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Troy

Jesmyn Ward's Very Moving Speech

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I attended the Mississippi Book Festival this past Saturday.  It was held in Jackson, MS.  Like most cities in the deep south it is a series of profound contradictions.  You'll find both moving testaments to civil rights and blatant signs of racism and its legacy.

 

The book fair had a terrific line up of authors: I got so see Charles Frazier, Rick Bragg, and Jon Meacham just to name a few.  There were quite a few Black authors of note as well including Jabari Asim, Janet Dewart Bell, Don Tate, Angie Thomas, Nicola Yoon, Quvenzhané Wallis, and many more.

 

The organizers of the festival commissioned the creation of a street marker dedicated to Ward's work as a writer.  In accepting the honor she gave a very moving speech.

 

 

 

Still, other than the authors, there were few Black attendees -- probably more black authors than Black attendees.  This is remarkable considering the fact that Jackson Mississippi is virtually 80% Black!

 

The most surreal moment was listening to a conversation between Jon Meacham and Karl Rove.  They began talking about the Klan and it was then that I noticed virtually everyone in the room -- several hundred people -- were white, many elderly.  I began to wonder how many of these people had attended a lynching, fought against segregation, or just believe people with brown skin as inferiors -- surely some have had to (or still do)... it was just a strange feeling.

 

white-audience.jpg

 

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This is one of the strangest things about the political climate of the South that I just don't understand.

The South has the largest concentration of AfroAmericans of any region of the United States.

I can't figure out how can states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, ect...with such high Black popluations STILL end up going Republican and be labled as "red states".

It's as if the Black majority in those areas just don't vote or refuse to get politically involved and allow racist conservative White minority to run wild.

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Oh man
I'm just now seeing what you're talking about!

Yeah, Jackson is indeed a Black city and to see an audience THIS White in the middle of a Black city is indeed a shocker.

Infact, I don't remember the last time I saw an audience THAT White before.....lol.

I looked hard and couldn't spot one Black, Brown, or Yellow face.
Except for the one dude in the green shirt, I didn't even see any "ethnic" looking Whites like Italians or Jews or even Ain the audience; they all look like run-of-the-mill Anglosaxons.

And if you look at the clothes they're wearing, they look pretty plain like something out of the 50s or early 60s.

It tells you a lot about the mindset of the audience.


I've seen more Black people at Trump rallies than in THAT audience....lol.

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On 8/21/2018 at 1:24 PM, Pioneer1 said:

It's as if the Black majority in those areas just don't vote or refuse to get politically involved and allow racist conservative White minority to run wild.

 

@Pioneer1  black people in these areas have been carefully taught not to leave their "area".  I learned this first hand when I left New York and moved to Wheeling, WV  - Wheeling is not even on the mason-dixon line but there are unwritten rules to know your place. 

In fact, Wheeling, WV never even had slavery but the black people there knew they weren't allowed in certain areas...

When I moved there - one of my first jobs was in an area where the city's founders had herded all the black people.   Small section of the town on a hill  that was almost 70 percent black -the rest of the black people were sprinkled around town - but those folks never left the area and most lived in the town's only housing project.

So you can imagine how fascinating I was to them because I lived in a big house on a main thoroughfare where no other black people had ever lived.  My closest black neighbor was state senator and his wife...they had left the area and returned so they no longer had that mindset.  Anyway, when I would go to work some of the children would wonder how it was to go to those events where "white" people went ... I would ask - "You mean to tell me you've never gone to blah blah" and they'd say,  "no ma'am" - as if it was some unwritten rule that they were not allowed out the area - and they never went. 

It's generations after generation of being subjected to institutional racism - and the parents don't know any better so they pass down the warnings to their children...

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28 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

 

@Pioneer1  black people in these areas have been carefully taught not to leave their "area".  I learned this first hand when I left New York and moved to Wheeling, WV  - Wheeling is not even on the mason-dixon line but there are unwritten rules to know your place. 

In fact, Wheeling, WV never even had slavery but the black people there knew they weren't allowed in certain areas...

When I moved there - one of my first jobs was in an area where the city's founders had herded all the black people.   Small section of the town on a hill  that was almost 70 percent black -the rest of the black people were sprinkled around town - but those folks never left the area and most lived in the town's only housing project.

So you can imagine how fascinating I was to them because I lived in a big house on a main thoroughfare where no other black people had ever lived.  My closest black neighbor was state senator and his wife...they had left the area and returned so they no longer had that mindset.  Anyway, when I would go to work some of the children would wonder how it was to go to those events where "white" people went ... I would ask - "You mean to tell me you've never gone to blah blah" and they'd say,  "no ma'am" - as if it was some unwritten rule that they were not allowed out the area - and they never went. 

It's generations after generation of being subjected to institutional racism - and the parents don't know any better so they pass down the warnings to their children...


It's frightening that all the way up into the modern era there are some AfroAmerican communities that still live like that.

Up until the late 90s we were still hearing stories about communities in Texas and Louisiana where Black families were STILL picking cotton on large plantations and didn't know they had the right to vote!

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On 8/25/2018 at 9:55 PM, Pioneer1 said:

I don't remember the last time I saw an audience THAT White before.....lol.

 

Come to think of it neither have I -- excepting in the lynching photos I saw so many of that weekend.  Yes it was shocking and like i said when they started talking about the Klan I started to feel kind of strange.  There was an elderly sister sitting near me, but she was very fair and I only noticed her was because I was looking very hard. When I did see her she we made eye contact and we acknowledged each other the way Black folk do.

 

On 8/25/2018 at 10:13 PM, Mel Hopkins said:

It's generations after generation of being subjected to institutional racism - and the parents don't know any better so they pass down the warnings to their children...

 

Tie but Mel you don't have to leave NYC to experience this.  There are kids in Brooklyn who have never been to Manhattan, or a museum, or a Broadway Play, or the beach...  NYC like much of the deep south is very stratified first by class and then by race.  

 

Again the turn out at the book festival, in majority Black city, did catch me off guard.  There however was a large group of young girls from some other city in MS (I have video to edit of their director (Quvenzhane Wallis) is the tallest girl in the shot).  Every Black people I spoke to was from out of town.

 

I guess you'd have to consider the literary and educational levels of the Black folks in Jackson.  I have not looked them up, but I know the MS has the worst educational outcomes in the country and I know that is not good news for the Black folks there...

 

hushpuppy.jpg

 

 

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As a black person you knew not to got to Bensnhurst or certain parts of the Bronx. Manhattan has stores where they buzz you in because the door is locked. I wasn't let into to a store I believe it was in the 1990's on the east side of Manhattan 

 As a black person you knew not to got to Bensnhurst or certain parts of the Bronx. Manhattan has stores where they buzz you in because the door is locked. I wasn't let into to a store I believe it was in the 1990's on the east side of Manhattan 

I hadon't drinks with a New York Racist and a South African one.

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8 hours ago, Troy said:

Tie but Mel you don't have to leave NYC to experience this.  There are kids in Brooklyn who have never been to Manhattan, or a museum, or a Broadway Play, or the beach...  NYC like much of the deep south is very stratified first by class and then by race.  


I don't know your sources, so you might be telling the truth  @Troy about NYC children.   However, for those of us who grew up in NYC during the 70s, 80s  90s  early 00s this wasn't the case as long as we attended public school.  Budget cuts had not taken their toll on NYC Department of Education and we still went on school trips to said places.  I went to school in brooklyn and every year we either went to the Hayden Planetarium,  rockefeller center , Museum of natural history, NY botanical gardens, etc ...and we weren't alone - there were would be thousands of school children from all over the city that had those name tags flying in the wind - at these sites.   I say that  to say while there may be self-imposed barriers to these locations - public school provided an opportunity to go to places that would be otherwise off-limits.   By the time I got to Wheeling in 1992, these opportunities were opening up for the the disenfranchised children in Wheeling. From my conversations with the children, it appeared these were new opportunities.

From these articles, it seems that NYC department of ed still funds school field trips.
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/nyregion/new-york-city-tightens-rules-for-school-trips.html  , http://www.optnyc.org/schools/FieldTrips.htm ,  Here's an essay on possible inequity in the school system.
 

7 hours ago, Delano said:

As a black person you knew not to got to Bensnhurst or certain parts of the Bronx. Manhattan has stores where they buzz you in because the door is locked. I wasn't let into to a store I believe it was in the 1990's on the east side of Manhattan 

@Delano  as a black boy /man, you knew not....   I point out that distinction because I learned later in life boys/men (all ethnicity) didn't have freedom of movement.   

As a black girl/woman, as long as I went in a group or went by myself during the day I/we could go anywhere in New York City and did.  Girls/ Women didn't have the same restrictions as boys/men.  Girls/Women were only vulnerable to men who sought to harm us sexually - and we are much vulnerable at night or alone. 

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My source is personal experience and talking with teachers in the NY Public schools.  One teacher told me about a boy who, during a field trip to a park, pointed to over to Manhattan and asked what was that? 

 

Sound like you went to a good school @Mel Hopkins I can assure you not all schools are the same.  My school did not take me to Hayden Planetarium,  rockefeller center (Wow!), Museum of natural history, or the NY botanical gardens.  I went to these places as an adult.

 

You might recall Mel that the city damn ear went bankrupt when we were i grade school.  You may also remember the teacher strikes during the same era.  

 

I too traveled around NYC, but it was not without risk .  I group of boys in the wrong neighborhood was liable to get jumped by a gang (this happened to me a few times).  I recall walking with my girlfriend in HS, we crossed int the wrong neighborhood and white kids started throwing rocks at us it was not bensonhurst but it was clearly a racially motivated event in a white neighborhood.  I guess today you just get shot...

 

@Mel Hopkins, did your family take you to Disney when you were a child?  

 

 

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38 minutes ago, Troy said:

One teacher told me about a boy who, during a field trip to a park, pointed to over to Manhattan and asked what was that? 

 

Whew, at least they're still going on field trips... but this is extremely sad.
 

40 minutes ago, Troy said:

 I can assure you not all schools are the same.  My school did not take me to Hayden Planetarium,  rockefeller center (Wow!), Museum of natural history, or the NY botanical gardens.  I went to these places as an adult.



And Troy, you're freakin' kidding me!!!... You know what @Troy - this is some bullshyt! How the hell we both go to school in new york city; grow up at the same time and have different experiences in the school system?  ..Did ya'll at least go to the Bronx Zoo? 

This is starting to explain a lot...  If you didn't test well for one of the specialized high schools - then there's a chance we probably wouldn't have  met.  We were on different paths - IN THE SAME STINKIN' city  with the same PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM but two different worlds.   Troy, do you know, we went on field trips a minimum of  twice a year at my public schools ... I was in the top classes throughout my academic career and we did a lot of cool things. Were you in the top classes?

And no, my parents never took me to Disney World (thank goodness) but we did travel a lot... my dad was in military and I really did start school in Germany...  Do you know I've never been to Disney World and have no desire to go or even take my children... but my oldest daughter did go with her father, step mother and brother and sisters. She thought it was pedestrian. Very american-ish.

 

 

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I went to the Bronx Zoo when I went to BTHS biology class freshman year.  We spend the day getting high 😞  That as far as I can recall was my only field trip.  Did you got on many? 

 

My big trip in grade school was a bus ride to Washington DC as a kid in the 5th grade.  First time I stayed in a hotel room.  This was all due to the effort of one teacher, who, years later was convicted of child molestation...

 

We also went to a trip to Sleepy Hollow (home of the headless horseman, you probably went there) and the Central Park Zoo.  A gorilla threw poop and hit ones of my classmates -- it happened just like it did in the movie Cooley High LOL.  We did go on some trips and we also many things kids don't have today.  My elementary school did not have much or do much, but my Jr. High school was much better.

 

I'm always surprised me to here how few resources schools have in NYC claim to have.  We had so much more and the city was struggling financially.  We also did not have the additional funding provided by the lottery.  All I can assume is that the government is simply not allocating the resources to public school education did way it did when we were younger.  This is probably why there are so few Black boys in the NYC specialized high schools today -- grooming these young men for invisibility 😉 

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This certainly gives weight to my contention that the black experience encompasses a broad spectrum.  In my little mid-western home town which is now predominately black but during my formative years was overwhelming white, instead of its small black ghetto being located on the other side of the tracks, it was located in the center of town, and co-existence was the name of the game,  It was taken for granted, that white townsfolk didn't venture into our neighborhoods, and we didn't venture into theirs, the exception being the  jews who were  dispersed throughout our community by virtue of being the owners of stores and businesses, and who had settled in this town because it was one of the few in the area that wasn't rampantly anti-semetic. 

 

The schools i attended were integrated, however, and my high school, was at that time rated as one of the best in the state. (A far cry from its present ranking.) Its college prep curriculum was geared toward the state's flag ship school of higher learning, the University of Illinois. As blacks we were exposed to an excellent education that we needed only to take advantage of.  And our proximity to Chicago allowed grade school children to take field trips to world famous places like The Field Museum, the Art institute, The Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium and the Brookfield Zoo, all of which i visited and enjoyed.    Blacks in my village also had access to a fine library, courtesy of millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who erected libraries throughout the country  because he wanted his legacy to be one known for encouraging the pursuit of knowledge.  

 

So, we are all products of  different environments and although we are alike in many ways, the childhood circumstances  that nutured and influenced us were determined by mere chance.   

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On 8/21/2018 at 1:18 PM, Troy said:

I began to wonder how many of these people had attended a lynching, fought against segregation, or just believe people with brown skin as inferiors -- surely some have had to (or still do)... it was just a strange feeling.

 

@Troy Before I had my first child, I read about pregnant women having normal nightmares about accidentally forgetting and leaving thier babies on the roof of a car, and then I did have those nightmares. NOw, when I think back and in lieu of this issue, I am wondering if it's not a normal feeling for many of us to have these thought when we are in a conference or something where, in the south especially, there are many White people.  

 

Anyway, this was a gretat post. She is such a lovely person! And she looks like her heritage. Her speech was so wonderful. So inspiring.

 

On 8/25/2018 at 10:13 PM, Mel Hopkins said:

It's generations after generation of being subjected to institutional racism - and the parents don't know any better so they pass down the warnings to their children...

 

So true!

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There are kids in Brooklyn who have never been to Manhattan, or a museum, or a Broadway Play, or the beach... NYC like much of the deep south is very stratified first by class and then by race.

 

As a black person you knew not to got to Bensnhurst or certain parts of the Bronx. Manhattan has stores where they buzz you in because the door is locked. I wasn't let into to a store I believe it was in the 1990's on the east side of Manhattan

 


I saw more racism in Pennsylvania than I did down south.

Those "ethnic Whites" that are talked about so much in political arenas are the main cause of the racism of the Northeast.
They are pro-union but anti-African which is why the Democrats have such a hard time keeping their vote.


Those of Italian and Irish descent who are both Caucasian but they aren't AngloSaxon so they're constantly trying to PROVE their "Whiteness" by being overtly racist towards AfroAmericans and AfroLatinos.

Many Italians have African and Arab ancestry and this effects the way they look, think, and see the world.
I believe this stresses a lot of them out and in confusion and frustration they engage in racist behavior as a form of over-compensation for their feelings. 

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