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Blessing in the Flood

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floodI’m just taking a few moments right now to think about how blessed we are.
We have just experienced a 1000 year flood in Columbia, South  Carolina on October 5. It was amazing to see how quickly the situation went from bad to worse to devastating. People lost their lives. People lost everything they’ve worked for for many years. Some people’s lives will never be the same. Some families will never be the same.  My family and I are just so thankful to be alive. We are thankful that we did not suffer great loss.

All I can say is continue to pray for us. Although the storm is over, the devastation is not. Many people are still homeless after two months.  Although FEMA and other organizations came in to help, there are so many that will go under before that help that they need arrives.  Food and a place to stay are the immediate needs of individuals and families. But many of my counseling clients are still traumatized.  Some are still trying to figure out why they are depressed and anxious.  One women stated that when she went to open her front door, flood waters came rushing in.  All she could do was grab her children and run.   She is still dealing with the floos while others are just interested in moving on as quickly as possible.

We have a rallying cry:  South Carolina Strong!  It sounds good and give us hope while we try to find our new normal.  Mean while some of us are still experiencing the Great Flood of 2015.  The blessing is that we are still here to talk about it.

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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. 

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.

No, I don’t watch…!

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          I was in the dentist chair a few days ago.  As usual, I was clutching the arms of what I always imagine to be the death chair while trying to maintain my cool points.  The hygienist, a young blonde woman, was not fooled at all so she began to chatter in an effort to ‘relax” me.

            “Do you watch any of that trash TV?” she asked while scraping tartar from my back molars. 

            “Ganhh?” I asked.

            “You know,” she continued scraping, “those trashy reality TV shows.”

            “Uh unh,” I slobbered almost choking.

            “Oh, how can you not!  There’s some really good one’s on now.”  She shoved a tiny vacuum in my mouth to suck out the spit and kept talking.  “They’ve got the whole housewives series.  And there one about the hip hop rappers and the ball players wives.  I think I watch about all of them!”

            I tried to say ‘Obviously, you need a hobby’ but it came out like “Ank sluss gah cra cree.”

            “You’re doing just fine, honey.  Almost done here,” she cooed at me.  She shoved the tiny vacuum back into my mouth and pulled it out despite my attempts to hold on to it for a couple of seconds more.

            “But my favorite is Sugar BonBon. Do you know that one?” she asked while examining an especially lethal looking sharp steel tool.

            I didn’t answer because I was busy trying to figure out what she was getting ready to slay with that bayonet-looking needle in her hand. She went in to my mouth with that needle.

            “Little pinch,” she said cheerfully. 

             It wasn’t little.

            “She is the cutest little girl!  A pretty dainty little thing but you know they try to make her and her Mama look like a backwoods red necks.  Sugar BonBon is a little beauty queen and her mother is her manager, I guess.  Anyway, it is a little trashy but still a good show.” 

            By then, I had to spit.  I held my mouth open obediently as she vacuumed along my gums.

            “I just love it when they show real people on TV.  You know? People like us.  Everybody isn’t rich and fancy. I don’t have anything against those people but that is not how most people live!”

            I decided to settle in and let her chat on.  And she did.  She described the entire HBB family, her most exciting moments and the recipe for an energy drink that the little girl guzzles before her pageants.

            “My little girl took pictures at church last Sunday and I fixed her hair just like Sugar BonBon wears hers.  She looked real pretty!”

            After a few moments, she squirted frigid water in my mouth then vacuumed it out.

            “You’re all done, Sweetie!  You did real well and I got your teeth looking real pretty. Come on up to the front and we’ll schedule your next appointment,” she gave me a sugary smile and set my death chair upright.

            At the front desk, I waited with numb lips while she set up my next visit.  She handed me an appointment card.

          “That’s when you come to see me again,” she leaned in and lowered her voice.  “On the back, I put the day and time that Sugar BonBon’s show comes on.  Watch it and we’ll talk about it next time. ‘K?”

          “Gah,” I nodded and turned to leave.

          “I know you’re gonna be hooked!”  She waved and smiled.

          Once in my car, I looked in the mirror.  My teeth did look real pretty but I still don’t plan on watching the show.

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