In The Gloaming

I was 17 when my father died.

I am now 19 years past that 17. I now have more living years without my father than I ever had with him. I take nothing away from those that never knew their fathers, or have lost them through heinous circumstances. That, too, is a grief unparalleled and there is no sufficient comparison–and need never be.

This the 19th anniversary of the passing of my father,  I am in a unique place. I struggle to remember him now. So much life has passed since his passing, I have done so much, seen so much, and desire so much more. There is a reason I am as driven and ambitious as I am. There is a reason why I had to become more resourceful than I ever thought–Dad. I live my professional life by these quotes:

“There is always a way to do something.”

“If you can’t get in the front door, go around to the back. If they won’t let you in the back, bust a window, and jump in.” (This quote is in regards to being told what you cannot do, or being told no.)

Richard L. Bush (1948-1998)

In reflecting on this day, 19 years later, I am now able to reconcile and recognize his impact in my life. In 17 years, I got more than the average little girl did. By no means does this mean my father was perfect, or slave to his own ambition. It means that I can appreciate his humanity in light of adulthood. I can now unravel the Gordian knot that was our relationship. He saw so much more in me at 17, that it took me until 36 to see.

He saw the woman I would become. He saw the drive he had placed there, there resourcefulness, the forcefulness and saw the beginnings of me learning to breathe fire. He saw it first. In that shaping, I thought him unreasonable, arrogant and mean.

In the reflection of time, I can integrate that grieving self with the public one: I am just as much his daughter, as I am my mother’s daughter. There need be separation because I didn’t feel good enough for so long. I thought in order to preserve sanity, I had to only be my mother’s daughter. I thought to be adequately angry, I had to remember everything bad he said. In order to remain what I thought to be whole, I had to give him up. Ergo, it’s easier to forget.

The greatest thing God permits is us to age. In the passing of years, we see people for who they are, what they are, and the air of perfection is lost. They are more human than divine, more accessible.

What I would tell my 17 year old self if this:

Mourn. You have the right to mourn. It does not make you any less of a ‘strong, black woman’ to admit you are suffering, and not okay, and you, too, need help. Mourning allows your heart to remember what you lost. You have the right to remember. So, remember. As you remember, remember as broken as he was, he gave you what you needed to get to where you must. You’re still his girl…and that is all that matters. Go and be amazing. 

Validating

In this life, the only thing you own, is you.

Today I meant to write about something uplifting, but that was before the onslaught of this week and the case of Cyntoia Brown.

For those unaware, see here for the complete article.

Twenty-nine-year-old Cyntoia Brown has been locked up in a Tennessee prison for 13 years, after she was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the killing of a man who hired her as a prostitute when she was 16.

At trial, Brown’s lawyers argued she was a runaway who was raped, abused and forced into prostitution by a man known as “Kut Throat.” She will be eligible for parole after she turns 69.

I saw her documentary on her a few years ago and was astounded. The documentary was on YouTube. Before reading further, I suggest you view it.

I know you may be thinking this deviates from my topic of influence this month, but I assure you it doesn’t. Influence is only as potent or insidious as those who wield it. The more I looked at this story (before Kim Kardashian sent her lawyer after it), the more my heart grieved for her.

“Kut Throat” used his adult influence on a then 16 year old girl to force her into prostitution. In new millieun terms we would call this sex trafficking. He sold a 16-year-old girlfor sex to the highest bidder. He put a child in an adult position by sheer force of will–ergo ill influence.

After she was violated by all these paying monsters, “Kut Throat” took her to his home to have sex with her. When she thought she was reaching for a gun, she shot and killed him. She took his guns and whatever money he had and ran.

Now, should she have killed him?

Probably not.

Was he going to let her go?

Probably not.

The dirty fact is this: she did what she had to in order to live. However, this nation likes its black girls docile or ratchet. Controllable and predictable.

The silent, suffering mammy.

The incredible thing? She now wants to use all that has happened to her to help everyone whom will listen. She wants to tell what happened to her so that the same trick that trapped her will not ensnare someone else.

Now, the third tier of this influence is the legal system–a system never designed to benefit or serve women, people of color or immigrants or the poor–God help you if you intersect any of these.

The legal system saw Cyntoia Brown like many of us see feral cats: Something for someone else to deal with and when dealing with them, do so harshly so there will be no others like those. The legal system decided her life was inconsequential and irredeemable in the face of all that had happened to her, so they decided to throw her away. The influence, the power and sway of the rule of law, let those in power do as the mob wished with her.

There has been new effort for her release and I am overjoyed. She deserves a chance at life and to impart and yes, to live. If all you own in this life is you, then whom are other folk to tell you whom you are or the limits of what you can become?

——————–

Contact Information:

Ms. Cyntoia Brown #410593

Tennessee Prison for Women

Unit 1 West, D-49

3881 Stewarts Lane

Nashville, TN 37218

#NeverthelessShePersisted

Above All Else

More often than you may think, you relinquish your power to other people. What they think, they believe or their perception of you and all you are.  Too often we forget this heart-powered vessel is ours to steer, command and harbor. There is  a power and difference in knowing who you are and accepting who you are. The main influencer in your life is you, Shug. Never forget this.

There will always be forces in this life and of this world whom make it motive and mission to change whom you are and will become. The world knows if you were to become all you have determined to become, you will be indomitable.You will be a force, akin to water breaking rocks. There will be nothing that will hinder all you house.

You must remember the words of courage whispered to you by those whom see and nurture the divine in you. Those words, these words, become anchors in your being, forming your person until you become the personification of what Jeremiah chapter 1, verse, 5 says:

RUNITBACK FRIDAY-12/8/17

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I hear sleigh bells ring-ting-tingling, too! Let’s get it!

#AnthonyLamarSmith #BlackLivesMatter #Coverup#CorruptPolice #ChangeTheSystem #Resist#FightBack

There are times where I can say with metered rage that I hate St. Louis. Courtesy of  The Riverfront Times, this week, it was revealed there was a coverup during the investigation of the  officer involved shooting involving police murderer of the moment, Jason Stockley. This is an exercpt from the article posted on December 5th:

The missing lab reports would have been crucial to the family’s position, Watkins argues. They show then-officer Stockley’s DNA was on a Taurus handgun recovered from Smith’s car. The now-former cop and his partner chased Smith at high speeds before they rammed his car and Stockley shot him five times.

The ex-cop claimed that Smith was reaching for the gun and that he shot him in self defense.

Yet an analysis done by a St. Louis police lab technician in February 2012 shows that not only was Stockley’s DNA found on a screw head on the gun, but that Smith’s DNA was not present.

I wish I could be shocked. I wish I could be surprised. I wish I could stop wishing. St. Louis recognizes three deities as Almighty:  Money, The Cardinals and the police. When confronted with facts that the police are corrupt, tactics are terror based and you demand your humanity, you’re accused of being anti-police. Indeed, I’m anti-police as they are in the current permutation.They are still an arm of the kinder, gentler Klan. This is why we resist. We know what a lie looks like and refuse to remain silent. He killed Anthony Lamar Smith because he could. Why? There’s a good ol’ boy as a prosecutor whom can’t indict ‘a ham sandwich,’ unless a black person has one. I knew it. I just knew it.

Sponsor a future black lawyer. They are needed. The mentor to Thurgood Marshall was helped by Mark Twain. The $900,000 settlement doesn’t replace Anthony to his family and to quote Sunni Patterson, in her poem We Know This Place, “Not always have we had amnesia.”

Re-damn-sist.

#WalterScott #IsItJustice #Resist #DismantleThePolice #Resist

Michael Slager killed Walter Scott on cell phone  video shot by a bystander. He shot him as he was running away. He then planted a weapon on him. All on video. December 7th he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. I have no joy about this. I want him to understand that black is not weapon, and forgiveness hasn’t reached my heart for this. I am angry. I am beyond frustrated. I wonder what is in white officers whom wield the badge, a car and service weapon to see color as a threat. I wonder if when these scary officers wash their faces and repeat “I feared for my life,” like I teach my children manners. I wonder if there are enough  good officers that notice enough to care. I wonder how many graves are watered with the tears of young widows and broken mothers.

Hope is not something black mothers or any other woman of color is allowed to give up. We fight to remain alive, strong and to hope. My hope was this man be locked up because black life is greater than any settlement, any endorsement deal, any jersey or television appearance or concert ticket.We matter.Our humanity is not a stunt from God.We matte and we will keep hoping. And like Nehemiah whom rebuilt the walls and gates of his place of his birth, we fight as we rebuild.

#AuntieApril #AprilRyan #AprilDRyan #BlackWoman #BlackWomenWork #ChristmasParty #WhiteHouseChristmasParty

I follow Ms. April D. Ryan on Twitter. I love her. I have watched how this ongoing grease fire in Hell’s back acre perpetuating as an administration has treated her, my auntie April. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders thinks she can just over look her, not answer her questions, or answer them halfway…

Yet, April Ryan is not shook or scared or tripping off this! I spoke about the power of influence and strength of presence, April has been a role model for me as a woman right now. She’s shown me to keep showing up, and keep it pushing in the face of people who want you to stop, give up or tone it down for comfort.

April D. Ryan is goals as I pursue this writing. I admire her tenacity, her boldness and her dogged nature—I love that about her. I love that she ain’t phased by bullshit and still pushes to get her job done, make her presence known–seeing her puts steel in my back.

The fact she got snubbed for a Christmas by this madness masquerading as government only lets me know she’s doing her job. In doing that job, she ain’t got to go where they don’t pay her. Or don’t want her.

Washington has enough token negroes. Aunt April is not one of them–besides, words are how we get off the plantation.

All The Black Women Named Charlotte

When I was growing up, I wondered by my grandmother had named my mother Bessie. There was no other woman I knew named, Bessie. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that name was short for Elizabeth. The only other Elizabeth I knew not in a Sweet Valley High book, was Queen Elizabeth II. My mother said that was whom she was named after. She believes it, so why not let her have it?

However, with the women my mother’s age the names I heard often where Esther, Estella, Dorothy, Elizabeth and Charlotte.

Charlotte.

My adopted mother’s name is Charlotte.

I always thought the name sounded–hard. I think it was mean sounding because of the hard Ch that started that name. But there are few women I knew with that name who were mean.

It was this year that I found out why that name had the toughness that it did. It’s regal. Charlotte, Charlottesville,— the very name Charlotte–is after the British monarch Queen Sophia Charlotte, wife of King George III. And she was what was called a Moor, we would just call her black.

Yes, black.

With all I knew, I considered myself to be well read until now. I literally found this out as concrete fact over the weekend! I had heard the historic rumors of her existence, but didn’t want to get my hopes up with research. But indeed this was fact! She was beautiful, multilingual, an abolitionist–and she discovered Morzart! Moreover, she was one of his early sponsors!

As I sat listening to News One, I absorbed this information in smooth waves. I searched Google for images of her. I needed to know what likeness there was of her. In seeing her, being able to associate name and face, I thought I would be able to further validate my own ambition. I wanted proof to be an ambitious, beautiful black woman was hereditary, not fluke. I needed the lingering parts of me settled about that. There was depiction of her I found where she looks like me or my mother when she was younger.

Names indeed have influence, prestige and lineage. Names let you hold you head up a little taller, especially if you know there’s a history behind them! Make no mistake, because you have the name you do, you already get to establish history and prowess with it. Need I remind you of  *Quvenzhane Wallis?

Nikki Giovanni said,”If the black woman wasn’t made, she would have to be invented.” So accurate. It indeed is marvelous to be young, gifted and black.

*She the actress in the movie Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and most recently, Annie. She is an author, and actress whom was the youngest nominated for an Academy Award. There is a quote that is ascribed to the pronunciation of her name that the author, says requires one have ‘full use of the tongue.’  That article  was in response to a Annie press interview Ms. Wallis did where the interviewer was having an issue saying her name, and wanted to shorten it. Quvenzhane said, “No, you can call me Quvenzhane.”

My Dad And NAS

Sooner or later, we’ll all see who the prophet is…”

-Nas, Nas Is Like (Album:  I Am…)

The first time I heard Nasir olu dara Jones’s voice? I can’t even explain it. I remember I smiled on the inside. My household wasn’t terribly conservative, but my parents monitored the music choices of myself and siblings. And being born in the era where hip-hop was in its infancy, kept their ears to my Sony Walkman and my radio when it was on Majic 108 (yes, I’m old enough to remember listening to that station here in St. Louis).

I remember how my father really didn’t pay attention as closely to what I listened to like my mother did. My taste and love for music came from him. He listened to Muddy Waters, Clapton, Pop, Doo-Wop, Soul and Digital Underground. Yes, THAT Digital UNDERGROUND.

In the sea of hip-hop, of all the people I was listening to, I came back to Nas. I kept coming back to his lyrics, his voice, his–musical presence in my world. As I moved through middle school aged girlhood, I was shaped by these male voices in my world. Even with the discord which comes with being a teenager, my Dad was one still one of the loudest voices inhabiting my social world. It was my father that told me, “Why do you want to go to school to write? You can’t eat with an English degree?”

I know, right? That cracked my heart–I didn’t think he believed in me. But I kept at it.

This, I believe, is the reason why I loved (and still love) hip-hop so much: the words, the freedom, the creativity–I saw this music genre as an art form. 

For the first twelve years of my life, I wanted to be a physician. A healer. A wielder of heart and head, of logic and art. I wanted to be a doctor because my Dad was one and I, too, wanted to heal. But when I discovered this mastery of these letters? When I found another way to heal? I told my father, I no longer wanted to be a doctor.

Our relationship deteriorated soon after.

In that space, that influencer power  of my father quieted. In that space, I crawled inside music and words and Nas in my junior year of high school. I would hear his voice and that lie that rooted in a mind and heart would shut up. It would shut up.

In a pen, I found peace.

In the pen I found healing, and I found that what he told me, was only true for him. It was only applicable to him, and what he wanted for me, he superimposed on me, rather than accepting me for who I was. I was not broken because I didn’t fulfill someone’s expectations.

I remember I began to preserve this gift the only way I knew how–blocking out the world, including him. I honed the craft, listened to my English teachers that told me what I could do. I I re-read their edits, asked questions about how they graded and what I could do better. I listened to my favorite emcees, memorized lyrics and at the release of I Am, confirmed what I wanted to do.

From that day to this one, I have made it mission to uproot that lie. In doing so,  I can be confident every time I publish a blog, freewrite,or edit a book, I burn a hole in each letter of that childhood false hood, and grin at their ashes around my feet.

Why?

I’m a linguistic acrobat. A wordsmith. A delicate, intricate raconteur.

I does these words.

Power & Prescence

You don’t know what you mean to the world. You don’t know you have the power to change all you touch, and touch all you change. Don’t be fooled by the world around you that wishes to lull you with lies as lullabies. Don’t believe the lie of the world that says, “It doesn’t matter and neither do you.”

Just because people command people or power doesn’t meant they are worthy of it. However, the mystery is everyone has power–it’s just the degree of access and wielding of it. Case in point: the P.T. Barnum circus  monkey  aka Cinnamon Hitler Voldemort known as the Puppet POTUS has one of the most powerful positions on planet Earth, and he has no idea what he is doing (The thing that keeps me up at night is at he has access to the Nuclear Triad and launch codes. And the United States military is composed of the very people he wants to excommunicate from the country.).

You are powerful.

You are worthy.

You are strong.

You matter.

In commanding this power, the first thing you must do is recognize yourself as a whole person, complete and worthy. What you think, what you believe, what you know is valuable and valid.

The second thing you need to know is you do have the power to change your life. You command the way you want your life to go, even if you make no decision, that’s a decision. There are people that can influence your life, but you are the chief influencer of your life.  You have the power  to suffer or soar. There is never situation that is hopeless, you are responsible for your success or failure. Do not be dismayed by what you see around you–be swayed by what is in you.

The last thing you need to know is you owe no one nothing. Nothing. You owe yourself the permission to live your life, and do it as you see fit. You must remember that when you incorporate the first two elements of self in your life, you activate destiny. Where you go, what you say, what you do matters more than ever. Your absence can show favor, and your absence can be stand or support.

The key to not getting lost is to always know where you are.

Know where you are.