Photographer Russell Frederick’s Photo Exhibition at “Visa Pour L’Image 2013”

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Check out the photo exhibition of the acclaimed and über talented Brooklyn photographer, Russell Frederick. Frederick’s exhibition is entitled “Veiled Beauty: Portraits of a Dying Breed in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.” It will be showcased on Sept 4, 2013 at the annual “Visa Pour L’Image” photography festival held in Perpignan, France.

Frederick, the photojournalist, illustrates Bed Stuy as it undergoes transitions due to gentrification and economic disparities. Bed Stuy, once known as the largest black metropolis in America, (during the 80’s and 90’s) was one of the first communities where black people were able to buy land, build homes, open businesses and vote in New York after the Civil War. The pioneering residents in this middle class neighborhood face a seismic shift of separation, as the cost of living expenses steadily rise. Russell Frederick’s photographs are a record of the “Dying Breed.”

Russell Frederick has been photographing the community of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn for 14 years.

You can learn more about Frederick and his work at http://www.russellfrederick.com.

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Keeping Dr. King’s “Dream” Alive by Rebuilding America

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his unifying “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. This defining moment in history was one of the many catalysts that afforded many Americans, such as myself, the privilege of reading about the unspeakable acts of racism, instead of experiencing it.

I can sit anywhere on a bus. I can go to non-segregated water fountains, bathrooms, schools, restaurants, and swimming pools. I don’t have to worry about being lynched or beaten. I don’t have to fear being hosed down while practicing my constitutional right to protest. I don’t have to worry about serious repercussions for being involved in an interracial relationship. I am truly grateful for these freedoms, and the sacrifices that Dr. King, activists, and everyday people have made to help create this reality.

Despite the progress and achievements, I can’t wholeheartedly say that I’m not judged by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character. Being born in the 80’s, I should have a more positive outlook on certain issues – but I don’t. I initially feared that President Barack Obama wouldn’t win his first presidential election solely because he is black, and if he won, he would be assassinated. Many people don’t like to admit it, but these repulsive scenarios are still very real 50 years after MLK’s speech.

Where is my skepticism coming from? Why is someone who has only seen “whites only” signs in history books and documentaries, have so much mistrust? It’s because Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” has not completely come into fruition. I often deal with racism, but it’s usually concealed. Most of the time, I try not to think about it so my heart won’t fill with anger. The danger in subliminal racism is that its’ existence can easily be denied; therefore, change never happens. I decided to give my version of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” with some of my experiences 50 years after he gave his speech. I am not even attempting to be prolific like Dr. King, but simply want to convey how this speech is still relevant in my world.

I Have a Dream 2013

“I have a dream that I can enter a nice neighborhood and people will believe that I live there, and not profile me and follow me home (it happened to me).  I have a dream that I won’t be treated like a thief when I misplace my receipt when returning/exchanging an item at the store. I have a dream that people won’t assume that I didn’t go to college or that I have children. I have a dream that the black youth will have the freedom to wear any type of clothing in their closet, without it giving people the urge to shoot them.  I have a dream people will stop treating me like a stereotype and/or a statistic.

I have a dream that people will stop pretending that racism doesn’t exist. I have a dream that the justice system will finally be colorblind. I have a dream that racism, whether blatant or covert will be an ancient concept. I have a dream that one day, people will realize that concealed racism in any form is painful. I have a dream that I won’t have to write articles like this.

I have a dream that all races will finally realize that they belong to something bigger – the human race.”

There is a reason why Dr. King made stated,  “1963 is not an end, but a beginning,” in his “I Have a Dream” speech.  He anticipated the long journey ahead, and what Americans would have to endure to reach the destination he dreamed of.  I welcome everyone to join me in hopes of finally chanting, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

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Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

“Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

– Unknown

The Lack of Compassion for Those Who Mourn the Elderly

Girl Crying by =Rayzoir

“Girl Crying” by =Rayzoir

During one of my most painful moments, I didn’t expect the magnitude of my pain to be minimized by one arbitrary factor. Age.

I’ll never forget when I called a friend, crying about a death in my family only to hear her say, “Oh, it was your grandma? She was old, right?… Oh, okay… You’ll be alright.” Somewhere down the line, I failed to realize that the death of an elderly person is apparently, not really a loss.

What I gathered from my friend’s curt sentiments was: My grandmother’s death was sad, but nothing major, and that I needed to stop being so emotional about it.  It made me wonder, how does someone who I loved so much, simply becomes deduced to a dead old lady? Was I being too sensitive? Should I have mourned my grandmother’s death with less intensity? Or maybe, I should have quietly mourned and not seek out the support of friends. I did notice that I received more sympathy with my grandfather’s passing because he died from a car accident, which taught me that tragedy trumps old age when determining the significance of a person’s death.

I never understood why so many people are less sympathetic when an elderly loved one is bereaved.  I don’t get the logic behind it. When someone was old, his or her departure should be less painful? I understand that in a sense, a child or young person dying is more tragic because they weren’t able to live a long life and fulfill their dreams. I also understand that there were endless possibilities that will never come into fruition. Nonetheless, does it negate the life of someone who was old? Yes, a person’s old age might soften the blow a little, but it still hurts like hell. That person may have lived a long life, but that also means that person created and shared a lifetime of memories, which will leave a huge void for the living.

When I mourned the death of my 82-year-old grandmother, my tears were indifferent to her age. My tears were for the woman who flew from Miami to New York to witness my birth and to help my first-time parents take care of me for a month.  My tears were for a woman who created dresses for my Barbie dolls on her sewing machine. A woman who stood in front of the stove for hours to cook 4 course meals for her family everyday from scratch, even though my grandpa told her that it was unnecessary and that she worked too hard. She was far from perfect, but as many of us do, I understood the reasons for some of her flaws and limitations when she passed away.

I also mourned the woman who wandered around and forgot her own name due to Alzheimer’s disease, but despite that, she never forgot my name. I mourned the woman who somehow managed to remember that I had medical problems. She would ask my mother if I was okay and would tell her that she could take care of me and cook for me. I don’t know how she etched into her memory that I was sick, because my illness started during the time she had Alzheimer’s. I like to think she remembered because she loved me so much. These are some of the many reasons why my tears flowed abundantly for her.

During the last two years of my grandmother’s life, I mourned the loss of the person she once was, since she changed drastically due to Dementia, which eventually progressed into Alzheimer’s. When she died, I was mourning the fact she was no longer here on earth with me. What especially hurt was my inability to hold her again, have a conversation with her, or taste her delicious food. Maybe, this pain only merited the text messages that some of my friends sent me as opposed to the phone calls and in person visits that I so needed and desired. In my mind, I saw this as life changing event that deserved some type of empathy.

The motivating force behind some people’s apathy for my loss is beyond me, but it makes me wonder if that friend would have the same attitude when her grandparents or parents die of old age. I do understand that there’s a tendency for people to only care about things that directly affect themselves. I know it’s apart of the human nature, but for some reason I always expect more. I say this because everyone has his or her turn to mourn, and everyone will need a shoulder to cry on when it happens. No one is exempt from this painful part of the life cycle.

I stumbled across an article about a herd of grieving elephants that touched me. It was about a herd of elephants that were revisiting the place where a member of their herd died, which is customary for a grieving herd. They were so grief-stricken that they destroyed things around the site where the elephant was killed. After reading this article, I decided to do some light research on how elephants grieve.

Elephants have such an understanding of the pain of losing a loved one that they will even grieve an elephant that was not from their herd. Elephants will also grieve a human if they come across one that is deceased. One woman recounted that she was sleeping under a tree when a herd of elephants placed branches and twigs on her and began screaming. She stayed still because she feared for her life. She was later told that they were burying her and screaming out of grief because they thought she was dead.

How powerful is it that elephants can grieve for a being outside of their species? There is a lot to be said how elephants respond to death. I think humanity could learn a lot from them.

No matter how you try to paint the picture, death, regardless of the deceased’s age, is a tribulation for the people left behind.  A loss is a loss.

~In Loving Memory of Roselle