Martin Luther King Day Mashup


mlk1

I couldn’t choose what to post in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day, so I thought I’d do a mashup:

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mash-up

[mash-uhp]
noun
Slang. a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources

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First, I’d like to share a Time Magazine article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar titled, “Why I Have Mixed Feelings About MLK Day.”

Here are a few excerpts I found particularly interesting:

  • …we have to look at the civil rights movement like antibiotics: Just because some of the symptoms of racism are clearing up, you don’t stop taking the medicine or the malady returns even stronger than before.
  • One of the major debates this year has been whether or not racism exists anymore in America. Not surprisingly, polls indicate that most African Americans say yes it does exist while most white Americans say that it doesn’t. Blacks point to disproportionate prosecution and persecution of blacks by authorities, and whites point to President Obama and dozens of laws protecting and promoting minorities.
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Dr. Martin Luther King
  • He [Dr. King] would have also been disturbed by the violence and rioting that has occurred during these protests. We must remember that Dr. King’s cause was not just equality for all people, but achieving that equality through nonviolence. The ends do not justify the means; the means and the ends are the same. Violence insults his legacy.

I’ve posted several essays about my thoughts on prejudice/racism. Our differences and how we do or don’t communicate with each other about it, is the source of much of my writing, including the friendship between Sachi and Jubie in The Red Kimono, its sequel and two upcoming children’s books.

Here are some links to a few of those posts:

The Color of a Voice

Changing Colors

The Help: A Multicultural Perspective

Black and White Points of View

Prejudice vs. Racism

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too idealistic when I believe the solution to prejudice, racism, or cultural differences lies in open, respectful communication with each other. On the “giving end,” such communication requires that we be unafraid to ask questions or express our opinions. On the “receiving end,” it requires that we not be so ultra-sensitive.

Some people may say resolving the problem is not that easy, but truly, the kind of communication needed to continue to move in the direction Dr. King wanted us to move would not be so easy.

Finally, I thought I’d offer a little teaser to the sequel to The Red Kimono. The sequel takes place between 1957 and 1963. Sachi, Nobu and Terrence are now in their 20s. For those of you familiar with The Red Kimono, the point of view characters in the sequel are Sachi, Nobu, Jubie and Taro.

mlk3The story opens with a prologue. Here’s an excerpt from that prologue:

Prologue
Washington D.C.
August 28, 1963

The sun beat down on Sachi, and the heat of thousands of marchers pressed against her. Yet goose bumps sent chills along her arms and neck.

Each person in the crowd had drifted to this place on a separate tributary. Now, they flowed together in a current of humanity that meandered along the Washington Mall, pressing toward the Lincoln Memorial.

They sang in one voice. We shall overcome . . .

Sachi’s son, Michael, sidled between Jubie and Terrence, clutched their hands as he jumped up and down. Sachi wondered if it was because he couldn’t see, or if it was pure excitement—probably both. She smiled as she remembered the first time she’d met Jubie at the barbed wire fence of the internment camp in Rohwer, twenty years before. Nobody would have believed then that a Japanese girl and a black girl could become best friends, remain best friends as adults.

Even harder to believe was that Terrence Harris—the black man who nearly killed her father—had also become a friend.

Jubie tickled Michael. “We may not get to see Dr. King, but we sure gonna hear him. Maybe Mr. Terrence’ll put you up on his shoulders so you can see better.” She poked Terrence in the ribs.

“We’ll see about that,” Terrence replied. “How old are you now, Michael? Six?”

Michael rolled his eyes. “No! I’m almost nine.”

A wry grin, and Terrence’s hazel eyes flashed with mischief. “Kinda big to be sitting up on my shoulders, aren’t you?”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Maybe you’re just too old to put a kid as big as me up on your shoulders.”

Terrence clutched his shirt over his heart. “Aw, man. You got me. Well, like I said, we’ll just see—”

A deep voice boomed over the loudspeakers. “At this time, I have the honor to present to you, the moral leader of our nation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

The crowd hushed.

Sachi stood on her toes.

Everyone cheered and waved their hands, signs, hats—anything to draw attention.

Dr. King began to speak.

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Big Announcement for Little Readers


Jan Morrill:

Now Sachi and Jubie will be available to middle grade readers!

Originally posted on Jan Morrill Writes:

After dreaming about it for a very long time, I’m thrilled to announce that two of my children’s stories will be published this year by Lee Press, an imprint of Oghma Creative Media. Artist Dawne Michelle Smith will illustrate the books, and as you might imagine, I can’t wait to see her renditions!

Both middle grade stories are based on the friendship of Sachi Kimura and Jubie Lee Franklin, two characters taken from my historical fiction, The Red Kimono.

Xs and Os is the story of the day Sachi and Jubie first met. Though Sachi lives in an internment camp behind barbed wire and Jubie lives in the town outside of camp, and though their skin color is different from the other’s, they find they have a few things in common that will bind their friendship for years.

In The Magical Red Kimono, Sachi teaches Jubie a Japanese dance…

View original 152 more words

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First and Last Sentence: Pages 105 through 112


Here’s my weekly Saturday report (a day late!) on words added to Broken Dreams, the sequel to The Red Kimono.

Words added: 3,212
Total Words-to-date: 27,304

First sentence, Page 105:
If there was a time of year Nobu liked best, it was autumn.

Last sentence, Page 112:
Anger clawing its way out, Taro hurried from the room where, in soft candlelight, Mariko awaited his response.

candles

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Are We Really Charlie?


jesuischarlie

I’m not sure if I was more sad, frightened or angry when, yesterday morning, I woke to the news of the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. As happens all too often these days, my thoughts shuddered with “What’s this world coming to?” and “Just how cruel/closed-minded/barbaric can we be?”

Toward the end of the day, I was heartened to see thousands upon thousands of people in Paris and around the world carry signs that said, “Je suis Charlie,” “I am Charlie,” and “We are not afraid”–showing united resolve that we will not let anyone deny us one of our most basic rights, freedom of speech.

But it’s a 2011 quote by the slain Editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo that has most stayed with me. Simple, yet profound, it touches all of us, beyond what happened in Paris. Stephane Charbonnier, (Charb), after the 2011 firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices said:

“The magazine’s cartoons will only shock those who want to be shocked.”

 It brought to mind a mantra many of us grew up with:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Words, cartoons, photographs, stories–will only hurt/shock those who want to be hurt/shocked. It’s as simple as that. None of those things have mass–they are as thin as air, lighter than a feather, and should be easy to ignore.

But we’ve become too soft. Too sensitive. Too quick to anger. As a result, in a variety of ways, we tell each other to shut up, sometimes commit violent acts, whether it’s about religion, race, politics–whatever. We all do it in varying degrees.

So, if “I am Charlie,” if we are all Charlie, I believe there are two parts to honoring those were were slain:

  1. Yes, we must be fearless with our opinions.
  2. But we must also accept that we think differently from each other, which means we’ll often disagree. Don’t take it personally.
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First and Last Sentence: Pages 89 through 97


Here’s my weekly Saturday report on progress for Broken Dreams, the sequel to The Red Kimono.

Words added: 2,092
Total Words-to-date: 24,092

First sentence, Page 89:
Jubie felt like the air had been sucked out of her and with it, all her words.

Last sentence, Page 97
Michael’s words stirred Sachi from her thoughts and she looked up to see him running full speed, holding tight to a string, his red kite flying high above.

SONY DSC

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First and Last Sentence: Pages 1 through 89


To get started, here are the first and last sentences of the pages I have written to-date for Broken Dreams:

First Sentence, Page 1:

Sachi gripped Michael’s hand as she watched nine colored kids huddle together on the sidewalk in front of Little Rock Central High School.

Last Sentence, Page 89:

A kick in the gut. That’s what it felt like, and with that, Jubie’s mind began to drift.

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Copy and Paste


2015

While considering my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, it occurred to me to go back and review last year’s resolutions. Here they are, word-for-word, with a graphic to illustrate which goals I accomplished:

  • Finish Haiku Book in January :)
  • Finish Mo’s Shadow and publish in February :(
  • Work at least one hour a day on sequel, from 10:00-11:00 a.m. :(
  • At least one new painting a week – Wednesdays :(
  • Workout at least 45 minutes 3-4 times a week. :(
  • Order rowing machine :)
  • Find resources for freelance and submit 2-3 a month. :(
  • Publicize art website more, update :)
  • Get programs ready for OWFI and AWC :)

That’s a 44% success rate, which, if I were taking a test, I’d have failed.

The second thing that occurred to me as I contemplate this year’s resolutions, is that unfortunately, the “copy and paste” function is all too useful a tool. In other words, I was so unsuccessful in completing my 2014 resolutions that I could simply copy and paste last year’s resolutions to this year. And it wouldn’t be the first year this is the case.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel too badly about it, because though I didn’t accomplish most of the goals listed above, it was still a good year. I accomplished a few things that weren’t even on the list–like buying and moving into a new house.

I’ve learned a couple of things in setting goals:

  • Be flexible
  • Focus on one or two major goals, understanding that “life gets in the way,” and that’s a good thing.

So, this year, my one MAJOR goal is to finish the sequel to The Red Kimono, currently titled Broken Dreams. (The original title to The Red Kimono was Broken Dolls.)

It’s been long enough since I’ve been dedicated to the sequel in any serious way–ridiculously long enough. I’m afraid I’m at the point where I’ve risked losing the interest of those who liked The Red Kimono enough to look forward to its sequel.

As I’ve considered my unsuccessful attempt in the last year to significantly add to the 89 pages of my work-in-progress, I realize that one hugely important piece has been missing. I’ve always said I probably would never have finished writing The Red Kimono had it not been for being a part of the Northwest Arkansas Writers. There are many reasons for this:

  • Feeling part of a team where most of the members had the same goal–to finish writing a book.
  • The support and knowledge I gained from other members.
  • Accountability

More and more, I believe it’s the lack of accountability that’s affecting my productivity on the sequel. With the Northwest Arkansas Writers, I knew I had to get five pages a week done, otherwise I’d miss my weekly opportunity to have my work critiqued.

I know, I know. They say a “true writer” writes because passion will not allow otherwise. I admit to sometimes wondering if this means I’m not a “true writer.”

But I am.

Once I get started, I love everything about writing–the story that comes out of nowhere, my characters who tell me their secrets, starting with draft on a “blank canvas” then adding colors as I go.

It’s the getting started that seems to be where I need accountability.

So, there will be no “copy and paste” for me this year. Sure, I’ll still try to accomplish some of my year-after-year-after year goals. But, there will only be one goal that I’ll plaster all over my office, and that will be to FINISH THE SEQUEL TO THE RED KIMONO.

Here’s my plan to create some accountability:

  • My goal is to write at least five new pages a week.
  • To be accountable, by Saturday each week, I’ll post the first and last sentence of the five pages I’ve completed.
  • I’ll also keep a meter like this one on the right side of my blog (it’s there now!) to show my ongoing progress.
  • And here’s where I need you. If I fail to meet my goal of five pages, barring some disaster or emergency that arises, please, please, please, scold me, remind me, chastise me, publicly flog me, whatever you see fit to keep me writing. (Yes, I say this tongue-in-cheek, but I’d sure appreciate your help.)

Here’s to a happy and successful 2015 for all of us, whether we’ve got one goal, or ten goals!

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The Red Kimono


Jan Morrill:

Many people don’t know about the internment camp in Santa Fe. Christiane Von Linz writes about it in her blog post.

Originally posted on Travel Sonata in C-Major:

I was taking an easy hike along the ridge overlooking Santa Fe when I stumbled upon an interesting place: a memorial site telling of the internment camp that used to occupy the beautiful park now spreading before me. http://www.manymountains.org/santa_fe_marker/020420.sfemonument.php Taken aback, I just stood there contemplating the fate of so many innocent Japanese men after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941,

PEARL_HARBORwho were off loaded here at the gates one cold Spring day in 1942 facing some desolate terrain. train

A Japanese woman walked up to me, staring at the plaque for what seemed an eternity. Then she turned to me with a smile, saying hello. A lengthy chat ensued in which we both learned that we had one thing in common. Like me, she had recently written a book. Not a memoir but The Red Kimono, a historical novel, chronicling the heart-warming and heart-breaking account of a Japanese…

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Human Contact


Sunday, while eating breakfast at the Hampton Inn in Rogers, Arkansas, I happened to see an interview CBS’s Bob Schieffer conducted with Camden, NJ Police Chief, J. Scott Thomson.

Camden2

In a nutshell, Thomson talked about how the Camden city police force had been disbanded and a new county-run police force had been established in a city that was “ranked as the most dangerous city of its size” and is “arguably one of the nation’s most challenged cities in terms of crime, poverty and social inequities.”

Thomson stated, “In less than twenty-four months, we have streets that were once controlled by criminals and drug dealers now being occupied by children riding their bicycles and families enjoying their front porch steps.”

This was accomplished without militarization or polarization by maintaining a philosophy of building community first. According to Thomson, “Cops should act as guardians, not as warriors.”

Schieffer asked, “If you could pick out the one thing that has worked, what would that be?”

Thomson replied, “Human contact. Officers walking the beat…nothing builds trust like human contact.” He went on to say, “We cannot have our only interaction with the public be during moments of crisis.”

It’s true. If we interact only during moments of crisis, our emotions are too riled to have a productive discussion.

In my opinion, social media–the antithesis of human contact–is part of the problem, and we should look at it with a discerning eye. The ease of anonymity draws negative, inciting commentary. People don’t need to be anonymous to say something positive, to move the conversation forward, so we don’t see as much useful commentary.

Then there’s the news media. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I admit to being a news junkie. However, the media can inflame a situation by the stories on which it focuses. We see far more exposure of violent protests, more angry debates by those on both “sides,” than we see possible solutions, like the story of Camden.

So we must read and listen with discernment, not project our feelings about 140 characters, a few words, a few photos, to the entire issue. Social and news media provide but a microcosm, and often, only a negative one.

I’d like to see a program like CNN’s Crossfire–where Democrats and Republicans talk about political issues–but with a select multi-cultural panel talking about racial issues and possible ideas to bring about more equality. The key to such a program would be keeping the conversation respectful, if not calm. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of inspiring and promoting open dialogue. Unfortunately, it’s the arguing and vitriol of a program like Crossfire that seems to draw the audience.

It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity, the “gotcha” and “score another for our team” moments. Something about it seems to invigorate us–I admit to falling for it myself. In the past, I’ve been sucked into it politically. But in the long run, it’s a detriment to finding solutions, which is harder work and unfortunately, doesn’t always provide the stimulation or immediate gratification of “gotcha.”

But which will get us to the goal faster–talking about solutions or “gotcha?”

Make human contact. Sure, it’s scary and it’s risky. That’s why we avoid it. But it’s the only way we’ll ever be rid of the stereotypes and prejudices that cause so much tension today.

For more information on Camden:

“Camden Turns Around With New Police Force” – New York Times

Slide Show – New York Times

 

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Black and White Points of View


Most writers are familiar with the concept of POINT OF VIEW and how dramatically different a scene can be when experienced through different characters’ eyes. Now, in the real life story of Ferguson, point of view has come to life.

Over the past few months, I’ve started and stopped this blog post at least four times, trying to organize my thoughts about the events of Ferguson. Up to now, those thoughts have been too frenetic. Also, I admit to a little fear about offending people.

So, I let the post sit, and almost forgot about it as I thought everything would settle down and the events of Ferguson would fade into the backs of our minds, as it did with Trayvon Martin.

But it hasn’t gone away. In fact, reaction from people of all races has spread across the nation, around the world.

Yesterday morning, I caught the tail end of a conversation with Nicholas Kristof on CNN. He said something that reminded me of what I’d been trying to write in this post when Michael Brown was first shot. I’ll paraphrase:

White people are raised to believe that police are good, that they are there to help. Black people are raised to distrust and fear police.

This was the very premise of what I first began to write after reading comments on Facebook written by my friends Donna and Michele, and it revolves around POINT OF VIEW.

Hearing Kristof speak drew me to Google to find more information about what he’d said. I found the following New York Times articles that inspired me to finally finish this post:

These articles are some of the most thought-provoking I’ve read, though the titles may be a little off-putting to the very people who should read them. I think “not getting it” falls on both sides of the fence, and therein lies the problem:

We don’t see the problem of racism through each other’s eyes.

I’m both fascinated and saddened by our lack of empathy for “the other side,” not only with issues of racism, but also with politics, religion, money–just about anything upon which we may disagree.

Our inability to see through another’s eyes is one of the themes of my historical fiction, The Red Kimono. It’s why I wrote the “inciting incident”–Papa getting beaten up in the park–in the point of view of both Terrence and Sachi. They each saw the events that took place in the park completely differently.

So, I’d like to show you the point of view of “the other side”–two black mothers who are friends of mine. I grew up living across the street from Donna. Her little sister, Nina, was the inspiration for my character, Jubie. Michele is one of my Facebook friends. I’m grateful for their (brave) honesty in opening a dialogue about racism and prejudice. Maybe if we made a habit of talking about it, rather than only talking about it when our emotions run hot and high over something bad that happened, we might close the gap of misunderstanding.

Donna and Michele also helped me with a previous blog post titled, The Help, a Multicultural Perspective. In a time when so many of us are too easily offended and so many of us (including me) are afraid to offend, I’m grateful for people like Donna and Michele and their social media “followers” who open up and welcome dialogue about race and prejudice. It helps us to see through another’s eyes, and I believe that’s the only way we’ll ever move beyond the issues of racism.

Here’s what Michele said on Facebook shortly after Michael Brown was shot:

Several thoughts ran through my mind but the biggest one was: I wonder if she knows about ‘THE TALK’… you know, the talk that all parents of black boys have to give: how not to get shot and killed by the police. I wonder if she understands the nuances he will face as a black male in the U.S. and how will they prepare him for how differently he will notice he’s treated versus how his own parents, who are white, are treated. I wonder… those just were thoughts that went through my mind. And I’m saddened that i even had those thoughts to begin with. RACISM is REAL… and it is POISON.

Here’s what Donna said:

I wrote this after seeing a post of a picture of a mother with her young son, about 3-4 years old explaining to him to raise his hands if encountered by the police. It reminded me of these real life talks I’ve had with my son beginning at the age of 3 when he asked what a “nigget” was. He had learned it from a fair head friend in preschool. I didn’t give him an answer, rather changed the subject after telling him it was a bad word and not to use it anymore.

In middle school at 12, I warned him to always carry his military dependent ID, cellphone, at least a dollar and my business card in his pocket.

In high school at 16, I told him not to have more than one passenger in the car with him at one time and always check the car periodically for anything that he could not identify as his.

When he went away your college, I fretted many a night, reminded him of his upbringing, encouraged him to find a church, warned him of the dangers associated with underage drinking and premarital sex, but most of all called some nights to simply pray with him.

A few nights ago, I had to remind my now 26 year old Corporate driven son who has NEVER been in ANY trouble, earned a Civil Engineering Master’s Degree by the time he was 23, but after working his 9-5 may wear a hoodie, or gym shorts , and slippers to be polite, speech firmly but politely, and not to struggle even if he feels wrongfully accused and singled out. Rather to go peacefully, to memorize every detail for a record statement because I’d rather see him alive than ever lying in the middle of the street.

Hard as it is to hold these conversations. They are absolutely a must today in 2014 as it was in 1814 and 1914.

Until I read these Facebook posts, I don’t think I’d ever really thought about the difference in what white children and black children are taught about the police. I have very clear memories of my parents telling me that the police were “good guys,” that they were there to help.

It’s clear in Donna’s and Michele’s posts that black children are raised with a very different view of police, not only based on our country’s past history with racism, but also on what is happening today, as referenced in Kristof’s article:

But there is a pattern: a ProPublica investigation found that young black men are shot dead by police at 21 times the rate of young white men.

So now imagine how what we were brought up with, something that is at our very core–what we were taught about the police–would affect how we see what happened in Ferguson.

I, like Nicholas Kristof, have no idea what really happened there. Only the eye witnesses know what happened, and even their recollections are “tainted” by what they were taught about the police.

My core belief as I listened to the events that occurred the day of the shooting was that there was no way Wilson–any cop–would have shot an unarmed black teenager without good cause.

It seems from what I’ve seen and heard on the news and on social media that most people in the black community believe that once again, a cop shot a young black man for no good reason.

No matter the story, the evidence, the proof, each of us is likely to keep believing what we initially believed and those thoughts are only strengthened by what our peers, our “team,” our “side” believes. In fact, I’ve seen many instances of people being chastised, criticized, even vilified for having different beliefs from their “side.”

Here’s my point of view:

  • Just because we’ve come a long way with race relations in this country, doesn’t mean we don’t still have a way to go. It will never be resolved if we don’t start talking rationally and respectfully about it.
  • I believe, and evidence shows, that police brutality occurs more frequently with blacks than with whites. I was especially struck by two recent stories: the first of a 12-year old black boy who was shot to death while holding a toy gun, the second of a black man who died after being held in a choke-hold for selling cigarettes on a corner in New York. (Breaking News: The grand jury in New York decided against indicting the cop who put Eric Garner in a choke hold. Personally, I was surprised with this decision, considering the choke hold had apparently been banned due to the possibility of death.)
  • The protests and riots began in Ferguson before anyone involved even looked at the grand jury results, indicating that some people don’t care about the truth, only their opinions of what happened. This Washington Post article provides an easy-to-understand breakdown of the forensic evidence and how it does or does not match up with witness testimony.
  • The violence, looting and threats against Darren Wilson after the grand jury decision did absolutely no good in resolving race relation problems, in fact, it heightened the tension and even worse, confirmed some people’s opinions. We are not a vigilante nation.
  • I hope the peaceful protests will begin to focus more on the problems we have with our perceptions of race and about how they affect the way we view things and the way we behave, rather than on the Michael Brown shooting. Sadly, his parents have lost their son, but the problem is bigger than what happened in Ferguson. Yet it’s what happened in Ferguson that keeps our emotions running too high to be rational and respectful.
  • I think the media (both news and social media) fans the flames of our emotions. And we keep watching and reading, because we apparently enjoy having our emotions flare up. One example happened just today with CNN’s Brook Baldwin’s interview with Charles Barkley. In her lead in to the interview, she said, “…Charles Barkley’s explosive comments.” I watched the interview, and Charles Barkley was very calm and unemotional. Hardly explosive. The fact that he may say some things that people disagree with should not be considered “explosive.” As for social media, it’s a “safe” place for people to express their opinions, sometimes in 140 characters or less, often saying things they would not say to someone’s face.
  • I believe some whites will bristle at what Nicholas Kristof has to say in the articles referenced above, and I believe some blacks will bristle at what Charles Barkley has said about blacks. In my opinion, both men speak the truth. But whether you agree or not, it’s their opinion, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
  • People get offended way too easily these days.

And that leads to a few conclusions:

  1. Many people seem to believe we all have to think the same way. They believe that if someone’s opinion is different, they’re wrong.
  2. We’re losing our ability to empathize–to see things through another’s eyes.
  3. We look at a tiny microcosm of a group and project it to the whole group. Not all cops are bad. Not all black people are criminals. Not all white people are racist.

racism

In my opinion, the solution begins with dialogue, and for dialogue to be effective, we must be unafraid, yet respectful.

Instead of fighting about our differences, why can’t we be grateful for our differences?

Posted in Prejudice, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments