Thursday, November 8, 2018

Election Day (Ann)

The midterm elections happened two days ago, and we've all been getting letters, ads, and text messages about how important it is to vote. For a lot of us young, privileged folks, its easy to forget that the right to vote was hard won. Women's Suffrage in the United States of America only started in 1920. Black Men were legally granted the vote in 1863, but Jim Crow laws were soon put into place to keep them from voting. These practices weren't made explicitly illegal until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During World War II, several German and Japanese Americans were stripped of their citizenship and shipped to internment camps. Even the concept of people voting for an elected official is fairly modern, considering that was one of the first rules established in the United States' government after centuries of rule under the English Royal family. Voter suppression has become more overt over the past few years as well, and permanent residents--who cannot vote--are particularly vulnerable to the whims of our government.

You may disagree on how much influence one person's vote can have, but you must always remember how hard everyone fought to get that right, and how hard we fight now to maintain it. In honor of that, I'm posting this story about an older bud's fateful meeting with a future elected official.
Ann Von Dehsen
The Summer of ‘69

In 1969, I had graduated from high school and my sister had graduated from college. My parents made the decision to downsize and move from our house to an apartment. We lived in Harrington Park, NJ, an upper middle class suburb of New York City. Harrington Park had a lot of trees, a lot of leaves, and a lot of white people. In fact, it had only white people. So the house was put on the market and sold in a matter of days. Hours after hearing the good news, my father got another call from the realtor who was close to tears. “I’m so sorry Mr. Von Dehsen,” she said, “but your house was actually sold to a black family!” She said she had told the family there had been a mistake and the house was sold.
Housing discrimination was at its worst in those days and people often worked with civil rights organizations and ACLU members. Often a white couple was sent in, to look at a house, representing a black family. This is apparently what had happened. My father was furious, but for all the right reasons. “First of all, call the family back and tell them the truth” – the house was not sold and he happily accepted their offer. At this point, he was screaming and said “Furthermore, you and your agency are fired!” I was always proud of my father but to me, that was his proudest moment.
My parents told our immediate neighbors who were supportive and looked forward to meeting them. However, word spread quickly through town and we started receiving horrible racist phone calls from unknown people. It got so bad that my sister and I were no longer allowed to answer the phone.
Meanwhile, my father invited the buyers over as well as the neighbors. They arrived with a baby and toddler in tow. Their last name was Booker and the baby’s name was Cory, the current senator of New Jersey.
Years later, my father proudly followed Cory’s career when he became Mayor of Newark and was able to right so many wrongs. At one point, my father said, “I predict Cory will be the first black president.” Of course we know that didn’t happen and my father is long gone, but I hope Cory Booker will become the next black president. When that happens, my sister and I plan on making a trip to the White House.

I hope everyone reading this went out and did their civic duty on Tuesday. And I hope you'll all continue to do so in every election to come.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Halloween and Día de Muertos (José and Ann)

Wednesday was Halloween and the start of Día de Meurtos, and this year we’re getting in the spirit of both. At last Thursday’s workshop, older bud Ann brought in fresh-baked Nestle Tollhouse Monster Mash Cookies. Originally, she was going to bring in Nestle Slice-and-Bake cookies because she wrote about how great they were for Halloween Parties on a time crunch. But the Monster Mash came pre-sliced, which saved her even more time!

This will probably be our first year celebrating Día de Muertos, since this is the first year we’ve had an older bud who celebrated it, José. In the spirit of the holiday, here’s are stories from our late older buds:

In Memory of Arthur 1
In Memory of Arthur 2
In Memory of Arthur 3
In Memory of Miss Mo
In Memory of Gloria and Aileen
In Memory of Gogo
In Memory of Bernice and Helen
In Memory of Hattie

And to close up the post, here are some stories from the land of the living.
José Dominguez
Don’t Mess With Witches

Many years ago in CO Juarez Chihuahua, a friend of mine asked me for a ride and I said "OK." When we were moving, I asked him, "Where are we going."
"To see Simonita, a witch. I need help. I can’t find work." Well, he did not like to work so I knew what the problem was.
So we arrived at a small house near the border of Texas in the top of one small hill. Simonita, the witch, asked to sit down and we did. Then she focused on me and asked "Carlitos. Do you believe in my job? Do you believe in me?"
I answered, "I respect you as a person, but I don’t believe in your powers." So she told me in a soft
but commanding voice, "Please wait outside." So I did.
After some minutes, Miguel, my friend came out smiling and told me: "Carlitos, Simonita wants to speak to you." Again, she invited me to sit and asked, "So you do not believe in me?" (I knew that my answer had to be short, cautious, and simple to not complicate the case.)
"No, I do not, but my respect to you is always present."
She stared firmly on me and with soft force told me: "Carlitos, I am going to do something to you so you will believe in me." (Oops, I thought, I don’t want any problems and she is offended.)
I answered, "Simonita, I respect you but there is no problem to believe that you are a different person and you can influence people."She did not say anything and I went out at last.
So if you don’t believe in witches, please don’t mess with them, it can be dangerous for your health.

Ann Von Dehsen
A Halloween Story

When my children were in elementary school, we lived in a small town outside of Media, Halloween was a big deal in this area, capped off by a large parade through downtown Media.
In my neighborhood, there was a group of wealthy, stay-at-home moms. They spent their days decorating their perfect homes in Halloween splendor, sewing elaborate costumes for their perfect children and baking from scratch, perfect Halloween cookies and pies. We called them “the ladies who lunched club.” I, however, belonged to the smaller “ladies who worked club.” Our club soon discovered that black and orange paper chains looked just as good as fancy pumpkin lights, that Pillsbury slice and bake pumpkin cookies were a God send, and that Sara Lee made one hell of a good pumpkin pie!
We also became quite adept at turning cardboard boxes into imaginative costumes. My personal best was a haunted house with a hole at the top for my daughter’s head and two holes at the sides for her arms. The box was spray-painted black with cut-out open and shut windows and doors behind which were cotton ball cobwebs. My daughters arms were each covered with white socks – with a ghost face drawn on the top so ghost could come flying out of the side-windows at any time. One year, one of the ladies who lunched hosted a very nice family Halloween party. Both children and adults were to wear costumes. I went as the Bride of Frankenstein since it was easy and not much of a stretch during that time of my life.
I wore a long black dress, used green and black face paint, teased out my hair and used baby powder to turn it white. There was a little girl, Chiara, at the party who was a friend of my daughters. I think they were both about 8 years old. She was very interested in my make up so I told her about using baby powder and black eyeliner. It was a nice party and of course I went home and scrubbed my face and washed my hair. A few days later, Chiara came over to play with my daughter. I noticed she kept staring at me. Finally she said, “Mrs. Walls, you didn’t wash all the powder out of your hair.” Then she got closer and said, “And you still have black circles under your eyes!” That was the day that I bought my first box of hair color and tube concealer.

If you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter, feel free to leave some virtual Monster Mash cookies in the comments for our digital ofrenda. Otherwise, send us your stories and comments at Happy Halloween, and Happy Día de Muertos.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri