Evermore

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I didn’t feel anything until we lowered her into the ground…Then all the emotions came. I didn’t process anything until I was by myself, not completely but alone with my own thoughts, among strangers. When my dad and I parted in Frankfurt, I to Cali, he to the east, I began to consider who it was that I lost. What is was that I felt as they sprinkled the dirt over the coffin, “ashes to ashes”, “dust to dust”.

I wished I had spent more time with her, that my Igbo was better, that I had been already married so that she could come, that my family had shared more stories, more memories when we had gathered together.

In the airport, tired, so tired from not sleeping in the last day and half of travel, caring for a baby and mom on the plane, and a slight headache building, I decided to pray, to meditate, seek to live in the fullness of time rather than clock time…and also prepare myself for the next 10 hour flight ahead!

By happenstance I chose this song “Evermore” done by Phil Wickham and part of his christmas album. The song on repeat, I considered the recording I found a few nights earlier after we celebrated her life and laid her to rest…

That night I listened through the various tape recorders I had brought with me, hoping to hear the familiar cadence of her voice. I knew I had recorded one maybe two stories, over a decade ago, I knew not on which recorder or whether they were still in the mini cassettes at home. At last I found it! Mama recounting her life before she married my grandfather, and how it was she came to Port Harcourt. It was a rare story, she was telling in English mostly, with some Igbo mixed in. She wanted me to understand her and kept checking to ensure I heard it aright. At some point someone came in, I remember not who, a woman, in Igbo she asked, how are you my daughter? Have you eaten? she continued in this wise for a little before getting back to the story. I laughed at her antics, running away to her village, caring for her sister’s children at a young age, going to marry a stranger, leaving her family. That night I fell asleep listening to her voice, and weeping, that aside from this tape I would hear it no more, not even quite finishing the hour + of dialogue I had recorded then.

So it was in the airport that this aside came to mind, this unremembered woman who had intruded on the story, who was welcomed to do so. The song was on repeat and as I closed my eyes and prayed I saw this image:

It was so light! So much sun, in the brightness and purity and beauty that had so delighted me as a child and tempted my gaze upward to the sun and likely why I wear glasses now. I felt that peace, that I most familiarly remember after school when I went to Dupont Park and would lay on the grass and look at the clouds and simply be. This glorious peace and vision was present as I journeyed to the heavens, the clouds parting to take me to a wedding. I thought I had the vantage of the guests as I could see the groom, but soon realized I was walking to him, and so must be the bride, part of the bride of Christ! As I approached I became aware of an angelic host and beasts around him and curiously a great multitude attending the approach of this one lady…It brought to mind immediately C.S. Lewis’s description of her :

All down one long aisle of the forest the under-sides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light; and on earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realized my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.

First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

….

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.” “She must have had a very large family, Sir.” “Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?” “No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more.

I continue down the aisle towards them, towards the bright groom and love of my life, and of hers; The tears now flowing freely I came face to face with Mama, my grandmother, welcoming me to the wedding, a smile of great joy on her face that said “welcome my daughter”.

The song, chosen for its peace but otherwise by happenstance was the score of a more beautiful wedding than I could ever hope! Mama got to attend, but not only attend, came to welcome me there.

We said goodbye here on earth but this vision assured me that she would ever rest in beauty in the light of heaven’s glow. I will see her again one day and we will both enjoy the light of the world, for evermore.

Waking up in Nigeria

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I woke up this morning and thought for a second I was already home. I had left the window open (an exceedingly rare occurrence for my usually cold self) and there was a humidity in the room and the sound of slightly distant traffic and life happening outside my window. There was a stillness to the morning and a freshness to the air, light that flooded the room and a sense of deep peace.             I thought I was in Lagos actually, staying again in my Aunt’s house. (I remembered, she also has passed). I woke up way early, way before any alarm and any responsibilities. Grateful for the Lenten practice to sleep a bit more to allow the Lord meet me. I woke thinking of family…not in Nigeria exactly but here, that are making a way for me to get to Nigeria. The amazing generosity of people making me food, coming to sit with me and hear stories, purchasing me flights, singing songs, prayer, hugs. I remembered an entry I wrote in a journal years ago, “I want to be able to say at the end of my life that I have tried all the promises of God and found them to be true” My mysticism at his words to the disciples that no one that has left Mother Father, Sister, Brother, houses, land for my sake and the sake of the gospel would fail to received 100 fold all these with persecutions in this life and eternal life in the age to come. I have learned the truth of this promise from my brothers and sisters in the last week and a half. Thank you my brother, Thank you my sister, Thank you Moms and Dads…. Truly such kindness is too wonderful for me! I can believe what has faintly eluded me these many years, the conviction that God truly, truly loves me. And he indeed has not left me as an orphan, and will never leave me alone.

This morning I woke up in Nigeria, and wept for the family lost; but also for the exceedingly abundantly lavishly wonderful God who has already given me many more family.

DC

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It is perhaps my favorite time of year, not so much Christmas or New Year’s but the brief couple of days in which I return home, to the city I grew up in. I’m aware, more this year than any other, that I’ve returned as less than what I was. Humbled by life, yes; heart broken by the evilness within man, humans, definitely. I miss this place, and love this place, as I walk around. Where else are museums still open at 7:30pm and you can get free tickets to dozens of shows? Where else is the public library offering laser certification and 3d printing certificates? I love this city, the life that never stops, the pace that never slows. I miss being surrounded by this. I miss talking politics on the train and culture in store lines. I miss the dozens of languages you hear spoken in the span of 10 blocks and the architectural beauty awaiting at every corner. I miss the train coming every 3-7 minutes and buildings that envelop you in warmth when you walk through them.

I missed Potbelly, apparently, as stopped in for a reminiscing sandwich while I continued to make my way through the New Jim Crow. I had stopped a while ago from heart break. The lock down, what a devastating chapter and restoring for me of that ‘lost’, focus. I left energized, aware that I need to move faster in my programming studies, move faster toward my dreams of making apps that help people have justice, that serve people rather than profit lines…and as I walk past gallery place, I hear a better version of Israel’s ‘friend of God’ than the original. Drummer, guitarist, and keyboardist and soloist giving an outdoor concert right outside the 7th and G transfer point.

It was a beautiful awakening. Re-orienting of purpose and the role of God in it. Indeed, “who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me when I call? Is it true that you are thinking of me? How you love me?”.

To DC! the only place you might have a locally attended passerby worship concert outside of a train station…and also the very center of power for some of the most unjust and discriminatory laws commonly enforced in America. I take the concert as part of my holiday at sea…but the mudpies…they are legion, and in 2017, I have my work cut out for me.

 

Quoting Truth

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Beloved child, you never knew

what to be Black & Beautiful

and Mother’s touch which loved too deep

would sooner kill than slavery keep

 

On shores of racist ignorance

despair, delayed deliverance

and many men lay at his feet

the foreskin, Death themselves requete

 

And death requetes much more and still

2016, your vote, your will

Let’s put to death this age-old beef

demonic-White-Supremacy

 

demonic, Legion, many still

sexist, patriarchy, ill

land-owning, only White

“this system” YES, its it we fight!

 

Walls, deportations, rape

endorsed by Duke, the KKK

Hitler’s, bigger, fatter, bro

a Trumped up man, to Trumped up woe.

 

So Shakespeare’s words become our cry

and poetry, plain truth espie

“This is the short and long of it”

no sooner told than truth convict

 

An individual not living yet

till self concerns can they forget

and broader concerns of all woman

in faith restore the hu-in-man

 

The ‘feminist’ refuse to be

lest Black and Queer perspectives heed

nor settle for the ‘cheaper grace’

of equal pay, not equal race

 

The Christians too, ones faith convert

till faith & works…a two way merge

revealing on the other side

an integrated, Christ-like child

 

Till race nor gender, divide the pew

nor school, nor jobs, nor suburbs too

No remnants of the blood-red lines

nor colorless Christ, stained glass define

 

When restitution properly made

to FIRST NATIONS and debt repaid

Each tribe, Each tongue, which here before

White sails brought death, disease & more

 

No tiger moms or model myth

or passive voice, on Asians shift

when civil rights of 65

for ALL of us brought things denied

 

No more deny, Latinx voice,

nor scape goats make, our race of choice

no fifth of may or chavez day

till labor say : no DACA slaves!

 

When truth: the story fully told

of migrant farmer’s goods resold

to Western markets thus the need

to emigrate, protect one’s seed

 

Protection G.I. bill affords

to poor, and white, and veterans more

to own their house and later say

‘no handouts’ for the child of slave

 

And ‘welfare Queens’, who, workers pay

so far below, poor threshold wage

no law can force such sums to give

their jobs remove, to countries shift

And then deny the poor their health

THEIR debts must pay, to grow rich wealth

rich debt becomes the public’s shame

bailouts, ‘rose’ by other name

 

Hippocrasy by another name

no sweeter, smell, than that of shame

When Americans, NOT native cry,

‘get off our land’, this is our right

 

So Christ, please come, or people stir

Till justice rain, and mercy flow

and righteousness, never ending stream

Well up, like life inside of me

 

So word gives life, and truth please see

‘costly, grace’, shed, for you and me

And as Christ lives and As I breathe

So long live love, and this, give life, to thee

On theology and vulnerability

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Rather coincidentally I have been on a media fast…It is this time that the media “blew up” with my job in the news, also in this season of media fasting I picked up some books that I have been meaning to read for forever it seems. Divided by Faith – Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. I began my reading in earnest yesterday, when after three days of phone calls un-answered I decided to win a allergist referral from my PCP by camping out in her urgent care practice until I  got an appointment, and then my referral. I hadn’t gotten far, I’ve been stopped in horror on the brief survey of the historical nature of slavery and particularly the logic and arguments of evangelicals in favor of it, advocating gradualism etc. I’ve been thinking of the opposition of White evangelicals in the work of the civil rights era and in confronting Jim Crow and the support Trump has with evangelicals, the sad truth of the book’s authors claim, that Evangelical faith has power to motivate people to gain freedom but no power against the societal things that keep people bound… They wrote this years ago…for sure… but how true this statement “Our understanding of race relations, however, remain stuck in the Jim Crow era, leading us to mistaken conclusions-racism is on the wane, and racial division and the hierarchy are but historical artifacts….Rather than incorrectly examine race in the United States using an old standard, we must adapt our understanding and analysis to the new, post-Civil Rights era.

I spent yesterday evening trying to make sense of the arguments of evangelicals of the past for slavery, of evangelicals of literally 40 years ago for Jim Crow and what leads to consistently the wrong conclusion. What personal biases blinded them? What were their chief sins? And most importantly, would I be so blind if I lived then? Do I have any of these blindnesses even now? I find myself aligned with White evangelicals on another gripping issue ..at least in the media these days. That’s honestly uncomfortable company to keep, and particularly when I’m opposed by the same, on the gripping issue that has brought division since the founding of this country. The treatment of black and brown people.

When I eventually saw the doctor, it turns out that I should be carrying an epi-pen with me at all times, and benadryl apparently. How ironic, for my own health, I must buy into the capitalistic nonsense that justifies private entities making life-saving public-needed medicine, and then turns around and jacks the price from $63 to $415, I last heard. I left prescription in hand planning to go the the pharmacy after work (by now after the camp out), I knew however, even as I drove away…if insurance didn’t cover it…I might forgo it, or at the least take a while until I figured out how to get a cheaper version from somewhere else. It struck me that these type of things…wealth, and how easily, or hard groups of people are able to weather crises,…is exactly the difference in a racialized society that the book was talking about, the part that struck me most significantly. I resolved to prioritize getting to the lab for my full battery of allergy tests and went to sleep early and woke at 6:30am to get to a lab early..so that I could return to the Christian women conference I had last minute gotten to attend.

When I walked to the street, I saw with some small distress that my trunk was open.

I reviewed, I got out yesterday, put on the club, rolled up the windows, locked the car since I’d get a ride to the conference, and walked to the pharmacy…so this was a break-in…right, the doors were locked? The trunk wasn’t open right? I catalogue, yes, a bag is missing, but not much, I don’t have much…I went the the drivers side…yes a break-in, all has been searched and strewn everywhere, ok what was taken? Well not the most thorough of thieves…they didn’t find my roll of quarters. Praise God I have a club, they might have stolen the car otherwise…and then the most dreaded…I need to call the police…only because things that belonged to my job were stolen, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it…I call… and the officer instructs me to go to sjpd online and file a report. I had heard the sjpd was personnel limited, but… O.K…I believe it now…better perhaps, I never welcome talking to the cops…

I begin to fill out the report, extensive, particularly as I’m still in the car on my smartphone and trying to assess the damage…I had a thought, I should check under the hood because last time they stole my battery…text my boss, find my insurance policy number…wow there are an awful number of folks walking their dog, I wonder if anyone saw anything? No (police report), I don’t have any suspects…it likely happened… at night/early morning… I wonder if the sun visor is still a good place to keep my insurance and registration? I do because my parents instructed me to never need to reach into anyplace when the cops stop me…and the persistent difficulty in opening my glove compartment might end my life…well they didn’t steal this…so I guess I should continue…wait the dog walker is back!?(White guy, sans dog)? Where does he even live? What happened to the dog? He disappears as I open the glove compartment and transfer my papers to it…then realizes I should get my vin and plate and insurance policy numbers from it….I begin the journey of trying to re-open it(glove compartment) before giving up and searching for it on my phone, in parking apps databases. And dog walker comes back…Suddenly feeling a bit exposed, in a car, in the early morning, I lock the doors and notice him trying to stealthily take pictures as he passes. ?? Maybe he is someone that should be a suspect? When he passes at sufficient distance I get out and take a photo of his retreating figure…I continue the report getting to almost the last page when he returns, looking belligerent , openly taking photos. I snap some of his face…a realization of what’s going on…I am being vilified. Black woman sitting in a car in Willow Glen, he assumes I stole it…? Or broke in? Or something…I must be the criminal…because I’m black? I bet he did see the car trunk open earlier and instead of having compassion activated then, suddenly feels convicted to act when a black person comes on the scene…wouldn’t it be ironic that the police who refused to come out when I reported a break-in will likely come out to his call…he leaves, and I soon see the dog…walked by his wife? So yeah he definitely came back specifically to investigate me…and this makes them my neighbors…I wonder if I’ll find my picture on Willow Glen Charm? (The neighborhood Facebook) I completed the police report, adding this new nuance and shaking, drive off…after all this whole incident has taken 40 minutes and i’m far more likely to die of an allergy I’ve yet to determine than police-neighbor incident  and I should really get to the lab for the battery of allergy tests if I hope to be finished in time for the resumption of the conference.

I realized as I drive, my hood is slightly open, and the neighbor incident unsettled me such that I didn’t check to see if anything vital had been stolen from under the hood. I thought of the book,their finding that wealthy white, more highly educated people are least likely to say they believe in segregated neighborhoods or that they feel more unsafe if black people move into their neighborhoods but most likely to by personal choice live in the most highly segregated neighborhoods, and schools etc. Why is it that the “neighborhood police” are largely white (Zimmerman etc) and instead of asking common sense questions like “Is this your car?”, or hey my name is “John Doe” “do you live aroundby?”  they tend to stalk, and escalate and intimidate and assert their assumed right to inhabit a space above everyone else’s right?….Processing this I signed in at the lab and began to write while I waited to be called. I noticed that since it was now late, there were tons of folks and I would for sure be late for the conference but, finally, my name is called! Just in time (30 minutes later), it’s standing room only!

The labtech? A male, tells me  ‘you have so many tests needed…I don’t think you’ll be able to handle them all today, we should call your doctor to find out which ones to do first so come back on Monday’ … (sigh …If  you knew the journey to even find the doctor). I argued, not understanding ‘when the doctor ordered all the tests why it matters which ones we start with?’ ‘Yes I understand you’ve been doing these tests for years and you don’t think I can handle them, so let’s do half today and half on Monday’, ‘choose any four, the doctor just wants them done, not that there is an order of priority’. ‘I don’t think the labels misprinting is a sign that I shouldn’t get the tests done’, ‘let’s reprint and do the tests’..For. Five .Minutes. Until he invites me to take a seat, and he will consult with others..I notice that there are more people, some are staring. I wonder why I’ve been the only one in the time I’ve been here that they attempted to discourage? What is it about my gender or race that puts me at risk? that necessitates I must always fight for myself? That causes me to doubt I will ever find rest for my weary soul. I never lose my keys because I know it will never go well for me to need to break-in to someplace I own…I always get a receipt to be able to combat claims of theft. I’m quiet so when I speak I won’t be ignored. I avoid baggy clothes unless they clearly sport the Stanford logo, I keep my papers in the sun visor, I pay my taxes, I register my car, I sit in waiting rooms, I do all the things that are required of me yet know they will never make me accepted in this country.

Running through my head recently has been these these lines from RuNett Nia Ebo’s “Lord why did you make me black” .

Why do people think I’m useless? How come I feel so used? Why do some people see my skin and think I should be abused?

After the full battery of allergy tests, which didn’t take long, (I didn’t faint and was able to handle all of them)…I headed to the conference, the belong conference..the hope being a place where all women would belong…I left with this on my mind –

13 these all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 for people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 if they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16

I wonder if slaves brought over the Atlantic found hope in these words when their evangelical masters preached to them, or as they sought to reconcile their faith to their circumstance. I’m still in the midst of my media fast but know as I drive this weekend I’ll sing Page CXVI “I’ve got a home in glory land, outshines the sun, outshines the sun”

Losing the Food Fight

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I’m accustomed to defeat when it comes to the food fight. My mom, a skilled and stubborn general (Taurus, born three days after and 35 years before me) was singularly gifted and creative in her many victories. At 3 I would sit resolute at the table when all the sugar disappeared from the frosted corn-flakes, no longer willing to eat the cereal, she would decree, that I was ‘unable to leave the table until the bowl was empty, milk drunken’. Her lieutenants and captain, my older sister and brother would foray into the battle. “You better hurry, it tastes worse when the milk makes it soggy” – Neither of them share the taurus heritage with I or Mother Dear. Respite would come from surprising places, when our mother agreed to taste the cereal when she used the powdered milk and agreed it was distasteful enough to throw away. Or, when after dinner, after refusing to eat certain items I didn’t like (I did try), we would compromise that if I drank v8 vegetable juice I could leave(still feel traumatized when I see anything V8), or if I ate 20 forkfuls, or when the lieutenant and captain would help me with my meted punishment of ‘picking up all the food from the carpet floor’, so that I could leave the table and then play with them. One of my most memorable defeats landed me the punishment of washing the dishes by myself, this happened when I was around 4. I stood on the stool that was needed for me to reach the sink and cried, mournfully. The general, bustled about, cleaning, and, as resolute in her decree as I in my defiance. When night fell and I realized it made no difference if I cried standing on the stool or sitting on the stool, I sat down and dozed in my solitary prison, until my dad (Capricorn) came home from work and pleaded my release from the general, that I was too young to serve out my sentence, and carried my exhausted form upstairs to sleep. A few days after this, the general employed her most successful strategy, which ended permanently the food war, which was, to have me help cook the meal. She gave me all the instructions, and I cooked the rice,…though I mixed up ‘1/4 teaspoon’ and ‘1/4 tablespoon’ of salt and valiantly the army ate my contribution; the capricorn most encouragingly. The general said it was too salty, and threw it out, after all initially tasted it, but the pattern was set. Going or calling the general to determine what to cook for dinner for the family, it still amazes me how she has every recipe in her head and how successful the whole cooking by verbal instructions, has worked out since that time.

Ours was the family of 6 but there were always unexpected guests and always leftovers. Every thanksgiving/Christmas I re-unite with this clan of 6 and it quickly multiplies to 15 20 + as cousins and aunts and grandparents etc. pop by with the whole family. I’m used to cooking for 10 at every meal, I intimately understand the horror in the ‘water to wine’ story when they run out of wine and similarly have learned from my culture, you never run out of food, and you cook for the whole family, and potentially a few unexpected guests. I enjoy it, the cooking that is, thinking of the menu, the mix flavors, At one point, to raise money, I approached the general to outsource family lunches, and began selling my gourmet lunches in exchange for my sibling’s lunch money. My most loyal customer, my dad, would laugh off my non-subtle hints that there is no such thing as a ‘tab’, and my business folded due to lack of liquidity. I am the type of chef/baker that can make up my own cake recipes, and have the general’s own creativity and intuition for flavors and cohesion in meals. I say this without modesty to convey I am a good cook, I suffer from no lack of confidence in my skills, and have cooked long enough, that I’m quick, and adept at it. It makes this latest food fight all the more baffling…

The thought of cooking and eating fills me with depression.

Well let me clarify, the thought of cooking for myself, and eating a meal I cooked for myself, fills me with a singular dread and sadness that I first felt that day standing crying on the kitchen stool, not wanting to wash the dishes. I still have immense joy when I think of cooking for others and eating with others. I even do fine when I got out and eat by myself. But there is something different about cooking for myself and eating, knowing I have only myself in mind, that manages to destroy my usual ‘adapt to American culture’ mentality and long for home. Are there exceptions…sometimes… I often need to prime the pump and psych myself up, but once I get started, the joy of cooking propels me to a completed meal, but that spirit of individual and lonely survival that began the food creation process, has at times meant, the meal spoils unappealingly in the fridge. For a while, I tried to guilt myself into consumptions…”waste not want not” but then I got food poisoning from eating food I suspected had passed its prime, and the medical costs incurred, terrible nights before and after the ER visit, completely took the wind out of the sails of that ship. At the last moment, (after a day or two of skipping meals), there is a sort of self preservation that I get resigned to, and might eat a meal ‘out’ or try something exceedingly quick and plain (rice). I sort of just ignore the awareness that I’m not eating balanced meals etc. Sadly this for me is a purely psychological battle as my body often feels apathetic either way…In high school I was reading Callous On My Soul, Dick Gregory, and was amazed at his hunger strikes and wondering if I would be willing to forsake food for a worthy cause. More experimentally than as an activist, I went on my own hunger strike for a week. It was the height of lacrosse season and was beyond exceedingly hard, but strangely in that time, I sort of trained my body to ignore signals of hunger and emerged with a need to consciously generate a desire for food. I do find myself longing for food in random moments…but it is more a longing for the tastes and specific flavors on my mouth in the same way one longs for their nails to be painted a deep dark blue. Gluttonously? Unnecessarily? more of a ‘want’ than a need? For me a least these thoughts are processed exactly in my mind..”hmm I really want my nails to be dark blue….do I have nail polish?, do I want to go get some?…Do I have time?…nah I shouldn’t, I need to go meet X in a few minutes.”- “Wow I really want a tamale…Ugh I don’t feel like making tamales, where could I get it? hmm I did find $5 in my jeans, that’s like free money…Actually I should ‘t spend money anyway, It’s not like I’m particularly hungry and it makes no sense to waste gas, driving to FoodMax to find the Tamelera, I’ll probably eat later”. The occasions that I fast, hunger does seem to be felt, and occasionally, if I have habits of eating at set times over a long period of time, I feel ‘hunger pangs’ might be returning to my life…But my schedule has not been that regular since years before high school and there is nothing that I do consistently week to week, day to day, so meals have become  a sort of afterthought at the end of the day, realizing I was so busy I forgot to eat, or an, ‘in the course of life’, ‘in the course of meeting with someone’, ‘at a gathering when there is food’, or…uniquely, ‘greatly anticipated as an extension of hospitality’.

I’m come to realize my fight with food is a translation of the clash of cultures, and an anti-american revolution of dependence. As I tried to recount, I had never cooked, or ever heard of anyone cooking in my family, in my culture, just for themselves. This is as unheard of as playing Chess by yourself..? Why play at all? Surely a lose-lose situation. Food is communal, the act of preparing food – hospitality, which requires a recipient differentiated from the host. “Life isn’t meant to be lived alone but in community”. Why would you eat alone, live alone, do life alone, when we were created for one another…or if you don’t believe this…perhaps you’d agree it’s more enjoyable with others? I realized that I had family to share life(meals) with growing up, had peers to share life(meals) with in college and ,now,  am in the stage of life that I’m not too busy for every meal, I’m at a loss at the expectation to do life(meals) on my own. (again…psychological b/c I clearly all my life have had the capacity to make the meals). This is not to say I don’t live with others, even other Christians…but increasingly our life has more resembled the Westernized Christianity picture than the Acts 2 vision that drew me to Christ. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,” Acts 2:46. My peers these days, only share meals at restaurants…if one isn’t working insane hours at a SV startup and has the money to spend ‘out’ you’re ‘left out’ of the fundamental fellowship. We’ve substituted Acts 2 for this practice, and others…instead of everything in common and needs being met as they arise, we have neatly labeled containers in a fridge and food that spoils b/c it is impossible for one person to use it  by the sell by date. In a rare moment of quiet the other day I was remembering a friend’s teasing of a season of life when I ate yogurt and granola for a couple of months. I was in grad school then, and similarly experiencing the dread of an inability to bring myself to cook knowing I would share the food with no one. In that season like the one I’m fast approaching, I couldn’t afford to “eat out” really at all, or with any regularity.

This hardly gives fair treatment to my underlying thoughts that American’s on the whole eat far too much and it isn’t necessarily needed to have more than one meal a day. This is more acknowledging that even the one meal, increasingly proves too challenging for me. The first step of recovery, is confession and I take comfort that having more accurately diagnosed my problem (not laziness as I’ve long suspected, but a weird depression at how disconnected and isolated my life is, a homesickness of sorts). I’ve come up with a few possible solutions…

a) make more money, be able to eat out. [not going to happen, there literally is no extra time in my schedule]

b) move home/in with family [I love my community in cali]

c) invite people to join me in a practice of Acts 2 values, meal rotation etc. [will probably only work for a few dinners/wk and will be complicated]

d) find a way to plan out my meal locations to be in communal spaces, local parks, open cafeterias [not sure if this will actually satisfy my longing for communal involvement in the food process, will also be tricky, but maybe will work for lunches?]

e) resurrect disciplines of regularly inviting friends over for a meal [most potential here, though tricky when I return to school]

f) stockpile on yogurt and granola [every engineer needs a brute force solution]

g) I don’t know…Externally process on blog and solicit other suggestions!

From 25 to 1500

Standard

I am a regular citizen…except I’m black, and although privileged I’m caught up in the same webs of poverty and injustice that so many Black people in this country are caught up in. I currently have a suspended license. How you wonder? Well, to be honest, I wonder too! I’m a typical person; I get the occasional speeding ticket and parking ticket when the meter runs out 15 minutes till it’s free. I’ve never DUI’d or anything like that. In fact I’m a recent driver as of the last 4 years. Prior to then I was a proud Washingtonian and envisioning living my life in cities with decent public transit, and never needing to drive. I wish I had clung more closely to that vision. Except California public transit… sucks, and it is hard to get decent work such that you do not need to rely on a car. In truth the costs of car ownership have been astounding. There is the car itself, and insurance, the endless fees and renewals and not to mention all the time drain and bureaucracy involved with anything dmv, or courts related. Most recently I received a notice that my license was suspended for two violations I had no recollections of (these apparently happened years ago…no lie). I found out for the first, I actually had addressed it, and submitted this to the court and eventually it was cleared under amnesty, the other, I honestly can’t remember, but apparently it was a “no proof of insurance” and could have been cleared by showing my insurance and paying a $25 fine, but now is in collections and immutable. I always have insurance, and since this apparently happened in July (I pay for the insurance for the whole year in January and always keep it in my car) I definitely had insurance then. I also found records that I had been to the DMV several times, in the months after this ‘violation’ allegedly occurred (I no longer believe this even occurred) and never saw anything about this violation on my dmv records (obviously could have been cleared then if I had). I was even willing to accept that by some fluke of amazing circumstance, I got this violation and lost it/forgot about it/thought I had addressed it and hadn’t… etc. and accept that I must pay for my foolish mistake…except I have a hard time understanding how something that could have been cleared up with a $25 charge and display of proof…has now turned into something that costs me $1500 and is immutable. How is this justice? This is more than double what my insurance costs in a year. Is the desire for drivers even to be insured? Or just forsake driving? What is the point of this sort of punitive kicking of the folks that are already down? What does it serve? Why does our justice system work this way?

My car was stolen a year or so ago and the police, instead of calling me to say yes.. We found your reported stolen car…come move it…since the battery is stolen and most of the stuff inside of it…immediately call a tow company and therefore I need to pay $700 dollars to get my car out of the tow lot. When I called the tow company, (after the police called me to say they had found my car and it is now at the tow lot), they told me the fee, and that at it increased by $60 for every day it stays on the lot…what? Of no fault of my own…(I guess I could be faulted for not sleeping in the car and fighting off the thief with my bare hands…) I’m punished for being robbed. What is the point of having AAA if I’m denied the right to have my stolen car towed for the price I’ve already paid? This happens all the time…fees upon fees upon useless fees, victimization of victims that have already been victimized.

The court admitted that the notices of this ‘violation’ were all returned, sender not at the address, unable to forward… Amazing that they couldn’t find an address for me, yet the DMV has always been able to find my address to let me know that I need to renew my vehicle registration. Why is it that the DMV never has trouble finding me, but the court in the same time period couldn’t find me? What fees can be added to turn $25 into $1500? What is the reasonable explanation for this? There are so many people for whom this is a death sentence, they are already on the edge… in poverty, they already can’t or can barely afford to live in this country, and our legal system in every form, finds multiple ways to continually kick them while they are down.

I understand their despair. I understand why in some countries, fed up with the endless cycles of poverty and being kicked punitively and egregiously by the government, synonymous with ‘the Rich’ & the folks in power, that citizen feel they have nothing to lose. The responses are horrific – some suicide, some suicide and take others with them, some target the government, almost all become more anarchist. I understand the vindictive desire to retaliate, I see how the injustice of it all can be manipulated can be distorted into hateful aggression. But I also see how it can be redemptive…or better yet, redeemed…

I want to be a computer programmer particularly for social good, yet today… honestly I feel vindictive. My redeemed desire, is that is will be a pleasure to program, to develop applications to help the disenfranchised and the poor avoid paying money unnecessarily to the courts. I want applications that serve, not just line other’s pockets. I want a government that isn’t bankrolled by extorting money from the poor. This desire “to serve” instead of “line my pockets” is why this fee is a big deal for me…I do so much service and spend hardly enough time making money to support myself, certainly not enough to drop $1500 for a citation I can’t remember ever receiving. There must be a better way, there must be a better system, there must be justice…I hope. Whether mass transit that actually works, or social justice apps that work. I WILL find it; I WILL make it, I WILL be a part of it.

I was thinking today of what it means to be black in America, yet also identify as American: the history of slavery, the morphing of slavery laws to black codes, and vagrancy laws and literacy tests, and prisoner plantation lease programs, and Jim Crow, to the prison industrial complex, and gentrification, and school to prison pipeline, and police brutality, and Black in media representation and Black culture extraction and America’s deep history of making its wealth off of people like myself. I was remembering that the other day I was explaining to a friend why I don’t think Jesus’ words and teachings lead to pacifism, and how I see the God of the old testament and Jesus are indeed the same… I was thinking of the pacifists, and the war protestors, and the many reasons that people burned their draft cards. I hear the grain of truth in Muhammad Ali’s gripping words about the war and racism. Yet far more clearly the words of Christ to turn the other cheek, to love my neighbor as myself, to wrestle not against flesh and blood but in the spiritual realm, to stand firm, after having done all I could… I was thinking, of the Tuskegee Airmen, of the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment of the fact that Black people have fought in every single American War…what did Jesse say? “There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There is no tax they haven’t leveed against us – and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.”

I’ve been thinking of freedom, of Christ’s return and of what his kingdom drawing near to you, to us, to me, looks like.

It feels like letting evil triumph to pay this fee and ‘get my license reinstated’, yet I know otherwise this travesty of justice will not stop until it takes all my freedom (starting with economic)… Yes, I don’t think there is a way for me to avoid paying the $1500 dollars…and in this screwed up world (/state)…for at least some time, I need a car… But do know America…as I pay it, I’m burning my draft card. Not for pacifism, but to wage a different war. And do know court system, criminal justice system, etc., I’m putting you on notice. You WILL become more just, you WILL serve the people, you WILL stop oppressing the poor and disenfranchising the vulnerable, OR you WILL be destroyed.

Viva la revolucion.