#openletters to bill maher

Open Letters to Bill Maher from 2 Women: 1 Black, 1 White

‘Open Letters to Bill Maher for Calling Himself a ‘House N-word’ from 2 Women: 1 Black, 1 White’  sprang from conversations between two friends, Sylvia Wong Lewis and Elizabeth Sturges Llerena. Both are active in Coming to the Table, a national community organization that helps those who acknowledge and seek healing from racism, as caused by the traumas as a result of slavery. Elizabeth and Sylvia have co-facilitated numerous community conversations about history, racism, and slavery.

#OpenLetters to Bill Maher

Dear Bill, Your heart may be in the right place. But your mouth isn’t. It’s been a few months since you called yourself a ‘House-N#@*&+*.’ I’m still upset. That’s why I’m writing an open letter to you. Your apologies were not heartfelt. You recently ranted new racial slurs about Asians and Muslims. You totally missed all of your teachable moments.

Here are some ideas that might help. Try mindfulness therapy to control your racist outbursts. While racism may not be curable, you will learn to manage your hurtful words. To continue your healing journey, you should do something big. How about a public penance for your offenses? Start with an ‘Anti-Racism Million White Men’s March’!

And let’s not get it twisted. You must lead your brethren through the streets. Your protest signs must list at least 30 male privileges that need to be protested. Click here for a link to a male privilege checklist.

Show the world that you guys mean business. Make amends for your hasty ways. I have seen you take the heat for things you’ve said from Black news show hosts. You are one of the few White guys who will actually show up for difficult conversations. But talk is cheap. Let’s see some action.

Bill, if you tried, you could become a great role model. So, what do you say? Seize the time! Take the white male lead in the anti-racism movement! I believe you can do this. Leverage your celebrity platform to liberate your people from incredible stupidity, racism, sexism, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim feelings, and other male privileges.

The world will take notice of these important issues in a new way, when you take hold of them! All you need to do is band together like real brothers.

What’s in it for you? You would be able to say: ‘I finally did the right thing.’ Some may even turn green with envy. They might say: “Bill Maher stole my idea!” There are many well-meaning white men out there waiting for a nudge. And you might be the only one brazen enough to do this. In the meanwhile, stop using the N-word. Don’t justify it. You have better words to use.


Sylvia Wong Lewis,


#openletters to bill maher

Dear Bill, I recently watched your interviews with Micheal Eric Dyson and Ice Cube. I felt for you. I’m white, and those moments are always uncomfortable, even out of the spotlight. I commend you for inviting public conversation the way you did. It is tremendously difficult for most white men I know to show up for these conversations. I appreciate your leadership in that sense.

But for white people, unless we make an effort to thoroughly examine our attitudes about race and racism, those “embarrassing mistakes” are always lurking and will come out sooner or later, always at the immediate expense of People of Color. It’s only a matter of time.

I was asked to seriously examine my own white privilege in 1998 when my cousin told me that our Rhode Island family had enslaved and brought over 10,000 Africans to the Americas, more than any other family in US history. She invited me to participate in what became the PBS documentary Traces of the Trade. Since then, I have had many moments where People of Color and African Americans have called me or other white people out on our racist behaviors. When that happens, I always feel a clenching in my throat and chest and a sweat beginning to break. I would love nothing more in those moments than to say “ ‘But…’ ‘I didn’t mean to…(Really I didn’t!)’ ‘ It was just an innocent mistake…’   ‘It’s because of…’.” The list goes on and on of what I could say to get out of that tight spot.

#OpenLetters to Bill Maher

Thankfully, I have learned to zip my lips, keep my ears open, and ride that wave of nasty discomfort. I have learned this in situations and spaces where people listen to each other with the intention of repairing the immense damage caused by slavery and its aftermath, such as Coming To The Table, a multiracial organization dedicated to healing from the legacies of slavery.

As I said before, I get that you did not premeditate or intend harm with your ‘house nigger’ comment, but as the host on your own show, neither did you embrace that made-much-of “teachable moment.”

Here’s why: You indulged in the privilege of excuses – “It was a mistake.” “I’m sorry.” “It’s because I’m a comedian.” You tried several times to interrupt them. Furthermore, although at that point you had already publicly apologized, you still felt entitled to reiterate that you already knew their points about white privilege and its destructive effects. In the end, I felt I was watching a sad and familiar pattern as your guests politely let you off the hook, an invitation we are often too eager to accept from People of Color, kind of like Obama’s beer on the White House lawn.

Now a powerful way to use your platform would be to be open and transparent about how all of this has made you feel. Without apology and without defensiveness. That is what is missing. I know that’s hard, and probably doesn’t sell well. It might not make for a funny or even profitable evening. Some folks will get pretty angry. But a powerful white man modelling how to shut up and really listen could teach how we begin forming honest and transformational relationships with People of Color.

How much would you really stand to lose, and how much could we all gain?


Elizabeth Sturges Llerena


Elizabeth shares the back story about her art work in photo below called ‘What’s Hidden Below.’

#openletters to Bill Maher

What’s Hidden Underneath is based on my experience as a white North American whose generation is the first to break our family’s collective silence about slave traders in the family. The pattern on the outer part of the dress is based on a 19th century textile design entitled Cotton Printed With a Portrait of a Military Hero, however the portrait in the design is a portrait of my ancestor, James DeWolf, who in his lifetime and in the popular mythology of my family and childhood community, was considered an upstanding citizen; a successful businessman and a “hero” of sorts. If we pull back the front panels of the skirt we see images of a DeWolf ship, Cape Coast Castle, a slave fort in Ghana frequented by DeWolf ships, and the tools of torture that were used to enslave people in Ghana, Cuba and New England as well as the Southern states.

The truth is that the DeWolfs were the largest slave trading family in the history of the United States. Bristol, Rhode Island my childhood home, is where the DeWolfs resided and made their fortune. Bristol is a beautiful town. To this day, its overwhelmingly white residents comfortably enjoy its beauty while refusing to acknowledge its true history, where the economy once relied almost exclusively on the horrific and brutal Triangle Trade.

This piece is meant to reveal what is hidden underneath white over-privilege in America. On the part of the dress that can only be partially seen are images of living, passed, young, old, famous and not-so-famous African Americans and other people of color representing the legacy of slavery which still renders people of color invisible or only partially visible on so much of white America’s radar screen.




Rename Columbus Day

Native Blanket

The movement to rename Columbus Day continues to build. By now, many of you agree that we should honor our Indigenous sisters and brothers. Christopher Columbus and his invaders were lost at sea. He landed in the Caribbean where he was rescued and greeted with love and generosity by the Taino and native tribes. He thought they were inferior and began a campaign of murder, rape, torture, and slavery that lasted for years. Today, he is rarely discussed in US classrooms. Historians have already proven that America was populated by millions of civilized Natives and Indigenous tribes. Furthermore, ancient Hebrews, Chinese and Vikings had already visited or ‘discovered’ America hundreds of years before Columbus. To read more on the false history many of us were taught, click here.

Thank goodness, more American communities want to recognize Indigenous Day of Remembrance. You may recall that I posted about renaming the American holiday Indigenous Remembrance Day, last year. Here’s an excerpt:

“My Indigenous and Native American ancestors are finally getting some respect. Columbus Day is getting re-branded. I know that my ancestors would be thrilled to see more American cities recognize the truth: That Columbus did not ‘discover’ America.”  To read more, click my blog post.


Native tribes protest Columbus Day at Columbus Circle, NYC
Native tribes protest Columbus Day at Columbus Circle, NYC

Berkley, California was the first city to get rid of the holiday back in the 1990s. Today, more cities are pushing for change. Cities in Kansas, Oregon and Texas have already gotten rid of this holiday. For facts, click more cities.

Some religious leaders want to see the holiday renamed for Indigenous people too.

“We are the original inhabitants of this land,” said the Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and a Choctaw. “But there is so little to affirm the contributions that Native American people have made to this country by giving up the land, which wasn’t voluntary, and all the sacrifices people have made.” For more, click here: churches push to rename Columbus Day.

Of course some Italian organizations are upset. One group has proposed a ‘middle-ground.’ An idea to rename the day for Italians and make another day for Natives is making its rounds.

“John Viola, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Italian American Foundation, said renaming Columbus Day dishonors the country’s 25 million Italian Americans and their ancestors. He said Italian Americans feel slighted by cities that are dropping Columbus Day.” By default, we’re like the collateral damage of this trend,” he said. The foundation’s leadership council is scheduled later this month to take up the issue.” For more, click here.

Would you vote in favor of a new holiday called Indigenous Remembrance Day? Is there a middle ground for Italian heritage and Native recognition?

WOC Boomer Bloggers

WOC (Women of Color) Boomer Bloggers, we know you are out there! Do you remember where you were when the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965? Today marks the 50th anniversary.

Women of Color (WOC) Baby Boomers are 50 years old+.  Born between 1946-1964, we are daughters of the Civil Rights movement. African American Civil Rights activists created the blueprint and laid the foundation for the success of the women’s movement and many immigrants.

We are still radical. Some of us live our lives out loud. Others thrive on a quiet path in mind, body and soul. Yet, we continue to break down barriers and preserve freedom in our own special way. Did you know we were pioneers? Most of us were the ‘first’ women of color to achieve all kinds of thing. That’s why we have moral authority to have our say about what is happening in America today. We can use our unique voices, experience and wisdom to teach, mentor and listen to the younger generation. By blogging we are showing that our voices have not been silenced by age. We do own a lion share of the consumer marketing space. Why brands do not market to us more widely is beyond me. Maybe we should use our economic power in more strategic ways.

Women of Color need to communicate with each other. I believe that we women can save the world! Let’s unite on the many issues that impact our lives and this planet. Many of us were children activists marching along with our parents for the right to vote. Armed US military guards escorted some of us to school as children. Some of us saw our children and lands taken from us. We survived terrorism, exploitation, racism, sexism, segregation, Jim Crow Laws and more.

In honor of the Voting Rights Act 50th anniversary, this list of 50+ year old Women of Color Bloggers is offered as a beginning of our mission to connect and build community. We included one male blogger. We are still searching for more MOC Boomer brothers! (Men of Color).

If we find 100 WOC and MOC Boomer Bloggers, we will create a free directory.

The following WOC bloggers write about culture, food, sustainability, history, mothers, grandmothers, entrepreneurs, reinvention, reimagination, photography, art, and media. We post on genealogy, spirituality, faith, empowerment, intimacy, relationships, fashion, hair, gardening, parenting, homeschooling, travel, fitness, cooking, healthy eating, tech, books, films, politics and more.





Sharon Leslie Morgan PotLikker: African-American Cookbook, Soul Food, Women in the Kitchen; Our Black Ancestry






Sarah Khan Food, Culture, Climate and Sustainability






Renate Genealogist Yarborough Sanders Into the Light: Demystifying the Past and Uncovering an Elusive Ancestry






Angela Walton-Raji The African-Native American Genealogy Blog





Drusilla Pair Find Your Folks: A Journal about Family and History





Patricia Patton Creative Aging: Creating Playbooks for the Life You Want







Wanda Sabir  Well-Being of African People Past, Present and Future






Cherilyn “Liv” Wright The Wise Boudoir: On Intimacy and Relationships






Pamela Swear-King Still Dating My Spouse: Relationship Practices that Promote Connection, Commitment, Communication, and Consistency






Paula Penn-Nabrit Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden, Sunday School Sisters, Homeschooling






Johnetta Miner Lifestyle Wellness: Integrative Holistic Education, Wellness Coaching, Business Leadership and Lifestyle Management






Nicka Smith  Who is Nicka Smith?: Genealogy, Photography and all the stuff in between






Eva Yaa Asantewaa  Infinite Body: Art and Creative Consciousness






Babz Rawls Ivy  Love Babz: A Life in Transition-notes on being an ex-wife, mother, felon, and citizen of the world






Deborah Smikle-Davis Urban Naturale: Living Healthy, Vegan, Green and Natural






Monique Wells Entrée to Black Paris: Say “bonjour” to Black Paris- A One of a Kind Black Heritage Destination






Sandra Lewis Life in 4-Part Harmony: Tune In & Find Your Rhythm, Make Good Life Music






Gennia Holder Time to Go Virtual: Marketing and Business Strategist; A passion for helping entrepreneurs






Francis Best Stanfield Frantastically Fran: Alopecia Awareness, Family Ties, Menopause Minute, Simply Frugal






Anu Prestonia Khamitkinks: Fashion, Style, Body & Spirit






Elle Gibson Spendid Habitat: Interior Design and Style Ideas for Your Home






Elaine Shelly-Burns  Transformations Possible: How to Craft a Heartmade Life and Creative Reinvention Coach






Taylor Gilmore Creating in Faith and Grace; 40 Days Devotional






Lorraine Laddish Viva Fifty: A Bilingual Community that Celebrates Being 50+






Dr. Tina Opie & Fredrick Douglas Opie, From Dreadlocks to Mini-Afro: Hair as identity; Food as a Lens: Telling Stories about Food Traditions


Teresa Speight- Cottage in the Court, Creating beauty, naturally, landscaping, gardening, travel.
Teresa SpeightCottage in the Court, Creating beauty, naturally, landscaping, gardening, travel.








Joyce Owens, literal and figurative artist, art professor. ArtMajeur
Joyce Owens, Art, Literal and Figurative artist, Art Professor. ArtMajeur







Ananda Leeke, DigitalSisterhood, Yoga+Creativity+ Internet Geek
Ananda Leeke, DigitalSisterhood, Yoga+Creativity+ Internet Geek








Camera shy WOC Boomer bloggers

Pamela Lynn Kemp, Through the Maze of Life, A Christian Writer’s Journey Through the Maze of Life

M Hakikah Shamsiden (Garden of Wellness: Healing is my Spiritual Practice. I help women make the connection between inner health and outer beauty

Lisa Y. Henderson (Scuff Along: Genealogy)

Please send links for other WOC Boomer Bloggers who should be included on our list.

Yours in the struggle.




Quakers to host slavery talk

15th Street Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, NYC

The local Quaker Peace Committee will host our next Coming to the Table (CTTT) meeting on Saturday, June 6 at their Friends House in Union Square area. As the Co-Leader with Julie Finch of CTTT NYC-Metro, I am pleased to extend an invitation to newcomers to learn more about our mission.

Background: “Coming to the Table provides leadership, resources and supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States and Transatlantic Trade’s history of slavery.”

What: CTTT-NYC Brown Bag lunch talk on Slavery, Racism, Genealogy

When: Saturday, June 6, 11:30am-3:30 pm.

Where: 15th Street Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, Room 3. 15 Rutherford Place, New York, NY 10003 (Union Square area) between 15th & 16th streets,Third & Second Avenues.


(Note: This is a two-part meet-up. The first hour+, we will welcome newcomers and long-time CTTT members. Then later we re-assemble to share stories using the Coming to the Table ‘Circle Process’ and ‘Touchstones’ principles for a ‘deep dialogue’ session. Please read about our Coming to the Table approach to meetings. Check the website, click on Resources and Guides.)

11:30am-12:45pm – (public) Welcome & CTTT overview, Q & A, local CTTT member introductions, ‘meet & greet,’ and enjoy a ‘brown bag’ lunch. Beverage and light snacks will be available.

We are reaching out to the NYC-Metro community to offer CTTT resources on healing racism. We hope to recruit a volunteer committee to help us build relationships with like-minded people to book guest speakers, coordinate outings to film, galleries, museum, libraries, lead local historic street tours, host book discussions and more.

1pm-3:30pm– This second part of the gathering will be conducted using “Circle Process” and “Touchstone” principles. We will engage on the primary mission: “Personal stories about the nature of our fraught connections to slavery and racism in this country.” This closed session is intended to contribute to healing.

If you are actively engaged in family research, genealogy; can share personal experiences with racial traumas; and are engaged in CTTT mission in concrete ways, we invite you to stay for this session.

Once we have settled on who will stay, we will take a small break (5-10 minutes). We will re-assemble into a circle to begin the “Circle Process.” The two co-leaders (me and Julie) will begin the process. Then, each person will take a turn for 5-8 minutes (depending on how many people are there) to share a personal story related to the “aftermath, traumas of slavery.” You may also share why you are interested or how you became involved with CTTT.

view from steps of Quaker House
view from steps of Quaker House

What to bring: We will use a ‘talking stick’ or ‘talking stones,’ as developed by Native American traditions for serious, deep talks. If possible, participants are encouraged to bring family documents, photos, news clips and other items to ‘show and tell’ about their family story, research journey, and personal experience related to the “aftermath, trauma of slavery.’

I may bring a news clip about my uncle’s lynching in Mississippi. In the past, participants shared documents of slave ownership in their own families. Others have shared a wide range of topics from Great Migration photos, Census papers, stories about domestic workers, sharecroppers, survivors of police harassment and brutality, workplace, housing racism, experience with White and light-skinned privilege, to samples of traditional food from slavery times.

We offer genealogy help, such as tips for finding slavery records in your family or community documents, and guidance on what to do with such documents. Because of the serious nature of our topics, we must respect people’s trust issues and our concern for providing a ‘safe place’ for our talks. Therefore, we cannot allow ‘observers’ or ‘listeners.’ We want to protect our participants from ‘spies’ who just want to hear private, family, traumatic, personal racism stories. These gatherings can become very emotional and are intended to help people.

Our long-time CTTT group is an eclectic mix of clergy, social workers, teachers, journalists, photographers, bakers, actors, descendants of Thomas Jefferson, and more. Photos are allowed at the beginning and end of our sessions. We look forward to meeting you. Please RSVP to Julie at: parkerhead@earthlink.net or call 917-613-3788.


Flowers, parades, memories

Flowers decorated the graves of dead soldiers who fought in the Civil War. It was a beautiful, lovely tribute to those who paid the ultimate price. Our national holiday was initially called ‘Decoration Day,’ named for the local flowers that were placed at those Southern burial sites. Today, the holiday is known as Memorial Day. There are many stories about how Memorial Day got started. Many of our relatives were there. But somehow, some of our stories are missing from American history texts. Click here for a link to my past post about the African American origins of Memorial Day.


US Color Troops, Civil War
US Color Troops, Civil War

They served in the Civil War and even before that, historic documents prove. One of my relatives may be in the Book of Negroes, a story featured in a recent PBS series, about Negro soldiers who fought on the British side during the American Revolution. My white ancestors served in the Civil War. I think I found at least one of my black ancestors who served in the US Colored Troops. I am still digging to find the records of those brave souls. Click here for highlights from the Book of Negroes.


But today I am taking a break from my genealogy research. While working in my flower garden, memories about Memorial Day parades came to mind. I recalled hearing drums and bugles and running towards the sounds. I saw uniformed men and women of all ethnic backgrounds marching and saluting in formation on the parkway.

Final internment of my brother John A. Smith

Do you remember Memorial Day parades? My reflections were from childhood. Images of pageantry, uniforms, marching bands, military women and young soldiers filtered into my mind. I especially remembered the old white soldiers from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars proudly wearing their medals. I especially loved the old Black soldiers (and Latinos too) — the Harlem Hellfighters-369th Infantry Regiment, Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen, and the Montford Point Marines.


Throngs from the neighborhood would squeeze together to lean over the wooden barriers to see the action. There were black regiments and famous marching bands too. You could hear their drums and trumpets charging ahead from blocks away. They would step and strut with style! It was showtime. The crowd went crazy and joyful tears flowed. The black soldiers were the stars back then! Today, our military parades are different. America is different.


Montford Point Marines
Montford Point Marines

My husband said he marched in Memorial Day parades as a teen with the segregated Boy Scouts. He said his troop marched up Hillside Avenue in Queens during the 40s or some time after WWll. My memories were from 1950s Brooklyn on Eastern Parkway. I think I was with my brother Sidney and our dad.

Lots of folks claim they started Memorial Day —African Americans, Southern white women, folks from Boalsburg, Pa, Waterloo, NY and Carbondale, Ill. They all may be right! I wonder what you think. Click here for the US government’s version of Memorial Day’s history. Yes, May is a great month for flowers, parades and memories.