it isn't about marriage. seriously.

thinking about the marriage equality issue again...

frankly, it's time to reframe the argument.

every article i see on the topic seems to be progressively devolving into nitpicky, almost juvenile squabbling. when that happens, you have to wonder: what are people really angry about?

if you can agree that marriage is, essentially, a familial contract, it's obvious that these contracts provide very specific bureaucratic privileges which can also tie into a certain amount of class privilege*.

contracts aren't about gender or religion, they're simply contracts, right? so any two consenting adults should have the right to enter into said contract.

to be fair, everyone--heterosexual or otherwise--involved in these contracts should be calling them civil unions. 'cause that's what they are.

let's not forget that the church doesn't marry you. the preacherman's (or woman) power is invested by the state, even if you don't have the marriage ceremony at the courthouse.

i have not heard one person argue that churches/spiritual orgs should change their practices, and if i did, i would call him/her an idiot. from a religious standpoint, marriage can most certainly be defined as a covenant between a man and a woman. i may not agree with you, but we can coexist. that's cool.

can you see how, when you start sifting through the messy details, marriage begins to emerge as something else entirely?

in my humble opinion, it is beginning to seem that the institution of marriage defined as a heterosexual relationship between one man and one woman may be one of the last tangible vestiges of the "america is and always has been a christian nation" myth.

when many of these state constitutions and statutes were being written, the myth was accepted as fact by the rich, white, (presumably) heterosexual males who wrote them.

furthermore, there are many people in the mainstream culture (which is already feeling threatened) who cannot abide the debunking of this myth.

maybe, on a very visceral level, folks are mad because the collective consciousness that does not subscribe to the western european, patriarchal context will not go away. understandably, those who are fully invested in that context--by birth or acculturation--are fighting to hold it up in all its oppressive, abusive, insanity-creating glory.

listen. many sane people have been trying to break this to you for years, but apparently it still has not sunken in. let me reiterate:

while the first europeans to step on what is now called american soil may have been fundamentalist protestants and catholics, many of the colored people who were subdued, captured and otherwise oppressed by those "founders" lied to you. they feigned adoption of your god in order to ensure their survival.

the indigenous people of this land were not christian.

the west africans who came over on the slave ships were not christian. it took generations--in the colonies as well as in the caribbean--to even nominally stamp out the memory of those traditions, and they were still never fully eradicated.

and so on.

to you, the great melting pot is a proud accomplishment. to many of us "others", it is a euphemism for cultural erasure.

as wade davis said, "other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. they are unique manifestations of the human spirit." i would venture that that statement applies to human sexuality as well.

again i ask: what are we really arguing about?

*marriage, for many upper and middle class folks (or those aspiring to the middle/upper class) equals legitimacy. our society further acknowledges the legitimacy of this contract with all the benefits mentioned above. simply put, married people are special. if you make them less special in any way--since us little folks in a big, capitalist world so rarely come to understand our true worth beyond these kinds of benefits--it's a threat. see how that works? part of how they distract us & turn us against one another...



hello again...

i saw you today,
but you didn't see me.

it's just as well...

knowing this is an affair of the aura
doesn't ease the ache in my chest
or kill the inclination to bury my face in your neck
and go wherever you're going.

to some part of me,
you are walking honey,
a living offering;

i want you
for my altar
to keep the spirits close.

...your smile can do that, you know.

but that wouldn't be fair,
would it?


required reading

read this.

it's less than 30 pages.


just go and read this, right now.

then allow yourself to at least think about what it says.

you can thank me later.



i'm thinking of something.

it's going to require me to dig. really, really dig.

i know i'm being vague, but it's not quite time for details yet.

i log these things here because it gives me a benchmark & allows me to recall when a notion crystallized.

so...it's coming.

an open letter to president obama

president obama,

first, please allow me to congratulate you. your victory has ennobled and inspired more people--both here and around the world--than you can know.

that said, i am writing to express my respectful disagreement with your decision to not release photographs of potential victims of abuse in iraq.

unlike mr. wise, i hesitate to call the release "needless" and, far from agreeing with your decision, feel the need to challenge it.

war, by definition, is an unsafe practice. the only thing that would make our troops and iraqi civilians safe(r) is if they were not fighting a war. the attitudes of mr. wise and others who would agree with him put american lives above iraqi lives, giving both sides the potential to mistake highly visible minorities (our worst soldiers, their fundamentalist militants) for representatives of entire nations full of diverse people, opinions, and beliefs.

mr. president, if we are not fighting dirty, we have nothing to hide. if we are, then the people have a right to know what these soldiers feel they need to do--or are being ordered or pressured to do--in order to "win". as a student of history, i'm sure you know that abu ghraibs are rarely isolated incidents in wartime, they are simply the ones that give the others a name.

we cannot uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness within our own borders, then go abroad and behave in a manner diametrically opposed to that principle.

i'm also not sure who told mr. wise that we had a "bond of trust" with the iraqi people. in more isolated areas where fighting has been rare, that may have been and still might be true. but i've listened to enough independent news sources to know that many iraqis have been wary of us from the beginning, and whatever trust we engendered was eroded when we began to act as any other occupying nation would.

the war itself has given propagandists all they need to demonize america. if a set of pictures that will likely come out anyway could be a tipping point--both here and abroad--then we need to examine why we're doing what we're doing, and what our actions say about the discrepancy between this nation's ideals and its reality. whenever we engage in war, the people should be fully informed of the cost of that war, especially when the peculiar grace of geography and technology do not allow us to observe it up close.

you have already shown far more tact and intelligence than your predecessor; for that, i and many others are grateful. indeed, your outspokenness about the prison at guantanamo bay is laudable. but this war was a mistake from the beginning, and many people knew it. it is time to stop the lies and the obfuscation of the truth, admit our mistakes, and do whatever we can to bring our troops home.

once again, thank you, mr. president, for all you are doing. in the future i hope that i will be able to silently praise and commend your efforts far more often than i am urged to be demonstratively disappointed by them.



p.s. - i am the daughter of a vietnam vet who is still dealing with many of the physical and emotional consequences of that war. my grandfather passed on still bearing scars from his time in the second world war. i sincerely hope that mr. wise and anyone else who claims to be on the side of military families does not simply follow orders as they're given, but also seeks to repair the very broken VA system, reduce the number of military suicides, and work for peace to keep our troops from unnecessary harm.


thought of the morning...

lately my dreams center around being very vocal and standing up for myself, particularly in situations where i would normally remove myself instead of making waves.

i seem to be forming stronger opinions as well. i wouldn't say rigidity is setting in, but there is a sense that i have developed a good footing around the reasons i think and feel the ways i do, and i am less willing to bend and compromise to fit into a world that seems increasingly dysfunctional--or, at best, resistant to evolution.


you can take the people outta africa... (part 4: the reasoning)

(in case you missed it: part 1, part 2, part 3)

this project is not meant to be insulting or flippant about the charismatic black church, but to encourage understanding and highlight a deeply rooted connection.

as erykah said, when we were brought here, we had to change some things. part of that was behaving as if we worshiped the white gods when we didn't. however, as with most forced acculturation, some folks wound up completely rejecting the old ways.

that doesn't change the fact that "catching the spirit" or being "filled with the ghost" is intimately related to traditional african expressions of spirituality and spirit contact.

over 10,000 years of wisdom and culture could not be erased in a few centuries, and it is still resisting erasure. this is in our blood, and it doesn't go away simply because we get baptized in the name of yeshua instead of having a lave tet.

finally, i hope that my christian brothers and sisters begin to do some serious, in-depth research and come to understand the truth of what is being honored and called upon before dismissively referring to traditional spirituality as "devilish" or demonic.

as far as i'm concerned, the most demonic thing someone can do is convince you to deny the gifts of your ancestry when you see the proof every time you look in the mirror.


to paraphrase some of my older family members:

this is some white folks' shit.

how do we know? well...the ifa oracle is a binary system. african fractals were purposefully used before any white man knew what to call them. tales about the serpent and the rainbow weren't just pretty stories, they helped explain dna.

physicists ain't tellin us shit we didn't already know.

too much reason can blind you...


you can take the people outta africa... (part 3)

laying hands
more twirling/shouting
folks laid out on the floor...

and in case you need a comparison:

'nuff said.

the dropout

i'm not a michael baisden fan, but i happened to tune in yesterday evening and he was talking about the astronomical drop out rate of black students.

in baltimore, there's a general feeling that one of the best things about reaching the age of 16 is that the truant officers can't make you go to school anymore.

so what's happening here?

many folks who can remember segregation and the civil rights era are quick to frame this as "laziness" or "ingratitude", but i reject that analysis.

for generations, high school was enough. you could graduate, get a good factory or government job, and go from there. the bottom fell out with the exodus of industry, but many folks' mentalities stayed the same.*

and there are other factors. the first crack babies are reaching their 20s**. for some, teen pregnancy is in its 2nd or 3rd generation--meaning mothers in their teens, grandmothers in their 30s and great grandmothers in their 40s-50s. granny and big mama's wisdom has succumbed to stroke, breast cancer, diabetes and stress. many of us do not have the access to our histories--familial and cultural--that our elders did.

other cultural institutions have eroded, too. the activist preachers of 30 plus years ago have given way to today's megachurch pimpin' preachers. not that we didn't have them in the pulpit long before now, but pushing for the revolution--in spirit and/or deed--is the exception, not the rule.

black children today are immersed in a culture of apathy, disconnected from themselves, their families (due to stressful work schedules, financial hardship...) and their spirits.

they see the real world early and up close. abstract notions of what will be "good for them later" do not make sense; they know tomorrow isn't promised.

they know education is not a guaranteed way out because they see their mothers and fathers struggling to hold on to the jobs their college degrees guaranteed them 20 years ago. they may not know the name horatio alger, but they know his stories are lies.

they know college is a far off dream, even for some of the best and brightest of them. for those that do get that far, retention is an issue.

to keep these kids in school, a few things will probably have to happen:

  • real world relevance. it might be time to do away with textbooks as much as humanly possible. use real world situations. discover teachable moments in their neighborhoods, with people who look like them--and get them out of those neighborhoods, too. highlight various careers and map clear, concrete strategies on how to achieve those goals--from artistic endeavors to engineering and computer science.

  • emphasize financial literacy/economics. urban kids are well aware of how money works and how the lack of it affects them. there is plenty of business acumen in the 'hood. tap into it. every elementary school should have that project where they get interest-bearing checking accounts and balance their checkbooks. teach them about credit cards so they're not bamboozled when they get to college and see all those fancy giveaway tables. use articles like this and this to explode myths about money in the entertainment/sporting industries.

  • community schools. if you're saying, "this is the parents' job...", consider this: the u.s. runs on a system whereby only the most privileged of parents can take time out from their job(s) to fully raise their children in the ways that would mold them into the productive citizens everyone claims to want***, and they hire nannies and boarding schools to do it for them. so, we can either (a) have all childbearing stop immediately except in, say, the top earning 10-15% of households, (b) give parents liberal family leave and adequate vacation/sick time, or (c) put it in the schools. readily available social workers, psychologists/psychiatrists, community leaders, and (multi)culturally competent teachers are essential. thankfully, these schools are popping up everywhere--and they include help and resources for parents.
not that i know shit. but, as a 31 year old raised by parents nearly 30 years older, i understand the sacrifices they and others made while also sympathizing with the struggles of my peers and those who are teenagers now.

we were not lazy or ungrateful, and neither are these kids. they probably just don't see how school makes sense. in the midst of a crumbling economy, skyrocketing debt, and mind-numbing, cube farm jobs that are killing their parents, i can't say i blame them.

the old school lines don't hold weight. it's time for a new paradigm.

*although you can argue the differences between the values of bourgeois black folks and their unsophisticated country (or urban hoodlum) cousins.

**admittedly, there are some nature/nurture issues here, but talk to any black teacher in an urban school and they'll tell you the signs. in addition, lead poisoning and other environmental racism issues that disproportionately affect blk folks and other poor people of color can also lead to educational difficulties.

***while ignoring this and this plus all the labor it takes to run both. that's not coming outta harvard. it's coming out of the streets.


what he said.

gay marriage & the black community

addendum: it got QUITE krunk in the comments section, and i started talking to someone who went so far off base i think s/he left the ballpark. don't you just love when people start responding to you on a message board and act like they know your whole life story/ideology/thought process? ay yi yi.

this is why, often, i just write my own blog about something i see on the interwebs and leave the commenting to the flame warriors.


for the kids...

although there are times when i think about motherhood and wonder if i'll have children, i also realize that i do not have a driving desire to be a mother*.

it seems that many women realize that desire relatively early on. i enjoyed my baby dolls like any other girl, but i liked dressing them up and sitting them on a shelf just as much as i liked combing their hair and carrying them around. my true companion was a stuffed dog named ralphie--probably a nod to my early attachment and exposure to animals.

the toys i played with most were boys' action figures, other stuffed animals and legos. i had one good barbie doll and a couple of auxiliary ones. loved my atari, lite brite** and easy bake oven.

when i think about what i wrote in my diaries--which i started keeping in about 2nd or 3rd grade--i wanted a boyfriend, but not necessarily babies. again, like a lot of other girls, i named my daughters (it was always a daughter...i almost never thought of sons...) aloud, but on the pages, i wondered about what i was going to do with my life, tried to make sense of the world.

maybe that's why i took to barbie more so than the babies--i wanted to be grown up like her, be on my own and drive a car.

these days i'm almost grateful that i don't feel driven to motherhood. given some conversations i've (over)heard/had and even some of my own mother's comments, i sometimes wonder if that drive causes some women overlook a lot of bullshit.

if i see the bullshit, i don't wanna procreate.

on the other hand, we all come here to learn lessons and to evolve, and parenting/partnering are perfectly valid ways to do both.

to each her own.

*i do have strong maternal instincts, however, i've always been guided by instinct and intuition, so limiting those feelings to maternity alone is misleading. i also realize that my socialization focused mainly on culture and identity rather than strict gender roles, which probably allowed me to name/claim those feelings in various ways.

**used the wikipedia entry instead of hasbro.com 'cause of the old school photo. my lite brite looked like that. i don't really dig the new ones.


south bronx / the south south bronx

cocoa bread sweet, quick tongued jamerican boy with pretty brown skin and soft, black locs...

you met us through a mutual friend, and soon you were hanging out in our dorm rooms and buying us liquor before we could get it ourselves. we invaded your off campus apartment, giggling and tipsy from cheap vodka and hours of dancing.

you asked me to twist your hair when you couldn't get home to your sister. when i said i didn't know how, you told me the skill was in my blood. you leaned back between my knees as i dipped my fingers into the sticky beeswax and spread it over your new growth.

you were right after all...

we always flirted, cuddled and played, making everyone wonder. it took some time before we actually tried each other out--you had friends and i had friends...

but, one night when i was alone and feeling a little less than innocent, i got you to skip a friend's housewarming to keep me company. the rest was history.

we made a pact to never let our play get in the way of our friendship. and it didn't.

i remember your mary jane and tea in the mornings and that pretty mouth at night. when he broke my heart, you took me in and held me through my tears.

after we were all done with school, you came for a visit...then i never heard from you again. by then, my locs were just past my shoulders, yours nearly to your waist.

years later my mother found the picture of us you took for your photography class: you with much shorter hair, me with much straighter hair. you sitting straight up on the sofa, me reclined against your chest. our arms intertwined, complexion contrast enhanced by the black and white film.

it sits in my living room still.

(SW: if by any chance you read this, please get in touch...i pray you're well & think of you often. hope you got the hell outta boston. i miss you & our friendship.)

(addendum, 2.2011 - found him. *smile*. happily married with 2 cute kids.)


mister music

our first date was like a dream: dessert, a long walk in a hidden park. we literally talked all night, then made love at sunrise.

there were also stolen kisses between sets. the shutters in your apartment that struggled to hold back the sun. pomegranates on christmas eve.

at your place, the night usually started and ended with music. i learned the arts of the perfectly soulful lullaby and wake up call. it was fun browsing your stacked milk crates--laughing at the kitschy samples and marveling at the classics.

there was a warmth between us, but we never fell in love. never got around to commitment, arguments, misunderstandings.

but you kept on playing me records. maybe that was your way of remembering...


interesting stuff...

flu satire

there are comets older than the sun.

this is why i always think that stories like lord of the rings have a bit of truth to them. theoretically, all kinds of people, societies and animals could have existed that we can only understand as "fantasy"...