Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

I See Your Racism and I Raise You the Constitution by Venessa Bowers

Several months ago, I wrote the following blog in an attempt to unpack the racist undercurrent in our country. Today, the day after this nation voted a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a hypocrite, a pedophile, a sexual assault offender, a liar, a cheat, a fraud, a sham, a joke, a petulant child, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a conspiracy theorist with the support of the Russian government, with his minion vice-presidential candidate into the highest offices of our land, and in fact, the free world, I’ve had to rework the piece. I’ve included the original at the end of this blog to show you where I was a few months ago when I firmly believed that love would win. I am left despondent and questioning exactly what the fuck is wrong with the American people.

Let me be frank, I am shocked and appalled that the very people who have been denigrated by this campaign: African Americans, Latinos, white college educated women, LBGTQ members and the people who love them, immigrants, the working class, the poor, the disenfranchised have voted en masse against their best interests. Do you really believe:

  1. That voting for a third party candidate who was even less aware of the world in which we live than the now President-elect was a smart choice? Sure, sure, we all want more options – lobby for that shit in the years between elections and find a candidate who is not a moron if you really want to change the system. DO NOT sit here and tell me your vote for this idiot, regardless of the damn state in which you live, didn’t hurt the democrats. Because, you, my friends, are just wrong. Look at the numbers. They do not lie.
  2. That the FBI releasing a “trumped” up story (and I mean that literally) about some emails was not a “rigging of the system?” Those emails have been under investigation since July and as it happens, had not a god damn thing to do with Hillary Clinton.
  3.  That tomorrow you will have health care that you can afford? That you will be able to get medication you need? That insurance companies all over the country are not, right now figuring out how they can deny your future claims?
  4. That the economy will not continue to tank? Look at the DOW!!!! You just bet the farm against your own future. And? Do not blame Obama for that. That’s on you.
  5. That there will be voting rights available to women and minorities that are not stripped of the basic tenant of the constitutional amendment granting those rights? Especially with the folks calling for the repeal of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1920 you, ladies voted AGAINST maintaining a right for which people died. And you should know better.
  6. Ladies – how about having sovereignty over your own body? You have relegated yourselves to brood mares of the state. Your uterus is subjected to the government. Your right to chose how to live your life will now need approval from men in power. Don’t believe me – go talk to women in Indiana who just lived through governance by the stain that is masquerading as the Vice-President-Elect and actually woke the hell up.
    1. And while I’m on the subject of women – guard your p***ies because those are the dominion of men who seek to own you. What about sexual assault victims? What do we tell them now? Anyone who has ever lived through sexual assault knows, KNOWS, that there is no protection for them now. After all, its just locker room talk, right?
    2. Guard your daughters because a sex offender was just elected to the highest office there is and you signed that check. He is facing a civil trial in December on a child rape case.
  7. My African American friends who did not even bother to vote. Seriously? What does John Lewis think of you today? You forfeited your right to live in a country that even pretends to view you as human. It will now be open season in your communities. How will you reconcile what you’ve just done with the fact that so many died in the streets to get you the right to vote in 1965? You simply cannot.
  8. That the Marriage Equality act will stand when the speaker of the house, Republican, Paul Ryan has ALREADY written a bill to support the First Amendment that gives religious zealots the RIGHT to discriminate against you. Its on the docket right now. Just wait for it. And? How about that electro-shock conversion therapy that Pence is in favor of? There’s no safe harbor now.
  9. Veterans – do you honestly believe that you will NOT be called up to support wars against anyone who insults this idiot you elected? You thought 4 tours was tough. Well, strap up, pals.
  10. That the rust belt will EVER see manufacturing jobs again from a man who built his hotels from Chinese steel? They won’t because he will benefit from the cheap labor – ya’ll too expensive.
  11. Poor people – you think that a man who has made a fortune off your back is going to lift you to a standing position? When his minion VP has voted against living wage increases for his entire career? What, is the Lord going to swoop down and change this man’s heart? Ok. Go pray about that.
  12. Family values folks – y’all really just voted for someone who cheated on his wives (note PLURAL) and had 5 children with three different women. Who subjugates his own daughter’s body. Who told the mother of his last child to abort the pregnancy? If you believe he’s a changed man, you need to seek immediate treatment for your delusion. Do it now, while you still have health care coverage.

Is this a rant? You bet your ass it is. I have never, NEVER been more ashamed of the state of things in this country in my lifetime. I am from an immigrant family, a working class/working poor family, a values-driven place that in this great land of ours, believed we would never again bear the weight of the boot on our necks. Well, you … YOU just polished the boot. Inside that boot, hate lives. Fear lives. Faith died. Loved died. Compassion died in the stench of the vitriolic rhetoric of this campaign. You have no idea how many people I’ve seen cry today. How much fear I’ve see today. How many triggered people I’ve seen today. I have sat with victims all day. Children all day. THESE are not weak people. These are the people strong enough to stand up and show their RIGHT to think and feel some kind of way today. I held space for them all, ALL of whom are utterly confused about their place, their identity, their worth, because of the goddamn audacity of marginalization prorogated and perpetuated by this campaign.

Now all that said – read the following blog because I wrote it when I had faith in human decency. I wrote it when I believed that we, all of us, could make it better for all of us. Right now? It’s every p***y for herself. Don’t look over here when the bottom falls out of your shit – because to quote the brilliant Everlast “Rock bottom hurts when you hit it.” Keep your powder dry, though. Because we are on the brink of a cataclysm. I hope you’re ready because you invited the demon to the dinner table. Eat hearty. You won’t get a pass here.
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The year is 2016. But it looks a lot more like 1816 in this country that I love. Every day, more and more reports of police using excessive force on unarmed African Americans grows. Since January 1, 2016, 790 people have died at the hands of police, 194 of those people were African Americans, and 33 of those African Americans were unarmed, according to The Counted, The Guardian’s tracker on police killings. The number of killings in general should bother us. The disproportion of African Americans, especially those who were unarmed, should stagger us.

And of those unarmed, they were shot for what? One was reading a book in the car, one was trying to fix a broken down car in the middle of a street, one occurred during a routine traffic stop, and the list continues grows.

Frankly, the people to whom I am referring have been shot BECAUSE they are African Americans. And how do we know? The smart phone in everyone’s hands has made the misdeeds of police a public issue. Day in and day out we get to watch murders occur in our living rooms, offices, schools, parks, and churches. And the best we can do is hashtag the names of the dead.

Here’s what happens: A shooting occurs, we see some outrage on social media, we hear that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, there is “an investigation,” sometimes charges are brought, but far too often they are not. More often than not, even if charges are brought, the officer walks away from the incident. Why is that a problem? Because someone else CANNOT walk away from the incident.

We read the backlash against the social and political movement of #blacklivesmatter which has been labeled a terrorist and hate group by a portion of the population that clings to a sense of entitlement that they have simply not earned. They rage and storm because they do not like the fact that “this group” of people is using their constitutional right to protest injustice. Former Governor and now, Vice-President elect, Mike Pence railed against the implication by politicians that there is some “institutional or systemic bias” at work. Well Mr. Pence, it is not institutional or systemic bias – it is institutional and systemic racially motivated domestic terrorism. Your running mate is all about “calling it what it is,” so let’s just do that. It is racially motivated domestic terrorism that is sanctioned by the state. Let’s unpack that statement.

When is the last time we have heard the same excuses used when defending why a Black person was shot applied to a White person? We’ve NEVER hear that. When is the last time we heard that unarmed White people are shot by police because “they looked like they were on PCP?” We don’t. Damn it. We DON’T. How is it that the man who shot 15 African Americans inside a church was taken alive and given a meal? Or the Colorado movie theater shooter, taken alive. The Oklahoma City Bomber, taken alive? Notice that I do not use their names specifically because the victims are more important. In addition, notice that all of these people I refer to killed people and were white. So that explains the “racially motivated” portion of the statement.

It is domestic terrorism because it happens on American soil by Americans employed by the State (read government) on a daily basis. It terrorizes only one community because they are the community being targeted. I don’t fear the police. I don’t have to. I’m White and have the expectation that the laws of this land will protect me. African Americans have been shown, time and again, throughout history, that they cannot expect that the same is true for them.

The Bill of Rights of the constitution states that ALL American citizens can expect these specific protections under the law. I’m going to post those articles here because you, dear reader, need to KNOW the constitution so that you can KNOW when it is employed equally to all citizens and when it is not. These 12 articles of the Bill of Rights were completed and adopted on September 25, 1789. That was 227 years ago, almost to the date.

Article the first… After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Article the second… No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Article the third… Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article the fourth… A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article the fifth… No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article the sixth… The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article the seventh… No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article the eighth… In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Article the ninth… In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Article the tenth… Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article the eleventh… The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article the twelfth… The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
(http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)

Please go back and read Articles 6-10. Are any of these things happening during these incidents? Of course not. Nowhere in the constitution was it written that a person could become judge, jury, and executioner on the life of another human being. NO where.

As we will see in the coming days, the lives of the dead will be trotted out to victim-blame them for any transgressions they have made during their breathing time. Any transgression. A speeding ticket. Drug use. Mental health challenges that were untreated. Selling cigarettes. Eating Skittles. “He had a gun!” Yes, in an open-carry state. A white person in an open-carry state is not shot, typically, just for “having a gun.” Which was found after he was killed. Trying to protect a client in one’s care. Even if these folks were guilty of breaking the law, they need to be prosecuted according to the Bill of Rights. Even if they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they need to be treated and THEN prosecuted. It does not stipulate that they are to be gunned down by the police who are expected to not only PROTECT them, but to SERVE them.

Let me ask my White folks out here a questions. Have you been shot for speeding? Have you been stopped and questioned for failing to signal? And if so, were you afraid you’d die? No, because the constitution protects you.

Let’s be clear. These are not “mistakes” made in the line of duty. These are murders. We’ve all watched the videos. They are murders. Any suggestion that law enforcement is “just doing their job” when these events take place is not only ludicrous, it is a tacit approval of the behavior. Further, help me understand how, in New York, a man who detonated bombs that injured 29 people and was prepared to detonate more, who shot at police, and was consider armed and dangerous, posing an imminent threat, was taken alive? Because those cops, “were doing their jobs.” And a great many cops do their jobs with insight and compassion, and caution. They de-escalate situations. So, when I take to task the cops killing African Americans, I am certainly not being anti-cop.

As a social worker, I can say that I have spent a lot of my time in the last few years listening to these topics come up in my classrooms and my private sessions. Frankly, I am tired of trying to help children cope with fear of police officers because they are black. Really tired of it because there is no comfort I can offer. I cannot honestly say that “it will be ok,” or “it won’t happen to you,” or “just use your manners.” I just can’t because I will not lie to a child. But also, as a social worker, my code of ethics mandates that my primary goal is to “help people in need and to address social problems” (National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics). It also states that must I respect the inherent dignity of the person in front of me, challenge social injustice, focus on the importance of human relationships, and that I value and practice in a culturally competent and socially diverse way.

But guess what? I’ve been physically and verbally threatened by clients and I didn’t shoot them. I have been afraid for my life and I didn’t shoot anyone. I’ve been so overworked that I didn’t know my own name, but instead of practicing unethically, I took time off. I do NOT want to hear those excuses from law enforcement. Ever. Again. Because as a law enforcement officer, you have chosen, just as I have chosen, to serve the public. And to do that well, you have to be trained, you have to care, you have to do self-care, and you have to CHECK YOUR BIAS at the door. Every day. Every time. No exceptions.

If I practice unethically, I will lose my license and that means I cannot no longer be a social worker. If I shoot and kill someone, I will stand trial and be convicted and sent to prison, especially if it is caught on camera. Why is the same standard that is applied to me, not applied to law enforcement? In so many ways, my profession is much more dangerous. Because we, as social workers, face crisis unarmed. Unarmed. Every. Day. So that means, I’ve got to use my brain to de-escalate a situation. I don’t get to tase someone. Or shoot someone because I’m afraid.

My code of ethics prohibits me from doing any harm to another person. More than the code of ethics though, the LAW prohibits me from doing harm to another person. And I believe in that, value that, practice that, and expect that from others serving the public.

Until African Americans can say that the law protects them, is my belief that the law protects me really valid? I’m not so sure. Because what happens when my groups are targeted by law enforcement? But see, even that question is ludicrous. I will never experience that. Because the law and constitution does protect, and has always, protected me.

So, as a white woman, a social worker, a human being, I am going to call what is happening right now (and has happened for centuries in this country) what it is: It is state sanctioned, racially motivated, domestic terrorism. And we need to read our governing documents to understand that. And we need to “take a knee,” or “take a stand,” or “raise our voices” to make change happen.

Because it has to change or we will see another civil war in this country. As White folk, we need to look within ourselves and find the corners where racism lurks. And we need to drag it into the light and deal with it. Head on. We have to be self-reflective. We have to be our brother’s keeper. We have to talk to other white people because they will listen to us. We have to educate.

We have to do these things now. People are dying in our collective streets. That has to matter to us, collectively. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Each time you want to say “well it’s not all white people,” or “it’s not all cops,” shut your mouth and listen to other people. Seriously. Shut your mouth for once. We do not need to dominate this discourse. We need to listen with our hearts and not hide behind our hastags.

Imagine how insulting it is for African Americans to see the hashtag #alllivesmatter. Can you even imagine what that feels like? It means to them: ONLY our lives matter (read white). Or how about #bluelivesmatter – like it’s an equivalent issue. Listen, a cop chooses to be a cop. No one wakes up one day and chooses to be African American. What if you were targeted and this is the response you got from people? Imagine what the heck that feels like? It’s isolating, it’s intolerant, it’s anti-intellectual, it’s anti-religious, and it’s anti-human. Be pro-something for once. Use your brains from more than video gaming and victim-blaming because it removes your from social responsibility. And if you cannot do these things. Get out of the way of the people who can.

Because if you come across me, I will see your racism and raise the constitution.

Every time.

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Independence Day Reality by Angenita Williams

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Picture taken in St. Louis, MO.

I visited St. Louis over the Independence holiday. My family resides literally around the corner from Ferguson. I asked my cousin to take me through the neighborhood that was engulfed in flames about two years ago.

As she drove through the streets, I saw emptiness. I saw a shell of a place that was teetering on the brinks of poverty. I saw Mom and Pop stores that once serviced the neighborhood, and I saw some still striving.

Something stirred in me as we drove to the place where it happened…where he was shot.

There was no mark on this site. There was no memorial. There wasn’t a trace of Michael Brown. But there was an aura…a hanging loneliness marked by life taken too soon. A wave of despair as I visualized that day for him. My heart pained for his parents. My soul searched for words that I couldn’t say. I felt an eerie chill go up my spine. I was there.

I envisioned what I saw on the TV during the days of the riots. My cousin pointed out the places that were in flames, she showed me where they marched on the police station. She showed me empty lots where businesses once stood, proud to be a part of the economy.

Remnants of seething anger were left behind. I saw it all. And I felt empty. Hollow. Missing. The uproar happened…and it left the TV screen. People went back to living as they were, although the undercurrent of the event is still there. The aftermath is still there. People lost a lot those days: a mother and father lost a son. Some people lost their jobs. Business owners lost their businesses.

And yet, after all of that, the killings of unarmed Black people still continue. As I write this, a 37-year-old father was killed in Baton Rouge, LA. By cops. On video. Plain as day. And a 32-year-old man was shot for a traffic stop. Eleven Dallas cops were shot and five died.

These stories permeate our timelines on social media. We speak behind keyboards about our rage, how saddening this is, and how we pray for their families. Empty #RIP hashtags don our newsfeeds. Tears fall. We say not another one. We say how can this continue to happen. We say let’s fight against this. Then we have those that say well, you only get angry when it’s a cop murdering unarmed Black people, and talk about Black on Black crime.

The Black on Black crime stance always rubs me the wrong way. There are so many people that say if our young Black men would stop killing each other, then the police would stop killing our sons and daughters. This line of thinking is backwards. Here’s why:

Black lives never mattered to the powers that be. If they did, slavery would not have existed to the brutal level that it did. Reconstruction would have leveled the playing field by really giving the freed slaves their forty-acres and a mule to get a jump-start instead of the mess of sharecropping.  Actually help with the bootstraps to pull up. It would not have been against the law for slaves to read or write. Jim Crow would have never existed. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been necessary.

The only way that Black lives mattered were when our ancestors worked the fields in toil to build empires. When Black women were raped and used as sexual slaves for the master…to procreate and increase the property value of the master.  And most of all, introduce a religion, use a religion, to keep the slaves scared and in “their place.” When you consistently and constantly show a group of people that their lives don’t matter, when you show nothing but contempt and hate, it becomes internalized. They hate their skin…and the skin of their peers. Take dads from the home; remove the foundation, and you have this so-called Black-on-Black crime.

As with any crime, we victimized what we know, who we know. More than likely, that looks just like us. This goes for every race. Black on Black crime has been sensationalized to somehow be worse than any other race. But I’m sure one will find that White-on-White or Hispanic-on-Hispanic or Asian-on-Asian, or Native American-on-Native American crime has probably the same amount of crime per capita simply because people tend to  live in the same neighborhoods where your neighbors look a lot like them.

Michael Brown was headed to college. Sandra Bland was headed to her Alma mater. Freddie Gray was headed home…just like Trayvon, Oscar, Akai. Eric and Alton tried to make a little money to support a family. Rekia was laughing with friends. Jordan was listening to music with his friends. Tamir was playing in the park with a BB gun – something that many kids play with. John Crawford was in Wal-Mart walking around on the phone.  Tanisha, Donte, and Ezell had mental illnesses. LaQuan crossed the street. Philandro followed orders.

Yet Dylann can murder nine people in a church in cold blood, and be escorted out in a bulletproof vest. George Zimmerman is still free. Darren Wilson is in jail for assaulting his wife. Countless videos of non-minority people  who hit, spit, have weapons such as hatchets or knives show how these particular people manage to be subdued without a gun…or they are let go. The shooters of Alton and Philandro are on paid administrative leave (AKA vacation).

We drove away from the scene. I took everything in. My heart fluttered and felt pain when we turned around. I left the city of Ferguson behind, but the streets, the uproar, the feelings of anger brewed under my skin. The things I saw are forever etched in my memory. I leave this blog with a few quotes:

If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. ~ Maya Angelou

Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it. ~ Stokely Carmichael

There’re two people in the world that are not likeable: a master and a slave. ~ Nikki Giovanni

Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own. ~ Jean Toomer

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ Shirley Chisholm

You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity. ~ Bobby Seale

Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine? ~ Tupac Shakur

 

On Being Black in America by Angenita Williams

I know it’s been a minute…

These past few weeks have been torment for me.

I’ve sat quietly watching as news story after news story after blog after blog spills the details about another mistreatment of people of color.

I’ve been silent. Trying to figure out exactly what I want to say that hasn’t already been regurgitated through media.

And then the Charleston Nine happened. The actual thought of removing the Confederate flag happened. On my drive home, I figured out what I wanted to say – a checklist of sorts. I’m only going to list three, or this blog will be a hundred pages long.

  1. On Being a Black Woman

I am a Black Woman. That means that royalty flows through my veins. My foremothers were Queens. My foremothers were dignified women. I wear my crown straight. Slave blood runs through my veins as well as the strength of my ancestors. My shoulders sometimes struggle for carrying the world is heavy. My back is arched, my head is held high. Just like Maya said, “Phenomenal woman, that is me.” My piercing stares are full of determination and tenacity. My tresses are strong. I love me.

And it took me almost 40 years to do that.

With what society says I should look like. All my images of “real” beauty came in the form of Barbie. Brooke Shields. Susan Lucci. Farrah Fawcett. And when I got a little older, Claire Huxtable and Dianne Carroll. I was a victim of the paper bag. My blackness always questioned because my skin is a tad paler.

But I was still Black. I hated my kinky hair. I hated my name because it was so unique. It always seemed like if I was a white girl named Tina with long brown hair, and pale blue eyes, I would be so much happier. Why? Because Tina had things that looked like her. That resembled her. That were her…

And I was grown before I could truly love everything that being a Black woman is, does, and strives to do. Before I learned the true strength of where I come from – the fields of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Before I understood that my beauty comes from the strength I innately possess. Before I realized that beauty is truly beyond this skin I’m in.

  1. On Being a Mother of Black Children

I worry every time my children leave my sight. They are of strong mind and strong will. My son, a Black man. My daughter, a Black teen.

I am bombarded with images of unarmed children being gunned down because the officers don’t understand that they too are innocent. They have an innocence about them just like his kids do. But he is threatened by their melanin. By there sheer ability to have the nerve to WANT to do things outside the home. To DESIRE to be something other than…*insert typical Black stereotype*.

Not too long ago, a Facebook friend posted a picture of the White Charleston Nine shooter next to the picture of the fourteen-year-old Black girl with a cop’s knee in her back. The caption compared the dignified way he was captured against the violent way a CHILD was thrown to the ground. A woman who was white said the picture was misleading and that the bikini clad young lady was being aggressive. A child who had no idea what was going on and begged for her mother versus a cold-blooded killer who was afforded a bulletproof vest and a sandwich.

I responded with – she is a CHILD.

The lady responded with a long response to which she ended with “I will teach my children to treat everyone well, and I hope they teach their kids the same.”

My long response ended with “be thankful you can teach your kids that. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about your kids not coming home – not because they are bad kids, because they are not. It’s because they are Black.”

As a mother, this is heartbreaking. And the list just keeps growing. I pray my children’s names are never on that list. I pray my nephews and nieces will never make that list. I pray my brothers, uncles, cousins and friends never make that list.

  1. On Being Black, Woman, Near 40, and Single

It truly seems like the older I get, the worse dating gets. Seriously. One would think that with age comes maturity. This isn’t so in a lot of cases. And it’s frustrating. Maybe it’s because I expect so much. Like a job. And decent conversation. And thoughtfulness. And a date or two or three. In my teens and 20’s, I accepted pretty much whatever just to be recognized by a man. Just to have one in my presence. Just to have one be there…even if it was temporary. Just to feel “love.” And I got two kids to raise pretty much alone (my loves!), a broken marriage (not truly getting what marriage entails), a few broken hearts, an ocean of tears, fears of rejection and pain, a steel fortified fortress built around my heart, and a different view on love. Dating isn’t fun – it is a tiring assortment of role specifics and game playing. I am over playing the game. And many older men that approach me want to play it.

There are way more things to speak on – finances, education, awareness, growth. I’ll save that for another time…

I’m baaaaacccckkkk

Yesterday’s History is for Today’s Time by Angenita Williams

I took my daughter to see Selma.

And I’m glad I did.

While I was vaguely familiar with the march to Montgomery, I wasn’t completely well versed in it. And neither was my daughter.

We were engrossed in the movie. Both of us were lost in the action of the film. I won’t spoil it for those who have not seen it, but there are moments in the movie that you know are coming, and your body still reacts to it. Your hands go to your face in the astonishment and at the sheer treatment of Black people. I am not sure if I would have been able to be alive in that time – living in fear because I happened to be born with a skin tone deeper than the “majority.”

The real deal occurred after we left the theatre.

She liked the movie. But she asked me about the other people who played a part in that march – John Lewis, Diane Nash, Andrew Young. When I asked her did she know those people, she stated no. My mouth fell open.

I followed up with who did she know that had anything to do with the Civil Rights Movement. She stated MLK, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. When I asked if she new anyone in history, she stated she knew who Madame CJ Walker and Harriet Tubman were. She knew the Black Panther Party. She knew Nelson Mandela. She knew Ruby Bridges and the Four Little Girls.

No WEB Dubois. No Langston Hughes. No Frederick Douglass. No Mary McCleod-Bethune. No Nat Turner. No Marcus Garvey. No Jean Toomer. No Dizzy Gillespie. No James Baldwin. No Nina Simone. No Harry Belafonte. No George Washington Carver. No Zora Neale Hurston. No Ralph Bunche. No Thurgood Marshall. No Shirley Chisholm. No Little Rock Nine.

I felt as if I failed as a parent. How can my child not know these people? These very important people helped our nation recognize that Black people were people. They shared their Black experience with the world. Some in that group helped pass laws that affected the lives of Black people. Some broke the barriers to become first to stand against the establishment. Some helped uplift, and inspire generations of Black people to fight for the right to simply exist.

I understand that schools, nor this nation as a whole, figure that Black history is not a part of this nation’s history…but it is. And it is very important that we give our kids the tools they need to learn about where they come from. Honestly, if they have no idea where they come from, how can they progressively move forward?

My daughter and I had a very in depth conversation about history. I showed her some books I have on the shelf to give her more insight. We watched YouTube. We Googled.

We have to keep our children equipped with the knowledge of our history. The Revolutionary War happened. Slavery happened. The Civil War happened. Reconstruction happened. Sharecropping happened. Jim Crow happened. Vietnam happened. The World Wars happened.

And Black people were involved every step of the way. Our kids need to see that. Although we were an oppressed people, we were smart. We figured out ways to communicate when the slave master told us we couldn’t. We took the scraps they gave us and turned them into a fine and distinct cuisine. We were trendsetters. People love our culture and our swag.

Our kids need to know that. Our kids need to understand that we can walk with heads held high and be proud of where we come from.

After all, this nation was built on the backs of my forefathers and my foremothers. That is very important to note. For without the contribution of Black people this would not be a nation worth being.

I vow to make it a point to place some knowledge in my daughter’s path. In doing so, I will learn more as well.

If you have not seen the movie Selma, I encourage you to do so. It is so relevant for today’s time…

Happy Birthday MLK!

Utopia by Angenita Williams

So much has been said about the tragedy of Ferguson. So much has been said about black on black crime and how we, as Black people, should really focus on that. So much has been said in regards to why the Black community needs more cops because Black commit the most crimes. So much has been said about race relations. So much…

Yet, while so much has been said, nothing has been said or listened to. Nothing has been absorbed into the minds of the United States of America. It shows with the blatant, intolerant, racist, and disrespectful remarks against young Black men who are killed, the people who march to protest the unlawful killings, and the brutal disregard for a human life under the guise of law.

It’s been open season on Black people – not just the men. The women as well. We are seen as beasts…unnatural, super strong abnormalities that have polluted this earth. Although…it was our people that built the pyramids. (Remember, they cannot be duplicated.) It was our people who scribed history on the walls of caves. The people who share skin tones of various hues taught this world how to read, count, season food, and build villages. My people were taken from their land to build this conundrum of takeover.

And we are supposed to just get over it. Although we are still feeling the consequences. Although slavery has taken the form of prison and mind poisoning through “reality” television and “hip-hop.”

I watched as my grandkids fell asleep. My grandson put his arm under my granddaughter, and they fell asleep holding on to one another. It was so moving to see their closeness. They are two (grandson) and three (granddaughter). And they already realize they have to hold on to each other. Even in slumber.

It also saddened me. This is my second generation. And to know that I am going to have to advise them that their skin makes them a target breaks my heart. I’m going to have to tell my grandson that even when he’s right, he’s wrong. He will always fit the description. And for my granddaughter, it’s virtually the same. And both will have to have smartphones so they can record their encounters. (If they have smartphones by then.)

What a sad, cold, cruel world…or maybe I should say – America.

What can we do to change things? Honestly, I don’t know. We are dealing with people who are told what to think, and not how to think. If we come with something that is outside the box…it’s preposterous! We are crazy. How dare we go outside what has been fed to us? Why cause that trouble?

Imagine how good things would be if we worked together to fix this broken system…

But we can’t because…let’s face it…we live in a country where skin color means more than the content of one’s character. A country where money drives everything.

I guess this is…Utopia…at least for those with rose-colored glasses on. And money to blind those that don’t.

I am Legendary… I Create My Legacy by Angenita Williams

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A few months ago, I received a Facebook inbox from a young lady I’ve seen perform and host within the Indianapolis poetry scene. Her poetry is phenomenal, exquisite, demanding, commanding, and raw – just like it should be. She captivates as her voice cascades through your ears to resonate within your heart. Not only is she a poet, she is a bonafide writer. I follow her blogs. Read her sometimes page-length Facebook posts. She inspires one to be inquisitive and most of all, while her heart is definitely on her sleeve, she is a mighty, transparent, strong woman indeed. Her name: Januarie York.

However, there was another remarkable woman whose smile brought life into a building. Her poetry was outstanding, and everywhere she went, love grew by the multitude. She was surrounded by the love she so easily dispersed – She was deemed a Queen. The name absolutely fit her to a “T.” Her name: Blanche Boone-Jackson, and she was called home earlier this year.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Januarie for a Spotlight. It was a great experience to see her outside of her usual poetic self. We had a great conversation and interview, and she liked the piece I wrote on her. I was pleased.

But, when I got the inbox from her asking for my address, I was shocked. I had no idea why she wanted it, but, I didn’t hesitate. Whatever IT was, it was going to be good.

I received my puzzle pieces, which turned out to be my invitation to The Queen B Legendary Ladies Ball. Legendary ladies? Me? Legendary? Wow.

Modeled after Oprah’s Legends Ball, the event started with a Tea and Testimony, then the actual ball the next day.

The Tea and Testimony was an awesome display of women coming together to support each other – to laugh and uplift. To enjoy the company of others. I gained some sisters that day. We fellowshipped in every since of the word. I knew some from Facebook, or going to poetry. Some I didn’t know…but we were all there under one accord – to fellowship in friendship and the love of the Queen.

The ball was everything. Everyone dressed up so nicely and smiles were everywhere. The gentlemen that were there treated us all like Queens. Elle’s voice was beautiful and sweet as she sang the interlude to her speech. The soulful Bashiri Asad shared his soul with us as homage to the Queen. A young lady by the name of Essence made eyes sweat with her rendition of Take Me to the King. And the wonderful duo of Elle and Theon gave us an awesome cover of Use Somebody. SunRae Phoenix gave a sermon unlike any sermon I’d ever heard before, and made our eyes glisten underneath the dim lights of the venue. Shantell read Still I Rise, and we saluted with HELL YEAH! Tony Styxx gave us the meaning of abracadabra and advised us to “watch our wands.” And then the fabulous Januarie said to us all, “If someone loves you, let them love you or let them go.” Then, we spoke our names.

To say this was powerful is a complete understatement.

We got a ceremonial box with mementos and keys to life. Beautiful purple sand, rose petals, and water beads adorned our boxes…some we placed in a vase as a ritual of unity…some we kept to share our energies, and keep it with us.

This weekend gave me so much strength to keep doing what I do. I never once thought of myself as legendary…

I am so humbled and honored to have been invited to this event and having the chance to meet and fellowship with some amazing women.

And I really feel as if #ICreateMyLegacy.

Thank you Januarie, and thank you Queen B for bringing us all together in your spirit. Your love lives on forever…for you are the epitome of a true #LegendaryLady…

Dear Janay by Angenita Williams

Dear Janay,

Hey Sis.

My spirit told me I had to reach out to you and to let you know that I understand what you are going through.

I know why you defend him. I know how it feels to be hurt by a man you love. And for all those on the outside, they have no idea what is real. This, what you have, is love, and until they understand that, they should leave you alone.

I get it.

But sis, what you don’t understand, is that this is not love. This is control.

I look at your beautiful face, and your eyes tell the story of how he breaks you down. He didn’t always strike you. He treated you like a queen. Got you what you need. There for you. Then one day, things changed. He hit you. He apologized, and went back to that good man. Then he hit you again. And the cycle continued.

I may be wrong. This could have been his first time. But the ease at which he hit you, with the strength he hit you with, and his callous reaction to it, shows me that he is no stranger to abusing you. He dragged you, even kicking you while you were out. He didn’t show that he cared…he showed annoyance. And you took the blame and apologized for your part – which was responding to a slap in the face.

Sis, love doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hit. It doesn’t toss you. It doesn’t belittle you. The Bible tells us that love is kind and patient. He clearly lost his patience, Love.

And I am only reaching out to you because I have been there. I was not only a witness to abuse, but I was a victim, and also a perpetrator. I thought I would get them before they got me. That didn’t work out so well either. I was told that no one would want me. If I didn’t fall in line, my dad would hate me. Weak men prayed on my weakness and lack of self love.

Sis, physical abuse is the escalation. The emotional and mental abuse starts first. I understand the cycle. So when you defend him, I get it. You have to. He is your man, and you ride for him as to be expected of any good wife. Ride or die.

But ask yourself…

Would he ride for you?

I’ll end this by saying, sis, love you first. Find you. Explore who and what you are. What is your purpose in life?

I pray that you find the happiness in life that everyone longs for. I pray your marriage lasts without further abuse. I pray that if the abuse continues, you find the strength to leave. I pray you become a survivor. I pray for your strength, life, and health.

Be strong. Hold your head. Know that some of us understand.

Sincerely,

Angenita

Tragedy and Travesty of Violence by Angenita Williams

 

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We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

I cried when the Trayvon Martin verdict was read….I cried when I learned that Jordan Davis’ killer didn’t get convicted of his murder, but of attempted murder of his friends…I was in dismay and utter disbelief when Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, yet it doesn’t appear an arrest has been made…and angered at how long it took to even get a name of the police officer that shot Michael Brown…

I’m left with the questions of how can my son, grandsons, and nephews trust the police to protect and serve them when they are viewed threats and unworthy of living? How can the community not be in a state of fear and depression when oppressors are all around them? How do these actions and circumstances differ from a 1960’s state of America? Isn’t this modern-day lynching? When is that change gone come? How is it gonna come?

Our men are accustomed to being the last rung on the ladder when it comes to this country. They are put down as nothing; regarded to animals. A professor by the name of Charles Carroll details this in his book “The Negro A Beast” or “In the Image of God” published in 1900. And something from so long ago still resonates in our country. It’s also worthy to note, the Bible is also used in this book to justify that Black people are not human, and according to page 138 of that text, scientific research demonstrates that “no wooly-haired nation has ever had an important history.”

It doesn’t help that Black America cannot unite unless some tragedy occurs; nor does it help that our youth of today buck authority, and just don’t care. But how can they when they are resorted to being shot like raging beasts when all they try to do is surrender, break up a fight, or lay face down and follow orders? Can one even imagine how depressing living in that manner is? It’s a wonder that we still have some strong men left in our community.

The stereotype of Black America will always supersede the accomplishments of Black America, and that alone makes for a bleak existence in this country. What is extremely disheartening is that many folks in the community either believe the stereotype completely or perpetuate it. Look at those who leave the ‘hood never to return, and snub their noses at where they came from. What about those who don’t reach back to the ‘hood to help those in need? What about those who refer to their own people as “useless, unkempt, and unnecessary?” Whatever the case, though, stereotypes should never, ever equal death. Books should never be judged by their cover, and when it comes to our men, the covering of their skin is justifiable homicide…simply because of America’s belief that black men are simply unworthy and animalistic. Men who were once deemed as kings are resorted to being less important that mistreated dogs. (See Michael Vick.)

The protests happening in Missouri attempt to thwart the notion that we can be peaceful. But it’s kinda hard to do when you have armored tanks, weapons, and tear gas descending upon you when all you want is justice. It’s hard to turn a cheek when you are being bullied by the powers that be. It’s really difficult when your questions have no answers. Peace is extremely hard to attain when there are a few indignant people causing mayhem. At this stage, no one will remember the good about the situation (peaceful protestors protecting businesses), but the bad that is being done out there right now.

My favorite author, Maya Angelou said it best: “If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” The best way to get our respect – is to LOVE each other, and stand together to not only right the wrongs of the forces that are upon us, but to also dismantle the killing of our own people by our own people. The youth of today have generations of worthlessness upon them. I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it – fathers need to return to the home. The trends of the downfall of Black America can be directly correlated to the absence of a real dad. And when I say return to the home, I mean DO SOMETHING. Parent, participate, love, discipline, listen, and respect your kids. Because in all honesty, if we cannot come together and show that we are worthy, there are going to be many more Mike Browns, Eric Garners, Oscar Grants, Ezell Fords, Sean Bells, Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davis’s, Ramarley Grahams, etc…and justice will simply refuse to prevail.

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