One Question after Watching 42

courage at bat 42He rubbed red clay between is hands when he stepped up to the plate.

No matter what they threw at him–racial slurs, death threats, or fast balls to the head–Jackie Robinson stepped up to the plate over and over again until he changed this country.

While most images of the Civil Rights Movement (which started nearly a decade after Robinson’s debut in the International League) show groups, often crowds of blacks marching, sitting in, picketing, and boycotting together, every day Jackie Robinson had to go alone, out there in the open arena, exposed to the world, one black man in the white field of Major League Baseball.

Though Jackie Robinson played the star role, a whole cast of characters also stepped up to the plate to help him round the bases, so to speak. This was, after all, much bigger than him, and it was way more than just a baseball game.

Rachel Robinson

First, I applaud the brilliant, on-screen display of love and friendship, passion and partnership between Jackie and his wife Rachel.

It’s by far one of the best depictions of a black couple in mainstream Hollywood, partly because their marriage is so central to the story, as it obviously was in real life.

At every home game, Jackie looked to the stands to find his wife. One smile, one gesture between them communicated more than other spectators could ever know.

She could’ve tried to talk him out of it. Told him that he was putting his son’s life at risk. Said she was tired of fighting alongside him. Complained that it was just baseball, just a silly game. She could’ve broken down. She could’ve left him.

Instead, she stepped up to the plate.

I’m sure she had her fears. Some of the death threats were serious enough to get the FBI involved. And of course there were the injuries on the field, intentional throws at Jackie’s head, but she never wavered.

Branch Rickey

The Dodgers General Manager, Branch Rickey, may not be a household name for the majority of us, but his role is undeniable.

He displayed the kind of courage I wish more whites had displayed throughout history. He didn’t wait for an opportunity to change baseball and ultimately the country, because he knew that the opportunity would never come. Someone had to actively create the opportunity to fight injustice.

He could have died saying I wish baseball was an integrated sport, but instead of wishing it, he made it happen.

Rickey gave more than the usual passive “support” for blacks. He did more than merely “not doing harm.” He did more than merely comforting himself with the notion that he would have signed a black player if he’d only had the chance. He did more than sympathize and feel bad about the whole thing.

Whether his motive was money, guilt, or fear of what God might say on judgment day, Branch Rickey took unequivocal, decisive action to integrate professional baseball.

We’ll never know if there was another player that Rickey could’ve called on that had both the skill and the courage to take on the challenge of single handedly integrating the entire sport of professional baseball, America’s most beloved sport, but we should rejoice that there was Jack Robinson.

I do. I marvel at the perfect alignment of Rickey’s determination with Robinson’s will and Robinson’s mental and physical preparedness. It was, as we say, perfect timing.

The “Team”

There were players who preferred to be traded rather than play with Robinson. Others remained with the Dodgers but never accepted him as a teammate.

But there were some players who seized the opportunity to prove themselves to be better men, and they were a better team for it.

There were many others, on and off the team, depicted in the film and not, who stepped in one way or another, like the sports writer Wendell Smith.

The Film

The first important thing about history is that it happened. The second important thing is that we remember it. Third, we must learn from it.

Foolish people insist that we forget the past in order to live in the present and move forward to the future. But it’s our past that got us to where we are in the present, and if we want a brighter future, we must learn from that past.

So, thank you to Brian Helgeland and the entire crew, to all of the actors, especially Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie, and Harrison Ford.

I read a commentary that said that 42 might be a little old fashioned and safe for some audiences. It definitely lacks the firestorm of debate that surrounded Django Unchained, even though 42 does use its fair share of the “N” word. And In terms of its depiction of black characters, 42 infinitely outshines movies like The Blind Side.

I think the cast and crew of 42 definitely stepped up to the plate on this one and possibly hit it out of the park.

Now You

After watching the film twice so far, once with my siblings, and a second time with my mother, our initial reaction to some of the scenes was: This still happens!

There’s a line in the movie that sounds like something Rush Limbaugh would say: “This ain’t the America I know!”

It may not be in the field of baseball, but we all need to step up to the plate when it comes to carrying the torch for racial equality and justice.

We all have a role to play.

So I leave you with one question that Jackie Robinson’s character asks the Pittsburgh pitcher and ultimately asks himself at the end of the movie:

What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid to talk about racism because it’s so passé?

Is it too taboo in your circle of post-racial friendships?

Will it make you seem uncool or too uptight?

Will you alienate yourself from your family?

Are you scared that you’ll come out looking like the bad guy or the victim?

Is it too painful? Too frustrating? Too complicated?

Well, a bad thing won’t go away simply because you refuse to talk about it.

You have to have the courage to confront it.

What are you afraid of?

6 Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Courageous Content

facebook thumbs up like button for courageousThe best part about social media is that we get to interact with people.

And when we interact with people, we learn a lot.

My interactions on Facebook in particular have taught me a few things about the difference  between merely updating my status with my vacation plans, and posting what I call courageous content.

Here are six basic lessons I’ve gleaned from Facebook comments and messages.

1. You get some love.

 

When you publish courageous content, it’s as though people were subconsciously waiting to hear from you.

You might get the sense that you’ve finally said the words they’ve always wanted to say but were too afraid or just didn’t know how to articulate.

Perhaps they have said the same thing before and are just so relieved to discover someone else who understands where they’re coming from.

People open up and tell you stories about their childhood and their parents, their fears and their dreams, and it’s obvious that they want to get something off their chests.

Your courageous content opens the gate for them.

You’ll get loads of thanks and praise and more thanks.

Savor those moments. Maybe even take screenshots of it all and keep an encouragement file on your desktop.

Because just as you get some love . . .

2. You get some hate.

 

When you reach the core of the Earth, things get heated.

By its very nature, courageous content elicits strong feelings.

Not all of them are positive.

It doesn’t even matter if your content is overtly controversial or not.

Don’t assume that the only people who get hate comments are the ones who are trying to pick a fight.

Anything you publish could potentially get under people’s skin and drive them to leave angry comments on your wall. Anything.

But that’s part of what makes the content so courageous–you’re willing to face the insults, boldly holding up your testament before the mob.

When I find myself getting down about the haters, I think of contemporary success stories like Oprah, Obama, and Beyonce. These people have billions of adoring fans, but for every person who loves them, there’s one or two who can’t stand them.

Love and hate are the yin and yang of living a public life. Embrace it.

If you let the fear of hate keep you from doing what you most want to do, then you’ve just surrendered your life to the people who least deserve it.

3. Courageous Content reveals who your real “friends” are.

 

Really, Facebook taught me the importance of having a Facebook page, rather than just using my personal profile to promote my work.

My personal profile is filled with “friends” who know me, but don’t necessarily fit into my target audience. Therefore, my content isn’t always meant for them.

When I post on my professional page, however, I’m targeting people who might actually be happy to discover what I post.

I’ve learned the hard way that personal and professional don’t always mix.

So, if you cherish the Facebook friendships on your personal profile, create a separate page for publishing all of that courageous content you’re creating.

I didn’t separate the two because I was afraid to let friends see my content; I separated them because I don’t have time to explain myself to people who just don’t get it and never will.

Now I can spend my energy engaging people who are happy to be engaged.

4. Not everyone cares.

 

While some people will have strong reactions to your content, others simply aren’t interested because of your topic.

It goes back to that target audience thing we all keep hearing about. If you talk about courageous parenting, then people who aren’t interested in parenting most likely won’t even raise an eyebrow, much less click on a link.

5. It’s easier to like, share, and comment on courageous content than it is to create and publish it. 

 

But somebody’s got to do it. It might as well be you.

That way, people who aren’t interested in creating the content, can still support and spread ideas that they believe in.

6. Continue the conversation. 

 

Practically speaking, you should repost older content simply because most people didn’t see it the first time. Even if you only write or speak about a subject once, you should re-share it multiple times so that more people can find it.

But there’s usually a way and a reason to create new content as well.

Courageous content is often dynamic and complex with lots of nodes to unpack and knots to untangle.

Just when you think you’ve said enough about an issue, people will start to ask for more.

Sometimes you manage to get through those initial discussions about a difficult issue because the initial discussions are clichéd, merely repetitions of what everyone’s okay with saying.

But it takes even more courage to stick with the conversation, even after all the hate has been spewed.

You have to find even more courage to dig and probe all around and within the issue, all around and within yourself.

So . . .

What have your interactions on social media taught you about publishing content?

Show Me How to Be Courageous: Angela’s Legacy

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Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous The struggle would be difficult, but there was already a hint of victory. In the heavy silence of the jail, I discovered that if I concentrated hard enough, I could hear echoes of slogans being chanted on the other side of the walls. ‘Free Angela Davis.’ ‘Free All Political Prisoners.’ -Angela Davis: An Autobiography, 1974

April 5 is the debut of the documentary film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited that the world can once again be inspired by Angela Davis’s courageous story.

Those who were alive in the 70’s may have forgotten. Those of us who weren’t alive at the time may have have never known.

Indeed, we’ve done a poor job of retelling Angela’s story in our ongoing distribution of American history.

She rarely gets more than a blip in a montage, as if merely showing her face, fro, and fist is enough to convey the gist of her legendary life.

Too many of us, however, aren’t clear about the story beyond these images.

For me, of course, the most resonant theme in her story is courage.

Outside in the open, entangled in my grief and anger was also fear. A plain and simple fear so overwhelming, and so elemental that the only thing I could compare it to was that sense of engulfment I used to feel as a child when I was left alone in the dark. . . . Images of attack kept flashing into my mind, but they were not abstract–they were clear pictures of machine guns breaking out of the darkness, surrounding Helen and me, unleashing fire . . . -AD

Though most of us will never be one of America’s most wanted, Angela’s story can teach us all how to be courageous.

In fact, there’d be no documentary, no story to tell, had Angela not lived courageously in her everyday life, long before the criminal charges or the ensuing manhunt and trial.

One thing I hope Free Angela reveals is that while Angela Davis’s imprisonment and trial is perhaps the more sensational and infamous part of her story, all along, every day of her life, then and now, Angela is a role model for having the courage to think, speak, act, and be revolutionary.

The Courage to Think

I’ve seen the fear in my students . . . the fear of pursuing an education, the fear that it’s not meant for them, not part of their inheritance.

Then there’s the fear of the responsibility that comes with learning.

The fear of what truths may be uncovered if we allow ourselves to follow a thought process through its entire cycle.

As a student and professor of philosophy, Angela Davis embraced the power of thinking . . . of not only learning the thoughts of others, but in having new and original thoughts of one’s own.

She not only had the courage to hold and mold deep thoughts in her mind, she also had the courage to spread them.

The Courage to Speak

We keep silent for fear of exposing our true thoughts.

We keep silent because others have told us we should, told us to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

We’re wordless because we think our words are worthless.

Angela’s example shows us that our words are sometimes the greatest gift we can give to the world, and that we should say what must be said even as others try to silence us.

She shows us that words can save souls, save lives, and stoke revolutionary fires.

The Courage to Act

Nothing in the world made me angrier than inaction, than silence. The refusal or inability to do something, say something when a thing needed doing or saying, was unbearable. The watchers, the head shakers, the back turners made my skin prickle. -AD

Organizing, voting, rallying, marching, visiting, feeding, housing, leading . . .

Some of the greatest words are action verbs.

The beautiful thing about Angela is that she lived among the people, not segregated within her words or intellectual world.

She was a physical presence in the struggle for freedom and justice for all.

She gave her life:

For me revolution was never an interim ‘thing to do’ before settling down; it was no fashionable club with newly minted jargon, or new kind of social life–made thrilling by risk and confrontation, made glamorous by costume. Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime. -AD

The Courage to Be

Angela thought, spoke, and acted while being a black women in a world that says blacks can’t think, that women shouldn’t speak, and that any actions by either group to take control of their lives is an automatic threat to society.

She was proud to be black, and she was empowered in her womanhood even in a society that overtly tried to suppress black pride and women’s empowerment.

That’s revolutionary.

By merely being herself, Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous.

This post is a submission in the Black Bloggers Connect contest.

Get your tickets to the New Orleans Area Screening of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners!

 

 

How Quitting Was the Most Courageous Lesson I Ever Taught

courageous lesson

“Fear keeps your achievements unrealized, hidden from yourself and the world. Love will set them free.” –Ralph Marston

My last 6 posts have partly told the story of what gave me the courage to quit my full-time high school teaching job so that I could write full-time.

To put that story into perspective and hopefully illustrate why I had to leave, I want you to read something I wrote after my first year of teaching.

7 Truths of Teaching and Learning

 

“Are you afraid?”

That’s the question I was asked when first interviewing for the Louisiana Teaching Fellows program. A wonderful principal asked me this because the program recruited teachers for the “toughest inner city schools” in Baton Rouge.

I never even thought to be afraid. Afraid of what? That question could be answered in two ways.

I could potentially be afraid of my self—doubting my abilities, feeling unworthy of the task, etc.

I’m sure, though, she wanted to know if I was afraid of teaching “those kids” who are often perceived as loud, ghetto, uncontrollable, violent, dangerous, and… unteachable.

It never occurred to me to be scared because I was too busy loving. I’m kin to my students. I am my students.

I had tea today with a couple who went through the teaching program with me, so teaching has been on my mind. I hiked a steep learning curve my first year, but here are some truths I’ve picked up along the way from personal experience, fellow teachers, books, and most I already knew from the life I lived before teaching.

1) “Fear keeps [my students’] achievements unrealized, hidden from [everyone]. Love will set them free.”

2) Students sense fear. When they act out in response to our fear of them, it’s probably to inflict pain similar to the pain they feel knowing that someone feared them without even knowing them. Also, they’ll take being feared over being threatened. Society has taught them that those who are feared stand a better chance of survival.

3) Every child is beautiful and BRILLIANT!!! But most importantly, they need to know it, and they need to know that I know it.

4) There’s no such thing as a student who “just doesn’t want to learn.” Students may not want to learn what we want to teach them, but they want to learn something.

5) I must be a student of my students, learning ways to best serve them. Teaching is not about me, so I scale my ego down to size. Teaching is not about my subject, so I dismiss the notion of sacred texts. No book, no curriculum, no standard could ever trump the sacredness of my children’s humanity.

6) I must love my students for who they are right now rather than for who formal education conditions them to be. I mustn’t tell them they can be somebody some day. I must show them they are somebody right now. Even if they have tattoos, gold teeth, or purple hair. Yes, even those things make them special.

7) The world cannot afford to lose out on my students. The world needs each of them to be productive citizens who know, live, and share their value daily.

Teaching and learning is not about fear; it’s about loving.

So, the final question I asked myself before realizing that quitting would be the most courageous lesson I could teach to the students I loved, was this: How can I lecture to my students about going after their dreams, when I’ve never even attempted to go after my own?

Should You Quit Your Job?

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