I Thought I Knew Her

I thought that I knew who Grief was. She and I have spent so much time with each other. I’ve been intimate with her cousin Death for over a decade now. I know how they look and sound. I know what they’re like when you love them right and I thought that I knew the levels of distruction that they were capable of.

But she’s been sneaky this last visit. I’m not sure I know her as well as I thought I did. I didn’t realize how many faces she has. I didn’t know how far she could reach or how loud her voice was. She’s become a bit of a leach and I wasn’t prepared for her wrapping herself around my people for so long. She seems stronger this time. I’m pretty sure she’s been doping in the offseason.

I’m serious when I tell you this bitch refuses to sleep. She just paces and waits… With this look on her face that I can’t quite figure out. I watch her walk the floors at night and I wonder what happened to her cousin in my absence… I’ve seen Death be so gentle. I’ve watched her lay down and like soft sand, caress the skin of those she loved. If we’re being honest, then yes I knew she had daddy issues. They both do. I’ve watched her be spiteful and vindictive and I’ve seen how quickly her anger can blanket a room. But since when did she start hating people that looked like me??  When did she start allowing herself to be used by people who hate me? When did these two get so mad?

I used to be able to explain my relationship to them to other people. It’s not like I was the only one who knew them. They could be A LOT to handle and you had to be crafty to manage them sometimes. They were exhausting and usually too chatty for me but some days, strangely enough,  I really loved them. I had learned a lot from those two. Our history has been complicated but something about them changed me and I actually liked who I became after getting to know them. 

In the old days, when they became too much, I could vent to my other friends about them and they understood. I’m not sure when that ended. But I can tell that things are different now. They act like these two are my problem. When I tell them that Death has become truly nuts and that Grief won’t stop following me around, they roll their eyes and tell me I’m exaggerating. When I tell them that I don’t think my people can handle much more of Death’s nasty attitude and that we’re thinking about burning down her house, they look at me like I’m crazy and tell me to calm down. I don’t get it. Why don’t they see what I see?

Yesterday was bad. Grief and Death have been on a bender and while Death was sleeping one off Grief went nuts and now everyone who looks like me is trying to figure out how to clean up her mess. Why won’t someone come get these two? We keep trying with them but enough is enough already. 

I thought that I knew who Grief was. But today feels different. I think Death went too far this time.

The Tug

As a Black woman this Civil Rights Movement, and all of its micro traumas, has become a tug of war on my soul.

People wonder why George Floyd? Why this time? Why this moment? When the truth is, it was simply the final straw. I don’t know of a Black person who is surprised by what some are so shocked by. I think people see the black and white images of our former Civil Rights Movement and convince themselves that it’s from a time long ago. It wasn’t. I’ll be 40 this August. Those are images of my uncles and aunts and cousins and as I watch the images in the news today it feels like tiny cuts each time a man is murdered who too closely resembles my own blood line.

I watch our White allies fight alongside, and for, my Black community and my heart soars! Hundreds of thousands of us marching in the pursuit of righteousness and I can almost see roads being paved for future generations who will never again have to walk this struggle. 

And then John and I pull into Morris Illinois, and I watch 2 pick up trucks box us in. I watch 2 cop cars pull up and talk to them first. And I see a white woman, emboldened by her own ignorant righteousness, and with her teenage daughter in the truck, point to our bus. My home. With 3 cops at my door, and Mrs. Pick Up recording on her phone, I was told that our bus had been reported as looking aggressive. I was told that we were reported as looking menacing. And I was asked when we were planning on leaving. 45 minutes later, the cops pulled off with our promise to pull out of our public parking spot in the morning. And then the pick up trucks peeled off one after the other honking their horn, yelling words I chose not to listen to. And in that moment, I’m reminded that everybody aint happy that Blacks are being heard.

With my ancestors stirring and dancing in my bones, I sign petition after petition and I can almost turn cartwheels when Tamla Hosford’s case is re-opened and Rayshard Brook’s killer is charged. And then I talk to my family and we can’t help but think back to the decades of cases where charges are lessened or dropped entirely and while officers collect pensions our community is left to mourn a lie. And we all mumur something like, “We’ll see…” and go about our day.

After Morris, John and I pulled into Paw Paw Michigan. Just days afterwards. We parked, I walked the dog, and the 3 white people watching me from their front porch started taking pictures. Not 5 minutes later, 4 white teenagers pulled along side us taking pictures of our bus. And right behind them 2 cop cars flashing lights and sirens. This time, the deputy wanted my first and last name. When I told him that I didn’t find it necessary to give my full name to a police officer for sitting outside of a public park at 2:00 in the afternoon (in my nicest “please don’t kill me” white girl voice) he called me Miss and told me to calm down. He wanted to know why I was there and this time, he didn’t give us until morning. He told me that “racial tensions are high here” and he told us to go. And we did. And those 3 white people kept watching and those 4 white teenagers laughed and took pictures of us driving away. 

A day later, I sobbed on a work call. I knew this country was racist. I’ve been dealing with some version of it as far back as my memory allows. But I had underestimated just how angry some become when we ask to live free. When we dare to demand equal treatment. I had underestimated how threatened they become by the sight of my skin. I sobbed and I told my team that I didn’t think I could do this anymore. Within 10 minutes, my boss and one of the founders of The Dinner Party, had texted me an address of a safe house. It was 20 minutes down the road from the rest stop we’d slept in. Within a half hour I was being hugged by 2 white women I’ve never met and told we were welcome to stay as long as we needed. We’ve shared meals and wine and gardening tips. We’ve shared stories and laughs and for the first time in weeks John and I slept without fear. We’ve been here for over a week and will be here until July. Mantra Magazine, having read my last post, and without being prompted sent cash via Venmo just in case we needed it and a promise to bail us out of jail in case my cop ass kissing ever fails.

The ACTION of my colleagues. The ACTION of a brand. The ACTION of these women here in these Michigan woods is what allows me to sit here and again feel my soul being tugged towards joy.

They understood, and understand, that this moment requires a sense of urgency. We didn’t need a text, or a phone call or a fist emoji. We needed help. And we needed it immediately. There is immense happiness to be felt when we see progress being made but don’t let it distract you from the fact that our happiness incites a level of hatred many of us can’t fathom. 

This fight is exhausting. Each day is begging something new out of all of us. If you’re like me and feeling the tug? Let go… let it pull you… There is a place for our anger and our sadness and our fear. But there is also enormous room for gratitude and hope. And there is a brief moment in the middle where someone will spring into ACTION and remind you that there is such beauty in our collective humanity when we try. And you’ll be ready to pick up the rope and begin again…

Just keep going.

Please feel free to comment below. I welcome all good energy!

WICKED

Up until a VERY embarrassing, but hilarious, audition for The Lion King in my 20’s I was convinced I was going to be a Broadway star. I started singing in Church around 5 years old, and spent most of my life in performing arts schools around NYC. I’ve long given up that dream, and I only sing at home now,  but to this day WICKED is one of my favorite musicals.

“Wicked” was translated from page to stage through Gregory Maguire’s novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, and takes place some years before that tornado brought Dorothy from Kansas to the great Land of Oz.

Doctor Dillamond is an animal professor who tragically faces discrimination at the school. He finds friendship in Elphaba, who wants to help him fight against those trying to oppress him. 

Doctor Dillamond, Elphaba and Galinda go to visit the almighty Wizard of Oz, with the hopes he’ll put a stop to the intolerance. After a tragic mishap and a spell gone wrong, the Wizard frames Elphaba as a ‘wicked’ witch, and Galinda is cast as the epitome of goodness.

WICKED is about a lot but it’s also the backstory of how we come to believe Glinda to be the good witch and her sister to be wicked and deserving of her fate. The backstory to why there was so much rage that a town was ravaged. It’s the explanation as to how the wizard allowed his lies to turn the world on Elphaba so he would never have to be held responsible for his mistakes.

2020 is the year of pulling back the curtain. Some of you are very sad about what’s happening in our own version of Oz but I’m wondering why some of you aren’t ANGRIER  that the wizards thought you cruel enough to never question their motives? Why aren’t you irate that they took bets that you would be too busy profiting from your privledge to wonder why it existed in the first place? They assume that your drive to be seen as the symbol of goodness will  prevent you from ever truly defending your sisters.

Be sad but get angry! Use it to fuel your fight. Prove to them that you are on to them and MAKE THEM HEAR YOU!

I love men but it’s women who bring about change! It has always taken the bravery and courage of a woman to make a man listen. 

10 years from now, we will still be talking about this. People will ask you what you did and where you stood. Decide now if you want to tell them you were busy being Glinda. Or do you want to hear your future self proclaim that she stood up for her sisters and helped to dismantle OZ? What version of you do you want to face?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. Maya Angelou