Friday, March 13, 2009

Writer, Jason Trask Turns 55!

My good Scots buddy and writing comrade, Jason Trask. We tought English and general life skills at Rikers Island prison years back when our receding hairlines were just beginning to tell on us!

Jason turned 55 this week. An event worth mentioning, not only because he's fam but because it's important that we celebrate the many milestones in our lives...J proved his brotherhood to me when we were at a favorite deli of his in pre-gentrification Williamsburg, NYC. He'd bragged about the place so much that I decided to check it out with him one day after having both saved a few young lives. When we got to the deli I decided to look around, amazed at all the variety of imported foods. The owner didn't know I was with one of her regulars and proceeded to give me the sly; the typical undercover racial stuff that Black and Brown folk have to put up with every day. To get to the point, Jason caught it and not only called her out on it but made the decision to stop supporting her establishment.

This is what friendship looks and feels like. This is also what a White ally does to do their part in rejecting race-ism:

Acknowledge the race-ism

Call out the person on it

Admit that Whites benefit from White privilege

Talk about race-ism openly and honestly, without making excuses for it

Be aware of the shame of it, but don't be consumed by guilt. Just take action!

Learn from the children, since they're more interested in forward movement

Bring up Timothy McVeigh and ask why we're only profiling men of color for possible terrorism

Stop avoiding, and prove to our Attorney General that America is NOT a nation of cowards

Live in reality-- It ain't all about you...anymore!

Just like it took forward-thinking Whites to help put Obama in Office, it's gonna take those same Whites to help us become a post-racial society for real. If your own White allies don't do any of the above, then they're not your allies nor true friends. Just cleverly disguised racists who are into decorating. That is, they want to be able to tell people, Look at me. I'm hip 'cause I'm having lunch with a Black person! That's not taking action. Telling a relative, co-worker, friend, or spouse that you're not putting up with their sickness--because race-ism is a dis-ease--is.

If you'd like to see some of Jason's own writing, checkout John Jay College of Criminal Justice's literary journal called J Journal (Vol.1, Spring 2008), ironically enough. He wrote a piece called New Plantation, referring to his first day working with incarcerated youth. Here's a sample--

"...My first impression of the guards was that they all had this look of absolute boredom. It didn't look genuine somehow. It just went with the uniform. It was like they feared that if they looked anything but bored, people would think there were new. The look said, "I've seen everything. Don't even try to surprise me."...I parked in one of the incredibly huge parking lots and followed other pedestrians toward an uncertain destination. Huge chain link fences with razor wire lining the top were the stand-in for vegetation...After the door had shut completely, another door opened on the other side, and now I was at the intersection of several huge corridors, each a tunnel with lines converging into a vanishing point. But the thing I couldn't get over was the smell. This was a smell that seemed familiar, yet I didn't remember having smelled it before. It would take me a year to realize what it was. It was the smell of human barn...All of them were smoking except one who had a cigarette behind his ear. He stopped sweeping now and pulled it out and lit it. He flasshed a gold tooth in my direction with a smile that managed to be both shy and wicked. He took a deep drag on his cigarette then opened his mouth and drew his head back as he pushed out the smoke with his tongue, sculpting a perfect ball that hung there magically...At the time, it felt like he had created a hole for the white man and I had fallen into it...

Herds of inmates lined the walls. They just stood there waiting quietly with a bored looking Corrections Officer beside them smoking and telling them not to smoke. As we passed one group, an inmate started looking back at me and laughing and saying in white-manese, "Well, golly-gee; if it isn't a representative of the Caucasian persuasion coming to watch the negroes work the fields." And then in his own voice he shouted to me, "Welcome to the new plantation, Mister."..."

Happy Birthday, man. And here's to another 55!!!

1 comment:

Nadine said...

A very Happy and wonderful Birthday to you Jason. So happy you are still in Kahlil's life. He needs to be embraced by real folks.Hopefully while in Santa Fa i will get a chance to meet your son. He sounds like a cool guy, like is daddy. Make it a great year Jason. K's BIG, little sister. Nadine