Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nothing Has Ever Felt Quite Like This

I am an enormously blessed person. I don’t say that to brag. I say that to glorify Him.

Today I learned that my great-nephew was admitted to PS 7 Middle School, a charter school that is part of the St. HOPE charter schools in Sacramento. This is an enormous opportunity. Huge! PS 7 is a feeder school for St. HOPE’s Sacramento High Charter School, which recently had 81% of its graduating class admitted to four-year colleges. How many public schools – inner city public schools, to boot – do you know of that can say the same?

PS 7 doesn’t have state-of-the-art digs, but it has state-of-the-art thinking: A longer school year, longer school days, individualized education programs so that students can work at their pace no matter how advanced, and inculcation that, from day one, students are not just preparing to graduate high school, but to graduate college. So much so that the signs outside each class’ door don’t read “Second Grade” or “Third Grade,” but Class of 2021” or “Class of 2022” – the year each class is scheduled to graduate college. The Fatherhood Group there, an organization of men, arranges an annual college visit for the entire school. I’m talking K through Eighth grade. They recently visited Stanford, my alma mater, and met the president of the university.

How many schools, public or private, do you know of that do things like this?

God had his hands all over this.

BMNB had his hands in this, too. St. HOPE schools held a one-day “camp” for prospective students. I was content to pass along the flyer for the camp to my nieces and nephews for their kids. Not BMNB. He went to their homes, made arrangements to pick up our great-nephews and one great-niece, and personally took them to this camp so they could become exposed to what St. HOPE schools had to offer. He pushed over the reticence of some of his nieces like a freight train. He GETS it – the opportunity to get a college preparatory education for free is enormous. It is truly a valuable gift from God. Education changes everything – how we think, how we live, how we give. Education frees you in a way that no Emancipation Proclamation can.

Everything I’ve accomplished up to now feels insignificant compared to this opportunity to help my great-nephew achieve dreams he has yet to dream for himself. To take this golden – no, platinum – opportunity and run with it. To do for him what my parents and teachers did for me.

To borrow from Will Downing and Rachelle Ferrell, “Nothing has ever felt quite like this.” And I’m lovin’ it.

Oh, and that wild woman cheering at the top of her lungs at the Sacramento High Charter School graduation in 2014? That would be me.

(For more information on the St. HOPE schools, please visit http://www.sthopepublicschools.org)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

It Ain't Summer Until . . .

It Ain’t Summer Until . . .

. . . .you’ve worn flip-flops

. . . . you’ve grilled something in your own backyard, especially for family and friends

. . . .your feet are as dark as your forearms

. . . you’ve had a homemade glass of sparkling limeade (Thanks, Martha Stewart! Recipe to follow . . . )

. . . you’ve spent time talking over the backyard fence to your neighbor about your respective backyard gardens

. . . .you’ve taken a child swimming

. . . . you’ve eaten a grilled burger that would put fast-food chain burgers to shame (Thanks, BMNB, and thanks to Memphis Minnie’s Rib Rub)

. . . . you’ve had to wait to walk your dog in the evening because it wouldn't cooling down

. . . . you’re looking for recipes for Southwest Corn and Black Bean salad (lost mine!)

. . . you’ve had Tiramisu ice cream at Baskin-Robbins

. . . you’ve made peace with your body and worn that swimsuit/tank top/summer dress anyway, perfection be damned.

Happy Summer, Y’all.

Martha Stewart’s Sparkling Limeade

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 quart seltzer water
Ice

Heat sugar and water on med/low heat, stirring until the mixture is a clear syrup. Set aside and let cool. When cool, add to lime juice in a pitcher and stir. Add seltzer water and stir. Add ice.

This recipe can be doubled.

Memphis Minnie’s Rib Rub

This rib rub was featured in the Sacramento Bee, and it comes from Memphis Minnie’s rib joint in San Francisco. Although intended for ribs, I also put this rub on chicken and in hamburger meat for hamburgers I intend to grill.

2 parts salt (I use seasoned salt)
1 part pepper
1 part brown sugar
1 part regular sugar
1 part garlic powder
1 part Paprika

Mix in food processor to get rid of any lumps.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Close The Door, Baby

Close the door, baby
And let me know you're mine
. . .

from "Close The Door" by Teddy Pendergrass

Those enticing words from 70’s singer Teddy Pendergrass were alluring to even those who had no hopes whatsoever of garnering the attention of the sexy crooner, including a middle-aged mother of six in the Sacramento suburbs (that would be my mom). But those words also have an application outside of the fantasies of middle-aged women from the 70's: They apply to situations where you have to let go of what once was and close the door on that which could be harmful to you.

For example, last week I ran into an old friend, a former friend to whom I haven’t spoken in more than ten years. Why we ceased being friends is still a mystery to me. All I know is that I wouldn’t go to Las Vegas with her after she broke up with her most recent beau (these break-ups were pretty common back then) because I had just started a new job, was assigned to a make-or-break-my-future case (or so I though at the time in my 31 year-old mind), and couldn’t take time off. All of a sudden I was branded as unsupportive and selfish despite decades of support and unselfishness that my own mother thought bordered on madness. We would now call it co-dependency.

When I saw her last week, she actually came across the room and hugged me. I would have been content to continue ignoring her from across the room, but she was actually the bigger person and reached out to me. And hugged me. It seemed sincere . . . .

And I wondered: Should I, in turn, be as magnanimous as she had been and at least tell her that it was indeed big of her to take that step, to reach out and hug someone she has ostensibly despised for ten years?

And then the words hit me: Close the door, baby.

Upon further reflection, I thought, “Why would I make any effort that would in any way open the door to someone coming back into my life when I still have no idea why I was dismissed so hurtfully from hers? What proof do I have that things would be any different than our co-dependent years, from childhood to our entry into the professional world?”

I didn’t.

Close the door, baby.

And with that, I didn’t consider doing anything more.

At this stage in my life, I’m doing a lot of emotional pruning – getting rid of dead weight in my life, such as people who don’t support me, people who revel in my failures behind my back, people who mean me more harm than good while smiling in my face. I don’t want to have to guess about the intentions of the people I choose to have in my life.

Close the door, baby.

And so I did.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Now I Know I'll Need Therapy: My Hair Stylist Retired

After nineteen years of relaxing, dying, conditioning, cutting, setting, and blow drying my hair in addition to dispensing tons of good ol' Mother wit and blunt truths, my hair stylist has decided to retire. To leave behind what I imagine are now exorbitant rents in the now-yuppified but formerly ghettofabulous area that was Hayes Valley in San Francisco where she has had her shop. To finally get off her feet and kick up her heels. To be with family.

Now I know I'm going to need a therapist.

Although I'm ecstatic for her -- her retirement reminds me that not every black woman has prepared for or has the means to retire -- I'm saddened to lose someone to whom I entrusted my joys, fears, man issues, and family issues. To lose someone who bluntly and necessarily told me when I was being stupid -- with men, with my money, with my family. Given that my mother's ability to do so waned with the early onset of her Alzheimer's, this blunt truth and Mother wit that only a Sister with Sense can dispense was sorely needed by me. Sometimes when I would come in for a touch-up, she would notice that my hair was falling out. She would spin the chair around and ask me, "So what's really going on in your life that's making your hair fall out?"

Sometimes we all need someone to verbally "slap us upside da hed," as my sister says, regarding the state of our lives, otherwise we won't make a much-needed change. My hair stylist was that person.

If there's not a client/hair stylist privilege like the doctor/patient privilege or clergy/congregant privilege, there definitely should be. I'll be the first to argue for it.

The relationship black men have with their barbers is different than the relationship that black women have with their hair stylists. Black men discuss sports with their barbers; black women discuss black men with their hair stylists. As I explained to BMNB, my hair stylist has been in my life consistently for nineteen years, while he had been in my life inconsistently for more than twenty years. But for the fact that I married him, she would hold higher status in my life, just on loyalty alone. She knows more about my loser ex-boyfriends than my husband does. And I think it should stay just that way.

But when a sister retires, we should all rejoice. Black women tend to labor too long and too hard for too little. That one of us is freed from that labor is cause to rejoice, even if it means that we're going to be left behind and have to learn to be happy to be nappy.

Maybe I'll start wearing braids . . . .

Congratulations, Gigi Mathews, on a much deserved and well-earned retirement. I wish you joy, peace, and no more hair grease!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama Victorious

Despite all the mud that was slung, despite trite little debate zingers such as “change we can Xerox,” despite facing the might and heft of a decades-old political machine, Senator Barack Obama claimed victory and the mantle of leadership for the Democratic Party going into this year’s presidential election.

Now I won’t have to vote for McCain, despite the fact that the Michigan and Florida delegations were partially seated -- seated despite the fact that both states’ delegations were to be sanctioned because their state parties moved up their primaries. Ooh wee, when the Democratic Party leadership threatens sanctions, we now know that even the sanctions are negotiable.

It would be too easy to do a victory dance, to laugh off Bill Clinton’s latest efforts to lay blame for a post-presidential bimbo eruption at the feet of the Obama campaign, and to dismiss Hillary in search of a much more likeable female vice presidential candidate – Janet Napolitano, anyone?

But I have to admit – I think Obama needs to put Hillary on the ticket. To keep the peace, unify the party, and move forward.

I know he probably doesn’t trust her as far as he could throw her. But such mismatched presidential pairings aren’t new. Kennedy supposedly wasn’t fond of Johnson, Eisenhower wasn’t fond of Nixon, and Roosevelt wasn’t fond of Truman. Sometimes ya gots to do what ya gots to do. Besides, despite the Clintons’ profound inability to “get off the stage,” so to speak, I think they and the sizeable brain trust to which they have access should be put to work in getting the nation back on track. Put Hillary back to work on healthcare. Make Bill the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. or special envoy to Iraq. Let them do what they appear to do best – solve problems and shine. What harm will it do? Heck, I’d even consider Hillary for the next spot on the U.S. Supreme Court if I were Obama. It would get her out of the cabinet and out of his hair. Plus, the job pays more than that of Senator or Vice President, and it’s a lifetime appointment in D.C. You know the Clintons love them some D.C.

Despite my misgivings about Hill and Bill, I don’t think they can or should be easily dismissed from playing a role in the next administration. As far as the party goes, well, they’re kinda like, well, family. Creepy family, but family nonetheless.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

ISO BFSH

It hit me when I was in KB Toys in a nearby mall shopping for kites for my great-nephews and great-nieces. I promised them that BMNB and I would hold a kite-flying picnic for them in a park near our home that they’ve become quite fond of. I saw Transformer kites, Finding Nemo kites, Buzz Lightyear kites, and then when I looked for something a bit girl-friendly, all I found were . . . you guessed it: Barbie kites.

Although many of my great-nieces are bi-racial or multi-racial, none of them are blond with blue eyes. I refuse to buy them Barbie kites.

Which lead me to think: Why aren’t there any black female super heroines? I started asking around, and the only one anyone could think of was Storm from the X-Men. And as my niece pointed out, “She was only black in the movies. In the comic book, she’s mostly gray.”

That’s it. We need our own Black Female Super Heroine. I’ve already put my friend and artist Sheila in Denver to work on drawing her. She will be unequivocally black – with dreads, twists, or locs – and she will be a crime fighter. I won’t give away too much, but she’ll be an everyday thirty-something sister: someone who is single, trying to do the right thing and avoid the wrong men; someone who attends church with her mother and deals with the challenges of aging parents, dysfunctional family members (don’t we all have at least one cousin on lockdown?), and dwindling hopes of having a child in a marital relationship. That is, when she’s not fighting crime with her super heroine powers. Or shopping for shoes. She’s the kind of super heroine who would lay an evildoing woman out and then, standing over her, ask, “Girl, where did you get those shoes? They’re slammin’!” Hey, she’s superhuman, but she’s human, too.

Her name is . . . well, I won’t tell you just yet. But she’ll be coming to a KB Toys near you. You’ll find her in the kite section.

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