Our Fear and Hope in Prime Time

Black-ish, ABC’s amazing comedy series, deals with being black and successful in today’s America. Black-ish aired an episode concerning an issue that has been on the minds of black people for decades. Police brutality. The show did it in a way that was so incredibly nuanced it was perfect. There has not been a show on television in a very long time that has so perfectly dealt with being black the way Black-ish has. When ABC aired the initial promo I got chills. The episode was titled, “Hope”, and hit on so many amazing points. If you haven’t seen the episode you can watch it full on abc.com. Also, if you don’t want spoilers you should probably stop reading now.

The show opens with a great montage of images like Kent State and John F. Kennedy as well as Dre as a child watching the McDuffie riots in Miami. Bow, Dre, Pops, Ruby and the kids are watching the news waiting to hear whether an officer will be indicted for the killing of an unarmed youth. While watching Zoe, the eldest daughter, walks in and asks what is going on. The family proceeds to give a rundown of cases of murdered unarmed black people. Now, let me stop there. The fact that they ran down a list of murdered unarmed black people on a television show was amazing. All I could say was, “Jesus.” I was floored and loved the reference and use of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World And Me by Junior, the eldest son. If you haven’t read it, it is amazing and I highly recommend it. It reminds me a great deal of Baldwin’s Fire Next Time in the way he talks to his son in the novel. I thought it was great that Junior was the one to discuss the novel and its relevance to issues of police brutality and blackness in America.  Ta-Nehisi Coates even made an appearance in the episode as a commentator on the news. I will say I was annoyed that they used Don Lemon, king of the shuckers and jivers, in the episode. I won’t dwell on that as it is the least important moment in the show. The scene that moved me the most was Dre’s, played by Anthony Anderson, monologue on hope.

Dre, who’s character is always quick to jump the gun, gave a monologue that moved me to tears. The hair on my neck stood up and I absolutely wept. Dre discussed the first inauguration of President Barack Obama and the moment that shook every black person I knew. After his inaugural speech, President Obama and the First Lady made their way down the parade route. While on the route, President Obama and the First Lady got out of the car, walked down the road, and waved at the hoards of people. I was standing in the crowd during that inauguration with one of my best friends. Dre said to Bow, “Tell me you weren’t terrified when you saw that? Tell me that you weren’t worried that someone was going to snatch that hope away from us like they always do?” My heart stopped. I remember the snipers on the roofs of the buildings and I started to pray. I can remember my best friend I saying, almost like a whisper, “Please…please, get back in the car.” The entire time Barack Obama was campaigning and while he was in the White House I prayed for him and his family. Because, in that moment, I did not think he would make it into the White House. And every single day I worried that he wouldn’t make it out. Black people have feared for our lives for so long that we could not bring ourselves to be completely happy for him. Not even to celebrate Barack Obama becoming President of the United States.

During that monologue, Dre’s eyes were full of tears and I am of the opinion that Anthony Anderson was no longer acting. In that moment, he felt those words down in his soul. Those were real tears of frustration, anger and fear. Those tears were for Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin…and the list goes on. That scene moved so many of us to tears because as black people we are all too familiar with black men and women being gunned down by police. The people who are to protect us do not think we have the complexion for it so they take our lives and leave our loved ones to mourn. Yet, this episode was titled “Hope” and that is important. Hope and prayer has been the one thing that black people have always clung to. Slaves hoped and prayed for freedom and eventually they got it. Once free, black people hoped and prayed for educational equality, the end of Jim Crow and segregation. Eventually that came along or so we thought. The law may say we are equal but the McDuffie Riots in Miami, the Rodney King riots in L.A., and  August 9, 2014 showed us we are all still hoping.

That is the part I struggle with every single day. That hope. When Bow was trying so hard to get Dre to understand why she wanted to protect the innocence of the younger children, I understood. I understood Dre vehemently arguing that the kids needed to know how the world truly works. When Zoe became terrified that Junior wanted to go out and protest we saw what Bow was so worried about. Her children being so scared of the world, they can no longer be children. What do you do when every 28 hours a black person is gunned down and you have to send your children into that world? What do you do when you have to go out into that world? How can we allow little black boys and girls to be children, while also making sure they know how to navigate the world? Amiri Baraka once said, “hope is a delicate suffering.” I often wonder how much more suffering we can take.

Black-ish criticized the errs of the American justice system in prime time on one the leading networks. They showed images and said the names of black people we have been mourning. I am of the belief that one day we will have laws that will hold police accountable for their actions. With the advent of social media sites like Twitter the police can no longer hide their wrongdoings. That coupled with movements like Black Lives Matter have put the worries, fears and shouts of black people in the forefront. America is our home. We built this country with our blood, sweat and tears. Literally. The shackles are invisible but the request is still overwhelmingly the same. We just want to be free and we shall not be moved.

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One Year Ago

The day was warm and sunny. It was like any other August day. I was preparing for my first semester of graduate school and decided to take a break from my preparation by scrolling through my Twitter timeline. There were the normal Twitter topics and jokes going on but, it wasn’t a normal day. The first tweet was that a someone’s friend was just murdered. The next was an image of a cop standing over a body. More tweets started flooding the timeline. I began clicking and scrolling to see what information I could find. What happened? Who is that? What is going on? Then he was identified. Michael “Mike” Brown, 18-years-old and unarmed. An officer (who was later identified as Darren Wilson) was standing over Michael. His body lay in the Missouri heat uncovered and bloodied. A crowd had formed. The police were more concerned about crowd control than moving Michael’s body. They let this young kid lay in the street, like a dog, for four hours. As the outrage grew police brought out K-9 units. It looked like a scene out of the Civil Rights Movement. I was glued to my Twitter account. Retweeting and reading all day and night. I was sick to my stomach.

The next day the images and videos became worse. I was glued to links streaming live video and saw what looked more like war. Tear gas, tanks, armored vehicles, police in riot gear with weapons I had only seen on battlefields. Except, this wasn’t Iraq or Afghanistan. This was Ferguson, Missouri in the United States of America. A country who prides itself on the words, “Liberty and Justice for All.” Well, unless you’re a black person living here. For ten whole nights I watched black people, some protestors, and some just standing in their own yards, be attacked by the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them. The National Guard was even  called to the city. Not to protect the people the police were attacking, but to protect the police. No one in that crowd was holding automatic weapons. No one in the crowd was wearing body armor. Yet, they were being protected while the people of their city were being brutalized. These violent acts did not go unnoticed. The world was watching.

I could barely pay attention during the work day. I was attached to my Twitter account. More so than I had ever been. I made sure every person who followed me was aware of what was going on. I even had a friend from undergrad reach out and say he was glad that I was keeping the story alive via my account. However, being so immersed in what was happening in Ferguson, was causing sleep to come slowly. There were nights that falling asleep meant I would see the faces of protestors running from tear gas. I could hear them screaming and yelling in my dreams.

That was one year ago. On August 9, 2014 the death of Michael “Mike” Brown became the straw that broke the camel’s back; it shook up the world. We know that Michael Brown wasn’t the first to be murdered because of the color of his skin. Eric Garner’s choke hold death happened a month before and countless other black men and women had been murdered prior to him. So what was it about Michael Brown’s murder that made our silent screams become much more public? Why, even after the world watched Eric Garner scream, “I can’t breathe” did the tide turn? I don’t know a solid answer to that question. What I do know is that I hear the words of Langston Hughes’ poem entitled, Warning. One of the lines of the poem reads, “…beware the day they change their mind…” and Michael Brown became the reason we did. His body laying in the street as if he were no more than trash, turned smoke into fire. And when the Grand Jury returned with the announcement that there would be no indictment against Darren Wilson, that fire that seemed to only have ignited in Ferguson, started to roar all over the country.

Since the death of Michael Brown there have been many more black men and women murdered. Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray,  Akai Gurley, Eric Harris, Sam DuBose, Sandra Bland, the Charleston Nine, and names I cannot even remember. That’s terrible. What makes it worse, is that nothing has seemed to change. Police are still trigger happy and abusive when interacting with black people. A fear as old as fire and rope still exists and went from being a private fear amongst the black community, to a public fear that is being ridiculed. We yell, “Black lives matter” and are met with, “No! All lives matter.” I want to say this because I’m not sure why it is such a hard concept to grasp. If all lives mattered, there would be no need to say that black lives matter. If all lives matter, then the police and white America wouldn’t treat us like we are animals. Being black in America is like standing in room, screaming as loud as you can, and no one even blinks. Being black in America means living in a place that sees you as nothing more than something to be feared, if you’re a man, or something to be sexualize if you’re a woman.

Unspoken rules of how black people have to live their lives became public when people finally started to listen. One would think that some understanding would develop. Yet, that hasn’t been the case. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of white people who are “woke” and stand in solidarity with all that is going on. I’m not speaking to them. I’m speaking to the ones who continually say, maybe he should have cooperated, maybe she should have put out her cigarette, he should have stopped walking. I’m talking to the ones who think the Confederate Flag is heritage and not hate. I’m talking to the ones who say all lives matter. And, don’t get me wrong, there are some black people out there who spout the same nonsense. To them I say, trust and believe, your cooperation won’t save your life. Stop thinking it will before it’s too late.

A year ago, the death of Michael Brown changed my life. I knew what I was going to study in graduate school the moment Trayvon Martin was murdered. Michael Brown, and every other person killed before and after him, solidified it. August 9, 2014 is a day I will never forget. I was changed forever. Even though there’s a new name to mourn every 28 hours, I’m a firm believer that black people will make it through. We always have. We can make a way out of no way, no matter the circumstance.

In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright!”

Please, Shut Up

When Facebook decided to open its revolutionary platform, college students around the world were enamored. Facebook provided a way for bright-eyed and fresh faced students to meet each other and share in common goals. They were going to change the world and Facebook was going to help them join with like minded souls. Then Facebook, like any growing company, decided to open its website up to the world. Those of us who remember when it was just for college students, began to lock down our profiles. No one wanted potential employers to see them breaking the record for longest keg stand at that frat party during homecoming. Also, when our aunts, uncles and mothers started to join, the aggravation factor skyrocketed. Mostly because relatives feel the need to comment on everything you say and do. Why can’t I post a picture of a Maker’s Mark bottle without one of my holier than thou folks telling me it’s the devils nectar and I should not be drinking?! Leave me alone! Damn! But, I digress.

The advent of social media, post Black Planet and MySpace, gave way for people to not only share news stories, life events and photos, but also their stupid ass opinions. Now, listen, before you get your knickers in a knot, let me say this. I love social media. Twitter is by far my favorite site on the internet. I started using Twitter during my college days because a professor decided that’s how he was going to post announcements. I began following other writers, media professionals and, of course, friends. I quickly learned that Twitter far surpassed Facebook in the amount of intelligent conversations that can be had. Twitter is not without fault. There is some stupid shit said on there daily. However, anyone who knows me knows, I think Facebook is where the stupid and insecure go to flourish. No, really, it is a cesspool. A bunch of people talking just to talk. Which leads me to why I’m writing this post. Social media allows for people to share their opinions on any and everything. I mean, every. single. damn. thing.

For some reason, people missed the memo that it is not necessary to always comment. Some things, barring needing to educate someone on why what they posted is factually wrong or racist, are better left ignored. One of my favorite quotes, from what I consider one of the best shows that aired on television, comes from The Wire. One of the characters by the name of Bunk stated, “Look at you. Giving a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.” *steeples fingers* that was a mighty, mighty word. I deeply wish the lot of the human population would say those words before commenting. Alas, they do not. A large number of people also subscribe to the notion that they are entitled to their opinion. No, beloved, you are not. There are moments you need to keep your feelings to yourself. Shut the fuck up. There are a great many examples, but, here are three that make me want to put my face through a brick wall when I see people continually commenting on them in my timeline or feed.

1. The relationship meme/quotes

These memes come in varying forms. With quotes like, “a real bitch knows how to hold her man down” with some picture of Beyonce riding shotgun with Jay-Z while mean-mugging. My personal favorites though, are the photo grids with Claire Huxtable, Florida Evans, some Victoria’s Secret super model and a porn star. Telling you to be smart like Claire, down like Florida, hot like the model and be able to have sex like the porn star. First of all, what? Second, James was stubborn and kind of an ass. At least from my memory of Good Times. Also, I’m from the ghetto. I’m not trying to emulate that, homie. Third, nobody is out here trying to be the next porn star on a Thursday night. Scandal comes on at nine. Let’s get it in and then get out my face. Oh, and we must not forget the memes that invoke religion as the reason a woman or a man is single, should stay single or why he or she can’t find the one. Maybe they’re single because they enjoy not having to share a Netflix password and having someone binge watch the second season of their favorite show with them. Maybe they want to watch House of Cards without explaining who each of the characters are and why this scene is important. I bet you didn’t think of that. These memes and quotes are absolutely the stupidest damn things I have ever had the pleasure of losing five minutes of my life on. What annoys me is that people feel the need to share them and comment on them a million times. I can almost avoid them entirely on Twitter because I’ve figured out the types who post them. However, I don’t log into Facebook often. When I do, I scroll through a hundred of them. Then, I have to read a soliloquy on why the meme is “so true” and “real” from someone who doesn’t know The Onion is a satirical news site.

2. The “real men” and “real woman” memes/quotes

Now, this is not to be confused with the relationship meme. I will venture to say it is a close relative, though. These by far are my favorite ones on the internet. Why? Because these quotes and memes have been turned into lucrative businesses by men, and women, who know how to play on insecurities. Steve Harvey wrote two books on telling women how to think like lady’s but act like men. There’s an asshole on Twitter by the name of Chey B who has thousands of followers and tells women that if they carry condoms, they’re a ho. Oh, and don’t get me started on the many “doctors” I see on the timeline telling men and women how to be, wait for it…men and women. That women should be submissive (whatever the fuck that means) and that men should be the sole providers of the home.  What? Young, these bills are high and the power company insists on raising prices without warning or a real explanation. Also, have you seen the fees the city charges for a trash can? Nah, playa, everyone in this house who can work, is going to work. I actually went on an accidental rant about this one day on Twitter. How in the hell do these people get away with this. I mean, obviously, the people who subscribe to their way of thinking have a bit of internal work to do. I think what made this worse, for me, is that I had friends who shared in a few of these beliefs. Had being the key word. I threw those fish back in the pond.

3. Money and what people do with it

I wake up at an ungodly hour to get dressed and go to work. I do my job, very well I might add, and, on occasion order take-out. After a long day, standing in front of the stove is not what the hell I want to do. I have one restaurant in particular I love to splurge on, via GrubHub, because they make the best shrimp tacos this side of the Mason-Dixon. That being said, occasionally I see people who post things they have splurged on or repost stories of what people bought for themselves. I love when people buy things that make them happy. We don’t all always remember to do things for ourselves. That is beside the point, though. Now, it is prom season in most of the country so parents and teens are posting their amazing prom pictures. This is low-key one of my favorite things that happens on social media. However, there is this reoccurring theme of people on Twitter and Facebook admonishing parents about spending a certain amount of money on their kids prom. I’m going to repeat that sentence. People are admonishing parents about spending money on their kids prom. Let me share a fun fact. If you start statement or sentence with, “I’m not one to tell people what to do with their money but…” or “This is just my opinion on money but…” or my favorite, “This is going to make people mad…” and “This may make some of y’all mad but…” you might want to shut the fuck up. Stop talking. You literally negated everything you were about to say with the, “but,” in that statement. For some, prom is what they scrimp and save for. They want their kids to have what they didn’t get a chance to have. With all that is going on in the world, can we just take a moment and give a collective, “yaaaaaaaassss” when we see a fly ass dress or tux? Also, what seems like “a lot” of people splurging, really isn’t that many. A lot of those photos are regurgitated from years past and put into a few articles. Relax.

Look, all three of those things make me want to light the internet on fire and watch it burn. The next time you find yourself about to comment or make a statement on one of those three things, take a moment. Really sit back and think about it. Can you scroll past it? Do you really need to comment or share that post? Is it really necessary? Do you have to point out the stupid? Can you let that stupid be stupid all by its lonesome?

I hope this post provided you with a laugh. With all that is happening in the world, I figured I should take a moment and make someone smile. Hopefully, the majority who read this can all touch and agree. For those who feel some type of way, well, hit dogs holler.

The Breaking Point

Writing is my release and it helps me clear my head. Whether people read it or not never concerned me but, my mental health has been greatly affected and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. I could barely bring myself to do this. That is how bad it has gotten for me. This has been heavy on my heart for months. One the reasons I have not written anything in a while is because this topic is all over the news and there are various blogs that do a better job at writing on this particular topic.  I’m sure by now you have figured out I’m talking about the numerous Black people who have been murdered by police. Every time the name of a new victim is announced, a part of my soul dies. All of these murders break my heart. One in particular, made me breakdown.

I was sitting on my couch watching MSNBC when I started scrolling through my Twitter timeline. I noticed immediately the name Eric Harris kept coming up as a hashtag. My heart started to race. I knew, before even clicking the hashtag, another Black man had been gunned down. I knew what the details would be, and still, I clicked. I still refuse to watch the video. I just can’t bring myself to do it. However, in reading the accounts of the story, the words, “fuck your breath” sent me from a state of nauseousness, to full out grief. I sat on my couch, alone, and cried. Robert Bates, the 73-year-old volunteer police officer, shot and killed Eric Harris. He claimed he was reaching  for his taser and did not realize it was his gun. What I fail to understand is how a police officer is unable to tell the difference between a loaded gun and a taser. They do not weigh the same nor do they feel the same when picked up. Bates was heard on the recording apologizing when he realized he shot Harris. Instead of immediately attempting to save Eric Harris’ life when he states he’s having a hard time breathing, another officer responds, “fuck your breath.” Eric Garner yelled I can’t breath multiple times on camera and was left to die. Eric Harris, in a different order of words, said the same thing and was told, fuck your breath. I cannot even begin to explain the feelings that emerged when I heard that snippet from the recording. What I do know is, I no longer feel safe. I have seen this question asked multiple times by multiple people of color. I reiterate those same words. How much more are we supposed to take?

The very people who are supposed to protect us, are gunning us down in the streets like animals. Black men and women are walking with targets on our backs. All because the skin we are born with elicits fear in white people; most especially law enforcement. Racism is do deeply entrenched in this country that every stereotype given to Black people by the majority, is used to murder us. Black people literally cannot walk down the street without being accosted by the police because we fit the description of some suspect. Black people cannot walk home at night because some overzealous loser thinks we get away with crime. Black people cannot come home from a bachelor party without being riddled with bullets because some scary, trigger happy officer thinks he saw a gun. A black woman can knock on a door because she is in need of help and never see another day. Black people can commit the simplest of infractions and be killed for it. Yet, our white counterparts can carry out the most egregious act of domestic terrorism, be taken alive and stand trial in front of a jury of his peers. White people can commit an act of domestic terrorism, stand in a courtroom, plead insanity and be sentenced to a mental health facility.  A little black girl can be asleep in her bed and be shot and her murderer can be found innocent by a jury of his peers. The sight of a police car gives me anxiety. When I hear police sirens, my heart begins to race and I pray a black person will not be on the receiving end of that siren. What disgusts me about all of this is that so many white people (and those black folks who love to shuck and jive) do not see the issue. All of this, “We are one race. There is no black or white, there’s only the human race. Maybe if Black people didn’t break the law you wouldn’t feel this way. There is no such thing as white privilege,” crap is disgusting. I want all of you who feel that way to lean in very closely. You ready?

Fuck you.

I am not even going to dignify my next statements with a, “not all white people” because, if this does not apply, then hooray for you. With that being said, how dare you, white people, fix your mouths to blame a victim? How dare you sit in your ivory tower and say you are not afforded any type of privilege. How dare you fix your lips to make such a ludicrous statement when that tower sits atop a hill on the very land the ancestors you love to claim raped, pillaged, and stole from the native people who lived here. They didn’t stop there, though. Those white folks took a fleet of boats to another continent, raped, pillaged, and stole humans from other countries and introduced slave labor to the very land they stole. They put people in chains and treated them like cattle. Mothers were ripped away from their children. Women were raped. Men fought for their entertainment. Men, women and children worked your land and in your homes. Completing tasks you felt you were to good to do, including nursing the children they birthed, while their own were sold or worked outside like animals.  You made caricatures of the black people and called us names. White people instilled a fear of black people so deep, it has become institutional. Then the Civil War came and the very power they had was in jeopardy. Your ancestors were concerned that the people they held in chains would rise up and overpower them. Oh, but they were a clever bunch. The white men who cracked the whip in the fields, put on white sheets to become one of the most frightening and dangerous domestic terror groups on American soil. Those sheets they wore then turned into blue uniforms, a badge, a gun and, eventually, equipped with weapons best fit for war. You have, quite literally, been taught since Columbus landed here, that your alabaster colored skin gives you the right to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. The very privilege you deny is oozing from your pores and dripping down your lips when you state, with aplomb I might add, that you have no privilege. I’ll bring the proof of your privilege back to 2015. Robert Bates, the officer who murdered Eric Harris, was charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter. He was given permission to travel to the Bahamas for his family vacation. Let me say that again for the people in the cheap seats. He murdered a man, it was captured on camera, said he was sorry, was charged, and was still allowed to travel on a family vacation to the Bahamas. White police officers can kill a black man and still go lay out in the sun with his family.

George Zimmerman, a law enforcement wannabe, followed and murdered Trayvon Martin. He had a substantial amount of money raised for him by his supporters. A jury found him not guilty and he went on to take photos at gun shows. Tamir Rice was playing in park with a toy gun and in less than two seconds was shot dead. Oscar Grant was face down on the train platform and was shot and killed. That officer claimed to grab his gun instead of his taser, just like Bates. Sean Bell was leaving his bachelor party and was murdered the night before his wedding. The police fired over fifty times at a group of unarmed men like they were at the O.K. Corral. Akai Gurley was shot in the stairwell of his housing project by a skittish rookie cop. Amadou Diallo was murdered outside his apartment, his body riddled with nineteen bullets. Eric Garner was said to be selling loose cigarettes when he was killed on camera. It should be noted that the man who shot the footage was arrested and thrown in jail. Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown and lied about how it all happened. He made Mike Brown seem like he was Godzilla on steroids. He was protected and had a substantial amount of money raised for him by supporters, also. Some of whom are members of law enforcement. A Grand Jury was fed evidence that kept him from being indicted. He got married and is leading a normal life.  Protestors took to the streets in the wake of Mike Browns death and were faced with dogs, tanks and tear gas. All of these men died at the hands of the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them. All of this happened in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In the words of one of my favorite poets, Dahlak Brathwaite, “And that’s why fuck the police be our favorite hymn. I know it’s a vicious cycle but it ain’t gone end…”

“Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot….”

Today is the first day of the new year.  Take a deep breath.  You made it.

There are many people who did not get a chance to see 2015.  I wrote about a few of those people on this blog.  Many of us lost loved ones this year.  People who were taken to soon.  The consensus from everyone seems to be that last year was horrid.  I mean, there were some great moments.  I got to travel to my favorite city and fall in love with it all over again.  I made significant moves professionally and academically. One of my best friends in the world got engaged and asked me to be part of her special day as a bridesmaid.  There were some epic moments in 2014.  However, I could have done better in my personal life.  The year 2014 taught me a lot about myself.  One of those things was, to quote Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for this shit.”

What do I mean when I say that?  I mean that I am too old to continue dealing with unhappy people.  I talked in a previous post entitled, “We are Our Sister’s Keeper” about sharing in others accomplishments.  In that post I discussed how I didn’t understand why people would do anything but celebrate others happiness.  This year, I have no intention on dealing with anyone who refuses to celebrate.  Their unhappiness can literally bleed into your life.  If 2014 has taught me anything it is that life is short and waits for no man.  My man Bunk, from The Wire, said it best, “There you go, giving a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.”  I am going to try my hardest to remember that statement.  When people start worrying about things that have nothing to do with them, I’ll be sure to not let them involve me.  No one should make time for that kind of nonsense.

My wish for the New Year is to have so much happiness, I won’t know what to do with all of it.  I want to share in the happiness of my friends and loved ones.  I want to be happy in love and in work.  I aspire to just be…happy.  That’s my wish for everyone who reads this post, too.  Be proud of each other.  Love one another.  Smile, laugh and joke more.  Find your peace and revel in it.  Let 2015 be the year you do all the things your heart wants.  The time is now to go for your dreams.  We are all given a certain amount of time.  How will you use your time?

I plan to become great with mine.

Liberty and Justice for Some

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence.

Michael “Mike” Brown Jr., murdered August 9, 2014

Eric Garner, murdered July 17, 2014

Renisha McBride, murdered November 2, 2013

Tamir Rice, murdered November 22, 2014

Aiyana Jones, murdered May 16 , 2010

Trayvon Martin, murdered February 26, 2012

There are hundreds upon hundreds of names that can be added to that list.  Names of men, women, children, who were murdered.  Their lives taken all because the color of their skin was of a darker hue.  Tamir Rice was murdered playing with a toy gun in an open carry state. The officer never even tried to approach him.  In 2.5 seconds he shot Tamir.  He never administered any first aid.  He left him to suffer in the street like an animal.  Tamir was 12-years-old.   Aiyana Jones, murdered while sleeping in her bed after police entered her home on a No-Knock warrant.  Aiyana was 7-years-old.  Eric Garner had broken up a fight when police approached him.  They accused him of selling loose cigarettes.  He was choked to death, in broad daylight, on camera.  His last words, “I can’t breathe.”  He said it eleven times.  Killed for being black in America.

I opened this post with an excerpt from Declaration of Independence.  Those words are hollow.  Black people are not allowed to pursue happiness.  We are not allowed to dream the way our white counterparts do.  We are taught at a young age what to do, how to behave, how not to be a target.  It is ingrained in us.  The murder of Michael “Mike” Brown Jr. on August 9, 2014 caused the pot to not only boil over, but set the house aflame.  The non-indictment of Darren Wilson, Mike Brown’s killer, made the earthquake.  The world was watching.  Nations that see us as the land of opportunity are appalled that the worlds most “free” country, is murdering its own people.  Then, just a little over a week later, no indictment for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who murdered Eric Garner.

Cliven Bundy had a standoff with federal officials and is still alive.  I’m talking wild west, guns in hand and he lives to spew his vitriol.  The Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, alive and well.  Hell, Tsarnaev was on the cover of freaking Rolling Stone.  The Dark Knight Rises shooting suspect, James Holmes, taken alive.  These three men have one glaring thing in common.  They are white.  These are men who came, guns on their person, and the police did not kill them.  Yet, as a black person, I’m supposed to not see racial disparities in these incidents.  I’m supposed to believe we are all equal.  Tell me, is this what democracy looks like?

I am emotionally exhausted.  There have been other black men and woman killed since the few names I have listed at the beginning of this post.  Shock is no longer a feeling I’m able to have.  Anger is the best way to describe how I feel.  I am fucking livid.  I am angry because we are continually being admonished for being angry.  The police have a wanton disregard for black life.  I don’t want to hear, “not all police,” because this is not the time for that.  Too many black men and women are dying at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them.  The worst part of it all, we are literally crying out for change and white people are saying, with righteous indignation, that it is our fault.  We are to blame for this.  I say to all of you, shut the entire fuck up.

Forty-five years after Fred Hampton was murdered, we are still fighting for the right to be allowed to live in this country.  Forty-six years after Dr. King was assassinated, we are still fighting for equality.  Two men who took different routes, lives were ended because they wanted more for their race.  A race that our founding fathers didn’t consider human under the law.  In 2014, Anno Domini, we still are not considered human.  We are good enough to entertain you in sports.  We are good enough to entertain you in music.  We are good enough to entertain you in movies.  When we start talking about equality, everyone becomes deaf, dumb and blind.  What is it going to take?  How many more pieces of “strange fruit” have to sprout before white people start to get it?

If there is a silver lining in this, if I had to find one, it would be how proud I am of the many young leaders who have emerged.  Those who were tear gassed in Ferguson, Missouri, night after night and are still standing tall.  They are still marching and fighting for justice over 100 days after Mike Brown’s murder.  They are joining protesters in other places to stand in solidarity with those who stand with them.  To paraphrase a line from the film 42, “God built them to last.”  I stand in solidarity with all you.  All of you marching for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice and the hundreds of other men, women and children who were killed senselessly.  Do not let anyone deter you.  Do not let them tell you to quit.  The world is watching and America has to now deal with a demon she has kept in hiding from her allies for far too long.  Cry out until the ears of those who are oppressing us bleed.  This is not a dress rehearsal for the revolution.  This is real. The revolution is here.  Live and in color.

I end this with the words of Stokely Carmichael, “In order for non-violence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.  America has none, has none, has none.”

We are Our Sister’s Keeper

Last week, I was roaming the internet and came across  a speech by Gabrielle Union I had never seen before.  It is a little over a year old but it hit me, right in the chest, because it was so powerful and touching.  Oprah Winfrey even talked of how much this speech inspired her.  I linked the full video above, however, before I delve into the post, I’ve inserted part of the speech below.

This topic is something that has been heavy on my heart for some time now.  From the time I was a young girl, I could never understand why people were unkind to each other.   It irked me even more when it was women being purposefully unkind to other women.  Not sharing in each others accomplishments, talking behind each others backs and even being blatantly rude to each other and masking it as “being honest.”  I just want to say, “being honest” does not mean being mean and rude.  The line in Gabrielle’s speech that hit me the hardest was, “I took joy in people’s pain and I tapped danced on their misery.”

First, let me just say I love Gabrielle Union.  She’s stunningly beautiful and amazingly talented.  The honesty in this speech made me realize that “mean girls” come in all tax brackets, shapes, sizes, races and ages.  Some women, like Ms. Union, (now Mrs. Wade as she was recently married to Miami Heat superstar Dwayne Wade. Mazal tov!), are able to look inside themselves and realize the wrong in that kind of attitude.  Yet there are other women who never grow out of it. I’m talking to those women.  I was always taught to be kind and never covet what other people have.  You never know what they had to do to get it or what goes on behind closed doors.  I was taught to be happy for others no matter what is going on, good or bad, in my own life.  Life may not be going according to our plans and that can be frustrating.  Looking out and seeing someone get something you want can be infuriating.  I get that.  What I don’t understand, is commenting or reacting negatively to that woman or friends joy.  Whenever I encounter a woman who refuses to share in another friend or woman’s joy, it concerns me.  It is hard enough just being a woman. Why do that?

Tearing each other down solves nothing.  I am a firm believer that it blocks whatever blessings are coming down the pipe.  That type of negative energy, if allowed to fester, can turn the most gorgeous woman ugly.  I think we all can attest to a time where we had to take a step-back and look within.  What about that news made you feel that way?  Are you praying for the right thing?  Did tearing that person down bring anything positive to your world?  Are you coveting the material things the other person has?  So on and so forth.  These are all important questions.  Going through life worrying about the great things others have, will not only cause you to not get what you so desperately think you need, but it will most definitely cause people to walk away.  Life is hard enough.  No one has time for a negative Nancy and friendships have limits.  I think Gabrielle’s speech is important because she came full circle and understood that.  She thanked her friends and other women in that room she may have hurt, for not giving up on her.  She was big enough to realize her mistakes and humbly share them with the world.   That is beautiful.

Women have to be each others biggest cheerleaders.  Even when we don’t want to admit it.  We need each other to get through the day.  Society is constantly feeding us images of women who are fighting each other, demeaning each other, and being catty.  Why not choose joy?  Better yet, the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” fits perfectly here.  Shutting up is always in style.  I know first hand how it feels to walk away from a person because they have done irreparable damage to a friendship by being negative.  The point I’m trying to make here is this.  With all the adverse conversations in regards to women, we need to learn to stand with each other.  A little kindness goes a long way.  I’m not even close to perfect but I try my hardest to remember to choose kindness.  I implore each and every person, the women especially, to look inside the next time you find yourself tap dancing on the misery of another.  I’ll end this blog, as I always do, with a quote.  Think about it the next time the urge to tap dance comes along.

“The marks humans leave are too often scars.” – John Green (The Fault In Our Stars)