...welcome to the musings of the flawless amour...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You Can Still Be Who You Wish You Was...

As a child, I learned early on not to question adults. My mother made sure that I understood that this was unacceptable. Now, she has never been strict or even overbearing; she simply laid the ground rules early on and because I understood them, she and I continue to foster a good relationship to this day.

Now that I'm older, having experienced a few things in my two and a half decades on this earth, I kind of regret the fact that I followed the rules so succinctly.

Earlier today, I finished Staceyann Chin's memoir, The Other Side of Paradise. In it, she opens up about the most personal events of her life growing up in Jamaica. Her mother abandoned her and her older brother, Delano. Her Chinese father, to this day, never claimed her as his own. As her grandmother grew older she was no longer able to care for the two young children on her own. Eventually, the trio had to split up, landing Staceyann in the house of relatives she hardly knew. She was molested by older cousins and teased for her light complexion by them and peers. Her childhood left a lot to be desired.

I shared her anger and frustration with her family, asking myself over and over 'why do people--children--have to go through this?'

I was first introduced to Chin's work when I read Rebecca Walker's Black Cool, a compilation of essays from writers describing what they thought it meant to be black and cool. In her essay, titled 'Authenticity', Chin tells us how she became the loud, outspoken, Jamaican born lesbian that she is. She makes sure we understand that she is proud of the woman she is and she gives us insight on why it was so important for her to accept who she was, regardless of what others thought.
"I only know that to be me, to remain true to that self I adore, I must say my truth out loud. If I don't I will be someone else. And it has been forever since I have wanted to be that. I have my own cool now" (Black Cool, p. 119).
Having read that essay and the memoir, I can't help but admire her as a woman. I actually wish I was like her in some instances. She challenged everyone on anything, regardless of if it was her business or not. Chin was not afraid to speak her mind, finding herself in a lot of trouble with her elders. The fact that she never showed fear of getting in trouble pissed them off more. Instead of taking the time to explain things so that her young mind could understand, she often received beatings, in an attempt to drive the devil inside of her out.

As for me, I pretty much accepted everything that was presented to me as truth. I refrained from asking questions, especially about Christianity, because you're not supposed to question God and I was a child; I simply did as I was told. As I think back on my childhood, I feel as if I crippled myself. Today, I'm timid. I calculate my movements, avoiding anything that resembles confrontation. I shy away from debates, friendly or heated, because I feel like my opinion won't be valid.

Throughout the entire book, I felt that Chin knew exactly who she was as a woman, regardless of her disconnect with her parents. She didn't let their mistakes handicap her, stifling her growth as a woman. Even after she made the decision to migrate to New York, leaving behind the hypocrisy of her country and her tumultuous past, she found room in her heart to forgive her mother for the way she left things. She even continued to conduct a relationship with her "father", even if it was business-like.

Staceyann Chin could very well be listed as one of my favorite writers now. There aren't many I feel connected to. But I guess that's the point when you pen your life's story; everyone feels like they know you. I'm always thankful when someone feels it is necessary to share their own stories for the betterment of someone else, someone they may never get the opportunity to meet. I'm thankful that she has sparked something in the usually timid Erika, provoking her to be more vocal about what she's feeling. I'm thankful that she has helped her to realize that her opinion does matter.

For whatever reason, I am thankful that she wrote this memoir.

Check out below as Chin talks briefly about her memoir, The Other Side of Paradise:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Inner City Blues: Chaos in The City of Wind

Chicago has made itself a home in the news this summer, breaking records, I'm sure. Between the debacle that is Lil Jojo and Chief Keef to senseless and seemingly never ending gun violence in the city to the Chicago's Teachers Union's decision to go on strike, we just cannot seem to get a break. It hurts my heart to see the city I have grown to love fall apart like this.

Each year, during the summer months especially, the news is filled with stories of senseless deaths due to gun violence. Just this summer alone, there have been over 300 deaths as a result of shootings. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 1,706 shooting since as of September 2. This has become such an issue that it is no longer local news; now, other cities are getting wind of the foolishness that goes on here. It's embarrassing, to say the least. Over the past few days, I've checked Twitter sporadically, each time I watched as others expressed their disdain.

The Chicago Teacher Union's decision to strike has seemed to add fuel to the fire. Parents and school officials alike are outraged that the teachers could be so "inconsiderate", choosing to go on strike the night before the second week of classes were scheduled to start (tomorrow, September 13, will mark the fourth day of the strike).
Michael Butz, CPS Parent: I am the parent of a CPS 3rd grader. I support our teachers 100 percent, but I am terribly disappointed in the CTU's decision to strike after receiving a contract offer which was fair to all parties which have a stake: children, teachers, parents and taxpayers.
People are anticipating more violence during the strike as a result of hundreds of thousands of CPS students now out of school, looking to place the blame on the teachers.

I get that there are two sides to every story. Decisions to implement longer school days so the children can have more time to learn coupled with the decision to have stricter evaluations for the teachers doesn't seem fair. I'm sure that the teachers are not happy that their students are probably out roaming the streets when they could be learning but there is obviously a need that is not being met. Seventy five thousand dollars a year is nearly not enough for what they're are up against in the classroom. I've worked with students who attend Chicago Public Schools; it is NOT an easy task. I understand what these teachers have to put up with for eight hours a day.

I also understand that the city is facing is up against it's own financial crisis. The city is facing an $8.1 billion deficit while the state of Illinois has accumulated $43.8 billion in debt. These numbers make it almost impossible to meet the demands of these overworked and underpaid teachers. What's to be done in this kind of situation?

I hate the impression other cities have of us. I feel as if they fear us in the sense that this a place they'll never want to visit, which is a shame because we have one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Two years ago, the Huff Post ranked us #4 on their list of top 10 best cities. I feel like we're being judged and it doesn't sit well with me.

I have no idea what Mayor Emanuel plans to do or how he plans to go about it but I pray a decision is made soon regarding this strike (for the same of being realistic: by the end of the week). as for this on going violence among each other--I'm at a lost for words. I don't know what could be done to end it altogether short of Jesus' return.

How do we save our city?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Attention Divided: My Stunted Spiritual Growth

photo credit: paintingrecord.blogspot.com
Try as I might, my focus is always compromised when I'm at church. Among our modest congregation, I am able to find a peaceful calm that allows my mind to wander almost unapologetically. Sometimes, I catch myself and return my attention back to the pulpit but most of the time, you can catch my eyes fixated on some place, far off out of everyone else's sight.

During the two hours I spend at church on Sunday mornings, I create To Do Lists that hardly ever get touched throughout the week, making a cluttered mess with the other miscellaneous items found at the bottom of my purse. Other times, I'm relapsing into memories (word to Riv), painfully enjoyable to recall. An idea may hit me and in the next second, the paper I was scribbling sermon notes on turns into a rough draft for a blog post.

For a while, I thought I had a slight case of Attention Deficit Disorder because I would find that I could never remember the message once I got home. Some time ago, my pastor talked to us about being distracted during service and how that can play a part in our lack of spiritual growth. We're not giving ourselves a chance to absorb what's being said. Instead, our mind's are elsewhere, already thinking about dinner for the night and all the other things you have to get done before the week is over. As he chastised us, I tuned back in, secretly scolding my 24-year old self. How dare I not give my undivided attention to the messenger of the God who gave me life?? I've focused longer on other things that weren't feeding my spirit man.

I have realized my lack of growth in the ministry. Having been involved for almost three decades, my walk isn't nearly as good as it should be; looking back, it's almost embarrassing to admit it. I know that no one's walk is perfect but I'm aware that mine could and should be better. Tonight at bible study, the assistant pastor posed a question to us through his message: "Why do you study the word of God?" My first response was, "Because that's what I'm supposed to do." The words, though partially true, tasted sour in my mouth as spoke them under my breath. After 24 years on the right side of salvation, my answer should be a bit more eloquent than that. But, because I've been so lackadaisical, my growth has been stunted, regressing when it should be progressing.

The Christian church is all I know. I went because that's what I was supposed to do. I got baptized because that's what I was supposed to do. I sang in the choir and served on the usher board because that's what I was supposed to do. No matter how late I'm out on Saturday night, I get up for church on Sunday because that's what I'm supposed to do. Church is not and will never be an option as long as I live with my mother.

What scares me is whether or not I'll still be as disciplined when it comes time for me to move out on my own. I can imagine how tempting it will be for me to sleep in on Sunday morning after a long night. Will I feel bad for missing bible study on Wednesday because I'd rather go to the open mic on the south side instead? Because I spend a lot of time lost in my thoughts, I've gone back and forth with thoughts on my salvation many days. There are things I'm starting to realize now that should have been revealed a while ago. I understand now why there are some people who rededicate their lives to Christ--some even getting re-baptized. At nine years old, I was too young to fully understand what I was getting myself into; I did it out of fear and the pressure from my grandmother.

I am, indeed, a work in progress. There are days where I'm extremely happy with the woman I'm becoming and then there are days where I beat myself up for not doing better. With each day God chooses to bless me with a breath, I know that he is real and he is granting me the opportunity to finally get it right.

I also know he won't be generous forever.

Do you have trouble focusing on the pastor's sermon in church? Do you believe one can be forced into a religion? Has your church going habits changed for the best/worst since you moved out on your own?

p.s.: I drafted this in the middle of bible study tonight...I'm gonna do better. Promise