I was lucky enough to catch up with Jerod Powell after he joined us at Empire for my last Naperville Bike Club meeting. Jerod, who is a mechanic at Pedal and Spoke, is launching an Aurora Bike Club and is director of Dirty Bikes in Aurora which is a part of the Renewed Roots Initiative.
Renewed Roots Initiative is a community farm and bicycle shop that focuses on urban sustainability. Their purpose is to demonstrate a new way of life and a sustainable way of life - growing your own organic foods, harvesting and using foods that would otherwise be wasted and zero carbon footprint transportation.
Dirty Bikes doesn’t just want to put bikes in people’s hands, they are using the ‘Earn a Bike’ program as a model. They accept five youths a few times a year to teach mechanics by tearing apart a bike and rebuilding it. They make it a point to not let the tools leave the youths’ hands.
Prior to volunteering with Renewed Roots Initiative and running Dirty Bikes, Powell volunteered for Triple Threat Mentoring which ran an ‘Earn a Bike’ program three times a year. Triple Threat represents the 3 A’s: Arts, Academics and Athletics, he says.
Powell’s own passion for cycling began when he returned from serving four years in the Navy to civilian life. While serving, he worked as a submarine machinist, a diesel technician and a ‘jack of all trades’.
“I had a rough transition. I found a rusty bike that I could use for transportation, but then I began finding the trails and noticing everything. You see so much more by bike. Then I saved every penny I had so I could go to Barnett (Bicycle Institute),” he reminisced.
Barnett Bicycle Institute is the kind of place that will teach you everything from bicycle mechanics to how to lay out a shop.
Currently, Jerod is offering bike tune ups to help raise extra money for Dirty Bikes for those getting ready for the spring and summer cycling season. You can also meet the Renewed Roots Initiative team at the Aurora Farmer’s Market every Saturday starting in June and learn about their urban sustainability efforts, how to buy into the garden plots (of which there are only four left and they’re only $25 each!), or how to buy shares in the CSA (community sustained agriculture) to get all your fresh summer veggies.
Not only are they offering buy in, they are also charitable, according to Powell, as last year they gave away about 1000 pounds of food to the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.
“About 60 billion tons of food go unharvested annually,” Powell says as he discusses Renewed Roots Initiative’s Urban Orchard project where they harvest from public and private trees and sell or give away the fruit.
Powell has also joined the Aurora Bicycle, Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Board in an effort to work toward making Aurora an even more bicycle friendly community. This board began around 2008, but took pause during the ‘financial crisis’ and was recently put back together November 2016. There has been much progress since the financial crisis including the completion of the ‘green mile’ which is a mile long enclosed bike lane on River Street which received the 2016 Ride Illinois Project Award.
Among the Aurora BPT Advisory Board is Ed Barsotti who is the Executive Director of the League of Illinois Bicycles. Together they are looking at the shape of the city, its paths and sidewalks, and partnering with current construction efforts so that bicycle and pedestrian traffic is remembered as development occurs.
Steve Alesch is the social media coordinator of the Illinois Green Party and the Chair of the DuPage Green Party. He joined formally around 2006 during the Rich Whitney campaign. He remembered he had watched Ralph Nader on CSPAN on election day in 2004 and everything ‘just made sense’. Alesch said he didn’t know much about the Green Party until then. He was libertarian because of the social issues, but the regulations and economic issues didn’t match his beliefs and the direction he felt we needed to go as a country.
Alesch himself ran for congress in 2008 capturing 2.78% of the vote loosing to Judy Biggert (R). He says he doesn’t believe in choice voting and works hard to try to change the mindset of a two party country. There are currently 3,450 ILGP members and 12,600 supporters (which includes members). In 2006 our Governor candidate, Rich Whitney, received 361,336 (10.4%) votes. More recently in 2016 Jill Stein received 76,802 (1.4%) votes in Illinois. After Jill Stein ran for President local chapters and membership was reignited. There are two new chapters: Lake County and Prairie Greens in Champaign. There are also several officially applying and inaugural meetings are happening. The inaugural Will County meeting will be Tuesday, March 14th.
“Jill stein raised a lot of money for a recount and must spend on election reform,” Alesch noted. “She still has fireside chats weekly and will be present at the conference on election reform in Washington, DC.”
Regardless of party affiliations, many of the members are active in their communities, attending rallies like the Women’s March and also hold positions as elected officials. They also want to make Illinois a sanctuary state and has been working with Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. They approached the sheriff’s office to discuss making DuPage a sanctuary county, but were not received. Sanctuary cities and states have been in the media recently as Trump has threatened to crack down and cut funding of cities that provide sanctuary.
Another outside organizations Alesch has been active in is Move to Amend who’s mission is to abolish corporate personhood.
“Many greens are still active on this,” he says. “It is for the We the People amendment and we are adding sponsors year over year. We approach elected officials to ask they endorse it and last year got a question poll on the ballot in Illinois in several geographic areas. 1.3 million people out of the 3 million voters. We want to pass a resolution to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech. There are eleven or twelve states across the country that are doing this.”
The Illinois Green Party will be having their state meeting March 25th at the Oak Park Library.
For more information about the Illinois Green Party, please go to ILGP.org
To read the article on San Diego as a Sanctuary City, click here.
To learn more about Move to Amend, click here.
To learn more about Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, click here.
"Human Rights are an inconvenience. They are seen as inconvenient to progress by governments, corporations, or organizations. They are seen as obstacles and only valued by a small portion of citizens, who are often the victims, the marginalized or the forgotten. It is up to us, as to remind our governments and our communities that human rights confer the very basic dignity and respect that all humans deserve." ~ Benjamin Wolf (read the entire address)
"I thought tonight's event was excellent. I loved each and every speaker," Jess Lyzun said, capturing the feeling of the intimate evening. "There has to be a way to get people to engage. Beautiful event. So grateful to have been invited."
World Relief DuPage /Aurora. Stand with the Vulnerable.
"There are 27 million refugees and less than 1% go to any 3rd country," said Alison Bell, Senior Resettlement Manager of World Relief DuPage/Aurora. "So why three countries? Their first country is the country they are fleeing from due to war or persecution, so they can't stay there. The second country is where they flee to and the third country is where they can find refuge. Often a refugee will live in a refugee camp for 10 years. Now, imagine, if youre fleeing, what can you bring? Not much, right?"
World Relief helps refugees with everything from basic every day items to finding a good neighborhood to resettle in. Alison makes the analogy about getting into an elevator and that initial discomfort you might feel being looked at or being in front of strangers. World Relief realizes the emotional state and fragility people may be in when being forced to relocate often to a new country in such a way and strives to embrace these newcomers with warmth and smiles. Alison pointed out that her cousin’s family fled to Canada fleeing persecution from Russia and how that is common among us. "So, it isnt just 'some' story," she says. "It's many of our stories."
World Relief DuPage is an eighty plus person staff joining with over 125 local churches and 800 volunteers to serve 5,500 refugees and immigrants each year.
Read more here> http://worldreliefdupage.org/
According to the worldwide World Relief website, 'the number of people in our world displaced from their homes by violence and persecution is unprecedented in human history. By the end of 2015, over 65 million people were forcibly displaced, with nearly a third–20 million–living outside of their countries as refugees."
3 Things You Can Do for Refugees Right Now
Hesed House. Because everyone deserves dignity.
Elise Manzie, Assistant Director of Development at Hesed House has been volunteering at Hesed House since she was four years old. There are now more than ten thousand volunteers and donors and, as she says, "the goal is to put ourselves out of business." Hesed House is the second largest homeless shelter in the second largest city in the Illinois.
In a very human moment, she told a story about a mother and 6 year old daughter that had gotten evicted. She worked a year and a half living at Hesed House to pay off what she owed from the eviction.
"It is very difficult to find some place to go and to find some place safe," Elise stated. "And it is very difficult to find a rental after being evicted. They probably will never be able to rent from some place corporate owned. But the day came when she found a new place to live and she was so nervous and excited she had a hard time telling her daughter who had just turned 7 for fear of something going wrong. When I asked her what kind of mattress she would like, she said, 'Well, we've been sleeping on mats on the floor for a year and a half so it really doesnt matter' and I just had to step back for a moment and realize this tender situation.”
Hesed House offers not only 'eats and sheets', but also substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling and other resources. From January to today they have helped 266 obtain employment or job training, 193 obtain Veterans benefits or other benefits and 405 obtain housing.
Read more about them> http://www.hesedhouse.org/
Want to Help?
Donate, Volunteer or check out their Needs List> http://www.hesedhouse.org/needs-list/
Maybe attend an Event> http://www.hesedhouse.org/events-calendar/
Reclaim 13. Love is Greater than Fear.
JT Porte has two teenage girls and after one was persued by a guy in a car when she was 12 years old he knew he had to do something. The man was persistent, he said. She was with her cousin who said she was going to call the police, but he just circled back around.
"For a long time I was paralyzed because I felt like this was something that was really big," said Porte, "and I didn't know how to do something about it. A lot of people think this is going on oversees - an it is going over sees - but it is definitely going on here as well."
Reclaim 13's Cherish house is where rescued children and teens go to reclaim the life they were supposed to have. 13 is the average age of children who are trafficked. Often these children are still pursued by the people who were selling them. These children and teens testify in court, so not only would a pimp try to steal back the child, they try to avoid being tried in court. The Reclaim 13 team displayed letters from some girls who lived at Cherish House.
Porte invited the audience to join a walk/ run in Downers Grove, participate in the online charity challenge or even to choose to pray.
"We ask that you also pray for the people that are doing this," he said, "That they would just wake up and see what they are doing."
According to the website, 'adolescents with backgrounds of neglect, violence, and abuse are most vulnerable to predators. This means 250,000 to 350,000 children in the U.S. are at-risk for further victimization. 70-90% of girls sexually exploited in the U.S. were sexually abused before they were recruited into commercial sex trafficking. [These children need to be told] abuse is not ok. Children who are sexually abused often times do not reach out for help because they feel ashamed or are threatened.'
Read More > http://www.reclaim13.org/
or click here for information on the National Human Trafficking Hotline
"It’s incredibly important to me that we talk about these things," said event organizer, Diana Piedra.
The event was hosted by Alive Center in Naperville that provides free drop in care from 3-6pm (6th grade and up). There are an array of activities for them to find what makes them come alive: Games, Mentoring, Girls club, Life Skills, Science exploration, tutoring, Teen Led Teen Driven and more.
Check out some events coming up at Alive Center:
Professor of International Human Rights and US Congressional Candidate:
"I want to thank Diana [Piedra] and the Alive Center for inviting us here tonight.
I’m grateful to be in a space that values peace, collaboration and the philosophies associated with a human rights movement.
I’ve had a busy yet peculiar day: It started at 8am as I participated in something called a Polar Plunge. This entails jumping into lake Michigan in the midde of winter. I was informed this would be fun and exilerating. I may have been misinformed, as I am fairly certain that I am exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia.
This afternoon I received a call from a friend that is a White House correspondence and he began asking me questions about Russians infiltrating the White House, an Attorney General and National Security Advisor resigning after only a few weeks of an administration, and other topics that I never imagined we would ever witness.
So, again, I’m happy to be here in this safe space, with no cold water, no Russians. I prefer just talking about peace.
In discussing human rights, its important to remember that the topic is rarely uplifting. We often discuss it from academic or scholastic perspectives, which can be oftentimes misleading. So its important to frame my experience with security and human rights as one of experience and service.
I was recruited by the FBI while still in college and worked for years within the CT and CI national security squads. During this time, I saw my first mass casualty incident and began to quickly understand the reality and fragility of human life.
I then transferred to the State Department as a diplomat as which I became a security and human rights attaché, working in over 65 countries. I lived in North and West Africa, the Middle east, served in Iraq multiple times, was assigned to the UN, INTERPOL and worked on Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s personal staff. I have proudly served three presidents and four secretaries of state.
Human rights courses take months to discuss, understand and synthesize all aspects of the law, diplomacy, anthropology, psychology and of course international affairs. We only have a few minutes.
So I’ll discuss three main points that I think are relevant today.
1. Human Rights are an inconvenience. They are seen as inconvenient to progress by governments, corporations, or organizations. They are seen as obstacles and only valued by a small portion of citizens, who are often the victims, the marginalized or the forgotten. It is up to us, as to remind our governments and our communities that human rights confer the very basic dignity and respect that all humans deserve.
2. Human Rights, much like life, all depend of perspective. A very well known CIA agent that worked counterterrorism recently retired and was asked to sum up her career in one sentence. She stated the following: Everybody thinks they are the good guys. We all think we are doing the right thing from our own perspective. Governments, groups and even individuals all have the same forward notion that they and they alone are correct in their words, actions and thoughts. We must ensure that in these actions, we are always protecting and defending each and every person’s basic human rights as detailed and ratified in the United Nations Declaration of Human rights.
3. In our current political climate, people often ask me, Benjamin what can we do? We feel afraid, powerless and confused. I explain that they are more powerful than they know. As president Obama stated, the most powerful positions is not that of president, but that of citizen. Talk to your family, your neighbors, and your friends. Having events like this (right here) can change peoples minds, can open their hearts. Most of all, continue to demand more of your elected officials. Vote and vote for those that appreciate people, not corporations. Our campaign is being based on equality, peace and education. These are the three most basic tenants of human existence and we will continue to maintain a world view that is rooted in compassion.
We thank you very much for inviting us to be here with you tonight.
We will stay as long as we can and I hope to meet you all and answer any questions."
Learn More About Benjamin Wolf> https://www.wolfforcongress.org/
Tomorrow, Sunday, March 5th at 5:30pm we will gather at Alive Center in Naperville to meet representatives from World Relief, Reclaim 13 and Hesed House. Benjamin Wolf, a professor of International Human Rights, will be our main speaker for the evening. We hope you will join us and show your support for these charitable organizations and the good things they are doing for people all around us.
You know, we often don't see the good people do and we often don't see the turmoil people suffer. We shield ourselves with our outer layers, yet we know there is a deeper side. Sometimes we forget that we are all running on the same energy and fuel and oxygen and that our veins are coursing with the same blood. Not to discount our individual uniqueness, which is where our depth lies and as we were growing up we were taught to be polite and kind and respectful. The basic tenets of all religion is to love although sometimes what we lack is understanding and empathy.
We need to SLOW DOWN in our moments and not rush to judgement prematurely and truly see each other for our humanity. Please read more about these charities by clicking on them: World Relief, Reclaim 13 and Hesed House.
Read more about the organizer of this event, Diana Piedra, and her story.
About Benjamin Wolf:
Born and raised in Kent, Ohio by two public school teachers, Benjamin quickly learned the core values of education and hard work. At the age of twelve, Benjamin discovered the pleasure of public service while working for the local parks and recreation department. He continued volunteering with city and state organizations throughout his formative years.
After completing a university fellowship on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., Benjamin was recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He graduated from the F.B.I. Academy and worked for years within the National Security Division on the highest priority terrorism, intelligence and international security matters.
Benjamin later transferred to the U.S. Department of State as an executive advisor and earned a commission as a Foreign Service Officer while advancing American diplomatic efforts abroad. He actively and loyally served four Secretaries of State and advised dozens of U.S. ambassadors. He received his Foreign Service tenure directly from Secretary Clinton and often traveled with Presidential envoys as a security and human rights liaison. Benjamin volunteered to work in conflict and war zones while protecting and defending the lives of others. He also has served five separate times in Iraq.
Benjamin lived in North and West Africa for many years where he collaborated with international agencies including the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Red Cross. Created by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps is Benjamin's favorite agency and was his inspiration to be a change agent overseas. It was during his years working in developing countries that Benjamin learned a new sense of appreciation that he translated into empowerment programs, job creation, skill-building and education initiatives.
Upon completion of his Ph.D. in International Psychology, Benjamin will continue working in Chicago as a professor, an advocate for international human rights and global justice issues and proud father. His doctoral dissertation focuses on social movements and how basic human rights must be applied equally to every human regardless of race, gender, national identity or economic status. This idea sits at the cornerstone of his personal and political values.
More about Benjamin Wolf.
Although Illinois has historically been a Democratic state & voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 General Election, the US Congress from Illinois is made up of 2 Senators and 18 Representatives as follows:
2 Senators (Both Democrats)
NOTE: A Senator's term of office is six years. Approximately one-third of the total membership of the Senate is elected every two years.
18 Representatives (11 Democrats and 7 Republicans)
Note: Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and are considered for re-election every even year.
More details at: Members of US Congress
2016 Election Results:
(Please click the link below to download a pdf of the data we've gathered)
Compiled by J. Lyzun
What is the Electoral College?
by Diana Piedra
Last night our local Unitarian Church hosted an Interfaith Unity Potluck Dinner. I am a single, 36 year old, mother of two, and the kids and I don't go out to dinner very often so we were excited. We grabbed some kale salad and our most hopeful hearts and drove to church.
Upon entering the very busy commons area I knew we were all in for a treat. Long tables were adorned with brightly colored shimmery table cloths. There were no paper plates or plastic silverware in sight, only real dishes and silverware for this sacred night. Each person came with a dish and placed it on the buffet style set up in the front of the room. The smells and colors created an ambiance and feeling of home within the hall. It felt like a very special version of Thanksgiving.
Strangers greeted each other warmly and hugs were flowing freely. My mother had invited us to this event as she attends this church weekly. The kids and I found mom and the four of us headed to grab a spot at the far table with a red table cloth. Soon enough we found ourselves surrounded by people we knew and we engaged in polite conversation as we waited for the start of the buffet line.
Reverend Tom Capo's voice sounded clear over the speaker system welcoming the group and asking us to find people to sit by who we didn't know. We rearranged ourselves and a beautiful Muslim woman wearing a purple hijab made her way to the chair next to me. Rev. Tom asked that prepare in our own unique way for a blessing of the food. He then read a beautiful prayer and we made our way to the dinner line.
To say the food was excellent is an understatement. Each dish was distinct and and so many of them I had never tried. There was everything from chicken curry to Mexican rice and eggplant Parmesan.
I learned about three religions during the dinner Judaism, Siqquism, and Islam. I met truly incredible people. The woman next to me was a Muslim, a wife, and a mother of 3 grown children. Her religion requires her to be a community contributor and help her neighbors (of any religion) if they are in need. She recently spent an entire day (morning to night) at her neighbors house who has four young children doing her piles of laundry and washing her dishes. She had noticed the new mom was crying outside and was feeling overwhelmed, so she showed up one day to show her loving support and genuine empathy. I learned that Sikhism originated in Punjab, India. The religious philosophy was a response to the caste system in India (circa 1400) because they wanted equality and believed that one God resides in all living things including plants and animals. The Sikh men wear and turban and grow their hair to show devotion to their beliefs. The Jewish gentleman spoke of his slow progression towards being an agnostic. He words were eloquent and heartfelt.
The Unity Dinner was a reminder that we all can connect with one another on so many things. Family, love, a desire for acceptance and prayer are just some of the universal concepts being discussed at our table. I left the hall holding hands with my two children and knowing that this gift would live on in all of our hearts. I would recommend having an Interfaith Unity Dinner in your area.
A Lasting Peace will be partnering with Alive Center in Naperville, Illinois on March 5th from 5:30-8:30pm for a special event and vegan potluck. U.S. Congressional Candidate and Professor of International Human Rights in Chicago, Benjamin Wolf will be the main speaker and proceeds from this event will support Hesed House, World Relief and Reclaim 13.
Help support the project (click on the images):
Diana Piedra feels she has always been an activist. Her heritage is half hispanic, the other half being a mix of German, Irish and English. Being hispanic made her feel she was not quite the same regardless of her family’s outward good fortune or popularity at school.
“I learned I could be popular and still be an outcast; made to feel inferior in some way,” she recalled. “I decided, I can be an outsider and it’s okay. I don't want anyone to have to feel this way. I’m not going to back down when it isn't fun anymore and I’m not going to just shove things under the rug. It’s going to take some bad ass warriors to make a difference in the world because we can’t just continue to gloss over controversial issues.”
Because of this heightened awareness coming from a multicultural family, she had a desire to fight for fairness. Spirituality had always been a strong force in her life, but still, became an unclear journey for her until she found yoga. Yoga gave her a space where she could pray with her whole body and everyone, from all different backgrounds, could come practice together and be accepted.
After the elections, Diana created A Lasting Peace. A Lasting Peace is virtual community based on an idea. It is the desire to create something sustainable and real in our society. Here especially in this part of the world there is a false sense that everything is perfect, she says.
“It isn’t perfect and it doesn't have to be. It is our rough spots and our differences that create the character of our culture and I believe we should celebrate all that,” Piedra states. “But there is animal abuse and sex trafficking and all kinds of real issues that need to be addressed. Refugees are not what we should be attacking at this time. Refugees are escaping places where these issues and worse are rampant. We need to stand behind the refugees and provide a safe place. I am compelled to bring forth injustices to create awareness and get people to act. Not to just throw money at a problem, but to humanize the issue. We call it a problem, but they are people.”
Photo Credits: Joey Hill
by Lorene Keller Smith
Walk a mile…
Just over a year ago, I was already heartsick about the political climate and the utter intolerance I was hearing from strangers and acquaintances and even friends. Somewhere online, I saw posts about women wearing a hijab to show support for their Muslim friends. So I decided to see what it was like.
I approached a fellow parent at my kids’ school who is a devout Muslim. I wanted to make sure it would not be insulting to wear this. She was very encouraging, and the next day, she gifted me both the scarf in the picture and a copy of the Koran. I have yet to read the Koran, unfortunately, but I did find a day to wear the hijab.
First I had to figure out how to wrap it. I started googling, and could not believe the amount of choices presented to me. There must be at least 100 different ways to wrap the scarf, including using foam pieces to create more height in back. And the variety of fabrics and colors was amazing as well. This can be as much a fashion statement as any we have in non-Muslim (western) culture. I settled on a wrap style that looked easier to replicate, made sure to cover all my hair, and went about my day as normally as possible.
My husband and I had to go shopping that day. We were both really nervous about going outside/in public with me dressed like this. This was about the time that people were first being accosted for wearing any kind of head covering, and we really were not sure what to expect. He must have asked me 50 times if I was sure about going out wearing this. I think we both half expected to end up in a fight before we got home (my husband is very protective of me).
We shopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Target that day. The only person who even acknowledged my hijab was an elderly Muslim woman in Target who was wearing one also, and gave me the biggest smile and a head nod. Of course I did not poll anyone for their thoughts, and I do not know what they said out of range of us. We got home without issue, and I wore it around the house the rest of the day. My teenage daughter also dug out an extra scarf and tried it herself.
Oddly, I did not feel repressed or limited by it in any way. I would not choose to wear it all the time (does having a choice make it less repressive?), but the only thing I really felt was toasty warm! I am not sure how I would feel about it in the heat of summer, but in the middle of winter, it added a delicious warmth (I am always cold). I did not feel that it masked my personality in any way.
I am thrilled to see more hijabs represented in the mainstream, whether that is in sporting events or makeup advertisements. I also would like to try this again and see if I get other reactions. Anyone want to join me?
by Christina Davies
My name is Christina. I’m the mother of two boys. One’s eleven and one’s thirteen. We’re a diverse family. I’m half-Asian, half-Caucasian. My husband is blonde; my youngest son looks like his clone; and my oldest son is adopted and African American. We’re the poor man’s version of Angelina Jolie’s family.
The other day my oldest son Clayton is taking a walk along the river. We live in a pretty nice neighborhood right on the river. The neighborhood gets lots of attention when tour boats go by. My oldest son is a quirky kid, and he needs to have something in his hands to fidget with. He found these toy black plastic spy mirrors that elongate and contract on a hinge. He broke off the mirror, and likes likes to hold one handle in each hand, tapping them in the air like you’d gently tap a drum.
As my son takes a leisurely stroll along the River Walk behind our house, hyper focused on wiggling his fidgets as he goes, two police officers approach him. They ask him a few questions, and then want to talk to a parent. Clayton takes the officers home. He opens the front door. My husband Joseph is there in the family room, watching football. “Dad,” he says, “there’s somebody here to talk to you.”
Joseph gets to the door, sees the two officers, and watches their faces drop. Everybody knows my son wasn’t doing anything wrong. And now the officers need to explain to a White dad why his Black son was targeted.
“There’s been a complaint,” says one of the officers. “Someone on one of the tour boats thought your son had nun chucks. We’re sorry. These are obviously not nun chucks and he is obviously not dangerous, but had to respond. And when we found out he is a minor, we had to notify you as the parent.”
“I get it,” says Joseph. “You’re doing your job.” And that was that...
So many things this incident brought up for me. My first question was, are nun chucks illegal? Why is that a reason to call the cops? And what did the tourist on the boat think when they saw Clayton? Did the tourist imagine Clayton leaping and bounding off buildings and bridges into their boat to harm them? Or... was it that he was a Black boy in a neighborhood “too good” for Black people? Did they even see a boy, or did they see a Black hooligan? A Black hooligan who liked to take leisurely walks along the river with a pair of nun chucks: frightening.
There’s nothing about this story that shocked my husband. Joseph’s brother is also adopted and he’s bi-racial. My husband and his family survived several cross burnings on their lawn when he was a child. More than once, adult neighbors yelled that Joseph was a “nigger-lover” when he rode bikes with his brother down the street. Cops coming to the door isn’t anything new for Joseph. He’s been dealing with racism, as a White man, his whole life, all the way from the beginning.
But that’s the sad part, isn’t it? My husband will be fifty in a year and a half. For fifty years, he’s been dealing with a problem that isn’t making big enough strides. When we adopted Clayton, my husband was adamant that we raise him in the city, where there is a diversity of people, where Clayton can see Black male professionals everywhere – doctors, accountants, shop owners, servers. He wanted Clayton to see himself grow into a Black man who could be anybody he wants to be when he is an adult.
Until now, I didn’t realize just how important that is. ‘Of course, he should know he can be anybody he wants to be when he grows up!’ I used to think.
But now I see that society tells him... specifically him, and specifically every Black man... differently.
About the Author: Christina minored in writing at Northwestern University and has spent the last 22 years writing professionally in some capacity. She used to have her own blog that was featured in the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, and the New York Times. She enjoys expressing her thoughts and feelings through writing, and feels comfortable doing so online.