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This is always interesting to me. These innanets are a strange place but here I am still. I posted less than last year but had double the hits. I can’t say if I will or won’t post as much this year with my new venture www.fortyisthenewforty.com taking up a lot of my time. But I will enjoy coming to visit these old pieces and I appreciate that they have a home.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.
I posted this three years ago when my daughter turned thirteen. Yesterday she turned sixteen and every word of it is still true. ❤
They said I wasn’t maternal.
I was supposed to be the one who traveled the world deeply committed to “the cause” and fully prepared to burn the dynamite at both ends if it meant results for my work. So when, at the tender age of 23, I announced that I was carrying my first child, the reactions were deeply divided – not between right and wrong – but between degrees of wrongness. Some thought it was a terrible “career move” and that I was cutting short what could shape up to be a promising future. Others thought that the man was just all wrong. “He’ll leave you know,” they said. However, what most agreed on was how much they couldn’t see me raising a kid. Me with the occasional bad attitude who had “bacdafucup” tattooed in the corners of my side-eye, me with the flippant mouth and the…
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January 30th is my father’s birthday. He was born in 1930, so if he was alive this year would have been his 83rd birthday. He died 12 years ago on January 21, 2001.
For a decade after my father’s death January was the worst month for me. It actually started in December around the holidays, which he loved to celebrate. I could always get through Christmas thinking about how happy it made him and how happy he made me in turn. Christmas was never the problem. It was after Christmas and right before New Year’s Eve that I would be struck with a random, painful memory of him and the void left in my spirit when he died. The feeling always started with a joyful thought of a joke he told or a meal he cooked and then suddenly, like being pierced with a sharp object, the pain would come — in full force and it didn’t dull any as days went by either. In fact, it increased by the day, causing me to feel alternatively sick or sad or mean or lethargic. It was anyone’s guess.
I hated January.
My father died nine days before his 71st birthday making it impossible to remember his life without dragging forth the pain of his death; the two remained inextricably linked in my mind. Some years were harder than others. In 2006, a particularly hard year in general, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his death, I completely shut down. I was able to function enough to feed my daughter and get her to school, but for about a month, I was no good otherwise. None. And strangely enough it didn’t bother me. My grandfather, the only man I loved as much as my father, had passed away eight years before my father and at the time I had no frame of reference for how to proceed with the rest of my life without his love and support. A part of me died when granddaddy died. The other part died with Mr. Wes (that was my nickname for him).
In 2009, on the eighth anniversary of his death, something wonderful happened. By that time I had settled into the idea that January was just a bad time for me and as such, I began to prepare for it. I would tell close friends not to worry and say things like, “I’m going to be a little depressed for a few weeks, but I will snap out of it.” I had a playlist of sad music that reminded me of Mr. Wes. I had pictures that I would sit and sift through everyday. I had a routine. And I thought it was sane. That year the first Sunday in January happened to fall on the day after New Year’s day. I sat in church that day just waiting for the wallowing to begin, but instead I had a complete revelation. My Pastor preached from Philippians 3:13-14
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
This is one of my favorite scriptures in general, but on that night he talked about it in reference to baggage and posed questions that seemed to be directed at me specifically. He asked how long would we wallow in the tragedies of the past and he asked what did we take that was good from those things to use in our testimony as we moved forward. After the service I went and talked to my Pastor and explained the situation. He was so enlightening and explained that I was using my father’s legacy in a way that he would not be pleased. That was a big turning point for me. That night I came home and I created a collage in honor of him on my Facebook page and I played his favorite songs loud in the house, but this time I danced to them instead of wailing in my bed until my eyes were swollen shut. I showed my daughter his famous dance moves to classics like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Buffalo Soldier” two of his all time favorites. My daughter, who was three when he died, asked me all sorts of questions about him and our life together and I obliged her and divulged all sorts of tales from my childhood.
It was magical.
I felt free for the first time in years. I had managed to figure out (with God’s grace) how to remember him and love him and be happy at the same time and for the last three years I have reveled in the memories of my dear Mr. Wes.
This year I forgot.
I didn’t post any pictures of him on Facebook, I didn’t call my mother to have a conversation about “back-in-the-day” when we were all together and happy. I didn’t play his music. I simply forgot.
I remembered a few days back though. A friend told me that she had recently had a birthday and I said out loud “oh snap” (I didn’t really say snap but whatever) “my father’s birthday is coming up!” That had to be Saturday. Now, four short days later. I forgot.
Today was a normal day. I went to work and I was very busy. I had a few meetings and phone calls this morning. I had an afternoon appointment as well and then I was back to the office before going home to prepare for my evening attending the opening night of Alvin Ailey here in Philadelphia. I came home after the show and talked to my daughter for about 40 minutes and then went back to work finishing something that is on a deadline for tomorrow. I did all of this today and I didn’t remember him.
The strange thing is I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know if I should feel bad because — he’s my father. If he were alive I’d feel bad so why shouldn’t I feel bad in his death? Especially when it occurred to me that if I had forgotten his birthday then I most certainly forgot the day of his death. *deep sigh*
I dont’ know what it means. I will never, every forget him as a person. I will never, ever, not miss him being here with me. And I will never, ever know another human being like him. But, I am not in mourning anymore; and I am happy about that. Some part of me thinks he would want me to forget and live my life only from the memories of the care and attention and generosity that he showed me. I believe with all of my being that he would want that and that’s easy to do because I carry it in my heart every, single day along with all of the love I had for him and he had for me. And that is easy to remember.
Continue to rest peacefully.
I love you Mr. Wes.
I know I need to do better in 2013 as this report shows, but I’m really proud of the writing I did and am motivated to do triple the work this year!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.
It seems oxymoronic to start a blog by saying “‘I’m a deeply personal person.” but I really am.
I was raised to believe that my business is my business and what happened in my home stayed in my home – under ALL circumstances.
I felt the need to preface this post by saying that because it’s the first of a series of posts that I feel compelled to publish that share some parts of myself that I have previously reserved for a select crowd of people, but I can’t anymore – I’m trying to build a movement. The following post is old. It was written in 2005 when my best friend and I first formalized our organization, Just Be Inc.. I have had so many thoughts in my mind lately that I have been unable to get on paper. So much has happened in the 5 months since my last blog and I have so much to say and so little time, or at least that is what I have convinced myself. The truth is I had led myself to believe that I don’t have the authority to add to the conversation about these issues that are tearing at my heart when there are so many more qualified voices and well written pieces about things like the 11-year old Texas girl who was brutally gang raped or this recent Ashley Judd dust-up because she called out the hip-hop community for promoting a “rape culture” .
I’m not a pop-culture critic or a public intellectual. I’m just a worker. I’m in the trenches with the 11-year-old survivors and the little girls that have been raised on a steady diet of hip-hop misogyny and mainstream media girl hate.
It’s sexual assault awareness month so I thought it was apt to share this now. Some folk who have supported our work from the beginning have already read this, many have not.
I’m glad that there is a month where the media and organizations doing work in the trenches like Just Be Inc. can shed some light on the staggering statistics around violence against women and girls. I’m more glad that these organizations continue to work just as hard the other 11 months of the year.
The me too movement™ started in the deepest, darkest place in my soul.
As a youth worker, dealing predominately with children of color, I had seen and heard my share of heartbreaking stories from broken homes to abusive or neglectful parents when I met Angel. Ten years ago during an all girl bonding session at our youth camp, several of the girls in the room shared stories of sexual abuse at the hands of family members, acquaintances and even strangers. Just as I had done so many times before I sat and listened to the stories and comforted the girls as needed – but avoided as many as possible. When it was over the adults advised the young women to reach out to us in the event that they needed to talk some more or needed something else – and then we went our separate ways. Looking back now, I wish we had a different system for dealing with the trauma that was exposed, but we were young and thought just providing an “outlet” was enough.
The next day a little girl who had been quiet in the previous night’s session asked to speak to me privately. Angel was a sweet-faced little girl who kind of clung to me throughout the camp. Her light, high-pitched voice betrayed her high-strung, hyperactive behavior and I was frequently pulling her out of some type of situation. As she attempted to talk to me, the look in her eyes sent me in the other direction. She had a deep sadness and a yearning for confession that I read immediately and wanted no part of. Finally, later in the day the baby caught up with me and almost begged me to listen…and I reluctantly conceded. For the next several minutes this child, Angel, struggled to tell me about her “stepdaddy” or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body…I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore…which turned out to be less than 5 minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and abruptly directed her to another female counselor who could “help her better.”
I will never forget the look on her face.
I will never forget the look because I think about her all of the time. The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it unexpectedly forced closed again – it was all on her face. And as much as I love children, as much as I cared about that child, I could not find the courage that she had found. I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain. I could not validate her sense of self-worth and find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured… I watched her walk away from me and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper…me too.
Empowerment through Empathy
One of the main goals of The me too Movement™ is to give young women, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities, a sense of empowerment from the understanding that we are not alone in our circumstances. This is the underlying principle of this project: Empowerment through Empathy. The statistics related to sexual abuse in these communities are staggering. The estimates detailing the number of sexual abuse, assault or exploitation victims who are not reporting what happened to them or seeking help are equally astounding.
We want to turn victims into survivors.
Empathy is the sense of awareness or compassion one person has for another’s circumstances; it is a deep connection with the pain of another that comes from that real understanding.
The power of empathy is sorely undervalued. Oftentimes young women who have been violated in any of the aforementioned areas feel humiliated, isolated and powerless. In several cultures, women of color are encouraged to keep situations like these to them selves. In some communities the prevalence is so widespread that the behavior is almost normalized. And still, in other situations, young women from low wealth backgrounds are left feeling voiceless when they don’t see themselves properly represented by various advocate groups. The me too Movement™ seeks to empower young women past these barriers.
Why a Movement?
Under the me too Movement™ our focus is young women who have endured sexual abuse, assault or exploitation. A number of existing advocacy programs only address rape, date rape, or sexual assault. In our survey of programs across the United States, few were equipped to deal with young women, of a variety of ages and races, who were victims of molestation, incest, or exploitation. The definition of exploitation, for our purposes, covers a wide variety of situations that often go unaddressed in communities of color. Young women who are severally harassed daily in school, made to commit to sexual favors or perform sex acts under duress can be severally traumatized by their situations, and the effects can be just as damaging as being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted.
We are serious about building a movement. That is why I am posting this. I have witnessed the power of empowerment through empathy. I have seen what happens in the life of the giver and the receiver. We are bringing the stories of survival to the children, to the other babies like Angel who need to hear it and see how you got over.
If there are women of any age that are willing to share their story with us – in print or on video – please let us know. Our project is ongoing, so whenever you’re ready we’re ready. Your healing, your time. Just remember, you’re not alone….it’s a movement.
(Requisite disclaimer: Yes, I only read it once…i just needed to get it on paper, so forgive typos, poor grammar, etc…or don’t.)
Last year around this time, I was so struck by turning 35 that I sat down and wrote a list of things I knew for sure. There were 11 of them. Each one was a thing or act or accomplishment that I was distinctly proud of and felt some sense of relief in saying out loud. When I was done and I read the list back to myself I remember being overcome by a sense of transition and growth. I felt like I had arrived at a place that I didn’t even know I was on my way to. That list inadvertently opened up a world of self-discovery that became extremely important to me at precisely the moment I finished.
I almost knew instinctively that I would write a sequel. I even began thinking about it back in the spring when my best friend’s birthday came. I remember trying to reflect on my year thus far and coming up with a sort of contrived list of randomness like – “I can fill out a ball gown” and “I have decorated my home with great taste”…even as I jotted down these sort of empty achievements they fell flat in my mind. The things I listed at 35 were real – even the whimsical, were real, hard-earned, and meaningful in one way or another to me. This new would-be list of 12 (because that’s how contrived it was – I thought – “I’ll one up myself from last year, genius!”) was so insincere that I just stopped altogether and left the task alone. When my birthday came this year I didn’t even think about it. As a matter of fact, my life has been so “topsy turvy” – if you will – lately, that I barely thought about my birthday at all. But tonight, after what has been one of the longest weeks of my life, I sat reading in my living room and I was struck with a thought that led me back to this task.
I actually don’t have a funny list this year. I don’t have a list at all and what I have to say may or may not tickle you…but its honest and it’s me – today.
This year has been one for the record books. There has been significant change in several areas of my life. I have a magnificent new job and I feel fulfilled and appreciated for my work for the first time in a decade. My daughter started Junior HS – which is just unbelievable to me because according to my calculations she is still about four years old. And, I have a man in my life that is in a word – wonderful. As I sat thinking about these occurrences I couldn’t help but to think about how I feel like they are connected even though they seem so disparate.
My work, as anyone who really knows me, knows – is very important to me. I love the idea of working hard. I love to see something from inception to fruition and know I played a role in making it happen. And, I love to learn and then master something new. It is my absolute delight and my new job allows me to do that everyday. In the past, I have put my blood, sweat and tears into work only to have it go unappreciated and frankly uncompensated. Neither of those is an issue at this job and I love that the most. I have been humbled quite a bit doing this work too, but I have come out all the better for it. The kind of chin check this work gives me helps me grow as a professional and brings me closer to being even better at doing the work I truly love.
I love my baby. I don’t even have to write that because if you know me well enough to read this, you know that. She is growing up very fast now like someone was waiting at 11 and just put some duct tape on the fast forward button. She is my height and her feet are bigger than my feet! She is also “blossoming” quickly with things growing out of places that make me nauseous. Her taste in clothes, her taste in music and her taste in rules have changed drastically in a very short period of time. She is “funky” at times and she seriously irks the mess out of me at least three times a week. But as much as this pre-pubescence just makes me crazy, I love watching her grow. I love giving her the space she needs to discover exactly who she is – and she is doing just that. I love seeing the independence in her eyes when she is given another little freedom here and there – I remember that so well from that age. She has morphed from a little girl to a little lady in less than a year and while it is painful to watch sometimes, it feels like the kind of pain that you’re grateful for. It’s a bit of sadness for me each time she wants to stretch her pretty wings a bit further, but I am struck with a tinge of joy at the same time. Our relationship feels complicated at times, but then it shifts right back and feels as simple as the baby I just love.
Last year on my list of eleven things I made a bold claim, I said that at 35 I knew how to:
10. Appreciate a good man.
Good men aren’t exactly as hard to find, as they are hard to “de-fine”. All of my girls describe this supposed anomaly differently. By my own definition, I have run into quite a few and although they weren’t my soul mates or husbands…I did (and do) appreciate them for who they represent in the world. Learning to appreciate a good man has definitely prepared me to be appreciative of my own – when he comes. And chile’ he’s coming.
I’ll be darned if he didn’t.
I didn’t even know this man was thinking about me at this time last year, didn’t know if we would ever find our way back into each other’s lives or if we did would it still be the same. But he did – and he was determined that it would happen. I love him for that. The biggest surprise to me this year has to be that I would reach my next birthday and be head over heels in love – and getting married. (What? Stop playing.) It even feels weird to write it and read it aloud. In just a short period of time, I have (re) met the man who will be my husband and that reality has also helped me to put this year of my life into perspective.
It has been all about love.
I thought when I started thinking about this that it was all about him, but love has been an overarching theme this whole year.
My appreciation of, my desire for, my expansion into, my tug of war with, my cautious understanding and trepidation about, and my bold exclamation of…Love.
I was reading the breakdown of love in Corinthians 13: 4-8 in the Bible and was so struck by how this small passage covers so much ground. It is significant for each of the life changes that have occurred for me in the last year. Love is so difficult to comprehend and so simple at the same time. I know God is Love. And yet, as I have to go about my life dealing in and out of love in relationships with people and situations, it just doesn’t feel that simple all the time.
If I have learned anything else this year, it is that: Love is complicated and love is simple.
But I have also learned that love is a verb. It is kinetic always moving and always working. When you’re at your best it loves you back and at your worst it loves you through. It is real, it is tangible, it is messy, it is raw, and it is powerful.
And there is nothing wrong about it.
The verse says it never fails, and it doesn’t. We fail it.
This year I figured out a lot about myself by looking at how I love and why I love and what I love and when I fail and succeed in love; what it means to me and what I do in spite of and because of it.
I got all of that in the last year and some of it in the last week.
I am so very excited about what’s next. If it’s God’s will my work will be taken to another level in the next few years; my baby will continue to grow and develop into an even brighter star than she is and I will have a wonderful man to share my life with and make even more dreams come true for us both…
I don’t have a list this time because there is only one thing I know for sure at 36 and that is that each of these things will begin and end with love.
We fight in N.Y. – we just do.
I have met so many woman (and men) over the years that have not had fights and it always boggles my mind. I’m thinking “how did you make it through 12 years of SCHOOL without scrapping ONCE? Impossible.” My first real brush with ‘inner city violence’, was in P.S. 106 – in the 4th grade – when Tyra, Latisha and Keisha decided that they were gonna “jump” me. I’m sure most of you know, but in case you don’t being “jumped” is when a group of people decide to beat up on one person or a smaller group. It’s weird how I don’t remember the circumstances now, but I think it had something to do with a boy named Gregory Wilkenson who we all sweated back then (and maaaybe my general ‘goodie two shoes-ness). In any event they followed me as I walked to my grandma’s house in an area called Parkchester and pushed me into a bunch of bushes, they hit me a few times, dumped my book bag out, broke my glasses and stole my bus pass (which for a NY latchkey kid is like the holy grail).
I was devastated by this incident. And, what was more devastating was that I had to continue to go to school with these heifers! Something happened to me after that though. I was NOT a hell raiser in elementary school. I pretty much hung with a group of girls that I had known most of my life and we rarely beefed. But after that, with the help of my young uncle and aunt who constantly talked to me about not letting anyone bother me – and my mother who took no shorts AT ALL (she was of the “go get that jump rope back from them NOW or don’t come home” ilk) I developed a thick skin. Latisha caught it by the end of the year, I didn’t even have to get at Tyra bc she already started trying to be my friend – and that was that. I had found a new power.
Now fast forward a bit. Maybe 6th or 7th grade. Not because I was evil, not because I was a bully – just because I was a strangely calculating little kid, I launched a campaign against a girl in my school because I was jealous. She never knew this I’m sure, but I was jealous because she seemed smarter than me, she seemed nicer than me and she was taking my best friend away from me or so I thought. So I went in on her. I am embarrassed to say now what I did – but it was mean. Like the “Mean Girls” movie mean, but SO out of my natural character. She was so hurt behind it and I remember sitting in our principal’s office and seeing her red eyes and feeling so very bad. She doesn’t know it, but that kind of changed me in that moment too. I promised myself that I would NEVER bully anyone or make them feel bad purposely. And I didn’t.
Every fight I had after that (Oh, because we fought – she was not a push over like that, she even spit on me during the fight) But after that, anytime I fought I was provoked. When I started at public high school girls thought I was some type of punk because I came from catholic school – so I had to fight to defend myself – a lot. I was suspended 7 times in my freshman year. The girls would just fuck with me for no reason and after a while I didn’t even wait for the bell to ring. (One girl I fought three times – Rhonda Coleman- just for the record) But I didn’t LIKE to fight, it was just necessary for survival after a while.
Since high school I have had a few more scuffles here and there. My roommate in freshman year of college, A Kappa talking breezy at a party sophomore year, some random ass girl who threatened my friend and a mechanic who tried to keep my car…and possibly a few more. Really I have had hundreds of more “violent arguments” than I have fights. It weeds the punks out. I’m clear who I am gonna have to take on (1-D) as we used to say meaning one on one – in the first thirty seconds of an argument. Girls who want to fight don’t argue – well we do – but only long enough to get the adrenaline pumping and then its on. Once all of that back and forth and explaining starts, hands down – no scrapping is happening.
Well, now I am a mother. And like my mother before me, it is well-known that I will lay you OUT about my baby. No questions. Although she wasnt born or raised in the Bronx, I thought she would SURELY have a little of her mama in her. I mean her daddy aint a slouch either (evil, I believe is the word I’m looking for) and Lord knows her auntie, my bestest, is worse than me! But, alas, my baby is me in the fourth grade – on steroids! . She is “sunny side of the street” on the darkest, cloudiest days…she is rainbow skittles in your bowl of brown M&Ms – she is just “joy”. She doesn’t understand why people don’t get along, she doesn’t understand why people randomly don’t like her , and she certainly doesn’t get bullies. She is now in the 6th grade – you remember that year, right? Full onset of puberty, loads of self-doubt, weird emotions – and boys. She is in the midst of all of that – and dealing with bullies. And I am at my wit’s end. Part of the reason I am writing this at seven in the morning is because she has shared yet another story of girls messing with her this morning while she was dressing. Its been two years and its only escalated since we moved to Philly. She wont fight back. She just won’t. The one time I tried to push her like my mother pushed me backfired so badly. I kept screaming at her, “you better hit those girls back if they hit YOU!” Her auntie and I were tag teaming her back and forth and finally I screamed “why wont you hit them back!” and she yelled out, crying “Because I don’t like violence!”
What do I do with that? I raised her on the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement and reading the Bible – and now I wanted her to ‘choke a bitch’? I couldn’t be that contradictory. That was 4th grade, now we’re in 6th and it’s getting worse. They are calling my house and hanging up, threatening her, last year she even got a death threat in her desk – A note in red that said “Kill Kaia” in big red letters. I can’t take it – and as I have said before I am not above fighting a 6th grader, especially the ones that look like they are my co-workers. But I know that will not solve the problem. Did I say that I’m at my wit’s end? I talk to her constantly about ways to stand up for herself without being violent. She is too afraid. We are working on self-esteem issues and she does talk to me a lot, but I am really, really concerned. What happens next? People never think about how they scar these kids for life – I know I didn’t. Even if every subsequent fight after that one back in 6th or 7th grade was self-defense (or some version of) it doesn’t change what I did. I apologized, sincerely then, and since she is still my friend, I sincerely apologize again, now. But I can’t help but think as my girlfriend mentioned the other day, is this Karma?
help. help lawd.