Eyes Open #10

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

A week ago, after days of anxiety-inducing uncertainty, a new president-elect was confirmed, alongside the first female vice president-elect in the nation’s history, a woman of color who will inspire countless people (and has already inspired an entry in this series).

Less than two weeks ago, voters went to the polls — and many others had already mailed in their ballots — and some historic candidates were elected (but not nearly enough). At a time when it feels like the country is on a tipping point in so many ways, to see deserving people put themselves forward and then succeed at taking office is a marvelous experience.

One of those historic candidates appears in today’s puzzle, is pictured below, and is now the highest ranking transgender official in United States history.

us state senator sarah mcbride

Today’s puzzle is meant to celebrate her and other elected officials who represent the LGBTQIA+ community, not only serving as advocates for a constantly embattled and persecuted group of underrepresented individuals, but standing as shining beacons of possibility, visibility, and change. They are trailblazers, people who fought the good fight, came out victorious, and proudly worked even harder to fulfill those duties with honor, integrity, and diligence.

There are five noteworthy names that appear in this puzzle. We hope that in years to come, we can return to this subject and make a much larger grid with many more names to celebrate. For now, this will have to do.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these intrepid individuals who are boldly pushing outward the boundaries of representation in this country.

eyes open 10 puzzle grid

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.

Eyes Open #9

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

The media we consume can have an incredible influence on how we feel, what we’re exposed to, and even what becomes common knowledge. For instance, many viewers were completely unaware of the Tulsa race riot of 1921 until it was featured in HBO’s Watchmen TV show.

One of the genres that reveals the most about who we are and what drives us is horror. Horror movies are a reflection of modern society. They reflect not just our fears, but our expectations, our biases, and our most primal emotions.

And minorities, whether people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, or both, have never been treated well in horror cinema.

Most black characters in early horror films were portrayed as servants or savages. With the advent of films about dark magic and zombies, black people were featured as the monsters, in addition to servants or savages.

Ben

[Image courtesy of Keith & the Movies.]

It wasn’t until 1968’s Night of the Living Dead that we had a black character in horror who wasn’t just competent, but heroic. And, sadly, even he comes to a bad end before the film is through.

The 70s ushered in a new era in black horror, as blaxploitation films exploded onto the scene. Although they reinforced many negative stereotypes about African-American culture, they still provided a platform for black performers and black filmmakers alike.

The introduction of slasher movies in the 80s pushed black characters in horror back into the background. Never serving as lead characters, often treated as fodder for the killer or sacrifices so the white characters could escape and live to fight another day, there were few bright spots in this period.

Often, the most horrific, violent, and unnecessarily gruesome deaths are reserved for minorities. Even into the 2000s, you could easily point out the most horrendous deaths, and invariably, a member of an already mistreated social, gender, or ethnic group is the victim.

Many times, expressions of sexuality are considered deviant and punished. And sadly, for decades, LGBTQIA+ individuals (not to mention women making their own sexual choices) were lumped in as deviant and punished in equally brutal fashion.

get out

[Image courtesy of The Wrap.]

2017’s Get Out has been treated as a coming-out party for black horror, but in truth, it stands on the shoulders of brave entrepreneurs who forced Hollywood and mainstream audiences to accept black characters as more than monsters, filler, or fodder. Representation both in front of and behind the camera is getting better, but we still have a long way to go.

And sadly, transgender characters are just as vilified and victimized. Their sexuality and identity is used either as a shock reveal (Sleepaway Camp, Homicidal, House at the End of the Street) or as motivation for murder (Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, Dressed to Kill). You virtually never encounter a trans character who is simply treated as a person.

Horror is a spotlight, rooting out our fears and presuppositions, demanding that we face up to them. It is a small reflection of the bravery of those who speak up, who protest, who stand for the rights of others, by dragging these subjects into the light of day for all to experience.

Today’s puzzle may seem like a seasonal digression from our previous efforts, but it’s meant to celebrate the films and filmmakers who have helped transform, shape, and guide black cinema across decades.

As author Tananarive Due said in the Shudder documentary Horror Noire, and as we’ve quoted for the title of today’s puzzle, “Black history is black horror.”

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about the role that black horror plays not only in cinema, but in society as well.

eyes open 9 puzzle 1 grid

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.

Eyes Open #8

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

With one of the most consequential elections in our country’s history looming large, I wanted to dedicate a puzzle in October to African-American political campaigns, and it wasn’t hard to find inspiration.

The subject of today’s puzzle never stopped breaking new ground, crashing through glass ceilings, and blazing fresh trails for both women and African-Americans.

She was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was the first black woman elected to Congress, eventually serving for seven terms. She would hire only women for her office.

But her greatest challenge was vying for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972.

Battling racism and sexism alongside the better-funded campaigns of George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and segregation-happy George Wallace — as well as the negative rhetoric of doubters like Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, and Louis Stokes — she ran an impressive campaign, though she failed to win the nomination.

“When I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.”

The title for this puzzle comes from a statement by Robert Gottlieb, who served as a congressional intern for her and helped design the campaign poster quoted in today’s puzzle.

Her influence and impact cannot be overstated.

There’s no trick or gimmick to today’s grid. It’s a straightforward exploration of an intriguing individual at a crucial moment in our country’s history.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about this fascinating individual on your own.

eyes open 8 grid pic

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.

Eyes Open: Puzzle #7

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

Two months ago, I dedicated a word search puzzle to some of the many, many victims of police violence, including links to news stories, updates on many of the investigations, the (occasional) consequences for the officers involved, and the heartbreaking lack of response from governing bodies to do anything about this.

Moreover, I was left staggered by the number of names I’d only heard in passing, or names I’d never heard. I wanted to return to the subject of these names in another puzzle, but not until I had an idea for the puzzle itself that said something about this crisis.

I found inspiration in a dark place, when I realized that even the most attentive and diligent people following these stories would be hard-pressed to remember every single name.

EdRf1aBU0AAH_4B

Even this picture barely scratches the surface.

So I started working on this puzzle. The thematic element of this puzzle proved very challenging to realize in a satisfying way, and I would work on it for a while, then put it aside, then return to it and polish and deconstruct and reconstruct and work on it again. Eyes Open puzzles #5 and #6 were both created and posted while this puzzle was being labored over.

I finally feel like the puzzle is ready for readers. I hope that this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about the names in this puzzle, and the many names yet to receive their time in the spotlight.

I’m also including links here, here, and here with more information about the individuals mentioned in the puzzle. They can serve as a solving hint or as further reading once the puzzle is complete.

eyes open 7 puzzle 2 image

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.

Eyes Open: Puzzle #6

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

In today’s puzzle, we turn our attention to a different social movement to support other marginalized members of our society.

This week, news broke regarding the upcoming season of the latest Star Trek show and the decision to represent two long-ignored groups through both the actors cast and the characters they will be portraying.

This is a wonderful step forward in exposure for individuals and groups who are rarely allotted any screen time at all, offering a platform to inform, educate, and celebrate personal identity and gender diversity.

Star Trek has been synonymous with inclusivity for decades now, so it’s wonderful to see that tradition continue into the 21st century.

The Original Series famously featured one of the first interracial kisses on American television. After planning to leave the show after the first season, actress Nichelle Nichols was convinced by none other than Martin Luther King Jr. to continue working on the show:

Star Trek: The Next Generation continued to ask difficult questions and provide a platform for representation. Gender fluidity was brought to the fore in one episode where Dr. Crusher fell in love with a male Trill diplomat. The Trill are a symbiotic species where the host body can change, so later, when her partner is transplanted into a female body, the question of gender identity is examined.

In another episode, the Enterprise encounters an alien race with no specified gender, and “deviant” members of the society who identify as one gender or another are persecuted. The episode was a powerful conversation starter, one that served not only as a metaphor for the LGBTQIA+ community, but for gender identity as well.

Deep Space Nine continued to push forward, bringing back the Trill in the form of series regular Jadzia Dax, a Trill who had been both male and female in previous forms. Her heartfelt reunion with an old Klingon friend became a meme of positivity and acceptance years later for transgender individuals:

curzon

And now, the newest iteration of the long-running franchise continues to push forward, helping to bring underrepresented and long-dismissed groups into the mainstream. In a time where many groups feel persecuted and unheard, it’s nice to focus, if only for a moment, on a positive story like this.

There’s no trick or gimmick to this grid. It’s simply a celebration of representation and potential, two things that the Star Trek franchise have embraced for decades, and continue to welcome with open arms.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these wonderful actors and characters on your own, as well as the topic of gender identity.

eyes open 6 puzzle image

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.

Eyes Open: Puzzle #5

CHSBLMJune82020-28

Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.

The puzzle I intended to post today wasn’t ready for print, unfortunately. But thankfully, inspiration struck in the form of a woman who made history this week, and hopefully will do so again in a few months.

I know that this individual can be a controversial figure based on your own personal beliefs, particularly with regard to some of the laws she has sponsored in the past — one of which is mentioned in this puzzle — but there is no denying that her influence, character, and spirit are worthy of celebration in crossword form.

There’s no trick or gimmick to this grid. It’s a straightforward exploration of an intriguing individual at a crucial moment in our country’s history, populated with some details about her career.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about this fascinating individual on your own.

eyes open 5 puzzle 1 revised pic

[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]

If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.

I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.

Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Believe women.
Black lives matter.