Friday, March 30, 2012

"There's a War Going on Outside"

"There's  a war going on outside/No man is safe from/You can run but you can't hide forever/From these/Streets that we done took..." -Mobb Deep "Survival of the Fittest"

I have this sinking fear that in about 6 months from now, we're going to wake up in the middle of a war. Looting, rioting, killing, an eye for an eye, and I'm scared the whole point will be lost in the midst of getting the free 3D TV's and expensive shoes. (I'm not saying I don't like expensive shoes; I'm just saying I don't feel comfortable obtaining them in the name of a life being lost). My biggest fear is for the blind. There are so many in denial that war is being declared right now. It's sad, scary, and unhealthy to abstain from reality. It began with Trayvon Martin. A 17 year old was shot for walking away from the store carrying a bag of skittles and an iced tea. The hoody he was wearing made him look suspicious. For that he deserved to die. A person who chased him felt the need to defend himself against his choice of clothing for that chilly, rainy night. Trayvon Martin is dead, and his killer hasn't even been prosecuted. He said the words "F___in' coon" before killing him, yet people - black people especially - want to deny that this is a race issue.

I'm used to those who are not negatively effected by racial profiling and all that comes with it being in denial about what's happening. In fact, there is a large group of people who believe that since slavery is over, racism should be forgiven and forgotten. To them it is no longer existent. It's especially evident in the remarks made about tragic events that are clearly racially motivated. In book reviews regarding the South during the Great Depression comments such as, "There were too many references to prejudice. After slavery, things weren't that bad for African-Americans," let us know what is really thought of our plight. That's to be expected from those who didn't have to go through it. Those who aren't descendants of a people who was dragged from its native land and forced to work on the land of another could never understand. They are not my concern. The people I am fearful for are the ones who say, "Don't make this a race issue. Everything is not about race." An Arabic-American woman by the name Shaima Alawadi was found beaten to death with a note that called her a terrorist and told she should return to her own country. A little girl named Aiyana James was shot to death by police with no repercussions suffered. You can say "don't play the race card...," since the race card was played when the trigger was pulled.

Instead of acknowledging the issue at hand they ask, "Why should we care about them when we haven't done anything about the madness that's going on in our town?" It's because of what these tragedies represent. They signify the beginning of the end for us. After slavery they had no use for us. The gang violence and drug wars help, but they're not killing us fast enough. There are still some of us left who don't want to be involved with that foolishness, and that just won't do. We need to either leave or die. Since America puts us under the impression that we have some rights, we're not going anywhere. Therefore, they have to kill us. The more of us that are in denial, the easier this will be. "Everything is not a race issue." No, it isn't, but when people of color are being killed without their assailants being prosecuted, it's obvious that the murders are racially motivated.

"Where was the outcry for Jon Benet Ramsey and Cailey (forgive the misspelling) Anthony?"
I clearly recall there being heavy disappointment in the outcome of the Anthony case. However, at least there was a trial. George Zimmerman, the Chicago police, and the security guards are all walking the streets. They're free to destroy their next target at will.

"Where was the rally and vigil when that happened to my cousin?" 
Why didn't you let anyone know that happened to your cousin? Why didn't you start a rally? Why do nothing and then get mad at people for getting involved with causes they actually have knowledge of?

"Trayvon Martin's shooting happened a month ago? Why are people just now getting upset about it?"
It takes the spread of information in order for people to become knowledgeable about it. Likewise, it would be impossible to know of every single hate crime that happens against people of color. The person who updates that website would have to have Superman's speed in order to keep up. Besides, who would sit there and read such information all day without having a breakdown and going crazy?

"Why does it take an event like this for people to get angry?" 
Life is all about balance. Sane people become upset when something happens to upset them. Who walks around militant all the time? Life still has to be lived. Children still have to be fed. We still need to be educated. Nobody needs to be angry all of the time, but when something like this happens people need to take notice and be outraged. In addition, they need to be alert. We need to be alert and ready for the war they have started. Robbing Wal-Mart will not make us victorious. Being in denial that what is going on is not going to win.

"Well, I'm only half black, so none of this pertains to me."
I'm sorry to tell you this, but no one cares that you're half black except you and maybe the other people of mixed race who sympathize with your plight. You can identify yourself as whatever you want. To the rest of the country, though, you are black. We have been dictated by the one drop rule. That one drop, or that "half" of a black person in you is what will be targeted. Your other half will not be spared, because you are seen as a contaminated specimen. You'll be tossed like bio-hazardous waste. Look at George Zimmerman. Never in life have you heard of a Hispanic man with the surname Zimmerman, but they were quick to point out that only half of him was white. Only half of him was worthy of being connected to them. They were quick to discard him because he made them look bad. They did it to him, and they'll to the same to anyone who taints them. They'll try to save him. They just won't have anything to do with him.

It's easier for those who haven't been through it to sweep it under the rug. My concern is those African-Americans who choose to be in denial and make excuses. "What about blacks killing blacks every day? Where's the outrage for that?" Those individuals are helping the cause of the other side. Many of them also choose to live a life that has only two options- death or jail. That's a separate problem to deal with. This sudden swelling in the number of UNARMED people of minority races being gunned down is a bigger problem. The more the real reason for it happening is denied, the more it's going to happen. It's war. We are the survivors. I'm afraid that all we'll be concerned with is the amount of free crap we can get from the riots that amount to nothing. Still they'll be in denial about the fact that they are targets.

How could you look at this dead boy and not immediately think of Emmit Till? An innocent boy was killed by a Caucasian man. His parents are left to grieve. Immediately an excuse is given about why it happened. Emmit Till was killed for whistling at a white woman. Trayvon Martin was killed for looking suspicious. He was wearing a hoody. He knew better than that. He shouldn't have been dressed in such an intimidating article of clothing. Even if it was raining when he walked to the store to get a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. Even Geraldo Rivera said it: His hoody killed him just as much as the man who pulled the trigger. It's his fault a man sitting in an SUV got out of the car, chased him down, and demanded to know who he was and where he was going. Who cares that we teach our children not to speak to strangers? As a young black teenager, he should have known he had to answer. Why? Because that man was white, and he was black. He was a suspicious intruder in his own neighborhood because he had the darker skin. Just like Emmit Till's, his life was taken because he was a threat to their world. No, the truth his he was killed because Zimmerman knew Florida's law would let him get away with it.

After the tragic slaying of Trayvon Martin, they tried to show us how they were doing us a favor. They wanted to tell us why he wasn't in school that day. He wasn't in school that day because it was a Sunday. Then they wanted to bring up the fact that he was once suspended from school for having an empty bag of marijuana. Excuse me, there was marijuana residue inside of the bag. In addition, his Twitter page was put on display. All that America saw was that he was living a teenage life. Every day they've tried to come out with something else, trying to prove that his life was taken as a gift to us. They were protecting us from a future thug. All that they've shown is that two parents are left to grieve the loss of their son, and they don't care. They didn't care when they left his body in the hospital as a Jon Doe, and they still don't care today. That's why Zimmerman is free, and Trayvon Martin is no longer with us.

Then there's this group who thinks hunting down Zimmerman an taking the eye for an eye approach is the answer. The fact that they will be arrested and sentenced to an unspeakable amount of jail time. Zimmerman will still be free. Some media outlets have already crafted a monster out of Trayvon Martin's childhood events.  In the meantime, Zimmerman's friends and family members are making him a victim. Headlines such as "Zimmerman's Brother Says George's Life Will Never Be the Same" and "Zimmerman Couldn't Stop Crying the Night of the Shooting" serve to form some type of pity party. If the media has already victimized him, don't people take that as a warning? A grown man kills a child, yet it's the grown man who they're trying to get sympathy for. It's not the parents who lost a son. It's not the millions of African-American boys around the country who now fear walking down the streets. We're supposed to feel sorry for a man who shot a boy who was walking home from the store, armed with nothing but an iced tea and some candy. What do people think breaking windows, burning down buildings, and stealing things from stores is going to do? The L.A. Riots after the Rodney King verdict were a mess. I was only 9 or 10 when they happened, but I remember the chill that set over my body as I watched them and grieved for my people. We looked like animals on national television. The riots weren't worth it, and they did more harm than good. What will be accomplished by going to this man's house (or his current location) and beating the life out of him? Once again we will be the thugs he accused Trayvon Martin of being. I'm just as angry as anyone else, and I want justice, but I know that our outcome won't be the same as Zimmerman's.

Finally there's the group who thinks we should comply with what these bigots want. There's even a video going around telling how African-American males should conduct themselves in the world. In my opinion, this group is the worst. Supposedly African-Americans were freed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Freedom means we don't have to follow a dress code or behave in a certain manner. How a person conducts him or herself depends on his or her upbringing. It is up to the parents to tell them what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong is not determined by a person's style of dress. It's also not determined by who you answer to when asked who you are and what you're doing in your own neighborhood. Right and wrong is determined by action alone. Anyone who wants to fall under a bigot's dictation rather than fight for his or her right to be who he or she is promised to be under the American Constitution is a disgrace. Geraldo Rivera, you are included in this message. You should be fighting for your son's right to wear a hoody without being labelled suspicious, not telling him he's made himself a target by donning one.

Friday, March 23, 2012

B$#@& You Wasn't With Me Shootin' in the Gym!

"Kobe my n&*$@ I hate it had to be him/B$#&% you wasn't with me shootin' in the gym!/(Huh! B&^#$ YOU WASN'T WITH ME SHOOTIN' IN THE GYM!)" -Drake and Rick Ross "Stay Schemin'"

I take severe issue with a lot of this song, but a special part of me dies every time I hear this line rapped by Drake and then co-signed with extreme emphasis by Rick Ross. I could dissect Drake's entire verse until the world is dying of laughter, but I'm sure some more famous blogger already has. Instead I want to focus on this particular part of the song. Stay Schemin' talks about how people are always plotting on their material possessions and sometimes their lives. Therefore, they feel the need to stick to and stick to their male friends like glue. In theory that's fine, but then Drake of all people starts his verse, and their case crumbles.

For those who haven't heard the song, he's talking about the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant divorce. At the time of Drake writing this verse, Vanessa Bryant was scheduled to receive $150 million dollars in their divorce settlement. Would you like to know why? Because Kobe Bryant cheated on her!!!! For some reason men become outraged when a husband is ordered to pay his wife money after they part ways. I don't get it. He was out there doing God knows what with The Lord only knows who. Not only did he violate his vows; he put his wife's life in danger. HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, and a myriad of other diseases easily could seal her fate when he gets done with his extramarital rendezvous. Does that matter? No. He's just that selfish. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he might have used condoms. Those aren't 100% effective. What about the emotional turmoil she suffers as a result? Her feelings don't matter because she got to live a life of luxury, and she had a man, right? People who think this way really need to get their lives together.

Nevertheless, the line is hilarious to me. Drake and Rick Ross need to cut it out, acting like some reverend/deacon tag team who preached some marvelous sermon with this one line. For Rick Ross, it's simple: Of course she wasn't with him shooting in the gym. He wasn't with him shooting in the gym. Nothing about Rick Ross says he's been to the gym this century. In fact, it sounds like he lost his breath co-signing that single line. Did he pass out after yelling it? I wanted to pass him my Albuterrol after hearing him say it the first time. In the infamous words of Jay-Z, "We don't believe you! You need more people!"

And then there's Drake. I'm no fan of his. In fact, after he remade Back That Thang Up I was done with his existence. His last album set masculinity back about forty thousand years. Just about every song was about rescuing strippers from their degrading lives of nudity and lap dances. Then there was Marvin's Room, the king of all haters' songs. He's supposed to be the savior of womankind, yet he comes with this foolishness. So it's okay to save strippers, but husbands shouldn't have to take care of their wives? What am I missing here? No, she wasn't with you "shootin' in the gym," but she was taking care of your kids, sitting at home alone while you were on the road acting like you were God's gift to the world, keeping your vows fresh while you defiled your marriage. No, she wasn't with you in the gym, but she was sitting at home being ridiculed by your sex scandals. No, she wasn't with you shooting in the gym, but she did make the sacrifice of having a husband who was there year-round for a husband who was on the road most of the time. No, she wasn't with you shooting in the gym, but she did give up a life of privacy to be followed around by paparazzi.

It kills me that there are men out there who think that once they get caught messing up that the wife is supposed to either grin and bear it or kick rocks with flip flops and no socks but be mute about the pain. Somehow if the tables were turned, Vanessa Bryant would be labelled an ungrateful heaux with no morals. But because Kobe Bryant is a man with a penis who can shoot a ball into a hole, she should shut up and enjoy the diamonds on her finger. Listen. No diamond in the world can heal the wounds that being cheated on causes. The shine may make you turn a blind eye to it, but I guarantee it can't make you forget it. When a man betrays his marriage it causes the woman to pick herself apart, wondering what she did wrong. Why wasn't she good enough? What did the other woman (women) do so well that she didn't? If she twerked her booty just a little bit more would he have remained faithful? Was she the wrong skin tone? Did she not fry the chicken right? (Well, Vanessa probably didn't have that last thought running through her mind, but you get my point). Then she has to decide whether or not she's willing to forgive him. Forgiveness is a stressful process to endure. It doesn't make it any easier if the only part he's sorry about is getting caught. It makes it even more difficult when there are escape clauses like, "A man's gonna do what a man's gonna do." Then she has to refrain from retaliating in any way that will send her to jail. It's a difficult thing to deal with.

So then she decides to leave. She and her children were accustomed to a certain way of living prior to his infidelity. I for one would never rely solely on my spouse for income. Life is too unpredictable for that. However, I've never been married to a millionaire. I can't judge others for what they decide to do. All I can say is that a lot of athletes' wives don't work. Instead they raise the kids and make the family look good. Some of them use their husbands' names to become entrepreneurs. Some don't, and that's fine too. According to Drake and Rick Ross, because a wife decides to walk away before she gets burned to the point of no return (you can take that both literally and figuratively), she deserves nothing. She wasn't an LA Laker, so she should get nothing. Yet it's okay to take Peanut and Smash and them - your "niggaz" - to the bar and treat them to bottles like they're girls, buy them cars like they're girls, look out for them like they're girls. Your woman is the giver of life, the carrier of your legacy. Why is your honesty and loyalty tied to people who share your gender and can do nothing for you but suck up your fame and fortune?

I get a real hearty laugh when Drake says, "Kobe my n^&&@, I hate it had to be him..." This sounds to me like the fact that he has championship rings means he doesn't have to remain loyal to his wedding ring. Kobe didn't seem to hate when it was him stepping outside of his marriage. How did Kobe Bryant become the victim here all of a sudden? So he loses money, so what? The snatch must have been worth it for him to risk destroying his family. So wearing gold and purple means he doesn't have to be held accountable for his actions? Isn't that as bad as saying, "I sure hate Keke Wyatt had to go to jail for shooting her husband. She has such a lovely voice"? What does one have to do with the other? Like DMX said, "You do dirt, you get dirt." That's the bottom line.

I could go on and on about how hilarious this part of the song is to me. I'm not talking sarcastic hilarious either. If this song comes on in the car when I'm pulling up to my house, I make it a point to sit there and listen to it until that part comes on. Then I laugh so hard you would think Def Comedy Jam came back. I guess Drake got tired of whining about all of his girly problems, so he decided to complain about someone else's. The sad part is that we spend so much of a girl's childhood telling her how much a man is supposed to love her. She grows up to find out that men are only loyal to each other. They're so worried about what other people are trying to do to them and take from them, yet they tend to sweep under the rug what they do to hurt others. It's called accountability. It goes hand and hand with responsibility. Men will never know that, though, as long as they have other men (or Drake) sticking up for them, telling them that their status in life nullifies their obligations to the women who they love. Well, keep being more concerned with those dudes who ride for you. After you're done burning out the women who stand by your side, those dudes and their stupid song lyrics will be all you have.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parents Just Don't Understand...And They Shouldn't...No One Should

It's night time. Your son leaves the house to go to the store to buy Skittles and an iced tea. He never comes back. Instead, the police come to your doorstep and tell you that your son is dead. For what? He isn't gang affiliated. He isn't involved with drugs. He walks the streets unarmed. The police tell you that the head of Neighborhood Watch said that he was walking around "looking suspicious." When he left the house he was wearing a black hoodie. Apparently, that is reason enough for the police to come to your door and tell you that your son is dead. In addition, they tell you they won't be arresting the shooter because there is not probable cause to arrest him, and the person who shot him has a college degree. They bid you goodnight, leaving you and your feelings standing there with your mouth agape.

By now we have all heard the story of Trayvon Martin. We've all seen and signed the petition. Right...? Right?

If you haven't, you can click the link and do so NOW

We have heard the story, and we are outraged. We're confused. We're hurt. More than anything, we are wondering when racism will come to an end. Parents are wondering when they should expect this to happen to their children. Can we as parents even allow our children to leave the house? We've heard the tapes. We've reviewed the facts. Trayvon exited the store and began walking. It doesn't matter where he was going. The only things he carried on his person were Skittles and an iced tea. George Zimmerman, the self-appointed head of Neighborhood Watch, is sitting in his SUV and decides that he feels threatened by Trayvon's presence. Sitting in a vehicle, he feels threatened by someone who is walking down the street, minding his own business. Trayvon is on his cell phone, not paying George Zimmerman a bit of attention. Perhaps he felt himself being watched and made eye contact with the person staring at him. That's not really a threatening move. He puts his hoody over his head and kept walking. Zimmerman calls the police on a non-emergency number. If he truly felt threatened, wouldn't 911 be the correct number to call? The police tell him not to pursuit the person who is "threatening" him. Zimmerman gets out of the car anyway, proclaiming, "They always get away...Those people need to pay."

Who are "they?" What people is he referring to?

And then, like all people who truly feel threatened by someone, Zimmerman gets out of his car and chases Trayvon. During his pursuit, he even calls Trayvon a coon. Because he is being pursued, Trayvon calls 911, screaming for his life. It's not use. He is shot in his chest and killed.

There are several problems with this story. For one, how can someone who is chasing a person feel threatened? How can an unarmed person be a threat to a person with a gun? Then there is the obvious issue: Trayvon is a child. Zimmerman is a grown man. The issue of self-defense must also be factored into this. In order for it to be self-defense, doesn't a person have to be attacked? Sitting somewhere in your car puts you in a pretty odd position to be attacked by someone who is unarmed and minding his own business. The law of self-defense states that in order for that to stick a person has to be shot in both legs. Trayvon Martin was shot in his chest. Let's not forget that he was chased down to the final minutes of his life.

People are coming with the weak defense about the way he was dressed. Who cares how he was dressed? Yes, there are some rowdy teens out there. Yes, there are times when men dressed in hoodies make us feel uncomfortable. Those men have to be doing something other than minding their own business to have any effect on me. If those people do something threatening to me, I don't chase them down and shoot them. I cross the street and walk a little faster. It's never what they're wearing. It's their actions that make me feel like I need to take action against them. They don't deserve to have their lives taken unless they first try to take mine. Trayvon didn't do this.

Yet Zimmerman has not been arrested. They say it's not a race issue. Those of us who are not in denial can accept the truth. We can liken this to the story of Emmit Till and realized that nothing has changed between 1955 and 2012. The fact that we have to get a petition signed to get the right thing done causes us to sit here in disgust. As parents we wonder if our child will be next. Why is this child killer allowed to walk free? Because he has a college degree? We don't buy that. As parents we don't want to know if the outcome would be different if the tables were turned. We don't want to think of another child's life to be taken just to prove a point. What we want is an understanding. Why are parents burying their children? What was so threatening about the bag of Skittles he was carrying? Should we stop allowing our children to buy Skittles? First we had to teach our children that Officer Friendly is a bigger myth than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy combined; now we also have to tell them that Neighborhood Watch is really watching and waiting for an opportunity to take their lives. The people who are supposed to protect them are their worst enemies. We the parents don't understand this. We shouldn't have to. No one should.

Once again, please sign the petition to have George Zimmerman arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, please click the link:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Descendants of Excellence

I have to giggle, because what I'm about to say makes me feel old as dirt. Last week I read the best book I have read this century: They Tell Me of a Home by Daniel Black. The storyline wasn't what made this book great. Of course it was interesting, but there was so much more to this book than just a story. This book was a piece of LITERATURE. It was what Sojourner Truth died for us to be able to do. It was what Alice Walker was paving the way for. I'm sure Ralph Ellison smiled down on this book once it was published. The plot and setting created a movie in the mind of the reader. A person was able to feel, think, smell, and see exactly what was going on in this little town. Rather than making the reader think his or her friend was just telling one long story, They Tell Me of a Home engaged the reader in a series of events. The book sparked the desire to change. It made the question "Why?" be asked over and over again. This is what real literature is made of. It saddens me that more books written in modern times don't possess this quality.

Having only one book published, I'm still learning, still growing, and still developing myself as a writer. However, I've been reading since the '80's. I know what makes a book good and what makes a book excellent. I'm not trying to be mean or slander the reputations of anyone who has published a book. I just want us to put more effort into our quality. Daniel Black did just that. There are other authors, however, who don't, and it's disheartening. The English language has been butchered. The books read like the transcript of a "Girllll, lemme tell you..." telephone conversation between two girlfriends. Getting lost in them doesn't happen as often as the need to the end of them. It's sad. Their subject matter sounds like something we can relate to. Then in the midst of all the label dropping, bad spelling, misuse of homophones, and inconsistency in story, the audience loses interest. Once upon a time, those who were gifted in writing wrote. In present time, anyone who seeks a quick come-up puts a book out. No matter how mediocre the quality, they put it out. If the person is popular enough the book sells. Those whose hearts and souls are in this, who are doing this for the love and not the fortune and fame, are left sitting on the proverbial shelves collecting dust.

What's really sad is when a person possesses talent but won't take the time to develop it. Paying for editing isn't even given a second thought. They have a good story but aren't grammatically gifted. The good story is ruined by events that are inconsistent with the time period in which their books are set. They don't know the difference between "want" and "won't." At the beginning of the sentence, Veronica is speaking, but somehow the tagline is marked with Dana's name. We authors love burning the midnight oil. Some of our best ideas come to us after one a.m. That doesn't mean we can send it to be published first thing in the morning. At the very least, we can get a second set of eyes to look at it and make sure all of our ducks are in a row.

They Tell Me of a Home really made me feel bad about not majoring in English in college. I felt like the main character's craft was so polished. Formal training seemed to take his talent and turn it into something brilliant. I was left wondering if my writing was lacking something because it was never sharpened with an English degree. My professors in college always read my writing and told me I was in the wrong field. Even though I held a 4.0 GPA, they could tell by the way my papers were written that my heart was in Language Arts. They were 100% correct, but writing doesn't pay the bills. Now I do it on the side, but I wonder what level my writing would be on today if I took it to a university and let them mold it. I guess it's too late for "what if's" now, but when I look at work I'm disappointed in I can't help but wonder what flaws are in mine.

As African-American writers, we are the descendants of excellence. Booker T. Washington, Mildred D. Taylor, Sojourner Truth, Ralph Ellison, and the like did not pave the way for us to produce mediocrity. I know we say, "It's just a word; stop being so anal," but there's more to it than that. We want to get our people back into reading. By writing about things that our people see in everyday life we are doing just that. Then we speak of things our people dream of seeing. But we spend so much time promoting the names of designers who could care less about us, not paying attention to detail, and trying to make every character a superstar that we forget what writing is supposed to do: change lives. We need to go back to memorable characters like Miss Celie, Cassie Logan, T.L., etc., who were able to make an impact on our hearts and minds. We put out poorly formatted books, and it's insulting to the readers who have spent their hard-earned money on supporting our efforts. We say, "Who cares if I used the wrong form of 'their'? It's urban fiction, not a college essay." What we're really saying is we don't give a crap about those who fought for us to be educated and those who fought for us to be able to legally know how to read and write. Forget all of those who are learning from us. All they need is a book. They don't need it to be great. None of this is true. We are the descendants of excellence. We should be standing on the foundation that was given to us and building toward the next level. Let's do better.