ALWAYS be YOU. The Anansi Maze is now complete as a manuscript. Meanwhile, illustrations have begun: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/JennyChama/illustrating-the-anansi-maze
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, I know. This past year has been a whirlwind in ESL/ELD teaching and coordination, and I am happy to be back to Mrs. Davenport’s World English.
I would first like to announce that you now have available a brand new range of courses for your English Learning Needs, whether you are an executive or entrepreneur, a student, a parent or an ESL Teacher yourself.
- Mrs. Davenport
In the wake of his idol’s downfall, all my little brother posted today was, “Hulk Hogan, Say it ain’t so.”
I heard the news this morning while brushing my teeth. My heart sank, but only briefly. Of all my siblings, I thought of this brother first.
I had hoped for only a minute that it was all blown out of proportion. I had hoped that Hulk Hogan had just participated in the very modern back-and-forth that is tentatively allowing some non-African-Americans to use the “N-word” in the way that some have controversially appropriated it, with the stinger pulled and the venom erased.
It was not to be. Hulk Hogan admitted that he used it in the way it was originally intended, all malice and hatred intact.
This little brother of mine is now 30-something years old, married with four beautiful children, honorably discharged from the U.S. Army and a good-spirited hard-working American man. Not a child and not naïve by any measure. Still idealistic like me, but not naïve.
But being his big sister, I still think of his overarching wrestling passion when I think of him, of going with him to the loud and glitzy wrestling matches at the Coliseum in Virginia, of his wrestling trophies won with his baby brother before school was out, of all of the plastic WWE wrestling men he treasured through the years that we had to keep picking up off the bedroom floor, action figures we had to press an airlines to locate one year because they misplaced our luggage. Nobody cared about the clothes.
I still know better than to call him on the phone when there’s a wrestling match going on.
So the fact that one of his WWE “heroes” has been discovered to hold unfounded hatred against us, for no other reason than our skin color is a richer brown (actually, my brother is lighter than Hulk Hogan), even though Hulk Hogan received so much love from Black fans along with white, Asian, native, Hispanic, everyone – this hurts. It’s not surprising anymore, really, but it hurts.
Again, my brother is not a child. He grew up here in this same America that has such a volatile up-and-down history with race relations. With now being one of those lows due to the seeming open season on African Americans, and also to another degree on Hispanics and Native Americans, not much now is surprising. But it doesn’t keep this from being yet another spiritual let-down.
It’s a pain akin to when we were kids and, after starting to adore Elvis Presley movies and telling people about our newfound fandom, we were told that infamous quote that Snopes.com refutes, “All Negroes can do for me is to buy my records and shine my shoes.”
Back then, there weren’t any secretive videos to prove or disprove statements like that. Now there are, and apologies come cheap at the moment.
Oh well. It’s so sad. But we have way more important manifestations of our present state of emergency in race relations than one more felled hero spouting the “N-Word.”
[Reprinted from my Sidelines writing.]
Today, July 16, 2015, they found James Holmes guilty.
Of shooting, injuring and killing kids we knew, friends we had, sisters and sons here in our Aurora city limits, James Egan Holmes was found guilty. We already knew he was.
As the verdict was read at around 4:15pm our time, then snaked across time zones through media outlets around the nation, I absentmindedly drove my children along a street a few blocks from the scene of the crime, on my way to run errands. Actually, not absentmindedly. Quite focused on the task at hand, I quite forgot about the verdict’s reading until hours later.
To tell the truth, I was at Aurora Town Center two days ago, the mall that anchored Century 16, looking at puppies with my 11-year-old, checking out the new Glow Golf they’d opened on the first floor, strolling around waiting for her orthodontist appointment to roll around. Normal stuff.
Over a week ago, I even parked about a hundred feet from where the shooting occurred, fresh from a new haircut, just because that parking space was closest to the mall entrance I wanted to use. I saw quite a few cars parked in the theater lot, wondered a moment about what kind of people were over at that painted building (because we’d vowed never to set foot there again), then went on inside the store to do some quick shopping. Again, normal stuff.
Actually, I just drove past the building where James Holmes lived, barricaded himself and bombed, what, two days ago on the way home, just to avoid the rush hour traffic in the rain. I forgot to look in its direction. Some time ago, I looked every single time I passed. I don’t anymore.
This has nothing to do with “life going on.” It is definitively NOT going on for Aurora, not the way it was before the shooting. Yes, of course, pools are open for the summer, weddings and break-ups are happening, babies are being born and celebrated, bills are being paid and arguments had.
What’s not normal anymore is that we don’t get to add what happened here to an abstract list of random shootings that happened “somewhere else.”
My older children remember their high school classmate who died that day. I remember the black and white tiles on the floor at the entrance and around the concessions, where we quickly bought our popcorn before The Smurfs started for Daddy and the little ones, while I took the older ones to see the last installment of the Harry Potter series. I remember reading a book while I waited in the parking lot one day while my then 13-year-old daughter went to the movies with her friends, in that very same theater. We all remember the long lines of cars who snaked around the parking lot the first week after the horror, holding up mall traffic just to witness the police vans and network TV satellite dishes that surrounded the building, forever it seemed. And then one day that all went away.
Each person who died or was injured that day has a name, a background, a story, and a spirit. All that any of each one of them had, was more than anything we could hear about James Holmes. I’d rather hear their stories blasted across the nation. Not his. Not see his face, but each one of theirs.
[Reprinted from my Sidelines post at http://sidelinesapp.com/item/for-aurora-its-the-wrong-face/ ]
Lately, I’ve been taking time to exercise more, and I have lost over 15 pounds in a little over a month (conspicuously, I guess, because my family keeps remarking on it.) It’s Summertime, and being a teacher, I’m soaking up all of this time away from the classroom to catch up on family and improving “Me.”
I also last week took just an hour away from my errand run and, after dropping my eldest daughter at work, diverted my path to a neighborhood salon and had my hair cut, radically by my family’s standards. It was just an hour’s diversion, but it’s notable that my family commented on my being late getting back to the house. I downloaded a handful of images off the internet, walked into an unfamiliar Supercuts, said a prayer, and got a cute, asymmetrical cut that my mother says takes years off my appearance, and which matches my upbeat attitude and go-go lifestyle.
On top of everything, one month ago today my second grandson was born, a beautiful bundle of long fingers and toes, pink cheeks and jet-black hair, and pictures of him dot Facebook posing with his elder brother, his sundry doting aunts, some still in elementary school, and his 12-year-old uncle. I am officially, proudly and loudly a “Grandmother.” And one who by all accounts still looks like she’s in her 30s evidently, since I’m told that all the time, although I generally don’t care about that. Much.
Oh! And my 49th birthday was this past week, kicking off my one year countdown (count-up!) to my Big 50th, which I’m plotting to spend on some far-away beach with people I love and who love me. Plans are underfoot.
Which brings me back to the first two paragraphs – about my body improvements and snazzy haircut:
My young son – the 12-year-old uncle of my grandsons who towers over me now and gives off the shadow of a man these days when he passes in the kitchen – my son was riding shotgun with me a few days ago, and as we waited leisurely in the parking lot for my daughter to get off work, I leaned out of the driver’s side window into the sun and looked at my hair in the side-view mirror, remarking absently, “Look at all this silver that’s popped up in my hair.”
To which my son replied quietly, “You know, Mom, it’s OK to get old.”
I gasped, a little shocked, and then got the sweetest feeling, whereby I asked him, “Why do you think I’m worried about getting old?”
“Well, you’ve lost all this weight, you’ve cut your hair, and now you’re talking about the silver in it.”
I smiled broadly, thinking that was the sweetest thing I had heard lately, feeling all warm inside that my son would try to reassure and comfort me.
Then I reassured him, saying I LOVE my new silver and especially the white, wanting it to be as white as Storm’s in X-Men, and that I was eating healthier and losing weight because, in our family, we often live into our 90s and 100s, and I wanted to be as active as I could, avoiding wheelchairs and hospital beds and continuing to make myself a cup of tea, and being that I had only just turned 49, I have a long ways to go, God willing. I can do some preventative work. Forty-Nine is barely out of our youth in my family. I said so with a laugh, and a glance at him in the rear-view mirror.
Well, he said, “Oh!” and was again content, and we continued to blast music and wait in the sunshine for my eldest daughter to be done with the day.
I thought that was the sweetest thing: Comforting me because he knew some people have a hard time “getting old.”
[Re-printed from my Sidelines writing.]
We either love or hate our Grandmas, for the most part. I’ve found that most people I know love them, and love them deeply and intrinsically.
Whether it’s for their hugs or their absences, their cookies or their phone calls, their adventures away or together with us at their sides, their words of encouragement or the acerbity with which they castigate our mothers or our fathers, or even for their kisses when we’re hurt, there are not many I know who hold a neutral view of “Grandmother.” It’s one passion or the other, and grandmothers get to have a special place in our hearts.
My nine-year-old daughter asked me a few days ago as I held my newest one-week-old grandbaby in my arms, having shushed him easily into a contented twilight sleep in less than two minutes, “Mom, how do they know you’re Grandma so fast?” I don’t know. I just love them.
Especially since I’m often lately the “always running, busy, throw advice at my kids as I’m running to the laundry or out the door” kind of mother/grandmother lately, I sometimes wonder why my older grandson has such a deep connection to me. When it’s time for me to go anywhere, he doesn’t care that he has five aunts, one uncle, his mom, dad and grandpop in the house ready to play with him as Grandmom’s running to the door! He wants to go with me! His cries inevitably stop me dead in my tracks, car keys in hand, and make me sit for a few minutes more with him on my lap, having to explain where I’m going, that I’ll be back quickly, and that, yes, Grandmom loves him. It also causes me to have to make one more round of kisses to my children, including his married mother, just so they also know this. Then I run. As usual.
I often dream of my grandmother now long gone from this earth. Even when she was here, I felt deeply connected to her, and to my great-grandmother, and by extension, to my countless great-greats through story and spirit and imagined parallels in life. They were my mother’s mothers’ mother. I imagined them here in the Americas, on pre-Virginian green hills and forests where I was much later born, on African plains in villages telling stories and feeding children as I do now, on the banks of Irish rivers washing clothes and drinking tea on Russian stoops. All waiting for me to join them decades from now, hopefully in my nineties or hundreds like most of mine before me, to join them in their reminiscing and to be the grandmother often dreamed about, waiting for my children and grands to join me when they tire of this earth.
Back to now, running errands as usual, chatting at the grocery store and drinking summertime coffee on the front porch with my nine-year-old right beside me, I wonder at the women growing older around me who choose some other name to be called by their grandchildren, anything other than “Grandma.” I don’t mind the ones who teach the babies to call them “Nana” or “G” or “Minga” or some sort because they have fond memories of calling their own grandmothers such. I don’t mind anyone’s choices, really. I’m just a little worried about those women who feel that becoming a “grandmother” somehow diminishes them, makes them “old” (as if that’s a dirty word.) What a beautiful “old” we can be, if we play this time right.
As for me, I don’t want a substitute name. I am happily just “Grandma,” and it makes me smile.
[Another of my posts from Sidelinesapp.com. I’d love your comments!]
This week, while sitting in the early morning hours on my porch with my computer and morning coffee, catching the faint breeze and enjoying solitude before my children and grandchildren woke up, my peace of heart and mind were jarred by a website that popped up, the title of which I will not mention here. It proceeded to explain and provide “testimonials” to the world of why the author felt no one should ever do business with African-Americans, why even giving them a chance to prove they are decent is dangerous for your well-being, and how black people are less than human as compared to every other “race” on the planet, even to the point of making fun of pictures of starving babies in Africa.
I was as mesmerized as I was horrified, the sickened look on my face drawing my children around me (and I had to shoo most away, although I allowed my 16 year old to hover beside me awhile and read, intending to try to mitigate the equally-disturbed spirit that was starting to close in on her as well.) We are aware even more acutely than most that racism lives, being mostly African-American and Native American, with other heritages in our bloodline and married into our family. Racism itself isn’t new. It was just the detail with which this website described its hate, the mixing of superficial observation with close-minded tunnel vision and hatred. It almost paralyzed me with the question: They hate us that much??
In light of what has been happening so publicly lately, with multiple shootings and unwarranted violence, fear, and anger, the answer would seem to be “Yes, they hate us that much.” That answer, however, needs deeper thought and a rectified reasoning. It’s not so open and shut. It’s not so black and white.
The morning after reading such venom, to alleviate our heavy spirits it took an hour or so of family discussion, of remembering all of the normal and good people of all races and backgrounds in our lives, people within our family and outside, people who know and care about us within the United States and abroad. It took counting our blessings and remembering ourselves and how we didn’t fit anything the website described about chronic lack of responsibility or bad hygiene or rudeness or any of it, even though we knew people who did, but these people are of all races. (It also took my sending a quick note and link to CNN for investigation.) After a while, we got our good moods and bearings back, and then life continued.
Life isn’t continuing, however, for the too many victims that have lost their lives because of the twisted mindsets of some Americans exposed to the hatred expressed in these websites. A sense of security isn’t continuing, however, for us parents who believed that our sons and daughters were safe going up to the corner store, going to that pool party, going to that church event, that the days of mysterious disappearances, of lynchings and of police brutality were long gone. They are not. Emmitt Till’s story could just as well have been last week.
We teach our children to be respectful and compassionate, but we also teach them to stand up for themselves and to claim an equal place in the community, that their dreams and playfulness are just as legitimate as those of other races, because “we are all the same.” They are learning a different lesson by the events of the past days, weeks and months, however. Something must be done. Something must be done about the attitudes, and the stereotypes, and the hatred, and the chips on the shoulders.
Well, I woke up this morning, and I’m in my customary place on the porch with a few of my offspring stirring happily inside the house, and I’m looking again for solutions. I keep faith that, for every seething racist who paints black people with that toxic brush due to past experiences with a few bad apples, or due to racist upbringing or surroundings, that there are at least three who are not. I pray this is true.
Meanwhile, if you are an educator or a parent who worries your child doesn’t get enough objective information about black culture beyond historical references to Harriet Tubman or current hip-hop culture (which is only a conspicuous piece of pop culture and black artistic creativity), and you are not of any African-American heritage, I have a few links for you.
Or if you are a person who has had one too many negative encounters with African-Americans, and you are looking for a way to stay human and objective, I am sending you a virtual welcome and tour of real Black people’s lives beyond the normal newscasts and “reality show” choreography and hard facades some may put up because they don’t know you either, and some of your behaviors may be interpreted through a lens you don’t have or even know exists.
These links are just one mom’s virtual hug of reconciliation and calculated steps in trying to ensure a fairer and safer America for her own children and the children of our nation, steps calculated to enlighten and to educate. Please recognize that there is no One Black Culture, just as there is no One White Culture, due to the fact that black people like all people in America are often of many different heritages, regions, languages and lingos, and even races, if you want to believe in “race” as we currently define it. There is a shared cultural experience of life in the United States, including a shared “Black” experience, however, plus shared historical challenges, etc. Think American Salad vs. Melting Pot. These commonalities have flavored our foods, our traditions, our perceptions and our behaviors in certain circumstances, and these are what I looked for in daring to assemble some websites to introduce them to you.
So, here are several websites with articles, videos or links to get you started:
- PBS’s Black Culture Connection at http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/home/
- “The Culture’s” list of “45 Books to Teach Children about Black History” at http://theculture.forharriet.com/2014/02/45-books-to-teach-children-about-black.html#axzz3do8na5fr
- Beautiful Natural Black Hair Care on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXbwBBg0fIk&gclid=CJqtiMfao8YCFY6EaQodWKEMoQ&gclsrc=aw.ds
- Denene Millner’s blog My Brown Baby at http://www.mybrownbaby.com
They should open a window that will cause you to ask more informed questions, to see why things are not quite what they seem.
Anything to contribute? Welcome.
[Reprinted from my post at Sidelines. View additional comments there at http://sidelinesapp.com/item/being-american-ripping-up-the-roots-of-racial-hatred/]