By Elizabeth Gracen:
I have to admit that my favorite social media platform is, hands down, Instagram. I'm a visual person, so the vibrant feeds from all over the world are a complete feast for my hungry eyes. If you spend any time on the platform you realize that the content is as varied as the people who create it. This spurred my imagination to reach out to some of these creators to find out more about them and why they post the images and stories that they choose to share with the world.
We're calling this series "The Feed."
What caught my attention about our first content creator, Suzanne Haddad, was the simple, straightforward portraiture of her feed, @suburbanrescue.
In the tumultuous days that followed the murder of George Floyd, so many Americans—me included—realized our lack of proper education when it comes to American history. Horrified by our insufficient knowledge and subsequent complacency in regard to the treatment and neglect of the basic human rights of people of color in this country, we have had a reckoning of consciousness that I truly pray will result in change. Systemic racism is a reality in American culture, and it will never change until we make it change with persistent protest and policy changes across the board. The first step is to see one another as people, humans who simply desire the freedom to love, dream, and make their voices heard. When differences are recognized as assets and not deterrents, as something to embrace rather than fear, then we can begin to heal the wounds of the past and move toward a unified future.
@suburbanresuce features daily photos of Black Americans and provides a short bio and history of each featured photo. I reached out to Suzanne Haddad to ask about the curation of her feed, and she has graciously agreed to be a regular contributor to Flapper Press to share more Black history with our readers.
EG: Suzanne, thank you so much for being our very first featured curator for our new Flapper Press series: THE FEED. You have a rare Instagram feed in that it has such a deliberate through line in terms of featuring leading Black innovators, activists, high-profile figures, as well as many people who most Americans have probably never heard of. Tell me a little about when and why you started this series on your Instagram feed?
SH: Thank you! I think it's safe to say that the whole world really became aware of the Black Lives Matter movement this June with the murder of George Floyd. The outcry of injustice, hurt, anger, and demand for accountability brought several conversations to light. Some of the topics were culpability, unintentional racism, and how to be an ally. I never counted myself amongst the racists but knew I could be counted among the ignorant. Transformation happens with education, so I decided to commit to learning a new history daily. I put it on Instagram for accountability.
I started the feed at the beginning of Covid because I wanted to explore building a public profile, no real objective. When the death of George Floyd triggered the cry for human and civil rights, there was lots of talk about allyship and learning and listening, and a bunch of information that I wasn’t understanding. I decided to commit to a year of learning about Black contributions to the U.S. and learning history. I chose to post it daily because I felt there was a certain accountability in doing it publicly.
EG: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
SH: I have been in the U.S. forever, but I arrived in 10th grade. Prior to that, I was living in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for 4 years and was born in Canada; my upbringing was traditionally Middle Eastern (I'm a Canadian/Jordanian combo). I had a career in museums before I had a child and then was given an opportunity to apprentice/work learn how to be a jeweler by Jivita Jewelry (I would love to give her a plug). I live in Los Angeles, which is a wonderful place that showcases the best of all groups. We have Thai Town, Little Saigon, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Arabia . . . you name it LA has it. Yes, it is Hollywood and there are homeless, but the real Angelenos are fantastic characters.
EG: With the obvious outcry that was caused by the horrific murder of George Floyd, so many Americans finally appear to have looked at our country’s history in a different light. A lot of us question what we were taught in school, and a lot of us are horrified to realize that we really DON’T know our history—especially the history of people of color in our country. What has been your reaction to these particular events? SH: The BIPOC history has been suppressed, and although that's changing (my daughter knows a lot more about African American history and prominent figures than I do!), it's not fast enough. In all fairness, I came to the U.S. in 10th grade. When we see the systemic racist policies that are killing communities, dreams, opportunities, and children, we have to act and do more. Information dissemination is free(ish) and accessible now, but we have to hand the microphone to the right people. Our kids are learning better than we did, but the adults need to get it together and listen and open themselves up to fact learning and not stagnate with the opinions that are both familiar and easy. When I dive into the learning of a different person, I’m truly moved by the information, the experience, and become empathetic.
EG: Tell me how you’ve gone about your pursuit of committing to a year of learning about Black contributions to the world. What have you learned?
SH: I've learned so much! It's so amazing to read about people who have given everything in pursuit of better, who have fought for a voice, to be seen as a human. What's struck me is that every person I learn about is not working for their own improvement or success but always for the collective, the entire African American community. It seems that an individual's accomplishment is always an opportunity to advance the profile of the Black American or open a new door. It wasn't just for the betterment of African Americans but America as a whole. These people saw a way forward toward "a more perfect union" and simply wanted to claim what America promised and contribute to that greater good. The obstacles have been countless and consistent.
Today I learned about Elmer Bolling, an illiterate man who started a truck hauling business, and through his impeccable work ethic and intuitive business acumen became very successful. It wasn't enough that he worked and hustled, he provided job training, job opportunities, customer service, and cancelled the debts of those who couldn't repay him; but because he was too successful, he was lynched in 1947.
EG: There are so many incredible individuals featured in your feed. Let’s dive in and talk about some of them. SH: Well there really are so many, and it's hard to pick a few.
Carter Goodwin Woodson was the second African American to earn a PhD from Harvard and was a journalist, historian, and academic. He established Negro History Week in February 1926 to coincide with Frederick Douglas's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays, laying the groundwork for Black History Month.
August Wilson was a playwright, poet, author, and considered by some the American Shakespeare. When Hollywood wanted to take his work Fences and make a film of it, he argued for a Black director from the point of culture not race.
Mary Fields, aka Stagecoach Mary, was the first female African American mail carrier. She was known for her big personality, love of cigars, drinking, cursing, and gunfights. She never missed a day of carrying the mail, and when she retired, she went on to have a restaurant, a laundry service, and childcare services.