Selma: The Humanity Challenge

A little over a week ago, a former high school classmate of mine, who happens to be a white male, posted a blurb entitled “Why the World Hates Muslims.”  He then threatened if anyone posted anything in opposition to this post he would defriend them.  This title greatly offended me and I didn’t get far into reading all the reasons the world hates Muslims.  When I think about the sentiment behind the title I still can easily access tears.  And I have wondered why this title injures me.  I have wondered why I am so bothered by it.  I have wondered why it’s become personal especially since I don’t even have one Muslim friend.

For a long time, I have struggled with my white male classmate.  I’m sure I’m not the only one but I thought defriending him was too easy.  Rather than move away, I thought it was important to try and understand someone different from me, but I also wanted to give him an occasional challenge since those who were responding sounded similar in beliefs.   It’s too easy to live life singing with the choir of our choosing.  He and I both agreed it was crazy for folks to defriend someone because they disagreed with your beliefs.  So I was rather shocked, hurt and relieved that this friend would defriend me for speaking up.  I guess he really felt strongly about his post.

The title, “Why the World Hates Muslims,” reminds me of the part in the movie, “Selma” where the policemen are beating unarmed black people with a bat.  These police officers are coming down on black people with such a physical force it becomes hard to watch.  Put the popcorn aside, this is no longer entertainment but history.  At some point in time a group of people (police officers) in a racist system (pre civil rights) beat other humans (black).  I realize in both instances, Selma and our present global world, we have lost the ability to see others (blacks and Muslims) as human and that seems like sin to me.

I think when we lose the ability to see other people’s humanity, we are in trouble.  But when those in power cannot see another person’s humanity systems become heavy and treacherous.  And while I think we have definitely improved at seeing other’s humanity, I think we have a long way to go.  We still have to work hard at seeing black people as humans.  We have to work hard at seeing young black males as humans.  We have a ways to go at seeing Muslims as humans.  We have a ways to go at seeing a few marginalized groups as human.  And when we don’t see those marginalized groups as human atrocious things can happen.  #selma


Don’t Crucify Phylicia Rashad: Her Voice Matters

A month or so ago I stated that I could believe that Bill Cosby raped these women in the face of folks raising questions about why these women waited to long to tell their story.  I said I could believe because I had remained relatively silent regarding my own sexual abuse.  When I whispered it to a friend I was blamed.  I was afraid to risk sharing my story a third time after two negative experiences.  I understand how victims can keep quiet indefinitely.  But I never said the Bill Cosby did it even if some felt I implied it.

Having grown up Evangelical I learned early on there were certain ways of being to fit in.  There has always been an us and them.  It was hard to be an us.  I loved God and wanted to do whatever pleased him and I say him with intention and as a reflection of what I believed then.  I sat on my questions and worked hard to believe what I doubted.  And eventually the questions in me could not be buried.  And so there was some parting with the comfort of being Evangelical.

I thought being liberal meant that folks were open and less judgmental.  It took some years and education to discover that liberals are as guilty of the same things they accuse Evangelicals.  They think a certain way on just about every issue including women’s right.  It’s a dry cut formula.  If several of women say that Bill Cosby raped them, we believe them.  If you support rape victims, you belong to club.  And let me say I’ve listened to a few allegations and there stories were very persuasive.  But the concern for me is if one decides they believe Bill and they are a woman somehow they are preserving the system and they have betrayed sisters all over the world.  It’s easy to do and see.

I am glad that Mrs. Rashad spoke what she believed.  I have problems with her linking  the power of the character/show to the real person Bill Cosby.  But I respect her work and her sister Debbie Allen.  I remember one of her more recent roles in For Colored Girls.  That was a powerful feminist movie about sisterhood.  I respect both women roles, their voice and what they have done.  These are not dumb unaware women.  And even if the say something different from what I would say or believe I’m not willing to relegate them to having sold out women.  As far as I’m concerned she gets to have her say without being crucified.


Cancer Beat Stuart Scott: Our Discomfort With Death

So I’ve known Stuart Scott for all of 2 days and already I feel a tremendous loss.  I listened to his 2014 Jimmy V. Perseverance Speech that included beating cancer by the way he lived his life.  That sounded really nice but I know I can’t be the only one who didn’t buy it.  I mean some things sound nice when you first hear them but upon further examination you know it’s not really true.  No matter how we spin it or what new age thought you want to grab hold of cancer beat Stuart Scott (RIP brave soul).

But his death raises another issue for me and that’s our discomfort with death, at least many of us.  The minute one talks about death folks will say why are you trying to be so depressing.  People avoid planning their funerals and wills because they have to think of their own mortality.  When my Dad was dying some relatives couldn’t even visit because they didn’t want to see someone in his condition.  We are really uptight about death and dying; often folks go away when sick and we don’t see them until they are dead.  I think our discomfort makes us more apt to try to believe that we do beat cancer and that some how we are immortal.  Some believe that’s why we have religion because people need to feel the certainty of their soul going somewhere after this life as we know it.

I have a cousin Donna who’s been dead for over a decade.  I miss her but there’s one person who misses her way more than me and that’s her only daughter.  That girl cries our for mama even as an adult.  Tell her her mother beat cancer.  Speak that nice crap to her.  Everyday she knows the real truth that cancer beat her mother.  Everyday she longs for that reassuring voice she knows that she is no longer here.  She’s gone; dead to us in the physical.  And we might feel her presence or may even host spirits but she’s gone.  And that’s a hard pill for many of to swallow and some manage to never swallow it.  Cancer has beaten many folks but it doesn’t mean they didn’t give cancer a run for it’s money and it also doesn’t mean they didn’t live a damn good life.


What Points You?: New Year Reflection

So the wise men followed a star that led them to Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.  Someone writes that the start pointed the magi to Jesus but what points Christians towards Jesus today?  It got me to thinking about directions in life we take and what pointed us that way?  More and more as I listen to people I realize all sorts of things inform people’s thinking and decision making.  I also think that more or less we often make decision from the worse part of us as opposed to the most enlightened aspects of ourselves.  Let me share a few situations.

On Facebook a person blast another person.  The person does not state their name but a few people know who the person is talking about.  The person is hurt by the comments of the other person but that person does not linger there long.  Instead this person writes an email aimed at that person equally as loaded and hurtful.  This person gets lots of likes for their loaded response.  They feel they are winning in the ongoing war of personalities.  The war between these two people continues.  What informed this person’s decision?

There are three friends.  They are close but friend A met friend C through friend B.  And then friend B had an argument with friend C.  So friend A and friend C are cool.  Friend B decides that since friend A was always her friend first that she should show loyalty to her and disassociate with friend B.  Are you following me?  Well there’s a whole lot of folks that feel that way.  When they are upset they are taking their marbles and everything else.  Friend C pauses a little dumbfounded.  Now Friend B wants nothing to do with Friend A.  What informs Friend B’s decision?

There are two colleagues.  One is social and the other is very private.  The social one tries to bond with the private one.  The more the social person tries the more private the private person becomes.  The social person get frustrated and starts being cold to their colleague.  Christmas comes and the social one notices that the private one walks in with items from Dunkin Donut in the morning so they buy the private person a gift card to DD.  The private person returns the Christmas card and gift card and says thanks but I’m trying to eat healthy.  The social person is furious. Month later the private person starts showing up with Dunkin Donut products.  Why do some people push other’s away?  Why cause the social person to keep trying?

So I admit a lot of times my decisions are informed by hurt, anger, inadequacy, fear, etc.  I get it when I see it in others and I observe it in my own life.  It sounds really quirky but I think all decision should be informed by love or more stable emotional locations.  And generally when I operate out of a funky space the results are less than optimal.  And it doesn’t matter if others applaud my less than desirable behaviors.  It does not make such acts redeeamble.  For me life is about operating in such a way that I contribute good.  So as I continue in 2015 I hope that more of my acts and decision will originate from good emotional space.  Maybe you will join me.  Happy New Year!



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.


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