Friday, December 31, 2010

Five Books That Resonated with Me This Year

Every year I look at the best books of the year lists and see that I have read very few of the books on those lists. Oh well. 2010 was a good reading year for me, as they all are if you are really into books. I got a new gig that involved a bit of a commute, so this year I found that I had an increased appreciation for audio books since they kept me going as I went to and from work.

Rather than go through other people's lists or ponder what books of this year were truly "worthy," I decided to give myself a few seconds to think of the books that really resonated with me this year. I came up with four, although I would have preferred to have a top five. After I opened the blog panel, found some clip art and started to write, one more popped into my head.

My Five Favorite Reading/Listening Experiences of 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

The Giver by Lois Lowry


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Cleavage Isn't Really the Problem...

So between Grover spoofing the Old Spice Guy and the precious I Love My Hair video that is making the rounds, I’ve been watching a lot of Sesame Street clips lately…and I just got around to watching the oh so controversial Katy Perry guest spot on Sesame Street that didn’t air because of the objections over the sight of her cleavage, visible via her see-through bustier-type top.

I know exactly why there were objections to her outfit, but to me the content of the clip is what needs to be examined. I imagine that her song Hot N Cold was adapted using Elmo mainly to teach opposites (up/down, in/out, fast/slow, stop/go) with Elmo acting these out while Katy Perry chases him around. But since Sesame Street also has lessons about social interaction, I wondered what kids were supposed to learn about friendship from this flaky version of Elmo. He told her to meet him to play dress-up…and then he runs away and she sings, "Used to laugh while we played/Now you just run away."

Everyone faces rejection and all kids have times when they don’t want to play, but the skit seemed like a bizarre kiddie He’s Just Not That Into You…what with Katy Perry showing up for a dress-up playdate wearing what looks like bridal headgear and being all disappointed in Elmo, but then chasing him even after he acts like he doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

And then, true to form, Elmo tells “Miss Katie” that he was playing…he was playing tag…and she just didn’t get it. Because if there is one thing kids need to learn, it’s that if you’re gonna be friends, there will be a time when you just aren’t on the same wavelength and that some of us forget to communicate when the game has changed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Smile Loud Enough for Them to Hear

When I read a piece called Nobody's Smilin' from Clutch Magazine about how annoying it is to have men you don't know demand that you smile, I thought it was on point. And since the usual "black women shouldn't look so mean" stuff gets hashed out in the article's comments, I won't bother going into all that. But yes, a common refrain that is thrown at a woman who won't smile on demand is 'life isn't that bad.'

While life certainly isn't bad, it is annoying to be yelled at or told to smile or expected to stop and converse with/entertain people you have no interest in talking to so that they can get an ego boost. And yes, a smile traditionally means friendliness an approachability, but sometimes "there's daggers in (wo)men's smiles." Even the most upbeat people don't walk around grinning all the time and still may want to be left alone when they do.

So today I was in very long line at Trader Joe's after I'd indulged in a cupcake that made me rather full, and *gasp* I was not smiling despite the wonderfulness of having a car and money for cupcakes and TJ's food. I was however, lost in thought, when someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around but quickly realized that the man behind me wanted me to move out of the way so he could get the attention of the man in front of me.

The shoulder-tapper could not speak, but he used gestures and sign language to indicate that the man in front of me should pick up one of the 29 cent chocolate bars conveniently located on a low shelf for people waiting in long lines.

The man in front me was able to speak so he responded out loud and picked up a chocolate bar.

Then the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder again to gesture to me that I should smile.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Q&A Got a Little Crazy

Last week I wrote a lovely little blog post (Center for American Progress examines How to Keep the Fuel of Creation and Innovation Burning) for my blog at and in trying to keep it short and sweet, I left out some of the juicier bits...

Things got testy during the Q&A. In the post on, I mentioned how someone in the audience took one of the panelists to task for what he viewed as an inconsistency (talking about creativity and speaking out against internet piracy.

What I didn't mention was a woman who asked about what could be done to stop creativity from being stifled in 'go along to get along' corporate America. I was looking forward to the response from the panelists and was rather surprised when they shot the woman down. They completely disagreed with her assessment and cited personal examples of why this simply was not so. According to them there was plenty of creativity in corporate America and corporate America (or at least the movie studio one panelist mentioned) is open to it.

Um...what? They seemed to be more than a little removed from average American life...corporate America is exactly as the woman described and even if they don't deal with this on a daily basis, haven't they at least watched The Office?

Then, after the panelists displayed how they were out of touch, it was time for an audience member to do so. The panel and the moderator were very put off by a frustrated woman who asked 'if any black people would be able to ask a question'? Because she interjected so strongly as they were choosing some other person to ask a question, she was given the floor. As is often the case, she had been trying to get their attention and got more and more frustrated as other were chosen...but I didn't think it was because she was black.

Once again the focus was on corporations...the woman went on a little rant. The moderator, who had been extremely ruffled that race had been thrown into the mix in such a startling (and unfair) way, tried to smooth things over, asking if she had an actual question. The woman then asked a question that no one could answer: When will corporations be more fair?

The panelists shook their heads and one muttered, "I think she just wanted to be speak."

He was right and it was unfortunate that she let her frustration build to the point where she was ineffective because people were dismayed at the method she used to gain their attention.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cake Boss

In having one of those wonderful conversations you can only have with a four year old, the idea of making a pretend cake was on the table...but even though my niece proposed making the cake, she had no intention of being the one to do it-

Niece-let: You do it. I can't make a pretend cake; I'm not the boss.

Me: You're not the boss, but you just tell everyone what to do?

Niece-let: Yes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Am a Patron of the A.R.T.S.

...the A.R.T.S. being the Addict Relationship Theatre Series as performed by my neighor's renters.

This time, one of their occasional shouting matches took place in the wee hours of the morning. Things quieted down after I banged on the floor with a floor lamp, but I was unable to get back to sleep. *sigh*

Monday, August 16, 2010

Before and After

I agreed to get a makeover, thinking that it would be a fun thing to do, not imagining that I'd find it more uncomfortable than fun. And being the slightly rebellious-type that I am, I should have known that makeovers are not for me.

The trouble began when I didn't want to be bothered with foundation. I'd used the cleansing cream, the facial mask, the moisturizer, the lip exfoliant and the lip cream with no complaints. But I didn't want to apply any foundation--an utterance that brought all kinds of murmurs and consternation. I was a marked woman--one who did not go with the flow.

Under pressure, I agreed to the tinted moisturizer and I felt that the room of fully made up beauty consultants breathed a sigh of relief.

After I was tinted and others were foundation-ed, we were told to go take our "Before" photos. Before photos? Wouldn't the "Before" have been when I walked in...before the cleansing cream, the facial mask, the moisturizer, the lip exfoliant, lip cream and tinted moisturizer? Hmmmm....

After that I submitted to being made over. The make-up artist was puzzled at my less than flawless appearance, but it all made sense when I explained that I had opted for tinted moisturizer and not foundation. She dusted and powdered efficiently. I worried about losing an eyeball when she applied eyeliner, but I survived. At the start she'd asked if I wore makeup regularly because if not, she'd use a lighter touch, since I'd be unaccustomed to seeing myself with a lot of makeup. Honesty, even the lighter touch was too much for me. I was sent to check myself out in the mirror and did ask for more lip color. but overall I was not excited.

All gathered "oohed" and "ahhed" over everyone once they were made over. But one woman felt that I needed a special pep talk. She looked me right in the eyes to tell me how beautiful I was and that she wanted me to believe it too.

Now I know how the game is I did not expect anyone to tell me that I was beautiful without makeup because the point is to either sell makeup or convince "guests" to become beauty consultants themselves. But I was pleased with my looks "Before" and not at all thrilled with my look "After" despite everyone else's amazement at how beautiful I'd suddenly become with the aid of their beauty products.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's What You Say AND How You Say It

In thinking about the whole 'Dr. Laura Says the N-word'controversy, I am reminded of how much intent matters. So rather than get into a discussion of who can and cannot say the N-word, it is more productive to remember that no one wants to be disrespected, especially not in their own home. The N-word ignites controversy because of its history, but any words can be spoken with sufficient venom and the object of those words will know that they were said to harm and not help.

And where was the woman's husband in all of this. While Dr. Laura, she of the perfectly-tuned funny bone, told the woman she shouldn't enter an interracial marriage unless she had a sense of humor, I'd say you don't want to be married to someone you cannot rely on to take your part when neighbors/relatives seek to make you uncomfortable.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Claudette Colvin: Unheralded Civil Rights Activist

I just finished reading Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice. Colvin was a teenager who would not give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did. Colvin was roughly handled by the police and arrested.

What made her do it? After learning about her constitutional rights in school, Colvin was fired up. As a teen, she didn't understand how adults could continue to live with the kind of treatment black Montgomery bus riders experienced. The spark she lit did set the eventual bus boycott in motion, but Colvin herself was for the most part unappreciated. Black civil rights leaders didn't feel she was an appropriate representative. Over the years, her story and participation in the court case that led to the end of bus segregation in Montgomery has been overlooked.

Since this book was written for young readers, its main theme is about a teenager who spoke out and made a difference, although she was overlooked. One reviewer notes that even though it does not shy away from saying Colvin was left out, the book treads carefully when it comes to Dr. King and Rosa Parks, two of the big names in the Civil Rights movement.

Even if the book has a limited scope, so many details that get left out of the abbreviated version of the story of the Montgomery bus boycott really enrich my understanding of history: things like the way Colvin was ostracized for taking action, even more so when she adopted a natural hairstyle and later had a child out of wedlock; the transportation system set up to as an alternative (with used cars bought with donations and people turning over their car keys so their neighbors could get where they needed to go); and the white woman who wrote a letter to the editor in support of the boycott who was threatened, ostracized and killed herself a year later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm on the List

While I was up much later than I should have been cruising the internet superhighway, I clicked on a link to a blog post to find that I was actually mentioned in that blog post.

It is with great pleasure that I announce my inclusion in Spleeness's Funny Twitter Updates, vol.2.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We, The Pizza

Everywhere I turn there is a temptation to challenge my quest to make sure that my shrinking clothes don't get any tighter. Tonight's opponent: We, The Pizza.

Yeah, sure the newest restaurant venture from that guy who was on one of those chef shows that I never saw, is all about oneness and equality...and yeah, I went by there, thus I set myself up, so it wasn't exactly a fair fight.

I'd heard that there was supposed to be a soft opening yesterday, so after postponing plans with a friend, I thought I'd stop by, grab a slice and go home. When I got there, people were outside eating pizza and the door was locked. But those who were eating were kind enough to tell me and a few others who were puzzled that Chef Spike (Mendelsohn, of Top Chef fame) was opening the door to let people in a few at a time and that everything--pizza, pop and beer was FREE. That was all I needed to hear.

I was tired and hungry, so I didn't think to take any photos and all I have is that lame clip art pizza slice. Some people took photos with Chef Spike, but that didn't interest me.

I tried the Sicilian and the Roasted Potato Pancetta, along with freshly made "I Love You Long Time Lemon Lime" soda that had real fruit slices and basil in it. When I asked for mint, the soda jerk (who was quite friendly) explained that this one called for basil and then went on to tell me about how great it was that they made the sodas right there and they could make all kinds of unique flavors (so why'd he nix my mint?!) That aside, he did a great job practicing his fresh-made soda sales pitch on me, even making mention of Spike's other restaurant (Good Stuff Eatery).

Metal pizza pans in varying sizes adorned the one of the walls, along with stylized photos, including one of a DC soup kitchen.

On my way out I thanked Chef Spike himself and he asked if I'd liked it. I told him the Roasted Potato Pancetta was amazing, but that the Sicilian was not so great. He said they didn't have any Sicilian. I described and then pointed to it. That jogged his memory. He explained that he thought the round pies were perfect, but that the other ones he hadn't quite mastered and that Sicilian is an art in itself. He didn't even seem boastful in his claim about the round pies and seemed genuinely frustrated about the Sicilian. Being an artisan of any kind does require at least a dash of perfectionism.

"You're doing better than me," I said.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bathroom Humor (an episode in which I channel Seinfeld)

Now I'm not really into bathroom humor. I don't like to talk about the bathroom and I like talking in the bathroom even less...

So I went to the bathroom at work today and put a ring I was wearing in the pocket of my blazer. I made some wrong move though because it flew out of pocket onto the the stall next to me.

I could see that it was right next to another woman's foot.

I froze for a few seconds. My instinct to grab it seemed wrong because I know I wouldn't react kindly to a seeing hand appearing from the next stall. And as I said, I don't want to talk in the bathroom either. And it didn't seem smart to try to wait until I exited my stall and she exited hers.

Then I told myself snap out of it. This wasn't an episode of Seinfeld. I spoke and we both laughed and laughed. She pushed the ring my way so I could pick it up.

And when it was all over, I saw that it was the big boss, who fortunately has a sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Parting Words or Fare Thee Well

The other day at work I heard a man at work on the phone grilling his teenage son about his plans for the day--whether or not the son was wearing the father's clothes and what time he was leaving to go somewhere. "Dear old dad" signed off of the conversation with the words, "Be smart."

When I was a child, my mother's parting words to me as I was on my way out the door were almost always, "Be good."

I found it interesting that a man would tell his son to "Be smart." However, I don't want to be overly simplistic about gender differences, and say that of course a man would tell a male child to be smart and a woman would tell a female child to be good. After all, I don't know anything about this man or his son.

My real take-away (and I do not blame my mother for this) is that there have been many times when I would have been smarter if I hadn't been so concerned with being good.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Overheard at the Office: Affectionate Insults

"When people come to my desk, they sing."

"Could it be that they're singing so you don't have the opportunity to speak?"

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I Can Bring Home the Bacon...

Not too long ago a fellow blogger who lives in Congress Heights said she was not returning to our local Giant because it was just too much. I responded that this was too bad, but I did understand. As much as I want to put money into the neighborhood, I don't always shop there. Still, it is good to live near a supermarket because if I need something I don't have to go too far to get it.

Yesterday, I was tired and with a high of 100 or so, I didn't want to go too far. I had some time off and wanted to try a new recipe that require bacon that I did not have. So I ventured out and the drama began in the parking lot.

Two men dressed as women were causing a commotion and of course didn't care. One had on a bustier and one had on a bra. While they conversed loudly about something that only they understood, people in the parking stared and talk about them aloud. Near the door a woman loudly lamented that one of the men had such smooth, pretty skin, saying how unfair it was.

Inside I was greeted by a chewed up chicken bone in one aisle and spills in other aisles that had been left, but frames with caution cones. As I waited in line, a man knocked over something else and yelled loudly , "Clean up on aisle nine."

When I got back to the parking lot a rep for some obscure mayoral candidate had set up shop right in front of my car. It wasn't until I got in and turned on the engine that he and the man he was speaking to decided to move.

But, hey, I had my bacon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The African Presence in Mexico Exhibit Leaves the Smithsonian on July 4

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum has a great exhibit on the African presence in Mexico and it is leaving July 4. So if you're nearby, go check it out.

Even if you are not nearby, you can take the Shuttle Anacostia to get to the museum and to the Fredrick Douglass National Historical site.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing

While I was at "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment," an exhibit created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, I overheard plenty of discussions that pointed to the necessity of such an exhibit.

One visitor asked aloud, "Tina Turner, she was in Dreamgirls, right?" (

Much more poignant, was the conversation between some adults and kids. As they all marveled at the size of a boom box behind the museum glass, the adults told the kids that boom boxes were a precursor to the iPod. "We used to carry those things around."

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: Apollo Theater Exhibit at the Smithsonian

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


While I laughed a while back when I read that some kids don't really know where chicken nuggets come from, the other day I thought about how separated we all are from the origins of things, me included.

For example, I went to the National Museum of the American Indian where they had a table set up to make leis (the one I made is on the right). I've seen so many leis made with plastic flowers that I marveled for a second at the thought that originally leis were made with real flowers...real flowers that smell really good.

Then I got to thinking...if the original purpose of nosegays and perhaps even bridal bouquets was to ward off the unpleasant smells that come with infrequent bathing, perhaps leis served the same purpose.

From what I've read leis can be made of things other than flowers and they really are supposed to symbolize affection.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Big Ideas, Little Fiction

So I've been saying a lot about some rather unpleasant issues in Southeast DC, so I'd like to highlight at least on fairly event on this side of town--

DC Microfiction Performances in Anacostia and Dupont this Weekend

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ramayana: Behind the Scenes (or Sound the Alarm)

I wrote a blog post for about The Ramayana, the Constellation Theatre Company's latest production. But what I didn't mention was that at one point we had to evacuate the theater...

One of the characters, a monkey, had just said something about 'being late for school,' when an alarm bell rang. Considering that it started just after that line, for a nanosecond I thought it might have been some strange, anachronistic sound effect. Sure, the play take place in Asia in ancient times, but since monkeys were talking, anything was fair game, right?

The actors looked hesitant, but in true "the show must go on" fashion, they did not stop. My eye darted to where I knew the director was sitting. She had a strange look on her face and she too looked hesitant. The alarm continued to ring and the director stood up and told us we all had to leave.

Once the fire department cleared us, we re-entered and watched the rest of the show. The same thing happened while I was watching a movie once. For some reason it was must easier to get back into the play than it was to get back into the movie...I'm not sure why.

The movie theater gave us nothing for our trouble, while Constellation did provide us with an easy-to-remember discount code to reduced-price tickets to their first show of the next season.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Turning Up the Heat

I'm taking a writing workshop and last week's workshop hit very close to home.

Our instructor led us through making things much worse for our character. Asking us to consider:

What are some things you could do to make it even more difficult for your character to reach his/her goals?

Now think of even more obstacles.

What if your character does not achieve their dream, can you still wrangle some happiness out of that?

As for me, real life feels a little like someone has been turning up the heat. Every time I turn around, there is something else. And yes, it could always be worse, but that doesn't mean it is not bad enough as it is.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Disturbing the Peace

As you may have read in other posts, my neighbors and I oppose the Peacoholics' plan to open up an "apartment"/independent living facility/non-group home with a computer lab for the community/would-be condos for qualified youth.

They have popped up a lot in the news lately. Just today,I've seen them in 3 articles--

Group sues SE D.C. neighborhood commissioner over libel (This was the first Peacoholics' article o' the day. The deny plans to house 16-year-olds, but then the article says they will house 16-21 year olds.)

Gray's making mayoral race about ethics seen as big risk (In this article the Peacoholics' founder makes a guest appearance as a Mayor Fenty's heavy.)

Peaceoholics Took Betts Suspects on Retreat (If you are not in DC, you should know that the murder of beloved middle school principal Brian Betts has sent shockwaves through the city. While they did not harbor the suspect after Betts' murder, they did take one of the suspects on a retreat while he was being sought because he ran away from a juvenile detention center.)

Related posts:

Peacoholics at War
Properly Valued

No Peace, No Progress

Thursday, April 29, 2010

We Made The City Paper...For What It's Worth

After a lot of e-mails and agitating, me neighbors and I have gotten some media coverage about this "it's just an apartment although it will only house male ex-offenders from we don't know where" madness.

I'm not crazy about this article, but at least the word is getting out.

Peaceoholics at War

I luv the very patriotic stance the Peacoholics take-

"The founder fathers of our country are ex-offenders..."

I also like how Marion Barry, of all people, says we are "selfish" for opposing this group home.

And the assertion that the people working on the building won't get hired by anyone else (*cue the violins) matters little. The disadvantaged youth were only there for the initial phase--now that have a work force that includes many Latinos. One of the Peacoholics tried to egg my neighbor on, asking her didn't it bother her that the apartments being built by a developer across the street mainly employed Latinos. The makeup of the current construction crew on the Peacoholic's building is no different than the one across the street.

And who cares who is working on the building across the street anyway? These so-called 'addicts to peace' are antagonistic and divisive.

Since it is The City Paper, they did zero in on drama and make it seem political. To me as a homeowner, it is not about politics--it is about my home. And people in the area, homeowners and renters alike are not in favor of this. Renters have said they are leaving because they cannot live near such a facility.

And it brushes past the fact that according the DC law (which the government selectively enforces, of course), this facility is not legal.

At least this blogger gets it-

Latest Peacoholics Drama

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Properly Valued

There is so much I could say, but in short, I left a meeting last Friday with community leaders, the Peacoholics and officials from DCHD and DCRA absolutely disgusted.

If the scenario where a building that once belonged to an associate of Marion Barry's is purchased at a steep discount with government funds by a non-profit group with ties to the mayor with the aim to make it a facility for ex-offender youth within a few feet of a home for battered women and children and down the street from a homeless shelter is not cronyism and extremely poor government planning, then I don't know what is.

DCRA continues to insist that is is simply and apartment building and that the use of it is incidental.

DCHD implies that opposing the facility or taking any legal action is tantamount to hurting the disadvantaged children of DC since such things would inhibit their ability to implement programs.

While they attempted a new charm offensive during the meeting ('You could be on an advisory board for the new facility.'), supporters of the Peacoholics followed us for over an hour once the meeting was over.

We fear for our safety, our neighborhood and our investment in that neighborhood.

There is so much wrong with the entire scenario, but here is one thing that struck me: the continued implications and outright accusations that we are wrong for wanting to protect our own interests.

One of my neighbors spoke at length about how she has worked hard and now feels that she is being penalized. Had she messed up, the government might be more willing to help her. I feel her. We are not rich folks preying on a poor neighborhood as some would like to think and we are not disadvantaged youth either. Being neither, we matter little.

I thought about that the next day when I read this is in Kim McLarin's book review of a novel by a African American author-

"[the author's] central focus seems to be the tension between racial solidarity and naked individualism, between loyalty to race and family and loyalty strictly to one's self."

My neighbors and I have been branded disloyal and even told we are "thinking white" because we oppose a group home for ex-offenders and because we have dared to utter the words "property value." (Although many of the renters on our street also feel the same way.)

Everyone in this scenario from the Peacoholics to DCRA to DCHD has gone for theirs and is protecting their own interests and we intend to do the same. I think with the exception of one homeowner present, everyone sitting at the table was African American. There is nothing disloyal about protesting an injustice, even if it brings you into conflict with people who look just like you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Peace, No Progress: Now the NIMBY is me)

"No problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it."

-Albert Einstein

I've written about how my neighbors and I oppose the Peaceaholics' plan to put
a group home for ex-offenders (which they and their friends in city government insist is merely an "apartment") next door to us and a shelter for battered women and their children.

Last night I rushed from teaching a class to get to a neighborhood council meeting where this topic was on the agenda. As I expected, I heard shouting as I got closer to the meeting. Then I heard someone yell that the meeting was adjourned.

What I didn't expect was that simply because I walked into the room and spoke to people who are not in favor of the project, a Peaceaholics supporter would zero in on me. She approached in the name of dialogue, but could barely contain herself. I heard about how I was one of those people who make a lot of money that prey on the community. I noted that I did not make a lot of money (my neighbors and I heard some of the same rhetoric--with the race card thrown in to boot--when we attempted to meet with the Peaceaholics before) and that if we both lived there, we were neighbors.

When others intervened, she calmed down but it didn't last. She did, however, take a moment out to calmly and wholeheartedly agree with one of our white male neighbors when he asserted that we are concerned for our safety. But then she ramped up again and repeatedly yelled in my face that I was not relevant because I didn't grow up in the neighborhood. I walked away and out of the building.

What I didn't expect was to find out the next day that the same woman who got in my face actually pushed one of my neighbors. The two were not talking at the time; she approached after my neighbor had stopped talking to her and went to speak to someone else.

What I didn't expect was to hear was that members of the Peaceaholics, including the top brass, followed another one of my neighbors to her car to intimidate and frighten her.

You can read other accounts of the meeting here:

Washington City Paper-
Chaos in Congress Heights Over Peaceaholics Group Home

Congress Heights on the Rise blog-
OK, This is Going to Hurt but Somebody Had to Say It

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Christ Rock to Remake Kurosawa movie (Or, a blog post in which I refer to a previous blog post-twice)

I just read that Chris Rock is remaking/adapting a movie by Japanese legend Akira Kurosawa and of course that made me think of his Death at a Funeral remake, but the article also reminded me that some of his other movies, like I Think I Love My Wife, were remakes too.

The Kurosawa remake is a surprise though...I may not like all of his movies, but it is a smart move, business-wise. Most American audiences have not seen the originals and you get a proven plot and structure to play around with, without having to start from scratch.

How a Discussion about the "Death at a Funeral" remake reminded me that we still have a ways to go...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

How NOT to be Popular

"You won't be very popular if you're sending viruses," my new and rather upset co-worker admonished me the other day, sounding like a 1950s etiquette pamphlet on how to win friends and influence people.

She had used her company-issued computer to send me a file to edit via the company-run intranet. I edited that file on my company-issued computer and sent it back.

And somehow a virus wormed its way into the file. I guess someone had to take the blame.

As a contractor, the only thing I usually bring to work is my virus-free self (and maybe my lunch) how was this my fault?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Puppy Luv / Friend This

A guy who asked me out once, but couldn't be bothered to follow through suggested that I friend his dog on Facebook.

Maybe the dog will buy me dinner....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Just Wanted a Tomato
I stopped by Eastern Market in DC to get a tomato on my way home the other day. I got my tomato, but left more puzzled than I normally would have been.

The market vendor who sold me my tomato looked at me and said, "This my grandson." I felt obliged to smile at the little boy he indicated was related to him and thought nothing of it. But then he said, in broken English, something like, "He is not the black, but he is part." The man was Asian.

Before I could react or think, one of his employees, approached and asked in a thick Hispanic accent if the little boy was nicknamed "cucaracha."

In my mind, I imagine that no one in this situation meant to offend, but still I was perplexed, so I took my tomato and left. Sometimes I am a crusader for justice, sometimes I want to set people straight and sometimes I just want to get home and make my dinner.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Advancing the Economic Security of Unmarried Women"

So I've still got finance on the brain...when I got the invite for a forum about the economic security of unmarried women at the Center for American Progress, I couldn't pass it up--

Center for American Progress talks about "Advancing the Economic Security of Unmarried Women"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5"

A Facebook friend posted this article and I posted it there, but it certainly deserves to be posted and plastered everywhere. I suppose I thought that by choosing writing/editing, a career path the unsteady income, I was kind of an exception, but it looks like that is not the case. Overall, black women aren't doing so well financially. I'm glad the article points out the complexity of this issue--it isn't because black women keep shopping or getting their hair done that they are at a financial disadvantage.

"The popular image is they spend too much, which is the reason they are running up credit card and consumer debt, but the cost of living has risen faster than income, and they need to go into debt for basic daily necessities," Ms. Lui said. "It's compounded because unemployment is twice as high in the black community than it is in the white community."

For all working-age black women 18 to 64, the financial picture is bleak. Their median household wealth is only $100. Hispanic women in that age group have a median wealth of $120.

"That means half of [black women] have a net worth of more than $100 and half have a net worth of less than $100," Ms. Lui said. "So that gives you an idea of how far in debt some women of color are."

Married or cohabitating white women have a median wealth of $167,500. Married or cohabitating black women have a median net worth of $31,500.

The reasons behind the daunting financial challenges black women face are numerous and complex.


"If wealth was based on hard work, African-Americans would be the wealthiest people in our nation," she said. "It's not about behavior. It's about government policies. Who does the government help and who is it not helping?"

Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Hair Divide

In a conversation with, I think, six black women the topic of hair came up. That topic is kind of a given with all women and yet I felt surprisingly left out. Now, talking hair recently with a girlfriend who is white, we discussed products we liked, etc. and I didn't feel excluded. But in a convo with only black women I felt as if I couldn't get a word in edgewise because of my natural hairstyle.

Of the six, two of us have locs and we stood by politely while the hair conversation started because one of our friends had found a new hairdresser. I can certainly talk hairdressers, but since I mostly do my locs at home, I had to recent adventures. Plus, the talk centered on who could to the best job and the methods used to help hair grow and who could get your hair really straight. And while I remember the days when making my hair as straight as possible and counting the days until my next perm was an obsession, I took part, but couldn't fully participate.

At one point when the subject of texture came up, I joked- "Hey, I've got texture." This was acknowledged, politely, before everyone except my other loced friend and I, turned back to the real matter at hand--who could produce the results. I even turned to the other woman with locs and purposefully started to discuss our hair, not that anyone else cared.

Since we were waiting to leave an event and wanted to see that everyone got safely to their cars, we waited it out. I don't know why, really, since the conversation went on for quite a while. I know majority rules, but for how long?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

In Pursuit of Me: The Life and Times of Christylez Bacon or Escaping Southeast

Last night I saw, "In Pursuit of Me," a autobiographical theatrical concert from Christylez Bacon, a young performer from Southeast DC. You can read about in the review I wrote for my blog on

In Pursuit of Me: The Life and Times of Grammy nominated DC Performer Christylez Bacon

Since (for the moment) all roads on this blog lead to Congress Heights, I will say that the show gave me plenty of food for thought. One avenue my mind traveled down was the one that says taking people out of their environment can be a life-changing experience. In the show, Bacon talks about how his life changed after he was given the opportunity to leave southeast DC and attend a two week arts program in Colorado.

While discussing our disagreement with the plan the Peaceaholics have to open a group home to rehabilitate troubled youth on our very troubled block, I learned more about one of my neighbors.

The Peaceaholics told us that a large percentage of DC's youthful offenders come from southeast DC and that they didn't want to put their "problem" in someone else's neighborhood. My neighbor told me that, while she was not in trouble with the law, she was one of those kids who was given the chance to leave her problematic Baltimore 'hood to go to school in New England and that this gave her new perspective and altered the course of the life. Some people will change their lives no matter where they are, but for many, a change of scenery helps. Does it really help to bring people back to where they were before? While the cost of a building in southeast is low and the facility would be near metro, it is also surrounded by other social service facilities and many of the temptations that likely lured these kinds in the first place.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


All this unrest about how DC government (does not) regulate what facilities go where got me to thinking about the first time I heard the term NIMBY (Not In My Backyard). I learned it from a teacher, who was no doubt fired up about something. She didn't really bother explaining that made her think of the term; she just explained the term to us.

I think that same teacher taught us the "Fish and Chips and Vinegar" Song.

Fish and Chips and Vinegar
Vinegar Vinegar
Fish and Chips and Vinegar
Pepper Pepper Pepper Salt

Don't throw your junk in my backyard
My backyard, my backyard,
Don't throw your junk in my backyard
My backyard's full.

(Listen to Fish and Chips and Vinegar, traditionally sung as a round.)

After my neighbors and I met with the Peaceaholics and they (sort of) got (some of) the point, they offered to buy us dinner. I left, but those who stayed reported that the man who wants to put a group home for troubled youth right near us and other social service facilities remarked that they didn't want to put their "problem" in someone else's neighborhood. If these kids are such a problem, why do you think we want them nearby? In some ways, our ward is burdened with various elements that people do not want in other parts of the city. I say let's spread the love.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

No Peace, No Progress

Last week some of my neighbors and I sat down for an extremely tense discussion with higher-ups from the Peaceaholics, a non-profit mediation group that claims to be "addicted to peace." Since we have already have a number of social service agencies within a few feet of each other on our block, we do not welcome the thought of the Peaceaholics adding a group home to the mix. And since they gave the community no notice whatsoever, we wanted to discuss in with them and our ward representative. At one point they said that the building would be regular apartments and that they didn't have to tell us anything. (Although these apartments would be only for young men ("children," they said) ages 16-24 or 15-21 who have had brushes with the law or been in jail, who would have a curfew and adult supervision.)

Before they owned the building they intend to use for a group home, the grounds surrounding it were well-kept. After they bought it, it went to pot. I asked them how could we expect them to keep up with their young charges when they hadn't even managed to keep the grass cut or shovel the snow in front of their building? They told me that we could call them and tell them what needed to be done and this was our "opportunity" to address the issue. Huh? So we have to keep up our own building and become part-time building managers for their building too?

They told us they'd give us written documentation outlining their plan before the meeting. It never came. Then we got a hostile e-mail from the founder, casting blame on us for an irate phone call he received from a stranger.

From: rmoten
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:51 PM

I've been getting a lot of call from people calling me on my personal number and its so sad to see how we as a people think about our own people, however I'm not talking it personal.
I will just continue to do Gods work and I look forward to meeting with you and all the concerned citizens.~Ron Moten

While it is true that we were opposing something they wanted to do, nothing about their demeanor or tone said "peace."

They threw the race card in our faces and made assumptions about people they did not know, telling a tableful of hardworking black folks that we don't care about black folks. It irks me when someone calls me "sister" and uses the word as a weapon. Where's the peace in that?

Mr. Moten's parting shot on his way out the door after we met with him was, "And I don't make $90,000 like the City Paper said. I don't need government money. I'm a bad man."

While I don't always agree with The City Paper, the article they did last fall on he Peaceaholics was on point:

What Cost Peace?
The D.C. government has given Ronald Moten's Peaceoholics $10 million to quash street beefs. What has it gotten?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Stuff I Wrote + People I Saw: Bacon on the Metro Edition

I saw Christylez Bacon on the train not too long ago. He told me was going to the Library of Congress to sound check and leave his stuff for a performance with Michelle Obama tomorrow. Apparently, the performers have to leave instruments, etc. for security to check them out before tomorrow's performance. He didn't have a guitar so I guess he was just going to leave his any case I was super-jealous and told him to say "hi" to Michelle for me.

We discussed DC Metro's "temporary" raise in prices and as usual, he had a rather comedic take on the matter. I told him I was going to see his show, "In Pursuit of Me" at The Atlas.


Monday, January 25, 2010
It's the Beatbox!

I interviewed progressive hip hop artists Christylez Bacon, who has been nominated for a Grammy, for my blog. Mr. Bacon beatboxes and also plays the guitar and spoons. He is very talented and also hilarious, but I didn't quite get all of that into the post and wrote it in a rather straightforward way. His Grammy nomination is for his collaboration on a children's album, while the music he does on his own is more grown-up.

He asked me what I'd done for MLK Weekend and I said I was mostly sick, but I did manage to get to the "Let Freedom Ring" MLK Celebration featuring India.Arie at the Kennedy Center. First he suggested that I go to Soul Vegetarian and get some drink with lemon, ginger and echinacea and then he asked if India Arie had a woman from Ivory Coast with her. Apparently, he had recently run into them and pronounced India Arie to be very cool.

DC native Christylez Bacon Nominated for a Grammy

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stuff I Wrote: Mary McLeod Bethune & Eleanor Roosevelt Brought to Life at National Portrait Gallery Performance

While at the performance, I saw Johnnetta B. Cole, the first "Sista Prez" of my alma mater, Spelman College,sitting in the first row. Before Cole got the job, Spelman, an HBCU for black women had never had a black woman as president. We exchanged cards. How cool is that?

Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt Brought to Life at National Portrait Gallery Performance

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Pillows

A long while back, I bought two cloth placemats that I never used as such for some reason. Less than a long while back, I bought a pillow from IKEA, that I did use as such...until it got all weird and lumpy and the insides separated into individual tufts of cottage cheese. And then a while back I got the idea that I could combine these two purchases into a pillow. But of course, I proceeded to just let these items sit in unused.

Until one day when I was especially mopey and decided I needed some creative project to give me some instant gratification. I finally made the pillow I'd thought about, sewing it by hand. Being all proud of my handiwork, I informed my mother, who really was not all that impressed.

Later I learned that she was less than thrilled because unbeknownst to me, she'd also been thinking that I should make a pillow and give an item a new life. Somehow she managed to keep this to herself while I talked about the pillow I'd made since her pillow-making materials were in a box that hadn't arrived at my house yet.

She had saved a rice sack, even though she didn't know what to do with it. Then she came across an article about how vintage grain sacks were very chic at the moment. And it hit her-she'd send me her rice sack and some pillow stuffing. But then she couldn't find any pillow stuffing materials. So after she hunted some down, she gets a phone call from me where I tell her that I just made a pillow from an old one that I had laying around and that I had another old pillow that could be used to make even more pillows.

Great minds think alike and although my mother was kind of dismayed, I told her at least she did not sell her hair to buy me a chain for my watch (If you don't get that because haven't read The Gift of the Magi, you need to read it. It is one of the greatest short stories of all time.)

All's well that ends well, I say. Now I have two pillows.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stuff I Wrote: Judges take a leading role in a play about Thurgood Marshall

When I spoke to Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for the article below, I can't remember how it came up but he joked about going to same law school as Barack Obama, saying that he had to use whatever claim to fame he had. He was cool and didn't take himself too seriously and that is something I can't say about some other politicians I've interviewed.

Judges take a leading role in play about Thurgood Marshall

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
This past weekend I went to a party and happened to step into the kitchen just as the hostess was involved in some complex dishwasher-loading calculations.

She asked me many questions that I had no idea how to answer. Should these things go this or that way? Was placing thing X in Y manner an inefficient use of space? I'm afraid I wasn't much help. I've gotten much better at using my own dishwasher--a far cry from the days when I used to marvel at how my mother could always rearrange things to find the space needed for that one extra thing. Actually, I'm now quite proud of myself; my dishwasher arranging skills are evidence that I've grown into my spatial intelligence. But her queries were too technical for me.

"Asians don't use dishwashers!" she shrieked. Apparently, she only had the dishwasher installed or repaired (I forget which) because she rented out her place over the summer and thought that an American renter would want such a convenience.

I was at a loss as how to really be of use, but tried to make encouraging comments. Although I confessed to growing up with a dishwasher, I didn't have the heart to tell her that while many middle-class Americans use dishwashers, we don't actually think about them.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

I am so very late to this because I've been working a lot, much like Princess Tiana.

I went in to see Disney's Frog Princess movie with great anticipation. A new Disney movie, the first one featuring an African-American princess--how could I not be excited?

So when I found lots of things I was not crazy about, it was not because I went in focused on being critical.

First of all, the songs were so-so. I've walked out of most Disney fairy tale films singing a song, but this movie had no memorable songs. As someone who can hear a song once and pick up most of it, I was disappointed that none of the songs in this movie stuck with me.

And I couldn't help but notice Disney decided to get "real" with this movie. With the exception of Cinderella, I don't know that I've seen a Disney movie princess who had to work so hard.

The Disney-fication of early 20th century New Orleans was good for the kids, I guess, but it didn't work for me. Tiana's mother is a seamstress for a wealthy white family and though you see the disparity between the employer's mansion and Tiana's humble home, little is said about it how things got to be that way.

Tiana is a "playmate" to her mother's employer's daughter and due to Tiana's good nature and Disney's decision to grant the spoiled heiress a heart of gold, their relationship is less complicated than such dealings might have been in real life.

And when Tiana's entrepreneurial efforts are thwarted, she is told that it is because of her "background," although again, it is Disney so no one delves into what her background is. I'm looking at it critically, but I guess this is progress for Disney. After all their first attempt to include African-inspired themes in a major cartoon only involved animals. The Lion King was an amazing movie, yet it allowed them to play it safe, in some ways. Plus, the princess in this movie spend a lot of her time as a frog.

But back to what I alluded to at the beginning: Tiana works hard for the money. So hard for it honey. She is not a lady-in-waiting hoping to be rescued. And although her prince is less than industrious at the beginning, he proves himself to be supportive and willing to help her with her dreams of running her own business.

I know this is modern life, but for me that was no fairy tale. Black women in America work hard and have done so ever since we arrived. Tiana works and works to save up only to see her dreams derailed because of her "background." And then her future prince is a spoiled rich boy who just wants to have a good time. Yeah, he redeems himself, but how many times have we seen that story--hardworking woman (of any color) hooks up with a guy who wants her to 'lighten up' while he continues to lay around?

Some people have applauded the movie because Tiana is so very enterprising and I get it. She is a great modern role model for young girls. Yet, being who I am at this particular juncture of history, I keep wondering why a sista can't get carried off to a castle where she will presumably be waited on hand and foot?

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's the Beatbox!

I interviewed progressive hip hop artists Christylez Bacon, who has been nominated for a Grammy, for my blog. Mr. Bacon beatboxes and also plays the guitar and spoons. He is very talented and also hilarious, but I didn't quite get all of that into the post and wrote it in a rather straightforward way. His Grammy nomination is for his collaboration on a children's album, while the music he does on his own is more grown-up.

He asked me what I'd done for MLK Weekend and I said I was mostly sick, but I did manage to get to the "Let Freedom Ring" MLK Celebration featuring India.Arie at the Kennedy Center. First he suggested that I go to Soul Vegetarian and get some drink with lemon, ginger and echinacea and then he asked if India Arie had a woman from Ivory Coast with her. Apparently, he had recently run into them and pronounced India Arie to be very cool.

DC native Christylez Bacon Nominated for a Grammy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Good things come to those who wait
I've waited in more than a few lines to get free admittance to movies and shows, but yesterday's line-waiting was certainly more than worth it, since-

The President and First Lady Attended the Kennedy Center's "Let Freedom Ring" MLK Day Celebration, which featured India Arie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How a Discussion about the "Death at a Funeral" remake reminded me that we still have a ways to go...

Today is Martin Luther King Day and you don't need me to tell you that to echo King's final speech--we have not quite reached the mountaintop yet. Still, I will tell you about an interesting Facebook convo I had about the uselessness of the Chris Rock-produced remake of the British movie "Death at a Funeral." (Previews for the original and the remake are below.)

When someone complained that this was unnecessary and "why can't black people see the original movie?"

(Now, I, a black person who lives in America, did see the British film and I really didn't find it all that funny, so I doubt I'd see the remake.)

In addition to mentioning that, I also pointed out--
1) all of the actors playing major roles in the movie are not black (in fact, one--Peter Dinklage--plays the same exact role in the new version that he played in the original
2) the remake is for American audiences, not just for the black people who live in America.

The response was that if they wanted to appeal to America in general, why not have a mixed cast?

It is the same old story-in order to appear non-threatening and not turn off certain audiences, we need to be inclusive. At the same time, no one thinks to include us. I don't even remember one token person of color being in the original film, but I had no complaints. Yet, if someone of color wants to produce a film and give roles to more than a few people of color, they run the risk of alienating folks who are only used to seeing themselves dominate.

Death at a Funeral 2007

Death at a Funeral 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"It's not what they call you; it's what you answer to..."

So while everyone is talking about former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's comments about being "blacker than Obama," and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's assertion about Obama's skin color and amazing ability to not always talk in the Negro dialect (I think liniguists call this code switching), I was less concerned about their definitions of what it means to be Black and more concerned about a class of students who told me that "getting over" was what Black people do.

Working at fast food restaurants and skimming profits. Switching the tags in the store on clothes so they could get DKNY and Calvin Klein at the prices they wanted. Only one student spoke up to say that she pays the correct price for whatever she gets because she had the experience of nearly being fired/jailed after working in a store and having her manager steal money when she was responsible for counting profits.

Of course politicians should be censured for their foolish remarks, but in the end what really matters is how we define ourselves.