Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wanting To Hold Time Still

The world seemed to stand still in the rush of morning activity.

Bookbags were hurriedly stuffed in the car, breakfast barely consumed, jackets hastily donned against the unexpected cold.  The promise of the day was unfolding as the engine made its roar to life and the blast of the car exhaust let out a poof of steam against the wind of this new day.

Turning the corner, hoping to catch the light, coffee sipping and backseat chatting about the hope of seeing friends and discovering new things under the watchful eye of the teacher in the front.  The music softly played, NPR an afterthought, hands turning over wheel, lights on against the dawning mist, a new day of activity forming ahead.

Pulled to the brick edifice of learning, little legs jumping out the door pushed open, grabbing the backback slung over one shoulder, "bye mom," in jubilant excitement, dashing off to 4th grade, waiting and meeting friends to go stand on line until the time to go inside, feeling confident and independent in this place now alone, for the first time, a big girl.

Slowly shifting gears, hoping to catch another glimpse of the pink coat and dreadlocked ponytail lost in the sea of ones not so little anymore, driving slowly past the building, wanting time to stand still, knowing this is the last one.

Desperately wanting to turn around and go back and turn back and be in that quiet space again when the fingers were tiny and the toes counting to ten, holding her softness, smelling her hair, feeling her whispy locks.

Time should stand still for this last one, this one turning ten.

Chain Yanking

There is a lot of chain yanking going on.

I thought about this over the course of some events in the last month and how in almost all human interaction, one is trying desperately to control the thoughts and actions of another.

It is true, if one stops and thinks about it.

Children are trying to bend the will (and wallet) of parents to give in to that thing they want.  They are relentless in their manipulative tactics (although, with the more stern parent, these tactics fail and the subjects try another method, kids are quick) to try to get what they want.

Spouses are just as guilty.  One wants his laundry done even though the other can not figure out what he wants since he never puts the clothes away.  The other wants her to cook even though she hates it and they never like what she makes anyway.  It can go on and on from working, who sits up with the baby, who drives, what side of the bed, where to vacation, the city lived in, etc.

Employers are especially guilty of this, especially in a climate with minimal job opportunities despite a wall of degrees, even worse for those who barely finished high school.  They ultimately know that people have to eat and though they pay worse-than-slavery-era-wages, they also know the person is psychologically exhausted from all the demeaning demands placed upon them just to keep their $7.45 an hour.

Friend do this, to a point.  Whether they are fourth graders on the playyard or sixth graders in middle school, there is always a part when they try to influence the actions and decisions of each other.

It has me thinking, when will the chain yanking and manipulation end?  When people snap or when they are bullied enough to self destruct?  Or when they just say to "hxxl" with it and move on?  I wonder.

Ponder the thought in the week about all the manipulations or controls that may fill the day and try to change just one of them.  In the end, we should all be loving and kind to each other, loving each other more than ourselves, in so doing, we may even get that homecooked meal we wanted in the first place.

Friday, October 25, 2013

When The Universe Tells You That You Were Right

Everyone has their gut feeling, that tugging and nagging that lets them know either something is the right thing to do or something is wrong in the stew.

I had that feeling a month ago when my consultancy unexpectedly ended and I was given a vague comment about "fit."  My gut told me that something was wrong in the stew.

Mind you, I passed all the background checks, was noted for my contributions in the brief twelve weeks with the organization, and was the silent ear for the executive's complaints about the staff across the state.  I was new, and a black woman, and older, so my position was to focus on the positive and concentrate on what I brought to the table, also to make sure that I was doing what was expected of me and beyond.  All the assurances, right up to the day the position ended, were that I was spot on.

In any organization, there is always that period of time when team members are getting to know each other, when a new organization, which is what this consultancy in this location was, needs time to form (you all remember Management 101 about how groups form, storm, and then norm...).  There is the culture to navigate and the language to understand, all that goes with a new role.

We were chartering new areas and learning as well as delivering original content and creative thought.  When the rug was literally yanked out from under me, I was left with that feeling of a thud in my chest, like I had been plopped down after an unexpected tornado wondering where that came from.

My gut told me something else was up and if I just waited, the universe would reveal it.

Such is what happened.

After returning the custom programmed Mac Book Air, business cards, and other items, after sitting in my office wondering what I was going to do now because I had literally cleared my calendar of everything to focus on this new endeavor, after rehearsing and reviewing every single action of the intense training, travel, and time in the office, I could not find anything that was worthy of a drastic move of that polite, impolite "fit."

Yes, I was a bit older, more educated, and had much more experience than my counterparts, that is what was seen as an asset in the position, why I was wanted in the first place.  Then a dear friend told me that someone else wanted the position and the management thought they could just make up something to move me out of the way, almost all employment is political.  I dismissed that thought and considered funding since it was a grant funded position and perhaps management hadn't fully counted up the cost of the new position that I held.

Then the real news came.

The position was posted, it was a contract/consultancy when I was in it, and people applied, but the ones interviewed didn't pan out.  They turned out to not be the greener-on-the-other-side that the executives thought they were.  Whether it was an unwillingness to relocate to the place I already was or the lack of credentials or simply not passing the background check, none of them panned out.

It is vacant.  Almost eight weeks after I left, after they thought they had a quick shoe-in to replace me, again, not counting-up-the-cost or thinking it through.  In desperation now, they are casting a wider net, hoping to get a warm body now.  When all along they had someone who was a perfect fit for the position, who delivered in the short twelve weeks, and who was well regarded by 95% of the staff, except for those pesky two who were intimidated by the breadth and depth of experience brought to the table, even that was pushed away by the executive because of their youth and lack of experience.

Sometimes, the sun does shine and the universe does confirm that your gut was right and something wasn't right in the stew.  Having been on this earth for a long time, entering my jubilee season, I no longer see the need to not trust that still small voice.  I knew something was up and also know that something amazing is waiting for me.  As for that fledgling organization, it is almost impossible to have a focus on an under-served market when you really do not have an affinity for the needs of that market.  Pulling back the sheets, the true nature is revealed, things as they are will not be tolerated too much longer, backers and funders will demand more, that much I do know.

Shine on, sun and universe.  Me, like Sally Krawcheck, will learn, grow, and continue to be amazing at what we do, in spite of, and in so doing, the universe will circle back and remind us of our awesomeness.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Still Standing Openly and Genuinely Proclaiming Truth

Being authentic, open, and genuine has a price.

I've paid that price more times than I can count.

When I was younger, I witnessed my father try to work with and make sense of the black intelligentsia of our new town after a number of racial incidents that threatened our family.  I was eight or nine when the cross was burned in our yard at 311 Gordon Street.  My father and grandfather kept watch with their Arkansas shotguns and protected the family when the police, local black university "muckety mucks" and otherwise power brokers in town were cowering in silence on the "black middle class" side of town.

 My father was not silent.  He spoke up and out and promised them that he would protect his family even if they would not stand with him and help.  He, alone, stood up to the racist power brokers in our capital city, he stood against the white doctor's son who was behind the tire slashing and epithets written on the shed in the back of our property - him descending on our land in the dead of night while everyone was asleep and my step-mother was at her night job as a ward clerk at the local hospital.  Imagine how it must have been for my parents to know that one of the doctors that worked at one of the two hospitals in town had a rogue son who was an entitled bully.

I learned from my father to stand strong in the face of these things, even when those who look like him wanted him to sit in a corner and be silent, to not dwell on "racial matters" too much and just go along to get along.

My father also taught me not to be an okey-doke, to not compromise on those things that are truth, and to be prepared to accept the outcome.

We lived on the east side of town on a street where we were the only black family and the only one with kids.  I joke with my white friends now that I grew up around a lot of "old white ladies who made cookies" because that was my street.  These old white people next door looked out for us, watched us grow up, and eventually, watched some of us become parents before life's end took them from this earth.  They saw us ride our bikes and watched the comings and goings of our home.  It was one of those old white people who helped my father in reporting what happened and eventually getting something resolved to protect our family.  We did not get such help from the people like us in our town.

Daddy told me it was because we weren't from there, we had moved just a year before from the bigger city to the east and daddy had a position that was higher up in state government.  He did not attend the local black university, he added university in Chicago and St. Louis.  He had a law degree, it was from a segregated school, but still, a law degree, and he was making important moves on the hill.  He wanted his children to have a full education and all the promise available to them.

And that was the problem that got the cross burned in our yard.

Daddy wanted my older step-brother to take algebra and the school rulers wanted to keep him and all the rest of the black kids either in the black lab school (but desegregation ended that) or in general math, not the higher order Algebra I and II classes.  I never understood then nor now why they were so afraid of an educated black man.

In watching and remembering my daddy's often lonely quest for truth and opportunity, I learned the importance of being authentic in one self and not trying to fit in for the sake of fitting in if it never delivered results.  Today, in my hometown, still, there is no longer the "black middle class" side of town, there are more people there from other places, and the doctor's kids still seem to be the ones in control of the culture of the public school, there are those who sit in silence, relegating themselves to "that's just the way things are."  I simply refuse that mantra.

Growing up, there were things my father never allowed us to do.  Perhaps he was a bit classist or protectionist of us since we were not from there and didn't know who was related to whom.  He never wanted us to lower our standards and to strive for the best, we spent summers in the library and reading and in churches in nearby towns that seemed to have more progressive people trying to make a difference.  I learned there was a price to be paid with standing true to one's principles, and that often that price meant walking alone, but in the end, that price being worth it.

It took well over twenty-five years before my father was fully welcomed in that town.  I think that is true of a lot of hometown places, certainly true about where I live now.  We, as humans, sometimes fall back on those we know and not always those with the bigger vision.

As a girl, my daddy was the most important man I ever knew and loved.  He and my uncles, his brothers, as well as the eventual small circle of friends he gained, were towers of possibility, truth, and pride.  He showed me perseverance and honor in the face of standing alone, at times, and in pain, often.  I miss him more than I have the words to understand, and I honor his quest.

Writing, speaking, and shining a light are not actions of the faint of heart.  Someone once told me I was an "incredibly brave woman" because I speak up and out, never hiding behind my commentary, essays, poems, or narratives.  I am an oracle and understand that I may risk losing friends and family by speaking up about things like discrimination and social injustice, but at almost fifty, I have earned the right to be true.

It has it's price and sometimes it is painful, but one day, someone is going to look back at it all and do as some of my white and black friends have said, and comment that I made them think.  Then in thinking, take action, and in taking action, make a change.  Because we need to make a change, we can not go back to those dark, dark, dark days of fear and intimidation because we are different.  We must continue to shine a light on it and speak on it, otherwise fear and hatred, bigotry and racism will win, and that would invalidate everything my father and his generation fought so hard to achieve.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shutdown and Defaults

Much to the surprise of my inner circles, I did not write every day this week about the government shutdown and the potential default of the United States.

He, my husband, already thinks I am a little too transparent or a little to raw in my opinions of the political nature.

Right, perhaps, but there came a time in my life when I decided that holding back wasn't worth it. That I had a calling, as Oprah, my late father, and the black female seminarian told me, to use the power of the pen to sound an alarm. I have to write and be a clarion.

I gave some thought to the events taking place and even my husband's silent commentary that he has only so much he can affect as a University administrator to be concerned about what those knuckleheads are doing in Washington.

Then I remembered two key facts - I am the daughter of David Lee and Mary Aloyse Foster Brent and that means that I have to speak up and out.  I am the daughter of a woman who fought for her place in higher education despite the doors being slammed in her face, despite not being granted entry - her name is still chronicled in the history of two major catholic institutions in St. Louis.  That my father, in the face of crippling racism and black elite fear, stood his ground at 311 Gordon Street and protected his family against cross burnings, tire slashings, relentless beatings of his step-son, and racial epithets written on his property.  He stood tall and proud in 1972 and said, no, you can not intimidate me or my family.  I am their daughter.

So, my thoughts.

This government shutdown and impending default (breaking news, they just voted to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling until January 2014) was the work of spoiled brats.  Petulant children who did not get their way (despite trying to rig the election) and decided to use whatever they could to hold the country hostage. Gen X (Cruz) and Boomer (Boehner) white men who can not stomach the fact that a black man (President Obama) reached the highest office of the land.  They, along with their financiers and rest of the crazy bunch, orchestrated what they thought was a fear brigade, like the rich white sons of the cross burners and tire slashers of my youth.

I watched, read, and listened for my white allies, friends, to speak up and out about this nonsense.

Some did, to me, and in my presence, on their social media pages, and everywhere they could.  I was not alone on my soapbox.

Others, sadly, were deafeningly silent as the events unfolded.

All of it because of an insane hatred of the President of the United States.

All of it for the last six, almost seven years, because of the color of his skin.

That is what I have been speaking up and out about.

Sure, President Obama has made some decisions I disagree with, just like President Bush II did before him. Yet, I respected the office, the place of him as the head of state, the one in charge.

He, President Obama, was not given that same respect by the whites (and a few crazy token blacks) in this country who felt it was not his place (remember the Birthers?).  Then they wanted to take their country back (Tea Partiers) and use whatever gains he had (Affordable Care Act) to try to destroy him (Government Shutdown 2013) simply because they can not believe that a black man is smart and can govern, and rose above them, essentially their boss.

Call it what you will, it was all because of his skin color and their obstruction is treasonous in my opinion.

I think it was when my fellow MBAs (all those Wall Street financiers) decided that siding with the Republican Party (and the Tea Party) would end up messing up a lot of their livelihood, that some of the Republicans decided to use that big thing on their shoulders for something other than pandering to a few racist, still fighting the Civil War, congressmen.  Maybe when Wall Street started sounding the alarm of what could really happen when the Full Faith and Credit of the United States is destroyed that these crazies in congress (who still got paid, got health care, and got dinner) thought it would be better to reach agreement and try to spin the message than to actually let the United States default on its debt.

One of the things I hope happens is that people don't forget this nonsense.  That these men intentionally did this because of one black man.

I hope people go out and vote in droves in November, heck, take the day off, if these jokers stay in office, you won't have a job anyway.  I hope people remember their growling bellies from hunger and depleted savings accounts during these two weeks of shutdown.  I hope people, white and black, remember they have more in common than not.  I hope even, that the stupid redneck waving the Confederate Flag and the Marine Flag in front of the White House will step off his idiot box long enough to realize that it isn't the black man that took anything from him.

The people of this country are better and deserve more than the few who want to hoard it all.  Heck, even their backers the Koch Brothers stepped off the bandwagon to weigh in that they are not a part of this - despite their continued hatred of President Obama.  Even one of their hallowed right-wing conservative preachers chimed in and the John McCain, the rival of the President in the first win, has remembered what that Maverick nickname was for, and has been speaking up and out against the crazies that have taken over his party and the pansy Speaker who can't stand up to the bullies.  People in this country deserve better.  And white people know better. The big black boogie man did not round them all up and put them in jail because of slavery, Jim Crow, or any of the other ills black people endure daily in this country.  They know better.

So, I have been thoughtful and good, waiting to think about it all and still come up with the same conclusion I had in 2007, this has been about race and fear, class and greed, power and control.

It wasn't necessary, didn't have to happen, and will take a long time to fix.  Oh, and the thing they said they were against? Was already working, already law, and was proven constitutional - from the same Supreme court whose majority are not friendly to black issues - that same court said that the Affordable Health Care was the law of the land.

Petulant, spoiled, bratty, rich, children shut down the government.  Because someone once told them everything they did was "awesome," they never learned to compromise and cooperate with others.  Don't we deserve better than this?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tired Of Turning The Other Cheek

Sometimes, one just runs out of cheeks to turn.

The nation is held hostage because a handful of extreme tea partiers, racists, don't like the color of the President's skin.  Their hatred is that this man, this black man, dared to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded to us in the last fifty years and do the impossible - rise to the highest office of the land - and they despise him, me, and everyone else who looks like him.

State-after-state has reported incidents of things from the minor to the major from people being unfairly terminated from their jobs for speaking up for their rights to police brutality the likes of Bull Connor with his dogs to voting rights violations and assaults on a woman's body.  Over and over it has been a repeal of the social structure of the last fifty years because the fabric of racism can not phantom the reality that our country is browning, that being white is not exceptional.

Sometimes, one gets tired of turning the other cheek.

That time has come, time to stop the polite conversation and excusing those who do these wrongs because just short of physical lynchings, they have already destroyed countless lives.

The shutdown of the government is backed in the fact that the private sector refused to hire people of color so the government opened wide the doors of public service and people of color and women marched in.  They brought with them the hopes and dreams of their ancestors and the parchment of degrees earned at the nation's many HBCUs.  For a generation, they were able to move up in the ranks in state and federal jobs, securing their place and the place of their offspring in the middle class, assuring that their children would have it a little easier, like my late father.

And the elite could no longer stand it, their unrighteous indignation that an education is a equalizer and the playing field was finally fair, so they voted to strip away affirmative action at leading universities in the country, like the University of Michigan, because sure a black or brown child is not better than their white child.  Surely they are not smarter.

Then one smart kid grew up and worked his way until he found himself and his brown skinned family in the house that slaves built, and folks lost their minds.

The cheeks being slapped are tired of the red marks of discrimination, harassment, and silence from their white friends.

Finally, they reached the point that they didn't care if they even destroyed their own and rendered the full faith and credit of the United States a moot notion, they are stand on the precipice, extorting an unpayable ransom, because they hate the color of his skin, my skin,

Sometimes, one has to stand in the public square and scream! Enough! No more cheeks to turn!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Writing A Year Away

I was sitting at my desk, staring at the blank page, thinking about the many words I have etched on paper or typed on screen.

My thoughts drifted to when I started this blog and even further back when I was creating content on Helium.com.  I thought about what I started this journey to accomplish.

All writers want to be read.  We, in the creative class, hone our craft in the public spaces.  We are the visionaries and oracles of the world, reflecting back to many the truth left hidden, lighting darkened paths, and brightening up shadowed memories.  We write to be read, to be read, to be read.

And read indeed!

Someone close to me wanted me to stop writing about my childhood, my late father, my siblings.

For a while, they succeeded in ways that my step-sister reading my journal when I was only twelve did not, I stopped writing for a while.  I could not wrap my mind around the request and the authority they felt in asking me to stop being who I was.

I took to pen and paper to work out the crooked lines and make straight the reasons why.

Writing allows me to ask why and to process through the what happened.  It, writing, allowed me to forgive my late father for his failings and frailings that left my little brother and I trapped in a fate worse-than-hell at 311 Gordon Street.  It allowed me to move on and say goodbye to his writings that should be mine, his books that should be my sons, and his degrees that should be on my walls, his legacy now in the hands of others whose blood is not mine, who stole our rights and spent our inheritance.  Writing allowed me to forgive.  It took years,  years, and years, but writing even allowed me the peace to return to a place I hated and find the beauty therein.

So, no, I will not stop speaking or writing about those things that challenge us and motivate us to be the best.  The kids today have a thing they say, "YOLO!"  It is a true thing.  As I am sitting here today with the sun streaming in through my balcony window, I utter the same words my late father once spoke, "I have more years behind me than I do in front of me," In uttering them, I am empowered to live for me and reach for my dreams.

The years have flown by, my children are grown up and growing up, all of the fellas are out making their way in the world.  My baby girl will be 10 in December, the same age as my brother's granddaughter, born a week apart these two, my great-niece carrying a combination of my name and my father's name.  They are all reaching for their dreams now, guided by our love, moving closer to their independence.

It is in realizing that while I am not a grandmother yet, I have grand nieces and nephews, life has flowed on to another generation, and I have the responsibility to craft out the story of our heritage.  I write to tell those stories and to wrap meaning around decisions that affect us all. My three living sons, my nephews, and my nieces, will all one day carry on our legacy.

My life has not been easy, I have had to journey through many valleys to reach a place of peace, to stand on my mountain and declare my right to be fully and wholly me.

Writing has been my constant friend and forever companion, it is why everything I do is tied up in that.  It is why I love this medium of web content because my future grandchildren and grandnieces and great-greats will have my words and thoughts, my love for them, my dreams for bringing them all together, they will know that they were loved deeply.  They will put muscle around the skeleton of just knowing our names and dates.

I am writing a story by longhand, taking the journey where this contemporary woman chooses to guide me.  I am writing poetry by longhand to feel the waves of these gentle tides of memory and moments.  In a year of writing, I am preparing unpublished pieces for that thing they tell us will still be around - books.  It is because one day I will not be here, and one day, I want someone to pick up something I wrote and wonder.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Am Compelled

I write because I am compelled to do so.

The public sphere is the blank page, this global medium of choice, because that is where we meet.

I am authentic in my voice, my experience, and my muse.

My writing is reclaiming the voice of that little, scared, skinny girl who was unprotected for years.  I write to right that wrong that was done to her and the thousands of "hers" out there whose voice is threatened or controlled.

Pen to paper, the oracle's tools, are mine because I am directed to do so by powers far greater than me, it is my stage, my ministry - as an esteemed female seminarian reminded me - my place.  It is why I am driven to do so even in the face of opposition.

I write for the ones who have been bullied, the ones who have been sexually abused, the ones who have been in tough marriages, jobs, or friendships.  I write for the ones who raised their children alone and fought to make something of themselves.  It is for the ones who do not have a voice.  I write for the reality of their place and the promise of pen to paper to make us think, remember, and do something.

It is more than a calling or a gift or a profession, it is life and breath to me and I will not stop writing, not stop telling the truth, not stop shining a light on those things that we must confront, will not stop writing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

They Shut It Down - Remember This

We are the United States of America.

A country founded on land that was black and brown first (read They Came Before Columbus and Before The Mayflower).

This was supposed to be a vast open space of opportunity for all, justice for all, liberty for all.

All means all, simply all, not just the white, not just the wealthy, not just the English speaking.

That is what the promise of the United States of America was supposed to be.  A place where one can be their fullest self, unhindered by religious dogma, unconstrained by birth class, unchained from royal lines.

We have lived through many audacities that are against our creed - slavery being the one that still reverberates with the lingering racism that permeates our society.

There is hypocrisy running rampant in our Congress.  They, specifically the Tea Party faction, those that rose to power through white fear of a black president, they shut down the government, like spoiled children, because of Obamacare.

Our nation is a laughing stock, shut down instead of giving affordable health care to the millions in our country who do not have it.  Like spoiled rich kids on the playground, our white men in congress and their white women allies (you may not like the reference to race, but that is what they have used and played to all these years, they did not protest the illegal wars of Bush or the destruction of our economy through Bush II, so let's not pretend this is about anything other than race) have shut down, taken their marbles, jump ropes, and balls off the court because they were not as good as their mouths proclaimed.  Like spoiled extortionists.

Remember this, remember this, remember this and be at the polls when it is time to vote them out.  Fifty years after the March on Washington, the fight is still the same, economics, that gets infused with racial rhetoric and fear of the other.  Remember this and go vote, do not let them keep doing this, our children demand action from us.