Excuse me, are you listening? 9-20
Sunday, October 24, 2010

 Dear Readers,

Yes, it has been some time since I have written an “Excuse me, Are You Listening?” column.  For my new readers, I welcome you to experience my brain.  I am grateful that I can take a break from writing and then come back.  Entrepreneurship is great because you can take a break.  For my loyal readers, I have missed you immensely.  I guess I needed to be at peace before I moved into my next space. My mother who was in a serious accident last year was in Michigan when I wrote this column.
I first became aware of Cesar Chavez during a lettuce strike he called in California when I was a child living in Brooklyn, New York.  I remember my immigrant mother telling me that while we may not have been born in this country... this is our country and there will be no lettuce in our home until the boycott is over.  The labor movement was in my blood before I ever really knew what it was.  I did not really understand its impact until I moved to Michigan.
I can still smell the pungent odor of fruits and vegetables and intermingled with the smell of fresh fish.  We were at the farmers market in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn.  It was and still is a heavily Jewish populated area.  We have always had farmers markets in New York.  Our bodegas (stores) always sold fruit and vegetables.
I remember her smooth peachy brown hand gripping the lettuce and twisting her wrist as though she had the world in her hands.  Her slim hands came together as she gripped the lettuce like a basketball and she put it back down… gently. Her bracelets jangled like bells tolling for justice.  I remember so vividly because I thought she was going to smash the lettuce down.  Her lips were pursed like they became before a scolding.  I had never seen her do that to an object, let alone a head of lettuce.  I thought who ever this Cesar Chavez was he sure does not want to mess with my mother right now. I did not understand either when I was young and my mother did not either.
The immigrants in the United States were fighting for something and the West Coast connected with the East Coast in solidarity during that time.  Immigrants and labor supporters all over the nation were foregoing salads and lettuce on their sandwiches.  I still remember looking into her eyes and now know she did not fully understand what significance she had on me that day.  I love her so.  My little hand clasped her hers as we proudly walked through the market gathering the rest of the items.
My love of different cultures comes from her.  She did not teach us to discriminate against people based on race, color or creed.  I instill that in my children today.  I realize that any comment that I make will be seared into the minds of the little ones who look up to me.
I wonder if it is the same in your family.  Do your best to try to experience other cultures. If you know someone who is from a different culture, just ask them.  Try to visit different places with them, it is like going on vacation and knowing a personal friend in the country that you are visiting.  
You will find that the “other” people are just like you.  Inaccurate portrayals with begin to diminish and distorted views will become more focused.  No excuses. We are all going to have to live in this world and it should be peacefully and with understanding and respect.
Rina Risper
This column was printed in the October 24, 2010 - November 6, 2010 edition.

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