Trapped at a Rally

Alexis Glasgow on stage with a sign in the foreground that reads "Let my son live."
Alexis Glasgow on stage at the “Peaceful Solidarity Candle Light Vigil” in Dunedin on June 8, 2020. She spoke after the program was concluded by the organizers.

By the time they had been holding court on stage for nearly an hour, my blood was boiling.

I was being held hostage, in broad daylight, in a public park in Dunedin, Florida.

The gathering had been promoted on Facebook as a “Peaceful Solidarity Candle Light Vigil.” The image said “Together we rise,” with a row of fists in all colors.

But the result was a display of pure white privilege. Look at us white people, gathering without violence or rioting. Look at how nicely white people can talk about black people. See how we can get together without looting any local stores.

The organizer was white. The bagpiper who played “Amazing Grace” was white. The minister was white. The mayor and all the other speakers were white. With the exception of the mayor, they were also all male. They talked about how wonderful it was to have a peaceful gathering, and they thanked and congratulated themselves and the participants for coming.

The hundreds of people in the crowd were there in good faith. They didn’t know they were going to be used to promote this message. There were people there of all ages, with a handful of black participants who probably  represented Dunedin’s actual numbers, about 4% black.

Today, it’s apparent from their Facebook posts that most of them are completely unaware of what happened with their complicity.

I sat in the middle of the crowd with three friends, completely trapped. If I stayed, I was one more white person who appeared to support the systemic racism that the speakers had no idea they were portraying. If I walked out in disgust, I wasn’t supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was a lose-lose situation. My friends and I were literally squirming in our seats.

Up on stage, the organizer began to quote Dr. Martin Luther King for the second or third time. Finally, I lost it.

When he paused to take a breath, I shouted, loudly enough to be heard by all, “STOP QUOTING BLACK PEOPLE AND LET THEM SPEAK!”

On stage, the man shut up, stunned. There was a moment of collective shock, and then the crowd cheered.

What happened next? When he scanned the crowd for black faces, it became evident that he had not booked a single black speaker. His eyes fell on a black woman with a sign that said “Let my son live.” “Hey, you, with that sign, come up here and speak,” he called out to her.

I wanted to cry. This is not how allies work. We do not drag unsuspecting black people on stage to be the token representative of the entire movement. We do not suddenly demand that they jump in front of a microphone to validate us.

She did a great job, speaking briefly about her experiences and fears as the mother of a black teenager. Judging from the applause and cheers, the crowd appreciated her more than any of the previous white speakers.

After she spoke, the organizer announced that he didn’t want the event to go on for too long, so he was going to end the vigil. He later followed up on the Facebook event page, writing “I hope I did the cause justice, and If I even only inspired one person as a call to action, then that makes it worth my time. I am far from done.”

The crowd milled around a bit, unsure if we should just go home. Then something magical happened. Alexis Glasgow took the stage, and she saved the day.

Alexis is young, black, and female. Hers is the voice we need to hear.

Three days earlier, Alexis and two other women had organized a large sit-down protest at Coachman Park in neighboring Clearwater. Raised in Clearwater and attending American University in Washington DC, she has a young, fearless black voice, and she is using her words to fight for justice. Alexis is the kind of leader that allies like myself need. She can help us understand the work that needs to be done.

Alexis brought us back to the reason why we attended the vigil. She talked about the Black Lives Matter movement, about the injustice that is all around us. She gave us hope that there will be change and that it will be led by the black voices we have been silencing for 400 years.

If you are an ally, your job is to listen. Not to white people speaking on behalf of black people, but to black people speaking up for themselves. One of the signs I’ve seen at protests is “Silence = Violence.” Allowing the white speakers to go on for an hour last night was an act of oppression.

It is not up to us to speak right now. As allies, we have the resources to produce events, to rally our white friends, but the speakers MUST BE BLACK. The leaders MUST BE BLACK. If you don’t have black friends, then call on people who are not your personal friends. Ask a black business owner or a black minister if they will speak. Ask someone from a neighboring community to speak.

There are many black people who work in Dunedin and cannot afford to live here. Ask them to speak.

If I ever attend another Black Lives Matter event that has been co-opted by white people, I will no longer sit quietly, listening. Silence = Violence. LET THEM SPEAK.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 24 & 25

Frankie has traveled more than most bears, as visitors to his blog may have noticed. In Chapter 24, he and Meps share some thought-provoking concepts about travel.

Chapter 25 talks about photos, and what the camera really sees when it captures your bear — or you.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? We haven’t published those yet, but we will very soon!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 22 & 23

Have you seen my quick Easter PSA about the Teddy Bear Network? Here are the details! This segment also includes a short, relaxing chapter about Frankie’s incredible napping ability.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 20 & 21

The in-person audience has grown significantly in this episode of The Joyful Bear. In the next two chapters, we learn more about Precious and how her unique talents helped a grieving friend and a stranger in the post office.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 18 & 19

Meps and Frankie are very excited to introduce someone special in these chapters!

By the way, if you are located near Dunedin, Florida, you can find the Dunedin Teddy Bear Hunt group mentioned in the video on Facebook.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 16 & 17

Chapter 16 is entitled “Snow.” It’s not really about snow, but about the importance of our own personal passions. In it, I mention some very dear people — my sister, Julie, and my late friend, Ben. At 2:00 in the video, I also provide a list of things people are passionate about, and you might be one of the folks who inspired that list!

Chapter 17, “Change,” includes a thought experiment about tattoos and nose rings. In it, I quote a very wise man, Jim D’Ambrosia, whose writing about cancer led Frank Lloyd Bear to see himself differently.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 14 & 15

These are two of my favorite chapters, on “Joy” and “Being.” If you were only going to read one chapter in the entire book, it should be Chapter 15: Being. It is the one I read at public-speaking engagements, and it has the single most important message.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 12 & 13

In this video, Frankie is excited to show off his amazing flying skills! This is installment number seven of The Joyful Bear, with chapters on “Trust” and “Flight.”

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

How I express gratitude — and you can, too

Every time I see Mease Dunedin Hospital, I remember the kindness of the people who took care of my father there. Over the course of seven months, I interacted with hundreds of caring staff members, from the emergency room staff — who got used to seeing me every month or two — to the ICU nurse who kept him alive, to the young man who cleaned his room.

Since my Dad passed away last year, I haven’t seen those folks, but with the hospital across the street, they’re never far from my mind. I decided to create a sign to post in my window, to let them know they are appreciated. I made the signs available in PDF format, so you can post one for the medical workers in your neighborhood, too!

Go to the I Smile First website to download a PDF and print it out. There’s a color version or a black-and-white one that you can color yourself.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 10 & 11

Installment number six of The Joyful Bear includes the chapters on “Size” and “Air. Speaking of the latter, here are a few of Frankie’s favorite recipes for you to enjoy.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.