A movement to eradicate racism together


I’m so glad I didn’t let the critics negative review of the play RACE, stop me from checking it out.  So, on April 7th my best friend, Robin, and I stood in a long line of theater patrons hoping to score tickets and… it payed off.

Race is a contemporary play, written by David Mamet, about a wealthy white man, Charles Strickland, who is accused of raping a black woman.  In a strategic move, to counter any potential negative impact of race on the outcome of his case, Strickland seeks legal assistance from a notable law firm that has an infamous legal team of two attorneys, Jack Lawson, a white attorney and Henry Brown, a black attorney.  What Strickland doesn’t know is, when he is not around, the lawyers and their beautiful, young black female legal assistant, Susan, struggle through their own biases, assumptions and challenges of dealing with racism and racist issues both in Strickland’s case and in  their relationships with each other.

Every new detail that surfaces about the case challenges the “Dream Team” to peel through a layer of racism. At one point, Jack Lawson decides to re-create the rape scene and expects Susan to wear a reproduction of the rape victims red, sequined dress in a court room to re-enact the crime.  Susan, who was hired through an Affirmative Action initiative, refuses to wear the dress and begins to explore the “politics” of her appointment with the firm. Susan discovers that  Lawson ordered background checks on the firms only African American employees, Susan and attorney Henry Brown, the other half of the “Dream Team”.  This, Susan points out,  is illegal but,  she decides to keep quiet about this criminal act and use it as her “trump card”  to access power in the firm.

The exploration of race deepens as the attorneys, who can bond on their maleness, but,  have very different perspectives  on evidence, events and strategy’s  when looking at it through the lens of race.  As the attorneys skillfully banter about white guilt and black shame  they eventually come to separate but equal agreement that, even in this day and age, power, privilege and perspective are the invisible bricks that separate whites and blacks and makes genuine trust… elusive.  Nevertheless,  the dream team decides to set aside their differences  and focus on winning the case until a seemingly  irrational move by the client brings the play to a spectacular end!

Brilliant…is the a word I would use to describe this play! For 90 uninterrupted minutes  I sat on the edge of my seat, eyes fixed on the stage, which only had minimal props, a boardroom table and a few chairs,  as the amazing cast of actors examined the complex,  sensitive and multi-faceted  issues of RACE.

BRAVO! Somebody really gets it and is bold enough to raise the questions and spark dialogue about the most uncomfortable issues of RACE!!!

Thank you  Canadianstage! Thanks to David Mamet (play-write) , Daniel Brooks(Director), Jason Priestly (yep! Beverly Hill’s 90210 fame) who plays Jack Lawson, Nigel Shawn Williams (who plays attorney Henry Brown), Cara Ricketts (who plays Susan), Matthew Edison (who plays Charles Strickland) and their Creative Team.

RACE is currently playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto until May 5, 2013.

Thank You for visiting BONDFIRES!


As a black woman, it has taken me a while to began to understand that de-constructing and eradicating racism does not solely rest on the shoulders of black people. I know this might seem obvious to many people, but, for me I have been living with the impact of racism for so long it has been very difficult to step out of “reactive” mode and embrace anti-racist work that is being done by “like-minded” people from other cultures, including white people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rev. David Billings, D. Div.,  a “white” anti-racist trainer,  and learn about the work being done  at The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond.  This organization is committed to de-constructing racism by educating people, both white and black, on the negative impact of racism in American society.

At this time, I would like to share some of my conversation with Rev…

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Idle No More…

It’s Christmas Day and Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation is entering the 15th  day of her hunger strike in protest to the Tory government passing Bill C-45. This bill supports the sale of reserve lands without full consultation of the collective First Nation people and has the potential to negatively affect Canada’s lakes and environment .

Chief Spence is currently living in a tepee on Victoria Island, within eyesight of Ottawa’s Peace Tower.  The Chief, surviving on a meager liquid diet of fish broth, lemon water and prepared medicine, is determined to meet with Prime Minister Harper, Governor General David Johnston and other First Nation Leaders to discuss the impact of this legislation on First Nation people and all Canadians. Chief  Spence has expressed many concerns for aboriginal people including;  poverty, high suicide rates and Bill C-45’s potential to place decision-making in the hands of a few which is contrary to traditional ways of First Nation people. The Chief will continue to fast until she can meet with Harper to discuss these issues faced by First Nation people.  Chief  Spence’s act of protest has ignited a wave of  solidarity from indigenous people and supporters across Canada creating a grass-roots movement called the idle no more Campaign.   

Aamjiwnaang First Nation demonstrators blocked off  CN rail train tracks in Sarnia Ontario and they have vowed to continue the blockade until Prime Minister Harper meets with Chief Spence. In Vancouver, thousands of First Nation protesters have participated in sit-in’s and  flash-mobs (large groups of protesters converging in a mall and suddenly breaking into  traditional song and dance).  Aboriginal youth have conquered Social Media with thousands of  Idle No More Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Although Parliament is closed for the holidays, you can show your support for the idle no more Campaign by sending an email message to your member of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper or Governor General David Johnston urging them to meet with Chief  Spence. You can also show your support by educating yourself about Bill C-45 to understand what  it is about and how it will potentially impact Canadians. You can show support by participating in protest rallies; sit-in’s and/or flash mobs that you encounter, these are friendly people trying to make our world a better place! Join picketers or protesters and… Tweet some encouragement to Chief Spence!

Thank you for visiting BONDFIRES !

Un-packing Racism an interview with Rev. David Billings, D.Div.

As a black woman, it has taken me a while to began to understand that de-constructing and eradicating racism does not solely rest on the shoulders of black people. I know this might seem obvious to many people, but, for me I have been living with the impact of racism for so long it has been very difficult to step out of “reactive” mode and embrace anti-racist work that is being done by “like-minded” people from other cultures, including white people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rev. David Billings, D. Div.,  a “white” anti-racist trainer,  and learn about the work being done  at The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond.  This organization is committed to de-constructing racism by educating people, both white and black, on the negative impact of racism in American society.

At this time, I would like to share some of my conversation with Rev. Billings with you…

When did you lose your culture as a white man or when did you discover it? (Izzie J)

I never lost my culture. I have always been acutely aware that I was white given the circumstances of my birth and the particular era in which I grew up which was the 1950’s and 60’s, all in the southern U.S. and in Mississippi and Arkansas in particular. It was an extremely race-conscious period. I was reared in the tenets of white supremacy some of which was subtle and much of which was overt. White supremacy was a given, rarely questioned, and rarely officially discussed. It was not until the 1980’s that I began to study the nature of “whiteness”—what it was and when and how, it was created. White culture thus was the way of life of a race-constructed society. White was taught as normal, universal and even transcendent. From what were deemed the classics of literature and fine arts to the depiction of Jesus as being European in appearance were all a part of white culture—the underpinnings of  a white supremacist way of life. None of this required bigotry or individual acts of meanness (although often it did, of course). It was life as I knew it. White was dominant, supreme, ordained, and made into law.

Why is it important for white people to unpack racism? (Izzie J)

Racism robs white people of their humanity. A mentor of mine said “To the degree one sees another as anything less than a full human being, to that degree one is out of touch with what it means to be human.” Thus whites are disconnected from an understanding and knowledge of self. It creates barriers between ourselves and 90% of the world’s population. If whites don’t know how we became white and what white means then all else we think we know is superficial, shallow and as Neely Fuller says, “only tends to confuse you”. Because whites are not required to face our racial nature, our attempts to develop real relationships with people of color are destined to fail. Racism can be “unpacked”. If something was done, it can be undone. Race is inherently specious, false, but it has power in a race-constructed world order.

What is the price that people of color pay for assimilation in America? (Izzie J)

This is not for me to say as a white person. I will say that the first racial constructionists, white meant the absence of black. All others, under certain circumstances, might mix across racial lines. Not white and black. This is the famous “one-drop rule”. Any “black blood” made one “Black”. White and Black were the twin pillars of racism/white supremacy.

Do you think “white” America,  owes “black” America (and Native America) something? Reparation?  (Izzie J)

In one sense white people owe black people and Native Americans everything. The wealth of the nation was created by the combination of free Black labor and the seizure of lands from the indigenous. The wealth accumulation was staggering beyond calculation. The United States is the wealthiest Nation in the world has thus far known even if you combined all the wealth of all other nations heretofore. The politics of this “debt” are just as daunting. It is hard to fathom. I would say most white Americans feel that Blacks have been “given” too much already.  As heartless, even as ludicrous, as this might sound, this is the nature of white supremacist thinking and worldview.

How does one develop an anti-racist framework? (Izzie J)

The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, of which I am a part, believes that racism can be “undone”.  It takes a collective approach. It involves organizing, discipline and study. It requires a study of the racist framework that has governed us for so long and its replacement even conceptually at first with anti-racist framework. Professor Y.N. Kly authored a small text titled “The Anti-Social Contract” which lays it out pretty clear. This nation could develop such an arrangement. To say it will neither be easy or quick, however is a vast understatement.

Is there such a thing as “White Culture”? (Izzie J)

Certainly.  If culture is a way of life then there is a white culture. It is not based on ethnicity or geography or biology, but on “race”. It is made manifest through the institutions “sanctioned by the state” historically speaking to this day. White culture is taught in the schools, embedded in the judicial system, health care, finance, and dominant-culture religion. It has trademarks or a value-system. White culture prizes individualism, dichotomous logic, the self as the center of consciousness and many other dynamics that can be delineated over time. Any person of color with street smarts or a Masters/Ph. D. knows what white culture is. Such knowledge is necessary to survive or succeed in this country. The only persons who are discouraged from recognizing white culture are white people. This is another tenet of white supremacy. With work and commitment whites can identify white culture. It is just difficult for us at first.

Describe ways that racism masquerades as something else? (Izzie J)

Systemic outcomes are one way. There are no institutional outcomes in this society that do not conform to the racial pecking order. These can be predicted from afar. The educational system, criminal justice, employment, home ownership are all examples of how race manifests itself in society. Whites can be in denial about this because the institutions speak for us. Because of individualism, whites don’t have to be self-critical about race. It often makes us appear disingenuous when in discussion with people of color. Of course, political discourse is fraught with racial code-words and innuendo—calling the President the Welfare President, in questioning his birth records, in his re-election sparking a cessation movement. There are more subtle ways that Whites are given to changing the subject when race is put forward. You can see this in college curriculum  Race never stands alone—it is usually race, class, and gender or race and an all other oppression’s  These are distinct phenomena, but when grouped together, race will fade into the background as a rule.

How do you walk in your whiteness and be true to the Civil Rights Movement? (Izzie J)

It is the only way to be in the Movement. People of color can easily spot those of us who are in denial or who are confused by our racial identities. Whites don’t have to be perfect. We need to be vulnerable to what race has done to all of us. Self-knowledge chops away at the savior complex. In a deeper sense whites in the movement are expected to work with other whites around the “un-packing” of racism. This is the hardest work of all. Many of us want to live vicariously through people of color, but the real challenge is to learn how to work with other white people. This is what will ultimately “undo” racism.

Thank you for visiting BONDFIRES!

ps. Some Comments are being posted to the wrong post (check out aururawatcherak comment and my reply). To comment about this post “Un-packing Racism and interview with Rev. Billings” please click on the black comment box beside the post. Thanks-IJ

Welcome back to BONDFIRES!

It has been a while since our last post and we have been working very hard to develop new articles and bring a fresh approach to presenting interesting content about the issues that affect people of African descent and all people who are impacted by the disease of racism.

To this end,  BONDFIRES has a number of  guests who will be contributing content to this blog about their experiences and perspectives on how “race” and “racism” influences North American  society  and  people of African descent everywhere.

At BONDFIRES, our hope is to encourage people everywhere to become educated about racism and it’s impact on individuals and society. Our desire is to develop a movement for change that will eradicate racism from North American society and ultimately, the world. To this end, BONDFIRES  wants to acknowledge that our content and subject matter will  lead to passionate dialogue and spirited debate. We welcome contributions and comments from everyone. However,  your comments MUST BE RESPECTFUL. The onus is on you to  “hold your cool ! “, so that you (and your comments) will be taken seriously and  BONDFIRES will allow you to continue to participate in discussions and comments.

Now that we have dealt with BONDFIRES  standards of engagement,  let’s get back to blogging…

Our feature guest for November 2012 is Rev. David Billings, D.Div, an anti-racist trainer and organizer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond since 1983. Rev. Billings has worked with anti-racist organizing groups across America and currently consults with Citizens for Economic Equity in New Orleans.

Over the years Rev. Billings organizing work has been cited for many awards including the Westchester County chapter of the National Association of Social Workers “Public Citizen of the Year,” the New Orleans Pax Christi “Bread and Roses” award; the Loyola University of New Orleans “Homeless and Hunger Award”; and the National Alliance against Racist Oppression’s Angela Davis Award for community service. He was the Whitney Young 2006 lecturer at the Westchester County NASW symposium.

Rev. Billings has graciously agreed to contribute to our blog. In a few days, BONDFIRES will present Rev. David Billings; Unpacking Racism…A White Man’s Journey.

Thank you for visiting BONDFIRES!

Ps. Please take a few moments to vote on our poll-Thank you, IJ


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