danniewriter

This time, it’s different

Protestors in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd. Photo by Josh Hild, https://www.joshhild.com/presets

Two days after George Floyd’s death, a friend shared an article on her Facebook feed: “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.”

“Seventy-five?”

I have no doubt there are that many, and more, but it got me thinking. If I were keeping score on myself, could a Post-It be sufficient to record the list of actions I have ever taken to demand racial justice?

My parents did the heavy lifting to close the loop on the cycle of racist language used regularly and casually in their families and communities. That was never an issue for me because they never would have permitted my sister and I to ever use those words.

By their example, I learned that judging people by the group is idiotic, and that we were no better than anyone else. Simple and important lessons, and there were others. But what, if anything, had I built on top of that foundation? I have learned that racism often doesn’t foam at the mouth and wave a flag. Instead, it creeps in around the edges through condescension and ignorance. I’ve tried to be mindful of that when I relate to people who are not white.

Once, when my automatic car locks deployed at an intersection where a group of African American pedestrians were waiting for the light to change, I nearly rolled down the window and yelled, “That wasn’t me! It was the car, I swear!”

Hardly a march on Washington.

The truth is, aside from trying to be a decent person who respects others, there are just a few efforts here and there that I would “count” as sincere demands for racial and social justice.

Not much to show for nearly 40 years of adulthood.

One reason, not excuse, is another value my parents emulated: not jumping to conclusions–an activity that has reached Olympic proportions in recent years because of social media.

My parents would have hated Twitter.

Automatically placing a racially-charged incident under the umbrella with 5, 10 or 50 others is something I am loathe to do. That desire to “wait until the whole story comes out,” becomes inaction because after a few weeks or months, it’s no longer in the headlines. Inexcusable.

A hurdle I’ve had to overcome to get to this point of self-evaluation is accepting the term, “white privilege.” Money. Entitlement. Silver spoons. That’s my word-association-exercise “definition” of privilege.

People of privilege don’t know how to sucker tobacco. People of privilege didn’t exist on bushels of pinto beans, leathery catfish, stringy squirrel and scrawny chickens like my father did growing up.

But the real definition of privilege is quite different: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”

In the context of white privilege, the definition might be embraced by more Caucasians if it were viewed less as a special right that belongs only to Anglos and instead was cast as it surely is: an unjust burden placed on people of color. For example:

In 2015, a white supremacist shot and killed nine African Americans attending Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. The following Sunday, my cousin invited me to attend services at a local AME church with her and her daughter as a caring gesture to a few members of our African American community.

The service concluded with announcements. The usual stuff, church calendar, a hospital was offering free colon cancer screenings, and then the pastor asked ushers to pass out pamphlets to the congregation. The subject: how to respond to police if ever stopped for questioning.

Now, at this point in my life, I’ve probably been to a couple of thousand church services. In none of those services did the pastor give the men tips on how not to get shot by police. Likewise, I’m fairly confident that my sister and brother-in-law never sat my nephews down to give them the 411 on avoiding a lethal interaction with law enforcement.

That is white privilege.

All of these things have very much been on my mind since I heard about Mr. Floyd’s death. This time is different. Not because George Floyd’s life was worth more than Michael Ferguson’s. Judgments such as that are far above my pay grade, thank God.

No, this time is different for me.

I’m sending letters to local, state and national leaders insisting that every single law enforcement officer in the country be equipped with a body camera.

That’s one.

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Foto Phriday – Fishbone Alley

At one time, the alley between 26th and 27th Streets, and 13th and 14th Avenues, in Gulfport, Miss., looked the same as any alley in a similar city. That changed in 2016 when the thoroughfare was transformed into Fishbone Alley. Live music, original artwork that changes like any great gallery, movies and other events are held adjacent to great restaurants and pubs.
When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, this resident won’t be so lonely.
History is underfoot in the alley. These century-plus old bricks manufactured in Birmingham, Ala., go for about $17 a pop on Amazon.
It is in Fishbone Alley!
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Is this really your outrage?

https://youtu.be/psmpWVuCb8s

I find myself deleting, blocking and unfollowing more and more on social media these days. I’ve only had a couple of upsetting social media interactions myself, but they have left me, more than anything else, exhausted—and more than a little despondent about so-called “civil” discourse in the 21st century.

A couple of these interactions involved very intelligent people who, I thought, would be persuaded that they might have jumped to conclusions about a situation because they hadn’t yet read the latest developments. I naively thought that fairly irrefutable and verifiable facts would make a difference. One person politely agreed to disagree, the second blew her stack.

I really sound holier than thou, so let me be clear: I’ve fallen prey to fake news (that is, “real” fake news and not just facts that fail to support my point of view) and have been guilty of rushing to judgment … and sharing that judgment on social media. And while I never enjoy eating crow, I’ve tasted it before and generally will accept it again when I need to. Just pass the ketchup.

There’s a mob mentality online that has developed largely from the efforts of hard-working trolls. Most effective deceptions start with the tiniest grain of truth. Exaggeration and outright manufacturing are piled on again and again until the lie is presented as reality.

The result is that we perceive that the gulfs that exist between cultures, political parties, religions, etc., are not just unwieldy, they are insurmountable.

Which is exactly what some people want.

Soon, the 2020 presidential election will be just a year away, so I thought it was a good time to revisit a great piece of informational animation from acttv. The source is unapologetically left leaning, however, the content of this video is extremely balanced.

Sometimes the most outrageous and offensive information is accurate, but often it is not. Like the proverbial half-full/half-empty glass, it is a matter of perception, but even more diabolical, motive. A healthy distrust, and willingness to do some fact-finding on your own before commenting or sharing, is seriously lacking in civil discourse today, especially on social media platforms where people can be anonymous. Don’t borrow someone else’s outrage. We’ve all got plenty of our own.

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Dog Days at Jones Park

It’s a gorgeous, hot summer day in Gulfport. There’s always something going on at Jones Park, named for entrepreneur and city co-founder, Joseph T. Jones, but the pace definitely slows down when the sun is working extra hard.

Jones Park Marina with a view of the Ship Island lighthouse replica
This anchor next to the Barksdale Pavilion is quite the impressive landmark.
I imagined the seagull yelling, “I’m king of the world!” to his friends.
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Gifts and sacrifices

Dear Rep. Foster,

You don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, however, this is America, so I am privileged to share my opinion with you and countless other millions who don’t give a crap what I think. Lucky you.

I am writing, of course, about the recent kerfuffle you started when you denied Larrison Campbell, and by extension, Mississippi Today, access to your campaign unless she brought along a male colleague. While I respect your commitment to live a life above reproach, I think you have misunderstood its implications and responsibilities. At least, I am giving you the doubt that your motivation is indeed a principle, however misunderstood, and not a political calculation. But that is another subject.

Believers make adjustments in their lives to accommodate an imperfect world. Our willingness to adjust is a sign of our faith. It is possible that the world might take notice, but essentially, those adjustments are for an audience of one: God. In short, they are a gift to Him.

Fasting is perhaps the best example. Wildly paraphrased, Scripture says believers are to be bright eyed and bushy tailed when fasting so those around them will not notice. Why? Because the fast is a gift for an audience of one. Others might notice and even remark on someone skipping lunch or foregoing dessert during Lent, but the act, the sacrifice, is not for them.

Your insistence that Campbell bring a chaperone to her own interview is placing the burden of your sacrifice onto someone else. Hint: that means it’s no longer your sacrifice; it’s hers.

You invoke the late Rev. Billy Graham as the standard bearer for your decision even while admitting publicly that your motivation is to deprive your opponents political ammunition against you. I have a feeling that Graham let go of what the world thought of him way back when he was still putting up his own crusade tents.

I know it is trendy to lob disdain on the media. As a former reporter, I do a fair share of screaming at screens and the radio these days. However, the principle behind the outrage generated by your actions is sound. Cherry picking which media gets access to you might get some supporters on your side, however, to become governor, you need to convert a lot of undecided voters. This move just makes you look uncooperative, and quite frankly, a little whiney.

Just sayin’.

Stand your high ground, by all means, but take the responsibility upon yourself, where it belongs. Hire your own chaperone. After all, it’s not much of a gift if there’s no sacrifice behind it.

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A teachable moment

Actress/singer Erika Amato’s response to President Trump’s Independence Day gaffe is a big crowd pleaser. Read about Erika’s diverse career, reviews of her work and other highlights at www.erikaamato.com.

I would never wish a gaffe upon anyone as big as the mistake perpetrated by President Trump on Independence Day, but as someone who loves history, I found it just a tad gratifying. Sound strange? People often have that response when reading my posts, so please bear with me.

I imagined cellphones being pulled out across the nation as people asked themselves, “Exactly how many years off was he?” I pictured very small children asking why various beverages had just shot from their parents’ noses when the infamous remark was made.

The fact that people, especially young ones, are curious enough to ask questions about the past is a life preserver of optimism to which I cling mightily when I see “on the street” interviews where over 18ers opine that the presidential cabinet is a piece of furniture.

In recent years, the question of America’s history, especially in the South, has been a topic of heated debate as leaders, and entire communities, have opted to remove statues, plaques and names from public spaces and buildings. The country’s brutal past of slavery and racial discrimination is by no means a Southern phenomenon, but I think it’s fair to say that, in many corners of the region, there is a tendency to deliberately misunderstand the opposition of such symbols.

After all, in many areas of the South, it was commonplace to refer to the Civil War as “the recent unpleasantness,” into the 20th century.

We have an opportunity here, not to erase history by tearing down monuments and removing plaques, although in some cases I think that is entirely appropriate, and in just about all cases, I think a community is well within its right to make such a decision. Additionally, I am certainly not suggesting that we engage in group denial and giving into political correctness.

The opportunity is to get the story right … or at least as close to right as our faulty human nature will allow.

Ripping down statues is quick and easy. Putting history into context takes time and strength of will. And in some cases, it takes exploration. There are many important people who were so disenfranchised during their lifetimes, their stories are not yet fully known.

I ran across a profound piece of writing that illustrates beautifully the great need we have as a country for balance, context and “the whole story.” I hope you will take time to read Carly Berlin’s essay, Two Houses on the Eatonton-Milledgeville Road, recently posted on The Bitter Southerner.

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Hello, Sailor

Keeping vigil at 13th St. and U.S. 49 in downtown Gulfport is this gorgeous stainless steel creation by Jim Collins, an artist from Signal Mountain, Tenn.

Sailor by Jim Collins, photographed by Dannie Prather, #fotophriday
Sailor’s oar is made of bronze. She’s located across from another Gulfport icon, the Half Shell Restaurant. #fotophriday
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Crisis Capitalization

My new home state of Mississippi has really taken it on the chin this year. Parts of the Delta began flooding in February and still are underwater. To attempt to alleviate one catastrophic event, floodwaters from the Mississippi River have been released into the Gulf, creating another catastrophe. Dolphins and turtles have died, and the men and women who harvest oysters, shrimp and other delicacies from the deep have almost nothing to show for their labors because of the freshwater/floodwater contamination.

The continued release from the Bonnet Carré spillway has made the seasonal “dead zone” of oxygen-starved saltwater one for the record books, precipitating an algae bloom that now has closed many, but not all, beaches to swimming and water sports just in time for the Independence Day holidays.

There’s no sugar-coating the facts: the situation for farmers, fishers, plants and virtually all other forms of flora and fauna is decidedly bleak. Nevertheless, Mississippians on the Gulf have not thrown in the towel for the summer tourism season. In the process, they have provided an excellent lesson in “Don’t Panic PR.”

Milton Segarra, CEO of Coastal Mississippi, the regional tourism bureau, set just the right tone of concern and optimism along with a dash of “algae blooms happen all the time. We’ve got this.”

“We are a warm weather destination. We are in the Gulf of Mexico; this happens,” Segarra told WLOX-TV. His response wasn’t flippant, however. He emphasized that the closures were necessary to protect the public. The algae causes some nasty symptoms when people come in contact with it.

Now, no one wishes that the flooding, freshwater release and algae bloom had happened, but in a weird way, the challenge actually reinforced Coast Mississippi’s rebranding effort that began earlier this year.

The bureau’s previous name was Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “Coast is the place where the water meets the land, but coastal encompasses the beaches, the water and the land beyond,” Segarra said in the rebranding announcement.

The fact is, there is a great deal of beauty and charm in the region. And even if I can’t wade in the Gulf, the joy and peace I get from a beach sunset such as the one above is gift enough.

I hope tourists will take Segarra’s advice, keep their vacation plans unchanged, and explore beyond the beach. I’m sure they won’t be disappointed.

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Tell the world your mousetrap is best

It’s exhausting sometimes to complete a project only to have it returned to you with notations about everything you did wrong. When writing, I usually focus on composing positive statements, but sometimes the most efficient way to tackle a problem is to look at the mistakes that have been made up to this point.

Writing for the Balance Small Business, Alyssa Gregory compiles a concise list of seven common marketing errors, and most important, how to avoid them. They are:

  • not having a marketing plan
  • being unclear about what makes your business different
  • trying to sell to everyone
  • underestimating the power of word-of-mouth advertising
  • being scared of social media
  • refusing to try new marketing activities
  • ignoring the competition

From this list, “being unclear about what makes your business different,” and “ignoring the competition,” really caught my eye. My grandmother often used the well-known bit of wisdom, “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That means knowing everything about your product and service, including how it compares to your competition’s products and services. It sounds so simple, but too often small businesses operate in a bubble, doing their own thing day after day, never considering why customers are spending their money elsewhere.

What makes your “mousetrap” revolutionary? Get specific about what sets you apart from the competition. If you need assistance in telling your story, contact me. The initial consultation is free.

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When nothing is everything

About the photo: Artist Amy Peters creates a mural in downtown Hopkinsville, Ky., in preparation for the 2017 solar eclipse. (Photo by Meredith Willse for the Kentucky New Era)

What do Oreo cookies and Mountain Dew® have to do with the hit HBO series Game of Thrones?

Absolutely nothing, but sometimes nothing is everything.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones kicks off April 14. The build-up is saturating headlines, social media and conversation. What business wouldn’t want to take a ride on the hem of that cape?

GoT-themed cookies are just the tip of the marketing iceberg. To get an idea of how brands are capitalizing on the show, check out Rebecca Jennings’ article on Vox.

If something has captured the public’s attention, consider how your small business might make the most of it. A direct connection between your company and the event in question is good, of course, but if the event is big enough, that doesn’t matter.

The 2017 total eclipse was a big deal in my home state, Kentucky. Hopkinsville was the largest city in the area of greatest eclipse. The event was on the horizon, pun intended, for a while, so it gave businesses and non-profits a long time to squeeze every drop of potential from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What are people talking about in your community? Join a coffee klatch. Brainstorm with your fellow merchants or non-profits. Join neighborhood Facebook groups or Next Door. There might be something big on the horizon that takes your brand to the next level.

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