Thursday, November 26, 2009

Good hair

I am enjoying Thanksgiving and watching a movie with the aforementioned title.

I had a weave in my hair once - it cost me several hundred dollars. Granted, I was earning a decent wage at the time, but it was still an obscene amount to pay. I sat there for hours and hours, having my own hair braided tightly and I mean tightly into corn rows. I then proceeded to have tracks of hair sewn onto the braids. The end result was hair down past my shoulders which looked Oprah-esque. I was not thrilled. It was, after all, not the look I was going for. I wanted to go to work the next day and have people wonder what I had done, not be aghast that I had grown my hair overnight. I opted to have my hair shortened to a couple of inches longer than my own - all this for several hundreds of dollars. After a week of a serious headache, I went back to the store and had the extra hair removed - it was too much for me - the price of beauty was too high to pay and I opted out.

I was blessed to have a great hairstylist in Utah - Charlotte Johnson kept my hair looking beautiful for the 5+ years I spent under her care - the wives of the Utah Jazz basketball team went there to get their hair done - TLC Elegante was the name of the salon - I spent many happy and interesting hours there. I felt blessed to be able to afford getting my hair done at such an exclusive place, and looked beautiful.

When I came to New York, I was certain that I would find another Charlotte and a place - if not several - from which to choose to keep my hair looking "good". Without fail, when I asked the women with beautiful hair, they would confide in me that it was a weave, not their own hair.

I am watching this movie, and am frankly appalled with how much monies change hands to help black people look white and "pass" for beautiful or getting their hair to look "good". Why can't we be happy with what God has blessed us with?

My mum and I are seriously considering forgoing our straightened hair in favor of twists - wish us luck!

Bill Cosby redux

Bill Cosby has been known for years as the one to take on African Americans for their self-imposed ills. That would be the 50% who live in public housing and are unemployed/underemployed and living on various forms of public assistance.

He recently spoke at an event and wept tears and admonished parents to show up when the teacher calls from school - he told them to turn off the rap music, to teach men that women should be cherished, not raped or demeaned. Our young men should not be in prisons in inordinately high numbers.

I concur with all that has been said - Bill Cosby should not feel the need to apologize for being so outspoken - what he has to say needs to be said and should be repeated over and over until we get it as a race. The crowd of some 1,000 attendees gave him a standing rousing ovation and clearly agrees with him.

I have - will you?

President and Mrs. Obama's first state dinner

I am not generally in awe of such things, but this dinner honoring the Indian Prime Minister and his wife this week caused me to want to take time out to write about it. Complete with a huge tent, the Obama's managed to invite a large cross-section of the country - including Republican Bobby Jindal - Governor of Louisiana, Senator Dick Lugar, and Nancy Pelosi and her husband - Hillary Clinton sans husband and a slew of others, including producer Steven Spielberg.

Some of the food came from the White House organic garden. There was a choice of vegetarian food, lentils and salad, cheese and American wines to accompany all courses, according to CNN news.

The President is committed to forging a stronger relationship with one of the world's largest democracies - India - and this invitation to the State Dinner would be a strong indication of same.

The dresses and tuxedos were all beautiful and handsome - it was a night to be remembered by many for a long time to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Changes at Fort Hood

This is just the beginning. Our military personnel are suffering untold amount of stress with the multiple deployments they experience as a result of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - it would appear that more troops (34,000 at first estimate) will be deployed to Afghanistan in coming months.

The massacre at Fort Hood is still on my mind. As one who suffers from PTSD from experiences witnessed and lived as a child, I know firsthand that this is something to be taken seriously. Many believe that PTSD is imagined and does not deserve treatment. Soldiers who suffer from mental health struggles are hesitant to be evaluated and treated for fear of being labeled incompetent and having their careers jeopardized.

This needs to end and soon - the Army is an amazing organization, providing stability and employment and protection to many - we as a public need to stand behind our troops and more importantly, we need to recognize the fragile mental state of returning troops from conflict zones.

Army bases in Europe are not open and bases in the US should not be either. In Europe, one has to show military ID to access the base as well as have an official logo on one's vehicle. Those were standard operating procedures years ago when I was an army wife - perhaps it is time to revisit them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Education and prison reform

The two go hand in hand. One cannot have one without the other. Education - even if it is as minimal as a GED is key to preventing recidivism in prisoners returning to society.

I was encouraged to read a story regarding same in tonight's online NY Times. It would appear that the Wesleyan University in Connecticut has spent funds to bring an educational degree program to inmates at a correctional facility. Some of these inmates will be in prison for decades, others a few years - one even has a father who is a college admissions advisor. The students compete hard for a spot in this elite program.

President Obama has a full plate, but he has committed to doing something about prison reform - much-needed, ever since Bill Clinton took away Pell Grants from prisoners during his administration - these men and women do not need more recrimination and judgement, they need help to get back on track so that when they do return to society they have a chance at actually making it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Michigan Governor tells Schwarzenegger she will take his prisoners

Jennifer Granholm is the Governor of Michigan - she is also a Democrat.

So much for family values, progressive ideas and social justice. She was an attorney general prior to taking over the Governor's position, but I am disappointed in her latest efforts to rid California prisons of their excessive prisoners and move them to Michigan.

I do not claim to know what the answer is in this instance, but I do know that families of incarcerated victims suffer needlessly - to move them thousands of miles away just to satisfy justice seems to be cruel and unusual punishment.

According to an article in Slate Magazine today, Ms. Granholm has contacted Governor Schwarzenegger and is going to have Michigan follow the likes of Oklahoma and Tennessee in taking inmates from California to ensure that these inmates have a place to land.

This does not bode well - can we not parole these individuals, assuming they are not guilty of violent crimes? Can we put them on work release? There have to be other solutions - anyone out there have any ideas?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Unemployment and underemployment

The new numbers are in and they are staggering - 10.2% unemployment - higher in NYC -where I happen to be underemployed - yes, I have pretty much given up on the idea of getting a job with benefits or a full time job until the economy rebounds. It is 15.3% in Michigan where most of my immediate family resides, as of September of this year. The overarching figure of underemployed is 17.5% and for those who have been unemployed for six months or longer (and dependent on savings, separation pay and extended jobless benefits), their numbers are a whopping 35.6%. These figures tell a story, folks. The economy is working for some, but the average American is still struggling to find their way.

According to this excerpt from an editorial piece in the NY Times today: "President Obama said that "bold, innovative action would be needed from the Administration, Congress and the private sector - to undo the devastation in the labor market."

These are difficult times indeed - the figures also do not take into account the staggering rate of unemployment amongst teens ages 16-19 - 27.6%. This figure is particularly of interest to me as I am a mother of a 20 year old who is fortunately employed, but a 22 year old who has been unemployed for some 2-3 years on and off.

I await some direction and guidance from the administration - in the meantime, I, as do many other adults my age, continue to complete our degrees and hope that when the economy does finally turn around, I can be gainfully employed once more.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Massacre at Fort Hood

The day began as normally as any other.

At around 4 in the afternoon, I logged on to CNN, taking a brief respite from the website editing that I was working on.

I could scarcely grasp the headline. How could this happen? The largest army base in the world attacked by one of their own - it was unthinkable - a day and a half later, it is still inconceivable.

It is time for the President to bring back the draft. These soldiers have had it - enough of the frequent deployments - enough of the war zones creating havoc with their minds and senses - enough of using them up and wearing them out! If we had a draft, there would be enough soldiers to fight these damn senseless wars and only do two rotations at an estimate. If we had a draft, maybe, just maybe, those senators who vote on wars would have to send their own sons and daughters to war, not just some other person's kids - maybe they would think harder before engaging in needless wars and conflicts - maybe they would realize first hand what it means to lose one's life in the service of the country.

I immediately phoned a friend whose daughter is stationed at Fort Hood, in that very building, no less - she was, thank God, not in the office yesterday. An angel was clearly in her path to preclude her witnessing the carnage. She will, however, as a medic, have to deal with the aftermath and loss of colleagues - the friend was grateful for the call, having no idea of the events that had unfolded.

We may never know what pushed this mental health professional over the edge - this physician clearly could not heal himself and the thought of going overseas to fight in an unjust conflict might just have been too much for him.

I have thought often of my barely missing the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, having had my Green Card reissued there just prior to the bombing, of the RAF bombing at the Frankfurt Airport in the 80's - just a week prior to flying through - of countless near misses with the IRA bombings growing up in London - what I know for sure is that God has a plan for all of us - if it is not our time to go, even at the unthinkable hands of another, it is not our time to go - this friend's child has served one term in Iraq and has three small children, one of whom is a baby - it was clearly not her time to go.

My heart goes out to those who have lost lives and to their loved ones - what an agonizing time for our nation and the great state of Texas.