Thursday, November 30, 2006

writers matter

writers matter.

i have a bit of a fascination with writers and the writing process, because every person is a communicator, but writers are somehow inspired to do it artfully, conscientiously, entertainingly.

that's why i'm especially sad to hear about the passing of bebe moore campbell. i first read some of her novels about a decade ago, when my mom was tearing through every book by a contemporary black author that she could find and then leaving the finished books around various shelves and tables in the house. to date, the book that really grabbed my attention was her award-winning your blues ain't like mine. i have a well-worn paperback that i've been through at least two or three times. it isn't often that contemporary black writers bother to include white people as major, fleshed-out characters in their books, while declining to stereotype them into a box of insignificance - it speaks to the human condition on a broader level than concentrating on just one ethnic group. it made her stand out to me.

i have yet to read some of her more recent offerings, most notably, 72 hour hold, which deals with a special concern of hers, mental illness. i love how ms. campbell used her position as a writer with an established audience to shine a light on an important issue that people don't talk about nearly as much as they should, especially among Blacks. it's projects like these that make it clear why and how even (and especially) contemporary writers can matter beyond the bookshelf. i can't wait to read it.

i must take a moment to acknowledge that i am a fan, that i appreciated bebe moore campbell's work and her creativity, and to lament that she will be missed. i wish her family and friends the presence of the Comforter while they reflect on her life and mourn her death, and i hope that fans, present and future, will gain entertainment and enrichment from her work.

Monday, November 27, 2006

action and reaction

seems like the michael richards incident is another one of those post i-have-a-dream-speech moments where some folks scratch their heads and go, "there're still problems with race relations? how about that! who knew?"

of course, this is unfortunate for jerry. he's got a whole rollout of new dvds of one of the show's seasons, and it's in his best interest that they sell off the shelves with no issues. leave it up to michael richards to threaten the whole deal with one unfortunate outburst. in my opinion, so far as the dvd sales go, it seems to me that from the show's inception, we were never their audience, anyway. despite our hardheaded insistence on promoting and supporting mainstream commerce with our precious disposable income, just like with certain fashion designers or whatever that champagne company's name was, we are expendable customers with negligible purchases to miss from their profits - in their eyes. if anything, they just don't want the fallout to cause them to be rejected by their real target market - other whites -resulting in slumping sales.

richards' numerous apologies are unnecessary. what comedian doesn't know how to handle hecklers? how wack was that? not only for him to lose his cool, which a talented comedian could have avoided, but for him to attack his audience with no punchline in sight.

funny thing is, i believe that it's completely possible that richards reacted out of anger and generally doesn't use that word. in that sense, i think he's no different than the majority of whitefolks, or anybody else. with your back against the wall, sometimes you do things you wouldn't do if you let your cooler head prevail.

thing is, this is what i (and i suspect others) have been told by elders about whitefolks, but thankfully, due to the timeframe of my birth, have had little personal experience testing: no matter how cool they are, no matter how much they're supposed to know better, you never know if their whiteness is the ace in the hole that they'll pull out when they feel they have nothing else.

"at least i'm not a nigger!"

a nigger - the worst thing somebody could be. the ugliest word in the american vocabulary. the lowest thing on the totem pole of american acceptance. dirty, funky, black, stupid, inferior, eye-rolling, spear-chucking, malt-liquor-drinking, fried-chicken-and-watermelon-eating, cotton-picking, welfare-cheese-eating porch monkeys... that's what we supposedly are.

now michael richards may not be a good comedian, or a working actor, or attractive, or even that bright, but in that moment, when those hecklers made him feel inadequate and small, he knew exactly what would tip the scales in his favor. at least he wasn't a nigger. that's what his tirade on that comedy stage was about. he reached for, not the funniest thing, but the dullest, rustiest, crudest weapon in his arsenal of anger.

it's entirely possible that he didn't even know he had that kind of pettiness in him. or maybe he did, and he didn't even know he could ever be so careless as to let his slip show. either way, what's done is done. and that's why his apologies to us "afro-americans" mean very little. it is exactly this kind of racism that we have come to expect in these politically correct times, where overt bigotry is frowned upon by the mainstream. it is exactly this kind of racism that blackfolks believe happens when we're out of earshot. we're not as paranoid as people think when we wonder about the looks, stares, actions, traffic stops, and dubious comments - "is it because i'm black?" it's incidents like these that make me and others remember the advice of our elders to be wary of whitefolks, no matter what century it is. you never know which ones are weak, and you never know when they may need racism to make themselves feel better.

of course, you don't want to think this way. but just like how some white women (who've seen too many movies with violent black men grabbing some blonde as a hostage while robbing a bank) get tense when the brothers step into their elevators, you can't help but to feel a certain way when certain situations crop up, no matter how much you want to be trusting and fair and colorblind.

ask michael richards. sometimes, you just react.

Friday, November 17, 2006


go figure,

i like my job!

so much that i actually want to go. when i say hi to the people, i mean it. and when i log on to my computer to work, that's what i do.

hence the erratic blogging.

no offense, but i actually have to work, now.


septa lessons


for how they raised me. most especially my mother. when i was little, my dad worked and my mom stayed home, so i was with her most of the time. but even when my dad came home, he was great.

know how i know?

i've seen the other side - what happens when people don't know how to talk to children. my father is an impatient man, but he rarely was impatient with me. i could tell, even in my youth, that my dad was someone special to have, because he put thought and effort and time into teaching me things. he explained them as clearly as he could. he gave me criticism when he thought it would strengthen me. he took extra time to help me learn - whether it was how to wash dishes, or how to throw a softball.

and my mommy? she read to me regularly and taught me how to read at an early age. she balanced indulging my curiosity with teaching me limitations and restraint. hugs were never off limits in my house. encouragement was never in short supply. every victory of mine was a victory of theirs. every crisis of mine triggered the support i needed from them.

and every instance of discipline, corporal or verbal, was well thought out - done out of concern for my welfare and not out of selfishness on their parts. never to hurt me. never to break my spirit. i was never called out of my name as a child. never spoken to in a tone that made me feel unloved.

these poor kids on the bus, though...

their parents yell because they are annoyed that they had to drag a toddler along with them. they yell at these children because their short legs aren't fast enough, or because they didn't have the stamina to walk through the mall with them as their parents shopped all day. these kids are learning from their example to be loud, impatient, and mean. i worry about if they live like this every day, getting yelled at, yanked on, pushed around, or - and i'm not sure which is worse - being ignored altogether. i wonder if they're being read to regularly at home. if someone is patiently teaching them how to scrawl their name neatly between blue lines of notebook paper in green crayon...

it all just reinforces in me all the love i realize i received from home... and all the love i plan to give my own little ones one day.

humbug! or maybe not

i'm knitting and crocheting scarves for loved ones for the holiday this year. every one who doesn't get a scarf is probably getting cookies. i work hard for my money. i have debts to pay off. they are whupping my natural brown posterior in taxes. i don't have it in me to fake the funk by whipping out the plastic to look like big wilhemina.

maybe next year i'll make jewelry. or give out coupons for personal favors - babysitting, financial advice, organizational consulting... (once for free to get 'em hooked, then i'ma get my side hustle on).

but that's it. i can count the number of folks i'll spend money for on one hand. i have a spending limit for them, too. but they WUV me, so they won't care. and everybody else will fit on my other hand.

God bless us every one.

i don't give a

i make it a habit to check the web for the world and national news, and i also watch the local news here and there. i do not watch entertainment shows about celebrities and wannabes. that is because i am not interested in entertainment news. entertainment news should be on entertainment shows.

i don't care who's getting married, or who was invited, or what religion they are.

i don't care who's getting divorced, or having a baby, or dangerously thin.

my city's homicide rate is off the chain. i want to know if i will get rained on at the bus stop. i want to know what my congressmen are doing (or not doing), and how the market is performing. that's why i turn to the news at 6 & 11, not to a cable entertainment channel. that is why i click on news internet sites and get rss feeds of particular news.

yet and still this celebrity gossip keeps filtering through.

they are trying to make us stupid. they want us to believe that a celebrity wedding is important. maybe I'M bugging - to some of us, maybe it is...


i never cared whether or not oj was innocent or guilty. i never paid much attention to the trial. i avoided its details at all costs. i thought the crime was heinous and unfortunate. the fact that people cared so much, and that they seemed to largely base their opinion of oj's innocence on race, disturbed me. it still does.

i remember that a friend of mine had a sleepover party, and she invited about half a dozen friends over to watch movies and be teenagers together. i was the last one to get picked up by my parents, 'cause i chose to go watch a school football game with her and her family. we woke up for breakfast that morning in her quiet, upper middle-class cul-de-sac, my friend, her parents, and i. we were munching on whatever, making small talk that morning, and her father turned to me and asked me what i thought about the oj trial...

at the time, i was a little disturbed by the question. everything was going so well, and i didn't want to talk about controversy. but i concealed my annoyance at having the flashlight shown on me, the only black person at that table, perhaps even for a mile of the house. i told the truth - that i didn't follow the trial, and that i didn't have an opinion on what the verdict should be. i look back now and wonder if my friend's dad was simply amusing himself by putting me on the spot, or maybe if i was the only black person he knew that he wasn't afraid to grill candidly.

in any case, some time later, i was the only black person in the room when my seventh-period advanced spanish class turned on the television while waiting for our teacher to finish watching the verdict in the teachers' break room. my classmates were disappointed and outraged. i was largely ambivalent when the not guilty verdict was read. that was partly due to an effort of mine to transcend whatever suspicions my classmates may have had about some black allegiance between me and the accused. like one of my favorite comedians says, i wasn't getting no oj check in the mail, so there was no reason to be pressed.

and since that moment, i've felt pretty much the same way. i'm not in the habit of following murder trials, no matter who the accused is. i still have no basis for an opinion on oj's innocence or guilt.

but i now have a very good reason to be appalled.

regardless of his innocence or guilt, i find it absolutely offensive that oj would write a book and participate in a television special that addresses how he theoretically would have committed the murders he was accused of, if in fact he was the one to commit the crime. i find it completely disappointing that there is an audience for this. i, for one, will not be reading the book or watching the show. i feel sympathy for the families of the victims, most especially oj and nicole's son and daughter, who have been stripped of the opportunity to be loved as i have by my parents. it is completely inappropriate that oj would even hint at the fact that he may have killed those people. it is twisted and cruel to tease and taunt the public, and to disrespect your own children, with this shameless media pimping.

i'm so disgusted, i have no further comment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


i remember once that school was about to start, and i wanted to show up looking like a new woman. i've never been really chic. i tend to just get by with just enough. i've never been big on name brand fashions, or even knock offs of the latest fashions, and frankly, shopping is a chore to me, not an afternoon of fun. whenever i can, i shop more like a guy: i know what i want, i go get it, pay for it, and leave. i use a full face of makeup only on a whim, and even then, i'm a minimalist.

lately, i've been trying to put more effort into my style. i tend to go through phases like this. my main inspiration comes from my grandma and my mom. all my childhood memories of them are of them being fabulously coordinated, impeccably coiffed, imaginatively accessorized, and really just chic in their own way. it put me in the mind of the day i decided to get a back to school wash, cut, and curl.

i have a pleasant head of hair - healthy, brown, soft. but i never put much effort into it. but with school starting and autumn approaching, the spirit of change had me thinking about trying to be cute. so i put together a little money, bought a box of hair coloring, and decided to go to the hairdresser for a cut that would be the beginning of my own era of chic...

since i've always done everything for my own hair, just like my mom, i had only been to the hairdresser maybe once for each finger on one of my hands. i didn't have a number i could just call for an appointment. and with no recommendations for a particular stylist, i guess i'd just have to be a walk-in. however, my mom suggested that hair place in the mall. she'd stopped through there once upon a time to get her hair trimmed, and she had no complaints.

okay, now. first of all, every time i'd ever been to the hairdresser, or known of anyone going, they go to Rhonda's, or Tineika's, or fill-in-her-name-here's shop. it might have a name, like Total Concept, or Golden Shears. but where ever we went, the place had black hair care magazines strewn all over the place, one or two televisions mounted on the wall, and a chinese food storefront with bulletproof windows within walking distance. there are no others besides sistas when you walk through the door. and that's comfort. that's part of what makes you able to lean back in the chair and let Rhonda or Tineika do what you're paying her to do.

if i went into the walk-in shop at the mall, there's no telling what would happen.

but i gave it a shot.

when i got there, i circled and circled the shop, waiting for the one sista who was working in the shop with two other women, to finish the head she was working. but when i came back, i'd just missed her - she was at lunch. one of the other women told me that she was willing to work with my head, and her chair was empty... but i just couldn't do it. she got my thanks, but no thanks, as i sat down to wait for the sista. i think the woman understood my hesitance to put my hair in her apricot-crayon-colored hands. she told me, with carefully chosen words, that she was confident that she could do my hair. and she may very well have been qualified and trained to work with all kinds of hair, but i simply didn't want her doing my hair. i knew that when she went home, she didn't put her hands in a mop like mine, and that's all i needed to know. not so chic.

what's interesting is that part of the reason i don't go to hairdressers (talkin bout sistas) is because they tend to claim that they don't know how to deal with hair like mine - the thin strands, the texture - and looking back, i think it's interesting how i wasn't thinking about how those black hairdressers didn't have hair like mine, either, when i was sitting in that mall dissing that white hairdresser.

i haven't forgotten her. i wonder how often she gets that from sistas. i wonder if she can do hair.

i never found out. i kept my brown behind in that seat until the sista got back from her break. then i let her put her hands and her tools in my mane... she worked it. and when i left the mall,

i worked it.

slid a pair of shades on, and pulled out my inner model for my walk on the way to the car.

very chic.