She knew full well that a lot of my waking hours are spent reading, writing, listening and reminiscing. Knowing that – and, I suspect, on a hunch – she picked up an extra copy of former first lady Michelle Obama’s soon to be best-selling memoir, Becoming.
The “she” I’m referring to here is “Shree,” a regular among our daily conversation crew at a local coffee shop.
Now on this particular Sunday morning, I was halfway through Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts’ excellent review of Becoming when Shree walked in and plopped Michelle’s book down in front of me. She saw the look of jubilation on my face and, Shree being Shree, refused my command to pay for the book and left in a hurry.
Continue reading First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – by Terry Howard
Recently I sat down with Ken Venable inside a coffee shop in Staunton, Virginia, a city recently made famous when the school board – with Venable a member – voted to remove the name of the confederate general Robert E. Lee from the one high school in town.
Now it’s important to cast our conversation against an uncomfortable reminder; that being the complexity of race in small southern towns like Staunton where the specter of race remains ever lurking beneath the distinctive charm of many such towns. Strong feelings on both sides of the contentious debate – “Save the name” versus “The name still hurts” – about the image of Robert E. Lee is a contemporary example.
Here’s our conversation:
Continue reading Dismantling Images of Slavery: Interview with Ken Venable – by Terry Howard
Outside his immediate circle of family and friends, chances are that not too many will recognize the name “Bernard Strong.” But that will soon change because he’s working on a book, a collection of his life stories. Now unlike a growing number of those patiently waiting for his book (with credit cards in hand) a combination of the timing of next week’s midterm elections and his latest story forced my hand.
Here’s that story.
“21” was my jersey number. I chose that number because some said I had a running style like Mike Garrett of the Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike Garrett however, my football career ended shortly after the Lindblom Tech Class of ’71 march across the stage in caps and gowns.
Continue reading Get Back Out There & Vote! – By Terry Howard
Boy, although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the following story, even now I tear up.
You see, at a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a breathtaking speech:
Continue reading Run Shay, run! – by Terry Howard
It’s not unusual for me to be on the receiving end of sarcastic comments in response to something I wrote. It comes with the territory. In fact, I’ve grown to relish the barbs, and on occasion will use them as teachable moments. Here’s the latest one from “Cynical Cedric” followed by a teachable moment checklist:
“Hey Howard, we’ve noticed that you’ve been strangely silent on the sexual assault stuff that’s been in the news lately. I think that many women are paranoid and worry too much about something that probably won’t happen to them. This stuff is largely overblown.”
Continue reading Cynical about Women? – by Terry Howard
For native born U.S. citizens life is full of challenges. But, as “Nadia” shared during my interview, life for those in mixed status marriages like hers has even more difficult challenges. She shared a few:
ME: Tell me about some of the biggest challenges children in mixed-status homes face.
NADIA: The impact on children is the most heart wrenching. Immigration raids and police checkpoints targeting undocumented immigrants in their homes and communities, or having to visit a parent in a detention center all can be psychological damaging. One of the most difficult issues in our life is that occasionally a friend or family member will be arrested and deported. It’s very difficult to explain to children that uncle-so-and-so was not a bad person, he wasn’t a criminal and yet he is in jail. The idea of immigration laws are very abstract to children.
Continue reading My Marriage to an Illegal Immigrant (Part 3) – by Terry Howard
Recently my wife and youngest son were riveted to live images on his laptop of my eight month old granddaughter crawling around on a living room floor pausing occasionally to pull herself on furniture to explore stuff. Although her 9 year old brother was preoccupied in another room, the baby’s 8 year old sister pranced in and out of the screen smiling and waving at us. Like us, their proud mom and dad – my daughter-in-law and son – could be heard laughing and relishing these precious moments.
And for a few seconds later, I conjured up recent images of those immigrant kids on the southern border literally caged up like animals and separated from their parents. Unlike for us – and the majority of native born citizens of the United States – those precious moments are few and far between for those parents.
Okay – before reading further, think on the aforementioned two paragraphs for a few moments from your perspective as a parent and/or grandparent with your loved ones in mind.
Continue reading My Marriage to an Illegal Immigrant (Part 2) – by Terry Howard
At the center of the contentious immigration debate; the finger-pointing and the promise to “build a wall” on the southern border, are human beings who like everyone else want opportunities for a better life for themselves and their loved ones. “Nadia” is no exception.
But let’s start this at the end, that being a gut wrenching decision by her family to finally pack up and relocate to the relative safety of Winnipeg, Canada. A dozen or so years fighting through the immigration system, the bureaucracy, the morass and the constant fear of deportation can wear down even the strongest of the strong.
Continue reading My Marriage to an Illegal Immigrant (Part 1) – by Terry Howard
I didn’t know Bill Nordmark. And I’m probably not alone. That is until his name appeared on the obituary page of a local newspaper. “Bill Nordmark fought polio as a child and racism as an adult, all the while believing that one person can make a difference,” the opening paragraph read. Two years ago he embarked on a mission to forge better race relations – two people at a time – through what became known as a “Friendship Initiative.”
You see, that line and the rest of the story about Bill Nordmark (I’ll get to some of it further down), conjured up for me a line from one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner. “You move a mountain one stone at a time!”
Continue reading “Two people at a time” – Remembering Bill! – by Terry Howard
NOTE: In part one of this series, My Neighborhood, the author traced his experiences growing up in a small town in segregated America. Part two, The Powerful Voices of Momma Nem, replayed the voices of the black women who raised and held families together during those times. Those two narratives culminated in an idea for a block party. Here is part three of the story.
For us, the block party trek started on one corner and was interrupted along the way to a corner on the far end by surprised looks on faces, hugs, frequent pecks on cheeks and a bite to eat.
On July 4th this year nearly 100 of us participated in the first Baptist Street block party in historic Staunton, Virginia, where folks roamed the bristling street snapping pictures, looking over arts and crafts, chowing down on chicken wings and fried fish, playing games and reconnecting with family and friends they’d not seen in years, decades even. Tears meshed indistinguishably with perspiration as temperatures soared into the low nineties.
Continue reading The 2018 Baptist Street Block Party – by Terry Howard