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Blog Entries tagged 'the root'

The Walkers in Torino, from the Root

>Poster

By Rebecca Walker

Kara Walker is tall, fashionable and reserved when I meet her in the lobby of the chic Residence Du Parc, a brutalist landmark of poured concrete adorned with iconic examples of modernist and postmodern art. Outside huge windows, Turin is celebrating itself: Italian flags drip from every window, flutter along every boulevard.

Kara wears flat leather oxfords, tights and a paper-thin leather jacket. She eyes me somewhat warily as I extend my arms for an embrace and launch into small talk, which I normally detest. Luckily, my bags have been lost and I indulged in a truly remarkable spa treatment the night before, so I have plenty to talk about.

She's been working on the installation of her show we're both here in Italy to support. The necessary projectors have not arrived. The show is to open in five days, and today we have to teach a class to art students. I sense she'd like to get back to the gallery, and the class is a distraction. She twirls her hair as we wait for the taxi.

At the class, the students are on fire. They've studied our work and want to know about memory and myth, the creative process and its demands. Kara and I sit behind a paint-splattered table and do our best. I'm jet-lagged but exuberant, thanks to a piping-hot cappuccino; Kara is laconic and soft-spoken. But then I see it -- a gentle smile, then a big laugh followed by a series of confident assessments of student work.

As the day wears on, we find a groove. We tag-team it, develop a rapport, give everything we can in the time allotted. Driving back to the Du Parc to recover and prepare for dinner, we talk about our kids. Hers is starting high school, into fashion, gorgeous. Mine is 6, getting ready for soccer camp, and I miss him with an ache I can't begin to put into words.

The next five days are a whirlwind of activity. We teach the students, I present my memoir Baby Love at Il Circolo dei Lettori on the same night that Jonathan Franzen reads from Freedom. I introduce Kara's show, A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to a full gallery, and Melissa Harris-Perry and Jennifer Richeson follow up with talks about the black body and the neurological workings of prejudice. The press descends and recommends.

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June 24th, 2011

The Lego Toy That Makes a Trip to Prison Seem Like Fun

Rebecca Walker for The Root

Believe me, I do not want to cast aspersions on the famous Danish toy company that goes by the name "Lego Group." My 6-year-old is in love with the little plastic blocks and plays with them for hours at a time, leaving me to tap away blissfully on this keyboard that magically connects me to the Internet. Last week I even made my own first Lego creation and posted it on my Facebook page. It's called the Taj Mommal.

Imagine my surprise, then, when, while looking for holiday presents and blithely scrolling through the Lego offerings on the site, I came across a set for the 5- to 12-year-old Lego aficionado called -- are you ready? -- a Prisoner Transport vehicle. It has high user ratings and comes with a prisoner, a policeman and, well, a prisoner-transport vehicle with gated windows. I almost had a coronary. Is Lego normalizing the prison industrial complex to 5-year-olds?

I kept scrolling. Surely there was a tribunal set in which the guards who have been caught raping and abusing juvenile prisoners are held accountable for their actions. And what about a prisoner-DNA set, where our 6-year-old scientist pretends to discover that the prisoner doing the time didn't actually do the crime? How about the set designed after the peaceful prison strike in December in Georgia, where thousands of inmates -- black, white, Mexican and other -- put aside their gangbanging to make a statement about the human potential for greater good?

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January 12th, 2011

Black in America, Pt One

 
 
 Black in America
 
As we approach the airing of Black in America Pt 2, I thought I'd pull out my post from the Root that ricocheted across the web last year in response to Pt 1, and was then erased entirely when the Root did their site re-design.
 
Black in America: Ain't I Woman?

It's not pretty, but I'm going to tell you what I think.

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May 21st, 2009

ADHD, The Check-out Line, and Me

Todays post from TheRoot

There is a lot to talk about, like:

What a great job Obama is doing (and how saddened I am by how many are so critical so soon), the auto company bailout and why it's not "cost effective" for the big 3 to go green, the staggering number of people losing jobs, and the theme I've hit several times since the Olympics: China's devastating invasion of parts of Africa. 

But right now I want to have a moment about ADHD, Ritalin, and prevailing attitudes about mental health.

Today at the health food store I overheard a conversation between a Dad, the person ringing up his groceries, and a woman on line.

The Dad said his daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, and Ritalin was working well. He said she's been experiencing a lot of success in school and at home and "her turn-around" was "like a miracle." The checker gave an enthusiastic high-five. "Hey man, that's so great."

Then the woman chimed in with anecdotal information about an Omega 3 supplement that "helped the son of a friend." She tried to remember the name of the supplement, and while reaching for the name, suggested Dad try it. 

Dad suddenly looked ashamed and embarrassed. He said he had "read some studies" about the supplement and was hoping to "get some soon." He really wanted to get his daughter off the Ritalin, he said. Because although she was doing better, he "hated being duped by the drug companies," who probably "invented ADHD in the first place."

The woman nodded, and agreed. "It's worth a shot," she said, offering no further information about her clinical credentials or the supplement she suggested Dad try on the daughter who responded to Ritalin as if it were "a miracle." "The overmedication of children in this country is a crime," she said. "Have you tried taking her off wheat and sugar?"

At which point I had to tune out or risk an intervention.

Listen, I agree big pharma is problematic. I agree all kinds of illnesses are "created" by drug marketers, a lot of kids are over medicated, and the whole world should be focused on preventive care, and living holistically in organic environments.

But sometimes illness actually responds to Western medicine, and when it does, I for one am happy to have access to it, not just for bone marrow transplants and the shrinking of brain tumors, but for schizophrenia and bi-polar disease, clinical depression and Tourette's.

I left the store wondering when we as a culture will decide once and for all that mental wellness, like any other kind of health, is worthy of pharmaceutical support. When mental illness, like cancer or lupus or HIV, will finally be deemed legitimate enough to warrant medication.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Like any other disease, it's something to treat. Whether it's with herbs, meds, beets, or yoga doesn't matter. What matters is that people--regardless of ideology, religion or cultural taboos--get better, feel happier, and are more able to make healthy decisions for themselves and the people they love.

Right?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

 

December 9th, 2008

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up: A Question of Power

Hey all,

I have an essay in The Root today about Michelle Obama and feminism.

Yesterday afternoon, in tandem with the essay on Michelle Obama, I joined a group of exceptional women including Anna Perez, the former Press Secretary for Barbara Bush, Leslie Morgan Steiner, the editor of the best-selling anthology Mommy Wars, and Jolene Ivey, co-founder of Mocha Moms, on Michel Martin's NPR show Tell Me More to talk about:

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up.

It was a fascinating conversation, but five intense women talking about Michelle Obama for thirty-five minutes? We could have been there for hours. I left the studio thinking about all the things I wished there had been more time to say.

I wish the show had been called "What Michelle Obama is Gaining."

There was certainly more to say about the question of "power" vs "influence." It's my view that Michelle has the opportunity to have a tremendous amount of power--political, personal, ideological, symbolic, financial, social, maternal, emotional, psychological-- but Anna Perez opined Michelle will have influence, but because she can't write legislation and doesn't have a vote on key issues, she won't have power. 

But there are different kinds of power. Laws change administration to administration, but transforming the consciousness of a generation is forever. Did Martin Luther King, Jr. have power or influence? Did Jackie Kennedy want more power and less influence? How about Eleanor Roosevelt? And what about our former First Lady, Hillary Clinton? She almost because POTUS in large part as a result of her "influence." What about the Nobel committee? Do they have power or influence? Freud and Jung? Moses?

I was taken aback by Anna Perez's view, her privileging one realm, the political, over what could be called the personal or communal, a view that has disempowered women for centuries. And I was struck by how difficult it seemed for many of the women in the conversation to see Michelle as anything but a victim. Incredibly, they seemed to think she was more powerful as a hospital administrator than First Lady.

We denigrate Michelle by denigrating her choices. Projecting an idea of her as a deer in the headlights rather than a lioness on the plain reflects a crisis of the imagination, and speaks volumes about what we think is possible for a woman, or any human being, to negotiate.

People working to create a better world dismiss their accomplishment at their own peril. They resign themselves to a lifetime of disappointment.

What do you think? Do you have power or influence, power and influence, or no power and no influence?

How do you define power? 

November 28th, 2008

Malia and Sasha: Public or Private

Today's Root post:

I'm a little late to this conversation, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the question of whether the Obama children should go to public or private school. I truly, deeply, completely understand why some feel sending Malia and Sasha to a private school will indicate an "abandonment" of the public school system, but still and all I think this is an inappropriate, bordering on reckless, discussion.

First of all--the question reminds me of Obama's behind the scenes remark in Newsweek:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

I don't think sending the girls to public school is going to solve the unbelievable decline of our schools. And I seriously doubt he will be less motivated to improve the public school system de facto because he and Michelle send their girls to a private school.

Then there is the quality of the DC public school system. They are working on it, and I have tremendous respect for the teachers and many excellent public schools, especially the charter schools, in DC, but the history is fraught with issues. I went to one of the best public schools on Capitol Hill when my father worked for the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter, and let's just say it could have been better.

Which brings us to the question of giving your kids "less" on principle. It reminds me of parents who believe you shouldn't leave money to your children because they won't work hard or appreciate the benefits of self-reliance, which is fine. But what if that somehow compromises the stability of your children or grandchildren?

Aren't principles, if they undermine long-term viability and health, dysfunctional?

What troubles me about these conversations is the assumption Malia and Sasha are just like everyone else. They may be in some ways, but they are not in one very big way: they are the children of the President of the United States. There are massive security issues to be managed. Those kids need to be in the most controlled environment possible. That means contained campuses, administrative familiarity with similar situations, and all manner of other considerations.

Safety first. Principles second. Or, what about safety being the overriding principle? 

What do you think?

 

November 13th, 2008

The New Us

November 6th, 2008