By now many of you have seen news of a group of high school students who chose to reenactment singer-dancer Chris Brown’s attack of mega-popstar Rihanna before they were to both attend the 2009 Grammy Awards. This blog is not really about these clowns. Enough will be written about them. I won’t even post a link to an article about it. You can find that yourself. The school will issue a statement, domestic violence advocates will denounce their actions, Black community leaders will demand an apology and all the students at this school will take sides, take to facebook, twitter and youtube to express their support or disgust. But based on the smiling faces in the picture above, some of that disgust would be fake to me.

It is never ok to poke fun at something like this. Domestic abuse disrupts lives. And it also kills. As for the blackface I will assume the students were too young to remember all the hoopla when Ted Danson did it and too stupid to really get how ridiculous they look and how insulting this still is.

Let’s talk about said abuse between Chris and Rihanna. The firestorm that ensued post his arrest and the leaking of pictures of a bruised Rihanna are forever etched in our minds. For months afterwards news of a reconciliation, the ramifications of it and whether Rihanna was a good role model were discussed, dissected and rehashed ad nauseum. Chris Brown was vilified. At the same time Rihanna was also slammed by the media and domestic abuse advocates for forgiving Chris Brown.

During that period I was reluctant to comment on any facebook and twitter posts about either one. But after the surfacing of this disgusting act by these high schools student, apparently sanctioned by school officials and the now alleged rekindling of their friendship/romance, I feel it was time for me to add my two cents however unnecessary it might be. First I want to say that amidst all of the blogs and articles written on their domestic issue one sane voice stood out to me and that is of activist and author Kevin Powell. Mr. Powell wrote an incredibly insightful open letter to Chris Brown in the aftermath of assaulting Rihanna and offered advice and his own personal counsel. Based on the comments I read a great deal of people disagreed and I could not understand why.

In 2010 Rihanna ended her ties with Chris Brown as she should at that time. While many women would have chosen to stay with their abuser Rihanna chose to end their relationship. This act alone spoke volumes. Men who abuse their spouses (and vice versa) rely on one simple thing even if it is not the thing they can actually articulate and that is that their partner ‘agrees’ with the behavior. Most women who have survived such abuse can recall a time when they would make excuses for their abuser. They kept trying to figure out ways not to anger him. They think they must be doing something wrong. And the list goes on. For the abuser all of those excuses work. But for women at some point in their recovery will tell you that forgiving the abuser is part of that recovery. They understand that the violence  is never about them but about some unresolved hurt that has manifested as anger and rage.

In 1993 I myself was involved with a man who turned out to be a violent abuser. At that age I did not know what the signs were. How many young women are taught the signs? How many mother have open conversations about this issue?

I took his checking up on me constantly as his way of showing he cared. In the short time we were together (five months) what I learned is that he was insecure, possessive and downright calculating. While he would publicly praise me to my friends he would constantly question my loyalty to him in private. He drove like a maniac and had what we dub as ‘road rage’. He quickly and swiftly pulled me away from friends and family demanding all of my time. When I look back at that young woman I sometimes can’t believe I came out of that at all. It would have been so much easier to swallow my pride and pretend. To hide. But a part of me would not allow it. One of many arguments ensued and on December 28th, a few days after Christmas, the final straw.

The argument itself is not important but in short he thought I was being disloyal when while having a discussion about dealing with workplace discrimination I did not “back him up”. Now you have to understand that the discussion he was having was with my godmother. This is a woman who I’ve known my whole life. A woman who helped raise me and who is a retired educator and businesswoman. The last thing I would do is take his side when she a mature, college education mother and professional was providing great advice.

He brought it up again and decided with pen and paper in hand to take notes as I reiterated to him why I left the room as their discussion became heated and I did not feel the need to defend him. At some point I walked out of the living room and turned my back to him. Within seconds he grabbed me by the hair and pummeled me several times and gave one swift blow to my ribs. With the air knocked out of me thoughts of what I should do next and questions of whether he was about to kill me flashed through my mind. I was no match at 5’8″ 127 pounds to his 6′ solid 200 pounds.

In typical fashion he was very apologetic. Nursing my wounds but I don’t recall him ever promising to never do it again. Even more typical he explained it away. All I wanted him was out of my apartment. I bit my tongue. I said very little. It was over as far as I was concerned. That was the first and LAST time he would put his hands on me. But he did not believe me. He did not believe me when I changed my locks (Yes this dummy gave him a set of keys.) He did not believe me when I went the other way when I saw him in the hallway at school. Ultimately he was able to remove his things from my apartment. But for months after our break up he kept up this act of being concerned about me, talking to my professors and friends about me. I can’t even imagine what was going through their minds. I got crank phone calls threatening me. I went to the police. Nothing. I resorted to informing campus security. Their typical answer. “WE can’t do anything.” I was advised we go to mediation court. That was apparently the best that could be done at that time.

After that he was not allowed to speak to me or my friends or colleagues. He was mandated to stay 100 yards away from me. Like most abusers he denied ever hitting me. But he also never bothered me again. He finally got the message.

Chris Brown unlike many abusers openly admitted his guilt. He also admitted to watching his own mother suffer at the hands of his father. But outside of this admittance one can conclude that any help Brown has sought since that time will have to be a long time commitment. I hope it is one that he is able to keep. And if he and Rihanna should rekindle a love affair I hope that Rihanna will take her time and make sure she is in a relationship with someone who is on his way to recovering from his violent past. If not I do not see any reason to pursue a romance.

I briefly joined a support group in the aftermath of my own abuse and learned that statistically 1% of all abusers ever work to change their behavior. It is my hope that Chris Brown is part of that 1%.

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I found this article and compelled to share. I get sick of hearing the Right throw around their hidden and sometimes overt message geared toward keeping stereotypes alive and well. They depend on people to not question anything. But when real information is available to challenge those notions I think it is important to make it known. Make it plain.Image

See Race Files article “When Welfare Was White: What The Fight Over the Safety Net Is Really All About

Judge for yourself and be confronted by your own prejudices and lack of knowledge.

If you ask some people they will say last nights debate between Republican candidate Paul Ryan and current vice president Joe Biden was a virtual smack down. Others will point how undignified Biden behaved and by his mere behavior he lost the debate on pure lack of character. I will admit in the beginning I found Biden’s smiles and smirks to be an easy way to jab at Ryan but as the night wore on he started to appear to be a curmudgeon old man with a bone to pick. That is never a good look.

vpdebateOn the other hand Ryan remained quite dignified and super serious. I mean serious like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Hidden behind his serious tone however was the same avoidance of detail, misquoting of facts, rantings about poor Russia (what is the deal with Russia) and his insistence that his experience outweighs Biden even though Biden is clearly older and more seasoned in the affairs of government. And because of that Ryan was the more stellar candidate in terms of candor. We could have done without his Hallmark stories. They wore thin after the second one.

The standout star as far as I am concerned is the moderator Martha Raddatz who kept to task, asked insightful questions, pointed out Ryans avoidance in answering questions and all around gave equal speaking time to each candidate. It was refreshing after watching Jim Lehrer get handled by Mitt Romney last week.

What I was not impressed with is their debate on social security and medicare. I don’t think either side of the aisle has the right solution and up and coming old folks are in trouble. Last night, tonight and especially this week as comedy shows gear up we will be treated to some stellar parodies of this debate. In character perhaps Steve Carell will show up to play Raul Ryan. In turn a Biden look a like will ham it up for the camera, grin and make rabbit ears behind his head.

Aside from their antics, Americans in the U.S. got to see each candidate and who they really are. Biden is very passionate and cares about the issues. He is very specific about what he and Obama want to do and clear about the work that still needs to be done. On the other hand Ryan like his running mate is sticking to his “we have a plan, and after we win we will let you know” approach. Overall, it was much more insightful than the lackluster debate we witnessed last week between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Luckily for these two there are two more debates.

I am by no means a political activist. I do however consider myself aware of the many issues that plague our nation. Larger issues continue to be the ever growing national debt. Debt which is passed on to middle income wage earning households. We import far more than we export and so we are at a disadvantage in this aspect. Companies have been moving operations overseas and have been doing so for decades but the current belief is that this is the fault of the last few administrations. That is just not true. The unemployment rate has recently fallen but it is not nearly as low as it was in 2006 or nearly as high as they’ve been during the early 1980s. And the future of job creation overseas does not look good either.

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Voters are not interested in the facts though however skewed or inaccurate. They really choose based on personality and the best spiel given by a candidate. I had a friend express their affinity for Mitt Romney indicating how much of a family man he was. I was floored. Why would that ever by the first real reason to vote for someone? Ridiculous as it sounds I’d rather vote for a single man who does not have the distraction of a family to raise. How does having a family trump leadership experience of the single person. (I have a theory but that will be left for another blog.)

We have two Ivy-League educated candidates to choose from in November. One supports green energy and has created many tax incentives in support of it. The other supports clean coal if there is such a thing. One candidate wants to raise taxes on the rich and the other does not in many aspects. What really bothers me is that when you look at President Barack Obama‘s political career he consistent from the time he was a young organizer living in Chicago working with the poorest of communities. He understand family struggle. He understands single-parent life.

Others will view Mitt Romney’s silver-spoon upbringing as some sort of a crutch. But he has worked with the poor as well. What I am more concerned about his bold support of abortion-rights and his ridiculous 180 degree turn on the issue. How convenient?

So now that a new election is upon us I continue to witness facebook and twitter rantings about NOT voting. About NOT caring. And about complete dissolution with the whole process. I say that is a cop out. While it is easier to believe that no good comes from voting I say it is far worse to stay out of the political process. The same person who chooses not to vote will find themselves subjected to future legislation that could have an affect on their future well being. I do not retire for another 20 years or so but I am not happy with either stance the current candidates take on social security. They both have intentions of reducing services.

When you vote it’s just not about the here and now but about what is good for future generations. Not voting is the same as saying “there is no future to live in to” or “I’ll leave that up to you all to decide”. That is no way to live. And I’m not going to expound on all those who fought and died for the right to vote because that argument has been won. Spitting on the efforts of voting & civil rights activists from the last 100 years or so is an obvious argument that no one will against.

We are a nation that takes its freedoms for granted. We are not raising our children to be politically aware. We are more concerned with technical trinkets and the lastest skinny jeans. Schools turn a blind eye to bullying and sex trafficking has not even brought up by either platform. We will have to sit through two more debates before we find out of our candidates care about the poor and what real plans they have for education. I say get your pad and pencils good citizens and take notes. Then draw your own conclusions and by all means vote. Vote for the graduating class of 2023 because they will be starting college that year. And they deserve every option to make that happen.

No one can articulate better the affect of Romney’s being secretly taped and the GOP subsequent release of tapes of Obama. Vlogger and hip hop DJ extraordinaire Jay Smooth gives us the real deal on what each of those tapes mean and why we should not get distracted by the GOP’s futile attempt to somehow portray Obama as someone who also has a ‘secret’ agenda exposed on tape.

I’ve been struggling for a while to put into words how that “47%” remark chilled me and upon seeing the Right dredge up said Obama tapes how silly and ridiculous it seemed. Jay Smooth could not have said it better.

Robert + Nathanael 9.8.12

This video is the wedding of Robert Brown and his husband Nathanael at The Mansion at Griffin Gate Marriott Resort in Lexington, Kentucky. They were married on September 8, 2012. Upon sharing this video it has gone viral. Because both gentlemen are apparently a member of the national greek organization Kappa Alpha Psi a historically African-American fraternity founded on the campus of Indiana University on January 5, 1911.

Many members are upset at the nuptials and have taken to every social media outlet condemning them and their union. I don’t understand homophobia anymore than I understand racism. Or I will say I choose not to want to learn hatred in a way that I understand it. I will acknowledge that it exists but I was not raised to judge people based on appearance. I was raised to judge people based on how they carry themselves, their aspirations, the way they treat me and others.  As a society we are taught to stereotype and judge. I for one have worked on myself personally in the last 15 years to undo that.

As I’ve gotten older I do have my own prejudices though. I dislike people with poor hygiene. I dislike people who are cavalier about the safety of their children. I also am honing a severe disdain for people who text and drive. But I think that this is something that we can all agree on across the board in any culture and creed. No??

What people will have to grow to accept is that hatred of anyone because they are gay is a cultural thing. It is not based in the Bible. It is not condemned by God. It was condemned by man who thinks they speak for God.

In major cities across America Columbus Day (which is annually on the second Monday of October), remembers Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492 and heralded as a great source of pride for Americans especially those of Italian descent.  Columbus was an explorer backed by the Spanish Crown promising to find riches and spices in India and the Orient. At least that is the sanitized version of history we as children were taught, are still taught to this day. Like this poem,

“In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Having studied a truer accounting of the struggles for Columbus to get funding, the arduous crossing of the Atlantic (which we know by all accounts means he was lost) and the subsequent loss of life and limb of native Tainos and other inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands he found instead.

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We learn as a child that he was in fact quite lost. What we don’t learn is the ensuing abuse of the native people, his insistence on the existence of gold and the torture of native inhabitants when gold was not found. We also learn that as Columbus is made governor of the new found lands and begins to exploit the population as labor to build colonies Tainos die off from neglect and disease. A new source of labor is needed and thus the slave trade of Africans begins with fervor. That is however just the tip of the iceberg of truth.

In Eric Williams book “From Columbus to Castro” we get an in depth look at the economic life in the Caribbean. The summary from inside the flap reads:

“The History of the Caribbean is about 30 million people scattered across an arc of islands — Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Trinidad, among others-separated by the languages and cultures of their colonizers, but joined together, nevertheless, by a common heritage. For whether French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, or-latterly-American, the nationality of their masters has made only a notional difference to the peoples of the Caribbean. The history of the Caribbean is dominated by the history of sugar, which is inseparable from the history of slavery; which was inseparable, until recently, from the systematic degradation of labor in the region. Here, for the first time, is a definitive work about a profoundly important but neglected and misrepresented area of the world.”

We must be responsible with our youth and understand that truth is truth. Teaching a first grader basic facts feels safe but when that same child is in high school allowing them to continue on the path of 1/2 truths and lies about our connected common history is irresponsible.

Especially for those of native and Hispanic descent there is a soreness that many refuse to address. Even when acknowledging a more realistic view of the brutality historians and journalist will still attempt to sanitize by all accounts.

With the advent of social media especially facebook and twitter my own postings on this day have been met with anger and outrage. The truth usually does that especially when it is not sanitized by myself.  I get it though. People will hold on to old ideas like the last few hairs on their head or the faded memories in a picture. Because it feels good. Who wants to admit they’ve been lied to?

At this stage in my life I am ready for anything. I know more now than I did 20+ years. There are new truths I am learning about myself, my view of my parents and friends and new realities that are confronting my very thinking. But inside of that truth is growth. Just as my new learning on the subject of the Americas shook me so do the new truths that occur daily, weekly and monthly in this what I call Midlife Priceless.

The past two years have brought a lot of change in my life. I allowed this blog to languish because I let so many things get in the way. I have to learn that life as it is does not have to get in the way of my self-expression. In the past few years I’ve learned that there are many out there who rely on my sane self for guidance and that my words can inform, help and heal. So I am choosing to reconnect with my writing and ‘recommiting’ to my blog. What’s gotten in the way? Well let’s see a separation from my husband, a feeble attempt to reconcile and second separation and my eventual move from Brooklyn to New Haven (not a good look for me), two procedures due to my unmanageable uterine fibroids, severe anemia and quitting a job that was making me sick.

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Even in this economy I left a job where showing up meant biting my tongue every day and witnessing harassing behavior by the executive director that occurred on a daily basis. I watched co-workers miserable and feeling stuck in their jobs. The truth is no one is stuck. They chose to stay because they are acting like battered women afraid to leave an abusive husband. I gained weight and hair was falling out. On top of everything I was dealing with I knew I decided I had to take care of me.

I am glad to say with patience my hair has grown back but the some of the weight remains. My husband and I are working on our relationship in a more meaningful way now. I think I had this image of marriage and have learned to accept my marriage the way it is right now. It ain’t perfect. And as I’ve watched a dear friend divorce this year I can sit back and appreciate what I have been able to do in my own way.

I have a great life filled with friends and family who adore me, I’m funny, I am smart and in spite of it all I do have it all because having it all has been defined by these things.

Last year in August after coming home from a late night at the movies I was totally pissed to see dozens and dozens AND dozens of people still milling about. It was well after midnight and there were no police to be found. I’ve lived in Prospect Heights for over 15 years. What is so annoying is that I watch the neighborhood change and gentrify. I prided myself as being one of those hold outs who refuses to move because it’s clear the neighborhood is changing and not changing for ME.

I don’t get the behavior of young people today. They obviously have nothing better to do than hang out in a residential neighborhood well over an hour or two after a FREE event has ended. What was a lovely idea in the beginning turned into the largest and cheapest pick up spot in NYC. Image

I mean when chicks are showing up in 4-5 inch heels to the museum you know what’s up. It’s a sad commentary that people want to be seen but won’t spend the money to go to a real club or lounge to do that bit. Is it not an age old ritual? Dress it up, attract the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter), make a connection, maybe go on a few dates? What’s going on that BMA ends up the vortex of social life. Where else in New York are 20,000 folks showing up? Central Park perhaps.

But the point is BMA turned into that outlet and so the parents with their children and married couples like myself and hubby could not stroll the museum with out dodging throngs of club wear crews milling about hoping to be seen. I for one never had to dress it up to get that kind of attention but these new chicks coming up don’t have a sense of self and so this is what happens.

I suspect that at some point something would have happened. A free event should not be a free for all. Bike clubs are showing up. I mean really??

BMA was left with no choice because at some point they would be held liable for some altercation that spills over from there event. And in this age of “I”m going to sue everybody!” this is a real problem waiting to happen. Sorry to see it go but it was inevitable.

I have been very intrigued by the suspension of Tony Kornheiser for remarks he made about an outfit worn by ESPN colleague Hannah Storm. It appears he was ranting over her wardrobe or lack thereof. So my first reaction was to dismiss this as another “Tony K moment”. He has been known to put his foot in his mouth in the past. And all was forgiven. He still has his job and this too shall pass. So I am not going to get into what he said exactly. What I do want to talk about is the so-called offending outfit. Thanks to google and other nosy (curious) observers like myself I looked up the ‘outfit’. Low and behold it was the first search topic. And then pow!!! There she was in all her bright red technicolor glory.

Tony Kornheiser suspended for comments about Hannah Storm

Hannah in her go-go boots

I immediately thought, “Yeah this is a little off.” But in a day and age where youth and being thin rule I can sympathize with Ms. Storm. She has somehow been lead to believe that her ‘school girl’ skirt as Kornheiser put it and knee-hi red boots are appropriate. And they are…if you are in club grinding to euro-trance music or perched on top of a fiber glass cube behind a cage while The Budos Band plays. There is a lack of dignity here and while Tony K was out of line in expressing his views on air there is a hint of truth to his rant.  When did our society get so warped that our on air personalities are spilling out of their clothes and sporting thigh high skirts? But ESPN is viewed overwhelming by men so I am led to assume that this will be the wave of the future.

You’d never see Robin Roberts (who is just as thin) sporting a mini while reporting on today’s news headlines so why does Hannah get a pass? I don’t know. Don’t care. She’s only two years younger than Roberts. A friend of mine recently asked,

Have we become an instantly gratified visual society that judges merely on our own bias?

This was preceded by a quote from Mark Twain, ”

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have had little or no influence on society.” Well clothes make the woman too. Should we just go along with new trend of bare it all? When do we get to go back to being ladies? Why is that changes in societal rules always look like someone has lost their marbles?

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