Settled in Tucson

I arrived last night and settled in fairly quickly.  A staff member picked me up from the airport and we laughed the entire way back to campus. Is that what it’s called, campus? I don’t know.  Here’s a picture of me in my yurt:

Yurt living!

Yurt living!

You may not know this, but living in a yurt is on my list of things to do before I die. YEEESS!

It’s day one and and I’m just entering the Honeymoon phase, but I’m in love. The heat. The creatures. The yurts. The people. Everything.

I fell asleep at 9:30 last evening and awoke at 6:00 this morning and went for a run.  If you’ve been reading my previous entries you’ll know I hate to run. Tucson’s elevation is at 2,643 above sea level, whereas Pennsylvania is at 446′. My lungs felt the difference. I probably jogged for 1.5 miles and was like “Alright, that’s enough for today, folks!” and went back home. Ate gluten-free oatmeal sweetened with molasses and some shared watermelon and now I’m here sitting on my bed in front of two fans.  It’s 79 degrees, but it feels like a gajillion.

I’m happy though.

The one thing missing is my dog. There are 4 dogs on campus and though the weather would torture Garvey, and his hair would quickly become home to sharp objects, he would love it.  I miss him.  My next move has to include him. Wherever that maybe, he’s got to be alongside me.

My favorite pic of us.

My favorite pic of us.

We are people, a reflection.

My stomach hurts this morning.  It seems a bit of my surroundings leaked in while I slept.  Stress is heavy when it takes hold.  My eyes, just as dense with the weight of similarity, express their desire for slumber through fog. I’m foggy today.  I began this journey over a month ago and am now a weary traveler.  Life in spaces that are not mine has added its girth as well.

My bank and I lean on my friendships. I can see their weight and yet they do not break.  For that I am forever grateful.  I do make wise decisions though financial institutions does not seem like one.  It was at one point, seven points ago.  My friendships are some of the best decisions I make.

I awoke this morning to additional broken promises.  I called ING Direct to inquire.  I was put on hold.  The weight sat heavy and tears threatened their presence.  Apart of me knew I’d been deceived again and I awaited the news.  Luckily I now have the means to locate that which is mine and yet that does not assuage.  I’ll believe it when I feel it in my shaking hands.

My car, no longer a reliable means to get me to the hooded south, sits in the parking lot within eyeshot. My belongings take up space that is neither theirs nor mine in an apartment where I’ve been for more than 20 days rent free. A squatter. I’ve cooked meals out of love and not obligation. Dined and laughed, without mirth, at the folly of corporations and absurdity of situations.  I feel like I should feel like I overstayed my welcome but I don’t.  Those are the friendships that I’ve chosen.  I have chosen well.  I have been chosen as well and it feels good.  In my world where abandonment is common-place, betrayal second nature, and disappointment a best friend I have been chosen by kind, loving, genuine people.  Good people have chosen to love and care for me. That explains my history.  Good people have chosen to love me while bad people have chosen not to.

I am loved by good people.

Corporations are people. Your policies, actions, and inaction hurts people.  That’s what this is  all about. My bank has yet to acknowledge that I am a person who needed them to deliver and they didn’t.  Individuals under their employ drooled phrases from instruction manuals rarely deviating from their scripts.  As is common, they hid behind policy designed for all yet applicable to few and further alienating many. We are people.  When you have gotten so big that it is impossible for you to acknowledge that important reality perhaps your focus should shift to getting smaller.

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.