New Thangs

Hey loves!  So I know I haven’t been around all week.  I promise it’s not because I’m slacking.  I’m doing awesome things.  We’re moving.  You’ll like it. I promise.  This of course means that I’ll be taking a break during the migration, etc.  What’s that? When will I be returning?

MARDI GRAS OF COURSE!!!

Red Bean Dreams: February 21, 2012. Be there!

 

A Girl Needs Her Options

I’ve been reading all my life.  Literally since I was 3 1/2.  My love affair with words and reading ultimately transferred to a love of writing.  But what if life was different?  What if I didn’t have to consider phobias, limitations or lack of training?  What would I be?

1. Assassin

I have a very healthy respect for life and the living, but sometimes, people get outta pocket and they gotta go.  I’d be totally high end and have my own code of ethics.  No kids under any circumstances.  I’d also want to handle my business up close and personal as often as possible. None of that sniping from a rooftop jazz.  And my assassins kit would make Batman envious.  My most prized possession would be a grappling hook.  The two drawbacks to being an assassin: 1. Thanks to pesky advancements in DNA matching, I’d probably have to get rid of the fro; and 2. I’d never be able to tell anyone about all the dope stuff I did.  “Son…SON…they were in the middle of dinner, and I dropped from the ceiling!”

2. Surfer Girl

Few activities put the raw power of nature on display like surfing does.  To be fair, I can’t think of anything that displays nature’s force and man’s insignificance at that magnitude.  When I see someone shoot the curl, I’m awestruck.  They’re being embraced by a miracle.  Mr. Fowler, my 7th grade Life Science teacher and crush, was a surfer and told this amazing story about a giant sea turtle coming up for air next to him.  He explained how awe-inspiring the experience was and how he realized how small he was in the grand scheme of things.  I would love to surrender to such a powerful element on a regular basis. I can’t imagine you’d view life the same afterward.

3. Hype Man

I can’t tell you how much I want to run in a room screaming “WHERE BROOKLYN AT? WHERE BROOKLYN AT? WHERE BROOKLYN AT? WHERE BROOKLYN AT?”  How does a job get better than that?  You run in, make people happy, get them amped and encourage your people performing.  Hype men don’t even have to have bars.  Just energy.  You get to dance and make ill scrunch faces and go mostly everywhere your far more popular cohort does.  Win-win.

4. Chef

Feeding people is one of my favorite hobbies.  That’s not what I mean.  I’m referring to people who take food and create art; something that appeals to the palate, as well as aesthetically.  It would be dope to create dishes which look more like organic sculpture than something you eat.  Being delicious would be what sends my creations over the top. I tweet a lot, and we joke about what people call “struggle plates.”  I would have a picture gallery that looked like the Edible Louvre.

5. ^

Sometimes, you need to go in the cage and get it all off your chest.  A well placed punch is a thing of beauty.  The same thing can be said for a punch that is well received.  Weird?  Watch a person take a punch and remain standing.  It’s a testament of will.  I’d be totally scrappy.  I’m pretty sure my cage name would be something simian…Spider Monkey?  Just wiry, flexible and in your face.  Kicking your ass.

6. Skater

When I was about 12, long before it was a cool thing for girls in the hood to do, I had a board.  I also had no coordination.  Needless to say, I wasn’t an avid skater.  But on the rare occasions that I got it right…magic.  Wind in my hair, swerving ever so slightly, my whole body working in harmony to keep me balanced, the pit bull that barked at me causing me to miss the rock in the path of my wheel…pure magic before that, though.  However cliche it may be that kids have adopted being skaters, it’s an awesome hobby.

 

7. Harley Quinn

Harley is my favorite character in the Gotham Universe, outside of The Bat himself.  Of course Harley is a fictitious creature, but this is my blog, homie.  I have a little mayhem buried deep in my soul (or…maybe not so deep, depending on your point of view).  Though Harley seems like the Joker’s pawn, beneath the surface, she’s bright, capable and a willing partner in his schemes.  Do you know how awesome my life would be if I could solve 30% of my problems with a giant mallett? On top of that, I’d be able to knock out another 30% with gas.  I could dispatch with 20% using my superior intellect and grappling hook (yes…I would have a grappling hook here too).  The other 20%, I could easily maneuver around.  Who couldn’t be happy when 80% of their problems are gone? Every girl has a little hell raiser in her soul.  I’d just let mine out of the box more often.  Practically always, really.

But after all is said and done, I couldn’t imagine doing any of this awesomeness without penning a memoir near the end of it.  I guess writing is my destiny after all.

 

Give the Dude A Sandwich…

It’s just crazy…as big as hip-hop is in our lives and everything, and as much as we love it, we tend to shun people for just wanting to contribute to that culture, you know?  I guarantee you if you look at a country singer who picks up a guitar and says “Hey, who wants to hear this new song that I wrote,” country music fans don’t tell him sit down.  I promise.

– Nerd Ferguson “Day In The Life”

The “state of hip hop” conversation has been beaten to the point that it’s not even a dead horse anymore. It’s been ground to dust.  It begs the question, “If it’s that bad, what are you gonna do about it?”  With “Bitch, Where’s My Sandwich:  The Album” Nerd Ferguson offers a two word response:  “Be dope.”

To put it simply, the kid can rap.  Not only can he rap, but the way he weaves stories in his rhymes is simultaneously unassuming and impressive.  In each of the 19 tracks, he spits with his distinctive style and voice, without making you feel like you’re listening to one extremely long song.  Each track is fresh, entertaining, and covers a large spectrum of the 20-something psyche.

Without a doubt, this is a joint you play from beginning to end.  I could break down each of the songs, but I don’t think I could tell the stories better than Nerd did himself.  “WARNING: Don’t Sign Me” gives us that gritty, party-in-the-basement feel.  “Day in the Life” is probably the most important song on the album.  It’s his story, where he not only tells us why he raps, but also holds up a rather harsh mirror to hip hop fans, regarding our knee-jerk reaction to disregard new artists.  In “I Am Here to Save You All” (my personal favorite), he portrays himself as a hip hop superhero, which is validated by his flawless delivery.  “Hyundai Elantra Music II” and it’s infectious beat forced me into the absolute illest at-my-desk-in-my-chair two step.

On the topic of women, BWMS is awesome in that it not only steers clear of misogyny, but also disingenuous pandering.  When he raps about women and dating, it ranges from jumpoffs (“Jumpoff Love Song”), the real side of relationships (“Our Love”) and getting it in with your fine ass moms (“Cougar Town”).

Did I mention this kid can rap?  I was introduced to his music a year ago, and have had the pleasure of seeing him grow as an artist, and witnessing how dedicated he is to his craft.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can buy “Bitch, Where’s My Sandwich: The Album” by clicking here, and paying $0.99. You have the option of contributing more, and for 19 amazing tracks, I hope that you would do so.  Help that kid get a sandwich…in fact, help him get two.

If you’d like to catch up with what is going on with Nerd Ferguson, follow his Twitter, @Nerd_Ferguson. You can also catch him this Wednesday night on All Subjects Everything, with @CJStarchild.

On the topic of “Common Sense”

No.  I won’t read an article with term “Rape Responsibility” in the title.  I’ve basically gotten the tone of the piece, and I’m in no mood to upset myself with someone else’s entitled opinion.  What I’ve gleaned from the reactions was that the article was ill-informed and out of touch.  It dares to address the “Fine Line Between Victim Blaming and Common Sense.”  Since I’m an obliging sort, allow me to assist:

Common Sense Fact No. 1 – When a woman is raped, it is because she has encountered a rapist.

Revolutionary concept, no?  What you read about how you are dressed, where you go, how much you had to drink – it’s crap.  This is not to say that we are to disregard our personal safety.  It’s of paramount importance.  But let’s be clear:  Never in life has a normal man been going about his daily life, then said, “Wait! Drunk Girls? I suddenly and inexplicably am overcome with the need to rape.”  He was a rapist when he brushed his teeth that morning, and was simply waiting for his opportunity.

Common Sense Fact No. 2 – According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 77% of completed rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.

So the boogeyman stories you hear about high-heeled women walking from the club down dark alleys reeking of booze aren’t nearly as prevalent as your neighbor, or the familiar face who offered you a ride home.  In fact, when that statistic is broken down, almost 24 % of those rapists are family members, and another 30% are intimate partners.  Even more disturbing, in the occurrence of elderly female rape, 81% of those crimes are committed by the primary caregiver.  Though the label “acquaintance rape” is used, it bothers me, because it seems to take the teeth out of what it is: rape.  It doesn’t matter if you could identify them, or have been to their homes.  They are rapists.  There are scores of people who do not see rape as a normal part of caring for someone who depends on and trusts them.  Most acquaintances don’t see forcing an unwilling person to have sex as an “after party.”

Common Sense Fact No. 3 – The onus is on woman to avoid getting raped.  The onus is on men to get women to say yes.  Being taught “Don’t rape,” is rare.

So we are taught to defend ourselves, avoid dressing a certain way, don’t walk here, party there, or drink too much.  Again, these are valid messages toward personal safety.  Fewer and farther between are tips on how not to be a raping bastard.  “Sometimes ‘no’ means ‘on’,” a former acquaintance once joked.  (I was unamused.)  We are almost taught to expect to be raped if we are not careful enough.  And what are men taught?

In high school, we had a health ed speaker discussed sexuality with us.  “Boys are like a light switch.  Once they’re on, they’re on.  Girls are like crock pots.  You just need to wait a while until they warm up.”  Saying no never even came up.  “No” means “later.”  No matter what she says, she wants the dick.  Just wait her out.

Common Sense Fact No. 4 – Not all victims of rape are women.

I recognize that I spoke primarily in the feminine, due in part to the fact that women were the target of that article.  That being said, men and – often to the point of being heart breaking – young boys are also victims of rape.  The theories of skirts that are too short, and women walking alone, again, go out the window.  Male rape victims underreport even more than female victims.  There are also huge incidences of rape by someone familiar to the victim.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES

Teach your children, your family, your friends and anyone else who will listen that rape is an act of violence.  It’s not something that hysterical women make up, or a prison punchline.  It is traumatic, and the range of emotions one goes through is vast:  How did a person like that slip into my social circle?  If it is someone I know, will our friends take sides? Do I report it?  Will I be believed?  What did I do to cause this?  Rape victims are completely capable of erroneously blaming themselves without any help from you.  Victim blaming is a large part of the reason rapes go unreported ever day.  Saying, “Well, I’m not trying to blame the victim, but…” is about as useful as a bigot saying “Some of my best friends are black.”  When you factor in the statistic that 60.4% of female and 69.2% of male victims were raped before the age of 18, victim-blaming becomes even more unconscionable.

The circumstances are irrelevant.  If you have raped someone, then you are a rapist.  Don’t you ever get that twisted.

 

 

OG Ambitions

I look like I got ANYTHING for these hoes?

*Sophia Petrillo voice* Picture it: Olney, Maryland. The year is 2010.  I’m in a hospital bed recovering from a rather nasty encounter with a pulmonary embolism, and I’m listening to my suite mate being discharged.  She uses “disposable adult undergarments” and discussed the whether or not she should attempt to go to the bathroom. After a slight bit of hemming and hawing, she’s silent for a moment and says, COMPLETELY nonplussed, “Well look…I just went in this one. What do we do now?”

In that experience, I saw my future.  I embarrass very easily.  I ultimately recover, it could be months, even YEARS later, and I’ll occasionally get totally red faced about it.  I won’t pretend to know what she was thinking, but the way she spoke said, “Look, this is what it is, let’s fix it and move on.”

One day, I’m going to be a really old broad, and I kind of want to be like that.  I’ll still be me, but I want to be like “Look, yeah I peed my pants, but I changed my alternator and put two kids through college. Holla at ya girl.”  Dammit I MIGHT throw up the Roc when I’m 70.

I’ve also decided that when I outlive my second husband, I won’t marry again. I’ll just have a boyfriend that everyone will call Mr. Charles. That may not even be his name.  But he’ll know how to hook up your carburetor, and Charles sounds like the most trustworthy name for that type of thing.  We’ll have family picnics and he’ll be all, “Go’on on and let that boy have a beer! Had my first beer at 15 years old!” He’ll say it with a square dangling from his lip and I’ll allow it.

I plan on being a pretty kick ass Gram.  But I don’t focus on that TOO much, because I don’t want to be the person who forces my kids to have kids.  That’s the type of thing that I would love, but it’s gotta be their choice.  My kids are awesome people though, so I’ll look forward to having a bird’s eye view of their parenting.

Toting a pistol will definitely be part of my old broad life.  I want a hand cannon.  I also want to shoot at least one person, just to show the other reprobates that I mean business.  Not the regular mischievous kids.  I’m talking about the real incorrigible ones.  I don’t plan on killing anyone, but I need to put one on JUST the right side of death so that they know I could if they try to test.

Don’t confuse that with me wanting to be an old douche.  I have no plans to hate kids.  Actually, I want the hooligans to be my friends. SOMEBODY has to watch my Lincoln Town Car when I go to pick up my post-menopausal medicinal reefer.  Part of being older, to me, means sharing with the folks that come behind you.  I came up amongst OGs, and they never “schooled” me by beating me over the head with messages.  The gave weight to who I was as a young woman, and shared what they’d learned with me.  That’s part of the joy of being old, I think.  Not to look back and hate that you’re not the young person that you were, but to build and give people the benefit of your experience in all things, including just how to love folks.  I really plan on enjoying every part of my journey here.

If I Never Had Another Friend

If you know me, you know that family is important to me.  I’ve said countless times that friends often become family to me.  That’s not me just whistling Dixie.  The reason behind that is because my family is so damned good.

I gush over my siblings and my parents (blood and step), because they are amazing people.  And what’s awesome about my family is that they aren’t cliquish and clannish.  If one of us mistreated a friend, the other would not hesitate to call them out.  We don’t roll in exclusivity.  If you’re at my house, you’re going to laugh, be well fed and be hugged and snuggled within an inch of your life.

When my mother passed away, there were so many of my friends who cried as though they had lost their own mother.  She was THAT person who was always listening, counseling and hugging.  She passed that on to all of us.  The importance of embracing your family, and realizing that family extends beyond blood.

When one of us has a new baby, we all have a new baby.  It’s such an exciting event. Even more awesome is how my brother and sisters have managed to marry people who add to the circle, rather than being “another branch” of the family.  Their in laws are my in laws.  Having a great family is what made me a greater friend.  This unit I’ve been blessed with is what makes me able to deal with anything that comes my way.  If I were to lose everything today or tomorrow, I know I’d have them.  Just taking a moment to gush.

 

It’s Not Funny Anymore

It’s become something of a running joke… the differences in how cases in which whites go missing are handled by law enforcers and the media, versus similar cases in which blacks (and other minority groups) are the victims.

Tambay – Shadow and Act/indiewire.com

Next Wednesday “Find Our Missing” will debut on TV One.  S. Epatha Merkerson will host the show, meant to shed light on missing African Americans.  The linked article quotes TV One President and CEO, Wonya Lucas who says, “Nearly one-third of the missing in this country are black Americans, while we make up only 12 percent of the population. Yet stories about missing people of color are rarely told in the national media.”  I posted this article on Facebook, my dear friend Monica had this to say:

Yep. But it should also be an eye-opener. Remember that case where the little Dominican girl in NYC survived a kidnapping after she escaped through a window in the house where she was being held? On some level, our children know no one is going to rescue them.

But what happens when our kids are too overcome by fear, stubbornness, or too troubled to protect and rescue themselves?  When that happens, you get Jakadrien Turner, the fifteen year-old Dallas, Texas resident, who was wrongfully deported to Colombia.  Each time I attempted to gain an answer in Jakadrien’s story, I unearthed another question.

Following her parents’ divorce and the death of her grandfather, she ran away from Dallas in November 2010.  In April 2011, she was arrested for shoplifting in Houston, and gave a false name, belonging to a 21 year old Colombian woman who was supposedly in the country illegally.  She was then held for 52 days and by May 2011, despite speaking no Spanish, she was deported to Colombia.

Jakadrien acted against her own interests.  She dogmatically stuck to her story, fooling  the criminal court judge, the immigration magistrate, and whoever else she was in close contact with in the 52 days prior to her deportation.  I find it hard to believe that no one who spoke to her could determine that she was neither Colombian, nor 21.

So far officials have hidden behind the excuse of this minor, “slipping through the cracks.”  Would she have slipped through these cracks were she not a person of color?  In plain English, would a 14 year-old white girl who only spoke English, regardless of how troubled, have been deported to a foreign country without concrete evidence?  A nagging question I have is the word choice in all of the articles I’ve read, which say she was “given Colombian citizenship.”  Was she just randomly shipped to Colombia.

One, it shows me how on the whole, this country does not see our children as children.  I look at her pictures, and see the face of a baby – a pregnant baby.  Not a 21 year old woman.  It also shows how a missing 14 year old girl barely registers in a major city a mere four hours away.  She was reported missing.  In almost two months, no one recognized her?  No one thought there could have been more to her story? No one picked up on the fact that she was clearly troubled?

Certainly the federal government has more resources at hand than Jakadrien’s grandmother, Lorene Turner, who was able to find her on Facebook.  And once she was found, the Colombian government was hesitant to send her back, and held her in a detention facility for a month. Tell me with a straight face that a pregnant, 15 year old white girl who had been wrongfully deported to Colombia, would have been forced to wait a month before being reunited with her family.  The country would have been in an uproar.  How do I know?

In 1994, 18 year old Michael Fay lived in Singapore with his parents.  He was arrested for theft and vandalism.  These were crimes that he committed.  In Singapore, they don’t have a whole lot of time for your crap, and their punishments are quite brutal.  He was found guilty and sentenced to six strokes of the cane.  I ain’t talking Kappas.  Basically, you strip naked and a very strong dude beats the snot out of you with a huge bamboo cane.  I knew more than I cared to know about Singaporean caning practices, because it was in the news every night.  The country was in an absolute uproar over this guilty teen, who was legally an adult.  The outcry was so great that Singapore reduced the cane strokes from six to four.  For a guilty man.

Meanwhile, a pregnant 15 year old black girl, wrongfully deported, sat in a Colombian detention facility for a month.  Just because, and with barely a whisper.

This story offers more questions and answers, for one simple reason:  No one wants to go on record as saying, “We didn’t care enough to look.”  Whenever a person hides behind “slipping between the cracks” and  due diligence jargon, it means they’ve done the bare minimum.  When it comes to our children, we have to take it upon ourselves to advocate and create the village where our children can be safe and looked after.  I brim with hope when I see people are beginning to use social media to spearhead this effort. We may never have the ear of mainstream media.  I believe that if we work hard enough with the goal of our children’s safety in mind, mainstream media may not be necessary (but will probably get on the bandwagon should it become profitable).  No matter what, it’s time to take the legs out from underneath this running joke.