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.

 

 

 

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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.

What It Takes

There is without a doubt that we are in for a rough four years. Without fight, quarrel, qualm or further evidence. This here will be rough.

There is something that gnaws though. After the show of solidarity from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., do we not remember that it was 53% of white women that voted for Donald Trump? Do we not remember that the Christian Church here in North America, the church that is supposed to set standards, examples of love and tolerance, backed this man, and cheered once they knew he had won. Cheered.

In the course of less than a week, he has signed executive orders policing women’s rights, health care, refugees and banned immigration from 7 Muslim/Arabic nations, and put a media black out for the Parks department, Dept of Agriculture and EPA. He has demonstrated he sees everyone around him as expendable and unreal. His take on humanity is dystopian. But the greater portion of the nation believed that he would be God to them, only to be left lacking. Now, they are outraged. Now.

There is a hidden privilege to all this though. There are those that marched on Saturday, voted in November, and did both things not to be mutually exclusive, but parallel actions and decided to call it patriotism. Let me offer this as well. Albeit, both are inalienable rights, the ramifications of those actions are not universal. You whom voted for Trump, you went into the ballot box believing 3 things:

1.) The country needs to return to being run by a white man because it was founded by white men.

2.) To vote for a woman, no matter how competent, is evil because she is a Democrat. Unaware of the when the parties truly switched policy agendas and obligations.

3.) You believed everything he said, because you had nothing else to hold on to or be held on to. You trusted in him.

Now, remember a majority of people whom voted for Donald Trump where white, with the deciding demographic being white women. Within the first 60 hours of his presidency, he has proved be a mountebank. No more, no less a con man. He is more concerned with money than service. He does not give a damn about anyone or anything else.

There have been so many speculations about his mental state, his behaviors and how off-balance he is. He is off-balance, even a megalomaniac–but those that cheered for him, fought for him, covered for him ignored that. You decided the end goal was worth whatever you would have to give up…as long as the others whom opposed you would lose more. I again  ask all those that have family whom are not white male/female what  did you think would happen?

You do understand that it indeed was your privilege that allowed you to think that nothing bad would happen, especially nothing would  happen to you. There was no critical thinking beyond what you wanted. This is the impulsivity we warn children about and around. There was evidence of his incompetence that was ignored in favor of “making America great again.” Now, oh my, how that has turned to be such a lie–and you whom supported this man must take onus of that. You must admit that you have stake in this catastrophe.

You have to admit that what you see before you was not what you intended. You have to admit to if what you see before you is exactly what it is you wanted. You have to admit that what is going on is unacceptable. There are millions of people whom are seeing the same thing. The plan now is to fix it. In order to fix this, grab hold of it, is to admit your part in it! You have to be honest with yourself in the recesses of your conscience that are uncomfortable, that are dark, that are militant to reason and discern what it is you added to this chaos and what caused you to affirm it with your vote.This is paramount. That admission will call for strength you didn’t think to dredge up, feel out or reveal.  It must come forth before anything else can happen.

You no matter whatever social media activism you participate in, it will never match what else you do when no one is watching. The time has come to be seen and counted among those that have never seen you to count you. There is much work to do.

We have to stop the end of the world.

 

 

The Case For Suffer-Rage of Black Women

It was in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed giving women the right to vote. It was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which enacted by the 89th Congress  (1965) which prohibited racial discrimination in voting. Meaning, I as a black woman, and my mothers before me, where not able to vote in any realm of politics until 1965. My own mother was 15 at the time of the passing of the Voting Rights Act.

What is often lost in this collective history is the recollection of the experiences of and given by black women. So much of our cultural history and make up is dedicated to keeping secrets, running interference, and to carry those that cannot fend, walk and speak for themselves. This is the taught power of black women. The benefit of our strength and talents are always needed…yet to the exclusion of the distinction of race.

We have had the Ain’t I A Woman shouted from pulpits, lecterns and with fists on kitchen tables with the same hands that have made meals and tended to the duties of life they provide–despite their ache for help. None more apparent than in the life of the history of women’s suffrage. The patron saints of this movement being Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. There is one woman, two women, whom are often forgotten:  Ida B. Wells Barnett and Mary Ann Shadd Cary House, remembered as Mary Shadd. It was the deft of Ida’s pen that granted her room into the forefront of recording the black experience, especially in the American South. It was the brilliance of Mary Shadd and her law degree from Howard University (age 60, 1 of 2 black women practicing law in the nation at that time)  which armed the American Suffragist movement, testifying before Congress on behalf of suffrage , working with these architects as it were of feminism, giving legal basis for women to have the right to vote.

Ida B. Wells Barnett records in her writings that while marching for women’s suffrage, she was asked to march in back of the other white women that were attending at particular rally Susan B. Anthony had organized. There were southern white women whom thought her place was, and should be beneath them. Ms. Anthony is recorded to have She come and take Ida B. Wells Barnett in front with her to march because she would not have participated otherwise. 

In the case of Ms. Shadd, little is mentioned of her and her impact towards women’s suffrage, despite her dying 27 years before this amendment was ratified to the Constitution. Such is our lot, our weight and our wait as black women:  we show up, we fight, we work and we make it better. 

However, one fact remains to be true despite all that is dressed as progress:

I am only seen as benefit when it is beneficial.

My talents, skills, brilliance and ability is only granted its full power when the established power feels there will be strength in numbers. My body is only seen as useful when it is used to protect the very freedoms to be stripped from me. Yet, like my foremothers we swallow these bitter truths, and fruits from the ground of hope we till. We take care of the messes, clean up the glass…and wait. We wait.

Now, we are tired of waiting.

We remember the tears and prayers of our grandmothers whom declared us free at the only wielded weapon they had on hand: faith. We remember being told what we were not, are not and may never become by a world that was satisfied with our copy, our doppelgangers. We remember our fathers and how they poured into the world, to come and home to their wives to be replenished. We remember  how it felt to have he world around you hate you and steal from you with the same hand.

We remember and we are tired of waiting.

In this “Women’s March” to be held in cities around the nation and perhaps the globe in coming days, we see the same problem that Ida and Mary had:  I am beneficial only if I am deemed beneficial. My sex matters more than my experiences my race offers because solidarity is better than justice. We have white women whom have organized these events without  taking into account the experiences of women of color. These same women are intimated, resentful and afraid to embrace the facets of womanhood that are indeed unpalatable because it is the desire of those that organize to remain comfortable.

Their comfort is our oppression.

Solange Knowles song “Seat At The Table” is not an anthem, it is a war cry. It is time we as black women indeed embrace the experience of other women and demand reciprocity! We repeat as our mothers do “Ain’t I a Woman?”  “Am I not good enough?”  “Am I worthy of my own freedom?”  “Can I not self-determine my own destiny?”

“Is my black the disqualification to my womanhood?”

It is, it was, our hands that planted the trees, to be cut down like our sons would be.

It was our hands that formed and fashioned the frame of the legs of sturdy oak and maple, just like my grandmothers did to be “pretty” and no darker than a brown paper bag.

It was our deft fingers that had sown and hemmed tablecloths, linen napkins and wedding dresses, just as we were to be fitted with our own burial shrouds of every dream and wish we as women had taken and beaten from us–and from those ashes we strive to make it all beautiful. You see, we are the table–every leg, every design, every etch is us. The table was made from us-only to exclude us. This time, this dispensation is no different. It is no different.

There are allies that see our power, our spirit and our lives and treasure them–just as we do. And there will be a time where they cannot speak for us–will not speak for us. As the Lord instructed, even if we do not praise the Creator, even the rocks will cry out as a testimony. I need no such reminder. I will be like Ida and not be allowed to have my sex be more powerful than my race. I will be like Mary and continue to speak truth to power–power must understand that there will never be a time where truth is not needed or present. We have made the table of our tears and flesh–we will sit if only because our forebearers have chosen to be the timber by which we were and are forged.

The time for waiting–is over.

 

 

In The Twilight Zone

In the closing days of the administration of our current President, Barack H. Obama, it is disheartening to think about the diabolical plot to erase him. It is something about the astute resolve that is being exhibited that would allow those whom are supposed to serve the people to condone the erasure of him…with glee.

Throughout the collective popular memory known as history, we find the abhorrent nature of man so versed and saturated with vitriol expressed in times when change is most likely to have occurred against the will of the people whom have instituted it. There are times, those times, when the voice of the people seems to be ripped from our very throats. This is one of those times…one of those ages…the very dispensation.

I have often thought of the skill and talent of writing being one with definite God implications. Recently, I have reacquainted myself with the early 1960s show The Twilight Zone. As a young girl, the show scared me because of the opening imagery and music. However, working night shift has forced me to break out of ruts that people working graveyard shifts fall into:  you watch what keeps you awake. In that exploration pertaining to the mission of staying awake, I discovered the brilliance and prowess of one Mr. Rodman Edward Serling, commonly remembered as Rod Serling, host of The Twilight Zone.

Every episode Mr. Serling comes out, normally smoking a cigarette and introduces the show and what to expect. At the end of each episode is a foreboding truth or twisted wit. In the time the nation is in at present, it is to best interest to heed the wisdom of elders…and especially of experienced storytellers and Mr. Serling is no different. From 1959-1964, Mr. Serling along with his team of writers and producers gave the viewing audience a glimpse into what dystopian humanity and freakish human behavior were capable of.

One episode, I keep referencing and oft quote is from Season 2, episode 29:  The Obsolete Man. The synopsis reads as follows-

“In a future totalitarian society, a librarian is declared obsolete and is sentenced to death.”

This is episode, we see what the country has become:   a controlled and censored state. Anyone that is seen as a threat to their regime, by speech or vocation is sent to be liquidated (i.e. executed) by any means of their choosing. The librarian and the leader of the state are in a room where there librarian is to be liquidated by bomb. The librarian has chosen his death be televised in his home, and it is honored. He tricks the leader to sit on his couch, facing the nation as he reads the Bible (beginning with Psalms 23).

Unable to handle sharing this fate with him, the leader pleads to leave before the deadline of his death being midnight. The librarian obliges and releases  him just as the bomb goes off.  The leader returns to his position with the state and is declared obsolete due to disgracing the state by other state leadership. As he pleads for his life and declares his works and faithfulness  for this state, Mr. Serling is heard saying this quote in 1961:

“Any state, any entity, any ideology, that fails to recognize the worth, dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete.”

It is often the job of the writer to use such keen observations and those prophetic implications to alert when humanity is on the brink of its own demise, uncertainty and resentment to empathy. This time is no different. We, the people, indeed, are in a resistance. The best weapon, lies in your throat.

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.