Book | Thanks for asking, Fernando

In March, friend Fernando A. Funes (who shares some of his poetry and writing over here on his blog and over here on Instagram) asked on Facebook –

Here, I share my responses to Fernando –

Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

There are several stories in Ted Chiang’s “Stories of Your Life and Others” collection of stories. (Introduced to this book back in 1999 … I gift it to others) I’ll share which stories later in my reply after looking through the list.

As a result of several stories, my mindset changed about what “present” means or can mean.

A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr

“A Civil Action” – Non-fiction, environmental-related. (They made a movie out of it. Book better) I read this in 1997 as an “airplane” read because I am in the profession (regulatory compliance, environmental protection, etc.). From the plane to the hotel room, to the hotel lobby, to my hotel room bathroom (while my colleague was sleeping) … I read all the way through. I cried.

In 2004, I learned one of my friends – his family was among those directly impacted by this series of events. So while it may not have resonated with me in 1997, since 2004, it remains a very dear book.

As a result of this book, it reinforced my feelings about business and personal accountability on impacts on the environment.

When The Elephants Dance, by Tess Uriza Holthe

“When The Elephants Dance” – by a Filipino-American author. Fiction, inspired by real-life stories, described as – “… inspired, in part, by the experiences of her father, who was a young boy in the Philippines during World War II.” I read this in 2004 or 2005. I was very moved by it. Having this be personal stories about true history … and written so lovely – keeper and gifted to others

THEN … my Mom read this after me. She said she cried. Turns out many of the experiences, she and my Dad also experienced as kids during World War II, etc. Sadly, my dad died in 2002, so I never had a chance to talk with him or have him also read the book.

Harold and The Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson

And just my fave – Harold and The Purple Crayon – from a WAY EARLY AGE! Harold – an original improviser.

What is a book that changed your life and why?


Equity | tweets, diversity, othered, self-segregation


Yesterday, Sunday morning, was a treat. Jeff Chang (on Twitter, web, Facebook), author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America, replied to my tweet – my asking if Chang had a general reaction to a New York Times Op-Ed article. Before I jump in, four things –

    • I have not formally met Jeff Chang, having mainly interacted virtually, digitally, and in my imagined (invigorating) conversations that we have.
    • I have read his recent book and am continuing to share quotes and food-for-thought from Chang’s book under the who we be tag.
    • I was hoping for a reply from Jeff Chang, because when I read and re-read the article (as well as the embedded links), I had a reaction that I called cranky pants, where I could not put my finger on what was troubling me or what disconnect I may have had. And in my imagination, we would discuss this.
    • Inspired by a book festival unpanel hosted by Chang – Who We Be: An Un-Panel About Our Colorized Futures, I am continuing to incubate and co-create Colorized Improv – an approach to or philosophy of improvisers and performers to purposely incorporate cultural elements through characters, points of views, narratives, environments, whether it be short or long form.

This is my “connection” to Chang. The point is, I did not expect Chang to reply. And he did. Therefore, a fifth thing –

    • Like my friend Joanne in her Who We Be blog post, I am declaring that I am a Jeff Chang fan.

tweet_OrigNYTop-edAbout this post. That said, in this post I share the main article (the NYT Op-Ed), as well as the other article, referenced in my tweet for context of Chang’s replies.

The twitter exchange is over here, so you can read Chang’s response directly.

My Sunday Morning with Twitter

During my Sunday morning social media catch-up, I came across The Lie About College Diversity, by Frank Bruni. A friend tweeted this article with a reference to the recent Citadel cadets (Washington Post – Citadel cadets who wore KKK-like hoods are suspended). Her comment preceding her sharing Bruni’s article – “We need students to get out of their bubbles, esp. after Citadel event” Interested in her comment, I read the article she shared. Here are a few excerpts from Bruni’s article which begins with this opening –

The Supreme Court listened anew last week to arguments about affirmative action in higher education, and we heard yet again about the push by colleges to assemble diverse student bodies.

That’s a crucial effort.

It’s also an incomplete and falsely reassuring one.

. . .

ONE of the most striking aspects of what we’ve seen and read about recently at an array of colleges, including Yale, Brown and Amherst, is some students’ insistence not just that their viewpoints be acknowledged and respected but that contrary ones be discredited, renounced, purged.

Is that where diversity was supposed to lead us?

I don’t think so, and I think we’re surrendering an enormous opportunity by not insisting that colleges be more aggressive in countering identity politics, tamping down partisan fury, pulling students further outside of themselves and establishing common ground.

During my first read of this article, it was at this point I went back to skim through what I  had already read and then read the referenced Shaiko article, Admissions Is Just Part Of the Diversity PuzzleAnd Bruni shared the following from Shaiko –

“The benefits of diversity do not spontaneously arise merely from the presence of a varied student body.”

Shaiko professed amazement at so much toil “to create diverse incoming classes” but so little to “nudge students into interactions outside of their comfort zones.”

“Without such nudges, students will default to sameness,” he concluded. That’s the human way. We’re clannish. Tribal.

When I finished Bruni’s article, I re-read his article and the embedded links. And as if I was going to coffee/tea with Jeff Chang, I tweeted Chang and was glad to learn he had cranky pants.


What reactions, if any, do you have while or after reading Frank Bruni’s Op-Ed article? Did you have cranky pants?



Colorization | black artists, politics, museums

This is one of several posts where I share quotes and food-for-thought from Chang’s book – Who We Be: The Colorization of America.*
(earlier posts: on Introduction, Chapter 1)


This quote is from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Desegregation and the Future given at the December 1956 annual luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools.

About this post. I share some excerpts from Chang’s work in his Chapter 2 – After Jericho: The Struggle Against Invisibility, which is one of five chapters in Part One, A New Culture, 1963-1979 of this book. The subsections of Chapter 2 are titled as follows –

– In the White Gallery
– The Spiral
– Picturing the Struggle
– The Rise of The Southern Strategy
– What Remained Unseen
– Saving America’s Soul

I also share reference to a recent New York Times article, Black Artists and the March Into the Museum  – After decades of spotty acquisitions and token exhibitions, American
museums are rewriting the history of 20th-century art to include black artists, which Chang shared on Facebook.

Chapter 2 provides a historical overview around the Civil Rights Movement era – Black artists, politics, (e.g., presidential campaigns throughout the 1960s), racism, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings, and the growing tension among artists and the museum/gallery entities.

In the Year 1963

Chapter 2 begins with Chang sharing several events from 1963, which included:

Art, Politics

Throughout Chapter 2, Chang weaves between and among presidential campaigns, black artists’ pursuits, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings and perspectives, and museums and galleries excluding Black artists’ works.

:: The American SpectrumFlag for the Moon: Die Nigger … These works finally secured [Faith Ringgold] the serious attention from critics, peers, and elders that she had sought. Yet the paintings did not sell. “We want to see something that’s restful and nice to the eyes,” one man told her.  “I don’t want your painting screaming at me from the wall.”  But for Ringgold the history of art, the history of generations, indeed the history of America, was the history of lines drawn by color.” ::

NIXON_You-have-to-face-the:: Nixon understood that in the long run he needed to change the entire civil discourse. The civil rights movement had reshaped the national conversation about race. It had begun to build a new cultural consensus that supported the exercise of federal power for racial and economic justice with a capacious morality. The Southern strategy was, by no means, a fait accompli. ::

:: As the sixties roared to a close, Black artists were debating form, content, and social responsibility with increasing urgency. But no matter their politics or their aesthetics, they all shared the condition of invisibility and they were increasingly unwilling to tolerate this condition. They would no longer be unseen. They would demand recognition. ::

NYT Article, November 2015

This morning, I was getting ready to post this above overview. However, I saw from my Facebook feed that Chang posted a link to this New York Times article, Black Artists and the March Into the Museumso I read the article, given my finishing up this post. Chang posted his reaction to the NYT article, which included (excerpt) –

FIRST REACTION: Surprised and happy to see this on the front page of the NYT.

BUT ON SECOND THOUGHT: The more I think about this piece the less happy I am with it.

The piece makes exactly zero note of any of the organizing that Black artists did to try to force museums and institutions to de-invisibilize Black art from the early 20th century to the 1969 Harlem On My Mind pickets (of which Norman Lewis was a co-organizer) to the Yams Collective withdrawal from the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

And there is exactly less than zero note of the relationship between the artists and the activists—many of whom were one and the same—who were living and acting within larger justice and equity movements in their time.
After reading the NYT article and Chang’s comment, I revisited this Chapter 2 to pull one other reference Chang shared in Who We Be

:: While the [Metropolitan Musuem of Art’s Harlem on My Mind: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968] featured Black photographers, musicians, poets, and performers, it excluded Black visual artists. Instead the Met only allowed them a panel discussion. The politics of protest had only enabled this absurd arrangement: the artists’ art could not be seen, but the artists could be seen talking about not being seen. ::

* This is sparking ideas in me for colorized improv, environmental communications, and knowledge/ignorance discussions.