Shots Fired – Family Dollar

logo-familydollar1-480x164This right here is some non-sense and that is the only reason I am sharing this story.  My family tries it best to support neighborhood stores. It was a Friday and I asked my mom to go to Family Dollar with me. Family Dollar is a discount store and it looks like it. Sometimes they are not the most organized of places, but I needed some simple trays and bowls for an event that was going to happen that evening.  It was a simple run in, run out and move to the next task of the day.

She and I parked, go in and we are greeted with the loud-speaker message from security basically letting us know that security is watching. That should have made us turn around, but we were in the hood and things like that are part of hood living. No problem.

We go in find the trays and something for the grandkids and as me and mom were walking toward the front of the store we here something. My mom hears the security guy over the speaker ask if everything is okay. I heard that too, but I also heard some commotion. It sound like people talking loud and aggressive.  My mom did not hear that.

She and I got in line and I saw that everyone was looking to the back of the store. That is where I heard the loud talking from. No one seemed to be leaving the store, but you can see everyone was on alert.  From the back came these two guys. You can tell they were trouble. I started praying inside but on the outside you stay stone-faced.  Everyone did.

The guys asked the cashier a question and then they kind of got in the face of a young customer. Of course, the youngster acted like he was big and bad. The two guys left. We all knew that was not the end. 

Everyone started talking. I was hoping that the staff would lock the door, but they continued to work as though nothing happens. I see the two guys get in the car and sit. They sat for three or four minutes before the put the car and reverse to take off. It was a slow reverse and the next thing I know I see a gun come out of the window and shot into the air. They then took off.  Most of us stood there probably with the same thought. You can’t even go to the corner store without ignorant acts happening.  This isn’t just a hood problem it is an American disease to feel empowered to take life with guns. To feel its your right to carry danger on your hip. To resort to violence when things do not go our way.  We have told these young people in the way we treat them and limit opportunity is that the only way you will be empowered is through violence and terrorizing.  It’s on the news and in our entertainment. That has to stop.

From a city perspective, that nonsense is why people are scared of Detroit and its people.  It made me mad and sad at the same time.  It is a shame that anyone in the world live in danger like that. It is maddening that the staff at this location is use to such danger. It has become “normal.”  It’s nothing normal about it.

Three Ugly Bitches

Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_019Three witches have been part of story telling for centuries. This story is about Three ugly bitches. I know bitch is an ugly word. I am not the one who used it, but here is the story. 

It was one of those days where my Pops wasn’t feeling well and he couldn’t do all the things he usually would do in his day – like go and pick you a few of his grand kids from school. I decided to do it for him.  All of my nieces and nephews do things after school but the schedules are all over the place. I picked up the oldest and youngest nieces and to kill time we window shopped one of the store strips near their sister’s school.

My oldest niece persuaded me to go into a place called CitiTrends.  It is a store with some ”trendy” but less expensive items. Most of it made in Vietnam or the Philippines.  We park and the three of us get out of the car and I hear a little voice.  I could not make it out. I hear it again and I my oldest niece said “What did he say?”  I looked back and I saw a blue mini-van with a couple kids in it and the door opened and I finally heard what the little voice said “Three ugly bitches!” The voice was coming from a little boy about 10 years old.  He had a little afro, trendy black glasses and was cute as a button.  As cute as he was, his mouth was spewing toxins. 

I reacted and walked to the young man’s car a stared him down. His smile and laughter his  “joke” went to a serious look of fear.  I stared at him for a long time thinking in my head should I say something? Should I snatch his little ass out the car and show him what for? But my spirit made me stand there – look at him and watch how the severity of what he said sat in. How this situation could go really bad. After the stare down, I took my nieces in the store. They, of course were laughing. “That little boy is bad.” I couldn’t agree with that. What he was doing was mimicking. He heard those words somewhere and now he is saying them. No one told him not to. No one told him words like that can hurt or get him hurt or even killed if said to the wrong person.  What that little boy does not have is home training. 

If my nieces were of different upbringing, those words could have scarred. They could have reacted and created a negative outcome.  But they know who they are and who they are not.  Awesome feeling.

Three ugly bitches.  I had a flashback in the moment I heard that little boy say that. I recall being called ugly in church around hundreds of little kids.  I stared at him too, but with little tears in my eyes. That scarred me for many years. It lives with me until this day. Words are powerful and magical but can be diffused or empowered by those who hear them. 

I hope that little boy won’t do that again. I hope his mentors, parents and other adults show him better and that he learns to choose his words and jokes a little better. 

Belief Series: Religion

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I am a church girl. My mother is a minister and my father has always been a deacon in the church. We grew up Pentecostal, which is a denomination of the Christian faith. We were in church a lot. Tuesday was prayer, Thursday was bible class and Sunday service that started with Sunday school and went until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Did I mention to you that my mother was the official cleaning service for the church and at times because of their titles we were at church on other days beyond days when we had service?  So many of my friends and social outings were mostly connected to church (those outside of school). Church was my life for a long time. It was difficult but in general, I liked it. 

 I didn't like the hell and brimstone talk and all of that. It scared me, but I had an wonderful pastor. She was kind and lovely and even made hell sound a little less harsh. Being a church kid made you a little different at school. We did not swear, we did not have piercings. Thank God my parents didn't take it too far. I had friend who could not wear certain clothes and could not participate in things like band because it was considered secular.  

When I turned around 18 or 19 I stopped attending church regularly. That was after a year of college and seeing life a little differently. It was after my best friend decided to become a Muslim and it made me question my own faith. I began reading more about not only Christianity, but Islam, Judaism, Hinduism. I learned about Tao, Confucius, and Buddhism. I began to see more similarities in Greek, Roman and Egyptian religion and the stories I heard in Bible class and it shook my foundation a little. I needed something to still me and I found it. It was a thread that seem to be in all of the different religions and philosophies that I was learning about.  The thread connects us religiously but most importantly spiritually. I wish that more of us would see the thread than the things that are different from one religion to another. This world would be so much better.  That thread is the truth – the thing you can't deny because it exist everywhere and in everything. 

Some go to places of worship because they grew up going. I was part of that demographic. Others find religion out of circumstance. Some do religious practices to say that they did it just in case this heaven and hell thing is real. Religion can also be a club or group to fit in. But where I think religion best fits is when it is used to connect you to your spiritual self and connect us to that thread of truth. That thread that is across all religion and is the core of life; -love yourself and all humankind. Be kind, be honest, be true. Live to your highest potential and the God that is in me is the God within you. That thread/that truth is where spirit lives. What is really important is that whatever religion you prescribe to, that you religiously connect to your spirit – the real you as much as possible.

I think we have allowed religion to create a sense of tribalism and that separate-ness is that cause of so much hate, war and destruction in our world and this is a part of religion that we must eradicated. It warps us and limits how we interact with each other and how we love one another. 

With all that, this is where I stand with religion. I use religious practices to connect to spirit. I consider myself an open Christian. That means that my core beliefs are in line with Christian faith, but I have found inspiration, enlightenment and strength in other religious practices and readings outside of Christianity. I do not go to church, yet, I  hear some gospel songs and am uplifted. I meditate, pray and read religious scripture daily. This is where religion belongs in my life.  

My nieces go to church. Their experience is so different from mine. It is still a practice, but what they look like, what they wear, all of that is nominal. It is more important that they are their and participating in the way they enjoy. That is so beautiful to me. To see my niece grab my hand for grace or day grace, something I did everyday before eating as a kid, feels good. That is another thing that connects me to her and her to me. So as religion at times separates, it also connects when we allow it. We must let it connect beyond denominations and culture. 

My Beliefs about religion:

  • Having a religious practice can be good and have a purpose of reconnecting you to your spiritual self
  • Religion has been the cause of a lot of hate, war and disaster and that part of religion needs to go away
  • Religion is a practice and spirituality is a way of life. Two different things
  • No one religion is better than another and no one religion has all the answers
  • Truth can be found in all religion but all religion is not truth
  • God is the same regardless of what religion you pick or not pick. 

 

 

Walking in Houston

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When you live/work in more than one city you have to find different ways to get around. I left my car in Detroit, but when I am in Houston or Brooklyn, I use public transportation or I walk. Brooklyn is a walking city, filled with people walking here or there.  Walking places is normal. Houston…not so much. This is a car city to its core.  Some of our streets have so many potholes from overuse and the traffic! The only place I've seen it worse is Los Angeles. 

In Houston, I walk to many of my locations. I am blessed to only live a mile and a half from work and two and half blocks from my favorite area; the cultural center.  My neighborhood has stores and things so everything I need mostly is within walking distance. When I am leaving work, changing my shoes and telling a co-worker or friend I am walking home, the look on their face is one of puzzlement. 

Why are you walking home? Do you want me to take you? Where is your car? How far is it? A mile in a half?  This is a beautiful city and people do not walk unless they go to parks or walkways.  I have a few reasons I think people do not walk.

  • There are many neighborhoods that do not have proper sidewalks. Honestly. There are some places where I am literally in the street because there is no where to walk. 
  • Drivers are not friendly to pedestrians. People who walk are in super danger in Houston. People speed and do not give you "safe-space" to pass even at crosswalks.  There have been many times that I have the right-a-way and I let the car go on by because of the speed they were doing as the approach the crosswalk. I truly believe that people in cars see pedestrians as nuisance. I do understand. Many people are comminuting an average of 45 minutes in Houston. If I was on the road that long, anything that slowed me down would irritate me. 
  • City Sprawl – This city is super huge and sprawled and walking to many places is just out of the picture. 
  • Mediocre public transportation – The public transportation in Houston is a lot better than say, Detroit, but for a city that is not zoned, not well planned and growing leaps and bounds, the transportation here does not really support those without cars or pedestrians. Houston is trying though. Recently they changed some of the bus lines and they are adding more light rails. More needs to happen to really make this city a metropolitan.

Right now Houston is ranked 5th in the most pedestrian accidents. I guess I am writing this because I hope this will change. There has been a lot of laws and designated spaces for bikers. The same need to happen for pedestrians. I think if we make this city more walking-friendly, we can get people off of the roads and decrease the road-rage, impatient-driver syndrome and have more people walking and using public transportation.