White Supremacy

The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the subsequent murder of a young activist, made me reflect back on the disturbing killings of two Portland men. I’m sure folks remember the stabbings of two good Samaritans by a white supremacist in Portland, this past May. The victims (and a third who survived the attack) were defending two African-American girls riding our city’s light rail system.

Shockingly enough, I was on the train when the incident occurred. Not the main train where the stabbings took place, but the second car. Amazingly, I didn’t get on the main car, because there was a crowd waiting to board and I didn’t feel like struggling with my son’s stroller. I decided to get on the second car. I wasn’t on train a couple of minutes, when a young woman and her brother came running to our car….screaming.

Another lady on the train asked them what was wrong, and they yelled out that people were getting stabbed. The little boy (probably around 9 or 10) looked terrified, then he started to cry. “Please don’t let him get me.” He said.

Of course, people from my train rushed off to see what was going on. A young Black woman ran back onto the car with fear in her eyes. “Make it stop.” She said softly.  It wasn’t long before authorities arrived and everyone was ushered off the platform. I will never forget seeing a woman with blood all over her hands, talking to police looking dazed. Later, it would turn out, she was one of the people who tried to comfort the victims.

The killing of these two men and the death of the Charlottesville’s victim, highlight a perverse irony of the current white supremacist movement, they seem to be killing more white people as of late.

White supremacists are so filled with hate, rage, and violence they are even willing to go so far as to kill their own.  It’s rather bizarre.

These horrifying incidents (and they won’t be going away anytime soon), is exactly why Black folks/people of color have called on our nation time after time after time,  to address the evilness of racism in America.

Until our society gets real on how this country was built, we will always be back at square one. What I’ve noticed is that many white supremacists tend to have a warped sense of history, they truly think this is “white man’s land.” It is not. It is Native/Indigenous land, that became an economic powerhouse due to the exploitation of Black bodies via slave labor. It’s a country that then thrived off of immigrants/immigration. The foundation of the United States, starts with people of color.

Perhaps, I am wrong. These white supremacist do know the truth of our history, and maybe that’s why they are afraid. Native/Black/other folks of color blood runs deep in American soil. And despite all of their attempts, we keep surviving. White people are already a minority in many parts of the country.

Instead of embracing it as an opportunity to make amends for the sins of their fathers, and build bridges/coalitions with people of color, some white folks are panicking. It is how we got Trump. It is how we get tragedies like what happened in Charlottesville. A young woman died over foolishness. Rest in peace Heather D. Heyer.

There were also several people injured in the protests this weekend.

Support them if you can:

Marcus Martin 

Alexis Morris & Noelle Morris 

Dre Harris 

 

 

The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 3

The reason why I decided to write this series, is not because I like telling my business, but rather my housing situation has truly been surprising to me. I thought I did everything the “right” way. I got the degrees, I didn’t have a child until I was in my 40’s, and I have stayed out of trouble. I have applied for job after job after job, yet I struggle.

The fact that I experienced homelessness for over six months was frightening to me. Even in my 20’s, when I was the brokest of the broke, I still found a way to keep a roof over my head. It’s not as easy these days, with increasing rents, gentrification, and unsympathetic landlords excluding working poor communities.

GENTRIFICATION SPOTLIGHT: How Portland Is Pushing Out Its Black Residents

In my current city, Portland, Oregon the displacement of communities of color, especially Black folks has been alarming. I relocated to Portland spring of this year, after my ill-fated attempt to make home in the Deep South. When my roommate and I were given an eviction notice due to an accident, I had had enough. I tried to get acclimated to my new southern town,  it was hard. Like most kids who were raised in the north, but shipped to the south during the summer months to spend time with family, it was different living there full-time as an adult.

The “red stateness” of it all made it unbearable. The limited access to social services, poor public transportation, and proud “rebels” was a bit much. I had to witness a pro-confederate flag rally once a month, when I rode the bus to work. The rally was held right next to the civil war museum downtown. I’m sure you can guess which side the museum wished won.

I decided to return to Portland, after our landlord was committed to kicking my roommate and I out. I packed up my son and our belongs and the little money I had saved and got out of dodge. But as the saying goes, “jumped from the frying pan into the fire.”

SEE ME Housing Support https://www.gofundme.com/woczinefoundersupport

Continue reading “The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 3”

The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 2

In August 2016, I moved in with a friend. The end of 2014/ all of 2015 had been a chaotic/scary time of running around trying to secure stable housing while raising a new baby.

I also got a job. It was an opportunity given to me after successfully completing a class on poverty. The organizer arranged for graduates to meet with human resources at a local business, and we were interviewed on the spot.

The next eight months were pretty uneventful. I tried to make the most out of my employment situation. It wasn’t ideal for me. I was grossly underpaid for my education/background, but since I was in a town fueled by hospitality dollars…the job was as good as it was going to get. At the very least, the job made it able for my son and I to survive.

More than 20 percent of Americans spend over half their income each week on rent, a number that continues to rise, recession or not. https://newrepublic.com/article/132159/americas-eviction-epidemic

Then one morning in March 2017, I was preparing to go to work. My roommate sat on the couch with a grimace on her face.  I asked her what was wrong. She stated the night before, she had accidentally fallen against the window while trying to put on her shoes. My roommate had poor health/bad knee problems, so it was difficult for her to stand without support. She miscalculated leaning her arm against the wall, and instead pushed her arm through the window. It had broken. She had cuts all over her arm. We chuckled about it, because we often poked fun how clumsy she was.

Neither one of us thought more about it. She stated she would let the manager know what happened and I hurried off to work. Later, that day, I received a text message from my roommate. The manager had been angry about the broken window and wanted to evict us. I was floored. Why would she do that? It was an accident.

When I returned home from work, my roommate explained to me that the manager believed the window had been broken on purpose. She alleged it had been broken in a fight. We couldn’t believe it. The manager maintained other tenants had told her that there had been a loud ruckus the night the window was broken. Supposedly, my roommate (who could barely get around most times without her breathing machine), had been in a knock down/drag out fight with a mysterious someone, as she couldn’t describe what the person looked like.

The fight was to have started down the hill near the manager’s apartment, yet she admitted she hadn’t heard anything. Then the alleged fight had moved back up the hill, near our apartment, and that’s when the window was broken.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women,” Desmond writes. “Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eviction-matthew-desmond-book_us_56e996e3e4b065e2e3d82403

Continue reading “The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 2”

The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 1

My housing problems started three years. It was December 2014. I was about to graduate with a Master’s degree. It was an exciting time. It had taken 2 1/2 years of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. I was finally going to be free from the rigors of graduate studies. However, I made a mistake. I didn’t have a back up plan for my after college life. I relied heavily on student loans and an on campus job for living expenses.  I was so focused on my final project for my degree, I didn’t devote enough time to job hunting. Plus, I figured I would find a job easily, anyway. I had a Master’s degree, right?

I was in for a rude awakening. I found myself dead broke when school money dried up. I lost my job since it was for students only. I applied for several jobs, but nothing came up. I couldn’t afford to pay my half of the rent with a new roommate. The roommate tried to be patient, but I knew I had to be fair and leave so they could find a more stable roommate.  It was during this time, I found out I was pregnant.  I couldn’t believe it. I was older, and never really wanted children. Also, I thought my childbearing days were almost behind me, as my cycles were thinning out.

I moved in with someone I thought was a good friend.  It turned out to be a disaster. I was living in a hostile situation and the stress was too much. I decided to give my city the finger, and move back to the south were the majority of my family resided.

It went fairly well the first couple of months. I stayed with my biological father. Soon it turned another dramatic situation. I’ll just say, I’ve gots no love for my step-mother. Four days after the birth of my son, we moved into a homeless shelter for women and children. We lived there for seven months.  I was forced out after a new director thought I should be doing X,Y,Z since I was “highly” educated compared to many of the women in the shelter. But she didn’t take into account I was a single mom with a small baby, struggling with childcare issues like most parents. I was “highly” educated in a mostly service-industry town, where most people barely had GEDs. I was seen as over-qualified. I had nowhere to live if she kicked me out. What good is a degree when you are in crisis mode?

What if the problem of poverty is that it’s profitable to other people?

Continue reading “The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 1”

Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”

The Strength of a Woman

Mary J Blige (MJB) released her album “Strength of a Woman” this past May. Like any good groupie, I got the album. To be honest, I only listened to it here and there. These are busy times. What I heard was decent. Generally, MJB tends to put out good albums. However, the other day I had a little down time and really listened to “Strength…” The album is actually pretty solid. It’s a reflective collection of music backed with heartfelt singing and killer production. It’s an amazing adult contemporary album for Black women in my age group (the Gen-Xers).

When it was announced that Mary was divorcing her husband of 12 years, folks said “uh, oh. Mary is going to be crying again on her next album.” Mary is known for singing about her relationships. As a die-hard fan of Mary of the 25+ years she’s been in the music industry,  I’ve come to the realization Mary is just a sensitive person. She wears her heart on her sleeve. I find her willingness to be vulnerable a rarity. The truth is,  love is some complicated mess. We all want it, whether we admit it or not. We want that deep love, that Love Jones love, that real love. I think Mary wants it more than anyone and it makes sense knowing her history. She has talked about being molested as a child, an on and off again relationship with her father, drug addiction, and relationship with guys who just didn’t know what to do with a girl/woman like Mary J Blige.

I remember in an interview, Mary talked about when she was a kid, other kids would fight to see who could sit by her or be her friend. She also recalled a time a teacher asked her to sing to help settle down the class, and it worked. There is something about Mary. I think because she’s an old/tender soul, that she has had to camouflage with street swag. The survival story of most Black women.

 

 

In the early years, a young Mary covered her eyes/was hiding. By mid-career (No More Drama, The Breakthrough) she was growing more confident. Now, with her 13th album, she is boldly proclaiming  “f*ck it, I’m Mary J Blige!” by sitting on her throne. 

Listening to the new album, yes Mary J is brokenhearted again. But unlike the other times she’s shared about failed love/the rhetoric of loving one’s self…she seems to have had a true epiphany of “oh well, shit happens. but i’m gonna be alright.”  The thing I love about Mary, is that she is constantly evolving. Mary has maintained she is a work in progress. Even when she got married and thought she found the love of her life, she warned folks that there is never really any happy endings. You always have to put in the work to be a better person.

While Mary has made some faux pas over the years (still cringing over that Burger King commercial and singing for Clinton), overall she’s been an inspiring person. She has been an iconic image for Black women like me who grew up in the 70’s/80’s. The 40-something Black women who know a little bit more about life than we did in our 20’s, but still learning and growing. Rock on MJB.

My current favorite song from “Strength…”