Violence on a Sunday

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It was Sunday. I got up and did my usual. Walking, meditation, calling my parents before they go to church, breakfast. I had a long night before and was ready for sitting on the couch watching a good movie. The TV was on mute like it is most of the time, but I could see that the news was on. I saw the word "Shooting" at the bottom of the screen. I assume it was more news about the shooting in Las Vegas. No, this was a different shooting. A new shooting that just happened in Texas. In a church during service. When it was all over we learn that 26 people were killed, 20 or more injured and the shooter had taken his life.

 

Throughout the day between my movies, I saw the talking heads on the news discussing the details of the shooting, asking why this is happening and what will be done about it. The same old discussions about changing laws and defending people's freedom to bear arms. I found myself continually shaking my head. Most of us are tired of this nonsense. 

 

As a kid, gun violence was a part of my everyday life. People in the neighborhood were getting shot and killed for the simplest of things. From age 12 until 18, I remember losing friends and classmates to the gun violence in the streets and their homes. I lost a cousin to it. At 15, I looked into the casket of a person that resembled me and was only a few years older; gone by someone else's hands. Every summer, coming home from college, my brother and I would hear about a neighbor, a child, gone when they didn't have to be. Not enough people heard our cries or saw our tears. We learn to live with the nonsense. The violence. 

 

In the past two years, we've seen lives taken in the street by police, by racist, by the scared and the entitled. Children getting gunned down, people praying and worshipping, losing their lives. Folks shopping and helping, ending up dead. We have to think twice about where we are going and if we are safe. We want to know, is this a mental issue, a gun issue. Is this an issue of violence? I think it is all of these and more. The violence is big and deeply rooted in the American fabric. This country was built on it so much so that it is in our constitution. From the beginning, we did not trust or love our fellow man enough. How different would America be if one of our amendments was "love each other daily." Out lack of love for our fellow human beings, our fellow American makes us not hear or try to understand the different sides and discussions on gun safety/control. Our greed as a capitalistic society supersedes and is more valued than the lives we lose from the excess of guns and violence. Our thoughts about mental diseases have made us mistreat the mentally ill in this country, and now we want to scapegoat them for violence that is way beyond that small portion of our society. Since I was 12 years old, guns have taken people that I have played with and laughed with. Taken them from this world and all I can say is things need to change. The laws need to change to minimize the violence, but our hearts need to change to irradicate it. 

 

 

Days of Doubt


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I move forward, regardless of what is going on around me, what people say or how things appear. That is how I get things accomplished.  There is always a solution to all problems and  roads to all visions. I keep my eyes open and ears open to hear and see where to go. It works for me time and time again. But I have my days where I crash into a wall of doubt that I didn't see coming and before I know it, I am on my ass wondering what happened and why I am doing any of this. I had a day like that yesterday.  

I woke up, I prayed, thanking God and universe for everything and asking for direction and productivity in the day. We are a few days from 2017, so, I sat down and began planning for another stellar year and as I plan, something started happening. Anxiety started setting in and then just right out fear. My daily meditation usually steadies me through the day. Not yesterday. I was blocked from seeing beyond the reality that sat in front of me and that reality said, "Girl, you ain't gonna make it. How you gonna make any of this happen. You don't have…." and it went on from there.  I actually welled up and  when the emotions got to heavy, submitted to the reality that today, I have doubts and I do not know if I am good enough or have the strength or capacity to do any of this.  Doubt exist and it happens. I think the worse part for me is not having someone to call or talk to slap me out of it.

I walked up to my studio and pulled out paper and crayons and started drawing without purpose other than to busy my mind.  A couple of completed drawings done and a few hours later, I was clear enough to talk to my inner self. I told her that the vision is big and it  is what we are here to complete, so we can do it. The world we live in says without knowing certain people, having certain money or other criteria, there are things that cannot be accomplished and when I hit that wall of doubt,  I believed that and folded. We are again conscious and have gone over that wall of doubt and can again see the limitless resources and capacity.  

Move forward, regardless of what is around me, what people say, how things appear, despite the walls in front of us. 

Get Your Hands Out of Your Pockets

21st September 1963:  Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929  - 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant.  (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

21st September 1963: Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant. (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

I almost do not want to write this, but I have to.  It's Sunday and I am getting ready for three hours in my studio. Painting, drawing, etc.  Before going in the studio, I decided to stop by an art store to get paint for today and also tomorrow. I am working with this after school project and I wanted the students to work with different colors than what I currently have. Any excuse to go to the art store is good enough for me.   There are two art stores on Woodward Ave. that I could go to but I was closer to the one in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, so that is where I went. 

I get there and was happy to see that paint was on sale. I grabbed what I needed, took a little bit of a walk around to see if there was anything else I wanted and got in line.  As I waited, I hear one of the staff members yelling from behind the counter to someone out of my site range. She said "Please take that out of your pocket and put it back." I hear someone say something and then I hear her again – very loud, boisterous and aggressively say "I saw you take that out of the box and put your hand in your pocket."  Then I could see the person she was talking to. It was a young black guy  in a tan jacket with a cool afro. The quintessential artists type. He said back to her "Yes, I did put my hand in my pocket, but I did not put anything in it. Do you want me to come up there and empty my pockets?" She says "I saw you put something in your pocket." The young man came up to the counter and  He said "You absolutely did not see me put anything in my pocket." as he empty all of his pockets showing them all to be empty beyond his wallet.  The staff member said, "Oh, I just had to make sure." The young man walked back where he was and continued looking at markers. 

I was at the counter heated. First of all he and I were the only black people in the store. Only people of color in the store. Secondly, she is yelling so that everyone dead or alive near by could hear, degrading a person, calling them a thief in front of a store full of people. Thirdly, she didn't apologize for her horrible behavior after she is found to be wrong.  So, I looked at the young lady who was taking care of me and said "You know what?" and before I could finish that, my spirit told me to handle it differently. Don't put all your paint away and walk out in a huff. Tell the young lady what you think.  Okay, I said to myself. After the cashier finish ringing me up or almost finished,  I looked to the young lady that rudely talk to the young black man. I kept calm. I looked her straight in the eye and said.   "I need to say this. I was about to put all of this back because of the interaction you just had with that young man. I understand you were doing your job, but it would have been better if you would have walked up to him and had a conversation with him instead of the way you handled that.  You should apologize." She looked back at me, straight in the eye and said, "You are right. I could have done that differently." She heard me and I had hope that she will do that differently if it ever happens again. 

She may not even realized the perception of what she did. Her act, which could have simply been an employee protecting the product of her company, could easily been perceived as a prejudice and racist act. That is how I perceived it.  This is something most people of color deal with on a daily basis. We are profiled and assumptions are made or we are the victims of people who do not understand our history and journey and react in a way that actually is very hurtful to us which, for them, may be a normal reaction to the situation. 

This young lady, from my point of view,  assumed this young man, who is black, was stealing. Then, like many people that look like her have done over many decades, she talk to him as though he was less than. She accused him before she knew and then, just like other whites in similar situation, she did not apologize. If she had better understanding of the world around her or had experiences like this herself or even had friends she cared about that had similar experiences, she may have acted differently.  

This young man and I knew that we had to react with less aggressive nature to be heard or that issue could have escalated and we would have been on the wrong side of that situation. We have to sympathize with her ignorance to enlighten her and at the same time keep us out of danger. That is our life. That is our reality. I think of Martin Luther King and his life and how many times he dealt with perceptions of who is was and what he was doing and how many times he just wanted to show his anger towards those showing hatred and anger toward him.  He and others like him had to be absolutely strong and a little crazy. I felt myself wanting to go over that counter and grab that young lady. A quick second and it would have been over for me. Thank god for spiritual guidance. 

It may be a moment before I go back to that art store if ever. I hope that the young man is also okay.

 

Self-Love

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Teaching school is a fundamental way of sharing. My sister is a teacher. She teaches kindergarten. It baffles me why, because I am not even sure she likes kids. I think she is just really passionate about education and how best to ensure a child will be educated than to catch them at the beginning of their educational journey.  She is just one of many teachers in my family. My aunt, father, cousins.  We learn so much in school. Math, science, how to play and color. We learn how to socialize and even about time (this English class is too long vs. gym isn't long enough).  I told my sister I wish that self-love was taught in schools. I think it would have changed so much in our society and has the potential still to do so. 

I know I may have written this in other posts, but I am going to repeat it. Love, for me, was something you expressed and gave to others. It was something others gave to you if they felt you worthy of it.  Love from others is something you wanted. It gave value.  Growing up in church, love from God was paramount. From what the preacher says, you come into a life already with God's love. Something you never have to worry about, but the world and its views make you work hard just to believe you've earned such unconditional love.

It was not until I was in my 20s that I learned of the concept of self-love.  Those feelings, thoughts, and patience you have with others, to have them for yourself. That was foreign to me. You hear the word self, and your mind goes straight to selfish, at least my mind did. But self-love is not selfish, and it is one of the best things you can do. 

Self-love is this appreciation of who you are as you are. When you appreciate, like and love yourself, you tend to make better choices for yourself from health choices even down to your relationships. When you appreciate and love you as you are, it becomes so much easier to do the same for family and friends. 

I actually did not love myself. There were things I was confident about. I was confident that I was smart. My report cards supported that fact. I was confident that I could draw, but not confident that I was good at it. I was confident that I was a decent musician. I held first chair in middle and high school band and even in community bands while in college. I was confident that I was not a "pretty girl" and somehow became okay with that. There was a lot of pressure that comes with being pretty that I did not have to deal with. I was not confident about love or like. I assumed people like me mostly because of my achievements not because of who I truly was. I accepted that. I tend not to care about other's accomplishments and always wanted to see people from within and to like them from that space. I think I chose to deal with people in this way because I was giving them something I did not have and wanted.

Self love came when I was at a rock bottom. Years of depression, could not think, work or create and no parent, friend or family around to spring me out of that hole. I remember being on my bed, in darkness, hugging myself. There was a warmth with that. It made me fall asleep when I probably hadn't slept for a while. That feeling gave me energy and mercy from the darkness. I thought it was a fluke feeling.  Later, I saw a book about self-love that really opened me to the concept and made me wonder why this is not taught to all. Why little kindergartners aren't told about self-love. 

If everyone loved themselves, no one would feel empty and try to fill it with others. No one would feel they have to give up who they are to be loved, feel secure, feel peace. If at five years old, you were told that love lives in you and you are truly beautiful as you are. If the world truly supported that philosophy this world would be all we imagined and it would be real.

Truth: I am still learning to love myself but I have seen my progress, and I have seen how it makes me feel about my parents, nieces and nephews, friends, associates. I see how it makes me feel about strangers and how comfortable I am with myself. I am not in a rush to be in a relationship, but I know as I am now and where I am continuing to go, I will have an amazing partner to share my life and love with and do it while truly being me.  

 

Colorful Women Series: Stay Woke

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Colorful Women is not about skin color. It is about the colorful personalities and experiences of women. But, the last few months have been filled with racial and prejudice events that I must use the Colorful Women platform to speak on the subject.  Sometimes having dark skin in America can be hard. It can be the difference in living an amazing life or not. It can be the difference in life or death at times. 

I kind of tear up thinking that someone may think less of me because of my skin tone which God the Creator gave me.  It could not be wrong or bad if it came from the universe. For me, my skin has been beyond a blessing. Everyday, I live beyond the definition this world has placed on my skin. I am lucky to have family and friends and the upbringing that says be proud to be Black, be proud to be human and to be most proud that I am a child of God. We all are children of God, equal and just as important as anyone. I know there are many people of color that did not have my upbringing and have been torn down by the American narrative of the Black person. 

How can we change what is going on in the world. Easy. Love is the answer. Treat others as you will have them treat you. Be proud of who you are inside and out and live respectively and a Black person or whatever type of person you are blessed to be. We MUST – all of us, know our history and how we became the country we are so that we can fix it. We MUST share our knowledge to other generations. We MUST stay aware. I love the saying STAY WOKE. They are amazing words. It is like the Matrix. Once you take the pill there is no looking back. Your eyes are open, keep them open. My eyes are open and with each day, each book, each conversation, each newscast, my eyes are open wider. 

WOMEN: A special request for you. We have gotten to a place where we tear down each other, men, our loved ones. Let us go back to our nature and comfort our children, our men and each other. Let us TEACH love. That is our womanly power. We have given it away to show our independence and some weird type of strength that really has created a toxic space. We can be independent and nurturing at the same time.

I write this with peace and love – STAY WOKE my friends. 

 

Colorful Women Series: Wallflower

fullsizerender_5This world is not always kind to introverts. Us that sometimes choose reading a book at home over the bar or an intimate conversation with one person over hundreds in a room laughing, drinking and dancing. Us that are sometimes called party poopers when really we like to party differently. Though one day, we will rule the world, today, I wish I was more extroverted. Invitations to bars and clubs usually go in the trash. I have come to grips that most of that is not for me. I end up standing in some corner or sitting in some chair like a wallflower. I don't want to be a wallflower at anyones even, but I could not trash this particular invitation. It was from you. I needed to go. I hadn't seen you in months but have thought about you everyday. 

If I was an extrovert, I imagine that I could, without thought, go into this club looking amazing, smiling at everyone and, as I look across the room and see my friends, holler without fear of judgment,  "Hey! Whadup!!" But instead, I have come to this club, alone and for the past 10 minutes have sat in my car. I must say, I look amazing in my off white dress and black heels, but even amazing can start to look terrible when you are nervously sweating. 

Time for the pep talk.

I am a grown ass woman and I can do this! I have paid $20 for parking and I want my money's worth. 

I got out of my car and into the bar I went.

Actually it wasn't as bad as I thought. It never is, but  what is fear if not an over exaggeration of the unreal and untrue?  I grabbed a drink and looked around for you. I did not see you anywhere so I did what most people like me do. Find a good place to stand or sit and look like I fit in.  A few people smiled as they walked by me.  Some said hello, but mostly I got stares. I am indeed wallflower-ing it tonight.  I so wish I invited someone to just chat with, but I didn't want to screw up a chance to talk to you alone and freely. 

I am crawling out of my skin. Every fiber of me is saying, "get the hell out of here" and it takes everything in me not to listen. If I do not see you in the next 10 minutes, I will call it a draw and try again next time. Will there be a next time? 

I took a sip of my drink and looked down at my shoes wondering why I picked them for this outfit and when I looked up, you were standing in front of me. A smile so wide and beautiful. You greeted me with a tight hug and warm kiss, and just like that, the anxiety, the nervous sweats, the fears disappeared.  We talked for a few moments and then, someone grabbed you. I was alone again but smiling. 

An hour later, I am driving home and just as I put the car in park in my driveway, my phone beeped. It was a message from you. It was a picture that you had taken of me standing on the wall and underneath it you text "A beautiful wallflower." 

 

Colorful Women Series: Colorful People

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Close your eyes and see the world differently. We have removed the brown hues, olive skin, pinks and porcelain whites and traded them for reds, greens, blues and bright yellows. Can you see me with my green skin and magenta locks walking down the street with orange men, yellow women, pink children and purple elders. How can the world not smile and love and be happy with happiness walking around saturated in beauty.  

Now open your eyes.  

Those colorful people exist. On the outside our beauty has been tainted by judgmental and prejudice stories and beliefs. On the outside we may be brown, black, beige, olive, tan, white – but truly open your eyes and you see that real US. The inside that sparkles bright like rainbow colors. Our true source of our beauty. Do you see that.  

NOW, you can enjoy the beauty of our browns, blacks, beiges, olives, tans and whites. We are colorful people inside and out. Uniquely and equally so. All we have to do is keep our eyes and hearts open. 

 

Colorful Women Series: She’s Better for You

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Hmmm, I hoped that you pick me, but I took a look at her. She is beautiful. She is a go getter. She is smart, focused and driven. I put her photo next to yours and even I had to admit you look good together. I am on Facebook and I see that you like her status, over and over and over again. I do too. She is amazing and I cannot help but compare. I am amazing too, but I am not good at telling my narrative. Not enough photos, events, posts or successes to brag about. I sit every day in my meditation chair and your face always comes between the gaps of nothing.  I think…one day, when time is right, we will cross paths and share paths – but fear that may never happen with such beauties, like her around. No, I am not jealous. I was disillusioned to think that I had a chance. My beauty only peaks outside of my bodily shell every once in a while. It can go unnoticed and it has. No, I am not jealous. I am sad. My relationship with you is just as real as the one I have created with you and her  but if I was God and I had to use my magical powers to connect people in human bliss. I would pick her for you. 

Colorful Women Series: Do You See Me?

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You read a lot. A LOT. 

I know. 

Put the books down and LIVE you say.  

Write the BOOKS – Don't read them.

You don't know. Reading helps me live. 

See, the last book I read, told me not to sweat the small stuff. 

The book before that, showed me how to think BIG. 

Two weeks ago I was reading this novel and I learned how to tell someone you love them 

AND

then how to murder who I love and get away with it.

Being shy (and sometimes shy still)

Books open me up and help me form words when nothing else would

Stories connect me to people. They have connected me to you. 

What is your favorite book?

Google.com isn't a book

What am I reading now? 

A Shakespeare play. My favorite. King Lear.

Fathers and daughters and bad relationships.

No, King Lear doesn't remind me of my father. 

You say good bye and walk away

I look beyond the pages of my book to see you get further away from me.

What would our novel be about. A girl in love and a guy with no clue. 

Oh my gosh. He looked back!

Did he see me gazing?

Does he see me at all?

Colorful Women Series: Neck Roll

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A short walk around the corner and I was at my fav cafe with a hot coffee and a book. It was after lunch but before dinner, so not that many people were there. Just the way I like it.  A guy on his laptop was watching  video smiling and silently laughing. A couple having a quiet conversation and one other person on the phone. The girl on the phone was beautiful. Long hair – most of it hers, flawless makeup and dressed to the nines. She sparkled. Her boisterous laughed filled the cafe. Every now and then she realized that she was disturbing the rest of us and would quiet down. 

Whoa. Her demeanor changed. She got up out of the chair and walked to the door like she was marching to war. You could hear the anger in the syncopation of her sandals slapping the back of her heels.

She didn't get completely out of the threshold of the door before her hand went to her hip and she began to point as if a person was standing right in front of her. Her words became shorten and rough. She is mad. And then, I see it. The neck roll, moving side to side with each word she says as though there is not a vein or bone in it.

"I don't need you." I don't need no man. I am an independent woman. Who the hell do you think you are?"

I was wondering what the guy on the phone was saying. We could only imagine. But we didn't have to imagine her responses. They were filled with derogatory names and expletive language.  After about five minutes of that, she pushed the red button on her smart phone, looked at it for a moment and with tears in her eyes she looked into the cafe. She realized we all saw and shame came across her face. She quickly turned her heard and with the same angry walk she left out the cafe with, she walked to her car. We all heard the car door slam and the screeching of tires out of parking lot.

I sighed, glanced around at the other observers of that episode and went back to reading my book. 

She was hurt. How many times have I heard women say how independent they are and what man they don't need. It is a mantra of a lonely and fustrated. What does independents have to do with wanting to be loved, honored and held. What do it has to do with sharing moments and life with anyone. Nothing. 

The neck roll tells no lies. She was mad. Maybe she will go home and have a good cry, or bitch to a girlfriend over red wine. She look like the kind that will take a bat to a car.