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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)

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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!

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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

 

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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.

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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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By Bethsheba McGruder

In 2006, my son was attending a school where they did not have Dr. King Day off. The principal said, “I don’t think Dr. King would want children to be out of school.” I didn’t like that answer. I felt as if she thought parents did not know how to celebrate the day off. Of course, me being who I am, I did not send my son to school and we watched Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke.” Now that he is a teenager, I am thinking about what we will do today. Will we listen to his speeches, or write a couple of paragraphs on what Dr. King means to us?

I emailed my best friend Deidre and asked her what does having MLK Day off mean to her?

This is what she emailed me:

“I was listening to my car radio as I drove and got pretty excited when the DJ introduced the song “King Celebrate.” The collaboration included the voices of some notable hip hop and pop artists of the 1980s, more specifically known as The King Dream Chorus and the Holiday Crew. El De Barge, Fat Boys, Full Force, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Whitney Houston, Kurtis Blow, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa, Teena Marie, Menudo (with Ricky Martin), Stephanie Mills, New Edition, Run-D.M.C., James “J.T.” Taylor, and Whodini were some of the artists who were featured in the song. The tempo was catchy and the singers were the crème de la crème of that time. They came together to reach America’s youth to educate them about the importance of their freedom and the man who gave his life to a cause from which they benefit.

 

When I listened to the words, I began to wonder just how much has changed since 1989, or 1969 for that matter. There have been so many positive changes for our youth, yet the change within our youth seems to have deteriorated significantly. They blindly enjoy, or more so abuse, the freedom for which Dr. King and so many others have fought, bled and given their lives. Stop any kid on the street and ask them if they know who Dr. King is and what he has done. To some diminutive degree, they could tell you. Conversely, ask if they live their lives as though they know that he laid down his so that they could be free to become highly educated, have a resounding voice and prosper at the same rate as their white counterparts.  A chorus of crickets just might sound. It saddens me to see their behavior and lack of appreciation for what Dr. King has done. Our youth need an aggressive intervention. Where is The King Dream Chorus and the Holiday Crew of the new millennium? Although in this present day, we could definitely use more than just a song.”

Photo Credit: Elissa Todd

Today, I hope to drive my son and his friends to Dallas to check out the free exhibit on Dr. King’s life at the House of Blues or go to the parade.

What are you doing today?

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By Bethsheba McGruder

 

“Her birth was emotional and extremely peaceful, we are in heaven.” Beyonce

 

 

 

Blue. We welcome you Blue Ivy.

 

One of the greatest gifts to an artist is to express himself, the emotional, intense high of giving birth and becoming a mother and father. If you take a moment to walk in another man shoes, wouldn’t you secure the whole floor? If you were rich for the day, would you deliberately inconvenience others because you had it like that? If you were rich and free to think, act, and be, who and whatever you wanted to be and open any business that you day dreamed, wouldn’t you do it? If you had so much joy inside of you how would you express it?

 

That’s what being financially and mentally free does. Seeing in the mind what you want as a reality. Now imagine if you stuck to what you were born to do, you too could be rich?

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