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