Baggage

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Couple of things happened in the last few months. I've been going back and forth home a lot more and I had to make better decisions about what I wanted to pack and take with me. I needed to learn how to pack light. Some facts: the more you take, the more money you have to pay for your bags and really, it becomes a drag taking the bags back and forth. Packing light my last three trips have been a wonderful experience and because of it, I have gone through my clothes in my closet and began purging what I don't wear and won't ever wear. Getting rid of that weight has been awesome. My physical lightening as I travel got me thinking about life and places where too much baggage is causing some sadness.

Remember the song "Bag Lady" by Erykah Badu. Good grove but even deeper words. We all have baggage in our life. What we experience sometimes sticks to us and goes into the next experience. I guess in some ways some baggage can help you in the next experience, but too much baggage, just like Ms. Badu said, "One day all them bags gone get in your way."

I was talking to a friend who had recently married and I asked how married life was for her. She said that it was better than she ever expected. I had never heard that statement referring to marriage and it intrigued me. She said she picked right. I agreed. Then she said, "some of my friends think I picked right because I picked white."  She being a black woman marrying a white man, I get it. She didn't agree with the rhyme, but I have heard it before. I know that my friend married her husband because he is a good person. But there are many of us that make the decision to marry people who do not look like us, who are not black, because there are some beliefs out there that other races are better and by marrying into them, you are better. There are beliefs that life is better when you marry a white person. They  (white people) do not come with the baggage and bullshit of our own. But as I said at the beginning. We all have baggage. It just looks different and some of our baggage is heavier than others. In the case of race, black people have a lot of heavy baggage that makes some of us hate who we are and run away from who we are. It makes us dislike others like us because they remind us of the things we are trying to run from. It is easier to run than to face the hurt and pain and maybe even heal it through love. A black person marrying a white person does not change your blackness or the baggage. It just gives some of us the permission to ignore it. 

Real love is truly blind and when you love someone and decide you want to commit your life to them, color, culture, age, gender doesn't matter you know. But if you hold any of these beliefs that exclude you from loving because of some very warped thoughts. Let's drop those today. There are some amazing black women and men out here and if we do not see the beauty in our own, someone else will  :)

Race is one of many bags I see carried around.  I have a personal bag that I carry around that I need to either downsize or put down.  That baggage is loyalty. I am very loyal to my friends, my job, my family. That loyal bag has given me a wonderful reputation of being someone to count on and getting things done. I am consistent, I am dedicated and devoted. I do a lot for others.  Unfortunately, this bag has gotten way to heavy and I can't pull anything out of it that helps me.  Loyalty has put me in one-sided relationships, in jobs that I hate,  experiences that suck the life out of me. This bag has made me very unhappy for a long period of time.  The past couple of weeks I have been staring at this bag and deciding what to do and today, I think I have decided to keep it, but to use it for only my things for a while. I need to be loyal to my work, to my health and happiness. That may mean some people around me won't get things done, or get my help or have me to count on, but they will live.

The wonderful thing about any type of baggage is we have the choice of leaving it, making it smaller or carrying it. I am learning that Badu was right. In most cases, we will be most happy with our bags, when we "let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go."

The Parisian

Image found on Travel Noire:

This weekend was my fourth or fifth installment of my exhibition – Detroit:Door of Opportunity. This installment occurred at a place called ONE Mile Detroit, which is really not a place, but more like a project that in the words of the ONE Mile website "support the cultural production and socio-economic activity of Detroit’s epic North End neighborhood." One of the founders of this project is Jean Louis Farges. He is a Parisian that moved to Detroit and has taken a positive role in revitalizing it.  More details on Jean later. It is his philosophy that I want to share.  The gallery where I exhibited was once an old barbershop in this black community.  It has so many beautiful architectural and historical elements that were hidden by modern day drop ceilings and thoughts. Jean Louis and his team removed the modern facade to find the real beauty of this place and because of that, a place that was once abandoned and not used has been purchased. I do hope that the new owner is as faithful to preservation and history as ONE Mile is, but I digress. Jean Louis talked about how people here, in America, in Detroit even, are easy to throw away history and to preserve. In Paris, it is different. They preserve "everything". He even semi-joked about going to government to ask to replace a window in Paris.  It was fascinating to me. I spend a lot of time in Houston and this city doesn't preserve anything. The newer the better and as a Detroiter that lives around 300 old churches and cobble stoned streets, trees older than the dirt and who attended a school that is almost 200 years old, it is challenging for me to see Houstonians tear down the little bits of who they are so easily. I was fascinated with Jane Louis because how I feel about Houston lack of preservation is how he feels about Detroit. Amazing right. The older the city the more importance preservation becomes.

Paris has been on my list of places to go, but this observation has made it even more important. I do see Detroit's French connection everyday in our laissez-faire attitude and openness. Jean Louis just confirmed it and also confirmed that we can learn more from our Paris brotheren.  He shared that the gallery floor was wooden and it was beyond repair and beyond their budget to repair. They decided to put in a concrete floor. Yes, this is new to the building, but it did not take away from there true spirit and history of the location. This was a balance between the historical and the new. There is this balance that Detroit is working hard to keep which includes our history, our blackness, our openness, our diversity, our creativeness, our Parisian soul while bringing in new elements and people to compliment what is already here and what will stay. Jean made it okay in my heart to want the old and to keep the old while we infuse the new. He made it clear that we must preserve our history to preserve ourselves.  Old Detroit and New Detroit. listen well. I do not want Detroit to be a suburb full of stores and houses that look the same and what not. It is okay to feel like this and to work to make this happen.

Sleeping on the Ground

Photo provided by Liberty Community Services: http://libertycs.org/

I left work early. It was a very hard week of deadlines and a little counter-productive-ness and I was tired.  I've been walking home and taking the bus lately and it has allowed me to see even more of the world and to question some of it.  Riding on the bus, we came to a bus stop. I looked down to see people coming on the bus and a young man laying face down at stop. No shoes and no awareness of all the movement and activity that was going on around him.  It was 4 PM, in downtown Houston and there he was. I seen a lot when it comes to our homeless community, but this one just really stuck out. It felt like the awkwardness and strangeless of someone sitting in themiddle of the floor at  orchestra hall or walking naked in the grocery store.

A gentleman who was also looking at the same thing I was turn around and said to me, "I don't understand. There are so many other places, better places he could of chosen to sleep. In the middle of the ground at a bus stop? And how did he lose his shoes? I've been really drunk many and wound up in some strange places, but I never lost my shoes."

I listened to the man and I thought about all the other places this man could have slept like the parks, doorways of closed businesses or places of worship, if he is lucky, a shelter.  But to think how absolutely tired this young man had to be to sleep in this weird space. Not caring who saw him. It bothered me that the man on the bus with me assumed that the sleeping man was drunk. Drinking and drugs are real on the streets, but this man wasn't high or intoxicated. He was indeed tired. He was young too.  There is so much going on around us in other countries that we cannot ignore but there is so much here we have to stop ignoring too. Stop ignoring that homelessness and poverty in America is so real. We also need to realize how many of us are only half a check away from making the decision to live on the streets.

One last thing. Where I work, the homeless community gathers outside the door. It is a public facility so it happens. I see how people react to this scene. It is not a pleasent reaction. Part of that is fear. Some of us see ourselves in there place. Some of us are arrogant and think lowly of "those" people. We have to stop the judging and start helping and supporting.  I hope that this young man and others find real beds and real homes to lay their heads and that bus stops will never have to be on their list of locations to sleep.

Alcoholism

 

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Addiction runs in my family. It is something that I have seen but just recently accepted. Addiction is a disease that a large part of society tend to believe you can control and change just by deciding to change behavior. It is not that clear and simple.  It is about will power, but it is also about changing your lifestyle, getting support and at times medical attention. Out of all of these things, the first step is honesty that there is a problem and that the problem doesn't just belong to the one that has the disease, but it is a problem for family and friends and as family and friends, we must support (not hinder) and love as the person with the disease learns how to cope and live with it.

I wish that my family communicated more so that my generation and my siblings could have been on the look out for this disease and headed it off before it got out of hand. But that did not occur. We were told like most, do not drink and take drugs. We were told that both were bad and could kill you. But we should have been told that alcohol is a problem in the family and you should not touch it. We should have been told that addictions are a challenge.  That was important information that now rang true with me and my siblings. 

We try to help without judging and you try to support without getting frustrated when the same shit happens again and again. It's difficult. I know it has to be difficult for the one afflicted with this terrible disease too. They want to do better. At least in my experience. Yet it is a catch 22 when you drink and cause negative energy in your life that puts you in a deeper hole that causes you to feel like a shit again that causes you to drink…again. 

I think that outside of the genetics of this disease, there is also an emotional aspect, that, if controlled or healed, could help keep the genetic portion in check. I have a belief that the mind and soul are stronger than the body and through spiritual and emotional healing, this disease can be conquered. Any disease can be conquered. But who we are around and how they treat us in our illness can be the difference in conquering it and being conquered by it.

I want my siblings who have children to be honest with them and say, "do not do drugs or drink alcohol because the disease of addiction runs in our family and you have a larger potential in becoming a drug or alcohol addict than most. It will ruin your life."

For my loved ones who are afflicted with this, know that you are loved. Know that you are worthy of more and that you can control your destiny by believing it, getting support, getting medical help and taking it one day at a time. I am here for you. We have so much more to do in this life and you should be fully present for it.  Love you deeply.

No More Empty Prayers

 

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I believe in prayer and meditation as tools to connect us to our spiritual selves while we are in this human experience.  Meditation has been an eye opener for me. I feel that I speak more candidly and open with God now that I also have time dedicated to listen.  A few weeks ago I was in Detroit with family and things happen. Some good things some not so good. While on the plane I wondered when it would change and why hasn't it changed yet. I pray about these situations all the time and they stay the same. Maybe I am not praying hard enough or the right way?

The way prayer works is you ask and you receive. But there is another part of this process that we sometimes forget and that is believe that what you are asking will truly come to past. Being real with myself, there are times that I pray and in the back of my head, there is a voice that truly does not believe that what I am asking for will occur. It seems too big or impossible. I only pray because I have no other action to take that will help. In these cases, it makes me feel better. There is some insanity to this. I pray out of comfort and not to really change anything. Empty prayers. I am tired of empty prayers.

Looking down from the plane into the clouds it dawned on me that what I am doing right now would have seemed impossible for human beings just 100 years ago. But, for me, it is a normal activity. It is nothing super to it. If I can fly 30,000 feet in the air, then why can't anything else I dream of, desire in good faith occur? I decided that I will never have another empty prayer.  It is pointless. If I ask, it is what I want and what I believe whole-heartedly will occur.

My mother will know how powerful she is and use that power to change more of the world than she has already. My father will love himself and in turn, love others around him, more deeply and truly. My sisters and brothers will be financially strong and spiritually limitless and my nieces and nephwes will live in their truth and not live fearfully. Me, I will enjoy life more. I will stay in the moments and not try to control the outcomes. I will trust and believe in myself and I will one day really feel enlightenment and see the god in me and around me and in others. I want to walk around this earth seeing God in everyone. I believe I will.

No more empty prayers.