At The Mercy of New Massus :: Governor Rick Snyder

Tonight, I read a new story about how a Federal judge ruled that children do not have a constitutional right to learn to read and write.

Let that sink in a moment.

This is America.

In 2018!

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest public interest law firm, on behalf of Detroit students that sought to hold state authorities, including Gov. Rick Snyder (R), accountable for what plaintiffs alleged were systemic failures depriving children of their right to literacy, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Governor Rick Snyder is also the same man refusing to fix the water problem in Flint, Michigan, most recently deciding that the residents of Flint will no longer be provided free water bottles to drink, bathe, and cook with.

I'm gonna be the one to say it:

Governor Rick Snyder is the equivalent of a Southern, white, plantation owner.

Yes, you heard me right.

And this is why:

At a time when a large portion of the wealth came from the forced labor of black slaves, the white men that owned them and held powerful positions in our government, made sure to do all they could to keep slave rebellion from threatening their power and position. They did this by any means necessary.

From the very beginning, slaves were forcefully separated from their families--their children, their spouses, their tribes that spoke their language and celebrated their same culture. In this way, they would be forced into lives of confusion without the ability to communicate and understand what was happening around them.

Once here in the colonies, slaves were refused the right to learn to read and write, even after doing the impossible task of learning their white master's language and being forced to bend down to the painful truth that they were no longer seen as human, but chattel.

Slaves were not allowed to congregate together, for fear that having the opportunity to converse freely would allow them to organize and rise up against their captors.

The idea of family units was destroyed, many white masters choosing which man would be forcefully bedded to which woman. Each match was made for the purpose of ensuring a strong and healthy baby, a profit for the master.  The possibility to build healthy relationships and family units was stolen from them.

Physical trauma motivated submission. Black men, women, and children were beaten with bull whips, brands were burned into their flesh, attempts to run away could result in a whipping or the more severe punishment of amputation of feet or toes--or possibly just an ear to preserve the slave's ability to work. Each punishment was made public by gathering all slaves round to bear witness and subject them to the fear that this could happen to them. The victim was stripped down, sometimes completely naked, other times, women forced to bear their breasts as they were tied and whipped. Pregnant women were made to dig a hole to lay down over top, the roundness of the belly placed in the hole as she was whipped.

Without access to proper clothing, food and medicine, the lifespan of slaves was severely hampered. They were forced to work instead of taking care of their own children, leaving one or two of the plantation's elderly slaves to look over dozens of babies and young children. These children grew up neglected. Psychological abuse shaped their young lives.

Governor Rick Snyder is a white man with power, position, and authority. He has the ability to ensure that black neighborhoods in Detroit receive the exact same access to education as their white counterparts. He has the ability to fix the water problem in Flint. He can use his position to lift up the marginalized and oppressed. Yet, if he keeps black families less educated, sick, impoverished and working solely just to make it from one pay check to the next, then he has a powerless people who cannot rise up against him and our government to demand equality.

Yes. Governor Rick Snyder and men like him are the same as the white plantation owners of our past.

Shame on him.

Shame on those like him.

And shame on those who refuse to open their eyes and see the truth. 

This is not a nation for the people. This is not a nation OF the people. This is only, and always has been, a nation for white, rich men.

Please, digest this truth and work with all your power to burn it to the ground:

Depriving children of any race of an education keeps them in poverty. They have no hope of being part of society outside the workforce where they will continue to make powerful, rich, white men MORE powerful and more wealthy.



I Hold These REAL Truths To Be Self-Evident

July Fourth. Independence Day.

For white American men. 

The Founding Fathers are often, and if not more-so, celebrated with the same awe and reverence of Christ himself...

Yet, there were 55 men that were part of the Constitutional Convention and forty-nine percent of those men owned humans as property. The remainder were complicit by not challenging their slave owning collaborators. To make matters worse, at least 19 of those men owed their entire livelihood, affluence, and power to slave labor alone.

"All men are created equal..."

But they were only speaking about white men. Not people of color. Not the slaves. And not even white women.

It was Thomas Jefferson that penned those iconic words we like to speak when it suits us best. However, Jefferson lived a life that swore at those words he created. The testimony of his character makes the words fall flat, void of all meaningful truth. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner wrapped up in justification by vile racism. He did not emancipate his slaves, as some of the other Founding Fathers did (much too late, in my opinion) and he fathered a good deal of children through the rape of the black women he owned. Yes, rape. Thomas Jefferson, not once, believed that his words were true for all men, but only white men. And if they might ever be true for all humans, it would come by the hands and work of a distant, future generation, but not him and his.

John Adams might have been one of the few voices of reason. He truly believed that the revolution could never truly be complete until all the slaves were free. Adams even told this to Jefferson who shrugged it off as an impossible job for the brand-spanking-new Republic. And anyways, slavery was directly building up the nation and it's economy--making it as powerful, and perhaps soon, more powerful, than England. Independence came, in large part, because of slavery. How could they abolish it now?

Some of Jefferson's time recognized the Founding Father's hypocrisy. Virginian abolitionist,  Moncure Conway said of Jefferson, "Never did a man achieve such fame for what he did not do."

Thomas Jefferson was a man of great power, knowledge, and talent. He could stir the hearts of men with fiery prose and bring them to their knees with stirring speeches. Everyone loved this man and greatly admired him (almost). All he had to do was put his personal monetary gain aside and lead the way, and the nation would likely have followed him. But how could he do that when he was making a 4% profit every time a new slave was born on his plantation? How much easier it was to breed more souls for slavery than it was to see them as equal, let alone make them equal.

These are some of Jefferson's words heavily exposing his racism. I hope they help you understand that "all men are created equal" was a lie the moment the first drop of ink soaked into the paper:

"Even black men prefer white women over their own, just as orangutans prefer black women over their own."

"In memory, they (black people) are equal to whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination, they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous."

"I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time or circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. This unfortunate difference in color, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people."

No, Thomas Jefferson never intended us to believe that all men were created equal. And he was wrong, a snake-oil salesmen for the birth of a nation birthed from hypocrisy and lies.

While the foundations of our Republic were being laid, nine of the Presidents that helped lay it all owned slaves. President George Washington was the only one to free his after his death.

It is understandable that if this was how we were birthed, that we would grow up with the evils of our DNA still holding us back and keeping us enshrined in bitter racism even in 2018. It is not far fetched to understand that our Republic came to life broken and tainted with thinly-veiled lies made pretty by carefully scrolled ink and quill. Our stunted growth caused by the poison of racism is why we still march, even today, and fight for true independence.

How hard it is to patriotically hold up a miniature American flag and celebrate our Independence with the truth that it was only meant to be, and still is, freedom for some. 

Today, we are still fighting for equality:

Equality for people of color...

Equality for those in poverty...

Equality in access to education and opportunity...

Equality in pay...

Equality for the LGBQT...

Equality that ALL shall have religious freedoms, and not just American Christians.

How far have we actually come? How far can we actually go if we continue to parrot the words penned by men who never gave us all freedom and who never believed that all mankind was equal? Can we keep up this charade for countless generations to come? Or will we have a new generation of abolitionist like Lincoln's who will stand up and tear the lies down, expose our Founding Fathers, bring the truth to light of how our Republic was built, and FINALLY demand that ALL men be treated equal.


All humans. 

For some of us hold these real truths to be self-evident.



Lessons On The Profitable Business of Human Souls

 John Hopkins was a religious man and an English gentleman. As the captain of his ship, granted to him by Queen Elizabeth I, he required all his men serve God daily and to love others.

I mention these things first and foremost, because John Hopkins captained the first ship to ever import African slaves to England and her American Colonies. His ship was named The Good Ship of Jesus. His first trip filled the holds of Jesus with 300 African slaves that were kidnapped and lied to, taking the Queen back a sizeable profit of money, African goods, and human souls.

"You've invited the vengeance of heaven to fall down upon us," the Queen raged at the honorable Mr. Hopkins, appalled by the sight of the dark-skinned slaves.

But money is money. 

And money is power. 

Later knighted, Sir John Hopkins, in partnership with Queen Elizabeth I (greedy for the riches slaves would give her), brought the African Slave Trade to life.

European slavers exploited tensions between African tribes by paying chiefs to capture men and women and children, kidnapping them out of their homes, and bringing them to the western shores. The white slavers did not dare to venture too far inland for fear of disease and attack. The journey to the coast was long and grueling, many Africans dying before they ever saw their first glimpse of the ocean and ships that would take them away. To prevent an uprising, entire families were split up and tribes with different languages mixed together, hampering any way of communicating. The African hostages were kept in a constant state of confusion, fear, and chaos. If they made it to the American colonies with families intact, they would soon be separated in the auction houses.

It brings no solace to mention that Spanish foes sank The Good Ship of Jesus in 1567. The damage to human morality had been done. I don't mean to say that we were a moral race before the slave trade, but we certainly entered a new era of appalling choices by exploiting an entire ethnic group in ways that our nation still today suffers from. We opened a wound that has festered and refused to heal for over 450 years. Our inability to tell the full truth about African slavery has left us blind and dumb, constantly bathing the open wound in salt. 

Imagine, please? Take a long moment and try to understand the fear and anguish. These humans had never seen a white man before. They didn't know where they were going or what would happen to them. There were even rumors that the white men were going to eat them. The fear was sometimes too much that some of the hostages took their own lives. The terror that Europeans unleashed on the western coast of a continent that never belonged to them, forcing other humans to now become chattel--sold and passed on--sold and passed on some more--should never be forgotten or minimized.

Imagine, please...

Drink in the truth of the pain and horror...

See the devastation human hands can inflict on other humans...

For this is what men were, and what man is. 

Possessing human souls was, and still is, profitable. 

We have not learned, not yet, from our ability to perform great evils against our fellow man.

Serving God daily and loving others vanished from the consciousnesses of Christians.

 It's a profitable business, after all.



Why I Will Teach...To Know Who We Are

" is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world." 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet

I often wonder how our hearts would change towards our notion of the stories and histories of our nations past if we could only hear those long, forgotten voices of those that lived it?

It is so very important to me to learn and grow in knowledge that presents the good with the bad, especially when it comes to the history of the United States. All too often, we wrap ourselves in patriotism that refuses to bend or cower to the traitorous idea that we are anything but great and free and powerful--the best county in the entire world. Look how prosperous we are! Look how big our military is! Look at our schools and universities; our science and exploration; our inventions and success in business! We did this! We conquered! We won the wars!

Those, sadly, are only the highlight reels of half truths we use to hide the knowledge of who we actually are...

Who would I be if I lived my 35 years and only accepted and remembered the good things in my life? Who would I be if I never acknowledged the hard times, the bad times, the times I screwed a lot of things up? I wouldn't truly be strong if I lived walking with the fond and glossy memories of what I had lived in 35 years. I would not truly be me.

Yet, that is how American citizens, or a least a good deal of us, walk as Americans. We have only absorbed and acknowledged a small portion of our identity--projecting a falsehood to ourselves, our neighbors, and the rest of the world.

When did we mess up?

When did we commit crimes of war and shrugged it off because we won?

When did we steal, kill, and destroy the futures of other humans in our quest for "greatness?"

When did we cover up our wrongdoings and erase the truths from our public school textbooks?

Who are we? Really?

Canadian historian and professor, Margaret MacMillan, said, "We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we already made up our minds to do."

So how best do we teach these truths of history cloaked in darkness and light? Can we bring the voices of dead slaves back to life? Find a way to let their words begin to soften our hearts and open our eyes? Can we paint the picture of the truth of war crimes unleashed by our own government in such a way as not to sow seeds of distrust, but enlighten us on the dangers of power unchecked? Can we truly learn, even a little, from the bones and dust of the men and women that brought us to where we are now?

I think we can, and we should.

"History is for human self-knowledge...the only clue to what men can do is what men have done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is." ~R.G. Collingwood, English philosopher,  historian, and archeologist

Let's stand together, learn together, discover who we have been, and help make sure who we will become is something full of the hope and freedom that so many gave their lives for. Let's spread education like wildfire--magic--life-giving energy that will transform.



"You Weren't Telling The Truth, So I Will!"

I have always wanted to own a place on land that rippled with time and mystery...walls that breathed the past and gave hope for a creative future. That's a wee bit hard for a woman working as a writer, artist, and photographer, but not so hard if you're a successful, white New Orleans lawyer.

photo from Sunny Skyz

According to a journalist for The Advocate, the white NOLA lawyer, John Cummings, who bought the house and land that would become our nation's first slavery museum, declared, "Who the hell built this house? Who built this son of a bitch? We have to own our history!" I already love the man. Doesn't that just sound Imagine it said voiced as Donald Sutherland in his many roles as a "white Southern gentleman." Maybe with a lit cigar and a mint julep at the ready?

In 1998, Cummings bought the land from a petrochemical company. In the ownership of the chemical company, the land would be destroyed, and because of that, the company fought a good deal of opposition from people who knew there was history there. They hired researchers to come in to discover the truths about what the house and land had been, writing a total of eight, thick volumes. Coupled with the opposition of the public and the truth that eight volumes of research contained, they sold the land to Cummings and walked away.

But not before they passed on those eight volumes of research to the new owner. Maybe they thought it would become his curse now? And maybe it could have, if this man hadn't a heart that could be moved with empathy from what he read in the research.

The Big House, photo from

It was the human souls that Cummings found; human souls that were owned, bred, killed, whipped and held as slaves for generations. And the truth of that nightmare was enough to brew moral outrage and action in the lawyer. He wanted our nation to reckon with our past. He could have designed a restored plantation that would host weddings, B&B's, or tours with women in hoop skirts and not a single black soul to be found or spoken of. He could have profited from whitewash and silence, but he did not.

Cummings partnered with Dr. Ibrahima Seck as the Director of Research and an expert historian on the Slave Trade. Together, they brought the voices of the slaves long gone to life again. They would design a museum that highlighted their stories with tours that forced you to walk in their footsteps. They would tell the brutal truth, truths that we missed in our history classes, with the intention that visitors that came there would not leave the same.

photo by Mark Peckmezian of The New York Times

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War. That's how long it took to have a museum, built with his own money and without Federal funds, to show our nation their past for what it was.
"Like everyone else," Cummings said to the crowd on opening day in 2008. "You're probably wondering what the rich white boy has been up to out here." It took him 15 years and around $8.5 million dollars, breathing life into history without any noticeable qualifications to do so. He simply did it, with help from experts and folks determined to do the right thing.

The New York Times reports that he continued to address the crowd with these powerful words:

"I suppose it's a suspicious thing, what I've gone and done with the joint, spending millions I have no interest in getting back. Challenge me, fight me on it. I've been asked all the questions. About white guilt an this and that. About the honky trying to profit off slavery. But here's the thing: Don't you think the story of slavery is important?" Then silence....

"Well, I checked into it, and I heard you weren't telling it. So I figured I might as well get started."

I have to stop right there with those truly heroic words. They gave me goosebumps and caused hot tears to come to my eyes. Dear God, this man, with all his white privilege...he called out our collective sin. With beauty and artistic design, he brought the home of the white plantation owners, the Hayleys, back to life with truth and honesty, a reflection of what our nation allowed to take place for generations. When he opened those volumes the chemical plant gave him and read the names and the value of money penned beside them, when he read of the woman most valuable of all because she was a "good breeder," he did the right thing. He brought honor back and refused to allow their stories to be lost in 8 volumes of research.

photo cred: Elsa Hahne for the Whitney Plantation

But Cummings went much farther than just the slaves of the Hayley land. Together with Dr. Seck, they researched the whole of slavery in Louisiana and the South. They did not forget those human souls too. They were determined to focus on the enslaved children, taking you through the grounds through the eyes of the children. John Cummings also remembered the 95 slaves involved in the German Coast Uprising that took place on River Road where plantation after plantation stands beside one another. Those slaves that were murdered and then decapitated with their heads put on pikes to terrorize the black men and women brought into the ports in New Orleans. He built a provocative and emotional memorial for those slaves. The face of 60 of those slaves has been remembered in ceramic, the heads atop steel rods to look as they would have scattered across what is now Jackson Square in the famed French Market. Cummings said this memorial wasn't for the kids, it would be your choice. "Just in case you get distracted from that pretty house over there, the last thing you'll see will be the heads of 60 slaves." Lest we forget. "It is disturbing," he explained. "And you know what else? It happened. It happened right here on this road."

Lest we Forget. 

Thankfully, because of John Cummings and Dr. Seck, we will not forget if we are willing to allow someone to teach us, remind us, and guide us through history.


I set out today to share my experience and tell you how the Whitney Plantation impacted me and my family, but telling you about how the museum came to be felt very important. I will try again tomorrow to share my photos, the stories, and my family's thoughts. But for now, I encourage you, LEARN. Learn the truth and share it by any means you have. Tell your children. Take them to this museum if you can. If you're creative, use art to tell the truth. Write the truth. Photograph the truth. Read the truth...

Lest we forget. 



NOLA's Past Made Public

Most people who know me understand that I like to be at home, or at my Grandma's home, but very rarely do I like to go far from my comfortable, cozy little home where I can find everything I need. So, it's a good thing that opportunities and time for travel don't come up very often. However, Roger was given a job to do in New Orleans and he asked if the children and I would like to go. Even though I don't like to travel, I have a list of places I want to see and New Orleans has always been on the list, so YES!

Off we went.

It took me TWO DAYS, y'all. TWO DAYS to let my body literally relax and the tension ease from my shoulders...and my butt. Let's be honest, all the tension was in my butt. Dear Lord, I am such a scaredy cat! I don't know what I was expecting or thought the city would be like, but I was shocked. It was other-worldly, and if the tourist and locals were dressed a little different, and the things inside the shops were changed, it would have felt like the place was untouched by time. The Caribbean feel to the area coupled by affects of the hands of the French made it all so surreal and very, VERY unlike my little farm town back home in Indiana. I immediately regretted not bringing my actual camera, you know, the one clients pay me to use to take gorgeous photos. Silly Gia. (these photos are not mine, by the way, but stock)

I have a lot that I can say about my trip, and maybe I will get into that in future blog posts, but I want to skip over that to tell you about the moment that broke my heart. Yesterday, I wrote about how I grew up devouring stories from our nation's history and how important that was for me, how it shaped my life and heart. What I was most excited about in exploring New Orleans, was the history. This city is old and at it's heart was the oldest operating market for imported slaves into our nation. If there was a place where the air, even today, would hum with time and mystery and pain and anguish, it would be in New Orleans. And Lord, did it ever! Goosebumps rippled over my arms when we pulled onto Esplanade Avenue. The tangled oaks with the Spanish moss stood in the median and gorgeous homes flanked the street. As Roger was driving on our way to Cafe Du Monde, I was busy looking at everything I could. One thing I have a habit of doing is spotting historical markers (my pal, Brett would appreciate this) and quickly googling them and reading what they were about, since when you're driving, there's no time to read them. The avenue was spotted with beautiful, shiny markers and I got to work.

How had I missed that we had come to NOLA during it's 300th anniversary? And because of this, new historical markers were erected over the city only weeks before I had arrived. What were these markers for that I was seeing on Esplanade Avenue? They were the cities FIRST markers highlighting the truth of New Orleans history in slavery...

I wanted to weep.

Three hundred years later?

All the human souls shipped into the port from the West Indies or on barges down the Mississippi...

Three hundred years later?

The slave pens that lined the city. The auction houses or the blocks quickly put up wherever a crowd could gather, even inside churches...selling human souls and tearing families apart...

Three hundred years later?

The slave ship that docked in the delta named Jesus. The German Coast Uprising along River Road which we don't hear about in our history classes in school. The amputated heads of captured "rebels" put on spikes through the city to bring terror to imported slaves and the free blacks that walked the street.

Three hundred years later?

The Quadroon ballrooms where women of mixed race were groomed and bartered over by their mothers and white wealthy plantation owners' sons to serve as "kept women" for sexual pleasure. The truth that human lives were the second largest asset in the American South and the city of New Orleans. Human souls. The women that were good breeders constantly kept impregnated and some of the most valuable souls to own.

Three hundred years later.

It dawns on me that I am no longer saying that with a heartbroken question mark. It settles in my heart that it is our truth, collectively. It took African Americans fighting for the recognition for the history to be told and the city to stop hiding. It took advocates. It took a fight in civil campaigns. And here I was, staring at the markers that were only weeks old.

Three hundred years later. 

My heart breaks. Because three hundred years later, we do not import and sell humans, black men and women can vote and attend the same schools as white people, but we still live and breathe and thrive off racism and hate. How far have we actually come when it took all this time to tell the truth in a beautiful city that sees a flood of tourism annually?

Not very far.

And why did we allow that to happen? Are we too busy? Are we too ashamed? Do too many of us honestly not know our history? Did we so easily forget? Three hundred years isn't really that long in the grand scheme of human history. Why did we hide the truth? 

Tomorrow I will share about our trip to the Whitney Plantation, the nation's first slavery museum. I am so thankful for the man who purchased it, realized it's history and decided it had to be told. Why? So that in three hundred years, our wrongs of today are not fresh markers in our cities. There is far too much darkness that can grow in three hundred years of silence.



A New Kind Of Abolitionist

I had a list of things that I wanted to study and write. I mentally filed my inspiration away when walking the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans last week. But I am home now and need to put it aside for a moment. There are too many things pulling at my heart with urgency. It feels like I have walked with my countrymen to an edge of a cliff that hovers over a dark void. Standing so close to the edge that drawing too much breath will send us all over into the darkness, swallowed up and devoured...

I grew up in church. I have always known what the Bible says, but I grew up loving history too. Even as a little girl, it gave me pause to see how often people used the Word of God to justify evil acts. It made me wonder if we were all serving a different God. How can the Bible be true if one man holds it up while standing on a auction block with a black man standing naked beside him, selling him off to the highest bidder? How can the Bible be true if evil men are holding it while carrying out genocide on Native Americans, telling them that God gave this land to them, not the Natives who were heathens and unacceptable? How can the Bible be true if pastors held it in their hands while justifying wars and ignoring the black men and women in American streets, marching for equality and the right to attend the same school as the white child? Too often the Bible has been in the hands of men and women who have used it to push hate, murder, and separation between people groups. They held it in their hands while tying the knot in rope and placing the loop over the black man's neck, and they still hold it now as they tear children from their parents at out nation's Southern border.

I grew up hearing the phrase that we must remember and know our history lest we repeat it. So I learned it. I devoured it. I cried as I looked at the photos of Jews in concentration camps, wept when I read their stories. And here I am, at 35 years old, and wondering what my fellow countrymen were doing instead of learning their history, because they did not learn; they did not grow; they did not succeed in becoming something good. But hear this: We are not repeating history, we are making a new chapter of renewed hate and bloodshed. Fresh. New ink. A new story. And it lacks love and compassion and the very spirit of what America could have been...

The ugliness began generations ago, perhaps when our Founding Father dipped the quill in the well and the first drop of ink bled into what would become our Bill of Rights and Constitution of the United States, because even they held human beings in bondage while holding their bibles.

I have grown weary of watching the Word of God be counterfeited for evil. I will forever stand against such actions and fight for all humans to be treated with the love of a neighbor, as Christ commanded. I beg you to start to hold these men and woman accountable as well. We must reclaim the love of Christ and set aside our love of country. We must choose who we will serve. It is not easy. It causes you to deconstruct from the religion you were raised in and learn a new way that is spiritual, not religious. Yet I find that this is where I can breathe and find a loving version of God.

Tomorrow, I will do my best to write what I know, what I have learned, what I have studied, and hopefully pen it in stirring words that might move hearts and minds towards a place of compassion for our fellow man. It may not work, but it is what I can do as a true Patriot of freedom and safe harbor for all. I will be a new kind of abolitionist...

And I hope I will not find myself alone.



Bringing The Forgotten Back To Life

 I've spent the last few months trying to puzzle out brick walls in my family genealogy. I've found a surprising amount of satisfaction and enjoyment in remembering all the names and people who lead up to me. It's strange, really...a vague mix of time travel and self exploration. Are any of these people artistic? Did any of them have the same fears and dreams? Can I see a wee bit of myself in the reflection of their eyes. But what has been equally exciting is simply moving through time and space and uncovering very real history--history framed in muscle and bone, waking to life with heart and blood. Most of it has nothing to do at all with my own family history, but it's important, none-the less.

Since I've had very little motivation to write these days, I thought I would be deliberate in putting down the long forgotten truths of the past for whomever might find them. It's important, I think, not to learn outside the texts books and the news media. So, I will start today. I will introduce you to Robert Taylor of Coffee County, Tennessee, and his slave woman, Retter. I will first explain that I happened upon this story while trying to find records for one James M. Cooper, born in Coffee County, Tennessee in 1844--my mystery man in who I can find very little.

The story takes place on August 31, 1863 at the residence of Robert Taylor, about three miles from the town of Hillsboro. For reasons not given, Taylor believed Retter to be a thief, having stolen a sum of money from him, though he could give no proof. Afraid of the punishment of the accusation, Retter--who Taylor claimed to own--ran away but was apprehended by Taylor and his neighbors and brought back. Furious, Taylor procured a rope and addressed the crowd asking if anyone present could tie a "hanging knot," to which a man named Womack stepped forward and obliged.

From the shelter of their home, Taylor's wife and daughters watched in silence as the head of their home tossed the rope over a tree limb and fixed the loop around Retter's neck. Taylor hoisted the woman's body into the air only to become frustrated that Retter had managed to get her fingers through the loop, loosening the knot as she struggled to live. He lowered her and tied her hands behind her back, quickly hoisting her back into the air. No one bothered to stop him.

Retter's toes were barely off the ground as she fought and kicked until finally, from lack of air and exhaustion, her head fell to the side. It was only then that Taylor's wife and neighbors begged him to loosen the rope and give her a chance to revive, to which he complied. The man demanded that Retter confess to the theft of his money, but she once again refused and declared herself innocent.

Weak and beaten, Retter was taken some 200 yards from the home and stripped down to nothing but her chemise. She was made to cross her hands so Taylor could tie them together, pulling them down under her knees with a stick stuck under. She was left lying on her face and side in this position and whipped with a leather thong for two and a half hours, at the end of which, some neighbors said they thought she had been whipped enough for now. The neighbors untied her and began to help her toward the home. When they reached the kitchen, she fell to the floor, and in the presence of the neighbors and Taylor's wife and daughters, she died.

It was the President of the United States that got involved with the case, which at that time was Abraham Lincoln. It's surprising that Taylor was even arrested, but perhaps because the Civil War already well under way and the talk of abolition of all slaves, a point was being made, bringing the story to light to set an example for how the nation would become--viewing Negroes with the same rights as the white man? Whatever the case, the President made it clear that he thought the sentencing of five years for manslaughter as insufficient, but as it was, he would make sure Taylor served the sentence out at the Albany, New York Penitentiary, under Union control, in sense, as a prisoner of war. The President said the crime revealed shameless character in Taylor in the absence of all provocation, having subjected the victim to prolonged torture, thus providing ample time for human compassion that Taylor failed to give.

And that's all I found on Robert Taylor, forever seared in forgotten history as a man Lincoln deemed as having a shameless character.

He was forgotten, as was Retter, but not if we read their story now and pass it on.

So far, I have no "Taylor" surnames in my family tree. For that, I can be thankful, even if James M. Cooper continue to evade my searching.



London And The Old Man

 After being a female for 35 years, you'd think I'd understand what all it entails, but it hasn't been until recently that I've finally begun to see the pros and the cons of my sex. My eyes are slowly opening to the differences in the ways male and females are socialized. I won't speak about what it's like as a male, but I will speak to the realization that females are socialized to be pleasing, helpers, peacekeepers and peacemakers...

And I, somehow, was built with a personality that automatically made me a failure of all those attributes. I am not altogether pleasing, though I have a desire for people TO BE pleased with me (just the way I am, good and bad). I am a wonderful helper, but don't always WANT to be a helper. I am miserable at peacekeeping because I have thoughts and opinions that might be problematic to other people; and I have too hot of a temper to be very good at peacemaking (unless you fall into line and do it my way, cause I'll jerk a knot in your tail).

Basically, I am really bad at being a woman that's pleasing, helping, peaceful and kind. I've always thought it was because I am too masculine and wanted to grow up to be Maverick from Top Gun. I wanted to be the hero and the champion that saved the world. But I wanted to do all of those things while having awesome hair and wearing a pencil skirt (I have never owned a pencil skirt, by the way).

Anyway, I am telling you these things to share with you an eye-opening moment I had in public with my newly minted four year-old daughter who also possesses a bullheaded personality that prevents her from being pleasing, helpful, peaceful and kind (comes by it honestly). We were standing in line at the store and an old gentlemen behind us smiled at her and said, "Good afternoon, young lady." London turned around and scowled up at him, but she added a growl for good measure. Me...slightly embarrassed, smiled back at the man on behalf of both of us. He just chuckled softly and said, "You look like you're about four years old." She turned on her heels so she was facing the man full on. She knitted her brows together and glowered up at him through her lashes. I blushed and patted her head, whispering that she was perfectly fine.

"Yesterday was her birthday," I said with extra kindness. The old man smiled. "She's not very nice, sometimes," I hear myself saying with a note of sympathy for the old man.

He looked right up at me and his face grew sober. "Oh, that's okay. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is no longer safe for a young lady to be kind to a man."


I could have fallen right over in surprise.


Not only was I personally reverting back to the societal norms of how a female should be in public, but I was automatically leading London, and expecting her to comply, to those norms. And this angel of a man shot me down in a graceful and powerful way. He instantly and compassionately reminded me that my daughter doesn't HAVE to be smiling and speaking and responding to a man, any man, in a way she doesn't feel safe doing. He kindly reminded me that it's perfectly okay to scowl and not speak if she doesn't want to.

Yeah, there's still a big part of me that wants London to be kind (and she IS kind!) but more importantly, I want her to know without hesitation that her boundaries matter more that societal norms for women.

Thank God for men like that stranger.

He is making the world great AND safe.


Noonday Ambassadors Who Bring Change

I have beautiful women in my life, inside and outside. Each of them has their own story and passions that I find fascinating. One of these women is my sister-in-law, Beccy. Unlike me, she has been that bluebird that’s flown around the world and visited faraway places I may never have the opportunity to see. In India, she developed a heart for the women and children there. But like most of us, she grew up, married and had children here at home. A very "grown-up life" can makes it all the more difficult to see the world and do big and magical things that change people’s lives…

((Well, not really, because two souls being knitted together in love and creating other humans out of that love is more than likely the most important, and most beautiful work of all.))

Last year, however, Beccy still found an admirable to way to not only provide for her own growing family, but to help artisans in distant parts of the world provide for their families as well. As a Noonday ambassador, Beccy is changing bits and pieces of the world—perhaps not the entire world (as we often wished of doing as little children), but the worlds of individual human beings. To me, that’s amazing.

I’d like to take a moment to share Beccy’s words with you on what it means to her to work for Noonday.

“I think many of us struggle with what our lives are for, whether we matter, if we’re making a difference. As a teenager, I was able to travel the world and make an impact working in orphanages or teaching school in places like India and Bolivia, but I sometimes still felt insignificant. I figured that if I didn’t go, if I was unable to go, someone else would.

“After starting a family and committing to being a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I had lost my connection to the larger world. Then I heard about Noonday. Through Noonday, I can once again have an impact around the world by connecting artisans in other countries to a market for their product here. Selling their handmade goods creates dignified jobs in vulnerable communities. This is so important to me because I have been in those vulnerable communities. I have seen first hand the families that cannot afford medical care, or send their children to school.

“Noonday is different than any direct-sales company I’ve encountered. They are not multi-level marketing, which can sometimes leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Instead, they are direct sales due to their desire to have a personal connection with the artisan, the ambassador, and the customer. As an ambassador, I want to sit with you and hear your stories, share my story, and the stories of the women around the world so we can all be connected. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many other ambassadors and each of them are encouraging and supportive. We help each other out, give each other our tips and ideas. We aren’t competitive. 

Beccy with a Noonday artisan, Roopa, who is a partner in India.

“I joined Noonday to make a difference. When the problems of the world seem so big, I wonder what a small, quiet person like me can do. Noonday gives me a voice. When I wear a piece that someone asks about, it gives me an opportunity to share the artisan's story and how everyone can make a difference. I’ve heard first hand how Noonday gave someone back their hope, it built schools and daycares, provided clean water, and helps fight against human trafficking. It is so many things. But most importantly, Noonday is more than just pretty accessories.”

Click here to learn about hosting a trunk show or contact Beccy below
I've been lucky enough to have the privilege to attend trunk shows and also host my own with Beccy guiding all my friends through the process. What I love the most is hearing how the artisans choose what to use to make their piece with. Click on this link and lean more about how Ethiopian artisans collect bullets from the fields and turn them into stunning works of art.

Click here to read how when you wear their story, you share their story

In our nation, we are mostly a privileged people. I am an activist and vocal about human rights. I speak a lot about my own privilege as a white, American woman. A part of me was afraid that wearing these pieces would be yet another mark of my privilege. It is, too. But because I have that status, I need to use it the best way that I can. Artisans want to work, they want to create, and they want dignity. As an artist, I understand this as well. Instead of just giving money, shopping at Noonday gives employment and a market for their art and passion. The pieces tell their story and the story of their homeland. Purchasing and wearing their art gives them dignity and a voice. And I can help do those things because of my privilege. What an honor.

Perhaps one of the things that strikes me the most is that the Noonday Ambassadors don't live in their personal little bubbles here in the United States. They are actively learning about their artisans and the lives of their families. They're also traveling across the world to meet these artisans, sit at their tables, and hear their dream. Click on this link to read an Ambassador from Tennessee's account when she traveled to Uganda and met with Noonday artisans and their families. To me, it is clear that Noonday is working to change bits and pieces of the world through art, beauty, connection, community, and most important of all, opportunity.

If you'd like to learn more about Noonday and/or book a show or become part of the company, please feel free to contact Beccy.



The Darkness That Makes Us Yearn

Yesterday afternoon, I was tucked warmly away in my grandmother’s sun room. What an unusual place to sit and be warm, sipping coffee and having conversation while only a large window separates the human hearts from the heavy snowfall outside in the frigid temps. But there I was, reminiscing over the years I’ve been married—18 years this summer. My aunt said she would be married 30 (I think) and she said she didn’t know how many winters. I was confused for a moment. Did she mean literal winters? But she did not. She meant the trying times, the difficult parts, the areas in marriages that many wish they could speed pass or run from. I nodded with understanding. “Those are the best times,” I said. “They make us more beautiful, stronger people. I love my winters more than any of the other times.”

Then last night, while I was laying in bed, blankets piled high because it was freezing, I started to think about how much truth is hidden in the idea that winters are the trying times; the hard times; the times that shape and mold us; the times that make us stronger; fill us with more love that’s unbreakable; purify us….

In the year 2018, winters are still quite literally difficult. We have to work hard to fight back the wildness of it all. We put up plastic over the leaky windows in our old houses. We prepare our cars that sometimes still can’t keep up in the sub-zero temperatures. We fight to unfreeze pipes and then run about screaming when the pipes burst and begin spraying cold water all over the basement (okay, perhaps I was the only one screaming). We are beyond frustrated when the busted pipes require immense cleanup and repair and then they only freeze once again a few hours after fixed. We worry about the roads that become treacherous with snow drifts and ice, both seen and unseen. School is delayed or canceled. Job shifts are rearranged to accommodate the children, stir crazy with cabin fever. We stock up our pantries and fatten ourselves up on hot chocolate and endless pots of chili.

2018…(take THAT Y2K believers!)

We are still fighting to live through the winters. It’s hard. It certainly isn’t easy…and people are often wishing to escape the winter and run to a safer, warmer, more inviting place.

Our ancestors--the legacy that has grown into us--they knew that winter would quite literally bring life or death. They worked hard to prepare and then battened down the hatches, hoping that they would arrive through the dark and enter back into the warm life of spring. They needed hope, filling every surface of their homes with the green hope of life with cuttings of evergreen.

They were superstitious.

They were vigilant.

They were tough.

And they lived through it.

At the end of winter, they took the winter greens and readied a large fire. Some wrote notes of things they wanted to leave behind with the winter—tucked the notes into the evergreen, and burned it all to ash. It was a cycle. There would be another winter, but for now, there was Spring.

But there would be a spring after, if only they fought hard to see it.

This is marriage.

This is relationship.

This is friendship and life.

Be thankful for the winters.
They are tough and sometimes they hurt. You may want to run away and find something more comfortable, but each time the winter darkness turns to warm spring, you will find yourself stronger, more capable, and purified to keep moving forward as time walks with you.

I will leave you with this Celtic prayer of thanks for the seasons:

There is a winter in all of our lives,
a chill and darkness that makes us yearn
for days that have gone
or put our hope in days yet to be.
Father God, you created seasons for a purpose.
Spring is full of expectation
buds breaking
frosts abating and an awakening
of creation before the first days of summer.
Now the sun gives warmth
and comfort to our lives
reviving aching joints
bringing colour, new life
and crops to fruiting.
Autumn gives nature space
to lean back, relax and enjoy the fruits of its labour
mellow colours in sky and landscape
as the earth prepares to rest.
Then winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock
rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right.
An endless cycle
and yet a perfect model.
We need a winter in our lives
a time of rest, a time to stand still
a time to reacquaint ourselves
with the faith in which we live.
It is only then that we can draw strength
from the one in whom we are rooted
take time to grow and rise through the darkness
into the warm glow of your springtime
to blossom and flourish
bring colour and vitality into this world
your garden.
Thank you Father
for the seasons of our lives

~Gia Cooper