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Sandwich

By Bethsheba McGruder

What does it mean to be Black? What does it mean when one says I’m a Republican, I’m a Liberal, I’m a ________ (you fill in the blank),… I’m a Moderate Black.

Let’s define Moderate; Per Wikipedia, moderate means “Average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.”

Per Merriam-Webster Dictionary, moderate means “avoiding extremes of behavior or expression; observing reasonable limits.”

My definition of a Moderate Black:

“Being less than who I am is mediocre and shows lack of interest on my part, of who I am and where I come from.”

The only reason why I chose, use and misuse other labels to label myself is because I am ashamed.

Classism is real and I am not the head of the class.

I believe “I’m Black and I’m Proud” was/is forever written and erased from the “Etch-A-Sketch Board” of history. I believe only a selected few have the right to claim excellence. Also, I understand that if I want to continue to be uninformed and unenlightened, I will not be deemed qualified.

But, what happens to sharing that piece of the pie with the down home gal who likes to play and make Mississippi Mud pies? You know the one, the one that still has the same two white friends from her workshop five years ago. The one that says the “N” word by accident in front of her highly qualified crew. The one that eats Flaming Hot Cheetos and chugs a Pepsi and cracks David’s sunflower seeds, and then her friends reply back “I don’t eat stuff like that.”

Would I tell any other human being that was not from my block “I don’t eat stuff like that?” In that tone, that stare of disgusts as if I’m standing on Madison Street singing “The Watermelon Song!” Insulting, right?

Then when others who have never tried a Flaming Hot want to try one,  there is a “get-together” and the fried cheese corn chips dipped in hot sauce are served from a cute square bowl and not eaten from the bag like they are supposed to be. I am the punch line again!

Then, I sit in a stupor trying to figure out if they are being racy.

I’m tired off running back and forth across the railroad track. It seems as if it is better for me to be perched on the fence! I continuously have to learn, re-learn, and rewrite my personal manual of the code of ethics to code switching.

I am more than my EBT card or waiting for my children’s father to come back to the states after deportation. I have been waiting to “cash” my check, not from others, but from you.

I feel like I have been sandwiched in between a rotted piece of lettuce and stale cheese.

It does matter that I know how to spell bourgeoisie. It does not mean for me to hold the title to entitlement. It does mean that I am held accountable to pass on what I have learned and not alienate others who sit on that side of the track. It does mean that I must be courageous and ask them do they really know who they are?

As the days of January end and we are finally marching strong into Black History Month, I salute the ancestors whose shoulders I stand on. I thank you for your contribution to the world and my existence. I am grateful, humbled and satisfied. And if I am not welcomed at the dinner table, I understand that as well.

Black History has always been 365 Days;

* “ALL day! Just me. By myself. On the block. Holdin’ it down. Gun in my waist. Straight face. All day. Not a game. In jail. By myself. 1 bed. No pillow case. 1 pillow. Didn’t nobody write me. It was early. Woke up. Went back to sleep. Took a nap. You ever go night night?” –Kevin Hart

 

Happy 365 Days Black!

*(Intentionally omitted that word! Seriously Funny by Kevin Hart)

Yesterday

By Bethsheba McGruder

 

 

Yesterday was Mama’s Birthday.

Chloe Gladys Augusta Bowman died 18 years ago and I still remember the last day.

“Bethsheba…come read the scripture to me, please.”

 

The sweet sound of her voice still rings in my right ear. I sit at the edge of the bed and begin to read from “the good word.”

Don’t remember the text. A few minutes pass and I look up. Mama is trying to swallow and her face is twisted.

 

She slurs “B-e-t-h- s-a-y- t-h-e- A-L-P-H-A-B-E-T.”

“A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J…” and so on.

Mama tries and she only gets to the letter C.

“I- t-h-i-n-k- I- h-a-d- a- s-t-r-o-k-e.”

I dial 9-1-1.

“K-e-e-p- t-a-l-k-i-n-g- t-o- m-e.”

 

For the first time, I am scared that Mama wasn’t going to make it or maybe I just knew. But all the other times while I watch the tubes circulate her blood thru her left arm while she sat in her in-home dialysis chair, I never thought she would leave me. 

But this one moment, I just knew and I held on to every memory; her bedroom wall lined in strips of gold like wall-paper, rose colored chair, beige curtains, teal green bed sheet, and perfume lined across the dresser top.

 

I looked into her eyes and told Mama we’re going to see Alvin Ailey. 

I was 20 years old, worked part-time at The Walt Disney Store, and didn’t have tickets.

The ambulance came and Mama didn’t return home; her heart beat for seven days and when she took her last breath, I was not there.

 

I was huddled in her closet caressing her clothes, inhaling her scent, packing every smell and word in my memory bank.

Happy Birthday Mama!

Republican

By Bethsheba McGruder

 

“And I’ll never let my son have an Ego/He’ll be nice to everyone/where ever we go/I mean/I might even make him be Republican…”

from New Day from” Watch the Throne” Album

 

The missing ingredients from a male colored child is love, patience, understanding and the freedom to feed the Ego.

I moved down south to allow my son to be socially free to learn and appreciate “the gathering place” of community. All is not perfect but if I can expose him to a sense of community, hospitality, love, good food and southern respect I’m satisfied with that character building I couldn’t get in the city.

I moved to Fort Worth, TX to allow my son to evolve at a slower pace. Yet having to be reminded that the “black mans burden” is given at birth, and Ego is not a birthright.

Confidence and Ego are  considered threats even when a young man of color is nice. From the classroom to the basketball court, I teach my son to carry his Ego in his back pocket, Dignity on his chest, Grace on his arms and Self-worth on his back.

But behind close doors he is able to Rant, Vent & Voice his Rage! Because at the end of the day the Mantra is:

“Who can you change? Nobody, the only One You Can Change is You!”

By Bethsheba McGruder

“I do my Sunday dreaming, oh yeah and all my Sunday scheming every minute, every hour, every day…”   -Etta James, “Sunday Kind of Love”

I was12 years old and my mother would be in the kitchen cooking breakfast and my father would be sitting in the living room in his velvet green high back chair, with the pill buttons stitched across in vertical lines while reading the Sunday paper with his ebony wood pipe hung from his lips. The sweet smell of crushed tobacco leaves would linger in the air and a rusty, strong voice would bellow out pains of love on the record player and I was knelt down with my legs folded under my hips right next to my father, thinking about my Middle School crush while looking at the 45 Album cover of Etta James.

Glad for the memories thankful for her telling her story in “Rage To Survive.”

RedTails

By Bethsheba McGruder

 

Taking time out to encourage, request, ask, implore, beseech, even beg you to go see “Red Tails”. In theaters, January 20th. The importance of that history should not be overlooked because it cannot be overstated. –Jarett Fields

 

Prove It On Me!

By Bethsheba McGruder

I remember three years ago sitting at my office desk on a break and calling my father to ask him a question.

“Daddy, did you ever think I was gay?”

“Gay as in homosexual? Why would you want to label yourself?”

And that was the end of that conversation. My father is from the generation, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He still feels with prayer and good counsel, one can eradicate their homosexual tendencies.

Recently, I moved out of my father’s house to the Big State of Texas. I sent a younger “play” sister to stay with him. I did not mention her sexual orientation. After a month had passed, he called and inquired, “Beth, did you know she is alternative?”

“No, alternative? No, daddy, I didn’t know that.”

My father used the word “alternative” as if she was a green apple instead of an orange. He is against same-sex relationships and will quickly back it up biblically or with an intellectual debate.

Despite this, he is a man that has learned to love in spite of differences. Some people want queer folks to go away and not possess the same benefits as heterosexuals. I don’t want to fight that fight. However, the cause I do want to support is simply one of showing respect and love to all. This is in honor of my father for loving me and my queer friends in all of our alternativeness. I thank him.

I have stayed in the closet and I like it that way. Until, I come out, you will have to “Prove It On Me!”

In honor of Ma’ Rainey because she was so out spoken with her aggressive stance that I would like to thank her for stepping out, looking good and singing loud.

By Bethsheba McGruder

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve…” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I just finished reading Martin Luther King Day: 25 people who paved the way for MLK at thegrio, giving thanks to the people who work behind the scenes who make a “journey successful.” I always like to compare my hardships and disappointments to people who come before me. My roadblocks are the size of a pinecone compared to the great imprint of giants in the struggle.

My fight might not be public. The fight might just be everyday living of putting food on the table, paying rent, sending off query letters and receiving one rejection letter after another. But then, there is always a glimpse in one’s progress if I, we are in tune to it —the small things that make larger steps to my existence.

 

Here are my 25 people who serve(d):

  1. Jerome McGruder – Father
  2. Artlis Pearson- Godmother
  3. Dorene Jordan- Godmother
  4. Deidre Jordan -Friend
  5. Pam Giroux- Friend
  6. Lakeshia Massey- Friend
  7. Shaunta Wade – Friend
  8. Tracy Chiles McGhee – Friend
  9. Desiree Sanders – Friend
  10. Matanah- Friend
  11. Mrs. Charlie Andrews – (Nurtured both of my children while I went to work)
  12. Aunt Zenobia Lewis – (“Somebody prayed for me”)
  13. Pastor Joseph of Detroit Michigan – (who told me in 8th grade to look in the mirror everyday and say, “You are beautiful”)
  14. Janean Watkins – Editor of Northeastern University Seeds Literary Journal 2011
  15. Christine Bronstein – (Creator of http://www.abandofwives.ing.com who helped me raise enough money for my son to go to the National Young Leadership State Conference 2012)
  16. Little girl in Texas – who saw my six year-old crying after getting off at the wrong bus stop and took Chloe to her mother.
  17. Larry – (Stranger who in 1997 helped me when my car stopped and drove me and my newborn child home).
  18. Sfronia Jordan – Co-worker turned friend (saw me pay for my lunch with Susan B. Anthony coins. She gave me cash and held on to the Anthony coins until I received my first pay check).
  19. Luther Warner – Mentor (Invested start-up money for my bookstore)
  20. Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery – Judge for Hurston/Wright 2010
  21. Randall Horton – Editor-in-Chief of Tidal Basin Review
  22. Melanie Henderson – Managing Editor of Tidal Basin Review
  23. James Alan McPherson - Pulitzer Prize Winner (his comments written on my manuscript is my motivation to continue to write).
  24. Dovie Weston – Aunt (R.I.P)
  25. Chloe Gladys Augusta Bowman – Mother (R.I.P)

 Who are your 25 people?

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