Why I Rage About It All


I grieve as Baltimore grieves and rages over the insistent maltreatment of poor, black and brown bodies as illustrated by the recent murder of Freddie Gray for running from a cop. I seethe as Rekia Boyd’s memory is disgraced by a non-guilty verdict by a reckless cop who shot an innocent woman. I ache at the loss of almost 5000 people as a result of an earthquake in Nepal. I press fingers to temples at the possibility of the Supreme Court stepping backwards today and the sad fact that same-sex couples have to justify their love to any damn body. I stress about the refugees and civil unrest in Syria. I fume about the recent NYT article that 1.5 million black men are missing as a result of incarceration or early death. And I am even more upset about the fact that many don’t even know that 64,000 black women have gone missing. Just gone. Vanished. Like my naiveté about how this country works. It makes me scream at times. In a 1962 interview for the Black World/Negro Digest, James Baldwin said, “…To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I swear this is true for many of us who wear the mask and present so well to the world, and at the same time, are so Fannie Lou Hamer. It’s exhausting carrying the weight, carrying the weight of the anger. So what do we do about it?

Well, it depends, but I believe in protest. Active, relentless, quiet and large-scale protest. I am not into regulating how people should respond, activate their civil rights and/or fight for basic dignity and human rights. I personally think it takes a bit of all of it, at different times, to make it congeal, to make it better for the masses. I’m what you’d call a Tupac because “I’m not a killa, but don’t push me.” I’m a bit of a Mother Teresa because I also believe “We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.” I’m definitely what you’d call an Assata Shakur because my heart says that “we need a r/evolution of the mind. we need a r/evolution of the heart. we need a r/evolution of the spirit. the power of the people is stronger than any weapon. a people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. we need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user friendly. user friendly…. r/evolution is love.”

So, I try to break up the anger that boils and coils inside by smiling and laughing and talking to strangers so that they won’t be and hugging and writing and walking by the lake and supporting those who need it and praying. I look at hummingbird and cat videos on YouTube or try to find the good news on CNN, like the swearing in of Soror Loretta Lynch or like the President speaking up about Freddie Gray and political mobilization and saying this is important or news that Nigerian troops have rescued 200 women and 93 girls from Boko Haram camps. But it’s still hard. It’s hard for a few reasons.

The first is that I often feel helpless to change many of the horrific things going on in the world, so I try to focus on changing myself, my attitude and my priorities, instead. The second is that there’s too much horror to focus in on. Every day, it’s a another tragedy tearing at my soul – whether it’s the murder of a trans woman or a natural disaster or some friend on Facebook who can’t understand the intersectionality of it all and wonders why I care about one instead of the other – in that particular moment or why I don’t like the vitriol or heartless baggage they are spewing towards a certain group. I don’t have time to play oppression Olympics or who’s most wrong or evil today or who doesn’t deserve my love or sympathy. All of this shit is hard and all of it is painful – for someone. All of it impacts us all, whether we believe it or not. This shit is interconnected and universal. We are reflections of each other. Just look closer. A friend posted a quote which read, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Just look closer. Peer in to see how it all relates at some point. It is deeply personal. So I’ll keep protesting, raging and creating awareness about various issues that come across my path.

I protest the nonsense and tragedy of this world by caring about it all, but not carrying it so much that it breaks my spirit. There’s too much work to be done – too many hugs to give, too many broken pieces to pick up, too many important decisions to be made, too much love to give – for me to stop now. I love the fake and the real ones. I love the hopeful and the apathists. I love the fucking furious and those at peace. I love the brilliant and the idiots alike. I’m an equal opportunist, raging lover of humans because we all fall on both ends of the spectrum at some point in our lives. Let’s ease up on and peer into each other.

I’ll end with another portion of Baldwin’s interview.  “…the first problem is how to control that rage so it won’t destroy you…. You have to decide that you can’t spend the rest of your life cursing out everyone who gets in your way…. It also demands a great deal of stepping outside a social situation in order to deal with it. And all the time you’re out of it you can’t help feeling a little guilty that you are not, as it were, on the firing line, tearing down the slums and doing all of these obviously needed things, which in fact, other people can do better than you because it is terribly true that a writer is extremely rare.” So, like Brother Baldwin, I’ll rage, but I’ll rage in love and light. I’ll rage and today, my choice of protest will be to write.

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Cats & Roses: A Bathtub Tale


A vase of roses I’d received were making their way to a beautiful death, so to get more use out of them, I de-petaled, bagged and refrigerated them. I didn’t know if I’d make rose water, a rose parfum or a path for me to walk down my hallway, ala Coming to America. I had a list of tasks that I was determined to complete before the day was over which included working out, washing clothes, folding clothes, sweeping the floor, picking up the kid from improv class, grading a few papers, Bantu knotting my hair, reading something juicy, practicing my lines, and doing a little writing. Well, after an exhausting week of teaching and play rehearsal and a ridiculous Friday to-do list, I decided on using those fresh petals for a hot bath, accompanied by a sweet glass of wine.

As the water ran, my curious kitty jumped up to see what was going on in the tub. I was so amused that I grabbed my phone, snapped a photo and Facebooked the image. I view myself as a secret photog, so it would be a perfect addition to my collection. I took a much needed Epsom salt soak while re-reading a few of my favorite poems from Ladan Osman’s The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony. I sipped my cheap Italian red wine and read aloud bemusing lines like, “If I’m lying… May I die and find myself in a meek woman’s mouth” and “Is our love water I can’t drink?” It was a languorous event that I should indulge in much more often. It was a true blue Friday night chill fest. And I haven’t taken a chill pill in quite a while. I’ve been downright tense, high strung and in ‘get it all done’ mode. It felt good to etch out time for me. To force the issue. It was my attempt to slow my frenzied pace, be in the moment and take care of my precious soul.

After I did my hair and started on the toenail polishing part of my self-restoration attempt, I checked Facebook and saw several comments by male friends mentioning and cat-calling my husband on my “cat gazing into a rosy tub” post. I was confused. I asked why they were mentioning him on my post and one said, “I’m just giving him props for his Rico Suavetivity” (as if my husband had done something or was in the pic) and the other retorted, “Why do you think?” I said that I wasn’t sure.

However, I really wanted to respond, “I think you are being simple and over-reaching a bit. It’s a cat pic, asshats.” I wanted to rage about how incredibly irritated I was that taking a cat pic by a candlelit, rosy tub or worse, me taking a moment for me to relax had to turn into something about my husband being “suave” or underlying sexual/romantic connotations for my man. I wanted to quote parts of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” and rant about Valentine’s Day notions of romance being asinine, antiquated, sexist, and banal. I wanted to let them know that my wonderful husband was out lounging with his homies, taking some time for him. Likewise, I reveled in the private time I had just for me. We both value our individuality and support each other in doing what makes each other happy – with or without the other person around. And I wanted to tell them that my husband doesn’t need to throw old rose petals into a tub to seduce me.

Instead of sharing all of that and playing trivial FB ping pong over a damn cat pic, I decided to remain in chill, but focused mode and finish the last task on my checklist – writing this post. And with that, good night, my lovelies. Remember to put your needs in the rotation of your beautiful life. And keep posting cat pics.


The Relaxed One Who Stole Time for Her Glorious Self on a Friday Night and Still Got Every Task Done While the Cat Watched

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Unite for What’s Right


To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.  – James A. Baldwin

In the midst of my rage, I’m still able to see some beautiful acts of solidarity and resistance in light of so much ugliness in America. After the refusal of the (in)justice system to indict a Ferguson and NYC cop after using excessive force that resulted in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and after so much bullcrap reasoning for those heinous actions and shameful blaming of the deceased, there has been a massive and unexpected response. What I see is a critical mass forming. A critical mass of those who understand what institutionalized and systemic racism is and the insidious ways it affects and socializes us all. A critical mass of those who are also enraged about these injustices and see it as an American problem and not just a “black issue.” A critical mass of those who realize the intersectionality of it all and that all oppression is injurious. Like Martin Niemöller said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Oppression is oppression and we have to see it and act, even if we don’t think it impacts our day-to-day lives. And this is exactly what I’ve seen recently.

There have been mass protests and uprisings across the nation from Montana to Miami and everywhere along our borders and in between. There have been essays, letters and articles. There have been memes. There have been satirists railing. There have been fervent social media debates. More than debate, there has been a collective “calling out” on the racist commentary and worse, the silence or blatant ignorance about what’s going on in America right now. Audre Lorde tells us, “Your silence will not protect you.” To those acting immune to oppression, I’ve thankfully witnessed and overheard family members and FB friends saying things to their loved ones, colleagues and friends like, “Stand up.” “Speak out.” “Get your head out of the sand.” “Use your power.”  “Where’s your rage?” “I need to delete some people now that I see where they stand.” “Your high and mighty education and that fancy suit won’t protect you.” And this all makes me smile. It fills my heart and gives me strength in this fight for humanity. These have been poor folks standing tall. Black folks standing tall. LGBTQ folks standing tall. Latinos standing tall. Women folk standing tall. Rural folks standing tall. Asian folks standing tall. Religious folks standing tall. Educated folks standing tall. White folks standing tall. The activists and revolutionaries standing tall. Organizations standing tall. Athletes standing tall. The meek standing tall. Native Americans standing tall. Sororities and fraternities standing tall. Politicians standing tall. Multiracial folks standing tall. Police standing tall. Artists standing tall. Parents standing tall. The almighty youth standing tall. TOGETHER. And that UNITY is POWER. Pure power. Like Malcolm X taught us, “those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” So I applaud and thank those who talk to their racist or classist or prejudiced or xenophobic or insensitive or clueless friends, family members, lovers, and associates. We tend to listen to those who look like us, act like us, work with us, break bread with us, or those whom we love. We must continue to do the work in our own back yards, tending to the weeds there, so that they don’t choke out and kill the rest of the flowers that are struggling to thrive or survive the elements.

So to those doing the demanding work and making difficult and sometimes painful, risky and scary choices in the name of positive change and social justice, I’d like to take a moment to say THANK YOU. I see you. I see US. I see the love through the rage and fear. The resistance is part of our DNA and our legacy. The change is real.

In solidarity & love, Tina

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When It Gets Too Deep

It’s easy to get angry at the world right now. Or at a structurally racist and classist society (and yes, we do live in one) where blacks can be killed with impunity by anyone except us in order to “keep us in line.” Or at black folks who will march and protest when an “outsider” pulls the trigger, but act like Kermit talking about “that’s none of my business” or “snitches get stitches” when we kill our own. It’s genocide both ways and one is no excuse for the other.

It’s easy to point fingers at skittish cops or at whites who fear or hate blacks or at biased prosecutors and a sometimes unjust system or at our long, long history of oppression and colonization or at the state of our communities or at parents who don’t do enough to raise their children or at mayors who don’t invest in the children who need it the most or at clergy who can’t make the pain go away or at biased media coverage or at the “music” that gets air play and feeds on young minds or at Don Lemon for being a lemonhead or at Don Imus cuz’ I remember that nappy-headed hoes comment or at Guliani for being the Stop & Frisk clown he’s always been (and for people being shocked about his recent comments) or at President Obama who won’t wield his magic wand or at how many of us have drank the Kool-Aid, stains still left on our gullible mouths or at allies who stand quiet in these moments or at nut jobs who come out of the shadows and say how they really feel about “us” as if we didn’t know. History tells us this. And repeat. Hit rewind and repeat. It won’t change unless we all do.

It’d be easy to wild out on social media, on my blog or at the television – cussing, ranting, accusatory, and in pain. It’d be easy to go back to my job and get into arguments with folks who don’t see the privileges that exist and want to make everything logical with color, class and historical inequities magically erased from the equation. It’d be easy to retreat from those who don’t understand where I’m coming from and why “those” people are so furious. It’d be easy to delete. Block. Unfollow. Stop reading the comments under the article. Turn off the tube forever. But I won’t because that’s too simple and it won’t solve any of these problems. The issues that bring us to this precipice are complicated. Inextricably linked. Nuanced. Painful. Hard.

And my mama and daddy taught me when things get tough, to dig in. As Phife Dog said, “I ain’t a bully or a punk,” so I have to move closer to “solve” this. I have to move closer to listen more. I have to move closer to see more. I have to move closer to communicate better. It’s why I can’t do Facebook debates when shit gets real. I need connection. I need to remember that the person on the “other side” is human and not just a receptacle for my vitriol, fury and frustration. I have to move closer to retain my integrity. I have to move closer to remember that even in our ugliest moments, we are reflections of each other, so all those fingers that I point somehow lead back to me. Back to us.

My beloved Zaba told me to look in the mirror because then I’d be looking at the problem. That’s hard to do. But that’s exactly what needs to be done. When we absolve or recuse ourselves from the situation, we give a silent pass for us to pass the buck and lay blame on someone else’s doorstep. For someone else to clean up. Nope. Too easy. We are in this shit together and together, we will get out of it. There will be many suggestions and actions (like the uprisings in Ferguson) on how to solve the issues and we won’t always agree. And since there were many, many issues that got us all into this mess, I guess that’s about right that we’ll need varied solutions to get out of it. We’ll need to argue. To think tank. To cry. To commit. To break. To build. To unite. To scream. But always, always moving forward.

Yup. I have to move closer to do more. Be more. Hug more. Challenge more. Pray more. Believe more. Work more. Listen more than I talk. Educate more. Forgive more. Love more. Love me enough to love you. And so I shall.

Rest in peace and power to Mike Brown, Tony McCoy, Antonio Smith, Hadiya Pendleton, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice and all of the black men and women who have been murdered since we arrived in this country by violent force and who continue to be seen as 3/5ths – not only by perceived oppressors but by our own hands and hearts. It runs deep. I hope we can all unite, across superficial boundaries, and stand in pride and power. It will take all. Dead Prez said it’s bigger than hip-hop. It’s also bigger than black and white. Know that I see you, see it. The bigger picture. I love you. I value you. You are me. And we are all in this crazy shit together. Let’s build something sustainable and beautiful.

Got my shovel, Tina

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October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard


I was moved this evening. To my core. The Trust Theatre Ensemble performed a stage adaptation of Leslea Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. It’s a collection of poems about the horrific night in 1998 when 21-year-old college student, Matthew Shepard, was brutally murdered in an anti-gay attack near Laramie, Wyoming.

The play, staged at the Theater Wit and directed by Lori Thompson, brought us to our knees. It was gut wrenching. It was riveting. Truthful. Elegant. Sobering. And so, so sad. The reality is that none of us want to see or experience bad things. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us feel muddy and weepy inside. It makes us angry.

None of us want to think about what it must have been like for Matthew as he spent 18 hours tied to that fence, hoping someone would save him. We don’t want to think about the Texas black man, James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death behind a pick up truck a few months earlier. But we must. We must remember and we must bear witness to the pain we cause one another in the name of hate or God or fear or anger or revenge or whatever drives us to harm and kill one another. We have to see what intolerance does to us as human beings.

Though it’s easier to look away, we have to see it to recognize it. We have to recognize it to address it. We have to address it in order to stop it. Stop the hate. Stop the mourning of mothers who have to bury their sons due to war, police brutality, gang violence, racism, xenophobia, suicide, transphobia, and homophobia. It’s all the same. The pain is the same. The tearing apart of lives is the same. The destruction of humanity by our very own hands is the same.

We are the same, despite our differences. So, together, let’s take a critical look at the ugly we have created. Let’s find our way back to the tenets of peace, acceptance and love. Let’s start now. Come on. Take a look.

The play runs at the Theatre Wit through October 12, 2014.

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So So Tired


What do I write about when I’m too tired to think? And is it a waste of time for me to even try to write tonight? Let’s look to history for the answers.

In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer gave a speech about her challenges as a black woman “existing” in the Jim Crow South and how she was beaten relentlessly for trying to register to vote. She told the audience that she was ”sick and tired of being sick and tired.” So did she give up the fight for equal rights and the fight for African-Americans to vote? Hell naw. She forged ahead, sick and tired as hell, and fought for social justice until she succumbed to breast cancer in 1977.

64-year-old Diana Nyad was the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. That’s 53 hours and 110 miles – without a freaking shark cage. It was her 5th attempt at this feat. The 5th. She endured sharks, life-threatening jellyfish stings, severe dehydration, massive sunburns, chronic seasickness, delirious fatigue, and hundreds of naysayers who told her to give up trying. They told her it was crazy. They told her that she was too old. They told her it was impossible. Did she stop trying? Nope. She pulled a Dory (from Finding Nemo) and told herself to “just keep swimming.” Then, on September 2, 2013, she strolled out of the water, exhausted and successful.

I don’t remind myself of these things to beat myself up or feel guilt. I do so to remind myself of the willing spirit. When the flesh is weak, sometimes, I need to call on my fierce spirit to pull me through, even if it’s only to produce 295 words. That’s 295 words of power. That’s another essay done. Tired and all.

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I’m Riding Around and I’m Getting It

My new commute, on average, takes me between 54 and 1:32 minutes. The quickest commute has been 27 minutes. It was late at night and don’t ask me why I was still at work. The longest commute was… I don’t even want to think about it. It was absolutely horrible and this was way before I discovered books on tape. The commute length depends on several variables like whether I’m taking my daughter to school first or if I’m in rush hour traffic (which isn’t as short as happy hour, by the way) or if there’s inclement weather or if there’s an accident or if it’s Friday. What the hell is up with Fridays? No matter what time I hit the road, it’s jammed. I digress. It can get bad.

Well, after my new office mate saw me burst into our office near tears after an almost three hour commute, she told me about a new app called Waze. It’s supposed to be a traffic ninja, stealthily finding obscure routes to get me where I need to go in a reasonable time frame. I know some of you are saying, “Define ‘reasonable.’”  Reasonable depends on the conditions, but let’s say less than two hours to go 25 miles. If you live in Chicago, then you know this is reasonable.

So I downloaded the app and immediately found a BFF. This wanch is cold! She tells me the absolute best route and by best, I mean the shortest route. She redirects me if traffic gets heavy. She provides me with alternate routes because she knows that I like having a choice in the matter. She even tells me when there’s a traffic camera or a cop nearby, not that I ever speed. No, really. I drive like your great grandmother on Sundays. Waze proved herself after two days of getting me home and to work in less than 1:05 minutes. A feat.

So what’s the problem? I think I have trust issues. Even though she promises to try her best, sometimes, I think she’s on crack or at least making bad judgment calls. She has me driving through side streets, alleys, up highway ramps to drive three blocks, then back down another ramp to the same traffic. And let me tell you. Having someone, no some thing, some electronic thing, some free electronic thing dictate my life is not my idea of being in control or making good life choices. So I started protesting.

It went something like this. One day, I just turned her off. I’ve been driving for at least 25 years, by myself. Did I really need her bossing me around? Well, it took me 1:45 minutes to get home on my own. So the next day, I turned her ass back on again. Hello, BFF. I’m sorry. I’ll listen today. But I didn’t. She suggested that I go the O’Hare route on the Kennedy expressway. I could clearly see that the traffic was even worse than it was going the Milwaukee route, so I took my old trusted route (that she’d provided me with, mind you.) Each morning for about two weeks, as if she were testing me, she suggested the O’Hare route and I politely said “no” and turned down Milwaukee (the alternate route), though it was clearly an additional 18 minutes per her calculations. I was fine until this morning.

I was on the Kennedy and again, she suggested stupid O’Hare and again, it was filled to capacity, standstill traffic, and no room to move, think or breathe. However, her estimated time had me arriving 21 minutes earlier to work than my usual route. I was intrigued. I took the damn route. Surprisingly, right after the split towards O’Hare, she suggested I get off the expressway at Lawrence and then took me around a few empty side streets and placed me back where? Back onto the expressway going towards O’Hare. I was irritated because the traffic was still there, but I played along. I wanted to prove this heifer wrong once and for all. She couldn’t be that smart if she didn’t know that O’Hare was a doggone mess filled with construction and folks cramming to get to the airport. I crept along for about five miserable minutes and then something insane happened. The traffic eased up and I was zooming along towards I-294 and into no traffic whatsoever! What?!?! Waze was right? Humph. Side eye towards my phone, but with a smirk.

So what did I learn? I learned that I still need to work on my control and trust issues, even with electronic gadgets. I need to accept help from others. I need to realize that just because things look and feel really awful in the moment, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. And that in order for me to get to the good, sometimes, I need to drive like hell through the bad. How about that for a Tuesday morning treat? Have a great day, everyone!

P.S. My early arrival gave me time to pen this essay before work instead of at about 11pm, my usual writing time. Yup. #essayaday #HappyTuesday #productive

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The Selfie Effect


Arms stretched. Head cocked. Click. Low light. Try again. Arms stretched. Smile. No teeth. Click. Damn. Cock-eyed. Try again. Arms stretched. Side shot. Pout. Click. Cute. Not cute enough though. Try again. Click. One arm this time. Invoke Yonce. Squint, but sexily. Flawless! Wait. Not really. Try again. Click. Click. Click.

What are we seeking in the perfect selfie? Are we trying to uncover some glorious hidden part of ourselves? Are we creating an illusion for others? Is it conceit? Is it the pursuit of perfection? Or is it just about wanting to put our best face forward at all times? And is this exhausting or even the best use of our time?

I think it depends on the person, but I see a life parallel here. Follow me.

Many of us spend a lifetime trying to get to perfection – the perfect outfit, the perfect haircut, the perfect love, the perfect job, or the perfect home – only to find out that despite our best intentions, improvements can be made to anything, which means it wasn’t actually perfect. So why can’t we just leave well enough alone? Or would that make us mediocre, complacent, or not persistent enough?

I think the selfie represents the eternal pursuit of our best life. We’re always trying to gain more, get better and reach higher than we are, and at any cost.  And the question is – Should we?

Yes and no. Perfection might be an illusion. If not, it’s definitely a moving target. Another rat race. What’s perfect depends on our mood, situation, perspective, and intentions and all of these things shift, day to day. Therefore, chasing something that isn’t really there could be perceived as futile, pathetic, misguided, or even neurotic. Maybe we follow John Legend’s advice and love our “perfect imperfections.” Maybe the pursuit of our best life doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect or even the best, just perfect for us or good enough for us.

There’s a place in our perfection-obsessed society for being satisfied with what is. There’s a place for self-acceptance, even in our ugly, ordinary or imperfect moments. Let’s be okay with not being quite done or having things out of place. Embrace the process. Appreciate the growth. We might even reduce some of the pressure, stress, endless competition, and unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves. Maybe. And as I write this, I’m still deciding on the perfect selfie to post at the end of this not quite perfect essay. Click. I think I’ve got it, even if I don’t. Good night!


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A Birthday Wish

Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday. 12 is a powerful age, often associated with a young girl’s foray into womanhood. It’s typically when she begins her menses, starts realizing the power of her voice and opens her innocent eyes to the ways of the world. I wish all of these things for my daughter and more.

I remember my 12th birthday vividly. It was the worst day of my life. My best friend, Marcie, had gifted her old pink jumper dress to me because I didn’t have anything special to wear. I felt beautiful in it and looked forward to a fulfilling summer day. My father had already left for work before I’d awaken. My stepmother was home, but she treated it like a regular day, therefore, no words were exchanged. I vaguely recall a day of hanging out with a few of my friends who gave frantic birthday licks in my driveway and at the park. What I remember most is the anticipation of going home, hoping that my father had arrived and that a birthday cake, a card or a gift was waiting for me.

When I got back, a little before dark, it was quiet. My father’s Chevy Blazer was in the driveway, but he wasn’t in the living room as he usually was after work. I checked the refrigerator and countertop for evidence of a cake. Nothing. I bounded up the stairs and heard my name. I got excited. I went to my dad’s bedroom door, which was closed. I knocked. My stepmother opened the door for me to come in. I was told to sit on the bed. Though I wanted to close my eyes and await my gift, from the mood in the air and lack of smiles, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. My father looked tired. His hazel eyes bore into me as he slowly found his words. As he began lecturing, with his young wife glaring at me on the other side of the room, I think I blanked out for a few seconds and swam in my own thoughts. I’d heard “happy birthday” from many people outside of the house, but hadn’t heard it yet from my own family. I wondered if my dad realized that it was my birthday? I wondered if he knew that I’d waited all day to see his face and hear those magic words from that gravelly voice of his.

I tuned back in and heard him loud and clear. He was kicking me out, citing irreconcilable differences between his wife and me. He hadn’t invited me into his room to give me a lovely, long-awaited gift or even a hug. He just wanted to let me know that he didn’t love me anymore. Or at least that’s how my twelve-year-old mind saw it. I couldn’t stop the tears if I’d wanted to. I felt myself babbling, but just recall him shaking his head “no” and telling me to call my mother. He made me pack that night, bringing a couple of black garbage bags to my room for me to carry my things with. Within two hours, I was dropped off at my aunt’s house as a neutral ground until I could be picked up by my estranged mother. My father never said “happy birthday,” but then again, why should he? It wasn’t a very happy day, despite the date. And by then, we both knew it.

This was my introduction to 12. It was filled with heartbreak, sadness, pain, loss, confusion, and disappointment. It wasn’t a very good year. However, my life, my heart and my relationship with both parents s-l-o-w-l-y mended. I don’t wish my circumstances on my daughter, but I know that the older she gets, she will feel all of these human emotions and it pains me to know that there will be little that I can do to shield her. What I hope is that we are providing her with the love, support, faith, strength, and resilience she’ll need to work her way through the darkness that life can bring. What I wish for her on this 12th year of life is that more than those moments of darkness, she will feel joy, passion, love, peace, compassion, and light. And Khari, Happy Birthday, baby. We love you.

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Gendering Desires

Tonight, I attended Oakton’s annual Women’s International Juried Art Exhibit sponsored by Women and Gender Studies. This year’s theme is Gendering Desire: Liberation, Power and Pleasure. I absorbed art pieces that reflect what women intimately want. The topics ranged from power and transcendence to sex and chocolate. There were wooden sculptures, woven pieces, acrylic paintings, and multimedia art installations that evoked, challenged and seduced me. There was so much to take in that I only saw a third of the exhibit because I was still on the clock, dutifully greeting and distributing catalogs as a new WSG committee member. However, I saw enough to ruminate on my own desires. What do I really want?

I’m not going to be cliché and talk about world peace (which I do want) or equal pay or my desire to not be called “yo’ Shorty” by boys whom could’ve birthed as I stroll down 47th to the Green Line train stop. I want to discuss the things I want right now, in the next hour. I want a nap, but because I’m still on campus, it’s probably not a good idea. I want my lower back to stop aching from an old injury that flairs up every time I’m standing in one place too long. I want some cool water with little lemon slices to get the taste of a long day out of my mouth. I want my car to be parked closer now that it’s dark outside, but since I didn’t work out today, it’s probably best that I have to walk a few more steps. I want some hype music that will keep my weary mind alert on the road. I want to get home to my family and see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes as she counts down to her 12th birthday tomorrow.

The beauty is that I can have all these things, if I just stop working right now, stop typing right now, grab my damn keys, and go. It’s as simple as that. So, let me get out of my head and into my car and let Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt fill my senses as I hit the highway. What more can I say? Nothing. Here I come, Jay.

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