Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Sis Did That: Fani T. Willis and Countless African American Women

 It was meant to be an ordinary after-a-busy-weekend-Monday for me.

I had two small meetings scheduled.

Came home to refresh and relax, and decided that the evening news was to fill the space of knowing I missed out on all weekend.

The Grand Jury had been meeting in Fulton County all day on Monday.

It was now past 5 o'clock Eastern Time and they were still there.

I went on about my evening and one pundit turned into the next into the next and it was getting past my bedtime.

Then well after ten o'clock Eastern Time, the clerk of the court, an African American woman who resembled so many that I know, walked, through a sea of other African American women and the smattering of men, to the waiting scene in the courtroom, all of this televised, but silent.

She stood as the judge read through the stack of papers - looked like a full ream to me - asked her a few questions, signed them, handed them back to her.

In her summer orange dress and pixie cut, she turned with that stack in her left hand and walked out.

The judge addressed the crowd of reporters and told them that all these civil servants had been there well past quitting time and none of them could go home until they leave, so kindly leave.

Then the pundits came back on and were waiting for the unsealing of the papers - was it or wasn't it an indictment?

I think it had to be closer to eleven o'clock at night and they panned to the briefing room of Fulton County and were setting up a podium, the indictment was unsealed and it was a doozy.

An attorney I am not, just the daughter, sister-in-law, friend, and mother of a want-to-be-one, so I wasn't aware of all the steps involved in this and how meticulous she had been as a prosecutor to be sure the state case was airtight.

Even the political commentators were a bit stunned as they read through that ream of paper and started naming all the defendants and the charges - all felony - that exist without possibility of parole.

What a doozy!

I kept texting the family chat and at least admonished my political science/pre-law daughter and my journalism/media studies daughter that they needed to be tuned in to this.

It was a moment that reminded me a bit of Nixon and Watergate.

This was history.

This was necessary.

This was cathartic.

They read the charges.

RICO was and is a big one, it is how they got some of the other organized criminals.

Then, later in the night, again, well past my bed-time, District Attorney Fani T. Willis came out with the entourage of Deputy District Attorneys and in her no-nonsense way, read what was happening. She did not allow her expression to reveal any emotion she felt, not the tool on her and her office, not the weight of the egregious and just sheer nasty threats against her person. She did was she was elected to do and in so doing, also communicated that she was more than qualified to do this - she had tried and won eleven other RICO cases.

Sis did that.

An American Black woman, in Georgia, bringing a moment of relief and healing to the country that the country probably doesn't even know it needs.

Part of my earlier day included a three hour coffee with the assistant of one of the state senators where I now call home.

He was a history major.

It was a get-to-know and perhaps a bit of the privilege of my position as the First Lady of a university, he may have given me more time than just any other constituent. 

Our conversation flowed effortlessly.

He, the same age as my youngest son and a race and ethnicity different than mine.

Me, a past-middle-age woman.

We talked about the state, about the connected issues of housing, economics, health care, and education.

He gave me pointers of places to travel since I'm a foodie and coffee snob.

After the pleasantries of getting to know each other and we turned to the situation at hand, we made the connections in history and the founding of this country that are playing out now.

Neither of us had our phones on or were following the news of being present with another human being.

That was important because it was on one of the pundit evening shows that I was waiting up for to hear the woman who should have been president in 2016. She wrote an article about the issues of loneliness and it was ironic to me because that is what the young man and I talked about as an after effect of covid and part of what is driving this angst we feel in the air.

We agreed that social media and these powerful devices that track every moment of our lives, have us disconnectedly connected to reality. 

If it wasn't on the screen, was it real?

So I was tuning in to hear her when in the middle of that after-nine-o'clock-segment, they interrupted their intended conversation for the breaking news from a young African American woman correspondent who was reporting from outside the Fulton County Courthouse.

I sat up more in bed and listened through the lens of history.

This was big.

Huge, even.

And part of the story that places like Arkansas that just banned AP African American Studies and Florida that ban anything and everything about African Americans, don't want taught or studied.

I absorbed it and recounted the entire day, the entire past few weeks, the entire time since that day in 2016 when that menace "won" the election.


I'm not a political pundit, but it was not lost on me how much this was a social, cultural, and political moment and the importance of African American women leading this charge. 

The Federal judge is an African American woman.

The Fulton County Prosecutor, Clerk, and court officers were all African American women.

The Georgia election workers that the menace and several of the co-conspirators attacked, were African American women.

We tried to tell the country.

Back in 2008.

Years since.

From activists to organizers to scholars, African American women have been canaries in the mine-shaft sounding the alarm that this who thing is about to implode if we don't do something about it.

African American women delivered for the woman who should have been president, it was the white women who just couldn't bring themselves to consider her and instead voted for the nation's long nightmare.

Even after that, African American women worked tirelessly, in the wake of assault after assault against civil rights, after social injustice, and police indifference and brutality, to try to hold up the light of hope and possibility for this country.

It has to be all of us or none of us will make it, despite the rapid dog racism and vitriol of the disgruntled 30-percent of cult followers.

We, historically, have borne the brunt of the worse.

It was on our bodies that the enslavers made it perpetual and declared that even if they raped us and produced a child, that child would not be free like the white father, but perpetually enslaved. The Law of Maternal Descent.

We have placed our bodies on the line for the country we built and are and have been the least respected and least protected.

Fani T. Willis thanked the sheriffs that were protecting the building, the office, the staff, the attorneys and would continue to do so.

It is because history has shown us, January 6 showed us, that there are segments bent on violence to uphold white supremacy and systemic racism.

A dying dog barks the loudest.

And DA Fani T. Willis was steady and sure, well prepared, she stood against vitriol as a professional. She is an HBCU alumna, went to the Mecca. She knew how to do the meticulous cross the ts and dot the I's research that every African American woman knows one must do to be impeccable in her work because this country is stacked against us.

She was ready.

She put in the work for two-and-a-half-years.

She is the one he always feared.

That is why he had the most egregious commentary for Black women.

That is the way this country has been.

And sis stood strong through all of that.

I am very proud of her.

There will be some hard days ahead and a lot of work, but sis did that.


©2023. All Rights Reserved by Antona B. Smith

Sippling my morning latte, looking out at a rainy Northeast morning, smiling at her good work

Thursday, August 10, 2023

In the Moment of Moments

 If you know me, you know that I am somewhat if a bohemian, an amateur anthropologist and sociologist, a presence who observes life and wants to be a part of that life surrounding beauty. Maybe it is the mixing of all my heritages and cultures, or the simplicity of my personality, but I like to be and just appreciate being, experiencing life and she unfolds around me.

If you also know it, I wasn't able to always do that.

Once-upon-a-time, I was in the early morning grind of just trying to survive, the then-divorced young mom in my mid-twenties with boys I had to get to day care before catching my train to work.

Now, as I am winding down this sixth decade of my life, cruising to that Milestone birthday next year, I'm reflecting on how I am living in the moments I could only dream about.

My time is essentially my own, something I could never attest to even as a working-full-time and going to school full time college student. Now, I can regulate my day as it goes and for most of the days of summer, exist without a minute-by-minute agenda.

Some would say that this is what I prayed for, what I worked for, what I pined for, to have my days so that I could create if it wanted, walk if I wanted, sip from a handmade coffee mug, and just watch the world.

It is not a privilege I take lightly and not a position that did not and does not come with its own challenges.

To be in the position I'm in is to be able to notice those places where care is needed more in the world because I am able to walk among the world and notice things. I'm not a lady-who-lunches simply for the sake of saying I can. Now, a coffee shop trip with a journal and book, that is another story! But no, I am not to be found perusing the designer wares at some high end designer store, I am not pining over jewelry that makes my hands glitter, I am pretty simply in my life joys and pleasures. 

There are perhaps moments when this space of calm I feel and just "going with the flow" is what I have gleaned being around my daughters.

They are young/emerging adults now, both in college, one preparing for her final year, one is her second year, both of them are amazing individuals that I marvel at anything I had to do in their development.

As GenZ women, they have taught me a few things about being present with myself.

One does not deny herself the simple pleasure of a day on the peace or outings with friends, she is the social butterfly that I am not. Even though she will say I am more of an ambivert than the introvert (INFJ) that I actually am, she is indeed the more social of the crew. She spent her month at home after her internship traipsing up and down the coastline with her friends who were also home from college.

In her, my youngest,I see the joy of life and just taking it all in.

My oldest daughter came home for a couple weeks after finishing up her production apprenticeship. 

She is more like me in ways, quieter, observant, just likes her space. We can be at home all day and be content in that space or when we go out, we enjoy the simple pleasures and appreciate the experience for what it is.

Her lessons to me are in that I am worth the things I do treat myself to - like the handmade Turkish slippers I bought on a recent trip to a bazaar in Los Angeles. It is something I would have second- guessed before and something my twenty-something-self could never afford.

While I am not perusing the luxury stores, I do love the artistry and beauty of something made by hand and will honor the ones who took the time to create it, I don't quibble over the price of something created from someone's soul.

So it was, in being in moments of moments this weekend when I initially missed all the news that unfolded in Montgomery, Alabama.

August 5th is my wedding anniversary. My husband and I have been together a lot of years in a lot of places and this one was spent with him traveling because our youngest had to move into her collegiate apartment. So we just had a quiet movie-in-day, my older daughter and I.

Then the next day, we were out on the Green in community with others seeking ways to care for humanity, ways of ecumenical service and agreement that all of us live on this place called earth and all of us have a part to play. Then, she and I were present with each other over a meal, came home, refreshed, and then spent the rest of the evening watching movies. 

So we were a little late the the dock and boat scene, but oh when it finally reached our inbox!

I've been on that docked and walked that downtown, my youngest son went to college there.

I'm a believer in the spirits of the ancestors, especially those enslaved in this country, continuing to ring out and teach us, to show us ways.

It is the same belief I had living in the northeast and walking on all this Indigenous land, driving down places in Connecticut and Rhode Island that have Indigenous names, it is being present to stop and listen to what these ancestors are sharing with us.

When I am among people, I listen, watch, feel. That is the Empath in me.

I felt all that was happening in that boat scene, again, late reaching my airwaves, but impactful when it finally did.

All that has been going on around us and things I've been writing about since 2008, it seemed to all feel so right for those of us descended from those whose traverse came across these rivers and oceans. It just was a needed release.

So whenever this almost-sixty-year-old-woman is in spaces, people don't often notice me, I'm an past-middle-age African American woman of post-menopausal size. In that seeing-unseeing, I see a lot.

The gift of this time that I am in is that I am able to be in time and spaces.

Inside of one month, I have been in airports in Connecticut and Chicago and Los Angeles. I've been in resorts and restaurants and in the unintentional middle of religious prosletyzing on the streets of Hollywood. I've been in empty coffee shops and crowded restaurants and malls without shoppers. I've walked along tourist streets in big cities and beach towns, I've looked at trinkets not worth their price simply because of place and then gingerly held something an artist created worth more than the sticker they placed on it. I've walked on college campuses without notice of who I am and watched the young ones see-but-not-see the older ones. I've been in rooms of people who think they influence and then sitting across others over coffee knowing where change really happens.

Moments, all of it.

Being in it is to appreciate it for what it is, to muse over it, to consider it all.

In this stage of my life, in the privileges of this life, in the only one I could never dream was mine, that is all I am trying to do.


©2023. Antona B. Smith. All Right Reserved.

Enjoying life along the sound.