Thursday, December 31, 2009

Straight and Narrow

Being a black woman in the US, it's almost impossible to avoid conversations about hair. Growing up in the south, all of my childhood memories are peppered with 6 hour sessions in hair salons, either with me sitting in a beautician's chair with a cloud of heat-filled smoke surrounding my head or with me plopped down on the neighboring coach flipping through old issues of jet magazine that was missing half of the pictures as the ladies had ripped them out and stuck them on their mirrors ( "I want the new Halle Berry do- that's FLY"), waiting for my mom to finish. Given all of this, it seems impossible that at the age of 23, I managed to escape this institutional bondage to rock my "nappy" locks happily. My morning hair routine rivals a black dude and I'd like to say that I reinvest those precious moments into my day. But still, I feel like some open letter to the masses is due so that I can live in PEACE. At least once a day, I'm asked "What are you going to do with your hair!?! Are you gonna dread it!! You gonna press it! Ooooo! Why don't you do that!?" I feel like my hair is on some kind college exit interview.

So to the cheering squad of folks on Team: Get Your Hair Straightened, who think my hair and everyone else's is nicest when subjected to the unrelenting heat of a pressing comb, I say, don't hold your breath. You may deplete the oxygen feeding your narrow mind. Sure, when you suggest it once, it's harmless, but when it's your daily, weekly, monthly refrain, I begin to question your world view and subsequent ignorance quotient. Yes, I just referred to you as shallow and narrow minded. It's shameful that despite the Evolutionary Road that African Americans have traveled, there seems to still be one area where we might as well be monkeys walking in the hunched over position.

Hair has always been at the top of a list of qualifiers in the African American community. It's right there under skin tone and before body type. It puts you either at the bottom or the top of the social totem pole. The question of why is far too complicated to answer in a blog entry. Not that anyone really could. Everyone must make their own individual peace about it. Especially since I don't think we'll be coming to any collective decision any time soon. Further, we must surround ourselves with people who understand and are of culturally sound mind, understanding the "long" and short of it. And occasionally that one person that we find worthwhile to "educate." I wonder if Madame CJ Walker anticipated all of this when she invented hot combs and perms and stuff. Did she anticipate that there would be a faction of people, down the line, who would rebel against this technology and consequently live lives subject to scrutiny. I'll go ahead and say no. I'm sure, however, that she had heard one too many people utter the words "good hair." I have to wonder what she thought. Probably what I'm thinking. Anyone who has succumbed to that school of thought has consequently neglected the beauty of their own heritage and said to the world "My views on beauty rival that of a neanderthal." Perhaps India Arie said it best.

"Good hair means curls and waves, bad hair means you look like a slave." And perhaps that's it. We'd rather look like some ethnically ambiguous chick than anything that represents our ancestors? No? Well, get your story straight. Because your ignorance is maddening and puzzling, and I refuse to keep addressing it in the new year.

This is my hair manifesto. And I couldn't avoid writing it. I didn't intend for it to solve anything. As I approach a long overdue hair trimming, I hope that the dead hair falling from my head will go in peace and without the marching orders of a hot comb. If such things are impossible, at least my final words will cause my close minded friends...and family to examine their outlook and see past the "naps" to the root of the problem. I'm hopeful that in 2010 we can not only turn the chapter on a new decade but also on this topic of dialogue. Could someone PLEASE bring to the table, new topics for discussion on race relation. You've got at least a million to choose from...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Gift

To consider that most of my entries are pre-mediated (I let the ideas simmer for at least a week) and that last year, I was all perplexed about the meaning of the government bailout and it's impact on the meaning of Christmas; this year, I'll aim at something more light hearted....and shorter. (I'll set my timer :-)

Christmas crept up on me this year. Not just because 2009 has been bananas, but also because I have not indulged myself in one ounce of the commercialization of this holiday. I'm proud. It has allowed me to focus my energy on LIFE, and why, of the many gifts that God could give us through his son, he chose that one. Interesting.

I'd presume it's because life, no matter how many ways we screw it up, complicated and devalue it, is so much more important that anything else. I had an AH-HA moment a while back that culminted in my understanding that as long as I wanted to be a community organizer, avid volunteer and overall change agent, I probably would never be rich. Or famous. That's fine. As long as I'm happy. And God is pleased. Understanding Christmas means just that for me this year. It makes perfect sense though. (Few things in my life ever do.) That a holiday celebrating Christ, should, in turn, be about life.

To reference the actual story, I never really understood the whole, there was no room at the inn thing until this year (I interpret things in metaphors- I guess that's why). But if Jesus was the gift of life, perhaps (as a metaphor) peoples lives represented the inn. And they were just too cluttered with other stuff they thought they needed: ritual, status, legalism to receive life, and liberty. It's something to think about. Clean out the inn of your life. It's likely very cluttered and confining. And you probably don't have much room to move around, let alone take free gifts. But as the famous song "Joy to the World" goes: "Let every heart, prepare him room." To commune with Jesus fully is to be free and liberated. Food for thought. (You've got enough food to eat this season).

Merry Christmas! (Hey, that was a quick one!) :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let the Circle be Unbroken...

Whether you spend the Holidays with your local “friends but we are more like family” family or whether you travel the 7 seas and backwoods to be with your real family, the Holidays really show you what family ties are made of. If you are like me, you have a very large country-ghetto suburban tendency type family. Whatever the case, family ties are important. They are fundamental to building a legacy. Legacies, I find, are what keep families across the ages, sustaining them with a rich sense of who they are and where they are going. As I sense the baton being passed onto the next generation (me and my cousins-7 of us over the age of 18), I’m getting a bit nervous-not because I don’t know who will cook Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years(though I should probably think about that)-but because I’ve seen numerous families fall by the wayside from generation to generation. I recently watched the show Find My Family. It’s a tearjerker about reunited families and it made me realize how incomplete we are without being connected to our families. I also thougt back to a book I read when I was a kid, Mildred D. Taylor's "Let the Circle Be Unbroken." The novel tells of a 1930's Mississippi family who struggles against all kids of family curses and buried secrets to build a legacy of success far beyond their poor, backwoods community. Skimming through a summary of the book, I am reminded of how many more opportinites that we have now, especially black people, to make the future better for ourselves and our kids. So, if effort to avoid pitfalls, I give you….according to my calculations, 9 Missteps of Building a Family Legacy:

1) We don’t pray together- After your praying grandmother dies, who picks up the slack? Even amidst the catch phrases “A Family that Prays together stays together” and Prayer Changes Things, who is covering your family on a day to day basis? How much time have you taken to pray for your extended family? Or your immediate for that matter?

(2) We don’t learn how to cook – Food brings people together. Correction: HOME COOKED food brings people together. The TV dinner, drive-thru age is kryptonite to the idea that while people’s lives may take many different turns, all roads lead to good food

(3) We don’t stay connected except for Holidays- How many times have you called your relatives “just because.”? It may seem small but the investment we make in the everyday lives of one another, says something about our personal values.

(4) We don’t financially support one other: We all have big dreams, huge even. But what support do we provide for one another?? For the college student needing book money, the uncle trying to start up a business, the little cousin trying to raise money for a missions trip or even the aunt trying to start a soul food restaurant- nothing says strong family ties like financial security and empowerment. African American families, in general, have an issue with this. Today’s immigrants from Asian and Latin American countries can move to the USA and within 2 years, own 10 businesses, black folks can been living in the states 20+ years and still be leasing cars. Really? It may be too much to ask of you and your budget, but sending a few dollars to another family member here or there, stretches our hands towards the hearts of those we care about most. Money isn’t everything, but it’s something to think about.

(5) We don’t have family traditions: The day after Christmas, my grandma always nags one or more of my family members to make sure that we get her decrepit Christmas tree gets put up. It’s strange. But it’s tradition. This year, I started a new one. Gathering in a circle and sharing a blessing and a prayer request. You don't have to do anything elaborate. Plant a tree, take a trip (your grandma's house doesn't count) There's accountability in tradition. I heard it said at the Spelman- Morehouse concert that "tradition is the "living spirit of the dead and traditionalism is the dead spirit of the living". I couldn't agree more. Don't make it drudgery.

(6) We let small things break us apart. Remember that one time your uncle re-nigged in Spades and costed your dad $100? And then the world came to a metaphorical end? Yeah, well that should not cause you to never attend an event where he or his children are present. Funny, I know, but we let very small things like this tear us apart. There are, on occasions, things that legitimately deeply divide a family. Child molestation, Alcoholism, unpaid debt, just to name a few. But if we think about it feuds are never worth it in the long run.

(7) We don’t stress the importance of family history or legacy- Just because you don’t have a famous last name doesn’t mean that you and others in your family should take time to value the uniqueness of your family unit. Not all black people are from Africa, Not all white people are from Europe and not everyone’s grandmother is 1 part Cherokee Indian. Find out where you come from. You may be descended from royalty….then again, you may not be. Doesn't matter really.

(8) We perpetuate foolishness- Everyone's family has a story. Some parts good, and some episodes we'd rather omit. The one thing that most families have in common is there are partciular destructive beahviors that we just can't seem to- or care to-erradicate. For example, you've probably got at least one uncle that has cheated on his wife. Or (to be totally PC) an aunt that has cheated on her husband. It may have caused uproar in your family, or it may not have caused the slightest ripple. Whatever the case, it seems almost certain that another member of the family will do the EXACT SAME THING. Why? The gate of permissiveness is open now so you just walk right through? It's like taking a hammer and chisel, and chipping away at the foundations of family. We MUST be ACCOUNTABLE to one other. Even if it mean airing dirty laundry. After, all, it's better than letting is sit and stink up your family. If you are a bad parent who just can't seem to get your act together and be a good role-model for your children, get them a role-model. Stat. It would be a nice Christmas present. :-)

(9) We don't expect enough of one another- This item has close ties to number 8.We expect the world of everyone else. Celebrities included. *COUGH* Tiger Woods* COUGH* But we don't hold each other to any real standard of excellence-academic, professional, financial, or spiritual. In fact, we "hate on" one another for accomplishing more than we do. Yes, even parents can be guilty of hating on their children. We should, instead, have an Army "be all that you can be" motto when it comes to encouraging one another. Generations only get better if it's members value and pursue excellence.

These are certainly not all of the missteps that families make in pursuit of building a strong family legacy, in fact, it's only the tip of the iceberg. I’m in no way suggesting that you have to have a Madea- style family reunion complete with the electric slide and fish fry every weekend (although I do love a good fish fry), but today, in whatever way you can, seek to build a family legacy for your generation. Because we are the future and the future is now….or something like that. It is as much up to you as it is anyone else. So let the circle be unbroken, or break the chain, either one. And at the very least, hitch your little piece to a bright and prosperous future.

In conclusion, there's a writing called "The Paradox of Our Time" that truly sums up the condition of the modern family:

The Paradox of Our Time

We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less common sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, become too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch too much television, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and lie too often.

We have learned how to make a living, but not a life; we have added years to our life, but not life to our years. We have been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We have conquered outer space, but not conquered inner space; we have done larger things, but not better things; we have cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we have split the atom, but not the prejudice; we write more, but learn less; we plan more but accomplish less.

We have learned to rush, but not to wait; we have higher incomes, but lower morals; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success.

We have built more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever before, but have less communication; we have become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times for fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare, more leisure and less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is too much in the show window, but not enough in the stockroom. A time when technology has brought this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference, or to just skip ahead. ~One of many versions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holier than Thou

: (I hate having to do these at the beginning of my writings about religion, but some of you all forget about free speech -of which my blog is one example- and go bananas. Others of you are way too religious. Relax). This entry is not intended to be negative. It is not intended to guilt, but rather to convict you so that you will press yourself for an honest assessment of your faith-if you do profess the Christian faith. It is also intended to aid you in your approach to evangelism. If you are not of the Christian faith, none of this applies to you (yet), and I am not at all moved by you being offended. Thanks.

Search the bible, and you’ll find numerous examples of people who were persecuted because of their faith. You’ll also, luckily, find answers as to how to deal with it. But maybe, just maybe (this is a pretty revolutionary idea-you may want to brace yourself) it’s not others for whom our Christianity is a problem, it’s US. No really, US. I know, that idea that we can be an impediment to the faith that we profess doesn’t make sense. Well, a lot of things in the world don’t, so there.

It seems, at least sometimes, that we are more perturbed by how to carry our faith in a natural, approachable way that people are to receive/ acknowledge it. It’s a shame, really, because Jesus, when he walked the earth, might have been more relatable than his followers are today. I mean, people actually came up to Jesus. (You’ll recall the blind man by the roadside and the woman whose only desire was to touch the hem of his garment). So why are people running away from us? Because instead of allowing our faith to enhance relationships and thereby the quality of our lives, it turns into a blockade against authenticity. Dating seems more difficult. Choosing friends seems impossible because you’ve gotta choose between your super spiritual friends and everyone else- and God for bid you mix the two! What do you say, where do you go to hang out?!?! When it comes to your individual walk with Christ, can you have a bad day? Will people miss the gospel if I don’t speak to everyone?? It’s a sort of paralysis by analysis, but I have, at various points in life, been plagued by this legalistic type of thinking, making my Christian walk look like a Trail of Tears, explaining why it’s the road less traveled. As my pastor explained, legalism has never changed anyone’s life. While the Christian faith is largely about looking from the inside out, we have to begin considering how our walk looks to others, particularly those we seek to recruit into the kingdom. Are we down to earth, relevant Christians? Or are we so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good?

I recently had a conversation my friend Rebecca about this very thing. She said that sometimes she felt the pressure, as a Christian, to be “relevant.” By relevant she meant a Christian who is in touch with culture, knows popular, secular songs, etc. It tugged on her heart to an extent because she felt that she didn’t want to be labeled as “holier than thou” but her convictions are her convictions. She wondered how necessary it was to be “relevant” and how much that compromises Christianity. I can’t say I really have the answer to that. Do you?

You see, for unbelievers, choosing a view of religion can be like window shopping. That’s mainly because many people believe that being spiritual ambiguous makes them seem more open minded, interesting, and intellectual, guaranteeing them a spot in the after life of socially acceptable people (I wonder who’s working that gate-Paris Hilton?). So they spend their youth, teens and sometimes middle age dibbling and dabbling in all kinds of new age beliefs. But why? I figure it’s a toss up between political correctness and the prevailing sentiment that Christians are hypocrites, people bound by religious laws, unable to live normal lives. In the business of religious window shopping, people want to choose what “looks best” Unfortunately, the struggles that Christians face are like the mannequins in a boutique-tired, lame, legalistic mannequins. No one even wants to take the free gift. We may need to change our marketing strategy. We must challenge ourselves to be mature enough so that our desire and commission to share the gospel is accompanied by a lifestyle that someone would want to embrace. I’d venture to say that this is one reason why more Christians don’t evangelize. Just a thought…

Thankfully, this complex question is not one for which there is no remedy. God did not intend for us to spend our time being conflicted-plagued with social anxiety and legalism. Nor did he intend for us to abandon the Christian walk for a more comfortable pair of shoes. We ourselves, as well as the people that we encounter must recognize that Christianity is a religion, followed by imperfect people, after a perfect God, that is the essence of holiness. In this pursuit, we are to live fully and richly, that our faith may be inviting and inspiring. After all WWJD?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spoiled Brat

After reading countless blogs and facebook notes (well, not countless)about what people have to be thankful for this year, I have reasoned that my life is deserving of such a list. Here goes.

(1) My relationship with God, because he's not shiftless like you know who and he'll never leave me nor forsake me. And trust me. If I were God, I would have left me by now. I'm thankful that God has a sense of humor that he reveals to me at least once a day.:-)

(2) Insignificance: In a world overwhelmed by people's need to be important, I am grateful that God showed me that it was ok to be behind the scenes and not, whether prompted or unprompted, give a laundry list of things that you have accomplished in the last year and reasons why you are AWESOME.

(3) Significance: I am thankful for knowing when to stand out. There's a time to speak and be heard. The timing is one of life's best keep secrets (or widely ignored trues,you decide).Whether we work tirelessly in silence or grab the mic and speak our minds. It is God who grants us our moments to shine. Not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. He makes everything beautiful in its season.

(4) Amazing opportunities to spread my wings as a community organizer: From BASIC Empowerment corporation where I have learned the importance of impacting the next generation through promoting educational excellence to the Young Democrats of Cobb County where I have experienced the power of base-level party building; I am thankful that while the work is plentiful and the laborers are few, I'm grateful to be tilling the land. :-)

(5) Connecting me with people who have amazing vision. Because frankly, it's contagious.

(6) My Afro. Yeah, I said it. It will always set me apart. Here's to a life of being "that girl" :-)

(7) The gym and my trainer: For helping me to fight off the unwanted weight of my twenties....well, most of it.

(8) Twitter: For convincing me of the power of concise thoughts (160 character thoughts to be exact)

(9)Random questionnaires on Facebook: It is through them that I learn interesting things about my friends that I would otherwise not have known.

(10) Ministry: reTHINC & CCLMI: For stretching my definition of what ministry. For engaging me in 3 hour long conference calls on how to help ministries thrive and grow, for exposing me to new causes and new parts of the city through service.

(11) My family: Because they are a ministry of their own.

(12) Stacey Evans- For entrusting me with the task of managing her campaign. We have an amazing task before us. Just think, this time next year, we will be giving thanks for electoral VICTORY! :-)

(13) Destiny Day School- For showing me not only how much I really do love kids, but also how much I can learn from them.

(14) Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church- For being the place at which I have grown to the person I am today. Every time I walk through the doors, meet new people or participate in a community outreach event, I am reminded that while the church is persecuted and ridiculed, it is still a place of hope, promise and restoration

(15) My friends- Particularly the new ones that I have made this year. You have afforded me numerous adult adventures, whose memories are sure to last a lifetime. To my "old friends" that I have bothered to keep in to keep in touch with through the seasons of my life, you are very near and dear to my heart. Whether you are my college friends or my campaign friends,thank you for what you have added to my life and thankfully subtracted.

(16) My blog! ( For keeping recent record of my personal growth, revelations, and musings about life without judgment or nagging me about pesky grammar rules. :-)

(17) FREEDOM!: And every kind, sort and degree of it.

(18) My relationship with Christ: Because without it, none of the aforementioned items would be possible.

Really, I'm kinda spoiled. And maybe, if you took a good look at your life, you'd agree that you are too. The art in Thanksgiving-true and sincere thanksgiving- is to remember that it is a lifestyle. We must be constantly reflective on the things that were are thankful for so even when the day-to-day grumbling threatens to consume our attitudes about life, we can be reminded of our abundant blessings.

Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trust Me....

Trust Me.

You’ve uttered those words countless times and probably have no clue what you’re asking someone to agree to. And really, it’s no surprise to me that trust, in many situations, is dispensed so freely. It is a bi-product of a society on the moral decline. Trust now ranks up there with fidelity and integrity. Sadly, they’re all on life-support. Clinging on for dear life to the few people who recognize and value them. Ancient times (really, times before Webster’s provided us with hundred-word definitions) defined trust as covenants made between two people or a person and a higher being. A trusting relationship was one in which there was a mutual allegiance and shared expectation. Now, the word merely references a surface relationship and exchange of information in which no party FULLY understands the level of accountability that they have to the person to whom they’ve spoken the words “Trust me.”

I’m a born again cynic and unfortunately, I have only recently come to the place in my life where I can actually believe the best about people and their intentions, let alone trust them.(God’s working on me). I trust few people in my life but have substantial grounds by which to do so. It’s not to say that there aren’t others in my life that have trustworthy potential. It’s only to suggest that there are few people of whom I have taken such an in depth inventory of. Trust is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of a committed relationship, not the starting point for an acquaintance. Sure the aforementioned notions are contextualized by experience, but even with time and age, this premise has remained.

I was recently doing an impromptu study of a relationship book with my friend Rebecca. The book was called “When Love is in View” It’s a great book. I was especially drawn to the authors’ views on the issue of trust. Considering that the book is about Christian dating, you can imagine what the authors had to say, but the thing that did stick with me was the idea that trust should stretch far and wide in a relationship. We should not compartmentalize our trust. You shouldn’t trust someone to keep a secret if you can’t trust they’d speak up for you if someone was slandering your name. Bottom line, if I trust you, I trust you completely. If I don’t trust you completely, I don’t trust you at all. Shortens the list for you, huh? It’s always interesting to me, when I look at people’s lives, to see who and what they trust. It speaks volumes about their character. I know people who find religion, in all of its different forms, completely absurd but watch Oprah as if it were a televangelist program. They buy everything from hand cream to books because Oprah says “Trust me, it’s great.” And here God is, everyday, saying “Trust me” and those very same people can’t bring themselves to entertain the thought let alone read the book that provides them with proof. Hmmm.

And so I ask you this, how many people’s lives have you inadvertently assumed responsibility for by way of this thing called trust? If the only qualification is having said to them “Trust Me,” there are probably too many to name. And at this point there’s really not much you can do about this laundry list. What you can do it make an effort-a concerted one- to be trustworthy and further, not to put yourself in a situation of trustee in someone’s life unless you are ready for the responsibility. It’s a heavy load to carry, ya know? Well, maybe you don’t. Just trust me on this one. :-)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

Whew! We made it through another Halloween weekend. The only Halloween that I can recall where no ghosts, goblins, spooky sounds, nor terrifying costumes are necessary. Because this year, reality is much scarier than anything in a horror movie. Let's take a look....

Swine flu is killing kids faster than we can subject them to a deplorable public school education and, if they're black, send them to jail. The war in Afghanistan is escalating. Job loss is still soaring. And there have been recent spikes of murderous violence that is causing more and more people to live in terror even in safe, quiet, suburbs. Chilling.

But with the world in such a mess, it seems strange that anyone would want to celebrate a much darker side of existence. Perhaps it is an escape. An economic stimulus, maybe?And in theses tough economic times...blah, blah, blah. But, perhaps, there could be a much deeper theme underlying it all. If we agree that darkness (dark concepts-i.e-ghosts, murders, fear) are separate from lighter concepts (life, birth, happiness), let's proceed. When we consider that when we embrace one (i.e-life), we seldom embrace it's opposite-death, it seems that we should all be sunny and cheery or depressed. The reality is that we exist in a world where we these concepts are intrinsically linked. Life, even in it's fullness, will meet an inevitable death. Happiness based on family, wealth, or success is linked to the fear that we may loose it all. We don't need to look far to understand this painful reality. And sure, as Mufasa says, it's all apart of the great circle of life. Couple that with the fact that we can't all live in Pleasantville. And there you have it, modern day USA. We've tricked ourselves into believing that the treat of happiness is an illusion and depression is a reality. When we celebrate darkness, we're basically celebrating the reality of despair in someones life, one that may far outlast a commercial holiday. A scariness that may be all too real.

I attended a Spoken word show this weekend appropriately titled Last Call. But beyond a clever play on words (they weren't talking about alcohol) the concept of Last Call really resonated with me. I see it as the metaphor for life's ultimate drum roll and grand finale fanfare. With the current state of affairs, who knows where we'll all end up. The necessity to live our lives responsibly and FULLY has never been more real than now. Whether we choose to walk in the light or in the dark, we all must be reminded our days are numbered. That whatever gifts and talent we are given on earth to unearth the fullness of humanity, we MUST use. If we allow the darkness, fear and despair to consume us, wasting opportunity after opportunity, or the recklessness of youth to destroy us, we miss the chance to live boldly and passionately. And when the last call comes, we are riddled with regret and faced with death. It may not be happening to you and it may not be happening to me, but it's happening to someone. Right now.

I write, this, as always, from a completely biased point of view. I've always, always, hated Halloween. But I am always grateful for extended metaphor. So all sexy kitten and naughty police uniforms aside, (my parents would never let me dress up in slutty costumes). I hope that this Halloween you do just a little bit of reflection. About the dark places in your life, that you never entertain for fear of forcing them into light. Truth is, We've got plenty of REAL issues to lavish a good bit of screaming on. People whose REAL issues surpass horror. Those issues will not yield to darkness or go back into hiding on Nov 1, but rather push their way into the light, forcing us to face them. I hope that you are not too busy playing dress up to notice. The window of time is much smaller than we think. By the time your kids are coming down from sugar highs and you are recovering from hangovers, the world and its problems will come knocking on your door. Trick or treat?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now??

No?? Well, it's probably better that way. Because you'd probably be alarmed, bewildered, concerned and insulted (maybe even all at once). Not because of the words that come directly from my lips, but rather by the words that never escape them. They're mine. They're yours. They're everyone's.....inner thoughts.... (insert goosebumps and spooky music). In a world where we are always encouraged to speak our minds and frankly, to be outspoken, it's no wonder that none gives credence to thought and SILENCE anymore. But thoughts are powerful. Not only because they are the basis of our actions, but because they often are MORE powerful than the words on our lips or the work of our hands. Sure the power of thoughts may SEEM to pale in comparison to the consequence of our deeds, but the uncensored thought, the silent refection, is the basis of our own truth. The truth that we take into the world, the truth with which we impact lives.

Whether it's patiently dealing with a co-worker who is working your last nerve with their dumb questions (yes, there is such a thing as a dumb question), graciously greeting that special (and I do mean special) someone who has stepped to you wrong one too many times, or shifting your eyes and smiling nervously when you are trapped in an elevator with someone you KNOW just passed gas.....our inner thoughts at work, carefully crafting the words that we will never, ever say. Why? Societal sensors of course. Decorum that preserves the feelings of the person at whom our thoughts are directly, sparing them embarrassment, fear and "come to Jesus moments," while we feel those very same things, double time. And while this seems like a raw deal, we find that time after time, when we open our mouths out of fear or ignorance or impulsiveness we are the most destructive. Why? Because the world would like to make you think that you are a punk if you don't SAY SOMETHING. All when we could have let silence SPEAK VOLUMES in our place. It's like those old, wise women who sit on porch stoops bearing witness to some of the most questionable and sometimes foul things all while shrugging their shoulders, raising their eyebrows, whistling and continuing to knit. The unbroken silence is baffling to most of us who have something to say about everything. Her unspoken words, may help a child escape from their abusive home in the middle of the night, keep a homeless man from being arrested, or protect a young man, teased to the point of torture. These are women, for whom silence is their strength.

Ever taken a road trip by yourself or spent time alone in meditation or prayer? The quality time spent in SILENCE with your inner thoughts is either comforting enough to become a routine or terrifying enough to make you want to spend the rest of your 20's on a shrink's couch. Even when the world around you speaks, YELLS even; when you are quieted enough to discover what is at your core, what amazing inner and outer strength we find! A man was once quoted as saying that "our time spent in the private place will determine our strength in the public place." Whether the private place we find is our own minds or in the corner of our closets, find it, and and stay there as long as you need too. After all, the world is not in need of another talking head whose comments have no point of reflection or truth, but it is in DESPERATE need of a few (well, more than a few) who are willing to keep their mouths closed long enough to process the thought that's coming out of it. If that takes be it.

This is not a "silence is golden and all words are weapons" lecture. It's just a mere reflection, from a girl who is not quick to hold her tongue but is slowly learning the need do." And a message to all of you in my sinking ship. Words are powerful tools/weapons, but what we find in their absence is the time that we need to make sure that we are using the right ones. But, you didn't hear that from me. :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Ready...

"Hold up, bring the beat back." Stop. I aint ready yet" " Wait. Lemme fix my hair....." ~Beyonce, Freakum Dress. Perhaps I could have chose a more appropriate song lyric but I am inclined to believe that we approach life about the same way.

In the sometimes confusing but consistently sobering world of adulthood, I've learned a handful of things. One nugget of wisdom is that there this, in fact, a difference in getting ready and being ready. A distinction between preparation and action (Besides the obvious). Getting ready is the process by which one prepares for something, rehearses, arranges, learns, anticipates... Being ready, however, is being positioned. Being able/having the capacity to receive or to give. Whether it's a task, a relationship a calling. Both states of being are good. Both can be beneficial. Both are necessary. The bad news is that most of us are trapped in the stage of ..."getting ready" and all of its lofty, do-nothing verbage. It rarely ever translates itself into any substantial action, but has a great plan to do so. And I'll say, frankly, that I am no expert on how to get out of it. Heck, it took me a week just to finish this blog entry. I do know that the thing that we must master is how to balance preparation with action. So that our actions are not premature or delayed.

We spend the morning preparing for the afternoon. The afternoon preparing for the evening. The weekday, preparing for the weekend. Our twenties preparing for our 30's and so on. When one considers this pattern, it seems that we are never READY. We're always "getting there." That is particularly troubling because I spend a great deal of time pouring over tasks getting ready for this and that. It's maddening to think that death is the only state of completion that I may ever achieve. This is not an endorsement for the "I have arrived" attitude, it's just my simple realization that who we are NOW, and where we are NOW and what we need NOW never get full consideration except for being the stepping stone to what we need to accomplish later. At some point we need to operate in the NOW. The right now. Instead, we often treat life like a squirrel storing acorns, waiting for something BIG to happen. Meanwhile something IS happening...this thing called life. We were just busy storing money, looking for a spouse and planning for grad school to notice. Too busy "getting there."

There are people who need our help and causes that need our attention and crisis that need our prayers. They can't wait until you write your law school personal statement that isn't due for 5 years. The world doesn't need more people who are so focused on getting ready for tomorrow's goals, promises, problems that they forget about the folks for whom tomorrow is a distant reality. Instead of getting ready for tomorrow, dig into today. I assure you, it's much more exciting and fulfilling than worrying about things that haven't happened yet.

One event that has made this concept crystal clear to me is the recent flooding in Georgia. Hundreds of homes were flooded. People lost nearly all of their material possessions. A few lost their lives. The outpouring of support from communities, community organizations, generous individuals has been AWE-INSPIRING and most importantly, IMMEDIATE. No one sat back and waited from Katrina #2 to unfold, except, maybe the insurance companies and federal emergency agencies (but we know their stories). People's hearts and even their wallets were mobilized to make a difference. To give. Not because they were rich, but because they were ready. They possessed the capacity to serve. I've seen warehouses full of clothes, supplies, food that make me a believer. A believer in the fact that not every heroic deed or act of kindness must be preceded by a 3 prong strategy or a 10-item to do list. Find a need. Fill a need. It's the ever delicate balance between preparation and action, there's no lag time and the action is quick and decisive. Not because its easy, because the time is now. I suppose if those who contributed to flood victims had been so wrapped up their own little worlds, shoving the needs of others behind their agenda's, plenty of people would be in worse shape.

So I'll keep it relatively short and sweet, because I am sure....positive really, that you've got something to get ready for. :-) And life? It's not waiting on you. ;-)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Count the Cost

This entry is a continuation of my foray into analyzing the many relationships and safety nets that balance (or seem to balance) our lives and cause them to be less out of control than they generally seem. It all boils down to the term accountability. It's a nice word. Multi-syllabic. People love it. They use it in sentences aimed at proving their adulthood and awareness of current events. Example: " There's simply no accountability in Congress. " In common sense speak: "Those fools are crazy. Someone needs to get them in check." Whether you actually use that term with any regularity, you'll be comforted to know that it's just a term for glorified safety net. :-)

Ever walked in a mall and people watched for just a few minutes(or hours) ? The sightings are always rather comical. There's always the handful of people (usually inappropriately dressed) who make you say, "Where are that person's friends?!?! The truth is, they either don't have them or they left the ones that hold them accountable at home. Whatever the case, they are proof that we are in desperate need of accountable relationships in our lives, if only for the protection of the masses (sometimes a safety net to one is a safety net to all) :-). We need people who cry and laugh with us, people who root us on to victory, people who give us the "you know are wrong for that" look, people who let us know that 'he's just not that into you'. Not only do I pose the question of whether or not we have these kids of people in our lives, but also, what would our lives look like if EVERYONE had them. I've seen adults live reckless, boundless lives that land them in trouble at one point or another. I've seen the same adults get out of fixes to go back to the same lives, continually crafting an early demise.This is quite troubling, considering that a good friend with a solid piece of advice could have helped them avoid it all.

My pastor recently preached a series on the Top 5 most important relationships in life. Among them were the editor, the giver, the receiver and the true friend. As he belabored the point of how these relationships are indispensable, I thought about who these people were in my life. The many people that expected too much of me and the few people (thankfully the few) that expected too little. And whether I'd like to believe that I am an ideological island, these people all help me to shape my expectations of myself. I think of my mother who encouraged me (I think threatened is a better word) to stay in school when I thought my days would be better spent as a Colombian ranch hand. My girls in Greensboro who held me down (and often times held me back) from the temptations that beset the average college student. It's the only kind of positive peer pressure there is. And when you think of the many people that have helped you do the same, you'll probably be happy that folks don't leave you entirely to your own devices. That, or you'll resent people even more than ever. :-/ Whatever the case, when counting the cost to live, the gambles (good and bad) that we take to maximize our potential, we simply cannot afford to be without accountable relationships.

Sometimes it takes years to understand who these people are/were in your life. Sometimes, the purpose of a relationship is made clear by a tragic event or loss. But more often the tragedy is that we neglect, abuse and all but ruin these relationships without ever extracting the meaning or learning the lesson. Every true relationship in your life deserves this type of assessment. I mean, imagine our Congress with NO accountability. (If you are a skeptic like me, that's not so hard to do.) Without folks to asses their actions and call them on the carpet. The world would surely be a mess. Wait, it kind of is. Scratch that. But if Joe Wilson (the dude who yelled out during Obama's speech) didn't have people trying to run him out of office, we'd have to question the role of accountability in our democracy. Our lives reflect this very same concept. Accountability weaves itself in and out of the corners of our consciousness and morality, assessing the value of our decisions and our subsequent actions. Often, this thread gets lost and we need people to pull it through. So, if you would, do me a favor. Take some time to thank those people without whom you would be lost. Thank them for your past, even if you barely survived it. Thank them for your present. The richness and humor that they add to your days and nights. And lastly thank them for your future because while it is uncertain, you will certainly need them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

House of Cards

There have been only rare instances in my life that have moved me to tears, challenged the very meaning of my existence and begged the kind of questions that everyone can answer and only few choose to. I had one of those experiences a few weeks ago, doing homeless outreach with the Metro Atlanta Singles Ministry, not just making sandwiches to send them to a places you'd rather not think about, but actually going to the places that they lives, the areas under bridges that they make to look like villages. And while most people would consider something like this a high priority on a do-gooder checklist, if you look deep into the lives of the people that you are serving, and if you are honest, you see that they are not much different from you and I. And how, you may ask, can someone who lacks material possessions and shelter be just like you and I? I'll give you a hint, it's not because they are human.....No, it's because there is only one thing separating us nets.

I've spent a great deal of my life clinging to the safety nets of family, friends, education, faith. No matter how hard I fall or far back I slip, at least one of those nets catches me, in the nick of time. And what would I do in the absence of those? I have no clue. But I do know that survival and sanity would look very different for me. Because often times, the absence or loss of one safety net leads to the loss of another. When we loose the security of family, we are often unable to pursue the education that would help us hold onto the jobs that will keep us safe from unemployment and therefore sheltered from the reality of homelessness. It can all seem like a rapid downward spiral. But it is all too real in the times that we are living in. So why try to act as if we are so removed from those who are homeless? Ah, therein lies the invisible safety net of pride and entitlement, the dilusionary safety nets that say to you "You are where you are and not where they are because you work harder and have made better choices with your life." It almost to say that life is fair. And surely you wouldn't say that, would you? Because you and I both know that this perception completely ignores the choices that are made for you and the ones that you never have the opportunity to make.

I've done homeless outreach before while in school in Greensboro, NC, while resting on the safety net of the pursuit of a college education. And while I attempted to connect with the people that I was serving, there was still a palpable distance. An inner thought which said to me, "this wont ever be you, you are in college making something of your life." But now, only a few years later, I'm out of college, STILL trying to make something of my life, living with my family, with no insurance. It's by no means a miserable existence, but those are the facts. It's now my reality that I am living on threads of what I once considered safety nets. One hospital bill could put me in the poor house. And one split-second decision by my parents to set me out to sea and I'm outdoors. And once I caught a glimpse of that reality, a reality that not even entitlement or pride could shield me from, it didn't seem so strange to pray with a man who was out on the streets because he had no family to take him in and was tormented by fear night after night. It always seems to me that the have nots are so much stronger in spirit and faith than the haves. Like one of my fellow volunteers commented, "To be out on the streets, to have nothing, and to be seemingly forgotten and to still believe that there's a God takes a stronger faith and a stronger spirit that I can even fathom." And through all of this Ive learned that The true ministry element in outreach is to realize how much like you the people that you are serving are. To recognize, that while you and I appear to have such as firm grasp on the nets that keep us safe, our existence is really quite fragile, built upon the blessings and mercy of something so much higher than us. But at any moment, in the absence of one or two elements, it could all crumble.... like a house of cards.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Victims and Victors

Having spent over two decades observing and often times internalizing the predicaments of those around me, at least one thing has become clear. We are pretty much conditioned by society to think, act and live as victims. Wait, let's not even blame society, we are conditioned by ourselves and one another (those who enable us) to think, act and live as victims. We are always looking for ways to remove ourselves from the doom-ridden world of blamedom. Ever since our days on the playground, we knew that blame was always directed through your finger, pointing directly at SOMEONE ELSE. It takes us at least 15 years-and for some folks even longer-to get the whole "there are 3 finger pointed back at you" thing. Some people get it and just plain ignore it.Very well then. There's even book that I used to read to my kids called "The Terrible, Awful, No good, Very Bad day" about a girl whose whole day goes wrong and she is? You guessed it. The victim. Hmmm.

I've seen people make a life for themselves centered around the hurt they suffered at the hands of someone else....decades ago. Their overall personal growth is stunted, meanwhile, the offender goes on to live a healthy life. The reality of a life of such victimization is that once you stop, complaining, you are ultimately STILL responsible for the direction in your life. Whether you succeed or fail still depends on you. And before I continue, I think that it's important to make the distinction between those who have suffered mental, spiritual, emotional, physical harm at the hands of someone else and those who have elected the victim mentality as a way of life. What does it mean to be a victor? For a victor, adversity is fuel which powers them forward toward the finish line. A victim regards every bit of adversity as the Gods of the universe taking a swipe at their insignificant existence.

We're all very familiar with a most common form of victimization, drama. Drama casts a person, a victim, in a theatrical interpretation of a less dramatic situation,starring, themselves. Let's put it this way, I live in a house of Oscar Award Winners. I'll probably regret having said that at some point.The beauty/tragedy of both the position of victim and victor in a situation is that they can be the same person. The way I see it, someone can shift from being one or the other through a series of choices. They include:

(1) Identifying a reoccuring pattern in victimized situations. P.S- DONT REPEAT THESE PATTERNS

(2) Take ownership of who you are- what's your potential to cause such problems?? Be HONEST!

(3) Request that people (friends, family, innocent bystanders that happened to sit down next to you in the break room and wish they hadn't) STOP enabling you!! Make an earnest plea.

(4) Consider the situations of those who are less fortunate. (They do not have to be poor.)- This is the real kicker and will probably shut you up really quick.

I've met countless people who are afflicted by illness or suffering the burden of an extraordinarily painful situation who still manage to give SO MUCH to others. Homeless people who have greatly inspired me to keep doing what I am doing. While these things amaze me, they also speak to the small mindedness of people who are unable to do so. I know, everyone is not a superman or woman, but it is a request that we must make of our humanity. In a recession, especially, when job loss becomes the norm, it is all too easy to curl up into a ball. But tests like these are really only a mirror reflecting your character and strength. The truest of opportunities to choose victory over victimization. Becoming a victor doesn't make the hurt, or the pain, or the frustration or the consequence go away. It does, however, put a person in a situation where they can begin to forgive, take ownership, and MOVE ON. Most importantly, they can make the kind of impact that the world needs. An impact that is characterized by boldness possessed by those who claim it. A boldness to which the perpetual victim has no access. The fact that we, as a collective society, haven't really learned this pretty much explains why we are where we are. But as the saga of real life continues to unfold, we realize that the future belongs only to the victors. As for the perpetual victims, there is no room available. Pick your team.

My grandma says about people (much like someone would comment on cheap tables and chairs) "They don't make em like they used to." I hope she's wrong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dont Forget to Always Remember

I sent my little sister to college a few weeks ago. Quite an emotional experience for all who were involved. Standing on the curb by her apartment I gave her the standard big sister speech. I thought of all the things that she would encounter. All of the people who would try to persuade her. The collegiate moments that would shape the rest of her life. I couldn't help but be overcome with anxiety and the feeling that there were numerous things I had forgotten to tell her. And what would she do without those golden nuggets of advice?!?!? Undergrad, as I discovered, is a jungle of indecision and free-will. You test your limits, you find your boundaries...thankfully.

So, barring all of my inhibitions and shamelessly promoting my overbearing, big sister tendencies; I decided to write her a letter...well, a list really. Of things that I know, knew and wish (like Hell) I'd known about college. Here's goes...

(1) Go to to the gym and eat healthy once in a while. Your child bearing years, and more importantly, your 20's will thank you.

(2) College is not a digression from every ounce, of common sense that you ever had, but rather a progression toward adulthood. Treat it as such.

(3) Not every boy that you meet is your boyfriend, or your soulmate, or the love of your life. Some will just be your best friend, your comic relief, you protective big brother. Learn the difference between them.

(4) Take some 8 o'clock classes your last semester of school. Waking up for your job in the real world, will be much less of a shock.

(5) PARTY!! moderation. No one likes a party animal.

(6) STUDY. Your college grades DO MATTER.

(7) It's ok not to drink in college. Plus, you are not even 21! Pace your self.

(8) Try new music! I know they say that hip-hop is dead, but it's probably still on every station that you listen to. Find some banjo music, some opera, latin music, etc. Make a playlist, mix CD or something that reminds you of all the music you loved in college. So then, we you get your first job (and if it's boring) you can rock out at your desk and dream of yesteryear.

(9) DO NOT wear sweats or pajama pants to class everyday. You have clothes, wear them.

(10) TAKE pictures. They will tell the stories that you cannot.

(11) Call yo Mama. She still knows best. Plus, she will call you 2X as much if you don't call her.

(12)Vote. Because your sister taught you well.

(13) Get in at least one heated conversation per week with someone over a serious topic for which you will never find an answer. Religion, politics, global warming. Pick one. It helps to stretch your brain and entertain diverse opinions. That's what college is all about.

(14)Live. No really, LIVE. You will only be an undergraduate college student ONCE. Because once you get that diploma, the real world will expect more of you than your college professors and friends ever did. Grad school, by the way, is nothing like undergrad. P.S- I haven't been to grad school yet, so that's mere speculation.

(15) When you finish college, GROW UP. It would be really unfortunate to waste your 20's trying to figure out things you should already know. :-/ Still, never loose your sense of child-like adventure.

(16) NEVER EVER forget who you are and do not compromise your integrity. Try new things, sure, but remain rooted in the things that make you uniquely Shambree. Even as the world changes around you, don't be afraid to stand apart. If, somehow, you forget who you are, call your sisters, we'll remind you :-)

(17) Be a true, honest and loyal friend. You don't have to be the most popular person, but there should be at least a hand full of people who can count on you, and vice versa.

(18) Your diploma is not the end, it's just the beginning....:-)

Take these things to heart each day, not as commandments but rather as suggestions. From someone who has been there and done that. (0r at least thought about it ;-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News....."

"Ive got a bad a case of....." Oh wait, I think that's probably a pre-existing condition...

Let me start by saying that recent violence at Healthcare meetings don't surprise me at all. Ever since, I don't know, the American Revolution, people have been one political move away from having an Angela Bassett, Waiting to Exhale (burning the BMW) meets Madea chainsawing a living room full of furniture (Diary of Mad Black Woman) moment. Actually, it's a little refreshing to see people getting a little bit (well...very) rowdy over things that actually MATTER in this country. So at least instead of people throwing a fit over Mike Vick or the Real Housewives of Atlanta, we can take to the streets, and porches, and buses and water coolers and talk about why people can work 2 jobs and not be able to go to the doctor. Real talk.

And while being a black woman in the south who eats fried chicken and watermelon (you know that's all we eat ;-) at least bi-monthly renders me a walking health hazard, the real problem lies in the way that we view underprivileged folks in our society as not only economic burdens but also as social lepors. The numerous complaints made by the average town hall meeting attendee (as reported by the "liberal" media- if they were really that liberal, I'm sure we wouldn't seeing as much coverage of the town mob meetings and subsequent backlash against the president's plan) can be summed up as this " I don't wanna be paying for poor folks and illegals Mr. Obama. Before you know it we'll be Russia!"(Not only is this person probably on medicaid (government sponsored program), I'm sure Russia would be embarrassed by this comparison considering the current state of affairs). Huh? Ignorance strikes again! As we resort to irrational, often violent measures to stop the "socialization" of healthcare; the fight is truly making us look like a 3rd world country than anything. It's really about the condition of our hearts than anything. Not the physical condition but rather the moral condition. We're more worried about the bureaucracy of healthcare than administering healthcare. Some uninsured man just died of heart failure while some snobby college student from Colorado was challenging Obama to an Oxford style debate. Some wealthy (insured) family is pissed that they'll have to pay into a system where their undocumented nanny could get a checkup ( GASP! We don't even report her in our taxes!). Talk about congestive HEART failure. More like a failure to see the POINT in reform and townhalls!

It's true we won't get it all right in one fell swoop, but doing nothing, is just as ineffective as screaming at the top of your lungs at your congressman in the local community center having little or no correct information to support your tirade.

As Paul Begala explains (in the most logical thing I've read regarding healthcare lately) (Click the link); getting there (100% satisfaction) is not the point entirely, moving from where we are (much lower level of satisfaction) IS. But then, out of the ashes of weeks of back and forth comes. this EPIC DISAPPOINTMENT. Sadly, even with the radical change that America has pursued in electing the first lack president, we may end up living in an incrementalist hell hole until re-election comes around (Don't believe me? Don't know what an incrementalist hell is? Read for yourself (Story from Five Thirty-Eight). For now, it seems, that we are in the middle, wedged between Popularity and Progress. ( Click the link .) Promises and Politics. (Click the Link).Which we choose will say as much about as the journey that we have taken thus far. You already know where my vote is cast....

HEALTHCARE!! You mad?? I mean, REALLY, REALLY pissed? Good. You should be. :-)


Uninsured blogger.

**Fine print: Jonae Wartel does not endorse nor encourage excessive, ignorant, violent rabble rousing at Town Hall meetings but whole heartedly supports the people's right to righteously protest in an informed, productive manner. Except for cases in which the latter does not work. In this event, she supports a modified form of the former. Pre existing conditions still apply in all 50 states, at least for now :-) **

Saturday, August 8, 2009

23 is the NEW 40

Before, you think to yourself, "Oh, she's got the title backward." Follow me for just a minute. You always hear on the pop-culture/self-absorbed older women circuit, "Girl, 40 is the new 20!!". But lets take it back just a few years. Did you ever play dress up when you were a kid? It's silly, I know, but the concept is quite a metaphor for this day and age. As we witness the proverbial changing of the guards in our music, culture and politics (from dudes like Paul McCartney and Ronald Regan to dudes like Barack Obama and young "rapppers" whose songs are accompanied by ridiculous dances), I'd like to take an opportunity to remind you (as if some self-righteous politico/activist wearing box rimmed glasses and a Barack Obama t-shirt hasn't already)..." We are the future, and the future is NOW!" 23 year olds are running companies, launching magazines and clothing lines, even organizing communities and winning elections. Stuff we normally reserve for people TWICE that age. As quoted in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, "we are never too young or too old to become what where supposed to be." 23 being the new 40 doesn't just mean that young people are playing dress up trying to be older, or getting Botox or buying luxury SUV's or shopping at Talbots (Eeeew!). It signifies that young people, while constantly doubted and discounted, are rising to the challenge like never before. Converse is the new business loafer, and the mohawk is the new Jason Priestly (you'd have to know a little something about haircuts to get that one). It's not like the world is being turned on its head though. We've just realized that age is not necessarily equivalent to skill or talent but CAN BE indicative of experience. According to Aaliyah, it was just a number. Yup, young folks. Coming to a high-level position and a corner office near you:-) It all reminds me of the reason why I started this blog, The STANDard It sprung out of and was inspired by every extraordinary young person that I've ever met. Good friends and brief acquaintaces. Current world changes in their respective corners of the earth. People for whom age is not a variable or ingredient in changing the world. Folks who were tired of what was being said about their generation. I applaud them.

There's yet another spin on the title. At 23 years old (Happy Belated Birthday to me), I have the tremendous honor and blessing of working on the Stacy Evans for GA House District 40 race as campaign manager. Yay! I am so excited about the opportunity to work with such a great candidate in state that I love and call home. I'm excited to be working with finance, field, PR and much more.

So, for those of you desiring silly insights in to my personal life, I've started this new thing recently. I began doning a giant pair of square rimmed glasses. One catch, they're lensless. Kinda Kanye West meets Thurgood Marshall. I actually got them when seeing Ice-Age 3D with my summer camp kids and in efforts to make them REALLY SERIOUS, popped out the 3D lenses. While they are way oversized, Ive been told on numerous occasions that I could "pull them off" and that I "look astute" (whatever that means). I like them because they are my sarcastic jab at adulthood and school of people who sit around and think all day; my rebuttal to the idea that glasses actually make you look smarter. But really, it's just the attempt to gain just a little footing in the world of "I made it!" adults all while building a bridge between them, and those of us who are trying our damnest to get there.

Eye Wear from the serious minds of our Time (If you know how I feel about Kanye West, you know I'm only half serious):

Kids, respect your elders. Elders, respect your kids. Either way, word to your mother. :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recession Proof Idealism

From Wall Street to Main Street to some violent American street named After MLK, you have heard this words " Man, we are in a recession." Everyone's talking about it. Jeezy even wrote an album about it. And frankly, I think that it has been quite the scapegoat lately. It has been to justify/explain lousy customer service, smaller meal portions at restaurants, even back payments in child support. (And that's for people who HAVEN'T lost their jobs). Not that our wallets have not taken a beating since the government dropped the R bomb and fear clinched every fiber of our being, it's true. They have. It's just now, we have an excuse to rest comfortably on.

I'd ask for a moment to think of all of the things that the recession has stolen from us. Our jobs, our "stable" financial institutions. In some cases, our dignity. In a very similar, yet introspective way, think of all of the things that it hasn't. Family, Virtue, Innovation, Nature...somewhere on that list (if you track long enough) you'll find CREATIVITY and IDEALISM. We've allowed fear to stifle our expression of such things. Instead of panicking and stuffing money under a mattress we should be thinking of ways to create the stability that we crave. Fear is a monster that is never satisfied. Unfortunately, it knows that the quickest route to your sanity is through your pocket. Every time we act our of fear, we impair our ability to recover. Further impairing our ability to recover is our failure to prioritize. I know countless people who have made the wrong type of sacrifices in this recession. They sacrifice their donations to churches and local outreach orgs to secure their money for clubbing. They refuse to spend money on summer enrichment for their kids so that they can waste money on the new iPhone 3G. They sacrifice countless hours of potential activism so that they can spend them staked out on their couches, clutching their lucky rabbits foot, watching Lou Dobbs tell you how much worse it's going to get.

I applaud churches, community organizations, non-profits, that have not yielded their outreach efforts because of the perceived and real effects of the recession. I also commend those who have not stopped giving to such organizations in the face of "hard times." For a summer camp coordinator who has learned the millions of uses of colored construction paper, there is a certain personal innovation that is at work in us when we choose to focus not on what we have lost, but what we have gained. In some (few) ways, I am thankful for the recession. It has humbled the whole world. It has forged the hand of creativity in our lives. Not just in our innovative design of spaceships and hybrid cars, but in our everyday interactions with one another. We learn that the face of compassion, goodwill, altruism and perseverance have stayed the same thorough it all. The means by which we accomplish them have changed. The recession has been a reality check to anyone who thinks that throwing money at a problem will solve it. The recession serves as a reminder that whether our paychecks, families, or aspirations are big or small, we are all linked in a string of fate and that only our loyalty to one another and our dedication to creativity and idealism will survive such things.

I guess this all comes on the heels of my recent wave of campaign nostalgia. Back then (year ago), we were in an undeclared recession. People hadn't REALLY started panicking yet. I had tons of volunteers who were between jobs, had just lost jobs or were overworked on the jobs that they had. They still knocked on doors, they still made phone calls. They still won elections. Ordinary people, extraordinary power. I guess it's a double edged sword. The campaign taught me to see the condition of communities and the people who live in them in a new way, but also caused me to have a lower level of tolerance for people who think that the world changes itself for the better and that money is all we need.

I'm not saying that we should not recognize the recession and its effects, I'm saying that maybe we shouldn't reach for it as an excuse for our inability to recognize what makes communities and families and individuals strong to begin with. That realization, that diagnosis, doesn't require a community organizer, a blogger, a rocket scientist or even an economist.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


60 Senate Seats Baby!!

Oh yeah!!In your face!!Oot Oot!! *Victory Dance*

Almost immediately after posting this news story on my Facebook wall, I started thinking. What does this whole 60 seats in the Senate business mean?
(Besides the obvious and what they have told you on TV). And by TV do I mean that, pesky, important information source, the liberal mainstream media?
You betcha! ;-) What do we do now that we have won this game of musical chairs? Sit down and rest on our laurels? Nope. So while I honker down and attempt to digest the meaning of a 60th seat (I'll admit, I haven't blogged about something political in a while)...bear with me.

So, we've still got folks joking about Franken's SNL days (May I remind you that the Terminator is the Governor of California). But we've got more votes and a filibuster proof senate. But the sense for "political power" stays the same. People are still listening to fear-mongers.
Republicans still calling Obama a socialist, terrorist. Poor people are still unjustifiably, concerned about socialism. Young Republicans are electing leaders who are comfortable with the use of racial slurs. Read the Article. Sarah Palin on the cover of TIME.....AGAIN! Yikes! Read the Story.

On the flip side, we've got Sotomayor in the hot seat: Read Article (hopefully moving toward a confirmation *fingers crossed*) and a new Surgeon general who credentials celebrate the values of the common man.:-) Read Article So, beyond long withheld senate victories and a Surgeon general appointment, what do demcrats do to turn the "warm bodies in the seats theory and in the cabinet" into something real? (The simple strength in numbers argument doesn't quite hold up when you need true activism. It's more like strength in effectiveness). Democrats must do what we have always done. Find ways to distinguish ourselves from people who spout their political beliefs from a high horse. Yes, therein lies the all important art of....DOING SOMETHING. Knocking on doors, calling voters in Nebraska (one of the battlefields in healthcare reform). Organizing local events. These things are STILL important. It is, as so often quoted, how we sustain a movement. I think of all of my friends who have continued to organize for change even past the election. Daily they strive to convince voters all over the country that the cause of ensuring that folks like their uninsured friend Jonae has access to healthcare. I am as grateful to them as I am to Al Franken for taking that 60th seat. I'm not saying that we shouldn't celebrate our political gains. I too did a little dance around the room when I heard the news on Franken. I'm saying that WE are the real heroes in this thing. An election, an appointment is merely an outward expression of what is stirring inside the melting pot of our society. What we see now is the day for which many people have prayed and struggled. A day when highly qualified latinos and blacks are no longer overlooked for such high honors. 60 seats or not, change is coming.

Summary. What are we still up against, in the aftermath of our 60 seat celebration? I suppose, the same, countless, NOW WHAT questions that we had after Obama won the general election. We must realize that changing the world is not something that happens, but continues to happen when people are willing to shoulder the responsibility. We've eaten numerous slices of the change pie (If you are a republican, you are still digesting that last piece), but it has, and continues to have new ingredients. It is my sincere hope that we still have a hearty appetite.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The passing of Michael Jackson has been called the death of a musical Messiah. It rattled and upset basically every person on earth, according to CNN. But even amidst the controversy of his life and the "sudden" and "shocking" nature of his death, one thing is for sure, his memory will live FOREVER. Literally. And the question is not how, I'm sure there are way too many people listening to the Off the Wall CD on repeat for that question to come up, but rather (not to be insensitive) WHY? What's in the making of a legend?

Most people are at least in their 20's before they even BEGIN to contemplate a legacy. But with the slew of unreasonably famous young people on the scene, it occurred to me that most of us are already behind on the process of beginning a legacy. MJ was already a big deal before he could spell big deal. I'm unsure that he was ever really chasing legacy. He probably just wanted to play his music and wear his shiny gloves. I suppose that the easiest route to a memorable life is doing what you love and letting the world adore you. So what is there to CHASE really? Fame, I suppose. People talking about you in ever living room in America. Covers of magazines, a spot on the top 5 Google searches. So you get there, then what? It's all devastatingly elusive. None of this alone immortalizes your image. Just ask Sarah Palin. :-)So then, legacy is not really about being cute, it's not even about being controversial. It's about being dedicated and purposed. Like Mike.

Some folks make legacies by investing in businesses, houses, families. Some make a name for themselves, center stage. Whatever we do, the intentionality and dedication behind it speaks volumes. What kind of legacy are we leaving? Some folks will be more remembered for being great parents and private humanitarians, than others will be for having graced the covers of every print publication there is. For some, the persistent social climbing will pay off. Some of us will be caught in the cross hairs of controversy, unable to escape the undesirable glare of wrongdoing. Fame will be forever tarnished. Our lives, in turn, fade into the background. But if we continue to do what we are called to do, legacy can survive it . Mike's did. Few will ever be as famous, but who cares. For us who seek to build a legacy out of a seemingly mundane existence and the painful grind of a 9-5, use every season of "insignificance" to walk out those things which will become your legacy, be it love, faith or the generosity shown by your humanitarian effort. Don't cop out on your legacy for a bit of fame.

So when I die, I probably won't be featured on major cable networks. Al Sharpton probably won't deliver a sermon and declare a national day of morning in my honor (I'd actually prefer that NOT happen). Russia will never erect a monument bearing my image. Perhaps my work in ministry, Summer camp coordination skills, and community organizing, will all blur together in the end, not a single thing clearly distinguishable. But you'd better believe that the fact that I lived, that I breathed air for decades, that I inhabited a human body WILL matter. Not because I'll force it, but because it will be a natural result of a drive beyond photo opps, trophys and tell-all memoirs.

So I'd like to say a brief thank you to Michael Jackson. While millions will remember and praise him as the man whose music told the story their lives, whose moonwalk made them believe that anything is possible; I thank him for showing me the difference between a life of fame and notariety, and a legacy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"My Eyes are Green....."

"...because I eat alot of vegetables, It don't have nothing to do with you and your new friend"~ Erykah Badu.

....Sure it doesn't. And I am sure that your Beyonce length-weave doesn't either. But lets get real.

Sorry Erykah. While I know that your lyrics are sarcastically misguided; it's a microcosm of what's wrong with society. Having spent over 2 decades nesting inside the body of a sort black girl whose heels and hair alone add about 4 inches to her actual height (for some reason the refuse to let me list that on my Drivers License); It was only recently that I could stand that tall-no pun intended. Why? Because of the insecurity that has plagued me. Yes, at some point, many points in my youth, I was tripping (figuratively) over the girls with straight weaves and contacts that made their eyes light. Over a decade later, I actually feel sorry for those people. Because in reality, most of those people wake up every morning faced with crippling insecurity. A number of us would blame that on society, but far fewer of us would blame that on themselves. Which begs the questions, where does insecurity come from? And what's the proper remedy? An impenetrable outer shell of self-awareness? Or a life built solely on overcompensation? Finally, how do we recognize overcompensation before it turns into self-deception? I'm sure there's the meaning of life formula wedged somewhere in these answers.

Being the "dark skinned black girl" has been something that I have been conscious of, or made conscious off for quite sometime. It's has been too long to tell. "You must be smarter because you are darker." "You must do better, be better, because, well, the world hates you." Seriously, I've heard these things. I think that such thinking can poison a healthy sense of self-confidence all while trying to build self-awareness. The entire identity and self-worth of a child who is told these things can be built on a sense of overcompensation instead of a drive for natural excellence. Is excellence natural anyway? (Beside the point :-/)

I'm really tired of being the angry dark-skinned girl. I'm tired of my life (the world for that matter) looking like movie School Days. If you haven't seen that movie, it's full of stereotypically angry dark-skinned people. I'm tired of thinking that the world is against me when in reality, most of our own insecurity comes from what we are told and what we believe.Finally, I'm tired of overcompensating. It's tiring. Besides, everyone doesn't hate us. According to the bible, we even have fans:

"How right they are to adore you! Dark, I am, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am by the sun" ~ Song of Songs 1:5 & 6

In the words of Kanye (no biblical likening or reference). Take that! ... Haters....:-)

But still, I cannot get away from my infatuation with the "dark girl" mentality. Frankly, dark skin folks have, for a long time, been a relegated faction of the race. That explains alot. Even amidst the lighter skinned folks who claim that they see no difference, I don't really believe them. That explains the rest, I guess. I've been told on numerous occasions that I am pretty....for a dark-skinned girl. I've had cousins who have wanted to get out of the sun so that they don't get "black." I've heard people say "I mean, she's nice and she doesn't have to be" (In reference to some person who has light skin and long hair). My only response (without seeming like the angry dark-skinned girl) is "Really??" Since when did the human decency associated with the expression of kindness become an option for those whose who are good looking? Recently? I'm guessing not. Usually, I would completely disregard such an absurd comment, but it has been said, in my presence, one too many times.

So, with that rant, I'm through. Or, finished, I should say. I'm tired of this inferiority induced overcompensation and people talking about it with no real remedy or intention to fix it. I'm tired of people having to rant via blogs like this one or Spoken word night about the plight of girls darker than a brown paper bag. JUST BE! Stop bleaching your skin, stop avoiding the sun, stop refusing to cut you split ends because you are afraid of have having short hair, stop changing your eye color in the name of prescription lenses. Just stop. Because, if anyone, you are only fooling yourself. Self-deception is just that, it doesn't matter if it comes from the words of your mother or your own paranoia. Instead, find richness in your very being. I know that there is a collective suffering shared by ALL black people. Noticing the difference in social positioning and authority based on shade doesn't make us any more divided, the actualization of the theory is what does us in. At the end of the day, it makes us more aware of the distance we still have to travel in the "struggle."

"Pharaoh, O' Pharaoh, let my people go."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Design on a Para-digm

You've seen the show Design on a Dime right? Though your leisure channel surfing won't fess up to such things, I'd bet you've watched at least a final reveal or two. The premise is this. A team of designers, come and transform a room based on the perceived tastes of the person and their overall personality. The rate of successful, participant pleasing reveals, is pretty high. Point of reference: the participants are often quite budget conscious but want to work wonders with a room. They are usually content to let the rest of the house look pitiful. I believe that such is the same about life. We think that by changing one thing about our appearance or job or finances that we can somehow change our whole lives. Never quite, realizing that a complete, life transformation requires a metaphysical demolition and not new curtains and a refinished bookshelf. We are victims of an overdose of surface treatments. And for many of us, these surface treatments become the paradigms on which we operate our lives. For example, some center their lives around money. The paradigm: "If I had more would be better." As a result, our entire lives turn into Grand Hustle Central. Or this one. "If I was in a relationship....I'd be be happier." We're all familiar with the painful consequences of this paradigm.

Truth is, we are all designed on a paradigm of sorts. For some of us. Our belief rests on the divine paradigm of creationism and living a purpose driven life. For others of us, it's traumatic life experiences and upbringing. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people (good read), the author talks a great deal about how our lives are based on a mixture of assumptions and universal principals. The reading is quite intense, but it left me with one, unanswered question. What paradigm am I designed on/around? Seems corny, but I think that it is this: The world would be a better place if people helped people. There no real spiritual, political, economic mysticism about it. Its fundamental. It's true. I like it. This paradigm. This belief, is what ties me to community organizing. What causes me to have unwavering respect for fellow organizers and local volunteers regardless of their views on religion. It would cause me to take a job that paid less and bettered society rather than one where I could look down on poor people from the window in my corner office. It's the choice to establish a life long friendship with someone who doesn't believe in God but believes that the seat of government should be one of accountability. It may just seem like a set of choices where any one with a conscience would make the right one, but really it's all about the bigger pictures of how and why we arrive at certain choices. I'd say its our chosen paradigm. Wouldn't you?

So in keeping with the idea of paradigms we find that the problem really is how we define the problem and our positioning in it. I'll give you a hint, according to most people's paradigms, the are never apart of, or anywhere near the problem. But the next time that we are having trouble seeing through the proverbial windows of life because they have been clouded by the ignorance and bad habits that prevade the whole house. Don't just get Windex. Kick the windows out. Remodel the whole house....(Dramatic, yes). Fact is, the world is built on a set of paradigms. Some shift, some don't. Most are problematic. As agents of social change, we are to gather an army of folks who will keep the paradigm in line, or, if need be, shift it. It's not unheard of and it's definitely necessary.But most of the time not easy. For example, in the face of troubled times, thousands of people were willing to shift the paradigms of their lives from a place of "Money is the means and the end" to a place of financial conservation and spend-thrift style political activism. That, in my opinion, makes a much more balanced society.

We are apart of the problem. In fact, we cause it. The good news is that that isn't the bad news. But rather its the realization that helps us move to the place where we we can do something about it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Swag Surfing

It's not the kind of thing that you would set to a Beach Boys tune. No, not even to easy listening. It's the kind of stuff that you do when you "Hop up out the bed.....(you finish the sentence)" Yes, ladies and gents it's the skillful art of "swag surfing." defines it as:

Swag Surfing 2 up, 2 down love it hate it (These thumbs came from the dictionary, no rating of my own)

To be fly and be able to move through matters in an easy manner or to be able to go through your life solely on your swagger.

Ex. I've been just swag surfing for the past few days
I'm usually not a follower of ridiculous urban phrases and cultural trends, but I've encountered a number of people in my life who fit the bill and I'd like to be able to properly diagnose them or anyone who thinks that a stellar jeans collection and some Old Spice will get them through life. And really, some people take this phrase literally and center their lives around the very idea. Like some stuff you would see listed under Religious and Political views on Facebook.

Depending on your cultural habitat swag surfing can almost rival Olympic sports. It's that really cool dude on the block or in the burb who is leasing an SUV and wears the tinted shades. He may be college educated, he may not be. In the first moments of meeting him, it doesn't matter. He's captivating. You could listen to him all day without so much as even a blink or a flinch. You'll even let him buy you dinner, if he can afford it. He'll probably talk you into something slightly indecent. You'll probably concede. Despite your lifelong reinforcement of wholesome values (life, liberty and the pursuit of social climbing), you'll readily abandon your common sense for a guy who's future plans, current spirituality, dating history, and social preferences you've never even inquired about. Yup, it's swag, and if you aren't careful, it'll GET you. Problem is, none of this is new. It's all recycled, from terms like COOL, FLY, FAR OUT, RIGHTEOUS, OUT OF SIGHT, DOPE. It's like FLY 2.0.

So, what does Swag surfing not do for me? In all it's efforts, and swag it fails to give me any hopeful perspective on dating/settling down. Why? Because it would have you to think that any man with one ounce of suave is more concerned with moving through cultural mediums with no effort rather than really seeking a meaningful relationship. Going on that assumption, we (women) will do one of two things: (1) Resign ourselves to a fling with these guys and expect that he'll never call. We rarely even try to tame them. (2) Instead we go for that guy who looks he too has "Get married by thirty" on his to do list. Luckily, I've had the opportunity to witness the reverse. Truth is, I know many "swaggalicious" men, who have decided to do the whole married with children thing. Not sure exactly how you turn a swaggart (noun form) into a husband, but it can't be as hard as turning a you know what in housewife. However they get there, they set the STANDard for at least those in their sphere of influence.

Sure, they still get the once over by women who can only wish and the occasional look of sheer and utter disappointment that they have been locked down. But, bump what cha heard, being fly isn't everything there are far too many people who can prove it. The lesson here? Fellas, the next time, you turn your swag on and it's so loud that it drowns out all voices of reason, turn it down just a little, because swag is like cologne. When used in excess, it starts to stink, reek even. You will repel ladies who can no longer see through the tinted shades that you insist on wearing in the building. :-/

After all, man cannot live on swag alone, or can he?