Monday, May 29, 2017

Red Beans and Rice Mondays: Summer BBQ Rules

I used to have these special posts on random topics that I would post on a specific day of the week, but it has been so long that I forgot the rules! But who needs a reason to resurrect an old forgotten label for the sake of shaking things up a little? Besides, it is Memorial Day weekend, so I thought to perform the very important public service of providing a few guidelines to clarify expectations for those who might not know the appropriate summer BBQ etiquette. Here goes:

1. Know your audience: There are different standards at play depending on the host(s) of the let's just get this out of the way up front so that there is no confusion--white folks operate on slightly different rules. Don't get offended if you are reading this and are thinking, "Wow, that is an unwarranted generalization, possibly racist", because it isn't. White folks host summer parties where there might be some grill action, some pool action, and probably some business/networking; whereas black/brown people host cookouts for any random, arbitrary reason. I could write an entire post about the differences, but I will distill everything to these three (3) main points:
  • There is never enough food at the white folks' BBQ, but there is always plenty of beer and chips. Eat before you go.
  • Because there is never enough food, being a vegetarian or vegan at the white folks' party actually works in your favor. The opposite is true at the black/brown folks' gathering.
  • Unless you are or will be related by marriage to the white folks hosting the event, there is always a networking component, so govern yourself accordingly.  
2. Politics: Before January 2017, the rule was that you could only talk politics at the BBQ with that one conspiratorial uncle who sits in the same chair all day and still doubts that the moon landing occurred. He probably doesn't vote, but somehow has a theory on everything from international climate agreements to trash collection in the hood. He criticized Obama from jump and also predicted that Hillary Clinton was going to run for President back in 1994 (and that she would lose).

But the shock of this last election finds him disillusioned to the point where you dare not say anything, even as he hints at his need to unload. The election of Montana Max has him so upset that he now defends Obama, Hillary, George W. and even Ronald Reagan, which is why you need to listen politely and have your escape plan ready to execute after about 15 minutes.

3. Special Dietary Issues: Eat before you come. While there will be plenty of food options available, just know in advance that if you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, have food allergies, etc., you are probably out of luck. Everything will have come into contact with meat, dairy, or whatever triggers your allergies at some point, so don't even ask. In fact, you should assume that unless you are at the white folks' party, the only safe thing to eat is the green salad with no dressing and the chips.

4. Attire: This is a matter of extreme importance, because you will always be judged by that really unfortunate outfit you wore to the BBQ, so play it safe. Maxi dresses with cute accessories are standard for the ladies; cargo shorts and polo shirts work for the guys. If you are not a maxi dress person, then wear your cropped pants and a nice tunic. But do not show up in the mini-dress that only slightly covers your behind, brand new high-heeled sandals, team apparel, or any kind of romper. And don't just throw on a tee shirt and shorts unless you are at the white folks' party for your kickball team. Because somebody's grandma is at the BBQ and not only will she notice, but she will say something directly to you if you are dressed inappropriately. You've been warned.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mothering Expectations

In spite of my whining to the contrary, I actually do have Mommy friends, but as they are veterans with tweens who are way too busy to usher me through my Toddler madness, we rarely get to connect. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with both of them (OK, I probably have more than two Mommy friends, but this is my blog and I'm sticking with that number for the time being.)

Anywho, my talks with both of them happened to occur within the last week, one taking place earlier on the day right before I ended up watching Bad Moms; the other within a few days of when I started writing this post-Mother's Day piece. Well, I'm back to make a grand, omnibus statement that attempts to unify all of those random situations, so here goes:

Expectations. Lower them. Trust me.

Mother's Day
I feel the need to admonish everyone to just settle for something simple and uncomplicated. Just get dressed in something nice for church; kindly accept the flower(s) that you are given by that fine deacon/trustee/young preacher at the church; go out to eat somewhere with your family; smile appreciatively at the homemade card/gift your kid(s) gives you; and accept that your husband/significant other/baby daddy will disappoint you if you were hoping for some grand gesture. Not because he is insensitive (although in some cases he most certainly might be an asshole), but because he is generally clueless.

Let's refocus our energy on making Mother's Day a celebration brought to us by our children, and not by the men who are to blame for making us mothers. Yes blame, because once we adjust our language to acknowledge them appropriately, then we'll know better than to presume much appreciation from the guy who has just as much trouble finding matching clothes as his children. Just remember that come Father's Day and buy him another tie. Problem solved.

Mommy Shaming
I had just finished posting a feel-good piece about coming to this place of peace with Mother's Day, and as I went to post it to the FB page, I saw a message somewhere that triggered my need to write this apology truth. Because I am that messy mommy that some of y'all talk about. And as my child is a reflection of me, then I guess she is a hot mess too. On most days I am cool with that.

I admire how disciplined and courteous your children are in public. As you already know, my daughter can be extra...and I've gleaned much from your FB musings of disapproval. Not directed at me personally, but generally to the world about what your kid(s) better not do in public; meanwhile I let my child scream at the top of her lungs in the middle of the Macy's. And no, I did not spank her, shake her, or do anything other than let her cry until I realized we had another errand to run. Then I led her out of the store as her tantrum continued. So if you happened to be in the vicinity of that scene and posted a video of it on You Tube, be sure to spell my name correctly.

Because for all of that lovely Mommy wisdom I see on FB, I know the truth. Children are irrational, unpredictable, sweet, charming, cute, and insane. Your cherub was once like my Toddlersaurus, or perhaps s/he isn't there yet (just you wait). And it's okay because she'll be two until she turns three, and I've been told that's another ride through the carnival fun house. Then God willing, one day she'll be 22 and I will invoke the memory of these epic meltdowns to get her to plan a decent Mother's Day outing...

Mom Squad Goals
So yeah, I have two Mommy friends. And I got to hang out with one for about an hour before she had to dash to pick up her kids from school. I got to speak to the other one for about an hour before she had to dash to attend to some function with her kid. So I guess the theme of those encounters is that in the real world, Mommies don't have a whole lot of time to sit and chat because we are always in transition about to do something for our kids.

And so I will stop envying those pics of happy carefree mothers I see hanging out after spin class at the bar drinking mimosas because those gatherings are probably staged. Ain't nobody got time for that, between filling out forms for preschool, taking the kid to the dentist, spending an hour in traffic to get across town for an event that only lasts 45 minutes (and you were late because there was no parking so you only got 30 minutes worth), and rushing home before 9 so that no one judges you for being that messy Mom whose kid has no real bedtime...

But hey, can we commit to getting coffee at least once every two to three months? Or a drink if you can hide a flask in that ginormous Mom bag (I saw a cute collapsible one online, just in case).

Movie Review: Bad Moms
Which brings me to the penultimate point where I take the advice of my Mommy friend and offer up movie reviews as a feature on the blog. I finally saw Bad Moms on Showtime and to borrow a phrase from Charles Barkley, terr-bull.

I just watched a clip compilation on YouTube to confirm my initial reaction...and yep, in a nutshell predictable, funny in parts, yet the kind of sophomoric stupid that we've come to expect from a certain genre of comedy <---whoa, did that sound like an Ebert review??? Wanna know what I thought was the dumbest part? The fact that there will be a sequel.

I used 'God willing' in a sentence. Expectations officially lowered.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mommy Needs Vodka

Am I the only mother who needs a drink by 11am on a Sunday morning because as you were getting ready for church, your toddler decided to (possibly) swallow her earring and then throw a ridiculous tantrum because you asked her to tell you what happened?

Yeah, thought so. It is just me.

I could recount all of the steps that led to that fateful I-NEED-JESUS-OR-A-G*DAMN-DRINK moment--right when we finally got in the car to go to church, but really, does it matter? As someone said to comfort me, I have a two year old.

The Hub hears my complaints and stares as if I am speaking jibberish, then he defends her by reminding me that she is a two year old. Yeah. MOFO I know how old she is. I was there when this chick was born (it was my vagina, by the way). I am here with her all day, every day when her two year old shit riles up and becomes these ridiculous tantrums at the worst possible moment.

You are here for all of the cuteness.

You are here when she empties out each of her toy boxes that Mommy has organized and sorted according to type...and then barely plays with them. You are here when she takes every crayon and draws all over everything, except for your stuff. You are here when she drops and spills food all over the floor leaving a residue of sticky shit all over said floor that you never sweep or mop because you fear that she might impale herself on the broom handle (by the way, I'm convinced you don't actually know how to use either a broom or a mop, but I digress). You are here for the chaos that you allow her to leave behind for Mommy to clean up.

So let's get something clear if y'all want this child to see three: Mommy will not live with two chaos Muppets!!!

No, I am not raising Animal. Or Oscar (because this house will not be a fucking trash can for the rest of my life). Or Elmo (who is not perpetually cute). At some point, this Toddlersaurus needs to get it together or she and her beloved Pushover Papi can go live in the shed.

Who's buying the next round?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dear Daughter

Well, it is almost Mother's Day again, and as usual my emotions are all over the place.This year I am making the difficult decision not to spend the day with my extended family, so I want to explain that to my daughter in this letter.

Dear Daughter,

We will be spending Mother's Day at church in the morning, then at the ballpark, and then at some random restaurant that your father selected to make up for the fact that we will be at the baseball game. We will not be spending it with your Gamma and the rest of the family.

This decision does not require too much of an explanation because I can quickly and efficiently tell you that I just do not wish to spend the day with everyone else. I do not wish to worry about whether my Mother is eating and then spend half the time attending to her, then you, and then come home hungry and exhausted. I do not wish to pretend that I am on the best of terms with everyone assembled, and I don't want to give anyone the excuse that my presence made it necessary for them to back out at the last minute. And in the midst of family drama, I am not interested in being congenial around strangers.

For the first time, I am going to claim that Mother's Day is for me, too. I am not going to walk around in a tiara or a sash that declares me to be Mother of the Year (because we know that I am not, especially after my recent FB posts). I am not expecting any special gifts or extra niceties, nor do I intend to demand anything to prove your love to me as you get older. I just want to spend the day with my family engaged in an activity that we enjoy.

It would be nice to have a spa day or to receive some really nice, thoughtful gift. It would be nice to do more than eat out. It would be nice to receive a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy that won't get consumed by someone else. It would be nice to spend time with my extended family under better circumstances. It would be nice if your abuela was still alive or if your grandmother could notice you. But life is not always nice.

Dear daughter, beyond the celebration of this day, I want you to know how much I enjoy being your mother, even when you drive me insane (as evidenced by my recent FB posts). I think that for me, honoring this day will be more about taking time to appreciate why this journey is so special. And in so doing, I can spend time with my mother and not hang on to any lingering resentments from Mother's Days past. Because Lord knows, this has been an unpleasant obligation for the past 20 years.

Yes. I have hated Mother's Day ever since I came home from law school.

Our first Mother's Day occurred a month after you arrived and while it was nice to be surrounded by family, it was more about celebrating you. Last year I was frustrated at your father for some reason. So this year I have adjusted my expectations. It is just a day. So if it is to be memorable occasion, then I need to make it special for myself by choosing to just enjoy the day. Maybe in the future, that might mean something different, like special activities that you and I enjoy on our own.

I have finally come to a place where I can make peace with my Mother. It is because of her that I am here, but it is because of you that I can celebrate this day. I've had anxiety for years that I was not the ideal daughter, and the truth is that I may never be. However, I am a good enough daughter and for too long I have been awaiting validation without realizing that on my own. The expectation should always have been for me to simply be present...grand gestures are nothing if there is no substance in the movements. And I guess it took having you to realize that.

So dear daughter, YOU are enough. Remind me that I wrote this in case you feel unworthy or that you need to do something to impress me. You are here. The other day you sat still long enough in play group to have your hand painted for my Mother's Day card. I appreciate that because you hardly ever sit still for anything other than your favorite TV shows. You are the most on every level--rambunctious, emotional, frustrating, spirited, thankful, intelligent, sweet, adorable...I could keep going, but you need aspirations for when you turn three. Your life gives me every reason not to lose hope in my life.

I have no idea if my Mother ever felt that way about me, but I know how I feel about her so it doesn't matter. I may never be able to write a tribute grand enough to describe her, but I think the point is that I would be able to write something to express what she means to me. She means the world to me, just as you do. Since some sentiments aren't easy to compress into 800 or so words, I will just say thank you.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Just Give

I just announced the Just Give campaign on the FB page, my new effort to support our HBCUs. I want to address the matter a little more in depth here and hope that you will join this new endeavor.

I am an unapologetic supporter of my alma mater. I am also an unapologetic supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. My goal is quite simply to encourage HBCU alumni to put our money where our mouths are.

My maternal grandfather graduated from Howard University, as did my paternal grandmother, my uncle, my sister-in-law, and both of my parents. My Dad taught at the University of the District of Columbia for more than 30 years. I have an aunt that graduated from UDC as did my brother (who also attended Hampton) and a cousin. Another aunt graduated from Minor Teacher's College, one of the institutions that merged to become part of UDC. My youngest brother is a Morehouse Man. I have cousins that have attended Bowie State. My daughter was born at Howard University Hospital, where my great-aunt worked for many years as a nurse. As you can see, we are an HBCU family.

I share all of that to say that while I am first and foremost a Spelman Woman, I am the product of every school that has been a part of my family. I advocate for HBCUs because I understand the history and continued importance of these institutions to America. My feathers get ruffled every time someone questions the legitimacy or relevance of these schools.

I announced my intention to encourage alumni to give last week and want to provide some additional details of my Just Give project. I was writing in frustration over news circulating among alumni, including decisions by institutions undertaken, in my opinion, for financial reasons. I was also reacting to some criticism of a high profile donation. And then on Saturday, I saw this and it deepened my exasperation. Money is always an issue, at every school, all the time. It dawned on me that if we treated our schools like a political campaign or the church building fund, then some of their needs (and hence decisions) would be less desperate. So instead of highlighting a specific school, I decided not to limit the focus. All of our schools need the support of all their alumni and if I can inspire just a few people to give to their schools, maybe this effort can go viral and inspire others.

I will be honest and keep it real--my blog reaches less than 20 people on average, I have 100 followers on FB, and I rarely tweet from @busyblackwoman, so I have no idea how many of those folks will receive this message. I am a one-woman show, but I am not discouraged! My small platform is sturdy enough for me to stand to make my case and so here is what I am asking: Just Give!

From now through June 30, I am asking if you are reading this blog, following my page on FB, or seeing my tweets, please Just Give to an HBCU (my hashtag #HBCUJustGive). It can be your alma mater. It can be the school where your parents or another beloved relative attended. It can be the school that you wanted to attend, but couldn't because they didn't give you any scholarships. It can be the school where your sorority or fraternity was founded. Or you can opt not to select any school and give instead to the United Negro College Fund or the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, two organizations that provide scholarships to students enrolled at public and private HBCUs. And the donation amount is very modest: the year of your graduation. So if you graduated in 1989, your gift would be $19.89.

The first phase of this campaign is launching to correspond with Graduation/Reunion season. Pretending that it began last week, my plan is to have each phase run for two months, so this phase will run from May 1 to June 30. The next phase will correspond to Homecoming season from September 1 to October 31; the third phase will correspond to Founders/Charter Day season to run from January 1 to February 28/29. Essentially, every two months, and again the request would be modest--the year you graduated, the year of your school's founding, or whatever year you wish to commemorate.

Using significant dates from my life as an example, in a year I would donate $57.88:
$19.94 during Graduation/Reunion season #HBCUJustGive
$19.13 during Homecoming season #HBCUJustGive
$18.81 during Founders/Charter season #HBCUJustGive

I've paid more for a pair of shoes. And I say that to point out how easy it is to select an amount that works within your budget.

If you follow me on Twitter, I am going to pin a tweet and ask that you retweet it in order to encourage others to join this effort. I will repost this piece at the Cafe and under a new page here on this blog and will find other ways to promote the campaign throughout the year. Since I don't have the technical widgets to know what impact, if any, this effort will have, consider this my pebble thrown into a pond. Maybe I can get some retweets. Maybe someone will be inspired to challenge others to join the movement. And maybe in the process, our schools will reap the benefits.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

America is Already Great

Cherry Blossom season is the official beginning of the tourist season here in DC that roughly lasts well into the early fall. Of course people are always here in DC for meetings and such, which I learned in my former life as a congressional staffer; however, the visitors that come during the Spring usually include a fair amount of school groups. In our coming and goings in downtown DC since March, the Toddlersaurus and I have had several opportunities to interact with these groups. And, umm...yeah, things have changed a lot since the Obamas left the White House.

In all fairness, folks are rude generally. No one seems to notice the stroller until I am about to bump into them, and then I get attitude. I have expressed my frustrations on this topic previously, after an outing in Silver Spring, so let's just say that here in our Nation's Capitol, folks are generally assholes about yielding the right of way. And also in more fairness, I do not expect that much courtesy from a bunch of kids. I don't recall being particularly mindful of others when I was that age, so if someone happens to brush past in a mad rush to catch up to their friends and nearly knocks me into the street, I understand. I just remember to repay their kindness by rolling over their toes.

In the 100+ days since the Circus came to town, I have been observing the crowds of tourists that have been visiting the city. Of course many of these folks are supporters of #45, which becomes obvious based on how they are dressed. Lots more flag apparel, camouflage, and lots of those red hats embroidered with his "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. Our ever entrepreneurial street hustlers are doing what they do to capitalize on all that by selling merchandise that allows the true-believers to advertise their allegiances. And I get that. Obamanomics was quite lucrative.

But those red hats. I see them being worn by children, and I have to admit that there is something very jarring and heartbreaking about that, especially when you consider that most of these children are less than voting age. What do they know about America not being great?

If you are able to visit our city, which is by no means a cheap trip, then that is great. If you get the opportunity to see your congressional representatives and senators (the ones who get to vote, unlike my non-voting congressional delegate), that is great. If you are lucky enough to score a tour of the White House which recently reopened for public tours, that is great. If you get to visit at least two of the free Smithsonian museums, that is great. If you visit one of the memorials on the Mall dedicated to a great American like Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, or the veterans of World War II, that is great.

So I don't get your point.

See, I don't see that slogan as a mere partisan identifier, because it is clearly a statement of regression and repudiation. Call me a loser because I was a Hillary supporter, but hey I was an Al Gore supporter back in 2000. We've lost elections before, and I suspect it will happen again. But when I see largely homogeneous groups of tourists clustered at one of the aforementioned landmarks around this city, wearing their MAGA hat or shirt, it feels like a taunt. What is so un-great about this country?

What exactly happened during the last eight years that makes you less than proud of this country? Did the last President embrace a authoritarian despot? Are there any places you might go in this country where you feel unwelcome? Were your children gunned down in the street and no one was held accountable?  Were you really unable to practice or profess your religious beliefs? Did anyone come to take away your stockpile of firearms? Were you issued a ticket when you tried to wish someone a Merry Christmas?

I'm asking because I have this feeling of deja vu, and my suspicion is that it is your fantasy of what makes America great that you missed. Because if your 12 year old wearing his MAGA shirt honestly believes America was greater when we were on the brink of financial collapse, or engaged in two seemingly never-ending wars, or back before everyone had health care, well then ok. We are well on our way back to all of that "greatness" thanks to #45 and his round table of angry white men (and the few women they allow to participate).

Yeah, I said it.

I don't expect any answers to what fuels your children's nostalgic if you agree that my child didn't kick you while you were blocking the sidewalk, then I will tolerate your MAGA gear until 2020.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Black Girl Magic is Real: Part II

When our powers are used for good, which is usually the case, the results are nothing less than spectacular! So in the second installment of this piece, (which got delayed a bit as I have been writing a LOT lately) I want to call attention to several ways in which the world continues to be enriched by #blackgirlmagic.

Serena Williams
I mean, is she not more phenomenal than words can express? Let's just put aside the fact that she is the G.O.A.T. in tennis, and perhaps in all of women's sports...because she wins and slays and does the most in a sport she learned on the concrete public courts of Compton (which ain't nowhere near the private-tutored courts of Beverly Hills or Malibu).

And is it not BANANAS that Serena competed in and WON the Australian Open during her first trimester of pregnancy???!!! That is not just something you casually do. Mere mortal women manage to push through those first few weeks in spite of morning sickness, which can include nausea, exhaustion, vomiting, etc. We already knew Serena is no mere mortal, but damn. Damn. DAYUM (in my best Florida Evans voice)!

But the real magic has been how Serena, and her sister Venus, have been beyond gracious in response to every sling and arrow hurled at them since their debut as young girls hailing from those concrete public courts in Compton. Every move they've made has been scrutinized and critiqued from their hairstyles as teenagers to their over-bearing father's personal issues to their off-court ambitions. Serena, the reigning champion, has had to debunk comments she allegedly made about dating and marriage, only to face renewed criticism about her life choices when she announced her engagement to current beau, Alexis Ohanian.

So when former tennis champion, Ilie Nastase, made a stupid remark about the potential skin color of their unborn child, and Serena clapped back with such grace and aplomb, it is only because of that #blackgirlmagic. We already know her backhand is not to be underestimated...

Celebrity Philanthropy
I have already written about the announcement of Beyonce's scholarship gift as it relates to Spelman and Howard, and I run the risk of stepping on a few toes in making this request: But please can we just hit the love button and get out of our feelings about who got left out or overlooked? Because the #blackgirlmagic of this gift is not about who receives the scholarship, but in how WE decide to replicate this effort to bless even more people.

I am serious. You don't need Beyonce's money to provide support for a struggling student. You don't need Beyonce-level publicity to draw attention to the fact that you did something for your alma mater. You just need to do something that will inspire others to follow your example.

So, I am starting a campaign to encourage support for a different HBCU several times a year. I will announce the first school next Monday morning on my FB page and Twitter. I hope to inspire a few people to make a modest donation, then encourage them to keep it going by inspiring a few more until we can reach a certain amount. More details to follow... 

Real Girl Magic
A FB peer posted a long message about a young homeless woman she encountered on the street, and how in spite of overwhelming odds against her, this young woman possessed the #blackgirlmagic that we only seem to believe exists among the high achievers. We miss the everyday sparkle in someone who barely survives...

Honestly, that has been part of my reluctance to embrace this term until now. We want #blackgirlmagic to inspire us to greatness while ignoring the fact that greatness is relative. One day, it might be achieving one's personal best; on another day, it might be just making it out the door to try. All of us have the magic inside if we have made it through life's storms--sickness, grief, racism, sexism, depression, violence, ignorance, etc.

I don't always feel magical. I'm sure you don't either. But if magic was just about the extraordinary, then most of us wouldn't believe in its existence. Go back to read the paragraph about Serena Williams and how she and Venus got started on the concrete public courts of Compton. Their magic isn't in what they have achieved since, but in the fact that they believed enough in themselves to try.

I can't promise that you will achieve all of your dreams because that isn't what this is about. #BlackGirlMagic is about having the courage to believe in yourself and trying anyway, even when the odds of success are improbable.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Get In Formation

This is a re-post from the Cafe, with a few additional thoughts to share with my fellow HBCU alumni so that we can all get this point without any lingering animosity or hurt feelings for future reference: WE ARE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH EACH OTHER FOR DONORS.


That isn't our cross to bear. So please, before you waste time whining blogging about a high-profile donation to the so-called elite HBCUs, take a step back and do a little research. Recognize that every single one of these institutions needs support, and if every single alumni gave something, anything to his/her own HBCU, it wouldn't matter what the celebrities do.

Because what celebrities do with their money is their damn business. Some of these folk will give that big one-time donation and never give another dime. Or they might give consistently for the rest of their natural lives. Or whatever, but again, it is their money and not ours. Our money is what we earn and how we choose to designate it, so that matters more to our institutions--whether alumni bother to donate.

So again, I repeat (just in case you forgot): WE ARE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH EACH OTHER FOR DONORS.

And because I really, really care that you get this, I gave to Talladega College, as I said I would when I wrote this. Because I never want another HBCU to go hat in hand to participate in something that they would rather not, but feel compelled to do so because they need the money.

And that is the same reason why I gave to Bethune-Cookman University, because for the life of me, I cannot even form the words to express why the invitation to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to be their commencement speaker is seriously, were Omarosa or Ben Carson that busy? (And I'm not signing any petition because I made my feelings clear when making my contribution. Money talks, my friends.)

And to briefly address this gift from Beyonce to Spelman College and Howard University, please save your ire for real nonsense, like the aforementioned invitation to Betsy DeVos from Bethune-Cookman or the participation of Talladega's band at the Abomination in January. Hell, let's debate whether it is too soon for Barack Obama to collect $400,000 for speaking engagements. But let's not spend another minute complaining about how Beyonce should have spent her money; otherwise, we will ensure that the next big gift won't go to any of our schools. No one wants to court controversy for making a GIFT. So just stop.

And in response to the article that raised, but then never really addressed the issue of elitism in higher education--yes, there is elitism among HBCUs, Catholic schools, state universities, private colleges, Ivy institutions, and even online programs. Elitism exists, period. But we don't need to fall for the trap of hurt feelings and resentment by complaining. Instead, perfect the Oscar response: politely applaud, and then find a way to distinguish your institution so that it's accomplishments, talent, and preeminence will not continue to be overlooked.

Because, and I am only going to say this one last time: WE ARE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH EACH OTHER FOR DONORS.

We Were There

As we examine the legacy of the Los Angeles Riots 25 years ago, I wrote a two-part piece on the Cafe blog of my experiences, based on my memories of the Atlanta Riots. I was a student and our uprising took place in the Atlanta University Center (AUC) as a protest to the acquittal of the police officers charged with beating Rodney King a year earlier. As young black college students who had our own battle scars from interactions with police over-zealousness, our grievances mirrored those of the LA rioters; unfortunately, the response of Atlanta law enforcement and elected officials was to treat us as miscreants. All these years later, that is still the perspective I have when recalling the events of those few days.

On FB, some of my peers offered the same memories, which suggests that this was a significant and transformative life experience. I also noticed that most of those remembrances barely feature women, even though we were right there protesting along with our brothers. I hadn't given much thought to that fact in many years, but with the hindsight of 25 years, I wanted to offer some of my theories. This is not an attempt to re-write the narrative, just raising a few issues and drawing parallels to the current state of affairs.

I recall that the initial protests against the verdicts began on Spelman's campus. That detail was rather insignificant until I fully unpacked that memory. The entire episode began the previous night when we were attending a campus pageant at Morehouse and the verdict was announced. We made our way back to campus where we watched the news reports from Los Angeles. Our frustrations mounted and however information got spread back then without the internet or social media, a protest was set to occur the following afternoon. The next day I remember discussing the events at lunch, leaving the cafeteria, seeing a group of protestors chanting down the street of our main campus, and then following them out of the gate to where things morphed into what became the riots.

So Spelman was there. Yet in the images that come up in news reports or the memories of participants, Spelman is not there. (Take a look through these photos published in the AJC and take note of how many women you see.) Presumably, we were inside the protective bubble of our gated community watching events unfold on television just like the folks from uptown. When we did venture off campus to witness, speak, or join the protests, efforts were made to immediately remove us from the fray. We were warned by campus police not to follow the protestors off campus. Our Morehouse brothers escorted the curious back to campus. Our Sister-President chastised us for getting involved in what was deemed not our battle to fight.

In its most benign form, the impulse to protect Spelman students made sense because no one wanted to see their daughters and sisters get hurt. So when Spelman students sought to participate in the protests and found barriers, it may have been with the false assumption that we had nothing to contribute. But it was unrealistic assume that we were immune from danger, especially when plenty of us witnessed police encounters with brothers who were stopped for walking/driving while black in a southern town.

I attempted to persuade my parents that I had legitimate reasons to participate, but they did not hear me. So when I resolved to disregard their pleas and those of our campus police to venture outside anyway, I faced the wrath of Morehouse brothers. I understood their position on safety, but chafed against their paternalism. Who knows if more visible participation by women in those protests would have prevented some of the violent clashes, or at least prevented the rapid descent into mayhem.

Perhaps I was too young and too naive to express these sentiments then. But a recent conversation with a current student suggests that there remains an impulse to shield Spelman students from reality. They believe Atlanta is unsafe and avoid using public transportation or taking any chances walking through the West End neighborhood. Which is ironic since the public housing that surrounded our campuses 25 years ago is gone or has been redeveloped. No major city is totally safe--neither are the suburbs or the exurbs. Isn't the point of going away to college to discover life, good or bad?

Furthermore, it was disingenuous to suggest that Spelman women needed to stay put on our gated campus while our sisters at Morris Brown and Clark Atlanta were not similarly protected when those tear gas canisters were unleashed on their campuses. I don't recall if they were escorted back to their dorms and admonished to stay inside. Male and female students alike were impacted by our shared university library being closed down at the beginning of our final exam reading period. And what good is shelter on our campus from police violence, only to be vulnerable to other forms of violence off campus that I dare not address at this time...

If the conventional wisdom was that black women were exempt from police misconduct, I need only invoke the name of Sandra Bland as an example of my point that we were/are no more safe than black men in confrontations with law enforcement. And historically, women were not exempted from harsh treatment once arrested or imprisoned, especially in the South. For that matter, neither were children.

Speaking of children, that is perhaps the primary reason why women should never be sidelined in any public outcry against police violence. Women must be seen and heard so that our babies, like Tamir Rice and now Jordan Edwards, are not forgotten. That is the legacy of mothers like Mamie Till-Mobley and the mission of the Mothers of the Movement. We may not have all been mothers 25 years ago, but we were sisters; and among those of us who are mothers now, we remember Los Angeles and Atlanta and see Baltimore and Ferguson and wonder why we are still taking to the streets. And will we need to be in the streets for the next 25 years?