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#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.

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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!

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.

Black Man Running

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It seems odd to me that, at this time of year when I am usually sad about and missing my mother, my father has been on my mind so much.  A lot of recent circumstances and conversations have focused my thoughts on him and who he was and how I became who I am because of him and, as you will soon learn about, the lack of him.

I wrote this piece about my father a while back.  I have never published it and have only allowed one person to read it before now…but it seems I am in a period of healing and prayerfully, renewal.  I guess it is time that I let go of some of the things that I have held onto so tightly for so long.  So, here it is.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was 5 AM.  Early morning early cold 5 AM and he had just finished his shift.

Gray workshirt and pants black workboots over full body thermals under dark work jacket against early morning early cold 5 AM cold.

Midwestern early cold wind cut across his head and face, so cold he pulled a dark wool cap from his dark work jacket pocket and against early morning early cold pulled it over his needing a haircut head and ears

     ahhh warm.

He walks tucks metal lunch bucket under his arm other hand casual waves

      See Ya 

with that you know upward nod to his boys and heads off to home.

Him, a husband now not so new anymore but still amazing after five years

that he goes home,

home that word so amazing that he has to say it twice sometimes

     I’m going home Man home to a wife so pretty and sweetmean

and his son just three and looking exactly like him

still sleeping now and his baby daughter tiny brown delicate smelling like a new baby daughter

powdery and made to be hugged

thinking about her made him smile and more warm so

he walked faster

faster to home

home where his pretty wife now awake and shuffling softly through the house,

their home,

would be rubbing sleep from her brown eyes and ironing her skirt for work

so she would be dressed and in the kitchen stirring soft scrambled eggs

glancing at two strips of bacon and hoping for enough butter for toast,

coffee in the old percolator that her mother gave them

said it made coffee good enough for his father in law while father in law

worked at the steel mill and now that son in law was on at the plant

he would need good black coffee too.

Thinking of his pretty wife moving her lovely hips back and forth in front of the stove timing his eggs so that the eggs would be hot soft scrambled the way he liked

just as he walked in the door not too cooled down or not yet ready so he would have to wait

made him move faster

he started a jog to get home faster

his home where his pretty wife would be warming a plate and cup for him

and son who looked just like him big headed and long brown legs

already the eyes of a son who knows his father works but plays with him too and

delicate baby daughter who needed lots of hugs.

The jogging became a run

a feeling good in the early morning early cold run that would get him home and

when he got home sooner because he ran,

she would pretend to be angry and it would make him smile while he ate his soft scrambled eggs that she would pout and

he would smack her lightly on the behind

Him only 27 and not spotless but now with a home with a pretty wife

a lookalike son and tiny new daughter

Oh he ran faster

on the early morning early cold sidewalk past the bus stop where he didn’t stop

because to catch the bus meant a quarter the he needed to save towards the car that

he wanted to buy so she didn’t have to catch the bus in the early morning early cold to get to work and

some of the fellows from the neighborhood on the way to the dayshift hollered

     Hey Man Where you going in such a hurry

but he only ran faster

running

     home Man home

running

If he got home in time he could watch her finish getting dressed

tucking her blouse in her skirt while he finished his toast and sipped his coffee

then help her bundle the children for the trip to her mother’s so he could sleep,

running past the barber shop and Best Place In Town for Ribs

     Black Man Running! Slow down Man! HaHaHa You running from the law?

Running

she would pretend to fuss over what to have for dinner running so he could tell her not to worry he would cook before his shift

running

and she would turn and smile at him in their house with his son who looked like him and knew daddy worked but played with him too and his delicate baby daughter who needed hugs

Running

Running home to the reason he worked lived breathed ran

running to home his pretty wife and looks just like me son and tiny new daughter who needed hugs

     Stop Police!

Running

he only heard the sound of his pretty wife saying to his son

     You can sleep a few more minutes until Daddy gets home

running

so he could wrap his son up warm in a blanket and his delicate baby girl for the trip to her mothers before she went to work

     Stop or I’ll shoot!

running

he heard a loud bang

running

he began to turn but the bullet spun him around

     No!

away from home

     BANG OHMYGOD BANG

     Home! I need to get home!

warmth spread over his chest and stomach but he wasn’t running anymore

     Did they just shoot that boy?

     Get in the house.  It aint our business.  Go now!

     Oh my God! The police just shot that boy lives down the way!

     Did you see that?

     Hey, why yall shoot that boy?  He wasn’t doing nothing.

His legs still wanted to move kicking a little now and again

     Home Man Home

to his pretty sweetmean wife and his lookalike son who would yell

     Wake Up Daddy Wake up!

at the funeral and his tiny delicate baby daughter who would not get his hugs

but would grow up to write about how he got killed

running

in the early morning early cold on the way home to his pretty wife who was making him soft scrambled eggs two slices of bacon hoping for enough butter for toast.

For My Father, William                                                                                                           (c) May 2, 2006

 

2012 in the Middle

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Well, yeah, I guess this year I’m ready to accept that I am in my middle years.  For some, I’m actually a senior citizen! Yeah that’s right, I can get senior citizens’ discounts and I’ve got my AARP card! So I guess that’s it. I’m literally in my middle.  I have decided that for me this is going to be nothing but positive so this blog is about how I’m going to start 2012.

I decided to take 2012 and do the 31 day reset challenge featured on the Happy Black Woman blog. I’m going to do 31 days of activities and exercises that should give me the ability to create new possibilities for my life. Give me the ability to think about my goals and actually find my way to higher place in my life and that’s exactly what I want in 2012.

To get started, I completed the first challenge.  I chose a mantra for myself: Think like a queen.  I chose this mantra from a quote from Oprah Winfrey and although I haven’t been a really big Oprah Winfrey fan, I do respect and admire her for her accomplishments, for her perseverance, and for all the struggles that we probably don’t even know about that she had to endure to get to where she is today.  Oprah’s quote says “Think like a Queen.  A Queen is never afraid to fail.  A Queen knows that failure is nothing but a stepping stone to greatness.”

My theme song for 2012 is the same theme song that I have had for years and that song is “I’m Every Woman”, the Chala Khan version.  With all due respect to Whitney Houston, Chaka’s version has brought me through many days and tight situations so I am partial to that one.

The third thing that I did to get started on my 31 day life reset was to choose a notebook to keep my exercises and notes.  An actual physical notebook although anybody that knows me knows that I’m such a techie.  I have an iPad and all of that and I’m actually recording this on a dictation app for my blog but I like the idea of a physical notebook. I like the idea of an ink pen sliding over paper.  So I chose a notebook that I have been using for a few months as a kind of spiritual notebook or a gratitude journal.  I really like this journal and I have plenty of room in it for my 31 day challenge.

I am excited about this life reset and ask that you pray for my motivation and perseverance. If you are interested in joining me and others on the 31 Day Life Reset Challenge, check out happyblackwoman.com.  Rosetta Thurman has to the whole thing laid out for us and I think it’s going to be great. I’d love to see all of us take 2012 and make it into the most wonderful, positive, powerful, productive year that we have ever had!

Y’all take care. Happy new year!

Taviaz

Remembering Things I Have Lost

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I was 18 years old, in my freshman year at college and my first semester was successfully behind me.  I went to a small private college a couple of states away from home so this Christmas break was my first visit back.  I was looking forward to seeing my family and hanging out with my friends.  I thought i was so much more mature now that I had been on my onw at college for four months.

One of the first things I did when I got home was to call up my friends and put the word out that I was back.  Some of my old crew from college had also left home for school and some had remained in Kansas City, working or going to the local community college.  After a few phone calls, we decided to meet that next night for drinks and dancing at a new dinner club that was new to some of us.  Michelle, one of my best friends from high school, wanted to show off her brand new car so she offered to pick me up and drive.  It was just as well, I didn’t own a car and didn’t have a drivers license.

The next night, Michelle picked me up around 9 PM.  We were dressed to be cute but respectful of the below freezing temperatures and the snow and ice on the ground.  The club was located in midtown, a neighborhood with an artsy mix of shops, restaurants and apartments.  Midtown was surrounded by middle and upper middle class neighborhoods but wasn’t surburban at all.

Michelle and I were excited, chatting, laughing, catching up on news.  We arrived at the club and found the parking lot full.  That didn’t bother us, it just meant that the club was jumping and we were in for a good time!

We soon found a parking place on the street beside the club.  Still talking and laughing, we go out of the and Michelle dropped her purse.  Change, makeup, her wallet and all the other stuff we keep in purses dumped into the snow and slid under the car.

Of course, I went around to help Michelle gather up her things.  A man walked by but I hardly glanced at him.

“Hey! Are you looking for a date?” he called to us.

“No!” Michelle answered. I didn’t respond as I was busy plucking Michelle’s lipstick out of the snow on the curb.

Suddenly, the man turned around and was next to Michelle in just a couple of steps.

“Don’t look at me,” the man commanded.  “I said don’t look at me! I’ve got a gun.”

We were in shock, surprised and scared.  I don’t really remember what we said.  I just remember seeing him grab Michelle by the arm and force her into the open car door.  He pointed the gun at me and told me to get in the back seat.  He jumped into the driver’s seat, pushing Michelle to climb over the gear console to the passenger side.

The robber waved the gun and growled orders at us in a threatening voice.  He demanded money from our purses and our jewelry.  After a few minutes, he told me to lay down in the back seat and put my coat over my head.  I was scared.  I just knew he was going to shoot me.  I remember saying my prayers and asking God to forgive me for my sins.  I prayed that my mother wouldn’t be so very sad and that she would be okay.

The gunman drove us around in the car, talking to Michelle who was clearly terrified.  I don’t know if she knew where we were and I had given up counting turns and trying to figure out where he was taking us.  At one time he stopped, got out of the car and walked around to the trunk.  I tried to convince Michelle to open the door so we could run (the car was a 2-door) but she was so afraid that she couldn’t move.  I tried to push the seat forward with her in it, then the gunman came back.

He got in the car again and started driving but this time, he had plans.  We drove for what seemed like hours.  The whole time, I kept thinking that I would soon be dead.  I swore if I got the chance to escape again, I would take it, with or without Michelle.

After a few turn, our kidnapper stopped the car and began talking to Michelle about whether or not she had a boyfriend.  He kept on that topic until he just came out and said that he wanted to have sex with her before he let us go.  Michelle bargained with him, trying to get him to say with certainty that he would let us go if she allowed him to rape her.  He said yes.  So she did it.

He did finally let us go.  He stopped the car not far from where he kidnapped us.  He tried to lock us in the trunk of the car but luckily didn’t realize he didn’t have a trunk key.  He told us to stay in the car for 15 minutes after he got out but I climbed over the seat and got out as soon as I heard him running away.  We ran from door to door in this upscale  neighborhood trying to get someone to call the police or let us use the phone.  After trying at 3 houses, a gay couple finally let us in to call the police.

Michelle didn’t want to tell that she had been raped.  We did though, after the police told her that she wouldn’t be identified.  The next day, there was a small item in the paper that didn’t name her but talked about a girl who lived on her block who was kidnapped and raped.  Michelle called me, furious, hurt and feeling betrayed.  That was the last time I talked to her.  After that, she never answered or returned my calls.  Once, when I called her, her mother answered and asked if I was the girl Michelle was with that night.  I said yes.

“Okay.  I’ll tell her you called,” she said.

I hardly ever talk about that night.  If I do have to talk about it, I just kind of skim over parts of it as I have done here.  But when I think of things I have lost, I think about that night.  The night I lost my youth, my innocence and most of all the night I lost my friend.

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