Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama

Being that I was born and raised in Alabama, I’ve been feeling some type of urgency to do something about this Senate race in Alabama, and I just didn’t know what to do. Then it hit me, I can use my small platform and write.

When the news first broke about Roy Moore having inappropriate contact with underage girls, I nervously read all of the stories. I did not know what to think, but I just know that it is never all right for a grown man to rob a young girl of her innocence.

The stories continued to unfold, and then when asked when was the last time that he thought America was ‘great’ and according to CNN and other media outlets Moore stated: "I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another.... Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” 

Then I started to read even more disturbing things about Moore, and I feel like I want to go to Alabama on Tuesday and go door to door, and take everybody to the polls. We’ve got to stand for the moral integrity of the state of Alabama and our country.

I know there are rural, remote areas where people may not have a car and the polling places are far away, but I desperately want these folks to be heard and vote for the integrity of Alabama and our Country. I know there are people who may not have voted in quite a long time, and they may be a little afraid or intimidated to vote, but I want those folks to speak up for the integrity of Alabama and our country.

Yesterday, in one of my desperate moments, I reminded my eighty-three year old mother to vote.

“Jack, you don’t have to tell me to vote. I was pregnant with Tricia and the bottom of my stomach was hurting, but I still went and did what I needed to do to get qualified to vote.” (Now, my sister whom she was pregnant with is currently fifty-three year olds.)  "I’ve been voting every sense.” She went on to explained to “get qualified to vote” she had to fill out some paperwork, and someone had to vouch that she was who she said she was.

“Filling out that paperwork felt like taking a test to me.”

Mom told many more stories about voting, and I anxiously listened and asked tons of questions. Y’all, I wanted to know every single detail.

Still feeling like I needed to do something about this Senate race in Alabama, I stated: “Mom, will you call your sister and nieces and nephews and remind them to vote?”

We hung up, and I felt better!

Today, I read that Senator Corey Booker was at Tuskegee University encouraging students to vote in the upcoming Senate election, and my mind started racing. Yes, there are lots of Black colleges in Alabama and if those students who can vote, would vote, perhaps their voices could make a difference. I picked up the phone to call my niece who is currently a student at Tuskegee to remind her to vote if she can, and I wanted to ask her to remind all of her friends to do the same. However, I put the phone down. (I’m not sure if she has changed her voter registration from her home state of Texas to Alabama?) 

My folks in Alabama, I am not sure where you stand on this issue, but I really want you guys to stand for the integrity of Alabama and our country. I do not want to ask folks to do things that I have not done, like drive an old person to the polls. But, please check on your neighbors, talk about the issues, and do whatever it takes to get them to stand for the integrity of Alabama and our Country.

Our country is going through changes, and we all know that change is hard and many of us resist it, because it is hard. But, today we have to face the fear of change and be heard and recognized. I was telling some people that it seems like our country is experiencing a birth, and I believe that if as many of us as possible would search our consciousness and act on it, I believe that what our country gives birth to will be great.

Y’all, it is a great time to be alive, and we cannot be on the sidelines; we need to participate....

Alabama... please show the world that our country's arch is bent toward justice!

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Just Because...

Image result for image for thoughts


Lots of rambling...(You’ve been warned!)

Last Wednesday, I was able to sleep an hour later. I slept until 6:30 actually and that felt soooo good. I had Step Up To Writing training, and I thought we would learn more about Step Up To Writing, but instead we learned more about how to train people. However, I went with the flow. It was good to sit back and learn and not have to lead. I enjoyed every moment of allowing the leader to lead.

Well,

I got an email while in the training that pretty much made my day. It was about being on a literacy panel this coming summer. You know sometimes it feels like God stops talking to me, and then something like this email happens. I am sure God was like “Girl, I ain’t forgot about you; You of little faith!" I am still growing in this area.

Later,

After the training, I did an easy ride on my bicycle, washed my hair, cooked, and ate. I answered a few emails and sent a few text, wrote, and went to bed. Rest is not overrated. I felt so much better after having quite a chill day.

Y’all!

I just love GOD, I mean, I really love God. He knows me better than I know myself and is always on time. I mean he is always on time... Like always on time. I have been working on stuff, and he has been showing out. Oh, how I love Jesus. Not because he first loved me, but because I don’t want to think about not loving him.

So,

I bought an electric trainer. For those who don’t know, an electric trainer is a way for me to do my cycling workouts on the inside connected to a computer. This trainer helps to make my workouts more efficient. I actually look forward to the workouts now. You know, when I finish, and I see my average speed, I kinda feel like a badass. AND, I love that feeling.

AND,

I’ve been thinking about Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and all of the other men who have been sexually harassing and raping women. I’ve also have been thinking about women, including myself, and our society. We got tons of work to do...  I was talking to a lady who told me that at her daughter’s orientation for college, they talked to the young ladies about looking out for each other and staying together to keep from being sexually assaulted or raped. I was thinking “Are they protecting themselves from their young, men classmates?” I wonder if the young men were being told to never have sex with a woman without her consent? Y’all, as a society, we got work to do.

Thirty minutes,

I’ve been writing almost every night, and it is amazing the amount of writing that can happen in thirty minutes. It is also amazing how we can start habits and continue them if we are committed. I am actually starting to look forward to sitting down each night and calming my thoughts, engaging my entire body, and writing.

Tomorrow,

Is Friday..... AND I am thrilled!

What have y’all been up to?


Monday, December 4, 2017

Evicted by Matthew Desmond



I finished Evicted by Matthew Desmond today, and I must say that I cried many tears while reading this book. After a few pages, I would have to take a break and think. This book has me thinking about so many things that really, really have not been on my mind. You know how people say out of sight, out of mind. Well.....

In Evitcted, Desmond puts names with these stories and humanize these people. I found myself really pulling for Lamar, Scott, Patricia, Chelesa, Arleen, and Natasha. Desmond helps us to see those cycles of evictions and how difficult they are to escape.

I want to believe that I am empathic, but I think that we can never, ever have enough empathy. I have never really given a lot of thought to people being evicted chronically. Folks who just do not get enough money monthly to pay their rent and bills and are chronically late on rent and are always facing the threat of an eviction.

Now, when I first started teaching, my money was tight. I remember coming home to eviction notices or my phone being cut off. So, I am not new to money problems at all. But y’all, there are folks caught up in these eviction cycles, and there just does not seem to be away out except perhaps some "Fairy Jenny" comes along and bless these folks with a lot of money.

What breaks my heart the most is the kids. Kids who have to go from house to house and school to school. Kids who can’t do homework because of their condition. This book helped me to see how a kid can get to the tenth grade and be on a third grade level.

Y’all, life is really hard and complicated for some folks... Like really hard and complicated!

Reading Evicted, I thought about my own life, and with just a very changes, like my Dad leaving or dying, I know my life would have been much different.

Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy.......

Y’all READ THIS BOOK!!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Finding Your Voice



Since school started, I have been grappling with how to approach writing; I know that the formulated writing that I taught in the past is a thing of the past. I know that it is important for students to get their thoughts out and find their voices.

So, today, I walked in and told them just that. I told them that I want them to not worry about grammar, especially if they are English as a second language students. I wanted them to focus on getting their thoughts out. I told them about me setting my timer every single night for thirty minutes, and I have been writing during those thirty minutes. I told them that I know it’s hard, and I know it can make a person feel extremely vulnerable, but I encouraged them to talk to each other, think about what’s on their minds and in the world, and write.

They started writing, and one stated “I have so much on mind all of the time, but now I can’t get anything out.” Another student stated “This is hard.” However, they continued to write. Through google classroom, I could see what each individual student was writing, and I observed some making list, a few were writing stories, and one was even writing about how school is the worse place for a child to be; there is never any time to have fun and laugh.

Their anxiety was running high worrying about when was the paper due. I had to reassure them that they did not have to worry about getting finished; they can work on this piece until they felt that they were finished. I never thought about how I had been pressuring students about the final project instead of putting more emphasis on the process.

I remember giving students two or three class periods to write an essay, and I would give them this outline, and tell them to write. I would hate reading paper after paper that read just like the paper that came before it. I would think “Where are the students voices?” I never thought about the fact that it was the way that I was approaching the writing.

Today, I nervously gave them my blog address and asked them to read my blog about writing. I asked them could they hear my voice, and they all agreed that they could. We talked about what I did to make my voice heard. I told them how I write from the heart, and I try and write with authority by not using “I think” or “I believe.” I told them how I give my thoughts, but I try and validate my thoughts through giving real life examples. They seem to get it, and they were writing.

Writing is hard, and I don’t want to ever forget. When I see my students struggling; I want to be able to empathize with them, and that is why I have been setting that timer and writing even when I do not feel like it.

Like right now, I have about eleven minutes to go, and I want to stop. I want to go the bathroom, and check my email, and look at Facebook, and do a whole bunch of other stuff to distract from the writing, and I noticed that is what my students were doing. Before the thirty minutes were up, I started hearing chatter, and folks started looking at their phones, and folks started to ask to go to the bathroom. I had to tell them to do what I have to do and that is sit with the discomfort and write, even if what they are writing is not making any sense at all. Just Write.

Eight minutes to go, and I want to quit, but I can’t. I feel like I have stated all that I want to say, but there is always more.... Oh yea, I can take these last seven minutes to look over what I have already written. Yes, that’s what I can do.

Y’all, you see my tactics to avoid the discomfort of writing, so I know exactly how my students feel.

I have changed my approach to writing with my students, and I am including myself in the process.

I’ll come back to this to let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ebbing and Flowing


So, it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and it’s time to go back to work. Not feeling like going back to work at all; I was really enjoying waking up and doing a whole lot of nothing...

Since school started, which was the beginning of September, I have been doing a lot of preparing for my consulting gigs and also reading and preparing to teach my classes. I’ve been doing a whole lot of brain work, and that has been quite rewarding yet time consuming.

However, after returning home from my last trip of 2017, I was a little uncomfortable with all of the free time that I had all of a sudden. I would go to the gym at four and basically have the rest of the day free; I did not need to use my brain very much. I was going to bed early, I mean really early, I am talking about 7:30pm, and I would lie their and read and think and read and think and eventfully fall asleep. I thought a lot about the idea that at the end of the day, no matter how busy we are, we are always left with ourselves, and time keeps right on moving on.

I contacted my cycling coach and let him know that I was ready to start my winter training, I committed to start writing every single day, and of course I read every evening. I also thought that I could use some of this down time to sit with myself and explore my thoughts and feelings.

During the month of October when I traveled to five different places, I had to constantly remind myself to not get overwhelmed by the travel or the work; this too shall pass, and it did. Now, I am left with me, and it’s an adjustment.

I’ve made the conscious decision to reach out to people, because quality time is my number one love language, and it always does my heart good. From now until Christmas break, I will go to the gym three days a week, cycle at least four or five days a week, write, read, go to culturally events in the city, and spend as much time as I can with folks whom I care a lot about.

It’s like I am coming off some kind of high, and I’ve got to get back to my normalcy.

I’ve been wondering what do other people do with their free time, especially the weekends? Do they go to outdoor markets, museums, bookstores, malls, or do they stay home and talk to their family members or friends, watch TV, or maybe even clean up a bit.

It may the colder winter impacting me, but I use to love to go to outdoor markets, then a museum, then to a coffee shop, then go home all in one day. But now, I’d rather spend time at home, in my favorite chair, relaxing.

Life keeps moving, and I keep changing and evolving, and time keeps right on moving on....

There are dreams that I have and things that I still hope and wish for, but time just keep on marching on.

Sometimes I laugh as hard as I can, but other times I feel sad and I cry and sometimes not cry. And, time keeps on marching on.

Life happens and it happens consistently, and time keeps on moving on....

I’m 'ebbing and flowing,' and time keeps right on moving on....


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Well - Read


Well-Read????

I was reading another literary blog that I absolutely love, and she was discussing being Well-Read. This got me to thinking about what does it mean to be Well-Read?

I proudly flaunt my Well-Read Black girl t-shirt, and now, after reading that post, I have been doing some really serious thinking about what it means to be Well-Read?


I use to think that being well-read meant that a person had read and had some level of  understanding of the classics such as at least two or three plays by Shakespeare, The Scarlett Letter, Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, and a whole bunch of other books written a LONG time ago by a whole bunch of dead white people. I remember feeling guilty, because I was an English teacher and had not read Waldon by Henry David Thoreau. So, I attempted to read it. I am happy that I read it, but I must admit that I skimmed most of it, and I didn’t understand or enjoy most of it. However, I could check that book off my list, and join the Well-Read club. (Whatever!)


However, I know tons of folks who read a whole lot, and many of them have never, ever read any of those books that I thought made folks Well-Read. However, those same folks can talk about books that I have never, ever heard of  and have me making my reading list even longer. So, what makes a person Well-Read?

I have totally let go of the idea that folks have to read the books in the 'literary canon' in order to Well-Read. I even gave my students and myself permission to decide upon our very own literary canon and include all of the books that speak to our hearts. I wrote about that here.

I am thinking that being Well-Read may have something to do with the number of books that a person reads a year? So, what would be a magic number? Twenty or thirty? But, what if that person only read science-fiction books, or books by only White writers, or books by only Black writers... You get my point?

Now, I prefer fiction books written by folks of color; however, I will read just about any book under the sun. Folks tell me to try books, and if they about talk the books with a lot of love, then I will definitely read them. For instance, last summer I was at Texas Christian College, and this teacher mentioned the Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. You should have seen the joy on her face when she talked about it. She even sent me an email to ask if I had read it. So, you know what I did, I read that book and loved it. I must admit that I did not think highly of Jodi Picoult as a writer. Not sure why, but I thought her books were fluffy books, and I had no desire to read them. But, I sure did love every single word of The Storyteller. Like I said before, I will read just about anything.


For the past two years, I have read tons of Young Adult (YA) novels, and those YA authors are bringing IT. Those YA writers are writing and writing courageously. I am not sure about other folks students, but my students are eating those books up, and they are sparking some of those conversations and writings that causes my students and me to dig deep within.

I do consider myself to be Well-Read, and I am still not quite sure what that means. However, what I do know is that I read all of the time: books, newspapers, articles, my students' writings etc. When I really want to explore my feelings and thoughts, I turn to books. When I want to know more about the world in which I live, I turn to books. When I want to know more about human nature, I turn to books. So........

What y’all think about being Well-Read?









Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Love Letter to African American Writers.....

My book club!
This morning I got up and cooked my breakfast and made my coffee and sat in my favorite reading spot to read Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghost. This book is soooo captivating, and after I read for awhile, I needed to google Rivers Solomon and this awesome book.


Though her website, I found out that Rivers Solomon is an African American who is from the United States but currently resides in Cambridge, UK. This book is a "science fiction meditation on intergenerational trauma, race, and identity, where a woman traces the connection between the mysterious death of her ship’s sovereign and the disappearance of her mother a quarter-century earlier.”

Y’all this book is sho’ nuff captivating....

The setting of this book is on a ship and the people are divided by class with the darker people being at the bottom of the ship and treated quite badly, even beaten. The ship is taking people from a destroyed earth to a ‘promised land.’ Reading this book, I was reminded of the stories about slavery and periods after slavery where Black women were raped and impregnated by White men and suffered other atrocities. This is a slavery story, but with a science fiction spin... CLEVER!


I love how Rivers is retelling the story of slavery through the genre of science fiction... CLEVER! These stories matter, and must be told over and over again even through the genre of science fiction.

I appreciate you and this story Rivers Solomon! (What a great name: Rivers Solomon!)



I could go on and on about Jesmyn Ward and how she honors the stories of our Mississippi Brothers and Sisters in this book and in all of her books. Jesmyn honors stories that need to be told and told over and over again. Folks need to know about Parchman Farm which was a state penitentiary in Mississippi where many Black folks were killed, even children. This books caused me think about manhood, and drug abuse, and children, and love, and OUR stories.... They matter and must be told.

Jesmyn, I know that you make your people really proud!

Image result for image for electric arches

Electric Arches by Eve Ewing was "Well Read Black Girl" book selection for the month of September. I downloaded it and decided to start reading it on a flight to Boston. Well, it’s written in verse, and therefore, I read it two times on that plane ride. It is so Black and Beautiful until as soon as my plane landed, I rented a car, looked for a bookstore on google, and drove straight over there to get this book in book form. Yes, I needed this book in my hands and in my house.

There are pieces called “When I Talk About When I Talk about Black Jesus,” and “On Prince,” and “Ode to Luster’s Pink Oil.” Y’all, this girl honors and loves us with this writing, and I appreciate every single word of Blackness.

Eve Ewing, my sister, I appreciate you!

Image result for image for when i was the greatest by jason reynolds

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds honors and I mean really honors the stories of inner city folks. PERIOD. Their stories MATTER......

Jason does a great job of developing just about all the characters. However the four main characters are school age children: Needles who has Tourette syndrome, Noodle the brother of Needles who is angry, Ali the best friend to Noodle, and Ali’s little sister Jazz who I believe is between seven and ten. I fell in love with these kids. Children like the children in this book are in schools all across this country, and I wonder if they are being honored and respected in school or being treated as troubled kids and rendered invisible..... I want to sit down in a room with some educators and administrators and do case studies on students like: Needle, Noodles, Ali and Jazz. (Say their names; their names matter.)

As much as I love those kids, there is a man in the story with no legs who teaches the kids how to box, and y’all I have mad love for him. Now, most of us have been in the inner cities and have seen the men on the streets with no legs? I have seen them tons of times, but I think I was looking at them but not looking at them. After the way that Jason writes about this dude with such dignity, love, and respect, I will never, ever walk pass another man or woman with no legs, in a wheelchair, on the streets or anywhere for that matter, and not look him/her in the eyes and fully acknowledging him.

Jason, nothing but LOVE for you brother!

Now, I am not new to African American writers, I have been in book clubs sense I finished graduate school, that was a LONG time ago, where we exclusively read books by African Americans. So, my love and appreciate go WAY back....

However, Thanksgiving, is the perfect day to show a little gratitude for African American writers who have been holding it down for a long time: Jacqueline Woodson, J. California Cooper, bell hooks, Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Eric Jerome Dickey, Terry McMillan, Tina McElroy Ansa, Randall Robinson, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Gaines and soooo many more who have been courageously telling our stories... THEY MATTER!

Thankful, Thankful, Thankful........

What are y’all Thankful for today?



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