The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Kudos to Kiri Davis for producing a thought provoking film short “A Girl Like Me” about the biases that continue to exist in our community as it relates to skin color. Hello! This is 2006 and we (black people) are not comfortable in the skin we’re in.
While viewing the short I was brought to tears because we still haven’t learned, but at the same time I wasn’t shocked because I witness the racism we exercise on our own people daily and the way many of our women are so unhappy with their hair that they regularly spend hundreds of dollars to have “human” hair braided in, sown in and glued in so that they can have bouncing and behaving hair.
I’m also confronted regularly with the statement “Well you have good hair”. I don’t think it’s good – it’s just what was passed down in my gene pool and heaven knows their are many days I would prefer thicker, coarser hair.
I have a relaxer in my hair to manage it. For many years I overprocessed my hair as many of us do going to the Shop every six weeks for a touch-up, but then I changed hair stylists and Tammy and I constantly battled over the chemicals. She would greet me with “I’m not putting any chemicals in your hair” to which I would retort, “Well I guess you’re moving in, cause I can’t get up every morning blow drying kinks out of my hair.” We eventually reached a somewhat happy medium and limited the number of touch-ups to about 3-4 a year.
Over the last four years Ms. Ericka has been keeping my tresses in shape and she taught me the importance of using the right products on my hair which has probably cut me down to about 2 relaxers a year along with color which also helps to get rid of the waves.
My problem now is I want the waves. I want to be able to put a little creme on my hair and get up and go but it doesn’t work quite the way I would like it to so only on extremely hot days in the summer do I revert to this.
The most heart wrenching part of this piece however was the doll test. Why in this day and age have we not taught our children that black is beautiful and it is not bad. White is not always right and it sho’ ain’t always good!
I often believe that I write these little ditties to release some of my frustrations and that no one is really reading them, but if you are reading I implore you to hug and beautiful dark skinned black girl or boy today and tell them how beautiful they are. Help to eradicate the negative thoughts that are permeating within our children.
We are all God’s children and we are all beautiful in our own skin!

Giving Thanks for Blessings

Today started with a huge dose of blessings from up high! Now let me start by saying that is not what I thought as I made the trek to the Cleveland Heights Municipal Courtroom to appear with Mr. Wonderful. I was not really miffed at him for this appearance but two weeks ago when he was stopped by CHPD and given four citations including one for driving under suspension I could have danced a jig on his head. Why, you ask? Well a few days prior to this I made an inquiry as to when he was going to take care of a previous ticket which led to the suspension and received a vague response.
On the date of this last encounter with law enforcement he was performing a good deed – albeit a dangerous one as he drove our neice and nephew along with their father in a vehicle without the proper car seats. That ticket alone is $110, but today the Lord was shining down on us in the form of Acting Judge Russell Bacon.
Judge Bacon is a gem and anyway who has to appear in Cleveland Heights Municipal Court should pray that he is the presiding judge.
During the hour and a half that I observed his courtroom he treated each defendant with some level of dignity and attempted to pass on his wisdom.
I truly hope Mr. Wonderful was paying attention because Judge Bacon dismissed all four tickets and we went away only responsible for Court Costs.
God is a good God which I have known since forever, but today the blessing was extra special after the crises filled last three weeks.
Today be sure to take a moment and thank God for the many blessings – both large and small he bestows upon you daily.

Managing unruly teens

The annual E. 185th Street Festival came to a close Sunday evening August 5, 2006 but unfortunately I can’t say the 5-day festival was unheld without incident. On Friday evening a mini-melee resulted in several area youths being arrested and adults in the crowd complaining about police treatment of the miscreants.
The actions of police on Friday did not deter two young girls from getting into a brawl in the middle of parents and young children trying to enjoy a nice evening in the community.
The problems of youth violence have to managed and I believe one step in the right direction is to hold parents or guardians financially responsible! The actions of the youths this past weekend are detestable for a number of reasons, but as a black women they are first and foremost a problem because the youths causing all the ruckus at this Family oriented festival were black!
The actions of a few jeopardize the enjoyment of thousands. This year the festival was cut by a day and was limited to the school grounds of O.H. Perry School. Speculation on the reasons behind the cuts range from the cost to maintain the festival on the street as well as an attempt to deter the late night fights.
If the latter was a reason, it is evident that the changes did not serve as a detriment and that something needs to be done about these hoodlums who continue to threaten what was once a safe, family friendly festival.
The parents of each of the instigators should be forced to pay a steep fine as well as mandated to attend counseling sessions with their unruly minors – at their expense as a means to help curtail this nonsense.
I understand that is not the only solution, but I do believe that actions will change if people are held accountable by a method that has a lasting effect.

Farewell John Henry

Over the last several weeks there have been a number of incidents giving me reason to pause. The first is the death of one of my mentors, John H. Lenear

Cleveland media giant silenced
Early Friday morning July 14, 2006 John Henry Lenear the Vice President of the Call and Post Newspapers died after a lengthy bout with prostrate cancer.
In recent years John focused a good deal of his attention to increasing the advertising revenue for the Call & Post, Ohio’s largest and oldest black newspaper, but he made a name for himself as a feisty, no nonsense reporter and editor of the same newspaper over a span of 40 years.
When I first met John in 1988 he was interviewing me for a position as a reporter with the newspaper – a position I was grudginly seeking because I had a love for the written word and high expectations that I could bring something positive to a newspaper that I did not read for a number of reasons.
The interview was a success and within days I became a member of the Call & Post staff, but more importantly I began a 10 year journey of on the job training. I had studied Journalism at Ohio University and political communication at Cleveland State University. Along the way I worked on the State Senate campaign of Michael R. White and later served as press assistant to then Shaker Heights Councilman – now County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones.
The experience garnered from these positions coupled with a longstanding family friendship led to a position with the East Cleveland City Council. This began as a Communications position but led to my serving for the majority of my tenure as Acting Clerk of Council – where I served for 2 1/2 years before my inability to keep my opinions to myself led to my dismissal. What a show that was – but that’s for another posting.
This brings us to my career with the newspaper and my long friendship, albeit sometimes contentious, with John Henry as I called him. John and I both had a love for politics and the political process and its effects on the black community. We also shared a love for the City of East Cleveland leading to my assignment as the beat reporter for East Cleveland and later Cleveland City Council.
John gave me free reign but also entrenched me in the bowels of the newspaper business. There were many late – almost all nighters where I not only typed my stories for his review but later typeset them on the Verityper and then cut and paste the copy onto the page. Now when I walked into the newspaper for the first time and saw that the staff was still working with typewriters and there wasn’t a word processer to be found I was appalled! The newspaper had recently changed hands and John H. Bustamante, then President of First Bank was the publisher so in my naivete I couldn’t understand why we were still cutting and pasting.
During my tenure we would introduce computers and computer pagination, but that was a few years down the road.
Some of the most contentious debates between John and I in the early days revolved around the content of our front page. John wanted blood, guts, controversy of any kind to lead the newspaper and I fought for good, clean stories of black folk making advances in the community. I would eventually get my way, but then I had to contend with the screams from the guys in circulation – “Why isn’t the shooting on 79th the lead!” and other cries were heard loud and clear.
In 1989 the Cleveland Mayor’s race would again serve as a point of contention between John and I. As a rookie reporter I felt I had an inside track to White and set about getting an interview and preparing what I felt was a very good piece on the former City Councilman, now State Senator seeking to lead his hometown. The story ran, but on the inside on I believe page 6A. This was proving to be an interesting race because White was running against his mentor George L. Forbes as well as some big names in the white community – Ralph Perk, Jr., Tim Hagan and Benny Bonnano. Hagan, Bonnano, White and Forbes would face off in the primary election and it was predicted that Forbes would be the black candidate remaining when the dust settled.
How wrong the pundits were – during the wee hours of the morning on Primary night I wrote the lead headline for the Call & Post “It’s a Black Thang!”. White had upset everyone and he and Forbes would face off in the November election.
John and I were at odds again – he was entrenched in the Forbes camp and I was rooting for the underdog, but the negative reports on allegations of spousal abuse by White led to many harsh debates.
In the end the underdog would prevail and go on to become the longest serving Mayor in Cleveland history.
When I left the Call & Post John never quite understood my decision. He attributed to a number of factors that were far from the truth and during one of our last conversations I tried to explain to him that we had stopped being advocates for the black community and therefore my desire to stay was muted.
During his funeral service the old urges resurfaced and I longed for the days when I sought stories that would empower my community. One of the communities biggest champions has gone on to glory and I will miss him.
Rest easy John, I’m sure you Mr. Alexander and Mr. Walker are working hard at producing the angels newspaper – “Heaven’s Times”.