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My Garage Is a Metaphor for Me

As 2011 comes to a close, I'm happy and sad at the same time. Most of all, I'm filled with hope and optimism. Yes, hope and optimism, even in these trying times.

I'm happy about some of the political developments I've seen, political awakenings among the have-nots -- the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement. I'm sad for the brilliant people we lost -- Professor Derrick Bell, Teena Marie, Heavy D, Amy Winehouse, Vesta. And I'm optimistic and filled with hope simply because of my garage.

My garage is a metaphor for me.

I started the process of cleaning out my garage back in August, and I didn't finish in time for winter as I had planned. In the process of going through over 30-plus years' worth of stuff, I came across old awards, grades, evaluations of me as a student and as a teacher, term papers, and columns I wrote when I was president of a minority bar association. One of my writing professors from a summer program I was in stated that I was a hard-working p…

Air Ignorance: Negroes, Please.

Air Ignorance: The mass hysteria or obsession that breaks out among broke or middle-class black folks whenever Nike releases a new pair of Michael Jordan athletic shoes.

I don't get it. I don't get the mass hysteria and obsession that breaks out among black folks, especially broke or middle-class black folks, whenever Nike releases a new pair of Michael Jordan athletic shoes, or re-releases said shoes, for that matter. (Here's a tip: If you had to catch a bus or walk to the mall to buy a pair of Air Jordans, you're broke. Save your money and buy a car instead.) I watched news footage from Houston on YouTube about a breakout of Air Ignorance at a mall featuring my people discussing the long wait in the cold to purchase the re-released Air Jordans, with one brother even kissing his newly purchased shoes. Supposedly a purchaser was robbed of his or her new Air Jordans at a bus stop.

Am I the only black person in America who is tired of being represented in the media by othe…

Dear Santa, Can We Cut A Deal?

Dear Santa,

I'm a lawyer. That means I basically grew up thinking just about anything was negotiable. I think this "naughty or nice" thing should be negotiable because, for one, your terms are vague, and two, whether my wishes are fulfilled shouldn't be an "either-or" proposition. Santa, behavior is way more complicated than that. We lawyers see shades of gray where other folks see only black or white, and we are highly compensated, unless we work for the State of California, for seeing those shades of gray. They're called "legal argument."

So Santa, think we can cut a deal on this whole "naughty or nice" thing?

First, some things need to be taken off the "naughty" table. Santa, what happens between two consenting married people in the privacy of their bedroom or other places with smooth surfaces shouldn't make the "naughty" list. BMNB didn't date me on and off for twenty years and then marry me just because …

The Devil Don't Celebrate Christmas

They could not have been more than twenty words, but those words, recirculated in a family email, caused hurt and anger to a member of my family.

After reading the words and writing my own indirect apology (I wasn't part of the email chain), I had to get up from my keyboard and remind myself that this is still Christmas and I still have a ton of work to do to get my house ready for the large family Christmas dinner BMNB and I will host. That I was to be an instrument of peace and joy this Christmas, to the best of my ability.

Those words also reminded me of a sermon at my husband's church that boiled down to this: Guard your peace. I don't know what it is about the holidays, but somehow evil people feel the need to let loose with whatever comes into their minds, no matter how evil and hurtful it is, as did the author of the email in question. And it reminded me of this:

The devil don't celebrate Christmas, and evil don't take no holidays.

In the midst of all our celebr…

My Family's Revolution: Credit, Budgets, Sou-Sou's, and Gentle Nudges

CAVEAT: The information provided below is not intended to provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult your attorney for legal advice.

Dear Gentle Readers,

I promised you a seat at the table of my family's revolution to become financially savvy, prosperous, and free. We held our second meeting of "Something to Think About: A Series of Family Talks," and, over Mexican food (Beef Enchiladas, Chili Chicken, Vegetarian Tamale Pie, Vegetarian Black Bean Soup) and white Sangria (Maso Canali pinot grigio, brandy, orange juice, sugar, triple sec, vanilla, citrus slices), we laughed and learned during our discussion of the first two modules of the Financial Literary section of the talks, which addressed credit and budgeting. I shared my bad credit stories (What do Oprah and I have in common? We both had our credit cards snatched and cut up by a cashier on orders of the issuer.), and we talked about changing our attitude towards credit -- it's a…

Why Big Daddy (Herman) Cain Should Lose: The Clinton Principle

If you believe the parade of sexual harassment claimants and one alleged mistress, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is a mack of epic proportions, a Big Daddy Cain. And clearly the only chocolate sister he has any love for is his wife, although if these claimants and alleged mistress are telling the truth, I would not want to be loved that way.

Even if these ladies are telling the truth, and I'm not saying they aren't, they aren't the reason why Herman Cain should lose the nomination.

I'd be the first to admit that Bill Clinton, unfaithful as he was, was far and away the smartest president we've had in a long time. Unless you were on welfare, life was pretty good under Clinton.

Bill Clinton is precisely why Herman Cain should lose. I would call this the Clinton Principle: As long as you do your job well, no one should care who you screw. But you better damn well do an exceedingly good job.

Herman Cain, in contrast, is incapable of doing the job of POTUS. Why? He&…

Hey, Occupy Wall Street: Need An Agenda? Take This One!

Dear Occupy Wall Street,

I support you, really I do. But the time has come to move beyond occupying to accomplishing. It's time to adopt an agenda and push it. Need an agenda? Take this one:

1) Re-enact Glass-Steagall.

2) Overturn Citizens United by constitutional amendment and strip corporations of personhood and speech rights.

3) Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top 1%. If these cuts were supposed to help the "job creators" create jobs, we wouldn't have so much unemployment.

4) Pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting CEOs from making more than 40 times in salary, benefits and stock options than the annual salary of the lowest paid employees in their companies.

5) Break up banks that received TARP money so they're no longer "too big to fail."

6) Prosecute the CEOs of the commercial banks, mortgage lenders, investment banks, and rating agencies that precipitated the real estate bubble.

I know this doesn't encompass all the issues you're protesting a…

How To Avoid Becoming a Holiday Hostage

You know the feeling: You're at a holiday party that you either didn't want to attend or realize that you shouldn't have attended. You can't find a polite or other exit because you came with someone else or committed to stay. And you are dying inside of boredom or shame and contemplating faking a heart attack to get out of this sorry POS called a holiday party.

You, my friend, are a holiday hostage. And I'm here to make sure this never happens to you again.

Here are the basics for avoiding becoming a holiday hostage.

1) First, have a game plan that includes a lot of "noes". Before all the holiday events start appearing in folks' minds and on your schedule, find out the ones you want to avoid and calendar in conflicting appointments on your calendar. No one has to know that those appointments are with yourself. If anyone asks if you can attend something, tell them, "I need to check my calendar," followed with, "I'm so sorry, but I commi…

The Death of Honor

Honor is dead, y'all, plain and simple. Conrad Murray put it on life support, it flatlined with JoePa, and it died quietly with the passing of Heavy D.

Conrad Murray put honor on life support when he had the temerity to not only insist on a trial on his involuntary manslaughter charge in the homocide of Michael Jackson, but then attempted to blame Jackson for his own death. The question whether Murray had any honor was answered in the negative when his mistresses took the stand, when the argument was made that Jackson administered the fatal dose of propofol himself. Regardless of how Jackson got his last dose of propofol, he could not have had access to it but for Dr. Murray. To blame a dead man for his own death that could not have happened but for your own actions? Absolutely no honor. It would have taken me all of nine minutes, not nine hours, to vote to convict Murray, and that's including six minutes for going to the bathroom. If Murray had had any honor, he would have ple…

The Power of "No"

My husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), and I opened a joint checking and savings account at a local credit union. Towards the end of the transaction, the credit union rep tells us he needs our signature on something. He slides across the desk a proxy agreement that would allow the credit union to vote our shares for three years. BMNB and I read the agreement at the same time, and, without looking up or looking at each other, we say in unison, "No."

"Are you going to commit to attending shareholder meetings, then?", the credit union rep inquires, semi-indignantly.

Again, we say in unison, "No." And we explain, "We don't have to."

I then explain, "I don't give a proxy to Warren Buffett to vote my shares of Berkshire-Hathaway, just in case Uncle Warren gets a wild hair and decides to lose his mind. I'm surely not going to give my proxy to you. " One tiny thing I forgot, though: I don't have voting shares in Berkshire-Hath…

Is Marriage For White People? Negro, Please.

Ralph Richards Banks' book, "Is Marriage for White People?: How The African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone," challenges black women to stop marrying down -- settling for black men who aren't as educated or accomplished as we are -- if we marry at all, and instead start marrying out -- that is, outside the race. Banks says that black women are the least likely of women of any ethnic group to marry outside of our race. He posits that, although we've stood by black men despite the fact that the number and quality of black men available to us is nowhere near equal, the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our race is to marry outside of it.

Negro, please.

First, some disclaimers. I'm not opposed to interracial marriage. There are many, many interracial marriages within my family, and I've always believed that sometimes love chooses you, not the other way around. All my family are all my family, regardless of race.

Second, I'm an educated bl…

A Seat at the Table of My Family's Revolution

"If you aren't doing your life mission, you need to get in the face of God and figure out what it is."

~ My friend Sharon from Denver

A while back, I wrote a blog entry about starting a family revolution to make sure that the bad things that have happened to my family as a result of this recession -- foreclosures, unemployment, wage cuts, etc. -- won't happen again. This revolution is part of what I've come to know is my mission: To share what I know and uplift my family.

I didn't get a chance to report back on how the first meeting for my family's revolution, a series of talks titled "Something to Think About," went on October 8 (see blog entry about the revolution here). What I'd like to do is give all of you readers a seat at the table, so to speak. Whatever topics Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I cover with our family in this series of talks, I'm going to cover with you.

At our first meeting, only one couple, my niece and nephew-in-la…

Bloggin' At Ya From An Undisclosed Location On A Blessed Mission

Gentle Readers,

Yours truly has taken some time away, and I'm blogging from an undisclosed location on a blessed mission. My friend, whom I'll just call Sharon from Denver, is writing a book that I would consider a blessed mission. I'm finalizing "Dangerous Thoughts of An Uppity Negress," so we're helping each other.

You see, Sharon's book is about making Christianity accessible to real people and, more importantly, and I quote, "separating your relationship with Christ from the confines of conventional church culture." She's using her life as an example, telling stories about separating her walk with Christ from church culture and learning not to confuse the two. I'm blogging about it to prompt her to continue writing and to whet your appetite for the book once it's done.

If you'd like to encourage her, her email address is RealChristian4Christ@yahoo.com. Here's to all the Christians who struggle every day to walk with, but ne…

Today My Heart Hurts, And I Just Don't Have The Words

Yours truly is at a loss for words. Too many deaths of too many greats in too little time.

First we lost Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, civil rights leader and the plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme court case Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, in which he challenged the city of Birmingham's absolute refusal to issue a parade permit for black protests. That he had the courage to fight "Bombingham" all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 speaks volumes.

Then we lost Steve Jobs. His admonition to live your own life and follow your intuition resonates with me because I know I'm on the wrong path.

The third and hardest blow for me is the loss of my former professor Derrick Bell. He literally took me by the hand as a cynical and unhappy law student and walked me around the offices of his faculty colleagues to convince me that I needed to apply for a federal judicial clerkship because it would be invaluable to my career. Of all the professors we spoke to on that sojourn down that dark a…

Smarter Than Wall Street: My Family's Revolution

"What we need is awareness, we can't get careless."

~ "Fight the Power," Public Enemy

There's so much that yours truly could write about -- the sit-ins on Wall Street (About time! When is Public Enemy going to show up and bust out with "Fight the Power"?), the racist bake sale held by the U.C. Berkeley College Republicans that no one in the Republican party has seen fit to disown, the execution of Troy Davis, the passing of Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, and the brother from Stanford Law School who is suggesting that single black professional women just give up the ghost and go get a white guy, or any guy for that matter, other than a black man.

The Wall Street sit-ins call to me because they dovetail with something my family is embarking on: Our own revolution. Starting next Saturday.

As I wrote in my previous post, the ill effects of this recession have touched my family like they have most families in America: unemployment, underemployment, wage c…

Mr. President, I Don't Appreciate Your Tone

Rep. Maxine Waters wasn't the only person who found the president's parting language in his address to the Congressional Black Caucus "curious." When I heard his summation, I looked at my husband with a "Oh, no he didn't" look on my face.

WTF?

For those of you who missed it, I'm going to include a link to the text of the president's speech at the end of the post. The speech in its entirety was a very positive speech. Suffice it to say, the language that caught my attention was this:

I expect all of you to march with me. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do, CBC.

With all due respect, Mr. President, you're the one with the work to do.

The end of your speech implies that: 1) CBC members and black folks have been complaining, grumbling and crying; and 2) We're sitting around in our "bedroom slippers" in…

Georgia and Troy Davis on My Mind

Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer, will be executed tomorrow in Georgia at 7 pm.

His case has become a cause highlighting the problems with the death penalty. Seven of nine key witnesses who testified to his detriment have recanted their stories, no DNA evidence linked him to the crime, and no weapon was found despite the fact that shell casings from the murder matched shell casings from an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution for the purposes of having a federal court judge hear the matter, and the judge did not believe the witnesses who recanted. There appears to be a maelstrom of doubt.

Today, the Georgia Pardons Board has denied Davis clemency, and Georgia's governor has no power to grant it. Efforts to get the Chatham District Attorney Larry Chisholm to stop the execution appear to be to no avail, as Chisholm states he has no power to withdraw a death warrant. It looks like Davis' exec…

Give It Up, Turn It Loose: Fear of a Statin

Yours truly has been on vacation. The time away from work has been good for me and given me a new perspective and greater focus. Thanks, dear readers, for your patience with my absence. I also wanted to continue to use my little postage stamp of cyberspace here to promote the Angie Stone "Black is Beautiful" concert this Friday in Atlanta that will be supporting the 100 Black Men's "Project Success" to get more underserved kids to college.

That said, I had somewhat of a health shake-up while on vacation, and I figured I would share it with you in hopes that you might have your own health epiphany.

While on vacation, I finally got some blood work done that I needed to complete for my annual physical. My doctor emailed me and said that my results were "spectacular" except for one thing:

My cholesterol level.

Seems it's been on the rise for years now, and for the second time, she has suggested that I start a light dose of statins.

And for the second time,…

Support 100 Black Men & Angie Stone's "Black is Beautiful Tour" 9/23 in ATL

I'm a fan of 100 Black Men. I'm a fan of black men, period. I'm also a fan of Angie Stone and Raheem Devaughn. And I know first hand that it's Better in the Bahamas. So the opportunity to support 100 Black Men, see Angie Stone and Raheem Devaughn in concert, help underserved Atlanta youth attend college AND possibly win a trip to the Bahamas is a no-brainer.

The Black is Beautiful Tour, hosted by the Islands of the Bahamas, features Grammy Award-winning songstress Angie Stone and Raheem Devaughn with laugh-out-loud comedian Lightfoot as host and will be held September 23 at 8:00 pm at the Atlanta Civic Center. The concert is an official event of the 23rd Annual Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic Weekend which pits the FAMU Rattlers against the Southern University Jaguars Saturday, September 24 at 3:00 pm at the Georgia Dome. Part of the concert proceeds will benefit the 100 Black Men's Project Support, which helps underserved youth in Atlanta attend college w…

Stop Turding On President Obama's Vacation

Turd [vt]: when used with the preposition "on," means "to harshly and unfairly criticize someone's actions or work." Example: My boss turded on the report I wrote.

My ten year-old great-nephew taught me that "turd" is not only a noun, but a verb. It is a verb that applies to the press and the public's criticism of President Obama's vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

It seems that people, most of whom I would hazard to guess aren't Black, seem to have a problem with President Obama taking a vacation in Martha's Vineyard, either because of the timing or the location. To them I say, "Stop turding on President Obama's vacation."

For starters, before President Obama was a president, he was a father. As any parent can tell you, family vacations are often driven by children's school schedules, not their parents' work schedules. Most parents try to squeeze in a family vacation before their children return to school, and t…

See Sade in Concert, 'Cause She Sings When She Wants To

She is reclusive, mysterious, breathtakingly beautiful, with a singing voice like no other that you recognize the instant you hear it. If you are a Sade fan like I am, do not miss this once-in-a-decade opportunity to see Sade (the singer AND the phenomenal band of the same name), because, and these are not my words:

"The bitch sings when she wants to."

Let me clarify. According to an article in The Sunday Times, Sade (the band) guitarist Stuart Matthewman saw a graffiti poster of Sade (the singer) in New York with the caption, "The bitch sings when she wants to." Supposedly she found it humorous.

Perhaps because it's true.

Sade has/have not been on tour in over ten years. The singer is the most successful British female singer of all time. She is notoriously reclusive, and 2010's "Soldier of Love" was her/their first CD in ten years. She does not want for money, doesn't particularly care for it, and lives a simple life with her daughter, partn…

What I Would Say to Today's High School Girls

I had the pleasure of having drinks and appetizers with some of my high school classmates, all of us Black women, all of us in our late 40's. We talked about our lives, the friends and husbands we kicked to the curb, the friends who kicked us to the curb, kids, and all kinds of sundry matters. It got me thinking: Knowing what we know now, what advice would I give today's high school girls? Here goes:

1) You won't keep all the friends you have in high school, and that's okay. Your interests will diverge, some will be jealous of what you're accomplishing, and some may be going through some things and can't be your friend. More often than not, though, you'll find out that some of your friends aren't really for you and aren't who you thought they were. You'll find that some even like to keep drama going because it's their way of continuing to be "somebody." It's okay to let them go. You may indeed be blessed by their absence.

2) Bo…

Debt Ceiling Mistakes All Around: I Call B.S.

So . . . Standard & Poors, which didn't downgrade all those mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the housing bubble meltdown, found the stones to downgrade, of all things, U.S. treasuries?

I call B.S.

But first, there are a lot of mistakes to go around, starting with my own. My mistake was allowing the stop-loss orders on my 401(k) stock holdings to expire while all this debt ceiling madness was going on. I was preoccupied with other things going on in my life and just didn't pay attention. The unrealized gains on my 401(k) holdings took a major haircut from 29% to 8%. Nothing to do but ride it out. Had I had my stop-loss orders in place, I could have gone back and re-bought all my perfectly good holdings for a lot less, in essence shorting my own stock portfolio. I've got another fourteen years to ride it out, but lesson learned: Always keep your stop-loss orders in place so when stupid people panic and sell, you're not stuck talking about unrealized gains …