Go for Broke

Go for Broke

A recent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times featured Yosh Yamada, a long-time teacher and coach at Englewood High School read more here.  He was one of thousands of Japanese-Americans who ended up in Chicago because they were never given the opportunity to return to their homes after being sent to internment camps during WWII.  After release the article says, “He was drafted into the Army, where, he later wrote, ‘I served the very country that had imprisoned me.’ ”  Yosh went on to serve the students of Chicago for decades.

This coming weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. The day is intended to remember those who gave their lives while serving our country. 

The most decorated unit of its size and length was the 100th/442nd, the self-named “Go for Broke” comprised of the Nisei, or second generation Japanese Americans.  While their families were interned at home, they fought for liberty abroad.  They rescued Texas Rangers, fought at places whose names are infamous, like Anzio and Cassino, and some liberated a sub-camp of Dachau.

So this weekend, between all the fun, perhaps learn a bit about these amazing American heroes. Here are some potential sites.

https://www.goforbroke.org/learn/history/index.php

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/japanese-american-100th-infantry-battalion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ It?

Lovin’ It?

It’s complicated.

A phrase that we associate with romantic relationships as we close out this month of Valentine’s Day.

But McDonald’s and the African-American community? Oh yeah. 

When Marcia Chatelain published her book, Franchise at the end of 2019, she couldn’t have imagined what 2020 would bring. But for those of us struggling to understand all the complexities of systemic racism, she employed a clever device to convey its many mechanisms.

There are few among us who haven’t tasted, or craved, something from McDonald’s. It’s a fairly universal American icon. Yet in tracing the inception, growth, urban retrenchment, and eventual Black franchise-ownership, she is able to walk us through a journey that few of us know enough about.

There are many aha moments. These insights detail examples from why returning Black GIs weren’t allowed to take full advantage of all that the GI Bill had to offer, to why Black franchise-owners continually had higher per store sales, yet saw those margins erode because of the unfavorable terms McDonald’s “offered” them.  

This book transforms systemic racism from a vague but overwhelming concept to a process outlined with concrete steps for permanence.  It becomes very easy for those of us who understand what the post-WWII boom did for the majority of Americans, to now understand how so much of that economic prosperity was not afforded to a whole group of Americans. 

“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” 

So that special sauce of success? 

Franchise helps you understand a series of decisions that kept the special sauce from all of America.

63

63

What do you think when you see this image?

Some may think this is a very overused image. 

Perhaps it’s a cliché.  It’s over-done.  It over-simplifies something that isn’t simple at all. 

But about two years ago, those of us in Chicago learned, or re-learned, how a group of young white men from Mississippi sent a decoy group to board a plane, then drove out of their way, across their state border, and came to the frigid north in March, just so they could play a ball game.  

And that meant a white player shaking hands with a Black player at center court. For the whole country to see.  Including the Governor of Mississippi who had forbid them to leave their state precisely because he didn’t want them to compete with Black athletes.

When Loyola beat Mississippi State, the Chicago school went on to win the NCAA championship;  so far, the only Chicago college to capture such an honor.  A stirring reminder of that achievement reverberates throughout Loyola’s Gentile Arena whenever the Ramblers reach 63 points: the student section chants “six – ty  three,  six – ty  three.”  

Many have argued how significant or insignificant that game was.  Against a backdrop of Civil Rights issues that were yet to be addressed, and the violence and economic hardship that continued, how much did that game change? 

But in 2011, when Jerry Harkness attended Joe Dan Gold’s funeral in Kentucky, there, next to the casket was a picture.  It was from 1963, of the two of them shaking hands at the beginning of the “Game of Change” – a game that the Governor had tried to stop by issuing an injunction, and that had been overridden by a handshake. 

How many more weeks of Covid?

How many more weeks of Covid?

If Covid had a mascot, it would be the groundhog, at least in the United States. Different animals in different northern regions have stuck their necks out to foretell if winter is over.  Every year on February 2, many cultures look for a sign that winter might be over.

Recently, a podcast caught my attention; hadn’t hit start, hadn’t heard of the book, but who wouldn’t keep listening about a book called Wintering when it is January in the snowy North? The author, Katherine May, read a passage: 

“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt.”

Suddenly you recall an Aesop’s fable, of the Ant and the Grasshopper.  One creature is busy storing food for the winter, one plays in the sun and does not. You probably first heard this tale at about the age of five, and Aesop wrote, or at least recorded it, 5,000 years ago. 

In her interview, the author says she feels that Covid has been one L O N G Wintering.  Many of us have forgotten how to winter—how to store away preserves in our cellars for the seasons in which the harvests are not plentiful. Companies either don’t retain earnings for a rainy day or are pressured to pay them out to shareholders.  

This February 2, the groundhog represents us emerging from our Covid Hibernation, looking for hope, an efficient vaccine distribution system, some semblance of normal. As we all know we will have at least six more weeks of Covid Winter, but perhaps we can resolve to prepare a bit more for our next “wintering”—whatever it may be—so that we might be more prepared, like the ant, and not have to go underground, like the groundhog.

The Clue in the Puzzle

The Clue in the Puzzle

Over the holidays, I hung out with one of my most inspirational friends from my adolescence. We spent many hours together reliving her many escapades (and the ways in which she inspired me to ride along on her adventures), even though I will never be as brave as she is. We even giggled about her hairdos and fashions. Don’t worry, we were socially distant the whole time—Nancy Drew was safely ensconced in the covers of her mysteries that made up this year’s holiday puzzle.  

Unlike last year’s ridiculous puzzle undertaking, this year’s was not frustrating—it was fun. While no one else in my family helped, many other things did help with this puzzle. Intimately knowing the artwork of many of these covers, the ability to discern the difference between fashion across the decades, and then of course, an eye for fonts.   

At some point in the endeavor, I was struck by a thought that differed from last year’s insight.  It was at the point when you have done enough of the hard work that you notice a piece, recognize the color scheme or font, and remark, “Oh, I know where this belongs.” I started thinking about the types of Aha! moments that only come from long hours and deep thinking—a shortcut won’t get you there. It is only from studying something and understanding its nature, from having the patience to get to that point, that you can make a break-through. My mind immediately went to the scientists who developed the Covid vaccines in record time. They have spent careers doing the equivalent of 20,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Their knowledge base far exceeded color schemes and fonts, but at the core of the development, patience.

So, I spent the rest of my time with Nancy pondering patience. What in our lives today (pre-Covid) fosters patience? In an age when many kids grow up with knowledge, entertainment, and transportation, amongst other things, at the tip of their fingers, how do we impart the value and lessons of patience to them?

We should all be extremely grateful to all the scientists who developed the Covid-19 vaccines in record time. Their patience and deep thinking was the key to solving the world’s biggest challenge.

December Lights

December is a tough time of year.

I do not like the days getting shorter. 

In typical Decembers, I do not like the craziness of holiday shopping, the hectic nature of too many invitations jammed into the early part of the month, and the frantic feeling BEFORE December 25th. But what I do enjoy about December? Candles and lights. The more candles and the more lights, the better.

Several years ago two wonderful authors entered my December. One wrote a moving children’s book and the other discussed how she, as part of an interfaith family, embraces December. The children’s book that I discovered, and delighted reading as a library volunteer, is called The Christmas Menorahs How a Town Fought Hate. It’s a true story from 1993, when Billings, Montana took a terrible hate incident and used it as both a teachable moment, and a moment of united defiance against hate. I then heard Chicago author, Barbara Mahany, discuss how she treasures the December darkness as deeply spiritual, as a way to go inside, to shut out the early December hecticness, to embrace the two candle-centric holidays that her family celebrates. In turn, I now cherish our Advent wreath that burns brighter as the days grow dimmer.

In this December of 2020, when most of the world is facing a darker December than most, when we could all benefit from lighting as many candles in the darkness until the vaccine lightens the darkness for us, perhaps you can find this special holiday book, and read it to a young person in your life? Or perhaps, in need of hope and light, you can just read it yourself to reaffirm that light is indeed stronger than darkness.