#SWAAYthenarrative
6 min read
Politics

"I have said this before, and I will say it again," Lewis said in June 2019, a year before his death at 80 years old on July 17, 2020. "The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy."

In honor of the late John Lewis, a civil rights leader, he is quoted as saying: "To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again."

Though all lives matter, Black lives require more advocacy due to the long-standing systemic racism that is heavily ingrained in our justice system and society.

Director Dawn Porter's newest documentary, John Lewis: Good Trouble, is a tribute to the civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis. The documentary points out that America is still in a civil rights struggle and is still fighting for rights for African Americans.

However, both history and modern crime statistics show that the threat to Black lives everywhere is nothing new. To this day, Black children and adults alike entering into white neighborhoods can still result in senseless, life-ending situations regardless of their innocence.

Frederick Douglass was an American who was born into slavery in February of 1818, and was an author as well as an abolitionist. Douglass played an active role in leading the nonviolent protests that would occur in the 1800s and even wrote a book called A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. Echoing forward into the 1960s, well after slavery was abolished in America and much of Frederick Douglass' dreams of the freedom of Black folks were accomplished, enter people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. King, who also wrote a book, was born in January of 1929 when segregation laws in America were still in place and died at the age of 39 years old. King wrote his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, which helped to create the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legislation in America — protests reigned all over America and the world for the freedom of African Americans.

"To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again." — John Lewis

The world is no longer an ignorant enough place to accept bias and discrimination about race and culture or any other forms of xenophobic rationalizations. Conscious and progressive, the average person is more than aware of their forward-thinking place in society and their role in moving into the future with an understanding and sense of true community. The global landscape of business and interaction has molded pop-culture in support of people of all races, ethnicities, and national origins.

However, with the recent outcry surrounding the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor we began to recognize flaws in our progress. Our steps forward began to show signs of recurrent historical injustices concerning equal protection under the law and due process. The murders gave us a quick reality check needed to examine how we view the application of laws in our current society. Reminding us of times of constant fights for justice and equal rights.

The importance of sensitivity around inequities in our justice system and how people of color have been underserved by a huge margin, has led us to revisit protest as a means of being heard. Though we addressed these issues in the past, their historical ramifications are still very apparent. It seems, the more we bury issues of race and disparity, the more they rear their head in present-day issues as unresolved causing upheaval and disgust. The struggle toward progress persists, leaving people of color in the minority and in need adequate representation and equal protection.

So, have you been asked this question: what do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement?

Everyone seems to be asking this question, too many people, even those people who are not Black. Many people have different opinions. Some people think the issue is about a lot of belly-aching and undue protests. But, it is true, the majority of crimes that are committed in the United States are still done by white people — 60% of all crimes in the United States are committed by white people. Men, in general, make up 81% of all violent crimes and up to 63% of property crimes.

All African Americans in the U.S. make up about 13% of the population, however, African Americans, especially men, make up about 39% of the arrests for violent crime in America.

Although these statistics for the amount of crime committed by white people, particularly men, in America are true according to research done by the University of Minnesota, there is a disproportionate number of Black men represented in overall crime rates.

All African Americans in the U.S. make up about 13% of the population, however, African Americans, especially men, make up about 39% of the arrests for violent crime in America.

Additionally, unlike their white counterparts, African Americans have the legacy of slavery in America. Slavery began in 1501 where the first African slaves were sold off the coasts of West Africa from such countries as Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Africans were forced into positions of free labor through a system known as the "slave triangle" by Francis Drake and his colleagues according to historical records about slavery in America.

Though all lives matter, Black lives require more advocacy due to the long-standing systemic racism that is heavily ingrained in our justice system and society. So, how do we move forward without more revisits to the past?

With Generation Z, we hope to approach the issues of race, injustice, and equality from an educational standpoint reflective of moving forward without having to relive them on the day-to-day. Instead of having the past as a means of education and reflection, it seems we are being forced to revisit the struggles of our ancestors with modern-day trials reminiscent of the past. It's unfortunate we face these problems once again as a society and have to take a head-on approach to change. How many times must we be handed the same problem and be forced to push toward a solution? Same problem, same solution.

Hopefully, this time we will learn.

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.