Culture Clash

A Mother and her Son

I saw this yesterday on Mr. Solomon’s YouTube channel. This is a timely and vivid portrait of the pain a mother feels for the loss of her child. It is my prayer that we come to an end of the senseless and meaningless violence that takes the lives of so many sons and daughters in my community. Before anyone says “It is not my problem,” or “That’s not my neighborhood,” you must realize that someday it could be. Tomorrow may see our sons and daughters slain in the streets if we do not fight the hate of today and ignorance of yesterday. If our past is not our schoolmaster, our present will be our misery and a pit will be our future.

Peace.

To: The Woman in the Elevator From: The Black girl next door

Dear ________________________,

You happen to be my neighbor and I needed to share this with you. First and foremost, I am not one to take part in racially divisive discussions. Furthermore, I am nervous to even post this on a blog that I created to uplift our generation, not tear it down. However, what has been said of many of the people who look very similar to myself is appalling and incorrect. Before I go into any detail, this all began before Trayvon Martin was killed, before President Obama was elected, and even before Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America. This began before Reconstruction, before the founding of Howard University, and before Booker T. Washington graduated from Hampton University and came to Tuskegee. This that I speak of is institutional racism. This is the set of canned lines given when what I see as injustice must be justified as okay. This is deeper than Paula Deen saying a few bad words. This is the reason my parents had to endure forced integration. This is what the state that I was born, raised, and educated in struggles to correct when another one of my brothers is missing from the classroom. This is the reason for the coded language spoken about immigrants coming to this wonderful Nation.

However, I digress. What I am writing to inform you happened last year. You and I had never met, but we would cross paths in a night that has stained my mind forever. You see, I moved in next door after months of looking for somewhere to live. It all began with my parents, two Americans who raised my sisters and I to believe that we should go to college, go to graduate school, find a good job, and become productive members of our community (now, let me be clear, “our community” is America).

Unfortunately, my parents taught me all of these things south of the Mason-Dixon line. Yet, I believed it would all be possible in this rural town in east Alabama where you and I live. So, after months of searching through real estate websites, local listings, and pondering over savings, I settled on our condominium community. I was absolutely thrilled and terrified, all at once. I now had a mortgage! You must realize by now, since I see you watching me through the blinds and I have caught you writing down my tag number, that besides being Black, I am also young. Well, I was twenty-seven when I purchased this place. I had been through graduate school and the torment there should have made me leave this state. However, I stayed here to educate those behind me of all races. I ignored the notion that our generation would not buy property and saved some money. What I didn’t have, my parents and grandmother gave to help. I closed a few days before my birthday, cleaned up, and painted the walls a cool shade of blue. I was so proud of something that belonged to not only me, but my family.

A few nights later, I began to see some of our other neighbors. It never dawned on me that they were all white men, and larger than my 5’1” petite frame. I never thought to clutch my purse, lock my car doors, or cross to the other side of the narrow tree-lined streets in our neighborhood. Maybe I should have.

I know you have a real fear of what a man may do to you on an elevator, because I am a woman. But what of the two men that lived across from our building that tried to break down my door? What of these two men that made me fear living in my home? What of these two men that the police, who I thought would understand my side, but laughed in my face? What of these two men that, because they were inebriated, I was told everything was okay? What of these two men that were justified by race and alcohol? What of the two police officers that told me I was wasting their time and these two men wouldn’t do anything to me anyway…?

You know those neighbors of ours? They all laughed about it after they sobered up. They even taunted me when I would leave for work. No, I don’t need to march in the streets for this one. My grandmother already did it over fifty years ago. However, I wish instead of watching me through the blinds, you would have the mutual understanding that only another woman can have. Maybe I really am wishing on a star…

The events of the early hours of that Sunday morning allowed fear to live in the place of happiness for over a year. It has forced the realization that I do not have the privilege to call 911 and expect to be treated the same way you were when you suspected someone “suspicious” was walking through the neighborhood. It stopped me from coming to see if you needed help when you rang my doorbell after one of your loud parties. I only knew it was you when I found your vomit on my welcome mat. Don’t worry, I figured you were okay when you were watching me through the blinds again the next day. You still don’t speak when I try to wave and you don’t bother asking me if everything is okay. However, what you don’t realize is that you and I are both women of this generation with similar concerns. I wish I could get you to see that if I were on that elevator, I would wonder what you thought of me. I am now spending time with my parents, and will soon be renting out the condo. You won’t see much more of me and maybe you will feel more comfortable with whoever moves in. It is ironic, though, that I feel more at peace back in the neighborhood you would never want to get lost. I did love the pale blue walls and my beautiful teal kitchen, but I hate the dent that was left in my front door. I can’t let go of the image of the spit and mucous left on my welcome mat. Although I love this house, I would rather feel uncomfortable on an elevator than in my home.

Sincerely,

Your neighbor,
The Black girl with the Afro

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Social Sharing: Stop Telling Everyone Your Business and Get a Life!

Last year I left Facebook and never looked back. I had a page for private use (if possible) and a public author’s page. I permanently deleted both. I do not have a Twitter account and I never understood the purpose of Instagram.

I am not completely against ‘social media’. I have a Google plus account that I use to talk to my sisters in real-time. Due to a terrible mishap with my phone after Christmas, and the idea that Verizon has of me spending a few hundred dollars on another one, I don’t make many phone calls anymore. So, Google plus has been a great way to communicate with my sisters, one who is leaving for NYC soon and the other who is leaving to complete her graduate studies in DC. If I should end up where I would like, it would mean over 7000 miles between the three of us. And these two ladies are my first and only bestest friends forever in the world.

I know the ugly side of sharing too much, however. The reason for taking down my Facebook page was a part of it. But it seems that our generation (and some above it) is so tightly linked to the online presence that the absence of an online profile creates mystery and suspicion. We check out profiles before we agree to a date, have entire relationships online, and share EVERYTHING about ourselves to our five hundred closest friends. We watch our lives play out in cyberspace, with breakups happening to an audience of thousands, and what would normally be a simple even break becoming the awkward “unfriending” and careful editing before the next love interest arrives. Then there are the complete over sharers, who must tell us everything they are doing from the moment they open their eyes to the moment they are ready to fall asleep.

But here is the thing: you do not have five hundred friends. You may know five hundred people, but how many of those five hundred really care when you are in bed with the flu and need someone to take you to urgent care? Probably less than five hundred.

Okay, so your five hundred followers love you. Well do you love them? How many times have you “silenced” all but a few of the most random posts to get to the ones you really care about? Well, why are they still your “friends”?

Even when I was on Facebook, I always remembered what my mom told me after I somewhat learned the hard way: “You can’t tell everyone what you are going to do.” It should be common sense, but just take a look at your Facebook page and you will see not many of us have it. Yet again, you do not have five hundred friends. Not everyone in your circle is there to cheer you on, and most of them can simply become a distraction. If you tell everyone everything, what happens if some of those “friends” are not really on your side?

I don’t mean to condemn here, but I have watched our generation become consumed by vanity and narcissism. And I don’t think we may grow out of it simply because we turn thirty. What would really happen if you stopped ‘checking up’ on your friends every hour? Even worse, what would happen if you just left the smart phone home and went for a walk on the beach, the park…wherever you live? It doesn’t mean taking my 1990s approach of “please call the house phone” and “email me” only, however I can’t think of a time when I was less distracted…okay well, besides the late 90s and early 2000s. I don’t know about you all, but in all honesty I don’t care what my Internet friends ate for dinner. My real friends and I were too busy going out for dinner and sharing real conversation with each other.

 

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