Your Moment of Zen

I cannot explain why, but watching Isabelle Bellis washing her face is the most calming thing you’ll do this evening. Well next to following her steps, and giving yourself a delightful face massage. Watch part two of moisture application too.


Gaelynn Lea on disability and sexuality

Gaelynn Lea is a revelation here discussing the intersection of disability, sexuality, and the American beauty industry. My cultural studies students are watching this in class next week, but everyone else should listen to Lea too. She’s also the 2016 Tiny Desk Concert winner.

Sports and Politics

Fascinating long piece exploring the ways that star athletes are translating their brands into political activism. Worth the time, but even though the article touches on race –how could it not given that much of the activism in sports is driven by issues facing black communities–it does have some moments that will give you pause, such as this one:

The most difficult thing, Blejwas had found, was getting people in D.C. to realize that Boldin and the others were capable of doing serious work. Before Boldin’s first appearance to give testimony in D.C., one person involved in setting up the hearing asked Blejwas, “Do you know if Anquan … can he read?”

“An NFL player can help achieve all these important objectives, and people will still be like, ‘Why don’t you just do a PSA?’ ” Blejwas told me. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re trying to do work. We’re not trying to get on TV.’ You can really move the needle if you just trust that this 32-year-old black man can read.”

Since it’s a piece of long-form journalism, the writer, Reeves Wideman, cannot stop and pause on the blatantly racist elements of white congressional worker asking if a football player is literate, but the question is breathtaking in its implications. First off, we view professional athletes as not intelligent even though the training to become a professional athlete requires it; if not, there wouldn’t be so many failed high school athletes who couldn’t make it at the college level or NFL players pursuing PhD’s in math from MIT. Secondly, the idea that someone would assume a black man in 2017 is not literate is a gut punch.

Nikki Giovanni, “A Historical Footnote to Consider Only When All Else Fails”

“(For Barbara Crosby)

While it is true
(though only in a factual sense)
That in the wake of a
Her-I-can comes a
Surely I am not
The gravitating force
that keeps this house
full of panthers

Why, LBJ has made it
quite clear to me
He doesn’t give a
Good goddamn what I think
(else why would he continue to masterbate in public?)

Rhythm and Blues is not
The downfall of a great civilization
And I expect you to
That the Temptations
have no connection with

We must move on to
the true issues of
Our time
like the mini-skirt
And perhaps take a
Closer look at
Flour power

It is for Us
to lead our people
out of the
   into the streets
into the streets
(for safety reasons only)
Lord knows we don’t
Want to lose the
of our Jewish friends

So let us work
for our day of Presence
When Stokely is in
The Black House
And all will be right with
Our World”

~ Nikki Giovanni, “A Historical Footnote to Consider Only When All Else Fails”

Commonplace, Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought to America from Africa”

“‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

‘Their colour is a diabolic die.’

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.”

~Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought to America from Africa”

Commonplace: Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

“Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly identifies one’s status in society, ‘the mule of the world,’ because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else-everyone else-refused to carry. We have also been called ‘Matriarchs,’ ‘Superwomen,’ and ‘Mean and Evil Bitches.’ Not to mention ‘Castraters’ and ‘Sapphire’s Mama.’ When we have pleaded for understanding, our character has been distorted; when we have asked for simple caring, we have been handed empty inspirational appellations, then stuck in a far corner. When we have asked for love, we have been given children. In short, even our plainer gifts, our labors of fidelity and love, have been knocked down our throats. To be an artist, and a Black woman, even today, lowers our status in many respects, rather than raises it: and yet, artists we will be.

Therefore we must fearlessly pull out of ourselves and look at and identify with our lives the living creativity some of our great-grandmothers knew, even without ‘knowing’ it, the reality of their spirituality, even if they didn’t recognize it beyond what happened in the singing at church-and they never had any intention of giving it up.”

~Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

Commonplace: Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy”

“I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals–
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting–
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings–
I know why the caged bird sings!”

~ Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy”

Commonplace: Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was “well timed” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “wait.” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “wait” has almost always meant “never.” It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr. from “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

The full letter is here.