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Back to School, Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Though I have privately written a teeny bit here and there, I decided that back to school would mean that I returned back to blogging too. In the six months since I last posted, I observed orangutans in the wild, vacationed in Maine, walked around NYC’s streets, and perused through the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. As a commitment to my blogging and myself, I’ll post about all of those past trips and much more in the weeks to come.

But this blog post is not about that. As I wrote about in February, I’ve been very upset about Trump’s election, inauguration, and presidency.  

Since I’m based in Jakarta and 11 hours ahead of EST, waking up to news about the nighttime Klan rally in Charlottesville was upsetting, Heather Heyer’s death was horrifying, and Trump’s infamous comments about “many sides” was disgusting.

I’m a Southern Black woman, capitalization intended. Whether you’re burning tiki torches or a cross, I know what you’re alluding to.

So, I’ve decided to stop biting my tongue. I have no patience for apologists. Quite frankly, I don’t even want to debate with ignorance because it makes me more stupid in the process.

One thing I will post more about is the giving circle I created back in January as a response to Trump. Embedded is a speech I wrote for a group of alumnae explaining more about it. Essentially, a group of people pool money together and then donate it to a specific organization. Our giving circle’s mission is to donate to organizations that push back against Trump’s agenda. Since January, we’ve donated $3,590 to organizations ranging from Equal Justice Initiative to Planned Parenthood.

Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about starting your own giving circle. The visual that accompanied the speech I gave can be found here. 

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Anthony Bourdain’s “Close to the Bone” Speaking Tour

If ever in Houston there are two places that you have to go to: Jones Hall and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. 

BourdainI recently went to both to hear Anthony Bourdain speak and watch a Motown performance. Now, I love Anthony Bourdain. He grew on me when I first thought he was obnoxious because he’s willing to point out

1.) how people should look past stereotypes,

2.) the irony of these fancy restaurants using an oppressed group’s (re: Mexican) labor for food preparation, and

3.) how he has no time for the whole vegan, farm-to-table, let-me-spend-$300-on-a-snack-that’s-passing-for-a-meal-and-think-I did-something-good-for-humanity-today types.

That being said, I couldn’t help but wonder if I as a Black woman could do what he did: open a talk admitting that I’m probably drunk and then spend a good majority of it disparaging another celebrity chef, Guy Fieri.

Besides my sister-in-law, I didn’t see any other Black people in Jones Hall. That leads to a whole ‘nother conversation about what privileged spaces people choose to access and for what reasons.

Would people dress up, spend $40.00+ for tickets, drive across town and listen to me speak on what Bourdain spoke on? I don’t think so because of all of the negative stereotypes associated with being Black and female.

I have to respect Bourdain’s hustle though. He’s writing books, he has an imprint, he’s won rightfully deserved Emmys, and now he had my behind sitting in a chair that my Momma paid for asking myself these very questions as he spoke.

Regardless of my reservations (no pun intended), head to the Society for the Performing Arts whenever in Houston to see who’s in town. Going to hear Bourdain speak fed my creative spirit. It was one thing I missed while living in Valencia but got at home.

My discussion of the Motown Broadway show will be coming in a future post!

On Sandra Bland and Texas

Cognitive dissonance: anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her habits.

Source: Dictionary.com

I have cognitive dissonance when it comes to my home state. Born and raised in Texas, I love home with a fierceness that still surprises me every time I return. No, I wasn’t one of those Texans who adorned her dorm room wall with the Texas flag, but I am that Texan who refuses to eat barbecue outside the state because the rest of the nation can’t get the dish right as far as I’m concerned.

I’m the Texan who explains what a rodeo is to my Northern counterparts; takes a pair of cowboyesque boots to Venezuela to remind me of home; and makes tacos whenever I’m homesick.

There is no way around it, I experienced a blessed, multi-ethnic, suburban life in Texas.

But while I grew up in one of the nation’s most diverse counties and had a great public education that allowed me to succeed at an elite private university, I also grew up a 5 minute walk from Harris County.

Harris County’s claim to fame is sending the most people to death row in the entire United States. It was like that when I was a child, and it’s like that now.

I grew up having to drive past a jail where the inmates planted fields of corn to get to my mom’s favorite pecan place.

I grew up an hour or so commute (which is nothing to a native Houstonian) from Hempstead, where Sandra Bland’s confrontation with a police officer eventually led to her suspicious death in a jail cell.

There comes a time when a person has to speak. Even though there’s been a significant amount of change in my life, which I will be posting about soon, I’ve realized that I’ve neglected a part of my blog: talking about race.

When Sandra Bland’s death was first broadcast in the local news, I chose to not think, to not speak, to not address her death.

It’s honestly still too raw for me to truly process, but what happened to Sandra Bland scares me because it could’ve been me. Police killings of male brown bodies have been in the news more regularly now, but Black families have talked about similar brutal deaths at the hands of cops since Reconstruction.

But now we have a person who was 28 years old just like I was (I celebrated my 29th birthday last week).

We have a female just like me.

A black person just like me.

And a person living in Texas just like me.

She’s pulled over for a silly reason and after the confrontation with the cop escalates, she’s jailed.

Then she’s found dead, and it’s ruled a suicide.

My parents don’t believe it’s a suicide, and I’ve finally admitted to myself that I don’t think it was either.

This state of mine

This state of oppression and beauty,

suffocating moral and sexual conservatism but emotionally open people,

This state where I want to return

has killed many people who’ve looked like me before.

I refuse to watch Sandra Bland’s arrest video just like I refuse to watch Eric Garner’s, Tamir Rice’s, and Walter Scott’s videos. Though important evidence in our biased and deeply flawed court of law, I believe watching the events that lead up to an actual person’s death desensitizes and dehumanizes the viewer.

I’m already dehumanized enough simply for being born black and female to add to my own dehumanization.

How much longer can this go on? How much longer do we have to hear these narratives?

How much longer do I have to think if this person was white this wouldn’t have happened?

How much longer do I have to experience cognitive dissonance when reflecting on my home state and the country that I love?

When the Confederate flag came down in South Carolina—where my maternal family is from—my friend made a good point: we’ve removed the symbol, but not the system.

There’s a system in place that allows certain groups to disrespect cops and end up with a funny story to tell at the next party and other groups to disrespect cops and end up dead.

I don’t know when this system will cease, but I know that something has to occur.

We can’t keep dying like this.

We can’t keep living like this.

And I Dreamed about Living in The Dominican Repbulic: Haitian’s Lynching Renews Protests Against Dominican Citizenship Law

And I dreamed about living in The Dominican Republic.

In light of my recent post about lynching in the US, I find the lynching of a Haitian in the Dominican Republic particularly troubling.

Back in 2013  The Dominican Republic essentially stripped many Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican citizenship. Some of my favorite authors then wrote a letter to the editor decrying this move as racist and dangerous.

I agree with them.

It’s amazing how the laws surrounding (im)migration can tell on a country better than a clueless five year old telling all her parents’ business to any listening adult.

Now a man gets lynched. And it’s not in the American South. Some of the comments, even in my second language, are chilling. They smack of the same virulent racism and bigotry that is in the States and all over the world.

And I’m left wondering. Is this the best we as humans can do?

Ironically, I’ve wanted to live in The Dominican Republic since 2008. My high school discovery of Julia Alvarez’s In The Time of the Butterflies first taught me about the country’s history during the Trujillo dictatorship while my college discovery of Edwidge Danticat and The Farming of Bones told me about its racial tensions under this same dictator. During the Trujillo dictatorship, Haitians were slaughtered at the Dominican and Haitian border.When writing curriculum at my old school, I wrote a suggestion for these two texts to be taught in conjunction since many students were from the Caribbean.

And I dreamed about living in The Dominican Republic.

I’ve talked with one or two Black women who are as dark as me who have traveled to The Dominican Republic. They weren’t necessarily fans of the country because of how they were treated. Essentially, people thought they were Haitian and were rude to them.

And I dreamed about living in The Dominican Republic.

Now with this uptick in anti-Haitianism and even some calls to boycott visiting The Dominican Republic, I’m thinking I’ll have to put this 5+ year old dream on the back burner.

I know for a fact that people will think I’m Haitian. When I was living in Flatbush people would call out to me in Creole; I get asked at least once a month here in Venny if I’m Haitian; and I damn sure will get it in The Dominican Republic.

Being mistaken for Haitian doesn’t offend me in any way, shape, or form. Haitian culture is resplendent with literary and musical heritage. It is a culture of survival. And, unfortunately, it is a culture that is maligned the world over because of the country’s poverty.

I’ve applied for jobs and fellowships in The Dominican Republic, but nothing has ever come to fruition.

Now, I’m sitting here beginning to think that my multiple rejections may have been a good thing. I’m not good with confronting racism. Who is “good” at it?

And I dreamed about living in The Dominican Republic.

History of Lynchings (aka Domestic Terrorism) in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names

Let me be clear. I’m all about Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and Bryan Stevenson. You know, in case my other posts didn’t make that clear already.

Even though I finished Just Mercy some weeks ago, that book honestly has me reflecting on my definition of justice. Quite frankly, I’m beginning to think that there’s no such thing as justice, at least not the childhood version of justice I can’t shake no matter the life experience.

Now Mr. Stevenson decided to go on and be bold again.

EJI is starting an initiative to mark lynchings sites in the US. As a Black child in Texas when white supremacists dragged James Byrd to his death using a pick up truck, I’m all for it.

I’m. All. For. It.

The US needs its own version of Truth and Reconciliation. Like I’ve written about before, people were mailing lynching postcards right here in the US of A. The federal government had to pass a law saying don’t mail that shit anymore.

I mean…

If individuals thought it was OK to mail evidence of a murder, rent out special edition trains to go see lynchings, sell pieces of the lynched’s body and recorded sounds of the victim’s screams (all true, I didn’t make that up) you know life was bad for Blacks in the South. The words pervasive violence do not do this justice.

Terrorism fits the bill nicely though.

The thing is Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans were lynched in the West. White people who were found to be allies of people of color got strung up too.

I intentionally say strung up–as if flippant–because certain lives were considered cheap. Worthless. Something to be flippant about and take pictures of in your Sunday best as proof that you were there to help brutally stamp it out.

This worthless thing of a life.

I taught about lynchings at my old school. We read about Ida B. Wells-Barnett and completed research projects.

This is a part of history that I can’t let go of. Maybe it’s because so many others already have. Maybe it’s because an amazing professor, Professor Wallace, first taught me about this. I don’t know.

Regardless, let these markers–and the fights that will come to not put up these markers–lead us down a real path to Truth and Reconciliation instead of the path of Forgive and Forget.