Thursday, January 26, 2017

Post-Partum is a Bitch

I know that I have been doing a lot more political writing lately and while I cannot promise that the inspiration to lash out every other day or so for the next 1456 days will subside any time soon...I can promise an eventual return to our regularly scheduled programming. And I guess I have been writing quite a bit about motherhood as well, so let's just say that I will surprise you one day soon with a piece about mascara, my cool new flats, or the Oscars. Right now I need to vent a little about motherhood. Again.

So nothing crazy or out of the ordinary occurred today until this evening when the Babe screamed like a Banshee after her bath for ten straight minutes. But that is becoming normal, so today's gripe is about how my body is still not right and this kid will be two years old in April. Like seriously, why come no one told me that post-partum would become the norm for my life? I will keep this brief because it is a little TMI, but I itch! I leak! I have creaky joints! And for the first time in my life I HAVE PMS!

So apparently, I will NEVER recover from this???!!! 

I know some of this is old age. Which is why I give everyone who asks when I plan to have another child the serious side eye. I am 43 years old. Mama is tired so this kitchen is closed. But some of this is straight up gangsta Big Sister Mother Nature hazing, and giving me the side eye as if to say "Heffa, you know you should have had that girl back in the 90s. You could be laughing at her post-partum a$$ right now!"

So to Janet, Halle Berry, Kelly Preston and any other woman who wants to have a baby after 45, go with God. And if you are over 40 and pregnant with really need Jesus.

And in my best Forrest Gump voice, that is all I have to say about that. Go on back to watching the New Edition movie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life in the Twilight Zone

The Hub grew up watching the Twilight Zone, so every major holiday weekend when one of the cable stations runs a marathon, he half-watches every hour or so in order to guess the episode within the first few minutes. I begin with this seemingly random pop culture anecdote because life since the Trumpacalyspe has felt at times like one of those bizarre Twilight Zone episodes. For instance, there is the one when someone with a golden chip on her shoulder blasts a Hollywood icon for being too elitist...

Which is otherwise known as that time when Meghan McCain criticized Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech. (I am a couple of weeks late, but I'm feeling a bit inspired by the Women's March to revisit this matter, especially since the Trumpet also made a point of lambasting celebrity activism).

The first irony, of course, is that Meghan McCain is herself an elite. She is the daughter of a U.S. Senator who happened to run for President. Twice. I'm not really sure what she does for a living, what she ever did for a living, but I know it currently involves working at FOX News. But even if she doesn't have any other real job, she is still the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President, twice. Meryl Streep, on the other hand, is just the hardest working actress in showbiz (but let's not get it twisted as we all know that Streep is quite privileged herself, but go with me on this for a bit.)

I honestly would have overlooked this as white noise, but this weekend's juxtaposition of truth to alternative facts made me wonder. Why does an actor's statement at an awards show that only certain coastal elites bother to watch, and that would not have gotten much attention except for the fact that she took aim and fired a perfect shot at the then-President Elect without calling him out by name, matter to the conservative "activist" daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President, twice? Gee...

So my best guess is that as Meghan's Dad is still wondering why he is not vacationing with his lovely wife like the guy who beat him eight years ago, or painting lovely portraits like the guy who beat him 16 years ago, the family needs to find creative ways to stand up to the Trumpet. That guy who took the birther ball that McCain failed to deflate during his candidacy in 2008 and ran with it. The Trumpet. That guy who got endorsed by Sister Sarah, that chick McCain unfortunately tapped to be his running mate in 2008. The Trumpet. That guy who suggested that McCain was not much of an American war hero since he got captured and tortured. That guy.

So Miss Meghan seized the opportunity of the Golden Globes, the most self-congratulatory of the entertainment award season, to take a predictable swipe at Hollywood elitism and then quickly deny culpability since she and her family did not vote for That guy. That while she feels our pain, it is our "snowflake liberal" high-mindedness that enables folks like Meryl to dare speak out against him. I mean, what is she anyway, just some well-known blond with an opinion...

Perhaps it is the irony of Meghan's waning relevance as the conservative millennial who speaks for the little guy. Well, now that job now belongs to Lady Ivanka, but she still has a job at FOX, right? Oh wait, FOX just decided that Stacy Dash was redundant, so maybe they will be going in a different direction now that Rupert Murdoch is gone and the network is imploding. Can they fire the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice?

Meghan, as the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice, you could have used the opportunity to say a lot more about how Hollywood can facilitate building bridges to middle America without throwing bricks. How Hollywood has a responsibility to present diversity of opinion in such a way that demonstrates mutual respect rather than fomenting disunion. Instead, you emulated the Trumpet and deflected. If we really are on the same side in opposing the divisiveness that helped to elect him, then why perpetuate the narrative that certain Americans are somehow more authentically "American" than others?

What got the Trumpet elected was the unwillingness of men like your father, who ran for President twice, to do more than just not attend Trumpelthinskin's convention, not actively campaign for him, or maybe not vote for him. I remember how your father, who ran for President twice, politely corrected a woman at one of his rallies when she accused then-candidate Obama of not being an American. So having stood up and shown that type of character when it did not serve his interests back in 2008, it would have been just as courageous for your father to have denounced birtherism from the beginning. If he had, he could have saved us all from this American Horror Show.

Sorry Meghan, you do not get to blame liberals for the election of a reality TV star to the most important job on the planet. You do not get to tweet out nonsense and then assume that because you are the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice, you bear no culpability. And it is not Meryl Streep's fault that your party got hijacked by its extreme fringe, nominated a demagogue, and is now stuck with him. Hollywood elites don't fan the flames of discord by embracing and promoting a narrow and opportunistic definition of patriotism. Tinseltown is far from perfect (having been shamed into making more efforts at diversity by a hashtag), but at least they try to promote an American ideal that can exist in the real world--not inside the Twilight Zone.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Post-Marching Orders

I wrote this quick piece on the eve of the Inauguration about my last-minute change of heart regarding attending the Women's March. Then I posted this update to the Busy Black Woman FB page that night after the march in New York finally ended and we were back in the hotel. I've had a day to digest the various FB posts and news analysis and post-march declarations, criticisms, and skepticism. I am feeling a variety of emotions, but I will focus on what inspired me and then what depressed me.

I was inspired by the sheer number of people who had taken to the streets. The night before I checked my email to get logistical information and noted that the organizers had planned staggered starts to manage the flow of traffic. I didn't actually consider what that meant until much later the next evening when people were still marching through the streets until 6pm!

We were staying about ten blocks from the starting point and as we were walking there, we were passed by several groups of pink-hatted ladies carrying hand-made signs. I snapped a few photos, especially of the very creative signs and costumes (yes) that we saw on the street. We never made it to the starting point because there were so many people. In all of the years I have been participating in marches, this was one of the largest events I have ever attended.

I was inspired by the reports that sister marches all over the country, and later the world, had attracted millions, which was in stark contrast to the thousands who had gathered to watch #45 take the oath. It might be petty to compare the gatherings, but in my mind, the global reaction to the inauguration of our new president suggests that there is a movement afoot to resist his reactionary agenda!

What depressed me? The reactions on FB and other social media by people who ridiculed the protest for various reasons. There were the comments on Twitter that denigrated Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. There were the FB postings by women who criticized the need to march against a President who had only been sworn in 24 earlier. There was the caller to C-Span who complained that the concerns of 'real' American women were being displaced by calls for justice by women of color. There was the post I read this morning written by a black participant expressing her antipathy of white women based on her life experiences, reaffirmed by her experience on her way to the March.

I know better than to waste energy being despondent by negative reactions to the march by those who never shared its goals and who will never understand why there was a need to take to the streets. I can ignore the cynicism of my sisters who chose to watch from the sidelines. I could be satisfied, like so many of the participants I encountered the following day, that I was a part of history, and then return to grousing on social media.

Or I can actually do something.

One of our friends made good on his intention to start raising money for a different organization every 30 days, and that is something. The Hub is donating to several social justice organizations above and beyond his annual CFC allotment, so that is something. A classmate of mine declared his intention to run for public office, so that is something. I have a few other classmates who are running for local office in their respective jurisdictions, so that is something. Several of my Spelman sisters want to organize political action activities to prepare for the midterm elections, so that is something. And I plan to be honing in on some political activism and fundraising, so that is something.

If you are tired of marching and protesting because you claim nothing ever happens afterwards, but you are not actively doing anything other than airing grievances on social media, then I am tired of watching you just get more tired. I know that some of you are truly Busy Black Women--holding down full-time jobs, raising children and caring for elders, and just trying to keep track of each day. Perhaps you are already active in your church, community, sorority or other organization and just don't have the extra time to spare on another cause. And yes, there are issues when it comes to the idea of a global sisterhood...which is why I refused to parade around in a pussy hat.

If we we intend for this movement to last longer than a moment, then we must persuade everyone, and I mean everyone, who marched in person or participated in spirit to find something worthwhile to do on behalf of the cause. On Thursday when I should have been packing, I went to Costco to buy refreshments to donate at a local church for DC march participants. I didn't take a selfie to congratulate myself for being so considerate, and the only reason why I am sharing this is to highlight how even the smallest gesture of support is doing something.

For me, Saturday was another march and yet, it was not just another march. It was the continuation of my life's work, which is the pursuit of justice and equality. It was confirmation that despite my initial misgivings and apprehensions, we are on the brink of change. If we were not so powerful, why did our numbers matter (note how #45 re-instituted the global gag rule in response to our protests), so this must be more than a one-day demonstration. Let us march on till victory is won!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

So Hard to Say Goodbye

Dear President and Mrs. Obama,

I have been putting off writing this note for weeks--I actually had selected the right card and knew most of what I wanted to say in gratitude for these past eight years. But then I never got around to writing anything, debated whether that one small 3x5 or 4x6 card would be insufficient to contain all of what I wanted to say, and then I look up and today is January the 19th.

I am currently staring at a blank screen with the same look one has when looking down on a blank piece of paper--with the anticipation of everything I want to say, along with everything I think I want to say, but without the precise words to say anything. I want this statement to be eloquent, beautiful and moving, but most importantly genuine and real. I want you and your family to KNOW what you have meant. Perhaps my inability to articulate my feelings comes from there being too much to say...

I am a perfectionist, and it has dawned on me that I have spent an entire paragraph trying not to be too effusive or stumble over myself and get repetitive and awkward. I am just so full of emotion right now. So here goes: (Deep breath)...first of all, thank you for making it to the end.

A lot of folks were afraid that you would not live to see this day because they assumed that your real enemies preferred to see you dead, rather than see you fail. Many of those old folks lived through the 60s so they assumed the worst, but thankfully those are the same old folks who came up through conditions that were so unimaginable to our generation, so those are those praying-all-through-the-day-and-night old folks. They prayed as hard for your survival as they pray for their wayward grandchildren.

Second, thank you for finishing your tenure with no major scandals. Unfortunately high-profile black elected officials tend to leave office in disgrace. With twelve hours left, I think it is safe to assume that your escort from the premises tomorrow afternoon will look nothing like a perp walk.

Third, thank you for your beautiful daughters. Thank you for shielding them from the glare of a too hot spotlight that would seek to fry their very souls. Thank you for allowing us to see them act like sweet little girls, then like bored and uninterested teenagers, and now like poised young ladies. Thank you for punishing Sasha on the night of your last speech (because I am not buying that she had a test the next day)...but then again, even if she really did have a test the next day, thank you for making her stay at home to study because that is what good parents do sometimes. Thank you for allowing Malia the space to take a year off, which I hope means that I will absentmindedly walk into a Baby Gap somewhere around the city and spot her folding sweaters. I would be even more grateful if Sasha applies to my beloved Spelman College.

Thank you for marrying Michelle LaVaughn Robinson.

And because saying thank for Michelle is not the same as saying thank you to Michelle: Thank you Michelle Obama for being that ultra-fly girlfriend; that always stylish big sister; that cool Mom who brings the healthy snacks; that around-the-way girl who never did take off her earrings even when she was tempted to remind you that she grew up on the South Side of Chicago; that ultimate Busy Black Woman!

Finally, thank you Mr. President. Black nerds like me definitely appreciate the fact that you made being intelligent look cool. You have freed us from the box that confined blackness to the hood or to the stage or on the field or in the pulpit or in prison or in premature graves.

I would cite some of your policy successes, but I won't. I will allow those to be evaluated by historians. I know that the plans are underway to eviscerate many of your accomplishments, and it is just too cynical to believe that this was all just a dream, but because I know otherwise, history will decide how you rank.

And I am just about done. I wish I had met you while you were the President. I wanted to work for you, but life had other plans for me. I wish that my mother could have met you before Alzheimer's robbed her of even knowing that you had served in office. I wish that my father would have listened to me about following protocol for getting you to send a letter of condolence to the family of the White House usher from his church who passed away last Fall (maybe we can still work something out). I wish that my daughter would be able to remember your time in office. I'm pleased that someone printed a picture of you for my Hub to pose next to in his office. I'm proud that I volunteered to get you elected in 2008.

Mr. President, I am 43 years old. If we are blessed to live another 43 years (or more), there is a lot more I hope to be able to say to you. So I will just end it right here.

Thank you.

Marching Forward - January 21, 2017

Note: This piece has been edited to correct some inaccuracies in the original post and to provide some additional links for further study.

After the election, when it was announced that there would be a Woman's March on DC, I dug in my defiant heels and refused to even consider participating. Like many black women I know, we were pissed when it was revealed that one of the larger voting blocks to support #45* was educated white women.

And despite various news reports and queries about my intentions, I had not given the March that much thought until last week. I heard discussions of the city's plans for managing the swarm of expected protestors and listened to testimonials by women intending to wear pussy hats at the demonstration. I was prepared to ignore those reports until this past weekend.

I belong to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. which just commemorated 104 years of existence. Two other black greek letter sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., also commemorated their founding this past weekend. Each of us boasts strong legacies of service and political engagement. In fact, all nine of the historically black greek letter organizations can claim this same legacy and mission.

In particular, though, it was in reflection of the first public act undertaken by the 22 women that founded my organization, that has me reconsidering my initial denouncements. These students, along with civil rights activists Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells Barnett, participated in the Women's Suffrage March of 1913, which occurred the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Thousands of Deltas staged a reenactment of that historic event as a part of our centennial celebration back in 2013.

From newspaper reports I know that those 22 women were not entirely welcome at that suffrage march. They had to march in the back and as Dorothy I. Height, one of our past presidents once told us, they were admonished to "go back to your kitchens" because it was inconceivable that black women would join such a crusade, let alone be allowed to vote. So in some sense, history could be seen as repeating itself as black women and other women of color find themselves not fully represented by the goals of this upcoming march.

No, we have not been asked to march in the back and I am pretty sure that anyone who suggests that we ought to go back to our kitchens will suffer the same fate as some woman named Heather W (who mused aloud about slavery and needing a maid and got DRAGGED on the Facebook)...but we have been relegated to supporting status because when the march was announced, we were not among the organizers. The march for people of color was convened for MLK weekend by Rev. Al Sharpton.

I still have a lot of mixed feeling about this Women's March, beginning with the level of attention it is getting precisely because of that other march that took place here just last weekend. I am assuming that most media outlets find the Women's March more compelling because the Reverend Al is essentially Chicken Little when it comes to organizing protest marches. Perhaps there is some newsworthiness in the historical parallels to the original Suffrage March, especially given #45's past statements about women. There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical that this will simply be another "inclusive" photo opportunity that accomplishes nothing for women of color except more marginalization.

But I am going to set aside my doubts and join the effort. On Saturday, we will actually be out of town for the Abomination, but there will be satellite marches and one happens to be taking place near the hotel where we will be staying. And despite my plans to take the Babe to see a show, I will see if there is some way for us to take a slight detour so that she and I can take to the streets together.

I wrote a note on Facebook to some friends that I suspect will get ignored by those who are either heading out of town or are as ambivalent as I am about the outcome of this march. One of the points I tried to make was the necessity of having women of color in the number so that we cannot continue to be ignored. As much as we love them, men of color are NOT going to address women's issues--they are race MEN. Far too often, we show up and do the heavy lifting for both race and gender issues, then watch as others reap the benefit of our sacrifices. It can be a 'fool me once, fool me twice' kind of scenario for many of us. Yet, no one can overlook us if we show up and demand to be seen.

My Founders comprised a small delegation in that Suffrage March, but they showed up. I mentioned to my friends how there have been small numbers of black and brown women in rooms full of white women...and how no one deigns to treat them like washer women and kitchen help. So, even if it doesn't result in that much initial progress, we still need to be visible. The glass ceiling that Hillary didn't break is still there, covering us all.

I want my daughter to remember this period of time only through pictures. In a few years, she can ask me about the pussy hats (although I probably will not wear one), and I hope to be able to say that it was in response to a stupid remark made by someone whose tenure as President was limited to just four forgettable years. I can tell her how this most recent wave of activism began with the release of Hidden Figures a film about three female mathematicians (members of AKA) who did the calculations that helped to make space travel possible. I can tell her about our disappointment about the 2016 presidential election, but how we were encouraged by the Senate elections of Kamala Harris (CA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), and Maggie Hassan (NH). I will tell her why she should always be a proud Latina like Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

I will tell her how her future was shaped by the women who showed up anyway, got into the room, and were heard.

(*Side note, I want to give credit to my line sister RB who identifies the incoming President by that number designation. Of course, I might use different versions of his name and will use various portmanteaux to ridicule him whenever possible, but out of respect for the office that he will assume tomorrow, I will use #45 for my serious critiques of him and his policies.)

Out with the Old

So here we are, 17 19 days into the new year and three days 23 hours before the Trumpacalypse (started writing this the other night). Did you send a thank you message to the Obamas and do you have your doomsday rations?

My New Year started with a bang, but not in a good way...still dealing with the aftermath with no signs of improvement on the horizon. So I've decided to take my lemons and add some vodka (because I am so over lemonade). I won't bore you with too many details, but I'm going to share some of my New Year's declarations/resolutions:

A new blogger template. I liked the old one, but it got boring so I found something different. It is still a generic Blogger template, which probably means it is way past time to upgrade to a different platform altogether, but baby steps. Because...
I plan to incorporate new features, such as Facebook Live! Last year my on-the-fly Election Day post got 500 hits, so imagine what could happen if I planned something specific? So my goal is to post a live video of me in the midst of my busy-ness a few times a year. I am also going to start a Busy Black Woman Podcast! I might need some help from the Niece or some other kid with technical proficiency to get it going, but I want to take my brand to the next level and podcasting is the next big thing. I have several ideas, so look for our maiden voyage sometime this Spring.

More busy-ness. I am finally going to do a new shirt, which means I need to get rid of the old ones. Stay tuned for more information on getting one of our vintage, limited BBW original tees. And look for the great reveal of the new shirt coming this Spring/Summer.

I am also working on a projects for the years ahead. On the FB page I acknowledged that I have been doing a lot more political writing, which would normally be better suited for the Cafe, our sister blog. I need to figure out what that means for the BBW blog because that might alienate some folks if I don't continue to serve up anecdotes about my life, but I happen to believe that a lot of my political opinions have resonance here. So for now, the compromise will be to cross-post to both blogs.

Allow me to tease out one of my upcoming political projects by beginning with this statement: I am just a housewife. My daughter is almost 2, and you already know that I am a caregiver to my mother. I try to stay active in some community activities (and plan to get re-engaged where my commitment has slipped of late), so I have what you might call a full plate. Yet since the election, I have spent a lot of time wondering what more I could do. I am not actively practicing law anymore and it would take a while before things are in a place for me to get a job, so my persistent dilemma was what could I, a mere housewife, do? I'm so glad you asked.

The Sunday after the election I went to hear my Spelman Sister, Soror and all-around Busy Black Woman Marian Wright Edelman speak at Howard University, and one of her standout statements was, "Enough fleas can move even the biggest dog." I've heard several prophetic words since then that echo her sentiment and so I am declaring right now that this Busy Black housewife plans to become a pest (just not a flea :), so stay tuned!

Finally, a stronger commitment to self-care. I want to live long enough to see my Niece elected to the White House, beam with pride when my daughter invents the flying car, and witness my Baby Niece surprise the world with whatever gift God has given her. I want to be a Delta Dear, a Golden Girl, a Diamond Daughter, Notorious like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and dap like Betty White. I want to be around for as long as the good Lord will allow, but in order to do that I have got to take better care of myself.

So, I will be returning to dance class next week, doing a lot more walking, eating more salads, drinking more water, and making sure that I'm not too busy looking at my phone to notice if I'm about to get hit by a car. I will see more movies and enjoy more live performances (even if it has to be a Disney movie or Daniel Tiger Live). I will travel the world. Last night the Hub bought season tickets for the Nationals, which is huge because he is a pin-stripped Yankees fan, but you get my point.

Even on the cusp of uncertainty, we have to keep living. That is my ultimate declaration/resolution for 2017, so let's do this!