Sunday, July 29, 2012

Moving Toward Peace

My mother lay curled up in the bed watching TV, or maybe like me—the TV is watching her. As the sounds of the church program drone on in the background, my mother looks to be deep in thought. I look at her fragile form cocooned in the center of the bed—the only place she wants to be—and my mind takes me back to one of my favorite stories that she used to tell.

Coming home from work on the second shift one night, she boarded the front of a standing-room only bus. Holding on to the pole with one hand and her purse secured in the fold of her other arm, she felt something move against her and turned to look. A man had his hand in her purse. Reminiscent of a scene taken right out of Langston Hughes "Thank You Ma'am" when Roger tried to snatch Luella Bates Washington Jones purse, the tables turned on my mother's would-be-thief. 

As the words, “You roguish motherfucker!” rolled off her tongue, my mother drew back and left-hand slapped him. “If you steal from me, you’ll steal from your momma.” SLAP! “It’s a hundred passengers on this bus. Why you single me out?” SLAP! “Cuz I’m small?” My mother said the people on the bus watched in stunned silence, but parted like the Red Sea as she slapped the man from the front of the bus to the back. The bus stopped. The driver opened the door, the guy exited, and my mother went on home.

Like Schroeder’s blanket, this story comforts me as I adjust to this period of change for her and me. The mother I remember is the one from the bus: strong-willed, resilient, and tenacious and with a tongue that cut like a fine blade. I’m trying to get used to this “little old lady” lying in the bed, and it’s a struggle for me. Like many children, I believed my mother to be Invincible and Immortal. But the reality is that she is neither.

A solid-size 12-14, I bought my mother some pants recently and I was shocked when the 6 was too big. I know she had lost weight, but there was no way to know how much because she wears pajamas all the time. Because my mother was still going to the farm to pick fresh fruits and vegetables into her early 70s, I was not prepared for that trip down the one-way street to old age in her late 70s. The signs have been visible: rails in the bathroom, the portable toilet, putting her meds in the weekly container every Sunday morning so she knows what to take and when, but I rally against her aging and I am losing.

My mother says she’s tired. She says she has lived her life. And my feelings vacillate with this notion of her believing that her life is done. Sometimes I’m angry, other times, I’m sad, but always I am thankful for her 80 plus years on the planet even though I want her to live to be 100.  The adult in me knows that her declining health is taking its toll; the child in me wants her to be the fighter that she used to be. But who am I to dictate how she lives her last days? My mother has always been one tough cookie, and maybe, just maybe she is tired of fighting. 

My mother has made her peace with God and her time on this earth. And I am working on making peace with my mother.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Violence in America

"I like everyone else am saddened and angry about the deaths in Colorado yesterday.... and yet i am equally saddened that at the death of 12 innocent people in Colorado the whole Nation responded, Eric Holder flys in,the President responds immediately, every news anchor and Network station stays on it 24/7 .....BUT THAT IS A TYPICAL WEEKEND IN CHICAGO and the Nation is silent.........WHY??????????" Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church

The loss of innocent lives to senseless violence is tragic and horrific. The violence in Colorado clearly shows that something is wrong in our society. And the violence in blighted urban communities also shows that America is plagued by violence. 

 Communities are broken and wounded by unrelenting violence in cities across America. A child outside playing while her mother sells candy doesn’t deserve to die anymore than a young man celebrating his 27th birthday at a midnight movie showing. And yet, the violence in urban areas only captures headlines in local media where as the violence in Colorado captured not only the attention of the nation, but the world as well. Responses from President Obama, and Presidential opponent Mitt Romney were swift. Media coverage has been 24/7. Why?

Is violence in inner cities more acceptable because that’s what’s expected? Why are we numb to the daily toll that violence takes but continue to be shocked and outraged by the actions of one who methodically plans an attack that kills people? Have we been lulled into a sense of safety that has been shattered by this shooting? The Colorado shooting is a grim reminder that none of us are safe. We can run, but we can’t hide from the violence erupting in cities across America. We forget that that which implodes will eventually explode. 

When the blood of innocent people is spilled in a crowded movie theater or on the street on a hot summer night, those in mourning want to know that the rest of the world cares no matter what the zip code of the victim is. We’re all in this together. We need to recognize that.

My heart goes out the families of victims of violence regardless of their zip code.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where’s the Love?

Misogyny - hatred of women

Where's the Love for girls and women of color? That's the question running through my mind as I think about Heaven Sutton, the 7year-old killed in the cross fire of gang violence. I watched the news to see how much coverage the story would get, but sadly her funeral was a blip on the evening news tied in with the deaths of three others in the President’s hometown that continues to be plagued by violence. Wow! That was all there was to the story.

Unlike Trayvon Martin, there is no galvanized support for this child’s death just as there was none for 6 year-old Aliyah Shell, the 6 year-old Hispanic girl who was killed a few months ago. Heaven and Aliyah both live in Chicago, and yet the Trayvon Martin tragedy which happened in Florida got significant more coverage. Why? Because we wanted to fan the growing racial flame? Because we expect violent deaths in certain communities and not in gated ones or is this symptomatic of something larger?

The premature death of any child or young person as a result of violence is tragic. But the world would have us believe the loss is greater if it’s a white girl or woman or a black male – sexism and racism at its best. So, a person of the wrong gender and color is just as invisible in death has she had been in life.
Time will pass, and we will remember the names of Trayvon Martin, Darion Albert and Emmett Till. We will also remember Joan Benet and Caylee Anthony. But how many of us will honor the memory of Heaven, Aliyah just by remembering their names?

Growing up, I heard the story of the four little girls killed when racists bombed the 16th Street Baptist church on a Sunday morning. I also remember hearing the names of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney – a group of interracial civil rights workers who were found dead in 1964. Their names were always strung together – Schnwerner, Goodman and Chaney, but they were named.

 It wasn’t until I saw Spike Lee’s documentary, Four Little Girls that I learned the girls’ names – Addie McNair, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. They are not a unit; they are four individuals from four different families with four different stories. But we lump them together as one. Why don’t their names roll off our tongues? Are they not worthy of remembering?
We’ll acknowledge that racism exists now. We’ll even so far as to say that we’re post-racial. We’ll also acknowledge sexism and admit that women are not treated as equals in society. But we run from misogyny because it’s such an ugly term – hatred of women. 

 As a woman it’s painful to believe that the world I live in does not love me because of my gender. But based on all that I read; that I see; that I experience, I know it to be true. But while I am saddened by this knowledge, I am not deterred by it. Acknowledgement is the first step on the path to evolution. We have work to do and we can begin by knowing and remembering the names of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. Let’s also remember Heaven Sutton, Aliyah Shell and countless others names we have forgotten. They deserve at least that much from us.

Who else should we remember? Leave their names in the comment section. Thank you for remembering.