Friday, February 20, 2015

Library sketches 1

The other night I plopped myself into a seat at the Central Library to hear, "Who We Be: Race and Image at the Twilight of the Obama Era," with Justin Simien, director of Dear White People, and Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America, moderated by journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan. Before everyone took the stage I sat there with my sketch book open and began to draw. But once the program began, forget it! I tried sketching, while writing everything down, which didn't work I later found out. I couldn't focus on the conversation because I was trying to get the scene down and I couldn't get the scene down because I was writing down the conversation. Next time, I'll try one thing at a time.

Waiting for the program to begin

   Erin Aubry Kaplan                                                                  

                                                                                                                       Jeff Chang

Justin Simien

In all honestly, Justin's the one I came to see. I loved his cuttingly funny and satirical film about an American college with all the race, gender and cultural appropriation problems inherent to campuses these days. I'm not going to write a review, you can google it, better yet, see it, but Justin's approach to talking about race spoke to me the most:

"I've often been a black face in a white [crowd] most of my life and navigated btw mostly white dominated spaces, whether that’s a college or an office space. And one thing that I felt uniquely oppressed by, and almost had a paranoia about feeling that way, was color blindness: this idea we are color blind. We don’t see race. In a way it made me feel as if that's just another way of saying, you're blind to the fact that as a person of color I’m having a different experience than you, and I’m not allowed to bring up the things that I see and the things I’m feeling because you are colorblind. And because you are personally beyond racism. That means you're completely blind to the ways in which you may have made me feel when the minute I got in your car you switched it to 50 Cent.

"This idea of micro aggressions, which wasn’t really a word when i first started writing the film, but i quickly appropriated once I saw people giving it a word, a phrase, is a way to describe the fact it may not be lynch-mob style racism, but I feel in some way I'm being kept from a part of the culture. It's underneath these layers of, well, it's a post racial society and I’m personally not racist, so therefore your feelings aren't valid. I wanted the world of the film to take place in that version of America. Really this school is a microcosm of the American experience, you know, there’s plenty of black people on the brochure of the school, but you can’t find them when you get there, and they’re not allowed to live in the same dorm if they want to."

An audience member who asked the first question after the talk, also spoke of colorblindness:
"I work and study race and the law, and the Supreme Court, as you know, has been one of the main propagators of colorblindness; in fact has disciplined state and federal governments who are trying to use race to dislodge these entrenched patterns. Just today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case which may eviscerate the Fair Housing Act. One of the few times the Supreme Court has upheld use of race, like affirmative action, was when it benefited universities and corporations. I think there’s this really interesting corporatizing of diversity and this very milquetoast version of diversity when it benefits American capitalism, and this fascinating way in which colorblindness is being dispersed around legal and cultural spaces."

Amen, lady!


Dear Readers; I would like to know what you think of this page. Do these sketches help your understand better, even in a minimal way, the nature of the event? would you like to see more? less? or more realistic? (knowing that I can't really do verisimilitude), or what works best do you think? Your feedback would be much appreciated. Thank you Readers!

A podcast of this talk (and all ALOUD programs) can be found at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hats w/ Style

As much as I enjoy spending time in New York, some things in the city are just plain sad. I'm talking about a segment of humanity you find on the streets: the poor, the lame, the crazies, the drunks, the droolers and the crooks, the shufflers and the stumblers, the homeless, especially the homeless. Let me amend: the homeless who have animals on the street in winter.

A dog with the most beautiful, sad eyes was sitting outside a Walgreens, keeping watch over her master. Her master was a white guy, dread-locked and drunk, who had blankets and cardboard piled high, with a half-written sign in front of the dog: "If you can help in any way...." The dog wore a vest, designating it as a service dog.

I slid a dollar into one of the bags and noticed a big bottle of pink vodka resting at the bottom. I said to the guy, "The dollar goes to the dog, she looks hungry." 

Maybe not the most diplomatic thing to say. The guy turned red with rage and marched over to the cart vendor on the corner, yelling, "Tell her, Tony, tell her I'm good to my dog. Tell her— grumble grumble fuck you bitch what do you know grumble— I feed my dog before I feed myself!" He stumbled around getting madder and madder while the cheery vendor tried to make things better with an apologetic smile, "Yes," he said. "He's very good to his dog!"

The dog just stood there, looking out with those sad eyes, wishing she were somewhere warm. I could almost hear her thinking: "Get your shit together, fuckhead! No matter how much you feed me, you're still gonna kill yourself, and then what do I do?"


When it's cold, everyone in New York wears the same coat: A Land's End, black, down, 3/4 length jacket that reaches below the knees. (If you're short it goes to your ankles.)

I personally discovered there's a reason for this— the coat keeps you toasty warm. The hood snaps under the chin, saving that most vulnerable part of your neck from blustery winds; the arms have cuffs around the wrists, like the ones you wore in kindergarten; the down is evenly spaced by impeccable stitching and the pockets can actually make an almost frostbitten hand warm again.

Although everyone wears the same coat, I observed there were no two hats alike. I looked. Sure, I wasn't everywhere in the city, but I covered a lot of ground, from uptown to downtown to Brooklyn, from east to west; I can (almost) confidently state in just one week, I figured out the unspoken rule of NY winter style: same black coat, but never twain hats shall duplicate!