Change The Massachusetts Flag

Today,  I’m home in Quincy, Massachusetts. This state, like the rest of the United States is on land stolen from Native Americans.

4th of July

Like last year on the 4th of July, it feels right to think about the founding of this country. I consider my birthday a personal new year and a time for self-reflection. Likewise, the birthday of this country is a time to think about the history of the United States — how we can do better now and in the future.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But it wasn’t until five years later, in 1781, when the Massachusetts state legislature became the first to recognize the 4th as an official state celebration recognizing the anniversary of the country’s independence.

Receiving a link to sign a petition prompted me to write this post today, on the 244th birthday of the United States. The petition seeks to change the North Quincy High School mascot from the Yakoo, an offensive caricature that stereotypes Native American culture. I signed the petition and immediately thought about the Massachusetts flag.

Massachusetts Flag

When I was in my 20s and working for the state, I remember looking closely at the flag. Previously, I had only noticed the figure of a Native American man standing. But that day, I noticed that there is an arm holding a sword over his head.  A sword over his head!

Taking the Indigenous peoples’ land was bad enough. The flag shows the violence of it. Why should this emblem continue representing our state? Should we be proud of this? I am horrified by the symbolism.

The seal, which is on the flag, goes back to circa 1639, when the Massachusetts settlers adopted it. The sword was owned by Myles Standish, known for his violence against Native Americans as a military advisor for the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in the 1620s.

Many say the the original sin in this country was slavery. As an African-American, I can trace my ancestry back to enslaved African-Americas in Virginia and South Carolina. The exact year enslaved Africans arrived to colonies in the Americas is not clear. Some have said 1619. But that seems to reference English colonies. The European slave trade began in the 1400s and Christopher Columbus may have transported enslaved Africans to the Americas in the late 1490s.

However, looking at the time line, Native Americans were here for thousands of years before European colonizers arrived. The theft of their land and the brutality against them was a sin. Slavery was an additional sin and the timelines intertwine.

Further, when people deem the United States a nation of immigrants, that leaves people out. Some of us were already here. Some of us came here unwillingly. We are a nation of immigrants, and Indigenous people and descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the United States. Let’s include us all.

Take Action

Since we’re at a place in time where symbols of white supremacy continue coming down, it’s well past time to change the Massachusetts flag. Especially as the Trump administration targets the Wampanoag tribe’s land. Is the state of Massachusetts in solidarity with Native Americans or not?

Last year, WGBH reported on the issue and a suggestion for the change could be an easy one. Remove the arm and sword and add a tree. A tree flag was one of the ones used during the American Revolution. Ships sailing from Massachusetts also used the tree flag. So adding a tree would be consistent with Massachusetts history.

For 36 years, the MA Indigenous Legislative Agenda has been working on changing the flag and seal, along with other initiatives as well.

Let’s support current legislation (S.1877 & H.2776) and urge the MA Rules Committee to move the Mass Flag and Seal Bill out of committee. Click on the links to send a letter. See a sample letter below.

I am a resident of (city or town), Massachusetts. I am writing in support of (S.1877 / H.2776) the bill to create a special commission, made up of Native leaders of the area now known as Massachusetts and state legislators, to change the state flag and seal of Massachusetts. The time has come to remove the sword that has been hanging over the heads of the Native people of this land for 400 years! This legislation has been stalled for 36 years in the legislature. Even Mississippi is holding bipartisan discussions now to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag – which would leave Massachusetts as the last flag of white supremacy flying in the country. This image is a disgrace to the progressive traditions of our Commonwealth, an offense to Native people, and to everyone who upholds the value of racial justice for all. Thirty nine Massachusetts cities and towns have already voted at town meeting or city council to change the Massachusetts flag and seal, and an equal number of legislators now co-sponsor S.1877 / H.2776). Please vote favorably to move the legislation to change the Massachusetts flag and seal forward now.

*Updated 7/17/2020* Yesterday, there was a rally by Native American groups in front of the state house in support of this legislation and it generated some media attention. Governor Baker was asked about it during a press conference and stated that he is open to discussion.

*Updated 7/29/2020* There is real momentum behind this issue and the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved new legislation (S.2848) to create a special commission. Now it’s up to the House and Governor.

*Updated 8/4/2020* North Quincy High School has changed the image of the Yakoo mascot.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A White-Knuckle Moment For Black People

brown hands white-knuckle moment

BAND-AID Brand Adhesive Bandages go all the way back to 1920 and the company has been innovating since.

For example, they introduced clear strip bandages in 1957. Space travel was acknowledged in 1963 and 1969. In 1988, they acknowledged perestroika in Eastern Europe. In 1997, they added antibiotic ointment. Just three years ago, the company improved their bandages to feel like a second skin by expanding and contracting.

Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States took place during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  In 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the first Black president of the United States.

Just a few days ago, on June 10, 2020, in an Instagram post, Band-Aid, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, stated their commitment “to launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin.”

Upon learning that bandages would be available in brown and black skin tones, I became livid. I thought, “Really?! Now?! After all this time, they finally acknowledge that Black and Brown people exist!” If you’re looking for an alternative, a Black owned company called Browndages, makes bandages in an assortment of brown shades.

As a child, I wondered why the flesh color bandages were not the color of my skin. I wondered the same about crayons and later about nylons too. Although, I just read that Crayola changed the name of the flesh crayon to peach in 1962.

Whiteness gets the presumption. It feels like a slap in the face for someone with brown skin. It shows the ironic invisibility of Black people, even though we always stand out.

The moment that we’re in right now is a moment of reckoning. Black people want our humanity acknowledged and the current protests are just that.

Certainly it’s a tense and stressful time. White-knuckle is defined as marked by, causing, or experiencing tense nervousness.”

Do you see where I’m going with this? I could be wringing my hands and stressed as can be, but I will never have a white-knuckle moment. I have brown skin. That term is all about the default color as white and does not acknowledge Black people. Just like the flesh color bandages that were never brown.

So many moments in history Band-Aid could have acknowledged Black people. They acknowledged space travel and even perestroika in Eastern Europe. But overlooked the Civil Rights Movement, the first Black Supreme Court justice and the first Black president.

Maybe the change happened now because the leadership is different than what it was over the last decade. In short, I hope that more white people will look at how they have understood the default race. Look at the characteristics of those deemed “real” Americans. Examine how white privilege has benefited them and think about the range of colors of all people before exclaiming a white-knuckle moment.

Finding Flour: Where & Why

Bread has been vital to human survival for more than 10,000 years. Flour combined with water makes a dough for cooking over a fire or baked in an oven. These simple ingredients have sustained people for a long time. That is to say, flour may subconsciously signal life. Now finding flour has become a national obsession.

Since the pandemic began, people seem to have latched onto the idea that having enough flour is essential. Even for people who never baked at home before, so it’s not particularly logical. But nevertheless, many have latched on so tightly to this idea, that there have been flour shortages in stores for months. People are baking like crazy.

In the age of COVID-19, in many ways we are literally in survival mode and behaving on instinct. There is something primal about flour. Maybe in our subconscious, we as a species know that if we have flour we can survive. Also kneading dough is soothing — like a meditation.

Over the last week especially, as police brutally killed Black people, it felt like an attack on my spirit. I’ve gasped for air and felt pain in my neck. It’s times like this that I need to find ways to stay calm. That familiar combination of flour and water brings me back to myself.

I’ve baked cinnamon bread, scones, cookies and cake. I had a decent amount of flour at home to begin with, but then started to run low and didn’t see all-purpose flour on store shelves for weeks, so I bought cake flour to tide me over.

Because I wasn’t sure how long this flour shortage would last, I decided that sourcing locally and online would be the best option and also help support local business. Thankfully I’m now well-stocked with flour.

Below is a list of New England area mills with freshly milled flour, cornmeal and more ready to ship directly to you!

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One Mighty Mill (Lynn, MA)

Ground Up Grain (Hadley, MA)

Maine Grains (Skowhegan, ME)

Gray’s Grist Mill (Westport, MA)

Plimoth Grist Mill (Plymouth, MA)

Kenyon’s Grist Mill (West Kingston, RI)

Eating Out Alone: Pity Party Or Joyful Escape?

Woman alone sitting in restaurant looking at a menu.

When you see this woman sitting at a restaurant alone, looking at a menu, what do you think of her?

Do you pity her and think she has no friends? Do you want to rescue her from solitude? Do you assume she’s waiting for someone‘s arrival? Does she look sad or content?

Do you envy her and think she was able to slip away for a slice of freedom from an otherwise very busy and full life?

Is she an introvert reveling in the pleasure of her own company? There’s a whole Reddit thread on introverts eating alone. And of course, it’s mostly positive. A downside mentioned is trying to spare others feelings when wanting to eat alone.

The one thing I hated about college was that many people would feel bad for me when I would eat alone in the dining hall. Sometimes, you just need some time to be alone with your thoughts. I silently cursed when somebody would say ‘Come sit with us. You don’t have to eat alone.’ Obviously, I appreciate the gesture, but it was always so uncomfortable for me.

Whether an introvert or not, maybe you might consider that à la writer Julie Cameron, she has taken herself out for a weekly Artist Date — where she is wooing her own consciousness to cultivate and sustain her creativity.

Maybe you assume nothing. But many Americans may feel sorry for her.

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When I started The Chowdah Project on this blog, I couldn’t find a free stock photo of chowder and didn’t have a picture of my own. I was on a self-imposed deadline and wanted to get started right away. I decided to go to a nearby restaurant, enjoy some chowder and take some photos.

Since I was going by myself, I brought a book. I was seated at a table next to a man about my age or a bit older, with two young women who appeared to be teenagers or maybe in their early 20s.

The chowder was good and I got the photos that I wanted. As the people at the table next to me were leaving, the man said to me that he hadn’t realized that I was there alone. If he had, he said that he would have asked me to join them. I was at a loss for words (which often happens to me when I’m caught off-guard), so I smiled, said that was okay, but thank you.

It was very kind of him, but like the Reddit thread, it made me wonder what he was thinking. Maybe he had assumed I was meeting someone.

A few weeks ago, a story went viral about three young men at a restaurant inviting an older women eating alone to sit with them. The takeaway from the story was always be kind to people, because you never know what they are going through. She was an elderly widow missing her husband on a day close to what would have been their 60th anniversary. It’s definitely a feel good story and with all the current news, something that we can all appreciate.

This story also reminded me of my solo chowder eating experience and made me want to explore the topic further.

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The circumstances of eating alone may play a part on how society generally sees it.

One article that I read about eating alone was written by a man named Justin who was eating with his girlfriend at a restaurant and saw a man dining on his own. Justin was intrigued and decided to try it himself. His reflections on the experience are quite interesting. One thing he noted was that people are curious and spoke about him.

There was actually one statement I overheard that really caught my attention however. ‘You know, I’d love to do that one day.’ A voice articulated from a few tables behind me. It was the very sentence I had uttered to my girlfriend the time I had seen the suave, champagne-drinking gentleman.

It seems to me that maybe there is a different perception of men eating alone than women. Also, maybe the age of the person matters. Society may view older people as lonely, especially women. Sometimes that may be true, but it seems to be just as likely that it’s not.

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An Eater article says that solo dining in New York City increased 80% between 2014 and 2018. So maybe more people are discovering the thrill of solo dining. It seems to be a taboo that people are shunning.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, is all for eating breakfast alone once a week.

One of the simplest acts of happiness you can experience in life is this: Once a week, take yourself out to breakfast, all alone, at a local diner or cafe. Bring a good book. Sit by a sunny window. Read. Marvel at how this changes everything.

Sounds perfect to me. What about you?