Archive | September, 2010

The White Man Can’t Save You

30 Sep

I swear people must think Black women are some of the most pathetic creatures on the planet. Every where I turn I am bombarded with media images that seem to say we are sad and lonely or else we are sex crazed hoes who are thinking with our vaginas and not our brains and thus contributing to the planet’s overpopulation problem. I guess the only happy Black women on the planet are First Lady Michelle Obama and the queen of daytime talk Oprah Winfrey. Actually  there are plenty of happy well adjusted Black women, but if we focused our images on these happy Black women I guess nobody could earn any cash exploiting those of us with fears and insecurities.

The newest self help remedy for college educated Black women is apparently to get a white man. In the last year or so it seems there has been an increase in the number of writers and self help folks suggesting that for the lonely Black woman waiting for her Black knight in shining armor that what she really needs is a White knight in shining armor…frankly its starting to annoy me.

Now I know there are some who may say, wait a damn minute the name of this blog is Black Girl in Maine? A name like that pretty much might be a tip off to the fact that since I live in very white state, there is a good chance that I have a white partner. Yep, I do. I have been married to the resident white man going on 13 years so many might ask how dare I talk shit about Black chicks hooking up with white men. Truth is anyone who has read my blog any length of time knows that I am not a cheerleader for interracial pairings. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, our kids and my life but the truth is interracial relationships require a lot of work. Frankly all relationships require work but when merging two ethnicities together to create a family, especially when those two groups bring great historical baggage it is not something to do lightly.

I am all for relationships that happen naturally, in my case. I had sworn off white men after a brief marriage in my late teens to a white man that produced my son and one of the most acrimonious divorces ever. Yet God and the universe decided to play a joke on me since I said I was done with white men, my current husband was brought into my life 15 years ago. We were co-workers who often chatted at the water cooler, and the truth is I didn’t see him as anything but a work buddy. In fact when he asked me out on a date, I said hell fucking naw. Only saving grace for the Spousal Unit was the fact my mom said hey why not? So I said, why not?, I didn’t have any plans that weekend besides the man did ask me out in a beautifully written letter (my hubby is a writer) and included a pound of coffee beans. (He knew my passion and vice was good coffee) So I said why not and the rest is history. No, we did not fall head over heels in love but we are both children of the working class and have personalities that are complimentary.

I am sure a few of you are saying well that sounds good, why shouldn’t another sista have that? The fact is despite how good we are together, the nastiest arguments we have ever had to the point of threatening our relationship and our family have almost always centered around issues of race. Early in our relationship, he lost people he had considered friends and while our families have more or less accepted the other it was still an adjustment. It’s often the day to day shit that causes problems. Racism is a fact of life and there are times here in Maine and back in Chicago when I come home after encountering shit and he just can’t get it. There have been times in raising our daughter when things have come up and he had to work very hard to get it.

One of the degrees I hold is in African American studies and there were times many years ago that the deeper I went into my research that it took a lot not to get pissed at the Spousal Unit. I wanted to become a professor of African American studies but for the sake of our family I had to let it go. Maybe I am an asshole but I could not study what I was studying and come home and sleep next to a white man without giving him the side eye.

I just read this piece that gave what I considered rather superficial reasons for dating white men, in many ways white men have far more advantages than Black and other minority men there is no denying that. On the other hand those advantages came at the expense of others. To put it plainly, white men got a head start in this society. Hell, even my husband who hails from working class roots acknowledges that. Our fathers were both blue collar workers yet my father in law thanks to his union supporting him and a few other breaks that white guys get was able to create wealth in the form of real estate whereas my father who at one point was a teamster got jack and was always the last guy hired, first guy to be let go.

It is my opinion that interracial relations can work but they require both partners to have the willingness to get emotionally raggedy when it comes to issues of race and be willing to do the heavy lifting. I have known more than a few white folks who frankly are not willing to acknowledge their own privilege and for the Black partner in those cases they simply must become a white person in Black skin lest they threaten the relationship.

Look, at the end of the day, date whoever you want to date and love who you want to love. But to seek out a specific group because we see them as the cure for all that ails us is well frankly silly. Yes, that white man may not have any baby mamas, a jail record and is gainfully employed but you need to enter such relationships with your eyes wide open.

If I were to give dating/love advice to a single Black woman I would say love yourself, find happiness within you and generally when we are happy things happen.

That is sooooo ghetto…NOT!

29 Sep

Oh, how I hate that phrase. Some where along the line the word ghetto has grown from being a word used to describe a slum area in a city primarily occupied by minorities to a catch phrase for describing anything that folks deem to be lower class. Frankly it pisses me off. Recently an acquaintance of mine referred to her neighborhood as being ghetto, problem is she lives in Maine. Yes, we have some areas of low income folks but by and large these areas are packed full of white folks after all this is Maine. Yes some of these areas are a tad rough by the standards of what folks generally think of when Maine comes to mind but I would be hard pressed to say there are any ghettos in Maine. Sorry folks.

See, I am from Chicago and while I grew up working class I can honestly we say we never lived in any area that one might deem a ghetto by the official and technical definition of ghetto. However families being what they are, I did have some family members who lived in what definitely could be called a ghetto. My first images of visiting these family members start at about age 5. My mother was not raised by her mother who left her when she was 8 months old, my mother didn’t officially meet her mother again until she was 16 and she spent many years trying to forge a relationship with her mother and 7 half siblings.

During her early and mid twenties my Mum spent a great deal of time trying to connect with her birth family and that required us visiting them and well they lived in the now gone Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s south side. The Robert Taylor Projects along with the Cabrini Green Housing projects were some of the worse housing projects in the country.  The place was like a giant concrete jungle, it was not safe for outsiders to just wander in unless they wanted to go out in a body bag, thankfully my mother’s brothers were well respected gangbangers so that kept us safe along with the fact when we got off the el stop nearest to the projects there was always someone waiting to pick us up. One of the things I remember from this period in time is that my father rarely made the trek to visit my mother’s family…to this day I don’t know why.

One of the things I remember most about these visits was fear, entering the building that her family lived in was scary, it was a dark place, it alternated between smelling like an overripe sewer and a urinal. The times the elevator actually worked, it had one bare bulb and smelled like pure piss. Even at 5 I knew this was not a safe place. Yet as soon as we entered my mother’s birth mother’s actual apartment it was like night and day. Well decorated and beautiful, no doubt filled with items obtained through my uncle’s ill gotten gains. I also remember that the food was amazing, some of what we now call soul food.

Occasionally younger cousins would insist I play with them in the hallway and I remembering being afraid. Especially when we played hide and seek, the only bright spot to playing with the cousins was the visit to the candy lady. That would be the lady a few doors down from my relatives who sold candy, pickles and snow cones from her apartment. To this day that still amazes me as I have never seen that any place outside of the ghetto. In part because in many true ghettos it’s not safe for kids to venture out to the local convenience stores on their own, because danger lurks at every turn. These visits stopped around the time my brother was born.

Yet as an adult having chosen to work with the less fortunate sometimes my work in Chicago called for me to travel to areas that were well…ghettos. Last time was about 10 years or so when I had a training to attend on the west side of Chicago and let’s just say it was an experience. Cabs do not go to such areas I learned when I tried to get a cab and at the lunch break a group of us ventured to the only sit down eatery in the area where our transaction for fried chicken at KFC was conducted through bullet proof glass. I remember heading home on the bus after two days of training thinking about how hopeless it must feel to live in an area where transactions must be conducted through glass. Think about that.

My experiences both as a child and as an adult in venturing into true ghettos left me with a very clear definition of what a ghetto is and living in an apartment in Maine is not a ghetto. By and large in Maine even the rough areas are relatively close to nature. This particular area that was called a ghetto is about a 10 minute drive to the ocean, on a good night you can smell the ocean. I can assure you in most true ghettos (outside of perhaps LA) you won’t be smelling an ocean, instead you will smell the stench of hopelessness mixed in with piss.

While I work with people who at times have many of the same issues that my clients in Chicago had, it’s still different here. People are free to leave their houses; their homes are not transformed into virtual forts because getting in and out involves taking your life into your hands. While pockets of hopelessness now exist all across this nation, the fact is to call your area a ghetto trivializes the lives of those who really are living in a ghetto and in some cases to claim such language in my opinion speaks to having privilege that true ghetto dwellers do not.

So if you are one of those folks who like to use the word ghetto and you are using it for any reason other than describing a real ghetto, please find another word. Tacky is a good start and you won’t get any resistance from me.

God, boys and custom made suits..the strange tale of Eddie Long

27 Sep

I must admit that as my fellow Mainers have discovered my little piece of the blogosphere its been a great feeling to be included within the ranks of really cool bloggers like this and I am thankful for my fellow bloggers who have mentioned me on their blogs. At the same time it is sometimes awkward as this blog was originally about me connecting with other folks of color and as such I do tend to blog on issues related to race. I admit the past few posts have been about race but as a Black woman even living in Maine one of the least racially diverse states in the country while I am a Mainer by virtue of location; I am a Black woman first and foremost.

Today I have to talk about the Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia. Regular readers know I don’t talk a great deal about my faith on the blog in part because this is not a spiritual or religious blog. Yet there are times when I do feel the need to go there, this is definitely one of them. I have made no secret of the fact that since my Mom’s untimely passing six years ago, I have grappled with my own faith. Finally accepting that is it simply not possible for me to get all the answers as long as I am earth side. Though as a follower of Christ, I do think some things are clear despite the fact that many folks who call themselves Christians are not clear on those facts.

Let’s get back to good ole Eddie Long. He is the pastor of one New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, right outside of Atlanta, Ga. In the past 20 years according to published reports he has taken what was a modest church of a few hundred and turned it into a mega church with a reported membership of 25,000 folks. Long who is officially called Bishop Long, has entertained presidents, celebrities and other well heeled folks, hell the man lives in a 1.1 million dollar home reportedly wears custom made suits, drives a Bentley and has a bodyguards. His ministry as its called focuses on prosperity…he has been quoted as saying that Jesus was not a poor man and that God does not want folks to be poor. I can only imagine based off the snippets I have seen of the good pastor, oops Bishop that he makes his congregation feel really good.

It’s such a shame though that the good Bishop who while he has been seen with his iPad clearly must have only skimmed the bible and missed the parts where Jesus talks specifically about the rich. In the book of Matthew Chapter 10, Jesus clearly states “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven” In fact if there is one clear message that any one who has ever spent any amount of time in a bible specifically the New Testament can take away is that Jesus was not all that fond of rich folks. That takeaway can be held by Christians, as well as folks who only accept Jesus as a historical figure who did good works.

So if Jesus was adamantly against wealth and one is a follower of his more importantly a pastor or oops a Bishop, one might deduce that those who preach ministries that harp on obtaining earthly wealth are already off track and perhaps are not reading about the same Jesus who fed, healed and helped folks. After all that Jesus was lacking so in earthly objects that he actually had to borrow someone’s donkey.

So can we say that the good Bishop Long has perhaps lost his way? Yep, that’s what I am going to say but clearly none of the 25000 folks who attend his club…oh my bad church, clearly never saw reason to question the good bishop. Well it seems the good Bishop finally has done some things that has folks wondering though I wonder how many of his members will continue to accept this self professed imperfect man who now stands accused of coercing young men into having sexual relations with him.  It appears that while the public Eddie Long liked to rail against homosexuality to the point of actively supporting bans on same sex marriage and in fact his church runs seminars to “cure” homosexuality. The private Eddie Long is accused of engaging in the same activities he stands publicly against. Now I am sure people will say I am condemning the man before the facts come out but after watching the man make a spectacle of himself in a custom tailored suit that Captain James T Kirk would have been proud of, and stating that he is a David going up against a Goliath and that he is an imperfect man…well I am not too hopeful that these allegations are false. Perhaps if he were not living a lifestyle that is so clearly not biblical, again he is a Christian should he not live a lifestyle in accordance with the tenets of his religion? Imperfect or not?

More important than Long in all of this is how easily lead astray folks are, there are clearly members of Long’s church that would bet everything they have to prove this man is being falsely accused. Yet in the Black community in addition to the out of wedlock issues we also have issues in our churches. Truth be told most churches have issues but Black churches have power structures that give too much power to too few people and those who dare to speak out risk being ostracized by the community. Early in my father’s preaching career he was tossed out of a church for telling the senior pastor that if he (the senior pastor) was going to preach that all members must give tithes and offerings that the pastor himself needed to do the same. Good preacher didn’t like that and my Pops was shown the door.

To accept any human based off their credentials as the almighty truth and never question them is to set your self up for heartbreak and as far as I can see there is no biblical basis. Faith is to be in God and Jesus not man.

What is heart breaking in this Long debacle is that this bastard will probably still end up leading this clueless flock while the young men who were abused will be left picking up the pieces of their lives. Imagine how it must feel to have trust in another person especially someone you see as God’s representative on earth only to have that trust abused?

Follow up…tackling a problem

26 Sep

In my last post, I was blogging for the online blitz No Wedding, No Womb organized by blogger Christelyn Karazin. I admit it was something I decided to do at the last minute however my decision to participate was questioned by a few real life friends and after much thought I have decided a second post was in order. Since the online campaign hit the internet and now the airwaves, there have been many who have questioned the idea that Black folks getting married will solve the out of wedlock issue that affects the Black community. In some ways to merely say get married is a rather simplistic response to a rather real and serious problem. One of the questions being tossed around in the twitterverse after this online blitz has been what do we do next? In order to answer that question though and truly come up with meaningful solutions I think we must go back and look at what are the issues that have brought us to the point where the vast majority of African American children are born out of wedlock.

To attempt to answer that question, I decided to pull out one of my favorite books by Black sociologist William Julius Wilson “When Work Disappears: The New World of the Urban Poor” this book was published in 1996 and I think that much of what Wilson discusses remains just as salient now as when this book was published. Much of his research in this book was focused in Chicago which regular readers know happens to be my hometown so in using his text to discuss the issues I also feel a personal connection having been raised in Chicago.

In the first chapter of this book Wilson records the voices of Blacks on the city’s south and west sides where the vast majority of Blacks in Chicago live (note, its an area that I am personally familiar with as my Grandmother lived on the south side for over 40+ years until her death several years ago). A question was posed to respondents in his study of whether or not their communities had changed? Most said yes and that the change was for the worse. The biggest change being around the fact that there was a lack of jobs in the community which resulted in a rise of poverty in these same communities. (p. 15 In sum, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a sharp growth in the number of census tracts defined as ghetto poverty areas, an increased concentration of the poor in these areas, and sharply divergent patterns of poverty concentration between racial minorities and whites.)

Let’s think about that for second it’s a known fact that going back to the 1970’s and 1980’s there was a surge in poverty concentrated among minorities specifically Blacks. When did we start to see an increase in out of wedlock births among Blacks? Now I am not about to look it up but thinking back I am almost certain the out of wedlock rates started to increase around the same time. I also know that in the 1980’s in the Black community we also saw an increase in drug usage and sales particularly with the introduction of crack cocaine. We also know that eventually we would see drug laws put on the books that would effectively send Blacks who dabbled in crack cocaine to prison for much longer terms than whites who dealt in just cocaine. See where I am going? A frame work going back as far as the 1970’s and specifically the 1980’s was laid that would impact us now in 2010.

As I am not trying to write an academic piece here I will say that Wilson goes on in deep detail in his book to capture the impact of joblessness on the Black community. In Chicago it meant seeing good jobs move from the city where the high paying were accessible to having them located in suburban areas where they were not always accessible for a number of reasons. I saw it in my own family, my Granny’s company relocated from downtown Chicago to the suburbs and eventually moved out of state. She took another similar manufacturing type job in the suburbs that required a daily commute of two hours a day and paid substantially less, she worked that job until about two years before her death at age 77.

Something as seemingly small as lack of work has the ability to change the entire structure of a community. The community effectively creates its own way of operating that differentiates from the greater community and norms, I think in the past decades this is what we are seeing with the rise of out of wedlock births.  The reality is people are not going to stop being sexual beings yet the reality is in the Black community we often have issues talking openly about sex. Many women grew up with mothers, grandmothers, and aunts whose idea of sex education was to tell you to keep your panties up and your skirt down. I suspect that we are still not doing a great job even in 2010 of talking sex when we have women like Oprah Winfrey who still refers to vaginas as va jay jay’s. My mother did a better job of talking about sex with me than her mother but the truth is it was not enough. I think that due to historical imagery of Black women as loose wanton women, many of us find it hard to have real discussions about sex for fear that we play into racial stereotypes about Black women.

I see the issue of out of wedlock births in the Black community as being about many issues, lack of meaningful employment, and lack of hope….most of the bloggers who took place in this piece of online activism are solidly middle class. There are some such as myself who admit to coming from backgrounds that were not middle class but by and large we have folks who are quite disconnected from the people who they hope to help by giving a one size fits all solution which rarely works. Marriage can be a wonderful institution but it is not for everyone and marriage alone will not cure all that ails the Black community. If Mama and Papa are married but dysfunctional who the hell does that help?

I see real help coming in the form of knowledge, for most folks reading this the very idea that knowledge is not available is hard to fathom. Yet as someone who works with the poor granted in Maine I work with poor whites I can attest to the fact that there are still millions upon millions of Americans who lack access to knowledge. People who have outdated libraries, poor schools and basically no help in breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Most of the so called programs to help the poor are little more than band aid solutions and I speak as someone with 15 years of working with the poor in Maine and in Chicago. We give a Mama a Pell grant to go to school yet no access to childcare or transportation. In some states we have rules that you can’t go to school and receive TANF assistance as you need to be working.

If someone were to ask me on a practical level how can we create change with the younger generation and reverse the cycle of out of wedlock births, I would suggest get involved in your community. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister, mentor, and financially support organizations that are working to affect change. If you are in the position to hire folks give folks a chance who may not have college degrees, pay them a living wage.  How can a man be there for his child if he cannot earn enough money?

Think about the fact that we have national policies that are not parent friendly, especially if a parent happens to be poor and more so if they are a poor parent of color. Let us be mindful in the language we use, I recently saw many folks on line using disparaging language to refer to out of wedlock children…that’s not cool. I also think in the Black community we need to see the village coming back together. I was thinking back to the fact that the year I stayed with my Granny, the same lady who babysat my brother as a child babysat my son. We need more of that. In some ways the Black community is deeply fractured and needs to come back together and while online campaigns are great ways to raise awareness we must do more. The work that is required will demand that to be frank we get off our asses and literally do something, we either give our time or we give our money.

In closing I don’t think there is a single answer to this issue but as I opened this post with I do think that finding the solutions will require deep examination of how we got to this point. To look for an answer without a historical perspective of what got us to this point is foolish at best and actually has the ability to be quite damaging at worst. Black folks in general are not good at talking class issues but I do think that for those leading the charge that is a discussion that will need to be had.

ETA: I think perhaps we also may have to look at how we define a family. Right now our official view point is one man, one woman and kids. Yet for many that is not their reality and perhaps we need to be mindful of that. If Black women are outnumbering Black men that means to me it’s not even possible for every so called Baby Daddy to marry the mother of their kids. Am I saying we need to institute laws for polygamy? No but acknowledge that from a strict number perspective even if wanted to see all these folks married it’s not possible. So again we need policies and procedures that allow parents to be there for their kids and create a healthy family in whatever form that takes.

Why two parents count especially if you are Black

22 Sep

In typical fashion I am late to the party, hey what can I say? However today Black bloggers across the blogosphere are uniting to write on a very important topic that really requires all of us to start getting involved and not just by talking but to really work towards creating change. In the US, children born out of wedlock have become a common occurrence and the truth is there are lots of reasons why couples choose not to marry. Though in the Black community the consequences are creating what I am sure scholar’s years from now will call the lost generation or maybe even the lost generations. A generation of kids raised without two individuals involved in their lives. I am not about to argue on the moral piece of why folks must get married because as someone who did time as a single Mama I know all too well that life happens but even as a divorced young Mama years ago I understood that my ex-husband and father of my son needed to have a place in my son’s life. I suspect the reason I understood that was because of how I was raised. Here are my thoughts.

My parents married a month before I was born, for years I was embarrassed that my parent’s wedding anniversary was 5 weeks before my birthday. I often wondered why they waited so long but now as I approach middle age I am just glad they decided to become a team.

Growing up my Mother, rest her soul was the light in our family. She was the heart and the soul, her death 6.5 years ago made that clear. In fact it wasn’t until weeks before her death that I spent a significant amount of time with my father. No, my parents were never separated, my dad was a good guy but the truth is he was a bit gruff and frankly at times a tad unpleasant. Think James Sr. the father in the old TV show Good Times that was the father I grew up with. I will be honest as a kid, a teenager and even as a young woman I didn’t think he was special. It actually took my mother’s illness and subsequent death to realize he was indeed special. Since my Mom’s death I have gotten to really known him and appreciate him to the point that he is moving out to Maine this fall.

Yet it was hitting my mid 30’s a few years ago that it hit me that my father’s influence was always lurking beneath the surface. While I can’t say wholeheartedly that Dad was the first man I loved he was the man who set the bar for what I looked for in a man. See, my Dad was that old school blue collar man who put family first. He worked, brought his check home and allowed my Mom to be a homemaker. I have said on this blog before I used to be ashamed that my Mom was a stay at home Mom and the fact we didn’t have much in terms of financial resources. Yet in allowing my Mom to be a stay at home Mom in the 1970’s and 80’s he gave me a gift, a framework that only now as I approach 40 I truly understand.

In the Black community there is a saying Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe and I think in the last 20 or so years we have seen the tragic results of such thinking. A couple has a child and Mama is responsible and well maybe Daddy is around. Yet the fact is kids need two parents ideally they need them to be together but if that is not possible and believe me it was not possible for my ex-husband and I. I am firmly convinced that had I stayed married to my first husband one of us would have killed the other. Two people can be so alike and passionate that it’s a very bad thing and the best thing they can do is get far the hell away from each other. Yet when I left my ex husband it was my own father who told me that my son needed his Dad. As hard as the road has been it was true my son did need his father and the fact that his Dad has been in his life always is one of the reasons I think my son is as grounded as he is. No matter what our feelings for one another, our boy has been a priority. It’s been 17 years since we split but a few months ago when I saw my ex-husband at our son’s high school graduation we embraced. The road has been long and despite our divorce early in our son’s life we both made the sacrifices to create the best life for our son.

This is what more Black men and women need to do. I have close friends whose kids did not have their fathers in their lives and now those young adults are going off in bad directions. Yet these same women did not have their fathers in their lives so in many ways they had no idea what it would mean to not have a father for their kids?

I am convinced the older I get that kids model what they see. In other words if Mama has a string of boyfriends what message are you sending to your daughters? If she sees you doing everything and a man laying up on you or worse yet begging Daddy to send money or spend time, what message does that impart to your kids? How we expect a young boy to grow up to be a responsible young man and take care of his kids if he never saw his own father do such things? Clearly a child can grow up to do the right thing but for so many Black kids that is not happening. Considering that Blacks are disproportionately affected with lower rates of school graduation, higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of prison incarceration and the list goes on. The fact is children being raised by two parents who are there emotionally, mentally and financially can go a long way in curing much of what ails the Black community.

In the idea world, a couple would get married, have kids and stay married. Yet we don’t live in an ideal world…shit happens. However we can make a decision that if we have kids they deserve our best and judging what is best starts on being brutally honest with ourselves. If you choose to lay with a man or woman and the possibility is there that you can create a new life. Ask yourself this question, do you want to deal with that person for the next 18 years if a child is created. If the answer is no get up and leave right away. Your right hand and or a personal vibration device can take care of your needs just as well without creating a vulnerable new person in this world.

Uprising with the People

21 Sep

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I caught this clip on the local news. What do we have here? A Black woman expressing discontent with President Obama. Now having had a chance to make the rounds to some of my favorite bloggers this morning like Field Negro and a few others, there are some that want to down play what this woman had to say. To recap in case you aren’t up for link clicking, this gal expressed her unhappiness that her financial situation has actually worsened since Obama took office. Now anyone who thought that Obama becoming POTUS was going to magically make America a happy and prosperous place for all clearly had been smoking herbals. No one man can be all things to all people. Clearly Obama has faced some challenges that his predecessors never had to face namely the rise of nut jobs aka Palin, Beck, etc. There is also the fact that a certain segment of the American population will never see this man as a legitimate president. Hell, a video could be shown clearly showing Obama being born and well folks will still believe what they want to believe.

However I thought what this woman said was brave and for many millions of American a true statement. Is she literally eating hot dogs and beans? My guess is no but more like the comfortable standard of life she thought would be rightfully hers by a certain age is no longer a sure thing. Instead of financial stability my guess is there is financial instability. In fact just before my local news showed that clip, there was a piece about how food pantry use was up in some of Maine’s most well heeled towns. I am talking places with multi million dollar homes and views of the ocean and the inhabitants of such spaces needing to go to a food pantry for food. Don’t know about you but that shit doesn’t compute, of course thanks to my job I am regularly in touch with members of the formerly middle class who need some help.

For many when Obama was elected back in 2008 we felt the spirit of change, problem is we had no idea what change would look like. While we are now being told the recession officially ended last year, the fact remains that for millions there are no jobs and what jobs exist do not pay a living wage. If the economy is stagnant it’s because people who are financially fearful tend to hang on to their money. Marketers and retailers are starting to realize that frugality is not a passing thing, it’s the new reality yet for an economy driven by consumption it’s a bad thing.

As far as Obama while he has had many barriers the fact remains he and his economic team did not take the economy seriously enough and frankly I think that is going to bite the Democrats in the ass come November. No, our President and leaders are not meant to be our friends yet in America we have a silly habit of wanting the powers to be to relate to us, to make us feel good. If you think I am lying think about the last POTUS, dude wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box but he made folks (well some folks, the ones who vote apparently) feel good. So to reward those good feelings he in return got 8 years to fuck up our nation. Spent all the money on silly wars but damn it he made us feel good.

Obama on the other hand does not make us feel good, shit we look at him and some of us get mad. Some of us support him on the basis of his Blackness (I’m talking about my fellow Black folks) but lately even Blackness is not enough to keep us from grumbling. If you can’t make the people feel good and or deliver some change that results in a few shekels in folk’s pockets so Friday dinners can be had, well you have a problem.

As I see the Tea Party growing in this country despite the clear level of stupidity of most of its members that tells me we as a nation are getting ready for some change. Yet for some reason this change feels a lot less positive than the change we witnessed in November 2008.

How Not to Get a Job Part 2

20 Sep

As shitty as it is to be unemployed and looking for job, I must say it’s equally as frustrating to be an organization in need of an employee. The fact is in smaller organizations there is often no human resources department or person to do the initial grunt work of weeding through applicants, those tasks often falls to some employee or maybe even the actual employer. Who at the same time must do their normal job duties on top of taking time to try to find what they hope will be a fabulous new employee.

This month is turning out to be stress inducing multiplied by about a hundred which is why my posting has slacked off. Kids starting school, new grants, and more importantly the need for new staff at my center have got me wanting to pull out my damn hair, its crazy time people! So I am still interviewing for my center in case you haven’t figured that out, my task is made harder by the fact that as a very small non profit my budget is minuscule. Oh, but it’s far larger than it was almost two year ago when I took over as director. Back then there was no money to hire anyone else.

The interviews have continued and let me tell you while the official stats tell us that for every job opening there are 5 applicants; I am convinced that out of those 5 applicants the stupid runs deep for 4 of them hence why they are unemployed. I have grown convinced that for strong applicant’s jobs exist. Maybe it’s a sign that I am getting old and that I am slowly becoming a lovable curmudgeon but let me tell you meeting applicants who clearly do not bother to read job descriptions drive me crazy. Now I know as several folks have already told me, I am basically looking for a saint. Someone willing to commit to a full school year for very little in terms of remuneration. I want to be sympathetic to folks but the fact is when running a program devoted to at risk kids, the strength of our program is that we develop strong relationships with the kids. Relationships that really make a difference, for many of the kids that my center serves they lack stable home environments and the center is the one constant in their lives so it only makes sense that I hire someone who can at least commit to staying the entire school year. Yet out of the now many folks I have interviewed only two seemed willing to make that commitment. Unfortunately the two who were willing to do so lack the necessary skills sets for that particular position, though one candidate I did offer a lesser position that will allow me to train them and see if perhaps they can eventually move into the primary position I am hiring for.

Next thing, life happens…Lord, knows I have lead a life where shit happens. But if you have to reschedule an interview calling two minutes before your interview time asking to reschedule is a fail. Especially when the interviewer has given you their cell number so if you need to change the time you can do so in a timely fashion. Look, if you are interviewing for a position where timeliness and responsibility are a huge factor and I think a program where you would be the overseer of 20-30 kids falls into that category, please know you are being judged on everything. I know some of you may say damn BGIM you are a harsh taskmaster. No, but I need to know if I hire someone they are not going to call me 10 minutes before the center is supposed to open telling me they can’t make it. If that happens on a day I am say at meeting miles always then the center literally would not open. To the working families that use our services that means kids getting off the bus to a center that is closed if someone calls out at the literal last minute. Needless to say in this interview process I am paying attention to all the small details.

Also while it’s illegal for employers to ask certain questions, why the hell are so many of my applicants over sharing with me? One woman in a cover letter mentioned being a single Mom….that’s cool but honestly I don’t need to know that about you. I also don’t need to know that you are on unemployment and trying to see if you can work my job and collect your benefits at the same time. I have had several applicants share that with me and each time thought um…okay. People, people…I want to know you only insofar as it would affect how you work, all that extra shit is just too much. Besides if you are over sharing your personal life with me, how the hell will I know that you won’t over share about the folks we serve?  In my work confidentiality is a huge deal; I need to know you won’t be down at the local coffee shop talking greasy about one of our families.

There are so many pieces of finding a job that is a good match for the employer and the employee but in both instances a little common sense can go a long way. We are living in a time when all around us we are encouraged to live open lives, hell just turn on the television. Reality shows have changed how we view what’s right and wrong…um, competing on a show for a 5th rate celebrity frankly says a lot about you. Social media which I have a fierce love/hate relationship with has broken down the filters that we use to have, hell even I am guilty at times of over sharing and being a little out there online. But in the work world especially in a place where you are dealing with vulnerable folks, a certain amount of integrity is needed.

Anyway wish me well as I start another round of interviews this week. Happy Monday!

PS: If you are looking for a job, you really need to be mindful of what you put out on the interwebz, because when employers do background checks we really do take a look at your online persona. Some might say I am an intrusive employer but my agency reputation and my professional reputation hinge on making sure I don’t hire a pedophile or some other unsavory character so I need to do the appropriate checks. I am not turning down any applicants due to their political beliefs or things like that but if you like to engage in borderline illegal activities in your off time, well that does give me reason for concern.

The New Amerikka

17 Sep

Perhaps it’s because of my professional work, but the latest report that poverty is on the rise in the US doesn’t surprise me at all. One in seven Americans are below the poverty level, for many reading that figure was a surprise. Why? I suspect that for most of us clinging to the illusion that there is still a middle class in this country and living in spaces with people who still plop down $4 for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from the local coffee emporium and are seen carrying the latest piece of iGadgetry it may be hard to fathom. Yet as someone whose work puts them down in the trenches, I see folks daily struggling to meet ends meet. I see members of the formerly middle class asking for help with their kid’s school supplies, asking for help for food and the list goes on. It’s not just in Maine either, the shelter where I served as a program director back in Chicago now has a waiting list. A waiting list for a homeless shelter! Where does a homeless person go once they lose their housing and the shelter has a waiting list? Food for thought.

The truth in my opinion is that America is literally in the midst of a shift, the gap between the have rocks and the have no rocks is not a gulf but a fucking ocean. Shit, it might even be two oceans. As a provider of social services, I am inundated daily with people who have needs that the current social service net does not begin to address. Even small non profit faith based agencies such as the one I head are simply being overwhelmed with needs we cannot meet. I chuckle when I think of this because conservatives often say agencies such as mine should be the ones to help those in need yet we are woefully underfunded. Perhaps they think the angels and fairies are the ones that replenish our coffers. Interesting tidbit from 15 years in this sector, but at many of the small agencies that I have worked at both in Maine and back in Chicago the staff salaries weren’t much above poverty themselves. I used to have a coworker back in Chicago who often ate at the shelter we worked at because he often ran short of food. Yet people like him are never counted in these poverty rates.

Today’s post really has no point, but between the report that poverty is on the rise and interviewing folks for an opening at my center where multiple applicants told me they were nervous about taking the position should it be offered because it might impact their unemployment compensation benefits. I really have been wondering what the hell is happening to this country? So many of us are just struggling to survive and racked with fear that one wrong move might turn us into the real poor. For many if we at least have a roof over our heads, food on the table and the occasional want we like to believe that we have access to the American dream yet a nation where there is 1 job for every 5 applicants does not sound like a dream but more like a nightmare.

At the end of the day while the talking heads want to put the blame on certain political parties truth is in some ways we have all contributed to this new America. An America where we value low cost and quantity over making sure our neighbors are taken care of. I am not that old, yet I remember a time when a hard working person didn’t need a college degree to make a living wage. I remember the days of my grandparents who worked in plants that paid true living wages and benefits, I am also old enough to remember when we allowed the powers to be to take those jobs and send them elsewhere. So is it really a surprise that now the poor get poorer and the middle class get poor too? Only folks truly doing well are the few who hold the bulk of the wealth in this country.

New directions for this blog

12 Sep

Dear Readers,

Let me just say its been a fun ride the past two years in this space. I have come to accept that in this current form I will never become a blog superstar, after all I don’t have a focus or niche other than the fact I am a Black woman living in Maine.

So as I think about the fact that I would like to grow my readership, I ask you dear readers what changes would you suggest for this blog? I have been toying with the idea of maybe changing the name to Black Mama in Maine and focusing more on parenting from the lens of a Black woman. After all in the blogosphere it seems the Mamas get all the love and if nothing else access to much swag and maybe even a new computer.

Seriously, though fall is here and I am thinking change is in the air so if you have any ideas feel free to let me know.

PS: Computer beg-a-thon is still underway and while I don’t want to pressure anyone if you have ever read this blog and enjoyed what you were reading consider supporting this space by making sure I can continue writing. I don’t expect any one person to make a large contribution but every dollar counts. At this point I think if I can get halfway to my goal of $1200 for a Mac Book Pro, I will be able to afford the rest. Granted I would like to incur no debt which is why I am doing the beg-a-thon in the first place.

How not to get a job!

7 Sep

Hello readers! Life has been busy, busy as we prepared for the kidlet’s first at the educational industrial complex…ooop! I meant school. So far she survived the first day of course when its only two hours and it involves animal crackers and a bus ride, it’s not too stressful. Though the verdict is still out on whether or not she will  stay in school since I am leaning strongly towards homeschooling but I will keep you posted.

In other happenings, after slaving for the last two years at my non-profit job, I have finally secured enough funding to actually hire additional staff and thus make my life just a tad bit less stressful. Though I am finding the entire process of hiring to be stressful, as a small agency it’s important to hire folks who are going to love the work, be dedicated and are totally okay with earning peanuts.

Thankfully the shitty economy works in my favor, after all 7-8 years ago I doubt I would have had degreed folks tripping over each other just to get their foots in the door of an agency where I will work em like slaves, pay em peanuts and occasionally say thank you.

That said, if you as the job seeker think you have it bad, let me tell you it’s no fun weeding through resumes some which make me think they were written by twelve-year old’s masquerading as adults. Today after I spent some time weeding out the obvious no’s, it was time to set up interviews and let me tell ya I learned something new.

First candidate, not a perfect match but met the minimum standards of what I am looking for in a candidate, so I try to call to set up an interview. Except I noticed something funny on both the cover letter and resume….there is no phone number. Um….how the hell can I reach you without a phone? So I email the candidate who replies and tells me they are traveling for the month therefore they are not available for an interview in the time frame that I am conducting interviews.

Let me get this straight. You applied for a job, no phone number and now not available for an interview anytime in this calendar month. Call me old but last  time I looked for a job, I was relatively available for interviews. No, I don’t expect you to be available tomorrow but if you aren’t available to even interview for a month, why bother to even apply? Hey, if you got some thoughts on that, please let me know.

Next candidate, I give a call and this person answers the phone like I am Capital One demanding payment on an overdue Visa. It took a good minute or so before the person realized I was calling about a job and then switched up their tone. Um….first impressions matter, even on the phone.  By the way telling me you were planning on calling about the job was a bad idea. Why? The posting specifically says no phone calls please.

Look, the ability to pay attention to details is very important. If you send a resume on Friday and you think calling the company on Tuesday is a good idea, especially when the posting says no calls. Guess what? That means no fucking calls. Some might say it shows initiative and yes that is true but it also shows someone who does not pay attention to details and as the person running a small agency, unwanted calls at inconvenient times is a nuisance.

Lastly, the person who sent an email asking how to apply for the job when the listing was real clear…it read “email resume, cover letter and 4 references to or mail to Helping Agency 123 Job Lane, Jobs Now, ME 55555.” So sending an email asking how to apply shows someone who lacks the ability to follow the fucking directions.

Look, being jobless sucks!  I did 18 months of unemployment/freelance gigs back in 2007-2008 and that was before the economy went to hell in a hand basket. But taking a few extra minutes to follow the directions or hell even writing in the body of the cover letter that you are traveling and not available until a certain time goes a long way in presenting yourself in a good light.

By the way, while many folks for whatever reason hate talking on the phone, if you are looking for a job you really need to put your best voice forward when answering, worse case if its Visa, hang up.