Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts, emotions, and awareness…

Longtime readers know that I’m a bit addicted to the history of social justice movements. After this week, I can’t help pondering how the distance of time informs the way events are viewed. I have lived through more than my fair share of before and after events…those moments that shift everything and never fade away. Ferguson now joins that list…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same.

Thoughts…
Nothing like a rapidly unfolding social justice happening to remind the masses why the press matters, that black radio has a unique and important role in our community, and that citizen journalism matters. 

For folk following around the world, coverage from journalists on the ground have helped them better understand what’s going on in Ferguson and how we got here.

For those of us who live in the St. Louis area, many of us are grateful even as we accept the reality that this level of coverage will not hold…even as the fear of what the eyes of the world shifting away hovers over every day.

For now, the whole world is watching and that is a good thing.

Emotions…
Last night I finally took a moment to have a serious cry.

Not quiet or delicate, but ugly and intense. 

I let all of the emotion of the past week roll over me until my lungs hurt and my hands curled into a fist so tight my nails left marks.

I needed that…even though it didn’t make it all better, even though it didn’t purge a damn thing.

I just needed to release the pressure, because we’ve got another week ahead of us, and long road left to march.

Awareness…
Years ago, I wrote about the death of Anna Brown, a young black mother who was denied healthcare at a local hospital then arrested for trespassing only to be left to die in agony from blood clots on a jail cell floor. When I shared the post on Facebook, I also linked to an article in our daily newspaper and cautioned readers not to read the comments. One reader asked why I added that caution…why I didn’t read the comments to find out how other folk felt about the incident. And I told her that my experience was that many comments were awful, callous and cruel celebrations of oppression, assault, death or humiliation…and I added that it is extra painful, somehow more jarring, to know that the people saying horrible things are my fellow St. Louisans.

Fast forward to the now…and I can’t dodge those comments. There is no filter at the grocery store, waiting at the Walgreens, reading Facebook or Twitter hashtag feeds.

And its more than just a lot of opinions about the killing of Michael Brown or the events still evolving in Ferguson…there’s more here than just a difference of perspective.

There is that same celebration of oppression, assault, death and humiliation that dominates the comment section of my local daily newspaper…offered up without shame sometimes by people I’ve known for years.

This past week I’ve seen the best of many and the worst of more than I would have predicted.

Kind of sums up the whole happening that is Ferguson – our best and worst, our accomplishments and our failings, what we are getting right and what we need to fix, and why we can’t all just agree to disagree then move on as if nothing happened.

So…

Ferguson is now on my list of before and after happenings…

…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meanwhile, in Missouri…

Hi, y’all.

I’ve been busy offline, but you had to know that I’d be back to write about the events taking place in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. 

Last night, Ferguson was filled with more protests…more teargas, rubber bullets, and the violent arrest of at least two journalists and one St. Louis city Alderman. As I write this, Alderman Antonio French is still being held in a Ferguson jail.

I woke up this morning pondering one of my favorite quotes…

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus

Shall we?

I am a St. Louisan.

I grew up here…left for college as soon as my ass could…and then I moved back in my 30’s to be close to my family.

St. Louis is my home…all of it…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This past Saturday, 18 year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis city, just north of where I live. Michael Brown was unarmed. Witnesses report that he had his hands up and told the police that he did not have a gun…and then he was shot dead.

What has followed the killing of Michael Brown is a public demonstration of oppression – racism, abuse of power, denial of the right to assemble, and denial of freedom of the press, all wrapped up in one horrific happening.

I’m disgusted…alarmed, fearful, and angry. 

But I am not surprised.

This level of disdain and disrespect aimed at certain communities within the metro area ain’t breaking news for folk who live here. Thisis business as usual.

This is our America.

Where people of color are harassed for walking down neighborhood streets… Where far too many of those charged to protect and serve call us animals, pull us over for the crime of driving while black, use teargas against peaceful demonstrators, and muster in our neighborhoods prepared to shoot first and then play the odds that no one will bother with questions later.

It is important to note that St. Louis County and Ferguson authorities are well aware that the whole world is watching.

They know that national and international journalists are on the ground covering this story.

Yet, here we are…watching unarmed residents confronted by teargas, tanks, rubber bullets…tools used by a ragtag wanna-be army of police officers against the very population whose tax dollars pay their salary.

A lot of people are asking…if this is what the police do when the whole world is watching, what do they do when they think no one is watching?

The answer? They do whatever the hell they want to do.

After watching what has followed the shooting of Michael Brown, it isn’t hard to believe that a police officer approached two teens walking home without cause…it isn’t a stretch to believe that the shooting that followed was an overreaction, because it appears that hyper-aggressive overreactions are par for the course in Ferguson.

The takes us back to this being business as usual…to a history of unchecked authority, escalating harassment, and a total lack of accountability.

People are angry. We’ve been angry. We expect the killing of Michael Brown to go unanswered by a system unfamiliar with justice. Folk are condition to anticipate another sorta-investigation…another sensational trial (if there is a trial), complete with a strategic change of location to anywhere but North County and an artfully selected jury that will then hand down yet another free pass that sends the message to hunt at will.

After the events of the last five days, how the hell is anyone supposed to trust St. Louis County officials to find justice for Michael Brown? 

Right now, I doubt they even know the definition of the word.

Blink.

My condolences go out to the family of Michael Brown. May they find comfort in his memory, and may he rest in peace. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What I’ve been up to…

Hi, y’all!

I know, I know…I’m the worst.

I’ve been gone forever and a day, but I’ve got a good excuse!

I was working to protect regular folk from wretched policies being foisted upon my beloved Missouri by ├╝ber-conservatives and their in-state minions.

Blink.

No, really.

Anyhoo, I’m back. 

Shall we?

Shark-Fu’s quick review of a few of the horrible proposals passed this session…

#1 The failure to pass Medicaid Expansion…and why there’s a special place in hell for people who support taking a dumb ass stand…

The Missouri legislature failed to pass Medicaid expansion…again.

Because…um…freedom?

Yep, apparently the “brave” wanna-be patriots who killed Medicaid expansion this time are dedicated to defending the right to die from lack of access to health care.

Hundreds of people will die due to lack of access to healthcare…access that the legislature had the opportunity to extend and chose not to because they hate Obama more than they love their fellow Missourians.

This shit would be amusing…if we weren’t two years in on a life and death situation.

The fight continues...

#2 Tis like watching a 10-vehicle car wreck in super slow motion…all the while knowing that the very people elected to prevent shit triggered the “accident” like this…

In a move that Missouri will likely suffer from for years, if not decades, to come…wince…the Missouri legislature passed a massive tax cut that will benefit rich folk while leaving average Missourians with a devastating financial crisis.

One need only look west to Kansas for proof that politicians can make all kinds of promises…but tis reality that comes knocking on the door when bad proposals become law.

I’m particularly concerned with the ripple effect of this mess. The immediate impact will be to schools…but pretty soon Missouri’s lack of income will hit programs that my autistic brother depends on.

Heck, we haven’t seen an increase in SNAPS funding in a decade…he qualifies for several really cool programs but transportation for stuff like that hasn’t been funded for years, so…

And now they’re taking more money out of an already underfunded system, and…I just can't bring myself to imagine what's left to cut. I know I'll have to soon. We've only got two years to plan for this mess, but...damn it.

Let's continue...

#3 The same folk who sleep well having denied thousands of Missourians access to heath care costing hundreds of lives in the name of less government, also decided to shove government all up in people’s lives by tripling the mandatory waiting period for abortion…

I had the honor of leading the communications crew for the Women’s Filibuster in Jefferson City last week. It was a truly amazing experience, seeing my fellow Missourians stand up and speak truth to power…and we all drew strength from the support we received from all over the world.

The legislature passed a bill that triples the mandatory waiting period for abortion care in Missouri.  So, we stood at the Capitol and conducted a citizen’s filibuster for 72 hours…from Monday at 2pm until Thursday at 2pm. 

They passed the bill, but we hope Governor Nixon will veto it. 

Because, freedom.

Stay tuned, friends!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On a disturbingly regular basis...

You know that scene in the movie Love Actually?

The one where Emma Thompson goes into the bedroom she shares with her husband, after having found proof that he’s likely cheating on her, and collects herself so that she can go to the Holiday event at her children’s school without freaking them the hell out?


I repeat a scene much like that…on a pretty regular basis.

Not because I’m in a relationship with someone who is unfaithful.

Or maybe I am…in a way.

I repeat that scene…a deliberate pause, tears threatening and heart pumping, followed by a visible resolve to soldier through despite the pain…on a disturbingly regular basis, because I live in a country where a black man is seen as a threat simply for being a black man.

Longtime readers know a bit about my brother…that he is the older of my two older siblings and he has autism. He is aphasic, and he makes loud funky noises…he gets excited when he likes a song and he twirls and dances.  He looks “normal”…a lot younger than his 43 years, but still “normal” in presentation if not behavior.

So, I know that his behavior could get him beat up or shot.

He likes to look in car windows.

He doesn’t understand “the rules.”

He likes people…and the smell of freshly washed hair or French fries on someone’s plate.

We work on it with him…we watch him closely.

Because we live in a country where black men get shot and killed for seeking help after a car accident…or refusing to turn down music…or walking home after going to the corner store.

I don’t know how to guide him.

I just don’t know what to do!

Do I tell him to seek help if he gets lost?

Do I tell him to find a police officer?

What will happen when he can’t speak or explain?

Will strangers try to understand?

Or will they open fire and ask questions later?

And so, on a regular basis…at least once a week, and sometime more often than that…I find myself in the bathroom preparing to go to work and I pause to grab the counter, take several deep breathes and then smoothing my hands down the front of my outfit.

I breathe in.

Exhale.

Repeat.

Because I have to go about my day despite the anxiety and fear.

I don’t want to become that sister who won’t approve any community outings. I've come up with this ritual so that my brother can have some semblance of a life despite the world we live in and the dangers it presents.

Breath in.

Exhale.

Grab car keys…tell self to move forward.

Walk, damn it.

Drive.

Get out of car.

Smile.

Greet others.

Please, please, please…oh, please.

Log on and check email.

Lord, I give him up to you…again…always.

Work.

At least once a week, and lately far more often than that.

Sigh.

So much has changed and so much remains the same.
"In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky—her grand old woods—her fertile fields—her beautiful rivers— her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slaveholding, robbery and wrong,— when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing, and led to reproach myself that any thing could fall from my lips in praise of such a land. America will not allow her children to love her. She seems bent on compelling those who would be her warmest friends, to be her worst enemies. May God give her repentance before it is too late, is the ardent prayer of my heart. I will continue to pray, labor and wait, believing that she cannot always be insensible to the dictates of justice, or deaf to the voice of humanity."
Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison - January 1, 1846

Thursday, January 30, 2014

RIP Betsey the Sorta-Beagle...

It is my sad duty to report that Betsey the sorta-beagle, my beloved pet-companion for over a decade, passed away yesterday morning.

She was 15 years old.

Longtime readers will remember Betsey as a badass bundle of joy who often kept me centered when all things were anything but balanced.

Our house is a little too quite without the click of her nails on the floor, the strangely soothing rhythm of her loud as hell snoring while napping, or the sharp clap of her outraged bark when the mail comes through the slot.

She will be dearly missed.

If you are so inclined, please donate to Stray Rescue of St.Louis in her honor.

Adopting a rescue dawg was one of the best decisions I ever made in life...and I encourage anyone who is considering adding a pet to your family to do the same.  Betsey was two years old when she joined our family and, since she was far from perfect, she fit right in!

Many thanks to the wonderful staff at Hillside Animal Hospital for their loving care and support over the years and during Betsey's final moments.

And special thanks to my sister C-Money for everything.

Rest in peace, happiness, and endless joy, Betsey the sorta-beagle!


Forever in my heart...always.

Friday, January 03, 2014

On calling out the shit in the middle of the room…

Happy 2014, y’all!

I’ve been absent from the internets for a long spell. Between a starting a new job (yay!), dealing with some personal drama (not so yay, but getting better), and news that Betsey the sorta-beagle is in the process of dying from cancer (sob)…well, there’s been a lot of offline distractitude in my world.

Sigh.

But I’m back, so…

…shall we?

***pause…sip coffee and snuggle Betsey the sorta-beagle…continue***

I’ve observed several recent Twitter-based corrections within the feminist world and I’ve noticed a pattern. 

More accurately, I’ve noticed a continuation of an offline pattern take place online.

Someone within the movement indulges in a public display of privilege/bigotry, people point it out and express their outrage/shock/pain/disappointment, and then other folk start talking about tolerance and how we shouldn’t eat our own.

Cue chaos…more outrage/shock/pain/disappointment…and folk fretting about how all of this is bad for feminism because the world is watching.

I’ve been blogging for some eight years (gasp) and this ain’t new. Longtime readers know that I’m not a fan of the school of tolerance. One tolerates a stench and hopes it goes away. I don’t know many folk who want to be the stench of feminism.   

When a person takes a shit in the middle of the room tis important to everyone within that room that 1) that shit gets cleaned up, 2) the source of the shit understands that shitting in the middle of the room isn’t acceptable or productive and is the very definition of insulting and disturbing, and 3) that folk appreciate that the room shitter, through the act of shitting in the middle of the room, has reset reality and will have to prove over time that they understand that and aren’t going to gleefully take a public crap again.

We all get this. 

It isn’t confusing. 

We’ve all watched some amazing Twitter-based and/or online actions calling out room shitters.

Nope, this isn’t confusing…until we encounter a situation where the shit in the middle of the room originated from someone on the left.

Did I mention that this ain’t new?

This fumble over how to address wrongness from within keeps flaring up…and tis why I’m committed to making 2014 a year of realness.

Y’all, it is beyond important that we encourage and respect authentic responses to public displays of bigotry and privilege. 

If women of color had a dollar for every time we’ve been told to give someone a break after they just took us out at the knees, we might be able to fund an international multi-media campaign to educate the masses on why we ain’t trying to hear that shit.

And it is critical that we cease tolerating and explaining away displays of bigotry and/or privilege from within.

The whole world is indeed watching and nothing damages a movement like hypocrisy. That’s why we are quick to gleefully point that mess out when conservatives do it!

Lawd knows I’m a better activist for having been told about myself along the way…for being forced to look at my shit in the middle of the room and clean it the hell up…and for being given the gift of an opportunity to learn and grow.

Toodles.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Small town values and unlocked doors…

Years ago, I received an email from a woman who was looking for some guidance in how to help guide her two teenage boys through a situation where one of their friends had confessed to rape.  The rape survivor was also part of her sons’ social circle. 

They all lived in a small town in rural Missouri.

I replied that I am in no way qualified to provide specific advice, but would reach out to some folks I know who are and get back to her.

The woman explained that she became concerned when she didn’t know what to tell her sons after their friend was raped and then another friend was arrested.  Her sons admitted that they were torn between liking both friends and being disgusted by what one had done to the other.

The mother's fear…her confusion and frustration came through, loud and clear. 

After forwarding a list of resources, I couldn’t help respecting this mother for reaching out.  And I couldn’t help wondering how other parents were responding to similar situations.

I thought of that mother and her sons when I read about the rape case in Maryville, Missouri.

About how that community responded…and what those responses teach everyone, young and old.

While some ask how such a horrible crime can occur in small town Missouri, this Missourian is left wondering how anyone can expect a different outcome when community members support a world view that protects men who rape and terrorizes those who have been assaulted.

There are those small town values that make people proud that they don’t have to lock their door at night…

…and then there are those small town values that make a body wonder how anyone sleeps at night.

Blink.

Something about October…

Gawd, I love this time of year. 

The air is crisp…the trees in the park are beyond beautiful…and the sorta-beagles can stay outside for extended periods of time without frying like bacon.

Sigh.

I recently updated my LinkedIn profile and realized that I tend to make career changes in October.  Twas an interesting realization…that for well over a decade I’ve moved forward to new jobs in October.  And I don’t think it is a coincidence, because I do tend to use July and August to take stock of my world and evaluate what’s what.

Well, there’s just something about October.

I’ve been offline because I recently wrapped up my time on staff with Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri and started up as Communications Director for Progress Missouri.  I enjoyed five amazing years with PPMO and learned tons about reproductive health policy, those who oppose access to reproductive healthcare, and myself. 

You can’t do this work and not do a lot of inner work along the way.

Pause…consider…continue.

Well, you could do this kind of work and not do the inner work along the way…but odds are you wouldn’t be doing this kind of work well.

Anyhoo...

I’m thrilled to embark on this new journey and I hope to take y’all along with me.

Throughout my life I’ve taken the road less traveled by…and yeah, it has made all the difference.

There’s just something about less traveled roads in October.

The air crisp and fresh.

The trees exploding with color.
 
Something that demands exploration and that a body enjoy the journey so much they almost forget that there is a destination at the end of it.

Pause...breath deep...exhale.

Shall we?