All posts for the month September, 2014

Learning while Mommying

Published September 12, 2014 by hrhdana

My daughter started school this week. For the first time in her life I sent her in to the company of strangers without me. It was terrifying but necessary. I have been blessed to have my Mom watch her since I returned to work after her birth and for 2 years and 11 months I didn’t worry one bit during the hours that I had to be away from her to make a living. I knew she was fine. I trust my Mom implicitly. I never worried. I was jealous. lol I wished I could be the one taking her to the park and teaching her songs and soaking up her kisses but I was never worried.  Sending my baby to someone I didn’t know was terrifying. Did I mention that already?

I had every intention of leaving her with my Mom until she started kindergarten. Maybe we would do a half day program or something when she was four but definitely not before then. But Nia (that’s my daughter) wanted to go to school. For 4 months she begged me to go to school. “I want to make friends mama. I’m big now mama. I want to learn things Mommy.” She was relentless. She would bat her beautiful, big brown eyes at me and plead with me. “Pwease can I go to school Mama? Pwease. Pwease. Pwease?”  “When you get bigger,” I would answer patiently. (I hope.) “But I AM bigga,” she would reply stretching her frame to illustrate her point. “I’m bigga NOW Mama.” I prayed about it. I watched her on the playground. She wanted to play but she didn’t know how to get in the game. I would help her. I would prompt her. “Go introduce yourself. Tell them your name and ask what their name is. ASK if you can play.” Kids were cool for the most part. She would get in the game and the joy, the absolute joy on her face was heart stopping.  It was time.

So we picked a school. It is the right combination of loving daycare and school prep. It’s located in a wonderful woman’s home. Nia’s god brother is in her class and her god mother has known the owner of the school for over 20 years.  We visited. Nia was excited. I was still terrified. I tried to hide it from Nia. I prayed continually. I asked 500 questions. I over-prepared. We got books from the library about school. We talked it up. We sang songs. We practiced independence. A week before she was scheduled to start Nia announced that she had, “changed my mind. I doan want to go to school.” Say what little girl? Huh? You are GOING to school. LOL I chalked it up to nerves. We talked about being nervous and how it’s okay to be scared when we do something new but it shouldn’t stop us from doing it. We painted pictures of the new adventures and friends that school would bring and how much she would love it. Nia was not convinced. “No school. I wanna stay with Mema.”

The first day we drove with Nia’s God parents and God brother so they could walk in together. She was excited to spend the day with him. He’s one of her favorite little people in the world. We walked in and she immediately changed her tune. “No Mama! Don’t leave me here! Pwease mama nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” she wailed. I held back tears. I calmed her down a little, said goodbye and left to the sounds of her crying and being held by her teacher. I had taken the day off so I went home and counted the hours until I could go and get her. When we walked in to the classroom she was sitting on the rug listening to a story. She looked over at me and my Mom (yes we BOTH went to get her-lol) but she didn’t react. She didn’t run to us. She didn’t smile. She just sat there and looked at us.  Her teacher brought her over to us and she submitted to our hugs and kisses. LOL My baby looked shell shocked.

The next day was worse. The teacher had to peel her off of me at drop off kicking, screaming, crying and begging me not to go. I cried my entire way to work. Wednesday and Thursday was more of the same. But in the afternoons when my Mom went to get her she never wanted to leave. She wanted to, “stay a little longer,” or “finish making this” So, she was engaged and liking it when she there. This went a LONG way to soothe my Mommy soul. Last night she and I had a conversation at bedtime. I told her that she is going to school. That is not going to change. She is going to go to school and I am going to go to work. It’s just the way that it is. BUT, I told her. You DO have a choice. You can choose to be sad and miserable every morning and cry or you can choose to make the best of it and have fun. When you feel sad just think about something fun that you get to do at school. She didn’t reply. I didn’t know if it made any sense. I didn’t know if it was over her little head. My kid is smart but she IS a toddler. I forget that often, because she is so smart. So I dropped it.

This morning as we approached the school she started getting herself worked up. I reminded her of her choice. I didn’t empathize as I had been all week. I was matter of fact about it. I rested her choice on her shoulders and let her know I was unaffected whichever way she chose. I watched my baby choose joy. I watched her physically shake off the sad and resolve NOT to cry. I watched her hug and kiss me and walk in to her classroom with dry eyes. I wanted to pump my fist. I am so proud of her. I hope today was her best day yet.

I also realized that as much as I might believe I was hiding my anxiety she probably felt it. She knew Mommy was scared and it fed her fears. I learn from being her Mommy every single day. Sometimes I have to travel down the wrong road for a while before I find my way but she is always watching me. She is always learning from me. I hope I’m teaching her that it’s okay to make a U-turn. It’s okay to be afraid and shoulder on. It’s okay to choose joy, even when you are nervous. And I hope I’m teaching her that she is loved no matter what she chooses.

This Mommy thing…the training is on the job huh? lol

Thanks for reading.


Published September 12, 2014 by hrhdana

In the arms of my sisters

I find

love and comfort

healing and understanding

honesty and freedom.

In the arms of my sisters

the literal and metaphorical

arms and sisters

I heal.


I love you for many reasons

but my sisters


My sisters

they understand.

We fight on two fronts

gender and race

and in the face

of the hurts unique to this intersection

I need my sister’s attention

and affection.

Hold me sisters

lean in to my arms reaching out to you

together we always make it through.

A sister will always see

won’t ask

just walk over and take the baby from me

talking about, “go get you something to eat.”

My sisters see.

They relieve me.

No asking.

They know I would refuse

wearing my strong woman suit.

So they step in,

stand in,

lean in

to the gap.

They fill in where I lack.

They have my back.

In the arms of my sisters

I heal

I rest up

to fight another day.

We laugh

We smile

We refuel.

We live.

We love.

We lean in.

In the arms of my sisters

I find

love and comfort

healing and understanding

honesty and freedom.

In the arms of my sisters

the literal and metaphorical

arms and sisters

I heal.

Our love is real.


Artwork “Sisterhood”  by Glenn Daniels

There but for the Grace of God….

Published September 9, 2014 by hrhdana

For the last 48 hours I have felt like an open wound. TV, internet, radio, conversations on the bus….everywhere I turn I have heard people talking about Janay and Ray Rice. I don’t know them. I don’t purport to know their situation. I only know mine.

I grew up in a two parent home. My parents are married to this day. They are excellent parents. They love me. They gave me every opportunity and encouragement that good parents give to their children. My Daddy has brought me a valentine for every year that I have been on this Earth. We had Daddy/daughter times on the regular where he showed me how a man should treat a lady. I have never seen him raise his hand to my Mom or visa versa. My family is love. My extended family is chock full of loving marriages and long term relationships as well as strong women who left situations that did not work for them and taught me why.

I still found myself in abusive relationships. Yes. Me. I have spent my entire life wanting someone to love me. Not just any someone, a man someone. I wanted to be a part of a we all of my life. I made some really horrific decisions in the pursuit of this goal. In the face of a romantic partner I lost all of the strength and the intelligence and backbone that my parents taught me. See, I thought men didn’t like strong. I thought men wanted their woman to be a reflection of them. I twisted myself in to pretzel formations trying to be what I thought “they” wanted. And when I missed the mark punishment seemed almost appropriate to me. I mean, it was better than being left right? Now I had a chance to try again. Now I would remember not to do “that” thing again, right?

I worked my way up the abusive partner scale. I started with men who verbally abused and controlled. I graduated to men who beat me bloody. Along the way I lost any connection to the me I was born and raised to be. Along the way I had no clue who I was when I wasn’t part of a “we”. I was kryptonite to healthy, well adjusted and emotionally available men. They smelled my desperation a mile away. My collection of exes could keep a therapist in business for years.

The crazy part is I was an amazing friend. lol I had a life full of people who loved me and could not for the life of them understand why I dated the losers that I did. They begged me to leave. They threw up their hands in complete exasperation when I defended the men who hurt me mind, body and soul. They saw the train coming at me miles before I did. They lamented that someone so smart could be so stupid. So often when I found myself lying under the tracks of the train they told me was coming I hid. I was ashamed. I didn’t want them to be right. I blamed myself. If only I had listened to them. If only I didn’t wear that. If only, If only, If only….

I never saw myself as the victim. I always shouldered the blame. If only I could be better, smarter, prettier, sexier, more interesting…then he wouldn’t hit me.

damn it I’m crying.

I hear so many people blaming Janay. I hear so many people saying that the fact that she married him absolves Ray Rice of spitting on her, beating her like a man, dragging her unconscious body. They ask, “what did SHE do?” My soul weeps.

Domestic violence is a multilateral thing. Abuse can break you down to the point where you don’t even  have an identity without your abuser. Enough blows to the head and body can leave you feeling culpable for your own abuse. But here is the thing…it is NEVER your fault. Do you know how I truly learned that lesson? I learned it from a REAL man. Not the facsimiles I had been dating all of my life. I learned it when I did something that made him so angry and so hurt that he wanted badly to hurt me back. And I expected him to. I steeled myself, closed my eyes and waited for the blows to come. When I opened my eyes he was gone.

He left.

He left to cool off. He left before he did something that he never would have forgiven  himself for. He left because even though the thing I had done was pretty damn awful he would never have made it right by doing something equally awful. And as I sat there in HIS empty house I realized that nothing I had ever done before had made it okay for any of those other men to hurt me. Nothing. It was a complex moment. I was so sorry for what I had done. I was pretty angry at myself for hurting this man but at the same time I had this overwhelming ah-ha moment that changed my life and set me free.

I don’t know how different my life would have been without that moment. See, I believe on some level I was doing things to MAKE this man, this GOOD man hit me. On some level I was waiting for him to PROVE that he loved me by hurting me. Do you see how sick I was? Me. A person raised in a healthy and loving family. I was sick. My very mind was sick.

People who have never been in this place may never understand. They scream, “why didn’t she leave?” “Why did she marry him?” “If someone hit me I would……” They don’t understand. Their lack of understanding doesn’t stop their pontificating. Their lack of understanding doesn’t wound any less for those of us who DO understand.

There but for the Grace of God go I. There but for the Grace. I don’t know Janay but I understand a little of how her “love” works. I understand her Instagram post. I pray for her safety tonight. I pray that the same media that she condemns will keep the animal that she lives with from hurting her. I pray that they both get help so that their daughter doesn’t grow up in this sickness.



Published September 6, 2014 by hrhdana

This weekend I spent some time talking with a fellow artist/activist at a show. He shared with me that recent events have him depressed and that he doesn’t know what to do about it. In my set I had done pieces for Eric Garner and Mike Brown, then I finished with a piece I wrote for Sean Bell. He lamented that all of those pieces were relevant today. “I feel like I’ve been working so hard. We’ve been marching so long and we just aren’t getting anywhere. The work feels so pointless.” His words broke my heart in to a million little pieces because of their truth. It does feel pointless. I purposely chose to present my pieces in the order that I presented them so that people would FEEL what I am feeling.

I am weary. I am frightened. I feel impotent. I feel powerless to effect change.  I have engaged in every avenue of protest available to me over the years. I have called prosecutors. I have marched. I have sat in. I have written to senators and chiefs of police. I have called elected officials. I have boycotted. I have spoken until I am hoarse. I have written enough poetry to fill volumes. I have reached across the racial aisle. I have sought to teach and to explain and to be relate-able.  I have tried so hard. I have watched my friends try so hard.

And still…Mike Brown laid dead in the street for over FOUR hours.

And, as if that outrage wasn’t enough when the people raged they sent in tanks. They trained machine guns on civilians. They tear gassed peaceful protesters. They provoked people who were hurting and angry and just fed the fuck up. Then they hid their hands and laughed when those people rioted. “Look at those animals,” they snickered. People I know. People I respected. People who are the same color as me as well as people who aren’t said, “Those people make us look bad.” I ask you if the murder of an innocent isn’t a rage worthy occasion please tell me what is?

I watched the media pack up their bags and leave. I watched them and I knew the world would turn the channel as soon as CNN left. But I knew Ferguson wasn’t giving up. Leaving Mike Mike’s body in the street, shooting him down like a dog was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I watch Mike’s mother and father on T.V. and I literally FEEL their pain. His Mom can barely stand straight because the pain is so heavy on her. His father’s grief captured graveside is an image that will stay with me until I close my eyes for the very last time.

Something has to give. Something has to change.

We are hurting. Justice minded people are hurting so badly. My very talented friend is hurting so badly. His words have been stolen from him because the pain is so deep.

I recently had a conversation with someone I know. She asked me if the relationship between police and my community was really as bad as they were saying on TV or if it was only like that in bad neighborhoods? I respected her for asking. I tried to explain. I gave her examples. I told of friends who attended Ivy League schools and were still stopped by cops. I said, “I had a friend who used to keep his Princeton I.d. in front of his license so that when he was stopped by the police he could show he was a good nigger and maybe get out of the interaction alive.” She visibly recoiled at my use of the word Nigger. “Why would you say that word? Why would you use that word? I have never used that word.” I laughed. Because as much as she really did want to understand the word had more impact on her than Mike Brown’s dead body in the street. I used the word on purpose in the conversation. Why hide behind polite words when discussing the ugliness of our society? Why? It is EXACTLY what my friend thought when he slid that ivy league identification card over his license. It is exactly what those cops thought each time they pulled him over. It is exactly what I feel when I’m followed in a store or asked to prove that I can afford something. It is exactly the message sent when my entire community is hurting and the white world around me doesn’t even seem to register that pain. Nigger. Less than. Unimportant. Nigger.

It seems to me that some people think they aren’t racist if they have never used the word. I would rather they use it every moment of every day if it would foster HONEST conversation and change. These conversations should shock.

There is a HUGE segment of our population hurting and living in absolute fear. Why would nigger be more shocking than that?