Broken

Published June 18, 2015 by hrhdana

Literally paralyzed by grief
Tears sting
Can’t see.
On my way to work
No peace.
Bus comes
Can’t move
Not safe
What do I do?
He sat in church and prayed
Watched little kids play
Said amen
Heard the Word
Then opened fire.

I can imagine the confusion
The
screaming
begging
pleading.
He reloads.
No soul.

Little girl plays dead
Five years old.
How did she know?
I can’t stop crying
Don’t ask me to
Unreasonable

Bus comes 30 minutes later.
I rise
Wet eyes
Board a bus
Full of us
The only place I’ll hear our grief today.

Broken

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The Black experience

Published June 17, 2015 by hrhdana

So the topic of the moment is “the Black experience” and what that means. I’m not even going to get started on how that conversation is only happening because a white woman tried to co-opt Blackness.  I’m not going to mention that the only reason that some White people are even ASKING this question is because they are fascinated and appalled that someone WANTED to be Black. I’m not going to talk about how this question being asked and answered is steeped in white supremacy and systematic racism. Nope. I’m not going to talk about any of that. Nope. Not today.

I do want to talk about the Black experience. I want to describe it. I want to explain why it can’t be stolen. I want to explain why it isn’t a costume a person can put on and become real.

Black childhood is an integral part of Black experience. We all start off innocent. Race is something children see but it doesn’t impact them. It’s just what we are. I watch my almost 4 year old play with her friends of different races and ethnicities and the differences don’t matter to them.  They might remark on differences in skin tone or hair color but there is no malice in it. Kids are kids. Race is irrelevant unless they have been taught that it is not.  As we grow up and interact with the world we bump up against the world at large and it’s perceptions of race. I remember the first time I heard the n word. I was in 3rd grade. I came home and asked my Mom what it meant. I knew it was an insult from the way the person said it but I didn’t know why.

Depending on how the world highlights your Blackness to you it molds us all differently. Some of us strive for acceptance, some fight and indict the entire system, some try to assimilate, some give up. Having your innocence broken by the racist systems of this country is a part of MOST if not all Black coming of age stories. I remember the first time a teacher hurled my Blackness at me in the classroom. I remember the feeling. I remember realizing that this person didn’t like me simply because of the color of my skin. I remember the hurt. I remember it vividly. I can tell you what color his tie was. That’s how vividly I remember it.

To be Black in America is to be simultaneously hated and envied by others. The Black experience is beautiful in our enclaves where we eat great food, laugh, listen to music, support each other and speak life to each other. The Black experience is watching that truth be lost and lied about in main stream media which reduces us to thugs and hoes and claims us all illiterate and illegitimate. To be Black in America is to be held down and held back and made an exception to some racist rule when we succeed in spite of the boots on our neck.

To be Black in America is to start behind the rest of the folks at the starting line. Money can move you closer to the start line. If you come from money and you are Black you get a little closer but you are still Black. You are still starting behind. Does this mean we can’t win? Nope. We prove it all the time. We can and do win in spite of the obstacles in our paths but even on the winner’s podium people will deny that you had to run harder and faster while dodging obstacles your opponents didn’t have. To be Black in America is to be forced to cling to your truth in the knowledge that others may NEVER embrace it.

The Black experience is schizophrenic in many ways. I’m proud and happy and grateful to be a member of this group. But I’m also always in a rage against the many micro and major aggressions we face daily. Have you ever had a drip in your faucet? Those little drops of water can stain your sink basin. Just little drops of water hitting the same spot over and over and over. That’s what microaggressions are like. Things like people touching your hair, questioning your background, being shocked that you attended college, making assumptions about your marital status, asking questions about the hood etc etc etc. These things have a way of constantly othering you.. Constantly letting you know you are different. And most of these are delivered with a smile. If you dare to be angry well then you are overreacting and now you have become the angry Black woman. It’s exhausting ya’ll.

The Black experience is to know that we have no rights that cops or really anyone is bound to accept. The Black experience is feeling unsafe when a police cruiser passes you. The Black experience as a parent is knowing that you can not protect your child from overzealous police officers or neighborhood watch men with guns. It is a powerlessness that renders you impotent. So you instruct your child on ways to survive these encounters, knowing that even compliance will not guarantee their survival.

The Black experience is a choice between white washing our names or knowingly facing housing and employment discrimination.

The Black experience is more than hair or music. The Black experience is more than adopting Black children. The Black experience is NOT a feeling it’s an actual thing. And although there is variety in it (like any other culture) it is a very real thing. You can not co-opt it. You can not wear it like a costume. You can not lie your way in to it. It’s all bad and all good at the same time. And THAT is the truth.

And even writing all of THAT you won’t understand it if you don’t LIVE it

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Broken

Published June 10, 2015 by hrhdana

He kissed her tears softly then pulled back and looked in to her tear filled eyes.

“You know that no one will ever love you like I love you, right? No one will ever see the beauty in your brokenness like I do. It’s okay love. Stop crying now.”

She swallowed hard, trying desperately to stop the tears. She forced a smile on to her face but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“I’m so sorry baby. I’ll go make something else for you right now.”

“No, I’ll go out to eat. I’m sure you will just mess that up too.” He walked to the closet, unbuttoning his shirt as he went. “Don’t wait up for me. I’ll be late.”

“Yes dear,” she answered.

“Dear?” he asked with one eyebrow raised.

“Yes Patrick,” she quickly corrected herself.

As she watched him dress for dinner she wondered what color the lipstick on his collar would be tonight when he came home. She wondered if the perfume she would smell on his shirt later would be recognizable to her. She wondered how she had let her life turn in to this mess. She wondered when she became broken and who was responsible for breaking her. She wondered how she could get out, get away, get free.

She turned her face to his as he quickly kissed her cheek and rushed off, phone to his ear, her presence forgotten already.

She wished she could forget as easily…

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Imagine

Published April 30, 2015 by hrhdana
Imagine
 
You are at work and you get a phone call from your 15 year old child.
“Mommy they let us out of school but there are no buses to get home. Police in riot gear are at the bus stop yelling that we need to leave. Where do I go Mommy? I’m scared.”
 
Imagine.
 
You are sitting at your desk at work when you get this call.
 
Imagine
 
You tell your child to go back inside the school. “I am coming to get you. Go inside the school and wait for me.”
 
Imagine
 
You tell your boss you have to leave. You gather your things. You run to the car that you are lucky enough to own when your phone rings again.
 
“Mommy the school won’t let me back inside. I don’t know what to do.”
 
Imagine
 
As your child cries on the phone your mind races.
“Find a store. Go in the mall. Go somewhere safe. Somewhere inside.”
 
Imagine
 
As you race towards the school your phone rings twice more with your child detailing the places she has been denied entrance. In the background you hear cops screaming, kids screaming and the sickening thud of things banging.
 
Imagine
 
When you get to the area of your child’s school you can not drive in. Streets are closed to traffic. So you park illegally and run the blocks to your child, huddled against a building with 4 of her friends. As you walk them out of the danger zone you see kids with no adult presence for them. You see cops in full riot gear. You hear helicopters. You see a kid throw a rock. You see cops throw rocks back at kids. You are stopped by a cop who wants to know where you are going with these kids.
 
Imagine.
 
You finally get home. You turn on the TV to see that the situation devolved in to the mayhem you knew that it would. The children are being vilified and no one is even interested in the truth.
 
Imagine.
 
Now open your eyes to reality.  THIS HAPPENED! our country. This is what happened in Baltimore. This land is your land. This is the genesis of the “riot” that burned that beloved (sarcasm) CVS to the ground. (May it rest in peace)

This is what greeted 13 to 18 year olds who had planned a peaceful after school protest. THIS!
Protests Continue After Death Of Baltimore Man While In Police Custody


If you are not actively doing something to help you are part of the problem. Your involvement can run the spectrum from sharing truth with the misinformed to marching to letter writing to activism. Spread truth. Refuse to be steamrolled by propaganda. This is OUR country. Wake up.

Baltimore uprising.
Justice for Freddie

Chronicles of a threenager

Published April 16, 2015 by hrhdana

Nia’s Elsa dress got taken away a while ago because she wasn’t listening. It actually went in to the garbage because she decided to feed it jello. (Don’t ask) Anyway, her behavior has been exemplary for a few weeks now so her Dad and I replaced her Elsa dress and added 3 other dress up outfits to it. Last night we tried them all on after bath and hair time. Then this happened.

Nia is looking at the photo of the accessories that compliment the two princess dresses.

Nia- Mommy you forgot something.
Me- What did I forget?
N-The Cinderella shoes, wand and tiara and the Rapunzel hair, crown and shoes.
M-I didn’t forget. Those were extra. You have shoes, tiaras and wands. And your own hair is more gorgeous than ANY fake hair so you don’t need that.
N-*grabs my face* Mommy if you are going to do something do it right. Isn’t that what you say? How am I going to be Rapunzel with Tianna shoes? Huh? How am I going to be Cinderella without the right crown? Come on Mommy.
M-Nia it’s all for playing pretend. You can pretend that those other tiaras match the character that you are playing.
N-That’s not princess Mommy. Princesses do it right from the shoes up. Now how do you feel? You can say sorry Mommy. It’s okay we all make mistakes.
M- laughing. Ummm sorry?
N-That didn’t sound real. Do you want to try again?

Young Girl Playing By Herself

Citizen in distress

Published April 10, 2015 by hrhdana
I’m lucky.
A rainbow of people love me
and I love them.
I’m blessed.
Raised in a place where differences
are embraced
diversity
is a reason to celebrate
and something craved.
I’m lucky.
I grew up in a sea of faces that looked like me
and didn’t.
I ate matzo with my Jewish babysitter.
I learned Irish dancing steps with my high school crew.
I teased my hair to kingdom come with my Italian guidettes.
Ate curry with my Caribbeans too.
Learned how to negotiate from this Ethiopian dude.
Blessed.
 I have been.
I’m lucky.
My best friend is Irish and Puerto Rican
Her family is a rainbow of love
making babies that run the spectrum
from light to dark.
Each one
celebrated,
loved,
worried over.
No ignorance about the differences
in the challenges they will face
when they leave the safety of the nest.
Eyes wide open.
Acknowledging difference
because there is NOTHING wrong with it.
NOTHING.
It just is.
I’m blessed.
I know this.
And yet
I exist
in a larger context.
America.
My home.
My country.
I love she.
To say otherwise would be a lie.
I love my country.
This is my home.
This is where my life is.
And I love it.
Even though she often breaks my heart.
Imperfect.
Racist.
Sexist.
Ignorant.
Opportunist.
Capitalist.
Insensitive to the differences
that make her great.
And a huge part of her powerbase
hates me.
Actively hates me.
Demonizes me.
Murders me
With impunity.
This abusive relationship
with the country of my birth
is breaking me down.
And it would be easier
If I could just hate her.
The world is massive.
I could live anywhere.
But I stay here
Because I love it.
And I want to believe
that the ones who hate me
are a vocal minority
but the murders don’t cease.
The go fund me pages
of racists and homophobes
make millions.
And my little cousin
can’t raise money to learn.
It burns.
My stomach churns.
How can I love a place
that isn’t safe?
Where national empathy
doesn’t apply to those who look like me?
This abusive relationship
with my home,
the one place
I should feel safe
Is
disorienting
maddening
confounding.
AGONIZING.
“Dana you talk about race all the time.
Give it a rest. Relax your mind.”
Another “friend” who doesn’t want to understand.
Because what those words REALLY mean is,
“please stop challenging me.
Your reality is uncomfortable to see.
Could you please suffer and process quietly?”
Silence demanded from me
is a goodbye.
And if America were a person
I would have given her my entire ass to kiss
a long time ago.
But this is my home.
And it hurts me.
Murders those who look like me
with impunity.
She withholds opportunity
demands that we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps
on boots that we don’t own.
This is my home.
This abusive relationship
with my home,
the one place
I should feel safe
is
agnonizing.

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This skin I’m in…

Published March 24, 2015 by hrhdana

Lately this skin I’m in is heavy.

I love it,

this skin,

caramel candied perfection

a little lighter now from winter’s lingering presence.

I love the history

attached to my genealogy.

Love my family.

Love being me.

But lately…

Lately this skin is a barrier.

Has me speaking to people who can’t understand my words

even though we speak the same tongue.

Lately my truth about this skin

is uncomfortable

for lifelong friendships.

They implore me to

just

stop

talking.

Stop sharing.

Stop making them

uncomfortable.

And it hurts.

Hurts to know that

my love

given freely

and honestly

is only palatable

if encased in silence,

lies,

hidden cries

late at night.

Unwelcome in the daylight.

That if I stand in public

wear my tears like my tiara,

unashamed

they look away.

Accuse me of playing card games

laugh privately

and amongst each other call me names.

These friends

wound me

deeply.

Lately this skin I’m in is heavy.

A wet blanket

dousing conversations

like fires.

And I’m so tired.

The silence

It chokes me.

I can’t breathe.

They can’t see.

And the optimist in me

is languishing

slowly extinguishing

a flame I thought would burn eternally.

If love isn’t all the gas we need

to push past racism and misogyny

then what will propel us towards healing?

Someone tell me.

Please.

I’m asking.

I’m dropping friends at an alarming rate

I want to say I’m okay

and I am

but I’m not.

Racism isn’t just wearing hoods anymore.

It’s more subtle

But it hurts just the same.

It’s people whom I considered family

“disgusted” with me

because I fear for my child

and I say so publicly.

They want me to take a seat.

Sit quietly.

Eat the scraps thrown to me

contentedly.

 But THIS skin I’m in ain’t paper thin.

And although goodbyes are hurtful

I have work to do.

They do too.

I can’t force you.

But if you run from the discomfort of a conversation

If my truth “nauseates” you

you are part of the problem too.

If you can forget the ties that bound our friendship for years

the shared tears

the love held dear

because it’s too hard to just hear

then you only reinforce that my fear

is real and clear.

See,  I am them.

I am not different.

That’s the problem.

This skin I’m in is beautiful.

I’ll gladly carry its weight

on its heaviest days.

I have no desire to be your tolkien

Black friend

divorced from a “them”

that you can’t comprehend

my family and friends.

And the thing is

You knew me.

You loved me.

You saw me.

Until I shared with you

the reality of this skin I’m in.

And that is your shame and your sin.

Goodbye “friend.”

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Mommying be hard

Published March 19, 2015 by hrhdana

I’m a pretty cerebral person. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I over think things. I often get paralyzed in my own head when given too many options. I can research a topic for months and still come out unsure if I know enough to make a decision. I love information. I adore facts. I crave them. I want to know everything. And even though I know this is impossible, I try.

Enter parenting. LOL Parenting is something that defies research. Parenting happens in the moment and reveals your truest self to a person who barely reaches your waist. I have learned a lot about myself while parenting a toddler and a lot of it ain’t pretty. *hangs head* I have also learned that toddlers care not for logic or research. LOL They are 45% emotion, 45% stubbornness and 10% germs.  True story.

I have found myself attempting to explain myself to a 3 year old on many occasions. I can HEAR you laughing. But it just seems logical that if I can explain WHY I don’t want her to put dirty things in her mouth she won’t. I mean who wants to get germs, get sick and end up in the hospital? Not me. So I explain. Two seconds after the explanation and her declaration that she will, “not do that again Mommy. Only food goes in my mouth Mommy,” I find her licking a yoyo that was in the bottom of her toybox.  “Didn’t we just talk about this?” I ask. “Yes Mommy,” she answers while getting one more lick in. My brain literally wants to weep. How do I reach you little human? I’m literally stuck.

My child is stubborn. She has a will of steel. Lately she has been asserting this will at the strangest and most illogical times. 10 minutes in to our walk to school she declares, “I hate  this hat! I won’t wear it!” But it’s already on her head. It’s the hat she begged me to buy, with tears in her eyes. It’s the hat that is on her head under the hood of her coat. The hat, that she is now frantically trying to rip from her head, confused and enraged that it won’t come off. I watch her…fascinated. What the hell just happened? What am I supposed to do now? Who let ME be in charge?

“Nia, if you take your hat off you are going to be cold.”

Success. She has removed the offensive hat and flung it to the ground. I’m amused by her passion but confused at the same time. I pick up the hat and put it in my bag. I’m not fighting about this one. But she isn’t done.

“Why did you buy me that hat? I want to wear my princess one.”

“The princess one is at home. YOU wanted this hat”

I realize I am traveling down a dead end street with this conversation but it’s like the brakes are gone on my car.

“I want the princess hat NOW!”

“That isn’t happening. We are almost at school.”

She dissolves in to hysterical tears. Snot is running from her nose. Sobs are racking her little body.

I hold her hand and continue walking in silence.

I’m wondering what I should be doing? Should I empathize with her about the hat? Should I tell her to tighten up? Should I ignore her? Should I reprimand her? Force her to put the hat back on? Lost in thought I realize she’s stopped crying and is talking to me again.

“…and I love you Mommy.”

I grab a tissue from my pocket, look down at her small little tear stained face and whisper back, “I love you too little bit.”

No books prepared me for this. I want my money back.

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Melee in McDonald’s

Published March 13, 2015 by hrhdana

The recent footage of the melee in a Brooklyn McDonald’s is disturbing. Full stop.

The list of things people do not understand about poverty and poverty mindsets is mind numbing. 99% of the people claiming they would have done something to physically intervene are fooling themselves. The reasons why the victim won’t press charges are plain to all who have any knowledge of what life is like for desperate people who live in poor and violent neighborhoods. The street cred of surviving that beat down AND not snitching is currency. The danger of going to the police is certain death.

The photos plastered all over international media of a 17 year old in her bra are NOT okay. Full stop.

It’s easy to call people animals. It’s easy to wag your finger from the comfort of your home. What isn’t easy is trying to understand the desperation that some people are forced to live with. What isn’t easy is to think about solutions. What isn’t easy is to try some empathy for ALL involved.

“Lock them up and throw away they key!” That doesn’t solve the problem. That doesn’t fix anything. It’s a piece of paper shoved in to the hole of a sinking boat.

Our society has HUGE craters in it. Vast wastelands where people fight every single day to BARELY survive, while surrounded by others born to opulence. There is something so very broken in our society and even when it erupts, mid day in a packed McDonald’s we work hard to miss the point.

*steps down from soapbox…exhausted*

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Long time no write

Published March 13, 2015 by hrhdana

I always come here when I’m struggling.

Today I’m reflecting on self sabotage.

I’m GREAT at it.

Seriously, you have never met someone better at blocking their blessings than I am. If someone handed me a winning lottery ticket I would put it through a shredder. I am THAT serious about not being successful. I have talked this out with countless friends, family members, therapists, strangers on public transit, my journal, poetry etc etc.

I still can’t stop doing it.

For the past 9 months opportunity has literally followed me down the street, rang my phone off of the hook, blown up my email and straight harassed me. “No thanks,” I reply. Then I spend my nights dreaming about said opportunities.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I seriously don’t.

“Just do it!” I know. I know.

But I don’t.

I am worthy. I am talented. I am good.

And yet..

I wallow in mediocrity.

I wish I had a happy ending for this post. LOL Some story of how I overcame this thing.

I don’t.

That story is still being written…

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I hope.