more… something required

Recontectualized.Lobby-Murals-FB-eventSomething good happened recently, and I was partially responsible for it. But I worried that if I talked about, or worse, wrote about it, it would seem self-aggrandizing. Then I talked about it with someone, and I recontextualized it.

You may remember that I wrote about the passing of my friend from my previous church, Jim Kalas. I wrote, “Sometime this century, Jim told me that he wanted How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place sung at his funeral, which will be on October 1 at Trinity.” I called the Trinity church office to inform someone of this fact. The office administrator gave me the email of the choir director.

The choir director wrote back to me saying he’d be out of town. But he must have sent a message to his small choir because Nancy, who I used to sing with, managed to wrangle a total of 15 of us to perform it at the service, with a previous keyboardist accompanying us. And I was pleased about this outcome

Someone pointed out that I did it to honor Jim’s memory, and I know that intellectually. Moreover, I was told, and this is correct, that I should appreciate my gift of remembering this particular detail. The fact is that, deep down, I know I have skills. Also, I like to be useful. But certain parties, and I shan’t go into who, I allowed to short-circuit my confidence for a time.

Not Shecky Greene, but an unreasonable facsimile

It’s weird. I’m finding these situations where I, in small ways, can bring talents I didn’t even know I had to bear. It often surprises me. Someone asked me to introduce the raffle at an event after church. My general position is usually to say yes and then figure out what I’m supposed to do. I take it that I was pretty good at this brief gig, and I was even occasionally funny. It was an odd self-awareness at the moment.

So I can say, hey, I wrote the foreword for a book that will be published next year, written by someone in the comic book field. I gave them the first draft, having no idea what I was doing or how long the piece should be, yet they really liked it. Now I have to write a brief bio of myself, which will be interesting.

I am a patron of the podcast Coverville. Every month, I send host Brian Ibbott a list of musical artists whose birthdays are or would have been divisible by five. I suggested for September that he group together three deceased country legends, Patsy Cline, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Rodgers. And he did, namechecking me at the end.

Hang on to your ego

It was an ego boost, and I must remember that it’s not all a bad thing. Apparently, several people told Mark Evanier that Samatha Bee’s show, Full Frontal, was canceled, but I was the one to send a link; I was mentioned.

I was talking at the library with two people about different types of intelligence. But I noticed this person I did not know nodding their head knowingly, as if to say, “Yes, I think I’ve been underestimated.” And there were other situations, one involving chairs, another regarding a sartorial suggestion that worked well, plus a couple of things that have since slipped my mind.

I guess I’m saying I’m okay being okay.

Racial Profiling in the Marketplace

Racial Profiling and Social Justice

Every once in a while, I think this blog is useful.

I received an email this month reminding me – and it had slipped my mind – that I had granted permission for the inclusion of my ESSO post to a book. The link was included along with a paragraph from the text in Racial Profiling and Social Justice in the Marketplace. The subtitle is An Inside Look at What You Should Know But Probably Do Not Know about Shopping and Racial Profiling.

I had written: “Esso had quite a positive image, at least with many people of my father’s generation. For there was a time in the United States when many African American travelers were uncertain where ‘they could comfortably eat, sleep, buy gas, find a tailor or beauty parlor…or go out at night… without [experiencing] humiliation or violence where discrimination continued to hold strong.'”

You can read what was included on the Teachers Pay Teachers site here; it involves free registration. A lesson is arranged, not just from my piece but links to other sites, with the students required to answer why Esso was so progressive in an era of Jim Crow, and other questions.

It is only one of several lessons available in the book, which is available for $30 at the Teachers Pay Teachers site here. (I should note that I was not compensated for this plug.)

The blog

Also, check out the Racial Profiling and Social Justice blog. “Mission: Provide insights to students; useful information that may be valuable in their lives. For students, independent learners, parents, and youth educators with an interest in supplemental lessons for ethnic studies and social justice topics.

“As a former plaintiff in a six-figure profiling case, Dee Adams writes about often overlooked issues regarding racial profiling in the marketplace, race, pop culture, entrepreneurs, and social justice.”

Lamphered LLC by Amazon scam

I’ve received over 40 comments to my post entitled Lamphered LLC by Amazon scam. Some people wanted verification that the emails THEY received subsequent to my post were as spammy as they suspected. Others were initially terrified they’d been hacked.

People thanked me and promised to contact Amazon. Many included the versions they received, which differed slightly but were essentially the same premise.

Book: So you want to talk about race

We have to talk about it because we’ve harmed people

so you want to talk about raceA friend of mine asked if I had read So you want to talk about race, the 2018 book by Ijeoma Oluo. I said it was on my list. The truth is that it was in the house, but in a flurry of tidying up, it got misplaced.

Now it’s found. And I read the 240-page paperback in three or four hours over two days. The story was compelling because she put a lot of herself, a “black, queer woman” with a white single mom, on the pages.

“It’s about race if a person of color thinks about race.” I related to that. At the same time, she notes that “almost nothing is completely about race.” And that explaining systemic racism is not always easy.

In the chapter about talking about race incorrectly, the primary subject was her own mom. “Why can’t I be talking about… anything but this.” Conversely, Ms. Oluo tells about her OWN failure to check her privilege. She explains intersectionality better than most people I’ve read.

Her chapter on affirmative action was not academic but personal, with her family finding the need to sneak into a vacant apartment in order to take showers. A school game tagged her brother as “homeless,” when in fact the family had literally experienced this.

Lock ’em up

The school-to-prison pipeline the author talked about is quite insidious. I recently saw a story on the news about an eight-year-old mixed-race kid with special needs. He was arrested for felony assault for hitting his teacher in December 2018. He couldn’t be handcuffed because the boy’s wrists were too skinny. The child is STILL traumatized by this experience.

The particular pain of the author, at age 11, and her brother being subjected to the N-word in what they perceived to a safe setting was particularly awful. She explains an almost comical example of cultural appropriation at a dining establishment. I’ve never understood why any white person would ask a black person if they could touch their hair. Yet it’s a common phenomenon.

I’ve never liked the word “microaggression.” It seems to trivialize the pain of being, for instance, the fat black kid afraid of eating pizza, even though she hadn’t eaten all day. I myself hear the one about my proper use of English. Also, generally, “you aren’t like other black people,” as though that was supposed to be a compliment; n.b., it is not.

Ijeoma Oluo’s then eight-year-old son didn’t want to sing the national anthem or say the pledge of allegiance at school. He wanted to duck a school assembly to avoid it; it did get worked out. I’ve had my own issues with those symbols, albeit slightly later in life. He also realized he ought not to play with toy guns like his white friends did because he didn’t want to end up dead like the 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Importantly, in “But what if I hate Al Sharpton,” he addressed a lot of myths. About Martin Luther King and what he really stood for. About Malcolm X. (The late folk singer Phil Ochs also addressed this in Love Me, I’m a Liberal.)

The book ends with a call for action, including Vote local, Bear witness to bigotry, Boycott bigoted businesses, and Supporting businesses owned by people of color.

Yes, Ijeoma Oluo may tell you a few things you already knew if you’ve read other books on racism. But because she puts herself in the story, So you want to talk about race got me to turn the pages. And watch this video. Listening to her speak explains why people who listen to her audiobook enjoy it so much.

The graphic novel as learning tool

Meryl Jaffe is the rock star in the graphic novel as an educational tool genre. She’s been to New York Comic Con, promoting the gospel.

Worth A Thousand WordsAs you may know, I used to work at a comic book store called FantaCo on Central Avenue in Albany for 8.5 years, May 1980 to November 1988. It was the second-longest job I ever had.

During this period, Marvel put out something they called a graphic novel. It was a squarebound comic book of the X-Men, 81/2″ by 11″, with much nicer paper, and a price of $4.95, when regular comics were still under $1.

How the graphic novel has changed. I came across Meryl Jaffe through her participation in the ABC Wednesday meme. She has a blog Departing the Text, which is still interesting, although she has’t updated it in a few years. She wrote Using Content Area Graphic Texts for Learning: A Guide for Middle-Level Educators (2012), which is more readable that the title might suggest.

Meryl is the rock star in the graphic novel as an educational tool genre. She’s been to New York Comic Con, promoting the gospel. Yet she makes a confession in the preface of her new book, with Talia Hurwich, Worth a Thousand Words: Using Graphic Novels to Teach Visual and Verbal Literacy (2019).

“Until fairly recently, I didn’t think graphic novels were appropriate for my classroom or for my kids’ reading at home.” But her children, “as comfortable reading Neil Gaiman as Alexandre Dumas,” gave her I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Nimura, and Meryl did a 180. BTW, Talia Hurwich is Meryl’s daughter.

Chapter 1 addresses the fears of using the graphic novel in the educational setting. Chapter 2 is the necessarily “scholarfied” stuff to sell the concept to the principal or school board. It uses the word “multimodal.” Several times.

After that, Worth A Thousand Words is a great read, very practical and hands-on. The book has sections on how to interpret the elements of graphic novels – narrative and thought balloons, e.g.

The authors show how to teach reading, but also how to do create instruction in writing, with students encouraged to create their own illustrative narratives. And it’s not just for prose, but social studies, science, even math. I realize that my creative daughter might be able to use the tools laid out therein.

A commercial: I will be reviewing March, Books One, Two, & Three, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library on April 16 at noon at 161 Washington Avenue. Not incidentally, the March books are cited in Worth A Thousand Words.

The Heart of Christianity

Marcus Borg uses the term metaphor, not as a negative, “nonliteral,” but as a positive, “more-than-literal.”

Heart of ChristianityIn trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”

Borg was a “world-renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”

As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism, but is a call to radical personal transformation. Talking about the kingdom of God does not mean that you are fighting against secularism, but that you have committed your life to the divine values of justice and love. And living the true Christian way is essentially about opening one’s heart—to God, and to others.”

Borg writes about the “earlier paradigm” of literal Biblical interpretation and heaven-focused. Then there’s the “emerging paradigm” which is “the product of Christianity’s encounter with… science, historic scholarship, religious pluralism, and cultural diversity… it is [also] the product of our awareness of how Christianity has contributed to racism, sexism, nationalism, exclusivism and other harmful ideologies.”
The emerging paradigm sees the Bible metaphorically…its…’more-than-factual,’ meaning…It doesn’t worry that the stories… are metaphorical rather than literally factual accounts… ‘What is the story saying?'” He uses the term metaphor, not as a negative, “nonliteral,” but as a positive, “more-than-literal.”

He uses Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon” on the radio program Prairie Home Companion as an example. “We all know that Keillor is making them up, and yet we hear truth in these stories.” Borg acknowledges the comparison that the “analogy to the Bible is not exact,” since the latter is “the product of a thousand years of community experience.”

I was inclined to like Marcus Borg, especially when I realized that we had similar experiences: growing up in the “earlier paradigm” church, leaving in confusion for over a decade, and reframing to find our way back. I’m sorry that he died back on January 21, 2015, in a way that I was not before reading this book.

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