Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What Did Last Night Mean?

I’ve tried to put the Pollyanna spin on this year’s midterms but I was disappointed. For sure Democrats gained 27 seats, potentially nine more (23 House races remain undetermined). But am I supposed to be happy about gains that were less than half of the 63 Republicans gained in 2010, Osama’s first mid-terms. And, in the Senate, the Repugs picked up seats. In 2010 Dems lost six. 
What did energize me was how many women ran and were elected. This was the second year of the woman. The first was in 1992, following the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation by an all male, all white confirmation committee. Pissed off women organized and, for the first time in American history, in a single election year four women—Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, both from California making it the first state in the nation to be represented in the Senate by two women, Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois, and Patty Murray of Washington—were elected to the Senate. And the House got fourteen. 
Women smashed records this election cycle. More ran, more became their party’s nominees for House, Senate and gubernatorial races—women more than doubled gains made in 1992. The House will get thirty-five new female members. Eleven women were elected to the Senate (nearly all Democrats). And nine women won gubernatorial races. White men will be at historic lows in the 116thCongress—60% in the House, 71% in the Senate. And January’s congressional makeup will be more diverse. Africans Americans, Hispanics, Asians and the L.G.B.T. community are at record highs. Plus, for the first time, two native Native American women and two Muslim women were elected to the house, and Vermont elected a Transgender woman governor. The Senate, for the first time, reflects the American population.
And both sides were energized. In early September, it looked like the Democrats were doing a better job of energizing their base. Then the Kavnaugh hearing happened. Demonstrations against his appointment invigorated the Republicans. An estimated 113 million people voted in this midterm, 13 million more than the previous high.
Plus there was no overriding theme—far right, far left or centrist. Results of the midterms mirrored the divided country—split along race, education, and geographic lines. The schism of what America and is and should is more splintered than it’s been during my lifetime.
Progress was made but it’s gonna be slow. I’ve yet to master patience so this pace is infuriating. At this rate I won’t live long enough to see the US get back to the place we were in the 70s, the time I came of age. I thought we were moving toward inclusivity. Was I wrong? Was I naive? It doesn’t matter. It’s where I thought we were and at this pace in all likelihood, I won’t live long enough to see us get there again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Little Sad

I was surprised that I felt a little sad when Bill Cosby was carted off to jail. When he took off his jacket, before they cuffed him, he was thin. His suspenders weren’t a fashion statement, they were holding up too-big pants. He could afford a tailor. He was playing us—always the performer, creating an image that might evoke sympathy. Not only was he guilty but remorseless. Yet there was an empathetic moment when they cuffed this feeble, old man.
I discussed this with a friend. We both knew that he was guilty but still had this moment when we saw him handcuffed and taken off to jail. What saddened us was his fall.
I was a teen when Cosby became the first Black actor to co-star in a leading dramatic role on network television, I Spy. He got an Emmy Award for playing Robert Culp’s eunich sidekick. As Culp romanced everyone, Cosby, fine as he was, didn’t get to kiss a girl until the last season. 
During the blaxploitation era, Cosby paired with Harry Belefonte who, frustrated with how Hollywood portrayed black men in film and television, spearheaded three Black comedies—Uptown Saturday Night(1974), Let's Do It Again (1975)and A Piece of the Action (1977). These low-budget movies were box offices successes and depicted Blacks in a more dignified manner. They showed Black characters taking charge of their own lives and reflected the self-empowerment theme of the Black Power Movement.
Then in ’84 Bill gave us The Cosby Showthat radically changed white America’s perception of us Blacks. These were not Norman Lear’s Black folk—the lower-income, project dwellers, trying to make the best of things, in Goodtimes, or the nouveau riche, loud-mouthed, opinionated George Jefferson. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both of these shows but cheered the first time I saw The Cosby Show, an upper-middle class African-American family like people I’d grown up among in my hometown, Atlanta, Georgia. Cliff (Cosby) and Clair (Felicia Rashad) Huxtable were professionals, a doctor and lawyer respectively, raising their five children in their Brooklyn brownstone that housed Cliff’s office on the ground floor. Everyone loved the Huxtables. Cliff became one of the most popular dads in television history. The Cosby show rocked the ratings and ran for eight seasons. When it went into syndication, Bill donated twenty million dollars to my mother’s alma mater, Spelman College
I could continue listing Cosby’s numerous accomplishments—his book on parenting, Fatherhood, sold millions of copies and became a best seller. He was also drugging and sexually assaulting women. He deserved everything he got. But this dichotomy dispays me.
And where was Camille?

Monday, September 3, 2018


A few days before Aretha died, a friend who grew up in Detroit told me she probably wouldn’t make the week. I tried to pooh-pooh it but my friend said, “Cyn, Aretha’s down to ninety-two pounds.” So, I was expecting it, but still wasn’t prepared.
I pulled up all of Aretha’s cuts on my playlist and made her the background of my day. I searched the Internet for her discography. “What was the first Aretha song I heard?” Damn, I hadn’t remembered that it was Mama, not me, who first brought Aretha into our house—yesterday I sang a love song, today I sing the blues. Aretha wasn’t singing my kind of music during her Columbia days. I was in high school then. My musical pallet didn’t expand to include the jazzy blues she recorded at Columbia until I was in my late twenties. 
Aretha became my girl when she moved to Atlantic Records. “Respect” rocked my freshman year at New York University. And “Natural Woman” was how my first love was making me feel sophomore year. 
I remembered Aretha with Don Cornelius on Soul Train. Seeing her close out the 25thAnnual Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. Aretha taking the stage, time and time again, in her fur coat that she let fall to the ground when she was getting ready to cut loose. Teena Marie giving the knock out performance at BET’s tribute concert to Aretha fifteen years ago.
People who’d known Aretha were interviewed all day August sixteenth, the day we lost her. The one I felt most was Smokey’s on CBS This Morning. He spoke of hearing Aretha for the first time when she was five. Smokey said she was still planning to record when he visited her five weeks before her death.
Before I could post this blog Randy Weston died, a master pianist who synthesized African elements with jazz. Composer and vibraphonist Cecilia Smith posted this on Facebook. “They both possessed a unique gift of music that reached levels that does not come through practice! Both brought a transcendental power into the room when they performed, that was beyond the definition of amazing.”
So many musical holes. Whose gonna fill them?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

So You Didn’t Vote

Or you threw your vote away voting for the Green candidate, which at best was symbolic. And those of you who voted Green do you see the irony in that now? You helped elect a president who doesn’t even believe in climate change.
I knew I was pissed after the election at Bernie supporters who didn’t vote or voted Green. I was never going to agree with what they’d done but I thought I’d gotten over the pissed off part. Then a few days I exploded when a progressive said, If the democrats hadn’t stopped Berne from getting the nomination, we wouldn’t have Trump.
I barked back, No we wouldn’t because Hilary supporters no matter what we thought of Bernie would have voted for him. We wouldn’t have taken the chance that Trump might get elected or that the Supreme Court might go to the extreme right. 
Clearly I was still pissed.
Forbes, among other news sources, credited the low Democratic turnout for Trump’s win. In Michigan alone, Clinton received 300,000 less votes than Obama did in 2012. As we watch the dismantling of environmental regulations, watch as the far right embraces racism and bigotry, watch as the president constantly vilifies the press, don’t you wish you’d voted in 2016?
I have been watching news reports this week that say only 30% of millennials are planning to vote in November. Many more demonstrate, often. They care enough to march but won’t vote? WTF? I don't get this. Just like I didn’t get when Susan Sarandon said (and I’m paraphrasing) that maybe a Trump presidency would be a way at shake up the country. Well he certainly did that. Is this what you wanted Ms. Sarandon? I
Yeah, I’m still pissed, and maybe a little irrational. But I hope that all of you who sat out 2016 will vote in November.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Little Bit Right

Did he think we weren’t going to care? Did Trump believe Americans wouldn’t care that he was separating children from their parents? If he thought about it at all I’m sure he thought, Why should Americans care what happened to immigrant babies?He’d been able to get away with everything else. I’m sure he thought he’d get away with this too.
Thank God he was wrong. We did care. It wasn’t just Amy Goodman and Rachel Maddow and other leftists. Women and men on both sides of the aisle demanded this barbaric practice stop. When he ended it, close to 2,500 children had been separated. No more parents would lose their kids at the border but no immediate plans were made to reunite those who’d already been separated. And they didn’t know who the some of the children’s parents were. When they took these children from their parents, they didn’t care if they were ever reunited.
As this unfolded, frequently I thought of the play Robert Schenkkan wrote in a response to Trump’s election,Building the Fall. The play begins two years following Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s policies have resulted in the mass round up of millions of illegal aliens whose numbers have overflowed into private prisons and camps reminiscent of other interments—the Japanese, the Germans. I didn’t want to do the play because I thought it was too far-fetched. I thought the play would shake things up, ignite conversation but I never believed any part of it was possible. I agreed to do it because I wanted to add my energy to the resistance.
Trump’s roundup was a pittance of the numbers Schenkkan imagined. But it happened, Trump started rounding up people at southern border, many who are assylm seekers not illegals. If they hadn’t separated parents from children, would be have noticed. Would we have cared? Could the numbers have grown to exponentionally  if families had remained intact.
Just asking …

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


“Not Morgan.” I thought. “He’s also part of this Me Too  shit?”
The CNN article posted on my FB feed said eight women had accused him, seven of these for lewd comments and inappropriate stares. Employees at his production company, described him as thecreepy uncle. Hell, I thought when I read this; I’ve been dealing with the creepy uncles since I was eight or nine. Grown ass men, some old enough to me my granddaddy, would leer and say the most disgusting things to me when I ran to the store on a hot summer day in shorts. Was I easily able to forgive Morgan for this because I’d been dealing with it all my life? Hell southern women my age had a name for it, “men who talked up under your dress.” We laughed about it and moved on. But I remembered how I felt the first time one of them said something about wanting to get in-between my magnificent thighs. Girls shouldn’t have to experience that, women either.
One woman accused Morgan of unwanted touching. Although he never succeeded, she asserted, he would touch and/or rub her lower back and try to lift up her skirt, asking, are you wearing underwear?Unacceptable. Not of the Harvey Weinstein magnitude but not okay.
Higher on the not okay spectrum was the allegation (2006 National Enquirer) that Morgan had a romantic relationship with E’dena Hines, his step-granddaughter, which alleged began when she was a teenager in his household. This allegation periodically resurfaced, most recently during her murder trail, E’dena was stabbed to death in 2015, by her boy friend Lamar Davenport. 
It is hard for me to believe this about Morgan. Someone I met, during his Electric Company days, more than once. My perception was, nice man. But you’d probably think the same thing after you met a sexual predator? They would be charming, right? Cosby was, I’d met him.
And if it was true, that Morgan had had an inappropriate sexual relationship with his step-grand daughter, does that automatically make him a sexual predator? Where’s the line?
Generationally the line is different. Most of us baby-boomer women take the talking up under your dress shit in stride. I’d learned to deflect with some smartass response by the time I was twenty. Sometimes I think millennials are too thin skinned and then feel guilty for having that thought. Since the goal of my generation was to make it easier for our kids, consequently doesn’t that make them softer?
 A conundrum cycle, one question leads to another.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

I'm Nervous

Trump’s approval rating is up four points since January. It’s at 40%, the highest it’s been since his first 100 days in office. People have a few extra dollars in their paychecks, not because they got raises, salaries are for the most part flat, but because of tax cuts. Who cares that the already astronomical deficit will be kicked into the stratosphere or worries about the environmental consequences of the loosened regulation? The scrapped environmental regulations will be good for manufacturing. Hell some coalmines have reopened. 
Trump followers are about the here and now. They’re not picture folk.
Last month the White House confirmed the planned meeting between the United States and North Korean. What kind of ratings boost will Trump’s get from that? And yesterday North and South Korea talked and agreed to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. I know Trump will convince his supporters that he’s responsible that too. He works on the premise that if you say something long enough loudly, it becomes truth.
Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election in Alabama in December; Dems picked up seats in Florida and New Hampshire in February; Lamb defeated his Republican opponent Saccone in March. They are united and energized by their shared disgust for Trump. But what do they stand for? If Democrats don’t refine their pitch to alienated white voters, Trump could win re-election.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Don't Click

I’m secretive. I don’t know if it’s my natural inclination or did it evolve because I’m an only and didn’t have a confidence-sharing sibling. Or am I secretive because, I moved to George School, a non-trusting environment, when I was thirteen. Regardless of the reason, I keep my own counsel; don’t share personal stuff with many people. I read my FB feed daily, it’s the way I keep up with friends and family who don’t live close, but seldom post personal information.

How is FB monetized? Nothing’s free but we don’t pay a fee for our accounts. Of course there are the ads, targeted to our interests, but what else? All those sites that wanna collect your personal information? What do they do with it? Every time I clicked on something that asked if they could collect additional information on me, I opted out.

Some of my FB friends were ballistic about the Cambridge Analytica data breech, furious that it took Zuckerberg several days to respond. What could he say beyond we fucked and propose new measures he hopes will work? The uses and misuses of social media seem to expand exponentially each month. How do you stay ahead of that curve? Whoopi’s solution one morning on The View was don’t click.

But it’s too late. I was shocked to learn how much algorithms learn about us exclusively from our “like” clicks. I didn’t click any likes on FB for several days after I read that article. But what does stopping now accomplish? They’ve already accrued too much information.

Monday, January 22, 2018


I started looking for it at sixty, signs that my body was starting to decline. Really at fifty-nine but I wasn’t looking for decline that year, I was semi-anticipating death. Mama died when she was fifty-nine. She had cancer; had finally lost an almost twenty year fight. I was healthy—I’d had every imaginable test the month I turned fifth-nine. Everything was fine. Still I thought, kinda, that I could die that year.

I didn’t and sixty was a great year. Maybe I wasn’t lunging quite as deep in warrior pose at yoga class but otherwise it was damned good. A very dear friend gave me a belated sixtieth birthday trip to NYC that summer—plays, great food and old friends. And I lost the last of the weight I’d gained from steroids I took thirteen before ago following spine surgery. A friend asked me to test his new weight lost product. It worked. I lost that ten (the steroids had added twenty), plus ten more. Was down to a weight I hadn’t been since I was forty. It made me flirty. I immediately connected with my girl. I didn’t know how to find her in a fuller body—as much as I’ve tried to embrace my plumper self; I hadn’t gotten there yet. Lean, not thin, is what feels good to me.

Nothing changed until sixty-three, my blood pressure spiked and I couldn’t bring it down with diet and natural supplements. I hated being a cliché—a black woman with hypertension. Hated that something in my body was so out of wack that it could only be controlled with daily medicine.

At sixty-five I was thicker, nine maybe ten pounds, close to five pounds more than I swore would be my maximum when I’d dropped the weight five years before.  I was taking yoga, three, four times a week—hot yoga at that, dripping sweat after class, wet down to my ropa interior. I wasn’t eating more and still I was expanding. Shit, could I never have a glass or two of wine, a small bag of chips, the occasional dessert without weighing more than I thought was ideal? I comforted myself, or tried to, with, but I’m firm. The thighs were a little juicy but taming them had always been a rough.

My right knee started to bother me mid sixty-six. Diet and exercise can help with lots of things but not your joints. And joints get a workout in this town, cobblestones and uneven sidewalks. Curb heights vary. I started cabbing more, going to yoga less. After a few months my knee stopped bothering me or did it just recede to the background because another pain took center stage? Nerve pain. I’d been down that road before. It had ended with spine surgery and I wasn’t doing that again. By that time I went to the doctor I wasn’t doing any yoga, was hardly walking and was big as a house.

Body breakdown—this wasn’t supposed to happen to me—miss organic, miss keep-the-body-moving (African dance until I had to give up aerobics, yoga after that). I was older now, didn’t want to undertake another big fight. But what was the alternative? I put on my boxing gloves.