Friday, February 28, 2014
My daughter and her one of her besties made me proud as "The Michelles" in a Black History Month play at her school. Her friend portrayed First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been key to the nation's heightened awareness of good nutrition and wellness practices especially as it relates to childhood obesity through her Let's Move initiative. And she just made history unveiling new federal standards for food marketing to children that she played a role in bringing to fruition.
During the performance, my baby slayed with a firm salute to the audience as United States Navy Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, who has a slew of firsts under her belt:
Vice Admiral Howard was the first African-American woman to achieve three star rank in the U.S. Armed Forces and the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Rushmore. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), making her the first admiral selected from the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for admiral. On December 13, 2013, she was nominated to become the U.S. Navy's first female four-star admiral and the first female to be nominated for the position of Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
The show, informed by Tom Joyner's Little Known Black History Facts, included everyone from early 19th century African military genius Shaka Zulu to Claudette Colvin, the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery several months before Rosa Parks.
Learn more little known Black history facts and keep in Enjoyceinglife!
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
If you're one of the 1.23 billion Facebook users, the social media titan has a personalized gift for you to celebrate their 10th anniversary: It's a movie. All about you. And I really liked mine - so much that I felt I needed to post it on my blog, which I've had two years longer than my 6-year-old Facebook account. Please check out my movie (all 62 seconds) and let me what you think:
Okay, I wish I could have just posted the video, and not the entire Facebook post. But such is social media. Some things you just have accept - until they change them. Regardless, digital storytelling matters. So if you get a Facebook video, please feel free to share the link in the comments. I'd love to see your Facebook story!
Enjoy a cool slideshow ^^ of the many faces of Facebook (I came in around Slide 4 / 2007) and keep Enjoyceinglife! It sure is social.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
On this first day of Black History Month, Feb. 1, 2014, I had nothing special planned to celebrate. Sure there are lots of activities and events all over Atlanta that we'll definitely be taking advantage of throughout the month.
My daughter's after school program started early by assigning parts in January for a February play based on Tom Joyner's Little Known Black History Facts segment. I'm certainly proud that my second grader will be portraying Michelle J. Howard, the first African American woman to achieve three star rank in the U.S. Armed Services. She's also the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Rushmore, who just become the Navy's first four start general in December 2013.
So we're definitely prepped for celebrating the amazing legacy of people of African descent, but I didn't necessarily get up this morning with a lets-kick-off-Black History Month plan, partly because it's #365Black around here. But then I saw this Google doodle on Facebook and, of course, I had to share:
Slowly but surely it crept into my consciousness that I really wanted to be intentional about celebrating Black history today. But honestly, it's Saturday and despite working from home for several days this week (while entertaining my precocious cabin-fevered 7-year-old, who accompanied me to work on her third snow day), I was exhausted from strain and competing deadlines. I just didn't have it in me to go all out finding a Black History Month event today.
Blessedly the ancestors came to my rescue. After several hours of letting my big girl play on the iPad, I whipped open her math workbook and this is the first page I landed on:
So by learning about Selma Burke, we got our Black history in - with important relevance - as well as 45 minutes of money lessons, too. Every time my daughter sees a dime now, there will be an element of pride in her spirit. She was so inspired by Burke that she ran upstairs remembering she had a stack of Publix Black History Cards, like this one below:
Of course, my daughter has no idea that I interned during the summers of 1990 and 1991 at The Atlanta Daily World, which at the time was the oldest Black daily newspaper in existence. That's a good lesson for her another day this month. By the time she returned with the cards, I'd stumbled across these notebooks I hadn't seen in years:
I gave her a brief history of literary legend Zora Neale Hurston and pioneer George Washington Carver. As soon as I mentioned the word peanut regarding Carver, she regaled me with her own knowledge of the inventor, making her mother - the child of two Tuskegee Institute (now university) alumni extremely proud. We'll have a great reading project later in the month with the notebooks' detailed biographies of Washington and Hurston. I look forward to telling my child that I share Hurston's history as a Howard University alumna and former editor at HU's school newspaper, the Hilltop).
An hour later, we were in the midst of one of our frequent our neighborhood walks and we stopped by this marker, which we'd seen before. But today, after reading about the historic Rose Hill African American community, we took the time to have an important discussion about the effects segregation and racism on neighborhoods.
We ended the evening watching a recent edition to the annals of Black history through "The Gabby Douglas Story" on Lifetime. Douglas is the first American gymnast to ever win gold medals for both the individual all around and the team competitions during the same Olympic Games. I was thoroughly impressed by the age appropriateness of the TV movie and even more by the observant comments made by my smart girl. Posted a few:
I'm kind of glad I had no plan when I woke up this morning. Some of the best days happen when you let the Divine lead the way. Stay engaged and enriched this Black History Month. And keep Enjoyceinglife. It's precious.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
I'm on the hunt for well-written historical fiction. If you have suggestions, please share them. A couple I've read that I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from are both written by the talented Jewel Parker Rhodes: I was captivated by Rhodes' deft writing style in "Douglass' Women" and how she was able to draw me into the complex relationship between Frederick Douglass, his wife, and his mistress by moving the story forward through each chapter being told from one of their viewpoints. Their disappointment in each other - and themselves - was palpable. I felt their pain.
"Voodoo Dreams," Rhodes' imaginative version of the legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau, transported me to 1800s New Orleans with incredibly rich descriptions. I'd like to work on setting such scenes where the reader feels they're living during the same time with the characters. Another author who I think sets great scenes - but with a very different style - is J. California Cooper. It amazes me how I get the perfect visual of the setting of her short stories through her sparse descriptions. I'm not sure how my scene setting style will develop.
Next up, I'll be reading Tananarive Due's "The Black Rose." Researched and outlined by Alex Haley, and spun into what reviewers call "accomplished" and "tremendous storytelling" "enlivened by rich characterizations," the novel is the sweeping fictionalized narrative of the life of Madam C.J. Walker.
"Born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker rose from poverty and indignity to become one of America's first black female tycoons," according to Due's website. She was "the head of a hugely successful company, and a leading philanthropist in African American causes."
Obviously this will be an exciting and informative read for me, as I continue my journey into my historical fiction project. Speaking of Haley, I did read "Roots" back when I was in elementary school, maybe fifth grade or so (yes, I was ambitious). Needless to say, I'll be revisiting this American classic.
So, if you have any recommendations for great historical fiction - particularly if they are about the Civil Rights Movement - I would appreciate you sharing them. I received some fantastic advice recently from a wise and accomplished author to not avoid reading examples that are as close as possible to what you'd like to write. I'm taking that advice because I truly believe that only I can write the story that's in me. So, please share! Thanks - and keep Enjoyceinglife!
Monday, January 20, 2014
What a rewarding day! If you don't think your children - even the primary age ones - are listening, check out what my 3-year-old niece knew about Martin Luther King Jr. On the way to our MLK Jr. Day of Service activity, my 7-year-old daughter gave an impromptu Civil Rights Movement quiz to my niece. Both had me beaming with pride.
Me: "So we're going to help clean up a community garden today to celebrate Dr. King's birthday. He helped people, so to celebrate his national holiday, we're going to help people.
3 YO: "If we're going to help people that means we're volunteers. I learned that on Sesame Street."
Hooray for smart children and for Sesame Street!!!!
7 YO: "I've got a pop quiz for you. What award did Martin Luther King win?"
3 YO: "The Nobel Peace Prize!"
Astonished, my daughter and I screamed as my niece explained that she learned about the Nobel Prize creating a collage in her preschool class. She even gave an accurate definition of the word collage when my daughter incorporated that question into her quiz.
7 YO: "Okay, okay, here's another Martin Luther King Pop Quiz. Did the man that shot Martin Luther King go to jail?"
Me: "Uh, lets not talk about that. Lets keep it positive. Do another question."
Self-check: Remember there is a big difference in maturity and knowledge between 7 and 3.
7 YO: "Okay. Here's another pop quiz: Did Rosa Parks go to jail for sitting in the front of the bus?"
3 YO: "Yes!"
My daughter goes on to explain in detail how Dr. King taught people - especially those who didn't look alike - to be kind and fair to each other. She even related examples from the Movement like blacks and whites not being able to use the same facilities to her multicultural collection of friends at her school today. I'm elated as we pull up to the Attwood Community Gardens and Urban Farm, where we spend the next 90 minutes raking and hauling leaves, cleaning up the grounds of this valuable neighborhood resource.
I hope you did something fantastic to celebrate Dr. King today even if it was just meditating on his message and legacy. We don't always make it out to an activity on the holiday, but today we did - and we were more blessed than those we helped.
A moving soundtrack elevated our whole day: There was great programming on all of the airwaves from independent to mainstream. After hearing Dr. King's speeches, remembrances of Movement activists, and reflections of others, we were still singing Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" anthem to Dr. King as we walked into the garden.
Even if you don't think your children are listening to you, keep teaching them through conversation and experiential learning. They are paying attention to those important lessons - and they're passing them on.
Keep on Enjoyceinglife. Sometimes it's quite amazing.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
I don't know if I'm on some kind of faddish tear or if Longform will become part of my regular life. I mean I've only listened to one of the hour-long podcast interviews with incredibly thoughtful and talented magazine writers about their process and experience. But I did peruse at least 30 descriptions of episodes, so I know the great storytelling and insight that awaits me if I decide to go down this rabbit hole.
Honestly I have the same feeling I do when I watch an episode of a promising TV series: If I was in a different place in my life, I'd make sure I was in the same place at the same time each week to catch it. Or I'd record it and make time to watch it. I've watched one episode each of Downton Abby, Homeland, Newsroom, Scandal and others just for this reason. I feel like I just can't get caught up because of other things I'm prioritizing in my life.
It's so late that I can't even access the words to describe how stimulated and satisfied I feel listening to Longform.com - and considering how the lessons I'm hearing apply to my creative approach.
Now I'm listening to the Longform interview with author and New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, and I feel like a disrespecting distracted spouse even writing this blog post while it's playing. The real reason for this post is because I wanted to figure out a way to capture the Longform episodes I really dig and those that can be extremely helpful. I considered posting them to Facebook, Twitter, my Tumblr account and even on Linked In. But I realized that the most enduring and personal social media space I'm most committed to maintaining is this blog.
I created Enjoyceinglife to assist, or even better, to challenge myself creatively. And I rarely use it for that purpose. But as Gladwell says, I'm reconsidering my disadvantage to be an advantage.
You know how it is in the beginning of the year. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. Well I am. And Longform.com is part of my brave doing. For me.
Be good to yourselves folks. And keep Enjoyceinglife.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I was pleasantly surprised today to see Google honor the iconic writer Zora Neale Hurston with a Google "doodle" on what would have been her 123rd birthday. Inspirations to me since I was in high school, Hurston and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, another incredibly talented, journalistically-driven writer, have been on my mind lately as I encourage myself to pursue my own creative destiny.
I'm always bursting with pride when I remember that Hurston was the co-founder of "The Hilltop," Howard University's award-winning student newspaper, where I cut my teeth as a budding young journalist. It's wild to think that I was writing and editing at such an important historical organ, which she created. That's some kind of responsibility. Even more, it is motivating to know that at one time, we were in the same place in our careers.
The other day a friend reminded me that nearly a decade ago we had quite an adventure traveling to the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville, Fla. I got a chance to speak to legendary sculpture Elizabeth Catlett and I met the incredible artist Carrie Mae Weems. For the last 18 months, I've been editing articles about and video interviewing lecturers in Spelman College's Ida B. Wells Barnett Lecture Series. I've even blogged on Enjoyceinglife about the impact series lecturers like Melissa Harris Perry had on me.
Keep Enjoyceinglife in 2014. This is our year!
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Sometimes I blind copy my mother on emails to my daughter's teachers. Or I share details with her about the politics at work. Not all the time. But sometimes. After all she's been through all this and her insight - when I want it and she wants to give it - is invaluable.
This week has been insane - you know the kind you have all the time when everything is on 10 and you feel like you're making decisions by the seat of your pants. You have to trust your gut in every situation that comes your way because you don't have time to research the countless hair-on-fire emergencies that are obviously being pitched at you by a major league devil intent on stealing your joy.
When I call my momma during these times, she can hear it in my voice and we normally don't stay on the phone long. Cause I'm in the thick of it. Trying to make it to the breather that must be on the horizon.
Well today, after being blind copied on several emails about a situation at my child's school, my mother responded with these sage words of wisdom:
"Yes, for all your parenting consistency. Now, for me: I learned a poem last night. Wanna hear it? OK----
All the coulda, shoulda, wouldas
Laying in the sun
Talkin bout the things
They coulda, shoulda, woulda done
Ran away and hid
From the ones that did
That's my brain sustaining lesson."
Yes, that is my mother who sat my one-year-old daughter on the desk of the Governor of Georgia
during this formal commendation. And which Friend of the Georgia Libraries had the nerve
to literally help Gov. Sonny Perdue sign this commendation? You're right again. My child.
She has no choice but to love reading, now does she?
I love Shel Silverstein. Always have. I bet my momma, who spent decades volunteering in libraries and even serving on county and state boards for years, introduced me to his genius. Yep, he's a bit morbid. But he is mad creative and wicked witty. He's like a freaky scientist in his laboratory of boundless imagination. I love the freedom I feel he allowed himself in his work. My daughter, who's nickname should be Princess Boundary Pusher, digs Silverstein, too. Of, course.
My momma - the psychiatric social worker-attorney, who long ago retired her make-it-happen parenting role and is now happily settled into I-can't-take-on-your-project-cause-I'm-enjoying-my-grandchildren role - is still parenting. And I'm so appreciative. Thank you, Momma. So glad you still know what I need - and how to give it to me.
Keep on Enjoyceinglife - with your loved ones. They're priceless.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I had no idea that the founding of the National Organization for Women grew from the immediate and strategic response of women civil rights leaders to the marginalization of women during the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs.
Anna Hedgeman (who'd directed a civil rights campaign for March organizer A. Phillip Randolph) vociferously advocated for women to be included as speakers during the march - and was denied. Here's an excerpt from Hedgeman's letter to Randolph included in an article about women's involvement with the March from the Anna Julia Cooper Project:
...she prepared a letter to Randolph that she read aloud at the final meeting of the Committee on August 16, 1963. Her letter begins:
“In light of the role of the Negro women in the struggle for freedom and especially in light of the extra burden they have carried because of the castration of the Negro man in this culture, it is incredible that no woman should appear as a speaker at the historic March on Washington Meeting at the Lincoln Memorial.”
While no woman ended up giving a speech, her advocacy for women’s inclusion led to Daisy Bates being allowed to provide brief remarks, in which she gave awards to five other black women in the movement and made a pledge “to the women of America” to be active in fighting for civil rights and equality. It also resulted in Rosa Parks being presented onstage, “almost casually,” Hedgeman notes, and the inclusion of women on the dais.
Apparently the night after the march, Hedgeman, Dorothy Height (president of the National Council of Negro Women) and other women held a meeting that led to a series of events resulting in founding of the National Organization for Women. More insight from an interview that journalist Gwen Ifill conducted recently with historian William Jones:
Dorothy Height (far right)
Here are a few articles that will provide you with a great deal of information on the role of women during the march as well as those who made contributions to the progress of civil rights.
Unsung SHE-roes: The Top 8 Female Civil Rights Activists You Should Get to Know (YWCA)
50 Years Ago, March on Washington Had More Radical Roots Than Remembered Today (PBS NewsHour)
While Unsung in '63, Women Weren't Just 'Background Singers' (NPR)
The ERA and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington (Feminism 2.0)
Women of the March on Washington Slide Show (Bet.com)
When You Remember the March on Washington, Remember Anna Hedgeman (Anna Julia Cooper Project)
VIDEO: Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington
Friday, July 19, 2013
These vile racist social media posts about President Obama's commentary on Trayvon Martin and racism.
What terrifies me is the very real possibility that sometime in her life, my beautiful, smart and witty child may encounter one of these people and have to be wise enough to free herself from a life-threatening situation. Can I teach her to observe and listen for the nuances in approach, body language, conversation, and environment to recognize when she's dealing with such a person - especially if they are not so obvious in their warped perspective?
What are my qualifications to instill in her these necessary skills? I didn't march with Dr. Martin Luther King like my mother, or fight and sue for civil rights like my grandfather, or face frequent racial strife like my elders or even my contemporaries who grew up in more challenging situations than me.
But I am concerned that even if we - me, her father, and those experienced elders we enlist to help - do our best to educate my daughter, will learning those skills protect her?
These hateful comments shook me to my core - so much so that they almost scared the faith right up out of me. But that's when I started to pray - in the midst of that soul-crushing fear. Listen, I'm not a preachy person or a Bible thumper. There's lots of spiritual work I need to do. And I don't think that Christianity is the only way for everybody. But honestly, I would just be lost without my faith because I don't know everything and I am not in control. Just like many of you, when I send my child off to school, camp, dance, chess, whatever- I hope and pray she's there, safe and happy when I pick her up.
Raising a child of color in this world littered with every kind of landmine imaginable can be frightening. So parents, people, don't let racists - or any dangerous folks - scare the faith out of you. In the battle between faith and fear, let the former win. And don't beat yourself up for having a crisis of faltering faith. Embrace your humanity and you'll recognize and appreciate it in others, which hopefully can diffuse scary situations.
As always, keep Enjoyceingife. It's a gift.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
I'd called to report a break in that happened while I was upstairs in the home I own in a working-class, all-black neighborhood. While I was preparing for bed, an intruder had removed a screen and opened a window to enter into my kitchen downstairs. When the alarm went off he apparently fled (though not immediately). Thanking God that my child was not in the house, I was afraid to come downstairs. After waiting for 20 minutes on hold with 911 on my landline, I dialed emergency services on my cell. Forty minutes later, with both phones to my ears, I answered the door.
An African-American police officer had his gun pointed at me. I don't remember the conversation. I do remember being frozen in my PJs and night hat, not wanting to move a muscle, and answering "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to his questions. Much later I wondered if he really could have thought that I was the intruder. And just now I'm wondering what his experience must have been like policing a relatively high crime neighborhood for him to respond to a breaking and entering call by aiming his gun at the person whose doorbell he rang.
I have a habit of blocking out - submitting to self-imposed amnesia - traumatic events in my life. Lots of high school experiences, along with that night with the policeman and his frightening gun, live somewhere locked inside my subconscious. Those imprisoned memories escape sometimes when they are unleashed by emotional occurrences that render my defenses useless.
Yes. I could probably use some (more) therapy.
This Trayvon verdict triggered a prison break - jogged a purposefully banished memory of my own interaction with someone who'd pointed a gun at me. Someone who looked like my brother. It's still fuzzy, but whatever my reaction was to this threat, I survived it because of any and all of the following: God's protection, my parents' coaching, my common sense, the policeman's effectiveness and maybe even luck. I'm thankful for all.
But I'm also scared, saddened and disappointed that I and every other parent of a child of color - especially those raising black boys - has to teach their children what to do if someone means to do them harm because of the color of their skin and their gender.
I'm smart and I'm not naive. But I honestly was not thinking I'd have to hammer this point home as hard as my parents did with me and especially my brother in the eighties.
I'm up for the challenge and the responsibility because 1. It's the cost of parenting a black child, and 2. I really don't have a choice. You have to teach these hard lessons and pray, pray, pray to God that the stars align and your child will live to thrive, be happy, pursue their passion, and make a difference in this world.
I was all twisted up inside tonight listening to MSNBC commentator Joy Reid, an African American parent of two sons age 11 and 13, discuss what to tell her children about the verdict. Her pre-teen son actually asked her what he should do if someone was following him and I identified with her feeling of helplessness as she struggled to come up with an answer.
I also identified with my mother's response to the verdict: "I'm in total sadness, and motherly grief." As a parent, I was immediately moved by her words. The level of parental grief felt by Trayvon's parents must be a powerful hurt scraping the depths of their souls. I don't know how they bear the loss of him or this verdict.
Parenting in general is no joke. In my book there is no more important and rewarding responsibility you can undertake. Some of the most serious parenting lessons that black parents MUST teach their children are those about how to be safe in this racially charged society. I think having to have these hard discussions makes some of us stronger, but they can also be damaging to our spirits.
Race matters, people. It always has. And I don't see it changing in my lifetime or that of my daughter's. So to stay encouraged and vigilant, we have to keep ourselves around positive people, influences and organizations who are committed to justice, #Justice4Trayvon and everyone.
Listening to this panel on the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussing what it means to raise black children today, I am more conscience than ever of the need to stay engaged, active and prayed up. Because, like several of my Facebook friends who posted about arming their sons with a list of what to do when pulled over by the police, I have to be thorough in preparing my child for the dangerous situations she'll probably encounter.
Below is an article where a parent discusses how he is continually educating his black son about staying safe in this world. Please share what you're teaching the children you parent, as well as the actions you're taking to stay positive, effect change, and continue Enjoyceinglife.
Below is an article where a parent discusses how he is continually educating his black son about staying safe in this world. Please share what you're teaching the children you parent, as well as the actions you're taking to stay positive, effect change, and continue Enjoyceinglife.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Nearly 40 years. From 1968 to 2007. From activist-athletes Billie Jean King to Venus Williams. That's how long it took for women tennis players to receive equal awards for winning Wimbledon.
If you get a chance to watch the fabulous documentary "Venus VS," directed by wonderful filmmaker Ava DuVernay and airing on ESPN, you will be moved. King's and Williams' brave stances and activism resulted in a groundbreaking change in women's rights that took entirely too long to come to fruition. The film, a part of ESPN Film's Nine for IX series, chronicles the important physical, emotional, traumatic and socio-political challenges that Williams faced and overcame during her rise to the pinnacle of women's tennis. It was just riveting. I learned so much.
Here are a few tweets I sent during the premiere via @Enjoyceinglife:
"'Venus VS' came from Venus' ultimate game -@Venuseswilliams & her relationship to #Wimbledon."-filmmaker @AVAETC @espnw @ESPNFilms @30for30
Why does it take so long 4 people 2 recognize there should b equality across the board?-filmmaker @AVAETC on @Venuseswilliams @ESPN @30for30
How must it feel 2 b 1 of those 1999 male tennis players watching urself saying women players should b happy being paid less? @ESPN #VenusVS
I think we are in a bygone era of athletes & activism...branding & endorsements discourage that. -
#VenusVS dir. @AVAETC @ESPN
Wow. RT @PoliticalJones: RT @30for30: 2013 marks the first #Wimbledon without @VenusesWilliams since 1996. #VenusVS @ESPNStatsInfo @ESPN
@NewsHour: How has the world of sports changed 4women over time? @AVAETC & @cbrennansports sit down w/ @gwenifill http://to.pbs.org/1az5FE2
"How can it be that #Wimbledon finds itself on the wrong side of history?" @Venuseswilliams n @TheTimes abt #Tennis #EqualPay #VenusVS @ESPN