Rochester Beacon reporter, Mr. Peter Lovenheim wrote a recent article here ( https://rochesterbeacon.com/2023/05/11/teaching-children-antiracism-at-the-science-center/ ) about an anti-racist education program that our organization (Take it Down Planning Committee/Faith Community Alliance Coalition) developed in conjunction with the Rochester Museum And Science Center (RMSC),which has been implemented with well over one-thousand local school children. Mr. Lovenheim notified us when the article was published (5/11/23). My response to his notification was as follows: “It’s quite distorted and has a crystal-clear, right-wing-slant, but I figured it would, which is why I was very hesitant to talk with you in the first place. You can look forward to more of my comments and clarifications.
Etc…, Etc…, Etc… BY THE TONS!!!”
Dear Mr. Lovenheim
First of all, you made-up some of the “stuff” in your clearly-intended inflammatory “news” story. For example, you quoted me as having used the terms “ill-kempt,” which is NOT something that I have ever said in my life. You clearly mixed some of my statements up with those of your newly found sheroe, professor Patricia Turner. She used the above-referenced language, which you ascribed to me via her diatribe in the video that you referenced. Yet, you want to talk about “accuracy”? OK, let’s talk about your journalistic “accuracy,” or really the gross lack thereof, as well as your so-called “objectiveness,” which is supposedly part of what people in your profession pride yourselves on, right?
You also claimed (erroneously) that I “led the children, in “call and response” form, in an example of one of the chants [our] group used in protests at the carousel at Ontario Beach Park: “Round and round,” called Eagle. “Take it down!” shouted the children. “Round and round,” called Eagle. “Take It down!” shouted the children. “The racist panel must come down!” shouted Eagle.
Again, you made it up. The chant was (Call) __ “Round-And-Round”
(Response) __ “It must come down”
“The racist panel must come down! shouted Eagle.” WHAT???!!! You made it up. My guess is you did so intentionally, to assist in inflaming your readers, which you obviously were quite successful at accomplishing (based on numerous inaccurate, derogatory comments from readers, at the end of the inflammatory “objective” “news” article).
So, I so-called singled out one official for criticism: then Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.” Really? So, I didn’t talk about how Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council President Loretta Scott were at the meeting, and how initially they also advocated the idea of a so-called “teachable moment”? Really? So I didn’t talk about the fact that initially, when we contacted the Mayor’s Office, they directed us to the County, and when we contacted the County, they directed us to the Rochester Preservation Board? I didn’t talk about how they were ALL giving us the run-around? I just “singled out one official for criticism: then Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks,” right? You clearly intended to incite your readers, and portray me as “unfair” at best, and I can’t even imagine what at worst (in your “objective” mind). Also, is there any reason why you didn’t write a single word about the fact that we emphasized to the children that the meeting, which was convened by the Late, Great Minister Franklin D.R. Florence, Sr. (the greatest Black sociopolitical organizer to walk the streets of Rochester since the times of Frederick Douglass), took place at historic FIGHT Village, and represented a “Turning Point” in our eight-month struggle? Is there a reason why you didn’t mention that both (the Minister and the FIGHT Village meeting room), were also displayed on the same screen that you were careful to point out Maggie Brooks photo appeared on? There is no need to answer. The question is purely rhetorical, and the answer is crystal-clear.
So, immediately after I explained the details of our eight-month struggle, “some other racist images were then shown and discussed, such as ones that often appeared on postcards showing a Black child restrained near a river as alligators swim nearby?” Sir, you’re making it up. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN, and other than a student asking a question about what he had seen in the video, I did NOT engage the students in any discussion about alligators until roughly two hours AFTER “The school children were split into two groups,” moved to an upstairs location, and later returned to the auditorium. So your “objectiveness” is definitely fundamentally flawed regarding the false chronology that you intentionally presented (no doubt for effect, relative to further inflaming your largely white readership). Great job (NOT) Mr. “objective” journalist.
So, I just “spoke of the history of the Black Panther movement,” and out of the clear blue sky (without context) stated “Bobby Seale and other Black Panthers were real heroes,” or is there more to the story Mr. Lovenheim? Of course you don’t recall the fact that, when the students were asked how many of them were familiar with the Hollywood/Disney fictional, fantasy rendition of so-called “Black Panther,” nearly every hand was raised, but when I asked, not only who had heard of Bobby Seale, but in addition, I rattled off a list, including Chairman Huey Newton, Eldridge and Dr. Kathleen Cleaver, Dr. Angela Davis, Mr. Fred Hampton and Mr. Mark Clark (the latter two of whom were assassinated by Chicago police __ https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/dec/04 ), in accordance with orders given by lowdown, vicious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, as they slept, in Hampton’s case, in bed with his pregnant fiancé __ only a couple of hands were raised, including only ONE student __ remember? Of course you don’t, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have written about it, because it doesn’t fit with your witch-hunting; seek-and-destroy “journalistic” mission. In any case, it was in light of explaining to students the kinds of valuable community work that the REAL Black Panthers did, that I referred to them as “real-life heroes and sheroes,” as opposed to Disney characters ( https://bppaln.org/programs ), remember? Of course you don’t.
As it relates to recanting our definition of Structural Racism, you forgot the part in which I am ALWAYS careful about using air quotes and verbalizing “so-called dominant cultural system of this nation.” It was/is only so-called “dominant” because of gunpowder. It definitely is NOT “dominant” in any other way. So-called “dominance” was/is purely a function of military might _ period.
Of course ‘when [you] returned home from the RMSC, [you] found that the image that most stayed with [you] was not the Dentzel Carousel panel but the one involving Black children used as bait to catch alligators.” It’s a no-brainer __ the RACIST image that was previously on the Dentzel Carousel does NOT fit your witch-hunting, seek-and-destroy journalistic mission, but the one that you became obsessed with fits perfectly. The latter is helpful and provides fodder relative to eluding, evading, deflecting, denying THE MAIN ISSUE THAT THE CHILDREN WERE THERE TO LEARN ABOUT, E.G., THE HISTORIC AND ONGOING MANIFESTATIONS AND VERY REAL, PERVASIVE, DEVASTATING, IMPACT OF INDIVIDUAL, INSTITUTIONAL, AND STRUCTURAL RACISM WITHIN THIS THOROUGHLY RACIST, WHITE -SUPREMACIST BASED NATION-STATE! ( https://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/ibram-x-kendi-the-very-heartbeat-of-racism-is-denial-470332/ )
So you imagine that “the fifth graders [MAY NOT HAVE} remembered anything from the program,” other than of course the same image that you became obsessed with? Tell me something Mr. Lovenheim, in light of all of the lowdown, dirty, rotten, savage-like, dastardly deeds committed by your ancestors against Black folks __ for centuries, why are you having such a hard time believing that Black children were used as alligator bait? Please see only a few examples at the links below. To tell you the truth, the latter question is purely rhetorical. I’m pretty sure I know the answer ( https://www.pinterest.com/pin/39320611191273868/ ) .
Etc…, Etc…, Etc… __ by the tons.
With regard to your lengthy interview with Ms. Murano Santos (because naturally, in YOUR mind, she necessarily knows more about our project than any of the rest of us), you had asked her if she “shares [my] view that former County Executive Maggie Brooks’ behavior was racist because she favored keeping the carousel panel in place but adding an interpretive plaque?” Interestingly enough, you also asked her if she was “at all uncomfortable with [me] saying that from the stage of RMSC?” WOW!!! Kathryn’s answer to your intentionally-loaded, potentially inflammatory and divisive questions was near perfect, with one caveat, which I’ll get to in a moment, but more importantly Mr. “objective” journalist, is the question of whether or not, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE CONTEXT WHICH I ALWAYS (CAREFULLY AND THOROUGHLY) LAY OUT, BUT WHICH OBVIOUSLY SLIPPED YOUR “OBJECTIVE” MIND __ YOU “share [my] view that former County Executive Maggie Brooks’ behavior was racist because she favored keeping the carousel panel in place but adding an interpretive plaque?” And were YOU “at all uncomfortable with [me] saying that from the stage of RMSC?” I can guess (I believe with 100% accuracy), your answers, and I know why ( https://www.pinterest.com/pin/393220611191273868/ ) . Now, with regard to the caveat referenced above: In the process of answering your intentionally-loaded, potentially inflammatory and divisive questions, Kathryn had mentioned that my statement represents “a recounting of history from the lived experience of a person who was involved in that history,” which of course IS true, but more importantly, after providing a full and crystal-clear explanation as to why pickaninny caricatures are so dastardly-wrong and damaging, which Ms. Brooks admittedly had NO KNOWLEDGE OF, and after her acknowledging that, following the explanation, she had gained an understanding, and then still deciding to “keep the carousel panel in place” (in public view of thousands upon thousands of people, including thousands upon thousands of children) __ IS IN FACT SUPPORTING THE PERPETUATION OF RACISM (OBJECTIVELY SO) __ PERIOD (REGARDLESS OF ONE’S LIVED EXPERIENCE). So let’s be clear, whether or not it is a fact that Brooks’ behavior was, in this particular case racist in nature and essence, and it IS a fact, does NOT hinge on one’s “lived experience” __ period. You probably don’t get it, but again, I understand why.
Also sir, could you please explain how you came to the a-damn-mazing conclusion that we are “teaching children to see racism everywhere, even where it doesn’t exist, which by the way (within thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based societies, such as the granddaddy of them all, this one), there are very, very, very FEW PLACES “where it doesn’t exist.”
You also said that “the American flag symbolizes freedom and opportunity to migrants fleeing poverty.” Really, do tell. I am in fact the son of migrants who were “fleeing poverty” when they permanently left the Old South during the 1960’s (after abandoning their pattern of “following the seasons,” since the early 1950’s), and guess what they found initially, under the American flag, both in the Old South and “new” North? Do you think the would-be-migrants featured at the link below view the American flag as a “symbol of freedom and opportunity?” ( https://www.vice.com/en/article/wx5mnz/border-patrol-whips-haitians-black-community-reactions ). So, do you really want to know “more about choosing to single out oppression,” or are you looking (surgically) only for narratives that support you deeply-held potentially racist attitudes, ideations, and belief systems (not necessarily because of any fault of your own, at least not exclusively). In other words, all of our attitudes, ideations, and belief systems are shaped and molded via the SPECIFIC socialization and educational processes that we are exposed to. So, hopefully you will agree that we ALL have a lot to learn, especially and particularly as it relates to the old, old, historic, deeply-entrenched, pervasive Tripartite Beast And Illness of Individual, Institutional, and Structural Racism ( https://www.minorityreporter.net/post/the-tripartite-beast-and-illness-of-individual-institutional-and-structural-racism ), which, other than tinkering around the edges, has been, and still is pretty much taboo relative to public school curricula, and we know why __ don’t we? Ergo the dire need for unprecedented, valuable programs such as ours __ agreed? Probably not, and we know why __ don’t we?
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I attempted to respond (in the comments section) to other readers who had commented in favor of Mr. Lovenheim’s seek-and-destroy tactics and twisted perspective. I received the following note form Mr. Paul Ericson: “Howard, We have posted several of the comments you submitted on the story about the Take It Down!. If you want to address other aspects of the story, please direct the submission to our Letters page. As you may know, we do not have any word limit for letters. Nor do we edit the content. So long as the submission adheres to our Comment Policy, it will be posted.
Thus, Mr. Gardner ( Opinion Editor Kent Gardner ), who was also a commenter, please find (below) my responses to several, additional comments from your readers regarding Mr. Lovenheims twisted article. Hopefully, once my Letter has been published, you, Mr. Ericson, and the Rochester Beacon will allow me to post a link to the Letter in the comments section of Lovenheim’s article, so that the readers whose comments I responded to, will have an opportunity to see my responses, and in some cases, hopefully rethink their confused comments.
1) READER: “Hopefully, the children will learn about the dark history of the Democratic Party which supported slavery, thr Confederacy, the KKK, lynchings. Jim Crow, etc. Whereas, the Republican Party in the 1850’s came into being as the anti slavery party to combat the Democratic Party. For some reason the media and educators avoid the subject.”
RESPONSE: We absolutely do NOT avoid talking about “the dark history of the Democratic Party which supported slavery, the Confederacy, the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow, etc.” Surely, you don’t believe that “lynchings” of Black folks were carried out solely by white Democrats, do you??? We also discuss the fact that “the Republican Party in the 1850’s came into being as the [so-called] anti slavery party to combat the Democratic Party.” And we mention the fact that the so-called “Radical Republicans” sold Black folks out, in order to capture the white House via the so-called “Compromise of 1877” ( https://www.studentsofhistory.com/compromise=1877 ), which not only signaled an end to Reconstruction, but also lead to the withdrawal of protective military troops from the South, and the unleashing of every kind of dastardly, evil, vicious, racist attack and set back against Black folks that one can imagine. So, let’s be clear, historically speaking (right up to this present day), neither of the two racist, major political parties have been authentic, permanent allies, and certainly NOT equal partners with the Black masses, and I don’t want to hear NOTHING about Obama (because horrid, overall socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and sociocultural conditions for the masses of Black people) did NOT change, at least NOT positively, merely or solely as a result of Obama’s Presidency, just as they didn’t under any other President __ period. The Black masses have been continuously sold down the old proverbial political drain by BOTH Democrats and Republicans throughout the history of their existence __ period. Malik El Shabazz explained it as follows, nearly 60 years ago:
2) READER: “You’ve got to be taught to love and hate” is the lyric from South Pacific. My 8 year old doesn’t know black from brown or white among her friends but the RMSC’s program seems intent on porting older generation prejudices on to children. Kudos to Maggie Brooks for being level headed enough to weigh the significance of a 110 year old merry-go-round stamped illustration decoration.”
RESPONSE: So, your “8 year old doesn’t know black from brown or white among her friends,” which must necessarily mean that all of her friends are one race/complexion, or you have pulled off the miracle of the 21st Century by teaching her NOT to see color (assuming she’s not chronically, clinically color blind)? Please know that with regard to the dire need for us to constantly dialogue about the ongoing, pervasive, dangerous, damaging, existence, nature, manifestations, and functioning of Individual, Institutional, and Structural Racism __ teaching so-called “color-blindness” is NOT a credible, and certainly NOT an anti-racist position to take ( https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2009/colorblindness-the-new-racism ). “Kudos to Maggie Brooks for being level headed enough to weigh the significance of a 110 year old merry-go-round stamped illustration decoration???” WHAT??? I am unable to respond (at least intelligently) to your latter quote __ because I have absolutely NO REFERENCE POINT for understanding what the heck you’re TALKING about, and I’m not sure you do either. However, if you would like to clarify/elaborate, I would be happy to respond.
3) READER: “Interesting to note how bigotry, racism and a supremacist ideology can be retrofitted to stigmatize previously innocuous symbols. … when the infamous Charlotte carousel panel was being painted, Alabama bigots slapped a White Supremacy tag on the rooster, thereby transforming the inoffensive into the infamous.”
RESPONSE: WHAT??? This is scary. It seems that the only thing, or most “important” thing this reader sees concerning the “infamous Charlotte carousel panel” is the rooster. Surely, the author is not suggesting that rejection of the racist, vile pickaninny caricatures on the panel represents “retrofitting a supremacist ideology to stigmatize previously innocuous symbols,” at least let’s hope not. So then, if that’s not the case, it must necessarily be true that the reader missed the main point of discussion, again, hopefully not intentionally, or as a possible result of: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/393220611191273868/ .
4) READER: “Brilliant piece by Peter Lovenheim on the RMSC program regarding racism education. thanks for the in-depth look and outstanding reporting.”
RESPONSE: Comments such as the latter one above just leave me completely baffled. Based on my humble, but well informed, expert opinion, there’s ONLY ONE WAY a person could possibly reach such a wildly-unsubstantiated conclusion, and that’s if she has little to no knowledge-base regarding the historical, and/or ongoing nature, essence, manifestations, and functioning of Individual, Institutional, and Structural Racism __ period ( https://www.minorityreporter.net/post/tooting-my-own-horn-i-am-the-local-goat-of-anti-racism ).
5) READER: “STRONG MUSEUM of PLAY can also be used to encourage students to improve in school, through play and games, Note STRONG expansion, coming, June 30, with VIDEO Games, etc.
Eight years ago, I sent a note to the D&C on STRONG MUSEUM and poverty:
Strong Museum could be center for study of poverty”
RESPONSE: I don’t know how or why this story “inspires” you, but OK. However, it is strange that rather than addressing the issue at hand, e.g., old, old, rampant, deeply entrenched, historic and ongoing systemic, individual, institutional, and structural racism __ you started talking about “poverty.” Hopefully, you’re clear about the fact that one (historic and ongoing deeply entrenched, systemic, individual, institutional, and structural racism) represents a determinant, while the other (widespread, pervasive, deep-seated, abject, largely race-based poverty) is representative of an outcome.
6) READER: “Given that your critique bears no relationship to what I actually posted, I have to assume that it was meant to address someone else’s comments and ended up here by mistake. Possibly it was intended for a different site altogether given that none of the comments on this page could remotely be described as making any “convoluted, distorted, conflated claims” or implying a “right” to annihilate Indigenous Peoples.”
RESPONSE: So, my “critique bears no relationship to what [you] actually posted???” Really??? So, it was NOT you who posted the following? “While Ms. Santos correctly states that the negative, bordering on genocidal, impact of European colonization on Indigenous Peoples must be taught, and that the RM&SC doesn’t want, “to present just a one-sided narrative of history but to introduce different narratives that are left out of textbooks and mainstream education”, I find it interesting that that a one-sided narrative seems to be part of the RM&SC’s program. While nothing can excuse the way Europeans and their descendants treated Indigenous Peoples, apparently left unspoken in the RM&SC’s program (or at least in this description of that program) is placing the actions of Europeans in context with the way in which those Peoples treated one another. Long before the first Europeans arrived these Peoples fought a perpetual series of bloody conflicts known as the Mourning Wars…”
Again, you claim that “nothing can excuse the way Europeans and their descendants treated Indigenous Peoples, but then you turned right around and attempted to do exactly that __ via your convoluted, distorted, conflated claim that in order to provide so-called “context” regarding the way lowdown, dirty, rotten, savage-like Europeans and their descendants treated Indigenous Peoples, it’s necessary to consider, think about, teach about “the way in which those Peoples treated one another.” WHAT???!!! How in the heck does that work??? You’re literally saying that because, in some cases they treated each other poorly, your lowdown, dirty, rotten, savage-like ancestors had a “right” to annihilate them __ Damn!!! If that’s not what you’re saying, then what (exactly) is the weird, so-called “context” that you are talking about???
7) READER: “I’m not sure I agree that shame is a negative emotion. I think of it more as a social guardrail. If more people felt shame for their bad behavior, maybe fewer of them would behave badly.”
RESPONSE: There is no doubt that “shame is [NOT ALWAYS] a negative emotion.” That is, sometimes shame can motivate people NOT to “behave badly.” However, there is also absolutely no doubt about the fact that millions upon millions of white, so-called “Americans” DO harbor deep-seated shame regarding atrocities committed by their savage-like ancestors, which is one of the reasons why we see widespread phenomena such as the following: https://americasbestpics.com/picture/imagine-being-so-ashamed-of-your-history-that-you-make-Bk5QR97r8 . Shame, guilt, and irrational fear can, and has served (in MANY cases), as immobilizers, which is a big part of the reason why Individual, Institutional, and Structural Racism is still (as of 5/13/23) so very entrenched and pervasive within this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state __ period.
8) READER: “Thank you for this thoughtful reporting. Kudos to RMSC for teaching awareness in a world that wants to ignore it. Please rethink that composite photo, or at least how it’s presented. When I was in 5th grade, for sure I’d walk away thinking that it actually happened and tell everyone I know, if the talk went as Lovenheim describes. If the audience were older, some members would ask the question the writer did, and a richer understanding of what this imagery meant would come out. It’s awful enough on its own merits. And it does the job. But with younger kids, let’s more clearly acknowledge that misleading the viewer is exactly what publishers meant to do in the first place – they did it all the time. Talk about a time in history to teach critical thinking skills, especially with the media. Misinformation can come from any corner.”
RESPONSE: “Kudos [do NOT belong exclusively] to RMSC for teaching awareness in a world that wants to ignore it.” In fact, the RMSC staff that we work closest with will tell you that the greatest part of the Kudos should go to the Take It Down Planning Committee/ Faith Community Alliance Coalition __ because without our eight-month Struggle, which the RMSC was NOT part of __ none of this would be happening __ period. So, stop with the RACIAL APPROPRIATION.
How can you be so sure “that it actually [didn’t] happen??? Are Lovenheim’s and Pat Turner’s words necessarily and/or automatically gospel??? Why should we NOT believe the scholars who are arguing that it did in fact happen? Why should we automatically believe Lovenheim and Turner, as opposed to (for example, among others) the folks speaking in the videos at the following links:
Your libelous view that we’re “misleading the viewer,” e.g., the students, is just that __ libelous. What Mr. Lovenheim DIDN’T write is that we DID tell the children that there is disagreement among scholars regarding this issue. Perhaps more importantly __ could you and others please explain (in light of all of the lowdown, dirty, rotten, savage-like, dastardly deeds committed by your ancestors against Black folks __ for centuries), why you’re having such a hard time believing that Black children were used as alligator bait??? Please see but a few examples at the links below:
Etc…, Etc…, Etc… __ by the tons.
9) READER: “Thanks for raising important questions about this educational program developed by RMSC, sponsored by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and endorsed by the Brighton School District. While I appreciate the intent of these institutions, 5th graders are capable of and deserve a more balanced presentation. The use of the alligator image–when both fabricated and likely false–is simply inflammatory. The documented facts of racism are horrific and need not be amplified in this way.”
RESPONSE: First and foremost, “…this educational program [was NOT] developed [solely] by RMSC,” but instead, was developed by the Take It Down Planning Committee/Faith Community Alliance Coalition, in conjunction with the RMSC.
Secondly, IF what you mean by “endorsed by the Brighton School District” is the fact that they allowed their students to participate in the program __ then I guess you can call that a so-called “endorsement.” As noted in the twisted, disingenuous, inflammatory article, over a thousand students have participated from schools across Monroe County, and in a couple of cases, beyond Monroe County, including several charter schools, and a relatively few RCSD schools, which is (in-and-of-itself) a shame __ because, in accordance with the terms spelled out in the the Greater Rochester Health Foundation Grant, which made the program possible __ RCSD students represent a particularly important target-population. Guess why more RCSD schools didn’t participate??? Since Mr. Lovenheim is so interested in our program, perhaps he’ll consider writing a story about that, which is very, very doubtful, and I know why.
“…5th graders deserve a more balanced presentation.” And you came to the conclusion that our presentation was NOT “balanced” how??? You’re welcome to observe anytime. If you’re interested, just send me a note: [email protected]
You claim “the use of the alligator image [was] fabricated and likely false.” What does that mean??? WE didn’t so-called “fabricate” it. Hundreds, if not thousands of such images exist. So, if they were fabricated, it was your ancestors who fabricated them. All we did was utilize a few of their fabrications in the process of executing an academic approach, known as “visual learning strategy.” So, what’s your point???
So we were “simply [being] inflammatory” huh??? So, we wanted to “inflame” socioeconomically, middle and upper class overwhelmingly, predominantly, white Brighton 5th graders __ to what end??? Please, go ahead and explain what we were attempting to do. Perhaps we were attempting to incite a revolution???
So, we were attempting to “amplify documented, horrific facts of racism” because?????????? What in the world are you TALKING about??? Is that even possible??? Do you know who you’re speaking of ??? >>> https://www.minorityreporter.net/post/tooting-my-own-horn-i-am-the-local-goat-of-anti-racism .
Again, hopefully this illuminates the reason why we were hesitant about speaking with Mr. Lovenheim, right from the start. He did exactly what we were hoping he wouldn’t do, e.g., intentionally developed his “objective” critique in a manner that was certain to inflame white readers, and assist in the perpetuation and reinforcement of the Tripartite Beast And Illness of Individual, Institutional, and Structure Racism, which are thoroughly bound up together, completely intertwined, and totally inseparable from one another, i.e., there can be no continued Institutional, and/or Structural Racism without continued Individual Racist __ by the Millions ( https://www.minorityreporter.net/post/the-tripartite-beast-and-illness-of-individual-institutional-and-structural-racism ). If individual RACISTS di not exists, the other two forms would wither and die.