sun on waterI was in her arms looking up at the blue sky with puffy white cumulus clouds. The sun was bright and made the water sparkle like diamonds as we rode in the truck across the Sunshine Bridge.

This is my very first memory. Not something I imagined but a authentic memory. As I described this to my mother, she asked in dismay, “How do you remember that? You were no more than 18 months old”. She explained that we were in the truck with her Uncle Benny headed back to the country, to her hometown, Tangipahoa, La.

From that point on until I entered pre-school at Brooks United Methodist Church, everything is a blank. I could have stumbled across the cure for cancer and the key to world peace, yet it is all forgotten.

Pre-school memories are scattered with flying kites on the church grounds with other the other children and teachers; green finger paint spilled on my white cotton panties – don’t ask because I have no clue; and the bicycle mishap that left me with a scare on my left shin.

My older sister, Vee-Dawg, was tasked with taking me to pre-school one summer morning. Pre-schoolers didn’t get a summer break. My sister was probably around 11 or 12 years old when she put me on the back of her bicycle to head to school. Instead of having me face the direction in which we were headed, she had me facing the direction we were leaving, in other words, we were back to back on the bicycle.

It was a 3 block trek from our house to the church and we managed the ride quite well for 2.5 of those blocks. Vee-Dawg is peddling away and somehow I manage to get my little narrow left leg caught between the bicycle wheel spokes. We hit the ground, legs and arms flailing and gravel flying up creating up a dust cloud. Dazed and confused, sis gets up, dusts herself off and turns her attention towards me sprawled out in the street, crying and in pain because my leg was tangled in the wheel.

In the midst of her trying to free me from that tangled mess, a lady was walking by on the sidewalk, a witness to what just happened. She then asked, “Are you guys okay?”

(Really heffa? Does it look like those children are okay? One is laying in the street with a  foot-long gash in her leg bleeding out like a slaughtered pig and you ask if they’re okay?!!)

My sister mumbled something and that heffa kept on walking not bothering to offer to help.

Sometimes adults are assholes towards children.

Vee-Dawg’s bicycle was inoperable at this point so we hobbled out little asses to the church and she walked her broken bicycle the 3 blocks back home.

mad dogOn this same 3-block route to Brooks UMC was a house with a bipolar aggressive dog. Bipolar because some days you could walk by the house and the dog wouldn’t so much as look your way. I imagine those were his depressed days – laying there wondering where it all went wrong that he ended up guarding a dusty grass-less domain of a gate-less front yard. On other days, his manic days, he was a psychotic demon dog snarling and running out of the yard to terrorize neighbors and walkers-by on the other side of the street.

There are only two things that I know will make my mother shit her pants – dogs and lizards. I believe that even now, at 77 years old, she would run a country mile from both.

Mother had prepared a tray of deviled eggs for a pre-school function and was walking quietly on the opposite side of the street from the demon dog’s domain, hoping and praying to sweet baby Jesus that this would be a more subdued, depressed day for the bipolar mongrel. However, as per the manic protocol, demon dog snarls and barks as he charges towards my mother.

Well, she took off running, Angela Davis afro blowing in the wind (she was hauling ass y’all) putting on full display exactly why she was awarded a partial track and field scholarship to Southern University. In her fear induced adrenaline rush, J-Boogie said to hell with those damned deviled eggs and dropped the tray and didn’t stop running until she reached the church disheveled and egg-less.

Brooks UMC’s pre-school program serviced the children of the St. Bernard neighborhood. This included children from all socio-economic backgrounds such as working class families and from more challenging environments/families who may have resided in the St. Bernard Housing Projects. Emmanuel and I were examples of both demographics.

From what I was told, Emmanuel’s home life was precarious and probably bordered that of neglect as evidenced by his tattered and soiled clothes, matted hair, and poor hygiene. The poor baby was a dust bunny – a pissy smelling dust bunny.

bitten appleDuring one of our afternoon snack breaks Emmanuel was seated next to me at the table. In my most authoritative 4-5 year old voice, I proceeded to warn little Emmanuel not to put his grubby little hands on my apple or my juice. I drew the line in the proverbial sand and dared his little dusty ass to cross it.

Apparently Emmanuel took that as a challenge and decided to defy me by touching my apple!! Now I am sure he did not expect what happened next nor would logic dictate it but you must remember, I was 4 years old and logic really isn’t a toddler’s thing. I bit the shit out of that little boy! I drew blood!!

The administrators suspended me for a few days, rightfully so, and Emmanuel had to get a tetanus shot. My mother asked me, “Why did you bite him?”. “Because he touched my apple and I told him not to because he was dirty”, I responded.

To this day she still does not understand why I decided Emmanuel had to pay with a pound of flesh for his infraction – the very flesh I deemed too dirty to touch my apple. Neither do I mom. Neither do I.

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If you want to accept this feaux apology, go right ahead. I can’t tell you what to do. However, I will not fall for the banana in the tailpipe (pun intended) and let me tell you why.

If you’re a person of color, specifically a BLACK person, I want you to recall the racial slurs thrown at you by white people whose sole intent it was to belittle you. Recall all the epithets hurled on the internet and telling BLACK Americans to go back to Africa. Recall the numerous times black people have been called monkeys, gorillas, or apes. Recall in history how during both WWI and WWII BLACK soldiers were thought to have tails (monkeys have tails).

We know these references aren’t new. History proves that. No one can feign ignorance to how offensive this is. And especially no white person can claim ignorance because it is ingrained in the racist lexicon and playbook.

Now also consider how this looks juxtaposed with the photo of the white child in the same campaign.

This didn’t somehow mysteriously manage to slip through the several layers of decision makers at H&M. This was deliberate. This was intentional. This was willful. This was purposeful.

The intent to be offensive, garner attention (negative or not), issue a weak ass apology, sales rebound within 30-90 days all at the expense of the expendible.

So in short, fuck H&M now and forever more.

 

Screenshot_20180108-131236The revelation of underlying insecurities have given me pause and forced me to look within. Recent changes in the workplace have left me feeling undermined by a particularly ambitious individual. Ironic because I do not want the role I was asked to assume and also, I am actively seeking employment elsewhere.

Since I have been on this gig, I have found myself stressing about whether my skills, talents, and contributions are valued and if a certain someone is gunning to make me obsolete to the team. This stress has negatively affected my sleep and appetite.

One thing I have come to realize though is that this leadership role, specifically within this context, is not what I want. Leadership and management are glorified babysitting positions and I am not diplomatic, nor tactful, in my delivery when telling people to get their shit together. I am perfectly fine with being a technical writer and crafting processes, policies, and procedures around how documentation services interact with the various business units. I am fine with pursuing other opportunities that will allow me to expand and grow in my craft.

Screenshot_20180108-131314I have come to realize that at the root of this stress induced anxiety is insecurity surrounding my writing and the nagging insidious thoughts that I am not enough or even worthy. I have not convinced myself that I am a “good” writer in spite of the feedback that affirms that I am far better than just “good”. Just recently over the holidays, a friend shared with me, and a group of women, that she and her husband actually read my work and he thinks that I am a “prolific writer”. I am still stunned with disbelief and struggling to not just accept it as truth but also own it.

How do I fully walk in in this gift if I am unable to see it myself?

How do I drown out the small yet loud and convincing voice in my head that says otherwise?

How do I get to the root of this insecurity and weed it out permanently?

Why I am feeling threatened on this job and why do I even care? Is it pride or ego? It’s probably both to be perfectly honest.

I’m afraid I have more questions than answers at the moment but I refuse to stop until I see my way through this. Until the moment I stop doubting myself and look at my work and say confidently…I did that!

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The heart is the locus of physical and spiritual being, and represents the “central wisdom of feeling as opposed to the head-wisdom of reason” (Cooper, 82). It is compassion and understanding, life-giving and complex. It is a symbol for love. Often known as the seat of emotions, the heart is synonymous with affection.
(Source)

For years I avoided the symbol and held a quiet disdain for it. This was rooted in my dislike for Valentine’s Day which is, coincidently, my birthday. Dislike? It was more like I hated it. Up until about the age of 10, every year I would have a heart-shaped birthday cake. After that, I asked my mother to stop with heart-shaped cakes.

My hatred of the holiday presents the conundrum of all conundrums because it is also my birthday. Oh, I can hear you now, “Ooooh, that’s so sweet. A Valentine’s baby“. SAVE IT! The sh*t blows worse than an Beluga whale…worse than a hooker on Stewart Avenue (the ho strip in Atlanta)…worse than Vivica Fox…worse than, ah hell, you get the point. (Valentine’s Day)

I can’t say that my stance on the holiday has changed but I am now drawn to its symbolic icon – the heart.

According to K. Ferlic’s “Symbolism of the Heart”, the heart is metaphorically used to represent four interconnected things:

  • the resting place for the creative spirit
  • the source of the flow of our creative life energy
  • the location for the intention for our life, for aligning with the flow of energy aligns us with that intention
  • it represents the dream we wish to manifest

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Over the past five years or more, I have been on a journey of emotional, spiritual and professional growth. On this journey I have experienced some significant losses that resulted in heartache. The death of a long-time friend, with whom I had lost contact over the years, was the impetus of reconnecting with an old crew of friends. Friendships changed or shifted and much like how it feels when the ground shakes beneath you during an earthquake, it left me “shook”.

Some of those losses were necessary in order to remove/eliminate negative energy and unhealthy attachments that were impeding my growth.

Through loss, more gains.

After 12 years of service with an employer, I was laid off. Although I had been expecting it to happen for more than a few years, I still experienced the normal anxiety wondering how long it would take to find new employment. However, I started a new gig with more and expanding responsibilities, a significant salary increase, and a new beautifully blossoming sisterhood/friendship has emerged.

Through loss, more gains.

textgram_1508588375Writing for my blog and personal journaling became virtually non-existent. My creativity suffered during this time and initially I blamed it on my presence on social media. Post on the “book of faces” and 140 character tweets became my outlet. I was compelled to reflect on how I was contributing to the negative energy I so often complained about being so prevalent on social media.

I have either muted myself completely or significantly reduced my presence on the platforms opting instead to go within. As a result, I have been journaling regularly and the desire to express my creativity through writing is growing more by the day.

Through loss, more gains.

This going within and re-centering, this “getting to the heart of the matter” has manifested itself, subconsciously, in the symbol to which I have found myself drawn. A quick scan of my Instagram page is evident of just that.

If K. Ferlic’s assertions are true that the heart represents the resting place for creative spirit, the source of the flow of creative life energy, the location for the intention for our lives, and the representation of the dream we wish to manifest, then in my using the heart as my logo, I have come full circle.

Everything that has happened has served its purpose in directing me back to the source.

I’ll end it here with two quotes, one from a very close friend.

“The universe brings you shit and takes shit away…remember that…there is a reason for it all. Sometimes it’s not on you to dictate where/when/how you grow.” – TDV

“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi

I’m home and that’s where the heart is.

23823733_138888600215765_3100894069052669952_nI mark the beginning of this holiday season full of gratitude. Grateful for my family, blood and chosen, old friends and new, each of whom love me in their own way as much as love them.

Grateful for the privilege of having known and loved friends that didn’t live to see this day. Derek S. and Priscilla S. – may your souls find rest in the hereafter knowing how much you were loved.

Grateful for this peach and contentment that has enveloped me like a warm blanket.

Grateful.

Thankful.

Joyful.

I wish the same for you.

“Satisfying and compelling” – K. Austin Collins, The Ringer

“gorgeous digital cinematography…deserving to be seen on the big screen.” Simran Hans, The Guardian

“The story is centered on racism, on the fears, the humiliation, the terror, and the violence inflicted upon black people in the south by whites.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

In the name of art, the trauma of Black souls and bodies is yet again the focal point of the critically acclaimed film, Mudbound. Writing beyond this sentence has proven to be quite difficult for me.

Expressing the complicated emotions that bubbled up as I watched the story unfold has proven to be no easy task. A story told repeatedly over the years. A story that Hollywood apparently never gets tired of telling but one that many Black Americans (i.e. ME) are sick and tired of seeing. A story where Black Americans are under the thumb and heavy boot heels of white America forced to choose between dignity and life. A story where, more often times than not, a white savior is always present because of course, “not all white folks”. A story that film critics fall all over themselves to reward with praise and accolades. (The Guardian 4 stars; Rotten Tomatoes 97%/5 stars; RogerEbert.com 4/5 stars; IGN.com 9.1/10)

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I do not consider myself a film critic nor did I major in cinematography so I can’t speak to the technical aspects of the photography, editing, lighting, etc. Having never acted a day in my life, I will spare you my opinions on the performances given by the talented thespians. Save to say that I forgot Mary J. Blige was Mary J. Blige. Whether to attribute that to her mastery of the craft, the compelling story, or my state of mind I have yet to determine.

As with the slave narrative, I can go the rest of my life without seeing another movie where Black people are subjected to physical and emotional trauma at the hands of white people, where Black men and women are forced to choose between their dignity and their lives as well as those of their loved ones. On more than one occasion, you see this play out in the movie.

  • The young black soldier just returning home from his WWII tour of duty in Germany faced with the unbridled hatred of an older white man who reminds him of his place.
  • The black sharecropper with a broken leg under doctor’s orders to stay off his feet for 6-8 weeks who is pressured into leasing a mule from his white landlord farmer/boss in order to plant seed immediately.
  • The black mother whose assistance is demanded to care for the white children with whooping cough and subsequently offered a job to cook, clean and care for the children when she has no inclination to leave her own family – as if she actually has the choice to decline without repercussion.

Ever present throughout are the antagonists: the mild mannered educated and cultured white woman, her equally educated engineer-turned-farmer husband who knows his position and power and exercises it like a skillful surgeon with a scalpel, and the hateful bigoted patriarch of the white family.

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And then we have the “savior”, the great white hope, the “see, not all white people” knight in shining armor, who is, by the way, absolutely and unequivocally the most dangerous of them all. It is his actions and behavior that places the black family directly in the crosshairs of those looking for any reason to inflict hurt and harm.

I walked away from this film as I do most films of the same nature – pissed off and tired of  the same theme play out before my eyes, again. I know it all too well having been told stories by my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. What I really want filmmakers, both black and white, to understand is that there is more to the post-slavery Black American narrative than suffering.

To my Black brothers and sisters, if you choose to see the film, brace yourselves. Or you can save yourself the misery and wait for the February release of Black Panther and walk away with your head held high, chest out, back straight, feeling affirmed, empowered, and loved in all of your blackness.

 

 

 

“When someone’s delicious passive-aggressive pettiness directed at you makes you say “well done’ and you giggle without the urge to reciprocate…that’s #growth.”

pettyThis was my Instagram post Sunday morning but allow me to give it some context so that you can enjoy it completely…as I did.

I live in a townhouse, an end unit. Between my building and the one next to it, there is the “common area”. My neighbor who lives in that building’s end unit is a Black woman and a dog owner, like me.

When I let Lola out to potty, she goes in this 20 foot space between the buildings, in the front and sometime closer to the neighbor’s side. Recently I have been extremely lax in picking up behind Lola, allowing a few days or even a week to pass before I do a massive “poop-pick-up”. I know…bad pet owner here!!

Sunday morning during our daily routine, Lola is out and I notice poop has been tossed closer to my driveway in a random sort of way. Immediately I know what’s up!! I giggled so hard at the level of pettiness but I could not get angry because I KNEW it was a response to me being an irresponsible lazy pet owner.

I decided to write a note to my neighbor which read as follows:

Wrong is wrong.

Admittedly I have been lax in picking up after Lola. Your deliciously petty move made me laugh really hard but also got my attention. I apologize for being the lax lazy neighbor. Please enjoy a cup, or two, of coffee on me! Hell, make it hot tea and sip with satisfaction.

Mea Culpa!

Included in the note was my name, number, and a $10 Starbucks gift card.

A couple of hours later, I received the following text message.Screenshot_20170911-144549

Lesson? Humility and being able to admit when you’re wrong will bring you so much peace. Never stop trying to be a better version of yourself!

Namaste.