Monday, November 30, 2020

Enough is Never Enough

I made a Facebook post the other day.

Then I thought I should take it down.

I left it.

The thing that prompted the post was the endless "asks" we receive to support someone's business, idea, fundraiser, or whatever.

And we do, very often.

So, the issue became when folks who never interacted with me, never bothered to read my work, support the literary circle, or frankly, anything else I did, were asking for my support.  They wanted my access, the people who in my networks, on my pages, the many groups I interacted with. The value of my "like" exposed them to even more people. 

But they never "liked" my work.

And it should never be a quid-pro-quo. That has never been my way. I serve, am called to it and I give.

What bothered me, though, is something that bothered me years ago after Ferguson. 

It was the expectation that I had to do it. That I had "more" and that they were "owed" because of where they lived. 

One encounter that was some of this guilt-tripping was someone, an educator, who had just as many degrees as I did but chose to live where she did. She felt trapped and unable to leave. She absorbed a rhetoric around her and then began projecting it. 

I thought about that encounter, and many others, after it. How much do we "owe" to each other? How much is enough?

Giving Tuesday is tomorrow. It is also my last child's, my second daughter's 17th birthday.

Where do I make choices? 

The post was prompted also because the ask is never enough, especially when folks want to "friend" or "follow" you with their "business offer" that is nothing short of a MLM. The only thing they post or talk about is some trinket or beauty item or whatever that is supposed to make us all independently wealthy - that is, if we are able to convince our friends to be part of their "team" and sell the "opportunity." 

Why does it still bother me?

I am called into service and do serve, as I mentioned. I work for a non-profit and for several years, worked for 1/3d my rate. When is it enough? I already am not a big shopper for frivolous things, it is not like I am holding onto stuff just to say I possess a million of some luxury item.

I'm a muse, an empath, a deep thinker, and really an all the characteristics of an INFJ.  Maybe there is that sense in me that I am one who will help, give, donate, support, etc, that they felt comfortable enough in asking me. That is fine, the thing is, when is enough enough?

As I am moving more into the second half of my life and considering my limiting investments, I'm thinking more and more of where I want to put support. I still work for that non-profit, while writing, running a literary circle, and raising children. It is not like I am sitting on an endless well of money. The future, even in the midst of Covid, is compelling us to deeply think about what we are able to do and how we are able to do it.

Taking an assessment of one's capabilities and responsibilities is not a bad thing. Neither is saying no. Appeals and requests will keep coming, as long as Covid has people in untenable situations. There is a fine line we all sometimes traverse.

So what am I going to do tomorrow?

I already have my daughter's birthday present. It is her first celebration in her new state, far away from family and friends, and in the midst of Covid, no chance of even a restaurant party. We always have the big day on that big day of one's birth, she will still have it.

But I will also give.

I've set aside what I have. And that is it. I've made a mental list of those groups and organizations that I will support. And when it is gone, it is gone.

Because sometimes, enough has to be enough. And that has to be ok.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hope and Joy!

 I woke up with the sun streaming through my bedroom.

I woke up rested.

I woke up renewed.

I woke up rejuvenated.

This has been the first morning in four years that I did not wake up with the heavy cloud of division, despair, and destruction that has loomed over America since 2016.

It feels lighter.

Like a heavy burden lifted.

For years, months, weeks, so many have prayed, protested, and praised their way to an America that is reflected of our better selves.

Yesterday, solidified that.

Look out over the hills, there are more who think of the common good.

When I received the news, I, like so. many others, had already been up for days, weeks, months, working in the election cycle, watching the news, and then glued to CNN or MSNBC for the results to come in. We alternated between our social media groups, and my teen daughter's updates with her friends.

It was a typical Saturday in our house, we are still settling in the move from the Midwest, Missouri, exactly, to the Northeast, Connecticut, exactly. So my daughter was putting her clothes away in her new dresser that she put together herself.  I had meetings in a couple hours and after coffee, decided I needed to pop back into my room to see the count.

Then it happened, it flashed on the screen.  Timing. I erupted in a loud scream.

I called for my daughter to come here. My husband was on a flight. She and I erupted into screams of jubilation, hand claps, screams, twirls, and yesssssssss!

We reached out, each of us, to our groups of people that we had been with throughout this season.

Jubilation was in the air.

What sat with me for the remainder of Saturday was the hope and joy.

I wasn't able to take the hour or so drive to Delaware, my day was filled with meetings, but when it was all over, I joined many others to hear Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris, deliver her speech and then introduce President Elect Joe Biden to deliver his speech.

Each of them acknowledged how they got here.

Black Women carried this election. 

We held vigils, teach-ins, organized our communities, registered people to vote, called, talked, donated, strolled, we did everything we could to make an America possible where our daughters could breathe.

It felt like joy.

She wore that cream suit and claimed her space in history.

I could hear Shirley Chisholm and Fannie Lou Hamer and reaching all the way back, Sojourner Truth and Francis E.W. Harper. I could see my late Mother and Grandmother, both my Great-Grandmothers, all women born in a time when a woman did not have a voice.I could see into the eyes of my almost seventeen year old daughter and see so much of the possible.

It felt like hope.

It felt like unity.

It felt like promise.

So, I feel good, this Sunday morning. It is unseasonably warm here in Connecticut. Before my afternoon celebrations commence, I may take a walk on the Sea Wall and look out over the waters to whisper a thank you to the ancestors who breathed this moment into being.

Hope and Joy, it is just so wonderful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

America the Ugly

Election results are in for some races and not for others, most notably, the Presidential.

I went to be at 1:30am, after feeling my stomach turn and disgust rise up in me as I learned that Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell were going back to the Senate. The green stench bile of racism is all across this country. 

America the ugly.

My home state of Missouri voted for division, racism, classism, and xenophobia.

I work for a Missouri non-profit that threw our heart and soul into trying to make this state better for all people, even those who did not reflect our sense of decency and humanity. It was disappointing news.

We will not know what is ahead or what will happen when the shenanigans on mail-in ballots ends. 

What we will know is that in parts of America, over 50% of them prefer fear over hope, and that is a sad thing.

Black Americans did all we could.

At 13% of the population, all across this country, we Strolled to the Polls, we put Souls on the Bus, we stood with elders, we had brothers on the block protecting voting and preventing hate from driving through intimidating people, we had generations understanding the importance of this election. We gave our sorority and fraternity years, we gave our HBCU years, we have years in memory of elders, we pulled.

But Black America can not save America from the ugliness that is in the sinew.

The hate that has permeated the marrow of this land has been there for 400 years. 

Regardless of the outcome, the veil has been torn, what was hidden is in the light and can not be unseen. The trucks and flags, the signs, the gestures, the ammosexuals, none of that can be unseen.

This is our America that always was.

A descendant English speaking people who forced other European immigrants to drop their names, cultures, and languages to be assimilated into whiteness. A same English descendant people who orchestrated the wholesale slaughter and forced migration of native peoples and chattel ownership of a stolen people who were forced away from their land, culture, history, language, and name. That evil of whiteness permeates.

But what I still have to believe is that evil has an expiration.

In parts of the country, that may not have been last night.

But evil won't last.

Psalm 94 teaches me and encourages me that justice will once again meet up with righteousness.

That I have to believe.

Even as I have to try to unsee the brutal disgust of the country and ignore the tweets of Covid45 claiming what is not his. 

The count is not over, and I refuse to feel like 2016.

America the Ugly can one day, one day, become America the Beautiful. I just believe, in spite of. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Last Day Before the Day

 I woke up this morning to sun and clear skies, outside Boston, hope in my heart.

Rain+fog+wind kept me in the area an extra night as attempting to drive home for this new, New Englander was a bit scary at night.

That had me think about other things that could be scary on the last day before the day.

The news that a candidate's supporters surrounded another candidate's campaign bus to the point of them being boxed in, was more than disconcerting. As was pepper spraying those marching to the polls in a sign of unity to hecklers of voters, all of this is disconcerting.

I live in the tri state. New York had hate-filled trucks blocking access into New. York. 

In Boston, I saw more signs of unity, hope, and promise, we saw only one lone dude in Back Bay with a sorry attempt to swing for a side that is completely opposite that.

What struck me as I was able to stay in bed on Saturday and Sunday morning was the report that 94 millions have already voted. Many more stood in line over the weekend to vote. A friend of mine stayed in line 3 1/2 hours in St. Louis so she could be a part of choice.

America is diverse. It has always been diverse, even if one does not want to embrace people who do not look like the color of snow. What is the problem with a diverse America?

I decided to spend some time in hope.

In Cambridge, I went to Harvard Square, drenched in rain, but went anyway. There were so many people of every hue, language, and origin walking up and down the square. I saw a church declare without hesitation that Black Lives Matter. In fact, I saw those signs everywhere I went in Massachusetts, from Wellesley to Waltham to Newton. I did a drive to just be, this past weekend was one of my darkest, so I needed to just feel and muse.  I smiled at every sign. It was a sign of promise.

Let's face it, 2020 has been a hard year. 

It started with so much hope and wonder for me. It was (is) my sorority's centennial year, it is 100 years since women had the right to vote (albeit white women, Black and women of color were not guaranteed the franchise until 1965), it was my older daughter's graduation year from high school and my youngest son's graduation with his second master's degree. My seminary friends were graduating, we were moving (and did). But it quickly turned dark before the first quarter was even over.Covid 19 hit us like a ton of bricks.

It has been a hard year made even harder by the hateful rhetoric coming from the highest office in the lane, pouring gasoline over the flames of unrest that this same office stoked going back to 2008. 

Every fire, though destructive and attention getting and damaging and harmful, eventually goes out.

I have to believe that this fire is a last attempt, a dying gasp of a dying viewpoint. 

Change can come, can be.

It is the last day before the last day. 

All the people who are braving cold here in New England or in the Midwest, those who danced in the heat, those who are standing or sitting, that is the shift for an America we want. Where my daughter's have as much promised opportunity as my sons, their gender not hindering them. Where our skin color is seen as a testament of the beauty of the Creator instead of a defect. More and more people are sun kissed.

The generation of first time voters, those 18 and 19 years olds, are actually the most diverse America has ever seen. That is joy and wonder for me. These young people are aware, accepting, and amazing. 

Perhaps that is what scares those who are grasping with a death grip to a message of hate, division, and a supremacy that was never their's. They crawled out from trailer parks and rocks in flannel shirts, pickup trucks, and the ugliest displays. One of the things about them though, they think they are strength in numbers, but they are really scared, frightened, cowards, who can only bluster. What scares them is that they fear an America that does not adhere to their narrow viewpoint.

So, on the day before the final day, I'm not afraid. I'm rightfully preparing and have concerns for those in key states who will have to see these yokels, but I am not afraid. I am patient, and waiting.  I look in the eyes of my children and see a future. Still.

Change can come.

That is my hope.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

From the Dread of Knowing to the Hope of Being

 Daylight savings time. November 1st. Just days away. And I still have the dread of knowing that the last four years were not a dream but a lived reality we all endured. Many lives lost and many still tone deaf, like the Girl Scouts, of the impact of decisions made by this administration. They "celebrated" what many of us cringe in knowing. Then, I remembered, 53% of them voted for their caste, their race kind and not gender kind, they screwed the rest of us over and over 225,000 Americans have paid the price since March. So, last week, while in a meeting, just seven days before the election, we received news, in the dark of night.

Like many of my friends, friends with daughters, I woke up the morning after with a dread in my gut. A sinking feeling. A weight. Not too much unlike the darkest moment of my life thirty-eight years ago. The feeling was heavy, sinking, suffocating.

Last week, while on a panel for the screening of Rigged, someone posted in the Zoom chat that the Republican Senate rushed through the vote and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.  The next message I received was from my sixteen-year-old daughter,  "I'm scared." I felt as if something died. I couldn't tell her that I was scared, also. I wanted to have hope.

Honestly, though, I have this sense of doom that I felt a bit after midnight when my seminary classmate called me. We had been at a watch party at the university and as the hours went on, decided to call it a night. It was a bit chilly and we had an 8:30am class. I had been an Election Judge, up since 4am, so I was pretty exhausted.

The short drive from the university to my home, 20 minutes, no traffic, it was almost 1am. And she Called me. I was still in my car.

"No! You're lying, right?" 

When I went in the house, I fell into my husband's arms. 

He had been home a couple hours, my same daughter told him at around 10pm, "I want to go home, I don't feel well." She and a classmate had been tracking the election results on a map. She knew. The rest of us were in denial, "surely they couldn't, wouldn't,  vote in that dude." We kept on eating, dancing, being entertained by college students at their first Presidential watch party. None of us expected that.

Fast forward to now.

This election season has been every scaryracistsexistmisognisticxenophobichorror anyone could have imagined.  I'm a woman who grew up in the 70s so put together Jaws-TexasChainSawMassacre-Halloween-FreddyKruger-Fridaythe13th. Throw in a bit of early college of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, all the Ghosts and Goblins that roamed the last night night on Halloween, except these were not children playing dress up, they were real demons breathing air, and well and you get the feeling.

Barely was the news out about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg when the gooseneck racist, Senator Mitch McConnell, was salivating over a Supreme Court pick. We all knew, but were holding out.  He plucked that skinny white woman he had been grooming since her law school days, a true Handmaid, really. Amy Coney Barrett.

No one doubts she is brilliant and has a razor sharp memory.

What we doubt is her ability to be fair and impartial. We doubt her sincerity. We doubt her experience.

She is a Catholic. Ok, so is almost all of my Creole family, I am named for a nun, have priests and nuns in my family, had a devout Grandmother who took me to Mass every day when I visited her in the summer.  No, it is not about her faith, John F. Kennedy was a Catholic.

It is about the rest of it. Her membership in a sect, nee, cult, that believes a woman's only purpose is to pop out as many babies as she can. How they let this one out to be an attorney is probably because she was in law school when she met her husband and they decided they could use her for their ends since folks are tired of white men. Who knows?

She has five. Not an issue, I had six, have five living children and have been mom to twice that many.

That is not the issue. Not even, in part, that she has adopted two children from my ancestral homeland.

It is that she is vacuous. Submissive to her husband in a way that will make her biased in her decisions. Maybe he is the Judge and she is just the puppet. Who knows.

But the sense of dread and doom is real because of all that she represents. Like that woman, Serena Joy, in the book, who worked so hard to be a leader of women, to advance her husband's career, to move up the ranks, only to have her finger cut off when she asserted anything like equality.

What will become of us? Of our daughters?

It is All Saints Day. A moment we pause to remember those who have gone on. This year, we have so many who will not be able to vote because their lives were taken away by the callous acts of others. Like my infant son, like my eldest sister, like my sorority sister's father, like my seminary sister's sister, like countless ones who succumbed to a deadly virus that was allowed to spread like wildfire because the many in the White House refused to do anything. So many since Memorial Day because of the evil tide of this police state in existence since the Slave Patrols, decided the kneeling on a man's neck was ok. So many since then, even last week in a battleground state and we wonder what will happen to the rest of us if there isn't a tsunami of change on Tuesday.

Now, the preacher-teacher in me, the one with the M.Div, holds onto hope and assurance. After all, God did create the whole world in only six days and rested on the seventh. He had folks march around a wall for seven days against a similar feeling of impending doom. She who is all and whispers in all, shifted the universe in seven days and marked it as completion. A lot can happen.

What is already happening is that they will not win.

I have to believe that.

There are record lines of early voting, despite all their attempts since 2008 to impede the franchise from Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic, young, and poor voters. They know they can not win on ideals and fairness, so they cheat. Again, watch the documentary, Rigged.

From St. Louis to Boston to Houston to Dallas to Atlanta to Raleigh to Detroit to Philadelphia to New York, people in every town, Burroughs, suburb, and city have registered in record numbers and have stood out in the heat, the cold, the rain, and the snow. Some had danced, some drove up 100+ year olds, so many have pushed past the fear mongering of a dwindling loudmouthed few to reach into the soul of the greater many, and have put aside complacency for community, all across this country.

So, I'm putting aside the dread of knowing for the hope of being. I want to be in a country that affirms girls to be more than mothers before their time or before their choosing. I want to be in a country that believes those twice kissed by God's sun are not inferior or subhuman or dangerous simply because melanin covers them like the suntanning machines they run to get what is natural in others. I want to be in a country where immigrants of every hue are welcomed and who learn to be without emulating the oppressive natures of the dominate caste. I want to be in a country where that dominate caste is no longer strangling life out of everyone else with redlining, and redistricting, and reducing education, housing, or healthcare for the rest of the country. I have hope, I have hope, I have hope.

This Sunday, today, as we roll back clocked and prepare to settle in for winter, let's roll to the polls. Roll to the polls with enthusiasm for what we can do, the collective we for the best of us is in us.

Take your notes, check out the judges, the state officials, read your ballot, tell a friend, get a mask, get sanitizer, bring a jacket and blanket, grab some water, snacks, book, music, your smile. Go vote. And if you already did, bring those things for those who are standing in line. Join together, all of us, we can restore hope, joy, and smiles. 

I want to wake up on Wednesday with a feeling of wonder and possibilities and being. What will you do to make it possible that there isn't another stolen seat on the Supreme Court?That there isn't another old white man ruling with an iron fist the Senate and pushing through a hate-filled judiciary at the expense of people's lives who have suffered unspeakably since March. I want to flip the states that think they are still in Jim and Jane Crow America. I want my home state to vote out that unelected bumbling CovidMO downstate sheriff and embrace the bright choice of a woman with ideals. I want this same energy to be here in March and April in. municipal elections, in 2022 with midterms, and in 2024 when there is another national election that will feel more "normal" without the suppressive tactics seen since 2008. I want an America for my daughters and sons and grandsons where their existence is not as marked humans because of their skin or gender, but as thriving young people filled with dreams and talents yet to explore. I want to open my doors again and breathe freely. 

Everywhere I traveled this past week, in towns outside Boston, from Waltham to Newton to Wellesley, I saw Black Lives Matter signs. From houses to an enormous one outside the village church. I saw declarations for our shared humanity affirming women, non binary, old, young, me. It made me smile, as I drove around town. Even when I went into Boston to see my son, coming down the highway, an enormous declaration was on the side of the stadium that simply made me laugh out loud. Something is happening, and it is a good thing.

We can be.

We can be hope restored. Life renewed. Joy unleashed. Love abounding.

We can. 

We must.

We will.