Blackness isn’t real.

Neither is Whiteness.

Let’s discuss. Feel free to disagree in the comments. I welcome the discourse.

A brief history of the United States as recounted by me–but remember, I wasn’t there.: Natives inhabit, colonizers colonize or as I like to say colonizers genocide, African slaves brought over, slavery happens, end of slavery, what do with do with these Africans who no longer speak their languages and what do we call ourselves since we’re no longer natives of our own nations?

BAM- Enter stage left “Whiteness” followed by “Blackness.”

Africans were no longer African. Their languages, culture, and other identifying traits were stripped, transformed and diluted. They developed other identities and created a culture from pain and poverty. Blackness began from the base of humanity. A place where people are bought, sold, raped, traded, killed, and then given a contractual freedom. They were taken from their homes, shipped like cargo and then forced to live and work in a new land that belonged neither to them nor their owners. Finally, when conscience caught up with policy (yes, I know, it’s debatable) they were awarded freedom in a place that didn’t want them, had no idea what to do with them, and wouldn’t admit their role in this conundrum.

Politicians wonder why Americans that have been Black and poor for generations live the lives they do….

This country, the United States of America, didn’t know what to do with this plague of color they’d created. First, they were Africans, then slaves, then niggers (yeah I said it), then negroes, then coloreds, then African-Americans, then African Americans, then somehow Black became an umbrella term for everyone who entered our country with dark skin and certain characteristics — Mmm negroid, sounds like a disease–BECAUSE IT IS. It’s a cheater’s way into dialogue. Rather than find out how someone identifies the dominant culture lumps them together because it’s easier. After all, the dominant culture itself has no identity either.

Their culture became just as diluted except their social class had the time, opportunity and design to improve. If you were White in America you could work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get rich. If you were Black in America you worked really hard to provide boots for your oppressors while standing barefoot in a field of thorns. White Americans took their earnings and purchased land and property that was never theirs to sell. That owned fallacy was handed down through generations and increased the owner’s wealth. That wasn’t an option for Black Americans. It wasn’t feasible for a long time financially or legally. There were exceptions. Of course, there are always exceptions. For example, when there are 5 people in a room 1 of them probably has herpes. There’s always an exception.

I’m afraid of that moment when our litmus test became the exceptions and not the rules; the oppressors and not the oppressed. When the beneficiaries of bootstrap mentality started to steer the horse The United States took on a whole new direction. Our policies did not include our reality. The constitution sought a more perfect union and yet wouldn’t acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of SLAVES whose blood provided the ink that signed the Declaration of Independence and documents of its ilk.

The term Black was created because an oppressor had no idea what to call the victims of its deeds. It was easier to lump them into one category and wash their hands. Now, at a time when access to The United States is more fluid. The dominant culture continues to lump and refuses to individualize. Lumping is acceptable just read the side of a Jiffy cornbread box.

Whiteness was created because Irish, German, Scottish, Albanian, and other ethnically salient cultures were no longer salient. We were at a place were pork and sauerkraut were no longer exclusive to one geographic area and its inhabitants. Whiteness was the easiest way to understand what they had become — skin, a surface.

Race is surface.

I hold no authority over how you identify. I merely problematize and acknowledge the weight of our words and what we call ourselves. Just as I try to be accurate to honor my ancestors and current self, I urge others to seek that same specificity and reap its benefits.

There is power in belonging.

attractiveness is relative and that sucks

Seattle weather as of late has been impressive.

I could just kiss your face

When the sun comes out in Seattle, residents collectively lose their shit. Everyone is outside, running, jumping, throwing frisbees, walking dogs, playing soccer, eating organic locally grown kale, and working in their gardens.  We’re like the antithesis of vampires. Wednesday I was a happy member of the flock.  I rode my bike 4-5 miles to a restaurant to eat with a friend.  At dinner I didn’t snort the pre-dinner bread and oil like I usually do (yay good choices!).  We ate a sub par meal (I didn’t eat it all and I’m proud of myself).  Then I biked home — well, part way– I biked downtown and took the bus uphill.  Then, because the weather tickled my athletic parts I changed, leashed my dog, and went for a run. Ladies and gentlemen, zes and hirs that never happens. I don’t work out more than once in a day unless I exercised in the morning and was chased by a mugger at night.

He was equally surprised

Upon my arrival home I signed up, at the urging of my friend, for My Fitness Pal.  It’s like Weight Watchers, but free AND awesome.  Today I logged on via computer and discovered some other cool new features (you can write on your friend’s walls).  I even picked up a friend or two.  I hope my enthusiasm lasts.  I think it will just maybe not at the same intensity.  It’s kind of fun.  When you use the mobile app you can scan the bar code of what you’re about to eat and it uploads the nutrition label.  I’ve uploaded homemade recipes and it calculates the contents; vitamins, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fat, etc.  My favorite part is how it incorporates your exercise into the mix.  I went to my boxing fitness class and burned 916 calories.  I can then see how it impacts my food intake. It’s like a lazy person’s food journal.  Okay, maybe not a lazy person’s…more of an electronic food journal for busy people — so basically the opposite.

This recent burst of athletic vigor allowed me to realize that sometimes I don’t do a good job of looking in the mirror and recognizing what I see. Granted,  I’m getting better at it.  I’m trying to see my body for what it is and not what I think it is, or what plutocrats and media outlets tell me it is.  Most recently, I noticed one thing that I have that works in my favor; my athleticism.

I am athletically inclined. I excel at sports.  I was a fantastic basketball player, field hockey goalie, and track and field shot putter/javelin thrower/discus tosser.  When I tried sparring for the first time I rocked it.    When I do cardiovascular exercise I shed fat and my musculature is evident.  I don’t have to try hard to look ripped. That being said, I also struggle with looking at myself as feminine and seeing myself as attractive. Ah, there lies the rub.

Now, even though I don’t see myself as attractive, I feel attractive when I’m working out. No, that’s not right, I feel confident when I’m working out.  I’ve heard they come hand in hand.

How does this tie into Blackness, you ask? Well, closely.  In a book I’m reading Black Rage the author mentions (this is not a direct quote) how White women can exert little to no effort and be seen as attractive.  They can wake up, brush their hair, walk out the door and be viewed by society as prreetty.  Black women, however? We must exert much more energy and focus into looking socially acceptable.  Have you seen Chris Rock’s 2009 movie Good Hair? If not, watch it. If you have and you still disagree, watch it again and read Black Rage. In the Western culture we aren’t socially acceptable if we walk out the door with our hair two stepping in the wind just as it grew out of our heads.  Before I had locks nightly I would oil my hair, two strand twist it (at least an hour’s worth of work), wrap it up in a silk scarf, go to sleep, wake up fix the scarf, go back to sleep, wake up, untwist it, style it, and then I still look liked what people would call a “ragamuffin.”  Trust me, I did the “just brush and go” often, and that choice has had me playing in the basketball court of androgyny way too long.

So, when you look at me — natural hair, athletic build, darker skin (we haven’t even gone there yet), and deep voice I am not attractive as deemed by society.   Then, let’s whip cream my lack of familial influence in my upbringing, coming from a “broken home,” AND my naked love of things that are not generally accepted in “b”lack culture.  I’m screwed when it comes to self-image.  I didn’t grow up hearing “You’re beautiful” or at least “You’re visually acceptable.”  That’s why I’m a 28-year-old woman who is still coming to terms with being Black and seeing myself as attractive.

Attractiveness is relative.  I am slowly digesting the possibility that media tycoons, stupid psychologists, and government officials could be wrong.  There is a possibility that when I am at my best — well exercised and properly nourished– I have the makings of a handsome woman (that term still makes me giggle).  Now that the Seattle weather is nicer, the anti vampires have come out of their tent cocoons, and I’ve become best friends with My Fitness Pal, I’m definitely examining a cleaner petri dish.  My hope is that when I’m at the weight I’m supposed to be (T-minus 34 lbs) I can re-examine my self-image and self-worth.

oh charter schools

Before I begin, when I Googled “charter schools definition” Wikipedia was the 1st search result and the NEA (National Education Association) was the 5th — oh corporate sponsorship….

Here’s a specific definition of Charter Schools so we were on the same page:

Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school’s charter. 

NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.

I’m not against charter schools by any means.  I’m just against everyone believing that they’re the savior of education.  There is no savior of education.  Waiting for one person or one thing to fix everything doesn’t work.  Just look at Barack Obama.  So many lauded him (now that I think about it, he lauded himself) as The Change We Can Believe In. Seriously? One person is not going to change an entire system.  Look at those who have tried.  Dr. King, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Angela Davis,  Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Che Guevara, Gloria Steinem, Shantha Bandara. What the aforementioned individuals did do is honor their beliefs to the point of death.  They were so much of themselves that the system bucked up and killed them.  I’m not going to get into justifying their deaths.  I will say that systems don’t like it when something or someone goes against their chosen direction.  Those revolutionaries inspired masses of people who then changed the system.

Let’s look at charter schools.  They tend to work because the overarching accountability mechanism has been adjusted so they can be individual.  That’s what makes them work- individuality.  The larger system has given them permission to do their own thing in the hopes that the people of their community know what’s best for the community.  Seattle has, thankfully, voted against charter schools (thank you PNW).  We have not, however, voted against our schools. Not completely. There are things in place; billionaires and their philanthropy, levies, community in school grants, and other funding sources that help schools be slightly individual.  I like that.  Now, what I don’t like is the time limit given to schools to “turnaround.” Seriously? Give me a break. That’s about as helpful as expecting a 236 year old country to erase their sordid past during the only Black president’s 4 year term.  That’s hilarious.  Cultures need to change and sometimes that takes a generation.  I’m sorry, but it does. Why am I apologizing? I didn’t do it.

While at the 2012 National Service Learning Conference Geoffrey Canada delivered a great speech.  I tweeted a few of his remarks on Twitter (@19_more).  He totally stole my Harriet Tubman anecdote.  When I heard it, it equal parts blew my mind and pissed me off.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be giving the keynote somewhere and some young educator 3o years my junior will be equally conflicted.  I’m still young. I guess it’s good Geoff and I are seeing eye to eye.  I bring him up because of Waiting for Superman and something he said.  I couldn’t get through through it. There was too much hype and the subject matter made me sick so I turned it off.  But Geoff said something that struck me.  I’ve heard it before (it’s super Biblical) but the context was super helpful.  He said, “I am ready for my moment of opportunity to act on my dreams.” That’s how it worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone.

I have so many ideas on how to revolutionize communities and impact education.  I just need to be ready when my moment of opportunity arises.  His speech, as keynotes are supposed to, challenged and invigorated me.  It also reassured me that my beliefs are worth something.  When people don’t agree with you, you’re on to something.  I often get push back on my theories surrounding adolescent racialized identity development and academic achievement. That’s okay. It made me think of how charter schools have become popular at a time when our society needs something.  We’ve recognized social inequities and we want to fix without working too hard.  It’s not that simple. Nothing is that simple.  Charter Schools aren’t the iodine to our nation’s past.

While I’m not against charter schools I am against the way the public views them.  They. Are. Not. Our. Savior.  I’m not setting out to be education’s savior.  I just have some really good ideas.  If I am going to continue to educate as I do currently at a larger scale I must be ready “…when my moment of opportunity arises.”  Who knows when I’ll be eating popcorn and watching a movie at the White House and find myself nose to belly button with our nation’s, very tall, President of the United States.

It’s that time again…!

Grocery Shopping! Woot, Woot!

I’m not actually that psyched. I have $10.00 cash that I’m willing to spend on food.  See, I just got back from a conference where I had to pay for everything up front and then get reimbursed.  That totally kills your budget.  So, I’m broke till that check makes its way my way.  My refrigerator is bare bones; I should be embarrassed, but I’m not.  I’ll post picks of my spoils hopefully tomorrow.  Whatever I buy has to last like two weeks. Ha! This should be amusing.

Neither

Mother,

I remember love, yet I don’t remember you.

In my memories of good feelings you are absent

I remember protecting you from him and him from you and myself from neither

And yet now you have he, he has she and I have neither

National Service Learning Conference pt. 1

I am tired.  I’ve been in Minneapolis since Tuesday morning discussing all things service learning.  I’m also applying for a $30,000 grant to start an expeditionary school of sorts.  It was a good week.  I sat at Common Roots for four hours talking with friends about race.  It felt great.  I’m going to digest this day and return later.

Dreary eyed, but yours,

WMB

The Hunger Games

I am a fan of The Hunger Games series. My friend bought me the trilogy for Christmas last year and I finished it very quickly. As with many fans I had a picture of Katniss, the lead, in my head and was disappointed when I found out that Jennifer Lawrence was cast. Disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Sitting through the movie I understood a bit more why she was chosen and not someone else– anyone else. She’s Hollywood’s version of awesome.

I went to the theatre yesterday to kick back and take it all in. After I bought my ticket I was asked to do a market research survey. Since I love movies and had time, I agreed. A young woman took my information and typed it into the touch screen. She breezed past the demographic information and I asked her what she filled out for my ethnicity. She didn’t pause and said African American. I told her that was incorrect and asked her to change it. She apologized and moved me to another computer to begin again.

There are other less intelligent fans who problematized other casting choices. Being racist and stupid is a dangerous cocktail.

Here is an article that explains the depths of their crazy.

People hated that Rue, Thrush, and Cinna were Black. When I first saw Rue, I cried. She has the sweetest face and my knowledge of her future weighed heavy. I also cried because of the idiots who complained that she was cast as a young Black girl. Some complained to like her less, or find her less cute. If that doesn’t symbolize America’s relationship with Black America I honestly don’t know what does.

This, and experiences like this, are why I started this blog. The world sees me as something I’m not. I have to balance my desire to be myself, and my desire to make the world right. It’s often a daunting beam to teeter and I don’t always do the best job.

two souls

Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
and each is eager for a separation:
in throes of coarse desire, one grips
the earth with all its senses;
the other struggles from the dust
to rise to high ancestral spheres.
If there are spirits in the air
who hold domain between this world and heavenout
of your golden haze descend,
transport me to a new and brighter life!
—Goethe, Faust

So this is what depression feels like

Yesterday was what I refer to as a “bad day.”  Seattle was gorgeous.

The sun bared its chest and the wind licked its hairs.  I, however, still laid in bed for too many hours shutting out the world.  The night before I went to see a coworker perform stand-up and had about a half a drink too many.  After a few hours my weariness grew neck and neck with my desire to be at home.  I finished my 3rd drink — too quickly I’ll add– and went to the bus stop.  I’ll admit: I was acutely aware of how dangerous it was to be drunk and alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood riding an unfamiliar bus line.  It was scary, but so is life and I endured anyway.  After all, cabs don’t scour the South End looking for fares.  It’s just not that kind of neighborhood…

The bus came I got on, went to the back — which, by the way, is also not the safest place to be at 2am.  A few stops later two gentlemen joined me.  I put on my accent like a coat. Different degrees in different degrees. They recognized its presence and asked me where I was from. The flirtation was obvious and appreciated, They wanted to come home with me and “hang out.”  I respectfully declined and they respectfully accepted. Eventually, my stop arrived and we said our goodbyes.  The one with the nice facial hair commented on the largeness of my belly button –which made me pause–, made a statement about my thickness, and bid me safe passage.

I am learning the dangers of alcohol.  I make calls and decisions I’d rather not.  My mind is not my own and this depression becomes a stranglehold.  I am not myself.  On Saturday I spun and slipped into the spiral at my feet and used my covers to seal the space. I know what I am like when I am like that. It’s not good and quickly becomes worse. I contemplate the hated thoughts of a Christian god, weep for no reason, and wish I could just rest–forever.

I could feel the worst of it approaching and so I chose — no, forced myself to — leave my house.

A friend –well, not quite that but something close– was scheduled to be the featured poet at the Ladies First poetry night.  I knew there was an open mic scheduled beforehand and felt the need to speak my words.  And so, I forced myself to go; sans make-up with a little style I journeyed in that direction.

A young woman greeted me with laughter and friendly antiquity. I signed up for the open mic then panicked in my chair.  I wanted to read two pieces but opted, safely, for one.  The second was ill-constructed, controversial, unfinished, and raw. I needed more time to be as comfortable with those words in my mouth as I was with them on paper.  The audience snapped and “Uhm-hmed” in agreement.  I left the mic with the support of joined hands and sat down.  It felt good to have people want my words.

At the conclusion of the evening they invited anyone to sign up to be Featured poets. I didn’t.  I assign a level of importance to titles like that. Later, the MC came up to me and asked if I’d be interested in being a Featured poet.  I thought she was making a funny so I laughed. She wasn’t.  I agreed as long as it wasn’t anytime soon. I need to time to write, create — build on experience.

I know I’m depressed or at least crazy because I still can’t shake the feeling Featured poet status was offered out of pity.  I came up with a working title for my show on the bus ride home.  Cystic: sloughing away that which harms me. There are people in my life like the cysts on my kidneys, taking up space and eating away at the healthy parts of me.  I would love to slough them off and dialyze my blood with the healthiness left. I’d like to cleanse myself of their remaining spots with the hope that there is something substantial beneath.  I need this cleansing now and am grateful for the opportunity to create.