Sunday, May 27, 2018

Red Beans and Rice Mondays: The Grapes of Wrath

Alright now, this raisin thing has gotten way out of hand. You don't need raisins to enhance the flavor of anything other than oatmeal. So I have no idea why this picture and recipe popped up in my Facebook feed this morning or why anybody in their right mind would eat that crap. Seriously, jerk chicken with bananas and raisins???


Not even Mikey is gonna eat that (and if you don't get that reference, then trust me, you don't want it either). We aren't children. We don't need dried fruit added to food unnecessarily. Nobody wants that. Trust me, Karen, and say it with me: Nobody wants raisins in their potato salad. And though somebody somewhere this weekend is in the kitchen right now mixing up a batch of this crap, I assure you that nobody is going to eat it, not even to be polite. And if you leave it behind, trust that it will end up in the trash, and the raccoons won't eat it either.

People may like raisins, but nobody loves them. That's why you can only get kids to eat them from those boxes the size of your thumb. Anything larger than that, and you need to cover them with chocolate or yogurt. And given the choice between any other hard candy from the bottom of that church lady's bag and a pastel-colored yogurt-covered raisin, I'm pretty sure most of us would pass on both. And seriously, who prefers Raisinets to popcorn?

Dr. Suess initially intended for Sam I Am to entice that guy (whose name is Joey?) to eat raisins, but it wasn't as catchy as green eggs and ham. If you can imagine how raisins almost ruined a classic children's story, then why would anybody want to ruin a batch of collard greens that way? No Martha, NO.

Now there are a few exceptions, but these are trying times. Folks are stressed so at the cookout, they just want to kick back, talk smack, play spades, and eat foods that they recognize. Nobody is in the mood to try some dish you saw on Pinterest. And nobody comes to the BBQ to eat leftovers, so that's why nobody is going to eat that curried chicken salad. No thank you, Ina, this ain't a tea party or a Missionary Ministry social.

And for just a minute let's acknowledge the laxative effect of dried fruit, so unless you don't plan to use your bathroom, do NOT set out a bowl of trail mix for folks to snack on while the food is on the grill. And I don't care how many recipes you see that rave about rum raisin ice cream...you've been warned.

That's about all I need to say on the matter. Raisins are NOT INVITED to the cookout, not even if they sing and dance and come from California.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thoroughly Royally Black

If you were following along with me on my personal FB page on Saturday morning, you already know where this is headed...but that was the BLACKEST ROYAL WEDDING since Prince Akeem of Zamunda married Lisa McDowell!


Before I offer my review of the ceremony, let's talk about the diversity of the guests. I expected that Meghan's cast mates from Suits would be there. And I assumed that all of her other famous BFFs would be there, like Serena and Pryanka. And I even assumed that Idris Elba would make an appearance, just because. But somehow Oprah Winfrey was not on my radar at all. As in I never even assumed that they had ever met. Yet, here is the Oprah looking every bit like that Aunt who, because she helped to raise the bride, planned a grand entrance so that everybody would remember her as that Aunt. She took it a step further by causing potentially headline-stealing drama like that Aunt. According to Gayle King, Oprah's original dress was too white, so she phoned Stella McCartney (who was the Couturier for half the guests, including the bride) who responded with this fancy frock.

I won't recap the fashion because we must talk about all of the blackness presented to the Royals in that castle named for them by that presiding prelate that they flew in from across the pond. I expected a sermon despite the fact that Episcopalians typically aren't known for fiery oratory...but I know a LOT of black preachers. And not one of them can resist showing out when the spirit hits, and this AME-ish Bishop showed out! As in where-is-the-usher-because-I-need-a fan-to-keep-from-fainting showed out. He was expressive and animated and took full advantage of having the eyes of the world upon him for that moment. So he preached about love, quoted negro spirituals, made references to social justice, invoked the words of MLK, and I'm convinced that if this had not been a royal wedding, he might have ended by singing. At which point the organist would have been striking those organ chords and somebody would have gotten the spirit. Imagine that...

The choir gave us a taste of blackness with their gospel rendition of "Stand by Me". It was reserved and so perfectly respectable that even as a lifelong black churchgoer, I almost overlooked the artful brilliance of this secular gospel arrangement. Which is why I'm sure no one was expecting that jubilant "Amen" remixed with "This Little Light of Mine" as the happy couple left the church to greet the crowds. Folks were so focused on seeing the first kiss that they missed the soloist who, once released from the duty of demurely serenading the Queen, let loose and oversang her heart out.

It probably isn't all that revolutionary to include a classically-trained black cellist in a ceremony like this, even if his name is Sheku and until maybe the other day he was sporting a generous Afro. Or that he comes from a talented family of seven other classically-trained brothers and sisters (profiled here).

Perhaps it seems rather fitting that the most understated black person in the spotlight was Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland. A few of my friends felt that she was a little too understated in her very safe and conservative formal attire, and while I might agree that she could have jazzed it up a little more, it was probably a deliberate choice not to show up decked out like this:


Because that would have been way too black. Certainly, the Brits are used to a great deal of blackness (having colonized half of Africa and the Caribbean at the height of their empire), I'm thinking that would have been too much for QEII. Mama Dee (my nickname for Meghan's mother) is not a queen, and even if we love to anoint every black mother as such, there is something to be said about making a powerful statement without ever saying a word. To my mind, her statement was her presence for her daughter in the midst of all the family drama that preceded this moment. Mama Dee melted my heart by just appearing to be the rock that every other mother aspires to be for her children. Her tears of joy and her quiet elegance communicated plenty of blackness with a regal demeanor that doesn't require a title.

I watched the wedding coverage again later in the day and I have heard a lot of commentary and analysis of how this moment represents a cultural shift, and I cannot help but notice how people felt similarly joyful back in November 2008. Of course, a wedding is a joyous occasion and as we reflect on what we saw and what we expect (ginger brown babies), I am mindful that this marriage is not about how we see them. It is about what they mean to each other and how those feelings will be nurtured in the years to come. I enjoyed watching that black preacher's sermon, but I also listened very closely to what he said and encourage everyone to take his message to heart--there is power in love.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Thoroughly Modern Meghan

Can I admit to being just a little extra excited about the upcoming Royal wedding on Saturday? That I have selected my fascinator, have chosen my tea cup, my outfit, and have enlisted my Dad to record it for me? That if I thought I could get away with it, I might wake up the kid at 5am to have her watch it with me (because I think that when she's older she will appreciate me for that)?

OK, so I am exaggerating a little...I had to select an outfit for the program I am hosting later that morning at my church (which is why I have my Dad on standby to DVR the wedding for me, in case I have to leave before all of the pomp and circumstance have ended). Which is why it is an open question as to whether I should have the kid awake with me so early in the morning. But it is true that I have a fascinator and a tea cup at the ready.


I recently watched old footage of Charles and Diana's wedding, which I recall watching some 30+ years ago (but I'm unsure if I saw it in real time). I was six or seven and believed in fairy tales back then. I think I saw some of Sarah Ferguson's wedding to Prince Andrew, and you know that I watched Will and Kate's wedding. Not sure why other European monarchs generate less interest, but I think it has something to do with that war Lin-Manuel Miranda has us all singing about (and mortgaging our houses to see onstage).

Putting aside all of the inherent contradictions of being an African American woman with enough education to appreciate the irony in the archaic persistence of the British monarchy, the post-colonial tensions of being a former empire, and Brexit, I'm deliriously happy for my girl Rachel. (Because yes, in my head, we are friends and I just can't be there in person because of my other obligations this weekend). I can't wait to see a sister-girl in the British royal family!

I already know that there are some who read that last statement and have all kinds of reactions, so let me address this by saying the obvious--so what if she self-identifies as biracial and not explicitly as black? Y'all do realize that she's a woman of color and an American and a divorcee and a commoner? She's also young enough to have been born in an era when folks have the luxury to self-identify which I'm clear is most common among folks from California.

But I get it. Much of the same frustration that has been expressed about interracial liaisons is this issue about how people get to align themselves. Somehow we (and I am talking about black folks) believe that the choice not to call oneself black is a repudiation instead of progress. But let's be clear, Meghan knows who and what she is. She knows that the eyes of the world affixed upon her is not because she identifies as biracial--it is because she is black. And has crazy drama that has been stirred up by her daddy's family...

This is not to say that she doesn't have some Compton cousins who haven't tried to scam a trip to London in order to sell tee shirts. They might have tried it, but I have a feeling that Mama Dee (my nickname for her mother Doria Ragland) put a clamp down on that precisely because she was not about to have any foolishment going on in front of the entire world!

Would we (America and the rest of the world) have cared this much if Harry had finally married the other girlfriend, Chelsy Davy? It isn't as if the woman Harry marries matters in the grand scheme of royal succession since he won't be king, barring some catastrophic apocalyptic turn of events that wipes out everyone else. So he could marry for love (or not marry at all). Maybe another random American actress or socialite would have generated some modest interest, but I doubt that. We already forgot that one of the housewives claims to have made out with him (which I had to google because I forgot about her too). Several other royals have gotten married since Will and Kate, and we haven't lost any sleep over them.

And I assure you that the number of black folks who are on the program and on the guest list are the telltale winks and nods to how Meghan Markle identifies. There is a black cellist and a gospel choir. There will be a black preacher. One of her BFFs, Serena Williams, is expected to be there. The Obamas aren't going so as not to instigate an international incident with President Trumpelthinskin (who would have found some ridiculous way to try to upstage them) and Melania can still host that pajama watch party from her hospital room. I'm guessing that Idris Elba won't be there only because there is a limit on the number of sexiest men alive allowed in one place at the same time.

I don't know why some of us are so convinced that blackness has to be defined in such narrow ways, like the folks who argued that Barack Obama wasn't really black "like us" because his father was Kenyan (or that he had no street cred because of his Harvard pedigree and Kansas-born white mother). Or that Caribbean blacks are not like us either even though their ancestors suffered the same Middle Passage journey. Or how Latinos aren't products of a racist system either, the difference being the language of their colonizers, also European in origin by the way. Or that we have to be protective of American blackness in such a way that it alienates us from other women of color as if our experiences with sexism and racism don't intersect. Trust me, Meghan hasn't fixed British racism and won't be immune to Old World attitudes or elitism.

But she will be marrying a Prince who is descended from people who once colonized half of the known world. If nothing more, she becomes one of the most visible symbols of how the world can change--not if we ignore race, but once we embrace and celebrate love.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Can Y'all Just STOP??!!

Yes, I'm talking to you:

And you:

And you (even though it was your neighbor who called the police):


And yes, you too:

Who else am I missing? And does it really matter because you already know where this is going.

STOP CALLING THE POLICE! Stop stoking racial tension where there isn't a need. Stop being so doggone fragile. Stop escalating petty shit into real life drama that might end up with someone getting killed. Which you know it will since that is the very reason why you wield it as a threat--because the very act of calling the police manufactures a confrontation akin to crying wolf in a forest, Little Red Riding Hood!!!

I am not calling anybody a name even though I swear it is taking a lot for not to go there. Because I have friends who are indeed allies and I hate to use a term that essentially reduces every white woman into a category that assumes we are polar opposites. That assumes deep down, old narratives will always serve to divide us and make us not trust each other. That will always put me on the outside, cast me as the "other", that black girl...

And that is also why this pissed me off this morning, so yes, you get an honorable mention:


Because for every reason why you thought this was okay, it wasn't. It isn't cool that you have sprinkled in women of color in a show of token solidarity, but not really since the very first black woman who appears on screen is about to wet nurse a WHITE BABY! And the Indian woman who just appears for whatever reason...along with the other three women of color (yes, I counted) of indistinct ethnic identity. Do you not see how that is...

Yeah, just stop.

Friday, May 11, 2018

When the Trolls Come Marching In

This is really a public service announcement aimed at anybody who has issues with interracial relationships.


Stop it. Mind your business. And if it is that serious that you've got to declare your hatred by refusing to shop somewhere or watch a particular show or listen to a certain artist's work, then fine. Keep your feelings to yourself.

It is 2018. It is not 1918. Or 1818. Or 1718. Or 1618...you get the point. But I assure you, folks have been inter-marrying long before we came up with a fancy offensive word for it. In 1618, Pocahontas was married to John Rolfe. In 1718, New Orleans was founded by the French, and you might want to research the gens de couleur. In 1818, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz died, after having been married to King George III of England for 57 years. But if you don't want to believe the stories about her African bloodline, then just know that across the pond also by 1818, Sally Hemings had given birth to seven children fathered by Thomas Jefferson. In 1918, boxer Jack Johnson was living abroad to evade prosecution for his marriage to Lucille Cameron in violation of the Mann Act. Next weekend, an American actress named Rachel from Compton will be marrying Prince Henry of Wales.

Are folks still getting twisted over interracial relationships?

I saw an old 2016 advertisement on social media earlier where the trolls had expressed their displeasure over the depiction of an interracial family. It was sad and of course, we can all get upset about how these same folks also probably have MAGA hats, faithfully watch the Roseanne reboot, and sent their sons to march with tiki torches in Charlottesville last summer (ha, named for Queen Charlotte with the African bloodline...)

But I am also reacting to some of the backlash that I read online after last weekend when, after hosting SNL and releasing the most provocative music video in recent memory, it was revealed that actor/writer/producer/singer and all-around current It Guy Donald Glover has a white partner. And just like that, he's no longer that cool black guy anymore; he becomes just another brother who prefers white women (or Asian women, or Latina women, or whatever we are calling the Kardashians). With a question mark attached to his wokeness?



Yeah. We do that every single time we find out that the new black It Guy has a white partner. We did that with Jordan Peele. We did that to Jesse Williams when it was assumed that he had left his black wife for Minka Kelly. We wrote Cuba Gooding Jr. off back in the 90s because of his white wife. We've been through with Terrence Howard and Wesley Snipes, and maybe we'll let Taye Diggs come back to visit. It's why we blame Kim Kardashian for ruining Kanye (and Khloe for nearly killing Lamar Odom).

And by the way, I am not picking on my sisters without pointing out that a very similar, but much more offensive conversation takes place when the partners are reversed. Black women who date or marry non-black men get branded as bed wenches. I suspect the term gets a lot of use in hotep forums where educated black women get criticized for being childless and self-sufficient.

Many years ago before folks became too polite to say anything directly to me about my husband's ethnicity, there were a few sideways statements made about my inability (unwillingness) to find a "suitable" black mate. People thought it was cute to Latinize his name even though it really is the Anglo version. And even if you didn't know that my husband is Puerto Rican, you definitely know that I am black...

But this isn't about me, it is about the ignorance people seem so comfortable with expressing, whether in terms of their own narrow prejudices or lack of knowledge. I don't have time to care about the trolls and hoteps because anyone who is too stupid to accept that there is no such thing as racial purity doesn't deserve my attention. But I do have concerns that we have found yet another means of distracting ourselves through petty over-analysis of other people's lives.

For example, would these same folks question the wokeness of Frederick Douglass because of his parents or his choice of partner? A few paragraphs earlier I highlighted two notable interracial relations from 1818, which also happens to be the year Douglass was born to a slave mother impregnated by her white master. Later in life, his second wife was a white woman named Helen Pitts. Did his white father or white wife make him any less of a powerful voice for civil rights? Would we question the wokeness of Lorraine Hansberry, married to editor and producer Robert B. Nemiroff, when she wrote A Raisin in the Sun? What about Alice Walker, August Wilson, Sidney Poitier, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, and Thurgood Marshall?

So again, I ask, are we seriously questioning the woke credentials of someone based on the parents who raised them or the person who sleeps with them? Are you sure you aren't the one who needs to wake up?

Celebrate Yourself!

For years and I mean YEARS, I hated Mother's Day (a well-documented point that you can read about here and here and here). I felt that my mother placed unreasonable expectations on me, her only daughter, to spearhead the effort to celebrate her. So it made me very resentful because I felt that with two sons and a husband, the weight of being appreciative should not fall so heavily on my shoulders.

And I felt that way for years until she got sick, then a different kind of resentment set in. I was angry that I had to essentially get over whatever issues I had about our relationship. I was angry that as the only daughter, I was again expected to make the effort (and the sacrifices) to demonstrate how much she meant to us.

And I felt that way until I became a mother, with its own specific and accompanying resentments. I  could have allowed them to take hold of me, but I have decided to rebuke all of that and declare that I will NOT wallow in any kind of self-pity or envy of others. I will celebrate myself!


Last year I skipped the extended family gathering for my mother because of anger and frustration with my siblings. I let my husband make plans, and while the day was spent doing what he enjoyed followed by dinner, I have decided to accept that his efforts will be sufficient. This year my Dad announced what he wanted us to do, and again, while the specific restaurant would not have been my first choice, it is adequate and it serves its purpose. The point is to spend time with my mother.

And that is what I plan to do for as long as she is here. I plan to take her to church, which will be a bit of an effort, but I will do it because I can. I will enjoy the restaurant with my parents because I can. I will send this last batch of cards to my friends and family because I can. I will be happy just to see another day (God willing) because I can.

Later, I will find a nice dress and/or a pair of shoes and/or maybe even some nice jewelry for myself. Maybe I will find a nice spa package and/or take another solo trip somewhere. I might go to the movies, see a play, or visit a museum. I might connect with old classmates, line sisters, and other mommies I've met recently to celebrate the fact that we are still here. Maybe none of those things will happen this weekend, but I won't place such high expectations on this particular date on the calendar to validate my worth.

To be clear, I am not telling anyone else how to feel this weekend. And I am not suggesting that we are not entitled to our expectations. Instead, I am suggesting that I will not give someone else the job of making me feel happy when I'm much better at it. Like every other mother, I want appreciation, but I have come to understand that love is not a universal expression. Now I won't lie and say that I don't get into my feelings when I believe that there has been little effort or thought made towards me. But I learned from my mother that I can do for myself, and if they don't, I will.

So if you are reading this and feel some kind of way about Sunday just know that I appreciate you. I honor you. I see you. I celebrate you!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Stop in the Name of Love

I am combing topics, which is something I have done in the past when my emotions are boiling over and I just can't limit or focus...

When I first began writing about the new museum and memorial in Alabama dedicated to victims of lynching the other day, it was my intention to address the discomfort expressed by some that this effort is divisive because it exhumes the unpleasant memories of an era that many would rather leave unmarked, buried, and forgotten.

I had drafted my list of reasons why this most recent incarnation of what I call 'convenient historical amnesia' is utter bullshit, especially as this country debates the public utility of Confederate memorials that stand in places of honor throughout parts of this country. I got distracted and had other work to complete (still do), so I set this aside. That was until I saw the words "public lynching" used to describe how R&B singer R. Kelly felt in response to the efforts of the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements to convince companies and artists to disavow him in light of accusations against him for sexual violence and abuse against young women of color.

This is the statement by #TimesUp that was posted on Instagram and also published in The Root. This article addresses how his legal team referred to this effort as a public lynching. This is the video statement Kelly released to his fans via social media. This is the statement I posted to the Busy Black Woman Facebook page after I processed my feelings of his careless invocation of lynching to describe his actions as detailed in this article published on Vox. I also need to acknowledge how Tarana Burke addressed his use of that term in an NPR interview.

So, yeah...

I won't waste too much energy on Robert Kelly except to tweet and retweet #TimesUp and #MuteRKelly whenever I hear his music on the radio. I've already written about my position and suspect that it won't be any more persuasive to his ardent fans than what has already been written by many, many other women (and also men, like this Very Smart Brotha).

So I will pivot back to my initial topic, which was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It is both a memorial and a museum, located in Montgomery, AL and founded by the Equal Justice Initiative. The museum and memorial opened on April 26. I actually first learned about this project when I saw a clip that featured Oprah taking a tour of the memorial for a segment on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago.

There is way too much to unpack with respect to this project. My initial reaction upon seeing the 60 Minutes footage was to post it on Facebook and declare my continued confusion over support for the Confederacy. I don't have any immediate plans to be in Alabama any time soon, but if I am ever there, I will make it my business to visit.

I am sure that it will make me uncomfortable. It will make me sad. Angry. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. It will likely cause an emotional reaction that I cannot yet fully describe or anticipate. Or it might just make me numb. Lately, in this current era of hyperactive breaking news, I have found that even the most shocking and devastating occurrences leave limited emotional imprints on me. But my expectation is that someone will walk away from this experience ready to fundamentally reconsider how Americans reconcile our ideals to our past.

So I hope this memorial makes every visitor uncomfortable. I hope it makes you itchy in places that cannot be scratched or soothed with lotion. I hope it makes you cry. I hope it makes you vomit. I hope it gives you nightmares. I hope it haunts your children. I hope it makes you want to burn your Confederate flags. I hope it makes you reconsider your pride steeped in a heritage based on heroes of a Lost Cause. I hope it makes you seek forgiveness. I hope it causes you to lose your religion. I hope it makes you oppose the Mexican wall and the Muslim travel ban. I hope it causes you to question every belief you ever had in basic human decency.

I hope it resurrects the spirits of every man, woman, or child whose body ever swung from a Southern tree. Or a Western one (because they lynched folks on the frontier too). I hope it makes you examine your views on immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and Jews. I hope it causes you to question everything you have ever been taught about people being too lazy, too dependent, or too eager to redistribute the ill-gotten wealth some people "earned" by exploiting the fears of others.

And then, I want you to ask yourself why the fuck Robert Kelly would EVER call this campaign of negative publicity a public lynching (and you can substitute his name for whomever else might have invoked similar imagery). How dare he compare having a few shows cancelled to having your 14 year old son kidnapped, shot, and killed for whistling at a white woman? Or your husband strung up in a tree for registering to vote? Or your pregnant wife burned alive during a racial riot?

The fact that he can even defend himself against 24 years of accumulated allegations with well-paid top-notch lawyers belies the very notion of a public lynching where the angry assembled mob acted as accuser, judge, jury, and executioner. There was no due process. Newspaper articles reported the grisly details without inquiry or investigation of the victims' guilt. Remains were photographed and the images were printed on postcards. Entire communities lived in fear of inciting the ire of the local Klan; or families joined the Great Migration.

So yeah, I am beyond offended that R. Kelly has the audacity to compare the inconvenience of bad press to the atrocities documented at the National Museum for Peace and Justice. His social media followers have defiantly argued that he not be judged for his behavior, no matter how outrageous or cruel. His fans continue to attend his concerts and buy his music. His collaborators have remained silent even when confronted with these rumors and stories of impressionable young women forced to live as his sex slaves. As far as I know, Robert Kelly is still alive and breathing and planning to perform at a sold out show this weekend in Chicago. No unruly mob of angry fathers, brothers, or uncles, has managed to shoot him, string him up, castrate him, or burn him alive.

But it is time for the self-described Pied Piper of R&B to face the music that his #TimesUp #MuteRKelly #saveourgirls