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I Get So Emotional Baby…

Hey everyone,

It’s been awhile. I know.

Between going to and recovering from the Essence Fest and going to my family reunion, I’ve just been all over the place. I’ve also been all over the place emotionally.

Going to my family reunion totally reenergized me. This always happens when I go and spend time with my family or go visit good friends (or they visit me) or if I go to a professional conference.

Sometimes you have to get with like-minded folks to recharge your batteries and help you refocus on what’s important to you.

I spent a good portion of last week on a mission to trace back my ancestry so I could present the results at the family reunion and I was successful.

I was able to trace back as far as the slave owner (great, great, great grandfather) who kicked off the whole party with according to records an unidentified negro woman. From there, I was able to look at census data to find out more about his son, who was born in 1839. It was insane looking at census data from as early as the 1870s and seeing my family and how they grew, and overcame a lot of difficulty as America was establishing itself.

Old census data used to show whether or not people could read or write. As time went on, you saw in my family, that the next generation always improved and more people started reading, writing and going to school and fewer children were farming in North Carolina full time.

I got to see how family members moved out of the house, or in some cases moved back in, and how they all stepped up and took care of one another, or even shared their homes with others, or boarders who also worked on the farm.

I was happy to report all of this information and had a number of family members approach me, thanking me for sharing. Even the dj came up to me and said he wanted to trace his family history after hearing my report.

I was totally inspired by the story of my family and how strong they were. Black people in the U.S. tend to know they came from slaves, but to see their names written down and to make the connection from their dates of birth, it drives it all home. It was very, very real and so were their hardships. But we stayed together and we stayed strong. Could you imagine?

Another thing that made me emotional was spending time with my nephew. He’s really awesome and to see the blend of all of us in him and his personality was cool and scary. It appears he is competitive and a perfectionist and determined and type A, like me.

We had a rock climbing wall and he was determined to get up it. But it was pretty tough. Well after my sister and I had given up, he was still talking to that rock and trying to figure it out. Keep in mind, we were in the sweltering heat. We had to talk him off the rock and convince him to take a break and get some water. Because it was not safe to keep going like that without hydration.

Another thing stuck out to me. The men in my family. I really, really, really enjoyed seeing fathers playing with and just loving on their children and grandchildren. In some cases, there are some men in my family who are taking care of children who aren’t even their own. In one case, a cousin introduced an adult daughter he didn’t know about who found him through Facebook and met for the first time that weekend.

I was proud to see my dad, who is 62, beating the pants off of people, playing basketball.

So at any rate, there were moments that I wanted pundits from Fox News or ignorant people who don’t interact very often with black men or don’t care to know their story to see these men in my family being so loving.

You could see all of these mini moments of men flirting with their wives and girlfriends, dancing with them at the party, playing games with their kids or sharing an ice cream.

I’d been mad and through with black men too. I was so annoyed with dating them and almost marrying one. But to hear my brother-in-law and nephew trade jokes and wrestle and hug, and to see he and my sister laugh and smile and offer to take turns rubbing each others feet after playing tennis, I wasn’t even jealous (which sometimes I am).

I was happy to see these snapshot moments and feel the love in them.

So now, I’m feeling super mushy. Oh boy.

And after having a spirited conversation about relationships between black men and black women and why we are having so much trouble, I do not pity black men and I won’t give trifling black men a pass, but I’m starting to sympathize a bit more.

I’m starting to check myself. I have decided to spend this week going out of my way to show my black male friends and family more love and encouragement. It’s so funny how things line up.

On my way back from New Jersey, I called up an old friend who I used to work with. He’s a newspaper editor and we had lunch. He told me stories of some of his work difficulties and difficulties trying to raise his teenage daughter. As I listened, I thought about the conversation I had about black men and their struggle. In his work environment, he has to fight against being the angry black man, and when he expresses himself passionately or is confident about his work, people see him as a threat or confrontational.

He knows he’s treated this way. But he also knows he is good at his job. He shook his head and took a deep breath. He said he wasn’t going to do anymore, or do any less, he was just going to do his job and ride it all out until his daughter graduates from high school. I could see he was tired. I sat across from him and I felt his frustration and it upset me too.

So that’s the plan. All of this week and further on throughout (I hope) I will not focus on my struggles as a black woman. I have plenty. This week I am going to show appreciation, more sweetness to the black men in my life and the ones I happen to meet a long the way.

I sent this text to one of my best, black, male friends.


I love you and I’m proud of you. I want you to know I am here for you and I pray for your strength and success and protection as you navigate this world.



Poetry: My Daddy’s Laugh

Calloused hands from years of hard work.

Heavy shoulders on which he carries his wife and children, his hopes and all of their collective, often expensive dreams.

Skin brown and beautiful, but not always appreciated.

He looks suspect.

He is black.

Pull him over.

Question him.

Why is he driving that car?

Why is he in this neighborhood?

Pay him less, but get him to work more.

He is not simply a man.

But he is.

He must prove it to everyone, everyday.

Honest and dutiful.

Sensitive and smart.

He is other.

He can run fast, jump high.

He can dance and sing and make music. He can make us laugh.

But when he is alone, he knows there is pain behind that smile.

Behind a wall of white, clenched teeth there is a seething rage.

Why do they not see me? Why do they not see the real me?

How hard I work? How hard I try? How I have to navigate the world in such a calculated way, to stay alive? To not be mistaken for a criminal?

Why does my intelligence unnerve?

Why is the tenderness with my daughters and wife seen as unusual?

This is the way I live.

So the times I notice when my daddy laughs and laughs so hard, tears gather in the corners of his closed eyes, he gasps for breath, head cocked back, claps his hands and holds his belly…

I feel joy. So much joy.

In that moment, he’s just a man. A happy black man. He’s just my daddy. Not a stereotype. He’s simply laughing at something really, really, really funny.

He’s so free. He’s so handsome.

I wish my daddy could just laugh like that all the time.

But in a world like this, I know he can’t.

Dave Chappelle, Please Return to Calm America Down

David Chappelle DVD cover/Comedy Central

I’m so weary.

I’m so upset.

I’m so angry.

The whole Trayvon Martin situation and its ridiculous aftermath has got my pressure up, my sugar up, every thing is just up and tense.

There is so much ignorance spreading, and what kills me the most is people being called out for spouting racist garbage on the internet and television are trying to back pedal and call it everything else than what it truly is.

As hateful as they were, previous generations were honest, out and didn’t try to clean up what they said.  Angry white people just said plain and simple they don’t like black people. They don’t want to know em, they don’t want to be friends with em, they don’t want to worship with em, they are obviously less than human in their opinion.

Don’t get it twisted. apparently people still feel the same way and in this new day where a biracial man is president; under the guise of free speech, all of this direct/indirect talk of whether someone looks suspicious and probably deserves to be stopped, detained and killed and just happens to be black and male, is suggested and accepted. It’s also accepted to throw into the mix whether or not a dead kid was or wasn’t a stellar student who may or may not have engaged in stupid teen behavior deserves to be dead or shouldn’t be around a gated community anyway.

Then people can plead ignorance later and say they didn’t think it was racist, or what they said was taken out of context.

Black people and most people with a heart are particularly peeved because the man who shot and killed the child has not been arrested even a month later. Period.

People are angry because an unarmed child was profiled and killed and then on top of that, the laws we are supposed to abide by and believe will protect us all equally were supposed to work. It didn’t. People are most incensed by this.

Black folks in America have sadly become accustomed to everyday injustices, accustomed to violence especially involving black children– black males in particular, but this situation was a powder keg. This situation was just. Too much. It was just too blatant.

I wish Dave Chappelle would create a skit to diffuse this shit, because right now, everyone is mad. There are people who are afraid of the coloring and multiculturalization of the world which is well underway and has been happening and they don’t know how to react to it.

The reaction of the police, the Sanford city officials, fellow Americans who agree George Zimmerman was still standing his ground after 911 recordings show he was told not to follow the boy and he did anyway prove the disconnect in the thinking of some of our U.S. citizens when it comes to just even interacting with black people.

People are mad that some people are saying, “wait until more facts come out,” when the facts were there at the crime scene all along. People are mad the boy’s body lay in the morgue for three days as a John Doe, parents not notified (he had a cell phone) and was tested for drugs while the shooter was not tested.

People are mad about a sketchy history of the shooter that went ignored as he is allowed to still be free.  The facts some of these folks are really waiting on are the “facts” floating around about how Trayvon probably was a stereotype implying that his death probably did society a favor.

Two sides to every story. It reminds me of a great episode on a “Different World” where characters Dwayne and Ron were trying to explain a fight they got into with white guys from a rival school who they caught spray painting the words “Ni…” on Ron’s car.

Both groups tell their story, and their perceptions of one another were quite telling as their stories were completely different and littered with stereotypes.

How it ends. I’m a big fan of the cop in the end.

I am afraid for every black man I know.

This must be what it felt like during slavery when at any moment black men were separated from their families, and killed for defiance, killed for just wanting to be free men and nothing more.

This must be what it felt like for mothers and wives and daughters to get news their loved ones were lynched on the way home one evening.

This must be what it felt like for Coretta and Betty and Myrlie when they got the call about Martin, Malcolm and Medgar (they were considered suspicious too by even the FBI, they were always seen wearing suits and ties, no hoodies.).

I want to cry. I think black men are beautiful. When I think of black men I think of my amazing dad, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, close friends. They are the kindest, most gentle wonderful people.

However there are times I have been fearful of ones I didn’t know, walking down the street, or hanging out or being too loud or gathered in large numbers in a parking lot.

I would hate myself for fearing them once I was safely in my car or home, but there was a part of me– the street smart part of me that says you have to trust your instincts and keep it moving because you don’t know what anyone’s motives are. It is a fact black folk in America are more likely to be killed by other black folk. It’s a sad reality. Does this have anything to do with Trayvon?

Yes and no.

Not in terms of the right and wrong of what happened to him, but this statistic and others (including the ridiculous disparities in black males in the U.S. prison system, unemployment) contribute to the fears that compel the George Zimmerman’s of the world to act as he did.

What curious timing of such an event in the history of our nation.

The solution is to not tell our sons stop wearing hoodies. The solution is to not write blogs about how you thought all of the heroic characters in the hunger games should have been “innocent blonde haired blue-eyed” people. The solution isn’t to draw racist cartoons. The solution isn’t to put out a hit on George Zimmerman.

The solution is education, mentorship. The solution lies in reuniting families and instilling values in boys and girls. The solution is responsibility for one’s self, one’s family, one’s greater community and teaching the values of responsibility. Teachers alone can’t do it. Young parents can’t do it, and tired grandparents trying to hold up the slack are struggling to do it.

There is so much wrong. There is misunderstanding, a long-standing history of inequality and injustice and ugliness and economics and there are people of all colors who understand this and empathize and there are some folks who just don’t.

Right now we have our eyes on Trayvon, but what is making this situation so insane is what’s not being said and the fact that this one situation came out of no where and put all of America and our dirty struggle with race on trial.

The world is questioning our laws, our administration of justice for all citizens, stereotypes, fear of black men (including the president).

The rage and disappointment that black Americans have had with the justice system since forever and the confusion and frustration some non-black Americans are having with the current system and where it is heading has been a volitle mixture brewing and stewing.

The Trayvon Martin situation has brought to light the ugly truth that the United States still has a very long way to go. I think all of us to a certain extent drank the kool aid that we became a more evolved society because we voted for a biracial president in large numbers. It was a step, but it didn’t heal all of the pains.

So Trayvon’s murder, the aftermath, the handling of the situation, the ugliness of it all made us look at, what as a nation we have been so desperately trying to show the world we’ve finally defeated, and we failed. We’ve been failing.

The ignorance and hate right now is so loud. We all have to blot it out. Not do anything stupid and further damage our society and hope this is resolved in a fair and just manner.

We have to heal our black men and there’s so many complicated layers to this thing that I will never be able to articulate in one or a million posts. I’m just hurt right now.

I haven’t seen this much blatant racial madness post civil rights since the LA Riots and the O. J. trial.

We are in curious times. Trayvon Martin is not the first and he will most certainly not be the last. We have to hold those in charge and those who are supposed to protect the law accountable. We have the power to vote in Sheriff’s and District Attorneys and as I’ve said over and over, just caring about the presidential election every four years is not enough. You have to know who is running your city,  county, state and your schools and inform yourself about the candidates and vote as best you can for the people who care about the greater good.

To start, I propose that the U.S. government pay Dave Chappelle to put on a three-hour special to be broadcast on every channel, prime time to calm everyone down.

I don’t make light of this situation, but no one can deny through his humor, he opened doors in terms of making people talk openly, with their guards down about race than any organization. I’m sorry. That’s real.

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