Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reflection- How do We Mend and heal our Communities?

Reflections- How do We Mend and heal our Communities?

I have been sitting with this Reflection for a few weeks. I have gone through different stages of emotions due to recent incidents that cause you to pause. This is a time of great analysis for a real dialogue on race in the Americas.

From the young Black campers, pool incident, the Prof. Gates arrest, to the President’s response, the atmosphere of urgency for this country to engage on the racial disparities that exist was front and center.

“Change the complexion of the pool” that was one of the statements made about the young black summer campers. This is 2009!!!!! I was so sad when I heard about this incident. My initial reaction was, at such a young age, they now know the meaning of “racism”. This incident will most likely stay with them. I saw a video of some of them speaking on their experience and it was clear that it has affected their self-esteem.

I commend Tyler Perry for celebrating the childhood of these young people by taking them to Disney World. It may seem trivial but it was good enough to bring them back to some level of their innocence.

Question- Why was this not on the front page for weeks? These are young children, our future and we want them to know that we feel their pain and that we will not tolerate such negative actions towards our, youth.

The Prof. Gates incident brought to the surface a myriad of concerns, discussion and revelations of who we are in 2009. Yes, this happened to Prof. Gates, Harvard Professor and it happens to many Black and Latino men on a daily basis.

African American and Latino men are at high rates in prison, some due to such incidents where they do not have the status of Prof. Gates and get the media coverage to get the charges dropped.

I know we have many opinions and positions on this one. I share these reflections for us to stop, pause and develop a dialogue. The Presidents response was that of someone who was a personal friend of the Prof. and a BLACK man in America.

I commend his response and yes, he apologized for the “stupidly” statement but his response was bigger and deeper, than that. Why did he have to explain himself to such length?

While attending a Red de Mujeres Afro meeting in the midst of this, many did not see the President’s response as an explanation but as an apology. Yes, an apology for those who cannot listen to the reality of what it means to be, BLACK in America.

To reflect on these incidents is also to reflect on the reality of the Canal Zone experience in Panama, where we lacked a racial dialogue.

Here it is, raw and blunt

I am Black in America not the Black in the Canal Zone that was sheltered and not engaged in real dialogue.
The dialogue that speaks to my Rainbow City and your Margarita
The one where I went to your home and you hesitated to enter mine.
The Black in the Canal Zone that developed my internal power,
To the Black in America that follows me around the store.
The Black in the Canal Zone where my Father got a beating for taking a Banana from a White man’s tree, A BANANA!!
Black in America ask, show me your ID and you are guilty before being proven innocent and even after,
Black in the Canal Zone where it meant attending a segregated school, long after Brown vs Board of Education to Black in America where in 2009, young children cannot go swimming
Black in the Canal Zone donde yo soy la hija de Elicia y Felix to , quien es ella.
Yes, people, I have come to the true realization that Black as dark as it is, is still invisible in the Americas.

This is a time for unity amongst Afro descendents, Latinos and our allies. How do we take these incidents and build a space where we can truly listen to each other and even if you do not agree, I can tell my story in my words, from my eyes.

We should not let this time pass us by without acknowledging the deep divide that exists in the Americas.

How do we mend our broken communities? How do we heal the deeply rooted history that lies within us? How do we build a community that cares for our youth and defends the humanity of our people? How do we create a space that speaks Truth?

We need to begin answering these questions if we hope to move as a people in the 21st Century. By beginning this dialogue, we give hope to those who are coming behind us and justice to those whose shoulders we stand on.


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