Father Knows Best

For those of you who don’t know, yesterday was African American family day at the zoo. It’s an age old Easter Monday tradition that came about because black people weren’t allowed at the White House Easter Egg Roll. As a kid, we used to go all the time. But I’m pretty sure we stopped going after that first shooting almost 15 years ago.

Anyways, I had forgotten all about that, and was making plans to go yesterday. Like I said, I hadn’t been in a while and I thought it would be fun. I just so happened to mention it to my dad when I was talking to him on Easter, and he reminded me that there had been quite a bit of violence (well, shootings) at the event in recent years. So, I listened to my dad, and I didn’t go.

Good call, Pop. Turns out, there was another shooting yesterday. Two people were hurt, but everyone will be ok.

The lesson here, people: Listen to your parents, even if it ruins your plans. They’re almost always right.

For more info on yesterday’s shooting at he Zoo, click this sentence.

Don’t Take Me Out To The Ball Game. I’ll Take Myself.

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would look forward to baseball’s Opening Day more than I looked forward to football season, I would have said you were nuts. Me? BASEBALL. What a joke.

But as we enter week two of the baseball season, it’s safe to say I’ve seen almost as many Nats games this season as I saw Skins games all of last football season. And while my undying hatred for the team’s quarterback definitely plays into that, it is by no means the main reason.

I was born into a football family. Every Sunday, I sat in my paternal grandparents’ living room and watched Washington’s pigskin team fail over and over again. My grandfather called them jigaboos and I laughed (while simultaneously wincing at the atrocious play). My grandmother, father, mother and brother (and sometimes cousins and aunts and uncle) would all catch the game together. It was my weekend ritual.

It has been almost 15 years since the last time that happened. Hard to believe it has been that long since the night my grandfather died (I’ll get to that story eventually).

But I digress. As I was saying, I was born into a football family. Baseball was boring and it wasn’t to be watched. I caught the occasional big league game at Camden Yards (more like 2 or 3). I even had a pair of Orioles earrings as a kid. But my heart was never in it.

And then the Expos left Canada and changed their names to the Nationals. I won’t lie, for a girl who was raised on football, I was way too excited when DC finally got a pro baseball team. I’d heard stories of the legendary Washington Senators, but that didn’t mean much to me.

But when the Nats came to town, I was determined to learn everything I could about baseball. I watched over 100 baseball games that first season. Which is a ton for someone who had only seen a few pro games before that. Brad Wilkerson (I have a thing for 3rd basemen) and Johnson and our Mel Gibson lookalike catcher whose name I can never remember. Cristan Guzman and Livan Hernandez. Chad Cordero was a hell of a closer (though I didn’t really know what a closer was at the time).

Those first few seasons were a blur, as I tried to learn everything there was about the game. I can remember my first game at RFK, which was also one of the last seasons the team spent there. We were playing some random team, like the Rockies or the Diamondbacks, and Austin Kearns hit what turned out to be a game winning homer with Zimm on base. It. Was. Epic.

Today, I not only watch my team for fun, but I’ve found the perfect way to incorporate them into my daily work life. And though I still don’t know a lot, I know so much more than I did. Maybe one day, I’ll know as much about baseball as I do about football. And that I’ll get to take all the credit for. I didn’t sit around for over a decade learning it from my dad and grandpa. I learned it on my own. When my dad or brother want to know something about baseball, they come to me. I’m the resident Hinton baseball expert.

If you’ve never been a teenaged girl watching a football game at a house party with a bunch of bigots or a woman cheering louder at the bar than any man, you won’t understand why that’s a big deal. People assume you don’t know what you’re talking about, until they realize you do and things get awkward. Every once in a while, you’ll find a guy who loves a chick that can talk sports with him (and on occasion, out talk him), but mostly it’s an issue.

But what’s not an issue for me is that I love sports. It’s the one thing I’ll never be ashamed to admit. And while baseball might not have been my first love, it’s definitely my true love. And that has made all the difference.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother are black.
White King + Black Queen = Asian Prince.
Nothing about that is your typical Cinderella story.
Everything about this movie is great.
It is the perfect example of how casting people who fit the roles the best make for the greatest possible film, race (and age) aside.
Now, just go watch it because it’ll make you happy.

If I Were A Slave

 

Yesterday, a friend of mine took to Facebook as she watched PBS’ series “The African Americans.”  In the course of her viewing, she asked aloud a question I’ve thought about many times: I wonder what kind of slave I would have been.

I remember the first time I thought about this.  One of the field trips my mother took me on when I was home-schooled was to the Blacks In Wax museum in Baltimore, Maryland.  The very first thing you do when you walk into the museum is travel the Middle Passage.  I can recall with nauseating clarity looking at a 9-year-old girl who was raped by one of the men on the ship.  It just so happened that I, too, was 9.  From that moment on, I’ve often stopped to think what kind of slave I would have been.

Now this little girl was probably free at some point in her life.  Here she is on this boat, likely alone, surrounded by people who don’t speak her language and without anyone to protect her.  The image of her standing on that boat, coupled with a display that told me that she was raped, are still seared into my mind 15 years later.  This could have been the moment that my life changed.  It was a slap in the face that I had no right to go a day without thinking about that girl, and every other little girl my age, who grew up in shackles instead of in a pink bedroom with hearts on the walls.  I had no right to go about my life without making sure that everyone respects the lives that were lost to give me the freedoms that I had that day and still have right now.  The freedom to walk through that museum.  To go to the National Cathedral School or Boston College.  To sit at this desk and write this blog post.

But then I realized that if time and circumstance was a little different, that could have been me or any of my friends.  I knew what rape was to an extent, but I had no idea what it felt like to have someone violate your body or take away your freedom.  In my 9-year-old mind, the best I could do was think about the most scared and alone I’d ever felt.  And then I wondered what she did and what happened to her.  Did she struggle?  She was so small, it wouldn’t have really mattered.  Did he throw her back after he finished using her body or did he kill her and throw her to the sharks?  Did she even make it to the Americas?  I don’t know.  No one probably does.  Why would they?  She was just a slave.  So to me, it begged the question: what kind of slave would I have been?

It’s something that I’ve struggled with over the years.  It happened to me most recently after seeing this year’s Academy Award winning Best Picture, “12 Years A Slave.”  First, let me say, if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading this right now, get off your butt and go see the movie.  That’s as close to a spoiler alert as you’re going to get.

So if you checked out the link at the beginning of the blog, you’ll see Lupita Nyong’o playing Patsey and Alfre Woodard playing Mistress Shaw.  Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s Solomon Northup is also in the scene.

To start, I will say I was disgusted more by Mistress Shaw than any other slave in this movie (any female slave in any movie that i can think of).  If there is a slave that I pray to God I would not have been, it is her.  I couldn’t imagine bowing to the man who enslaved me and my family and giving in to him by choice.  I kind of understand that it’s an “every man for himself” kind of situation, but how do you sit on that wraparound porch every day, sipping your tea and wearing your fancy clothes, while you watch your friends and family being beaten and killed.  I would rather die.

Another character I can’t possibly imagine being is Patsey.  She spent her entire day out-picking every other person in the cotton fields, only to spend her nights as her master’s sex toy.  Honestly, her situation is worse than Mistress Shaw, because she suffers same sexual abuse without the added benefit of being free of the fields.

I can’t include any of the male characters, because I am not arrogant enough to think that I could understand in any sense what it is like to be a black man, then or now.  I understand while our race binds us, our genders create a divide that makes our experiences very different.

So I’ll throw in one more character, but this one from another film: Kerry Washington‘s Broomhilda von Shaft from DJango Unchained.  She would not settle for the circumstances she had been given.  She knew there was more to life, and was willing to die to get there.

That’s the point, I guess.  I would hope that I would know that I deserved better.  When I was younger, I made a lot of decisions in hopes of making the best life for myself.  Nowadays, I try and make decisions that will set up the best life for my future family.  I want the very best for my husband and kids, even though I don’t know who they are or when they’ll get here.  That’s the drive that I hope would have made me fight for better.  Maybe that looks like running away or mailing myself to freedom.  Maybe I would’ve been like Harriet Tubman and realized that I had a duty not to just free myself, but to free others to make sure that my future family had a community of their own to live in.  Or maybe I never would’ve had a family because I died in a revolt like Nat Turner.

Not long after my visit to the Blacks in Wax Museum, I came across the story of Ellen Craft.  She was a very light-skinned slave in Georgia.  When she was in her 20′s, she passed as a white man and, with her husband William pretending to be her slave, escaped to Boston.  They’re probably the most famous fugitive slaves in U.S. history.

For 9-year-old me, it was a story of hope for me after a time of sinking despair.  To be honest, chances are, I wouldn’t have been like her.  Or Harriet Tubman.  Or anyone else who escaped to freedom.  Chances are I wouldn’t have tried to leave.  And if I did, I would’ve died before I made it north.  But all I hope is that I would’ve been strong enough to fight for myself.  And the people that I love.

I Think You Thought That Was A Compliment

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“You’re not like most black women.”

In the last year, I’ve had 4 different black men say that to me, in one form or another.  And I’m not talking random dudes on the street who I could have just written off.  I’m talking about men who matter to me, whose opinions have a stake in my view not just of myself, but of our people.  Their comments cut me in a way it haven’t felt in decades. But beyond that, I just don’t get the logic.

For starters, there’s the basic flaw that black women come from some cookie cutter.  We are not all loud, though I can be.  We don’t all refuse to be submissive; I actually prefer it in the right situation.  Some of us enjoy traveling and swimming and sweating.  We don’t all have attitudes all the time, though some of us will snap at you if you push too much.  Lots of us work for a living, and work hard.  I’ll refer you to the host of black women who are doctors, lawyers, dentists, singers, journalists and politicians, though the list goes on.

So, in case that wasn’t clear, hear this: we are not the same.  There are some Madeas, Jezebels and the overly-successful, tragically-single black women a la Gabrielle Union in everything she’s ever played in.  However, there are more of us outside of those boxes than in them.  I would say that most of the black women I know aren’t like “most black women,” assuming that your definition of the black female is any of the lazy, loud, rachet, welfare chicks you see us stereotyped as.

But more than that, Their comments made it seem like I am less of black woman because I don’t fit into a certain mold, which is certainly not the case.

I remember watching the Spurs and the Heat in one of the championship games last year with my then-boyfriend.  At one point in the conversation, he told me how black women were lazy and didn’t want to work.  But that I was different.  I had two jobs and I was in school.  I had a drive that most black women lack.

I was crushed.  There was nothing about what he said that made me happy.  Did he want me because I was “less black” than the other black women he knew?  Because I didn’t remind him of the stereotype we often see of the black woman?

Maybe if it had just been him, I could’ve written it off and moved on.  But a few months later, I had a conversation with two men in my family that went along similar lines.  “Black women x, y, z.  White and Latino women would never a, b, c.”  My automatic response was to use myself as a counterpoint.

Yeah, but you’re not like most black chicks.

It seems that it keeps showing up.  Maybe that’s not supposed to hurt.  I think y’all thought that was a compliment.  Newsflash, negroes: it’s not.

Anyone who knows me understands how much I love being black.  It is the foundation of my identity.  Everything else is secondary.  Even with my pale skin, green eyes and blonde hair, make no mistakes: I love being black.

So what about me makes it ok to say that I’m any less black because I don’t fit a mold?  Why would anyone think that my drive or my willingness to please a man or  my love of the occasional country song are reasons to question where I fall in line?

I’m willing to accept that part of my struggle with this is my own insecurity.   It’s a side effect of growing up in a world where all the other kids on the playground called me white because I could string together a proper sentence WHILE I was dropping buckets on the boys on the basketball court.  No one likes a show-off, and kids can be cruel.  I’ll be the first to admit that part of that sticks with me 20 years later.  But it feels like I’m still getting the same crap.  My fancy degree and polished resume don’t stop the sting.

A couple months ago, I was hanging out with a good friend of mine.  And I felt a little like Bill Murray when he told me he didn’t see me the way he saw most black women.  At first, the way he said it didn’t hit me so hard.   I think I thought it was a compliment.  And I know he meant it in a good way because they almost always do.  The longer I thought about it, though, the tougher it was for me to swallow. Because at the end of the day, it’s not a compliment. It’s a way to say that there’s something about being a black woman that still isn’t good enough, not even for our own men.

The List

So I’ve entered Week 2 of the Quarter Century. And minus a blip or two (details on that to come during a future birthday night recap/reflection), I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start.  But this is a benchmark year, so it’s time to put myself to the test.  I need a purpose beyond the rat race of constant work and school. Thus, I present to you: The 25 in 25

  1. Go skydiving – this has been on my “To Do” list for years, and I haven’t gotten my life together to do it. I need this rush. I need to know I can jump out of a plane, rush toward the Earth, feel my heart jump out of my chest and survive it all.  I need to see that the world is bigger than me.  I know there’s no better way to see how big than from a plane.
  2. Do an obstacle course – for the last few years, I considered doing Tough Mudder.  But then I thought about it. So many reasons that’s never going to happen. First, I hate to run, so running 12-15 miles ain’t gonna happen.  Second, why would I want to run 12-15 miles AND get shocked by electricity.  Nope, I’m good.  But I AM signed up for this event called Mudderella in September.  Should be a good time. Feel free to join me (guys are welcome, too!).
  3. Go whitewater rafting – How much of a rush is this going to be? It’s just necessary.  Plus, I’m a Pisces, so I love water.
  4. Go skiing/snowboarding – Just one of those things I need to do before I die, so why not add it to the list.  Plus, I need to get my East Coast Johnny Tsunami on.   Here’s a clip for your viewing pleasure
  5. Update my blog at least once a week – I love to write. And I need to build my internet presence or whatever.  I’ll let you guys hold me accountable for this one.
  6. Complete 25 Random Acts Of Kindness – remember when you were a kid in school and these were a HUGE deal? Ok, maybe that was just at my school, but I used to be really good at them.  And there’s nothing like the joy that comes from helping other people.  The first one I’ve already done, so I’ll post about that later this week.  I’ll make sure to come up with a separate place for all of those so you can keep up with me.
  7. Stand on top of a mountain – this can’t go hand-in-hand with #4. I’m talking about trekking it up the side of some rugged thing and looking back down at the steepness I’ll have just conquered.  I really want the chance to see the world for the huge place it is.  And #6 might be a piece of that, but there’s nothing like the vastness of Mother Nature to remind you of how much more there really is around you.
  8. Kiss someone in the rain – I’m talking the now-classic passion of Noah and Allie.  Or that line in one of my favorite Taylor Swift song’s.  There’s nothing more romantic and passionate that kissing in the rain, no matter what the conversation was leading up to it.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a look.  
  9. Learn a new craft – I originally wrote this as find “find a new hobby,” but I want to do something that’s going to enhance my skill set.  Maybe I’ll learn to knit. Or play the guitar. Or something. I’m open to suggestions here.  Write’em in the comments.
  10. Write a novel – this will be happening in November.  Last year, some friends of mine participated in National Novel Writing Month and I thought it was pretty sick.  So I’m adding it to the list.
  11. Lose 10 pounds – constant struggle, but it needs to be here, so let’s do this.
  12. Read the Bible from cover-to-cover – I was thinking about a book I really wanted to read. This was the only one that came to mind. I’m tired of people always trying to tell me what it says, so I’ll just read the whole thing for myself. This is probably the toughest one of the list, but the challenge of it really excites me.
  13. Set foot on land I’ve never been to – I wanted to write “continent” but I figured I’d keep the price bracket a little lower. We’ll see where I end up.  We all know how much I love to travel.
  14. Go on a trip with a friend (or two) – as I’ve written, I like to travel alone. I think this will be a pretty cool learning experience, traveling with other people. I’m hoping I can convince my besties to come with, but we’ll see. 
  15. Work on my language skills – I’m not going to put this one in a box. I could increase my vocab in my native language or keep growing my skills in Spanish.  But I’ll be honest.  What I really want to do is learn French (there’s a reason, but look for that in a future post). So, we’ll see what happens with this. 
  16. Try Pole Dancing - because it seems awesome.  And it’ll serve me well in the long run.
  17. Finish this list – this might be one of the last things I actually do, and it’ll get pushed back a number every time I come up with something new.  And again, I’m open to suggestions. 

Alrighty, there it is.  My quarter life crisis solving list.  I’m trying to be better person, so here’s a bunch of ways to help me grow.  I’ll make sure to give you an update.  Wish me luck.  And keep me honest.

It’s Cool Not To Listen – Except When Everyone Is Right

Probs shoulda listened

This morning, I woke up and thought “if I just drilled a nail into my skull, I could sleep a little longer.”

Before I do any of the soul-searching required when one wakes up thinking something like this, let’s just look at the logic behind it. First, you don’t drill a nail (well, you can, but it’s gross and not the kind of nail I’m talking about. Watch at your own risk). It makes no sense. A screw, yes. A nail, no.  Nails require hammers. And for some reason, banging a nail into my temple seems a tad more painful than the way I imagined it just sliding in at 3 o’clock.  Second, SLEEP A LITTLE LONGER? Chances are, if I slid/hammered/drilled a nail anywhere near my temple, I’d be doing a little more than sleeping.

So now that we’ve covered the sheer insanity of my thought, let’s really get down to it. I. Am. Tired. That basically sums it all up. Two years ago, I started working at DC’s best local radio station while I was working on my master’s degree at Georgetown.  A year later, I picked up a second job at MLB Network Radio at Sirius XM.  I distinctly remember one of my coworkers telling me that I needed to slow down, or I was going to burn out.  But being the energy-laden 20-something I was, I knew I’d be just fine. And last week, I stopped in to chat with one of my bosses, who asked me how everything was going.  After I finished recounting a schedule that I can’t even keep up with, he laughed and shook his head.

Still burning the wick at both ends.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” I’d assured him. Looks like I was wrong. Just a week or so later, I’m sitting on the couch in the middle of the night wondering what the hell I’m doing. How did I let myself get so tired? So busy? So… burnt out?

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the first time I’ve questioned my choices as I’ve schlepped off to work while the rest of the world slept.  But it is the first time I’ve come up with a plan of physical harm to get myself out of it. I actually tapped my temple as I thought about the nail making its way toward my frontal lobe. No bueno.

To be clear, I don’t want to die. I want to sleep. I want to quit school and take a vacation just to grab some shut eye. And don’t worry, it’s a thing.

So as I sit here, falling asleep at my desk, I realize I probably should’ve listened to the MULTIPLE people who warned me this would happen.  Here’s the thing I’ve learned about growing up: for every one genius idea you have, you’ll have at least five dumb ones.  And sometimes older people aren’t being old. Sometimes, they just know more than you.