Saturday, June 28, 2008

What About Our Daughters?: Another Black Woman Gang Raped While Neighbors Listen to Screams...and DO NOTHING!#links#links

What About Our Daughters?: Another Black Woman Gang Raped While Neighbors Listen to Screams...and DO NOTHING!#links#links

Man's inhumanity to man. I pray that someone would call if this were my two young daughters or myself. This is one of the reasons I stay home, to protect them. This is one of the reasons I work with the girls in an "at-risk" neighborhood, to protect them. I had the local police come in a month ago to teach the middle school girls self-defense because as this report and statistics show, black women are raped and assaulted by black men.

Black men, fathers, rise up, please, we implore you. Will you protect us or will you assault us? We are the only ones who can make ourselves better, this is not something that is the fault of the "man" or lack of anything but decency.

Black women, protect yourself.

Black community...come on people! We can do better than this!

Poverty is the ruin of the poor.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes

I found this poem on B-Serious' blog and thought it was worth musing about! I then read his comments about Reach B.L.A.C.K. and after reading Come on People by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, M.D., I can't agree more that the power to make change is in the same hands of the people who literally built this country.

Poetry: Poetic Politics
Let America be America Again by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where LibertyIs crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I cameTo build a "homeland of the free."
The free?Who said the free? Not me?Surely not me?
The millions on relief today?The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,America!
O, yes,I say it plain,
never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeemThe land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Jack and Jill Politics: Is America Addicted to Bigotry and Racism?

Jack and Jill Politics: Is America Addicted to Bigotry and Racism?

Just sayin...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Morning Storm...All Before 7 o'clock!

To say my husband and kids got on my last nerve this morning is a colossal understatement.

Last night, after returning from a glorious life production, I came home to a tornado. My family room looked like a herd of elephants trampled through it and left disaster in its wake. My fourteen-year-old son was standing in the midst of the fray looking like the Cheshire cat. My husband and girls had just returned from an outing. It was 9:30pm on Sunday evening.

I calmly stepped over the obstacle course and told my son, "I expect this clean by the morning. Oh, and tomorrow is trash day, you should gather it up and take it out tonight. You really don't want me to have to wake you up at 6am!" With that, I turned and went upstairs to take a bath.

After I relaxed and put on my pajamas, I resisted all urges to go back downstairs. It was about 10pm by then. The girls were coming up the stairs with their still-awake chatter so I let them spend a little time playing in the bathtub. I also told them I expected them to pick up their village of baby dolls and the doll clothes enough to fill West County Mall. They also, at four and six, have learned the teenage art of clutter of clothes! Needless to say, I just shock my head, wished for a latte, and went to my room.

This morning, I woke up at 5:45am. I took a bath, got dressed, and was relishing a few hours of quiet time downstairs. I came down to the dining room and my promise of a quiet latte and time at my computer quickly morphed into a loud rumble of junk! My husband and kids had enjoyed some of his delicious sweet-potato-pie last night and the trail of crumbs led me from the dining room, through the kitchen, to three offending plates in the family room. My son did do the dishes last night, but he forgot to clean out the sink and didn't take the trash out. I knew it was going to be bad.

My son came into the kitchen, groggy, trying to hurry through his trash chore that he didn't finish the night before. I told him he didn't' sweep the floor and to dump out the dinner remains that were in the sink stopper. He gave me the teenage grumble about why did he have to do this. At this point, I would've just finished it myself like I always do on Monday mornings, or I could make him do it. I chose the latter. Why did I do that?

Dear old hubby fell asleep on the sofa in the living room. It was 6:38am and at any other time, he would just be returning from the gym, not this morning. My son and I got into an exchange that resembled a scene from The Great Debaters. He was trying to explain away exactly which piece of paper he left on the floor and I was trying to be the in-charge parent. Then the storm chaser came in the room grumbling about wanting it quiet in the morning.

I wanted to snatch a knot in his linebacker neck! He started telling me about how he needs it quiet in the morning and I was telling him about how I need it clean in the morning. This had the promises of a chore war and a potential Tyler Perry Movie in the making. My images of him strung up by his toenails escalated when he came in the kitchen, while I was cleaning up, to tell me about his high stress job. He went on about "what do you do all day anyway..." comment when I told him I shouldn't have to clean up behind people old enough to do their own mess.

Now, I really don't know how to do the neck-roll, but I turned at him, put my hand on my hip, and just glared at him with laser eyes that could penetrate like an x-ray! How dare he make that comment. We women know that at-home moms do the equivalent of at least five jobs, work from sunup to sundown, unpaid, and often, unappreciated, at something says is worth $139,000! I just dropped the dish towel, grabbed my purse, stepped over my fourteen-year-old son who sensed this was not a good morning, and walked out the door. I needed caffeine.

I had about 30-minutes before my little cousin was to come over and before the girls would greet the day. This is usually the time I like to spend quietly at my computer, contemplating life, but instead, I was driving to the coffeeshop down the street. I was fuming and mumbling under my breath. "What does he mean, 'I wash my own clothes' like he just solved world peace! I'm doing laundry all day and if I knew what was clean or dirty in that jungle of his closet, I would wash his clothes. I thought about all the trash mornings when I didn't wake up my son and instead, dragged the bags to the street. I had a vision of myself dragging the 5' x 8' area rug, soaked from the rain that flooded our garage and laundry room, out to the corner - by myself! I was fuming and only a few moments of summer sunshine and a java would calm me down.

God has a funny way of testing the Word on us. Yesterday in church, the minister taught in James. He talked about the scripture admonishing us to "love our enemies." Man, was I having a hard time of that this morning. I talk to God, He is my father, so sometimes I am fussing about my husband and kids. If I can't tell God, who can I tell? I said, "ok God, how can I love this "enemy" when he leaves his shoes all over the place, snacks while at the computer with the offending crumbs leaving an ant trail, and snores!" I felt the Holy Spirit calmly admonishing me to do this with His help. Well, I humphed, it would only be God that could make me love a messy man and the kids that are following his example instead of my always-put-my-clothes-away example.

So I downed my coffee, jumped in the van, and did the short drive home to greet the rest of my day. My son was sprawled out on the family room sofa, eating a bowl of cereal under the cover I just folded up a half-hour earlier! I decided to not let my joy flutter away, so I just went to the laundry room to start my Monday job. I decided not to do the verbal tax-audit itemized list of everything I do in a day from constant laundry, sweeping, dishes, picking, cleaning, driving, cooking, refereeing, etc. I just said I'd be quiet. That was hard.

My hubby was upstairs getting ready. I didn't bother him, I just folded the clean dish towels, put them away, and calmly told my son to wash his cereal bowl. This day would be redeemed yet, even if I had to step over size 13 gym shoes to do it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What About Our Daughters?: Ain't I A Woman PSA#links#links

What About Our Daughters?: Ain't I A Woman PSA#links#links

Enough said. Turn off the TV. Don't buy the CDs. Boycott the companies that promote misogny. Pull up your pants. Put on a proper shirt, cover up the girl friends. Read a book. Talk. Go for a walk. Explore the world and yes, I am a woman!

Monday, June 16, 2008

In Another Woman's Shoes

This afternoon I walked in another woman's shoes, so to speak.

I have a van. It is a 1998 Chevy Venture. I filled it up this morning - $81.11 - on my way to drop my son at theatre practice. I drove home, parked it, went inside for the rest of the day.

It was time to pick him up so I buckled in the girls and headed for I-44. My usual route is I-44 to I-270 to I-64 - pretty simple until your tire blows out.

The initial "blump" on the highway alerted me to impending inconvenience. I pulled over on the shoulder and peaked out the drivers side door, it was low, but not completely flat. I inched back, the exit just ahead. The gas station sign promised air and relief, but ended up being on the other side of Manchester, an agonizing mile. The van decided it just couldn't make it the last few feet and instead let out a loud "PLOP, BLOOM, BLUMP, BLUMP." I immediately pulled into the parking lot of a business just to my left, God had favors waiting, thankful that I was not in traffic, I inched the car into a parking space and got out to see the damage. My tire looked like someone savagely attacked it in three places with dashed almost six inches long! I sighed as a manager in the company came out the building.

The gentleman reassured me my van would be fine. "A lady in distress." He tried to get some of his company maintenance men to help but liability prevented that. I left my card and license plate with the receptionist with the assurance I would be back for the van.

My girls and I set out on a trek down Manchester. If you know anything about traversing busy thoroughfares during the afternoon rush, this was no easy feat. There weren't any sidewalks over part of the four-lane street so we inched along on the shoulder. We did a skip-dance as cars zoomed to the off-ramp. We crossed I-270 with the trepidations of my six-year-old declaring how "dangerous" and "scary" this was. The four-year-old kept admonishing her to "keep walking, it is ok." We made it to the Mall area and the promise of at least a sidewalk. After we crossed Ballas and were finally in feet-friendly territory, it dawned on me that there are some people who have to do this every day.

I haven't always had a car, van, or whatever. When I lived in Chicago, I took the CTA or Metra everywhere - as did most city dwellers. It wasn't until I moved back to Missouri and their less-than-reliable public transportation that a car became a necessity. As I walked along with my daughters, waiting for my friend to drive by and pick us up, I had a thought about the people who have to walk with groceries, laundry, and kids. It is not easy.

My girls and I were blessed with a breeze. The temperature at the bank informed us it was 91-degrees, but the gentle wind and the trees shielded the summer sun. We were not parched but my daughter did make note of the 7-Eleven promising slushies. I encouraged her to make it a few more feet to the Barnes & Noble where I could use my card (I ran out the house without cash) and we could sit in air conditioning while we waited. A few moments later, my friend pulled up and we were whisked away.

I thought about the high gas prices and that I probably should take the girls walking more often. I'm not near a grocery store, but I am close enough to walk to the library and the coffeeshop, a few restaurants, and the bank. I could leave my van at home sometimes and not cringe when the gas prices go up more and more. $81.11, that's what I spent today, guess my van can just relax with all my money in its tank and I figure out how to get it home.

There are moments like these when I just have to smile. My friend stopped at her house to pick up her teenaged daughter. We grabbed soft drinks and headed to my house. In the convenience of her car, my daughters chatted about their "adventure" and how their feet hurt. We never know the price some have to pay for their daily comings and goings, but next time I see a woman and her kids walking along the road, I'll think twice...and offer a ride.

Jack and Jill Politics: Barack Obama's Speech on Father's Day#links

Jack and Jill Politics: Barack Obama's Speech on Father's Day#links

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hannah's Song

We came together last night and sang Hannah's song.

Family from California was in town, it was the night before Aunt Hannah's Home Going Celebration. We met at my house late in the evening to fellowship, remember, hug, eat, and laugh.

Thom felt the love in the room and I'm sure his mom would've appreciated us doing what she did all her life - love. Aunt Hannah was a gracious woman. Her gentle spirit, sparkling eyes, and constant smile will be remembered. She has left us physically, but never spiritually.

The laughter was like music in Thom's ear. For the first time in weeks I saw my cousin relax. He has been in a tornado for the past four weeks from his mother's diagnosis to her death. Even in her final stage, Aunt Hannah was granted her desire. She asked to not suffer long when it was her time to go, she had been a caregiver her whole life and I'm sure her prayer was for her son.

In the last days of her life, she still greeted well wishers with a warm "hi baby" and a gentle hug. When her arms could no longer raise themselves, her hugs were still felt when I leaned in to kiss her cheeks. I will cherish the moments I had with her and while I once felt cheated by not growing up with her, I now feel so honored and blessed to be one of the ones giving her love during her last days. God has given me a great gift to help usher one of his precious daughters home.

My cousins and I joined together in love and unity to envelope Aunt Hannah's son and grandchildren. She made everything easy for him, her funeral planned in 2003 right down to what dress and what burial plot. Her son and his fiancee just had to go to the funeral home and listen, even her casket was chosen. That was this virtuous, gracious, caring woman leaving a legacy of strength and character.

There are many lessons I've learned in the last weeks with her. The greatest lesson is the power of love and the strength of a hug. I've also learned that we must all pass this way and how much easier it would be for our families if we were prepared. I have life insurance enough to cover my husband and kids if something happened to me today. Aunt Hannah, in her organized nature, taught me the importance of putting my important papers in one place, of choosing how I want my funeral, of making my plans while I am of sound mind and body. She taught us to love our family even in death, to not burden them with worry over a casket or burial plot or what dress to put me in.

Today we celebrate her homegoing. Thom has planned a beautiful service. The necessity of time and the ravages of the cancer made it a quick process. Aunt Hannah just left us two nights ago. It is hard to believe. We will surround him, Joy, and the kids with our love, just as Aunt Hannah would've wanted. Today, we will sing her song, and it is a song of joy, celebration, and love.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Death Comes in Whisper

Death comes in a whisper and last night, it called my Aunt Hannah's name.

This beautiful spirit and gracious woman took her last breath surrounded by those who love her. Hands were holding hers and tears streamed down the faces. Words of love and reassurance were uttered to her still listening ears. She was calm and in a twinkling, left a body ravaged with cancer that came on her like a tornado, leaving internal devastation in its wake.

Aunt Hannah didn't want to have a long, lingering illness. God granted her wish. It was only Mother's Day that I came to visit her in the hospital after the final tests revealed C-A-N-C-E-R. It was not to be one that would allow operation or radiation. She came home on hospice care about two weeks later. God was granting her wish.

She had spent her life caring for others as a wife, mother, aunt, sister, grandmother, friend. Her legacy was evident by the myriad of faces that I saw during the times I was at her home. Classmates from 1957 were at her deathbed along with her sister, nieces, nephew,son, and daughter-in-law. Her gracious spirit, organized nature, and gentle heart drew us all in to sit in her presence.

Four weeks is not a lot of time.

She was one of the persons who entered my life for a season and a moment. Her calling me her sweet baby and remembering me after decades of us both living elsewhere still rings in my ears. I thought I'd had more time to get to know my uncle's wife. Even though the two of them had traveled different paths for decades, they remained close. She was still a member of our family with many cousins fondly calling her name. We had just seen her at another aunt's 80th birthday. Hannah was sweet, spry, and loving. No one would've guessed that she would go before my uncle. Yet, God had a different plan.

I sat at her bedside and we talked. Nothing big or life altering, yet it was in ways. I learned her heart for her sisters and her son. She was worried about her baby sister even as her pain was immense. She whispered to me as a tear broke free that she couldn't feel her lower body and was just so tired. I was able to minister to her God's love, peace, and that it was ok for her to go when she was ready. It all came so fast. In response to her telling me she wasn't sure she did all God wanted her to. Again, I told her she had. I was able to look and listen and know, she was faithful in what He set out for her. She was a caregiver, in the way only one with the spiritual gift of mercy can be, in this, we are kindred spirits.

When my cousin, her only child, called us to say her blood pressure dropped, it was a jolt to my heart. It was a week after we were surrounding her bedroom with laughs and cousins who we hadn't seen since little kids on the Funny Farm. Her decline was rapid. I was driving out to Aunt Hannah's with another first cousin, our clan being so large, and I told her I felt cheated. She asked me why and I said because I didn't get to grow up around her. Somehow, she understood.

I have only been home a few months. In life, we sometimes think we have "time." It is easy to think that with a family as large as mine, to believe that we will see them again, in good health, with a beautiful smile, and full of bright spirit. For me, for us, time ran out.

Time did allow some cousins and I to be there in the urgent last days. A couple of us were able to stay at the house and sit at her bedside while another took her son to handle the important legal business he wasn't thinking about. We became his eyes and ears and reminders. Aunt Hannah was meticulous and kept telling him where everything was, I told him weeks ago to write it all down. She had files and labels for her important papers. It was not until this past Saturday that the pain gripped her to the point of inability, until then, she was able to give instructions and reminders.

My cousins and I were also blessed to be vessels of God. We left the family reunion picnic to get our uncle. He was in frail health and winded from the St. Louis heat, yet, he rallied at the call to "come now." We drove him to the house and he was able to visit with Aunt Hannah, his son, and his grandson. For moments as I sat in the living room, we could feel the love and laughter of this small family. I learned a lot watched them.

Love is eternal and unending, even when separated by distance. I know that God in His infinite wisdom gives us signs of life when a pregnant woman is preparing to bring a child into the world. I also know He gives us signs of death when a woman is preparing to leave this world. His ingenious plan allowed us to know how urgent the signs were, when to call in the grandson who lived across state, when to call in the fiance' who lived out East, when to call in the husband who lives across town. God let us know the process of the body shutting down so we would know how much time we had.

We used the time. One cousin cancelled her vacation plans with her daughter to be close. She didn't want to be two hours away at camp. Her presence helped set Aunt Hannah's house in order while her older sister took Thom to finish up the paper work and I sat at her bedside, holding her hand. God ordered our steps. He knew we all would be available to assist our cousin, He knew we didn't have to worry about jobs or bosses or other hindrances that can impact us. God gave Thom time to travel back East to close up his apartment, put his things in storage, finalize FMLA with his job, and pick up his beloved dog Dillon. He ordered our steps and He ordered Aunt Hannah's steps.

Death came in a whisper and we were able to be there when it called Aunt Hannah's name. She was ready, I pray that we will all be ready when God gently calls us home.

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fam Fam Fam

There are some moments in time that just make you want to smile and say "thank you Jesus!"

My weekend was filled with moments like that.

It all began on Friday when, despite the rain storm that pelted down on the St. Louis area and the evacuation to the basement, the promise was awaiting. My husband and I hosted some out-of-town relatives for Harris-Stowe State University's dinner theatre production of "Having Our Say." It was beyond believable the performance of the two actresses. The evening was made even more special to have my family members and my husband's family and friends join us! We all laughed and cried at the bantering of the "Delaney Sisters." That night was the kickoff for the family celebration.

Friday night filled my heart with anticipation as I went to find my cousins. There were people I hadn't seen since I was a little girl! The metro area was filled with Fosters, Allens, Jameses from all over - Chicago, Louisiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, California, even London! The suites were filled with every color of the rainbow of this mixed box of chocolates family. I basked in the glow of my beautiful cousin who is one of the new generation elders. Her curly, flowing white hair graced her shoulders with a confidence that comes with being sure of yourself. I watched the admiration of her younger brother and younger sister as she shared her life of remodeling a bed & breakfast. It was glorious.

Saturday met me with a hungry stomach and a lobby full of cousins! One of my "big brother cousins" and I engaged in a deep, political discussion in light of Senator Obama's nomination. We talked about our hopes and dreams from our perspective generations - he is 56 and I am 44. Hope rang out as his 39-year-old nephew offered different scenarios for the future.

We were all somewhat oblivious of the St. Louis heat as we descended in waves on Forest Park. The elder cousins - brothers - were testing out their grilling techniques in this 50-year tradition. It was something to see with the straw hats and the smoke swirling around their tanning faces. The elder brother, the priest, was holding court under the awning as he listened to the sounds gathered in his honor - his jubilee in the priesthood is what brought out young and old.

The party never ends when you have family ranging in age from fresh-out-the-pot to older than sunrise. Every member could mix and mingle with infectious laughter. There were tears of joy and shouts of laughter. Reminisces and reminders filled the day. Then the chatting never ended as an entourage descended on the Central West End to celebrate a cousin's birthday.

Even in the midst of sadness, there was joy. One of the dear aunts is losing her battle with aggressive cancer and the family surrounded her with thoughts of love. A few of the cousins formed a caravan out to her house. A hand reached out to touch the shoulder of her only child, kiss her brow, and gently watch as love filled her space. Three generations of family men embraced as they silently exchanged glances at the woman they all loved. Family connected.

Love is something that has been apparent in all the branches of my family. The tree is massive and I gave up trying to connect everyone. One of my cousins from California told me to just introduce myself as "Dali's little sister" since that's how a lot of the elder ones remember me. It made me laugh a little that at 44, I am still counted among the younger set.

It was the youngsters and the future that really filled me with joy this weekend. I watched my four-year-old daughter connect with a four-year-old cousin. The two were like white and dark chocolate melting in the sun, kicking off their sandals to run in the grass. They held hands and declared their undying affection for "my new cousin."

The teenagers listened to music, sat around and watched the old people act like young people with giggles and gossip. Eyes were sparkling and hugs were unending. The dancing, card playing, badminton, and eating continued until the park closed. Everyone wanted to stay right there in that moment with no worries.

Sunday came too fast as much anticipation filled the hearts. Father Philip Allen was being honored in a special mass to celebrate his Jubilee. The mass with elder and younger brother serving was joyous. This was history being recorded.

This family loves to be together. We jetted to Cardinal Ritter Prep for more festivities including a photo montage and short recollections. I was honored to sit next to Sister Antona Ebo, FSM. She was my mother's friend and I am named for her. We shared laughter and hugs. I was able to just bask in my living legacy.

My heart is filled with the promise of hope. My family has many branches and continues to grow. We learned more about our history and the ties that connect us. No one wanted to leave, the smiles were genuine and the laughter was the melody.

I spent the night hanging out until my eyes threatened to shut on their own. We all descended into the room of a couple cousins and held court for "grand central station" as the door kept opening to bring new faces. The stories of growing up in St. Louis made me laugh until my sides hurt. There is a certain freedom that just lets you put your feet up, take your hair down, and be a kid when you are with siblings and cousins. We were all grown up with kids (and some grandkids) of our own but you'd think the room was filled with a bunch of laughing teenagers!

These are turbulent times with rising gas prices and food becoming impossible to afford. The economy is tanking and the war is raging on...but for this family and this exciting weekend, we didn't think about that. Most of us have been behind Senator Barack Obama from the very beginning and are filled with the possibility of a bright future. We all embraced and perhaps changed a little this weekend. Gas prices and food prices and the war didn't prevent us from loving each other. We had the rarest and most priceless possession - each other.

I cherish my family and am truly home.

Jack and Jill Politics: Tim Wise Stirring the Pot

Jack and Jill Politics: Tim Wise Stirring the Pot

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Poverty is the Ruin of the Poor

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

I've been mulling over this verse from Proverbs 11:22 for quite some time. Initially it came to me as I was preparing a lesson for the girls I disciple on Saturdays. The message is not that being poor in and of itself is wrong, it is the mentality that comes with poverty that ruins people. This truth has never been more real to me than since I moved back to my birth city and started working with a group of "at risk" middle school girls.

One of the times we met we talked about dress and one of the things I always say is "cover up the girl friends." Well, during the course of our lesson, one of the girls commented as to why she should change how she dresses "just to get a job." I immediately told her that I wouldn't hire her with an attitude like that. My lesson turned toward business and the importance of appearance. Then it dawned on me, perhaps they don't want to change, that is the poverty mentality.

A reading program I started kicked off this past Tuesday. I was expecting the kids from the "at risk" neighborhood in Kirkwood to show up. I went to the individually, told them how they could "earn" $10 for every book they read over the summer. I have everyone from the mayor to business owners to ordinary citizens matching my $100 start-up. A major church is collecting the money and has opened their facilities for the end-of-summer celebration. Businesses have donated weekly prizes including gift cards. Everything is laid out on the table, but they didn't come.

That reminded me of a story in the Bible where the host had prepared a great feast and the invited guests didn't show up so he sent his servants out to bring in anyone he could find. The servant went back after the host told him to go get more people to fill the banquet hall. My actions on Tuesday reminded me of this because the "invited" guest who were personally recruited, who signed up, who received flyers in the mail from the school, who needed to come - didn't bother. I ended up with kids who don't qualify for the end prize but who had parents committed to their education.

It brought me to my father and how he wore a shirt, tie, and dress pants as a high schooler to walk five miles twice a day for his education. He instilled in me a sense of responsibility and accountability for my education. He created a desire and hunger in me to be better than the stereotypes of a black person and a woman dictated in 1979 when I started high school. Daddy is the reason I pursued my MBA with three sons in tow. He is the reason I keep reading and still love libraries.

Do poor people just not care or is it that the neighborhood thinks the larger community "owes" them something? My muse on this could get into areas where debate will rage, but today, I feel like no one owes them anything. White people did not stop them from walking to the library, white or rich people or the illusive "them" did not make them dress like they were ready to go pole dancing and butcher the English language. It made me wonder about the mentality that would leave grocery carts on the side of the road or not pick up the trash in the front yard. Poverty mentality at work is illustrated in the loss of pride and sense of victimhood.

The thoughts make me realize that perhaps Bill Cosby had a point. I don't agree with everything he says in relations to lower economic black people, but some of it is true. Listening to the girls I work with, I know some will openly talk about and sceme how to steal from Wal*Mart instead of saving their money. I've seen more name brand gym shoes in the poorer neighborhood than I've seen in my middle class neighborhood. Spending money on books is second nature to me, I am looking toward the future and teaching my children to look to the future. Perhaps that is the missing lesson. Perhaps this is the problem.

I'm not sure, I know it has bothered me for weeks now. Nothing is stopping them from having a life better than circumstances or their parents choices forced into their reality. Yet, I find they know the words of all the latest songs but won't pick up a book to read. I know I'm being too broad in my comments because I can still see a sparkle of light and hope in some of the kids. I know some of them have very good GPAs and study. The problem is the existence of the few who would show up at 8th grade graduation barely clothed with multicolored yarns braided in her hair and ended up being a spectacle in front of 181 classmates and their families.

My heart is wondering and my mind is searching for reasons. All of this as I celebrate the historical moment Senator Barack Obama became the Democratic Party's Nominee for President of the United States. I am not self-hating nor a "black" conservative, I am just a mother and a teacher and can see the destruction before my eyes.

Tomorrow will be a new day. I will continue to mull this over. Forty years later and change is coming. I hope it reaches to the culture of poverty and gives them a view of the top. It is possible. All it takes is a dream.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Family and Loss and Love

Family is very precious. Their presence in my life is worth more than gold, rubies, or diamonds. My essence and very existence center around my family after my relationship with Christ.

Tonight my heart is heavy. One of my Aunts is losing her battle with terminal cancer. Her only child, my dear cousin, sent a message to the family that now is the time to speak to her. She is standing at the door we all must one day walk through.

I feel loss. I just moved back to my family's main base. I've only been "home" a few months and was looking forward to reconnecting with this large clan. Some I have seen, some I haven't. We all have lives, we are getting settled in, I have kids. All the things that consume that precious commodity called time. Then time ran out.

My phone and fingers have been texting and dialing across the country. How could this happen to us? One precious cousin, my mother's generation, suddenly passed away in December. We had no expectation as she was a bright and beautiful as ever at the family party in November. She was spry and in much better shape than the rest of the relatives of her generation. Under our breath, all of us somewhat expected that "call" for some of the elders that are in their 80s and under medical care. No one expected it for Cousin Peaches. I was sent into shock waves when she passed. I feel those same shock waves now.

Aunt Hannah is a gentle spirit. I cherish the past few weeks that I have been able to spend time with her. My cousin and I text each other. He is heavy on my mind. I've been through the death of a parent - twice - and know the quick demise of terminal cancer. It won't hit him until later. I was like that with my dad back in 1999. And all I want to do right now is give him a big hug, tell her I love her, and pray for God's peace on the family.

God knows our human need for connection. I've been blessed to have been born into a large clan with multiple facets. We will love and support each other through this time. It is ironic that we are having a family reunion this weekend here in our home city. Love will fill this place and through the tears, we will cherish.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Today I celebrate life!

I wish my father were alive. I would call him up and chat about yesterday. He would be so proud. A black man is the nominee for the highest office in the land! The world is standing up to applaud America. Finally in America, possibility is alive!

Today I celebrate liberty!

I took my daughters and little cousin up to the coffee shop. I didn't have to cover myself or wait to have a man drive me. My girls could run freely around the fountain at the town square. We didn't see tanks, guns, or armed men.

Today I celebrate the pursuit of happiness!

I watched the girls as they tugged, tussled, and talked through their first days of summer vacation. I listened to their imaginative play. I tried to ignore their pleas for a third snack. I read a book, I drank a latte (okay...two), and I talked to a friend.

When I go to bed tonight, I will smile. This is a good day in America. I don't expect this historic nomination to change the oil prices or price of chicken, but it gives this black woman, this black mother hope. Tomorrow holds the promise of America - a place where people truly can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

Senator Barack Obama Made History!

This morning I woke up and feel REAAAAAALLLLLLYYYYY proud of America!

The United States of America has made history!

Senator Barack Hussein Obama is the Presumptive Nominee of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States of America!

Wow! America the world is applauding us!

1442 Columbus "discovered" America.

1619 Slaves (Africans, black people) in Colonial America

1776 The United States won freedom

1820 Missouri came into the Union

1838 The Trail of Tears and the Cherokee Nation

1865 Slaves were "free"

1868 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

1920 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

1954 Brown vs. Board of Education

1958 Little Rock Nine

1963 President Kennedy Assassinated

1964 Civil Rights Act

1965 Voting Rights Act and ALL black people could vote

1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

1996 Hopwood vs. University of Texas Law School

2000 Supreme Court decided an election

2001 9/11

2003 Invasion of Iraq

2005 Hurricane Katrina pulled the covers off

2008 A Black man of mixed heritage, humble beginnings, the embodiement of the American dream - is on the road to really becoming President of the United States!

I am REALLLLLLLLYYYYYYY proud of America.

I am proud of the America - real America - where people live and work, dream and hope. I am proud of all the "little people" who sent in their $10 and $25 donations. I am proud of all the "little people" who canvassed and knocked on doors. I am proud of my cousin who dedicated over a year of his life to this campaign. I am proud of us!

Finally, finally, finally we have a candidate who was judged by the content of his character and not just the color of his skin! Nominee Obama is running for the President of the United States of America - ALL AMERICA! First People America, White America, Black America, Asian America, Latino America, Muslim America, Catholic America, Protestant America, Evangelical America, Agnostic America, LGBT America. ALL AMERICA should be proud!

This is our time! This is our season! This is history!

Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton have opened doors of possibility for my daughters! I thank them both for running for the highest office in this land. They brought more conversation, debate, discussion, discourse, and yes - disagreement into a political process that many of us had thought forgot about the real America. Thank you for running Senators Obama and Clinton because you talked about the 89% of America that is not in the top-top wealthiest classes. Thank you both for bringing a tough campaign. It was hard and there are wounds to be healed, the media will never be the same, bloggers have gained a voice, and people are paying attention. You made history.

Senator Obama as the Presumptive Nominee has given promise and hope to my little black girls. My black sons can now truly one day live in an America with promise and opportunity to be judged by their intelligence and character and not their hue. I can close my eyes now and see a President of First Nation descent - my Cherokee great-great-grandmother would be proud. I can close my eyes and see a President of Latin descent - my foremother from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic would be proud. I can close my eyes and see a President of Jewish descent - my yiddish & German speaking great grandfather would be proud. I can close my eyes and see a President who is a woman - all my sisters, aunts, cousins, foremothers, friends would be proud.

This is a happy day in America. I am proud of us!

Blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else. — Historian Roger Wilkins

Almost 13 years since the above quote - we now have something else - HOPE! CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN!