Archive | January, 2010

Time to talk hair

29 Jan

Yes indeed, it’s that time again. Time to talk about my hair, now if you are not a Black woman there is a good chance this post might not be your cup of tea. On the other hand it could be enlightening, so consider sticking around. Regular readers know its been a while since I have written about my hair, after all last year after years of growing dreadlocks I decided to cut them. Well the small fro I had after cutting off inches of hair has now grown out and I am at that place hair wise I hate to be. Long story short, my hair is a mess and its a length that really I find it difficult to do much of anything with.

The truth is I really am not a hair person. Let’s see, I went natural (that means no chemical straighteners have touched this head in over 10 years, and the last chemical color was about 7 years ago) and the first couple of years of being natural I rocked a short fro. It was a total wash and go and I loved it; but then we moved to Maine and I decided to grow my hair out. That lasted for 2 years and was what I look back on as the ugly period since there really wasn’t a lot I could do to my hair until it had some significant length which it did by the time I decided to loc in 2004.

Well the locs were good for a while but living in Maine with no one to help me hands on with my locs led me to free form and eventually led me to say buh bye to them as well. It was really lack of good maintenance that killed my locs, in fact looking back on my decade in naps I can say that barring the times I have rocked the TWA my hair is generally not as healthy as it can be. That may sound silly but when it comes to doing my hair those skills passed me by, perhaps it was because I was well into high school before my Mom let me actually start managing my hair. Seriously, she refused to have me going out with a raggedy head as she would call it, so she often would oversee my coif. The result being I barely can braid and when I do you damn sure ain’t going outside in it and well my attempts at twisting, etc…um, it sux. I suspect if I had someone up here who could sit down and show me it might come together but honestly even looking at you tube videos doesn’t seem to help.

So you are probably asking um…where are you going with this? Well until yesterday I figured I’d keep living with my hair situation but I went to my local Aveda salon for my eyebrow waxing and we ended up talking about my hair. Long story short they explained they have a process of thermal straightening that could loosen my curls to make my hair more manageable.

I’m going to be honest, at first I was like hell to the naw, I am happy to be nappy, no chemicals here…all the things that good nappy hair disciples do. Some of ya’ll might be asking what am I talking about but I know some of ya’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Going natural as a Black woman is liberating, it really is, at least in the early days you feel like you have a new lease on life. You feel like you have instant camaraderie with other natural sistas, you feel amazing, freed…oh its a beautiful thing. 

Well 10 years into this journey, what I am about to say is blasphemy to nappy heads but really its just hair. Yes chemicals are bad, and by all means you should avoid them if at all possible. But sometimes being natural ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either. See, the reason I went natural initially was because I knew I was moving to Maine and figured there would be no one to do my hair. That is really what prompted me to give up the creamy crack, my relaxed hair was always healthy, no breakage, no issues.  I admit I did not like feeling in bondage to the hair salon for that weekly maintenance but lets keep it real, too many naturals are always looking for that elusive product to “manage” their curls. Ya know you know what I am talking about.  They trade one addiction for another, I have seen it too many times. In the past decade I have seen many sistas embrace being natural at least on the surface but deep down they are grappling with how beautiful they will be perceived as, if they rock a TWA, locs, etc. I know, I was there and man I fought those demons, days when I just knew I looked ugly. But guess what? I didn’t care, for me being natural at least in the early days allowed me to see true beauty in myself but at this stage in the game, I will be honest. I just want hair that is manageable. I am not a fan of super short hair…can I tell you on cold days I miss my locs.

I would consider going back to locks but I truly believe they have a spiritual component and I am not there yet. I found what I needed with that first set, peace and acceptance in so many areas of my life but I am not ready to return. I keep saying just let my fro grow but then I keep coming back to grow into what? Last time I let it grow eventually that path led to dreads.

So I will be honest, I have no idea what direction I am about to take on the hair path, could involve chemicals, could be braids, might just say fuck it and crop it again. Yet no matter what I  do, I am more than just my hair and while my journey to me may have started with my hair it does not end with my hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t even decided whether I am going to have my hair treated, last night I was pumped up about this. This morning the $300 price tag has me thinking a trip to the sista who trimmed my fro is in order so I can explore more reasonable options that might keep me natural but I will be honest no longer am I am militant natural.

I have enjoyed the journey but I am not defined by my hair…hell I define me.

It was a good speech but……

28 Jan

Like many Americans, last night I stayed up (despite being in agonizing pain from a massage gone awry but that’s another post) to catch President Obama’s first state of the Union of the Union address. Thanks to the marvels of technology no longer do we have to watch a speech in the privacy of our home and wonder what others are thinking, hell you don’t have to wait to get to the water cooler to chew it over. Nope, thanks to Facebook and Twitter you can have a running discussions with a bunch of other people. I have to say I might have enjoyed that aspect of things more than the entire speech as it gives insight into how my fellow Americans (and others) are thinking when it comes to the state of things in this nation.

For starters, Obama came bringing a bit more fire than he has in a while. But really is this a surprise? Shit, this man has a way with words, he has a gift for speaking, no one not even his opponents will deny that unless they are completely ape shit crazy. As someone who’s early career was in sales and marketing, I would say he has a great knack for selling us what we want to hear. I can only imagine how hard it is being the nation’s first Black president…the expecations. There are those who while they may never admit it, thought when Obama was elected he would be magical like a Will Smith character…I think Larry the Senior Black correspondent on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show recently gave a great summary about the expectation of Obama being the Magical Negro. Go Google it, it’s a good piece.

I want to talk though a bit about why I am personally a tad somber about my expectations for the country. See, I noticed on my Twitter feed it was almost an even split between folks who are also feeling a smidge disillusioned about things and those who said well he’s inherited a mess and how can anyone expect such a mess to be cleaned up in a year.

Look, I can’t imagine anyone other than someone who truly felt Obama was going to be the Magical Negro would expect to have shit cleaned up in a year. Hell, that’s not realistic at all. But I have a theory, hear me out. Everyone I know either online or in life who is getting impatient tends to be in the camp that is feeling the sting of the great recession. Right now jobs are scarce and to be honest they got a lot more scarce in the past year. None of the original estimates had unemployment reaching 10%…um, we are there. Shit last I heard wasn’t it 10.2%? Who knows what the real figure is but chances are if you are unemployed, you are competing with at least 5-6 other people for every available job. If you are Black well shit, your chances of finding a job are even harder. One of the figures I have seen bandied around is 15.6% for Blacks who are unemployed but like regular unemployment those figures are hard to get a handle on since unemployment rates don’t truly factor in things like when folks stop collecting unemployment benefits, they cease to be counted. Then there are those folks like myself who are underemployed…we got jobs but they are less than 40 hours a week so as you can imagine it makes life a tad tight.

Now I heard a plan last night that seems focused on creating some jobs and surely the stimulus plan did stop more folks from becoming unemployed but the reality is we need more, we need a lot more. Folks are embracing frugality and no one is going  spending (which is really what we as a nation seem to be about, what the fuck do we produce here anymore other than spenders?) until they know that are financially secure again. Yeah, we will loosen the belts now and then but by and large our eyes have been opened and we know we are broke. See, no money means no spending which keeps us as a nation in the financial doghouse since our economy is sadly based on the notion that we must consume.

See, those folks (myself included) who are working hard to survive are not feeling as generous about time. Now I will admit my own personal situation is looking up, things are going better for the Spousal Unit and his clients, which would be a good thing except that soon we will be without health insurance. This past year we were able to access state health coverage thanks to the drop in income, well that drop is over and in a few weeks so is my coverage. Now that might be a good thing except that the rise while good still won’t allow me to buy any decent coverage. Remember the Spousal Unit is a self-employed contractor so there is no company sponsored plan and I work at an agency that does not offer insurance because we barely keep the doors open and unless our funding grows the money is not there to offer me coverage.  Right now a policy with a $30,000 deductible will cost me over $400 a month! Translation I have to run up and pay for $30,000 in bills before the policy kicks in…sure I got 30G’s sitting around. To get a real policy with a $500 deductible is over $1000 a month, pretty much making that increase in income void.

Thing is my plight is the plight of millions, that would be why so many wanted some type of meaningful reform that might make coverage accessible. So when we hear that after a year we might need to slow down the health care reform wagon well, some of us start getting mighty pissed off. Now to be fair this is the fault of the GOP but bottom line we got a fucked up system.

I think it’s easier for folks who still have access to good or even adequate healthcare and decent jobs to say let’s be patient where folks who are struggling are getting mad. It’s not about unreal expectations but about the fact that we literally have millions who are barely existing and many of these folks used to be members of the middle class. In my work I literally see folks who used to give now having to receive and this is not just in my corner of the world, its happening all over this country.

We need some radical change, we need lawmakers to come together by hook or crook to help folks. I like President Obama but what I really want now is for him to channel Sam Jackson and start cracking heads or whatever it takes to create some change and help for the folks who are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  I think last night’s speech was great but at the same time I look back over the past year and think dude at times it feels like you forgot the little folks who worked so hard to get you elected. (Of course some of my sister bloggers, ya’ll know who you are say really he never stated he was down for the little folks in the first place but I’m gonna leave that alone for now) Folks who believed so much in change that they gave money $5, $10 at a time, they knocked on doors because when you spoke we wanted to answer that call for change we could believe in.

I imagine there are some who will read this and think I am being hasty and yes he has 3 more years to create change but are you aware there are some who don’t have 3 more years or 8 years, those folks need help now. I must admit when he spoke of freezing budgets I wonder what that will mean for folks already struggling but of course we won’t know till it happens.

Anyway, what were your thoughts on the SOTU? Even if you don’t agree with me, I would love to hear what you have to say. By the way what about that Chris Matthews?

His mid-life crisis

25 Jan

This is a personal post, in that I am talking about the Spousal Unit and our marriage. While there are some who would say why do you feel the need to talk about such things in a public forum well its less about him to some degree and more about me and how I cope with these changes. By the way before I decided to write this post, I did talk with the Spousal Unit first to see if he was comfortable with me sharing in such a public forum.

The Spousal Unit is getting ready to turn 42, we have been together going on 15 years. Despite the ups and downs for the most part we have a pretty happy union. I think our happiness in many ways is about the fact that we are opposites. When shared friends learned we were dating, many were stunned since at that time we were about as opposite at least on the surface as two folks can be. For starters the man has always been a bit of a geek, a nerd and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. He will be the first to tell you he spent most of his life being the geek, what that meant was in high school and college he was the guy on the sidelines. Yet he didn’t let the fact that his geekiness prevented him from dating get in the way of life, he had great friends and enjoyed being a bookish chap. Hell at 41 he still has a great deal of his comic book collection from his youth.

When we got together it was the geek qualities that I loved though at times they were a smidge annoying, but hey he puts up with me. In recent years though the man has started to undergo a slow metamorphosis, suddenly in his late 30’s he became what I like to joke as geek chic. While it was a big thing when he had to accept the loss of his hair, it turned out that shaving it all off turned him into a bit of a cutie as shown by the fact that for the first time in his life the women started checking him out. He started playing with his facial hair, deciding at certain points to get rid of the full beard and experiment with goatees. Suddenly after a decade the man became downright sexy in his geekdom, add to the fact he is a great father and partner.

Well I always used to joke and wonder about the midlife crisis and was it real? See, my Dad’s mid-life cris involved seminary and becoming a pastor. Yes, I am serious. No new ladies or sports cars for Pops. Well it seems that my beloved husband is going through a mid-life crisis and thankfully it does not involve younger ladies and cars or seminary but…..drumroll please. Cigars and Cognac. Now out of respect for the fact that not everything needs to be shared online, I won’t get into all the details but lets just say the Spousal Unit has decided after a lifetime of always being the good guy that well he wants to experience life and for him that means being the kinda of man that relaxes with a good stogy and a glass of cognac.

I have to say this caught me off guard, after all he has always been a guy that liked a good handcrafted brew and most certainly not a smoker of any sort. I was initially distressed, accusing him of making sports cars and younger ladies his next step. See that SUV we got was his gateway drug! No, he explained he has simply decided there are things in life that he wants to explore and experience since he realizes our time here is limited and that at his age there is a good chance he is at the half way point of life and wants no regrets.

It took me a few days to calm down and come to consensus on the ground rules but what he said did hit a nerve. How many of us want to experience things even if they seem silly or ridiculous yet we never do? Life is too short to not have those experiences, so in some ways his mid-life crisis coupled with my own recent birthday serve as a reminder that our time is short and perhaps its time to ask myself what is it that I am holding back on? No answer yet.

As for the Spousal Unit and I, I plan on embracing this new edgier man who is finally fully comfortable in his skin enough so that he won’t hold himself back. I figure if his midlife crisis is a good cigar and a glass of even better cognac once a week, I need to accept it.

Now dear readers, for those of you who have hit mid-life or have partners who are there already, I ask is there anything you or your partner changed during this phase of life?

New directions

22 Jan

This weekend I turn another year older but as I slowly start that slow waltz towards 40, its  time for reflection and time to think of the future. For some folks 40 is young, for some its old,I am not there yet but as it creeps up on me, I find myself wondering about what I want to do and be when I grow up. See, this year marks the first time in my adult life that my decisions are not driven by either my son or ex-husband.

I was a mere babe when my son was born, barely 19. Looking back I was such a child, so the background of growing into my adult self has always been balanced against raising my son. In a few short weeks baby boy turns 18…where the fuck does the time go? As crazy as this journey has been, I wouldn’t change it for anything because the ups and downs make me who I am. Yet at the same time I realize that I am truly free to make choices, free to say lets leave Maine. (granted there is that pesky issue of selling my house)  No longer wondering how my decisions will impact my son and the struggle of joint custody.

Can I just say its scary but liberating. Right now I am pondering some life choices as the Spousal Unit and I struggle to redefine our relationship. No fear, things are good but as the Spousal Unit is already in his 40’s he is at a stage where he is looking to branch into new areas professionally and personally. I must admit I don’t always do change well, so he caught me off guard yet thinking of the future I am excited to share my life with a man bold enough to redefine himself and thankful that his midlife crisis does not involve younger women and a car. Yet it also has served to remind me that I need to step out of my box and find my bliss.

The biggest area that concerns me is professionally, after a decade spent being of service to others lately I find myself wanting to find my bliss. I like my work but it ain’t my bliss. Lately it feels more like a burden, in some ways I chose my line of work out of a need to do great things. I no longer feel that passion and while I want to earn more money I am also not driven by money.

Anyway I feel change in the air and am hopeful that something positive is headed this way, but what it is I don’t know yet. I’ll keep you posted when I find it until then have a great weekend.

The Return of Every-Man

20 Jan

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Every-man or wait it’s…..it’s Scott Brown. Scott Brown, he’d be that fella down (hey I’m in Maine and from where I live it is down) in Massachusetts who won the Senate seat that was open due to Ted Kennedy’s death. MA is a pretty damn liberal state, a nice blue state and no matter what the reason (yeah Brown’s opponent Coakley sounded like an idiot) if a no name Republican can win that seat well I don’t think its a sign of good things to come for the rest of us.

It would seem that exactly a year after President Obama’s historical inauguration that quite a few of his supporters (um, former supporters) are having a touch of buyer’s remorse. Now there are some who say hey give him time, he inherited a mess and its going to take time to clean it up. Yeah, that’s true but the current America we live in is one with a real short memory. If you think I am kidding then you need to go spend some time hanging out with every-man, the one who sees Obama as a guy who wants to take over the world by oh no making health care available to the masses, a guy who saw a neighbor (Haiti) in need and offered up resources. A guy who some see as being the cause of our economic crisis started under the Bush administration. No, it’s Obama’s fault in their minds and no amount of asking them to look back is going to change things.

Now I will admit I am not 100% happy with Obama for my own reasons, shit as I have said before he is not nearly as radical as I like…as a former community organizer I expect some real change then again I am willing to give him some time but that’s just me.

The thing is our short attention spans could end up resulting eventually in the return of every-man being in power. I read a piece this morning where Obama (feel free to correct me if I am wrong) made a comment about Scott Brown over the weekend stating anyone can drive around in a pick up truck. That’s true but at least in MA and  I suspect in other areas throughout this county for whatever reason we see guys like Brown as being like us…say what you will but the every-man persona complete with pick up truck makes folks feel comfortable. I can’t help thinking maybe the Dems need to start getting some attractive folks heading up their cause. No need for fancy words, but folks like pretty faces.  How else can you explain the rise of Sarah Palin? Dumb and cute yet folks love here and I no longer think the prospect of her winning in 2012 is a pipe dream should she consider a run for the White House. Hell, we don’t know where countries are on a map why the hell do we want our leaders to?

No, we long for every-man, that person who speaks to us in a down home cadence, and well seems a lot like us. Of course we aren’t all that way but I suspect a great deal of  us are.

So this morning if I were Obama and his crew I might start thinking of how we can change things up and recapture the energy that propelled him to the White House by listening to the needs of folks and sadly despite the fact health care is a good thing, it seems folks want jobs. So Mister President I think if you plan on being more than a one term president, you need to work on building your every-man persona…take up bowling, see about a presidential pick up truck too while you are at it. I hear Ford F-150’s are real popular with every-man…while you are at it maybe you and Joe can take up hunting but please don’t shoot anyone.  Oh and create some jobs too but really Americans are a tad slow as long as we see you as being just like us even if you don’t create any jobs or do anything positive we might re-elect you on the basis of being just like us. Of course you and your wife have that pesky permanent tan issue that some might see as a barrier but perhaps Sammy Sosa will share the secrets of his skin rejuvenation treatments with you. I see they got rid of Sammy’s brown issue.

On the other hand none of my advice might work since we are in the midst of the stupid tsunami here in America.

Savages in this town and other thoughts

18 Jan

One of the best lines from Kevin Smith’s classic movie Clerks is when Randal says “Bunch of savages in this town”. Sadly after reading some of the recent coverage of the situation in Haiti, it seems that many Americans who are sitting in the comfort of their homes are thinking this about the folks in Haiti.

I am not the only Black blogger nor will I be the last to note that when a crisis hits an area where the victims are Black, that it never seems to fail, that at a certain point the media coverage will start to show the victims in a negative light. We saw it with the Katrina hurricane, after several days folks started getting a tad pissed and hungry that help was not coming in a timely fashion and well some folks decided to take matters into their own hands. The result was folks started to take what they needed and yes taking a big ass tv might be a dumb act but perhaps at the moment the thought is this tv might represent access to my basic needs being met.

There have been reports of looting in Haiti where its safe to say things are fucked up. After all, there is basically only one way to land the goods and its taking a while for food and water to actually get to the folks who need it.

I always wonder how come when tragedy hits and the victims are white, they aren’t looting? No, they scavenge or forage but never loot. See, foraging for your needs is a lot less scary sounding than folks who are looting.

However I wonder what would those same people talking shit do if they were in need and help was not getting to them? I don’t know about you but if my tummy was rumbling after several days and most certainly if my kids were hungry and thirsty, I would do any and everything to rectify that situation and laws and civility be damned. I suspect that most of us when faced with what seems like the likelihood of death due to a lack of basics such as food and water would do the same thing.

Yet because of the power of language its easy to paint those people in a negative light and blame it on bad genes…see those people are predisposed to bad shit. But when we do it, well its the right thing. Think about the would be bomber on that Christmas Day flight…he was thwarted by a big white man who not only leaped over several rows to put the fire out but I recall an interview with the “hero” who after making sure the suspect was not going to blow up the plane preceded to put the suspect in a headlock and dragged him to the front of the plane where the crew handcuffed him. Quite heroic but I wonder what would have happened if Jasper the hero would have been a Ray-Ray the black man from Detroit? See, where I am going with this?

Anyway one man’s savage is another man’s person striving to survive.

So what should we do?

15 Jan

Since learning of the earthquake that hit Haiti, I have noticed a curious thing.  Everyone seems saddened to see such a natural disaster hit, the response to what should be done seems to vary greatly depending on who you are talking to. Now as a Black woman, I have a great deal of Black friends some who have been personally affected as they have loved ones in Haiti. Thankfully their loved ones are safe. It seems within the Black community especially those of us online we are feeling the call to arms to help our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. On a quick personal note, my brother who is an architect is trying to gather a group to aid in future rebuilding efforts, so if you or someone you know is either an architect, engineer, or construction type person and wants to get involved, send me an email and I will connect you with my brother for details.

However I have noticed a bit of chill about what should be done that seems sadly to be breaking down along racial lines. I have tried to ignore it but after sitting in a diner and listening to an asshole chide President Obama for sending 100 million bucks, I need to say something that’s been on my mind.

Now when the tsunami hit several years ago, folks quickly mobilized to help, granted the US economy was in a better place but let’s be real compared to a place like Haiti most let me state that again most of even our poorest residents are still doing pretty well compared to what’s happening in Haiti. After all if you are reading this, its safe to say you have access to water and a place to shit and probably something to eat. Based off the images I have seen of the aftermath of Haiti its safe to say even the shittiest accommodations in the US would look pretty damn good to a folks dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake.

No, Haiti is not a pretty place in the minds of most Americans. It’s not an exotic locale to escape to, folks try to leave it and often get sent back. It’s real easy to say its the poorest nation in Western hemisphere without any thought to how it got to be that way. No discussion about how our policies years ago helped it become such a poor nation. No, just easier to say its a poor ass place and it sucks to be those people.

I wonder and maybe I am wrong but for many white folks I wonder how they would feel about this situation if it were a nation of white folks or a nation of pretty exotic people who live in a lush land that we like to visit. Yes, 100 million bucks in a time of economic crisis is a lot of money but at the same time it’s not. Yes it could help a lot of Americans but does that mean we should sit back and say sorry we are having issues we can’t do nothing for ya man!

How does the economic crisis that is largely of our own doing after all, a fair number of folks losing their homes lost them because they allowed common sense to go out the window. Hello! I have said it before but if you earn 50G’s a year what business did you have buying a half a million dollar home and then treating it like a fucking ATM supporting a lifestyle you could not afford. On the other hand there are plenty of folks who are dealing with loss of house and jobs who didn’t do anything wrong, but what does the tragedy in Haiti and the ongoing economic situation have to do with one another? Can we as a society not still stop to help our fellow-man in need?

It’s funny because I work with the poor daily and while there are a few folks that really piss me off on a regular basis I still see folks who in the midst of their own struggle with poverty can take the time to help someone else out. I see the call to arms to help Haiti as a similar situation. No, not everyone drinks pricy coffee or eats lunch out but most of us in this country have some small treat in our lives we could temporarily give up to help someone else out.

I like to think of helping others as good karma, insurance for when  our bad shit happens someone will be there for us. Yet I think for some Americans the core resistance to helping Haiti despite our economic woes is not about our finances but about the fact that deep down those people are not us, they are not attractive to us and while we have a temporary twinge for their plight at the end of the day they are just poor brown folks. We don’t see their humanity because we choose to see them as different than us. Oh, I know for some reading this you will say that’s not it at all but are you so sure? Maybe I am misreading the situation but when I see seemingly intelligent folks questioning our helping at this time, I am left to wonder why is that? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter especially if you are someone who is unsure we can afford to help. It seems to me we are all on this planet together and the humane and kind thing to do is offer help but what the hell do I know?

Get off your butt

13 Jan

It’s Wednesday, I have at least 10 balls in the air between work and home. Funding season is in full swing which translates into writing grants and in person begging to keep the doors to my center open. I have a wee one with a cold and feel the rumblings of a cold brewing myself but none of that matters.

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past 24 hours, you are aware that a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. Haiti needs you, they need me and more importantly they need some money. Last night as I channel surfed myself to sleep, I was amazed that only one of the cable news networks had any coverage about what was happening in Haiti. As a buddy of mine on Facebook mentioned, the previous night it was breaking news that Simon was leaving American Idol…but let a country of poor folks of color get hit with a major catastrophe and well we will cover that when we get to it.

Now I realize that my readership has grown from the days when only Black folks read me, but this message is to the brothers and sisters that read me…get off your ass and do something to help our folks. I have never been to Haiti, I have no direct connection to Haiti but those folks are part of the diaspora and they need us. Yes, the American Red Cross will be there and other countries will send some relief but dammit we need to help our own.

Black folks, we spend a lot of money on fly hairdo’s, eating tasty lunches, getting our nails done and the list goes on. I am asking you to give that up at least for a day. I am forgoing my almost daily Peppermint Mocha and sending the cash to the Red Cross. I have seen a slew of organizations where you can send a text message and your cell will be billed so if you don’t want to be ole school like me and write a check, that’s cool. Point is we need to do something. Those folks are us and they need our help so forgo whatever you were going to spend money on today that you really don’t need and do some good.

Oh yeah and if you are white, you can help out too, the more the merrier the key thing is to do more than write a cute status update on your social media of choice, that’s not activism and change…no they need money. So just do it.

Do You Miss It?

11 Jan

That question is posed to me on a fairly regular basis by folks asking how it is that a Black woman from Chicago came to live in a place like Maine. To be honest, I get tired of answering the question and decided to blog about my feelings on the matter. For starters, of course I miss it…hello! I was born and raised there, in many ways I will always be connected to it but at the same time it represents my past.

My original decision to come to Maine was made for me, the fact that joint custody of a child does not work well when your child is racking up as many frequent flier miles as a salesman was the deciding factor. My ex at that time was unwilling to move back to the midwest and it put me the position of needing to move closer to him. Originally we were planning on moving to Boston but I realized that even Boston was too far plus it was too damn expensive. So we figured after having spent a few days in Maine’s largest city that we would live in Portland, little did I know when we actually moved here that I would get a job in a town south of Portland that included a discounted apartment. That in a nutshell is how I can to not only live in Maine but in a small town though technically my town is a city but with a population of barely 16,000 I still call it a town.

Now when the plans were made to move here, we figured we would be here until the boy turned 18 and then we would blow this popstand. Well the boy turns 18 in a few weeks and at this point I have no plans of moving anywhere this year unless the job offer of the century turns up.

I admit the first few years here were rough, I used to joke I was like a mobster who had been put in the witness protection program and relocated to someplace far away where no one would find them. It really did feel that way at times. The first year I was so lonely, I scared myself at times. Packing up your life and relocating 1100 miles away to a place where the only folks you know are your husband, ex-husband and in-laws and son is a hard thing. I walked away from a lot to make this move happen. Professionally I gave up a lot, at the same time I announced I was leaving Chicago, my boss at my previous job in Chicago announced she was moving on and I was approached by the board of directors about applying for her position. That shelter now just completed a multi-million dollar renovation and is one of the leading agencies on homelessness in Chicago. Their current director was my former co-worker who was just under me, it’s a position that had I landed it would have been a true feather in my professional cap. As it is they are still using policies and programs that I laid the foundation for before leaving and had I stayed I can assure you I would be earning a lovely salary.

I won’t lie, in the tough moments here, I think about that. I think about how since moving here my career has taken some twists and turns and not always good ones. Instead though I focus on what I have gained, the personal growth that has happened within me would have been harder to come by if I still lived in Chicago.

I miss the hustle and bustle, I miss living in a place that never sleeps. I do miss knowing fabulous waffles and burritos are available at 3 am if I so desire. I miss my close friends and even what is left of my family that still lives in Chicago. Yet I have come to enjoy the solitude of living in a true 4 season place, I love following the natural rhythms that occur here…that ole man Winter requires that we slow down and take stock of our lives. I love that if I run outside to grab a coffee and am wearing sweats,I won’t feel bad…hell, no one will notice.

I love the sense of community that happens when you live in a small town. I love that I see the librarian and her family at the art walk. I love knowing that if on a rare bus ride to the city if I should happen to not have my bus fare that the bus driver knows me and will still let me ride…good luck trying that one on CTA!

Racially, yes its lonely at times more so since my best sista friend decided to leave the area but this is where I rely on the internet and phone to keep me connected to my sistern. I admit it would be great to have a Black hair shop nearby without having to travel so far but hey we do at least have one decent shop in Southern Maine now. Progress is happening.

I don’t miss the political correctness that permeated life in Chicago where on the surface there was far more diversity but truthfully things were pretty damn segregated. Folks come together for work but by and large folks live in areas where everyone looks like them. Granted that was not the case for the Spousal Unit and I and I do miss our old neighborhood. A place where a walk down the street, meant passing Mexican, Swedish and Lebanese eateries as well as a host of other diverse places. Where culture and entertainment did not involve seeking it out as we do in Maine but literally just stumbling into it. I miss being able to hop the bus or el to downtown Chicago and wandering the museums on free day. I miss eating Mexican seafood stew at 24 hour taquerias. Don’t even get me started on the thrifting…so much choice.

Yet I am in a different place where there are good things as well and while I have no idea how long we will be here since every time I run the numbers taking into consideration increased salaries, we would lose a certain peaceful  quality we now have were we to move back to Chicago or any large city. So for now I call Maine home and while its natural to miss what we are used to, no longer does that longing feel my every moment.

Who You Calling Negro?

8 Jan

Thanks to enough stress in my personal life, I have intentionally been lying low when it comes to what’s going on in the world. However after hearing about the Census Bureau’s decision to add the seemingly outdated term Negro to the 2010 Census forms I feel the need to speak up. First off, I understand many younger folks are miffed about this, after all if you are under a certain age, Negro is a term you read about, not something you were called.

That said, there are still quite a few older Black folks who well never quite got the African-American thing…I know because I have several in my family. I am old enough to remember being Black, briefly Afro-American and later African-American. Personally I have always had a love/like/dislike feeling when it comes to the term African-American. As a Black woman who couldn’t tell you where in Africa my folks came from, the use of African-American never felt quite right. After all I have friends who I truly consider African-American, first and second generation immigrants from countries in Africa. I however, have folks who come from Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee.

My beloved Granny who passed four years ago, never called herself African-American, generally she stuck to Black or Negro or the occasional colored. From what the Census folks are saying it seems she was not the only one and to create an inclusive environment, the Census folks decided to add Negro. Inclusion happens in many forms.

Frankly I don’t have a problem with it and I hardly doubt the use of Negro is going to bring back terms such as Mulatto, Octoroon, etc. While we have made some progress racially in this country, I think we would be remiss to forget the past. Now if that form said Nigger, then I’d be the first one say oh hell to the naw. Instead it uses a term that is still used by a certain segment of the Black population, a population that felt so strongly about it that many of them wrote it into the last census form.

I think focusing on issues like whether Negro is outdated takes away from the larger issues. How many of the folks getting worked up about this are actually involved in the Black community? The Black community has a lot of issues we are facing, our unemployment rates are well above the national average. High percentage of single parent homes, our kids die younger, shit we die younger. So instead of getting worked up over the use of a word I say channel that energy into more positive avenues.