Friday, July 7, 2017

A Friday Fable by Tracy Brown

Life is like a party.
Some of the people get out on the dance floor and give it all they've got! Others get on the dance floor and just do a simple two step while they snap their fingers. The rest of the people at the party choose to stand at the bar, or line the perimeter of the dance floor, watching.

The ones on the sidelines are there for a variety of reasons. Some of the side-liners are physically unable to dance. Others are just comfortable there, preferring a laid back approach. They choose to be on the sidelines, and enjoy themselves reclining in lounge chairs or perched on bar stools. Others stay away from the dance floor because they are afraid they won't be good at it. So they never try to dance. As the side-liners watch the dancers, sometimes a strange thing begins to happen. The people who have chosen not to dance - particularly the ones who have opted out because of fear - begin to mock the ones who are dancing. They make fun of their movements, their expressions, their appearance.


This ridicule sometimes causes the dancers to grow self-conscious. They start to lose some of their confidence, and start second guessing themselves. Some may even quit dancing altogether, joining the ranks of the people on the sidelines.
But, the people I love are the ones who keep right on dancing, oblivious to the crowded sidelines. They couldn't care less what anyone on the sidelines is thinking. They're too busy looking for new partners on the dance floor or they're swept up while they're dancing solo. They keep on dancing, moving, swaying, unfazed by the mockery.


People who choose not to get out on the dance floor should never laugh at those who do. Even if they're offbeat or have two left feet. Even if they look a little crazy, or they don't do it the way you think it should be done. At least they're out there dancing. They're on their feet, making moves, swaying sometimes to a rhythm all their own. That takes courage. More courage than it does to stand on the sidelines and laugh or talk $#&!.
I want to show love to the people on life's dance floor. I see you out there grinding, maneuvering, and trying new things. Don't worry about how you look or what people say. Continue to dance like nobody's watching. As long as you're giddy and breathless at the end of it all, you've done great.
And for those on the sidelines - whether by choice or not - be an encourager of the dancers. Or be quiet. Because until you've danced yourself, you can't tell us how it should be done.
((Drops mic))


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"She's a B*tch!" (Warning! Explicit Language!)




I have a colorful vocabulary. Always have. But, the more I mature, I am making a conscious effort to watch the words that I speak. Words have power. The Bible says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. So I'm doing my best to keep my potty mouth in check. Especially during this season
when many of us are praying and fasting as we approach the holy days. But I'm not perfect. Never have been, never will be. And  a few recent scenarios have me embracing one taboo word in particular. The word is "bitch".

Truth be told, I've always had an affinity for the word. I grew up in a household where curse words were as common as words like "the", "it", and "you". My parents used curse words as adjectives and nouns.

"Put the f*%$ing bag down!"

"Go ask your father what to do with that $#*t!"

"Mother#@&*%$! never learn!"

These were not unusual phrases during my upbringing, and depending on the inflection of the speaker's voice they may not have even been uttered angrily. Needless to say, I seldom cringe when I encounter people who use curse words in their everyday lingo. Still, I have learned that such language doesn't always have a place in society.

On an episode of "Iyanla Fix My Life", I watched as she admonished a group of women, insisting that they would not use the word "bitch" to address each other in her presence.

 "NOT ON MY WATCH!" she bellowed!

I felt convicted. "Bitch" was a word I have often used as a term of endearment for the women I love! I've been known to walk into a room full of my girlfriends and say, "Heyyyy, bitches!" Not in a negative way. But out of love and affection. So I listened closely as Iyanla gave her reasons for not allowing the word in her presence. She reminded the women that our mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors were often referred to as "bitches", "wenches", "niggers", and the like by their employers and neighbors, and that they were powerless to do anything about it. She insisted that these women - and women in general - not repeat that pathology. I took note. Clearly, what I had seen as a term of affection was quite the opposite.

So, I started to check myself. Then I ran into someone I know and the whole situation reared its head again.

I had taken the express bus home from Manhattan one evening, and was walking down the block heading towards my house. I ran into a guy I know. He's someone I know fairly well. But, we have never been particularly close. One of those "hi" and "bye" people we all have in our lives. I had my headphones on listening to A Tribe Called Quest.

 (Their latest album "We Got It From Here"  is FIRE, by the way.)




I was in my zone. Anyone who knows me is aware that when I walk down the street with my headphones in, I'm in my imagination ALL THE WAY! The sidewalk becomes my runway. In my head, there are paparazzi everywhere and they want a show. I strut when I'm in that zone. That evening was no exception.

As I got closer to this guy I know fairly well, I lowered the volume in my headphones somewhat - just enough to hear over the music. I said, "hi", and gave a wave as I walked past him. Then all hell broke loose!

As I passed him, I could hear a commotion so loud that it drowned out the music playing directly into my ears via my headphones. I slowed down and turned around to see that this guy was exhibiting quite demonstrative body language. I stopped, pulled my earbuds out of my ears, and asked, "What happened?"

"I'm saying!" (He was clearly PISSED and his body language displayed that.) "You didn't know who I was or...something!" He was being really demonstrative and...extra!

I frowned. I said his name. "XXXXXXX, right?" Maybe I was bugging and thought he was someone else.

He was still puffed up. "Yeah!"

Now I was really confused.  "Okay," I said. "I said hi to you."

"Yeah! 'Hi!' and kept walking like you don't know who I am. Like I didn't grow up with your kids!"

Now, I could sense that he was angry because he felt that my greeting hadn't been enough. "Hi" wasn't suitable all by itself. I stood speechless for a moment.  I looked at the guy he was standing with, hoping that he would look as confused as I was so that I would know that I wasn't crazy. The guy looked like he wanted to stay out of it.

"But, XXXXXXX," I said. "I spoke to you. You're acting like I walked by without speaking at all. What's the matter? You want a hug?"

He shrugged, still clearly miffed. "Yeah! I'm saying..."

I hugged him. Then I walked away. As I did, I thought back on all of the years I've known him. To be fair, he did grow up in the same general areas as my kids. They never played together. Never went to each other's houses or anything like that. I thought about the last time I saw him. It hadn't been that long ago. And my "hi" had sufficed then. I wondered what was different now.  In fact, as I thought about it, in all the years that I had known him, "hi" and "bye" had always been the extent of our relationship. I could not recall one conversation between us that ever went beyond that. I was perplexed as I entered my house. My sons were home. I told them what happened. Their reactions mirrored my own shock. My oldest son said this.

"Ma, why did you hug that clown? You have to learn to be a BITCH!"

My eyes flew wide. There was that word again. Seeing my reaction, my son clarified his statement.

"You're too nice. People are gonna start testing you with stuff like that. You're all the way up! They see that. You gotta learn to shut them down when they act like that. You should have looked at that fool, and said, "N*gga, I said hi! Now bye!"


I let that marinate, as I went upstairs and continued to think about it.  Am I supposed to stop in the middle of my travels and hug every person that ever grew up with one of my kids. I have three children, and each one has countless friends. Is a grand overture required every time I encounter one of them? I pushed it to the back of my mind and carried on.

 Then I went to brunch this past weekend with a dear friend. She has been incredibly successful and has achieved quite a lot for herself. She has also guided her son into a remarkable career of his own.
We discussed the art of saying "no" to people who feel entitled to you once you become successful. I told her that I have a fear of people thinking I'm arrogant or that I forgot where I came from. Her response made me nearly spit out my Bellini.

"I don't give a f*&#!" she said. "I used to. But then I stopped caring. People are going to think what they want. You can bend over backwards and they'll still have their opinions. So now I don't care. I say no, I mean no, and that's that."

I nodded. That was the attitude my son had been alluding to. Being a "bitch" not just for the sake of being mean. But instead adopting an attitude of not caring whether or not the person I'm dealing with likes my stance. I felt liberated. Here was a woman who had long been on a road that I am just beginning to travel. And she was giving me permission to pull out my inner bitch when necessary.




noun

1.
a female dog:
The bitch won first place in the sporting dogs category.
No. Not THAT kind.

3.
Slang.
  1. a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person,especially a woman.

That's definitely not the description I'm going for. Finally, I went to the urban dictionary.



A woman that doesn't give a flying f*ck anymore 


BAM! There it is! Sorry, Iyanla!

(Cue Missy Elliot song! )

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opkRF3UZSJw


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Farewell but not Forgotten

A strange thing happens as we begin to change.



Recently, I made the decision to sever a friendship that had existed in my life for more than twenty years. I met someone at a time when I was really vulnerable and despondent. That person was an angel in disguise for me, and helped me to develop confidence in myself. The person I knew then was sweet, gentle, caring, and kind. Over time, though, things have changed. The person I know now is cynical, bitter, and undoubtedly different. In fact, both of us have evolved from who we were back then. I find that neither of us truly enjoys each other's company anymore. Instead, we've just been sort of going through the motions in order to maintain the familiarity of the relationship. Doing just enough to maintain contact. But, neither of us are fulfilled.


Last night, while watching the latest episode of "This is Us", I saw this situation illustrated perfectly. Jack told his wife that he loved her. She retorted, "What do you love about me? About the me that I am RIGHT NOW. Not the me that I was when we first met."  He struggled to answer the question. Because, truthfully, he had been saying "I love you" more out of habit than out of the truth in those words.


The shift can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe we enjoyed a person's vulnerability but are not as in love with their confidence. Or maybe the relationship saw one person as provider and one as recipient. When those tables get turned, it can be a game changer. But, whatever the reason, once the relationship changes we owe it to ourselves to face it. Often times we say "I love you". But without any action behind it, the words are empty. Loving someone requires effort and movement. You have to demonstrate it, not just mouth the words. Anything else is just lip service.

The problem with walking away from relationships where love no longer exists - well, the problem for me, at least - is the concern over being perceived as unappreciative. As if by ending an empty relationship it negates all the years when love did exist. What if I am perceived as being ungrateful or disloyal? What will people say? But, these types of questions can force us to remain emotional hostages! They make us slaves to other people's thoughts and opinions. We should never remain in relationships solely out of obligation to some standard of loyalty. Life is too short for that.

Often, as we rise in our lives, we're plagued by guilt over the people and things we're forced to leave behind.

As I've said before, people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or for a lifetime. And it ain't always what we think it is. Some who we thought were "lifers" are actually seasonal. I'm learning to go with the flow, and to trust that God's plan is more perfect than my own. I'm learning to view people's actions far more than their words. People say a whole lot. But, I watch what they do. And when they don't match up, I'm accepting the truth in that - even when it hurts.

More importantly, as I grow, mature, and evolve, I'm making room for more meaningful relationships with real love.  And in order to make room for new things, we have to get rid of the old sometimes. But, saying farewell doesn't mean forgetting the past.

Recently, at a friend's party I ran into an old friend from back in the day. We grew up together in the projects - a place that is very gritty and void of much glitz or glamour. As we chatted together - now as adults with children, grandchildren, and a whole bunch of life experience under our belts - I caught him frowning at me. Turns out he was offended by my use of the phrase "clutching my pearls". I had used it to illustrate my surprise at something. But, he seemed utterly disgusted. "Clutching your pearls?" he repeated, mockingly. "Ain't you from the projects?"


Of course I am. That's where I grew up, and it will forever be woven into the fabric of who I am. But, does that mean that I am forever confined to the vernacular and mannerisms of the projects? Does growing up mean selling out? Is it a crime to move forward, to mature and add new layers to ourselves? I smiled and assured him that I am certainly from the projects. But that's not the totality of who I am. I'm also a wordsmith, a lover of colorful phrases, and a woman who is constantly growing. After the shock wore off, I realized that there will always be people who are offended by your evolution. People who want to hold you to who you were when they met you. People who can't watch you move forward without reminding you where you started. Especially if where you started was at the bottom. And that's cool. The bottom is a great place to start. The problem comes when you are content to stay there.

Saying farewell - whether it be to an old friend or to an old neighborhood - doesn't mean forgetting where you came from. We can walk away and still carry the history. People and things can be gone but not forgotten. The lessons learned, the laughter shared, and the memories made remain. Even after the love has gone.

And that, to me, is better than just going through the motions.





Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Don't Have The Answers

As I sit down to write this, I am angry. Furious, really. I feel powerless, I feel frustrated. I feel unheard. I am sick and tired of feeling this way. It happens every time ANOTHER black person is slain by an officer whose very job description is to protect and serve. I experience this same dreadful, crushing, suffocating sadness each time a jury fails to indict or convict the officer(s) involved. Each time, the family is paid off. Told that there will be no justice, but, "Here's some cash. Now go sit down and get over it." As if once again, we are on the auction block. Told the value of our bodies, of our minds, of our very lives. They put a price on us, and we have no say in the matter.  It hurts. I look at the victims and I see my brothers. My sons. My daughter. Myself.











I listen to the cries of the wives, mothers, sons, and daughters of those who were slain by law enforcement and it devastates me. I have marched alongside my sons in search of justice. I have signed many petitions. I have posted and reposted videos and pictures on social media. I have used countless hashtags. I have prayed, and cried, and I am tired of it. NOW, I want to do something. Marching hasn't worked. Rioting only resulted in the destruction of our own communities. SOMETHING has to happen. But, what? Do we fight? Do we organize and form our own schools, banks, and businesses? Do we just keep praying? Was Malcolm right? Was Martin? Who do we look to now to lead this new civil rights movement? I come up void of any answers.

I watched as the families of those slain in a church in South Carolina publicly forgave the murderer. I watched as Bree Newsome bravely scaled the state capitol building and took down the Confederate flag. And I watched as they put that flag back up. And, I watched as the defense attorney for the murderer of those nine people in South Carolina asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges. I listened as one prosecutor after another announced that there would be no indictment, no conviction, nothing. And now the pain in anticipation of justice denied AGAIN feels like a dull ache in the center of my chest.

The center of my chest...the place where the bullets entered Alton Sterling's body when those cops murdered him in Baton Rouge. I feel an ache in my head. The top of my head, where another cop shot Mike Brown . I feel shortness of breath. The way Eric Garner did as the cop choked the life out of him. The way Jordan Davis gasped for air as the bullets pierced his lungs. The way Sandra Bland was strangled. Ramarley Graham. Sean Bell. Amadou Diallo. Akai Gurley, Freddie Gray. Too many to list. Too much bloodshed. Too much pain. Too many families grieving. Too many black lives snuffed out.

I spent the day wondering what it will take to change the way blacks are viewed in this country. For every step forward, we're pushed back ten. Oprah Winfrey is beloved by ALL of America. Barack Obama was elected to not one but TWO terms in office. Beyonce is the "sister in our head" to women all over the world, and the object of desire for men of every race. Yet each of these people are viewed by the masses as "exceptions to the rule". It seems that many believe that Oprah, Barack, and Beyonce aren't typical black people. That's what makes them lovable. They're "different". I'm willing to bet that even some of my own non-black peers may view me as some type of phenomenon. 'Surely, the mass majority of black women are like Nene Leakes. But Tracy's not like that!'   The truth is I know a few "Nenes". And I know a few "Michelle Obamas", too. I know a few "50 Cents" and I know a few "Baracks". The problem is that when we encounter law enforcement, all they see is BLACK. And for whatever reason - no matter who's fault it is - the response to them seeing BLACK is fear. Or maybe it's hate. Whatever it is, it results in the deaths of black people at an alarmingly higher rate than anyone else.




With no way to express what I'm feeling, I've taken to social media in search of like minded people to commiserate with. I'm searching for the same outrage I'm feeling to be echoed in the hearts and minds of my social media "friends". I'm finding solace in our shared pain. However, at first I'll admit that I hesitated to speak out. I didn't want my white friends to think that I hated them. It doesn't take long for our stance of being pro-black to get misconstrued as being anti-white. But, I was reminded of the words of Jessie Williams as he accepted his Humanitarian Award from BET a few weeks ago.


"The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. " ~ Jessie Williams

I realized that I had to say something. In fact MORE of black entertainers - writers, singers, rappers, actors, fashion designers, athletes, and talk show hosts - need to use our platforms to bring awareness to the problem. We need to start the conversations that will eventually change the minds of the ignorant. Because what good am I to my community if I don't use my voice to speak up on our behalf. I stopped worrying about offending my non-black friends. If they love ME, they have to love my blackness. It's a major part of who I am. There's no separating the two. Before the world sees me as a writer, a mother, a daughter, sister, friend, or even as a so called American, they see me as a black woman. That is the heart of who I am. I love the diverse backgrounds of all my friends. It doesn't offend me to see them show pride in their culture or unity with their community. If the same can't be said in return, good riddance.

But, despite all of the conversations online and face to face, I still feel powerless. I'm still afraid each time my children encounter law enforcement. I still worry that my sons' blackness is apparently against the laws of this country. This afternoon, I prayed with my brother Nigel, who reminded me that as a Christian, I am required to turn the other cheek. I know that's true. I know it in my heart, in my mind, in my Spirit. But, it doesn't erase this feeling of helplessness. God knows my heart. So He knows that I am honestly SICK of turning the other proverbial cheek. I am sick of praying for those who shove guns in our faces and murder our children for what they wear, how they listen to their music, or for just having the audacity to question why they are being harassed. God knows that I am FED UP! And I suspect that many of us are. I am sick of being passive. Sick of newly created hashtags that we only add to the countless others circulated in recent months. While my brother Nigel quoted scriptures like 'Do not let the sun go down while you're still angry.' and 'Love is patient. Love is kind...', I closed my eyes and assured myself that he was right. What I'm feeling is not Christian-like. But, the scripture I keep hearing in my head is 'A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for WAR, and a time for peace.'

I don't know if this is the time for war. I do know that I am sick of being peaceful while others wage war against us. And I know that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is called INSANITY. So we should not expect that creating hashtags and marching (peacefully or not) will bring about change.

Once we get past all of our rage, our fear, our frustration, and sadness, we have to find a way to make a change. I don't know how we do that. So rather than ending this blog with a solution, I'm asking you...what now? How do we change the tide of racism and fear in this country? How do we make the words "black lives matter" more than just a cute hashtag or catchphrase? We need to find a way to have ALL communities treated equally in this country. We need police who care about the people they are paid to protect and serve. Not police who are fearful, hateful, or drunk off power like poor whites in the south who oppressed blacks in order to feel more superior than somebody. Police cannot be in our communities parading around like overseers keeping wayward slaves in line. Those days are over.

Or are they?


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

White Lines III: All Falls Down




IN STORES EVERYWHERE 11/17/2015!
Pre-order your copy today at www.authortracybrown.com


The release date is quickly approaching! I'm so excited for you to read the story, and catch up with Born, Jada, Sunny, and the gang. SO EXCITED, in fact, that I'd like to share an excerpt with you.

Click the link below for a sneak peek at "White Lines III: All Falls Down"! Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Feminism?


My daughter and I are directors of a non-profit organization (We Are Ladies First, Ltd.) that mentors young women in our community. We agree that our cause is a worthy one. Take one look at the behavior of many of the young ladies in our neighborhoods, on our social media timelines, or in the music videos that permeate the airwaves, and it becomes clear that there is a problem. While we agree on the existence of the problem, we hold very different viewpoints on what the solutions are.

Recently, my daughter launched a campaign online using our organization’s Instagram page. She encouraged women to channel their inner “Rosie the Riveter” and post photos of themselves in the iconic pose. The overall message was “Girl Power!”  While I champion that message, the image sparked an interesting discussion.



Jokingly (or perhaps only half-jokingly), I stated that I'd rather not roll up my sleeves and get my nails dirty. "Let the boys do that," I said. My daughter gave me a side-eye and questioned my statement. The word “feminism” came up, and she asked whether or not I considered myself a feminist. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to be absolutely sure of the meaning. So I looked up the word.

fem·i·nism
ˈfeməˌnizəm/
noun
1.    the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

We agreed that both of us are advocates for women’s rights. Women should be allowed to run for political office. We should be allowed to vote, to run companies, and to earn equal pay for equal work. But that seemed to be all that we agreed on. My daughter maintained that women should have the right to participate in male contact sports such as football in a co-ed capacity, as long as they have equal skills to their male counterparts. She argues that Rhonda Rousey could realistically FIGHT Floyd Mayweather if a such thing as coed boxing existed. I asked her if she would be okay with Floyd punching Rhonda in the face during a boxing match, and she said that she would be fine with that. I would not. Call me crazy, but whether they are equal in height, weight, and even physical agility there should never be an occasion for a man to physically fight a woman. Even if she steps in the ring and invites it. 

My daughter also insists that there are no gender specific toys, activities, games, or jobs. Her belief is that little girls should be allowed to play with cars, and action figures and that boys should be allowed to play with Barbies and nail polish. She lectures me at length about my inability to work a power drill, open a tightly closed jar, or change a flat tire. When her three year old daughter stated that “football is for boys”, my daughter’s outrage was immediate.

Meanwhile, my views are a bit different.  I think it’s natural for children to identify certain things as gender specific. Pink is for girls. Earrings are for girls. Hair ribbons, nail polish, ruffles, glitter – all for girls. Matchbox cars are for boys. Football, wrestling, ice hockey, and rugby are for males, in my opinion. My views are more traditional. In a perfect world, I believe that both males and females should be able to work outside of the home for equal pay if they possess equal abilities. Once back at home, though, I am comfortable with a man who takes out the trash, makes home repairs, shovels snow, and maintains the cars. In return, the lady should maintain the household, be the main caretaker for the children, and add those feminine touches that make a house a home. When I go to the nail salon, it used to be an exclusively female crowd. But not anymore. When my sons used to go to the barber shop, there used to be an exclusively male crowd. But these days, those things are no longer true. 



I'm disturbed by this trend. While I may be in the minority, I believe that feminism shouldn’t be about trading in our Jimmy Choos for combat boots. I like my Jimmy Choos. I don’t want to play every role in society. Instead, I’m comfortable in my femininity, and I am attracted to men who are comfortable in their masculinity. I don’t want a man who acts like a woman. And the man I’m meant to be with will be comfortable with me and all my dainty ways. He should open doors for me, and pull out my chair for me at the table. He shouldn’t assume that I’m one of those women who would see those gestures as demeaning or condescending. In some cases, I wonder if chivalry is dead because women unintentionally killed it with our staunchly independent stance.

The more I talk about this with my friends and family members, the more I realize that I am one of the few women who hold this viewpoint. Many of my married girlfriends pull up a chair at the table every night to enjoy a meal their husbands prepare. Both spouses work outside of the home, yet it’s the husband who does the domestic work - preparing all of the meals, doing the children's hair, even sewing. This arrangement works perfectly for them, and they have enjoyed long, happy marriages. For all I know, these women may change tires, wield power tools like a skilled professional, or shovel their own walkways. I don't claim to have all of the answers. In fact, I could be completely old fashioned in my thinking. What are your views on feminism? Is my daughter right? Am I right? Or is it as I suspect – that the truth is somewhere in the middle? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going.

P.S. I smell a future novel here. J














                                                                   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

White Lines III: All Falls Down



On November 17th, readers will be reunited with Born, Jada, Sunny, Zion, Olivia, Frankie, Baron, and all of the characters from the "White Lines" and "Snapped" series! Available soon for pre-order right here at www.authortracybrown.com.

A few questions for my avid readers:

  • Who is your favorite female character - Olivia (Criminal Minded/White Lines), Jada (White Lines), Sunny (White Lines), or Gillian (Snapped/Aftermath)?
  • Who is the sexiest? Born (White Lines), Dorian (White Lines), Zion (Criminal Minded), Baron (Snapped/Aftermath), or Frankie (Snapped/Aftermath)?
  • Who do you think will emerge victorious in "White Lines III: All Falls Down"? Who will lose?
  • What was your favorite scene in a White lines/Snapped novel?
Thanks for your support! Stay tuned for updates, excerpts, and giveaways leading up to the release this fall!