A Vote and a Voice

If you have been following the inception of this blog, then you know that this post has taken awhile coming.  My amazing, brilliant, and gorgeous sister surprised me with this blog, which went live to the world on my birthday.  No, pressure, right?  And then she follows the initial post with a shout-out to Melissa Harris-Perry, who if you don’t know, you need to ask somebody.  Even less pressure, right?  I’ve never written on a blog before.  It has been hard to think about what to write as my initial post.  Not that the world is waiting on my words, but the idea that the whole world wide web, theoretically, could potentially see what I say has a way of instigating some serious writer’s block.  I wanted something with significant enough weight, but not too super serious.  How could I find my blog voice?  (Not to mention, when could I find the time to write with all the other stuff I’m doing – oh and that pesky little dissertation that I’m also supposed to be writing…)

But, today, is November 6th, 2012 – Election Day.  And on this day, just a couple of hours ago, like millions of other Americans, I exercised my voice by voting.  I, a non-landowning (or even apartment-owning), Black woman, walked myself down to Sedgwick Avenue (just steps away from the birth of hip-hop…) and cast my vote for a Black man (a Black man married to a brilliant and beautiful brown Black woman, I might add) – for President of these United States.  Though widely known that it hasn’t always been this way, some facts bear repeating.  The intersection of race, class, and gender has intrigued me since my Spelman days – and likely before, but I would not have articulated it as such.  Knowing that this particular triumvirate of identities would not have allowed me access to the polls not too long ago is humbling.  Knowing that this particular triumvirate of identities is still forcing many others to face voter suppression and intimidation in battleground states is downright frightening.  But, if those voters in the past could march and fight, bleed and die.  And those voters in the present could wait and wait, and stay and wait… Even while in labor or having just survived a hurricane, then surely, I can muster up the courage to write this little blog post about why this matters to me.

When I think of Ruth and Lola, I think of beauty, grace, and strength.  They make me proud to live out the legacy of being a Black woman.  Having both been born in the South in 1918 and in 1922, I know they saw some stuff.  And having lived the majority of their lives in Cincinnati, Ohio (which some pundits have decided will decide the whole election), I know they saw some stuff.  Having both lived until their mid-80s and then going home to be with the Lord in 2006 and 2004, I wonder what they would have made of today.  Now, I know 2008 would have blown their minds – I cast my vote in the Presidential election for a Black man who was the nominee of a major party.  But, today is an even bigger deal in my mind.  Today, I voted for a Black man who IS the President of the United States of America.  Wow.  I still get chills when I think about it.

And chill doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt on January 20, 2009…

When I stood on the Mall and watched him put his hand on the Bible and take the oath with the beyond fabulous Michelle Obama and their two beautiful daughters by his side.

 I mean it was freezing!!!  I have never been so cold in my entire life.  Yet, I would not have missed it for the world!  And I plan to be there freezing again on January 21, 2013 when President Obama takes the oath of office for his second term.

But, of course, the chills run deeper than that… I have chills thinking about what this would have meant to Ruth and to Lola.  I voted in their honor today.  And I have chills knowing what it means for Malia and Sasha… and millions of other beautiful Black girls.

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Happy Birthday, MHP!

Did you know that she was born one day after you?? Okay, even though I’m a total stan of hers, I didn’t actually know that until Josiah saw this picture of her as The Root’s #1 of their top 100 and asked me how old she was, and I didn’t know. So he looked it up on wikipedia (a much trusted source of almost all information) which said that her birthday is October 2nd! No wonder I love her so…

So you know how when you love something or someone so much that you get jealous when other people feel the same way? Like a kid, like “No, I like red!” or “Nuh-uh! That’s my favorite song!” That’s pretty much how I feel about Melissa Harris-Perry. When people were reading her latest book or talking about her show on MSNBC, in my head I was all, “That’s my book! No, I stream that show! From Paris! I have it bookmarked!” But one of the pitfalls of idolizing someone or something is that you expect everything they do to be perfect and awe-inspiring and it sets up an unfair standard that makes you judge them for being human (which she also talks about in her book).

Josiah teases me as whenever I’m reading or watching something, he says,

“What’s that? Did Melissa Harris-Perry write it?”

“Who’s that? Melissa Harris-Perry or Beyoncé?” (She would love that!)

“In our house, I get a wall for all of my Star Wars books and you can have one for all of your nerdy Melissa Harris-Perry books.”

“You’re not doing work; you’re just reading Melissa Harris-Perry.”

Even Andre calls her “my girl.” He’ll say, “You see your girl politicking today?” And sheepishly I’m like, of course.

Even in my reading log, she has her own tag! Mostly from her contributions to The Nation. And when her show was announced, three different people from three completely different spheres of my life sent me an e-mail, a text, and wrote on my Facebook wall saying, “This seems like something you’d be interested in.” And my response to all of them was, “Already!”

Ever since she spoke at Fordham back when I worked there and she was still at Princeton and Union, I’ve been in awe. And I got to talk to her a little bit afterwards and she was so cool and seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and told me to e-mail her. A short time after that I was visiting Mom & Dad and saw her as a guest on Bill Maher’s show, so I e-mailed her. She never responded though. :( It’s okay, because the next I heard of her, her name had changed and she was leaving Princeton, so I’m thinking she had more important things going on than responding to my lowly e-mail.

In her commencement speech at Wellesley in May, she named herself in a way that I totally loved and completely resonated with me, as a global citizen, a black feminist, an inclusive christian, an activist for social justice, an aspiring academic, etc. I already called her speaking at Spelman’s this year. Watch. She was also the first person who came to mind when they sent out the call for honorary doctorate nominations.

I would absolutely love to work with her and her Anna Julia Cooper Project at Tulane – too bad Josiah’s a jazz musician who doesn’t want to live in New Orleans…crazy…maybe I can convince him to come with me if I apply for a post doc or something, just like he says I dragged him to Paris.

Anyway, you should definitely read her book. You bought it, right? Because you can’t have mine…

You can also thank her for being a further impetus for this blog’s existence, because she used to have one with a friend of hers back in the day called The Kitchen Table, so I figured if MHP did it, so can we. :)

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An introduction of sorts…

My big sister is the most ambitious and persistent person that I know (I use other adjectives, but they mostly stem from these). She often gets really excited and starts having what I call her Pronoun Problem, when she starts saying “we” for things that she wants to do (which is admittedly better than when she says that I need to do something that she wants me to do). But I’ve heard that we need to be doing/saying/writing something about things happening around us so many times that I decided to make her this blog for her birthday, named after our grandmothers, Ruth and Lola. We wouldn’t be if not for them and their hard work in preparing the path for us to be where we are today.

Though we may look and even sound alike and are sometimes called some derivation of “Tinarania” by family, Tinia and I are about as different as two sisters can be – like night and day, I’ve been told. Our different personalities sometimes clash, resulting in conversations that go something like, “LePoufamoufaaa!! What are we going to do to celebrate the end of the semester??? Dinner?? A play???” (If you know Tinia, imagine her dancing, wiggling her fingers, her voice raising an octave with each syllable.) “I’m going to go take a nap,” I would reply. (Because that’s my answer to almost everything if I can help it – it’s my favorite thing to do!)

While we may bicker, I like to think of her as the extrovert to my introvert, the Spongebob to my Squidward, the yang to my yin, the Ruth to my Lola, and that we balance each other. And though we’re passionate about many of the same things, such as social justice and Jesus, that passion manifests itself in different ways and we don’t always agree (and then have to talk for HOURS about it – I’ve also been told that we should have our own television show, but this blog will have to do for now, and maybe we’ll eventually graduate to a podcast). So join us as we dialogue and give voice to our world in a way that our grandmothers could have only imagined.

We love you Grandma and Grandmommy! We hope we’re making you proud.

And Happy Birthday, Tinia! I hope you’re happy… ;) Here’s a silly birthday song for you. “Have I told you lately that I love you and You’re the Reason that I’m not afraid to fly?”

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