This blog post was written shortly after our fire last year:
We survived a fire.
No one was hurt or injured.
We stood outside watching smoke billow out of the windows while firefighters ran back and forth.
Like instant refugees, my children and I stood, watching, waiting, with no more than the pajamas that we ran out in on.
It was a sea of faces.
The faces had questions.
“What are you guys going to do?”
“Where will you live?”
Not to mention our cat is still unaccounted for.
Once the camera phones had been put away and there was nothing left to gawk at except the family of half-dressed deer in headlights, the world slowly began to spin again.
Neighbors came and provided diapers and clothes for the children, sweaters for me and my daughter.
They offered their places if I needed to make calls or just to think.
I was so grateful.
Red Cross came almost right away.
They talked to me softly, pressed a folder with the words, ‘Moving Forward’ into my hands, and told me that this was just the beginning.
They laughed and joked with us, making sure that we had accommodations and basic provisions.
But, it was Independence Day weekend.
And how symbolic.
I didn’t anticipate having to stay in a hotel, but especially not over a holiday weekend where rates were at least three times what they were normally.
After exhausting my resources, I checked out of our hotel room and found myself feeling and being displaced.
Where do you go when you have nowhere to go?
People started to give us clothes and food right away.
Where do you put your things when you have no place for your things?
Where would I even cook?
I felt the children growing restless.
But, I couldn’t help the urge to say, “This is not play time!”
When IS play time in a crisis?
And when the sweltering heat started to affect my son’s breathing, my children were no longer full from the apple sauce packets and Lunchables, and all I could hear was the sound of kids crying from hunger, exhaustion, and frustration, I had to fight back tears myself.
The other part of it is that I suffer from Crohn’s disease, which is triggered by stress and poor diet.
My stress was at an all-time high and the processed food that I could scrounge up was killing my insides softly.
This was just a long weekend, I thought.
Can you imagine what people go through who live this reality every day?
Well, let me tell you.
It’s the millions of questions, having to tell and retell the story countless times, to people who may or may not even be interested or able to help.
It’s the dirty looks and “this is what you should have done” comments.
It’s simply wanting to take a shower and sleep and not knowing when or if that will happen.
When you are in that situation, reality TV or Donald Trump’s hair or which celebrity is on a bender are like things that matter in an alternate dimension.
But, I began to understand why the displaced and homeless look so downtrodden.
Because people literally and figuratively trample them under foot.
With unkind words and looks, judgmental tones, and outright ignorance.
But, the truth is, we are all one bad weekend away from being one of them.
Our pretty clothes and shiny cars tend to make us forget that sometimes.
I was displaced for five days.
Yet, there are people in one of the richest countries in the world, one that brags of unmatched freedoms, and people go without proper food, clothing, and housing every single day.
I was one of the lucky ones.
Once people realized what was happening, they stepped in and extended themselves in a large way.
We survived a fire.
And it was an eye-opening experience, one that I will never forget and has added a driving force in my life and heart to do everything in my power to make sure that no man, woman, or children have to suffer through a tragedy with added, unnecessary burdens.
Has anyone else noticed the lull in our month, the shortest month ever, that we have been assigned as our month to be Black, proud, and nostalgic?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s definitely never been the celebration like, say, Cinco de Mayo for the Mexicans. Like, they literally throw a party celebrating the number five like some lit Sesame Street with Cuervo.
But, again, why the lull?
Celebration of Lies
Many of us have come to realize that the history that we were taught and led to believe was ours was steeped in falsehood. It may account for why many of the stories told were lackluster at least and blatant lies, at most.
There is no other race of people on the planet than Black people who are more disconnected from each other and anyone else, for that matter. To converse with the youth of today, you find a bold disrespect unfathomable by those of us raised during a time when respect for authority was a given.
Now, they believe in giving what they get, even at the risk of being disrespectful. I believe that this comes from seeing gross abuse of power. They see it on TV, in school, at churches, everywhere. This has caused them to develop this lone wolf, attack-first-ask-questions-later mentality.
They are living out a symbolic Walking Dead episode.
Sadly, we keep talking about the issues, but often times, the words fall on deaf ears. Nobody is passionate or dedicated or something enough to sit at the table and say, “Let’s figure this out and let’s do something about it.” As long as we keep getting our rations, there’s no need to rock the boat, right?
But, in all fairness, the feelings are valid. There really is no more coming together in unity, or community. There are a bunch of us and thems. Judging each other by the clothes we’ve got on or how crispy ones’ fade is.
No, I, for one, have been quiet out of shame.
I could highlight the amazingness of some foundational Black leaders, but for what?!
To go back to killing each other on March 1st?
The past is great and, honestly, I don’t put too much stock in it because who knows what the REAL story would have been had the narrative not been spun to meet the agenda of the teller?
What I am most interested in is what happens now.
How do we repair what we didn’t break, what never should have been broken in the first place?
I, for one, propose that we:
- Treat every person and situation with compassion. Do people make poor decisions which backfire and set of a chain of events? Absolutely! But, if reunification of the melanated tribe is truly the goal, we must first be willing to let go of all judgment and come to terms with the current state of affairs. Because burying our heads in the sand or wagging our fingers only work to make people more defensive. When the defenses are up, there is little chance for a positive resolution.
- Stop being so scary. I’m not proposing being belligerent by any means. I notice that, many times, we become so accustomed to settling for less than we deserve, content to sit in the back of the proverbial bus. And this makes those who once weren’t comfortable with getting out of pocket and pushing us way beyond any line that should have ever been crossed feel that they can do so. There is a way to be diplomatically firm without being a doormat or a bull in a china shop. It’s simply about finding this balance.
- Teach our children. Anything. Everything. Stop leaving it up to everyone else to teach our kids. What goes in comes out, so if you don’t like the results that you are getting, it might be a great idea to decide that you want to help mold and guide your child. Or else STFU about how out of control your child s one you get to the point of no return and are forced to turn them over as a guinea pig of proven failed methods implemented by institutions.
That’s not a giant list, but I understand that it’s an undertaking that can only see success through commitment, trust, and brotherly love.
I, for one, am dedicated to extending my talents, my knowledge, my power to making sure that I do my part to see a turn for the better in future history books.
Source: Open Letter to the Wall Builders
Dear Wall Builders both domestic and abroad,
I know your in-depth study at the Wall Building U being put to good use on a platform like none other does your mama’s heart proud.
However, while you’re over there sleeping on all the wrong buttons in the control center, there’s a US city that STILL doesn’t have clean water.
I get it.
I follow the updates.
Basically, the very system in which many of my brothers and sisters have been crushed under has turned on itself with its many attempts at legislation requests and forms and petitions and such.
The red tape winders are caught up in their own red tape.
And, legal implications aside, in everything that I’ve read or heard, it just seems that very basic solutions are being missed.
Just change the pipes.
Your vast business experience has taught you resourcefulness that has attributed you the distinction of intelligence.
Hey, if you were shooting darts at a wall and saying, “Let’s go with that!”, let us know.
If this is an elaborate Punk’D for a comeback episode with Ashton Kutcher…
But, can you do me a favor?
Can you fix this now?
Don’t wait until the time is right.
Don’t wait until you get done with this wall or whatever it is you’re trying to do.
DO IT NOW.
These are real lives that you are playing with.
You’re worried about some immigrants? Hell, they’re some of the hardest working people that I know. Get them and the Jehovah’s Witnesses together and I bet you that they’ll have that wall done in like a day and a half. That, your wall, and any other silliness that might pop into your whimsical head.
But, give those people their damn water.
Thanks In Advance.
I look forward to your Twitter rant.
I often hear people talking about the many resources that are available to people living in poverty, but are baffled when they don’t reach out to utilize them.
They shake their heads. They wag their fingers.
They say, “They are only getting what they deserve.”
Most people who live scarce lives only do so because they were made to believe that lack, poverty, and brokenness is all that could ever be their reality.
And instead of sympathetically and compassionately acknowledging where they are, most “do-gooders” and “helpers” jump to the “get-over-it” stage.
“If they really wanted more, they would reach out for it.”
But, not always easy.
Is it important to be solution-based? Absolutely!
But, if I am constantly getting judgment and criticism, negatively reinforcing all the things that I’m NOT doing, how encouraged will I be to reach out to anyone, anywhere, for any reason?
Rather, my survival instinct (where most scarce minds subsist) will make me go on the defense, ready to launch an attack on anyone bold enough to send their attacks my way.
In fact, it can make you cynical of anyone and anything that resembles that brand of “help”.
We are told that the police are there to “help”, but mass incarcerations for petty crimes, brutality, and injustices say otherwise.
We are told that family court and child protection agencies are there to “help”, yet the many children chewed up and spit out by an apathetic system and parents being pitted against each other say otherwise.
We are given handouts that nobody wants and told that we should be grateful, but then are looked at crazy and asked, “Don’t you want more for yourself?”
How can I want more than I even know is possible for me to have??
And all of this pressure builds up on the mind, the heart, and causes an implosion.
Our hearts literally break.
We become depressed.
We become angry.
And then we become apathetic.
It’s enough to turn the heart to stone.
And a stone heart can’t let love in, so it certainly won’t let love out.
So, instead of being dismissive, instead of believing that there is no hope, can we try compassion? Can we lend an ear?
Rather than throwing band-aid solutions at people that need open heart surgery and then feigning anger when it isn’t yielding results, why not pay more attention?
Lift people up.
Or at least admit that you aren’t really looking to help solve the problem and move out of the way for someone who is.
Whatever you water grows, so it seems that we might see better results if we do a heart check, first on ourselves, then see where we can help to heal, REALLY heal, the hearts of others.
Food pantries, clothing drives, toy drives, health fairs…
Those are all great.
But, what about providing life skills that will make it so that people do not need to stand in these endless lines? What about truly learning what obstacles permit people from reaching out for help?
Then, listening and implementing what is heard?
So, the next time you feel tempted to ask, “Why don’t more people reach out for help?”, remember: there may be more there than meets the eye, so learn to see with a loving heart.