This is Me

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Friday, September 28, 2007

It All Started With A Tree

September 20 was a tense day for me. My sister was attending the rally in Jena, Louisiana and so were a number of friends. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and I didn't want the SWAT teams Jena requested to "keep the peace" to get trigger happy.

Jena closed schools and businesses that day. A judge threw out Mychael Bell's battery conviction before the rally, saying that he should never have been tried as an adult (he was 16 when the fight occurred).

In my opinion, they threw the charges out in hopes that we'd cancel the rally, but we came anyway. They expected 10,000 people. What they got was a movement reminiscent of the Civil Rights Marches in the 60s. People young and old from all over the United States marched for miles.

Although the reason we had to march was disheartening, the fact that thousands of us united for the greater good was so uplifting.

I'm a member of a nationwide listserve that has over 2000 members, all female, all black. People were sending out emails about the Jena 6 and the rally a week in advance.

"CNN has live feeds all day."

"Y'all pray for me! I'm on my way to Jena!"

"Mychal Bell's grandmother is being interviewed right now!"

If it weren't for this listserve, I may not have heard about the Jena 6. (That's why black people have to have their own media outlets because mainstream media won't give a story about US the time of day unless we PUSH for it and only AFTER we've already known about it for weeks.)

In support of them, we were asked to wear all black. So when people started coming to work and logging into their emails the day of the rally, the roll call started for those who couldn't make it to Jena.

"Who's wearing black today?"

"I'm wearing black and so is my husband!'

"I'm a teacher and my entire school is wearing black today!"

I, of course, also had on black. Black clothes, shoes, jewelry, and underwear!

Oh, yeah, you best believe I was going to support. It brought me to tears when I heard about all the people wearing black.

"I live in Chicago and all the black people in my office have on all black!"

"I'm in DC wearing all black!"

"I'm in New York and all the Black people on the subway this morning had on all black!"

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Members of the listserve who were there took pictures and posted them on their websites. Their pictures captured a feeling that the 5-minute story news stations reported didn't and couldn't capture.

Black people standing up for what's right. Black people united. Those who have "made it" may have gotten a little comfortable and forgotten about the every day racism some people still experience, but when the time comes for us to stand together, we will, and we do. Not all of us. But enough to make a difference.

As long as injustice is the norm, we can't give up.

The injustice started with a tree and it grew into a movement.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ignorance Is Bliss

As thousands of protesters descend on Jena, Louisiana today and tomorrow to protest the judicial mistreatment of 6 Black boys, I sit here and say to myself, "I don't want to think about this. I can't deal with this."

It's too much to think about having to deal with facing a possible 22 years in jail just because a judge, a few lawyers, an an almost entire population of a city don't like the color of my skin.

I try to put myself in others' situations to check myself, keeping me thankful for what I have, but to put myself in those boys' situations is so overwhelming that I just shut down.

I don't want to have to think about being in that situation. I'd rather go back to complaining about how much I need a vacation than thinking they could be my cousins, my brothers, me.

I don't want to. But I have to.

I'm Black.

Too many people came before me and died so that I'll be able to sit here and do work that brings me joy instead of cleaning someone else's house and baby-sitting someone else's kids because that's the only job I'm "allowed" to have.

Very few people actually think racism doesn't exist, but it is so easy to forget while you go about your every day lives.

You go to the grocery store and the white teenager smiles at you as he bags your groceries.

You see an older white woman and she says "Hello" as you two pass each other.

You go into an expensive store in the mall and you DON'T get followed while you shop.

And then you hear about a black boy getting beat up because he sat down underneath a tree for "whites only."

You start screaming "WHY?" and think to yourself, "I can't deal with this."

And then you remember that your parents, your grandparents, went through this EVERY DAMN DAY of their lives.

Deep down I know that racism will always exist and Black people will always have to work harder than everyone else just to be on the same level, but sometimes when the racism slaps you in the face and wakes you up, you can't help but to ask God why.

We all know that life isn't fair but dammit if it doesn't seem like Black people ALWAYS get the worst of it.


It's so heartbreaking to know that we won't EVER be free of racism UNTIL we're all dead.

What kind of comfort is that?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Are You Working Right Now?

Last week I was asked to be on an alumni panel for a sophomore seminar at my alma mater.

At first I was shocked.

Am I that type of adult now? The type of adult who serves on alumni panels? Who is looked at as having expertise in my industry?

When did that happen? Last I checked I was still struggling and in the same poorly paying job I was two years ago.

Aren't alumni panels full of 50 year-old gray-haired men with pot-bellies who tell you how to succeed?

"Okay, quit trippin'!" I tell myself.

Just because I'm not making 6 figures does not mean I am not doing well and can't offer advice to those coming after me. I may not be getting paid much but what I have learned is immeasurable. Yeah, I know - that sounded cliche. But it's true.

So I say yes and a woman from the Office of Alumni Services calls me. One of the first things she asks me is "Are you working right now?"

As crazy as that question may sound to the outside world, people in my field know exactly what that's about.

Some of my younger professors in school weren't professors because they loved to teach. It was actually the opposite.

They were professors because the market for our industry sucks and they couldn't find a job. We're not in demand like nurses or teachers. (Well, we are in demand in the fact that no one can do what we do, but you know.... we're not respected like the aforementioned careers.)

In the television industry, getting your foot in the door is one of the hardest things to do. Even after you get your foot in the door you may or may not be able to get your foot in ANOTHER door.

In this field, sometimes you spend long periods of time without a job, so you constantly redesign your resume to see if this "keyword" or "key phrase" makes you stand out more than the ones you were previously using.

Anyone in any job knows about sprucing up your resume by exaggerating your job descriptions juuuuust a little bit.

Designers and the like do their sprucing up using words like "freelance."

All you have to do is say to someone at an art museum "The imagery in this painting is stunning" or to someone at Kinko's "I like the design of your business cards" and BOOM! you're a freelance design consultant!

Shoot. For the loooong year I was looking for work after graduating I used that "freelance" keyword, too. I redesigned my church's program (on my own - didn't even give it to them) and I was quick to list "freelance designer for local church" on my resume! LOLOL

But seriously, it's hard out here (for a pimp).

And the salaries for entry level? Cashiers at Wal-Mart make around the same.

A colleague of mine once said "Broadcast designers don't get any respect because the bosses think you type in a few things and the computer creates the graphics."

And he was so right.

Those who say who makes what are the ones who think that anybody can do my job.

Design school is expensive. Design software is expensive. And yet I could be scanning and bagging your groceries and making the same salary.

As discouraged as I used to be, I know that God does not want me to struggle. He does not want me making pennies for the rest of my life. I have been obedient and faithful and now that I'm older and more mature, looking back I can see what God was doing and what He is GOING to do.

I never would have been able to get this type of experience anywhere else. At a bigger company I wouldn't have had all the responsibility I do here and I sure wouldn't have been a supervisor in a short amount of time.

So okay. I'll be on an alumni panel and give the young'uns some wisdom beyond their years. I'll be their beacon. Their light in a sea of employment darkness. I'll be their hope when there isn't any. I'll be their rainbow after the storm. I'll be......