Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Moment in Blackness at Walgreens

The following is a copy of a complaint I sent to Walgreens in response to sub par treatment I recently received from this business. I would like to dedicate this post to my friends who believe we live in a post racial society. Yes, even your friend Francesca gets discriminated against. And now a moment in blackness...

Dear Walgreens,
I have been as patient as a customer can be with the pharmacy at your store on Church Avenue and E. 21st in Brooklyn, NY (11226.)
On June 26th I dropped off several prescriptions to the pharmacy. My dermatologist prescribed a few items that were not 100% covered by my insurance. I was fully aware of this and more than prepared to pay for the items necessary for my wellness. During my first visit (Wednesday, June 26th) a young female attendant (fairly young, looks like a West Indian of East Indian descent) scanned the prescriptions written by my dermatologist, typed data into the computer, and gave me the grand total. She was really nice, warning me that most of what I needed would have to be ordered so it would take a while to arrive. This was completely acceptable, since your pharmacy is small and one of the products I needed is fairly new and isn’t widely advertized.
On Friday, June 28th, my second trip to the pharmacy,  I dropped off another prescription from another doctor and went in to pick up my first order. On this day the young lady was accompanied by a tall, thick man with a lab coat. He had dark hair and light (not white skin.) I assume he is Latino or of Mediterranean ancestry.  While she input my new prescription, the man glanced at the screen, made a surprised face and said something to the tune of, “That is expensive. You sure you have the money to pay for it?” I was taken aback and responded, but calmly responded “Yes, the young lady here discussed the cost with me the other day.” I smiled and walked off, but deep inside I was fuming. How dare you ask that question to a customer, especially with the tone accompanying his statement? I really didn't have time to call him out on his lack of professionality; I was already late for work.
On the 30th I entered the store with every intention of picking up my remaining order. My third trip to Walgreens, however, was as unsuccessful as the one before. A tall, Asian man assisted me on this day. As he finished scanning my order I saw that it came up short of what the young lady told me it would be. Instantly I knew what happened because the “expensive” treatment didn't show up in my order. I ask why it was not ordered. I turned in the prescription and saw her scan it. What was going on? He replied, “It must not have been ordered because of its high cost.” I snapped at him, “If I ordered it, I can afford it,” swiped my card, grabbed my items, and left. Same treatment, different day, different associates. Is this the Walgreens way: make assumptions about affordability to clients based on physical appearance?
I visited Walgreens once again on July 3rd. Knots began forming in my stomach as I approached the store. My temperature began to rise as I walked to the pharmacy in the back of the store. I was relieved to see a black, female face (one that was relatable to mine) behind the counter. I asked her to check for my prescription. After reviewing my history she informed me that I had no pending orders. I repeat, after three visits the prescription was still not ordered! This last visit confirmed my suspicions of being discriminated against. I expressed my frustrations to the woman on register at pharmacy, going out of my way to assure her that I was just venting and was in no way attacking her personally. She assured me she understood. After speaking with the pharmacist in the back she told me my order would be ready for pick up on Friday, July 5th after 2 p.m. Feeling like the issue had been resolved I thanked her kindly, wished her a good day only to have her cut me off and ask it I was aware of the price. Did I not just go through this whole explanation of how everyone I spoke to didn’t put my order in because they didn’t think I could afford the medication? Surely this twisted way of dealing with customers, the lack of listening skills, professional courtesy, and blatant discrimination seems to be rampant at the Church Avenue and East 21st Street branch of your store. This is highly unacceptable and I do not have to tolerate it.
The contents of my pockets were assumed based on my color and my geographic location. After I fill this prescription and exhaust my refills I will take my business elsewhere, not even to Duane Reade, as I am aware of your recent merger. I do not deserve to be treated like a second class citizen based on the ignorant assumptions of others. I do deserve an apology. Walgreens, I’ll wait, but I won’t hold my breath. In addition to sending copies of this letter to the Church Avenue store, headquarters, and filing a complaint online, I have also posted this letter to my blog, as well as to,, and to in hopes that sharing my experience improves the service your employees provide to customers, especially in Flatbush, my neighborhood.
FHB, MS Urban Policy (The New School)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Olodum:Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building

I'm taking a really awesome class called International Black Social Movements.One of the class assignments is an "Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building Strategy." Sessy and nerdy at the same time, I know. Basically, it is a 20 minute in-class multi-media presentation that requires the explanation of the political philosophy, mission, program, constituency, leadership, and outreach strategies of the assigned organization, in addition to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization’s outreach strategies and suggestions for improvement. On top of this we had to find a counterpart organization for coalition building. It was a lot of work, but I must admit I had fun doing it! I gladly put my PDR (Professional Decision Report, "AKA" my Capstone Project) to the side and dug in deep.

My organization was Olodum, a Brazilian samba school and social activist organization. I was familiar with them before research  I just didn't realize it. They are the drummists in Michael Jackson's hit ”They Don't Really Care About Us,” one of my favorite MJ songs! Aside from musical accomplishments such as creating samba reggae, having one of the largest and most renown samba schools in Brazil, and kicking it with the King of Pop, Spike Lee, and Paul Simon, Olodum has an activist and social service component that makes me admire them even more. They are an exemplary organization, capturing the attention of the world through creative cultural expression.

I selected the Backstreet Cultural Museum as a counterpart organization. The similarities (Carnival based, cultural manifestations and pageantry, humble beginnings, and disenfranchised communities) between the two organizations were numerous and would create a really create partnership.

Below you will find my presentation. Don't judge. It's my first Prezi. Hope you enjoy!

Paz, poder, e amor (peace, power and love)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Frozen (East) Flatbush

Posters at Kiki's Memorial
(taken by yours truly)
In the dead of March, on the cusp of spring I get news that East Flatbush is ”frozen.” Jack Frost is not the culprit. In fact, he hasn't been much of a burden this winter. Smack in the middle of Brooklyn, a ”freeze” was put in effect by NYPD due to recent protests in the name of police injustices towards Kimani "Kiki" Gray and all young, black men. Never in my lifetime did I believe that I would live so close to the implementation of ”Marshall law,” a temporary lock down of civilians in order to control the flow of people, especially protesters and media. 

This comes to a surprise to me, for obvious reasons; this sounds like the stuff movies are made of, a policy of far away lands!!! Also, because after Hurricane Sandy ('AKA' Frankenstorm) I recall a conversation I had with my friend "J" pertaining to this very issue. We spoke about NYC's preparation and response to the storm in terms of effectiveness and equitability. J's concern was more about how the distinct boroughs were locked down so quickly. Guards were placed at bridges to deter people from getting on and tunnels were closed almost instantly. These plans were implemented for public safety, of course, but J was concerned about other circumstances that could warrant such treatment.  The City could lock us down anytime they pleased, specifically during protests and uprisings. I was a bit dubious, but here I am five months later with a live example 30 blocks from my home. {Sorry I doubted you, J. Soy necia, ya tu sabes.}

The corner where "Kiki" was shot seven times,
murdered by undercover NYPD cops.
(taken by yours truly)
I will admit I found out about the protests via Facebook. My timeline, the ultimate informant of what's happening in my 'hood and beyond featured links from RTPolicy Mic, Gothamist, and Kreep NYC (this link would not load on my computer or cellphone.) A Google search didn't yield any more information than Facebook provided. No coverage from any major news source, only from the Indy news circle, bloggers, and YouTube.  If it weren't for these sources I'd be completely in the dark about last night's riot and arrests

More cops than people on Church Ave and E.55th St.
(taken by you's truly)
Tonight "D" and I went to the vigil on Church Ave. and 55th Street. Police were in full effect for a 30 block span, dressed in riot gear. Helicopters swarmed overhead. Media vehicles from Univision, CBS, and other major news outlets were present. So much for the lock down! (There are even doubts floating around about Marshall law ever being implemented in the past few days.) There were so many young people there...and no one engaging with them. From the memorial we headed to a church for a meeting, only to meet people leaving with disappointed looks on their faces. From what we gathered, there were two factions present: cop huggers and justice seekers. Consensus building is one of the biggest barriers to creating change and both sides proved this to be true. 

Tonight in my Black International Social Movements, one of the major topics of the night was levers of social change. My professor, Robin Hayes, explained the 6 steps in finding balance and eventually shifting power.
  1. Cognitive liberation- spread awareness about an issue.
  2. Coalescence building- creating community with people who have similar awareness and action plans.
  3. Identification of targets- who can make the changes you want to see?
  4. Fulfillment- mark achievements (and failures) of plans.
  5. Repeat- move on to the next issue, beceuae we know there are lots more to cover!
  6. Adaptation- everyone isn't on the same page, so change is constant.
We are lingering somewhere between steps one and two. It is time to complete these steps and move on to the next one.  NYPD has been stopping  frisking, imprisoning, and killing youth of color for way to long. We should have had our shit together by now. I fear how long it will take, how many more lives will be stolen, how many more vigils will we have to hold before we can coalesce on a rudimentary level and progress toward some form of positive change. Who is down for putting an end to this issue? Do you know of any organizations that currently seriously are working on this issue? If so please share below.

In the meantime, rest in peace Kimani.

Memorial for Kiki on E. 55th and Church Ave, Brooklyn
March 14, 2013
(taken by yours truly)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vote for "Can't Hold Me Back" as the 2013 People's Choice Winner

I had the honor of befriending Betty Bastidas when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. She was filming "DreamTown," a piece that speaks to how Afro-Choteño youth rely on fútbol ("soccer" for you crazy Americans,) a one in a million opportunity, as their only way out of poverty. I admired her talent for capturing the voices of people who were often overlooked by society. Her new piece, "Can't Hold Me Back" is yet another reflection of this talent.

Set in Detroit, MI, this documentary "follows Fernando Parraz as he becomes the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. With a mountain of roadblocks stacked against his educational achievement, Fernando finds support from an unlikely figure: his father — a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes."

I hope you enjoy this piece and vote it as 2013 People's Choice Winner at