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.

Of The Work

There is something to be said of one that writes. There is an awkwardness that comes with this territory of pulling art and light out of the air. The spacing out, the tuning in, the people watching and grinning at the funny things the invisible people in your head talk about or will do.

The staring happily at blank screens and new pens, giddy to race the deft of your imagination. Being alone in a created space, yet never totally alone. With words pull you from sleep, and people and places and comfy spaces.  These people and worlds tumble and bubble as you race to get it all out. Indeed, how fast can you log immortality?

I’m yet trying…

The Invincible Ones

“If the black woman wasn’t born, she’d have to be invented.” -Nikki Giovanni

My grandmother was one of the most resourceful women that I have yet know, and have ever known. She showed me how to be resourceful and quiet–both valued personality traits. My grandmother died 3 years ago–4 months after I married my current husband.There is something stoic and beautiful about us as black women. We carry this mystique, this power, this ability to take up and make up space. We harness the sun, speak to rain and get (bleep) done!

Yet…we rarely get to be soft. We cry in showers, in bottles or in dark rooms that are filled with the presence and opulent omniscience of the Almighty. We dress up what is bleeding, silence the bruised and scattered to become expert in our own myth and legend. Black women are just damn majestic.

Yet…and still maintain a fought for humanity.

What I gleaned from my grandmother, whom I only saw cry once in the 32 years I had her, is that to be soft is rare for us as black women.  Pain is what we burn as fuel to survive. We have grown accustom to the birth pangs of the ‘almost’ the ‘just might’ and above all ‘God gon handle it.’

We train our daughters to develop what I call ‘the anchor in your soul’ when our first tears are shed. We are told ‘save your tears for things that matter.’ My grandmother’s presence steadied me as I grew older, she was my benchmark to all I knew I could do and a fountain of wisdom I basked in. She was one of my heroes.

My father told me that my parental  grandmother had 8 children, on a 3rd grade education with a husband that was a drunk and (to my immediate knowledge) may have been functionally illiterate. My maternal grandmother had 10, dealing with things that out of respect for her, my mother, and family I cannot reveal here. I saw my grandmother give all she had to all of us, the last of what she held fast to, she gave it to us. Selflessness is what us as black women do best…to the point it costs us our most precious possession:  US.

We stop dreaming, we stop smiling, we turn in on ourselves until we get to a point where we are strangers in a familiar land. We morph in to these mountains oblivious to the waters that cut around them and through them. We allow ourselves to become these lighthouses for others, while trying to continue to give off our own light on both ends. We become alien to ourselves. When my grandmother’s health began to decline, to the point that she could no longer sew or garden, she said, “Why do I have to give up everything?”

When she died, I, being the writer, was charged to write her obituary. I didn’t want to, but, I showed up and was strong, just like  I had been taught to be. Her entire life was compiled into 3 paragraphs about three-quarters of a page. Every secret she housed, went into the earth with her. The cool and dark, reclaiming the same rock she had become etched from.

I  find myself at times catching glimpses of my grandmother, and mother, staring back at me as I primp and preen for the day afresh or taking off the armor of beauty given to the day in order to sleep.  My mother told me that my eyes have ‘always sparkled’ and I still see that now. I wonder and watch for the the hard focus of those same brown eyes, and look at the slight darkening under them from sleepless nights. The smile that has fought back venom for man in favor of God and peace, the lips that whisper and kiss still supple to smile and laugh, have also swallowed tears. I look for the change.

I look for the physical moment my eyes no longer soften but remain sturdy and resolute–unmoved by what is around me, yet wise enough to know that it is. I believe in the the ability to be strong, it has sustained my family, and my people since our abduction to this land and our assimilation to it.

I know the lore that has followed the women in my family, the dual mythology that has constituted the origin of my ability, too, to breathe fire and walk through it. I am aware of their struggles, sacrifices and unseen tears. I am familiar with the need for their silence as well. That disquiet became normal and abhorrent to me. As a child when rolling that over in my clear mind, I was told to ‘keep living’ and I’ll ‘find out’.

The weapon we as black women have wielded for so long is that strength–goddess like–to overcome, come over, invade and be stunning while doing it. We are legend by blood, infused with ancestral wisdom and power being activated in times of trial, error, sorrow and panic. I, too, add to that royal blood with my own birth and that of my daughters. However, I am learning in caring for myself, is not a determent. Giving voice to my own needs, desires, wants and hopes is not selfish. Saying ‘no’ or “I will not” at times is a revolutionary act. Aurde Lorde said that we are given a little fire, and we must not lose it.

The Word of God tells is in the Book of Proverbs, that with all our getting, to get understanding. I know, now understand, the construction of that the facade of invincibility. This militant self-protection that allows us to become mother bears, lovers and friends. I understand how potent the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that the world hurls without hindsight or hesitation. I get it.

I also have come across another certain truth:  sometimes our greatest weakness is admitting when we no longer can be strong. I am not willing to be consumed from essence to personality for the sake of preservation of invulnerability. I shall live, live excellent and be able to recognize the power my life and voice add to the world and those whom inhabit it.

I shall live.

 

We The People, Are People

noblesse oblige:

noun.

  1. The moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position, etc., to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc.

 

In the offense of man, there will always be one that remains to be honorable and share memories–then known as history. Of this, here now, is no difference. It is of a curious deft and straddle by which we confront race and sex in this country. Even in confronting it, there is confrontation. It is an odd thing to be a part of something by which you have no ownership of–even when your blood have flowed into the soil to yield those self same roses.

Melissa Harris-Perry said race is our “thing” in this country, that definitive thing–strange and normal. Yet, in that normality, the normalcy of racism and bigotry cannot be ever seen normal. It can never be normal to see those that indeed reflect humanity to have it stripped from them. In that stripping, it must be done,  has been done, in such as way that those effected do indeed notice. People notice the slights, the political prestidigitation and the  non-personification of fellow human beings due to ideology of convenience. That convenience granted the right to those in power to kill and execute with impunity.

To the face of that, the voice of that I ask the same thing my foremothers asked, “Ain’t I a woman?” I ask if I indeed am worthy of being both black and woman, as defined by the intersection of my humanity or does my blackness negate, conflate or disparage everything about me which follows? In the world by which I navigate, that answer waxes and wanes to leave wanting.

In this age of ‘white allyship’, we find ourselves still confronting what it means to be classified as the ‘good white folk’ colloquialism my grandmother would use. What indeed needs to happen lies beyond conversation. What needs to happen now is beyond protests and other demonstrable agreement shows. What needs  to happen now is the process of dismantling. We  must examine what it is to believe what we believe and whom told you that it was correct. There must be a dedicated addition to the knowledge pool by which  we draw back truth consistently. The good thing must be the right thing so the right thing is always the good thing.

We must confront what it means to be an ally and ascribe duty to it, rather than implied convenience. We have to be at a maturity to maintain allyship beyond fad and valleying trends. The cause for freedom, justice, independence are of unlimited importance to those oppression effects. It goes beyond feeling, or convenience, or echelon. However, it is with earnest I implore allyship to consider what they have agreed to support. They must understand that allyship is service not opportunistic and deceptive. There is no room for an imposter allyship in a forward progression. It is the antithesis of such movement.

Understand that there are lives and causes to dedicate ones life to, however, there are  those than cannot handle such a swift divorce. These causes are dear to us because they are the taken portions of us that others have taken to never return. Most notably:  self.  When I am no longer seen as all that I am, in the face and image of God by the fellow creation, that is not a fate I am willing to incorporate into my being. I shall not, will not, nor ever be denied of my humanity by those whom think it sport to disperse it in times where my silence is needed more for a common goal:  my compliance to silence.

Now, this time, no that is not what is needed. Here ally means alliance, allegiance:  which is necessary. It is needed because in order to succeed, not just fight,  we must have a common goal, not an assimilated agenda. No longer can we be silenced, be-swayed, dismayed or ignored. We resist because we will not longer assist in the murder of our futures…and our present selves.

No.

 

We will live to not die in order to show man is redeemable, and it is that compassion to redemption which leads us to act. So, act we must.

Resist.

 

 

In Sessions

“…appealing to the better angels of our nature…”

-Michelle Obama, wife of 44th President of the United States, Barack H. Obama.

 

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is a bigot. He’s the worst kind of bigot. He attempts to hide his views behind the law and degrees. He is the worst kind of bigot because he believes that oppression and de-personing of people whom are different is both righteous and necessary. He is the worst kind of bigot because he mistakes tenacity toward error and evil for valor of cause. Senator Sessions is a bigot.

The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to the a federal committee almost 30 years ago to protest his a federal appointment as a judge. Then, her voice was stymied by Senator Strom Thurman, but vindicated by Edward “Ted” Kennedy. To that end, he was stopped, by those that believed the words of Edmund Burke:  “All it takes for evil to prosper, is for good men to sit and do nothing.” Ah, but here comes the 45th President whom has regard for one color:  green.

The history of his bigotry as detailed by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, to be read in the hearing and record of this current Senate, by the senator from Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren, was silenced by the Senator Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. With indignation, he says, “She was warned. It explained to her. She persisted.” She PERSISTED. I stewed about this, and until I could only boil.

This is indicative of what has happened to women and people of color since the recording of time and the collective memory known as history. Sessions is a throwback to the affirmation of whiteness as godhood. This notion that what whiteness constructed, it would uphold without opposition. It would stand without rebuttal, without voice and without languishing criticism. He is the embodiment of what remained unweeded from the the gardens fairness and promise. He, along with the white maleness masquerading in the highest realm of legislation in land, have cast their lots towards what they deem most worthy:  themselves and all they hold dear. He is what my mother and father told me to watch for and my grandmothers ran from. He and those that believe like him are the evidence that the work we thought was over is far from it.

I was taught to respect the integrity of the law. These laws of these lands are meant to assist and help all those that are in need of them for defense and survival. For the Senate to be blinded, so blinded to the plight of the people they are oath-sworn to serve, only allows me to further believe these in power care only for power. Absolute power can only be wielded by an absolute God. Sessions is not it. McConnell cannot channel or harness it. Ryan cannot fathom it.

The better angels of our nature have now becoming warring because it is time. It is their time, our time, to fight. As the weeds of Sessions grow, as McConnell flourishes among the healthy ivy of change, and Ryan hinders any sustainable accountability, we too, are their reminders that change is indeed here–it has not lost its voice or power. Change cannot be silenced. Change will not be smashed flat or stolen. As injustice remains, those that seek justice remain.

Confirmation is not the acceptance of what cannot be changed. Confirmation is what those that are like minded have agreed to tolerate, agree with and engage. In this, we too, engage. We challenge because to give up, to not resist, is our destruction. We are alive and remain, and shall not go quietly in the face or racists relics. We will fight. In resisting, in this movement of resistance, we find the better angels of our nature–ourselves.

 

 

 

The Product Of The Public

My parents are the college educated the children of sharecroppers. My maternal grandmother had between a 6-8th grade education. My maternal grandfather less than that. My paternal grandmother had a 3rd grade education, and my paternal grandfather was functionally illiterate.  I am a third generation reader, and I was born in 1981.

I was taught  that education, like death, was the great equalizer. I was taught that the powers that be hide the most pertinent information in books so that black people won’t access  it. The exact quote I heard growing up was, “If you wanna hide something from a ni—- put it in a book.” It was my mother that read to us, my father whom taught my siblings to think and question, with my grandmother’s house that had more books than TVs. It was my Aunt Myra who played ‘school’ with me and my cousins. Education was  paramount to my immediate and extended family. I have made the decision to be a life long learner and have raised my children to be that as well. Completing the first of 2 college degrees did not deter that.

I started school in the Saint Louis Public School District in September 1986 at Bryan Hill Elementary. It was at this school that I developed my love of reading (moreso) and I felt valued. My blackness was normal here because everyone else of importance and shaping was black. It was in the public school system that met the following teachers whom shaped my life:

1-Ms. Lois Algee (KG), Bryan Hill Elementary-SLPS

She taught me that I was valued and special and smart.

2-Mrs. Schafermeyer (2nd grade)- Bryan Hill Elementary, SLPS

She affirmed that I was indeed ‘young, gifted and black.’ She was determined to push me to be better.

3- Ms. Constance Kelly (3rd grade)- Lowell Elementary School, SLPS

She told me that I could write. This was life changing and was the catalyst to me writing all the time.

4-Ms. Annie Green (4th grade)-Lowell Elementary, SLPS

She challenged me to keep learning, to be disciplined and not take any from anyone. She gave me my first journal to write in. She believed in my talent.

5-Ms. Brown (8th grade)-Yeatman Middle School, SLPS

8th grade English; She knew I could write, and encouraged me to submit my work EVEN BACK THEN.

6-Mr. Stephen Batchelor (10th grade)-Jennings High School, Jennings School District.

He told me that I indeed had potential to make a living writing. One of the 4 teachers I had ever let read my work. He lauded praises on my work to the point that I truly began to believe I could do it.

7-Mr. Henry “Hank” Barrere aka “Coach Barrere” (11-12th grade)-Jennings Senior High, Jennings School District.

He told me to never stop learning. He sent a letter home to my mother saying he had never had a student as brilliant as I was (I had him for high school Psych, Soc and Honors  American Studies). This was the first white man that challenged us as a class to THINK, not just regurgitate facts. He affirmed my love of history. He was most definitely WOKE. He is the teacher whom told us in 1997, and I quote, “Nothing becomes a problem in this country until it effects white middle class America.”

At the confirmation of Betsey DeVos, I can only marvel at the devaluing of the mind of the American student. In place now is a woman whom has no idea what it is like to have to fight to become educated. She has no idea what is to be brilliant, but broke, and needing federal monies to attend college. The Secretary of Education places no value on the educators. Those that have chosen as profession to instill these same principles into the lives of all those that enter classrooms and purposed to leave different. She has no idea what is required of teacher in order to teach in a system that is constantly upended by privilege and money.  They are asked to shape and mold young mind in a sphere that is constantly morphing to exclude their influence to truly reach the children assigned to them. In holding such a high office, it would only be reasonable for her to have some respect for those whom she will supervise and account to. However, she has bought such influence and believes that to be respect. It is not.

We resist.

 

 

 

 

The Boy In The Red Shirt

The beach is so serene, soft light, almost dim. The waves massaging the sand, and he’s laying there, so quiet. So quiet. His red shirt wet, the soles of his shoes almost as red as his shirt. It’s then that you notice he’s not sleeping…or breathing. He’s dead.

This image of this  unnamed little boy has circulated timelines and retweets without benefit of his name or dignity of resting place. He is only referred to as ‘ a Syrian refugee.’

The President of the United States three days ago by power of Executive Order changed the lives of about 90,000 people. Of this number where those fleeing war and horror, trying to visit family across oceans and returning to the homes they had made, desired to make here in America, only to be told “No.” In addition to that ‘no’, they were told they didn’t belong.

In these last  three days, I think of this boy in the red shirt. I think of his mother. His father. His family. I think of the life they were fleeing, the hope they took with them as they entered this boat to take them into the rather embraceable unknown. I think of him and how the sea swallowed him only to have the land retrieve him:  the humanity lost in the seek of power.

The President has proven he has neither empathy, sympathy or foresight. We are, and should be able to disagree on matters of theology; such discourse is helpful. However, theology should not replace humanity! 

He has neither the deft of political skill to navigate these waters those in elected powers should have some knowledge of. He has put policy over people and has called it “protection” and “patriotism”. There is no place in the Executive Branch for a person whom lacks humility, strength or wisdom. He has deemed himself and those around him the only ones worthy of wielding discernment needed to deem who is and who is not worthy…of humanity. There is no space allotted for those in power to behave this way. And none shall be given.

The poet Waran Shire wrote a about this, this fleeing from home. One clause is “running when home has teeth.” I could not imagine being so desparate for safety that I flee all I know, comfortable and confident in all that is or will be unknown, carrying only what I can hold in my heart. This mother lost that portion of her heart because she couldn’t hold on to him tight enough. 

My heart broke for her and him…this little boy swallowed and given back by the sea. I wanted to grab him, hold him and just cry. I wanted to shake him, and hold him to my heart. Why? Compassion should move you to action. As a Christian, it is this compassion that compels me to act in times of uncertainty, malice, and sorrow. 

More than likely, this little boy was Arabic, from a Muslim country, and it did not matter to me. Humanity is and should be independent of my theological ideology. At that moment, I was a mother…whom happened to be a Christian. Some things are universal:  grief is one of them.

In times such as these, it is easy to allow fear and self-preservation to overtake humanity. This must not become normal. There is something greater locked inside of humanity and it must be protected by humanity-and that is HOPE.

The shores of this nation have offered that for centuries now. For the leader of such a nation to shut the door because of fear, extreme nationalism, and hatred is to devalue humanity. Assigning patriotism to this insanity does not cure it. 

What does cure this, what perserves hope, is affirmation of what is good and the confirmation of what will never be good. We beat back the dark by exposing it, not excusing it. We fight to maintain hope.

 As we maintain it, we share it and allow others to continue to rage against the dying of the light as well…no matter whom they are or where they are from.

We maintain hope.