Eyes Open #20

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 school year is beginning to wind down, and for many, thoughts have already turned to graduation and summertime and destinations beyond high school.

Unfortunately for some, even years later, systemic racism spoiled not only graduation and college plans, but followed them beyond the halls of high school.

In Mississippi, the school district of Cleveland was sued twice (once in 2017, once in 2019) by students who alleged that there were racial reasons behind them being denied academic achievements.

One case is detailed in today’s puzzle, but I can give you details on the other. Jasmine Shepard sued the district in 2017, claiming that she was named co-valedictorian with a white student with a lower grade-point average, denying her the title of valedictorian.

Shepard was not informed of certain options regarding class availability — something white students WERE informed of — and a clerical error awarded her “co-valedictorian” more points toward their GPA than were actually allowed.

The judge wrote, “There is no dispute that rank points were improperly assigned or that these improper assignments negatively affected Shepard,” but unfortunately, since the errors were deemed accidental and not intentional, it was the ruling of the court that this case didn’t meet the requirements of a civil rights violation.

The subject of today’s puzzle suffered similar treatment, losing out on scholarship opportunities after a dubious “quality point” system affecting students’ GPA caused her to lose out on the Salutatorian honor to a white student.

The school district claims there’s no conspiracy here, and that clerical errors were responsible for all of these problems, but that’s not good enough. College acceptance isn’t just too expensive, it’s also insanely competitive, and these mistakes (whether racist or clerical) still caused genuine, tangible damage to the potential futures of these young women.

Through bias or stupidity, they screwed hard-working students out of opportunities. And screwing people of color out of opportunities is absolutely a systemic problem, in this school district and many others around the country.

This may seem like a minor thing, but it’s just another in a countless chain of examples where these “small” errors contribute to a system that makes everything harder for people of color, no matter how diligent and dedicated they are.

In this country, every child is told if you work hard and keep at it, good things will follow. But that’s not always true, is it?

Today’s puzzle isn’t the cleanest crossword I’ve presented for Eyes Open, but it visually represents, however clumsily, what has been going on in this school district and others for too long.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for other ways we can reform school systems to better serve students of all backgrounds. The real world isn’t fair, but the school world should be.

eyes open 20 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 #19

CHSBLMJune82020-28

[Trigger / content / trauma warning. We discuss the circumstances of the deaths of several people of color in this blog post. Please be aware before you proceed.]

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

Originally, I was planning a puzzle about WWE, WrestleMania, women of color, and hypocrisy. Because that is a rich topic worthy of discussion.

But as I started the puzzle, it felt like a paltry thing to focus on when so much else was happening.

We had the Derek Chauvin case about the murder of George Floyd. And then Daunte Wright. And Andrea Hollingsworth. And Ma’Khia Bryant. And however many more stories we haven’t heard yet.

And I started thinking about the circumstances of all of these deaths and terrible acts. All of the simple, everyday activities that turned into moments of horror when law enforcement got involved.

Talking on a phone. Seeking help after a car accident. Standing outside a store. Playing video games. None of these stories had to end in death.

So I started working on a puzzle about this. One that expressed my anguish and confusion about these stories.

And then, halfway through this week, I stumbled upon this post, that shared everything I wanted to say with this puzzle in much more heartbreaking, illuminating fashion:

Honestly, David said it better than I ever could. He LIVES this fear in a way I can never properly understand. I can sympathize, but as a cishet white male, I simply can’t empathize.

But I still wanted to finish the puzzle, to leave some mark in the blog and the Eyes Open series of puzzles that shows we haven’t forgotten about these terrible acts and the people unfairly stolen from their families and friends.

And, in the looped letters, there is a simple truth that we can never forget.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to continue pushing for a safer world for everyone.

eyes open 19 grid 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 #18

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.

One of the genuine highlights of an event like Women’s History Month is learning about important figures and influential names from history that you don’t know. There are so many stories out there begging to be told, some undershared for centuries, some very recent but equally worthy of the attention of readers and historians everywhere.

And we’re going to share a few today, even if this post is a few days late for Women’s History Month. Themed months be damned, we’ll celebrate women all year round.

Whenever I see intriguing articles that might be appropriate for an Eyes Open puzzle, I place them into a folder and keep them, waiting for an idea to coalesce in the form of a crossword.

But, unfortunately, not every article contains the germ of a crossword in it. But you can certainly use it for one themed entry.

So the theme of today’s Eyes Open puzzle is a collection of interesting women whose stories are inspiring, strange, and fascinating, and each and every one merits a spot in any Women’s History Month article. From naval firsts to impressive academic achievements — and one mind-bending story from Oklahoma that will make you say “wow” in more ways than one — these women all made history.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these impactful women.

eyes open 18 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 #17

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.

Last month, an incredible act of solidarity and bravery happened in Germany, and if a friend hadn’t sent me this article, I would have had no idea.

In case you hadn’t heard, in February, a group of 185 German LGBTQIA+ actors staged a mass coming-out in a German newspaper, in the hopes of encouraging greater diversity onstage and onscreen.

“We identify, among other things, as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, inter and nonbinary,” the manifesto reads. “Until now, we have not been able to talk openly about our private lives without fearing repercussions on our professional lives.”

Coming out is something foreign to straight people. While we can sympathize — it’s only natural to want to be seen and acknowledged and valued for who you truly are inside — we cannot empathize. Not really.

One of the most moving explanations I’ve encountered was in a YouTube Q&A video. In a video with fellow LGBTQ creators Alayna Joy and Willow Faith, Bre Williamson discussed coming out and explained that, effectively, she is always coming out:

What people don’t understand about LGBTQ+ people in general is… every damn day, you come out. So, you could ask me, when did I come out to my grandma? It’s gonna be a completely different than my parents, than my friends, than my best friend, than the person I was dating at the time, than a teacher, the barista, a hotel staff member… it’s always gonna be different and I’m always coming out. I meet a new client, and I’m coming out to them. So, when people ask when I came out, I will come every day for the rest of my life. I genuinely believe that.

I am a white straight cisgender male. I never struggled with my gender identity or my sexuality. But I have tried to educate myself, to learn from the stories and experiences of others to appreciate how important coming out is to LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Coming out is well enough known as an experience now that it has become a narrative trope in television and movies. Closeted characters are threatened or blackmailed with forcibly being outed, or are forcibly outed. Coming out is powerful, so it can be weaponized.

While that is a negative portrayal, there is the flip side of this, as shown by those incredible German actors and actresses who chose to use a mass coming out as a statement, not only to the acting industry at large, but to fellow LGBTQIA+ people, in the hopes that they will not suffer the same indignities.

Unlike many of the Eyes Open puzzles I’ve previously constructed for this series, I didn’t use specific names from the source material as themed entries. Instead, I tried to craft a puzzle that visually expresses the topic. I don’t know if I succeeded, but it was where this article inspired me to go.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about the experiences of those different from you. We all want the same things, after all.

“Heterosexuality isn’t normal, it’s just common.” — Derek Jarman

eyes open 17 grid 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 #16

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.

It was difficult to choose a topic that would close out Black History Month. So many important historical figures have been highlighted all across media outlets and social media this month that I felt like I was playing catch-up with ideas, or offering a superficial glance while other sites were doing wonderful in-depth profiles.

So I decided to turn my attention forward rather than back, looking at individuals who are making history now. Names that will be in the history books of the future for their contributions to promoting continued interest in science, technology, engineering, and math for people of color, particularly women of color.

These are women who have achieved historic firsts and who work to further the inclusion of women and people of color in the sciences. Their outreach has been critical to increased engagement and job placement. As both inspirational figures and glass ceiling-shattering icons, their actions will resonate for many years to come.

[If you’re looking for a more historical take on black female trailblazers in medicine, check out Eyes Open #2 from last year.)

This is a relatively straightforward grid, featuring four names across five entries that you should know. There are two revealers in the lower right corner — one wordplay-heavy, one clued overtly — that tie together all of the themed entries.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these impactful women, their contributions to their chosen fields, and their efforts to recruit younger people of color to follow the paths they’ve taken.

[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 #15

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 previous Eyes Open puzzles, I’ve put a spotlight on important figures, both well-known and obscure, who have affected history in crucial ways. These influential individuals, and their efforts, deserve to be celebrated and remembered.

But one thing I try never to forget is that, just outside that spotlight, however bright or flickering, there are so many nameless, faceless people that also contributed to the cause.

How many Black Panther Party members can we name who helped feed their communities? How many grassroots organizers that went door to door? How many supporters offering water bottles to people marching? How many nurses and carers tending to them after violent responses? How many drivers that helped shuttle people to the polls? How many signatures on vital petitions? How many people carrying those clipboards and pens?

Volunteers that number in the thousands, protesters that number in the tens and hundreds of thousands, voters that number in the millions.

We don’t know those their names. We wouldn’t recognize their faces. But they have all helped change the world.

The subject of today’s puzzle will probably never be known on a national or global stage. I didn’t know his name before reading this article a friend shared with me. You probably don’t know his name yet.

But to the people he stood up for, to the people he represented, to the people he helped, to the people he championed, he was everything. He made a small part of the world a better place for everyone. His legacy is one of bravery, kindness, and selflessness. That’s something we can all aspire to.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more, not just about this “unapologetic fighter for truth, transparency and justice,” but the many people like him in your own community and elsewhere.

[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.