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*Notice I said my take on Race!*
Coming to you from 30,000 feet above the world. Sitting on my flight home by way of Atlanta, I decided now was the time to write my take on race largely because I am on a flight with people of all different shades floating on a plane through snow white clouds and I’m stuck with nothing left to do but rock to the tunes of Tupac and write. So here’s what I think.I’m a black woman that was raised in the South. I was born in York County, South Carolina, raised in Edgemoor, South Carolina.
As a child, I don’t think I was sheltered from the issues of race, but I don’t think that as a child, the issues were really talked about. I can remember as early as 2nd grade, a little white boy, a kid I considered my friend called me the “N” word on the playground because he was frustrated that I was winning the game that we played. I didn’t know what that word meant, but I knew it was a bad word. It wasn’t until I saw the expression on my second grade teachers face that I knew that it was really bad. I remember her saying “That’s a word you hear in the home and not anywhere else.” I have to say, back then that was the truth, however, now, it can be heard in mainstream music.
I’m a black woman, I’m not apologetic for that, and I celebrate that because there is uniqueness to being a black woman. I know that I’m often not the person that people expect to show up, but you know what, when I show you who I am, you appreciate me for my spirit, my drive, and my knowledge more so than my race. I don’t believe that I was raised to see a color and it has never factored into how I have conducted my life. In school, the majority of my friends that were in close proximity to me that were not family were white. I had fun times and appreciated their friendship because they challenged my stereotypes that I had in my head, one being the silly thought that only black people have cousins. Even as an adult, I can count my friends on one hand that I’m close to and they are of all races. They appreciate me for who I am and my no nonsense way of dealing with things therefore, they stick around. They also know that I will give them the truth, which is a rare quality in friendships today. I don’t care the color of your skin, I care what’s in your heart and if you are good people, you’re good with me. If you don’t have a good bone in your body, keep moving. Some people think that this is a naive way to go at friendships; however, I have only regretted one or two friendships in my 35 years.
The point of this post is to say; I don’t care what color you are. I advocate for everyone, black, white, red, green, purple, it doesn’t matter, the only thing I am concerned with is the fact that you are a human being. I raise my children the same way. It doesn’t matter the color of a person’s skin, it’s about whom you are comfortable with and how they treat you. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The most important lesson in friendships and dealing with people is don’t let anyone treat you like a doormat, no matter what race they are. I will say that as child, preteen, and teen, people, children, of my own race treated me like crap because of who I was comfortable being friends with. I was told I wasn’t “Black enough” which I’m still wondering what the hell that means. Last I checked, when I looked in the mirror, a chocolate complexioned person stared back at me. That still perplexes me. What would be a tragedy; if someone told me I wasn’t HUMAN enough. That would be a real tragedy.
I close this with saying that the topic of race is not going away. It’s not, in the current environment, going to be swept under the rug. It will however, be acknowledged and I hope that out of all of my friends, if they have a question about race, they will feel free to ask me my thoughts. I don’t have all the answers, but I can give it from my perspective.
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23 Father’s Days. That sounds like some arbitrary number that a person throws out as a reminder of something positive. My dad died December 21st, 1990. I was ten, set to turn eleven nine days later. I don’t remember very many Father’s Days with him. My memories that include him in my childhood are scattered these days. The things I do remember are the funny moments, like the summer we ate nothing but chicken for a week in every way you can imagine. I remember the time he banged his thumb with the hammer fixing our front porch. Oh the words the spewed from his mouth. I remember him going on hunting trips and walking up our long drive way with his hunting dogs, Begals. Those, are the memories that I can muster these days. The rest, a blur. When you join this club, be it sudden like I did or over time like some people, it’s not a club you want to be in too young. Not having a dad influence your dating choices, to bully the guys that you do decide to date, and to one day see his grand children (nine of which, he did not get to meet), it’s a hole that nothing can fill. The pain lessens, but you still remember the way you felt on those days when you went fishing with him, your mom, and your sisters. Those moments when he made you feel like you were the only girl in the world. You remember those days that he yelled at you for being a bone head and the discipline. It’s days like today, I miss my dad. So as I embark on this Sunday, I will go and visit his grave, I will go home and take care of my kids, clean up, read magazines, and then read books to the two youngest ones and not dwell on the fact that he’s not here, but think about the good times I do remember. Happy Father’s Day Dad! I miss you.
I was remarking on a friend’s blog post this past week about the difference between technology ten to eleven years ago. There was not a smart phone in everyone’s hand. Not all people had cell phones and the digital era had not hit full force. We were not posting to Facebook or Tweeting our random thoughts on Twitter. If you wanted to share your thoughts with someone without a computer, you wrote a letter. My daughter, who is now 14, most of her baby and early elementary school photos are on 35mm film. There is nothing for me now to pick up my DSLR right now and run outside with my camera and take an awesome shot because it’s great and it’s beautiful and I want to format it and share it with world. I also know that my photography obsession, I can say it is an obsession, even in a cinch my cell phone has become my best friend in a pinch to capture those moments with my kids that I don’t want to forget. The age of technology has changed to the point where people everywhere are glued to their phones, there is an iPad in schools for the children’s learning, and there are laptops in coffee shops to the local park as people have taken their work from an office to many other locations because cities are now offering free wifi. Technology has evolved to the point that most anything can now be done using technology. You can now sign a document from your cell phone or iPad without having to walk into a place and do it face to face. You can now use an iPad to take notes and make recordings and email those notes and recordings to others where you used to have to share small cassettes from your hand-held recorder. You can use your cell phone as your camera and print your photos from the comfort of your home where you once had to take your film into a store and drop it off for printing and you didn’t get to see the finished project until you got your prints back, now everything happens in an instant.
In 1998 I worked for Biggs Camera store in a Virginia Mall. It was a part-time job and I sold cameras and printed photos. This is when I really realized that I loved photography. I was able to borrow cameras and take them home and take photos of things. I would go to a local pond and catch a picture of a duck taking off from the water leaving only a ripple behind. I loved the art of creating photography, it is great, it is wonderful and since I have started doing more professional photographs for others, it has become more of an outlet for my creativity than it has become a source of income.
So my tools are my Cannon EOS T3i with four lenses, a tripod, my Macbook Pro, and of course both of my cell phones. I also have a point in shoot that does the job when the kids want to capture something in their surroundings. Things today are not like they were though ten years ago. The cost of a digital camera was not very low. You mostly printed your photos at home and 35mm printing was in every store. If you wanted to give your kids a camera to take with them to take photos, you had to buy them a disposable camera. Now, there are few places to print 35mm film. There are many places to print your photos from instagram and Facebook. Gone are the days that you have to wait for the print to be created, you see it front and center and get the option to edit it where as when you had 35mm, the options to edit were zip unless you had the technology to do it.
I don’t miss the days when I would take photos and have to pay ten or more dollars to have a roll printed. I don’t miss the days of having to buy film for my camera. I enjoy the digital age and I sometimes long for the simplicity of the brilliance of taking a photo and getting the perfect shot and hoping that it would come out the way that I envisioned it. I can now create a photo and brighten the colors and crop it and add things to it just by sitting down at my computer. Technology has given us many gifts, but they have also taken away some things such as social interaction. But I think that we all know that with every great creation, there are things that are taken away in every situation. Technology ten years ago, is a total opposite of the technology that we know today.
I can remember when I was a kid, I love to write. I wrote based on the assignments I was given. I never wrote for pleasure. It wasn’t until 8th grade Honors English, I will never forget Ms. Moore, giving us reading material such as Poe and Shakespeare, but she pulled me aside, the only African-American child in her class and she an African-American teacher and told me about “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I instantly knew I wanted to read it. The library did not have a copy, but I remember her loaning me one of her copies for the summer and adding to my summer reading including a book by Dori Sanders, a local woman from the small town of Filbert, South Carolina. My world was forever changed. I began to write more than I was writing. I was writing things of greater substance than I had written before that summer. I was writing about my eighth grade mind and had already been published in the local paper at the ripe age of twelve for a poem that I wrote and submitted. I didn’t know until reading these two books that my writing could have a different meaning. I went on to write for the newspaper in a teen column called Fast Forward and continued to devour books and read poetry by the greats. I discovered Langston Hughes and read Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Great writers, great words, I began to see words and word usage in a different light. I began to see that the words could paint my life in different hues.
I was saddened on Wednesday Morning May 28th, 2014 to hear that the woman who painted the canvas of so many lives had passed away. I knew that she could not live forever, however, she was a single solitary figure that you could not envision your life without knowing that she was there. I still to this day go back and pull out her poetry and her words when I need a little encouragement. Dr. Angelou lead a phenomenal life. A life that I could never imagine being brave enough to lead. She was stronger than any piece of marble in my eyes and had many lessons to give young people like me through her words. As soon as I heard of her passing away, I envisioned what it would be like to have my daughter read her words during the summer. I let her know when she arrived home that a woman who I found to be a great inspiration had left her earthly home, but her words would stay forever.
There is one lesson that I take from Dr. Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” I think that as a parent, which I became a parent at a young age, I didn’t know about parenting, I didn’t know about being a wife, but as I have grown, her statement is true, “When you know better, you do better.” You don’t let the circumstances of your life darken your future. You make a decision to become a better person and to break the cycle and to raise better children and to ensure that they know that the opportunities in this world must not and will not be squandered. “When you know better, you do better.” When you know better, you teach better. I find myself often looking at my three children with this thought in mind. I hope that I am raising them to be a better parent, friend, and loved one than I am. I hope that they are learning life lessons through my struggles that will change their perception of the world as I have known it and they will go out and be change agents. Dr. Angelou was a change agent. From working with Civil Rights Leaders to going to Africa and working there as a leader for equality, Dr. Angelou did not steer away from the struggles of those around her no matter where she was at.
So I saved this post for today to salute a great author that helped shape my love of the written word. The author that was able to paint my world with many different hues that I had never seen before and in ways that I never imagined existed. She was a writer that did not shy away from difficult content and told us what we needed to hear and understand in order to be our best authentic selves. The world is a little paler now that she is not here to share her words of wisdom, but there is one comfort, her words, thoughts, and actions will forever live on through the many great works that she has left us with and that she has left for our children to enjoy.
For three years, I have been riding around in a sleek Dodge Magnum, Big Bertha. She was a beauty. She withstood her bangs, her hits, and she kept on ticking. With my future heading in the direction of occupational therapy and knowing that my last two semesters, I could be placed in Fieldwork any where and my car did not get good gas mileage, she, Bertha, and her Hemi were not going to work forever. Yet I still resisted the change. When it comes to change, I have a hard time dealing with it. I usually think out things and rationalize things before I go for them. I got a phone call from a car dealership in late April about my vehicle and the possibility to trade it with no money down. I thought about it, I looked over my options and I procrastinated. The young man Marcus called more than once. Even when my sister went in and purchased her Impala SS, I still didn’t think about buying another vehicle. I thought of all of my plans that I had for my Magnum. Which none of those plans included trading it.
At some point in time, I calculated what the cost would be to keep my car. She is a good car, but she drinks gas. Then I thought about what it would mean if I got a more gas efficient vehicle. I looked around after the first phone call and evaluated my options and knew that a Toyota Prius was my choice. I walked into the dealership yesterday, met with Jeff the manager and Paul my sales person (whom sold my sister her Impala SS) and began the process. We had to drive a Jeep Commander (which is huge with three rows of seats) from Charlotte, NC to Concord, NC to get her. We arrived, traded the Commander for my Prius. I was still unsure as to whether or not I would be able to walk away from the dealership with this vehicle with no money down. That was the other catch, Marcus told me because I was an existing customer, I would walk out with any car I wanted at zero down, I just have to repeat that again because I still can’t believe it. When I arrived at 4:45pm, which I told them that I would be there at 5:00pm, Marcus wasn’t there, but Paul was there. Paul did a great job. We joked and laughed, he looked at my current vehicle and took down information about it. Jeff worked hard to work the numbers to where I could afford the vehicle and by nine last night, I was the owner of a 2010 Toyota Prius. We did the run through, I had driven her from Concord to Charlotte and she drives like a dream.
Yet, change is difficult. I woke this morning, looked out of the window and saw the Prius and not the Magnum, I felt sad because the Magnum had been with me for three long and difficult years, but the sadness passed quickly. This car is a part of my future and I have to let go of my past. Change is hard to deal with and it is hard to accept sometimes, but as I rode around in her (her name has not been picked yet) I began to feel more confident with my decision. I felt more confident in the direction that my future is heading.
I say if you are like me, embrace change. I still don’t like change and fear rejection but as I have gotten older, I have been able to deal with these things. Writing also helps because it’s cathartic to express my fears and deal with them through words. Give it a try, it’s awesome. Change is coming to grips that things can not stay the same always.