Sunday, December 29, 2019


This is not how I want to remember the end of this year.
Mom told me that a Jewish couple that babysat me used to put a bagel around my neck, which she told me was to signify a child of intelligence and I’ve read that it was also done to ward off evil spirits. I sang “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Tzena, Tzena” along with my classmates. I remember certain days that we didn’t advance the curriculum. because certain holidays weren’t enough to close the school.  However, so many Jewish children were absent, it would’ve been unfair to do so.
My childhood is rife with memories of the A&N Television Repair Shop and any time I tried to speak, the owner took it, jokingly, as if I was trying to give him a hard time. I used ask my parents, “Are we going to see, Mr. AlrightAlready?” I remember our family celebrated many holidays and enjoyed the wonderful treats of Pakula’s Bakery. Among my friends were Maxine Brooks, David Kramer and Seth Tillman.
I'm not posting this to say I’m a great guy, but as a tribute to my parents, who taught me to be proud of who I was and treat EVERYONE with respect.
This horrible violence happened in the same city where I went to Elementary school, Monsey, and I stand with the Jewish community in New York who have seen an uptick in anti-Semitic attacks.
Life was not perfect there. Racism was not a huge factor in my life, but it was present. We were one of the earliest Black families to move to Rockland County and we weren’t universally welcomed. It was neither a diverse Utopia, nor unremitting racial horror. It did afford moments such as this: One of my teachers, Ms. Tobia, allowed me to pick out a movie about African-American History to show to the class (Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed). A rare and wonderful thing for a third-grader. Thank you Ms. Tobia.
The fact that Dad could become a Chemist and we were able to own a home in the suburbs was due in part to hard-fought victories from people like Representative John Lewis, who put his life on the line for Civil Rights.
I am honored to live in his state (Georgia) and my sincere thanks and heartfelt prayers go out to him and his family as he battles cancer.
I wish to live to see the day that we strive to find similarities, not differences. Similarities are more challenging to find and ultimately, more rewarding.
With Respect and Love, I remain a proud Christian, son of Orva and Dolores Phillips and a son of the Village of Spring Valley, Town of Ramapo. Pray for and/or do good.
Let this be our legacy. Let’s work to end fear and hatred. Let us take advantage of this unique, and heretofore unheard of, method of communication to share, laugh, comfort and love.
Let this be what we have in common.
Brian Douglas Phillips

115 West St (now Harriet Tubman Way), Spring Valley, NY, 1974.