Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's officially Christmas. Make it merry.

God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Meltdowns Redux

By the way, we finally made it the Christmas concert on the last night. Well, we made it to the concert venue. We were early, but still too late to get a seat. The entire building was full. We loaded back up in the car, stopped at Krispy Kreme, and went home. To quote Willona (you know--from Good Times) Ain't that a blip?

Renewed and Rethinking.

So, the semester has come to an end. Oddly, I feel envigorated. Don't get me wrong, now--I need this break. But I'm working on getting better. Being more effective. More open. There's no deep insight, but I think that something better might be on the horizon. As they say after the SuperBowl, next semester begins with an undefeated season. Yay.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meltdowns all around

So, here's something nobody tells you when you have children: It really, really sucks sometimes.

We planned this really nice evening, a tradition we've established of a Christmas carol concert at a nearby college. It's always wonderful and thrilling and my daughter positively loved it, even when she was a baby. She clapped her hands and got all excited. I was so looking forward to it. And I spent a ridiculous amoung of time choosing outfits. I had hoped that we could take our Christmas card picture while we were all in semi-matching holiday dress. And then.

I scurred around getting together a humble dinner for everyone so that we could eat quickly and get ready. The children came home and were slow to eat. It took serious cajoling to get them to finish their dinner, but I pulled them along, knowing that they would probably need a snack while we were out. Then, I dressed them. They wanted to watch a DVD instead of putting on their clothes. Consequently, I had to put my daughter's pants on twice because she kept saying that they were "wrong." Then I did her hair. But that was pointless because she then decided to do this weird thing she's been doing lately where she completely covers herself head-to-toe with a blanket. All of a sudden she jumps up, screaming because she can't get the blanket in whatever weird way she wants it. Her hair is now sticking up. Meanwhile, my son is amping up for his own spiral into madness. He spots the Barney DVD and decides that he must watch it RIGHT NOW. There's another movie in the portable DVD player already, but no matter--he wants to watch the other one. They take turns whining, screeching, and crying. Good times . . . .

After I finally throw their clothes on, I run upstairs to throw on my own clothes. But I can't find the tank I planned to wear. Whatever. I decide that, as usual, I'll just let go of my own need to look like an actual human being. I find something else and try to get everyone out the door. But they are not finished with me yet. There is more crying and screaming. By now the screaming is, somehow, coming from me, too. And dear husband is grinning like a crazy person because he's the only one in the house not losing his mind. Yeah, funny. Of course, this whole scenario probably is funny when you've spent the evening dressing yourself and feeding yourself. I used some bribing to get the children out the door, but in the car they are still disagreeing about which DVD to watch and still on the brink of more crying.

Ultimately, after all of that, we just decided not to go tonight. The concert plays for two more nights. We do have plans for both nights, but maybe we'll try to fit it in. I'm disappointed. My plans for a fabulous, warm and fuzzy evening were totally thwarted. Where are my jolly, holiday Christmas carols?

Taking an Unscheduled Break

I should be grading papers. I know I should. I have two stacks at home and I will be getting four stacks of exams next week. Plus, since I have put off recording in-class assignments all semester, I'll have that to do as well. All so that I can average and post over 100 grades by the beginning of the week after next. But I don't want to.

Every semester, it's the same. By the end of the semester I have so much work to do and I end up staying up late but waking up early and feeling achiness in my shoulders and back and wishing that the break would get here already! But I do it to myself. I'm a procrastinator, plain and simple. Many times, procrastination works out for me, but never at the end of the semester. Like now, instead of posting, I should be grading.

I have this vision of myself sitting on my couch (my absolute favorite place), a cup of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream in hand, the fireplace blazing, the lights from the Christmas tree blinking in my peripheral vision, and a lovely Christmas movie on tv. It's an attainable vision. I know I can have that. If only I could get through these papers. . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008



I, too, am filled with hope. I'm not quite ready to fill in the details, but I just wanted to share how excited I am about this journey. I know that it is replete with worry; in fact, I recently had a particularly worrisome moment, but I just received confirmation that things are on track. In this post-Thanksgiving season, I am grateful that God is still there, listening and comforting, giving us the things we need AND the things we want.

Recent events in the world--the bombing in Mumbai, the death at a New York Wal-Mart, the declaration of America's economic recession--threaten to blight this holiday season and the hope that Obama's win had placed within me, but I'm glad, grateful, that God has reminded me that good things are still happening and I can still be hopeful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lovely Day

Today has been lovely. I woke, dressed and fed my children, and then went off to my very relaxing spa appointment. It felt great to be the focus of so much attention and gentle touch. The therapist even sang "Happy Birthday" to me! (Although I prefer quiet during massages, I appreciated the gesture). Then I went off to a lovely cafe and had a healthy and yummy lunch while I graded papers. When the food came, though, I put aside the papers and enjoyed my food and my own company. I rarely do that, and it felt so good to just sit with myself. The semester isn't over, but what a great way to move towards the end stretch!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Filled with Hope


Yay for your successful mission today! I'm so excited about your new developments, I can't even tell you. I'm hopeful and so looking forward to good things. The anticipation is at an all time high!

The Diva will fill in the details later . . . .

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Offers

My class was reading Frances Ellen Watkins Harper's "Two Offers" the other day and one of my graduate students pointed out that women are still dealing with the story's major dilemma because women are "held hostage by children." I nearly fell off my chair with laughter. After I had righted myself, I muttered, "Yeah, that's kinda true." The story is about two women. One of them is contemplating two marriage offers; the other is taking the path of work and professionalism. Ostensibly, these are the two, and very distinct, options available to women.

Now, of course, I can't complain so much about having those options. I mean, the women in the slave narratives we are reading don't even have the choice of marriage, and the choice of motherhood is pretty much ripped from them, too. And many throughout time have not had the option of work they choose. let alone work that is fulfilling. So, I won't complain, especially in this semester of course reduction and new pedagogical challenges.

Nevertheless, nobody in the class disputed the grad student's comment--not the men and not the women. I had mapped out the points I wanted to make about the story, but I wasn't really prepared for this personal turn in the discussion. Some of the undergraduate students talked about their plans to vigorously pursue work before they sought family life. One even stated that she planned to be a stay-at-home mom. In general, I got the impression that these young women hadn't given a lot of thought about just how could have any of what they want. I don't blame them; young adulthood is built for other things. Things unrelated to the smell wafting right now from my son's diaper or the annoying whining sound that someone in this house makes every 20 minutes. Or even to the 20 pages of research I should be revising--deeply-- instead of writing this blog entry. But the ideological split in the story seemed very much alive to these much-younger women and men. The problem, though, isn't that women can't handle the dual identity of worker and homemaker. Certainly, black women have had to be models of this pardigm for a long, long time. The problem, and the female grad students understood this palpably, is that there is no framework that supports the actual lives of women in these dual roles. I can't help but to wonder if I've been punished a bit for choosing to make, birth, and parent two children in close proximity. I'm almost certain that I lost a possible job offer because I was pregnant. Even with my flexible schedule and ability to do work at home, I'm not a rock star in my field and I don't see that changing any time soon. I've decided that I don't care. But that's not exactly the truth.

There are days when I foolishly Google former classmates and colleagues to see what they are doing. They always seem more fabulous than me. I wonder if I could have been, would have been, just as fabulous if I had spent the last several years being fabulously productive. Just as often, though, I wonder if I would be (nearly) debt free and more beautifully dressed if I had been working for 7 years instead of toiling away in graduate school.

I don't know. I guess we make the choices we make. Then, we just keep pushing. I don't have much time to work all of this out in my head. My daughter's crying and my article isn't going to write itself. When you figure it out, let me know, please. Then, I'll tell F.E.W. Harper; I'm sure she'll want to know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Obama

The only words that I can muster: I almost don't believe it. But it turns out, Yes. We. Can.

I'm so verklempt. . .

I voted this morning and it took me NINE minutes! My brothers were mad because it took them 2 and 3 hours in other states. I went prepared to wait for a long time: I ate breakfast before I left; I got dressed (in my red, white and blue, no less) for work so that I could leave directly from the polls and go to class; I took my magazine and some paper to write down some class notes; I carried my sassy heels and wore my comfortable black flats. But the line was not long, everyone was friendly and smiling--AKA and Delta, black and white, I cast my vote and I was out of there. It was a good experience. Should I take this as a sign?

On NBC, I caught a glimpse of a news report about the world's perception of this election. Largely, the rest of the world is hoping for an Obama presidency. (Israel is not as excited about it). They said no place is as excited as Kenya. That moved me. Obama represents so much to so many. Yes, this is an election that could change the world's perception of America for the better and that is important. But Obama is carrying so many more hopes and dreams that go beyond just a Democrat winning. And he represents it for so many more people around the world. This election is so much more than what many may think. This is deeper than just a mere American election.

Now, talk amongst yourselves. I've already given you the topic.

Whatever Will Be, Will Be . . .

So, the future is almost here. It's scary and exciting and while we're waiting, we're hoping and praying and imagining the best.

I nearly cried this morning on the way to the polls. Okay, so I actually did cry a little. Is anyone surprised? Anyway, I was overwhelmed at the thought of my great-grandparents and of my surragate great uncle, who made his transition just last week. He wanted to attend the inauguration. I thought of the generations of people who lived before me and hoped for a day when they could cast a ballot for someone who looked like them (for my great-grandmothers, that includes women!); I bet they could hardly imagine that the day would come so soon. I couldn't. Only a year ago, I figured 2008 would be a trial run.

Watching the Obama family vote this morning was moving. I had plenty of time to bask, too, because they took forever; it must have lasted 30 minutes! Barack and Michelle showed their daughters the ballots and explained the process. They looked so happy. It made me happy, too. Malia and Sasha will never know what it is to laugh at the idea that they would be the country's first children. And neither will my precious babies. Of course, their mama's tongue is waaaayy too fast and loose to run for anything. Plus, I was a member of Jeremiah Wright's church. Apparently, that alone makes me unfit.

I know that Barack is just a man. He's not the man who walked on the water or the one who turned the water into wine. He's acknowledged that managing expectations will be one of the first things he has to do when he's elected. Still, he embodies so many of our hearts' desires. Even if things don't go the way I'm hoping, I'm renewed.

My dear daughter saw "Arockobama" as she calls him, on TV this morning, folded her little hands, and with a timidness that is uncharacteristic, asked mommy and daddy to pray for him. So we did. I don't have any words to describe that moment. It was good, good stuff.

"It's been a long, a long time coming/But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Oh, Lord, Hear My Prayer

I can't deny that, on this Election day eve, I am nervous. I know so many have said they will be glad when this election is over, but for me, as long as the campaigning went on, there was hope. Tomorrow what will be, will be.

I am praying that Obama wins. I really don't think we can afford another Bush-like administration in this country. The possibility scares me. I know, however, that there are some who say the same about an Obama presidency. They are afraid of what it will mean for the country and what it will mean for them. Personally, I don't think that their reasons are valid, but they probably don't think mine are either. Since they believe that their reasons against Obama are strong, they are praying that Obama doesn't win.

So whose prayer will God answer?

In my life I have had to accept the fact that I don't know everything. Hard as it was for me to believe, I just don't. Since I can't see the future, I don't really know what is best for this country. I could not have seen the benefit of a Bush presidency in 2000, but it has paved the way for a Black man to run and possibly win. I would never have seen that in 2000. So, my prayer is that God will do what is best for the nation. I believe it is Barack Obama winning the presidency, but if I'm wrong, I trust God to do what's best.

(Lord, please let it be Barack. . . .)

Friday, October 31, 2008


This year my children dressed as Michelle and Barack Obama for Halloween. It was difficult to pin down exactly what would distinguish them. I put a string of pearls on my daughter. She took the hairpiece off, but I thought it was a nice touch. My son doned his suit pants with a tie, dress shirt, and sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Adorable! I slapped on my Obama pin and added a few handmade ones as well for good measure. It was fun. Some part of me felt like I should do it now; who knows what next Halloween will look like?

We're waiting for tomorrow to happen, and I'm trying to rest on faith instead of fear. What's the worst that could happen? W. can't be elected again, so . . . we're good, right?

Due in part to her class at preschool, my daughter perks up every time she hears Obama's name. In fact, she now recognizes his voice on the radio. There's something invigorating about that. She probably doesn't know exactly what's going on, but the largeness of this moment is moving and exciting. My world view has totally been shifted--just like that. The country is so much about evolution, as slow in coming as it often is; we have to always be ready to move, to shift idealistically. It's hard to keep up, sometimes, but the journey is, I'm starting to believe, worth it.

The Diva, we do indeed need to hope and pray that we will have what we need as a country and as a planet. Let's keep on our toes, ready to move whenever we need to.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Say what?!

Did I tell you about the time when my student came into class and announced that "books have a lot of good stuff in 'em"? In fact, she said, she should start using books instead of the internet more often. Be still my beating heart! I just might have done my job well!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Too Quiet on this Plane

I just watched an episode of one of my favorite television shows, "30 Days." I'm planning to show the episode about a Christian who lives as a Muslim for 30 days to my students for an assignment that intersects with their history unit on faith. I was forming my questions about the show and was fascinated by the changes the guy undergoes. In the end, he realizes that he cannot sit by quietly the next time people knows make assumptions about Islam and Muslim people. He says that he will have to speak up and correct the negative preconceptions. What an experience this must have been, huh?

So, maybe I should go somewhere for 30 days. Last weekend I was on a plane with an older gentleman who thought he was really cracking me up. I laughed some, but it was a very small plane. I couldn't sit stoically for an hour while he gave me his best misanthropic material. And his endless talking kept me from grading the stack of papers on my lap. He talked about politics and his children and schools and his job and everything else. Then the flight attendants came by with the drinks and this guy starts in on how flight attendants used to all be pretty ladies. Then, he says, they became ugly women. Now, they are a bunch of "f" words. Then he continues to fuss about the male attendants, dropping the "f"word about a hundred million times. I told him, "That's not nice!" But I didn't let go of the tight smile on my face. But I started to think about who might be sitting around us on this very small plane. Who's feelings might be hurt by this inflammatory language? Then, I started to think about how I didn't want anyone sitting around us to include me in his diatribe. I was NOT like "this one" over here. Right?

Well, I'm not like him. I have learned to call out disrespectful language and inflammatory rhetoric in class when it crops up in our conversations about Biblical stories or personal relationships or other provocative topics. And yet, sitting in that little seat on that little plane, I stifled my own voice. I laughed politely and avoided eye contact. I didn't say, "Look dude. I'm not going to co-sign on your mean-spirited, humanity-denying othering."

I wish that I had said something. I wish I had mentioned the really smart and wonderful people I know who happen to be homosexual. I wish I had, at least, said that it's not okay to say that anybody deserves to be shot (as he suggested) as a matter of policy. Or that maybe other people's personal lives are basically none of our business. I wish I had said something. I mean, even the minister wearing the clergy collar in the airport managed to find his voice when he heard the announcement that his flight's gate had been changed. He shouted the "s" word. Loudly. Ha! My lovely seatmate heard him and relayed the story to me. Then he told me about the tall African American guy who also heard the minister. That's what he said, African American guy. I thought, "Do you seriously expect me to believe that you routinely use the term African American when referring to black people? Really? After you just dropped the "f" word without a bit of shame?" I felt even worse. No way would I have been quiet if he were using racial epithets.

So, I'm confessing my silence, my shame. I really should have been more brave and more vocal. But, I will do better. I, like Dave, will be changed and next time, I won't be quiet.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Teaching Meme

I don't have many words lately, but I feel full of thoughts. That's a frustrating combo. So, here's this teaching meme from Writing Maternity, who got it from penelope at Outside Voice, who got it from Mommy/Prof, who got it from . . . It's the only thing I can organize in my brain as midterm creeps up.

1. The thing I am looking forward to most in the class I teach next is: Feeling the vibe of students who show up ready to work on themselves and their writing. And hoping that they'll make me laugh.
2. The thing I dread the most in the class I teach next is: Fearing that too many students won't have their work and I'll have to have a back up activity or else stand there and look at them like they're crazy.
3. The reason my favorite student this semester is my favorite is: There are a couple of them, thankfully. They are smart and driven, and trying so hard. And they take learning seriously.
4. The reason the student who gets on my nerves most does so is: He's never completely there. It's hard to gauge whether he's messing off or in a bad mood or high or what; I want to just write him, but I can't. Get it together!
5. The hardest thing about my classes this semester is: Doing a new thing in a new program and flailing and readjusting all the time.
6. If I had to pick a class to start teaching tomorrow (say a colleague gets sick or something), I would want: I'm not sure, but I want to be challenged in a new way.
7. My favorite time to teach is mid-morning because I have the whole day ahead of me but I still have time to get off to a slow start in the morning.
8. My least favorite time to teach is ____late afternoon____ because _I space out after about3pm_.
9. If I ran academia, classes would be different in this way: Fifty minute classes would be elimated; they are too short to get everything done. I run out of time at least once a week.
10. Would you rather your job have a balance tilted towards teaching or research, and why? Depends on which day you ask me. I wish both were supported much better, but I guess I'd lean towards teaching. What I really wish is that my job had a tilt towards someone else to grade my papers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Insulting My Intelligence

I refuse to believe that Americans are as stupid as politicians and the media believe they are. I had my definite opinions about Biden and Palin's performance last night during the VP debate, but I was interested to know what the political pundits had to say. True to form, Democratic sympathizers thought Biden did great and Republican sympathizers thought Palin did a good job. Many (not so many Republicans) admitted that expectations were so low for Palin that, of course, a gaffe-free performance would be like a home run. But really, is that all it takes to be outstanding?

I was insulted that I was supposed to accept Palin's evasive and rehearsed answers and arrogant refusal to respond to the moderator as a stellar performance. Have the standards for American excellence become so low that one does not have to do well, they only have to not mess up, for us to accept it as a win? Do the "people in the know" expect so little of Americans that we are to accept mediocrity as excellence?

These low expectations of Americans are also revealed in the assertions that Biden did not do well because he was too professorial. Like they said of Obama at the Saddleback forum, his answers were too nuanced and therefore would not resonate well with the American public. So, are they saying that Americans are too stupid to understand that life's situations are not always black and white, easily characterized by a catchy slogan? Do they not have enough faith in the American public to believe that they realize that life is complicated?
Maybe they don't think much of America's intellect, but, my goodness, give us a little credit.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who ya wit?

I'm watching the Vice Presidential debate. We keep stopping the DVR in order to rant, so I'm just going to add a quick note here before my screaming wakes up my children.

One of the generative themes I'm hearing in the debate is the idea that corporations create jobs, and that they are good. If corporations are your primary concern, then people are not. Their purpose for being is not creating jobs--it's making money. People put people first; companies put money first. Anybody who has read the Bible knows that the love of money is the root of all evil. Any corporation worth its salt would sell down the river every human it knows if it means that it will continue to exist and make money. People will lose jobs as soon as it is economically expedient. So, Vice Presidential folks, get it straight where your loyalties are.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm supposed to be grading papers, so I'll try to make this quick. This whole issue of Palin and women makes me nuts, so I just couldn't pull myself away from the computer.

Here's my answer to your last question about why Palin is allowing all this nonsense: Power.

The answer for her is no different from the reason why so many other politicians do ridiculous and illogical things. Being a mother is one of the most powerful jobs in the world, so you'd think that she'd be happy with that, but no. She wants political (and economic) power just like any other politician. Just like many men. She's blinded by her desire for it and she's willing to make sacrifices that hardly seem worth it. It reminds me a little of Jessica Simpson, and not just because of the pageant hair. (Sorry, I can't get past that).

Simpson was a B level singer at best before she married Nick Lachey and started her string of silly sayings on "Newlyweds." But her confusion about tuna fish and inability to boil water propelled her to stardom. She didn't seem to care that the whole world thought she was an idiot. In fact, she seemed to amp up her brainlessness. And then she laughed all the way to the bank. She became a much bigger star than she probably would have been otherwise, all because she was willing to do whatever it takes. That's fine for a pop star; it's not for the Vice President.

Palin doesn't seem to care that she is obviously a token. Or that other, more qualified women were summarily passed over. Or that she is not really prepared and that it's clear to everyone. Or that the spin machine is working overtime to make her many, many shortcomings into absurdly posed assets. Or that other women in the country will likely be punished (covertly or overtly) for the public damage she is doing. She's counting on Americans to be dazzled by the sparkly silliness and she doesn't care. She doesn't seem to care because she might still get to be the second most powerful person in the world. For power-hungry people, that's all that matters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Woman Wonders

I've been away far too long. But I have just been speechless at what is going on in America--the Wall Street financial crisis, Obama Waffles, race as a factor in the election, Palin. There is just so much I did not know where to begin. But today, I just got to talk about women stuff.

As a woman, I am excited by the prospect of female achievement. I celebrate Women's History Month in March and make sure that my students are well aware of it. In my writing, I always insert the accomplishments of women alongside the oft touted accomplishments of men. I correct people (when possible) when they in any way ignore the presence and person of women. So, Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination as Vice President should be thrilling to me. But it's not. I believe that while Palin's nomination and even possible victory would be a victory for women on the surface, ultimately, it will not.

It seems that Palin's nomination pretty much amounts to affirmative action. Not affirmative action as it was intended by the Black leaders who fought for it (the opportunity for qualified minorities to be considered regardless of their physical characteristics), but affirmative action as many people think it is today--the selection of a person based on a physical characteristic regardless of qualification. I've heard people say that Palin isn't smart; I don't know her so I can't speak to her intellect. From what I can discern about her qualifications and the baggage that surrounds her, however, it seems clear that she is truly an affirmative action choice. She has a degree in Journalism that she earned after attending several schools; she was the governor of a state that in no way resembles the diversity of the nation; she doesn't seem to be well aware of key political issues like the economy and the war; and her only foreign policy experience is that she can see Russia from her home. Let me stop there for a moment. When Charlie Gibson asked her about her insights into Russian actions, she actually said "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." If anyone expected more of her than to be a token woman, would they have accepted that answer from her? Wouldn't they have demanded more? It appears that she was chosen because she is a woman--not the most qualified woman, but a woman who will get votes because she is a woman. It is not surprising that she is an affirmative action pick because, contrary to popular belief, White women are the greatest recipients of affirmative action hiring.

This is bad. It's bad not only for the country for obvious reasons, but bad for women because she will be representative of all women in power. If she can't do the job, then it will mean that women just aren't ready for this position. It's sort of like what people thought in the early 90s when Shannon Faulkner couldn't hack it at The Citadel. After all that protest and talk about the first woman getting into the all-male military school, when she couldn't meet the standards, she made all women look bad. True, other women have enrolled in the school since, but her failure validated all of the naysayers and sexists. This is the problem with affirmative action picks when they are not made in the spirit of true affirmative action measures.

The Republican handling of Gov. Palin is already giving women a bad name. Although they are alleging sexism in every arena, by not allowing her to take questions and acting as if the hard-hitting questions (which I am really skeptical of her receiving) will be too much for her (a Journalism major who was once a member of the same press), they are saying that this woman can't handle it. Protecting her as women have been protected and pedestaled for generations says that she is helpless and unable to handle herself in the face of tough situations. In what way does this "protection" say that as a woman she is prepared to face anything that men can face?

As a woman I am offended by the way Sarah Palin has been presented to the public. They have made light of the very real issue of sexism, calling actions sexist that clearly aren't. Asking a question she'd rather not answer? Questioning her baby's parentage as a research question that never gets printed as fact? This is not sexism; this is journalism. Calling things sexist that aren't sexism mitigates actual instances of discrimination and oppression. Like the boy who cried wolf, people are less likely to respond when the real thing rears its ugly head. I am offended that as a woman Palin is allowing this to happen. I wonder why she is willing to do so.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

8 hours to think about random stuff

The family and I are in Florida this weekend for a family function. I packed jackets for everyone because I thought the weather would be cooling off. In Florida, however, it's still July. It's really hot, and it just reminds me that the heat of summer is spitting out her last best efforts. The election is almost here. Football season is taking my husband away. The work of class and grading are piling up.

It makes me a little sad. The summer always seems like an endless, open field of possibilities. I'm hoping that the rest of the year will bring renewal and a fresh breath of energy. There's a lot of work to do, in every arena of our lives. I hope that autumn and winter will bring good stuff.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Remember

On September 11, 2001 I was a happy newlywed and graduate student in Chicago. Now I'm not so newly-wed, a university faculty member, and we have a house and two children. Today I say a prayer for the many, many--far too many--families who had the last 7 years of life's ebb and flow stolen from them. May the Spirit of God continue to comfort you and heal the land.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

All in the (Democrat) Family?

Although I am aware that there are still racists around, I guess I am very much a member of the post-Civil Rights generation because I am always surprised anew at people's blatant racism.

Reading Jack and Jill Politics, as I love to do, one link on it led to another which led to another which got me to this video, reportedly put out by PUMA.

There are two more which you can watch at your own peril but after watching the first two, I couldn't stand to see the last.

I am in awe of the audacity of someone in 2008 to don blackface and drag. Not only is such behavior generally accepted as insulting and despicable in the public, but it is not even funny. What these people in this clip are doing is not entertaining nor does it make a cogent point--unless their point is that it is okay to degrade Black people. Clearly they know that blackface is racist and yet they do not care.

For people who are supposed to be concerned about the sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton, these people have a myopic view of discrimination. It's absolutely not okay to degrade a White woman, but Black women (and there are several being degraded here) and Black people, and Islamic people, and pretty much people of color, they're fair game? Also, it's okay to belittle the struggles of others, the painful history they've had to endure just to get your point across that you're mad. Is that the message? This hateful behavior just takes me back to the beginning of the Feminist movement and their exclusionary ideologies, claiming rights, ultimately, only for Anglo-Saxon women.

I am also disturbed by the Black women in this video. Perhaps they are strong supporters of Hillary Clinton as they have a right to be. But to be a part of a video that makes fun of Michelle Obama (and other Black people) smacks of self-hatred. If these PUMA actors feel that it is okay to draw upon racist tactics to degrade Michelle Obama, how much love do those women think they have for them?

The video was posted on Youtube in late August of this year. I'm sure, however, as the campaign continues, we will see more examples of racist speak, and with Palin in the race, sexist speak as well (and I mean actual sexist speak not the alleged sexism that's used as a tactic). Rep. Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia has already started the ball rolling. I guess I should just be prepared and stop being so surprised that as much as things change, they still remain the same.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm not gonna write you a love song 'cause you asked me to . . .

Okay, The Diva, I see that you have gotten over trying to hold back.

You've just touched so many of the ideas that are frustrating here. The media thing is so very true. Did you notice many (or any) commentaries that pointed out the absence of a flag pin either on Palin or on McCain? How many reporters illustrate the ways in which Palin's speech was filled with "truthiness"? How many will call Bristol a "baby mama"--which she actually is, as opposed to the married-before-babies Michelle Obama? How many will call Cindy a junkie, one of many labels heaped upon addicts when they are not millionaires?

Here's what is driving me crazy tonight, though: my country and my religion are two different things. This convention is singing love of country like it's hymn number 562. I don't really see the need for my President to love America. I just need for you like it and care about me in the neighborly, what-would-Jesus-do kind of way. To be smart and sound and use good judgment.

Sarah Palin's snotty reference last night to the love she's always had for America doesn't move me. I don't feel so romantic when I think of Sean Bell riddled with policemen's gunshots on his wedding day or people drowning in New Orleans while the media calls them thieves. When you work hard (a phrase which also keeps popping up) at 2 or 3 jobs and you still don't live in a safe neighborhood or have good schools or can't afford to get sick, when people sworn to take care of the country look right past you, perhaps your relationship with America is a little more complicated. Palin's (and Cindy McCain's) kind of simplistic thoughtlessness is exactly the brand of silliness that "energizes the base" but remains unproductive. It's what you are talking about when you write that the party is far too self-righteous. That, coupled with McCain's clear desperation to be President, is too much for me to take. That POW thing is big; I get it. But I still don't worship this country.

I live in the world. The whole world. And God's children live everywhere in it, not just in America. McCain's football cheer declaring, "Make no mistake, we're going to win!" reminds me of the hype around rival high schools. I didn't choose my high school (which, by the way, was mired in historical racial and gender discrimination that were constant obstacles); I just tried to bloom where I was planted, and I saw what was good as well as what was a foot in my neck. Screaming, "We're number one!" always seemed a little silly to me--and I was a cheerleader! Listening to him tonight, I thought about the fact that my initial presence in America is just a fact of my birth. For some people, it's a definite choice. Either way, it's a pretty good place to be at this point in history. But I don't worship her. Patriotism is not my religion.


So hard to love Republicans? It's hard to like them. Because of those "snooty, snotty, snide" tones as well as their hypocrisy and manipulation of people and ideologies, they demonstrate time and time again, as Palin said last night of the media, they don't care about your approval or (this is me) you and yours.

I have a bias; I support Obama and usually, the Democratic candidate. I don't want to do so blindly so I am open to the faults of the Democrats and at times, I am open to supporting other viable candidates for office. This also means that I try to be aware of every side and so I have been trying to watch the RNC this week. It has not been easy. In listening to Giuliani last night, I heard the snideness, as if working with the people to effect change is not only less than noble, but ridiculous. Palin also attacked Obama on his grassroots activity, drawing a sarcastic comparison between being a community organizer and being a mayor of a town of 6000+ and saying that she would tell us what she did as mayor which was to have responsibilities. I was irritated, not only because she discounted working with the people (you know, the everyday Joe's and Jane's with whom her "small town values" insist that she connects), but also because she did not actually say what she did every day as mayor of a town of 6000+. It has been proven time and again during this campaign that Republican ideas of responsibilities and achievement mean different things than the definitions of regular people so actual examples would have been great. (I'm not dismissing the work of mayors of small towns; just wondering if it qualifies you to be almost-president.) But like Giuliani's, Palin's speech was filled with vagueness, sarcasm and snideness.

Part of this attitude of snideness comes from self-righteousness. Republicans demonstrate that they feel they are the sole messengers from God, the sole owners of patriotism and the only ones who cannot be questioned. On anything. From the top down, this comes from having a lot of money. From the bottom up, it comes from dogmatically thinking you have the only right answers about God.

With this attitude, you can easily shape the truth to fit your version of it. They are artists, Steel Magnolia; didn't you know? Honestly, they are incredibly talented and skilled in the art of manipulation and the American people just accept it without question. I mean, really, there are actually pundits out there who are explaining that the McCain campaign is using this "the-media-is-attacking-me" strategy as a campaign tactic to look like the underdog, thus inflaming the base and incurring favor with the undecideds. Although it is revealed as a tactic, people are still buying it. But tell me, how is the media attacking when (1) they don't follow up on any questions and (2) they have only good things to say about the McCains, if anything at all?

I watched Meet the Press on Sunday (I miss Tim Russert) and Tom Brokaw just allowed the McCain surrogate to state his press releases without question. Didn't call him on anything. This morning on The Early Show, they told us 5 things we didn't know about Cindy McCain. A lot of people don't know she had a drug problem (drugs she stole from her non-profit), but I guess it was more important to know that she drives race cars and has three Blackberries. There's no attack from the media on the McCain's, although admittedly, there were a lot of questions about Palin, as it should be since we don't know her and she is trying to be almost-president. How many dern times did we have to see Rev. Jeremiah Wright's clip even after Obama denounced his ideas? The cry about the media is a tactic. We know it. But it will probably work and it's getting the media to back off.

Another tactic they are using is to allege sexism, even when it's not there. Questioning Palin's qualifications is not sexist, but wearing a pin that says "The hottest babe" (as seen at the RNC) seems to smell like it. Because it is such a hot-button issue, the media is tiptoeing around Palin so they won't be accused of being sexist. Where are my JOURNALISTS, those in pursuit of truth whether good or bad? It seems now we only have news reporters. By avoiding any criticisms, members of the media don't actually pursue the truth. They, along with the American public, fall victim to the right's manipulation of the truth.

Which brings us back one mo' time to spin. Here's an interesting link that breaks down the Republican manner of speech; it reveals the artistry of spin.

It still amazes me that Palin gets to use her children for her political advancement--why do I know that Track is going to be deployed on September 11? why can I pick baby Trig out of a line-up although I have never met him in person? why would parents of special needs children know they have a friend in the White House?--but no one can even bring up her pregnant teen-aged daughter when it directly relates to her beliefs and policies. Jon Stewart discussed it well in his interview with Newt Gingrich last night.

The Republican strategy is brilliant because most people fall for it. Like the sheep you talk against your students becoming, people get scared and fall over. There is no fight, no calling them on their mess. Few people seem to want to think through anything; they just want to feel. This is a very frustrating state of affairs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Brief Thought

I'm trying to watch the Republican National Convention. I'm trying. I chewed out my students, many of whom are first year students and about 18 years old, that they should be paying attention to the election issues because they affect their lives. Many of them gave a simplistic and basically thoughtless rationale for their voting choice. I pointed out that thoughtless, sheep-like voting means that nobody will court your vote.

But, a few minutes ago I was reminded of why it's so hard to love Republicans. While the DNC seemed to me to make a real effort to be cordial and respectful, each speaker at the RNC is increasingly angry and snide. Guiliani just asked what a community organizer is (in reference to Obama's resume). I immediately thought, "If you lived in the communities where he was working, you'd probably think that it was important work." And that's my major problem. The actual differences in opinion are not so gut-twisting. It's the snooty, snotty, snide tone that makes my ears bleed. Yuck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One more thing

Please note that I actually did have the following thought BEFORE I saw it on another blog!

I loved the show "Commander in Chief" and I immediately thought of it when I heard of McCain's VP choice. In it, Geena Davis a Vice President who was chosen only because she was a woman. When the President is suddenly on his death bed, he begs her to resign because he didn't really want her to run anything, much less the whole country. But she ignores him and seems to be a perfectly strong and thoughtful (TV) President. Interesting, huh? With a 73 year old nominee and a VP candidate with pageant hair (that's silly and petty--I know).

Tru Dat

TD, I second your emotions on all of your last few posts. The DNC was exciting, but exhausting. Whatever happens now, I'm so glad I lived to see a major party nominate a minority person to run. I really didn't think it would happen in my lifetime. I had only hoped that my children would be a witness. Instead, I got to answer my daughter when she saw Obama on TV and asked, "Who's that, Mommy?" I was so thrilled to say, "He might be the President."

I, too, was trying to back off of Palin and her daughter and babies and whatnot. But the sheer absurdity has me shaking my head. I mean, seriously? Seriously? Are we really going to pretend that the Republican campaign for President isn't complete nonsense? That teenage sex and ill-advised pregnancies are only a "family matter" for people who have made it a major issue? Seriously?

I'm sorry that the Palin family has so much to deal with right now. But I don't feel any more sad for them than I do for families with one parent instead of two (whatever the reason for it) and two jobs instead of one; families who can hardly afford to feed, clothe, and house their 5 children and who have one more on the way (whatever the reason); families who are likely to have inadequate or non-existent health insurance, on which the grandchild will probably not be covered. The take-away message here, I think, comes back to resources, just as it usually does. If you have them, you can afford to make some mistakes, and your cohorts will tell you that it's not all about your morals. If you don't have resources, then your (lack of) morals is the only thing that defines you and you deserve what you get.

There's never any shame in having a baby, so I don't have a judgment about that, but some people should probably watch out for shattering glass and flying rocks. On that same vein, people who thought that Katrina was God's judgment for sin in New Orleans might want to consider what it means that Gustav blows in just as the RNC is trying to happen . . . .

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spin City

I had decided that I would not comment on Gov. Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter because although I have been following the news and blog coverage of it intensely, I wasn't sure I wanted to add to it. But here's the thing: the spin is making me sick. This teenage girl has gotten pregnant outside of marriage and the Republican talking heads are saying that this is a private matter and Palin is demonstrating that she is a strong woman to deal with this. Palin also said in her press release that she is proud of her daughter.

What? Why is it okay for her to use her oldest son's status as a soldier about to go to Iraq and her youngest son's condition as a baby with Down's Syndrome for her political benefit, but it is not okay to discuss her daughter's pregnancy? Especially when she advocates for Abstinence-Only sex education. I think that Palin makes this private, family matter an issue that we can discuss because it speaks to the effectiveness of her choices. We don't know what's going on behind people's closed doors, but we can assume that she taught and advocated abstinence to her children. Now, we see that that message didn't take and that perhaps teaching Abstinence-only is not the best way to prevent our children from unwanted pregnancies and disease.

It would be interesting to see if her attitude about this type of sex education will change. It probably won't, however. (I heard one talking head say that her daughter's pregnancy shores up even more the need for Abstinence-only. What?!?) It is disturbing to me when people are so absolute in their judgments. As if everything is either black or white without any shades of gray. I believe in abstinence. I'm not one of those people who say that young people (or grown people for that matter) can't be abstinent; I've seen a commitment to abstinence work in several people. But I also know that everyone is not going to make that commitment or once made, not going to uphold it. That doesn't make them moral-less heathens worthy of any disease that finds its way into their bodies. Abstinence education should be taught and taught fully, but contraception and reproductive health should also be taught. Social conservatives too often fail to temper their judgment with mercy. Unless it is one of their own.

Which brings me back to spin. When J'la-quesha in Southwest Atlanta gets pregnant at 17, she is demonized, posited as a poor example of judgment and morals, and somehow deserving of the hardships that she will encounter. But here we have Bristol in Anchorage, Alaska, 17, pregnant and her situation is painted as a warm moment--an admittedly difficult situation, but one that the family can find some pride in and that allows the family to demonstrate some strong family values. This application of a double standard is not what Jesus would do.

The spin is enough to land you on your head. And it's not over. You know I am going to be watching The View tomorrow to hear Elisabeth regurgitate what she heard over the weekend. But she won't be the only one and this Babygate won't be the only thing spun. It's just enough to make a body tired.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mike

In the midst of all the excitement of the Democratic National Convention, I let a very important day go by without acknowledging it--Michael Jackson's 50th birthday.

In spite of all the bad press about him and questionable judgment exhibited by him, I still love Mike. Don't nobody never say nothing bad 'bout Michael Jackson around me. Like Dave Chappelle said, "He did Thriller--Thriller." I still remember my cousin and I as young adolescents, dressed out in our Jackson gear: she in her "Human Nature" yellow t-shirt and me in my black, studded Michael Jackson belt, both of us wearing our purses decorated only by his picture, slung sideways across our bodies. We would argue about who would be the one to marry him. Well, neither of us did, but he still holds a special place in my heart.

Now, he's 50, a milestone for anyone, and his music still has the power to move people. They talk a lot about "Beat It" and "Thriller" the single, which are great songs, but even now I am still discovering the beauty of "Baby, be Mine" from the Thriller album. And I can't describe the feeling of excitement I get when "Butterflies" (from Invincible) comes on. I think Mike is a genius! Even his dance moves are still inspiring people. That's a powerful legacy.

Happy Birthday, Mike! I still love ya!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Few Reflections on Obama's Acceptance Speech

I have been trying to think of what I can say about Obama's speech. I feel it is only right to speak on his acceptance speech since I've talked about other aspects of the convention. Unfortunately, there is not much to say. It was a good speech and he gave some specifics about what he wants to do in office. He had a moment of comedy--I liked the "Eight is enough" line. I was moved by the discussion of the soldiers not fighting for a red America or a blue America. Some people were bothered by his lack of actually naming Dr. King--DH included--but his allusion to him was enough for me. I was glad that he responded to Republican attacks on his character and told McCain he wasn't going there. This assertive rebuttal is something Democrats have not really been doing in the past few years. I'm not sure what that's about, but Obama seemed to indicate that maybe they have finally realized no fight-back is the possession of losers. And another thing I liked, but I liked it at Saddleback, was his position on abortion. Instead of focusing on choice after the fact, let's work on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. (I'm sure I will come back to this point in a later post.) Basically, I agreed with Obama on several things, but at the heart of it, I agree with his approach to problems. Think them through and look for common ground when there are opposing sides. H e proved in his speech that this is how he thinks when he spoke on immigration, gay marriage, and the Second Amendment.

It was a good speech. I hope that those who hadn't been listening before heard him this time and are now coming around to see that he is the better choice.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dreams from My Fathers and Mothers

I am so disappointed. I missed Bill Clinton's speech last night and I heard that it was good. I had no doubt that it would be because quite frankly, Bill Clinton is always "pimpin' ain't dead" when he's speechifying. I suppose I will have to avail myself of YouTube.

What I did not miss was the historic moment of the first African American, Barack Obama, being officially nominated for President of the United States by the Democratic party. As CNN panned the crowd after Hillary moved that he be nominated by acclamation, I saw the faces of the people, particularly the Black people, and I felt it. I saw some men about to cry, and I felt it. I thought about what this moment meant, and I felt it. Just think: Black people primarily came here enslaved--shackled, hunted, dehumanized. I am currently reading Song Yet Sung, a novel about an enslaved woman who is running away on the Maryland coast so I am daily being plunged into that world of servitude and violence. Where people have to be duplicitous just to have some sense of sanity. Where people cannot be sure if their children will be with them the next day and they cannot fall in love with anyone for fear that it will cause them to maintain an unbreakable link to slavery. Where people have no choice or control in their own lives. This is a large part of our beginnings in America. And now, now we have a Black man, chosen by people of all races, as a viable candidate for president. Who could have ever imagined that a people who weren't even allowed to read would one day have one of its own chosen to possibly be president?

As I watched the crowd, I thought about Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King and all the other people who gave their lives to the struggle for equality. I thought of how proud they would be if they could see us now. Fighters like Richard Wright who talked about being beaten up by White co-workers just because he wanted to learn more about the optical business (something his boss said he wanted him to do). Or fighters like Frederick Douglass who witnessed the daily despair of forced servitude and beatings and who heard the lonely songs of the enslaved. Fighters like Merlie Evers-Williams and Mamie Till who, in addition to waging their own battles for freedom, had to watch their loved ones go down in the fight. They would know that it wasn't all in vain.

I am not going back on what I have said in the past. I don't think that Obama will cure all that ails us. I don't even believe this means now every Black child can realistically dream of being the president. But I'm feeling the import of this moment. And that's enough for me this morning.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wow, I'm singing America

TD, you are so right that Michelle made me want to love my country. That's amazing. I usually dismiss minority displays of patriotism as either unthoughtful or posturing. But a while ago I realized that these Obama people really mean that stuff. ! They really are amazed by the possibilities and promise of America, even while they see the stains on the rose-colored glasses. Maybe I can both be critical and be embracing, too. Wow!

Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not simply saying that all is forgotten. That will never happen. I'm not going over to the "Love it or leave it" camp. I have too many thoughts and too much brain-activity for that. I spoke with my students today about being critical thinkers instead of sheep, so I can't very well turn into one of those sheep. Still, I've long acknowledged that this is one of the best places to be a woman in the world. But I still had such a bitter taste in my mouth about her juvenile and vacuous attitude about her painful past (not the mention present) that actual patriotism seemed miles and miles and miles down the road. Now, I'm starting to feel some pride. But that's mostly because, following the Obamas' lead, I'm trying to look at a picture of what America can be, what she promises to be. It's really a beautiful picture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For the Future of Our Daughters

Let's celebrate today the many women and men who fought bravely so that our right to vote as women could be secured.

She, Too, Sings America

SM, I can't wait until tonight to see what HRC has to say. I know she'll tow the party line and say she supports Obama, but I wonder how she will say it. Will it be enough to convince her supporters to get behind the candidate that already largely represents their views? And, will it be enough to convince people like me that I can respect HRC again and not continue to think of her as the desperate ex-girlfriend who won't let go of the boyfriend who dumped her? I want to respect her. I want to like her again. Just like I want to like the feminists in the movement because I think sisterhood is important. Time and time again, however, they remind me that to them, I am the darker sister and they will hurriedly send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes (to paraphrase Langston Hughes). Last night Michelle Obama showed them that Black women are beautiful and the feminists should be ashamed (still paraphrasing Langston). She presented herself to be a classy, compassionate, and articulate (can I say that?) woman, but she also proved that her family, too, sings America (okay, I'm stopping with the Hughes). She proved that hey, Black people work hard, we love our kids and parents, we suffer non-race related problems like multiple sclerosis, and we can love this country.

I hate that she earlier had to revise/explain her statement about being proud of America for the first time in her adult life because that original claim did reveal the complexities of Black folks' relationships with this country. Cindy McCain's quick rebuttal that she has always been proud of her country just showed how ignorant she can be. Of course, you're proud--your position in society as White and especially rich dictates that America has always been good to you. But Michelle's place as working class and Black reveals that in spite of the fact that America has been harsh (and don't get it twisted--she grew up during the sixties and seventies, harsh times for Black people), she can still find the good in it. Last night's speech showed us that more than find the good, she can love it. I think that is amazing. Rather than try to force Black people (or other people of color) to deny their experience, as Elisabeth Hasselbeck would like to do, I think the fact that they can love the country should be celebrated.

Last night, Michelle's speech made me really consider my relationship with the country. I was inspired when she talked about Barack's thoughts on how too often we accept the world as it is, even when it doesn't coincide with our values. It made me hopeful that we really can strive for the world as it should be.

I was also inspired by the love that she displayed for her husband last night. I know the pundits talk about how she had to humanize him (because I guess he was not human in the first place?), but I thought she really revealed a sense of love between them. It was so beautiful when she talked about how he drove so slowly when he brought her and Malia home from the hospital. And when she spoke of being married to him, loving him for 19 years. . . these things made me a little misty-eyed.

Okay, I also wanted to talk about the crazy suggestion that Black women can't expect White feminists to speak out for Michelle because Black women didn't speak up for HRC when she was under attack, but I just don't have the time or tolerance for nonsense right now. I tend to agree with the comments here, however.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Low tolerance for nonsense

I intended to post a frustrated and angry comment about the legion of people who still have their panties in a knot because Hillary Clinton isn't going to get the Democratic Nomination for President. I was going to to vent about my low tolerance for nonsense and how it's being tested now. I had a whole rant planned that centered on the points Rebecca Walker has already made quite effectively about the many reasons why my college students flat out refuse any association with (or any thorough understanding of) the feminist movement.

But then I sat down with my husband just before the first day of class at the university where I teach, with my two sweet babies asleep upstairs, and listened to Michelle Obama. The commentators wrestled about whether or not the speech was "inspired" or "moved the ball forward". They talked a lot about her efforts to repair damage from earlier in the campaign. But I realized that I didn't need her to do a lot of repair work. I know that her family is like mine; that she and her husband come from families that were imperfect and got their crap together anyway. Who are these people who need a black woman in America to say that she loves her country? I mean, isn't it common sense that ALL black people have a complicated relationship with the country? Yeah, okay, I know that common sense ain't so common . . . .

I agree with the talking heads that the speech wasn't earth-shattering. It was a nice speech delivered by a woman who is stunningly smart, erudite, and stylish. It was moving and warm, even while she pushed the same messages she's pushed for over a year. In the middle of it, though, it came to me that she was setting the table, not serving the meal. So, she didn't need to come out with guns blazing. And she didn't need to prove anything to me. So, fine.

Here's one thing that I have to say about Michelle Obama's speech: Her bringing together the two anniversaries--women's right to vote and Dr. King's dream speech--will, I hope, serve to remind all of those feminists who think HRC got the shaft that they are not the only women in America. They don't get to high-jack women's issues or concerns. Race and gender intersect, and pretending that only gender matters is a bunch of bull stinky. So, all of those women (or men) who have joined together to form PUMA have totally exhausted my nonsense tolerance. You are willing to give away everything that you say you believe in just to pitch a hissy-fit? Where exactly is all of the unfairness you are crying about? What's the specific gripe with the actual nominee? Why refuse to vote for your own party's nominee? Isn't this really about something else?

Well, the rant came out a little anyway. And I think that I'm a little worked up because this may not be the most coherent composition. In any case, I'm wondering what else there is to say about Michelle's speech and about the havoc HRC supporters are trying to reek.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Other Shoe Dropped

Growing up, I always heard that death (and birth) came in threes. Whenever someone died, we could expect two more people to die. DH dismisses this as Southern superstition, "Biblebelt Beliefs" he calls them, but it has proven true as far as I could see. When I heard that Bernie Mac died, and then Isaac Hayes the next day, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sorrowfully, I wondered, who would be the third beloved member of the black entertainment community to leave us? On August 20, I got my answer.

Julius Carry, best known to us as Sho'nuff from Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, passed away on August 19 as a result of pancreatic cancer. He was 56. Who could forget the menacing way he challenged Bruce Leroy in that movie theater early in the movie? I still tell DH to "Kiss my Converse" from time to time.

Carry made guest appearances on many shows. I remember him as Angela's military father who wasn't crazy about her boyfriend Shawn on Boy Meets World. I also remember that he was the debonair philander married to The Jefferson's Jenny (Berlinda Tolbert), but dating Phyllis on Half & Half. He also appeared on The District, The Hughleys, Mosesha, Family Matters, and a host of other shows. But I think I remember him best (other than as Sho' nuff) as the club owner announcing "Kimberllllllllly Reese!" when Kim performed as the lead singer of the band Expressions on A Different World. Julius, you will be missed.

Although she was not a member of the entertainment industry, we also lost Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones this week. She suffered a brain aneurysm and died some time later. Honestly, I was not a fan of hers during the 2008 Democratic primary, but I mourn her lost nonetheless. She was a mother and a sister and she made history for our people. She was the first African American woman to be elected to serve in the US House of Representatives from the state of Ohio. During her terms, she worked to improve economic empowerment in our community and funding for improved health care. Surely, we cannot afford to lose any more of our strong workers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sit down somewhere . . .

You're right on it, TD. This kind of thing just screams, "Look at me, please!" It's nonsense, and, when they get through jumping up and down, I predict that no one will care. And perhaps no one will buy this record.

Your point about the topics for songs reminds me of the stark differences between other genres, namely country music, and hip hop and her sisters. Country music tells engaging stories in thoughtful, funny, clever packages. The topics are wide ranging and creative. Solange's little trick here is not clever or engaging; it's just sensational. I don't care. I hope nobody else will.

In My Sister's Shadow

I am an older sister so I don't know what it is like to live in the shadows. I hope and have tried to encourage my siblings to create their own aura of light so that they they do not ever have to worry about any residual darkness that may fall from mine. I think they have done this as they are good at what they do and good at who they are (shout out to my parents who helped--LOL).

So, it saddens me when I see celebrity siblings who seem to be desperately trying to emerge from the shadows of their (often) more successful siblings. They do the most ridiculous things so that, I suppose, we will stop calling them Sally Mae's Little Sister and John Boy's Little Brother. And so that we will take them seriously. For instance, Ray J. Why in the world did he try to come out all gangsta in the early part of the century when he is from McComb, MS,--McCOMB!--the son of a gospel singer and the brother of Brandy, sweet pop star Brandy? And a sex tape, Ray J? Really? Then there's Jamie Lynn Spears, whom I guess doesn't really fit this paradigm as one teenage pregnancy hardly distinguishes you from the dead lights of Britney's drama. But the one that I am most appalled by at this moment is Beyonce's sister (who is still just Beyonce's sister at this point), Solange. What is this?
BEYONCE KNOWLES' little sister SOLANGE is set to shock fans on her new album by singing about drug-fuelled sex.The pretty 22-year-old, who was a mum at 18, sings about smoking marijuana and making love on a new Lil Wayne duet, called ChampagneChronicNightcap.And she insists every track on her new album Sol-AngeL & The Hadley St.Dreams is written from personal experience.She tells Giant magazine, "I am unapologetic; I don't write about things unless they're true. I'm a grown-ass woman and I've experienced grown-ass things." Source

I get that she may be grown and she wants people to recognize her "growness," but it has always been apparent to me that if you're grown, you don't have to try to prove it. You just be grown and people will recognize that. And you really don't have to put all of your business out there; grown folks keep that kind of business to themselves. If singers want to sing about adult topics, there's poor health care for adults and children, domestic violence, a rising HIV rate among Black folk, especially women, police brutality, an alarming rate of foreclosure in our community, the election. These are topics that concern grown folk. Okay, these topics probably won't sell records (but they should). One could sing about his/her take on spirituality, important (non-sexual) relationships, being a mother or father. Why is the default way to prove one's maturity sex? It seems to me if that's what someone thinks makes him/her grown, they're not really. And then to promote irresponsible sex on top of that?

I haven't heard Solange's whole album yet (and I probably won't), so maybe this song is just one anomaly among a bevy of mature, responsible songs. But this is not a good way to promote them. And it's not a good way to make a (good) name for yourself.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Better Day

So, I realized that it's been almost a month since I tearfully left my dear baby boy in his daycare class with both of us sobbing from the separation. The teacher told me yesterday that he finally decided to eat his lunch (until now, 1000s of cookies per day was the best they could get him to swallow) and he was playing when we picked him up. Yay!

It was so much easier to leave him today. Don't get me wrong, now. When I walked out the room, he scurried his chubby feet to the door as fast as he could. And was making that pre-crying noise that promised to turn into something more any second. I had to make a quick get-a-way. But I spied through the window just a few minutes later and he was in his chair eating breakfast like a big boy. No crying or whining or anything. They tell me that he blossoms in the afternoon. I'm just going to charge that to my husband, who is nobody's morning person. In fact, neither is my daughter, who , about 3 mornings a week, informs me that no she will not be using the potty and no, she does not want to wash her face, and she doesn't like her tootbrush and she wants to go back to bed.

I'm so glad that it's getting better. He's such a sweet and funny boy; I want him to have a good time. And I want the teacher to stop dreading his entrance in the morning. But for now, I'll just be grateful that he's having productive, tearless afternoons. That means that I'm also having productive, tearless afternoons. Well, tearless anyway. Yay for us!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Guy Who Makes Family Movies?

I'm no fan of Hip Hop. I never have been. I know that I am supposed to be a child of Hip Hop but when I watched the movie Brown Sugar, I felt none of the love Syd and Dre professed to feel. DH chides me all the time because I don't know the songs or the artists or, as he says it, "what's good." (I pick Kool Moe Dee over LL every time!) I say this to say that there is no nostalgic love between me and Hip Hop which makes it easier for me to denounce it as a scourge today. Okay, that's harsh. But I do see quite a bit of negativity in it. Crass materialism, ubiquitous misogyny, senseless violence, foolish anti-intellectualism--all detriments to the community. Whatever its historical value in giving voice to the people is obscured by its current influence.

But I could be wrong.

It seems that older members of the Hip Hop community are making turnarounds in positive directions. Ice Cube stands out the most for me. He was all gangsta in NWA, but now he is the star of several family movies (Are We There Yet?, Are We Done Yet? and The Longshots). What gives? Then there's Ice T who caused a hullabaloo with "Cop Killer," now playing Detective Odafin Tutuola on Law & Order: SVU. Now, Master P, who wants to be known as P. Miller, has done a one-eighty and is starting a television network Better Black Television (BBTV) that he says will provide positive, family-friendly programming. (I assume since it is Better Black TV, it is meant to be better than our current Black network, BET).

I think these changes are good, but I wonder what prompts them. Are these artists looking at the current state of Hip Hop and its influence and trying to find a way to counteract it? Are they just too old to keep moving the way they used to move? Or, are they becoming more mature as they age? Whatever the reason, their actions are enough to make me re-evaluate my perceptions of Hip Hop, at least, my perception of the old heads. I still can't find anything positive about "Soulja Boy."

What do you all think? What do you make of this change in image of Hip Hop artists? Will you watch BBTV?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Getting Back to Familiar Waters

Pearl, I feel ya. College often is a huge adjustment and it can be scary. You're being thrown, head first, literally and academically, into this new world of unfamiliar and sometimes unwelcome ideas, of people the likes of whom you've never encountered, and of tremendous and terrifying responsibilities. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to keep a handle on who you are while at the same time allow yourself to grow into someone different? (Because why be in college if you're not going to grow?) We have to find that touchstone, that thing that keeps us grounded. That thing that keeps it all in perspective for us. Honestly, I can't recall what that was for me when I went to college for the first time, but when I entered graduate school, it was Sounds of Blackness's song "Familiar Waters."

Picture it: a young Black woman in a predominately White town at a predominately White institution. I couldn't find anyone to do my hair; don't even think about finding some place to buy it! I grew up in a predominately black community and was used to being validated in every regard--my race, my faith, my intellect. Here, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But as I would drive to school, I would put in my Time for Healing CD by Sounds of Blackness, hit #15, and instantly, I would feel like I was home. Not only did it emotionally transport me back to a space where I was surrounded by family and friends, but it also gave me courage and peace. It helped me feel like even if I didn't quite belong there, somewhere existed a place where I did belong. Even if I wasn't appreciated there, somewhere a place existed where I was appreciated. It reminded me that the work I was doing--studying Black folk--was valid and necessary and good. It encouraged me to hold onto who I was while so many things threatened my sanity. (Certainly this song was played over and over during the dissertation process.)

In truth, whether it's being placed in an environment in which you have to take showers instead of baths or you're a racial minority in a community of strangers who could take you or leave you, life presents us with the challenge of the new and we have to rise to the occasion; we have to find a way to keep our heads even when it seems everyone around us is losing their mind. We have to find that thing that lets us know it will all be okay.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So Much to Chew, So Little Time

I've been teetering back and forth about the focus of my first ever blog post. I can't say that I've gotten it figured out yet even now as I type...but at least I've actually logged on (I've been doing it in my head up to this point) and started down the path of putting myself out there in the public domain.

So, just now, I've decided to keep it simple and begin at the beginning. I'll walk you back to the Fall of 1993. The city is Atlanta, GA. It's about September-October-ish, and I've gotten my feet firmly planted in the soil upon which Spelman College now stands. It's about noon and, as I did every day about this time, I make my way up to the second floor of the student center (upper Manley for those who can feel me) to the familiar smells of Alma Upshaw dining hall. I pull out my ID for a quick yes-I-paid-my-room-and-board-to-eat-here swipe in exchange for my red meal ticket. That's when the hope before the hunt begins.

I wonder what they're serving today? Maybe it'll remind me of what Mama cooked at home. Maybe it'll expand my horizons - as attending a liberal arts college was supposed to do - and introduce me to a new type of fare. What do I have a taste for? What have the chefs chosen to represent the finest of what Aramark has to offer? Let's ask the lady back here with the serving gear. Um, what did you say that was? Chicken a-la-three-days-in-a-row? Really? *sigh* First the salads...then the grill line...cereal, maybe?...and then I see it. Just where it needed it to be. I sidle up to the main food line, place my tray on the rail in front of me, smile, and ask for the steamy fluffy white goodness in the rectangular tray in front of me. "May I have some rice, please?" That was all it took. A couple of generous scoops of single grains that only Uncle Ben could have perfected. Yes. Now, we can have lunch. Now, we have choices. Now, that hamburger patty over there in the grill line looks like a great choice of meat and the green beans in the main line would make a worthy side. I'm back on track and can use the money my parents are paying for me to eat here once again. Crisis averted. I live to eat another day.

Putting my meal over rice just made life for me a little better to swallow. You have to adjust to quite a bit as a first-year college student. I preferred taking baths to showers almost exclusively until I moved into the dorm and saw that bathtub...and there was no way. I went from living with a brother to living with two young women (my dorm room was a triple) and we all kept different and night. I don't like food noises and one of them smacked as if it were an olympic event. I wanted the light off when I slept but another didn't start studying until 10pm. It was a good week if you went down to the dorm kitchen and didn't smell your food cooking by somebody just as broke and hungry as you were.

I just needed something that wasn't going to disappoint me. To help me keep things in perspective, you know? To remind me that everything was going to be ok. And it was as long as somebody remembered to boil some water, add a little salt and butter, and wait for the cup of rice to rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Thoughts

Here's something to ponder: how old are those girls on the Chinese gymnastics team really? I was watching the other night for the first (and probably only time this year) and I cannot believe that those girls meet the minimum age requirement of 16! My brother said that the American team should feel bad that they got beat by preteens. Obviously I am not alone in my speculation.

Speaking of the women's gymnastics teams, I read a blog post on The Kitchen Table by a Princeton professor who compared the competition to being a professor in the academy. Aside from a passing interesting in cartwheels and flipping as a child, I never really cared about gymnastics. Maybe you have a different outlook, SM, since you were once a cheerleader. I'll tell you, though, her analogy makes me look at gymnastics in a whole new light.

To comment on Michael Phelps: I can't say much because the only thing I knew about him before your post was that he was the object of that girl's affection on the AT&T commercial. But on the same night that I watched gymnastics, I also watched swimming. I saw him and the absolute love that the media had for him. I try not to root for people/teams because I think I jinx them, but I was on the verge of excitement to see America win and beat a record. However, why was the camera only on Phelps at the win? For a very long time. Was it not a relay? Did not the entire team contribute an effort? Is the media like Chuck Norris fans whose fascination has led to the creation of Chuck Norris facts? To paraphrase them: when Michael Phelps jumps in the water, he doesn't get wet; water gets Michael Phelps. Hmmm, these are just things that I was wondering.

Finally, I was also wondering why China Martha Washed little Yang Peiyi? True, Lin Miaoke is as cute as she can be, but if Peiyi can sing, shouldn't she get the glory? Besides, she is cute, too. You know, this is my issue with the Olympics in general. It's supposed to be about talent and who's the best, but really, it's about who appears to be the best. It is tainted for me by the use of steroids and questionable age and gender practices. I thought the games were supposed to be about competition, pitting one's own ability against the ability of fellow athletes from around the world to see who is the best. But if you're fudging the lines here, violating rules there, it's no longer about who's the best. It's just about who can win. Your talent, your ability doesn't matter. Then, for me, what does any of it matter?

So, these are my Olympic thoughts. Since I care next to nothing about sports, I can only speak of the drama behind the scenes. Those stories are always fascinating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pondering the Olympics

So, this morning I heard Michael Phelps say that he was listening to Lil Wayne on his Ipod just before latest world record-breaking swim. I have to wonder now if anyone will choose to associate rap and hip hop with success and hard work. Doubtful, you say? I agree. Perhaps someone will link Phelps with the violence and dysfunction in hip hop. Don't think that will happen, either? Probably not, despite the fact that Phelps does have a DUI arrest to attest to the fact that he's not actually Superman.
Phelps is, however, almost literally the golden boy of these Olympic Games. He has been called Superman (although my husband asked why not Aquaman--ha!). And he's on my television almost every time I turn to the Olympics, even when I'm watching some other sport altogether. I mean, seriously, are there any other athletes over there? Clearly, Phelps is talented and has put in the work that leads him to win almost every race he enters. Watching him compete is exciting and he seems like a decent person who is focused on a goal; I don't take any of that away from him. I'm just throwing him into the always complicated and messy mix of American iconic imagery and popular culture.
Here's another question: Remember the 2004 Olympics when there was a lot of to do about (black) track and field athletes who were said to celebrate with too much bravado? There was a swimmer who frequently posed like Superman before he swam. I think I had to write a letter of complaint about it. Anyway, I'm trying to remember if that was Phelps or some other swimmer. Can anyone help me out?

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I just ran to the steps to yell to my husband that Isaac Hayes is dead.

I spent the last day and a half trying to compose a succinct and meaningful comment on the death of Bernie Mac. Now, I hardly know what to say at all.

I'm still a little--no, a lot--shaken up by the fact that Eddie Levert lost two of his sons one right after the other. This loss of talented, creative black men seems to be a tragic spiral that is out of control. I feel little like I did when I was in college and there was a rash of young black men, some who were college students, who died near the college. I remember feeling numb, as if this was just going to keep happening in spite of our collective grief or my individual shock. It felt as if something were wrong.

And now, I feel again like something is wrong. We might revisit The Diva's posts on creativity and the lack of it in recent years. Losing these men who offered us the opportunity to witness their deep creative efforts feels wrong. They weren't old men, and yet their bodies couldn't sustain them in a country where medical advances and nutrition are among the best in the world. I can't help but to think of the gap in life expectancy between black and white men. I know that there are myriad ills that explain that gap, but I think that these losses are tragic. They were artistically brave and left it all on the floor each time they performed. They gave us a complicated mix of masculinity, race, sexuality, and creative intellect. They didn't necessarily save lives, and they didn't win any Noble Prizes. But we are reminded of the things that make us feel alive: laughing, dancing, singing. They didn't save lives, but didn't they help us perfect the process of living?

No, Not Again

On the heels of the pleasure of vindicating itself to the nation about its racial enlightenment, the Memphis community must now mourn the loss of one of its native sons. Musician Issac Hayes died today at the age of 65. This is truly a sad weekend.

Both Hayes and Bernie Mac have provided us with invaluable gifts. They say that laughter is the best medicine, but music has also been known to heal. As a community, African Americans as well as the entire nation, suffer for the lost of these wonderfully talented individuals.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

We'll Miss You, Bernie

Bernie Mac is dead.

At times like this, there really are no words that are sufficient. He offered us the gift of laughter and for that, we are grateful. Now, we offer our prayers for his family.

Keep 'em laughing in heaven, Bernie!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Smells Like Desperation

I was quite excited by the prospect of Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House in 2007. Even as the primary season got under way, I was still excited about Clinton and earnestly trying to decide who I would vote for when Election Day came for Biblebelt. But somewhere along the way I became quite disappointed in Clinton. Perhaps it was when Bill made that statement about South Carolina's election results or maybe it was when Hillary nitpicked about Obama denouncing Farrakhan at one of their 10 million debates. Although I always kept in mind that ultimately, she was still a politician, somewhere along the way, I lost respect for her as a politician and as a woman. It seemed that Clinton felt this was her race, her time and then some young upstart came along and stole her thunder. As such, she became desperate and started doing the most ridiculous things. I picture her as this woman with her arms flailing uncontrollably.

I invoke this memory of Clinton because there is another woman who seems desperate: Nikki Tinker of Memphis, TN. I don't know much about her, but some people aren't crazy about her. I do know that she is running against Steve Cohen, a Jewish man, for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. This seat was previously held by Harold Ford, Jr. before he ran for the Senate and prior to that, by his father. Cohen's win in 2006 marked the first time in over 30 years that a White man has represented the predominately-Black district. Tinker lost to Cohen in 2006 and apparently, she doesn't intend to lose again.

She recently released a tv ad in Memphis discussing Cohen's 2005 opposition to renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in the city and having his interred body removed. She had images of Klu Klux Klansmen in the background.

Even if we did not know that Cohen was the one who initiated the recent resolution to apologize for slavery in Congress or that he has a history of civil rights in the city, we can't overlook the fact that he is JEWISH! The Klan doesn't like Jews just like it doesn't like Blacks. Why would she make this kind of insinuation? Why does this association make sense to her?Ridiculous. She's preying on the racial sentiments of the people, hoping that they will not be astute enough to look beyond the emotionalism of her ad to see its flaws. She insults the people with this ad. And she is beginning to smell of desperation.

I don't know whether or not Tinker will make the better representative for Memphis, but I do know that it's true what men tell us all the time: women who seem desperate do not get dates. They are not chosen. As Hillary Clinton sits at home, hoping Obama can pay her bills, bills, bills , she attests to this fact. Tinker would do well not to go down this road again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Yeah, well, okay

I get what you're saying. I still don't like the way he skirted the idea that America really, really sucks for what it's done to black folk; especially when the next sentence out of his mouth expresses regret and sadness for Native Americans. To me, that sounded like he was saying that NA are really deserving of our collective compassion, but African Americans are subject to all manner of evil without even having to be sorry about it. But I think it's a good point that NA are totally pushed aside and forgotten, perhaps because a "reparations" gesture was extended.
Ultimately, the real issues seem tied to poverty as much as they are to race. Well, almost as much. That's why Obama's vision about what the country is and what it can be are so inviting. We've pretended that hard work and merit alone make "the dream" happen; perhaps we can take another step in getting real about who we are and what we're about.

Monday, August 4, 2008

In His Defense

SM, I like your analogy of Obama and dating. I think that helps us to keep in perspective that Obama is just a man. And as I've said several times during this campaign season, in the end, he is a politician, with all that implies. So, even though we have made him into a symbol ( a la Joe Louis), ultimately he is a man and he is a politician. He can't be everything we need or want him to be.

I am not so bothered by Obama's stance on reparations because (1) I already said I understand that he can't talk about specific black issues and (2) I don't think reparations will ever or should ever come in the form of a check. I do agree that America owes us equality and creating programs that should have been in place in the beginning is in no way a reparation. But Obama seems to be on to something. If we get a check, not only will many, if not most, of us be breaking our necks to give the money right back to "The Man" (I'm reminded of Dave Chappelle's sketch "Reparations 2003"), but also America will be running straight to the sink to wash her hands of any further obligations to us. Reparations will mean closure to many people, yet we will still be left with a disproportionate prison population, higher incidents of poor health and infant mortality rates, a dysfunctional and distrusting relationship with the police as well as an unbalanced portrayal in the media. Yes, we'll have our money and we'll have our land, but it won't make up for the discrimination that has negatively affected the life chances of many Black folks or the privilege that has served as a boon for many Whites. America must have a reparations mindset; it must function with the understanding that it was built on racism, with inequality coloring most of its fabric. Until there are real systemic changes, America will never be able to achieve closure in regards to African Americans. Obama can't say this, but I think his speech was inching close to it.

Consider the situation with the Native Americans. We gave them reparations and now, you don't even hear of the injustices they suffer. But they do suffer them. America's general attitude is that we've paid our debt to them and now we can go on about our lives. Obama's suggestion of an apology to Native Americans is great, but overall, we should overhaul the system so that we are a true meritocracy for everyone. And by the by, the House of Representatives has issued an apology for slavery. I think it's a good gesture although it remains to be seen if action will accompany it.

I have read some say this apology is too little too late; that present-day Americans have nothing to apologize for; and that this is a set up, a play of the race card to get Obama in office. Obviously, I disagree with all of these. What do you think about it?