Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Eating White 

I will never forget the time I was working at a local high school as a school social worker. Sometimes the students would come up to my office and chill during lunch time. I’d usually take a break and eat with them. I don’t even recall what I was eating this particular day, but there was a lot of greens/veggies-no rice or French fries in this particular lunch meal. One of my students took it upon herself to ask “Ms., why you keep eating white people food?” My brain stalled on that one and years later I’m not even quite sure what to say to the countless curious Black folks who ask the very same question in different ways when they see me eating kale, quinoa, bulgur wheat, chicken that isn’t fried or whatever they just can’t readily identify on my plate. 

This whole notion that eating healthy is a white people thing or a “bourghie behavior” actually leaves some people *insert health conscious Black folks* feeling some type of way. That if salmon trumps ribs as your choice on a menu you’re just being extra. That eating healthy is other people’s habits and people of African descent only acquire this taste in food once they earn a couple of degrees and take flight to other parts of town. 

I’m Haitian. So I’m quick to remind folks, our ancestors ate and Haitians are today still do find their sustenance from the land. Our juices are made fresh. Our vegetables are a melange of eggplant, chayote (that’s militon for my Zoes), carrots, scallions, onions, garlic, parsley, bell peppers–all to create the legume meal that I love so much. I don’t need meat in mine. Some crab maybe. Some lambi (conch) maybe. With some white rice. And “sauce poi blanc”. Mezami, my tastebuds just took a detour! 

I remember being raised in a home where neither pork nor any shellfish was permitted in my diet. Part of that was my mom’s personal Levitical biases and part of that was that she knew better so she did better with our meals. Olive oil was a staple. Except for the time we lived with another family and overdosed on hotdogs and bologna, she preferred sliced meats from the deli that didn’t have all that salt added. Oh! Did I mention my mom wasn’t white and that we didn’t live in some uppity neighborhood? So it irks me to no end when people make broad stroke comments about diets being white or black. Granted I do maintain that Haitian food is THE best food in the world-and since this is my blog I’m only stating facts. Lol! Digressing again. 

So I got me and the hubster back on a juicing plan. I dragged out my Breville juicer and it is holding court right next to my smoothie machine on the kitchen counter. One bottle per day. Nothing major. He’s 45. I’m 42. Our bodies demand extra attention and what better way to do so than to make a concerted effort to get some extra veggies in our system the raw way. So we got celery, carrots, ginger, apples, lime, strawberries, kale all up in this latest batch. The celery gives it this refreshing taste. The ginger spikes it up a notch. The carrots and apple balances it off with some sweetness. And the lime, believe it or not, brings it all home flavor wise. 

There are some of us who didn’t grow up with the best cooks or best diets in our lives. And if you’re like me, living on my own in college caused all types of rules to be broken. I went from eating no pork to eating the Friday night griot. Every Friday. Of every week. These days I probably eat it once per quarter (yes I mind my junk food intake in terms of quarters) cause it takes about that long to leave your system anyway! 

Circumstances may not have allowed for healthy balanced meals. We all joke about the red juice that causes ADHD to go undiagnosed in many households. Food deserts is a reality. For me to get a juice on the go, I would now have to leave my predominately urban community and head either east towards the beach or west towards the Everglades. It takes effort to do right by your temple. It takes money and time. The first time I got back juicing I promise you I burned 1500 calories between the setting up, breaking down, washing and then mopping my sticky kitchen floor. Then you think of the time and energy you take to do some random activity and you realize the return on the investment really does beat out the annoyance. 

I have had non-Black colleagues quickly hide their amazement when I ask about the nearest vegan option or plant based option eateries. Once they get over the shock that I’m not asking for the nearest bbq joint (and no offense to them cause I can gets down with some ribs too), they are more than happy to share in the love of healthy foods. 

So next time someone makes some off color comment about your coconut black rice, adashah, kale, toasted coconuts and avocado lunch (and it’s usually some poor, misguided brotha or sistah) don’t give them the side eye. Take the time to let them know what’s on your plate and point out the health benefits of your meal. They may roll their eyes and go about their high cholesterol, diabetic living or they may dwell on your comments and who knows? You may have gained a convert to eating healthy–not White. 

Our ancestors would be honored to know that you too are eating off the land and honoring the food traditions that transcend race and yes even color lines. I’m Black. Been eating Black since 1975. Whatever that is. 🙄😂


Random Thoughts

Boycotts and Sit-Ins

A verdict has been reached. Stores have been pillaged and my Instagram stream is steeped in provocative images. Black man hung by an American flag noose. Malcolm X has been resurrected. Black Friday myths and calls for boycotts come in at a steady clip. Black woman holding a little boy with the words “don’t shoot me” painted on his shirt. All provocative, all well meaning, all coming from a place of rightful indignation.

Although my shadow wasn’t going to darken no one’s store at 4am this Friday, these pleas for boycott isn’t making a bit of difference in what I do this weekend. But I do plan to boycott and I do plan to sit in.

I am boycotting ignorance. I am boycotting the ignorance in believing that walking up and down a street in 2014 is going to solve today’s social ills. Ignorance in believing that the conversation on race and culture can be done in 30 second sound bites by people who live in the mountains of success and only come down to promote a book every few years. Ignorance in believing that a black man’s future is tied to his athletic prowess and not his business acumen. Ignorance in believing that a black woman isn’t worth a damn if her self-worth isn’t tied to a man, a pair of shoes or purse. Yeah, that’s what I’m boycotting.

I am sitting in. I am sitting in on my future children’s school plays, parent meetings, and book readings. I am sitting in community organizations whose core values align with mine. I am sitting in on community meetings before things happen not after they happen. I am sitting in a career that takes a young hand in mine and walks the journey to adulthood with them. I am sitting in a church, a prayer meeting or a bible study that will lead my heart and soul to think all things eternal and not be so caught up in the temporal. I am sitting in a marriage where my future children will have a father figure to set the example on how to live a productive life. I am sitting in on purposeful relationships with other women that empower and encourage our better selves. I am sitting in a diverse family where society’s dictates of what love looks like doesn’t stem our flow. Yeah that’s what I’m sitting in.

So pardon me if I bypass this Black Friday boycott and move on to things worth boycotting and worth sitting in.

Current Events

Head In The Sand

I drove home from work today thinking how buried my head is in the sand; not to be keeping tabs on the Michael Brown riots. I couldn’t even get the city and state right where it happened in right! I blamed it on this hot weather, blamed it on opening of schools stress, hell I even blamed it on the price of gas! And then I knew–I was really blaming it on my fear.

Fear of allowing my heart and mind to go to recesses of my psyche and have yet again have this one-sided conversation about race, police, violence, culture, education, our black boys. I’m just tired!

Tired of having the old discussion with my BLACK husband about raising our future BLACK sons with the knowledge that this world does not have a BLACK boy’s best interest in mind. Tired of feeling fearful for my friends who birthed and are raising beautiful BLACK boys. Tired of yet again having to confront our society’s flaws. Tired of acknowledging an educational system that sets our beautiful BLACK boys up for failure, of broken homes that eventually break them, of a penal system that harkens back to days slavery.

Once my heart rate returns back to normal, I’m back to my reality. I can’t be anywhere else trying to protest or get arrested! I got sixty children that along with me and my colleagues, we are welcoming this coming week. Sixty middle school boys and girls we are planning to nurture, teach, and help grow holistically. Sixty children whose parents are entrusting us with their care.

My heart bleeds for the Trayvons, Michaels, Abners, Amadous, of our society. For the weddings and graduations that will never take place. For a mother’s loss of her child. It’s incomprehensible.

Come Monday, my head won’t be in no sand. It will be up and out ready to face another school year. Praying, interceding on behalf of our children. Trusting God to impart in me what I need to impart in them. Believing that at age 17 and 18, their names will NOT be on an obituary but on a graduation program.

Current Events, Family, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

Little Black Boys

I have always been a sucker for little black boys with beautiful eyes and gorgeous smiles. Something they all seem to have at that age. When they grow up to be handsome young men I am thankful to say I knew them when.

Not all of our little black boys are making it into full manhood safely these days. Of the many that came through my doors in my years as a school social worker, I can count on only a few set of hands how many made it to post secondary education. College education for me isn’t the litmus test but it represents a safe haven and a sifter for the many black men who have managed to beat the odds that are stacked against them. College is that holding place where I would know that both learning would take place and that for a moment in time, our black males can be held safe.

I spent half my time jamming common sense and wisdom down my youngest brother in law’s throat during his adolescence years. Angry the day he came home wearing a long baggy white shirt instead of the uniformed ones that were waiting freshly pressed in the closet. You look like a thug crossing that bridge to school on Miami Beach I said. Me and his brother, my husband, would have knock down drag out debates on how to best reinforce pro social behaviors. Society won’t be too friendly to him and we have to prepare him now I said.

He spent most of his days rubbing elbows with children of TV executives and diplomats and most of his nights on the football field. We kept him too busy and too tired to care about much of what was taking place on the block. Yet on that winter break when he was home from college and tied up with other friends, detained by police down the street, we would remind him that you can’t take everybody where you’re going. When a friend of his, another college student, would witness a childhood friend shot and killed right next to him, we remind him yet again, you need new friends.

No child should have to be told that they have to forsake their childhood friends. No child should have to be told to stay away from their running buddy, the friends who they rode bikes with and enjoyed living out their youth with. Yet it’s become our reality.

I worry about my brother in law sometimes. I worry that he is losing his core identify as he slowly loses friends. They aren’t all dying but they are dying little deaths in the form of drug abuse, a life of violence, and social immobility. Relationships he formed are slowly losing their depths as his quest for personal achievements and dare I say survival takes precedence.

Our roots are what keep us grounded and as more of our young black boys’ blood seep through these concrete streets, those who are left behind begin to stand alone.

Uncategorized

Grisham Got In Our Grits

I had the pleasure of sharing in what educators call some “higher order thinking” type conversation the other day. It’s a monthly book club of ladies who meet in exquisitely furnished restaurants and discuss all things bookish. This was my first go around with the “Divas” and I scrambled to join because they were reading one of my fave writers, John Grisham.

Admittedly, John (we’re on a first name basis) had not written anything that caught my attention of late. Imagine my delight in finding that he brought back Jake Brigance of “A Time To Kill” fame for a second round. Sycamore Row, his latest venture into southern law and intrigue starts with a suicide and takes us on a pick up ride through the sweltering heat of Ford County, Mississippi. This story teller for the ages doesn’t disappoint as he brings back some old characters and hurls at us many new ones, unrepentant in his descriptive tale of the south, circa 1980’s.

There is a scene in the book where Lucien Wilbanks (picture a grisly Donald Sutherland) reprises his role as Jake’s pseudo-mentor. Back on the wagon and excited about this new case that Jake has, he proceeds to explain why having blacks on a jury to decide whether a black woman should gain the $20 million left to her by her white employer would be a bad idea. To paraphrase he says, “I know black folks more than any other white person in this county.” He stands his ground and maintains that everything is about race in Mississippi.

Grisham got real deep into the grits of the Black conscience. A black woman who stood to be the wealthiest woman in Ford County (black or white) would find no blacks in her corner. After all, they would still be poor and she would be living high off the hog.

The crab in the bucket mentality still rears it’s ugly head in small towns and big cities alike. Wherever there are black folks there will be envy and divide. How many times have I heard someone say, keep your business to yourself cause the haters out there are like vultures waiting to tear it down. I, in my naïveté, still think of people as essentially good for the most part until I see them cut a brother or sister down professionally or personally with no remorse.

In my own professional ventures, I have had a Polish Jew and a Cuban woman give me more support in moving towards goals than some Blacks I just thought would have my back. It is in my nature to share what I learn and know, friends remind me not everyone does the same. Lucien Wilbanks, in one a gloriously sober moment spoke some sense.

Yessiree, Grisham is back. Totally unapologetic about his tale of race relations in the South. He could have time stamped it 2014 rather than 1988 and would have still been in step with the times. Yes John, everything is about race everywhere.

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