politics

On Being a Black Woman Who’s Angry

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Hol’ up. Whatchu say?

Disclaimer: I know. I know. I’ve been ghost for a minute. Just give me the “just got her PhD” pass and let’s forget this happened. I’m back, and that’s what’s important!!

By now, many of you have likely heard about MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry being uhh very REAL with one of her show’s panelists (Melissa Mehta).  The discussion at the time centered around welfare, and this notion of class mobility. Mehta insisted class mobility was enabled by “taking risks,” to which MHP emphatically declared – while slamming her hand on the table, “What is riskier than living poor in America?! Seriously, what in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America?! …I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No! There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you. Being poor is what is risky.” MHP later apologized on air for her outburst. But the damage had been done – she got your girl Gemmie FIRED UP!! I thought, Melissa girl speak on it!!!! Don’t apologize for being passionate and enraged by the bullsh*t! EXCLAMATION POINT!

Now, this post isn’t about what MHP said so much as it is about how she said it.

A friend of mine wrote a post on her blog about this very situation. The following excerpt really stuck out to me:

 After I posted the clip to my FB page, a former student of mine, simply commented that this was an example of “eloquent rage.” She knew I would get the reference, because the first time she ever used it was in reference to me, and my impassioned style of teaching students about the politics of race, class, and gender. My first reaction to being characterized in this way was denial. “I’m not angry,” I told her. “I’m passionate.” And then she looked at me with a tell-tale knowing honesty and said simply, “You know you’re angry, Brittney.” (Sometimes in some places, I let my students call me by name.)

It was one of the most transformative moments in my teaching because I realized a.) that it was anger, and not merely passion b.) that I was bringing it with me into the classroom c.) that I had a right to be angry about the injustices that I teach about  and live daily and d.) I could resist and deny my anger or use it to make me better at what I do. I chose the latter.

After reading this, I was inspired me to write this post. So often I think black women (especially) are made to believe that being angry about something is a problem. There is this stigma of “the angry black girl/woman” that many of us educated black women try to avoid. (Maybe all the single black women who angrily claim there are no good single black men started it? But I digress…) We don’t want to “go off” or express our true angry/disgruntled/upset feelings for fear of being labeled in a negative way. I notice that white people often get really offended or uncomfortable when a person of color speaks out in a passionate or enraged way about an issue that is of particular importance to them.

And in all fairness, maybe it is scary when some one gets noticeably upset at something you say but aren’t aware would warrant such a response – elevated voice volume, tensed neck muscles, flared nostrils, waving hands. But if this isn’t their default demeanor or communication style, it’s probably an isolated event and no need to panic.

That said, sometimes that’s needed. I, for one, am so sick and tired of having to tip toe around the fact that certain issues that are being improperly addressed, or not addressed at all, in this society are ENRAGING. So you’re damn skipping I’m angry, and I may just have to let you know in a not so subtle way that it pisses me off! I’m not always going to cloak my discontented feelings about certain hateful/ignorant/dismissive attitudes and policies because it makes some one uncomfortable.

I have a right to be angry and to show my anger. My outward expression of said anger isn’t usually intentional or calculated, and certainly not meant to demean or bully anyone. For me, it just happens, when I can’t hold on to those feelings anymore. And I combust.

Being angry (in certain contexts) doesn’t make me bitter or hateful or unreasonable. It just makes me angry. And I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I’m comfortable with possessing that emotion and expressing it. It just beez like that sometimes. Being angry isn’t who I am, just how I feel. So I LOVED that MHP said what she said the way she said it – because it was TRUE (even if just to her), and it needed to be said at that very moment.

Can anyone else (male or female) feel me on being angry sometimes? Have you been told you’re angry because of your position on certain things?

A black woman who can be angry,
Gemmie

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For the video of the entire segment, you can see it here.

My God vs. My Country

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Two weekends ago I attended a conference at my church  - “The Threshing Floor, an exclusive place in God’s Presence for a deep work to begin. A place He called safe and secure, to ensure that His promised work in your life be fulfilled.” The 1st night of the conference centered around an intense praise and worship and a Word from a visiting minister. When I say intense, I mean intense.

That Friday night, I was in church with about a hundred other believers for 4hrs. I hadn’t expected to spend my entire evening in church, and I started to feel a bit fatigued and had a massive headache, but I didn’t want to leave! I was overcome by the Spirit. I felt God moving, touching each soul that cried out (oh, did they ever cry out). I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Praise and worship lasted almost 3hrs. It was fascinating to witness all that was happening during this time. People sang, danced, jumped, stood, sat, shouted, cried, fell to their knees, prayed, swayed, stretched their hands heavenward. People praised, people worshiped.  It was indeed intense to not only feel the presence of the Lord dwelling within me but dwelling in all those around me. Though we were together collectively as one body for one purpose, each of us was experiencing our own personal praise. No two worshipers’ praise was the same. There was no pretense on how to worship – to each his/her own. We were free to connect with the Spirit and present ourselves to God as we individually saw fit.

One song (quite possibly played for an hour straight) brought me to tears, as I internally examined my own relationship with God and the spiritual path I traveled, feeling vulnerable and convicted, but also empowered and liberated.

The More I Seek You – Kari Jobe
The more I seek you
The more I find you
The more I find you
The more I love you
I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breathe
Feel your heart beat
This love is so deep
It’s more than I can stand
I melt in your peace
It’s overwhelming

These lyrics washed over every atom of my being. They so accurately captured how it felt to genuinely seek my Maker, without any reservations, without any outside distractions. And as I looked around through tear-filled eyes, I couldn’t help but think, “This is what it means to love God- here of our own free will to follow Him, to worship Him, to love Him, to have Him dwell in us.” It’s intimate. It’s personal. It’s judgement-free.

Yet when I left the walls of the church, and took a look around, my countrymen would have others believe that being a Christian isn’t a personal choice, an intimate experience, or a relationship without judgment. My countrymen would have others believe Christians spread the gospel through policies and legislation. My countrymen would have you believe that to know Christ is to force specific religious beliefs1 – despite their contradictory nature to what Christ stood for – on others to oppress, suppress, and ostracize those who do not fit their criteria of what is moral and righteous. My countrymen would have you believe that Christianity is a political power play instead of a beloved religion of choice by the believer. My countrymen would have you believe that religious isolation will make this country better.

But when I think of Jesus and His teachings, I don’t think of politics, alienation, control or hatred.  I think of him as my homeboy an extraordinary being who embodied the true meaning of LOVE. He spent time with society’s bottom of the barrel – those deemed evil, undesirable, and unworthy. He showed compassion, love, and mercy to everyone He encountered. Jesus led by example through His actions and deeds. People chose to love and follow Him because they could see the goodness of God through His deeds.

To be a believer of Christ is a personal choice, one that cannot be forced or commandedAnd despite what many of my countrymen might say to the contrary, no amount of laws or political influence can save the souls or make righteous any (wo)man.2 It’s the churches responsibility to help put a believer on the right path, not the government’s.3

As a believer of Christ, I find it absolutely reprehensible to support or promote policies or legislation that does the exact opposite of what Jesus would do – to love, accept and meet people at the point of their need. I’ll NEVER support anti-gay rights, anti-women’s reproductive rights (including abortion), anti- [insert any host of issue that is supposedly about morals here] – laws grounded in ignorance and hate, not in God’s love. I’ll NEVER support policing people’s personal lives that may not agree with religious doctrine. Because these laws won’t make anyone a better person or a better Christian, and supporting/promoting them doesn’t validate one’s moral status.

Christianity shouldn’t be a government-led crusade, but rather a personal journey with a collective purpose. I just pray my country learns to lead by example, as Christ did. I pray my country learns to love their God without acting Godlessly through hate, ignorance, and fear.

Am I alone in this? Does one nation under God mean we must spread the gospel through government force?

Separated by church and state,
~Gem, the Perplexed Disciple

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1 Of course, only convenient beliefs. There’s no ban on, say, eating pork for instance…
2 Not that I, for one second, believe that these so-called righteous bastards politicians are truly doing God’s work in their absurd political moral crusades. It’s only smoke and mirrors. But sadly, it’s working.
2 I won’t even go into the church trying in its own way to dominate people’s lives. But fundamentally, I think it’s important for the church to operate in the same love and peace as Christ. Not to condemn, but to set free.

Suffocating Suffrage

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“Franky, our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn’t care about what would happen to the people who came after them.” – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay is book #3 of The Hunger Games trilogy – a series I am completely engrossed in at the moment!! So many of my friends have been raving about the book, and are eagerly anticipating the adapted film‘s debut, I jumped on THG bandwagon along with them.Though Initially, however, it took some convincing, since I immediately lost interest upon hearing the series takes place during a post-apocalyptic era. Eh, no thanks. But then I read the book’s description – “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.” 

Hook, line and sinker.

You see, this nation of Panem is ruled by a totalitarian government, regulating both public and private life, who force children – CHILDREN – to kill each other for entertainment and as a way of keeping the people in check, living in fear. Sounds horrible!!! Thank God we (Americans) live in a democracy right? Right?!

Well, the more I watch the GOP debates and elections, the more I ponder on just how much it would take for the USA to become Panem. It seems extreme to compare the two – one reality, one fantasy. Yet, every time I turn around, it seems as if certain political entities are pushing to take away more and more rights of American citizens. They want to control a woman’s womb and control who people can and cannot marry. You know, in the name of “small government.” (o_O)

In case you didn’t know, these very same political entities who want to control people’s private lives are also out to control who can vote. Sure, you may have thought we crossed all those pesky voting hurdles with the 15th and 18th amendments to the Constitution that now [supposedly] allow EVERYONE to vote in this country. But apparently, we’re regressing. There are 32 states who have passed1 or pending legislation that will require new photo ID laws2. These laws target and would disenfranchise some 5 million voters – namely the elderly, the poor, and students. The timing for this legislation is uncanny, right before the upcoming presidential election, as many of these voters are potential Obama supporters. #GoFigure. Based on the timing and supporters of these laws, it’s pretty clear that these laws are intended to suppress a very particular vote, not to ensure voting security.

*sigh*

I won’t go on a long tirade and get on my high horse to berate you into caring about the importance of voter right or the ridiculousness of these voter ID laws (and the idea that they are combating “voter fraud” – give me a break!). I could, I want to, I already kind of did on twitter, but I won’t. Instead, I urge you to educate yourself on the issues and take a stand against legislation that picks away at our rights, rights that our ancestors literally killed themselves over to gain. No, we aren’t in the post-Civil War, Jim Crow era, but these new tactics are eerily reminiscent.3

What happens if we think something like this is no big deal and do nothing? What happens if we allow the rich and powerful to dictate who can do what, and how? What other rights are we going to compromise on? What will it take for us to say, “enough is enough”? If we’re not vigilant, and willing to fight, our descendants may be saying the very thing in the above passage. That we left them neglected, impoverished, and broken, with no say in their governance.

I want to give the future more. I want my country to have better. I care about the people who come after me. I’m not ready to give up. I won’t let anyone take my rights from up under me. Not without a fight.

Both angry and sad,
Gemmie

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1 Pennsylvania’s senate just passed the legislation today. *sigh* I kind of wish I was still going to be living in PA come November, so I can help mobilize voters in Pittsburgh. Oregon won’t be dealing with this nonsense.
2 To find out if YOUR state is on some f&%k s#!t, you can go to NAACP‘s site – they list each state’s Voter ID requirements and legislation. #thankmelater
3 Here is a great article that highlights our voting history in this country.

Operation Save the Nation

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We are the f%&king world, dammit!!

I think my first “act of service” was when I was just a wee little Gemmie-tot, my godmother/aunt took me with her to participate in Hands Across America with my other aunt and cousins. The benefit event  included about 6.5 million people holding hands in a human chain in a path across the continental USA and raised $34 million. Around this same time, my favoritest song was Quincy Jones’s “We Are the World” featuring all the many stars I knew and loved even back. In fact, I have video footage (taken by my dad) of me bursting into song at the most random moments, as if unexpectedly crooning my little heart out was the key to saving our own lives.

Fast forward 2 decades. The idea of saving lives, changing the world, making a better tomorrow has stuck with me. I can’t seem to shake the notion that I am the world, I am the children, I am the one to make a brighter day. I can’t help but think this may be my destiny.

Honestly, I can’t remember a time I didn’t care about the welfare of this country or the larger  global community. Just yesterday one of my labmates asked me, “What is your main goal in life?” After jokingly responding “marry rich,” I gave him the answer I’d given just about every one else who’d asked me before: “I want to save the world.” Now I recognize this broad and Utopian  answer is akin to Miss America wanting world peace, but that it is a sincere answer and is about as specific as I can be. *shrug*

You see, I don’t really care what or how I make the world a better place. I just recognize that right now, in the US,  it’s a pretty sh*tty place to live if you’re a have not, constantly being taken advantage of by the haves. I don’t want to be one of those educated, successful haves who gets her slice of the pie, moves to a great neighborhood that has great public schools (while also being able to afford to private school just in case), and turns a deaf ear and blind eye to the needs of those who weren’t able to achieve what I achieved. I mean, that’s the American way, right? #FckYouPayMe

I won’t get on my high horse any more at this moment about the obligations and responsibilities we–haves, especially colored haves–possess when it comes to giving back and helping others (namely children and their child-like parents). But I will say this: I am committed to making the world a better place. I am determined not to simply e-rant about budget cuts to education in my current resident state (PA), I actually exercised my voting power by ranting to policy makers1.  I am determined to not simply say I want to open a charter school, I plan to actually open one. I am determined not to simply be outraged by the lack of urgency for education reform, I am studying the issues2 and supporting the efforts of organizations and policy makers who advocate for education reform.

I am sowing the seeds of change. Will I really save the entire world? Not likely. Will I change the currently abysmal face of education in the US as we know it? Slim chance. Will I leave my community a better place than I found it? Possibly. But despite the seemingly impossible task of saving the world ahead of me, I’m desperately determined to die trying. I’m not a superhero and I’m only one regular ass person. Many before me have tried and failed. But I’m still going to join in the fight. Because… If not me/us, who? If not now, when?

Have you ever felt really passionate about something that you can’t stop thinking about? Do you have big dreams that to others seem far fetched? Would you support my pending campaign to become the “super superintendent of education” (the job title is a work in progress) so I could make changes to the  education system both federally AND locally to create some order out of this chaos?

My dreams won’t be deferred,
~Gem the Advocate

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1Since PA’s governor announced his proposed budget cuts earlier this spring, on multiple occasions I have visited with city (Pgh) and state legislators to discuss the cuts to education, in particular. I’ve lobbied on Capitol Hill about other issues. I also work with various organizations to tackle policy issues and social injustices. My social action game is not a game.

2If you want to learn more about the issues that constantly have me in an uproar on twitter, check out the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” If that gets you on board, I have plenty more in depth reading for you… #letmeknow

Why So Serious?

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It's just a jokey joke! Kinda...

Admin note: I’ve been away for awhile. Have you noticed? Probably not. I’ve been trying to get my life in order and resemble the studious, diligent grad student that I’m supposed to be. Thusly, my attention has been elsewhere than this blog *sigh*. But I miss writing about non-scientific material. So, on to today’s post…

Last week while I was reading the comments section of a post from my favorite blog, VerySmartBrothas, I came across this article about a South Carolina Republican party (as part of the schedule of events for the National Federation of Republican Women Board of Director’s meeting) with the theme “A Southern Experience.” As noted in the schedule, the dress was “cocktail” and there would be Gullah storytellers and singers present. Apparently, the South Carolina senator Glenn McConnell decided to dress in his best Confederate general outfit

When I first laid eyes on the pictures I was like (o_O). W.T.F? So, in my state of shock and amazement, I sent the article to my mom, brother, and a few others. Below are responses I received, followed by my [same] response to both of them (slightly edited).


My brother:

LOVE the comments too. White folks like that ain’t s***… Sick of these hypocrites acting like this stuff is harmless, when they know good and well if one of their sacred symbols were used to “have fun” they would be calling for some sort of ban or worse, start lynching n**** again. The two so-called negroes in the picture REALLY need their asses kicked. They look old enough to have lived through the struggle for human rights for black people. Shame on them. And woods really trip me out with this kind of stuff. If history is so meaningless, if it has so little bearing on the here and now, why do they keep beating us over the head with it (President’s Day. Independence Day, 9/11, Pearl Harbor, etc.)? because they KNOW it does matter, at least when it comes to the interests of white people…

My mother:

wow is right, WTF are these people thinking (read black people)…i just don’t understand, what is festive or fun about the slave era in our country? how can this be okay, even decades later…help me understand!!! i am old, and perhaps i have lost my sense of humor…

Me:

the thing that bothers me the most is that by “celebrating the old south” they’re celebrating slavery. the ONLY reason why the south flourished the way it did is because of slaves. they dont CELEBRATE black/african/slave culture and revere these blacks that allowed them to have any prosperity. they arent passing out thank you notes to the descendants of those whose blood, sweat and tears went into building the south’s economy. instead, they’re celebrating how great the south was because they were able to exploit, enslave, and demoralize a whole race of people, and by celebrating “the old south” are essentially saying to me they wish things were like that again–at the expense of exploiting, enslaving, and demoralizing a whole race of people AGAIN to do it.

and THAT is what i can’t appreciate about these confederate loving southerners. GTFOOHWTBS. you dont see germany “re-enacting” the days of hitler and nazi occupied europe. that sh*t will get you killed and isnt tolerated… im just so disgusted.

And that^^, in a nutshell, is how I feel about the event and the people participating in it. I did also want to elaborate on some of comments made in the comment section of the article where some people were questioning what the big deal is and why blacks (particularly) are so offended. First and foremost, to me, a “Southern experience” does NOT equal celebrating the Confederate south which inevitably is linked to American slavery. So the mere fact that some one is dressing in Confederate garb to a BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING gathering is a violation and causes me to eye-brow raise and have tons of questions.

Secondly, and most emphatically, I HATE when 2520s (white people, for the non-VSB readers) seem to get offended themselves when black people are so offended by things white people do that are somewhat racially charged or has a history to ‘our’–Blacks–turbulent history with America and say things like “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that ‘you’ can’t fathom why anything regarding slavery would cause Blacks to pause. I don’t think I even have the time or space to go into how annoying white privilege is to me. MFers don’t have a clue and don’t ever feel the need to get one. While I recognize some Blacks pull the “I’m so offended” race card (is this a separate card from just the plain “race card”? or did I just make that up?) about anything that is remotely race-related, even when it’s a stretch. Nonetheless, it’s annoying and rude as hell to have one’s feelings and opinions about race in America constantly dismissed just because a group of people don’t understand or care to understand American Blacks’ hurt, pain, and mistrust as it relates to the issue. Because ‘our’ feelings and opinions about a particular matter aren’t deemed that big of a deal to ‘you’, it’s just not that serious and ‘we’ should be able to just go with the flow and shut up about it? GTFOOH. That’s such a white privilege attitude and I can’t even stomach having those conversations with ‘those people’. Unless ‘you’ are truly interested in being educated as to the background of ‘our’ ill feelings towards a particular situation, fall back.(sidenote: I am only talking about those 2520s who have dismissive opinions about race, not ALL 2520s)

And lastly, it’s not that I’m offended (or even taking it personal) that people would find it appropriate or acceptable to dress in Confederate-themed outfits and say it’s a mere expression of a so-called Southern experience, it’s that I’m just… confused. Because the Confederacy lost the war and thus lost their right to be a separate entity with its own flag constitution, government, etc. End of story. So…. what more is there to say about the matter? Unless these Confederate reminiscing Southerns are calling for legislation to re-legalize slavery in hopes to regain the good ol days of the good ol south, why are we even acknowledging the Confederate south outside of a high school U.S. history course? Get. over. it. Despite the fact that the Confederacy was NOT made up of Republicans, hello. Not the Republican party we recognize today, anyway. Perhaps the obsession with some folks holding on to the “history” of the Confederacy with the intentions to revisit and revere it is just wasted on me. If anything, Southerns with this mindset are the ones “making a big deal” about the Confederacy and being so serious about revisiting it–as if it’s worthy to remember the south’s only crown achievement of being able to effectively enslave West Africans for the success of their economy. How impressive. *shrugs*

Any thoughts or feelings on this issue? Are you offended by people who celebrate the “old south” and the Confederacy? Do you think its a race issue or just people being overly sensitive about anything dealing with ties to slavery?

Not so serious but oh so sincere,
~Gemmie Freedman