Image by USANATO BDE, Black History Month Celebration - 2011 via Flickr Creative Commons

Letters to the Editor – February 2013

Thanks, Fresno, for a Real Christmas Miracle

[The] Inmate Family Council and collaborating churches knew it was time to get the Goodie Bags ready for the ladies in Chowchilla Prison. The warden told us the population was down to 3,000 women. We could handle that easily. Your generous in-kind and cash donations made it possible for us to provide, for the 10th year, Christmas gifts for all the incarcerated women there.

Then we got another phone call. Because the Department of Corrections has needed to move people around, there would be 800 more women coming in from another facility. Could we handle that? We could, with a stretch of the budget. Then came the last call: another 500 women would be added in. This seemed overwhelming. What could we do? We would not leave any women without their Goodie Bag; it’s the only gift they are permitted each year. But how?

Then, the first miracle: a very generous check from a woman who used to live in Fresno. That got us going, but it wouldn’t be enough. Then the second miracle: once a month, the Unitarian Universalist (aka UU) Church of Fresno donates the Sunday basket collection to a charity. A call from there: May we donate the December collection to Goodie Bags? Yes! And they did, close to $1,100.00, and that did it. We were able to serve all the women, 4,300 instead of the original 3,000, because of the kindness and generosity of the community.

The ladies of Chowchilla Prison were thrilled to receive their Goodie Bags with toothbrushes, shampoo, teabags, candy and much more, and they are very grateful. On their behalf, I want to thank the people of Fresno, all the participating churches, especially the UU, and individual donors, for making it happen in 2012. Thank you very much!

Maria Telesco
Program Co-Director

*****

Pay for Play, Good for the Kids?

Great article! This is very interesting information that the average citizen does not know about. There appear to be many conflicts of interest involved with these players? I would like to know more about the “school bond game” in future editions of the Community Alliance. Will there be any follow-up articles?

Tony
Online

*****

For Black History Month: Love Me, Don’t Hate Me, Even if I’m “African American”

I recall a year ago, sitting in the KFCF 88.1 FM studio and being confronted by a group of African Americans “spanking me” (that’s what it called when we attempt to shame one of our own in public) in front of the Programming and Needs Assessment (PNA) Committee (all the Caucasians staring back at us in disbelief), and in the room was an elder who did little to rescue or protect his “African queen” from this fiasco.

When I went home and shared with my 33-year-old son how I was made to feel as I was being “spanked” in front of these White people by my own people, with tears in my eyes, my son explained in detail why the elder allowed this to happen. He has little respect for that elder to this day, and we now use this to remind ourselves and others that just because someone looks like you don’t mean that they have your better interest at heart.

Since then, I have been on a quest to educate all on the importance of acceptance of all Blacks in the diaspora in order to bring back the “wholeness” of the diaspora. To dismiss me is to dismiss yourself and that, at best, demonstrates your internalized oppression and your own racism. So as we celebrate our African American “black history” events, let’s recognize that we all make up that “dream.”

February is for Black History Month, and if I were in Fresno I would be busy at Fresno City College (FCC) preparing to put up the AfriKa tent, a legacy I left to the college. Vendors sell and display Black art, artifacts displayed under the Afrika tent, food, music and fellowship pan-African style. Specific classes are invited to be held outside the tent to remind us that many of our children in Africa and in parts of the Caribbean do not attend school.

My goal always was to create a pan-African atmosphere where all cultures come in and celebrate our rich Black heritage. My women’s studies class participated by putting up the Afrika tent the evening before the celebration, and we turned this exercise into a teachable moment. My students would learn about the various roles of women within the African family and their communities and the significance of the colors in the Kenta cloth used to wrap the tent.

In fact, I invite you to go to YouTube to watch the FCC African Fashion show, with my women studies class. This classroom activity involved all students, male/females, multi-diverse/multi cultured/multi-ethnic. My tent (even thought I’d get criticism from some of my African American colleagues for making it “pan African”) was a display of our rich culture and celebrations. We included spoken word and roots reggae music.

For some folks reading this article, you may question my philosophy and my own child rearing because of my imparting a strong Jamaican cultural foundation even though I live in the United States. But today, no matter where my children go in the world, they don’t stray too far from their Jamaican “roots.”

I am proud that I have given this country two African-American children, whom we jokingly call “Ja-Mericans.” They were intentionally raised within strong Jamaican cultural rituals supported by other Jamaican families to reinforce their primary and secondary cultures. I am proud that their father and I were successful in transmitting our strong Caribbean culture to them. My grandchildren are beneficiaries of this rich Jamaican heritage and a global world.

America, don’t devalue me because I value my culture! Embrace me. This is why I lovingly correct my Caucasian brothers and sisters who say to me “I don’t see color Jean whenever I engage with you” because for you to say that is to say I am invisible. I am a Black Woman, and I’m not invisible.

I’ve also witnessed Black colleagues of mine in public forums say “not to allow foreign Blacks to come in and tell us African Americans what to do.” Now only a person suffering from their own internalized oppression from racism would say something like that. After all, we all started out from the mother land; I just got dropped off at a different port. I am a Jamaican simply because my ship stopped in the West Indies.

So this month, embrace our rich heritage, celebrate and do not hate.

Dr. Jean Kennedy
Atlanta, Ga.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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