Reads and Reels: Feast of All Saints, Part I

Reads and Reels: Feast of All Saints, Part I

This weekend, I had a lovely spring-reminiscent time with my mom.  We ate dinner with my cousins, went to the Battle of the Bands, went to Sunday brunch at Pecan (who wouldn’t take my groupon without it being printed), went to the Georgia Aquarium, and spent more time with my cousin Kesha, who grilled for us.  While eating last night, we talked about our family and some of the little hush hush things about which our family never talks.  One of those issues is color.  Because of my family’s lineage (maybe one day I will expound), there exist(ed?) some superstitions and prejudices about darker hued skin and resulted in differences in how kids and grandkids were treated.

It’s always been fascinating to me.  Maybe because I am brown.  Just a pretty, smack dab in the middle, smooth, lovely brown. I’m not light. I’m not dark. I’m brown. A shade my ma said was “light enough” to escape the punishment issued to those who were “too dark.” Even when I was a kid, I wondered what I would have looked like if I had come to the world looking like any of my cousins (on my mom’s and dad’s sides–on my mom’s side, I’m one of the darkest).  We pretty much are the three shades of the Kenya dolls back in the day.  Light, medium, and dark, lol.  I can remember walking into the kitchen hearing my parents arguing about who had the most color in their history–bragging on how dark my granddaddy was or how dark my ma’s granddaddy.  Kinda weird since outside our home, I would hear other groups of blacks vying for who had the least color.  I never really understood the psychology of color.

This may be one reason that New Orleans has always been one of my favorite, mostinteresting places.  I remember the first time I read Anne Rice’s Feast of All Saints, really imagining this world of quadroons and people basing status on how far removed they were from slavery or how “whitened” they had gotten their blood. So I was very very happy to see how engaged the Atlanta group was while watching Part 1 of the DVD based on the book.  Our conversation was very lively.

We spent a good bit of time talking about the purpose and benefits of marriage. One reason, which really made me go hmmm melikey, was that marriage is an institution that assists us in moving forward and building our culture.  We talked about how marriage is used strategically, but the real question is what is the strategy?  Where are we headed? One thing I said was that if everyone did what they were put here to do, collectively we would all prosper at a faster pace than each of us individually–thus, our goal should be to marry someone that helps us in our purpose, that supports and uplifts us, that complements us.  Some people are all about marrying for love–well I would say that’s all good and fine, but it’s not.  Why? Because we may not have any control over our emotions per se, but we totally can control who we spend substantial time and energy with/on. In the movie, the strategy was a combination of their perspective of bettering their lives by “marrying” into money and into lighter skinned children who would be able to keep the cycle going. What’s your strategy?

In that same discussion, we talked at length about whether or not we have to “play by the rules” in society. Well whose rules are they?  My personal opinion is that we need to know the rules–not necessarily play by them unless that’s just what you choose to do.  If you know them, though, you can use them and play around them.

Another thing we ended up discussing (because we live in Atlanta and that’s what we discuss) was how as we get older, our pool of romantic possibilities gets smaller and smaller, not only because we’re second and third rounders (more on that in a minute), but also because our circles just overlap and overlap until the point where it’s rare that you meet someone completely new.  The answer? Some say we should start going to the gym or somewhere completely new. We’ll see.

So I’m a “second-rounder” (well, I guess I should hope that I am??).  One of our group members says that the first round of marriages occurred around 25. The second round will occur around 30; the third round, 35; and so on. And some of those first-rounders have come back around to be second-rounders because of divorces (you know, because some of those first-rounders were in starter marriages).  This was an interesting concept (and hilarious since one friend said she’s a sixth-rounder even though she’s my age).  I guess it applies to motherhood as well since a large crop of folks had babies last year, evidently drinking the same water.

Something else we discussed was how important knowing our history is.  In the movie, the main character Marcelle finds out that the Haitian Revolution wasn’t just some great, fun story to hear about–it actually directly affected his life.  He starts to make really crazy decisions because he finds out that he never knew that he didn’t know important parts of his history.  He doesn’t know who to trust–he doesn’t know what is really important–he really doesn’t even know what to do with his life.  Be who his mom and aunts want him to be? Or follow his passions?  That applies to our lives as well. We have to know where we came from, understand where certain gifts come from and how they can be used, and take advantage.  We may not have the generational monetary wealth and connections that some are born with, but we are born with certain generational gifts and lessons that we only have to seek out.

There was plenty more discussed (including how the issues in the movie have contributed to the modern-day “independent black woman”and we touched on classism a little bit–I’m sure it’ll come up more next time), and they enjoyed the movie so much that we’re moving the discussion of Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America by Eugene Robinson to March (you have more time to get it and read!) so that we can watch Part II of Feast of All Saints in February (Sunday, 2/27 at 4).  Join us! The movie is full of twists and turns! 🙂

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Feature Friday: Green Building

Feature Friday: Green Building

In preparation for our New Orleans’ volunteer trip, one of my group members helped me tremendously (and graciously!) by creating a card that gives green tips in building to give to organizations and residents who may be interested.  As a Feature, I’m giving Sirobe a shout out (soon to be one of less than 300 black women architects!!) and the tips in case any of you are doing any home improvements over the holidays.

Here are a couple of the tips:

  • Since appliances and electronics are responsible for 20% of the average energy bill, it pays to make your home more energy efficient.  You could receive up to $500 in rebates or $1500 in tax credits if you purchase Energy Star appliances.  Visit www.energysavers.gov for more information!
  • If you’re moving any time soon, remember that large trees are your friend.  They can help to shade your home from direct sunlight as well as block cold winds.

If you know any one building a house or anyone who is rebuilding on the Coast (or anywhere else), send them to my page.  They can contact Reads and Reels for more information.

My Time in New Orleans

My Time in New Orleans

Where were you when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc over the gulf coast communities and when the levees broke? I was in Atlanta, worried sick about my friends and their families and about the city I have had a sincere love for since I was a little kid—New Orleans. I remember not being able to get in touch with anyone for weeks because the network was down. And I remember feeling like there was nothing I could do. I did clothing drives for my friends, but it never seemed to be enough.

Well, five years have passed since that disaster that hit so very close to home and affected so many people that I personally know. And still, the city has not recovered. There are still empty but overgrown lots, houses that are abandoned, people that can’t return yet. There’s still so much to do, and this past weekend, I helped do it.

I led a group of 15 volunteers—3 traveling from here in Atlanta, 2 from Jackson, MS (plus a hubby–shout out to Trey), 1 from Vicksburg, MS, 8 from in and around Hattiesburg, MS, and 1 from Chicago, IL. We worked with Hands on New Orleans in two areas of town. And boy, were those two volunteer projects different.

On Saturday, we went to Harvey, Louisiana, which is on the West Bank of New Orleans. The project was with the Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana to move their Esperanza Neighborhood Farm. Not just develop one—move it. From one parcel of land to another.  I walked into a land dispute that I had no knowledge of until we showed up to work. The organization had received an acre of land from a board member, but they didn’t go through the official channels of learning where the property lines were. Turns out they spent months creating a garden on someone else’s land—someone who didn’t want them there. So much in fact that the owner of the land showed up with police to make sure we were moving the garden, and not tending to it.

That whole situation was a mess.  Both sides were wacko.  She was wacko because she felt like the owner owed her something.  No ma’am.  Her organization should have done their due diligence to ensure they understood where the property was.  So she kept calling this man a bad person because he didn’t want to lease her the land for the three months it would take to reap the harvest.  It’s his land so he has a right to say no.  But going by her behavior and attitude when the owner pulled up (she was even rude to the police who weren’t at all mean when they pulled up), it’s clear that she was not pleasant ever in the situation.  So much for the attracting bees with honey because I’m sure when he (a black man) first pulled up to ask what they were doing, a group of white and Latino people working on his land, they probably acted like he was the one who is crazy.  He ordered them to move the garden asap. Now he’s crazy too, though.  First of all, she did him a favor really because the land was very much not taken care of before they made their mistake, so he really won out on that end of the spectrum.  However, he ordered her to move the land, but was threatening to charge her with trespass that morning (not us, her, lol–we 15 were not going to jail over voluntarism.  No. indeed.).  Well, sir, she can’t move the dang garden by osmosis.  We had to be on the property to uproot it all.  Once we, the sane and calm and unbiased black people, explained that to him and the police, though, he exhaled, still a little tightly wound, but just said it needed to be gone by the next day.

So my group of 15 had the task of moving a sign that had been cemented in the ground, uprooting a fence, clearing the land on the property that actually was for them (and by clearing I mean moving loads and loads of vines and trash), preparing it for soil, digging up and moving the soil from the original garden, and finally, moving and replanting the crops. It was very hard work, let me tell you, and the project leader was more like an overseer or slave master than a volunteer coordinator. She was barking orders at us and showed little to no appreciation even though we did in 5 hours what took weeks.  I think I knew it was a wrap when she asked us to relieve the Dillard students who had only been there for an hour compared to our four, and wanted us to stop planting to start back digging.  Oh, and did I mention she had stopped working because some students from Princeton had come to interview her for a study they’re doing about farming and community gardens.  Did I mention that the owner of the land of the first garden is attempting to sell it to a mechanic shop (we found that out from a neighbor)?  So… if that happens, surely the garden will not survive behind that. We left feeling borderline defeated and wondering if we had wasted a day.

The bright side of things is that the whole group felt some kinda way after leaving so we decided to unwind at a nearby daiquiri shop, where we played some New Orleans classics (so classic that the owner of the shop turned the music up louder and customers were coming in bobbing their heads–woot woot for the DJ (me)) for a friend who had never been to New Orleans, had Jello shots, played pool, and of course, drank daiquiris.  The girls left there and went to a nail salon.  We keep it pretty, yanno.  We have no idea what the guys were up to.  Later, we went to the Quarter, ate heartily, then looked at all the Halloween costumes on Bourbon St.  It was a great night.

Sunday was a totally different experience, however. We went to the Lower 9th Ward, which is one of the most affected parts of the city because it’s near the levees. When we arrived at the Lower 9th Ward Village (which I plan to feature this Friday), we were all wary, ready to leave the project, straight throw the deuces, as soon as we were done with our assignment. Turns out we stayed 2 hours longer than the project was supposed to be. The morning started with an inspirational introduction from the Village CEO Mac McClendon, who started the community center to help his neighborhood after losing all his material things, including a house he had spent months renovating with his own hands. He explained to us what he went through during the storm and its aftermath, looking for his family, dealing with the smell of death when he returned, finding out that silence is a deafening sound. He said that hearing a car was a treat because there were literally no sounds—no birds chirping, no dogs barking, no crickets chirping, nothing. Out of hopelessness, he found his purpose in life and now, he’s running this center, still rebuilding his own life, but giving to his neighbors. Because there’s a law saying that if the grass is over 18 inches, a lot can be seized, we spent our morning cutting grass and weeds. Although the project wasn’t as “glamorous” as creating a garden, we felt like we had become a part of this community. After we were done, we spent two hours talking to Mr. McClendon about his life and experiences, with his younger brother who is the Program Director at the center, and with a couple of elderly residents who just wanted to pick our brains and get us thinking. We didn’t want to go, but we had to so that we could get home.  Here’s a link to a clip of the convo we had with Mr. McClendon.

The difference between those two projects illustrates the true meaning of community building—we volunteer, but why? To do good, yes, but more importantly, to build and restore communities. When I go back to New Orleans again to work, I’ll definitely be going back to see what my new friends at the Lower 9th Ward Village need. I won’t give up on helping other parts of the city, but I definitely want to dedicate at least part of my time to the ongoing efforts in the Lower 9th Ward.  I hope that next time you will come with us. 🙂  Here are links to the pictures.  Oh the memories.

Ranada’s Reads and Reels FB Photo Album

J Photo Group’s Flickr Album

MLM: What’s Your Dream?

MLM: What’s Your Dream?

Well, my dream is to make a profound positive impact on the black community. And through Reads and Reels, I can see some of that coming to fruition.  This weekend, I led a group of 15 volunteers in New Orleans as we participated in the ongoing rebuilding efforts.  It was a humbling, educational, inspirational, reassuring, lesson-learning, comical, friendship-building time, and I’m so glad that I had the idea and acted on it.  I’ll definitely be doing it again very soon.  I’m uploading pictures and sharing stories over the next few days.

For Memory Lane Monday, though, I want to share this piece I sent to friends on May 4, 2007 after a sermon I heard.

“Look, this dreamer is coming!…Let us…kill him.” Genesis 37:19-20

What’s your dream?

Everybody has a dream.  What’s yours?  If you could do anything, what would it be?  Most of us don’t achieve great things because we give up, we fall short, we get off track, we settle, or we dream too small.  Only two things stand in your way: dreaming it, then doing it.  Have you dared to dream, really dream?  If something is within your apparent reach, it isn’t a dream.  If it doesn’t stretch you, cost you, or involve risk, it isn’t a dream.  Dreams change you even as they change the world around you.

Maybe you’re listening to critical people. Remember the story of Joseph?  He dreamed big dreams.  God-given dreams.  And what was the response of his brothers?  They said, “Look, this dreamer is coming!… let us… kill him.”  People who aren’t pursuing their own dreams are usually the first to criticize people who are.  So, who are you listening to?

Maybe you’re afraid to dream too big. You don’t want to fail.  Nobody does.  But “safe living” leads to regret.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor souls who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you pursue your dream and don’t achieve it?  You could end up where you are now.  And what’s the best thing that could happen?  You could find yourself in new territory, enjoying new blessings, living the life God meant for you to live!

So, what’s your dream?  Are you pursuing it?

Feature Friday: Twist

Feature Friday: Twist

As Drake says, “Better late than never.”  So here’s my review of Twist at the Alliance Theatre since I’m New Orleans-bound in just a couple of hours.

 

Overall, the musical was worth seeing.  This “twist” on the story of Oliver Twist was full of great music and great storylines. A result of an interracial couple in New Orleans in the early 1900s that experiences the wrath of a mob, Twist is born in the orphanage that his mother drags herself to while dying after watching her fiance carried off.  Twist is ridiculed for being a “half-breed” by the other orphans as is sold to a funeral parlor director.  During his short stint with the funeral home, Twist learns that he has a great dancing talent and shows out during a second line before running away and joining a gang of lost boys who are selling libations during Prohibition for a guy who turns out to be the dance partner of Twist’s deceased father.  This guy also just happens to be booed up with the girl who delivered Twist and got a locket from his mother before she died, which the girl still had after all those years.

The story becomes twisted when the gang leader, who also owns a cafe in the Quarter, is approached by Twist’s uncle, who happened to be a member of the mob who killed Twist’s parents.  The uncle learns that as long as he has no proof that the baby of his sister is dead, he can’t get her part of their inheritance.  So he tries to buy Twist from the gang leader, who at first, despite his girlfriend’s pleas, heavily considers the agreement.  Thank goodness for the family attorney, who just so happened to love the work of Twist’s father and who has an affinity for protecting youth, who steps in and gives Twist a safe and happy home through all of this drama.

The two main issues that came up in the musical included of course, the lack of belonging for interracial people on either side of the spectrum and the need for adult influence and love in the lives of children.  Now, I had a slight problem with the interracial aspect of things.  In New Orleans as well as in other parts of the world, interracial people were seen as a notch up from black.  So although they were not accepted by white people, they were not necessarily “rejected” by blacks–many times, they chose not to be grouped in, instead going by names like quadroon and octoroon.  Interracial people in these days of New Orleans, many times had a choice between living among blacks or living in this created world of their own, where the women became concubines of Frenchmen who traveled back and forth between lands.  So it kinda disturbed me that in the musical, blacks and whites were banding together (getting along although they killed Twist’s parents for banding together) to ostracize Twist.  It was just a really weird dynamic.  For instance, in the orphanage scene, the black and white kids were in cahoots to make Twist’s life a living hell.  Now, this may have been a little more believable if  the white kids were sitting at a table of their own and the black kids at the other, and neither would give Twist a seat.  But for them all to be seeming to be loving each other across racial lines but hating Twist?  No sense.

Most importantly, though, the production did a good job of illustrating that children will accept love anywhere they can get it.  Even if it’s not under great circumstances.  It made me really consider what I think about whites adopting black children vs. blacks adopting them.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, there are so many children out there that need love that I don’t really think about what race the adopting parents are–I just want them to be good parents who really just want to love kids.  Yes, there’s the issue of ensuring culture in a child, but I’d rather a child be placed with awesome white parents than sucky black parents (as would have been the case in the production–a single well-off white attorney who loves children and can actually tell Twist about his father’s legacy versus a black couple that is shacking up and sending kids out in the streets everyday to sell illegal liquor).  But the world isn’t so black and white.  There usually aren’t situations where a kid has a choice between the exact same family besides one being black and one being white.  So, I just say, those of you out there who really have the resources and the time and the love to adopt a child, go for it.  You won’t hear anything from me, regardless of your race or the child’s race.

Again, overall, the play was enjoyable.  Check out the Alliance Theatre to see what they have this season.  Reads and Reels will be seeing Nacirema Society mid-November, and I can’t wait!

It’s time for Halloween and my volunteer trip!

It’s time for Halloween and my volunteer trip!

I have no costume for myself as of yet, but I hope you like my “spooky” look on my blog.

I hope to have an AWESOME time this Halloween weekend.  I’m going to New Orleans to volunteer, and I am too excited.  New Orleans is my fave fave fave city, so I’m happy to have the chance to pitch in and do my part.  I hope to do this again next year.

There’s alot on my mind in terms of politics, relationships, fashion, and much more, but it’s not in sharable format.  So until I can make some sense of all this hodgepodge in my head…

Here’s a video about Post-Katrina Lower 9th Ward, where I’ll be working Sunday morning.

And here’s one of my fave party songs, which is from New Orleans.  I’ve been dancing to this mug for YEARS.  Some songs are just classics. 🙂

MLM: Life’s Challenges

MLM: Life’s Challenges

I picked this post, written 10/10/06, because it’s funny to me now, 4 years later, that I actually titled it “Life’s Challenges” (when the challenges seem like much more of blips on the radar–but maybe that’s a brain thing–maybe my current challenges are just as surmountable as they were then and as soon as I overcome them, I’ll be laughing about it). It’s also funny just how consistent I am.  In this post, I talk about someone who can dish smart aleck comments but can’t take them, I talk about my birthday plans, I talk about my social life, and I talk about being busy.  Well, guess what.  I was just dealing with someone who can dish the sarcasm but can’t take it; I just sent an email about part 1 of my birthday plans (an awesome trip to do some volunteer work in New Orleans, my fave city) and I’m still trying to figure out part 2; I was just telling a friend that I feel old now because it seems that now I hibernate in the winter with the exception of Red Tie Soiree and that I’m not the young socialite I used to be; and I am still as busy as ever (but now I have a handle on it).  I love it that even my blog shows what people tell me all the time–I’m one of the most consistent people alive.  Another thing that is consistent over time is that when I’m stressed or feeling challenged, although it’s hard sometimes, I try to focus on other, not so stressful parts of my life while overcoming the challenge (which is why only part of this post is actually about my challenges then).  Anywho, I hope you enjoy this window into the past.


I didn’t go to bed till about 5:30 this morning. And I have to leave my apt to 7:25 to ensure timely arrival to work. I left at 7:45. Yes, I was late. WHy did I stay up so late? Because my partner in one of my classes is something… He sent me his part of the paper we’re writing (mind you, I’m the one compiling our findings to make a consistent and worthwhile paper AND editing) at 12:15. YES, 12:15. And do you think he appreciates any of the extra I’ve had to give in order to make assignments even remotely okay? Nope, cuz he’s too worried about whether or not I’m kissing his ass (and I’m not). Every thing that I say results in a “Why are you so mean?” or “You shouldn’t be so sarcastic.” To which I reply, if you can’t take it, don’t dish it. He always has smart ass things to say, but he can’t handle when I simply reply. I know this is a test from above, so I’m trying to hold my peace and make it through this class without cursing him out. And the paper still isn’t done. But after his monologue about how we’re a team and if he needs to sacrifice to get it done, he will, I’m letting him. I’m sacrificing my assurance in myself to write a good paper to let him write a possibly mediocre one since I had to take off work last time we had an assignment because of his late ass. And he had the audacity to tell me how he’s juggling so much as if I’m not. UGH! Lord, help me through, PLEASE! But because I wrote most of it and gave him directions about what is needed to complete the paper, hopefully, he can’t botch it up too bad. And I’m still going to review it before we turn it in. I just hope I have enough time to edit if I need to.

Anyhow, on to more positive things to think about. I woke up because of a very plain but somehow very meaningful “Good morning.” text from someone I only see in a social setting every blue moon, and it really made me smile and get on up and tackle a new day on less than 2 hours sleep. Looks like I quite possibly got my mojo back. *hmmm* I need to find my calendar so that I can try to make time for special people.

I am throwing a birthday party the weekend before my birthday. I’m so excited about it. This weekend and next weekend we are gonna shop venues. I’m leaning toward the Royal since I’ve been there more than once and since it’s one of those low-key under-the-radar spots. But I’ll have to see if I can get the DJ to be a smidge more crunk. I usually like the laidback thing, but I have a feeling I’m gonna wanna shake my groove thang that night. But we have a copla more places on the list to check out. I would go back to Sutra (where I threw my graduation party) if they hadn’t tried to kick me out of my own party even though I wasn’t doing anything but sitting down looking inebriated. Ugh. But yeah I’m sure out of the places on this list we’ll find a good spot. I just gotta find me a super fly outfit. And I gotta do something with my hair. I don’t think I want the big fro that night. I think I’ll want a sleek sexy look. 🙂

Have I said on here how much I love being a little urbanite/socialite? I love mixing and mingling and expanding my social network. I like it that people know they can count on me to support them, whether it be a community service activity or a party or a roundtable discussion or a happy hour. I like being that girl that people love to send their evites to. I bask when people call during their event to ask where I am if I haven’t arrived yet. I didn’t really have a point for that besides that I just really enjoy the social part of my life.

Who am I kidding? I pretty much enjoy all parts of my life. Staying busy with the stuff at the top of my priority list keeps me happy. Yeah, I get stressed out every now and then, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have my hands in a bunch of worthwhile activities/projects at one time. I enjoy seeing projects from start to finish. I enjoy seeing stuff executed properly and successfully. I enjoy working with those people with whom I work very well. Oh yeah, and I enjoy making A-‘s on my first midterm! *yay me* I still want to push to do better on the second midterm and final, but I’m so happy that so far I have a solid A in that class. I’ll need it since I’m not so certain about making an A in the other class. And since my stream of consciousness has guided me full circle, I guess it’s time for me to sign off. Until next time, folks!

And I’m still talking about my hair and what to do when I’m not wearing a big fro.  lol. I have an event in a couple of weeks, and I need another “sleek” style.  We’ll see what happens.

Here’s a song to get you through life’s challenges.

Happy Monday, folks!