Monday Notes: *FIRE!

In 1963, Bồ Tát Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire (self-immolated) to protest religious oppression in Vietnam. Although the country was at least 70% Buddhist, landowners were Roman Catholic, and so was the president at the time. Subsequently, the president and others had created an environment biased in favor of Catholics, resulting in the oppression of Buddhists. So, Quảng Đức self-immolated (source).

Though, I’d seen photos, I could never imagine the image or smell. I could never imagine wanting justice so bad, that I’d set myself on fire to raise awareness and fight for a cause, yet he and other Buddhists did just that.

I read up on it recently. Apparently, Buddhist weren’t allowed to fly their flag for a religious holiday, while Roman Catholics had donned theirs just days prior. Catholics were being advanced in government and military positions, while Buddhist were not. Roman Catholics were forcing Buddhists to convert to their religion as a requirement for living in Vietnam and as a way to reap equitable benefits (source).

I now understand. Conditions were so deplorable and demeaning for Vietnam Buddhists that they resorted to extreme measures. To make a statement. To announce they weren’t taking the Roman Catholics’ shit anymore. They were over it.

Sounds familiar to me.

Though I would never set fire to anything, I understand. Constantly seeing police, representatives of the American government, murder Black people in the street, in broad daylight, on video, while simultaneously telling Black people when, where, and how to protest or not to protest evokes a sense of helplessness.

We’re told we’re American citizens, yet we don’t receive the benefits of a so-called just system. When cops kill Black people, we watch grand jury after grand jury after grand jury return with a decision to not indict. What’s left to do? To what and whom will the government listen?

Destruction of the system American capitalists hold so dear is what’s left. Burning buildings down, even if they’re in our own community and allegedly for own benefit is what’s left to do. It’s a clear manifestation of the suppressed anger and sadness we’re told to get over and stop harboring. It’s a demonstration of how we feel about being shown that our lives are dispensable.

I hear it clearly. Businesses are expendable. Buildings can be rebuilt. Police cars can be replaced. Similar to Quảng Đức’s self-immolation, protestors want to make a point.

However, there’s this part to consider. Vietnam Buddhists had a five-point plan they wanted enacted. After demonstrating, Buddhists were immediately prepared to ask for change from their government. Six days later, The Joint Communiqué was signed.

So, that’s my suggestion.

Black Americans, including born citizens, naturalized citizens, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, non-Christians, Israelites, and everyone in between need to have one unified voice of a multipoint plan, with oversight…for the entire nation, regardless of location.

Number one on the list should be STOP MURDERING US.

***

*24 hours after I wrote this, it was alleged that white nationalists infiltrated peaceful demonstrations, with looting and fires (source). Whether this is true or not, I maintain that radical action plus a unified plan has to occur to stop police from killing people who look like me; history has proven these two acts to be effective.

Femonomic: Women Invite Crime

c02c27f8-1d50-440f-9def-29e3a1537457-1One of the best parts of blogging is meeting new people from around the world. This has been true for one woman I’ve followed, who is from India, Lovey Chaudhary. (Femonomic). I realized we shared similar ideas about women and social justice issues when she read and reviewed The Unhappy Wife four years ago. So, when she announced her book of poetry, Femonomic: Women Invite Crime, centered on raising people’s consciousness about how Indian women are (mis)treated, I was intrigued.

Poetry is sometimes stereotyped as flowery and light, but the poems found in this book are anything but. Although I knew Lovey’s background and stance, at first I was alarmed by how the book began. Titles like, “the fate of an unborn in womb” and “infanticide” introduce the reader to Indian culture where babies are murdered because they are not male children. But, I get it. The female species is undervalued at birth. The very idea of having a girl child is repulsive and unwelcomed. And, if girls are allowed to be born in this society, then poems like “acid attack cycle” demonstrate what could happen as they age. If you’re unfamiliar, then this link may provide background on this vile practice.

Another occurrence in this country is that crimes against women are rarely brought to justice because men continue to be in power in misogynistic and violent ways.

One of my favorite poems from her collection that shows the lack of consequence is “crime and punishment,” which I’ll share here:

one of many tainted times

the crime is not rewarded

with the retribution along the same lines

 

the archetypal excuses of the judiciary

and typical society

are silently soaked in sanguine saccharine

grinning gingerly

about legal implications and sentence

 

how ailing it is for you to drink

three cups of justice and two latest of equality

to hydrate pages with some ink while righteousness await

4f852cc4-b70e-4a8a-a4aa-162405a6ea41This poem speaks to me because of its universality. It demonstrates the injustices that many of us around the globe face. There doesn’t seem to be a real “justice system” for all, but rather a system that works for whomever is at the top of the power structure. I also think Chaudhary uses alliteration in a creative way. Silently soaked in sanguine saccharine sounds optimistic, especially because saccharine is sweet and sanguine can be positive, but the implication is that it isn’t. Injustices will continue as usual, not just for India, but for us all.

Chaudhary also asks rhetorical questions throughout, like this one, “Can the damage be undone for what our world has become” (p. 48).

This question and another poem, “plastic planet” is imperative for everyone. The Amazon fires and plastic floating in the ocean make me wonder the same thing. What can we do? Is it too late?

These poems are also inspirational. From self-love to anxiety, Chaudhary encourages the reader to get up and do more.

If you’re interested in poetry or any of the themes mentioned, then please purchase Femonomic: Women Invite Crime or follow her on these platforms:

Blog

IG

Twitter

Monday Notes: Reflecting on a Recent Publication “What It Actually Means To Be Pro-Choice”

choice-2692466_1280I had first written a piece about having an abortion over twenty years ago, then fifteen years ago. Each revision a nuanced version of the previous one, reflecting how my thoughts had grown throughout the years. One idea remained, and that is the procedure itself didn’t bother me. What vexed me was keeping it a secret from specific friends and family. I don’t mean to say that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but there have been many times when I wanted to insert it in a relevant conversation, like, “so when I had an abortion…” to support a point.

Here’s what I mean. Thanksgiving 2019, I was with my cousins. One of them works for his state’s health department. He was recalling how difficult it is to tell parents that their children have an STD or worse, HIV, mainly because (according to him) suburban housewives don’t want to admit their children are having sex, even after he tells them about their child’s sexually transmitted disease. One story led to another and we ended up on the topic of abortion and how that same woman demographic is pro-life. And that’s where I wanted to say, “so when I had an abortion,” but I didn’t.

It’s so taboo and it doesn’t go well with turkey and dressing. But, it’s because of this taboo status and made-up social rules that I believe many of us choose to remain quiet, instead of opening up authentic dialogue that could offer another perspective on issues that impact us all.

I imagine some people won’t relate to what I’m about to say, and I’ve made peace with this part because everyone can’t connect to everything, but for me, it is very important that I can be my whole self with people, no matter what. Being myself includes being able to open up about nearly everything. But, like many other things in my life, I’ve not only kept having an abortion a secret, but also my unashamed feelings about it. Both secrets were tucked away on a digital drive, until February.

female-454868_1280That’s when this personal essay was published. It was finally time. It was the opportune moment for my thoughts and writing to align with the era. Twenty years ago, wasn’t the right time. Sure, people were discussing abortion; they have been since it was legalized, but there wasn’t a full-on assault on the practice. Even with the novel coronavirus taking up much of our attention, abortion clinics are closing, and doctors are being fined and jailed. The actual abortion practice is shifting.

Had my article been published twenty years ago, it would’ve just been another story. Currently, the narrative is integral for women’s rights and for reproductive rights.

So, *here it is. Of course, I’d love for you to read it, no matter your political beliefs or whether you agree with my stance or not. My point is not to achieve consensus on the topic, but rather to start a conversation that begins with, “so when I had an abortion,” in order to humanize this event.

Because guess what? We’re never going to progress if we continue to keep experiences locked up in a proverbial closet.

*The referenced piece was first published on PULP, a sex/uality and reproductive rights publication celebrating this human coil.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Beyond Selma: The Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville, Florida by KE Garland

Please be sure to read my Black History article on the PBS blog.

The PBS Blog

When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.

I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.

A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.

That sign is actually a historic site marker commemorating an important civil rights event in Jacksonville called, Ax Handle Saturday.

I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.

KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened? 

RH: I was…

View original post 1,114 more words

Monday Notes: Tommy Hilfiger

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In 1996, I heard that Tommy Hilfiger said that he didn’t make his clothes for black people. I admired Hilfiger’s clothing, but there was no way I was going to purchase another piece, if indeed, he was going around making racist comments.

So, I didn’t.

Four years later, Spike Lee’s satirical film, Bamboozled, criticized America’s race relations. In it, Lee also ridiculed America’s fascination with brand-named fashion and alluded to Hilfiger’s alleged racism, with a parody he called Timmy Hilnigger.

As an avid Spike Lee fan, I was amused. I thought it was clever, and I was happy to be on the “right” side of an issue. My position remained, and I didn’t buy any more Hilfiger clothing.

That is until Saturday, September 14, 2019.

On that weekend, I was looking for something appropriate to wear to a tea that I’d been invited to. The host was going to wear a dress, and according to Google, I should too. I ended up at TJ Maxx because I had no intention on spending a bunch of money on clothes I may or may not ever wear again.

img_1646After several minutes, I found a cute, classic navy blue and white dress. The only issue is it was by Tommy Hilfiger! Yes. Twenty-three years later, I was still holding out on my Hilfiger ban. But I tried it on anyway because like I said, it was cute.

It looked even more fabulous on, and I had no hesitation. I was buying this $40 dress, racist Hilfiger or not.

The next day, I showed Dwight, who also agreed it was nice.

“Too bad I’ll be wearing clothes by a racist,” I said. “I’m choosing to exert my willful ignorance for fashion.”

Dwight pushed back a little and wondered what Hilfiger had actually said decades ago. His point was nowadays, people take things out of context, so how did it come about that Hilfiger allegedly said he didn’t make clothes for black people?

Unlike 20 years ago, this time I could Google it. That’s when I found this: Did Oprah Winfrey Throw Tommy Hilfiger Off Her Show for Making a Racist Comment?

And this, Tommy Hilfiger Addresses those Racist Rumors from 1996 One More Time.  

And finally, this, The Racism Scandal that Rocked Tommy Hilfiger.

In case you don’t have time to read these, here’s what I found out. Tommy Hilfiger never said those words, ever.

<sigh>

This revelation is a little more than disturbing. I can’t imagine having built a company, with a primary goal of being the best in my field, having succeeded in that goal, and then having an untraceable rumor ruin my reputation and decrease sales.

What’s equally disturbing is how quickly we will stop supporting businesses with little to no facts. It’s called cancel culture. While I’m not opposed to boycotting businesses with verified questionable practices or opinions and morals not aligned with what I believe, I am opposed to canceling a company or brand simply because of a rumor.

After this incident, it’s clear that I have to do better. But I’m starting to believe we all do.

Monday Notes: My Bisexual Daughter

My daughter has a lot of positive qualities.

She is intelligent. I first realized just how smart she was when she was three-years-old. I begged the teacher to put her in the next class, but she disagreed, that is, until she interacted with her for two days.

“You were right,” she apologized, “I just thought you were like all the other parents who think their child is brilliant.”

The next day she was in the four-year-old class.

Her intelligence was reaffirmed years later at the end of third grade. I’d received her first state standardized test results. She’d gotten all the answers correct. Even with my background in education, I’d never seen marks like that.

She is caring. I remember when she cried because she was saving a lizard that had somehow entered the house, a frequent Florida occurrence. His little green tail fell off as she used a glass to capture him. She immediately burst into tears, but soon calmed down when I reminded her that lizards’ tails regenerate. She dried her face and released him outside where he belonged.

She is socially conscious. She loves being black and championing for black people in different ways, like when she assured her dark-skinned friend it was okay to stay in the sun; she had no fear of “getting darker,” and neither should he.

She can also be found telling her father and me about her new choice of water, why we shouldn’t be buying McDonald’s, why we should stop eating ‘carcinogens’ (e.g., meat), and why we should sign a petition about parolees.

She is kind. When she found out her big sister wouldn’t be able to attend our last trip, she offered to save more of her own check so that her sister could go. Of course her sister declined the offer, but my point is she offered. She also considers her friends and frequently stands up for them in different situations or is there for them when they need someone to listen.

She is trustworthy. This is why we had no problem passing my car to her at the age of seventeen. She drives to school and back home. She drives to work and back home. She drives to her friends’ houses for parties. She drives back to school for extracurricular activities. She drives to complete her service project once a week during the summer. She spends the night over friends’ houses, and when she doesn’t feel comfortable where she is, she texts me…and comes home. We trust her and her judgment.

These are the qualities that come to mind when someone asks me about my daughter. The last thing I consider is her sexual identity. I just wished society felt the same.

Standing for Something

On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, when everyone else engaged in a social media conversation about Nike, Colin Kaepernick, and the burning of shoes, my husband and I were in Gainesville having a late lunch with our daughter, Kesi and her friend.

Afterwards, we also took her shopping. That’s when a conversation with her friend ensued.

“Do you want to go to Walmart?” friend asked.

Kesi laughed because she already knew the answer.

“I don’t wanna go to Walmart.”

“Well, then you must not wanna save money,” friend replied in a persnickety kind of way.

“It’s bigger than saving money,” I said.

“She won’t go to Chick-fil-A either,” Kesi added.

Friend was completely confused by this point. “What?” “Chick-fil-A has the best chick,” she said. “First, tell me why you won’t go to Walmart.”

I told her it was too long of an explanation because it really is. Twelve years ago, I read a book called The Wal-Mart Effect, watched two documentaries, and held a lengthy conversation with a respected friend, who called the company fascist. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been inside a Walmart since then, and it’s mostly to accompany others.

Still, I began with my reason. Walmart mistreats their employees by not hiring them as full-time workers, so they don’t have to pay insurance. For example, they might ask an employee to work 35 hours, just shy of a 40-hour work week. Dwight added that they use prison labor to make their products. Kesi chimed in and explained that the reason most stores operate the way they do now (e.g., importing cheap China goods) began with Walmart at the helm.

“Well, maybe when I get older I’ll shop somewhere else, but for now…”

I told her I understood. Many people who are older than her still can’t afford to shop somewhere else because they don’t make enough money, they’re retired, or on a fixed income. It’s just something I do because I can.

That answer was sufficient. Now she had to know why I avoided Chick-fil-A.

“You know those people who believe you can pray the gay away?” I asked.

“Mmmhmmm,” friend, who self-identifies as a lesbian answered.

“I stopped going because the owner uses part of the business’s funds to support those type of organizations. And I don’t think that’s right.”

I was driving so I couldn’t look back, but friend, who up til now had an answer for everything was silent for a second. And then, “Whaaaat? Oh, I’m definitely not going there anymore.”

Then, a few seconds later, “But that food is really good, though.”

We all laughed. But that’s it right? It’s hard to boycott something you like. And those of us who want to be moral people are faced with these decisions more and more because companies are sharing their personal values. Sometimes those ethics aren’t aligned with who we think we are. Or in the case of friend and Chick-fil-A, they are completely counter to your lifestyle.

What do you do? Do you fall back into willful ignorance, knowing the truth, while pretending you’re not part of the problem? Or, do you take your salary elsewhere, hoping that company doesn’t support something you’re against?

img_7740In the early 2000s, giving up $.97 items and waffle fries was an easy choice. I haven’t missed either. But what happens when you like the company but they inadvertently become a spokesperson for something you’re against? A couple days after the Kaepernick situation, another shoe story from 2016 re-surfaced. Two years ago, New Balance opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Trump also opposed. Consequently, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists deemed New Balance their official shoe. Yikes! New Balance quickly made a statement that reaffirmed their stance against “bigotry” and “hate,” but I certainly don’t want to be associated with the official Klan shoe! I love my New Balance and it took a while for me to find an affordable, cute workout sneaker with arch support. Furthermore, their shoes are made in the States, a rarity nowadays. For the first time, my decision is cloudy. But I’m leaning towards willful ignorance on this one.

So, tell me. Have you ever boycotted a business? If so, why? If not, why? In the long run, do you think it matters?

Giving Back to the Community through Book Sales

1521808695783I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but 100% of the proceeds from the book, Daddy (from June 16, 2018-June 16, 2019) will go to a nonprofit organization near and dear to ten of the authors’ hearts. When you buy a book, you’re also giving back! A list and explanation follows:

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Toliver, Black Girls Code. The owner hopes to “provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Price, the Marjaree Mason Center. The organization “provides emergency and longer-term safe housing, along with a wide variety of support services for victims of domestic violence in Fresno County.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Scott, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to “provide optimal care and services to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Wright, North Florida Freedom Schools. Operated under the Children’s Defense Fund, “the goal of CDF’s integrated curriculum is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Hagan, The Rhode Island Center for Justice. This organization partners with community groups to protect legal rights and to ensure justice for vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. The Center provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Rhode Islanders, engages in key impact litigation affecting the rights and wellbeing of thousands across the State, and conducts legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of the communities. 

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Thomas, the March of Dimes. According to their mission statement, “Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Jefferson, Vista Maria. The organization’s mission is to “deliver innovative care, support, treatment and education to vulnerable youth so that they heal, believe in their worth, and build the skills needed to succeed.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Kollar, The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Their mission is to “improve the lives of women and girls through celebration and support.”

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A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Roxanne, Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans who’ve served on or after September 11, 2001. They help veterans transition to civilian life.

Be sure to order a copy for you or a woman you know who might benefit from understanding that she isn’t the only one with “daddy issues.”

Or, order a copy for a father who might need a nudge towards healing by reading about  other men’s imperfect father-daughter relationships.