Losing my religion


My sister has lived in the south long enough to pick-up a number of southern-isms – “Don’t make me lose my religion” being one of them.

The first time I heard this southern-ism I understood its urgency – its immediacy to check one’s attitude, words or actions to avoid a world of hurt.

As the headlines broke yesterday regarding the degrading and vile conversation between a presidential candidate and a Hollywood reporter, the pretty-boys-white-club nearly made me “lose my religion.”

Instead I heeded the advice of Michelle Obama and went high with a little help from a friend.

DJ Bizzon has recently created a mixtape with songs of empowerment that took me high when the misogynists went low.

Here’s a sampling to help you go high:

  • I’m every woman – no doubt Chaka Khan
  • All I’m asking for is a little respect – amen Aretha
  • You deserve the best in life – thank you Madonna
  • Rebel, that’s right, I’ll call my own shots – absolutely Janet Jackson
  • So I like what I see when I’m looking at me when I’m walking past the mirror – that’s keeping our heads on straight Mary J Blige
  • Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I got stamina and I see another mountain to climb – you’re free to be the greatest Sia
  • I’m holding on to my freedom, can’t take it away from me – yes we can live our lives like they’re golden Jill Scott

And finally with Beyonce’s lyrics in mind – it’s time to get your perfectly, perfect selves in formation because girls run this world.

Who are we? What we run? The world.

Rise up!


Get off the side lines and run the world – today – our futures depend on it!


Graphics courtesy of Blackpaint Studios

Because I’m Happy!

Happy for those who use their voice and their art on a national platform to be the change they want for the world:

  • Domestic abuse survivor Brooke Axtell using spoken word. Her voice making a powerful statement to raise awareness of the insipid violence, especially against women.  She closed with these words:

“Your voice will save you. Let it extend into the night.  Let it part the darkness.  Let is set you free to know who you truly are – valuable, beautiful, loved.”

  • Prince’s words prior to announcing the album of the year winner:

“Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

When we do our work, when we make our art, #ItsOnUs, as POTUS says in his message, “to go as far as our talents and dreams will take us.”

Whether standing on or off a national platform, when you go as far as your talents and dreams will take your perfectly perfect self, you can and will be the change you want for the world.

Be Happy! Be the Change! Glory for All!

Arrested Voices

Wisconsin’s state capitol.  12 noon.  Monday – Friday.  Everyday. Since Friday, March 11, 2011.  The Solidarity Sing Along.  A gathering of peaceful voices singing for change.

BFF's summer 2011 field trip

BFF’s summer 2011 field trip

I’ve been fortunate enough to lend my voice to the Solidarity Sing Along on a number of occasions.  An experience so powerful that it eventually evolved into a summer field trip for my daughter and her BFF so they could unite in song and witness democracy.

Rebecca Kemble, a reporter for The Progressive Magazine, wrote today about the Solidarity Sing Along.  What is unusual about Rebecca’s article is that her parents are the center piece of her reporting.  They have been lending their voices to this peaceful gathering designed to create conversation and change.  Rebecca’s parents’ advocacy, passion and voices for change were upended today.  Beneath the majestic rotunda of the people’s house, Rebecca’s parents were arrested – for singing.

As I read what Rebecca had written about her parents and their peaceful advocacy, I wondered what it would be like to see your elderly parents arrested and their hands cuffed behind their backs for singing their truth.  It also has me wondering if I have the strength of my convictions to sing my truth and risk being an arrested voice.  How about you?

Coffee Makes You Black

In terms of context, this post was written in the early evening hours of Saturday, July 13 prior to the Trayvon Martin case being decided.  My original plan was to have posted Sunday morning after a final proofing.  Other than some minor proofing changes, below are my thoughts after attending Kwabena Antione Nixon’s “Eye Write What Eye See” book event.

On Saturday I hurried to finish my chores and errands so I could attend the debut of Kwabena Antoine Nixon’s first book, “Eye Write What Eye See.”  Kwabena is best known for his advocacy work among African-American youth and as a powerful spoken word artist.

Kwabena's first book

Kwabena’s first book

Kwabena’s book signing was only a few miles from my home.  Sadly, I needed to plug the address into GPS.  You see, my destination, Coffee Makes You Black, was beyond the not-so-imaginary line that makes our city of Milwaukee one of the most segregated in the country.

During my short drive, I listened to radio reporters detail the Trayvon Martin case as the jury deliberated behind closed doors.  The media speculated on what the jury may or may not be discussing as I crossed the line between predominately white and predominately black.  My thoughts though were on the violent end of Trayvon’s life and the risks associated with being young and black in our country.

With Trayvon and his family on my heart, I walked into the coffee shop.  I sat down and listened to Kwabena tell his story of growing up as young black male on Chicago’s west side… his father murdered when he was 11, his mother strung out on drugs leaving him in the care of his grandmother, his aunts, uncles and cousins.  He talked about the constant fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The very real prospect of being killed… the continual sadness of another friend or family member being gunned down.

In contrast to his untenable circumstances, Kwabena was surrounded by the grace of his family, friends, teachers (both good and bad) and his beloved grandmother who always put her family first.  Together their voices supported his big dream:  to become a poet and a writer.   He spoke of how important his grandmother’s voice was in shaping his path and her examples for walking it boldly.  Today, despite a path riddled with danger, Kwabena is living his dream and is a published author, poet and activist using his words and his voice for the greater good of all.

While the energy, love and excitement that filled the coffee shop were palpable, I walked out feeling despondent.  Throughout the telling of Kwabena’s story, I tried to comprehend the life that he and so many others in the room had experienced under the same sky that I call America and Kwabena writes about as AmeriKKKa.  A country where the rules are different if your skin isn’t white.  A country where being young and black is an unforgiving and unsafe place.  A place where running out for Skittles is a death sentence.

Coffee Makes You Black.  Despite the coffee shop’s name, coffee will never make me black.  I will never know what it is to be black in our country.  And I will never know what it is to be a black mother and raise a black child in this country.

What I do know is,  I want to strive for peace and understanding to help bridge these imaginary dividing lines that exist in communities across this globe because as my mother taught my sister and me from an early age, “we are all God’s children.”  I want to do this because I believe and have faith in an America where everyone has a fair shot – no matter what.

While coffee won’t make you black, white, brown or any other color, it can be the medium in which we begin to build peace and understanding one cup of coffee and one brother and sister at a time.  Just like Kwabena is.

Happy 50th!

One-half century ago today, a young expatriate couple living in Europe, welcomed the first of two daughters into the world.

As they navigated first-time parenthood in a foreign country, were they aware of their voices?  Voices of never-ending love and support?  Voices of positive role-modeling?  Were they aware of their guiding voices?  Their words set the foundation for a value system; all integral components of what I now recognize as my voice journey.

My parents continued using their voices to set strong examples for my sister and me:  their commitment as Sunday school teachers… my mother’s creativity and energy as co-leader for Girl Scout Troop 637… my parents’ friendship and support to a young Air Force pilot who flew one of the last American military transport flights out of Vietnam… my parents teaching us to be kind to everyone in thought, word and deed… my mother standing strong with her teacher colleagues as they struck during tense contract negotiations… my parents teaching us to take responsibility for mistakes, learn from them and then move forward.

Even today, their voices remain strong as parents, grandparents, and active members of their community and church.  I am grateful for all my parents have done to guide and support me as my voice has taken shape over the years.

Today, that first daughter turns 50!  (Isn’t this something that just happens to other people?!!)

So now, how to celebrate?  For months, it was all about the “big party.”  And then something changed.  I started giving voice to the things I believe in.  I lobbied against Pence in DC, I marched in Madison, I got political on Facebook and Twitter, I door-knocked for candidates, I called and wrote elected officials – I got out of my comfort zone.

I began listening more intently to the voices of others.  Dasha Kelly’s powerful spoken word, advocating for change and social justice.  A new friend Barbara, who celebrated her 80th birthday with gifts to Planned Parenthood – a cause to which she’s been giving voice since the early Sixties.  And the amazing voices from Michele Woodward’s virtual birthday party, during which women shared their wisdom for turning 50.

As I thought about how I might celebrate sans the big party, I recalled my father taking me to see Mary Poppins the night my sister was born, and how Mrs. Banks’ effusive rendition of “Sister Suffragettes” planted a seed in the mind of an almost four year-old girl.  From that seed grew a passionate voice for women and equality.  And so today, on my 50th birthday, I stand strong with Planned Parenthood.

Yet the question remains: how to celebrate?  My birthday wish is that you’ll join me in celebrating the voices who are working to keep all people safe, healthy and strong with a gift to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, whether it’s $5 or $50.  Barbara has raised over $2,000 during her birthday celebration – what might our voices do together?

Here’s to celebrating a half-century, and the power of our collective voices!