PoliticsTravel

Waiting for a visa

My spouse received her Schengen visa this morning. It was quite a nail biter as we tried to a trip to France. She is a citizen of Botswana, while the kids and I have US passports. Meanwhile, a colleague of mine is probably in a similar condition awaiting their Schengen visa for travel to Vienna from Indore.

While we waited, I tried to get my French compréhension up by reading Thomas Piketty’s blog en français. While reading this linked article on income and class inequality in India, I learned about Babasaheb Ambedkar — an advocate for the rights of people from marginalized castes (the term Dalit is used widely though contested) and by all measures one of the freedom fighters who brought India out of colonialism. His memoir is entitled —  Waiting for a Visa.

The human crises brought about by global climate change alone should dictate the shared international acceptance of open borders. But as this graphic from the UN World Tourism Organization shows, we’re a long way off from Bob Marley and Haile Selassie’s dream of “world citizenship”.

world_tourism

The world’s visa policies evince a lot of anti-African (my spouse travels on a Botswana passport), anti-Asian bias.

I take consolation that some countries are taking the lead.

Openness

We should all be thankful that Mauritius and Seychelles are right there in the top — and that the Caribbean is greeting the world with open arms!

I’m taking stock of my US passport privileges. I’m praying for a more inclusive world.

Family

For Maria

We celebrated the life of my cousin Maria today. She was a little over a year older than I, and leaves to this world a devoted partner Greg and daughter Morgan and son Jordan.

This day was full of remembrance and thanks, joy and beauty, pain, loss, hope, wisdom.

I think of flowers this day because the sweet Georgia air was full of fragrance, filled with sunlight, with gentle cool breezes. It took me back to the days years ago when she and her family would pull up for a visit — people just showed up back in the pre-text, pre cell, pre messenger days — or we would wind up there after church or when my mother wanted to drop by.

Maria was an artist at heart. I think of her dancing, talking about the books she was writing. There was a lyricism in her voice, it spoke poetry, words seeming formed in a gentle particular authentic Atlanta Sista rhythm.

Maria had a way of telling truth and imparting truth. I think that in every conversation from the ’80s forward there was some kernel of wisdom that I would keep and turn over like gem. My thing has always been science fiction and how imagined realities or worlds give a prism for viewing the here and now. There is this character — The Oracle — in the matrix movies, played by a Sister in both, who in that perceptive way lays out truth and what lies ahead. I always half thought they must have based that character on Maria, because who then in Hollywood would have had the audacity and originality to appreciate the foresight and clarity of an Oracle in Black skin unless they’d encountered it in the flesh? My cousin had that kind of wisdom.

As I write this words like ferocity and indomitable come forth. As the world medicates on the loss of some Parisian cathedral, I’m thinking how miraculous it was for a Black woman to rebuild and reconstruct herself day after day for ten years with cancer. And laughing, and dancing, and writing. I’m thinking about how it’s a story that plays out for so many Black women battling the emotional and physical struggles.

I wish for her precious children that they find for themselves the best dream that she wished for them. I wish for them that they remember her voice in moments joyful and sad, that they treasure those kernels of truth that will come to them in dreams. I wish that they joyfully sing her songs, re-dance her dances, recall her jokes to their children, or nieces, or students, or share them with someone who needs that lift. I wish that they hold themselves dear and sacred. I wish for them that they speak truth and inspire, that they live and with the fire and grace of artists in their own chosen path.

inclusionInspiration

Solace from New Zealand

The bravery of New Zealand in confronting pain and loss, in embracing its Muslim community, in confronting white supremacy is like an opening for humanity to move forward.

This photo.

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2019/03/photos-mourning-new-zealand/585304/#img02

This moment of a worshipper at Kilbirnie Masjid embracing New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the essence of all that we need to start.

That the divisions between Islam, Zoroastrianism, the Jain faith, Judaism, the Sikh faith, Hinduism, the Bahai faith, Yoruba spirituality, and yes Christianity in its many forms — they are illusory veils that separate us from each other. We can transcend veils.

That we need an end to violence.

That its time for more women to lead, because the corruption of patriarchy is hopefully now laid bare.

That the color of your skin, or the languages you speak, don’t make you any less human and deserving of love, humanity, compassion, equality.

That would be a Surrender to peace.

Here is the thought experiment that I can’t get out of my head — what if a country of 300+ million on the North American continent were to ban male presidents — just for a decade — and see what that does for the collective mental and emotional? What if it were to embrace its Muslim community, open its doors to the oppressed as it claims to, recognize the humanity of its original inhabits, and of all of its spectrum of citizens. That would be an amazing balm to the world.

History

Visionary women of Atlanta

In honor of Black history month, thought I would highlight some inspiring murals that adorn Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue.

Mural to Black women leaders on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue.

The first highlights the contributions of four women to Atlanta. They are Selena Butler, Mathilda Beasley, Annie McPheeters, and Dorothy Thompson.

Dorothy Bolden Thompson was one of the true unsung lights of the Civil Rights movement. Employed for many years as a domestic worker (starting at the age of nine!) in Atlanta, she organized the National Domestic Workers Union, which “successfully improved the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in Atlanta, and other cities of the U.S.“. She was at one point a neighbor of Dr. Martin Luther King. I would like to think that their’s was a collaborative, mutually inspiring relationship. Ms Thompson organized successful strikes and protests to improve the lives of the women who performed the invisible, demanding, and often demeaning labor in the homes and offices of White families. Her story is to me so deeply inspiring and connecting. It is the story of the grandmothers and great-grandmothers and aunties, of the proud ladies of the church I attended as a child — the women with gnarled loving hands and unmatched fierceness and wit, the women who built and sustained a people.

Selena Butler (a graduate of Spelman College) is now considered to be the co-founder of the Parents Teachers Association — that is the PTA so ubiquitous across public schools in the United States. Concerned about the welfare of students, in the 1920’s Butler helped organize the first convention of teachers and parents united for better schools. Segregation being what it was, that first convention led to the formation of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association. So inspiring was her work that U.S. President Herbert Hoover appointed her to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection.

Mathilda Beasley was the first African American nun from Georgia.

Annie McPheeters was the first professional African American librarian with the Atlanta Public library. She was instrumental in developing the Auburn Avenue library and also taught library science at Georgia State University.

The second mural? That one is of Stacey Abrams who came within a percentage point of becoming Georgia’s first African American governor. Fittingly, she is giving a counter to the state of the union speech tonight (February 5th).

A mural of Stacey Abrams looks out over Auburn Avenue in Atlanta

Black History MonthData ScienceHistory

Black history month book giveaway!

In honor of the U.S. Black History Month commemoration, I am giving away two copies of the book
W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America.

What do you have to do to be a winner? Be one of the first to create and send in a visualization inspired by the set of infographics on Black America that Dr. W.E.B. DuBois developed for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Any visualization that you implement that is relevant to the peoples of SubSaharan Africa or the SubSaharan diaspora is relevant too!

Just email me or post as a comment. The first two submissions get the book, and I’ll try to hook up something outstanding works too!

Distributed WorkEducationInspirationOrganizing

Tidying the mind

If you’re de-cluttering your space this year, please try this iTunes podcast.

Dr. Gayatri Sethi (my partner) talks about how to begin tidying the mind. Working from home myself, I find her advice invaluable.

Whether or not you have a thousand sneakers to get out of your living space, getting your mind right sounds like a good start!

The Inspiration Station podcast also has a lot of helpful insights for the learners and seekers out there.

Happy tidying!

GeorgiaHistory

What are the Muskogee holy days?

When does the United States get to the level of spiritual and psychological maturity to honor the peoples and civilization that lived on its soil and held its skies and rivers sacred before the first European countries even existed?

I eat, live and breath on stretches of earth that were carefully and lovingly maintained, defended, honored by the Muskogee, Cherokee and their forebears for millennia. We can’t even approve an hour to remember and cherish our collective ancestors? They don’t even rate to the level of Halloween? That ain’t right.

Think of it this way. The pride of India is the Taj Mahal. The Mughal empire — in whose time it was built — has long passed into time, yet every child in Delhi knows some connection to this wonder of the world. India is home to so many diverse faiths, among them the Sikh faith. Not everyone — not even a majority — is Sikh yet the sacred days of that faith are celebrated widely. Because it is a denial of history and a warping of reality not to. Would any resident of London refuse to acknowledge their connection to Stonehenge, or to Shakespeare? Yet the governments of those times, even the notion of the country of Britain, has changed many times in the centuries since. Would any Egyptian deny the pyramids, or Hatshepsut?

So yea, this place we call the U.S. did not and does not begin and end with European settlement. Being complicit in Erasure is no way to live.

So what to do?

Well the image for this post is from the Ocmulgee National Monument mounds in Georgia. We know that the Ocmulgee peoples have held this site sacred for at least the last 17,000 years, give or take a colonizer shutdown or two.

My one resolution for getting beyond Erasure? Understand and live my debt to the Ocmulgee (forbears of today’s Muskogee Nation) civilization. A festival will be held on September 21 and 22 of this year on the grounds of the monument.

Join me?