Sapphire Blue believes that rainbows are cool. Rainbows should be for everyone.
Careful not to bump into the headless mannequin or tip over the velvet painting of the afro woman and child, I reached out and spun the carousal of earrings located on the cluttered counter of the thrift shop in Raleigh. I was visiting North Carolina on vacation to see my father, who lives about 50 miles away from Raleigh, and wandered into the store as sort of a break from sight-seeing in the stiff heat. After surveying this funky little shop with all its odd ball trinkets, my eyes caught the attention of a pair of hot pink, hoop-style earrings. I am a lover of earrings, especially the big, funky and handmade kind. My motto is: the more brazen, the better. In fact, my top drawer of my dresser is dedicated to my eclectic taste in jewelry. I tried them on and thought that the little appliquéd women in long white skirts and blue shirts, holding hands along the woven multi-layered pink ribbons, had sort of an old-world, Peruvian llama-farm woman feel to them. As I stood there, admiring myself in the small carousal mirror, my mind drifted to some unknown future where I would be frolicking down the streets of Philly in my white, off-the-shoulder flared dress, some hot pink flats and these earrings, dangling from my ears. Passerbys would compliment me on my keen fashion sense, at which I would shyly replied, “thanks.” Then they would inquiry about the earrings, at which I would giggle and say, “Oh these old things. Well I picked them up in a small boutique somewhere down South.” I asked the sale clerk how much for the earrings and she told me $3. I paid for the earrings and a pair of equally funky sunglasses and left the store.
Earlier the next morning, I stood in the kitchen excitingly telling my father and his wife about my adventures in Raleigh. I couldn’t wait to show them my purchases including my funky pair of earrings. I took them out the bag and held it up in front of his face, “Aren’t these nice,” I said, smiling from ear to ear. He squinted, mumbled something about not being able to see them very well and flicked on the light switch. Raising his eyebrows, my father said, “uh, yeah. I guess they are nice.” Disappointed with his reaction, I surveyed the earrings again, wondering why he was not as in awe of my find as I was. Then there, in the full light, I noticed something very different about my once-wonderful find. The ribbons were no longer multi-layers of pink but rather layers of red, orange, yellow, green, red and blue. Wide eyed, I stood frozen (or paused, as we say out on the streets), looking uncomfortably at my dad, who stared at me back with one raised eyebrow. Somehow my old world Peruvian llama farm-women earrings have turned into the rainbow flag. OMG, I thought to myself, my earrings are gay.
Now as someone that prides (no pun intended) herself on progressive thinking, I am always taken aback when my reaction to real life situations are not so progressive. Certainly I have no problem finding the humor in these peculiar moments in my life, like the time when I was on the 23 bus coming from downtown and a woman with a snake made a pass at me (I’ll have to save that for another post). But I also hesitate in retelling these stories to my friends and acquaintances. What would other people think? Will they laugh with me but secretly speculate about my sexuality? Or will they blatantly call me out (as some of our folks are known to do) for every “suspect” moment in my life, in which I would be forced to have to defend my hetro-ness to them?
Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with homosexuality and I can say that I am comfortable enough in my own sexuality to acknowledge that. However I can also admit to harboring some deep-seeded feeling of homophobia, which I believe has little to do with disliking a person because they are gay, but rather the ridicule and admonishment that comes with the label of that particular lifestyle. Meaning if the earrings that I’d brought, were wrapped in blue, red and white ribbons with the appliqués of the cross of St. Andrews pasted on it, I don’t think I would mind so much if people thought I was British. But as for people thinking I’m gay, well that’s a whole other thing. And I’m know, that I’m not alone in this reaction but it really doesn’t make me feel better about it neither. As trivial as it sounds, these situations remind me of how not accepting we can be, not just a community, but a society as a whole. It also reinforces the need for us to challenge these archaic notions of identity – whether it be sexual, gender or race-based.
I thought about that as I packed the earrings in my suitcase and headed home – I also thought about how I definitely need to make an appointment with my doctor to get my eyes checked. Originally, I thought about tossing them in the recycling bin or giving them away as a gift or perhaps dying the ribbons to more socially acceptable colors. But perhaps one day, I will work up the nerve to actually wear them outside, with my pretty off-the shoulder white dressed that flairs and hot pink flats – not caring one bit what anyone thinks – perhaps.
[Sapphire Blue steps on her homemade soapbox]
Fear and panic always seem to arise whenever a report surfaces in the mainstream media about a food recall. Worried and concerned citizens would pillaged through their refrigerators and cabinets, tossing out anything associated with the said containment product and sales of that said product would plummet – if only temporarily. Remember the Fairback Farm ground beef recall of last year, after a deadly strain of E. Coli was detected? That meat was sold in retailers like Trader Joes and B.J.’s Warehouse and affected over 500,000 pounds of ground beef. What about the peanut recall of March 2009 when some of us began to look sideways at our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And how can we forget the great tomato recall of 2008 that had millions running away from the Border (that’s a Taco Bell joke if you didn’t get it). Perhaps this is why we are hearing less and less about these recalls in the mass media. The exception of course is when the call back involves millions of noticeable products sold in multiple states such as the big Kellogg’s’ cereal recall that happened last week. That story made national headlines, however the story about the Pure Base Garlic Spread call back, which was recalled on the same day as Kellogg’s, had failed to garner a blip on the national media radar. And while I’m not suggesting that there is some massive conspiracy or anything (because that might get me sued), I do think that most people would be really surprise to learn about the massive underreporting of what is being recalled from our dinner plates. Just in June alone, nearly 20 food and drug corporations, under the nudging of the FDA, have voluntarily recalled millions of products from the store shelves. The vast majority of these recalls had failed to receive decent coverage in mainstream media or have been done without proper customer notification from the retailer. I get the point that food recalls are bad for a company’s bottom line, however potential contamination of food supplies are ultimately bad for our health – so as a consumer, what should you be more concerned with? I’m not suggesting that folks should live in a constant state of fear and panic of what could be lurking within that ham and cheese sandwich; however I do believe that folks should be a genuinely concerned about the products that we ultimately consume. I mean, what’s wrong with having a COMPLETE list of recalled items posted on the entrance of your favorite supermarket? Too much like right, I guess. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when sustaining advertising dollars are just as important as the general public’s right to know, so the odds are even slimmer that we will be told in a timely fashion when items are pulled from the shelves of supermarkets. That’s why folks have to do their due diligence to educate themselves. One such step is to sign up to receive free email alerts through the FDA’s website of all food and drug recalls including pet food. One a side note, I also believe that folks need to spend more time playing in some dirt. Part of the reason (and there are dozens but I’ll save that for a later post) that we are subjected to tainted food is our overreliance on foods not produced by our own hands. And while certain food production requires extensive space, most fruits and veggies do not. Even apartment dwellers are setting up window seal and small roof top gardens. Will you ever produce enough to dine for 365 days? Not likely. However, I believe that growing your own will help guarantee that at least one meal – or side dish – meets certain quality standards. Or at the very least, help you easily track the source of your own food poisioning (see video below) :S
Stepping of the box now. Fewsh, glad I got that off my chest.
Many moons ago, my dad and I were having a conversation about MY musical taste (my dad and I regularly had conversations about MY preferences and how they were all wrong). At the time and like many black urban area youth, I was heavily into Hip-Hop, with a splash of R&B. I would bob my head to Wu-Tang for breaksfast, sit back and mack with Biggie for Lunch and C-Walk it out to Dre Dre and Snoop Dogg for Dinner. Yes, if you asked me back then, I would have thrown up some sort of made-up gang sign and told you that I was hip-hop for life. Matter of fact, that's what I told my father, when he asked why I would I listen to that "noise."
"Young lady, all that rap will kill your brain cells, perhaps you should start listening to some real music. Some Jazz," he said.
My father was certain that I would mature out of hip-hop for a more "adult" genre of music. As irked as I was at my father for mocking my musical styling, I would later find out that he was right - and wrong at the same time. I still bob my head to the hip-hop greats but I have also, as my father would say, matured to appreciate all genres of black music: from afro-beats to afro-punk; hip-hop to yes, even jazz. If it has a great beat, rhythm or tempo, I'm grooving to it.
Most ironically, my father, who is a mature man in his 50s, is the proud owner of the Notorious Biggie Smalls' Ready to Die CD. Go Figure.
“In honor of Juneteenth Independence Day, I ain’t doing a muthertruckin’ thing – I think my ancestors would have wanted that way. “
That was my Facebook Status update from this past Saturday, half jesting, half serious. In previous years, I have preferred not to participate in honoring the day, in which a Calvary of Black Soldier arrived at a plantation in Galveston, Texas to read the proclamation to my distant enslaved ancestors that our supposedly freedom was granted from our oppressors. I always questioned the logic of celebrating our collective freedom, when so many of our brothers and sisters remain enslaved through the prison industrial complex, inferior education systems, disparities in health care and of course, mental oppression. And less not forget, our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters, who according to Race-Talk, are the new face of enslaved people here in America. With so much work to be done on the liberation front, what exactly is there to celebrate?
Needless to say, attending the first annual (and revived) Juneteenth Day along the 6300 block of Germantown Avenue wasn’t initially on the top of my list of things to do. However, I ran into a friend, Deborah Gray, owner of the Coloring Book Gallery Children’s Bookstore, located at 6353 Germantown Avenue, who urged me to come through. Paraphrasing Gray, “There’s going to be food, a drumming circle and of course, you can check out my store.” According to Gray, the Coloring Book is the country’s the oldest multicultural children's bookstore. Recently relocating from Northern Virginia, the shop with the pretty blue façade, which also sits along a stretch of Germantown Avenue where the great majority of businesses are black-owned, has the privilege of being the city’s only children bookstore. So as a lover of books and sometimes children, how could I refuse the invitation?
While I arrived too early for meat of the festivities, which kicked off later on in the afternoon (I had a class to teach which prohibited me from staying too long) I did manage to catch the reenactment of the life of Harriet Tubman (the condensed version, of course) and check out Gray’s bookstore (see video below). And as I walked passed by the storefront displays tributing the many facts of black history at several of the businesses along the Avenue, I was hit with the sudden awareness of how our educational system does a piss poor job of actually educating, and how little is known of our history in and before this country. And while the displays themselves were of the no-frills, generic kind (basic black history facts on cardboard cut-outs), these businesses – these black businesses – are doing a service of keeping our history alive (and inspiring a thirst of knowledge) for the younger generation, who has to maneuver in a society that wants them to “get over it” and assimilate. And I would be remised if I didn’t mention the spiritual connection between our ancestors of past, who’s slaved for someone else’s gain, and the black businesses along the Avenue, who’s were now free to reap the reward of their own labor.
So, is the celebration of Juneteenth Independence Day premature? Perhaps. However a big part of liberation involves the re-education of our people and if the honoring of this day brings forth a new, or renewed, sense of self, than let the celebration begins.