Restoring American values
On Art That Confronts and Challenges Racism
Art can often be one of the most powerful forms of protest and self-expression. From the music of Nina Simone to the words of James Baldwin, there is much to be learned through the songs and writings of African American artists. This week, I (Stella) watched “13th,” a Netflix documentary by Ava DuVernay, which highlights the systemic criminalization of black people in the US. I’m also watching “When They See Us,” Netflix mini-series also by DuVernay, on the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger case, which led to the false accusation and incarceration of five young men of color. As painful as it is to watch, it felt necessary. And I’m grateful for the artists that have created in the past and those who are creating now. In this piece, a group of NYTimes contributors gather a helpful list of books, films, documentaries, music, and paintings that shed light on the history of racism and suffering in America. The first step towards healing is understanding. Listen, watch, and learn. New York Times.
On Growing up Black in America
Growing up in America is not the same for everyone. If you are a person of color, your experience will be different from your neighbor who is white, and vice versa. Poet and educator Clint Smith shares his experience growing up as a black child in America. He reflects on the cautions and measures his parents took to keep him safe, measures that as a child he found hard to understand. “I think of how hard it must have been, how profoundly unfair it must have felt, for them to feel like they had to strip away parts of my childhood, just so I can come home at night.” Listen to Clint’s heartfelt talk, and imagine just how different your childhood would have been if you grew up with a different skin color than your own. Think about how your parents must have felt. And perhaps still feel today. Really let that sink in with you. TED Talk (5 min)
On Restoring America and American Values
As a child of Egyptian immigrants born and raised in the US, I’ve had many freedoms and opportunities that my parents did not have growing up. Many of us are too caught up with living out the “American Dream” to take the time to fully appreciate our country’s ugly history and many of the ways those histories are still at play today. I recently came across this powerful poem by Langston Hughes, titled “Let America be America Again.” It seems especially relevant today and forced me to think about my place and identity in the American story. It begins like this:
“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)”
Read the full poem here.