Wednesday, May 30, 2007

thoughts on coexistence

you know, i haven't been able to go back to that message board since i read that post. maybe that one post was just too much. too disturbing, too threatening. we all have comfort zones, and no matter how openminded or flexible or thick-skinned we'd like to think we are, i think we'd much rather not face certain ugly, unsettling things.

i don't know if that's the other reason why i wasn't able to facilitate discussion on economic stratification among black people and whether or not it's a problem. maybe we just don't want to talk about it. maybe it's too much of a non-issue, or conversely, maybe it's an issue that we don't want disturbing us. or maybe the very idea disturbs us but it would be bothersome to attempt to address it. leave it to me, the oddball to be fascinated by it. it's been riding on my train of thought for a while.

chicago is a lovely place, by the way. i did some touristy things, like looking at this big bean shaped sculpture they have downtown. it's reflective all over its surface, and you can walk underneath the curve of the bean, the rounded surfaces of which make for funhouse-like amusement that attracted young and old tourists alike, myself included. of course i felt silly being a tourist, posing for pictures in front of fountains and the like. but you know, you can't take yourself too seriously. it's not worth the embarrassment that would be sure to follow when you realize you're not as fill-in-the-blank as you think you should be. might as well enjoy the moment.

which i did, until i saw a temporary exhibit put up by the quakers - a set of black boots set out neatly like the headstones in a cemetery, one for each of the 3,452 (as of that date) soldiers who lost their lives in the current military conflicts. it stopped me in my steps. there but for the grace of the Creator were boots that could have included a pair for my cousin, the closest thing i have to a brother, who will likely be leaving his wife and newborn child to go back to the desert in a matter of months. i couldn't help but cry a little. i couldn't help but to walk by a little slower, a little more somberly than your average tourist out for a memorial day weekend trip to a new city. the shoes all had names, ages, and hometowns - save for the boots with "unknown name" attached, symbolizing families with no answers. i thought about how the number of the fallen has now significantly outpaced the dead from the 2001 tragedy in new york. i thought about the 3,452+ families affected by every soldier symbolized here - so many lives, parents, children, spouses, workplaces, fellow soldiers. we have to have some reverence for that loss of life.

which sends me on a tangent. shouldn't there be some equivalent of remembering the senseless deaths here- stateside - by our own hands? i happened to mention on a message board that the selfish and violent culture we rail against in smaller populations, particularly the urban black areas of the country, is really indicative of what's going on in the larger american society. that violence doesn't happen in a vacuum. people are snapping out each other both in and outside of the hood. do you know some woman had the audacity to say that made no sense to her? what country does she live in? turn on a television. watch the news. i challenge someone to tell me that what that shooter at va. did was a part of his ethnic culture/upbringing. no-no-no - that is violent american-ness rearing its ugly head. maybe, possibly, if we acknowledge and admit that we (all) have a problem by recognizing and respecting the loss of life here in this country, we can curb the carnage, both here and abroad.

one other thing i've picked up in this last week: happiness ain't the same for everybody. my happiness is mine. yours is yours. (provided we've done enough soul searching to realize what truly makes us happy.) so long as our happinesses don't threaten each other's well-being, we should be that much more happy with each other.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

caste acceptance

sorry, this is a long post.

the other day, i was on a messageboard that i frequent and i read this anonymous post. the board seems to have more white posters than black, and fearing that i wouldn't get candid reactions on the mixed site, i pasted it onto other boards with all black readership, asking for black folks' reactions.

I realize that all black people in these neighborhoods are not acting badly. Not all black people are litterbugs, etc, etc. Unfortunately, in most instances, you have only a few people on say a given block who may have some pride in themselves and do not consider their poverty status when deciding whether or not they should run a vacuum, rake their leaves, pick up the front yard, etc. These people are surrounded by too many people who use their current state as an excuse for not having to have any pride in themselves or take any action to create a future for themselves or their children. It is very hard for one or a few individuals to fight such a massive tide of adverse behavior or characteristics. Ultimately what happens is that these people get discouraged and simply give up and end up conforming to the group or leaving. Then you are left with what you have now. Also, the nice people are not going to get sucked into this because the nice people leave the demoralized slobs behind. At the end of the day, its unfortunate to admit, but we are living amongst two, not one, but two lost generations. Not talking about the few exceptions who find a way out, but on a whole, we have two generations who have gone to crap. What we are now witnessing are the offspring off the unwed and uneducated daughters who were born from the crackheads of the early 80's. To make it worse, the men that have impregnated them are also the products of crackhead mothers, and so on, and so on. Each of these generations has less value to impart to the next. I see them as digressing more than evolving. Seriously. When you look at how these people carry themselves and their demeanors, and how they dress, they actually look like slaves. You could pluck these people from modern North Phildelphia, and drop them "as is" into the year 1830 in South Carolina, and judging by their language and social skills, you wouldn't be able to tell them apart from the rest of the field hands. The only difference would be that the "modern" black person would have no desire to free themsleves from their bonds. They always talk about succesful black people being "Uncle Toms" and "House N[-]" and so forth when in actuality, these people who refuse to contribute are the ones living in the masters house. They are living in a world designed by those in power for them to inhabit. They think they own their corners and streets and do what they want when actually they are doing what their opressors want them to do. And thats to kill each other. I honestly believe that what we are dealing with are people that at the end of the day are basically genetically defective. The only thing that can change that is evolution. As Darwin called it "survival of the fittest". In order to survive, you either adapt, i.e., educate yourself to compete in this society, or, you starve to death. I think this generation will succomb to the latter rather than strive for the former. The most unfortunate thing is that their demise will be by choice.

i think it's sad that virtually anyone black who has responded to my request for feedback on this post simply agrees with little to no objection - responding with their eagerness to leave the hood, their dissatisfaction with other black people. i can't say i don't understand it. there's are good reasons why i don't live in the hood now. there've been times when i have complained about some of the same things. but to see it in black and white plain speech like that is so disheartening.

i would like to think that we would have a greater esteem for black folks in the hood, i would hope so - i once was one of them. i have family members who still are there. class stratification is a beetch. i'd hate to think that i've turned to judging that which i've come from - but in reality, i don't come from that. my parents were married homeowners who paid their bills, raised me right, and paid tuition for my private school outside of town. college was no choice for me, it was a default expectation. following behind the other kids was not an option, and my upbringing ensured that it was not a desire. the only thing hood about my life was my address and my front-row spectator seat to what was going on with others. but from that spectator seat, i've seen so many others like myself, with caring parents, clean and safe homes, similar work ethic and values... like attracts like, and while i was living in the hood, i had no shortage of friends from the hood like myself. today they are professionals, master's candidates, well-adjusted, happy, generally functional people.

thing is, they've all moved out too. there is some truth to the idea that those who can leave, will leave. those who can progress, will progress. and those who stay behind are those who have stayed inert.

a major thing i've learned from reading the history of africans in this country is that we haven't all had the same experience, believed the same things, agreed in politics or strategy as a people, etc. but for so long, the fate of our majority was a collective fate. the imperative then, especially during the civil rights movement, and even during the black power movement, was to exhort us to think and act collectively for the welfare of all. having been shaped by that mindset, it hurts for me to admit that at this point, as a people, we can't do that. we won't do that. we are so very splintered mentally, according to where we see ourselves on the spectrum from the extremes of bourgeois negro to ghetto thug, each reveling in the correctness of our caste - each trying to guilt the others for being traitorous to the values of a people who don't really have collective values. the adversarial stance we take further reinforces the fractures, breaking and chipping away at the idea of a people with a common future, until such a future becomes no more than a childish utopian illusion. but what are we supposed to do? become a monolith? the american capitalist in us - the distrust we have for each other - precludes that option altogether.

should i then embrace my middle class spot on the spectrum, disdaining the more wealthy who look down at me for socially (economically) climbing, as well as the folks in the hood for seeming to revel in their stagnant reality? where does accepting your caste cross the line to being a judgmental jerk?

i wonder what w.e.b. dubois and booker t. washington and marcus garvey and martin luther king and malcolm x would think.... probably five variations of "i told you so."

Monday, May 14, 2007


i've heard the word godsend plenty of times before. i'm not going to take the time to look it up for a dictionary definition - we know what it means. so good, it can only be attributed to the beneficence, generosity, love, and power of the Creator. so treasured, that it's hard to take for granted. so awesome, the concept of miracle gains new meaning.

he is that for me - a godsend. i had not imagined how good love could be for me until i loved him. i had not realized in those other relationships, that the problem was not that my love was deficient - the problem was that i wasn't yet loving the one for whom my love was intended. the beneficiary of my love gives my love new dimension - i can see it as my love, fused with his own, is reflected back to me in his eyes. it comes back to me like my own warmth radiating under a blanket. his love holds me like that - safe, warm, and at peace. his love inspires me even more in my faith - i want to love him in my best approximation of how the Creator loves me. you see, it always leads back to the Creator. all roads of love lead back to Him. which is why i can't help but to thank Him for the blessing of sharing love with him. he is my godsend.

his patience with my faults inspires me to work harder on them. his intelligence and wit make me thankful that he challenges my mind to increase. his ease and honesty with me are like a refreshing inhalation of the most invigorating air. his kindness and tenderness towards me tame the defiant fighter that i sometimes put forth to the world. he goes above and beyond my expectations - he is exceeding abundantly above all that i have asked or thought for myself in those times of longing or self-doubt, or even in those moments of my most ambitious hoping. and i give thanks for him often. he is my godsend.

it's just that i didn't know it could be this good. i've loved and i've lusted. i've had crushes. i've felt affection so ardently, i just knew it had to be love. i've even felt rejection so hollowing that in my anguish, i thought acceptance would save my sanity. in my youth and inexperience, and in my vain imaginations, i've spent my money, my time, my tears, my self sometimes. no amount of relying on bits of wisdom scraped from here or there could substitute for the experience which eventually taught me to love simply - my self, my life, my journey, my faith - without searching for romance. no amount of positive thinking could turn a haphazard mess into a godsend. only God can send a godsend. only God could prepare me for a godsend.

i gaze upon his eyes and marvel at his smile when he's not looking. it stops me in my tracks, and i marvel at what my Creator has done with this man and with me. i am constantly captivated by how we harmonize. we make the kind of music that inspires your spirit to rise - the kind of music that infuses me with wonder at what God sent. peace. ascension. love.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

i'm sorry, sir, your black card has been declined

Please first take a moment to check out at least the first couple of paragraphs of this news article:

my city is in the midst of the political frenzy leading up to the democratic primary elections. we have five major candidates of varying experience and qualifications, and despite what the polls say, i think this thing is wide open. anything can happen. and since this is virtually a one-party town, this primary may very well decide who our next mayor will be. let it suffice to say that this is a very hotly contested race.

one of the candidates, a former city councilman named mike nutter, has proposed a controversial policy to combat the crime plaguing our neighborhoods - it's controversial because in part, it advocates stopping people and frisking them for weapons. among others, one of his opponents, congressman chaka fattah, believes that this policy is tantamount to racial profiling, and they were debating this topic on a televised debate last night. in the midst of this debate, nutter said that he's been black for 49 years and should know something about the subject. fattah, who is also black, said to the moderator that he was sorry that nutter had to remind himself that he is a black man.

now. pausing to pointedly put the politics of the policing policy to the periphery (say that fast 5 times,) i must say that i am truly pissed with congressman fattah for even going there. first of all, this response had nothing to do with supporting fattah's opinion on the subject matter of the debate - it was a personal attack against nutter's "blackness," and nothing more. secondly, i expect more from the congressman than personal attacks.

but most importantly, his remarks (which have not been the first during the course of this race to question nutter's blackness) are like the ones made by black children who are not studious that black children who are studious are trying to be white. i am not trying to say that fattah's remarks were directed towards nutter because of his achievement level or ambition- in fact, both gentlemen have accomplished careers and comfortable incomes. i'm saying that fattah was trying to achieve the same objective as the children who are bullies in my example - to assert that there is such a thing as some people being more black than other black people, and to ostracize the victim of the comments as confused, or gullible, or traitorous, but in any case - not acceptable to a standard of blackness that they fail to meet.

this mentality is killing us. it is stealing the inquisitiveness from our children. it is stifling their willingness to be open minded, to ask questions, and to try new things - leading to a young populace that truly believes en masse that this is black, and that is not. this in turn, allows the population to actually become what the stereotype dictates, bolstering its lie in the observant eyes of the next generation to follow, perpetuating the theft of our natural human desire to be curious and innovative. as bad as peer pressure can be at times, this mentality makes it exponentially worse - in this post-black-power-movement era, it can be extremely hurtful to one's pride to be accused of being white, especially when being black might be one of the few things you've learned to be proud of in your (often insular) neighborhood.

children need to know (shoot, some adults don't even seem to understand) that black people can differ in politics, or opinions, or interests, or dreams without threatening that which makes us us. we have been doing it for years: marian anderson sang opera instead of blues. arthur ashe played tennis instead of football. martin luther king was an intellectual author as well as a baptist minister. matthew henson explored the north pole. jimi hendrix changed the way we see guitar forever - after rock n roll was associated with white people. we claim these trailblazers now, but i wonder if during their journeys they encountered folks who challenged them, "what you wanna go and do that for? that's not for colored people."

why should we question the blackness of people who are willing to have their own opinions, whether or not we disagree with them, or who are willing to pursue their own dreams, whether or not we understand them? we cannot demand the opportunity to represent diversity in this country on the one hand, and with the other rebuke those within our ranks who dare to be different. what example do congressman fattah's remarks set for the children of this city?

(for the record, i think he only said it because he is specially pandering to people with this ignorant mentality, since he's not as high in the polls as he thinks he should be.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

worry subsided

sometimes all you need to hear are the words of a loved one affirming your faith.

i didn't even tell my mom's sister what went on yesterday. she had called me earlier, and i was returning her call. we hadn't spoken in a while and she asked how i was doing. i told her i was doing fine, trying to do what i am supposed to be doing. she said that she was too. there was something about what she said that just triggered the thought - i need to be relying on my Creator more and not relying so much on myself - and i told my aunt so.

she ministered so simply, so lovingly, yet so convincingly, not to worry and to know that i will be just fine - that when i feel like i can't handle something, i need sometimes to just go home, be still, and ask for Help. it was as if she'd read my blog (even though she doesn't know this blog exists). her advice was so very simple, and we weren't even on the phone for very long, but it was just the welcome absolution i needed at just the right time. He is so good.

Friday, May 04, 2007

so much for gratitude

oh, but watch this though:

i'm feeling good, you know, the sun is shining, and i'm carrying my light jacket 'cause i don't need it like i did this morning. and i've been contemplating getting a new purse, since the one i've been lugging around was originally bought to be big enough for carrying shoes, so it has a lot in it, so it's heavy, so the strap is coming off, so i don't want to carry it anymore, so i figure: debt be damned, i'll go to the store and find myself a non-designer purse that's smaller and newer and cuter. i can get a cheap one in a neutral color that'll fit my wallet and change purse and i won't have to choose between carrying stuff in my raggedy old bag that i'm sick of, or carrying stuff in this teeny weeny bag that's so small that i have to carry half my stuff in my pockets anyway.

so i went shopping immediately after work. even though i knew a new purse wasn't in my budget. and that if i bought it, it would squeeze something else important, like my allowance (which theoretically is the buffer that keeps me from overspending), or my groceries, or the amount of money i've budgeted to accelerate debt repayment. but i went shopping anyway, and lost my dayum mind.

first, let me say that i am not a label whore. any designer clothing i happen to own happened by accident or fortuitous circumstance, which might explain why i own exactly three articles of famous maker label clothing, and no more. let me also add that i am not good at consistency with makeup, accessories, hair - any of it. on any given day, i'm rushing out the door, last minute, hair snatched back with oil and water, no makeup, no perfume, same sensible black shoes, and maybe the earrings i forgot to take off the night before. i am no fashion plate. i do have a fashion sense, and i like to look cute, but i just don't invest much time or money in the effort - i hate getting up early, and always find more important things to spend money on instead of clothes/shoes/jewelry, etc. it's a shame, too - 'cause i clean up nice. but to my chagrin, most days i walk out the door, i'm dissatisfied with my appearance. i promise myself over and over that i'll get it together, 'cause i see how it affects my confidence and my bearing when i know i look good, and i wish i had it every day. but that promise keeps on getting postponed.

i'm tired of that.

i wanted a CUTE purse. and in fact, a nicer spring jacket for the morning commute. maybe some pretty skirts. sundresses. sunglasses.

i set out this afternoon in search of, at the very least, one thing towards that end - one thing that could make me feel like i'd put in some effort towards what i want. i looked in the discount store, then in the juniors store, then in the not-so-junior n.y&co (which i still call lerner's), then in another discount store... it was so depressing. i couldn't find any sunglasses that were small enough to look right on my face. i couldn't find any cute spring jackets - on sale or regular price. all the skirts were stupid. everything cute was so far out of my budget (never mind that i've exhausted my allowance until my next payday so ANYTHING would have been too far out of my budget)... AARRGGHHHH!

in frustration, i went home empty handed. nothing in my hands, but no hole in my budget. glass half full and half empty. needless to say, i did NOT feel like singing. why does it seem like money would be the solution? for as long as i remember, without even trying, i always pick the most expensive stuff off the rack. but instead of dressing with this filet mignon taste in fabrics and tailoring, i've been using the bologna discount stores by necessity since college. i am so so very sick of wading through rows of clothes i, and apparently many others, hate, looking for a bargain that is just inoffensive enough to my sense of style that i can tolerate wearing it. sick and tired. TIRED. i am so so very sick of worrying about keeping my stupid budget intact so i can one day have some little piece of house for myself and i can stop paying for walls i can't paint or tear down or build up at will or be able to do laundry without bothering relatives or gathering quarters.

i put up the brave face about not wasting money on clothes i paid too much for. i sound like i'm trying to convince others as much as myself when i say i'm happy with how i haven't gotten into any new credit card debt since finishing school. i try not to solicit sympathy for the way i look by saying i'm proud that i do my own hair, nails, facials, pedicures and by not calling attention to the way that i dress. but on the real, i'm sick of not caring - or pretending not to, or forcing myself not to - i suppose it's six of one, a half-dozen of the other.

i probly shoulda just went straight home from work like i started to.

i'll feel better tomorrow.


i feel like singing.

state of the glory

first of all, thank God for beauty. it is such a pleasure to be outside and to have so much sunshine. 'round these parts, spring was slow in coming, and i'm glad it's finally here. it is a joy to walk around the city. it's easy to forget why i came here while i'm shivering outside, walking behind my visible breath, looking over my shoulder for a late bus, trying to forget that the wind chill has pushed the air on my skin to feel like ten degrees below zero. but now, all is well. i'm squinting at this sunshine, unused to its blessing after so long, wondering where last summer's sunglasses have wandered off to lately.

and thank God for fluticasone propionate. F.lonase for the uninitiated. it's been my buddy every April and May for the past six or seven years now and it never lets me down. i can enjoy the season instead of dreading it.

i'm so thankful for so many things about what's on my mind, right now, today. it's the weekend in t-minus three hours. heroes comes on again in a mere three days. the black lily festival is going on - and although my broke getting-out-of-debt-and-calling-myself-saving-for-a-house butt won't be going, i'm STILL excited, because success this year means that there'll be another next year when i can afford it. i'm thankful that i get to go home sometime this month to get my bike from my parents' house in virginia ('cause i've been itching to use it to get around) and even more importantly, i'm excited that i get to welcome my soldier cousin back from iraq via germany, and see my brand-new "niece" up close and personal for the first time ever! then i get to get on an airplane for the second trip in my adult life and spend some time in what my beloved calls, "mudbutt, illinois" which is somewhere within driving distance of o'hare, for memorial day weekend.

i love changes of scenery! i love spring! i love babies! i love getting dismissed from jury duty! i love being in love!

this is totally a transition year for me. (something tells me that once i hit the end of this decade, i'll be saying my entire twenties have been a "transition decade," but i'll save that for the unimaginable future in which i can't fathom being any older than i am now.) i've been going through a lot of sacrifice and a lot of growing pains. for various reasons, i feel like my bonds with my friends are changing, and i haven't yet figured out yet if it's for better or for worse. i still miss my poet life - my underground philly soul adventures - but i know i'll appreciate it more when i get it back. i have daydreams about my own house and my trips to africa and the caribbean, yet i don't expect instant gratification. everything will happen when it is divinely ordered - i will HAVE when i'm ripe, i will DO when i'm ripe, i will BE when i'm ripe - when i'm ready. the longer i live, the more i understand it...

so i'm thankful for my challenges and changes and dreams, my strivings, my imperfections, my epiphanies, my inspirations. so much of it is God's molding of this woman He sees in me. i'm thankful because if i were stagnant, i'd be dead, a breathing zombie. instead, i'm so very much alive like the flowers and the blooming trees i see this may. so, like how the petals and leaves flourish in the almost blinding sunshine, i'm going to try to keep mindful of all these things i have to be thankful for.