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
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
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
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
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.
Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:01 AM 6 comments
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
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
Sunday, July 06, 2008
in my ideal life, the one i used to imagine in my late teens, i saw myself as a cultural maven, hitting cocktail parties, discussing experimental art, writing, and living the lush life. i thought of myself as one of the posh new yorkers that stayed up late, drank cosmos (hey, sex & the city just started), and had THE most interesting life EVER.
and then there's my real life.
on saturday, the munchkin and i dashed off to the art museum in search of mommy's alter ego. of course, from the begining i felt a little lost. thankfully i wrangled my family (mom + brothers) into joining me so i wouldn't amble about confused with no one to talk to.
when we first arrived, i was pleasantly surprised to find out anyone bringing a child and signing him/her up for a (free) museum membership entitled the accompanying adult to also get in free. the next surprise was that if you are a Bank of America customer, you can visit several museums for free at the beginning of the month. so, our tickets were gratis & all we had to come out of pocket for was the parking. yes.
museums are interesting spaces. tons of people talking about color, intention of the artists, and paintings that don't really make much sense (to me). not only am i not art smart, but the language of art...all of the vocabulary that goes along with discussing it, the frames of reference people use, the artists...are foreign to me.
the contemporary art section was a confusing blur. of course you had a few Andy Warhol's, Jean-Michelle Basquiats, and Jeffery Koons, but then you had a room with video and bodies with severed heads. my (younger) brother bolted out of that room as if the chick from The Ring was chasing him. comedy, but it WAS a bit strange. sometimes i am confused about what is deemed "high art." some galleries were fulled with paintings with simple lines, or geometrically-shaped colored blocks that i didn't find particularly fascinating, but who am i to judge? i did enjoy myself, though...immensely. silly me, i forgot my camera at home, so i had to make due with my phone. hope you enjoy the flix (click on the pics to enlarge them).
The Cheech Marín Collection (yes, as in Cheech & Chong. who knew).
Margart García, "Eziquel's Party"
This "window" isn't made of stained glass. it is made entirely of butterfly wings. i wondered, did he kill the butterflies? or did he wait for them to die, then pluck their wings? either way, it is painstakingly beautiful, don't you think?
close-up of the "window"
from the african art collection
egyptian art collection
south-east asian art (of India)
so i felt inspired by all the art. i will call this, Lady in Red...camera phone + glass + munchkin & me
Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:05 PM 13 comments
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
when i found out i was pregnant with the munchkin, beloved struggled with my decision to have him. we were both students, i had just lost my job (our main source of survival), and we weren't married. from the beginning i knew i wanted to usher this baby into the world. not really because i felt an instant connection, and not because i was brave beyond measure, but because my momma always raised me to keep my legs closed, and in the event i happened to get preggo, i'd woman-up and have the baby. and so i did. and this little boy has been an amazing addition to my life. quite honestly, had it not been for him i might not have fought so hard to keep my relationship with beloved together. i might have fallen apart when the shit hit the fan. but i didn't. knowing i had to keep it together, knowing i couldn't draw up into a ball and fall deeply into depression, has motivated me to be the best woman i can be for my son.
i'm sure my story isn't unique. i'm sure millions of other women have found themselves knocked up sooner than they thought, and had to change their course in order to be the best mommy they could be. sometimes i wonder what my life would be like if we'd just waited to have the munchkin. when i hear my friends talking about jetting off to the Bahamas or going to some club, i'm a bit jealous. but the question begs to be asked...am i happy? are you?
a recent Newsweek article took a look at a study that measured the happiness of people with and without children. it found that childless people are, according to the study, 7% happier than parents. the article states,
"Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not." (read the whole article here)so what is it about parenting that makes us both immeasurably ecstatic, but yet less happy than our childless counterparts. i think a lot of us (parents) would reject this study on an emotional level because we feel as though it calls our parenting and the love for our kids into question. on the other hand, i am inclined to agree. although i love my son beyond measure, parenting requires an immense amount of self-sacrifice. i am forever having to put my needs and wants on the back burner for my son. am i resentful? no. do i sometimes wish i didn't have to always be last? hell yes.
in the old days, parents, specifically women, didn't voice their needs. all of their time, money, and emotion was thrown into their children. women slaved over hot stoves, cleaned-up the house, catered to her husband, and buried her own needs and dreams. today, our focus is slightly shifting. our society is more open to mothers pursuing goals and dreams, but somehow it still has to play second to making sure their children are taken care of. and i guess that makes sense. once you decide to have a child, you take on a whole new set of responsibilities. you are now responsible not only for you life, but for theirs. it makes sense to have to put your child's need ahead of your own, but damn if it doesn't suck sometime.
i know you can't always have it both ways, but why do we (women/parents) feel so guilty about putting ourselves first?
if study is correct and children are not the key to happiness, then what is?
i'm not sure, but i think the answer lies in loving yourself. if you do not love yourself and aren't happy with yourself and your decisions, then you will not be a good wife/mother/partner/friend. nothing good can come of a poisoned tree. and no amount of happiness can come to you if you do not take some time for yourself & just love you!
Technorati Tags: parenting, happiness survey, motherhood
Posted by the prisoner's wife On 5:06 PM 8 comments
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
i've always had an amazing sweet tooth. good for the eyes, but a bit hard on the thighs! while i was in the grocery store this morning, i spotted those delicious little burgers, umm i mean, cake. the best of both worlds wouldn't you say? just maybe.
summer is panning out to be a pretty lazy affair. after my girliciously busy weekend (read: lots of girly things to do), i've been on complete laze mode. i have yet to wake up early, put on my sneakers and walk to the park for my daily workout. actually, i haven't worked out in a few weeks. i was completely thrown off by the rush of the last week of school, traveling to see beloved, and a week-long training. i think i'm being so lazy to make up for all the busyness of the past few weeks, but it's time to snap out of it.
last summer, i threw on my workout shoes, stocked up on fruits and veggies, took a turn at Capoeria, and dropped 20lbs. i've managed to keep most of it off (give or take 2 or 3lbs), and
leading up to my bday in may, i sort of got my workout mojo back. i signed up for podfitness, woke up at 5am, and walked with my virtural trainer, David. at that time i toyed around with the idea of walking a marathon in October. i've since scaled it down to the half marathon, but still...i'm doing it. i tried to enlist my mother, but she wasn't having it. she doesn't see the point in walking 26.2 miles. and truthfully, i don't either, other than the fact it would be a hell of an accomplishment. so i'm switching training programs (see-ya David), buying some new sneakers and a sista gon work it out.
the summer, or any bit of down time, begs to be used to plan out your next few moves. i have always been iffy on goal setting. i've always had grandeious ideas that somehow, either by hook or crook, have come to fruition, but i've never really sat down to plan. but it's about time. i have two months, two lovely, but short months, to make some changes in things in my life. i'm not about to overwhelm myself and self-sabotage before i can even get started, but i will start holding myself accountable. so here it is...three things (i told you i wasn't trying to over do it!) i plan on focusing on this summer...
1. write more often: i've been working on a story that i hope to expand into a novel since november. here's the kicker tho, when i say "working on it" i mean feverishly wrote 4 pages, then put it down for 4 months and picked it back up again. i have always sold myself VERY short as a writer, too uneasy with the title itself. in reality i have lots and lots of stories in my head, and if i just sit still long enough, they will come pouring out. i will pour daily!
2. move you body girl: i will find every opportunity to walk, stretch, lift this body. please believe my goal is not to turn into a gym rat, but i can improve upon my sexy, and i'll do it at least 3 times a week!
3. break outta procrastination hell: it's a sickness! i can't even begin to tell you how much money i've wasted on overdue bills, expired tickets, and things i just let lapse because i always put things off until tomorrow. i jokingly said i would try hypnosis to break out of procrastination hell, but i keep putting it off!
what are you working toward? what goals would you like to accomplish this week, month, or the balance of the year?
Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:24 PM 7 comments