Like most children, I told lies when I was a little black girl. I told big lies. I told small lies. I told white lies. I told lies. And, even had the audacity to argue with my “all seeing all knowing” do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do black grandmother about the usage of lie over her usage of “telling a story.” What does telling a story have to do with telling a lie? I tell you, this infuriated me. I prefer the word lie. Even though my grandmother and I had many disagreements over the terming of untruths often leaving my backside sore with resentment, she had a remarkable almost supernatural way of knowing when I, her precocious granddaughter, was telling her a lie. She would say with a type of black woman resolve, “There’s a stirring in the pot . . . there’s a stirring in my soul,” and before she could finish her statement I knew she knew that I had lied. And, boy did my sore backside know it too. And, so in the tradition of my no nonsense black grandmother, I say, “There’s a stirring in the pot . . . there’s a stirring in my soul that something is amidst in Conservatives—religious fundamentalist, Republicans, Tea Party Members—grand desire to restrict or completely annihilate US’ women’s right to choose.
This is a New Year and being the black Christian feminist/womanist perennial thinker that I am, I want my first blog in the New Year to be about a sustainable hope for a better world. The video above is captivating. And, perhaps, captivating does not capture the feeling of unfettered hope one receives from watching the video. Rarely, do I post a YouTube video clip as my featured blog. Of course, this does not count my addiction to all things Awkward Black Girl web series video clips. However, there are times when I come across a YouTube clip that literally steals my breath and I must share.
Though the focus of the Black Youth Project is on all things related to empowering black youth and black communities, I think that this mission in part is creating a world of hope for people and communities who are caught at the “intersections” of multiple systems of oppression. Therefore, the title of the video above is “A Message of Hope.” It talks about how we as lovers of life and others can change the world by first beginning with ourselves. We can change the world by examining how we treat others and ourselves. Often, when we hate, love, and fight others we hate things within ourselves, love things within ourselves, and fight things within ourselves. I know this to be a truism for my own life. I have written about such things before on this blog. Just click on the links below.
What happened this week that made me imagine my father a superhero:
This week, I went to the doctor to check on my blood pressure. A couple of weeks ago it was a tad bit above the normal rate and so my doctor wanted to monitor it. So, I scheduled an appointment to come in this week. So, I go in and the nurse takes my blood pressure and it’s perfectly normal. So, upon hearing this I thought I could leave, but the nurse said I still had to see the doctor. To make a long story short, I saw a white male doctor who I had have never met before and instead of checking on my heart, he felt it “appropriate” to discuss my sexuality, to make racial innuendos about black women’s hypersexuality and STD rates, to discuss my “pear” shape of a black derrière, and to slide his ungloved hand under my shirt to touch my belly without cause or provocation.
Yep, this is what happened to me this week. And, of course, I felt silenced throughout the entire ordeal trying to figure out how my sexuality and the need to touch my belly had anything to do with my perfectly normal blood pressure reading. Nothing it had nothing to do with it. This older white male doctor, who appeared to be congenial, in a matter of moments, stole my ability to breathe, and, honestly, after it happened all that I could think about was, “If my father was here, he would whoop his ass.” Yes, in that moment, I wished my recovering alcoholic father who I know can fight (i.e. Evidenced by my mothers’ many blackened eyes growing up), was present to punch the white doctor in his eye Superhero style with BAM, WHAM, and a Whoosh.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
I beseech you, before reading my blog post please watch the video above for it tells the story of Vertus Hardiman a black man whose name means “virtue.” I know many of you are wondering, “Who is this Vertus Hardiman that he would have a documentary about his life.” And, I say to you that he is a black man of great spiritual strength who for 80 years of his life kept a painful secret about the dangers of radiation and racism. You see, when Vertus was five-years old, he and several other black children from Lyles Station Elementary in Indiana were deceived by the local county hospital to take part in radiation experiments. Vertus’ parents as well as the other black parents were told that their children were going to be part of study that helped to cure wing worm scalp infections. However, what they ended up being a part of is the testing of radiation on the human body and mind.
As a young black girl like most children I told lies. I told big lies. I told small lies. I told white lies. I told lies. And, even had the audacity to argue with my “all seeing all knowing” do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do black grandmother about the usage of lie over her usage of “telling a story.” What does telling a story have to do with telling a lie? I tell you, this infuriated me. I prefer the word lie. Even though my grandmother and I had many disagreements over the terming of untruths often leaving my backside sore with resentment, she had a remarkable almost supernatural way of knowing when I, her precocious granddaughter, was telling her a lie. She would say with a type of black woman resolve, “There’s a stirring in the pot . . . there’s a stirring in my soul,” and before she could finish her statement I knew she knew that I had lied. And, boy did my sore backside know it too.
And, so in the tradition of my no nonsense black grandmother, I say, “There’s a stirring in the pot . . . there’s a stirring in my soul that something is not quite right about the media’s framing of the rape of Iman al-Obeidi by Gaddafi forces.”
On the last Friday of Women’s Her-story Month, I want to honor black women who are what I call “border-crossers.” Border crossing is centered in the margins and “what moves people” . . . the fluid transmissions and the mergers. It comes out of womanism and black feminism. It comes out the frustration with borders and boundaries. It comes out of the need to build sustained and people-centered movements.
Next week is Valentine’s Day. So, I thought I would write an early post about it from the perspective of someone (i.e. me) who deeply desires “soul abiding” relationships, but who struggles greatly in that regard.
So, you know what is troubling for me is to look in the mirror and see myself becoming like my once alcoholic father who with the help of Seagram’s Gin would make grand physically violent scenes demanding that everyone—my mother, older sister, and I—look and see him and his power. Yes, my father was a profoundly broken man who inwardly desired acceptance and, most importantly, to be loved. My father needed the healing and rejuvenating power of love. But, because he was not given those tools as a little black boy growing up in Bryan, Texas he sought to gain acceptance and love through fear and intimidation. He became an abuser.
Now that I think about it, to do what my father did requires that you find ways to cover your eyes from seeing the act and consequences of your abuse. My father used Seagram’s Gin with a hint of ice to mentally block the terror he saw in my eyes when he with bare knuckles blackened my mother’s eyes and body. All abusers—white slave owners, dictators, child molesters, rapist, and, simply, spiritually broken people—must find ways to reduce the victim to an object in order to abuse them or find ways to mute the memory of their victimization. Yep, Seagram’s Gin was my father’s choice of denial.
Indeed, my father was once a broken man and now, I, his daughter, am in many ways a broken woman.
It’s six in the morning and I am asking myself the question, “How do you have a more nuanced conversation about Eddie Long’s sexual indiscretions and misuse of power without demonizing the Black Church or silencing the three young men’s stories by wholeheartedly denying the acts ever happened?” Honestly, it appears as if the conversation is either two extremes.
The first being: “[Most scholarly tone] See, Eddie Long is why I left the church . . . I told you the Black Church was homophobic . . . I don’t do organized religion,” and the second conversation being: “[the voice of my grandmother] We all have our Crosses to bare and just like Brother Paul thorns in our flesh . . . we will pray for Eddie Long.” On a whole, I am trying to figure out what is gained by such a conversation besides hurt feelings and thrown liberal and fundamentalist daggers of self-righteousness.
How do we have a more nuanced conversation
I am single black church woman. I go to church on Sunday morning because I need to hear a word from God. I need to know that there is hope in the world. I need to know that when “my body is ailing” as the old folks say and my childhood traumas—daddy beating momma—keep me awake at night that there is a contemplative word of peace, healing, stillness, redemption, and salvation is spoken to let me know that I can make it through, yet, another week. I go to church because on its most good day holding constant its homophobia, materialism, and patriarchy teaches people to be a more loving, caring, and community focused people. And of course, some churches do it better than others, but the point remains that there is an attempt to provide a collective healing space for both black men and black women.
So, when I read Deborrah Cooper’s article, The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely, I was left in some ways flabbergasted by her blatant generalizations about single black church women and then equally disturbed by her many negative hackneyed expressions about the Black church which prompted me to say, “What is nuanced about her article that differentiates it from the numerous Nightline’s, CNN’s, and ABC’s news stories about the doom and gloom of being a single black woman?” What makes it stand apart from the many decades of telling single black women and unwed black mothers that they are responsible for their singleness?
And, all that I can surmise is nothing. There is nothing unique or empowering about this essay.
I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.
We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”
I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.
Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral
So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and “Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
So, how do you make a little black girl believe that all she has gone through does not determine her ability to take flight? How do you “teach” her that her wings are beautiful and that the risk of flying is a marvelous growth enriching endeavor? How do you make her see that her cadged song and flight will one day inspire others to freedom? How do you “teach” a black girl to fly?
You see, it’s not an easy endeavor because so many things seek to clip their wings, silence their voice, and keep them cadged. It takes a special kind of spiritual intervention to release little black birds. It is not a task for the faint of heart or for those who benevolently (i.e. good white women) “swoop” in to save de Negro children from the pathology of their colored communities. Hmmmm . . . it is a task well suited for wise black women like Baby Suggs in Beloved who said, “Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it . . . No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands . . . You got to love it,” and Minnie Ransom in The Salt Eaters who said, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well,” and my 8th grade colored school teacher, Mrs. LaVern Colvin, who said, “Now listen here, Fallon, if you do not know by now how much I love you . . . you will never know, dearie.”
Can’t no one know at sunrise how this day is going to end. Cant’ no one know at sunset if the next day will be here. In this world of trouble and wars a member must be ready to go. We look forward to things to save us but in a twinkling of an eye everything can be changed. Troubles of this world feel our heart with wage from Soweto to Stonewall, Birmingham to LA. We searching for hope that lie within ourselves as we fight against misogyny, racism, hatred, and pain. Can’t no one know at sunrise how this day is going to end. Cant’ no one know at sunset if the next day will be here**
I begin this post with a song written by Sweet Honey in the Rock because its title and lyrics invoke Spirit and Spirits. Furthermore, the song weeps and wails not only of troubles, but of justice, “justice that rolls down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” It lets us know that the way of the world is not as predetermined as governments, private contractors, and multinational corporations believe it to be because Spirit and Spirits “can change some things” as the old people say. So, as we stand on the eve of remembering not only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the Spirits that joined the movement for freedom in the US, I write this blog to acknowledge the power of Spirit and Spirits to deal with the injustices of what has happened and continue to happen in the country of Haiti.
This week I’ve read many articles and blogs about the devastation and abject poverty in Haiti and how international loan agencies and governments like the US (i.e. World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have benefited greatly by keeping Haiti in debt. I’ve seen Christian fundamentalist like Pat Robertson say vicious anti-Christ love statements like, “[ the earthquake is] a blessing in disguise . . . [Haiti] made a pact with the Devil in order to liberate themselves from French rule [therefore they deserve what is happening].” Oh, this sounds very familiar to his statements about Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, I’ve watched as CNN’s pundits contort their mouths and faces to convey the inevitability of rioting and looting saying with Hurricane Katrina’s conviction, “We heard gun shots.” In addition to all of this, I’ve read some of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism and I’m left feeling completely hopeless about the long-term fate of Haiti being left vulnerable to the free market’s social experiments. Yes, my heart grieves.
But, as the song says, “Can’t no one know at sunrise how this day is going to end. Can’t no one know at sunset if the next day will be here,” there is hope because there is Spirit and Spirits. For me Spirit and Spirits represent faith-based practices/rituals, spiritualities, religions, justice, transformative collective action, community, Love, and all the things that have “brought us this far a mighty long way” as my Sunday school teacher would say. Spirit and Spirits are the things that allow me to wake up each morning with a renewed belief that the world can change and that I have the ability to change the world.
And for some people of Haiti Vodou is their Spirit and it also was their collective frame for mobilizing against French enslavement and other forms of oppression. Though I am not fully familiar with the practice of Vodou, I do understand the power of believing in something bigger then yourself and something that embodies community, love, and justice. I know I am sounding a little sermonic, but my intent is not to preach. I just need to know that there is something more than greed, capitalism, and hegemonic power structuring the world and the only place I can surmise where this may be the case is in the Spirit and within the Spirits of people. It is in the faith-based, spiritual, and communal practices that preach love, justice, and community that challenge us to envision and create a world of collective peace.