 as a freshman in college. It wasn’t a history book I have to think for teaching me about Harvey Milk either. History books in this nation leave out the stories and struggles of minority groups far too often. The people I have to thank for acquainting me with Harvey Milk are Dustin Lance Black, Gus Van Sant, and Sean Penn. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said the Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn.

In 2008 Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk in the film titled Milk. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black (who you might have seen in the news for being the boyfriend and now husband of British diver Tom Daley) and directed by Gus Van Sant. Black and Van Sant are openly gay and both were nominated for their work on Milk. Black won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. His acceptance speech is less than 3 minutes in length and it changed my life.

At the 2009 Academy Awards, Milk was one of the few films that I As I watched the Gay Super Bowl Oscars that year, Black’s speech left me in disbelief. Yes this is a ceremony filled with people who are stereotypically liberal leaning in their political beliefs. But seldom are people so blatantly plain in their speeches. Here was a rather handsome man telling me that very soon LGBTQ+ people who have equal federal rights across this nation. And wouldn’t you know it – he was right!

 

Not having seen the movie, I googled the film and was astounded I had never heard of Harvey Milk, his story, or the film before the Oscars that night. A second google let me know I could pay $2 and watch the film at The Astro Theater in Downtown Clemson, SC. The Astro was Clemson’s version of a dollar theater. It typically showed films that had already been out for a month or so. It did not look like much on the inside, but I loved it for the historic charm it had. I skipped a science lab to go the next night. To this day, I don’t regret that decision.

 

 

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There were 4 other people in the theater that night. All 4 of those people were part of “the family.” We did not sit together and we did not know each other, but I had seen some of them in passing on campus before. I could effuse compliments about Milk until I am purple in the face so I will not go on and on about how much I love it. I will simply say that film changed my life and I will be forever grateful for the real Harvey Milk’s message of Hope and advocacy that are shown in the film. As the lights came on I tried to wipe the tears off my face. I started to get embarrassed until I saw the other 4 people were doing the exact same thing. Although I never became more than Facebook friends with any of the other 4 people, each time we saw each other in passing on campus, we would always nod and smile at each other. We shared a form of ourselves that evening that we had not shared with many people up until that point. The older I get the more I think certain things in this universe are connected. Call it God, or Karma, or my personal favorite juju. There was a shared connection between us and Harvey Milk that night. And it was life changing.

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The publicity poster from the film. The entire cast is phenomenal. 

This was the first film I had ever seen that depicted multiple main characters who were LGBTQ in a positive light. It is the first film I had seen that showed the power of my community when we stood up and advocated for ourselves – when we fought back against the people and politicians who sought to silence us and belittle us. The film goes through much of Milk’s adult life. It shows a closeted Milk living in New York City and keeping his sexuality a secret and follows parts of his life up until his assassination. Milk later moves to San Francisco in the 1970s. San Francisco became a haven for gay men in the 60s and 70s and Milk opened Castro Camera on Castro Street in the city. He lost his first election for the Board of Supervisors, but he quickly became a uniting force in “The Castro” – the area of the city made famous by the Castro Theater and the district with the largest concentration of gay people.

Once San Francisco moved away from at-large districts to area based districts Milk easily won in the heavy LGBT Castro District. Harvey Milk was a bridge builder. He united minority communities of all types and advocated for those groups regularly as part of the Board. He was instrumental in helping the city pass a gay rights ordinance at a time when many other cities were passing ordinances and ballot indicatives which were extremely anti-LGBTQ in nature. Milk was passionate in his belief that only by people in the LGBTQ community coming out and acknowleding their sexuality to their friends and family would opinions on LGBTQ people change for the better. Milk said :

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.

Sadly Harvey Milk would not live to see his beliefs become reality. He was taken by the bullets of an assassin in his office in city hall. In the video below, you will see US Senator Dianne Feinstein announce the deaths of both Moscone and Milk. If it looks like Feinstein is confused she has good reason to be. She just identified the bodies of both Milk and Moscone to police. As she tried to feel a pulse on Harvey Milk’s neck, she stuck her fingers into the hole left by the bullet that hit Milk in the neck.

White was a disgruntled former member of the board who had resigned, but wanted his seat back. both Moscone and Milk opposed putting White back on the board. White snuck into city hall, shot the mayor in his office before walking to Milk’s office and shooting him 4 times. White was arrested later that day. In response to the shooting, thousands of people from across San Francisco rushed and descended upon the Castro that evening. They marched silently with candles in a spontaneous memorial vigil in honor of Milk. To this day, it remains one of the most beautifully eloquent responses to an act of violence that this world has ever seen.

White was convicted months later of voluntary manslaughter for both killings and was sentenced to just 7 years in prison of which he only served 5. After the lenient sentencing was announced, the outrage in the LGBTQ community led to several nights of rioting throughout San Francisco in what have since become known as The White Night Riots. Harvey Milk’s friend and another icon in the gay community, Cleve Jones, led the way from the Castro towards city hall shouting “Out of the bars and into the streets!” By the time they reached city hall a thousand people were ready to riot. This is the impact that Harvey Milk had on the gay community. For a community that so often felt lost, alone, and vilified by the rest of the world, Harvey Milk was and still is a beacon of hope. The harbinger of hope was and still is a martyr for the movement. That movement is ongoing and we won’t stop until we accomplish what Milk set out to accomplish.

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Milk was featured on a US Postal Stamp in 2014. You can still order it on the Post Office Website.

I have always felt a connection to Harvey Milk – but in more ways than just the obvious one. Harvey milk taught at one point and while in California he was one of the driving forces behind the defeat of Proposition 6, which was an initiative on the California ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I have always believed that the LGBTQ community if far too concerned with their “own” letter in the acronym. As long as the L or the G part got their rights then who cares about the T or the Q? Harvey Milk knew that the only way for us to succeed was to help each other – and that included other oppressed minority groups as well. Lastly, and perhaps the most tragically of the connections, I was born on the tenth anniversary of Milk’s assassination. I find it somehow comforting in a weird way that a day that brings pain and anguish for many, brought happiness and joy to my family (or at least I think it brought them happiness and joy).

Hope will never be silent. As long as people have hope, they will always be capable of rising above the circumstances that life throws at them. Where there is hope, there is the undeniable chance that the human spirit will win out over despair. Over fear. Over anger. Over hate. The story of Harvey Milk was a pivotal turning point in my life. It changed a fundamental part of the person that I am today. The story of Harvey Milk saved Dustin Lance Black’s life, and it will continue to save the lives of countless people – but only if it is told. At the conclusion of his Oscar acceptance speech Black ends by thanking God for giving us Harvey Milk. I thank God for giving us people like Black, and Van Sant, and Penn who were brave enough to fight to have the story of Harvey Milk told. And yes after thanking God for them, I too thank God for Harvey Milk. Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. Thank you for your sacrifice. And Thank you for the gift of hope.

-WB

imageTo learn more about Harvey Milk, go to The Harvey Milk Foundation website. The Milk foundation was founded by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, and his former campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, and it seeks to continue to strive for Milk’s dream of a better tomorrow – a tomorrow in which there is equality for all and a world without hate.

Modernizing the Monarchy: The Lasting Mark of Meghan Markle

101639799_hi046910891-2760294655-1526784510277.jpgGrowing up in school, history was my favorite subject. The history teachers I had were awesome storytellers and history is full of all sorts of stories. Sometimes the stories are heartbreaking and sometimes they are triumphant. However, the stories are always lessons that those of us living in the present can learn from. We can learn how to be better and make the world better for those who come after us. The lessons from today’s royal wedding will rightfully go down as historic and they should. It is absolutely groundbreaking what a divorced American bi-racial feminist commoner who is the direct descendant of an emancipated slave has done by saying the words “I do!”, and here is why.

As a lover of history, the British Monarchy has always fascinated me. If I were a true historian I would have chosen it as my specialty. Before I decided to become a public school teacher, I seriously considered becoming an academic historian. The schools I looked at the most were schools with strong European History programs (specifically strong in Anglo-Franco policy relations). While my focus would most likely have been on Elizabethan England (let’s face it… who doesn’t love a queen who wears over a pound of makeup on her royal face?), I have always found the monarchy fascinating. It is an institution full of pageantry and tradition since the year 1066 when William the Conqueror came to England in the Norman Invasion.

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Its downright criminal. Even her freckles looks beautiful. 

The fact that the British Monarchy has survived as long as it has (with a few minor interruptions here and there) is an impressive fête all on its own. Throughout history monarchies in kingdoms and empires both large and small have risen only to fall victim to revolution and democratization. From ineffective rulers, peasant revolts, and queens who eat excessive amounts of cake, monarchies can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Especially when most monarchies are predicated on the fact that a minuscule amount of the population controls massive amounts of wealth and power simply for being born of “royal blood.” And although I am an American Patriot through and through, I have a healthy respect for the institution that has led the country that has become America’s closest ally.

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A member of the royal family has a black mother-in-law. Let that just sink in.

The monarchy is an institution built on centuries of tradition and practices that 90% of the rest of the world would consider wrong and outdated. From views on colonialism and imperialism, to the underlying race relations problems that plague the royal family (cough cough… Prince Philip and Princess Michael I am talking about you… cough cough), and a host of other issues that have faced the host nation of the commonwealth realms, the monarchy has come dangerously close at times to losing the support of the majority of the British public. The closest it came was in the immediate days following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales – Harry’s mother and the parent he most closely resembles in temperament and personality. Thankfully, at these times in history, the British Monarchy has begrudgingly accepted changes and adaptations to those traditions in order to survive.101643963_hi046911763

Many of these changes in adaptations have happened far too slowly and far past the time they should have happened. For example, the only reason Elizabeth became Queen was because her father did not have any male heirs. If he had, they would have been King even if Elizabeth had been older. The laws of succession were not changed until right before the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child, Prince George, was born just 6 years ago. The first Earl of Snowden was the first commoner to marry a king’s daughter in 400 years when he married Princess Margaret and divorce was not permitted until they divorced in 1978. The first British commoner women to marry into the senior membership of the royal family was Catherine Middleton just under 10 years ago. But this moment is bigger than any of those moments.

101636854_hi046905176Meghan Markle is eerily similar to Princess Diana in many ways, but there is not an adequate comparison to describe what The New Duchess of Sussex did to modernize the monarchy. Meghan Markle is a self-describe feminist. She is divorced. She is bi-racial. And “worse” yet: she is American. The only other American to marry into the royal family has been Wallis Simpson, who married Edward VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle who abdicated in order to marry her (Queen Elizabeth’s father was the second son). Wallis Simpson died in the 1980s, but she is still one of the most controversial and hated members in the history of the British Royal Family. To most people, myself included, this is extraordinary and it represent a new type of royal family – a type that is part of the lasting legacy of the Princess of Wales.

Princess Diana knew the royal family needed to get rid of the stuffy and stiff outdated images they had. She changed the country with her humanitarian efforts around the world. For touching AIDS patient in the early 1990s to walking through fields of landmines, Diana showed the human side of the royal family. At her death, the Prime Minister called her the People’s Princess; it shouldn’t be surprising that her children – the biggest and most impressive part of her legacy – have followed in her footsteps. Since both the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex have become adults and started advocating on behalf of causes they care about they have signaled a changing of the guard in what it means to be a part of the royal family. I would go so far as to say that it is because of William and Harry that the monarchy has brought the number of anti-monarchists in Britain to under 10% of the population for the first time in decades.

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I promise I did not cry. I just got a piece of dust in my eyes.

Watching the wedding I am proud of the assertively American touches that Meghan Markle put on her wedding with the man who is 5th in line to the British Throne. When her father was to ill to walk her down the aisle she radiantly walked the first part of the way herself before having Prince Charles walk her the rest of the way. Her first dress was made by the first British women to head the Parisian house Givenchy. Her second dress was much more revealing and also designed by an independent female designer. In edition to her feminist touches she also put her stamp on other pieces of the ceremony as well – and the look on some of the faces of the British Royal family show just how much the changes Meghan Markle added were needed.

Three of my personal favorite touches to the ceremony have NEVER been seen in a royal wedding in the history of Britain. I would go so far as to say they have never been seen in St. Paul’s chapel before. The leader of the Episcopal Church in America, Michael Curry, gave the sermon for the ceremony and it was a doozy! Curry is the first African-American Episcopal church leader which is historic enough, but his evangelical delivery was both inspirational and added some much needed jazz to a crowd of stuffy aristocrats. A gospel choir sang a beautiful version of the song “Stand By Me,” which is according to Kensington Palace, a song that holds special meaning to the couple. Lastly, a prodigiously talented 19 year old Black British cellist played pieces so beautiful it made Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, tear up. #BlackExcellence and #BlackRoyalWedding were trending on Twitter. Black American Royalty (Oprah and Serena Williams) mingled with Black British Royalty (Idris Elba…. yes GOD). I am going to go out on a limb and say that is the most people of color that have been in St. George’s Chapel at any point in its history (Britain is 87% white).

While there was much happiness on this special day for both of them, I am left feeling largely sad for both of them for very different reasons. I come from a large family where for the most part, we all get along. Harry had to go throughout this day without his mother. Losing her at 12 set Harry adrift for about a decade before he finally got in touch with the person he is today. I do not think he has ever truly forgiven the press and the public for the way they treated his mother and I know he strives to live up to her legacy every day. However, I was not just sad for Harry – I was also sad for Meghan. She is giving up quite a lot for this marriage, and I truly hope and pray for her that it turns out to be a fairy tale worthy of Walt Disney magic.

Meghan Markle had a career in the public eye before this marriage, but it has to have been hard having to go through something that is supposed to be such a joyous family occasion with only her mother. I know not having her father there was undoubtedly difficult, but it gave us a moment to see a rare tender side of Prince Charles we do not normally get to see. In addition it gives us a moment to see the strong woman that raised a strong woman. I am still in awe of the amount of grace, dignity, and refined poise that Doria Ragland carried herself with throughout these past few days. After looking on as she tearfully beamed with loving pride at her daughter, it is not hard to see how Meghan became such a strong woman – she had a great one as a mom, whose footsteps she could follow in.

 

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In closing, I cannot help but think the weather today is Princess Diana’s doing. Had it been a typical rainy British springtime afternoon, many people would have said that it was Diana crying tears of joy at how happy she was for Harry and Meghan, but this would not have been true. Diana lived her life with with a humanizing grace and radiant beauty that was contrary to everything royal at that point. That is why today was never going to be anything but sunny. A typical day would have been overcast and dreary. So Diana gave us the exact opposite. I don’t claim to know what Diana, Princess of Wales hoped and dreamed of for her children while she was still living, but I do know this: Princess Diana would be so enormously proud of the man that her son has become.

I see so much of Diana in Harry. Perhaps this is why I always have had an affinity for Harry. In my opinion, Harry was always the cute royal who could do no wrong. Naked partying in Vegas only made him more appealing. We could all see ourselves partying in Vegas so what was the big deal? When he quickly apologized for the Nazi Halloween costume, we quickly accepted the apology and put it in the past. We justified this terrible decision as a cry for help. A boy who lost his mother at 12 is going to make some bad decisions along the way, we said. Harry is the royal with personality and sex appeal (Did anybody else see him bite his lip during the wedding after telling his beloved she looked beautiful? It was swoon-worthy). If Diana was the people’s princess, then Harry is the people’s prince. And the people’s Prince could not have chosen a better bride.

I have two hopes for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I hope royal matrimony is nothing but happiness for two people who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. After the broken childhoods experienced by both, they deserve years of bliss. Lastly, I hope the public has learned their lesson. I hope and pray that we give them the space to try and raise a family with as much normalcy as you can, when a member of the royal family. We failed miserably with Charles and Diana. We must not fail again.

-WB

Dear Fellow White People: An Open Letter

By now most people have heard about Lolade Siyonbola and what happened to her earlier this week, although you may know her more as the Yale grad student who committed the crime of “sleeping while Black.” If you are confused here are the basic details of the story as reported by CNN. Siyonbola was working on a paper as part of her Master in African Studies. She was working on the paper in the common room of the Yale Hall of Graduate Studies, where her dorm room was located. As she was working, Siyonbola fell asleep and awoke to Sarah Braasch, a philosophy grad student, who came into the room calling the police on Siyonbola saying she cannot sleep or be in that common room.

The police arrived and detained Siyonbola for over 17 minutes as they questioned why she was in the building. They still requested to see her student ID card ever after she unlocked the door to her dorm room to prove she lived in the building. Part of the hang up that required the police question Siyonbola for so long was the preferred name on her ID card did not match her official name in the School’s records. Eventually Siyonbola was allowed to go and the officers told Sarah Braasch that she should not have called the police because Siyonbola had every right to use that room. The Facebook live video that Siyonbola recorded on her phone is below.

This should incense you for several reasons; the most astounding of the reasons why being the fact that this is the 4th time in a matter of two months that a white person has called the police on a person or a group of  people of color (non-white) for simply doing something as innocent as waiting on a friend in Starbucks. Or taking a tour of a college campus. Or loading their luggage into their car after staying at an AirBnb on a trip to visit a friend. Or even having a family barbecue in a public park.

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Was calling the police really that necessary? The only answer  is no and if you don’t think so you have a problem.

Every single one of these people must have grown up in Mayberry living right next door to Opie Taylor, because that is the only thing that I can think of as to why these people might have called the police. They must have grown up in a city devoid of people of color and it must have alarmed them so much that they did not know what else to do other than call the police. All sarcasm aside, you and I both know that is not why these people called the police. These people called the police because of the extra melanin that the so-called “criminals” possessed. For the people who called the police as well as the people who are defending the actions of those who called the police, I have news for you: if you don’t try to live in a world where people of all races and ethnicities are seen as equals in the eyes of their fellow man, you won’t enjoy living at all after we get to 2040, and here is why.

As a teacher of Human Geography, one of the units I cover is Demographic Geography. Demographic geography is the study of the ways in which spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration, and growth of populations are related to the nature of places. To take it out of the index card definition I would have my students write it is basically the study of how groups of people are shaped by the land and their other surroundings. This is the section of geography that deals with things like birth rate, death rate, rate of natural increase, and other geographic numbers. These numbers have turned population geography into a science. By studying these numbers throughout human existence and their current numbers we have transformed population geography into a science that is surprisingly accurate when it comes to predictions that are made by population geographers. The prediction that most geographers have made involving race is that by the year 2040, white people will no longer be the majority in America.

The Horror! The Danger! Call Uncle Bubba! It is time to start prepping the bunker now!

All jokes aside, the statistic is true – Based on population projections that have been surprisingly accurate up to this point, the racial make up in America is changing. America is becoming less white christian and more of everything else. And despite what you may think, this is a good thing. For far too long in this nation we have not had much needed conversations on race. Avoiding the topic of race is comfortable now, but in the last several years it has hurt too many people when the issues came boiling to the surface. If we had these conversations years ago when we needed to then maybe Mike Brown would still be here and I wouldn’t have students wondering if their parents or older siblings are going to be deported. We still have people carrying around the Confederate flag, for God’s sake!

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Charlottesville. Virginia. July 8. 2017. What is going on, America?

Think about that! There are still people in this nation who support the Confederacy and its ideals. They do not see the confederacy as the morally crippled from the start failure that it always was. They see it under the guise of “The Lost Cause.” This is as laughable as it is stupid. The Civil War was a cultural group of rich white Americans that decided its choice to abuse and trade humans endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights was more important than upholding and defending the United States Constitution many of them swore to protect. Any attempt to explain it as otherwise directly undermines the future stability of this nation.

Clearly by avoiding the conversation things are not working. Continued avoidance and silence is going to lead to more problems for our nation down the road, and that is what brings us back to 2040. As a result of several demographic statistics, the white majority will be gone, and it would be generations before they could ever regain a majority, if they even could. First, when you break down the average age of each racial group in the United States, whites are significantly older than minority groups. This means there are less child-rearing women who are white actively having children. In addition the average number of children born to white women is significantly lower than the average number born to black and Latina women.

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The millennial generation is already the most diverse generation in the history of this nation. 46% of millennials are non-white. Perhaps that is also why it gets the distinction of being the most accepting generation when it comes to relationships outside our own racial group. Next year, in 2019, millennial will officially be the largest generation in America. This is a good thing – and as a millennial myself I am excited and proud to be the generation that leads the way in fixing our race relations problems. If your generation won’t lead the way it is high time millennial step up to the plate and show you how it is done.

The only possible reason that I can think of that would explain the behavior of all these white people calling the police on people of color for no reason is their fear. White people must be afraid of retribution. White people must be so scared that as a result of their horrible treatment of many groups of people over color at the hand of white people that they are terrified of being on the receiving end of the very same treatment that they perpetuated on groups of colors for decades. That is the only thing I can think of that would explain these actions. And you know what? The continued fear of people of color is making things worse. It is doing nothing but alienating white people from everybody else as seemingly out of touch bigots who are clinging to power because we feel we are superior.

image-26Thankfully, the views are slowly changing.  The majority of Americans (although still far to low of a majority) see immigrants in this country as something that makes America stronger and not as a burden. This bodes well for our future since the two fastest growing populations in the United States are immigrants from Latin America and from Asia. However, the second part of this chart is the sad part. If you look at the breakdown of the strength/burden question by race, white Americans are the only demographic group to be below the 50% mark. Once again, it makes White people in this nation seem narrow-minded and racist. The majority of white people are neither narrow-minded nor racist, but until they start speaking up and standing up for their non-white brothers and sisters this problem is only going to get worse.

The closer we get to the year 2040, the more visible the demographic shift will be. As people start to realize the impending change, they will rant and rave and rail on about America and how she is losing her ideals and the other traits that make up America. Instead of fighting a losing battle on race (which if your advocating for a White Nationalist America you deserve to lose anyways) 25 years down the road lets solve the problem now by openly having a dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities to make sure the America we live our children is the best version of America there is. Will it be painful? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable, and hard, and sometimes frustratingly slow? Yes, but it is what we need. It is what America Needs. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. We have a problem with race in America. Now let’s start fixing it – and let’s do it together.

-WB