Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘African American’

My sister Kay has me hooked on the grocery store version of Starbucks Frappuccino Mocha Light, in the little blue top 1.12 L glass bottles. I keep them in the fridge for an emergency boost of caffeine. In fact, this morning after yoga I popped a top and am still sipping its delectable, milk-shaky goodness.

My favorite Starbucks drink, at their brick and mortar store, is an” Iced Grande Dirty Chai Tea Latte with coconut milk!”  Granted it’s literally tea, but still with a shot of espresso!

When did it become normal to pay $5 for a cup of coffee? As a kid, I remember coffee costing less than a dollar at the local Woolworths. The Flapper made “instant” coffee, with those brown granules and I still wonder how people can drink that stuff. Kay and my brothers carried on her tradition of hot instant coffee first thing in the morning, so we’d have to import our own whenever we visited.

I’ve always been a Starbucks fan, especially when the Rocker started working at one during high school. His first day of work was supposed to be 9/11/2001, but they closed early that day on the Jersey Shore, like so many businesses and schools. One of the perks (get it?) of having your teenager work there after school was a free pound of coffee every week! And they also started the Rocker on a 401K plan, as a part-timer, which was awesome.

We are surrounded here in the Music City with some off-the-charts local coffee shops. You almost need a degree in botanicals to order to order a cup of Joe in most of them; but, if you’re a coffee connoisseur, and you like to know which country and sustainable farm produced the beans and where and how they were roasted etc, then you’d be in heaven around our townhouse. We can walk to three amazing local coffee shops -“Cascara (Coffee Cherry Tea) / Spiced Butter / Maple/ Sassafras & Sorghum Bitters / served with Askinose Chocolate + Black Licorice Square” anyone? –  complete with lots of man buns, but our nearest Starbucks is a drive across town.

Yesterday we landed in an East Nashville coffee shop that has walls full of bookshelves holding board games! It was cold and rainy and there were lots of people sitting around playing games while drinking coffee, and get this, they were actually taking to each other! No necks craned down to the blue light of a cell phone.

Our only Starbucks complaint so far has been the typical “Old Person” refrain – “Why can’t these young people find a library to study in?” All the people taking up a perfectly fine table plugged into their computers doing “work,” so that Bob and I have to perch on a tall window seat overlooking the parking lot. It’s not bad, but it’s also not comfortable. Sometimes I’ve actually wanted a manager to kick some person out, you know that guy who finished his drink a long time ago and is just sitting there on his phone taking up space, but I’m a good ole Catholic school girl, so I never say anything.

In fact, I’ve never witnessed anyone being kicked out of Starbucks, not even when those gun-nuts were trying to make a point by open-carrying into the Cville store. I want to believe that the Philly store’s manager was an anomaly last week, “Waiting While Black” should NOT be a reason to call the police, or give anyone the boot.

“…police received a 911 call around 4:40 p.m. on Thursday from Starbucks employees saying that “two males were trespassing” and “refused to leave.” According to Ross, the two men did not order food and had asked to use the bathroom, but Starbucks policy does “not allow non paying people from the public to come in and use the restroom.”

I’m looking at the Silver Lining here. The manager was fired and training in bias and customer relations should benefit every worker, not just baristas. I’m willing to give Starbucks a second chance, the CEO apologized and my chai tea awaits. Although the “Sweet Caroline” I had across the street – a dark chocolate, hazelnut and amaretto cappuccino – was to die for before the Nashville Ballet!

0

 

Read Full Post »

When we first moved to Virginia, I heard about a police shooting in our community from the EMT who responded to the scene. The black person who was shot in the back, made the unfortunate choice to try and rob a house and then kill the K9 dog who was tracking him. The dead dog got more press than anyone else attached to the incident. The criminal didn’t die, but he was paralyzed for life and though I’ve lost track of that case, I’m pretty sure we taxpayers are now paying for his incarceration and medical bills.

“Blacks are about 12 percent of the US population. But 41 percent of UNARMED people killed by police.”

This was the Tweet I woke up to this morning from Nate Silver referencing the South Carolina murder of a black man running away from a policeman. Was he stopped because of his tail light, was there really a struggle over a taser, or was he shot in the back because he was guilty of driving a Mercedes while black?

Ten years ago, I remember thinking that NJ/NY police would never shoot someone in the back. Was I naive? I thought Amadou Diallo was an aberration, a one-off. http://criminaldefense.homestead.com/diallo.html

I’ve been laid low by a spring virus courtesy of my sweet grandson. Between naps, and a runny nose, I heard that the police chief in SC is calling for more body cams on police officers. Let’s face it, if that guy didn’t whip out his smart phone to record the latest shooting, we would never have heard of Walter Scott, a 50 year old father. That officer would not have been arrested. And technology trumps justice again.

But technology, body cams are not the answer. If you belong to a race that is 3 times more likely to be killed by a cop; a race  the DOJ says one of every three men can expect to spend time in jail; a race that is 60% of the prison population, akin to apartheid in our country, the facts are in. The Ferguson factor is real. Michael Brown at least wasn’t shot in the back. That is cold southern comfort.IMG_2438

Read Full Post »

Unknown

A phenomenal woman died this week. She was our spiritual mother, a national treasure; Maya Angelou had that voice that could peek into your soul and reach bedrock. She was what every poet must aspire to be, of every color and every gender and every nationality. She could transform words into pure emotion.

We Americans were lucky to have her around for 86 years, lucky to call her our own. She once said that courage was the most important virtue, and certainly to endure her early life of poverty and abuse she must have exhibited tremendous courage. I would add that patience is the least important. I’m pretty sure she would agree. “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is not an important virtue in my book.

It’s the second part of that definition that irks me. Because by squelching your feelings, even the angry ones, you nullify your existence. Every two year old knows that! OK, so I wouldn’t make a great yogi, suffering in silence, sorry. Feeling your anger is the first step to changing an untenable situation – ask any psychologist. Internalizing your anger equals high anxiety over a lifetime.

But for this weekend, when many of you are celebrating and not suffering, weddings and graduations, I thought I’d dig up an old commencement speech that Dr Angelou gave to the graduating class of 1977 at UC Riverside. She directs these young people to identify the heroes and sheroes in their lives, to be courageous and adventurous and NOT to travel a well worn path. RIP Maya Angelou, your words will live in our hearts forever.

Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be invited and certainly pleased by the reception. I thank the Chancellor, the officials, senior members and junior members of the institution, parents and friends.
In particular, I thank the graduating class. It seems to me that a commencement address always comes after the fact, after the long hours, after the tedious work, after trying to come to grips with somebody else’s ideas, after trying to stimulate one’s own brain so that it may come up with some ideas of its own. After all that, and even after the institution of higher education says to you, “You have done well, and to prove it I’m going to give you a diploma. After all that, then along comes a stranger who says, “I’m going to give you a commencement address.” It seems a contradiction, or else a little presumptuous. However, (pauses for laughter) there is a challenge that faces you that is incredible. And the challenge is not new. However it has not abated. The challenge is how to create a sense of adventure toward life and how to maintain that sense of adventure. There is an African statement that says, “The trouble for the thief is not how to steal the bugle, but where to blow it.” And it would seem that the trouble for you is not just how to get out of this institution, but once out, what does one do? Does one simply sit with that diploma and say, “I have found the one way, the true way for myself and I call all the others false.” Or do you indeed join life, that is the challenge.
There’s a poem that says. “She does not know her beauty. She thinks her brown body has no glory. If she could dance naked under palm trees and see her image in the river, she would know.” But there are no palm trees on the street and dishwater gives back no images. Now, the way one maintains, I believe, a sense of adventure, a love of life, and since life loves the liver of it, or certainly seems to favor the adventurous spirit, it is a wonderful thing to maintain that idea, that concept. The one way is to keep alive heroes and sheroes. I believe that people live in direct relationship with the heroes and sheroes they honor. And I will talk to you about sheroes and heroes. I don’t believe that he or she must always be embodied in the physical body. I believe that an idea can be a shero or hero. Certainly the idea of religion can be.
Black Americans were first brought to this country in 1619. That was one year before the Mayflower docked. That’s an aside (laughter.) Today, we are upwards of thirty million and that’s a conservative estimate. How do people continue to exist, and walk as if they have oil wells in their back yards, except that there is a hero/shero that stays alive. Some years ago when I was with “Porgy and Bess,” we went to Morocco. The company had traveled through many countries. And when we arrived in Morocco, we were told that the sets had been sent on to Spain, and we were obliged to give a concert. Well opera singers, as some of you know because some of your are, are a people always prepared to sing. I believe they have their portfolios taped behind their watches or something, they are always ready. So when the conductor said to the singers, “We should do a concert,” they really got into fine voice. I was the premiere danseuse and I simply couldn’t. I was not trained in that discipline. I went to the conductor and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to sing. I don’t have any arias. He turned to me, he was Russian, and said, “Bah. Don’t you know a spiritual?”
I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, about the size of this side of the seating (she gestures to one side of the audience.) We went to church on Sunday. I don’t mean we went to church and left. We went to church on Sunday, that was all day, and then Monday night missionary meeting, Tuesday night deacon meeting, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and so on. And at all these meetings we sang. Now I had never really thought about the black American spiritual. I never understood what meaning, what value it had, until that night in Morocco. The people in the company went out and delivered themselves of these beautiful arias, from Rossini and Resphigi and Handel and Purcell, just lovely things, Mozart. And they were well received. But then I went out onto the stage and there was a pit with a 120-piece orchestra. But how could they help me with their violins, celli and things. So I said, “It’s alright.” And I sang a song that my grandmother sang every Sunday of my life until I was 13 and left that small town in Arkansas. When I finished, 4,000 people stood up and stomped and made noise and shouted. (here she imitates some of the language.) And I thought, uh huh. What was that? It wasn’t for my singing. I can sing fairly well. But it wasn’t that. I walked away from the auditorium and I walked alone in Morocco trying to come to grips with what had happened. The great singers had sung “La Donna’ e Mobile,” (she sings it) and sung it beautifully. They had done it to perfection, lyrically. And I sang, what I had thought to be a good song, but not very important music. And there were 4,000 people screaming my name. And then I realized that my people could not give me the great names that bring shivers in the marketplaces. They couldn’t give me the land that people barter their souls for sometimes, nor money, nor power. But what they gave me was a hero/shero that allowed me to walk as tall, and be free enough to accept other ideas, ideas other than those that generate within my own community. And it is that for which I am very grateful. It is that I want to encourage in the breasts and minds of the graduating class.
There is among black Americans, for centuries, we were known to laugh when we weren’t tickled, and scratch when we didn’t itch. And those gestures have come down to us as “Uncle Tomming.” I suggest to you that those people, who were successful in that particular strategy, are heroes and sheroes, and we live in direct relation to the heroes and sheroes that we have. I wrote a poem for a woman who is a maid in New York City. She rides the bus. When the bus stops too fast, she goes “Ah ha ha ha ha ha.” When it picks someone up, she goes, “Ah ha ha ha ha ha.” When it misses them, she goes, “Ah ha ha ha ha ha.” And I thought, “Now what is that?” Really? If you don’t know black features you may think she is smiling. She’s not smiling at all. She’s exercising that old survival apparatus, that’s all. So I wrote a poem for her, because she is a shero of mine.
When I think about myself, I almost laugh myself to death.
My life has been one great big joke, a dance what’s walked, a song what’s spoke.
I laugh so hard I nearly choke, when I think about myself.
Sixty years in these folks’ world, the child I works for calls me “girl.”
And I say “yes, ma’am” for workin’s sake. I’m too proud to bend and too poor to break.
So hmph, humph, ha, ha, humph, I laugh until my stomach ache, when I think about myself.
My folks can make me split my side. I laugh so hard I nearly died.
The tales they tell sound just like lyin’. They grow the fruit, but eat the rind.
I laugh so hard, I start to cryin’ when I think about myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, a good commencement address should be brief. It might be funny. In this case I shall not be funny. I will encourage you along the lines of Terence, a playwright in 150 B.C., who said, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” It is interesting that his name is Terentius Afer, or Terence of Africa. He was a slave sold to a Roman Senator, freed by that Senator, and he became the most popular playwright in Rome. And he said, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.”
I encourage you to live with life. Be courageous, adventurous. Give us a tomorrow, more than we deserve. I thank you very much, and I encourage you to commence.

http://newsroom.ucr.edu/announcements/2009-10-24maya-angelou.html

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: