By-Products of Segregation, Integration and Pasteurization

My mother & I hang out by the pool.

My mother and I just returned from a ten-day journey together. If you’re an introvert pretending to be an extrovert like me, you can understand the sheer horror in spending ten days with anyone other than the one who shares your fingerprint profile.

The issue of race came up quite often during our conversation. She wants me to recognize that she is a product of segregation. I want her to recognize that I am a product of integration. Our personal experiences provide two very different points of view. She is frustrated. I am silent. We agree to disagree on most things related to race and the perception thereof.

Our travels took me to Texas. Abilene. ACU, where I was scheduled to attend a week of classes as part of a distance learning program. Our travels took my mother back to the school that grudgingly admitted her, one she left after a grueling and oppressive semester.

It’s kinda poetic. The unfulfilled prophecy of the militant, black, coed is fulfilled through her biracial daughter.

The story reads like a script.

But this is not the same Abilene Christian University. My favorite professor is half of an interracial marriage and we converse about diversity, multiculturalism and biraciality. My mother’s dear friend, another professor is an advocate of equity and inclusion and we converse about my role as a minority woman making moves in higher education. There are signs of progression all around and I am comfortable here, as comfortable as I am at my alma mater, a historically black university; maybe even more so.

This feeling saddens and confuses me because questions of my professional purpose rise and fall like turbulence over the southeast.

When we return home, exhausted and dehydrated from over a week of 100 degree weather, I reach for the pitcher of cold water on the second shelf and accidentally knock the gallon onto the floor. Standing in the sea of milk, I crack and the emotion of the week, what I have learned and where I go from here overwhelms me. By the time I have dried the mess, my eyes are also dry and the empty jug in the recycling bin catches my attention.

June 22, 2011.

Sitting on the stairs at Jacob's Dream

There is no sense in crying over spilled milk, especially when it was sour.

I’ve got some sour milk in my life. There are circumstances and situations that have long since expired. There are also a few expiration dates that are approaching. Like July 15, 2011, on which my 32nd year of life will expire. Some dates are not as exact but the time has passed for me to pour some things out.

I’m not crying over spilled milk. In fact, I’m looking through the refrigerator to see what else needs to be tossed. Then I’m gonna clean out the refrigerator and make room for some new, fresh, wholesome goodies. Please don’t mistaken this as a profession of “dieting”, it’s a metaphor for my life, specifically…my career.

Sometimes our milk is the circumstances of our past and the experiences in our history, and they too need to be spilled because they spoil the circumstances of our future and the experiences of our present.

By the end of our adventure, a crazy hotel manager, a flat tire and misread paperwork united us in our frustration over the spilled milk but the joy in “swimming” together for the first time, finding that special bargain and landing at home safely allowed us to keep from being soured by our ordeals.

Cup A Joe

Photo by JElite Photography

I’ve waited months to write this article. Since the conception of this space to share my expertise on my own ideas, I have prepared for this post. I always imagined calling it Happy Mother’s Day, but it is not Mother’s Day. It is Father’s Day and I have but one thing to say to that…

I am not a father!

I appreciate the text messages, telephone calls, Facebook tags and the like wishing me well over the years with “for the single moms holding it down and playing both roles, Happy Daddy’s Day.” I understand the thought behind your sentiment but there is a fallacy in your expression…

I ain’t no damn daddy!

I am a mother. I am a woman. I am a lady (why can’t you say that without a Shanaynay accent). My sons have a father. I do not now, nor have I ever been a father and unfortunately for the two little boys under my care, as great as I am, I cannot fake that. I know what it means to nurture a living being in my womb. I know what it sounds like to hear that first cry. I know how it feels to nourish an infant with my bosom (and FYI, no matter what they say about how good it is for the baby-it hurts like hell).

I am a mother.

Mother & son-ballin' by JElite Photography

I don’t know how to teach sons to grow into men. I cannot fathom the spirit of brotherhood. I have no idea what it means to be the paternal member of the household. I misrepresent concepts like hollerin’ at girls, developing swagga, marking territory, pissing standing up or hocking up phlegm. Sorry to burst your bubbles out there but I have my limitations-fatherhood happens to be one of them.

I know there are many women who profess to be momma and daddy, but I am not disillusioned. I completely comprehend the concept behind the differences behind males and females, and there are significant differences beyond the physical. I get that you are holding things down in the absence of your child’s father, but you are holding it down as a mother, don’t get it twisted. You are a single parent, specifically, of the maternal order. You are not a father, please stop pretending to be both and stop discounting the need for male (real male) role models in the lives of our children.

I’m thankful for what keeps me going, and it’s not just my cup a joe, it’s also my cup a joe. My daddy, Joe, gets that I am a mom, a real mom, a girly mom, a take-a-book-into-a-NBA-game-and-look-up-once-to-ask-did-we-get-a-touchdown-kinda-mom, and he acknowledges that my sons need regular influences, fatherly influences. He steps in without request and handles the paternal roles placing us in an informal co-parenting relationship. 

My dad, always the character...

I love that my sons can call Joe and ask “why does one testicle hang lower than the other?” and sit locked in the bathroom, as if security locks out sound so I cannot hear the answers. I love that they can send him a secret text after one of my “Michelle Obama dinners” that is followed up with a rib dinner delivery as they sit in front of a game or WWE exhibition and pig out on meat with a side of meat and wash that down with a cup of sauce. Sure these are questions I could answer, things I could do, but I am not a father and I just don’t get it.

Tomorrow while I’m boarding an early flight with what is sure to be my second cup a joe in hand, my boys will be basking in the beginning of their ten-day stay with their cup a joe and for that I am happy.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there…

…and to all the mothers out there holding it down as a single parent, have a great day.

Ooo Ooo Ooo Ooo Ooooo I Got A Mulattotude

Dress by Fab'rik. Photo by JElite Photography

I am not a fan of Miss Patti Labelle. Staring at your computer screen with big, bugged out eyes will not change that fact. I’ll wait while you get yourself together from the shock of my revelation. It’s true. I’m not. I find nothing pleasurable in all of the hooping and hollering, rolling around on the ground screaming and screeching like you aint got an ounce of sense.

She gets on my nerves.

But…there’s something about New Attitude that’s got my hips swinging and lips singing here lately. “Ooo Ooo Ooo Ooo Ooooo I got a mulattotude!” That’s right! I got a new attitude and it’s all because of my mulattotude. Have you ever experienced the freedom the comes in finding yourself, your sanity, your purpose, your authenticity? I am there.

My new attitude needed a new look.

  1. In search of fresh wardrobing, singular not plural because I ain’t quite got it like that, I happened upon Fab’rik of Raleigh where Kelsey was phenomenal in finding the perfect reflection of my colorful personality.
  2. On to hair and make up with Flawless Faces of Alnita of the Tim Johnson Salon because runway diva extraordinaire and BFF, Tekora Scruggs insisted that she was

    Make up by Flawless Faces by Alnita, Photography by J.Elite

    the go-to artist for print designs. She is a facial genius!

  3. Finally, I made my way to my professional photo shoot with Jamal and Carmela of J.Elite Photography. I was prepared to be impressed, but not amazed. They were so good that I scheduled a non-traditional family photo shoot a week later.

Kelsey, Alnita, Jamal and Carmela turned this pumpkin into a crystal carriage and when midnight struck, I was still glowing from my new look and new attitude. If you’re considering making a memory, putting your best face forward or dressing to impress, let my supreme team make you over and tell ’em a very happy customer sent ya!

Plum Crazy at Plum Crazy

I have a very dear friend who turned 50 this week. I will pause for the round of applause you are sure to give; or the sigh, depending on your own chronological status. On my way to his “Big Fat Greek 5oth Birthday Party” I decided to stop for a card. But not just any card, a man of such culture, such flavor, such colorful character needed a card from the African-American collection.

I went to Walmart in the heart of Southeast Raleigh. I often refer to this particular Wally World as Plum Crazy in homage to the deceased club because on any given visit you may see two to three patrons of the former establishment (only now they appear to be responsible adults with kids in tow, sober and well robed-present company included). This specific location sits on New Bern Avenue, which I’ve previously noted for having four fried chicken joints and runs parallel to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Surely I can get my brother from another mother a card from the Black experience here!

Words cannot even express my disappointment with what I found. Actually, words probably can, but I’m not privy to what that word is right now.

18. Eighteen. Diez y ocho. Do you understand me? There were 18 cards in the ‘Ebony’ section. 18. And four had no mention of being ebony, no picture of an ebony man or woman, no African insignia, no nothing! And yeah….I meant that damn double negative. EIGHTEEN!

I was stunned, mesmerized,  as I began counting the other, mainstream cards in the Walmart that sits on New Bern Avenue, parallel to MLK Jr. Blvd.,  in Southeast Raleigh. I stopped at seventy-nine. I watched sister after sister pick up a card for her husband or father in honor of Father’s Day, jaw dropped.

Furthermore, there was no availability for the Spanish-speaking community who also populate this community. Where are their cards? Can they get a card that doesn’t have a white man on the front? Can their little girls give their daddies a card where the model looks like him?

I searched for the manager, knowing I was already late for Ken’s birthday party but too militant to let this moment pass and after minutes of no luck I decided to mention my frustration to the sales girl at the check out.

“Really, you should tell somebody.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I ain’t nobody. You should call Walmart.”

“We’re in Walmart.”

“Naw, like the real Walmart.”

“Where exactly is the real Walmart?”

I went on with her for a few minutes, half amused, half ashamed, completely annoyed but our banter calmed my demeanor and allowed me to move on. I took my card, which ended up reading like we were lovers more than friends and my duct tape, because every man over 50 needs duct tape in excess and made my way to the comfort of friends who feel like family and understand the need of African-American cards in the Walmart on New Bern Avenue in 27610, even if they may never need to buy one.

And when I’m done writing this post…I’m gonna write the real Walmart a letter about the fake one!

A Warrior Of Black and White

Black and white. Adopted. Food enthusiast. Could Po and I have more in common? Oh yeah-martial arts! It was recently brought to my attention that I have failed to mention that I am a first degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial art that intertwines physical techniques with mental and spiritual development. I have been out of practice for some years, but don’t get it twisted-I still got it! 

He is the panda reflection of myself, a warrior of black and white.

One element of the first movie was how there was no mention of how a panda came to be the son of a swan goose. I appreciated the mystery that surrounded that story and the inevitable truth behind it. I recall infinite moments under the questioning glare of one who has just come to the realization that those really are my parents, both of them. “Did one of your parents remarry?” To which I would answer in the negative, undoubtedly leaving the investigator questioning my mother’s fidelity.

In Kung Fu Panda 2, the mystery is solved when Po and Mr. Ping have a conversation 30 years in the making and it is revealed that Po is adopted. Gasp! I remember having this conversation with my own parents. “Mommy, was I adopted?” To which she responded, “Go ask your daddy.” I was about a tenth of Po’s age and I had just watched a Lifetime movie about adoption. I would encourage every parent looking to have “the talk” with their child to watch this film with them. Sometimes, a movie or a book can explain ideas in a way that our poor, uncreative and emotionally clouded minds cannot. My father (and mother) did have that initially uncomfortable conversation with me and I am appreciative of their honesty. I cannot imagine having found out as an adult that such an important piece of my history was neglected. It’s tantamount to lectures on cotton picking negating slavery, or textbooks dismissing the Native American experience in US history courses.

SN: Isn’t it interesting how the talk can vary from family to family. To most that refers to the birds and the bees, to some a conversation about some hereditary disease, and yet to others a deep, dark family secret about how your great-great-great grandfather was Jack the Ripper!

Armed with this new information, Po sets out to find from where he came. It is as important for people to know from where they came as it is to know where they are and where they are headed; however, how your life begins does not dictate your present nor your future (as frequently told in the animated feature). When I set sail, via the internet not the sea, to unearth my parentage I just needed information. Being adopted is like having a puzzle completed and missing one little piece that you can’t find anywhere; you search under the bed, between the sofa cushions, you even try ordering it online but it cannot be found. You can go on living a successful and happy life without the completed picture, but it’s freaking annoying! I was extremely blessed in my search, unlike our Dragon Warrior. I connected with my biological mother and father, a step-mother, a step-father, two grandmothers, a grandfather, four sisters, four brothers, four nieces, three nephews, two brothers-in-law and one neph-dog (these in addition to the three brothers, three nieces, four nephews and one sister-in-law I already owned).

I won’t spoil anymore of the film for those who may be intrigued by the story line and I encourage everyone, adopted or not, to go. There are concepts of identity, acceptance and loyalty that supersede animation and 3D glasses and convey as plain ol’ truth. I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m dusting off the old nunchucks…”Kiyahhhhh!”