You Are the Land

“It is the end of a family – when they begin to sell the land… Out of the land we came and into it we must go – and if you will hold your land you can live … if you sell the land, it is the end.”  - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
By Aaron Burden, Unsplash

February’s coming to a close. I’m starting to look at the plant containers in the tiny garden on my deck, their soil still covered in snow and ice, and my mind is calculating. As it forms a lists of seeds and a schedule for the staggered planting of romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, collards, kale, and arugula, it also paints a picture of seedlings happily plucked from the shelves at Lowes. 

I can feel the shift. There were times in the past when I was so bogged down, so mentally disoriented that I could not align with and enjoy this change. But now that I’ve dedicated myself to that alignment, the change is delightful, and I flow with it even when I’m not trying. I’ve learned to stop and observe, to meditate in the open air and remember from whence I came.

I’m thawing. I may be groggy from the still long stretches of night, drained by recent storms and all that comes with them, and dazed by the happenings in yet another year of seemingly nonstop work, but my mental hibernation is waning. I’m becoming more social again. My mental freeze – the deep need for silence and the strong desire to be alone, to rest – is giving way to planning, and I am hopeful again of the prospect of living a sane life at a sane pace on my terms. I’m getting closer.

“Take what you need, and leave our land the way you found it.” - African Proverb

Putting feet to ground and hands to soil is a critical habit for me in maintaining that kind of life – a life of freedom. I shudder to think that many of my Black peers will not enter cruise ships because our ancestors were carried into a legacy of bondage and torture on ships;  will not even consider living abroad because they feel shackled to this land where rivers of the blood of our direct ancestors flow; will not think of bending under the blazing sun to tend a row of plants because our forebears had no choice but to do so. 

Their minds are still in chains. They don’t realize that our ancestors endured so that we could have the liberty to move throughout the world at our leisure, as we see fit, enjoying the sights and sounds, meeting the people, dancing a dance with air, sea and land that keeps us nourished, joy-strong, and free. 

“If two brothers fight over their father's land, it is a stranger who will enjoy their sweat and labour.” - African Proverb

They don’t value the land. Maybe they don’t know what it’s worth. They don’t understand that the deep dark soil – like the darkness of our skin, like the darkness of the seemingly endless universe – is Infinite Potential itself. It is a womb of vitamins, minerals and possibilities.

Land is the vault, the original storehouse. It brings life itself into being and offers us a final embrace in death. It forms and stores our diamonds, gold, gems, precious metals, food, and secrets. The land doesn’t just hold our treasure, it is our treasure. It is truly “where the money resides”.

When lack of knowledge, poor planning, lack of unity, lack of initiative, and small thinking all result in the dilapidation of our homes and neighborhoods, and someone else swoops in to “improve” what we refused to maintain, we call it a crying shame. I say shame on us, because we don’t know the value of that blood-bought land, and we of all people should know it by now. 

In the Information Age, gentrification and heirs property issues are old news. We should be our own gentrifiers. Like the late Francis Cress Welsing said, there’s a reason they call it RACE. It is a game that we should be fully aware of by now.

We should understand the land, and we should never forget that we are the land.

Happy Black History Month.

“Take your spear and shield and I will take my hatchets and axe and protect our land from the intruder…” - Excerpt from an Eritrean proverb

For a deeper look at the issues around land ownership and the ways in which some are working to preserve land and profit from land investment, check out this (not at all comprehensive) list of resources:

I. LEGAL EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR LAND PRESERVATION

A. Center for Heirs Property Preservation

“We help families protect and keep their family land…build generational wealth and…grow “working” landscapes….  We offer legal education and direct legal services to help families reach agreement, clear title to family land and probate estates… We offer forestry education and services to help landowners understand the value of managing their forestland for greater income.”

http://www.heirsproperty.org

B. What is heirs property, and why is it a problem?

C. The Benefits of Land Trusts

“A land trust is a legal entity that takes ownership of, or authority over, a piece of property at the behest of the property owner. Like other types of trust, each land trust’s terms are unique… Title-holding land trusts, also known as Illinois land trusts, protect landowner anonymity and keep property out of probate. Conservation land trusts are tasked with the management of undeveloped land to maintain natural resources, historical sites, and public recreational areas for future generations.”

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/land-trust.asp

Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently. With prospective homeowners, it enters into a long-term, renewable lease instead of a traditional sale. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families.

https://community-wealth.org/strategies/panel/clts/index.html

II. FARMING AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY

A. Ancestral Case Study: FANNIE LOU HAMER founds Freedom Farm Cooperative

“In 1969, Mrs. Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative with a $10,000 donation from Measure for Measure, a charitable organization based in Wisconsin. The former sharecropper purchased 40 acres of prime Delta land. It was her attempt to empower poor Black farmers and sharecroppers, who, for generations, had been at the mercy of the local white landowners...

However, the Freedom Farm was unable to sustain itself. It never received the institutional backing that was necessary to make it a viable organization. And it was not a commercial venture, thus without continuing resources at the federal level, it made it almost impossible to survive.

"If you give a hungry man food, he will eat it. [But] if you give him land, he will grow his own food.” - Fannie Lou Hamer

B. Soul Fire Farm, Founded, Co-Directed and Managed by Leah Penniman

“Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system. We raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system.”

http://www.soulfirefarm.org

“UJIMA: Food Sovereignty, Fannie Lou Hamer, & How to make Kraut!”

C. Freight Farms

“…at Freight Farms, we believe that healthy food is a right, not a luxury. For this reason, we are dedicated to making fresh food accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time with a complete platform of products and services.”

https://www.freightfarms.com/company

III. SUSTAINABILITY, GLOBAL URBAN AND LAND PLANNING

A. United Nations Global Land Outlook

“The premise of the Global Land Outlook (GLO) is that land, and its associated resources such as soil, water, and biodiversity, comprise a relatively fixed stock of natural capital… The GLO publications focus on a positive narrative and provide a clear set of responses to optimize land use, management, and planning, and thereby create synergies among different sectors in the provision of land-based goods and services.”

https://knowledge.unccd.int/glo/global-land-outlook-glo

B. Urban Green-Blue Grids for sustainable and resilient cities

“The quality of our future, the quality of urban life and the functioning of the city thus depends on the quality with which we shape our cities, restructuring and transforming toward a sustainable city… Green-blue urban planning can offer more room for the development of biodiversity and a healthier, more attractive living environment.”

IV. LAND AS AN INVESTMENT AND A HERITAGE

When it comes to investing, y’all can miss me with the get rich quick schemes, investing “secrets”, and big ticket classes run by fast-talking bro coaches. It may not sound sexy, but for the levelheaded investor who’s interested in stability and long-term growth, land is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

“10 Reasons Why LAND is the BEST Future Proof Investment”

“How Property Law is Used to Appropriate Black Land” (and how to flip the script)

V. MEDIA BONUS

They share some very compelling stories about gentrification in Philadelphia on WURD radio, but there’s also much more.

WURD Radio

“WURD is the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and one of few in the country. WURD serves as the heartbeat and pulse of Philadelphia’s African-American community by providing information and solutions that educate, uplift and inspire.”

https://wurdradio.com/ Click play to listen live.


***

As always, any link that I share is for your learning pleasure. It is not an endorsement of any particular source or organization and does not mean that I agree with every idea that they espouse. Explore. Study to show thyself approved, and find the answers that are right for you.

Love is not blind, you are


Have you been to Inanna’s Temple where we are baptized in the waters of the JoyWell? The truth will set you free in there, but not before pissing you off, making you laugh, and causing you to clutch your pearls!

Join us any time on my new YouTube channel. Subscribe and hit the notification bell for updates. Like, share, and let YouTube’s algorithm spread this gospel. Thanks, and see you there!


We have a clever way of shaking off responsibility for our shortcomings through the use of cute words and phrases. (I should know, words are my stock and trade.) Some of our adages are so short and sweet, and sound close enough to the truth that we often don’t bother to examine them more deeply.

I get a little amused every time I hear someone say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Not only are they simply regurgitating an often misquoted bible verse, but I can immediately see right through to the sense of powerlessness and lazy thinking that would cause a person to latch on to a phrase like that.  

Why do we speak this way? Because it shifts the responsibility for doing something away from us. 

Bruno Feitosa, Pexels

Look it up. The actual bible verse says, “The love of money is the root of all evil”, and the addition or omission of those first three words gives the phrase a totally different meaning. “The love of” makes it clear that evil is not the inherent quality of money. It’s an out of control desire for money and unbalanced behavior in relationship to it that create evil outcomes. 

Here in the good ‘ol USA, another name for our money is fiat currency. That literally means that it is backed by nothing and has no value other than what we assign to it. Whatever circumstances we create in dealing with money is purely a function of our thinking and behavior. It is simply a tool, and we are the builders.

The same logic can be applied to love and the phrase, “Love is blind”. If you’ve uttered these words, I’m placing the bags full of shame, blame, resentment, and self-pity related to your disappointments in love squarely in your lap. Your mind is the only one that you have the power to change. So, I want you to stop what you’re doing, mosey on over to a mirror, look yourself dead in the eyes and say,

“Love is not blind. I am.”

Now close your eyes and think about all the things that you cannot see, all that you’re missing out on, as you accept the truth of your behavior. Ask yourself what you have been choosing not to see, and if you’re afraid of the answers as they come, face them anyway. Write them down for full effect. 

I’m not doing this to make you beat yourself up over your missteps in love, because wallowing in guilt is just as unproductive as self-pity. You can toss those bags I placed in your lap out with the trash just as soon as you acknowledge what’s in them. I need you to understand that taking responsibility is taking back your power, and it is one of the first steps to healing and getting stronger. 

Kristina Paukshtite, Pexels

Now, I’ve seen enough to know that there can seem to be as many definitions for love in this world as there are people. And at times the definition gets so convoluted and watered down that it ceases to be distinct. This is why it is important to maintain the purity of values and ideas to a reasonable degree. The expression of love may evolve with time, but it still has certain fundamental qualities.

I think one of the most invaluable characteristics of love is wanting the best for someone. When someone knowingly engages in behavior that opposes the best interests of someone they claim to love, that so-called love is falling short. Of course, life is complicated and it isn’t always easy to know what is in a person’s best interests, but love tries to learn. 

Yet, I’m not even referring to the hard cases. I’m talking about the cut and dry, no brainer situations where we know that what is happening is bad for us. Whether it’s our own substance addictions, choosing to stay in toxic, abusive relationships, eating poorly and neglecting our physical health, or any number of destructive patterns, these situations reflect a lack of love for others or for self. 

So instead of saying love is causing this unwillingness to see and deal with gaping flaws, maybe we should adopt some new phrases like:

“Fear is blind”

“Codependency is blind”

“Lack of knowledge/Ignorance is blind”

“Loneliness can make you blind”

You get the idea.

Sometimes we make the mistake of fixating our love on the wrong thing, like money. We might chase wealth and accomplishment to the detriment of ourselves and others. Or we may pour out our energy and good intentions on the wrong people. We might make ridiculous displays of devotion and blind faith hoping to be validated in return. We lose sight of the fact that love is not always a gift that should be tossed out like candy from the back of a float at a parade. There are times when the benefits of love have to be earned.

No one gives out the medals before a race even starts.

There are times when love has to be kept on reserve and given only as a reward.

Ladies, I’m talking to you here, because this is especially true in romantic relationships, situationships, and dalliances. Women often make the mistake of believing that if they just keep pouring love into someone else’s cup, somehow their own cups will be filled. That generally doesn’t work with men who prefer a challenge, even if they say they don’t.

Pixabay, Pexels

You know when something’s not good for you. You feel it in your gut. It keeps you awake at night. No matter what you do to drown it out, it just keeps screaming louder and getting brighter and brighter until you shut your eyes tight like vice grips, shutting out the very light that would illuminate your path to freedom. 

Love is in that light. Love is the thing screaming. It sees the flaws of the beloved with 20/20 clarity and chooses to keep loving anyway… even if it has to do so from a distance.

Love is in your conscience, in your heart asking you to see the truth. 

Love is that truth. 

You are the one who’s blind. But you don’t have to be. 

Your Picker isn’t Broken | you’re just using it wrong

“You can’t control who you fall in love with, but you better control who you love.”

From Pixabay, Pexels

So, you’re chugging along the path of life, and you decide you’re gonna make a pit stop for some lovin’. You see a bunch of signs ahead pointing in different directions: 

“1 mile to a one night stand with no call back”

“5 miles to an average 15-year marriage that ends in boredom and divorce”

“12 miles to a whirlwind romance”

“Next exit for a long-distance affair where you don’t have to worry about sharing your bed or favorite food”

“Prison penpal love ahead” 

“Celibacy on I-86. EXPECT DELAYS.”

…and so on.

You have a gut feeling that some of these options aren’t quite right. I mean, who the hell would take those exits to “Bruiseville” and “Wife Beater Valley?” Nonetheless, when you look down at your Picker’s navigation screen, it’s pointing straight at “Codependence Way”, and for the umpteenth time, you shrug your shoulders and take the exit without a second thought.

When you reach your destination and plop down next to Johnny-Come-Lately, you’re certain that he’s the one. Butterflies in the stomach? Check. Finishing each other’s sentences? Check. That cozy familiar feeling like you’ve known him for three lifetimes? Check. Great sex? Check! Yet, sooner rather than later, he proves to be just like every other guy you thought you knew, and you’re right back on the highway to nowhere. 

What happened?

From Godisable Jacob, Pexels

You know what your Picker is, right? It’s that part of your subconscious makeup that is largely responsible for your attraction to certain types of people, while others fly completely under your radar. It’s the inner GPS system that tries to lead you to your healing by way of relationship. 

There are certain things that you will never discover about yourself, lessons that you will never learn, without a partner or potential partner grating on your nerves and triggering your idiosyncrasies. (Because of this, I also liken it to a syllabus for the “classes” life puts us in, but I’m sticking with the driving analogy.) 

What’s love got to do with it? Not a damn thing.

Sorry. I know, it doesn’t sound sexy at all, right? What you thought was the work of a chorus of angels led by Cupid and a 90’s R&B group is most likely caused by biological imperatives, conscious biases, and unresolved, subconscious trauma. This is the reason why people say, “you can’t control who you fall in love with”. 

I, however, am here to tell you how you can (and why you better) control who you love.

If you are one of those people who seems hopelessly drawn to the wrong kinds of potential partners — people who are selfish, too materialistic, cold, emotionally unavailable, abusive, shallow, or generally noxious— then your Picker is playing a part. It’s purpose is simply not what you think it is.

If you think your head-over-heels attraction to a moron is a sign from heaven that you’re meant to be together, while you have little to no attraction to the kinds of people who would worship the ground you walk on, you’re probably misinterpreting your Picker’s dashboard readings.

Look, I’ve been there more times than I care to count. My skull is just as hard as anyone else’s, and I often need to be reminded of the very things I’m telling you. I know, firsthand, that feelings can be extremely persuasive. They can make a situation that could literally kill you seem like medicine for your soul—if you don’t understand their purpose. 

I’ve learned that feelings play a very important role. They are like sensors that tip you off to faulty thinking and behavior patterns, or issues that require your attention. They can even feed your Picker data that causes your subconscious navigation system to lead you into encounters with people who ultimately are not good for you. But the encounters are for your good. 

Did you catch that?

Problems occur when the Picker’s directives are interpreted as gospel, as evidence that you belong in a situation that is bad for you. Making matters worse is the fact that we are often inclined to remain in bad situations because they are familiar and do not require us to jump out of our comfort zones onto new paths.

The purpose of your Picker is not to lead you into seedy territory so that you can pitch a tent and stay there. Your Picker’s purpose is not to pick your life partner, or any partner, necessarily. It intends to help you pick apart the fears, projections, unrealistic expectations, and negative thinking patterns that prevent you from traveling a smoother path in life. It draws you into the mirror of another’s face, so that every time you look into your potential partner’s eyes and see their flaws, you can become that much more aware of your own— in order to grow and heal.

From The Lazy Artist Gallery, Pexels

If you had experience with someone early in life who was selfish, abusive, addicted, narcissistic… fill-in-the-blank, it’s highly probable that your subconscious mind will continue to guide you to those kinds of people, whether they show up as bad lovers, fake friends, nasty co-workers, bully bosses, nightmare neighbors, etc. The same holds true if you’ve picked up certain beliefs along the way that lead you to magnetize these kinds of people. Until you figure out how to free yourself from the shackles of those early experiences or negative thinking patterns, you’ll keep taking the wrong exits. 

It’s not what you attract, it’s what you keep.

Don’t blame your Picker. It’s doing exactly what it is supposed to do. I think all of the systems within our bodies and minds that are designed to run on autopilot often function exactly as they should. It is usually the challenges within our environments, along with our decisions and experiences, that throw them off balance or that prevent us from using them to our greatest benefit. 

From Rachel Claire, Pexels

The truth is, if you could closely examine many of the relationships that have stood the test of time, you will learn that those couples don’t have a magic formula. They aren’t always (or even usually) high on the fumes of Cupid’s pheromonic eau de toilette. Their relationships weren’t without cheating, lying, disappointment, or significant trauma of some kind or another. 

They may not necessarily light each other’s fire in such a way that their story would make you swoon with warm fuzzies and proclaim “awwww! as if you saw them confessing on an OWN series. They don’t make love like jack rabbits—well maybe some do. But many don’t, and that is perfectly normal for them. 

Yet the relationships last, or they are at least productive, peaceful, and satisfying for as long as they last. The good far outweighs the bad. 

Often, the distinct words that you will hear from at least one of them go something like this:

“I wasn’t all that impressed when I met him.”

“He wasn’t really my type.”

“A relative/friend introduced her to me.”

Lots of these relationships began with outside involvement, where a neutral third party (with a balanced mindset) who could see and appreciate the qualities of both people, suggested that they meet. There was little to no biologically-driven chemistry clouding their ability to recognize red flags or influencing them to rush ahead. Yet, something about the other person’s character, values, and willingness to work together drew them in and made it possible to build a stable and loyal partnership over time.

Now if strong, lasting love is not really what you’re interested in, if your heart is nomadic and you’re more wired for exciting flings and relationships that are short-term adventures, there is plenty of that to be had in this world. You won’t have to expend much energy to find it. Be safe and enjoy.

However, if you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve picked up on one of life’s timeless and most potent lessons: 

The things that are of the highest value and substance are usually in shorter supply, require more risk, and are harder to get and keep. Of course, the upshot is that the rewards are greater.

True devotion is Limited Edition in this world. It is highly exclusive. The raw ingredients for love are not scarce, but healthy committed partnerships can be, because stable love is not a fleeting feeling, and it must be cultivated. Many people simply aren’t up for the task. 

You can increase your chances of attracting somebody who’s ready to fully commit if you place yourself in close proximity to people who want to commit. So get off the highway to nowhere, and try a more scenic route. If balanced, lasting commitment is what you want, you will have to slow down, and be more selective and discerning.

For healthier, longer-term relationships, take the time to self-reflect and address your subconscious issues. Perfection isn’t the goal here, but at least become aware of what’s driving you. Then, when your Picker hones in on an immature, playboy/girl who brings out the worst in you, you will understand why you feel drawn to them. 

You can decide to drive off immediately with the full understanding that your feelings are offering you valuable clues. This attraction, no matter how strong, is to toxicity, and it is not a “sign” that you two belong together. It is a signpost, pointing to the inner work that will lead you to a freer life, day by day. You can kindly thank your Picker for pointing out your blindspots, leave the potential train wreck in the dust, and continue on the path of your development. 

Soon, you’ll stop driving down the path of foolishness at breakneck speed. You’ll take in some of the beautiful view, including all those sane and mentally balanced potential lovers that you might have sped past before. At the very least, you’ll avoid a lot of potholes. 

If you want to build relationships that last a while and that bring more good than bad into your life, think of relating like good nutrition and health. You can enjoy dessert, but if you lead with it and overindulge, you’ll end up sloppy, sluggish, and unwell. Period. Relationships built only on treats lack the muscle mass, bone density, and vital circulation that would keep them healthy. 

Choose levelheadedness over Love Bug Fever, sense before sensuality. Balance reason with adventure. You can have some of that double chocolate trifle romance. Just remember, it will probably taste better if it’s made well at a quaint mom & pop shop in town with a solid reputation for making kickass sweets, rather than slapped together in the back of a gas station shop just off Route 2 by some guy named “Slim”.

It’ll cost more, but it won’t make you sick.

The Fight Against Injustice | NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS

By Pixababy on Pexels (Text added)

Since when did it become the hunted’s job to talk sense into the hunter? And when has that ever worked? When have we ever observed a gazelle trying to counsel the lion out of his instinct to hunt and feast as it rested in the clutches of the beast’s teeth? Is that footage hiding somewhere in the archives at PBS or National Geographic?

Help me understand why, still — after this eons-long war between the haves and have nots began — the targets of oppression seek to make the assailants change their ways.

That’s not how any of this works.

Who the hell pauses, kneels in the middle of a battlefield, and begs an invading army to

“Forget about this war! Please, abandon your privilege, your bloodthirst for power, and the sense of preeminence which gives you your very identity, in favor of a world where we all love and share with one another. Don’t kill us!”

The destitute. That’s who.

Be about the business for your own well-being, your advancement, and that of your loved ones. Of course, defend your life and your honor — this is your birthright as a human being. Or, slip your shackles and leap from this blazing ship into the sea, if you have to. But trying to sway the assailant’s mind as he sets deck after deck alight is a waste of precious energy and time.

You cannot appeal to the morality of one who does not share your morals. You will not mine empathy from the prehistoric rock that is his brain. The scriptures and holy values you throw his way to convict his soul will only ricochet off that calloused shell and knock you upside the head.

Such indoctrinations were given to YOU, branded upon YOUR flesh, molded into the crevices of YOUR heart and mind, woven into YOUR offspring’s DNA, to assure your plentiful presence on the lower rungs of the food chain.

Morality isn’t the predator’s burden to carry.

And in the same way, you cannot be laden with any responsibility for his psychosis.

As protests rage on, as lands heave along the fault lines of antiquated and diabolical ideologies, (as is the way of life on earth throughout the ages) I am firm in my understanding of this:


The onus is not on me to fix anything but myself. I don’t want to spin my wheels,  playing social justice whack-a-mole, chasing mirages of prosperity and clout, running around like a caped crusader supposedly “fighting” oppression, yet groveling and begging at every turn for acknowledgement, assistance, sympathy, honors and awards, proper compensation, food, clean water, clothing, shelter, electricity, jobs, better jobs, management jobs, housing, better housing, the best housing at a good price, education, safety, equality, respect, or humane treatment from the very assailant who’s teeth are dripping with the blood of my peers.

We can’t go to rehab on behalf of this addict. He has to want sobriety for himself. If he doesn’t, he will only reinvent the hunt, time and again, by way of yet another loophole, as he has indeed done for centuries.

Injustice is The Unjust One’s problem to fix. His lunacy is the result of the parasites that plague his mind. I cannot take his medicine for him.

I cannot spend precious time spoon-feeding history, biology, and world affairs lessons to those who are otherwise savvy and brilliantly informed but somehow manage to be brazenly ignorant of the Move Bombing, past and current slave trades, rape culture, the gender and sexuality paradigms as nature actually presents them, the Tulsa Massacre, poverty pimping, or any number of blatant issues that have affected the targeted.

Marcus Williams, Webcomicms.net

It is not my job to fix the insanity of racism, to correct the short-sighted foolishness of misogyny, to convince someone that homosexuality and pedophilia are not one and the same, or to elucidate that disagreement alone does not equal fear or hatred.

I cannot educate a person’s mind into one that is not awash with prejudgments, and uninformed, perverted assumptions about someone else. I especially do not have the presence of mind to do this as I bob and weave my way around his bullets. What we focus on expands, and I’m interested, only, in expanding a sense of well-being for those who seek true wellness.

When the world’s targets are no longer bound to this imagined moral imperative to extend compassion, patience, and knowledge to their assailants, their efforts to advance will get a much-needed boost from the deluge of redirected focus and resolve. When the predators can no longer get fat on the prey’s undivided attention, they will have nothing but their own long-expired sense of superiority to consume. When the hunted are no longer enslaved to an insatiable covetousness to enjoy the privileges of the hunter and no longer beholden to a worldview that hails the hunter’s way as best, they might escape predation and reach their own prizewinning zenith.

I have no additional energy available to relegate to the hope that the world’s assailants will finally pull themselves up by their own intellectual bootstraps and become true human beings.

I can only correct my own shortcomings, limiting beliefs, and biases. I only have the energy and wherewithal to lay my own course, to hunt my own prey, and to help feed those around me who are still within range of reason. That is a task that I fully accept, and it is engrossing enough.

I don’t want another friend to die needlessly

How do you process it when your worst fears for a friend come true?

…When you have to watch those fears play out in a long process of suffering that goes on for years?

…When there isn’t a damn thing you can do to help, because your advice falls on deaf ears?

…When your place in your friend’s life is too insignificant for you to make an impact, but too meaningful for you to back away?

I have a friend named Sabrina A. Jones. To our crew, the “A” is for Alize, but we all know full well her mama named her Sabrina ANNE. One of us thought she should have a name better suited to her spunky personality, and the rest of us agreed. It’s one of our many inside jokes.

b0afd45c131c3224a73b04804c148341

Sabrina passed away Saturday, July 11, 2020—weeks before her 39th birthday. She died after a decades-long struggle with several ailments, including heart trouble and overwhelming stress from which she just couldn’t seem to break free.

I cannot celebrate the tremendous light that she was in this world without acknowledging the pain that she endured and the battles she fought.

So I’m gonna go there, because I am tired of watching us die of broken hearts, unnecessarily, far before our time.

I am sick of using our lives as cautionary tales, as examples of what not to do and how not to live. I’m tired of grieving our lives as much as our deaths.

Twenty years ago, our gang of friends and acquaintances sat around a table at a Friendly’s restaurant laughing, joking, and having the best of times, like we always did. It was normal for us to roll twenty-deep into a restaurant and find a reason to celebrate. Graduations, birthdays, weddings, weekends, a good time at church—if there was an occasion, food was at the center of it. We were college students.  We couldn’t afford much, but a meal with friends was always doable.

I vividly remember looking around at the plates on the table that day and realizing that I saw almost nothing green. Nearly every plate was a sea of tan and brown, fried, unhealthy “food”. This was a long-standing habit, a way of life. I saw it and got scared, because I knew the clock was already ticking on us, and we hardly had a clue.

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Shortly after the outing, about four of us got on a phone call and talked about where we hoped our friendship would be in the years to come. I had already had a couple of health scares due to hormonal and nutritional deficiencies, and I couldn’t imagine living out the coming years in and out of emergency rooms. I didn’t want that for any of us. It was desperation that led me to blurt out,

“I don’t want to be standing next to somebody’s hospital bed because one of us has had a heart attack at 40.”

 

In fact, Sabrina’s first cardiac event was well before 40. She would ultimately have several.

We hear so much about self-care these days, and the message is sorely needed. Too many of us die for the lack of it. Too many of us desperately need to understand that our worth is not in our work, that we don’t have to earn love in score-keeping battles with selfish mates, that we don’t have to feel guilty for relaxing or leaving wiggle room in our schedules for doing nothing at all.

We don’t have to beg to live well, to be treated well, or apologize for wanting to.

Too many of us need a daily reminder that we were not created to be anyone’s beasts of burden. However, we also need to understand that the riches that we will find in good health must be cultivated. We have to develop a habit of making small, regular deposits into the bank of health if we are going to reap the rewards down the line. If we don’t, we won’t just be uncomfortable, or have a few extra doctor bills, or not be able to fit into our favorite bathing suits. We will experience severe deficits.

I grew up surrounded by women who had servants’ hearts—nurses, cleaning women, teachers, counselors—women who often cared for others more than they cared for themselves. That’s what good Christian women do back home in Virginia where I’m from, and where I met these friends who became my chosen siblings.

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One vital thing Sabrina and I had in common was that both our fathers were addicts. I was fortunate enough to see my dad achieve recovery to some degree, and to even witness him make a sincere apology for the mistakes he made years ago.

I can’t pretend to know the conversations Sabrina had with her father, a man who she worked tirelessly to shelter and support through his addiction. I can’t help thinking that if he made different choices, she might have finally understood that it was not her place to parent her parent, and that enabling an addict is ultimately detrimental to everyone involved, no matter how close the relationship.

Sabrina followed in her mother’s footsteps. From what we knew, Mrs. Jones was a hard working and devout woman who refused to turn her back on her husband, no matter how many times he turned his back on them. She died when we were all in college.

Then, in my naïveté, I hoped my friend would somehow find a way to use her mother’s memory as a catalyst for creating a better life. But instead, she embarked on a twenty-year journey of working frantically, eating poorly, failing to follow doctors’ orders, and refusing to obtain treatment for crippling depression that kept her in suspended animation.

I will not be the friend who sugarcoats or ignores that. She knows me better than that, and I’ve already asked her to forgive me for my anger and unwillingness to shut up about it. In my mind, all of her suffering is in vain if I sweep it under the rug and simply regurgitate the standard pleasantries that people say when a loved one passes.

A lot of women like us wanted to make our ancestors proud.

We understand that we rose up on their shoulders and, in their honor, we strive to achieve what they could not. We think we’re further along than the generations of women who came before us, because we accumulate accomplishments that our grandmothers didn’t have access to.

We celebrate the woman who works two jobs, runs a side hustle, and gets her doctorate while raising 3 kids. Yet we downright denigrate the domestic women, who tends fully to her home and to the children she chose to bring into this world. We ignore the woman who expresses zero interest in burning the candle at both ends in business or the corporate world.

We worship at the altar of overwork while our children sit at home alone or with dubious caregivers, as our bodies degenerate from stress.

Have we really come that much further, or did we just move to a different plantation? Have we really made progress, or did we just trade the whip for the surgeon’s scalpel?

Please forgive my candor, because trust me, I got the degree. I am the mom with the 9-5 and the business, and the packed out schedule. I, of all people, know what’s up, so I have to ask. What is the cost?

What does it profit a woman to gain the world and lose her heart and soul?

How good is it, really, to feed and clothe men who wave the banner of our independence as they hide behind it to shirk their own responsibilities? What is the long term benefit of breeding a generation of men who prefer to live like kept women to the detriment of their mothers, sisters, lovers, and children? Is throwing on the Magical Black Superwoman cape for every single battle actually helping us?

Too many of us are still putting ourselves into physical and mental chains.

 

What the hell is all this working, accomplishing, and driving ourselves into the ground for?

I lost count of the many times that we pleaded with Sabrina to take better care of herself. We would often call her, reminding her to stop working long enough to eat or to take her medicine. When she finally ate, oftentimes the food she chose was not the kind that would actually help to heal her body or sustain her energy.

And I know that lack of motivation to care for oneself is often an uncontrollable symptom of depression. I know what that does. I have an aunt who died of heart complications on April 13th who I suspect also struggled with depression.

I cannot be sure, because she also suffered from other forms of untreated mental illness for decades. She was a recluse, and I never had the chance to get to know her. When she collapsed while shopping, the doctors had to hunt down a cause, because she hadn’t had a checkup in nearly 30 years.

I currently have a friend who is battling breast cancer, and I can’t tell if her extreme isolation is cautious, physical distancing or deep depression. I can only check in and hope she answers the phone.

Sabrina went into a coma the same week that my state’s first lockdown went into effect. I was still planning to drive down to see her after work that Friday evening when I called the hospital she was in and realized that they would not be allowing visitors.

I sat in a weird state of limbo wondering what would happen for weeks, and then months, knowing that the last time that I would ever see Sabrina’s authentic smile in person was long gone. That time had passed years ago.

Sabrina’s birthday is a week after mine. We are Leos, lionesses of the same pride, and I definitely felt a unique connection with her. Years after I moved away from home to study in Philadelphia and later settle down with a family, she could still feel my spirit as if I was sitting next to her.

So many times, when I was feeling down or having a hard time, she called me out of nowhere, completely unprovoked, to ask, “What’s going on wit you’ girly. Something don’t feel right. I was thinking about you.”

Sabrina always made the rounds checking on friends, family, and strangers alike. We could be at the movies, a music festival, the mall, the grocery store, the mailbox, the gas station, in a public bathroom, and she would make conversation asking people their names, how they were, if they were having a good day, and on and on!

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A quintessential Sun Child, she struck up conversations with complete strangers of all kinds wherever we went. She had studied Human Services Counseling in college, and she lived to encourage others. She could hardly go anywhere without running into someone she knew and who didn’t seem happy to see her.

We knew a party had started whenever she came bouncing into a room singing some song and making up half the lyrics. And the childlike glee in her voice whenever she was truly happy or surprised or excited is something I’ll never forget.

When I sit outside and observe the trees, work in my garden, or light the green candles on my altar, I remember her telling me how much she liked that color. I remember that green is the color of life, abundance, and renewal, and I convince myself that she did not suffer for nothing.

I know what loyalty is because of Sabrina. I know what uninhibited love, which is not afraid to express itself and is not diluted by superficial bullshit and ulterior motives, feels like, because of Sabrina. I know what it is to be cherished, seen, and celebrated because of her. Love was something that she was never willing to put on hold, and that alone took courage.

As much as I wanted to see her live a long and full life, I have to accept that maybe she was just rewarded with an early graduation. I know she deserved that.

 

Earth is a place where the good-hearted, who hardly consider themselves worthy of life, suffer and die young, while savages live well beyond their golden years, destroying nearly everything they touch.

But earth is also a place where we can take the bad hands that life deals us and learn to play a more clever game. We can take the lessons, the good memories, and the inspiration that our loved ones gave us, and use it all as fuel for living unapologetically joyful lives. I think that is the least we can do.

Peace, joy, and balance are things that we have to choose to develop, but they aren’t really optional. They’re like essential nutrients that preserve our mental health. Sure we can choose to leave them off the plate, but we’ll suffer when we do.

For a black woman, maintaining stasis, learning to rest in carefree quietude, and not allowing her mental, physical, or spiritual health to be shaken, is in itself, a revolutionary act. And, as anyone with two good eyes should see, the time for revolution is now.

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SABRINA A. JONES, August 2, 1981 – July 11, 2020

“Because of YOU, I am pathetic.” The Blame Game

Ever heard this song by Kelly Clarkson?

I’m well acquainted with it.  Very recently, I had a part-time job in a furniture store where the soundtrack included this heartfelt number.  And every time that sad, pathetic piano music started up, I wanted to run into the manager’s office and kick the stereo.  Many… many times.

See, the chorus of the song never sat right with me

“Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk.

Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt

Because of you, I am afraid.”

That’s it?

Some no good man did something that left her hurt and afraid.  (That’s happened to every woman on the planet, right?)  And, at least for the duration of this song, she was simply hurt and afraid and whining.  No resolution.  No power.  Just pathetic and blaming him, whoever he was, for her damage.

Whenever I think of this song, I’m reminded of all those pathetic quotes and memes that people are constantly sharing on Facebook about how many “haters” they have, hatershow they’re “cutting people off” who no longer serve them,

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(Neither do we)

or how they’ve been hurt a million times and are still standing.

been hurtNo one ever posts a quote or a meme saying:

To whomever I have hurt, misused, lied to, “hated on”, cursed out, or

misunderstood in a time of struggle,

I’m sorry.

or

I’ve been a hater.

I’m hating on some people right now.

I’d like to do some of the things I see others doing but don’t know how

and that pisses me off.

And make no mistake, we’ve all done something to hurt someone.  But no, everybody’s a victim.  Everybody’s damaged goods.  And too many people want to stay that way.  They’d rather keep pointing outward instead of looking within.  It’s the blame game that keeps us hurting and attracting more of the very things that hurt us, because we focus on pain as if pain is a noble pursuit, as if being a martyr is preferable to having no one to blame.

Here’s the thing:  once I sat down and watched the video, I had a much better understanding of what Ms. Clarkson was trying to accomplish with this, actually beautiful, song.  The story depicted in it is very similar to my own.  It’s almost identical to the background story for Jane Luck, the decidedly unlucky heroine in my new novel Pretty Little Mess:  A Jane Luck Adventure.   The self-awareness laid out in the lyrics (whether she actually experienced this or simply is a conduit of expression for those who have) is a necessary part of the healing process.  We have to understand the source of a problem in order to solve it.

But I think that’s where the blaming has to stop.  Because once you peel back a few layers from the person you’re blaming, you’ll find that the pain they “caused” you could be traced to some pain that they blame someone else for.  And on and on ad infinitum.  And much of your pain may be stemming from your own interpretation of what was done, or your own assumptions about that person’s intentions–which could all be wrong.

The blows we inflict on each other can certainly be overwhelming.  I guess the key is to not wallow in the pain, however difficult the journey to a better place may be.

And the next time you think some “haters” are out to get you, consider this:  people like MLK had haters, Malcolm X had haters, Jesus, Joan of Arc, Malala Yousafzai had haters.  Maybe you just have delusions of grandeur. Everybody’s not a martyr, and everybody doesn’t need to be.

Economic Exodus – the answer to inequality

Black-owned banks get rush of new depositors. Citizens Trust Bank Cynthia N. Day, President and CEO, and the Inaugural Next Generation Advisory Board (Photo: PRNewsFoto/Citizens Trust Bank) USA Today – Click photo for article.

I’on know what you been seein’, but in the days following the murder of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas 5, I’ve witnessed an exodus. My Facebook newsfeed has been full of optimism and self-determination in the form of advertising. That’s right—advertising. My friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have been buzzing about the solution to the lasting problems that we have been forced to face in the past week. That solution is personal sovereignty through increased support of black-owned businesses.

Yep, personal sovereignty- that little phrase that sometimes gets the side-eye due to the fact that it often accompanies some calloused proclamation that the poor should simply pick themselves up by their bootstraps and do better (assuming they have boots). It’s used to taunt the systemically disadvantaged. It has often been used to create the perception that poor people—who often need a hand up despite working themselves into oblivion—are not taking control of their lives.

But when your cries for equality fall on deaf ears, when you get tired of attempting to reason with those who cannot reason, when you realize that you never should have wasted so much time begging others to view you as human—you understand that personal sovereignty is the only answer. You begin to understand that you have your own resources and that the things that you can produce are just as good or better than all the things you once pleaded for from someone else.

Economic autonomy allows for community stability and wealth-building. Period. When your dollar circulates through your community 5, 10, 20 times before leaving it, that’s 5, 10, 20 additional people who have benefited from that one dollar (Analogy courtesy of Dr. Boyce Watkins). Over time, that translates into more income for local businesses, more jobs, increased investment opportunities, higher property values, better education opportunities, less debt, less crime—the friggin list goes on and on!

For those of you who are a little unfamiliar, this is a conversation that has been going on in the black community for decades. Why IS our hair care industry dominated by Koreans? Why ARE there so many fast food restaurants and liquor stores in a half-mile radius in economically depressed areas? Why HAVE so many of the neighborhoods that we loved been developed while the original inhabitants have been displaced? It is because we ALLOWED the economies of these communities to be dominated by those who take those dollars to other communities after locking up for the night.

Community loyalty. They know a lil’ sum about that in Little Italy, Chinatown, Little Ukraine, Le Petit Senegal, and other ethnic enclaves around the country. That’s called common sense, responsibility, pride in heritage, taking care of home, minding your damn business. Awesomely, minding your own business leaves you less vulnerable to economic meltdowns, job insecurity, and the unfortunate discrimination that still plagues this nation.

I saw a great meme today (courtesy of WEBUYBLACK, a directory of black-owned product providers) which said: NO JUSTICE…. NO MONEY. And it appears that these sentiments will not be short-lived, because as of yesterday the black-owned Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta had 8000 new account signups. So, if you’re still mourning Rosewood or Black Wall Street and wonder why they were never rebuilt, may I remind you that it is a new age? Black Wall Street has gone digital.

The best thing about this exodus is that (while some “fasting” in the form of economic restraint may be in order) we don’t need a Moses to spend 40 days on a mountain to figure out our next move. We don’t need anybody to part the seas. We don’t have to beg and plead for any Pharaoh to let us go. All we have to do is take our cash and walk the hell out.

 

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Okay, ENOUGH fear.

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

“I’m afraid.”

“I can’t keep calm.”

“I fear for my black son.”

“I fear for my black daughter.”

“I don’t know if my husband will make it home safe.”

“I don’t know if I will make it home safe.”

“The world has gone crazy!”

“I feel hopeless.”

These are some of the sentiments that I’ve observed all week since the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas 5. And I’m sick of it. I am sick of fear. All of it. Fear is what got us here, people!

Now, hold on, don’t misunderstand me. I have a great deal of compassion for those who feel this way. You are me, and I know your trials, because I experience them too. We’re in this together.

I have my own black son, daughter, husband, brother, mother, father, cousins, friends, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and my own black self that I cover in prayer daily with hopes that we will live to be our best, free from unwarranted, systemic harassment. I can’t tell you how many times in the last 72 hours I’ve stared at my 5-year-old daughter and had to shake off the thought of seeing her stunned in the back seat of our car after witnessing some vigilante cop lose his natural mind. Heaven forbid it.

I watch the man that I vowed to care for through the rest of my life come home every day, and I’m relieved that he didn’t encounter some crazed, poorly trained, afraid-of-his-own-shadow, Barney-Fife-acting police officer on his way from work.

But this season has me feeling empowered. Yes, empowered. Why? Because this is nothing new. According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No Temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man.” Oppression is ancient. Oppression is the steel reinforcement in our nation’s very foundation. We know these killings have been happening for centuries. But, we beat this before (the previous phase of it at least), and we can beat it again.

There is no reason for you to feel powerless unless you have chosen not to do your part. If you plan on twittling your thumbs, biting your nails, and simply watching from the stands while the winds of change blow around you, then yes, I guess you have a reason to fear. If you have no knowledge of your own power and the power of the creator within you, then yes, I can see why you are overwhelmed with fear. If you still don’t know that the Gods of our ancestors were themselves warriors, I get your fear. If you have forgotten that there really is no “they” and you’re currently blaming the mirror for reflecting this flawed world back to you, then I can see why you’re afraid.

See freedom comes in phases, and it’s cyclical, because unfortunately, humans get lazy. These trying times that ebb and flow through the eons are like labor pains, each one potentially getting us one step closer to birthing something better…if the baby isn’t strangled in the birth canal.

I respect your mourning, and I know that it is necessary. It is also necessary that you choose not to be paralyzed by your fear. Understand that the hopes, dreams, talents, strength, vitality, intelligence, and tenacity of all the dead are with us. In this sense, they never left us. Be quickened in the remembrance of them. And let the memory of them be your fuel as you move ahead in pursuit of justice.

You are a powerful creation, and what you submit to in fear will only expand. So instead, let each one that has been snatched from us empower you to continue doing what you should have been doing long before and what you should continue doing long after this phase is over: develop yourself, empower your family, and serve your community. Do that by any means necessary.

And if you still feel afraid, do it anyway.

 

 

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Polyamory – Could YOU make the proposition?

…”It means you’re my husband… but … I can have a boyfriend”…

WHAT THE F%*K?

 

As sophisticated a presentation of open marriage as Enchant TV has provided so far, I still found myself squirming when Keena made that statement in the first episode of Compersion.

It was perfect– an elegant packaging of a very complicated idea. Yet it felt sooooo uncomfortable. Why? Because, for all the thoughtfulness and maturity which typically saturates any serious discussion of open relating, that statement seemed dangerously oversimplified too. It seemed to play directly to the very fears and negative ideas that non-poly people tend to have about the idea. It made Keena seem like a simple, selfish, ungrateful, greedy bitch having a midlife crisis who wanted to “have her cake and eat it too”–at least, that’s what I was afraid others would think.

I was hoping that people (even those still on the fence about poly… or those balking from twenty yards behind the other side of said fence) would delay their criticisms just long enough to recognize the depth of conflict that Keena was experiencing. I don’t think such a conflict would exist if Keena and Joshua did not share a truly genuine love already. Yet she still needed more.

This is how I try to explain the concept to people who don’t get it: As a human being, you need food and you need water. Someone could feed you the highest quality, most delectable steak as often as you wanted or needed protein, iron, or vitamin B12, but you would still die without water. Your body needs a variety of substances to survive.

For people who benefit from open relationships, non-exclusivity meets a genuine need for variety and community–not just a desire to “have their cake and eat it too”.

But then again, what the hell is the point of having a cake if you can’t eat it too?!

cake

 

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Mo’nique and Sidney’s Open Relationship – How it goes down

monique and sidneyYou may have heard some rumors about which celebrity couples are/were supposedly in open relationships- Will and Jada, Brad and Angelina, Mo’nique and Sidney, Ossie and Ruby. Well, Mo’nique and Sidney have set the story on them straight.

If you’re late (like I was) and you still haven’t heard, to answer your question, yes they are. Huuuuuney, they talked all kinds of real shit in that January 11th episode of their podcast on Play.it. This was the first show in what is becoming a collection of (in my opinion) very intriguing topics.

Here are a just of the few points addressed in their explanation of how their open marriage works:

  • The public’s rumors and concerns about Mo’nique’s “self-esteem”: Mo’nique says that it was easy for some to accept that certain celebrity couples might have open marriages because, the public thinks they’re “beautiful people”. But when it came to her and Sidney, they were thinking there’s no way this “fat, black woman” could be with a man like that without something else going on. The public assumed that she was willing to do any old thing to keep her man. Little did they know that the open marriage was her idea…

 

  • E.G.O. = Expectations Gone Overboard: Mo’nique candidly admits that, in the beginning, she was selfish. Her attitude was, “I’m the one making the money. I can do whatever I want.”  If she entertained other men, they would politely say “Hello” to Sidney in passing his room on the way to the hers. She could do her thing, but wasn’t so interested in letting him do his thing. Then Sidney was like, “Hol’ up now. An open relationship means we can BOTH see other people”.  Mo’nique became more fully aware of the principle of *reciprocity* and realized that she needed to allow her partner the same freedom that she desired and enjoyed.

 

  • “When you love a person, the last thing you wanna do is control them” says Sidney Hicks. He says he believes in allowing a woman to be who she is.

 

  • Addressing the Relationship Police: “What happens when someone catches feelings?” a listener asks. Sidney says that the dynamics of the relationship are such that another party would be well aware of the fact that their home base is the first priority. And I’ll add my no-so-humble opinion here: I would imagine that in some cases, catching feelings would be exactly the point. If you believe that love is infinite, you seek to enjoy the fullness that life has to offer, you’re letting go of the expectation of *ownership* in love, and you are truly committed to the community that you have constructed, your partners would overcome any fear of being left behind. The extra love would enhance the overall dynamic–as in that strip club example that Mo’nique so humorously speaks of…

 

  • “But Gaaaawd Said!”: Sidney politely agrees to disagree with those who have a particular view of marriage based on religious ideals. He asserts that, yes, they consider marriage to be sacred. They consider it so sacred that they believe marriage should compel people to be open and fully honest with one another about their desires and natural inclinations.

Okay, okay. I won’t give away everything. I hope you’ll make your way over to their podcast, scroll on down to the January 11th episode entitled “Our Open Relationship” and see all that they have to say…even if you’re doing it in secret like I KNOW some of you will. As you open yourself to the possibility of expanding your honesty and perspective, maybe you won’t have to hide anymore…

As their tagline says, “A mind is like a parachute. It’s no good unless it’s open.”

Do you agree? Well, you don’t have to, but I’m happy you took a look anyway!

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