I have a friend, Valerie Smith, who always makes me happy. Ever since I have known her she has been about truth, justice and diversity. Despite what is going on, she always has a positive note or information that is so outside the box that it makes me smile or ponder why is no one else doing this? If you have not noticed, education is very important to me. Knowledge is power even when you are no longer traditionally being educated, there are many opportunities to learn. Please note that being knowledgeable does not mean that you have to agree, it just means that you need to be aware.
Valerie always posts links that educate me or raises my eyebrows. Her recent post was about "A New African American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance” from the The National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s website. There is a temporary gallery located on the second floor of the National Museum of American History at 14th and Constitution Ave., NW, in Washington, DC. The gallery space at American History will feature exhibitions until the museum building is open in 2016.
Another recent post had me thinking about the recent conversations that I have had with AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association regarding memory issues and aging concerns. Valerie posted about a friend having mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. If you have mild cognitive impairment, you may be aware that your memory or mental function has "slipped.” It made me really understand some of the things that I had learned and it personalized the issue more than ever for me.
It made me think about how mindful I need to be when speaking to people or judging them based on their memory of events, circumstances or issues that I may have spoken with them before about. I talk to a lot of people. I try to remember as much as I can but it becomes challenging. I cannot even admit to know what it would feel like to having things “slip” my mind frequently.
On August 3rd as I went to vote my mind went to an article that Valerie recently printed about a new law in Oregon that all eligible voters are registered unless they opt out. Any news that makes it easier to vote is positive news.
In the article that was posted in the Los Angeles Times:
"“This bill is about making government work better, treating citizens as customers and giving them access to the service they expect,” she said Monday. “When someone moves to Oregon, why should they have to fill out multiple forms for multiple agencies? They should be able to complete one form, one time.”
Yes, I agree. Reading her posts, inform and give those who are on her page insight to what can be changed in other states.
Sometimes the information that she posts is so real and disturbing that I must make a note to come back to it because it hurts so much to realize that something so offensive had occurred or is still occurring. Oftentimes in life we get a sugarcoating about how black Americans were treated during medical experimentation. I found it gripping that I even had to deal with this horrifying issue. We more commonly know about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
Her post said, "Read 'Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present' http://amzn.to/1I1CMkG.
The review on amazon.com said, "Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations.”
I was stunned by this. Probably it was my own ignorance or just the idea of not knowing that shocked me. The post was something that most of us do not want to deal with. I felt that if it were coming from Valerie, it was surely something that I needed to know even if I did not want to deal with it at that time. I still have not ordered the book. I feel as though it will be terrifying, hurtful and worse than a midnight horror movie - but it is real and it happened. We tend to feel that as Americans only 'they’ are barbaric. What happens we we as Americans become barbaric? We tend to centralize it to a certain population, race, country, creed or subculture. Possibly history if looked at from a perspective of both sides would be a tool for peace and understanding. I have learned a lot from Valerie. Her love for people astounds me. Her lack of fear of the consequences is a beautiful thing. I learn in the underground classroom of her posts.
When I looked into it some more I was absolutely horrified by what was done. Valerie always seems to educate with grace and encourages me to read what may anger me but need to know. I wonder how many others take this approach to learning.
Teaching has taken a new turn for me and even though she does not know it Valerie has been an integral part of my life through her silent mentoring, broad smile and willingness to share with the universe.
This column was printed in the August 9, 2015 - August 22, 2015 edition.