Liberal Elitist Privilege and Black Lives

I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield has been listed as one of the most diverse communities in the country. The community health center, where I used to do youth work, has the ability to translate in over 200 dialects. That is incredible. The trajectory for this diversity began after the unrest between Italians and newly arrived Puerto Ricans in the 70s, neighborhoods slowly became more racially mixed as these groups reconciled and began to live side by side. Spfld is a community full of activist and the children of seasoned civil rights warriors. Sure there is economic disparity and my hometown has been in a deep recession, yet the spirit of folks is rich and active.

Northampton_MassachusettsIn the early 90s my mother and I (with 2 year old Julian) moved up to Northampton, a college town in the “5 Colleges” area. We would go up there at least a few times a month and it’s progressive facade was always attractive to us. We gave it a good try.

Now, ya’ll know my mom is White. She raised two mixed daughters and speaking for myself, my Blackness was always something my mother nourished. I am grateful for that as a Black identified woman, who is aware of her skin color privilege as a light skinned blue eyed woman.

One day, as we walked down Main St in the other #NoHo, with it’s first Lesbian Mayor in the country, with the highest concentration of Lesbian’s in the country at that time, we noticed a disturbing reality. We’ve always had a critical eye on our community and this day something poked us in the eye.

Where were all the brown folks that we knew lived in Northampton? My mother worked for a housing organization for most of her career and we knew the demographics well. We went from store to store as we enjoyed our day and did not see brown faces working at those stores. How had we never noticed this missing population in our 1000+ previous visits to town?

In our observation, the only brown face in a retail establishment in town was the caramel colored twenty-something daughter of two Smith college professors who were part owners of a local progressive bookstore. She was at the counter that day.

As we drove back down the road to our rented house, we did see brown faces. They were glaringly present at each and every fast food drive-through along the main retail strip.

I spoke about this in my Latina Writers Honors class in college and a White woman got so offended that it blew up into an incident I have written about before (see All of the Above post). What did not make it past the editor at (1)ne Drop was the moment when she asked where the White cultural society was on campus and I retorted…’it’s there, it’s called the KKK”.

This time in my life, my early 20s, was a time when my racial identity became even more important to me and I began leading with it more loudly than ever before.

The revelation that a liberal haven of White middle to upper class lesbians was an unwelcome place for brown folks to be part of the mainstream culture carries forward to the whole #BLM vs #Berniesupporters controversy. This article speaks about it in very clear and reasoned terms.

When the Seattle action happened my reaction was that the tactic was a bit immature. I still feel that they could have handled themselves differently and still made a significant impact. I also have a frustration that folks had not noticed, before Seattle, that Senator Sanders had already begun to publicly address issues of racial justice and had read the names of Black women being killed as a result of police interaction, at his rallies.

My mother, Eileen, and her Holyoke Springfield for Bernie(they convene in Northampton) campaign team partners attended a Bernie rally in New Hampshire almost two weeks ago and I was very pleased to hear that he had done this. One of the men my mother is on a team with is a guy I know well from back home. This small world has brought them together by ‘coincidence’ to work on this campaign for the people. Maurice is in no uncertain terms a black revolutionary at his core.

Moe posted this video today:

Moe’s own personal views, as a Black man, on Bernie? “Bernie is the bomb”. I agree with Moe. I support Bernie. I support my mom’s activism for Bernie. I support Moe. Note: Mom has a critical eye on Bernie and his fellow activist. Don’t get that twisted, as they say. Yet he is excited by Bernie’s impact on political discourse and it’s promise for the community.

When I spoke and said that I think those young #blacklivesmatter activists were a bit immature, I meant specifically that. My immediate words were ‘why the one civil/human rights activist’. If ya’ll thought I literally did not understand why…you are not paying attention. I think it was effective in the end in getting Bernie to publicly show his actual strategy, but he didn’t create one because of them. It already existed. That seems to be getting missed in all of the kurfuffle.

Yet and still, White progressives are not automatically aware of their own privilege just because they are liberal leaning. White progressives who care about economic justice issues don’t all care about people of color and their struggles. My hope and wish is that whatever the tactics used, that this incident helps more White folks see themselves, hold others accountable and grows the pool of true honest allies working for justice for all.

Note: my mother is part of Holyoke Springfield for Bernie. The group meets in Northampton. A very diverse grass-roots crew that is doing some fantastic organizing. I am proud of my mom. I am on my way to Massachusetts and I look forward to meeting all of them. May Spirit bless and guide them. Way to go Northampton. I have hope for progress.

All of the Above

Originally posted at: thanks to the work of Prof Yaba Blay

I am a whole person, not just that half that makes you comfortable.
In college, I was one of three women co-coordinators of the African American Cultural Society. The other two women both had two black parents, yet there was NO line between us. We did good works and had a fantastic time. I never heard any whispers about why I was in that position.
One day, a German/Irish woman in my Honors Latina Writers class told me that by calling myself “multiracial,” I was a traitor to my white parent. She asked me if it bothered my mother that I identified as “multiracial” as it seemed like I was betraying my white heritage to do so. She told me that the fact that I was coordinator of the African American student group showed I hated my whiteness.
She said: “You have blue eyes. You look white to me and everyone else. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if you would just stop feeling the need to tell everyone you are mixed and just pass? It seems selfish.”
What stuck with me from the whole discussion was the plea for me to “just pass”.
I have never, would never and will never pass. In fact, at first meeting me, if you talk to me for long I will tell you my heritage. I do so to preempt some of the judgment people put on me. My blackness shows through the blue eyes, from deep inside.
That experience in college was not the first, nor the last time I was either told to pass or told I was lying about having a Black father. Since I grew up living with my Irish mother, people assumed I was white, so some kids were cruel to me when I inevitably told them about my father. They called me “zebra” or “oreo”. I never thought for one second about keeping my father’s race to myself. My mother encouraged me to be myself 100% of the time in all aspects of life whether racially, spiritually or otherwise. I credit her with teaching me to explore and fully express my ethnic heritage.
My whole life my mother went out of her way to immerse me in diverse environments so that I grew up a well-rounded person. The effect of this was that I gravitated toward my Blackness almost like a magnet. I still feel most strongly identified with my Blackness. It informs how I experience the world. It has made me an activist, it has made me an advocate for people of color, it has made me a strong, confident woman with deep roots in the community. I have primarily ended up in jobs where I work in communities of color. Did I seek this out or did it find me? Good question.
Truthfully, the bigger issue for me has been finding ways to participate in my white heritage. One would think that a blue-eyed girl like me would just fit right in at an Irish cultural event, but I always feel like a bit of an outsider. I know that this experience is coming from inside of me and not some blinking sign that says “mixed chick” above my head. This is something I have to step back and look at for myself, as my blue eyes and light skin afford me a good deal of “privilege” and this is something which I have always been acutely aware of.
As for the Powhatan slice of the pie…well, that is a bit more ambiguous. Due to the fact that the Powhatan Nation was systematically slaughtered and dispersed, it has been a journey for me to find bits and pieces of Powhatan culture to fold into the mix. Indigenous culture has become an integral part of who I am ever since I was exposed to the sacred Indigenous ceremony of Sweat Lodge. I am now a Board Member of an Indigenous Women’s organization called the Morningstar Foundation and part of the volunteer web team of One Spirit an organization that does work with the Lakota Sioux Nation.
With all of the rich cultural experiences I have had in my life, the idea that I would “pass” for white because of my blue eyes and skin color tears at my inner fabric. How do I choose one category to define me? I am a patchwork quilt of all of the above and the only reason for passing would be to make others comfortable. What’s most important is that I am comfortable with all of me.

When it comes to your body, mind and spirit take care…

It only seems logical for a nutritionist to eat healthy and be in relative good fitness, a life coach to be old enough to have lived a bit of life and not be divorced 4 times and be an active addict. Right? It is only ethical for a person who runs sweat lodges to have Indigenous elders who passed on the wisdom in a traditional way? Right?
So, with the 1000s of folks in CA doing tantric teaching/counseling, why would one want to turn their core energy and sexuality over to a person who went to a few week-long Tantric workshops and now calls themself a teacher or counselor?
My point is when it comes to your body, mind and spirit take care when you place them in the hands of people who went to a few workshops, got a certificate or access to a sacred location and now offer their “services” to the people. They are not all well-trained. They are not all safe. They are not all ethical.
I will have to do a long blog post about this one day, but people have been spiritually injured, their health has been compromised and their mental state has become fragile from working with(and paying) these so-called “teachers”. Women have also been raped by some of the “fake gurus” who do this work. Heck, some female “teachers” have taken advantage of men too!
I wish I could do workshops in LA about how to spot a self-help poser. *sigh* Why wouldn’t I? Because I am just a woman with an opinion, not an expert. The work I do is based in professional experience and 15+ years of hands on work and learning. I would not take money to write grants if I had just taken a weekend class. I would not take money to build websites unless I had been doing so for many years, and I do not offer to build sites outside my skill set. I would NEVER do women’s work with teens unless it had been my profession for 17yrs.
It sicken and angers me when I see person after person launching their own self-help offerings with little or no training and very little experience. It scares me more than anything, really. It’s so dangerous people. We only get gifted with one mind. We only get gifted with one soul/spirit. We only get gifted with one heart. We only get gifted with one body. These things are precious.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some sweet and generous folks who are well meaning and wish to share what they have learned in classes, workshops, etc. Some do not mean harm, but that does not mean no harm will be done.

Slim and out of shape?

Slim and Out of Shape

I am pretty slim. Some have even called me skinny, but compared to Twiggy and Kate Moss I am curvy. I have gotten away from exercising lately due to starting my own business. I am however, quite out of shape. The contestants on The Biggest Loser could out do me easily. They are in amazing condition. I need to schedule workouts into my work day, since I work from my home office.

In the past, I have bought a few exercise DVDs but they have been gathering dust on the shelf. I finally pulled one out to try it out and I am hooked! The Acacia company has put out several exercise DVDs which are dance based. Dance is one of the best ways I know to get in shape quickly and have fun at the same time.

Dance and Be Fit: Brazilian Body

The DVD descriptionWhen exercise is fun, you’re more likely to do it, and what’s more fun than dancing? Burn fat and calories, melt unwanted pounds, reduce stress, and tone your whole body with this enjoyable workout. Kimberly Miguel Mullen uses elements of Brazil’s steamy, heart-pounding dances—Samba Reggae, Maculelê, Capoeira—to target trouble spots while burning fat and calories. Set to authentic, pulsating Brazilian music, it’s a hip-swinging, body-slimming good time. 48 min. on 1 DVD.
Having taken Capoeira previously, I am doing the 6 minute warm-up, the Capoeira section and the Samba de Roda bonus feature. That is 24 minutes of sweat breaking enjoyment. It really is fun. Whatever your personal style, I highly recommend a dance based exercise regimen. It got my slim lazy but up and moving around the living room like a wild woman.

Short Post Monday

Many bloggers have feature days each month. I think my feature for the 2011 Blogathon will be “Short Post Mondays”. My posts average about 800 words. That’s a lot to write each day. So, welcome to Short Post Mondays.
Friend or Foe?
Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about whether it is easier or more challenging to work for friends.
The man who I was speaking to is a dear friend and I am consulting with him to help create his WordPress blog, which will end up being a lynch pin is his business. Our professional dealing are going very well and the friendship allows for humor and forgiveness when one of us forgets a detail. My friendships are usually based on a good flow of communication and a good portion of mutual respect. I have worked for several friends over the years and it has been a positive experience about 95% of the time.

This particular friend said that he believes that when one hires a friend to do work it can be touchy because if that person does not deliver you feel empathy towards them and may not be as demanding as you would with a stranger. I think this is true, for the most part. But, I am a bit unique in that I want the truth from people. If things are not working out it is of no use to either party to drag it out, friend or not. I think the friendship, if strong, can help individuals navigate professional challenges in a much more constructive way.
Where I have run into problems is a) doing work for a family member of a friend.  If it goes sour it can be challenging for your friendship is say, that person does not pay you. b) doing work for folks who have a track record of having people “fall off” a project. If you end up working for someone who seems to have a lot of folks who commit to a job and then suddenly quit, this can be a red flag.
As an independent consultant, no matter the client, friend or stranger, it is most important to be flexible, honest, clear in all communications and get things in writing.  These basic tenants help create a mutually respectful and beneficial professional relationship.

Things My Mother Taught Me

Mothers and Daughters
The relationship between mothers and daughters can be a difficult one. When I talk to friends and acquaintances about our mothers I am often reminded about how blessed I am to have the special relationship I have with my mother, Eileen. On this Mother’s Day 2011 I want to state this plainly.
Now, I am not saying it has always been butterflies and unicorns. We went through the classic difficult pre-teen and teen years. I am a Cancer, so I was quite the emotional young woman and my mom, the Capricorn, had little tolerance for it. But, as I became and adult and she regained her independence from daily child rearing, our friendship as women has blossomed into something that I find daily reasons to be grateful for.
Meet Eileen
I would like to introduce you to my mother, Eileen Wilkinson. My mother is 6-ish. She is a Capricorn, born Jan. 14. Eileen graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in English.
An activist in the 60s and 70s, my mother has always been an inspiration to me when it comes to being aware of how I can contribute to the community locally and globally. A few of the things she has done:

  • VISTA volunteer for a community health center project which, after being shut down by Reagan’s “no more community health centers” politics, I became a Board Member of as a VISTA Volunteer myself ,25 yrs. later. It ended up being the defining moment of my professional life leading me into non-profit work.
  • Executive at Women in Construction, a one hundred percent women run and staffed construction company in Northampton Massachusetts. I went to the office withEileen Wilkinson her quite a bit and recall her interactions with the other women. Respectful kindness without the competition women are always caused of. This was the foundation for my work with Girl’s Inc., The Morningstar Foundation and other women’s organizations.
  • Survived Lymphatic cancer. When she was diagnosed with cancer in a lymph node, she was understandably scared yet brave. I knew my mother, the woman whom I had watched overcome so much, would be OK. She underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. She did not lose any hair and 7(8?) years later she is still cancer free.

Things My Mother Taught Me
My mother has taught me to seek my personal spiritual path, give my whole heart to my work in the community(which is my calling), always look to enrich myself and expand my learning, survive chaos and struggle with calm surrender, constantly examine my impact on others and the world, learn from and make amends for my own mistakes, forgive others fully and love unconditionally.
My Message to Mom
Mom, I feel blessed to have been carried in your womb. I feel blessed to have been raised by such a strong and compassionate woman. I feel blessed to have developed the friendship that we have. I feel blessed to still be able to call you when I need guidance and support.  I wish this kind of mother daughter relationship on others. The world would be a better place for it.
I love you.

America's Next Great Restaurant: Soul Daddy's

We watch a bit too much television. Soon, we will take a TV fast, but for now we really enjoy cooking type reality shows. We watch Hells Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and enjoyed this season’s new addition, America’s Next Great Restaurant. It was typical cooking contest fair.  If you are interested in the show itself, feel free to go to the website and see how the season unfolded. I am not going to go into the whole thing. I just want to tell you about my experience at the winning restaurant, Soul Daddy’s Los Angeles location.
The TFH (testosterone filled human) and I did not see the finale. I had no idea who had won. We didn’t even have a real clear favorite, although we thought the three finalists seemed like nice people who deserved a shot.
On Tuesday May 3rd I had to hop on the Metro Red Line from North Hollywood Station to Hollywood and Highland to meet with a computer client. After I met my client I decided I would look for an ATM so I could get a cream puff at Beard Papa’s, which has the best cream puff’s I have ever eaten.  I wandered about the huge Hollywood and Highland complex, overwhelmed by the 100s of tourists and all the high end shops. I never did find an ATM, but found myself drawn up to the 3rd level as if I was being pulled along by a string attached to my waist. It was very odd, but as I came upon the 3rd floor landing I not only saw a gorgeous wooden front to the restaurant but I saw this tall, muscular, attractive black man standing right there in front with his apron and a smile. Continue reading “America's Next Great Restaurant: Soul Daddy's”

Menopause Redux Part II

Continued from earlier.
Suicidal thoughts? But I’m happy…
In the first couple of years of Peri(or pre) menopause, I did not notice much difference in my body, mood or my moon phase. I went along living as if nothing was brewing inside. Then one day in 2007, I suddenly started feeling extreme anger, sadness and I was even haunted by suicidal thoughts. The last time I even had a thought of ending my life was a very brief period of postpardum depression after the birth of my son.
As a result I thought I might be losing my mind. I truly thought I was becoming clinically ill. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself, only hinting at it to my partner. I was still grounded enough to realize I had to reach out and get some help somewhere. But, where could I get non clinical help and advice? Well, from other women going through the “change” silly. I really did feel silly for not doing this sooner.
My sanity and some help!
I started a detailed online research project to find my way back to sane. It did not take me long to stumble across an herbalist and women’s advocate by the name of Susan Weed.

...encompasses herbal medicine, ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, psychology of healing, ecoherbalism, nutrition, and women’s health issues and her venues include medical schools, hospital wellness centers, breast cancer centers, midwifery schools, naturopathic colleges…

I posted in the  Susan Weed Forums, telling my story and asking if I was losing my mind and if I would ever get it back. Several wonderful and supportive women answered my questions with such care and gentle guidance. I felt safe again.
One of the most important things that came from that forum discussion was the encouragement to buy Susan Weed’s book  “New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way: Alternative Approaches for Women 30-90. This $13 book ($17 at her site) is, in my opinion, the encyclopedia for women going through the change of life. Susan discusses the entire spectrum of treatments from yoga to hysterectomy. Not only does she give you a primer on how menopause works in our bodies, but she structures each chapter by symptom and a hierarchy of healing, so each individual woman can find a place on the spectrum where they wish to start and stop the process so it suits their own situation:
Step 0: Do nothing
Step 1: Collect information
Step 2: Engage energy
Step 3: Stimulate/Sedate
Step 4: Nourish and tonify
Step 5a: Use supplements
Step 5b: Use drugs
Step 6: Break and enter
Susan is a Goddess worshipper. As a woman with my feet resting firmly on the Red Road, our Mother Earth is my foundation so this resonates with me. The strength that this approach offers us as woman is the ability to see menopause, not as an attack on who we are as women, but as a celebration of the sacred phases of our lives.
Armed with this new knowledge and supporting way of merging the physical and the spiritual in a pragmatic and concrete way, I have been able to navigate this new road in a much more healthy and balanced manner.
“Flushes, Flashes and Chills”
After 5.5 years on this new path, I am now transitioning into reading the chapter “Flushes, Flashes and Chills”. About 2 weeks ago I was standing in my livingroom on a day when it was only 70* outside. I was wearing shorts and a tank top. In one moment I went from comfortable to feeling as if someone had set my skin on fire. The fire came from deep inside my muscles. This hot flash, my friends, is just a small taste of what I have to look forward to.
What else do I have to look forward to? With this phase of life comes greater wisdom and centeredness. Hopefully, if I can stay on the path of managing the symptoms with food and herbs I will continue to enjoy a rich and fulfilled mid-life. If you do choose to gift yourself with this wonderful book, I hope it can do the same for you.
Thank you for letting me share this with you all. I hope I can continue to learn from the collective wisdom of my fellow female bloggers out there.