I always know when I am starting to slip into the madness again. The voice in my head takes on a British accent. When it speaks to me in Italian I am just mildly perturbed, Spanish - just kinda off. But when that skull crashing union jack takes over, it's time for the looney bin. I know this sounds too rational for confinement, but keep in mind that just a few sentences ago I did say, “voice inside my head”. All my favorite Beat poets spent some time in a padded cell, so I feel no shame in needing a straight jacket or two. But, I wish I could claim it was the byproduct of too much time in the darkroom or staring to far into the lens. To be perfectly honest, it's reality that's driving me crazy. The reality of Amy Goodman whispering to me the secret doings of ALEC on my podcasts in the morning. The reality of wondering if the kids down the street are now counted among the staggering 31 million American children living in poverty. The reality that mother nature is tiring of our abuse and has started fighting back with wilder storms and deeper droughts. The reality of Dick Cheney on a book tour instead of under the basement of the Hauge doing 30 to life. The reality that we are losing a whole generation of American graduates due to our inability to overthrow our corporatism mindset. These little things just keep tickling in the back of my mind no matter how much I serf the People magazine website or rabidly watch TMZ. I can not get that cockney accent from reminding me that as a nation we are tripping down a path of no return. Pushed and prodded from the right by Republican politicians with a burning hatred in their eyes, and continuously let down on the left when we HOPE for the support of our weak willed Democrats. It’s enough to make anyone paying attention wonder if they are the first, or the last, to give into the insanity.
Happy New Year! It’s that annual time of year for reflection and resolutions. As we all plan to finally drop those last five pounds or call Mom more, let’s add an even larger resolution to our list. Let’s all be our own hope makers. Let’s inspire and see hope in each other. Let’s remember that when we work together, we can hold our leaders accountable. Yes, it sounds daunting, but really it only takes a change in our frame of minds. We must all look at the next person as a participant in our shared human narrative. We all live the same story. We all suffer from broken government and impending climate crisis. When the islanders of Manhattan can relate to the suffering of the islanders of Tuvalu, we will be on the road to progress. When it becomes more important to fight for the future of our world than our respective nations, we would have made progress. When the word austerity strikes fear in the hearts of the richest of our nations, and not just the poorest, we will indeed know progress. Let’s return dignity to the human condition. Let’s make how a person lived their lives more impressive than how much money they amassed and couldn’t take to the grave with them. So, my New Year’s resolutions: Yes, drop those last five pounds, call my mother more often, and open my eyes, ears, mind and heart to all the peoples of the world. Wishing everyone a happy and progressive New Year!
The saddest thing that has come out of this tax the poor to pay the rich debacle is the Democrats lack of political focus. Yes, we are all pissed that President Obama (yeah, I’m to mad to call him Barry) has cut a deal we all hate. Instead of carping on that, we need to remind the American people who the real culprits are in this situation. The fact that the Republicans have put the country in this position should be screaming from the headlines. To be honest, I have to say I feel a hint of respect for the position President Obama (still mad) took. He knew he would hear it from the Left (and rightly so), but he actually put the American citizens ahead of politics. Sort of…. It’s easy for pundits and our millionaire Congress to say let’s fight it out. We can back pay the unemployment benefits to those who lose out while we argue. You can not pay the rent with promises of unemployment checks. You can not feed your children with back pay. Promises will not make your car payment. My problem is that President Obama (really angry here, people) should have gotten a better deal. If you are going to play chicken with my grandchildren’s financial future, you need to at least get the unemployment benefits extension to match the length of the unnecessary tax cuts. Thirteen months versus two years? Honey you are part African, you can haggle better than that! Giving tax relief to the dead and losing tax cuts for the working poor? Do they have dirty pictures from your college years? Yes, it is a blow to the Democratic agenda. No, we do not need to be putting all the blame on President Obama (yep, still pissed). We need to remember, and remind the country, that this situation has stemmed from one thing: the Republicans trying to keep themselves from becoming an unemployment statistic. No tax cuts for the rich, no campaign funds, no jobs. It’s up to us as Democrats to remind the public of who is really at fault, and come 2012, make the Republicans regret that unemployment was only extended thirteen months.
I love walking through these streets anonymously. Drifting through the crowded sidewalks like a spirit pulsating to the rhythm of the city. The glare of the lights giving form to my features and the noise of the traffic is my only voice. The slap-slap and tap-tap of the 16 million feet on the pavement playing on my iPhone. Gliding through the lights of the night and slipping through the shadows of the day. I can hold the city’s pulse in my heart and reach out my finger tips to stroke the pulses world wide: Tokyo, Rome, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Cape Town, Seoul, Mumbai, Jakarta! Fingertips pulsing and heart beating, the beats align - for one blinding moment we are all connected and moving to the same beat of the street. Human to human - children of whatever deity we choose to give thanks to. We all feel the grind and the pleasure of rubbing against each other. The heat of the friction binding us to the common goal - make it to the next day, see another sunrise, give in but push back. Slip back into that night and that welcoming front door that is the portal in, and out, of our urban experience.
What does the new American reality mean for the overlooked in society - women, minorities, and the poor? What is the new American reality you ask? It’s a reality that parents are facing when they finally admit they cannot afford to send their straight A honor student children to college. It is a reality that seniors are facing when health care costs are creeping into their grocery budgets. It is the reality that those striving to get back to work are facing when they keep emailing resumes and attending every job fair possible to no avail. It is not coincidental that as resources become more scarce, women, minorities, and the poor are the groups most harshly affected. Compare the national unemployment rates and the unemployment rates of minorities. The national unemployment rate is currently 9.6%, while the rate of African Americans is at 15.5% and for Hispanics it is at 12.4%. The unemployment rate has jumped by 4.7% for African Americans while falling from 8.6% to 8.3% for White America. Kinda hard not to miss the discrepancies there. Now after hearing the draconian cuts the leaders of the Budget Commission want to make, I shudder for the future. Of course the cuts look to slash into everyone but the absurdly rich and their corporate hounds. Of course they are going after Social Security, but amazingly they want to also go after the healthcare of our veterans. Yes, they ask for cuts in the Defense department and the Pentagon, yet no mention of killing the Bush tax cuts for the rich or ending the wars that are bleeding us all dry. If there has ever been a time for the Obama administration to put bipartisanship on the shelf, it is now. I hope Barry becomes President Veto in order to protect the 98% of the American public that is not rich or tied to a multinational conglomerate.
It’s always funny being this little voice thinking - maybe if I scream loud enough the city may hear me. It might even pause for one brief moment and look me in the eye. Acknowledge my presence and remind me that I exist. I can stop being that creeping shadow, sliding through the bright streets, cutting into tourists pictures so someone will note that I was here, I walked these streets. Bill and Margie will grumble to their friends in Bends Oak, Tennessee - oh those New Yorkers are so impatient, this one couldn’t even pause for a moment to let Dad snap the picture. So busy in the big city, so busy. In Bends Oak I’ll be noticed, but its the tender attentions of New York City all us transplants crave for. Name in lights, top of the towers fame. The glitz of the paparazzi, the familiar winks of the maitre d’s. That’s the New York we have all come for. We don’t prepare ourselves for the stench belched out of the Port Authority or the cruel elbows of the truly busy natives when you just don’t move fast enough. The heart break that follows the shattered dream is the worst and the best thing to happen to all us hopefuls. It makes us face the mirror and either jump the bus home or dig in deeper and fight back. Claws out, teeth bared, those of us that stay are up for the fight. Even if we have to take half of SoHo with us, we will make it here. “Make it” gets redefined every couple of years from name in lights, to name on mortgage (Yea! I own a piece of the city!). But the battle scars are worth it, when that one glorious morning you wake up (or stumble home) a Native!
Well, it’s over. The overwhelming coverage of the 2010 Midterm Elections is finally winding down. CNN is putting away all its new toys and the pundits are cashing their very fat overtime paychecks. The hecklers on the right are reveling in their apparent victory, and the hecklers on the left are licking their wounds. What seems to be left out of the tallying of the “chicklets”is the very basic question: what happens to the Middle Class now? What happens to the 9.6% that can’t find a job? What happens to the mothers who pray their children just don’t get sick? What happens to the homeowners who are so far underwater that drowning sounds like a good thing? We can only wait and see. We can wait to see just how much “anger” can be turned into governing. We can wait to see how the Middle Class will benefit from the privatization of Social Security and the demise of Medicare the Tea Party candidates were calling for. We can wait to see if the Obama administration will continue to acquiesce too much in the name of bipartisanship to the conservative establishment that refuses to move anywhere near the center. But, we can’t wait for long. Yes, let’s hope that now that this election cycle is over, we can actually begin the real work that it will take to save the Middle Class. Let’s hope that now that the Republicans have a personal stake in the success of the country, the will begin work on the side of the American people. I know, I may be holding my breath until 2012.
Are we listening or thinking anymore? Have we turned such a deaf ear that we can no longer see the humanity in each other? How can a group of people participate in the beating of woman because of her political views? This is still the United States of America, right? By now we have all seen the video of young woman from MoveOn.org being thrown to the ground and trampled by Rand Paul supporters after a debate in Louisville, Kentucky. From the latest reports the Rand Paul campaign has distanced itself from the ring leader of the beating. Great, but my question is, where does the responsibility lay for putting this group of people in such a mind state that they would literally beat a person for disagreeing with them. This election cycle has been so riddled with hate speech and violence, that I am not really surprised that it has brought out the worst in its participants. When you can have someone like Sharron Angle call for a 2nd Amendment solution to her possible defeat, the envelope has been pushed to bursting. In the next couple of days this country is going to feel the turmoil of an election that will further divide a country already at a breaking point. We don’t have to agree, but we at least have to listen to each other. We have to meet each other with facts not anger. We need to rely on mutual respect for each other’s humanity to keep us from delving into violence. Both sides feel as though the other side is misguided, and both sides feel neglected and misunderstood. When defensive meets defensive, nothing gets done and the futures we are trying to save continue down the path of ruin. Each and every American on both sides are fighting for the future of the country, but I ask that we keep it a clean fight. So when your politician du jour releases an inflammatory statement or commercial, stop the blood rage and listen to what the person is actually saying. Finally, think: is this person really going to lead the country to a better future? That answer is for you to decide. That vote is for you to cast.
Oh my fellow Black women - not to put our business on blast, but let’s talk about respect today. Let’s talk about giving ourselves the respect we are constantly demanding from the “others”. It’s time we lead by example. Let’s create and nurture relationships with each other that are based on mutual respect and consideration. Let’s give a friendly nod to the “other black woman in the room” instead of the scowl or cold shoulder. Let’s not look down our noses at the young black girls in their “hoochie” attire with the volume turned up to 11. Let’s instead challenge them to expect more from themselves, by demanding more and better from them. The respect we seek is a reflection of the respect we give. So give plenty and give often - and please, give it to each other!