About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Reflection on Power, Resistance and a Day at the Park

I decided to eat my lunch at a local park yesterday, and upon pulling in, I saw about five or six police cars parked there. Naturally, I was concerned about what might be going on, but I went on, found a shady spot to park in, and began listening to my new favorite podcast, Truth's Table.

The particular episode I was listening to, “Historical and Contemporary Resistance,” was the third in a three-part series on what resistance looks like. In this installment, the hosts—Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson and Ekemini Uwan—were discussing present-day examples. It just so happened that, as I was driving out of the park, Michelle was discussing the good folks doing resistance work in Ferguson, Missouri. She lives in St. Louis and has been active in the work in that area.

Image credit: Leo Romero
At this particular moment in my drive out of the park, Michelle was talking about some of the dehumanizing tactics that police officers in Ferguson have used against her and fellow activists. In the same moment, I was passing by the line of police cars and looked over to see a multi-racial group of officers hanging out with a group of black kids and adults, who I assume were leaders or mentors of a youth program of some sort. From my brief observations while I cruised past, I saw nothing to be concerned about. In fact, I saw smiles, laughter and positive engagement. I saw police officers, sworn to serve and protect, being part of their community and (I hope) establishing good relationships with the young people they serve.

The juxtaposition between what I was hearing and what I was seeing was so stark, and it made me long to witness more of the latter. I long for the day when this is par for the course: that those in positions of power and authority a) treat those in their charge with the dignity of fellow human beings and b) see themselves as servants first. I long for more genuine smiles shared between those in power and those they serve, whether that power lies in a badge, a political office, an executive position or a teacher’s desk.

Until then, as the Truth’s Table crew asserted, resistance is necessary—whether that’s through becoming public servants ourselves, raising our children to love themselves and their communities, regularly engaging in self-care in a society that encourages working ourselves to the breaking point, or choosing to acknowledge others’ suffering when it does not affect us personally.

I do know that the scene I witnessed yesterday gave me hope, hope that humanity and service will be lasting takeaways for the officers, children and adults who spent some time together at the park.

Friday, September 30, 2016

This Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

–from Langston Hughes' “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
I often spend my lunch breaks down by the Alabama River in Montgomery. I love sitting there: reading, thinking, just being. It's a place where all my identities seems to come together and meet, where my past, present and future seem to converge.

Like the time I saw a beautiful black family—a grandfather, his grandson (about 7-ish) and his granddaughter (about 3-ish), fresh off a boat ride and enjoying lunch and each other. I smiled as I watched them, catching bits and pieces of their conversation, the youngest of the crew a bit skittish about an insect flying nearby. It made me think of fishing trips with my father and siblings so many years ago.

And there are the times I have sat by this river and read books that plucked my brain and my heart, like Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic. In this tale, a young girl from New Orleans spends the summer with her mysterious grandmother, who teaches the child about her family’s special connection with the healing powers of water. From the time one of their foremothers was stolen from Africa to the time Big Oil threatens to ruin their entire existence on the bayou, water speaks to this family and the communities around them.

And there’s the time I reclined by the river and began reading historian Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. Early in the book, I read about clever and courageous enslaved folks who attempted to escape bondage via various rivers during American slavery. Some successful, some...not successful.

I think about this particular river, the Alabama, where who-knows-how-many folks—who looked like me, could have been related to me—disembarked from vessels and walked right up this riverbank to a pen or jail on what is now Commerce Street or Dexter Avenue. At some point, they were led to One Court Square—now marked by a beautiful, decorative fountain—where they were auctioned off, maybe separated from family they’d never see again.

I think about lunch by this river with one of my dearest friends. Recently, this friend and I gathered in this old city, just down the road from the river, with two more of our dear crew. We cheered with and for each other, laughed and danced together, loved on and affirmed one another. It was all kinds of black girl magic. It was beautiful. It was love.

Perhaps I thought about all this today as the weather turns noticeably cooler and, maybe in a month or two, I likely won’t be lunching by the river for a while. But I’ll be back.

I came across this video of Langston Hughes reading "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" after explaining the inspiration behind it. Check it out.

video courtesy of Poetry Reading Live on YouTube

Monday, July 11, 2016

No Love Without Justice—and Vice Versa

Art by cselenka: http://cselenka.deviantart.com
I have not said much, digitally, about the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile or the police officers in Dallas last week. Other than face-to-face conversations in my personal and professional circles, I have sat with numbness, deep sadness and rage, and I have practiced a great deal of avoidance. (I haven’t watched videos or press conferences or read the fine details of the shootings.)

Up to this point and for the most part, I’ve chosen to not contribute to the morass of online musings about these events. What could I say that hasn’t already been said?

But I felt moved, as a believer in Christ (read: a believer in love), to say this: Evil and injustice are as old as time. We humans continue to find ways to hurt each other and to foster discord rather than peace and harmony. And it would be easy to think this is all we are. Prejudice. Bias. Hate. Fear-mongering. Division. Partisanship. Memes. Snarky tweets. And many of our social and political institutions concoct and perpetuate these poisons.

But I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid. I go through my periods of anger and near-misanthropy, but that’s not who I am. I stand on the side of love, and so many people out there are standing with me. I was blessed to read a post by educator Valencia’s Garden tonight (h/t EduColor) titled “Questions Children of Color are Asking: Am I the Next Hashtag?” In it, she describes reading and writing workshops she recently facilitated with teens to help them cope with the trauma of repeatedly seeing killings played out before them on social media.

Some students expressed fear or hatred of police officers, specifically white police officers, and wondered why police are so afraid of black people. “Before I could move on to anything else in my lesson,” she writes, “I had to address self-love and provide an understanding that we are not helpless and hopeless but we are actually stronger now than we have ever been. What makes us strong is the ability to love, unconditionally.”

Since transitioning out of my state of rage about these killings—and the long line of killings that preceded them—the power of love has been taking root in my heart. As frequently as we hear about these violent events, we just as frequently (need to) hear about the people spreading love. And educators like Valencia’s Garden are prioritizing love in their teaching of young people. As often as I lament that hate just won’t “die out,” love won’t die out either. I’m going to continue seeking out and spreading love when, where and how I can: at work, at home, in my extended family, with my friends, online, at the grocery store. And I hope you’ll join me.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t speak out against wrong and injustice. On the contrary, silence is tantamount to complicity. And make no mistake, my friends, Jesus is a lover of justice, despite how some folks want to characterize him. Many of us are tired and disillusioned and we may not feel like we can do much, but we can start where we are. I'm really not trying to be cliché or overly simplistic about this. But each of us has realms of influence, whether they're families, classrooms, offices, community organizations, boardrooms, police precincts, judicial or legislative chambers or friendships. And we can use them on behalf of what is right. We humans have the obligation and the capacity to pursue both love and justice. Really, our society—our world—can’t have one without the other. As Dr. Cornel West states so eloquently, "Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."

Note: MrYoungGun100 (reveal yourself, friend!) recently commented that I haven’t blogged in nearly two years. I started this post over two hours ago and couldn’t go one minute without an interruption from Mini Mo—until I got her to bed. She’s at least partly to blame for my absence! I’m conjuring up a plan to start posting again though…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mini Mo: Reading the World "Like Me"

Mini Mo turned three years old about a month ago, and in addition to all the wonderful things other mothers have warned me about regarding this age, my little one has become quite the vocal observer of her surroundings--but more importantly of herself.

This self-observation really caught my attention a few months ago during a trip to Old Navy. To convince Mini Mo she needn't fear the half dozen mannequins that greeted us at the door, I walked to the one that looked like a young black girl with afro puffs and said, "Look! She's got puffs like you!" She unclenched my legs and eyed the mannequin, asking me to lift her so she could touch its puffs. From that day forward, whenever we go to any shopping center, Miyah looks for mannequins with "puffs like me!" (On our last trip to Old Navy just last week, she hugged the mannequin with the puffs. I'm so mad I didn't snap a photo.)

I wonder what magic is waiting in
Mini Mo's puffballs.
She continues to notice hair that looks like hers, and I encourage her observations. After all, she got that hair from me. :-) I want her to know I love my hair and her hair and that she should love her hair, too. That's why I purchased Penny and the Magic Puffballs, a children's book by Alonda Williams about a girl who comes to appreciate her puffs and the power they give her. Mini Mo was shocked to find at the end of the book a collage of photographs featuring girls of varying ages and with all kinds of puffballs--and she even thought one of them was her! She saw herself, and it was a beautiful thing.

Her reading of similarities between herself and those around her extends beyond hair these days, though. Sure, she'll note that "Daddy's wearing flip-flops like me" or "Mommy's got a necklace like me." But she's also noticing skin tone. Just the other day, she stated out of the blue, "I'm brown," to which I replied, "That's right. You are brown." She continued, "Mommy's brown and Daddy's brown." I kept her going.

"What about your brother?"

"He's brown, too."

"What about Kayla*?"

"She's white."

This exchange was a clear reminder that children grow up understanding differences (and similarities) in identities early on; it's their environment that shapes how they interpret them. I was so happy that, in this case, Mini Mo's interpretation was one of simple fact--and Kayla is one of her oldest buddies. Well, old for a three-year-old.

Beyond observing her external identifiers, Mini Mo seems to be owning her power as an individual. Let me just say: I know that her stepping into her fourth year means she has a ton of ego. Truer words were never written of this child, who really seems to have been self-assured and confident from day one. But when she sees strong, confident figures in front of her, she relates to them.

Case in point: Her aunt and uncle sent her Dr. Kimberly Brown's children's book Queen Like Me: The True Story of Girls Who Changed the World for her birthday. When hearing about the wise Queen of Sheba, the Sphinx-inspiring Nefertari and the determined Nzinga--along with Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King, Mary McCleod Bethune and many others--she kept wanting me to repeat these women's names. It was like she needed to be sure she got them down. She then agreed with the book's refrain that each one was "a queen like me."

Sure, she's a kid who loves books and beautiful images like any other kid, but Mini Mo's increasing literacy surrounding her identity and those of others leaves me happy about the messages she's internalizing at this young age and at this historical moment. Would she have been able to see a mannequin with afro puffs even ten years ago? Doubt it.

As she grows older and becomes increasingly aware of forces that might counter these messages, it may be harder for our family--and her teachers, I hope--to maintain them. But we're planting seeds, and I'm confident they'll bear good fruit. Besides, Mini Mo also seems to have an affinity for truth...like me.

*Not the cutie's real name

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy Being Me

Image courtesy of HealthWorks
*Cough, cough* Goodness--I just wiped the cobwebs off this thing. It's been a hot minute, and a lot has happened in the interim. For starters, I got a new job that has completely changed the way I prioritize my time. This blog has not made the cut--but I've missed it.

Other things have happened, things that have caused me to seriously evaluate myself. More than at any other eventful period in my life (perhaps), this phase has revealed to me that the world outside myself can really get me wrong. I've dealt with guilt (self- and otherwise imposed) for having even less time with Mini Mo each day than I had before, for having to depend on even more people to help take care of her (so blessed to have wonderful folks in my life), for having a tough time figuring out dinner most nights, for having even less inclination to de-shamble my house. I've been planning to fantabulize Mini Mo's room since before she was born, and I haven't really gotten around to it--two and half years later.

Yet, I'm proud of myself and I like myself. I dared to try something new in my life, and I'm more fulfilled because of it. I recognize my shortcomings and am cool with myself in spite of them. I teach, converse with, listen to, discipline, indulge, learn from and treasure Mini Mo. I try to make sure my whole family gets quality time together and to simply show love, even with our ridiculously busy schedules. I let my hubby know that our relationship, as the root of our family, is paramount. I'm smart, I'm funny (sometimes in ways that only I understand), I'm kind and I'm pensive. I'm working to help others--and I'm a work in progress.

But sometimes the world outside myself can make me question my plusses, the extent to which I like my otherwise confident self, and downright judge me like nobody's business. It gets to be pretty heavy at times. So the other day, I got real with myself and said, "Self, sometimes you have to encourage yourself, and you have to take some time to be happy with yourself." The time I spent doing both of those things was invaluable, and I have a new commitment to them, to myself. More importantly, I think this attention to myself will make me a better woman, wife, mother, friend and person.

I'm not perfect, but I'm feeling myself--and I'm not counting on others to do that for me. I simply don't have time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Game

My wonderful sister-friends continue to be inspired! I'm happy to share the latest inspired piece by my dear friend Jan. She raises some important points about what dating has morphed into--a game essentially--and exposes the inherent problems in the concept, especially for someone who's tired of playing. I encourage you to continue the discussion below. Enjoy and ponder!

~Moka B.

I was listening to a radio show this morning when the hosts started talking about “The Game” of dating.  The discussion revolved around how men and women should avoid showing too much interest initially in order to ultimately gain the interest of the other party.  As a single female who has had my fair share of unsuccessful attempts to develop a relationship with great eligible bachelors, I paid close attention to this discussion because it is a situation with which I am all too familiar.

From my widely varied and extensive dating experience, I’ve always been intrigued by the strong interest that I receive from men to whom I do not reciprocate the interest.  Contrarily, the men that I do show interest in do not express the same feelings towards me, or they show interest long after I've become disinterested (like 5 years later).

I perceive The Game as actions--or should I say ‘a lack of actions’--that essentially require one to avoid taking action and to avoid appearing too interested in the other party. Some of the rules of The Game include waiting on the man to make the first call, never contacting him twice in a row without a response to my previous contact attempt, waiting on him to ask me out for both the first and second date before initiating a date, being the one to end conversations on the phone, not being too available, avoiding long text responses, etc. (You get the point)…In order to be a good player, I must do these things despite my innermost desires to do the opposite.  Hence, by properly managing my lack of interest, I should be able to keep the man interested long enough to actually get to know me better and not be turned off by my interest in him.  It’s funny how being interested in someone is actually a turnoff.

There’s one trick: during my game-restricted and limited time with my potential match, I must establish a connection and attract him.  The one assumption is that this man would be otherwise attracted and interested in me if he was not turned off by my expression of interest and availability.  All I’m essentially trying to do by playing The Game is buy more time and allow him to judge me for who I am and not perceive me as being desperate, demanding, or lonely.  Don’t ask me why breaking any of The Game rules I mentioned above is perceived as desperate, demanding, or lonely because I have no idea.  I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if I knew. ;-)

Maybe it is true that withholding my interest initially may be beneficial.  After all, I want to be pursued and I wouldn't want my interest to get in the way of his opportunity to show me who he really is and what he wants from me.

Maintaining my attractiveness and attraction to a man while being uninterested and unavailable at the same time is a challenging concept and an act that I have not yet mastered.  If I'm acting uninterested and unavailable then it is probably because I'm actually uninterested and I'd rather not be available to spend time with you.  I find it difficult to be honest and genuine when I’m putting up a front and playing hard to get.  I mean, once I get in a relationship I’ll be breaking all those rules anyway.  So why front now?  Just so I can be accused of “changing” later?  What do you think?


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Reverend Dr. Seuss (for Paula Deen, Dark Girls, and Haters)

A Star-Bellied Sneetch assuming superiority over a
Plain-Bellied Sneeth.
courtesy of hilobrow.com
After reading Dr. Seuss's Sneetches on Beaches to Mini Mo last week, I thought to myself, "Dang! Dr. Seuss brought a word right there!" In essence, Star-Bellied Sneetches thought they were better than Plain-Bellied Sneetches and went out of their way to showcase their superiority over the Sneetches without stars. They excluded them and put them down, to the point that the Plain-Bellied Sneetches paid money to change themselves in order to fit in with the Star-Bellied Sneetches. When the Star-Bellied Sneetches realized that they could no longer distinguish which Sneetches were "better" than the others, they then paid to change themselves! Getting the picture here? Hatred and prejudice (and wasted money) over that which is superficial.

I read this book to my child right around the time the bomb dropped on a bigoted Paula Deen--and some of her supporters!--and right before the premiere of the documentary Dark Girls and the start of George Zimmerman's trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin. This reading also took place weeks after people went H.A.M. over an adorable Cheerios ad. While it's been easy to wax hopeful after reflecting on the truths of this children's book, I'm conscious enough to know that the forces of prejudice are many and varied: long established institutionally in some cases and deep-rooted within families in other cases. (Btw, Crunk Feminist Crunkadelic makes similar big-picture connections in her post "Girl, Bye: Why This Moment is Bigger than Paula Deen." Do check it out.) Mini Mo's father and I are planning to teach her early and often that she is not better than anyone else, nor is anyone else better than she is. The teaching's got to count for something, methinks.

At 66 years old, Paula Deen is perhaps too old (and too deeply Southern?) to have had The Sneetches read to or discussed with her. Maybe those who have tormented dark girls all over the globe, even within their own families, didn't apply the book's themes to themselves. Whatever the case, it's no secret that, even when children go through stages of rebellion and alternate influences, the fundamental teachings they grow up with have lasting impacts--for better or worse. I guess that's what gives me a little hope. Yes, bigots continue to teach bigotry to their children, but people with good sense are teaching their children, too. People with good sense, TURN UP! And, consider reading The Sneetches to your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, etc. The Reverend Dr. Seuss excellently highlights and preaches about the ridiculousness of prejudice. In the end, after all the wasted money and confusion about who's better and who's lesser, "the Sneetches got really quite smart" when "they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches / And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches."

If you're unfamiliar with The Sneetches (celebrating its 50th anniversary), here's an awesome video version of it, submitted by YouTuber m7a7b725! Enjoy and share!