A World Of Difference

I am cleaning out email boxes and I discover some notes from a writing class I took at a National conference that addresses multicultural education

I discover a piece I wrote in the class about an experience I had as an assistant librarian in an independent school.

When you’re the multi in a culture not so used to difference:

She is in the second grade
She stands in the library,
surrounded by books, a determined seeker
of that which only she knows.
There is no smile on her face but she does not frown either.
Deep in thought, surrounded by her classmates
she does not see anything but what she seeks.
The found book is brought proudly to the circulation desk
where I stand. I do not frown but I do know this is not the book
she can have right now. I do not remember why it is not right.
I just remember it is not right for her right now.
She balks and pouts and keeps asking “Why,” as if to hear me
say the same thing over and over again. I sense that she is not used to
the color of my voice,
this child with permission to resist an adult.
It is a battle of the wills, her determination vs. my authority
which I do not think about in that tug of war moment.
I want what’s best for her seven-year-old mind.
She wants what she wants. I do not see the steel in her eyes
when she turns to leave the library with her class.
She leaves sans coveted book, but wrapped tightly in her determination
she tells a different story of intimidation
when she gets home to Mama.
who writes to the teacher who writes to me
though knowing me does not defend me
but succors the mother.
I am a black woman who manages her voice at school,
tempers it to match the sensibility of my little patrons.
This time.
I lose.

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A Lemonade Dream

The “Black-ish” episode of a few weeks ago, “Lemons,” was thought provoking. The premise of the episode was the diverse responses to Donald Trump’s election as President.

The musical intro to the episode is Marvin Gaye’s iconic “What’s Going On?” still a valid question, especially in today’s chaotic and confusing climate.

Dre’s voiceover reminds us that “Upsets are as American as apple pie; someone wins, someone loses. But what happens when the winners and losers are supposed to be on the same team?”

What, indeed?

Everyone is dealing, in their own way, with the after-effects of the election.

Rainbow is dressed in every piece of activist apparel she could buy on sale at “Barneys” (a bit of irony there).

“You look like a NPR [National Public Radio] commercial,” is Dre’s response to his wife’s gear.

Zoe and Junior are not in school this day because it has been designated a day of reflection after a student declares to a teacher that she, Ms. Gomez, will soon be shipped back to her country and leads his classmates in the chant, “Ship her back! Ship her back!’

Junior prepares to share the MLK  “I Have A Dream” speech at the day of healing while Zoe concentrates on a very special lemonade recipe, a drink she plans to share that day.

Rainbow is concerned about Zoe’s seemingly disassociation from all that is going on in the country after the election and her apparent obsession with the making of this lemonade.

When her mother tries to ascribe some symbolism to the lemonade,, Zoe responds that is just a “non-carbonated refreshment” which her friends will like.

The tension is high in the company conference room as everyone voices their angst and despair and even satisfication about the election outcome. Fingers are pointed and voices are raised. Charlie admits that he voted for Obama because he was black. Lucy admits that she voted for Trump as opposed to voting for a woman and in rebuttal to the accusation that her vote marks her as a racist, she declares, “I am not a racist. I have black friends.”

A word to the wise right here: This statement of Lucy’s does not endear you to the hearer who is black. This is not a pass for anyone white who makes this declaration.

“No one knows how we got here, but everyone has their own ideas.”

Their ideas are all over the place with no resolution in sight.

Dre’s father, when he learns that Junior is going to make the “I Have A Dream” speech on the day of healing at his school, tells him that this is not the entire speech and recites it for Junior.

“There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” `~excerpt, MLK, “I Have A Dream” Speech

“Why didn’t I know this?” Junior decries his ignorance.

“Because they don’t want you to know. … Yeah, Martin had a lot more Malcolmin him than a lot of people give him credit for.”

Junior, astonished by the tone of the text, becomes the black clad radical brandishing a baseball bat in his bedroom.

His grandfather takes away the bat as he tells Junior “Heyy, what’s going on here. I did not tell you this for you to become another angry black man.”

He then explains to Junior that Dr. King added the “I have a dream” section to the speech after gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who had heard that portion before, yelled out to Dr. King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream!”

The inhabitants of the conference room begin to wonder about Dre’s solemnity in the passionatate discussions and someone asks, “Why don’t you care?

As Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” plays in the background and pictures of African Americans flit across the screen, Dre speaks:

“I love this country even though at times it doesn’t love me back. For my whole life my parents, my grandparents, me, for most black people, this system has never worked for us. But we still play ball, tried to do our best to live by the rules even though we knew they would never work out in our favor, had to live in neighborhoods that you wouldn’t drive through, send our kids to schools with books so beat up you couldn’t read them, work jobs that you wouldn’t consider in your nightmares.

Black people wake up everyday believing our lives are gonna change even though everything around us says it’s not. Truth be told, you ask most black people and they tell you no matter who won the election, they don’t expect the hood to get better. But they still voted because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

You think I’m not sad that Hillary didn’t win? That I’m not terrified about what Trump’s about to do? I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains. I love this country as much — if not more — than you do. And don’t you ever forget that.

Junior makes his speech. Zoe shares her lemonade as she asserts it is not liberal lemonade, not conservative lemonade, just lemonade made with love.

There is no resolution in sight but everyone arrives to the point where each realizes that all voices are needed in the conversation, courageous conversations is what I call them.

I have not added much commentary to this post because I just want us all to think about where we are headed, where this country is headed, and how we can add our voices to the healing of the obvious rifts in this land.

I leave you with words from the movie “Red Tails,” words spoken by Andre Braugher’s character, Benjamin O. Davis:

“How do I feel about my country and how does my country feel about me?”

That is still the question.

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Watch the episode here:

http://abc.go.com/shows/blackish/episode-guide/season-3/12-lemons

T

IMITATION, SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY?

Sunny Hostin and Whoopi Goldberg Clash Over Whether Black Women Wearing Weaves is Cultural Appropriation

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My definition of Cultural Appropriation: A group “takes” what is my legacy, something my ancestors created, that which has been passed from one generation to another as a honored and often sacred tradition but you laughed at it, devalued it, called it hood and ghetto until you begin to see it as trendy, a thing to do or have so you now consider it, evaluate its worth for your brand, your market, your sense of style and you “take” it, rename it and claim it as a new thing/creation and you choose (intentional or not) not to acknowledge or even admit the true source of its elegant majesty.

How an individual chooses to dress or how they style their hair is of little consequence to me but when it becomes an issue of cultural pride and relevance what I need from the “new” user is that they acknowledge and value the origin of their “new thing.”

You see, my community is so used to being ignored, devalued and overlooked that when our legacy, our ancestral tradition/legacy is assimilated, subsumed, absorbed, consumed and renamed by those who have no clue to the why of our pride or they are not even interested in its origin or sanctity within a community, we call it as we see it, OFFENSIVE!

I love the maxi skirts made of African cloth and recently was gifted with three. I have worn one and I love how I feel when I wear it, how it looks on me. But, recently, I read an article/blog by an individual from Africa who called us out on making their heritage, the cloth, into a fashion statement. This concern certainly has made me more conscious of how my choices, innocent though they may be, may appear frivolous and offensive to the group of origin. I will wear my skirts but I will also do my research on the cloth and its “history” so that I may consciously honor the group and their ancestral legacy through my acknowledgement of its cultural roots and pride of heritage when I am complimented.

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We must all become just a little more sensitive to how our choices appear or impact others especially when it comes to those “products” of culture.

“THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS” ~Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers  

 

 

 

HILLARY AND THE “HOOD”

Hillary Clinton is running for President.

No news there.

By the way, did she drop “Rodham?”

But, less I digress,

She is making all the rounds.

I get it.

Shake the hands.

Kiss the babies.

Attend churches that are predominantly black.

Learn how to twerk like the sisters (or was it the Nae Nae she whipped?).

Play dominoes with the brothers.

You know, all that stuff that shows how relatable she is to me and my hood (as in neighborhood).

Wait, what?

I can’t with you, Hillary, I can’t

Your face in what you think is my place does not automatically give you a free pass to my vote.

In fact, I am just a little irritated by your attempt to “connect” with what you think are my connections.

Were you twerking with Bill before this election year?

Did Bill watch you whip?

Did you teach Chelsea how  to play dominoes (or bid whitz for that matter) when she was a little girl?

When was the last time you sang one of those good old hymns you learned in the “black” church?

When was the last time you even attended a “black” church just to worship?

Many people will not get my irritation.

I get it. No big deal to some.

But, for me, it’s tantamount to Hilary proclaiming to the African American who wonders as I am wondering, “Some of my best friends are black!”

Microaggression on display.

I. Just. Can’t.

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p.s. She was in South Central L. A. today (check out the demographic).

Yeah. . .

😳😐😳😐😳😐😳😐

 

 

 

THROUGH THE AIRWAYS

I think I have discovered the “sweet spot” of technology.

It just came to me this morning, this “sweet spot” eureka moment.

It came to me as I was congratulating a Facebook friend on how naturally she took to becoming a first time grandmother.

Prior to the birth of her grandchild, she had expressed concerns on her page about whether she would know how to be a good grandmother.

I responded to her comments, then, with what I hoped were some words of encouragement.

Here is where the sweet spot comes in: I do not know this “friend” personally. She lives in Florida. I am on the West Coast. We will probably never meet in person, yet this “gift” of technology allows us to reach out to one another as though we were sitting across the room from one another chatting about grandchildren.

The “sweet spot” is that place of love and support and encouragement and warm moments of connection with strangers across the states or across the pond.

Faces we do not recognize flow to us through live-streams. Words of sympathy are tweeted on fluid trending timelines. Writers across the world share their thoughts with cyber pen and paper.

Yes, I know.

Technology also has its rachet moments, it’s mean moments, it’s totally out of control moments. But it is just a reflection of society, isn’t it, a melange of diversity and attitude?

It is our choice as to how we use what I will call the “gift” of technology.

When we receive a gift we can either relish it or misuse it. The choice is ours.

Technology also brings with it the potential for psychological trauma as it transmits the chaos and turbulence rampant in the world today. Our hunter-gatherer new world creator ancestors would have been blissfully unaware of such things, at least for a longer period of time, simply because there was no technological herald from across the seas or across the land. News traveled slowly in the New World. By the time word was received of wars and victims and massacres and death, the dead were long buried and the wounded healed. Words of love, hope and support were transmitted in the form of prayers that never reached the physical ears of friends and loved ones but hopefully God would hear and act.

Yes, technology today can either be a bane or a blessing, two words our ancestors would definitely  understand.

I choose the “sweet spot” of blessing.

It is the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHOSE REALITY IS IT ANYHOW?

real_housewives_logo-9401They are stunning in their expensive jewelry and designer clothes.

There is never a hair out of place on their well coiffed heads.

Their make-up is always on Fleek.

They live in magnificent homes and drive luxury cars.

People who can’t be them, want to be with them.

They are surrounded by individuals who hang on to their every word and while always agreeing with them, never dare to tell them the truth.

They spew malice out of expensively tinted lips and are applauded from the sidelines by the lookie-loos.

Gifted with abundance, there is a poverty of spirit, of hope, of compassion, of understanding

They act out in public, perhaps because of private grief.

Surrounded by one another, they stand alone, wrapped in self-righteousness and self-approval even as they yearn for acceptance and validation.

Sighhhhh. . .