It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I haven’t worked on my podcast, or posted a Song of the Day, even though I was fully intending to. I started recording episode 4 of #smileSays, and took a break because I needed to do some fact checking online. This was on late Monday night, May 25 (early Tuesday morning, May 26). When I went online, this was when I learned:
George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin.
Unless you’ve been in a sensory deprivation tank for the last several weeks, you know what happened next in the world. At that point, I wasn’t in the mood to talk shit about James Bond, Mulan, Scooby Doo, Artemis Fowl and Hamilton. I’ll get that podcast episode up eventually; I promoted it and delivering it is the professional thing to do. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t just sit around doing nothing the last few weeks. May 26 was when the PPE Go-Bag/Food Distribution project I led started, which had already been set up. I did that weekly throughout the month of June. Earlier this week, a COVID-19 test site was set up in the neighborhood, I helped out with crowd control and I intend to continue with that when I am able. Later this month, I will lead a team to reduce food waste by redistributing leftover food and produce from the Union Square Farmers’ Market to those in need as part of the Farm 2 Food Bank project.
I didn’t feel the need to immediately drop everything and go out of my way to overhaul my site to make some kind of statement in support of the idea that
BLACK LIVES MATTER
If you don’t know where I stand on that, you have been ignoring me for at least four decades. Throughout my career as a producer, I created opportunities for people of just about every disenfranchised group you can name: Latins, Blacks, Asians, Indigenous People, People from the LBGTQ+ Community; shit, just about anyone who didn’t fit into the image of what mainstream society considered acceptable was someone whose story I wanted to help them tell, and did when I was able.
In my personal life, I spend time with seniors living in residential health care to improve their quality of life, and I don’t have to stop and frisk random people of color to do that. They have doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to look after their health, but I do various activities with them, like dealing blackjack, running bingo night, transporting them to the auditorium for the occasional dance party and just hanging out and being social. I also work with students in grade school and middle school, mostly in the neighborhood, but also around the city as needed. For the last couple of years, I’ve taught creative writing and public speaking after school during the school year in the neighborhood. In the summer of 2019, I ran both science and physical education projects. I have also worked on Lego Robotics projects at schools in The Bronx and Brooklyn, though I regrettably haven’t been able to follow up on those projects.
When the pandemic began, my projects got shut down. The schools were closed, kids were at home on lockdown. Residential health care facilities limited access to medical personnel and immediate family, which hit me the hardest. Even before George Floyd was murdered, I wasn’t in a 100% good place mentally, because some of my friends may have been killed by COVID-19. Due to privacy laws, I have no idea how many because legally, they aren’t my friends, they’re my clients. I don’t even know when or if I’ll ever see any of them again. I didn’t wallow in misery, because I’m still alive, and rather than bitch and moan, I got back to helping those I could as I soon as I was able. Even before the lockdown restrictions on leaving home were eased, I was on the phone making wellness checks to seniors on behalf of The Actors’ Fund.
I’m not paid to do any of these things. I generally don’t talk about my volunteerism because I’m not doing these things to boost my social media profile or pad my resume. I do them because they need to be done. I’m not writing about it now to boast or big myself up; I’m writing about it now in the hope of encouraging others to take meaningful action in their communities. Less talk, more rock. Black Lives Matter needs to be more than another meaningless platitude, token statement or empty slogan. If all violence and hatred were to magically end tomorrow, what then?
Does Black Education Matter? Does Black Hunger and Homelessness Matter? Does Black Addiction Matter? Does Black Joy Matter? These are hypothetical questions; of course these things matter. Black Lives DO Matter, but it’s important to make the most of those lives. We need to take care of our old people and learn from their life experience. We need to educate our young people so that they have the knowledge and skills to not only make the most of any opportunity presented to them, but also to create opportunity for themselves and others. Rightous indignation can be a powerful force for social change, but we also need to remember and stress the value of compassion, respect for self and others, and the power of strength through unity.
Welcome to the future.