until we free

cries for peace and calm

abound

when black and brown faces rage.

reactions to a fruitful harvest of seeds

painful indignation

planted by privilege and supremacy

watered by death’s grasp and

nurtured,

agitated with

televised taunting of

not giving a fuck whether we breathe.

and among the masses of bodies strewn

together, relentlessly planted in our minds

and memorialized by hashtags

videos, pictures, and headlines of

Not charged. Not guilty. Not at fault.

in the midst of this pain

psychological torturing

physical death. EXECUTION.

There’s a call.

for peace.

 

Peace?

A call for peace.

 

Like picking the scalb from a sore

And asking it not to bleed?

Like enslaving our spirits

And asking us not to get free?

 

That. Ain’t. Peace.

 

Peace?

 

a synonym for compliance.

or domicile negroes

that know our place

 

is nowhere.

in a bountiful land made possible

by blistered, bruised limbs

and broken-backed posture

barren wombs

of children stripped from a mother’s love

when there was no consent.

 

And there is a call.

for peace.

an end to violence.

an end to the destruction of property.

 

because shattered windows

flipped cars

and burning buildings

are replaceable consequences of pain

but black lives matter

only wheNever.

 

There’s a call for peace.

when

still, there has been no liberty.

only death.

 

Peace.

is all that’s been requested.

for centuries.

 

a piece of property to call our own.

a piece of that sugary-sweet

American pie.

a piece of the Dream.

without deferral.

a piece of access

to education, absent of schooling.

to thriving communities.

side-walked streets

paved landscapes.

a piece of peace.

 

is all that’s been requested.

asked. pleaded. begged.

and not received.

 

But now.

cries for peace and calm

abound

when black and brown faces rage

standing obstinate

wavering not to exhaustion.

[not] appealing to reason.

[not] seeking humbly

nor supplicating entreaties.

because

black and brown folks been calm.

and peaceful.

before anger raged.

before suffering incited.

we were peaceful.

 

we, too, want.

and Demand.

Peace.

as a reflection of freedom.

 

 

 

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For Bobbi Kristina…

On Saturday, January 31, 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive, facedown in her bathtub. As Bobbi Kristina was being rushed to the hospital, professional and social media and the blogs were reporting her detriment. The eerily similar way in which her mother was found in February of 2012 was used to forecast a bleak ending for Bobbi Kristina. Reports from allegedly anonymous individuals close to family suggested she was in a medically induced coma and had very little brain activity.

Reading that Bobbi Kristina was rushed to the hospital bothered my spirit and reading some of the comments about her and her family and the reports that were so quick to plan her final arrangements angered me. The vulturistic nature of the media and the dismissive and downright cruel statements made by people on social media fueled my nonstop prayers for Bobbi Kristina’s full recovery.

Initially, I struggled to understand why I was so impacted by Bobbi Kristina’s illness – a young woman I do not know personally. I thought about her like I would a blood relative. While we are not related, but Bobbi Kristina is family. She’s black/brown girl/woman family. She is family that’s connected to so many other black/brown girls/women through the experience of trying to BE  in a world where our being is critiqued, challenged and stifled. Too often, black/brown girl/woman being is characterized as a traumatically painful experience, and we are told in so many ways that our trauma and pain are deserved. Our trauma and pain are not received with compassion and understanding that are experienced by other girls and women. If we give way to the hurt, we are not resilient. If we let depression take hold of our psyches and bodies, we are not strong. If we soothe our pain with sex, drugs, or alcohol, we are fulfilling the expectations. We are to be forever constrained by the metaphysical dilemma of being us. Black/brown girls/women are not supposed to win. I fucking want us to win! The selfish part of me wants to see Bobbi Kristina win – for all of us. Win.

However, as I read updates on her status suggesting that her family members are saying their goodbyes, I am reminded of the prayers that I have asked God and the Universe to grant for Bobbi Kristina. My prayers focused on healing energy, lifted spirits, sincerity, energy, and love. I prayed that she be well and find peace. Be well. Be at peace. Just BE… And then it occurred to me that being well and being at peace are not connected to physical presence. Being well and at peace are spiritually conceptualized, and I sincerely believe that her spirit is well and at peace. So whether Bobbi Kristina continues to be physically present on earth or transitions to be cradled by her mother, as long as she is at peace, she wins. She wins for her.

Bobbi Kristina, fight for you, be well for you, be at peace for you, win…for you.

 

 

Futuristic Black Love – on 3000

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Because 2,999 won’t do
You, me and Badu
Space traveling through galaxies
Building our families
Resisting normative boundaries
of social expectations
Highest love levitating
and creating
Bodies and ciphers and
Intergalactic escapes to lands
That celebrate

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

We’re on that new shyt
Black love on 3000
That some folks can’t
Get wit
We don’t live in boxes
Fluid, undefinable identifies
and I’m checking pansexual
Because our passion connects
To the intellectual
While our love births those

SpottieOttieDopaliscious

Aliens from Atlanta, Dallas and West Blocton
We three – a true southern concoction

of Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Find us in our spaceship
No rear view mirrors
Ain’t looking back while
We dip
Into the exosphere
So damn high, elevated
Clouds are miniscule beneath
Our feet
Our next lifetime is now
Breaking atmospheric beats
Loving, living, creating

Exactly

How

We

Pleeeeaaaaase.

No need for a player’s anthem
Ain’t nobody choosin
With these three bodies
Ain’t nobody losin
Because it’s love, love…

We’re just on that

Furturistic Black love
on 3000

He – She – and I
Capismini, Capismini.

Notes on Father’s (and Mother’s) Day…

I must admit, I always have to check the calendar to know when Father’s Day is approaching. It’s one of those holidays that I never spent much time celebrating. As a child, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. In school, we’d always create some artsy, awkward gift for our mothers. And Ma would smile like we’d given her the best gifts ever. I don’t remember what we did for Father’s Day. And I’m sure that my teachers organized some type of Father’s Day arts and crafts lesson, but it’s likely that I shied away from participation. As I’ve grown older, I approach Father’s Day with uncertain trepidation. Some years, I celebrated by purchasing a gift for my mother. Other times I’ve thought about sending my father a card but could never justify doing so. This year, I did neither. No gift for my mother; no thoughts of cards for my father. Ironically, I dreamt of him the night before Father’s Day and figured that was the Universe’s way of saying that he still resides in my emotional blind spot. I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I never knew great fathers. I had a god-father. I had uncles. I had a father-figure in my sister’s father. I knew fathers in the church. I have friends who are fathers. I had a husband who is now a great father to our son and my step-son. But I didn’t have my father, not with any consistency. He was there sometimes. I recall an instance when he came to a basketball game with me. I recall him taking me to eat once. I recall him taking my sister and me to play once. There might be other subdued memories, but the immediate recollections are minimal. So many of the lessons that stereotypically gendered notions of fatherhood would have us believe are taught to children by a male were actually taught to me by a female – my mother. My mother was the one who attempted to scare away the boys and tell me what they really wanted. My mother was the one who taught me the proper questions to ask when taking my car to be serviced. My mother was the one who taught me how to do yard work. And had I gotten married in a traditional ceremony, it would have been my mother to walk me down the aisle. So in my eyes, she deserved those gifts on Father’s Day – and any other day.

Purchasing a gift for my mother on Father’s Day or celebrating her on that day had very little to do with my father’s absence and more to do with her presence. Yet, social media would have us believe that celebrating mothers on Father’s Day – or doing the opposite when applicable – is in some way about discrediting good fathers. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when social media intersects with commercialism and the hurt in emotional blind spots. Celebrating mothers is in no way a denouncement of fathers; similarly, celebrating fathers is in no way a reflection on mothers. Parenting is not a competition and should not be viewed dichotomously.

My initial plan was to avoid my Facebook feed on Father’s Day, but I gave in to the curiosity and scanned my friends’ pages. I was glad to see that there were just as many positive posts about fathers as there were about mothers on Mother’s Day. I smiled at each of the pictures of my friends with their fathers, particularly my female friends with their fathers. (This reminded me that I don’t have any pictures of my father and me when I was a child and only two pictures during adulthood.) I saw very few, if any, “father-bashing” posts. I did, however, see posts reminding women that we could never be fathers because we aren’t men. I saw posts stating that many single-mothers were bitter about the fathers of their children because the relationships ended. I even saw posts stating that the mothers shouldn’t complain about the fathers’ absences because the mothers should have chosen better men to father their children. I saw posts suggesting that the mothers likely were the reasons some fathers are not in the child’s or children’s lives. And most of these posts were by women and liked by women.

Based on individual reality, there could some truth to those posts. However, there’s a lot that could be unpacked within each of those statements. Fatherhood as a gendered concept, the reality of unresolved hurt, and the implication that making choices and maintaining a father’s presence is solely the responsibility of the mother are but a few troubling assumptions that require a more in-depth discussion than could be teased out in a blog. But the understanding of individual realities seemed to be missing from many of the posts. Some women may find the angst of Father’s Day difficult to understand – women who are married/partnered and whose husbands/partners father their children; women who were parented by fathers; women who are no longer married/partnered but whose ex-husbands/partners father their children. While I make no assumption here that all women that fall into these categories are unable to understand the difficulty of Father’s Day for some women who cannot identify with either of the categories, I argue that the individual experience is such that none of us can be the omnipotent social media therapist and jolt women into our version of reality. None of us can force a parent (as in mother or father) or child to forgive. None of us can heal the hurt by subliminally chastising folks in a social media post. None of us can do that. This blog won’t do that.

I have been a mother who was single; yet, I felt that I belonged to a parenting community. I was raised by a community of mostly women, but always respected and understood the need for fathers. I, too, have explored my own unresolved emotions and did the work to get to a point of peaceful indifference (And even the word ‘indifference’ suggests that there is more work to be done.). I don’t resent my father. I don’t resent his absence. I reconciled that I must have been in his parenting blind spot for his own reasons. That is not within my control. However, what is in my control is continuing to do the work to nurture wholeness for myself. I hope that we, as a parenting community will continue to do the same. Let’s resist the urge to keep a parenting tally. Let’s resist the urge to throw mothers and fathers (and all those who exist in the margins of those categories) into the ring to face-off, sparring for points. When we do that, the winner can be contested but the loser is easily identified. Children lose when we concern ourselves with capitalism’s hold on celebrating those who have loved us. Children lose when we fail to do the emotional work. Children lose when we fail to co-parent. Children lose when we isolate mothers and fathers into Westernized sociological norms, when our ancestry of parenting is centered on love and holistic realization of self for the child. Children lose when we become so engulfed in our own stuff that we forget about the children.

I’m always one for bucking tradition. So next year maybe I’ll ignite a celebration for Parents Day or Love Day. Because really…children need parents and love – and neither of those is bound by stereotypes, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, etc.

Karlesha Thurman’s Breastfeeding Is Natural and Normal. Our Reactions Are Not.

I became pregnant with my now 16-year-old son during the summer of 1997. I completed the requirements for my undergraduate degree in English in November of that same year. My son was born in March 5, 1998, and I participated in commencement ceremonies in May 1998. And I was a breastfeeding mother. Prior to the ceremony, I pumped but the longer that I sat in the University of West Alabama’s Tiger Stadium listening to speech after speech, the more uncomfortable I became. Nature had plans all its own. Regardless of the pumping that had taken place prior to the ceremony, my breasts filled with milk and I had no recourse other than to sit there and wait. As soon as the ceremony was over, I quickly grabbed my son to relieve my breasts of the milky tension. I unzipped my gown, pulled the shoulder strap from my dress, threw a blanket over his head and fed him. And I did this all while I smiled with my friends and family. This was not the first or last time that I had to rush to relieve my breasts from the stinging discomfort that results when the milk is ready to nourish a hungry baby. I recall that once I sped home from work hoping my son’s godmother hadn’t fed him because I was seriously in pain. Of course, she had fed him and I had to squeeze my breasts and release the milk into the bathroom sink for some relief.

What I learned from being a young, breastfeeding mother was that no matter how much planning you think you’ve done, the milk and your baby will alter those plans without notice. So yes, I totally understand why Long Beach State University GRADUATE Karlesha Thurman fed her baby at her commencement ceremony. And no, I don’t see thing wrong with it. According to an ABC News blog, Thurman felt the picture was a thoughtful display of mothering [And I agree.] and posted it to the Facebook group Black Women do Breastfeed. The picture quickly went viral. Since then, there has been much written, Tweeted, Facebook’d, and Instagram’d about Thurman’s intentions when the picture was taken and posted. Some claim that she did it for attention, and others suggest she was only doing what mothers do. I contend the latter is more accurate. However, even if she did make a purposeful attempt to feed her baby at the ceremony, breastfeeding a baby is a natural occurrence that we need to stop stigmatizing. Not only was she able to provide food for her baby, but she also helped to get the #NormalizeBreastfeeding message across through her photo.

Breastfeeding

A mother breastfeeding her baby at a commencement ceremony, in the mall, at her home, in the post office is completely normal. Our reactions are not natural and contribute to further alienating mothers who want to breastfeed their children. Thurman noted that when she became pregnant, she thought about leaving school temporarily or permanently. However, she decided to stay in school with hopes of securing a better future for her and her daughter. That’s what her picture represents. Thurman stands in her cap and gown, breastfeeding her daughter with an infectious smile on her face. She accomplished what many of us who’ve juggled motherhood, education, employment – life – have accomplished. Undoubtedly, she knows the anxiety of wondering whether she could do it all. The picture is proof that she did. Her joy and success illuminate from the picture, but the public is only worried about the appropriateness of a breast being visible in public. We’re worried about a breast being used to feed a baby and foster a bond between the mother and daughter. If the appropriateness of the timing of feeding a baby is our most significant concern when we view Thurman’s photo, we don’t have shit else to do with our lives. Let’s stop worrying about this young mother doing what she’s supposed to do for her daughter – be a mother. Period.

What would should do is educate ourselves on the disparities and benefits related to breastfeeding. A report by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) indicated that the percentage of Black women that breastfed their children increased from 47% to 60% from 2000 to 2008. However, “Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years” (CDC, 2013). We should also be concerned with how breastfeeding benefits infants and mothers. For example, the CDC (2009) noted that breastfeeding lowers an infant’s risk for respiratory and ear infections, Type 2 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Benefits for mothers include lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Mothers also benefit from a tightened uterus, diminished post-birth bleeding, and suppressed ovulation. We also should celebrate the fact that Thurman is a young mother who’s breastfeeding her daughter as the rates of mothers under the age of 30 that breastfeed their children are significantly low.

Motherhood can be a challenging, daunting, isolating, rewarding, satisfying, loving experience. Continuing to shame mothers for their breastfeeding choices is a practice that we must discontinue. Karlesha Thurman breastfeeding her daughter was natural and normal. It’s our reactions that are not.

#NormalizeBreastfeeding

 

Easter Nostalgia

 

Feeling a bit nostalgic
Mentally turning back the clocks
1987 and I’m dressed
In pastel and lace
Patent leather shoes
White Bobby socks
Hair full of curls
Blue Magic did its thang
Mama straightened out my kitchen
And tightened up my bang
Homemade basket
Colored eggs, chocolate bunnies
And a surprise gift, a little money
Church on capacity
Bodies covering the pews
Children’s choir singing loudly
Of God’s good news
🎶 He arose. He arose.
He arroossse from the dead. 🎶
But we were young so
🎶 Hero 🎶 is what we said.
Fidgeting and waiting my turn
Ready bless the mic
Had to be on point
Had to get it right
Practiced my stanzas
Speech of 40 lines
I tried to do 8 but
Mama said, “No child of mine.”
Took the stage
Looked into the crowd
Better not slur my words
Better say it loud
When I’m all done, I curtsy
Fingertips with dress flared
Bouncing back to my seat
Curls falling from my hair
The elders sung hymns
That I didn’t understand
Now I hear those same words
And wave my hands.
Resurrection teachings
Passion from the pulpit
Tambourines, hand-clapping
Dancing with the Holy Spirit
Post-service activities
Goodie bags, Polaroid pictures
Capturing memories
With my cousins and sister
Change into my play clothes
Outside was my freedom
Kick ball and mud pies
Decorated like I’d eat ’em
Then a big family dinner
Stuffing soul food in my mouth
I don’t know how y’all did it…
But this is how we did Easter
in the South.

Happy Easter Everyone! ‪#‎SouthernBelle‬ ‪#‎GRITS‬ ‪#‎Belle‬

Small Town, Big Heartaches: Remembering Our Loved Ones…

West Blocton

Sometimes you wanna go…where everybody knows your name… And sometimes you want to forget all the beautiful memories rooted in youthful naiveté that shielded you from the real world.

I was raised in a small town in Alabama and anyone who knows me understands my passion for small towns, community, and all (complicated) things southern. One of the realities of small town southern living is the shattering impact of the loss of a community/family member. When someone makes a transition in a small town, it touches everyone in the community – even when we live hours away. It’s that moment when your mother calls and says, “Have you heard about [insert name here]?” And you don’t want to reply because ‘hearing about’ someone from a small town usually means “Have you heard that [insert name here] ‘passed away’?” Most often, those making transitions are elderly or have been battling some delibitating illness. Those transitions are still traumatic, still heart-wrenching but those are the losses for which we have prepared ourselves [somewhat]. So we cry. We pay our respects. We cook. We attend funerals that quickly turn it into a family reunion recalling when [so-and-so] was just a little kid reaking havoc all over the neighborhood. And we go home. A little different. A little sad. But we go home – in tact as a community.

Those are the transitions that are not as difficult to comprehend. Those are the transitions for which we do not question God’s decision. Those are the transitions that leave us temporarily deflated but not empty.

And then there are the unexpected transitions of people we deem to be gone too soon. These transitions quiet our small towns as we mourn with great uncertainty. These transitions force us to call into question our Christian upbringing (but we know better than to question God). So in public we say, “God knew what was best.” and in private or in our minds we whisper, “Why God? Why him/her? Why like this?”

I missed my mother’s call last weekend. Had I answered I know she would have asked, “Have you heard about Fonzo?” And I had. He was a few years younger than I but hearing of his untimely transition jolted me down a memory lane of all those names that I could call in remembrance. They were classmates that sat behind me in high school; friends that laughed with me at lunch or played with me in the neighborhood; girls that rode bikes with me down the hill by my house; and family members and first loves. I say their names with libations: Scottie Kelser, Jr., Gary Cottingham, Brad Davis, Tawanna Davis, Joel Hudson, Kendra Sanders, Arthur Brown, Marcus Pringle, Donnie Maynor, Broderick Caddell, Alfonso Caddell, Terrance Gaines, Lovel Gaines Jr., Christopher Ward, Carlos Davis…

To say that we – as a community – have not been impacted by the transitions of these young people would be a lie. It has changed us. It has changed our community. We are a family; so much like our blood related family, when our community family members transition to the spiritual realm, the impact is felt. We hurt. We feel a little less complete. We are changed.

Whenever I visit, I often stay in the confines of my mother’s home because the outside reality is a reminder of how much has changed. It’s possible that I have romanticized my upbringing, but I remember full churches on Sundays, loud blues music playing and fish frying, summertime baseball while the smell of barbeque filled the air, kickball games after school, fresh outfits on the Fourth of July just to walk around the block, Friday Night Lights, pep rallies where the school spirit was so high that you’d think our team was State Champs, making mud pies with flower decorations, catching ‘lightning bugs’, Christmas programs with long speeches that we dare not forget, Vacation Bible School, the occasional fist fight and girl drama, small town gossip and lies, watching the street lights as we played outside (and running home when my mother called my name), etc. We were alive and vibrant.

Now, we are quiet and still. Our vibrance is diminished slightly as we mourn and grieve. However, in our resilience, we keep moving and keep the spirits of those we’ve lost in our hearts. Small towns, big heartaches…and even bigger love.

“and if i ever touched a life i hope that life knows
that i know that touching was and still is and will always
be the true
revolution”

[from Nikki Giovanni’s “When I Die”]

We are forever touched by your lives… Ase…