Black by Default

It’s hard being black. Especially when your degree of blackness is often quantified by other black people–who consider themselves blacker than you.  Frankly, I am not sure how the levels of blackness are measured. Growing up, I was told by other black children in the neighborhood that I sounded white, in other words, spoke as if I were a white person. Yet, I lived in their same Brooklyn housing project, attended the same inner city school and played in the same local park.

My mother was well read and kept her bookshelves stocked with a diverse collection of books. The manner in which I spoke was not due to an effort to sound white or even proper (another misconception), but the result of being immersed in a print rich environment with a parent whose advanced use of language was gained by the wonders of reading. Based on recent statistics on the achievement gap of black children, it would seem  that reading and the acquisition of a broader vocabulary is the 8th wonder of the world. The truth is, the more educated you become, the better grasp you have on what is known as Standard American English. The same SAE that is spoken in the professional world and taught in the American school systems. The same English that is read in most books, newspapers and magazines.

Ebonics is not good English

The stance that education holds the key to success is a mantra that African Americans must embrace and hold dear. It is the catalyst that will open doors of opportunity and unlock keys to a world that too often is a challenge for people of color to navigate. In this world, being able to communicate in the language of   what is deemed white america is not only necessary, but indicative of an educated person. Ideologies of people like Erika Gallagher,  a “white passing,” University of Wisconsin-Madison research student, become traps that prevent people of color from advancing in a white dominated capitalist society. According to Gallagher, the English language is racist and discriminatory towards blacks who speak Ebonics –a so called African- American vernacular. In her misguided research of 3 people, she determined  that being forced to speak SAE was “overwhelming and disingenuous” to black people. She concludes that institutions of higher learning and the overall educational system needs to overlook the deficits in the way African Americans speak to avoid the discomfort of code switching.  However, code switching is not a concept exclusive to people of color, marginalized folks or the like. It is a skill, if you will, that persons with an understanding of language in formal and informal environs adopt to adapt to the situation at hand. It would be unreasonable and unprofessional to go to a job interview and say, “cash me ousside, howbow dah?” the trending phrase of Danielle Bregoli–a white passing person- whose failure to enunciate simple words intelligibly has gone viral. What words of wisdom does Ms. Gallagher have for Bregoli whose behavior is often described as acting “black.” Is she also guilty of speaking Ebonics?

Black by Default

It is not uncommon for certain behaviors and speech nuances to to be associated with black culture. But too often those connections are negative portrayals that diminish positive and empowering influences that more accurately depict the black race. Even representatives like Rachel Dolezal, who identifies with being black, trivializes the black community. Yet for her, being black proved to be advantageous. So much so, that she gained a full scholarship to Howard University because as her father says,”she sounded black on the phone.” Her situational blackness is clearly a case of cultural code switching disguised as: relating to and supportive of the black community.  Her ability to sew in weaves, teach Black History, date black men and bear their children is merely a social experiment. But there are many who defend her actions and embrace her “blackness.”  But are you black by default? Does experience or upbringing determine the level of one’s blackness?

Despite being raised by a white mother and grandmother in the cozy isle of Hawaii, former President Obama is considered to be the epitome of blackness. His swag, penchant for hip hop, and basketball prowess exalts his status in iconic black culture. But it’s his upbringing and education at universities such as Harvard and Howard that aid in Obama’s ability to code switch. Imagine if President Obama applied Gallagher’s theory to avoid code switching because it’s too hard? His rise from lawyer, president to public speaker in demand may not have been possible or as easily embraced.

On an unlikely field trip excursion, I escorted a group of teenagers, pursuing their high school equivalency diploma, into the upper echelons of Manhattan’s business district.  Some had never ventured beyond their Bronx neighborhoods. Even the event’s coordinators were surprised to see these young people in attendance.  As I explained who we were and why we were there, I code switched or rather spoke as one professional to another. The students were amazed. “Miss, you speak white?” they asked incredulously.  It was a teachable moment that demonstrated how I, an educated person, aware of my environment and audience, can speak in a language that articulates my intended message without compromising my identity. I’m black simply because I am and  speak Standard American English simply because I should.

Combating Racism and Stereotypes with English

As an educator, it is my responsibility to teach and model the English language properly. Erika Gallagher’s lofty goal to encourage teachers to “accept any form of English that students are comfortable with,” will not equip young African American children to actively engage diverse groups of people in environments where Ebonics is not the norm.

Gallagher’s research is rooted in racism and perpetuates the illusion that her experience and findings teach society to be more tolerant and accepting of African-Americans. “Just because you speak a different way doesn’t mean you’re not smart,”she says. Fortunately, black folks don’t need her help to realize how smart, capable or accomplished we are.  Young black people need more role models like President Barack Obama, educated and well-spoken, or Oprah Winfrey– educated and well read.  They need teachers and communities that refute the narrative that says, “feel oppressed by standard, grammatical English,” because only white people speak well.

Demanding that minorities speak Standard American English in formal settings is not biased or discriminatory.  Schools should not make accommodations for black students that do not meet universal standards of excellence. Teaching should be rigorous and learning met with robust challenge– without apology. Standard American English should be expected and not excused for people of color. Anything less is an insult.

So, Ms. Gallagher, how about that?

Encounters in Blue

I was young and reckless. All my friends were. We shared a f**ck the police attitude but it never occurred to us to verbalize such angst directly towards them. There was a fear of being identified, arrested or even worse shot. We just wanted to be bad without consequence. The best way to achieve that goal was to avoid the police at all costs. Cross the street, walk pass without making eye contact or just do a 180 degree turn. Policemen were an authority figure we didn’t want to obey but had to respect.

Riding the L train to school, I became agitated with a girl I didn’t know and made up my mind that I was going to confront her when we got off at the Broadway Junction stop in Brooklyn. The Junction is always swarming with cops; there is a precinct at the foot of the escalator leading to the next set of trains to transfer to Queens or Manhattan.

None of that mattered though, because she had angered me so much and I can’t even recall why. However, I vividly remember throwing her down and in a fit of rage, pounding her head against the cement floor of the walkway. Some passengers stood around to watch, others continued on to their respective destinations. I was told later by my friend that I was so consumed in my vicious act that I didn’t notice the policeman yielding his night stick over my head…until she called my name.

I was escorted down the escalator, along with the other girl, handcuffed and ashamed to be caught and leered at by the early morning traffic of those bound for work or school. She nor I were bold at that moment; more like compliant and scared. I didn’t want to go to jail. I didn’t want to explain to my mother the circumstances surrounding my arrest.  I didn’t want a criminal record to follow me throughout my lifetime. She cried. I was passive in my response to the officers and was allowed to leave. She remained for lying about her age.

Avoid police at all costs. Don’t look them in the eye, keep your voice low and your hands crossed.

The encounter was too scary for me to revisit. It was the first and the last time, I felt cold steel of confinement around my wrists or walked the plank towards imprisonment guided by law enforcement.

Spring forward 19 years, my 17 year old son and I were driving down a lonely, dark country stretch with dim lampposts and trees of intimidation bordering the edge of the road. Who knows what lurked beyond their aligned girth? We were headed home from his high school basketball game and only a quarter mile from his Christian school. The lights whirling behind us from the police car couldn’t have been for me. But they were. I was hesitant pulling to the side of this uncharted road without witness or protection. But I did. It’s the law.

One officer positioned himself on the passenger side, the other approached the driver’s side and the car windows were rolled down so they both could peer inside.

“Do you know why you were stopped?” the officer asked with his hand on his gun. I suppose it was an act of warning or maybe its standard procedure.

Of course, I didn’t know. I was a law abiding citizen…bad girl gone good with a clean juvenile record and a stellar adult legal history.

“Your headlights are off,” he said.

Me, ever the gregarious one, chuckled and responded, “No wonder I thought it was so dark.” My son sat quietly, looking straight ahead.

Avoid police at all costs. Don’t look them in the eye, keep your voice low and your hands crossed.

I never taught him this tactic. I suppose it’s instinctual, the need to survive at all costs, to get home alive on arrival.  He never had the urge to be bad as I was in my youth. But our heated society has urged him to be afraid.  We joked about our encounter. But it served as a prerequisite for what- not- to do if he ever was in a similar situation. He’s made his own decisions not to drive around with a bunch of guys in one car in the wee hours of the morning and to remove himself from situations that he perceives to be potential landmines of trouble. I never had to tell him. It wasn’t part of his when you grow up speech. Instead, the news broadcasts are sufficient spokespersons of hate, violence, death and rage that consume the air waves daily. It becomes difficult to distinguish facts from exploitation, sensationalism from reality and innocence until proven guilty.

What remains is, “…makes me scared to go outside, especially as a black man in the south.”

I have never been one to close a blind eye, turn a deaf ear, or bury my head in the sand. There is a problem, yet there lacks a concerted effort to find a resolution.  There is a growing epidemic. But should we, in 2016, reason that it’s a symptomatic result of slavery, segregation and unjust civil rights?

It’s easy to point fingers, cast blame but difficult to bury sons and daughter. Sons and daughters who in death remain victims because the collective response is reactive and not proactive. Those who are fortunate to live another day are barraged with the narrative that their lives are at risk and it must end today. Come tomorrow and another live(s) is lost; the collective response remains reactive and not proactive.

A student’s genuine first response to an injury I suffered was… “Miss, who did that to you?  Want me to shoot ‘em.” In comparison, first responders genuinely are called to protect and serve. At what juncture did the lines of defending another become blurred?  The young man was reacting in a manner cultivated by the environment and culture that surrounds him.  Men and women in uniform respond the same way.

In a place where fear and hate mongers thrive, anger poisons the heart and corrupts the mind. Rational thought is replaced by irrational behavior; the collective response remains reactive and not proactive. Drawing on history we could chant “by any means necessary,” or protest and march peacefully. Unfortunately, our futures will not be transformed with past methods of reconciliation and lives won’t be saved. Where are the giants of hope to deescalate, coordinate and perpetuate change?

There is a massive problem in America but there is yet to be an enormous solution.

Shameless Pitch

The name Tullian Tchividjian may not ring any bells of recognition but Billy Graham’s name resounds aplenty. Tchividjian is Graham’s grandson, the former pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founder of the now defunct ministry Liberate. While Billy Graham’s name is synonymous with evangelism, salvation and all things holy, Tchividjian, is known for his strong opposition to LGBT rights and now an extramarital affair which led to his resignation at CRPC.

But he is not alone in his indiscretions or “moral failures” as they are deemed. In years past, David Loveless, the lead pastor of Discovery Church, Isaac Hunter, founder of the Summit Church (who sadly committed suicide in 2013) and Sam Hinn, pastor of the Gathering Place Worship Center had all been “caught with their pants down,” with women other than their spouses. Not only does such acts of infidelity wreak havoc in a marriage, but the congregation is left bewildered with some congregants questioning God because of man’s actions.Situations such as these should motivate the average church layperson to draw closer to God. But too often people are separated from Him because they focused more on the person delivering the message instead of their individual salvation.

We are all on life’s journey of peaks and valleys. Therefore, it is vitally important for churchgoers to not just attend church but to become rooted in scripture and their personal relationships with God so they can withstand any storm. From Dusk to Dawn: Ordinary Devotions for Extraordinary Souls, is my 31 day devotional of meditation, prayer and personal reflection, to give hope to those enduring life’s journey. Day 4 (excerpt below) seems as if it were written specifically for Tchividjian, Loveless, Hunter and Hinn. But in reality it was written for the every day churchgoer, the backslidden, the unchurched and the non-believer who may have encountered a similar situation that halted their step.

I do not have a ministerial title of pastor, deacon, bishop or pastor’s wife but I am called a child of God. While I am not perfect, my relationship with Christ allows me to see my imperfections and keeps me encouraged. As a result, I know that I will be become better and I am hopeful that others around me will  too.

If my devotional will bring one person hope, a smile to another’s face, or a lost soul to Christ, then I have fulfilled my purpose. From Dusk to Dawn  is now available for pre-order on Amazon. I invite you to get this ebook devotional for your smartphone, tablet or preferred electronic device and #jointhejourney beginning July 1st.

Excerpt from From Dusk to Dawn: Ordinary Devotions for Extraordinary Souls

Day Four: Mixed Messages

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. I Peter 5:7

Men and women in positions of power and influence are flawed human beings, despite their calling to serve others or their ministerial gift to preach. But it is difficult to love and respect the gift of God within them when they make mistakes due to poor decision making. This is why it is important for leaders to cultivate relationships with people that are honest, forthright and absent of any mixed messages who will hold them accountable for their actions.

 In Genesis 12:10, Abram, who would later become known as Abraham, found himself between a rock and a hard place. During a time of famine in Egypt, Abram made the decision to keep the nature of his relationship with his wife Sarai or Sarah from the Pharoah. Sarai was extremely beautiful and Abram feared that if his true identity was revealed, he would be killed. Although Abram did not lie to the Pharaoh and the other Egyptians, he withheld factual information and reaped great benefits and Sarai in blind faith and trust, followed the lead of her husband and helped perpetuate the mistruth.   God was not pleased with this act of omission and the Pharaoh and his household was afflicted with sickness and disease. Once the Pharoah learned of the deception, he forced Abram and his wife to leave Egypt.

 The lesson we learn from Abram, is that we must not be anxious for anything because God promised to supply our needs. God told Abram that he would become the father of many nations. As a result, the Lord sent him and his wife away from all that was familiar to learn to become totally dependent on God’s sovereignty. Yet neither Abram nor Sarai fully surrendered to the plan of God and continued to pursue the promise without God’s direction.

It is easy to become so self-absorbed that a person gets caught up in the glory of His own perceived importance instead of the glory of the risen Savior. But once we maintain a disciplined life in Christ, we understand that God cares for us. Then, we are able to cast all our cares on Him when faced with situations that seem hopeless.

 Words of Prayer: Lord I am thankful that you know all that I need before I ask. Thank you for opening doors of opportunity and closing doors that could lead to potential disaster. I pray that you continue to send angels of mercy and grace to surround me in the spirit and protect me from the plan of the enemy. I ask Lord that you place in my path people who will love me for who I am and encourage me to become who I am destined to be. I thank you Lord for your goodness, and the deliverance that comes from casting all the concerns of life on you.

Weakened Apologies

My Dearest Blog Followers,

It is with a heavy heart that I apologize for failing to write for two months. I know that my faithful few look forward to me sharing my thoughts, life experiences and social commentary. To those, my heart aches for the neglectful behavior I have demonstrated towards you. Unfortunately, I was swept away by the circumstances of life and made little  to no effort to communicate with you. From this day forward, I vow to write regularly and consistently in order to bring to you the humblest truths from the Kat’s eye.

It seems that the past week ended in celebrity apologies.   Obviously, their fan base extends far beyond the few who visit my blog site and their influence impacts exceedingly more people than I can imagine. But in the big scheme of things, their public apologies prompted by their personal shenanigans are as inconsequential as my 0wn.  Regardless of who you are and where you come from, you are responsible for your actions and the decisions that you make.  Although apologies are often warranted, appreciated and expected, they can also be avoided if people consider the things they say or do before they do them.

Tennis great Serena Williams decided to comment on the Steubenville, Ohio rape case in which a drunken 16 year old girl was brutally raped by a group of her male peers and further humiliated by having videos posted on all the latest social media outlets. According to Miss Williams, everyone was wrong in the situation, but the young lady should have known better than to put herself in such a situation.  Shortly thereafter, Serena implied that her words may or may not have been taken out of context and she was reaching out to the victim’s family to offer her apologies. Really Serena? I can imagine how much more degraded the victim felt to have a prominent world renowned sports figure publicly state that it was her fault she was savagely taken advantage of.  The truth of the matter is that Serena Williams should have refrained from commenting on a matter that was none of her business in the first place. Just because a journalist asks you a question during an interview doesn’t mean that you have to answer it.  The phrases “no comment,” or “I plead the fifth,” leave no room for misinterpretation.

Then we have the Exodus International CEO Alan Chambers.  After years of forcing reparative therapy down the throats of homosexual men and women, Mr. Chambers has an epiphany.  Suddenly, he is sorry for claiming that homosexuality can be cured. He regrets the pain and suffering he caused. Lives were lost by suicide, people jeopardized their families, jobs, churches and more importantly honor because they invested  all their time, money and resources in the ministry of Exodus International. They unequivocally believed in the message that was preached by Alan Chambers and he claims to be sorry that he conveniently left out from his message his own struggle with same sex attraction.  Really Alan? For the record, nowhere in the Bible have I ever read that you can be “cured” of homosexuality. So at its core, the doctrine of reparative therapy is erroneous. The Bible does say however, that God will give us strength to overcome temptations whatever they may. He has also given us our own will to make the decisions that we will ultimately have to live with.  The Bible does not just condemn sex between same sex couples, it condemns heterosexual sex between unmarried couples as well.  It seems to me that  Mr. Chambers was using the platform of Exodus International to mask his own temptations that he did not have the strength to overcome.

Finally, there is the southern belle and master chef Paula Deen who is no stranger to controversy. In early 2012, Paula was in the line of fire for continuing to cook and promote food slathered in bowls of unhealthy ingredients while she took a healthier approach to eating after being diagnosed with diabetes.  Fast forward to June 2013 when she once again is on the hot seat for her admitted use of the “N” word in times past and her idea to plan a plantation style wedding in 2007.  Paula offered a broken and contrite apology begging the public’s forgiveness for the offensive language. She stressed how she nor anyone in her family tolerates discrimination of anyone on the basis of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. It is unfortunate that the very entities that helped propel Paula Deen to critical claim are now the catalyst for her slow demise. The Food Network dropped her like a hot potato, choosing not to renew her contract at the end of the month. QVC is mulling the possibility and Smithfield foods severed ties. But like a multitude of loyal fans, I am sticking by Ms. Paula Deen and fully accept her apology.

As a black woman, I am not in the least bit offended by her confessed use of the racial slur. In fact,  I am more offended by how it is loosely used in our communities, schools and entertainment industry by people of color. Where is the outrage in those scenarios?  I agree with Zora Neale Hurston who stated, ” Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”  In my own words, slavery days are over and I have been set free from any situations, circumstances or opinions that are designed to keep me in bondage. I also believe in the word of God that clearly states that “God sets free is free indeed.”  With that said, freely, under oath, Paula admitted to the use of  derogatory term but can fully recall the last time it was used. The mere fact that she admitted to its use shows her courage, bravery and integrity. How many with her celebrity would place themselves in a position to be judged harshly by millions? I am of the mindset that he or she who is without sin, let them throw the first stone. As far as I am concerned, she gets a pass.  I understand that she is a product of her environment as many of us are. Raised during a time and in a place where racism and segregation was engrained in the culture, such behavior can be expected.  But I do not find it hard to believe, that just have times have evolved, that Paula’s belief systems and/or her awareness of being culturally sensitive towards others has also evolved to mirror today’s culture and climate.  Furthermore, if Kenya Moore of  Housewives of Atlanta fame can be “Gone with the Wind fabulous” then why can’t Paula Deen plan a fabulous Gone With the Wind plantation style wedding?

I cannot fathom why this particular apology is getting more media coverage than the weakened apologies of  Serena Williams or Alan Chambers. Their words and deeds directly impacted its intended targets.  On the other hand, aside from the racial discrimination and sexual harassment suit brought about by Lisa  Jackson, I have yet to hear anyone come forth and say that Paula Deen herself called them a n***** and they were highly offended and deeply traumatized.  I strongly believe that Paula Deen and her establishments would benefit from diversity and sensitivity training.  Racial discrimination of any kind as she stated should not be condoned and dealt with swiftly. .

I am open to the public discussion of race relations in America, civil and equal rights for all regardless of differences and of course world peace, but not if we have to vilify individuals to make our case.  Paula Deen does not deserve the backlash she has received, the Steubenville rape victim does not deserve to be publicly condemned for her misguided actions, and the former participants of Exodus International did not deserve to be exploited. From the Kat’s Eye, this is a modern day witch hunt and Paula Deen has the dishonor of having the scarlet letter branded on her chest and I am sorry to have to watch it run its course.

 

 

Ban Hollywood not Guns or then again…

My original title for this piece was Ban Hollywood Not Guns. It was an attempt to shed light on the gun violence that is embedded in the entertainment culture which seeps into our general population.  Case in point, James Holmes walked into a crowded movie theater at midnight in Aurora, Colorado with multiple firearms and  killed 12 people and wounded over 50. Questions were raised regarding the level of violence in the latest film in the Batman franchise The Dark Knight Rises.  Is there a connection between the overwhelming violence portrayed fictitiously in the movies and the acts of crime committed realistically?

I do not profess to be an expert on the matter, but from the Kat’s eye, once tragic incidents like Aurora or the  Sandy Hook shootings occur, we are overtaken by emotionalism and are quick to find a solution to a problem that we are ill-equipped to solve.  Hasty decisions often lead to faulty results. The bottom line is guns are scary. But even scarier are those with criminal intent or unfortunate mental health issues that carry them. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood are mass shootings that left permanent scars in the memory of the American public.  In the same vein,  Sandy Hook left an irreparable tear in the fabric of all things sacred at the loss of some many elementary school children. I believe that the general consensus is that if something is not done to avenge the death of those kids that we have been defeated by gun-toting villains.  But the truth of the matter is that we are victorious when we choose NOT to  live our lives through a prism of fear and deprivation because of  such monstrous events.

When I was young, I was trapped in a confined elevator with a man welding a gun at a woman whose jewelry he wanted. There was no escape, he had control and  my life and that of the other occupants in the elevator hung in the balance.  Although I was not the direct target, I feared for my life.  Shortly thereafter, I had anxiety when getting into crowded elevators. Today it would be called post-traumatic stress disorder.  Years later, I am still cautious of my surroundings and  the people that surround me.

The latest legislative debate is gun control and in light of my  childhood ordeal, you would think that I would support the idea of  tightening the reins on gun purchases. But I don’t.  As a card carrying American, I have the protection of the 2nd Amendment that states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  While I don’t exercise that freedom,  I don’t believe that others should be denied that right. I do believe that gun owners should be licensed, trained, registered within their state and have background checks completed. I also believe that those who commit the horrific crimes that make us cringe are not stable minded or law abiding citizens.

So then again, lingering questions remain.  Is there a connection between the overwhelming  violence portrayed fictitiously in the movies and the acts of crime committed realistically? Is the media culture to blame or the ready access and availability to guns the culprit? Should we politicize the bloodshed of  murder victims to justify our belief systems?  Will we ever be able to get along?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/20098/Gun-Ownership-Use-America.aspx

The Morning After Pill…

For pundits such as the outspoken FOX news favorite Dick Morris,  the reelection of President Barack Obama was a hard pill to swallow.  Hopes and dreams of a different tomorrow were prematurely aborted and a gaping void remained in the wombs of  self-proclaimed conservative Americans.  Ironically, I felt that void 4 years earlier when President Obama was first elected. At that time, I sensed that the America I had come to know for over thirty years was slipping from my reach and further from my son’s grasp.  Yet this go round, my heart was prepared for what occurred. Hispanics, women and young people came out in droves to cast their vote. How proud I am of the political process in our country that allows us to exercise our rights in freedom without guilt or condemnation. However, we cannot be naive regarding the methods, strategies and techniques used throughout the campaign to target certain populations. For instance, when pop icons wear provocative ballots (Katy Perry) or sing lyrics such as “I got 99 problems, but a Mitt ain’t one,” (Jay-Z) while on the campaign trail with the President of the United States, it’s blatantly obvious that young people will be drawn to the candidate who has celebrity endorsement they can relate to.  Sure, I can further explore the reasons for the overwhelming Hispanic and African-American vote and provide my opinionated commentary, but instead I will focus on my own vote. On that I am an expert.

I am confident that I voted principle and not politics. I am grateful that I am independent in thought and not easily swept away by group think mentalities on either side of the aisle.  During the campaign, I was courted by Republican organizations who sought to have my service in holding signs, making calls and stumping for the Republican candidate. But I made a choice to abstain due to the divisive nature of the presidential campaign. We are “one nation under God indivisible,” and I felt that my participation in partisan politics was an endorsement of a culture I didn’t believe in.  I pray and sincerely hope that President Obama has a productive 4 more years; that he reaches across the aisle to bring unity to an ever dividing nation; that he will base his decisions on a wisdom greater than his own for the well-being of all humanity and not just persnickety lobbyist groups.

The 2013 inauguration falls on the day our nation observes the glorious life of Martin Luther King Jr.  and his pursuit for justice and equality for all men and women. For me this day will be more symbolic than ever. I will not dwell on the fiscal cliff debacle, the debate on gun violence or birth control. In order to move “forward,”  I  recognize that even though my candidate will not be inaugurated on January 21, 2013, I have won.  From the Kat’s Eye, it is others who lost the opportunity to embrace “change” that would foster economic growth, personal responsibility, global independence and patriotic allegiance.

So, I  solemnly swear that I will celebrate the year 2013 in victory, declaring that in my life, and the lives of loved ones,  the best is yet to come. This truth, I hold self-evident, is not determined by who holds an office but more in line with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. which is that I will “accept finite disappointment, but never lost infinite hope.”

Memorializing 9-11 “The City That Never Sleeps”

11 years later, time has not healed the wound of September 11th. I still bleed tears of disbelief and the scars still itch with pain. 11 years ago, I wrote an article for The Tropolitan at Troy University in Alabama and it remains a sacred vivid personal account of my memorializing 9-11 in “The City That Never Sleeps.”

This past summer my son and I pounded the pavement of our native New York. My goal was to take him on a tour of all the historical landmarks that draw thousands of tourists yearly to the Big Apple; the city that never sleeps. We never made it to the Twin Towers because our schedule never permitted it and now we never will. September 11, 2001, marks the day that one of the most monumental edifices that define American culture was destroyed. This surreal scenario of murder, mayhem and madness constantly portrayed in major movies has become a reality. As a result, my life will never be the same.

As I entered work, I was bombarded with “Are you okay?” and “You could have stayed home.” I answered, “Why wouldn’t I be okay and why would I have stayed home.” With looks of horror they responded with, “You don’t know that the Twin Towers collapsed?” Sudden devastation. I walked to my desk, my heart heavy and my mind racing. Immediately, my nervous hands fumbled with my cell phone. There were so many people to call, some of their numbers came to mind spontaneously while others I had to ponder. Yet none of my contacts could be reached. The transmitting waves of my beloved vibrant city were knocked out disabling, phone communication, particularly wireless. In a crisis situation, there is nothing worse than trying to call those you love and find them unattainable. There is an overwhelming feeling of such discomfiting weight that places heaviness on your heart, immovable. It is more burdensome when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone you know could be dead. I can hardly imagine how those in the midst of the rubble must feel. While most of those I love are accounted for, I am sure that there are a number of those who are not.

New York is my home and lower Manhattan is its central district where virtually everything exists. The work opportunities are abundant in practically every field imaginable. I worked there myself at 15 Maiden Lane, a building facing the World Trade Center. I though to call my former employers just a day before this tragedy occurred but I didn’t. Now I am stuck with the harsh reality that life is fleeting and full of unexpected twists and turns. It is a sharp reminder that we are to take advantage of every God-given opportunity to show love. A smile, a hug, a word of encouragement or even a phone call could change the course of your life or the life of someone else.

Two of my aunts work in the vicinity of the World Trade Center as well.  They take the train daily to the World  Trade Center station and walk a few feet to their respective jobs. Neither of them made it to work that day. While one was forced to return home due to the heavy congestion, the other literally ran for her life while flying debris chased her down the chaotic streets and the heat of the flames singed her back.  Trying to return to Brooklyn was a feat because the trains were shut down and the city that never sleeps was strangely immobile. Masses of people trudged across the Brooklyn Bridge and saw the second tower fall. The impact of the explosion was tremendous and the ground quaked beneath them. No one knew what would happen next.  So they began to run again, my aunt said. Survival was the only thing on their minds.

During my summer visit I remember, seeing the sweeping  skyscrapers  that glorified the New York City skyline through my son’s innocent eyes. They were a welcome attraction for all that approached them. Their looming presence was inescapable; when you saw them you knew you were either home or not far from it. When you saw them you saw New York.

“Those buildings are following us Boobie,” I teased my son affectionately. “We are going to have to tear them down and put them in our pockets.” After awhile, my five year old began to believe me.

“Mommy,” he said “they must be following us…we are gonna have to put them in our pocket!” Oh how I wish it were that easy. How I wish I could have really taken them into my pocket where their safety would have been guaranteed and the lives of thousands would have been spared.  Truly, it was the harmless banter of mother and son. But from our child’s play he learned that certain things in life are considered sacred and command a certain level of respect and recognition. From our fun and games, he understood the magnitude of the collapse of the Twin Towers when it happened. As he watched their demise on the news broadcasts, he asked why the terrorists didn’t like the Twin Towers. I had to ask God why they didn’t value life. The fact that scores of people lie dead, injured or buried alive is unfathomable to me.  Today, the image of the Twin Tower’s tumbling down remains constant and I can  no longer remember them standing.  It is hard to imagine that such wickedness can lie hidden in the hearts of man and that God’s commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself can fall on deaf ears as people attempt to accomplish their own selfish end. I’m expecting to wake up from this nightmare and find out that the “Attack on America” really is a movie.

It is important to realize that these events are not isolated to those who are from New York, Washington or Pennsylvania. This horrific event was and remains an attack on humanity and everything decent and orderly that God has established. It is a wake up call to all whose lives are centered on their own needs and their own feelings. Those who concern themselves with the here and now and take no heed to the future. We must wake up and stand up for the lives that were lost and those than can be saved.  I urge the student body to donate blood. Especially those with the unique blood types of O and RH. While donating blood is a commendable act at any given time, this dark period of American history really warrants small heroic acts such as these to make a huge difference. Once we realize that in a twinkling moment everything familiar can be erased, it is our duty to make a lasting impression in the form of charity.

Moreover, seek salvation, pray for our country and our government, the families of the victims and the lives that were lost and waiting to be found for we need Jesus now more than ever.