To Be Young, Gifted and Republican

The morning of November 5, 2008 was bittersweet. I awoke to news that the first African American had been elected president, yet I had not voted for him. I am  young, gifted and a Republican, an anomaly for a black woman who grew up in the inner cities of Brooklyn,New York.

I wept as I shared the news with my son who was in middle school at the time. How proud I was that during our lifetime we could bear witness and give testimony to such a monumental event in American history. President Barack Obama’s election proved that young black men and women, regardless of circumstance, can overcome any obstacle and BE whatever they set their mind to accomplish.  As far as I was concerned, the blind limitations perceived by black men in a white man’s world were dispelled. Barack proved that “Yes we can!” Yet in spite of the outcome and its potential to make a positive impact in the Black community, I felt a sense of foreboding throughout the election cycle at the prospect of his presidency. My innate emotions could not be articulated, there was just a feeling of uneasiness that the ensuing “change” would risk the security of my family, my neighbor’s family, the nation and the world.

I remember when I first mentioned to my beloved grandmother that I was a Republican. She scoffed at the revelation but so do many of my black Democrat peers. Yet no one can really clarify their reasons for being so vehemently opposed to the Republican Party. The most recurring comment is that the party consists of a bunch of white folks. Yet the face of the GOP will never change as long as there are black conservatives who refuse to “come out the closet” and wear the risk of ridicule, ostracism and vile attacks made upon them by their own race. I, on the other hand, would welcome the opportunity to penetrate the cultural groupthink through an open, honest, respectful dialogue with my black brothers and sisters on why I chose the Republican party.

Although I am a registered Republican, I am largely independent in thought. Just as we have the ability to choose which God we serve, or what causes we advocate or deplore, we have the right to vote our conscious and for me that does not necessarily mean political party. In retrospect, it was not difficult for me to make the switch from Democrat to Republican. Once I began to listen, pay attention, research and decide for myself whose principles I most aligned with, politics began to make sense and I wanted to be a part of the electorate. My hope for the body populous is that a reasonable effort is made to do the same because an informed decision is the best decision.

In less than two years, my son will be old enough to vote. My greatest concern is not if he becomes a registered Democrat or Republican. I would rather know that he was learned in the voting process, familiar with laws and statutes and independent in his decision making. At the end of the day, it’s simple, I know what I believe, I know what I want and I am proud to be young, gifted and Republican.

The Tragedy that is Trayvon Martin

I admit it. I was one of the”first responders” to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Outraged, I inundated my Facebook page with posts and updates of the vile incident, hoping to incite those within my circle of web influence to action. I signed the petition circulated by change.org to have George Zimmerman arrested…pronto. I then forwarded the petition to any and all on my email contact list. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t communicated with over half of them in months, maybe even years. All that mattered was that Trayvon Martin was a cause worth fighting for.  Then days later, I began to become disheartened with the turn the case began to take.  As a spectator of the media circus led by ringleaders like Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson,  I asked myself the question. What exactly are we fighting for?

I often herald the phrase “perception is reality.” On every television channel there was mention of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon on FOX, Trayvon on CNN, Trayvon on MSNBC.  I AM TRAYVON had become an international phenomenon.  But somehow, during the news’ delivery of his death whether print, radio, television or internet, the truth was lost in translation. We were given snippets of information and snapshots of truth from varied perspectives that told the same story; a white man killed an unarmed young black male who was coming from the store. The undertones of the message quickly surfaced to mean that this was a typical case of racial profiling and Trayvon Martin was killed by a racist man who bought into the stereotype that hooded black males were up to no good. Instead of objectivity, fact-based non judgmental reporting, the general public was exposed to gross ideas, heinous speculations and human perspectives.

The tragedy that is Trayvon Martin is a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity to pursue truth, justice and the American way. An opportunity to evaluate, analyze, criticize and revisit, laws and statutes within our criminal justice system that are unfair, imbalanced and often nonsensical. A chance to become legal advocates, vehicles of change, proponents of justice for all who have suffered unjustly regardless of the color of their skin. Instead, we were hooked by the race baiting perpetuated by media personalities, political opportunists and showboaters with a different perspective.

The tragedy that is Trayvon Martin has made me realize that the African-American community is lacking a great black voice of reason, wise enough to squelch racial tension, bridge divides and provide a perspective of unadulterated truth.  Despite the fact, that we enjoy the governance of the first black President, there has yet to be a transformation of thought in the souls of black folks. Consider the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They understood the need to evolve during their journeys and before their untimely deaths they both looked at where they had been, where they were and where they intended to go. Unfortunately, neither lived long enough to get there. Yet even sadder is the realization that there has been no one since to take us.

The comparison of Trayvon Martin’s death to that of Emmett Till is a desecration of  Emmett’s memory and the struggle that men and women of color battled in order to maintain dignity, self-respect and civil rights during a crucial period in history. Is there not a cause? Yes, there is and it still is a cause worth fighting for. But we have to realize that the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is not a black tragedy, it’s an American tragedy and in order to become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we must first begin with ourselves and be willing to change perspectives.

Tomorrow is NEVER Promised

How ironic that the very weekend I would be volunteering at a camp for grieving children, that I too would revert to a childlike state as a result of the sudden, unexpected death of my grandmother. During the orientation for Camp Braveheart, the facilitators simulated a healing circle for the volunteers. Those who participated in the drill were prompted to share an experience of a loved one lost. At the time, just weeks ago, I had never lost anyone of significance. Of course, I have had mere acquaintances die untimely deaths.  Then most recently, there was the death of musical legend Whitney Houston which stunned the world myself included. But nothing could have prepared me for the death of my very own icon Dorothy Mae Andrews.

I am a bumbling grief stricken wreck, spoken words are too exhausting for me to utter and short breaths between heart wrenching sobs keep me alive. But I want to die along with her. I received the call the morning of March 30th as I was set to fly to see her in the hospital after a failed stent replacement surgery that ended in amputation of her leg. You never know how you will react to a tragic situation until you are face to face with it. Alone in my spacious barely furnished apartment, I felt empty. Yet there is no room for anyone to replace her. One word cannot describe the woman that I so admired and revered for she is an embodiment of many words: feisty, courageous, independent, adventurous, generous, outgoing, loving, kind, loyal, encouraging, stylish, optimistic, funny and fun, fun and more fun.  Miss Dot was full of life and she truly lived a life worth living. Just a day has passed since her death but I hear her speaking to me saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “It’s gonna be okay.” I know deep within my very being that she was proud of me as she was all her children and grandchildren. But I am selfish enough to believe that I was her favorite because she was mine.

I wish that I had a chance to say goodbye, to hold her, kiss on her and tell her that I loved her beyond compare. At times, I feel that I was robbed of that opportunity, and then I sense her presence. I know she would not want me bitter, angry or laden with guilt. She would tell me in her saucy way, “Snap out of it. Tomorrow is never promised.” But if it was, Grandmother, I would hasten to your bedside, hold your hand, whisper prayers of faith and healing in your ear, then tell you how much your loved, appreciated and valued.

One of the culminating activities at Camp Braveheart is the candlelight memorial service where handwritten letters to loved ones are released into a bonfire in their memory.  So in remembrance of my beloved grandmother, I set fire to the rain of tears that consume me and write these words in her honor.