Thursday, September 19, 2013

When Your Mother Quotes Shel Silverstein....

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 Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.

------Shel Silverstein

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

Denied but Empowered: Women Respond to Marginalization at the March on Washington

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.”

Anna Hedgeman

In the letter, she proposes that Randolph’s proposed remarks on women be delivered by a woman, suggesting Myrlie Evers and Diane Nash as possible speakers.

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: 

Gwen Ifill: Before she died, I interviewed Dorothy Height about that day. And she writes about it in her book.
And it became clear that women were marginalized on that stage and didn't even speak at the March. How did that happen? Women were certainly the foot soldiers of the movement.
William Jones: That's right. And they were really central to organizing the March and organizing all of the demonstrations of the civil rights movement.
A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King and other leaders believed that women shouldn't be in positions of -- as spokespeople of the March.
Gwen IfillIt was that -- it was that up-front?
William JonesThey were very -- well, they were pretty forward about it.
There's an interesting -- a really interesting story is that Anna Arnold Hedgeman, who was the only woman on the organizing committee of the March and who had worked very closely with A. Philip Randolph since the 1930s, she went to Randolph and she said, you know, you really need to invite a woman to be in the official leadership of the March.
And she suggested Dorothy Height. And A. Philip Randolph didn't answer her, but several weeks later, he went -- they went to a meeting, and Anna Hedgeman found that she was still the only woman in the leadership of the March, and she really -- she wrote a very angry letter to Randolph protesting this.
Dorothy Height (far right)

Some people suggested actually picketing Randolph when he was preparing for the March. And Hedgeman and Dorothy Height and other women decided to not make an issue of it right at the March. But then, the night after the March, they actually called a meeting at the national headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, which was the organization that Dorothy Height headed.
And at that meeting, they actually planned a series of meetings that, as I explain in the book, actually culminated in the formation of the National Organization of Women. And it really became a catalyzing moment in the rebirth of a feminist movement in the United States.
Gwen IfillAnd women of color were behind it, which is -- gets lost.
William JonesThey were at the center of this, yes.
Gwen IfillWhich gets so lost.
Daisy Bates

One of the best things about all of the media coverage surrounding the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is the increased visibility of little known stories surrounding the historic event that led to specific and long term impact. This level of reporting makes me so proud to be a journalist. I've learned a great deal and am continuously appreciative of those who are telling these stories. Even more important, I am forever indebted to those who made brave sacrifices for me to continue the work they started. 

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 (

When You Remember the March on Washington, Remember Anna Hedgeman (Anna Julia Cooper Project)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Let Racists Scare the Faith Out of You

I've dropped a few tears here and there during this entire Travyon Martin tragedy. But tonight it got unexpectedly ugly. The breakdown I had is the kind you only want to have alone, where no one can see just how out of control you are. What, you ask, can trigger this level of despair in a recovering control freak such as myself?

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.

The shortened life of Trayvon Martin and the powerful national conversation that is escalating via Obama's commentary has forced me to take stock of my own "privileged" experienced. I've had a few uncomfortable conversations and encounters about race with people who didn't look like me. But I can't say that I ever felt I was in danger of bodily harm. And that is certainly a blessing.

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

Fair Vs. Light-Skinned

After I used the word “fair" to describe black women who had light brown complexions, an interesting conversation developed in my office today about the usage of the terms “fair" and “light-skinned."
After a 15-minute discussion, our group of a half-dozen women from mid-30s to mid-70s and of various shades (cream to cocoa) realized that our perceptions and reactions to the uses of these terms were based in our age, experience and region of upbringing in the United States. Even the etymologies of the words and the influence of how our parents used them were explored.
This was an excellent, positive and understanding conversation. I wish more complex subjects were explored in this manner. We enjoyed, appreciated and honored each other’s opinions. And then, we went back to work. 

I hope you're Enjoyceinglife in all it's wonderful shades! #WordsMatter

Monday, July 15, 2013

Parenting Advice: What to do when someone pulls a gun on you....

Three hours after the Trayvon Martin verdict was delivered, I finally remembered that a gun had been pulled on me once. At my front door. By a police officer.

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. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guess how long it took for women tennis players to get equal pay at Wimbledon?

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, 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 - & her relationship to ."-filmmaker

Why does it take so long 4 people 2 recognize there should b equality across the board?-filmmaker on

How must it feel 2 b 1 of those 1999 male tennis players watching urself saying women players should b happy being paid less?

I think we are in a bygone era of athletes & activism...branding & endorsements discourage that. -  dir.

Wow. RT : RT : 2013 marks the first without since 1996.

: How has the world of sports changed 4women over time? & sit down w/

See a preview of the documentary here. And keep Enjoyceinglife!

Monday, June 17, 2013

New UNCF Branding Swaps Community Activist Language For Wall Street Lingo

The message of the UNCF's new #BetterFutures campaign "is straightforward. Public service announcements...feature stories of real students who speak about their college aspirations. "My name is Sidney, and I am your dividend," one young woman says, holding up a stock-market ticker." - "United Negro College Fund Updates Its Slogan, and Its Brand," The Chronicle of Higher Education

The United Negro College Fund has adopted a new message for potential donors: Think of students as investments.

Articles on NPR and in the Chronicle of Higher Education explore how the UNCF is modernizing their iconic tagline - "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste," by adding "But a Wonderful Thing to Invest In." While ending any sentence in a preposition bothers the writer in me, I'm wondering if their intended target audience - younger, wealthier donors - will be engaged by their new "Invest in Better Futures" campaign.

Even though I'm annoyed that the Chronicle seems to have misspelled Sydni's name in their article, check out their coverage and NPR's if you get a chance. The Chronicle piece has interesting stats about how the UNCF spent four years developing their new campaign based on research from their UNCF Case Study / Stock for Social Change (video below) like $10 invested in education for African-American students today will produce $102 worth of benefits for society.

The NPR piece includes has some early UNCF ads (like one below directed by Spike Lee with a voice-over from Samuel Jackson) and asks readers about how they'd solicit donations for the UNCF. Some of the campaign suggestions in the comments are creative.

I'm a fan of good storytelling. I'm not sure if the new ad I watched tells a story, but it does offer a different perspective on philanthropy based in return on investment. I guess the ad is not aimed at me because while I still consider myself young, I'm definitely not wealthy, so I'm not in their target audience. 

I'd love to hear your ideas. Or just your feedback on what you think of their new campaign.

For those who don't know much about the UNCF, here's a bit of primer from the articles: One of the 150 largest philanthropies in the country, the UNCF is the recipient of $150-$160 million a year in donations. More than half of the students who receive scholarship money from the UNCF are the first in their families to attend college, and most come from families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year. The organization founded in 1944 aims to expand its 300,000-donor base to hand out more scholarships and grants to minority students, especially as college costs rise and many historically black colleges and universities face financial struggles.

On an odd note, watching their new ad (below), I noticed the featured student walking past an urban art mural, "Never Give Up," that is in my neighborhood. Life can be so surprising sometimes. Keep on Enjoyceinglife. It's rarely boring. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What is the best fictional biography you've ever read?

What is the best fictional biography you've ever read? 

I’m doing some research and would love suggestions.

The best I've read so far is “Douglass’ Women” by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Phenomenal!

So what’s yours? Thanks for whatever recommendations you can provide.

And keep on Enjoyceinglife - with a good book - whenever you get a chance!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Daughter Gave Me the Middle Finger

"Mommy, what does this mean?" I looked in the back seat and my rising second grader was giving me the middle finger. I calmly replied, "It's like a curse word that means forget you, or I don't care about you. It's not nice and don't do it again."

I thought for a second and added, "I'm so glad you asked me what it meant. Did someone do that to you?"

"A girl at camp told me it meant God is bad," she explained.

"Well, I've never heard that before. But like I said, it's not nice, so don't do it again."

"Okay," she said. I watched her pondering my response. A minute later she announced, "I don't believe her, Mommy. I believe you."

And then she segued right into sharing how yet another red robin had landed on a tree outside her bedroom window.

Yesterday, she snuck some candy (stuffed in a wallet placed under her tunic and in her leggings!) to camp. When I caught her (walking funny), I initially defaulted to the standard punishment - no doing whatever it was she wanted to do that evening (bike riding, iPad playing, TV watching), and writing a few sentences about what she did wrong, why it was wrong, and the better choice she'd make next time.

As she was writing, another approach crossed my mind - one that was informed by my own misbehavior 35 years ago. I regaled her with my criminal past: the story of how I was caught by my mother at about the same age stealing one Now & Later candy out of the pack from a grocery store. I hid it in my sandal. Of course, it fell out while we were walking and I suffered dire consequences.

The take-away for my teary-eyed child was the importance of trust and integrity, and how deception is the cousin of lying. I could tell I made a good decision about my reaction to her infraction because of her genuine interest in my story and her verbal response: "I will never, ever, ever, ever do it again."

She's clever and crafty, like her mama. So I don't necessarily believe that she'll never dabble in the untruths or misrepresentations again. But it won't be in the same way. She's learning about values. And that's a win in my parenting book.

Lessons for the last two days: Every question from your child can be a learning opportunity for you both.  And, utilize the best approach to get the lesson learned.

Keep on Enjoyceinglife. It's rewarding.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Can't Believe I Rejoined MySpace

"If I'm not communicating, I'm not awake."

I have absolutely no idea what got into me today. Well that's not exactly true. No. 1: A co-worker raved about how the new MySpace was really great with all these bells and whistles and stuff and I just could not resist. Now I deleted my MySpace account years ago. But one visit to the souped up Justin Timberlake-owned music site resulted in me signing up, connecting it to a few of my other social media accounts, and promptly posting this tweet to Twitter:

No. 2: Andre Benjamin is still like Kryptonite to me. I was already weak from the new visually stimulating MySpace. When JT threw this Dre playlist on me, I was done.

But that was not the end of my social media exploits today. Oh noooo. I was on a roll. When I saw a friend's engaging About.Me profile on Twitter, it triggered my own long-held interest in creating one, too. Twenty minutes later I had the framework for what I completed this evening.

But did I stop at MySpace and About.Me? Somehow I got sucked into signing up for Quora when I was adding Facebook friends in About.Me and one had a Quora profile link. Friends can be so dangerous. I had to Google Quora to find out its exact purpose. The premise seems cool, a community-curated Q&A site started by two former Facebook employees.

I have a problem, folks. A social media problem. In the last week or so, the magazine lover and information junkie in me has signed up for FlipBoard (which I am really digging) and reengaged with the fabulously updated Flickr. Now I already have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, YouTubePinterest, and Storify. And I know I'm forgetting some site. Oh yes, this blog. I think I need an intervention. 

But the truth is I don't want one. And that may be a problem as well. Aside: Working with the incredible journalist and author Tananarive Due at Spelman College has been such a joy over the past year. But I think the best thing she's said to me so far was at our first get-to-know-each-other lunch:

Paraphrasing -> "Sometimes I get the same high from social media that I get from reading a good story."

That quote is burned in my brain because I feel the exact same way. I love to communicate across various platforms - and not just digitally. Check out my About.Me page and you'll see what I mean. And life is really my intervention. Often when I develop an interest in a new social media platform, I ditch another one or two. I recently deleted numerous apps on my phone, unsubscribed from at least a dozen email newsletters, and I've been on an unfriending binge for the last few weeks. 

And for the most part I've got my priorities in tact. There have been days in a row (!!!) when parenting and work-related deadlines have prevented me from real-time posting (thank you HootSuite). While I did sign up for three social media platforms today in the span of my lunchtime, I still managed to conduct an interview, write an article, and update Inside Spelman

I have to admit that I am suffering a bit from a shortened attention span (horrible for a writer who loves to read). But I've got a plan: As much as I hate to do it, I'm going to be more purposeful and organized about my social media engagement - and more frequent disengagement. This approach is part of a larger assessment I'm working on this summer. 

So who thinks I can do it? Who thinks I can post less on social media?

I hope I'm not the only one with my hand raised. 

Keep on Enjoyceinglife. It's a blast. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Elusive Black Surfer

Tonight my 1st grade daughter's fluency practice story was about a boy who dreamed of being a surfer. She'd never heard of surfing before, so I cued up some videos on YouTube of children surfing.

And, of course, she asked if girls surfed. I found some videos of women surfing.

Then she asked if Black girls surfed. I had no idea how difficult it would be to find videos of Black girls surfing....Black women surfing....Black people surfing. While I did come up with a few videos (mostly promos for documentaries about Blacks and surfing), there just aren't very many. 

In those twenty minutes, I did get a quick history - via videos - of Blacks and surfing, which dates back to Ghanaians surfing off the coast of West Africa before the slave trade as far as I could quickly see from documentary promos. There are several Black surfing organizations, as well. So I want to find more videos and websites. 

My baby said she'd love to "do that," meaning try surfing. So I'll be doing more research. And somehow make her wish come true - even though we live in land-locked Georgia. I see traveling for this wish fulfillment.

I'm ecstatic she wanted to try it even though she didn't see anyone like her surfing. Exposure and confidence are powerful tools. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Pants on the Ground" Singer Takes on the Ku Klux Klan

The man who sang the song "Pants on the Ground" on American Idol introduced himself to me in Kroger today - right in front of the milk refrigerators. He sang the song, showed me his "Pants on the Ground" belt buckle, and told me that he'd been "all on American Idol and everywhere" and that Rep. John Lewis had given him a plaque. He struck up a conversation by telling me that he was glad he didn't go to the Boston Marathon, and showed me a plastic bag full of medals (and a few around his neck) of a bunch of marathons he said he'd attended. I was kind of perplexed, and for some reason could not turn away. It was like I was caught up in the strangeness of it all.

He also said he was going down to the Georgia state capital this Saturday to protest against the Ku Klux Klan, who would be having a rally there (and that's true. Well it's a Neo Nazi rally). I gave him a pound and told him to "Keep up the good fight!" His name is Gen. Larry Platt and he "encouraged" me to tell everyone on "Google" that he is not dead. So folks, Gen. Platt is alive - and on the case. It's been quite a day. And I'm still Enjoyceinglife - hope you are, too.


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