Tuesday, June 11, 2013

39,000 Feet: A Short Story

Note: I was over 30,000 feet in the air when I wrote this. And I felt so much better after I did.

If she had a watch, she’d probably be counting the seconds. Her phone was off because it had to be, so watching prayerfully as each digit increased was impossible. An hour and forty-seven minutes of terror. “Either pray or worry, but don’t do both.” She could hear her grandmother’s voice now, pensive and heavy with wisdom. Usually grandma’s words rung true, but right now they were extremely difficult to believe. How could she? She felt every jolt, tremor and turn. Turbulence. She made a mental note to look that up when she got home; if she got home. She pressed her lids together hard, exhaled and shook her head, trying to free her mind from her dad’s trademark pessimism. Why did the “worst-case scenario” trait have to be hereditary? she thought to herself. Her stomach suddenly lurched in discomfort as the craft fought through the deceptively innocent fluffy clouds and made a dip. In frenzy, she grasped the armrest on one side of her trembling body and the bottom of her seat with the other hand. Her fingernails dug into the soft leather, eyes wide. She looked to her neighbor to read him, wondering if anyone else had felt that. Or even cared. He didn’t. His eyes didn’t break their cadence as they scanned Chapter 46 of a thick black book.

She was angry that she was the only one so aware; yet silly that she was the only one who seemed afraid. How long have we been up here? She slyly checked Focused Reader for a wristwatch out of the corner of her eye. Nothing. She cursed herself for investing in any and everything but a watch. “Excuse me,” she called to the passing flight attendant pushing her trolley of overpriced snacks. “What time is it?” She searched her own face for a smile. A mustered up wince would have to suffice. The attendant smiled back sweetly and checked her arm. “Ten forty-five, but my watch might be fast.” She thanked her and shrunk back into her seat, partially relieved. It had been an hour since take off.  Only forty-something minutes of misery left to endure wide awake, armed with nothing but her thought notebook and a leaky blue ballpoint pen. She scribbled some thoughts to ease her mind. She read old notes. She even tried reading over the shoulder of her seatmate, who was making headway in his literature. She glanced quickly. Chapter 48. Impressive. At least he’s at peace. Maybe next time I’ll bring a book instead of my laptop. She scolded herself for another 10 minutes. At least time was passing. It distracted her from the bumps.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the staticky intercom interrupted her train of thought. “We are preparing to make our descent to LaGuardia Airport. Please find your seats and fasten your seatbelts.” She exhaled and tilted her head over to the window. The bright lights of New York pierced through the vast night sky. They seamed to beam up at her. Stacy could finally smile back. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We All Got Crabs, Man: The Drag Down Effect

Today, I had to shake my head a lot more than usual. Black people, we have to do better.

Somewhere in the world, a white person is sitting behind his or her computer marveling at the prospect of “Black Twitter,” trying to master the twerk performed by ebony honeys and bookmarking an epic community melee on WorldStar.  

Meanwhile, instead of trying to counter the ratchetry constantly on display (simultaneously for our entertainment and our exploitation), we’ll picking petty battles with EACH OTHER over the digisphere. Look, I’m all for playful boasting and a healthy competition never hurt anyone, but when our negative words overshadows the mission of us functioning with a sense of camaraderie IN FRONT of those who doubt us, that’s just a shame. I say I love my school (HU, You Know!). You throw shots about how we ain’t sh*t and how your educational upbringing makes you superior to us. Honey, you're reaching for low-hanging fruit in the form of ruffling feathers for page views. What you could have done was talk about what makes your university amazing and boast about the quality of black women who attend and/or have graduated from there. Why drag another school through the mud (well, at least try) to big yourself up? Cheap shots about how Morehouse men know how to pick a "real" woman, a Spelman woman? Tuh. As my friend Edwin (@kariukimachine) so eloquently tweeted, “Morehouse men don't even like Spelman girls. They like Morehouse men.” (Bahaha. It was a funny tweet. Sue me.) But when people see us bash each other like this over the ‘net, it's hard to tell if we’re dead serious, we’re trolling for attention or if it’s for play-play. All the dividing lines get murky. All they see is a bunch of tiny little black crustaceans at the bottom of a dusty barrel looking weak as a whole. Are we supposed to be proud of that?

I know some wonderful people who went to Spelman. And Hampton. And Morehouse. And of course Howard. I support them in all that they are doing and the black excellence that they’re representing to the rest of the world. Young professionals killing job interviews and climbing company ladders. Investing and advertising and creating. Entrepreneurs and artists and writers and financial counsels and tech gurus. Future industry behemoths. That’s what I choose to focus all my energy into. You may not agree with what they’re trying to say or even their approach, but you have to support their efforts to make it and put our people in a positive light. Fine, inject your constructive (and sometimes not) criticism publicly, but once you speak, your job is to help them be better. I love to brag about my peers when they do right and when they jump hurdles. Let’s lift each other up so we can stop being the other side of poorly recited joke.

Brothers and sisters: be not only the success story but the support system that you seek. (This will be the only time I get Kunta Kente on you, I promise.)