Making Sense of Senselessness

Yesterday I received an all too normal phone call from my father telling me that someone in the community had been shot. So like I always do, I held my breath and prayed that it wasn’t somebody that I knew. Luckily in the case it wasn’t. Nonetheless, another young life from community was gone because of senseless violence.  My first peer to die from a violent act was in 11th grade. He broke into someone’s house in a botched robbery that ultimately led to his death. It seems after that day the number of my peers that killed someone or were slain increased exponentially.  Just this morning when I opened the newspaper I saw another young man that I knew had been shot after getting into an altercation with his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. I use to ask myself why anyone would resort to what I consider to be barbarism- taking a person’s life for your own gratification. But now I’ve become so numb to violence and death that it worries me.

The Beauty of Perserverance

As I was perusing twitter the other day, I came across the following link that was posted by @afrobella. The video is of Lauryn Hill performing at the Apollo in 1987, getting boo’d off stage (yes back in the day you could boo at kids).

As a person who has chosen writing as her lifelong profession, I spend a lot of time encountering, healing and bouncing back from rejection. Its just the nature of this business.

However, when I watched this video, I couldn’t help but be struck by the way in which Lauryn kept pushing on. Through the song at the Apollo, through her career with the Fugee’s and Miseducation, and even today as she fights for autonomy to sing what she wants, however she wants.

It seems that Lauryn has an invaluable lesson for us all. Often, genius isn’t something that you are inherently born with, genius is created, persisted after and fought for.



Sonia the Radical?

We are only moments away from the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice and months into the first tenure of America’s first black President and I’ve become a bit inundated by Facebook fan pages, tweets, yahoo groups, swelling crowds, celebrating feminists, hardcore nationalists, just groups in general.  Hell, I’m exhausted.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand the excitement over well-behaved minority public officials.  One needs only to look to Marion Barry, Ray Nagin, Cynthia McKinney, and Kwame Kilpatrick to understand that there is a drought in reliable leadership.  However, it is this very list of elected officials that leads me to believe public excitement and desire for visual diversity has severely crippled people’s ability to critique public officials.  Just how many of us actually take the time to do what we as minorities ask of others—look beyond race and gender.

Just moments after Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination was announced, calls for public support and adoration overflowed.  But just who is Sonia Sotomayor?  According to various news media and disgruntled politicians, she’s a radical, an activist, and someone so rooted in her heritage it would be a struggle for her to be impartial.  In short, she is a woman of color from the projects in the South Bronx, a neighborhood famous as the birthplace of hip hop, the home of the Yankees, and notorious for its poverty.  Let’s just say, she’s from a radical place.  She, on the other hand is less so, but as popular narrative would dictate, we should all be proud and maybe a little stunned when a poor person of color does something significant enough to land them in the company of white people.

In reality, her record is very moderate.  She has voted against funding abortion by upholding a 2002 ruling which disallowed funding of pro-choice organizations in Mexico City. Besides saving baseball, she is perhaps most famous for her ruling in Pappas v. Guiliani where she ruled in favor of an NYPD employee who was fired for sending hate mail. Her ruling was based largely on the protection of first amendment rights.  From what I can see, she isn’t some woman bending the rules to push minority cases through nor is she using her position to highlight injustice in the world.  She is simply doing her job and upholding the constitution.  She actually believes in and upholds the constitution.  (My belief in the constitution is an entirely different blog, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say it’s iight.)

For many, Sotomayor warrants respect not simply because of where she is from, but because of how she has gotten where she is.  She has come from many worlds; poor and rich, colored and non, Republican and Democrat.  She is radical, but not because she’s Latina.  She is radical because she’s played the game and won.

Dealing with Stress

One of the interesting things about graduate school is that it becomes a crash course in how to take care of yourself. With the constant pressure of deadlines, work, classes and glimpses of a social life, self-care becomes the lynch pin of daily survival.

While many may note the ways in which graduate school becomes unhealthy in this way. I tend to think that it is a challenge that can promote education in critical life skills, particularly for women of color. Instead of burning out later in life from the pressures of work, family and love, graduate school provides the perfect opportunity to educate folks in healthy self-care skills that they can carry for the rest of their lives.

So as I enter my third year of graduate school, I thought I’d share some of my self-care skills that I have learned along the way.

1. Always Get Eight Hours of Sleep

Sleep is probably one of the most critical aspects of my day, without it I can barely focus, let alone articulate an intelligent thought. To often, sleep is viewed as the most “optional” part of our days, so we cut out a couple of hours in hopes of getting that “one last thing done.” The problem is, is that skipping sleep not only tends to make one less focused, it can also compound problems like stress, anxiety and weight gain. My suggestion? Make 6-8hrs of sleep a priority everyday.

2. Make a Schedule/To-Do List and Stick to It

In order to make sure I get enough sleep everyday, its important that I schedule my day in such a way that I am able to get everything else done. Every night, I assess what it is I have to get done, and make realistic and manageable choices about what I will include on my to-do list/schedule for the next day.

By going to bed with a plan of attack of the next day, I wake up in the morning, calm, refreshed, and ready to work because I already know what is in front of me. Cut down on your anxiety by making a plan and then working that plan.

3. Eat Right and Exercise

Healthy eating and exercise have a number of benefits. Primary for me is that both decrease anxiety.

Cutting down on your sugar and caffeine intake in particular decrease anxiety. Increasing protein and cutting out unnecessary carbs will also increase your daily energy and productivity. By taking the time to go grocery shopping and exercise, I cut down on stress, as well as bills. Hospital bills from an unhealthy lifestyle and eating out every night starts to add up!

4. Spiritual Balance

Critical for me is taking some time everyday to acknowledge a Higher Power (whoever that maybe for you). By taking a time out to simply breathe, sit in peace and acknowledge how much I actually have to be grateful for (a job I’m passionate about, a home, family, friends, food, health), I’m able to put everything else I’m stressing out about in perspective.

5. Having a Life

Whatever point you are at in your life, its easy to just get caught up in that moment, whether it be your marriage, your career, or even friendships. One of the most critical things I’ve learned is the importance of carving out and defining your own individual life.

Figure out what brings you joy. Remember to take time out to just play. Find your true passions in life. Be grateful for the person that you are. Prioritize taking time out to meet new people and make friends. Building a support system and an awareness of self will allow you to have joy in your life no matter what other ups and downs may be going on in your life.

The bottom line? My key to dealing with stress is maintaining constant joy and gratitude in my life everyday.



The Meltdown: Judge Sotomayor . . . It’s Okay to Cry??

Surrounded by white men in suits. Cameras flickering then flashing. Hands laid flat upon table. Nodding pensively. Swinging pendulum of opinions “we are happy” to “we have many reservations.” Judge Sonia Sotomayor listens as senator after senator summarize their thoughts about her appointment to the highest court in the land . . . a court that is in desperate need of cultural diversity. Judge Sotomayor is a woman of color who worked her way through various obstacles to become a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She now stands upon the precipice of being the first Latino and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Given her speeches and public record, she seems to be committed to a more radical agenda for marginalized communities then most sitting Supreme Court Justices. Can you feel my excitement?

However, as the constitutional sanctioned witch hunt her senate appointment hearings commenced on Tuesday, Republican after Republican sought to second guess her judicial decisions, paint her as a racist, talk to her as if she was a simple child just learning about the Bill of Rights, and make her “cry” or as Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican) put it, “have a meltdown.” I find myself asking questions: What would happen if Judge Sotomayor cried? What would happen if she wept for all the lies Republican Senators spewed as they talked about the founding “fundamental” freedom to carry guns even though they used them to kill indigenous people, the quality of life even though they don’t fund policies that enrich the lives of children once they are here, the colorblind justice of judicial process which always favors white men, and the essential ethic of hard work even though it does not guarantee success for all? What if she like newly appointed Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, shed a tear or two on national television? How would we respond to a woman of color leader weeping in a public arena?

Would we respond as so many responded to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tears during the Democratic Primary races? Would we question her strength, her ability to lead? Would we say she’s being manipulative trying to garner sympathy? And the answer to the previous questions is yes, but with an added level of scrutiny because she is a woman of color. Given the intersectionality of racism and sexism, we often expect if not down right demand women of color—African-American or Latina—to be strong. Of course, this characterization is simplistic at best. However, there is much evidence to say that this idea of strength serves cultural, racist, sexist, and capitalistic agendas from using the image of the strong black woman to empower black women while denying them “help” to painting Chicanas as women who can endure harsh and exploitative work without US citizenship.

Growing up I was taught not to cry because my mother says, “There ain’t no point in crying over spilled milk chile . . . you got to do what you got to do and plus black women don’t cry we ain’t weak white women.” This idea of “you will always have” responsibility coupled with not being Miss Ann greatly shaped how I saw Judge Sotomayor confirmation hearings. I found myself yelling at the TV, “Please do not cry . . . Don’t let them see you sweat . . . You can do this keep it together . . . you’re strong, baby, you’re strong . . . if you got to cry do it in the bathroom on break.” Yes, even I would have a problem with her crying publicly which shows how pervasive sexist thoughts are about women in male public space. Of course, Judge Sotomayor did not cry even though her face showed a wee bit of discomfort as Republicans gave their opening remarks.

In general, it’s unfair that she cannot weep and not be considered a capable judge. It’s unfair that she cannot show any emotion for fear of being seen as “a feisty Latina.” In order to pass the racist and sexist litmus test she must be as Senator Tom Coburn (Republican) said, “very well-controlled.” However, what type of damage does this do? I think it reinforces the rules of a very unfair game where women, LGBTQ, and people of color constantly have to ignore, overlook, and sanction white male hetero-supremacy. This is not to say that crying is the ultimate evidence of feeling because it is not. However, what I am trying to say is that weeping should be taken as a sign of strength and not as a womanly sign of weakness. So, how radical would it be if she did cry . . . cried for the injustices of the appointment process . . . cried for her self as an act of self-care . . . cried because she really would like to call Senator Lindsey Graham every expletive under the sun (which I did as I watched him speak) . . . and cried because tears can only convey the totality of this experience in her life. And what if  her “melt-down” became the basis for redefining strength and leadership in male public political spaces . . . . oh how exciting and down right revolutionary crying can be!

Why I want(ed) to be a Disney Princess


Declaring possibilities!!

Declaring possibilities!!

What I find hard to process about the previous post about not wanting to be a Disney Princess is that the author belittles “traditional fairytales.” She [the author] claims that “they are limited and untrue for poor working class black girls like [herself].” She asserts that “Prince Charming does not come,” and “that happy endings are not promised especially when there is an intersection of various devalued social identities [i.e., when you area a poor, black, woman and etc you get no happy ending].”  What she fails to see is that all of these endeavors particularly for the Little Mermaid happened inside of Ariel taking action and living with a purpose.

Original Poetry…Epidemics

I want to paint a picture,

I want to use an image

so you can visualize the torment

that only few can make concrete in their minds eye,

I want to give you the opportunity to use your eyes,

as I explain to you, yet another teenage issue…

but God has not given me the gift of an artist,


I can’t paint,

I can’t sketch a silhouette out of coal, 

I can’t even draw

All I have is my words, and with these words,

I want to word my sentences and phrases

in a way that will penetrate thru your vocabulary

and changes how you select your words,

when dealing with an infectious disease as this one.


This disease strikes

fear in the hearts of millions going

to school everyday,

this disease causes people to stand by

when they see their peers about to kill each other,

this disease put guns in our schools,

anxiety is our lives,

and makes the death rate rise amongst youth every year.


Violence is the number one killer of man-kind.


Joshua is 10 years old and

skips school everyday because he

knows the minute he shows his face

he will be faced with the decision to fight or flight,

his face is stained with the expression of avoidance;

he wishes not to stare in the face violence. 

A wall on the corner of my street is stained

with the graffiti of bloodlines that define

the reason why parents don’t want

their child to walk down the street.



Innocent Child shot while standing

in front of her own house…


School Riot in Cleveland, 10 students expelled


Success Tech shooting, many shot, one killed.

Why are their so many headlines that outline

this disease and make violence a celebrity?

Why when you open a newspaper,

switch to the radio,

or turn on the 6 O’clock News

Violence is there once again being interview?


How does one stop an epidemic

When people find the disease so attractive?

Till Death

from the Chicago Sun-Times

from the Chicago Sun-Times

v. – to labor, as by plowing or harrowing, upon (land) for the raising of crops; cultivate.
n. – a drawer, box, or the like, as in a shop or bank, in which money is kept

I’ve been thinking about death a lot this year, both personally, with the death of my beloved great-grandmother, and publicly, with the deaths of Steve McNair (I thought my cheers would give the Titans the one yard they needed.), Bea Arthur (if you cannot grasp or appreciate the genius of The Golden Girls, there’s no need for us to be friends, internet or otherwise) and Michael Jackson (still waiting for Moonwalker on DVD).  Despite the emotions it compels, death often feels like a really abstract thing to me, like having a real job or money in my bank account.  But I know death elicits tangible, visible responses, and I saw some of those reactions when I looked at a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

Equal Opportunity Finger Pointing


As a youngster my father always told me to never make excuses. He stressed that habitual “excuse making” leads to defeatism. He spoke of defeatism so pejoratively that I began to think it was some sort of plague. When he even uttered the word excuse his face would contort in an ugly cringe as if he had just swallowed a lemon. Years later I found my father’s lessons to be very helpful when I was faced with adversity. The great thing about my father’s lesson was that he taught all of his children the same thing. My older sister and brother could not escape the long lectures and sermons my dad gave, because we all belonged to him. I wish Barack Obama would do the same.