What Simone Manuel’s Gold Medal Comments Say About Race in America


The #blacklivesmatter movement has been no stranger to controversy. In its short existence it has garnered a reputation for being anti-American, a race-baiting organization, and, most recently — tapping into the fear zeitgeist for many white Americans — a domestic sleeper cell of terrorists. Reaction to #blacklivesmatter has at times even transcended racial identity, with critics accusing it of being “uncoordinated,” “loud” and “ineffective,” or reducing its most visible torchbearers — the protestors who have clogged everything from highways to brunch spots, to city hall, to the DNC — with derisive claims that they are shiftless, unthinking, unemployed, idealistic people with lots of energy and little planning in much the same way that the country has discredited other system disruptors like the Bernie and Occupy camps.

It has also spawned another type of reaction too; the most popular combative rhetorical retorts to #blacklivesmatter have been across-the-aisle brand battle cries of #alllivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter. It’s made the conversation around it all feel like we’re wading into increasingly turbulent waters while one side yells “Marco!” and the other side yells “Polo!,” all resulting in a stalemate. That the conversation on race now feels inescapable for folks only begins the long road toward empathy about the everyday experience for many Black Americans who feel we’ve had no choice but to navigate this country’s implicit and explicit unequal racial codes. From schools, to employment, to voting, to police interactions, it’s always been a sink-or-swim experience for us, and given the racial animus here, it’s often felt more like sinking. To quote David Foster Wallace (out of context): “this is water.”

That’s what I thought about when 20-year-old Simone Manuel emerged from the pool — breaking the surface and making history when she not only set a new Olympic record in the women’s 100-meter freestyle swimming, but also became the first African-American female to win gold in an individual swimming event.  Read more »

After the Latest Freddie Gray Acquittal, All I Feel Is Numb

Officer Caesar Goodson (left) on the day he was acquitted of murder charges in the death of Freddie Gray (right).

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. (left) on the day he was acquitted of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray (right).

What more can you write, post, scream, cry, cuss and pontificate about after a while? At some point, there’s a leaden numbness that creeps into the blood when these moments announce themselves. They’re like bizarro action movies; the whole narrative is reversed, and while we experience the same series of fake climaxes and plot twists, by the time of the denouement, you feel foolish, remembering and realizing that when you sat down to watch this play out, the outcome was never in question.

That’s what Freddie Gray’s death and court proceedings surrounding it feel like to me: the predictable outcome to a decidedly fucked-up action film. As the latest verdict was handed down involving Gray’s death, that old feeling came crawling back again. The initial incident literally set Baltimore ablaze, confounding many people inside and outside the city as to why so many blacks would feel inclined to protest so much, so angrily, so loudly and so violently. In that sense, that’s when the country feels the most unflatteringly colorblind; an entire nation, it seems, incapable of understanding what could be troubling people to act out in such a manner, taking to the streets in protest.

It can be hard to appreciate that those moments aren’t only about Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. It can be hard to understand that black people in this country are intimately familiar with injustice. These murders don’t represent mere incidents of injustice, of “he said, authority said” narratives; these represent a legacy in the country so old it makes these situations preordained. We’ve been here before is what I’m saying. The constant exoneration and adulation of law enforcement makes sense if it’s never been a cudgel used against you.

I remember being a child in elementary school, drawing and coloring policemen: the bright smiles, the shiny caps, the impeccable uniforms and the billy clubs that seemed more likely to be used to shoo away dogs or, at worst, winos. I remember a school field trip to a police station; donning one of those uniform caps, the adult-sized hat falling over my eyes and me playfully tilting it back so that I could see. Sitting in the passenger seat of a cruiser as an officer showed me how the radio dispatch worked; clapping and laughing with my classmates when the stationary cruiser’s sirens were turned on, blue-red-blue-red-blue-red-blue-red whipping across our faces. Read more »

Study: Pa. and N.J. Have High Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Incarceration

iStockphoto.com | DanHenson1

iStockphoto.com | DanHenson1

A recent report by the D.C. based Sentencing Project found that New Jersey was the most racially disparate state in terms of incarceration, and Pennsylvania was 7th. The study uses data collected in 2014.

The study found that Pennsylvania had 8.9 African American people incarcerated for every white person in 2014. New Jersey had a disparity of 12.2 to one. Nationally, the rate is about 5 to one, according to the study. (Pennsylvania had the third highest and New Jersey 10th for ethnic disparity between Hispanic and white persons incarcerated.)  Read more »

How to Get a Free (Yes, Free!) Bib for the Sold-Out Philly 10K

The Philly 10K. | Photo by Matt Stanley

The Philly 10K. | Photo by Matt Stanley

Hey, Be Well Philly readers, we need your help! For our upcoming print issue of Be Well Philly, which you’ll be able to get your hands on come September, we’re polling Philly’s fitness community (that’s you!) to find out how you stay healthy and fit in this awesome city of ours. And to sweeten the pot, we’re teaming up with our friends at The Philly 10K to give away one bib for this year’s sold-out race. Yep: You could run the much-anticipated race just by filling out this poll. Read more »

Poll: Most Americans Don’t Know Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens

"The Puerto Rican Tree," as residents and Parks & Rec workers refer to it, in Norris Square Park. Photo | David Cruz via Instagram.

“The Puerto Rican Tree,” as residents and Parks & Rec workers refer to it, in Norris Square Park. Photo | David Cruz via Instagram.

So this happened: From May 6th to May 9th, the Economist and You-Gov conducted a survey of U.S. citizens 18 and older, asking them several questions about the Puerto Rican financial crisis which has been in the news.

One of the questions was about the citizenship of Puerto Ricans, and the results are a bit embarrassing: Only 43 percent of those surveyed knew Puertorriqueños are U.S. citizens from birth. Another 41 percent thought “Puerto Rican” was its own citizenship, and another 15 percent weren’t sure.

The numbers are higher than I expected, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve heard stories from Boricua friends about Department of Motor Vehicle employees refusing to renew driver’s licenses because they believe Puerto Ricans are “foreigners;” and I’ve seen far too many articles (and even respected research efforts) that classify Puerto Ricans as “immigrants” when they move stateside — as they’ve been doing since beginning of the 20th century.  Read more »

Ladies-Only Race Takes Over the Wissahickon Next Weekend

Runners at Fairmount Park | Photo via Facebook

See Chicks Run | Photo via Facebook

Who run the world? Girls. Or at least they run Philly in the See Chicks Run 5K/10K coming up Sunday, June 5th. The race is a strictly no-boys-allowed event with the exception of one lucky man deemed “the rooster” who is chosen through a lottery process.

Each year the race is hosted by Philly Girls In Motion, a program started by swimmer, runner and triathlete (and past Be Well Philly Healthy Hero Challenge semifinalist!), Beth Devine. After saying ‘see ya’ to her corporate position, she began getting involved with a slew of children’s athletic programs, directing Future Stars Basketball and running school fitness programs. Devine quickly realized the lack of activities in Philly to get young girls to fall in love with fitness, so Philly Girls in Motion was born. Today, they work with teachers, nutritionists, trainers, and even CHOP to help get young ladies movin’ and groovin’.

Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Stro Kyle

Stro Kyle

Stro Kyle

By day, Stro Kyle, 30, works at the Attic Youth Center as a program specialist. But after sundown, he’s an emerging black queer-events promoter. Ahead of his all-inclusive Beards N Queers celebration this weekend, Kyle chatted with us about navigating the events scene in the Gayborhood and confronting racial conflicts as a way of bringing more inclusion into Philly’s LGBTQ community.

What made you interested in producing queer events in the city?
Philly is so diverse — it’s a city that thrives on individuality. I was born and molded to be unique and to never see myself as a follower — to find my true identity. The queer community holds these values, and I can identify with the scene. It’s literally a melting pot. I grew up with so many different art forms and musical styles. So for me, I believe my imagination is large enough to inspire the queer community. I’ve always dreamed of holding huge festivals and events that push boundaries. Contrary to what people believe, Philly is a breeding ground, an event promoter’s dream. Going to the Made in America festival confirmed that for me. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Isaiah Solomon Freeman

Photo of Isaiah Solomon Freeman.

Isaiah Solomon Freeman

White|Wash, directed by Philly native Isaiah Solomon Freeman, is an experimental horror film — set in an imaginary world where marginalized images are the standard — about an aspiring actress and single mother who experiments with bleaching when she realizes there are roles for women of a darker complexion.

What inspired you to do this film?
Growing up, I had self-confidence issues. I realized that I hated my features that didn’t represent European features. I hated my nose, my complexion, and my lips. I talked to friends who felt the same way about themselves. When it came to writing my senior thesis film, I wanted to do a horror film, but I also wanted a film that dealt with race. I was reading The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, when I realized that dealing with colorism would be a perfect topic to get a conversation started as well as incorporate a horror feel. Read more »

Opinion: Five Reasons African-Americans Need to Stop Drinking the Poisonous Clinton Kool-Aid

Hillary Clinton (center, Matt Rourke, AP). Protesters (left) and Bill Clinton (right, photos Dan McQuade).

Hillary Clinton (center, Matt Rourke, AP). Protesters (left) and Bill Clinton (right, photos Dan McQuade).

A version of this column also ran in the Philadelphia Tribune.

Black people love “Billary” (i.e., Bill Clinton plus Hillary Clinton equals Billary). But Billary doesn’t love Black people. Never did. Let me count the ways:

1. Billary believes Black children are vicious animals. When she was being her real self in 1994 and not a presidential candidate, she described Black juvenile delinquents as “super-predators (with) no conscience… (who need to be trained) to ‘heel.’” First of all, she completely ignores America’s blatant racism that created and continues to create inadequate schools, little or no job-training, and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, all of which in turn creates delinquency. Second, our children are not irredeemable and remorseless monsters with no conscience. A very small percentage of them instead are young, immature, alienated, and misdirected human beings who made mistakes. And third, our children ain’t no damn dogs that need to heel.  Read more »

For Everyone Who Misses #RunStreakPHL: A New Local Running Challenge to Try

Like some rabbits need a carrot dangling in front of their face, some runners need a little motivation to get moving. Well, here’s your carrot: the Philly-based non-profit TechGirlz is challenging runners to compete in a nationwide running challenge. The pay-off? Your logged miles will go toward helping middle school girls across the country pursue their interest in tech by raising money to fund TechGirlz workshops and their TechShopz in a Box program. So if you’ve been slacking since #RunStreakPHL ended, time to get back in the saddle!
Read more »

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