We Need A Black Santa Claus

I remember the first time I publicly gave voice to the need for a black santa claus.  I was working for Catholic Charities and since the letter with a white santa claus came from the Cardinal I wrote him back.  Within a week everyone in the chain of order knew I had written the Cardinal.  And my career at Catholic Charities ended.  I kept my job but I was labeled and life was a struggle.  And I got one of many lessons in engaging powers stronger than you.  And my point got overlooked because of who I confronted.  Then, as now, I struggle with the lack of non-white Santa Claus.  I for one want to see someone that looks like me.  And especially when you serve poor communities the kids need to see someone that looks like them.  There is a reason that in doll experiments black kids pick white dolls over black dolls.  In our media we continue the propaganda that white is right and black is wrong.  So I do not think it’s hard to do better.

In my neighborhood there is a school that serves mostly black children.  The community itself rarely uses the school because we send our kids out to better schools.  This school is not academically performing well.  But because of proximity to the new Walmart, I assume they were selected for gifts from Santa.  So pictures were posted of this nice thing done for these poor kids.  Beautiful brown skin kids with a big pale pink skinned white male.  I can’t even see the good right now.  Is it that hard in 2014 to understand the importance of race.  With race being on the periphery of conversation as things get thick all over the United States it seems a small maneuver.  And besides I know it can’t be hard to find a black male that could use the income.  This is a no brainer.

The only solace I can muster is my partner’s church is having a Christmas party.  I know we’re going to have a black Santa Claus.  I need to get my son ready and I might even, due to the black santa clause shortage, take a picture.  I got a few things I also want.  I am going to love up on that black santa claus.  I better retreat and get my camera because everywhere else Santa has been very very white (i.e. hardly no pigmentation).  I thought I had seen my last one until in my very own neighborhood the school has black kids greeting and receiving pictures from a white God… I meant a white santa claus.  I think we need a black santa claus.


Unforgiveness Looks Ugly On You: Reflections On Holding On To Hurt

So one day in the more recent past a person I know acted so ugly it still bothers me this morning.  Something happened between this person and another.  Some not so nice words were exchanged.  And this person took it to heart except she doesn’t know she took it to heart.  She was hurt except she doesn’t know she was hurt.  She walked on by hurt oblivious and landed up on mad street.  She started sulking and remembering how she use to handle such incidences.  But she’s so much better than that now.  Until the day she saw her offender in the same room full of people who had no clue about the words that were exchanged between them.  And in cryptic sentences she told the other person how she felt.  Some people knew.  But for everyone it sent such a bad aroma into the air.  And I thought this is ugly. And, personally, if you got  problem with someone either go to them but don’t involved others.  And when I see this person now I really wish they would go away.  I really hate when people involve others in their stuff.  I have no respect for the act of dogging someone out in front of others.  And no matter what, and I say very little, I say to the hurt angry person she blames the other person for everything.  I call this the dilemma of people with no self awareness.  And I try to keep a low profile with people who have no self awareness.  She looks uglier and uglier as she houses her own sense of rightness.

I began to think is this what unforgiveness looks like on me.  I might not cut up like this person did but all of us have someone out there who crossed us and we’ve never been the same.  I can honestly think of  one person easily.  I got so mad last month I swore myself I would never speak to the person again.  I did calm down and acted more congruently with a love ethic but I was in that space for a few days.  It is so easy to get stuck in our sense of rightness.  It can be easy to hold on to we’ve been wrong and we’re not moving from that spot.  It is so easy to think the way we see things is the only way.  And maybe just maybe on some fronts as my mother would say, we show our asses.  Looking at this person and the way she acted gives me incentive to work on spaces where I am stuck.  It gives me added momentum to not get stuck in holding on to things that need to be released.  It reminds me if I’m spending too much energy I’m probably spinning my wheels and that’s not productive.  Sometimes we find ourself on dead end roads with people and it really behooves us to back up or do what we need to do to get off that road.  I just know I don’t want to ever get so stuck that it impedes my own commitment to loving and living life fully.


Dear AKAs: Who Are We Protecting?

When I first went to college I was enamored with the oldest black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.  I expressed interest and was afraid that they would not have a line before I graduated.  But there was a line and I, along with four other intelligent dynamic black women, pledged.  I was so excited to be an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman and it didn’t hurt that I looked absolutely fabulous in pink and green.  My dorm room became enamored with pink and green.  I loved the sisterhood and commitment to community service and started right away working in the community with youth in a housing development.  I plunged end and even became the president of our college chapter.  I met with the graduate chapter, hung out with sorors, participated in step shows, attended regional meetings, and I can say I loved the life of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Fast forward over a decade.  I have met many greek sisters sporting different colors.  I have developed some fond relationship with sisters from all sororities.  I appreciate the brilliance found amongst my greek siblings.  And yes I hold dear my friends who also happen to be AKAs.  There is no denying it that there is a special connection between us that goes beyond words.  AKAs are really some great sisters.  I will always be an AKA whether I activate my membership or not.

As a same gender loving individual, I always engage institutions from how they treat, understand and work with any marginalized group.  I have often wondered with the femme femme image of the AKAs how do they deal with non-heterosexual sorors who are just less conformed to such prim and proper images.  My own sense of things is that there is not much room for operating outside of the comfortably of acceptable middle class elite behavior.  I think they are accepting but they are not trendsetters like my denomination in terms of leading the way and that can be problematic in times like these.

I am not surprised that the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has issued a letter in light of the black lives matter protest across the country.  I am not surprised that they seem more interested in protecting their image than in representing injustice.  I am not surprised that they have acted in such a way.  I could respect this being a non-issue but not an issues in which they want none of our paraphernalia present.  And this is the struggle I have with becoming active with such an organization – it seeks to protect it’s own image when the very right thing to do is fight against injustices.

I have had several invitations to become active with Alpha Kappa Alpha and I have paused.  Honestly, as people express surprise sometimes that I pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha, I don’t always see me represented.  I don’t see people like me.  But this year I even went as far as to attend a few meetings.  I’m still wondering if this is a place for me.  But I did feel the sisterhood and recognized that perhaps I will create a space for others that have journeyed off the beaten path of conformity.  And I realize more and more there is perhaps no organization I jive with 100%.  I am a black critical thinking self actualized open minded black woman who believes she has something to contribute to the world.  There are not many choirs I can really sing in at this point.  Perhaps I can find space to contribute to this organization.



God’s Favor: Why Are Some People Left Out?

For a while I have grown more and more sick with the rhetoric of the black church.  It’s not only not liberating it excludes many while giving other a false foundation in which to live out their lives.  For example this notion of God’s favor.  This theology has made songs number 1 hits.  It’s in our jargon. And people really really believe it, “god favors me.”  Nice good intelligent successful black people believe that God has shown them especially favor linking favor to action and material possessions often.

So here’s my problem with such theology and perhaps even the black church.  How and what do I say when much of our life is about struggle and hell on earth?  How do I ration out God’s favor when black men are shot down in the streets?  Where is God’s favor when black lives are treated substantially worse on many fronts?  Where is God’s favor for struggling single poor black mothers?  Where is God’s favor as certain people relegated in every way to the bottom of life’s pole. struggle like crabs to get out of the fucking overheated pot?  Where is God’s favor for those who most need it?  And why do some get it while others see if they see it at all it is very sparingly?  Why have some folk,s as it relates to God’s favor as we limitedly understand it, left behind?

Maybe it’s the struggle of this pastor. Maybe it’s the struggle of being tired by the needs of an oppressed congregation.  But the simple answers that come from the best of pulpits no longer feeds me.  The claims about God and God’s favor do not lift me up.  The premise that God may not come when you want but God will be there right on time is a troubling joke.  The belief that God is good  all the time when there is a reason to lament everyday for some people confounds me.  I think for a while the church really hasn’t spoken to people’s everyday needs.  And when they do speak it doesn’t add up.  They offer cute trite nice very faithful statements and I for one am tired.

The most refreshing thing I have seen the church do is peacefully protest that black lives matter over the last few months.  While it is not our movement alone, I am glad to see churches rising to the cause like during the civil right movement.  I am glad to be stirred by society’s unrest.  I am glad in this movement we have found a cause to rally around, though I wish we could rally around other issues but I ain’t mad.  I can’t say my faith is restored but I can say it has been enlightening to see.  But I still have issues with the black church because I think much of the rhetoric has not only not served us well it has hindered us.  And I’m not sure anymore if there is room for me in such an institution.


The Lack of Social Empathy: Black Life Matters

I will never forget the movie, A Time to Kill.  You see it takes place in Mississippi.  A black girl is violently raped.  Her body and psyche are ravaged.  And so the case goes to court.  In the climate you already know this all white jury is going to acquit the white men that raped this girl.  You can taste racism in the air.  But her lawyer makes one of the most astonishing arguments I have ever heard.  First, he describes the sick act that was done to this innocent girl.  And then as his closing line he says, now imagine the girl is white.  He wins the case.  Justice happens.

I have never forgotten that movie because it made one thing poignant that we are impacted by race and that the empathy that is present for whites is missing for blacks.  During the days after Hurricane Katrina blacks were depicted as robber while whites were depicted as looking for food.  They both entered stores and took merchandise during this crises but the response of the public was different.  Well you can take a variety of situations and come up with the same situation.  On a reality tv show they had both a white man and black man try to break into a car.  People walked by the white man and did nothing.  You already know what happened to the black man.  We assume the best about white people and often time the worse about black people.

In the case of Michael Brown I have felt torn.  I think very early on he was demonized and portrayed as a thug type.  I think it muddies the water and allows people to justify the shooting of a person.  If Michael did attack the police officer was there no other response in the police bag of tricks to subdue him?  I think a body laying in the street for hours also doesn’t sit well.  I think the response of the police department doesn’t bode well even if it was one of their own.  I think as it relates to black bodies and life we lose something as it relates to compassion and concern for our fellow human.  It’s so much easier to see a black male as deviant than innocent and wayward.

But I have to be honest seeing black males with pants hanging off of them and scarves tied around their neck drenched in tattoes is unsettling even it one wants to claimed it’s my own internalized racism.  I don’t know how to understand this kind of looting and action.  Saying that people are mad, doesn’t help me get there.  I am not willing to label or judge them but at least I want to honor my own discomfort with us.  I am uncomfortable with Michael Brown’s mother speech.  I did not feel her pain or anguish in the abundant use of fuck as an expression of her anger.  I’ve seen real mother pain and sorry I am feeling blind here.  I am only explaining my own ambivalence and believe as a black person that we have diversity in our experience of racism.  I’m just saying I’m torn.

I think America has to start caring about black bodies with intention.  It has to be a concerted effort.  I believe do good whites can’t just march with us but they must speak up when they are around their friends and fight for policy that is fair and humane.  I believe that blacks can protest and should protest because organized proactive response allows us not only to express our full agency but be heard and seen.  I believe blacks have to stop the violence that comes from us regardless of the external force.  I believe whites have to look at the blood on their hands and stop being so damn defensive; this country’s foundation stands on racism.  I also believe blacks have to look at themselves and think of ways to move forward.  We can be heard without destroying the limited resources that are in our community.   And most important blacks and whites have to see each other, really see each other and not our biases, stereotypes, and prejudices or at least know when they are present.  Michael Brown was a black male who was still developing and he life ended prematurely.  Now, we all have something to do.  In light of what happened in court, all efforts have to move us toward a clearer understanding the black life matters.


Room To Be: Jaden & Willow

So Jaden & Willow Smith have been philosophizing about life.  Willow says time is not real.  I know some people who believe her though my aging body say it is real.  However, It reminds me of my college days when we sat around and talk about the world as it turned.  Gosh do I miss those days of thought euphoria.  I continued to go to school for a long time because I loved the place.  I realize that these two young adults have a privilege that is not available to many kids.  They have lived a life of privilege no doubt.  And I love the parenting style of their parents – allowing them as much freedom as they can handle.  Unlike many, I see the kids as free thinkers and unencumbered by stifling social norms.

I remember I had an employee, black female, who was really good friends with another employee, a white male.  They got along really really well.  It was hard to not notice the chemistry.  The black female was very methodical and operated within societal norms.  She wore her hair plain.  She wore the in-style conservative jeans.  She wore a hint of lip gloss.  She did her work.  She never did anything even slightly spontaneous.  And we knew she would never venture outside of her world to be open enough to dating this white guy.  I was sad when I learned a couple of years ago she died of cancer.

I have a son.  He is unique.  As we are planning to see my mother in a couple of weeks I am growing concerned about this encounter.  Josiah loves to climb, boy stuff.  He is active, boys stuff.  But he also likes art and dolls, girl stuff.  I didn’t tell him to like dolls.  One day we passed the leftover toy box at church and he picked up the doll and it’s been first love every since.  He is still in love with his toddler hat and will wear it in the summer, strings and all.   And he will wear his rain boots in the garden and through the house.  He has claimed my red scarf as his own.  And he shows compassion freely and openly.  And I know he’s different.  And I want for him what I want for every kid including Jaden and Willow, a receptiveness on the part of society to give them enough room to be authentically self.


Dear Christians

I remember back in my seminary days, in a night ethics class, the clash of Christians.  Somebody said something so lubricious to the rest of the class that an Evangelical starting a new church pastor said, what is Christian anymore?  I think it’s a good question for the 21st Century.  There is a dominant thought of what Christians are all about but that notion gets challenged daily.  In fact there could be a war in America made of up bible toting and God loving fearing Christians fighting on both sides.

My friend, Afri, host a variety of people in her home for a profit.  So more recently she had a Pentecostal white christian woman in her household.  This woman had some preconceived notions of salvation and perversion.  She casted both her pedophile ex husband and gay men in the same category.  She was in a for a rude awakening even if she was the guest.  During her stay she broke the microwave handle.  Instead of coming clean, she avoided her host for two days.  She never confessed she did it.  A second set of guest were staying with my friend, youth from South America.  It was five of them total and Afri had warned them no loud noise.  They were quiet.  Towards the end of their stay, while my friend was away, they broke the handle.  They called her and told her they were leaving money.  She explored to see if it was something that could be fixed but they were sure that it couldn’t.  She would have never known about the handle or at least not right away because it was in a less conspicuous area.  Interestingly it was the group of youth who acted more noble.

So let me say not all Christians break things and don’t confess.  You can tell Bill Maher.  Many may be confused but that’s a different topic.  And not all non-religious people are honest.  But with that said what is christianity? Is it a belief in the Bible and God?  Is it not swearing?  It is not drinking alcohol?  Is it inviting certain people in while telling others they are going to hell as a moral obligation?  Is it promoting your way as the only way with little receptiveness to other ways?  Is it going to church every Sunday?  Is it tithing?  Is it passing out literature and trying to visit with people you believe are wayward individuals?  Is it being counter cultural?  Is it lobbying for justice issues?  Is it standing with the least of these?  Is it looking good and showing people how good God is in your life?  Is it feeding the hungry?  What is christianity?  And is it worth anything anymore?  I say that on the heels of an election wherein pastors in Chicago were brought.

My friend Afri reminds me I’ve been a christian a long time, almost as long as I’ve been living.  And at different times in my life it meant something different.  I have evolved on this journey.  But today I am more uncertain of what it means.  For me it has meant walking with people.  It also has meant confessing when I stepped on someone’s toes.  It’s owning my mistakes and along with recovery folks trying to make amends for them.  It is loving as best I can with all that is in me.  It is helping people connect the dots if they want to and be content with not connecting them if that’s what that person wants.  It’s getting out of the way.  It’s fostering a community where people can come and laugh, cry, sing, and share honestly and deeply.  It is living the human experience all of it in a shared faith space.  Maybe tomorrow it will change and it seems it is changing.  But today that is what it means for me to be christian.

I often say to myself I have reached my quota of Evangelical Christians.  By that I mean some days I simply get tired of being around people who speak one language and live another.  I get tired of Christians promoting one standard but living another.  I get tired of the bullshit.  I long for real.  So when my shut in member says, I’m having a hard time connecting with a loving God I find that more honest than people who say without any thought hypnotically God is good all the time.  I have one fb friend who only quoted Old Testament scriptures on her status until she got married.  I get tired of what impresses me as fake.  I get tired of pretentious superficial talk.  And for my own spiritual health I have put myself on a diet of how much holy sanctified bullshit I expose myself to in one week.  And the cup gets full pretty quick.  Honestly, I get tired of Christians.


One of You


Dying With Dignity: Brittany Maynard’s Choice to Die

So Brittany Maynard has bit the dust.  She chose to end her life.  On New Years day, she learned she had brain cancer.  Like most humans she chose to fight it.  In April she learned she was terminally ill.  She could go through aggressive treatment but she was going to die.  The death would be slow and debilitating.  After much research she decided, with 6 months to live more or less, she would end her life.  She relocated to Oregon, a state that honors choosing to die without criminal charges.  And so Brittany on November 1st ended her life.  I believe someone who wants to live has to go through a major storm to come to the decision to end her life.  Sadder than her choice is that she had to die at all due to brain cancer.  Therein lies the real sadness.

In the religious world, where I was born and raised, many believe to end one’s life is only an act that God can perform.  We obviously have seen this is not so. There are still others who believe that when we take on the act that is reserved for God only we do so placing our soul in hell for eternity.  People feel uncomfortable with others having the right to end their life.  Perhaps this is less problematic for me than those who choose to end another person’s life.  But I have some thoughts, no conclusion.  As you live longer you bag of experience grows and there are two things that shape my sentiments around dying with dignity.

As a teenager I read, A Lesson Before Dying.  It’s a story in post slavery times of a black man being sentenced to die.  He is not guilty.  He is innocent.  But in that world, not so long ago and some believe is still here, he will die.  His grandmother goes to the black school teacher.  She has one request.  She wants him to teach her dumb grandson how to die with dignity.  She wants him to walk as an innocent man.  Since there is nothing that can change his fate she wants him to have agency as he walks to death.  While this impressed upon me agency, even when it seems we have absolutely none, I am constrained by the injustice of death.  It may be a stretch but I see a parallel truth.  Sometimes even in the unfairness of it all there are choices.  It is hard for me to utter; I’m not sure I believe what I have just said.  I’m trying.

Second story is that of of my colleague Ruth Harley.   She was my colleague in ministry up until a year and half ago.  She was a runner.  She was a pastor.  And she was a single mother.  And even moreso she was just a good kind human being.  She was diagnosed with ASL which has gained more media attention with the bucket challenge.  The disease ravaged her body.  Six months before she died I visited her.  She sat in a chair propped up.  She struggled to talk; she was not clear.  She had made peace with death.  I imagine she even found her own dignity on the road to death.  She was gracious even in that moment with the most recent cards she had been dealt.   I know, even though I wasn’t there, she died with dignity.  She was somebody everybody ought to know.

Brittany was robbed.  She was robbed of a full life.  She was robbed of the opportunity to have children.  She was robbed of the opportunity to self actualize.  She was robbed of the opportunity to have a career.  She was robbed of the opportunity to evolve through another developmental stage.  She was robbed of the opportunity to grow old with her spouse.  She was robbed of the opportunity to live.  And so given all that she will never have or experience I think maybe I would leave alone her choice to die with dignity since in the greater scheme is one of the few choices she had.  In a world where we’re all trying to live, maybe Brittany and others are trying to us how to die with dignity.




Dear Morehouse Football Team

So I learned that your team, like me and my friends, went to the see the movie, “Dear White People.”  Never mind it wasn’t what I expected, it did give me a lot of food for thought.  Bu,t then, so did you behavior.  I was saddened that students from a prestigious HBCU would act so ugly towards the gay black male in the film proving the bigger point in the movie that a signifiant number of blacks range from homophobic to ignorant.  I have felt a heavy heart this whole week regarding your behavior.

Some years ago I was watching “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” when a particular scene came across the screen of Ike beating the crap out of Tina.  There were some teenagers present.  And in that moment, they began to laugh seconds before the tears fell from my own eyes.  I recognize that violence and sexuality touch my life in very personal ways.  It was only later when someone, older and wiser, explained to me that the teens were laughing out of awkwardness, did I understand.  I understand that in that moment perhaps you all felt uncomfortable.  Amongst peers the best you could do was protest the awfulness of the scene.  You wanted to make sure no one could possibly think you thought that a man loving a man was acceptable.  And so rather than support a brothah you supported the white racist male who was beating the crap out of the black brothah.  The irony of heterosexism is that you turned in your race card to support violence against a brother, who by the way was standing up for the cause.

There are ways for dealing with awkwardness.  First honor what you feel and just let it be.  Figure out why are you awkward.  Look at yourself first and do a thorough examination of your journey and beliefs.  Try not to turn on the individual or situation that makes you feel uncomfortable for it is often that person who is most vulnerable.  They do not need your laughter or your jokes or put downs.  And you don’t have to be a part of the choir when it’s off tune.  Remember association doesn’t contaminate you; it’s not airborne.  And value the top notched education you are supposedly getting at the elite Morehouse College.  You will be our future leaders so it’s time to grow up a little.  You can be the change agents in our world.

So I had an awkward moment myself this week and it’s still on my mind.  I chose to come out to a friend because I thought it was the ethical thing to do against other people’s advice.  The confession was awkward.  The person’s questions were awkward.  And most likely the lack of a response was awkward.  The lack of communication is awkward.  I’m feeling really awkward right now.  In response to those who want to know which team I play for the last I checked I’m not playing for a team.  I don’t even like sports so the imagery is bad.  I’m a human being who fell in love with another human being.  I’m in love.  I don’t know where that will lead but I like having love in my life.  I don’t have a lot of answers but I am better because of love.  And while it may make others feel awkward it has made me feel a whole lot better.




Raven Symone Speaks: Resisting Labels

I use to work for an Afrocentric social service agency prior to full time pastoring. And at my work location there was a retired black man that often was out in the neighborhood when I arrived to or left from work. He had been in the community long enough to know the happenings on his street fairly well. Our relationship evolved from greetings to occasional conversations about world events. Whenever he discussed something in the news that pertained to black people he would say “your people.” He was clearly disappointed by some of our actions. He was African American so I would jokingly say they are your people too. He would say no they are not and we would laugh. Even though he was joking I’ve been told there is some truth present in all jokes.

I once heard someone say labels only help the labeler but often they are not as helpful for the one being labeled. Let’s go there. When people start dating someone of the same gender when they had previously dated people of the opposite sex, the first question people generally ask is, “so are you gay? ” So what does that really mean? I mean it’s obvious the person is dating someone of the same sex. What more are we trying to ask? What does gay mean? I know the basic definition but what really does gay mean? And what does the label do for the one labeling and the one being labeled? And what does it tell you that you already didn’t know? Labels sometimes are a way of ending conversations as opposed to engaging others. Labels allow us to take short cuts without ever getting to know someone. They sometimes allow us to make judgments, exercise assumptions and draw conclusions without any real information.

So Raven-Symone in her interview with Oprah stated, “I’m tired of being labeled.” She also stated she didn’t want to be labeled gay. She’s not African American. But what others heard particularly among African Americans was a stupid little young girl who was rejecting her race, and therefore rejecting her people. It’s not the firs time someone black of notoriety has tried to distanced themselves from being black. I am reminded of the community guy again who would say “your people.” We embrace our Indian side, our Caucasian side, and our Latino side but those black roots are just too much to bear. As Oprah predicted Twitterville lit up.

I have a wise friend with not many words. She is older and has raised her two children and is enjoying her grandkids. As a parent, I asked her what were her ambitions for her children when she was rearing them. I thought she would talk about college or the American dream. Her answer was different from any I had ever heard to the point that I never ever forgot the wisdom of her words. She said Charlene of course I want my kids to be happy but mostly I just want them to be good human beings. I want them to be kind to others. I want them to treat others with respect. I want them to work hard. I want them to be good human beings. When I am frustrated or challenged by the distance between my son’s ambitions and my hopes for him I remember her words and they comfort me.

I think Raven knows who she is.   It’s impossible to be on the Cosby Show all those years and not gain a sene of one’s cultural identity. The Cosby show portrayed the black family for the firs time on a national syndicated tv show as functional, loving, professional, middle class, and human. Raven is saying something more and we missed it because it triggered the pain of our history. Raven is saying something and we need to hear it. She recognizes the limitations and oppressiveness of labels and she’s resisting. In fact she says, “I’m tired of being labeled.” She is gay. She is black. But beyond that like my friend raising her children she wants people to see her humanity. She wants people to see her. And maybe just maybe that is a prophetic idea for all of us. By the way I too grow weary of labels


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