I’ve been off the bloggers’ grid for a while because of a pretty significant change in our household.  For the past month our hunt for our  dog intensified.  I can’t say how it happened, but our family was on the hunt.  My husband never had a dog and seemed to not be a fan of man’s best friend.  My oldest son was partial to our family of zebra finches.  My youngest son was and still is a huge fan of cats.  I was the only one beating the drum on getting a dog.  I felt the menfolk in our family would benefit from having an interactive pet.  While I continued to beat the drum, I got push back from all sides.  Even my father warned me that having a dog would cramp our style and we didn’t need that kind of burden in our busy lives.

Well, I’m pretty easygoing about things, so I resigned myself to not having a dog and I was fine about it.  In my heart of hearts, I knew the truth about adding another heaping of things-to-do onto my plate.  Let’s be honest, I would have to deal with the lionshare of the work and I’m pretty comfortable right now.  I spend my mornings schooling my children, the afternoon is spent doing errands, housework, or chauffering my boys to one place or another, and my evenings cooking meals and trying to relax with some mindless television, knitting, or spinning.  In the cracks of my day, I shoehorn exercise and reading.  If I could get a nap, I feel guilty, but so relieved to have that moment to unplug.  

Suddenly my husband was watching Cesar Milan every Saturday.  I would join him and we would discuss the episodes as if we were discussing a housewife from one of those reality shows.  He would look at the shelters’ websites, research dogs, and investigate rescues.  My friends would send me links to craiglist listings or post pictures on my Facebook wall.  I would share these pictures with my husband and he will silently contemplate each offering.  I felt like I was in the ocean where the waves were gently pulling me further away from shore while my husband was going in another direction entirely.  I could be listening to an engrossing podcast and get rudely interupted by commentary on one dog or another.  Many times I wondered if we had our own Freaky Friday and switched bodies because he was 100% into the dog search and I was 50%.  Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs.  I grew up with dogs.  I fantasized about having a big dog to hug and run with during my morning jog.  I had dreamt of having a german shephard puppy, but dreams and fantasies are far different than reality.  When I got my pushback, I was content to leave the dreams and fantasies alone.

Being a poop or get off the pot sort of woman, I pushed the envelope and encouraged a visit to the local shelter.  Looking at all the dogs gazing back with sad, resentful, or hopeful eyes broke my heart.  I felt the worse for the pitbulls because I knew the odds were not in their favor for adoption.  Then we saw a dog we both loved, but we couldn’t have him.  Then we continued our search finding dogs that we loved but were spoken for or were too broken to be adopted.  One time we had gone to two shelters in a day and the shelters were in two cities nearly 45 minutes apart.  Finally I saw a chocolate labrador puppy that drew my attention.  Something told me to stop the madness and pick him as the family pet.  I was the only one who really took to the puppy, but I was okay with that.  Unfortunately, we lost the bid to have the dog because another family was willing to bid a small fortune to have him.  Feeling I had given it all that I had, I was content in knowing we tried.  As I strolled back to the parking lot thinking about my breakfast, my husband dragged me back into the shelter to point out the dog he and my cat loving son LOVED.

What?

What about my breakfast?

WHAT?

Well, here I sit looking at Cosmo sleeping like an angel.  He’s 4 months old and all PUPPY. I feel like I’m tending to a baby all over again.  He’s a good dog.  He’s a smart dog.  Yes, my plate is too full.  I haven’t watched one show to completion.  My knitting has barely been touched.  I still fill my cracks in the day with exercise and reading, but I’m tired. My husband loves this dog and I’m happy that he’s found this puppy joy.  My bird loving son is completely on board because he has also found the puppy joy.  My youngest is okay with it.  In the end it all worked out.

My cherished friend

You were always there

stroking my eyes

and tangling my hair.

You gave me strength

to greet the day.

You’re the rest from fun

the balm for play.

You heal my body

and protect my mind.

You give me  pause

You keep me kind.

I love you friend

but I can’t see

Why while I’m older

You’ve abandoned me.

Meditation and pills

Temporary for ills.

I’m way too weary

of this lamentation

I drag through life

Is this my station?

To grovel and moan

This strain cannot keep

I toss and turn

Looking for you, Sleep.

The warming morning sun

Felt wonderful on my skin

The morning air is fresh

I hesitate to go in

I see a little creature

His shell is dull and grey

He leaves a slimy trail

As he slowly makes his way

Across the warming concrete

Heading toward my blooms

I marvel at his progress

Then the realization looms

In front of my tranquil moment

My garden is under attack

I smirk at the slimy bugger

“Don’t worry I’ll be right back.”

The cylinder canister feels heavy

As I liberally began to shake

The dull grey shell lies empty

With slime lying in it’s wake.

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Sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society.  In other words it’s the study of what makes humans tick.  In college, I played The Color Game which is a social experiment that dealt with racial, socio-economic, and gender issues. 10 weeks living in the shoes of another was fairly eye-opening, but the real surprise was how resistant some people were to opening themselves up to learn and/or empathize with people unlike themselves.  The social experiment taught many that there were many sides to an individual than just their color.

W.E.B. Du Bois was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University.  He was a professor of sociology, history, and economics at Atlanta University.  He was also a co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P.  Du Bois was an activist for full civil rights for African Americans.  He spoke out against Jim Crow laws, discrimination and legisilation that marginalized African Americans in a post Civil War era.  Being well-educated on history and sociology, he approached his activism through the prism of his education.  His activism transcended the struggles of African Americans on American soil to the African colonies under European rule.

During the Reconstruction Era in the United States, blacks were scapegoated for the many failures of the time.  Du Bois contradicted that prevailling theory through prolific writings speaking on the matter.  He believed that capitalism was the root to racism in America which underscored a lot of the machinations used to further marginalize African Americans.  Du Bois, being a student and teacher of sociology, delved into the dual mindset of the African American which holds true to the present day.  In his collection of 14 essays in The Souls of Black Folk,   he explores the double consciousness of black folk in being American and black.  He saw it as a handicap in history but it being a possible strength in the future.

Observing the current day treatment and reception of African Americans, I believe W.E.B. Du Bois was correct in believing the double consciousness would be a strength.  There is a sense of pride in African Americans who embrace both sides of their coin.  When Beyonce performs for the Superbowl with a Black Panther tribute, James Brown tells us to say it loud (I’m black and I’m proud), and James Baldwin let’s his pen do the talking, America knows that the African American is growing into a strength and pride that cannot be denied.  Unfortunately, with the growing need for movements like Black Lives Matter, there is still a residual part of society that only see the color black as something to eradicate under the umbrella of fear.

 

Blue Ladies

Maid stands behind her elders

Bristling in their shade

Impatient with her lessons

How to be a proper maid. 

As Mother overflows with life

Enjoying  her blessed full bloom

Maid wonders when it’s proper

To wish life to quicken in womb.

“Go slow child, ” whispers Mother

“Your time is precious and strong

Don’t rush into those doors

Stay right and don’t turn wrong”

Yes, Maid knows her lessons

Will prepare her to be Mother

But what must she do

To prepare to be the Other.

Crone must stand tall

As life weighs her to bend

Maid and Mother must learn

Crone is not the end. 

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Recently I discovered another hero of the Civil Rights Movement who made inroads to equality 100 years before Dr. Martin Luther King was the face of the Civil Rights Movement.  My discovery was from a shared post on Facebook by a friend.  Octavius Cotto was born free in the Deep South in 1839.  His family migrated north to Philadelphia  where he studied and graduated valedictorian of his class.  Soon he became an educator.

Later he became a Civil Rights activist who worked with Frederick Douglass and other leaders to recruit black men to join the Union effort in the Civil War.  Catto later became a community organizer.  His belief in garnering equality for all men had him linked with many African American movements of the time.  He resisted the segregation of public transportation nearly a hundred years before Rosa Parks made her historical stand in Montgomery, Alabama.  Blacks were banned from riding on horse drawn streetcars in Philadelphia.  To protest the ban, Octavius Catto slept in one overnight and encouraged others to participate in this civil disobedience.   In 1867, blacks in Philadelphia were allowed to ride the desegregated steetcars.  Catto also fought for voting rights for black men.  With the ratification of the 15th amendment in 1870, Catto was passionate about getting black men registered to vote for the 1871 election.  This movement did not sit well with the white southern Democrats.   Sadly on election day, Octavius Catto was shot 3 times.  His attacker was acquitted of the murder.

Octavius Catto was murdered trying to get former slaves voting rights.  Malcolm X stressed the importance of using the ballot like a bullet to target what the black community needed.  Frederick Douglass escaped a life of hell to freedom using education as his guide and lifeboat while fighting for the rights of African Americans.  Now we have someone like Kanye West who stands on the bones and blood of these late heroes and announce with something like disdain that he didn’t vote in the last, devisive election. Is this how we should remember a forgotten hero?

 

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During the first week of Black History Month 2017, two historical figures were clumsily brought to the forefront of the American consciousness with snide remarks and clever quips.  One reference was about Abraham Lincoln in reference to Black History Month. The successes and achievements of African Americans did not begin with slavery which shows an alarming disconnect the person who had made that acknowledgement had revealed. Another reference was about Frederick Douglass.  The person who referenced Frederick Douglass in an acknowledgement of Black History Month made it appear that Mr. Douglass was still alive and was now getting properly recognized.  This revealed a lack of comprehension of who Frederick Douglass was in the 19th century.

Imagine a runaway slave having a meeting with the POTUS.  Well, it happened.  In 1863 Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln met at the White House. Douglass was very critical of the president and his policies, so he declared to stop recruiting black men for the army.  Black troops were being ill-treated, and as an abolishionist and reformer, Frederick Douglass wanted better treatment for the black troops.  Lincoln proved to be a politician with his words and deeds which did not immediately create changes for the troops, but Douglass grudgingly liked the man and felt there was room for improvement for the treatment of his people.

“Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery….” -Frederick Douglass

Being born a slave in 1818, Frederick Douglass was determined to better himself.  He was secretly taught to read by others.  This early education began his enlightenment.  He shared what he learned with other slaves and read any and everything to educate himself.  At the age of 28, he escaped. Once free, Frederick Douglass travelled and educated himself.  He was a reformer, abolitionist and orator.  He wrote antislavery editorials and was very outspoken about the treatment of African Americans pre and post the Civil War. He also spoke out on women’s rights.

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In Frederick Douglass’ 2nd autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, he stressed how important literacy was to the African American.  His message is still important today.  As the eyes of the world turn toward the United States of America for all the political and controversial machinations of highly visibile individuals, it’s important to realize the education is the key to self preservation and success.  If Frederick Douglass was alive today, I wonder what he would say if he saw the deplorable conditions of inner city schools.  I wonder what speech he would give to have his people not only focus on sports and entertainment as a means of bettering themselves.  Would he see progress or regression?

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Barack Obama: Hope and Change


A month ago my friend and I took our children to visit our alma mater, Occidental College. In front of Haines Hall is an amazing collage of black and white photos of a young Barack Obama. From what I had gathered,  his old dorm room was kept as a shrine to America’s first black president.  Although he spent only two years at Oxy, he had referred to these early years in his education as his motivation to persue politics. 

Barack Obama is living history and it won’t be until later his accomplishments will be properly examined and appreciated.  In 1998 Tupac Shakur rapped in Changes,

” And although it seems heaven sent, we ain’t ready, to see a black President, uhh”

10 years later a junior senator from Chicago gave Americans of all races, creeds, and colors a message of “yes, we can” and “hope and change”.  The ballot or the bullet message from Malcolm X given 44 years before most likely hit the target.  With a youthful wife and young daughters in tow, Barack became the 44th president of the United States.  His message galvanized a generation to turn away from seasoned politicians like McCain and Hillary Clinton. 

A mere 145 years after the abolition of slavery, a black man was elected to the highest office in the United States.  Black men and women were not officially included in the US Constitution until 1868 which was a mere 143 years ago. It’s important to teach our children that Barack Obama’s achievement was loooked upon as an impossiblity decades ago. 



Today’s Black History Month historical figure is Malcolm X. Malcolm X has always been my inspiration.  His story and what he stood for  gave me the courage to find and embrace my truth.  When many people think of Malcolm X, they think of the picture of Malcolm standing by a window holding a gun with the phrase ‘by all means neccessary” printed above.  People tend to slice and dice the man to suit their agenda, but very few know the whole story.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Malcolm X and Alex Haley is a rich history of the evolution of a man.  It’s a compelling read.

Malcolm X gave a critical speech in 1964 regarding elections and the power of the ballot.  He said the white politicians were going to suddenly remember the black community was a voting bloc and would make promises they had no intention of keeping to get the black vote.  If black people were to unite, the black vote would be powerful thus having a significant say in who will sit in the White House.  He said the ballot was like a bullet.  If a person had a gun, they would aim at a target.  He encouraged the black brothers and sisters to use that ballot like a bullet and aim at the desired target.  He also said if the African American failed to use their ballot as a bullet, then an actual bullet may have to be cast.  Powerful.

Malcolm X was pushing past civil rights to human rights for African Americans. He was leading a movement that was picking up steam and many saw that a a threat.  I still mourn the loss of a man that died many years before my birth.  The losses of Malcolm and MLK deeply wounded the African American community and in 2017  the wound has yet to heal.

From kindergarten to 12th grade, black history was taught in February.  I went to Catholic school and was taught by strict nuns who spent a lot of time making sure we knew the Bible, saints, prayers, rosaries, and Commandments.  When it came to Black History, we learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks.  If a student didn’t seek information on Black History, they would think these three individuals were the only ones that mattered.  When Stevie Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life in September of 1976, my young mind was blown when I heard the song Black Man.  I remember reading the lyrics to this song and feeling my mind open to an education that transcended all I knew. Names like Dr.Charles Drew, Crispus Attucks, and Benjamin Bannekar dropped like jewels into my lap. Wonder’s song, Black Man, also named prominent men and women of other races, and my mind soaked it all up.  My favorite part of the song is toward the end when there is a traditional African call and response between the adults and children of notable individuals and their achievements.

My thirst for knowledge grew in leaps and bounds.  I read biographies, poured over encyclopedias, and had conversations with my elders about the Black History that was not taught in the books.  In college, my self-studies increased and expanded to Africa.  Apartheid was the tragedy of the time and I marched against my well-heeled private liberal arts colllege and local businesses demanding these institutions divest from South Africa.  I demonstrated and protested for what was right while being armed with the knowledge of a rich history that laid the foundation for me to move forward  and continue to build for the next generation.

Black history is American History.  No one should limit themselves to text books and teachers because the history will remain two dimensional.  Here is a list of some notable Black men and women I taught to my children who have changed, challenged, and enriched the world:

  • Sojourner Truth – abolitionist,women’s rights activist
  • Dred Scott – reformer (sued for his freedom Dred Scott case)
  • Maya Angelou – poet
  • Colin Powell -four star general
  • Harriet Tubman – abolitionist
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – activist.
  • Malcolm X – activist
  • Josiah Henson – abolitionist
  • Marcus Garvey – political leader
  • Harriet Ann Jacobs – abolistionist, writer
  • Garrett Morgan – inventor
  • Rosa Parks – activist
  • Mae Jemison – astronaut
  • Jackie Robinson – athlete
  • Muhammad Ali – athlete, activist
  • Dorothy Dandridge – actress
  • Thurgood Marshall – US Supreme Court Justice
  • Frederick Douglass – abolistionist
  • George Washington Carver – botanist, inventor
  • Oprah Winfrey – philanthropist, entrepreneur
  • Madam C J Walker – enterpreneur
  • Ida B. Wells  – activist
  • Stevie Wonder – singer, songwriter
  • Quincy Jones – music producer
  • Jesse Owens – athlete
  • Marvin Gaye – singer, songwriter