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.