Before we get to the noise in the title: Steve and I just learned of the first person we know to have died from COVID: Pedro, a gifted and kind maintenance man with whom we worked in Florida.

We didn’t know him well, but well enough to know of the impact his death is having on his family. But not well enough that we’ll be able to find out for a while if they’re all ok. We’ll give what help we can, but, well, this sucks.

I have a feeling he won’t be the first.

Things feel different.

The Exponent Follies Continue

My adventures with the local paper continue Last week, this story was published. I’m copying it rather than linking to it since access to the paper is limited to paying subscribers. Here ya go. This story was written by Matt Schepeler, and I’ve edited some details for length.

“A friend of mine who wanted to keep his name out of the paper approached me last week about a possible story idea.

“He said he had woken up on Saturday June 20 and was having his morning coffee when ….. he suddenly heard the squealing of tires. ‘I looked out my picture window …. and this black man with a sleeveless shirt had jumped out of his car and was running at my house as fast as he could. I mean, he was running with purpose,’ said my buddy. ‘I didn’t know what to do. He was past my window and beside my house in an instant, and I didn’t know whether I should grab my gun or grab my phone.’ “

So (this is me, Nan, talking) he opted for the phone, but when he opened his door, the man “was already running back to his car,” writes Matt, continuing, “My friend looked around for damage or spray paint, but didn’t see any vandalism. But when he looked down, he saw the reason the man had ran up to his house. ‘There on my porch was a package. I thought at first maybe he was a porch pirate and was trying to steal it, but then I realized he was returning the package.’ ” He surmised that the wind “had blown the very light package out into the road…..That man had stopped his car, maybe after almost hitting my package, saw the address on the package and the address on my house, and ran it up to my doorstep.'”

Matt concludes, “This was the day of the black lives matter protests in Brooklyn, and at that point we didn’t know if it was going to be violent or what really to expect…..It is ironic. With all of the protesting, with all the yelling, with all the commotion that was made in the community that day in the name of justice for all, perhaps the most effective thing done to heal race relations in Brooklyn was made by one individual willing to take a minute in order to show a kindness to someone he didn’t even know.

” ‘I just thought it was pretty neat,’ said my friend. ‘I thought people should know.’

“Now they do.”

And then the entire town sat down to watch a double feature of Driving Miss Daisy and The Green Book.

Everything’s fine!!

Oh Dear. Here Comes That Woman…..

My letter ran in yesterday’s paper.

***BEGINNING***

After I read Matt Schepeler’s story, “Do you really want to make a difference,” my heart felt heavy rather than warm.

In the anonymous storyteller’s first sentence is a world of significance: “I looked out the picture window . . . and this black man .. .” If the storyteller had seen a white man running toward his house, he would have said, “a man.” What the person saw first was skin color.

If a white man had run toward his house, perhaps he wouldn’t have known whether to grab “a gun or a phone” as well. But it is quite obvious that the man being black triggered an immediate reaction of fear and confusion.

We are bombarded with images and rhetoric and public policy that continually reinforce the idea that those who are different from us are up to no good. What if the storyteller had reached for the gun? That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin, shot at 14. Or if he’d instead reached for the phone, called911, and we have at best an instance where a person is questioned because he was“running with purpose” while black?

Mr. Schepeler then dismisses the protest as “all the yelling, all the commotion that was made in the community.” On top of this, another letter under the headline “Help, don’t tear down the country,” calls Taylor Gritzmaker, leader of a recent Black Lives Matter protest, an “uneducated schoolgirl,”which is either oxymoronic or indicates a not very high opinion of Columbia High School where she graduated or CMU, where she currently studies.

The story Mr. Schepeler choseto write highlights exactly the misperceptions many, many people share in this country that need to be addressed. Peaceful protest is one way to call attention to a problem. Far from tearing down the country, peaceful protests can help us knit it back together.

Perhaps Brooklyn, via the paper, can appreciate courageous responses to injustice in America instead of belittling them in order to complain about having to sit out the 4th of July parade this year due to public health concerns.

***END***

Yeah. I got a feeling that’s gonna go over like a fart in church. But I won’t know ’til next Wednesday.

Then by Friday, you’ll know, too.

Hey, How ‘Bout a Picture?

My blog app that tells me if I’ve done a good job with SEO (which I won’t explain because you either know what that is or really don’t care) if I include a picture. So….hmmmm…..what can I include today?

So I started to go back through my photos for ArtPrize, a massive competition (not an art fair) held annually until 2018 in Grand Rapids, MI, when it was supposed to go a biannual basis. And of course, this year it’s cancelled. There’s always a ton of schlock, which generally wins top prizes. But fortunately, there are jury prizes a well, and those selections are a lot more interesting.

This work, 108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice, by Nikesha Breeze, won the 3D jury prize for that year. (Click the link for more pictures.)

You rounded a corner and saw mask after mask. The fact that this happened in DeVos hall—is that a bitter or a sweet irony?

An excerpt from the artist’s statement (but please take the time to click this link to read the entire thing):

…a series of 108 individually hand-sculpted clay masks, created one at a time, in honor of the countless lives lost in black, brown and indigenous communities around the world, due to systematic racial violence and oppression. Each face was sculpted out of the imagination of the artist, with no photos, models, or casting mechanisms. The individual and unique faces of each mask were created in a state of prayer, and ancestral honoring, as the artist attempted to imagine the faces and wounds, stories and histories, of her own erased generations due to American slavery. Viewers are invited to take a moment to feel at once, the endlessness of the struggle faced by communities of color, as lives are still being lost to racial violence on a daily basis, and to experience each mask “face to face” as an act of human compassion, connection and recognition of black death worldwide.

—from the artist statement by Nikesha Breeze

We ended up spending a lot of time looking at different masks, all of which were uniquely beautiful.

I would say that this sign, which accompanied the piece, feels eerily prescient. But of course, Black people haven’t been able to breathe in America for a long, long time. I hang my head at the lethargy of my own response.

A perspective from the end:

The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 9-July, 2020

From Nikesha Breeze, that a death mask can be a powerful vehicle for celebrating life. And to not quit praying.

*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.