Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Who Will Weep for the Loss of the Lives of Black Women and Girls?

 I look down at my hands and they are covered in blood, and there is blood on my clothes. And I don’t know where the blood is coming from. My heart beats wildly in my chest. Whose blood is this? I wonder. Then I wake up. I’m in my room. There is no blood. I was dreaming. The nightmare has ended. But my breathing is heavy. And I can’t slow down the pounding in my chest even though I’m wide awake. The feeling follows me throughout the day.

My heart feels heavy—like it’s weighted down with a cement block tossed into the ocean. No matter how much I try, I can't seem to lift my spirits. I see Her bloodied body pop up in my news feed. I am startled, and then I quickly press hide. And then I am angry: angry at the insensitive asshole who took the picture and posted it, and angry that I didn’t report it to Facebook for being offensive. I guess I was shocked that the photo was even there.
Jessica Hampton

A young woman is dead. She's dead because a man felt entitled. She's dead because she said no. She's dead because he stabbed her in broad daylight, on a train while people watched. She's dead because people didn't try and intervene. They live streamed the savage attack, and posted photos of her bloodied dead body on social media before her family was even notified. News reports say the family found out via social media. Her name was Jessica Hampton She was 25 and the mother of a young daughter.

Pamela Johnson
This story really bothers me. I don’t know if it’s because of the callousness of not only the killer, but the bystanders as well. I don’t if it’s because it happened in the middle of the day, or because it’s the third senseless killing of a Black woman in Chicago in a little over a month. There was 32 year-old Pamela Johnson who was killed fleeing would be robbers. She was hit by a truck. There was 49 year-old Yvonne Nelson who was exiting Starbucks and took a bullet to the chest that wasn't meant for her. And now this. I’m a Black woman; I live in Chicago. And I’m afraid.
 Yvonne Nelson

Is my anxiety because these women were killed in the city where I live? A city plagued by violence. That’s part of it for sure. But I also experienced similiar angst when 16 year-old Amy Inita Joyner-Francis died after being jumped in the bathroom at her high school in Delaware, and again just recently when police found the badly decomposed body of 40-year-old Lyntell Washington in a ditch in Louisana. 
Amy Inita Joyner-Francis

The deaths of these women sit with me. They stay with me when the media move on. They remind me of our fragile existence as Black women and girls and our never-ending struggle to find peace in a place in that too often tries to render us invisible or devalues us if we are seen at all.
Lyntell Washington

 There is very little love for the Black woman and girl when we are living, so I read these stories and I wonder who will weep for the loss of the lives of Black women and girls?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Father’s Day Blues

photo courtesy of freejazzlessons.com

I spent most of Father’s Day putting out flowers for my mother. And not because my mother is the father-figure in my life. We’re just late planting this year. Since my mother is no long able to plant, I plant flowers for her on the side of the house so that when she looks out the window, she can see something beautiful.
It was me, the dirt and my thoughts on this early Sunday morning. The hot sun heating up my back as I worked.  And since it was Father’s Day, I thought a lot about my father as I sifted the earth between my fingers. My father died more than 20 years ago. And I still miss his presence in my life. I dug into the recesses of my mind of memories of my father—the man I called “Daddy”.

Though I spent time with my father, I can’t say that I knew my father well. Unlike my siblings who lived in the house with my father pre divorce, I don’t have Daddy stories of him being at home.  My stories are scattered across the landscape of my mind: the time I ate the foam from the top of his car; him taking me to buy a bed and a TV; going fishing and catching his fishing rod in a tree.  What I remember most about my father was his easy-going nature. He was slow to smile not because he was angry, but because he liked to take his time.
My parents divorced. My father remarried, and my siblings and I did not interact much with his side of the family. When he passed away, that pretty much ended what little interaction we had. I only saw my father when he came to visit. Sometimes he would come by the house and other times he would take me and my oldest niece out. I guess we were a package deal because when her father picked her up, I tagged along, too.

His death was incredibly hard. I mourned what we had, and what we would never have. I grieved because I had never known a pain that could cut so deep.  My heart hemorrhaged the day of his funeral and I fainted. No one that close to me had died.  Three of my four grandparents were deceased by the time I was born, and my paternal grandmother and an older brother died when I was too young to understand death. But I was fully grown by the time my father left this world and took a piece of me with him.
Father’s Day was the only holiday I actually spent with my father. My sisters and I would get food and gifts and hang out at his house. So, between my aunt’s funeral and the holiday, I was doing quite a bit of reflecting.  You see, last weekend, I sat in a church full of people singing the praises of a woman I didn’t know, but should have. She was my father’s only living sibling and my aunt.  I had not seen her since his funeral.

I had actually thought about my aunt from time to time over the years because she could have filled in some of the missing pieces about my father. But I never reached out—not because I didn’t want to, I just forgot, and time got away from me. I didn’t even know she was sick. I found out she died when my cousin posted the funeral arrangements on my timeline on Facebook.

The ache from his absence will never go away. But I am forever grateful for the time I had with him. And I know that he’s with me every day. I have his same easy-going nature (most of the time), and when I look at my hands I see his—the oval shaped nails and the visible green veins running through my hands. Because of my father I was able to go to under grad without any student loans because he paid for my tuition at a private university.

So, yea Father’s Day gives me the Blues, but only because I’m missin’ a man I know loved me—My Daddy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cooking With Love

Saturday I had some things to do. I was piddling around and let time get away from me. I needed to be somewhere by 10:00 am, and it was close to 9:00. My mother lives in the apartment upstairs from me, so I called and asked her if she wanted something to eat. Normally she likes something simple like coffee and toast, cottage cheese and peaches or a sausage patty between two pieces of bread. Nothing time consuming. Nothing I can’t handle. But today she wants scrambled eggs, grits, sausage patty and coffee.
Photo courtesy of Pinterest

It's 9:30 by the time I get myself together.  I can tell her I have somewhere to go, and ask what she wants to eat until I get back. But I don't. Full disclaimer: my mother is spoiled, and at 88, this is the way it’s going to be. Every day that I have with her is a blessing because many of my friends have lost one or both of their parents. So, even though being a caretaker has its challenges, I’m thankful that my mother is in fairly good health and in her right mind, and that I (along with her other children, grand children and great grands) are able to care for her.
In the grand scheme of things, these are the things that are important. I won't miss the meeting; I'll just be a little late. So, I take out what I need to make the breakfast that she wants, and I know that if I mess it up, she’s not going to eat it. See, in her day, my mother was an exceptional cook.  

Never the huggy-huggy, kissy –kissy type mother, the way she showed love was through food. My mother made everything from scratch, and she made whatever our hearts desired. So, we were spoiled, too. My middle sister and I did not like lemon flavoring in cake, so she made two cakes—one with lemon and one with vanilla. I don’t think I’ve ever told my mother that I bargained pieces of seven-up pound cake in junior high to keep the bullies at bay. I kept one piece of the melt-in-your-mouth cake wrapped in waxed paper for myself, and the other one I doled out to keep the means girls off my ass. 

My mother had four girls. Two of us cook; two of us don’t. I am one of the latter, too. And even though I don’t share my mother’s skill in the kitchen, I did pay attention when I would be in the kitchen while she was cooking.  She always gave two pieces of advice: cook with love and take your time.

Well, time is not on my side this morning, but I’m going to make her a breakfast (prayerfully) to her liking. I take out everything I need: instant grits, butter, milk, eggs and sausage.  I can work wonders with some instant grits. The key to good grits is consistency, and my mother is the Goldilocks of Grits—not too thick and not too thin. She wants them just right.  Adding milk and butter makes them creamy—just like we had when I was a child. The only difference being my mother didn’t use instant grits.

I put a lid on the pot to keep the grits warm. I roll the sausage around in my hand and flatten it out and place it in the pan on medium heat. As the sausage cooks, I crack two eggs add some seasoning salt, pepper and a capful of milk. This makes the eggs fluffy like she likes them. The sausage is done.  I put the coffee on. The grits have thickened a bit, so I add a tad bit more milk.
I spoon the perfectly scrambled eggs onto the plate, then the grits and the sausage.  Everything looks good, if I have to say so myself, that is until I look at the coffee. It looks like light brown water. What did I do? I don't drink coffee, but I've made it before. I take my mother her plate and tell her I need to make some more coffee. I look at the clock. It's 9:50. 

I pour the coffee out and start over-- twice! I'm getting frustrated. Then I figure out what I'm doing wrong. The coffee brews and when it's done, I pour it in the cup and add cream and sugar. When I walk into her room to take her, her coffee, her plate is empty. "Thank you so much. That was good." I smile to myself.  I did as I was taught: I cooked with love and it turned out just fine. Yea, I’m late for my meeting, but I’m right on time for what matters most.