Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On Mrs. King

Later, when I am in a better mood and I can reflect on her life and all she meant to women like me--who admired her grace and poise and outspokeness--I will write a post in honor of Mrs. King.

But today, in my less-than-stellar-mood, the cynic in me triumphs. Mrs. King and Mrs. Parks within months of each other. Just at the time the appointment of Samuel Alito and all he stands for slaps many of us in the face.

It as if the death of these beautiful, wonderful, brave women is marking the death of something else...

Thursday, January 26, 2006


"There's no doubt in my mind it is legal," said President Bush of his controversial domestic surveillance program.

You wanna know what I'm thinking? Here's what I'm thinking.

Any one who is reassured by this statement from this man didn't need reassurance.

Oh, they may have longed for affirmation.

They probably wanted validation.

And they definitely need medication. (And you thought Rev. Jackson only had one love-child)

But reassurance? Nah, anyone who is reassured by this was already a resident of the Unsound States of Absurdity.

A sufferer of an Unfounded Sense of Accuracy.

A pitifully Unbalanced Source of Aggravation.

And so damned powerful these days that I'm tempted to bury my head in the sand.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The chapter stands at page 23 and I'm not finished. Oh, it still needs much filling in and fleshing out, but it's coming along. And it will be substantial enough to turn in Friday.

Sad part is: To do that, I had to unplug the modem from 4 to 9 today and give it to my sister.

But I did it! Consider throwing me a party...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go, Steelers!

Not that I know anything directly, but...

When I grew up, my father was a devoted Steelers fan. Since I am a devoted Daddy's girl, gotta give a shout out!

My best friend's father hails from Pittsburgh and she's a big fan, too. Since I got mad love for that beautiful chick, I gotta give a shout out!

People doubted Ben and Bettis and company. Since I got mad respect for those who prove the ubiquitous "people" wrong, I gotta give a shout out!

OK, now I'm hoarse. Goodbye!

A Milestone in Women's Reproductive Freedom...

...not that the goal has been achieved. If so, we wouldn't still have to fight so fiercely.
Anyway, I promised a nice post for the Roe v. Wade Anniversary. I did my research. I stared at my pack of ortho and marveled at my clearing complexion. I found out some not-so-nice things about Margaret Sanger and statistics that refuted long held beliefs that "white girls have more abortions than us." And still, I was at a loss of words. And then I thought, I'll tell you a story. About one of my favorite people and how she left me wondering about opportunities and potential deferred.
My Grandmother, A, was born in rural Louisiana in 1924, eventually one of 6 kids. I don't know much about her childhood--I knew two of her siblings, uncles MC and N, and I vaguely remember her mother, to whom I apparently bear a striking resemblance. What I know of A's life begins in 1944 when she and my Granddad, J, had their first son. My dad was number three.
From all accounts, A was one smart cookie. When J, a WWII vet, went back to school at Grambling State, the realities of a growing family meant he had to work , too. So, in the midst of childrearing and meal preparing, A had to complete J's homework regularly. She was particularly strong in math--both college level and that of her school-age children. Probably a factor in why she taught me to play spades and dominos with such skill. Despite (or because of) her sizable family, A had to work outside the home in the low-skill, low-wage "service" jobs characteristic of much of ethnic/racial minority women's paid work.
My point, this brilliant woman--the superior "brain" in her marriage, according to her kids--had 14 kids between 1944 and 1964. Two sets of twins (one set stillborn), at least a couple who had 11 months or less between them, and mostly BOYS (only 3 girls)! I heard someone repeat a self-deprecating joke A made one time--that each time she pulled her clothes off, she got pregnant.
So now that I'm a grown woman, I think about my grandmother in womanly terms. I think of how, despite the fact that she loved all her kids, she must have felt despair when some of her pregnancies were confirmed. I think of how maybe she thought it was unfair that J was able to venture out and get his degree while she stayed behind in so many ways. I think about how she may have absolutely dreaded sex sometimes--hell, I do and I have one kid and a really good ob/gyn. I think about how incredibly tiring it must have been to have children for TWENTY YEARS. I think about how access to effective birth control--both mental/emotional access (in case she felt it was somehow wrong) and literal access--may have changed her life. And I think about what else she could have been--she had the mothering and grandmothering down pat, we all adored her--if she'd had more choices.
In 1990, a month shy of her 66th birthday, A, who had been wracked by a number of illnesses for a number of years, became gravely ill. When it came time to make the decision on whether to sustain her life artificially, her children decided not to. Their major reason? "Mama was tired. Her body was tired." And part of that tiredness--12 confirmed pregnancies. 108 months of unbelievable stress on her small frame.

And, just maybe, a lifetime of wondering what if.

Back to Work

Okay, next (rough draft) chapter of the diss has a definitive due date of january 27. Given the fact that I wasted all of Saturday blogging (3 posts in one day? ugh), reading blogs, and doing searches on any topic that popped into my mind, I'm spending the next few days getting back on track.

No, don't beg and plead. This is something I must do (sigh).

Saturday, January 21, 2006


You know, conservatives always hem and haw about how liberals appeal/pander to the worst in black culture/life/communities. But that whole evangelical, rightwing undertaking that began before the 2004 election--you remember that appeal to "socially conservative" African-Americans to join with fundamentalists and vote for the right against gay rights? Now that was pandering at its finest!

Anyway, seems we're starting to see through that ruse. I'm going to try a backlink/trackback on this. But in case I'm unsuccessful go here, to the news blog and search for a post called "about time. "

A Bit of Insight

just looked at the blog's description and realized that i promised you some mommy insights (should be mama insights, i suppose, as that is what the kid calls me). as i haven't delivered (though remind me to post real soon about our conversation-on-gays that we had to have because he eavesdropped on a conversation i was having with my cousin about brokeback mountain), i thought i'd share this quickie.

my nephew and my son just walked into the room to tell me goodbye. they are going, they have decided, to mississippi. why mississippi, you ask? listening to someone talk about david banner, undoubtedly (remind me to discuss their totally age-inappropriate fascination with hip-hop, too). i looked up at them worriedly (i was typing that last rambling post), opened my mouth to warn them about the potential trials and travails of two young black men traveling through mississippi, then snapped it shut.

you see, my son just got a weekly reader that discussed the efforts of mlk, jr. and rosa parks. we read a book about ruby bridges together and he was totally enthralled by the fact that our home church dimmed the lights and sang "we shall overcome" a cappella on sunday, january 15. he's feeling the crm triumphs and he's bold enough to venture into mississippi. so, for today at least, i won't discuss medgar evers and goodman, schwerner, and chaney and the hateful ross barnett and all the other reasons everyone but SNCC thought mississippi was a lost cause. i'll focus on fannie lou hamer and james meredith and even david banner. they'll learn about the rest soon enough.

or maybe, they won't.

Gotta Stop Singing about Sanger

OK, given some of the things I've discovered about Margaret Sanger while researching various topics for the Roe v. Wade anniversary, I must admit, I won't be as free in my references to her as I have been in the past. But the whole "pro-life" idea that her work for birth control and improved quality of life is discredited in communities-of-color because she made racist statements? No sale. Not with me anyway. Why? Well, I've constructed some imaginary conversations with a couple of my associates to demonstrate my points. Maybe I'll get a chance to say these things one day! Beware: this is a long post.

Conversation One:
Characters: The pastor of my growing, predominantly black, conservative Baptist church here in Houston and me:

Pastor (smugly): You know, Elle, since you're such a supporter of women's reproductive freedom, I think I should point out that one of you heroines, Margaret Sanger, had ties to the eugenics movement.

Elle (feigns ignorance): Really?

Pastor (waving his hand dismissively): Yes. I figured, being a little woman and all, you'd ignored or missed that in your studies. An important fact, but not your fault that you can't discriminate between important and not. That's why I advocate that you young sisters stay in your place.

Elle: Hmm.

Pastor: So, you see, you were troubled that Houston's Planned Parenthoods didn't have enough funding this past year to offer services on a sliding scale. In reality, why should you care about that organization? Given its history with Sanger, the racist.

Elle: Mmm. Well, Pastor, Planned Parenthood offers more than birth control and abortion. There's the STD testing-

Pastor (holds up a hand to silence Elle): Not an issue if people wouldn't have sex! Total abstinence for all but married, straight couples is a worthwhile and achievable goal.

Elle: But Pastor, married people get STDs-

Pastor: The adulterers!

Elle (sighs, but refrains from asking about the health of the non-cheating partner. smiles as she thinks of something else): So, Pastor, you're saying that I should rebuff Planned Parenthood because it may have a racist history?

Pastor (smiles patiently): Yes, sweetheart (or darling or honey or baby).

Elle: I'll renounce support of them when you give up the Mercedes S500 the church gave you.

Pastor (frowns): I know your mind struggles with rational connections and logic--and really, it's not your fault--but Pastor doesn't see the connection.

Elle (sweetly sarcastic): Pastor, would you say that the Holocaust was, in some small way, a racist tragedy?

Pastor grunts.

Elle: Well, Mercedes-Benz used Jewish slave labor during the Holocaust. So, even a woman could argue that the company may be troubled by a racist history. And since we're rebuffing...

Pastor: Now, wait a minute, young woman-

Elle: And Pastor, you just said how proud you were to be an American and truly, we all are. But when this country was being conceived, people like us were considered 3/5 of a person and involved in a racially-based slave system. So, I could go further and say our country is troubled by a racist history.

Elle (coughs, steps away from the smoke emanating from Pastor's nose): So if we're discrediting and disassociating ourselves from every country, organization and person that may have a racist history-

Elle's words are lost as always savvy Pastor turns to shake another member's hand.

Conversation two:

Characters: A white, conservative friend (I have no idea how or why he and I clicked) who wants to remain nameless on my blog (can't imagine why :-) and me:

Friend (mockingly): Surely, you, Elle, goddess of renouncing racists, isn't going to continue your support of Sanger. That might make you (gasps) a hypocrite.

Elle: I will continue to support her work, Friend. Besides, I know you aren't talking. Remember when that professor asked us if Joseph Conrad and the characters in Heart of Darkness were really racists or if they were-

Friend: -just accepting the prevailing notions and conventions of their time and I said it was the latter? Yes, I remember. You didn't speak to me for 2 weeks.

Elle: Uh-huh. And remember when I said I was troubled by presidents who said things like "Birth of a Nation" was like "writing history with lightning" (Woodrow Wilson) or that he understood why white Southerners didn't want their daughters in school with "big black bucks" (Eisenhower) or began their campaigns in places in Mississippi not all that troubled by its history as the deathplace of civil rights workers? You said-

Friend: -they were products of their times. I still believe that. Doesn't change what they offered to American society.

Elle gives him a pointed look. Friend sighs.

Friend: Fine. But you're still a hypocrite.

Elle: But an honest one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chocolate City?

Isn't that the name of an R. Kelly CD?

Anyway, I'm all for improving and rebuilding our communties (part of what Mayor Nagin suggested), but did a call for revitalization have to be accompanied by the rest of that?

Funny, I never saw the Nagin-Robertson resemblance.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The other big "D"

Oh yeah! i knew i had something to discuss. tuesday night, i drove to dallas to pick up a friend who's going to help me drive to arkansas this weekend. it was a halfway spot that we agreed upon and it really didn't take long... but i digress.

it was my first time traveling that far north on I 45. i went to huntsville as an undergrad and that's been about it. i think i've been to dallas 4 times in my life--one of 'em was a layover at DFW--and i've always come from louisiana on I 20. i made a lot of observations along the way:

1. there's too much "big" stuff- i hate water towers, cell towers, really big tvs, large waving flags, etc. that damn statue of sam houston in huntsville almost sent me into cardiac arrest. and then, closer to dallas, there's a drive-in theater and you can see those big old, looming screens from the freeway. with images flashing on them! like judgment day and God is replaying scenes from your pitiful life... well, anyway, my skin crawled in earnest. there was also a tall, uneven fence, some water towers, what looked like a huge oil derrick, and just shit thrown up to freak out mental cases like me. and did i mention that statue? ugh!

2. i think there's water along the way- i don't know, it was dark, but there was fog rising off something, and if there's one thing i can't stand, it's driving over water. i can deal with the bridges--like going to new orleans from either houston or from north louisiana or that bridge they used to have over the ouachita when you drove into monroe. i don't like them, i imagine plunging to my death, but i can deal with them. but driving over water that's almost even with the freeway? oh my God! that is a result of two things: driving to galveston ONE TIME as an undergrad and a recurring nightmare in which i simply drive into a body of water at the end of a road and alligators (or crocodiles--i don't know the difference even in my nightmares) get my ass. i always wake up before they snap into me, thank God. but that's a real phobia of mine-- i even have dreams in which someone lets a crocogator into my house and it corners me in my bedroom.

3. where the hell is the city? - true, it was 11 pm, but i didn't even get lost (like i still do in downtown houston)! i saw the signs saying dallas-35 miles, 32 miles, 26 miles, and still no vast display of urbanization. i mean, i'm not the city expert, but when i'm coming from home back to houston, you're "in the city" 50 miles before you're "in the city." maybe dallas's urban sprawl isn't southbound on 45. maybe it's east bound on 20. i vaguely remember being more impressed coming from that direction. of course, anything is more impressive when you're coming from podunk, la.

4. apparently, there's a different culture up there - aside from the brutal assault on words that end in -ere. a few miles outside of dallas, i saw a sign that said "national security threat" and i thought, god, what HAS osama done now?! but as my eyes scrolled downward, the sign said "report illegal workers" and "the job you save may be your own." i hate that i didn't memorize the toll-free number. is it just me? is that sign not a wee bit offensive? is this really a national security issue? IMHO, it'd be a bigger security issue for some of us if immigrants didn't take these jobs. i mean, come on! despite the fact that he got called out, vicente fox had a point about the kinds of jobs "illegal" workers take. some of them are the nuts-and-bolts work required to sustain this country and few of our spoiled asses want those!

needless to say, barring an emergency, i won't be traveling to dallas on 45 anytime soon.

at least not until they consider moving Mr. Houston back from the roadway a bit. but could you imagine that head looming over some trees and the body obscured?

i need a drink!

a book on the Book

just heard of a book: John Shelby Spong, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism : A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture" (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). Considering the fact that it's already 13 years old and that U.S. Christianity is in the throes of a scary fundamentalist/evangelical coup (actually, I think they've pretty much already won), I guess the book didn't make a big impact. still, i'm itching to read it.

actually, i'm itching all over, period. but that's another subject.

and i promise c, a, t, and m (my dissertater group) that i will not read it and use it as an excuse to procrastinate before i turn in my next chapter.

not that i need an excuse to procrastinate...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I was all set to be wary of this man based on his anti-choice stance alone. Well, that and the fact that any person that conservatives wholeheartedly endorse and love sends chills up my spine. But anyway, I was listening to my secret boyfriend, Tavis Smiley, this morning, and he raised some issues that I wasn't even aware of. See, Mr. Smiley knows that black America can't be convinced to protest against someone because s/he's anti-choice or anti-gay rights--hell, large sections of our community share those sentiments. So he had to tell us more about Mr. Alito. And he did quite an impressive job.

Like pointing out that Mr. Alito is against one person, one vote.

And, that, in 15 years on the bench, during which numerous cases of racial discrimination in hiring/employment came before him, he never once, NOT ONE TIME, ruled with the plaintiff.

Oh, and he has no problem with making it harder for people to prove cases of sex and/or disabilty discrimination either.

Yes, I'm taking secret boyfriend at his word. I love him, after all.

And I'm going right now to read more about Samuel Alito so when I do write the blog entry protesting his ass, I can do it with confidence, knowledge, and facts--the last two of which wouldn't be necessary if I was a conservative writer but...

In the meantime, check out http://www.bushvchoice.com/ if, like I was, you're content to lambaste Alito on his anti-choice stance alone. I'll be saving the Alito blog for January 22, I suppose, the Blog for Choice Day.

Trust me, it'll be worth waiting for!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Broken Hearts on Brokeback

Saw the movie yesterday with my dissertater group. Let me just say, we left the theater kind of quietly. Forlorn, morose, unfulfilled... not words that describe the movie, but words that describe how it made me feel. Not even the sadness that you can express with tears (and I'm a cry baby) but the kind that makes you feel empty and achy inside.

Now, after that cheerful summary, I suggest you go see it for yourself.

Almighty... or not?

I have a question to ask my fellow Christians of a more conservative bent. I thought you guys believed Jesus was an all-powerful, vengeful god (purposely lower case) perfectly capable of dealing with situations and mortals with whom He might take issue. And then I clicked on AOL today and found out that some conservatives are bothered by the TV show "The Book of Daniel." So, my question is, when did Jesus become this fragile, weak image in constant need of your protection and defense?

I mean, the whole war over Christmas and now, this? It reminds me of growing up and being taught never to question God and then hearing the pastor of my current church saying, "Question Him! You think your puny questions are a match for His wisdom?" I was shocked--to be honest, I always questioned Him in the back of my mind about myriad things--but to find a pastor validating my very human nature? Amazing.

And so, I'm turning that question on the defenders of Christmas and the boycotters of "Daniel." Do you think Jesus is threatened by this? By any of our puny little human endeavors? As Christians, isn't there infinitely more important work you can undertake? If you're a Christian, shouldn't one of your primary beliefs be that Jesus can handle his own? Despite the persecution complex some of us have developed and seem intent on making others see, it isn't like Jesus and his followers haven't weathered far harsher times and places than 21st century, majority Christian, filthy rich America. If you feel the need to remain ever vigilant, visit one of the surprising number of Christian persecution websites and start a campaign to defend Christianity in the always-a-prime-target Middle East.

But back to "The Book of Daniel." The producers say their show is not a mockery or "satirization" of Jesus, that He will be portrayed as a spiritual guide. They also say--and hold onto your seats for this crazy, irrational thought--that people should wait to see the show before making judgments.

But let's envision the worst case scenario. Let's say that "Daniel" proves to be nothing more than a jab at Christ and Christians, a joke at our expense. Let's say we find it too offensive for words. And then, let's say, we simply watch something else. Let's say we put our money where our mouths are and assume that Jesus can outlive and outlast one puny TV show. I think He just might manage to emerge unscathed.

And for the Pat Robertson devotees, don't worry. The Bible quite clearly states in Galatians, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. If the creators of "Daniel" go too far, there's no telling what kind of hurricanes and brain surgeries God may have in store for them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


i did pull out the chapter in progress today and a notebook, some census reports, old newspaper cutouts, two interviews, and a couple of articles. i set it all on the bed beside me and watched and waited for it to assemble itself into a brilliant chapter. i got so engrossed that i fell asleep from 6 to 9 while waiting. now that i look over, i see that it is still just a disjointed pile taking up more than its half of the bed. that statistical abstract of louisiana is particularly mocking me as i keep opening and closing it to no avail. i have this incredible feeling of tension--as if these sources are willing me to put them together in a new and insightful way right now, dammit!--and i want to pounce upon the keyboard and type something profound that validates all those rumors that i hear about myself in the department. something at once so groundbreaking, so brilliant, so original that i actually feel good about it (and not just the "you really thought that was good?" feeling i usually get when i read comments on my work). i am so scared that they are moments away from finding out that i'm an exceptionally lucky, procrastinating fraud!

but, alas, it's just a draft, and a soon-to-be-due one at that. and, since my advisor's other brilliant PhD student is meeting with her and turning in work, i need to get my ass on the ball.

Oh My

I have a million things to do and apparently none of them concern my dissertation. Over a month now since I accomplished any real work and I'm still lagging. I need a plan, a resolution. This is year five and I'm tired of the damned thing. Deep down, I'm wondering--intelligence and writing ability aside--can I do this? People have given me lots of money to do it. My family has given me lots of time and support. And still, I'm drowning. I came back to school on a whim, did surprisingly well, and enjoyed it. But, I must admit, there is a conceited, snobby part of me who pursued the degree only for the title doctor--to somehow validate how smart I am. The rest of me is exhausted and not so interested anymore. I need help...
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...