Rule Number One, From My Mom

My mother’s number one rule was always treat people with respect.  Her advice is reflective of the golden rule that can be found in many cultures and religions.  Treating others as you wish to be treated is something said by mothers in all parts of the planet.  China, India, Africa, England, Canada, Mexico, the United States, and in other nations children are taught this simple but powerful message.

be-kind-blogSpecifically, my mother would say that individuals in the service industry can be your greatest allies.  Food service, custodial, and administrative workers were whom my mother referred to often as people who can help you.  I learned the truth in her lessons during my undergraduate college years.  While attending college many times when money was tight a food service employee named Teresa ensured I did not go hungry.  Custodial staff allowed friends and I to study while they cleaned up as long as we didn’t “mess up”.  I now better understand that the “messing up” they referred to was not always literal.  What it meant was for me and my fellow African American classmates to study hard and earn our degrees.  My numerous trips to the financial aide office and other university offices also showed how patience and respect for clerks helped me get assistance quickly…often before those who’d been waiting for hours.

My mother died five years ago but all the lessons she taught me over the years have served me well.  Recently there have been legislation put in place in North Carolina called the transgender bathroom bill.  The law states that the gender on your birth certificate should correlate with the bathroom you use.  However, transgender individuals who have not yet had full transformation can be put in an awkward and possibly dangerous situation.  The idea is supposedly to reduce the chance of lewd behavior or sexual assault specifically against women.

The same insensitive bill was presented in South Carolina, where I reside.  Within a week LGBTQ activist came together to organize a protest.  They attended legislative hearings and gave testimony on why the bill is a bad idea.  One of these people is a poet and friend.  I shared her post on Facebook and stated the following:

“This is my friend she is transgender.  She’s a poet and I use to be afraid to speak to her.  She may not know it but I was.  It wasn’t because of anything she did but my own isms and what I thought others would say.  I admit I still am wrapping my head around the idea of someone being physically born one gender and seeking to change it.  However, I do empathize with those of the transgender community.  They like others of the LGBTQ community have no physical interest in those outside of their community.  They aren’t trying to get you, your man, or your woman for that matter.  I’m still learning but one thing I believe is the bathroom bill is a bad idea.  The SC General Assembly needs to focus on infrastructure for the remainder of this session.  This is what matters most to me.”

When I wrote the message, I felt a little nervous.  But then I remembered my mother saying to always be kind.  I heard my father say speak your truth and don’t be afraid to say what is right.  The idea behind any bathroom bill is reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws in the early and mid 20th century.  The reality is that many individual/single bathrooms are used by both genders.  Without being able to indicate exactly how many instances have occurred where a person not of the gender or even transgender have attempted to use a restroom opposite their gender is not quantitative.  Sadly, criminals and those meaning others harm will get around any bathroom law.

I have always chosen to work toward the betterment of society through activism for art, political, and women’s issues as well as human rights issues.  It is disappointing to know that there are elected officials seeking to hold back any gender or race.  Here in South Carolina crumbling roads, education, and jobs are what I believe to be most important.  I strive each day to be my mom’s legacy and to be kind to everyone.  I think my mom would agree.

This video illustrates that the message of kindness transcends language barriers.  Grab your tissue and give it a watch.  Kindness begets…kindness.


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Watching A Bill Become A Law

Collage of EventsThis week the theme song from Schoolhouse Rock animated special “I’m Just A Bill” which explained the legislative process has been on continuous loop in my head.  On Monday, July 6th debate on a controversial and historic South Carolina Senate Bill began.  Bill S. 897 introduced by Senator Vincent Sheheen was for removal of the Confederate battle flag from the SC State House grounds.  Senator Sheheen while campaigning for Governor in 2014 brought up the subject of removing the flag.  Now months into a new year, it seemed that the idea had passed.

On Wednesday, June 17th the horrific massacre of nine members of Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC helped to bring the Confederate battle flag debate to the forefront of South Carolina and the nations conscious.  There were strong connections shown with regard to the Confederate battle flag and white supremacy propaganda by Dylann Roof the 21-year-old charged with the nine murders.  It is believed that the act of true Christian behavior by the families of Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney and eight of his parishioners: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; Cynthia Hurd; Susie Jackson; Tywanza Sanders; Myra Thompson; Ethel Lance; DePayne Middleton-Doctor; and Daniel Simmons helped to make it necessary that the divisive symbol be removed from SC State House grounds.  Hearing the families forgive Roof and pray for his soul moved the world.

During a press conference on Monday, June 22, 2015 SC Governor Nikki Haley stated, “It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.” Haley a Republican had stated just weeks prior that she saw no need for removal of the flag. However, upon massacre of a former Senate college and eight others the need had become apparent.  On June 23rd Senator Vincent Sheheen drafted Senate Bill 897 for permanent removal of the Confederate battle flag.  The flag had flown on the SC State House dome and grounds since 1962, initially flying in memory of the Civil War.  Many have contended that the flag flew in defiance to the Civil Rights movement.  Those against removal of the flag toted that it represented Southern Heritage, which I point out included an economy with a labor force of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Debate of the S. 897 began on Monday, July 6th in the Senate Chambers.  Realizing the significance of this Bill, I decided to visit the SC Senate Gallery to witness the beginning debates.  Three Republican Senators Bright, Peeler, and Verdin all from the Upstate known for it’s Republican stronghold voted against the Bill during the 2nd vote.  However, there were 37 votes for the Bill and that was a strong indication that it would pass.  As was expected on Tuesday, July 7th after very little additional debate the 3rd vote passed 36 to 3, well over the necessary 2/3 vote.  The Bill then went to the SC House for debate.

On Wednesday, July 8th the Senate Bill reached the house and immediately had 12 amendments made to it by Representative Quinn who like his three Update Senate counterparts was a conservative Republican.  Over the course of the day there were 60 total amendments made to the Bill.  Feeling that Wednesday would be a historic day, I headed to the SC State House for the second time that week after work.  I sat in utter amazement at the stubborn ignorance of some Representatives with regard to the need to pass the Bill without amendments.  There was push and pull as House members for and against the Bill spoke.  I was witness to the passionate cry for passing the Bill made by Rep. Jenny Horne from Charleston, SC, where she represented the families of the Charleston 9.  But more importantly Rep. Horne is a direct descendent of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

A recess was given around 7:45pm and realizing that I was seeing history in the making, I decided to find a quick dinner and return for the continuation of the debate at 8:30pm.  There was more pushing and pulling as well as side discussions.  The Speaker of the House seemed to have to constantly bang the gavel to get order of the House Chambers.  We sitting in the House Gallery wondered if the Bill would ever pass.  Eventually most of the amendments were tabled and there was a stronghold on amendment 56, which provided detail for placement of the Confederate battle flag upon its removal.

Late in the evening, Rep. Ott proposed a resolution that had the same wording and purpose of amendment 56.  It seemed like a simple solution that would allow S. 897 to be passed as a clean Bill, which was the request of the Senate.  Near midnight Rep. Quinn recalled all the amendments that he had made to S. 897 and a call for a vote was made.  The second vote earned 2/3 of yes votes, which meant there was hope that the Bill would ultimately pass.  The third reading was made and the Bill passed without amendments.

Again the song “I’m Just A Bill” looped through my mind.  It was very much like the legislative process as taught by Schoolhouse Rock.  Only the animated Bill started with an idea and a member from US House of Representatives created a Bill for debate; and upon passing in the House it went to the US Senate.  It was a joyful day to know that the next step was for the Bill to be ratified by the SC Speaker of the House and then signed by Governor Haley.

It was announced that Governor Haley would sign the Senate Bill 897 at 4:00pm on Thursday, July 9th and the flag was scheduled for removal on Friday, July 10th.  While sitting at work I thought it would be enough to see the signing via streaming video or the news.  However, I had witnessed debates by the SC General Assembly and realized I needed to be present for this historic moment.  Driving like a mad woman and using my familiarity with the area around the SC State House I found a parking spot and rushed through the blazing heat to the third floor that overlooked the lobby area set up for the signing.

There was media, citizens, and legislatures packed in to witness the moment as well.  Also present were family members of the Charleston 9 victims including the widow of the Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney.  In addition, were three former SC Governors including two who had previously tried to discuss removal of the Confederate battle flag.  Specially Governor David Beasley lost his re-election do impart to this debate. Watching the signing of the Bill was emotional because it did show that bi-partisan leadership and agreement can occur.

On Friday, July 10, 2015 thousands of citizens were present to witness the removal of the Confederate battle flag from SC State House grounds.  People poured into the street and around the grounds for a look at history.  There were those in support of the removal as well as those not supporting the removal.  I for one was happy to see the flag removed.  As I have stated I saw its presence as being divisive and conjuring a past of hate.  Just as the reality that the Nazi flag is negative to those of Jewish decent so is the Confederate battle flag to me.  Unable to attend in person, I watched on television with tears flowing from my eyes.  I felt my ancestors rejoicing.  I know that removal of the flag will not make racism and hate disappear.  However, it possibly will help bring discussion and progress toward better race relations.

Finally, some immediate changes that occurred was NCAA is now considering South Carolina for future conferences and tournaments.  The NAACP also has raised its boycott of the state.  During debates of removal of the flag in the Senate and House major corporations submitted letters in support of its removal.  It seemed that people looking in could see that it was long past time for the symbol of an oppressive past to be taken down and put in a museum.  I do believe we must remember history including the ugliness of some of the past…hence we forget.  However, I don’t need to see history blowing in the wind to remember it.


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Woman Wearing Red Glasses

SCDWC Day In Blue - Keynote Address (Credit: State Newspaper)Standing on stage with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just a few weeks ago has brought some interesting conversations. Most common questions are “Did I see you on TV standing behind Hillary?” or “I know you must have been excited standing on stage with our next President?” I humbly respond yes that was me you saw and it was an interesting day. Oftentimes when you see a televised live event with any national political figure there is much work that has gone into planning. Conference calls along with last minute changes made for an interesting day but in the end the Keynote speaker for the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, 2015 Day In Blue was phenomenal. Through hard work and determination the SCDWC President Susan Y Smith was able to secure Secretary Clinton as our keynote speaker.

The SCDWC along with the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus held its 3rd Day In Blue, which started with recognition in the South Carolina House Chamber by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and the Speaker of the House. Workshops on Ethics and Self-Care occurred in the Blatt Building. Both workshops contained a bevy of useful information. The Ethics Workshop presented by Jane Shuler provided information for those seeker to run for an elected office. The Self-Care Workshop presented by Rep. Mary Gail Douglas reminded all female activist present to take time for self. In no way am I saying it wasn’t exciting being on stage with a national Democratic leader but for me the day was about motivating fellow Democratic women to become activist.  Wrapping the day up with a message that included the importance of equal pay for women helped solidify the fact we still have strives to make and glass ceilings to shatter.

My journey being on the stage with fellow SCDWC Executive Board members and Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter during Secretary Clinton’s speech involved a cumulation of activism. I often used the term I work to be present in my own existence. What that means is I seek to work for changes I want to see at local, state and national levels. In addition I can say it was due to being present in our own existences. I shared the stage with long-time Democratic activists who believed in their ability to make a different in this world. I am in the process of writing a book to detail my journey; it is important to understand that we all can bring change. No impact is too small one ripple can start a wave of positive progress.  You can watch the full coverage of the Day In Blue Keynote Address via the C-SPAN link:

Iris ApfelToday, I saw the documentary titled IRIS.  The latest film from legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (GREY GARDENS, GIMME SHELTER), IRIS pairs the late 88-year-old filmmaker (who passed away on March 5) with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life’s sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. “I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.”

I was inspired and encouraged more than ever to live my life wide open and without reservation. I felt a kindred spirit with Iris Apfel for many reasons but it was mainly her choice of doing what made her happy. She chose to not have children and even though, I myself wanted children I found it refreshing. Iris is not living her life by anybody else’s standards she is setting her own style and pathway through life. It is easy to be caught up in what is expected of us but it is hard to live for ourselves alone.

This coming Wednesday, I will be the feature poet at Mind Gravy a local poetry venue. It is an honor and humbling experience to be able to share poetry during a 30 minute set. There are two things for which I am passionate and that is poetry and politics. I believe in the importance of the art of words and writing. When I write poems, I try to paint a portrait with my rubs; my pen is used to make brush strokes of emotions. And politics for me is an opportunity to be a part of change in my world. I do not taking the opportunities of living in a democracy for granted. Here in the United States we are the freedom to express ourselves in our art and political beliefs. Being an African American woman in a country built on the backs of enslaved Africans and West Indians, I don’t take for granted the importance of being present in my own existence. Finally it helps to be able walk through life wearing a pair of phenomenal red, orange and tortoise shell eyeglasses to help me see my way forward.

Source: Synopsis and photos for IRIS the documentary from; and Hillary photo from The State Newspaper


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It’s Complex


The Black Man...ComplexYesterday, I attended the initial performance of a play titled “The Black Man…Complex” held in Columbia, SC, created by Terrance Henderson and presented by Trustus Theatre & Jasper Magazine.  The play covered various complexities of the black man, including race, sexual orientation, and spirituality as well as other situations.  The audience was taken through an array of emotions including the recent shooting of the unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, MO.  In addition it touched on other black men current and past that had an impact on our society.  The performances were an insightful way to show that black men are very much multi-dimensional, made me think.

Just like the play indicated humans overall are multi-dimensional.  No matter what race, gender, nationality or economic status we are diverse individuals.  Judging someone when you first meet them only leads you to re-evaluate them after a while.  Pre-judgment of black men will continue to lead to incidents of obvious racial profiling.

Many of the recent tragic incidents that have bonded the African-American community to protest have over time faded out.  When the bubbling anger simmers down people return to their regular daily activities; at least until a new tragedy occurs.  This is not how the civil rights era was handled.  Beginning in the late 1940’s going through the early 1970’s there was a consistent movement toward action.  Ideas were formulated and grew into what we saw at the March on Washington and ultimately the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

My ancestors understood the power of the ballot box.  They understood that change doesn’t always come in one night or year or decade.  Change takes consistent and planned efforts to occur.  Many thought that the non-violent movement was pointless; they thought that you should retaliate hate with hate. However an angry mind is not a clear mind it is muddled with illogical emotions.  Of course we are human and anger will occur but letting the anger consume reasoning only leads to chaos.

In a future post I will outline the importance and reason why voting is important.  But for now remember,  the decisions we make in elections put people in place who have the power to set our laws on a local, state, and national level.  The issues we face are complex; however, with the right attitude and organizing we will & shall continue to overcome life’s complexities.


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