Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter


This is my last month in Durham, North Carolina. I’m preparing to move west to Taos, NM on May 6, 2021, if all goes forward as planned. Last week, I walked to Maplewood Cemetery and around the historic tobacco town filled with renovated warehouses, factories and storefronts. Each step is a reminiscence of my 21 years living in North Carolina, and in the American south since 1989. This blog post is about intersections between past, present and future. It is about culpability: the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the American southwest. It is about indigenous and enslaved peoples. It is about redemption, making restitution, and guarding our democracy. It is about Oaxaca, too, as I look forward to the arrival from Teotitlan del Valle of my goddaughter Janet Chavez Santiago who will travel with me on this road trip. On her arrival from Mexico, I will get her vaccinated so she doesn’t have to wait until March 2022 for her age category.

As I walked Maplewood Cemetery, 120 acres at the intersection of Kent and Morehead Streets, I saw familiar names of families that had built this town interred here: Julian Carr who trademarked “Bull Durham and whose tombstone is inscribed with Veteran of the Confederacy. Here, too, lay philanthropist Mary Duke Biddle, Dr. Bartlett Durham, and Brodie Duke, eldest son of Duke University founder Washington Duke. As I walked, it jumped out at me: Where are Black people buried? Maplewood was established in 1872 during Jim Crow. There would be no Black graves here.

This is when I found Greer Cemetery, established in 1877, on four acres embracing the graves of at least 1,500 African Americans, many born into slavery. It was the first Durham cemetery for Blacks. So, I went to visit in tribute to the region where I have lived, respecting the Black Lives Matter movement, the acknowledgement that civil society enacts horrific crimes in self-protection of social, political and economic interests. I wandered the old carriage path and diverged onto ground uneven and softened with unmarked graves. I wanted to honor the diversity and voices of past, present and future. And, I wanted to mark the travesty of current voting rights restrictions enacted by 43 state legislatures across the USA now, in April 2021. We know that separate is not equal — this is another perfect example.

This visit caused me to think about culpability — the question of who is responsible for wrong-doing or failure, who is to blame, who is at fault, who accepts moral responsibility for transgressions past and current?

Which got me thinking about my life in Oaxaca among indigenous Zapotec people and their history of oppression and discrimination, and my future life in New Mexico where Native People’s have been abused and marginalized since the Spanish and U.S. conquests. This year, Mexico City marks its 500-year anniversary of the invasion by Spanish conquistadores and friars. We are in the middle of the George Floyd murder trial. So much and yet so little has improved.

Today, we celebrate spring, the emergence of new life flowering and green, as we move toward breaking down the barriers of isolation from Covid with 3 million jabs in arms daily, and the promise of travel to come soon. In doing so, let’s honor those who have passed to bring us to this day and be mindful to protect those who are vulnerable whose voices are muted or suppressed. It is up to us to be the difference.

A Nod to Dr. MLK: Dream Big

Dream Big, whomever you are, wherever you are.

“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”— from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Inspiring social justice leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our dreams this year are a convoluted mash-up of wanting this pandemic to end, wanting protection from it with a vaccine, wanting to make plans to return to Oaxaca, wanting a safe and secure democratic transition of government leadership, wanting the sickness and death counts to trickle to nothing, wanting detained immigrants separated from their families to be treated with dignity and released, and for Black Americans to go to sleep without fear and with access to a fair and equal justice system, want to touch and be with our family and friends.

For my friends in Oaxaca, I wish for a return to normalcy that will guarantee the return of tourists who will support their livelihoods and provide food, shelter, health and well-being for their families.

Dreams are about hopes and wishes. A friend wrote to ask me to identify three wishes for 2021, as the tradition of making resolutions arrived on December 31 and we now find ourselves smack in the middle of January 2021. Have we given any formalized thought to this? Did we write down our dreams and wishes and post them on our refrigerator door? Or fold then in origami paper and light them with a match, sending these dreams skyward to the heavens to ensure they will come true in the Asian tradition.

The Dream, by Marc Chagall

Dreams. We want them to come true. We are still working on the dreams evoked by Dr. Martin Luther King. May his memory guide us in our quest to do better on earth as we work toward healing, justice, and peace for each and every human on the planet.

I’m using this day for reflection and recommitment to the principles that Dr. King articulated, as I walk with friends in the beauty of the natural world, think about those we have lost this year to coronavirus, violence, and starvation. I believe each of us has the responsibility to heal our world and make it a better place.

Dr. Martin Luther King. May his memory be for a blessing.