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.

Of In Love

Love is risk. You have to invest wisely and have tenacity enough that if it goes left, it’s not irrepairable.

Love is a curious weapon as well as it can kill in it’s absence, its presence heals. It shouldn’t be played with, mocked bc if it’s power. With that power, fueled by the people that hold it for each other, we decide to invest that vulnerable self in someone else—in turn gives that vulnerable self to us.

That it remain an instrument of healing, asylum and joy. The thing we fear most is that investment with no return or surplus.  Again, it is, indeed better to hold it for him, them or she, that is chosen that to pour all that is quiet yet alive in you, a portion of the divine, than form someone to misuse it.

For to regain that portion of you that is able to perform such romantic heroism takes time to repair after such a blow…in order to search and do it again for one worthy.

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.

No Permission Asked…

Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter is having her twins with her husband. She is the happily married wife and mother of three children. Ciara Wilson is having her baby with her husband, whom has taken on the responsibility of helping her to raise the son she had from a previous relationship. Let me explain why this bothers people.

Mary J. Bilge said in an interview before the 2007 Grammys, that there was, or there where too many people ‘selling pain’, and that people don’t sell joy at all or at the same rate. At this time, I was married to my first husband and pregnant with my first child. I was happily married. I had some intense romantic relationships, but I had not been so tethered to a past relationship or the canard that can come with it…until I got divorced.

It is most trite to hear people say “no one goes into any relationship, planning it to fail.” This adage is not just the beaten dead mule, it is the graveyard full of dead mules whom have been beaten, shot at, thrown from roofs and planes and hit by cars. They are exhausted…and exhausting. To this I offer only one retort:  “I did as best as I could, until I had to do better.” There is no mule required. No mule available.

I left my husband because the situation demanded that I had to. There was no other recourse, because I had other people to consider…another life to consider. There is the dirty work of these types of breakups. People prop up, profit and press for, and pay for the pain you suffer. That abomination of sorrow and voyeurism:  people want to see how you are to see how you are. They buy the magazines, the music and the stories to see how you are to see how you are. In that, you indeed see whom is more like you and in favor of the joy that is due you.

Beyonce is an successful, driven beautiful undeniably black woman. The world automatically thinks she is not due the happiness she found in the life that she made. Especially, to be black and ‘do that.’  It is easier, more tangible and palpable, for the world to see, and continue to define black women as these stoic, unpolished, bearers of pain, and heartsickness. 

To see a happy black woman is an offense to the packaging spirit of whiteness, ‘polite society’ and the affront to the demand for complete personhood of black women aside from exotic fantasy and dark sexuality. She is owed happiness because she has demanded it, crafted it, and has made room for it–and asked no one for it. She never needed to.

Ciara is a woman whom I have been, and whom I have known. She has been a friend, co-worker, and my own reflection. I have been with a man that had no idea how to value me, love me, or speak to what divine I had no idea I housed or he could see. I have been with a man that told me he hated that I did anything that I was going to college, that my ‘education made me better’ than him. I have been the one that tried to fight for a situation that did not value me, add to me, and was an anchor to my heart. I have been the one to try and cover up, salvage…and lie.  I have been her.

  I have been disrespected, lied on and been told I was whore by the man whom helped me make the child he swore he loved. When I heard the gossip that rang like broken glass that ‘she had the baby to make Future mad’, I couldn’t laugh loud enough or roll my eyes hard enough. The missing component to this chaos is this:  the sentient nature of love and the personhood of black women.

Ciara was disrespected, hurt and placed in the gutter with a man that wanted to see her continue to wilt and never fly.  I cannot speak to the type of man he is as I do not know him (personally) but I have met and dated his representatives and clones. These type of people (not just men) fear being out of control or being left out. They love to acquire but have no idea how to maintain. They gather chaos, but embrace nothing of you. You find yourself contorting into a person unrecognizable for the sake or peace and sustaining of a relationship you are lost in. In that process of recovery, reconciling of removing yourself from all that was weighted toxic–you are found wholly beautiful again by someone that can see the divine you house. 

I can only imagine the wrestling Ciara went through as to whether or not to accept the advances of another man–to allow another person into her world with the potential of devastating it. She had so decide if he was or would be worth the chatter she would hear when her name came up in public conversation or in private cursing with her ex. The world is not accustom to the power or grace and poise held by black women–when, sometimes, that is all we have.

Ciara had to decide to believe Russell…and there is where the story is retold.

She had to unlearn Future and all he meant to her.

She had to destroy the taped history he left in her head. She had to be bold enough to embrace Russell and what he promised her than hide behind what Future would never deliver and make Russell pay for it. 

The world is enthralled with the strength of black women:  our wit, our stares, even the steel we place in our backs. What is foreign is when we become more thunder than lightning. When that heat is melded and we are refined and redefined by what was mean to kill us. She chose to believe Russell and chose to be happy because as a woman whom had been hurt, she, too, deserved to be happy…no matter what people thought.

There will always be those whom determine the worth of women by their pain, their suffering and how silent they scream. What is not celebrated, is how they are forged to become better without apology. We whom survive and endure owe the world nothing but the benefit of knowing the storm did not drown, neither did its waters overtake. We survive because dying is meant to do only once–not at the behest of those whom never wanted you to live in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Ain’t I A Woman?

The most confusing thing about being a woman in this world is constantly having to fight for what you need. Not even want, but what you need. It’s constantly having to negotiate the space between loud and soft, while being unable to see where your feet land as you’re going. It is so odd to be told to speak only to have your voice snatched from the very place it is supposed to be housed.

In this age of myriad or inter sectional feminism, we have the privilege to look at what the strata of women outside of our experiences, outside of our presentation and outside of our comfort. We see how we are able how, just how, we present our own privilege, and oppress and ignore others. In the going and exploration of life, we have to have the social imagination to stretch the simple truths we have or should have made about humanity, found in the first two lines of my favorite book, THE GREAT GATSBY:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
     “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

It is not my job as a woman, to hinder another woman, whom has walked a different or more treacherous road to become a woman, and oppress her because I don’t think she is the right type of woman.

 

 

 

It Was Never About Bathrooms

“It was never about bathrooms, just like it was never about water fountains.”

-George Takei

 I am astounded by the cruelty of the human condition. I am amazed how apatheic and evil we can be towards other human beings. From slavery, to internment of Japanese-Americans, and the expatriation of those of Chicano/Latinx ancestry, and now the policing of crotches…CROTCHES.

Since the introduction of this nos infamous bathroom bill in North Carolina, I have not seen before or since ignorance ramp up with superhuman boldness. Nevermind the fact the bill is steeped in stupidity and hate, and really impossible to police, it goes to the point LGBTQIA activist and actress Laverne Cox mentioned on Late Night with Stephen Colbert earlier this month:  it’s about existing. EXISTING. To deny the most basic of human function is to eliminate and erase the deemed undesirable from your comfortable spaces. The root for that sort of elimination is fear and profit. Those of this human condition seem to thrive on the fear of what we don’t understand. What we don’t understand we seek to subdue, control or eradicate–even if it’s people.

I recognize my privilege as a cis-gendered woman. I have never been in a position where I had to adjust myself to conform to a self that is or was alien to what my mind new to be true. I cannot imagine what is or must be like to know what you are, and a reflection not agree or project that. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to lie to those closest to you about what you believe you are. I cannot imagine what it is like to be told by people that love you that you indeed or an error, a sin, a freak or a mistake. I have never encountered such fervor in objection to my right to exist. I have never, nor will I ever be affected by these silly bills that tell those of trans-experience in order to be accepted you have to follow this law–when there is not enough stringent legislation that protects women (PERIOD!) from predatory attacks. The most recent in my mind is the case of an adult man that was in a Target bathroom and tried to attack a child that was using the bathroom with her mother present. That mother beat him to protect her daughter, and he has been arrested and imprisoned.

The hate that I have seen from some communities of faith has shocked me to a level of rage I had not seen before. I saw memes depicting crass jokes, and sentencing damnation. I have never been in a state of discontent strong enough to deny my faith, however, I have been in emotional places where I believed the better thing to do was, indeed, model what Christ would do. Where we find Christ in scripture is out among people, listening and helping and offering truth in love. HE gave room for disagreement (arguing with scribes and Pharisees), discussion (the woman at the well in Samaria), and even dismissal of His wisdom (in case of the rich young ruler). He gave the RIGHT to exist…as should we.

I joked that when I got to the bathroom that I am there to pee and leave. Most people are. If you present as female, use the ascribing bathroom. If you present as male, use the ascribing bathroom. Why is that difficult? What I see is the major difficulty for those that imbibe and spew this level of hatred and avarice is the lack of grace. You don’t have to always agree with something when you don’t believe in it–however, you must have enough forethought to think it may benefit someone else. Like the passing of the 19th Amendment. Like the Emancipation Proclamation. Even the Declaration of Independence and the ratifying of the US Constitution. This life we live, we do live in parallel realms:  individually (my life) and corporately (the lives of other people). This nation has not grasped that yet.

We love to inflict rather than invite. We desire dominance and shun understanding. We would rather rule and subvert rather than  govern. In order to do the latter of what I have mentioned, you must allow space for the benefits of others, realizing that those rights DON’T supplant your own.

So no, this isn’t about ‘protecting children’, or ‘protecting women’–there are cis-gendered men that are free or have served little to no jail time because they have chose to violate a woman whom all she did was exist, or tell him no, trying to maintain protection of her own personhood. Spare me the confusion that these people invite Jesus into. I understand that we are to make no provision for the flesh, but we are supposed to apply and give grace–no matter the person. The final authority being God, this same God that loved all of us, HIS CHILDREN.

How about we allow God to be God, because we aren’t…and we can all pee in peace.

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…

When Stones Tumble

There was a Jewish guy that I liked moons ago that told me to “Show me pictures of your city and I can show you where the Jews live.”Then he laughed. It struck me as an odd statement but in the midst of our conversation, he clarified. There was a young man that I dated whom, upon retrospect, was anti-Semitic. And racist. Our most vehement arguments came from the topics of religion and race. I was not going to be talked down to because of my faith in God, or be shamed in to regretting being black.

This past Tuesday, in a local Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri (my ‘hometown’) there was a case of vandalism:  about 100 grave markers were disturbed or destroyed in some way. Cowardice. Bigotry. Even the dead cannot rest in peace from it.

When I was growing up, my mother and father told us to respect people no matter whom they are, were they are or what they believed in. It baffles me that this type of hatred still exists! What do yo get out of hating people? Do you realize what energy is expended to do that? What else could you be doing?

I have walked past that particular cemetery in University City, and 2 other cemeteries in St. Louis that indeed have a Jewish legacy. As a believer in Christ, these are, those are, they are my relatives through Christ. Do people forget that it was through the line of Jesse (a Hebrew), came David and then Jesus? It’s insanity. Shear insanity.

What malice to harbor for another group of human beings whom only want…to live. Think about the planning it took, the amount of people that needed to agree to it, the logistics and duration. Think about that. They had to either jump a fence, or break in (if its people you HATE why go bother them, living or dead?!) and just tear through the lot and just knock all they could handle and smash all they saw. Why? They ‘hate’ Jews. No arrests have been made in this attack. Yet. And I don’t think there will be honestly.

The 40 year educator Ms. Jane Elliot, whom has conducted experiments dealing with race for all her career and life, called racism a mental illness. I agree. It has to be. There has to be something maladjusted to your thinking to have you believe and assume because of the color of your skin, ethnicity or religious experience makes you better than someone else. I have never once thought being racist would SOLVE anything. It doesn’t give room for anything. It’s a cancer. It has to be confronted and diagnosed and eradicated. It cannot be pacified or reasoned with. It is deeper than the stones that were toppled. And we have to be willing to help set all that was broken right again. There is no more time to watch them fall.

How The Light Is Spent

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.”- Book of Job 14:1

“How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” -Nina Simone

“The job of the artist is to disturb the peace.” – James Baldwin

It is of a certain determination why it is artist become whom they are and what they will be defined as. It is this consummate balancing act to maintain the fire that is threatened to be extinguished in the mania of the every day. It is a fight to maintain the light–to illuminate the way for those that choose and chose to see and follow.

In the decision to write, to pour soul to paper, us of the dream ilk, provide light. We provide the map to the darkened and darkest selves we house form the word. Indeed, it is the job of those that create to inform the fellow of its creation and like to know what is is to see, laugh and love fully. The most important being to push to question, examine and keep what is sacred.

What we have now, deal with and imbibe now, is the desire to free all those that desire the light–this hope that persists in the midst of adversity. There are people, real people now whom  are in deserts bound on all sides that evoke only bitterness and apathy. The world has become so heavy to carry they cannot see what light is offered. All they see is the mirage oasis of peace, once reached for, they dissipate. At that moment, hopelessness sets in–here enters the job of the artist.

There is a duty ascribed to those of this guild of writers and dreamers. We have a responsibility to remind those that carry the world that there is  more to it than the ground  we are pressed toward or which we will return. It is in this harnessing of art as mirror, we reflect life in all its facets, whether dirty or clean. It is the palatable, tangible  art that emboldens the world by which it serves to arise and do better–which at times may seem impossible.

Artists, arise.