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Category Archives: Them Black people

Lovers. Friends. A Story.

A story.

As I remember it.

Eight years later.

We had met before. She was “hanging” with a classmate of mine.

I had recently moved to Philly to start grad school.

She was tall. Very tall. 6 feet tall.

I was 20. Head-strong. Bold. And Christian. Very Christian. More than I even realized at the time.

On this particular night- her, the classmate and this really zealous girl I had met at lesbian club my first night out in Philly. How that experience scared the hell out of me is a story for another day.

But they were over my house. We went to get barbeque. Those were the days I was in love with pork. I wrote poems about this love.

This night stands out to me for several reasons. 1. The overzealous girl called God a she. I was Christian remember, very Christian. The type of Christian that thought calling God a girl was blasphemy. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember telling them (all three of them some type of queer-identified) that they were going to hell for being gay. I was righteous with my condemnation. Because I was Christian, very Christian. Of course, I had gay friends….I grew up and in the theatre and church. I also went gay clubs, but that was them and not me. And I mostly kicked it with gay men. Lesbians scared me. I thought they were all predators. I made sure to keep my distance from lesbian women.

I had never kissed a girl. Because that was gay. And a sin.

Times passed. I learned more about Philly. Dated some guy. He took me on my first $100+ date. I was 20 and easily impressed. He was sweet. I should gave him some. But not because he paid for dinner or because he offered to buy me a winter coat.

Anyway she stopped “hanging” out with my classmate. I say “hanging” in quotes because they were dating. Something she still refuses to admit.

I would see her around. I think she invited me to a sex toy party. And we were Facebook friends. Sometime over Christmas Break we started interacting via the FaceBook heavily and decided to hang out when I got back.

This a good point to mention I flirt. A lot. Most of the time I don’t even know I am flirting until the person is trying to pull me into the restroom for a quickie. (That has never happened, but you get the point.)

She liked men as well. So we would go out and scoop out dudes. I know…anyway she wasn’t really a threat because we would talk about boys. And she wasn’t one of those scary lesbians. I told you, I had issues with lesbians. Thought they were all predators. Over the course of the next couple of months we hung out. Heavy.

I remember one time we made plans for a sleepover and cuddle sessions. All this sounds very gay. I promise you the gayness escaped me at the time. Cause I was straight. But everyone loves to cuddle.

For Spring Break that year I went to Jamaica. I came back with a hickey. Some drunken night with some guy who worked at Dunns River Fall…who still calls me. But that is another story.

She was so mad about the hickey. I did not understand why. Cause me and her was friends and I was straight.

One day when I left her place. She asked me why I never kissed her.

I thought that was the most ridiculous question ever.

“Because I don’t kiss girls!”

She knew this, remember I been told her all the gays were going to hell. I went to church every Sunday so clearly I wasn’t going to hell.

But all the next day I would wonder…”Hmmm…why don’t I ever kiss her. Her lips are pretty nice.”

I figure I can like a girl and not be gay. Looking back I don’t understand how the fact that we were basically dating the whole spring escaped me.

The next time I saw her. I fixed the not kissing her thing.

What came after is none of your noisy ass business. We begin dating consciously.

We begin dating…consciously.

But you remember I was Christian. Very Christian.

So this did not work well for my consciousness. I was a wreck. I would have to take shots to be intimate with her. I was on the “Jesus don’t love me” ride. Blasting Tonex’s “Lord Make Me Over” and crying. Would not hold her hand in public. Would jump when she touched me. All that self-hate shit.  Plus I did not know anything about dating a girl. Did not understand why she expected me to open the door for her cause she was a girl….I was a girl too. Very confused about so much.

We had good times but this did not bode well for starting a relationship. To add to this one of my closest friends was dying from cancer. I was an emotional wreck.

I was getting better though…I might have been down to one shot before. And I only jumped sometimes when she touched me.

I understand now why she eventually ended things. It was a lot. I had my own experience being some extra-Christian woman’s first. I understood even more after that.

(I am almost to the point.)

I spent weeks trying to win her back. Maybe I wasn’t in love, maybe it was deep infatuation. I would write her poetry weekly. They are still saved in my email…some are better than others. But Lorde, I was serious.

She was the closest to love my young heart had experienced. The months that follow was rough. I could not see a place for her in my life as anything other than my lover. Part of this was me not be comfortable with my sexuality. If she was the only girl I ever dated, I could convince myself it was just her and that in general I wasn’t into women. So somehow not as big of a sinner. This is my 21-year old logic.

She taught and showed me how to form a friendship with someone you were so intimately connected with. Eight years later, I can text her at 1am about how ____has moved on and doesn’t want me no more. (This happened last week, I been in my lightskinned feelings). I can go on trips with her. I can hear about her relationships and not feel jealous. Legit be her friend. This took time I got the (email receipts to prove it). This also meant time away from each other. Open communication.

She is finally (kinda) over the fact that she had the Tab who didn’t hold hands in public with girls in public and not the Tab who makes out with women in Baby Gap. (This has not happen but I would be open to it).

I read a facebook post the other day from a friend from college.

“For those of you who have break-ups, just know that love is not limited to a particular person or situation. If you have patience, love will find you again (and again if necessary lol).

For those of you who have a hard time celebrating the successes and happiness of those who you have dated and loved…maybe you did not love them in the first place…maybe you just loved what they were to you.

For those of you who are battling to make a relationship work, because you have invested time, you love the person, and it seems like the both of you are good people outside of the pressures and confines of a relationship… it is possible, though unconventional, to resort back to a friendship, and it may be healthier for you both.

It takes a different way of thinking, a greater understanding of life and love, and an appreciation for the person beyond the relationship once shared…but in the end, “friends can become lovers, and lovers can become friends”.

When I am feeling like I can only be in someone life as their lover. I am reminded of her. I am reminded of her teaching me how to be friends with a former lover. I might have to take time to mourn the person as a lover and have patience imagining what new space we will occupy in each other lives.  The love does not have to go away, like energy it can just be transferred or transform until a new shape. Another type of love.  Transitions. Love has the ability and power to help transform us. When I say I love you I mean that forever. Anyone I have ever loved is still in my life.

I am not very Christian anymore. I am still not gay though.

I wrote this for me. I might currently be in the phase of ceasing communication to stop myself from writing a poem a week to proclaim my love to someone and remind their new boo ain’t got nothing on Tab.  I wrote this to remember what it was like making a lover a friend. You know…a friend that I don’t have sex with. I wrote this because I needed to affirm that things will be ok. I’m be ok.

Oh and just because you waded through this long ass story. Here is an excerpt of a poem I sent during my poem a week to reclaim the love phase. Hey, before you judge let me remind you I was 21.

If you had never ask why I didn’t kiss you
I would have never kissed you
If I had never kissed you
I wouldn’t have wanted to taste you
If I would have never tasted you
I wouldn’t have desired all of you
If I didn’t desire all of you
I would have never ask you to be my girl
If I never asked you to be my girl
It could have never been over
If it had never been over
I would have never try to forget you
If I never tried to forget you
I would have never known how much I valued you
If I never knew how much I valued you
Then I would never had the inspiration to write a poem a week for you
If I never wrote a poem a week for you
Would you have ever known how much I cared for you?

~Just Tab

 

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motion

Where should I begin? A lot has happen since my last post. I will venture to say for a variety of reasons this has been one of the most emotional months I have had in a long time. But through it all I am blessed. Summers have always been the time that I grow the most and with growing comes a certain amount of growing pains. There is no progress without struggle.  I defended my dissertation June 28- I passed with minor revisions. I turn in the revisions on Monday.

Dissertation Defense

I am humbled and grateful for the feedback of my dissertation committee. One of committee members told me how impressed she was with the amount of work I was able to accomplish in 9 months while also teaching. I am often my biggest critic and it is hard for me to take time to celebrate my accomplishments in the way that other people do. Its far easier for me to focus on my inadequacies. I have a PhD at 26, but yet I am still unemployed, searching for the next step in my life. At times I feel like I am not even close to where I want to be. Creating the life that I want is way harder than I imagined. As  happy as I am to say that I am not a student, I know I will miss the structure of that life. I excel in collegiate and graduate environments not because I am so smart, but because I understood that world. I knew what the requirements was to finish and I methodologically charted a plan to complete those requirements in the most efficient way. Within the first 2 months of undergrad I planned what classes to take and when in order to finish in 3 years…I finished in 2.5 years. So while my defense was a celebratory event, it triggered anxiety and depression.

Last Saturday my little brother got married to Brittannie Stanley in Florence, Alabama.

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I drove there with 3 of my sister’s kids and Mercedes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trip was beyond interesting and extremely draining. I maintain that I do not ever want children of my own. If you ever catch me pregnant, either my birth control slipped up or the condom broke. I did not drive the children back, but I am pretty sure they made it home safely. At one point I was dreading attending the nuptials, I am not good around people especially church people.  Weddings tend to bring up all kinds of emotion for people, not always good ones. As a safety precaution I invited 3 people, none of whom had met the bride and one person I hadn’t even met before. But thankfully I didn’t need it. Brittannie’s family was beyond amazing and welcoming. I am in awe of how beautiful her family was to me, my friends and my family. I felt a level of acceptance and love that I rarely experience.

I was a bridesmaid in the wedding, the only bridesmaid that didn’t go to college or grow up in Alabama with Brittannie. I packed a dress to wear to the rehearsal  and rehearsal dinner. Since my plan of buying new sandals and getting a pedicure didn’t happen I ended up wearing a polo button up, some pink gap chinos and Sperrys. Mercedes said I was cute. I showed up to the church- all the other bridesmaids had on dresses looking like southern belles with their pretty permed hair. I immediately felt out of place, even though the boys looked like they had just fell out of bed. I realized then that I wasn’t as comfortable with my gender performance as I thought I was. Let me be clear my discomfort was not caused by anything other than my own insecurity. I wanted a dress on so bad in that moment. But by the next day it was my shaved sides and my differences that made me not only stand out but made me beautiful. Being comfortable with who you are is always a process.

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I told the lady who did my makeup that I did not need waterproof mascara. There was no way I was going to cry. Damnit I am a THUG. I have seen 4 seasons of The Wire ( my summer project). But I will be damned if my eyes did not start watering and my lips started to quiver when Brittannie walked down the aisle to Jeremiah. I don’t think I ever seen my brother so happy. It was like he transformed to a man in front of my eyes.

That was Saturday, Sunday my grandfather made his transition. His health had been declining but he was doing better when we left Florida. He was my last living grandparent. I am grateful for his life and that I got a chance to spend sometime with him in June.

Granddad and dad

He kinda remembered me. As with both of my father’s parents they left me years before they died. The loss of memory is a hell of a thing. The funeral was today but I am in North Carolina for a conference. I feel like I am absent too much sometimes. At some point I am going to have to face what  I am running from. Three weeks has been the longest period I have spent in Florida since the move back…I could barely take it. Just itching for an escape.  Maybe I am running from my parents love. I have never really been able to believe in the concept of unconditional love. There is always conditions…

This is long. There is more I should share. Mercedes came for three weeks. I am not moving to Philadelphia. Maybe Charlotte though…still figuring things out. Remind me to tell you the story about how I officially became a heathen. My heart is a little frozen now, still deciding if I want to thaw it out.

Until the next time…may the peace and light of Blue Ivy’s smile be with you.

-Just Tab

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The evolution of an ex-Christian

He asked me.
I’m lying in bed pretty much sleep it’s Sunday morning.
“Tab you going to church?”
“No why?” I mumble back half sleep not moving my head from my pillow to answer.
“You just need to come sometime.”

My father never directly asks me to go to church. I know he wants me to. I went on Father’s Day and to a service at the convention for him. Because I knew it would make it him happy and hell it was a cheap gift.

Even as teenager he never asked me to go to church. I went when I wanted to and I mostly used school theatre productions as an excuse not to go. When I moved back to from college I tried to attend at least once a month. Again for them. My mom has always been more vocal about her desire to see me in church. Perhaps speaking the things he really wants to say.

Hearing him telling me I need to come woke me completely up. I doubt he realizes but this is my last Sunday in West Palm Beach this summer. I mostly do what my parents want. Never been downright disobedient and they rarely tell me things to do. While most people won’t see this as me being forced but due to my current financial situation and pretty much being dependent on them- I doubt I really have much choice. More reason to finish dissertation pronto.

I have no clue why they want me to go but let’s make this clear. Going to church won’t me a Christian, it won’t make me straight and it won’t stop me from being their very different daughter. This blog has been sitting in my heart/head for a minute- still not sure I have all the words to explain/ articulate my current journey but I’m going to try. Bear with me.

Even as a child I was very critical of the religious tradition I was born into. I would take notes during my father’s sermon. Not to remember the key points but to later tell him all the concepts I did not buy. Predestination was one such concepts. I often wondered how I could believe that Christianity was the only way, because if I was born to Muslim parents I would believe Islam was the only way. So much of one’s belief depends on the belief of their parents. In my opinion the fact that my parents were Christians was never a good enough reason for me to be a Christian. I always said when I was older I wanted to explore other spiritual practices.

In college I went to church practically every Sunday. My friend and I called ourselves “church hoppers” due to ridiculous number of churches we visited. Close to the end of my time in Tallahassee I eventually found one I liked. The reason I went church had little to do with any type of religious need. But more of a need to feel close to my family at home, cultural reasons and structure. Tallahassee and FSU was the type of place where all the Blacks went to church. It was the cool thing to do. I knew that although I was far away from home- this was something that my family was also doing. I liked the routine of it. Church, nap, Sunday dinner. It was comforting in a lot of ways just not spiritually fulfilling.

While in Philly for my Master’s I attended church regularly as well. Philly in a lot of ways was a transitional period for me. I started questioning how Christianity fitted in my life. Part of this was triggered by  meeting so many Blacks who weren’t Christians for the first time. Being exposed to traditional African Religions (even though that was a little scary, right Atira?). Also dealing with issues of sexuality in relation to my own personal practice of Christianity all led me to really evaluate how Christianity worked for me.

Moving to Arizona prompted me to fully pull away from Christianity. I was over disappointing church experiences, the messages felt irrelevant in my life. Frankly I was tired of judgmental hate speak thinly disguised as sermons. I think the more you know about Christianity and your connection to African/Black history, the harder it is to be a Christian and to ignore the colonialist, patriarchal and racist legacy of the religion. It was even harder for me to face how much I had internalized those very things. Envisioning God Black has always been so much easier to me than envisioning God as a woman-let alone a Black women. I remember how offended I was the first time I had ever heard someone refer to God as a woman. That speaks directly to internalize sexism that I inherited from  the way Christianity was practiced around me.

I used to say I was a bad Christian because I never had the desire to “save” people, Never thought people needed saving. Then I would say I was a fan of Jesus not his followers. Which became I believe but I do not want to be identified as a Christian. To finally verbalizing and understanding that while Christianity maybe the only way for some people it is not the only way for me. I am not a fan of the arrogance and the exclusivity of Christianity. Of its need to dominate and change people. Of its insistence of righteousness.

But I can go on and on about what I do not believe or my issues with Christianity but it might be more beneficial for me to tell you what I do believe.

I don’t believe there is one way or one true religion. For the most they are all the same. Some work better for others. I like the concept of one God, many spirits and ancestor worship. I woke up at 4am this morning, Somehow I started reading my favorite spiritual book The Color Purple. The gospel according to Shug Avery has always made sense to me in a way that Christianity didn’t.

Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

It? I ast.

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast.

Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.

……………………………………………

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift.Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.

Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of a bush in my yard, Mr. ____’s evil sort of shrink. But not altogether. Still, it is like Shug say, You have to git man off your eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall.

Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock.

But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it. (Walker 168-69)

I could quote The Color Purple at length all day. In many ways it has been the influential book I have ever read. As far as religion, I am not interested in being a part of any religion. I am more concern with my own spiritual growth and my connection to the divine inside of me. I appreciate and respect the cultural tradition of Black Christianity- it is one of the reasons I love Gospel music so much. I even enjoy sermons but I find myself engaging with them from a performance or intellectual level not a spiritual one. I am extremely grateful for Black liberation theology helping salvage my connection to Jesus. I am huge fun of the way Liberation Theology  depicts Jesus as a crusader for the poor and the oppressed.. This is why on most Sundays I tune into Trinity United Church of Christ service online. I treat the Bible like any other religious text I take what is good and helpful to me and disregard the rest.

This journey of spirituality and belief is far from over. Every day is a new discovery and page. I try to keep myself away from toxic environments or things that I don’t think help me grow spiritually.

I think I am over a lot of the resentment, hurt and pain that I experience through church and because of the mindset Christianity often instills. But some baggage is still there. I try to remember the good and the positive. The potential that the institution of the Black church holds- This is an aspect on why my academic focus is what it is. For those who believe in Christianity or that’s the path they choose I want it to be a liberating and freeing experience for them. Where they do not have to deny parts of themselves in order to belong. I guess I will do a blog post eventually explaining what my dissertation project is about and how it relates to this goal. In so many ways I am a product of the Black church, but I do not have to be a part of it when spiritually and religiously it does not work for me,

This blog is not as coherent as I would like. I am working through this journey. I just wanted to share a part of my evolution away from Christianity and towards the divinity within. Bring on the holy water and people trying to save my poor lost soul.

I am obedient.

I went to church today.

Didn’t didn’t change a thang. For so long I wished that Christianity made sense for me. I am a child- I want to make my parents proud. But there is a point when the price of their pride became too expensive.

I choose freedom over pride.

~JustTab

With the utmost respect and love for whatever spiritual/religious path you are on…

(Sorry for the length and lack of cute pictures)

 
 

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People are still doing this?!?!?!

You would think that in 2012 this would have gone out of style. That people would evolve beyond this…

In my life I really try not to judge other people life choices. It is their life and they can do whatever that want with it . Even if I do not personally agree with it I still try to be open to others thoughts and ideas.

One thing I personally don’t believe in is marriage. Despite my parents being married for 27 years I think it pointless institution.

However, there are people who don’t agree with me and they have decided to partake in this outdated system of marriage. Because I love them as people I support their choices. I attend weddings. Hey Atira. I participate in wedding parties. Hey Tasha. So despite my disapproval for this archaic custom I am extremely happy to announce my little brother is taking the monogamous matrimonial plunge.

This is what he wants and its what makes him happy. Who am I to judge the efficacy of this descicion?

Plus I really like Brittannie, she has been around for a good little while. We skype occasionally. She understands that when I call my brother it is time for them to end the conversation so that he can talk to me. We spent time with my sister’s children.

Brittannie and I have already discussed the role I would like to play in the wedding. I want to do the wedding. Brittannie is down with this however my brother needs a bit more convincing. I am going to get my minister license online in the mean time.

Just because I think marriage is pointless does not mean I can’t perform them. I think learning long division is pointless but I still learned!

Plenty of my friends are planning to get hitched to their partners very soon. Please understand I am so about attending weddings. Partaking in the open bar. Dancing with your drunk Uncles or kid cousins. Taking a groomsmen or perhaps a bridesmaid home. I will even bring you a gift.

Anyway I am excited to welcome a new member to the Chester family. The fact that once Jeremiah is married all my dad’s children minus me will be. This does not place any pressure on me to make the same mistakes they are making.

Plus if I got married it wouldn’t be..

~Just Tab

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Learning bout Tab!, Them Black people

 

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I need a moment.

I have class tomorrow (Yes, on a Sunday). I haven’t started on the readings and I still have to finish my report.

My Take-home exam, which is the last part of my comprehensive exam is due Monday. I am not done.

But I can have moment?

I need a moment.

Flashback to Spring of 1999. Orlando, Florida. Islands of Adventure had just opened and all the 8th graders were there. I was in 7th grade and we went to Wet N’ Wild.

I was tall and skinny. Braces and glasses. Whatever tragic hair style I had was made even more tragic by the chlorinated activities of the day.

It was the end of the day and I had already changed my clothes to go back home. I was wearing my addidas break-away pants and a reebok mock turtle neck. Again this was Spring time in Florida at a waterpark. But I knew the bus ride to Palm Beach would be cold so I wanted to dress in preparation for that.

Somewhere I hear that Whitney Houston is in the park. There were tons of celebs at Island of Adventure, I guess she just came over to the waterpark.

I took off running all around the park looking for her. Again long sleeves and long pants running around a waterpark. I looked a bit odd.

When I finally found her she had just got off a water slide and her body guards was telling everyone to back up.

I remember looking at her and asking could I have a hug.

She probably felt sorry for skinny nerdy kid who was clearly over dressed for the waterpark. She motioned for me to come to her and she hugged me.

I said something like “Is this real or have I died and gone to heaven?” Corny. I know. She smiled and said it was real and let me go.

I rushed to the payphone to call everyone I knew (collect) and tell them about meeting Whitney.

It always meant so much to me that she took the time to give me hug that random day at the water park.

Summer 2008 was a hard one on me for many reasons. I would watch The Bodyguard every Saturday night for weeks and cry. There was so much emotion inside of me and I wasn’t able to release it any other way. Watching Whitney gave me an excuse and outlet to cry. I could pretend like the pain I was feeling was because of the movie.

I have always stated that she is the best singer turned actress- Waiting Exhale- shit The Preacher’s Wife is the best Christmas movie ever. I just brought it for a friend who had never seen it. I can’t wait to see her sparkle in Sparkle.

I love Whitney and I protect her. I admire her strength, weakness and her complexity.

A couple months ago I was feeling really down and a friend sent me “You We’re Loved” and I remember bawling. At the very basic level we all want to know that we are loved. That we mean something to someone. I struggle with knowing that I am loved and being able to receive love from others. I am sure this feeling of being worthy of love and admiration from others is something Whitney struggled with as well.

Whitney, you are loved. You have touched my heart. I appreciate the totality of the person you are. I will not let anyone disrespect your memory because of your struggles.

I am going to get back to work now.

But I needed a moment.

~Just Tab

 
 

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Until the End of Time

“I want, when they see me, They know that every day when I’m breathing is for us to go further. Every time I speak I want the truth to come out. Every time I speak I want a shiver. I don’t want them to be like they know what I’m gonna say because it’s polite. Im not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that’s our job, It’s to spark somebody else watching us. We might not be the one’s, but let’s not be selfish and because we not gonna change the world let’s not talk about how we should change it. I don’t know how to change it, but I know if I keep talking about how dirty it is out here, somebody’s gonna clean it up” ~Tupac Shakur

In many ways I grew up shelter from much of popular culture. Most shows like Power Rangers or The Simpsons were considered demonic and I was forbidden to watch them. My parents canceled cable when I was around 6 years old. My only opportunity to watch videos was through “The Box” and that was only if the rabbit ears could get a good signal. Even then I still had to hope that someone would order a good video. My exposure to secular music was pretty low, but my parents did let me listen to Christian rap. I had a DC Talk album. We listen to a ton of Yolanda Adams who I hated for years. My first secular tape was “Gangsta Lean” by DRS. My God sister brought it for me. My first secular CD was the Space Jam Soundtrack, I still remember being in Best Buy when my mother agreed to buy. It was a big deal.

I really don’t know how I came to care about Tupac so much. I guess I heard his music at relatives houses, I remember my older brother having one of his CDs. Somehow I became acquainted with who he was and possibly his music. On Friday September 13, 1996, my siblings and I had a sleepover at my cousin’s house. They made me watch scary movies all night, I was 9 years old. At one point as they were changing the videotape, MTV news came on and stated that Tupac Amaru Shukar was pronounced dead. I don’t even remember knowing he was shot. My young emotional self, immediately begin to cry and call all the adults who number I knew by heart (at 1AM) to tell them the news. For some reason his death affected me so.

As the years went on my interest in him intensified. I spent the summer going into 8th  grade researching every piece of info on his life and compiling it into my “Tupac book”. I was well versed in all the theories about his death. You name it, I knew it. Every book and article I could find about him I devoured. I remember asking the bus driver in 9th grade for permission to announce a moment of silence on the anniversary of his death. Part of me wanted to believe he would return after 7 years and that he was living in Jamaica or someplace. I remixed a gospel song “Tupac’s not dead ya’ll, he’s still alive.” I realize that’s a bit sacrilegious, but I was serious about Tupac. I had posters of him in my room until sophomore year in college. That’s when I became too grown for posters. His name was supposed to be my first tattoo. I was 11 waiting to be 18 so I could get a Tupac tat.

I was committed. You think I am obsessed with Oprah, you should have seen me at the height of my Pac-mania.

I am not as obsessive but I am still in love with Tupac and what he represented to my generation. I can trace my “consciousness” to the seeds that were planted because of Tupac’s life and music. In many ways I interact with his  memory on a daily basis in my life. Tupac died at 25 years old. 25 years old. I turn 25 in 3 months and I am wondering what would be my legacy if it all ends there. It is hard to believe that it has been 15 years since Pac walked this earth, but his music remains so relevant today. I just wanted to take some time to pay homage and respect to a man who has played such a vital role in shaping the person that I am today, despite not being physically on this earth.

I can go on for days about my Tupac but I won’t. I am including this first part of an episode of Different World were Tupac guest starred, his energy- his smile was so contagious and beautiful.

RIP Tupac Amaru Shakur June 16, 1971- September 13, 1996

 
 

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This may be the last time (Part II)


My mom came into my room for the second time that morning, “Your father says if you are going with him you need to get ready now”.  Since this was the second time I figured I should wake up and get dressed, I did tell my father I wanted to visit my grandmother before I left. I look at my cell phone- I had two missed calls from my father and a text stating “I am going to Ft. Pierce need to be there by 9:30 are you going with me.” I kept telling them that calling me does not “wake me” because I am a pimp and my phone stays on silent. I got dressed and rolled into my father’s room. He was on the phone talking to someone about a morning appointment.  We finally got on the road and headed to Ft. Pierce. The whole time my dad kept pointing out how the “boys” were out, as we got over to exit the highway one of the “boys” clocked my father- he claimed my dad was doing 85mph or something. Not true.

We pulled into Ft. Pierce a city that holds so many childhood memories for me but is currently more like a ghost town in my head. We passed where R.J. Gators used to be…where the Orange Blossom mall- the place my grandmother would drag me to get dresses and when I was a little older I would go on those Black Fridays after church. I pointed out to my father the direction of a church I remember  being at as a young child for mother’s friend Vicki’s funeral, he told me the direction was right but it was further back closer to my friend’s Tasha house. That brought back whole other set of memories. We picked up my Uncle Allen who was mad at me because I had been ducking his calls for a couple months. I brought back 3 souvenirs from Central America in total, I gave him his shirt and the man’s whole demeanor changed.  I was his favorite niece again. As we drove my father and his older brother would point out things- remember that used to be this or that and blah blah lived there and so and so died then. A few blocks later we pulled up at “Sarah’s Memorial Chapel,” the local black funeral home. As we waited for the funeral director to see us for our appointment my father and uncle talked to the staff about their kin folk. Telling the funeral home director’s nephew how much he looked like his father and asking what his mother was up to now. Small town talk, while I just sat. Mr. Rufus Jerry Alexander III the licensed funeral director was finally ready for us and we went and sat in his office. I would later learn that Rufus used to be my father’s protector from older boys when he walked home from school. This man’s office was filled to the brim with all kinds of “stuff”. There was two couches one directly in front of his desk and another next to it closer to the door as well as a loud AC unit. For the next hour or so he gave us the run down on funeral arrangement, told us about packages, showed us different programs and caskets, flowers and music and gave us price breakdown. While I am able to bet serious money on the fact that I have been to more funerals than anyone reading this, I had never been on the planning side. I sat their quietly watching my father and his brother listen to this man tell them about this casket and that. I thought about how it must feel to know that your mother death is in very near future, I thought about others that I knew personally who were probably in this same room after their mother’s death making the same arrangements. I thought about having to pick out my own parent’s casket. And I really thought about how ridiculously expensive a casket- that people would see for 6 hours max was. Just burn my body and scatter it in the ocean or something and do something useful with the money you save. The man would occasionally say something to me like about getting pictures for a memorial DVD or something technologically related. I had trouble hearing him because of the AC and because I was in my own world. When he finished he gave my father the printout and said he would not put “mother’s” name on it, since we were just talking and she was still with us. We left and dropped my Uncle off at his house. As we drove to my grandfather house my dad pointed out other places in Ft. Pierce. A couple blocks from my Uncle’s house is the site of Zora Neale Huston’s grave. I asked my dad what ever happen to the man who ran into the church and shot a preacher because his wife was spending too much time there. Ft. Pierce is death and long church services to me.

My grandfather was outside in his garage as always. He like my grandmother looks frailer and wearier every time I see them. Once such a big man- I am talking 300pds, my grandfather is now significantly smaller, walks with a cane and very hard of hearing. My father went in to use the bathroom as I open the car door for my grandfather and helped him in. You know I got those pimp skills. We drove to Vero Beach to go see his wife. Each of the previous two times that I have been to the nursing home were on Sundays, I was not prepare for the hustle and bustle of a Tuesday. We signed in and went to her room, the previous times she would be in one of the common areas- never in her room. I think I forgot to say that she was just released from the hospital, part of the reason we came was to talk to the nurse about her status. My grandmother was sleep, her 80-something pounds curled up with some sort of IV wrapped up around her arm. Her hair was white and wild; the picture of frailty.

My grandfather called for her to wake up and asked her did he know who she was. She opened her eyes and just stared at him.

Her eyes got noticeable brighter and she began smiling. Not speaking but just smiling at this man. As he keep repeating “Kayeola, do you know who I is”. I doubt she would have been able to say remember his name, but the love in her eyes and in her smile said she knew who this man was. I am not a fan of marriage for a lot of reasons and most people would see this display and think aww so sweet. It is sweet. But I would never want this in my life. I would never want the person that I been with for years not to have the ability to say my name or not to remember my love’s name. For me this is just one more reason why I never want to get married.

We spent the rest time just hanging in the room. There were several baby dolls in the room, I would later find out they are used for to help Alzheimer patients in “baby doll” therapy. My grandfather held a doll for the whole visit. Remarking how much he liked the doll and how he wanted one. He would tell my grandmother look at his baby, while holding and playing with it. This sounds quite odd but dolls have been shown to be soothing to seniors. Especially those who can no longer take care of themselves, it gives them a sense of importance and responsibility.

My grandmother would occasionally talk but her voice was so low, I could barely hear her. She asked me questioned and what I could not understand I made up in my head. She was on a lot of medication so she would slip back to sleep occasionally. When she was up sometimes she would look at me and just smile. We sat with her or a while, waited for her to go back to sleep and before leaving. I gave her a kiss and left. Very much aware that would quite possibly be the last time I would ever see my grandmother alive.

I posted part one on last Sunday night/ early Monday morning. Monday I talked to my father and he told me they were going to probably put my grandmother in hospice. I had a “sleepover” Monday night.  My guests were asleep in the living room. I was in my bed and glanced at my phone, it was around 7ish in the morning. I had two missed calls, Jeremiah (my brother) and my father. I called Jeremiah back first and the first thing he said was “You talked to dad?” Immediately I knew that my grandmother had passed. I asked “She’s gone?” which he affirmed.

Two weeks to the day that I had last seen her-was the last time and I did know. She was the only grandmother that I have memories of and I am thankful for those memories. I am thankful for my nana. I am grateful that I got to see her and her smile one last time. I am appreciative that she transitioned peacefully. I am exceedingly blessed to have known Kayeola Chester as my nana (Special shoutout to her collard greens).

~JustTab

This version with Anthony Hamilton and The Blind Boys of Alabama is how I remember hearing this song growing up.

However I really like the arrangement that The Staple Singers version uses.

 

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