9/11 Made Me Become a Parent

I am a New Yorker, born and raised.  I have lived in the South longer than I’ve lived in New York, but when people ask me where I’m from, I still say that “I’m from New York”. Who doesn’t love the hustle and bustle of the city, the busyness, the fact that there is always something to do at any time of the day or night? If it’s you, then phooey!  I like the sights and sounds, most of the time.  There is no pizza or Chinese food quite like what you can find in the NYC area.  Even with the crimes I’ve witnessed and heard about, the city still holds a bit of magic for me.

It’s through this lens that I experienced what we now know as “9/11”.  It was a Tuesday.  I was in my office, just starting to dig into the issues of the day, when one of the sales people walked in and asked if I had a radio.  I did and turned it on, as my office phone started to ring.  The station was playing a commercial so I asked the sales guy what he was listening for on the radio.  He said he heard something on the way into the office about the Twin Towers in New York.  I tried to change stations but all I got was static.  He left and went to my managers office, probably still searching for verification of the news.

When I checked my phone message, my mother had called with this snippet, “Just wanted you to know that a plane has crashed into one of the Twin Towers”.  My mouth dropped open.  Sales guy was right.  I flipped back to the news channel, the only station I could pick up on the radio.  The reports were coming in – hundreds watched live as a plane aimed for and crashed into one of the two buildings at the World Trade Center (aka the Twin Towers).  As the guy was reporting about it, I could hear the commotion as they exclaimed about another plane crashing into the other building.  I stepped outside my office and the entire place was abuzz.  My teams were talking about it, the department was talking about it – every single person in the office was sharing news as they got it.  We all wondered what it meant.  I know I called a couple of family members in New York, only to get a busy signal on the phone.  I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone numbers; I don’t even remember if I had a cell phone at the time for myself,  I recall walking into my director’s office about 30 minutes later, since he had a small TV in his space.  As I walked in, we watched together as both towers fell to the ground.

This was such a surreal scene.  A wave of emotion washed over me.  I was just there about 3 years prior, standing on top of one of those towers like I was on top of the world.  Now I was watching a part of my world crumble before my eyes.  Some of those same workers that we’d encountered in 1998 had to still be there.  The people in the lobby and at the ticket desk, the guy and lady at the pizza place; I couldn’t believe that thousands of people lost their lives in such a brutal manner.  More reports came in about the airplane attack in DC at the Pentagon, and the plane that was purportedly headed for DC but diverted somewhere in Shanksville, PA.   My husband has family in DC, were they ok.  What about my NY family, why couldn’t I get through to them? What madness was this?  Was the US under attack?  What was going on?

When I got home, I spent the rest of the night listening to and watching any and every news report I could – breaking my own rule about watching TV (same news all the time; somebody lied, somebody died, somebody cried).  I couldn’t help it, there was a magnetic force that kept me glued to the set.  At work the next day, the mood was of course somber.  I’d finally heard from my family members and they were all accounted for.  A cousin recounted how she had just gotten off the train and saw black smoke headed her way with people running, so she ran too.  It was the debris from the collapsing towers.  My godmother, who is Muslim, talked about her daughter-in-law dodging a bullet (figuratively) because she worked at the World Trade Center and was supposed to be at work.  She was scheduled to go in late that Tuesday morning, after her doctor’s appointment to check on her unborn baby. We discovered that my husband’s aunt, who did work at the Pentagon, had actually retired just 4 months prior and wasn’t onsite, but several of her friends were.  So the work atmosphere was not only somber but filled with stories that we saw or heard about.  Our department gathered for a moment of silence and I was asked to pray.  All I can remember saying is that for the people who lost their lives, if they even said “I believe” in their last moments then they were with God, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”.  I don’t remember what else I said.  I know I cried.  Again.

That night, Wednesday, was midweek worship at our church.  Some call it bible study, our church at the time called it Wonderful Wednesday Worship.  We attended, for surely we would hear some words that would help us to make sense of this mess.  To hear reports on the news that terrorist groups were claiming victory over this attack, that they might try again, that they were proud of their accomplishments – it was too much to bear.  Surely God, or his representative in the form of our pastor, had some semblance of answer which could return us to normalcy?

Sadly that was not exactly the case.  From what I recall, he made it seem as if the attacks were because of the country’s own two-face dealings with leaders and dignitaries around the world.  Whether there is truth in that statement or not, saying it 24 hours after our world was shaken to its core was probably not the best tactic.  We left feeling more lost than when we entered the sanctuary.

The Big Decision

As the days wore on, we talked about life and death and the meaning of both and our place in this world.  During the first couple of years of marriage, I had been insistent that I wanted to finally finish my degree before we started a family.  That didn’t happen, which is another post for another day.  We weren’t ready either, not during those first 1-3 years.  As we got to years 3 and 4, I remember asking hubby if he thought we were ready and he said no each time.  This was fine with me, because I was still holding onto the dream of completing that degree.  When the attacks of Sept 11, 2001 happened, things shifted…for both of us.

We realized that there is never a right time or right place to have a family, only right intentions.  We always knew we would have a family.  We both had decent jobs with opportunities for advancement.  Patrick had a degree.  We had purchased our home just a couple of years before that dreadful day.  We had updated vehicles.  What, exactly, were we waiting for?  Towards the end of September, early October, we talked about whether it was time.  We each took about a month to give it some serious thought.

A child would change things for us.  No more spontaneous outings.  No more extra dollars to frivolously spend.  No more super late night doing nothing, or a whole lot of something (wink wink).  Now we’re thinking about the pitter patter of little feet and what that really means.  A little person, who will someday become a big person. The scariness, concern, and worry of “doing it right” – raising a baby to young adulthood.  Schools, and friends, hobbies and activities – we’re going to mess him/her up.  No wait, this place is already messed up in so many ways.  And we see that and we know that we’re trying to do our part.  We’re continuously changing and evolving.  We’re not as selfish as we once were, maybe we can raise someone who really cares about somebody other that himself and his immediate needs.  We can shape someone who is certain about her purpose and walks in it fully.  Let’s really thing about this thing.  The privilege, honor, and opportunity to raise someone who would contribute to society and not take away from it.

The decision to become parents would have probably happened within the next year or so of our marriage.  The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 jolted us into action.  We have never looked back.

Grandfathering, a dad’s perspective

Today is National Grandparents Day, which I didn’t know until this morning, but it is so timely since I was thinking about my own grandfather the other day.  I was sharing stories with my sons about what a nice old man he was to me and his other grandchildren yet to the grown ups, he was a crotchety and irritable figure.  If you ask my mother and my aunts about it, they’ll mostly laugh at it as they accept it as him being who he was but, to this day, I can’t picture that side of him.  What I can picture, as my mother has also described, is the hardworking, honest, responsible man who, like other blacks of his day, experienced racism and indignity yet never used it as an excuse to abandon his responsibilities and set a good example for every male in his life.  I remember when my family moved in with him when I was two years old, three years after my grandmother passed away, and he kept the house in immaculate shape, the yard tidy and was always a pleasure to be around.  I always go the sense that being an older man who lived on his own, he not only learned to live independently but got a boost from the love he had for his grandchildren.  I remember whenever he would come to visit  he would bring a bag of candy for me and my sister, a bag of peaches for my parents and staying only five minutes but always making sure me and my sister felt the love.

What did I learn from Granddaddy?  I learned to live my life as a good example to my sons and that when the day comes that I have grandchildren that I learn from whatever mistakes I may make with my own so that I can be the kind of grandfather to them that mine was to me.  To have my grandchildren share the kind of memories with their children that I have of mine would be a true honor but I have to earn that honor.

Another man who is truly earning that honor is my other father.  Like the classic rags to riches story he grew up poor in rural South Carolina, graduated from college, served some time in the Air Force, got a good job, earned his masters degree and ran a successful accounting firm for almost 40 years.  He didn’t believe in religion and my mother was an agnostic so my sister and I didn’t grow up in the church but we were brought up with solid values such as telling the truth, respecting other people and their property and always putting out best face forward.  Daddy wasn’t always the perfect or ideal father (Who is?) as he made his share of mistakes but rather than hold those mistakes against him, I’ve tried to do better.  One thing I remember almost vividly is when I got in a fight with a kid across the street, walked away because I didn’t want to continue fighting, and he kept sending me back to fight him since I needed to toughen up and stand up for myself.  Several years later, after the birth of my older son, I remember being stressed out by him and Daddy calling to talk to me.  He told me about that incident and how he regretted it and I let him know that I didn’t hold that against him and how I planned to raise my son.  I have taught him to stand up for himself in situation when he has to but I wouldn’t force him to fight anyone.  In the times we live in now it is hard because it’s not quite as easy to tell your child to hit someone back when people are shooting and killing each other over senseless things.  Thankfully both my sons know Tae Kwon Do so defending themselves in unarmed confrontation isn’t as much of a worry.  When I see my boys interact with their “Gramps”, I see the growth and learning from past mistakes that I felt when he called me that evening.  When Daddy was running his business he didn’t often find time to spend with me and my sister since he was busy but he makes and effort to spend time with his grandsons every chance he gets.  He also gives plenty of compliments and encouraging words that I didn’t always receive.

I feel that the lessons I learned from my father are valuable in how I raise his grandchildren.  Unlike Daddy I accept Christ as my lord and savior and my sons are being raised to be Christian men but like my father, their mother and I try to instill basic values of honesty, respect for others and the value of hard work in them.  Like my father I try to be a good provider and an example of a hard working may who has his family’s back but I try to give positive reinforcement on a more regular basis.  I already see the same relationship with my sons and both their grandfathers, the other nicknamed “Pops” that I had with mine and it makes my heart jump.

My sons are rare in that they have all four grandparents surviving and living in close proximity and their interactions with all four, who have four different personalities and ways of doing things, are amazing.  I have learned so much about the kind of father I want to be and not to be, the kind of grandfather I want to be and not to be, from both but especially my own father and grandfather and I am blessed for that.  My father’s own personal growth and evolution is an influence on me and so are the memories of my grandfather.  I am in no hurry to be anyone’s grandfather right now but when that moment does come, this granddaddy will be totally up for the challenge.

I Miss My BFF – RIH & RIP Debbie

Nine years ago today, I was helping my sisterfriend celebrate her entre into the 40 club.  Debbie and I were friends in high school.  We lost touch during the college and first job years.  When she got married and they moved to GA, she realized that she knew someone in the ATL and we reconnected.  We became even closer friends than when we were in high school; she was an only child and I have no sisters, so we became like sisters.

If you met Debbie, you were drawn to her personality.  She was loud, she was lovable, she was always smiling and always found the funny.  And if you ever heard her laugh, you would remember her always.  If  there was a cultural event, we attended.  We talked on the phone for no reason.  We talked on the phone for every reason.  When she visited she often said, “You know, you’re the only friend who always offers something to eat or drink when I come over”.  She was too sick to be a bridesmaid in my wedding, but I kept her name on the program anyway.  I couldn’t think of a better person to be a godmother to the boys, so I asked her first.  Debbie was the first person I know who actively spoke about adopting children.  Sadly, that was not to be in her future.

She and her husband divorced and her illness took its toll on her body.  She left her profession as a physical therapist and reinvented herself.  Her skills and talent in music propelled her to become a music teacher.  She went back to school to work on a doctorate in music education.  I sometimes got tired listening to her talk about her day becuase it was often full of activity.  Debbie strove for and achieved so much: published author, music teacher, PhD candidate, consulting at her church, etc.  She was BUSY!  And in her busyness she always made time to check in, to catch up, to see what the boys were up to, to be a supporter and to encourage.

When her 40th approached, she didn’t want to do anything.  I wouldn’t hear of it.  Of COURSE she needed to celebrate.  It’s the BIG 4-0, it only happens once. Her beloved grandmother has passed away several years before, and her father had just passed about three years prior to her milestone birthday.  Her favorite aunt had just died in May and although she was more concerned about her Mom’s grief, I knew she felt the loss as well.  I thought this would a good way to reminisce, laugh, get out and have a good time.  She agreed and told a few of her other friends.  Her mother was not able to make the trip for her birthday but she asked me to buy Debbie a bouquet of flowers.  We decided to go to the hibachi grill.  Hibachi is where they cook the food right in front of you.  If you’re familiar with Benihana, then you know hibachi.  The chefs made a big show of the presentation and really showered Debbie with extra attention.  She had a blast and said to me afterwards, “I’m glad you made this a big deal.  Sometimes I have to remember that I am worth the celebrations too”.

Three months later, I saw her on her last night on Earth.  It was Christmastime, and we got tickets to see Scrooge at the Alliance Theatre.  Her mom was visiting, my mom was attending and we had a group of six including the boys. We agreed to meet there for the performance, then go to dinner together afterwards.  I remember that I saw a co-worker there, and our company CEO – his daughter was in the production.  I introduced them to the family during the intermission.

My mother noticed it first.  She picked up that Debbie wasn’t feeling well, and asked her during intermission.  Debbie responded that she wasn’t feeling that great but would make it through dinner.  Mom promptly cancelled dinner and told her to go home after the production and put her feet up to rest.  We followed each other to our cars afterwards to exchange gifts and hugged goodbye.  Little did I know that was the absolute last hug, kiss, laugh and sound that I would ever hear from my friend, my girl who I loved like a sister.

The boys were asleep and Patrick and I were watching TV in our room.  I remember “The Jeffersons” was on the screen.  We got a call around 10ish from Mrs. Williams, Debbie’s mom.  She said they were at the hospital, that Debbie had some type of episode (I don’t recall exactly how she explained it), and she had to call the ambulance.  Now she was calling from the waiting room at the hospital;she would call back as soon as she heard anything.  I knew immediately but held out hope that I was wrong.  I relayed the news, called my mother, and numbly watched more antics from George and Weezy.  Just after midnight, the phone range again.  I couldn’t answer it.  Patrick picked up the receiver and walked into the hallway.  I heard him give the greeting, pause, then say in a dejected voice, “Oh no” and I slumped over on the bed, tears already flowing.  My bestie was no longer here.

It’s been almost 9 years, and recounting the main highlights has taken me two hours because of the tears.  Debbie’s passing left a void in my life and a hole in my heart that has never been filled.  After as long while, I did connect with another who I consider to be another BFF, who is also like a sister to me.  She has her own wonderful, beautiful personality and I thank God for her all the time.  Yet, each person and each relationship is unique and there is no one like Debbie.  I miss her.  She was a light where ever she went to whomever she encountered.  May she continue to rest in love, peace, and power.  And as Debbie would say, “That’s the story, Mrs. Glory”.

Presidential Gaffe? Gary Johnson and Aleppo

Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President, has been in the news all day. He was on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” and panelist Mike Barnicle asked him, “”What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” “And what is Aleppo?” asked Johnson. “You’re kidding,” replied Barnicle. Johnson replied, “No, I’m not”, and you could see his eyes shift to the left as if he realized he made a big boo-boo.

Now, I’ve got to confess that I didn’t know what Aleppo was either, until today. I make it a point NOT to watch the news every single day. My mantra is that it’s the same news every day, somebody lied, somebody died, somebody cried – my soul can’t take the negativity. So I make a choice not to watch most of the time. I do read lots of papers, magazines, and articles online and listen to various radio stations. So I keep up with the majority of what’s happening regularly; I just miss the nuances of things like this situation. I know about the refugee crisis and war and destruction in Syria, I just didn’t really pay attention to the name of the main city of conflict.  I don’t think I’m in the minority; I’m guessing a lot of men and women “on the street” would not know what Aleppo is either.

Back to Gary Johnson and his flameout interview. Per the clips I’ve watched and the transcription from The Hollywood Reporter:
“Aleppo is in Syria,” explained Barnicle slowly. “it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.”

“Okay, got it. Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess,” Johnson said. “I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end but when we’ve aligned ourselves with – when we have supported the opposition, the Free Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists, and then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is, it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting and, inevitably, these regime changes have led to a less safe world.”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was incredulous that Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was.”Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn’t even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?”

And therein lies the question. How bad is this gaffe for Gary Johnson? He did apologize later, saying that he was “incredibly frustrated” and that he “has to get smarter and this is part of the process”. If nothing else, I appreciate his candor. HOWEVER, you are a presidential candidate. You are saying that you are qualified to make decisions on behalf of the country that is deemed and seen as the most powerful. You are asking everyone to trust you with domestic and foreign policy decisions. And when asked about a hot button issue that is on the hearts and minds of most pundits, you fumble and stumble and just faceplant by not even knowing what you’re asked about. No bueno, dude, no bueno.

Hair I Am

Hair is on my mind today. Probably because I am in the middle of “wash day”. Those of you who are natural know what I mean.

I returned to natural hair just over 11 years ago and it has truly been a journey. I had NO idea how to take care of this hair and have tortured it for way too long. I remember going to the Dominican salon one time to get a blowout and to see how long my hair had gotten. I left with the true meaning of “fried, dyed and laid to the side”. It was just to my shoulder, silky and looked nice…for a short while. My hair had a burn smell and didn’t revert back for 6 weeks before I asked for help online. I was crushed to find out that I would have to cut off those ends. I resisted for several more weeks, then finally did the big chop – again.

I was sure my hair would grow back in about 2 years. It’s been six years now and my hair is barely past my ears. During that time, I’ve trimmed it constantly and cut it a few inches at least 4 times. So I know that I contributed to the lack of growth.

During those same six years, I had my hair braided 3-4 times back to back (where or where are my edges now?); I combed my hair every night for about 6 months straight; I twisted my hair every night for about 3 months straight; I tried to ‘wash-no-go” 10Z hair. Yes, 10Z; my hair is straight from the mother land. It’s thick and super kinky/curly/coily. For a long time, I didn’t like it because it didn’t behave the way I wanted. Until I realized, that I didn’t treat it the way it needed to be treated.

I’ve since watched YouTube videos and read blogs from ladies like me, with 4C hair who learned how to take care of their hair and willingly shared tips. Kinky, Curly, Coily Me!, Naturally Me 4C, and NappyFu all speak about treating your hair like silk, finding products that work, and being patient. I also like Jouelzy and the natural hair maven Naptural 85 – they don’t have the same grade of hair, but I learned how to create some cool hairstyles and DIY treatments from both. Slowly but surely, I have come to know my hair, it’s grade and porosity and density and most importantly, I know that I CAN take care of it and produce great results by myself.

So I am now at a place where I enjoy my coils. I pre-poo, even when I don’t want to, because it makes my hair moisturized and well conditioned. I have found 3-4 shampoos and conditioners I like and plan to stick with those – instead of the 50-11 products I was quick to run and buy every few weeks. I take the time to deep condition (as I’m doing right now), at least twice per month. I detangle, with my fingers. I moisturize using the LCO (liquid, cream, oil) since that works better for my hair than the LOC method (liquid, oil cream). I’m still working on not pulling out knots when I run across them on a regular basis – so it’s still a work in progress. And I am comfortable adding hair.

I learned to crochet braid late last year, and did it for about 8 months off and on. I’ll slap a wig on in a minute – cause it’s quick and easy and they look good on me (mostly). I have yet to get a weave, but never say never, right? Overall though, I am pleased that I am in a good place with my hair. It’s health, strong, thick and growing slowly but surely. I can’t ask for anything else – so I won’t!

Shifting…

Hola good people!

Yesterday I updated my profile and cover photos on Facebook. Now that I’m on it (late bloomer, joined in 2014), and actively participating (fairly regular posts since May 2016), I try to change my cover and profile pics often. Usually I update the cover photo to correspond with the new month, or a great picture from an event during the month, or an inspirational quote that moves me. For profile pics I tend to favor ones that are usually me or a cool animated pic like this one:

SassyLady

It’s colorful, and she looks like she is cool yet fiery, smooth yet sassy all at the same time – kinda like me.

Today I posted this profile pic.

Queen Shift

I think it speaks to my current situation. I am in transition in several areas of my life, so I consider this time as a work in progress. The etymology of my name is Divine Queen in Greek, so I’ve taken to using that nickname – see the QueenD113 moniker on this site.
Until I am able to share more, this is my motto: There is nothing impossible for a QUEEN on a mission to shift herself into a better position. Let the shifting begin. I am moving out of my comfort zone and stepping into some fresh new areas. It’s quietly exciting and slightly scary at the same time. Scary because it’s the unknown for me, and quietly exciting because it involves several dreams being realized. That’s all I want to share for now.

Oh, except this:

Godfidence

It’s my cover photo on Facebook, and a reminder of Timothy God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. With Him and confidence, I know I’ve got it. Soon you will know it too. Onward and upward!

Colin Kaepernick and the new age of athletic activism

 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Much has been made lately of San Francisco Forty Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the game.  He explained it by saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  Very rare to hear that from any prominent pro athlete these days.  Of course the condemnation was swift and inevitable, everything from police union spokesmen with hurt feelings demanding an apology to offended right wingers referring to Kaepernick as a terrorist, a reverse racist and other terms that can’t be repeated here.  My take?  Kaepernick has every right to express his opinion, he is not required by law or by the NFL to stand for the national anthem and he’s not doing anything wrong.  What’s really refreshing is to see someone in his position taking a stand which could be costly for him in public appeal, endorsements and the overall future of his career.  So far he doesn’t seem to be fazed by it.

Kaepernick represents what many felt had gone the way of the station wagon, the 8 track tape and leaded gasoline, the activist athlete.  Up until the early 1960s, any athlete fortunate to make it to the pro level was very careful not to engage in social issues.  Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was activist enough and that was just to play the game.  As the Civil Rights movement gained steam, however, more and more felt compelled to speak out.  NBA legend Bill Russell, before the 1961-62 season, was refused service in a Kentucky restaurant before an exhibition game and in response he and other black teammates flew home.  Because he realized that many of the same white fans who cheered him on the court called him and other blacks the N word behind his back, he once stated “You owe the public the same it owes you, nothing! I refuse to smile and be nice to the kiddies.”  He referred to Boston, where he helped the Celtics to win numerous championships during the 1960s as a “flea market of racism.”  Everyone knows about the popular heavyweight great Cassius Clay converting to Islam and changing his name to Muhammed Ali which alienated many white Americans.  Even the most mortified among white Americans, however, were not prepared for Ali’s refusal to submit to the draft or his declarations that “I aint got no quarrel with them Vietcongs.” and “No Vietcong ever called me n—-r.”  Before the 1968 Summer Olympics, many black athletes talked about boycotting the games to protest racism in America.  Among those was UCLA center Lew Alcindor, who we now know as Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  The boycott never materialized, however, and it was decided to leave any decision to protest, or not protest, up to the individual athletes.  Two of those were sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished 1-3 in the 200 meters, with Australian Peter Norman finishing second.  During the playing of the Star Spangled banner, Smith raised his right black gloved fist while Carlos raised his left black gloved fist in a “black power” salute.  Norman, who remained friends with Smith and Carlos until the day he died, wore a button in support.  Smith and Carlos were sent home and were vilified by the press and the public but are now regarded as heroes.  Norman was barred from future competition in Australia but never apologized for supporting his black American friends.  Abdul-Jabbar, who refused to play on that year’s Olympic team, to this day speaks out against things he finds wrong in society.

Compare the before mentioned individuals to who we have seen over the last three decades and where is the comparison?  Society has changed for the better but many would argue that there has still been much left to improve.  Michael Jordan, considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, was notorious for shying away from social issues.  When asked about endorsing former Charlotte NC mayor Harvey Gantt in his 1990 campaign against Jesse Helms for senator he reportedly said (and later denied) “Republican buy sneakers too.”  During the 1992 Olympics, the first year the pro athletes were officially allowed to play, as part of the “Dream Team,” Jordan threatened to not take part in the victory ceremony due to the warm up suits being manufactured by Reebok while he was under contract with Nike.  In 1972, the U.S. men’s basketball team refused to accept the silver medal in protest of what was perceived as them being cheated out of the gold medal game in favor of the Soviet Union.  Compare that to millionaire athletes standing up for the grand cause of representing a shoe manufacturer 20 years later.  Draw your own conclusion.

One notable exception is former Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who in March of 1996 was suspended one game by the NBA for refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.  Abdul-Rauf claimed that the U.S. flag was a symbol of oppression and tyranny.  He worked out a compromise with the NBA where he would stand and pray  during the playing of the anthem.  Many compare Kaepernick’s more recent stance to Abdul-Rauf’s.

Let me be the first to say that no individual, celebrity or not, should be compelled to be an activist.  People should be free to do what they feel is right and it isn’t up to me or anyone else to make that decision for them.  I myself have defended Jordan and others against charges that they don’t get active enough in social issues or do enough for the black community.  My issue with Jordan has been that while he has the right to keep his political views to himself, he has shown himself to be quick to stand up for the grand cause of Nike and anything that affects his financial bottom line and that represents what many feel to be the problem with today’s athlete, more about making money than about what’s going on the world outside of sports.

What we have seen in recent years, however, is more and more athletes speaking out on issues that matter to their community as a whole.  In December of 2014, five members of the St. Louis Rams protested the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson MO police officer Darren Wilson by entering the stadium with their hands up.  Cleveland Cavalier superstar LeBron James, along with teammate Kyrie Irving and other players wore shirts with the slogan “I can’t breathe.”in protest of the death of Eric Garner due to a police choke hold.  That would have been unheard of a decade ago.  Even Jordan contributed to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 and about a month ago spoke out against police brutality and the murder of police officers in retaliation.  I have not heard any news reports yet of Hell freezing over.

I have no idea where Kaepernick’s career goes from here but I predict that as far as his protest goes, history will be kind to him as it now is to Russell, Ali, Smith, Carlos and Abdul-Jabbar.  In the meantime, the boos will be rained down on him, the calls for him to be cut (which may happen anyway due to his performance) will intensify and he will surely receive a threat or two.  I have a feeling though that like the before mentioned, he will end up not regretting a single moment of it.

See, even sweet little Gabby isn’t immune to the vilification

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Anyone care to tell us what’s wrong with the above picture?

 

Nothing, right?  Okay, tell us what’s wrong with this one?

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Still nothing, right?

 

What do the individuals in these photos have in common?  Both show USA athletes on the victory stand while the Star Spangled Banner is being played.  The former pic is Gabby Douglas receiving her gold medal as part of the winning women gymnastics team.  The former is of men’s shot put winner Ryan Crouser and American silver medalist Joe Kovacs.  There is one big difference that stands out though.  Yes Douglas is a black woman and Crouser and Kovac are white men.  But which one received condemnation, hate and vitriol from many in the social media universe for not having her hand over her heart during the playing of the national anthem?  I’ll give you three guesses.

For those of you who don’t know, Gabby became the first black women to win an individual Olympic gold medal in gymnastics in 2012 by winning the women’s all around.  She won another gold medal in the team competition, making her the first American woman, black or white, to win both.  I have observed, as well as many others, that whenever a black person breaks through in an area in which our very presence, let alone success, is rare, there are some whites who are, at best, uncomfortable with it and, at worst, threatened by it.  We saw it with the hatred thrown at tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, speed skater Shani Davis and, most recently, Cam Newton.  The Williams sisters have been accused of having bad attitudes and have had nasty comments about their femininity thrown at them for years.  Davis was accused of being unpatriotic and of having a bad attitude during the 2006 Winter Olympics when he refused to take part in the men’s team pursuit at the last minute so he could concentrate on his individual events.  When he came back to win another gold medal in the 1000 meter event in 2010, some reporters talked more about his attitude and demeanor in 2006 than they did about him repeating as champion in his best event.  Cam Newton is arguably the most dominant quarterback in the NFL right now and last year he had an outstanding season leading the Carolina Panthers to a regular season record of 15-1 and eventually to the Super Bowl.  He received much attention for “dabbing” in the end zone after a touchdown (not to mention handing the ball to children in the stands) and other expressions of joy.  For that he has been called a thug, a bad influence and everything else but a child of God.  Of course there are many who still believe that the quarterback p0sition should be the exclusive domain of white men who, in their minds, are more intelligent and have greater leadership skills to lead an NFL football team.  Go figure.

Of course only a miniscule number of white bigots are going to publicly admit to having an issue with black people breaking through in areas in which white dominate.  The days of umpires yelling “Get those n—–s off the field!” ended well over 60 years ago.  Instead we get manufactured crises, claims of bad attitudes and not being a team player.  Gabby, who already had to deal with criticism about her hair mostly from a handful of shallow black women, had to deal with criticism about her not smiling enough and seeming to bitter and upset about not having the opportunity to repeat as all around champion.  I don’t know of anyone, even those well conditioned enough to be Olympic athletes, who have enough in them to keep a smile on their face 24-7 just to avoid having their emotions analyzed, but l guess Gabby is supposed to be special.  That was before her egregious act of treason on the medal stand.  Among her critics was Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke who devoted a whole article toward the incident.  Gabby issued a tweet in which she apologized, explaning that she didn’t mean any disrespect and that she was overwhelmed at what the team had accomplished which Plaschke responded to with “If Douglas was truly overcome with emotion as she claimed, that would have been visible, yet her expression was black and distant.”  Excuse me?  The most prolific mind reader and body language expert in Southern California, knowing that it would be pointed out that very few athletes at sporting events put their hands over their hearts explained the lack of criticism there with “Except those players aren’t representing an entire country as it’s flag is being raised to the world.  The next time Gabby Douglas stands on a podium for the national anthem, she can forget the words, disagree with them, protest them.  But there’s hoping she never again ignores the weight of their meaning.”  My head is still spinning from that.

Let me note that we still haven’t gotten Plaschke’s body language and mind reading analysis on Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs.  It’s doubtful that we ever will.

To be fair, I do not believe that the criticism and hostility directed toward Gabby Douglas and the others mentioned earlier comes from a majority of whites.  Gabby was considered by many to be America’s sweetheart in 2012 and her beaming smile and personality delighted many just as much as her electrifying performances.  The Williams Sisters, especially Serena, are acknowledged as being two of the greatest female tennis players of all time and if you took a popularity polls of NFL players, Cam Newton would probably be near or at the top.  The negativity, however, still shows how long we still have to go.  Just like President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and reelection in 2012, show how far the U.S. has progressed in terms or accepting black people in previously white only clubs, the disrespect, hate and vitriol thrown at him show that old habits die hard.  No one is suggesting that black athletes or other prominent individuals should be free from criticism but what is that criticism based on?  What white speed skater would have had his patriotism and commitment to his team questioned for wanting to concentrate on his individual events rather than a team pursuit he was asked to join at the last minute?  What other tennis player would have been accused of disrespecting her opponent after a loss simply for saying “I didn’t play my best.” as opposed to showering her opponent with praise or be criticized, for, God forbid, having interests outside of tennis such as fashion design?  Black people in certain positions are often made to feel like they have to almost walk on water in order to avoid criticism and they usually have two choices, walk on eggshells on a constant basis with the hopes of maybe not rubbing anyone the wrong way or develop a “To hell with it” attitude which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  I doubt that Gabby takes that approach but I hope she realizes also that you can’t please everybody and it’s not worth the stress to even try.  If she is as smart as she is talented, and I believe she is, she’ll take the right approach for her.

Ms. Douglas, who according to her mother was driven to tears by all the social media negativity, will continue to be one of America’s most popular athletes and will get past all this even stronger, just like Venus and Serena Williams, just like Shani Davis and just like President Obama.  Right now she is getting a hard lesson in how a certain segment of our population will never see her as anything other than a n—-r gal who doesn’t know her place.  As for her multiracial, multicultural support base, which I am proud to be a part of, the only place she belongs is the top of the victory podium, hand on heart or not.

Lochtegate & Privilege

#Lochtegate When I first heard the news, I was sadly surprised; followed by more surprise when the IOC denied it. I mentioned that their story was probably a coverup for some foolishness they caused.

And apparently that’s what they did. I know they already earned their medals but there should be some type of sanction for their behavior. Yet here is what the IOC had to say: “I do not regret having apologized. No apologies from him or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

Ummm…duuuuude, seriously?!?!?
I thought you were considered an adult at 18; Lochte is 32. And if there are no consequences at all, when they do this again, do you shrug your shoulders even more?

In discussion w #myvips and I said “Man, I wonder what would happen if you guys made it to the Olympics and we saved our money to go support plus vacation in that country, only to hear that your lives were in danger, only to find out that you made it all up.”

Youngest #vip says, “It wouldn’t be good for me, not at all.” You better KNOW IT!

Rio has enough real issues without them adding fuel to the fire with this fake ish, lack of remorse, and excused behavior.

Shameful!

More Thoughts on Nate Parker

So, in my post yesterday, I am pretty sure I gave the impression that I felt Nate and his roommate Jean were guilty, even though one was acquitted and the other had charges dropped (after conviction and appeal, because the victim refused to testify again).  I struggle with that because who am I?  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t participate in the trial.  I’m forming an opinion based on articles and portions of transcripts and my “feelings”.  These two guys could very well be innocent of the charges, and God help me and forgive me if they are.  Because I just don’t think so.

However, Nate Parker wants you to think so.  He penned this on his Facebook account on Aug. 16, 2016:

These are my words. Written from my heart and not filtered through a third party gaze. Please read these separate from any platform I may have, but from me as a fellow human being.
I write to you all devastated…
Over the last several days, a part of my past – my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault – has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women’s right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult. And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.
I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family.
I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.
I cannot change what has happened. I cannot bring this young woman who was someone else’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother back to life…
I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community – and will continue to do this to the best of my ability.
All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.
I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.
Nate

While I can appreciate him giving this statement “in his own words”, my feelings are the same.  He appears empathetic, now, and remorseful, now; yet somehow the words ring hollow to me.  It was a heinous act then.  He was involved.  He and his roommate were involved.  Neither one admit culpability – then or now.  Neither one suffered any consequence.  And apparently, neither one gave another thought about the victim; Nate claimed that he wasn’t aware of her suicide which happened four years ago.

Look, we all have skeletons in our past – lies, bad behavior, levels of coverup, levels of escandalo that we don’t want to be made public knowledge.  Even if it happened years ago; even if we have moved on from our past and become different people.  I think what bothers me the most is the lack of true ownership and accountability.  People who really make the changes put in the work and don’t flinch from what they did in the past.  They own it and demonstrate ways in which they made changes.  I think that’s what I find missing in this narrative, the ownership and accountability.

Again, by all accounts, Birth of a Nation is an important fill that was well written, acted and produced.  It tells the story of one of our Black heroes, which often goes unstated and unsung.  So it’s definitely been a film on my “must see” list.  Given this new information, I am conflicted about supporting someone who is still struggling to accept and account for his own actions, no matter how long ago it happened.  I’ve lost respect for Nate Parker and I don’t know how I can support someone that I don’t respect.

At the same time, I know that people come into their own in their own way and at their own time.  Lord knows that I had to learn some lessons many times over by repeating them again and again via different situations.  I know that written words don’t necessarily express tone, gestures, posture, and other indicators of body language.  I know that I’m not done making mistakes and asking for forgiveness from those mistakes.  I pray that I continue to evolve where I will always stand for truth and integrity, no matter what; and I guess that’s my ultimate prayer for this situation.  I pray that truth comes to light and integrity is displayed, no matter how hard it may be.