Archive | May 2018

The first, original Memorial Day

I’ve read about so many historical events that later proved to be attributed to the wrong, people, places, or things.  People tend to believe what they want to believe or are influenced by first impressions which may be wrong.

Sewell Chan wrote a piece for the New York Times, Race-Related Section, Saturday, May 26, 2018.  In his article, he describes that the official Memorial Day dates back to 1868; the idea came from something called Decoration Day, in which citizens and Vets would drape Vets’ graves with flowers.  Originally, a Union Major John A. Logan set the first date as May 30-the holidays initial commemoration took place at Arlington National Cemetery.

However, herstory is always changing and flexing (and is stranger than fiction) with new information.  David W. Blight, a Yale Historian, differs on the source and perceptions of history of Memorial Day. Blight asserts that Memorial Days origins have their source in “a series of commemorations that freed black Americans held in the spring of 1865,…” (Ibid., p.1).

This “series of events” included:

  • At a mass grave of Union soldiers, on May 1, 1865, black soldiers exhumed the bodies, gave them proper burials, erected a fence around the cemetery, and built an archway that had the words Martyrs of the Race Course over it.

*The next event was a protest by 10,000 African-Americans, followed by a procession of people in mourning, they sang “John Brown’s Body,” and black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths, and crosses.

  • “The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance & consecration, Dr. Blight wrote in a 2011 essay for the New York Times, the war, they had boldly announced had been about the triumph of the emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic.  They were themselves the true patriots (Ibid.,p.2).”


  • “The African-American origins of the holiday were later suppressed, Dr. Blight found, by white Southerners who reclaimed power after the end of Reconstruction and interpreted Memorial Day as a holiday of reconciliation, making sacrifices by white Americans (my emphasis)-on both sides.  Black Americans were largely marginalized in this narrative-my emphasis)” (Ibid.,p.2).

Without getting into “conspiracy theories” (which there’s no need to do, and wouldn’t even if I could), what strikes me about this issue is that the white narrative wins out as the real Memorial Day.  Um, I wonder why?

One thing I’ve learned about racism, is that the white-privileged leaders will do just about anything they can to stop persons-of-color in achieving or accessing the resources to further their goals, and getting the facts for their own, private affliction of white privilege.

Just as a human body can’t get well if any particular number of the parts of the body are sick.  Those who think they’re the heads are unwell with a disease called racism, and this affects the rest of the entire body, or in this case, society.

So, what does this tell us?  We must always get the facts; we must always listen; we must always observe; we must always use our critical thinking skills.

It’s not necessary to see a demon in every dark hallway-there’s plenty of the reality of racism to probably see it or interact with it every day, even when we don’t want to see it.  Unfortunately, it’s an embedded illness in our national culture; nothing short of a change of universal proportions in consciousness-raising, will bring any change in our racialized society.  It’s we who will radicalize society by Racial Justice.  And that’s the real deal!

copyright: christopherbearbeam May 27, 2018

Yellow Tulip Project Plants More Seed-Bulbs

The Yellow Tulip Project backed a facilitated workshop on Wednesday evening, May 9, 2018, and was venued at the Speedwell Projects’ office in a very close and warm-energy space.

What psyched me the most is that the participants were multi-generational, from high school aged peers on up to senior peers. This is the essence, in my way of thinking, of genuine community. Bravo!

The topic of discussion was stigma around Mental Illness. I know this because with my mental illness diagnosis, I have also experienced this type of stigma-so, it’s a subject close to me, and in my life and mind. In one job, my supervisor refused to let me attend therapy sessions during work hours (the only time the therapy facility was open was during weekly work hours)-for me, this was stigmatization-the irony of it all, is that it appeared to me that my supervisor had her own mental illness issues. Later, this supervisor, was the prime factor in my termination from the job I had at the time. So, in actuality, this had some very powerful, long-term effects on my Mental Illness.

The group dialogued & brainstormed areas where participants had experienced stigma around mental illness: we talked directly and plainly about how stigma wounds so many in our culture of un-understanding of Mental Health, who’re already struggling with day-to-day issues of mental illness.

Dr. Anne Hallward, MD, a practicing psychiatrist and the host of Safe Place Radio (check out The Safe Space program is a medium of sharing the hard stories; it encourages “courageous conversations” about tough subjects like mental illness, addiction, race, and sexuality; expression of our “experiencings” in life (Dr. Hallward) can lead to healing the hurts around stigma. “Safe Space Radio is a form of public health psychiatry” (Safe Space Brochure).

The Yellow Tulip Project, Suzzane Fox (a YTP associate) told me, develops and models ways to have conversations around stigma in the public schools, and a group of these students attended the workshop; I observed a solid understanding, on their part, of how mental illness has effected them, and they are discovering more ways to use them as coping mechanisms.

It started by planting tulip bulbs, and the hope around the consequential appearance of tulips-a metaphor for the hope of healing stigma due to Mental Illness. When seed turns to flower, time to get busy!

There was a high-energy desire that formulated into a highly-motivated group among the peers/students who participated in this workshop.

Dr. Hallward led the group through a final piece, when she asked us to think about one way we each wanted to blast stigma off into the parts of some outlier galaxy. The group’s suggestions connected with some of the more general areas in prior discussions, areas in life where people had observed stigmatization. Systems where we can intervene.

We then shared what our action steps had imagined:a personal engagement with a de-stigmatization focus and method. There were so many good, tangible ideas!

If each one of us were to follow through with our action steps, in committed action, even in this smaller, more incremental way, we can impact and impinge the systems in which we live, and they can shift, depending on the depths of change one is looking for. A shift in one part of a system can shift the entire system.

Many thanks to all the folks who’ve supported this resilient & powerful-working group, and given their resources to prevent stigma. Kudos to the Yellow
Tulip Project, and all of its participants, to Safe Space Radio, and Dr. Anne Hallward for this beautiful work!

Yellow Tulip Project’s How to Create a Hope Garden:

Order Yellow Tulip bulbs in the spring or summer.
Identify a location for your Hope Garden.
Select a planting date in the fall: Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct 5-9),
or World Mental Health Day (Oct 10).
Gather a community to plant the garden.
Provide a place for posting/gathering hopeful messages.
Plant the bulbs together.
Gather for speeches, memories and/or wishes of hope
Take photos and videos of your Hope Garden and share with the community

copyright:christopherbearbeam May 10, 2018