Finally, someone I didn’t fall for

We met a few weeks ago. The details will remain vague because it’s important for privacy sake. We chatted. He seemed really interested in getting to know me.  I asked myself if I was attracted to him because he’s an attractive guy.  I figured out that, in time, I could be.  We hung-out a bit.  He invited me to go climbing  (I didn’t because I was running on fumes as far as sleep was concerned PLUS I was b-r-o-k-e)  He invited me to go to yoga (I didn’t because I was  (b-r-o-k-e).  During one of our chats he mentioned his girlfriend and I switched my lady parts to manual transmission.  From this point on, I assumed his interest was purely platonic.  Surprisingly, my heart was unaffected.

Fast forward a few weeks. Eventually a bunch of folks went out to dinner and drinks.  Upon returning to home base some people had had quite a bit to drink. I was sober.  I ended up sitting next to him on the loveseat and made a joke about how small it was.  I remember noticing his posture and thinking, “Wow, if he were anyone else I’d look at this as flirtation.”  He had his arm around me. His legs were touching mine.  We were sitting super close. I chocked it up to the size of the love seat. Also, I was wearing fleece pants that were 1,000 times to big and a flannel shirt that was equally as large. I wasn’t trying to be attractive or sensual. I was going for warm. Also, I had on wool socks.

The next morning, a friend pulled me aside and asked me what happened between the two of us.  Oblivious, I asked her to elaborate.  She commented on all of the things I just mentioned then said, “I expected him to be doing the walk of shame in the morning.”  I laughed.  When I finally saw him that morning he was a little weird but not too much.  I wondered if he had been flirting with me, but I’d just missed the cues.  I’m not cool with getting involved with a person who’s involved.  Nonetheless, I wondered why I missed the cues — if there were any. It came to this.

With my ovaries in manual transmission I wasn’t attracted to him.  Historically, I’m attracted to almost any guy who comes in box. If you’re into the outdoors, attractive and friendly, I’m pretty much sold.  Since returning from Morocco, I’ve changed.  I’m no longer worried if a guy is interested in me. I don’t freak out and get all gooey-eyed.  I’m more concerned with whether or not I’m into him.  That’s a HUGE difference.  With this guy, I wasn’t.  Honestly, if he didn’t have a girlfriend, I’m not sure I’d be anymore attracted to him even then.  That’s new.  I like that.  I’ve become more discerning in my old age.  Discerning is nice.

Passport

I’m packing my belongings in a room in Chicago that smells of overpowering cat urine.  Staring at treetops over plant starts growing on the windowsill and wondering how my life will be different one month from now.  I’ll have been in Morocco for quite sometime and all of this may seem so small.  That’s what happens when I travel. My life in The States becomes much smaller.

My passport is in front of me and I just flipped through the pages with all the stamps from visas. There’s Republic of India, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Tanzania, Kenya, Jamaica, Republica Ferderativa Do Brasil, and Vietnam. Some stamps, some stickers, most old, a few relatively recent. I have traveled. Though I was labeled student when the majority of those visas were I assigned I still feel as such though currently traveling as teacher.

A friend of mine just returned from burying his mother in the traditional Islamic way — they handed him his mother’s coffinless body wrapped in a cloth and he helped lay her six feet below the surface in an Arizona desert facing east.  It broke him in many important ways and in some unimportant ones too. But during our conversation at midnight as he smoked and drank beer I could tell her death repaired him as well.  I cried last night thinking of my grandmother how, like he, I missed her death because I was too far away. And, like he, felt the pull to relocate to be closer to the remaining loved one.

Life happens like this; in bits and pieces never all at once.  We are changed by our momentary involvements but life is never changed by us. Too old for influence it bowls us over or passes us by, but doesn’t stop to check for a pulse.  I was changed by my travels. I was changed by the death of my grandmothers. I am changed by everything that happens to me.  There is something peaceful in that realization.  I am changed by everything. I wonder, how will I be different tomorrow.

 

*Revolutionary Suicide

Revolutionary suicide does not mean that I and my comrades have a death wish; it means just the opposite.  We have such a strong desire to live with hope and human dignity that existence without them is impossible.” – Revolutionary Suicide p. 3 Huey P. Newton

I’ve been trying to read more during this break.  Yesterday I watched The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 on Netflix.  This post isn’t a review of that although I endorse it completely.  I am, instead, sharing what I wrote as an indirect result of watching it.  A few hours ago I started to read Huey P. Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide, got a page and a half in and realized my discomfort.  My clothes were too tight, I was attune to every extra inch of flesh on my body, and my skin started to itch.  So I wrote:

“I want to talk about Blackness.

It is that Blackness which reaches into the timepiece of me and takes advantage.  I have respect and empathy for all struggles, many of which are familiar.  Born woman and Black and poor and odd I am all too familiar with the struggles of many.  It is however Blackness that heightens my sense of ill-fitting clothing and too many sweets.  Causes me to tear at my cotton casings and seek relief.  My Blackness is the item so old it’s on sale because the world has grown tired of its advertisements and needs the shelf space for newer issues.  The spaces on shelves are served from the struggles that “fit us all” and lumps many into 1 and every into 99 and I am left in the back with an orange sticker marked 50% off.

I NEED to talk about my Blackness.  My part of this disease is consistently discarded because of the color of my skin.  Only this in utero
“malfunction” prevents me from  drinking from the same water fountains  accessing the same mortgage rates and dodging gentrification. It also leaves me alone and hidden in the apartment procured on the sly.  Because I am too angry after reading Huey’s words, too hurt by Kanazawa’s studies, too broken by the imprint of the system, and too tired  of being alone to feel anything else.

My Blackness does not mean African American.

Even saying that feels like a curse because I should be happy that “we”  have our own section in book stores, our own movies on Netflix, and a shelf for our hair care products in some sections of some grocery stores in some cities.  “But “I” am not “We.” “We” refers  to those who descended from  the slaves who were kept on board till America. I am a descendant of those kicked off in the Islands.  The Caribbean.

I need to talk about my Blackness because it is different from the Blackness referenced in the law.

I need to write about my Blackness because it may be the only time I see it in print, and history will forget me and mine.

I cannot bear the thought of being forgotten.

It’s hard enough to live and not be seen.  It is harder still to die and not be remembered.”

*Repost from October 2012

Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.

Fasting and babysitting leads to reconciliation

Oy. My head hurts, and my lips are dry. My nose is stuffy, but that’s annoyingly usual. My shoulders are sore and I feel like there’s a cat litter box on my tongue.  There’s a lot going on.

I went to the Zoo with Magoo aka Goober aka Goo, today.  It was nice to be around her in this way.  I was her only option for safety and she clung to me just as her parents said she would.  We had to fake her out though.  Before we left we pretended like Daddy had to go to work, Mommy had to leave, and Grandpa was going to the doctor. She said her goodbyes and everyone bolted to corners of the house, except for me. Heh Heh Heh. We walked down the block and she held my hand. A two-year old’s hand is really fucking small bee tee dubs.

We still have our issues, but it was a good day.  We took the bus, which she loves, and she fell asleep. The little White girl and adult Black woman in public is an eye catching dynamic to say the least.  There will probably be a post about that later.  I carried her from the bus stop to the zoo and the wonderment commenced. That little lady fuckin loves animals.  Like lost her shit with excitement and loves all animate objects not human.

I was nervous about spending the day with her because she cries as soon as I hold her. It’s kinda like I’m the plumber and she’s the drain. Her pores and ducts let loose when I’m around then I look like I’ve kidnapped a small child. Her grandpa joked that he was going to put out an Amber Alert as soon as I left the house, the bastard. I laughed, but was totally willing to chop him in the throat

We met up with my friends who were in town and their two kids. I go way back with those little munchkins. Like since before fertilization back.  I almost delayed moving to Seattle so I could see the youngest be born.  We’re close.  Having the opportunity to hug and love on those little buggers filled up a part of me I didn’t know was empty. Hopefully I’ll get to hangout with them tomorrow.

I sat down with the intention to create a post about this fast I’m on.  It’s the second day and I’m kinda feeling it as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Instead, I talked about the children in my life.  Huh. Maybe I just needed to get that out. In my early twenties there came a point when I wanted children of my own. My biological clock stood in place of my heart and I felt like I would expire if I didn’t procreate.  Being around my Friends With Kids (great movie) over the last 4 years has changed my mind. I love kids — not all of them by any means– but I’m not sure I want to expel any from my vaginal cavity.

My excitement comes from reading the course syllabus for my PhD program. My heart palpitates at the thought of traveling the world. I salivate thinking about sleeping in my car in the dead of winter while driving cross-country for the seventh time.  When I think about dating or having children the part of my heart dedicated to dreams and passion shrinks like a flaccid penis.  I’m not there anymore.  My ADPKD is supposed to flare up when I’m about 37. Dialysis will begin shortly thereafter.  It’s not wise for my body to endure dialysis and pregnancy separately let alone simultaneously.  The longer I wait to have kids the more likely it will be that I shouldn’t.

Perhaps all of this is my body, my heart, and my mind reconciling that I’ll always be,  “Auntie Jéhan.” If it’s not, and I feel that yearning again I have no qualms about adoption. 🙂

Related Posts:

Detox

I am a Mouthbreather

Body Image

What to do about Magoo

Body Image

To say I have a problem with body image is to Mitt Romney might be a Republican.  My struggle with weight has existed since college.  While many put on freshman 15, I put on freshman 40 (+/-).  My face puffed and my calves, which are usually fat free expanded with cellulite as well. I have a pictures where my potbelly looks like I’m 6 months pregnant.  It’s been a struggle. Often a struggle of which I was unaware, but a struggle nonetheless.  During my last Obgyn visit in 2010 my doctor told me I needed to lose 50lbs.  A few months ago I went to the emergency room with chest pains. At a follow-up visit the doctor told me I was strong, but I “needed to lose weight.”  I can pack on 20 lbs in a season without thinking about it.

Photo 326

After proofreading this post I wanted to take this down. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to remove it…for now.

One of the biggest issues that comes with these weight fluctuations is a skewed body image.  No matter how much I weigh,  when I look in the mirror I see that 6 months pregnant not actually pregnant 19 year old. This is a picture of my back a few months ago.  My bra is too small and back fat is spilling out the sides.  The thing is about 2 years ago this bra fit perfectly, and was, in fact, an eensy bit too big.

I don’t have a picture of of my back, but this is a random picture of me from that summer when I was at my most fit.  Photo 49

I spent the summer leading backpacking trips and had less than enough food to eat.  I remember cooking a red pepper with an onion, adding salsa, and putting it in a corn tortilla.  I couldn’t afford bus fare to and from work, so I’d bike the 10+ miles to and from the base each day I was in the front country.  Seattle ain’t flat. In the back country I’d carry a pack between 50 & 80 pounds (+/-) and hike 2-7 miles daily.  I was in great shape.

It is nearly impossible for me to maintain that level of fitness in the front country.  Fitness was my entire life. The problem with the off-season is that I was not burning the same amount of calories, I consumed relatively the same amount of calories if not more, and I wasn’t consuming the same quality of calories (Red Hot Blues vs. G.O.R.P.).  As a result, I needed to find a way to burn a large amount of calories + go to work and lead an urban life.  Not simple. I’m not a fan of pretend exercise. I don’t want to go to the gym. I’d rather hike 14 miles to get from one campsite to another. With the hiking it’s mandatory exercise. The gym is pretend.

I started roller derby in June of 2012. I skated about 3 times a week from June until August.  I was in a different kind of shape. Just look at my legs.  Here is a picture of me in July or August of 2012.

Photo 335

My rectus femoris (totally had to look that up) are AMAZING. My gracilis (again with the look up) are lacking.  I know you can’t “spot” burn fat, but that’s a place I would if I could. I’d like to accomplish a few things:

1. Reconcile what I look like in the mirror with what I see in pictures, and what is true in real life. There is a huge disconnect for me.

Photo 317

I had no idea my stomach looked like this until I took this picture and saw it. Even when I looked back at the mirror I couldn’t see myself as I was.

2. Develop an eating lifestyle that is not reward based and does not lend itself to stress or emotional eating

3. Understand that women are different. Websites like My Body Gallery are fantastic.  I don’t need to look like: Michonne.1.2  imagesimages-1images-2

No matter how much weight I lose I won’t be shaped like them.  My body is built to climb mountains not to grace the covers of magazines stocked on shelves in a society that oversexualizes women.  Their bodies are beautiful.  I just don’t need to make them the mile marker for my own.

Taken 3.20.2013

Taken 3.20.2013

Related blog entries:

Chest Pains – She is indeed Undone

Detox – Wearingmyblackness

Knock Kneed Mary – Wearingmyblackness

All images of copyright of their original owners. If you see your photo here and would like for it to be removed just let me know.

Cheers!

Black don’t crack

Written by contributor Mallory Green

Black Don’t Crack

On February 17, I turned 28 years old.

A lot of people have anxieties about getting older.  I don’t, really.  Actually, let me take that back.  I do.  But for me, my fear is getting older and not having anything to show for it.  I live in Chicago and I work heavily in the world of theatre.  This means that I don’t have a ton of money.  I’m afraid of living my whole life under the poverty line.  No money, no assests.  Besides this fear, I’m quite happy with getting older. I look forward to being in my 30s.  I see it as an exciting adventure, much like my 20s have been so far, but with more… assuredness.

My mother is 64, and is quite ok with getting older.  In her words, “The only way to not get older is to die, and I’m not trying to do that.”

Now, if you’re black, have black friends, or encounter black ladies at the grocery store, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “black don’t crack.”  I say it all the time.  But is this really true?

Look, it’s not like I’ve done extensive research on the issue, but what I do know is that the black women in my family look good!  All of my aunts are in their 60’s and they have skin as radiant as Moses descending a mountain with a couple of stone tablets.  Not to mention the legions of older black actresses who all look exceptionally unseasoned.

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64.  Ain’t nothing cracking over here

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64. Ain’t nothing cracking over here

18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party ? Red Carpet

Stacey Dash, age 46. Also known as ‘Dorain Gray.

So what is their secret?  Genetics?  A secret skin regime?

These questions popped up in my head because in the past few months, I’ve become increasingly more aware of how my face has changed over time.  I don’t look bad (good God, I’m only 28), just different.

Me in 2009

Me in 2009

Me on my 28th birthday

Me on my 28th birthday

I look like a 28 year old, and honestly, I think that’s awesome.  It just weirds me out that I perceive myself as looking very different.

So this spawned something a little crazy.  On the morning on my birthday I woke up, and went to Walgreen’s, where I proceeded to buy $60 worth of anti-aging products.  With every item that I picked up I thought, “This is ridiculous,” but I still bought them, every one.

There are a million and one things besides anti-aging crap that I could have spent my $60 on. But at the time, it seemed imperative.  In the mirror, I see this face that I happen to like—but am afraid of it changing again.  In the back of my head, I was hoping to freeze in my 28 year old face forever.  Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

Maybe I’m writing this blog post to myself, so that I don’t go over the deep end.  There are so many beautiful, extraordinary, exceptional women in the world whose happiness is blocked by their distress about aging.  I don’t want that for myself.  Maybe I need to change the way that I think about my face’s metamorphosis.   Maybe my face looks different than it did 4 years ago because today I know more.  It may have changed because today I am more confident and self-assured.  And I know for sure that I love myself today, more than I did when that earlier picture was taken.  And maybe that’s what showing up on my face.

To read more of Mallory’s writing please feel free to visit www.MallorySSTP.tumblr.com

If you’d like to contribute to wearingmyblackness.com contact me at wearingmyblackness [at] gmail [dot]com.

Related posts: Guest Blog Your Blackness

What to do about Magoo

I have a problem. I don’t like my best friend’s daughter.

She’s 2.

I feel kind of guilty writing this.  But only kind of.

Let me state my biases.  Most of my experiences are with youth ages 12-24.  When I first began doing youth development work it was in 2002 at Milton Hershey School.  I was 19.  The kids with whom I worked were 5-8 (ish).  Things went great.  We spent a lot of time laughing and just being silly.  I have no recollection of feeling this frustrated.

In fact, one of my favorite people in the entire world is 4 and I’ve loved him since before he was born.  He’s pretty awesome.  We would go for hikes, play soccer, play basketball, play “football,” and he’d help me cook some random meal in the kitchen.  I liked hanging out with him.  His parents weren’t too bad either.  😉

With this current issue she is the daughter of my best friend and her partner. Both were former roommates.  My best friend knows everything about me and we’ve been close since the moment we met performing theatre in Chicago.  It’s about 6 or 7 years since our first meeting and a lot has changed.  I live in another city. She lives in the same place. I’ve had several partners in this time, and she’s still with the same one.  Other than that, we’re still the same people.

Enter her child.

When I’m not around, her kid asks for me. We talk on the phone. She talks about me when I’m not there.  When she found out I was coming she was super excited and she looked forward to my being there. I was told this from her parents.  When I visit which has been several times over the course of her life.  Initially, she was SUPER loving.  I could hold her and she’d rest her head on my chest in the most adorable way possible.  I mean even her mom would be like, “Yeah, she doesn’t do that with me anymore.”

DSC_0153

This most recent visit she was excited to see me and was loving for a while.  The first night she fell and slammed her head on an end table REALLY hard and she opened up all her faucets and screamed. I held her and she cried.  Her mom was RIGHT next to her when it happened.  But, she held on to me and cried.  It was cool.  That was two days ago.

Five minutes ago her mom handed her to me and she started crying. She wanted mommy. She wanted daddy. It was the end of the world.  This kid doesn’t want to be held by me.  Please understand I’m an advocate for giving people space regardless of age.  We’re all people and should be able to set our own boundaries.  As a result, I don’t chase after her. I don’t try to pick her up all the time. I let her have her space.

She still cries when I hold her.

After a while, that shit hurts.  I told all of this to my friend.  I came to the conclusion that it’s super hard for me to get this from the offspring of my best friend.  I love her and her partner to death and its weird to not be embraced by another member of their family.  Shit, it’s hard not being embraced by people, let alone a 2 year old.  Unfortunately, my walls are up and I’m starting to take it personally.  Because it is.  She’s responding this way as a direct result of who I am.

This is so frustrating.  I’m at the point where I’m just going to back away from the kid and try to reconnect when she gets older.  Maybe she’ll reach out then with some shit like, “My parents suck and don’t understand me.” I’ll be like the aunt she can come and talk to when shit gets real.

For now, I’m over her.

I am a mouthbreather.

Initially, I wrote this entry in mid January.

How I’m feeling right now is proof that we are as much in charge of our health as our doctors. It is my doctor’s job to correctly diagnose my ailments. It is my job to understand my body well enough so I can tell when it’s ailing.

For the first time in over 15 years I am breathing clearly. If you don’t know me in person you may judge the previous statement hyperbolic. It’s not.

When I was older than five and younger than ten I visited a friend’s house. This friend owned what I presume was an orange Tabby cat…kitten. I loved that little sucker. I played with it. I cuddled it. I held it up to my eyes and made eye contact love with it. That is until my under lids broke out in hives, TLC’s waterfalls opened up and my adorable little throat began to close. My mother was called I said “I think I’m allergic to cats” and we went home. This is my earliest recollection of allergy symptoms. Traditional allergy symptoms that is.

In high school I was sent to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor for a skin allergy test. If you’ve never had that done let me explain. A nurse walks into the room with several trays which contain vials. In those vials are allergens. Wouldn’t it be neat if those vials were like vaccines and exposure meant prevention? It doesn’t. Exposure means diagnosis. The patient is pricked on their forearms approximately 46 times. Each prick contains a different allergen. If allergic your body responds with a bit of a hive and some redness…usually. Some responses are much more severe. Of the 46 pricks I had hives and redness on 44. Doctors mentioned allergy shots, medicine, saline sprays, the works. I thought my problem was solved.

For next decade I lived trying different medications and living the life I assumed was intended for me. In the morning I’d blow my nose like a bugle boy for 20 minutes. This matinal horn blowing would persist throughout the day. Throughout my life. I can go through a box of tissues in 3 days… during one of my better weeks. Many of my friends, most of whom don’t know one another have boxes of tissues waiting for me when I come to visit. It’s like our little joke. My nose is always stuffy and runny.

On Tuesday one of my best friends wrote to me about juicing. It’s not abnormal for me to juice. I drink wonderful smoothies frequently. I bought a juicer a few months ago and it’s one of my favorite things. I thought it’d be neat if we did a juice fast together so I hopped on her juice train (that’s not a sexual thing is it?). I began my detox by eliminating most solid foods, drinking peppermint tea (which I do every day anyway), drinking water and taking some of the psyllium husk pills I made. It’s been difficult. My cravings have been pregnancy specific. “I want to eat an entire Panera Bread danish ring.” I haven’t succumb to those cravings though. Well, last night I had 4 dinner mints. For the most part I’ve been great. Mostly organic all plant-based fruits and veggies. As I’m writing this my head hurts a bit -I went without water for most of yesterday — my stomach is grumbling, but I feel bright.

I feel bright.

In Seattle the Sun is like crappy ex partner who comes around when they feel like it. I don’t think this feeling is attributed solely to the sun. In fact, I know it isn’t. I’ve been in Texas for almost 2 weeks and this is the first time I’m feeling this good. I’m obviously allergic to something I’ve been consuming. Disclaimer – I don’t eat like the average citizen of the United States. I eat mostly plant-based, whole grain, organic, local, homemade foods. I rarely eat meat when I do it’s shrimp or salmon whose origin I usually know. My dairy consumption consists of cheese, sour cream, and I don’t drink milk, but I do eat milk based yogurts, occasionally.

My body’s response to the lack of whatever that was, is astounding. If I remove it from my diet altogether I’ll be able to breathe through my nose. Say what? I’LL BE ABLE TO BREATHE THROUGH MY NOSE. Heeeeyyy! In the communities in which I spent the majority of my time holistic naturally based health is never mentioned. Yes, I said never. The thought that I’ve lived this long suffering as I have is saddening. Look at how much power I have over my own body and lifestyle. Eating differently has changed my life. If only more people in my favorite communities had access to this knowledge as well.

UPDATE:I regularly read Staying Healthy with Nutrition . There’s large section devoted to allergies. I read it this morning and thought, “Allergies are a bitch.” Between the random ass triggers of stress, overexposure to chemicals, overintake of refined foods, temperature extremes, and exposure to genetically modified foods no wonder this girl lives her life in tissue boxes and saline rinses.

I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to learn the severe impact allergies can have on your life. This knowledge, however came at the perfect time.

Woofer

I am a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) pronounced “woofer.” That means I’m trained to provide medical care in remote situations. I’ve never had to use that training in any significant way. I’m of the mindset that preventative actions are the best form treatment. My students and I come to an understanding about behavioral expectations and things tend to turn out fine.

While living here with my grandad situations have presented themselves that required me to make decisions. This morning I heard him fall and sprung into action. He was bleeding from his mouth — he had caught his head on a wall corner as he fell and bitten his cheek badly. His eyes had glazed over as they commonly do an his verbalizations were incoherent. He was not there.

I performed a primary assessment and determined a course of action. He is now resting comfortably on the couch wearing my fingerless gloves. I wake him occasionally to take his vitals and get an overall update.

When this happened I wasn’t afraid or overwhelmed. I was succinct, direct and efficient. I followed my gut and it worked out. It felt good. The adrenaline is fading and my emotions are taking their place. Overall, I still feel clear.

This feeling of assuredness is peculiar, but helpful…

Something I’m learning

There’s no Internet at the house and the nearest coffee shop is a 90 minute walk away. Future posts will be short.

I’m learning to sit and be quiet, to be small in silence, to let tears rise and not shed. I am remembering why I left. I am discovering the courage to stay.

little Black boy

This following video upset me. All I could do was write.  Below is what I wrote

little Black boy

Baby boy.  My son, my brother, my family.

I’m sorry that you have become this sausage case version of yourself.

Full of scraps society can’t digest and so they fed them to you.

My son.

My child.

The one whom I have avoided birthing because of the plague we would both become.

I, an unwed mother and leech on this system…

System.

The one that does not work and continues to try.

The cogs and wheels churning, burning for the young she’s, he’s, ze’s, and hirs who cannot hear the slow ticking of brokenness.

The problematic sound warning you that it will fall.  That it will break. That it can’t take the weight while we wait for our current state to change.

To shift.

To give us this gift, of utopia.

And so it bleeds.

The blood of little Black boys and little Black girls while everyone else watches.

Scarred at the sight and yet drinking the juice from this machine — embracing the system while you my little Black boy become a parasite.

Containing no knowledge of your own just sucking that which keeps you alive.

You consume.

No one taught you the beauty of your contributions because they are afraid of your voice.

Your words. Your perspective. So unique and important.

If you were permitted the chance to speak, your tongue would lash mountains and command them to your feet.

Your knees would kneel to pick them back up again.

Your soul. Oooh, your soul would envelope our toxicity and make us whole as we cleanse ourselves in your forgiveness.

We have done you wrong my little Black boy, but thank you for trying to make right while feeling and being so wronged.

My response to Guyspeak.com’s — High School: The Theater of Cruelty

I read the answers on guyspeak.com sometimes because they’re funny.  Today I read this post although it was written back in September.

My initial thoughts on, “Why do teenagers do this” are this:

Well, we live in a society that otherizes people as a custom; Native Americas, Japanese during the internment, African slaves and their descendants, anyone who looks like an African slave or their descendant, anyone who doesn’t fit into our gender norm, anything that doesn’t fit into what we as a cultural whole doesn’t understand goes into the “What-the-eff-is-that?!” box under our beds.”  Adults do that, for the most part. Then, they take that ideology and fold it into the dominant culture.

Then we’ve got our youth.  They’re in this world that we created that otherizes at their current level of social development. Their brains literally can only handle “X” and they’re in a world that requires them to handle much more for whatever reason. I’m talking about youth as a whole, not in part. I know there is always the “not all _______ do _____.” I get that.

Imagine a world where we had more empathetic competency.  We just cared about everyone cause that’s normal.  Our youth would grow up in that reality that’s much different from what we currently have and then become adults who enforce that reality.

If only….*sigh*

Racist baby-faced boy man

Last night I went out with an old friend (high school) and a bunch of her newer friends from Seattle. Some of whom I knew. Others, not so much. We had a surprise bridal shower for her. It was cute.  We all got dressed up ate candy coated with sayings like, “Eat my pussy,” or “Do you wanna fuck?” printed on their shiny fructose surfaces, and drank champagne.  Eventually, we made our way over to a club in downtown Seattle.  Fuck if that was a good call.

I was the only Black woman in the group– in recollection; I was the only Black woman in all of Noc Noc.  The rest of the women were all White except one woman who was, I think, Filipina. We’re there FIVE MINUTES.  When I notice this guy looking and pointing.  He and he friends are like a pack’s length (20 feet) away (like how I slip derby speak into everything?) He notices that I’ve noticed him and then (picture middle school boy reaction) says, “Oh shit, she saw me.” Giggles, turns around, and then the entire table starts laughing.  Seconds later, his PLASTERED friend comes up and starts talking to me…I’m sober like a motherfuck.  So he starts apologizing for the racist shit his friend was saying that I didn’t hear. Telling me that he told him he needs to keep his voice down because he could offend certain people around. What? No motherfucker. He shouldn’t keep his voice down. HE SHOULD NOT BE RACIST. He’s going on and on and on and I’m simultaneously thinking “Dude, SHUT THE FUCK UP” & “How is this my life?”  So in this moment one girl that I don’t know very well is hearing him say this shit and I’m just baffled. He’s talking, she’s watching, I’m listening and looking over at the table that’s part laughing part “O-faced-I-can’t-believe-he’s-talking-to-her” staring. And NO ONE says anything on my behalf.

That moment was like a four-way stop.  I wanted to go home, just pick my shit up and bounce.  But, I knew that if I’d left it would have ruined her night. It was not about me so I stayed.

When that baby-faced boy of a man mocked me because of the color of my skin I made the choice to pick up my pain and swallow it for the sake of the group. That is the epitome of internalizing your oppression. It’s when the oppressed pick up their shame and hurt and swallow it for the good of the normal.  I purposefully did that last night. I have spent a huge chunk of my life internalizing oppression and had no idea why I was so angry.  Now that I’m older, I call that shit out. I will not breathe in the poison of a broken system by myself. I refuse to be in this war alone.  Please know that you’ve been drafted.  If you’re friends with me — like for real friends -roll dogs – you have entered into the world of allyship. Imma need you to back a sista up.

When drunken guy went back to his table I excused myself, went to the bathroom, took a few deep breaths, and tried to get myself together.  When I came back, I told one of the girls what happened and her response was weird.  It was muffled like a fart in a pillow.  She had no idea when to do.

This is when an ally needs to STEP THE FUCK UP.  If you’re ever concerned about what to do when racist shit is happening this is what you do.  You, the ally, says “Dude, shut up. Go away.” Then you grab your group of girls, make an exit, and find an even more kick ass place to party. You can choose to tell the bartender or bouncer why you’re leaving on your way out, but regardless, you leave.

It was so hard to be there.  As the night progressed the baby faced boy man made his way over to our group several times.  He gave people lap dances. He showed off his six-pack. He flirted.  No matter how drunk I was, I was still able to make the choice to leave whenever he was around.  Eventually, the girl who was sitting next to me said, “I wanted to tell you that he’s being really obnoxious and saying racist shit even more than before, so I want you to be careful.” I’m sorry what? You want who to be careful? Me? Oh fuck no.  You want him to be careful. I ain’t doing shit wrong. I told her, “Listen, I’ve done a good job of ignoring him all night. If he says shit to me, mother fucker is going down.”  She says, “Remember, *insert the bride’s name here*, she needs to have a good time…blah blah…reinforcing the racist paradigm…blah blah blah….” I turned to her and said, “I hear you. Now hear me. If he approaches me talking out the side of his muthafuckin mouth. Shit’s not gonna be okay.”

My friend ended up having a good time. I had a good time as well. I even met a guy who was cool.  We danced, flirted, and even thumb wrestled.  He wants to go hiking Sunday. (By the way I was all, “No. I’m skating banked track and ain’t missing that shit for the world.”)  The bride-to-be and I walked back to the hotel hand in hand or arm in arm all-the-while doing the drunken girl, “I love you,” ” NO, I love YOU.” I’m glad she had fun.  It’s a night she’ll never forget. Admittedly, I’m a little angry because even though I was in a room full women I felt totally alone.  I danced and watched everyone flirt and hang out with this guy who’d probably smash a full can of beer on my temple when I wasn’t looking because my skin is brown.  I’m going to have a talk with my friends …eventually. For now, I’m going to lay low.  After all, today is a derby day.

Rock Climbing

I have a friend.  We haven’t known one another very long, but she is a friend indeed.  Her blog Eat. Climb. Love is a fun read.  She took me on my very first outdoor rock climbing trip. I had a BLAST!

Here are some pictures from our day climbing at Exit 38

This is the approach. How gorgeous is that?!

I think this is a 5.6 climb. For those of you who don’t understand why climbing is rated the way it is here are two explanations:

  • Class 1 is walking on an even, often planar, surface with a low chance of injury, and a fall is unlikely to be fatal.
  • Classes 2 and 3 are steeper scrambling with increased exposure and a greater chance of severe injury, but falls are not always fatal.
  • Class 4 can involve short steep sections where the use of a rope is recommended, and un-roped falls could be fatal.
  • Class 5 is considered true rock climbing, predominantly on vertical or near vertical rock, and requires skill and a rope to proceed safely. Un-roped falls would result in severe injury or death.

OR

Yosemite Decimal System (YDS)

Yosemite Decimal System is a grading system commonly found in the United States. The basic concept behind the Yosemite Decimal System is simple and utilizes the following format: Format: Class.Sub_Grade Suffix Danger_Factor Example: 5.11b R (5 is Class, 11 is Sub_Grade, b is Suffix and R is Danger Factor).

Classes (Yosemite Decimal System)

An example would be 5.9 where ‘5’ is the ‘Class’ and 9 is the ‘Sub-Grade’. In YDS the class has a value from 1 to 6.

1 = Walking

2 = Hiking up steep trail

3 = Steep hiking

4 = Steep hiking / scrambling. Some parties may want a rope.

5 = Climbing. Most parties will want a rope. Exposed terrain.

6 = Aid climbing only

In free climbing most grades will be class 5. Mountaineering typically involves everything from class 1 to 6. Aid Climbing focuses mainly on difficult class 5 climbs and class 6 climbs.

I think my most difficult climb that day was a 5.8. This girl was SUPER proud of herself.  =]!!!

For the record, I’m terrified of heights.  I did fine that day.  I was a little afraid on my first climb, but after that it was just fun. I did use my knee and took home a little injury.

Let’s discuss my climbing gear.

  1. Helmet- Petzl. I’m a fan of the brand and when I went to REI it was the only helmet that fit my large head. True. Story.
  2. Harness- Black Diamond 2011. I also enjoy their brand and it was on sale at REI last year. The padding isn’t overwhelming and I could move freely and easily.
  3. Shoes- 5.10 Mocassins. I borrowed a pair from a friend before I bought these.  I love them.  I’m a big fan of gear with few seams.  It’s totally me, but I feel like the more stitches it has the more places the fabric has been compromised.  That’s one of the reasons I chose the Mocassins.  That, and when I tried my friend’s they were super comfortable because he’d worn them in.
  4. Chalk bag-Black Diamond
  5. Carabiners –  Black Diamond — all the Black Diamond gear came together and was on sale for, I think less that $90.
  6. Polar F7 Heart Rate Monitor – Love. I often like to wear my HRM during derby.  I was interesting to wear it while climbing.  I’m not sure how many calories I burned.
  7. Ropes – Yeah, those belonged to my pal. If you visit her blog. I’m sure she’d be happy to share her opinion on gear.

I wish I could climb 3 days a week and skate derby the other 4.  If you’ve never climbed or skated you are missing out my friend.  🙂

making choices that go against who we are

Where I fail in life is in that little breath of air just before a fight.  I use the term “fight” loosely.  I’m not necessarily referring to an altercation –physical or otherwise.  I’m referring to the instant just after someone messes up and right before they’re called on it.

I grew up fighting for a lot, I fought over food, fought for attention, fought with others over their opinions of me, fought my mind and eyes over my opinion of myself.   If you randomly passed me on the street and asked what I was thinking I’d probably tell you I was strategizing my way out of a scenario where I’m being mugged and have to disarm an attacker. Sad, but true.

I don’t always do a good job of recognizing when I don’t have to fight.  I’m so used to battling on my own that I also don’t recognize when someone is on my side.  To take that further, I don’t often recognize when someone on my side disagrees with what I’ve done, not who I am.  I was raised by and around people who disagreed with who I was at my utmost.

Recently, (within the last 30 minutes) a friend revealed to me a situation where I’d said something that hurt someone’s feelings. I’d completely forgotten about it until s/he said something.  I’m suspended in those clouds that fill the air before a fight.  I don’t like it. I want the bell to ring. I want to throw punches and bob and weave to avoid theirs.   I want to win. But I can tell you right now, this discussion is not one to win or lose, but my body is physically responding like it is.  I’m nervous.  My stomach is churning, my mouth is dry, my mind is racing, and I can barely concentrate.  I want to talk it over, admit I was wrong, and get it done.  This situation can’t work like that.  I need to wait and be patient until this person comes to me.  That’s hard.

I’m someone who is very aware of race.  This hovering dialogue is in reference to something I said that was racially offensive/hurtful. I’m not going to get specific without that person’s permission, but I do want to share that I’m aware of what I did wrong. Not wrong, this isn’t a game, it wasn’t a maneuver. I’m aware that what I said was f*cked up.  I want to move past the point of discussion and on to the place where we can smile.  For now, I’ll sit with my head on this cloud and wait for the opportunity where I can choose not to fight.

Rich people eat like what?

A few weeks ago a friend of mine discovered Farm dinners.

Yes, that’s a horse in the background.
Courtesy of http://www.experiencepnw.com

The concept epitomizes the localvore movement. “Think global, eat local”  Seattle is allllll about supporting local businesses. Yay! I’m a big fan as well. I fully acknowledge, however, that it’s easy for a place whose streets have been trod by Bill Gates, Joel McHale, August Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Gail Devers, and Brand Carlile.  “There’s gold is these here hills!”  It’s not so easy for people with less money to access this awesome ideology.  It’s hard for me to write this  because it separates me from a culture that defines me — poverty. My brain is poor, but my wallet is not.  I feel a crazy amount of guilt participating in events like this.

A few of my friends and I are traveling to a Carnation, WA.  We each paid $75 for a Farm dinner experience — Yes. Seventy-five dollars.  I can’t believe I paid $75 to eat 3.5 feet away from my food’s origin.  I’ve lost my mind.  That was the cheapest option.  We chose beer.  Wine was  between $100 and $175. Bananas.

The menu for this evening:

Reception

Chicken liver pate, carmelized onions, pickled mustard greeens
Dunkleweizen

First

Garlic and brown butter lake with stewed chicken legs

Haystack Hefeweizen

Second

Sweet pea arancini with chevre, herb salad, and mushrooms

Copperhead Pale Ale

Third

Grilled chicken breast with quinoa, orange, chile, pineapple sage, and fried egg

Wildcat IPA

Forth

Rhubarb fritters with cinnamon maple syrup

Steam Train Porter

*Side note: they spelled “fourth” wrong, didn’t they?  Also, I’m not a poultry eater so I hope they’re substituting.  UGH, even that last sentence was SO PRETENTIOUS.  “I’m not a meat eater, so I hope they’re substituting?!” BLARGH. (I need to reconcile my current existence with my past history). I’m a work in progress.

That being said, I’m sure it will be fun and tasty. It’s just hard spending so much money on one thing, food.

Black people don’t swim

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday.  At some point he said, “Black people don’t swim.”  I laughed.  For the most part he’s correct… I guess. I mean, maybe. When I envision the lap swimmers at a local pool I don’t picture a bunch of Black Americans doing laps for exercise.  That’s probably because I haven’t been to a pool in YEARS. As a culture, we don’t swim. I’ll embrace that.  We hang out in the pool acting a fool and socializing, but we don’t linger on weekends to perfect our butterfly stroke. Do some Black people swim? Of course.

We “don’t do” activities because historically we were denied access. We were marginalized into our own communities with little access to awesomeness.  Think about it.  Name something Black people “don’t do.”  Now look back at when it became popular in America. If, at some point we were denied access through legal or social infringements it’s probably not apart of our culture now and frankly Black people, that’s lame. We gotta do better.

I’ll swim.  I don’t mind it.  It’s not like I’m afraid I just haven’t had the opportunity in recent years because of work.  If I’m at the pool I usually supervising a bunch of excited youth from the sidelines.  Becoming a whitewater rafting guide, however, is on my “Do before I die” list.  I’m in this place with work where I want to quit but haven’t figured out my next step.  I like my apartment so I want to keep that, but I also want to travel.

Whitewater rafting The New River

That’s me in the back, by the way. No, not the white guy….

 

*Dance Break*

I just had a mini daydream about happiness.  In it, I went to the local co-op, bought bulked goods, and put them in a storage container in the back of my yet to be purchased vehicle with all my camping gear.  I pictured myself traveling with my dog and cooking food on my camp stove and sleeping in the back of my car with the hatchback raised so I could see the sky.

Why don’t I just do that?

Note to self: Answer the above question.

*End Dance Break*

One reason I haven’t swam/swum/what word goes here? in a while is directly connected to body image issues.  I haven’t felt at home in my body and I don’t want people doing to me what they do to women at the beach. I am uncomfortable when people remark on my body even if it’s for a compliment.  That’s why derby is so fantastic.

I can skate around in fish nets, panties, and a halter top and throw myself around for 90 minutes without someone saying ANYTHING about my body.  I love those spaces. I’m going to try to make “swimming holes” spaces like that for me.

Summer goal: Engage in the activities I want regardless of societal pressures.  (I’ll let you know how that goes.)  😉

Why are we still inside?

I facilitated conversations around diversity/cultural competency/intercultural dialogue/inclusion/any other term that means conversations around social constructs

I can’t ignore what happened today.

In the middle, just as the sun rose high and sweat began to form, my heart weighed heavy and settled in near my feet. I couldn’t move because I needed to speak.

*breathe*

The morning’s cooler discussions stepped aside to let the heat in; those discussions of race, power, privilege and “diversity” were tough, much like the gristle on a steak — extra and unwanted and yet digested if and when ingested. I looked across the room and felt heavy. There is so much that we cannot see and yet need for guidance. We have been constructed by external forces to be what makes sense. We’re handed boxes, bags, and miscellaneous containers and urged to put different pieces of ourselves inside until the compilation of our beauty is gone and only “what makes sense” resides. Even if we resist our assignments we’re still boxed along with other resisters. There is so much work to do and so few soldiers.

I’d been feeling mediocre for quite sometime. Today felt like success. Not just for me personally as a facilitator, but on a larger cultural level. I connected with young people in powerful memory crafting ways. These young people are entering into fields of work that are not widely occupied by people of color. Because they have positioned themselves on the fringes of culture their mere presence in this field is shifting the cultural norms of the youth of color with which they work. Their bravery is changing Blackness. Their bravery is changing the norm.

My new success are tied to new experiences that are not traditionally engaged in by people within the mainstream Black culture. Today I was able to serve as mouthpiece for some because of my childhood experiences. I often look back at women and “others” who were fortunate and unfortunate enough to be the firsts in their fields – Jackie Robinson, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, etc…. My recollection of them was often associated with the longing for notoriety or at the very least the longing to be noticed. I’ve slowly been realizing that I am able to make a difference by just being myself.

Marry me misogynistic pastor Jesse Lee Peterson, please?

There is intimacy that comes with dating and marriage.  I’d like the opportunity to get to know this man and what caused him to choose this current version of himself.  He hates all things that are good. I want to see what this man is like behind closed doors because I NEED to feel empathetic for him.  Because right now, I think he’s a damn fool.

 

Jesse Lee Peterson is tomato sauce to my acid reflux.  My heart is literally aching.  This man hates women, people of color, and himself.  It’s hard for me not to be a little hurt by this.  He is certainly not the only person with this mentality.  That doesn’t make it any easier to digest.  He gives up on “America” [sic] while I hurt for Her.

Aside: I’m offended that he’s referred to as “conservative.” Maniacs like him have kidnapped the word and belief system and turned it into an insane asylum.

the danger of a single story

There is something caught in me. Caught like a kernel in the throat of a stranger only smoother.  Less prevalent.  I don’t think I’m supposed to know it’s there and it’s trying to hide.

Today is my 29th birthday.  “I am 29.”  My conversations from now on will contain just that, perhaps more than anything else. “I am 29.” To many I am still a baby.  To others I am too old. To myself, I am stuck in the middle of something I can’t figure out.

Last night, as a gift to myself, I bought a ticket to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak at Benaroya Hall because a few months ago friend forwarded me her a link to her TED Talk:

Her speech/presentation/talk was interesting.  It left me feeling, plain.  She was normal. In another world we could be friends. Conversations about shopping and men, society would cram themselves into our skulls wanting to be shared. We could be girlfriends sharing our darkest depths without shame or filter. I was surprised at just how good of girlfriends we could be.

During the question and answer session they asked questions from the audience. I submitted this one, “Do you have any advice for an American young woman of color writer who is afraid her story has already been told?”  Her response was simple, ” Every story has already been told.  There are what, probably 5 stories? I would ask her to please, please, please write her story.”

I wonder if it’s my story lodged in my throat hiding from the air.

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.

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.