In 2006 then Senator John Kerry made a comment that was insulting to our military. While addressing students at Pasadena City College, he stated, “You study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” (Hillary Clinton Joins Criticism) I was so upset by the underlying, negative assumptions Kerry’s statement made about those who serve in the military, that I quickly came home and removed my “Kerry 2004” bumper sticker from my car. Those who know me, know that this is no small gesture for a woman who still has her “OBAMA 2008” sticker proudly displayed on her station wagon.

Lately, however, it seems politicians have learned nothing from Kerry’s “botched joke.” Just last week, while trying to justify the cruel budget cuts suggested by the White House, politicians were throwing insulting assumptions all over the place. The budget director explained, “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” (Single Mothers Shouldn’t Have to Pay) The National Endowment for the Arts was also included in that assumption.

I am here to take offense at that assumption. I was a single mother for the first five years of my son’s life. During that time, although cash was quite limited for us, we visited art museums, I enrolled my son in arts programs. Both of my children are artists. They’ve taken music lessons and sculpting. My son took VLACS Economics, so that he could take Advanced Art and still graduate high school on time. Both my son and daughter intend to go to film school. I am a poet and a writer. I’m writing this now and I wrote a poem this morning.

Art is an integral part of our lives and just because we were poor for a while didn’t mean that we forgot about the importance of art to the human experience.

Today, the National Endowment for the Arts is more important than ever. Six giant corporations are the gate keepers for publishing most of our music, films and literature. They also control what and who gets promoted. The current climate in the United States is not one where someone who is an artist can easily make a livable wage doing such. The NEA offers grants and programs that allow artists to flourish. They offer schools  the opportunity to pay artists to bring their experience into schools. They help to fund educational programs like Poetry Out Loud.

I don’t know of any mother, single or otherwise, who wants her children to grow up in a culture that doesn’t value art and artists. I am offended that any politician would suggest such a thing. I vote for my tax dollars to go to artists and to PBS and to Meals on Wheels, before a single dime of it builds a bomb. No matter what those who currently hold power may tell me to be scared of, I am much more afraid of living in a world that doesn’t value art and artists than I am of the terrorists they constantly tell me to fear.

And, while we’re on the topic of insulting and down right ignorant assumptions, what parent, single mom or coal-miner,  hasn’t relied on Big Bird? As my students often say, “When you assume, it makes an ass out of you and me.” Maybe we should have an artist design a bumper sticker with that phrase on it.

 

 

a Valentine’s Day poem for Ruth Coker Burks

 

Flowers photographed

And posted on Instagram;

A selfie with

Heart-shaped hands.

 

Write love on your arms

To remember. She

Buried the young men,

Skeletons of their former

lives with love and sex

 

Dinner parties and

Dancing parades-

When their families

Would not face

 

Who the boys they’d

Raised were. She was

More than a marble

Spectre in Arkansas.

 

No real nurse’s training,

Just what she’d watched

From a vinyl, hospital

Chair. But she knew

 

How to take that

And mop a forehead

Or change a bed pan.

 

How to use her own

Savings at the crematorium

And to find cracked cookie jars.

How to transform a plot bought

 

Out of spite

Into the grave for 43

Dead men, abandoned

 

by judgement and health.

 

Hull of old memories,

Bebop and slow dances,

Soda-shoppe sundaes

After school, you-

DJ’d them all

With a quarter request

And the push of some buttons.

Records dropped

45 rpm and the long arm

Lowered itself onto each

Groove like a gentle

Lover. Scratching

Melancholy moods

And soft air.

Where your records are now

Melted ashtrays, ornaments

Hanging on diner walls, and

Skeet targets,

Digital music – so pure

And perfect, convenient –

Will never be

As romantic as

Standing arm

And arm above

The Wurlitzer choosing

Our favorite song.

~June 7, 2016 – Poem almost every day

In season four of Friends, Phoebe, a vegetarian who’s pregnant with her brother’s babies (don’t worry, she’s a surrogate), starts to desperately crave meat.  Joey, known for his love of meatball subs and pepperoni pizza, offers a karmic, equal exchange with his friend; he’ll give up meat until the babies are born, so that Phoebe can satisfy her yearning. This way, no extra animals will die, and Phoebe can eat them without much guilt.

I’m proposing a similar exchange in our efforts to support each other as activists against most of what the new Republican administration in the United States is lodging. From banning refugees, to appointing incompetence, racists, and misogynists to key advisory and cabinet positions, to threatening to build billion dollar walls across our border, to the Dakota Pipeline, to impending LGBT discriminatory legislation, cuts to the arts, wiping of climate data from government sites, and on and on, this regime has come out with their guns blaring against progress and most of what makes being human have meaning. In states like New Hampshire, we also have new threats like “Right-to-Work (for less)” and our own version of Betsy DeVos pending.  Many are beginning to realize that this rapid on slaughter against all that we hold as valuable is no accident of trying to accomplish too much too soon. This is a calculated attempt to distract and wear down those of us committed to fight. We cannot let this happen.

But, we’re exhausted. So what can we do?

Last week, I had an appointment with my PCP. This was just a week or so after we’d glanced over and realized we were standing next to each other at the Women’s March in Concord. We knew each other’s politics and most of my visit was about how the current political climate was affecting my well-being. She reminded me to keep a slow, steady anger brewing, so that I do not fall into despair and inaction. I believe she was also giving this advice to herself. At the end of the visit, she  encouraged me to take occasional time off from news and prescribed Zoloft. She’s worried about my serotonin levels.

So, what does this all have to do with Joey, Phoebe, and Friends you may be asking? Well, let me tell you. We’ve all got to be willing to let someone else figuratively give up eating meat for us for a day or a week or maybe more, so that we can take care of ourselves.

As activists, let’s support each other by offering to hold up the torch for those who need a news-free weekend, or cannot take the day off to attend a deliberative session or a protest rally. I know that I can turn off news notifications for a day, if  I’ve got others paying attention while I’m not. And I, in turn, will do for others.

There is a post traveling around Facebook about how musicians carry a long note and cover for each other so that they have the chance to breath while singing. We must breath. We must support each other. We must persist and resist.

Image credit: AP NEWS.MIC Senate Republicans voted to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Tuesday night after she read a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 disavowing U.S. attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, who, at the time, was being considered for a federal judge position. Warren read the letter on the Senate floor during debates over President […]

via People are turning “Nevertheless, she persisted” into a feminist rallying cry — The Fifth Column

Great film + Obama’s legacy = love.

GOOD BLACK NEWS

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins (photo via Variety.com)

article by Kristopher Tabley viaVariety.com

In celebration of Black History Month, Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-nominated film “Moonlight” is partnering with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a mentoring program initiated by President Barack Obama’s Administration. The organization focuses on empowering young men of color with the resources and support they need in order to achieve their full potential, regardless of circumstance.

The series kicked off Monday night with a screening in Los Angeles, attended by dozens of young men from local schools. Following the screening, Mike Muse of My Brother’s Keeper moderated a talk-back session with the students and the film’s Oscar-nominated talent: Jenkins, stars Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney. Another screening is set for New York next week.

To read more, go to: ‘Moonlight’ Partners With Barack Obama’s Mentoring Initiative | Variety

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GOOD BLACK NEWS

Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant and Hero Sheila Fedrick (photo via clutchmagonline.com)

article via clutchmagonline.com

Sheila Fedrick by all accounts should be considered a hero.

Fedrick, 49, a flight attendant working for Alaska Airlines, said she noticed a disheveled girl who looked to be 14-15 years old, with a well-dressed man, and something told her the scenario was wrong. So she jumped to action. Fedrick said she tried to talk to them, but the man became angry and rude.

“I left a note in one of the bathrooms,” Fedrick said. “She wrote back on the note and said ‘I need help.’” Fedrick says she called the pilot and told him about the passengers. When the plane landed, police were waiting in the terminal. Fedrick was correct, the girl was a victim of sex trafficking, and now more flight attendants are being trained on how to spot them.

Nancy Rivard

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Now I know, better

Than ever, why you exist.

(Tyranny, Militia, and the like)

 

So, my question becomes

What will be my weapon

Of choice: Poetry

or an AR-15?

 

This morning I laced-up

My Doc Martens.

Your mother wears combat boots.

Is this what the birth of a regime and the end of a democracy look like? I don’t intend to be melodramatic with that question. I ask it honestly. This week our government began deleting web pages. These weren’t just “position” pages. They included actual science and study. Now they’re gone. This week our government […]

via Is this what it looks like? — Thoughtvomit

There is an art to choosing
the day when students
recite the words of great

writers, knowing Fate
will say, “No.” Or is it winter?
Twenty-one below with wind;

no kindergarten and all else
must wait. And so, our contest.
Mittens, scarves, boots

will be late. No snowballs
will fly. Organizers
email judges, contestants,

Performers – all – to say
Poetry is once again delayed.

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