On July 4th: An Open Letter To Speaker Pelosi

Image of John Hancock statue, represents the 4th of July.
Photo taken Monday, July 1, 2019. Statue of John Hancock at Hancock Adams Common in Quincy Center, Massachusetts.

It’s July 4th, 2019. The last time that I wrote a blog post dedicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on July 1, 2007.

Being aware of her love for chocolate ice cream, I created a recipe for chocolate ice cream in her honor celebrating her becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

I hadn’t looked at that 2007 post in years. Reading it again now, I noticed my disappointment in Pelosi’s refusal to consider impeaching President Bush. Impeachment was “off the table” as far as she was concerned.

Well, here we are again. Almost 12 years ago to the day. Same Speaker. And shockingly, an even worse president. And that’s saying something. Looking back, Bush doesn’t seem quite as horrifying as he did back then.

I don’t believe that will be the case with Trump, if this country survives as a Democracy for 12 years to look back on with a different president. The horrors his administration has inflicted are too many to name.

For now, let me just say that my heart is breaking for the atrocities being committed in this country. Not that unspeakable horrors against people of color is new in the United States. It’s literally what this country was founded on – the theft of Native American lands and the genocide against Native American people. Then the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for centuries. Just last century during World War II, the property of Japanese Americans was stolen and they were rounded up and placed in concentration camps.

No. This country does not have a good human rights record. And I am skipping over a lot. But we are supposed to do better. Now it is brown immigrants from Mexico and Central America who are seeking asylum after fleeing violence, that are being rounded up and placed in concentration camps.

This past Monday, I took the picture above and I wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi. Since it seems to fit the theme of July 4th, I’m sharing the letter below. You can submit a letter to Speaker Pelosi as well by clicking the link here.

Open Letter To Speaker Pelosi

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

The news that I read each day about the people being held in detention shakes me to the core. I have cried over this. We have concentration camps on our soil. The treatment of these men, women, children and babies is deplorable, cruel and seem to be crimes against humanity.

I understand that there is virtually no chance that the Senate would convict and remove President Trump. But I still think that an impeachment inquiry in the House should begin. Please start the process. At least there will be televised hearings, so that more people in this country will see the reality of what is happening.

Soon after President Trump was elected,  I remember hearing that his team was looking into the Korematsu decision. Between that, Trump’s greed, racism,  lawlessness and the growth and profitability of private prisons, I thought that there could be concentration camps here. It was only a matter of when and who would be in them. Now we are here. I don’t know how we fix this, but as I prepare for the 4th of July, I am taking the words of the Declaration of Independence to heart.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

I live in Quincy, Massachusetts and today visited a memorial to John Hancock, stating that he was the first signer of the Declaration. He was born here. Just a few miles away from where I am writing now.  I understand there is much hypocrisy involved with the Declaration. I am a black woman and my rights and humanity would not have been acknowledged at the time of the signing. But we are supposed to be better than that now.

For the love of God, please use your power to ease the suffering of those who have fled violence to come here looking for safe haven and are now essentially being tortured. I beg you.

Sincerely,

Lisa Johnson

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Current events may have many of us contemplating a bit more about what it means to be American. So much happening in this country is heartbreaking, unnecessary, and to be frank, criminal.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We the people can make a difference in very tiny ways. Even if only calling our House Representative and Senators to tell them how we feel. If we each do something that resonates with us, we can make this country better than it ever was.

Along with fireworks, picnics and barbecues, on this July 4th, it’s the perfect day to reflect on this nation’s founding — and think about how we can reset, striving towards a more perfect Union.

Condemning Trump’s Comments Regarding the African Diaspora

A few months ago, I did an Ancestry DNA test. Now for the first time, I have the names of African countries where my ancestors came from: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Mali, Benin, Togo, Senegal. It’s an amazing feeling to have that information.

In direct opposition to that feeling, each day Donald Trump’s increasingly racist comments are an assault on my mind and soul. He is morally repugnant. Ignorant and hateful. I condemn him and all that he represents.

The most recent abhorrent statements by Trump referred to Haiti and African countries in general as “s***hole” countries. The context of these statements were in regards to immigration policy. He then went on to say that he’d prefer that people come to the United States from countries like Norway.

Many have since denounced his comments. The Government of Botswana issued a statement asking if they are considered one of those countries and further stating that they “view the utterances by the current American President as highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.”

The African Group of Ambassadors to the United Nations met in an emergency session yesterday to consider Trump’s remarks. They issued a statement demanding a retraction and an apology.

Among other things, they said they are “extremely appalled at, and strongly condemns the outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks attributed to the President” and further stated that they are “concerned at the continuing and growing trend from the US Administration towards Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of colour.”

In the wake of all of this, there are a few things that I would like to state.

There are 54 countries in the African continent.

The birthplace of human kind is in Africa.

Africa is brimming with precious resources. Called a new form of “colonial pillaging,” African bio-resources are exploited by the West.

In September 2017 at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump stated, “Africa has tremendous business potential, I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you, they’re spending a lot of money. It has tremendous business potential, representing huge amounts of different markets. … It’s really become a place they have to go, that they want to go.”

Donald Trump Jr. has a history of visiting Africa to kill wildlife.

The conversation around Trump’s comments has degenerated into talking about “s***hole” countries that people have left to come to the United States. I hate the focus on that word.

Instead, I wish the conversation would elevate to how the Continent is rich with resources and beauty that everyone wants.

Further, the people from this magnificent continent make-up the African Diaspora, who have shown unshakeable resilience and bravery in the face of terror and horror over centuries and brought beauty and culture throughout the world.

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Image: Public Radio International

 

Breathe & Push: This Darkness is of the Womb Not the Tomb

Valarie Kaur speaking about darkness of the womb.

I’m not a mom. But I am a daughter. And I know how I got here. My mom’s birthday was yesterday. It was a good one. And we celebrated. I know how she got here. I know how her mother got here. And her mother.

And all those mothers from the beginning. We all got here the same way. All of us. Women. Men. Transgender. We were birthed by strong women.

For those of you who know me in person, or just through this blog or Twitter, you know that this election and administration has rocked me hard.

But this morning, I found a video of the National Moral Revival Poor People’s Campaign Watch Night Service and saw a speech by Valarie Kaur. It gives me hope.

The video is just over six minutes and well worth your time. Especially if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the onslaught of changes taking place in this country. The past twenty-four hours has refugees and other immigrants now detained at airports and not being allowed back in the United States after the latest of Trump’s Executive Orders.

Kaur’s website describes her as an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, media commentator, Sikh activist, interfaith leader and founder of Groundswell Movement, the nation’s largest multifaith online organizing community.

In other words, she is amazingly awesome! By the way, she will be in Boston on February 9th and 10th at Northeastern University speaking at the New England Interfaith Student Summit.

Kaur’s speech describes some tragic and inspiring personal family history and then goes on to discuss the issues facing our nation currently. She finds cause for optimism.

And so the mother in me asks, what if. What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb? But the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead? But a country that is waiting to be born. What if the story of America is one long labor? … What if this is our nation’s great transition? … What does a midwife tell us to do? Breathe. And then push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push our nation will die. Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labor.

If the Statue of Liberty represents our country, then we are a strong woman. Let’s focus. Breathe. Then push like our lives depend on it. Because they do.

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Screenshot: YouTube

Resist + Persist: Survival in the Trump Era

Boston street b+w

While walking to work on inauguration day, I took this picture. I was feeling upset and angry. Because it happened. Electors be damned. We are living in post-Obama Trumpian world. They didn’t save us. We have to save ourselves.

I cannot put the word president alongside this man’s name. I just can’t. He doesn’t deserve the title or the respect.

As I got closer to my destination while walking, a bit of sunlight was shining through the buildings with each street that I passed. A ray of light. Things are looking and feeling pretty grim. But there is light. So I keep reminding myself.

Last night I joined the ACLU and hope to volunteer soon. The enormity of all the changes that are taking place is overwhelming. The lies. The Executive Orders. So I have to keep things manageable and think about what I can do as an individual.

The reality of day to day life can get in the way. I was unable to attend the Boston Women’s March, because I had to work. I felt awful, because it was just down the street. But nobody else is going to pay my bills. So I made a choice. Something we should all be free to do in every aspect of our lives.

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Where do we go from here? Each of us has different strengths, interests and priorities. Now is the time to find them and use them. Our diversity is our strength. Resist and persist.

The website for the Women’s March has an action plan — 10 Actions/100 Days. So that’s a good place to start. The first action is sending postcards to our Senators.

Write down your thoughts. Pour your heart out on any issue that you care about, whether it’s ending gender-based violence, reproductive rights and women’s health, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom, environmental justice or anything else.

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Being mindful and noticing what’s going on around us is especially important right now. I read an article about what life is like living under an authoritarian regime. The key takeaway was that it was like living anywhere else. Many people went about their everyday lives. They still had jobs and went out, etc.

Changes were very subtle and there was no bright line when things changed. The problem and saving grace is that humans are very adaptable. What is not normal now, may seem normal a year from now. We may start to self-censor and change our behavior in order to survive without even realizing that we are doing it. According to Amy Siskind and many others, we should all take an important step.

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

She keeps lists on Facebook and is documenting the news week by week. Here is Week 10. I plan to keep my owns lists as well, but it has been hard to keep up with everything. When I start my list, I will blog it in order to keep track.

Reading Charles Blow’s opinion pieces in the New York Times is also a way to keep up with what is happening. He pulls no punches and is calling out the lies and discussing the despicable behavior.

Following Sarah Kendzior on Twitter is another way to stay informed and see the bigger picture of what is happening. To be honest, she is also frightening and depressing. She is an expert on authoritarianism and explains how our concerns about Trump are valid. We are in for a fight to save democracy and what we consider to be our values as Americans.

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It’s also time for self-care. With each tweet by our president, he psychologically torments and traumatizes the country. Sending the feds to Chicago?! Is he setting the stage for martial law? He hasn’t even been president for a week! The gaslighting article in Teen Vogue was so on point.

Here are a few things that can help with creating some fun and calm in our lives.

~ Why We Need to Create a Home: “The quest to build a home is connected up with a need to stabilise and organise our complex selves. It’s not enough to know who we are in our own minds. We need something more tangible, material and sensuous to pin down the diverse and intermittent aspects of our identities.”

~ 45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul.

~ A list of the best chocolate chip cookies in your state. Recipes for favorite cookies in  each of the 50 states.

~ Bibi Shasha, Popeye the Foodie and Norbert just might be the cutest dogs on Instagram.