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WEEK 6: DEFINING INCLUSION, EQUALITY & EQUITY

Image result for buying a house

Let us consider buying a house. You want the house to be just right, even dreamed it may be. However, in the buying of the house there are these three stipulations:

Inclusion:

Where is it?

Inclusion let’s you know there is something else yet beyond your grasp. There is something else to be sought after, worked for and to aspire. In short order, inclusion opens the door for consideration and opportunities. Without inclusion, there cannot be room for progress, mobility or consideration for future endeavors.

Equality:

Can you have it?

Let’s say you have found your house. You have your money saved, realtor picked out, and even have the new carpet picked out. The realtor you chose tells you that you cannot have it, even though you have all the criteria met, just like everyone else. What gives?

Equality says and demonstrates by virtue of my existence, I am just as a good as anyone else can be. I am worthy of all good things, I am entitled to all things worked for. Despite race or economic status, I can have what I desire of this life because I am worthy to have them.

Equity:

If you know where it is, know you can have it, and will it be fair?

You protest with your realtor and tell them you have all the qualifications necessary to buy the house you picked out. You have saved and borrowed and waited. You want this house!

The realtor in turn tells you he has a house in the same area, but it’s not exactly what you wanted.

Equity is to make something accessible, and almost/just like something else. Equity makes it fair, grants you a skeleton key–yet not every lock you open will be what you want.

That’s the catch, Firestarters!

What is inclusive, may not be equitable (prime example: education). What is supposed to be a source of equality may not be inclusive (prime example: voting.). There are gray areas about these topics, and as long as you live you will intersect.

In that intersection, you still are granted access. That’s the promise and premise of this nation: access–which, too, is not equitable, inclusive or boast of equality.

Yet…go buy your house.

For My Godsons and My Son

I had his name picked out. More than once:  Quintin. Joshua. Micah. And for reasons known only to God, I was given daughters.

But, I have a best friend that made me a godparent. From her, I am The godmother of four…three are sons.

Spending time with them is joy unthinkable. I want to put it all in my pocket or on a string. I want to give them all I hold and beyond to prepare them for the world…designed to hate and devour them.

My oldest godson will be nine in December. I tell him he’s brilliant, and handsome and can do anything. I remember praying for him as my best friend still carried him. I look forward to the man he will become. He looks at life like he’s going to kick a field goal.

His brother, will be four in January. I remember streaking to the hospital to see him.

His mother and I way past the best friend point, she’s my sister, and I remember holding him. I had everyone extend their hands and pray for him.

I remember feeling the weight of being a godparent then, thought of my own godmother. I thought of how wonderful she is, and if I could give a fourth of that between the two of them, that would be amazing.

He always tells me, “I love you ever.” I tell him, “I love you ever!”. His eyes  steadily widening along with his smile. I can never tell him no.

My youngest godson? He shares the name of the son yet unborn. He brightens my world, and I prayed for and over him too, sitting on his mother’s couch. Already, he’s curious about the world and everyone in it. He will be a year old in October.

Seeing my best friend, my sister, with her sons? It reminds me of just how diligent parenting makes you. Her fears are my fears.

As a godmother, my job if anything should happen wherein their mother cannot care for them, I’m to help in whatever capacity. She’s godmother to my daughters as well.

To my guys, the three that are here and the one yet to come, I offer this:

I love you. More than I can ever say or that you may ever see. I love you and will do all that lay in me to make this life as best I can for you.

The world at present is a dirty, mean place and sometimes I hate to see you out in it. But, I cannot hold you to me as the wide world outside needs you, and all you contain. My job is to make sure you remember that your destiny is there, and you must reach it.

Don’t be dismayed by people that don’t understand you, don’t like you because you’re different. Your job is to be you. 

Know that your godmother/mother is human. I will mess up, overreact, and trip. I will because you matter to me, dearest one. I want all that God showed me concerning you. Since He showed me, I will remind you.

In this current time, you may not remember all my words towards you. You may not remember my tears, my prayers or why I tell you God is so important to me, and should be to you.

You may not understand why I cry at the news and wipe my face when I see you. You may not remember how I fussed at you to do better, and when I was disappointed when you did things that I knew you knew better than.

But I want you to always know is there is nothing you could ever do, to make me not love you.

From that love, you can do anything.

For Love and Jesse

I cannot express how excited I was when I first heard Jesse Williams’ speech on the 2016 BET Awards. I cannot tell you the level of pride and “Dear Lord, HE GET IT” that I felt when he said the following while accepting his Humanitarian of the Year Award (excerpt):

“…Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that.

If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.

Thank you.”

 I heard this and cried and screamed. He got it! He freaking GOT IT! I cheered as he smacked his gum and Black Power-fisted off stage, daring cats to try it! He understood why we were all mad, and all hurt, and all so ready to (bleep) fight! He knew, and could say it with the verbal dexterity and linguistic venom  that college educated and street affiliated black men can. From there, he became a hero to many a black girl. Myself included. And his wife was black?! And he was fine?! YASSS! Erre’bady was winning! 
It was glorious. 
Then my husband said to me, “His wife isn’t that pretty.” I was so offended! I told him that he was wrong to say that, that she probably heard that all the time, but they were together and I am here AND EVER PRESENT for black love, hear me? 
HERE. FOR. IT. 
In the being HERE AND PRESENT FOR IT, the world and Aryn find out that her husband had dipped out on her. Then the world wants to turn on Jesse.

Hold on…


I thought about a forerunner of his:  Harry Belafonte.  There was a story I came across earlier this year about Mr. Belafonte and Eartha Kitt. They were ‘involved’ and Harry wouldn’t pursue anything further. Why? Because she was black. 
Yes, I’m serious–because she was black. 
He felt because of what he was trying to do, a black woman wouldn’t help him achieve the standard or establish the standard he desired. I thought about Sidney Poitier:  he had a decade long affair with Diahann Carrol (WHO I LOVE LIKE I LOVE PHYLICIA RASHAD AND LIKE I LOVE MY MOTHER!), and ended up with a white girl.
Perhaps we thought that Jesse was inoculated against that urge to abandon us. Perhaps we thought that he saw what we as black women saw in each other, and…are quick to snatch away from each other:  beauty and purpose.
Why would we extend Jesse Williams more than we extend any other man? Is he not, too, susceptible to the same temptations that are common to man? Am I making excuses for him? No. I am a staunch believer in people do what they deem important, and you have every opportunity to tell a married person that pursues you “No.” 
Jesse could have told this broad no, she could have told him no, and he could have gone home to his wife. Yet, according to gossip reports he told his wife he just didn’t wanna be married anymore. I can respect that. I really can. The bogus thing is that…this is an old story but new folk.
The word of God tells us, reminds us not to put people on pedestals, to not make people idols. The danger in that is we forget that those people we elevate people to a God-level, and the only being that can be at God-level, is GOD.
 Aryn is not the first woman with a famous husband that she sacrificed for, prayed for, and believed in that dipped out on her. She won’t be the last, in public or private. I’m sure Aryn has seen women look at her husband as if he were infallible and impossibly handsome. 
I’m sure she’d  had to discern what female friends to bring around, trusting they won’t try out her husband. I’m sure she had seen the shade posts, gossip links and random nattering of silly, clamorous women talking about how pretty she isn’t or should be. What do you think that did to her? Does to her? Did to their marriage? Even the strongest woman, has a weak moment. 
In those moments, we tear down our own houses. We tear ourselves apart. We make lists of what we have, need to get, and don’t possess to become…perfect. That perfection we give to the world. We give it to the world to assuage one wave of onslaught to be woman–to be physcially pleasing. 
Once we have that, we can go anywhere, right?
I cannot imagine what it is, would be, to be married to a man that is lusted after, idolized by a throng of women that don’t know the hitches and issues he has. They don’t know how when you ask him something when he’s upset he rolls his eyes, and then his swag is off. They don’t know that you worked like mad to help your daughter sing and he could manage her, or how you worked so he could audition, or how you  helped put him through school so he could ‘take care of us’. 
The world outside don’t get the privilege to see the ugly parts, the mean parts–the world sees the perfect parts. 
The dresses, the cars, the smiling pictures on the internet or framed on walls. With Jesse, we saw the perfect parts. With respect to the perfect parts, we get the the idolized version of a person.  
As people, we hate to be fooled. We love being able to assume the sanitized, idolized self is truest self, that way you can compare that self, that person with the person in your life–causing a level of strife in your life that is unneeded.
I hope that Jesse and Aryn work this out. I hope that Jesse sees what is really out there, now that he’s out there. I hope that Aryn sees what it is to be whole again and realize that her relationship will not define her to the point that she ceases to exist without him. 
I hope that reconciliation can happen, and she not be swayed by other people that want her husband for themselves, and would love to see her miserable. I hope that the children they have know their father for the man he is, and what he will give them–to arm with what it is to be dynamic in this world. 
I hope the world can see Jesse for what  he is:  a man. No more. No less.  With that shroud of mortality, he still is capable of stupidity, selfishness…and redemption. Not for us, the consuming voyeurs, but to himself and Aryn.

I Promise, I Ain’t…

“I promise you, I promise I ain’t dealing with that (whatever ratchet dramatic happening is going on on TV/at work/in the lives of other people you SWEAR you ain’t about to deal with).  There is a reason I never really was absorbed in reality television. For me? The orchestration of ratchet dramatic is too much…and I’m a writer, so I can come up with better scenarios with people watching at work or Bread Co. in St. Louis.

If you get lost in Phaedra or Shawnie or OchoCinco’s ex-wife? Fine. No judgement. We all need shows we unplug with. But you have to remember those people are paid to air foolishness. They are paid to act up, drinks thrown on and to have phrases born out of public consumption for memes and likes and retweets. 

We’re a world of voyeurs. We lurk. We stalk. We share. We critique from behind the fourth wall of our televisions. By no means am I saying to cosign nonsense. What I am saying is in our voyeurism entertainment we forget our own potential to be in those same positions.

Phaedra’s husband is locked up. Joseline and Scrappy are constantly up to and in crazy. Peter Gunz got kids and no clue how to do other things that men his age know how to  do to keep a relationship.  But right when we think, “I promise I wouldn’t do (fill in the blank)…you should remember no one SAW youwhen you had a similar experience. 

No one made a hashtag.

No one made a meme.

No one made sure to quote you.

Don’t get so wrapped up in other people’s lives that you forget there may be a handful of people watching yours…no cable needed.

 

Came Back. Now What?

Call it C-B-P.

Call it, ‘he know what he got over here.’

Call it ‘can’t no other woman be me to him. I got him”.

NO. Don’t call it any of this silly sh!t. Ever. I mean that–EVER. Why? You’re more the outer parts and the sweet center. You are more than what your hips, lips and fingertips can do and will do.

Let me break his down for you, so you ever remember this:

Sex does not keep man. 

 Sex does not domesticate people. 

Relationships are these dynamic crazy making constructs. These infallible pacts made by fallible people. And in those pacts, hidden in these promises, people mess up. And sometimes they mess up BADLY.  In that messing up, we find, sometimes, sex is a culprit of that break up. What do I mean, you ask?

There’s an phrase I love that says, “Affairs don’t begin in bedrooms, they begin with conversations.” The subtle flirting when you feel neglected. The attention when she got on your nerves. The rush when the work crush eats with you. You become known by someone…else. It feels good, you look forward to it.

You play touch and go with the boundaries of what you set up. You play with them so much that you dare to cross over them, and plan when you can. You get a good look at them close up, find the gaps–after too much thirst and hoping, you sprint towards the first opening. You sprint to the opening because what you see, what you have made up,  is sexy. It’s new. It’s the grand and favorite Christmas present. It’s the thing that was kept from you until you lay hold to it.

Then…it’s not at all what you wanted. There nothing lasting, nothing like the warmth you just had. It’s been worth all and nothing and you go back to what was all and everything, except, those boundaries, that guardrail that made you safe and secure is gone. The funny thing? Those boundaries are made by respect and time–both irreparable when lost or squandered. The dirty little secret is that in the sprint to find the next latest greatest, you don’t see all you’re running from…until you head back.

It’s when you head back that you see what you ran past:  fidelity, safety, endurance of love and its stamina. In the pursuing of what you deem new and lasting, and better than ever, you don’t focus on that long enough to see and remember it. Which pulls me towards this point.  How do you fix it–do you fix it? This beloveds, is where you must decide what is to be kept or thrown away. No, you should not be any place where you are not valued, are not honored and are subject to be taken advantage of. Never should you settle for that. What I offer is this solution:  reflection and reconciliation.

In the age of Lemonade, and  boss-level Black Girl Magic, I tell you to think about what it is you are to give up, gain and live with.  There is a pain that comes with infidelity that cannot be mimicked. It’s what you DO with that pain–how you exercise those demons–that determines the course of everything else you will encounter with this relationship and the aftermath of it.

Not everything is salvageable, yes, however, most things are learned from. Can it not be said that if you desire better with this person that you be able to love them even when it’s hardest to? One of the things I see with women my age and younger is some have forgotten the concept of time. Everything has to be instant, constant and solely beneficial. I offer this:  can you make lemonade? Can you see the tormentor as the cure? Do you have the stamina, the will, to start over again and make it better–together? That’s what it will take:  TOGETHER.

The together is what is hard, what does not like to be admitted to. It’s easier to throw it all away, and start over. Starting over invites newness, thrill and passion. To rebuild? That is to re-trust, admit fault and agree what you have worked for is more valuable than to start again with another.

Being told you would have to do the hard things over again and to forgive? Nah. That’s too much like right and too hard and we think will require something else of God in us to do. And I believe that’s right. It will. In spaces and times where there is a breech, something outside of yourself, has to remind what it in yourself what it is you want–and can hang on to. It has to remind you of what you it is you are worthy of, want and will work toward. And that, beloveds, is hard. It’s hard.

My romantic past is littered with these histories, these moments of decision where I had to determine what was once and better. I had to decide what I wanted to fight for. I decided that, now after living awhile, everything cannot be trashed and not everything salvaged.  I learned what it is that I wanted from myself and those that I share my space with. With me finding my love with my second husband, that has not been a crystal stair, I assure you. But I am old enough to know what one thing is definite:  my worth, my time, my affection, my fidelity goes far beyond bedroom antics. And bedroom antics won’t keep me.

 

You domesticate cows, not me.

 

 

 

In The Beginning

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning…”  -Book Of Proverbs

It is always ugly to start something. It is uncomfortable and dirty and complicated. It’s hard to begin something that only you and see or understand. It’s hard to be ‘the one to go first.’ It is the fear of the start that hinders us. The fear that we won’t be able indeed complete what we want to, what we have set out to do. 

The beginning is supposed to be rough and rough looking. New things, world changing things, often take on the wobbly nature of learning to ride a bike:  eager, off-balance, mistake laden. However, it requires one thing–mentoring. Having some one to show you how to ride these ebbing and flowing waves of the commencement of something new is monumental. Being able to share fears and triumphs with one that has been to a similar summit, or near it, allows the journey onwards and towards what is set before you less scary. It makes the journey less leery and the one on that road less skiddish.

Mentors are invaluable in the launching into the new things and for deepening waters. As they wipe tears, dust off knees, they compel us to listen, despite then pain and pushing of discomfort. They implore us to remember the path, what is at stake, and to keep going. In the pursuit of the making the beginning a reality in the end, we must not lose heart. Mentorship in it’s power equips you to go forward, it’s your rocket fuel to scale mountains of doubt or to burrow under walls of fear that have been erected to push you away from what you have determined you want.

Never lose your ability to dream, or be afraid to call off your bike. If you do, I promise you will find someone, or someone will find you, to help you up again. Brilliance can only go as far as help and opportunity will take it.

Revolutionary Is Self-Care

“Women are powerful and dangerous.”  -Audre Lourde

The most crucial thing I have been able to notice and admit, is my own mortality and need for self. The need to do things that make–no demand–my soul to stretch. Even the bravest warriors sleep and smile.

In the age of everything instant, I have learned to make myself priority, and my voice strength and not an echo. But in order to do that, I have to acknowledge my mortality and my need for rest. I acknowledge my need for light, compassion and companionship. I acknowledge my need of…me.

I realize that I can’t give anything to anyone if I am depleted (not just empty)! I have determined that acknowledging my mortality keeps me in touch with my humanity. 

I do things that make my soul smile, things that make me think, things and people that pour back into me. I have made me a resource, a priority and a love.

In the circles I travel, I am and have become a bastion, an anchor and a help to others–often at the cost of self. Too often at the cost of time:  the most irrecoupable thing I have. 

In redeeming time, I learn to breathe. I learn I can’t always fight. I can’t always be on red alert. There cannot be, will not be time to slay every dragon if only because I am but one person.

In this realization, in this self honoring truth, I tell myself this:

The light you fight for everyone else to see, you must, too, look up to see it. You are entitled to its warmth and heat and healing. Breathe, and look up.

And so should you.

Music

Notes. Chords. Sharps. Timbre. Crescendos. There is indeed nothing like music. Nothing that so captures memories like notes, song and the right voice. Indeed, there is nothing like music.

There is something to be said for its power in the life of those whom listen. These tracts that play over and over in your heart and head…long after the person is gone. Long after memories fade…then what of the music?

I’m old enough to remember radio dedications on my local station (MAJIC 108!) and one segment called THE QUIET STORM. For that hour, there would be people that would call in to talk about their relationship woes, the highs of those relationships, and the longing of those that could not be close or ever would be again. I would listen and think and wonder what that was like–being able to associate sound and person. How unique it would be to ascribe emotion and sound to another human being.

Until it happened to me…

There are certain songs that help you remember what was lost, gained and the indignity of what was almost yours:  being a part of the we, being an us. That is the beautiful thing about it, thought. The person may be gone, but they yet remain. The sentimentality of memorable immortality.

 

In Defense Of Taraji

You gotta hand it to her.

From Baby Boy, to Benjamin Button to the now immortal Cookie Lyons, Taraji P. Henson is a force of nature. She said in her autobiography (Around The Way Girl)  she moved to LA with $700 with a dream to be famous. One would argue, that the girl is, in the words of Tiana from PRINCESS AND THE FROG, almost there. With her role as NASA pioneer and Black Girl Magic Magician Mathematician NASA Engineer Katherine Johnson, I just KNEW that she would snag a nomination for an Academy Award. She already got nominated for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

So I waited. I watched. I stalked my Twitter feed.  I was ready to go ahead and shout her nomination and ride with her just like she rode for the Gorgeous One, Viola Davis when she won her Emmy for her lead role as Annalise Keating (How To Get Away With Murder) a couple years ago. I watched, I waited, I knew it was coming. I shouted for Octavia Spencer, and Viola…and I waited for Taraji. Then, as I heard the silence around her name…she got snubbed. When I talked to my husband about it (he didn’t know why they snubbed her either), I told him, “You know why.”

Yes, I do know why. Let me hip you right quick. Taraji doesn’t fit any mold. She is young, gifted and black with 3 odd vowels in her name. She isn’t what Hollywood likes to affirm. She is symbolic to black women and what black girls dream we represent. She is all of us and all of us are her. You can’t pin her down, or typecast her, or see her as non-multidimensional. When she cheered the other black women that won at the Emmy’s 2 years ago, I cheered with her:  it is good to have people whom are in your field congratulate you. She is outspoken and unapologetic:  when you believe in something, you shouldn’t cower. She is dedicated to her craft and dogged when given accolades:  she told the Golden Globes when the wrapping up music played, “I’ve waited twenty years for this, you gon wait!:” You have to know your worth.

I love Taraji because I see her in me, and me in her. I see her working and striving and rolling forward to what she knows she can do. Even without recognition from the people that you know see you. As a black woman, it profits me nothing to berate, gossip about, or seek to hurt another black woman–it profits nothing. Some of us just jump higher hurdles, with longer distances on harder tracks. Why throw rocks at a woman whom is working just as hard as you? Keep those rocks for the lions that come to snatch you off the path…

Breathe Fire

In this time, I am most thankful to be a woman.

I am excited to see what it that the rest of this feminine life hold for me.

In the space I occupy, I am reminded that I must make room, demand room for other women. I must remind them of the divine they  house and must bring forth. I no longer have the time or effort to be quiet.

My mother told me in my thirties I would settle into myself. I have learned to appreciate every stretch mark, every scar and the cocoa of my skin. I have fallen in love with me…all over again.