MY BOOKS ARE HERE…

 

…and they are beautiful! What a joy after all these years of labor and learning on how to become a writer. The books are here because of Mike’s insistence that I finish, because I’m a Detroiter and Detroiters never quit, and because of my amazing editor and her design team from Maverick Books. And, of course, all the support and encouragement I received from my family and friends.

As I approach my September years, my memoir is my gift to young women and those young of heart, who are struggling to put their lives and daily experiences into perspective during this period of divisive politics and racial inequality. To older readers who have shared these years with me, I hope you find solace in the recalling the gains that we made for a better humanity in the social justice movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

I am excited about the book’s exclusive “Activist’s Survival Guide,” which offers a relevant, critical bridge between generations of world changers fighting for a better tomorrow. A condensed version of the guide is included on a removable postcard enclosed in the book.

I want to thank my developmental editor, Cheryl Woodruff for sticking with me and for challenging me to write dozens of topic essays and record those closed-eye descriptions of some of my moments of pain. I understand that this was necessary to bring substance to my writing and create a work that offers a deep experience for my readers.

I confess that I didn’t always agree and appreciate the feedback from my team. But, I have learned to listen and usually to comply with their input because I knew (and was sometimes reminded) that they were the ones with the expertise. I see now, how their influence added value to my work. As I peruse the final product, and experience the wondrous feel of the book in my hands, I am totally delighted. I hope you will be too.

My book is available for pre-order on Amazon and the Seattle Book Company. My sell-date is May 15, 2018. I am using this interim period for reviews. If you know anyone who might do a review, please contact me via this website. A press release is posted on my website media page.

I have several book signings coming up. I will list these on the Against the Tide Facebook page. Don’t forget to follow us.

My niece, Alena and me at Pages Bookshop.

HOPE IS A GIFT THAT WE GIVE TO OURSELVES

I opened my eyes this morning, I reminded myself that 2017, the worst year of my life, is over. The year that I lost my husband, my lover and my best friend has past. It is time for me to create a new life, a fulfilling life as a tribute to the love we shared.

I am embarking on the final steps in my first endeavor as an author. I began today, to type in the data that will lead my book to the printer. My book unfolded with Mike’s encouragement and support. “It is important,” he continued to remind me, “that you share your journey with others.”

But I was tired from being a care-giver for so many years. I had worked hard on the book, but the continued demand to be his health-care partner was taking a toll. “It’s just too much,” I told him. “Soon I will be sick too.”

“Don’t give up,” he admonished, “young women need your story. They need to see your passion to help them learn and grow and become all that they can be. They need to know how you conquered so many challenges that they face every day. You must finish.”

The last evening of his life, I fell exhausted in the chair across from him after a 3-hour phone conference with my production team. “I can’t.” I mumbled, “They are asking too much.”

“Relax for a bit,” was his response. “It’s going to be okay. Get some sleep and I will help you in the morning.” But morning wasn’t going to come for Mike. During the night, he went to a better place, free from pain and the ravages of heart failure.

Pushing myself to continue the work became both joyful, as I indulged in the story of our two lives together, and a curse because all I wanted to do was to grieve. Yet, timelines and what I owed the production team demanded that I work and his voice was prodding me on. What could I do but finish.

I am filled with hope in this new year that has been given to me. Soon, Mike’s dream that my book will be available to others will become a reality. So, piece by piece, I doggedly finish the final tasks to upload my book to the printer.

Each step I complete is a tribute to our love and to all that Mike taught me about dignity and humanity. I have glimpsed the heart and soul of the struggle of an African-American man who was born and raised on a Mississippi sharecropper’s plantation and rose to his heights in the powerful black worker’s movement arising in Detroit during the late 60s and early 70s.

My life with Mike has changed me and my conception of the world around me. I hope in some way, that I have conveyed the depth of my new understanding in a way that is palatable and inspiring to my readers.

Soon, my book saga will end and you will find it on local bookstore shelves or on the pages of Amazon. Please celebrate with me and share in my new beginnings.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

Coming soon… there is some promising movement in getting this to print.

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!

SILENCE BREAKERS START A MOVEMENT

By Joann Castle  12/9/17

Last night, a headline in the Washington Post noted: “Scandal costs three congressmen their jobs this week. The last time something like this happened,” the article continued, “it was over slavery.” Women are rising up in a spontaneous movement, demanding respect and restitution from men across our country. The #Me Too movement has brought them out of the shadows of long covered-up anger, pain and shame and on their feet to say that they aren’t going to take it anymore.

TIME magazine has named the Silence Breakers as its 2017 Person of the Year. It is a time of reckoning for men who have regarded women as inferior, objects and toys for their pleasure. And it’s not just about celebrities, the power of #Me Too has taken hold in the halls of Congress, in the workplace and I guarantee you, in many homes.

Rising movements aren’t pretty. They are chaotic and clumsy as they strive to find their way towards a better outcome for the common good. As we watch the chaos unfold, we realize that a lot of things about it are not fair. The world was not fair to Anita Hill. It is also not fair to compare Al Franken’s misdeeds to Roy Moore or to that person who sits in the oval office, but in these types of movements, passion rules. At the moment we are confused but if we work at it, leadership and a more just process will emerge.

Will there be a backlash? Yes, there will and many of the Silence Breakers and their allies will be hurt. But that hurt is lessened if we stand behind their shoulder or at their side. This is how cultural change occurs. We need to stand with the Silence Breakers and others, both male and female, who are victims of gender, race and identity crimes. If we are complacent, this powerful moment will be lost. If we are vigilant, this spontaneous movement may become a strategic movement for lasting change.

Most of the damage to date has been to men who had enough conscience to feel ashamed. But the wave is beginning to wash wider to other prominent men. Echoing a previous blog on this topic, I am asking, where are the good men of conscience who will back up our brave Silence Breakers and women who speak on their behalf. These women include Nikki Haley, American ambassador to the United Nations, who said that women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct should be heard, which is counter to the administration’s position.

Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, also publically said that the President’s accusers should be heard and stood tall even as the president personally lashed back at her with a demeaning, disgusting tweet.

Gender rights is a broad topic and its potential scope is not limited to sexual harassment. Women are reclaiming their time to speak in the workplace and demanding equal pay for equal work. Women deserve to be respected for their thinking, their talents, their hard work and their contributions to society. #Me Too is a gender equality issue. Like all social injustices, this can’t be won without broad and sustained support. Make your voices heard, run for office, organize in your communities, support your domestic abuse shelters. Stand beside your courageous co-workers and vote for candidates who support gender equality.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

Coming soon… there is some promising movement in getting this to print.

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!

 Please note that my blog may be down over the holidays while I take a break to fix some links that are not working. I’m looking forward to starting anew in 2018. See you then. Joann

 

SOMEONE NEEDS TO SAVE US. WHO WILL IT BE?

By Joann Castle, December 5, 2017

Last evening, in a spontaneous late night gesture, I playfully posted the trailer for the movie, Avengers; Infinity War, on our Against the Tide Facebook page, under the caption “Someone Needs to Save Us!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZfuNTqbHE8&feature=youtube

While Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the avengers may have something to teach us about uniting against the enemy, the Marvel super heroes cannot save us. The reality is that we have to save ourselves, and that won’t happen on Facebook or Youtube or Twitter. These social media sites function well as communication and networking tools but saving ourselves requires hard work.

Avengers_(Marvel_Comics)_vol_3_num_38

Marvel Studios Photo

I don’t know about you but the character of the Facebook feed I am getting from my friends has significantly changed over the last several months. Everyone is getting very serious because we realize that our democracy is under attack. Mostly, my feed consists of petitions to sign, requests to contact my congressmen or women, solicitations of contributions for social justice causes, requests to support people running for elected office, for victims of injustice, for tragedies like Puerto Rico, for Dreamers or immigrants being torn from their families by ICE.

Make no mistake, I support these efforts. I sign petitions and contribute what I can but sitting at my computer is not going to create the dynamic coalition that is needed to make change. We need to get off our computer chairs, our iPhones and Tablets and stand up for what we believe in.

Go to your congressman’s office, run for an elected office, volunteer at your local school, homeless shelter or soup kitchen, mentor a child, support a family fractured by the actions of ICE, hold a voter-registration event, attend discussions at your local bookstore or Indivisible group and meet people like yourself.  Collaborate and develop coalitions with other groups in your communities that share your values. This is a ground-up fight. Speak up; speak out or you may be the last one standing and have no one to speak for you.

I recently posted a Youtube video, rEVOLUTION CINCY. The video was written, produced and directed by Liz Wu, a talented young musician from Cincinnati. The message is a call to action geared to young people in their communities but its message applies to all. Liz’s music will bring you to your feet with a mesmerizing beat and lyrics that resonate today:

“Vote with your dollars, vote with your time, vote with your actions, vote with your mind.” This musical gem is followed by a list of local issues where people can vote by zip code, choosing the three biggest issues in their communities that need attention. This is an organizing strategy intended to get folks together and do something. Become a superhero and do something to aid your community.  View the video at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jE6tdr40ZU/.

Art and music created by our young people offer creative space for thinking about our future in new ways. Be inspired and cultivate your own super hero talents as you stand up and fight in our unfortunately, very real infinity war.

Everybody’s busy; it’s the nature of our lives. But this is the perfect time to ask ourselves: How can we direct our actions in the time we can muster, to have a meaningful impact on saving our communities today? Become an empowered patriot, fight for the values you believe in, civil rights, due process and a truly representative democracy. So, step aside Captain America, we’ve got work to do.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

Coming soon…

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!  

 

 

SPORTS CONNECTION: KNEEL OR STAND? Ask Stan Van Gundy

November 24, 2017 by Joann Castle

I was never a sports fan, much to my recent husband’s dismay. Mike’s mother was a devoted fan and I think he expected it of me but I just couldn’t connect. When I watched football, I mostly saw male hormones battling it out for dominance over other males. But I understood his passion. Mike had been privileged to be the first black quarterback on his high school football team. He could see the mental game and the strategies of the plays as they unfolded.

That deep devotionFootball Blog to the game was over my head, until Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, to protest police brutality explaining: “… this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” With this, I connected.

Here was my moment that wedded sports to humanity, a moment when sportsmen revealed another side to the players in an action intended to challenge our definition of patriotism. I can’t say it better than Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Detroit Pistons, my home town team, in this week’s Time Magazine:

What is it that the protesters want?

SVG: “Simply and succinctly: Equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal Opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynching and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color. We have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem that dishonors our country.

“If we truly want to honor our country, this must change.”

Yes, the time for kneeling is over and everyone needs to stand up and move from talk to action. What can we do? Van Gundy has a very specific list.

  • Ameliorating harsh sentencing guidelines and ending mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Enacting clean slate laws.
  • Eliminating cash bail, holding people presumed to be innocent because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
  • Reforming juvenile justice. Black kids are five times more likely to be locked-up than white kids. (2015 statistic)
  • End police brutality and racial bias in police departments.”

Jeff Seidel, a Free Press reporter put it this way: If we love our democracy, “we need to stand up and do something until our flag wraps around each one of us, the same way.”

Stand up and speak for democracy. One of the major avenues we have for advancing Van Gundy’s proposed actions is to pay specific attention to down-ballot and judicial candidates. Do the research, discuss with your friends and cohorts, and then vote like your life depends on it.

Finding common ground puts us on the track to solutions. I learned there is more to sports than the battle on the field. Players and coaches understand teamwork and have something to say. Who ever thought I’d be a sports fan?

(Thanks Mitch Albom for bringing all this to my attention. Detroit Free Press 11/19/17)

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

Coming soon…

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!  

FROM “#ME TOO” TO “YOU, ALSO.” GOOD MEN MUST SPEAK OUT

The timing of the recent “Women’s Convention” and the excellent choice of content by the women of color who led it, is deeply relevant to our daily lives. This alignment to women’s lives today has inspired me to write a number of blogs on topics discussed at the conference.

One of those topics is sexual harassment. “#Me too” is a movement created by Tarana Burke serving to empower women through empathy. Burke was joined by actress Rose McGowan who kicked off a panel discussion titled “Fighting for Survivors of Sexual Assault.”

It is notable that it took more than a decade before #MeToo spilled out into the public consciousness. It was only this past October when white women began using #MeToo on social media that sexual harassment became a social concern. I say this understanding that any woman, who publicly speaks out, puts themselves at risk. This is a problem for all of us. But let’s be clear, black and brown women and women of color have been repeatedly raped by white men throughout our history as a country.

It was so heartening when one man on the convention panel reflected on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in American culture. “This is nothing new,” he said. “But it is time for this conversation to come out in the open. Ours has been a culture of rape ever since the very first European boat arrived on America’s shores.” There was an audible pause from the audience followed by shouts of appreciation and plenty of tears as women internalized that it was not their fault that our culture developed this way. Thinking back, we know the history of the founding of our nation and the venereal diseases that were spread among the native population. But this man’s words connected the dots, and absolved some of the guilt women often feel about allowing ourselves to be trapped in untenable situations. It was then that I began thinking how important it is for men to become allies in our #MeToo movement.

Today, I am asking: Where is the courage of our men to add their voices to this cry for an adjustment to our social norms? It will take the actions of men as well as women, to move us forward. I believe that it is time for men of good conscience to step forward and add their voices. When I first put the accompanying photo on Facebook, one woman commented: “Men do not understand.” I don’t believe that is true of all men. I was married to a man who forcefully spoke out against sexual abuse of women in the black power movement back in 1972. I believe there are a lot of good men who respect women but are complacent in speaking out as they observe women being abused, not only physically but verbally, because they are concerned about backlash.

Yes, there will be a backlash to those men who step forward on our behalf. But we need our men to be as brave as our women and speak out. We need the courage of men who do understand to help us change the sexual norms of abuse and degradation of women in our society. Where are our good men and how can we support their voices? If we are to make social change, we must do it together. What are you going to do, the next time you observe sexual harassment?

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!  

WOMEN MOVE FROM MARCHING TO ACTION

This is part two of a blog about my experience in attending the Women’s March October Convention in Detroit. At the Convention, leaders of the historic January 21st Women’s March shifted into forward gear to reengineer the D.C. March into an active resistance movement that includes both urban and rural women from all over the country.

Women aren’t in a waiting mood. They are stepping forward to become the change. The results of last Tuesday’s election wins in VA, NJ, FL and WA were in part, a direct result of commitments made at the D.C. March and suggest that women are in this for the long haul.

What I experienced at the Detroit Convention was a shift in strategies that transform the current women’s movement from one of spontaneous action into strategic programs to sustain us in a new age of struggle. This evolution will demand much more than just showing up. We need to bring our full-selves to this work. Although there were women of all ages at the event, the Convention was largely conducted by young women of color who see the urgency created by our current political conditions and have the skills and talent to lead us.

Packed Convention Workshops

Convention work groups took up bold new themes that are emerging in our society as we witness an alarming resurgence of white supremacy and state sanctioned violence. We have finally begun to openly discuss the role that race plays in our society. The ideology behind the efforts to move forward is new to many and requires a rethink of how we understand the role that race plays in our day-to-day lives. To begin this conversation, there is an increasing need for white people to understand the concept of white privilege and how to become an ally of people who have been oppressed in our society. We must support these daring discussions.

Since the time, white men landed on our shores, white men and women have taken their supremacy for granted. Yet, the white Anglo-Saxon tribe was only one of many cultures that existed across the world. Throughout their history in the new world, whites have sustained an aggressive culture that conquers, takes resources, and controls others by isolating them from the economic and political systems necessary for equality. White children often grow up believing that the white race is normal and that all other cultures are deviations from the norm. Women are now taking the lead in forging a new vision for our future.

In addition to the training at the Women’s Convention, there are a number of local seminars emerging on the topic of white privilege. I recently attended a frank discussion between whites and women of color, called “Get Your People” at Detroit’s Historical Society. I also note from the Convention literature that a group called Allies for Change www.alliesforchange.org will be offering seminars “Doing Our Work” across Michigan in 2018 to further expand these discussions. Some of the Indivisible groups are also having discussions on these topics. Indivisible, largely made up of women, has more than 5,000 groups across the country with at least two in every state.

If we are to move forward together, it is imperative that we do the deep work that is required to embody an anti-racist identity and learn how to develop relationships of accountability to people of color, interrupting the pervasive racism in our communities, our work lives and even in our family relationships.

If we don’t want to live in the kind of world we see emerging from the shadows of our new government, we must take responsibility for acting on our beliefs. In addition to educating ourselves, the following actions were recommended at the Conference. Several were suggested by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967.

  1. Contribute to groups like the ACLU or the NAACP that have a track record of doing good work in this regard.
  2. Be thoughtful about where you shop. Support minority businesses.
  3. Put your money in black banks or credit unions.
  4. Volunteer in your communities. Change will not come from our government but from the ground up.
  5. Vote like your life depends on it.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!