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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. 

The 3 Ds of Dynamic Presentations

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The 3 Ds of Dynamic Presentations

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. 

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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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!

Why I Am Boycotting Sorority Sisters

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My younger brother called me today. He had noticed that I was posting a lot on Facebook and Twitter about the #BoycottSororitySisters campaign. He said that he had not watched the show and did not plan to watch it. The trailer turned him off, he said. He just wanted to know what my reasons were for wanting the show cancelled.

I honestly was a little stunned at first. I realized that I had not spoken aloud about my motivation and commitment to participate in the social media campaign to have the VH-1 show cancelled. I guess I thought my reasons were obvious and I really believe they are to my brother. But for a moment I was a little tongue-tied. I stuttered just a bit.

“Well, because I am an AKA! I worked hard for my pearls and the organization is precious to me. After all, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is the sorority of Coretta Scott King, Mae Jemison, Rosa Parks, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou! Members of sororities and fraternities helped shaped who we are as a people in this country! How dare someone denigrate these great sororities.”

After I hung up, I really felt emotional. I thought about my good friends who are members of Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho sororities. We laugh and joke with each other but we have never let our symbols, colors or our behavior divide us. Rather, we understand that we have many things in common like our concern for the physical, spiritual and financial health of our communities, our belief in education as a means to strengthen our communities, and our strong commitment to the work it takes to ensure the future of our communities.

Honestly, I have not watched Sorority Sisters and I don’t plan to watch it. Digging deeper, it has become clear to me that this boycott was more than just about this one show. Real Housewives? Love and Hip Hop? Flavor of Love? Those were shows that I chose not to watch. The reality shows held no interest for me and I mostly ignored them. I was disgusted by their behavior but I felt no real connection to them. I guess it was easy to give little notice to them.

This show was different for me. This show is personal and I do feel a connection. Maybe it is because I feel a shift in us. A shift in how we as black people in America feel about who and how we are. Maybe the protests about police related shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere have ignited a sense that we have been sleeping too long. That we have let too many things ride. Also because the story of Black Greek sororities is my story but Sorority Sisters is not the story of Black Greek sisters at all. I could say that Sorority Sisters is disrespectful and it is. I could say that is demeaning to black women and it is. But more importantly it is a lie. A lie fabricated for cheap thrills and big advertising paydays. It is tearing black women down rather than building us up. It is using the issues and insecurities of a very women to depict a large, diverse population of women.

I joined my sorority because I did, and still do, believe in the goals and standards of the organization. I was impressed, and still am, by the women who were members. Their education, accomplishments and their refusal to abandon those who may have not had the same kinds of opportunities. To have my organization and others portrayed as little more than a backdrop for the antics of reality TV is not something that I can tolerate.

So that is where my motivation comes from. It’s not just about this one show either. It is about drawing a line in the sand. It is about standing up for something that I feel personally connected to. It is about ensuring that America understands that all of us are not for sale.

And another thing. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Lawrence Ross, started this whole campaign. When asked why in an interview, one statement he made stuck with me. He said something like, “Black men take care of Black Women.” That reminded me that one of the reasons Black Greek organizations were created was because there was no one else for us…but us. As a child of the 60’s, I remember when we got what we needed from each other. We depended on each other. We stuck together and made a difference. That is what sororities and fraternities do.

We deserve better than Sorority Sisters. I really believe that the show will be cancelled soon.

Mothering in the Middle

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If I have not said it fifty-eleven times, I became a mother rather late in life. I am really enjoying being a Mom to my son…but it is not everything I thought it would be. You see, I thought there was some kind of a unity, some unspoken bond, some kinship among mothers. I always look for that from other mothers. I mean, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Yesterday, I was driving home with my 10 year old in the backseat. It had been a long workday for me and I had navigated rush hour traffic in the rain to pick him up from aftercare and make it home. He was upset because we stopped at the grocery store but we didn’t stop at the game store. In the store parking lot, I calmly explained to him that we really needed to eat dinner but could certainly survive for a few more days without the latest electronic game. Well that was not the response he wanted so he became pouty and annoying. (Yes, I said it! My kid was being annoying. Does that make me a bad mom?)

So after a few minutes, I was more than a little frustrated. I mean, there was the traffic and I was really tired. My kid was whiny and I still had to get home, cook dinner, and help with homework. What a day! We had a dog at home that needed to be walked, a load of laundry waiting for me and, on top of that, this was my husband’s lodge meeting night.

Finally, I was at the corner waiting to turn out of the parking lot into the street. This corner is notorious in that it takes forever to turn during rush hour. So here I am sitting at corner trying to ease my way into nonstop traffic. I was at a standstill.

And then, there she was! Another mother stopped at the traffic light wearing a pinstripe suit in her blue–gray minivan. I could see car seats in the back and little heads bobbing around. Then, she turned around and mouthed some words. I don’t know what she said, but I could tell by the look on her face and the tension in her neck that those kids understood every word.

For a brief second as she turned back to the front, we exchanged a weary glance. I thought, Oh thank goodness! She is going to let me into the lane. She understands!

I waited a few moments for some sign of recognition from her… didn’t see it. I thought okay, maybe she is distracted. So I kind of eased my mini-SUV forward just a few inches, just to grab her attention. Again, she looked over my way with a glum expression and then turned her head away from me. I thought, Oh, okay is that some kind of mom code that I don’t recognize?

I waited for a couple of moments as traffic was still at a standstill but I knew that any time now the light was going to change. I waited a couple of moments and then inched forward another couple of inches. I tapped my horn very lightly to get her attention and kind of smiled like Can I get in?

After couple seconds, I realized she was ignoring me. What kind of stuff is that, I thought? Why would she not want to help out another mother struggling with the same issues that she is struggling with? I mean, obviously there we were, career women in our career women’s suits in a car with a whiny kid(s) with obviously other duties waiting for us at home.

I realized that she was not going to let me into the lane. As soon as traffic began to move forward, she drove right on past me as if she’d never seen me.

In a light degree of shock, I waited a few moments and lo and behold, a young guy in a Jeep beckoned and allowed me to get in through the traffic. How kind, I thought. And he’s not even in the Mommy Club! Or maybe he’s got one of those wife/mommies waiting for him at home and understands how frustrating it is to be in traffic with the kids in the backseat and dinner to be cooked.

I made it home that day not the worse for wear but I realized that I could not count on a bond between Mommies, at least not in rush hour traffic. Maybe I just imagined that there was a Mommy Club. Maybe I made it up in my head during all those years when I daydreamed that being a Mom was all Mother’s Day cards and hugs. Is there really no such thing?

Tavi

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