Monday, March 26, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Case, George Zimmerman’s “Black Friends” and the Emmett Till Connection

“When the police break the law there is no law.”

“Billy Jack,” from the film Billy Jack starring Thomas Laughlin

Last week alone, I checked the petition for Trayvon Martin at nearly 40 times and gave my family updates on signatures that increased at the rate of 10,000 an hour and 1,000 per minute. I was so unsettled, shocked and outraged by this case that I found myself scouring the internet and various other news sources day to day to review the fine details of the case. I monitored Rev. Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation for new updates every evening. I ended up putting my writing on hold for three straight days, which is very precious time during my period of sabbatical leave and after I even deactivated my Facebook account for a few weeks to “go into seclusion” and “to keep my energy on the page” as I complete my second book manuscript. I felt the urgency to use the critical thinking skills that I ordinarily use in my work as a scholar, including my writing, to help analyze this case. Almost every conversation that I have had over the past few days has been about this case as I have grappled with the details that have been unfolding. If I was losing sleep over this case, awake late into the night thinking about it and talking about it, deeply concerned about it and preoccupied with when Zimmerman would be arrested and I didn’t even know Trayvon, I imagined what his parents and those who knew and loved him must be going through and the impact of all of this on their lives. A week ago, I made a blog post entitled “Justice for Trayvon Martin.” I hadn’t imagined posting on this case again so soon, but at this point, I have a few more things to say.

For days, I wondered about the seemingly phantom “black friends” that George Zimmerman supposedly had. I was curious to see some of their faces. I thought back to Spike Lee’s film 4 Little Girls, which includes a sobering scene featuring former Alabama Governor George Wallace referring to one of his black workers as a friend, notwithstanding Wallace’s well-known history as a segregationist. I also thought of how handily the phrase “some of my best friends are black” can be used at times. When I think of Wallace, given my status as an Alabamian and vivid memory of the period, I remember the new and improved one of the 1980s that even most blacks in Alabama supported in the gubernatorial election of 1982. I voted for him myself in a mock gubernatorial election in my sixth grade class, along with all of the students in my class with the exception of two, a choice shaped by how much even we as children understood the complexity of race and politics and were thinking of concerns such as police brutality at that time in the wake of a range of recent incidents. I am by no means knocking him here and like a lot of African Americans I know, actually came to like and appreciate Governor Wallace a great deal. My main point here relates to what is at stake in the playing of the “black friends” card by some non-blacks when their back seems to be pressed against the wall on a race-related matter. It has been unsettling, in fact, to see several friends of Zimmerman trotted out as if they are in a dog and pony show to speak up for him. Joe Oliver’s comments on the Today Show this morning, which claim that Zimmerman shot Trayvon in self-defense in “a life and death struggle” in which "someone was going to die,” really took the cake for me. I have only one thing to say of Oliver as an African American man who has regarded Zimmerman as a “friend” yet had no knowledge that Zimmerman, who tended to view black men as criminal, had a gun: He would have shot you, too.

If many of us who are concerned have made connections between Trayvon Martin’s death and the 1955 case of Emmett Till, then I would go far enough to say that even some of the comments on the Trayvon Martin case also echo some of the most infamous remarks that have ever been made about the Emmett Till case. That is to say, claims that at 5’9”, Zimmerman was intimidated by the 6’ 3” Trayvon, feared for his life and shot the boy in self-defense, echo the infamous and shocking comments of the feminist Susan Brownmiller in her 1975 book Against Our Will, which seem to rationalize the death of Till and portray him as a would-be rapist. Angela Davis observes in her essay “Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist” that “As for Emmett Till, she clearly invites us to infer that if this fourteen-year-old boy had not been shot in the head and dumped into the Tallahatchie River after he whistled at one white woman, he would probably have succeeded in raping another white woman.” Some of Trayvon Martin’s critics seem to be going down a similar path to rationalize and justify what Zimmerman did to him on the grounds of "self-defense."

Furthermore, in all of this, I have been drawing on the critical discourses on black masculinity in which I also work, and especially, on Maurice Wallace’s notion of black male “closeting” and coverture and study of related visual motifs, from images of black men wearing hoods to recurrently being photographed from behind. As Wallace’s work in his dissertation and book Constructing the Black Masculine (1995; 2002) shows, the hoodie has been a motif in black masculine body construction for such a long time that it emerged as an art motif years ago, as evidenced, for instance, in the landmark “Black Males” exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1995. As it stands, Trayvon’s wardrobe has been a staple in black masculine fashioning for at least a generation or two. (I also wear hoodies and have two myself; I find them to be an indispensable layering item in chilly and rainy weather).

I do not find the testimonies of Zimmerman’s friends compelling or convincing. That he “couldn’t stop crying” after he shot Trayvon may well have been more self-pitying than anything. I am actually unsettled that the views of Trayvon's friends who describe him as someone who was not confrontational and who did not ever fight, as well as the girlfriend with whom he talked on the phone that night, have not been given more play. Their perspective matters, too.

Moreover, I am unsettled by the inability of some media commentators to even empathize with the death of a black teenage boy and their investments in digging up dirt to possibly rationalize or justify what Zimmerman did. These strategies reflect racism as deeply ingrained as what I will call, for purposes of economy here, the “well, what about . . . ?” questions. “Well, what about . . . ?” questions remind me of those that a few students have posed in the classroom over the years when we have been discussing the slave trade. Here I refer to the automatic interjection into class discussion the point that “Africans participated in the slave trade, too,” as a strategy for evading and denying responsibility and accountability among Europeans and Americans for the horrific West African slave trade.

It is unsettling to hear the well-meaning activism of the many African Americans who care about this case criticized by those who ask why they are not speaking out and taking to the streets to protest against black-on-black crime or, for that matter, cases involving whites who have been victimized by violence. Similarly, these critics suggest that race has nothing to do with the case and that there should be public concern about victims without regard to race. These comments are steeped in the reactionary discourse of colorblindness. As the recurrent comparisons to Emmett Till suggest, there is a long history that has shaped public responses to cases such as Trayvon Martin’s in the African American context. The ignorance about all of these connections is in itself symptomatic of a kind of racism. The eruption of a movement related to Trayvon Martin among many African Americans definitely seems odd and out of pace in the face of the self-absorption, indifference and profound political apathy that can be evident in the national mainstream and in some suburban communities among some people. People with this mindset would find the expectation to miss a day on the golf course for the purpose of getting involved in this kind of activist cause as weird as being asked to join a mission to Mars.

Given that he initially stalked Trayvon and all of the concerns that I expressed in my prior blog post on this case, the ballistics and forensic evidence that I would need to see to be able to give ANY weight to George Zimmerman’s version of what happened is gone forever. The efforts to link Trayvon to delinquency seem very contrived and conspiratorial at this point. They are irrelevant to the concerns at hand about how, when and why Zimmerman crossed the line and persisted in following him. They reflect the familiar and typical efforts to pathologize blacks. I am not concerned about Trayvon’s background or school record, including his suspensions in Miami. The issue in this case has to do with what happened that night in Sanford. Similarly, what Emmett Till's school life was like as a young teen in Chicago had little bearing on what his assailants did to him in Mississippi. The truth is that even if I heard that Trayvon was an ax murderer at some point in the past, the information wouldn’t change my view of what Zimmerman did to him on that fateful evening, including my perception that Zimmerman had absolutely NO BUSINESS tracking this boy down and approaching him after being instructed not to by the 911 police dispatcher, or following this boy around at any point before he called and talked to them. If we are going to talk about “Stand Your Ground,” then Trayvon would have had as much of a right to exercise his right at self-defense as Zimmerman. Why is it so impossible for some who are so eager to believe Zimmerman’s side of the story to imagine Trayvon’s fear, which the final phone call with his teen girlfriend well confirms?

My questions about Zimmerman have multiplied over the past few days as I have turned the tables on him in the game of detective and wondered how he could say that he went back to his truck just to see what street he was on, yet supposedly drove those same streets every night and so should have been familiar with them-especially if he claimed to be the neighborhood’s watchman. Furthermore, ever since seeing the interview with the two female witnesses and neighbors on Anderson Cooper 360, I’ve been horrified to hear a detail of the case that no one seems to be thinking much about. One woman reports that Trayvon was “face down” and that Zimmerman was on top “straddling” the child’s body with his hands on the boy’s back. Zimmerman ignored her the first two times she asked him what was going on and what he was doing to the body; he would not answer her. One commentator on the show last week described this scenario as “bizarre.” I could not agree more. Moreover, both Zimmerman's refusal to stop following Trayvon and insistence on not waiting at the mailbox for the police (i.e. they can call me and find out where I'm at) indicate that he was adamant and obsessive about pursuing Trayvon and was possibly premeditating an attack.

I was not eager or needful to hear a comment on this case from President Obama, but am really disgusted that his remark that “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon,” has been described as race-baiting by some of his critics. This spin on his well-meaning words is beyond unsettling and just plain unfair. Indeed, if I have had any concerns or observations about how race has played out in this case, they have primarily been related to frustration over the reductive definition of what it means to be a “racist” that’s been bandied about. Some people are acting as if racism is a performative kind of thing that one can simply be or not be by declaring that someone is or isn’t racist. The definition and perception of what counts as a racist is broad and deep in the African American and black diasporan imaginary. As a phenomenon, being “racist” is not simply synonymous with being a Klan member, a Skinhead or someone like who Mark Furhman was at the time of the O.J. Simpson trial. People don’t have to go around using the “N- word” or be very blatant in their hostilities to minorities to qualify. The bottom line is that even some of the questions that I have heard raised by some news reporters and journalists about this case well fit the definition of what many African Americans would consider to be “racist.” In fact, most African Americans tend to deal with racism in the workplace and at school in interpersonal interactions with whites they know, not with those who are most explicit in their dislike of blacks and minorities, such as members of “hate groups.”

What I have found to be truly racist are people who are acting as if they are bonded in some kind of de facto homosocial fraternal brotherhood with George Zimmerman, and feel the need to “look out” for him and support his interests, along with his story, because their knee-jerk response, whether they recognize this tendency in themselves and accept it or not, is to be “against” and “suspicious” of anyone black in any situation. Some reactionary conservative radio talk show hosts are now hungrily, even rabidly, propagating the story from the Orlando Sentinel in the effort to portray Trayvon as the violent aggressor against Zimmerman, are framing Zimmerman as a victim, and also getting on a high horse about the importance of forgetting about race in this case and learning to be colorblind, even going so far as to invoke Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as if they are invested in his philosophy, when they are the same people who violate his values of love and nonviolence on a day to day basis by promoting a climate of hatred against President Obama on the airwaves. The rhetoric of "colorblindness" IS racist whether they realize it or not, to the extent that this talk has been the prevailing tactic among reactionaries for attempting to "erase" race and foreclose a space in the public sphere for blacks to redress racism in the post-civil rights era, including legal concerns. These types have been on the hunt for a negative narrative of Trayvon all along anyway, and at this point, think they've got it. That these people would rather align with, support and advocate for a suspected murderer and believe the worst about a kid like Trayvon is a major manifestation of deeply ingrained if denied racism that persists in the U.S.

I can only wish for peace and healing on all fronts in the days and months to come as we learn more about what happened and come to terms with it. My prayers go out for Trayvon’s family, and even for Zimmerman, in spite of my own reservations about him and continued hopes for an arrest. I know and must accept that as concerned as I am about the matter of justice in this case, it is, in the end, God’s place to judge him, and not mine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Justice for Trayvon Martin

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old teen slain because he was viewed as “suspicious” by George Zimmerman in the gated community in Florida where his father lived. Trayvon was accosted, and tragically, slain as he returned from a halftime errand to 7-11 to buy iced tea and Skittles while watching the NBA All Star game. What happened to this child was unconscionable and deplorable. There will be no justice in this case without a thorough investigation and an arrest of Zimmerman, who still remains at large and has yet to be arrested for taking Martin’s life. Many in this nation, including numerous African Americans, have viewed the investigation as one in which police have invested too much belief in Zimmerman’s questionable story about what happened without reviewing all of the facts.

It has mystified a great many of us that Zimmerman has had the audacity to argue that he felt threatened by Trayvon though he followed (dare I say “stalked?”) this child on the street, accosted him, had a gun, and ultimately took this boy’s life. That Zimmerman felt endangered simply does not add up in light of the facts of the case. Many young boys, whatever their identity category, would rightly find a strange adult man following them down the street in a car and accosting them at night to be threatening and intimidating, for example, and would take measures to flee or protect themselves, to the point of putting up a fight. Many youth have been rightly advised by their parents and guardians to be wary of strangers in a day and time when we hear about so many cases of child abduction and missing children and about the adults who routinely target and prey on them. Zimmerman was clearly the imposter and the aggressor in this situation. What might most people be imagining about him, for example, had he chased and tackled a teenage girl to the ground who had been walking down the street alone minding her own business? Conceivably, in a neighborhood where all of the condos seemed to look very similar and that may not have been familiar to him, Trayvon was likely lost, confused, and trying to figure out which unit to go to on the walk home, especially given that it was a rainy evening. This is an environmental factor that some have not been aware of in this case. His hoodie and tennis shoes that seemed to so perplex and intimidate Zimmerman are almost a uniform for teens everywhere and were perfect attire for a quick trip to the store in the rain. Something is horribly wrong in a society that urges black men to be good fathers and to spend time with their sons when something like this can be the end result of an evening at home watching a basketball game with one’s sons.

The pictures that we have seen of Trayvon tell the story of a youth who did everything from play football to ski. He was active, engaged, healthy and even handsome enough to be a teen model. It must not be forgotten that Trayvon Martin was stereotyped not only because of his skin color but also because of his tall, athletic body type at 6’3.” As a tall woman myself, I am very conscious of how this child was profiled at that level, bitterly resent it, and would not want a child of mine, including a son, subjected to such vile and intrusive intimidation by a grown bullying man. Predictably, reactionaries who can’t imagine that black teen boys exist who don’t belong to gangs or sell drugs have even tried to link racial stereotypes to someone as clean cut as Trayvon instead of sharing the outrage that many of us now feel. It is important for any apologists for Zimmerman to understand that the sky is falling where their safety and security are concerned if they live in a society where what happened to Trayvon could, indeed, happen to anyone at all. These people, including some national commentators, would rather “close ranks,” remain silent and stand in implicit solidarity with someone whose actions were as questionable as Zimmerman’s than condemn the wrongful death of an innocent child simply because the child is black. The only thing I can say is God help their hardened hearts!

The real issue here, too, has to do with living in a society that constantly conveys a sense of black unbelonging and authorizes and empowers anyone with white skin to violate black citizenship rights through racial profiling and other intrusive forms of surveillance and policing. On the other hand, a twisted logic that constantly presumes white innocence, innocuousness, goodness, honesty, sincerity, reasonableness, and a zillion other positive qualities has enabled many criminals to go free. This is the kind of logic that allowed the police to turn Konerak Sinthasomphone, the 14-year old boy found naked, delirious, and wandering in the street in 1991 and whose condition was reported by two women, back over to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who claimed that the child was his nineteen-year-old boyfriend and went on to take his life. The view of blacks as being “outsiders” and “others” in this society and in his community regardless of their class status and property resources, and Zimmerman’s view of himself as being an insider whose actions would be upheld by the law, in part led to this horrible tragedy.

As I have thought about this case, I can’t help but see what happened to Trayvon in the continuum with the kind of vigilante violence to which countless black victims in the South and elsewhere in this nation have been subjected. I can’t help but think of another young boy, Emmett Till, who took a fateful walk to the store in 1955. Bebe Moore Campbell’s novel Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, which is based on this painful history, captures the vulnerability, confusion, helplessness and anguish of a teen at the hands of a mob in a vivid passage in this novel. All of this flashed to mind for me when I heard the heartbreaking 911 tapes.

In my current research, I am focusing some of my research on civil rights heroine Rosa Parks. It is sobering that in her actual work as secretary for E.D. Nixon in the NAACP in Montgomery, and even before her arrest in 1955 that led to the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, she methodically documented and studied so many cases related to racial injustices against blacks. I am a product myself of all-black Catholic schools and attended the historic St. Jude Educational Institute in high school, located at the City of St. Jude, which famously provided the final camping ground of the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers in 1965. The night that my senior class graduated from high school in 1989, our parents threw a party for us at the club house of an apartment complex. The party was full of our parents, who had invested a lot in the party and literally decorated the place and set tables with party favors. Their turnout to chaperone and supervise that party was nearly at 100%. Music was barely playing as it began. It was a party that many youth in the city, including those from public schools, attended. At the party that night, no one was even dancing and the party had barely started when five police cars arrived to break it up because of a noise complaint. The real “noise” was the presence of black youth at a predominately white apartment complex. I knew that even as someone who had just turned 18, and as this unbelievable moment cast a shadow over a world that would have definitely struck most sociologists at the time, including many black ones, as unbelievable. This definitely felt very weird and shocking, to say the least, especially to a cohort like ours.

The same law enforcement officers that turn their heads to drugs, alcohol, sex and loud music at parties in other cases are ready to presume the worst when it comes to black youth. Many black teens, in some shape, form or fashion, become familiar with this tired double standard that views black youth as a threat and white youth as innocent young people simply "having fun” who, indeed, have the right to let loose, be free and have a good time. Zimmerman stacked on the stereotypes in his wild, whacky and even childish imagination and just presumed that Trayvon was an imposter, was on drugs, was up to no good, and was hiding a weapon of some kind. In his careless game of detective, he presumed he had it all figured out. Trayvon experienced the most extreme and reprehensible version of racial profiling inflected by racialized perceptions of black youth as dangerous and deviant. Zimmerman was acting more like a boy playing a game of cops and robbers than an adult, and even his record that reveals the assault of a police officer makes many people wonder why he has continued to be upheld and protected by the law when he obviously has some serious issues. That this society continues to operate on so many racial prejudices and blind spots honestly sickens and disgusts me and makes me resent that it offers so few protections to people who are born into it and who grow up in it during the one life they have to live. America must do better and be better when it comes to issues like this.

Today I signed the petition on the site in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, his family, and all of those who care about this case. I applaud those who have also signed, and urge as many others as possible to sign as well. This is yet another case that reminds people of African descent that our civil rights and even basic human rights are at risk. My thoughts and prayers are with Trayvon Martin’s family and friends.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Journal Entries on First Trip to Paris in 2007 (Follow-Up to Prior Post Entitled "Walking by Faith")

I first began to keep a journal when I was 11 during the summer of 1982. For example, the entry from January 3, 1983 reads, “Good day at school today. So much homework.” My entries tapered off eventually. I picked up journaling again when I was 14 and since that point, it has been one of the rituals to which I’ve been most committed in my life.

Keeping journals is the most consistent and committed writing that I do. They are one of the best reflections of who I am and of my voice. Early on, and for many years, I made journal entries on a daily basis. In more recent years, there have been times when I’ve written an entry every other day, even at the end of a very long day. These days, I typically make entries every now and then.

As a high school senior at age 17, I began the practice of making a special journal entry on New Year’s Eve in which I overview the year and salute it for specific lessons I have learned. I have done one every year since then. One day, I put all of those entries down side by side and read them. I was astonished by the clarity with which they allowed me to track my personal development. Ten years ago, I began to make a similar special entry on my birthday. (I began the practice that same year of reading gospel accounts of the nativity on Christmas Eve, and have also remained committed to that practice on an annual basis since I was 17).

My journals have had different themes and purposes over the years. For example, in graduate school, I began to keep what I called a “Professional Prayer Journal,” which was more spiritual. (Its framing beginning with “Dearest Lord” and ending with “Your Child” was reminiscent of the epistolary format of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple). I kept that basic structure even after professional concerns receded as a thematic priority and others emerged. The themes of my journals have been diverse. I have also seen that journals have always seemed to end at the appropriate place and time, even if extra pages are left over. I have a stack of my old journals at this point, and keep them with the 100-page draft of my autobiography that I wrote in college in a course on Black Women’s Autobiography with Dr. Gloria Wade-Gayles. I love being able to refer back to and learn from experiences in my life that I may have forgotten otherwise.

I spent several years reading through the dense and rich autobiography repertoire of famed French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir and loved the way that she incorporated journal entries in developing her series of memoirs; she is one of the most inspiring journalers I’ve ever read. When I was in Paris as a Cultural Envoy in 2009 and visited Collège Martin Luther King in Villiers-le-Bel in Eastern Paris, I gave a talk to students entitled “Art in Education and My Education As an Artist,” which incorporated an excerpt from my journal entries about my first trip to Paris to discuss the impact that visiting the Louvre had made on me, and to stress the importance of building art literacies. These are points that the teachers underscored and built upon as they translated the content of my remarks to students. At some point, I hope to publish my series of lectures and interviews from that week in an art book entitled An Artist at the Ambassador’s: Notes on Visit to the U.S. Embassy in France as a Cultural Envoy. Thinking back on my comments about the Louvre in that talk and the impact that they made on students in the classroom, and on the blog post I made a just few days ago entitled “Walking by Faith,” I thought it would be interesting to follow up and share the two journal entries that I made about my first trip to Paris, which discuss the trip a bit more comprehensively and in more detail. Here are the two relevant entries below.

7/05/07 Paris, France 1:22 a.m.

Dearest Lord,

I praise you and thank you. I’ve been here in Paris for a week and a half-more now. It’s been an exciting trip! In the Atlanta airport, I felt so sophisticated with my beauty case and “bombshell” luggage. I have looked at passengers fly out for Paris for several years, and looked at an earlier flight depart before mine. There was nothing like the feeling of being among those boarding a plane-finally-for Paris myself. I’d had a first class flight from Sacramento and sat next to a rather cold white man, from whom I kept my distance. On the Paris flight the male flight attendant was nice and it was an elegant experience. But when it was almost over and I woke up the next morning, I could barely move my hand and fingers and my wrist was limp. The man next to me opened my juice and other container and got my suitcase down. This was unexpected. At the airport, I had no choice but to take a cab. I got in w/ ease and went straight to sleep. My room was nice w/ a small closet-sized bathroom. My first view of Paris was not too impressive. “Is this what I’ve fantasized about for years and staked as a life’s ambition!” was my feeling. I got up that evening and walked for a few blocks down Av de Italie and just to see. I felt good. Inspired. I wore jeans and a black top and my sandals. The next morning I had some trouble getting the carte orange until I learned of the necessary photo. (That Sunday, I’d also tried to get a bandage for my hand and a waiter looked at it). I was two hours late to class b/c of confusion on the metro. I then had to figure out how to get the textbooks at FNAC, which was another challenge. Class was that afternoon. It was a full and busy day. The next two were good. Anne, Géraldine and I worked on the film. We met at the Josephine Baker Paradise du Fruit near Le Tour Montparnasse, then they interviewed me at Anne’s brother’s apartment. I felt collected and articulate and wore gold-a yellow cashmere sweater and a skirt. They took me over to Notre Dame and filmed me at the quilting store. The next day, we met at Le Deux Magots, where I had lunch, and they filmed me in front of the Beauvoir-Sartre plaque. We went to the Josephine Baker Pool. To the Thomas Jefferson plaque on Champs Elysee. And to Montmartre, among other places.

In general, it was a great and educational experience, and a great honor. I t was a great intellectual experience to witness such a positive model of collaboration, and enduring.

My first day of class, I had my first views of elegant Paris from the Metro, and the Eiffel Tower. And Thursday, I had to go see about my hand and went to the emergency room. The doctor was nice and diagnosed it as “Lover’s Palsy.” It was free. He took a picture afterwards and wrote a note for my doctor, as well as a prescription for the arm brace. I was intimidated by the idea of going and got lost along the way, but it was a positive experience.

Friday, Géraldine prepared lunch-five courses-at her lovely apartment and we did more interviewing. . . The lunch at Géraldine’s was nice and her apartment looks gorgeous. So lovely. The floors. The windows. The moldings. The ceilings. The ironwork. . . . Her studio a few blocks away is also nice. I appreciated her hospitality and seeing her family. Friday evening I went to class. And then Anne filmed me in front of the Moulin Rouge. I was also contending with a terrible cold and sore throat.

Saturday, I went to Montmartre and bought souvenirs and purses and a picture.

Sunday, I went to Notre Dame again, to Il St. Louis, and walked to Luxembourg.

Talking to my family has been nice. Today was the Fourth of July. I ate at a couple of cafes and skipped class. Ma walked well the other day . . . I called home a lot over the weekend because I felt lonely . . .
Finally, I ask you [will keep this prayer section private]. . . I love you.




Dearest Lord,

I’m on the flight homeward now and thank you again for this mighty trip. I’ve learned a lot from it and am eager to apply it. I went to the Louvre yesterday. To see the sense of history was amazing. Very large marble sculptures. What we would consider mural-sized paintings from the 1600s. Just a beautiful archive. I was excited to see the Mona Lisa and called home while in the room. I was very inspired to walk the halls. In a sense, though, the experience stressed the urgency of learning how to “read” art. For in a museum so large, one can only scan or glance at paintings and sculptures very quickly. Really, it takes time and energy, years really, to fully engage such a vast collection. I stayed until closing time and got a brief look. But the way to see such art is to visit and revisit it. In general, I don’t think that I could have spent my last day in Paris in a better way. The visit to the Louvre also stressed for me the importance of being a good steward and custodian of whatever arts and other things are in one’s possession and in one’s family. It does for one at a local level what the Louvre, by preserving French and other cultural history, does in a more abstract way. It made me long to see the beauty of home in Montgomery and aware of the nice work that has gone into putting it together. It made me realize that my own home reflects Southern history and heritage in profound ways.

The visit to the Louvre brought me out of my shopping addiction I developed last week. Saturday and for two days before that, I went to the Galleries Lafayette. I spent Monday and Tuesday, and perhaps some of Wednesday, looking around in shops, including high-end couture outfits, on the Champs Elysee. I found a few summer dresses-five-for my goal was to have some fashions with that Paris cut that’s so hard to find in the U.S. I had warmed up early in the week with buying lingerie at Valege, four [sets] in all. I never found the Etam set I wanted in the right size in pink. The dresses fit well, though, incl. the one I ended up exchanging. I have a little Paris wardrobe now. I even picked out the kind of Louis Vuitton purse I want-one w/ a bit of structure-at the Galleries Lafayette. This morning, I saw a woman w/ one in that line w/ darker golden straps, which I think I prefer. I saw the beauty case and would love to have one of those, too, along with a couple of pieces of luggage. I spent two or three hours trying to find the right outfit for Ma-she asked me for a skirt and a blouse. I found it at Zara’s. I wanted something that she would like.

I’m pleased with what I bought and the gifts. . .

I had a ball with Efua and Marc last Tuesday. It was pouring rain when I went to see her and then we sat in the hotel lobby and had tea and croissants and just talked-some along with Marc. It was relaxing and good. . . That afternoon, we went over to FNAC and then to a café. Spending time with a friend in another part of the world was just terrific.

Another highlight of last week was seeing the Kara Walker exhibition. It was phenomenal. I was impressed by the range of her work-truly impressed. Films. Installations. I am looking forward to writing the review. This is an event that also shows the unique opportunities that exist in Paris, or the difference that context makes in displaying art. Saturday, I saw Le Defense. It was interesting to see the arcs lined up. The buildings. Really interesting. The idea of purpose, precision, comes through. And perspective. . .

Again, thanks and praises to you for Paris-for seeing it. I put it in your hands and ask that you will multiply that gift. . .