Brooklyn sky

Clean slate

Brooklyn sky
Brooklyn sky in Williamsburg

Having a clean slate is the beauty of a New Year. The slate has been wiped clean of last year’s junk. A clean, new day has dawned. I spent the first day of the New Year immersed in art at a friend’s housewarming party in Brooklyn. The bright sky made me reflect. I used to sit on my stoop, look at the sky and dream of flying away. I did move away for 30 years. But I came back. I’m thrilled that Brooklyn’s still here in all its quirky glory. But Brooklyn has changed. It’s now a brand. What new changes does this New Year hold for you? Will you: Be the change you want to see, a wise person once advised?—(not Gandhi)

Word of the year #WOTY – I chose ‘hope’ as my word because I’m always hopeful. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary the word ‘hope’ means: “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.”

Bleeding Flad by Faith Ringgold
‘The ’60s was rough. Most artists were not telling the story of what was going on in America and I thought I wanted to be that person.’ -Faith Ringgold, artist ‘Bleeding Flag’

The past year held setbacks and challenges for many. I believe that life is about learning and being active. People of color, especially Black Americans, still face incredible hardships–racism and exploitation. We overcame unbelievable obstacles because we are America’s activists. Yes, we are losing hard-fought ground. But we are still fighting. More on how some black families are losing and holding their ground, land and properties, in a future edition.

Karma- It seems that we are gaining and losing all the time. Happily, we re-gained a little power in politics, culture, and the arts. From a review of some of my 2018 photographs, film, art, and theater remained an important focus for me. Some of my white friends were shocked by social media posts of how bad things are for Blacks and Latino/a/s in America. Thankfully, they are waking up about the harms of racism and slavery that are so prevalent today. I’m glad that America’s future no longer looks white, old, and male. The browning of America is real. Karma is a bitch.


‘Colonial Can of Soup’ by Luis Cordero Santoni, displayed at #PRHeritageMonth, #TallerBoricua, NYC tribute.

We saw oldsters and youngsters of all backgrounds marching for fairness and justice. I personally participated in more marches during 2016-2018 than I have in years! We agitated for women’s rights, peace, immigration, and fair wages.

#Ageism – I will be protesting more in 2019–especially about racism, sexism and ageism. Speaking of age, my 1970s sisters and brothers held a black alums reunion that was the bomb! Over 200 black alums from multiple generations attended in Washington DC. To see me and my ’70s classmates and others in photographs from the Black Alums of Smith and Amherst College, click here.

My mother once told me: “All women of color in America are political, whether they realize it or not is important.” Being a WOC (woman of color) who is 60+ years old, I definitely feel her.

Being #political

Some political candidates for governor that I supported did not win—Cynthia Nixon, New York; Stacey Abrams, Georgia; Ben Jealous, Maryland; and Andrew Gilliam, Florida. But, I’m still hopeful.

Ben Jealous, candidate for Maryland governor, in NY with Sylvia & Byron Lewis
At ‘meet greet’ event for Cynthia Nixon, NY Governor, candidate, with Sylvia, Byron Lewis, Brielle Peterson.
Stacey Abrams, Georgia Governor candidate in Harlem

To see me and others from our Women of Color and Allies for Cynthia Nixon event, click here.

To see our political organizing hub page for Cynthia Nixon, click here.





The recent Midterm elections provided the most hope. Washington’s newly elected officials may be the most diverse in history with forty-two women sworn into Congress this year. Twenty-four women of color comprise the freshman class. This year (2019) opened with a clear shift for women’s political power.

Fun plant art at Tribeca farmer’s market

On hope

Choosing a word of the year #WOTY was new for me. I decided to do it because it’s supposed to help guide your thinking, especially when life gets cluttered. Thinking about your word should make life easier and more flexible. Instead of feeling guilty about a New Year’s resolution, your word is supposed to help you adjust your goals and plans anytime. We shall see.



Actually, ‘hope’ was always my word. Certainly my gardening and creative media projects started with hopes and intentions. But ‘hope’ is a legacy word for me. I believe my ancestors, who migrated and immigrated, handed this word down to me from their ancestors in China, Africa, Mississippi, Louisiana, Trinidad, Guyana, and Venezuela. Because of them, we can, and still do. No one knows what will happen in the future. But we always have hope!

Afro-Asian vegan dinner bowl!

Whatever paths we take let’s hope that we will continue to eat more plants (less meat and fish), honor our ancestors, be the artists that we were born to be, and build community with all people of good will. This year, Madame Tempy, a radio drama with BBC Radio about my paternal grandmother, is coming to life at this writing. Auntyland, my new media tech platform is back on track.



Purple cabbage in the winter garden!

Stay tuned for more posts from this blog space. What will you create with your clean slate this year! Maybe new pathways, gardens and some great pies! Do you have a word of the year 2019?



Watch Night is also a time to cook traditional food.

Watch Night

Watch Night is also a time to cook traditional food.


It’s been a while since I attended Watch Night services at church on New Year’s Eve. But many family members and friends still do, in between all the New Years Eve cooking that they are doing. Did you cook special foods on Watch Night to bring good luck? Greens are believed to attract dollars and beans will bring extra change! New Years Eve is a night that I keep up my family’s food traditions too. My greens were marinating as my beans cooked when I wrote this post. My Watch Night memories? Service at my preacher uncle’s Pentecostal church on New Years Eve stands out. The Gospel band rocked and the air was electric. My brother Sidney was 7 and I was 6. We accompanied our father to service where he played the piano. ‘Saved’ folks danced, shouted, spoke in tongues and some of them passed out. Then a crew of my ‘aunts’ wearing white dresses and gloves appeared and carried away those who passed out. They placed them on a side pew and fanned them until they revived. One aunt winked at us in the middle of all this commotion. I guess she was letting us little ‘un-saved,’ Catholic/Buddhists kids know that we would be okay. Although the ‘spirit’ scared the daylights out of us, we loved it too. I always wondered if the spirit was going to get us and take us away. No one ever mentioned the word ‘slavery’ at any Watch Night service that I can recall. In fact, today, some of my relatives get angry if I bring up that dreaded topic!

Genealogy/History: But I am a historian and a slavery expert. On New Year’s Eve I wish more Americans would pay attention to history and their genealogy. It’s all related—food, family, history etc. In fact, we are all related. We share many linked descendants because of our unique American slavery history. For example, I recently discovered a new DNA white cousin. But after I informed him that I was a person of color with a mixed heritage, he said: “There must be some mistake!” Sorry, buddy. DNA does not lie! We are third cousins!

Watch Night is part of genealogy search

Very few folks black or white care to remember that this historic night – Watch Night- is about slavery—the end of it. This year (2013) is the 153rd anniversary of the signing of the American Emancipation Proclamation—the end of the enslavement of Diasporan Africans. But, by now we all know that the emancipation was all an illusion. Slavery did not really end. The aftermath of slavery left deep wounds that continues to harm all of us. My white friend who discovered, through genealogy, that her ancestor lynched and murdered innocent black folks, is still today in 2016, very affected by her family’s past. Scientific evidence has proven that vast numbers of African Americans suffer from extensive racism caused by the aftermath of slavery.

”For more than one hundred years, scholars have written about the illusory nature of the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln issued a declaration purporting to free slaves held in Southern Confederate states, but not a single black slave was actually free to walk away from a master in those states as a result. A civil war had to be won first, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and then—only then—were slaves across the South set free.” From ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander, chapter 1, pp20, ’The Rebirth of Caste.’ To read more, click here for link.
Watch Night services were held in church on New Years Eve.

Year-end reflections: When I reflect on this year, I can say that despite amazing professional and personal achievements, I am glad it is over. Our planet needs healing in so many areas. We should start with grief therapy. I believe that we can all benefit from therapy, counseling. I hope more of us will seek help and enjoy the benefits of mental and spiritual wellness.

I am grateful for the Millennials who organized the Black Lives Matter movement and their intersectional allies. I am also encouraged to see more privileged people waking up. Today’s civil rights activists are stepping up. My parents and their allies were relentless. My generation—Boomers—grew up keeping the pressure on. My hope for 2016 is that today’s activists will find the strength to keep on keeping on– mobilizing our country to fight against caste systems, unfairness, and other destructive ways to people and the planet.

Seek art in all forms: Now more than ever, I feel that our chaotic world needs more artists—dancers, musicians, poets, writers, painters, actors, chefs, gardeners, builders, new media, and all forms of art. Only artists know how to express hopeful visions and tell simple, truthful stories that cannot be denied. I look forward to expanding my involvement with the arts especially for healing in 2016.

In honor of the 153rd anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, learn about US President Obama’s favorite artwork that he had installed on a White House wall, in the Oval Room. The painting “Waiting for the Hour” tells a pivotal American story about the hour that slavery ended on New Year’s Day. Click here to read the full article.

Watch Night recalls Emancipation Proclamation 150th anniversary stamp

Also art-related, in 2013, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the US Postal Service issued a specially designed stamp to mark the historic occasion. Click here to read about the stamp.

Do you attend Watch Night church service on New Year’s Eve? Did you make any resolutions for the New Year?