Friday, March 28, 2008

If You Have A Boy, You Have To Plan Ahead | Building A Peace Portfolio

Winston and I spent the entire day on Tuesday preparing to attend and attending a vigil marking the current death toll of the Iraqi War. It was a very moving experience for both of us. It also marked the beginning of a project I must commit to complete in fourteen years.
(I’ve been editing the video footage for the past three days - in case you wondered wher I’ve been.)

I have never liked war. I will never condone or support war. When I was raising a girl, my response to war was very different. When she turned eighteen, nobody would be poking around wondering why she hadn’t registered with selective service.

Back then, I made it to rallies - if I could. I wrote the infrequent check. I beeped my horn at the lone protester holding a cardboard sign on a chilly morning.

Suddenly, activism seems like it is no longer a choice. Without my activism, I will not have enough supporting evidence to help my son obtain the status of Conscientious Objector. And if history is truly cyclical, he will need a solid, comprehensive Peace Portfolio.

Back when Winston was barely two years old, I read an article in Mothering Magazine, entitled “How To Help Your Peace Loving Child Avoid The Draft.” I read the article during nap time as I lay on my side. His tiny body curled into mine - close as when he was still inside. His mouth twitched and suckled in his sleep. I remember putting the magazine down. Taking a deep breath. Wiping away a tear.

Then I added its advice to my very long list of things I had to do to protect this Black male life that my husband and I purposefully brought into this American life. Because we were determined to give him some better options than the current menu.

My husband and I choose not to be part of any of the religious orders which are granted conscientious objector status. For this reason, we have to plan ahead. The military complex may not have our son. And if you don’t want them to have yours, make a peace portfolio before your child has to register with selective service.

The Peace Portfolio would be presented to a draft board as evidence that your child is (and always had been) a conscientious objector. The ideal peace portfolio demonstrates a lifelong commitment to peace and non-violence.

Based on the article above and tips from Point Of Clarity. I’ve begun a file which will document Winston’s peace-related activities. Below find some tips on beginning your own.

1. Teach your child about peace. Play co-operative games and document them. Make crafts which exemplify peace. (For example, on the Autumn Equinox, we made wax paper lanterns and gave them to neighbours who could use a little light and peace in the darker days ahead. Save any thank you notes for the file.)

2. Attend peace rallies and other non-violent actions. Document every rally attended.
A. Preliterate children can be videotaped discussing peace.
B. Literate children should write a small blurb about the event.

3. Encourage the child to befriend the media. Preserve copies of any coverage they receive or generate your own archive by photographing ot videotaping them.
A. The preliterate child can be encouraged to wave or smile at news media.
B. The literate child can write letters to the editor, talk to camera people or speak at the rally itself.

4. A. If your child attends school, have your child write frequently about the importance of peace and non-violence. (When given a choice about topics.) Keep the teacher’s comments and/or the papers themselves.
B. If you home school, dedicate units of study to peace, peace activists and preserve any resulting materials in your portfolio.

5. Dedicate some family time to volunteering for peace organisations. Keep a log of volunteer hours, and activities.

Hopefully, when the time comes for him to register, we’ll be bringing a box full of documentation about why he can not be in that man’s army.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dear Hillary,

Just like you, during my childhood, my parents advised me to play the game all the way to the end. They encouraged me to never give up. They championed good sportsmanship. They admonished me to win and lose gracefully. They suggested that “the game itself and how hard I tried” was the most important thing.

After all, the math has always been against us. Others owned the judicial branch, the legislature, the executive branch. Did long dusty walks and sore feet put people back on the busses? Did fire hoses and billy clubs keep children out of the streets? Did that stop King from having a dream? Did we not bring issue after laborious issue to the court s and hold America accountable for her own words? Why should we have done any of that? The math has always been designed to make it appear as if we couldn’t stand a chance.

That was not a game. That was a fight for our lives. That was a demand for justice. And this America right now, this land “where little black boys and black girls...join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.” This land where just tonight “I sat down with the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners at a table of brotherhood.” This troubled land at war from within and without is not a game. This is not entertainment or recreation.

We don’t want to watch your skilful spin, smear, hypocrisy and duplicity like a football match. This country is fighting for its life, spiritually, economically and emotionally. We demand justice and the people are speaking. We are speaking for someone who is willing to listen, advocate and act upon our best interests.

me, The AfroSphere Action Coalition and
and all those who have signed the petition.

P.S. Dear reader, join us and sign the petition. Contact the Democratic National Committee. Best of all, just vote.

Another Boy Tasered To Death | Teach Your Children

There is so much more we must teach our children. Many parents allocate a lot of agony and angst to approaching sex education. This is the least of my concerns. I worry daily about my son’s safety and his right to live peacefully within the confines of law and all of the protections it is supposed to afford him.

I’m not terribly concerned about gangs. I’m not overly concerned about drugs. I’m worried about police. I know that most police officers believe that my son was born with a target on his back.

I’m not a paranoid lunatic. I am a realist. I see what has been happening all over America with the use of tasers - especially on Black males. Read more here at: Tasered While Black.

It always hurts my heart to learn of a mother’s grief. Tammy Fontenot managed to raise her son to the ripe old age of seventeen. She managed to support him through school so that he would graduate first in his class. Now, like countless Black mothers, she is burying her son, Darryl Turner.

I find it sad that organisations which serve the community, such as the NAACP, do not offer community workshops which train our children how to survive these encounters in the first place. Instead, there are dinners and picnics.

It is important to advocate regulation and call for an investigation of how they are an instrument of deadly force. (Here’s one way to help.) It is equally important for mothers to understand their responsibility to their children. And that responsibility is to educate them to understand what it takes to to survive.

Tonight, we will head out to a peace vigil. I am even more aware that my son’s safety is paramount. Suddenly, I’m recalling an incident when he was three. Questioned about some possibly objectionable behaviour, he smiled and said, "I'm not talking." I fell over laughing. Then I said, "Wrong answer, buddy! What you should say is, I'm not talking until I have a lawyer." This is one of those bittersweet memories. On one hand, it’s cute. On the other hand, it is this early training which may one day save his life.

I waited until the teen years to reinforce this with my daughter. Back then, I drafted a statement for my daughter to carry in her wallet when she was a teenager. It stated:
1. her name,
2. an emergency contact, and
3. the name and telephone number of our legal counsel.

In hindsight I will probably provide my son with a notarised directive stating: “This is a notarised letter from the parents of the juvenile _name and age _ . He has been instructed to remain silent. This letter serves as an immediate request from his parents for legal counsel, specifically, _name_ who may be contacted at these numbers _ telephone number of legal counsel._ If said counsel can not be reached, this letter serves to request a public defender immediately. The child has been instructed not to speak until in the presence of legal counsel. We may be contacted at _our numbers._”

If confronted by officers for any reason, instruct your child to:
1. Inform the officers that her parents told her to give them a piece of paper in her wallet.
2. Politely ask permission to produce the paper.
3. If granted permission, hand over the statement and remain mute.

4. Under no circumstances was she to allow them to search her person or belongings for the piece of paper and to say, “I do not consent to a search of my person or my belongings.”

6. If not granted permission, she was to calmly repeat the phrase, "Am I under arrest? If not am I free to go."
7. During any encounter, she is to drop her chin and appear to always be looking up at the officer. She is to stand feet slightly apart, shoulders relaxed. Hands relaxed and clasped in front of her.

As my daughter became more politically active, she knew to:
1. Carry sunglasses to a rally to protect her eyes from pepper spray.
2. Wear a scarf which could be pulled over her face at the first sign of hostility.
3. Wear long sleeves and trousers - no matter what the weather. And
4. in the event of a confrontation, refer back to the previous list.

I think role-playing is essential for teaching children how to advocate for their rights. Your child plays themself. You play the evil cop. These phrases must be practiced again and again until they reside deep within them.

The day will come when I have to rely on my son and what I have taught him about his rights and surviving encounters when he exercises them. I will have to trust that he becomes mature enough to remain calm, stay cool and trust in his inner power and the law.

If you have a pre-teen or teen - here are some resources which may save their life:

ACLU Bust Card

Dumb Little Man Bust Card

Flex Your Rights

Videos which show scenarios about police confrontation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quiet And Storm

i've been quiet. giving birth again to my family
(throwing away the t.v.; making all meals from scratch;
egg decorating; puddle thwacking; puppy chasing;
and hating every blessed moment.

(After all, shouldn't a person be able to sit
on the commode without some talking through the door?)
I am loved. Glory be. Let us share some of this
with the whole word!!!! There is plenty to go around.

Regardless - please find the rough drafts of my thoughts from the past week. A little old. A lot at What Tami Said

Please visit. Please comment. I am always made better by your eyes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

To: Senator Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee

If you believe that we should be ruled by the will of the people, then
please take a moment to consider this petition t the DNC.

Please forward this to any and all afrocentric, multi-cultural or
progressive mailing lists to which you may belong. Thanks.

Thanks to the AfroSpear for alerting me and Francis L Holland of The Committee to Unite the Democratic Party for preparing this action.

Senator Hillary Clinton Must Concede Defeat and Support the Democratic Presidential Ticket

The signatories to this statement urge that Senator Hillary Clinton must concede defeat in her quest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and must support the Democratic ticket.


(1) The Democratic Party base has spoken. The delegate count shows that Senator Hillary Clinton cannot win the nomination on the strength of earned delegates, based on the will of the voters. [Please sign the petition now.]

(2) Mrs. Clinton's political attacks upon Senator Barack Obama have increasingly appealed to and sought to increase resentment against others based on the color of their skin. [Please sign now.]

(3) This divisiveness is regrettable because, via the presidential candidacy of Senator Obama, the vast majority of African-Americans stand united with millions of white Americans and Americans of all colors, genders, ethnicities and religious backgrounds, erasing divisions to implement a program of Democratic change. Together, we're making history!

(4) It appears that Mrs. Clinton is about to shatter this historic unity. Don't let her do it!

(5) We therefore call on Mrs. Clinton to face the reality of the earned delegates count, concede defeat, and thereby contribute to healing a wound which is opening and continues to widen. It's time for healing.

(6) Mrs. Clinton must wholeheartedly support the winner of the nomination, who has earned the most delegates, and devote herself honestly and enthusiastically to defeating Republican electoral hopes in 2008, not attacking Democratic politicians and Democratic constituencies. Tell Hillary to stop her divisive tactics!

(7) Should the Democratic Party leadership nullify the people's votes by giving Mrs. Clinton the nomination, despite the popular will as represented by earned delegates, we would then call upon African-American voters and all Democratic Party constituencies and supporters to withhold their support from a Hillary Clinton candidacy in November. We have survived eight years under President Bush and, if compelled to do so, we will survive four years under a President McCain. However, we cannot and will NOT survive the nullification of our most hard-won right - our votes. We're not going to take this lying down!

Please take a moment to sign the petition now.

Friday, March 14, 2008

You Be The Judge

Example A

Example B

Example C

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Update on the California Homeschool Problem

The Homeschool Association Of California is addressing the recent issue with the poorly written ruling by the judge in California.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Puddle Thwacking

What am I teaching my son? Surely nothing

I am grateful for the fact that our driveway needs to be repaved and have a drain installed. The huge puddle at the bottom has provided countless hours of fun. Originally, repaving the driveway was high on our list of “things to attend to.” This has suddenly been redefined as not improving the home.

We’ve been spending a lot of time with puddles lately. There is a magnificent puddle at the park a half block from our house. Some days when Winston wades out into the middle it is knee deep. Other days, it barely covers his ankle. Yesterday, it had thick boot-shaped ice floes surrounded by thinner more easily broken ice sheets. Oh, what a mystery!

As I noted earlier, there is something about a still body of water which makes boys require a stick. They need to throw sticks in the water. They need to poke the water. They need to thwack it. Whether they are 2 or 90, a stick is required when a still body of water is presented to the male of the human species.

But, suddenly, I’m realising how much is being learned from puddle thwacking. Perhaps this might be one of the reasons boys gravitate towards math and science. Puddle thwacking has introduced so many topics for discussion. We’ve been talking about the water cycle. We’ve watched the way the puddles grow and shrink. We’ve measured it with our trusty stick. We’ve observed that when we wear sweaters, there is water. Coats means slush and thin ice. Scarves, mittens, and extra layers means thick ice that won’t break. We’ve learned thin ice breaks easily when thwacked. Thick ice needs lots and lots of concerted thwacking to break. And if it doesn’t break, you can probably walk on it. So much!

This morning, puddle thwacking even sparked an experiment. Winston wanted a piece of ice in a bowl. He watched the piece of ice melt. Then, he wanted to make it evaporate. So, we put the water in a pot on the hob. Lo and behold! Steam! Evaporation!

Some days, I think, I need to be teaching this boy more! He needs to sit down and go through his numbers and letters workbooks! He needs to practice his Mandarin! We need more hours with the Spanish tutor! I’ve got to cram some more civics and history into his head!

But, here we are wasting away the day. I'm lazy and happy to observe him happily thwacking a puddle. (And counting in Mandarin or Spanish or all three languages simultaneously. Or there he is, thwacking the puddle while humming his Suzuki “Twinkle Variations.”

And I’ve realised, I’m relearning that I am teaching him the most important lesson of all. After a week of puddle thwacking, I’m looking at the world my son knows. What he knows is the world is an amazing, mysterious, excellent adventure. But, most of all it is a glorious place because:
  • ‘Dolts believe in filthy children. Your job is to get filthy everyday. If you don’t, the ‘Dolts think you haven’t learned anything.
  • Food is something to take for granted if you are prepared to hear ‘Dolts talk about the Somewhere Child who would be grateful for your crusts.
  • ‘Dolts listen to what you have to say.
  • We turn the lights off because it is good for Mother Earth.
  • ‘Dolts love to hold you. They always pick you up for a cuddle when you get hurt. They always pat you and pet you and hug you.
  • ‘Dolts want to play with you.
  • There is always somebody to play with. Dolts enjoy being your personal secretary and set up playdates. If you like someone make sure the Dolts "get the numbers."
  • If you have an especially weird and fantastic idea, ‘Dolts say, “Let’s see how we can make this happen. What are your ideas?”
  • The house is always warm in the winter. If it isn’t, Mommy is snarky on the phone until the “fixing men” come.
  • You can communicate calmly and clearly. People will listen. Compromise is possible. If not, time apart helps make compromise seem lovely.
  • If we run out of something, we can always buy more. But, we have to be very, very careful about getting a bad case of “the gimmes.” Especially Mommy. She has this problem in educational toy stores and often needs to be reminded that she said we were buying “one thing.”
  • Obama is a super hero. Most of the time he wins. Sometimes, he has to try again.
  • Someone always holds you when you go to sleep.
The world is perfect except:
  • You can’t feel your brain rotting, but the ‘Dolts say tv does this and make you turn it off.
  • No means no.
  • No means we aren’t going to talk about it anymore.
  • Really, that’s what no means.
  • Take yourself to the steps, sit down and think when: you've stepped out; are irrationally angry; or just need a minute to reign it back in.
  • The best way to find something is to clean the house from top to bottom.
  • Dolts love to hold you and kiss you and hug you and pet you
  • Bedtime always arrives at the same time - Eight Three Zero.
  • When Dolts say the words Democrat and Republican, it means they’re not going to play with you for a very long time. Pray they only use these words during playdates.
  • Obama is a word ‘Dolts use which means it doesn’t matter what’s on tv or whether you like it; be grateful there is one in your house. Get your own juice box. Settle in with some sunflower seeds. Be happy that bedtime will be - Eight Four Five.
These are good lessons. Lessons every child should know. But, this is something a Black boy believes is the truth. And for this moment of blissful innocence, I thank the universe.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Women's History Month Challenge | Update

My brother doesn’t use the internet. For Christmas this year, my husband compiled the year’s worth of blogs into a small booklet. It was a wonderful document of the year’s journey. A testament to the way in which each day is a gift of growth. Like watching a sunflower grow from seed - slow and imperceptible until it towers over your head.

It’s time I returned to the softer things. Each choice we make as we walk through our day is political. What we buy or don’t buy. What we read or don’t read. What we learn from our friends. These are great lessons -- if we take a moment to observe and bear witness. (Hence the post below.)

Because of my Women’s History Challenge, I’ve begun to read the blogs of other women chronologically. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is like reading a novel which has been printed backwards. Blogs are designed to be immediate. The design of most pages says, “Now is what is important.” Even getting to the archives, I must diligently steer my eyes away from spoilers. If there are a lot, I have to scroll to the bottom, and click "older," "older" "older" until I feel old. All this time - I have to not let my eyes get seduced by pictures, interesting phrases or catchy titles.

Thanks to one of my Pittsburgh Mamas, I discovered a great blog. The email recommendation gave me a synopsis of her story. Like choosing a book because of the inside cover, I went for a visit. hitting my head on the top of the bunk bed until i faint is a classic story of the daily challenges a woman in modern america faces complete with drama, tenderness and spunkitude.

From 16/02/06
“so valentine's day was r's and my TEN year anniversary. on february 14, in 8th grade, r asked me out in front of my locker with two roses, one yellow and one red. somehow i can't even wrap my mind around the fact that we (at 24, married with a two year old and one on the way) are the same people who were holding hands during our 23 minute lunch break. unfortunately r had to work on tuesday so we couldn't celebrate but dad and maria are going to babysit on monday while we go out"

and later:
“r claimed to be nervous about taking care of a newborn again. bah! this man is a pro. he's the best daddy in the world. maybe a little antsy to get back to work, but the best daddy in the world.”

I know what’s coming. I did cheat and here’s a spoiler:
“i finished in the honolulu marathon
in 12,756th place and there you are
for all eternity, panting with me
across the finish line

i saved every ticket stub, every
brittle yellow corsage and there
you are smiling dumbly with me,
in front of a chinese lantern backdrop

i left you with the platinum stemware,
the dense weight of my dress, well wishes
of 300 distant relatives and two mirrors
lest you forget where you came from”

It is not a blog I would ordinarily seek - and yet - it is certainly one I will return to. Her writing is exquisite. Sometimes I scan. Most times I read. That’s life, isn’t it? We scan some days and scrutinise the next. Even though I know the story, reading it is still filled with suspense. I have an idea of what will happen, but I don’t know what her reaction will be or how “her character” will grow.

It reaffirmed for me that the rhythms of our lives are important. Small moments lead to bigger ones which transform us and make us grateful for the smallest bits of joy. We share so much common ground - regardless of the skin we're in, the size of our appetites or what ballot trigger we pull. Every woman's life is a bestselling memoir waiting for the ego necessary to push it out. For some reason, babies are easier.

Take the challenge and let me know about some ordinary extraordinary woman!



in December at 3 am
I sensed this nocturnal heat
my husband’s feet to mine

hand on my husband’s
fingers curled bodies semicircle
around a bed crowding boy

asleep in the middle of
his parent’s heart he began
to turn head towards toes dreaming

the day
4 years & 7 months past
rushing in

the world our waiting arms


January, 5:30 am, surfing
heaving thumping waves clutching

a phlegm wracked mother
snatching breath, but

given every last antibody,
he unhitches himself

this roiling hurricane
used to be his harbour

his own bed
invites quiet



January, 11:30 am
he presents himself

to his Grandfather & his barber
the first lock falls into a borrowed


February 8:30 pm he insists
on thick library pages

after cardboard close
sips 2 minutes

requests water
then a last taste

dances to bed
Broadway chin

over his shoulder
independent hands

wave a savvy flourish
no more morning milk


March 3:30 pm we snuggle
into the round red chair

he pushes my hands away
“stop petting me”

even the puppy knows I still have milk
and remembers separate bodies connect

NOTE: Folks who have been with me from the beginning may have noticed that lately I’ve not been calling Winston “the boy”. After four and a half years, my baby has really become Little Man. We have reached this strange, weird wonderful place.

He needs me. he doesn’t need me. He wants me near. I’m too close. Because Daddy has been managing the bedroom transition, he goes to him when he is tired - not me.

This is what I’ve been asking for. I used to joke about the 30 foot long invisible umbilical cord between us. Now that it has developed elasticity, I don’t know what to do with it.

This is the nature of parenthood. We are eternally catching up to each other as we leave each other behind.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Closed Minds Make It Harder For Those That Aren't #2

Thanks for asking Jax.

Imagine me saying this! I wish we were as sensible about home education as England is. England’s home education language that a child must be educated at school or otherwise is exceptionally wise. When it works, it allows for diversity of educational theory; doesn’t lock parents into unattainable curricula and encourages the parent to focus on the child’s education rather than administrative hoop-jumping for the privilege of joyful sacrifice. (When it doesn’t work and the L.E.A. gets a jealous ferret up their judgemental arses - it can be bad. Luckily there are people out there to help.)

Because our founding fathers were concerned about State’s rights, we allow each state to put into law their own ideas about homeschooling. In relation to achieving a national standard, this is short-sighted, misguided and counterproductive to our collective national well being.

In my previous post, I was addressing both the family and the actual ruling. Perhaps I was confusing. (This is the problem with trying to post regularly. Snack-serving; boo-boo kissing and dog-toy throwing derail even the clearest thought train.)

In the case of the family, these are the real bad apples. The family was discovered after the children reported abuse. Many family agencies try to keep families together. The court appointed a barrister for the children. The issues were being discussed in a conference to discover how to achieve this goal. So, the barrister requested that the children attend public school so they'd have time away from the insane abusive mother. The parents brought the case to court because of the school issue. The children’s barrister appealed the original issue.

This family has put the homeschool community in a real bind. Whenever someone wants to bring homeschooling under scrutiny - they always point at some nutter who kills or abuses their children. The same issue is happening right now in Washington D.C.
The children in california won that case. So, good on them - they get what they want and need. However, when anything comes before a court of law, any decision will be taken into consideration in future courts. And that is why the homeschooling community is disturbed. My previous post quoted the actual ruling.

From what I’ve read, California’s laws are fairly tight. You have to register yourself as a school. This doesn’t mean parents have to be certified teachers. The judges ruling is so poorly done and is factually wrong regarding California law. Here’s an update on this situation be fair-minded people.

What upset me about this case is that a ruling can set a precedent. Under this ruling, the law could be interpreted to mean that homeschooling is illegal. But, worst of all, his opinion of what consitutes an good education is so subjective that a simple change in administration could make people like me - progressive, Black, open-minded, activist citizens - the target. And that made him a bad apple.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Because Laughter Is Healing

She couldn't have known her Masters would sacrifice her. If she had, she would never have thrown that kind of fire power at him.

He was a child of two different worlds. The perfect product of that precarious union between light and dark. A master of both - a twilight child - destined to conquer hell fire and hatred. He was born of unity for unity. And so, the force is with him.

Get Your Own Here.

In a desperate battle, the the hellfire spawn came against him. But, there could be only one. Obama!!!! Victorious, he banished the vile creature. Too kind to smash her forever; he locked in her the prison of her own conscience to face herself. There she is. Doomed to spend the rest of her time raging, grunting, snarling, howling and plotting.

Get your own here.

And Obama proudly marched home. The country sighed with relief. We were finally safe.

Get Your Own Here.

Thanks to all of the agile Reddit photoshop masters for their wonderful meme this morning.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fear First Brings Clarity, Followed By Commitment and Action

I am so incensed by:

But, yesterday’s election results give me faith. When I sit down and truly think about it, I’m not concerned that Hilarious took Ohio or Rhode Island. While she took the popular vote in Texas, Obama will end up with 3 more delegates than Clinton anyway. I have a fair and decent understand of math.

So, other than the math, why would I be even more optimistic about Obama’s campaign moving forward. Obama supporters want change. There are those supporters who have been out there in the streets doing what they can. There are some who have been; are and will continue to write checks. And there are those who truly, honestly and deeply believe in fairy tales - and these are the people which make me most optimistic about the campaign.

A few posts ago, I was discussing my son. How sometimes when we really get into an aesome pretend game - it becomes so real that he actually becomes frightened. Then, he needs to stop. And this is peculiar observation that gives me hope that the momentum is just beginning to build.

Before yesterday, I was ready to give a little of my time and money to Obama’s campaign. Now, I’m ready to give a whole lot more. Yesterday was one of the days when it might have just gotten scary enough for the believers in fairy tales to stop being content enjoying the game and wake up. Because now it is scary.

We've got to get her vindictive self to to step down before we keep the country in the hands of the Republicans. (Which - if you read the above story - it seems as if Hillary Clinton is saying, "If I can't have it, then neither can he." Let me stop here. I am not an uncharitable person - but she just brings out this awful petty, bitchy side of me I wasn't truly aware was there before the whole election began.)

See? I'm scared. And the results of this fear are that I have been moved to give more. I can only imagine what the good, wonderful believers of someone else has got it all under control are now ready to do.

The key to this puzzle is the difference between their two slogans. People who want someone else to do their thinking, make their decisions and control their lives shout Hilarious’s slogan - “Hillary speaks for me.” But, the people who support Obama - we want to be part of creating something big; we want to be active and we need to be counted as a valuable participants and co-creators in this on-going process called democracy. that's why we shout, “Yes, We Can!” And now, the believers in hope and truth might just understand that they have to get up and do something about it making it happen

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Vote Tampering In Texas

We haven't even gotten to the real presidential race - and already we've had tampering. Sounds like business, as usual. according to Investigation Launched Into Vote Stealing, today voters in Houston get to the polls and are told that they couldn't vote. Why? They'd already filed absentee ballots. Now, we've got to tie up process up; waste time bickering back and forth and all because a precedent has been set for messing with the process.

The Place Where Failed Products Go...

I bet the Hilarious Clinton nutcracker is on because it doesn’t work as well as advertised. What probably happens is:
  • the constituent's hand pushes on the leg;
  • the special interest nut makes a campaign donation;
  • pops out and rolls to the back of a cupboard to heavy to lift;
  • as the nutcracker denies any complicity.

Closed Minds Make It Harder For Those That Aren't

Everyone from politicians to psychologists to average bloggers love to blame the mother. If the child is a brilliant prodigy, they blame the mother. If the child is a thieving crack head, they blame the mother. Regardless of the outcome of any child’s life, the smoking finger is waggled at the Mama.

In recent news, I’m smelling two rotten apples which may just spoil the whole bunch. This, coming during women’s history month - for me - provokes deep sadness.

A California judge ordered two homeschooled children to attend school. He overturned their legal opt-out under California law to hire a qualified private tutor. And he completely trounced their First Amendment rights. Well, to be fair, I’ll say he pointedly disregarded them.

Things have changed since I was home educating my daughter 16 years ago. Back then, I was hard pressed to find any other families out there who weren’t rabid, lunatic fundamentalist Christians. Since that time, home education is a choice more conscious, progressive people are making. This time around, with Winston, I am delighted to have the support of a diverse, inclusive, secular homeschooling group, PALS. I’m also pleased to notice that the numbers of Black families in this movement are steadily increasing. Blacks, Hispanics and “Others” now make up 24.7 % of the homeschool community.

The growth of homeschooling is making some people nervous, especially school districts. (I don’t see why, they get our tax dollars and don’t have to do much for us.) Maybe it is because if even a stay-at-home mother (read stupid, idiot fit only for domestic service) can better educate her children, then something must really, really be wrong. And eventually, somebody is going to have to fix it - for real.

Most home educators are in active opposition to the stated purpose and goals of public education. We know what the goals of the fundamentalist community are. In the progressive community, most parents goals are to help our children become independent, critical thinkers. When I look carefully at the judge’s ruling, I begin to understand that in many ways, the home education community - as a whole - could be perceived as dangerous.

According to the case decision:
A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good
citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting
the public welfare
. ........The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 [45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, 39 A.L.R. 468], held that: ‘No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.’

What the heck does this mean? If I want to educate my son from an Afrocentric perspective, could that be considered “inimical to the public welfare?” Who determines what is “patriotic?” Currently, George W. Bush would define my “civics class” to be unpatriotic. Does this mean I should lose my right to home educate? Recently, the German government took a homeschooled teenager away from her family and put her in a mental institution. The state of California seems to be happily marching towards the path Hitler put Germany. And I don’t make that statement lightly.

“Because parents have a legal duty to see to their children’s schooling within the
provisions of these laws, parents who fail to do so may be subject to a criminal
complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of finesor an order to complete a parent education and counseling program.”

The case cites an earlier case involving the Amish. In that case, it was proven that lifestyle was a part of the religion and that to remove an Amish child would violate their freedom of religion. However, the judge asserts:

“The parents in the instant case have asserted in a declaration that it is because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs” that they home school their children and those religious beliefs “are based on Biblical teachings and principles.” Even if the parents’ declaration had been signed under penalty of perjury, which it was not, those assertions are not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California’s compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights. Their statements are conclusional, not factually specific. Moreover, such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child. "

Right, because every mother just blithely walks away from her career; chooses to live on a reduced single income; and is just aching to pull one over on the system. How arrogant!

While I don’t agree with the religious ideas and values of the family to whom this happened, I respect their right to have them. I also understand that there were questions of abuse which brought this family to the attention of the State. When the behaviour of one idiot family could have a lasting impact on the community, I get upset. But, when somebody who should know better has such a damaging impact on homeschooling, I get livid. I think the decision was based upon this judge’s opportunity to smack down the Christian fringe. As tempting as that is, it was short-sighted. So - now we have two rotten apples potentially ruining what has been a fantastic choice for many families.

I live in Pennsylvania. Whilst many complain about the requirements, we have it pretty easy. We file out paperwork; test our children at testing time; show off our end of year portfolio; and they leave us alone. I haven’t had to begin hoop jumping, just yet. My son is almost five. As long as I don’t enroll him in school - I may home educate unmonitored for another three years. This ruling in California doesn’t have any direct impact on me. Let’s hope these bad apples stay in their own barrels ... on the other side of the country.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Women's History Month Challenge

Some days, I love the immediacy of the blogosphere.
It rewards our need for immediacy. It screams,
“All that matters is what is now!” Still,
it contains the duality of zen and melodrama.

When I look at women’s history, I begin to see that the most comprehensive picture of human life is never in battles, government or laws.

What we know about the complete story of humans begins with grocery lists, household budgets, and market prices regarding the items necessary to guarantee the survival of the species. It contains obscure, unimportant observations that impacted everyday people and influences who and what we are as a culture today. It has been painstakingly uncovered in the most private communications between women - letters and journals. What are blogs? Letters to the world begging for a reply. Like minds seeking like minds and a few nay sayers to give us strength.

So here is my challenge.

1. Find an online woman who has blogged for at least three years. Read her from beginning to present - in chronological order. Be a witness to one remarkable, ordinary woman who is changing her world - one dreary day after glorious day.
2. Incorporate parts of her story and respond to her words in your blog once a week.
3. End the month with a short “bio” of this woman’s life including, her challenges and her victories.

If you don’t have a list yourself, here is a list of women I intend to get to know.

Jax at Making It Up -
s a U.K.. Mom who was home educating her children until financial considerations redirected her focus.

Jaime over at The Peanut Gallery
was my colleague? protégé? is activist-poet-mama doing her thing!

Raina -
is just a poet, teacher, “dusty bunny tamer”...a young CC poet in the trenches.

Making an exception to the rule - Diary Of An Anxious Black Woman

Thanks for considering the challenge,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Women's History Month | Perpendicular or Parallel. Paradox.

There’s been some meaningful discussion over at The Field Negro’s place all day. And since we’ve rolled out of Black History month into Women’s History Month - I just want to take a moment and breathe.

In our society, it is so easy to blame women.

There is no word or way to map
the path of judgement and the path of empathy.
They are so often either too far apart
or close together. Both. Neither

perpendicular or parallel. Paradox. Maybe
like a scribbly slash by a four year old using a spy pen
on top of a handmade paper pressed
together with lint, wildflowers, bits of yarn,

old newsprint and history books.
But, what light could ever reveal
those haphazard renderings
sinking into the busy.

So, tonight - please leave my blog and visit my friend Karen James. I want to thank Karen for this way she has of seeing beauty and making peace with every rock, road, tree, skyscraper and person. I want to thank her for always asking why and how and what. And then she transforms either the question or the answer or both into a piece of visual pleasure. I also want tot thank her for showing me how to love my son more than my keyboard by loving her son more than her paint brush. (The piece to the right is Karen James' "Seedling, Growing In the Sun.")

Also speaking of Karen - let me be the first to point the finger at myself. In the past few days, I have been less than charitable to Hillary Clinton. I’d go take a peek at guest blogger Heart from Women’s Space on What Tami Said to see what may have elicited this snap. Comrade Heart is on point. (And okay, okay, okay- I still stand by my drunk-on-the-bar analogy.)

And as you walk you path,
Karen reminds us,
"Albert Was Ordinary Too"

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Finding My Reasons In The History At Home

At 6:49, I woke up to Winston in rare form. He had his imagination on. It was fluorescent orange, cerulean blue and filled with lots of action moves. “Hi-yaaaaah! “Ba-kuuuuush!” Swash!” Arms and legs everywhere! Sudden regret for capoeira classes. Evil-eye to the lay-in husband for Pucca.

He and his dog were Microfave and Little MicroFave. They were going to get me. And they did - for 45 minutes - with stink power, lava flash, ice slash and every conceivable “power” known to the four year old brain. It involved lots of arm movement, tackling, wrestling and throwing of dog toys (which were really bombs.) The game ended abruptly - as it often does - because Winston was scared. That’s the problem with growing up with a writer/performer mother, eventually she’ll convince you that your imagination is real.

That is the wonderful thing about children. They can become so involved in the world of pretend that the boundaries of their minds blur. Pretend becomes real. The more real and scary it gets, eventually the human brain has to call in its controls. The way we often exercise a huge, great and subconscious will to wake from a nightmare. Or like America, right now, teleporting into the reality box after eight years of fantasy Bush.

So we rested by playing in the sand box. No gross motor skills here. No shouted narrative dialogue. No slashing or bashing, just tiny little Playmobil people and a surreal script which would make Adrienne Kennedy proud.

“I am the Man Of The Earth., what have you done with my crab?”
“Is he truly your crab or is he a free and independent crab with no master?”
“He is mine!”
“What say you crab?”
“I am a free crab! Help me!”
“No, he is mine!”
“No evil one, you can not keep this crab and bury him in the sand.”
"Quick, Great Tides carry the crab to distant shores.”
“I am free!
“Take that!”
“Oh, no, we are being buried.”
“I am a free crab and I will come save you!”
By 9:00, I was tired. Pretend play wears me out. People wonder why i haven’t written any great new works lately. If only I could audiotape our surreal games, maybe, I could also get an Obie. But, alas, at the end of a day of interjecting new and wonderful vocabulary words into pretend games, I’m flattened.

Our whole day would have progressed in this manner - baring a play date. But, thankfully, I was going to have some “me-time." I was going to volunteer for know. I told Little Man that this morning I was going out to have adult conversations with adult friends. He didn’t like it. He didn’t kiss me good-bye. S’alright - a mommy does what has to be done.

For those of you following along, my enthusiasm is in high gear. I showed up at Obama’s Official Pittsburgh Kick-Off Training & Canvassing Session. His office is in East Liberty Proper, next door to Steel City Ribs. I have renewed vigour. The man knows how to put together a team of top notch strategists. Salvation is at hand.

Skip a lot of information..... The training session was designed to be 100% inclusive of everybody’s skill sets. Today’s mission was voter registration. The Regional Field Rep Lauren - a recently graduated, sweet, petite Blonde - shared her story of what brought her to Obama. Then, she briefly discussed canvassing.

Anyone who has been trained in sales or marketing knows that a personal story can often close a deal. In my youth, I was able to put some money towards making a film by selling Mary Kay Cosmetics. What I gained from this experience - other than the lousy film I made - was some of the best sales training a woman could receive.

So - thanks to Lauren’s encouragement, I’m reminded to contemplate what my Obama story is. (Okay - other than his platform and experience.) So, I'm struggling to put my finger on why I'm willing to make my son unhappy by giving time to this stranger.

Among my earliest memories is standing on Murray Avenue handing out leaflets for some candidate my parents endorsed. I don’t remember the candidate. But, I’m sure she was a Black woman. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. But, I knew how to:

1. Smile
2. Say “excuse me.”
2. State my full name.
3. Thank the person for accepting my leaflet.
4. Address three campaign issues our candidate stood for.
5. And thank them again for giving her their consideration.

As I grew older and searched for my identity, I left the field work of: bourgeois Black politics to my parents; feminism to my Mother; and labour politics to my Grandmother. I embraced my new found identity as rebel-heir. I knew of Romaine Brooks, Natalie Barney, and Zelda Sayre - crazy White women whose fortunes had brought them the privilege of doing what they pleased when it entered their artistic brains to do so. I was inspired. Wasn't it time for Black women to have an equal opportunity to make art, get drunk and splash in public fountains? That was interesting for a time.

My father smiled his whole way through the exploration. (He even encouraged me. ) But, when I came out the other side, he was there with open arms.

We’ve been talking a lot these days, my father and I. Since Maida passed, we've talked a lot about her life, parenting, and relationships. One of three bones of contention between my grandmother and grandfather had to do with my father and how much he should be taught to dream. These were some of the things middle class Black folks argued about circa 1933 - 45.

My grandfather, an engaging, quick-witted, storytelling man, had a brilliant mind for science, mathematics and engineering. Born in this time period, who knows who he would have been? But, he knew who and where he was circa 1929 - 1940. Like any doting father, he wanted to protect his son from disappointment.

My grandmother was adamant. She made sure my father dreamed and dreamed big - with a few exceptions. The compromise for dreaming big would be that he would never run for political office.

Being a highly critical young person, I once asked him about his “meagre ambitions.” (Everyone should laugh here.)

A quiet solemnity settled over his face as he paused and thought. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” was always his answer.

“But not you, Dad.” I always answered.

“Everyone.” He stated.

Years later, I found out he’d been offered invitations to everything from judicial positions and to congressional candidacies. He never accepted. But, he always gave generously and worked tirelessly on the campaign efforts of others.

Currently, my father, Eric W. Springer is writing a book. Using creative non-fiction, he intends for the reader to understand that “in the 21st century a new racism will be emerging.” But, let us not stop there, “the beneficiaries of this new form of white privilege are not only white people. Some people-of-colour have already been admitted to membership as a new class of honorary whites.” His summary, “The resulting confusion and discord will likely cause some Whites , as well as, many people of colour to feel a bitterness about their circumstances.”

Barack Obama is my father’s choice. Even though my personal independent research aligns me with Obama, the fact remains that my brilliant, scholarly, legal dagger of a father believes in him.

I haven’t asked outright, but I get the sense, that he is even ready to challenge a quote upon which he has based his life. His own life example has proven that power does not have to corrupt. Holding true to one’s own beliefs and expecting others to exemplify them is the Janus head of modern Black identity. I think - he is willing to believe Obama understands and shares the same principles. To succeed a person needs enough ego to conquer the obstacles. To succeed spiritually and emotionally involves remaining humble enough to remember why you are there and what purpose you are to serve.

No, that is my optimism colouring in his cynicism. I think he understands that one or two come every couple of generations. They are not saviours, saints or miracle workers. But, in such times of darkness, we have a need to fill in our own blanks with their vibrancy, so we paint them in an image we desire because the world is so devoid of spark. And we pray that they will at least do one small thing which will save us.

And the world is ready to be saved. Like this morning with my son, I think the whole country is ready to snap out, shake their heads, arms and legs and say, “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

I think Obama made it real enough for us to leave the surreal.