Friday, December 28, 2007


I see Christmas as two holidays:

The celebration of the birth of the Child is one holiday.

The feasting, gift giving, and decorating are another secular (pagan) holiday (of which I know the ancient pagan influence), not unlike Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day.

Every year I reflect on that. I celebrate both Christmases, but it's not my favorite time of year, and every year, I'm glad when it's over. But I do enjoy giving gifts to others, and I enjoy being with family, 'cause let's face it, most families only get together nowadays for holidays, when they have days off from work, and funerals. I've decided that for me, secular Christmas is about nostalgia and family. I don't object to presents, because despite some of the entitlement to gifts people feel, you can get around it by choosing how much you want to participate in gift giving. If people have issues with that, shame on them. I don't give presents to other folks' kids at Christmas. In my eyes, it's up to the parents to spoil their children if they want. I don't want any part of that. When I give gifts, it's usually for birthdays, and it's often books.

I think that with my own children, I will make efforts to somehow separate the celebration of the Child from the pagan holiday, so that they will understand and attach importance to the difference. I would like for them to be knowledgeable about my faith. But I want them to participate in the other Christmas - the food and family part - because that means so much to me. Spoiling will NOT occur. Period. And I think that parents are to blame when their children are materialistic, because it's their job to guide their children so that American materialistic culture doesn't program their kids into a sense of entitlement. Once upon a time, kids received oranges and little cakes and clothes and stuff for Christmas. I'm not giving my kids that stuff, but if I'm going to give them nice presents, why does Christmas have to be "jackpot day?" There are 364 other days in the year. And why does it have to be for the most expensive stuff - stuff many people will be paying for until next August? I think it sends the wrong message to the kids.

Christmas is not the most holy and meaningful time of the year for Christians though - Easter is. I feel much of folks' frustration with secular trumping the sacred even stronger when Easter bunnies and Easter baskets and new clothes become the focus. It's a mix of the celebration of the spring equinox and the resurrection of Christ, and it's disgusting to me to see the focus get lost every year. I don't celebrate Spring at Easter time - to me, that time is about faith alone. I can celebrate spring all the other weeks - why should it be all on top of the most Holy time of the year for my faith?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"not religion and not politics"

I was clicking past some channels on tv when something caught my eye on FOX news. I don't like FOX news - I don't like their coverage, I don't like their staff, I don't watch their channel habitually. But I stopped briefly because they were talking about presidential candidates, and apparently there's some controversy about Mike Huckabee's Christmas commercial. In it, he talks about how tiring the political commercials must be, and then he says the most important thing to focus on right now is Christ. In the background, there was a Christmas tree next to what looked like some shelving.

FOX News' question was whether this was an appropriate message from a political candidate. There were two people on a split screen talking with the reporter behind the news desk. One man in particular, an atheist, was disgusted. He said that the shelving resulted in a "subliminal cross" behind Huckabee's head, and that Huckabee's use of religion was shameful pandering to Christians and was insulting to everyone else - Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc.

Why is everyone so hung up on Mike Huckabee's religion? I can't say this enough:
RELIGION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH A PERSON'S CAPABILITY TO EFFECTIVELY SERVE THE PUBLIC. Whether a candidate is Mormon, Baptist, Catholic, Sunni, Shiite, Hindu, "animist," agnostic, or atheist among others, my questions are still going to be the same. Are you smart? Are you experienced? Can you lead? Can you work towards the good of all citizens? What are your plans for the country?

If Mike Huckabee or any of the other candidates want to shout their religion from the rooftops, I'd encourage them to do so. I think that it's a good thing when a person is not ashamed of what they believe. I fear that the climate of religious intolerance in this country necessitates that people be brave about what they believe, lest we lose our right as citizens of this country to worship (or not) as we please. Also, publicly identifying with one religion does not mean that you necessarily have no respect for other religions. But I have one caveat: don't think your professed religion alone is going to sway my vote. I am a Christian, but I would vote for an atheist if that atheist had the character and qualifications to do the job and was a better candidate than the others. That doesn't make me a bad Christian. It makes me an honest Christian and a conscientious citizen.

You know what happens when people vote a candidate in based on religion? George W. Bush. A narrow minded, short sighted, egotistical, wannabe-cowboy whose character I refuse to attribute to his professed religion. I don't think all Christians are great candidates for president any more than I think all Muslims are terrorists - that would absolutely ridiculous and unreasonable. People have the opportunity and the ability to assess a candidate without making dumb assumptions based on one characteristic about that candidate.

My point is it shouldn't matter even IF Mike Huckabee was reaching out for the Christian vote. He has a right to campaign how he wants - to show whatever side of him he wants to show. It's our responsibility as voters to determine whether or not we want this to influence our decision next fall. Maybe I shouldn't assume that voters have the capability of making intelligent choices - Bush received more of the popular vote in 2004 than I thought he should have received, given the very expensive and deadly war, and I'm sure a percentage of that came from folks who just wanted to vote for the guy who was "more Christian" than the other guy. But part of being an American is recognizing and respecting that other people are capable of making decisions and choices for themselves. As much as I disagree with the people who voted for Bush last time, I respect their right to make that choice.

And I respect Mike Huckabee's right to talk about the religious meaning of Christmas in a campaign commercial. And even if I fear that people may do the stupid thing and choose someone based on one characteristic alone - Christian, female, black, hispanic, male WASP - I'm going to hold out hope that we've learned from our most recent mistake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

with time

i noticed the other day that i don't drive as fast as i used to. where i used to use my peripheral vision, now i look and look again (as my dad told me to do when he was teaching me how to drive.) i used to be so crazy with it. once, my mom, dad, and i were on our way from some random outing, and since i was able to drive, my dad suggested that i drive home. he wouldn't shut up, and it was so hard for me to concentrate on what i was doing, that i could hardly drive anyway, so i stopped right where i was. in the middle of the road. no hazard lights, no pulling over, nothing. i just stopped, and scared the isht out of my folks. i told my dad, "look, if you want me to get us home safe, you're going to have to stop all the talking. i can get us home, but not with all you're shooting at me from the passenger seat, i just can't." of course, he wanted to strangle me, or at least switch seats, but with cars whizzing by on both sides of the family car, that wasn't going to happen. after a dramatic pause, i put the car back in drive and got us home. i was crazy. it's his fault, he'd been driving like a maniac for as long as i can remember, and since i grew up used to maniacal driving, it was nothing for me to put the car in park in the middle of the road. during my college years, i drove some of everywhere in my own on-again/off-again hoopty, and driving a van for the school's security escort service (i LOVED that job). it was on the crazy streets of baltimore that i both came into the confidence a driver needs to have, and learned just how far i could push the rules of the road.

but, one hydroplane into the back of a moving truck, one doze on I-95 during rush hour, another doze on the DC beltway in bumper-to-bumper traffic, one broadside through a red light into a BMW, two speeding tickets, and one court-ordered driving class later, my maniacal days were over. somewhere in that time span, i stopped feeling that urge to rush to get where i was going. i stopped feeling invincible.

then i noticed that other people were speeding up to my bumper and zooming around my left side. i noticed that i felt more comfortable out of the fast lane. that two or three car lengths worth of buffer in front of me just made me feel better.

i'm not perfect. i still don't drive the speed limit in low traffic, low pedestrian areas. sometimes i still get distracted. sometimes i get sleepy while driving... but i'm more careful. i don't rush so much. i don't get road rage as often. if i need to, i'll pull over until i can get back on the road.

but this isn't really about my driving. it's about who i am becoming overall. the driving change is really just a part of an overall pattern in my life. it's interesting to be able to reflect - zoom out and witness my own maturation...

Monday, December 03, 2007

my pedigree

The oldest person on my paternal family tree as it stands so far was born in 1820 in Virginia. I have about 5 or 6 other people about 6 or 7 generations back that were born Negro in a slave state before emancipation.

Many of the people I've found were not able to read and write, down into the early twentieth century. Hardly any of them had any formal schooling, but some children started to read and write around the turn of the century. Many rented land and hired out as laborers, railroad section hands, factory workers, housewives, maids, and laundresses. They married, had several children, and went to church. Eventually, folks started to pick up small parcels of land in the same little patch of the country where it seems we've been for at least a couple centuries.

My grandmother was the first professional, a licensed practical nurse. My dad's sister was the first, at least in my branch, to earn a bachelor's degree. Yet I've heard stories of my father's upbringing - there were hard times. Schools were still segregated up until they started busing my dad and other kids in the late sixties, and subsequently closed the colored schools. Even then, men in my family were doing "odd jobs," like digging wells and fixing things.

I am the second in my family to earn a bachelor's degree, and the first to acquire an advanced degree. I have letters after my name. My little cousin is in college - she wants to get her MBA one day.

Needless to say, I am not part of the black bourgoisie. I am not derived from any of the Talented Tenth. I didn't debut for society. My parents and grandparents didn't go greek and shuttle me to homecoming games in early fall. There are no family jewels, no hope chests, no trust funds, no rich uncles. And I am overwhelmingly proud to be who I am. I am a child of former slaves, who lived and loved through poverty and Jim Crow, and took almost a century and a half to produce a middle class not obligated to hoeing and weeding, scrubbing, hauling, or digging to provide for our families. My inherited legacy is faith, perseverance, and a respect for education.

We've been blessed to make it this far. We are the strong. We are the purposed.

I am the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


is it the weather? the high cost of gas messing with my money? dissatisfaction with the wonderful blessing of a job i have, or guilt for feeling this way about the blessing that enables me to put food on my table? the fact that my dad got robbed yesterday? hormones? sundown before five o'clock? the stress of holiday travel?

i don't know, but the only bright spots in my life right now are my beloved and my genealogical research.

i need to start writing and doing poetry again, or something.

at first i thought it was that once-a-month thing that some women go through. i've been touchy, more impatient than usual. more apt to be bratty. less inspired, smiling less, less joyful in general. but this feeling has been getting me for the better part of an entire month, and it's not going away. i have seriously considered calling out sick from work EVERY WORK DAY i wake up since about a week and a half ago. i have to talk myself into going, even though i want to curl up in a ball and sleep until i just can't anymore. and if i had a lot of greasy, salty, fatty food in the house (which i don't for financial and nutritional reasons), it would probably be gone by now.

i keep thinking it will just go away like how it just came. not so, not yet.

every year since high school, this happens. it could be seasonal affective disorder. it could be depression. i don't know. but as long as i'm not suicidal or creating a danger to my important relationships, i'm not going to see a shrink. i'd rather pray and wait.

it's a good thing i'm not a drinker.

Monday, November 26, 2007


The first time I was in the Federal Census, I was an infant, just born a few months before it was taken. I suppose one of my parents filled out the form. We were the only three living in the house.

Ten years later, I learned all about the Census in school and was so excited to help with filling out the Census form. I was in elementary school in another state, and was just about to graduate and go to sixth grade.

The next time the Census caught up with me, I responded twice. Even though I sent a form, the Census taker came to my home because my form was lost or something. By that time, I was living on my own in college, an entire state away from my parents. My profession was listed as "student."

Next time, I won't be carrying my maiden name anymore, and I'll be listed with my husband and perhaps even a child or two, with an actual profession by my name.

What blows my mind is that one day after I'm probably buried, some curious person will probably look my record up with some technology I wouldn't even recognize, just to see who they might find. That is so crazy to me! But not as crazy as it may have seemed before last night, when I did the exact same thing.

I've been looking through the Census records to see who I might find, with a laptop computer these former slaves wouldn't even recognize. Thankfully for me, the Bermuda district of Chesterfield County, Virginia kept faithful and legible records, even of the Colored population. I used digital photos of records and obituaries my Grandma has, as well of notes I've taken of her own recollections, and I went hunting for my old folks in the Census. Last night I found out my great-grandmother was the first in her immediate family to read and write. I found out the names of ancestors who were likely born enslaved and were emancipated as young people. I come from farmers, laborers, and railroad men, and possibly, a mulatto shoemaker. My next step after getting census records is to visit the Library of Virginia and the Chesterfield County Courthouse to hunt for birth, marriage, and death certificates, and deeds (since my family has sold off, but still holds some land which I can identify). I may also look for Freedman's Bureau, military, and Indian records.

I've been wanting to do this for years, but I was inspired by finding a certified copy of my great-grandfather's birth certificate and his marriage license at my Grandma's. No time like the present. I hope to discover much more. This is just the maternal side of my dad's family. I haven't even really gotten into his dad's side, or my mom's family, yet.

All I know is that I'm glad that when the Census taker came in 1880 and 1910 and 1930 and the decades between, somebody was at home and willing to talk. It was so amazing to see those names I've known and repeated for years pop off the page.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

word choice

This is why choosing your words is important.

This article says that 37% of polled black folks believe that the divide in values and experiences between black folks is so wide that you can't think about all black people as one race.

That's some of the dumbest isht I've heard.

That sentence would make a lot more sense if you substituted the word "class" for "race." Black folks have been trying to make the point for years now that we're neither a monolith of hand-to-mouth people in the projects nor carbon-copies of the affluent Huxtable family. The idea that black people have different life experiences and are varied in their class dynamics and values is not a new one.

There's a big difference between the behaviors of rich white folks and white folks who live in shacks, but we aren't trying to make another race for poor white people to belong to, are we?

If we tried to consider two different races for black people, how would we separate the groups if not by economic status? And if a person like myself grows up in an undesirable neighborhood and comes from a low economic background, would we switch that person's race once they have obtained a higher education and climbed the economic ladder, or would we simply say that they've ascended in economic class? That's what we do for people of all other ethnicities. Why should it be any different for black folks?

When discriminating, do you think racists stop before calling a black person a derogatory epithet to think about whether or not the person has values that align with middle class whites?

I attribute the stupidity, not to Juan Williams, not to the people who responded to the poll, but to the people at the Pew Research Center who conducted the poll with this particular phrasing: "Which of these statements comes closer to your view: Blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race because the black community is so diverse, OR Blacks can still be thought of as a single race because they have so much in common." This question was put into a poll that asked folks a series of questions related to the socioeconomic status of black people, not about their racial/cultural identity. If it was racial/cultural identity that the study was trying to parse out, then the context was misleading, and so are the results of the study.

Friday, November 09, 2007

relationships- what i think

everybody else is talking about black relationships and families out there. i figured i'd put in my two cents, too.

i think we need to all kick back a minute. i think that there is entirely too much hype out there. i think folks are getting entirely too stressed about all the negative statistics we're hearing about black relationships. i think some folks are a tad bit too sensitive sometimes. and i think we all relying entirely too much on gender roles in our analysis of what's going on. i'm not saying men and women aren't different, 'cause we are. but this whole business about men are supposed to be this and do that, and women are supposed to do this and be that... i think we, especially women, are creating unnecessary mines in this field.

i think too many of us are hung up on the wrong isht. acquiring a mate is not like acquiring a car. this whole, 0-60 in 7 seconds (master's degree), great gas mileage (well-connected), BOSE sound system (great salary) box checking off of a list is for the birds. sure, find someone like you. a kindred spirit. someone who likes the same stuff, be it shopping at the pawn shop for bargains or wine tasting, but for goodness sake, toss out the lists with boxes next to attributes. i had one when i was seventeen. then i grew up. it's not about abandoning standards, it's about being open minded. you could get exactly what you need from someone you might not expect to be the gift-giver. the Creator knows what you need more than you do.

i think that when folks are feeling each other, they figure out how to communicate that to each other. and when they don't, it's probably because their past, or their fears, or maybe even their inexperience tangled the communication all up, leading to misunderstandings. even so, no worries. 'cause i believe in fate. i believe that the people who are fated to find themselves in a loving relationship will get there, because they are the people who will make a conscious effort to learn from their mistakes, to go meet new friends, to communicate honestly, to use discretion when necessary, and to know when being secretive or trying to be cunning is simply doing too damn much. i am not the only person to get into a relationship and think: wow. there's no way this would be going as well as it is if i hadn't learned this-or-that-lesson from that friendship with so-and-so, or that relationship with such-and-such. it ain't about what you do, it's about who you are, that determines your readiness and your aptitude and even your desirableness. i also believe that people who can't weather the learning process are not fated to hook up, and if they do, they will have a sharp learning curve that they might not be able to handle.

i think that it's true that marriage is good for people and their children. but i only think that's it's the best for people and their children when it's done right! i think staying together, married or not, is only good for the kids if it gives them them the most stable, loving, and exemplary environment possible under the circumstances. i think that raising a child with split up parents is totally doable, and is the optimal situation if both parents mix like oil and water when together. i also think that when parents split up, they are BOTH still obligated to be good parents, whether from the same or different households. and i think this is possible if moms and dads don't procreate with the scum of the earth. but if you make your bed with a miscreant, get you and your child up out of it - shoulder the burden by yourself, and love every minute with your child, giving no energy to the negative thoughts about that child's non-custodial parent. 'cause as you should've known i was going to say, you should have had those negative thoughts before making that bed, not now. birth control is the way to go. we are blessed enough to have the choice up front, and more people should use it.

so far as single moms by choice go - i think what's wrong with adoption? really. if these women saw the faces of all these babies and kids and teens out there who are literally unwanted, i wonder if they'd rather spend their money on the adoption process or sperm? it's just my opinion, but that's the way i think i'd go if i was baby-hungry at 37 with money in the bank.

Monday, November 05, 2007

treat it right

this is an open letter. if it applies to you, please take note. if it doesn't, and you know someone who should read this, please, do the loving thing, and help a sista out.

If you know someone who is knowledgeable about hair maintenance, perhaps you should ask for their help, because health is a good thing, and right now your hair lacks health.

Perhaps you are not drinking enough water and getting enough nutrients through a good diet and vitamins. Or perhaps it's as simple as getting a trim to save your ends from being uneven. I've also read that using a satin pillowcase or scarf is helpful at night to prevent dryness and breakage. But you should probably start trying some or all of these things to help make things a little better.

Because there is no reason for your hair line to look like that. You've probably been pulling your hair back too tightly, or getting your hair braided too often. Sometimes, your hair needs a break. If you keep pulling at it, the roots will get weak, and your hair will come out. A little variety in your hairstyle will help keep your hair healthy.

But please don't take that overboard - too much variety could wear your hair out too. You know, super-strength chemical relaxers are not for everybody. You might be that person who needs to let your hair run free for a little while. There is no shortage of information on the internet or in magazines about hairstyles you can try that will give your hair a much needed break so that it can stay strong.

Or, have you considered trying a children's relaxer? Or no relaxer at all? I'm telling you, those Dominican girls are good with those blow dryers! And they're affordable, too. Other choices include straightening combs and flat-irons. Just please, get someone you trust to do it - someone who knows how to do it without charring your tresses, sapping them of much needed moisture. Using heat is serious business, and must be done with care, if at all, because it's even better if you don't use heat. Just know that if you insist on being able to have your hair blow in the wind, you have options beyond continually processing your hair to the point where it is dry, brittle, and broken. Investing in a good conditioner is a helpful thing to try.

For all your efforts to have a beautiful mane, maybe you can't see what we see when others look at your hair. I'm sorry to say this, but it looks unloved. Have you ever considered wearing your hair in its original texture? Do you remember what it is? Think back - way back before second or third grade. Matter of fact, dig those early elementary school pictures out. Do you not like what you see? I mean, that's possible, but let's say you think the way the Creator made you was just right. Think maybe you could embrace that? Think you could try working with it?

I'm just saying, it's an option, and it would probably look better than all that excessive gel which is obscuring the beauty and texture of your hair (and contributing to dehydration and breakage). If you tried something different, your hair might be stronger, and longer, so that you don't have to snatch what little hair that didn't break off into a ponytail holder that contributes to the breakage (and can't even hold the many short, broken flyaways that the gel/hair grease couldn't hold).

If you're interested in putting your hair away, in extensions, bonded or sewn track weaves, or lace-front or cap wigs, please take note - you still need to take care of what's actually growing out of your head. Just because it's out of sight doesn't mean you can just let it go, and especially for too long a period of time. Aren't you tired of having your roots peek out, looking all forlorn and neglected? Aren't you tired of seeing something unruly when you get your weave/extensions taken out? You can only escape doing your own hair for so long. In any case, your hair won't be any better off if you neglect caring for it. We all know what happens when someone with locs does not keep up with her new growth - do you think you are exempt from having to love your hair just because it's been braided to your head or covered with cosmetics? You aren't. How many years do you think you can get away with this before you get your weave/extensions taken out one day to find that hardly any of your own hair is left?

Take responsibility for your hair. If you can't afford a professional, invest in the tools to take care of it yourself with simple hairstyles in between salon visits - or take the initiative to learn how to care for it yourself. Don't be afraid of your own hair. It came from you. It's part of you, not your enemy. If you are patient and willing to learn, you could get good at it without harming it.

I don't say these things to make people look down their noses at folks who aren't keeping up with their hair. I'm saying them because somebody has to say them. We are allowing each other to walk around with unhealthy hair and unhealthy scalps. Too many of us are causing our own hair loss. Too many of us are teaching our daughters and nieces and little cousins by example to treat their hair in an unhealthy way. It hurts to see 5-7 out of 10 of us I pass in public doing things that are harmful to themselves, in the name of style, or out of unnecessary ignorance of what their hair needs, or because someone told them their hair is "bad," or "worrisome," or "nappy" - all virtual synonyms for "unworthy of care, time, and love." Each of us is worthy of care, time, and love - our hair is worthy of good care. Our hair is NOT too difficult to appreciate and care for. We should treat it right.

Love your hair.

stop playing

I watched/listened to (I was cooking) the presidential debates in Philadelphia the other week. Hillary Clinton's folks are claiming that she was attacked by the other candidates because she is a woman.

That is bovine waste, and they know it.

She is the media darling - a presumptive front-runner. She was attacked by the other candidates because she is the candidate to beat right now. Of course the other candidates were gunning for the chinks in her armor. They should have, because that's exactly what debates are for. Candidates use debates to boost their esteem in the eyes of voters, and lower the esteem of their opponents. She is an artful question-dodger, and she did flip-flop in one of her positions towards the end of that particular debate, and the other candidates would have missed a perfect and legitimate opportunity if they had not called her on it. They were right to do so, and not only that, they called her credibility into question, which they should have done, because credibility is a material issue in this campaign. Part of the reason so many Americans are dissatisfied with our current president is that he has lost credibility with us, and lost our trust. Whoever is elected our next president should be credible and trustworthy. So spare me the garbage about credibility not being at issue (as one of the candidates said during the debate - that was such a sucker move).

I am not saying that I won't vote for Hillary, or that I will. Neither am I prepared to declare that Senator Clinton is not credible or trustworthy. At this very, very early point in the process, I am still an undecided voter. But I think that the claims of late that she was unfairly targeted because of her gender are ridiculous, and I don't agree with what I see as a sneaky tactic. I think it's a ploy to distract people from the fact that she looked weak in the latter moments of the debate. I think it's a ploy to rally sympathy for her. This lady is tough and accomplished and capable - I know that she can do anything her male opponents can do - she doesn't need our sympathy, she needs to think better on her feet when under pressure and/or spin her weakness in the debate in another direction. Just not by using the "they're picking on the lone woman" argument.

Friday, October 26, 2007


imagine a world where some people think that something is so important that it becomes necessary to advertise desired behavior to people who they think are either behaving badly or are badly informed on how they should behave.

imagine that the people suggesting desired behavior decide that a good way to advertise this behavior is to print big, bright posters with pictures of the desired behavior that they want to see and then place those posters on city buses.

imagine that some person on the bus sees one of these posters, pulls out a pen, and decided to add their own suggestion of desired behavior to the poster. apparently the poster doesn't say enough. the person on the bus leans over the railing and scrawls, not graffiti, but additional advice for passersby to read.

imagine that that person decided that if you're going to suggest desired behavior, you might do well to target everyone that behavior affects.

imagine that a blogger with a camera phone happens upon this very bus one rainy morning, and notices the brightly colored poster, with pictures of desired behavior, an admonishment from the advertiser, and somebody's editorial addition written in pen. the blogger chuckles, looks around wondering if the others on the bus will think her crazy, and then resigns herself to the fact that she probably is anyway.

imagine she fumbles with the camera, taking video after video but failing to take a snapshot. her stop is coming up, quickly. she might miss her opportunity to capture what could be accidental art! finally, the right method dawns upon the technologically remedial blogger. she snaps two pictures hastily, and walks off the bus into the rainy morning, armed with a visible memory of what made her chuckle... and what made her think... about social advertising, assumptions people make, and the utility of graffiti.

the poster reads: "Think you're pregnant? Get prenatal care as soon as you think you're pregnant - and keep all your prenatal appointments. Give Your Baby a Healthy Start." what's missing are the several pictures of smiling black and latino couples with babies. go prenatal care!

the scribbles read: "If you are man enough to get her pregnant, be man [sic] to Raise your child."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

new developments

first of all, i love my new fabric softener. i switched from dryer sheets to liquid and it makes all the difference! i love it in my clothes... in my sheets... in the linen closet... it's just wonderful.

2006 was the year of change... 2007 is the year of action. i've known this for some time now. but why did i forget that action brings about change? my finances are looking up because of some changes i made to the way i handle my money. my job is looking up because of some changes i made to my priorities. my home life is looking up because of some changes i've made - hey, i moved! (again!)

and i've already started to figure out what 2008 will be. the year of fulfillment. because of this year's actions, some things are getting ready to come together for me on the grown folks tip. dreams i've had for years will manifest. it's a very, very good feeling.

i have to find some dance class or something. any suggestions? i have to stay off the couch, and poetry is lovely but it doesn't work your abs and thighs.

i have to get my passport, too. i am so leaving this country. i don't even know where i'm going first, but there's a whole world out there and i need to go see it. i know i keep saying that, but bear with me. it takes time for someone like me to move on stuff like this.

oh yeah, and i'm recycling again and it feels good.

that's enough randomness and cryptic bragging for one day, don'tchathink?

Friday, October 12, 2007

it's who we are, not what we hear

Let me just say this about hip hop.

The problem is not the music, or the images, the industry, greed, capitalism - none of that.

The problem is culture. The problem is family values. There will always be something that turns a mirror back on society, reflecting the culture in that society. Misogyny, greed, violence, hedonism, materialism - all these things are in mainstream commercial hip hop and other media because all these things are in society. No one recording artist, video model, producer, or record label has the patent on these things. If there was no appetite for these morally questionable displays of vanity set to simple beats, then these opportunists would be out of business.

I don't excuse these opportunists for what they're doing. The problems with today's mainstream commercial hip hop are inexcusable. In fact, that's exactly where things start to go awry - people are excusing the inexcusable. People know some songs say things that don't reconcile with their values, but they like the beat, so they turn it up... with their three year old listening in the back seat of the car. They wouldn't like if their three year old grew up to have a credit card swiped through the crack of her behind, but they'll watch some other man's daughter in that very position late at night while their little girls are sleeping (or up way too late, watching TV too). They would rather their son get a good job when he grows up, but they allow him to hang pictures of admitted drug dealers - street thugs - on his bedroom walls. Not affirming our values - not honoring the values of our grandparents, is excusing the inexcusable, and as long as we let this and that continue to slide under the radar of what we should know is worthy of our time and attention, that which is considered "entertainment" will continue to degenerate. It's not just the music, it's the movies, it's celebrity "news" and gossip, it's fashion - it's culture at large, not just hip hop.

The stuff I hear on the hip hop station as I turn by it disappoints me - not just because it's bad to me, but because I know people are listening and are entertained by it. Not very long ago, stuff like Chicken Noodle Soup and Laffy Taffy wouldn't have gotten airplay, because people would have said, "This song is stupid," and turned off the radio. Rappers who rhyme a word with the very same word in the next verse were once clowned. But as people allow music to dumb down by excusing mediocrity and ignorance, this is the future of radio hip hop. We have arrived. Maybe this isn't where we want to be, but until we change our appetites, we will be spoonfed whatever we tolerate.

If we, as a group, rose to the level of the people we have the potential to be - people hungry for creativity, ingenuity, integrity, and variety, the problems we have with hip hop would ebb away like a bad dream after you wake up. We have to raise, not just feed and clothe, but guide, instruct, encourage, and believe in our children. We have to teach them their worth and about the opportunities available to them in this age where the ancestors have cried, bled, marched, and achieved so much so that we wouldn't have to shake our behinds or shuck and jive, grinning ear to ear, celebrating ignorance just to make a buck. We have to expose them to a variety of music, so they can appreciate a good hip hop sample when they hear it. We have to give our kids the tools to see hip hop and evaluate it for themselves - to separate fantasy from reality, and be able to tell walking, rapping stereotypes from genuine men and women.

In short, we don't need hip hop to go away. If we know who we are and what we're capable of and we give our kids the right tools in life, they'll see the negative things about commercial mainstream hip hop, or other media images and preoccupations for themselves, and respond in kind by rejecting that which is abhorrent, embracing that which doesn't appeal to the basest levels of our existence, and changing the game.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

i appreciate folks

it's nice to be able to share your joys with the people you love, admire, and respect... there's something about seeing yourself through the eyes of others that can give you some idea of the impact that you're having on the world around you. if they share your joys and pains, it's an indication of their connection to you, and if not... well then, let's hope it's a good thing that you know where folks stand.

i am loved.

it feels good to have people to share my life with. it feels good to know people are praying for me, hoping for the best for me, taking joy in my joys, investing concern in my struggles.

i am so blessed.

He ministers to me through the love of others. i know all roads lead back to Him.

all love, all patience, all optimism, all faith...

it all leads back to Him. it all leads forward into Him.

Monday, October 01, 2007

personal is personal

this used to be such a personal blog.

but i feel a little less anonymous here. people who've met and known me in person know how to find this blog. i've had readers who know my (distinctive) given name. and something about that just holds my tongue. somewhere along the line, i became too afraid to talk about myself, and started talking about the state of black america, using capitalization. if you've noticed, and you don't like it, all i can say is, it's just not that type of party anymore.

i've got career things going on right now. i've got money things going on right now. let's not forget the loving relationship things going on right now (this may be a pivotal turning point in my election of more privacy). i'm so busy on the grind, and in the gym, and being involved with my family - my poetry has slowed down so much. i'm still writing preliminary lines in my head that get lost to the four winds because they're never written down. i'm okay with it. this too shall pass.

i'm trying to talk to the Creator more often. it's not easy. once you get out of the habit of doing it, doing it requires effort. it's so silly how when we need him most - those times when we're juggling our worries and our cares with the day-to-day requirements - it's the time we (I, anyway) find it hardest to make time. i'm being pulled back to the church, slowly but surely. i haven't attended regularly in some time, especially since the importance of attendance has waned for me in the grand scheme of faith and faith-based action and living. but i feel that by returning with some regularity, i can regain some balance that i used to have... that i can reclaim some much-needed focus.

i decided at the beginning of this year that this year would be an important one of action. last year, it was all about change. the year before that, it was all about discovery. so many developments are happening with me - i've met milestones that i hadn't even set for myself yet, and it's not even my new year yet: i've still got all of fall and most of winter until this biological year passes into a new one. and yet, the idea of a deadline means little to me. the more i experience, the more i realize the truth of what people say about things happening in their own time - in the Lord's time.

i realize that this whole process, beginning with my exodus from the south which preceded the creation of this blog by mere months, is the process of me becoming who i've wanted to be since i was a child. that amazes me. i'm recognizing the idealistic child i once was in the woman i am becoming. if this is full circle, then what happens next? this is why i need to invest in my connection with the Creator. i don't want to get lost along the way. i have a purpose bigger than whatever i may dream of on my own. my faith can lead me there.

in the meantime, i am seriously pursuing physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual well-being. privately. i can't work it all out here. i believe my written journal will begin to take back the favor i'd bestowed on this public blog and become, once again, the holder of my story - the breadcrumbs of my journey. this isn't a goodbye... it's just a clarification that i haven't lost my rich thought life. i've just pulled it in closer to my chest.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

dat boy crazy

this ain't the first time i hopped on the computer to blog about kanye west immediately after seeing him go off the script on live television.

this time, he was performing on saturday night live, and flubbed one of the lines about halfway through the song. no problem. what'd he do? instead of faking it until the end of the verse, then going to the chorus and hopping back into the lyrics, he freestyled his way to the end of the set - actually, not the end of the set, 'cause he cut that short, too. plus, he turned around and lied about planning to mess up and freestyle, 'cause, well, it's what came to mind. LOL! say what you want about him, but i'm a fan. no, he might not be the best at everything, hands down, and no, he's not the best at freestyling (KRS-One could kill kanye in a battle in his sleep), but the brother's got a spark about him. his album is selling well, everybody knows his name, but he's still hongry. it's endearing. i'm happy for him.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

face forward

I am not rejoicing that Mychal Bell made bail. Not because I'm not happy for him - I am, but because I know this is not the end. He is still facing serious charges. He still has that matter of his prior juvenile offenses to live down. The other five defendants are all in the same boat - facing serious charges that stem from their actions on the day they made the decision to jump Justin Barker. They are still in the process of becoming men, and I'm hoping that in the midst of all these events, they are reevaluating their decision making skills.

I was not, and am still not of the opinion that these young men should be "freed." I wore black for solidarity with the protesters and called attention to my position on the matter because I believed that their charges were excessive and racist in the absence of similar charges for white teens who were also involved in assaults in Jena, La - for example, the whites whose actions Justin Barker bragged about before the Jena Six decided to whup his ass.

Which brings me to this point: for actions, there are consequences. I cannot demand that white teens be held accountable for their assaults on black students and simultaneously hold the Jena Six blameless for what they've done. The solution is not to let the black kids go free like the white kids were allowed to do. The solution is to hold every kid, regardless of their color, responsible for their choices and actions. Haul those white kids into court, too.

I wish the Jena Six well - fair charges, fair hearings, and fair sentences. I also wish that the prosecutor and law enforcement in Jena bring the white teens to justice, and that they find and punish the arsonist who burned the school down.

If this country wants people to respect and follow the law, then the enforcement of the law should be just and evenly applied.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I don't like Bill O'Reilly. I've never liked Bill O'Reilly. I disagree with his politics. I hate his show. I hate his network. He annoys me. Never, have I ever thought that I would do anything that could even be mistaken for defending him, but here goes...

Scenario: Bill O'Reilly is on the radio, having a discussion with Juan Williams. In the course of their conversation, O'Reilly brings up the time he went out to eat with Al Sharpton. They went to the now seemingly ubiquitous Sylvia's in Harlem, a black-owned restaurant. Apparently, some comments he made during this discussion are making a lot of people angry. Headlines read as follows: "Bill O'Reilly racist comments," "O'Reilly: Sylvia's just like a suburban white restaurant," "Is Bill O'Reilly's Comment on Race an 'Imus Moment' ."

What was offensive? Well, he said that he "couldn't get over" how eating at Sylvia's was like eating anywhere else. He also said, "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-F'er, I want some more iced tea.' " That sounds a lot to me like one of those patronizing, "That [insert black person here] is so articulate [or clean, or polite, or insert-anti-black-stereotypical-adjective-here]." So I can see why folks are upset. But before I decided to let this guy affect my blood pressure, I figured I'd do a little digging to find the statements in their original context, since I noticed that hardly any of the articles commenting on the fallout have provided any context whatsoever.

Check this out. The relevant parts of the transcript are about halfway down the page, after the bullet points, beginning with, "From the September 19 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor:"

Once I read the transcript, I realized that several of his statements had been taken out of context. In fact, even the site I've linked to has put the most commonly cited text in boldface text, as if to say that the context for the statements was irrelevant. It appears to me that O'Reilly was trying to say that his visit to Sylvia's was an example of why stereotypes are stupid. Of course, in keeping with his pompous, arrogant character, he said it with words like, "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference," and "...[T]he people up there are tremendously respectful. They all watch [my show] The Factor." Unfortunately for him, his politics and his history of making statements that indict black culture make it painfully difficult to consider that perhaps he meant well by his statements, but in fairness, I think this is one of the times when O'Reilly was not at his worst.

This is part of the problem with race relations in today's society. We don't know how to talk to each other about race relations without mis-speaking and being mis-interpreted at every turn. Mind you, I have no sympathy for O'Reilly here. I'm not concerned about his welfare in the aftermath of his fumble. Trust me, he's already said plenty already for intelligent people to be upset about, and I bet next month he'll say something else stupid that will legitimately piss me off. I'm concerned about the rest of us, and how we've got radio and newspapers hopping all over misinterpreted comments being taken out of context - and people are reading it and eating it up without pausing to question the story - getting hyped, expending energy. 'Cause folks are all so ready to go on the next crusade against racism.

Family: rather than fill folks' in-boxes over some simple comments, a better way to fight racism is to fight for the people affected by it. Read to the kids. Network with minorities. Each one teach one. Go to PTA meetings. Start snitching. Invest in minority start-up businesses. Mentor a child. Be there for your families. We don't have time to be worried about people like Bill O'Reilly and what he has to say about soul food. We have a generation of children to hoist on our shoulders.

Friday, September 21, 2007

After Jena 6

I noticed, in my unscientific visual survey of what black folks were wearing, that people in the downtown white collar jobs were more likely to wear black than the blue collar folks in the neighborhoods. Could it be that the first group of folks were more likely to listen to the radio talk shows, read black bloggers, and pass e-mail forwards? Anecdotally, I know a lot of blue collar folks that don't do at least two out of three of these things, and those were the primary ways we spread the word about yesterday's protest and "dress code." Or could it be, as a friend of mine suggested, that people in the hood are too worried about their own problems to be bothered with concern about the Jena 6. Black boys get railroaded in the court system, discriminated against, and shot regularly enough in the hood that some folks may wonder why Jena is anymore special than Camden or North Philly.

In fact, in a discussion I listened to last night, I heard a woman say something to that effect - we have a lot going on right here at home to deal with, so what about Jena, La.? Can we take care of Philly first? My thoughts are that concern doesn't have to be mutually exclusive - one can care about what's going on up the street and still show concern for what's going on down south. One can also pitch in to help out with local and national matters. Caring about the Jena 6 doesn't mean you no longer care about your little cousin.

I did some internet surfing to see what folks - blacks and others - had to say about the incident. So many people seemed misinformed, or under-informed about the mission. It seems a lot of people think that blacks just wanted the Jena 6 freed because they're black and they were provoked. Not so. The problem was that they were excessively charged, and that no whites faced any sentence remotely close to what the blacks are facing, despite the fact that a black student was intimidated with a firearm and later jumped by whites. The district attorney was lenient with the whites and heavy-handed with the blacks. That's the problem. These young men didn't get mad about some nooses and then decide to jump the first white kid they saw. Too many people have formed opinions without understanding the context of the situation. It was very disappointing to see. Wikipedia is free.

Another comment I heard a few times was that, "I'm tired of black people rallying around causes because it's the trendy thing to do. So I didn't wear black today." Or, "Wearing black isn't going to change anything, so I didn't see the point." To the first comment, I say that it's not just black people who rally around a cause-of-the-moment and then lose intensity - that may be an American, or maybe even a human societal flaw. Let's not malign black people any more than others, shall we? But I understand and agree that if you really want change, you can't limit your efforts to one Day of Atonement (the Million Man March was supposed to start a movement in several communities, not end after the buses came back home), or one month of solidarity (mainstream media wanted to believe race and class divisions were healed after 9/11 just because everyone was emotional after the country's loss). Thing is, showing solidarity on one day doesn't mean that you can't keep things going the next day. That doesn't mean continuing to wear black today. That means continuing to draw attention to the issues that matter, regardless of the clothes you wear. Your actions are up to you, and if you want change, you can be that one person to keep it on the minds of the people around you.

Regarding black not changing anything, I've said in my last post that clothes won't get the Jena 6 a fair trial. But that didn't make wearing black irrelevant. Some may disagree, but some battles are won and lost in the psyche. That's why shows of solidarity have such important in this, our symbolic culture. I was excited to see black folks wearing black - to me, it meant that people had heard about an important cause, and what's more, they supported the fact that something was being done about it. They wanted to bring awareness of the issues. They believed in the power of collective effort. All psychological, but all very relevant and affirming to those like myself who choose to believe that despite popular belief, people, especially black Americans, are not all apathetic, lazy, and complacent. I am too young to know how black folks felt when watching our two Olympians on the podium raise their black gloved fists during the national anthem. But I bet it got people hyped. I know I was hyped yesterday, and so were others all over the country.

I can't knock that. If anything, I want to support that. Which is why when I thought, "Wearing black is a waste of time," yesterday, I thought better of it and wore as much black as I could. Every little bit helps. And we should use what energy we can retain from yesterday's momentum to keep that optimistic effort for change going. Never mind past fits and starts, past unbroken promises, past failures. Our job is to learn from the past, not limit ourselves by bitter memories of it.

Again, I ask, what are we going to do today? Even better, what am I going to do today?

I wrote this blog to inspire you to give serious thought to this question. Let's try to ask it of ourselves, and find an answer, every day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

what are you wearing today?

Today I am wearing a set of black slacks with blue pinstripes, and a black sweater showing my shirt's blue collar and cuffs. I wanted to wear all black, but I didn't have solid black to rock. But I got as close as I could, since today is a special day.

Today, black folks from all over the country are wearing black clothes, on purpose, together. It's a show of solidarity with the people who took off work, scraped some money together, got hotel rooms, printed flyers, made signs, and dedicated their time today to go to Jena, Louisiana, to protest the judicial system there. The district attorney there is in the process of prosecuting six black teenagers for jumping a white teenager in the aftermath of some racially-based fighting between whites and blacks in that town. The sentences these young men are facing are harsh. The background of the cases has led many to believe that the prosecution is unjustly excessive and racially based. Although the public outcry has not been as prominent in the news as say, Britney Spears' performance at the VMA awards, the rivalry between 50 Cent and Kanye West for sales, or OJ Simpson's latest arrest, somehow black people have spread the news. I heard about it via e-mail. Then a MySpace forward. Then the black internet blogs and message boards. All this before I heard any inkling of it in the mainstream television or print media. I hear that Michael Baisden was talking about it on his nationally syndicated afternoon radio show, and so was Tom Joyner in the morning. I knew about wearing black today because my best friend sent me a text message and because the DJ on the "Whispers in the Dark" radio program mentioned it before a commercial break.

I don't know what's going to happen to these young men. I hope they get a fair trial and sentencing. Merely wearing black en masse will not save these young men from unfair prosecution. Action will. May God grant the protesters safe passage during their trip, and the voice to make a change. But I do know, from seeing black people up and down Market Street wearing black this morning, that today we have proven ourselves capable of communicating effectively and acting with a joint purpose. I'm not going so far as to say that all is well among all black Americans. What I will say is that it is inspiring to see that we have the ability to communicate as well as we have on this matter. If we can do this, what more can we do given the many resources we have to communicate with each other? Imagine if, instead of stopping this massive grapevine after today, we decided to generate a list of companies to support in favor of their rivals who, let's say, have no minorities in their boardrooms but heavily target minorities for their profit? Imagine if we used this power to talk about the realities of how AIDS is coming hard for black women, affecting our families at an alarming rate? Imagine if we rebuilt New Orleans, improved child literacy, supported HBCUs, mobilized mentors for at-risk teens? Can you imagine what we could do if we acted collectively?

We don't have to imagine. What are you wearing today?

What will you - what will WE - do tomorrow?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


when i first started to attend open mics about 4 or 5 years ago, i was in love with the whole scene. i was constantly in an environment where i was a minority during the day, and being with other black folks on those nights was a refreshing thing. an avid bookworm, i love words. an avid music lover, i love songs. open mics provided me with both.

it wasn't long before i realized that certain themes were used often in the poetry i was hearing - affirmations of culture, political frustration, the fallout of economic warfare - all things that merit discussion, expression, and reflection. as time went on, i noticed that there were certain things that we folks in the audience were expected to know about. i don't have time to get into all of it, but i'll just focus on one for now: the "willie lynch mentality." i had never heard of willie lynch before attending poetry venues. afraid to show my ignorance of something that i apparently should have known about, i looked him up on the internet. my search told me that willie lynch was a caribbean slaveholder whose slave-handling tactics of mental divide-and-conquer warfare are at the root of division between africans in america today.

i'll be honest: i wasn't very impressed with his speech. i'm naturally skeptical of such things, but i let it go at that. all the things in the letter were things i'd heard others expound upon when trying to explain the current cultural and economic state of black folks. i already knew those tactics had been used. i'd learned about them in my reading before ever having read about willie lynch. the difference here is that instead of talking about the divisive tactics as something that was generally done by slaveowners during slavery, the individual willie lynch now stood out as a figure to whom these tactics could be attributed. additionally, this is a name we've never heard in school. surely this must be some information kept from us for centuries, so that we would never know we were being systematically divided all this time. that way we would be ignorant of our plight and too disorganized, too disjointed, too inept to band together and resist the mental warfare being thrust upon us - suddenly the shadow of conspiracy looms. we've been hoodwinked! we've been bamboozled!

at last now i understood what the poets were saying when they talked about willie lynch. the references to the willie lynch mentality made sense - they were referring to divisiveness among black people when they dropped his name. "willie lynch" is now a convenient term to encapsulate this concept - an abbreviation, if you will.

problem is, willie lynch is not a historical figure - he was not a man who lived and breathed and singlehandedly determined the plight of africans in america. the speech in which he outlined a program for white racial domination never happened. of course, we'd never know it, the way his speech is circulated on the internet and alluded to ad nauseum by even the most well-meaning of poets. black scholars have done the research and taken the time to discredit the myth of his existence and speech, based on linguistic and historical research, and i'm glad that they have, since i'd always been suspicious of the myth, but never had the ammunition to discredit it.

please don't misunderstand me: i know that africans were stripped of culture, language and custom, bred, beaten, separated, and intimidated in order to lose identity, unity, and the urge for freedom. this is not a myth. this is something we need to understand about our ancestors. at times we need to talk about this, and it does affect us even today. one of the ways it affects us, however, is that we go searching for meaning in things that have no authenticity. contrary to what we may have heard, kwanzaa is not an african holiday - it was created for african americans who want to pay homage to african culture. "picnic" originates from the french, and does not mean "pick-a-nigger." black men received their right to vote in the 19th century with the 15th amendment to the constitution, not in the 20th century with the voting rights act. black women's suffrage followed in the 19th amendment. and folks, listen to me close: there existed no man named willie lynch, mastermind of black submission and division.

some find that debating whether or not this speech existed is a distraction. should it matter if the man wasn't real, when we know that the tactics were real? yes, it should, and this is why: part of our problem is that many of us don't know our history in the first place. when you don't know the truth, someone can tell you anything, and in your ignorance, you will believe. we once believed that in africa we were savages that swung like monkeys from trees. we know better now - that we came from civilizations with order, governments, kingdoms, knowledge, and customs. knowledge of the truth makes all the difference. we must accept nothing less than the truth. here, the truth is that willie lynch is a modern-day, fabricated symbol and not a historical figure. asking people to make that distinction is no more a distraction than perpetuating the myth.

family, please stop getting your history from e-mail forwards, rap lyrics and open mics. please stop listening to your play cousin who just came out of jail wearing a kufi, just because he said he read a lot while he was locked up. stop spreading information until you've checked its integrity. don't be a pedestrian thinker. if you want to know who we are, get cozy with carter g. woodson. take a class at the community college. shoot, even hit up wikipedia. but always question. always try to verify.

a note to all my brothers and sisters who write poetry and lyrics - i love you. but if you're going to name-drop willie lynch, please, PLEASE, explain what you mean by that to the people who are listening to your words. and in your explanation, can you somehow include the fact that he's a symbol of reality, and not intrinsically real? we must take our weighty responsibility as griots seriously. the ancestors are watching and the children are listening.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


September 11, 2006

click here for one of Cathy's favorite groups

Catherine Lisa LoGuidice and I have precious little in common. She was born nine years before me and lived several states away. I've never met her. Perhaps on one of her adventures, chasing down some hard rock star or heading out to defy death on a mountain biking trip, she wound up on a road trip, and maybe she passed me in a car on I-95 once and neither one of us knew it. I've come to believe that it's a smaller world than we think this is, and the Pisces within me likes to believe that the connection between me and Catherine is on purpose.

A big part of Catherine's life was love - she had the time and heart for lots of it. She loved her two god-daughters, and friends and family members. She had even found the kind of love that people pray and wish for in a fiancee, an old friend she'd known since high school. She was planning to get married to Erick Elberth, and all of her friends and family celebrated with her at a bridal shower. She was a beloved daughter to Catherine Masak and Carmelo LoGuidice, sister to Lucy and Michael, and an aunt to many. A part-time veterinary assistant, Catherine loved animals, too. One thing that she definitely shared with me was a love of reading - Anne Rice was one of her favorites! I can imagine her four cats finding other things to do while she got all wrapped up in some intriguing story packed with horror and suspense.

Her life seemed full. Her taste in music - on the edge. Her taste in stories - on the edge. Her sky diving and mountain biking - on the edge. This woman, of tattooes, intricate Halloween costumes, and horror movies wasn't one-sided, though. Her brother Michael knew that she loved Thoreau so much that she once travelled to his famous retreat, Walden Pond. She also took up Tai Chi, an ancient art characterized by its graceful and gentle movements that inspire health and inner peace.

What's crazy is that you could walk past Cathy, as her friends and family called her, on a crowded street - bump into her maybe - and never know all of the wonderfully interesting stuff about the woman you were bumping into.

When the planes hit those towers on September 11, 2001, I was in bed, getting ready to wake up and go to class across town. Catherine was at work. She was an assistant bond trader for a firm called Cantor Fitzgerald. As a nation, we were all shaken and confused while the tragedy was happening, but I can't imagine how Cathy and her family felt in particular on that morning.

She died that day, five years ago, at the age of thirty. She was on the 105th floor in the first tower, and it's pretty likely that she just wasn't able to get to a safe place. Like many of us, she hadn't thought much about the World Trade Center attack in 1993 since it happened. Her job was at the World Trade Center, so that's where she stayed for the several years to follow.

When she was memorialized, donations to the ASPCA were requested instead of flowers, honoring her animal-loving spirit. After her death, and the deaths of 2,995 others, I mourned, wearing black for two days and crying for many more, shocked and deeply moved by the television images of people wandering the area near the towers with signs seeking their missing loved ones. At the time, and even now, I am just a fellow American with no direct connection to the tragedy. But I suspect that Cathy's family felt the impact of the tragedy much more intensely, and I suspect that today, and every day, they remember Cathy's life more lovingly than I ever could. They, and the other 2,995 families of the deceased and missing, have my most reverent sympathy.

I hope that those who knew Cathy can get joy from their memories of what they loved most about her, and that if they are able to learn anything from the way she lived her life, that they'll honor her memory by doing so. (9/11/07 - This is updated to add that her loved ones think of her always and often. You may read their words to Cathy at the link, which is below this message.)

May her spirit rest in peace.

Thanks to and for information on Cathy that served as the source of this tribute.

Monday, September 10, 2007


ok, i'll finally expound at length on this situation with black people wanting to boycott vh1 because they have supposedly rejected a show featuring intelligent black women who are willing to date interracially. it's been going around on the internet for some time now. the logic here is that vh1 is racist because they're more than willing to show "flavor of love" and "charm school," which feature black women behaving badly, but they've supposedly said that "viewers are more interested in seeing black women in a ghetto role," so showing educated black women isn't something they want to do.

i can't help but think that if vh1 had actually decided to do the show they've purportedly rejected, then folks would be up in arms about this proposed show about black women dating non-black men, because people are tired of that whole black men and women can't get along stereotype. i can hear it now, "oh, so when you finally do put good black women on your network, they only get the spotlight if they choose white men over black men?" if it ain't one thing, it's another.

do i think vh1's position is righteous? certainly not. but i understand it. they're selling what sells. and something makes me question why vh1 wasn't boycotted when flavor of love and charm school got started. is it only in comparison to a show about educated black women that people can realize how tacky, trifling, and bad-for-our-collective-image their already existing shows are? vh1 is in the business of airing fluff. they've found their niche, and they're sticking to it. there is no requirement to balance out their programming when there are fi'tyleven other channels in folks' cable packages. i figure they're thinking, "you wanna see positive images? turn to a pbs documentary on the civil rights movement, or watch the autobiography of miss jane pittman or whatever they're showing on tvone now."

i don't expect fairness or balance or righteousness from vh1- why should i? we couldn't even get that from bob johnson. this market isn't driven by that. it's driven by who can grab the most eyes for those advertisements. that's why bob johnson is a rich man. i can't stand what he did with his network, but i can't knock his understanding of his business. he didn't make a network for us. he made a network for companies who wanted to advertise to us. vh1 is doing the same - grabbing attention, not changing the world or catering to our higher sensibilities.

cooning sells.

if we don't like that, then we should stop buying products from all the advertisers who sponsor cooning on all of tv and radio - not just vh1. we should stop celebrating people who make it a point to act a fool in the public eye, like karrine steffans, flavor flav, and 50 cent among others, just because they're black. folks become transfixed on every single train wreck aired on tv and radio and then have the nerve to cry foul when the media wants to capitalize on the (merited) perception that people like to watch foolishness? it's not them, it's us. americans, black and white and purple, patronize minstrel shows.

don't hate the playa, CHANGE the game.

note: i don't watch flavor of love or charm school, i don't own one 50 cent album, i don't watch bet, and i've not read ms. steffans' tawdry tales.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

is there a "we"?

The Assertion

"N*****s destroy, Negroes assimilate, Black people build."

this is what led me to ask the question a few posts back about assimilation. i heard this sentence about two weeks ago, and it is still working my nerves. never mind for a moment the unnecessary use of the n-word (i've come to hate this "n-word" term as much as the word it unsuccessfully attempts to skirt, by the way), since i've already gone on that diatribe, and the debate will likely never die.

what's more troubling to me is the way this phrase is so divisive, as if we need any more division amongst us. all this finger pointing and "they" this and "they" that is so spinning-wheels-and-getting-no-damn-where. add that to the problem that none of these words are defined. two of them are fairly easy - destroy and build. the other words are not so simple. and based on context clues and personal anecdotes, even though i suspect that a black person hearing this sentence would know what the sentence means, they shouldn't just accept it word for word. instead, they should question.

De-constructing Semantics

now if i'd tried to get this same point across, i'd have said in the alternative that "ignorant, unappreciative people destroy," and that "progressive, positive people build." but that still leaves the middle part. this is where i really get puzzled. what is the difference between a "Negro" and a "black" person? and what (this is the really nitty-gritty gristle and marrow-in-the-bone of my problem here) is "assimilation," anyway? see, the speaker of this sentence is a brother i respect - i know he means well, and i see his point that we need to focus our attitudes and our actions on doing the best we can for our situation as a people. but this "Negroes assimilate" thing is where the whole thing gets derailed.

does assimilation mean moving out of the neighborhood to a place with bigger houses, less crime and better schools? does it mean speaking standard english? does it mean putting a relaxer in your hair? perhaps assimilation means playing golf on saturday with colleagues, or watching Friend.s reruns while baking chicken to eat with artichokes. maybe it means marrying a white person and having beige, amber-haired, hazel-eyed kids. it probably includes preferring E! to BET or Oprah magazine to Essence magazine. does assimilation mean purposely naming your daughter Katherine instead of Keesha? or purposely naming your son Matthew instead of Marquise? where do we draw the line? what is assimilation and what isn't? and if a Black person does "assimilate," what makes them a Negro instead of a Black person? for the record, some of the greatest Black figures of the 20th century were self-described Negroes, when Negro with a capital N was the most dignified way to refer to us Africans in America. have the past 40 years changed the meaning of Negro so much that it must become an insult? an assertion that someone has lost their Soul with a capital S? why are some of us always on the hunt to find words to malign each other?

Problems on Every Side

perhaps my friend's issue is that when people of color get involved in middle-class culture, and take on middle-class bills and obligations, they are less hungry for change in the neighborhoods they or their parents or grandparents left behind, where people who look like them still struggle without them, although they are probably best equipped with the education and funds to help make a difference. they are more worried about job security than agitating for change. they're less likely to tutor or clean up their old block or become a mentor, because they're busy hustling to pay mortgages and student loans (and keep up with the joneses). they're probably more likely to blame people left behind in the old neighborhood for not hustling like they or their parents or grandparents have done, both because it may relieve some of their guilt for turning away from the shells of the left behind neighborhoods and also because they do have a point about the "i'm a victim" mindset. black victims of racism and poverty have been helping themselves for centuries, and there is no reason in this post-Civil rights era to stop now. is this an assimilationist stance? to expect people to do what they can with what means they have? to expect such achievement of yourself and excel, like our ancestors fought to enable you to do?

part of "black people build"-ing (i assume the speaker categorizes himself in this group) is recognizing that change requires power, and power is not free. one thing middle-class black folks understand is how to put their time and effort into work that generates money. and in this country, money is power, and poor people get the shaft. poor people could learn this lesson from the Katherines and Matthews. and in turn, Katherine and Matthew could re-learn a thing or two about remembering where they came from from Keesha and Marquise, who pool their funds with their grandmother when that gap between this check and the next gets too long, or who watch their sister's baby after school when she starts her shift every afternoon so she won't have to spend light bill money on daycare.

Reality Check

certainly - point out destructive and selfish attitudes when it will help us adjust our focus to what is important. but there's no need for the name calling. no need for the division. we all have problems. too many of us from various economic places on the spectrum have our priorities jacked up. pointing fingers at "them" from whatever point of view you come from is a sure way to further alienate us from each other. how then, will we learn from each other or help each other, if we can't tolerate our differences, let alone appreciate them?

Friday, August 31, 2007


lawd, i'm so tired of people sometimes. who do they think they are? seriously. i don't know if it's current trends in the culture - people getting paid to opine on things authoritatively (and loudly) on the news, blogs where people can beknight themselves experts, the general decline in civility in common interactions and discourse... maybe all of the above. but i'm so tired of the self-righteous. so very tired of the rude. so annoyed with the close minded. i can deal with and forgive the people who don't have (or use) creativity to think beyond what others have told them - ignorance and arrogance are not the same thing. but people who claim to know so much better than others, then fall victim to the same flaws as the rest - they really need to fall back. not because they make mistakes, but because they are wrong in trying to say that they are incapable of making mistakes. politics is arguable. religion is arguable. sometimes there are no absolute truths that anyone can lay claim to. certainly, support your point when you have one. stand up for your opinion. but don't elevate yourself in your own mind so much that you can't respect the people to whom you're speaking. i've been talked down to so much in the past week or so. it doesn't hurt my love for myself. it challenges me, sure. but more than anything, it disappoints me. because i catch more hell from my own people warring with each other than i get from "the other," and that's real talk. sometimes it feels like it's always a grind. always a trial. i know we can't be simple, 'cause being black in this country ain't no simple thing. and i know we won't always agree, and that's a good thing, 'cause i don't want us all to err together. but i believe a certain amount of respect for each other would go so very far. maybe if we weren't all trying to be right it would be better. the best, the most righteous, the most conscious, the hardest, the richest, the smartest, the realest... when did this become a competition? where is the humility? where is the concern?

Monday, August 27, 2007


hey there, family!

first, thanks for checking in and reading even though i haven't been posting everyday like i used to. it means a lot to me every time someone leaves a comment or puts a hit on my page. it lets me know i'm not talking to myself.

second, in light of my confidence in you, i have a question i'd like you to answer, if you please. the other night i was at the poetry spot and my brother from another mother brought up the concept of assimilation. i'd like to know what you think: in the context of being black in america, what does it mean to assimilate? i have tried on my own to answer that very question for the past several days now, and i cannot come up with anything solid. i wonder why? perhaps your input may help me understand why i have such a hard time answering that question...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

my own race

yesterday, i set foot in a gym for the first time in years.

i joined it just this week! and it's about time. i had this one post talking all kinds of smack about how i wasn't paying money to sweat in front of strangers. whatever! it's over a year later and i weigh about 10 pounds more than i did when i started this blog. i've outgrown too many clothes. i'm too far gone to be happy wearing a bikini in public. so i bit the bullet and bought a gym membership. however - i still don't have a bathroom scale. and i'm still not on a diet, even though i eat well about 80% of the time.

my first day was okay. i took a tour with one of the girls who works there, and she showed me how to use the weight machines and the treadmill. then i used the treadmill to go for a mile - walking/jogging - i am NOT a runner. then i used almost every weight machine there. i was at the gym for about 45 minutes. depending on how soon i can get my mile down, i might be able to get out in half an hour, and still get home in time to catch the news. my only concern is boredom. but i have some ideas. first, i'll switch from the treadmill to some other cardio machine, like the bike, or that other walking thing where you use your arms too (i don't know its name) to keep my cardio varied. second, once the music in the gym gets old, i'll use my z.une to listen to music. sometimes, depending on whether i use the bike or what, i may even be able to read a magazine while i work. i've got a year's financial commitment to work on this, and i'm hoping my thriftiness will keep me going, if for nothing else than to get my money's worth.

for me, the weight machines are where the treasure is. my main reason for joining was to tone up, not lose weight. that's why i'm keeping my cardio limited to jussst enough to get my heart rate hopping. to me, the most important part of working out is to keep my shape as i get older and my metabolism changes. it's totally a vanity thing. i've never been fat, but i don't wanna get there. i want to get rid of the cellulite forming on my thighs. i want my triceps to stop wobbling like my seventh grade teacher with the wig and fuzzy moustache. i don't want to outgrow the clothes i can still fit. i want a firm, developed thigh and butt area. i want to flatten my stomach back out and add definition to my abs. and i want my beloved's eyes to bug out of his head on our honeymoon one day.

i don't know how soon i'll get to where i want to be. i noticed that other women are using higher weights on the weight machines than me. that's okay. maybe they've been there for a while and have worked up to the weights they use. maybe they haven't but they're just stronger. it doesn't make a difference either way. i could try heavier weights but i could hurt myself, so i won't. i will go at my own pace - run walk/jog my own mile and use my own weight limits. much like with everything else - education, finances, personal relationships, my writing, lifetime milestones - i have to run my own race and work with what i have until things change.

i have to remember to take a picture as soon as possible in a bikini, so that a year from now, i can remember what the beginning of my race looked like. that is my comparison point - not people on tv or in the gym.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mr. Trotter

why oh why did the eagles release jeremiah trotter? just why.

no, really, why?

'cause i don't want him to go. dude is a hard worker, a veteran, a team player, and a fan favorite. and the eagles let him go? it just ain't right.

mr. trotter, you will be sorely missed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

third first time

last night was the third time i stepped into an open mic venue after not having been there. i've been on hiatus for a while, life's been changing, so i came back to see if it still held the magic for me.

i was so inspired.

some of the old familiar faces were there, and it was really good to see them and hear from them. but it was really good to see that most of the folks on stage - even the band - were new faces. i heard new poetry and music for the first time in almost a year. and i was so impressed that i was thinking to myself, "i have to step my game up." i'm really happy to have been inspired to do more and do better.

as usual, while sitting at the venue, ideas for poems happened to me, but of course, i didn't take my notebooks with me, so those ideas are floating around in this head - i may or may not see them again. but between hearing live music for the first time in months, being able to really play with my media player, and all the singing i've been doing lately, i suspect that i may tackle that CD project i wanted to attempt before life interrupted me.

we shall see...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


(Every year I have on here is totally approximate. So if I get one wrong, forgive a sista.)

It takes two - Rob Base and EZ Rock, 1987 - Learning all the words to me and my classmate's favorite rap song for the first time, and finally accepting hip hop as my own, and not my older cousins'.

Tomorrow - Quincy Jones, 1990. Fifth grade graduation, the end of the innocence...

Real Love - MJB, 1991. Getting used to the idea that being the teacher's favorite meant I was going to have to fight like Sophia.

Lately - Jodeci's remake, 1993. That long, long, lazy summer in Virginia's woods. Wearing daisy dukes and racing my cousin out in the country.

My Life - MJB, 1994. The background music of about the next three years of my life. I just couldn't get it out of rotation on the way to school, hanging with my girls, falling in and out of teenage love...

On and On - Erykah Badu, 1996. Finally knowing I wasn't the only one who wanted to be a little weird, wear clothes without labels, and burn some incense. Senior year I finally started getting up the courage to just be glory.

Strength - John P. Kee, 1997. That damn calculus class wound up making me go to summer school, but at least I didn't get sent home like I thought they would do to me. This is the year I was baptized.

Love Like This - Faith Evans, 1998. I never knew there was a love like S-G-Rho. That fall was worth every minute.

No More Drama - MJB - 2003. It was time for me to say goodbye to him and move on with my life, and this song on repeat was the battle refrain.

Golden - Jill Scott, 2004. Ironically, this is one of my least favorite songs of Jill's. But it's what was on the radio when I finally dumped academia off my schedule. It's become a time warp.

Change For Me - Eric Roberson, 2005. I love Philly. This will always take me to that parking lot after that open mic when it just got real good to me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

rocks. trees. words.

the question was posed on a message board i frequent: a poster was asking what she was missing - why do some black people use the n-word knowing how it is an insult to our ancestors. i got a bit long winded, as usual, but i thought it'd make a food for thought blog post. liketa heah it heah it go:

my take on it - some folks aren't impressed with the "what about the ancestors" argument. to some black folks, it sounds like some old "i celebrate kwanzaa and eat bean pies and so should you" argument (no offense to those reading this who do, but you know that isn't popular in black mainstream thought, and that's my point). some folks are actually eager to forget the ancestors. maybe remembering slavery makes them feel inferior, so they don't want to acknowledge it??? maybe their background and society teach them there is no value in the past of their people - not in a black history month, who invented this or that type of way, but more in a black people, living or dead, are not inherently valuable type of way.

neither are some of the people who use the word moved by the "the word implicates us all argument," (especially since they are either convinced that there really is a group of black people superior to another and they belong to it, OR that they are in fact a n*gger and "what's so wrong with that?"). they see the word as just a word. that's it. like "rock" or "tree." it fits the bill for what they're trying to say when they're trying to say it - much like any cuss word may fit the bill when you stub your toe unexpectedly, or when they're trying to describe something and free association just floats that particular word up first. for example, my argument for using the word "sh*t" is that if it fits the bill, why not use it (as long as it's the right place and time)? it seems lots of people who use the n-word feel the same way. thing is, "sh*t" doesn't lynch the esteem of a people - my own people - every time it's said.

once upon a time, calling somebody black instead of Negro or colored was an insult - fighting words. then somebody decided "black is beautiful" and folks were digging that. it grew into the colloquial use for black people that i just used and you probably didn't even notice just now because it's so commonplace.

similarly, someone has decided that n*gger isn't something we need to be insulted by... as long as it doesn't come from a white person. this double standard totally negates the point of saying it shouldn't sting, by the way. it doesn't take the sting away - it reinforces our acknowledgment that white people and other non-blacks have a uniquely owned ability to sting us with it.

i'll never forget, they had this show on a while back where a black family and a white family changed races with makeup and went out into the world. the black family's teenage son was hanging out with some white kids while wearing makeup that made him look like another white kid. one of the other white kids said "n*gger" about someone else, and the black kid didn't blink. he didn't think to mention on GP that word isn't right to use. it wasn't because he was trying to play the role of a white kid since he had the makeup on, but because, as he explained to his irate parents after they found out about his passive acceptance of the word and called him on it, it's just a word that doesn't mean anything to him. his parents were crushed and embarrassed. they questioned how they brought the boy up that he could hear a white guy use "n*gger" in context and not feel anything...

similarly, i wonder how black people can use it on each other and not feel anything... i guess if you have no or low esteem for your people, why would you care if each use of that word attacks their value?

Monday, July 30, 2007

my story

i started this blog at a very exciting time in my life for me. i'd just moved to a new location, picked up a new hobby, reawakened my passion for writing, and was in love with sharing my take on the whole thing.

so many things have changed since i started this blog. my life is about different things now. it's funny to pause and take stock and see all the differences. but i've been on the grind, working on my career, and it has limited my time for getting it in.

and what's even more strange to me is that now that i've got a little breathing room, i don't know what to do with myself. i've got time on my hands and no passion for spending it in any particular way. somehow, spending all my free evenings at the open mics and blogging everyday seems like a step backwards instead of forward. somehow, putting my novel together doesn't mean as much to me as it did this time last year. i feel a little bit like it's december and i'm trying to figure out how i want my year to go. there are so many possibilities open to me, and just the idea of choosing how to spend my time is like being in the biggest grocery store in the world and being told to pick the thing i'd like most to eat...

all weekend, i've been reading octavia butler's patternist series. y'all, she got me having dreams and expecting to see things while driving down the street. i really respect her imagination. i'ma keep cozied up with this series until i'm done, and set out on the task of figuring out the next chapters of my own story when i get around to it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

baby oh baby

a lady across the street just had a baby in the house. i'm on the couch minding my own business and i heard screaming. i thought it was someone in the street wiling. then i thought, dang, she sounds like she's having a baby or something. then i heard glass breaking. what is going on?!?!?

so i looked outside, and there was a police officer standing on a stoop in front of an open door across the street. she's looking all over the place, talking into her radio. then i realized there really WAS a lady having a baby across the street! and the responding officer was alone. shoot, i called action news. maybe they'll be on tv tonight.

but anyway, cop car after cop car showed up. a bunch of men running in the house then shrugging their shoulders as they walked out. the lady cop was like, "hurry up, i'm not kidding," to one of the cops who arrived. and the lady in labor kept on hollering. then finally, she stopped hollering like someone was stabbing her, and a few minutes later, a cop came out with a bundle in a blanket. they took the baby to the ambulance, which had arrived by then, and everyone was smiling and shaking that cop's hand (after he took his gloves off).

it was a healthy baby boy, i heard one cop say to passersby. a few minutes later, the mom walked out of the house, very slowly, and they put her on a stretcher and then the ambulance took them to the hospital. this all took less than 20 minutes to play out.


i will most definitely be having an epidural, thankyouverymuch. call me a punk. i'll be that.

anyway, happy birthday little boy. welcome to the world. you better get your mama good presents EVERY may.

***EDIT: the news spoke to the cop who responded. turns out the baby wasn't born in the apartment - it was so urgent that he was born in the hallway, and his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck! but one of the responding officers was able to free up the little guy, and everything turned out okay. even though i think his mama might have broke a vase or something...