Pause for the Cause

Too weary to holla or throw up both my hands... thoughts on #Ferguson

A selfie of Mike Brown with his little sister...
It's just... enough. I'm weary and tired of of news, protests and debates about dead people of color. People dead before their time through no fault of their own. People who unfortunately encountered the wrong person at the wrong time. Unarmed children killed by ignorance and fear. Yes, I'm outraged and upset and frustrated and low-key helpless in the face of all the bigoted rhetoric but I can't do it everyday. I can't stay whipped up about the inequities and social injustices of the world all day everyday, it's exhausting.

The picture makes my soul ache. More depressing is the fact that whoever made the Black Lives Matter sign could have attached pages and pages and not listed all the applicable names.

Instead of running through all the epic shiggity that has gone down since Mike Brown was left to die in the street; I'll just summarize my thoughts:
  1. Everything that happened from the moment Darren Wilson shot that child six times to the police rport coming out has been bullshiggity and a complete subversion of the legal process. 
  2. I don't appreciate celebrities who had nothing to say or offer before the funeral showing up for the photo op
  3. Very few journalists are telling this story with a 360 degree view. It's frustrating.
  4. Once again, Black Twitter had to drag the country's attention towards real news. It was three days of images looking like 1980 Beirut and two mainstream journalists getting beat upside the head in McDonald's for news outlets to catch up. 
  5. Some dude put up a picture of Darren Wilson and a picture of George Zimmerman side by side with the hashtag #myheroes. Really?
  6. President Obama is not a Magic Negreaux. His ascension to the Presidency didn't cure racism or sent us into a color-blind utopia where bad shiggity never happens. Once more for the cheap seats... post-racism is a lie.
  7. President Obama has to be POTUS for 317 MILLION people. If he goes to one funeral for tragically killed black boy, he'd have to go to them all and never have time to do any other damn thing.
  8. Is the man, Obeezy, not deserving of a damn vacation? I mean look at him:
Weary on the journey
His face mirrors my thoughts exactly - Lord, what now? This is why I was so happy to chirp about Bey's performance at the VMA's and who wore what to the Emmy's and how long until Scandal comes back on. Because I need an escape from the reality that is race relations in America in 2014. Which is looking a lot like race relations in America in 1964. 
It's not that I don't care or that I'm not passionate about activism. It's that I can't carry it everyday. Not if I want to maintain any sort of positive outlook on the future of this nation. And by future, I just mean next week. I certainly can't look beyond that with any kind of clarity. But I'm here for those of you front-lining the struggle. I'm good to publicize an issue and write a check. Armchair activism is my wheelhouse. Let me wrap with this pic:

Can I get a witness? Thoughts, comments, insights? Do share...

Memories of Madiba

I've read some deep and moving tributes to Nelson Mandela, I've read irreverent and misguided thoughts, I've read some articles that attempted to be profound (and missed) and some that attempted to be witty (and failed). Short, long, wise, pithy, awed, anguished, simple... every expression on Nelson and what he meant to the world is available for the reading and dissection.

I haven't said a lot because it's fairly impossible to eulogize a man that became a movement, whose name is so etched into most of our social consciousness that even trying to whittle thoughts into a few paragraphs seemed ill-advised.

So instead, I'd thought I'd open the floor and let you all share your thoughts and feelings on the life and legacy of Madiba. I'll share one of mine: I was in my sophomore year of college at University of Texas when I felt compelled to join the Black Student Alliannce's March Against Apartheid. This was huge for me. I was not (and am not) a marcher. I'm a write-an-article-about-it and-send-a-check-for-the-cause kind of activist. I'll dial phones and organize but actually marching through the streets in Texas heat? Not my thing.

But apartheid ticked me off. And the way some folks on campus acted like it had nothing to do with America ticked me off even more. So I put on my one semi-militant outfit (a t-shirt with a Kente cloth X in the middle, denim walking shorts and black high-top Reeboks) and went to be about my march. I wasn't ready. I sat through the 45-minute presentation explaining what was going on in South Africa and with Mandela and found myself moved beyond anger into urgency. What could we do to make a difference right now? Well... we could put on the "Free Nelson Mandela" song and march across UT's campus up the avenue to the state capitol and raise a ruckus.

Which is exactly what we did. And because you know how we do, we had fists raised and marched in time to the beat with a whole lot of youthful exuberance. Some of the melanin-challenged students did not approve and the heckling and skirmishes began. Campus police kind of stood around confused, city police wanted none so the Highway Patrol escorted us on our way. It was a long hot day where a lot people made a lot of impassioned speeches. At the end of the day, everything was exactly as it was that morning politically. But I was different. I started opening up my eyes to things outside my bubble. I listened to different music (read as I discovered Chuck D), I watched different movies, I explored lots of different books. I became a little less MLK and a little more Malcolm X in thought if not in deed.

I began to believe less in luck and more in a combination of preparedness, timing and perseverance as keys to success. A belief solidified when Mandela was freed in 1990 and then ascended to the Presidency of the country that had imprisoned him.

That's my Mandela legacy: A hot Texas afternoon where I sweated out my perm and chanted myself hoarse; walked home on aching feet with listless spirit but got up the next day determined to learn about the world I lived in and make some sort of contribution, for better or worse. So thank you, Madiba for what you meant to me and the world at large. Take your rest.

Feel free to share your memories, thoughts, and comments below...

A thread of hope pulled from a blanket of despair - My thoughts on Trayvon Martin

It's taken me a few days to write this post. I just had too much anger and sadness to be rational about the travesty that was the Zimmerman trial. My outrage over what was done to that boy not just the night he died but during and after the trial had my blood on full boil. The post trial interviews, the coverage, the marches... just too much. In the aftermath, I see a whole lot of talk (way too much analysis) and calls for action. To be honest, it's left me weary. Weary to the point of near depression. It got to the point where I didn't want to hear about it, read about it or speak on it. Everybody has an opinion and none of those opinions bring Trayvon back or put his killer behind bars. And we are worlds away from any dream of this never happening again.

So often in this country justice is deferred or denied for people of color. I don't need the stats to show me how often black males are profiled or how the "stand your ground" defense only works for some folks and not others. I don't need charts or graphs to tell me how racism never went anywhere (who thought it died?). I don't need pundits to try and put monetary values on a white life vs. a black life. I don't need to see average life expectancy charts across races, socio-economic indicators or gender. I don't need to see all that to understand that the scales of justice remain tragically imbalanced in this country and that there is a widespread conspiracy to keep it just so. 

I recall working at a large company in my late 20s. They made film and the name rhymed with Lojack O__o... I recall being at a retreat with all white executives and having one of them turn to me and say, "Whose mistress are you or are you housekeeping?" Yeah. Degreed. Raised by two professionals. Speaking the Queen's English as it was meant to be spoken. Better dressed than everyone in the room. But I'm black so I'm either there to clean or do somebody. Ni-ice. So no, I don't need any studies to tell me that "people" have not "progressed" as far as we hoped with the post-racial colorblindness and whatnot.

I just need to pick my head up and keep on keeping on. But Lord knows it's hard to keep on keeping on when it seems that for every small step forward, we're knocked ten steps backward. The molehill becomes a mountain and we're denied the tools to climb. When we get the tools to climb, someone is there each step of the way to try and kick us back down. And God help you if you do reach that mountaintop. The multitudes cannot wait to snatch you down. To straight out steal from the late great Marvin Gaye, it makes me wanna holla throw up both my hands. 

Idealistically, I truly believed that a case where a twenty-something man stalked and killed an unarmed teenager was an open and shut deal. NO equivocations, go straight to jail, do not pass go. The fact that we live in a country where this simplistic and savage a murder goes unchastened by the law makes me physically ill. I was a law student until I realized my talents lay elsewhere. But I loved the intricacies of the judicial system and the complexity of government and the ability to have both black and white and shades of grey within a single statute.  Over the years, a lot of that love has been eroded by cynicism as I've watched corrupt, conniving and downright morally bankrupt people subvert the law to suit their agendas. 

My struggle with this verdict resides in an emotional place within me. What do I tell my nieces and nephews about what it means to be black in this country? How do I hold onto what optimism I have left about the future? I'm an armchair activist. I will smile and dial for a candidate I believe in until my fingers bleed and my voice gives out. I will write checks until my bank account screams for mercy. I will lecture all my social media friends, followers, passersby (God Bless ya'll) about voting and doing the right thing even after many of you have begged me not to post about politics anymore. But how am I supposed to motivate myself to fight the good fight when it all appears for naught?

The answer came to me after stumbling across this:

This gave me such joy. Not everyone is the enemy. Not everyone is a bigoted idiot settled so far to the left or right that they can no longer see the middle. And the only way to make a difference is to reach more people and form a majority. If I don't tell the babies that their future is whatever they want it to be, who will? Hope and optimism may seem naive but without them, where are we? I chose to focus on the break in the clouds rather than the torrential rain surrounding it. I don't know what I'll do to assist the "let's not let this happen again" movements that are springing up by the hour. But whatever I do, I'll do it because it needs to be done. And giving up never solved a damn thing.

Thanks for listening, BougieLand.

My thoughts on guns, mental illness and "random" violence

I've tried to write a post about guns, about mental illness,  about "random" acts of violence a few times before. I put "random" in quotes because we almost always find out later that the act was not random at all. There are generally some precursors to someone acting out in that extreme manner. But anyway... I've tried to write a post of this type many times but I don't want to sound preachy or take one side or the other. Plus you can get very bogged down with politics and statistics. Instead, I'll just share some thoughts.

This may not be popular but here it is... I don't like guns. I never have. Not for me anyway. Coming from Texas, this is tantamount to not loving Jesus or football or barbecue. Jesus, football and bbq I am all very fond of, guns - not so much. Part of it was that I was never around them growing up. My father was a police officer in Guyana before he immigrated to the States and became a doctor. He owned one shotgun that he kept in the closet of his office and we weren't allowed to open the door... ever.

It's also tee-hee funny that I'm not a gun person knowing just how many law enforcement folks I've dated over the years. It's all romantic until you wake up at three in the morning and realize there's a gun under your pillow, two on the nightstand and another over the headboard. Why? Are we expecting a SWAT assault over bacon and eggs? Eek!

But I get the deal about guns. Folks have the right to arm and protect themselves. My problem is that anybody can have one. (License, shmicense - a-n-y body can have one) When I was in Florida over Thanksgiving I was astounded at the number of gun stores there. Again, coming from Texas for me to say Florida has a lot of gun stores - that's saying something. Not just gun stores, I mean we rolled past a one-stop shop where you could get a 2-piece chicken dinner, a case of Scotch and an assault rifle - and you only had to show ID to get the case of scotch -  does that seem like a good idea to anybody?

I guess I don't see the need for an average citizen to own an AK-47 or whatever the latest hot automatic killing machine is. No one is hunting elk with 50 rounds a minute. And what does an average Joe or Jane need a .50 caliber weapon for? Really? On the other hand, I have no problem with military folks, bodyguards, and law enforcement carrying. Or rational, level headed people owning a reasonable gun to protect themselves. Or sports enthusiasts owning a hunting rifle to bag a deer or whatever. Especially if those gun owners have registered the weapons and keep them out of the reach of children and fools. Is this truly being regulated? Again, I don't know. Is it for me to say that someone shouldn't have an arsenal in their basement?

As to the meme that guns don't kill people, people kill people. I agree and I disagree. I absolutely think if someone is determined to kill you and/or themselves - they are going to find a way to do it, guns or no guns. But I also think if someone is in the heat of the moment and has a gun, a situation that might have been easily diffused suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

The other day on Fox News (I know, I know, consider the source), Dana Perino (Former Bush WH Press Secretary) was having a discussion with her cohorts abbout domestic violence. They seemed to feel the answer for women being assaulted was for them to arm themselves. Or just pick better men to date... O__o

When are we going to have a real discussion about mental health in this country? We throw the term "crazy" around easily but is it fair to say the ease to procure a weapon allows mentally unbalanced people a way to act on their instability? I don't know, I'm asking. Can "random" acts of violence be prohibited by restricting access to weapons? Is a more stringent look at mental health necessary not only in the country but within the black community?

I'm just throwing out thoughts as they occur to me, I'm interested to hear yours. Do we need tighter, stricter control on guns? Should we have as much focus on mental health as we do on overall wellness? What's it going to take (or is it even possible) to stop mass shootings? Do you own guns (you don't have to self-declare if you don't want to)? Are you okay with them around the house? Do share....

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As we've done for the past three (four?) years here in BougieLand, we're going Pink for the Cure. BougieMom is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Early detection, aggressive treatment and consistent follow-up are the recommendations to beat this disease until someone can find a cure. Here's a great article on What to Know About Getting a Mammogram

The stats from 2011 remained startling:
• In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women, as well as an estimated 57,650 additional cases of in situ breast cancer.
• In 2011, approximately 39,520 women are expected to die from breast cancer. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
• In 2011, about 2,140 cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among men, accounting for about 1% of all breast cancers. In addition, approximately 450 men will die from breast cancer.
I'm still kind of side-eyeing Susan G. Komen so this year, I'll ask that if  you can - please donate to the American Cancer Society. or buy something cute. My latest obsessions are the items from Ford's Warriors in Pink campaign and a nice lady I met at an artist's fair here in Dallas has some cute bracelets as well where a percentage of the proceeds goes towards cancer research. So long story short, get educated, get involved and lend support. 

Where were you on 9/11/01?

I've told the not so interesting tale of where I was on 9/11. I was living in Marina del Rey. For some reason, I woke up early and turned on the news. As I was drifting back to sleep, I remember thinking that it was odd that they were filming a sequel to Independence Day and it was on the news. And then I woke up. And wished it was all a dream.

My sister was stranded in Atlanta, one of my friends from high school had to be located in DC and another friend who was a frequent traveler took six hours to check in. Thankfully, no one I knew was endangered. Thoughts and prayers out to the souls lost and those that loved them on this somber day.

Where were you on 9/11? Any memories you care to share?