Month: February 2012

Is it because I’m Black?

Once again, another poem I wrote a few years ago. This is one that is not read so well, but best emphasized through spoken word. This is published in my book of poetry Everything Woman under the title “past.present.future.”.

“Is it because I’m black?” (aka “past.present.future”)

K.T. Edwards

 

My skin is dark and my hair is nappy,
My nose is wide and my lips are thick,
My hips are full and my butt is round,
But is it because I’m Black that you frown?

Is it because I’m black?
When I walk in the store
All eyes on me
From the door to the rack
Can I try this on please?
Without you breathin’ down my neck
Are you really gonna follow me?
Ask if I need anything and I haven’t even looked at anything
But when I need to ask anything
You can’t be found…

Skin is only as deep as the ocean we came on;
The color of chocolate, honey or almond,
So many names for a race called by one
Why can’t I just be and be happy within?
Is it because I am black that you won’t let me live ?

Here is where I am,
There is where I want to be.
Because I am black you won’t let me get
From here to there, there to here, here we go again.

You stop me and
Say I fit the description
Of another brother/sister/friend.

And is it really that hard to tell us apart
When her hair is straight and
Mine is not?

You think my skin is the color of what?
Well then maybe it is
I’m not ashamed of who I am
I don’t run from the sun that gives us life

The color the Son made me is the color that I should be
So why you wanna make me feel I should be
Mad, ashamed, run and hide

Bleach my skin and perm my hair
I don’t think you understand
It’s because I’m Black that it grows this way!

Because I’m the only Black person in the room/on the job/in the world
You think I know the answer that all Black people will say
You think I look just like Macy Gray
You think I’d look better if I straightened my hair
You think I talk funny because I don’t use slang
You tell me I have an accent on what grounds?
You think it is weird how I’m the only Black person you know that

Listens to John Williams?

So is it because you are not Black that you don’t understand
The real meaning of what it means to be Black?
That being Black is not the way you dress, talk, walk, or drive;
The music we listen to, the way we wear our hair.
These are not the definitions of our people.

A people that built a country for free and
Then had to fight for the right to vote for its leaders.

We are not defined by our hips and our lips,
We are more than statistics and numbers—
Victims of this disease
Prone to that illness.
A father by fifteen, in jail by eighteen and dead by nineteen
Is not who our men are.

 

Our women are not loose and have children for the city
Our young people are not drug dealers and up to no good.

 

We get married and stay married
We go to college and finish
We own businesses and pay taxes
We vote even when it may not be counted
We are doctors and we are teachers
We are lawyers and we are judges
We are Black and strong because we are Black
Our past has made us strong
Our experience is who we are and
Our future is where we are going

 

 

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To: The Black Man

In celebration of Black History Month, I decided to post one of my older poems. I wrote this as an essay for a speech class during undergrad a few years ago. It has since been published in Everything Woman and has been one of my favorites when I am asked to speak at public functions or spoken word open-mics.  If you like it, remember there are more where this came from! Also, pass the word along to someone you know that may like it, but if it turns up plagiarized, I WILL COME LOOKING FOR YOU!!! Enjoy responsibly.

To the Black Man

K.T. Edwards

We came together through the Middle Passage
On a great ship packed liked cargo.
From Africa to the Caribbean, the West Indies and the Americas
We reached lands unknown to us.

I was there with you when
We were separated on the auction block
And sold as if we were nothing more than animals.
I cradled and held you when the master beat you.
I wiped the blood from the open wounds on your back;
The flesh torn and hanging from your body
All signs of that infamous leather whip.

I was the one who shed tears for both of us.
I calmed your anger when they sold our children,
And sat in silence when they raped and used me
Watching as you could do nothing
Afraid he would kill you…

However, I was with you in the talented tenth—
When we flourished as teachers, lawyers, doctors, and professionals.
The Black Renaissance changed us
We were in our golden age
When we were reborn and born again.
When divine organizations flowed in nine rivers.

Our music was played in places we could not go,
And we purchased a home in the Hamptons and vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard
Finally, my brother I was with you
As we kept our eyes on the prize.
I marched with you hand in hand
And side by side.
Men spat in our face and broke our bones.
And as we both waited to overcome
We realized our dream with Dr. King.

So today, I ask you not for diamonds,
You know, “ice” or “bling”,
I simply ask that you love me the same.
Love me and respect me,
Because I have carried this race of people and
Borne great leaders forth from my womb.
I have raised a nation and not neglected my family,
Cleaned the houses of those that hated us and
Fed the mouths of those that needed us.

I have prayed and preached,
Blessed and bleached,
I’ve gone from domestic to doctor in three generations;
And I have carried our people for four hundred years.

But now, I am tired;
I am weary and worried.
I am afraid that you will not be there to carry me,
As I have carried you,
As I have cared for you, and as I have comforted you.

I beg of your respect, and I beg for your love
For I can do it alone no longer.
Our people are suffering and time is running out.
You see I do need you, my black man.
But first I need you to love me.

 

Be real, baby

A few nights ago, I watched a show on television called House Hunters. Actually, I am telling quite the lie here; I watch this show on a very regular basis. For anyone who has not seen this show, here is a basic description:

  1. Person wants to buy a home
  2. Real estate broker wants to help
  3. They narrow down the search to three homes in their price range
  4. These three are what we see edited together in the show
  5. Person chooses from one of the three based on their own specifications
  6. We follow-up a few months later to see how it’s going
  7. Now we want to buy a home, too, based on our price range!

I recently began house hunting myself and I am always curious to see what others find important in a home. Since these are real people buying real houses on the market, we get a chance to see the reasons they decide to choose one house over another. In the last decade or so, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances have become features considered ‘standard’ in newly constructed homes. Although not in line with my personal taste, I can understand why these features are in such high demand. Granite counters paired with stainless steel appliances can give any kitchen a higher-end feel, even if the house is worth $70,000. This ‘feeling’ the buyer gets from the looks alone allows the seller to negotiate a price in the upper end of the market value. When the buyer counters with a lower offer, the seller can throw in “Hey, I upgraded to granite. This price is fair!” or “This unit comes with stainless steel appliances, so it should cost extra!”

Fair enough, only…

It’s all superficial until someone gets hurt (or salmonella)

Only a buyer who has taken the time to research the items that are important in a home, weeding out the superficial bells and whistles, will understand the following: granite is a very porous natural stone that stains easily (not to mention that if not properly disinfected, harbors microorganisms) AND you can always buy your own appliances. However, the lack of these superficial features has become a deal breaker for many. I have seen many people, young and old, rule out a more affordable home based only on the countertops, cupboards, and appliances. What disturbs me is that decisions on key items such as the structure of the house and the foundation it was built upon are rarely discussed or used as the deal breaker in the decision process. When did we get to this point of vanity? When did the type of appliances the house comes with become more important than the correct way to hang drywall?

This would not be of such a concern if this way of thinking were confined to our shopping habits and home purchases. We take this same shallow approach with decisions on our careers, friendships, and even our health. We go to school and concentrate in the area that will get us a job with the highest salary, ignoring the talent we truly have for an uninteresting and settled life in a cubicle. We have 1,000+ so-called friends on Facebook that could not tell us when our birthdays are without a reminder from the ‘app for that’. We want a “good” relationship that consists of the other person looking, talking, and dressing a specific way while driving a specific car to a specific type of job. We then search for only this specific type of person and turn our face aside to all others that cross our path. We ignore the incorrect or shoddy job of electrical wiring and miss the protruding drywall screws that are loose upstairs only to see the nice package in front of us. If we do not wake up at some point in our lives and truly look deeper, we will be undergoing renovation from Mike Holmes because someone pulled one over on us. Granite is nice, until you get salmonella. I personally like sandstone.

Table for one…

Table for one, please.


I have never considered myself a social butterfly nor have I ever had a need to be around a large group of people. So, for me dining alone is no big deal. Why this sudden interest in dinner alone? I recently read an article about learning to enjoy your own company, learning who you are and how you relate to yourself. I personally like to relate this back to those commercials that ask: “Would you have a drink with you?” This idea of being familiar and comfortable with the many aspects of what makes you who you are is important for understanding your contribution to your relationships. How do you see yourself? Would you have a drink with you? Would you find your company enjoyable, entertaining, pleasing? Would you go on a date with you? What do you bring to the table in all of your relationships–platonic and romantic? Go on, take yourself out for a good time this weekend and enjoy the company. Someone else may come along and join your company, too!


Letting Others Define You

The short answer is just don’t; define yourself. However, there is a longer, more anecdotal answer…

It has been a while since my last article here, as I ended 2010 with the flu. I say goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011 with great enthusiasm and no feelings of regret. This is the first year in about ten years that I have not made a set of “resolutions” or goals for the year. Usually the list contains the same number of goals as the age I am turning that year and includes things such as “Will go on a date this year”. Well, I just cannot think of twenty-seven things that I would like to do within the 365 days of this year; just making it through half of those days with some amount of sanity will be decent enough. There is one goal, however, I think we all should focus on: see yourself through your eyes.

Since I was a child, for some reason I always saw my twenties as this sophisticated time in my life and I never considered what would happen when I reached 30. I always thought I would be doing fabulous and interesting things…solving crimes, be somewhat of a superhero. Well, I’m a teacher (teachers solve crimes, too). Over the years I have listened to what others wanted for my life and have tried to define who I was through someone else’s lens. I never considered what I actually wanted to be or do, where I really wanted to live and how. I find myself now as a teacher enjoying a profession that was never a career option given to me by mentors. I would consider this aloud and the remarks always took the theme of either I am too soft spoken or I could do something better. It is really this reason that I hold off on resolutions this year. It is my goal to understand who I am in my own eyes without the obstructive view everyone else may see. How do you define yourself? How do you see yourself? It is easy to begin to define our personality or our appearance or even our values based solely on what our friends, family and coworkers see when they interact with us. But, who are you truly? Does your inner self reflect what others see?

Recently I went to a party with a friend and assumed I was either the same age or younger than most of the people. You see, it was a party with mostly married couples who already have children or were beginning their families. They were much more settled in that lifestyle, some even shunning—wait for it—adult swim. I mean, children or no children, how does a twenty-something not know what Robot Chicken Star Wars is…? As we all began to talk, my impression that these were people much older and more mature than myself was solidified…until we began talking about older television shows. Of course, being born in the earlier part of the 1980s I remember much more than someone born in ’88 and so on (sorry to my younger readers, i.e. my two sisters). It was when I mentioned that was old enough to remember some of the shows from the late eighties and early nineties that everyone paused and the room fell silent.

“How old are you?”

As it turns out, I was the oldest person in the room—by about five years. Excellent ego boost for the year…I even got the dreaded ‘wow, you’re old’ statement. Um, yeah, for only five years’ difference. Somehow, that makes sense, right?

This is the reverse of my students’ reactions; most of them are close to my parents age or at least eight to ten years older than I.

So, why let others define us? Why should there be a set definition for age, gender and racial roles? Why should another person’s definition for “old” control how I see myself? I am truly looking forward to turning thirty with enthusiasm…IN THREE YEARS! As I have said before, thirty is not the new twenty; thirty is simply thirty. You must define your life as you choose and change it as you see necessary. Just remember, you are the only one that must wake up everyday to face yourself in happiness with your life. There is, after all, life after school, life after work, and life after thirty. And if you younger readers can swallow that at 20, you will be much happier as you approach 30.

Peace to all,
KTE

The Quarter Life Crisis Version 3.11

Remember DOS?

Okay, remember Windows 3.11 that ran on a DOS platform? If you do, chances are you have reached quarter life! Congratulations! You may just get through this with a crisis averted! However, if you were born between 1979 and 1985 you have either graduated from college or trade school and are finding the job market is quite slim (to none) and the “ageism” that we all heard of in the earlier part of last decade is actually reversed against us…

Welcome to Adulthood…Sorry we forgot to warn you.

As the first round of 1980’s babies hit 30 this year, more of us are either returning home to live with, dare I say it, mom and dad. The rest of us are living with roommates, cousins, friends, coworkers, and…like my sister and I, siblings. We are the educated, tech savvy, “eco” conscious generation that is unfortunately also the underpaid, underemployed and often taken advantaged of generation. I stop by today to only suggest this as I myself search for better employment:

Never underestimate what dad said when you were a kid–sometimes it really is better when YOU are YOUR OWN BOSS. So, you woke up at 25 and found that sweet Thunderbird you wanted as a kid has become your family’s old station wagon from when you were a kid! Life is just beginning. This is the time to either start your business or make the most out of those contacts. I know it can be tempting to listen to family and old family friends tell you stories about your peers that are perceived to be doing better than you, or worse yet, lurk Facebook to see what your high school rivals are up to…

…Sandra is married to some handsome lawyer…Hannah works for a Fortune 500 company…Marlon just graduated from medical school…ad nauseum…

The point is, we have to cut through the clutter and negativity of generations ahead of us and create our happiness. I know you went to school for 4 damn years and all you have to show for it are those three letters on your chest and a degree in [insert random liberal arts major you cannot find a job in here]. You have a lot more than you think, use it wisely and receive a return on investment. Hannah’s Fortune 500 company is simply Wal-Mart.

No, thirty is not the new twenty. Thirty is only thirty. But dammit, make the best of thirty and you will be much happier at sixty.

Don’t have a Quarter Life Crisis just yet…Mid Life is closer than you think.

Content with life…

After having gone through a few (okay numerous) setbacks in 2010, I can finally understand the meaning of contentment. I can only say that I am very thankful for the small and simple things that I used to take for granted, such as toilet paper. Yes, simple everyday toilet paper. There was a time at the end of the year that I had only $2.00 to my name and searched through the dollar store for affordable and comfortable toilet paper. I must say that now I see the world a little differently. I am ever humbled and extremely thankful for the modest living that I have now and to me riches are measured not in gold, but the comfort of “t.p.”