RED & BLACK … The Sound Of Freedom
|I still can't get over that LinkedIn post that you sent me about Louis Armstrong. I almost put it on my pile of things to "read later" as I'm not a huge fan of jazz, although I loved him in the movie "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.|
|I figured the subject line, "Connect these dots … Louis Armstrong," would pique your interest.|
|Well, it did. Although when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what a Jewish family who immigrated from Lithuania had to do with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.|
|Hence the subject line. It is one thing to hire a young black boy to do odd jobs for your business, but that is very different from treating him as if he was your own child, making sure he was well-fed, and treating him with kindness and respect.|
|Just think about that. Today, a white family caring for a black child may be more common, but that was back in the early 1900s. It must have been almost unheard of and a brave thing to do.|
|And that was on top of any discrimination the Karnofskys may have been experiencing for being Jewish. But they, of all people, would understand the importance of feeling "free" of the prejudice and stereotypes that prevent you from reaching your full potential.|
|I think for anyone to feel truly loved, nurtured, and accepted is a gift, but in those days, it must have felt like a miracle.|
|Is it a "gift" or should it be a "right"? Regardless, as if that was not enough, they also introduced Armstrong to music. Not only teaching him Russian and Jewish songs, but helping him buy his first musical instrument.|
|It sounds like his life, when he was with them, was filled not only with love, but the power of music. I can't help but wonder if he'd have become one of the greatest musicians and composers with such a unique style and sound (both with his voice and his trumpet), if not for the Karnofskys.|
|There is no way to know, but their impact on his life was significant enough that for years Armstrong would wear a Star of David around his neck to remind him of their kindness.|
|But even if he hadn't "become" Louis Armstrong, I'd still like to believe he'd have had a better life because of them. I'm sure there are many other stories like his, we just don't know about them.|
|I am surprised you did not mention Michael Oher and the movie "The Blind Side," especially since we are a storytelling society, and once you hear these stories, it is hard to forget them.|
|No kidding. I've always known that sometimes very simple things can make a huge difference in another person's life, but I never really thought about the power of giving someone the "freedom" to be something more.|
|Freedom is often taken for granted by those that have it, while prized and fought for by those who do not. But, I am not sure that you can just "give" someone true freedom, as I do not think you are talking about civil rights issues.|
|I'm not talking literally. I'm talking in terms of confidence, of opportunities, of not feeling restrained by stereotypes or misconceptions. I think, and I never realized it before reading about Louis Armstrong, how by being appreciated and respected for who you are and given opportunities that others might take for granted – your life can become something truly wonderful. And very different from what it might have been.|
|Yes, it can. Now, imagine if everyone had the right to pursue their potential. But, was that not what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they drafted the Declaration of Independence? When they wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."|
|It's funny. I was going to ask you what you thought we should talk about for our July column, as we always try to tie it to Independence Day. But I guess this fascinating story about Louis Armstrong couldn't be more perfect.|
|Not to mention, he celebrated July 4th as his birthday.|
|Yes, although after his death, it was discovered that his actual birthday was August 4.|
|Do you think it was intentional, or did he genuinely believe he was born on July 4th?|
|Or, maybe it was his way of celebrating his independence.|
Want to read other columns? Here's a list.
Connected By More Than Chinese Food. Connected By Humanity & Respect.
May is Asian American Pacific Island Month (which prompted our conversation below about Jews and Chinese food), but we should treat all our fellow Americans with respect and kindness every day.
|Have you ever wondered why Jews love Chinese food so much?|
|No, but what prompted that? Did you take in Chinese food this weekend? Or, did President Biden signing the anti-Asian hate crimes bill make you think about how Jews can relate given all the antisemitism in the world?|
|Only you would connect those dots. I was straightening up papers in the kitchen and noticed how Chinese takeout menus look the same as they did when we were kids, and how we've laughed over the decades about how much Jews love Chinese food. But now you've reminded me about how we've recently talked about the recent increase in hate crimes against the Asian community . I simply don't understand how people can hate an entire group of people based on race or religion.|
|You are the history lover. It is not a new phenomenon. And, the reasons have not changed – Ignorance, prejudice, feelings of supremacy; the list has many "reasons". What I find scary is that people form stronger bonds with others based on what they hate than they do on what they love. But, there is no question that the Asian community and Jews have experienced hate for a long time.|
|I know, but in America of all places, that just shouldn't happen. Ever. We're a country built on immigrants, and the contributions of Asian Americans and American Jews have been so significant. From scientists to doctors, artists to activists, the list goes on and on.|
|The lists of contributions can be sliced and diced in so many different ways – gender, race, religion, nationalities. There are not enough months in the years to celebrate them all. However, some groups tend to be forgotten or overlooked, which is why President Carter signed the first proclamation celebrating Asian/Pacific Americans , which eventually led to May becoming Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. But now, with hate crimes increasing against them, celebrating by learning about their cultures is even more critical.|
|Well, I admit that I personally didn't know any Asians before I lived in Hong Kong, and then Shanghai, several years after getting married. Until then, all I knew was that I loved Chinese food. I know that might sound condescending, but that's not how I mean it.|
|No, it sounds like you just did not have any personal experience except for enjoying the food. And, except for dating Raman Sehgal, who was from India, when I was a graduate student at NYU, my experience before moving to Houston was basically the same as yours.|
|Sorry, but I can't keep track of everyone you've dated. Anyway, I learned so much about the people and their culture when living in Asia. It made me realize just what a young country America is and how many countries have so many more centuries of history than we do. And there I was the outsider, and although I might have been seen to be different, I was never disrespected in the way Asians are treated here.|
|A redhead in Asia. I bet you stood out like a sore thumb. Which is the problem they face here. Identifying Jews is a little more challenging, but that does not stop antisemitism. There was a very interesting article that interviewed Asian American Jewish leaders , asking them to share their experiences.|
|I never thought about being Asian and Jewish! But that explains the Chinese Kosher restaurant in Queens I used to go to when I was a teenager. I couldn't figure out why there was such a thing, but the food was so delicious I never gave it any more thought. Until now, when I realize Asian Jews must have run it.|
|I appreciate that food, and people, get "Americanized" over here, but what did you think about authentic Chinese food?|
|It's very different from American Chinese food, but both are delicious! They each have their own unique characteristics and flavors, and although very different, I appreciate them both, and there will always be a place for each in my culinary world!|
|Just as there should be a place for "different" people …|
Don’t Expect A Compliment From A Sarcastic Sister. An Important Message About … Sunscreen?!
I’ve always been a proud redhead, even though I used to wish that I could tan like those glamorous models in fashion magazines. Or maybe I just got tired of Black’s sarcastic comments about my white skin. Except for the one time when we played a rare round of golf together (see below), which ended up becoming one of my favorite memories! Although I do wish I had known back then about how important it is to protect our skin from the sun … So, now I invite everyone (regardless of hair color) to join us in not only observing Skin Cancer Awareness Month but also celebrating National Sunscreen Day.
I'll never forget the day. It was an "almost" ordinary day out on the golf course with my mom and dad during the heat of a Long Island summer. Now, if "Long Island" conjures up images of stately manors on the North Shore (think "Great Gatsby") or beachfront mansions in the Hamptons (think Robin Leach and his popular show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"), you can put those out of your head. I'm not talking about some fancy country club golf course, just a regular public course.
I loved the game ever since I learned to play as a teenager, and although I never got to play while at college (Wake Forest, which was renowned for its golf program, with its most famous alumni being Arnold Palmer), I'd try to get out as often as possible when I was home. I wasn't a phenomenal player but had a decent game and natural talent. And most of the time, I hit it pretty straight, so one of the things I enjoyed was walking down the middle of the fairway, pulling my clubs along (no fancy golf carts on this course), appreciating the day and the sport.
On one (very rare) occasion, my sister came back to New York to visit, as she moved out of state as soon as she graduated from business school. She also played golf, but unlike me, who relied on natural ability and played for fun, she worked extremely hard at her game, was overly competitive, and played "business golf". The result was that she was a far better player than me, although I was holding my own on that day.
As Black often says, the scorecard contains only numbers, no editorial. And it would ultimately show that she'd beat me, but as we were each walking up one of the last holes toward our respective balls, in the heat of a late summer afternoon, with the sun at our backs, I was secretly hoping that she'd be proud of me. So, after I hit my fairway shot onto the green, I heard her call out to me, and my hopes were high,
Hey, Red! I was watching you hit that shot, and well, I have been watching you all afternoon, and I have to say … you have the whitest legs I have ever seen, or are you wearing white pantyhose?
I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or be angry. Or to just roll my eyes as it really was something only my sister would say. And to this day, I'm not even sure if she had even noticed how close I came to beating her and how well I played – "upping" my game driven by her much better game.
But I also know that I can never look down at my very pale legs without laughing just a little at how a lifetime ago (or so it seems), she was so right. Recently, when she treated me to my first pair of Birkenstocks, I stood in the store trying them on, and before she had a chance to say it I told her … Yes, I do look like I have on white hose.
P. S. – I feel it only fair (pun intended) to have a P.S. for a P.S.A. – Long ago, the harm of the summer sun wasn't as well known, but in the years since, we've learned how important sunblock is. Year-round. So, whether you're a redhead who never tans (I used to cycle between being extremely pale and burning red and back again) or someone who does tan, take care of your skin!
Mother’s Day is a celebration of moms – those with us and those in our hearts and memories. And that’s why we’re repeating last year’s post (that, and because Black was borderline warm and fuzzy) …
I appreciate that bullet points may not be the typical
approach to Mother’s Day, but it seems appropriate to me …
red head assets.rebelmouse.io
|This year I write about Mother’s Day with a heavy heart and still much raw emotion, as our mom passed in December. My pragmatic side (yes, that’s usually Black’s area although she did sound somewhat warm and fuzzy above) knows that she had been 94 and led a full life, but that really doesn’t make it any less sad or fill the emptiness. But I find myself, when I least expect it and triggered by the most unexpected things, finding comfort in wonderful memories. And although Black’s first bullet point hits too close to home for me, I’ll try my best to focus on the other bullets.|