Friday, May 29, 2020

Racism and America

I couldn’t fall asleep last night. I just kept picking my phone back up and returning to Twitter to see updates on the protests.


I watched as rage boiled over after another Black man in Minneapolis and Black woman in Louisville were killed by police.


I watched as protesters were shot with tear gas and rubber bullets… something White protesters a few weeks ago were not forced to experience.


I watched as White protesters created a barrier of protection in front of Black protesters.


I watched as gun violence victims in Louisville’s protest were treated in the streets for their injuries.


I watched as a police precinct burned.


I watched as a president threatened violence against Americans.


I feel at a loss for words, but also understand the importance of speaking in these moments. I am heartbroken. Heartbroken over the systemic racism on which our society is built, which disadvantages and marginalizes people of color in this country. I am horrified by the implicit bias that is so ingrained in our citizens that when people see Black men and women, they are afraid. That they do not believe someone when they say “I can’t breathe”.


Or do they just not care?


I do my best to teach my students about structural racism and implicit bias. So many of them are unaware of the impact of these factors on influencing the nation’s history prior to arriving at college. How can we change if so many do not even understand the problem?


It is hard to know what to do and how to help at times like these. So many people care, but do not know how to act. I struggle with this too. But what I have learned is the importance of listening to Black leaders of this movement. To take a step back and learn. To offer support in whatever way they ask me to, and to stand with them in whatever way I can. I do that by writing. I do it by teaching. I do it by trying to provide financial support to organizations that fight this fight.


If you are on twitter, I recommend you to follow the individuals below, who continue to teach me how to be an ally in this fight.



There are wonderful books available to help you learn more about this topic. I am happy to provide a longer list, but the first couple I highly recommend are:


So You Want to Talk About Race? - Ijeoma Oluo


The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the age ofcolorblindness - Michelle Alexander


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?And Other Conversations About Race 20th Anniversary Edition – Beverly DanielTatum


Below are links to a couple of videos on structural racism. I hope some of you take the time to take in these resources to help you understand the scope of the problem protesters fight against.

Redlining – a video by Adam Ruins Everything that does a great job briefly explaining the racist policy and its impact on the structure of neighborhoods and school systems in the nation.


Health Equity – An outstanding video by Dr. Camara Jones on Health Equity in America. It’s an hour but absolutely worth the time.



It’s hard work to teach yourself to understand how we got here. It’s hard work to process that White Americans have benefited from the same system that has oppressed Black Americans. But it is not harder than being Black in America. It is not harder than having to live in a system that was built to work against you.


It is not harder than watching someone that looks like you, or your child, suffocated for eight minutes because of a police officer's knee on his neck while he's saying "I can't breathe".

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Henry's 11th Year

Happy birthday, sweet Henry.

Dear Henry: An Eleven Year Letter

Dear Henry,

Oh my sweet boy, I cannot believe you are eleven years old.  When you were first born people were constantly telling us to take it all in and enjoy every moment because it would fly by.  At the time, it felt like unnecessary advice.  “Yes, babies don’t keep”, I thought.  Time moves, as it always does, but thanks for the heads up.  Except… I needed the heads up. Or maybe, even though I was told, I have still found myself shocked with how quickly time has slipped by.  How are you eleven?  How is this your very last year of elementary school? How have the hours and days added up to this, a pre-teen living in my house who is simultaneously my baby and his entire own person? How can time possibly move this fast, and how is a Mama’s heart supposed to adjust this quickly?

This year, if I am being completely honest, has not gone according to plan. Let’s get the big thing out of the way first; we are currently living through a worldwide pandemic. On March 13 your school closed for a few weeks to help slow the spread of Covid-19. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was your last day of traditional elementary school.  You had so looked forward to finishing out the year. Your Robotics Team had worked since September to defend their state title in March, but that was canceled too. You haven’t been with your friends or family beyond me and Papa for the last two months, and while we hope to see them soon, we will not be fully back to normal for quite some time.  You have always been so blessed to be surrounded by so many family members and friends that love you, it has been extremely hard to transition to not being with them in person.  

It’s been hard, and yet you have rolled with this as you seem to do most things. You have done well with classes online and are enjoying your time playing online with your friends. You, Luke, Zeke, Darcy, and other school friends have spent a ton of time hanging out on Roblox and Discord. I am so thankful you have that connection with them. Who would have thought your favorite pastime would have come in so handy during a pandemic?!  We have also watched a lot of movies as a family, which we have all enjoyed. You and I have been taking long bike rides every day the weather is nice and you and your Papa have enjoy baking together and playing video games. You have also started taking online piano lessons, which has been fun to listen to, and I hope you choose to stick with it once we get back to regular life.

Of course, this year is more than the pandemic. You had ten entire months of normal life leading up to that moment. So, what has happened since your turned 10?  Well, as always, we did some traveling. We went back to Florida to visit Nana and Grandpa and spend a week on Anna Maria Island. You love the trip as always and had a wonderful time with your family.  We then took Nanny to Disney World, which was amazing!  Darcy and her family were there too and we had a wonderful time. Beyond Florida, you took a few new trips this year. We went to Alabama, where you haven’t been since you were very young. We also took a trip to Washington DC for my birthday and you loved exploring one of my favorite cities. We also discovered a new love of renting cabins at state parks here in Kentucky! We went for a weekend with Grandaddy and GrandVal last fall and you had a wonderful time out on Grandaddy’s boat. You even managed to talk me into going tubing with you! You also went to Kings Island three times last summer, so it is safe to say that is one of your new favorite places.

This year you have gotten more into movies and music, and have found a new favorite video game. You and Papaw have started watching all of the Marvel movies together in order, which has been really fun. You hate that you have had to pause the movie series, but don’t want to watch any of them without Papaw.  You also watched Lord of the Rings for the first time this year, and with that you discovered your favorite movie! You also have started listening to the Beetles, who you really love. You commonly put them on loop to listen to while you sleep. You continue to love bluegrass, with Mandolin Orange being one of your favorite groups. You also fell in love with the game Undertale, and you plan to have that be the theme of your birthday party when we are able to have it later in the summer. You and your Papa have very similar taste in music, movies, and games, so that has been fun to share together.

You continue to love making video games and moved up in your Coding Club with Awesome Inc.  You and Luke love being part of that group, and you are more sure than ever that you want to design games when you grow up. You also still love to write stories, and your skill is truly amazing. You are currently working on a book, Swords of War, and so far, it is incredible.  Watching your growth in this area blows my mind, as I can watch your creativity and imagination pour out onto the digital page.

As we begin your eleventh year, you are wrapping up your time in elementary school. And while it isn’t ending as we ever would have wanted, I do want to take just an extra minute to say what your school as meant to you.  I remember on your first day of kindergarten being full of worry for you. How would you know where to go? Were you really ready for this big place? On that day, you sat next to a boy named Luke, and the rest is history. From that moment on, you have been at home at Clays Mill. You have excelled in ways we never could have imagined. You have had incredible teachers and amazing experiences each and every year.  They have all have had such a huge influence on who you are today, it is hard for me to imagine your life without CME. And as you move into this next stage, I know your new school will be the same. I worry about you heading off on this new middle school adventure, but deep down I know you are ready. You are always ready for whatever comes your way.  This year you have had some illness issues that have made the year uniquely challenging. As that slowly started to improve, you found ourselves dealing with the pandemic. And yet here you are, constantly teaching me how to roll with the punches.  You are ready, sweet Henry, for whatever middle school brings.  But for today, I am just a little sad your elementary years has come to an end.  

As always, we love you sweet boy.  While these eleven  years have flown by, it is at the same time hard to remember life before you. What did we do when you weren’t here to make us smile? How were our hearts full without you in them? You are always our joy, and through good times and bad, we are always better because of you. 

Happy birthday, sweet Henry.