Confederate Memorial Protest TOMORROW: why I am speaking out and rising up

Tomorrow my wife Tracie and I will be protesting the Confederate Memorial of the Wind in Orange, Texas (Martin Luther King Dr. and Interstate 10) from 3 p.m. until sundown. (Please click here for protest details in case you would like join.)

We will be joined by members of Orange County Young Democrats and Southeast Texas Progressives. The last time we gathered at the site (on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last month), we were also joined by passersby. We hope to have an even larger crowd tomorrow. I’ll have plenty of bottled water and extra signs for anyone who wants to join us.

Earlier this week, a friend of mine in Houston asked me why this particular Confederate monument concerns me so much. There are historic Confederate monuments in Houston, he pointed out. Why don’t I protest those? he asked.
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Happy anniversary Tracie my love, look at what we’ve done…

Happy anniversary, Tracie, my love!

Our anniversary date was actually Wednesday, January 31. But we are celebrating and treating ourselves tonight, Friday, with a babysitter and Japanese dinner, one of our favorites.

It was eight years ago, this week, that you and I were married. You’ve given me, through your love and partnership, the best years of my life — the richest and the most wonderful of my 50 years. As your husband, partner, and father to our daughters, I have experienced a depth of emotion and fulfillment that I never could have without your faith, solidarity, and affection.

I love you and know that I am blessed to have found you — through wine blogging, no less! With barely any money in my pocket and a rickety old used Volvo filled with some clothes and a couple of guitars, I set out from Los Angeles nearly 10 years ago and drove across the country to start a life with you. It was the smartest thing I ever did.

As I put together your anniversary YouTubication together this week, I remembered the videos and songs we would send each other when were first writing to each other in 2008. By the time I got to Texas at the end of the year, our hearts and minds were filled with hopes and dreams of what we could build together.

Eight years since we were married, look what we have done! Our daughters are happy and healthy, they are loved and they know that they are loved. We are building a financial future together, day by day. And along the way, we are teaching our children the importance of community and learning, compassion and awareness of the world around us.

But the thing that I am most thankful for is our ability to face even the greatest challenge together. Man, what a year 2017 was! We literally feared for our lives as water lapped up against our home in Houston. And we spoke out, loudly and with conviction, against the rising tolerance of intolerance. Over the last 12 months, we reached deep down into the bottom of our souls and found the strength and courage to face the unimaginable.

I never would have become the man I am without you, picci wicci. I never would have known the joy we have shared without your faith and love.

I love you. Happy anniversary.

Confederate Memorial Protest Sat. Feb. 10 in Orange, Texas: please join us, please share…

Join us in PROTEST of the Confederate Memorial in Orange, Texas:

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10
location: Confederate Memorial of the Wind (Google map)
time: 3 p.m. until sundown

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE REPURPOSE EMAIL NEWSLETTER to receive event details and updates.

Please visit the Repurpose blog.

Please like the Repurpose Facebook page.

ABOUT THE REPURPOSE MOVEMENT:

The Repurpose movement and blog were founded in December 2017: through protests and lobby efforts, we advocate for the repurposing of the Confederate Memorial in Orange, Texas.
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No, we won’t get the f— out of here! Scenes from MLK march and Confederate monument protest

Yesterday at 3:00 p.m. sharp, I stood at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and U.S. Interstate 10 with two black women in Orange, Texas. We were the first to gather at a protest of the recently erected Confederate monument there. We were the only ones who had arrived at that point.

A pick-up truck with two men in it pulled up to the light and rolled down the passenger’s window. The driver, a large white man with light facial hair and a baseball cap, motioned for me to approach the truck. He then asked me what we were doing there.

“We are protesting the Confederate monument,” I replied. “We feel it is offensive to the community. We would like for the site to be re-purposed.”

“Get the f— out of here,” he yelled at me menacingly. “Get the f— out of here,” he shouted again, raising his voice even louder with an extremely aggressive tone.

He rolled up the window as he stomped on the gas and sped away.

“You could count the number of negative responses to our protest on one hand,” said one of the event’s organizers, Louis Ackerman, president and co-founder of Southeast Texas Progressives.

It’s true: during the two hours we were there yesterday, the overwhelming number of people who drove by gave us the thumbs-up or waved in solidarity.

But that man’s reaction and face continue to sear in my mind.

That’s my wife Tracie in the photo directly above. Reverend Franklin Gans, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, is standing next to her. She went to high school in Orange with his daughter. He and Tracie’s father, Reverend Randy Branch, worked together for years at the Dupont oil refinery there.

Earlier in the day, our family had joined the NAACP for its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march. Randy and Jane, my mother-in-law, joined us, as did aunt Ida and uncle Tim. And of course, our daughters Georgia and Lila Jane marched with us as well (we didn’t take them to the protest that afternoon, for obvious reasons).

The local ABC affiliate did a story on our protest. Please check it out here. Linda, who is featured in the segment, was one of the women standing with me on the corner when the man in the truck rolled down his window.

Our numbers are growing and we are not going to stop until we get that site re-purposed. Stay tuned for details and please message me if you want to help or join us in our campaign. Our next protest will take place in a few weeks.

And please read this excellent column published yesterday by Evangelical Christian and conservative essayist Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush and a longtime Republican.

“Racism is not a single issue among many to be weighed equally with tax or trade policy,” he wrote on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. “Trump is at war with the central ideal of the Republic — a vision of strength through inclusion and equality that makes our country special and exceptional. The president is wrong — repeatedly and offensively wrong — on the centerpiece question of our history: Are there gradations in the image of God? The only acceptable, only American answer is ‘no.'”

The only American answer is “no, we won’t get the f— out.”

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support and solidarity. Stay tuned.

“We must see racism for what it is.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over…”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Tracie and I were readying our signs for the NAACP Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March today in Orange, Texas where she grew up, I re-read the civil rights leader’s landmark speech “The Other America.”

The title alone, pregnant with meaning both historical and topical, was enough to make me leap from my chair.

And the following passage resonated like a kettledrum in America’s current cacophony of political discourse:

    There must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. And we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is. It is the nymph of an inferior people. It is the notion that one group has all of the knowledge, all of the insights, all of the purity, all of the work, all of the dignity. And another group is worthless, on a lower level of humanity, inferior. To put it in philosophical language, racism is not based on some empirical generalization which, after some studies, would come to conclusion that these people are behind because of environmental conditions. Racism is based on an ontological affirmation. It is the notion that the very being of a people is inferior.

50 years have passed since King was murdered at age 39. And today we will march to honor him and his legacy.

I highly recommend this New York Times article, published yesterday, on black Americans’ “frustration and disappointment about the direction of the country.”

I also encourage you to visit and browse the Stanford University Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute website. If you can’t march in solidarity today, please take time out to read one of his speeches.

Happy Martin Luther King Day! May G-d bless America, may G-d bless us all.

Image via the National Park Service Flickr (Creative Commons).

MLK MARCH and Confederate monument PROTEST Monday in Orange, Texas: please join us!

Please join Tracie and me on Monday, January 15 for the NAACP Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March in Orange, Texas.

We will be meeting at Solomon Johnson Park at the corner of 2nd St. and Turrett Ave. at 12:30 p.m. for line-up. March will begin at 1:00 p.m.

Following the March, Tracie and I will be organizing a protest at the Confederate memorial at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. and Interstate-10 (northwest corner). We are tentatively planning to meet at 3 p.m. and will stay there until sunset.

Here’s my email address if you need more info and/or want to coordinate a ride to Orange for the march and protest.

Yesterday evening the president of Southeast Texas Progressives Louis Ackerman and I met with the local chapter of the NAACP in Orange. Among the action items on our agenda, we discussed our family’s ongoing efforts to repurpose the Confederate memorial being built in Orange by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Texas Division. I’m happy to report that its board gave us its blessing in continuing our fight.

I’ve been researching the origins of the monument and I’ve discovered that the story behind the site is much more complicated than meets the eye. I’ll be writing about the memorial in coming weeks as more pieces in the puzzle come into focus. Please stay tuned: I’m confident that many readers will be surprised by what I’ve found.

The bottom line: despite what many have written and what many believe, ORANGE RESIDENTS DO NOT WANT THIS MONUMENT AND THEY WANT IT REPURPOSED. That’s all I can reveal at the moment…

PLEASE JOIN THE PARZEN FAMILY AT THE MARCH ON MONDAY AND PLEASE MEET US AT THE MONUMENT SITE AFTERWARDS FOR OUR PROTEST. WE ARE ENCOURAGING PROTESTERS TO USE QUOTES FROM MLK FOR THEIR SIGNS. WE WILL BRING EXTRA SIGNS FOR MARCHERS AND PROTESTERS. PLEASE SEE THE NAACP FLIER BELOW. HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY!

Top image via Wikipedia Creative Commons. Lower image courtesy of the NAACP Orange Branch 6211.

Protesting racist iconography in Southeast Texas: a recent effort and upcoming MLK march in Orange (TX)

Image courtesy of Southeast Texas Progressives.

On Wednesday of last week, my wife Tracie and I stood for two hours on the corner of Interstate 10 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. in Orange, Texas in protest of the Confederate memorial being built there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Texas Division.

We organized the gathering together with Southeast Texas Progressives, an advocacy and activist group created by its founders so that they and we could have “a place to express our shared ideals and political views without fear of being insulted or mocked.”

Here’s the Facebook group. Feel free to join and/or PM and I’ll invite you to join.

Here’s the Facebook page. Please like us and share in solidarity.

Our four-person protest was covered by both the Beaumont Enterprise and the Orange Leader. (Beaumont, Orange, and Port Arthur form what is known as the Golden Triangle in Southeast Texas.)

To get an incomplete picture of how our activism was received online, I encourage you to read the comment thread on the Enterprise site.
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Parzen Family Christmas Letter 2017

One of the most remarkable things about 2017 was that it snowed in Houston this year! That hadn’t happened since 2009. We were living in Austin then, we weren’t yet married, and neither of our girls had been born.

I happened to be in Los Angeles that day but when I spoke to Georgia (in the photo above) the wonder in her voice belonged to a girl whose wish had come true: to see the snow, a desire she’s been talking about for a few years now (especially after we watched the movie “Frozen”).

Georgia turned 6 a few days after the snow fell. She’s been enjoying her first year of kindergarten at a music magnet school and she loves her violin teacher (we love her, too). But her great obsession in 2017 has been the musical “Hamilton.”

She’s always been a big fan of musical theater (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?). But there’s something special about her determination to learn every line in the show, to master every nuance of delivery, and to perfect the cadence and intonation of her performance. As the year comes to a close, it seems that she’s memorized nearly the entire score.

Lila Jane turned 4 this summer and her favorite form of artistic expression is dance. That’s her (center) at her mid-season dance recital earlier this month.

She’ll spend hours upon hours in our living room performing her personally choreographed ballets. But she’s equally devoted to her painting and to doing puzzles (something she has an impressive knack for). She’s also begun to develop her motor skills. She and Georgia got their first bicycles this season and I can’t image it’s going to be long before her training wheels come off.
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Happy birthday Georgia! You are six years old today!

Happy birthday, Georgia Ann Parzen! You are six years old today! And your mommy, daddy, and sister love you so much!

Today is your actual birthday but we had your party this last Saturday so all of your friends could come.

That’s you with your friends Suhani (above on the left) and Sylvie. They had so much fun at your party and so did we. Mommy made you Nutcracker cupcakes, cookies, and cake. They were delicious! Everyone enjoyed them.

My goodness, Georgia Ann, you are such a special little girl to me and your mother.

You started kindergarten this year and you’ve really been enjoying your violin lessons at the music magnet school you attend in our neighborhood. Hearing you draw the bow across the strings of your instrument for the first time was one of the proudest and joyous moments of my life. It really and truly was.

You’re really into Broadway musicals (who would have ever thunk it?). Currently, you love to sing all the songs from “Hamilton.” You listen to the music over and over again and you memorize all the words and you practice the delivery until you get it just right. My GOODNESS, Georgia Ann Parzen, you are just like your daddy! When we are driving around Houston in our minivan, hearing you belt out the tunes at the top of your lungs fills me with unimaginable joy. I love that about you, sweet girl.

This year, you’ve been learning to read; you’ve been learning to write; you’ve been learning addition and subtraction… You are always brimming with a thousand questions for me: what does this mean, daddy? how does this work, daddy? where does this come from? why is the world the way it is? Every day, it seems, you and I sit and discuss the world around us and I giddily look forward to the next question. You are such a bright and inquisitive little girl. You couldn’t make your father more proud. You really couldn’t.

But the thing that fills me with the greatest pride and happiness, sweet Georgia Ann, is your deep empathy. You are such a polite little girl and you know how important politeness is to me and mommy. But you also care deeply about your family and friends and all the people around you. You comfort people when they are sad. You share your toys with your sister when she’s grumpy. And when your daddy cries at the front door before he leaves on a business trip, you always tell me not to be sad and that you love me.

Sweet Georgia Ann, I am so frightened of the way the world is changing around us. When mommy and I read the news about the growing tolerance of intolerance and the way our politicians and religious leaders are abandoning common decency and humanity for the sake of building walls, keeping people out, and keeping people down, I am afraid that you will inherit a world where people like you and me won’t enjoy freedom and safety the way we deserve. Yes, sweet Georgia Ann, you are like me and there are many people around us who don’t like people like you and me. But we will always have each other. We will always have our love, our smiles, our songs, our knock-knock jokes, and our stinky feet. No matter how sad I am about the world outside, your smiles and your hugs and kisses remind me that the good in this world can’t be destroyed by the mean people — no matter how hard they try.

Georgia Ann, today is your birthday and tonight we will eat jelly-filled donuts as we celebrate the day you were born and we light the first candle on our menorah.

That’s a photo of you from when you were one year old below, Georgia. You are such a good little girl and the miracle of your life is the greatest thing I have ever known. I love you, Georgia. I love you… Happy birthday! I can’t wait to celebrate with you tonight!

Your loving and adoring father, Jeremy

Parzen family is thankful for… (Happy Thanksgiving)

The Parzen family has a lot to be thankful for this year.

We’re thankful that our house didn’t flood and we were all safe in Hurricane Harvey.

Thankful that Georgia got into the music magnet school and she is enjoying her violin lessons.

Thankful that Lila Jane is enjoying her last year of preschool as she grows into a “big girl” who loves writing songs, singing, playing “guitar” (ukulele), and dancing.

Thankful that Tracie’s business is expanding and mine continues to thrive.

Thankful that everyone in our extended family is healthy (knock on wood).

But most of all, we are thankful to have each other.

Even as we have faced personal and professional challenges this year, we always know that we can come home to each other and to the loving, wholesome home that we share together in southwest Houston.

Even in the face of our nation’s ongoing political turmoil, the seemingly unstoppable rise of ethnic and religious intolerance in our community, and the continuing decay of civil discourse in our nation, every one of us — Georgia, Lila Jane, Tracie, and daddy — has each other to count on and to love.

It’s been the worst of years, it’s been the best of years. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. G-d bless and G-d speed in fulfilling your dreams.