Entry 22: February 22, 2019

Dreaming in Technicolour

Today I did an interview related to Black History Month. One of the questions we were asked was what we hope comes out of activities like these?

My dream is a simple one; that one day soon I will sit at a table with Black History Month organizers, and after a little reflection we collectively decide that the initiative is no longer needed.

I have worked on many issues in my life time, and for the most part there always came a time where I felt like enough advancement had been made that I could shift my focus elsewhere.

Inclusion and anti-bigotry however, are issues I never felt such a moment with. It seems like we take a few steps forward only to be pushed back – usually in relation to an election.

The fact that the changing of the guard is enough to retard progress speaks to why we can’t afford to disengage. Until equity and inclusion are the norm rather than the exception, and are practiced rather than preached, then apathy and social paralysis are our most dangerous opponents.

The great news about being involved in this year’s activities, is discovering the up and coming generation, and felling comforted that there are many ready to take my place pushing the big wheel of change.


Entry 21: February 21, 2019

(Today’s entry has been displaced by current events)

My how Lateef has jaws awagging today!

So for those not in the loop, a GENTLEMAN is walking alongside the road at night, because the sidewalks are all iced over, when the police ride up on him. The exchange results in him getting a ticket.

Now Lateef is clear in saying he was dismissive to the point of rudeness – What he was actually doing was enforcing his civil rights, but most seem to miss this.  His points of contention are a)the stop was racially motivated and b)that he was given a ticket as punishment of his rudeness, not for being in the street – which the law allows for if the sidewalks are a problem.

Regardless of whether you agree with point a, and let me be clear in saying I do, point b should bother you greatly. That is the slippery slope of abuse of power.

In addition, to all that say he just needed to be polite; why is it we have no expectation of politeness from the officers. Sure they have a job to do, but they choose the tactics they use in doing their job. Any parent will tell you that intimidation has its limits; particularly on the innocent.

The whole thing would have been much different if when after their first question they had simply said, “ You know, it is not safe to walk on the street. You can get a ticket for that.” This is the reason we allow for tickets in the first place, to support public safety, not punish the rude.  Had the officer said that, he would have set himself up as an ally of the public good in Lateef’s mind. Instead, he allowed Lateef’s short answer to add to a profile he already had in his head when he stopped him.

And to those who would dismiss Lateef as a negro with an attitude problem, I don’t want to speak for him, however, I believe that he did a good thing because he is a good, upstanding, and strong advocate for our community.  This kind of stuff happens, particularly to our youth, all the time. When was the last time the police rolled upon you and asked you where you were going and to identify yourself? When was the last time you suffered the slow roll by? When was the last time the police gave you the stare down? When was the last time the rent-a-cops shuffled you out of a public space? If your answer to these questions is never, maybe your perspective is limited. As someone who has lived at least two of those situations in the last week, I stand with Lateef.

Change will only happen when folks stand up for themselves and force the system to acknowledge its bias.

To my BIPOC, who are shaking their heads at Lateef, I want to remind you of the story of the ants in the jar:  They say that if you place a bunch of ants in a jar and close the lid, at first the ants try to get out, but eventually, they give up and go about making a life for themselves in the jar. Then if you take the lid off the jar, do you know what happens? Nothing. The aunts are so conditioned to the lid being there, they do not even try to get out.

Entry 20: February 20, 2019

The Seeds We Sow

A couple of days ago I posted a bunch of tangential ramblings, posing as cohesive thought, under the subtitle Croning.  Basically I was admitting that I am stuck in a transitional phase of my life, with more question than answers. As often happens to me, when I start focusing on the questions, answers have a way of manifesting themselves.

Questions:  I have allowed my inner sense of purpose to guide most of my life. Was that the right choice? Did I/do I make a difference? As I move into the next phase of my life, can I lay down the fight? Is there another purpose I can serve?

The dawning of answers:

The great part of making a spectacle of myself for Black History Month is that people I have not crossed paths with in forever are finding me. You may recall my saying that I chose to participate in the Black History Calendar in great part due to the youth I have worked with over the years.

Today, I had a meeting with two, now grown, women, who were in the very first group of youth that I mentored. They found me through the calendar, and as they work in the helping professions, and I have a project of interest to them, we killed two birds with one stone –renewing acquaintances and shop talk.

I have never been one to take credit for the accomplishments of the youth I have had the blessing of working with. While I may give them tools and teach them best practices, it is their hard work and focus that gets them to where they go.

The two women I met today gave me both a huge shot of validation and a sigh of relief about the future. They are sharp, have a critical eye, share insightful reflections, and manage to stay compassionate in a field that can turn a sista bitter.

To know that I had a hand in helping them, and hundreds of other youth in the 25 years that followed, to see their potential is exactly the dharma I had hoped for. My time with these youth may have been but a pebble to their pond, but oh my, what the ripples churned up. While I do not wish life to be a fight, I am awed by the warriors that now stand on my shoulders.

While I still have to figure out where I want to aim my pebbles next, today’s meeting affirmed that I have done pretty good so far and can trust my faith in purpose to lead me forth.

Entry 19: February 19, 2019

Stylish Insanity

In the last few weeks there have been several articles about fashion houses that made cultural “mistakes.”  I am not surprised by these actions; I am just surprised at everyone’s surprise.

I gave up on haute couture back in the 80’s when Hilfiger and Claiborne declared that they did not make their stuff for, “those people”.   While they eventually retracted their statements, such retractions were not a result of having seen any light but fiscal the bottom line. In fact, it was Hilfiger’s marketing department who shut him down, and resulted in directives to retailers, asking them to place stock in easy stealing positions in Black neighbourhoods. They realised that while they may not have intended us to wear their cloths, if we didn’t no one else would either.

Furthermore, the fashion industry has been historically hostile to women in general; fostering unhealthy body images and reducing standards of beauty to a very tight definition. Thankfully, I never got to caught up in this as my body made it clear they were not talking to or about me.

So my question, particularly to BIPOC, is why the hell are you still giving them your money and even a moment of your attention? Moreover, how long till folks realise that these mistakes they’re making is GREAT marketing for them. They get you to post their name everywhere for FREE! All it takes is a quick apology and their brand is protected. If it was really costing anything to make such mistakes do you think they would still be doing it?

It is not the 1% that keeps these folks in business, as it is not their high fashion lines that put food on their table. No, the high fashion lines exist to convince the naïve that if they buy the down market lines, they are rubbing shoulders with the 1%.

It never fails to surprise me how humans will cut off their noses to spite their faces. We go into great credit card debt to buy this crap, change our wardrobe every year,  and ship our more than still wearable gear to landfills – don’t kid yourself, about 2/3 of what we put in those donation boxes wind up in landfills. I won’t even go into the environmental cost of making/transporting some of that stuff.

I get the desire to look and feel good, but do we really need to drop the equivalent of a month’s rent on a shopping spree?

When it comes down to it, what is truly insane: the fashion industry that keeps making the same “mistakes”, or us, consistently forgiving them so we can go on indebting ourselves to them?

I have to admit, it was Oprah that changed me on this when she had her audience calculate the real cost for an item, in terms of hours worked . Do I really want to work 35 hours for a pair of shoes, even if the heel is a pretty red? Or how about 100 hours for a single dress. Or would you rather work those hours, then go on a fabulous vacation? Build up that nest egg for a home? Retire and eat something other than cat food?

While I am at it, I should also mention the problems we are all perpetuating with race to the bottom pricing. You have to know that when you purchase a 5$ t-shirt you are purchasing  work from some sweat shop on the other side of the world. You have to know that when you buy something at Walmart that costs 3$ less than elsewhere, Walmart has used its/your purchasing power to strong arm some distributer into cutting costs to the point of undermining jobs and fair wages.

Sure we are all tight on cash, and sometimes you have to save a buck where you can. Instead of buying the cheapest goods however, would it not be better to pay a little more, get better quality and make it last longer?

In the end, our karma is in our own hands, and ignorance will be no defense. If we want it to be different, we need to do different.

Entry 18: February 18, 2019


Our current culture tends to be very youth centric. Billions are spent every year in the effort to stave off the winds of time.

Personally, I don’t get it. While I often hear people wax on wishing they could be young again, there is not enough money in this world to make me want to go back. My own adolescence and young adulthood was tumultuous. Sure I had good times, and I value every lesson learnt and experience gained, in that it prepared me for the next stage in life. What I remember most of those times however, is the overwhelming angst. Having worked with youth for so long, I also don’t envy the challenges they face now, trying to transition from childhood to adult.  At least when I was young and foolish there was no internet.

As a child, I could not wait to be grown. My childhood circumstances led me to feel like I lived at the sufferance of others. You feel your loneliness so much more when surrounded by others.

As such I could not wait to embrace the mantle of Mother, and to be in the position to give what I so desperately wanted. I acted the Mother for a long time, but finally grew into her at about 30.

By that time I had thoroughly, if unintentionally, enjoyed Maidenhood. In a desire to break free of mindsets that threatened to strangle me, I threw myself into finding my own truths. While some may consider this time as misspent, I know it resulted in me unloading a lot of baggage that I did not know I had accumulated.  As such, by 30, I was confident in myself as a woman and a person of colour.

Divine Discontent heralded the coming of this seismic shift in my life; everything just did not seem right anymore. By 25 I was tired of the club scene, tired of transient friendships, tired of moving all the time, tired of being everything for everybody and having nothing left for me. Things that held value for me started to seem frivolous and my soul started to cry out for more. Moreover, I started to recognise the need to make new choices to ensure I didn’t keep repeating old lessons.

The shift happened one step at a time, but before I could start moving, I was caught between inertia and false starts. I grew up at a time where the message started to be, “you can do anything.” Problem was, no one taught me how to figure out what I wanted to do, much less on how to build a life. Then a new program found me, one that not only taught how to choose, find and keep a job, but also included a comprehensive life-skills program and regular counselling.

This resulted in building a life plan. Turns out that a plan is just an excuse to get on the road; the variables are such that you never know what can happen.  I quickly understood that while I might have a life plan, I needed to be open to other possibilities.  By doing so, I have been to places I never dreamed about as a child and accomplished things that I did not think myself capable of as a teen. I also discovered a depth of self that I would have missed otherwise.

So now I am on the other side, my clock is slowing and I can feel the mantle of Mother giving way to that of the Crone. If I had any doubt of this, the Divine Discontent I am beginning to encounter would be a dead giveaway.

Now don’t get it twisted, I do not fear croning. Sure I could do without the aches and pains that remind me I am no spring chicken. At first, I even resented the slowing of my ability to go from stop to go, but even that I have come to appreciate, because I now understand that much of the urgency that drove me before was manufactured.

I am also having experiences that make it harder to transition. Why is it that all the products I love are being discontinued? (My generation, the Baby Busts, are so few in numbers, we have been overshadowed and discounted all of our lives) Where once the more rough and rowdy gave me a wide berth, now they size me up. While I don’t mind the “Ma’am”, I do mind the dismissive tone. While I like to move around incognito I don’t like being treated like I am invisible. Yet, I do not attribute this to aging, but to the disrespect some seem to have for those who are older.

Truth be told, I feel like I have  thoroughly enjoyed my Motherhood, and am ready for life’s next stage.  What is really bothering me, is that for the first time in a long time I am unsure of myself and my future.  I feel like a great chapter in my life is coming to a close with no teaser of the next plot point.

My rational mind and personal history tell me this is a good thing; that a seismic shift is coming. Given all that I have been through, and that I believe everything we go through is to prepare us for the next peak, I want be hopeful about what is to come. I have always stepped out of the wings of faith, and usually fly rather than plummet.

Base instinct and the control freak in me however, is having a mini melt down.  It is hard to allow myself to be lost at this stage of my life. This added to the rough ride that was last year, has me feeling a little raw and vulnerable.

Entry 17: February 17, 2019

Mental Gymnastics

I was taught to eschew easy answers and fantastical thinking. Moreover, I was taught not to seek to blame others, for in doing so, you give away your power to make change. That does not mean I blame myself for everything, but rather, when I look at a situation in hindsight, I look to see what I could have done to bring the situation to a different conclusion. Why? Because I have no control over the behavior of others; I can’t change them,so the key to avoiding repeating something is to change me.

Living this way proved stressful at first. Then I discovered Dr. Albert Ellis. Through him, I discovered that stress is not the result of a given action or situation, but rather, is found in our reaction to said actions and situations. That reaction manifests itself as wear and tear on the body.

In particular, Ellis taught me to tune into irrational beliefs that are often seeded with thoughts of “should”, “must” or “have to”. The more we invest in these irrational beliefs the more stress we will encounter, because we diminish our capacity to problem solve.The more we give into the shoulds, musts and have tos, the more we cripple ourselves with their associates: guilt, rage, and worry. When we stop looking at the world with rigid expectations of shoulds, musts and have tos, we develop the flexibility needed to roll with the punches.

None of us can lead a stress free life; we’d never get out of bed. We can however minimize wear and tear though cognitive awareness and regular respite to restore resilience.

It may seem like I am writing this to teach you something. In truth, I write to remind myself. I have loafed all weekend, and as I sat down to write this blog, started to feel guilty, because I have not been doing the reflections I should have been doing for this entry.

Then I remembered: Although I might have reflected, and given my promise to myself, want do a daily entry, I don’t have to do anything, because I am doing this for me. This led a reflexive thanks to Ellis, which gave me a subject for this entry. Problem solved.

You can find much about Ellis and his Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy all over the web. I found this page quite comprehensive and didactic:


Entry 16, February 16, 2019

Running on Empty

After spending the evening getting metaphorically naked, first in person and then on this blog, today I found myself nursing a headache and alternating between cleaning out my PVR and sleeping.

That is the thing about purging your psyche; though cathartic, it is also it is exhausting. Bouncing back can take time.

So I thought I would use this space tonight to say to those who are struggling to work through their baggage; keep at it, it’s worth it. And to those who know it is time for a check in and have been avoiding it; get to it. Whatever load you are carrying takes much more effort to avoid than it does to work through.

Entry 15: February 15, 2019

Fear of Affirmation

Tonight I had one of those life affirming experiences.

For me, life is affirmed when I go through something, deal with it, learn the lesson, and then pass it on to others. 9 times out of 10, I fall into these experiences, often somewhat reluctantly. I guess I just don’t believe my life is interesting to anyone other than me – and maybe my husband.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email inviting me to be a part of a storytelling event that would be recorded by the CBC. I thought about it, and given the date, decided there was indeed a story of value I could tell – the story of how I met my husband.

About 20 years ago there was this study that was published that said that a single woman over 40 has a better chance of getting hit by a bus, than getting married. I was just turning thirty at the time, and knowing how statistics work, I really didn’t give it any credence – besides, I had already been hit by a bus. The study has since been discredited, but there are still a lot of women who buy into it. Since I got married at 51, I thought my story was worth sharing.

Public speaking is not an issue for me; I have stood on the world stage and addressed people that should have intimidated me. Growing up in the family I did however, means that it is pretty hard to intimidate me. You may also recall however, me mentioning in a previous blog that I am socially phobic.

Here’s the deal; I am a painfully shy person. Most people don’t know this, and some people who know me don’t believe it. I’ve learnt to perform the extrovert very well.

For most of the first 13 years of my life, I was the baby in a large family. You learn to speak up if you want any attention. Outside of the family however, it was a little tougher; especially once I started feeling like the Other. Being visible meant risking being bullied. Being visible meant risking being hurt. Standing out brought the wrong kind of attention.

The solution? Put to work another skill set I had picked up; being invisible. I loved listening to grown folk talk. I quickly discovered that if they knew I was there, they would send me out of the room. I learnt that if I looked preoccupied while I played quietly on the fringe that they would forget I was there. That and keeping my mouth shut was how I got to hear the good stuff.

As I started school, I quickly learnt to use this skill set to fly below the radar. I was a precocious kindergartener. My grandfather was big on education, and supplemented ours in a big way. As all of us had to sit around the same table, Monday – Thursday night, from 7pm -bedtime, doing homework or extra assignments, I was exposed to advance stuff at an early age. I started kindergarten with my language skills on point, knew my alphabet, and could almost read and do basic math. Yeah, the smart brown kid was really popular. So I shrank into myself.

At age 7, I started spending my summers in Connecticut. My stepmother was a phenomenal and formidable woman. She was socially aware, and had a very good understanding of the Black reality. As such, she and her family understood that Black people could not afford to be shy. When I started to blossom physically, it became apparent to them that I was purposely diminishing myself.  I hit 5’11” at age 13 and went from flat to a c-cup fluffy in the space of school year. That was about the time I develop a slouch.

The following summer would be a summer of adjustment. My stepmother and aunties are tall women as well, and they were not having the slouch. The aunties would smack me between the shoulders to force me to stand strait, and my stepmother bought me this elastic contraption that pulled against my shoulders as a constant reminder to stand tall. Together, they would explain about the importance of a Black woman projecting strength as a way of lessening the chance of being victimized, or worst, being overlooked. Standing tall and firm, projected strength.

At this stage in life I can recognise that I was blessed with an hourglass figure – though I have extra sand in the lower half. At a 13, my body invited attention I was ill equipped to deal with, particularly because I looked so grown. Worst than the icky attention I was getting from grown men was the mean-girling I was getting from the late bloomers.

Unlike my early years, I was now living with my mom, and experiencing what it was like to be an only child.  Looking back now, I can see that it was the absolute worst time for me to be isolated from those I would have trusted enough to spill my guts to. My mom, being so traditionally West Indian, was not very sex positive. My bajun family was very religious, so no sex talk there. Over all, the developments of adolescence are by and large ignored –unless you break an unwritten rule or force them to see you by having other people notice you.   This brought on a sense of shame as my feelings and experiences were not normalized, so I felt like a freak. Like something was wrong with me and I had to hide it.

So in Canada, I am hiding who I am, struggling through adolescence alone and feeling dirty and less than, while in the US, I am being told to stand proud and tall and stop fading into the woodwork, which makes me feel like I need to pretend, less they discover I am dirty and less than. On top of all of this, I am having experiences that I am internalizing without realizing that they stem from racism.

I eventually figured out to fake it until I could make it and cobbled together a personality that would work for me:

My grandfather is the voice of knowledge in my head, having taught me how to learn and be critical in my thoughts; I adopt his voice when having to represent.

My stepmother is the voice of wisdom in my head, keeping it real and saying it plain; I would adopt her voice when speaking truth.

My mother is statuesque in her carriage, and dignified in her presentation; I would mimic her confidence.

My father has a charismatic presence, and takes up space apologetically; I would mimic his gregariousness.

My grandmother was the still waters that ran deep; I would find safety in her distance.

It would take almost 15 years for those first four characteristics to go from all performance to internalize, and the fifth one, would serve me well, but cause all kinds of mixed signals.

So on a night like tonight, telling a self-revelatory story to a live audience while being recorded for TV – when I said yes to the gig, I thought it was being recorded in studio for radio- it really does come easy to me to be up there – nothing but performance.

When I get off stage however ; my idea of a nightmare starts. What comes off stage is not the relaxed, well spoken, no shame to her game Crone I am becoming. No, what comes off stage is the gawky 13 year old girl, who does not understand what you’re fussing about because there is nothing good or special about her, and who thinks you are punking her and will turn on her at any moment.

So instead of being able to share that moment with someone, I start to feel panic; an overwhelming fear that any moment you will see her, and treat her like so many before you.

No, I don’t have DID.  I refer to “her” because, though she will always be a part of me, she is not me. In order to remember that on a night like this though, I need to dive into still waters. So, simply put, I run away, often leaving folks behind thinking I don’t like them, or appreciate their kind words/efforts or that I am just rude or a snob.

Nothing could be further from the truth, which is that I won’t hear their kind words until I am in a space safe enough to calm her. Then it all comes to me; the hugs, the faces lit up with discovery, the thankful appreciation. Then I can let the experience into my heart and feel affirmed.

Entry 14: February 14, 2019

A Cherubic Day

Today was a lovely day, with just a hint of spring to come –if you look past the mountains of snow ;o). As such, I was in no mood for critical self reflection or looking into dark corners.

Today was also the day of corporate sponsored romance in the name of questionable history. Just like any holiday, you can bah humbug your way through it, or you can give it your own purpose. I decided to let today be a day of reflection on the real nature of love.

For eons, writers have turned their pens to this subject, and I don’t think I can improve on them. Instead, I leave you with the words of one of my favorites to ponder:

Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. – James A. Baldwin

Entry 13: February 13, 2019

The Wolf in Ally Clothing

When I first came to understand racism, I divided people into two categories; those who were ignorant and those who willfully oppress.  As I have gotten older, I have come to understand that such ignorance is a manifestation of privilege – you don’t know because you don’t need or want to know.

This morning’s HuffPost delivered a reminder of this, reporting on Howard Schultz’s huff in mouth statement about, “not seeing colour”. No words are as good at setting off my rant instinct as those – except maybe colour blind casting – ARRRRGGG!

Let’s get this straight; I have never wanted to be the same as a White person. I just want to be treated equally.

When you say you don’t see colour, you are denying my reality. You are making the world nice and neat for you, while erasing me. It also means you will judge my differences harshly, because you expect me to be like you. Moreover, you are abdicating your role in bringing to an end systemic oppression.

I understand that as people start to have a real dialogue about culture and racism there will be stumbling over words, as we try to come up with shared language. These words are not a stumble however, they are a deflection. They are a sign that you have thought enough to come up with what sounds good, but never bothered to factor me into your thinking.

These are the same people who speak in terms of tolerance. Who the hell are you to tolerate me? I don’t need your tolerance. I need you to accept my right to a free and equal existence.

I need you to recognize your privilege and help me to deconstruct the systems that your forefathers put in place to ensure you would always have that privilege. I need you to examine your sense of right and wrong, good and bad, safe and scary, trustworthy and shady to see where your preconceptions cast BIPOC as latter.

Moreover, I am tired of us bearing the brunt of racism and the responsibility to educate you, particularly when you practice willful blindness.

The one thing I like about Trump’s America, is that the masks are off. It is so much easier for me to deal with your racism when you own that shit rather than trying to suggest I am “too sensitive”, “paranoid”, “have a chip on my shoulder” or my favorite, I am, “stuck in the past”.

Please also stop waiving the Canadian flag in my face, as if it is proof of equality. Given that we exported our racism to South Africa – apartheid was based on our “Reservations” – as well as had a hand in slave trade, as proud as I am of being a Canadian, we have to own that too. Funny how people take pride in our role in the underground highway, but never think about how this end got set up. Japanese internment? Chinese head tax? Turing away Jews fleeing the holocaust? Residential schools? We are so quick to forget, I have to wonder what we will do next – Oh, that’s right, we are making (non Judaeo-Christian) religious symbols taboo and legislating what women wear in the name of feminism – we have come a long way, haven’t we?

You may be able to fool others with your adoption of socially engaged phraseology, but people of colour have survived by reading your actions, not listening to your words.  Like any movement, we know there are those who join just to be gatekeepers.

The law says that ignorance is not a defense; so from now on, don’t expect a pass.

It occurs to me that as some read this they may feel like I am attacking them. If you see yourself in those words then –oh well. Consider this your invitation to grow. You’re welcome.