This is Me

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

They Called It Katrina

(Part 2, continued from August 29 post "One Year Ago Today")

Since my sister's school received extensive damage due to the flooding, two semesters, starting in January, were held off campus in a downtown hotel. Her graduation was postponed until July. My family and I drove down and as we passed over the bridge, we could see the parts that had been rebuilt. It was quite overwhelming to be on a bridge that a year ago, was partially destroyed by a hurricane.

As we drove further into the city, some of the places still looked the same. Hotels with broken windows, closed dealerships with destroyed cars sitting in the parking lot, houses with blue tarps covering up the roofs.

It's been almost a year. Why does this place still look like this?

After graduation ended, pictures taken, and goodbyes said, my sister took us on a "tour" of New Orleans. She showed us where she used to work, her apartment (not all of us had seen it), places she used to go. It all looked the same: abandoned, rotting buildings with spray paint on the outside saying whether or not it held a dead body inside. And in the middle of all that: an open Burger King. People gotta eat, right?

Being that close to destruction - I still don't have any words to describe the feeling. Not only do the survivors need monetary help, after going through that type of devastation, they need psychological help. You don't just get up and walk away from that type of catastrophe and not be mentally scarred......

*****

Graduation was held on campus. Trees had been replanted. Lawn neatly manicured. A mini movie describing the before, during, and aftermath of the hurricane and flood was shown on the big screen. "Father Can You Hear Us?" from Diary of a Mad Black Woman was played in the background.

The tears started.

Afterwards, the president of the university got up and said "Katrina tried to destroy us, but she failed. Dillard University will come back bigger and stronger than before. Welcome to the NEW Dillard University!"

What struck me about her speech (outside of the emotionality of it) was that she didn't say 'Hurricane Katrina.' She said 'Katrina', like the hurricane was a real person who had a soul....

I can just picture it. 50 years from now, Katrina survivors sitting on the porch rocking chair telling their young grandchildren about what happened to the city of New Orleans on August 29, 2006...

"Kids, Katrina killed people. Katrina destroyed a city. Katrina showed the world that not everyone is treated the same."

"Did they put Katrina in jail, grandpa?"

"No, baby.... You can't confine someone like Katrina. Katrina was a storm. A very destructive storm....."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One Year Ago Today

When the news reports first started talking about this new storm brewing, no one thought much of it. My sister, who was a senior at Dillard University, had already evacuated that month twice before so they were old pros at it. We live 8 hours away from New Orleans, so when people mentioned "leaving New Orleans," my mother suggested she not drive home AGAIN. "Just go with your friend to Memphis" she said. My sister took a few days worth of clothing. Nothing else. She left everything.

No one thought it was going to be that bad.

The universities in the area were told to evacuate on the same day they were moving into the dorms. When the families of freshmen from up north were told to leave because a hurricane was on the way, they did so with confused looks on their faces, my sister said. They couldn't comprehend the fact that water could cause so much damage, so they didn't take anything with them when they got back in their cars. Folks from up north understand tornadoes, extremely cold winters, but not hurricanes.

I mean, really. It's just water. Right?

Saturday the storm was upgraded to a Category 5. It hit Sunday night. Monday morning I woke up to pleas for help, a man crying because he couldn't hold onto his wife when the water got too high. Monday morning I woke up crying. It hit home too much because less than 48 hours ago my sister was there and could have been going through what others were going through. She was was stuck in Memphis with no electricity. Even though she wasn't in New Orleans, we were still anxious because she wasn't at HOME. It was hard getting in touch with her. Always getting her voicemail. She made it home that Thursday. I went home that Friday for Labor Day weekend. It hurt her to see what was happening to her city, her school, all those people - trapped for days on top of their roofs, in the Superdome with no air or food. People being treated like animals. We heard stories about people shooting at rescue helicopters, but because the media is known for sensationalism rather than actual news reporting, we knew there was a different side to the story.

After a while we turned off the television, but felt badly for doing so. Those flooded out of their homes waiting and hoping for rescue couldn't just turn it off. They had to live through it.

I talked to a couple of friends during that week when my sister was still in Memphis, and since I was still on edge, I wanted to vent/discuss what was going on in New Orleans. After mentioning my sister evacuating, pretty much all of them said, "Really?" and then they'd move on to what was else was new. I was so ANGRY. I said "Are you even watching the news? Do you not understand what is going on right now to those people? Our people?" No was their answer. I just wanted to scream at them. "Why aren't you watching the news? Why are you acting like you don't care??!!"

But after calming down I thought to myself "If my sister hadn't been in New Orleans, would I have been watching the weather report all day every day like I am now? Would I be as concerned if it I didn't know some of the people affected?"

I'd like to think so. After all, I am older. On my own. I actually see things for myself rather than as a sheltered kid. But why don't other adults see what's going on around them?

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina hurt so many people, in numbers no one can fathom. The entire city was underwater and people everywhere didn't care. There could be a number of reasons why people didn't care. The majority of the people sitting on rooftops, baking in the sun, were black.... poor. I've actually heard of comments like "Well, they're stupid for not evacuating. The mayor said to get out." But if 70% of the population depended upon public transportation, how were they going to get out? They shut down the airport and the bus depot. Now what? If New York flooded, where the majority of the people there also depend upon public transportation (including the rich white folks), would people have been calling them stupid? I also heard the comment "The government should just nuke the whole city and start over. It's just black people left." (and they say racism no longer exists....)

Peoples' lack of sympathy can also be attributed to their lack of understanding of the damage water can actually do. I didn't even know. I mean, I can understand a house being destroyed. But a concrete freeway? Concrete buildings? CONCRETE? I was floored by what I saw. Speechless. Hurt. Angry. And I wasn't even the one living through it.....

To be continued......

Monday, August 28, 2006

There Are No Do Overs in Jail

My mother was walking out of the mall not too long ago and saw two men being arrested. One was older, perhaps in his 30s, the other was "just a boy" as my mother put it. Just a boy, a boy who is so young he probably doesn't even realize what he's doing to his life. Well, he's about to learn real quick.

Do you know how many mistakes people make EVERY DAY? We mess up constantly and yet we always get "do overs". Extra time to make it right.....

People break hearts all the time: cheat on their significant others, lead others on, say "I love you" when we don't really mean it. When we realize we messed up, we ask for forgiveness, from that person and from ourselves, and then apply that knowledge in our next relationship.

We learn from our mistakes.

Freshman year: the *plus* following the D on that math test didn't cushion the blow any moreso than the grass cushioned the blow from your knee after falling off the jungle gym when you were 6. After realizing you went to one too many parties that weekend, you buckled down for the next test and studied.

We learn from our mistakes.

Remember your first car? The car you were driving when the engine fell out because it had been 10,000 miles since your last oil change? The repair cost a pretty penny, but afterwards you made sure you were in line at Jiffy Lube EVERY 2,999.9 miles.

We learn from our mistakes.

As you get older, wiser, and more mature, you realize that you will make mistakes regardless of age. You also realize you can learn from them and move on. You always get a chance to use that knowledge to not make the same mistake twice..... unless the mistake you make involves a trip to a jail cell.

Rapists, murderers, child molesters - they're all exempt from this. I'm talking about the kids who get caught up, talked into doing something illegal by their older *friends* because they were lured into the *rush*.

This isn't the movies; this is real life. There are no do overs in jail.

Women AND men get RAPED in jail, beat up, sometimes even murdered. Innocence - gone. Second chances - gone. Your life - gone. As a kid you may end up in a juvenile detention center, but those places are NOT rehabilitation centers. They're just a watered down version of JAIL and sometimes jail is where these kids turn into *hardened* criminals. The fight for survival in that type of atmosphere changes your behavior, your actions and reactions, for the rest of your life.

Instead of getting caught up in the rush, watch your *friends* and see how they act after spending time locked up. Learn from the mistakes of those around you rather than your own.

There are no do overs in jail.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Okay, Boys and Girls. Today We're Going to Talk About Respect.....

During a conversation about women putting up with mistreatment from men, someone said "Guys will only do to you what you allow them to. Demand your respect!"

Um, excuse me?

Why should I have to DEMAND respect from someone? And secondly, If I have to DEMAND respect from you, why would I stay with you?

I don't believe in demanding respect from a man. It should already be given to me.

At your job, do you automatically give respect to your boss or does he have to demand it? Do you automatically respect your co-workers or do they have to stand up for themselves in order for you to not run over them?

If your suggestions and complains are constantly falling on deaf ears at work, your boss is giving you his work to do on top of yours, and there is no raise or title change in sight, how long would you *play along* with the disrespect? Do you stay or look for another job? Most likely you'd leave. So why would a relationship be any different?

In the beginning, people in relationships/friendships are always on their best behavior. It's not until people get *comfortable* do people start to act up....

Scenario 1: You let a friend borrow your favorite CD only for them to lose or break it and then they have the nerve to get mad when you expect them to replace it. You let that same friend, who has fallen on hard times financially, stay the night. That night turns into weeks and he or she doesn't even offer to help cook or clean and isn't looking for a new job to help pay some bills. It's time to cut her loose. (I once had a *friend* who said "We've been around each for a long time now. I don't have to say 'please and thank you' anymore." Right.......)

Scenario 2: You and Guy meet and hit it off. Everything is great in the beginning. Then a few months down the line, he starts asking you to do things and doesn't say thank you. Starts hanging out with the boys more often and stops calling you as often because "you'll always be there." Makes plans but then cancels at the last minute without an apology. Maybe even stands you up. What do you do? Demand your respect? No. you leave. You shouldn't have to demand to be treated with respect.

If someone is mistreating you, the obvious answer is NOT "Demand your respect and he will treat you correctly." The OBVIOUS answer is "Get the heck outta dodge." Someone you have to stand up to just to be treated respectfully is not worthy of your space.

IMO, the amount of respect you show a person should never wane. It should remain a constant and even grow as you get to know a person better. Even if I don't like you, I'm still going to treat you with respect. If I don't, what does that say about MY character?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Okay - so why did I get hit this morning? Coming out of the apartment complex turning lane, about to merge into the street, chick behind me is not paying attention and hits me! WTH? I look in my rearview mirror and she's on her cell phone. BUSTER!

I'm not THAT upset because she hit me. (I've done it before - not paying attention, thinking he or she has already merged into traffic so the next opening I go for and end up hitting the person who never really went anywhere.)

I'm REALLY pissed because she didn't apologize. I get out of the car and look at her - nothing. I check the bumper of my car, see if there's any paint damage from her license plate, push it in with my hand to see if it moves TOO much (more than the average bumper should move). Everything looks okay so I look back at her - nothing. Chick doesn't even bother to get out of the car to check out the damage, wave to apologize, or roll down the window to say "I'm sorry." NOTHING. She just sits there with wide eyes and this scared "oh the big black girl is going to whup my a$$ if I get out of the car" look on her face. *curse word, curse word, curse word, curse word, curse word*

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pretty For No Reason

Why is it that every time a fine man steps into the lime light, rumors start flying about his sexuality?

I recently received pictures of one of the most BEAUTIFUL men I have ever seen. I mean, he is the "FINE FOR NO REASON God why did you make this man so PRETTY??!!" fine. He's so fine I was drooling all over my computer. He is so fine that he..... okay you get the picture. He is fine. On with the story....

I emailed his pictures to some friends and one of the first comments was "You do know he likes it in the butt, right?"

HUH? How do you know that? Did you see him hit on another dude? Did he TELL YOU he was gay? Did he come out on national television via a press conference? No. So how do you know?

You don't know. Folks need to stop assuming everything about people because of the way they look.

I've been subjected to the rumor mill myself so I know how hateful folks can be. Chick just up and made up something totally off the wall and it spread like wildfire. You know what that is, don't you? Mary J. said it and I'll say it too.

It's HATERATION!

I'll admit - I used to be one who said "He looks gay" but after the masculine Timberland-wearing dude on Real World Philadelphia came out of the closet, I've realized I have been wrong. Not all homosexual males look pretty or act femininely.

The influx of articles and news reports about the DL phenomenon (which isn't really new, folks been on the DL for a LONG TIME now, but I digress....) has got people always on the lookout, but people can't help how they come out of the womb looking. In the end people just end up finding "homosexual tendencies" where there aren't any (like "He uses his hands when he talks so he must be gay" and "His voice isn't as deep as other men so he must be gay".)

Okay, the guy is PRETTY. Not like girl pretty, but about as pretty as a male can be without looking like a female. Pretty skin, pretty hair, pretty arm muscles, pretty..... ab muscles..... there goes that drool again.....

He could be gay; he might not. But his homosexuality is not based upon the physical genes he received from his mother and father. Like I tell everyone since my own rumor debacle - unless the person tells me that the rumor is true, then I will not be contributing to the rumor mill..... (not that I would gossip about the person if the rumor is true, but you get the point).

Monday, August 07, 2006

"This Is Me" Quickie #2

I don't understand why people get so worked up over the possibility of a person taking performance enhancing drugs. People are dying in a war, but you get mad because an athlete ingested a pill that caused him to hit a ball farther than someone else?

I definitely think the media has tried and convicted both Floyd Landis and Barry Bonds before anything has been proven (something the media is well known for), but I really don't care if it is proven. Regular people take performance enhancing drugs all the time. I mean....Viagra?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

But That's a Dog.....

Folks have been working my nerves for the past two days. I won't give you all the details but I will talk about one discussion that occurred yesterday.....

Someone please explain to me why people treat their pets better than other people? Don't they understand that they are animals, not humans?

(Now if you can't already tell, I do not like animals. They stink, don't follow orders [How many times have I heard "Oh, he won't bite." Yeah, tell that to the scar on my left hand..."], and above all - they STINK. I don't care how much you wash it. It will always smell. BUT I will respect your love for animals; just don't look at me crazy because I don't feel the same way you do about YOUR animal.)

The dialogue started when someone asked if it was too much for her friend to put her pets in a kennel when they visit because her son has allergies. All the pet lovers in the world had a fit and said "My house is my pet's house. He lives here. You don't. If you don't like my pet, you don't have to stay with me."

But wait - don't people accommodate their guests? When you have people coming to visit, don't you clean up? Change the sheets? Or do you leave everything the way it is, because it's your house as well as the dirty dishes' house, too?

If I have allergies to your pet, am afraid of them, or just don't like them and you're my friend, wouldn't you try to accommodate me because I'm your friend? I guess if you don't, then you must not want me to ever come visit, and if that's the case, then maybe we're not as close as I thought we were.

Some who contributed to the conversation said their pets are their best friends and they would do anything for them. They even went as far to say that their pets are like family and family is MORE IMPORTANT to them than friends.

Wait..... have we forgotten we're talking about ANIMALS?

One girl even said that she treats her pet better than her friends because it (key word *IT*, not he or she) gives unconditional love.

Unconditional love? Try God. He does the same thing....