Confronting July 4th: Support the Coalition to Honor Black and Indigenous Activists


My great friend, the activist Anne Maguire, is part of the Coalition to honor black and indigenous activists who have organized a march and rally on July 4th in NYC.

Here is the plan:

“The world appears to be changing very quickly, but of course it isn’t. There are decades (centuries, really) of activism behind the uprising against racism we are witnessing and participating in on our streets. This combustion of energy is the result of years of hard work by activists who never gave up despite the violent racism at the heart of the American system.

Confronting July 4th: Honoring Black and Indigenous Activists is a march and rally to acknowledge and celebrate the organizing of activists. We will march from the east side of Ft. Greene Park in Brooklyn to the Bandshell in Prospect Park. After the march, we will have a rally with speakers, performers and DJs. Celebrating a new way to think about this “Independence Day,” and our future.

July 4th is only days away and we are working hard to make this happen and we need YOUR help.”

Here’s the link to their GoFundMe. Please do whatever you can to help. And if you’re in NYC, join the march and rally!

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white people. do something. (#8) And Happy Bourdain Day!

8. Donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACPSouthern Poverty Law CenterUnited Negro College FundBlack Youth Project 100Color of ChangeThe Sentencing ProjectFamilies against Mandatory MinimumsA New Way of Life, and Dream Defenders. Join some of these list-serves and take action as their emails dictate.

#8 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice is something that I am sure a lot of you are doing already so again an easy one.

June Eric-Udorie.jpg

“This photo—of me in action at the birth yesterday—is one that I’m going to treasure for a long time. Birth never ceases to AMAZE me.” -June Eric-Udorie

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One GoFundMe campaign I came across on a friend’s twitter feed recently that I thought particularly compelling was to fund the education of June Eric-Udorie. She’s an award-winning writer, feminist, activist, and birth doula, who wants to get her Masters in Social Work so she can become a perinatal social worker in order to more effectively help address the gross disparities in pregnancy-related deaths for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women who are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.


Tony Bourdain bronx academy of lettersdownload

Dear to my heart is the NYC public school The Bronx Academy of Letters. The school was also dear to the heart of Tony Bourdain and June 25 is Bourdain Day.  In honor of Tony Bourdain, filmmaker George Motz, who made the documentary Hamburger America, and Allen Katz, co-owner of the New York Distilling Company, will do an instagram Live-stream fundraiser for the Bronx Academy of Letters from 5pm-6pm today @motzburger. For more information, check it out here.



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Happy Juneteenth!

 “No one of us can be free until everyone is free.”

 -Maya Angelou

This year, finally, I have informed myself about Juneteenth. Yes, I know, where have I been? But I am here now. Juneteenth, when the last of the enslaved black population in Galveston, Texas received word that they were officially free, should be a national holiday, as universally celebrated in the U.S. as July 4th. With more advocacy from all of us, we can make that happen. Knowing and embracing our history is crucial to who we are, our historical amnesia, willful or unconscious, our downfall.

Have a great day everyone and here are some links:

What is Juneteenth? From the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture: “Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Though it has long been celebrated among the African American community, it is a history that has been marginalized and still remains largely unknown to the wider public. The legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing in uncertain times. This Museum is a community space where that spirit can continue to live on – where histories like this one can surface, and new stories with equal urgency can be told.”


Here are some more informational links on Junteenth via my sister Joan Sullivan and her colleague Claudia Martinez-Fritzges:

Performance: Juneteenth Celebration at The Greene Space on Friday, June 19 at 7 PM

“This year, we celebrate Juneteenth by highlighting beautiful, urgent and thought-provoking performances and conversations in The Greene Space by Black Americans. We’re revisiting important talks — touching on art and art-making, American history, 21st-century schooling and racial integration, police abuse and much more — and bringing you incredible moments through song, dance and theatre, all curated by our Black staff. Click  JuneteenthNYC Juneteenth March

Featuring: musician Mr. Reed, actor Wendell Pierce, tap dance legend Savion Glover, author Isabel Wilkerson, solitary survivor and organizer Mark Hopkins, writer and activist Sonia Sanchez, founder of Raheem AI Brandon Anderson, reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, ballerina Misty Copeland, Ethel’s Club founder Naj AustinThe Honey Bees Double Dutch Team, author Kiley Reid, jazz and experimental singer Melanie Charles, comedian Ike Ufomadu, composer Damien Sneed, philosopher and public intellectual Cornel West, climate change activist Vic Barrett, rapper Yoh, the Morehouse College Glee Club and Wynton Marsalis & Members of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.”

Documentary Screening free from PBS until July 4 – The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

“In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.  The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.” Click Independent Lens

With special thanks to Anne Maguire.

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white people. do something. (#7)


7. Many companies have recruiting channels that are predominantly white. Work with your HR department to recruit Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans. Recruiting from HBCUs is a good start. Work to put descendants of enslaved Africans already hired under supportive managers.

#7 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice is a really good one that can have tangible results fast. I work in academia, as do many in my family, and this is something that we can advocate for concretely and immediately. In my own case, I am responsible for hiring adjunct faculty for the noncredit program at NYU SPS Center for Applied Liberal Arts, so I can make far greater efforts than I have been. I recently discovered the twitter hashtag #BlackInTheIvory, which I urge everyone to read. The academic experience for Black faculty and students alike is too often horrific.  Furthermore, the shameful truth is that 3% of all U.S. college/university faculty members are black and only 4% of those are tenured. Yet, Black people are 13% of the population. I commit to the goal of having 13% of the noncredit faculty at the Center for Applied Liberal Arts be Black within the next two years.

Recently, I had the great privilege of getting to know Dr. Uché Blackstock, an Emergency Medicine Physician as well as Founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, at NYU when we served on the NYU Women’s Leadership Forum Committee. I was stunned when she told me she was leaving NYU because she felt that the equity and diversity conversation was landing on deaf ears in academia and she felt she could no longer tolerate “a toxic and oppressive work environment that instilled in me fear of retaliation for being vocal about racism and sexism within the institution.” She wrote about exactly why she left NYU here: “Why Black doctors like me are leaving faculty positions in academic medical centers.” It was a terrible loss for NYU medical students, and for the NYU community in general, but her departure points to the fact that not only is hiring more Black faculty essential, creating an environment in which that faculty can comfortably flourish must go hand in hand with the hiring.

During the corona virus pandemic, Uché has been a prominent voice in explaining the impact of health inequity and healthcare disparities on our marginalized populations and communities during the Covid-19 outbreak — and how we can start to change this dynamic.  She has been very clear that racism, and not race, is the risk factor for the over-representation of Black cases and mortality in the US. I recommend you follow her on twitter at @uche_blackstock.


And in case you are wondering, I made it to Italy where I am beginning the second week of a very strict quarantine. I can’t complain, though, as I stare all day long out my window at vineyards and olive trees.


I left two sons back in NYC to continue the Bosch puzzle–together with Abigail and her dog Roho who moved in with them. Will keep you posted on their puzzle progress.

Leandro, son number 2, has been protesting pretty full time. He and his cousin Isobel, inspired by another cousin Madeleine (Addie) Gilson, put together these TAKE-ACTION-NOW resources for our family which I would like to share with you.

Here is a list of bail funds you should consider donating to:

Bail Funds by State/City:

You can also split your donation among 70+ bail funds here:

If you want to donate to a specific person:

You should consider donating to small black owned businesses and to business owners who were formerly incarcerated and excluded from COVID federal relief funds.

Formerly incarcerated business owners:

Small Business Relief:

Support Black Owned Businesses in Atlanta:

EMW, an abortion center in Louisville, Kentucky was damaged during the protests. Help them rebuild the center and protect reproductive rights.

Donate to Rebuild the Block, supporting small black owned businesses.

Here is a comprehensive list of funds you can donate to where the money goes directly to victims of police violence.

If you have venmo (which is a fantastic way to donate):

Donate to the Femme Empowerment Project at @femmeempowermentproject. “A Venmo to donate to Minneapolis activists. Be sure to set your donation to “private.” You can even specify how you want your donation to be used– medic training, medic gear, or jail support.”

Donate to People’s Programs at @peoples-programs, a bail fund in Oakland.

Donate to anyone who has found a company or person who has agreed to double their donations. Leandro will forward any venmo funds he finds.

Donate to organizations supporting Black, LGBTQ, and especially Trans people who are some of the people harmed the most by systemic racism and violence.

Here is a fund focused on providing support to Black, Trans, non-binary women in MN:

Here is a grassroots fund focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ community on a global scale

Donate to political campaigns:

Though we may not love Biden, we all must donate to his campaign! And we must continue to donate to Senate campaigns — we highly recommend donating to Sara Gideon in Maine, Cal Cunnigham in North Carolina, Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, Steve Bullock in Montana, Hickenlooper in Colorado, etc.

!! Donate to Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who is running for office in Florida !!

If you want to get involved with campaign work outside of donating, the organization Vote Save America is partnering with Organizing Together 2020 to run a volunteer training and organizing campaign called Adopt a State. You would adopt one of the six most important battleground states, participate in phone banking efforts, and donate to the campaigns that will determine this election.

Leandro and I would love to see where everyone else is donating. Please email all of us with your recommendations! Also, remember, that if you are part of almost any institution there are likely black, brown, LGBTQ+ community members who you may have overlooked, try and be cognisant of how you can help people in your immediate community!

For example, at Wesleyan, there is a gofundme for First Generation Low Income students.

If you have the time, please consider signing the petitions in the link listed below — this is a quick and easy way to become involved.

Writing emails and making calls:

My friends Gracie and Alice, in New York and LA, have put together a list of people to call in NY, DC, and LA and scripts for each call. They have also put together a number of people you can email. While you can use the template email, they are often screened and rendered ineffective (if you write just one sentence that strays from the script your email is less likely to be overlooked). All of you are such beautiful writers — put your powers of persuasion to work!!!!

Here is a link to their document:

If you are not in NY or LA, you can always use the address of a friend or loved one to make the calls. Joan and Ama, Jenny, Martha, etc. might be willing to share their addresses if need be.

Here is a guide from the ACLU for writing letters to demand the independent prosecution of George Floyd’s murders.

Here is a working list of cops and their badge numbers who have been involved in the murder and assault of black people across the United States.

Here are email templates if you want to write local and state representatives about reforming and defunding the police but REMEMBER you must add something from outside the template:

Last, but definitely not least, protests:

Leandro is the purveyor of all things protest related in this family (at least as far as I know). He will be attending a protest today in Washington Square Park at 4 p.m. EST. If not today, here are his recommendations for future protests:

New York:

Follow this instagram page @justiceforgeorgenyc. There are daily updates about the protests and their locations and Leandro will continue to update all of you via email.

New Jersey:

A county-wide Juneteenth protest will be held in Bergen County. The demonstration will begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Teaneck High School track and will march to the Teaneck Public Library.

There will be a Juneteenth/protest march held in Somerville. Demonstrators will meet at the Somerset County Courthouse at 3 p.m. and walk down Bridge St. towards Rt. 22 and Rt. 206 and kneel for 8 minutes, 46 seconds before walking back to the courthouse.


Here are resources Leandro recommends if you decide to attend a protest:

If anyone else needs help finding local protests via social media, Leandro is at the ready!

There is no replacement for human encounter, if not in person, we must be on the phone, writing emails, and donating to those who can participate in public protest. This is our moment to take action. We all must check ourselves and make sure we are doing the most we can. Thank you Addie, for bringing this to our attention as a family and, more importantly, reminding us that we MUST have these conversations with the people who do not agree with us and whose minds we HAVE TO change!

Sending all our love to you,

Isobel & Leandro

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white people. do something (#6)

George Floyd

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”   — Lilla Watson, Australian Indigenous writer and activist


Bronx Academy of Letters Community Poem

#6. Work on ensuring that black educators are hired where black children are being taught. If you want to know more about why and how this makes a difference for black children, check out this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. There are some really good nuggets in there about how schools can support the achievement of black students — from ensuring black students aren’t closed out of gifted programs by using test results instead of white teachers’ recommendations to the influence that having a black teacher has on a black student’s education to the importance to fostering a school ethos wherein black students think, “This school is here for me.”

#6 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice has a few issues and, well, cans of worms. Gifted programs, in which I have my daughter at PS. 165, are problematic. In a perfect world they would not exist. Also, yes black educators should be hired where black children are being taught, but they should be hired where ALL children are being taught. In my entire K-12 public school experience in Princeton, N.J., I had one black teacher in the 2nd grade. The entire public school system needs a complete overhaul, and frankly, truly the only way for us to have equitable education is for all private schools to be abolished. Radical I know, but it would cause a swift and revolutionary change in how we educate all of our kids.

So in the meantime, how about checking in with your local public school and see how they’re doing, what they need that you can give in terms of time and money. And as my friend and former principal of The Bronx Academy of Letters, Anna Hall, points out, if your local public school is thriving due to local property-tax or a super PTA fundraising operation, call the school next door that’s struggling and see what you can do for them. Let’s try our best to look out for all of our kids, not just the ones we gave birth to.

Suggestions from a friend who work in public education:

-Send your kids to public school; not for the public good, but for their good, so your children are ones who don’t kill literally or metaphorically black people; so they embrace community in ways that are only possible if they have real community across not only lines of race but class

-If your kids go to private school, do not donate there, which private schools ask, but to a local public school that is at least 85% title one at least 5% of what you are paying in tution or some #

-If you pay for a prep program, SAT whatever, for your kids, sponsor two of equal or greater value for title 1 student of color

-Ask in your child’s school private or not – for a syllabus – and make sure it is full of black and brown stories, insist on knowing and insist on better, force and participate in an intensive black history month, latinx and so on, lead it, don’t wait for parents of color to do so

-Talk to your child about race and class everyday and make sure they are challenging the curriculum and the racism that they will experience

-Ask your school to hire for diversity; vote for a PTA president who is a person of color, be the PTA president and make choices that honor the history, the voices, the stories of POC

And this from another friend in education:
The issue that I might underscore is the PTA fundraising issue — as though property tax-funded public schools weren’t subject to enough inequity, rich white folks have collectively made peace somehow with creating massive endowments to support their local public schools, which can transform a public experience into something approaching a private one for the kids lucky enough to go there — i.e. “my kids” need this, screw “their kids,” they can fend for themselves.  I’ve started giving money directly to local schools + programs in my area who don’t have these kinds of resources — and that might be a thing more people could do.  At minimum, parents could match their generous home school PTA donations with an equal donation to a neighboring school that doesn’t have the same kind of fundraising resources.

And in practical terms, I think white folks (especially those with money) need to be thinking about how to advocate for more systemic shifts — creating fundraising systems (shared endowments, joint fundraisers, commonly funded programs) that are shared by whole districts, for example, instead of school-by-school efforts.  Or demanding to see how public funds are distributed and spent, and insisting that privately-raised funds be factored into budgeting decisions when cuts are made.  Or agitating for more equitable systems of funding schools altogether, separate from property taxes.  Or working to diversify leadership on local school boards – whether that means recruiting strong leaders of color + funding/supporting their campaigns, or running directly.  At the very least, showing up regularly to the board’s meetings and asking hard questions is a start.

Here is a letter from New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carranza, including important resources.

St. Louis

Essential Reading:

Essential Listening:


Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization join forces to perform the first movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello Suite: Dance (shared by our friends at the National Arts Club).

And finally, with any luck I will be flying to Italy on Sunday. I have been given a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete a translation of a novel by one of Italy’s, and indeed, one of the world’s, great writer’s Elsa Morante. I will pick up the blog again–I still have 69 Things White People Can Do For Social Justice to go–and I committed to doing that and to staying in touch with all of you. Your support, feedback, contributions, and love have been truly awesome during this horrific time. More anon.


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Join me and Martha in Conversation Tonight at Princeton Public Library (virtually)

This is going to be fun and interesting.

Family secrets will be revealed!!!

If you already signed up for this, there was a glitch, and you will need register again here. 

See you there!


Jenny Martha Princeton

The Princeton native authors talk about Martha McPhee’s new book, “An Elegant Woman,” which is drawn from family history.

“An Elegant Woman” is a story of discovery and reinvention, following four generations of women in one American family.

A profound meditation on memory, history, and legacy, the story follows one woman over the course of the 20th century, taking the reader from a drought-stricken farm in Montana to a yellow Victorian in Maine; from the halls of a psychiatric hospital in London to a wedding-gown fitting at Bergdorf Goodman; from a house in small town Ohio to a family reunion at a sweltering New Jersey pig roast.

Martha McPhee’s latest novel is an evocative exploration of the stories we tell ourselves, and what we leave out. In this special event, hosted by the library in the town where she grew up, the author will be joined in conversation by her sister, author Jenny McPhee.

A Library and Labyrinth Livestream Event

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white people. do something. (#5)

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks (1912-2006). Untitled. Harlem, NY. 1963 via The National Arts Club

5. If you or a friend or family member is an educator, watch or share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about his experience as a black student telling people he wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist. Tyson’s experience reminds me of a black friend whose high school teachers tried to dissuade her from taking AP classes, because, with the best of intentions, they thought the AP classes would be “too much” for her. Be an educator who supports and encourages, not one who dissuades. Talk to educators you know about being educators who support and encourage, not educators who dissuade.

#5 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice needs to include the women. Here’s a great resource on black women in stem and you can follow @BlackWomenSTEM on twitter. If you haven’t read or seen Hidden Figures do so. Here are some excellent children’s books.

Essential reading:

White Americans Your Lack of Imagination is Killing Us by Kasi Lemmons

“Now imagine that even now, after everything we’ve survived and accomplished, after we’ve built this country with our sweat and blood, our backs and brains, after we’ve sacrificed our lives in every war that has ever been fought for America, this country is still not safe for us. It’s still not safe to go jogging while black; to listen to loud music while black; to drive while black; to birdwatch while black; to shop at Barneys while black; to be a 13-year-old boy while black.”

Essential listening:

(Shared in solidarity by the amazing Theater of War Productions)

The song, “I’m Covered,” written by Phil Woodmore for the project Antigone in Ferguson, is a healing hymn that comes at the end of the play as a collective response to the violence, outrage, division, and grief that precedes it. “Every night that we sing ‘I’m Covered’ at the end of the play,” said Ms. Blaylock, “it’s my way of covering my student Michael Brown.” We hope that in watching this video, you feel covered, if not by a higher power, then by the humanity, spirit, and hope at the center of the song.

The singers and musicians featured in this video include educators, students, activists, social workers, members of the faith community, and police officers from St. Louis and New York City who have made the commitment to sing together in order to start powerful, uncomfortable, transformative discussions about race and gender-based violence.

How to Support Protesters in Every City

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white people. do something. a letter from a leader.




June 1, 2020

Today, I write to you as a Black man and as President of Emerson College.

There is no other way to write to you, given recent events.

I didn’t sleep Friday night. Instead, I spent the night, like a moth drawn to a flame, looking again and again at the video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a Minneapolis white police officer. It was a legalized lynching. I was struck by the callousness and the casual dehumanization of Mr. Floyd. To that officer, he was invisible – the Invisible Man that Ralph Ellison described in his novel by the same name.

Black Americans are invisible to most of white America. We live in the shadows – even those of us, who like me, sit at the table of bounty. At the same time, we are hyper-visible in classrooms, work places, social settings, and as we go about our daily lives.

On Saturday, I was very angry. The persistent structural racism that undergirds American society and permits the police and others to kill black people is pernicious and ubiquitous.

We mourn George Floyd. But let’s not forget the other George Floyds of which he is but one:

Ahmaud Arbery was jogging when white vigilantes pursued him in their pick-up trucks, shot and killed him. A Harvard educated black birder, Christian Cooper, was bird watching when a white woman walking her dog weaponized the lynching trope in an attempt to summon police.

Do you remember Trayvon Martin or twelve-year old Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland or Philando Castile or Eric Garner or Freddie Gray or Botham Jean or Breonna Taylor?

Say their names. This is not new.

All of them dead. Each of them invisible.

I’m still angry. As President, I didn’t want to write in anger. But I also didn’t want to write the kind of platitudinous letters that ordinarily appear after these kinds of killings. I consulted my children on Saturday. One said, “Dad, I don’t think you need to say anything if you don’t want to. Who even knows what to say right now. And as you said, it’s more up to white people to say something now.”

I consulted friends and one of the wisest among them said, “Let [the world] know how you feel. Everyone who gets it will be better for it; the others, who cares. In some contexts anger is not an emotion; instead, it’s a moral.”

And so, I write today.

I watched the video over and over again well into the morning hours because I was mesmerized by the casualness with which the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Chauvin dug his knee into his neck for almost eight minutes, even as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” As he called on his Mama before he took his last breath, Chauvin continued to talk, he looked as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He didn’t stop until Floyd was unresponsive.

George Floyd was invisible. And it was his invisibility, a brutal white power structure and Chauvin’s dehumanization of him that killed him.

Floyd has a history. And so do I.

I was born in a house that had no indoor plumbing until I was six years old. Until they died, my mother and both of my grandmothers cleaned houses for middle class and rich white folks. My father was a laborer until he got a good paying job working at the City of Wichita, Kansas, where I was born and raised. When I was in high school, I didn’t know anything about private colleges or universities and even if I had, I would not have been able to afford one of them. So, I enrolled at my local public university, which was essentially a commuter school.

In my lifetime, I have been called the n-word by white people in every state and every city that I have ever lived in.

I have been pulled over driving while black more times than I can remember. I have been spit on by a white parking lot attendant. I was stopped 20 feet from my house by two white police officers in their cruiser, the searing heat of their spot light on my neck, guns drawn on either side of my car because I looked like a black man who was alleged to have stolen something from a convenience store. When I was living on the West Coast, I was pulled over twice in a single night by police officers because, according to each, I didn’t turn on my turn signal the proper feet before a stop sign. As president of the University before Emerson, two teenage boys drove up on the sidewalk to block my path home because I looked like someone who was suspected of stealing from neighborhood homes. When I asked what that person looked like they described someone more than twenty years younger than me. While visiting my cousins in Conway, Arkansas in the 70’s, I suffered the deep humiliation of having to go to the back alley of a local restaurant to order food. I was twenty years old. I was angry at the overt racism and at my cousins for enduring such indignities almost a decade after the passages of the two Civil Rights Acts of the mid-60’s.

That’s my history. And I have dedicated my life’s work to social justice in just about every aspect of American life, but especially for young people who grew up like me.

I also write to you today on the anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma riots in which Greenwood, then the wealthiest black neighborhood in America (called the Black Wall Street), was attacked by mobs of white residents because a 19-year old black shoeshiner allegedly bumped into a 17-year old white elevator operator. More than 800 black people were admitted to the hospital, and 6,000 Greenwood families were displaced as white vigilantes deputized by law enforcement killed more than 300 hundred black people and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of Greenwood, some of it carried out by private aircraft. It is the worst single incident of racial violence in American history, and I suspect not one in ten Americans have ever heard of it.

What happened to George Floyd is not new. It as old as 250 years of slavery and the Jim Crow laws that sought to marginalize and shut out black Americans from American society.

As my wise friend reminded me, quoting James Baldwin, “Any real change implies the breaking of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”

So, I have no words of comfort today because they would be inauthentic. They would absolve so many from coming to terms with their own silent complicity in the world in which we live.

As I wrote to someone today, “This is not a black problem, but a structural issue built on white supremacy and centuries of racism. It’s your problem. And until you understand that, we are doomed to relive this week’s tragic events over and over again. What changes will you make in your own life? Begin with answering that question and maybe, just maybe we will get somewhere.”

The most important question is: What are you going to do?

At an appropriate time, I will gather the community to talk about what I have written and what we might be able to do together to address racism in America, beginning first of all with an honest appraisal of ourselves.



Dr. Lee Pelton is Chairman of the Board, Boston Arts Academy Foundation, and President of Emerson College


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white people. do something. (4)

Ida B. Wells


4. If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are herehereherehereherehere, and here. And/or purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppetsBlack History Flashcards, etc for their classroom. Use these items year-round, not just in February. The racial make-up of students doesn’t matter — kids of every race need to know American history and be exposed to people from different races, religions, and countries. If the friend is interested, buy them for your pal’s classroom. Don’t be shy to ask Facebook friends that you haven’t actually talked to in ten years.


#4 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice is not as easy as you think. Inspired by my sister Joan and her wife Ama, our family committed a while ago to only reading books with two or more people of color, to only watch movies or tv shows with two or more POC, to only buy black dolls, toys that represented all kids, and so on. It was a challenge. But the key result was that we began to notice race in a different way. I began to see the absence everywhere of representation.

And then I took my mother and daughter to the ballet. It was 2017 and my daughter was six at the time. It was December and we went to see the The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Tickets were ridiculously expensive, but it was one of those wasp traditions in my family, and I wanted to please my mother who was in the early stages of dementia. We walked into the grand theater with red carpeting, crystal chandeliers, lots of glass and gold, and settled into our plush upholstered seats. My daughter, who is black, then turned to me and said, “Mom, why are the only black people in here walking the white people to their seats?”

I want to try as hard as I possibly can to notice the world as acutely as my daughter does, but my white privilege is often blinding.

Here’s some essential reading:


“As long as white Americans take refuge in their whiteness—for so long as they are unable to walk out of this most monstrous of traps—they will allow millions of people to be slaughtered in their name.”  -James Baldwin

From Baldwin’s 1970 letter to Angela Davis in prison.

“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”   -James Baldwin

From this 1962 essay, “Letter from a Region in My Mind”


And this essay by Melody Cooper:

“Lots of people keep asking me what they can do. We all have a chance to step off the sidelines, to speak up, to take action and to shine a blinding light on the racism lurking in so many corners of our society. We need to fight together wisely, boldly and unflinchingly, while staying aware that our passion and actions can and will be used against us. But we must not stop. This is the time. It will not be easy. It will often be messy, but it must be done.”



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white people. do something. (3)


Ok, Karen, Sharon, Becky, Jenny, let’s get on the phone.

3. More and more stories of black folks encountering racism are being documented and shared through social media — whether it’s at a hotel, with the police, in a coffee shop, at a school, etc. When you see such a post, call the organization, company, or institution involved to tell them how upset you are. Then share the post along with the institution’s contact information, spreading the word about what happened and encouraging others to contact the institution as well. Whether the company initiated the event or failed to protect a POC during an onslaught by a third party, they need to hear from us.


George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police is a tragedy that continues a long pattern of police violence against Black people in this city. Healing will be long and difficult, but it must begin with justice for George Floyd.

As so often happens with county attorneys, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office has failed to deliver this justice in the past. That failure that has further eroded trust between the Black community and Minneapolis law enforcement. At a time when mending this trust is most essential, the ACLU of Minnesota is calling for the prosecution of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death be taken out of the County Attorney’s hands.

We need you to call for justice for George Floyd. Call Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today and urge them to appoint an independent prosecutor to work under the Attorney General’s authority. 

We have contact numbers and call scripts below to help you.


Call Minnesota Governor Walz

(651) 201-3400

Hello, my name is [insert name], and I live in [insert city, town or neighborhood]. I am calling to demand justice for George Floyd — a man killed mercilessly by the Minneapolis Police. The investigation into his killing should be independent, fair and conducted by the Attorney General’s office.

I’m calling on you to transfer the prosecution of the police who killed George Floyd to the Minnesota Attorney General and to appoint a Special Assistant Attorney General to lead the prosecution. The Hennepin County Attorney’s office works every day with Minneapolis Police and has failed to bring charges in past police killings. I don’t trust the county attorney to fairly prosecute this case. Your appointment of a special prosecutor will send a clear message to the community that you value justice for George Floyd.

Thank you.

Call Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

(651) 296-3353

Hello, my name is [insert name], and I live in [insert city, town or neighborhood]. I’m calling to urge your office to accept and advocate for a special prosecutor to prosecute the Minneapolis police who killed George Floyd.

As a member of this community, I know that people are in pain. We are angry and reeling from yet another senseless killing of a Black man. The Hennepin County Attorney works with Minneapolis Police every day, and his office has failed to bring charges in past police killings. That’s why we need your office to prosecute these officers. Please help us heal the community by showing your commitment to justice for George Floyd.

Thank you.

Call Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman

(612) 348-5550 or (612) 348-2146

Hello, my name is [insert name], and I live in [insert city, town or neighborhood]. I am calling to demand a swift and independent prosecution of the police who killed George Floyd. As we seek justice for George Floyd, I ask that your office turn over the prosecution of these officers to Attorney General Ellison’s office. This gesture will send a clear message to the community that the Hennepin County Attorney supports an independent and fair prosecution.

When the police kill a person, the same prosecutors that work day-in-and-day-out with those police are not the same ones who should be prosecuting them.

Thank you.

More resources:

In case you missed it, here’s Killer Mike’s great and moving speech in Atlanta:


Erika Shields

I don’t know much about Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Shields, but what I have seen of her on the news has been impressive. One thing for sure is our cities should have more women police chiefs.


And Sarah Cooper just keeps killing it:



Teen Vogue is also killing it lately with their reporting. Here’s the latest:


On June 8, Princeton University is hosting this online event open to the public:

Black and white tiger photo

As COVID-19 has swept across the United States, it has unmasked and amplified existing racial inequities.  Rampant fear and misinformation has provoked a wave of discrimination, harassment, and hate targeting those of Chinese and Asian descent.  The disease has also had a disproportionate toll on historically marginalized populations, including African Americans and Native Americans, due to unequal access to health care, residential segregation, poverty, and incarceration.  Join a conversation that will situate these developments within the long history of racism, exclusion, and scapegoating in the United States.  Panelists will discuss strategies to address marginalization and empower impacted communities.


  • Andy Kim, Congressman from New Jersey’s 3rd District
  • Beth Lew-Williams, Associate Professor of History, Princeton University
  • Keith Wailoo, Chair and Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs
  • Helen Zia ’73, Activist and author
  • Aly Kassam-Remtulla, Associate Provost for International Affairs, Princeton University (moderator)

Space is limited, pre-registration is required.
A Zoom link will be emailed to those who register early the morning of the event.

Join the conversation on June 8, 2020 at 4 p.m. EST


And last but never least, let’s read more, know more, be informed.

Joan Wong

(Joan Wong)

Ibram X. Kendi on books to help America transcend its racist heritage.



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