Tamara Willems

is for us…

This comes, as things often do for me
by way
of a book
this will also come with a story or two
and if you’ve paid any attention at all to things I do here,
with a few rambling thoughts
and a wander

in my garden by the small pond
there sits
three little Asian figures and a tiny house
these came from my Grandmother (by way of my Dad)
they were from her garden, or possibly sat
among the cactus on shelves of an old cupboard
that as kids
we often dared one another to touch
the toads by our pond often knock these fellows down
and one day while I was setting them straight
I stop to look at them for a minute
thinking about the odd things one possess,
I said to my husband,
“do you suppose Asians have little ‘white people’ figures in their gardens?”

In the days following the death of George Floyd
amid renewed swells of awareness,
of suppression and profiling
Black Lives Matter
as companies and corporations jumped on issuing
statements, commitments to ‘equalizing’ commerce
a challenge was issued to readers to buy a book written by a 
BIPOC writer
newsletters from publishers that I receive sent out special
issues, highlighting books from these writers
which was great, but…   it made me wonder why
if this was a good book, worthy of promotion
why wasn’t it being sent out in the regular newsletters
(chalked up again to – you don’t notice what doesn’t
affect you)
so,  the challenge was out to put some much needed
on the bestseller’s list
easily something I could get behind, so I chose three
books I was interested in
and I have just finished this one
which I will highly, highly recommend
you read
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
I read this one slow, open and thoroughly
I read and re-read profound thoughts that hit my brain
and anchored themselves
in my chest
I said out loud, sentences that felt powerful and meaningful
that came with the very need
of them
to become part of me
I registered and sat with words and thoughts that
begged my full and
I learned, I listened, I greatly
all of this is not to say that this is some kind of text book
or case study
it’s not at all, it is thoroughly readable,
part memoir, part historical, very well written and insightful
Ibram X. Kendi is not at all afraid to hold the mirror to his own
and asks each of us
to do the
I found it quite powerful, and resonating
I very much look forward to continuing this conversation
and think how very essential this
kind of learning
to all of us.

I happen to have had, in my house
a golliwog
it came from my Gran,
Golliwogs if you are not familiar are a sort of
rag doll character – created by Florence Kate Upton, that appeared in children’s books in the late 19th century and on various other merchandise
very dark black skin, large round white eyes
red clown like lips and big fuzzy hair, clothed in traditional minstrel attire
although in childhood, we knew them as impish, and friendly
in some later uses they became sinister and menacing
I also have one of the books, picked up as a cherished
nostalgic childhood memory
I have of course been aware since dispersing the contents
of my Gran’s life
that this dark skinned rag doll is very much a racist symbol
for some reason I was unsure just what to do with it
I didn’t want to give it away, or simply throw it in the
as I didn’t wish it to be in someone else’s possession
as something cute to collect
so it sat, face down (somehow making me feel as if I was not
participating in a stereotype)
on a pile of books
one day while listening, while learning, while looking deeply
at the world around me
at myself, 
the most obvious light bulb suddenly lit
I could…
just take it apart.

My daughter is a prolific crafter
constantly making miniature houses
and rooms,  among many other things
that are quite amazing and intricate in their design
exquisitely and remarkably kitted out
she is always in search of materials
for making

so here it was,
in discussing racist symbolism with my kids
and the ridiculous nature of how things
came to seem
to ‘the rest of us’  – “it’s a cute doll, it’s a symbol, it’s a name
it’s a statue… it’s a joke, it’s a
People nowadays are so sensitive,
What’s the harm?”

this little spark, caught fire
these young people, young adults actually
they know better
they are open
to information, to learning, to

they very much ARE
the future

and so, I offered this bit of stuffing and material
to my daughter
and her scissors
for a new generation’s

and a chance
to make
something…   better.

All each day asks,
is for us
begin ♥

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