Tag Archives: Austin

This is America

America

Every time I fly out of Austin, I park my car in the extended lot, it’s not too expensive (yet). Parking at this spot requires me to ride on a shuttle to and from the airport. Now, I travel enough to notice, that unless I sit next to someone or a person of color sits next to me, a white person never sits next to me on the bus ride back. I have noticed this for 3 years. On the way into the airport, I may have had a handful sit next to me, but on the flight home and shuttle bus back to my car, a white person never sits next to me. Every single time they take every other seat available, even by some questionable people, before they dare sit next to me. But I have had enough experiences to let this roll off my back until a trip back from Kentucky after my favorite Uncle’s funeral just two months ago. It was late, and I was tired, and dealing with my uncle’s funeral was draining emotionally. As I got on the shuttle, I sat in my usual seat, and it began to fill in. All but one seat was available, that seat was next to me or so we thought. The driver was about to close the door when another person jumped on the bus, a middle aged white man, got on and put his stuff up. I told myself, he’s going to stand. The only clear seat available was next to me. The bus driver pointed in my direction, and told him that he had to have a seat. And the next thing that happened was completely unexpected.

An older, white-haired man was covering two seats and it was hardly noticeable, but this man found it. He made the older gentleman quite uncomfortable and sat next to him and another lady, and was squeezed very tightly. Then I felt a number of people’s eyes on me. Especially, the old white man who was completely uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were supposed to comfort me, if he was ashamed, or if he had the same thoughts as the man who refused to sit next to me, that he wouldn’t come sit next to me either. I like to think that his look was of regret that he didn’t choose to come sit next to me in the first place. I luckily was the first stop and got off the bus quickly, and I walked to my car, threw my luggage inside, and I began to weep.

That even when I am tired, I mean I was really tired, and sad, and all of the things I was going through with family members and the bullshit at work that at that very moment, I had to be reminded that I am black and there are people who think less of me, who are afraid of me, who’d rather be uncomfortable than sit next to me. This is my life as a black person in America. This is my life as a black person in one of the most “liberal” places in America. No matter if it’s a good day or a bad day, these experiences happen regularly for no good reason. I know that life isn’t fair, but if we can talk about struggles with our weight and body issues or other insecurities that to some extent we might have control over, but I can’t talk about this. Then we might as well be living in 1776.

I wish that the white people who are in power, who are at the table and have the money to make decisions that affect my black life can be like the white people I know and love, like my best friend, and the best two roommates I have ever had, my favorite teacher, my favorite mentor besides my mother and my Aunts. I wonder why can’t all white people look through their lens, and see me as a human being.

I am sure there will be someone reading this and think maybe he sat there, because it was closer. That it couldn’t be about race. You have been conditioned, as have I, by the ills of this country that I cannot talk about my race too much. Even though, because I live in America, I am often forced to think about it almost every day. But you know what…. I have decided to not feel sorry about it. I’ve been wanting to share this story even though it makes me angry, and it would make me even angrier that people might not understand or misinterpret my purpose and meaning. I’ve decided that I do not care.

Because I will remind you, this happens, every single time I ride this bus. It is not a one time deal. It isn’t a coincidence. This my friends is America.

Wake up and realize it.

Unfortunately, the only person who has is running for President of America.

M/P

Let’s Take A Look In The Mirror

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I am frustrated when breath is wasted arguing about All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter in connection with Black Lives Matter, but another problem is slowly brewing in the black community, or maybe it’s always been there. The unspoken words that are said through the inaction of our so-called “Uppity Negroes” is simple:

Black Lives Matter… But My Black Life Matters More Than Yours

This is a sad truth that I am learning about in the black community. As my conservative upbringing is being challenged and I am becoming more familiar with the black justice movement, whether it’s the Austin Justice Coalition or Black Lives Matter. I find that many young black professionals, who are way more liberal and progressive than I am, are nowhere to be found. Young Black Professionals who grew up in way more diverse environments or predominately black areas are nowhere to be found. (I am from Lexington, Kentucky and it’s not exactly the most diverse place in the world). As I engage with more activists, I find it puzzling and wonder where are all the young black professionals are who rant and rave on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and lament to their friends in their Groupme’s and Slack groups about Police.

Where Art thou?

Since I have moved to Austin, three years ago, a city where more black people are steadily leaving, and young black millennials don’t want to be here, I find that segment of the population, to be self-absorbed and completely out of touch with not only reality, but with the suffering of black lives in Austin and across the country.

Why so Serious?

I have been an avid volunteer for one of the largest non-profit organizations here in Austin, a predominantly white city, but the non-profit serves a high percentage of black and brown kids. Many of the children who live in Austin that are below the poverty line are Hispanic and Black. They need mentors, they need successful people who look like them, but time and time again, I am the only black volunteer. Trying to get young black professionals to give their TIME OR MONEY is like pulling teeth. But they are the first to buy tickets for any concert, ready to spend money on drinks, and go to Happy Hour after Happy Hour trying to find a significant other in a city where it is hard to do. Then the deaths of young black men and women across the country began to be more public, either filmed or sound recorded, and the Black Lives Matter Movement was born.

These same inactive millennials, they “feel” for the movement, “cry” about the movement. Because we all know a person who could’ve been Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, or even Freddie Gray. But they don’t do anything. They don’t go to marches, don’t donate their time, and the best part is that they take the time to criticize activists for being too radical, too loud, or not creating enough solutions when the reality is that if maybe they were at the table, with all of their skills, with more educated black folks, finding solutions might be a little easier. While it is easy to blame many of the generational curses that plague the black community on others, we are still are own worst enemy.

To me, the reality is that these “Uppity Negroes”, by their inaction are saying that THEIR Black Life Matters more. I say this and I am an Uppity Negro, and proud of it. But I am in the trenches, and I want you to be there with me. I get it. When you grow up middle or upper middle class, there is a level of comfort that you enjoy, and maintaining that comfort or improving upon that comfort is your main goal. That is all our white counterparts have to worry about. Guess what? YOUR. ARE. NOT. THEM.

The reality I want to leave you with is that the comfort you hold so near and dear to your heart is made possible, because your parents or caregivers didn’t make that one mistake, didn’t have that one tragedy in their life, or whatever else it may have been that you are here, and you are not them. Trust me you are not as removed from the toils of your people as you would like to think. Because no one talks about the fact that there are very few victims of police brutality that are in the “Uppity Negro” status. It is classism at its finest, and we have to stop acting like it’s not happening. If you woke up in a different position or circumstance, you might think differently and wonder why black folks who’ve “made” it, are nowhere to be found. We spend a lot of time trying to convince people, especially white people, why all lives matter is not cool, but what we really need to do is remind black people, that when you say Black Lives Matter, saying those words mean nothing, if you do nothing.

M/P

Originally posted here on Alibix.co ‘s website.

Value the Unknown (The Monday Fits)

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I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value. – Hermann Hesse

In our world, we like to validate ____ (fill in the blank) anything by how many likes, shares, or re-tweets something gets. We like to validate certain causes, initiatives, or businesses based on some genius or celebrity that has their name attached to the venture. We like to validate our bodies and self-images based on magazines and the media.  We also like to validate each other in our day to day living by who we think is important, and how they can help us make it to the next stage in life. Now, when I say, WE, each of those examples may not apply to you, or all of them might. But what I am sure of, is that each of us could take some time in valuing something a little more.  Not because it has been validated by someone or something else, but taking the time to make that decision on your own.

Disclaimer: There are a few areas that I am definitely not talking about i.e. babysitters, new car recommendations, your local mechanic, etc. I know I say that jokingly, but there are certain areas in our life, where having a little validation helps you sleep at night. But what I am talking about today, are things that deal with improving our core values and learning new lessons. I am not talking about taking risks (my favorite subject) , but taking a person, an experience, or a new path with “arms wide open” and ears wiped clean. We often hurt ourselves by making judgments too soon or being tainted by the experience of others, and placing the wrong value on something and potentially disregarded it altogether and missing the benefits.

Due to my extreme extroversion, I have a knack for going to places where I know no one, because I might have an interest in a speaker, an event or maybe the occasion. I’m kind of a seasoned pro, so I now expect something out of most of my experiences, whether I learn something, make a connection, or reaffirm something that I already knew. I get annoyed with people who hesitate to do something, because they already know how x, y and z is going to happen…

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I wasn’t always so open to the unknown, and there are times still, people and experiences surprise me, but you honestly have to be open to them.

*Enters new experience*

I don’t know what’s going on in your world, but I currently live in Texas, so the last two weeks have been consumed with the story of Sandra Bland. Last week, there was a vigil and silent march to the Capitol held in Austin. Now since Trayvon Martin, there have been a number of marches, protest, vigils, etc. for the many, many young black men and women who have died over the last two years and I haven’t been to a one.  I do believe they serve a purpose, but I contribute my time to the community in other ways quite a bit. I would publicize and get the word out, but I had never put my foot to the pavement. Well, last week, I was asked to be the legal observer for the vigil and silent march, and I didn’t hesitate to take on this task, because there really wasn’t a threat of anything happening.  Now, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, and I really was expecting much personally from the march, but boy was I surprised.

There were over 200+ people of all kinds of races, religions, and ethnicities to walk in silence up to the Texas’ capitol. Now it was hot, and I had a long day, but I was ready. The march was led by an amazing group of young women, and just to see all of those people come together was truly amazing. And as I walked, my mind had a million thoughts, what was it like in the 1960’s to do this over and over, and to not see the results you wanted instantaneously or  being attacked with dogs, and water hoses, and all the horrible things that were happening to stand up for the rights  that I enjoy today. And as I walked tears rolled down my face with the many thoughts of my parent’s past, and left me with more focus for the future. That the freedoms I have do have aren’t supposed to be taken for granted, and I have to be even more intentional with my time, effort and money to make a difference.  I did not know that I needed that reminder, to refocus my efforts (as I wrote on focus JUST two weeks ago), but it was the experience I needed to shape my paradigm. New experiences, new knowledge.

But it just doesn’t stop with experiences, it happens with people as well. I have told this story quite often, but a nice old (er) lady made a little difference in all the world when it came to me starting my blog. I went to an entrepreneur talk put on by the City of Austin. With events in Austin, I always leave early to beat the traffic. This lady  and I were the only two at the event location, a good 20 minutes before another soul walked into the place. We struck up a conversation, she told me she was retired and her first several comments were discussing how she had been caring for her parents, who now were no longer living. Now to be honest, if I didn’t have a strong appreciation for caregivers, I might not have seen any use in the conversation. I mean, she was an older lady, who’s been taking care of her parents, my thoughts could’ve been:

  1. What do we have in common?
  2. What on earth can we talk about? Or relate about?

But neither of those thoughts crossed my mind, and I am glad they didn’t. Maybe my intuition was working in my subconscious that day, because she was there for the same entrepreneur talk that I was attending.  Too much delight and my improvement, she gave advice about taking risks, starting my blog, and not being afraid. I soaked it all up, not because I knew who this women was, but I figured she was taking the time out to talk to me, why not listen. It was only did I find out later, when we finally connected on LinkedIn, that this women was a powerhouse in her own right who chose family over her career. What a woman! But with her success, did it make her advice any more valid or correct, maybe? But had I made an assumption from her appearance or her initial comments, and not given her any of my time, I would not have gained inspiration that made a difference in my life.  No matter how big or small, you never know the impact of something, pre-judging your experiences or people can have you missing out on a great opportunity or placing in value in the wrong things.

We have to be able to discern who is worth your time and who is not, but don’t be too quick and forget to value the unknown, you might just be a little better for it.

My Vote Doesn’t Count, So Who Cares: The Most Expensive Lie Ever Told

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“At its core democracy rests on the vote. The vote is the primary tool for citizens to control their government. Through the vote citizens communicate information about their interests, preferences, and needs and make important decisions about who to elect to office. Nevertheless, most Americans do not vote when given the opportunity.” (Source)

Politics are something that I have always cared about. For the simple fact, being informed about politics, in my opinion, is the most American thing to do. It’s a part of my three tenets of being American: Say what you want, believe what you want, and vote to decide what moves America forward. However, in this day and age, politics, elections, and voter turnout is practically taboo and people roll their eyes when you bring it up. The mantra that your vote doesn’t count, rings true for many Americans. When Presidential or Gubernatorial elections seem so partisan, the elections makes it feel overwhelming true, but at least half of Americans still vote in those elections. However, that is not the case with local elections. It’s so scary how few people realize the importance of voting in their local elections. I currently live in Austin proper where in their last Mayoral election, only 8% voted. YES, 8%. (Source)   And in Los Angeles, the last mayoral election garnered only 12% of the vote.

Now let’s have a conversation about dollar and cents.

Austin’s general budget is roughly 850.6 million dollars, and a little over 3 billion dollars if you included the capital expenditures budget. So roughly 67, 000 people voted over who would have a significant amount of CONTROL over 860 million DOLLARS. If you put a dollar amount on it, each person’s vote was worth $12,700. Now in Austin, there are a number of initiatives to help young adults, low-income families, African- Americans, Hispanics to get out and vote; the local county elections division is offering programs such as early voting which provides voters with flexibility in voting times and locations. (Source)

Now in the City of Angels, their initiatives are going even further than Austin’s. On August 14, the Los Angles Ethics Commission voted for the City Council to consider paying people or giving incentives to vote. The voter turnout is so low, can you honestly blame them? (Source)

But here in lies my problem….

As the second largest city in the country, LA’s budget is 8.1 billion dollars, their voter turnout is 12%, and the big difference between Austin and L.A. is that they have had NUMEROUS examples of political corruption within their city departments and even in surrounding cities that are much smaller but still in LA county. They have been rift with corruption; city officials are embezzling and stealing tax payer dollars right in front of their eyes. Is anybody paying attention?

People are often enthralled with Presidential elections, when in fact local officials can have a greater effect on your day to day, and they control a large amount of money too! And we’re not just talking about large cities. There are plenty of American cities with populations, say the size of 45,000 people with budgets worth 30 million dollars! And school boards are in the same position. Earlier this year, in Beaumont, Texas, their independent school district went through a 4 million dollar embezzlement fiasco. (Source). So people aren’t turning out to vote, and their dollars and cents are being abused.

But we want to whine about campaign finance and that too much money is driving political campaigns and decisions on the both sides of the aisle, democrats and republican alike. We argue that the wealthy are shaping the national opinion, and the people who cannot afford to pay are left out. But we need to start thinking more about our tax dollars as our money and the leaders can be are voice, if we take the effort to choose them collectively. People want to complain about losing their money when taxes are raised or when a scandal breaks out, but let focus on the money before we lose or abuse it.

So why am I talking about this? Because I believe young people need to get involved in local politics, and not just the people who have political aspirations (which often is the case). But even more important as we focus on improving our cities there should be a new focus on creating a space where people want to be active politically. But it isn’t really about what I think; it’s about what’s not happening. Baby Boomers are aging, but are still controlling the majority of the decisions, and it will become more and more our responsibility to lead.

When given the opportunity to affect change, do we really take it? Do we care? Or do we just make excuses?

Back in the 2008 election, 131 million Americans cast a ballot for President, which was roughly 67% of voters. However, that left more than 15 million people who were registered but didn’t vote. Apathy was the biggest reason roughly 4 million registered voters didn’t vote; either weren’t interested or didn’t like the candidates. And some 2.6 million voters said they were “too busy” to vote. (Source) 

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And with statistics like that, it always make me think of the people who are unable to vote; Felons, single household families (men and women) who work two jobs and don’t have the time to vote or others who have no opportunity. Have you ever met a person whose boss refuses to let them go vote, and they can’t risk their job to fight it, I have and it’s heart breaking to hear how their rights are being violated, and explaining how it is their right to do, but in reality it’s a lost cause. So when I hear about our generation not voting, I think it’s time we change that, and let’s start locally.

If you’re an American, each and every one of your ancestor fought for our freedom and right to vote, for African- Americans and women even more so.  But our founding fathers didn’t fight and stand for our freedom and democracy for us not vote. Just think if they were as apathetic and pathetic as we are and didn’t care about the generations to follow, we could still be under British rule.

You don’t have to care. But you really don’t have a reason not to.

MP