Current Events

Artists in Activism: A Different Kind of Protest

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

-Bob Marley

“Music is the universal language…it brings people closer together.”

-Ella Fitzgerald

In the months following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others in the Black and African American Community who have been killed at the hands of police brutality, there have been protests across the United States and the world.  Marches, protests, and sign-wavings—in big cities to small towns—have been largely peaceful while others have experienced looting, rioting, and violence from other groups that were not only harmful but damaging to the true mission of the protests. 

A new group, called Artists in Activism, has an idea of a new kind of protest: one in which artists can come together to peacefully protest using their creative mediums.  On Saturday, September 26, 2020 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., Artists in Activism gathered for its 17th week on the rooftop of Audio Lab in Marysville, Washington, and on the corner of State Avenue and Grove Street. 

Atop the roof of Audio Lab, a canopy was set up over an assembly of drums and speakers where music was echoing out over the busy intersection.  Down at the corner, protestors waved their signs as passersby could be heard honking, cheering out of their windows, and holding up closed fists in solidarity as they passed.  After asking many of the sign-wavers on the street how long they have been attending, many said they were new and “saw the other protestors and wanted to join the cause.”   

Among the protestors was Sara Lacy, wife of Cecil Lacy Jr., a Tulalip Tribes member who was killed in 2015 after struggling with a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy.  Much in the same manner that George Floyd died, Mr. Lacy was heard saying, “I can’t breathe” before his death.  A recent July 16, 2020 article by The Seattle Times can be found in the Citations section of this article for more information and updates on this story.  To date, no charges have been filed against Snohomish County officers involved in the incident.

A feeling among many is that there is too much focus on the looting, rioting, and violence that has given the wrong connotation to what it means to protest and even the label of ‘protestor’.  Oftentimes, it is not the protestors causing the looting, rioting, and violence but rather, external forces that wish only to sabotage the mission of a peaceful protest for their own agendas.  Artists in Activism wants to help change that and foster unity through the arts, creative expression, and the joy in simply being human together—regardless of our outward appearances—in what has become a harshly divided nation of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. 

Artists in Activism sees and understands the division we’re facing and seeks to encourage unity and dialogue through a more neutral and inviting environment—with music.  One gentleman named Chris, who donned a red cap that said, ‘MADE YA LOOK; BLACK LIVES MATTER’, was playing the drums and deejaying music for the event.  An affable gentleman with a passion for music, he seemed to be the soul of the event as he played sets on his drums, occasionally adjusted his amplifier, and set tracks on his laptop to play out into the streets when he took breaks.  Music—something everyone can relate to and bond over—set the mood for the event; it was a soundtrack to the peaceful sign-waving from the rooftop and the street that made it a different kind of protest and one that felt more unifying with nothing but good vibes.

After months of gathering, Artists in Activism hasn’t always had the most positive responses.  In Marysville, where there is a sense of an existing “underbelly of racism” similar to what has been felt in neighbouring towns like Snohomish and Granite Falls, reported reactions have included drive-by slurs, waving of middle fingers, and unwelcome presence in the alley behind the Audio Lab where the stairwell to the rooftop can be found.  Most of the reaction to the protestors has been positive, but there has also been enough negative reaction for Artists in Activism to designate their own security.  There is a watch over the alley and block from the rooftop where block-circling drivers or alley pedestrians are carefully surveyed for the possibility of a threat.

Even though there was a smaller turnout than previous weeks before the recent rain and smoke in the region, there was roughly 20 to 30 people—a mix of Black and white adults and a child—on the rooftop and waving signs down on State Avenue.  When a little girl arrived with her parents, one Black gentleman exclaimed, “You know, I feel safe when children are present.”  Somehow, both children and music seem to offer a neutralising element to protest that might otherwise attract resistance without them.

Small groups on the rooftop gathered for engaging conversation.  Of the conversations had with others and those witnessed, here are some of the themes and observations:

  1. There is a continued and urgent need for open dialogue, especially the uncomfortable conversations.  Unlike other marches and protests, the novelty of this Artists in Activism event was that it felt more like a block party with a mission.  You can come join the sign-wavers on the streets or come for meaningful dialogue while listening to music.  It’s peaceful invitation for change while creating an environment anyone can bond over.  There’s opportunity for you to find what’s comfortable for you, and everyone makes you feel welcome.  While the uncomfortable conversations must be had with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, it’s also important to meet others in your community to exchange ideas, experiences, and stories that may affect, empower, and enlighten your views. 
  2. Be inclusive, whenever and wherever possible.  The diverse gathering—people of different skin colours, ages, and talents—was an embodiment of this statement.  Dissolving the voids between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is crucial in a heavily divided nation.            
  3. The presence of universal mediums like music helps create more inviting safe spaces for people to protest and engage in conversations.  Music helped set the tone.  After attending more formal marches in neighbourhoods and city streets, it was a pleasant change to attend a different kind of demonstration that was conducive to a flow of conversation and networking.
  4. Negative reactions to protestors can give us a sense of the work still to do and that protests must continue until all can enjoy equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal treatment.  Protests may not always sway everyone to think on the right side of history, but their ongoing presence demonstrates that intolerance and hate will be met with resistance.  Equality for all is always worth fighting for.  Contrary to other beliefs, peaceful protesting is patriotism because it is an effort to seek change in a society until everyone can enjoy a life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  5. New interpretations of Old Glory: Given the American flag has become a vehicle for individual expression, it can be seen in a range of different colours.  We’ve seen the ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag representing law enforcement and as being associated with the Blue Lives Matter countermovement.  There is also the rainbow American flag flown in advocacy of LGBTQ rights.  Within the context of being flown at a BLM event, the black and white American flag can be interpreted as drawing attention and pride to the Black lives of our nation.  Similarly, the red-black-green flag, also known as the Pan-African flag, symbolises Black liberation in the United States: red: the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation; black: for the people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag; green: the abundant and vibrant natural wealth of Africa, the Motherland. 

In a more divided nation than ever, with more enabled and outward demonstrations of hate, it’s vital to identify and share our common bonds, engage in respectful dialogue, and create the good that is worth fighting for.  Artists in Activism’s mission may not be a new idea, but it seems easier achieve the change we wish to see in the world with music to guide people’s hearts in the right direction.

Citations & Credits:

Resources:

  • Donate:
    • Cash App: $ArtistsinActivism
  • Resist PNW/BLM Everett: A safe, private space to organise, discuss and post about current and future BLM events, rallies, and protests; also to network, get to know your fellow community members and build a stronger resistance movement here in Everett.  The focus of this group is to coordinate our efforts in the fight for racial justice here in our community.  This is a place to plan and post events, discuss tactics, and coordinate for safety during such activities.
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Current Events

Changing the Narrative with Conversation & Peaceful Protest

In recent weeks, protests in the historical antique district of Snohomish, Washington, turned contentious after peaceful protestors were met by counter-protestors, many armed.  Like other protests around the Puget Sound region, across the country, and throughout the world, these local protests were held after the recent death of George Floyd and others who have been murdered by police brutality.  These crimes against the Black and African American Community have further incited a call for police reform and closer attention to the Black Lives Matter movement for justice and equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal treatment.  Michael and Jennifer Adams, residents of nearby Granite Falls, Washington, decided they wanted to help change the narrative, this time with a peaceful and silent march.

Michael Adams and other community members also recently created the Facebook group Change the Narrative: Granite Falls, which was established with the mission to, “…encourage positive conversation, enlightened education, and the opportunity to choose to change your perspective on social injustice, racial inequality, police biases, criminal justice reform, and the many layers of topics that stem from systemic racism.”  This community page also recognises that, “Unfortunately, people of color still face discrimination here in Granite Falls and are not being treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. There are many processes that can be used to keep people of color from being treated justly and as equals. Refusal to recognize the problem is the easiest way to avoid the reality of the racial divide. This group is formed to change the narrative of the conversation on equality in Granite Falls, WA and beyond.”

Change the Narrative: Granite Falls, which currently has 310 members, has quickly gained momentum in supporting open dialogue within the Granite Falls community and beyond.  It also serves as an example for a discussion forum that can be adopted in other communities from small towns like Granite Falls to larger cities.  With a long-standing narrative of a lack of diversity and racism in Granite Falls, Change the Narrative is helping set a new standard for the community and, indeed, change the narrative.

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On June 19th, 2020 (also known as Juneteenth), Michael and Jennifer Adams hosted the March on Snohomish/Sign Wave: Gathering of Peace starting at the Kla Ha Ya Park on 1st Street in Snohomish, Washington.  Before the march began down 1st Street towards Union Street, passing City Hall, those who had assembled for the march had the opportunity to hear various experiences, perspectives, and stories from Mr. Adams, Snohomish Mayor John Kartak, State Representative of the 44th Legislative District, John Lovick, and Captain Robert D. Palmer who is currently serving as Interim Chief of Police.

First, Mayor Kartak shared his thoughts.  Among them, he acknowledged that, “there is a lot of pain that continues to this day,” and that we need to, “ask bold questions and speak bold truths.  Truth is a fire.”

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After recent unrest at other protests, Mayor Kartak has been criticised—even facing pressure to resign—for failing to do more to address racism in Snohomish.  Unrest has included the presence of heavily-armed, self-appointed ‘guards’ with assault-style rifles, brawls in the streets, protestors being punched, waving of the Confederate flag, and the use of profanity and shouts of “all lives matter” in response to protestors chanting “Black Lives Matter.”  Local law enforcement was made aware of threats of possible looting, but none of this materialised.  At the Juneteeth march, there were still some windows of shops boarded up as a precaution.

Next, State Representative, John Lovick, spoke.  He began by giving us some background on his life.  Born and raised in Louisiana, Mr. Lovick met his great-great-grandfather, Thomas Holden, in the 1960s, who was a slave when he was born.  Mr. Holden died in 1965 at the remarkable age of 103.  “Even though he did not die a slave,” said Mr. Lovick, “he was still somewhat treated like a slave.”  Mr. Lovick then shared his feelings on how Juneteenth should be celebrated:

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In Snohomish and in the State of Washington, this is how we can celebrate Juneteenth in the future:

We should celebrate Juneteenth with both an epidemic and a quarantine.  (:laughter from the crowd:)  And I mean this sincerely.  Now, I know you’re laughing, but we should celebrate it with an epidemic and a quarantine.  We should celebrate it with an epidemic of love, compassion, kindness, and understanding.

And then we’ll turn to the quarantine: we should quarantine the racists; quarantine the hate-mongers; quarantine the sexists; quarantine the homophobes.  The bottom line is we need to call them in instead of calling them out.

We need a country, we need a world, we need a community where we can all live in harmony.  And I gotta tell you something: I am so proud beyond words that I see what the young people are doing right now. […]  I always used to look at these youngers and say, ‘You know what, you guys are our future.’  Man, was I wrong.  I said, ‘You guys are the leaders of the future.’  They are leaders of now.  And what they’re telling us is this: We better lead, follow, or get out of their way because they’re comin’.

Next, Captain Palmer gave a statement, a part of which is transcribed below.  Captain Palmer is currently serving as the Interim Chief of Police in place of former Police Chief Keith Rogers, who has been reassigned within the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.  Keith Rogers faced intense criticism over handling of rumoured activists’ plans to riot, and blatant disregard for armed vigilantes who clashed with peaceful protestors.

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Simply, Black lives matter.  We are here to protect everybody’s right […].  I just want to make sure that you guys have a chance to be heard, safely.  This isn’t a huge group, but we’re prepared to close the roads if the crowd gets large and make sure there’s no cars coming in and out and getting in your way.

We’ve done this a lot and absolutely believe in everybody’s unalienable right to protest, peaceably assemble, and speak out against racial injustice. 

I hate racism; I am against it completely; I’ve seen it; I’ve been affected by it; and I will not tolerate it.  It will not happen on my watch in this county.

After overwhelming media attention to police brutality, we have seen and been bombarded by repeated crimes against Blacks and African Americans that can obscure our approval of and perspective on the entire institution of policing.  Though reform and attention to systemic bias within the police force is unquestionably urgent, it’s important to remember that many of those in law enforcement do acknowledge and uphold their duty to protect the rights and safety of others.  To have Captain Palmer speak and see several other officers assist us in our peaceful demonstration (as have other law enforcement officials in other marches and protests), it served as a reminder that law enforcement cannot be broadly judged and renounced for the misconduct of some.

Before beginning the march, we heard Mr. Adams deliver his speech:

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How Did We Get Here?  Let’s Look at History to See the Missed Opportunity…

Prior to the Civil War, free blacks of the north were given a Certificate of Freedom to prove they were free.

They were subject to search at any time.  If found to be without it, they could be jailed.

If jailed, they were responsible for paying for the cost of incarceration or they could be sold back into slavery.

April 12th, 1861—The Civil War begins.  We learn in school that the Union was anti-slavery and assume all Blacks were free within it.

We learn that Southern states seceded to form the Confederate States of America, and they were pro-slavery.  But they forget to teach us that there were four slave states that didn’t leave the union.  In America, slavery was still legal. 

April 16th, 1862—President Lincoln signs the D.C. Emancipation Act which frees slaves in the District of Columbia.  ‘The Act provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to loyal Unionist masters of up to $300 for each slave, and voluntary colonization of former slaves outside the United States.’

Slave owners were paid to set their slaves free and some were paid up to $1,500 to do so.  Even in the moment of being granted freedom, these newly freed people were treated as property because their freedom was bought, not given as a right.

What was voluntary colonization for former slaves outside the United States?  Slaves were freed and asked if they wanted to leave America.

Newly freed Blacks from D.C. fled because of fear they would be sent back to Africa.

September 22nd, 1862—The Emancipation Proclamation was ordered by President Lincoln.  The Proclamation declared ‘that all persons held as slaves’ within the rebellious states ‘are, and henceforward shall be free.’  It also gave Blacks the right to fight in the union army.

How can you order slaves to be free in D.C. but not the rest of the Union?  How can you order slaves to be free in the Confederate States but not the Union? Simply put, Blacks at that time were ‘free-ish’.

December 6th, 1865—The abolishment of slavery comes through as the 13th Amendment.  Slavery was ended in America at this time officially.  It declared that ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’

June 19th, 1865—Juneteenth, the day where the last slaves of Texas and the former Confederacy were delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Generals order reads as follows:

‘The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.  This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.  The freed men are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.  They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.’ —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865.

We then move into the Jim Crow law era where laws were created to oppress people of color.  During this time, punishment for crimes was used as a tool to put Blacks into prison, among other things. 

There are countless cases where Blacks were wrongly convicted or given harsher sentences than white counterparts.  Jim Crow Laws were unfair in many ways.  They were abolished in legal form.  But we still see the ideology behind it playing out in racial biases today.

The Jim Crow era gave life to the Civil Rights Movement, which truly began, in essence, even before the Civil War.  The push for equality was always there.  We all give so much credit to one of the leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Dr. King had a dream just like Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass and many others before him.  His dream was included in one of the world’s most famous speeches today.  Yet we still have not achieved the dream in America that he and others shared.

All of these dates of significance show missed opportunity for Blacks to be treated equally and fairly. 

The narrative taught in our education system to the history of the war is misleading.  It isn’t just simply that the war was fought over slavery.

The Civil Rights movement is highlighted but the wrongdoing of the Jim Crow Era is quickly glossed over.

Ask yourself, why do we not openly discuss these things?  Ask yourself, how did we make it this far with covering the truth? 

What role do you play in increasing your own knowledge and that of others?  Do you impede progress or are you taking action? 

American History shows missed opportunity for change over and over again.  While we may not be repeating history of slavery and Jim Crow laws violating civil rights.  We are allowing systemic racism and social inequality to exists when we refuse to address it as a country together. 

Juneteenth was created as a holiday for us to gather for lost family members, measure the progress of freedom, and to teach the rising generations the value of self-improvement and racial uplift.

Let’s make the most of this opportunity by accepting responsibility and taking action for the role we all play in making the dream a reality.

What is Juneteenth?

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Juneteenth, dating to June 19, 1865, is an important celebration that might have been heard of but not widely recognised or understood until recently.  It certainly was not at the forefront of my knowledge and I do not recall it being taught in school apart from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, dated January 1, 1863.  Falling into the monotonous and unfortunate dates-names-places model of teaching history, this early education did not dive deeper into the significance of the observance or how it commemorates the official liberation of slaves after varying degrees of enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation left many slaves unaware of the freedom they had been granted.  They were ‘free-ish’ because they wouldn’t become aware of their freedom until two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Per Wikipedia, “Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth)[2] – also known as Freedom Day,[3] Jubilee Day,[4] Liberation Day,[5] and Emancipation Day[6] – is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Originating in Texas, it is now celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States, with varying official recognition. Specifically, it commemorates Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were free. [7]

Juneteenth.com details the two and a half year delay as follows: “Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or none of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question.  Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.”

* * *

As our march merged with an organised protest at Snohomish High School, we heard students, teachers, and local representatives share their personal stories and speeches.  Among these, one student called for Mayor Kartak to be held more accountable for inaction to address racism, while looking directly at him in the crowd.  Many stories were shared experiences of what it’s like to live-while-Black every day and at all ages: struggles for equal opportunity, micro-aggressions, the unspoken pressure to ‘look’ and ‘act’ white in order to fit in, false assumptions, and the anxieties of living a normal everyday life while feeling the constant surveillance of white people.

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Continuing to learn the history of Blacks and African Americans is vital for becoming better allies, better empaths, and better stewards of new narratives, but hearing the accounts and struggles through dialogue and even the simple act of attending peaceful protests are small ways to contribute to making a difference.

Through community outreach, open dialogue, peaceful protest, and re-examining and understanding the silent voids of American history, we can affect change.  It begins with accepting that we have not been taught the real, unvarnished truth, bravely accepting it, and taking the initiative to become informed through dialogue and countless resources available to us.  A common phrase seen at protests and throughout social media is, “If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how tired people are experiencing it every single day.”  This is true, especially knowing that we are all enabled to help make a difference by changing the narrative. 

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Citations & Credits

  • “How Did We Get Here? Let’s Look at History to See the Missed Opportunity…” by Michael Adams.
  • Thank you to Jennifer Adams for video-recording much of March on Snohomish/Sign Wave: Gathering of Peace’s dialogue and speeches.
  • Juneteenth, Wikipedia.
  • “History of Juneteenth”, Juneteenth.com.

Resources:

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Current Events

March for Black Lives

On June 6, 2020, Day 9 of Seattle area protests sparked by the disturbing death of George Floyd, people from all walks of life gathered for the March for Black Lives protest in West Seattle.  After protests in Seattle and around the country turned to rioting, looting, and violence in recent days, this march was remarkable in its peaceful and respectful solidarity.  This allowed for a steady dialogue among protestors and the platform for Black and African American voices to be heard.

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Small business owners came out from their storefronts and residents in their homes along California Avenue Southwest appeared at their windows and balconies to show their support.  Even cases of water bottles were left out by business owners to encourage those of us marching to stay hydrated.  Being present made you proud to be human, to share the anger, love, rage, and tears.

Hardly anyone seemed to forget that we are still in the midst of a pandemic.  Many protestors arrived not only with signs and messages but also donning their face masks.  This is an interesting time in history in which we’re experiencing the strange juxtaposition of gathering to demand justice for racial inequality and police brutality after being sequestered to our homes in lockdowns.  Despite the risk involved, Seattleites demonstrated that they will show up for what’s important as we face other adversities.

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As we marched down California Avenue Southwest, “Say her name!” and “Say his name!” were cried out ahead of the names of the Black and African American men and women whose lives have been taken by police brutality.  One could also hear “Whose lives matters?  Black lives matter!”  Before George Floyd’s death, Breonna Taylor, 26, was also killed on March 13, 2020 after being fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky.  George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were the most recent tragedies in a long list of victims who should be remembered.  We #SayTheirNames:

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The fact that the list of names continues to grow should shock us all.  Every.  Single.  One.  Of.  Us.  We should all be angry.  We #SayHisName, #SayHerName, #SayTheirNames to preserve their memory and so that they do not fall into the trend of quickly dropping from headlines.  It’s enough that we have to keep adding the names of Blacks and African Americans killed by police brutality, but to forget their names entirely is not serving the call for justice.  They were our fellow human beings and should not be lost to silence.  Those alive and breathing should not fall victim because we continue our silence.

Without the interference of rioting, looting, and violence seen in other demonstrations around the country, the March for Black Lives was exemplary in its civility and peace.  That environment allowed us to truly hear, see, and understand one another.  Among the messages amplified to the crowd and shared together, here are some of the highlights:

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  1. Protesting is not about rioting, looting, and violence. It’s important to note that there are many motives at play when there is rioting, looting, and violence, and they’re never justified acts.  These acts are not about protesting for change.  In most cases, people committing the chaos aren’t the same people who arrived to protest peacefully.  Sadly, the connotation of ‘protestors’ then becomes a label for that chaos.  Sharing our experiences from peaceful protests helps change the narrative because it counters the more negative, mainstream coverage.    
  2. Yes, we know all lives matter. However, we must acknowledge that this statement conceals the real fact of the matter: it downplays and diverts attention from the current critical crisis of crimes against the Black and African American Community.  All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.  No one can get left behind, forgotten, or overlooked because we will never be a better society if we are not all enjoying equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal treatment.
  3. Have the uncomfortable conversations: Ongoing, open dialogue is necessary. It’s a catalyst for changing the narrative and our behaviour.  To let the names of the victims disappear from headlines (and our collective memories) and the conversations stop disables the fight and movement for justice and peace.  The conversations need to be held at home, with friends, with colleagues, on social media, everywhere and with anyone.  We must also be brave and summon our personal convictions to call out injustices whenever we witness them, even if they are in the form of a racial slur.  Hate cannot be tolerated.
  4. There are more problems to solve than police brutality. Police brutality is just one of the many ongoing issues the Black and African American Community is facing.  To beat systemic racism, we must acknowledge and address other topics such as discrimination in the workplace, inequities for education, employment, health, and housing, and sexual harassment.  Systemic racism must be dealt with holistically.
  5. We all have a responsibility as individuals. When we return to our separate lives after attending marches and protests, then what?  The fervor of our gatherings should not stop once we’re home again, but lay resonant in our hearts to stand up individually to affect the change we wish to see for everyone.  It begins with acknowledging areas for personal development like addressing our biases, educating ourselves, engaging in ongoing conversations, and reaching out to share what we’ve learned with others.  Affecting change to the narrative aids change to our behaviour.

Of the men and women who used megaphones and microphones to lead the chants and share their emotions, messages, poems, and stories, Chris Porter, Representative of the 34th Legislative District in King County, stood atop Easy Street Records’ van set up as a stage.  Before he would deliver his speech, “Enough is Enough”, he invited a gentleman named Chad Alex Ervin, someone who identified himself as “Black, Deaf, and queer” to share his story.  While using sign language (and an interpreter assisting at the microphone), he shared the following:

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Wow! Wow, ok. Hello everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am mind-blown. I do not know what to say. Wow. I do not know.

Ok. Yes, um, I am obviously Deaf but my first identity is Black and that is it. I am Black, Deaf, and queer. I am here to share a short story. I moved here from North Carolina. I love Seattle. I have met many people here. Black Deaf professionals in all of Seattle? Sadly, only five Black Deaf professionals and that is all. It is really difficult for me and I have to work hard here. I do not want to see other Black Deaf people go through this here. I do not want that. I want to share my experience.

One time I was driving on I-5N and yes, I got pulled over by police. I love feeling music, even though I do not know the words, but I do not care. So, when I got pulled over, I forgot to turn off the music. Yes, I saw a white police officer. They came to my car window and I started shaking. I informed them that I was Deaf. They started speaking and kept speaking. I told them, ‘No, I am Deaf.’ In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Shit, music was on,’ because it conflicted with what I tried to tell the officer, but that should not matter at all. It should not matter, it should not matter. It is my Black Deaf identity, I wanted to have music on, because with music on, I could relax while driving.

We kept talking back and forth, then I had to go to the police station and take care of it with people there. Luckily, my favorite interpreter came and told them, ‘Yes, he is Deaf.’ They responded, ‘Oh, sorry.’ So, why did I have to go all the way to the police station? Why? Obviously, it was because I was Black. This is enough. Enough! Finish, finish! I do not want any other Black Deaf people go through what I went through. Thank you all. Now, I want to do the last thing before I leave…You all say ‘ILY’ sign with me. (:extends his arm and signs the ‘ILY’ sign to the crowd:) I love you all! Thank you. Interpreter, thank you!

Before Mr. Porter began his speech, he asked us all to try something that became one of the most moving moments of the protest.  We were asked to collectively hold our breaths for two minutes and 15 seconds, just a fraction of the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Derek Chauvin’s knee was pressed against George Floyd’s neck, depriving him of air.

Once we inhaled and began holding our breaths, the crowd went completely silent.  To look over the heads of all who gathered and not hear a single human sound was a moment of shock and wonder.  Few could hold their breath for that long before cries came, isolated from various areas of the crowd at first, to shout, “I can’t breathe!”, “My neck hurts!”, “Everything hurts!”, and “Mama!”—some of the last words uttered by George Floyd.

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After, Mr. Porter delivered his speech:

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Enough is Enough

For as long as I can remember, complaints about police brutality and a justice system infused with bias, that, seemingly is stacked against black men, had gone unanswered.  Questions like: “What did he do to provoke the police?” or “He must have had a criminal background” – to, in my view, justify the inhumanity and loss of life…and we all thought someday: Enough is enough.

But on May 25th, 2020, the day that this Veteran pays respect to all those who lost their lives in service to this country, George Floyd lie on the ground begging for air, a chance to breath, and we all heard his final words in his world: “I can’t breathe”, and we all stood up and said: Enough is enough.

Black men losing their lives while in the custody of law enforcement officers is not a new occurrence. During the 1960s, Americans insisted on denying the pervasive racism that permeated the lives of black Americans until they saw the fires hoses being turned on women, men, and children protesting. No child should have witnessed the crushing death of George Floyd.  Because the message sent to young black men is clear: Your life is not worth as much. Black people are more likely to be unarmed and not threatening somebody than any other person who encounters the police in a violent situation.  Enough is enough. 

Many of us heard that three men in Brunswick, Georgia, who pursued, shot and killed, and filmed their carnage in the suspected Killing of Amhaud Arbery on Feb 23, while the shooter spewed racial slurs over his body, where charged with murder 3 months later.  The same biased system that allowed a black man to have air denied while fellow officers watched and assisted, is the same system that allows white men to hunt black men for sport, kill him,  and film the killing, but it takes the justice system three months to decide if charges are warranted.  Enough is enough.

And many of us sat horrified at the acquittal of officers that have shot and killed unarmed black men and boys across this country—the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters all yelling: Enough is enough.

I cannot prepare my son to prepare his son to have the talk.  Every black male knows what the talk is: the steps necessary for when a black male has an interaction with a police officer.  These steps are supposed to minimize, not eliminate, the risk of being arrested or shot—something my white peers have never had to consider.  Enough is enough.

I posted this question to my white peers, allies, and friends on Facebook: Would you knowingly enroll your child in a school or school system that had the lowest expectations for your son/child, placed him at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, knowing that their risk of dropping out is higher?  Enough is enough.

Would you enter you son into a school or school system that needed an advisory board, and a department to address the abysmal achievement gap between white and black male students?  Enough is enough.

Does anyone know about RCW 28A.600.420?  This law outlines behaviors that a student can be suspended or expelled for.  It also allows resource officers on campuses, and by that they mean police officers.  Black males are disproportionately suspended or expelled, and more likely to be arrested, thus beginning the school-to-prison pipeline. This law has got to go because: Enough is enough.

Our healthcare system is revered around the world as one of the most technologically advanced medical systems ever and yet disparities continue. Black and brown people live shorter lives, suffer disproportionately from diabetes, HTN, heart disease, and have little or no access to quality healthcare.  Every Governor in every state who turned down the Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act did so at the expense of the health and safety of black, brown, and poor people across this country, but they were not going to have to do the suffering and dying.  Enough is enough.

Last year, U.S. banks made 11 billon dollars—that is 11 BILLION DOLLARS—in overdraft and late fees alone.  The majority of those fees were collected from people of color and poor people—those least able to afford those fees living paycheck to paycheck.  Enough is enough.

We see the unemployment rate increasing around the country—many are suffering—but the unemployment rate of black men, even in good times, has always been high and is now at 16.7%, compared to 14.2% for whites.  A democracy that systematically excludes is no democracy at all.  Since 1972, when labor statistics for African Americans’ unemployment rates were first collected, the unemployment gap has persisted at a level of twice the rate compared to whites.  Enough is enough.

Equal pay for the same work and education: women have been vocal about this for years, hoping to close the gap; 72 cents to the dollar with black women impacted the most.  The median income of black and white household differs by more than $28,000 per year.  Enough is enough.

Youth detention center: many have marched and protested the youth detention center in King County.  While I do not like that we have one, the real protest is the system that made it even necessary to have one to house black and brown children at a disproportionate rate.  Enough is enough.

Infant Mortality Rate: the number of deaths per 1,000 live births for infants under the age of one.  Here in King County, the number is 3.4 for whites., 7.1 for African Americans, with our Native American brothers and sisters at a scary 8.  Low birth weight is the leading cause of the higher infant mortality rate for black infants.  Without the assurance of prenatal care, jobs that pay a living wage, freedom from a policing and justice system that can interrupt lives, and relegation to living in the parts of the city that are food deserts, hoping for co-ops to fill in the gap, with 7-11s and quickie marts, this problem will persist and the black infant mortality rate will not change.  Enough is enough.

Incarceration: Black males are incarcerated at five times that of whites.  Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.

A judge in Pennsylvania saw these kids as a source of cash and sentenced them to a detention center and was paid over two million dollars for his sentencing.  Cash for kids: this is the kind of stuff where we all have to say: Enough is enough.

But what is our call to action?  Michelle Obama wrote in her book: Becoming, concerning race relations at Princeton University, that it is unreasonable to ask the group that has the least amount of experience on campus and fewer resources to solve the problem (i.e., this cannot work without the work of white population.)

  1. If your school or school system has resource officers, and they are not social workers or counselors, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  2. If you know that your workplace has never paid equal pay for equal work related to gender and/or race, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  3. I you live in a city/town or municipality where the Chief-of-Police or Sheriff is either silent about bias on the force or leads in a way that you know impacts people of color, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  4. If you have friends, allies, or peers that begin the conversation with: “You know what I don’t like about or what makes me uncomfortable about those people”, you must stop that conversation and make it clear that: Enough is enough.
  5. If you notice that your neighborhood seems to all look the same, you have to ask yourself how much for you: Enough is enough?
  6. If you see the failing schools around you, when will you say: Enough is enough?
  7. If you have not written to your mayor, city council member, state legislator, senator or member of congress to ask about any of the things I have mentioned, then you have to ask yourself when, for you, is enough?

I want to live in a world where we are coming together more to celebrate and less out of anger. I want a world where our son and his children will know, without a doubt, that everything they wish for in their lives is possible and not hampered because of race or gender.  I want a world where, when, or if I am pulled over by a police officer, it is because we know each other and not to live in fear, hoping to escape without incident.  I want a world that when our son leaves the house, I don’t have to hold my breath for his return.  I want a world where police officers are checking in on a community to connect and not policing the community to arrest.  I want a world where I don’t have to explain to my child why the image of a black man having the life squeezed out of him is on national TV and somehow is not a precautionary tale, but something that we all demand never, ever, ever, ever happens again.  I want to see more banks in communities of color, more grocery stores, and fewer quickie marts.  I want a world where everyone ends this march and begins with the work of righting all the wrongs to bring a just and equal world because, as MLK Jr. said: ‘People should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.’  I want all of this and more because we all believe: Enough is enough.

Every utterance of “Enough is enough” was said aloud by the crowd, growing in volume every time it was repeated until the masses were screaming it by the end.

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We also heard from youth in the Black and African American Community.  This included a sixth-grader named Ericka Kerr who mustered the courage to ascend the top of the van to share her poem called “Monsters, Criminals & Liars”.  It was remarkable to learn that she is relatively new to the English language.  In her mother’s words, “Just under seven years ago, Ericka couldn’t speak a lick of English. I adopted her and her sister from Haiti, and she came here only knowing Creole. Writing seems to be therapeutic for her, and she writes some pretty profound and powerful pieces. All I ever ask is for her to always speak her truth and to always stand up for what is right. She hopes that she can inspire other children to learn to speak their truth.”

Ericka began quietly at first, but when the crowd asked her to speak louder, she proudly roared her words.  The crowd cheered her on—loudest when she broke into tears—before she fought through her tears to shout, “We have had it, and we will FIGHT until that KNEE is off our NECK!”

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Monsters, Criminals & Liars

You say we’re MONSTERS, but I do not believe you.

You say we’re CRIMINALS, but I have no PROOF.

You put us in jail THINKING you got it all right, but you’re WRONG.

You BEAT us up with LIES telling us we did it, but we DO NOT, we DID NOT, and we WILL NOT!

Once you see who it is, you are already too late. Once you see what a fool you have made of yourself, you are already too late because you put us in that death penalty you made.

We’re like that monster under your bed, except you keep SHOOTING until we’re DEAD.

We are not scared of your weapons, we fear for our children who will grow up FIGHTING like we do, but then, shot for just walking down the street.

Who’s the CRIMINAL now?

Who’s the MONSTER now?

Who’s the LIAR now?

Because we certainly AREN’T.

We certainly WEREN’T.

And we certainly WON’T EVER BE.

We have had it, and we will FIGHT until that KNEE is off our NECK!

We are seeing more and more youth of colour step up to share their fear, frustration, and rage in the struggle for equality.  It’s our country’s shame that inaction for change puts our Black and African American youth in the position where they have to follow their parents, grandparents, and ancestors in the fight for equality and justice.  No one has ever fought longer and harder.  We must all honour that strength and remember that we can’t all matter as a human race until Black lives matter.

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This was not the first march for Black lives and protest against injustice and it will not be the last.  We can march, demand change, but what do we do when the protests come to an end and we all return to our lives?  Our protests do not stop after we’ve finished assembling.  We must do the work as individuals to help put an end to systemic racism, once and for all.

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It’s time that we must evolve to love and value as many as we can and do it as fast as we can because there is no more time to spare for change.  Lives are at stake.

Citations & Credits:

Resources:

Donate:

Here are some organisations that are advancing social justice, helping community organisers address racial inequality, and offering solidarity to the Black and African American Community:

Be sure to check with your employer to find out if they will match your contributions to these and other charitable organisations.

Donations to Chad Alex Ervin can also be made to the following.  Mr. Ervin had to pay for interpreter services out of his own pocket in order to share his story at the March for Black Lives protest.

  • Cash App: $chadervin
  • Venmo: @caervin

Protestors: Know Your Rights

  1. The right to protest is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.
  2. If you get stopped, ask if you are free to go. If the police say yes, calmly walk away.
  3. You have the right to record. The right to protest includes the right to record, including recording police doing their jobs.
  4. The police can order people to stop interfering with legitimate police operations, but video recording from a safe distance is not interfering.
  5. If you get stopped, police cannot take or confiscate any videos or photos without a warrant.
  6. If you are videotaping, keep in mind that, in some states, the audio is treated differently than the images. But images and video images are always fully protected by the First Amendment.
  7. The police’s main job in a protest is to protect your right to protest and to de-escalate any threat of violence.
  8. If you get arrested, don’t say anything. Ask for a lawyer immediately.  Do not sign anything and do not agree to anything without an attorney present.
  9. If you get arrested, demand your right to a local phone call. If you call a lawyer for legal advice, law enforcement is not allowed to listen.
  10. Police cannot delete data from your device under any circumstances.

Anti-Racism Resources:

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

Articles to read:

Videos to watch:

Podcasts to subscribe to:

Books to read:

Films and TV series to watch:

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations to follow on social media:

More anti-racism resources to check out:

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Current Events

Granite Strong for Black Lives

“As long as I’m alive, I will continue to try to understand more because the work of the heart is never done.”

-Muhammad Ali

On June 7, 2020, residents of Granite Falls, Washington, and surrounding areas gathered to march in solidarity and to honour Black and African American lives lost at the hands of police brutality.  The march began just after 12:00 p.m. at Granite Falls High School, wove through neighbourhoods, and ended at the new Granite Falls Civic Center.

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While communities across the nation continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees of today’s march arrived not only with signs and messages but many donning their face masks.  This is an interesting time in history in which we’re experiencing the strange juxtaposition of gathering to demand justice for racial inequality and police brutality after being sequestered to our homes in lockdowns.  Despite the risk involved, our community demonstrated that will show up for what’s important as we face other adversities.

Once the march began, we began to chant “Black Lives Matter!” and “No justice, no peace!” as signs rose to share messages such as, “OPEN OUR CARING HEARTS”, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”, “ALL LIVES CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER”, “IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN SITUATIONS OF INJUSTICE, YOU’VE CHOSEN THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSOR”, “USE YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE”, “SILENCE = VIOLENCE”, “RESIST. INSIST. PERSIST.”, “SINCE WHEN IS ENDING RACISM CONTROVERSIAL?”, “ENOUGH”, “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL”, “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE”, “IF YOU’RE TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT RACISM, IMAGINE HOW TIRED PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING IT.”, “INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE”, “IF NOW ISN’T A GOOD TIME FOR THE TRUTH, I DON’T SEE WHEN WE’LL GET TO IT.”, “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL”, “I CAN’T BREATHE”, and many others.

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As we marched the streets of Granite Falls, residents came out of their homes to stand at the sidewalks in solidarity.  Individual families also chose places along our route to stand together and share their support, holding up signs of their own that read, “OUR FAMILY STANDS BESIDE YOU!  BLACK LIVES MATTER”, “BE KIND”, and “NO HATE”.  It made you proud to witness the open minds and hearts that make up this community.  That’s why we say we’re “Granite Strong!”

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Once we reached the Granite Falls Civic Center, poignant dialogue and messages were shared to encourage and enable us to do the work in the fight for equality and justice.  It doesn’t end when the march ends; our marches should only embolden us to foster our growth mindsets to do more and be more so our Black and African American brothers and sisters can enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else.

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Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Protesting is not about rioting, looting, and violence. It’s important to note that there are many motives at play when there is rioting, looting, and violence, and they’re never justified acts.  These acts are not about protesting for change.  In most cases, people committing the chaos aren’t the same people who arrived to protest peacefully.  Sadly, the connotation of ‘protestors’ then becomes a label for that chaos.  Sharing our experiences from peaceful protests helps change the narrative because it counters the more negative, mainstream coverage.    
  2. Yes, we know all lives matter. However, we must acknowledge the fact that this statement conceals the real fact of the matter: it downplays and diverts attention from the current critical crisis of crimes against the Black and African American Community.  All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.  No one can get left behind, forgotten, or overlooked because we will never be a better society if we are not all enjoying equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal treatment.
  3. Have the uncomfortable conversations. Ongoing, open dialogue is necessary.  It’s a catalyst for changing the narrative and our behaviour.  To let the names of the victims disappear from headlines (and our collective memories) and the conversations stop disables the fight and movement for justice and peace.  The conversations need to be held at home, with friends, with colleagues, on social media, everywhere and with anyone.  We must also be brave and summon our personal convictions to call out injustices whenever we witness them, even if they are in the form of a racial slur.  Hate cannot be tolerated.
  4. There are more problems to solve than police brutality. Police brutality is just one of the many ongoing issues the Black and African American Community is facing.  To beat systemic racism, we must acknowledge, understand, and address other topics such as discrimination in the workplace, inequities for education, employment, health, and housing, and sexual harassment.  Systemic racism must be dealt with holistically.
  5. We all have a responsibility as individuals. When we return to our separate lives after attending marches and protests, then what?  The fervor of our gatherings should not stop once we’re home again, but lay resonant in our hearts to stand up individually to affect the change we wish to see for everyone.  It begins with acknowledging areas for personal development like addressing our biases, educating ourselves, engaging in ongoing conversations, and reaching out to share what we’ve learned with others.  Affecting change to the narrative aids change to our behaviour.

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Before closing, I would like to share a speech written and delivered Chris Porter, Representative of the 34th Legislative District (DEM) in King County, at the West Seattle March for Black Lives on June 6, 2020.  Every utterance of “Enough is enough” was said aloud by the crowd, growing in volume every time it was repeated until the masses were screaming it by the end.  These words are poignant for all communities and show us that there is still much to fight for.

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Enough is Enough

For as long as I can remember, complaints about police brutality and a justice system infused with bias, that, seemingly is stacked against black men, had gone unanswered.  Questions like: “What did he do to provoke the police?” or “He must have had a criminal background” – to, in my view, justify the inhumanity and loss of life…and we all thought someday: Enough is enough.

But on May 25th, 2020, the day that this Veteran pays respect to all those who lost their lives in service to this country, George Floyd lie on the ground begging for air, a chance to breath, and we all heard his final words in his world: “I can’t breathe”, and we all stood up and said: Enough is enough.

Black men losing their lives while in the custody of law enforcement officers is not a new occurrence. During the 1960s, Americans insisted on denying the pervasive racism that permeated the lives of black Americans until they saw the fires hoses being turned on women, men, and children protesting. No child should have witnessed the crushing death of George Floyd.  Because the message sent to young black men is clear: Your life is not worth as much. Black people are more likely to be unarmed and not threatening somebody than any other person who encounters the police in a violent situation.  Enough is enough. 

Many of us heard that three men in Brunswick, Georgia, who pursued, shot and killed, and filmed their carnage in the suspected Killing of Amhaud Arbery on Feb 23, while the shooter spewed racial slurs over his body, where charged with murder three months later.  The same biased system that allowed a black man to have air denied while fellow officers watched and assisted, is the same system that allows white men to hunt black men for sport, kill him, and film the killing, but it takes the justice system three months to decide if charges are warranted.  Enough is enough.

And many of us sat horrified at the acquittal of officers that have shot and killed unarmed black men and boys across this country—the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters all yelling: Enough is enough.

I cannot prepare my son to prepare his son to have the talk.  Every black male knows what the talk is: the steps necessary for when a black male has an interaction with a police officer.  These steps are supposed to minimize, not eliminate, the risk of being arrested or shot—something my white peers have never had to consider.  Enough is enough.

I posted this question to my white peers, allies, and friends on Facebook: Would you knowingly enroll your child in a school or school system that had the lowest expectations for your son/child, placed him at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, knowing that their risk of dropping out is higher?  Enough is enough.

Would you enter you son into a school or school system that needed an advisory board, and a department to address the abysmal achievement gap between white and black male students?  Enough is enough.

Does anyone know about RCW 28A.600.420?  This law outlines behaviors that a student can be suspended or expelled for.  It also allows resource officers on campuses, and by that they mean police officers.  Black males are disproportionately suspended or expelled, and more likely to be arrested, thus beginning the school-to-prison pipeline. This law has got to go because: Enough is enough.

Our healthcare system is revered around the world as one of the most technologically advanced medical systems ever and yet disparities continue. Black and brown people live shorter lives, suffer disproportionately from diabetes, HTN, heart disease, and have little or no access to quality healthcare.  Every Governor in every state who turned down the Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act did so at the expense of the health and safety of black, brown, and poor people across this country, but they were not going to have to do the suffering and dying.  Enough is enough.

Last year, U.S. banks made 11 billon dollars—that is 11 BILLION DOLLARS—in overdraft and late fees alone.  The majority of those fees were collected from people of color and poor people—those least able to afford those fees living paycheck to paycheck.  Enough is enough.

We see the unemployment rate increasing around the country—many are suffering—but the unemployment rate of black men, even in good times, has always been high and is now at 16.7%, compared to 14.2% for whites.  A democracy that systematically excludes is no democracy at all.  Since 1972, when labor statistics for African Americans’ unemployment rates were first collected, the unemployment gap has persisted at a level of twice the rate compared to whites.  Enough is enough.

Equal pay for the same work and education: women have been vocal about this for years, hoping to close the gap; 72 cents to the dollar with black women impacted the most.  The median income of black and white household differs by more than $28,000 per year.  Enough is enough.

Youth detention center: many have marched and protested the youth detention center in King County.  While I do not like that we have one, the real protest is the system that made it even necessary to have one to house black and brown children at a disproportionate rate.  Enough is enough.

Infant Mortality Rate: the number of deaths per 1,000 live births for infants under the age of one.  Here in King County, the number is 3.4 for whites, 7.1 for African Americans, with our Native American brothers and sisters at a scary 8.  Low birth weight is the leading cause of the higher infant mortality rate for black infants.  Without the assurance of prenatal care, jobs that pay a living wage, freedom from a policing and justice system that can interrupt lives, and relegation to living in the parts of the city that are food deserts, hoping for co-ops to fill in the gap, with 7-11s and quickie marts, this problem will persist and the black infant mortality rate will not change.  Enough is enough.

Incarceration: Black males are incarcerated at five times that of whites.  Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.

A judge in Pennsylvania saw these kids as a source of cash and sentenced them to a detention center and was paid over two million dollars for his sentencing.  Cash for kids: this is the kind of stuff where we all have to say: Enough is enough.

But what is our call to action?  Michelle Obama wrote in her book: Becoming, concerning race relations at Princeton University, that it is unreasonable to ask the group that has the least amount of experience on campus and fewer resources to solve the problem (i.e., this cannot work without the work of white population.)

  1. If your school or school system has resource officers, and they are not social workers or counselors, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  2. If you know that your work place has never paid equal pay for equal work related to gender and/or race, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  3. I you live in a city/town or municipality where the Chief-of-Police or Sheriff is either silent about bias on the force or leads in a way that you know impacts people of color, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
  4. If you have friends, allies, or peers that begin the conversation with: “You know what I don’t like about or what makes me uncomfortable about those people”, you must stop that conversation and make it clear that: Enough is enough.
  5. If you notice that your neighborhood seems to all look the same, you have to ask yourself how much for you: Enough is enough?
  6. If you see the failing schools around you, when will you say: Enough is enough?
  7. If you have not written to your mayor, city council member, state legislator, senator or member of congress to ask about any of the things I have mentioned, then you have to ask yourself when, for you, is enough?

I want to live in a world where we are coming together more to celebrate and less out of anger. I want a world where our son and his children will know, without a doubt, that everything they wish for in their lives is possible and not hampered because of race or gender.  I want a world where, when, or if I am pulled over by a police officer, it is because we know each other and not to live in fear, hoping to escape without incident.  I want a world that when our son leaves the house, I don’t have to hold my breath for his return.  I want a world where police officers are checking in on a community to connect and not policing the community to arrest.  I want a world where I don’t have to explain to my child why the image of a black man having the life squeezed out of him is on national TV and somehow is not a precautionary tale, but something that we all demand never, ever, ever, ever happens again.  I want to see more banks in communities of color, more grocery stores, and fewer quickie marts.  I want a world where everyone ends this march and begins with the work of righting all the wrongs to bring a just and equal world because, as MLK Jr. said: “People should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”  I want all of this and more because we all believe: Enough is enough.

Granite Falls may be a small town, but we are as diverse as the big cities and will turn out to support one another, especially in the most challenging of times.  Today’s march demonstrated that our residents have an immeasurable amount of appreciation, love, and respect for those we share this beautiful town with.  In the wake of more violent ends to protests around the country that otherwise began peacefully, we exemplify a community that values civility and the importance of seeing one another not only for the colour of our skin but the content of our character.

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Special Thanks:  It would be remiss not to mention the outstanding support of our local law enforcement who escorted today’s peaceful protest through residential and downtown streets of Granite Falls.  It further demonstrated that we are ALL together in this community.  We are Granite Strong!

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Citations & Credits:

  • “Enough is Enough” by Chris Porter, Representative of the 34th Legislative District (DEM) in King County,
  • Protestor Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
  • “Anti-Racism Resources”: Distributed by Qudus Olaniran; compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.

Resources:

Donate:

Here are some organisations that are advancing social justice, helping community organisers address racial inequality, and offering solidarity to the Black and African American Community:

Be sure to check with your employer to find out if they will match your contributions to these and other charitable organisations.

Protestors: Know Your Rights

  1. The right to protest is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.
  2. If you get stopped, ask if you are free to go. If the police say yes, calmly walk away.
  3. You have the right to record. The right to protest includes the right to record, including recording police doing their jobs.
  4. The police can order people to stop interfering with legitimate police operations, but video recording from a safe distance is not interfering.
  5. If you get stopped, police cannot take or confiscate any videos or photos without a warrant.
  6. If you are videotaping, keep in mind that, in some states, the audio is treated differently than the images. But images and video images are always fully protected by the First Amendment.
  7. The police’s main job in a protest is to protect your right to protest and to de-escalate any threat of violence.
  8. If you get arrested, don’t say anything. Ask for a lawyer immediately.  Do not sign anything and do not agree to anything without an attorney present.
  9. If you get arrested, demand your right to a local phone call. If you call a lawyer for legal advice, law enforcement is not allowed to listen.
  10. Police cannot delete data from your device under any circumstances.

Anti-Racism Resources:

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

Articles to read:

Videos to watch:

Podcasts to subscribe to:

Books to read:

Films and TV series to watch:

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations to follow on social media:

More anti-racism resources to check out:

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Current Events

On Refugee Road

On February 9, 2017, I attended an event called Refugee Road. The significance of this event was to shed light on the hardships of the Syrian refugees—what the United Nations has called “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” While the media has widely reported on the war in Syria, there has been little focus on what exactly the Syrian refugees go through on their journeys out of Syria to find a new home and a better life.

Following registration and check-in, attendees waited in the lobby until doors to the conference room opened at 4:45 p.m. At opening time, you walked in to a row partitioned from the rest of the conference room. Down this row were illustration boards on stands to the left and right showing images of refugees with excerpts of their stories. Everyone crowded at the entrance to read and slowly walked on to absorb them all.

Before entering the expanse of the conference room, you were stopped by individuals holding bags. Each bag contained a variety of folded cards. You were asked to choose one from the bag which would identify your placement into one of four sections of the room: ‘You Are Living in Syria,’ ‘You Are Trying to Leave the Region,’ You Are Living in a Neighboring Country,’ and ‘You Are Living in the U.S.’ I was placed in ‘You Are Living in a Neighboring Country.’ Each card also gave the holder a name and a story. Mine was: “You Are Mansour. You live in Amman, Jordan, with your two sons, your daughter, and your wife. Your family fled Damascus two years after the war in Syria began. A family friend helped you to rent an apartment in Amman, but the savings you brought with you are running out, and you have no idea what you will do to support your family. You want a job, but under Jordanian law you are not allowed to work.”

Upon entering the sectioned conference room, low, somber Middle Eastern music was playing. Two projection screens in the front showed montages with images of refugees along their journeys. To symbolise the reality of the refugee crisis, orange life jackets hung from the ceiling over the ‘You Are Trying to Leave the Region’ section in the middle of the room. Under the hanging life jackets was a large pile of more life jackets with an inflated life raft. In the much smaller ‘You Are Living in the U.S.’ section, the following handwritten signs were attached around its perimeter: “REFUGEES GO HOME,” “NO BAN, NO WALL,” “KEEP SYRIANS OUT,” “AMERICA #1 FIRST,” and “[HEART] LOVE IS GREAT.” To the right of ‘You Are Living in a Neighboring Country,’ were three tarped enclosures with battery-powered lamps hanging at their entrances, representing the hovels that refugees are often forced to live in during their transient travels or extended stays in refugee camps.

After walking around to absorb all the details, I took a seat at the back of the ‘You Are Trying to Leave the Region’ section to jot down some notes. This wasn’t my assigned section, but I stopped there momentarily because I had a clear view of the life rafts, life jackets, and names of signs along the ‘You Are Living in the U.S.’ section. Suddenly, I was approached from behind by a tall man in fatigues who was carrying a clipboard. “Can I see your papers?” he asked. I handed him my ‘You Are Living in a Neighboring Country’ identification card. He looked at it sternly and said, “Why are you trying to leave the country?” After seeing and hearing the man ‘interviewing’ others on the way in, I realised this was another measure to illustrate what refugees go through, so I tried to take the interview seriously, even though it was pretense. I struggled for an impromptu response, much like some might if questioned at border stops. “To explore,” I replied. The man looked puzzled and said, “Well, that’s new.” I began to feel uneasy about this. “How long will you be staying?” he continued. “Only for a short time,” I responded. He handed me back my identification card and moved on to others for interviews. I quickly moved to my designated section immediately after that.

When the presentation began, the screens started to show new images of views from the ground looking down a street strewn with rubble from the bombed buildings to the left and right; a man looking down from the roof of a building with a view of piles of rubble in the street below; a hijab-clad woman walking with children among the rubble. The humanitarian groups present—Mercy Corps, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee (IRC)—were introduced and their action efforts and missions were explained in detail to the audience. While these organisations are often known for their aid in times of crisis related to natural disasters, the point was made that it would be “Crazy not to include man-made disasters.” The lives of those in Syria disrupted by ongoing war has been one such man-made catastrophe.

Throughout the presentation, real stories of refugees would be read aloud by presenters of the humanitarian organisations as well as by audience members. Depending on the nature of the story, the audience members who read those stories—as if they were the refugees themselves—would conclude and be asked to move to one of the four sections based on the circumstances of the story. One might read about a civilian’s story of what it was like to live in Syria before becoming a refugee, ultimately being displaced from ‘You Are Living in Syria’ to ‘You Are Trying to Leave the Region’ or ‘You Are Living in a Neighboring Country.’ Of one such story, it hurt the most to hear, “Why did the world punish us with its silence?” One’s mind might immediately recall the Jewish community during WWII who, for many years, faced the worst of atrocities before the world became aware of what was happening to them.

After a reading of stories and demonstration of the different circumstances under which refugees move about the world, the audience was invited to ask questions and/or reflect. The reflections were often the most heartfelt—made by those who were either descendants of refugees themselves, or those who wished to show their support for refugees—because The United States is, after all, a country made up of immigrants. One opening question had to do with the stigma of the ‘refugee’ label. At what point does one lose the label? Upon entry to the country one wishes to settle in? Upon officiation as a citizen? Would the identity as a refugee persist even after the journey to escape persecution has ended? Even if one dismisses themselves as a refugee after a period of time, how, then, does one cope with treatment by others as a refugee? Why should a people who are victims of circumstance be branded as a refugee and retain the label indefinitely simply because they are no longer in their country of origin? After a long, arduous journey, the trouble doesn’t end even after escaping the dangers they were fleeing.

Details of the present vetting process came into question. Perhaps if more people knew of the rigorous vetting process prior to official entry into a country, refugees might be looked upon more widely by others with sympathy and concern than being generalised as having ties to terrorist forces that are driving the masses of refugees out in the first place. What many also fail to realise is that many of these people do not wish to leave their homes. To be forced to leave what has always been familiar—leaving jobs, careers, belongings, pets, and sometimes family behind—to journey into the unknown is beyond comprehension to many of us in the First World. We’ve been exposed to news of the war and terrorist acts in Syria, but what we know much less of is the individual stories that so infrequently surface to public consciousness. We are generally ignorant to the effects of the refugees’ displacement and the lives and generations that have been interrupted. Before even seeing the beginning of any semblance of normality to their lives again, the following vetting process for entry into the United States, as reported by The New York Times, is what refugees must follow:

  1. Registration with the United Nations.
  2. Interview with the United Nations.
  3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations.
  4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.

The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.

  1. Interview with State Department contractors.
  2. First background check.
  3. Higher-level background check for some.
  4. Another background check.
  5. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
  6. Second fingerprint screening.
  7. Third fingerprint screening.
  8. The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.
  9. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.
  10. Some cases referred for additional review.

Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.

  • Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.

Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan or Turkey.

  • Homeland Security approval is required.
  • Screening for contagious diseases.
  • Cultural orientation class.
  • Matched with an American resettlement agency.
  • Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.

Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.

  1. Final security check at an American airport.

After a perilous journey, followed by intense vetting, any compassionate person must wonder: what resources are available for mental health and traumas refugees suffered along the way? This is where many humanitarian groups like Oxfam, IRC, and Mercy Corps come in. Counseling programs, referral services, and direct involvement with refugees exists. Aid for the distressed, sexual assault victims, and sufferers of other traumas faced along the road to a new life is a humanitarian provision. The problem lies in reaching everyone who needs help the most.

The telling of refugees’ stories is vital. Just as news coverage of war maintains awareness and accountability, the same must remain for those who suffer from crimes and injustices of that war. “Disappearance from the news means accountability is lost,” was one potent statement made. Just as we cannot forget and ignore the terror committed by a few against many, we cannot forget those many who only wish to seek a better, safer life for themselves and their loved ones. We also cannot fear or judge the few who make it through the long vetting process as they try to assimilate into our culture. We’re made better as a whole for their acceptance and significantly more cultured individually for welcoming them. Many American citizens have the fortune of not knowing first-hand the horrors these refugees have suffered, so extending our compassion will only lead to a more enriched and integrated society.

One reflection that was followed by applause was, “If you want to keep America great, keep your doors open.” We must ask ourselves: if we truly wish to remain the greatest country in the world, what can we do to remain a leader in the eyes of the rest of the world? We only need to look as far as what’s already written on the Statue of Liberty, words not easily forgotten, but sometimes overlooked: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” For the generations affected by the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, we need to be the global leader and participate. We would ask the same of others if we were in such a dire predicament and would hope the world opened its arms to us.

As a strong, poignant closing to Refugee Road, the question arose: what can people do to help? In addition to donations, phone calls to state legislators and senators was highly encouraged, but with the presence of Mercy Corps, Oxfam, and IRC, educational materials and information on opportunities were abundant. Avenues for giving opportunities and volunteer involvement to support refugees can be found below. Even in the tiniest of measures, a difference can be made in the lives of others.Ways to Give Image

Get Involved Image

Volunteer Opportunities Image

Sources: Mercy Corps; The New York Times; State Department; Department of Homeland Security; Center for American Progress; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Refugee Council USA.

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Typewriters

‘Puget Sound Typewriter Enthusiasts’ Broaden the Typospherian Community

Following the creation of the Puget Sound Typewriter Enthusiast’s Facebook page on October 4, 2018, by typewriter collector and enthusiast, Heidi Newitt Lewis, it took little time before other Seattle-area typospherians joined this region-specific community, one of many that have been and are being created across the United States and abroad. PSTE’s membership has now grown to 35 people and is expected to keep growing.

Born from the Antique Typewriter Collector’s page with global membership currently at 4,904, PSTE is bringing typewriter enthusiasts of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound region together to appreciate and celebrate the beloved typewriter. Quickly after the PSTE page came about, the group’s first type-in was organised and held at the Montlake Library in Seattle on October 20, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The turnout for PSTE’s inaugural type-in became a gathering of eight adults and three children of all ages and backgrounds in one of the library’s meeting rooms with large windows overlooking 24th Avenue East and East McGraw Street. Sun was emerging through morning fog and the trees outside were aflame with brilliant autumn yellows casting beautiful filtered light onto an assemblage of tables with a variety of American and foreign-made typewriters. Of the machines participants brought, there was an Adler Contessa de Luxe, Hermes 3000, Olivetti Lettera 22, Olympia SF, a Privileg from the Czech Republic, Remington Portable No. 3, Royal Model O, Royal Model P, Royal Quiet De Luxe, Smith-Corona Silent-Super, Swissa Piccola, Tower, and Triumph Norm 6.

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After initial musing and wonderment over all the typewriters brought to the gathering, everyone introduced themselves and shared their story—however brief or long—about the machine(s) they brought, what typewriters mean to them, why they use typewriters and for what purposes. Of the diverse group, it was no surprise to learn that there were authors, letter-writers, storytellers, and poets present. Two gentlemen remembered typing class and using typewriters like computers are widely used today, then the decline of typewriters during the advent of the personal computer, followed by the revival in popularity of typewriters all over again. In the way the children described using typewriters regularly for stories and how older attendees found a new novelty in these machines, it was an affirmation that typewriters are truly timeless and machines for all generations.

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In place of an agenda, the meeting was informal in that participants exchanged conversation that seemed to fluidly move about the room in pockets while others worked on poetry, letters, and tested others’ machines. Of the three children, two young brothers sat quietly and read books when they had finished using their typewriters (the Hermes 3000 and Tower) while their mother wrote on her Olympia SF. I found it refreshing to see the boys reading actual books and not fiddling on devices like so many young people do these days. One point of using typewriters, like reading paperback books, in the present digital era is to practice mindful reflection with words on paper and reduce mindlessness on back-lit pixels of portable devices.

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Even though I was a late arrival, 3:00 p.m. seemed to come quickly for everyone. Though, well before that, discussion had already begun about the success of this first gathering of Puget Sound Typewriter Enthusiasts and plans to organise more type-ins in the future. As of this writing, the majority agreed that PSTE type-ins should occur quarterly and in different parts of town to keep venues diverse and to be as inclusive to as many typospherians in the Puget Sound region as possible. As I’m reminded by “THE TYPEWRITER INSURGENCY: Manifesto for a Movement”, there are still many locations to be infiltrated by THE TYPEWRITER INSURGENCY, and that as insurgents, we may arise singly or in groups, anywhere, anytime.

Ahead of the holidays, the next PSTE type-in will be hosted by Bremerton Office Machine Company’s Paul Lundy and Typewriter Fever’s Don Feldman (next door to BOMC) on Sunday, November 18, 2018 at 245 4th Street, Suite 503, Bremerton, WA, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Both Paul and Don’s shops are veritable Meccas of the Puget Sound region for typospherians. In addition to the excitement of another typewriter gathering, their shops are an experience to explore, test, and shop for typewriters. In an era when typewriter shops are few and far between—especially those that repair them—such destinations are as important to typospherians as the value of acquiring and preserving these practical relics.

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Typewriters

A Growing Sphere of Interest: The Typosphere Gains Momentum with Neighbourhood Type-Ins

After having officially collected and regularly used manual typewriters for over a year, it was inexcusable that I had yet to attend a type-in.  For those not [yet] a part of the realm of typospherians, a type-in is much like any other gathering of like-minded folks who meet, geek out, and share camaraderie over a common interest; in this case, it’s all about the love for manual typewriting.

When I came across the Kirkland Reporter’s article, “Kirkland man organizes third ‘Type-In’ event” (http://www.kirklandreporter.com/life/kirkland-man-organizes-third-type-in-event/), just a day before the event held on April 2, 2017, I knew I had to go.  It was local and had yet to meet the organiser of the event, Cabot Guidry.  In the year that I’ve been a part of the typospherian crowd, I’ve only met a few others with the same passion for these machines as I do, so I was eager to widen the circle.

Having heard about other type-in events around the country through letters and online messages from my rapidly-growing network of typospherian friends, I became aware of a variety of formats these events can be held in.  One important element of them all was to be present in a public place to inspire, include, and engage people of all ages to sit at a typewriter—whether it be their first time or a revisit after a long absence away from these machines in our distracting, digital world.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of this type-in event, but as my first, that’s what made going so exciting.  However, as a seasoned typospherian, one thing I did know was that it would be sacrilege to arrive without a typewriter.

I spent the better part of the morning of the event hovering in deliberation over my current collection of twenty-eight machines to decide which one to take with me.  Four are heavy, standard-sized machines, which I immediately decided would stay put considering their size.  The other twenty-four are either portables or ultraportables—each size perfect for traveling.  Portables are exactly that and perfect for travel since they usually come in their own cases.  Ultraportables are much smaller and often thinner, like mechanical laptops of their day.  I wanted to choose one that was both unique and elegant; one that I may not see among the others at the event.  Ultimately, I chose my 1933 Royal Model P: a glossy black portable with round, glass-topped keys, and a crisp, snappy typing action Royals are famous for.  I also considered the history behind this machine as being good for conversation.  When I purchased this machine on eBay in June 2016, I learned from the seller that this typewriter once belonged to Ellen Platte, the wife of Richard Addison Ford who was one of three of President Gerald Ford’s half-brothers.

1933 Royal Model P

Cabot’s third occurrence of his event “TIK TIK TIK: Type-In Kirkland” was to be held at BookTree in Kirkland, Washington from 2:00 to 4:00pm.  I gave my Royal Model P a good polishing before leaving so she was showroom quality for the event, packed a writing tablet, some KO-REC-TYPE tabs my grandmother gave me in case I made mistakes, and a square of rubber grip liner to place the typewriter on.  I had letters on my desk to respond to, but I decided to write a freestyle letter to one correspondent friend of mine in the spirit of reportage.

Having announced my intent to attend in an online message to Cabot the day before the type-in, I was pleasantly surprised to find that both he and Mary Harris, one of the co-owners of BookTree, were expecting me as soon as I walked in with my typewriter case in hand.  There was one last spot saved for me at a foldout table in the front of the store where three other typewriters were sitting: Cabot’s Underwood No. 5, an Underwood 4-Bank, and an Underwood Leader.  In the windowsill sat an Olympia SM7 and a Royal Futura between propped hardcover books on display and small potted plants.  It was a day of intermittent showers, so the light that came in through the window was a bright grey which became brilliantly yellow when the sun reached out between the clouds.

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Before taking a seat, I immediately found myself immersed in shop talk about the machine I brought and the excitement I felt at being at my first-ever type-in.  Cabot was just as enthusiastic about typewriters as I am and was clearly the best fit for organising a community type-in that anyone could enjoy and benefit from.

I arrived right before 2:00 to find that there were already people sitting at typewriters, clicking away at the machines in their own unique typing styles.  To the right of my seat was a square foldout table with a sleek little Adler Tippa ultraportable that a gentleman brought, Cabot’s Smith-Corona Silent-Super, Smith-Corona Silent, and a Corona flattop.  Toward the back of the store were smaller stations set up with two or three typewriters each.  I enjoyed the fact that typewriters were set up all over rather than in one place so that the ambient sound of clicking and clacking carried throughout the store.

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Once I got my Model P in place on the table, I sat down to start on my letter.  Directly across the table was a boy using what looked like an Underwood 4-Bank or Universal with glass-topped keys and the trademark stencil-cut spool covers.  To my left was an older gentleman using a relic of an Underwood No. 5 that sounded tedious to type on; the gentleman used a forceful staccato typing method with his index fingers supported by his thumbs.  Cabot told me that this No. 5 had once been used as a prop before he came to own it which is why it looked like it had seen better days.  Still, this No. 5 marched right along with the efforts of its typist.

As I worked on the first page of my letter on the tablet-sized paper, I looked around occasionally to find that the crowd was a mix of all ages.  People came and went into, out of, and throughout the small venue, some taking photos (including of myself, which always makes me acutely aware of how my face looks while I concentrate, so I tried to appear neutral in my expression rather than too serious as I worked).  Parents had their children try out and experience the various machines, some giving them little hints and pointers on what the various typewriter functions are.  Surprisingly, many children made some insightful correlations between typewriter functions and computers.

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Some of the parents there were my age or slightly older, so I wondered what their exposure to typewriters was when they were growing up.  Before our first family computer, I remember my mother’s black, electric Brother typewriter which intrigued me as a child, as did most things with buttons.  I remember playing on it and finding the automation of its functions a little daunting, but I still found satisfaction in seeing a reaction from the typewriter for every action I made.  I also remember my first manual typewriter that I bought for something like a quarter or fifty cents from a neighbour’s garage sale.  Remembering vaguely what it looked like supplemented with my current typewriter knowledge, the jowly standard must have been a 1950s Remington.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to get it back up and running, so after a disappointing experience trying to get it to work the way I wanted, my parents suggested I give it back.  It wouldn’t be until 2012 that I’d buy another manual typewriter, but in mint condition: a black 1945 Smith-Corona Clipper, which I still have.

By 3:00, the store felt like it had reached full capacity.  There were quite a few observers mingling over the tables, chatting either with the typists or with one another.  Every typewriter in the store was clicking and clacking away with fervent use.  In the middle of the table where I sat was a pile of a variety of stationary, so occasionally people would reach over to pick out a sheet of decorative paper that they favoured.  The children seemed to like reaching directly across my arms to get the paper they liked.  Now and then I would take a moment to watch all the different typing styles people would have when they approached a typewriter: more traditional, school-taught styles with fingers of both hands properly and evenly placed over the banks of keys to the ever-amusing hunt-and-peck.  There was also a woman who briefly sat across from me while she held her child in her left arm while typing and moving the carriage with her right hand.

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In addition to typing my letter, I jumped in to help others with information about collecting, typewriter repair and maintenance, how to source ribbon, and ways to acquire typewriters when I heard questions arise on these topics.  One gentleman named Douglas who sat across from me at one point in the day had some questions about where to get ribbon, so I told him spools can be purchased on eBay and Amazon, but if he intended to be a prolific typist on the two machines he told me he had at home, I suggested he order a reel from Baco Ribbon & Supply (contact information at the end of this article).

Baco Ribbon & Supply is a wholesale company known by word-of-mouth among many typospherians who order entire reels of ribbon as a more economical option for sourcing ribbon rather than continually buying spool sets that cost upwards of $6.  From my own experience, I purchased a reel of all-black, half-inch ribbon at a length of 660 yards for $45 in March 2016 and, as of this writing, still have a three-inch radius of ribbon left on the reel.  Baco also offers the red-black ribbon for those who wish to have the option to type red text in addition to black.  The only catch with ordering a reel is that one would need to become comfortable with re-spooling ribbon themselves which is not a terribly difficult task, but will require latex gloves.

For those interested in getting a typewriter of their very own, places I’ve had great success finding the typewriters in my fleet are local Craigslist ads, eBay, OfferUp, and of course, a plethora of antique shops that are either local or ones I’ve visited while traveling.  While browsing typewriter ads online can be a fun way to ‘window shop’ for these machines, what I love most about antique shops is ‘the hunt’ for typewriters and having the ability to test them out on my own when I do find them.  (As a note, it’s courteous to ask the shopkeeper for permission to test typewriters you find in their inventory before helping yourself to them.)  The hunt in the wild for typewriters is one of the great thrills I get as a typospherian, prowling about with a detective’s eye until I see that familiar sight of the intricate array of typewriter keys.  Some antique shops keep their typewriters in one designated place, but the best ones—especially those organised with vendor booths—have them scattered about so you can enjoy the adventure of finding them on your own.

The best part about being a first-timer to a type-in was that I didn’t know what to expect.  As I was driving there, I imagined it being a large table full of typospherians working at their own machines while the public came and went after watching us compose our prose, poetry, or letters.  In fact, this type-in was just the opposite.  I spent a great deal of time working at my own typewriter, but most of the attendees were using the variety of typewriters brought my Cabot.  The Adler Tippa that one gentleman brought was made available for others to use, so once I finished my letter, I made my Royal Model P available for others to use as well.

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Having been so accustomed to using my typewriters at home, it was a strange feeling leaving one of my prized typewriters out for just anyone to use.  Being a solitary typist within the confines of home sort of develops a protective instinct over these machines that so much personal time is spent with; typewriters become your literary comrades over time.  I was unsure about having others use my machine, but I realised that the spirit of the type-in is to allow others to try out different typewriters with the hope that they are inspired, feel included, and become engaged in the excitement of using them.  The whole point of holding type-ins in public venues is to attract curiosity and impart our passion for these machines onto others so that more might appreciate these machines again.

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As soon as I got up from working on my Model P, I stood near the entrance of the bookstore so I could see who might take interest in it.  One gentleman came to use it right away, followed by another, then a lady who took great prolonged interest in typing on it.  I found myself pleased with all the different reactions to the Model P.  I took pride in the fact that it delighted people.  Eventually, Douglas and Cabot would also take a seat at the Model P to try it out.

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In all, the type-in camaraderie was wonderful and the shared fascination endearing.  It gave me great hope to see people of all ages take interest in these machines.  If this one event was any measure to predict by, typewriters will continue to grow in popularity for their simple and timeless purpose: to type words on paper.  The tactile experience is unmatched and one where the typist can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their thoughts materialising on paper with ink and metal.  Most notably, these machines will outlast their digital device successors with a novelty that will never die; typewriters are for all generations.

 

Baco Ribbon & Supply

2230 Mason Lane

Ballwin, MO 63021

(314) 835-9300

E-mail: bacoribbon@sbcglobal.net

(Note: As of this writing, BRS does not have a website or catalogue.  They can take orders by phone or e-mail.)

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Current Events

United, We Resist

We must beware the beginnings, and we must continue to do so as we already have, for our masses are rising and will not go unheard.

As was seen during the rise of Hitler, one of the tactics to his success was the separation and demoralisation of the Jewish people, including many other groups of people that were deemed political enemies.  It seems that now, undeniably, the world is witnessing an attempt to repeat this darker history by President Donald Trump.  This time, it’s our Muslim community at the center of this new, reckless hate, and this is only the beginning.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words resonate truer now than ever, for we are seeing the imposed darkness of one, but the beacon of hope through the light of the American people.  In keeping up with the speed with which Trump has executed his orders, we have demonstrated and marched to show in great strength that we know this history and we know Dr. King’s words.

Just as Hitler persecuted Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, a number of religious groups, and others who did not fit into Hitler’s Nazi ideologies, we are seeing the same tunes of dictatorship in the form of executive orders.  Under the notion that such orders are keeping America safe from terrorism, Hitler spouted similar rhetoric to convince an already-divided society that Jews and others were the enemy.  Only, this time, Muslims are unjustly being singled out.  While we must secure our nation for its citizens, doing so by targeting people of one religious faith from specific countries ought to incite suspicion rather than patriotism.

The popular vote that would have saved America and the world far less turmoil, is rising up to demonstrate that we are the force that will speak loudest, and we are the relentless movement that will bind division into unity.  It’s no wonder that our Tyrant-in-Chief claims voter fraud to explain his loss of the popular vote.  Using deceit, he would wish us to believe lies to justify his discomfort with the reality that the popular vote is a threat to his authority.  In times such as this, it is easy to recognise the fear and insecurity of the oppressor by the way they’re trying to hide it.  We did not ‘win’ the election, but we are the moral true-north that will achieve victory over tyranny; in that sense, we will win where we lost.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are part of ‘us’, the collective human WE.  Not only is it the measure of a fool to deny this, but a futile attempt to try and divide us.  Denying passage of many into our country on the basis of a radical few does not afford us any greater safety, but an invitation of more profound risk and dangerous isolation from the world that we must embrace.  It only encourages the hate that we aim to overcome.  Battling terror by closing our gates to one group of people is an attack just the same as persecuting one group of people from within our borders.  It is also damaging to all because it delivers the message: there is a lesser human being who shall not be afforded the same rights as others.  It leaves the yet-to-be-oppressed questioning: who, then, is next?

For those of us who are not left on the outside, not yet barred and banned from the liberties that the foundation of America is built on, it is our urgent mission to rise up and fight.  If one fool is allowed to degrade a part of ‘us’ into ‘them’ under the guise of strengthening and protecting our nation, the ‘us’ that stands strongest now will only be further divided, leaving another essential ingredient of the diverse and collective ‘us’ to be targeted and denied our human rights.  America is, and always has been, a powerful nation of immigrants; we must continue to nurture and cultivate a colourful diversity to uphold our pride that we are a nation for all, for we were established to be a reflection of the vast world we are a part of.

Defending human rights is the responsibility of everyone.  If some are attacked, we are all attacked.  Regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, and sexual orientation, the time to rise for all—the ‘us’—is now so we do not decline into a Hitleresque world of criminalised ‘thems.’  To march only for our own direct identifications shows that we can be divided.  Men and women must fight for each other, including those of other gender identities; ethnic backgrounds must converge because we are all composed of the elements of this world; generations must come together because there is much we can learn from one another; those of varying abilities must support one another to show that we can ALL do it; those of every religious faith and spirituality must gather to share the divinity of good deeds for ourselves and others and marvel at the unquantifiable beauty of the world and universe around us; that the potency of love in all forms is worth celebration, for having, experiencing, and sharing love is the essence of humanity.

If the true desire at heart is to protect the nation, and if the wish to instate increased vetting measures for those who seek to enter, do it for all, not for one group of people.  Terror is not limited to Muslim extremists; more acts of terrorism have been committed by those who already live here than those who came and are coming to our country to seek refuge.  “Huddled masses” on the Statue of Liberty is not exclusive.  In banning Muslims, we are not protecting anyone; rather, we are taking measures to invalidate our values as a nation and morality as human beings.

Should the current administration even last four years, the strongest message we can send to the oppressive power is: both as a nation and global community, we will not suffer division so some can be made less than the whole.  The power of ‘us’ will be more radiantly deployed for a worthy resistance and a cause for justice.  It is time to engage and take action for ALL because united, we will resist.

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Current Events

On We March

On the day of the historic inauguration of Donald Trump, Washington, D.C. saw both parade for and protest against the 45th president of the United States.  A day after the inauguration, we rose up for the Womxn’s March on Seattle in Washington State and all over the world.

The Womxn’s March on Seattle (“womxn” spelled with an ‘x’ to acknowledge and promote awareness of all forms of discrimination) joined in solidarity with the efforts and spirit of the Women’s March on Washington movement.  Collectively, the intent of these marches—with the support and peaceful resistance of everyone regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, and sexual orientation—was to march in force for both women’s rights and human rights in response to the threatening and hateful rhetoric of this past election.

Beginning with a rally at Seattle’s Judkins Park, the masses assembled with picket signs, pink ‘pussy hats,’ and warm clothes for the determined resistance that would tune in and turn out, even on a signature Seattle day.  It made you proud to be present for history in the making, to watch thousands grow into tens of thousands in a matter of hours, becoming a crowd exceeding 100,000.  Not only women, but men and children were there to support the march with and for women.  The energy of anticipation, participation, and the will to be heard was palpable.  This wasn’t merely a protest, but joining in force to send the message and make it known that yes, we will rise.

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As crowds grew with people pouring in from all directions onto the fields of the park, the streets, bleachers, roofs of park buildings, and balconies of surrounding homes, the steady hum of conversation rose high and friendly with laughter, understanding, love, and camaraderie with friends and strangers, but in endearing unity as one family.  Glances at others were met with their smiles, nods, and expressions of knowing to say that, yes I—WE—are all here for a purpose, and those who wish to silence us or have us suffer repeats of darker history better hear us and never forget it.

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Picket signs rose too, prominently displayed by those who carried them.  These often spoke the loudest, not only by the words written, drawn, and printed on them, but by their imagery:  women’s genitals will not be grabbed; love will win; the people will be the change; silence equals violence; Muslims will not be persecuted; women will roar; the power of the people is stronger than the people in power; love the earth you live on; water is life; America will be diverse and equal; no one is free when others are oppressed; humanity will come first; we will unite against fascism; we will be resilient; we will not mourn but we will organize; we will be the resistance.

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Light rain fell on the crowd as all waited for rally speeches to begin.  Upon arrival only an hour before, it was easy to walk briskly throughout the upper field of the park, occasionally treading through patches of mud, from one end of the crowd to another.  No one seemed fazed by the cold or precipitation because patches of light were beginning to show throughout the sky and we knew that—whether or not the sun would break through to shine down on us—we would march anyway.

Music that had been playing from large speakers on each side of the stage on the upper field of the park began to fade as a number of women began to ascend the stage.  One by one—with the help of another signing their words for the hearing impaired—each delivered powerful messages to the crowd to inspire, empower, and engage; women, African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ, Jews, and all others from all walks of life would be heard and would all come together to help one another.  We listened with pride, stoic and heartfelt as we chanted—in unison—affirmations of change and solidarity, and that, in the face of adversity, we would rise.

At the conclusion of the speeches, the clouds began to dissipate and the sun shined through brilliantly.  It was time to leave Judkins Park to march the streets of Seattle.  The sheer size of the crowd took considerable time to empty the fields—like a slow liquid—onto the streets, but we all made our way politely, taking our time, and leaving the space where we stood in good order.  Taking alternative routes back up from the fields and away from the general flow was favourable as it allowed time to get ahead to side streets and smaller gatherings of picketers who were making their own way to join back up with the larger vein of the march.

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Once everyone had converged onto S. Jackson Street, we stood in place for about an hour while we waited for the momentum of movement to reach those of us who were toward the middle and end of the crowd.  By now, the clouds had almost completely disappeared and clear skies prevailed.

Almost halfway down S. Jackson Street, as we approached the International District, independent voices started to rise, faces began to turn toward the sky, and arms rose to point at something above us.  “Eagles!” some people cried out.  Sure enough, there against the bright blue sky, were two bald eagles sailing overhead.  They circled continuously, but moved their formation in the direction we were marching.  Once everyone could see the eagles, cameras rose up in their direction, loud cheers resounded, and someone even yelled, “FREEDOM!”  It sent chills down your spine to see this powerful affirmation and watch the marchers respond; if anyone needed encouragement to keep going, this was it.

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As the march descended on downtown Seattle, we were met with the cooling shadows of the buildings around us.  Occasionally, some would cheer well ahead of us and you could hear the rise and fall of the roaring voices that undulated from the front of the crowd to the back.  Our cheering was strong enough before reaching the concrete jungle of downtown, but as we marched under bridges and between the high-rises, our collective voices sounded like a train as the echo carried throughout the city.  This was the sound of democracy at work.

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At the rally, we were warned that there might be opposition to our efforts, and to remain true to our intention of marching calmly and peacefully if we did.  To see us gather in unprecedented numbers and to feel the tremendous spirit, it was difficult to imagine anyone audacious enough to protest us, let alone even show up to try.  If anyone had, in small or large number, they would have been obscured and overpowered totally.

Fortunately, on this day, we marched unchallenged, owing to the true power of the people and being on the right side of history.  This—in unity with the other marches across the country and the world—gave you comfort and hope in your fellow men and women that we will always assemble and rise up for civil rights, because anyone or anything that challenges them will be met with a fight.  It’s only in silence that we face defeat, but like many have done before and will continue to do, we remind those in power that they work for us, and if they should forget, on we march.

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Arts, Crafts & Creative Inspiration

Unusual Fibers: The Pleasure and Process of Spinning Dog and Cat Fur Into Yarn (Part I)

While the average person may be familiar with the art of spinning animal fibers into working yarn for hook and needlework such as crocheting and knitting, they may think of the more common fibers such as sheep’s wool, and perhaps even more exotic fibers like alpaca, llama, and mohair.  I can tell you from experience that these are all wonderful fibers to spin into yarn, but I have learned during my several years as a spinner that it is also possible to spin and make garments from the fur of dogs and cats.  It can be just as soft as cuddly as wools, but far more convenient to source.

Before I go any further, I should tell you that obtaining animal fiber for spinning is completely ethical and entirely harmless to the animal donating its fiber or fur.  For wool-producing animals such as alpacas, llamas, sheep, and goats, their fleeces are shorn from their bodies with either manual or electric clippers, just like a human head would be buzzed or clipped to remove the hair.  To obtain wool fleeces, harming or killing of the animal could not be further from the truth, and has been a perpetuated lie by radical animal rights groups.  Given the many centuries that human civilization has relied on animal fiber for the creation and production of clothing, I could hardly believe that—especially in this day in age—we would continue to allow systematic harm committed on animals simply for their fleeces.  While animal abuse does unfortunately exist, it seldom occurs in the world of fiber arts.

You could certainly shear a dog or cat for its fur (ever see the feline ‘lion cut’ or poodle clips?), but it’s not exactly the best way to go about it.  You’d not only make your family pet feel undignified, but you’d also be including the coarser fur of their outer coat that would only make the resulting yarn more prickly.  With dogs and cats, the undercoat of their fur is what produces the softest fiber for spinning.  The best way to obtain this is to simply brush them out like you would normally groom them.  Fine-toothed combs are typically best as they do well to extract and retain the undercoat fur.  The FURminator®, for example, works wonders.  Unless your dog or cat has an objection to being brushed, grooming does them a favour and provides quick material for spinning.

In the world of spinning, not all fiber lengths are useful.  Unless you have the patience and willingness to pinch-feed loose fiber millimeter by millimeter into a spinning wheel- or drop spindle-produced twist before feeding the length of spun yarn into the gather of yarn around the spindle or onto the bobbin of your spinning wheel, it’s best to use fiber with at least a two-inch staple length.  If you take an individual strand of either your hair or your pet’s fur and measure it from end to end, that is the staple length.  Sufficient staple length allows a mass of fiber to hold on to itself when twist is applied by your spinning wheel or drop spindle.  A shorter staple length may hold at the beginning, but it ultimately creates a weak yarn that may cause the resulting garment to deteriorate more quickly.  That said, your domestic shorthair feline or purebred Labrador Retriever may not be the best candidates for making yarn using their fur alone.  Another option, however, is to blend their fur with that of other, longer-staple fibers like wool or alpaca.  The mixture of fibers might also make it fun to later say that you’re wearing “sheep-cat” or “dog-‘paca.”

My first experience spinning dog or cat fur took place in 2012 when my friend Debra (also a spinner) gave me a bunch of excess fur from her long-haired German Shepherd, Matilda.  I won’t omit the fact that the raw fur stank like dog musk, a smell most dogs tend to carry around with them, but it didn’t deter me from experimenting with spinning this unusual choice of fiber after I had already gained some proficiency with various wools and other fibers like cotton, flax, and silk.  Matilda’s soft undercoat was at least two inches long throughout, so it was the perfect length to spin a strong yarn.  Additionally, the groomed clumps of fur retained the beautiful black, tan, and white of Matilda’s coat.  My first instinct was to try and wash the raw fur to get some of the smell out of it before I started spinning, but from an aesthetic standpoint, I instead spun it ‘in the raw,’ or ‘in the grease’ (phases commonly used by spinners to describe the act of spinning fleece or fiber fresh off the animal; that is, without washing or processing of any kind).  Instead of lanolin (a greasy substance commonly used as a base for ointments and lotions) that naturally occurs in sheep’s wool, I went ahead and spun ‘in the dog funk.’  It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant olfactory experience, but doing this helped to keep the different colours of the fur separate so that the end result was a beautifully marbled thick-and-thin yarn.  Washing or combing beforehand would have likely muddied the colours together, leaving a less desirable effect.

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Once I spun an entire bobbin-full of German Shepherd, I decided to ply it against black thread (meaning I removed the full bobbin and attached it to the Lazy Kate—an apparatus that allows you to freely draw from the yarn you just spun—so I could spin the yarn against the thread on a new bobbin).  This made the yarn even stronger, and gave it a ‘nubbly’ effect with the thin thread impressing upon the spun yarn in the ply twist.  When the bobbin was full of this plied German Shepherd yarn, I removed from the bobbin by winding on a niddy noddy, which is a tool that helps turn loose yarn into an organized skein by winding the yarn around its ends.  I then tied off the skein at four points in order that it remained together once I took it off the niddy noddy, and soaked it in a solution of hot water and Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap.  Dish soap can be used too (and might even be a better solution for the grease), but would necessitate repeated rinsings, where Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t require rinsing at all.  The steam that emitted from this concoction of hot water, soap, and raw dog fur did indeed wreak of a pungent dog funk, but the oils in the fur were breaking up and separating from the fur itself, which was the desired outcome.

When dealing with really smelly dog fur, one soak, I learned, is not enough.  Following the first bath, I drew another of fresh hot water and soap.  Again, the yarn went in for a long soak until the water ran lukewarm.  This time, I could barely detect the potent stink of before, so I knew this was working.  For good measure, I gave the yarn a third bath, after which the water remained clear, and the yarn itself smelled like fresh wool.  I gently squeezed the excess water from the skein and hung it outside on a hanger where it could dry.

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Now that the experiment of spinning dog fur was a success, I had no long-term use for someone else’s dog fur.  I decided, then, to knit the German Shepherd yarn into a cowl for Debra so that she would always have something to remember Matilda by.  The process of knitting this yarn into a garment also loosened it up even more so that a fourth wash of the finished product left the fibers as clean as I could possibly get them.  Exceeding my expectations of just how this yarn would turn out in knitted form, the end result of the cowl looked even more marbled than the yarn itself—resembling a coffee cake with rounded crumbs on top—and was as soft to the skin as alpaca.

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It may be that because I am owned by two cats, I don’t smell them, but I think that spinning cat fur is a far less smelly experience.  My two cats are Arthur and Gwen.  Arthur is a black, domestic shorthair while Gwen is believed to be a Lynx Point Siamese mixed with Calico.  Of the two cats, Gwen is far more spin-worthy with her fur staple being anywhere between two and three inches.  Arthur, however, has a staple length of about an inch, so, while he loves being groomed, the grooming is purely for his benefit.  Gwen is predominantly a cream-white with notes of grey, and flecks of tan here and there.  Being an exceptionally fluffy cat, she needs to be groomed multiple times a week, otherwise her coat will end up all over the house in a blizzard of fur, regardless of what season it is.  Fortunately, she yields some beautiful spinning material from every grooming session.

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In 2012 when I was spinning Matilda’s fur, I did not yet have Gwen, so the idea of spinning cat fur hadn’t really occurred to me.  It was only until recently that I gave cat fur a try and was taken by the fact that it was almost like having my very own little Angora rabbit in residence.  Before long, I had accumulated a large Ziploc® bag full of her fur and began to spin a very thin single out of it with the anticipation of plying it against another single of the same thing.  Instead of spinning thick-and-thin like I did Matilda’s fur, I have been spinning as consistently as possible so that it would look better as the two-ply yarn.  So far, this has gone very well with only the occasional prep work if I happen to find mats in the combings.  I found that the large Ziploc® bag full of Gwen fur emptied quicker than expected, so I regularly draw from the source, sometimes even combing from her as I’m sitting at the spinning wheel while she rests on the sofa beside me.

Given that I am spinning Gwen’s fur into an almost lace-weight yarn to produce the two-ply end result I want, making the first skein is still underway.  However, while spinning, the way one can get a preview of a single as a two-ply is to take the end of the single and let it spin back on itself by holding the end further up the length of the yarn and letting the twist take over.  This way, I have a very good idea what to expect when I ply two single strands together.  I can also give it a looser twist or tighter twist when I ply which can give the resulting two-ply yarn completely different looks.  I am not sure what I will be making out of this cat yarn, but I will likely knit instead of weaving it so the quality of the yarn shows in a more pronounced way in the stitch work.  As Gwen’s fur is remarkably wispy in nature, I’m anticipating that washing the yarn will expand it slightly, adding a ‘fluffing’ characteristic similar to the aura of yarn spun from the fur of the Angora rabbit.

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As dogs and cats are more often considered members of our families than just pets, there is also a tremendous sentimental aspect to spinning their fur.  In the case of Matilda, the German Shepherd, she was alive during the time I spun and knitted her fur into the cowl that I gifted to her owner, Debra.  Unexpectedly, Matilda had to be sent over the Rainbow Bridge not long after the cowl was made.  The cowl then became a memento by which Matilda could be remembered.  As many of us have probably experienced at least once in our lives, losing a dog or cat (or any kind of beloved animal for that matter) is difficult because we come to love them just like our human family.

One of my other current spinning projects is similar to what I did with Matilda’s fur.  Instead of German Shepherd fur, I was asked to spin the fur of an Alaskan Malamute, named Maximus, for my friend Laureen.  Sadly, Maximus has also passed away.  I was sent a bag with all the fur that was brushed from him prior to his own journey over the Rainbow Bridge.  Knowing that the quantity of the fur I had would not be enough for the cowl that Laureen wanted, I knew I would need to improvise by using another natural-fiber yarn as part of the makeup for this cowl.  The spinning of Maximus is also underway as is the planning for the cowl that the yarn will be knitted into.  Like I did with Matilda’s fur, I will be plying the single of spun yarn on a thin strand of white thread or mohair to complement the cream-white of the fur.  The thinness of the ply will also give this yarn the ‘nubbly’ effect I look for that will make the cowl a beautifully textured reminder of the treasured animal and family member the fur once belonged to.

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To an ordinary person, excess dog or cat hair is often just a nuisance.  With two cats in the house, I certainly have a lot of it despite grooming both of them regularly.  Somewhere (probably online), I read the quote, “In this house, cat hair is a condiment.”  Regardless of my OCD-level cleaning tendencies, it still ends up everywhere (and yes, from time to time, this includes my food).  It’s like what they say about how we unknowingly consume insect parts in our food on a regular basis; like insect parts, sometimes cat hair just sneaks in there too and there’s not much you can do about it.

To the avid spinner, though, we, like other artists, see possibilities in the many materials around us, and often fashion uses out of them that were not intended for the artistic purposes we decide to use them for, or we give them a use when, to others, they may seem entirely useless.  When I arrived at the idea of spinning Gwen’s fur, I thought I might be just one knitted cat scarf away from a 12-step program for crazy cat men, but the thought of having my own little high-volume source of spinning fiber to make into yarn for seldom-seen kitty couture seemed practical and delightfully resourceful.  The quiet eccentric in me also can’t wait for the day when I’m asked about my unique scarf or cowl and I can say, “Oh, this?  It’s Lynx Point Siamese.”

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