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?
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
but the love
We are not friends
because of the laughs
but the tears
I don't want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
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
Saturday, December 27, 2008
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
Friday, December 26, 2008
Umoja: To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race
your neighbor, auntie,
big mama down the block
could pull your coattail
making you stand so tall
your neck would pop?
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
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:22 PM 2 comments
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
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
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