Saturday, March 3, 2018

Why I am Wakandan...

I have never been a comic book fan, never one to follow superheros or villains;  not Superman, not Wonder Woman, Aquaman, SilverSurfer, Batman or Spiderman.  In fact I probably just created some major mistake by mixing characters from Marvel and DC comics.

So,  how did I get caught up in Black Panther. The Marvel Super Hero,  an African King from the mythical African country of Wakanda?  I am caught up and enamored not just by the fact that this movie, by all accounts a blockbuster, is based on our black people but it is the best representation of black folks and our culture ever to be reflected on the big screen.  Yes I did say our culture and yes I  do cross my arms across my chest and greet folks with the Wakanda Forever greeting. Corny? No. Let me explain why.

I have refused to complete an ancestry DNA test for a number of reasons,  one being I just don't want my DNA sitting in some national registry but secondly I am afraid of what I may learn.  That maybe my origins, my DNA doesn't trace back cleanly to Africa. Now with Black Panther  I feel like I don't need it because I have found my tribe.  I am Wakandan.  Think about it, as Black folks in America our lineage is muddled we are a mix of the African continent.  Our ancestors were thrown together, the kings and queens, farmers and artisans, the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters brought to America and named slaves came from many nations on the great African Continent.  In this country we became a blend of all African nations.

When T'Challa  appears at Warrior Falls and you look up and see all those beautiful black people in the vibrant colors and native dress representing the nations and you understand that there is something taken from every African Tribe and country reflected in their dress, that it is a blend of culture it resonated with me. These are my people.  This is my tribe.  As a Wakandan I know that we are not just one but many.  I understand and recognize that we are intellectuals, we are warriors, we are fathers, mothers and aunties. And, in this movie in this mythical country all of this is captured and reflected.

I look at my  family of warrior women, women of science and academia, men who are regal and intellectual and also warriors and I see my family in Wakanda.  I think every Black family has a T'Challa and Killmonger, maybe not to those extremes but you know the smooth and the rough.  So, while it may seem silly to get caught up in a comic book character who is king of a mythical country what those outside of black culture may not understand is that the film directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole captures not only the black family dynamic such as the relationship between brother and sister but also how we have those deep family secrets like why cousin Sissy was sent south when she was little and who her daddy really is or Crazy Uncle Larry and what sent him "over the edge" so to speak.

The other thing that moved me about this movie was the acceptance and co-signing of black folks all over the world. That support not only made it feel good it made it feel very right and adds credence to the fact that this movie is a solidifying force in bringing us closer together as a people.  Kudos to Coogler and Cole again for respecting our African culture, brothers and sisters by paying homage to their culture, tradition and beauty and introducing it to us in a way that is unifying and uplifting at the same time.

So I say with all sincerity that I no longer feel part of a lost tribe.  While I have always respected my African roots i never really felt connected because I couldn't point to a country, people or tribe and say yes I can trace my roots to them. And even though Wakanda is a mythical land it holds all the beauty, culture, history, innovation, hopefulness, morality, ethics and intellect that we represent as a people and that exist across the African Continent and in Black America.  Coogler and Cole and all of the actors and actresses these beautiful people of color just connected the dots brought it to life in a spectacular visual, making it easy for us to see and appreciate. Thank you for showing me home.

This is why I am Wakandan. Wakanda Forever.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yes, We Are Entitled...

Yes,  We Are Entitled...

Let's talk about the term [government] entitlement. The term as defined by Webster says:1 a : the state or condition of being entitled : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.  2 : a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program....

The Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935 following the great depression as a "social insurance" to ensure working citizens would have a guaranteed income post retirement. I guess we could say this is the "contract" working folks contribute to social security funding the program for current and future beneficiaries or as stated in the definition a "specified group". As each generation has contributed we believed that we are supporting the current generation of recipients and the next generation would fund us.

Medicare is a program funded by the people for the people and is currently funded until 2028. According to the Social Security Administration in 2015, $795 billion (85 percent) of total Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance income came from payroll taxes. The remainder was provided by interest earnings ($93 billion or 10 percent) and revenue from taxation of OASDI benefits ($32 billion or 3 percent), and $325 million in reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury - most resulting from the 2012 payroll tax legislation. It is not the right of Congress to put this program at risk. If in fact the question is to turn SS/Medicare over to private investors it should be a ballot question determined by the popular vote.

Do Republicans cause economic depression and if so should a Repbulican "business man president" who has claimed bankruptcy multiple times to bail himself out of financial trouble have the right to make decisions that effect all of us well beyond any term he may serve. You can certainly believe if  Paul Ryan and his cronies are looking to move this program to the control of Wall Street it is because one they have no dependency on these services because they are guaranteed a pension and health insurance or, somehow their pockets are getting padded.  Remember people, we are again in a full Republican cycle meaning Republican administration, Republican controlled House and Senate.  Each time this has occurred our economy and society has been decimated. Not unlike the long period of Republican dominance leading up to the 1929 Depression, the Republicans controlled or at least dominated Congress and the Senate from 1995-2007 leading to debt in the trillions, the loss of homes, and sky rocketing unemployment.

Some dates and events to remember, each was preceded by a decade of Republican control.

  • 1907-1908 Banking Panic  
  • 1922-1923 Recession 
  • 1929-1933 Great Depression
  • 2007-2008 Economic and Housing Crash  

So to restate, we are back in a cycle of full Republican control - the Presidency, the House and the Senate and, with their track record do we really want our Social Security/Medicare "entitlement" shifted to the private sector just in time for the Republicans to send us into yet another tailspin and risk losing what is for some senior citizens their only source of income post retirement.

Social Security was implemented to prevent our working class from becoming destitute.  Protect the future of our workers and do not allow this administration to put our "entitlement" at risk.

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Summers at the Nile...

As a youngster growing up in Yeadon some of my fondest memories are of the summers spent at our swim club - The Nile. The Nile was the first privately owned black swim club in the country and was built in response to our parent's inability to join the all white Yeadon Swim Club.  When the membership applications of black residents submitted to the Yeadon Swim Club were repeatedly denied, lost or put on the endless waiting list the black residents responded to the not so veiled discrimination by investing their dollars buying a parcel of land in "our section" and constructing a membership based swim club. And, although in the early years only the black folks joined our swim club the Nile did not discriminate.

The Nile was our summer vacation spot.  When we were little our dads went off to work and our moms would pack us up and we would spend the summer days at the pool.  While we ran, played and swam our moms participated in bridge and pinochle games and tournaments, soaked in the sun and caught up on the neighborhood news.  After swim lessons we kids would play and swim well into the night. Once the sun went down the teenagers would take over the pavilion.  The yellow lights created an atmosphere better than any basement party. The juke box played endlessly; after all a quarter bought you five songs.  I remember watching my older sister and her friends dance in perfect time displaying the moves and steps that they had worked on all week in our living room.  I couldn't wait until it was my turn to select the songs and bust the moves.

As we got older the summers for the most part were pretty much the same, we became the older kids and many of our moms started to work outside the home.  The Nile was our place.

I remember a special time that always seemed to occur around mid-August. There are those few days in August when the Canadian air makes its way to the east coast. When this happens the air feels a little crisper, the water in the pool is just a little colder and you reach for that favorite sweatshirt.  When these days occurred it seemed to slow us down and give us pause. We would swim less and talk more.  We would talk about the summer, the craziness, the games, the gossip.  Who was still going together, who had broken up and what had made the summer so much fun.  On these days we would sit a little closer and our conversations were a little lower.  We weren't yelling across the pool trying to get someones attention.

These memories are particularly fond because from the age of about 12 to 16  I had the same summer boyfriend.  Meaning, no matter who held my interest during the school year when June 15th came around they were put on hold.  From June 16th through Labor day my interest and heart was held by Dwight. He was my DuPont and I was his Red Girl and from Sunday through Saturday from  noon, when either his mom or his bus dropped him off,  until  6 ,when he was either picked up or had to catch the bus back home we were inseparable.  And when these crisp days would come we would stand in the corner of the deep end for hours talking about our dreams and hopes. We had to be careful though,  if his mom showed up and saw us in that corner there was hell to pay because it did not "look right".  But I can tell you it was probably the most innocent time of my life.

If we were not in that corner in 5' we were on the bench or the wall.  Sitting there wearing my favorite over sized Wildwood sweatshirt with my towel wrapped around my legs we would talk all day long and invariably our conversation always ended with the realization that summer was nearly over;  that in a few weeks we would no longer have the pool.  In the earlier years we vowed that come June 16th it would be the two of us. As we got older we promised we would keep our connection throughout the school year, that we would not let it end with Labor Day.  We promised to take each other to our high school proms and dances and to actually go on dates.  But somehow that never happened.  Our lives by the end of 1972 took different paths.  He went off to college and I became involved with the guy that I would marry and with whom I would have two beautiful children.  And even when our paths would cross again in later years we both came to realize that maybe the magic of our relationship was the carefree summertime and the Nile Swim Club.

I will tell you though no matter where I am when that crisp air blows to the east coast for those few days in mid-August I find myself reminiscing about the Nile, our great summers, the bench and the corner in 5'.  I always find my way back to the conversations and the hopes and dreams we shared and  I hope that he is as happy as I am. I hope that when he feels that crisp air in August  and he realizes that summer is almost over that he thinks about the Nile... and me .... just a little... maybe.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Biggest Fear? Getting Stopped By The Police.....

The recent police events have brought me back to the BLOG.  For the first time in my life I am honestly afraid to have certain interactions based solely on the color of my skin.  Riots and civil unrest have occurred in these United States of America in almost every decade of every century.  Most notably are those that occurred from the 1940's through the 1960's. Watts, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, Rochester NY most occurring during the summer months of July and August.  The majority of these uprisings stemmed from either real or perceived police brutality.  July and August 2014 is no different; in a 4 week period spanning these two months four black men ranging in age from their teens to their 40's have been killed at the hands of police across the country.

Unless you or someone close to you have been violated by the police it is difficult to wrap your mind around how traumatizing the event can be.  Quite frankly although it seems to be open [hunting] season on black men both young and old, no one is excluded.  Black women, Latinos, and white men have also been brutalized, albeit they are more likely to walk away with bruises, remnants of taser effects and handcuff burns where as black men more often leave the scene in a body bag.

The murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed, college bound, clean record (apparently the media found it necessary to try and see if he had "a record") is the 4th murder at the hands of a police officer.  There must be justice.  Let me be perfectly clear... I cannot and will not condone or cosign the community violence.  I believe the riots to be the result of opportunists and not the result of the frustrations experienced by the community as in previous eras.   

I am angry.            
I am outraged.       
I am fearful. 

My biggest fear is getting stopped by the police.  Where do I place my hands, do I look them in the eye or will that be construed as an act of aggression.  Do I remain in my car or do I step out of the car.  Am I allowed to ask "Officer why am I being stopped".  Apparently placing my hands in the air to show that I am not armed and am not being aggressive can be construed as a threat.

When someone throws you on the ground and yells "stop resisting arrest" as you lay dead still do you hope and pray that someone, anyone is capturing this interaction via video.  Do you not protect yourself from the body blows, the kicks, the baton hits, the taser or, do you will yourself  to a lifeless state as your survival may clearly depend on it.  This is not a dramatization, this is what goes through my head.

I fear for my husband, I fear for my sisters my sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters,  nieces and nephews and friends.  What interaction is appropriate?  I can now honestly appreciate the bowed head and shuffle of our southern brothers and sisters from earlier eras but we cannot regress we cannot give into to this lunacy.  We cannot allow little people with shiny badges and heavy weapons to take control of our society.

We have to stand straight with chins parallel to the ground.  We have to take a stand against this police state.  We cannot allow ourselves to be subjugated in these United States where our forefathers and mothers shed their blood so we could have a better life.

It is time for us, the law abiding citizens, to close ranks as a society.  Standing shoulder to shoulder we must send the message to out of control police and the administrations that defend them and allow them to murder under the badge that deadly force will not be accepted, it will not be tolerated.  We must send the message to elected officials that they must put a stop to this 21st century lynching process.

It is so out of control that it seems surreal.  This kill and defend mentality must be shut down.  I will not allow my fear to allow this craziness to continue.

Wearing a hoodie - putting your hands in the air ...  is not enough.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Where Is Your Outrage....Put The Double Standard to Bed

Where is your  outrage people... how come there are no facebook campaigns, no petitions no rants, no public figures speaking out calling for change.

You cannot live a double standard. If you are going to be outraged at the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin why aren't you showing the same disdain for three "bored" teens who chose to shoot down a rising start just so they could "see someone die"

Christopher Lane, Australian baseball player, killed by "bored" Okla. teens, police say

Why do we as a people only want to raise a ruckus when we feel the injustice has been done "against" us.  Don't you see the loss of credibility here.  We should be outraged by this action by these 3 teens adding nothing to society but so willing to take away from it.  Let's not make any excuses... i don't give a damn about their upbringing, their hard knocks, their tough times.  They are cowards and lack remorse and human conscience.

So I ask you again. Where is your rage. Why are black folks not demonstrating in the street.  Why aren't we saying we are sick of senseless violence regardless of who carries out the act and who the victims are.  Here is an opportunity for us to stand against violence to push for the swift prosecution of these thugs, to lean out of our windows and shout  "we are mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore".  How come we as a people, as a society are okay to say well this is an everyday killing. We get upset when the perpetrator doesn't get arrested. What kind of bullshit is that. I can't wrap my head around it.

Had the above headline read Christopher Lane, white Australian baseball player, killed by three "bored" black teens wanting to see someone die today....  Where would our/your rage be placed... on the fact that they called these perpetrators for what they are or, the crime.

And then there is the story of Delbert Belton...
As the story of Belton's death traveled far from Spokane — an elderly white man, a World War II vet injured in Japan, killed, police said, by two black teenagers — a vocal contingent has speculated that race could be a factor. They echoed a similar contention about a shooting days earlier in Oklahoma, in which three teenagers are accused in the killing of a college baseball player from Australia as he was jogging.
Why did two black teens rob and thn beat an 88 year old man to death. I am sure it probably didn't matter whether this man was black and white, he was an opportunity.  This is what should outrage us that we are not in the press saying find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.  These are black teens obviously guilty so let's not get this wrapped up in other arguments about blacks being incarcerated at higher rates etc.  This is about the obvious.
Put the double standard to bed and stand up for what is right.  Put the double standard to bed and if you are going to be outraged be outraged consistently and for purpose.

If white folks bring this up in this context we would find racism in it somehow someway.  Come on black folks it is time to grow up and be even handed when addressing this topic.  It cuts both ways.  The fact that the media is "playing it down" and black leaders are not voicing their rage is in its own sense racism.

Can't have it both way people.  Either you are outraged by senseless crime and violence or, you are not.  

Put the double standard to bed.

Friday, August 2, 2013

All Bad Experiences Aren't Because We're Black.... Just Sayin'

So the other day as I was scrolling through Facebook I came across a post which highlighted an article by Denene Millner entitled "Birthing While Black: An Experience I'll Never Forget"1 which peaked my curiosity.  The article was interesting and detailed the author's bad experience from her labor through delivery and even her inpatient post delivery experience. The article chronicled her ill treatment by the nurses and medical staff, the drug testing of her newborn, and the failure to honor her private room  and dinner accommodations.  And, based on the title and the treatment she described this all occurred because she is black.

Ok, so what I am about to write  is not going to be a popular thought but, what if the treatment was not due to the color of her skin but her attitude and how she treated folks.

I had three babies two in the seventies and one in the eighties.  When I had my first baby I had to go through the clinic.  I was employed but had no health insurance. The clinic was for "poor people", it was in a white suburban hospital. It was some of the best care I ever received.  I had toxemia and  my baby was born 2 months premature.  I was in the hospital for about a week and my baby two months.  The nurses were great as were the doctors.  Here I was a 19 year old black girl having this baby and I don't remember anything but kindness and compassion from my mostly white caregivers.   I had the same experience with the delivery of my second and third; by this time I was gainfully employed and had wonderful health insurance which afforded me a private practice and upgraded accommodations.  With my third I was even afforded a private room which my husband was allowed to stay in and we had a private dinner the night before I was discharged. 

Later I had the complete joy of actively participating in the births of all 5 of my grand-children.  They were born in private, community and city hospitals.  The caregivers were black and white. With the exception of one doctor who started out a bit rude and later came around, all of the interactions were good and all of the experiences a good way.  Most recently I actively participated in the birth of my first great grand baby.  My grand-daughter is currently on Medicaid as her employer does not offer insurance (so looking forward to Health Care Reform effective this October 2013) so, she went through the Medicaid Clinic.  The treatment in the clinic was not great.  They treated her poorly, they were rude and condescending and when I attended her visits with her they treated me the same way. They were black as are we. The hospital experience however was very different.  The nursing staff, the anesthesiologist, the delivery doctor and the pediatrician were great.  They came from every race - Black, White, Indian and Hispanic.  They were responsive, they were professional and they treated my grand-daughter with respect.  I was very observant during her 20 hours of labor and this is what I noticed.  My grand-daughter engaged the staff, she was respectful when speaking with them. She said please and thank you and even apologized when she thought she was calling too often.  When one young nurse came in to check her and asked her how she was feeling and was taking her vitals my grand-daughter looked at her and asked "how are you feeling... you have been here as long as I have".  The nurse looked at her with surprise and responded "I am good and, thank you for asking".   The same was true when she was taken to her room, which was not private.  She asked the staff their names and addressed them by name. Again she engaged with the staff, thanked them when they responded to her questions and when they offered assistance.  The staff loved her... they told me every time I met one in the room or hallway that she was a great patient. They loaded her with all kinds of things from heating packets to extra formula for the baby. When she was discharged she went to the nurses station and thanked them.  You see this was the way she was raised.  We have a strong respect for caregivers as we have many in our family.

Oh one more thing, she delivered in a city hospital and her insurance was listed as Medicaid she is twenty years old and black, they did not test her baby for drugs.

So all of this to say.  Maybe the treatment the author of the referenced article received was not due to the color of her skin.  Maybe it had to do with how she interacted with the staff.  Maybe her approach with  the staff was as if they were there to wait on her and serve her instead of providing medical care.  Maybe she didn't say thank you or please.  As small as these things seem when you treat people poorly you sometimes get the same in return.

I feel bad that she had a bad experience  when the birth of her baby should have been one of the happiest days of her life.  But we can't always assume that we are treated badly because of the color of our skin. Maybe sometimes our behavior has something to do with it.

Just sayin'...


My Most Defining Year - 1980

What was so significant about 1980? I turned 25. I had already lived a quarter of a century about 22% of my life completed. And, where was I. Not where I wanted to be that is for sure. I was in the middle of a bad marriage with 2 small children. I had dropped out of college and was working as a clerk. My friends were moving right along. They were becoming doctors, lawyers, and teachers and, I was being left behind. I can't ever remember crying as hard or as long as I did that year. I cried for a full year or so it seems. And then one morning in November I woke up and decided I was not going to settle for this. I was better than this. I also recognized that no one was going to change anything for me, I was going to have to do it myself. So, I made a plan. A 25 year plan. I know it sounds crazy really, who makes a 25 year plan? Either someone with a lot of time on their hand or, someone truly unhappy with where they are in their life. I was the latter. I woke up that morning vowing that I was going to live the next 25 years pursuing my dreams and doing those things that I wanted to do. I knew I was capable I just had to take action.

So, I made the list, not a bucket list but a must do list. It started with things like, get out of my bad marriage, stop having a job and start a career, get my college degree and learn to control my temper. This list went on, I set my short term goals and my long term goals. Everything was doable but it was going to require commitment, focus and yes even sacrafice.

Somethings were taken out of my hands, like the bad marriage. First husband was out of the picture and the change lifted so much off my shoulders. It was kind of like God said "let's see if you are really serious, I'll remove this hurdle and see what you do with it". Well it was like I could see sunlight for the first time (in about 10 years) and the change translated to my attitude.  I  focused on myself, my family and starting a career.

I learned to channel my anger which was really frustration to more positive energy.  I returned to school. Community College at first, then Temple... I ended up completing my degree at Widener University. I met someone, we had a child and then we married and blended our family.  He is a great support and the ability to continue my plan was because of the support he provided. I earned a Bachelor's in Business Administration.  In the meantime things were progressing at work. Promotions came with more responsibility.  I had the opportunity to participate in major projects.  I developed good credibility and things moved nicely.  This was two major milestones in my plan the marriage and third child were a bonus.  The time frame for accomplishing these milestones spanned about 10 years.  As far as the family goes I wanted to make sure that my girls enjoyed their childhood, that they had self confidence and strong self esteem.  All three have grown to be confident and accomplished young women of whom I am very proud. Another milestone met.  By this time I was a vice president  in my company.  Additional milestone checked off.

Then the strangest thing happened... I turned 50 and I had accomplished all of the things I had laid out, my project was done.  And, I was now lost, I was floundering... what do I do no now. Suffice to say I did not lay out another 25 year plan but I did return to school for my master's degree earning a Master of Jurisprudence in Health Law from Widener Law School. My new plan was that  I decided to take life as it comes and no longer live by  a regimented plan.  Trust me the plan surely served its purpose, it kept me focused and on track.

Since then I retired from my company, I became a consultant and then joined another company.  I am now a COO for a company in New Mexico where I live by the way.

Again, the plan was great but what I now realize that sometimes plans can also be limiting.  I know that I let opportunities pass  because I did not want to lose momentum or direction.

So the moral of this story ...  Pay attention to your defining moments, create a plan and always have a plan b but don't limit yourself by what you laid out 20-25 years ago.  Live each day to the fullest.  Work hard, Play harder and love with a passion that can't be matched.

And never  put an end date on your plan always assume there is another phase.