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

Sunday
Dec122010

An Open Letter — Please Re-Blog

To:       Jay Electronica, Kanye West, Chris Rock and Others

From:    Your Female Audience
Date:    12/10/2010
RE:       A Requested Apology

Gentlemen,
 
As female fans of your work, we would first like to thank you for creating.  We respect your right to artistic freedom in whatever form you choose to express it. However, we believe that the power you have to reach the masses has been irresponsibly used in an effort to objectify, exploit and abuse us through the vehicle of your commanding voices.
 
The creation of this open letter spawned from the following recent incidents in hip-hop:
 
1)  A Youtube video from a show in Seattle whereby MC Jay Electronica discussed on stage a $20,000 bet he currently has in place with fellow MC Nas and his tour DJ. 
 
The wager was based on whether or not women “like being choked during sexual intercourse”.  After acknowledging the fact that there were minors in the crowd, Jay Electronica continued his agenda and stated that he asks the question “do women enjoy being choked during sexual intercourse” at many of his shows.  He then solicited a crowd response from both male and female audience members.  The male response of approval for choking women during intercourse was blatantly louder than the response from female audience members.  Mr. Electronica then joked “there’s a lot of women in Seattle being choked against their will”. When a female in the audience replied with “that’s not funny”, Mr. Electronica quickly dismissed her sentiment and then encouraged the crowd to chant “we know it’s not funny—relax—enjoy the music”.   
 
The Youtube video of this incident can be viewed via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUSZmp0XkFQ
 
2)      The content of the Kanye West song “Blame Game” featuring John Legend and an ill-advised diatribe at the end via comedian Chris Rock. 
 
The song itself contains talk of choking a female during the act of sex, hitting a female, calling her a bitch and berating her for their failed relationship.  Chris Rock closes the track with a bevy of remarks about a woman’s female anatomy and sexual prowess, all credit due to Kanye West for “reupholstering” her vagina during their relationship. 
 
You can read the lyrics to this song here:
http://www.directlyrics.com/kanye-west-blame-game-lyrics.html
 
 
As women who truly want to enjoy your collective works, the examples noted above make it impossible for us to do so.  As female fans, it is a conflict of interest to bump your music in our rides and sing along when every other word is a figurative slap in the face (or, dare we say, hand around our neck).
 
The blatant disregard for the female mind and body is not new to hip-hop, nor to society as a whole.  We realize the sentiment of us as sex objects and powerless beings at the hands of the male sexual agenda wasn’t created in a lab by Kanye West, Chris Rock and Jay Electronica.  The historical dismissal of women is long-standing, as is the refusal to acknowledge us as conscious individuals with intellectual autonomy. However, that does not mean that you—under the label of “artist”—are exempt from accountability for your words and actions. For example, if a woman doesn’t answer the question “do you like being choked during sex” correctly according to the male questioner, she is balked at and publicly chastised, as evidenced in the Jay Electronica incident.  This behaviour makes one thing very clear: our voices and perspectives are not respected, nor sought after. 
 
Ultimately, we are tired of your interpretation of who we are. We will no longer tolerate you staking claim on our bodies as property. We will no longer tolerate you making decisions for us without asking. We will no longer tolerate you taking credit for what we do or don’t do in the bedroom and beyond.  We will no longer tolerate you asking us what we like and then taking it upon yourselves to perpetrate your own agendas anyway.  
 
Your female fans want to make one thing clear:  You are not entitled to us. 
 
We stand in solidarity with the understanding that your diatribes, rants and raves about specific women cannot be taken lightly. We aren’t interested in passing the buck of responsibility to the next woman since “they aren’t talking about us,” because essentially you are talking about ALL of us collectively.  We find it incredibly dangerous that you use your power as a tool in which to perpetuate disrespect and violence against women, and furthermore, acceptance of that behaviour. Please be aware that this affects both women and men alike.  
 
We ask you the following questions, gentlemen:
 
1) Are you prepared to be implicated in the rape and continued abuse of women as a result of your words? 
2) As sons, brothers of sisters and fathers of daughters do you not see the inherent flaw in vocalizing your predatory mindset about women?
3) What has led you to believe that we are not capable or worthy of making decisions about what is best for us?
4) What about reducing us down to a “wet hole” validates you?
 
In light of the seriousness of your statements, we believe an immediate public apology is in order. Please issue one today, so that the negative repercussions of your actions might be reduced and those who wish to support you can begin and/or continue doing so.


Sincerely,

Your Female Audience

 

From: "This Chick Hustles" at

http://karliehustle.tumblr.com/post/2169311161/an-open-letter-please-re-blog

Tuesday
Nov302010

My Favorite Apartment  

A past journal entry that is refreshing for me to re-read when I long for the days on 31st Street…

I once lived in an apartment here in Savannah. It was the cutest little one bedroom with a “bonus” room that I used as an art studio. I had a separate dining room and 1 ½ baths. Yes, a one bedroom with two toilets! One- toilet homes agitate my anxiety. Rent was a “whopping” $550 per month. The place was enjoyable and cheap.

I reminisce about my spacious porch where I enjoyed many an activity- attempts at grilling, alcoholic beverages accompanied by serendipitous ceremonies with friends, orchestrating photo shoots, taking naps with Shakeh in the summer breezes, mimosas in hand. The place had horrible insulation, so the first few winters were rough; but I even managed to rig that under my control. Heat one room at a time, buy heated mattress pad; sleep in skully, tube socks, and a scarf. I lived there three years. I took great pride in caring for my little home.

David was my landlord’s son. He managed the place.  In better words, he picked up the rent. Some days, David and I would have long discussions, talk for hours. We’d talk about all of society’s woes, “the man”, bucking the system, the difference between him and his republican father who owned the property.  I don’t ever have a problem talking trash. I always enjoy myself. I knew however, that beneath all the talk was a spoiled, rich, white boy, who had chosen to live the bohemian life, who also wasn’t as timely as I needed him to be with fixing/ handling my shit; but it was fun.

When he spoke to me he would give me tight squeezes or a caress of the arm.  When he spoke I saw how the spit gathered around the corner of his mouth. Shakeh said that and the shade of yellow his teeth and eyes were reminded her of a crack-head. But, he liked me. He like me because I wasn’t a “problem”, and I paid my rent on time. He thought he had a friend.

I left that apartment. I left because I didn’t want to be who he saw in me, his friend; his pass into the land of marginality through a sweet-faced brown girl, his stamp of approval.  A raw sewage leak into my apartment through the kitchen, repairs on the damaged area that were never made, nothing ever attended to with urgency or care, gave me a deeper understanding of what I must really look like in his and his father's eyes. I didn’t want to be that to David or Joe Hutchinson. So, I left. I left right away.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Nov242010

Eating Top Ramen and Giving Thanks for June Chisom

Every time I eat Ramen noodle soup I am flooded with memories of June Elizabeth Chisom, “Mom”.  Mom was my mother’s godmother and surrogate grandmother/ godmother to many, including me. She remains one of the most precious loves of my life. I am so grateful to have gotten to know her.

I remember…

I remember being picked up from school along with Robin, Robert, Kendra, Dee and Tracy. I remember to help endure the hot, squished ride home (and I was the youngest), stops at the tomato stand on the corner, up from the school, to get to purchase fresh, red tomatoes. One half for each of us and a sprinkle of salt from McDonalds packets stashed in the car was a snack to “hold you over”. Either at Robin and Robert’s house, to let out Chestnut, the dog, or at yours after an early release day, where you’d ensure our homework was completed, we’d share packets of Ramen noodles, with a dollop of butter in each bowl (the extent to which you cooked). If you eat slowly, you’ll get full faster. Anya, you just eat too fast.

I remember days after school, climbing trees with Kendra in your back yard to pick grapefruits and oranges; and making juice with your electric juicer. “Hat’s off” to the only person I can ever remember who allowed me to make mud pies. Kendra and I would be filthy in the end, you would laugh at our “creations” and go on about how delicious they might be; then throw us in the tub for a head to toe scrubbing.

I can’t forget the day I got “switched” with a ripe one off the tree in front of St. Jerome’s.  Remember when all of the girls in the carpool and had been enrolled in after school aerobics class? I was in kindergarten; and I guess I had a rough day. I was acting “a monkey”. As soon as you arrived at school, you were notified of my behavior; and had the switch waiting for me when we had all exited the class. You said you “weren’t going to have me embarrassing my mom at this school misbehaving”. That was the one and only time you had to physically “get with me”!

I remember your voice on the answering machine, “This is ya’ Mom… I’m on my way to you. Come drive me over to (insert place that was too far out of your ‘driving jurisdiction’)”. Delegating “assignments” for everything under the sun- “Anya, you go one and read the First Reading for so and so’s funeral mass”. Huh?!  Christmas and birthday presents were always simple, a plastic sewing kit, something that I had given you previously, now being returned to me. Your heart was pure gold; I never expect anything more from you.

My favorite memories were days coming over after school, or work, even as a grown-up and curling up on the softest couch known to man, underneath a rickety, wooden, north facing window in your living room.  Remember that you e kept it open; and sometimes would set the box-fan in it? Re’ch around and get that blanket off my bed so you can go on and lay down. Mom knows you’re tired. I remember listening to your stories as I would drift off to sleep. I remember thinking “When Mom is gone, I want to remember this moment.”

I remember that you went to mass every day. Some of your favorite things were watching ABC soap operas, playing lotto, and getting in people’s business. You were the first feminist I ever knew, advocating for birth control and believing strongly in controlling your own destiny. Your faith ran so deeply, that it couldn’t be confined to four church walls. A community organizer until the day you died, social justice was always the priority. You truly understood the concept of “a village”.

“Now Anya, you take a job. Your mama is tired; and she needs help. You call that school and tell them you comin’ to work. You hear?” Something you said to me during one of the last big conversations we had. I was insisting to you that I wanted to go back to school; and wouldn’t be going back to St. Jerome’s for a second year to teach.  I remember being so angry with you because I couldn’t get you to understand.  You went on to tell me an earful of what your life was like starting out with a husband and babies, how you had to work.  Eventually, I did what I wanted to do. You had by then slipped away from us. I like to think that, you understand better now.  I like to think that are proud.

I remember…

These days I struggle to recall the sound of your voice. I don’t want to forget. My favorite memory is that of your toasted brown hands, tough and wrinkled mapping the years of your wisdom, the rounded tips of your nails. I remember staring at them, even while you laid in your hospice-bed, attempting to brand my memory with the image ...Can’t forget Mom’s hands. I introduce you to people I love to this very day, ensuring that I’m not the only one who remembers.

 

 

Thursday
Sep162010

Coke-a-Cola, My Drug of Choice


My addiction is to the sweet, raw burn of Coke-a-Cola sliding down my throat.  It doesn’t help that the caffeine in Coke assists in easing the migraine headaches that, in the past 3 years, have earned the level “first-class” with me. I say that I like to keep them [cokes] around in case I get a headache; but there are, in actuality, those times that I just need to feel that familiar burn, to have it accompany certain meals or moods, to wash down a cake donut. I need Coke. I don’t have to have it every day; but if it’s not, at the least , in the house I panic.
I was recently made aware that my particular migraines could be stress-induced. I began to monitor when, where, and how they began to creep up on me; and realized that- ding, ding, ding! – periods of extreme stress were most definitely the cause. I also came to grips with the fact that this wasn’t something I could easily control. I knew that one of the major contributing factors was my job, a job that I felt I loved and needed to do, albeit stressful. 

The weekend of my birthday, 2010, my friends joined me at JeJu spa, a detox- Mecca in the Atlanta area. Although I had experienced headaches as a result of going to JeJu before, the doozie that I was “blessed” with that day put me in another realm. After a good-24-hour bout, vomiting in the backseat of my car (which I just don’t do!), and realizing that while my Imitex box was with me, my Imitrex pills were still in Savannah, I told myself “I don’t know how this is going to work since I can’t control the stress; but I never want to be here again!” I vowed in that moment that my meds would always be “on me”; and at the first indication or tingle, I’d be sucking down a pill even if I had to chew it and wash it down with saliva.  In the months that passed, I  attempted to curb my stress levels, drink more water, and maintain work on things that might lead to my getting the hell up out of my current circumstances (see post #1).  

As I had anticipated, the frequency of the headaches had reduced drastically while I kept my promise- to ensure that my stress level remained in a stable condition. To quote my friend Tamela, I had gotten that “Fuck-it in my system”. It took some practice; but my goal was that any work I was involved in, worthy of stressing over, was going to be work being done for me. My “outside- of –work- time” between January and April was to be used in preparation for my first conference presentation. And, as in true Anya-fashion, I had a hell of a lot to get done in a little bit of time (like shoot and edit a photo project that I had proposed 9 months prior). After being sprung with the furloughed days at work that resulted in a depressing pay-cut, I had all the ammunition I needed to put the “train” in high gear that would “get (my ass) on the good foot”! Participating in this conference would solidify the courage and strength I knew I had within me that would be necessary to set this life-change in motion. So, I did it. I bought the equipment. I secured the “permits”. I shot and edited the project, bought a plane ticket, and booked a hotel.  It all came together within days of flying out.

Those of you who know me well know that one of the more concrete reasons for any “anxiety” (some call it crazy) that I may express lies with my having to fly.  Me having flown half-way around the world and frequently over the Atlantic to visit my family in the Bahamas, from a baby to present-day-grown-up, well, means absolutely nothing. I act a plum fool on planes, the kind of “fool” that no one recognizes but me (because it’s  all on the inside—Yikes!). Flying + Anya= Anxiety= Anya acting an ASS= What?  àSTRESS! Add determination (some have called it stubbornness) to that stress; and here’s what happened.

I had promised myself I was going to get through this. I needed to get through this. There was a plan in order for my life; and since I was making strides to “get with” that plan, I would not die in route on the 6 flights that were awaiting me to and from New Haven, CT. Damn flying out of Savannah for anything! Meanwhile, I knew what I wanted to say; but hadn’t written the least bit of a presentation.  Being the “Queen of Rigging-Something-Up”, I told myself that the speech would get written on the plane. The only thing that eases my anxiety (in the least bit) on a flight is writing.

My soul mate and best friend, Ms. Grady, came to my house about two nights prior to my leaving to help me sort through my jumbled thoughts, to help me remember things like “What the hell is it that  I am trying to do, say?”. I scribbled down ideas, drew sketches, and taped our conversation in hopes that things would “gel” while I was in transit to the conference. Have I mentioned that I was stress-free? Hell no, I haven’t. I boarded that first flight; and put my pen to work. In the three flights to Connecticut I had written 15 pages of notes and begun the editing process.

My presentation wasn’t until the afternoon of the following day; so I checked into my hotel, ordered some food, and typed and constructed an exquisite presentation. The next day I walked up to the modest podium in the room in which my session was assigned, nervous as hell; and opened my mouth. I used my “speech” to recite my opening quote by Audre Lorde; and never looked down at the computer screen again. It was a beautiful experience.

I met and connected with AMAZING people. I took ferocious notes throughout the entire two days spent there. Every word I heard that I didn’t know or that I felt required further attention from me, was written down (I actually have a list of words!). Everything I heard, everyone I met made so much sense; and in turn, I made sense to myself. It had been a long time since I felt like that. Project ideas were coming to me; ways to go further with the project I had begun, essay ideas, poems, even book titles were spilling over into consciousness, even when I slept.

Pushing what was happening to my body into oblivion, because my mind was fixated on much heavier things at play, I was mildly aware that a headache had been creeping up on me for days. Remember what I said?  I wasn’t having it. On my person was a bottle of Extra Strength Excedrin Gel Tabs. (These are now my first line of defense, so my headache doesn’t have to get to the throwing-up-in-the-backseat-of-my-car-stage.). Without paying much attention, I continued sucking those things down (AND chasing with Coke), left- and- right, trying to assure that I wouldn’t be “ass out” during my conference debut. Well…

By the time I was up in the air again, on my way back home, I was about ready to jump out the plane window! It took me a minute; but I realized two things- I had about two pills left in that Excedrin bottle, and I was so “high” on caffeine that I would have probably failed a drug test. I turned to “the pen”. I continued to write for two reasons- 1, I was still scared; and 2, I needed to keep myself from jumping out the window, or worse- opening up my mouth and speaking to someone. I get so ugly on planes. “Why are people walking around all willy-nilly? WTF?” I invite you to glimpse into my journal (my head at the time):

I can’t even cry. I want to release; and I can’t. I’m trapped. I feel trapped in this body, in this space; and right now I can’t do anything about it (don’t want to at the same time). I want to go home. I want to be home as fast as I can. Well… this is the way to do so.  I appreciate the black flight attendants I’ve encountered- jazzing up the common “airline shpeel”. I feel like Gabriel acts when I know he’s tired. I just need a nap! What is a tomboy?  Please let me be ok.  Thank you for the sun. That was nice J.

Oh wait, there’s more:

I’m having a bad panic attack right now. I need to write; but I’m sleepy. I need to sleep; but I won’t let myself. Tranquilizer gun- anybody? Maybe the caffeine in the “shots” of Excedrin I’ve taken has something to do with it? Maybe my stressing has something to do with the migraine I’ve been trying to fight off for the past 6hrs! How can I interrupt the cycle?

Of course, there were some things written that proved to be more sound.  Let me be the expert on me and what looks like me”! In the “drug”-induced state, I managed to organize all of the notes I had taken during the conference and come up with an article idea that I would use as my “writing sample” for applying  to school. Most things were coming through quite clearly. I felt an unmistakable purpose running through my blood. I was also confronted by and could better understand how I would channel my anger and rage at so many things in life.
My feet had touched the ground in Savannah. I had made it—I was alive. Oh, and I was ready! Poor Shakeh, I couldn’t wait to recount to her my adventure. I remember holding her hostage in her own apartment as I gave her every minute detail. “Shakeh—I’ve got a fuckin’ dissertation!”  I don’t think she heard anything I said that night, she was so sleepy.  She usually acts real ignorant when she’s sleepy; but declined to put me out because she could see how excited I was.

In the few weeks that have passed since losing my job, I have, without much choice, been forced to write. Similar to my plane rides to and from Connecticut, writing is the only way I can keep from jumping out of a window. The one thing that I cannot be right now is bored, purposeless.

I have, of late, begun to feel that oh-so- familiar tingle in my toes, finger tips, and lips. Thankfully, the “high” sneaking up on me is quickly recognizable. You see, I haven’t quite figured out how to remain “stress-free” while not having a job or the money necessary to do the things I was used to doing (the very small things). Also, I have entire days to myself! I drink two-three cups of coffee on a given morning; and my trusty friend Coke-a-Cola is ALWAYS there waiting, at the bottom of the fridge, in tiny, frosted, icy cans, to assist in washing my troubles away. It is apparent why this “high” is upon me.

This time, I know exactly what it is; and I welcome it. I’ve read three books in two days. I’ve made friends with ancestren (is this a word?), Ida B. Wells- Barnett and Sojourner Truth, through journals and biographies; and well, I’ve written a second blog! How ya like that? The badass, Jill Scott, once asked: “Do you want it on you rice gravy? Do you want it on your biscuits baby? ….Do you want it on your collard greens?...your candy sweets? “Yes!” I answer. Sprinkle a little bit of that Coke-a-Cola on thangs; so I can knock this writing sample out right-quick. 

Friday
Sep032010

From an Office to a Bullpen

I saw the writing on the wall a year ago when my Girl Scout council’s office team moved from downtown Savannah to Pooler, a suburb of Savannah. As team members scurried with excitement to pack and choose accent wall colors for their new offices; I was informed that my office would become one of seven desks in a "bullpen". All membership managers would now be working from a "bullpen". "Margaret [our CEO] will be transitioning ALL offices to this model” we were told. "Margaret would prefer an environment where sharing is promoted" we were told. "Membership managers aren't supposed to be in the office any way" we were told, "you're supposed to be out in the field".

I arrived at my new workstation to learn that this "bullpen" was, essentially, a cut out of the hallway. The "sharing" that was to take place apparently meant a space for anyone in the entire office to come take a break, vent, talk on their cell phone, or socialize with their office visitors at any given time. I "shared" my work space in the above conditions as I and my bullpen-colleagues attempted to make business phone calls, concentrate on writing emails, or meet with volunteers.

Boxes containing my work life from the previous four years remained stacked underneath my desk. A brand new office that was promised to be bigger, contain program space for girls, and provide employees with free parking delivered on nothing other than the free parking and my newly condensed "work space".

As other members of the office team would pass us by- those who had been granted the actual offices, they'd try not to make reference to our sad situation. If ever a leadership team member would enter "the backside" o f the building, to ease her shame, there was always the mentioning of some highly anticipated work stations that someday we would be graced with; and would surely provide a bright side to this situation.

After about six months, the council was bestowed with the gift of used workstations from an office building ridding themselves of them from downtown. When they finally arrived at the office four were initially installed (2 of the seven bullpen members had by then departed from the organization). I and best friend and collegue (who happened to be the other chocolate-skinned-employee affected by this sad situation) happened to be out of the office on the blessed day. Needless to say, our work areas were not the first chosen to be converted. We returned to the office to learn that although we had not yet been blessed, we'd only need hold our breaths till the following week and our "prayers" would then be answered.

Unmoved, we took the property managers word. You see, as veterans, we knew that these workstations couldn’t sooner set us free than the truth itself. The decision to create a "bullpen" in the first place told us everything we needed to know about how the work we did was valued. These wokstattions were an effort, however to deflect our attetnion from that type of thinking. So, as super smart cookies we did what was not be expected of us. We nodded our heads and waited.

A week’s wait turned in to several weeks, which turned into another 7 months. Fast forward to present day; and it's been one year and 5 months since we moved into the new building. The last two work stations, which included my own, were installed two weeks ago.

Luckily, I was at a point where I so desperately needed a change. So, I did the only thing I could do-- I let myself get excited. After having taken an organizational workshop a month prior, I was so pumped to organize my new (well new to me) workstation. I "organized from the inside out". I ridded myself of old files, shredded old documents for three days, recycled every scrap of unwanted paper, and scanned all documents that I would keep to make for a "greener" work-lifestyle I set-up a desktop ticker file (yes, a ticker!) that included a file for each of the following- W, waiting for, A- appointments, N- Next action step, and P- projects.

This prompted me to clean-out my now 5-year old email inbox (and sent box). I cleaned out my “my documents” folder and organized every item in to a subfolder. I even went as far as to duplicate my "ticker" system in my email folder system as well as on my computer desktop. I was ready... oh so ready! Ready to begin the new recruitment season- organized. Maybe this workstation/ "bullpen" thing wasn’t going to be such a bad idea. I can handle this. I thought. I am more organized. I can find things. I am greener- all for the better.

As each new email arrived, I either moved it to the "ticker", its appropriate folder, or I deleted it (wanted to conserve server space too). I didn’t know what this new life had in store for me; but I knew one thing- I was ready. Ready... I was

*******************Incoming Email- 08/17/2010, 2:30PM***********************

"Outlook Meeting Request"

From: Jackie Ford

To: Anya Wallace

Meeting Date: 08/18/2010 4:30PM

RE: Discussion: Jackie's Office

***********************************************************************

I thought to myself…"sounds like trouble". I ran through my head a zillion things I might have, could have done that might have landed me in the "hot seat"- nothing. As I continued to rack my brain and turn my stomach into knots, I said to myself "Calm down. Think.". I made myself a drink to help ease the anxiety. "I've got it! Tomorrow's my 5 year anniversary with the organization. It must be some kind of surprise!” The thought eased my stomach for a few hours and allowed me to sleep through the night.

My anniversary-surprise theory might have gotten me through the night; but it wore off in easing my worries the following day. I busied myself throughout the next day reading, printing, and forwarding old emails I had decided were worth saving. After all, I had no pressing work as I was awaiting the recruitment rush to begin, and to dive in to my organizational system. The day drug on; but eventually 4:30 PM arrived. I picked up my "for meeting" notebook and rounded the corner to Jackie's office.

I was greeted by Jackie herself and Vicki Warner, our HR director. The surprise I received was not my expected anniversary gift. "Anya, as you know, blah-blah-blah... You're position along with many others is being reclassified".

Huh?

I thought back over the past few weeks, months, the last year. I thought about the events that lead up to this one, especially the most recent. As I strung them all together I realized how perfectly unreal this all was.

I'd recently been involved in a battle over the issue of Sexual Health for girls with the leadership of my organization. In the mean time, my girls were "dropping like flies" to the vortex that is their environment- being poor, black, uneducated, and bored. Pregnancies were arising quicker than I could pass out free condoms. The girls that had made it through, meaning graduated from high school, were now looking at me with blank, sad stares that read "What now?". I had immediately been catapulted into a state of deep depression after coming to terms with a truth I had not wanted to admit throughout the last 5 year-neither I, in this position, nor this organization had anything else to offer them.

During a brief vacation home to Florida, I was able to meet up with two former teachers and dear friends that I hadn't seen in about 5 or 6 years- Mr. and Mrs. Aloma. Mr. Aloma was now the Executive director for Food for the Poor, a nonprofit organization in South Florida. Mrs. Aloma, now Dr. Aloma, is acting as Vice Principal of my former high school. I hadn't realized how much I had missed them until I had the chance to interact with the couple for the few hours we were in each other's company.

I was later invited by Mr. Aloma to tour the Food for the Poor facility. He brought it to my attention that, over the past years, a few positions had come open at FFP in which he or Mrs. Aloma had thought I would have been a perfect fit. Though a job wasn’t currently available for me, a photography job specifically, he wanted me to come and take a tour, to learn about the ministry he had helped to build over the last 10 years.

My tour of the Food for the Poor facility set me on fire. As I toured the 2 story, 300 employee facility I was on a whirlwind. The photographic images that graced the walls, the sculpture, the Haitian water colored paintings I encountered instantly jerked me from the coma I must have been existing in over the past several months. I remembered in that instance that I was an artist.

So, as I walked home on the day I had learned of my "reclassification" (and consequent lay-off) with the Girl Scouts, I remembered this encounter with the Alomas and my visit to Food for the Poor. I remembered that few nights after I had gotten home from the trip to FFP, while I stood in the shower that I had cried uncontrollably. I remembered why. I remembered that I cried because somehow I had forgotten what it felt like to be truly loved and appreciated by people that were not family or my best friends. I had forgotten that that kind of love and admiration could really exist. Al though I knew I was doing amazing work with and for girls, I had forgotten about the weights of injustice (mine, theirs, their parents) that I had become used to walking around with on my back. I had forgotten what it was like to put the load down for a little while. Here the Aloma's hadn't seen me in at least 5 years, and they knew without question of my passion for life; and that whatever job, whenever, wherever, I could handle it with love and grace. I had forgotten what appreciation and trust truly meant.

I remembered, as I called my parents to inform them of the semi- sad news, that in addition to the sobs that night in the shower, that I had channeled my energies to the highest possible being and made a plea. "Get me out of here!” I didn’t want to get fired or leave in a shady way, that would only make me lose momentum; but I wanted out in such an incredibly desperate way. I took a deep breath and remembered that I had actually asked for a way out; and right in front of me it was being provided.

As I sat on the couch contemplating my fate, one of my favorite movies, Mona Lisa Smile, played in the background. I focused my attention; and realized something I had never honed in on in the eighty or so times I had watched this film. Absolutely nothing has changed since 1954 (the year in which the period piece was centered around)! In many “girl-focused” arenas the white-faced, heteronormative, dominant paradigm remains supreme. In shock (how I manage to still shock myself, I have no idea), I allowed my memory to finish what it had begun.

I remembered that when I looked into my future I saw myself working in the service of women and girls; but I did not see myself here, in this place. I remembered that I longed to delve into an environment of researching, learning, and studying my craft. I have plans to earn a PhD. I am an artist; and combined with my field research and study in underserved communities in Savannah over the past five years I have something to say, something to give, something to create for and with girls of color. I had made a silent promise to my girls that together we would do, create, be better than what we were being offered. I have a need to locate the tools necessary for making this promise a definite reality. In that instance I was reminded of all that I desired.

Finally I understood that everything that had happened in the last few weeks, months, year was, it seemed, in right order. Thinking from the recent organization of my home and office, the sorting of my emails, the fact that I had even begun outlining a writing sample, my reconnecting with the Aloma's and visiting Food for the Poor, to my breakdown in the shower; I had unknowingly been making preparations for this transition that was about to take place in my life.

So, here goes...

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