Bookends 2020

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Lecture Series for 2020-21 is postponed until further notice. We will keep you posted, of course, either by email or by future issues of Bookends. The same holds true for the reopening of our Book Bin, which offers quality used books at bargain prices. Bill Dorman, Board President SEPTEMBER UPDATE TO ANNUAL REPORT. 2020 Democracy at the door Donald Trump has been President of the United States for 1,294 years – I mean days – and I have bitched and moaned and cried.

Never has Labor Day been so welcomed. This has been a summer like no other.

I’m not talking about the weirdness resulting from COVID-19, like basketball played in a giant bubble. Or masked walks on the beach. Or drive-in church services.

I’m talking about the violence. The unofficial start of summer — Memorial Day — was marred by the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White police officer. Floyd’s death sparked outrage across the country. Protests erupted in all 50 states, drawing people of all races and ages.

In the weeks that followed, according to the Pew Research Center, as many as 69 percent of us had a conversation about racial inequality.

Corporations joined the conversation, too, pledging support for the Black Lives Matter movement and promising to do a better job with hiring and promotions. Consumer product companies acknowledged the offensive origins of beloved household brands — like Uncle Ben’s rice and Aunt Jemima syrup — and made changes.

Our frayed nerves gave way to a collective hopefulness — that somehow, we were finally on our way to addressing racial injustice.

Then, with Labor Day — the unofficial end of summer — just around the corner, Kenosha, Wis., police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back as Blake tried to evade arrest.

Blake is Black; Sheskey is White. Blake survived the gunfire, but he is paralyzed from the waist down and unlikely to walk again.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in The Guardian about what seems to be a dying ember of hope: that America was finally committed to the simple idea that being Black shouldn’t make it more difficult to survive a run-in with police. The basketball legend describes the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement that swept through America over the last few months as a small but powerful sun. However, in the wake of Blake’s shooting, Abdul-Jabbar says, “The small sun set quickly. The dying ember had been extinguished.”

Abdul-Jabbar’s former team, the Milwaukee Bucks, boycotted Game 5 of the NBA playoffs to protest the fact that the Wisconsin state Legislature was slow to react to racial injustice in the state. Other NBA teams followed suit. In Major League Baseball, three games were canceled, led by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Perhaps the ember of hope has miraculously flickered back.

Still, we have a long way to go. The twin tragedies of the fates that befell George Floyd and Jacob Blake are the bookends of the ghastly summer of 2020. We must do better. It starts with the uncomfortable conversations so many of us are already having. But it continues with a commitment to move beyond words and take action.

The desire to act was evident on a recent August night. More than 8,000 people — from 15 countries on six continents — joined the San Diego-based National Conflict Resolution Center for a virtual conversation about systemic racism. The event featured New York Times bestselling authors Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi, and it was moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery.

Both authors believe that each of us can play a role in achieving an antiracist society. In his book 'How to Be an Antiracist,' Kendi defines an antiracist as “one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” Simply declaring “I am not a racist” is not enough. Action is required. In fact, Kendi views inaction as inherently racist because it preserves the status quo.

DiAngelo, the author of 'White Fragility,' frames it this way: Unless you interrupt racism, you collude with it. If you recognize a disparity in an institution or policy, she says, chances are that an organization is already fighting it. You can join that fight, offering your time, expertise or financial support.

LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers recently said in a heartfelt speech, “It’s amazing to me why we (Black Americans) keep loving this country and the country doesn’t love us back. You don’t need to be Black to be outraged. You need to be American.”

He's right. All Americans should be outraged. We need to come together and find solutions. We need to talk openly, rationally and respectfully — with curiosity and humility. We need to move beyond unquestioned ideas and think critically. We need to engage and strive for empathy. And we need to share the love.

Those are the lessons of this summer. And, if we take them to heart, we can stop seeing the last few months as a curse and come to accept them as a gift.

Dinkin is president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, a San Diego-based group working to create solutions to challenging issues, including intolerance and incivility. To learn about NCRC’s programming, visit ncrconline.com

Donald Trump has been President of the United States for 1,294 years – I mean days – and I have bitched and moaned and cried and cussed about it almost EVERY single one of those days. And yet, he remains president. So, I came to a realization in early June that I needed a new strategy for getting rid of him and I applied to be a Field Representative for Progressive Turnout Project – a grassroots-funded organization with the sole mission of getting Democrats to the polls.

I do not want to go to bed on November 3rd with the devastating thought that I did not do everything I could possibly do to prevent Trump from being re-elected. I know that feeling. November 8, 2016. The mere mention of that date makes me experience COVID-19 symptoms.

And that is how I found myself interviewing for a young person’s job at my seasoned age. The pandemic mandated that the interview process be virtual – on an app called HireVue. The first interview consisted of answering five questions recorded by different people – no live interactions. It was weird, but fortunately my bestie Carla had introduced me to the Marco Polo app earlier in the pandemic, so I was used to talking to myself.

The second interview was with two live women young enough to be my daughters – that I had at 40. They were both bright and energetic and didn’t seem horrified that I was a mature applicant. Our conversation went well, and they offered me the position the following week. Yikes! I was really doing this.

Project Turnout is headquartered in Chicago and my training was three days on Zoom with about 75 folks from other battleground states. The trainer was perky and had a good sense of humor. I found him amusing until he started explaining who the organization’s core donors are and said, “You know your liberal aunt who watches way too much MSNBC? That’s our base.” Wait, that’s me! I felt like the other 74 people were staring right at me in my Zoom box.

I met some nice folks in the breakout rooms during training. They were all so young, but I found that exciting – they were smart and so politically engaged. I only felt old during the ice breaker on our third day. We broke out into smaller groups and were asked what our walk on song would be if we were running for president. I thought that was a fun question until the trainer started calling on people for their answers. OMG. I had NEVER heard of the first half dozen songs. I thought I was safe with my answer – Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” – until the person before me used it. I panicked knowing I was up next and before I knew it, “Girl from Ipanema” fell out of my mouth. Shut up. I know I choked. NO ONE in my group had any idea what I was talking about. Thankfully, the trainer moved quickly to the next person and I could melt from mortification in the privacy of my own square.

But it’s a moist heat.

Bookends 2020 Movie

My first day in the field – we call it Turf because we’re hip like that – coincided with a heat wave. A certifiable “feels like 104” heat wave. If you have known me for more than five minutes, you know that I loathe summer with a passion. I hate the heat and fear the sun. I’m a fair skinned Irish girl who adheres to the schedule of a vampire during the summer months, so I was filled with high anxiety as I hit the steamy streets.

I left my house with enough water to float a pontoon. All kinds of water – tap, seltzer, Vitamin Water. All the waters. And ice. And frozen washcloths. That’s a trick I learned years ago. Put a wet washcloth in the freezer overnight and pack it in a cooler for your day in the sun. Pull it out when you start to melt and put it on top of your head under your hat. Trust me – it can save your life.

The frozen washcloth. The ultimate brain freeze!

I was so afraid of dying from heat stroke on the streets of a foreign neighborhood that I really had no fear of knocking on the doors of strangers. I was armed with my iPad that contained the scripted questions we are to ask the registered voters we speak with. Oh, and, of course, we are following strict COVID protocols – wearing a mask and stepping back six feet after we knock on a door. So, do not whine to me about a mask making you hot, okay?

The first day went well except for our iPads overheating. Note: iPads will do that when exposed to the Seventh Layer of Hell. We were encouraged to take breaks as needed and our supervisors delivered ice packs later in the afternoon. There is simply no way to adapt to that kind of heat and I have even more respect for folks who work outside in the elements. It is damn hard, and I am damn old.

I had worried about bathroom breaks while in the field – especially in this pandemic. Not to worry – I sweated so much those first two weeks that I NEVER had to pee at work. And I was slurping up liquids like Tom Hanks when he cracks open that coconut in Castaway. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done and when those two weeks were over I felt like I had won Survivor: Forsyth County – especially when some of my much younger teammates were complaining about how tired they were.

The other thing that got me through those sultry first weeks was some of the great interactions I had with voters. I am amazed that anyone would open their door to a stranger these days – during a global pandemic. I wouldn’t – unless it was a 12-year-old girl holding a stack of Thin Mints. But so many people have opened theirs and engaged with me in substantive conversations about their voting habits and their concerns for the upcoming election.

Allyssa knows that her future is now!

People have been so kind to me. Some have invited me inside – we are not allowed to do that. Many have offered me cold water and lots of them have told me to “keep cool” or “be careful” – one very elderly man even offered to walk me to my car because he was concerned about a neighbor’s crazy dog.

Shirley and Calvin are rocking the vote!

Bookends Movie 2020 Parents Guide

All these people have at least one thing in common besides their kindness – they do not want Trump to be re-elected. They are deeply passionate about getting rid of him. These are my people. Funny thing – I bet I was in the field three days before I even heard someone say Joe Biden’s name. There might not be a lot of enthusiasm for Uncle Joe, but there is a freaking ton of enthusiasm for giving Trump the boot. Whatever gets us there.

These are my people.

Bookends 2020

My favorite moments have been the conversations with first time voters. I spoke with Victor – a sweet Latinx man in his 30’s who just became an American citizen and will be voting for the first time in November. He is concerned about immigration and education – he has two children. And I’ve talked to several 18-year olds who are excited about their first vote. They want to make a difference. These people give me hope.

Bookends 2020

Viva Victor! First time voter!
Bookends movie 2020 parents guide

Our lists of contacts are highly data driven – focusing on inconsistent Democratic voters so I have only run into two Trumpers so far. Once the mark of the MAGA is revealed, we are instructed to say thanks for your time and move on. I listened, no doubt with glazed eyes, to a woman who told me that Hillary believes in abortion in the ninth month and that Joe Biden is a pedophile. My inside voice was screaming “FAKE NEWS” but I managed a wan smile as I bid her good evening. And then I remembered the grizzled veteran I met who usually votes Republican but is voting for Biden in November. My pace always picks up with those thoughts.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Not me!

This work has also been a humbling reminder of my white privilege at times. I ended one evening speaking to three young black women in a row – all single moms with children. It was after eight in the evening and they were weary from their day, but they opened their doors and talked to me about their voting habits. One of the questions we ask is how likely you are to vote in November – on a scale of one to five – five being very likely. One of the women said to me, “I don’t really know. I’m not even sure who is running.” She seemed embarrassed and almost apologized. I told her who was running and that she had nothing to feel bad about. This woman wasn’t stupid – she was worn out – from the day, from yesterday, from tomorrow. I could feel her fatigue – she had gotten her kids fed and would soon be putting them to bed – and yet she took the time to talk to me – the liberal aunt who watches too much MSNBC.

On the drive home that night, I thought about what a luxury my obsession with politics is. I grew up with parents who instilled in me that voting is a precious right and that every vote counts. As an adult, I have had the time and sometimes the means to work for and support candidates that embraced issues important to me. I have been to endless fundraisers and sipped cheap white wine while someone droned on and on about what they were going to do for me. I have been inspired and I have suffered painful defeats. I have been afforded the invitation to participate and the arrogance to believe that my presence can make a difference.

Our field canvassing has been suspended because of COVID concerns and we are now phone banking, texting, and letter writing. When I got the news, I thought of Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, “When the Gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” Yes, I am out of the heat, but I miss seeing the faces of the folks I’m talking to. There is no more effective communication with a voter than an in-depth conversation in person. And besides, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat a mature masked white woman in a bucket hat on a hot day.

I hope I’ll be out there knocking doors again soon. It is by far the hardest work I’ve ever done. And, without a doubt, the most important.

Hydrating for Biden and turning NC blue!