In Remembrance of Richard Starr: A Fellow Activist

Recently, I learned about the sudden death of a fellow Occupy Palm Beach (Wall Street) protestor named Richard Starr.  I met Richard a couple of months ago when I became involved in the Occupy movement and even traveled to Washington, D.C. with him in December to participate in an event called Take Back the Capitol.  There we marched with thousands of other protestors and engaged in a week’s worth of activism, all with the purpose of standing up for social justice.  In addition to this event, I also spent time with Richard at the Occupy Palm Beach site, attending meetings and making/holding up signs, attempting to rally others to our cause and raise awareness.

What I will remember about Richard was his tireless dedication and enthusiasm; and of course, his signature Court Jester hat he would wear during our demonstrations.  The hat he wore was appropriate, because Richard had a great sense of humor, and often had something funny and insightful to say regarding life, society, his experience as a veteran or whatever was going on at the Occupy site.  But more than a witty jester and a determined activist, he was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle and grandfather for a family that we all send our sympathies and best wishes to.  It was a great pleasure to have worked along side Richard over the last few months, and his presence will definitely be missed in the West Palm Beach community.

© 2012

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Colored pencil drawing)Over the past few years, I have tried to find new ways to celebrate MLK day.  I’ve been to celebrations at city halls in various cities, variety shows showcasing drama, music, dance and other talents in honor of Dr. King.  I’ve participated in marches to commemorate his legacy and watched television programs about his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement on this holiday.  So this year, I decided to celebrate the memory of Dr. King by writing a blog article.

The first time I remember ever seeing a picture of Dr. King was in my home as a child when my dad was watching the Eyes on the Prize documentary, which was aired on PBS and, in rich detail, chronicles the Civil Rights Movement.  I recall seeing segments of Dr. King giving speeches and sermons with his trademark ringing voice that aroused, at that time, an unexplainable surge of energy and emotion within me.  I saw the footage of him leading protest marches, getting pelted with rocks, other protesters being attacked by police, dogs, and firemen with forceful blasts from water-hoses.  Those images, along with other horrific photos such as African-Americans being lynched, hung from trees, and even having their bodies burned by racist mobs were, to say the least, eye opening.  I was shocked to see such brutality; angered that people were treated so viciously because of the color of their skin, the same color as my skin.  After watching that documentary as a child, I had many questions that I needed to be answered.

When I was in fifth grade, my elementary teacher passed out a book order form.  These were forms from a particular company that our school partnered with in order to give students an opportunity to purchase books of their own choosing.  It was exciting because it gave us the chance to select books on our own; books that interested us and not books that the teacher mandated we read.  As I scanned through the lists of titles available for purchase, I came across one on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I asked my parents for money to buy the book and when it was delivered to me at school I couldn’t wait to read every page.  My education on the Civil Rights Movement had begun!  A few years later my parents took me and my brother to visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, where Dr. King gave many inspirational sermons in his career as a preacher.  We were in Atlanta to attend one of the annual church conventions that my parents would take us to each summer (my father is a preacher as well) and we also got to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial there in Atlanta.

I’ve read so many impressive essays and speeches that Dr. King wrote over the years in which I’ve studied his life, including the collection found in The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I pulled a book off of my bookshelf yesterday titled Bridges And Boundaries: African Americans and American Jews (George Braziller in association with The Jewish Museum, New York) which contains a visual essay including photographs of The Civil Rights Movement.  In it, I found a picture of Dr. King giving a speech in 1968 to the Collection Local 1199 Union, a drug, hospital and healthcare employees union.  My book indicates that in his speech, Dr. King addressed the union members saying “‘You have provided concrete and visible proof that when black and white workers unite in a democratic organization…they can move mountains.'”  That message contains a powerful truth, and if practiced, prescribes a remedy for the many problematic divisions we still find present in today’s society, and which still, unfortunately, threaten our progress as a nation.

© 2012

Kim Kardashian, Makeup and All Men Are Dogs: What Do Women Think?

“Kim Kardashian with no makeup?  Oh no!”  The words dropped from her lips like bombshells hitting the floor and unearthing truths kept secret from eons ago.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, once again, Kim Kardashian and a host of other celebrities have been sighted out in public without wearing any makeup.  As I scanned this woman’s items and processed her credit card transaction, I focused on the absolute horror on her face after she encountered the latest Entertainment magazine on the newsstand.  Normally when I’m working at the cash register in the store where I am employed part time, I pick up on the chitter-chatter of customers as they discuss the day’s news and highlights.  Over the last couple of weeks, all the talk has been about the striking contrast between what celebrities look like with makeup and without.  As a man, I know I may be traversing into dangerous territory here, but these are reactions coming from women that I’m reporting on, not men.

Some of the women seemed to accent their comments about the less than flattering photos published in the magazine of these celebrities with a tinge of satisfaction.  Others didn’t hide their delight in remarking about how awful the celebrities appeared in print.  And some seemed to emote empathy.  To make the distinction clear, these were not photos of celebrities who made a conscious decision to pose for a photo shoot without wearing any makeup.  On the contrary, they were photographed without their consent, without prior knowledge, going about their daily routine.  That, to me, seems to be a little unfair.  Yes, these women are celebrities, and they have to know that every time they step out of their doors, the paparazzi are waiting for them with cameras in hand, drooling at the opportunity to catch them in awkward situations.  Yet these are also people who market their brand name and build their images, in addition to their talent, with the help of airbrushed imaging and digital photo enhancement.  And as women across the world flip page after page in beauty/style magazines, they are constantly bombarded with these images and often succumb to the pressure of feeling like they must conform to this carefully crafted, hyper-glamorous, wholly unattainable standard of beauty.

I often hear women complaining about how all men are dogs, or about how all they care about is sex.  I hear them asking: “Why can’t I find a man who values my mind as much as my body,” and “why don’t men pay attention to my personality as much as they do my physical appearance?”  I guess my retort would be to ask: do you spend as much time on developing your personality as you do on applying your makeup?  And I only say that because, as men, we can be totally overwhelmed when first meeting a woman by smokey eyes, infallible lipstick, sparkling, shimmering, candy-like glitter, rosy-rouged cheeks, eye-liner, foundation, voluminous mascara, longer, thicker eye-lashes…etc.  (Please excuse me for thinking about sex slightly before I think about your personality).  Now that doesn’t excuse men who may treat you like a piece of meat rather than a human being with thoughts, emotions, desires and opinions.  But it does create quite a challenge for us men to shut off all of our physical sensors and concentrate solely on “the inner you” when we are equally bombarded, as you are when you flip magazine pages.

At the end of the day, what a woman does to her face, whether she’s a celebrity or not, is her business.  Regardless of her social status and use or non-use of beauty products, she should be treated with dignity and respect.  And regardless of what men think (or other women for that matter), a woman should always realize her own worth and beauty, inside and out.  I’m of the opinion that we can do without a world in which magazines publish pictures of people without their prior consent, for the purpose of either fueling gossip, embarrassing them or tarnishing their image.  But I also think we can do without a world in which our teenage girls contemplate suicide because they’re picked on in school for not being “pretty enough,” or feel that they just can’t measure up to what they see in magazines.  Then maybe we can build a world in which people are accepted for who they are, no matter what they look like.  What do you think?

© 2012