FeaturedA Letter of Welcome to Club POC

Dear White Culture,

We are done explaining racism, discrimination and white privilege. We are done attempting to explain historic cruelty and systemic bias in systems that do not inherently benefit People of Color (POC). To further attempt to explain is like telling a drug addict that he or she has a problem before they are ready to get help.

So this is what it is. When we walk away, when we stop spending our collective billions of dollars being consumers of hair, cars, electronics, sneakers and handbags, when we decide to educate our own children, when we decide to use our collective power to file the country’s largest civil suit demanding an apology and reparations for the generations of inhumane treatment targeting our ancestors and us—from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the School to Prison Pipeline up to and including all the other deeds which have been devised out of fear of revolt en masse, dwindling (white) population numbers and “just desserts” for hundreds of years of going around God’s beautiful green earth and taking what does not rightfully belong to one, and calling it one’s own UNDER THE GUISE OF CHRISTIANITY, do not be surprised and please refrain from shedding (white) tears. The jig is up; they have no effect on POC. We have realized that those same (white) tears which shed for abused puppies remain skillfully in place when POC are unjustly mishandled and often killed by police officers.

We don’t hate you (those of us who call ourselves Christians don’t anyway) and that is a good thing for you and for us. But we have learned that this government was never established for us and although a great portion of the economy was built up on the dependency of free and cruelly forced labor of millions of our ancestors, your continual denial of this fact leaves us to leave matters in the hands of the God you have chosen to justify your deeds—then and now—under the guise of Making America Great Again.

As your government runs amok and wealthy people hide behind all that their billions will allow, we wish you well.

Some of you may be wondering how we can so casually watch the leadership of this country disintegrate without fear, trembling or concern. The answer lies in the statement above: this country and its government were never established for us. Henceforth, all that many of you experience now, we have experienced in varying degrees since the country’s inception as The United States of America. For many POC, particularly those whose US history began with the landing on this country’s soil as enslaved peoples, this is business as usual. So rather than be fearful, we welcome those of you who are discomforted by the haphazard Democrats and the  spineless Republicans, we welcome you into the experience of what it can be like to be a POC in America.

Sincerely,

A Card-Carrying Member of the POC

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The Pearls We Become

The Pearls We Become

I was contemplating getting another reprint of my self-published book God’s Daughter (fewer than 70 copies left—woo-hoo!) and I thought about my market, my audience and those who embrace the book’s message. The reason the text is so popular amongst women my age and older (Baby Boomers and the last of the Baby Boomers) is because our mothers were trying to revolutionize what it meant to be a woman in the United States.

Whether they went to college, got married and/or went into the workforce, our mothers were doing something that previous generations of women did in fewer numbers. Couple that with the Civil Rights Movement, and the idea that large numbers of people were challenging the status quo, and you get a generation of women who may have for once in their lives given themselves permission to consider themselves and their feelings.

So our mothers were uptight in some cases. Our grandmothers raised them with the knowledge that to be a woman during their time was to be a second-class citizen, although they may not have termed it as such. Our grandmothers gave their sons permission to fly while keeping their daughters tethered to the ground—out of fear, concern, or indifference—unable to show them the love they themselves never received.

By the time I wrote God’s Daughter, I had internalized that God loves me—unconditionally. Having met so many women who go through life doing and being everything but their authentic selves in order to please others, I explain in the text that God absolutely loves you with no strings attached. You do not have to do anything special. God loves you just because you are you. Imagine that.

This is a message African-American women yearn for in a country that continually sends the message that we do not count as much as our male counterparts or whites of either gender.

This message resonates within a country where African-American women stand, fight, and speak up for this country. We found and support humanitarian causes, and we take care of everybody’s children. When we get tired, we are told to be strong, that we can take it, resulting in a lack of support, a lack of support which can be detrimental.

Periodically, I watch my 600-lb. Life, a reality show in which the subjects, people weighing over 600 pounds, attempt to qualify for weight loss surgery. My viewing usually leaves me in awe as well as in empathy for the people whose stories are told. Most of the people are white; few of them have income they leave the home to obtain. These subjects are classified as “disabled”. On one show an African-American woman “Cynthia” was highlighted. Cynthia had five children and she worked as a Special Education teacher. Clearly she was educated, as teaching in any public school within the United States requires a minimum of a four-year degree. A graduate degree is required if one is a teacher for special needs students.

This woman expressed frustration on so many levels in terms of the lack of support she received, and I was frustrated along with her as the months of her life were recounted in her attempt to qualify for the weight-loss surgery. As she spoke of her desire to sleep for long periods and how she always wanted to eat full or not, I wondered why she had never been diagnosed with depression or any type of eating disorder. I wondered why she had never been recommended for weight loss surgery BEFORE she reached the 600-lb. mark. She was already on medications. Obviously, she had been to a doctor before, possibly several times. Did no doctor see her weight climb as a medical issue?

An African-American woman’s appearance of strength is too often misinterpreted as an absence of emotions, and thus humanity, when in actuality, that tough exterior is most indicative of her interior softness and need for protection. The softer the interior the harder the shell. Ask any oyster.

The message I attempt to relay in God’s Daughter is that despite constant pings and attacks against our exterior, we must know without a shadow of a doubt that God loves us, His daughters. We must get to know Him so we can appreciate this fact. When we do, we are empowered to obtain and remain in peace during these attacks, rather than react to them with unhealthy habits and behaviors, such as overeating, promiscuity, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.

It is during this time of peace and knowing we develop into pearls, and eventually we are able to leave the rough exterior behind.

 

*If you would like to purchase a signed copy of God’s Daughter for the special mothers, daughters, and/or sisters in your life, click the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Daughter-Myla-Jones/dp/0982795408

See Me as God Sees Me: A Human Being

See Me as God Sees Me: A Human Being

#getyourmindright #checkyourvision

The 3,954,882,963th problem with racism is…

People have pigeon-holed race into three categories: Black, White and Other. Many of the creators of “voluntary” employment and government forms have taken it upon themselves to place Latinos into White or Other categories, within keeping of the “Hispanic/White” and “Hispanic/Non-White” descriptor.

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Africans have been placed into two different categories—North Africans and the rest. Peoples from the Middle East can self-identify as White according to some of these forms.

                                            employment identification form (2)

As a licensed classroom teacher, I overheard a conversation between a student (H.A.) and a substitute teacher (Miss T.)  one day as I was called upon to oversee correct completion of state test forms. The students had to fill in their names, date of birth, etc. Then there was a “Voluntary” portion where they were asked to self-identify.

Student (H.A.): Miss T__, I’m from Egypt, but I’m a citizen now. Does that make me African-American?

Substitute Teacher (Miss T__): (Blank stare, looks at me, pauses, looks at student’s fair skin complexion) I guess…you can…check that box.

The entire class stopped filling in bubbles during this exchange. As this Egyptian-American student bubbled himself African-American/Black with the simple swirling motion of a pencil, I thought of the ways his life could be negatively impacted if all the information any and everyone had to go on was that H.A. was an African-American/Black citizen of this country.

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Because race is all about perception and not any *scientific data, perceiving someone as a particular ethnicity (let’s can the term “race” for the remainder of this discussion) influences how the observer interacts with the observed, and vice versa. The problem is—hold onto your hats—when the observed sees him or her self very differently than the one who is doing the observing.

I see myself as a mother, wife, writer, educator, and poet who is a Child of God. I am a person of color with roots in Africa, Barbados and Bangladesh. I was born and raised in the United States, which makes me an American citizen.

When I encounter a person who does not share my skin tone in any form or fashion, aka a White person, so often I am greeted with curiosity and questioning once I open my mouth to speak. This has gone on for years and I am over it. These days, rather than offering my resume, degrees, accomplishments and pedigree, this mature woman speaks about God and Love whenever questions and confusion arise, resulting from my refusal to fit into someone’s box of preconceived notions. When that doesn’t work, the response is simple: If you don’t see me as God sees me, I’ve got nothing for you.

Except maybe, prayers…

*“The mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning.” www.scientificamerican.com (February 5, 2016)

Poem or Prose: this is me

Poem or Prose: this is me

this is me…before woke was political afro-centric meant my hair is a bone of contention between mom and dad when me and sis questioned why brown tv children were refused lotion and use of comb or brush or even vaseline

avoiding corporate america like the plague I taught black children brown children white children poor children middle class children rich children children who spoke Arabic Chinese English Farsi Korean Spanish and Urdu alongside colleagues who deemed it inconvenient as they took children to assemblies honoring months to celebrate cultures unlike the majority of adults responsible for educating children whose cultures inconveniently did not match one’s own

now that it is popular to be a-Wake white people have slid off fences not knowing whose side to choose (am I liberal or am I conservative) my employer and my family and my neighbors are watching forgetting about the example I need to set for children who will grow up and out and get over it or perpetuate right now america is bleeding pustules cropping up and over campuses schools and places where it was decided to separate church from state

this one’s for you america no more taking one for the team you own this one redwhite&blue and all the time you struggled to keep segments down so you could stay on top forgetting the rule of rising cream you forgot one thing (a house divided is destined to fall) so justice for all or none equality for all or none categorizing is half the fun until you run out of check off boxes

decades later same battle different shoulders and soldiers but this time we are not here for the bullshiggedy put up or shut up we are going to live our lives strive and give high fives keep moving forward taking strides and when you need us (at some point you will always need the people you perceive as indispensible) may mercy and grace supersede karma’s turn because the odds are not in your favor

And Let the Church Say…

And Let the Church Say…

Some people call me a church girl, and because of this I have become a go-to person when yet another article comes out about what the Christian Evangelicals say (or do not say), regarding America’s social climate. Because I call myself a Christian as it pertains to my faith, I find myself defending how the term “Christian” has gotten such a bad rap.

So how do people of faith, people who believe in Jesus Christ and have repented and begun a new lifestyle wherein they are committing to following Christ’s example on earth, reconcile, counter, or respond, when someone says they are a Christian and then immediately they disparage entire cultures? It is as if, by calling one’s self a Christian, casting off groups of people unlike you makes what you say “right.”

Add to that mix the person who has sworn off church because of a few pastors who have used wealth, influence and a gift for preaching to manipulate and deceive well-meaning congregants and you can imagine the quandary in which I sometimes find myself.

I’ll start by borrowing a quote from Jesus when he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15), since some people may turn a deaf ear (or a blind eye, in this case) to what I am about to write.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to practicing one’s belief in God. However, when you get into Christianity, it is more complicated than I-believe-in-Jesus-Christ-and-that-He-was-born-to-a-virgin-and-that-He-was-crucified-on-the-cross-and-resurrected-on-the-third-day.

That is basic.

According to a City University of New York study (2001), when asked to identify their religious belief, those Americans who responded as being Christian, self-identified as belonging to one of 35 different branches of Christianity.*

Catholicism is a branch of Christianity. Protestantism is a branch of Christianity. There is further breakdown of branches into categories of churches which adhere to sacrament and tradition, termed by some as “high” church; by contrast there are churches placing little emphasis on such and are termed as “low” church. Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopalian would fall into the category of High Church, while Pentecostal, Apostolic and Full Gospel denominations may be considered Low Church.

Know that these are not hard and fast rules. I have attended Baptist churches where the rituals and traditions were etched in stone, and if you didn’t know or follow them, ushers in starched white uniforms would straighten you out directly. Likewise I have attended Baptist churches that followed “Pentecostal” teachings, relying very much on the movement of the Holy Spirit, where people were encouraged to speak in tongues and cry out in praise to God without any inhibition.

All of this should be understood by the person who is a Christian because as a follower of Christ’s teachings, how will you learn and be fed (spiritually) lest you go to a church where someone is preaching the Bible (God’s Word)? So—here’s where it gets tricky—you must do the work and find a church where you can grow in your personal walk and beliefs. Just saying I am a Christian makes me no more a Christian than saying I am a doctor prepares me for surgery.

When I accepted the Lord as my Savior over 30 years ago, I would attend the church closest to where I lived. When I moved, if I wanted to know about the area’s churches, I had to call, ask around and then attend before I could get an understanding of how my family and I would fit within the congregation. Today, I can go online and research church beliefs, mission statements, the pastor’s biographies, ministers on staff, etc., BEFORE I even walk in the door. So if I attend a church where I am not growing or where the pastor is not in touch with his community, or any of the other excuses I want to offer for not attending, guess what? I can research another, although in my estimation, it probably means I didn’t get the God stamp, through praying about a place of worship before stepping into the vestibule.

So, I will continue to defend Christianity, and I will continue to speak about salvation, God’s Love, Mercy and Grace. And I will continue to encourage people to go to church. Church is where I continue to grow spiritually and to learn more and more about God, Jesus and the workings of the Holy Spirit. It’s a place where I can get together with other believers and worship God in song and praise at least once a week.

I am not a church girl, I am a God girl. Church is where I go to continue to support my faith, nourishing my way of life for the rest of my life.

Be Better, Not Bitter

Be Better, Not Bitter

Be better, not bitter.

This is my 50+ mantra as I go through a stage in my life where, amongst other aspirations, I am trying not to be the Cat Lady, the Crank Monster, or the Old Biddy next door.

Having met all three, it has become apparent that Life and its experiences have the potential to develop one of the above personas, especially when a woman believes she has done the “right” thing, or that she has done all within her power to move a situation in a positive direction, but sometimes—oh—sometimes. It. Just. Was. Not. Enough.

That, My Friends, is the crux where our faith is tried and tested and we reach a crossroads that can only be recognized in hindsight. That point where we decide: this situation is going to be the one that defines me, or this situation is just a station on the journey of life. If you are smart, you will choose the latter and take with it the lessons and truths, albeit ever so uncomfortable.

Truths like: I could have left a bad situation (work, marriage, living arrangements, etc.) if I wanted to, but I did not take the energy, resources, and time available in order to make it happen.

Truths like: I could have done more to nurture, love, and support my child(ren), rather than using precious time to build relationships with a significant other (who ended up leaving anyway).

Truths like: I could have gone to college (vocational school, training, etc.) at some point in my life, but I was having fun and didn’t want to miss out on my youthful days.

I could go on.

The fact of the matter is that no matter your past situation, it is in your power alone, to make it a stepping stone or a stumbling block. Every challenging life experience contains at least one lesson. So the question is: Will I learn from it or will I use it as an excuse to keep me from moving onto and through other experiences which have the power to shape me into a better human being?

Because at the end of the day, we all want to be better, right?

Call it What You Want

Call it What You Want

I met a young pilot the other day and we struck up a conversation about God. His being an African-American in a predominantly white male industry, he wanted to know how I felt about racists who call themselves Christians. This young man confessed that often he is sitting in the cockpit of an airplane next to a white copilot whose views and opinions are extremely bigoted, yet this person will profess Christianity.

After I chuckled (yes, I did find humor in this), I said, “Perception is everything.” I then went on to explain how race penetrates everything within the (physically) United States of America, giving him the example that a person can label another white, black, other, based upon his or her perception or how they view you. Oftentimes, the perceived has no say in the matter.

There are times when I fully cover as I attend the masjid (mosque) with my Muslim husband. Surely all who see me, (incorrectly) assume I am a Muslima. As a woman who strives to embody Christian principles, it is only appropriate that I respect the laws and customs of my brothers and sisters of other faiths, so I cover up if I want to worship with my spouse in that space.

In continuing my conversation with the pilot, I gave him the example of how confused I was when a school in which I taught, with a demographic of 72% Latino, was also considered 68% white. So, I confess I taught English, not math, but huh?

After asking the right questions of my fellow colleagues, my confusion was cleared up after it became apparent that many of the Latino students were identifying as “Hispanic (White)” rather than “Hispanic (Non-White)” as witnessed by the forms they and their parents filled out for free lunch, test data, etc.

I shared this anecdote with my young pilot friend who responded with a “Wow.” Full stop.

Our conversation ended with my answering his question of what I thought about racists who call themselves Christians. My response:  “A person can call himself whatever he or she wants; however, that does not necessarily make it so.”

 

Labels and Such

Labels and Such

Ultra-Purified Water read the label. It was a first for me. I’ve drunk tap water, filtered water, spring water and purified water. But, ultra-purified? Never. I’ve been missing out. Now that I know gluten is bad for me, GMO’s can increase gut capacity, coffee is bad, no good, no—wait I have to double-check that one—and red wine should be sipped in moderation.

If no one else knows the power of language, I do. From the ability to speak life into a situation–such as feeling better just because you say so aloud–to the rejection of negative messages due to labels, I dedicated years to studying, teaching and writing about this language we call English.

In doing so, it helped me climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the point where I actually reached (tah-dah!) Self-Actualization. It can be a lonely place. To exist at that rung is to challenge almost everything you have previously been taught and to examine it against almost everything you will learn as you make your way up the pyramid through Safety, Relationships (love/belonging) and Esteem, assuming that you are already receiving your Physiological Needs (food/water).

The United States of America is not an easy place. It’s a good place in many ways, but it is also a scary place if you don’t know all the ways that its ways can be used against you if you don’t know them. Was that confusing? Good, because that’s how it feels sometimes when you realize that all you knew and loved about your birth country, about melting pots, about One Nation Under God Indivisible, about Liberty and Justice For All, is bullshit.

And that people can and will use language against you, even your own people, even your own language.

So whites and blacks become the primary category identifiers for Americans. Then POC (People of Color) is for everyone who is not “white.” Then years of affirmative action forms must be revised, if one (insert the metonymic government here) is serious about affirmative action. If not, we will continue to categorize all ye who enter here as WHITE (NON HISPANIC), WHITE (HISPANIC), BLACK (AFRICAN-AMERICAN), ASIAN OR PACIFIC ISLANDER, or NATIVE AMERICAN. So that’s the way the United States sees the world, but that is not necessarily how the world sees itself.

For this reason I cringed when I heard a 10th grader from Egypt ask a substitute teacher, “So, since I’m from Egypt, should I check African-American?” This was in reference to the so-called optional question about ethnicity included in standardized testing. I was in the room as the test administrator, and being the only other adult in the room, the only one who happened to have a café au lait complexion, the white substitute looked at me. Catching her in my peripheral vision, I kept being the silent but observant walk-around-the-classroom administrator. The question was not directed at me, I reasoned. “You’re on your own, Toots;” I chuckled in my head, while thinking, “That kid is on his way up Maslow’s pyramid.”