PROGRAM NOTE: On August 4th, the day started with a workshop presented by Operation Understanding DC (OUDC) to better understand prejudice and stereotypes.The day continued at the Thurgood Marshall Center in the historic Shaw community of Washington with a closer examination of historic and current issues affecting the African American community. Speakers included Rock Newman, Ronald Hampton, and the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop.
Today we spoke about prejudice and racism here in the United States. It was very powerful being in front of Rock Newman during his speech. He told the truth behind how the Police today even have bias for whites and blacks. Mr. Newman also treated us to soul food which was delicious. We had macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, and BBQ meatballs. It was very delicious and at the same time while eating I consumed this knowledge of truth that prejudice still exists in America.
Out of all the talks, people and workshops we had interacted with today, what stood out most was Rock Newman`s discussion. The reason for this was the way he influenced the audience, his strong and magical words surged into each of us like a gush of wind. Because the words and his tone were full of determination and powerful legitimacy, I was initially moved and awe-stricken just by his presence. What he had expressed was the corrupt nation of the United States, which ‘everyone is equal and that people regardless of their skin color or size are treated equal’. He told stories of his past where he dealt with racial discrimination that proved opposite. He said everyone should be treated with mutual respect and dignity. I hope to pass on his courageous story to other people.
I’d like to write about the Free Minds Book Club. I was impressed by them strongly because of their ways and thought and operation.
There are a lot of people who are in prison because they did something illegal. Most people, including me, tend to avoid communicating with the criminals. It’s a very natural thing but also a serious issue we need to tackle. Usually, we only see issues that are broadcasted widely like 3/11 tsunami or 9/11 terrorists attack. However there are various issues that are needed to be solved in our society.
Free Minds Book Club is an organization which focuses on such issues and is now helping lots of people. We met Major who was a participant in Free Minds when he was in prison. He was not so sensitive and talkable but his stories he did share were very powerful. He also shared his poem on how he appreciates woman. Books also have significant meanings to help people get other perspectives and knowledge especially while they’re in prison.
I recognized that there are issues we are expected to consider that are surrounding us. Also we have to try to solve them in an effective way. Probably the whole procedure and solution to many of these problems is the social entrepreneurship. Free Minds is a really good example.
Things are busy and were kind of overwhelming for me today, though we are just starting the DC part of this program. In the morning, I have got two biographies and pictures two men we were to meet. One was a white man and the other one was a black man. Later it turned out my hypothesis and assumptions were not correct, but at that time, that is what I really thought. As I read the biographies I even thought “isn’t it hard for a white man to criticize the discrimination made by white man even though he knows it was a terrible thing?” In conclusion, both men I read about were black man and I was surprised.
One of them was Rock Newman who doesn’t seem like a black man at all. He had white skin, and also blue eyes. Even if I was not Asian, I would think even Americans would see Mr. Newman and think he was white. He told us his story of struggle of looking white although he is actually considered and categorized as a black man. Even though Barack Obama has been a president and there seems to be no discrimination or prejudice that exists between black and white persons, there are still some in people’s minds. Before Obama and earlier in time there was more discrimination between blacks and white as one could easily guess. And I think Mr. Newman had experienced what he didn’t need to experience. For example, he said a lot of whites talked to him making fun of black people or criticize black people since they thought he was a white man which would never happen if he looked like a black man. Since he is a black man, and since he chooses to live as a black man, and since he decided to fight for black men, he had to face these criticisms he didn’t have to face. As I just mentioned he didn’t use his “advantage” of looking like a white man at all in the time of segregation and prejudice. I was just surprised and amazed by his courage and power which makes this United States keeps succeeding with DIVERSE SOCIETY.
Today was a lot of work on defying and understanding stereotypes and their power. The main lesson I took from OUDC, Free Minds, and the Rock and Ron conversations was that you cannot let stereotypes define you or anyone else. Stereotypes, whether positive or negative, leave you never able to understand the person for who they are. We cannot get rid of stereotypes, and we cannot just pretend they don’t exist. But instead, we can know they exist, and get to know the person for who they really are rather than your first impression. And I think that’s a really powerful lesson.
Today was very interesting, especially because we met in the Thurgood Marshall building in the U St neighborhood. I didn’t know this building even exists and I live in the same neighborhood! It proves that many young people don’t value the historical landmarks in our city or are just ignorant to their existence. During our meeting we got the privilege to meet and listen to Rock Newman. He made so many strong points about prejudices and racism back in the day. But the passion in Newman’s voice made his words even powerful. He was my favorite speaker of the day.
Today we met a lot of new people who were so powerful that I had to form new perspectives inside me. We met Rock, who told us about his past, how black people have been treated, and how they are still treated now. His stories of prejudice against him were painful and powerful to hear. If I am to change the world somehow, I think I would have to be like Rock, to be able to even sacrifice yourself to save someone.
Today we went to Thurgood Marshall Center and listened to many stories. First story was from Rock Newman, who looks like a white person but is an African American. He told us his experience and it was very fearful. Also he talked about media. When news told about some crime, those criminals are mostly black people. News doesn’t report about white criminals as much a black criminal. This is why people’s image of black is bad. I thought mass media is fearful. Mass media can create people’s mind. Media have to report untold news. And we have to think of information we receive and question it.
Also, this is not related to today’s meetings but I want to share about some things I observed while walking in DC. In DC, there are many garbage cans on the street and we can dump trash easily. Actually, Dusan told me that this is one of his favorite points of DC. I think so too. In Japan, we cannot find garbage cans easily outside so usually we have to find stores and parks, which have garbage cans, or bring the trash back to our homes after carrying it all day. Maybe this is a reason that there is so much trash on the streets of Japan. I don’t understand why Japan doesn’t do the same system of DC or how DC can set garbage cans in so many place. I can’t grasp this as just “difference” and thought this is one of worse point of Japan. I wish I could change Japanese garbage system.
Dealing with stereotypes is a way of life for many of the people on Earth, but so rarely do I hear it brought up in a serious fashion by those around me. Yet when it is, it’s something worth listening to, and today was no different. We heard a variety of narratives, but the one that truly stuck with me was the narrative of Major, a man who had recently been free from jail after six years confined. His style of talking held a lifetime of pain and conflict in it, talking that took thought to communicate effectively, talking that began in his growth.
Some of the common stereotypes of a black man are that he is uneducated, lazy, and destined for prison. For Major, some of these stereotypes, it seemed, were a cruel way of life created by people simply not caring enough to stop this cycle. He was most definitely not lazy, but he was illiterate for a time and committed crimes out of simple necessity. After all, what would you do if you were hungry — no, starving — and out of options? Exactly. To sum it up in short, this was a way of life for a time, because no one cared. No one was there to redirect Major down a good path in his childhood, no one was there to help him grow, no one was there to allow him to not turn to that life — not until he reached Free Minds, people who cared, people who were consistent.
Nobody was trying to help, and stereotypes were only bars that kept him locked in. In society, we cannot understand anyone until we go beyond their face value. It’s easy to stop at someone’s face and define them off that alone, but that opens the floodgates for more misconceptions to grow, more bigotry to grow, more people to just disregard it. Because we took the time to understand Major, we’ve begun to acknowledge and break down our stereotypes, in turn breaking down ignorance. As Global citizens, that is a coming skill needed. As citizens of our community though? I believe now, more than ever, that the capacity to truly understand another, to empathize, is an obligation. It all starts with little steps, after all. So, until next broadcast.
Today we were able to learn many stories about how the color of your skin could completely change your life. Major, who was taught to steal to live, told us about his eight years he spent in jail and his thoughts about what he did in the past. I was surprised when he said he didn’t regret what he did. He felt in a way thankful for his experiences because he was able to learn many things from them and is currently writing strong, powerful poems to express his thoughts and feelings.
I felt like the discussions we had with Rock Newman today was one the most outstanding moments of the day. Newman talked about his experiences during his childhood dealing with being racially defined as black yet not exactly physically appearing it to others. I think that was a really important topic to bring up because a lot of the time people tend to write off the narratives of multiracial people in this country.
Today, we talked about stereotypes and the African-American experience in the United States. I think this is the first time that I felt invested in because I completely understood it. It feels nice being able to hear the experiences of people directly from their own mouths and not through an interpreter. No offense to interpreters, but having to hear someone else’s words reiterated back through a different language and a different person kind of depreciates the experience of listening to others’ stories for me…