Friday, September 11, 2009

a little more

When we first moved to Brooklyn we lived at the edge of a neighborhood that was predominantly African American. And. I have to say, that was hard for me. It was a safe, beautiful neighborhood. It had trees and playgrounds and kids. But I felt really white. Walking around I worried that my neighbors were wondering what I was doing there.

I took the bus to work everyday and I was often the only white face. I knew that I could just as easily take the subway and not feel like I stood out so much. But I liked the bus. I liked being above ground. I liked seeing the world go by on my way to work. And so, stubbornly, I got on the bus every morning. Some days I worried that someone would ask me to stop taking the bus. But no one did.

I took the bus to my job. Teaching. At a charter school. And most of my students were either African American or West Indie. My first year in Brooklyn was also the first year my school was in session. And when the parents found out how many teachers were white, they were not pleased. They wanted African American role models for their children. And there I was. With my white face. I remember feeling apologetic and desperately wanting to win them over.

At some point, in my first year, I forgot to check to the bus for white faces. I forgot to worry about standing out. I forgot my students weren't white and they forgot I was. One day one of my students came up to face staring at me and said, "Mrs. Rice! You're eyes are blue! Can you see out of them?" When Andrew was born and I took him into school to meet my students they could not get over that he was white.

It's been fascinating and good for me to take a better look at race and a better look at color. I've learned a lot about myself and I haven't always liked what I learned.

Anyway, this is coming up now because I made the 41 bus for my quilt. Turns out, it's an important little piece.

And then not as important, but still pretty fun: the ice cream truck!

This is our bagel place and a faux subway stop that is suppose to represent our trains and neighborhoods. The little buttons are suppose to look something like this.

And it wouldn't be a Brooklyn quilt without a row of brownstones.


Mama V said...

Lady Robyn -

WHOA! I'm am SO blown away by the details on your pieces! The windshield wipers on the bus -- brilliant! This quilt is looking more and more amazing by the minute! Now I want a city quilt!! (A city Advent Calendar will do fine, too...) ;)

Thanks for your honesty about your past school and living experiences. Being aware of that power differential that comes with having white skin is a hugely important part of dismantling prejudice in ourselves and racism in the world that many people are not always willing to do... (Taking off my Anti-Racism Training hat now.)

Still in awe of these details, my friend! Wow, wow, wow!

Goes On Runs said...

you are amazing. your quilt is priceless.

Seeking La Loba said...

I love how it's coming together.

Jennifer I. Walker said...

wow, Robyn -- that quilt is turning out to be amazing! Well done!
and I think taking note of the thoughts and ideas that we have is the first step. It doesn't do anybody any good to pretend their isn't a difference between all of us --in my opinion.
and real change can only occur when we first do some good, heavy self reflection. So, bravo on that, too!

Maritza said...

Great post. Love the details. Can't wait to see it completed.

PaperTurtle said...

Hi Robyn ~ I found your blog through your comment on Elise's class. LOVE your stuff! In fact, I've only commented on one thing in the Flickr group and as I scrolled through your blog posts I realized it was YOUR art journal project! Ha. At least I'm consistent with what I like! See you in class! :o)

firefly said...

Robyn, what a great post. I really appreciate hearing your reflection about your experience on the bus, thinking about race.

And I am glad you can see out of your blue eyes, because I'm loving the colorful quilt.