Friday, April 22, 2016

Life is Like a Black & White Milkshake

We’d like to think that life is like a sundae. Start with that base layer of a couple scoops of vanilla and chocolate. Go ahead, add a scoop of mocha almond fudge for some good flavor. Another scoop of Chunky Monkey because why not. A couple dollops of whipped cream and do not leave out the hot fudge. Crushed Oreos? Yeah, sure. I’ll go without the cherry, because I do not like those kinds of cherries, but you go for it if that’s your thing.  I’ll take some of those almond slivers though. Pass the spoon and a napkin, give me a little time, and we’ll get through this thing happily.

But really, it’s more like a milkshake. Start with that basic vanilla – ice cream and milk. If you change your mind and want a little something more flavorful, a black and white instead perhaps, you’ve got to pour out some of the vanilla and pour in chocolate, then mix it together. You might be able to pour in a shot of Kahlua (you do do that, right?)  You might even be able to get a little whipped cream on top.  But that’s about it. No crushed cookies, no almonds. No additional milkshake poured on top because it will overflow.  Because that will be a mess and will run all over the table and then you’ll have to clean it up and that won’t be fun. And if its like anything in my house, someone will drink your milkshake while you are cleaning off the table.

So that’s about how I’m feeling on life choices right now. I know – I come back after not writing for a couple weeks with this crazy food analogy. Because we all like food, especially ice cream. And because bad analogies make the world go ‘round.

I’ll be back, let's say next Friday, maybe with more bad food analogies.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

One more stitch, One more page... Hooks & Books

When you crochet in public, people ask you what you’re doing.
When you tell them, they ask you can you teach other people.
When you say that you can, they ask you when you’re free.
And next thing you know, you’re running an after-school class, teaching middle schoolers how to crochet.

That’s how it all began.  But I didn’t want to only teach them how to crochet, I wanted there to be some academic component to it. I consider a math tie-in – there’s a lot there as far as gauge, stitches per inch, patterns, felting – but I decided to go with literacy. Surprise! I presented the idea to the Principal and ta-da – Hooks & Books became a thing.  And I did have to explain to some folks that no, I was not starting a fishing lessons class.  Thursdays, after school, yarn, crochet hooks, and National Book Award winner, Coretta Scott King Award winner, and Newbery Honor Book, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Week 1 was an intro lesson, we read a few pages and worked on chain stitches. 
Belated Happy Birthday to author Jacqueline Woodson!

Week 2 - we talked about the importance of names and what people call you after reading girl named jack and our names. We continued to work on the chain stitch – there were a few kids still getting the first chains going, others whose chain was as tall as they are. For those who were ready, we moved on to double chain stitch.  Talk about differentiated learning and teaching.

I’m prepping for Week 3. We’ll be talking about the stories of South Carolina and perfecting the double chain.

One more stitch, one more page….

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Monday, February 15, 2016

I Still Haven't Fallen Into Formation

Its been little over a week since the release of Formation. Folks lost their minds, SuperBowl fans were confused, and fans are launching GoFundMe campaigns to raise money for Beyonce tour tickets. Its been suggested that Formation is the new Black folks anthem.

Okay. I’m going to go out on a limb, be really really daring, at risk of losing the one or two cool points I may have and say “yeah, I don’t really get it.”

I watched the video last Saturday when it was released. I waited to be wow-ed and blown away like everyone on Twitter promised I would be. It never happened. Now – it was a very Beyonce-esque song, all about how great she is and some clever lines about hot sauce and Red Lobster and her baby’s au naturel hair. And by the way, I actually do sometimes have a little teeny bottle of Tabasco in my purse. I get it. There are hot sauce emergencies.  But the lyrics did not elevate to “anthem” level. 

As for the video - it was a visually strong video, I’ll give it that. From the police car floating in flooded New Orleans, the old school Creole/southern women costumes. Cute Ivy Blue with her full Afro.  The little boy dancing in front of the line of police. All of that. There was some definite Black pride and social messages embedded. But other than Ivy Blue’s appearance and Beyonce doing what she does – dancing in a leotard while repeating “I slay” – the video didn’t really match the lyrics.  So, in my logical mind, I was confused.  Perhaps this was her way of being socially conscious in a low-key, you got to be paying attention, kind of way.

Then we went to the SuperBowl. She dressed in throwback Michael Jackson military outfit (the leotard version), with her blond locks whipping.  Her backup dancers were dressed in black, complete with berets and Afros as a nod to the Black Panthers. I was more concentrating on Bruno Mars, but still noticed that the visual message did not match lyrics about her wonderfulness. It still, however, inspired politicians and police departments to get all bothered about an “anti-police” message. I don’t know how they read that into it, just because folks don’t want to get shot by the police.

Then the tour was announced and there was the flurry and excitement about ticket sales and there were reports of tickets on sale for thousands of dollars. I thought it was all exaggerated and went on TicketMaster myself. Yup. Starting at about $100, all the way up to $8000. Per seat. To see a person. One who has not performed any miracle nor will grant me any special powers.  One who is not touring with Michael Jackson or Jesus as her opening act or the 12 Disciples as back-up singers.  I’m hoping someone will explain to me that the $8000 ticket is some kind of resellers’ trick to hold tickets, Beyonce’s economic folks’ method to drive up demand or something. Some explanation that confirms that no one is actually spending $8000 for a concert ticket. Because I’m ticking off all the things I could do with $8000 other than watch a lady dance in a leotard.  And I want folks to really think about what they could do with $8000. Especially those who are salivating for their tax refund check or needing a GoFundMe campaign or selling their plasma.  And oh, she even launched a charitable donation to Flint Michigan, as a portion of her tour tickets. Well yeah, if you’re charging $1000s for folks to see you for 2 hours, you can surely spare a couple bucks to buy water for some children.

So I’m still stunned. Sure Single Ladies was a great song and who can not dance when Love on Top or Crazy in Love comes on. And my heart tugs a bit everytime I hear If I Were a Boy, though I don’t think it gets played as often as it should.  And nah, I wasn’t really crazy about the 2013 self-named “secret” album, sorry Beehive residents.  So, although I get the pieces of Formation, if not as a whole work, I don’t really get what all the buzz-buzz is about, other than it is Beyonce. Or maybe that’s all folks need. For me, I need a bit more to fall into formation, so I'll still be singing Life Every Voice.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Can we stop with the “make this post go viral” posts?

While we're at it, stop the other version, too: the “bet the news won’t tell you this” posts.

The subject of these posts is generally some good thing, a feel good announcement. A dad playing with his kids or putting his cute little girl’s hair up in a puffy-ponytail. A group of friends who all graduated high school together. A set of twins that graduated college. A group of boys who are smartly dressed in khakis and button-down shirts and ties.  The people are always Black. Or at least the ones that come across my timeline. Maybe there’s a White version of these, too, they just don’t fill my social media feed (aside from the one of the girls who rearranged themselves from their class photo to spell the N-word – my how proud their parents must be.) 

Anyway, the premise is: look, here’s some folks who are doing good and the news won’t tell you about them.

So here’s some things to think about for those people who want these things to “go viral.”
  • The news trades on bad news. Shootings, bank robberies, bad traffic, celebrity death. Every now and then a “feel good” personal interest story. But for the most part – house on fire, drug bust, kid stealing a bicycle, 2 feet of snow. They don’t really do “good news” a whole lot.
  • These are people doing stuff they are supposed to do. That’s not news. These people aren’t doing anything extraordinary – they’re doing exactly what they are expected to do. Take care of their kids, wear proper clothing, graduate from school. Its not supposed to be on the news anymore than you going to the grocery store and buying a gallon of milk. Sure, you could go to the corner and buy crack (if that’s where you buy crack, I’m not even sure) and that would make the news – because that’s interesting and not the norm. Mom going to buy milk? Yawn. Dad combing his daughter’s hair – okay, maybe not the “norm,” and probably cute, but interesting enough to go viral? Unless the dad is really really fine…. Yawn.

I get it – the idea of these should-be-viral photos is to disprove the negative stereotypes of (Black) people by showing proof of (Black) people being good. But that’s an odd argument to me. Look- we can do good stuff, put it on the news – makes it seem like some kind of anomaly, rather than the norm. Its almost like an argument of proof that’s disproving itself. (There may be some mathematical definition to this but I took Logic long time ago.)

Its like when you get on your kid about sneaking cookies and they’re like “why do you always fuss about me being bad. Why don’t you ever say ‘good job’ for me sitting down quietly or doing my homework?” Because they’re supposed to do that stuff!

Finally - Who the heck knows the magic formula for things going viral? Like that gold or blue dress and that silly guy eating Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies. What? Why? Generally, it at least takes something being very sexy or very stupid. I imagine both would really create a viral-storm to break the internet.  But generally it is not stuff that someone says “make this go viral.”

So post the pics of your husband doing your daughter's hair and the kids reading books on the subway. Allow folks to "like" or RT or share. Let people enjoy. But stop telling us to make it go viral.

Next rant….folks who post stuff and tell you that if you type “Amen” in the comments God’s going to bless you. I need a Biblical citation. Where did Jesus say that?

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