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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

i can't remember the last time i saw a black-owned business in my neighborhood. i live in a fairly diverse, middle-class suburb, lots of black/what/asian/latino/indian/arab/persian/whatever people live around here. there are two 7-Elevens owned by latino & persian folk. there are liquor stores, nail shops, a laundromat, and chinese food restaurants owned by asians, there are hardwood floor showrooms, tow truck companies, and various other shops owned by white people, but not one black owned business near here. why is that? we live here. we shop here. why do black owned businesses seem like such a novelty, and not a normality

in South-Central, the heart of black people land (that sounded weird, but yeah), there were still very few black owned businesses. when the riots happened in '92, handmade cardboard signs, bearing the words "black owned," popped up in the windows of several businesses, trying to discourage crowds from looting & burning them to the ground. but we knew better.

when i was younger i always wanted to own my own business. i wasn't sure what kind, but i was very enterprising. at 10, i started a babysitting service, had my brother print some business cards in his HS print shop class, and put an add in my church bulletin. at 11, i got interested in real estate, and when i was 12, i wanted to start my own magazine. my drive to be independent & own my own business hasn't ended. i still dream of working for just me, and i'm not starting to work toward that goal.

economic freedom & stability is one of the most powerful things in the world. the ability to be in control of your own future & destiny is liberating. if we, as black people, are to truly rise, we must not only come together, but we must also encourge, support, and build businesses.

what businesses do you support? do you make a conscious effort to support independent/black owned businesses?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 1:48 PM 2 comments

Let's Be Friends

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

in honor of Kwanzaa's 3rd day, Ujima, i am sharing one of my favorite poem's with you. enjoy.

A Poem Of Friendship
by Nikki Giovani

We are not lovers
because of the love
we make
but the love
we have

We are not friends
because of the laughs
we spend
but the tears
we save

I don't want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
to speak

I will never miss you
because of what we do
but what we are

(collective work. it's a family affair, baby.)

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:43 AM 4 comments

You Just Can't Stop Me Now

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

i've often blogged about how music inspires me, and today is no different. you've heard me say before that everybody needs a theme song (or 12). one of my favorite theme songs is Sizzla's, "Solid as a Rock." this song not only hypes me up to the nth degree, but it makes me feel like no matter what is going on in my life, it can't stop me.

today is the 2nd day of Kwanzaa, Kujichagulia. today, we focus on self-determination, meaning we use this time to define ourselves. self-definition is a powerful thing. so often we fall victim to what others think we are, but rarely take the time to figure out who we are really. i know it's something i struggle with. who am i? am i a collection of titles? mommy, wifey, teacher, sister, daughter, etc, or am i just me?

of course we can't define ourselves in one day, but today, as we sit on the dawn of a new year, let's take some time to reflect on who we are...and who we want to be.

what's your "self-determination" theme song? what song(s) help you feel invincible?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:38 AM 3 comments

Remember that?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Umoja: To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

remember when
your neighbor, auntie,
big mama down the block
could pull your coattail
making you stand so tall
your neck would pop?

(c). me.

today marks the start of Kwanzaa, the seven days we celebrate our families, traditions and culture. the first day, Umoja, highlights unity amongst the community. as a people, i've noticed that unity is sometimes difficult to attain. charge it to our history in this country & the fact that despite the our collective struggle, there have been forces that have attempted to strip us of all cultural ties & connections (read: slavery). i know some people don't like to make the connection between today and pre-1865, but to me, it's quite evident. but today is the day we begin to patch it up. remember all of the fathers, mothers, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, aunties, and play cousins that have kept us in line & loved us fiercely.

say a prayer. light a candle. bless.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 4:47 PM 1 comments

Happy Holidays...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

from my family....

to yours!

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:22 PM 2 comments

The Weather Outside

Thursday, December 18, 2008

old man winter staggered in
yesterday, belligerent smelling
of christmas wine
singing his hellos
in a low baritone
he eased into his chair and cried

(c) me. just now.

today is officially my first day of Winter break. i love it! i had plans to finish (uh, start) my Christmas shopping today, but now it's raining. i know, many of you are looking at my rain and WISHING that's all you had (i see you Xtina!), but this is Cali and we don't do rain lol.

i played stay at home mommy today. i already made the munchkin pancakes & turkey bacon. i couldn't NOT make him pancakes, being that the first thing out of his mouth this morning was "Pancakes!" not "good morning mom" or "hi mom," but "Pancakes! Pancakes mom!" apparently my child is addicted to pancakes. he asks for them EVERY day, all day. i think if he could eat them all day he would. thank God for the microwavable ones (although i made 'em from scratch today).

this past weekend i devoured Sista Souljah's latest effort, Midnight. i am torn. i read the Coldest Winter Ever so very long ago (10 years?), and was looking forward to the follow up. it's an interesting read, a bit slow for me in the begining, and a bit unrealistic, but definitely entertaining. if i get my brain together this week, i'll write an official review. my only REAL gripe about the book? the pictures she included of Midnight. picturing him, his beauty, his blackness, in my mind was half of the fun of reading Winter...but oh well. i'm still waiting on the film!

what are you guys up to this week? done with shopping? trapped beneath the snow? holla at the kid.


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:57 PM 9 comments

Weekend Love

Sunday, December 07, 2008

(i LOVED this song...all hail the Queen)

oh how i love the weekend! during the school year, my mood automatically shifts at 3:04 Friday afternoon. i'm off work, able to sleep in, breath easier, and just be ME. this weekend was very laid back. i didn't grade any papers, which i really needed to do, but i did enjoy myself.

on saturday i went to a book club meeting and met some very interesting women. i think i'm going to stick with it. i need to talk to ADULTS about books for a change, plus a lot of the other women have children & they brought them along. so it'll be a chance for both the munchkin and i to make new friends.

today was my grandmother's 74th birthday. we all went out to dinner to celebrate and i ate way too many tasty breadsticks. my grandmother has definitely been a force in my life, and i'm thankful she is still here to give advice, crack jokes, and make her sweet potato pie. i pray that God blesses her with many, many more good years and birthdays. i just wish my grandpa could have been here to share this day with her/us.

at the book club i realized that i need to stop tripping and get back to the things i love, namely writing. i have the begining of a short story/novel written and i've just been letting it sit for far too long. i'm sort of stuck, and normally i'd allow that blockage to keep me from writing. but tonight, i dusted it off and added a few more pages. i'm going to try not to overthink it and just write. i am my own worse critic, and i have to stop being so hard on myself. i am just going to write, write, write and fix it all later.

i want to share a piece of the story with you. it is so unfinished & i need to figure out what i want to happen...but i think i've got an interesting start. let me know what you think.

This Side of the Wall

And just like that, her world ended in a cacophony of silence. No longer able to focus, the sound of the gavel deafened her ears. All hope and prayers were crushed, silenced by the astonishing assault on the chestnut podium. She sat in awe. Unable to feel…anything. A dam of tears threatening to break free and flood the courtroom, heaved dangerously behind her eyes. Yet, she remained still, struggling desperately to emit an air of peace, despite the chaos that haunted her mind.

Lela sat, for what seemed like hours, outside of the courtroom, still trying to wrap her head around what had just happened. She could not cry, at least not right here. She was too exposed. She blinked purposely while the lawyer tried to explain it all. He mumbled something about their options, told her they had tried hard, and to get as many letters as possible together for the sentencing. Lela nodded, but couldn’t really make out exactly what he was saying. All she could do was cradle her growing belly and wonder.

* * *

It was as if the universe sensed her mood. Just as she stepped out of the courthouse, the clouds that threatened to drown the city all week, finally cracked and began pouring. Lela contemplated taking a cab back to Brooklyn, but shuttling back and forth to court and to see the lawyer had put a serious strain on her wallet. And she still hadn't eaten. She was out of work, seven months pregnant and too proud for welfare. Lela stood outside of the courthouse, broken.

Her phone buzzed violently in her pocket. It had been ringing all afternoon, assaulted by a few of Damian’s friends and his family wondering if she had any news, good news, to share. Reluctantly, she checked her voicemail and heard Damian’s mother’s crackling voice.

“Lela, haven’t heard from you yet. Any news? Good news, I hope. Hang in there, dear. God will bring Damian home! I just know it. I wanted to be there today so badly but—”

Lela slammed the phone shut. There was always an excuse, some pressing reason why Damian’s family couldn’t make it to court. Demanding bosses or uncooperative trains or non-existent bank accounts always managed to get in the way. Lela rubbed her temples and began to get angry. She was tired of his family. She was tired of being the conduit, the messenger between Damian and the outside world. She desperately wanted them to step up, so she could ease herself into this pregnancy without the burden of doing it all. She felt alone and wanted to talk to him, but would have to wait until Thursday, visiting day. Although she desperately wanted to speak to Damian, to hear his voice and make sure he hadn’t gone crazy because of the verdict, she wasn’t sure of what to say. She did not want to cry. She did not want to make him feel any worse than he must have already felt, but she, too, was hurting. Lela wanted to comfort Damian, but was afraid that he, again, would have to comfort her.

She contemplated calling Damian’s mother to deliver the news, but decided to head home instead. In a daze, Lela walked the three blocks to the Brooklyn Bridge station and braced herself for her descent underground. Immediately, she felt the need to vomit. The station reeked of rotten food and musty flesh. It was the middle of rush hour and it seemed as if all of Manhattan was crammed underground. Lela hated the 4 train, but didn’t feel like walking from the courthouse to Canal Street to catch the A. The A train station was an extra five blocks away and would force her to slowly weave her way through Chinatown. The stench of day-old fish and the pungent smell of Chinese food would have been too much for her delicate stomach. So there she was, stuck desperately trying not to breathe the stifling air that clung to every wall and bench and overhang in the station.

“People in this city are so fuckin selfish,” Lela muttered, as she got onto the train.

Straphangers hung to every conceivable inch of the subway car, piled on top of their neighbors as if they were lovers in an embrace. Even though Lela’s belly was pushing against the seams of her blouse, and it was obvious she was pregnant, no one moved to offer her a seat. Her feet ached and her baby did somersaults in her womb, while those around her pretended to be asleep or deeply engaged in the day’s news. She hissed her teeth loudly, annoyed at their lack of manners, and steadied herself against a commuter and the door of the train.

As Lela emerged from the Nostrand Avenue subway station, her cell phone vibrated wildly. Without looking at it, she knew it was Damian’s mother calling again to find out what, if anything, had happened. She pressed ignore and checked her wallet to see how much money she had.

“Damn, fifteen bucks,” Lela mumbled, wondering how she would make the meager amount stretch until the end of the week.

It was only Tuesday, and her unemployment check wasn’t due until the weekend. Between now and then she had to eat, get to her doctor’s appointment, and visit Damian at Rikers. She walked into Golden Krust and deeply inhaled the savory aroma of the jerk chicken that rested on the grill. Her stomach twinged at the spicy smell, but she couldn’t afford to spend seven dollars on a meal. Instead, she decided to buy a patty and coco bread and walk home.

Lela entered her apartment, immediately stripped off her clothes, and headed for the shower. In the past, whenever she felt stressed, Lela would sit in a hot bath and soak until the scorching water turned cold. However, she was pregnant and baths were off limits, so she often sought solace under the barrage of a torrid shower.

“God, what are we gonna do now? I can’t believe this shit is happening to us!” Lela pleaded with God for answers.

She had been hopeful Damian would be coming home today. For the past six months she prayed daily that God would bring him home and give them the chance to be a family for real. She was a true believer. She felt confident that her prayers and pleadings would be answered, and her lover would be returned to her arms, but today, that dream had vanished. As the water washed over her, Lela cried, deep, torturous tears that she was afraid to share with anyone else, even herself.


Lela’s skin was damp and her pores agape and welcoming after her long shower. After losing her job, there few luxuries she could still afford. Luckily, hot water was included in her rent, or else she’d owe the city a small fortune. Lela spread lavender baby oil over her skin, massaging her belly first. Running her fingers over the translucent stretch marks that crisscrossed her growing belly, she almost giggled, remembering how Damian had teased her on their last visit.

“Baby, you getting big! You sure we ain’t got twins in there?” Damian reached for Lela’s belly, rubbing in slow, deliberate strokes, as they hugged, greeting each other. The tedious ride to Rikers and the near two-hour wait for him to be produced in the visiting room always set her on edge. Damian’s touch rebuked the stress that inhabited her limbs.

“I look that bad?” Lela smiled back, trying to mirror his excitement, but she was tired.

“Nah, baby. You look good. Better than good. You look great. Are you okay, though? You look a little down. I already told you that you didn’t have to visit so much, especially the further along you get. You need to rest and—”

“I’m cool,” Lela said, cutting him off with a smile. “Besides, I can’t sit up in that apartment all day wondering how you are. I need to see you. Just to make sure. Besides, it’s hot as hell out, and y’all got AC!”

Damian laughed and kissed Lela’s palms, placing them against his aging face. Although he tried to be upbeat, Lela could sense that he, too, was growing weary. He had been on the Island for six months now, and struggled to cling to some semblance of his life on the other side of the bridge. He hated being forced to watch her solider through this pregnancy alone, tracking the growth of her belly by how wide he had to open his arms to hug her. Damian’s once ultra confident swagger, had slowly been eroded over the past six months.

July was oppressively hot, and New York City was especially unkind in the summer, imposing unbearable heat and humidity on its residents. Lela suffered, her belly exploding into a large, ripe watermelon seemingly overnight.

Hoping to look the part of a happy, buoyant mother-to-be, Lela wore a blue, strapless sundress that clung to her protruding bump, and pulled her hair back into a lazy bun. Her amber skin glowed with a slight mist of sweat. She felt like shit, but put on a brave face for Damian. She couldn’t let him see how tired or sick or drained she actually was. She didn’t want him to spend precious energy worrying, that was her job.
“So how do you think it’s going?” Lela asked about the case. The reality of it all made her uncomfortable, but she wanted to know what he thought.

“I can’t call it. I look up at the jury and I try to imagine what they thinking, but I can’t. Mr. Todd says things seem to be going well. But he also said it’s too hard to tell.” Damian cleared his throat, “the D.A. offered another plea.”

“What? When?” Lela cocked her head to the side, and wondered why she hadn’t heard about it yet.

“A few days ago. Said we had until court resumed to let them know.”

“Why didn’t you tell me when they talked to you?”

“I didn’t want you to worry. I knew you’d be over there thinking and worrying yourself to death, and I can’t have that. Plus, I wanted to talk to you about it in person.”

“So that means you’re considering it?” She asked nervously, her voice cracking. The thought of Damian being away longer than tomorrow made her sick.

“I don’t really know. Mr. Todd says it’s a good sign, especially since that last witness, Carlos, was lying his ass off on the stand.” Damian shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hated talking about case. He thought about it enough when he was alone and tried hard only to think of Lela and the baby.

“So, they offering fifteen this time.”

Lela’s body stiffened, and she pulled her hands away from Damian to fiddle with her hair. Damian knew she was trying not to cry. Lela looked down and then toward the wall and around the room before settling, again, on Damian’s face. He scooted his chair closer, pressing his chest into the table that separated them. He rubbed her back and continued cautiously.

“Mr. Todd thinks he could bring her down some more, you know, negotiate. But damn, fifteen years is a long time. Our baby will be grown if that I take that shit. And you, you know, might not want to wait that long. I wouldn’t blame you, either.”

Lela blinked back tears. Until now, she never doubted that Damian would be home for their baby’s birth, holding her hands, feeding her ice chips and willing her to push. She struggled to imagine herself alone in the hospital room, holding some stranger’s hand, ushering their baby into to the world while he was locked up somewhere far upstate.

Fifteen years. She shuddered.

It sounded like he said forever.

(c) me. don't bite.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:37 PM 7 comments

The Anger Zone

Thursday, December 04, 2008

We all experience anger. Managed in healthy ways, anger can be a positive thing -- a red flag that something’s wrong, a catalyst for change, a good self-motivator. For many, especially those who didn’t have positive role models for anger management while growing up, dealing with anger can be confusing; it’s hard to know what to do with such a powerful and potentially destructive emotion (from About.com).

nobody in my house got angry until the end. my parents managed to keep their relationship drama under wraps until it was impossible & spilled out of their bedroom. but other than that, i don't remember shouting or loud voices. the only time my mom was "angry" was when my brother brought home bad grades, or i was a little too hardheaded and even then, there was no yelling. there was calm, controlled butt whoopin,a talk, and a hug.

i guess i've had "good" anger role models. i am rarely stressed or angry. even in the midst of this prison shit, when i'm so frustrated with how slow the system works or how difficult this whole situation has been...i haven't really gotten angry (denial?). so today, i was a little caught off guard when i had to check myself and my attitude with my students.

they piss me off.

today i was tired the moment i walked in my classroom. this year, year 3, was supposed to be easier, but this group of kids--especially my intervention class--is hectic. they have so many emotional issues. they do not deal well with anger, and they are always angry. i am frustrated with them everyday because i put so much energy, care, and concern into them, but nothing seems to work. they struggle to read, and yet don't seem to put forth the effort to learn. they want to have friends, but are vehemently mean to each other. i try to involve their parents/guardians, but get little support. it is only December, but i'm already ready to throw in the towel.

i don't like feeling like this. i don't like feeling so frustrated with them. i want to affect positive change, want to be an inspiration, but right now i just wish that some of these kids weren't in my class. Winter break couldn't come at a better time. we have 2 weeks to go, and i'm SO ready for a reprieve.

they say talking about your feelings is cathartic, and lord knows i've been doing a lot of talking (venting). being aware of my feelings gives me some power over them. those moment when i want to throw my hands up, yell, and act as crazy as my students do, i must remember that at the end of the day they are acting out & need positive attention...no matter how hard it is for me to give it. i also need to find something to do that will help me physically release my emotions. i'm going to look for a dance class or get back into capoeria because, this right here ain't working.

blog fam, how do you deal with your anger?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:48 PM 5 comments

In A Groove

Sunday, November 30, 2008

i have been "away" for the past few weeks. away from this blog & others' blogs that i adore. it's not because i've REALLY been away, but i've been in some sort of a lackluster groove.

i can feel it...this blog, writing, me writing, tugs at me. all the things i should be making time for, like myself, have been trying to get my attention, but i've been ignoring them. i know that i'm tired. my students this year are challenging, to say the least. when i get home, i'm so tired & do nothing but feed my son, read him a story, get him to bed (and maybe a bath), watch Cosby reruns and go to sleep myself. my body feels neglected. i haven't worked out in SO long & it shows. i am sluggish, i am craving more sugar (pepsi!), and i need desperately to do something else.

sure, i can wait until the new year and risk falling deeper into this slump, but i've decided to fight. fight my will to veg out and not take care of myself. this week i will work out, at least 3 times. i will not fall asleep at 8, just because. i might even pick up a book, unrelated to work, and *gasp* read.

i've been invited to attend a book club this Saturday. i'm semi-excited because i'm sort of a nerd and like to talk to GROWN FOLKS about books sometime. who knows, perhaps this endeavor will propel me on to things that i have been neglecting, like writing.

everyday i think that i should be writing. everytime i flip open a magazine, or read a book, i think...i should be doing THIS. yes, teaching is noble, teaching is necessary, but writing, for me, is my ideal life. but how can i claim that if i'm not working toward it? how can i claim to be a writer if i am not writing?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 4:47 PM 5 comments

dear america...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Dear America,
you did it, baby. You lived
up to your promise

even though it took
some time, you defied history
& got it right.

dear America,
today I see for the first time
what Jefferson hoped

when you were born
anything was possible
and for the first time

          I feel he was right

(c) me, just now...on the dawn of a new day (Nov. 4th, 2008)

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:03 PM 14 comments

I Got The Shotgun For Your Back

Monday, November 03, 2008

"If you don’t follow me when I go out, I’m going to kill you. Go forward and live or turn back and die."

~Harriet Tubman

while i do not subscribe to the literal meaning of "vote or die," i can certainly understand Harriet Tubman's message. people have died for our right to vote. Denmark Vesey , Nat Turner, MLK, Gabriel Prosser, Medgar Evers, brother Malcom and a plethora of others have given their lives for this moment. it has only been a mere 143 years since Slavery was abolished by the passage of the 13th amendment, and only 43 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory practices against African-Americans, and yet here we are...on the eve of making history.

i believe in the Hopeful America Barack Obama speaks of. i am esatic that finally, a Black child can say that they want to be president someday and someone will truly believe it is possible. i am hopeful at what this election will mean to my son and the way he sees himself as a Black man/child in America.

i cannot tell you how to vote, nor do i want to. all i care about is that you do, indeed, go out and vote tomorrow. the lines may be long, the procProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 s may be tiring, but this will be one of the most important things you ever do in your life. now is your time, our time, to be apart of history.

do not take this moment for granted.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:43 PM 5 comments

friday took his time
knowing how long
i've been waiting
to see his face

he played hard
pretending he didn't care
to see me again
but really, he longed to feel
my lips against his
warmth. you see

friday needs me
as much as i need
to see him comin'
my way,
strolling slow like
i've been waiting
all week
to see him


every black girl
needs a theme song
a song that curls
up inside her
feeding her dreams
with the fruit of possibility

every black girl
needs a theme song
to echo the dreams
she is afraid to share
with the world
which tears down
faster than it can build

every black girl
needs a theme song
to sway hips, confidently
tossing shoulder back
head up, knowing
that no matter what
she can handle it

(c) me, just now.
read. savor. repeat.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:01 AM 9 comments

Being Raced

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

“The only difference between African slaves and European or British slaves was that the latter could run away and melt into the population. But if you were black, you were noticeable.”

~Toni Morrison

i have always wondered what it was like to be white.

i have always wondered what it's like to navigate a world that is not suspicious of your presence, to be able to blend seamlessly into the background without much notice. i wonder what it's like to not represent everyone that looks like you. i know, white people have their own issues & crosses to bear, but growing up as a Black girl in America, i was keenly aware that no matter where i went, or how i behaved...eyes were always watching and judging.

early on, my parents--slightly militant--told me i always had to be on my A-game. they instilled in me an intense determination to achieve, not only for myself, but for each member of my family (and race) who did not have the opportunity to "make it." if i didn't make a good grade in school, my grandmother would tell me about the trouble she had attending school in rural Arkansas. she would say how she had to wake up early to work the cotton field, go to school, and come home to continue working the fields, all while she and her family faced racist Jim Crow laws. she would recount having to attend segregated schools in subpar environments, all to illustrate her point that i had it so much better and had no reason at all NOT to achieve.

i have always carried this idea in my head, that black people must be better than. while i know that i am not able to represent all black people, i do know that for some, i am the only (positive) representative that they see.

i was listening to NPR the other day and Toni Morrison was discussing her new book, A Mercy. her book deals with issues of slavery, but without the slaves being "raced," meaning, she is taking a look at slavery across racial lines, before any sort of racial implications were used to delineate types of servants. as i tried to wrap my mind around the idea of being "raced," or rather NOT being raced, i listened to This American Life as they traveled through Pennsylvania with both presidential campaigns. unsurprisingly, Obama volunteers were finding some resistance to Obama, not on issues of the economy or the war, but solely on the issue of race. in September, The Wall Street Journal reported

Barack Obama’s race could be the deciding factor if the presidential battle remains a dead heat on Election Day, according to an Associated Press poll released today in conjunction with Stanford University. The survey finds that many white Americans — particularly Democrats and Independent voters — still hold deep-seated reservations about African Americans.

The survey of 2,227 adults has a 2% margin of error and showed one-third of white Democrats hold negative views of blacks.

as i listened to both broadcasts, read countless articles, and overdosed on political news, i started to think about ways in which race is applied and used as a tool suppress achievement.

there is no secret that this country was founded on the basis of systematic white supremacy, which coldly annihilated the indigenous population and treated Africans as chattel. instead of bestowing the right of citizenship to enslaved Africans, our forefathers thought up the three-fifths compromise, which essentially resolved that African-Americans were less than human. despite great gains in civil rights and racial equality, this institutional supremacy has continued to permeate all aspects of our society. the inequality found in our schools, our communities, and our legal system are just reminders that the playing field is not level.

as we sit on the cusp of possibly electing an African-American president, i am both hopeful and suspicious of what this will mean for our nation. will we use this momentous act as catalyst to once and for all deal with the racist systems still in place in our country? or we will act as if all has been healed, and that the election of Obama will represent reparations for all that has been done to America's blacks?

as Cornel West once stated, "A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue." despite all of our imperfections, i am still hopeful that we can/will continue this honest dialogue and move past the issues that continue to impede our progress.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:40 PM 11 comments

I Survived!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

so, i survived throwing my first kid birthday party! and now i know why the munchkin hadn't had one up until now: it's waaaaaaaaay too much work!

yesterday we hosted the munchkin's 3rd birthday party in the backyard of my grandma's house. perhaps it would have been less stressful had i put more time into planning the event, but i'm a procrastinator, so i only had about a week and a half to pull it all together. my goal was to create a fun, no-fuss, low-maintenance party, and i think i pulled it off, in spite of the tight timeline and mounting expenses.

the munckin is a HUGE Curious George fan, so that was our theme. i had a Curious George cake made, picked out some key character accents (hats, napkins, banner, etc), and just decorated the rest of the yard in George's colors (from the 99 cent store) to save money. it worked. the yard looked festive, and no one cared that the backyard wasn't draping in Curious George. as a matter of fact, i doubt they noticed.

i'm not the conventional party planner, so i nixed the games and just made sure the kids had something to do. we had a jumper, a cheap lawn bowling set (a previous gift), and i brought out the munckin's big wheel and soccer ball. the kids ran, played, got super dirty and enjoyed themselves. i couldn't find a pinata i liked, so i sent all the kids home with a FABULOUS grab bag full of candy and cheap toys (bubbles, play dough, and whistles).

all in all it wasn't as bad as i thought it would be. i definitely won't be throwing him a party every year, but we can do it every couple of years. the most important part was that he had a BALL! the whole entire time he only sat still to eat. he played HARD, jumped till his little legs got tired, and enjoyed playing with all the kids.

so my job was done, and today, i'm still recuperating LOL.

how was your weekend?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:46 PM 3 comments

Undecided: What is Marriage Anyway?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

i am sure of who i am voting for for president. i am pretty sure of how i will vote on farm animals, and non-violent drug crimes. but i am not at all sure of how i will vote on California's proposition to ban gay marriage.

i am the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist minister. i spent my ENTIRE life in church, sunday school, revivals, and the like. to me, the Bible is sacred and i believe deeply in God, but i am not sure how i feel about amending our state's constitution to ban gay marriage.

perhaps it's because i haven't resolved my feelings about homosexuality. while i don't feel it's necessarily "wrong", i do feel some kind of way (i know that saying sucks) about homosexual couples & marriage. part of me wonders why i even care what two adults want to do with their life, and in all honesty i don't. but another part of me sort of twitches when i think of the institution of marriage and homosexuality in conjunction with my Christian upbringing. my mother, my grandmother, and my church are firmly against allowing gay marriage. i am wavering. but then again, i have wavered a bit from the teachings of my church. while i do believe in Jesus and the trinity, i also believe that the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are all talking about the same God. but i digress...i am not the only one struggling with this issue. Black churches all over Los Angeles are debating this issue.

Fred Price, the pastor of one of LA's first Mega-Churches, commented that, "Marriage is between a man and a woman," and urged his audience to "stand with God in saying the definition of marriage must not change."

A few miles away at Lucy Florence Cultural Center in Leimert Park, a much smaller group of ministers -- three, as it turned out -- spoke against the measure. Among their arguments: that African Americans, given their history of discrimination, should not be taking away rights.

while i haven't resolved my feelings toward comparing the struggle for gay rights to that of the civil rights movement, i am clear that any type of discrimination, be it on the basis of race, class, gender, or sexuality, threatens us all. i have always considered myself a progressive person, but yet, i am struggling with this issue. why? in the essay, "Homophobia in Black Communities," bell hooks explores the inner struggle of (some) black folks when trying to think critically about homosexuality. she writes,

Black communities may be perceived as more homophobic than other communities because there is a tendency for individuals in black communities to verbally express in an outspoken way anti-gay sentiments. I talked with a straight black male in a California community who acknowledged that though he has often made jokes poking fun at gays or expressing contempt, as a means of bonding in groups settings, in his private life he was a central support person for a gay sister. Such contradictory behavior seems pervasive in Black communities. It speaks to ambivalence about sexuality in general, about sex as a subject of conversation, and to the ambivalent feelings and attitudes toward homosexuality. Various structures of emotional and economic dependence create gaps between attitudes and actions. Yet a distinction must be made between black people overtly expressing prejudice toward homosexuals and homophobic white people who never made homophobic comments but who have the power to actively exploit and oppress gay people in areas of housing, employment, etc.

although i agree that black people--and people in general--are, at times, ambivalent about homosexuality, i don't feel that we (black people) should be given a pass on our thoughts/feelings simply because we do not "have the power to actively exploit and oppress gay people," especially now, as we are faced with this constitutional amendment. as i think through my own ambivalence, i am struck by my ability NOT to have a clear stance on the issues. i have never thought so hard in my life about a singular ballot initiative. while i am not totally comfortable casting my vote in favor of gay marriage, i am not at all comfortable adding this amendment to our state's constitution. i am usually able to make up my mind rather quickly, but i'm struggling. it's like my religion, politics, and personal POV are all wrestling...and right now, i'm not sure which one will come out on top.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:01 PM 6 comments

good morning

Saturday, October 18, 2008

sun rose           red
eyes blinking back night
yawning cool like Coltrane
at the blue note

i welcome him           early
even though it's saturday
and our date is usually
pushed back

sun spoke warm
hellos as he rose
past night
to greet me

(c) me. just a few minutes ago. don't bite. savor.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:03 AM 6 comments

It's Gotta Be You

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
~Audre Lorde

it is only october, school is in full swing, the first set of grades have gone out, i have a firm grasp of who my students show themselves to be, and i've noticed some troubling things: the girls in my class are dangerously mean.

my female students are consumed with spreading lies and rumors about each other and fighting at the drop of the hat because someone said something wrong about them, oft times to the detriment of their schoolwork. their relationship with each other is very twisted and convoluted. my group, my intervention group, is hard to get a hold on. one day they are friends, having sleep-overs and hanging out at lunch, and the next day they are on the verge of tearing each other's hair out. it's taxing. the mean behaviors exhibited by my female students is nothing new. women have always found it difficult to get along because we are socialized to compete (for jobs, men, scholarships, etc), but it seems to be getting more and more intense, and i am not the only one who has noticed it.

in 2006, Kristen Norwood, a graduate student conducted a survey of women for her graduate thesis. this study took a look at the behavior women display toward other women they have never met. she found,

The participants freely admitted that they often feel other women are being "catty" or spiteful in a petty way toward them and admitted that they behaved the same way. They cited several reasons, the most common being jealousy over physical attractiveness and attention from men. Other reasons included competition and jealousy resulting from self-esteem issues and from perceived similarities or differences with other women.

The issue of self-esteem, or lack thereof, is a major issue in my class. i often tell my students that people who speak negatively about someone else are really just trying to mask something about themselves. to that, i've heard groans, and the usual, "i don't got nothing wrong wit me!" but their behavior and history speak otherwise. the girls in my class have a lot of issues. many have lost parents, were abused, and don't know how to really feel anything other than animosity toward others.

i have quickly learned that being a teacher also means being a psychologist and a social worker. everyday i navigate tricky emotional landmines and put out fires before they become explosive. i am struggling, though, to impart wisdom and a sense of self-worth to my female students. i know that for me, just being represented through the material in class went a long way to provide positive images of self. conversations about self, about how to deal with others, and about the options that are afforded with education are also a must, but is that enough?

how do we teach our girls, and our boys, that they are enough?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:10 PM 9 comments

getting boxed-in

Friday, October 10, 2008

(created with Wordle)

it's friday night & have nothing to do...and i absolutely love it! i've been running for the past few weeks/weekends, always feeling like i've not fully rested when monday rolled around and it was time to go back to work. tonight i am surfing the web, reading political news sites, disgusted with some of our countrymen, and happy others are moving above the fray. i can honestly say i am worried that some people's true colors, the colors of hate and bigotry that have stained this country, are starting to bleed through. but i don't want to write about such things tonight. i would rather busy myself with frilly, fun things...

...like John Legend's new song, "Green Light". can i say that i LOVE this song? the fun, fast beat is perfect for dancing (which i'm doing as i type) and working out (which...i need to start doing again!).

looking for a fun way to kill time?

try this! tonight, i stumbled across Wordle.net, a site in which you can make your own word collage. so i searched my brain for words to describe myself & poof...it came out so cute. if you have some time, make your own, post a link & share (warning: it gets addicting!).

be blessed & enjoy your weekend.

(collage i created about Sen. Obama--i told you it was sort of addicting)

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:08 PM 3 comments

the stock market is going crazy. today, the same day the market experienced record highs last year, it plunged 678 points, marking its lowest rate in more than 5 years. people are scared, worried about their homes and their pensions, and the future of our ability to exist. for the first time i am worried about my own 403B, and how my district is investing the little bit of money i have saved over the past few years. my state is on the verge of locking up. we need $7 billion from government just to make payroll, and businesses everywhere are having a tough time raising the funds to keep going. but with all of this uncertainty about our economy—our future—the McCain campaign is trying to distract us with personal attacks.

i am not going to rehash them. you've heard them all. invoking "questionable" relationships with “terrorists”, or invoking Senator Obama's "foreign" name, or implying he is a Manchurian candidate. it's all a distraction, and what really matters gets lost in the noise.

what matters to me is if i'll be able to buy a home at a reasonable interest rate when i'm ready. what matters to me is that my grandmother’s home of 40+ years, which she refinanced a few years ago, doesn't put her upside down on her mortgage and force her out on the street. i am worried i won't be able to afford college for my son, that my district, my employer, will not be able to sustain our workforce & start cutting from the bottom (*ehem*, new teachers like me), and that our whole system will plunge into total disarray.

these are scary times, in which many people are offering few concrete solutions. the last thing we need is scare tactics and innuendo from political candidates. we need clear-cut solutions and a vision to get us out of this mess.

if you could speak to both Obama & McCain, what would you tell them? what advice would you give them to get us out of this mess? What are your worries and fears?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 2:39 PM 0 comments

My Quarter-Million Dollar Baby

Sunday, October 05, 2008

so, i've been toying with the idea of throwing the munchkin a birthday party in a few weeks. to date, he hasn't had a "real" party. he's had some birthday dinners, but what does that really mean to a 2 year old? my argument has always been that he would never remember a party & it would mean absolutely nothing to him anyway, but apparently, those around me are looking at me like i'm depriving my child of some sort of right of passage.

as i sit here and search for a site (Chuck E. Cheese?) for a party, the sheer amount of money people spend on these celebrations is sort of daunting. first, the venue. i don't have the luxury of a backyard, so having it at home is out. there's Chuck E. Cheese, which is fairly cheap if you have the party during the week, and a bit more expensive on the weekends. then you have your specialty places such as The Little Gym or Kid's Concept which is asking approximately $500 for the venue and a "party attendant," which just sounds absurd to me. and finally, there's the park, which is my personal favorite, but seeing as the kid's birthday is close to the end of October, the weather can be a bit dicey. i'm on the verge of just buying him another FABULOUS birthday cake & calling it a day.

all this talk about paying for a venue, and party favors, and a gift brings me back to the cost of raising a child on your own. because i like facts, i googled it and i found this:

(click to enlarge)

according to msn money's central, it will cost me approximately $250,000 to raise my son (which doesn't include the cost of college). when i think about that amount my mind is blown. it's so hard for me to wrap my mind around the money it takes to provide for my son, and going at it alone is even more stressful. i don't want him to miss out on anything simply because we are all we got (for right now), but i can't spend carelessly on gifts and parties either.

i was listening to This American Life the other day and they profiled Geoffery Canada and his project, The Harlem Children Zone. a friend of mind used to work there, and i was really intrigued and inspired by their work. Mr. Canada's mission is to provide education to the kids of Harlem from birth through college in the hopes that focusing on the child (not the parent) will help raise kids out of the cycle of poverty. listening to the broadcast solidified in my mind that no matter how much money you make, what matters is how much time and energy you invest on the things that actually count. reading to your child, letting him explore his world, tempering discipline, all of these things will mean more in the long run than how fabulous his 3rd birthday party was.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:06 AM 3 comments

Respect My Vote?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(click on image to register to vote)

the economic world, our world, is in utter turmoil. just the other day i was thinking of buying a condo, now i'm wondering if i'll even find a lender (who'll still BE around). now, more than ever it's imperative that we--young people, black people, white, old, women, men, whatever--rise up and make sure our voices are heard at the polls. no matter what your party alliances, this election is far too important than to just sit back and HOPE your guy wins.

if you haven't already, please register to vote. if you have, PLEASE make sure you show up on Nov. 4th!

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:16 PM 4 comments

They Did It!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

they really did it! i've FINALLY been polled.

i'm always skeptical when i read/hear about poll results, because i, nor anyone else i know, have ever been a part of an election poll. so how accurate could they possibly be?

tonight i got an automated call from KABC news asking me where i stood on the upcoming elections. of course they asked the main question, who am i choosing for president (no brainer), but then the poll continued to ask about where i stood on enclosures for farm animals (huh?), abortion for minors (hmmm), and the gay marriage amendment (see: California's Propositions). after hearing the list of questions, i realized that i really don't know how i'm voting in November.

sure the presidential elections are of the UTMOST importance, but we can't/shouldn't overlook the importance of our local elections. ever since i turned 18, i have voted...and guessed at the lower enclosed elections. seemingly minor ballot initiatives pop up on every election and then find a way to become MAJOR issues. i'm always at a loss when asked to choose a DA or a Judge or a farm enclosure.

over the past 8 years, the importance of each initiative has become completely apparently, and this year, i will go to the polls informed on ALL of the issues, not just the ones you hear about on TV.

what is the oddest ballot initiatives in your state?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:32 PM 5 comments


Sunday, September 21, 2008

i am in love! i've always had an issue with my hair. it's super thick & au natural, which means that it's also super dry. it seems like no matter what i have tried, nothing really worked. i've spent tons of money & have tons of product left over and my hair & scalp is STILL dry as the sahara.

a while ago, while peepin natural hair YouTube vids, i ran across someone talking about Qhemet Biologics products. i went to their site & made a mental note that i wanted to try it. a few weeks ago i order the Amla & Olive Heavy Cream and got it on Friday. Yesterday I braided up my hair and this morning i took it down and i am AMAZED. my hair is sooooooooo soft (i know i sound like a commercial, but you know black women and our hair!). i'm loving this stuff. i am looking forward to how my hair continues to react to the intense moisture. so far, i'm impressed.

moving on...i'm going to my soror's (my dean!) wedding tonight. i am so excited for her. on Friday we all went out and i had SUCH a good time. i'm not a club person, but it's amazing how loose you get after a few Vodka Gimlets! lol. we danced till we were hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry. it was a great night. it's funny, 7 years ago when i joined my sorority, it was hard to fathom that i'd actually have life-long friends. i know that is the pitch we tell perspective members, but the friendships i have built have been some of THE most important in my life. and i'm am so thankful for that. tonight i will wish my friend, my soror, all the love and happiness her heart can hold...and then some.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:12 PM 5 comments

what life's like

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In the future, how we educate our children may prove to be more important than how much we educate them
--Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat

this is my third school year at the front of the class & you'd think the transition from lazy summer days to the hectic, unpredictable pace of a middle school classroom would be second nature by now, but it's not. each year i've been unbelievably tired and drained each day i get home. each day i feel as though there is something i missed, something else i wanted to say, something i REALLY wanted them to know, but just forgot to touch upon. the pace and the task of educating our kids is an arduous task.

in our department meeting today we looked at our test scores from last year. our API shot up 48 points. we made gains in every subgroup, and our kids are improving, but we STILL have so far to go. we are not in the 700 club. we still have far too many students deemed "far below basic." and we still need to find a way to motivate our kids to do the work.

once again, i am teaching an intervention class. of the 10 kids in the class, 5 have IEPs and have some type of learning/emotional disability. through our conversations i learned at least 2 of the 10 have lost their mothers, and 1 has lost both parents. yet another has a mother is 32 (i teach 7th grade) and has five daughters. my students' home lives are certainly not ideal, but none of that really matters to me. when they step into my room they are a blank slate i am looking to fill...but it's so damn hard.

i say all of this to explain why i've been absent. i've been dealing with LIFE, ya know? i ache to write more, but sleep seems like a better option. i have been following the political scene and would love to talk to you about it, but damn if it isn't easier to just relax after work instead of coming on here. but here i am. and i will continue to come here & write because i need this. my life cannot be consumed by 7th graders (or almost 3-year olds!). i need our interactions, and your thoughts, and your opinions. i miss that. & i miss y'all.


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:25 PM 5 comments

remember rapper Ahmad and his infectious hit, "Back In the Day" (..when i was young i'm not a kid anymore, but somedays, i sit & wish i was a kid again...)? well, this rapper turned Scholar is all grown up, and headed for Standford on a full scholarship (read the article).

i love stories like his. although he was a star athlete & honors student, he pursued his passion, made an album, and still saw the importance of education. in a time in which a lot of young, Black men are getting caught up in the hype and illusion of mainstream hip hop, this man actually makes school look cool again.

tomorrow, i am entering my 3rd year as middle school teacher. each of these years i've gone into my classroom filled with butterflies, ideas, and nervous energy. each year i've come to my room hopeful that this year i will get it right. this year, i will have my "Lean on Me"/"Dangerous Minds" moment when everything i say will click in the minds of my kids and they will be able to see the genius that dwells inside. i sound idealistic, i know, but you cannot be cynical and be a great educator. you cannot doubt the capacity of your students' ability to learn, grow, and thrive and still be an effective teacher.

"A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled." ~James Baldwin

so i am hopeful. on the eve of another school year, this year will be the breakthrough. this year will be the beginning (or confirmation) of their love of learning. this will be the year that each and every child's life will be changed for the better and they will, for once in their life, have options.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:01 PM 4 comments

Fire In My Eyes

Thursday, August 28, 2008

i feel like
i've been to church
on the brink of
being visited
holy ghost
delivering a word
from the anointed

i feel like
my favorite emcee
rocked the crowd
boom-bap echoing
the cadence of his voice
exploding into head nods
& a call to action

i feel like
change is possible
if we just
give in
to hope

(c) me, right now.

i wanted to write a post. i have so many...emotions...in my belly. but nothing seems to say enough. nothing speaks louder than the truth.

FYI: MoveOn.Org is offering FREE Obama Campaign buttons. Grab one! (i did!)

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:22 PM 6 comments

The Second Civil War?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

last night, after i completely ODed on Democratic National Convention coverage, i was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon HBO's documentary, "The Black List." previously, i'd seen ads about the documentary & made a mental note that i wanted to watch it, but i didn't remember when it came on. last night i broke into the middle of the program and was IMMEDIATELY enthralled in each of the stories. "The Black List" allows the subjects, various prominent black americans, to speak candidly about their life, their experiences and their point of view. i was most taken aback by Colin Powell and Bill T. Jones.

we all have this image of Colin Powell as level-headed, republican soldier, who perhaps does not speak or emphasize his race. i've heard him referred to (wrongly), like many high-achieving Black people, as a sellout or as trying to be white. hearing him speak about race and that fact that he believes that there is a second civil war going on--one in which the educational system is not equal for blacks, and impoverished americans--was eye-opening. i never thought of him in any way connected to civil rights. i respected the fact that he had achieved so much, based on his strong work ethic and drive, but i never really thought that he was anymore connected to the success of other Black folks than anyone else. his story of being passed over for the top spot at his school because he was Black, and his ideas on the inequality of the educational system was refreshing.

the other story that stuck me was that of , Bill T. Jones. he confronted issues of identity, and how we, and others, classify ourselves head on. in the piece he recounted a story that he once said that he was an artist first, and a black man next and received sever criticism from the Black community, many interpreting his words as him disowning his race, as if that could ever be possible. listening to him, a man that pushes the margins of identity through his life and his art made me wonder how important IS the identification of race. i have always toyed with the idea that race does not really exist, that it is a socially constructed idea used to separate and dominate. sure our skin color is different, perhaps that is our ethnicity at work, but underneath it all we are just people. so how important is identifying yourself as Black or white or Asian? and what does it really mean anyway? Bill T. Jones, in all his fierceness, caused me to toy with these thoughts well after midnight.

did anybody else happen to catch the documentary? if so, what were your thoughts. if you happened to miss it, or only caught a portion of it like i did, it is replaying tonight (and throughout September) on HBO.


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:58 AM 8 comments

just yesterday

Monday, August 25, 2008

it seems like just yesterday i was celebrating the end of a long school year, preparing to pack up my room and myself for some much needed R&R. just yesterday i was reveling in the long, lazy days of July, enjoying myself by not doing much of anything, but all of that is quickly coming to an end.

i will be officially back to work next Tuesday and as I'm trying to switch my brain back into "work mode," i'm stuck wondering how the hell the summer managed to run so fast. it seemed to breeze by me very very quickly & i just want this last week to slow....down....now.

we spent last week with beloved, celebrating his birthday. and as i drove around Upstate NY it was scary at how well i knew my way around the place. it is sort of like another home, or at least someplace i know very well. i can almost give directions. but it was worth it. we probably won't be traveling back until the air turns cold & snow is threatening blanket the ground. so, this was our last hurrah until then. perhaps then we will have news about the appeal. the lawyer seems hopeful & so are we, but out visit was great. beloved and the munchkin continue to bond, and i'm forced to think of something to say everytime our son asks, "where daddy go?" i know my answer of "we'll see daddy later" will only hold him for so long...but it's working for now.

i know i've been a bad blog-friend. i haven't been online much these past few weeks, forgive me. i will make the rounds & give my hellos. i pray all of you are well & enjoying the last bits of summer. i am hopeful going into the fall though. i learned that our students, specifically our 7th graders (my kids!) kicked butt on the state tests. of each of the grade levels @ our school they had the highest gains, so i guess we (maybe me?) are doing something right. so fall will bring a new group, a new challenge, and a new chance for me to "get it right" as a teacher. this will mark the beginning of year 3, and i realize this is the longest job i've ever had. i've spent most of my working life putting in a year or two, then moving on, but not here. i guess that says something, right?


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:14 AM 5 comments

holding back

Sunday, August 10, 2008

i am trying to pretend
summer isn't running
through my fingers
like spilled wine

august has opened up
welcoming the fall
arms wide &
      smiling as if
she's ready for vacation

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 11:24 PM 9 comments

Looking for A Hero?

Monday, August 04, 2008

i love nasir jones. this beat is hot & the song is hella infectious. i heard it while listening to satellite radio in the rental, driving around upstate NY. the song SCREAMS summer to me, and makes me question...or ask myself...do heroes still exist?

what do you think?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 2:06 PM 6 comments

And We're Back

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

we are back home after a week of visiting. of trying to distill each moment into memory. beloved is well, softer around the belly, but in good spirits. we were blessed to have a "family visit." forty-four hours of normalcy, or as close to "normal" as you can get while being locked into secured area. it's not as dismal as it sounds. we stayed with beloved in a small apartment on the prison grounds. i am always uneasy about being there. i don't feel comfortable not being able to leave, but imagine how he must feel? i kept telling myself that as i felt a bit closterphobic about the gate surrounding the apartments, but we had a wonderful time. watching beloved play with our son, and our son responding in such a way that now i am SURE that he knows his dad is flesh and blood and can lay down a mean tickle & make some good pasta, and doesn't just reside in pictures, made my heart giggle. yes, we had a GREAT time, and i am moved everytime i watch them together.

watching them reminded me of how much our son has grown. how smart he is, even at two, and how soon i will have to explain why daddy can't leave with us. what will i say? i'm not even sure. when we were getting ready to leave the visiting room on thursday and friday our son said, "lets gooo daddy!" and held out his hand. i smiled, knowing he was now sure daddy was his, but i also wanted to cry because daddy could not go & will not be coming with us for some time.

the irony of watching CNN's expose on Black men in America while just coming off a visit to a prison, wasn't lost on me. the visiting rooms are always full of Black men in State Greens, and women visiting--holding them down--with kids in tow. i never wanted this to be our life, never thought i, with all my degrees and education, would be visiting prisons with my son. but this is our life. all i can do now is make sure my son does not end up in the same predicament.

in other news i am completely addicted to ancestry.com. yesterday, i started compiling my family tree. after a slew of phone calls to my grandmother & my aunt, and coping pages from my great-grandmother's family Bible, i am about 5 generations deep on my mother's side, and a 3 on my father's. the linage the men in my family (my father, my grandfather) will be harder to track down. their families are not close and most of the older relatives have passed away, but i have hope. i am already into the 1830s and hoping to reach the 1700s. oddly enough, it has now hit me that many of these names, especially those in the mid 1800s were probably slaves. i'm not sure how i really FEEL about that. i mean, it's one thing to talk about slavery in historical terms, but quite another to know the names of your ancestors who were enslaved. my grandmother told me about her great-grandfather and how he used to tell her about his days in slavery. i know slavery is in the history of just about every American negro person, but to put actual names to the people is quite surreal.

what have you guys been up to over the past week? i want to thank everyone for contributing such wonderful comments to the posts. i absolutely love the conversations and the different perspectives that are being shared! keep them coming!


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 4:54 PM 3 comments

Black In America

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The first half of CNN's documentary Black in America was extremely interesting. It touched on a myriad of issues, but (to me) offered few solutions. I am on the road and do not have my computer, so I wasn't able to blog during or after the show, but I just had a few thoughts...and I am open to hearing your suggestions on how we can begin changing some of these issues.

1. The HIV/AIDS rate among black women is ALARMING, and yet people aren't really talking about it. Thankfully, I am already aware of these issues, but what about my peers? And what about my students? I am a church-goer and yet my church has been silent on the issue. I am thinking that we, as Black women, need to take up arms over this because we are losing our sisters/mothers/aunts/daughters/grandmothers.

2. WOW at 70% of all Black households being headed by women. That's CRAZY! I am one of those 70% and it is not easy. If beloved were home, we'd certainly be raising our son together, but that is not our reality at the moment. How do we even begin changing this epidemic for black folks? Solid families are one of the keys to raising stable, successful kids. How can we expect our kids to compete if their home life is a disaster? I see it everyday in my students. Many are foster kids, and most live with their mother or another relative. They don't even concentrate on school because of all of the drama at home. What can be done about that?

3. Education: Roland Fryer is amazing (!!!). After seeing him the first time on the other Black in America Special, I am intrigued by his work and would love to talk with him. I am a believer in paying kids to do well in school. My parents gave me money for good grades, which in turn made me work harder and later led to an intrinsic love for education, so why not do the same for others (Shout out to Mayor Bloomberg for doing it in NYC)? Some question the idea of paying kids for doing well in school, but as adults, we want to be compensated for our achievement on the job. Since school is basically a child's job, and a means to an economic future, why not steep the fire by providing incentives? Middle-class kids get cars, clothes, and all kids of goodies as a reward, why can't lower-income children be rewarded just the same?

I am rushing, I know, but I am writing from a hotel business center. We are here visiting beloved and have had a WONDERFUL week. I am looking forward to watching part 2 of the documentary tonight, and hopefully stealing a few minutes while the munchkin is sleep to come and write & see what you guys are saying.

Parting questions: Do you think the documentaries did a good job of capturing "The Black Experience"? & what does it mean to you to be Black in America?


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 3:34 PM 11 comments

Get Your Milk Ready

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I’m sorry, I thought it was 2008.

On the heels of the New Yorker Cover debacle, we have video of John McLaughlin defending Jesse Jackson’s recent “slip up” by calling Obama an “oreo.” I haven’t heard this term in a very long time, and am surprised that McLaughlin was even able to pull it out of the hat. As if we (Black folks) didn’t have enough to deal with already (education, prison rates, the economy), we are thrown back into the debate of who is and who is not “Black.”

It is extremely problematic to label someone who is intelligent, articulate and a genius “white on the inside,” because it completely devalues the genius of Black people. The idea that those of us who have pursued higher education, can navigate Standard American English, and who don’t fit neatly into to stereotypical archetypes are somehow not really Black is absurd and has damaging consequences.

A recent study found that “acting black” affects the number of black students in gifted programs.

Most of the students were familiar with the terms "acting white" and "acting black." They described "acting white" as speaking properly, being smart or too smart, doing well in school, taking advanced courses, being stuck up, and not acting your race. Terms they used to describe "acting black" were having a "don't care" attitude, being laid back, being dumb or uneducated and pretending not to be smart.

"Tragically, only one student (surveyed) indicated acting black was positive. Instead, the gifted black students… believe that acting black means lacking in intelligence, placing a low priority on academics, speaking poorly, behaving poorly, and dressing in ill-fitting clothes," they wrote. "The gifted black students clearly hold negative stereotypes about blacks, namely their attitudes, behaviors and intelligence."

Sixty-six percent of the students surveyed reported knowing someone who had been teased or ridiculed for doing well in school, while 42 percent reported being teased for this reason themselves.

The authors found discrepancies between students' attitudes and their behaviors—students expressed belief that school is important and a key to success, but may not behave that way in the classroom (entire article).

Growing up, I distinctly remember kids around the way saying I talked white or that I was stuck up because I attended a private school and brought home good grades. I was embarrassed that my parents, especially my father, would brag about my academic achievements to others. Growing up, I didn’t feel better than anyone else, I felt like me. I quickly learned that being smart wasn’t tantamount to being cool, and had it not been for the guidance of my parents, I may have not worked as hard, just so I’d fit in. Today, I see many of my students’ struggle with the same issues. The smart ones are sometimes ashamed of their educational prowess because it ostracizes them from their peers, and the ones that need a little more help are slow to access it because they don’t want to seem nerdy or white. It’s frustrating but comments like McLaughlin’s only steep the fire.

I am troubled by the perception that being Black means being aloof, uneducated, and lazy. Our history speaks otherwise. We come from a long line of revolutionaries, people who worked hard in spite of all they faced, and pure geniuses (Baldwin? DuBois? Brotha Malcolm?). It is painful to know that our children think that, by virtue of their racial make-up, they are inferior and must somehow continue to perpetuate stereotypes to be accepted by their peers.

Although I was not completely enamored with Obama at the outset of the campaign, I am ecstatic that he serves as yet another reminder of the genius of Black people. When I am in my classroom, I can point to him and say, see, that is what acting black, or being yourself, will get you: success.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:06 AM 14 comments

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The latest issue of The New Yorker depicts Barak Obama as a turban-wearing Muslim, Michelle Obama as a gun-toting, crazed Negro woman, and Osama bin Laden ensconced in a portrait in the Oval Office, all while the American flag roasts on a fire. According to the New Yorker, the cover, entitled, "The Politics of Fear," is meant as a satirical response to Sen. Obama's right-wing critics.

But did they go too far?

Now, I understand satire, it is meant to be so over the top that people will immediately see the truth. The problem, however, is that there are still large segments of the population that truly believe that Sen. Obama is an unpatriotic Muslim looking to infiltrate the white house. Crazy, right? But some people fall victim to this type of propaganda and fail to research the issues on their own. A recent Newsweek Poll found that...

...white voters continue to be a challenge for Obama, with McCain leading the Democrat in that category 48 to 36 percent. Some of Obama's lag in white support may be explained by continual confusion over his religious identity. Twelve percent of voters surveyed said that Obama was sworn in as a United States senator on a Qur'an, while 26 percent believe the Democratic candidate was raised as a Muslim and 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia. None of these things is true. Finally cracking the code with less-educated whites could have a big payoff for Obama: 85 percent of undecided voters are non-Hispanic whites and only 22 percent of those undecideds have a four-year college degree.

This is precisely what disturbs me about The New Yorker cover. I can appreciate its wit and its purpose as a satirical commentary on the absurdity of extremist politics, however, as my cinema professor's once said, once you release your art to the world, your intention no longer counts. The perception of the viewer is all that will matter in the end. And here in lies the problem. We know the nature of people, they view images and create their own stories in place of the real thing. So to have such a depiction on the cover of such a venerable publication is, at the very least, problematic for Obama and his campaign, considering people actually think this is the real him.

But what do you think? Do you find the image offensive? What kind of an effect (if any) do you think it'll have on the campaign?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 2:23 PM 12 comments

If You Had Any Doubts

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's hard to watch or read the news from around the world and still be hopeful. With our economy in turmoil, dragged down by crippled banks and the price of fuel, I'm amazed that people are treating their economic stimulus checks like Christmas cash. I banked most of my check and the rest went toward paying Sallie Mae, but as I walked the mall yesterday I noticed it was crowded with people spending in times where it seems we should be saving.

The news from around the world is even crazier.

Two years ago I blogged briefly about the issue in Darfur & the lack of action by the West. It's amazing to me that, even after Rwanda, people have been slow to act in Sudan. China, the home of this year's Olympic games, is one of Sudan's biggest sponsors, yet we are not holding them accountable for their role in the upheaval. As my mother would say, that would be too much like right. But today, the International Criminal Court, is seriously considering issuing an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Although it seems like the absolute right thing to do, nothing is ever black and white when people's lives are at stake. The UN is worried that any criminal action will anger the president and cause him to lash out at diplomats and Aid workers, who are so desperately needed. It's a precarious situation for sure, and every issue and action seems to be shrouded in shades of gray.

If you had any doubt that ISMs still exists, all you have to do is look at Ohio. I was SHOCKED to found out that a rural town in Ohio was denied water, yes WATER, because its residents were black. Although water lines were laid in 1956, residents did not receive PUBLIC WATER until 2003. Crazy, right? Read for yourself (here).

In France, a Muslim woman was denied citizenship on the grounds of "insufficient assimilation." Although she speaks the language, has children born in France, and is married to a French national, apparently she is too submissive (to her religion, to her husband, etc) to be a French citizen (read). It's easy for us (Westerners) to say that she is being oppressed by her religion or her husband because we don't understand her choices, but those are HER choices. This makes me wonder if something like this would ever happen in America. Like America, France also has the freedom of religion provision in their constitution, however this woman was denied specifically on the basis of her submission to her religion. Our president has already played fast and loose with our Constitutional rights (FISA anyone?), I wonder which one is next?

Although I am an optimist, I am also a realist. Race, class, and gender issues are still a factor in our world today. The presidential race brought many of these issues to light and forced Americans to begin having conversations on these issues, but it's clear that nothing has really been resolved.

On July 23rd and 24th, CNN will air their documentary, "Black in America." I'm interested in seeing & having conversations with you all about it. I was wondering if you'd like to have a LIVE blog event during the program? My idea is, we'd watch the program and basically converse as it's happening here in the comments section. That way we can discuss the issues as they occur to us, and receive feedback from each other. Let me know if it's a good idea and if you'd like to be involved, or if you'd like to watch the program and then talk.

be blessed.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:01 AM 6 comments

Dear Jesse, You F*cked Up

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

and jesse responds....

i just have a few words...

1. why is Jesse even on Fixed News, knowing the biased views they spew daily?

2. brotha, in all of your years of being in the media...shouldn't you know the mics are never dead? how are you trying to pass this off as a "sound bite" into a live mic when those idiotic words came out of YOUR mouth?

3. how was Obama's Father's Day Speech talking down to black people? he was merely asking black fathers (all fathers for that matter) to man-up & be responsible for their children. speaking the truth, to me, is never speaking down, it's about saying what's right.

4. i'm tired of our "leaders" apologizing every year for some bone-headed action or remark...can we get some new blood in the movement (*ehem* is there even a movement?).

5. does Jesse even matter anymore?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 11:51 PM 4 comments

I Want You to Be Fat

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

well, it's settled...it's a conspiracy to keep you fat.

That’s what University of Washington researchers found when they compared the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. Calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity are seen among people in lower-income groups (more).

stroll any supermarket & bodega around the country and you'll probably notice that fruits and vegetables cost disproportionately more than junk food. yesterday i hit the grocery store in search of a few healthy items: fruit, veggies, boca products, and my wallet took a hit. my total? nearly $70, spent on two lonely bags of groceries. ouch.

(this is what $70 looks like)

i have always speculated that eating out is actually cheaper than cooking (notice how i didn't say healthier). i know, i'm going against all of the budget crunchers out there, but each time i go to the grocery store i feel like i've been stuck-up. i come home with a few bags, and a whole lot less money. it just doesn't seem to make sense.

no wonder we are fat.

in stiff economic times like these, people are forced to feed their families at the expense of their health. people must choose between $9 chicken breasts or $3 ground beef. it's a no brainer if you're broke and your kids are hungry.

the high cost of food, and the lack of high-quality foods in many communities, also makes me think about the obesity rates in inner city communities. is it a coincidence that the communities that have the least money to spend are oft times the fattest?

a study published in the Pediatric News tackled the issue of obesity rates in inner city kids in East Harlem, NY. the study found that kids were inundated by bodegas (corner stores) and fast food joints, but had little access to stores that carried fresh fruits and vegetables.

Proximity and prevalence of these convenience stores, known as bodegas in Spanish, turn out to be an accurate predictor of body weight and waist-to-hip ratio in East Harlem children, according to Dr. Maida P. Galvez of the center for children's environmental health and disease prevention research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. The wide availability of junk food and the relative dearth of fresh healthy foods go a long way toward explaining the rampant obesity and diabetes in this largely poor Hispanic and African American neighborhood.

...In the neighborhood as a whole, there were 10 supermarkets and 9 grocery stores, but 182 bodegas. The latter typically sell predominantly high-fat, high-sugar packaged foods, and very little fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or other healthy foods.(more)

while this study was conducted in Harlem, it can be easily replicated in Watts, Chicago, DC, or any other major American urban city. the startling thing about this to me is that we are killing our kids. a lot of times we blame parents for not cooking the right foods or setting bad examples for kids, but we fail to take a look at the system that isn't set up equitably.

as a child growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, i distinctly remember our local grocery store. the fruits always seemed dented and a little too ripe, the meats were a mixed bag, but there were isles of tasty, sugary, fatty treats. when my mother ventured out of our neighborhood to shop, we saw a stark contrast in the quality of food offered in more affluent neighborhoods. these neighborhoods had bustling produce departments, brimming with colorful fruit and vegetables, some of which i'd never even seen before. they had a bakery department that severed FRESH breads, and the meat didn't look funny at all. at 11, the disparities were apparent to me and it didn't seem right. even though i was young i knew that having access to GOOD foods shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:23 AM 12 comments