Drawing Strength from a Historical Courageous Black Woman

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

When my employer told me that the building the nonprofit owned was once owned by a famous Black Woman I was shocked. This February, when the Texas Historical Society granted the building a Subject Marker, I was floored.

I did the application the way I write grant applications. It was evidence-based. If the newspaper article wasn’t in my hand or the book wasn’t in my hand – the fact didn’t go into the application. I started with 3 paragraphs from two books. My final application, after the research, was 26 pages long including 4 pages of references. I didn’t think any of this would impress a panel that received hundreds of applications throughout the great state of Texas. I was blessed with help and encouragement from Julie Peterson Baker, the local THC representative. However, I will confess, I thought she was just being very kind.

This is the discovery that floored me:

Who Was Albertine Hall Yeager?

Albertine Hall Yeager
(Rosenberg Library/Texas History Center-1880-2019 Collection, 2021)

Albertine Hall Yeager, an African American woman founded the Yeager Children’s Home between 1917 and 1918 in Galveston, Texas. She had so endeared herself to the community that even after her death in 1969, when the new building opened in 1975, the ribbon cutting with Charles Yeager was officiated by then Mayor R.A. Apffel (Kirkpatrick, p. 1, 1975.) Said Apffel: “For if there was ever a project that which represented a cross-section of this community, this is it” (1975, p.1).

The level of love and respect Albertine Yeager commanded in 1975 became apparent when Texas State Senator Aaron “Babe” Schwartz, sponsored a congratulatory resolution – SR-507 for the New Yeager Children’s Home (Schwartz, 1975). There were wires from the Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe; Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, and United States Congressman Jack Brooks (Kirkpatrick, 1975, p.1). State Representative Andrew Z. Baker, a board member was unable to attend but sent well-wishes (1975, p.1). Texas State Representative Ed J. Harris, whose wife had served on the board was unable to attend but also acknowledged Mrs. Yeager’s contributions (1975, p.1). Moreover, The City of Galveston passed a resolution declaring May 11 -17 “Yeager Home Week” (1975, p.1). (Reference list upon request.)

The Galveston County Daily News noted her courage in their coverage of this event. Angela Wilson who wrote an editorial also noted her courage without disclosing her own.

I was the Black woman who preceded Angela when I worked for the Daily News 33 years ago. I can tell you that journalism was a “good ole boy” club. There was a reason that Walter Chronkite had no female peers. What Angela, I and Ms. Yeager have in common is courage.

Right now, with COVID maybe waning and war drums beating, courage bolstered by faith is what we all need.

I started this blog and my podcast, with the idea that I would talk about things that would help seniors cheer up. Getting old takes a whole lot of courage.

Albertine’s story about a brave Black woman who strove for inclusion, rather than segregation is an inspiration.

I am slowly moving toward grabbing a friend and riding the trolley on the seawall. Laugher,  love, and faith is certainly the best way to face our troubles. I need to step up and make Albertine proud.

This image is from my personal paid subscription with the Daily News.
This image is from my personal paid subscription to the Daily News

This image is from my personal paid subscription with the Daily News.

Juneteenth, The Tulsa Massacre and the Silence of My Elders

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

By sheer accident of birth, my DNA has ties to both Juneteenth and the Tulsa Race Massacre. My maternal mixed-race family settled before 1865 on Galveston Island. My African American paternal family lived 50 miles from Tulsa, in Reeves Edition, the Black section of Muskogee, Oklahoma at the time of the Tulsa Race Massacre. I was blessed to know both of my grandmothers for decades. And yet, I did not hear the word “Juneteenth” until the mid-1980’s. Moreover, I learned about the Tulsa Massacre on HBO’s Watchman at the age of 68.

I come from an extraordinary family of well-educated women who received that education during a time when it was tough to come by as a person of color. My maternal grandmother, born in 1900, would tell me about ‘Freedom Day” in Galveston when everyone had watermelon and red soda. But she also told me that her grandmother Capiana’s husband, Abraham was an escaped slave from Richmond, Texas. He was a Merchant Seaman, and although he brought his wife Capiana back from Mexico, he stayed at sea until “Freedom Day”, less he be returned to slavery.
I met the late State Representative Al Edwards, in the mid-1980s. When he told me about Juneteenth, my initial reaction was horror. I was shocked that the people here were slaves two years longer than they should have been after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. It was not until this year when the Juneteenth Legacy Project started that I realized “Freedom Day” was actually “Juneteenth”.

No one in my family ever mentioned the Tulsa Race Massacre to me. My grandmother, like my father, did explain that the Klu Klux Klan was present in Muskogee. My father endlessly explained that his motivation to get out of Oklahoma and go to Howard University was tied to Klan Lynchings. But the elder I spent the most time with, my father’s sister Aunt Pocahantas never mentioned it.

My Aunt Pocahantas was so accomplished that she has a cultural center at the Tulsa Public Library named after her. She also lived 3 miles from the site of the Tulsa Massacre on one side and 3 miles from the purported mass burial site on the other.

When we would visit her, no one in my family would sleep in her guest room. It was a small room, featuring a beautiful peach quilted bed with a wall-to-wall Mahoney dresser dominating one wall. When I was about eight or nine, I asked why I could not sleep in the guest room. She simply said, “a lot of people died here.” Of course, because I was literally one of the most precocious children on the planet, the challenge of sleeping in a haunted room was one I would accept. Throughout my life, until my last visit to see her in Tulsa just prior to her death, the “haunted room” was “my room”.

My reaction to the HBO series was intense. The movie featured planes firing on the fleeing, screaming Black residents. I put the episode on record and turned off the television. In tears, I could only see that this depiction would indicate that an “American Guernica” took place well before the Nazis helped kill the Spanish. I begin googling the Tulsa massacre, sat stunned, and started to cry. I could almost see my Aunt Pokies face when she told me “A LOT OF PEOPLE DIED HERE.” I suddenly had the stark realization that it turned out to be the understatement of the century.

Why the Silence?
During the past few months, while watching the documentaries about Juneteenth and the Tulsa Race Massacre I have tried to ascertain the reason for the gaps in history and the silence about those events.
In my late maternal grandmother’s case, she may not have been exposed to the concept of Juneteenth because her family was mixed race. Her mother was dead, and she was raised by her grandmother from Mexico. Abraham, her grandmothers’ husband, knew enough to keep himself safe, but by all accounts, after the 1900 Storm became mentally unstable. My grandmother left the Island with her grandmother and moved to Chicago in 1915.

However, the silence of my paternal grandmother, my father, and my aunt remain a mystery. My paternal grandmother was a very religious woman, very soft-spoken. When I was around her, she would tell me stories or let me play with the chickens. She was not a “bad news” kind of person. My father was a baby when the massacre happened. By the time he could read, the news was probably buried.

My Aunt Pokie, however, was 11 years old at the time of the massacre. Like my father, and like me she could read at an early age and tended to be a voracious reader. The Black communities in Tulsa and Muskogee had a lot of interaction. There is every chance she knew about the massacre as a child. By the time she was an adult and had risen to become a Senior School Administrator in the Tulsa School System, there was no chance she did not know. In any case, hiding it from me, the most inquisitive child in the universe must have been tough on all of them.

Racism affects each generation differently. I had grown up in a time of hope. I had watched Martin Luther King, Jr. march on television. Fortunately, I was born to middle-class parents in Northwest Indiana. Moreover, because I was born in the right town, at the right time. Myself and my friends were all “woke” before “woke was a trending topic”. I attended Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, named after a famous Black author and surveyor. Our principal had served as a Tuskegee Airman. Our teachers were all Black, superbly educated, and dedicated to making us the best of the best. Our books and our surroundings reflected the achievements of people of color in America. What is now being called “critical race theory” was called “history”. We knew the basics: the Native Americans were slaughtered, most of us were descendants of slaves who were in bondage for hundreds of years and Black, Brown and Yellow people had to fight to move forward in America.

We all knew about the Klan. At one point, Indiana had elected a Governor who was openly a Klansman. However, we lived on a block, in a northern city, where no Klansman would dare ride down the street populated by Black Doctors, Dentists, Teachers, and other professionals.

The USA was a tough gig that you had to survive. We were considered the lucky ones and it was our job to “represent”. And as we grew older and had to go out into the real world, that’s when it hit. Our first wake-up call happened when our friend, the Valedictorian of the prestigious big African-American High School, committed suicide after his freshman year at Harvard. He was academically solid and didn’t have financial problems because he got a full ride. At his funeral, one of us finally whispered our fears: “Maybe something bad happened to him at Harvard because he was Black”.

My own reaction to having to “represent the Black race” was different. I tested into Howard as a Sophomore. But, by mid-semester, I realized that I was tired, and I didn’t want to be a mixture of Mary McLeod Bethune and Shirley Chisholm. I was a published poet already. I wanted to become a combination of “Gidget” and Phyllis Wheatley. I was “woke”, but I desperately wanted to go back to sleep.

My paternal grandmother, my father, and my aunt, grew up in a decade where the Tulsa Race Massacre had occurred and had somehow been pushed out of memory. The fear generated by an act of that level of savagery in the modern world had to have become burned into the souls of all the Black people in Oklahoma. It was an action so ugly, that it had to be the mother of all generational traumas.

I can only hope that all three of my elders did not want me to know because they didn’t want to pass on that fear. They wanted me to be fearless. Perhaps their instincts were right because I never stopped being that little girl who dared to sleep in a haunted room.

Eating Healthy While Avoiding Sharp Knives

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

Here’s a news flash: if you were never a skinny kid, a skinny teen or a skinny grown-up – there won’t be a magical skinny fairy to save you when you are over 65! Eating healthy is a challenge when you work for a living. Eating healthy during a pandemic takes on added layers of anxiety.

Trauma 1: Going to the grocery store.

Even carefully planned, list in hand, shopping for food is a trip fraught with fears. My PPE tote is filled to the brim with the essentials: extra masks, cute little blue nitrite gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes carefully separated in a small plastic zipper bag.

Trauma 2: Getting everything on your list.

I kid you not, finding out I forget the mustard sends me into a tizzy.

Trauma 3: Getting vegetables I have to slice and dice in order to stay on track.

Trauma 3 has proven to be a real sticking point. I watch a lot of cooking shows. I am mesmerized by recipes I don’t have the talent to cook with ingredients I cannot possibly afford – even if I could find them locally.
That being said, I do understand the basics. And I know that in order to vary my diet, I need to keep it flavorful. For example, I know that the best way to dress up my uninspiring affordable ground beef patty is to artfully top it with a pile of caramelized onions.

Within the past few years, I’ve upped my game. I found out that my “brown thumb syndrome” vanishes what I use one of those cute Aero Gardens with water. I have grown lots of Basil and other green stuff to take my affordable ground beef and medium-sized chickens to the next level.

Alas, there is peril built into the game. You know those flashy knife skills you see on Iron Chef? Ever watch in amazement as they dismantle a hunk of cow, or filet a big fish in mere seconds? Yea – well that’s not a nearly 70-year-old woman who has been nearsighted since she was three!
As a result, as I have gotten older, I began to start looking for clever ways to slice my onions wafer-thin, without adding my finger to the pile.

1. A good Mandolin Slicer – Surprise, as the onion gets thinner, even with the cute, little, spike holder, your fingers get real close to a really sharp blade. Got pricked by the spikes on the holder and cut by the blade.
2. A Spiralizer – Great on Zucchini! Tears onions to messy shreds. Put up on shelf, until I grow-up enough to appreciate zucchini – the age I’ll be when I appreciate Kale.
3. Ceramic Knives – Wonderful for the big start. Still a sharp blade when you really want thin stuff.

Finally, I got a hint from one of the Foodie Gurus. One night, while I was wrestling with my insomnia, I saw Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, talking about a “safe way to slice”. I was excited. Here was a guy, I had nothing in common with except hair. He is the epitome of New York chic, well-dressed, totally pressed award-winning Chef with a flawlessly styled head of white hair. I have white hair and I needed whatever he was selling so I wouldn’t add a trip to the Emergency Room during a pandemic to my list of adventures. I know it makes no sense – but this one Iron Chef has seen into my soul.

So, I did the online search and found out who was marketing his neat invention. I bought some really fresh, sexy onions and then checked the tracking numbers every morning until my package came.

Finally- Gadget Romance!

And Voila!
Piles and piles of thinly sliced onions were produced without a single nick or cut. I even washed my new gadget and cleaned it without fear. My lowly ground beef was totally elevated as I joyfully positioned it on a bed of egg noodles slathered with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.

Ground Beef Patty Uplift

I know in these troubled times; it seems like a small thing. However, this persistent anxiety was one that has haunted me a long time. It didn’t just start when I got old. Actually, I was so nearsighted as a little girl that I was teased because I used to trip up the stairs in church. Clumsy is real thing – that unlike wine, does not get better with age.

It’s a small victory! I’d like to suggest you look around, look past the darkness and find one you can celebrate. These days every little win-win helps!

Wear a Mask – Don’t Give me Cooties!

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

Hear My Interview with Laura Rich, on the Texas Standard about Masks on August 27, 2020 – All Over the Great State of Texas:


The Rant Continues Here:

We didn’t really have germs when I was kid. If your friend had a runny nose, first you would ask if they had washed their hands. If your friend would then drag their sleeve across their runny nose, then you would run away shouting: “Don’t touch me – I don’t want your cooties”.

Years later, armed with college degrees, I fully understand words like “germs”, “virus” and “bacteria”. My educated brain absorbs the scientific jargon on the evening news and understands the endless alerts about COVID-19 in print and on the internet.

My senior citizen brain checks for achy body parts and new signs of infection every time a new symptom is announced. And yet, when words like pandemic and epidemic are being tossed around my six-year old self emerges shouting: “Cooties – lots of Cooties”.

Therefore, on behalf of my inner child, I am begging everyone to quell my hysteria by wearing a mask.

When I venture out to the grocery store, all masked up and wearing my cute, blue nitrite gloves, I just want you to stand six feet away.
I am too nervous to look at you to see if you are wearing a fancy N-94 Mask, a pleated blue mask or a pair of repurposed underpants. I am not a mask fashion maven and the grocery store is not Operation Mask Runway! I just don’t want to glance back at you, and see you aren’t wearing a mask.

PODCAST ON iTunes, Spotify, etc;

Moreover, I don’t care what political party you belong to or what conspiracy theories you subscribe to. Nor do I care about the color of your skin, the language you speak or the food group you belong to.
Because, my friends, COVID-19 doesn’t care. This bug represents color blind, deaf and mute random death incarnate. It scares me that months later, some of the smartest people in the world, aren’t even sure how it travels and how fast it will kill you.

All this is pretty simple for me at this point in the 2020 Epidemic Horror Show:

Stand back – Mask-up- and don’t give me Cooties!
Thank you,

A grey-haired Senior Citizen with a hysterical inner six-year old running the show!

WIN-WIN-WIN – How to Kill Writers Block During a Pandemic: RESPECT a Senior Buy Them A Restaurant Meal!

by Marsha Wilson Rappaport

The onset of COVID resulted in weeks of my staring in the mirror with my “deer in the headlights” face. My brain had frozen. My fingers followed suit. What could I possibly say that would uplift others that would combat my personal fears.

My personal fears were pretty serious. In addition to the fear of a killer virus, my day job was finding grants that would keep the homeless safe during a pandemic. My vocation was writing, glowing articles about food and attractions in my little tourist town. My town was shut down, my friends were facing the loss of their businesses and my food supply had been cut off. I was trapped in my little cottage, hiding behind my facemask, having the ultimate fear festival.

Weeks later – it occurred to me. What would make me feel better? A great restaurant meal- delivered! What about other Seniors, trapped inside! Once again, a great restaurant meal- delivered!

Seems like a simple thing. But if you are a senior, on a fixed income – not so fast! That wasn’t easy for me, and it wasn’t easy for a lot of my aging friends.

The second light bulb went on – why not do something – rather than just say something.

So..I developed the RESPECT Project. I would buy a meal for a Senior in the community who had supported others with little recognition and was living modestly. I would buy meals and have them delivered from restaurants that needed the business.

My first gift was to an African-American role model named Pat Tate. Tate was one of those people that had put together events, served on all kinds of boards and vastly improved the quality of life in our community. I wrote about her a lot. She was quiet mover and shaker in developing our Annual Juneteenth Parade. She lead “Save R Hood” a community effort to help our underserved neighbors. She was a tireless worker at her parish of St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church. I got a call every year for their BBQ Dinner and did a story about her son who has gone on to tout his BBQ on television. She was kinda of quietly everywhere making life better for the rest of us. And she did it all without messing up some of the prettiest hair I’d ever seen. Her hair, unlike mine, seemed immune to the Galveston humidity – it was a wonder.

Patricia Tate

During her senior years, she fought and beat down cancer twice. Recently, she had lost her mother and she was having a tough time. I choose her, when I realized that her Facebook posts were reflecting her moods. Heck, even beating me badly at “Words With Friends” wasn’t cheering her up.

So I hoped Pat, would enjoy a treat during a time of fear and isolation, my friends in the restaurant business could put a few more bucks in the coffers and I would write about it and feel less isolated and fearful myself. When I spoke to her after her meal, she seem happy. Win-Win-Win.

I asked Pat if she would enjoy a meal from Mosquito Café a family owned restaurant in Galveston and she said yes. Mosquito Café is locally owned by Steven and Patricia Rennick. Their daughter, Kyla Wright, the Managing Partner and CFO of Mosquito Café and Patty Cakes Bakery was just named in the “40 under 40” list in the Galveston County Daily News.

It all worked out fine. She had a meal to eat and a meal to save. Both were shrimp based. Nothing picks up your spirits like a Gulf Coast meal with our favorite crustacean.

Here’s the big fantasy. I want to start a movement. I want everyone to look around – find a senior friend or relative and have a great meal delivered to them.

Not going to change the world – not going to stop the virus -but it’s a really cool, kind thing to do!

Marsha Pre-Covid

Marsha During COVID

Save an Old, Wise Soul


Support our Efforts: Click the Image to Donate

My New Humor Podcast for Seniors was Funny: Until COVID Popped Up!

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

I am one of those. If I pick a four-leaf clover, I will get poison ivy. That being announced at the onset, I can explain my current plight. I am a journalist with a very depressing social service day job. Several months prior to the COVID-19 crisis, I turned my blog into a podcast. Both are called “Staying Vertical”. I am over 65 and I like to rant about stuff that drives me crazy. Much like one of my idols, the late Andy Rooney, I want to know why there are so many things in the modern world that don’t work properly or even make sense.

Once you get older some of that stuff really works your nerves. I have ranted about why all of my tech is fashionably black, which makes it impossible to real the dials or buttons without a search light. I recounted my brave move to go to trivia night with trendy nerds who wore flannel and had beards. I write book reviews. I generally, just amuse myself, so that I won’t focus on my arthritis and long stays in the “reading room” because I have IBS.

I was kinda on a roll by January. The podcast was running on a local radio station and was accepted on all of the major outlets. By February, I was tuning in to iTunes, IHeart and Spotify to croon myself to sleep after I took my blood pressure meds. It was fun project and I was looking for sponsors. My podcast was designed to cheer all of us up by pointing out how weird life gets when your hair turns gray.

AND then, the thing happened. The strange nature of my situation hit me on that day a young man on the beach refused to leave because “ only old people “ get the virus. The messages kept coming. Day after day of broadcasts begging people to social distance so they won’t kill an old lady like me.

Can I share this with you? There is NOTHING – remotely funny about the idea of the grim reaper, bouncing a red spiked green ball, sitting in your bedroom corner while holding a sign that says “old folks” . Somehow my next podcast, where I explain my quest to find a safe way to slice onions without risking my less than steady fingers with big stainless steel knife seemed real unimportant.

March came and went. My writers block had gone into full lock-down, just as I had to do to avoid what seemed to me had evolved into the worst, bad horror movie ever. I had to admit it – I was afraid. Trips to the grocery store had become traumatizing. Retrieving the mail, required the repurposing of dishwashing gloves and a disinfectant spray staging area.

The rich imagination that was whining about senior moments and aggravation had turned on me. Everyday had become the Passover scene from the classic “Ten Commandments”. I worried about that creepy green mist, dropping from the sky and floating near my door. This fantasy was made even more unbearable because there were no guest appearances from Charlton Heston or John Derek telling it was going to be o.k.

April is here. I owe myself a Podcast. I think I’m going to talk about why we need brave and honest leadership during this crisis. It’s not really funny – but if you’re an old lady being stalked by the grim reaper – you might as well say your peace!!

The Hole in my Sock, the Knot in my tummy and My Trip to the Galveston Symphony Orchestra

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport
It was a sunny Sunday. It was one of those odd Texas days in the middle of the winter where a jacket was too much and a sweater wasn’t enough. I slept late, looked at my schedule and started toward an afternoon at the Galveston Symphony Orchestra.

Started and then stopped. One of the things that keep seniors locked into horizontal position is the dreaded morning inventory. It’s a common procedure. You sit in your easy chair with your morning cup of Joe and you catalog what hurts, what really hurts and what feels like its going to fall off. Often, before you start, you have been pre-warned of what might collapse. For example, you might be tired due to a bout of night leg cramps, or you’ve already had the first glimpse of that swollen ankle you thought yesterday’s diuretics had tamed.

So, I sat and realized my ambitious attempt at eating a full healthy dinner the night before had failed miserably. For although black-eyed peas are calcium rich, your morning commute to the bathroom might also become enhanced. My stomach was giving me fits.

At this point, I reminded myself that this trip to the symphony was critical to my mental health and a key component in my ongoing efforts to keep vertical. I admit, I have been struggling with my holiday poverty and was depressed in “ go to work and fake perkiness way”. I needed music.
I therefore, took a handful of Gas X, then swallowed a Tums, and prodded myself into the shower.

I dressed and then hit another more serious barrier. My socks – my good compression socks I had gotten with a near magical coupon on Amazon, had holes in them. I froze. After months of pampering them with Woolite, they were acting like regular socks without the ability to keep my legs from looking like baby elephant feet. Worse still – I was the world’s most inept seamstress. My poor eyesight had always made threading a needle, agonizing minutes of pushing a thread through a hole I could barely see.

I sat there grumbling as my stomach cried out for another Tums. Moreover, I began to do the one thing that would keep me home – I pulled the lever on my easy chair and laid back.

I sat there a few minutes and contemplated picking up the kiss of death for all outside activities – the remote control. I contemplated the real worth of my mental health in a world dominated by You Tube and Snap Chat.
Then I found the needle and thread, patiently closed the holes in my still very useful socks, picked up my keys and left my house.

Next Challenge
I was on a roll, once I got downtown to the 1894 Grand Opera House. I found a nearby free parking space and went to get early supper. To minimize my risk, I went to Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar, one of my usual haunts, owned by friends of mine. Because I wrote glowing articles about their food, I knew I would be greeted by smiles.

That all worked, until I realized that although I am sitting in a place with gumbo brimming with seafood swimming in a perfect dark roux, my tummy was screaming. Once again, I was tempted to go back home, grab a pot, make some nice soothing grits and grab the remote.
Oddly enough I was sitting next to the First and Second Violinist. They were all decked out in their appropriate black formal orchestra clothes and talking about the upcoming performance. I decided to screw my courage to the sticking place and order some steamed seafood.

This move was more extreme than you think. I have a hard a fast rule about eating messy food before events. And yet, I cracked those crab legs and peeled those shrimp, and dipped them butter while wearing my silver special event sweater. Then I walked to the Grand, fed, happy and ready to support my mental health.

I was richly rewarded for not allowing my aches, pains and fear from stopping me. Grace Park, a superb violinist, performed Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn in breath taking fashion. It was standing ovation worthy and whatever musical heaven holds Felix must have been startled by his enthusiastic clapping.

Between her performance, and the always delightful narrative of Conductor Trond Saeverud, I could feel the darkness and doubts fade slowly away. I realized that Weber, Mendelssohn, Debussy and Hindemith, probably had plenty of holidays where the carols were sung over empty artists bank accounts.

Leslie Bowman Photo of  GSO Conductor Tround Saeverud

When I finally got back home, I realized that the music had given me some much needed perspective. I am a writer – I will survive. But first, I need to find another killer coupon for new compression socks.

Millennials, Beer, Trivia and Hanging Tough

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

I am one of those geeks who bought multiple editions of Trivial Pursuit as soon as they came out. Jeopardy was “must-see” TV. My friends and family spent many moments staring at me in wonder as I blurted out weird international factoids. And yet, as I grew older, my zest for trivia competition had slowly been reassigned to sitting in front of a computer or phone screen. My introverted personality had discovered the perfect way to express my geekiness without interacting with humans.

My congregation started a once a month trivia night years ago. It was one of those things I knew I needed to try. It was good for my mental health, it was good to get out of the house – it was going to help me stay vertical. And yet, I passively watched the announcement each month and made excuses for not going.

This October I changed. I ignored my desire to turn on the television and sit in my chair. I did my paperwork the night before so I would not have an excuse to turn on the computer. I put my phone in my pocket and went downtown to play with other people.

I arrived at the craft beer place downtown and immediately had to fight the urge to turn back. My congregation wasn’t there. And the room was filled with young doctors from the university, young girls in yoga pants, and guys with trendy beards and flannel shirts.
When the bearded master of ceremonies came over and asked me what team I was going to play with, I lamely answered “Team Marsha”. He looked at me, explained the point system, gave a stack of white slips of paper and didn’t laugh at me.

I made up my mind to do this. I ordered a hot dog plate with some highly addictive fries. Although there was a board with a long list of craft beers, my current health regime limited me to a glass of water with snappy craft ice cubes.

I hid against the wall at my little lone team table, next to the designer bicycles of the other players. The only thing worse than their fitness was the trendy expensive bumble bee helmets hanging on their handle bars which signaled fitness, good sense and high credit card limits.

The game began and I was already a standout. The young folks had really cool team names blended with profanities and sexual innuendos. When teams were called, they all pivoted to look at who missed the point.

The contest itself was even more challenging.
For example, did you know that in 2005 Google sold a stock offering equal to a piece of the mathematical “Pi”? Pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. I was clueless. Did you know that Marie Curie named the element Plutonium after her home county of Poland? Hey, I thought naming it after the Planet Pluto was a reasonable guess.

Ultimately I did know that Exxon was the largest company in Texas. But I still missed the Exxon/Mobil part
No matter. I was out of the house for a couple of hours enjoying my geekiness in public. I may have to invest in a flannel shirt in order to fit in. But – I’ll be back!


The Danger of Turning “Us” into “It”

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

Encore Post: In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in El Paso and Dayton

Acceptance of the status quo has never been one of my dominant personality traits. Yet, when I received at lay-off notice from my social services job at the age of 66, my compliant self immediately overruled my warrior princess persona. I abruptly made a CVS run and grabbed a box of 100% Grey Coverage Espresso that would complement the red tones in my mocha skin.

This capitulation comes at a time in our society when labeling the “other” has evolved into a brutal, social media spectator sport. Voting Democratic or Republican has divided families and broken up relationships. Accusations of racism as a symptom of right or left leanings have conveniently obscured the fact that hate has no political party affiliations. Moreover, we have returned to old religious mythologies and a dangerous level of Anti-Semitism has grown back from the pruning of its murderous roots after World War II.

As a result, I instinctively knew that in a job interview, my resume would take a back seat to the visual of the “kindly old grey-haired black lady” who should retire and accept her new role cooking cornbread and greens.
All this nasty social discourse seems impossible to me as a US citizen. The last election cycle pushed the process into overdrive. No one has stopped yelling long enough to take a look at the U.S. Constitution and the intent of men like Thomas Jefferson. None of the Founding Fathers trusted party politics. Their own contentious personal relationships and party differences are well-documented. Despite that they formed a system with some elegantly simple attributes we have all appeared to have forgotten. Simply distilled: No one gets to be King and everyone gets to vote the bums out!
I have been a published journalist since I was a teenager. I am a realist and a cynic. As the result of writing in newspapers for years I have a real low bar of expectations for politicians. I believe that the Founding Fathers got it right. Politicians often screw up and we are here to vote to replace them.
My personal friendships have never included party considerations for those very reasons. I personally like and support folks who have integrity, pay attention to their constitutes needs, and genuinely serve the public. I am also pragmatic, I live in a small town and ignoring anyone cuts down your chances of a pleasant evening during a community BBQ.

In this emerging new world of technologically driven name-calling, we are devolving into rude tribes who swing words much like our ancient ancestors swung clubs. What used to be gossip about anybody now spreads as fact within minutes. We are reviving lynching by creating a world of social judges, juries and executioners. Obviously, destroying reputations, economic status or relationships is not a midnight ride with a rope. And yet, even children are committing suicide now due to social media bullying. The social “gang” effect is just as dangerous and deadly as mob rule was 100 years ago.

Perhaps the most pernicious component of this current state of social affairs is that we have been warned about the dangers of “group-think”. The mechanized, extermination of six-million Jews in World War II was preceded by years of “public social grooming” by a madman.
In short, I must cover my well-earned grey hairs and assumed I have been pre-judged before I walk into a HR office. Because I didn’t like gossip in the pre-tech world, I have no idea how else I have been labeled. Just the fact that I have friendships across party lines may seal my fate. But attempting to accentuate my brain, by faking my brain rug seems like a reasonable first step in invalidating the “it” label.

Encore Blog from my Essay Collection “Sharp Grey Edges” in English and Spanish on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Grey-Edges-Warrior-Essays-ebook/dp/B07CWJP5VD/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=sharp+grey+edges&qid=1565050372&s=digital-text&sr=1-2