Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Politics That Matter - Lucille Prater-Holliday

Lucille Prater Holliday on left
The seat for Magisterial District Judge is not flashy, sexy news.  It is, however, a political position which has the most direct impact on the lives of Black women and children.  

A Magisterial District Justice serves for six years.  The cases they primarily hear include: traffic violations, arraignments and preliminary hearings on greater misdemeanor and felony charges for higher courts, and minor civil suits not exceeding $12,000.  The smaller more frequent cases which many deem insignificant, but, can actually change futures, are truancy and landlord-tenant disputes. This position is the first gate to the school to prison pipeline.  And who stands at the gate has the power to change entire historical timelines.  

While everyone debates Bernie, Hilarious and the Repugnants, the real change agents are relegated to the back pages or quiet internet corners.    The quiet corners of the internet alway yields the most comprehensive information. It’s where you find the actual research reports and studies that click byte journals use to sensationalize information in order for it to become important enough for our nation’s most complacent skimmers and hashtaggers.   

This excellent piece by Sue Kerr over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents is worth a read. 
However, the interview I found of Lucille Prater-Holliday on Urban Media Today by Nancy Hart makes a compelling case for support in Ms. Prater-Holliday's own words.  This interview brought home to me how very important it is that you care about this candidate.  This is the change Pittsburgh needs.  I reached out to Ms Hart and she allowed me to reprint the article in it’s entirety. 

If you aren’t from Pittsburgh, this is the kind of talk you need to be looking for in your local candidates.  

Lucille Prater-Holliday Interview with Nancy Hart, Urban Media Today
Lucille Prater-Holliday

Lucille Prater-Holliday is well-known to many in the 12th and 13th Wards where she has lived for most of her life. She also knows her community and most of its residents well, including her opponent in the race for Magisterial District Justice in those wards, Kevin E. Cooper, Jr.

In fact, when Kevin E. Cooper, Sr. who retired from the post in March, asked Holliday to sign an election petition, she did, thinking it was Senior who was running again. When she found differently she was surprised.

            That perceived deception, however, is only one of the reasons Prater-Holliday is running for the post herself on the Green Party ticket.

            “We need change,” Prater-Holliday says. “There hasn’t been a woman in that seat for over thirty years. We need more women elected officials, particularly African-American women elected officials. And we need to remove nepotism and favoritism from local government.”

            “In the 12th and 13th Wards, the majority of the population is single female heads of household,” says the candidate. “They need someone to look up to, and to work to emulate. They need a woman who understands what they have been through, and has lived some of the same life experiences they have.”

            Prater-Holliday spent 10 of the earliest years of her life in foster care. 

            “I lived in poverty after I came out of foster care to live with my mother and my nine siblings,” she says. “She was a single parent. We lived here in Homewood, in some of the worst poverty, because she didn’t even have a high-school diploma. It was hard for her to find work, but the income couldn’t sustain a family of 10 children.”

            Prater-Holliday herself became a widowed single mother at the age of 34 upon the death of her husband, leaving her with nine- and ten-year-old sons. 

            “I’ve lived in public housing. I’ve received food stamps and welfare. I’ve received the benefits, but I didn’t live off of them, I used them to fill the gap,” she says. “After my husband died, I knew I had to take care of my children. I wanted to break that cycle of poverty, and I wanted them to have a better life.”

            Prater-Holliday went to college to earn her Associate’s Degree in Social Work while working full-time and raising her children. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Geneva College.

            “I knew I had to work hard to change that poverty that had gone on in my family for so long, and still exists in my extended family,” Prater-Holliday says. “I think that is what a lot of these young single mothers need to have: Someone they can relate to. When they come into the courtroom, everyone should feel comfortable, and know they are going to be heard and listened to, especially the children.”

            Prater-Holliday cites her experience as a Truancy Prevention Counselor as essential in helping families deal with citations for truancy, a major component of hearing held in the 12th and 13th Ward courts.

            “Once a truancy is reported by the school, they have to go to the magistrate,” Prater-Holliday says. “When they come into the office, it shouldn’t be an intimidating environment. And, wherever possible, they should be referred to appropriate programs and services that can help them improve the situation.”

            Prater-Holliday also adds that, based on her own experience, a number of children who are accused of truancy are not actually truant, but rather, just not in the homeroom when roll is taken. Some older students are responsible for making sure younger siblings make it to their own schools, or have other responsibilities that make them tardy.

            “In these communities, those are very valid reasons for being late or for missing school,” Prater-Holliday says. “They aren’t missing school for days, they just aren’t in the place where roll is taken.”

            Other parents, particularly single mothers, feel powerless to compel their older children to attend school. Using her own son as an example, Prater-Holliday says that, at 15, he was bigger than she. Theoretically speaking, “If he said he wasn’t going to school, what am I supposed to do?”

            “If a parent comes to the magistrate and is slapped with a $300 fine because that child is not going to school, you have exacerbated that situation and haven’t done anything to change it,” Prater-Holliday says. “If you are going to give them the fine, then refer that mother to the services she needs to help her child understand the importance of going to school, and help her understand the importance of getting an education.”
Lucille Prater - Holliday, Athena Awards

            “We have to start pointing people in a different direction, and have to provide them with  the resources they need to be successful,” Prater-Holliday says.  “Poverty should not be a life-long or generational condition. It shouldn’t even exist, but where it does, we need to work to lift people up out of poverty.”

            Prater-Holliday says “we have elections every year, and we elect people to office, and things don’t change. We have to prevent this. What can we do for our children early on to prevent them from going out there and hurting other people?”

            “We have to stop this school-to-prison pipeline, because that pipe is filled with poor African-American children,” she says.

            Landlord-tenant cases are also nothing new to the candidate.

            “I am a nationally-certified Public Housing Manager, and I have experience managing properties and with landlord-tenant cases,” Prater-Holliday says. “We have to look at those cases on an individual basis, because we have some of the poorest-quality housing in the City. We have to hold landlords accountable, and we have to hold residents accountable.”

            Prater-Holliday says that many residents in the wards don’t know what their rights are, and that educating them should be part of the responsibility of the office.

            “They don’t know that they can go to the magistrate and file a complaint against their landlord,” she says. “A lot of residents believe that if they do file a complaint, they can be evicted. They need to know that that is not how it works, that there are laws against that and that they have rights. Knowledge is how you empower people.”

            The term of office for a Magisterial District Justice is six years. In addition to summary offenses, traffic violations, landlord-tenant disputes and arraignments and preliminary hearings on greater misdemeanor and felony charges for higher courts, they also hear minor civil suits not exceeding $12,000.

            Prater-Holliday thinks a program which adjudicates youth to community service at local businesses would be an excellent way to create change.

            “Send them to where they can learn something. Don’t just penalize them and send them back out there,” she says. “That doesn’t change anything, it just keeps things the same.”

            Prater-Holliday went to Baxter Elementary, and graduated from Westinghouse High School. She has lived in Pittsburgh her entire life, most of it in Homewood. Her sons, now 34 and 33, still live in the area.

            “They followed in my footsteps. They both have social work backgrounds, and they both work with kids. I told them early on, ‘look, you are not going to make a lot of money, but you have the opportunity to change the world,” Prater-Holliday says. “I am very proud of them, because they have both turned out to be very fine gentlemen. And I have three grandsons. I am glad I have all men around.”

            Prater-Holliday says that her “whole background has been in social services: I have worked with male juvenile offenders, truant children, senior citizens, I have worked in low-income housing, so I have worked with practically every population there is. I am familiar with the issues people have to deal with, and am very familiar with the criminal justice system.”

            She has worked with ACORN-Pittsburgh, and ACORN-Pennsylvania, then helped to start Action United. In 1997, she founded the Black Women’s Empowerment Agency to empower women to be catalysts for change in their own lives as well as those of others.

            Prater-Holliday was the first African-American woman to be elected as the Chair of the Wilkinsburg Civil Service Commission, and “I provided a 95 percent success rate of cases upheld by the Common Pleas Court. I don’t make rash decisions, because these are people’s lives.”

            She is also one of five finalists for an Athena Award, to be given October 9, recognizing her work to empower other women while showing excellence in her personal and work life.

            Prater-Holliday started to work toward a law degree, but “had to watch out for my kids, so there are some things I put off. And then there are student loans…”

            Because she has not earned a law degree, Prater-Holliday would be required to take certification classes if elected. After one month of classroom instruction, students are given a test which they must pass, and for which they are allowed only one “re-take.” Failure on both opportunities means the class must be retaken, and is only offered twice yearly. Those who are not certified can still take the bench and make enforceable decisions, but would not earn the $88,290 salary.

            Prater-Holliday could have earned the certification prior to running for the post, but did not, because “I didn’t have the need to. I have heard the test is very difficult, but that was from people who have always had difficulty with academics.”

            Her opponent, Kevin E. Cooper, has already been certified, but Prater-Holliday says she feels there was nepotism involved. 

            “I don’t think that’s fair to the constituents. Those seats are not bequeathed to the next family member,” Prater-Holliday says. “The deck is already stacked against you if that is the case, and women really don’t have a chance.”

            “The magistrate should know the population they are dealing with. You need to understand the people because you have lived their life,” Prater-Holliday says, noting that one who has not lived in the neighborhood is more likely to make decisions biased by a lack of knowledge or experience. “If you understand the population you are dealing with, have lived their lives, you are more likely to make a fair decision. You have to live ‘in’ the community, dealing with the people who are likely to show up at the office.”

            “I am the ninth of ten children, and I am the first to graduate from college, and that is because other women, particularly African-American women, embraced me and empowered me, and connected me to resources that I needed to become successful,” Prater-Holliday says. “Had it not been for these other women in my life, I would never have been able to empower others.”

            “People came into my life and protected me, and I think that’s what we need to do for everybody, but especially women, because we are the nurturers and caregivers,” Prater-Holliday says. “We need to save our children.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

That Bitch, Acceptance (Dream Drafts)

SCENE 1 - Coffee Shop

FRIEND: Acceptance is a bitch.
ME: Upon casual acquaintance, Acceptance seems like a real bitch. Let me tell you about the first time I met her. It all started like this. 
[Flashback. Cross fade]

SCENE 2 - Bedroom

[Close Up: Mens clothing in a heap on the floor. Pan up to ME’s face.]
ME: Oh my God/dess, he makes me so angry! I just can’t with him. I just won’t with him.
ACCEPTANCE: Can’t change him. Can only change you. So, you change if you staying in this.  Do what you need to do with you to change yourself.  Accept it.  
ME: But, is it so hard to get him to pick up his damn pants off the floor? Is it? No. It's a deeply symbolic act of aggression!
ACCEPTANCE: Or not. {gestures to floor.} He does not see pants on the floor. You see pants on the floor. You care about pants on the floor. So, you gotta pick up the pants if they bother you. You gotta accept it.
ME: No.
ACCEPTANCE: {postures} Whatever, I'm not even going to talk about all that with you. 
ME: You don't even care that his pants on the floor are a declaration of war he is waging against me. 
{Acceptance shrugs and laughs.}
ME: Oh, shoot, what?!? You're like a callous, unfeeling, cold thing aren't you? 
{Acceptance is all sly smiles and saucy shrugs. Turns her back.}
ACCEPTANCE: I'm me. When you're ready, we can have a really good time together.
ME: Go the f*ck to hell! 
{Acceptance turns on her heel, shimmers away and doesn't even look back.}

[Cross fade]

SCENE 3 - Coffee Shop

FRIEND: Right? What a bitch!
ME: But, she's persistent.  She always turning up when you’re in the thick of it. Way deep down in the pity party. Everyone is there.
FRIEND: I know. Rage, Despair & Revenge are kicking back Whisky.  Sadness is alone on the balcony sipping Pinot Grigio and smoking cigarettes.  And Acceptance is hanging out with Serenity. And you know they talkin' 'bout you.
ME: Naw. Serenity don’t have time to talk smack on people. She always smiles like that. Until you get to know her, you project all your insecurities on her and start making up stories in your head about what her real motivations are. But, Acceptance?  The more you get to know her...

[Flashback. Cross fade]

SCENE 4 - River Bank
ME: I just want...
ACCEPTANCE:  I'm not even going there with you. {gentle, coy smile}

CUT TO: Animation sequence.  

My whole heart just peels open. 

ME stands on the river back as the center of her chest begins to part in the shape of a woman’s vulva.  The lips of the vulva are adorned with pearls and sparkly gems as if the vaginal secretions have turned to precious stones. A stylized heart ~ something between an anatomically correct heart and a Victorian Valentine ~ emerges through the vaginal opening. It floats out of ME chest and pulses with a radiant pink glowing light. Me raises her hand. The heart settles in the palm of her hand. She raises it to her lips. Kisses it and places it back inside of her chest.

Cut To: Me and Acceptance on the river bank

ME: Okay. Fine. I'm down with putting all the fighting down. What do you want to talk about?
ACCEPTANCE: Cool. This one time? I was sitting on God's lap and he...." 

Acceptance and Me sit down on the river bank. Slow pull out, as ambient, rhythmic music swells punctuated by snippets conversation and laughter.
ME: Your fingernail? Really? He what? 
ACCEPTANCE: on the back of a Palomino pony..
Me:  you mean inside of the rainbow?
Acceptance: Yeah, girl, inside of the rainbow.
{Acceptance and Me lay on the river bank laughing and snuggling and laughing. }

[Cross Fade]
Scene 4:
ME: And because I want more and more of those heart birthing smiles, I have to embrace Acceptance.  Because then, we are free to dish dirt on everything from Gods to molecules like teenage girls talking nonsense.
FRIEND: Damn. 
ME: Give her a chance, you’ll see.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Gratitude Is The Soft, Deep, Rhythmic Breath Of A Child

The picture to the right is Zenobia. 
She visits with us at bed time, on big, heavy thought days, I lay down with my twelve year old son to narrate his journey to his special inner safety place. Every child navigating a body of shifting of hormones experiences some amount of anxiety and trepidation.  This is a territory between two vastly different realms, no longer a child and not quite a teenager this person is balancing who they are becoming while knowing who they were and where they fit in the world.  
Add being Black & twelve & American & conscious to life as a Tween and there are times when a parent needs to expend extra effort to make sure your child stays conscious - literally and figuratively - and has the tools necessary not to accept, succumb and self censure.  
Imagine being a young boy about the same age as Tamir Rice.  You ask your mother what she is typing about so furiously on her keyboard.  
"Police in Cleveland," she says. 
"The usual thing?" You say.  
"Yes," she says. 
"Oh. Where were they?" You say. 
"Playing in the park." she says. 
"Playing in the park?" You ask.  Because you are confused. Why would the police kill someone playing in the park? and she tells you about a little boy about your age...

Not giving in to the perpetual state of terror our state sanctioned agents relentlessly practice against us everyday is revolutionary. It calls for efforts mythic proportions.  To be a carefree, happy, Black boy is a daily action of bravery, creative resourcefulness and dedication. To be young, Black, self-loving, optimistic and centered takes a kind of heroic level of personal mind control. It takes a parent who is willing to take time.
Imagine being a young boy about the same age as Let's Call Her Angie. It's time to go out, but,  your mother is typing about so furiously on her keyboard.  
"Oh. Right. We gotta go!" She says.
"What were you doing?" You say.
"Police in New York," she says.
"The usual thing?" You say.  
"Stop & Frisk" she says. 
"Who was it? Did they live?" You say. 
"Yes." she says. "An 11 year old girl."
"Oh. But, phew!" You say.
"Okay, let's go," she says.
"I'm not feeling up to it today," you say.
"We can not let them turn us into prisoners in our home. Mama's got this," She says. 
"Okay," you say.  But, it's not okay. You don't want to go out. You spend the entire time in the car noticing and informing your mother of every police car. 
"I've got this. I'm obeying all the laws," she says.
"Sometimes, that doesn't matter," you say. "But...
"Not on my watch," you both say together and laugh.
You're not sure you believe her.

When the extra heavy, hard reality of being young and Black days happen, I need to lay down with him at bed time.  I need to train him to remember that he has the power to shift his reality to his own liking.  That he can find within himThe places he can use in his waking times to stay centered.  These places often have a magical forest, a beach, a dryad, or mermaids.  I invite him to sit in these quiet places in his imagination.  I invite him to relax. Listen to the waterfall splashing or the waves swooshing.  See the colors of the sky.  Bounce in the clouds as if they are a trampoline. 
self magical places which are safe and wonderful.

One days, like the day 14 year old, Dajerria Becton experienced "the usual things police officers do."  On extra weighty thought days, the mermaids are usually busy elsewhere. You've got to be careful about mermaids when the world puts strange ideas in your head. & sleepy makes those ideas more creepy than they actually are.
Those days are when we need Zenobia. She comes and bats at his dreadlocks, romps & purrs when she settles quietly in his lap as he sits in his quiet inner soul place.

As he relaxes, right before his breathing slows down, sometimes, I use my fingertips along his back as if Zenobia is mincing about seeking a good place to sleep also. He smiles. Maybe chuckles and then the weight of my hand slows his breath. The Coltrane Station on Pandora always seems to know what song to play to take him into good dreams.
When I slip quietly out of his bed I am so grateful To have a son. To have a boy-becoming-man who still likes to hear his Mama's voice; feel his Mama's arms; and imagine invisible rainbow butterfly unicorn kittens keep watch over him in the night.
I leave the dark, warm room of steady rhythmic breath, the stark kitchen light startles me. It is late. I remember ‪#‎TamirRice‬ wasn't put to bed for six months. Nobody lay him down to sleep because he was
not a boy when racism turned him into evidence that something is very broken.

If I Die In Police Custody

let the activists speak my private sorrow.
let the radicals burn the city to the ground.
let the pundits unravel White Supremacy's mantle

even as my family calls for peace, know
they are insuring the survival my genetic code.
understand the louder you rage, the more they get paid.

& blood money is not Brawny. it can not wipe up injustice.
know my ancestor's teeth went into Ben Franklin's head
& these same teeth will grind down systemic racism.

know my Gods have a terrible just imagination
& are qualified by my family's forgiveness
to deliver immediate and swift retribution.

know God works in mysterious ways,
the tragic accident, the lost marriage
the stillborn children withering in the womb,

the tweet which fires a thousand racists,
my God sees these murderers times
seven generations. my God, seven generations

my family be lifted up in public out cry
be poeted, be sung, be painted and digitized,
be quiet & let a nation of Black voices

tell all the truth.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Pride is a living metaphysical political Being

Joy Kmt, an artist/activist frequently in collaboration with the Svaha Paradox Salon has been gathering international attention by drawing attention to why the Delta Foundation’s booking of artist Iggy Azalea is problematic for an inclusive Pride which creates safe space for all members of the LGBTQ community.  You can read about that here on MTv's website.  She is the co-founder of #RootsPridePgh which initiated a call to artists to make a video about what their pride looked like and tag it #MyPride.  In addition, you can make financial contributions here. I responded with “Pride is a living metaphysical political Being.” What does your Pride look like?


Pride is a living metaphysical political Being

when I look you in the eye
I invite you inside.
I have so much roots to show ya.

my pride sweeps,
stitches, feathers 
its technicolor nest. 

breathes water. 
dances amniotic.
sings a trans-Atlantic song.
swimming against the school.
stings beautifully
in unnatural habitats. 

would you come be by my side
I have so much love to show ya.
would you love me show ya, huh?

I look you in the eye
I invite you inside.
my pride has so much light.
walk a mile with me in harmony.

my pride is magic 
palm fronds, goats teeth, 
hip bones, wandering dread 
woven with seashells,
microchips, weaves 
& dodges, dances 
feints, faints & ain’t
your pride mine?

my pride keeps you alive.
are you on my side?
because I’d love to have you.

my pride is arrow & archer,
knife, the frowning 
watermelon & spoon. 
the bacon grease and beans,
a chipped heirloom plate,
the meal I serve myself
when no others will serve me.
& that’s okay.

will you come be by my side?
I have so much love to show ya.
would you love me show ya?
I’m still alive. I’m still alive.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mirror Mirror On the Wall | #TellMeABlackPowerStory

I’ve got to smile when it is insinuated that I am a sell out; not Black enough; not down for the struggle because I do not advocate yet another cycle of destruction that White Supremacy will allow to fester and further infect us.  I say, 

I have the nerve to say I do not advocate violence. I have the nerve to say this because I have witnessed the spiral back to the same conditions for Black America as the year I was born, 1964.  I have personally witnessed and participated in the illusion of Post-Racial Renaissance and Feudal System Reaffirmation. I have the good fortune to have shared breath and continue to share breath with people who have witnessed over three cycles of the same old pattern.  

I understand the place of violence. Nothing ever happens until we start burning things down.  Because I understand the way in which violence has always been necessary in the short term.  I have to keep asking what are we going to do different this time?

My friend Mistinguette says it better:
Remember when black folks got tired of police violence in the face of peaceful protest, and started rioting in the late 1960s? And remember the comeback of heroin in the early 1970s, flowing openly into inner cities where there had been uprisings? Remember how the AIDS epidemic killed black men by the hundreds with "junkie pneumonia" in the 1980s before anybody bothered to name it as a disease? If you don't remember the last time this happened, ask somebody who does. Then, connect the dots today.

My friend Eddie Griffin says it better:
Nixon appointed Donald Rumsfeld over the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969 to run his Economic Stabilization Program, and elevated the Office to Cabinet level. It operated like a CIA program to supplant the Panthers’ Free Breakfast and Free Medical programs. They started a free breakfast program in school, and started giving welfare checks on the 1st and 15th to single mothers. We could not get the people to resist. Instead, they got hooked.

We must stop being White People’s mirror.  In the fairytale of Coal Black, the Mirror started telling the truth.  She told the evil queen that she was not beautiful, Coal Black was beautiful.  The evil queen’s response to that was to go out there and try to destroy Coal Black. The mirror said, “Here is where she is, go get someone who doesn't have any real power to take her out if you want to stay beautiful.”

A twerking example.

What are saying when we twerk. 
This is good music. I will dance. My spirit is still rich enough to connect with the natural rhythms of the universe. I am stardust embodied. I am beautiful.  This my body is strong and powerful This my body holds generations and the power to be eternal.

When enraptured, they gaze into the rhythms of our twerking asses, they say to us:
You are animals. You are a lustful sinner. You are the evil voracious sexuality unchecked. You are out of control. 

What they are really saying:
My people are animals. We are a lustful sinners. We are the evil voracious sexuality unchecked. We are out of control. 

When they appropriate our twerking they say:
My spirit is not rich enough to connect with the natural rhythms of the universe, so I will steal yours. I am not stardust embodied. I am not beautiful.  My body is not strong and powerful.  My body does not hold generations and the power to be eternal. But, I will pretend it is because I must always believe I am better than you are.

And because we are powerful and eternal and connected to a vast universe, we say, Have that. You have not killed our souls. We are not so impoverished that we must steal and loot.  There is always a better idea.  But, we want that White gaze.  We want that White affirmation. We want the benefits of all the Whiteness. So, we let them continue to rampage and pillage every corner of our deepest cellular ancestral connection because we do not ourselves understand how precious it is.

Black Love. It takes discipline, sacrifice, and the head to the grindstone actions to move firmly and without apology into into a Black love space. But, we are to afraid to love ourselves. We have internalized the mirror White people have turned us into.  "You are beautiful," we say,"You are powerful. You are so powerful we will step outside of our highest, most authentic selves."

I do my best to live ethically. I do my best to live consciously. I fail. I correct myself. I do and then I do some more.  

The only purpose of rage in my life is as fuel to refine my excellence.  The only purpose anger has is to burn away the inner barriers which distract me from focusing on my own success.  The despair I experience is useful only in that it forces me to make a plan. A plan to not be in this hellish racism spiral of reaction, reaction, reaction.  

That's what I want to talk about.  Giving priority to the energy, time and commitment to loving ourselves uncompromisingly. 

We need to stop chasing after what White people have and remember that what White people want right now, they stole from our grandmothers.  Home birth? We couldn’t afford a hospital and if we could, they weren’t going to treat us.  Natural remedies? We couldn’t afford any pharmacy.  We had to know how to harvest and make those tinctures ourselves.  

When integration happened, we got so happy they let us up in their stores that we forgot they didn't love us. We acted like we had won something big to be able to hand our money over to people who despise us and use it to continue to injure us. We forgot how healthy we were when we had to pack a basket because people didn't think we deserved to eat. 

That means opting out of the corporate system to the best of our ability.  That means no more take out coffee, no more quick bag of chips snacks, that means not eating at chain restaurants. It means looking for Black vendors. Except in instances of professional development, we must become largely unconcerned with what people think of us. If my shoes tell you about the quality of my character, chances are I really don't need to know you. It means becoming self sufficient. Self-sufficiency takes a lot of time.  

We just need to stop with the begging and pleading and asking. We must start doing for ourselves.  Seed packets are $1.00. I've seen yards with so many weeds that could be growing greens.  I wish every call for a march was a community garden fair where we went yard by yard installing home gardens.  I wish every call for demonstrating against police brutality was a Hood Watch & Patrol training session.  I wish every call for a community garden fair had a childcare exchange program. I wish every call for a march was a planning meeting to create programs for youth to go volunteer to sit willingly and listen to their elders. 

Why aren’t we harvesting the knowledge of our elders to teach us to sew, to repair, to build? And when we do these programs, why are we always looking at White people for money?

I rage. I despair. I fury. I tempest. I work myself into a frenzy.

For exactly five minutes. Then, I get busy thriving. Because every success. Every positive, joyful moment in my life. Every ounce of energy poured into Black Love is worse than a gun, a burning trash can or a broken window. 

Black love is machete. Black love is a fatal blow. Black love chops off White Supremacy's head, legs, and arms, coats them in tar, sets them ablaze with gasoline and buries all the different pieces in unmarked graves across Europe. Black love saves the hair for cloth to look beautiful and the teeth as a warning to others. 

I want my energy to count. If I let them take my Black Peace, they get both my peace and more weapons to continue waging war against me. If I let them steal my Black Health, I die. If I surrender my Black joy, they have my joy and continue to paralyze me with despair.

I do not have any time for burning or talking and boo hooing. There is a garden to tend. There is bread to bake. There are clothes which need to be sewn.  I am too busy building an independent Black life. I have an exit strategy. I work on it daily. I am aware of how very dangerous this is. We have tried many time in the past. These eight Black communities are an example of how powerful Black love is.

The mirror is broken. I no longer want to reflect back anything to anyone in power.   I am not here to for anyone's beauty, I am here for my people.  All of my people. I do not disclose Coal Black's location because I am Coal Black.  The kingdom I am building is mine and always has been. 

Yes. I have the nerve and the gas to say I do not advocate violence.  I understand violence.  And I want more than what it will give us. 

NOTE: This is not the disclaimer note to my White friends and allies to reassure them. If you are really my White friend and ally, you are cheering and saying, "let me know if & when you are ready to connect with me from a position of power in which we can systematically attack all of the roots of oppression."  This is the note where I acknowledge that my revolution is intersectional.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Free Range Or Target Practice.

I don't really want to talk about Black Motherhood and our child rearing practices under a White gaze. I simultaneously appreciate and am left a tiny bit underwhelmed by the commentary of the childless. I am tired of the Black Mother Shaming. I am tired of the exaltation of tired love, exhausted grit, and under-educated make-do in an effort to subvert the discussion of systemic root causes. I am weary ~ to the seizing up of my entire nervous and cardiovascular system ~ of a dehumanized characterization of Black motherhood designed to portray us as nothing but animals acting on instinct.

I am numb from squashing anger about the way in which Black mother's decisions are scrutinized, evaluated and politicized for the purpose of continuing to enshrine White women's purity and perfection. I am ready ~ to the point of profanity ~ to rage about the advancement of sanctified White motherhood while the public at large gets to define, debate, ruminate, celebrate or denigrate every action a Black mother takes in public and then spread it like a shovel of shit across all of Black personhood.

I am fed up with the way in which our parenting revolves around camouflage and not character. Life or death. Clean Or Cranked. Street sweeper or barrister. Free Range or Target Practice. I am tired of people treating our children like products instead of people in process. I am tired of talking about women raising boys, women raising girls, women raising people.

Where are the men? Are Black women somehow naturally inclined towards parthenogenesis?

I am tired of the 
Tragic Single Mother, Tragic Battered Woman Mama, 
Tragic Out-Of-Touch-Wanna-Be-White Black Mama, 
Tragic Her-Husband-Righteous, Rich, Educated-But-Fucking-Every-White-Female-Behind-Her Back Mama, 
Tragic But-There-Are-Two-Mamas-So-That-Kid-Gonna-Be-Confused Mamas, 
Tragic Ghetto Mama, Tragic Crack Mama, Tragic Alcoholic Mama, 
Tragic Hoodoo-Killed-Some-Chickens-Made-The-Vegans-Mad Mama, 
Tragic That-Much-Jesus-Ain't-Good-For-Anyone Mama,
Tragic How-Many-Is-Too-Many Mama,
Tragic Inter-Racial Mama, Tragic InterRacial-Lesbian Single Mama, 
Tragic Oh-Shit-What-We-Gonna-Do-Wit-Two-Black-Mamas Mama, 
Tragic Poor-But-Got-Her-Kid-To-College Mama, 
Tragic Middle-Class-Move-Up-To-The-Next & Leave-Her-People-Behind Mama

I just want to be a Mama afforded the same right to invisibility and privacy every White woman assumes she has.

Girl, if I could get the childcare, I have a lot to write about Black parenting...beginning with a show on Nat Geo where they took a White family and dumped them among the Maasai and in two weeks the Elder Males had that child's ADHD cured. But, all that community, village raising children culture was systematically beaten out of us and belongs now to White families who sign up for National Geographic Reality Television shows.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We Are Not Animals Or Robots, We Are Mothers

I am here to invite contemplation on mother shaming. I don’t want to talk about that video of the mother who snatched her child up out of the street.  I don’t want to serve White Supremacy’s platter of Assorted Black Debates. That video was circulated to shame us.  That video was circulated to distract us. 

I want to talk about Freddie Gray’s mother.  I am here to bear witness for her.  I want to talk about the fact that she had to bury her son in one moment and be trotted out as a peace keeper for the deathbringers.  

As if she had the power to control the way her soul detonated the fuse in every conscious Black person.  As if she could contain the flaming of particles in her spirit which beg God to do it, just do it, just burn every fucking thing to the ground.  As if she should apologize.

There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who wants to snatch the hearts out of their child’s murderer and feed it to their families.  There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who would send assassins in the night to peel the skin off of her child’s murderers; make lampshades out of it and use their teeth as beaded trim.  There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who knows the oblivious can only be abused out of their ignorance.  This is the truth.  In Baltimore, her weeping soul screeching has been heard.  Prayers are always answered, even after they have been deleted or recalled by common sense and survival.

I want to you bear witness to the violence done to the mothers of dead Black sons and daughters.  I want you to know that the mothers of Black children live in a constant state of gathering up the ocean.  I want you to think about how stoic we seem, how pulled together, how grim and determined. I want you to think about how busy you make us with your demands for respectability.  How unnatural you make us.

But, more than that, think about how Black mothers are forced to apologize. How we are always asked to apologize for allowing our children to wake up in the morning inside of our home.  We apologize for allowing them to go to sleep in our homes.  We apologize for allowing them to put food in their bodies. We apologize for buying them clothing. And every 28 hours we are asked to apologize for allowing them to leave the house.  And we apologize for yelling at God when they don’t come home because they made eye contact with the wrong White person. We apologize for reproducing.

We shame mothers for having a biological directive to insure our genetic material is passed on.  We shame mothers for having instincts. We are not animals or robots.  No more apologies.  

It is time for society to begin apologizing to us. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

#TellMeABlackPowerStory Everyday

Simple stories. Big stories. Mundane stories. 
Helped My Son With A Project Stories.
Cooked a Healthful Meal Stories. 
Planted Some Vegetables Stories.
Smiled At A Random Black Child At The Store Stories.
Won An Award Stories.
Gave Back To Community Stories.
Woke Up And Went To Work Even Though I Didn't Feel Like It Stories.

Found & Patronized a Black Business Story.
We need more Black Power Stories. Black Power Stories are Black Love Stories, Black Kindness Stories, Black Helping Stories, Black Honor Stories, Black Generosity Stories.

Brilliant Poet, Activist, & Educator Mistinguette Smith responded to the call and amplified it.  Below is an excerpt from her post which you can read here.
"The other side of anger is power. And I am one of many who needs to hear some stories of the power that’s awaiting all of us on the other side of this seemingly endless rage. Right now,  the act of staying awake has me longing for a black power story. The news is so bad that this moment actually requires  ten thousand black power stories, each one repeated a hundred times over.  So I have come here to ask you to help me put them out into the world."

We have Black Power stories around us everyday.

Responses are trickling in.
Amie: My nephew just received certificates for perfect attendance and the honor roll at his school.

+  +  +  

Ledean: Well as you know my father passed when I was fairly young. He had a son somewhat older than my self and siblings. He asked us one Christmas what we wanted and my baby sister told him she wanted a barbie doll. He looks at her and said what about a black doll? Well she being so young had no ideal that there was such a thing. Christmas came and my brother got my sister a doll. It was the first black doll baby she had ever seen! Dark skin, curly kinky afro and she talked! Her name was Tamu and it turned out to be my sister's favorite doll for years to come. It opened her eyes to the world that there was more out there than little thin white barbie dolls.

+  +  +  

Robin: My beautiful black girl who was 11, now 12 years old stood out from among the crowd and boldly audition for her high school marching band and was awarded an opportunity to be a contributor! She has excelled, exceeding the expectations of her band director and came to the attention and was honored by the Ohio State University for her efforts.

At her lowest point band camp was kicking her behind. But through perseverance and hard work, she woke up, put 1 foot in front of the other and worked through her fears and made the effort look flawless.

+  +  + 

Ebele: I thank my mother for wearing a pair of figure-hugging jeans and walking, no, sashaying down Nwabueze Road.

In those Nigerian days, it was an abomination for a woman to wear trousers. (You were an ashawo if you did.)

But my mum, she put on her shades and walked down that road.

And my father, my father walked beside her in his jeans and shades.

They dealt with it, together.

Plus they looked fucking cool too.

Let us fill each other up with Black Power Stories.  Black Love is Black Power! Leave a comment.  Tweet it to me @cmspringer. Tumblr it! Shout out loud, I live a Black & Powerful life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tell Me A Black Power Story

Yesterday, For Harriet, posted an excellent piece, I read Is My Living In Vain?: On The Visibility Of Black Trauma In Social Media.   I was so grateful.  I had also seen the image of the 148 students killed in Garissa, Kenya.  I was unable to put into words what I was thinking.  But, part of me thought back to what bothered me so much about the #BlackLivesMatter die-ins.

This is what I saw. 
A shopping mall in America

A university in Kenya
Only one group is pretending.  

I talk to my Facebook friends a lot about #BlackLove is #BlackPower.  I do this because sometimes I feel people are confused about what Black Power is.  The first image I am sure that comes to mind is the image on the left.  The image that comes to mind for me, is the one on the right.

It made me think.  I want to hear Black Power Stories.  So, I'll start with just a silly moment from my life.
+    +   +
One morning, I took The Win breakfast in bed. He enjoyed that a great deal.
when I do something for someone, and they express deep appreciation for it, it inspires me to continue wanting to do that.

The next time, I did it, I said, "Your breakfast, My Little lordling."
He said, "Why thank you, My Lady Mother."

It's become a game now.  Some mornings when I want to get a few things done, I take him breakfast in bed and we have our gentile exchange. This morning was different.

Me: Your breakfast, my little lordling.
The Win: Why thank you, My Lady Mother.
Me: But, of course."
Windafire wearing
"Woodland King,"
a laser cut headband
he designed
The Win: (looks at me strangely) Uh, Mom, why do you do this?
Me: Because sometimes, you have to take actions which reflect the higher self you see in a person.
The Win: Hmmm. I don't understand.
Me: You are a prince among men.
The Win: what does that mean?
Me: You are a generous, thoughtful, wise person. you are everything that is positive about the word nobility. I am acting on a truth of you.  You are receiving a truth about you. Because everyday, you show me the truth about me.
The Win: How?
Me: By being you. By doing your work without being told. By helping me around the house. By doing what needs to be done without being told, you show me that you have accepted what I have taught you.
The Win: I love you, Mom.
Me: I love you, My Little Lordling.

I realized in that moment that some Black folks like to talk a lot about being Kings and Queens. And if we are Kings and Queens, our children must be princes and princesses.  But, we don't have any staff. So, we have to be of and in service with each other everyday.  Taking some small actions which speak to our own inner truths. We have to create an environment of respectful reciprocity.

+   +   +

I don't know how many people will do this.  I'm doing this for me.  I don't want to start a "big thing." I just want to see more Black Love out there.  I want to celebrate Black Power. I want to read about it.  I want to hear about it.

  • How to you live it? 
  • How do you nurture it? 
  • How do you uplift each other?  
  • What are the very tiny things upon which movements are built?
I hope you'll share with me. Just one moment of #BlackLove is #BlackPower. #TellMeABlackPowerStory @Cmpringer

Friday, April 10, 2015

What I Did Instead Of Falling Apart | The Coma Chronicles

For those of you who wept, thank you. That needed to be done. 
For those of you who prayed, thank you. That needed to be done. 
For those of you who had a good strong drink, thank you. 
Someone was going to do that and it wasn’t me. 

I notice many of my friends are navigating health crisis with loved ones lately. For this reason, I must share a few technical details which have made an impact on Imani’s journey.  Primarily, helping the health professionals know there is something at stake and people care.

1. Keep a detailed log. Write down the name, date and time of any person who has spoken with you about your loved one’s condition.  Write down what they said. Seriously, everything.

Example:  At 4:00 PM, on Day 1, they say, “no real change, withstood breathing trial for 30 minutes, undirected movement.” Write it down, because on Day 2 at 8:00 AM you may get a report from a different person, who says, “she’s doing so much better, the breathing trial lasted an hour, and she’s moving her hands and we think we are going to do ______ radical departure in treatment.  

You can ask, “Specifically, what changed in the seven hours between shift change which warrants ______ radical departure in treatment?”

2. Be the editor of everyone’s experience.  Every nurse, aide, doctor, social worker on you loved ones’ case has a bias.  Some are skilled at staying neutral; some are skilled at giving hope; some are skilled at conservative, cautious prognosis.  I viewed my job as my daughter’s advocate. That meant I needed to stay with the facts.  Stay with the science.  

3. Learn the routine.  What is the shift change protocol? When are assessments made? When are tests given? When is the patient turned? Then call to gather data in the “downtime” when the nurses aren’t busy caring for your loved one. 

Time table for when to call:
8:30 - one hour after shift change.
10:00 - immediately following assessments, tests, doctor evaluation.
1:00 - after lunch.
5:45 - 15 minutes before shift change as they are starting to gather their notes.
8:30  - one hour after shift change
10:00 - before bed.

4. Demand continuity of care. Doctors and nurses rotate. All they have are notes on a chart.  They don’t get the back story.  They don’t know your loved one. They have no ability to know your loved one.  The only constant in your loved one’s care is you.  You are the one who fills in the gaps in the chart. 

5. Make the doctors do their job.  If allowed, doctors will breeze through; make an exam; and decide treatment as if their word is law. Their word is not law.  You have a right to an informed decision. They have an obligation to provide you with information.  Repeat. You have the right to give informed consent.

Example: One doctor tried to use baby talk with me.  I informed him that I have the same level of education as he does. My specialty is simply different and that he would kindly speak to me like an intelligent, capable human being. 

Example: One doctor was obstinate about his aggressive treatment plan. His treatment plan differed drastically from the previous doctor’s. I pulled up my notes, told him verbatim what the other doctor said. Told him that I concur with the first treatment plan, and that I was now calling for a second opinion. If he was unable to collaborate with his colleague and provide continuity of care, I would do it for him.

6. Send cold, logical, detailed, factual feedback. Learn the chain of command and speak with the decision makers.  
Example:  There were two doctors.  One was very busy one afternoon speaking with someone at home about something on his kitchen counter.  Another doctor was simply too busy to talk to me and would not wait the five minutes I needed to get out of the car, into the house and get to my computer.  On both occasions, I wrote the Chief Of Staff an email about proper communication, listed the date and time, the incident and reminded him about the legal importance of informed consent. 

The outcome was that rather than me chasing down the doctors and pinning them to the wall, both doctors called me everyday as soon as they dealt with my daughter.  They took the time to discuss her treatment plan. They allowed me to review my notes to see whether they were in accord with what other doctors said. And gave me time to clarify every single step of the treatment plan. 

7. Do not let doctors exploit your trust.  We place a lot of trust in doctors. Their very training and the fraternity-like levels of hazing they undergo to get their medical license reinforces a notion of superiority.  Many think of themselves as smarter and more important than we are.  They are experts in a very specific skill set. Yes, you may give that to them.  

But, you, another family member, and the nurses are the ones who are actually doing all the observing of symptoms, changes and responses to treatment. You have as much data as they do. Make them work with all of you. The Lone Ranger was problematic for reasons more than race and colonialism. He wasn’t anything without Tonto. The nurses know what is up.  They are the people with whom you’ll be spending time. They see the hour by hour changes.  They are the most important data in your log.  

Example: One doctor talked about a cloud on the MRI. Another doctor said there was too much movement to determine anything.  A third doctor said nothing was there.  My question was: "On this date, Dr. 1 said ____ and on this same date Dr 2 said ______, and on this date Dr 3 _______.  I'm going to need a second opinion or you're going to have to give me a unified understanding of this result. Which will it be?" Well, we got a definitive answer. 

8. Know and plan for all potential outcome{s}. Today's American medical industry is exactly that ~ a profit driven industry. Ultimately, your loved one is a number on a bottom line.  As soon as they can insure that the patient will not be a liability (lawsuit,) they will hand them off to the next caregiver. They need to clear the bed to get paid.  This can happen in moments.

Make sure you know every detail of every potential outcome... even the worst.  Then ask for a long term picture. Make them take you through it step by step...pending each medical outcome.  If there is a short cut, the insurance companies will make them take it. Bet on it.

Example: The doctor said my daughter could experience a complete and full recovery.  When there was talk of an Assisted Nursing Living Facility, I asked "How does this fit in with the full and complete stated by Dr. X?"  Well, they had to change that didn't they?

Now, that she is in a Physical Rehabilitation Facility, "the insurance has authorized seven days of therapy."  But, they were counting her intake and discharge days.  I asked them to "read me back the language and tell me how this fits with Dr. X's recommendation to achieve a full and complete recovery?"  Asking them to read back the language got my daughter an extra day of therapy.  If the insurance is covering days of therapy, not days in the facility, the patient should not be denied that which they are entitled. 

This was no time to go pieces.  In these moments, I viewed myself as a knife, cold, impartial, logical, and clean. I am the piece maker. I could harm or I could heal.  I am still ready.   Imani Nia’s Recovery Fund helps me stay ready.