“Black Like Me” a social justice beach read

Title: Black Like Me
Genre: Nonfiction; Sociology
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publisher: Sepia Magazine
Publication Date:
1960
Pages:
176
Price: Library Rental

To the journalist or the activist who is engaged with racial inequality, it is not uncommon to take a book pertaining to social justice on holiday with them to read when they’re not doing research.

The good thing about “Black Like Me” is that the research is practically already done for the reader. Author John Howard Griffin, a white man from Texas, physically inserts himself into various Black communities in the South and Deep South, by medically and artificially darkening his skin. He uses UV sun lamps and an oral treatment often used in helping the pigment of people who suffer from vitiligo.

Griffin was from Texas and born in 1920. He graduated from the University of Poitiers in France. According to The Telegraph, he became a part of the French Resistance and helped Jewish children escape from World War II to England.

Before talking to various people and doctors, he admits in one of his beginning journal entries that even though he specializes in race issues, he did not fully understand the real struggle of the Negro. So, in a journalistic context, he feels that since he does not know what he calls the “Negro’s real problem,” he feels it is his duty as a journalist has to investigate this matter on his own and see for himself what it is really like.

Before reading this, I was incredibly skeptical of what the content of the book was going to be like. As a woman of color, I have faced racism both inside and outside the home. Here, I thought prior to reading the book, was a white man who medically and physically painted on blackface to put himself in a society he was never in to start with.

However, I was surprised when I started reading the book.

For starters, he went out of his way to talk to multiple people about whether or not it would be a good idea to invest in such a project. Then, he dedicated himself to the cause further by consulting with a dermatologist and getting a medication that would darken his skin. While he only participated in this social experiment for a month, the medication would not darken his skin completely, so he finished it off using a stain and giving him a “pure brown” skin tone. This would come in handy after he creates a system of going between himself as white and himself as a black man.

I was not sure how he was going to interject himself into society as a black man, but it helped he decided to travel for his experience. He portrayed himself as a black man traveling for work, which I thought was a clever but ambiguous identity for him to have when encountering strangers.

I found the book to be an easy read. Griffin writes clearly and easily about his experiences. Even for parts that could seem particularly uncomfortable to the white reader, his points are easy to understand.

I understand Griffin’s desire to want to know exactly the problems the Negro faced in the South and Deep South, it’s hard to ignore the privilege he had not only have the option to try and investigate this as journalism story. But also, he had the privilege to also “zigzag” between being black and white, before permanently returning to white society. While he was able to darken his skin to “see” what the struggles of Black people were like, actual Negros do not have the same luxury or privilege.

But John Griffin gains something from his experience that racist individuals are not capable of having for marginalized people is empathy. That’s the important thing to keep in mind while reading this brief book—only 176 pages. So it makes for an easy read for even a four-day weekend.

New retro toy store brings nostalgia to BG 

Near the corner of South Main, across the street from Lola’s Frozen Yogurt, two small but bright orange flags hang outside with blue lettering and two blue boxing gloves hitting each other. One with an “M” and the other with an “L.”

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro is a new retro toy and video game store in Bowling Green, Ohio. They opened their doors for the first time on Oct. 24, and held a ribbon cutting on Nov. 3. Co-owner Kayla Minniear said and things are going “really well,” for almost one month.

“I think the hardest part about opening the store was actually getting it opened because you have to inventory,” she said. “We cleaned and tested every single game in here, [and] that took us about two weeks.”

Clean and test every game? Individually? I glance at the wall to my left where shelves of Nintendo64 and NES game cartridges lay. In the glass enclosure, a Game Boy Color sits inside with Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow next to it. The holy trinity of Pokémon games at half the price of the new Pokémon Sun and Moon available for Nintendo 3DS.

“There’s probably over a thousand in here,” Minniear said. “Just out right now. I know we had about 700 original NES cards when we first opened.”

Minniear works in the the store full time and co-owns with her husband Jon, a full-time plumber. A couple nights a week and on the weekends, he comes in to help run the store. He also repairs and fixes video game consoles.

Growing up, Kayla was an avid collector of “Sailor Moon” and Disney’s “Aladdin.” When she and her husband first started dating, they began to collect video games after he noted he wanted to have all the games for one of his retro Nintendo systems. For their third anniversary, she bought him a Super Mario Bros. arcade game, which now sits at the front of the store on “free play.”

Photo taken by Erika Heck; Edited by Jonathan Miksanek
Super Mario Bros. and Smash TV arcade games inside Rock Em Sock Em Retro. The games are set to “free play,” according to Kayla Minniear.

A market for retro video game collecting and collectors exists, and it’s increasingly growing into (as Kayla described it) “it’s own stock market.”

“Most people don’t realize that because they’re not retro collectors. Regular stocks go up and down…it’s the same with video games,” she said. “There will be a game that’s worth like, $600 at one point; drop down to $200 and then shoot up to like, two grand. It just depends.”

A game called “Little Samson,” was valued at $80 when the couple first started collecting video games together. It’s highest peak price, according to Kayla, was $1,600 and it is now currently valued at $1,200. They recently traded this game for a trip to Ireland.

As collectors, Kayla and Jon want to get more known in their local collector community and their online community is already strong. Minniear said people at flea markets would ask about where their store front was, but they didn’t have one. Not only are they hoping to give the collector community a new place to buy quality games, but they are hoping to give the Bowling Green community a new place to hang out and remember the good things of the past.

“We’ll be hosting some free tournaments soon,” Minniear said. “If [a] college kid wants to come and do his homework at the booth, I don’t care.”

The white walls are drawn and decorated with different but familiar characters. Above the window facing the alleyway, Spider-Man holds Captain America’s shield. By the arcade machines, Scooby Doo and the gang are fleeing in the Mystery Machine.

“My mother did [the artwork]. She’s going to start painting it on canvas, so if people wanna buy them, they can.”

Picture taken by Erika Heck; Edited by Jonathan Miksanek
Rock Em, Sock Em, robots painted by the entrance wall of Rock Em Sock Em Retro.

Kayla said many collectors of all ages have visited the store.

With the holidays approaching, Kayla Minniear hopes Rock Em Sock Em Retro will be a place people can buy gifts.

“I know a couple people came in to buy the NSYNC dolls just because their sister had it growing up. We’re just hoping to bring a lot of those people in, and we’re also hoping we can keep the shelves full too.”

Pisanello’s great for evening munchies

Pisanello’s Pizza, on the corner of North Main Street, is the ideal place for a college student looking a great way to satisfy their munchies. Open since 1964, Pisanello’s has 18 other locations in Northwest Ohio other than Bowling Green.

When first walking into the dining area, you’re welcomed by wood flooring, wood walls, and various colorful works of art hanging on the wall. Accommpanied by the artwork were Halloween decorations—streamers with skulls and plastic pumpkins. Along the walls are booths and on the inside of the dining area as tables and chairs. Hanging from the ceiling onto the half wall that divides the dining room in half is a three dimensional mural.

The dining room was empty upon arrival, but as the evening went on, other couples and groups of friends starting dining in or picking up orders to go.

While the dining is casual with a waitress, you have to order your food at the counter in the back of the dining room first at a register. My boyfriend, who was with me, opted out of wanting anything to eat of his choosing so I decided one thing I loved and was familiar with from my last visit almost two years ago.

I have never been a fan of tomatoes as a general food. I don’t like having slices on my burgers and I don’t like having them minced in my pasta. However, I love Pisanello’s tomato bread. It’s a bread with a tomato slice, with spices and covered in melted mozzarella cheese.

A picture of tomato bread. Piece of bread with a seasoned tomato slice covered in mozzarella cheese
Pisanello’s Pizza tomato bread. Cost: $4.25

I made this my appetizer and chose a small size baked potato specialty pizza as my main course. I’d never heard of such a pizza until this moment, and since I loved baked potatoes, I decided to try it. Other toppings, besides potatoes include sour cream, bacon, broccoli, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. The employee at the register asked if I wanted either bacon or broccoli on the pizza and I decided on both. We also orded two refillable fountain drinks.

a slice of baked potato pizza from Pisanello's
A slice of baked potato pizza. A small (seven inches) cost $5.25

After ordering, we sat down at a booth and I smoothed my hand over the wooden walls. I didn’t noticed until I moved my hand, but carved into the wooden walls of this corner pizza pub are carved with people’s names, initials, doodles of hearts and arrows, and even a carved in drawing of a rocket ship.

A wooden wall with a carved rocket ship and a heart that says,
Drawings and writings carved in Pisanello’s Pizza’s wooden wall.

When the tomato bread arrived on an oval plate, six pieces lay on it, myself taking two and my boyfriend (despite his mutual dislike of tomatoes and previous declaration that he was not hungry) also taking two. However, he opted to take the tomato slices off of the bread.

When I pulled apart the first piece from the group, the mozzarella cheese stretched and oozed with departure. This was good for me since I’m a fan of cheese that is melty and oozing. The cheese seemed to mask the sliminess of the tomatoes that I normally dislike with other tomato dishes.

The baked potato pizza arrived and I knew upon sight, it would not disappoint. The mozzarella and cheddar cheeses are melted over top the toppings, giving its cheese the same gooey stretch of the tomato bread. The sour cream served as the sauce for the pizza, which I found to be a bold decision over something else such as butter or standard pizza sauce.

The total meal cost me almost $19 plus a tip. But I got my money’s worth, since I went home with two extra slices of tomato bread and four extra slices of the pizza, since a small comes with six slices.

This is a great place to eat and relax after a long day of classes and homework. Order, sit down, and just enjoy the artwork while you’re there.

Name: Pisanello’s Pizza
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 4 p.m. -11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Phone: (419)-352-5166
Day: October 5, 2016
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Website: http://pisanellos.com/index-bg.htm