Monday, June 2, 2014

Sorry 4 The Wait

Hello, all. I'm sorry I kinda just dropped out of sight recently. I have had a lot of things going on and it was so hard managing my activities that I decided to take a break from the blog. I know a lot of people were probably like, What the fuck. Every time I sat down to write something I got sidetracked. I felt like I was losing focus. I wanted to write about a lot of different things but I kept berating myself about how I didn't know if it fit with my blog or not. So I kept everything I wrote in my files and didn't post anything.

Recently I have been ill. I woke up several days ago with an excruciating pain in the left side of my jaw and face. I went to Urgent Care on Van Buren (my favorite urgent care, so I had to mention them by name) and they told me that it could be a severe sinus infection (which has happened to me before) or an infection of one of my teeth (which is what I thought because that's where I felt the pain). They prescribed me some Amoxicillan and Hydrocodone and sent me on my way.

A dentist appointment a few days later revealed that one of my upper teeth is rotted down to the nerve. It is usually fixed with a root canal or a simple extraction, which may or may not be followed by an implant. Root canals are a pointless waste of money. The tooth basically is an empty shell. It sort of prolongs the life of the tooth, kind of like placing your tooth on life support when it's clearly terminal. An implant lasts way longer and would keep my teeth from going all wonky in my mouth. The kicker is that implants are considered a cosmetic procedure so it's not covered by Badgercare (state insurance). Those who are more saditty will assume that it is because it is "state insurance" that it doesn't cover implants when, in reality, dental insurance is just awful like that. Most dental insurances only give you discounts on services, but they seem to never be fully covered. Go figure.

So along with that, I have been writing and living life. Having a toddler during these times is the pits. Oh, and I start my internship with the Urban Ecology Center tomorrow! I am currently doing an internship with Helix River Media as well.

Moving forward I hope to post more blogs about random ish, creative nonfiction, and perhaps some fiction as well. I probably will not be keeping up with pop culture too much (but you knew that already), but I will continue to talk about what intrigues, bothers and fascinates me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm So Through: NAACP Says Donald Sterling Deserves Forgiveness

I would say that I’m surprised but, sadly, I’m not. ABCNews reported that the Los Angeles NAACP’s President Leon Jenkins said they are willing to forgive Donald Sterling for his erroneous racist remarks that have been widely commented on in the media. "God teaches us to forgive, and the way I look at it, after a sustained period of proof to the African American community that those words don't reflect his heart, I think there's room for forgiveness. I wouldn't be a Christian if I said there [sic] wasn't," Jenkins said.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is surely turning in his grave hearing this shit. MLK promoted forgiveness and charity and non-violence. But guess what? He also promoted social change and stood against racism. He was not for this Jim Crow, Uncle Tom-type of ish. Yeah, we can forgive but we will not stand for assaults against our humanity based on the color of our skin.

I am tired of Christian rhetoric being used to hijack public issues, and I am tired of people like Jenkins being considered the voice of our community. I am tired of people claiming that forgiveness is a virtue, and that anyone who doesn’t forgive must be condemned, or must have hate in their heart. Making forgiveness a virtue makes it the victim’s fault. It puts all of the pressure on the injured party and none where it really belongs: on the guilty party. You don’t often hear anyone waxing on about how the injurer needs to repent or change, but you’ll hear a whole bunch of nonsense about how, if someone does you wrong, you should turn the other cheek and let ‘em smack you up because thats what a good Christian would do.

Missed me.

The LA NAACP branch’s behavior during the past few years is disgraceful. But, when was the last time the NAACP as a whole was culturally relevant anyway? I just saw an article in the Community Journal about how the NAACP is finally jumping on the whole “environmental justice” train. How many years has it been? People have been discussing disparities in the impact of pollution and its health effects for decades. When was the last time the NAACP was at the forefront of progressive civil rights issues, such as gay rights, environmental justice, educational policy, or trans rights? So, I’m not surprised, just angry and disappointed. The only time I hear anything about the NAACP is when they give out Image Awards. Yeah, being involved in the NAACP looks good on your resume, but what does it really mean? There’s barely any substance to it anymore. It’s a hollow status symbol for the most part.

I don’t believe in forgiving folks all willy-nilly. The man is eighty years old and he’s had plenty of chances to change. He’s been discriminating against minorities for decades. This is not a first offense. This is not some Paula Deen shit. He has been actively preventing blacks and Latinos from living in his buildings, refusing to fix things for them and sexually assaulting women for years. He’s going to have to a whole lot of changing to make this right.

NBA bylaws be damned (sorry Stephen A.), Jemele Hill reported on Donald Sterling’s behavior years ago and no one paid her any attention. This incident is just the icing on the cake. I’m pretty sure that the NAACP heard about the legal issues and the discrimination suits. All money ain’t good money, Leon. But whatever, I guess the NAACP is on that CREAM ish.

MC Brooks, Vett Jones (Everett) and I will be discussing this on a special edition of "Black Freethinkers--The Breakbeat" tomorrow evening at 7CST/8EST.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nouveau Riche: The Importance of Being Bourgeois


I grew to hate the suburbs when I was a teenager. I grew up on N. 57th and W. Villard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, near McGovern Park. When I was in high school my mother suddenly decided that her fortunes lay elsewhere and moved us to Indianapolis. I personally moved back and forth between Milwaukee and Indy multiple times in high school but during the summer after my junior year of high school my mother rented a house out in McCordsville. McCordsville was a suburb in the middle of fucking nowhere. Literally the nearest McDonald’s was about a mile away. There was a wide yellow cornfield across the street from the entrance to the neighborhood. This was one of those neighborhoods with neighborhood associations and stay-at-home mommy cliques. Picture the Ladybugs in American Dad. Remember how hard Francine tried to fit in? Everywhere I walked I could smell the snobbery. I could sense that we didn’t fit in, my mother a single mother of three, and black besides that. You couldn't go anywhere without driving. There was nothing around. Perhaps a sign that we’d made it?

I have had many friends wax poetic to me about how bourgie they are. Why they shop where they do, how they choose where they live. I, too, have used the requisite phrase to explain my distaste of WalMart and my preference for Target (Tar-jay): “I’m just too bourgie.” Target gives off an air of class, of expense. Quality. Studies say it’s the colors. I think it’s all about the packaging. I have an affinity for superb marketing and graphic design. Think of the type of person who buys a CD purely for the packaging. Target also works with major designers to create affordable clothing lines, home & kitchen products and furniture collections. But their prices are actually very similar to WalMart on most products. To be fair, for many (including me) it is also a quality thing. But don’t tell me that you haven’t had the conversation about the “type” of people you see at WalMart versus the type of people you encounter at Target, cos you know you’d be lying. Besides that, Target tends to locate itself outside of the inner city, unlike WalMart.

This, my friends, is class consciousness at its realest and its finest. Things like this give lie to the idea that we don’t care about class in America. Americans are deeply class conscious, whether they want to believe themselves to be or not. Implicit in the phrase, “Sometimes I just can’t stand black folks,” is a heavy classism that people consistently mistake for simple racial bias. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is a racial connotation, but just as important is the fact that a disproportionate amount of the lower and working classes in America are people of color. So it is definitely a class issue as well.

Milwaukee is extremely racially and economically segregated but this is not just due to racism or redlining. Part of it has to do with the fact that many blacks came here during the Great Migration to find work in the Industrial sector when it was in full bloom. When those jobs began to be outsourced or gotten rid of entirely, the same people who relied on those jobs were suddenly unemployed or working minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. I constantly hear talk from my black friends and family about how they want to get out of Milwaukee, by which they mainly mean the Northside, and escape to the suburbs of Mequon or Menomonee Falls, places where buses barely or rarely run, where one must drive everywhere in order to get anywhere. They talk about how they want to get away from black people, they have their kids parties in the suburbs because the city is full of “niggatry” and ghetto black folks that they want to keep their kids away from. Class class class. The same way they separate themselves from other black people is the same way light-skinned blacks separated themselves from darker-skinned blacks not too long ago. They did this to maintain their superiority and economic status, because many of them were nouveau riche--”new money”--and they wanted to fit in and hold tight to their precarious place in society. Karl Marx said that culture and social conventions are determined by the “ruling class” and that their values basically trickle down to the other classes, regardless of the effects it has on their finances.
People spend a lot of money on their cars and the lower your class the more of your income you spend maintaining! This is because most lower class people live in the city (where they can afford to live) and commute to the suburbs to work. So the car becomes a necessity instead of a luxury because you gotta get to work! You gotta get the kids to school! Instead of examining this problem and seeing it as an actual problem we say, I need this. And that’s it. Doesn’t matter how broke you are, you have to have a car, even if it’s killing your pockets. I’ve known the poorest of black folks to take on a car payment they really can’t afford.

Cars are also symbolic of economic status. Only poor people take the bus. You only walk if you have to. That’s how a lot of folks see it. Many suburban black folks express distaste or even disgust at the idea that they would have to come into contact with other people on the bus. Oh my goodness is that guy homeless?! Eeew, poor people. Don’t let them touch you! Why is she looking at me? I actually did not encounter this way of thinking largely until I began dating my man. He grew up in Brown Deer which is a Milwaukee suburb twenty minutes north of where we live now. When we met, Everett didn’t have a car. He would get a ride wherever he had to go. If he couldn’t get a ride he couldn’t go. I thought this was silly because his parent’s house happened to be only three or four blocks from the 12 Teutonia bus, one of the two buses that runs into Brown Deer. I would take the bus over there all the time but he refused to take the bus for a long time until I persuaded him to when we moved in together in Brown Deer not too far from his parents. I hate to be tied to something like a car. A car is an object. I don’t need an object telling me what to do, controlling my life. I have feet, I have legs, and I have public transportation. I chose our next neighborhood by WalkScore because we can’t afford our car payment and we have student bus passes which enable us to ride for free during the school year.

There seems to be a proliferation in the amount of black folks who think that being “bourgie” or snobbish is a positive quality, something to brag about. “Girl, you know I’m bourgie!” Do you know what some synonyms for bourgie are? Suburban, conventional, conservative, conformist, middle-class, small-town. The definition of bourgeois? Materialistic. In France the Petit Bourgeois were characterized by their consumption and assemblage of material goods in order for one to visibly flaunt their economic status. There are too many black people, and people in general, who do the same thing--too many people trying to create and maintain the appearance of wealth (i.e. cars and nice homes in the suburbs) rather than actual wealth (i.e. assets and investments and retirement savings).

Y’all remember that old phrase: All that glitters ain’t gold? Let’s get our priorities straight, people. Yeesh.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Misery Loves Company and Other Odd Revelations

So I'm in my head today. Meaning I'm lost in my thoughts and I'm trying to remember things that I've previously forgotten.

I am the okay daughter right now with my mother. I am okay because I am doing what she thinks I should be doing. It's not my happiness that matters it's the appearance of progress.

Okay that last sentence may not be entirely true. I would like to think that all parents desire for their children to be reasonably content. But that simply isn't the case. Some parents, some people, are sad excuses for parents. And I have never been fond of the phrase "I did the best I could." Bullshit. None of us do the best we can all the time. Hell, some of us don't even do it half the time. You can tell me the truth. Say it: I did enough to get by. The truth hurts but there it is.

"I hope God teaches you a hard lesson."

Have you ever had somebody wish ill on you in the name of their god or Justice? Like a revenge prayer? I have, many times. It always made me wonder as a child, Does god control us or do we control god? It had always seemed pointless to me to wish misery upon someone. It's almost like you're telling god what to do, like you're putting quarters into a heavenly vending machine and hoping you get exactly the color of bubblegum you wanted. Only when a red comes out instead of a purple you lie and say you're satisfied. That was divine will. It's too fucking easy because it's like whatever comes out that's what was "meant to happen." But someone's always the loser so it also means that the bad shit that happens is divine will also.

I sense a paradox.

I have come to the conclusion that most people are narcissists, maybe even me. After all, doesn't on have to be somewhat narcissistic to be a creative writer? "I live inside my head," someone once said. That describes me perfectly. Maybe God is a narcissist. It would explain a lot, actually. I remember how I felt when I played the Sims. Powerful. Omnipotent. Maybe that's how God feels. Maybe, if he exists, he just sits up there on his lofty perch and jizzes on random people's lives for the pure fun of it.

I remember this: my mother once said that she hoped life knocked me around so that I could know how she feels, and humble myself. I'd like to think there's a difference between hard knocks and bad choices. A lot of people personify "life" as if it is this gigantic powerful force that controls everything in they're their life. That's the thing about some people, and many religious people. It's like, you know everything is out of your control but having a god you can pray to makes you feel like you control something. You can wish really hard for things to be the way you want them to be. But personifying life takes away from people's personal responsibility. No one ever wants to admit that their life sucks because they fucked up and made poor decisions. I call that the "Devil made me do it mentality." How many people have you heard blame bad shit on the devil, like he's some sort of super villain demi-god? (Incidentally I thought god was the most powerful guy in Christianity but you'd never know as much as people talk about Satan.)

Shit like this is how you know that man created god. This ish is as inefficient as the American government.

I used to ask god for things all the time, until one day I just stopped. I didn't need help with gumballs. I needed help with real shit and he was NOT delivering. I was a very depressed child, prone to isolation, long naps and literary escapism. My life didn't change until I changed things.

Will I become so nearsighted as a parent?

I hope to be the kind of parent who tells stories, who is honest, who loves with abandon and never withholds affection in the name of "tough love." I hope I never forget what it is like to be a child. To have no control. To be talked down to, lied to, denigrated and degraded. In my family the word of a child was moot, always. I used to cower as my mother raged. I don't want that for my Apollo. I don't want him to waste his life praying to a god who will never come. That's why I'm here.

Favorite Book Characters of All Time (So Far) [Inspired by @BlackGirlGeeks and @BlackGirlNerds]

“Remember this: Nothing is written in the stars. Not these stars, nor any others. No one controls your destiny.” 
― Gregory MaguireWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

“Where I'm from, we believe in all sorts of things that aren't true... we call it history.” 
― Gregory MaguireWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Picture by Sally Avernier from deviantart
Elphaba from Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. She becomes an activist after becoming aware of the plight of the Animals in OZ. She is from a complicated background, her father is a pastor who preaches salvation and damnation to the Quadling "savages"-- sound familiar?--and her mother is an alcoholic who drinks to escape to life as she wishes it were. Gregory Maguire does an excellent job weaving together the history of OZ, the social justice issues, and the question of good and evil into this novel. For someone who loves both speculative fiction and social activism, this is right up my alley. I've always been a fan of villains. They say history is written by the victors. Thanks to this we get to see things from another side. After all, everybody is somebody's "villain."

Dinah from Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. I had read this book a million times. It is a retelling of the story of Dinah, beginning first with the stories of her mothers (don't all of our stories begin here?) and then weaving in biblical references, historical fact and side stories that ultimately lead up to the infamous story of Dinah. Where in the Bible her mention was relegated to a one-liner, here we get a well-rounded "perhapsing." Dinah tells the entire story from beginning to end. Anita Diamant's words are like music. Read this ish. This is one of those books that got me questioning.

Ethel and Noon from Diane McKinney Whetstone's Tumbling. I know, I know. Ethel was a whore. But I loved her. Plus she was Fanny's mom, which is awesome and terrible, all at the same time. Ethel and Noon could have been the archetypal Madonna/whore but Whestone takes us somewhere deeper. Ethel and Noon are both damaged but in a different way. It is very surprising to see how they change throughout the novel, especially Noon. I read this book when I was twelve or thirteen!

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She was super smart and super brave. Yeah, she could be annoying at times but who did they come to looking for answers? Um, it wasn't Ron, ninjas. It was this chick right herr. Hermione reminded me so much of me. Freaking overachieving perfectionist, always reading and researching, and trying to help other people. Small circle of friends and diamond in the rough prettiness. People don't give Hermione enough credit. Personally I think she could have done better than Ron but... friendship trumps everything, I guess.

I could go on and on about these four, especially Elphaba, but I shall not. Instead, tell me who your favorite book characters of all time are? Share in the comment section below!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Other Day on Oak&Loc

I wasn't going to write about this because I didn't think it was that big of a deal. But these past few days I've been up all night trying to wrap my mind around the fact that some high school asshole snatched my cell phone out of my hand and ran off. I mean, it was just a phone right? But... I've been up, wondering if they've seen my baby's pictures and videos...him falling asleep on the potty, his laugh, his smile. All recorded on that phone. All gone.

I was born and raised here in Milwaukee. But never have I wanted to just give up and leave so badly as I want to now. I always thought that if people here could band together we could create change. And maybe I'm taking this too personal. I probably am. But how the hell else am I supposed to take it? Since moving out of Brown Deer to the Northside/ Eastside of Milwaukee I have dealt with nothing but problems. Here's the list: I was assaulted by my downstairs neighbor when I was four months pregnant with my son. My man and I were subsequently threatened, followed and harassed by her family until we decided to break our lease and move. We were screwed out of our deposit. Last year someone broke into our car and stole my entire collection of CDs. Fucking seven years worth of collecting and I had everything from Barry White to A Tribe Called Quest to Alicia Keys to Queen in that bitch. Gone.

I'm tired. As much as I hate to say it, I'm to the point where I feel like leaving. Why should I continue to love Milwaukee when Milwaukee don't love me? Why should I continue to subject myself to thievery, harm and violence? Why?

Milwaukee is dying. And part of the reason it's dying is because of poverty and violence and shit like this. I'm not gonna lie, I feel incredibly violated. It's not even just the phone. My baby's picture were on that phone. Part of his childhood. This and many other things are why people like me just pack up and leave this motherfucker. We're tired of getting fucked by the city we loved.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

About Michael Sam and Gay Respectability Politics.

I have avoided writing about the Michael Sam “thing” simply because I don’t want y’all to start expecting me to stay up on current events. But I have been hearing some very concerning comments about this situation so I decided to speak on it. For those of you who don’t follow football, Michael Sam is a college football player for the Missouri Tigers. Recently he “came out” and he stated that his reason was that his college team knows he is gay but he didn’t want it to become a bigger deal than it was once he got to the NFL. He didn’t want someone else to “out” him. So he outed himself. I feel like this is pretty admirable, especially considering the nature of the sport and the fact that he is a homosexual African-American male. However I keep hearing the repetition of a very troubling point of view--that he should have just kept his mouth shut until after he was drafted or comments like, “Why is he making such a big deal about it? No one cares.”

One of the most irritating of these comments was one that I heard from a family member who stated, “I don’t care if he’s gay. But why does he feel the need to announce it? What people do in their bedrooms is their business. So I don’t get this whole coming out thing.” This same person went on to say, “And you know what else I hate? What makes me angry is when they compare being gay to being black. It is NOT the same thing at all. You can see that I’m black. But you can’t see if someone’s gay. So it is nothing like that. I mean, even my gay friend agrees. I have gay friends, too, you know, so don’t be offended. But I think that this needs to be made clear.”

I’m going to address each of these points right now:

Why does he feel the need to announce it?

Why does anybody feel the need to announce or talk about anything? To make people aware of course. Gay people (and many other groups of people) are actively discriminated against. The fact that Michael Sam outed himself before he was drafted and the response it has received speaks volumes. The fact is he shouldn’t have to out himself. But in an uber-masculine sport like football, being gay is a big deal to some of them. Maybe not the younger folks, but everybody isn’t for gay rights and equality. So being visible and talking about it is a good thing. The truth is people use this sort of reasoning to cover their own discomfort and discriminatory impulses. Let me put it this way: Why do black people feel the need to talk about being black or “Black is Beautiful? In fact, why do we even need a Black History Month? Shit, we know you’re black. We can see it clear as day. Now stop talking about it. No, seriously. We don’t need to know any more.

How does that sound?

There are some “black” people who are not visibly black. Yet they or others feel the need to proclaim their blackness. (One drop rule is stupid, by the way.) Why is that? Hmm. Maybe it’s because of the political and cultural implications of the phenomenon of “passing.” See, an extremely fair-skinned person could pass for white without trying. But some of these folks feel the need to express their blackness vocally because blackness has historically been treated as a negative. Blacks were always seen as inferior, and people wanted to prove that stereotype wrong. They didn’t want to deny where they came from. They chose to “announce” their blackness and celebrate it. It made them different but, in the end, it was a good thing.

Talking about blackness and discussing our issues is very healthy, especially in a country that has been beset with racial issues almost since the beginning. Similarly, speaking on homosexuality, which is a civil rights issue as well, is healthy. When you are is the majority it is easy to brush aside others' concerns simply because it is a smaller group of people. White folks did the same thing to black people. Some of those black people decided to stand up and fight and that is why we are where we are today. 

What people do in their bedroom is their business.

I love this one because those same people are the ones who oppose gay marriage based on this faulty logic. Oh yeah, but they applaud heterosexual marriage because, you know. It’s normal.

Please. People make a big deal about “black love” and marriage all the time but when it comes to a gay couple suddenly that’s irrelevant? Suddenly we just don’t care to talk about it? GTFOH. People involve the government in other shit ALL THE TIME. Abortions. Childcare. Student loans. Prayer in schools. The list goes on. But then, all of sudden someone mentions homosexuality and all that shit goes out the window. No, let’s not involve the government. They don’t need any rights. Imagine that. Imagine if people said the same thing about immigrants or black people way back when. Or women. Fuck them. We don’t need to talk about this. They’re just making a big deal out of nothing.

This is a very easy way of dismissing what people who are different from us have to say. And, to be honest, I find this logic deplorable, especially coming from a black person who has probably felt the sting of racism or racial discrimination at some point in their life. We should never dismiss what other people have to say just because it causes a bit of discomfort.

People comparing being gay to being black.

First of all I have never personally heard anyone do this, but I have seen people make this comparison online and what I have to say is this: To put it more eloquently, discrimination is discrimination. Point fucking blank. You can call it daisies, you can call it roses but it still smells like shit. Awful, slightly green bull donkey poop. It’s still discrimination. No, you can’t always see when someone is gay or lesbian but what if they want to walk down the street with their lover. Then what? Suddenly you’re made aware that they’re gay. And you’re uncomfortable, lesbi-honest.

When these so-called people compare being gay to being black I don’t believe they are trying to take away from what we as a people have gone through. Rather, they have made a clunky, half-baked analysis of discriminatory practices. What they mean to say is that all discrimination is wrong and should not be tolerated. And I support that 100%.

"I'm straight and I don't feel the need to announce it."

That's because you don't have to. The whole world is geared towards your "kind." You can rest assured that everyone will accept you and you will never be discriminated against on that basis. You are in the majority, similar to how white people are the majority group right now. They can walk around and see a bunch of movies and media geared towards them. They don't have to search for images of themselves because it's there all around them. People of color, however, have taken care to create our own magazines and media outlets just to see a representation of ourselves. Many white people feel that this is unnecessary. I have heard this sentiment expressed more and more from black and white alike since Obama was elected and then re-elected President, as if his appointment has eradicated all racism. It hasn't. And the same way racism and sexism haven't all suddenly disappeared, neither has homophobia. Just because we have some mainstream lesbians and gays (and by the way, many of them are white) doesn't mean that homophobia doesn't exist. And these voices deserve to be heard just as much as blacks, women, immigrants, and others need to be heard.

In fact I believe that some people, especially certain kinds of religious people, want gay people (and woman and people of color) to remain silent on these issues because it makes them angry or uncomfortable to address these things. People use faulty reasoning to discriminate against all groups of people. Saying we should stop “making a big deal about it” is just another form of dismissing someone. Guess what? I’m bisexual. Does it matter to anyone in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, because I am with a man and we have a child together. Respectable. So why should I even mention that I’m bi? Why not just pass myself off as straight? The answer: I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to stay silent in order to please other people or pander to their ignorance/discomfort. And neither should Michael Sam.

For those of you who feel that Sam should stay silent or that it's no big deal anymore, take a look at this link.