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Category Archives: african american

Purple Mecca

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I came to Minneapolis for a conference almost forgetting that this was the home of Prince, musical genius (you could argue that with me–if you are a fool) and one of my all time favorite musicians and performers (you can Not argue that with me).   

Paisley Park is actually a good distance from where I am staying but I really wanted to make the trek. I don’t know when I will get to Minneapolis again and I am still in shock about Prince’s sudden death. So in the manner of most modern  urban dwellers, I called über. 

I did all my safety checks when the uber arrived. I checked the car make, model and tag number. Double checked the pic to make sure that I was getting into the right car. My driver was Abdullahi, a handsome and polite young man. 

After a couple of random pleasantries, I told Abdullahi that, when we got to Paisley Park, I needed him to wait while I took pics. I wanted him to bring me back. He agreed, said it was fine. We started on our way. There was not much in the way of scenery once we got on the highway so again, in the manner of those in modern culture, I began checking my social media. All was fine once I had Abdullahi close the window that was pouring cold air into my Afro and asked him to turn down the loud old school R&B he had pounding through the speakers. I settled into the back seat with my seatbelt on. I was on my way to Prince’s house!

A few miles into the trip, Abdullahi took an exit and almost ran a red light. He jammed on brakes and threw me forward slightly. He looked at me guiltily in the rear view mirror but I was too deep into my anticipation of seeing Prince’s home to be annoyed. 

Finally, there it was! Paisley Park. I was not prepared for the emotion of it all. We pulled up to the main entrance. I got out and walked along the fence taking pictures of all the moving tributes there. 

I could feel the sorrow and sadness of the people who left momentos: purple candles, pictures, paintings, ribbons, a purple sequined sweater. At one spot, someone had made a makeshift alter. On the fence was an oil portrait of Prince with his famous third eye shades. Beneath was a small oriental rug. Flowers and wreaths swung sadly against the fence.   My über driver got out to smoke a cigarette. A security guard paced nervously near his car, parked to block the driveway.

I took pictures, as many as I could. I don’t think any of them really captured the feel of Paisley Park on that day. I just kept thinking about the time I had seen Prince perform. How he had effortlessly moved from impossible dance moves to playing incredible guitar licks to singing his hit songs. The stage went from brightly lit to streams of purple light. Prince was full of life and humor. For much of the show, he seemed amused by some inside joke that we would never be able to understand. Most of all, he was full of energy. Now, that energy is gone from Paisley Park, from Minneapolis, from his fans around the world. 

I finally got back into my uber, much to the relief of the security guard, and headed back to my hotel. Abdullahi got me back in one piece although he did stomp the brakes a couple of times. That trip to Paisley Park was phenomenal.   I’ll never forget it. And I will always remember that night I saw Prince dancing on that stage in the purple light. 

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Visiting Vegas

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  I had to be in Las Vegas for business (who does that?) this past week. I stayed in one of the casino hotels and of course hit the slots to try my luck. I couldn’t stay in the casino very long because they still allow smoking in casinos in Vegas. The smoke was a bit much for my lungs but I did get to work the penny and quarter machines. Ok, I know I’m cheap but I came away $57 richer. 

It was kind of sad though, watching people pump their money into those machines. Some people looked like they needed to hold on to their money. Seniors sat at gaming tables with their oxygen machines, backpacks stuffed with water bottles and snacks or moving slowly on walkers. Grannies delivered drinks in cocktail waitress uniforms or, wearing vests, shuffled cards for Blackjack.  It was all very disorienting. 

They say Vegas is the. It’s where the party never ends. I think some folks stayed at the party too long. 

#If I die in police custody

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If I die in police custody, I did not kill myself. Ask questions and ask loudly.  Tell them you must see the video tape. Protest and do more than hashtag my name.

If I die in police custody, I did not kill myself. Know that I was murdered and that I deserved better. And that I thought it could happen but I prayed that it wouldn’t.

If I die while in police custody, I did not kill myself. I cooperated. I gave them my license and registration. I stepped out of the vehicle and placed my hands on top of the car. I did not kick the policeman.

If I die while in police custody, I did not kill myself. I have plans for the future. I am too blessed to let their anger and disrespect drive me to despair.

If I die in police custody, I did not kill myself. Give them anger, resistance and passion for justice. Let them find peace and forgiveness elsewhere.

If I die in police custody, I did not kill myself. Remember that I loved you but I loved me more. Believe that.

I did not kill myself.

Traveling with My Memories

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 In the airport today, I waited for a delayed flight to Washington, D.C. At the gate, my natural tendency to people watch took over. The airport is such a great place for it. While I waited, I saw an older African American woman take a seat near me. She was wearing a comfortable looking purple shirt and pants, perfect for travel. Her hair was silver gray and her face was settled into a look of calm contentment. She was regal in the way she held herself. I had the sense that she had decided that she would never again hurry for anything. She walked carefully like she was familiar with and needed to avoid physical pain. She sat just as carefully but made it look like she was seating herself on a throne rather than a plastic airport seat.

After settling herself, she pulled a plastic bag out of her travel tote. She opened it and took out a little bag with two peeled, boiled eggs. She started eating an egg, staring out of the huge windows at planes moving across sunlit runways. Now and again she would dab her egg into the bag to capture some of the salt and pepper gathered in the bottom. After she finished her eggs, she dabbed her mouth with a paper napkin. She reached back in the bag and took out a plastic container of fried chicken. She sat the top neatly under the container and studied the contents for a few seconds. The scent of fried chicken floated over to where I sat and I inhaled deeply. The woman carefully chose a chicken leg and bit into it. Just then, she looked up and saw me staring.  Self-consciously, she chuckled a little. I smiled back and nodded before looking away.

I tried not to stare, pretended that I was reading my digital book. Watching that lady enjoy her home cooked meal just brought back so many memories. There was a time when black mothers and grandmothers regularly packed travel lunches just like that. Containers of chicken and boiled eggs, ham sandwiches and slices of lemon pound cake. I remember my Nana packing her famous batter dipped fried chicken for my husband and I as we prepared to leave for our honeymoon. To this day, my husband swears that it was the best chicken he has ever eaten.

So that woman that day brought back lots of memories. I was smiling when I got on the plane although my trip had been filled with delays and tough luck. My smile was for the memories. Memories of the love packed into containers of fried chicken and boiled eggs.

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Massacre in Charleston 

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Massacre in Charleston 

I am weary.  Do you hear me? Weary! I am too weary to even write this blog post. I’m sad. I am sad so far deep and down in my spirit that I don’t even know where the bottom of my sadness is.

I have been trying to write this post for several days now. On Wednesday, June 17, a murderer entered a holy and sacred place in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine human beings. It is too much for me to understand. It is too much for me to process. I thought that after a day or two my shock would go away.  But writing this now, my shock and sorrow and anger and pain and sadness is still fresh and new. It is just like a wound that refuses to heal.

All across this country we are in pain. We are in pain for the sons and daughters who will never get the chance to grow up and grow old. We are in pain for the grandmothers and mothers and aunts who will no longer hold children or blow kisses  or cook collard greens and poundcake. We are in pain for the children who lost fathers because of indifference and hate.

And we are weary of the insincere apologies and expectations of forgiveness. Weary of the funeral boycotts and heartbreaking eulogies. I am weary.

Today, I listened to the President of the United States singing amazing Grace over the casket of one of the victims.  That was such a beautiful way to honor the victims. It was such a bold and grand gesture. But why was that even necessary? Racism, hate, and indifference made it necessary.

And while I am weary today, I know my strength will be renewed. Because I need my strength to fight. To fight for a country where my son can grow up to be the man he is meant to be. Where my son can grow up and know what freedom really is. And where I can spend my last days with great hope for the future and great hope for people. I will fight for place where a blog post like this is not necessary.   I hope you will join me

Natural woman

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Yesterday, I had lunch at one of my favorite Mom and Pop restaurants. Well, actually I don’t know if there is a Mom, I’ve only seen Pop. Anyway the food is good, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the  laid back lunch crowd is diverse.

I sat in my second favorite booth and ordered my food. I always sit facing the front of the restaurant so that I can see out of the huge glass windows. The view isn’t much. Just the parking lot and the busy street beyond but I get a good look at everyone who comes in.

Yesterday was one of the sunny southern spring days that reminds you that summer is just a few moments away. Shorts, sandals and tank tops are already survival gear.  I dug into my “meat and three” plate of baked chicken, cabbage, collards and potatoes. Yes, I know that’s heavy for lunch but I don’t eat here everyday and after all, this is the South. 

Anyway, I spotted a beautiful woman across the parking lot toward the restaurant. She wore a black jumpsuit with high heels and understated jewelry. Her hair was in a huge lush Afro that grudgingly gave way to the wind now and then.   She strutted, more than walked, with her hand bag firmly hung from her bent elbow.  In one hand, she held her cell phone while the other moved leisurely back and forth in time with her steps.

She walked with the confidence that I love to see in early middle aged black women. 

My sister! I thought as she stepped toward me.  Just then, a man approached walking down the sidewalk toward the restaurant. He seemed a little hurried but there is no way he did not see my sister approaching.   He reached the door just ahead of her, swung it open, walked through…and let the door slam shut in her face!

I was shocked!  Again, this is the south and good manners are expected. Letting the door close on a woman is inexcusably rude!  There was an audible gasp in the restaurant. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who saw what happened. 

The sister, more than surprised I’m sure, hesitated for a fraction of a heartbeat then  proceeded to the door. She opened it wide and stepped in.  She removed her shades revealing a slight sheen of perspiration around her eyes. 

Our eyes met. “That was so rude and disrespectful!” she stated quietly. 

“Yes, it was,” I responded. I shook my head a bit in sympathy as she walked on. A few seconds later, I heard the gentleman seated in the booth behind me say, “That was rude, ma’am. I wouldn’t have done that. Some of us do have manners!”

I didn’t turn around but I smiled to myself because that gentleman had just saved the day for my sister…and me too. 

We Don’t Need Another Hero?

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Yes, I was listening to the song by Tina Turner. It seems to come on the radio when everything seems kind of bleak.  It’s an instant pick me up.  Downright anthem-ish.

I really got into that song today for some reason I cannot readily identify.

We don’t need another hero,
We don’t need to know the way home,
All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome.

We could find something to love about those lyrics? Isn’t that just the kind of music you like to ride with?  You know when you’re driving along and have your dark shades on, AC blasting and you’re on your way back to work after lunch. And you really don’t feel like going back to work.  As a matter of fact, you’d rather go almost anywhere than back to work.

So’s Tina sang to me. Made me imagine myself in that metal mesh and wire  ThunderDome outfit she wore as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome.  So I walked in the office with that music playing in my head like my own private theme song.

And made it through the rest of the day. Thank you, Aunty Entity!

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