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…

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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.

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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…

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ME, MAXINE AND 4,500 WOMEN CREATE A FOUNDATION FOR ACTION

Reclaiming our Time was the theme of the three-day Women’s March Convention held last weekend at the Cobo Center in Detroit. The agenda was a call to action launched nine months after the post-inauguration D.C. March that drew millions of women across the world into the streets to protest Donald Trump’s election. (You can place your own significance on the nine-month time frame.) The Women’s Convention was organized by Tamika Mallory, Carman Perez and Linda Sarsour, who also organized the D.C. March. Well done, my friends. It was totally inspiring.

Detroit’s expanded and updated Cobo Center proved an excellent venue. Its main hall easily accommodated the 4,500 women attending, with ample room to house the 176 action-oriented workshops included in the program. The nearness of Cobo to the Detroit River and the realization that Canada was so close was a pleasant surprise to many of the women who came from out of town. I was also pretty happy that I could walk from my home to the convention and grateful that they gave me a scholarship so that I could attend. One third of the women attending did so through scholarships.

The convention’s overarching theme was the creation and fostering of an intersectional feminist movement led by people of color, which encompasses issues of race, class, gender, immigration status and disabilities, acknowledging that we are all going to rise together or fall together. We live in a society that deliberately segregates us and pits us against each other. If we do not organize across these sectors, we risk becoming oppressors of others who are also fighting for liberation.

My personal hero, Maxine Waters, the outspoken 79-year-old, Congresswoman from California, was the keynote speaker and minced no words in calling out the role of men in positions of power who abuse women through sexual harassment and assault but also through the general degradation of women, especially women of color, in the workplace, on the street and many times in their homes. While there were chants to “Impeach 45,” Donald Trump’s name was seldom used. We were all about building and not tearing down.

Congresswoman Waters was joined by Senators Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Debbie Stabenow. Senator Gillibrand reminded the crowd not to depend on congressional leadership in Washington: “The only time our democracy ever works is when regular people just like you, stand up and demand it.” Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List shared that since the presidential election, 20,000 women have contacted Emily’s List to express interest in running for political office. They have trained 1,900 women and have short term goals of taking back the House and the Senate. It was gratifying to see many rural women attending the conference and sharing common cause.

One of the most popular workshops at the conference was, “Confronting White Womanhood.” The session focused on helping white women understand how white privilege functions as a barrier to resolving race relations. The response to the workshop was so overwhelming that it was repeated and required a room that seated 500 people to accommodate all the white women who wanted this training. One of the co-creators of the workshop noted: “We live in a world where some people have power and some people don’t…white supremacy is the problem that white people need to fix.”

(My report on the conference will continue in next week’s blog. Stay tuned.)

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!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LET’S TAKE A WALK AROUND MY BOOK COVER (Literally)

Last week I wrote about my book’s title, Today, I invite you to move one step deeper into my work by taking a peek at my book cover. At the moment, my book cover looks like ‘Flat Stanley’ (a character familiar to kindergartners and their parents) because the innards are not yet bound.

I’m feeling impatient as I wait for the printer. Why don’t you join me and we’ll explore my story through the photographs on the cover. You will be opening the book from the right. So, let’s begin there.

  • The first photo was taken by, my then 12 year old son, Ken Castle, when the Detroit Anti-STRESS contingent went to D.C. to protest at Richard Nixon’s second inaugural ceremony. If you look closely, you can see me in the lower right of the photo. STRESS (Stop the Robberies; Enjoy Safe Streets) was a brutal undercover police decoy unit that was entrapping and murdering young black men in Detroit. The unit’s military ‘search and destroy’ tactics were approved and conducted under the leadership of Police Commissioner John Nichols.
  • The second photo, also taken by my son Ken, shows me moderating a Control, Conflict and Change Book Club (CCC) session. The book club was conceived and founded by Mike Hamlin and me in the early 1970s. We began our organizing effort supported by the Ad-Hoc Action Group Against Police Brutality and Blackstar Bookstore, a black printing operation funded by the Black Manifesto. We benefited from Sheila Murphy’s talents and influence among both black and white radicals in Detroit and participation by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Ultimately, the CCC Book Club became an extension of the Motor City Labor League and the Black Workers Congress.
  • The next image is a still shot from the film documentary, “Finally Got the News,” a Blackstar Production. Mike was a co-founder and the director of Blackstar. The film was originally conceived by John Watson from the League and created by California Newsreel. If you want to understand the atmosphere in Detroit after the 1967 Rebellion, take a look at this film on YouTube to give you a sense of the period: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=finally+got+the+news.
  • The 12th Street rebellion photo on the book’s spine, along with the photo of Father William Cunningham, Pastor, Church Of The Black Madonna, are from the Detroit News Collection, courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

    Back Cover

  • Father Cunningham mentored me into the Civil Rights Movement in 1965, at the intersection of the brutal police actions at Selma, Alabama and the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white woman from Detroit. An informant for the FBI, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, confessed to the murder but no one was ever prosecuted.
  • The photo of the cops on 12th Street is from the Detroit Free Press and is in the public domain.
  • The photo of the Castle-Hamlin children on the lawn of the Boston House is from my private collection. It had to be photo-shopped to get all my children in a small frame to fit on the book cover.
  • The photo of Frank Ditto and the crowd at the Hourglass demonstration was also taken by Ken Castle. Hourglass was an organization launched out of our home just a few months after the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. The purpose of the organization was two-fold: “to support [pressure] the Catholic Church to contribute funds to programs fostering black self-determination and to destroy racist attitudes in the white community.”

Thank you for taking this walk with me. I am working hard to get this book in your hands. Book publishing is a very complicated business.

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

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

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ONLY LEFT HANDED PEOPLE ARE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND (words on my lefty son’s favorite tee-shirt)

So, why, since I am right-handed, did I choose to name my book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist?

You can attribute it to the anthropologist in me. Or you can attribute it to a brainstorming session with my editors in a search for a unique book title. In either case, you would be correct. And it fits, you see, because during that period I was a foot soldier using my left hand to advance social justice and my right hand to love and sustain my family.

Throughout our known history, cultures have ascribed meaning to the symbolism of right and left handedness. These distinctions about right and left appear in science, nature, the writing of our various languages, and in our politics.  Chris McManus has written a fascinating book titled: Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures (Harvard University Press, 2002) and suggests “that our asymmetric bodies, which emerged from 550 million years of asymmetric vertebrate evolution, may be linked to the asymmetric structure of matter.” The book is a bit of a heavy read but engaging throughout for all you science junkies.

We know that the majority of people are right handed but evolutionary studies cannot yet tell us why. We do know from the study of medicine that the left side of our bodies is controlled by the right side of our brains. This brings me back to my son’s favorite shirt; his right brain controls his left handed function.

Right and left hand are deeply embedded in nature as well as  our cultural and sociopolitical structures. We know from the study of physics that tornadoes spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. We know that European writing goes from left to right, while Arabic and Hebrew go from right to left.

The meaning of right and left was formalized in western politics as early as 1789. In France, radicals pressing for change were seated on the left hand side of the legislative chamber where they could be ignored, and conservative nobles were seated to the favored right of the presiding officer. This historical practice contributed to the evolution of the terms we use today to identify the political progressive left and the conservative right in western politics.

Today, we are facing a leadership crisis in our country. It is time to resist. The political left needs to arm ourselves for the emerging social justice struggle with knowledge of our history and lessons learned from the past. My book contains lessons learned in 50 years of struggle and an “Activist Survival Guide.”

“These are days when no one should rely unduly on his “competence.’’ Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.”

–Walter Benjamin, German philosopher, 1882-1940

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

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

REVISIONS! REVISIONS! #%!!@

I felt my manuscript was finished. I had been searching for an editor for months. Suddenly and unexpectedly things fell my way. A friend in New York contacted me. “It’s possible, but not certain,” she said, “that I can connect you with an esteemed editor. Cross your fingers.” A week later, she called back. “I think we’re good!” My stress factor went from zero to ten in a nanosecond. I needed to have everything in order.

The editor was coming to Detroit on business and we arranged to meet. I frantically prepared. I had a full manuscript, a cover and a title: Between Two Worlds: A Mother’s Battle Against Injustice. All I was looking for was a professional finishing touch but I wanted it to be perfect and I was willing to work for it. I felt that I had drafted the perfect query letter, through-line and book description, and I had worked on my chapter summaries for months. We sat at a Detroit restaurant. I was nervous as she looked me over. My right leg was going numb.

“I brought,..” I began, pulling out my folder of perfect documents. “I don’t want to see those today,” she responded. “I want to talk about you.” Well, the “talking about me” was extensive. We chattered at dinner and followed up by phone. She would be sending me a personality test and wanted to know about my writing habits. I literally was applying for the privilege of working with her.

Once my tests were analyzed, we discussed the results. “Joann,” she said, “I will agree to work with you on two conditions: that your story be brought up-to-date pertinent to the times we live in, and drop the Catholic guilt thread about being too busy for your children that runs through the pages.” This was just the beginning.

One day, she asked me to read my manuscript again and tell her what I thought. I perceived it in a totally new light. “It’s like a sailboat, skimming across the water.” “Exactly,” she said. Now, let’s fix it.” Since that moment, I have spent almost two years revising, deepening, and using closed eye voice-recordings to assist in documenting events that I found difficult to write about. Then I transcribed and boldly placed these in my story. Throughout this period, my editor requested essays about pertinent topics to better convey the depth of my personal journey.  I’ve worked intensely, writing and rewriting.  In the process, I have grown as a writer and as a person.

My story was almost ready last fall, totally reworked and redirected and then, Donald Trump was elected. I was flailing around in disbelief and dismay that my work had become outdated, that I had missed my opportunity. I was too late. My editor responded: “This is a gift to your writing. Teach people how to resist, and so I revised again working over these additional ten months and through the horrific loss of my husband. I persisted; I revised and revised again. When it was all said and done, I chose a new title consistent with my reworked manuscript.

My manuscript is more pertinent, more focused and deeper, due to those REVISIONS. #%!!@

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

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.