Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mama On: Birthdays

"Celebrate your birthday, baby. You only get one."

And in the great wisdom of Mamaknology, my mother thought it was important to celebrate self. She saw one's birthday as a personal holiday to be cherished -- after all, it only comes once a year.

So, for me, today is one more birthday for me than my mother lived to see, and I am determined t0 try to live every day in faith, peace, health, and happiness. After all, it's just a part of the celebration of my birthday and my life because I have this one time to do it right.

Happy birthday to me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mama On: Standing

"We have to develop But Power."

Well, our Rock Star president has won the 2009 Nobel Peace prize, and we all know that in large part, it is due to his innate ability to endure and outlast, 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. Taking nothing away from William Shakespere, the author of those words, I am going to give credit for this bit of Mamaknology to former U.S. Congresswoman, Barbara Jordan (1936-1996).

Jordan was not a woman of great physical beauty. She was tall, dark-skinned, seriously 'thick', and nobody ever accused her of having 'good' hair. What she did have was wit, wisdom, backbone, and an enormous intellect. She possessed a strong, gravelly voice, and piercing eyes. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she made steps that a lot of people would have give second, third, and even fourth thoughts to -- and then she stepped up and out.

I was privileged to hear her speak and to meet her at a Zeta Phi Beta boule in Chicago, when I was fifteen and have never forgotten her words or her presence. She marks me to this very day, and when I am ready to give in or give up, the Mamaknology of her words touches me again. Her topic was, "But Power," and I heard and understood the lesson she was there to teach, even before I internalized the words that would come later.

On that hot August day, Jordan stood before a group of women; women like my mother, who would soon reach middle-age; young women just emerging from the college experience; and women-to-be, like me and my friends. When she took the podium, intelligence shining like a beacon, she smiled. And then she rocked the room with a voice like an avenging angel. She told us that people would look at us and tell us that while we possessed everything it took to run a world, they would also say things like:

  • but you might fail
  • but you're a woman
  • but you have no money
  • but we're not sure about you
  • but this has never been done before
  • but your proposal is filled with risk
  • but this is outside your range of experience
  • but you would have to be the first one to do it
And you know what? She was right, but she gave us the answer to every one of those BUTs and a blueprint for the process of being 'different' in America. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, preacher's daughter, graduate of Texas Southern University (1956) and Boston University Law School (1959), Houston democrat, keynote speaker at the 1976 Democratic Convention, and African-American said: "We have to develop BUT Power."

She told us that in times to come, the answer to every challenge would be But Power. She said that when you are told 'no' the answer is not to turn, hang your head, and walk away, it is to remain calm and humble and realize that the answer is no today, BUT tommorrow is another day. When you are told that you lack the skill or education, the answer is, BUT I will find a way to learn what I have to and I will be back. When you are told that you are only a woman, the answer is BUT Jesus was only a man, and look how that turned out. When you are told that your skin is the wrong color, or that your hair is not 'good' enough, the answer is, BUT I will still come back tomorrow. And when the door is closed in your face, you just may have to find a seat for your BUTT, but you don't leave -- and you don't back down when your civil rights and ethics are challenged.

I think that these are lessons that Mr. Obama has learned in abundance, and transmitted to the world around him. I am proud that he has taken them into the White House and the world beyond the United States. His humility in acknowledging the award was admirable, and I know that his daughters have learned from his example. I am pleased and happy to see his wife at his side -- he stands as a man of honor and his wife is confident that he is who he always promised her he would be. It would appear that Mr. Obama had done his best to demonstrate BUT Power.

Well done, Mr. AND Mrs. Obama.