Kinder, Gentler Officer

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Being a police officer in a city like Detroit is challenging. I know it is from what I see on the TV, what I hear when it comes to the hours worked and the less than great pay. To be an officer has to be a calling. One that I am glad that there are people hearing and responding to that call. So I am gong to share this story with you knowing that I appreciate the police force and don’t take what they do everyday for granted by any means.

So the story starts like this. I was at the post office, dropping off eight boxes full of books. I knew this was going to be a challenging drop off, but it had to be done. First thing I did was find parking close to the building. Well, unfortunately, the parking meters near the building were busted, so I parked in the free lot which made my walk to the door of the post office, a lot further and a lot more difficult to do.  I went into the post office and asked if they had a dolly I could use to bring in the boxes. They said yes and for about 5 seconds I thought this would make this experience a little easier. The dolly…the dolly was on its last leg and I could not get it to work for me at all.

What can I do? At this rate I will be at the post office for ever. I made a decision to move my car from the parking lot back to the busted parking meter and just take the boxes from my car to the post office one at a time or two at a time.

While I was taking the boxes out, an officer drove by me and stopped. She stopped and saw me fiddling with boxes, saw the busted dolly and asked, “Why are you parked here?” I told her that I have several boxes and unfortunately the dolly I have was busted and so it the parking meter. I just need to get all these boxes into the post office and I… Before I could finish my explanation she told me, you got to move your car. Even though she saw me with boxes on the sidewalk and saw me struggling, what she focused on was that I was parked at a busted parking meter and that I had to move.  I was pissed and didn’t try to hide it. That was a bad use of power and I don’t think that was officer like in any way shape of form.

How could an officer see someone struggling and make my life more difficult? I’ve never been in trouble with the law and never really dealt with officers in  this way, but that kind of customer service made me less caring of what officers have to go through. I know that in most cases officers are dealing with idiots and with bad people, but that is not the case all the time and I think that this one officer should have really looked at the situation before she open her mouth and barked an order that really made a citizen feel more degraded than helped.

I won’t have a lot of interaction with cops, but they shouldn’t be like this when I do. There are other people like me who will probably have less than 5 interactions with cops in their lifetime and they should not have this kind of experience in their head when they think of a Detroit officer.

I think that the new chief of police is doing work to help support officers and help provide better service to the city of Detroit. This incident made me angry and for a while I will see cops through this one experience. For people to change how they feel about officers, incidents like this have to stop. Period.

 

I Actually Like the Cold

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This picture is my neighborhood after a day of snow and a day of salt trucks coming through. There is a beauty that comes with cold weather and living in cold climate. When I was outside on this particular winter day, I heard nothing but my own footsteps in the slush. No cars, not animals, no birds. Just me taking out the trash. Silence. I stopped and took this picture, hoping that it could capture what I was experiencing.  I do not know how to explain the feeling your skin gets when it is touched by the cold winds. Or the life or death moment when you first step out into very cold weather and your body struggles to breathe. That moment is like a rebirth and for that moment you really do feel very much alive.

Holiday Thoughts and Memories

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I think that a lot of people love the holiday season rather it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or Ramadan. The reason is simple. These are times that we allow ourselves to stop and really reflect spiritually and it is a time that we get to give and be with our families. We allow ourselves to focus on what is really important in life.

The other day, I took a couple of my nieces to Leo’s Coney Island in Dearborn. We were doing some final shopping and stopped to eat and fuel up. My oldest niece said, I love the holidays, but it seems to come faster and faster every year. “I responded with “That is the joke of the universe. Time does seem to speed up the older you get.” Her response to my response was sipping her water from her cup.

Though time really does seem to speed up as we mature, it is the holidays that defy this law. In the next weeks, I will enjoy spending some extra time with the nieces, nephews and friends. I will not have to sit in front of my computer to work or create on anyone’s timeline but my own. I will call friends in other states. I will sit and watch TV for hours! I will pray and talk to God a little more; asking for guidance and strength to live fully. I will tell jokes with my siblings and laugh my arse off.

I hope you take this holiday season to do some of the same. Happy Holidays to my friends and family; to my hometown of Detroit, to my Houstonians and my Brooklynites. Happy Holidays to all.

Getting in Tuned With My Blackness

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Mandela will be laid to rest this weekend. He has touched so many people and have been a person that has sparked enlightenment in a way that I thought could not happen in this superficial society.

I was fifteen (15) when Mandela was released from prison. I was 13 when I learned about Apartheid. I understood about prejudice and racism, but Mandela and Apartheid made me realize that injustice was happening, not only in America, but all around the world.

I loved to read. I was finding more literature from African Americans and on African American History and devouring it at this time in my life.  Mandela made me expand my learning, back to the motherland of Africa and to its literary writers and stories.   From Chiua Achebe to Learning about the Harlem Renaissance was probably the first root that began to ground me in my own blackness. Mandela was another. Mandela made me proud to be black. Black was just something. It was something that made me strong, but my understanding of it was small.

Mandela made me proud to be black, but it was learning about him that made me strive more to be a  great human being. His story of imprisonment takes me to scripture. Going into a physical prison for him was the beginning of a spiritual journey.

Seeing how love, removal of hate and forgiveness changed a country in, really, a small amount of time, made me a believer, that love can conquer all.

The world will miss Mandela and I hope that we will have more Mandelas come into our world making it full of more love and more positive change.

Maybe So, Maybe Not. We’ll see.

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I am happy about my life and how things are going. Soon, I will be starting a new adventure. My friends are happy fore me and constantly ask me, “Aren’t you excited?” In most cases, I tell them, “I am glad for the opportunity.” Excited? Not really. It takes a lot to excite me. Not because I am an emotionless person, but because somehow I have learned to accept the good and bad situations in my life on the same level. What I mean is that good and bad are important to making my life what it is. Excitement to the good experiences kinds seems to make the bad ones less important. I know this is a weird thought, but it is one I’ve been faced with that past months.

I was reminded of this fable – I think it is a Chinese fable about a farmer and his horse.

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

This fable reminds me that good and bad goes hand and hand and I really need to accept it all and learn from it all and appreciate it all.

Quietly Creating

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I am developing a series of graffiti-esque paintings. I’ve been working on them for the past month. It is a little different from my “Colorful Women” series, but you know, you have to walk away from things to get a different perspective on them. I think this new series is giving me a little breathing space from Colorful Women so I can go back to it with more passion. I have one more painting of the series to complete and then, I hope to share them.

At this point in my career as a painter, I have shown my art in a few shows but I have not sold anything. Why? I think I shared this before, but painting, for most of my artistic life has been a therapeutic process. Something that helped me get to know myself a little better. It wasn’t until late 2011 that I wanted to make it more of a career.  My friends are always asking why I don’t show my art more and sell my art. I think they contribute my lack of selling to my lack of confidence in my work.  It is simpler than that. The reason I don’t sell my art is I did not want to sell. I want to create.

I think that sometimes you have to go into the woodshed and create, separating yourself from “selling and showing and promoting.” That is where I am and it is where I have been for a couple of years. And it is okay. It is amazing to think of nothing but creating.  I want to assure my friends and family though…2014 is a year of selling, showing and promoting. I know who I am now and I am ready to put that on display.

I have enjoyed quietly creating in my studio and cannot wait for another round of this process. I thank the universe for these creative moments. I thank God for the creative skills and talents and to show my appreciation, its time to break the creative silence.

Shop Detroit this Holiday Season

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Today was a beautiful day in Detroit. It was Shop Detroit Day, a day where people consciously purchase from local stores and businesses and a day where businesses celebrate their local customer base. It is one of the best ways to support the Detroit economy and to support Metro-Detroit entreprenueres in keeping their dreams going.

This event has been going on for 10 years, thanks to Detroit Synergy Group, but this year was epic with partners such as D:hive, Detroit Mom and Pop Shop and American Express. From downtown, to Corktown, to Livernois District and Eastern Market, Detroiters painted the town black by putting their money back into their city.

I can proudly (and snobbishly) say I shop local everyday. Here is my list of some of my favorite local locations:

  • Happy to Be Nappy is my location to go to take care of my natural locks.
  • University Foods is one of my favorite grocery stores. Before Whole Foods, This store provided an eclectic variety of product to Detroit as well as the staples.
  • Djenne Beads & Arts is a import store that I purchase body oils, jewelry, and every now and then, clothing.
  • Cafe Con Leche is a local cafe with robust coffee and a great atmosphere.
  • Utrecht Art Supplies  is a national chain, but the staff there is very local  and experts that help my creative process more smooth.
  • John King’s Book is a rare book store that I find art history and art instruction books for a pretty good price.
  • Food Farm is a grocery store that is across the street from my parent’s home. I go there at least twice a week.
  • Milano’s Bakery has one of the best pastrami sandwiches ever.
  • Detroit Artist Market, Detroit Institute of Arts, MOCAD, Dabl’s Bead Museum and so many other art galleries are my home for inspiration
  • Union Street and 1917 American Bistro are like my go-to places for dining whenever I want a good meal or I am not sure what the heck I want.
  • Sam’s Corner Store. It is on the corner of Porter and Vinewood. I go there for little odds and ends.

This list could go on and on. What is important is that shopping in the city of Detroit allows me a unique experience I could not get anywhere else and gives me access to products and services that connect with my personality and my lifestyle.  I know that everyone cannot make everyday commitments to local shopping, but you can make a holiday commitment right?

If you are reading this and live in the Metro-Detroit area, make a promise to yourself and your community that this holiday season you will spend at least 20% of your holiday budget locally. This is doable right? And just think how great you will feel this holiday, shopping in Detroit.

Happy Shop Detroit Day and Happy Holiday Shopping.

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