In the wind

IMG_2872.JPGHappy Hispanic Heritage Month from here in Fayetteville. The city’s Chamber of Commerce marked the occasion with a two-parter festival. The first part yesterday brought sunshine and Argentinian dance. The second part today was cut off by blustery winds and a strong afternoon downpour, but not before its parade had a chance to circle Fayetteville’s square.

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IMG_2924.JPGThe event was officially apolitical, but celebrating Hispanic heritage almost seems like a political statement in itself these days, given the intense focus on immigration and policy and our president. I wrote up an article for today’s paper about how deferred action for childhood arrivals, the Obama-era protection from deportation given to hundreds of thousands young immigrants, stands a decent chance of becoming a law in Congress now. We’ll see what comes of it.

IMG_2943.JPGA programming note — this blog now has a companion Facebook page. You can get to it by clicking here. Give it a like, if you like, and you’ll find some of the classics from this blog’s annals, a first look at some shots before they’re blogged, and an easy link to prints and cards, if any of these images ever strike your fancy. Only 99 days until Christmas and all that.

Thanks, as always, for looking.

Dan

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Who we are

t_parade-17.jpg“Our country has changed,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote three years ago in a majority opinion that found the landmark Voting Rights Act was being used unfairly against several states with histories of intimidation and violence toward black voters. Black voter registration has equaled white registration in many of those places and more have minorities in office, Roberts said, concluding the set of states covered by the act is based on outdated information.

The victorious lawyer for the Alabama county protesting the voting law took a more sweeping stance: “There is an old disease, and that disease is cured.”

There are plenty of things I could point to in order to show how wrong-headed this statement was, but this past week has been especially gut-punching. Following the presidential election, racial and religious assault and street harassment seem to have spiked. (Hate crimes last year jumped, too.) Black freshmen at Pennsylvania State University were unwillingly added to an online chat group about lynching. Groups of students across the country, including here in Arkansas, have led chants of phrases like “white power,” an American Nazi slogan. Speaking of Nazis: swastikas and other anti-Jewish nonsense are all over the place.

It’s all pretty nauseating and alarming and scary.

So I’m going to show a snapshot of the America I know a little better, the one that’s home to people who are black, Christian, urban, female, civilian, old, liberal, Jewish, transgender, straight, Buddhist, rural, military, gay, male, Native American, Muslim, conservative, white, atheistic, young, Asian, native- and foreign-born. I’ve seen them farming, dancing, building, worshiping, marching, laughing, crying, leaping, relaxing, serving and celebrating, among all of the other things we Americans do.

This is a tiny piece of who we are.

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_C1_6759.JPGStill, the truth is none of this is new. We’re the country that elected Barack Obama, and we’re the country that had several slaveholders among its founders. We’re the country that sings the praises of Martin Luther King Jr., and we’re the country that elected a successor to Obama who, despite his denunciation, is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and its ilk. We’re a country that holds up the immigrant or refugee seeking a new life as an idyllic symbol, and we’re the country that began by attacking the indigenous people and consistently treated each new wave of immigrants with suspicion or outright hatred.

All of this is who we are. We have countless things to do if we want to change it, but I think we can start with two: seeing and meeting and learning about each other a little more, and never saying or thinking that racism and other prejudices are “cured.” I know I’ll do what I can on those two things, at least.

These are just my thoughts, incomplete or flawed as they might be. Thanks for looking, and I wish you well.

Using your feet

_C1_8553.JPGNothing like the salsa under a clear sky.

We’re two-thirds of the way through Hispanic Heritage Month, which in part commemorates the independence of Central America after centuries of Spanish rule that stretched back to the conquest of the Maya. The city marked the celebration with a two-day festival this past weekend near Lake Fayetteville. It wasn’t as colorful as I hoped — apparently I should’ve been there at the very beginning — but the air was filled with good spirits and zestful music, and a few brave people from the U.S., Venezuela, Mexico and other countries ventured out of the shade for some competitive dancing. A day-long fútbol tournament carried on up the hill.

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_C1_8433.JPGI’ve realized recently I should’ve stuck with the Spanish practice. I studied it for six years, including two semesters in college, but it’s a use it or lose it sort of deal, and I haven’t used it. Plenty of Latino people speak English just fine, but many don’t, and whether I’m trying to write stories about them for work or take their picture for this blog, I’ve wished many times I could explain and have a conversation in the more comfortable tongue. Same goes for the Marshallese around here, though that seems a much steeper challenge. We’ll see if I can get back in the Spanish saddle.

(Edit: All of this is also a good argument for hiring more Latino and Marshallese journalists in the first place.)

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_C1_8663.JPGThanks for lookin’.

Dan