Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mama On: Gratitude

"Be thankful for ALL things."

I just watched an acquaintance (who shall be called the "Giftee") open a Christmas gift, and I am appalled by her selfishly casual actions. The Giftee opened the gift, twisted her lips, and then tossed it aside. Her lack of gratitude was compounded by eye rolling and the comment that, "that's the small cheap one, isn't it? The new one is better." Mind you, this came from someone who didn't even have one of the item in the first place! On top of that, I happen to know that the Giver scrimped and sacrificed in order to provide the carefully selected gift in response to something the callous Giftee had long lusted after.

Needless to say, the Giftee is NOT a Mamaknologist.

My mother, also known as The Mother Of All Knowledge (or at least that's who I thought she was when I was growing up), would have frowned on this. Why? In the first place, no gift is ever owed. A gift is given freely and openly, with no thought of reward or personal gain attached. As such, my mother would tell you, grace and thankfulness are the obligation of any Giftee -- because nobody was forced or otherwise obligated to think kindly of you. Secondly, as every Mamaknologist knows, it costs nothing to say, "thank you," in response to thoughtfulness.

Finally, my mother and both my grandmothers, along with an endless line of other wise women would remind you that (open your bible, please...) 1 Thessalonians 5:18 advises us, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

And this applies to every day and every gift, even (or maybe especially) the small ones, that are not perfect or expected.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mama On: Interesting Things

"Keep On Living."

We all, without regard for race or nationality, woke up to a world of new possibilities today. We have a new President. I now live in the America that my mother wanted for me -- the President and I share the same skin color, and the First Lady looks like me.

Who knew?

Every Mamaknologist in the world, that's who. Every true Mamaknologist knows that every day the sun shines, every moment that this planet turns, there is the option for change and that change is always impacted by response. So, as Mr. Obama steps into the spotlight and becomes The Leader Of The Free World, we can all smile, if only because we have all lived long enough to see this country turn a high, wide, and broad corner -- so many didn't.

I can already imagine the head nodding going on among the Mamaknologists. See, he has become our Everyman. He has become not just the President, he has become the voice of American Authority. He has become the fantasy of every girl or woman (and a lot of men) of color. He has become the boyfriend we want for our daughters, our friends, and ourselves. He has become the husband and father we all want to smile at us. We all want to be Michelle when we see him look at her, "that way," (you know what I mean...). He has become the man we trust with our very lives.

And all it took was decades of slavery, civil war, back doors, Colored toilets and drinking fountains, Jim Crow, Sundown Laws, marching, firehoses, dogs, hard words and bigotry, National Guardsmen, voter registration, economic recession, and educational redress. Now, after an amazing election, we wait to see his impact (and our own) on history.

The words of wisdom to be gleaned from the Obama election and the path of his vision might well be that change is inevitable, and we hope for the best. Or, as my mother would have said, "keep on living."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mama On: Voting

"Never forget: somebody died for your right to vote."

I voted today. I didn't vote early, because this election was special and I needed to "be there". I needed to walk up to the poll, present my identification and cast my vote -- because I could. Oddly, or perhaps it really isn't odd at all, I met several practicing Mamaknologists in the process. It was interesting that we all knew the words, exactly the way my mother drilled them into me; we'd all been raised with them.

And it made me think of all the reasons I needed to be there. In my heart and in my mind, I knew that I made this exciting journey in the shoes of so many people. I thought of Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Fredrick Douglass, among so many others. But more importantly, I thought of my father and his U.S. Air Force career. He's a WWII and Korean War vet, and he proudly cast his vote for Obama. My mother, who, in 1963, defied all "logic" and climbed on a bus for the trip from Cleveland, Ohio to Washington, DC. And though she is no longer with us, she would be pleased and proud to know that this much of The Dream has come to pass.

Then, I thought of my own life and all that I have seen, and one incident stood out for me. I was in the first group of students that Cleveland bussed from one neighborhood to another in the interest of integration. Believe me when I say that this is a story I always knew I would tell, I just didn't know how or when I would tell it. Now seems right.

I was nine or ten years old. I was considered to be a gifted student with a very supportive family -- ideal candidate, right? Anyway, I was thrilled to have my lunchbox and to take the ride on the bus with my friends. My mother was terrified.

So, I climbed on the bus and went to school. That evening, I was in our living room, playing with my Barbie (or something) and my mother wanted to know what happened at school. "Nothing," was my answer. A few minutes later, my dad asked, what happened at school. "Nothing," I told him. When the question came a third time, I thought I knew what they wanted to know. Something HAD happened at school.

On my knees, I looked up at my parents and told them, "We had to run from the bus to get into the school."

You already know that the next question was, "Why?"

"Because the niggers were coming!" Hey, I was a kid and I had never been in the company of an adult who didn't at least like me. I had never heard the word, "nigger," (no, I had not yet read Tom Sawyer) -- so, when the angry adults started shouting and teachers herded children from the bus to the school, I ran, too.

It took a while for my parents to get me to understand the concept of what a, "nigger," was. Somehow, it was easier for them to explain that I could never be forced to be a, "nigger," if I chose not to allow it, than it was for them to explain why someone would ever want to apply the term to another human being. Even harder, was the idea that any person or group of people would ever apply the epithet to themselves. I made choices then, and I live with them to this very day.

I have chosen never to use that word in reference to myself, and I do not allow others to apply it to me by virtue of word or deed. I choose to remind young people that most white people (and pretty much anybody else in polite society) do not use that word any more -- they don't have to, not after having taught you to use the word on yourself.

And any one of those choices are only one of the reasons I chose to vote for Barak Obama. That choice is only one of the reasons I wanted to walk into the polling place to cast my vote today. It was my chance to walk into history, and my chance to kick the dust of an historically long road of tragedy and bitterness into the face of bigotry and racism.

I was glad to be there, and I'm glad that when I wake in the morning, my homeland will turn its face to hope and progress. And I'm glad that I had a chance to vote.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mama On: Being A Woman

"Hold your head up and walk like a woman."

My mother, the world's greatest proponent of Mamaknology, was adamant about this one. In her infinite vision and hard-won wisdom, she would see Michelle Obama as a spiritual daughter, as truly as I see her as my spiritual sister. Apparantly, I am not the only woman of color who senses, indulges, and celebrates this bond. I recently got this article from a friend, and it is too appropriate to forego the opportunity to share. Unfortunately, I do not have an author for attribution, but read on ...

Why white America fears Michelle more than Barack.
Excerpts from a 'Jack & Jill politics' newsletter:

As hard as it is to accept a black president, it's even harder to accept a black first lady. First Lady has always held a beloved sentimental mother/wife of the nation symbolism. Conservatives are not ready to have to look at this very BLACK woman with her degrees and her fierceness and see her as the epitome of the American mother/wife.

This will be a first for white people. They do not want this black woman in the White House as their first lady. That New Yorker cartoon was [actually] about Michelle - she was its focal point... look closely ... She is the leader, the one starting the "revolution" they want you to imagine...

MSNBC's Chris Matthews said, in the course of covering the Obama candidacy, 'He (Barack Obama) brings none of the 'bad stuff, you know?" By 'Bad Stuff', he meant the legacy of [whites] enslaving Africans in this country, keeping them as second-class citizens until 1965, a mere 11 years before this country celebrated its 200th anniversary. You know, 'the original sin', or 'the birth defect', as Condi Rice called it.

Barack escapes this 'bad stuff' only because his mother was white and may have had ancestors involved in the slave trade; and also because Barack's father was not African American. He was full blooded African and therefore Barack had no ancestors enslaved by America -- and so the white guilt factor is missing when they think of him. HOWEVER, NO SUCH LUCK WITH MICHELLE!

Michelle Obama is a direct threat and lightening bolt against White Superiority. Because, she's Black. VISIBLY BLACK. But it's important to note, she does not, in any way, shape, or form, contour to the acceptable Black Pathologies that enable White Supremacy to sigh with relief. [welfare mother, fatherless child, druggie, etc.] Michelle was raised in a neighborhood. In a home. With TWO parents. No child revolving in and out of jail. Raised by a Black man who not only provided for his family, but did so, WITH A DISABILITY. Her mother had a working class job - secretary- but it was taken ONLY after she had seen her youngest child settle into HIGH SCHOOL.

Michelle Obama's poise, her confidence, her aura - that was created by that humble Black man, who by all accounts, adored her. He told her that she is worthy, and so, when you have that told to you by the first man who loves and protects you, you seek that validation of that in your choice of mate, you'll settle for nothing less, and Michelle hasn't.

Michelle Obama, doesn't fit any of the acceptable Black pathologies. And when you don't fit the acceptable Black pathologies, then you must be destroyed. Michelle Obama has become the face of the Black America whose existence is routinely denied by this country. Think about it: In ONE generation, the face of this 'Invisible America' has gone from living on the top floor of a bungalow, to the possibility of living in The White House. And yet, Michelle Obama, refuses to say, "I'm special," in order to give white America its usual security blanket [that she is one of the exceptions rather than the rule], So what should be done? Beat her down into submission?

Michelle Obama represents everything we black women want our daughters to be. When we stand up for her we stand up for ourselves. No other women in the world are more neglected and abused as African women, period. Michelle looks like [our] daughters, her daughters look like us. We love the way Barack looks at her and we adore the way he looks at his daughters. The Obamas represent the hope that we can be loved by our men and that they will support us in whatever we do.

Little African American girls need a vision and dream of what it is like to be loved by a man who looks just like them.

Is America ready for a First Lady who looks like her? A regular black woman? Not a passable biracial curly haired girl that they call black, but a regular black woman from the south side of Chicago? With dark skin? Is she going to be the face of The Woman on the largest pedestal in the country? A self-confessed "loud-mouth" black woman? If the Obamas succeed, it turns white supremacy upside down. And not because a black man is in the White House; but, because a black woman will be there who didn't have to come in the back door to lie in bed with the president.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mama On: Ignorance

"Being ugly is never pretty."

The ugliness illustrated by this bogus "foodstamp" and the accompanying article baffle me. How does the Inland Republican Woment's group justify this blatant racism as "interesting" and then cry real tears when they get caught? Shame on these 'ladies'. Everybody who sees this item and this article knows you for the agents of racism and ignorance that you REALLY are.

Inland GOP mailing depicts Obama's face on food stamp

11:39 PM PDT on Thursday, October 16, 2008
By MICHELLE DeARMONDThe Press-Enterprise

The latest newsletter by an Inland Republican women's group depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken, prompting outrage in political circles.

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps -- instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of "Obama Bucks" -- a phony $10 bill featuring Obama's face on a donkey's body, labeled "United States Food Stamps."

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

An Inland Republican women’s group sent out a newsletter showing this fake $10 “food stamp” with Barack Obama’s face on it.

The group's president, Diane Fedele, said she plans to send an apology letter to her members and to apologize at the club's meeting next week. She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

"It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don't want to go into it any further," Fedele said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn't my attempt."

Fedele said she got the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the Trumpeter newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She declined to say who sent her the e-mails with the illustration.

She said she doesn't think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president. "I didn't see it the way that it's being taken. I never connected," she said. "It was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else."

She said she also wasn't trying to make a statement linking Obama and food stamps, although her introductory text to the illustration connects the two: "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on????? Food Stamps, what else!"

Club Member Cries
Sheila Raines, an African-American member of the club, was the first person to complain to Fedele about the newsletter. Raines, of San Bernardino, said she has worked hard to try to convince other minorities to join the Republican Party and now she feels betrayed. "This is what keeps African-Americans from joining the Republican Party," she said. "I'm really hurt. I cried for 45 minutes."

The Obama campaign declined to comment. It's the campaign's policy to not address such attacks, said Gabriel Sanchez, a California spokesman for the campaign. The newsletter prompted a rebuke from another African-American member of the organization, which is well recognized in the community for its philanthropy and efforts to register and turn out voters in the Rancho Cucamonga and Upland areas. Acquanetta Warren, a Fontana councilwoman and member of the women's group, said the item is rude and requires a public apology.

"When I opened that up and saw it, I said, 'Why did they do this? It doesn't even reflect our principles and values,' " said Warren, who served as a Republican delegate to the national convention in September and is a regional vice chairwoman for the California Republican Party. "I know a lot of the ladies in that club and they're fantastic. They're volunteers. They really care -- some of them go to my church."

Warren forwarded an electronic version of the newsletter to the California Republican Party headquarters, where officials also were outraged Wednesday and denounced the illustration. Hector Barajas, the party's press secretary, said the party chairman likely will have a conversation with Fedele, and Barajas will attend the statewide California Federation of Republican Women conference this weekend in Los Angeles to handle any news media there to cover the controversy.

    Obama in Turban
The newsletter is not the first such episode Barajas has had to respond to this week. The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday posted an image it said was captured from the Sacramento County GOP Web site that showed Obama in a turban next to Osama bin Laden.
It said: "The difference between Osama and Obama is just a little B.S." The site also encouraged members to "Waterboard Barack Obama," a reference to a torture technique. The Sacramento County party took down the material Tuesday after being criticized.

Mark Kirk, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County GOP chairman, said he expects Chairman Gary Ovitt to also have a talk with Fedele and to attend the group's local meeting next week to discuss the issue with members, although the county GOP has no formal oversight role over the club. Kirk said these kinds of depictions hurt the party's ongoing efforts to reach out to minorities. "It's very damaging and we're going to take steps to correct this," Kirk said. "Unfortunately, I don't know what you do to correct ignorance like this, but we will do what we can."

Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, and state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, both criticized the illustration as inappropriate and irresponsible. Dutton pointed out that his wife, a member of the club, is of Mexican heritage and has battled criticism that the Republican Party is not the party for minorities. The club's newsletter undercuts efforts to rise above racism, he said.

"Bias and racial comments and even suggestions are frankly what weakens us as a people. I think we as Americans need to rise above that," he said. Emmerson said he was extremely offended and sickened by the newsletter. Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Cal State Sacramento, said it's imperative that people speak out about these kinds of depictions no matter how small the organization. She praised Raines for doing so.

"It's a statement about what is civil discourse and can you get away with doing something under an organizational banner," she said. "You have to cut it out at the root and the root is often small organizations that are local and they then become larger."

Reach Michelle DeArmond at 951-368-9441 or
mdearmond@PE. com.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mama On: Standing Up For What You Believe

"They talked about Jesus Christ; you know they'll talk about you. Isn't it nice to be in such good company!"

Lately, Barak Obama has been talked about a lot -- yes, every Mamaknologist (and her mama!) on the planet knows that. But today, I'm going to use another Mamaknologist's point of view to express mine on both Barak Obama and Sarah Palin:

A Woman's Worth
We've come a long way baby
Tuesday, September 09, 2008 By Goldie Taylor

I have been a mother all of my adult life. A single working mother. I put off dating, took menial jobs far beneath my qualifications and baked my share of ginger bread cookies for PTA Night, all so that three incredible children could have a better life. I chose their lives over mine. I don't have to tell you that it wasn't easy. Unfortunately, my story, our story, is not unique.

We slept in cars, bought groceries with food stamps and prayed for a better day. When that wasn't enough, I put myself through school at Emory University and took a part-time job as a staff writer at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. That was over a decade ago.

Along the way, things got better. I've been an executive at two Fortune 500 companies and a practice director at two multinational public relations firms. Today, I own an advertising agency and I've authored two novels. A third and fourth are on the way, God willing. All of this was possible because somebody laid a brick or two on the road for me.

A few weeks ago, I woke in tears. It was my 40th birthday and certainly not a time for sadness. Rather, I cried in joy because for the first time I realized and could embrace the value of the struggle. The bright little girl, who once cried in my arms because we didn't know where we were going to live, was headed off to Brown University. The small boy who had been the 'man of the house' far too soon was now truly a man. And the tiny, angelic baby who had come to this world precious and innocent just 15 months after him was now a 16 year old girl headed out to her first job interview.

For all of this, maybe I should be proud of a woman like Sarah Palin. Maybe, just maybe, I should be rejoicing in John McCain's selected running mate.

But I'm not.

I am not a 'bed wetting liberal' nor am I a 'right-wing zealot.' What I am is a working mother. And I cry foul.

I won't, for a moment, denigrate her experience or lob spit balls at her family. I will, though, take issue with what she knows. Or more succinctly, what she does not know. Living in Alaska, I'm not sure how much she knows about the people living in inner city Baltimore. I don't know how much she cares about the 125 murders this summer in Chicago. I have no idea what she believes about HIV/ AIDS and the havoc it wrecks on Black women or the cancer rates in East St. Louis. She hasn't said nary a word about Hurricane Katrina or the infant mortality rates in Appalachia.

I do know that she's a life-time member of the NRA, a proponent of individuals who wielded the very weapons that killed my father and brother. I do know that she “lives really close to Russia,” but I'm not so certain she is ready for Putin. I know she wanted to ban books for public libraries and sex education in schools, but that her 17 year old is pregnant and preparing for a shotgun wedding. I know that she loves her husband enough to allow him (and probably did herself) use her office to settle a personal score--one that the McCain campaign would now like to cover up under a blanket of Juneau snow. I know that the Alaska Independent Party, and its secessionist platform, was enticing enough for her to attend its conference (and for her husband to become a card carrying member). Does she love her country? I'm sure. Enough to support those who want to leave it.

But I have no earthly idea what she knows (or could possibly know) about national domestic policy or foreign diplomacy. For all of her working class values, she never once mentioned the Middle Class in her diatribe that mocked her opponent's experience. Having been the mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6,000 at the time) and governor of Alaska (a state a smaller than the county I live in) for a little over a year, she felt she was qualified to do that. And obviously, so did John McCain.

If she's qualified, then so am I.

But in this country I love, she has been afforded the ability to run. The very constitution she says doesn't apply to the men at Guantanamo says she can. But this is about more than that.
As Gloria Steinem said in a recent Los Angeles Times editorial, 'Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.'

The good news is thanks to Shirley Chisholm, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Angela Davis, Condoleeza Rice, Anita Hill, Madeline Albright, Maxine Waters, Kathleen Sebelius, Hilary Rodham Clinton and a slew of others, there are 18 million proverbial cracks in the ceiling. Our collective political and economic power is due to the strides (and leaps) they, and others, took on my behalf.
I am grateful. I am deeply humbled to stand on the bricks they'd laid before me.

But, whatever our struggle was (and is) that last thing I want is to be patronized. Just as I cannot support just any African American who decides to offer themselves up for public service, I will not toss my vote to someone just because we share the same chromosome mix. To do so would dishonor the vow I made to my children, to myself. I did not vote for Al Sharpton, wasn't old enough (nor would I have) voted for Jesse Jackson and I certainly will not support Sarah Palin. Identity politics, especially in this case, are a sham of the worst order.

When I cast my vote, it will be for people who will lay more bricks for people like me. It will be for people who will put diplomacy before war, challenge us all to provide healthcare for the sick, help another child go to college, and check the special interests in Washington. This fall, I'm not looking for a woman.

I'm looking for a brick layer.

I could care less if that person hasn't spent 'enough' time in Washington or can 'properly field dress a moose'. I could care less if that person likes hockey, soccer, football or table tennis. I could care less if they graduated from Harvard or the University of Iowa. I'm a Christian, but I could care less if they are down with Deuteronomy, Leviticus or Numbers. I want them to uphold the Constitution.

So no, I will not sit idly by as they attempt to suspend habeas corpus at Guantanamo Bay, engage wiretaps on American citizens without a warrant, and hide behind executive privilege when they are caught firing attorney generals based on how well they tow the Republican line. I won't let them cost us $12 billion a month fighting a war that should have never been authorized and never been waged. Not while working people lose their homes to predatory lenders and watch as we bail out the financial institutions that created the housing crisis. I will not, in the name of history, vote for a woman like Sarah Palin who does not share my values.
But here’s what I will do.

I will continue raising money for Barack Obama. I will get on the phone again and call people in distant states I've never met. I will e-mail, call, and knock on doors until the final vote is cast. I do this, not because he shares my skin, but because I admire his principals and he shares my values. I do this because Barack Obama is more than a community organizer, he is a bricklayer. And he sees -- just as he sees the light in Michelle's eyes -- my struggle, my worth as a woman.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mama On: Organzation

"Put things back where you got them, and they'll always be there when you need them."
This is Mamaknology 101: a concept so simple that its application is often overlooked. This concept is so universal that it applies to everything from your purse to your bank account. Making sure that things, including your relationships, education, and even your health are safely kept in line insures you a life less complicated.

And we all like less complicated, right?

Okay, here's where stuff gets complicated. Some of us like to bring the drama -- go out in public with it draped around our shoulders or wrapped all around our head and trailing in the breeze like a dirty wedding veil. For the record, this is not a good look on anyone, and all it takes to fix it is a little organization.

And before I forget, the corrolary to this one is, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This also translates as, "don't s**t where you sit."

Yes, my mother (Knower Of All Mama Knowledge) was full of sayings, but this one is on point. You want a life without drama and complications?
  • How 'bout you don't put any out there.
  • How about you give honesty where you would have others be honest with you.
  • How about remembering that while common courtesy is not always common, it is always ultimately appreciated.
  • How about you study for the tests that life will bring and answer challenges like an adult instead of as a child.
  • How about admitting your shortcomings and then doing something about them.
These are all things that a practicing Mamaknologist would do. Come to think of it, these are all things that a successful adult would do -- and all it takes is putting things where they belong.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mama On: Cherishing Yourself

"Always wear clean underwear in case of accidents."

To be sure, my mother did not have a lock on this one. Everybody's mother said this, but my mother added that you wanted to wear clean underwear so that you wouldn't get treated like a booger if you DID have an accident.

I might have been able to go a very long time without addressing this one, but for the fact that I recently encountered a young woman who chose the sans underwear option. Right. Out in the world with no drawers. And the only reason I (and about fifty other people) knew was because the wind blew, exposing her bare flesh. One witness, a man who obviously felt that all present should be informed, shouted and shared the news.

Sad as that was, my mother, the world's leading Mamaknologist would have been immediately appalled that a woman would think so little of herself. She would wonder why any woman would leave her home with her hair and nails done, and wearing what she thought to be a well-planned and fashionable outfit, only to leave her most precious physical asset open and bare to the world.

The Mamaknologist take on this is: Why? Why would you leave your body so publicly exposed? You don't know who's out there, and what they're bringing with them. Yes, I know that the AIDs virus does not survive once exposed to air, but we all know that there is so much else "out there," including perversion aided and abetted by video and the internet. Even if she thought she looked good with her personal and private parts made so public, why would any woman crave such negative attention in the first place?

This is not totally a question of home training or even sanity and though we might spend, or waste, hours postulating the answers, the bottom line is that a woman who cherishes herself and the gifts she brings is never going to abuse those gifts. The bible speaks of casting, "pearls before swine," but the Mamaknologist knows that if you don't respect yourself enough to cherish the gifts of your body, mind, and spirit, you can never expect anyone else to, either.

And that accident your mother warned you about? It could be waiting on a bus or train seat.  Wear your panties!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mama On: Public Actions

"Actions speak louder than words."

The 2008 summer olympics have begun, and I am greatly reminded of my mother's reminder. Isn't it interesting how we look at 41 year old swimmer, Dana Torres, and see a heroine. We see her shining and indomitable spirit, her silver medal triumph, and a mother who has set an amazing example for children everywhere.

Then we look at the wrestler Ara Abrahamian, the Armenian-born wrestler from Sweden, who will always be remembered for his "hissy fit". He received a bronze medal for his performance in the 84kg class of Greco-Roman wrestling. During the award ceremony, Abrahamian stepped down from the podium, took off his medal and dropped it onto the wrestling mat. He then angrily left and was later quoted as saying "I don’t care about this medal. I wanted gold."

The Mamaknologist response? Hell, we all want gold. Suck it up, you big baby! Some things in this world are bigger than what you want. Abrahamian should have acted better, because his childish, selfish actions have defined him as a man and will forever speak for him on the world stage.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mama On: Good Health

"Health is like money. Spend it wisely -- there are no refunds."

That my mother even said this is ironic. My mother endured chronic high blood pressure, and was a heart attack and stroke victim. She passed 10 days before her 57th birthday, and once told me that her first heart attack surpassed any pain she'd ever had or imagined, and she never wanted that for me.

Maybe as a reflex reaction, my life and career paths took extreme detours. A psychology major, working in social service, her words took root in my soul and led to a major career change. I stepped away from my caseworker's desk and sought certification as an aerobics instructor and personal trainer. The difference, for me, was more than one of dollars and cents, and measurable in more than calories and pounds.

The Mamaknologist wisdom is this: Good health is worth more than its weight in gold -- keep it for as long as you can. As a Mamaknologist, you know that if you aren't good for yourself, you can't be good for anyone else. You also know that everything that's good to you is not good for you. The thought you probably have not had (and that my mother would encourage) is that taking care of your health is an investment in your life and the quality of life that you will share with others.

So, as a Mamaknologist who knows her true worth, what are you going to do? How about letting your level of flexibility affect your joints as much as it does your decisions. Enjoy variety that affects your diet as completely as it does your wardrobe. Endurance of a problem never resolves it -- see your doctor and do the maintenance your body requires, and live the life that you deserve. Think of it this way: if health is like money, all it takes is the investment of small change(s) to keep it. My mother, the Ultimate Mamaknologist, would want that for you.

Spending your life as a person of quality requires respect -- respect of mind, body, and spirit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mama On: Privacy

"Everybody's business is nobody's business and nobody's business is everybody's business."

Surprised to learn that everybody knows a different version of your business? And how willing they are to accept and (gasp!) appreciate the worst of it? Even when you don't make an active personal practice of putting your business, "out there"?

Hey, it happens, but the Mamaknologist knowing life for what it is, takes this as a series of lessons based in gossip, including:
  1. don't start none, won't be none (think about it...)
  2. don't do anything you don't want to see on the front page of your hometown newspaper.
  3. and (my mother's favorite) they talked about Jesus, what makes you think they won't talk about you?

Face it, people are going to talk, especially if you insist on painting targets on yourself and pouring fuel on an already happily burning fire. Contrary to popular belief, all publicity (including the negative) is not good publicity. Do you really want to be "famous" for the worst things you can do or have done? Do you really want to be seen as a less than valuable human being? Be less than worthy of love, respect and consideration?

I'm going to guess the answer to those questions is a resounding, "no". This means that your personal business and life should always be exactly that -- personal, and they should remain so. If you put them out in the world to be handled and abused like any other cheap commodity, that's exactly how they will be perceived and treated by the world at large. And worse, that's how you will ultimately treat yourself, leaving your spirit and your person damaged: chipped, tarnished, broken, and useless.

The Mamaknology to be gleaned here is that if you have no value for yourself and your affairs, don't expect anyone else to have it either. The biblical reference for this has to do with casting pearls before swine -- don't do it. Always keep the best of yourself for yourself, and know that others will treat you as you treat yourself.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mama On: Being Honest With Yourself.

"Always trust your first mind."

We've all heard that actions speak louder than words, but the skilled Mamaknologist has learned to read action as an indicator of character. While it may be simpler to interpret actions according to whim and felicity, translating them into what we would most like to be told or see, it doesn't work in the short run. And, in the long run, wishing will never make it so.

The person who promises everything and delivers nothing is never going to be the person you want to trust with a cherished secret, a family heirloom, a sensitive job, or your heart. And the only person you can trust to know this is yourself. A lot of people call this effort, trusting your intuition. The true Mamaknology lies in trusting your initial and heart-bound instinct: something my mother called, trusting your first mind.

I would, in fact be lying if I said that no Mamaknologist ever succumbed to the urge to ignore her first mind. And, yes, even after being raised at the knee of the 20th Century's leading Mamaknologist, I've slipped myself (a few hundred times...), but that doesn't make the lesson or the counsel any less valuable. When something doesn't feel right, learn to trust yourself to know that it's not right, and go forward in faith. My mother used to say that the real trick was to stop listening to what you want to hear, and listen to what is/was being said BEFORE you commit yourself.

I think she was right.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mama On: Taking Responsibility

"If your mouth gets you into something, you'd better let your mouth get you out of it."

As I grew into the Mamaknology of my life, my mother called watching what you say and acting on the words that pass your lips respect, and after years of maternal monitoring, she finally left its application up to me. As direct result, I have had my share of saying the wrong things in the wrong places come back to bite me on the butt -- hard.

So, as a Mamaknologist, I have learned that by definition, respect is: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability. And though I wish my mother had said it first, Ralph Waldo Emerson said: The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain. Respect and the ability to take responsibility for your actions fully qualify as principles of Mamaknology.

In this life, respect has to be earned and its cost is often dear, so if you allow your mouth to cheat you out of it, be prepared to do the work it takes to recoup the lost ground. There are no designer clothes that will dress up the snappy attitude that costs you respect. And goodness knows that even the cutest shoes will not outwalk "hateration".

And, just know, if you put the ugliness out there, it will come back -- usually because you didn't respect yourself enough not to realize that you (as a Mamaknologist) are simply better than that. The Mamaknologist wisdom here: think before you speak. Not only does God not like ugly, the rest of the world is not very fond of it ether, so watch your mouth!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mama On: The Care and Handling Of Bitches

"I didn't raise them. I raised you."

Bitches. Yeah, I used that word. Face it, they are a fact of life. You work with them, meet them in the mall, pass them on the highway, and generally just have to live around them -- fact and hazard of life in the 21st century.

If you were raised by a woman like my mother and as heavily indoctrinated in Mamaknology as I was, there is no way you could ever forget the Mamaknologist definition of a bitch: a malicious, unpleasant, selfish woman. There is also no way you could ever forget her take on living and working with the mean girls who grew up to be mean women.

My mother, the consumate Mamaknologist, believed that because we don't live in this world alone (and it's illegal to exterminate them), we are all going to encounter a bitch at some point. She also believed that no Mamaknologist worth her title had to surrender power, faith, intellect, or femininity to a bitch. Her ability to deal with these fatally self-imbued women bordered on legendary. Her tools for the task were simple: a stronger than average vocabulary, the courage of her convictions, and a straight backed determination to be herself -- you can do that when you know who you are.

I'm sure that it didn't hurt that she was tall and pretty (pretty, after all is as pretty does, to paraphrase Forest Gump). But, she had a point, and under her tutelage you learned to stand up for yourself without tearing others down -- leaving them with respect for you and your ideas. You learned the Mamaknology principle of grace under fire and applied it with a generous dollop of intellectual "smack" (as some of us enjoy calling attitude with street cred).
Best of all, you learn to celebrate yourself. Take a look in the mirror: we all have something (maybe only one thing) that we KNOW is exceptional. And it's cause for celebration. And finally, you hold your head up and walk like you know where you're going because you have a right to.

So take that, bitches.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mama On: One Final Point

"Some people choose to view the world through a cracked mirror."

This picture was forwarded in an email I recieved today, and I had to wonder. That someone addresses a political cadidate in this way is beyond sad -- they didn't even have the courage to attack the man directly. Rather, they went after his wife, and where's the chivalry in that? But the sado-sexual imagery makes me wonder -- is this an image of fear, or desire?
It's hard to believe that anyone might find this cover art to be funny, interesting, or even reasonable -- and it is certainly not politically astute, appealing as it does to the very lowest elements of American society. But it is obvious in the need to bind and demean her (while dressed in an evening gown, no less!), that her power is feared.
And while this cover is both bigoted and racist, I say, DO YOUR THING, MICHELLE! This woman has taken a stand and chosen to support a man determined to do his best -- and I'm not mad at either of them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mama On: Minding Your Own Business

"When people choose to sleep, it's not your job to wake them up."

There are some people, like the guy who shows up at your gym in the burmuda shorts and black dress socks. You know that somebody told him it was a bad idea, but he chose to do it, anyway. Well, that's largely what this principle of Mamaknology is built upon: knowing when to keep your mouth shut. People are going to do what they are going to do, and you can't always stop them -- especially when they enjoy the madness they leave in their wake.

My mother liked to call it, keeping your own counsel. But, the truth of the matter is, whether you keep it to yourself or not, some people (even you and me from time to time) are going to make bad choices. At its best, making a bad choice will teach a lesson and make us better people. At its worst, making a bad choice can be life altering and dangerous.

So, as Mamaknologists, it is incumbent upon us to learn the difference between being supportive and becoming an enabler of stuff that's just flat out crazy. Somebody who works fulltime and won't pay their bills? That's crazy and we all know it. People who drink and drive, then try to convince the world (including the police) that they are not committing a criminal act? Accept that if you want to -- just don't ride with them. Women and men who take up with (and keep returning!) to abusive mates -- I'm not even going to say what I'm thinking.

But take it seriously when people around you elect to live lives that you wouldn't want to have to justify to Jesus -- or your mama. If they choose to sleep, it may not be your job to wake them -- but you don't have to stick around to make the coffee when they finally decide to wake up, either.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mama On: Tone

"If you can't say something nice; think about it."

A-ha! This one surprised you, didn't it? You thought this would be the old, "... say nothing at all," point of view, right? The Mamaknologist is always smarter than the expected, and above the cheap insult. My mother was adamant: a woman who CAN only answer an insult with an insult is eternally less than her best. A woman who WOULD only answer an insult with an insult is too lazy to claim her true glory and can only aspire to the coveted title of practicing Mamaknologist.

This principle is not to be confused with the biblicly etheral turning of the other cheek. As a Mamknologist, you already know that what you put into the world is most often what you get out of it. My mother would have told you that you deserve the best this life has to offer. Further, she would have told you that if you lack love and concern for someone, even a self-proclaimed and persistent enemy, then it is incumbent upon you to dig deep and have enough dignity and character to care for yourself, because even the biggest fool can teach you something.

The Mamaknologist defines "tone" as a particular mental state or disposition affecting an individual's spirit, character, and presence. It is that defining manner of style, morals, and philosophical outlook that speak to who you truly are. Now armed with the definition, my mother (Qualifier of All Things Mamaknologable) would tell you that the quality of who you are, and how you establish yourself in this life is up to you.

Don't want to be badly spoken to? Watch your tone.
Want help when you need it? Watch your tone.
Expect to get old someday? Watch your tone.
Don't want to be ignored? Watch your tone.
Want to be respected? Watch your tone.
Crave attention? Watch your tone.

Final words of Mamaknologist wisdom: It's not only what you say, it's when and how you say it, so watch your tone.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mama With: A Few More Words

If you're still wondering why someone would come up with those Curious George Shirts, or why they would launch such vitupritive attacks on Barack and Michelle Obama, I'm guessing that it is fear. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown and the different. Happily, we are not all afraid, and while we know our past, we are not afraid to face our future. Take a look and listen to the words of Americans looking to the future:

The We Are The Ones Song by
View the video

people say Obama’s words are just words...

when was the last time "words" weren’t important...???...

when was the last time a great leader didn’t use words to lead...??...
when was the last time a person didn’t use words to describe how they felt...?...
when was the last time "words" weren’t empowering...?...

and we can all recall the last time "words" were used to divide us and install fear...

Bush used words to fear us into voting for him the second time around...
terror this...

terror that...
nuclear here...
weapons of mass destruction there...

and those words effected a lot of people’s choices...

"enough is enough"...
let’s rebuild...

let’s change ourselves...
let’s allow positivity to guide us...

let's take action....
let’s activate our passion...
we are Americans....

and this is the first time in forever that someone running for president
represents "US"...

some say this is all excitement...
I call it “proud to be an American”...

some say this whole Obama movement is "cult like"...
if it comes across cult like...
the cult is called America...

the Obama movement is connecting America.
and it has made "US" realize our importance...
the youth is excited and activated...
adults are passionate and motivated...
the elderly are proud to know the country they built is in safe hands...

we are one..

for too long politics has been corrupt...
separate from the American people...
with agendas that go against what the American people "need"...

politicians have spoken a different language...
making it so the youth and poor people feel as if voting was only for the
wealthy and old people...
making "US" feel as if "we" had no voice...
making "US" feel powerless...
making it feel like if "we" did vote it wouldn’t change anything...

but wait...
that did happen...
some of us voted, and it didn’t change anything...

we were in the dark...
we had no voice...
we were powerless...

because America was not a united America...
and "they" spoke a different language...
and they had an agenda different from our well being...

correct me if I’m wrong... or speak up if I’m missing something...

we want education, health, safety, and good jobs...right???...
oh yeah...
and "a healthy planet to live on"...

but here we are...

in a war... poor education... poor health programs... the dollar is down... the
planet, polluted...
the rich, richer... and the poor, struggling...
with sky high gas prices to top it all off...

and now even the rich aren't really rich internationally because our dollar is
has fallen so far down...

in our slumber... a very small few got really rich...

because when you’re sleeping...

"it’s hard to change agendas"...

we know what happened in 2000 and 2004...
but in 2008...
it’s different...

we are awake...
and there is a movement...

and "it’s hard to change a movement"...

last time "we" didn’t have a movement...
America wasn’t united...

and now "United and "Standing"...for something...
we know the power of "US"...
and we have a person who represents the "U.S."...


"we are the ones we’ve been waiting for"...

I’m proud to be an American...

Performed by and Zoe Kravitz

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mama On: Racism

"Monkey see, monkey don't."

Now, the casual observer may quickly and easily note that the owner of Mulligan's (a Marietta, GA bar and grill) is covered by the First Amendment, that he can say whatever he wants to with regard to the Curious George shirt that he is currently selling. And legally, he is covered and he is grown, so saying and doing what he wants goes without saying. But is it funny? Is it reasonable? Is it acceptable? Is it moral? Is it right?

As a Mamaknologist, I'm going to say no to all of these. If the answer to any of them was a simple, yes, why don't we see George Bush's name on a similar shirt? Senior or Junior, they both have the "cute" ears, and both their names are George, though I have not yet heard what they have to say about bananas.

Now, to let you in on the rest of the story: The t-shirt in question features a smiling picture of Curious George eating a banana and the words, "Obama in '08." Protesters showed up. Customers were interviewed and immediately disparaged the shirts -- several of them fled when they saw the cameras and protestors. Mulligan's owner declared that all proceeds from the sale of the shirts would go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. And, no sooner had the words passed his lips, than the FOX 5 station personnel broke into the broadcast -- the Muscular Dystrophy Association called and said they would NOT be accepting any money from Mulligan's for the t-shirt sales, or from the sale of any similar items.

As of today, Mulligan's bar and grill is still trying to sell the shirts. The ranks of the protesters have increased. The owners of Curious George are threatening to sue for damages. And Mulligan's owner still insists on the purity of his intent and says that the shirts truly represent Obama.

Think of all the other things that could have been on that shirt: food prices, gas prices, hungry children, HIV indifference, and so much more. But no, he had to go and try to make the man into a monkey. So, let's call it what it is -- racism, in effect. Racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, and usually involves the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. Bigotry is intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

Even if Mulligan's owner would/could point to aquaintances who would publicly back his opinions, he's still a racist. Yeah, yeah... a rose by any other name... Still, I am going to align myself with groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Nation Of Islam, and the Cobb Immigrant Alliance and say that the owner of Mulligan's is a racist. I'm going to say that his graceless, bigoted, backdoor assault on a man of integrity and political authority is shameful. And I am ashamed and insulted to have this degree of ignorance flaunted by anyone. As a woman of color, if I'd ever thought of eating at Mulligan's, I won't now. God knows, I won't ever get that hungry.

Now, Mamaknologize THAT!

Story Links:
Chicago Tribune

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mama On: Being Fearless

"I'm not afraid of anything I can step on."

Every Mamaknologist out there can attest to how attractive, intriguing, and sexy fearlessness is. My mama was a fierce woman. Not only was she an Amazon, tall and curvy with what is now termed an athletic build, but she believed in herself and dared the world not to do the same. As a dedicated Mamaknologist, she laid claim to herself and her world and steadfastly refused to let go.

I already told you how she felt about her shoes, and she never hesitated to stand tall in them. She believed that she could step on bugs. She believed that she could step on any path a man could. She believed she could step into a world of options. She believed she could stand for children. She believed that she could teach her child to walk the high road. She believed that she could teach. She believed that she could take a very personal political stand. She believed that she could walk anywhere as long as she kept her hand in God's. And the amazing thing was that she did.

The lesson here is that no Mamaknologist should ever be afraid to step forward or step up. The world is counting on us. As a practicing Mamaknologist, you are a spiritual inheritor of my mother's shoes and goal directed Mamaknology, so stand tall, walk well, and enjoy life unlimited.

Celebrate the Mamaknologists in your life. Happy Mothers Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mama On: Trying

"Nothing beats a failure, but a try."

This simple statement is a deceptively complex concept of Mamaknology. The basic idea behind it is, if you don't put out the effort , how will you know whether or not you will succeed? It doesn't matter how good your singing sounds in the shower if no one else ever hears it. It doesn't matter how beautiful or clever your writing is if no one ever reads it. It will never matter how great your dreams are, if you never act on them. And fear of failure should never be your reason for not reaching for a dream.

Fear has been known to control animals in lab environments, and goodness knows, Life is an ongoing experiment. So, as a practicing Mamaknologist,why not try a new experiment? Try living your life. For just 24 hours, try something you've always dreamt of doing. Want to sing? Find a voice coach and take advantage of that one free session. Want to act? There are dozens of schools offering free talent assessment. Want to model? Tyra is online every day. Want to write? Pick up a copy of The Writer's Market from the library and send your poems to the appropriate publisher -- or go to an epublisher. Television or radio your passion? Sit in as an asistant for a morning or afternoon.

You get the idea. Whatever it is you truly want to do, don't let fear be an excuse for not trying. The options may not generate instant fame, but they are endless and the worst thing anyone can tell you is, "no". My mother (the Head Mistress of Mamaknology) was very specific on this because, "nothing beats a failure, but a try ."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mama On: Doing The Right Thing

"Do as I say, not as I do."

This is one of the more difficult bits of Mamaknology to bring to the table. Difficult, not because it's something that a LOT of us (parents and otherwise) say and do without thinking. Rather, it is difficult because it means that a practicing Mamaknologist has to realize, accept, and admit that something is wrong with their own behavior. Then, they have to care enough to correct the behavior in someone they love.

I am very grateful that my mother chose to introduce this precept early in my life. My mother was a heart attack and stroke victim. She passed ten days before her 57th birthday. And, as a pre-eminent Mamaknologist, she held me to a higher standard than the one she set for herself. She made sure that my ideas of nutrition were sound, that I understood the reasons for exercise and took them to heart. She made it a priority for me to understand that even my amazing body had limits, and that I had to pay attention if I wanted it (my body) to look good and last for a lifetime.

So, when the Mamaknologist who raised you says, "do as I say, not as I do," smile and realize that the nugget of truth borne in her wisdom has brought you this far. When the Mamaknologist you are says, "do as I say, not as I do," knowing that you're doing it for all the right reasons, congratulate yourself -- you've just taken another step toward mastering Mamaknology.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Mama On: Taking Care Of Yourself

"It's always the shoemaker who has no shoes -- and that's not right."

My mother was a font of "Old Wives Tales," and I spent a lot of my childhood and youth wondering who those old wives were, and where she'd met them. I was even kind of curious as to why she bothered listening to them. As I've gotten older, I've noticed that my mother not only quoted the tales, she fixed and amended them.

Case in point: "it's always the shoemaker who has no shoes." In my mother's eyes, any woman with enough talent to make shoes should always have some to wear -- and they should look and feel good. As a practicing Mamaknologist, she applied this to life. The Mamaknology take on this is that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else, and the intent is anything but selfish. As a Mamaknologist, you are dedicated to always doing your best. You are also dedicated to making sure that those around you look their best, but this never means that YOU don't deserve to reap the benefits of your best.

My mother used to say that a woman should ALWAYS keep a bit of her best for herself. She would in fact, warn me, my friends, her friends, and anyone else she could catch, that giving away everything left you with nothing to give -- not even to yourself.

So, invest in yourself. Make the doctor's appointment. Have the mamogram. Give yourself a few minutes for yoga or stretching. And, for as long as the option exists, pick up the phone and call your mama.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mama On: Living Your Life (When You Think No One Is Watching)

"Autograph your life with excellence. You never know who will read your signature."

The direct and immediate consequence and an easily drawn conclusion for this bit of Mamaknology, oddly, can take years for even the brightest and most clever among us to understand and assimilate. But it simply comes down to this: do you really want to have to apologize for who and what you allow yourself to become? Could you explain it to your mother -- would you want to have to? And here's the acid test -- does your action shame you in your own eyes?

If you answered, "yes," it's time to check your signature.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley was quoted as saying that he was not a role model. He got a lot of press for that and yet, he wanted you to buy his shoes, workout gear, game tickets, and ... well you know how the marketing goes. Would anybody have bought anything, had he not been someone's role model?

As a practicing Mamaknologist, remember that though you may not be getting Barkley bucks (...don't say it...) somebody IS watching you. Somebody IS taking their cues and learning from you. So, even if not for yourself, your best effort in all you say and do must be the mark you strive for -- because you don't know who is watching and what the consequences of your teachings might be. And, just because God has a sense of humor, you also never know when you might find yourself on the receiving end of your own actions.

When you leave your signature on this life, let it be one that you can be proud of.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mama On: Manners

"If you don't think enough of yourself to keep good shoes, why would you bother with good manners?"

My mother had beautiful feet, the kind you see in television and magazine ads. And, yes, she was a tad vain about them. She believed in wearing expensive, well-cobbled shoes and in making sure that those shoes were appopriate to the occasion. She also believed that it was as much your feet as your brain that took you where you were meant to be in this life.

Now, while my mother's shoe collection was probably second only to that of Imelda Marcos (look her up...), the Mamaknology to be gained is this -- if you're going somewhere that cute shoes should not go, you probably shouldn't take the rest of your cute self, either. If you are dealing with people who think nothing of stepping all over your cute shoes, don't be surprised when they step on the rest of you, too.

Further, a woman who doesn't bother to take care of herself rarely bothers to take care of those around her. This is an extended and advanced concept of Mamaknology: tacky women lead tacky lives. They tend to be rude, crude, and mean, and need I say, nonpracticing Mamaknologists.

So, I urge all practicing Mamaknologists to catch a GREAT shoe sale, love yourself enough to stand tall in stilettos, enjoy a pedicure, and treat yourself and others well. Life is, after all, for living, learning, loving, and wearing fabulous shoes!