Eyes Open #25

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 topics that inspire Eyes Open puzzles are often infuriating or heartbreaking. We try to discuss topics that demand greater attention and analysis, which sometimes demands we mire ourselves in terrible circumstances, even as we shed light on lives ended too soon or important events swept under the rug by history or biased historians.

But, sometimes, we get to focus on topics that inspire us, that warm our hearts, that make us turn our gazes outward and forward with optimism. Inventors, trailblazers, and the brave motivated individuals who fight for human rights have all appeared in some of our puzzles.

One of the key communities we have neglected to highlight is the art community, and that’s unfortunate. The arts can discuss so many of these important topics in fascinating, evocative, and spellbinding ways. And nowhere is this truer than on the stage.

For decades upon decades, playwrights have challenged the status quo and forced audiences to ask tough questions of themselves (and face harder truths). These wonderful microcosms of society tell rich, nuanced stories that reflect the world at large, investing viewers not only in the characters, but in the families, groups, and political and social movements they represent.

The stage is a cultural battleground, capable of enacting great change in both minds and hearts.

And this fall, as audiences return to Broadway, they will find more Black voices than ever represented in the plays awaiting them.

Black playwrights wrote every new play that will be featured on Broadway this fall. Five of these seven plays will open for the very first time, and many of these works will be brought to the stage by not only actors of color, but directors as well.

Representation is so vitally important to helping change not only the narrative of our world, but the structure of it as well, and to see what is traditionally known as The Great White Way being influenced and shaped by Black voices fills my heart with warmth. As a theater kid who knows just how deeply affecting stage performances can be, I hope audiences will embrace these stories — and those who tell them — with open arms.

I hope this puzzle serves to engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about playwrights of color and other theatrical works that tell the stories of underrepresented groups. For more information about these plays, please click this link.

eyes open 25 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.
AAPI lives matter.

Eyes Open #24

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’s Pride Month, and sadly, bigots and morons come out of the woodwork to complain, just as they do for Black History Month, International Women’s Day, and any other events where minority groups and people who have suffered from systemic oppression are encouraged to celebrate who they are.

During Pride Month, they ignorantly cry “what about heterosexual pride month?”, completely missing the fact that being straight is almost never a reason someone gets bullied, abused, mistreated, oppressed, or murdered. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community know this better than most.

For decades and decades, they had to operate in the shadows. Gathering places were secret, hidden behind innocuous fronts. In many places, including England, where homosexuality was stigmatized and criminalized well into the 1960s, gay people not only had to be careful with how they behaved, but how they spoke as well.

Gay men and women employed coded language to not only identify themselves, but to communicate with each other safely. One of the ways they did so was the slang language Polari.

Polari is an informal mixture of Romance languages, Yiddish, Romani, and slang words derived from sailors, thieves, and Cockney rhyming. Abbreviations, backward-speak, and other adaptations of language were part of Polari’s constant evolution. And some of the words popularized through the use of Polari are still in circulation today.

Today’s puzzle is about honoring how LGBTQIA+ culture has journeyed from the shadows into the light, and how what used to be coded language is now familiar slang for so many people.

I hope this puzzle serves to engage you as a solver and encourage you to support LGBTQIA+ people and culture. For more information about Polari, check out these links.

eyes open 24 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.
AAPI lives matter.

Eyes Open #23

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.

Whether you read the blog regularly or just these special Eyes Open puzzle posts, you have no doubt figured out that I’m a history buff. I love learning about all the curious twists and turns that lead to important world events. There’s so much out there that wasn’t covered in history class waiting for curious minds to discover.

But there’s a sinister underbelly there as well. Because, for every interesting tidbit that simply didn’t fit the narrative, there are whole swathes of important figures and moments that were purposely excluded, or even worse, maliciously erased from the historical record.

You’ll often hear uninformed people or the willfully ignorant say things like “there were no trans people before the 20th century” or talk about how “all these labels and things didn’t exist when I was a kid.” Trust me, there were plenty of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and other non-binary and non-hetero individuals throughout history. Just because you didn’t learn about them, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

They were whitewashed and straight-washed from history by historians, and records of their existence were systematically destroyed and wiped out by groups like the Nazis. The LQBTQIA+ community has suffered greatly from concentrated attempts at historical erasure, and although there are important steps being taken these days to preserve and protect LGBTQIA+ history, who knows how much has already been lost, buried, burnt away forever?

As I said before, I enjoy reading history books, and it’s fairly rare for me to encounter names that are unfamiliar. That is, unless it’s a book about LGBTQIA+ history, which are often teeming with important, influential, trailblazing names I’ve never heard of. And that’s a travesty.

One of those valuable resources is The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World by Mason Funk. A collection of profiles and partial interviews from the wonderful Outwords archive, The Book of Pride details numerous gay, lesbian, bi, and trans individuals who fought for nonbinary gender representation, bi representation, and other LGBTQ groups that have been marginalized and attacked over the years.

These are people who fought when the fight was harder, whose struggles have helped pave the way for modern activists to carry on the fight. And without these interviews, many of these voices could’ve been lost forever.

Please click here to read the absolute treasure trove of interviews collected by the team at Outwords.

I hope this puzzle serves to engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these crucial influential figures and help bring them to greater prominence and awareness. There are some links offered below for those interested in learning more.

(I debated whether to use the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag colors in the grid. On the one hand, with seven black squares across the center diagonal, it felt appropriate. On the other hand, it does feel unpleasantly close to Rainbow Capitalism. I opted to leave the coloring in. If you’d like to see it removed, please do not hesitate to say so and I can provide a grid in the usual black-and-white motif.)

eyes open 23c grid image

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

Informational Links:

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.
AAPI lives matter.

Eyes Open #22

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 week marked one hundred years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Thirty-five blocks of Black-owned businesses and homes in the Greenwood District were looted and destroyed across two days. There were numerous reports of aerial bombardment during the attacks, meaning Tulsa was the first U.S city bombed from the air… and by those meant to protect it.

The death toll for Tulsa ranges somewhere between 100 and 300 people. (Though some historians stubbornly cling to the idea that less than 30 Black people were killed.)

And sadly, many people had never heard of the 1921 Tulsa riots before HBO’s Watchmen TV show featured it as part of their storyline.

This is only one example of a staggering number of crucial events, both positive and negative, from American history that were whitewashed, erased, and purposely excluded from school curricula and downplayed by white-centric historians.

Paul Gardullo, the curator of an exhibit on the Tulsa Race Massacre at the African American Museum of History in Washington, points out Tulsa is not an isolated incident. There are “many silences” in American history having to do with racial violence, whether a widespread riot or more mundane cases that “people paper over and don’t talk about.”

So while Tulsa is finally getting some much deserved attention from the public and modern historians, there are other tragedies still relegated to the dusty corners of American history and carefully concealed from the history books.

This puzzle is intended to cast a light on some of those events, some as old or older than Tulsa, some shockingly recent. The grid is also designed with small staircase-shaped black spaces in the center, meant to represent how quickly small steps escalate into dark actions.

I hope this puzzle serves to engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these important, tragic historic events and help bring them to greater prominence and awareness. There are some links offered below for those interested in learning more.

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

Informational Links:

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.
AAPI lives matter.

Eyes Open #21

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.

Only two days ago, numerous television channels broadcast See Us Unite for Change — The Asian American Foundation in service of the AAPI Community, a special to celebrate Asian voices and show unity in the face of ignorant, race-driven attacks on the Asian American community.

“See us defy expectation,” said tennis player Naomi Osaka.

“See us make history,” said basketball player Jeremy Lin.

“See us create change,” said actor Daniel Dae Kim.

There has been a surge of violent attacks against Americans of Asian descent during the pandemic, but this problem has existed far longer than the current Coronavirus crisis. Asian and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in both government and pop culture, and both groups are victims of severe stereotyping and marginalization.

[Image courtesy of Jason Szenes/EPA.]

It was only two months ago that eight people were killed during a rampage in Atlanta at three spas/massage parlors, and six of those people were Asian women. And despite the protests against Asian-American violence across the country, it feels like this news story vanished into the ether not long after it happened.

I never once heard the names of the victims, so I want to mention them here: Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, and Yong Ae Yue. (Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels also lost their lives in the murder spree.)

Simply placing the names of the victims in a grid didn’t feel like an appropriate response, but I still wanted to do something about Asian culture as one of May’s puzzles.

Since May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I tried to both highlight the history of the month itself and celebrate Asian culture by exploring holidays and celebrations that could be incorporated into the calendar to increase visibility of AAPI culture for the average American.

I hope this puzzle serves to both engage you as a solver and encourage you to stand up for our Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors. America only works when the melting pot includes everyone, and members of the AAPI community contribute in incredibly valuable ways every day.

eyes open 21 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.
AAPI lives matter.

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.