Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thoughts on Toni Morrison's New Novel Home


Like many of you, I have been a fan of Toni Morrison since I was a freshman in college. It was in those classrooms that I fell in love with the magic that is Toni Morrison. It was through her writings that I came to understand and to love the use of stream consciousness in fiction writing.

After college I continued to be a fan. However, for anyone who has read Morrison, you know reading her can take work. I learned to digest Morrison's books by taking a highlighter and creating a family tree/org chart to keep up with who was connected to whom. Also, I pulled out the Bible on more than one occasion because often her books have biblical references and metaphors. Of course it was never possible to even come close to understanding a Morrison novel with just one read. I confess that I have read Songs of Solomon at least (4) times, Paradise (3) times and Beloved, I can't even count. And I still feel as if I've missed something or there's more for me to learn.

Now fast forward to the twenty-first century. Morrison's recent novels have been quite different. A lot less voluminous than some of her earlier works. Usually, no more than 200 pages. Though still rich in substance; they tend not to have the type of complex themes and metaphors that leave one feeling exhausted and for me, just a bit inadequate. Let me correct myself. The complexity of themes is still there, but they don't seem to be as deeply hidden in symbolisms as they once were.

These days it would appear that Morrison has mastered the art of less is more. The stories are just as rich, and your soul still feels full, but just with half the dose.
This is definitely the case with Home. Morrison is no less masterful in her ability to weave a story and paint a mosaic that leads the reader into the joy, pain and personal growth of the character(s). In Home, we take a spiritual and emotional journey with the main character Frank, who is a Korean War veteran. More likely than not, Frank is suffering from PTSD. 

We follow Frank on his painful journey to reconnect with his sister Cece, who has also experienced her own personal and physical trauma at the hands of a trusted physician for whom she is employed. Morris without being mushy; shows us that familiar bonds can never be completely broken and love and forgiveness transcends and heals all wounds.

The opening line of the novel, in classic Morrison style sets the tone of the story:
"They rose up like men. We saw them. Like men they stood." (Home, p.3).

Morrison still employs stream of consciousness, masterfully. But this reader was able to follow it; possibly because it was not overlaid with as many metaphors and symbols as in some of Morrison's earlier works. Yet, her ability to make readers hear, taste and smell what the characters are experiencing is no less poignant.

For example:

"The iced iron of the fire escape steps was so painful he
jumped over the rails to sink his feet into the warmer
snow on the grown. Manic moonlight going the work
of absent starts matched his desperate frenzy, lighting
his hunched shoulders and footprints left in the snow."
(Home p. 11).

Home, like many of Morrison novels is the story of one man's journey through childhood and adult trauma, and the courage he is able to call forth in order to make his way back to redemption and healing.  I recommend the book for veteran Morrison fans and for those who might have been intimidated or exhausted by some of Morrison's earlier works. I feel confident than neither audience will be disappointed.

© 2012

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Over using Racist and Homophobic

When we too quickly apply the terms racist and homophobic to someone, not only is it a rush to judgment; it shuts down any possibility of meaningful dialogue between you and the person. More importantly, it lets the person off the hook without their ever really examining their shadow beliefs about people of other ethic groups or sexual orientation. The person quickly says, oh I'm not racist, or I'm not homophobic. And of course there are those who go a step further and say, some of best friends are....  This may or may not be true, yet, it allows the individual to skirt the larger issue, which is the benefit of white and heterosexual privilege.  

Now mind you, heterosexual privilege is an issue that I had to struggle with as a straight black women.  There was a time I felt that as a woman and a person of color, I was afforded few privileges if any, and did not see my heterosexual orientation as any kind of privilege.   However, overtime, and with some very heated discussions, my homosexual friends educated me on the errors in my thinking.  I was able to remain open to the dialogue because my friends were smart and sensitive enough not to just call me names, but engaged me in ways that allowed me to honor my feelings and opinions,  while exploring new ways of seeing and being in the world with others who had a different sexual orientation.

Now let me be clear, I've come a long way in my thinking, but I am not at the "Gay is the new Black" stage by any means.  I still feel that when I walk into a room my blackness and the negative historical legacy connected to my ancestry enters with me.  I am at the mercy if you will, of the other person to be enlightened enough to know that I am more than my color.  On the other hand, in my opinion, when a gay or lesbian person walks into a room their sexual orientation is not immediately known or for that matter judged. Again, IMHO.

However, I digress.  I was motivated to write this post because of the article, "Oh Shit, I'm Racist" (  Mike Arrington could easily let himself off the hook by saying he's not a racist, which he probably isn't. Nevertheless, this quote from his article made me think Mr. Arrington might just need to dig a little deeper into his world view as it relates to issues of race and even class. He stated:

"I may be the poster child for racial ignorance in Silicon Valley, but my motives are pure and I always have and always will do anything to help out the underdog. Frankly, I’ll invest my time in people like, who are actually trying to fix the problem at the root level."

Will i am. Dude are you serious? Rubbing shoulders with a black guy, by the way, wealthy entertainer should not excuse your "racial ignorance". Yet, this is what happens when we use language like racist and homophobic loosely.  People get a free pass and continue with their lives feeling exonerated that they are not racist or homophobic, while their negatives views and the bigotry of low expectations remain intact.

The moral of this rant if there is one: The next time you confront someone who is expressing negative views or comments about a racial or sexual minority; don't immediately brand them racist or homophobic. Instead, engage them in meaningful dialogue if at all possible.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Note to Single Moms and Mr. West

This post is in response to Kanye West' new song Mama's Boyfriend. Thanks Nessa for the nudge. You knew I couldn't resist.

In the mist of what I consider Kanye's whining, he raises a very relevant issue regarding the relationship between mothers and their children, especially sons.  Single mothers stop telling little boys that they are the man of the house. Your child is not your boyfriend or your husband, he's a child and should act in a child's role.  Until he pays the bills, he ain't the man of nothing. End of conversation.

As a woman who raised a son as a divorced mom, I know a little bit about what I speak. I was very mindful in my relationship choices, but I was always clear of a couple of things: 1) every man I met, my child didn't need to meet 2) I was still a young woman and deserved the right to date  3) I recognized that it was important for my child to see me engaged in "healthy" relationships with men. Yet, I was also mindful that my son was taking his cues from me about how women should be treated. I can proudly say for the most part my son his a gentleman. Though he's hit some bumps in the relationship department, I'm proud of the man he is becoming.

Single moms, I'm not dumping on you. I know it's hard navigating the whole dating thing. Especially today when it's a real challenge for women in general to find the right mate. That's not to say that there are not good men out there, it's just connecting that right man with the right woman. And of course, blending baby mamas and daddies, it can get complicated.

The interesting thing is men handle the situation totally different.  I watch my son as a single dad raising his son. He is oh so clear that he's going to have a life and the littlest Hunt just has to get on board.  Of course the fact that L. Hunt's mom is not in the picture makes it both easier and sometimes much more complicated.

As for me Mr. West, I admire his artistry and I certainly empathize with the loss of his mom. However, Kanye was a whiner before his mother died and he continues. I said it before, I think the brother has some serious issues that I hope he's addressing. However, he's not the first person to lose a parent unexpectedly, and most don't have the benefit of wealth to get quality counseling or be able to afford the luxuries that he has.  Now of course there certainly could be much deeper issues with Kanye and some of his mother's boyfriends (IMJS). We all know that little girls are not the only ones that get violated by the mother's boyfriend or possibly even the father's girlfriend or whatever the configuration.

At some point we have to put a statue of limitations on all the ways that our parents f@cked up, and keep it moving. As someone once said, and I'm paraphrasing, "if your mom put you on the potty backwards as a child, by the time you're are 25 or 30 years old you need to have the good sense to turn yourself around.

Just my two cents.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Social Networks: What Good Are They?

I received a rather lengthy rant from a colleague stating that they were closing all their social networking accounts (FB, Linkedin and Twitter) because the networks were a waste of time. The person went on to say, that in a time of recession, tax breaks for the wealthy, a dysfunctional federal government and two wars, folk are wasting time, talking about music, art and senseless stuff.  I hear my friend loud and clear. We are indeed in the worse economic and political climate of my life time.  And yes, there's lots of over sharing and senseless banter that goes on with social networking sites. But like most things in the world, there is good and bad, and it's up to individual user to discern what works and doesn't work.

I'd like to offer a different take. I possess a wide array of interests which social and economic matters are an integral part. However, arts, cultural, spiritual uplift are equally important to my functioning as a whole person. The opportunity to interface with people from around the world on a variety of topics, ranging from nuclear disarmament to Nicki Minaj, I find extremely fulfilling. More important, it provides a break from the daily grind of what for me is very difficult economic time.

LinkedIn provides a space for to me to interface with those who I share  similar professional interests. Twitter allows me in 140 characters to get links to news, jobs, music and yes, up to the minute analysis of the RHOA or the BET awards.
Facebook, where I admit, I probably spend more time than I should, provides me with a cornucopia of knowledge on range of topics that feed my all over the place mind. I get spiritual food and uplift from people all of the U.S and some foreign countries.  I'm linked to people and diverse ideas that would take me; a somewhat shy, reserve person, several life times to accomplish in real time.

In my opinion, social networking creates the opportunity for us to move beyond the normative cultural practice made popular at the turn of the century by author, Robert Putnam called, "Bowling Alone". Now I get to come to the playground with a diverse group of people that transcends race, class, gender and national origin in a space that though far from safe, tends to be much more none threatening. I love my FB kin as I have come to call them. I check in on them and they on me, if we're M.I.A for more than a day a two.  We nurture and encourage each other, laugh, cry and celebrate with each other. We are all clear that though this is cyberspace and not everything we read is true or real, our connections are no less valuable.

The long term implications of social networking remains to be seen. However, in the meantime, I will continue to engage. I suggest to my friend not to disconnect, but much like in the real world, be more selective about the kinds of friends he/she surrounds themselves with.

Just my two cents.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pt: 1 Reconciling the Contradictions: Adapting to a World We Didn't Make

My Standpoint:

I speak from the standpoint of a womanist/feminist, heterosexual woman that admires and respects men, especially black men. I can honestly say that I have never been mistreated by a man. Disappointed by my preconceived notions about what my man should be and how he should love me yes, but I am clear that it was of my own making.  I still maintain what some may call an unrealistic standard.  Yet, I am clear that I am not looking for the perfect man, but a man that is perfect for me.   I have managed to do most of the things I've wanted to do without  having to depend on a relationship with a man.  Would it be sweeter with someone to share it with, of course. But life is about choices, and I choose not to force a relationship that is not meant to be and one in which I don't feel like my best self at least 90% of the time.  Choices in life come with a price. In my opinion, no price is too high for me to feel valued and loved. While my heart remains open to love and companionship, in the meantime, I love my own company, I love being able to make decisions solely with me in mind.  I don't consider myself selfish, but I am oh so self-filled.

Reconciling the Contradictions:

This blog post is not about male or female bashing.  Instead, I am offering a good dose of pull up. So brothers, put on your big boy boxers or briefs and sisters put on your big girl panties. This is about the NAKED TRUTH (i.e. self-hatred as a result of internalized oppression).

DuBios often spoke of the dual consciousness that exists for most black people in America and I suspect the world. That duality of consciousness often causes us to behave in ways that on the surface appear diametrically opposed. Each day we must reconcile what it means to be a person of African descent, a person of color, or a woman of color living in world whose mores and values we didn't make.  We were not at the table when decisions about standards of beauty;  what constitutes manhood or womanhood; what defines success were all decided.  Moreover, at the time, black people were only considered three fifths human. Nevertheless, as with all species, we did what we had to do in order to survive. We adapted.

As a result of  our enslavement and/or our colonization, we have had to create a blueprint for survival that is neither purely Western, nor purely African, but instead, a complex, and often conflicting paradigm of social norms and behaviors.  Many of our ancestors came from African cultures that were matriarchal.  As result of this mismatch, our relationships cannot and will not resemble those of the dominant culture, therefore, we need to stop expecting them to.

Historically, women have done a lot of the adapting and changing. Even today, a NYT bestselling author, calls on women to "Act Like a Lady and Think Life I Man".  However, the author simultaneously says that it is not in a man's nature to do certain things (i.e.take down his woman's cornrows). I beg the question, what about a woman's nature. Historically, men have been hunters and gatherers; the providers. The contextual reality based on the evolution of culture and society has required women to work outside the home and  be providers, caretakers and the nurturers. No where is this more true than within the African American family, where historically the black man has been disenfranchised from certain economic opportunities. Black women adapted and were determined that the family survived by any means necessary. That is our historical legacy.  It is then unfair to ask women to just turn off their take charge role when it suits the needs of the men.

Sadly, some of our adaptation has lead us to doubt our on worth as men, women and as humans. We are so out of order that black men have to ask permission to be men. How many times have we heard the phrase," woman, let me be a man". WTH?  Men of our fathers generation didn't have to ask permission.  Though far from perfect, most did what they had to do to make sure that the family was provided for. They paid the cost to be called, "the man." More important, if a man has to ask permission from me to be a man, his emotional needs are greater than anything I can give him. If he has to get a permission slip from me to be what  and who he was born to be the problem runs much deeper. Often this need for permission stems from the brother's inconsistencies as a man. Brothers have to step it up not just when it works for them, but everyday you live. We need men who are not afraid to walk as a man among men; self-determined and comfortable in their own skin. It takes self-help and healing  by both men and women to bring this about.

You didn't see Sojourner asking the suffragist if she could be a woman. She reminded white women, white men and even black men that she was a woman too.  When Truth made her famous statement, "Ain't I a Woman, she was not asking permission but reminding America, that despite her status she was indeed a woman. She stated "that she had borne 13 children and saw them all sold in to slavery".  She reconcile the contradictions and adapted. Though she may not be put on a pedestal like white women, she was no less of a woman.

Mind you, there are a lot of good brothers in our community, yet they are not the ones who get the spotlight. We must shine the light on these models of manhood. Men who are holding it down must reach out to those who may have never seen or interacted with a positive example of black manhood.  Men in general and black men in particular must be willing to reconcile the contradictions and adapt to the current male/female dynamic. Your wife may make more money than you, you may not have a nine to five, but can you cook, wash dishes and take care of the children, while your wife brings home the bacon, with the understanding that the one who brings home the bacon and often time fries it up does get an equal vote.  This my brothers is what reconciling the contradictions in a world we didn't make looks like.

Sisters you must stop measuring your man's value and worth by American standards. We must stop shaming our men because they do not make the salary, drive the car, or can't shower you constantly with gifts.  Now I am not calling for anyone to settle, (Not advocating for you go to the prison to find your man unless that's the man you want). However, I am saying that we must be realistic in our expectations and be willing to see that the true measure of man has little to do with his bank account. The questions we should be asking are: is he a person of integrity, can I trust him, is he an independent thinker, is he willing to sacrifice his needs for the good of the family. Most of all, does he place the Creator first in every aspect of his daily living.

Now when I speak about a God fearing man, I am not talking about the one who hides behind religion and maintains archaic notions about the role of men and women. I know I'm going to make a few enemies here, but I'm ready to take the hit. A lot of the disharmony that we experience in our relationships is perpetuated by the church.  Literal interpretations of biblical references has confused the situation in many ways, rather than brought clarity. The whole notion that God put man in charge and that women should submit to the will of man often serves as a hindrance to meaningful relationships.  Sojourner Truth addresses this notion. She states:  "Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman!  Man had nothing to do with Him".  This outdated notion about who God left in charge, doesn't work. Ultimately, if we put the Creator in charge of both of us, then we can truly move forward.

It is imperative that we a adopt a new paradigm for relationships between men and women. One based on mutual respect and shared leadership.  Complementary roles, based on strengths, rather rigidly defined preconceived notions.  This shift will require the elimination or at least the deconstruction of gender roles built on patriarchy and sustained in large measure by religious institutions.  Only then will men and women be able to engage in meaningful relationship based on mutual respect and shared power, rather than domination and submission.  Change and adaptation must come from both sides. This is how we begin the process of Reconciling the Contradictions and Adapting to a World We Didn't Make.

(Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to leave your constructive comments. Meaningful dialogue is welcomed. Part II. of this series will address the differences in how men and women select a mate).

Wishing you pure, joy, peace and pure love!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Throw the NAACP's Historical Legacy Out with Its Dirty Bath Water

I am as pissed as most regarding the blatant missteps of the NAACP leadership regarding Mrs. Shirley Sherrod. However, I am not willing to totally malign an organization that no matter whether we agree or disagree with its actions, it has been on the front line fighting for the rights of coloreds, negroes, afro-americans, african-americans and all of the other configurations in between.

I don't know if the NAACP is still relevant and viable to address the myriad of challenges facing our communities today. However, I think we will be hard pressed to find any organization that has not undergone a radical paradigm shift that is truly relevant for our times. Even with that, no single organization will or should try to address all the needs of the black community.

Yes, the NAACP leadership as it stands today, deserves a vote of no confidence. Yet, we can not deny the integral role and human sacrifice that those who came before have made. Yes, I know that the NAACP was started largely by white people.  It was started in response to racial riots and lynching in Springfield Illinois in 1908. It was an organization whose time had come based on the Jim Crowism that was rampant in the America South, but also permeated North, East and West.

We can not deny the role the NAACP played in opening doors to social, political, educational and economic justice for not only black people but other minorities. We cannot deny the historic role of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund with Thurdgood Marshall at the helm litigating and winning Brown vs Board of Education. We can deny or forget that NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers gave his life fighting for the rights of black people.

As a child of the segregated South, my history and early activist training are rooted in organizations like the NAACP. I grew up as a small child attending meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Christian Movement for Human Rights and the NAACP. I remember sitting in churches in the dead of summer sweltering with heat due to no air conditioning. Yet, my mother and others in attendance paid no mind to the heat inside, because the sweltering heat of oppression waiting for them outside was far greater.

I remember my grandfather's brand new brick home being bombed on what infamously became known as "Dynamite Hill" in Birmingham's Smithfield community. A community made up of working class black folk seeking a better life and having the Kland decide that they'd bomb and burn these homes. I guess these individuals felt that only the shotgun houses across the tracks were fitting for black folk.

As I grew older I became more radical in my political thinking and embraced the Black Power philosophies of Angela Davis and other icons of the Black Power Movement. Yet, I never lost my sense of history and memory of my earlier experiences with the more moderate civil rights organizations like the NAACP.  I can still remember my mother's words, "never burn the bridges that brought you across". There was a time in the not so distant past when the NAACP was one of those  bridges.

I write this to remind myself first,  and hopefully to remind others that we must cherish our historical black institutions that were there when we were denied access to most mainstream institutions; be they public accommodations or institutions of higher learning. Because we now have full access to most public and many private spaces, far too many of us no longer patronize black businesses, we no longer live in historically black communities, even our HBCU's are little more than an after thought in our selection of schools. As a result, many historically black communities are blighted because of black flight. In addition, there is debate as to whether we even need HBCUs in a post-racial era.

Yes, we must demand more of the NAACP and other organizations that purport to represent the interests of people of color. In addition to demanding more, we must become actively involved ourselves. If not with the NAACP, with some organized social or political cause that meets our needs and where we can lend our talent and expertise.

Even though the NAACP threw Mrs. Sherrod under the bus, let's take the high road and not throw its historical legacy out with its dirty bath water.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stuff on My Mind

I have been neglecting my blog posts in favor of creating YouTube Videos. Another creative outlet that I have discovered in the Third Chapter of life. Being a very visual person and loving music, it's a medium that I enjoy manipulating. Also, I've been rendered speechless by much of what has been going in the world of late. Nevertheless, there are a few issues that have cause me to rant or at least sit up and take notice.

Here we go:


Health care reform has produced craziness that I think no one could have imagined. Accusations of death panels and that America is heading toward socialism. Comparing our Commander and Chief to Hitler. Of course there have been loud cries of racism from even unlikely corners; former president Jimmy Carter. Though I believe race is indeed a common thread it is not the only issue. What we are seeing has more to do with the constant battle between the half and have nots. Meaningful health care reform is an attempt to reduce health disparities. Let's be clear, the legislation will not reduce the cost of health care. That would require radical regulation of the both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Of course this is not going to happen. Too many people have benefited financially on both sides of the legislative isle.

If the bill passes without the Public Option there really is no reform. It's just business as usual. Millions will continue to be locked out of the opportunity to have quality and affordable health care. In the meantime, we must exercise agency over our own health. Though not a panacea, eating right, exercise and believe it or not, reducing the number of toxic relationships you have will all aid in improving your quality of health and overall quality of life. When you don't have your health, nothing else really matters.


You would think in a time of high unemployment that customer service would improve because businesses would value your return patronage. Not. There seems to be an epidemic of rudeness. People in these positions take themselves too serious rather than the jobs they are doing and the people that keep them with a job. Now this does not refer to all, there are exceptions. However, we know the bar has been greatly lowered when we are in awe of the clerk or cashier when they ask us if we found everything we needed or if they speak to us in pleasant tone, rather than the gruff, what the hell do you want tone we so often hear.

My dollars are too hard to come by. I expect the person waiting on me to at least pretend that they like me as I'm handing them my hard earned money. When I leave you can call me whatever you want. I think many would agree that customer service has almost become an ugly word.

Tiger Woods-

Am I the only one who feels like, enough already on the TW. Tiger is a rich, nerd, dummy. Yeah I said it. He might be the best in golf, but he has failed miserably in the game of life and relationships. I don't go along with the whole sex addict thing, but clearly dude's got major issues.

Tiger has some valuable lessons to learn and sadly his wife and children will have to attend the classes with him. Tiger thought his honorary white boy status would protect him. Not. As one writer said, Tiger is the new O.J. He was allowed acceptance into main stream culture and afforded all the perks, including a "nice" blond girl (OTFL) and he showed his natural born Caublasian ass (it's rumored literally). For this my dear boy you will have to pay the price.

Tiger, I don't know if the black community will allow you to come home in that:  a) you never embraced your blackness and b) some claim black women are mad because you didn't cheat with any of us. Now I disagree with this.  Sisters, this is one hot mess we should be thankful we were left out of.

At the end of the day, Tiger, his wife and all his jump offs will be just fine. Everybody will get a least one check to clear. Now the rest of ua must return to more pressing matters, such youth violence, homelessness, foreclosures, health care access and our children's ability to compete in a global economy.

Obama's Approval Rating:

Lastly, I want to speak on the drop in approval ratings for President Obama. Many of you may have heard that even the Congressional Black Caucus is giving Obama grief. My comments on this issue are brief.

Liberals, blacks you were not listening. The man has done exactly what he said he would do. He has made changes. Now is it change you can believe in? The verdict is still out on that one.

Let's look closely:

1) Obama said he would strategically pull troops from Iraq and refocus efforts and military force in Afghanistan. This is what he did.

2) It was only when faced with the possibility of loosing due to Jeremiah Wright did Obama remotely address the issue of race. He has portrayed himself consistently as transcending race. Let's face it, Obama probably would have won with or with black folk. He must now repay the folk who provided him with the cheddar to get in office. More importantly, he does have to function as a servant of all the people, of which black people make up only 12%.

3) We must not be naive enough to think a man of any race, not to mention mixed- African heritage would have risen to the level of president if the establishment thought for one millisecond that he was going to actually challenge the status quo.

Let me be clear, I still maintain the highest level of respect for the president and the historical, cultural and sociological significance of his presidency. I do believe that this is indeed his time and his divine assignment at this epoch in human history. And last, but certainly not least, special kudos to the First Lady of the United States, who continues to shine as a beacon of class, intellect and an excellent representation of black womanhood and the black family unit. We love you Mrs. Obama.

Well I feel lighter having had the chance to share some stuff that's been on my mind. Hope we can engage in mutual dialogue.

Until next time, love, peace and hair grease.