Recently, the Medium publication C(G) S N A P S H O T S issued a challenge in which participants were invited to submit images for their Snapshot Selfie Challenge. I submitted a snapshot of a few mementos that represented different periods of my life. Oddly enough, one object in my snapshot garnered more comments than other—my vintage Donald Duck bobblehead from the late 1960s/early 1970s, described in the accompanying text as “the symbol of my former alter-ego, vehicle of torture and self-discovery.”
In the original text I promised to—at some point in the future—reveal a little of the backstory of my adventures performing as Donald Duck at Walt Disney World in Florida. Well . . . that time has come for me to tell you about my life in fur.
Living life to the fullest in college became an expensive undertaking. I needed a little more cash to keep my collegiate lifestyle afloat. Christmas break 1981, I applied for a seasonal job at Walt Disney World, knowing they’d usher me into a high-paying office job related to my Communications major for the two weeks of my Christmas break. After waiting in the employment center lobby for what seemed like an eternity, a man in a business suit and a Disney name tag with “Mark” etched into it, greeted me and led me into a small interview room.
I was brought up in a Christian home. All four of my grandparents — God rest their souls, my father (had) and my mother still has a palpable faith in God and a relationship with Christ. They had to. They were Black people living in the south. Their faith is my heritage. I accepted Christ as my savior when I was sixteen. Nothing made me happier knowing that one day I’d get to meet Jesus face to face.
“When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series about the wrongly-accused Central Park Five is a horror show, not because the graphic depiction of violence five Black and Latino boys — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — suffer at the hands of the New York district attorneys and the NYPD, or because these then boys were robbed of their youth and innocence by a broken and corrupt criminal (in)justice system, or because of the anguish five families endured due to no reason of their own. No. The horror of “When They See Us” is that the very acts of abject racism perpetrated against McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana, and Wise in DuVernay’s masterpiece continue to occur with impunity in these United States some thirty years later.
When most people think of racism, visions of terrorism delivered mano a mano come to mind. You know … slavery, white hoods, lynchings, and other acts of abject terrorism and the trauma they leave in their wake come to mind. Interpersonal racism’s more comely, yet equally damaging sibling:institutional racism is not only alive and well, but thriving in the most unlikely of places. The time has come to shine a light on a textbook example to provide a better understanding.
Things are tough. All over. A lot of people are hurting physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. All any of us need do is turn on the TV, log into social media, or if you’re really daring, step outside your front door and there it is: the awfulness of humanity. With this pervasive level of devastation, a friend of mine asked, as I’m sure many more of you have —
“If God is real, then why do things like [insert tragedy] happen?”
It’s easy to lose sight of the good in the world, but it’s out there, doing it thing - in ways you never expected. You just have to know what to look for and where to find it. The answer’s a lot more accessible and potent than many would have you believe.
A hefty Christmas tree ornament to commemorate a very special flight.
One of my favorite gifts is a rather weighty and sizable prop plane ornament, given to me ten years ago by Joey M., a then nine-year-old fellow actor in New York’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. He bestowed me with this memento as a final gift during our annual Secret Santa gift exchange. He gave it to me as a reminder of a specific moment in the show, but it has come to symbolize a greater gift I was given by him and so many others. One I try to share as often as possible.