Monday, December 15, 2014

Earth, Wind and Fire - Earth, Wind and Fire

The name of the group is Earth, Wind and Fire, and so is this song. It wasn't as well known as some of the other hits the group had, but then again, we bought a lot of albums back in the 70s, and played the songs that weren't always on the radio. So why am I posting the lyrics and song here? I don't know. One part nostalgia, and the other part because I love the music and the lyrics. The words have always calmed me down; made me put life in a more reasonable perspective. And the music, in my opinion, is beautiful It's also a reminder that at one point in my life, I was a teenager and idealistically hopeful about not only my future, but the future of the world. I could use a nice, big dose of that teenage enthusiasm these days.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

KEEP YOUR HEAD TO THE SKY (I'm trying these days)

"You can only take care of yourself. There's nothing you can do about anything else that's going on right now." I hear that a LOT from my fellow 12 steppers. I hear it so much that I quit confiding to them about what truly disturbs me these days. Amadou Diallo. Trayvon Martin. Oscar Grant. Alan Bluford, Ezell Ford. Kimani Gray, Michael Brown. Eric Garner. and 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was by himself, playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. He was only five years older than my grandson. To me, he was still a baby. That isn't even close to the number of unarmed Black men who have been killed by police since 2007,

And people forget that an unacceptable number of Black women have been shot by the police, too.  Oh, you didn't know? Seven year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot by Detroit policeman Joseph Weekley as she lay sleeping on the living room couch under a blanket. And there have been many, many more. Adaisha Miller. Alesia Thomas, Darnesha Harris. Eleanor Bumpers. Erica Collins. Heather Parker. Kendra James. Their names aren't as familiar as the others to the public, but that doesn't make a difference to me. They are no less dead. And that is no less tragic.

I admit that I have a temper. I keep it check so much that people have paradoxically described me as : "easygoing", "placid", even "comforting to be around". If only they knew the tsunami that broils inside of me at times such as these.  I am reminded of a cartoon that I recently saw on Facebook. Los Angeles artist and radio show host Lalo Alacaraz drew it after self proclaimed vigilante George Zimmerman was found not guilty in July, 2013:

My own children are ages 33, 32 and 28, but it doesn't matter that they no longer live with me, and they haven't for years. I'm still their mother. And that cartoon very accurately and eerily captures what I feel each and every day. Not only that, I fear for my grandson. What kind of hateful world are we leaving for him to try to make his way through without the threat of being....I can't write that.   Even the thought of losing my children and grandson is indescribably terrifying because it is more a reality than Freddy Kruger or any other monster Hollywood can invent. Those people I named before? They were real, as were the police who killed them.

Here's where my temper comes into play. When I have shared my fears with my 12 step friends, they respond in ways that are predictable (I've been in various programs since 1987), and as infuriating as being stuck on Interstate 80 between Oakland and Berkeley during the afternoon rush hour, and an extremely old lady has wedged her car across two lanes in front of you. And she doesn't seem to know how to straighten out her 1972 green Volvo station wagon to move with the traffic.

My 12 step friends mean well when they say, "It's not happening right now. All you can do is take care of yourself today." "There's nothing you can do about that. Just focus on working on your program today." Oh yes, the power of NOW. I can do that. It doesn't erase the fear, but I can perfunctorily get through each day NOW. I'm  pretty that the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Michael Brown didn't wake up in the morning of those terrible days thinking, Oh yes, today's the day my son will be killed by the police, so I better find out who is going to do that so I can stop him! Not that they wouldn't do that if they had a very clear warning about what was going to happen. But no, that's not how life works, does it?  Who knows what might happen at any time, When I think about it, they probably were doing the "just for today" thing because that's how many Black people get through life. Whew! Made it through my eight hours. Gotta pay the rent today. Do I have enough money for groceries after I pay the light bill?

Yeah, that's the for real "ODAT* (One Day At A Time, which should be ODAAT, but oh well.) And I feel like screaming, "What do YOU KNOW ABOUT IT? You don't know! Stop givin' me that pablum crap!"

That's what I feel like doing. What I really do is get off the phone with lightning speed, or walk away before the fingers on my right hand begin to automatically curl into a fist. I'm sorry, I did mention that I have a solar flare temper, didn't I?  And with anger issues like mine, the last thing I need to do is give some trigger itchy cop a reason to take me out, too. There's no doubt in my mind that one of them would if I ever unleashed my anger, frustration, fear and resentment  Besides, my friends have done absolutely nothing to deserve that. Other than annoying me with those redundant slogans, they have been supportive, kind and loving. And I'm ashamed of myself for harboring these thoughts.

So what can I do? First of all pray, which is what I do upon waking up, and throughout the day. My favorite to recite whenever I feel the anger bubbling up and threatening to ruin my mood and day is this: Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!- The Báb (Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 27) I say that prayer often.

I do work my program, try to do some professional writing and stay away from social media and MSNBC. That last part is not easy. I'm a journalist to the core, and we're all pretty incurable information junkies. I also pray for my family and friends, and for those who have lost their loved ones. And I try to remember to make my gratitude list. I do have so very much for which I am grateful. And then there is song by Earth, Wind and Fire. I fell in love with it the very second I heard it back in 1972 at age 14. It reminds me of what is most important in life: my personal relationship with the Almighty, the Creator of all there is. If you have the time, give it a listen.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Revolution You Do Not Want Will Start in the Middle

Dear Friend,
Voting rights are under attack across the nation, and I want you to help protect them!
When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act last year, it got rid of a powerful tool to end discrimination at polling places.  States and localities across the country are now enacting and implementing anti-voter rules that will keep many Americans' voices from being heard.
I'm asking Congress to stand up for every voter and fix the VRA -- will you join me?

Don't believe it? Need more proof? Well, here ya' go!

Well, I know that's about all people can take in at one time. And I'm leaving the commentary out because I have some other things I need to write about. But right now, this issue feels very urgent. People, you had better understand something pretty soon. W.B. Yeats said it best in one of my favorite poems, "The Second Coming".  

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

Where is the "centre" in the United States of America?  This is my opinion, but it's Missouri. The revolution you do not want will probably start in the middle.

African Americans lining up to vote in 1965 after the Voting Rights Act was passed: 
This picture is part of the America's Black Holocaust Museum collection. To see this historical photograph and more, click on this link: America's Black Holocaust Museum

Monday, September 15, 2014

Too many have that others could live

I had a conversation a few days ago with my niece, Jasmine Shortt, about the importance of young African Americans knowing and understanding the history of what people have sacrificed over the past 400+ years, so that long standing institutions based on racial hatred, assumed superiority and economic benefits for the ruling class no longer have the type of stranglehold and taint on this country that they did at one time. Many young people don't know, or if they do, they don't understand what it means to them because people have a tendency to preach instead of teach. In my opinion, history has be broken down, put into context, and made personal to THEM. Otherwise, it's all about the Hamlet effect: "Words, words, words."
What I told Jasmine is that many people died so that her grandparents, my parents, could own their home at 8420 Fawcett Avenue in Tacoma, Washington and at 2124 Kirk Way in Sacramento, California. The house in Tacoma was in a mostly White neighborhood. It was nearly impossible for most Africans Americans to live in a neighborhood like that prior to the Civil Rights Movement. This is important for young people of all races to understand, not just AfrIcan Americans. The life they have now is the direct result of people being beaten, lynched, sprayed with water hoses and attacked by huge German Shepards. The end result of these painful sacrifices was that de jure segregation (meaning segregation was the law) ended, and my parents were able to buy homes, and my siblings and I attended schools that would have been forbidden to my parents. And my children, niece and grandson haven't had to experience that kind of life, except through the stories I tell them. And I would like the stories they tell their children to be even better.
I wanted to perhaps show how people have literally been dying for centuries in the most grisly ways, but the pictures I viewed were simply too much for most of the people here on Facebook. They are absolutely horrific. But this is part of America's history, and it kept happening until enough people stood up, Black and White, were united after a Chicago teenager named Emmett Till, visiting relatives in Mississippi, was beaten and mutilated beyond what would seem humanly possible. Then his body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River. That was the first lightning rod for what would become the Civil Rights Movement. I can't tell you how this makes me feel to read about the Emmett Till murder, since it happened only three years before I was born. I can only say that I kept shivering, and it is not cold here in Sacramento. I have lived a very good life, thanks to them. If you want to know more about Emmett Till and the Civil Rights Movement, check this web page on Biography:
On, follow the tragic story of Emmett Till, who was tortured and killed after supposedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955.