Archive | July, 2009

Cash for Clunkers…just my thoughts

31 Jul

On the surface the Cash for Clunkers program seemed like a great idea. The government offers $3500-4500 to folks who turn in their old inefficient cars, they use that cash to help fund a new efficient car…lets see, new car sales soar and we get shitty old cars off the road. Wonderful. Except that the program was so successful there seems to be an issue of the program being suspended since all the cash is gone or close to it.

There is also an issue around what qualifies, see the Spousal Unit and I have a clunker, its an 11 year old Nissan Sentra but when I checked the other day, it seems we get better mileage than what is allowed so despite being old, it most likely doesn’t meet the requirement of being a clunker, at least the way I am reading this program.

Now I don’t mean to be Miss Grumpy pants, but all week as I heard about how wonderful this program is, I couldn’t help  thinking that for folks who are truly driving a dangerous hunk of shit, this program probably would not benefit them. Last time I looked, a brand new car is not cheap, maybe I am slow but I haven’t seen any 2009 cars for less then 12K. So say you get the maximum rebate of $4500, with a 12K car you still need $7500 either in cash or to be financed. Most folks who are living hand to mouth driving a clunker tend to be folks who either lack good credit (at least enough credit to get financed by a mainstream bank or dealer) or if they have good credit may lack enough income or even proof of income to satisfy the requirements to buy a new car.

I mean lets face it America is a car culture and unless you are like my husband who cares nothing about cars and wouldn’t spend money on decent car when he had the cash, most folks who are driving a hunk of shit are doing so for a reason. Instead cash for clunkers is one of those feel good programs that the few remaining middle class folks in America can participate in but that single Mama working 2-3 jobs driving a 95 Geo Metro can’t participate in….I’m sorry but Cash for Clunkers seems like a bad idea.  Then again maybe I am just cranky that my clunker is too damn efficient!

Non-custodial Mamas…we are coming out!

29 Jul

I have often thought about writing about my life as a non-custodial mama but chose not to since its deeply a  painful and private thing for me. My son aka elder boy went to live with his father when he was six, when he went to live with his Dad, it was like my guts had been ripped out. Yet I decided that while drinking myself into a dark hole was what I really wanted to do, that instead I would make good use of the fact that I no longer had to rush home to my boy and instead went on a quest to get an education.  My son at 17 now tells me how proud he is of me, how I went from being a high school dropout to having a college education and even an advanced degree. Its funny because the other night he said to me “Mama, you were so young when you had me…you were only a couple of years older than me”. So very true.

So why am I sharing this story now? Well I have been noticing that its no longer a hidden thing to be a non-custodial Mama. This is a great website for non-custodial patents, ran by a non-custodial Mama. Apparently the Today show had a segment on the rise of  non-custodial mothers. Its funny because now that we have the internet, there is a place for us to connect. In my early days of being a non-custodial Mama, the net was still pretty is  young and lets just say mine was a lonely existence. Fact is I have encountered a lot of judgement about my son not living with me, its funny because when people see me and girl child, they assume she is my only child and are stunned when I explain I have a much older child. Of course living in a small town, there are folks who immediately launch into does my boy go to the high school, yada yada and I have to explain no he lives with his papa.

I admit now that he is older it’s not so bad, it was worse when he was 7, 8, or 9 and people would go oh….of course there are also the looks folks give you, that pretty much show the what the fuck did she do look as I call it. Funny thing is now while we have many younger Moms who are the non-custodial parent who have made that choice and are okay with it, for me it was not a choice. It was a mathematical choice I should say, the fathering unit had more money to bury me in court and in the end I got tired of fighting and thought it better to agree to this joint parenting thing than it was to fight a man with deeper pockets.

Yet lately as I sit and marvel at how amazing my son is, in the end he has thrived despite the madness he has risen above both his father and I and the years that were complete and utter hell…so in celebration of that I share my tale of being a non-custodial Mama to encourage any other Mamas out there who are in this place and to say it can work out. I have also learned in this strange journey of parenting that being a successful parent can take many forms and its up to us to decide what our families will look like not society. Over the years, I have often been asked “It must be hard, to not have your son with you daily”…without a doubt its been hard but at the same time, I know our time away allowed me to grow and become who I needed to be.

As I am fond of saying “Mothering is one of many hats I wear…first and foremost I am me”

Turn down the temperature

27 Jul

After a summer of wondering when summer was going to actually arrive, it seems summer has decided to arrive with a vengeance up here in my corner of the world. People always assume that people of color dislike cold weather and prefer hot weather, of course that is a silly stereotype but like many stereotypes they can sometimes be based in reality. (Though an informal poll amongst my friends of color shows only a handful share my love of cool weather) Take my father, he loves hot weather.  However his love of hot weather did not rub off on me, anything over 75 degrees is officially too hot and humidity? I hate humidity, of course being a seasonal allergy sufferer humidity only seems to make me feel even worse and combined with heat, I become a cranky lady.

I on the other hand love crisp cool days, thankfully summer is a brief season in Maine so I am trying not to complain too much, though beach trips are fun, so summer has some uses!

So while its nice to see the sun, the fact that its 80+ with humidity is making me cranky and sadly my resolve to not use air conditioning this summer has gone out the window. Can someone please turn down the heat? Or at the very least turn off the humidity switch? Thanks!

Joys of Maine…a day in the life of BGIM

26 Jul

I realize that sometimes I rant so much that it might be hard to imagine why I continue to stay in Maine aside from the fact who in their right mind would buy an old ass house that needs tons of work from me? But yesterday was one of those days that reminds me of why I enjoy Maine.

We left the house after doing our usual Sat trek to the farmers market and library and ended up going for a drive. The drive took us to one of the lighthouses here in Southern Maine as well to park with a neat fort….amazing entertainment that is free and appeals to the almost 4 year old in the house. (Elder boy decided to sleep all day…gotta love teens!) After exploring the lighthouse and fort, our tummies were rumbling so we found the coolest cafe/bakery near the lighthouse with mostly cheap fresh food. Though $4.50 was a tad high for a plate of eggs and toast for girl child, the plate was filled to almost overflowing with eggs.

After eating, we ventured to a never seen before Goodwill which I discovered was the best one I have found thus far in Maine since all the prices were $4.99, scored a lovely vintage summer dress…made Mama very happy. At that point it was time to head home along the way we stopped off for ice cream at a local candy shop and a chance to view the life size chocolate moose.

Clearly it was a full day and I would have been happy to call it a day but not wanting elder child to be left out, I took him out last night to hear some live music at a new venue in the town next door…it was a night that included good music, hanging with my son, chatting with friends and a special treat for Mama…3 glasses of sangria (why have I only just discovered sangria…must get a recipe). Regular readers know I have a driving phobia so we walked home from the venue, about a mile or so at 11 at night and it was a peaceful walk, the type of walk that back home in Chicago I could not imagine doing late at night after a few drinks.

Anyway that’s a day in the life of the Black Girl in Maine and just a snapshot into why I live here.

Alternate Universe for Real

24 Jul

Back in 1995, a little movie came out that at the time seemed a tad  far-fetched…imagine a world where Black folks were in the ruling class and well white folks by and large were not with maybe a few exceptions. White Man’s Burden at the time it was released seemed like some sort of fantasy…of course fast forward to 2009.

A world where a Black man is the more powerful man on earth, president of the United States. A world where white men are starting to feel a tad oppressed, a world where a cop in a certain well known academic town answers a call about a possible burglary only to end up arresting a premier scholar who not only happens to be Black but also happens to be friends with the president of the United States. A world where the president of the United States actually takes a second in the midst of a prime time speech to speak out on behalf of his buddy and essentially call the cop who did the arresting stupid.

I know I must be getting old because had someone told me this would actually be a real story and not something out of a movie similar to White Man’s Burden, I would have laughed. Seriously, whether or not you think Sgt Crowley was right or wrong, or that Henry Louis Gates was right or wrong, the fact is that having a Black man at the helm of the United States is going to force us at some point as a nation to start having real discussions about race relations in this country.

Funny thing is that for 7 out of 10 Black Americans upon hearing what happened to Gates I am sure the thought was that’s just business as my son at 17 jokes, he has already had his first encounter with the po-po for the simple crime of walking down the street while being Black.

Anyway if anyone else is struck with how surreal this situation is I suggest you look up White Man’s Burden on Netflix, it may make for an interesting flick in light of where we are as a nation.

Looking for non-white folks who live in Maine as well as working class folks in Maine

23 Jul

In light of a discussion that started on this blog a few posts ago, I would like to ask any folks who live in Maine who are either non-white or who hail from working class or even more humbler roots to consider doing a guest post here at Black Girl in Maine.

One of the reasons I started this blog last year was because as I like to joke it was cheaper than therapy but also I was interested in connecting with others….in the past year, I regularly get emails from folks particularly people of color who are either contemplating a move  to Maine or folks who recently moved here who are in a daze…

Maine has this amazing reputation outside of New England of being a place of lighthouses, lobsters and leisure. Yet those of us who make are home know there is so much more to our state, but at the same time its a place where there can be a lot of ugliness if you are not white or poor. I will say that the first 2.5 years here were the hardest in my life, the only reason I stayed is because my position back in Chicago had been filled and I had no place to go back to, otherwise we would have left most likely.

Anyway I know there are a few folks who lurk here on a regular basis and I would encourage you to share your stories about Maine. Oddly enough BGIM started off as a predominiantly Black blog but it seems my demographics are shifting and because of that I think there is great potential fo a dialogue that can be beneficial for all.

The follow-up

22 Jul

In case you are interested in the follow up to my last post, I am posting the column that was accepted by my editor…which has spawned a conversation with my editor and a meeting for next week. I will keep you posted on whether or not, I will keep writing professionally since its really just a side thing I do since my real day is non-profit hack! By the way I have not responded to any of the comments on the last post but may do so in a separate post since I think the comments are interesting and actually speak to some of what happens with multiracial discussions take place.

Me, myself and race

I have been told by many different people at many different times that I put too much thought into race. That perhaps I overreact to things and see race as a factor when it might not be.

You should have met me years ago if you think that, because I really don’t obsess on race that much. To be honest, my White husband is far more likely to get into protracted battles of words online with people about race and White privilege than I ever would in any situation.

However, I do have a column called Diverse-City, race is still an important issue in this country, and I’m still Black. And a lot of people just won’t let me forget the color of my skin, because they still treat me differently than every white person around me. It doesn’t matter how many letters I have amassed after my name. It doesn’t matter what my job is. It doesn’t matter how law-abiding I am. What matters is that, like it or not, people assume things about Black people in general. This is not something that happens to White people.

Oh, I know that White people of various kinds can be judged on various things, like weight or gender. But as a race, White people don’t ever have to worry about most of the population looking at them and assuming that the color of their skin means they will behave in certain ways, like certain foods, enjoy certain music, be more prone to commit crimes, be more likely to have children they can’t afford, and so on.

Problem is, when I point out that I’m being treated in a certain way probably because of my race, I am often asked to prove it. My judgment is questioned. My experiences of an entire lifetime are discarded as irrelevant. My instincts are cast into doubt. Studies that show how Blacks are inequitably treated all the time are inadmissible. In other words, short of being able to bring in a team of researchers to study my life for a few years, nothing will prove to a naysayer that my feelings are on the money.

So, if I speak up, I must be prepared to get all sorts of alternate scenarios and reminders of how far our nation has come. All to invalidate my very real concerns and the evidence of my own experience.

If a parent takes a child away from a playground because someone seems a bit creepy, even if they haven’t gone near a single child in an improper fashion, that’s considered good parenting. I agree.

If a woman flees from a man she thinks might be dangerous, that is considered a wise and proactive move. I agree.

So why does no one else agree that I can claim racism when:

My Black son is harassed by police, multiple times, for merely walking down the street.

My White husband is asked during a traffic stop to explain who I am and why I’m in the car.

Five White people in front of me in line don’t get a second glance when they hand over a credit card, yet I am expected to provide one or two forms of ID, and the cashier looks them over intently for 10 seconds or longer.

I am asked to explain how all Black people feel about a certain issue.

I get my food long after several later-arriving White patrons already got theirs, and their food is nice and steamy while mine is room temperature.

I could go on, but the fact is that I let most of these things slide, and don’t want to dwell on them. It’s just that I occasionally get fresh reminders that are so hard to ignore.

Oh, like eminent Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. being arrested this week for breaking into his own home, even though he had ID to prove he lived there. Because we all know that the nice police officer would have done that to a White homeowner. Yeah, right.

And we wonder why we are still talking race in post-racial America

20 Jul

If you are sensitive to discussions about race, do me and you a favor and just skip this post…I am talking race today and it might start feeling a smidge uncomfortable. What you are about to read is a column I wrote for a local publication that was rejected by my editor on the basis that maybe when I am talking race, I am the one with the chip on my shoulder. It was suggested that I need to look at why I get so bothered by racial things…I don’t know maybe its because as a Black woman living in these divided  States of America that despite having a Black president racism is still a fact of life and as much as I wish race wasn’t an issue that I didn’t haveto think about, that just is not the world I live in….

Uncomfortable in my own skin

I’m proud to be Black. I sometimes joke with my husband that I’d like a “White suit” for those days I don’t want to deal with preconceptions from other people that derive from the color of my skin but the fact is: I wouldn’t want to be White.

Then again, lately I feel conspicuous in my dark skin. So, what’s the trigger for that?

Hell, what aren’t the triggers?

In the nearly three months since David Okot was killed by the Portland Police after reportedly waving a gun around in a threatening fashion, I’ve watched the continued deterioration of relations between Somali and Sudanese immigrants and the police. Seems like whenever police have to chase a Somali or Sudanese kid for stealing something, now they’re accused of harassing these two groups. And lately, there have been rumblings that when the police are called by some Somali and Sudanese residents of Portland, the calls might be ruses to lure police into confrontations.

Closer to my home, Rory Holland of Biddeford in late June reportedly shot dead, at 1 a.m., brothers Gage and Derek Greene–aged 19 and 21–outside his home. Holland has a criminal record going way back, for a variety of unsavory crimes, and is the kind of guy who seems to like to file lawsuits against people for fun and profit.

Also, there is Shalom Odokara, who runs Women in Need and was vice chairwoman of Portland’s Planning Board until city officials learned that she recently pled guilty to criminal charges in federal court. She was already on probation after pleading guilty in 2006 for embezzling $108,000 from the World Bank, and in 1989 she was convicted for trafficking heroin from Nigeria to Maryland.

As if that’s not enough, it turns out that Portland city council member and current mayor Jill Duson apparently knew about at least portions of Odokara’s criminal past already, and didn’t tell her colleagues, nor ask Odokara to resign.

Can you guess what Okot, Holland, Odokara and Duson all have in common?

Yeah, they’re Black.

And I feel sometimes like the rest of us Black people are being judged in light of that. Any time even one Black person makes the news prominently for a crime in this state, I get tense because people almost invariably start look at me harder and more suspiciously. And in a short span of time, three major stories in which four black people and a couple of entire immigrant African populations figure prominently.

Oh, joy!

Partly, I sense the judgmentalism in the comments I see online in response to news articles about these events. But while I realize that those aren’t allMainers, why is it that so often, when I sit down in a restaurant or coffee shop and settle into my “eavesdropping for entertainment” mode as usual, someone starts talking about Rory Holland or Odokara or the “Somali problem” within seconds? And why am I getting more grumpy looks from people after living in my community for six years now?

And no, I don’t mean the Canadian tourists; I’m used to getting weird looks from them every damn summer. I’m talking people who see me in passing on a regular basis.

In African-American culture, many of us are raised to understand that, for right or wrong, our actions will be seen as representative of the entire Black community. My 17-year-old at times tells me this thinking is outdated. But even he has come to realize that  wearing the baggy pants and gym shoes that is so popular with youth is a surefire way to invite trouble from racists and attention from police even though he doesn’t do anything nefarious or suspicious.

So I would urge all of you to please remember that it’s White people who commit the vast majority of crimes around here–and no, aside from having run into Rory Holland in downtown Biddeford from time to time and steering clear of him because I thought he was creepy, too, I don’t know these people. And I certainly shouldn’t be judged based on them.

End of column……

Obviously this piece has a local slant so feel free to google additional information if you really want to know what goes on in Maine. Now it was funny because as the Spousal Unit (aka resident white guy in my house) and I were discussing how I should proceed with my column, we got news of this story. Seems Skip Gates, a well known Black scholar and Harvard faculty member was arrested for breaking into his own house. Now having read the police report it appears Gates forgot the rules of Blackness in America…when dealing with the police, they don’t give a damn who the fuck you are, and you can best believe Barack Obama in a few years when he is out of office if his ass ever gets caught without Secret Service detail and the local police think he is suspicious, he too could get locked up.

If you think I am tripping as the young folks used to say, well you are asleep at the switch. There may be a few times when Black folks cry race when its something else but too many times race is the issue, it never stops being an issue.  Sadly too many well meaning white folks these days point to the fact that we have a Black president as hard evidence that racism is mostly dead. Look, truth is Obama won because the economy sucked and folks realized that with McCain and Palin we would really big screwed…when it comes to folks and their money, they will do what advances their best interest and McCain was not in most folks best interest. You think the economy is screwed now? Imagine life under the maverick duo? I know…nasty thought!

Instead we have to look at ways to get around issues of race and not let it be an issue but that still does not stop us from having days when we shake our heads and go damn!  As for me, well I am gonna do some soul searching and figure why oh why I get so bothered by race..maybe its because every time my son leaves the house there is a part of me that prays and wants to tell him no don’t go. Maybe its because I hear the stories of abuse that Black and biracial kids put up from their peers here in Maine for the crime of not being white…maybe its because despite the fancy letters that go after my name, I still encounter folks daily who question who I am and whether or not I am qualified to do my job. Just little stuff that keeps me wondering….

Its just a snapshot folks

16 Jul

Just zooming by for a quick post…summer has finally arrived for more than a day up here in Maine and I want to embrace it since knowing Maine weather, if I blink it will be gone.

However since coming home this afternoon and while I am enjoying a bit of downtime before we all come together as a family, I have been making my abbreviated rounds in cyberspace and something hit me….you ever go to a blog or even talk to some whose life seems so perfect? Especially if it’s as a time when your own life feels a tad crazy? Lately I seem to have a lot of those days when I wonder why can’t my life be like so and so? 

Well the reality hit me that I have my life and for better or worse its the one I am meant to have but more importantly a sudden thought hit me, no ones life is perfect and when we see our friends and associates with the seemingly perfect life that all we are doing is seeing a snapshot. Especially in Mommy blogland, there are those bloggers who while they are not trying to  make the rest of us feel like idiots, we do because their lives seem so perfect, well groomed, well behaved kids, loving partner who earns enough for costly hobbies…you know the deal.  I know as a working mama who most days is happy that she works, all it takes is one bad day with girl child and one visit to a few select Mama bloggers and I swear I feel like the world’s worst Mama. Nevermind that the work I do not only benefits by kids directly with the cash I earn but that I assist families in need every day.

Some days its just comes down to the fact that I am feeding girl child scrambled eggs and fruit again for dinner because I am too tired to whip up a home-cooked feast (but hey those eggs come from a local farm…no mistreated eggs for my girl…LOL) Of course that Mama who makes the home-cooked feast with a sweet treat has her own woes. Maybe money is not her issue like it is mine but the truth is we all got our crosses to bear.

So remember if you think someone else has a perfect life, remember we all have bad days, relatives we wish we could trade it and general issues in life.

Just a rambling thought as  I pass by today, anyway back to relaxing I go.

Guest Post: Changing Careers in an Uncertain Economic Climate: Are you Courageous or just Plain Crazy?

14 Jul

Today’s post is brought to you by Kell’s Think Tank. Kell answered the call from the series I was trying to do about the economic downturn…enjoy and if anyone else wants to submit a guest post, email me at

After 10 years in the telecommunications industry, I decided it was high time to shift gears and pursue the career in communications I had always dreamed of. When I shared this dream with colleagues and friends, many of them were aghast and incredulous. “What if you never find your dream job?”, some asked. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a fulfilling career, so why do you want to risk it?”, a few folks wondered out loud. “Aren’t you afraid that you may fail?” an old acquaintance asked. Not to be outdone, a dear friend of mine finally asked what everyone else was probably thinking: “Are you crazy?”

 WordNet, defines crazy as brainsick: affected with madness or insanity; “a man who had gone mad”. I knew that my decision to leave the telcom industry, apply to graduate school, and pursue a communications job where I can interact with the media, draft and edit press releases, memos, and articles, build brand awareness, and incorporate social media in traditional environments was a bold and courageous move. But, was I cuckoo? Hardly.

 Sure, I decided to pursue my career goals while America lay in the grasp of soaring unemployment, a mortgage meltdown, and a near financial collapse. But, I don’t think I have gone mad, I think I have tapped into a well of courage, tenacity, and mettle that had been dormant for longer than I care to remember. For me, deciding to pursue a career in communications was a no-brainer. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Temple University and spent a semester abroad in London, England as a marketing and communications intern at a Top 40 radio station.

I spent the better part of my career in telecom developing and maintaining strategic relationships with customers, writing and editing training materials and procedural documents, and prepared and presented PowerPoint presentations to senior leadership. I chaired monthly brainstorming meetings and managed a $15M annual budget. Telecommunications touches nearly everyone’s lives so what better place to hone my communications skills than a telephone/cell phone/broadband company that consistently ranks in the top 20 of the annual Forbes’ Fortune 500 ranking of America’s largest corporations?

So, armed with a toolbox of transferable communications skills and a wealth of experience, I bid adieu to my telecom tenure and said hello to the next phase of my career. I began my first semester in the Master of Arts in Communication program at The Johns Hopkins University last fall and never looked back. Since then, I have become a blogger, a researcher, and an author of literature reviews on media issues. I have sharpened my critical thinking skills, learned about a variety of research methods, and how to evaluate the work of others.

 As a Johns Hopkins student, I landed an amazing Public Relations internship at an award-winning national newspaper. I drafted and edited press releases and pitched stories to reporters. I supported an amazing team of publicists in developing and implementing special projects and had the opportunity to learn about both internal and external communications being executed in a deadline-driven environment.

 So, while I continue my search for my dream communications job, I continue to do what I have always done quite well: multitask. I enrolled in a Public Relations Writing course where I have weekly writing assignments which will make a great portfolio. I network on LinkedIn and keep my Facebook and Twitter pages up to date because as the saying goes, “Be ready so you don’t have to get ready or people will think you are crazy!”