Last Night a Kitty Saved My Life

So before I start, I want you to read the title to this post in the tune of the video below:


Got it? Good. Let’s begin.

Have you ever had a crazy experience that you didn’t realize was crazy until afterwards? I recently had one that involved a cat and a gentleman in a car.

I hopped out of my car, grabbed my purse and headed for the stairs leading to my apartment. As I walked to the top of the stairs, a car that was driving by slowed. The guy driving rolled down his window.

“Hello, how are you?” he asked smiling.

I turned around.

“I’m doing well,” I said.

Suddenly, I heard a loud meowing sound. I looked around to see where the cat was but I didn’t see it.

“You look nice,” said the guy in the car.

I turned to look at him.

“Thank you,” I said.

“So, would you give me your number?” he asked.

“MEEE-YOOOWWW!”

I turned to look for the cat and saw a gray and white striped cat standing to the left of the stairs. I looked at the cat trying to figure out why it was meowing so loudly. We made eye contact.

“MEEEEE-YOOOOWWWW!”

It felt like the cat was talking to me trying to convey an important message that needed to be yelled. I turned back to the guy in the car.

“No, I can’t,” I said. “I’m seeing somebody.”

“MEEEEEEE-YOOOOOOWWWWW!”

I ended the statement with a smile and turned to walk down the stairs. The cat followed me continuing to meow. I walked down the first flight of steps and turned to look back. The cat ran away. I turned and continued my walk down the stairs and to my apartment.

As I closed and locked my door, I chuckled to myself. The whole exchange was kind of funny. But then I stopped and thought, “What if the cat was looking out for my best interests?” “What if the cat knew something about that guy that I didn’t?”

Sometimes random animals know best. Well, when they’re not trying to maul you, that is.

My Thoughts on Martese Johnson and Why None of Us Are Safe

I’m not an activist. I speak out against things that I see are wrong or unfair but I wouldn’t consider myself an activist. I am quite outspoken about a few issues so I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t people in my life that may think otherwise. I’m ok with that. I’ve always rooted for the underdog. As I got older and became more aware of the world, I quickly learned that I was a double underdog. As a black woman, I have to deal with racism and rape culture with a liberal sprinkling of low expectations overall.

So I’ve always been sensitive to news stories where black people were involved whether they were on the right side of the law or not. The shooting of Trayvon Martin wasn’t surprising to me neither was the lack of legal ramifications for George Zimmerman’s poor choices. It was sad, but not surprising.

I’ve noticed the class level of many of the highly publicized black people killed in recent officer involved shootings has been working class or lower class. Yes, Trayvon Martin was from a middle class family, but many of the people since him have not. But the recent assault of UVA student Martese Johnson has turned that broadcasted image on it’s head.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that black people of all classes have to deal with police harassment (ie, Henry Louis Gates being arrested in 2009 after trying to force open the locked door of his own home)  but those cases where the person is of a higher class tend to be moved through the news cycle much more quickly. However, the stories of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and those like them have lingered on in our consciousness with regular mentions on national and local news (depending on where you live).

But when we were bombarded with the upsetting image of Martese Johnson on the ground with a bloody face, we were reminded that no black person is completely safe from becoming the next victim of racist violence. Well, I wasn’t reminded. I’ve always known this. Which is why when I hear black people saying that all we need to do is speak well, dress nicely, go to college, get a good job and stay on the straight and narrow to be safe, I get annoyed.

My behavior and life choices does not give anyone the right to beat, harass or kill me. But I’ve never lived in a place where I felt safe from being mistreated by someone because of my race. Not even when I was a college student studying Journalism on the highest of seven hills in Tallahassee, FL at Florida A&M University (Rattlers!!).

So when I read this article, written by UVA alumni, Dr. Jason Johnson, about the level of privilege that black students at that institution think they wield by attending, it made me think. I got some background into why there are so many black people preaching that we need to modify our behavior to be treated properly.

By all accounts, Martese Johnson did everything right. He got into a prestigious college, studied hard and thrived while there. When you see him, he’s a clean cut college student. When you find his Facebook page, you see a smiling profile picture nestled in a smiling group picture of college students (mostly white) with Martese on the far right. And this picture doesn’t seem forced. This is clearly a real aspect of his life.

But I remember having conversations with fellow students when I was at FAMU about our “chocolate bubble” and how we felt safe and supported but that it wasn’t going to be the case once we left the hill and went out into the real world. But when things would happen in the city and FAMU students were called out for being perpetrators when it was, in fact, a local resident of the Tallahassee community, we were reminded that we didn’t have privilege.

Martese Johnson and LawyerI hate that Martese Johnson was assaulted by the ABC police in Virginia. I love that he has the means to actively go after them and keep the story in the press. I love that he shows up to press conferences with his black attorney dressed in a nice suit and lets his attorney read statements on his behalf. I love that his reputation continues to precede him.

I really hope this story shows everyone that it’s not black people’s responsibility to stop white people from treating them poorly because of their race. We should all want to live our best lives and be our best selves, but not as a tool to combat racism. We should do it because it makes us happy.

Side Eye Report: Shade Deflection Featuring Jay Smooth

In an episode of All In With Chris Hayes that airs on MSNBC, there were two guests discussing the whole Race Together campaign launched by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks in partnership with USA Today. While that campaign deserves it’s own Side Eye Report, I’m here to discuss what happened on the show between Nancy Giles and Jay Smooth.

Let’s start with the video clip:

Ma’am…

She tried it. She tried him with her intellectualized shade. Then he shut her down because she clearly doesn’t know his life in spite of her tweeting otherwise (after the fact, might I add).

Nancy Giles tweet

Ma’am…

The backpedaling must stop! If she knew he was black, she wouldn’t have referred to the way he spoke as a “brother way” of speaking. Then she tries to turn that into a segue on the importance of discussing race until he pauses her whole plan by informing her that he’s black. He wouldn’t have felt the need to say that if she wasn’t questioning his blackness. But she should have owned it. He’s a very fair skinned black person. I’m sure he’s mistaken for other races quite often which could explain why he was so quick to correct her. He is clearly a proud black man (respect!), but he knows that his complexion may confuse some folks.

The part that makes this worthy of the side eye is that she tries to cover it up by making mention of her being accused of talking white and therefore acting white in spite of her being brown skinned. That does not make her gaffe any better.  In fact, it makes the gaffe much worse in my opinion.

I would have preferred that she owned her mistake, apologized then moved on. She could have made mention of her mistake being yet another reason why conversations about race are so important, especially since she was speaking on the side of supporting the idea of the Race Together campaign and having more conversations about race. But she didn’t do that and it made a cringe worthy situation even more uncomfortable.

Here’s the whole segment:

What do you think? Is this worthy of the side eye?

The Side Eye Report: Creflo Dollar and the Project G650

Man…

Frowning DogI’m not even sure where to start with this particular side eye report. Let me just lead with this wonderfully written article by Kirsten West Savali of The Root about Creflo Dollar and his quest for a new private jet.

She said a lot of things that I was thinking  with the appropriate amount of shade but I want to add to the grove of trees that are and will be covering Creflo as more people discuss the situation.

dog side eye

First of all, how many ministers do you know that have their own private jet?

And does a minister really need one?

In my opinion, no. There are commercial flights crossing the globe at any given time. If a minister needs to fly somewhere to provide the gospel or inspire someone to live their best life, it’s entirely possible to do it without owning a private jet.

But he already had one so I suppose that’s a moot point. But when the jet had engine failure, it was grounded. Rather than using some of his own money (Creflo reportedly has a net worth of about $27 million), Creflo chooses to ask his congregation to foot the bill of buying him another private jet.

Yep.

The man who is worth millions is going to ask people who are worth thousands (some less), to donate $300 to go towards a new Gulfstream G650 which costs $65,000,000.

That’s just ridiculous.

Have several seatsCreflo and whoever co-signed this nonsense need to go have several seats because this type of tomfoolery is why some people don’t trust churches and it’s unfortunate. Many ministers serve their congregations. When they ask for money, it’s to support their church family. Very few are posting religious kickstarter campaigns on their websites “requesting” that their congregation buy them a new plane.

It’s madness. And the sad part is that he will likely raise the money. As a minister that focuses on prosperity, he chooses to live a lavish lifestyle as a way to show his congregation how it’s done. He doesn’t make any apologies about it. In fact, he has a School of Prosperity that will show you how…for a small fee.

If he’s going to teach people how to be prosperous, why can’t he use the funds from his “school” to pay for his jet?

I just…

Wait What

 

 

The Side Eye Report: Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Ignorance

One of the reasons I love technology is because it truly levels the playing field in a lot of ways. Yes, access is an issue, but as more people gain access, the ability for people to tell their stories has increased exponentially. There are positives and negatives to that and all of them are being dealt with in some way.

More people telling their stories means that more perspectives are being shared and more people are learning about the diversity that exists within the world and the universality of the human experience. And this is amazing. It’s so wonderful to experience the lives and thoughts of different people being as they are being brought to light.

But with any situation where the light is being shined, darker things can be shown as well as the wonderful things. In this day and age of the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism has become an important part of the news equation, much to the chagrin of some trained journalists. But without citizen journalism, we wouldn’t have stories like the ones I’m going to be sharing in my new feature: The Side Eye Report.

Essentially, this is a report that I will put together designed to draw further attention to situations, people and moments that deserve the side eye. Some of them may be funny moments. Others won’t.

The first thing I want to discuss is this video that came out showing members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon singing a song about the type of members that won’t be allowed in their organization. Take a look:

So…Yeah…

There are a few reasons why this deserves the side eye. Yes, the obvious racism and ignorance are fully deserving of the side eye. Another thing that deserves the side eye is some of the reactions that I’ve heard to this video so far. The national fraternity quickly swooped in and suspended this chapter and the members involved. It also threatened to remove some of the members from the fraternity for good.

That’s great. But I don’t want to be confused about why that happened. This is obviously a song that the members of this particular chapter sing often. It’s not like one guy made it up and the others joined in. The lyrics were being clearly sung with gusto by many people on that bus. So the racism isn’t the why here. The public embarrassment is the why. No one likes their dirty laundry aired, especially on social media. But I get that and still appreciate the swift action of the fraternity.

However, what I think warrants a major side eye is the people saying things like, “We [black people] need to stop using the word, nigger so much so that other [non black people] won’t think they can use it too.”

*Pause*

If that’s not the worse form of ignorance misdirection, I don’t know what is. (Oh, wait, the mention of “black-on-black” crime in response to when a non-black police officer kills an unarmed black person. That’s actually worse.) But this is bad too.

Those frat guys singing a song with the word nigger in it has absolutely nothing to do with black people using it in any form. Abolishing the word nigger isn’t going to stop people from using it. It was already buried in 2007.

So apparently, this current iteration of the word is a zombie. It’s shown that the word can’t simply be killed. Plus, is that really the issue at hand?

If black people want to call themselves this word, they can. There are a lot of black people who don’t use the word. I’m one of them. I believe language has power, and I don’t like how that word feels when I say it. I don’t like the way I felt just typing it in this post but shying away from it isn’t going to lessen it’s existence. So I chose to type it. But, I digress.

The answer to this video is not a campaign to stop black people from using the word, nigger. It’s not black people’s fault that these people have an ignorant, racist song. It’s not black people’s fault that these young, white men felt comfortable singing a song that talked about hanging black people before letting them into their fraternity. It’s the fault of the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (the University of Oklahoma chapter). Yes, they’re being punished for the song but the issue goes much deeper than that.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

This month I will be sharing information about a condition called endometriosis. It is a condition that directly affects 1 in 10 women worldwide. When someone has endometriosis, it means that the lining of the uterus has gotten outside of it. This is problematic because of two main reasons:

1. The lining of the uterus is native to that environment but when it gets outside, it’s essentially a foreign body that’s affecting your organs, tissue, blood and anything else it may come into contact with.
2. The lining of the uterus sheds every month as a part of menstruation. This is fine when it happens inside the uterus. It’s much more problematic when it happens outside of the uterus. Essentially your uterine lining is bleeding in areas where it shouldn’t be.

One of the more commonly mentioned symptoms of endometriosis is pain. Those of us who suffer from it often have VERY painful menstrual cycles. We also often have pain during times of the month when we’re not menstruating. It can take a toll on the body, mind and spirit to live in constant pain.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 20 years old. I went in for surgery to remove a cyst from my ovary and the doctor found endometriosis (which she didn’t know I had) and fibroids (which she did know I had). So a 1 hour surgery ended up taking 3 hours. She removed the cyst and burned away as much of the endometriosis as she could (this is not a cure, only a temporary treatment–more about a better treatment later). She left the fibroids behind because they may die on their own and are shed as a part of the menstrual cycle. So while the plum sized cyst that was on my ovary was gone, I’d officially entered into the vortex that is an endometriosis diagnosis.

They started by prescribing me lupron which puts your body in a pre-menopausal state. I experienced hot flashes and night sweats. As it was explained to me, the purpose of the lupron was for it to stop my cycle and allow my hormones to balance out.

Sidebar: While endometriosis has no clear cause, there are lots of ideas about why it may exist. One of which is the estrogen in our bodies contribute to it’s growth and spread. So by stopping my cycle, it should reduce the estrogen and helps reduce the endometriosis.

This didn’t work. But at the time, I didn’t know that. I did experience the hot flashes and occasional night sweats. I also experienced severe hair loss.

Sidebar 2: No one told me I would experience hair loss but it happened at the same time that I took the lupron so the correlation wasn’t hard for me to make. I will write a WHOLE post about lupron and why I am very opposed to people taking it.

So I took the lupron for three months (I think). It was a once a month shot. After that, I was given depo provera which was a less severe form of lupron. I stopped having hot flashes and night sweats but my cycle didn’t return. (in my lupron post, I will discuss depo too. I’m also opposed to it).

So, fast forward to today. I’ve had endometriosis for almost 17 years. I live with it every day and thanks to the power of Facebook and social media, now I have a community of fellow endo warriors. I’ve gotten more educated, shared my story and found about some new treatments. So for the next 30 days, my social media, blog and life in general will be steeped in endometriosis awareness and updates.

Often, those of us who live with this condition suffer in silence. We grit our teeth, push through the pain and move forward in spite of things because we have to. Now we have a month where we can and will talk openly about our condition and how we push through it. If you have questions about endo, please ask. If you have questions about my experience, please ask.

For more info, visit: http://endometriosis.org.

The FCC Ruling on the Classification of Broadband Internet

So the FCC just voted to classify broadband internet service as a public utility.

Let the simultaneous cries of outrage and joy begin!

But in the midst of the angry outbursts about government interference and the happy conversations about a free and open internet, there can be some questions about what all of this really means. Let me take a stab at it for you.

I’ve published a couple of blog posts explaining what net neutrality is in an effort to clarify it’s importance. But now that this ruling has come down, I want to discuss how this affects us regular consumers.

Let’s start with the ruling.

Today the FCC ruled in a 3 to 2 vote to classify broadband internet service as a public utility.

What does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that broadband internet will be considered a telecommunications service rather than an information service. So rather than it being classified as a tool that provides information, it’s being classified in the same category as public utilities like water, sewerage, gas and electricity. These are services that are provided by consumers through a company that creates an infrastructure for those services and are owned by the government or managed by the public that they serve.

Why was this necessary?

For years, government and public officials have been trying to figure out how to police the internet. Up until now, it has essentially been the wild, wild west. Cybercrimes are virtually impossible to prosecute and the responsibility of using the internet often falls on the user. So if someone does something shady or inappropriate and it causes you harm, you have to prove that you were harmed. And even if you’re able to do that, it doesn’t guarantee that the person will experience any consequences for their actions.

But crime is only one reason why government officials want to manage the internet. It’s ultimately about access to information. Remember Edward Snowden?

He took sensitive government documents and made them available to the general public online. But he’s an extreme example. There is a lot of information that can be found online. This has to be managed, right?

No. It’s been fine without their management.

I get that. This is what some opponents of the classification have been saying. They don’t think the internet needs to be managed at all. And this is a valid opinion that will likely lead to several lawsuits fighting this ruling.

But let’s be honest. The government has been looking for a way to manage the internet for years. While I understand why some people would say that their interference is unnecessary, I think it was inevitable. By doing things this way, the initial thought is that the FCC is going to work hard to keep the internet free and open.

This is what the supporters of this classification have been saying. They want to keep the internet free and open. We all see the government trying to find a way to manage it. At least in this case, they are saying they won’t try to control it.

Now that we have this ruling, the conversation about the management of the internet isn’t yet over. It’s likely going to disappear behind the political doors of government. So, these lawsuits and debates will continue to be had but by political pundits, talking heads and government officials.

But as consumers, we need to make it a point to keep our eyes on this conversation. When the dust around this issue settles, we will be affected by the outcome. Broadband internet service isn’t just something used by large government entities. It’s something that everyone uses—everyday. We all know what happens once something is in the hands of the government. It can become a bargaining tool. Corporations have millions (sometimes billions) of dollars to ensure that their best interests are kept in mind. Us regular consumers don’t have the luxury of teams of lawyers and millions (or billions) of dollars at our disposal. Should someone decide to tweak what free and open internet means, we would be affected by that tweak. We can’t afford to let this conversation disappear behind the political wall.

So please, ask me any questions you may have. I will research and do my best to explain things. Open access to the internet isn’t just an issue for large telecommunications companies. It’s an issue for us consumers too.

Free and Open Internet vs. Net Neutrality

So now the debate about the dissemination of information via the internet is becoming a hot topic. There are more news stories being written about it and more conversations happening around it. Unfortunately, those conversations have broadened to include the political world. I say unfortunately because there aren’t many people actually explaining what’s happening in plain terms. Initially the conversation was happening in tech/digital circles and it was filled with the jargon of those industries. Now that it has expanded to the political circles, it’s filled with the jargon of that industry.

No one is stopping to take the time to truly break down what’s happening in plain terms. It has become a conversation between large corporate entities and larger than life public personas which tends to go over the heads of the everyday individual. This is bad because the people that will be most affected by these regulatory changes being proposed are the everyday individuals. If the internet service providers (ISPs) begin to charge for access to the internet, the everyday individual will begin to have a tougher time surfing freely and accessing all of the valuable information online. If the government begins to regulate the information being shared online, the same thing will begin to happen.

Yes, the big communications companies will have to make some changes to the way they operate if the government begins to regulate the internet, but ultimately those changes will filter down to the everyday individual. Yes, large organizations will have to make some changes to the way they share information, but ultimately those changes will filter down to the everyday individual.

I hope you’re starting to get my point here.

So I’m talking to my fellow everyday individuals. Let’s start with the basics.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that any and all information being shared online is readily available for anyone who’s surfing the internet.

What is free and open internet?

Free and open internet is another way to say net neutrality. It’s the idea that the internet is free and open to anyone who has the ability to access it. Whether you’re doing it at home on your computer, on your smartphone, at work or at the local library, if you can get online, you have full access to all of the information that’s available.

So we’ll stop there. Do you have any questions?

You Are What You Say You Are

Recently I participated in an event where I was having a conversation with some of the attendees at the end about getting rid of gender identification. These were activist types who have conversations about gender identification on Facebook.

So I get and understand that those conversations happen in certain groups. I appreciate the activist community and my fellow academic feminists. They’re the ones writing papers, publishing studies and drafting proposals that are used to enact laws. I appreciate their contributions to the cause of the equality of all. But when people have those types of conversations about what people should be called, it’s always off-putting to me.

I think those kinds of conversations are ridiculous. Not because I agree or disagree with them but because I respect how people choose to see themselves. If I meet a trans woman who wants to be referred to as gender neutral, cool. If I meet a trans man who wants to be referred to as he, him and his, cool. I want to respect who you say you are so I will.

It’s that simple to me. I’ve always felt that way. I was exposed to the cross gender community when I was in high school because I was a volunteer with AID Atlanta. Visiting homes where people were living with HIV/AIDS, gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with men and women of various self- categorizations. And when I met these wonderful people, however they wanted to be called, I called them. And this always rang true for me.

When someone is living in their truth, you have to honor that truth. Now there are some people who are living a lie but unless you are close to that person, it’s not your job to expose them for the life they’re living. You respect who someone says they are and honor their wishes. There’s no need to throw out forms of identification because some people are empowered through the use of those labels.

Rather than getting rid of identification, let’s focus on being respectful of someone’s wishes.