These are not men. They are racist cowards. Help us raise an MLK billboard over their newly built Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas

On Friday, June 5, the U.S. Marine Corps posted the following statement on its Twitter:

    The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps. Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society. This presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline. This must be addressed.

On that same day, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, banned public displays of the Confederate battle flag in any form in “an order that extended to such items as mugs, posters and bumper stickers.”

Not long after the violence in Charlottesville, Granvel Block and Hank Van Slyke began displaying the Confederate flag on Martin Luther King, Dr. in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up, where her family still lives, where we visit often with our children — and where half the population is black. The flag is featured prominently, within view of Interstate 10, on their “Confederate Memorial of the Wind.”

See their flyer, below, which they used to raise funds for the construction of the “memorial.”
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G-d bless George Floyd and his family. May he give us the strength to “remain awake through a great revolution.”

Photo by Lorie Schaull (via Flickr Creative Commons).

Today, less than three miles from our home in Houston, Texas, George Floyd will be remembered by family, friends, and dignitaries at the Fountain of Praise Church.

Early this morning, Manny Fernandez, the New York Times Houston bureau chief, published this biography of Mr. Floyd. I highly recommend it.

I can’t stop thinking this morning about how George Floyd is a Christlike figure. Reading the story of his life, I learned that he had lost his way in his own desert before he decided to devote himself to helping others escape the chains of growing up poor and disenfranchised. Like Christ, he became a true martyr for social change when he was killed by those police officers. And his name, like that of Jesus, is today spoken by people across the world as a synecdoche for failed justice.

In June, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a commencement speech at Oberlin College in Ohio. The title was “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Dr. King’s words resonate as deeply today as they did on a June day 55 years ago:

    Let nobody give you the impression that the problem of racial injustice will work itself out. Let nobody give you the impression that only time will solve the problem. That is a myth, and it is a myth because time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that the people of ill will in our nation — the extreme rightists — the forces committed to negative ends — have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic works and violent actions of the bad people who bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, or shoot down a civil rights worker in Selma, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.

G-d bless George Floyd and his family. May G-d give us the strength to “stay awake.”

PROTEST: Sons of Confederate Veterans “Memorial of the Wind” SATURDAY JUNE 13 in Orange, Texas.

Please join us in PROTEST of the Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas (at Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. and Interstate 10, north access road):

Saturday, June 13
Confederate Memorial of the Wind
(Google map)

10 a.m. – 12 p.m.


to receive event details and updates


Tracie and I were already planning a protest of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ “Memorial of the Wind” in Orange, Texas when some young people from the city contacted us yesterday asking how they could help.

Initially, we had planned to stand up by ourselves. But after our call yesterday, we’ve decided to publicize the event and try to get as many people out as we can.

Thanks to our Martin Luther King Day 2020 GoFundMe, we also have enough money to raise another billboard across the street from the memorial which stands on MLK Dr. in eye’s view of I-10 — the eastern gateway to Texas.

We plan to have a new billboard up in time for the June 13 protest and Juneteenth (June 19).

The protest is focused on the newly erected Confederate memorial but we welcome Black Lives Matter and George Floyd justice protesters as well. Please join us. Any and all are welcome. We just ask that you wear a mask and social distance.

Not long after our MLK Day protest (January 20) but before the pandemic brought life in the U.S. to a halt, Granvel Block, one of the chief organizers of the memorial, appeared in my father-in-law’s church at Sunday services. He claimed that he wanted to change churches and that he was attending different services in his search for a new place to worship. Reverend Branch (Randy, Tracie’s dad) gave him the benefit of the doubt and welcomed him. But we all know what’s going on.

Like a pedophile testing the waters, Granvel was clearly gauging whether Randy would be a pressure point that he could use to make us stop protesting their insidious racist iconography.

We believe that Granvel was the author of an anonymous defamatory letter sent to Tracie’s then 97-year-old grandmother (you can read it here; be advised that it contains sexually graphic content). It gives you a sense of just how sick and cowardly Granvel and his partner Hank Van Slyke are.

I’ve only spoken to Granvel once by phone when he threatened to “kick my ass.”


Across our nation, Confederate memorials are being removed. Your days are numbered.

How we talk to our kids about racism in America and a list of antiracist resources.

Above: 60,000 people marched alongside George Floyd’s family yesterday in Houston. He was born and raised in the city’s Third Ward.

Our daughters, ages 6 and 8, are nonplussed by some of their parents’ dinner table conversations these days.

“Why would anyone be mean to someone because they are black?” asked our youngest Lila Jane the other night.

After all, they live in what the Los Angeles Times has called “the most diverse place in America,” a city where they and their parents interact with every gradation of humanity every single day.

Tracie and I are trying our best to raise them as antiracists. But at their age, it’s hard for them to grasp the terrible legacy of racism in the U.S.

How do you explain to an eight- and six-year-old that a black man from our city, not much younger than their father, was brutally killed by a police officer simply because they suspected him of possessing a counterfeit $20 bill? How do you explain that three other police officers stood idly by as the man begged for his life and passersby pleaded with them to relent?

The other night at dinner they asked us point blank what had happened to George Floyd and why.

I make a living by speaking and writing. My friends often tease me that I always have something to say about everything under the sun.

But my voice failed me in that moment. I know the answer but I could not summon the words to articulate the explanation in a way that they would understand.

It will take years for them to wrap their minds around the disgraceful, ugly history of racism in our country.

“Some white people don’t like black people,” I told them.

“Why, daddy?” they asked.

“Because some white people think they are better than them,” I said.

They love their black classmates, they protested, clearly confused by what I had just told them.

“Some white people are mean to black people because they think they are better than them,” I said again.

“Why would someone be mean to my friend L [her classmate] at school?” asked Lila Jane.

“I don’t know the answer,” I said.

“But, daddy, you know everything!” said Georgia.

“I wish I did, sweetheart,” I said running my hands through Lila Jane’s long lockdown hair. “I wish I did.”

Tracie and I are trying the best we can to teach them how to be antiracists. But right now, the best way we can do that — we believe — is by example.

A good friend of ours asked me to share the below resources here on the blog. It arrived in his inbox via via The New Happy.

I’m still searching for an answer for our girls. Someday I hope to find it. In the meantime, we’re trying to be “better ancestors.”

Thanks for being here and please have a look at the links below.


“It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” — Angela Davis

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — MLK Jr.

What it’s like to be a black American wine blogger: “It was like a slap in the face, but yet just another reminder.”

The following post was published on Friday by my friend and fellow Houston wine blogger Katrina Rene, author of The Corkscrew Concierge, on her Facebook. She has graciously allowed me to share it here (image via Adobe Stock).

I have been approached by a few people now asking what they can do. What should they say? I honestly don’t know. But…

I can tell you that I’m mentally exhausted and pissed as hell!

I can tell you that the anger and depression has taken my breath away and left me speechless with a great sense of futility.

I can tell you that my husband and I have had these conversations so many times that it’s as natural as “what’s for dinner?”

I can tell you that it cuts me to the core to listen to my husband telling my daughter (b/c I can’t do it!) that people won’t like her, not because of anything she did, but because of what she looks like.

I can tell you that while my daughter can understand such a message, my son (who has his own challenges) will be a different story altogether when his time comes.

I can tell you that I worry about my son, lose sleep because of his challenges, and know that the world will be so much more dangerous for him.

I can tell you that my husband is always outside in front of our house and frequently walks the neighborhood with the kids so that people recognize him and know that he “belongs” there.

I can tell you that if my husband has to knock on a neighbor’s door to return a package, lost pet, etc. he always takes one of the kids with him because he’s “scary” on his own and someone may assume he’s there to do them harm.

Speaking of our neighborhood, I can tell you that my deed restriction still has the old “racial restrictions” clause that only permits people of the “Caucasian Race” to dwell there. I was shocked to see it still there (with a line neatly drawn through it) when I built my house and it was like a slap in the face, but yet just another reminder.

I can tell you that my husband dresses “a level up” wherever he goes because he understands how he is perceived and that the same rules don’t apply to him.

I can tell you that I initially didn’t want my daughter to play tennis because no else there looked like her and I was afraid she’d be singled out. I can tell you that when she used to play matches, I would hold my breath if there was any sort of disagreement because I feared someone treating her badly.

I can tell you that my husband has been pulled over while “driving black” – not speeding, no broken tail light, etc. for almost an hour while the “peace officer” looked for something, expected him to react, but then eventually let him go. I guess he was lucky.

So just imagine if all of these things factored into your daily life, affected the most simple, basic decisions you had to make, and was always there in your consciousness. It’s 2020 and this is our reality. And sadly, ours is better than many.