Saturday, January 31, 2015

Come Celebrate Black History Month

Black History Month is around the corner, and our seniors are thinking it would be a nice occasion to see those of you in Philly and read out loud some recent stories on the theme! It's the first time we have put on an event at the 1-2pm lunchtime slot - hope you can plan to take a longer lunch break on February 26 and spend the hour with us. We promise we'll send you back to work refreshed and inspired. Start inviting your colleagues!
Want to help spread the word? Take a second to print/share this flyer. Thanks!

Monday, January 19, 2015

From Black and White Grits to the Ferguson Events

Race is a touchy topic. But today, in celebration of Martin Luther King Day, I feel like it’s important that we address it.

MLK Day became a really important day for me ever since I began meeting with my senior buds for our weekly storytelling sessions in late 2009. I am a little embarrassed to admit it – but the truth is, as an Asian American, even as a minority, I couldn’t relate to the holiday before, not in my heart. I could only appreciate it from a distance, academically and historically. Hearing my senior buds tell me their experiences changed that. It just so happens that there is a large African American population in downtown Philadelphia where our sessions take place; many of the seniors I spend time with and are proud to call my best friends, are black.

I learned that many of them heard Dr. King speak before he became known. I learned that the struggle for racial equality – specifically the equality of black and whites – was a continuous process defined by everyday moments, not just defined by a single speech. My senior buds were part of the change. They put effort into it. They didn’t just happen to be there. Their college dorm rooms didn’t become desegregated in one day. They put on many protests as students to send a message to the dean, until the school took action.

I also learned that the struggle for racial equality is far from over. Last August, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri reignited nationwide unrest, debates and protests about the state of civil rights today. Sparked by the news, my senior buds and I had some very candid conversations about their own experiences.

So you know what, the topic of race may be touchier than it’s ever been. But here, through stories, among friends, we are not afraid to touch it:

Dr. King Past and Present

Defending and Respecting Dr. Martin Luther King 
Dorm Drama

Different Like Flowers

Black and White Grits

Lives Have Value 

Let's read one more. Here's a recent one by Elliot:

Elliot Doomes
The Herd

I grew up with the “herd” mentality. There was a group of guys – myself included – who used to band together, which gave us camaraderie and protection.

When we left our neighborhood, we had to travel with the herd for individual as well as group protection. I would do just about everything and anything to protect the herd. There was no leader. We were all there for each other. That’s why I call it the herd.

There were many days when I was surrounded by violence and aggression. I have been shot, stabbed and ganged. And there was no police protection for me at that time, especially in certain neighborhoods because they just didn’t care.

I have been told by the police, “I don’t want to see you in this neighborhood.” It was because of my skin color. This was in Philadelphia. This stuff wasn’t just happening in Alabama. For example, I was afraid to go to certain schools and certain parts of the city because of the racial conflicts that were happening at that time. One place in particular – Southern High School at Broad and Snyder – is still there today.

If I had a fight with a white boy at the end of the school day, all his uncles would meet me outside, grown men. My older brother went there so I had to get the herd together to go down there, to make sure he was safe. He was older but I protected him, because he was so outnumbered there. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t actually in a fight. When the men showed up, they were just looking for the first black kid. Just guys, they didn’t bother the girls. Any black guy. They called it setting an example. It worked.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Frances (A Bus Rider on Bus 17)

It’s one week into January and the reality that it’s 2015 is settling in. Do you feel the same way too? As I get back into my personal routines, it’s fun to imagine myself riding Bus 17 with Frances. If we really pay attention, even in the confines of a bus, within the duration of a busride, there is so much to see and hear, so much living and learning to be done. Here’s to all the living and learning that 2015 will bring! Cheers!

Frances Bryce
A Bus Rider on Bus 17

My rides on the 17 bus are sometimes adventures in themselves . . .

I have achieved the best time to avoid the hours that I consider rush hours – between 4 o’clock and 5:30 pm – when the people who have toiled all day are anxious to get home. Also the 3:30 pm when the kids are out of school. Sometimes if I missed those windows I walked further down Market St to be near the beginning of the start of the run on 3rd St – 7th St.

There are some very kind and considerate riders, some senior citizens who have seats in the seats that are in the sections that are designated for seniors, they often will relinquish their seats for others who are in need for medical or physical reasons, and parents with infants. There are sometimes young people occupying these special seats who do not get up when an elderly person enters the bus, but this has been the exception not the norm. The cell phone users are the worst offenders, who carry on a conversation with the other person on the line loud enough for everyone to hear. We are the unintended audience.

One man who had his cane in the aisle, I reminded him that the woman who entered the bus was in peril from his cane, and might fall. He said he didn’t care. To say I was taken aback is not an exaggeration. I responded that she may get hurt, he again said: “I don’t care,” and if I wanted to help someone to go to the areas that need help with many problems. My final remarks were: “I try to be helpful and considerate in whatever area I find myself in.” He mumbled his discontent. I wondered what past or present events in his life had fostered such a non-caring attitude.

One of the great pleasures I have encountered is that some of the bus drivers are so pleasant. One lady driver I don’t see enough of greets every passenger with a smile that overshadows the few unpleasant people. We never know who and how their lives are affected. I thank these public servants who drive us to the many places we go every time I take the bus.

Another tactic is to take the bus to the end of the line in order to get a non-competitive seat. The gift of having a free pass for seniors.