Education & Activism

Posts on politics, student and worker advocacy, racism, sexism, and general activism. Resist!

Studio Magic: North Star Steady

 

North Star Steady” is a love song I wrote for Dave during a bout of insomnia, purposefully set to a minimalist keyboard line so that I could focus more on the vocals. Dave’s drum line was rockin’, and I liked that there was breathing room in the song. It worked live. In fact, it was one of my favorites to perform.

But when Dave, engineer Salmak Khaledi, and I were listening to the recording of it in the studio, the song felt incomplete. We ate pizza and drank coffee and listened to it again and again, commenting on how it could use this or that but not landing on anything quite right. Then suddenly, Salmak leapt up, ran over to the Moog, and, within minutes, was playing a killer groove that had all of us dancing. We recorded it then and there. 

The “magic of the studio” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s SO TRUE. Salmak breathed new life into our songs, not just through his bass line but through all of his production choices and mixing edits. It was a real honor to record this album with him and to share it with all y’all.

Now it’s time to get back to it. We’re super excited to work on some new tunes and get those out to you later this year. Be sure to follow The Brooklyn Players Reading Society on all the socials to stay up to date!

Website: thebprs.com
BandcampThe BPRS
Facebook@TheBPRS
Instagram: @thebprs
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society

My Luck Dragon

 

One winter evening long ago, I was out with Dave and our friend/band member Ben Jaffe when we stopped by “The Thing,” an awesome secondhand shop in Greenpoint filled with extremely strange and wonderful objects. Ben picked up an old dusty piece of art in one of those gaudy brass frames and said, “This one’s from the Willy Wonka art dealer!” We giggled then took turns offering up commentary on other random items.

But the Willy Wonka art dealer stuck with me. I wondered what else he would buy and sell, how he would describe each piece, what his voice would sound like. He was probably creepy. I would probably want to hide from him.

The lyrics to this song started from there then grew into an outlet for my angst and anger over being young in America – how we were left with a recession, a broken society, a dying planet, yet were still expected to work 9-5 and pay the rent. I wanted a luck dragon to fly in and rescue me, leaving nothing but flames behind. 

This anger rings truer today than ever before, but instead of hiding or running, I’ve become more empowered to get organized. Capitalism in America has run amuck. We don’t need a luck dragon to save us; if we come together and fight as a collective, we can save ourselves.

Not sure how to do this? Consider getting involved with the Working Families Party, a movement focused on creating a system that supports all Americans, not just the 1%.

And if you’re into rock-n-roll, check out Ben Jaffe’s latest musical project, Pill.

Organize, Act Up, Disrupt!

The Way is Already” – a protest song from One Day, an EP by my band, The Brooklyn Players Reading Society


I am absolutely thrilled over the facts that we have a new president and a more progressive Senate. I loved watching Kamala Harris’s historical inauguration and Amanda Gorman’s powerful performance. I celebrated the win in Georgia and gleefully toasted a glass to Stacey Abrams. And damn, it felt good.

But y’all, as much as we want him to be, Joe Biden is not our savior. He’s obviously an improvement, but if his track record as an Establishment Democrat means anything, he’s not going to end inhumane deportations, secure reproductive rights, protect transpeople, overhaul our justice system, nor begin the long overdue process of dismantling white supremacy – unless we make him.

It’s on us to hold our new president and Congresspeople accountable. Remember, they work for us. It’s also on us, especially those of us who are white, to work on ourselves, on recognizing and undoing our biases and on committing to a life of actively being antiracist.

But guess what? We don’t have to do this work alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone. It’s time to start collaborating, to come together and organize, act up, disrupt. And what a nice thing it is to be able to use our joy as motivation to keep up the work!

Not sure how to get started? Here’s a list of suggestions for you:


Social justice organizations I like (there are so many more):

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. quote on a Pride Flag, available for sale by hburrell

It’s Black History Month!

 

Looking for a way to commemorate Black History Month? Here’s what I’ll be diving into:

  • 400 Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain: “A chorus of extraordinary voices comes together to tell one of history’s great epics: the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present–edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.” Click here to sign up for a virtual reading and discussion with the editors and some contributors.
  • 13 Tiny Desk Concerts by Black Artists: Throughout the month, NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series is hosting an amazing lineup of virtual concerts by black artists of various genres, featuring old standbys like Wynton Marsalis as well as some up-and-coming, soon-to-be stars you definitely want to know about.
  • Stop Being Afraid! 5 Steps to Transform Your Conversations About Racism by Dr. Amanda Kemp: “Grounded in mindful self-compassion,” this workbook provides thoughtful essays, analyzations, and activities to help white allies “move beyond white guilt and shame… to have a voice for racial justice.”

I hope you’re able to find time to celebrate this month, as well as to reflect on why we still need a Black History Month and what steps we can take to end racism in this country. I know it’s daunting, but as my favorite singer, Bille Holiday, said, “The difficult I will do right now. The impossible will take a little while.”

                            Lady Day (Bille Holiday) with her dog

Stop Killing Black People

Casey Goodson Jr should still be alive.

This has to change. Cops have to stop murdering black people. It’s not a cop’s job to kill anyone, period. It just isn’t. These bullshit excuses they give are atrocious. It’s simple: STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE.

What will it take for white people to wake up, to get over themselves enough to see the terror our black neighbors live in, to accept that it is our job as white people to do something to change this?

I am so fed up. I don’t know what to do. I’ll keep diving into my own antiracism work, and I’ll keep sharing ways for you to do the work, too, but sometimes it feels like I’m yelling into a void while black people keep dying. How much yelling will it take?

Please consider making a donation to Casey’s family: www.gofundme.com/justiceforcaseygoodson.

Justice for Breonna Taylor: Ways to Take Action

justice for breonna

Image created by Ariel Sinha

It has been four months since Louisville police officers burst into Breonna Taylor’s home and murdered her in her sleep, and you know what? The three police officers who killed her are taking vacations. Eating dinners with their families. Posting pictures of themselves on Instagram. Collecting their paychecks. Living their lives.

You know who isn’t living her life? Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, wife, daughter, friend, and so much more, who was SLEEPING IN HER HOME when she was shot and killed by police.

There was so much negligence surrounding this case and yet there is no justice at all. Two of the officers are even still working! None of them have been charged. Eighty-seven protestors have been charged with felonies, yet these murderers are out there free.

I know you’re tired. I am, too. And I know everything feels hopeless sometimes. But we cannot give into those feelings.

Get involved. Stay involved.

Ways to keep fighting for Breonna:

KY officials Breonna

Do the Work

How many more black people need to be murdered in order for white people to care?

Breonna TaylorBreonna Taylor, murdered in her sleep by police officers who forced their way into
her home in search of a man who had already been arrested.

This is on us. We as white people have to take action, and we have to constantly engage in our own anti-racism work in order to understand how we benefit from white supremacy, how we contribute to it, and how we can undo the hurtful, dangerous, racial biases that exist inside all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re “one of the good ones.” Are you white in America? That means you have work to do.

Our country is not safe for people of color. Our entire system is built upon genocide, slavery, and white supremacy, and that didn’t just go away when the Civil War ended. BIPOC have been terrorized by white people since the founding of the U.S.A. and they continue to be hunted down, jailed, and murdered by hateful white people who are encouraged and emboldened by a hateful system and a hateful history. It is on all of our white shoulders to stop this.

George FloydGeorge Floyd, pinned to the ground and murdered by a police officer.

I am embarrassed. In my last post, I dove deep into my own pain about Covid and described what it has done to NYC, yet I did not at all examine what it has done to communities of color, what our police force and many healthcare providers and our “justice” system have done – and keep doing – to people of color. I threw in a few sentences about recognizing my white privilege and felt like that was enough. It took someone calling me out on Facebook for me to realize it absolutely isn’t enough at all.

Recognizing privilege is not the same as taking action. White people MUST ACT. Where is our outrage? Are we just so used to seeing black bodies pinned under white peoples’ knees, to seeing them dead in the streets, that we don’t feel anything in response?

I’m going to unplug for a bit and dedicate the time I would be spending on blogging and social media toward engaging in anti-racism work instead, both in myself and in my community. Sharing my personal story doesn’t matter right now. Nothing else matters right now.

Get to work.

Resources for Anti-Racism Work


Organizations to Follow


Instagram Accounts to Follow

There’s an inspiring and educational dialogue happening on Instagram about race relations, art, music, gender identity, American history, and how this all intersects. Do not follow these accounts if you have not already started on your own work. It is not okay to go into their spaces and be disrespectful or to center the discussion around yourself. This is a wonderful opportunity to listen to and learn from others. Don’t waste it.

Also, find out what district you live in and which politicians represent you so that you can start making those calls and sending those tweets.

 

Photo Credits
1. Instagram/@keyanna.guifarro
2. Offices of Ben Crump Law

Covid City 11: An Ode to Anger

img_4046Written last night, 3/26/2020, at 9 pm

I am mad today. Really fucking mad. At everything, all of it.

I’m mad that my kid lost his school and his friends and a teacher whom he adored. I’m mad that his fifth birthday party is ruined. I’m mad that his sense of safety has been shattered, that he’s been forced to grow up so much in the past two weeks. I’m mad he won’t ever get this time back.

I’m mad that none of us are sleeping, that no matter what we try, the baby wakes up screaming in the middle of the night and then again at 5 am, bright-eyed and ready to climb bookshelves. I’m mad that his formula, diapers, and wipes are so expensive. I’m mad that for him, life in Covid City is all there is, that he won’t remember a time before this.

I’m mad that my dad, my siblings, my nephews, the whole rest of my family, is far away in Kentucky. I’m mad that my granny is alone in a nursing home, just waiting, watching, wondering.

I’m mad that I still have to work and my husband doesn’t. I’m mad at how my body aches and my brain hurts. I’m mad that we can’t go out to a restaurant or a playground or the Botanic Gardens for our annual romp in the cherry blossoms.

I’m mad that our apartment has only four rooms but that celebrities have mansions with pools and theaters. I’m mad that I’m jealous of them. I’m mad that anyone is living in quarantine with an abuser. I’m mad that so many others are facing this pandemic on the streets, in homeless shelters, locked in detention centers apart from their families, while billionaire landlords are provided mortgage relief. I’m mad that our political leaders are incapable and unethical, and I’m really mad that despite how the coronavirus has exposed this country for the sham it is, so many people are still defending it.

Fucking Wednesdays. Or whatever today is, I don’t even know anymore. Life as a parent on lockdown means there is no weekend. That pisses me off, too.

But you know what’s pissing me off the most right now? The fact that Dave and I are supposed to be packing for our 10-year anniversary trip to Miami. Without kids. To rub salt in the wound: I’m still receiving automated trip-reminder emails from Spirit Airlines. Each ding in my inbox brings me back to how, just one month ago, life as a full-time working mother of two had worn me down so much that the only thing getting me through was the promise of a vacation where my husband and I could rest, recuperate, and relish in each other. Instead of Miami, we get Covid City.

Screen Shot 2020-03-26 at 11.06.19 PM
I don’t have a cheery “but then I did this and was happy” message to wrap up with. I meditated, I ran, I wrote. These things helped, but even now at the end of the day, I’m still edgy. I guess I have to learn how to just be okay with that. I can’t stomp around yelling at my family, but I also can’t pretend I’m not angry. Perhaps part of staying sane in Covid City is letting myself feel whatever comes up. Some days will be positive, others will be angry. I have to just let that be. 

***

Update: I am posting this on Friday morning, and after having slept for six hours straight in a row, I am feeling better. I hope all of you got some sleep, too. My morning meditation self-care goal for today is to walk. Whether it be a simple circle around the apartment, a loop around the block with the dog, or a trip to the beach if I get so lucky, today I want to walk as much as I can.