Monday, June 30, 2008

Things Seen

My son likes graphic shirts. Here are some that I've unfortunately stumbled upon as I shopped for him.

And while shopping for my almost-seven-month-old niece, this onesie, because it's never too soon to begin perfecting your snappy retorts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Week's Inspiration for the Teacher in Me

I read about Karen Salazar at Jack's earlier this week.
Yesterday while listening to Democracy Now! I heard about Karen Salazar for the first time. She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” - instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily. From a letter by Salazar posted on the Vivir Latino site:
I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …
Then tonight, I read a post on the Quaker Agitator in which Dave provided a link to a a magazine called Radical Teacher. Dave's post included the magazine's definition of a "radicalteacher," which begins with these beautiful, basic precepts:
1. One who provides student-centered - rather than teacher-centered - classrooms; non-authoritarian.

2. One who shares rather than transmits information.

3. One who aids in student growth and empowerment by drawing out what is already there and latent.

4. One who respects students.

There are 12 more wonderful items in the list. I am really, really looking forward to exploring this magazine.

I Want a New Layout

With three columns. And the ability to put stuff behind a break/fold--I looked at blogger help to figure that out, and maybe I'm too sleepy now, but it was talking about adding stuff to the header, then to some other parts of the template and I said forget that! I don't want to have to redo widgets.

I had a lovely one designed by Miss Zoot before, but I'm not sure she still does them. I screwed it up messing around with my template.

Anyway, any recommendations? Keep in mind, though I do enjoy the AMAZING salary of an untenured historian at a public university in the state of Louisiana, I'm on a budget.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What My Mind Is Turning Over

The Newsweek article that Kim directed me to earlier this week about black women supporting R. Kelly. Though there were some things I agreed with, this, in particular, bothered me:
Sex crimes may be viewed as less important in a community defined by race and the issues surrounding it. Sexism isn't discussed much in the black community...
Then, tonight, Mrs. O suggested I break my no BET rule and watch Hip Hop vs. America II. I only caught the second half, and, on one hand, I was perturbed (isn't that an ugly word :-P) by MC Lyte's determination to portray black women's life as a constant battle with "THE CHOICE" a.k.a. "Which is more important, race or gender?" I've noted before that I believe that thinking creates a false dichotomy.

But, OTOH, I think some important points were made (and can I just say I really liked Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell and how San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris explained her support for Senator Obama?).

So I'm going to write a post about these two things--I rushed to the computer to do so tonight, but I think I'll let it marinate.


My nephew is growing his hair out (again) in hopes of getting it loc'd. He's grown it long enough to get it twisted:

I'll chronicle his progress here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Day...

I'm going to go consistently to bed the night before I have to wake up.

Not the same morning.

I wonder how that feels...

Passing along a Link

Via my co-blogger, Kim, a nod to Mrs. O's post:

Why Black Women Love R. Kelly

I haven't read the whole article myself, but, aside from the notably missing "some" between the words "why" and "black," I'm hoping it's a good analysis.

Update about the New Jersey Four

I received a link to this update via e-mail a couple of days ago:
Terrain Dandridge, one of the New Jersey 4, released after 2 years of incarceration; first day free will be spent meeting with Angela Davis and the Queer Community in San Francisco

Appeal Update for the case of the New Jersey 4

Terrain Dandridge’s appeal has been successful and she should be released from Albion Correctional Facility as early as this Monday, June 23, 2008! Terrain Dandridge’s case was overturned, all her charges were dropped and her record has been cleared. Renata Hill is awaiting a new trial of the events concerning the night of August 18, 2006, where her and seven other young black lesbians from Newark, New Jersey faced a homophobic assault in New York’s East Village.

The lawyers, who agreed that there was no strategy for involving grassroots support in the appeals process, have called this, “a miracle”. Terrain’s lawyer has acknowledged that to be granted a new trial is rare; to have charged dropped is unprecedented. The Bay Area Solidarity Committee realizes that regardless of whether we were factored in by lawyers as part of the appeals process, this unprecedented turn of events had little to do with divisive legal strategy, an unjust system’s benevolence or retributive justice. Terrain’s freedom is directly related to an international campaign of radical queers of color and their allies.

While we celebrate this victory, we mourn the divisive legal strategy, which has attempted to pit these friends and lovers against one another and further complicate those whose appeals are yet to be heard. Despite our great news, we must ensure that no one is left– not Venice, not Renata, not Patreese– to endure the horror of the prison industrial complex.

As a result of sexist, homophobic, and racist stereotypes held by law enforcement agents and institutions, the women later known as the New Jersey 4 were deemed to be a “lesbian wolfpack gang”, who were organizing to terrorize straight men. Our stories are so often retold with a complete reversal of who is being harmed and who is doing the harming. The impacts of allowing Dwayne Buckle to be popularly depicted in the media and during the court proceedings as the “victim” fails to identify how his desire to dominate women (and their spaces) only leads to the violence that resulted. On a broader social level, such negligent media reporting, police investigation, and courtroom bias only promises to generate more of these same violent experiences which target women and queers. The New Jersey 4, like so many of us, are survivors of a system which incorrectly identifies the root causes of violence and crime, only to create conditions for mass incarceration and displacement of queers, especially those queers, like the 4, who are already vulnerable to criminalization because of their race or class identity.

While, Monday, June 23rd marks Terrain’s long awaited release date from Albion Correctional Facility, where she has been caged for six hundred seventy three days of her life because of a wrongful prsecution and conviction, we must remember Terrain still unjustly spent two years of her young life in prison, which cannot be returned to her. Chenese Loyal, Lania Daniels, and Khamysha Coates still have felony charges that prevent them from getting jobs, registering for housing and other unjust discrimination. Renata is still behind bars awaiting a new trial. Venice, sentenced to 5 years and Patreese, sentenced to 11 years, remain incarcerated, awaiting appeals to be heard in the fall. , The 3 women will continue to navigate the legal system until the day comes when their stories will finally be heard without the racist homophobic sexist bias that denied them a fair trial to begin with.

Mosaic Meme

Tagged by Kismet

Here's a mosaic about moi!

Rules from Aaminah:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

I tag my co-bloggers, k8, k8, justme, Quiche, Julie ('scuse me, Dr. Julie), the History Enthusiast, and anyone else who wants to do it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

loving us to death

**Please welcome my best friend, Mrs. O, to the blog -elle**

R. Kelly is a free man! The guy on the radio declared that with such joy and pride, you would have thought he had won the 42 million dollar powerball. Now who am I, you may wonder, to wish ill on the great R. Kelly? Well, I will tell you who I am. I am a hardworking, intelligent African American woman who is so tired of the beatings-physical and emotional- that many women in THIS here United States suffer, at the hands of the men who profess to love them. It seems that the world we live in has lost its mind when it comes to treating women with the decency and fairness one should treat another human being. A man harms or kills his girlfriend or wife, she must have deserved it or she did not save herself is what many headlines scream at me from television news shows, news articles, and magazines.

Being a secondary educator, I have heard every excuse from my young African American students--male and some female--who try to get me to understand that R. Kelly is innocent. To that I respond with a GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! R. Kelly had been a pedophile every since I have been fat (and that has been forever). I can not remember a time when he was not in the news for sexing some young girl up. Whether it was marrying Aaliyah when she was just 15 and her parents having to arrange an annulment or settling out of court with young women to keep himself out of jail. It is common knowledge that while R. Kelly was engaged in many of these liaisons, he was married with children. I count his wife and daughters among the women he has hurt deeply.

And then there is the spectacle of the trial. He was indicted on 14 counts and found not guilty on all 14. So I ask you, how can he be on video tape (and yes it was him) having sex with two young ladies and be found not guilty because he says it was not him, although the other young lady
(who was his girlfriend at the time) testified that it was Kelly, herself, and the thirteen year old in the video? Does money talk that much? Or is it okay because the victim is a young black woman and, well, everyone knows how sexually ready and available we always are...

Elle posted about a case recently that I find especially ironic in light of the R. Kelly verdict. Tracy Roberson can be found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison because a judge felt she should be held responsible for her HUSBAND’S actions when he killed her lover. Now, she should be held responsible, BUT here we have R. Kelly on video and he is not responsible because his attorneys say it was not him on the video tape. Why is it that when women do something wrong, something that violates sexual norms, society says let’s burn them at the stake? Men, on the other hand, do something wrong and it seems we (and yes, this time I am looking at some of my sisters angrily) gather around them, sing Kumbayah and pray that God shows them the light? Well guess what? At this point, I do not care if they see the light. I would like to give them a light-under their asses so that they get their shit together.

To the R. Kellys, Bobby Brantleys, and other sexist jackasses(if you are not a sexist jackass then I am not talking to you) please do us women a favor and stop gracing us with your so called love, respect, and care, because you are loving us to death-physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

*Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women*

**On the day we found out about the R. Kelly verdict, my best friend, Mrs. O, called me, very upset. "I'm going somewhere where women matter," she told me. "Good luck with that," was my response. I haven't written about the verdict here because she wants to do so as soon as she gets back from a work-related conference.**

Via BfP

*The statement below was forwarded to me by friend, colleague and comrade William Jelani Cobb. Please feel free to add your name to the statement and to forward it to others.*

–Mark Anthony Neal

*Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women*

Six years have gone by since we first heard the allegations that R. Kelly had filmed himself having sex with an underage girl. During that time we have seen the videotape being hawked on street corners in Black communities, as if the dehumanization of one of our own was not at stake. We have seen entertainers rally around him and watched his career reach new heights despite the grave possibility that he had molested and urinated on a 13-year old girl. We saw African Americans purchase millions of his records despite the long history of such charges swirling around the singer. Worst of all, we have witnessed the sad vision of Black people cheering his acquittal with a fervor usually reserved for community heroes and shaken our heads at the stunning lack of outrage over the verdict in the broader Black community.

Over these years, justice has been delayed and it has been denied. Perhaps a jury can accept R. Kelly’s absurd defense and find “reasonable doubt” despite the fact that the film was shot in his home and featured a man who was identical to him. Perhaps they doubted that the young woman in the courtroom was, in fact, the same person featured in the ten year old video. But there is no doubt about this: some young Black woman was filmed being degraded and exploited by a much older Black man, some daughter of our community was left unprotected, and somewhere another Black woman is being molested, abused or raped and our callous handling of this case will make it that much more difficult for her to come forward and be believed. And each of us is responsible for it.

We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it.

We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly’s claims to innocence. *It is about our survival as a community*. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end.

We ask that you:

o Sign your name if you are a Black male who supports this statement:

o Forward this statement to your entire network and ask other Black males to sign as well

o Make a personal pledge to never support R. Kelly again in any form or fashion, unless he publicly apologizes for his behavior and gets help for his long-standing sexual conduct, in his private life and in his music

o Make a commitment in your own life to never to hit, beat, molest, rape, or exploit Black females in any way and, if you have, to take ownership for your behavior, seek emotional and spiritual help, and, over time, become a voice against all forms of Black female exploitation

o Challenge other Black males, no matter their age, class or educational background, or status in life, if they engage in behavior and language that is exploitative and or disrespectful to Black females in any way. If you say nothing, you become just as guilty.

o Learn to listen to the voices, concerns, needs, criticisms, and challenges of Black females, because they are our equals, and because in listening we will learn a new and different kind of Black manhood

We support the work of scholars, activists and organizations that are helping to redefine Black manhood in healthy ways. Additional resources are listed below.

Who’s Gonna Take the Weight, Kevin Powell
New Black Man, Mark Anthony Neal
Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, Pearl Cleage
Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality, Rudolph Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall

I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America, by Byron Hurt
Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt
NO! The Rape Documentary, by Aishah Simmons

The 2025 Campaign:
Men Stopping Violence:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Devil's Spawn

The makers of bras are shepherds of the devil. There is no other way to describe them. Part of my nightly routine:

"Mama, can you unfasten my bra?" (Because I'm sitting at the computer and don't want to take off my shirt yet).

She patiently unhooks it. She surveys the permanent bruises on my shoulders and back and rubs them a little bit.

"Mama, can you scratch my side?"*

As she scratches very gently, she explains to me why she won't dig in like I want her to. The itching is from the bra irritating me and she doesn't want to make the red areas worse.

I agree, wait for her to go in her room, and attack my itchy skin with the stiff-bristled hairbrush I keep just for this purpose.

I am simultaneously tired of bras and unable to go without them. I have been fitted and am confident I am wearing the correct size--they fit comfortably in the morning.

But after all day, Lord!

I had a nurse tell me once to put a little vaseline on under my breasts and on my sides and shoulders, but then my bras were all stained.

Am I really going to have to go the rest of my life (if I don't have a reduction) hurting and itching at the end of each day?

*I'm a nailbiter and stopped wearing fake nails this past spring because I'd been wearing them for a few years and my mother kept making dire predictions about the state of my real nails. I will not be walking around all hang-nailed and chewed-to-the-quick in the fall, though. Sorry, Mama!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blowing Kisses

For all those going through a tight's some LOVE!

Happy (Late) Father's Day!

I know that both Kim and I dote on our fathers ridiculously and are blessed to have them. So Happy Father's Day to them and the millions of men loving, supporting, and guiding children (and, erm, children-not-so-much) through this crazy world.

Veg*nism--A Quick Revisit

Over at Joan Kelly's, on her post about BfP's wonderful, thought-provoking follow up to a post I wrote about my thoughts about veg*nism for me, I commented that BfP makes lights go off in my head. Not a particularly prosaic phrase (and it might be a mixed metaphor), but how else to describe the fact that, after reading her post and Joan's comments, I was lying in my bed and had a moment of realization that made me roll over and jot things down on the notebook I keep under my pillow.

See, as I explained, one of the main reasons that I think about veg*nism is because of my experiences with and love and knowledge of people who work in the poultry processing industry. It is an industry that I think is cruel to the plant workers who are overwhelmingly black, Latin@, and Southeast Asian, cruel to the rural, mostly white farmers who have very few guarantees, and cruel to the chickens, as well. So, I think I've constructed veg*nism as a panacea in my mind, an act, a way of living, that would allow me to withdraw in some way, from the cruel way in which meat is made.

And that construction has been thoroughly challenged as I tried to answer BfP's not-so-simple question, "Is a vegan lifestyle really a “cruelty free” lifestyle?" How could I overlook the stories that she tells of her father, who picked strawberries, and "worked on his hands and knees for hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks at a time?" Of Maria Vasquez Jimenez? Of the cherry pickers I recently posted about? Of my own grandmother who picked cotton, purple hull peas, and other crops until she simply couldn't?

And at the same time I was thinking about BfP's question, I was reading Joan's comment, especially these parts:
I feel like greed is what is hurting the people and the animals in the processing plants.

That's a simplistic and obvious statement I know. I mean that I don't think it is inherently immoral to eat meat. I know it is possible to eat meat without torturing animals and slow-killing people to do it.
Given that right now, the way most all meat comes to be meat is via torture of animals and torture of the people who work in processing plants, I see this incarnation of meat-eating as obviously corrupt.
I want to know how to shift the focus and the solutions to: it is unacceptable to treat people these ways. It is unnecessary to treat animals this way, on top of the unaaceptability. We don't actually all have to stop eating meat - we have to stop harming people and torturing animals as a means of producing meat.
And that is the heart of my concern, the way food, all food, is brought to our tables, the unbelievable sacrifices that are demanded.

So that I must acknowledge, even if I choose to give up meat, that is not the end of my obligation. From PICO:
Own the debt. It's not just about changing diets. It's about changing industries, wages, working conditions, immigration paths, global trade treaties, and stepping out of the hierarchical, patriarchal way of looking at women and people of color and animals and Earth and, yes, even plants. It's about a whole-life stance, not about what goes on the plate.
These are all goals I care about, of course, but I have never thought of them in this context. Well, I have in a way, but not as fully as I am now.

BfP has a follow-up to her follow up (:-p) with links to people who are thinking about the issues she has brought up. I have been enthralled by following this conversation and how these questions hit people so personally. I am not done myself; this is, as PICO labeled it, another fucking growth opportunity.

A few links:

Wild Chihuahuas
Grad School Mommy
Joan Kelly
Your Daughter Is Obsessed with Meat and Produce
Three Rivers Fog

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"We're the Only Ones Who Can Save Them"

H/T Mrs. O

On Tuesday night, Bobby Brantley rode by the home where his wife and children lived, screaming out the window, threatening to kill her.
Twelve hours later, Brantley fulfilled his fatal promise, murdering her and her mother inside her family's home before shooting himself after a standoff as police entered the house to save a 4-month-old boy.
I know that the Brantley case is not unique. The background is all-too-familiar: Brantley had been abusive to his wife, Theresa, and her children. She'd obtained a number of protective orders and had some of them rescinded. He had a history of violence, including:
September 1999 — Arrested in Alexandria, Ky., for second-degree assault.

March 2005 — Arrested in Sterlington for aggravated assault for beating his mother with a pipe. He pleaded guilty to simple battery and spent two years on probation, which ended in January 2007.

April 2006 — Arrested in Farmerville for two counts of domestic abuse battery.

November 2007 — Arrested in Union Parish for domestic abuse battery.

June 2, 2008 — Arrested in Union Parish for aggravated battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated second-degree battery and false imprisonment. The complaint originated at St. Francis North Hospital, where Theresa Brantley told investigators Brantley beat her and her teenage son with a board. Brantley was out on $15,000 bond at the time of the shooting.

June 11, 2008 — Arrested in Monroe for disturbing the peace and disturbing the peace by profane language for threatening to kill his wife.

He posted bond--a measly $200--on those last two charges and killed Theresa and her mother hours later. Police theorize that the children's lives were in imminent danger as well:
Clinton Ryder [Theresa's father] was able to get three children — an 11-year-old boy and two young girls — out of the house.

Bobby Brantley apparently followed the children outside and prepared to shoot at them, but a neighbor was able to get the children inside her home before they were injured, Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter said.

Theresa was in the process of trying to get another restraining order because Brantley had recently attacked her and two of her children with a board, belt, and buckle.

The Brantley case has given the Monroe, LA, News-Star an opportunity to consult some "experts" on domestic violence. From the first sentence of the resultant article, I was put off:
Victims of domestic violence have to be saved — rarely can they save themselves.
I think women who are being abused are absolutely instrumental in saving themselves. Yes, they need and hopefully, receive lots of help. But that first step of leaving, indicates a very real desire to save oneself.

So, it is no surprise that the rest of the article, in discussing how to "save" domestic assault survivors, focuses on how Theresa Brantley did not save herself--in particular, she'd had two restraining orders dismissed. No mention of what could be done to deter abusers or why Bobby Brantley had not faced stiffer penalties for his violent history. Apparently, restraining orders--notoriously unenforced--are the answer:
Because no restraining order was in place Tuesday night, when Bobby Brantley drove by the Ryder home shouting threats and obscenities at his wife and her family, even his arrest for disturbing the peace was a brief one.
“If we’d had a restraining order, we might have been able to prevent this,” Schleuter said. “Not to say the same result wouldn’t have happened eventually [how optimistic], but we would have had more to work with.”
Because the pending charges and undoubtedly the word of Theresa Brantley were not enough "to work with."

District Attorney Jerry Jones officers the reassurance that Louisiana's "domestic violence laws are the 'strictest in the nation'." But that rings hollow, especially given the fact that another News-Star article reports that "The rate of domestic violence in northeastern Louisiana is twice the number in other parts of the United States." And in areas like this, according to, the ordeal of escaping an abuser is complicated by a number of factors:
It may take police and sheriffs a long time to get to you.

A lot of times, there aren't any buses, taxis, or other types of public transportation - and your abuser may keep you from using the car.

Your abuser may have weapons.

There may be many isolated areas in your community. These isolated areas can be dangerous for you.

Safe places, like a friend's house or a shelter, may be far away.

In your area, people may know where the domestic violence shelter is - the shelter location may not be confidential.
I'd like to point out that in my hometown (and to my knowledge, in this parish), there is no shelter or easily accesible resources.* Women here must rely on the Lincoln Parish Domestic Abuse Resistance Team.

And, the rate of femicide in Louisiana is high.**

I am not questioning the need for restraining orders--I think they are needed--but there are so many other areas in which we can work in Louisiana to stop violence against women.

Especially before experts claim so smugly,
These women are beaten, scared and helpless... And we’re the only ones who can save them.

*Apparently, this is the case for more than half of Louisiana parishes. Another note on this.
**Back in 2004, this article noted that Louisiana was in the top five states for "domestic violence murders." Today, Mrs. O saw on television that Louisiana ranked number two. I'm looking for a citation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Where to Begin

Inspired by BFP

Poster from a talk, based on one of my dissertation chapters, that I gave in February

So, a number of things have me thinking about vegetarianism/veganism. One, as noted above, are the thoughtful discussions BFP has about potentially becoming a veg*n.

Another is the nature of my work. Invariably, when I talk about my dissertation, I talk about conditions in poultry processing plants. For the workers, there is exhausting, dirty work, at unbelievable speeds. There is routine underpayment of wages. There are supervisors who treat you as if you are nothing. There is the huge company that will do almost anything--legal or extralegal--to keep workers from organizing. There is the exploitation of the most vulnerable workers. There are the "chicken" rashes, bone splinters, musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, cuts and amputations, slippery, fat-slick floors, extreme temperatures, dealing with frightened, live chickens and dead ones that rest in a "fecal soup."

Here are the hands of a 22-year old man who works in live hang.

What happens in live hang really troubles me. The workers are scratched, pecked, and defecated upon. Frustrated and hurt, they take their anger out on the chickens. They throw the birds against the wall. They break their necks. One employee told me that once, a chicken scratched him so deeply, he took out his pocket knife and stabbed it.

I am also struck by this merging of memories that my mind has done. The first dates to the serious burns I suffered when I was twelve or so, the memory of seeing my skin actually blister and become translucent.

The second occurred when I was pledging. One of my line sisters, Ginger, was a vegan (I didn't even know the word back then). We loved her but thought she was so out there--she used to sit in our meetings drinking rice milk and twisting her short fro into what would soon become the beginning of locs. For one of our meetings, we decided to pick up some Popeye's chicken for dinner. Initially, it was in the car with Ginger and another of my line sisters. I was in the car behind them. Ginger flagged us down and three or four cars pulled over on the shoulder of the freeway; we all knew something terrible must have happened.

Ginger got out of the lead car, marched to where I was sitting and thrust the chicken into my lap. "Here," she said. "I cannot stand the smell of cooked flesh." We rolled our eyes, mumbled about how dramatic she was, and continued on. But her phrasing stuck with me. And sometimes when I have meat and I watch as it cooks, I am turned off by the blistering and browning of the flesh, remembering how horrible my own ordeal was.

Finally, I think an animal-free diet would work wonders for my health and my son's. He doesn't really eat a lot of meat, but his digestive system is in a mess and has been since he was small. He's on a 30-day glycolax prescription right now to ease chronic constipation and soiling.

But I am afraid. I have sworn to myself several times that I'm going to give up meat, one animal at a time. And I'm scared to do it. I think it is the result of this that BfP mentions, "many black feminist vegans I have read/talked to say that veganism is unfathomable as a choice to most of their community."

First, I spend an inordinate amount of time cooking. It relaxes me. I love trying new recipes. I love seeing things emerge from a group of ingredients to a beautiful, tasty whole.

But I also cook to nurture. I know that's problematic--to encourage people to seek comfort in food--but it's something that I know and am hesitant to unlearn. I cook for people I love. I cook for families when they are bereaved. I cook for friends when they're having parties. I cook when my closest friends and I are sitting around doing nothing. I cook for the kids at my summer job. It is something I like to do, something I take pride in, something I am comfortable with.

So imagine the idea of shaking all that up. What if people don't like my cooking anymore? What if I'm no longer good at it? What if I can't share meals anymore?

And then there is the outside resistance. My family looks at me crazily or with smirks when I bring it up. The other day I tried to discuss it with my mom. She stopped in the middle of sweeping and looked at me. "Why would you do that?" she asked. She sounded genuinely offended.

"Think about the processing industry, for one thing, Mama," I said.

"elle, I work in a plant and I eat meat." That threw me, gave me the feeling I get when I see people appropriate others' struggles/pretend to know more about others' plight than the people themselves. Did I sound like I was contemplating it for purely academic reasons? Was it a luxury I could afford to think about when so many other people cannot?

So there are times when I "don't feel right" about eating meat and others when I "don't feel right" about the idea of giving it up.

At this point, however, I have vowed to at least try.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Little Master Deuce

Yes, he will punch your lights out.

Okay, I've waited until the last minute again, so this will stay on top this week. My nephew, Deuce, is in a "Little Master" Pageant that culminates next Sunday (June 15). One of the things contestants are doing is raising money to help fund a new community center in my hometown. The center is needed desperately as the old one--built quite generously by a certain ex-NBA player from the area--has been taken over by a board of people who are hesitant to let people use it, particularly our youth, because they fear it will be damaged or people will "make too much noise."

There is very little for our kids to do outside of school activities and we want desperately to change that. Because I blog pseudonymously, I'm not posting up locations, etc, here, but I'm perfectly willing to tell you more via e-mail.

In any case, if you'd like to donate, please do so via Paypal. No amount is too small.

**If the donate button below won't work, please use the one in the right sidebar. I'm too tired to keep trying to fix it.**

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Retail Therapy

What I'm supposed to be doing this summer:
  1. Working, again, for a church-based Louisiana Department of Education Tutorial program. I still have to cook for the kids some days (37 of them), but I can't lie--y'all know I like the grocery shopping and meal prep. I just wish some parents would come volunteer to help fix plates and serve lunch (my cousin J still does). And, as many of our parents are poor, they haven't been able to begin making the food donations we asked for, so we've been buying stuff to feed them. I'm not exactly swimming in money, but my parents, as usual, donate as well, as does my cousin who runs the program and one grandmother who has two children in the program. Plus, some of our parents were waiting for Friday (payday) or food stamps (the program began at the beginning of June, before many received the monthly allotments), so I expect donations will go way up this week. I feel like the state should find a way to help us feed these babies, but oh well, my community will make it. One week down and three to go, but, I'm working with my sister (who really is a good teacher), so yay!
  2. Prepping for two new classes, one of which I have never taught and the other I haven't taught in nine years or so. TWO NEW PREPS! And I think I'll have two new classes in the spring as well (one of which might be about the 1960s, so, again, yay, but grr!)
  3. Catering my first ever wedding reception. More about that because I need input. I am too excited.
  4. Moving five people out-of-state. Who the hell can pay for the U-Haul gas?
  5. Redoing some interviews and interviewing some more women from scratch for my dissertat- erm, manuscript.
  6. Cleaning out my office from this one year visiting position.

Having begun approximately one of those things, I figured I deserved a break :-). We went out of town this weekend and one of the places we stopped was San Marcos, TX, my second visit to some mouthwatering outlet malls. I found the girls some shoes at The Children's Place and some summer outfits for my son there, some shirts from the Converse store (my kid loves Chuck Taylors and I like that they come in so many colors), and a couple of things at Journey's Kidz.

No, I did not go to the Lane Bryant Outlet. I did ponder what to get Alex for her long overdue graduation gift. She has a newly developed fondness for rainbow merchandise that proclaims her lesbianicious-ness, so I looked at these:

But couldn’t get Coti or her to answer the phone in time enough to tell me her size.

And then I went to the Coach and Dooney & Bourke outlets. I will not lie. I am a purse freak—I love me some Coach bags and my sister has two bad ass D & Bs. So, the two things I won’t have buyer’s remorse over:

My new black one.

What my sister and I decided to get Alex.

Now I'm back to work on my list... soon as I catch up on my blog reading :-)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Could It Really Happen?

Sorry, Kim, I'm staying mum about it right now. :-) I've written a little bit about the division in the Democratic party and I am torn between really not understanding it (which puts me and my interpretations at the center) and empathizing with the very real sadness and betrayal some people feel. Kim and I were texting furiously last night about Obama as the Democratic nominee and I was also talking to Mrs. O who, while feeling reservedly happy, asked me, "Isn't it still a little sad, though?" Because either of the candidacies would've been historic. Because, as nice as it is to see a black man become the presumptive nominee, it's hard to see a woman, who waged a hard battle, who has given a lifetime of service to her party, not.

But I'm going to focus on my feelings about the Obama candidacy. I have a wealth of emotions, of course. There have been points in my life where I thought a serious African American contender for the U.S. presidency was damn near impossible. Obama's candidacy has made the sweetest feeling wind through me, a combination of happiness, the hope that he talks about, and pride.

And yet it is all tempered. Kim and I talked about our fear last night, a fear shared by many, I know. I am afraid that someone will attempt to take his life. Part of me does not believe "they" will let him win or let him hold office for long.

But there are other fears, too. I expect many of my fellow Americans to turn out to vote against a black candidate. The rise of the "polite racists," as I call them. The people who believe that just because they don't use the n-word or burn crosses or beat people in the streets, they can't be racist. Yet, they'll doubt the ability of a black man to lead this country and they'll blame their worries on a host of other factors.

Then there is the fear that the Republicans have mired us so deeply in this mess, that, if elected, he will not be able to help us climb out as quickly as people would like. I don't want him to be judged a failure because of someone else's bullshit. And to be honest, though it is unfair and invalid, you know there will be people waiting for him to fail to prove that a black person is not fit to be president. And if that happens, and I'm still writing years from now and publicly wonder whether or not George W. Bush is evidence that white men are not fit to be president, I predict such a rumination will be quickly dismissed.

But back to my happy thoughts: Michelle Obama. To think of a poised, educated, accomplished-in-her-own-right black woman as first lady makes me beyond happy. I smile every time I visit culture kitchen and see her picture with the caption, "First Lady of the United States (get used to it)." I have to purse my lips to keep from grinning.

And so I am excited, apprehensive, loving seeing this as a black woman and a historian.

Sexism vs Racism

The other thing I tried to get DR. ELLE to elaborate on in regards to this historic presidential campaign are these so-called feminist Clinton supporters who are charging that sexism is the reason their candidate lost and that many of them will "defect" and vote for John McCain to "show" the Democratic party or teach us all a lesson. Huh?

How is it advancing the feminist cause to put a man in office who will, undoubtedly, place another ultra conservative on the Supreme Court during his time in office. The Supreme Court which is thisclose to repealing Roe v Wade. Isn't reproductive rights CENTRAL to the feminist cause. He is anti- almost everything the feminist cause speaks to, but because the Democrats somehow denied Hillary Clinton the nomination.....they are going to show us their considerable power and vote for John McCain? Because Barack Obama is soooooo different than Hillary? Besides a very slight difference on health care and a bigger difference in ideology on whether or not the POTUS should speak to our enemies, Clinton and Obama agree on about 98% of the issues. So what is the real reason not to vote for Obama in the fall if you are a Democrat or Independent Liberal who believes in Liberal/Democratic causes? Because he was an upstart who "took" her nomination from her? Who is really to blame for that?

Clinton was the de facto/presumed nominee up until January of this year. I was sure she'd win. I was sure no one would vote for Obama. But 18 million people did. The fact is, she had all the advantages when this thing started - 100% name recognition, her husband was a beloved Democratic president, she had the big money donors in her court - she had it all. So to say that she somehow lost because she is female is disingenuous. Were there people out there who would never vote for her simply because she's a woman? OF-COURSE there were. But so too were there those who would never vote for a black man. Was there blatant sexism in the way she was covered by the media. Absolutely. Having CNN commentators actually discuss whether it's okay to call her a bitch is astoundingly sexist and uncalled for. And yes the dumbasses of the world showed up to shout "Iron my shirt" and sell Hillary nutcrackers. But the dumbasses of the world are always going to be there. Did any of that cost her the nomination??? With all the advantages she had the notion doesn't add up.

So now there's this idea that "Bitch is the new Black" (per Tina Fey), in other words, sexism is the new "racism" and sexism is more acceptable than racism in this country today and in this campaign. Elle's already talked about how maddening it is to see it become a competition for who's more maligned and who has it worse. The two are not competing "isms". They both exist and they both are something that is deeply ingrained in this country.

As for this campaign and which has been "worse", for me it comes down to the source of the racism or sexism. In my opinion Clinton, her husband, her surrogates (like Ferraro) and her campaign were openly courting and touting the votes of people ("hard working white Americans)who clearly showed racial resentment (at best) towards Obama and made no efforts to dissuade the ignorance of her constituents who believed Obama wasn't one of them (i.e. "He's not a far as I know). Where is the honor in that? Of-course she wanted their votes. So did Edwards - but at least publicly he said he wanted not part of people who were voting for him only because he is white and male. Obama, his wife, surrogates and campaign never openly courted the good ole boys by diminishing Clinton as a female. He did question her touted experience as First Lady and what she really did that qualified as experience, and I know that upset many, but I think that's legitimate when your opponent is saying they have experience and you don't. I don't see that as an attack on her for being female. So for me, openly courting and touting the racist vote and playing on fears of "outsiders" is what made racism trump sexism in this race.

Regardless of your opinion on who had it worse in this campaign, the underlying question is, why are these women willing to punish themselves by voting for John McCain to stick it to the media and other idiots who have been blatantly sexist when the candidate left standing in the Democratic party is completely on their side when it comes to the feminist cause? Clearly not all, or even a majority, of Clinton's supporters are saying this, but it's enough that the chatter is being heard, and pretty scary to me.

Historic Moment

I was texting Elle back and forth last night about how surreal it is that a black man is the legitimate nominee of a major political party for the President of the United States. Whether you voted for him or not, that is such a HUGE step forward for this country.

The first thing we both talked about was how surreal it was but also, how scared we were for him. My mother is terrified for him. The cynic in many of us wonders if "they" will really let him be elected. Will "they" really allow him to be their president.

My parents got married in 1965. They met in Germany and decided to marry when my father, who was in the US Army, was being moved to Virginia, just outside of DC. At the time it was illegal for them to get married there, so they had to do it in my father's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. My mother is still hurt by the hatred she witnessed (as I'm sure my father is, but he's never been very vocal about it) and the vitriol of which she was on the receiving end. Not only was she white and married to a black man, but she was a foreigner with a funny accept - and GERMAN at that, and she had a white child who was calling a black man "Daddy". I say all this to point out that I get why so many from my parent's generation are scared for Obama.

Yet it's interesting that, even in the face of record numbers of people who voted in the Democratic primaries and record total tallied (for Clinton too), that it's still hard for many of us to think in so-called postracial ways. It's interesting we, too, given our experiences with racism are concerned for his safety. Clearly we have made strides since my parents got married. Yet, clearly our generation has been scarred by our own experiences that show there is a long way to go. I read somewhere a while back (can't name the source) that Obama's candidacy will bring out a LOT of the "Awww-hell-no" vote. The "there's no way in hell a black man/"muslim"/radical black christian/foreigner will be my president" vote. Just how big is that constituency? And just how far are some members of that constituency willing to go to make sure it doesn't happen?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Heavy Heart

My brother's best friend died last week ( He was 34 years old, was driving home at 3:50 in the morning a few weeks ago and slammed his car into a building. How that happened has been largely unspoken.

I didn't know him very well. My brother and I haved lived in different cities since we ventured off to college. What I do remember of Greg was an inviting, warm, friendly face. He's clearly done a lot for his community in Ft. Worth, and for students at TCU. He touched so many people's lives and he was someone that students at TCU as well as his friends, like my brother, depended on. It is so sad to see his life cut short.

It makes me think of my own mortality and whether I will have left such an indelible mark on the world around me. It's a scary thought to think of leaving my family behind. Scarier even more to think of how easily such a thing could happen.

Please say a quick prayer for Greg's family and friends and for my brother. And let your loved ones know you love them. Our time is short.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...