Friday, September 30, 2011

It's My Anniversary

Anniversary are days to commemorate milestones and major events. It is also a time to reflect on the changes in life. Its been a year since I started this blog as look back I am amazed at the progress I have made.

A year ago today, I got laid off from a job where I was unhappy. At the time, I had no intentions of leaving because I was afraid to the unknown. The year has taught me that I am a marketable and skilled worker. I have a new job where my work is valued and there is great opportunity ahead.

Last year, I was on my way to my best friends wedding and unsure of how to identify myself (incidentally the Bride is about to be a Mom). This year I have over 100 followers for this blog and I am confident in my identity. I am writer! More importantly I am Ebony and that is enough!

Graduate school was just a thought last year. This week I wrote two papers and all I do is read. I am getting my but kicked and I am loving it. School has got me thinking political again.

I wanted to write a play last year. I have produced my play three times in two states. Not to mention I am performing for the Black Woman’s Political Caucus tomorrow. Not bad. We are still working on the book though. It’s going a memoir now by the way. Four chapters and counting!

As for love, I am still single. I did have I bit of a break through. I dated someone I liked. I didn’t work out, but I opened up to someone. Frankly, for all the dating I was doing I never gave anyone a chance. I realize now I wasn’t ready

Grandma was here last year. I am realizing just how much I have lost. I know I have to live because that’s what she would have wanted. That’s what I am doing.

Thank you to all my followers and readers. You have keep me inspired though the year. Now I am asking for your help. What should I do this year? Leave me a comment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rain on Us

There is an old saying that if it rains during your transition then you made it to heaven
.
My mother and I were clearing our backyard for the wake when we heard the first roar and saw a flash of light in the sky. Mom dropped the back trash bag and lifted her hands, still covered with plastic gloves.

“She made it! She made it” Mom said looking to the sky as the rain came down mixing with her tears.

We had lost so much over the years. My mom lost her mother and I lost someone who care for me like a mother

“It just something I believe in”, she said to explain her actions.

Perhaps she thought I found her silly. I didn’t. Grandma’s sudden departure left a void in my heart. In two years, I lost two people who loved me the most.

It’s times like this when you gotta believe in something. Why not take comfort in the roar of thunder and taste of salt water on your tongue, sprinkles soaking your skin.

I embraced her not wanting to leave the rain even as the thunder roared stronger. It was Grandma’s farewell. Just like Grandma’s presence and her life, we knew it was not going to be a sprinkle; we were in for a storm.

The rain continued over the next few days and it was evident as the heel of my sunk down into the runner protecting my black pumps from the damp grass to place a single white rose on the silver casket. Surrounded by the generations of family all there, I could hear whispers saying “She made it.”

I said, “Yes she did.”


Earnest Pugh "Rain on Us"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeEdd6jWTyE

Monday, March 28, 2011

Can’t Give It Away!

I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth.

“Those black women…” , the short Latino man said. “Are all the same!”

Here I was being faced with racism and sexism at its worst in a place where I went to seek refuge and spiritual growth. This was my church!

The church stared a community center and wanted to include job placement as one of its services. Mom wanted me to volunteer while I was still at the Organization, but the thought of spending my evenings listening to more problems and excuses of why people wont go to work after 8 hours the Organization made me want to cringe. Things had changed. I was unemployed. Although I had my hands full with the show, writing and rebuilding my business, I missed hearing “Ms. Wash, can you get me a job?” Artistry is my career, but workforce development is my ministry. Helping others find jobs was how I showed my love to the community. I wanted to give, even though I didn’t have a job myself.

I arrived at the community center to find nothing. No people? No classes? What was going on?

“ I am here to see Sister Johnson”, I told the stanch woman sitting a the front desk who demanded I sign-in as a walk in client before I could tell her I was the new volunteer.

“Have a seat, she is in class.” She pulled her coat over her shoulders.

I could hear Ms. Wilson speaking to a man with a heavy accent whose origin I could not distinguish behind a cubicle.

“That is enough for today. We will resume next week.” The man walked from behind the cubicle. She followed

“Oh you made it”.

She hugged me. I was feeling the love already. She took me on a tour of the center which was a room filled with computers. I followed her and listened.

“I need teachers for GED, arts and technology. I need someone to develop jobs and place people. I need an administrative assistant. I don’t have a budget. I need volunteers.”

I was overwhelmed by the laundry list. What didn’t she need?

That question was answered when she toured me around the community center and introduced me to the jolly Latino man sitting at a computer.

“This is Julio”

“Hello.” Julio said standing up to shake my hand.

“He is going to teach the computer class.”

Of all of the things she needed, there was one I felt most passionate about, Jobs! Disappointed to see the lack of programming but not discouraged, I returned the next week with my Rolodex determined to at least get the jobs program off the ground. Over next few weeks, I set up meetings with my contacts.

After one such meeting Sister Johnson called me into her office.

“I need you to look for a new computer teacher.” I noticed the word need coming from her
often. What she really needed were employees. I was a volunteer. I wanted to help out, but I couldn’t do it all.

“There have been complaints on the instructor. It’s the way he speaks to people.”

He always seemed like a kind man. Sure, he talked too much. He was always interrupting me when I came into the center to make calls, forcing me to bring my volunteer work home. I didn’t see it until the week before the program was scheduled to launch.

Sister Johnson, as usual had a list of things she needed, but I was surprised to see an older woman who was a new volunteer. Great, I thought. I will have some help.

“I need you to make calls to tell people to come to class.” She said.

“What time is class?” That was the logical response.”

“Oh” She paused flipping back her weaved in shoulder length hair. “Let’s have a meeting.

Did she really expect me to make calls inviting people to a class with no scheduled times? I guess so!

The three of us walked over to Julio who was at his usual computer. He dragged his chair to the center of room. We each took a seat surrounding him. That was when I noticed something was different. His wide smile was gone.

He crossed his arms. “No! I don’t know what time to have the class. You need to call them.”

“We have to give them a time, when we call.” She said.

“How can I give a time, when I don’t know when they can come?”

I thought back to my entire lifetime of taking classes in elementary, high school, after-school dance class, University, writers workshops. Never had I been asked what time I could come. Maybe given a course option or two, but if I couldn’t make it, I couldn’t take the class. I looked down at my folder with the names of over twenty potential students and imagined them each giving me a different time.

One person would say “I can come at 1 O’clock.” Another would say “I’ll be there at 2.”Then someone would ask, “Is 6PM OK?”

Nearly an hour passed and he wouldn’t budge. The discussion between Sister Johnson continued to escalate and frustrated she called him by his first name.

“I think you are trying to diminish my position. I am a Reverend.” He asserted. His cheeks were turning red.

The room was silent. Was he serious?

“You should refer to me as Reverend”, he barked.

Yes he was. That's when I realized. He had an ego. I knew how to handle that.

“Reverend Julio, I have an Idea that can solve our problem.” I said with excitement.

“Well you are the only one who can teach computer. I can’t teach computer.” He nodded. I had him.

“Can you teach computer Sister Johnson?”

“Well I can but I don’t have time!” I couldn’t believe she said that. Come on work with me. I had to do something to keep him on track.

“Well I can’t. When it comes to this class you like the King. We can’t do it with out you.” Ok maybe I went too far, but it worked.

He stood up a little taller and agreed to everything we asked him earlier. We set times for the classes and I agreed to come in the next day to call the students.

That next morning, I arrived at 10am and the door was locked. I called Sister Johnson to open the door. She came down to the center and began telling me more about the things she needed. As she opened the door I noticed the Reverend sitting at his computer.

“Oh Reverend Julio is here.” I announced making sure to include his title.

He didn’t turn to acknowledge us.

I didn’t have time to defuse another tantrum. Since getting laid off I had gotten out of the habit of getting up early. It was 10am and I was tired. I wanted to make my calls and go home.

Sister Johnson asked. “Do you think we can print manuals?”

I didn’t know anything about the manuals.

She turned to Julio to ask and that's when it started.

“You could have said hello!”, he cried.

I didn’t have the patience for it. I resolved to simply remain on my task and ignore him.

“You don’t have to call me King like she did!” He pointed his finger in my direction.

“Did something I said offend you?”

“No, it offended me when you didn’t say hello.”

This was unbelievable. Was I back in high school? That was the last time anyone wanted to argue over something that trivial.

“You are a supposed to be a Reverend, I should be learning from you?”
That is when he started.

“THOSE BLACK WOMAN! She probably speaks to every man like that!”

I acknowledge that any woman who asserts herself is perceived negatively, however black women are placed in a unique position of combating racist stereotypes. I expect this the world, but never in the safety of my place of worship. No pace was sacred not even church! With that realization all I could say was...

“I can’t believe this is happening in my church.”

I felt betrayed. If this was a test I was failing miserably. I felt tears come to my eyes and that was when I remembered. I was a volunteer. I didn’t need to be there. The best thing to do was to remove myself from the situation.

I went to church to share my love with community. I wanted was the satisfaction of a job well done, instead I suffered one the worst heartbreaks of my life.

That Sunday I took a trip across the water to a new church. A friend and fellow poet, who I know as Freedom, was preaching. Until that week I did not know she was a minister, but she arrived just in time to give me the something that my distressed heart needed. As I stumbled in late making my way to the front pew, I was carried by her voice. I looked up to see her short locks framing her brown face. She was singing us into her sermon. It was then that I realized in the year past three years I had been attending church, I had never seen a woman preach in either my home church or any of the churches I frequent in Harlem. At that moment that was what I needed to restore my faith.

She read from Isaiah 49:16a “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” , She said.

“Inscribed!” She reiterated, putting extra emphasis on the word.

God had not forgotten and I, like everyone was inscribed in the palm of his hand. What did my inscription read? Something told me that I would have a lot more trials before I would know the answer. One thing was for sure, it was time to get back to work. Art would always be my career, but social services was my ministry. Maybe it wasn’t time to give it away. I needed an equal exchange. That Monday I began the job search.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love... Revised

I could hear the sounds of laughter and anticipation. I understood why. A quick scan of my list of ticket buyers revealed the names of my audience. Many who have not seen me on stage in years and others like my 8th grade teacher, who had never seen me on stage. Then there were those I didn’t know. Those who took interest from postings or a flyer. Julia pulled back the curtain and entered the backstage. Wearing her slacks and shirt, she looked every bit the part of the publicist.

“You got a full house out there.” We had done our job.

“Do you want to start now or wait five more minutes?”, she asked. It had been 5 years since I was on a stage alone. That was the opening night of my solo show and also the last time I performed it. I revised and updated the piece now and it was twice as long. After rushing franticly, the wife applied my make-up and held my hand in prayer. I expected to be hysterical. I usually get stage fright, but that moment I felt at peace.

“I am ready”, I told her.

I was ready. This was one year of preparation, two months of planning and excruciating rehearsals and one week of pure insanity that made me question why I was doing this in the first place.

I knew why once I stepped on that stage, the moment I heard that first laugh, the applause at curtain. Oh yeah. It was what I was born to do. It was joy that only someone who has ever given everything they had could feel. It was love.

Love… I searched for love for two years. I don’t think romantic love can be replaced by other forms, but all love whether it’s the unconditional love you receive from a parent, the love you earn by being a friend or doing something you love is unique and needs acknowledgement.

Love for me is the friends who listen to the same story and giving the same advice over and over again. It was staying up late and helping me to learn my lines. The critique from someone who wanted me to do better, an email from across the country wishing me luck, a prayer before show time, believing in me when I doubted myself.

Love… it was everywhere. I had to learn to recognize it. The show was over and I would have to begin again. I would have new challenges to conquer. Thank God I had love on my side. That night, I got into my bed alone, marveled at all the love in my life, and braced myself for the winter ahead.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Showtime!

“Lets do a show”, it was my only logical response.

There was nothing left to do. I thought I lost everything except art. I was slowly beginning to realize I had not lost my ability to create. Yes, there was nothing left to do. I asked Celeste to help me do a show.

“I am going to book a theater this week.” We talked about it for a year. I had not finished the script, but I was not worried. It needed to happen now. A show date was what I needed to push me along. There was no more job or relationship in the way. It was ironic, the things I thought were holding me back were what I desired most today. This was what rock bottom felt like and the only thing that was holding me together was art. I needed to validate this experiment I turned my life into two years prior. A show was the only thing that made sense.

I selected my date. It was going to be January 15, 2011. The date was symbolic on many levels. This the 60th anniversary of Pop’s Birth. He left us days shy of his 58th, but this night would be about life. Pop shared a birthday with Dr. Martin Luther King. Pop always said “I had it first.” That was not entirely true, Dr. King was about 30 years older, but I understood his reservations about sharing his birthday with a national holiday. It was the only holiday we both truly cared about. Pop instilled a love for all things historical, particularly black leaders.

Two years prior I said goodbye to Pop and in a frenzy of grief and panic I walked away from the only relationship I knew as an adult. I threw myself into a world I knew nothing about and did not understand. My thirst for life gave me some remarkable experiences and some risky ones I would rather take back. The risky ones make me question whether it was life I was really seeking. Nevertheless I survived. Though most days I want to retreat to the days before Pop was gone, when I could go to the house where I grew up and see Pop there watching his favorite sports show or outside on the porch. I could read him a poem or story I wrote, tell him about my latest accomplishment or plan. I go back home often, but he is gone.

Perhaps a show could make things right and be a new beginning. Sort of a rebirth. My re- birthday. One more thing I could share with Pop besides a last name and 23 chromosomes. Today I hear him saying “That’s my baby girl! She is producing a show”.

Tonight I am taking two years worth of mistakes, regrets, disappointment, frustrations and tears and I am leaving them on that stage. It’s SHOWTIME!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Opposite Side

She is young, beautiful, educated and ambitious with a thing for bad boys. We met at work a year ago when she was hired by The Organization. We were equally impressed by one another’s professionalism and flair for fashion. Needless to say, we hit it off. In a short period of time, Theresa and I became the best of lunch buddies and happy hour pals. Though we agreed on everything work related, I was content being the office prude, while she went out of her way to shock everyone in the break room by uttering the most inappropriate sexual references. I find uptight conservative men stimulating, while she enjoys the excitement of a ruff neck.

When Theresa invited me to her 27th birthday party of course I said yes. I wouldn’t miss her party, but I had to assess the situation. This is a love search, I have to know my odds. Number 1: The birthday girl. I know Theresa and I have different tastes in men, its highly likely she won’t pick a bougie club to hang on her birthday. Number 2: The location. The club was on the upper east side. That must be a good sign, its one of the wealthiest areas in New York City. Number 3: The occasion. Its her birthday, so who cares, I was going anyway!

I strutted down the 72nd Street in my signature stiletto knee high boots. Great boots are the only reason to love winter in my book. As a got closer to the club, I saw men walking inside wearing Tim’s, jeans, and hoodies. A girl was standing out front yelling at someone on the telephone. I reverted to point number 3 and got on line.

Theresa appeared with her entourage as any fabulous birthday girl would. She had on a pink mini dress gold accessories and the perfect lace front wig on her head.

“Ebby! Ebby!” Theresa pulled me by the arm and swept me into the club.
It was a dimly lit room filled with men in jeans and scantily clad women drinking out of a plastic cups. I had lost Theresa and her crew somewhere between paying my cover and coat check.

“Pardon me. Pardon” I repeated. I slide past couples grinding on one another to reach Theresa lounging at VIP table surrounded by bottles.

I knew immediately that my potential mate was not in the club that night, but it was alright. I needed a break from the pressures of having to meet someone. I grabbed a plastic cup, reverted back to point number 3 once again and resolved to let loose. I swayed to music I would not listen to under normal circumstances. I cheered for Theresa as all the R & B and Hip Hop songs contain the word birthday were played back to back.

“Go shorty! It’s your birthday”

I was resting from you dancing sitting on the stage by Theresa’s table. There were more VIP tables on the stage. I was just about to fill my cup with more Grey Goose and cranberry juice when I felt something wet spilling down my arm. I jumped up and someone pulled me.

“Get over here!” He said.

It was a fight and it was spreading! I kept moving back. Then I jumped on a table on the other side. A woman grabbed my arm that was still soaked from the spill.

“Stand on the couch the table is wobbly.” I followed her direction.
“My name is Alexis this is my friend Tasha.”
“I am Ebony.”
“It times like this when women have to look out for one another.” She was right.

The DJ started to play “Take it slow” by John Legend after announcing he needed to calm things down. Men with orange security vests appeared. The fighters were removed. The music changed to something more up tempo. I shook it off thinking at least I was wearing black. The party continued until 4AM.

Walking home from the subway I realized that night that I had a great time. I had a better time than I had at the Council party just days prior. I had not had that much fun in a long time. It was nice to take a break and to be in a space where I just didn’t care. Would I go back? Probably not! Well at least not until Theresa’s next birthday!