Black China

I’m Black in China. For some of my counterparts who share my skin tone, whether a darker or lighter hue, their experience is rife with difficulty. Chinese people stop and stare, gawk incredulously, sneakily snap pictures of you or boldly ask to pose beside you. Surely it can become tiresome defending your right to privacy and securing your personal space. But I have decided to liken the attention to celebrity status. From the Kat’s Eye, it’s all about perspective.

I remember telling my godfather that I wanted to go to China in my younger years. His response was, “I am glad you said that. Most Black people want to go to Africa.” Interestingly enough, the majority of Chinese people readily assume that if you’re Black you’re from Africa. For example, while sharing the elevator with an elderly man, he freely spoke Chinese to me as if I understood. It wasn’t until a Chinese woman, who spoke perfect English, entered the elevator that his attempt at communication became clear. The man just wanted to say “hello,”she said and tell me that he had spent 2 years in Africa. I smiled, said ni hao and told the woman to tell him, “I am from America.”

I would be naïve to deny any tracings of African descent. But I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, USA and South Carolina and Alabama is the farthest my parents, or grandparents sojourned from. To say that I am African-American is a disservice to the true Africans who embrace, live and celebrate their culture. I am American and I strongly identify as such. My godfather’s quip, while harsh on the surface, has far deeper meaning. In essence, he was saying go beyond your comfort zone, explore someplace where the faces of the people are different from your own.

Throughout the years, I accumulated books on Chinese history, customs, religion, Feng Shui, and Chinese cooking. These books gathered dust on my personal library shelves as my desire to travel to China lay dormant beneath familial and professional obligations. So it was a no brainer to fulfill one of my long term goals when presented with a job opportunity to teach English in China. Prior to my departure, my brother supported my decision by reminding me that I had a desire to travel to China since he was 16. He is now 28.

The beauty of living abroad in China is that the locals recognize your nationality above all else. Your skin color is incidental. I am not alone in this sentiment. I met a Black woman named Rachel in a local Latin bistro who has lived in Asia for several years. She parroted my thoughts… “In China, I am American and nothing else matters.”

But in America, the Black Lives Matter movement champions the belief that Black people are victims of racial inequality, racial profiling, economic disparity, educational deficiencies, and discriminatory practices to the brink of dehumanization. But who are these Black people? What country, nation, region, even state do they identify with outside the fact that their skin is Black?

I grew up in the projects, low income housing in a crime and drug ridden neighborhood in Brooklyn. Yet, there was never a phase in my life that I felt powerless or incapable of rising above my circumstances. I lived in America, the Land of Opportunity, the home of the brave, the Land of the Free. I understood that as an American, the civil rights once denied men and women of color did not embody my existence. Slavery days were over, I had been set free.

But in 2015, the climate of America is one of racial pain and anguish suffered by black people at the hands of (what’s deemed) oppressive systems of organization such as law enforcement, government and education. Instead of spreading a message of triumph and overcoming adversity, generated by the civil rights movement there is a new clarion call that sounds like “let my people go.”

Riots, looting, murder and criminal mischief is not representative of the entire Black community. Yet the media images depicting such dreadful acts become the global face of Black people everywhere. Should we be surprised then when non-black people draw back in fear, hold their purses or their women close or think and act disparagingly towards us; especially if their only encounter with Black people is that which is shown on television?

China is a homogenous environment. Pretty much everyone looks the same. I don’t view their stares, comments or behavior as racist as we would be quick to do in the U.S. I view it as a child-like curiosity, a sense of awe that someone unlike themselves, a person with different hair texture, skin tone, and body shape is walking among them in their native country. Now that I am here in the Sichuan province of Chengdu, I am delighted that China was a destination on my life’s journey.

The Chinese call the USA “mei-guo,” which means “beautiful nation.” I embrace the beauty that is the USA along with its scars and wounds. Although I understand the underlying drive behind Black Lives Matter, on a global scale, its intent is miniscule. I’m Black in China but I’m American. Here, my nationality speaks volumes, and that is all that matters.

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SHOUT!

“I’m gonna tear down those walls,” he whispered

and I wanted to shout.

Cuz’ I’m tired of restrictions and oppressions beyond my control

I want to be free to explode like a cannon’s ball.

“I’m gonna to tear down those walls,” he nudged

and I wanted to burst.

When it’s rough more is done

and I’m made stronger when tossed and turned within a swelling storm

spurred swiftly to hold on.

“Tear down these walls,” I concede.

Then rebuild in more firm and fertile soil to breed.

After the seventh time, Jericho fell to the ground.

But I only need one ride on this merry-go-round

to shout and have these walls come tumbling down.

walls

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.

Identity Crisis

I am Puerto Rican. At least that is the standing joke I share with close friends and family. The truth is I am black.  I lived off of  Graham Avenue, (Avenue of Puerto Rico) in Brooklyn and was immersed in Hispanic culture at a young age.  My mouth waters at the taste of arroz con pollo y habichuelas. I love to salsa and Danza Kudoro is on repeat on my playlist. My pronunciation of certain Spanish terms and phrases is near perfection and my brother’s nickname is Cardo,short for “Ricardo.” Richard claims to be Dominican. But of course he’s not. The truth is we are, I am, unequivocally, unabashedly, 100% black. Unlike Rachel Dolezal, the tanned white woman, who sports cornrows,  is a vocal participant in the Black Lives Matter movement, head honcho of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington  and professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University.

There is a distinct difference with identifying with a certain race, culture or ethnicity and pretending you are of that race, culture or ethnicity. In Dolezal’s guise to be “black” she weaved a web of lies that included being a victim of hate crimes and racial discrimination,  mother of her black adopted brother, an expert on black hair in public lectures, and abused by her white parents in Montana.

Her passion and commitment to advocate for injustices suffered by people of color is a noble cause. But her contributions are overshadowed by her duplicity. As her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told the Spokesman-Review, “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”

From the Kat’s eye, this is a newfangled example of white privilege, a term used to express the social, economic and political advantages a white person has over a non-white person. She grew up seemingly happy in a two parent home in Montana with devout Christian parents who adopted 4 black children into their picturesque family.  All of her earlier photographs depict a smiling, blonde, freckle faced white complexioned child. Can we assume that she was afforded opportunities not easily accessible to people of color as she grew up? Quite likely.  But it would seem that at some point to promote her social justice cause it was more advantageous to be black than white. So, she transforms herself into a stereotypical light-skinned African American woman with kinky hair and starts marching  on the frontlines for all things black.

How was it so easy for others to fall prey to this façade? As a professor of Africana Studies, I am sure she is all too familiar with the dark-skinned vs light-skinned epidemic within the black community. There is an inherent disbelief that black people with lighter hues are more beautiful and have greater success because they can navigate easier among white society. In essence, they are less of a threat because they aren’t considered black enough. Dolezal embraced that unspoken narrative becoming the leading face of Spokane’s NAACP who states that “… racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.” In other words, she is getting a pass to mock and diminish the black experience because of her own identity crisis. Old scars become fresh wounds bleeding factions among the black community who are arguing over whether or not her decision to be “black” is right or wrong. The bottom line will be how much persecution will she suffer as a white woman pretending to black compared to a black woman pretending to be white?

What happened to integrity and strong moral character?  Is the black community so lacking in leadership that it will settle for a pseudo-black woman of European descent as its spokeperson?  If so, let us be reminded of words from a known great emancipator President Abraham Lincoln, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.” When confronted with her true identity, Rachel Dolezal feigned ignorance and fled the scene of her ethical crimes. I prefer a leader who does not wait days to confront issues that adversely impact the black community but instead confronts them head on with courage.

Generally, when I hear or observe situations in which I think black people behaved  inappropriately, unintelligibly or irresponsibly, I jest, “I’m so glad, I’m Puerto Rican.” Yet, there is no valor in assuming the identity of another to avoid shame, embarrassment or difficulty within your own race or ethnicity. There is honor in accepting the diversity of others, appreciating those differences, supporting their struggles, and championing their causes. The reality is you don’t  have to compromise, reject or deny who you are in order to do so. This is the American way and it transcends race, religion, gender and political affiliation.

I have overcome my identity crisis, I hope Rachel Dolezal does too.

Seen But Not Heard

I miss Malcolm X. Sure he died before I was born and I only know of his exploits from movies, commentary and the bevy of speeches he left behind. But one thing I know for sure, the African American community needs a Malcolm X today.

In the eulogy delivered by Ossie Davis, Malcolm was described as “our own black shining prince.” Malcolm’s voice spoke volumes and his message provoked others to listen. He is the embodiment of the current cry “black lives matter,” and his actions, words and deeds sparked change that is desperately needed in African-American communities.  I mimic Oprah Winfrey’s comment in response to the public’s reaction to the Ferguson decision, “I think it’s wonderful to march and to protest, and it’s wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it, but what I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it.” There was a backlash surrounding her statement. But considering that she is a media mogul, her response is the most honest.

During his heyday, Malcolm X was the 2nd most sought after speaker in the United States as reported by the New York Times. Malcolm did not use the media as a medium to be seen. It was a vehicle to be heard and promote his cause. He took command of his interviews and engaged his critics and commentators. He was eloquent, charismatic and articulated his ideas with clarity and a quiet strength that empowered black people to rise above circumstance and as he stated “control their destiny,” with “economic, political and social” power.  With Malcolm, there was a decrease in crime and drug abuse in black communities and an increase in self-confidence, prosperity and hope. “He expelled fear for African Americans,” said Sonia Sanchez. His ability to mobilize, organize and transform the mentality of Black people was single-handedly a threat to the norms that were oppressive to African Americans.  There was a reverential fear within society when he proclaimed by any means necessary, “That’s why we loved him. He said it out loud, not behind closed doors. He took on America for us.”  Fast forward, post Malcolm there is no reverence, black people are just feared and understandably so. The media images that plaster the television screens and dominate social media portray a race and class of people prone to destructive behavior. After the Ferguson decision, looters and rioters were seen destroying businesses, burning cars,  creating chaos and wreaking havoc and mayhem  within their own communities in a failed attempt to express their frustrations and denounce injustice. But as the world watched, there was no compassion for the underlying cause just disdain for their reaction.  Malcolm understood that “our communities must be the sources of their own strength.” Unfortunately, the participants in these scenarios were seen but not heard while Officer Darren Wilson was given a media platform to recount his version of the Ferguson incident.  It is likely that he garnered sympathy in the process for his role in the tragic events that resulted in the death of Michael Brown.  I miss Malcolm X.

With instantaneous social media pictures, postings and videos and newscasters more interested in sensationalized “news” stories that are derisive and inflammatory, it is imperative that African Americans take the time to be proactive instead of reactive. It is painfully obvious, that in order for that to occur a magnanimous leader must take the helm and be willing to  “work with many organizations and many people,” to continue the work started by Malcolm X in “regaining our self respect, our manhood, our dignity and freedom…”

Only then will the pattern of being seen but not heard end and the truth that black lives matter manifest.

malcolmandmedia

Learn more about Malcolm at:

1) http://www.blackpast.org/1964-malcolm-x-s-speech-founding-rally-organization-afro-american-unity#sthash.V00KyEvv.dpuf

2) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/malcolmx/peopleevents/e_autobio.html

Bill Cosby didn’t rape me, but this guy did

Updated July 7, 2015

So it hits the fan. Sworn testimony from 2005 records Bill Cosby admitting that he used Quaaludes to drug women and have sex with them. Yet, he has never been charged criminally. And with all the women that have accused him, it is criminal that charges were not brought against him then to stop his predatory nature.

Eight months later as the hidden truth unfolds, I stand by my original post. It never condoned rape or violence against women. Neither did it support Bill Cosby and whatever improprieties he engaged in. Luckily, I’m not Jill Scott on a Twitter recant, or “I don’t care,” Whoopi Goldberg from The View  with millions of fans and media trolls hanging on to my every word. But I aim for  my blog, From the Kat’s Eye to always be responsible and honest.

Original Post

As a naïve and unsuspecting virgin, I willingly accompanied him to his apartment in our neighborhood. I was fearless in my journey with the older, most popular and cutest guy in our neighborhood. I was delighted that he had invited me to his home. It was a dream come true and nothing compared to the nightmare that later occurred.  I did not realize that what I considered innocent petting was to him foreplay to more involved physical contact. I had barely started junior high school so sex was not on my to-do list. But it was on his. I was not plied with drugs or alcohol, all it took was a fierce and sudden slap across the face to silence my protests and force me into submission.

Shaken, shamed and sorry I ever went to his house, I walked home after he callously dismissed me. Aside from this present public disclosure, only my dearest and best friend at the time was aware of the incident. She did her best to comfort me as I sobbed deep pangs of uncontrollable regret. But being young and inexperienced, we did not know what to do.  I suppose our thoughts were what could we do? It was over.

National statistics for sexual violence are alarming. According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted, 60% of these crimes go unreported and just like my circumstance, 38% of the perpetrators is either an intimate partner or an acquaintance.

Shortly after the incident, I avoided my perpetrator at all costs. I hid my face if he walked past my apartment window. I strategically planned where not to go in the neighborhood to reduce the chance of meeting him face to face.  But as time went on, I became, stronger, wiser and I realized that what he did was wrong. It was then that I made a conscious decision that I would no longer give him the power to control me as he did that dreadful day. I stopped ducking and dodging him. Instead, I began to taunt and heckle him when I would see him in passing and he said nothing. He too had decided to keep our secret.  I remain loosely connected with my then friend who may or may not remember the incident or the culprit. But it doesn’t matter because I remember the day and the dude.

28 years later I can say, “Bill Cosby didn’t rape me, but this guy did.” There’s no fear or compulsion to protect his identity. So, unless I were to learn today that yesterday, last month, or sometime within this current year he has continued to lure young girls into his home and take advantage of them I will not mention his name. 28 years later, he could be married with daughters of his own and strive each day to protect them from men like he was. He could be a pioneer in his field, well respected in his community and give generously to charities or people in need. He could himself have been a victim of a tragedy or suffered a heartbreaking loss that caused him to reflect upon his life, realize his gross mistakes and desperately act to change his behavior. 28 years later, I do not need to name him or blame him. Although he robbed me of the precious gift of purity that should only be shared between your beloved, your betrothed or your significant other, I no longer feel the need to hold him accountable for his unspeakable act towards me.

In a sense, I escaped unscathed because I did not deal drastically with the trauma as some do. I was not overtly sexual or promiscuous, I did not engage in a string of abusive relationships nor did I resort to self medicating through alcohol or drug abuse. Did I deal with emotional turmoil? Could the rape have caused me to fear rejection, be distrustful towards men, become more dominant and aggressive in relationships, fear intimacy and be non-committal? In retrospect, it is all very possible. It is only by faith that I am able to cope with personal “issues ” of the past and present to propel me towards the future. Today, I am thankful to be healed of emotional hurt. I am healthy and happy to forgive the man who stripped me of my virginity and dignity at such a young age. I am thankful for the LOVE in my life and grateful for the life experiences that have allowed me to grow and continue to become stronger and wiser. Harold Herring tweeted, “If someone has hurt u in the past…leave it there. Don’t harbor any resentment or add painful memories to ur mental play list.”

From the Kat’s eye, I would go even further and say, don’t wait to address the pain that someone has caused you. Your recovery is in your response. If you are a victim of a sexual assault, don’t wait. Immediately call the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE for help, support and guidance because even though you may feel naked and ashamed it is in that moment that you regain your power and your strength.

Let the New Year Begin!

So, no new year resolutions for me. Just a conscious decision to do things differently, to make lifestyle changes that will ultimately change the course of my life for the better. Of course, it encompasses the typical physical, mental and spiritual goals that are set annually and quickly forgotten within 90 days. But, I know that this YEAR is different. To prove this point, I am approaching this whole blogging process differently. It had become such a chore when it was designed to be a platform for me to share freely with joy.  I suffer from  a chronic disease called perfectionism and one if it’s debilitating symptoms is procrastination. In the aimless pursuit to be perfect, time is wasted and usually not spent very productively. Then, I look around and say, where did the time go? It has been sucked into a vacuum never to be used again.  Well today, January 1, 2014,  I chose to use my time wisely and it started with a trek. I felt rather Thoreau-ish as I communed with nature, met some interesting folks, asked some crazy questions, cackled like a hen and took some very bad footage.  I braved the trail of Alligator Alley and got a glimpse of a flock of roseates resting on the water. I peered through a telescope  and was amazed by an eagle’s nest. At the end of the day, it was 2 hours of time well spent in which I learned, laughed and loved every minute. Let the new year begin!

Car ride to Circle B

Walk on the Wild Side

The Wonderment of Bald Eagles