The Author of Boy Erased Hopes His Experience in Conversion Therapy Makes People Angry


Focus Features

“I’m aiming an arrow directly into the heart of America.” That was Joel Edgerton’s promise to Boy Erased author Garrard Conley from the very beginning when Edgerton began writing and directing the film adaptation of Conley’s vulnerable memoir about his experience with “conversion therapy.”

By: Elena Hilton\

It was a risk for Conley to share his story in the first place, let alone allow other artists to interpret his life in the form of an Oscar-hopeful movie. But thankfully he took the leap, because the trauma he endured at Love in Action, an “ex-gay” Christian ministry that attempted to change people’s sexual orientation, is something that America desperately needs to recognize.


Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C. have laws to protect minors from “conversion therapy” practices, and the Trump-Pence administration’s bigotry-laden rhetoric and policies are a stark reminder that the fight isn’t over. “We’re getting so close to the finish line that I’m becoming more radical and more of an activist each day,” Conley says.

Conley’s Southern, ultra-Christian upbringing—his father became a Baptist preacher in their small Arkansas town when Conley was a teenager—is similar to so many other LGBTQ adolescents who are still being told they’re wrong for who they are. The hope is that this film, along with Conley’s 2016 book, will open people’s eyes to the real effects that bigotry has on lives.

Prior to Boy Erased’s limited theatrical release (it opens in theaters this weekend), I sat down with Conley to talk about what it was like seeing his memoir translated into a Hollywood film and how he’s used his experiences to become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

Joel Edgerton directs a scene in Boy Erased Focus Features

Joel Edgerton proved right away why he was the best person to adapt Boy Erased.

At first I was very nervous about the whole thing, partly because I hadn’t met a lot of movie stars—I’m just not in that world, I’m a writer. Just going into the meeting with Joel was stressful, but then I was like, “He’s a straight guy, what’s he going to do the story? We’ve been burned before.” But at our first meeting he asked to meet with other conversion therapy survivors in addition to me, and I loved the fact that he wanted to hear all of our stories.

Plus, I had just watched Loving, which he was in. It was a movie about the first interracial marriage and all the legal battles that went along with that, and he was using that publicity tour to talk about marriage equality now, much to the detriment to some of the family that was involved with the making of that film because they didn’t actually want that. [Edgerton] was like “I don’t care, I’m not going to work with a film that doesn’t recognize bigotry across the board.” So I already knew that he was a good ally, but he also asked if I wanted to write the script. I said I couldn’t write it again for a different audience and I don’t know how to “Hollywood-up” a story. So he wrote a script really rapidly, and throughout the process he made me feel better by always sending me the drafts of the script and asking if there was anything problematic or anything that didn’t feel right, and he would change it anytime I said there was an issue.

Conley fought to keep the ending of the movie similar to his real-life experience.

I think there’s a natural desire to have Russell Crowe’s character [Crowe plays Conley’s father] to come around and show what that kind of acceptance would look like. And I can see why that kind of editorial vision would exist, because it gives parents a path for rehabilitation. But I strongly argued for a closer truth, which is that it’s still complicated, and my dad’s not completely there yet. The film might lose a bit of money because it doesn’t have the redemptive arc for the parents that the studio originally wanted, but I pushed pretty hard on making it complicated at the end because I knew other survivors hadn’t had happy stories with their parents. So [Edgerton] changed that, and one of the producers was like, “Well, we might have just lost millions of dollars, but good job with your principles.”

                  Author Garrard Conley on the set of Boy Erased with Lucas Hedges

Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

He was blown away by Lucas Hedges, who plays him in the movie.

Lucas is a dream. The first time we met, we were walking around DUMBO, and he said, “You know, I wasn’t going to do this, but do you want to come back to my apartment and talk?” He still has a room in his father’s [director Peter Hedges] house. So we went over there and he invited me into his childhood bedroom and said, “If you’re going to show me everything, then I need to show you everything.” And then he showed me his copy of my book, which was marked up on every page. I felt it was the greatest tribute someone who was going to play me could do. I was already pretty convinced, and then when Lucas started to share his identity on the spectrum with me—he wasn’t quite aware of where he was, but he knew that he wasn’t entirely straight—that was the last hurdle where I thought, “Okay, this guy can play it.

He’d explained to me a sense of shame that he’d felt, and he later talked about it in the New York magazine piece, and he wasn’t really specific about it, but he did tell me he that he thought he was fluid in some way. So he had the shame aspect, and the actual identity, so that was going to play well on the screen. And he’s phenomenal in it. [His performance] is understated in many ways, but it’s very accurate. The way he’s able to depict fear and shame on his face is actually really terrifying. He’s my favorite thing in the movie. Just watching him is mesmerizing.

Writing the memoir was an emotionally draining, but necessary, experience.

Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family

I had to really look at it like a story, which is hard to do, because you have to cut through all the trauma and, in many ways, the false memories you’ve created to get over stuff and to go back to those places mentally which is incredibly difficult. And it’s harmful for the people around you—my boyfriend at the time suffered through a lot of episodes where I was not okay. He was always like, “Why are you doing this to yourself, why are you writing this?” And I didn’t always have a clear answer to that, it was just that I had to.

Any time you turn anything into a story, you lose the “life-iness” of it, because you’ve got to shape it into art, and that feels uncomfortable because it’s all true, all these things happened, but you’re shaping it for an audience. It feels like a bit of a sacrifice because I’m very precious with my memories and my internal account of things. And whenever you’re told that you’re crazy or corrupt in some way, you’re a little suspicious about putting it out there into the world again. But I did it because, from the very beginning, with the book and this film, the project has been to make something compelling enough to drive the conversation forward. I’d seen the same old arguments and the same old depictions of conversion therapy over and over again, which is it’s a joke, it’s a farce, and it’s not true. It’s soul murder, and I wanted that story to be told.

The memoir was released before Trump’s election, and Conley probably wouldn’t have written the same version now.

It’s a very anti-LGBT administration. It was so different, rhetorically, to humanize people like my parents or even the [conversion therapy] counselors when Obama was president than it is right now to humanize them, because it’s almost asking too much empathy from people who feel like their lives are on the line. I don’t know if I would have written the same book right now. I think I would have been angrier and I might not have been so forgiving, so it might actually not have worked as well to write it now.

There is kind of a weird irony in the fact that because all the stuff came out about Mike Pence supporting conversion therapy, it’s actually made conversion therapy a headline and now it’s easier to get people’s attention. I wouldn’t say I’m grateful for it, but it’s an opportunity. It’s unfortunate, but this is something the right has been invested in for a very long time. They’ll throw [the LGBTQ community] under a bus at any moment just to score political points.

We’re definitely at a turning point. It’s either going to go, hopefully, in the way of, “Let’s stop pretending respectability politics exist and let’s be as radical as we need to be in order to get shit done,” but it could easily go the other way.

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in Boy Erased Focus Features

He hopes people realize that conversion therapy and toxic masculinity affects everyone.

One of things I always say is conversion therapy doesn’t have to be done in a facility. If you’re taught to be a “certain type of man”, to act a certain way, and you’re taught by authority figures that being gay is evil, then that’s conversion therapy too. Conversion therapy can function as a metaphor for the kinds of brainwashing that we’ve all been given. Once you’re done looking at everyone’s side of the story, you can begin to see a system in place that harms everyone.

I often think about how I feel ashamed to be a man in this culture, and I talked to a trans activist named Thomas Page McBee who wrote Amateur and Man Alive about those feelings, and he was like, “You need to consider the fact that you’re harming yourself whenever you believe that masculinity is one thing and that it’s just the toxic brand.” It was just so eye-opening to hear that from someone like him who’d grown up conditioned to be a woman, then transitioned to a man, and had to deal with all that bullshit. I realized we need to look at the systems in place, and those systems can turn people into monsters.

Activists should recognize that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Faith is such a strange thing. It can be an incredibly powerful tool to survive something and it can also be something that keeps you locked in a fundamentalist worldview for a very long time. It covers up the moments of doubt. Getting out of that system is incredibly difficult. There are a lot of activists who call for people to move out of their towns and go somewhere else, but they’re often forgetting that people don’t have money, they don’t have the social capabilities to even do that without getting lost in the shuffle.

They also kind of ignore the psychological toil that comes from splitting from everything you’ve ever known. It’s not easy, and I think in larger metropolitan areas there can be a tendency to forget what it’s like to be on the ground in many of these towns across the country, and even if we don’t want to, we have to educate people who have perpetuated this bigotry from the very beginning.

Garrard Conley and his mother, Martha, on the set of Boy Erased Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

Conley’s own relationship with the South and Christianity is still evolving.

I try to be a strong voice for the South being a complex place, because I do believe there are pockets of real, amazing, radical work that’s being done in the South. Even in the more fundamentalist communities, there are people within that are fighting the good fight. That being said, I think the South and many churches have not reckoned with their past. There are affirming churches who do not talk about what they did in terms of conversion therapy and the lives that were lost as a result of the choices that they made, and I call bullshit on that.

They need to hold themselves accountable, just like they did in terms of how they treated other races or what they did with slavery in the past. They should continue to talk about that, because unless you do, you’re not going to have any moral standing whatsoever. You’re trying to say “come here, learn how to be a good person,” but how are you going to do that if you don’t address the horrible things that you’ve done to the [LGBTQ] community? And if you just say, “I did it out of love, but it was wrong, and I’m sorry,” then that’s fine, I’m okay with that. But you’ve got to say something.

In terms of my own personal faith, I’ve actually begun praying a lot more lately, which is an unusual and unexpected development. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, but I do feel like I’m in a very intense position with a lot of responsibility in terms of how I represent the survivor groups, how I represent LGBT people through the culture at large, and how I can end conversion therapy, while not sacrificing our community to do so. Because that’s incredibly confusing and scary to me, I’ve just started praying, and I don’t know who I’m praying to, but I try to just ask for guidance in some way.


Is Punk the New F Word?



The word has been used to bully gay black boys for decades.

By: Charles Stephens/ The

I have always associated creativity with a sense of pleasure, and simultaneously, a sense of danger. Self-expression in my mind conjures feelings of the forbidden. Perhaps much of this comes from my Southern black boyhood, as I started to get the sense there was safety in assimilation and considerable risk in being too free.

“Don’t be a punk,” I was told. I imagine many others like me heard this as well. The phrase served as both correction and warning.

Around 7 or 8 years old, I first started hearing other things like “Don’t laugh too hard” or “Don’t smile too much.” I was commanded, “Don’t sit that way” and “Don’t speak with a lisp.” And the most epic one of all: “Don’t cry.”

Being forced to withhold emotion early on stunts us for our entire lives. These are the ghosts that haunt us into adulthood. It’s no wonder so many of us — especially black boys — become people who struggle to articulate our feelings. The words are beaten out of us when we are kids


Please Click on the Link Below for the full story


Thirteen sure-fire ways to lose your French friends

Thirteen sure-fire ways to lose your French friendsPhoto: nullplus /Depositphotos

If you want to keep your French friends, then DO NOT do anything on this list.
There’s a myriad of irritating things you could do to put off potential friends pretty much anywhere, like ordering the most expensive thing on the menu and asking to split the bill, or retelling that one story no one laughed at in the first place.
But there are some that might particularly get on the nerves of French people and are best avoided, unless of course your aim is to use this list to intentionally annoy your French coworkers, friends or partner (which we’re not condoning).
Do all of these and you’ll be on track to being the least popular Anglo at the soirée.
1. Get sloshed at an apéro
Photo: contrabland/ Flickr
Although “le binge-drinking” is alive and well in France, apéro culture is a whole different ball game. Don’t mistake this for a house party, at the apéro (short for apéritif), the nibbles aren’t just there to help you absorb the alcohol, and you’re actually meant to have a civilised conversation.
Downing liqueurs like shots and dancing on the tables might firmly cross you off the guest list for next time.
2. Sit inside at a café, meaning they can’t smoke
Photo: razvanphoto/ Deposit photos
Every season is terrasse season in France. When it comes to siting to eat or drink outside while having a smoke or watching people go by, the French become impervious to the elements.
Your French friends might not appreciate making them move inside, so make like the locals, wrap yourself up in a big scarf and find a spot near the heater if you can.
3. Insist bien cuit is the proper way to eat steak
Photo: Michael Stern/ Flickr
It might physically pain a French person to cook a steak until it’s bien cuit or “well done”. In France, it’s the bloodier the better, and asking for steak beyond à point (rare to medium rare) is only for tourists who ‘”ruin” the flavours.
If you really want to lose their respect, ask for très bien cuit, we dare you.
4. Refuse to go and watch French films in the cinema
France is proud of their cinematic heritage, so watch your popularity plummet as you decline their invitation to go see the latest French art house film saying you’d rather go watch Die Hard on DVD at home.
Photo: wavebreakmedia/ Deposit Photos
5. Laugh at their French accent
We might think the French accent is sexy and cute, but the French can be quite sensitive about it.
They tend to mock each other for having imperfect English accents, so what you might have meant as a light teasing could go sour.
6. Think it’s funny to say ‘sacre bleu’, ‘zut alors’, ‘mon dieu’ 
Photo: kues/ Depositphotos
French people really love when you say hackneyed phrases no one really uses to them. Try it out and see how many eye rolls you get from your French pals.
7. Break with cheese etiquette
Photo: Reddit/Facebook
Having cheese as a starter, asking if they have any crackers, cutting the cheese however the hell you like. All big no-no’s according to French norms on cheese eating and could provoke the ire of purists, like when one French mum broke with convention on Camembert cutting (pictured above).
8. Say you love France (when you only mean Paris)
Photo: tsyganek/ Deposit photos
Little will rile non-Parisian friends more than equating the capital with the whole of France, they might snap back at you with the old phrase “Paris is not France and France is not Paris“.
9. Say the bread at the supermarket and boulangerie tastes the same
Photo: grafvision/ Deposit photos
There’s a reason the fresh bread section of the supermarket is so small, strictly for emergencies and convenience only.
Bread from supermarkets like Carrefour is not to be compared with “the real thing” from the numerous local bakeries.
10. Say you’re envious of their ‘easy’ 35-hour work week
Photo: AFP
Everyone knows the 35-hour week is a myth, the average French person puts in 39 a week and certainly won’t thank you for bringing out the old “French workers are lazy” stereotype.
11. Turn your nose up at French cuisine 
French people, by and large, will tell you they’re proud of their country’s cuisine, so wrinkling your nose at a boeuf bourguignon and asking if you could go get sushi or tacos instead won’t make you many pals.
12. Tell them you’re a vegetarian (or worse, a vegan)
Photo: p.studio66/ Deposit photos
Meat free diets are gaining in popularity in France, especially in bigger cities, but in the wrong crowd, telling French people you can’t share their planche mixte might get you some concerned looks.
13. Make jokes about them going on strike all the time 
“Hey if you don’t like it, why don’t you strike about it! Because you’re French…get it?”
Your French friends are unlikely to be impressed by your spot on observational humour. Unless they work in the transport sector, they’ve probably never been on strike in their lives. Save the jokes for friends who work in SNCF or AirFrance where they might at least hit the mark.
By Rose Trigg

Eight weird habits you’ll pick up in Germany

Eight weird habits you'll pick up in Germany
In Germany men sit down when taking a pee. Photo: DPA
When you go back the homeland for your Christmas hols don’t be surprised if people look at you a bit funny – you’ve probably picked up one of these peculiarly German habits.

Not crossing the street until it’s green

Berlin’s famous Ampelmann. Photo: DPA

In the Anglophone world it might seem like perfectly reasonable behavior to step out into the road if you’ve scoured both horizons and not found a vehicle in sight.

But in Germany it’s considered downright reckless – and a bad example to children, who might be watching out of windows even if they’re not there beside you on the street.

Give yourself a few months and you’ll be waiting with the crowds for the little man to turn green – if you don’t, prepare to get shouted at.

Saying hello and goodbye to shop owners

A small late-night convenience store. Photo: DPA

It would seem downright rude to ignore a shopkeeper or cashier in Germany, even if you don’t end up buying anything.

Germans may not be known for their friendliness, but they never fail to greet you as you come into the convenience shop, grocery store or pharmacy and almost always sing a melodic “Tschüß” as you walk out the door.

Perhaps it’s because shops tend to be smaller and thus feel more intimate than they do in the US – just imagine greeting all of Walmart’s workers as you walked in.

Clapping when the airplane lands

It’s always an entertaining clash taking a flight from the US to Germany and witnessing the German half clapping upon landing while the rest look around utterly baffled.

                                                 Photo: DPA

Especially when there’s a bit of a bumpy ride beforehand, it’s actually quite a nice gesture to show appreciation to the folks upfront who managed to bring an enormous, flying metal bird back down to Earth safely.

Obsessively collecting bottles for Pfand

Getting Pfand for empty bottles. Photo: DPA

Germans take recycling seriously – as you can tell by each apartment complex’s courtyard dedicated to an elaborate system of specific bins.

Beginners’ German classes sometimes even spend time explaining the process, almost as a matter of German pride.

But on top of that, supermarkets make it extremely easy to turn in bottles for their Pfand deposit and immediately get the cash reward through automatic machines.

Thus you will see long queues of folks on weekends awaiting their chance to earn a few extra cents per bottle – and huge collections of bottles amassed in each German’s household, rich or poor.

Simply tossing a beer bottle in the normal garbage bin would feel almost sacrilegious when you know the next passing bottle collector could put it towards their next meal or good night’s sleep.

Sitting while peeing

For men, sitting down is a must. Photo: DPA

If you come from the barbaric Anglophone lands where the lesser sex still stand up while doing a number one, you may have to deal with weeks of passive aggressive muttering from German flatmates before they finally concede their ire at the fact you don’t bend the knee when taking a pee.

This isn’t just something that will bother female flatmates, German males are often just as insistent. In fact it’s an issue taken so serious,one landlord recently took a tenant to court over it.

Throwing in English words while speaking German

                                                Photo: DPA

German culture is so heavily influenced by American culture that sometimes it seems like every second word has been pinched from English – even for words that already exist in German.

After a while you’ll feel that it’s too weird to use the actual German word you learned so diligently in school and start using the English one instead – but with a heavy German accent to it of course.

Being totally cool with nudity (and mixed sex saunas)

Naked sunbathing in Munich. Photo: DPA

This is the one that us prudish Anglo-Saxons probably take the longest to get used to. But it is accepted – if not widespread – to be naked in certain areas at the beach or by the lakeside.

If you are a member of a gym in Germany you will also have to get used to the fact that you’ll be the only one wearing speedos in the sauna if that’s how you choose to go about it.

And there’ll be naked members of the other sex too. This is one habit that is sure to cause a storm if you take it back to the Anglo world with you.

Having lightning speed hands at the cash register

She’s never as decisive as when packing her shopping. Photo: DPA

When you head to the checkout counter at grocery stores in Germany, you have to be both physically and mentally prepared. Those cashiers don’t mess around. And no one is going to bag your food for you like stores in the States.

Nope. German grocery store checkouts are survival of the fittest, a competition between consumer and cashier to see if you can keep up with their lightning-speed hands, throwing veggies, milk and eggs across the scanner as you scramble to pack things in a bag before they read out your total.

Those who are too slow should expect frustrated sighs and passive aggressive watch-checking from both the cashier and the customers behind them.

The quirky Spanish habits you can’t help picking up if you live in Spain

The quirky Spanish habits you can't help picking up if you live in Spain

If you’ve moved to Spain, chances are you have picked up some Spanish habits. How many of these do you do?


Kissing people – even strangers

Photo: Simon Blackley/Flickr 

Kissing as a form of greeting is an alien and often horrific concept for Anglos, who would much prefer a firm handshake or, even better, a head nod. After living in Spain, however, you’ll become accustomed to greeting total strangers in a much more intimate way than you ever imagined.

Swooning over random kids

Stay in Spain for any considerable length of time and before you know it, you´ll be swooning over random babies in cafes, restaurants and on the street. In Spain, children are treated like royalty and it’s not uncommon to see total strangers stop on the street to fuss over babies, pinching their cheeks and smothering them with kisses.  It might be a good idea to tone it down when you go home though, or you might get a few funny looks.

Eating late 

Photo: Swaminathan/Flickr 

Ok, everyone knows this one, but it is true. After living in Spain, the eating times in the UK, USA and practically everywhere else on the planet seem far too early. Spaniards typically eat lunch between two and four and don´t even think about dinner until around 9pm. So going home to your mother´s 6pm dinner might be a little bit hard if you’re used to the Spanish style.


Archive photo: Shutterstock

Forget swearing like a trooper, the real phrase should be swearing like a Spaniard. Everyone in Spain, from sweet little kids to frail old ladies, peppers their everyday conversation with enough swearwords to make a sailor blush. So beware, the longer you live in Spain, the more normal you’ll think it is to drop rude words into everyday conversation.

Barely tipping

Photo: Francisco Gonzalez/Flickr

Spaniards barely tip, not because they’re mean but because there is no real tipping culture here. They might leave a few small coins but more often than not, you will find yourself scooping up the entire plate of change.

Treating everyone else on your birthday

Photo: Cat/Flickr 

While Spaniards may not tip, they are particularly generous when celebrating their birthdays, but unlike in other countries where you can expect your friends to buy you drinks all night, here it is the job of the birthday boy or girl to treat all their friends. So, the day you take your own cake into work and treat your friends to your own birthday drinks, you know you´ve gone native.

Cancelling if it’s raining

Photo: Fernando García/Flickr 

Northern Europeans are used to living the majority of their lives under a haze of light drizzle, but it rains so seldom in most parts of Spain, a bit of precipitation is more than enough of a reason for Spaniards to cancel their plans to leave the house.

Being direct

Photo: a2gemma/Flickr 

Spaniards have a knack for telling it like it is and they are certainly not ones to mince their words. Being told you’ve put on weight or are looking a bit rough is all par for the course when working and living with Spaniards. Just be careful not to take your new direct attitude home with you or you might alienate a few longstanding friends when you tell them just how much they’ve aged.

Following seasonal rules

Photo: Rodin/Flickr 

Spaniards are sticklers for following strict seasonal rules. Despite the fact that it’s still swelteringly hot in much of the country in September and even well into October, all the outdoor swimming pools close their doors at the end of summer. Winter rules also apply: even if the beginning of December is quite balmy, Spaniards will make sure they are wrapped up, and Spanish grannies wear their huge fur coats until the official end of winter in late March.

Eating standing up

Photo: Cristina Valencia/Flickr 

While the concept of eating at your desk is alien to most Spaniards, who like to enjoy a proper sit down lunch, they do love to eat tapas standing up and, if possible, crammed like sardines into a tiny bar. You can tell the good tapas bars by how packed they are, condensation on the windows and people spilling out of the door onto the streets. After living in Spain you’ll have sharpened your elbows enough to push through the crowds to the bar as well as any Spaniard.


The Local

RACE: We need to talk

My initial reaction to the Starbuck story was wow, followed by are you mad?

I agree with CEO Howard Schultz, we need to talk about race, however at business? envision long lines heated discussions, with regular Starbucks customers caught in the middle.

I have a child who works for Starbucks.   Like their father, they have strong opinions and they are not intimidated by discussions of race.

Race is one of those polarizing issues. People are passionate because they want to be understood and because of this passion (that some confuse with anger) people are afraid of the topic.

For nearly ten years I have played cards with a wonderful group of people.  I am the only person of color in the group. In fact, I think I’m the” black” person they know.

Through the years we have shared many personal stories and despite our history, race is an area we haven’t touched.  Even when we discuss the president, some of the group is uncomfortable as if the President was my relative.  I’m sure they talk about race in my absence.

Starbucks CEO Wants Employees to Talk about race



This is 2015 Right? 

I’ve never lived in a mono community.   My friends come in many hues and backgrounds.   I was part of the second wave of integration in the 60’s and 70’s.   As a child, we knew we weren’t welcome in the homes of our friends and it didn’t matter.  What mattered was our friendship, some I’ve maintained for more than 40 years.  I do see color and it doesn’t matter.

It was important that my children lived in a multicultural community.  People who live in South Natomas, or South Sacramento are less fearful of people who don’t look like them then those who live in the mono suburbs.

Recently I at a venue with friends in the Bay Area.  I was sharing story of a large Chinese wedding  that I recently attended and making light hearted comparisons of this weddings with weddings of other groups and backgrounds.

See Hooked on Stereotypes

One person, a very attractive black woman in her early forties took my breath away as she a study in stereotypes. From Asians, knowing Kung foo, to all Italians being in the Mafia to Jews being cheap, I was astounded.    If it were 30 years earlier I would be standing on a table screaming at her making everyone uncomfortable.  I have matured and asked her about her background.

I learned she was from the southeast.  She was born and raised in a black community, and despite her education and work environment, all of her interactions are with black people.  She seemed to be a little suspicious of the blacks who were interacting with whites at the venue.

Her story is more common than not. Most neighborhoods are segregated.  It is uncommon for whites to move into minority neighborhoods.

The importance of Dialogue

I’ll say it again.  I do see color.  I am very aware when I am the only black or person of color at an event.   Because of interactions with other groups, I am not uncomfortable being the only black person.   I’ve learned we have more in common than less.

Talking with non blacks I’ve learned why some people are uncomfortable communicating with someone who doesn’t look like them.

Learned not to lay in wait for someone to make a mistake and attack because most people aren’t malicious, they simply don’t know any better.

Learned to give myself a break, because of  I don’t know all the cultural and social norms or every group in the world  AND and to ask questions.

Silence breeds misunderstanding forcing some to rely on stereotypes.

I’ve learned most people are honored that you genuinely want to know about them and their background/culture.

However, we must think and pause before we ask .  There are incendiary questions. We must think and pause before we ask .   How many different daddies?  Are you legal?  Is everyone in your family rich?  Are you a member of the Taliban?  Where you molested as a child? 

When people talk they begin to understand and in short time of those racial barriers begin to fade.  You learn, that you don’t need to know their language(ebonics) or take a crash course on slang.  You simply come as you are.





China: Ancient villages, cultures reported being lost

The village of Jiazhao in northern China’s Shanxi Province, surrounded by cement and gas plants due to its close location to Taiyuan, the capital, suffers constant, severe air pollution. The village is known for its exquisite brick carving, which is one of the intangible culture heritages in China.

By Lu Feiran/Shanghai

THE beauty of ancient Chinese villages, as well as the cultural and natural heritages they left, is fading in the face of modernization, according to a field-trip research that spent the past seven months exploring around the country.

The 13-people team was led by three men — designer Liu Fanggang, traditional Chinese painting artist Sun Jinlong and Chen Yu, president of Modocom Group. They visited 91 villages, stretching from Heilongjiang Province in the northeast to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the west and Hainan Island in the south.

“We had expected to focus on the relationship of nature and villagers in the countryside, including the architecture, lifestyle and folklore,” says Sun. “But we were heartbroken to find that many of the villages have disappeared or are in the process of disappearing.”

Some villages are almost vacant as all the young people have left to work in big cities. Yanwo Shanzhuang in Anhui Province is a typical case. The nearly 600-year-old village on the top of a mountain has only 11 residents left. Except for a primary school student and a junior high school student, all the villagers are middle-aged or seniors.

“There used to be about 100 people in the village,” says Chen. “The villagers built the stairways from the bottom of the mountain to the top by themselves, and grew tea trees for a living.”

The village has 34 typical ancient Huizhou-style buildings, but most lack maintenance and aren’t needed anymore. Chen says many families moved out for the sake of their children’s education.

“Originally there was a school in the village,” says Chen. “But in 2000, the school was merged with another one down the mountain, so students had to climb the mountain every day.”

Chen says the village actually had very high potential as a tourist destination because of the Huizhou-style architecture, but due to its remote location, no developers are willing to invest.

Meanwhile, other villages have disappeared because of urbanization. When the team reached the village of Lulei in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, they found the 730-year-old place had been almost completely demolished to make way for the new Fuzhou Rail Station.

Valuable ancestral hall

The village is the hometown of Chen Jingrun (1933-96), a mathematician who made significant contributions to number theory. But like most of the buildings, the former residence of Chen was bulldozed into debris.

The research team noted that the only valuable construction left in the village is the ancestral hall of Chen’s family, which is as old as the village itself. More than 1,000 memorial tablets of the family’s ancestors are placed in the hall.

Locals told the team that earlier last year, the entire village, including the hall, was sold to a developer by the government, arousing wide controversy. Eventually the government compromised and started a new master plan for the village.

The team found in some places that even though some villages remain, the living environment of the residents is threatened. For instance, the village of Jiazhao in northern China’s Shanxi Province is close to Taiyuan, the capital. Surrounded by cement and gas plants, the village suffers constant, severe air pollution.

“The village actually is very beautiful because of its brick carving, which is one of the intangible culture heritages in the country,” says artist Sun. “All the housing has delicate brick carving as decoration, but the natural environment is not good enough.”

The villagers told the team that maybe in three to five years, the village will be moved.

Yinjiao, another village in Shanxi, also greatly impressed the research team. It lies deep in the mountains near Taiyuan. The more than 300-year-old village is surrounded by forest and has retained its original appearance and landforms. When the village was first built, residents relied on the silver mine nearby, and that’s why it was named Yinjiao, literally meaning “silver angle.”

The village has Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) architecture, including a temple for Avalokitesvara Buddha, with a detailed fresco painted with natural mineral pigments.

“The villagers told us that Yinjiao is the only completely preserved village around,” says Chen. “There had been more beautiful villages nearby in the mountains, but they disappeared due to all kinds of reasons and the artistic architecture didn’t survive, either.”

Team members say they expected that through the journey, they could attract developers, designers and government officials to plan for restoration.

In 2013, Feng Jicai, president of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, said on a forum that every day nearly 100 villages in China disappear.

“Ancient, traditional villages contain the legacy of Chinese agriculture civilization,” he said. “But with the development of the society, the primitiveness of the villages as well as the culture attached to it is collapsing rapidly, and it is calling for our protection.”

Liu Wei, vice chairman of the China Institute of Interior Design, has been devoted to preserving ancient towns and villages in the countryside for years. He says the best way to protect the countryside is to return to its original style and features.

But developers and regional governments, which have strong economic incentives to build, sometimes are doing the opposite.

“I think we should learn from the locals, history and lands with a humble mind,” Liu says. “From my experience, villagers have strong awareness of protection of the old cultures and buildings.”