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Feathers in Pittsburgh's Cap

Much to be grateful for in a tumultuous year

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Well, it's that time of the year again and, although it's supposed to be too corny to think about all of the things for which I am thankful around this holiday, bear with me and Google any unfamiliar names, so you can sustain yourself during the upcoming year.

To wit:

I'm thankful for all of my progressive friends, who will provide their annual analyses on how we should utilize our time at Thanksgiving to honor the Native American stories over the pilgrims'. They're right, even though none of us are refusing the break from work.

I'm thankful for people who make history, for all of the courageous black people who have stood up this year. Had we remained silent during this major shift in Pittsburgh's leadership, direction and transformation, we would have nothing to whine about later on. I am thankful for the affordable-housing rally, Black Male Solidarity Day, the Racial Equity Summit, all the active folks in the Hill District, in Homewood, East Liberty and the North Side, in particular. I am thankful for One Hood, B-PEP, the Urban League, NAACP, the activist Black churches (and any churches, for that matter), the Ebony Spectrum radio show and the Thomas Merton Center. We need you.

I'm thankful for those who record history, too. I guess that's why I'm thankful for the huge August Wilson historical landmark sign that sits on Bedford Avenue in the Hill. And for that, I am thankful to all those who made that symbol possible -- the Heinz History Center in particular.

I'm thankful for all of my artist friends and acquaintances. I really don't know where I would be this year if it weren't for them. Between the gallery crawls, the Women of Vision, the Black and White festivals, Fashion Africana, Bricolage, Kuntu Rep, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Christiane D. and Stacey Pearl productions and the August Wilson Center's First Voices International Arts Festival (thanks, Janera!), it's been quite lovely.

I'm thankful to my own cast in Dr. Goddess productions for helping to make our collective dreams come true. I'm especially thankful for the cluster of young girls I get to put onstage in their innocent beauty and sharp intellectualism. We're going on tour and I just love it. All of you artists help sustain us when we don't always have the vision, presence of mind or even the will to see beyond our present circumstances or latest shows of our own.

I'm thankful to progressive women in the 'Burgh. Between the Black and Blue Conference, Well Woman Radio, the Women's Equal Pay rally, the YMCA's increased public presence to eliminate racism and empower women's lives. I am thankful for the cacophony of voices raising awareness and demanding accountability around domestic violence and employment, I am just thankful that there are sisters watching all of our backs.

And last but not least:

I'm thankful that the NAACP is pulling a "gangsta" move in Louisiana by mobilizing to kick an ungrateful Democrat out of office. The Associated Press reported, "Rep. Carla Blanchard Dartez, a Democrat, acknowledged that she ended a Thursday night conversation with [75-year-old civil-rights veteran] Hazel Boykin by saying, 'Talk to you later, Buckwheat.' Dartez had been thanking Boykin for driving voters to the polls."

There is no excuse here. I hope they all wear big Buckwheat-style afros down to the polls when they vote her out of office and vote in the Republican candidate. Let that be a lesson for both political parties who continue to think black people blindly and mindlessly vote as Democratic loyalists.

This reminds me of an excellent quote by the late writer James Baldwin: "Words like 'freedom,' 'justice,' 'democracy' are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply."

Between the talkers and the walkers and the bloggers and the performers, we can and will make Pittsburgh a truly livable city, to the extent where we won't have to rely on empty slogans, silly mascots or thinly veiled cover-ups to mask our failures. One by one, we will confront them so we can be judged, quite simply, by the content of our collective character.

 

Dr. Goddess Says: Believe in collective consciousness and individual acts of courage.

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