President Barack Obama said:
"... we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.One of the things President Obama asked Americans to do to deal with their pain after the Trayvon Martin verdict was to continually work to expand their circle of compassion. By listening to voices different than our own, we may come to understand what it is to walk in another person's shoes.
One of the great things about Twitter is it allows us to listen to voices different than our own in a really non-threatening way. If you're a white American who wants to do as your President humbly requested and imagine other people's realities, here are ten black American voices I would like to recommend for you to follow on Twitter. These people have helped me grow and imagine life in someone else's shoes in the four years I've been on Twitter at @emptynestexpat.
I think we should listen not only as a spiritual thing to do, but as a strategic thing to do. As our nation becomes more multicultural, the better we are able to navigate and understand our differences, the less friction there is on forward motion in the future.
Here they are:
1) Charles Consult tweets at @Charles_Consult. He's a Wisconsin native, attorney, martial arts expert and enthusiast, now living as an expat entrepreneur in the Netherlands.
2) Dr. Blair LM Kelly, an American historian and professor teaching in North Carolina. She's the author of the book "Right to Ride" about streetcar segregation. She tweets at @profblmkelley.
3) Every teenage student should be lucky enough to have a teacher as cool as Brandon David Wilson. Brandon, tweeting as @Geniusbastard, is a not only a role model in the LA Public Schools as a teacher, but he's also a cinephile, activist, and thoughtful commentator on pop culture.
4) Courtney Young is a writer, a Spellman grad, and a board member of an organization I admire called Hollaback (documenting street harassment). She's an enthusiastic book reader (I love talking books with her), and founder of Think Young Media. She tweets at @Cocacy and at @thinkyoungmedia.
5) I can count the number of inspiring American math teachers I know on one hand (in Turkey, it would take both hands and my feet...but that's another post). How about you? Do you know a lot of inspiring US math teachers? Here's one who teaches in the New York Public Schools. He is, as his bio says, "the teacher Gotham deserves." Jose Vilson, tweeting at @JLV is a math teacher, writer, and activist. He hates that it in American culture it is ok to admit math phobia; he works tirelessly to get kids excited about math. Just for that, he deserves a follow!
6) Robin Terrell is a San Francisco diversity expert who has something big in the works called "The Global Mobility Project" that is supposed to debut this summer. I'm very curious what it is, but I enjoy her tweets right here and now at @robinlterrell.
preserving and promoting
African-American foodways7) Somebody I just started following is @koshersoul. Michael Twitty came to a whole lot of people's attention with his open letter to Paula Deen. He's a black, Jewish Southerner and culinary historian who shares food photos that can make a happy expat like me, currently enjoying Turkish kitchen, wish to be right at a Southern table drinking sweet tea, eating barbecue and making room for blueberry cobbler. Michael also tweets at @antebellumchef. Here's what he says is the "best of his blog" for new followers.
8) Tinu who tweets at @blackgirlinprague rarely tweets. I wish she did because she always has something sassy to say. She's the one person on this list I know in person. But maybe if she had more followers, she'd be inspired. She's a tech professional, raised in America, now fluent in Czech, making the Golden City of Prague her home.
9) Someone researching black male performance in American education is Antonio M. Daniels. More power to him. Our education system is failing black males and I'm glad someone is trying to figure out how to fix this. The last American education system I worked in had a 17% high school graduation rate for black males. You can follow Antonio at @paideiarebel.
10) Jennifer Williams instantly telegraphs she is looking out for the next generation of young women who follow hers with her twitter handle @4coloredgirls. That sensitivity, and her desire to shield them from hurt, is something I learn from. She is a writer, professor, feminist and cultural critic in Houston, Texas.
Of course, there are many famous names, frequently in the media, whose bio I won't detail as they're all so easily findable. I learn from @oprah (she's really the founder of this category, isn't she?), @MHarrisPerry, @baratunde, @MsTerryMcMillian, @elonjames, @rebeccawalker, @ashong, @DonnaBrazile, @neiltyson, @ProfHolloway @cornelwest, @tavissmily, @marclamonthill, @MichaelEDyson, @NewBlackMan, @BobHerbert, @VanJones88, @hillharper and @chrisrock.
Truly,what choice do we have but to listen to each other better? Who wants to go through life in a world where we barely tolerate our fellow citizens that differ from us ethnically? Surely we can think bigger as citizens. Our advantage as Americans is that we have the world's ethnicities and cultures living right amongst us. If we choose to only honor people just like us, we're missing the whole point of America.
Dear friends in America, what's one action you can take to help heal America after the Trayvon Martin heartbreak? I invite you to also listen...and learn. Thanks to all the people named above for sharing their thoughts in ways that make me grow as an individual.
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Yes, Empty Nest Expat is on Facebook. You can follow me there.