Since this revolution ain't funded, I can't let being a Superstar drive my work. I write to survive...to maintain my existence.

Monday
Mar122012

Some Girl Scouts 'Bleed Green', I Simply Bleed 'Girl'  

In celebration of Girl Scout’s 100th birthday today, I am posting an excerpt from my photo essay entitled “On My Honor I Will Try…: An Open Correspondence to the Girl Scouts of the USA on Challenging Institutional Racism and Engaging Women and Girls of Color”.

 

The Girl Scout organization was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low. Low believed that girls needed a nurturing space to learn about themselves and their communities in order to be productive citizens in the world. It was her goal to defy what she considered outdated perceptions of womanhood. She approved of girls advancing themselves through traditional skills as well as nontraditional activity, such as playing sports and dressing “comfortably” in order to do so. It would be hard to find a woman today who would disagree with Low’s aspirations for the women and girls or for her organization.

Although it seemed that Low was very much ahead of her time in terms of girls’ education through this organization, she said "I realize that each year it has changed and grown until I know that, a decade from now, what I might say of it would seem like an echo of what has been instead of what is."[1] Movement is defined by Webster’s dictionary as: a series of organized activities working toward an objective; alsoan organized effort to promote or attain an end.  Juliette Low realized then that Girl Scouting needed to change in order to remain relevant for its members, girls. It was a true acceptance of the movement; and an act of letting go of it to meet an objective.

The objective maintains to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. The forward to the first ever Girl Scout Handbook[2] tells us:

If character training and learning citizenship are necessary for boys, how much more important it is that these principals should be instilled into the minds of girls who are destined to be the mothers and the guides of the next generation. An attractive and practical form of active educational pastime is needed and for this purpose the Girl Scouts are organized.

Although the vernacular has changed over the last ninety-eight years, the essence of the mission remains the same. It is the reason, I believe, an organization such as this one has managed to remain in existence for so long. The mission, not the history, remains relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The dilemma that we are up against however, is an internal battle over tradition versus mission. Traditionalist Girl Scouting invests in a maintenance of the history and tradition of this organization, while there exists  another sector of Girl Scouting that upholds the investment  in the mission, invests in girls above all else. History is important; but it does not dictate the objective. Without history the organization would not be the prominent figure that is in mainstream American culture. Without history we would not know how and why the movement exists, but to lose perspective in the name of history would be counterproductive and has proven to be quite dangerous.

Juliette Low was the daughter of William Washington Gordon II, a Confederate Captain in the American Civil War. Her husband, William Mackey Low was the son of a wealthy cotton merchant in Savannah and England.  Juliette Low had the means and notoriety to build this organization because of her prominent family name and money. She possessed those means in a time when blacks had slim access to similar opportunities.  Racial inequality and white supremacy also served as a catalyst for the attainments of Juliette Low’s family, as it did for many whites throughout American history.

Girl Scouts of the USA maintains the broad reality that Juliette Low wanted Girl Scouting to be for all girls, even from its conception. The full history of girls of color in the organization however, has not been proactively maintained. Dates, records, and photographs establishing Blacks’ beginning in the organization are minimal. It is stated, by GSUSA that the first African American troop was formed in 1917; but details beyond this fact are extinct. In spite of such records, the first African American troop established in the South did not occur until 1932; and the organization, all together, remained segregated until the 1950’s.[3]

It is Juliette Low’s logic that remains vital despite the organization’s somewhat menacing history for blacks and the fact that it can be interpreted as not intended for “me”. It remains ever so certain that girls are in desperate need of a focused attention and subjectivity to ensure their futures, their healthy characters. That cannot be denied, not even by me, a radical-black-feminist. I also know, first-hand, what a positive experience as a girl in the organization has provided for me and the impact it has had on my adult life. Therefore, I can claim the organization as my own. I experienced it as a girl. I worked through it as an adult; and I have seen it through the eyes of girls today. History will not dictate my experience or my motivation to progress in the movement. I have bought into the mission. I have connected to the movement. Is there a place for me?


 

 


[1] Juliette Low’s words concerning the Girl Scout organization appear in a letter she wrote in 1925.

[2] How Girls Can Help Their Country: Handbook for Girl Scouts was the first ever handbook published for members of Girl Scouts of the USA. The book was originally published by Juliette Gordon Low in 1913. Although the much of its language and content is considered archaic it is published presently by Applewood books to serve as reference (for Girl Scout history seekers) to the early years of Girl Scouting. It is sold in the Girl Scout First Headquarters Museum gift shop.

[3] A brief, three paragraph history of African Americans in the Girl Scout organization is displayed on the Girl Scouts of the USA website. The Girl Scouts proudly display this information in most celebrations of Black History. The Girl Scout First Headquarters museum in Savannah, GA hosts a small exhibit during Black History month comprised of photographs and memorabilia from Black women and girls in the organization circa 1950.

Thursday
Aug182011

Morning Swims

It starts with a breath. Well, it’s more like, Inhale, Wffffphooooo, Stroke-2-3, Inhale, Wfffffphoooooo. .. My upper front teeth rest lightly on my bottom lip, I blow, exhale through my nose, mouth, ears, pores, stretch out over the water and let the stroke carry me the twenty-five yards… fifty… seven-hundred and fifty.

Reminds me of the breath I take when someone is on my nerves or hovering in my personal space for longer than the acceptable 2.5 seconds. Wfffphoooooooo… There is definitely less exasperation in this particular gesture, however. This gesture doesn’t just release frustration. It releases the previous day, night, week. This stretch across the water liberates me. Cramps, hangover, worries may they be are discharged. I blow, exhale, stroke, and let all the little things hanging from my spirit’s skin sink to the bottom of the pool.  Narratives unfold.

The man with the sagging skin is there. He must have left quite a bit of his previous self in the pool. His sagging skin clearly maps much hard work and weight loss on his part. The differently-abled, scooter man is there. He lifts and swings himself down the wheelchair ramp into the pool. He straps his swim weights to his chest and strokes, glides. Buff man who walks his laps, rather than swims them is there. Old man in the speedo is there. Big, thick sista who manages to swim more continuous laps than me, at a more consistent, gentle pace is there. Heads bob in and out, from side to side. Arms and legs slice and send the water about. The Tom Joyner morning show broadcasts from the radio in the background. I don’t seem to mind it. Gentle splashes heard signal deposits being made by all.

I don’t speak much to anyone, except for a “good morning”, a head nod and smile here and there. I only observe, breath, swim; accede to abandoning those little pieces of baggage that add an extra weight to my load. Now and then, in between laps, I wrap my hands around my thigh to feel, curious to know if perhaps some of that has been left behind in my most recent twenty-five yard stretch. I often wonder what of others has been left behind in the pool. What all does the bottom hold? I look for things, remnants sometimes as I stroke the length of the pool. Wonder if there’s something I could use, or if someone perchance, let go of something by accident. I decide the answer is no. What has been left is meant to be just that, to succumb to the bottom.

Lately, as I’m out and about moving in the world, shopping, annoyed, or simply concentrating too hard, I find myself blowing, teeth rested on my lip, just like in the pool. It seems to start out as that exasperating gesture, but tenderly transitions to the breath I release in the pool, the one that impels weight instead of ingesting it. I’m compelled to realize that although the workout has yet to become a fabulous feeling, I do profit from my visits to the pool, from unloading daily. I also find that I miss it intensely when I skip out. The mornings I feel I just cannot drag myself out of bed, that whatever sleep I missed out on the night before is utterly necessary and making it up is so worth a miss, always start out with my feeling relieved, free, like playing hookie from work. Inevitably, I make it till about two o’clock in the afternoon, then begin to feel remorse and long for that stretch across the water. The rest of the day is spent in anticipation of a new morning where my commitment to the water can be pledged and fulfilled yet again. I must admit, I do like this.

 

Thursday
Jun162011

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Written February 14, 2011

It started with Diondria whipping out her rosary beads; and asking me “How exactly do you do this?” She explained to me how it was a fashionable thing now for both boys and girls to accessorize with one; but she insisted to know how and why the beads were really used. I fingered the beads in my hand and began to rattle off of the knowledge I was blessed with as a result of a thirteen year long Catholic education.  You start by making the sign of the cross, “Our Father” here, Three “Hail Mary’s” here… When I could only remember two of the categories of mysteries in which you are to dedicate the rosary being said, I thought to myself “Oh my. It’s been a while”.

I don’t think I’ve willingly been to mass in over 2 years, aside from a funeral or two. When I arrived home that night, and began scanning my many prayer books and devotionals, left to the bottom of my bookshelf, I realized that I had been on the outs with Mary. I can’t say that I was mad at her; but I had, at a certain point, lost faith in her ability and worth, I had out grown her, I felt as though she couldn’t possibly understand or contend with the woman that I was “becoming” and wanted to be. So, ideals I once knew of praying the rosary daily, never taking off my Brown Scapular, keeping devotionals close and handy, tucking prayer cards and pictures of her in crevices like my car’s sun visor that would remind me to give her a shout out, had become extinct practices. I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around the idea of Mary being a feminist, sexually liberated, or an activist, no matter how much I knew of her being a radical of her time. So, while my nightstand drawer became filled with more and more “electronics”, alas my rosary beads were pushed to the rear along with remembrances of Holy Mary.

Since my encounter with Diondria that night, I have found myself intrigued with the idea of getting to know her again, catching up, if you will. I’d like to ask her about this so-called radical side. I’d like to ask her if we might be able to work on fostering a new kind of friendship. I have always found comfort in ceremony and ritual. I find comfort in the remnants of my past such as “growing up Catholic” and the history of blacks in the Catholic Church. I appreciate that such a knowledge is still buried within me, that I’m able to rattle off the “how-to’s” after so long. There is a part of me that takes pride in this fact. I enjoy what it adds to my life’s history, my make up, and person. So… Gentle Woman, Quiet Light, How can we work this out?

Maybe part of my issue is how we call upon her, her different aliases- Mother of God, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. It makes it hard to initiate an intimate relationship, the kind of relationship I need right now. Can I call you Girlfriend, Sister, just Mary? I need to find her, and see her for the woman that she is, was, in order to respect and take her seriously, in order to nourish a reciprocal relationship. Where do I start?

Hail Mary full of grace? The Lord is with thee? Blessed is the fruit thy womb, Jesus?… Umm no. Pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of death? Well, there’s something about asking her to recognize and acknowledge me as a sinner that I can get with (a “sinner”, not in self-defamation or even actualization; but in a profaning-of-the-sacred kind of way). Yes. Let us begin with that as I like the idea of being a sinner, us all being sinners. I like the idea of simultaneously getting sanctified, a Marvin Gaye kind-of-sanctified. I like the idea of her intercession on my behalf, especially at the hour of death. (I don’t want to risk passing that one up. I just might need that.) These are things I can start with- things that jumpstart my spiritual emotions, and lead me to seek out alternate realms of possibility.  Do you think you can you work with that?

Tuesday
Jun142011

Asian Pears and Other Things I like

Monday
Jun132011

A Love Letter

I indulge in people, relationships, situations. I find comfort, safety; and I bury myself in its fold. I Indulge in you. I have indulged in you; and now that it’s time, I cannot move. I won’t. I need to maintain control, control of the situation and all situations. I will not relinquish the comfort and safety I feel- the comfort and safety of being nestled in your fold, being stationary, steady on the ground.

I indulge in people, the safe, comfort of relationships. I do not want you to leave. I do not want you to change. I do not want babies, children to grow. I do not want death of any kind to occur. The drug of non-change, my perceived full control, you, takes such good care of me that I cannot be without it. The thought is paralyzing.

Your body and skin, your smell and touch provides for me such an amazing high, I cannot bear to lose it. Oh please don’t leave me. The thought of living for one moment in need frightens me so. I do not recognize the changes that have occurred around me, the new people and situations that have entered my life. I cannot live in this moment because I’m still indulging in the thought of you. I want to right all wrongs, mine and yours; fix the broken pieces. I want to show you that I can do it better, do it right.

Ultimately, I love you. I’m scared to one day not love you, to one day not care about fixing things and right-ing wrongs. I know that things will change; and I’m scared in this moment for a future me that tries hard to even remember what the big deal was. I’m scared to live in a world and space where I don’t need you or want you. I’m scared to be ok without you.

I don’t want to let go. I just want to indulge. I don’t want to ask questions about the unspoken issues looming over our heads. I don’t want you to confirm them and therefore the change that it is inevitable. I want to love and need you in a time and space that will forever remain untouched.

I indulge in people. Even though I never thought that I would indulge in you or this in such a way. Here I am nestled, buried in this comfort zone; and I don’t want to leave it behind for a new “home”. The problem is that I do not have the control I wish for. You have since long gone from this place. I want to indulge; but you are not there anymore. I am not there anymore; only the idea of what once was beautiful and comfortable.

While on one hand I want to heal; on the other I wish that we would both agree to go back to that quiet, comfortable place, even if just for brief moments. Oh please? If you saw these tears that stream from my face, I know you’d take me back there just as I would you in a heartbeat. I would like to think it so.

 Is it fair of me to ask you to indulge with me when your current diet requires other measures be taken?  No. But, indulgence is not about fairness or moderation. I want to indulge. I’d like to say “just once more”; but I know that I will never have enough.

I love you.

Anya