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The Foundation

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the issue of the Confederate flag came to the forefront of our discussions on race.  I’ve never felt comfortable with the flag as a symbol because of its past history and present reality of being used for hatred and intimidation.  However, I found myself feeling somewhat frustrated by news coverage that seemed to suggest that the Confederate flag means racism, and therefore racism solely comes out of the South.

I was born and raised a Yankee, but have lived in North Carolina for nearly 10 years now.  I have news for everyone: hate and ignorance exists everywhere.  I think the Confederate flag is just an easy symbol for us to point to that represents both an unhealthy dose of hate and ignorance.  By this point, though, everyone should be realizing that the symbol means hate to some, and therefore, out of respect for those people, it should not be flown.  That being said, the right to fly it falls under the right to free speech. So now it is a waiting game as hearts and minds change and voices speak out to demand those changes.

This week, I saw that hope for change in a story that I haven’t been seeing get too much fanfare in the media.  The state flag of Mississippi still shows the Confederate symbol proudly waving in the upper left hand corner of their flag.  But this past Monday morning at Ole Miss, the state flag was lowered on the campus.  

Ole Miss is the school where Governor Ross Barnett attempted to block the entrance of its first black student, James Meredith, in 1962, using the same language of heritage we hear today in his “I love Mississippi” speech.  When Mr. Meredith finally made it onto campus in his fourth attempt, he was guarded by US Marshals. A riot broke out, in which two men were killed and 166 US Marshals and 40 National Guardsmen were injured.

Recent history has been much brighter for Ole Miss.   In 2002, the school commemorated the the 40th Anniversary of the desegregation of the school, unveiling a memorial.   The following year, James Meredith’s son Joseph graduated as the top doctoral student at the University’s business school.   In 2008, Ole Miss hosted the very first Presidential debate between John McCain and our soon-to-be first black President, Barack Obama.

Today, students of color represent twenty-five percent of the population. Ole Miss’ students come from 93 different countries around the world. Yet, it is still truly a state school,  with 61% of students from the state of Mississippi. This diverse group banded together to pass a resolution to have the state flag removed from its campus.  The school has now seen another huge step towards progress.

Although current governor Phil Bryant still does not support the decision, the students have taken action to seek a change that has been a long time coming.  It gives me great hope to see young people valuing equality and respect for their fellow classmates.  There are still an incredible amount of changes that need to be made to make our country a place that is equal for all, but I think we need to take the time to praise a step in the right direction.  Removing a flag does not remove hate, but it sends a signal that these symbols and ideals aren’t acceptable anymore. The message of the removal means more to me than the removal of the flag itself.

I still don’t think change is fast enough, but that sense of urgency will keep us moving forward as we deal with these very old and entrenched wounds as well as the very real and continuingly inflicted ones.  

I think this also represents that not all Southerners are the stereotype that the mass media tends to portray.  Every place is full of individuals. Some of those individuals are going to continue to support hate, but the rest of us– our voices need to be louder and clearer.  

If we make race a Southern problem, we are pigeonholing the issue and losing sight of a pain that is afflicting this entire nation.

I’m proud of the students at Ole Miss, and I’m proud of the institution for turning one small tide to help make this respected institution a place where everyone feels welcomed. Let’s all support and encourage change, demand more of it, and praise it when we see it.  Thank you, Ole Miss.  You’ve given me just the glimmer of hope I needed this week in these challenging times.



  

Photos courtesy of Mike Martinez

Taken in Gettysburg, PA 

Breaking Rhyming Rules

IMG_1872 Below are a few pieces I’ve written recently. They’re loosely edited. Rough cut off the bone. The seasons and hopefully the times are a’changin. 

Fair warning: Language in the third poem is pretty heavy.



Joaquin

The cool night air
Drizzles sweat on my furrowed brow
As we are warned of impending floods
And ultimate doom
Your fingers play hop scotch
Across the medium strings
Never strong enough for your heavy hands
Ask the universe and you shall receive 
Is the mantra you say that I wish would always work for me
Trapped in my own multipotentiality behind the heavy keys of a day job
that could almost pay all  the bills
Except life’s too sweet to miss it on the shit side
While my windswept tears leave me on the dark side
Of space and dimes
Left face up
On the sills of the window of this future
Your dreams too abrupt
To imagine a day where all faith becomes sound and my lips
Move quickly not pursed on the ground
Of your ragged ass old white wet feet
Your heart is in the desire of the soul that you meet
To greet your everlasting fate
As you sit there twiddling thumbs of the soul that waits for guidance from the bleak skies above
The only meaning I could ever find in life was love
Enough Is enough you say
And that’s all right
There’s a feeling in the air that
We won’t bite
As we guide you through the matters unknown
Cast all your fears alive
And mark your heart in stone
Cause your naïveté isn’t cute any more
Your ignorance ignores what we’re all in for
As we step so timidly upon this precarious precipice
To days anew and songs unsung
All you got to say is what I’ve left undone


Fall

Sometimes it’s the sleep you didn’t get that can make you too depressed
As the cold winds of winter are ushered in
We tell ourselves spring will spring again soon enough
And our says of snuggles and cuddles beneath these covers
Meals of hot soup
The hope for a snow that strands us inside in each other’s arms
Are just enough to bite the bitter
Of the changing seasons
Every so slightly enough
To mean survival and solace
As we forget the days we’ve wasted away on cigarettes and numbers
These are just the few vices and devices to distract from
The pending future
Where we’ll skip in the sunshine
And get out our special tweety bird towels
For the possibility of sitting on the beach
Staring at the ocean we miss every day
We’ll start saving the pennies and quarters found on this dirty floor
Save up for the hope of what next summer may have in store


Awaken Your Life

By all means necessary
We stand at the forefront of the revolution
Don’t  let it be scary
Where your feet can’t move when
Your ass in your seat
Your only activism happens behind the keys
While you sit on your throne of privilege making
Assumptions of what you think I mean
When I tell you this life is about
Respect
And we can’t move forward unless we have regret
Where the sunshine smiles
When the babies dance
In these streets
Knowing it’s just fine for you to do you and me be me
Your fun won’t last if you do the math
The scores of whores and bores and more more more
Leave you in a deficit
I’m not an accountant
But I’ll still try to tell you this shit
while you sink right in to the consumption
And yet you still have the gumption
To smile at me when you look at my ass
Like we’re old time friends
And I’ll tell you to smack your damn self in the face
You should be ashamed
For being so fucking vain
And no this song ain’t about you
You don’t deserve it
Cause you’re just every other
Douche I meet every day
Fuck your system
But don’t fuck me
I’ll sit back and laugh
While you jerk off
Jerk off, what you thinking?
Tellin lies about these women
No I’m not talking about the waking life
But the life I wake in
About this life of strife
Where I got to treat
Every motherfuckin dick with suspicion
Cause my mama always told me to trust my intuition
But this isn’t just some feminazi
Bullshit
Because they’re still good men out there
You gotta learn to love yourself
Before you start spreadin all your love around to someone else
Some stranger who gives you the validation
Women– you’re the mothers of this whole fucking nation
Never forget
And always remember
When the nights get long
In mid December
That Mary made your Jesus Christ
And god wasn’t a man
that was just another literary device
To explain what we all know
Is unknown
To bury ourselves in another tomb
For  three very long days to say the least
Because we haven’t found this shit yet
We haven’t made our peace
Your screams will be silenced
In the cold dark night
As long as you keep getting yourselves distracted
By the wrong fucking fight
Because the powers that be
Don’t want you to ever believe that
We’re capable of coming together
That anyone will ever be listening
Don’t lose your voice
But don’t misuse it either
When it’s all said and done
I got the fuckin fever
To take what’s important
What’s rightfully mine
To leave you motherfuckers behind
And turn down the shine on my  pride
Maintain the hope that there’s still
Community
Cause unless you misheard me
Within that word contains unity
Yet you’ve so quickly forgotten
When you pick up your pitchforks
That the whole world is burning

The Eleventh at Twelve (September)

This morning, I woke up in my typical fashion: late and grumpy.  I put on my blue jeans for dress down Friday and headed for my 9 to 5.  My crazy hair cared about as much as the Florida driver in front of me cared about the speed limit.  I sat at a desk for 8 hours. I ate an unreasonably large burrito at lunch.  In all likelihood, in a week or two I won’t remember what I did today, what I wore, or where I was.  My day has been unremarkable. You probably won’t remember today either.

In fact, I almost forgot it was The Eleventh.  Almost.  I almost forgot sitting in second period 7th grade art class with Ms. Sterling.  At first it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Wow!  A plane hit the World Trade Center. I wondered where my Uncle Jim, a pilot, was flying that day.  I remembered visiting the towers when I was a little girl with my dad.  I look up from my piss-poor painting to see another plane hitting the second tower.  By this time, the teachers are frantically running around to different classrooms. They’re telling everyone to turn off the TVs, knowing full well they can’t really shield the helmet generation from this trauma. But we aren’t children. Not anymore at least.

My little cousins are in the same generation as I am. They’re now between the ages of eight and sixteen. But they don’t know the world before The Eleventh like I do. The oldest was 3 and the others were not even conceived.  I think a lot about the world as they’ll never understand it, especially today.  Have they ever had a moment in their lives where they could ask anyone they knew and that person could tell them EXACTLY what they were doing that day?  Will I ever have a moment like this again?

The Eleventh shaped my adolescence.   I was twelve years old when the towers collapsed, the Pentagon burned, and Flight 93 made a big hole just outside my Uncle Bud’s backyard. He said he was shaving when it happened and that the “explosion” was so big it shook the mirror.  So much more was shaken that day.  Being twelve is already a tenuous time. My body was changing, but so was my country.

Our idea of what it means to be “American” shifted dramatically. We were suddenly very proud.  We became “us” and they became “them.”  I don’t remember ever evaluating what it meant to be an American until I was sitting in a packed stadium a few months after The Eleventh, looking around at the crowd as they loudly sung, “Proud to be an American.” The truest American pride I had seen in someone else was in my great-grandfather, Pop, a World War II veteran who signed up for the service when he heard about Pearl Harbor.  The Eleventh would become our Pearl Harbor.  But, with a television blaring in every living room, the experience seemed even more real, or surreal.  I suppose I’d been taking my freedom for granted.

The world wasn’t safe anymore.  We were worried about anthrax in our mailboxes and if someone was going to try to bomb the shopping mall while we bought our training bras.  Yellow ribbons graced every other tree in my suburban neighborhood.  We would soon be asking, “Whose side are you on?” Everyone was a suspect, especially if your skin was the wrong shade of brown or your religion wasn’t Judeo-Christian, or your first language wasn’t English.  Security meant never feeling secure.  Freedom meant sacrificing personal liberty for the sake of the whole.  The fear is constant. Fourteen years later, that feeling has faded somewhat, but remains ever-present. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not these fears are legitimate, but they’re fed to us like pills in our applesauce.  We don’t want another Eleventh.

Whether or not you wanted to get the terrorists or you were frantically searching for a means to peace amidst the turmoil, we all knew, in an  unspoken way, that our worlds would never be the same.  We learned, in a span of a few hours on a just-like-every-other-Tuesday morning, that everything can change at any time for any reason or no reason at all.

The Eleventh was also the prequel to war.  They had to get somebody for doing this to us.  I wasn’t sure who, but I knew it was coming.  The Eleventh meant the war of our generation was starting.  We didn’t even know it, sitting our desks, that our classmates, these children,  would grow up to fight for this country because of this day.  So while we were wondering if it was time to start wearing deodorant in gym class, we were contemplating the elusive dangers of “terrorism.”  Our answers were different from each other, but our worlds were the same. They were the same in that they would never be the same again.

Today, I can’t begin to explain to a 12-year-old what the world felt like before The Eleventh. I can hardly articulate it to myself or with these very words.  Kids these days will hear about it on the news once a year and probably read about it in history class. There was one day that changed us. There was one day that derailed the train, only to be put back on an entirely different track than we could have possibly imagined.  We live with the consequences and the loss each day. The gravity of that experience is inexplicable to the pre-teen playing Taylor Swift on her iPhone while it’s being monitored by the NSA.

At first when I turned on the radio this morning, I thought to myself, “I’m tired of hearing about this.”  Then it all came back to me as I heard the quivering voices of the morning callers, my generation, talking about what will always be one of the most significant events in our lives. I heard the bells ring to commemorate each tragedy as the morning progressed.

I felt just like that 12 year old girl again–scared, confused, and totally oblivious as to what will happen next.  I only tire of hearing about the Eleventh because sometimes I’m tired of remembering it.  Sharing our “where were you?” stories is our own form of collective group therapy for a nation and a generation that still has an unbelievable amount of healing to do.  I couldn’t forget the Eleventh even if I wanted to.

Step One: If You See Something, Say Something

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself getting pretty frustrated lately by all things in the news that make it appear that we are a society divided. I think it’s a positive thing that we’re talking openly about issues of race, sex, gender and sexual orientation. To me, one of the most beautiful things about this world is that we’re all different.  What a boring place we’d be in if we were all the same!

One of the ugliest things about our world shows when we see hate and division based on these arbitrary lines and categories we put ourselves and each other in.  I wish we could just pretend these things don’t exist. I really wish there was such a thing as being “color-blind,” but there isn’t.  I’ve seen some very wonderful progress we’ve been making, but the progress needs to be faster.  We need to be more aggressive about it.  Sometimes it just seems like we should throw our hands up in the air. “The world’s ALWAYS  going to be screwed up.” But here’s the thing: I’m tired of talking about the problems. I want to be about the solution.  You can either be ignorant of the issues or be miserable because of them.

But, there’s a third option: you can do something about them. I know what you’re thinking, “How could little ol’ me fix these HUGE problems?  Nothing I will ever do will matter.”  And you’re probably right.  IF, and only if, you were the only person who cared, the only person who did something, nothing would ever get better.  Great news! You’re not! You can connect with others in your community. Plus, thanks to Al Gore, the internet allows us to connect with people around the world.  I’m not an expert. And I know the world’s screwed up. I’m tired of doing nothing about it.  I’m here to offer some small steps of things you can actually do.  YES actually do- this isn’t like making one of those rainbow cakes on Pinterest.  Having an electric life doesn’t mean just doing what you do in your own little bubble, it means lighting up the world. So let’s get started.

Step One:

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING

No, this slogan isn’t just for terrorists anymore.  It is a mantra for you to live your Electric Life by. It may sound silly, and it may sound small. Or to you, it may just sound obvious.  But the reason that I know it is important and not really that obvious is that I’m completely shocked by how often people see something and say nothing.

You know that guy. And chances are, you’ve been that guy. You’re in a group of people and someone says something that’s uncomfortable.  It’s probably just a side comment. And you could probably just brush it off. You might wince when you hear it.  You know you’ve just heard something racist or sexist, anti-gay, etc.

This probably doesn’t happen that often when you’re in front of the people that are a part of the group they’re referring to. It can be as simple as “Well you know how (insert minority group)s are.”  But how often do you say “No, I don’t. How are THEY?”  I know I don’t do it all the time.  And I know I do it the least when it comes to things I hear about women. I’m much more comfortable calling people out when I feel like I’m defending someone else instead of myself. That’s the trouble with being in one of these groups. A lot of times, it’s just you.  Last week at work when someone told me that I would be distracting because I’m a “pretty girl” instead of respected as an accounting professional WOMAN doing my job, I stayed silent.

But you know what would have been great? If someone had my back.  If the other man who witnessed the conversation stepped up and said something as simple as “we really appreciate your hard work and skills,” the guy who made the comment would have instantly seen the error of his ways. We wouldn’t have to discuss it.  The point is, if we have allies out this sometimes nasty world, it will make us all feel a whole lot better.

You have the responsibility to say something when you hear someone talking this way, otherwise you’re agreeing with them with your silence. I honestly think there are many “good” people who are just scared.  I’m not sure what we’re so scared of.  Nine times out of ten the person’s response when you call them out is probably going to be them being embarrassed.  Just like peer pressure has proven the best way to get kids to start smoking, it’s also turning out to be the best way to get them to not start in the first place.  The same principle applies here. Nobody should feel safe spreading their hate.

All it takes us “good” people to stop the few bad apples in their tracks. We aren’t going to be able to change everyone’s minds, but you need to make it clear to people that you won’t tolerate ignorance and hate.  If you lose friends over it, well, were those really kind of friends you wanted in the first place? I know I’ve learned that lesson several times over. I’ll be the last person to say I always follow this rule. I’m still not sure what that little fear comes from that stops us from doing what we know is right. If you have a story of saying something and what happened when you did, I’d love to hear it and share if you’d allow me. Let’s work together on this. Together, our power is real and it’s net effect could be world-changing.

Let there be light!

I hope you enjoy your Electric Life as much as I’m enjoying mine.  Check back to read recipes, recommendations and revolutionary thoughts.

#TheRevolution

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