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I am slowly beginning to wean myself off of social media in the mornings. It used to be fun. One could start the day with a dose of information, cuteness and joy.

Instead I now open Facebook and take a deep breath in wonder, “What mean and cruel thing has happened in the world today?” I am relieved when my senses are assaulted with birds dancing to music, children covered in peanut butter, and grandpas amusingly dancing to the music of their grandchildren’s generation.

Today was not one of those days.

A teenage boy made a clock at home and brought it to school. He ended his day in a juvenile detention center because teenage boys of Muslim Sudanese descent living in America should know better.

I find myself thinking what I would have instinctively said to that young man were he my son, nephew, cousin, mentee, or friend, “You cannot make something electronic like this at home and then bring it to school; they’ll think you’re a terrorist.” And instantly I am heartbroken with myself, because even that protective thought is cruel and unfair.

Despite the world around them, in reality what I would say (and what I am saying today) to youth is “No one has the right to limit your potential.”

I am sad. Very sad. Because for so many kids this is their reality, the scars that shape their adolescence and adulthood.

This is the world I live in.

But I haven’t lost all hope.

The candles of creativity and innovation are lit by the flames of curiosity and wonder. What the world needs today is more light. My educator heart breaks for all of the lights we extinguished today.

All is not lost. I am reminded that for every person who blows out a candle, there are several others ready to relight its flame.

I remember that I am a member of a Christian church in Texas that hosts an iftar dinner each year during Ramadan to share a meal and conversation with Muslim members of our community.

And then I read the Comments section of the Dallas Morning News’ story on Ahmed prepared to wince, but instead am surprised at the high volume of commentary in support of this child and others.

And then the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag is born, breathing new air into my life. The world isn’t completely insane.

He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”

But, still, there is a child, a child, who now has the memory of what it feels like to be handcuffed and fingerprinted by police. A child whose name will forever be connected to the words arrest, bomb and terrorist whenever his name is googled. And there are children and families who right now are telling themselves, be careful, be safe, it’s too risky, don’t do it.

Youth is supposed to be filled with sparks of wonder, imagination and curiosity.

I refuse to let social media bring me all the way down today. So I’m adding more oxygen to my fire by listening to dose of my freedom song playlist, so that I can be ready to relight those candles whose flames have been temporarily extinguished. I need the reminder that

  • Oh Freedom
  • Freedom is Coming [Oh Yes I Know]
  • Freedom is Coming Tomorrow
  • A Change Gone Come
  • Someday We’ll All Be Free

For those of us and those of you who felt lights dimmed a little today, in the words of the late Donny Hathaway,

Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here
Take it from me, someday we’ll all be free…

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Dear #McKinneyPoolParty Youth,

I am sorry.

I am sorry that the focus is on you and not on the many adults who contributed to this situation.

I am sorry that the color of your skin caused some people to make you feel like you did or did not belong.

I am sorry that many of you will now be apprehensive about going to pools and social gatherings with your friends.

I am sorry that this will be the way you remember how your summer of 2015 kicked off.

I am sorry that the value of your home too often determines the value people place on you.

I am sorry that we did not prepare you to recognize and handle the amplifying power of social media.

I am sorry that you felt scared.

I am sorry that one of the hardest days of your lives will live for infinity on the internet.

I am so sorry.

In love,

— Simone Monique Barnes
@simonemonique

McKinneyPoolYouthImSorry

Alaska becomes the second state to officially recognize indigenous languages

Yes! My former professor Dennis Norman often said that “when you lose a language, you lose a way of thinking.” Language tells our story, our history, our experiences, and the way we process the world. 2 down, 48 states + US territories to go.

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Dinner with friends at a tiny restaurant in Tribeca on my birthday in 1996. It was before peak hours, so the restaurant was nearly empty. My bestie Kenya Unique Massey gave me The Complete Collected Poems (Maya Angelou). It had been on my birthday/Christmas/Kwanzaa wish list for a while, so I was surprised (thrilled) to receive it. A few moments later Kenya gasps and goes eerily silent. Conversation at our table stops. What? “Oh my God, Maya Angelou just walked in.” The restaurant owner, during routine checks on her patrons’ dining experiences, overhears our conversation and the uncanny synchronicity (as well as the friendly frustration and disbelief at my hesitance to bother the icon while she’s enjoying her downtime), then comes over and says “Daughter come. Maya is waiting for you.” Kenya and I walk over to her table together and exchange a few humble words in hushed tones with our legend. Booked signed, “Simone Barnes, Joy! From Kenya Massey and Maya Angelou.”

Joy is a girl who hated social studies until she realized she could learn history through literature thanks to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Joy is a girl who put her hands on her hips and smiled in delighted disbelief after mastering frying fish (after years of failing to do so) because she tried dipping it in cornmeal like they do in Stamps, Arkansas.

Laurita’s Cafe Soul has long closed, and now Maya Angelou is among the ancestors, but the food of yesteryear continues to nourish. #RIPMayaAngelou

Cultural Appropriation Photo Scavenger Hunt

The Kahnawa:ke Youth Forum is hosting a scavenger hunt.

Although I can’t officially participate in the actual scavenger hunt contest, I do see a pinterest board in my future…

#KYFdecolonize

1967Women's History Month

Katherine Switzer. First female Boston Marathon runner.

“A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Then he swiped down my front, trying to rip off my bib number, just as I leapt backward from him.

But no matter what, I have to finish this race. Even if you can’t, I have to—even on my hands and knees. If I don’t finish, people will say women can’t do it, and they will say I was just doing this for the publicity or something. So you need to do whatever you want to do, but I’m finishing.” Read more…

2014

Self Magazine BS Meter April 2014

Monika Allen and Tara Baize, LA Marathon runners. They are owners of Glam Runner, which sells running tutus to raise funds for Girls on the Run of San Diego, a non-profit organization nurturing healthy 3rd through 8th grade girls.

Monika Allen is brain cancer survivor who recently underwent chemotherapy.

“Monika Allen says she was excited to receive an email from SELF magazine asking for permission to use a photo that showed her running the LA marathon dressed as Wonder Woman and wearing a tutu in an upcoming issue.

But when the April issue came out, Allen said she was “stunned and offended.”

The picture appears in a section of the magazine called “The BS Meter,” with a caption that refers to a “tutu epidemic” and basically makes fun of the women’s outfits, she said.” (Read and watch more at NBC.)

An outpouring of support via social media was reported soon after the story went viral. (See follow up story.)

#DieTumorDie

SELF-CANCER-SURVIVOR-570

 

 

 Note to SELF: Every runner has a story.

The Washington Redskins change the name debate continues.

Letter To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation” from Dan Snyder,  Owner and Chairman of the Board, Washington Redskins. Excerpt:

Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.

So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations [Editor’s math: 26 tribes = less than 5% of native nations*] across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.

I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.

As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

*[Editor’s note: there are more than 500 federal recognized native nations, not including state recognized nations, nor tribal communities without official US government recognition. See 500Nations.com and Bureau of Indian Affairs.]

 

Meanwhile in Indian Country, discourse continues.

Gyasi Ross’s “Hush Money and Ransom: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder, the Idiot” on Indian Country Today. Excerpt:

Here’s the thing: I, like a lot of other Natives, don’t give a damn about the Washington Redskins or mascots or any of that. There are absolutely MORE IMPORTANT things to worry about that MOST of the Natives who constantly complain about the Redskins and mascots (yet don’t live amongst other Native people or work in our communities) don’t see. That’s because MOST of those adamantly anti-mascot Natives don’t live within our communities (of course there are SOME who do live in our communities, but in our home territories, there are plenty of Native-themed mascots that a lot of us Natives love very, very much. We are proud of them and those folks who want to get rid of all Native mascots definitely don’t speak for us).

Adrienne K. (Native Appropriations) response to Gyasi Ross’ article. Excerpt:

…I don’t understand why we have to create the divide between “real Indians” who don’t care about mascots and those of us who do. The reason why many of us off-reservations (which is over 60% of Indian Country) care deeply about representations is because we are forced to deal with them everyday. Because we aren’t in our communities we can’t turn and see hundreds of counter-narratives and counter-representations in our aunties, cousins, our community events, or our ceremonies. What we see instead are the majority of Americans who think we’re fantasy creatures or extinct. They don’t know that our communities are full of joy and strength, because they don’t think we’re real.

Additionally, mascot issues, halloween costumes, and themed frat parties are things that happen on college campuses, so it’s often our Native students who are forced to confront them–and telling them that they’re somehow “less Indian” or “less connected” for caring about how their peoples are represented is the last thing they need as they already struggle far from home.