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See you at the next funeral


Image result for casket

Ain’t no drama, like family drama, cause family drama, don’t stop!

Color me hopeful.

My father died when I was six years old and my brother is nearly a generation older and didn’t appreciate my existence. There was one man in the family who took me under his wing, my Uncle. He would take me fishing and camping and include me in his family events.

This was nine billion years ago when fake wood Station Wagons roamed the earth. It was back in the day, when department stores had a husky department for chubbinel or fat boys. My uncle had a bushel of kids all near my age. They were like my sisters and brothers. I would take the bus, some 17 miles away to his home, a place I felt welcome. My cousins and I would dance to the latest 45’s records on their Sears Silvertone Stereo.

Image result for sears silvertone stereo cabinet

He was the most important male in my life. I wanted to be like him, have a house full of loving children. I think my love for station wagons and minivans today is due to my admiration of this man . As I grew older, cracks appears in the relationship with my uncle.

Whisper’s from family members hundreds of miles away. He would interview me about the cost of my clothes and this news made its way to the Pacific Northwest. I learned that I was spoiled,took advantage of my mother. At thirteen, I was larger and taller than my uncle. When I was 18, he did something unthinkable to my side of the family. When I challenged him, he hit me in the chest. (my body didn’t move) I didn’t hit him, but I think this scared him.

From this moment forward, I became a pariah.

All contract between me and my grown cousins ended. It was like a death. Then the rumors began…….. My uncle created a number of false stories about my life. It didn’t matter he didn’t know I where I lived or what was actually happening in my life.

From that point forward, my cousins and I only saw each others at funerals. At the meetings, I always felt a spark of days gone by at the sad events, leaving me hopeful . But it wasn’t meant to be.

Days, years, decades. Marriages, Divorces, Children, Grand Children.and of course Death. None of our parents are alive.

Last summer, I learned about the death of one my cousins. The last time we’ve seen each other was at the funeral of her mother. I called her older sister to get the date and time of the funeral. She said, she didn’t know. Other relatives from out of state asked if I had information, because they wanted to attend. After a couple of un-returned calls, I Googled her name.

I learned the services was being held at Funeral home less than three miles from where I live. We actually lived an hour from each other. The downside, the services was taking place the very next day. I contacted my niece and and asked her if she would join me. A grandmother, she was a teenager the last time she’d seen this side of the family.

While it was a sad occasion, I was actually looking forward to seeing this side of my family, my niece brought her son.

Entering the building, I noticed the elder sibling. As children she and I were close and I was greeted with a smile. From there it was downhill. Our reception was chilly. Nice to see you and why are you here!

Although, the services began at two. Most of the people arrived after three. I could feel the divisions within the family. Children, and Grandchildren. Not the loving family, I remembered. Perhaps it was all in my mind back then or perhaps we all too young to develop resentments. Even though I was an unwanted guest, I was happy being with my family.

Forever hopeful, I exchanged telephone numbers with the family and announced that we should make an attempt to stay in touch. I could feel my niece and her son giving me the side eye, like please!! The two of them teased me in the car! A couple of weeks later, I contacted a couple of the cousins and Melba Toast had more moisture than the conversation. It takes two people to have a relationship so…….

Guess, I’ll see you next funeral.

I think its normal to hold on to those special times/memories. However, those memories, moments in time that can cloud our realities. Forever hopeful, we sometines stay in fruitless and sometimes painful relationships too long because of a memory .

If my uncle was alive, I would tell him about the positive impact he had on my life. Those memories make me smile today. At the end of day, we have to accept what is. Not what could be. It takes two to build a relationship. Angry, I’m not and resentments are a waste of time.

My uncle was highly regarded by his children which is to be expected. What he said about me may have irreparably damaged any possibility of relationship with my cousins. My love for them is there and that has to be enough.

CityFella

Parents Of The Healthiest Happiest Kids Do These 6 Things Every Day


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Photo: Google

By: Lianne Avila/YourTango

After having counseled children and families for nearly 20 years, I found that there is one thing that all parents have in common: they want to raise a healthy and happy child.

What are some important parenting tips and advice that parents need to be aware of to make sure that they are raising good kids in this day and age?

If you watch a lot of T.V., then you might think it’s the materialistic stuff that matters to your kids. But, the real truth is, what children really want is their parents’ time.

As they get older and look back on life as adults, they will remember the times they spent with you the most.

As a parent, what stops you from spending time with your children? Work, your cell phone, or drama with friends and family? There is probably more. However, this means that you need to prioritize your family, even more. So, yes, you need to put family time on your calendar.

Start by asking your child how their day was. If they give the standard answer of, “Good”, then get specific. Ask what was good about it, what was bad about, and what games did they play at recess.

Your parenting skills don’t have to be through the roof in order to have happy children. If you can come up with some questions that you know they can answer, you are off to a good start.

Here are 6 pieces of parenting advice to raise healthy and happy kids.

1. Touch your child

As a society, we are straying away from touch. But, touch is how we connect as human beings.

Hold your child. Don’t buy into the method of letting them cry it out. This will make your child feel alone and insecure. As they get older, dance and play with your children — they will remember those times the most.

2. Cultivate a culture of gratitude

Identify what you are grateful for. Start with the simple things like a roof over your head and a warm bed to sleep in. This will help foster a culture of gratitude in the family.

Your child learns from what you do and say. When you foster an attitude of gratefulness, this helps create compassion and hope. Keep a gratefulness chart on the refrigerator with some fun markers. Make it easy for your child to reach. This way they can write or draw it when they feel grateful and everyone can see it.

3. Sing to your child

They love to hear your voice. Don’t worry about how you sound, just sing. You can sing your child’s name or favorite song. Watch how their eyes light up when you sing to them.

When children are young they will naturally hum a song. The next time your child does this, sing along with them. This is a great way to connect with your child.

4. Relish the “mess” together

I will admit, this a hard one for me. But, you miss moments of joy with your child when you worry too much about the mess. Ten years from now, the mess won’t matter. They grow up so quickly, you really don’t want to miss out.

Stop worrying about what your friends and family will think. What’s important is what your child thinks and that you have an emotional connection with them. When they grow up, they won’t remember the mess — they will remember you.

5. Add positive affirmations to your daily routine

Remember, your child is trying to find their place in the world. This is not always easy. There are many adults that are still trying to find themselves in the world.

Affirm the positive choices your child makes. This is how they learn to navigate in the world they live in. You can do this with words or body language. A simple smile will let them know you approve of their choices.

Be open to your child’s ideas and let them try new things. Children love to think out loud. Make sure to support this. It will help with creativity.

6. Explore the world together 

Take time each week to learn something new about your child. Take a cooking class with your child, or a dance class. Don’t worry about how you look. This will help level the playing field.

Your child will see that you have the same struggles that they have. Your child will also be able to relate to you and see that you have struggles and triumphs in life. It will also let your child know, that you don’t have to be perfect.

It’s important to remember, that all good parents make mistakes. Even parents with the best of intentions. What’s important is that you repair and learn from them. This will help teach your child that it is alright to make mistakes.

Try not to get stuck in the past or worry extensively about the future. You can’t go back and you can’t predict the future. What does this mean? Stay in the present and enjoy the time you have with your family.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, in San Mateo, CA. She has helped many people create a work, life balance for themselves. For more information, please visit Lessons for Love.

TROUBLE IN THE CHURCH: Pastor told the Ladies of the Church they need lose weight to keep their husbands interested



Missouri pastor's sexist sermon about fat wives is normal | The Kansas City  Star

By: Yelena Dzhanova/Business Insider

Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark of Missouri’s Malden First General Baptist Church is on leave and in counseling, the church told local CBS News affiliate KCTV. Clark made waves with a Sunday sermon in February where he said that women should strive to stay slim to keep men interested.

“Now look, I’m not saying every woman can be the epic, epic trophy wife of all time like Melania Trump. I’m not saying that at all,” Clark said during his sermon, as a photo of Trump was shown behind him on screen.

“Most women can’t be trophy wives, but you know, maybe you’re a participation trophy,” he continued. “I don’t know, but all I can say is not everybody looks like that. Amen! Not everybody looks like that. But you don’t need to look like a butch either.”

Clark also said men need to be accompanied by beautiful women and wives. 

“Ladies, it’s the way God made us. It’s the way we are. Men are going to look,” he said. “He made us to look. You want them to be looking at you. Don’t let yourself go.”

His sermon was shared in a viral Facebook post written by a woman who streamed the service. The post attracted more than 3,000 comments criticizing the sermon as sexist, misogynistic, and offensive. 

General Baptist Ministries, the national organization overseeing all local church branches, said in a Facebook post that Clark’s sermon fell out of line “with the positions and values of General Baptists.” 

“General Baptists believe that every woman was created in the image of God, and they should be valued for that reason,” the post continued. “Furthermore, we believe that all individuals regardless of any other factors are so loved by God that Christ died for them.”

General Baptist Ministries also tried to distance itself further from the controversy, saying each church “has autonomy from the national organization.” 

“General Baptist Ministries does not have authority related to the employment of any pastor or church leader in a local congregation,” the post read. 

Evanston, Illinois to begin distribution of up to $25K in reparations to Black residents


Dave's Victorian House Site - About Evanston

The midwestern city is the first in the country to establish reparations with a commitment of $10M over the next decade.

By. DeMicia Inman/TheGiro

In Evanston, Illinois, eligible Black residents will receive reparations up to $25K as part of a commitment from the city.

ABC News reported that the city, north of Chicago, will begin issuing payments this year. 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons pushed for the legislation. She was inspired to work on closing the racial wealth gap through her own experience growing up Black in Evanston and still living there through adulthood.

“Early in my childhood I was invited to have a play date,” she said to the outlet. “My white friends never had a play date at my home.”

Rue Simmons continued, “The streets were wider. The trees were taller. The homes were bigger and brighter. As a young child, I recognized that difference.”

Activist Groups Protest Against Senate Majority Leader McConnell On National Reparations Day
An activist carries a Pan-African flag during a protest to mark the National Reparations Day July 1, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Evanston is the first city in the United States to officially establish reparations for Black people. Those eligible will be paid up to $25K to be used towards housing.

The city committed to pay $10M over the next decade in an attempt to repay Black residents, according to the report. The alderman said the funds are intended to answer for “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living-wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place.”

 “I was looking at what we had done, what more we could do, and reparations was the only answer,” Rue Simmons remarked. “The only legislative response for us to reconcile the damages in the Black community is reparations.”

 Local historian Dino Robinson, who founded the Shorefront Legacy Center helped support the efforts with a 70+ page report that chronicled discrimination and racism in Evanston dating back to the 1800s.

“We anticipate litigation to tie things up with the premise that ‘You cannot use tax money that’s from the public to benefit a particular group of people,’” Robinson said, referring to opposition to the city’s plan. But, he countered, “The entire Black community historically has paid taxes, but were not guaranteed the same benefits.”

According to the report, white people in Evanston make almost double the income and have double the reportednet worth of their Black neighbors. Black people who have lived in the city through redlining and their descendants are eligible for the payment.

Although Evanston is the first city to make the historic move, it will hopefully not be the last.President Joe Biden has made plans to act on reparations for African-Americans. Senior advisor, Cedric Richmond, confirmed that the White House plans “to start acting now.

“We have to start breaking down systemic racism and barriers that have held people of color back, and especially African-Americans who were enslaved,” Richmond explained, according to the report. “We have to do stuff now to improve the plights, status, and future empowerment of Black people all around the country.”

Richmond continued, “I can’t tell you if, what the time frame on the bill is, but I can tell you this. If you start talking about free college tuition to [historically Black colleges and universities] and you start talking about free community college and all of those things, I think that you are well on your way.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee submitted H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act to uncover the lasting impact of slavery in the United States and to provide a monetary payout.

“Today there are more people at the table — more activists, more scholars, more CEOs, more state and local officials, and more Members of Congress,” she stated in a press release obtained by theGrio. “However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation.”

“It’s working its way through Congress,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, according to Politico. Biden’s administration did not testify during a hearing on Wednesday in a House Judiciary Committee subpanel on the reparations legislation. “We’d certainly support a study, but we’ll see what happens through the legislative process.”

This article contains additional reporting from theGrio’s DeMicia Inman.

Yeah, the Diet Cokes and Junk Food. But This Look at Trump’s Hotel Is All About Influence-Peddling.


republican presidential nominee donald trump delivers remarks before a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new trump international hotel october 26, 2016 in washington, dc the hotel, built inside the historic old post office, has 263 luxry rooms, including the 6,300 square foot 'trump townhouse' at 100,000 a night, with a five night minimum the trump organization was granted a 60 year lease to the historic building by the federal government before the billionaire new york real estate mogul announced his intent to run for president GETTY IMAGES

A fantastic story in the Washingtonian details how patrons at Trump’s property were climbing all over each other to grease their way to power’s proximity.

By: Jack Holmes/Esquire.com

We scarcely ever talk about the fact that our most recent ex-president was an extremely weird guy. Completely bizarro specimen. This inalienable truth was reinforced in a Friday story from the Washingtonian on the life and times of restaurant staff at Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel, a gig that it turns out was also weird, stressful, demeaning, and in some cases highly lucrative. But mostly: weird.

There were Trump’s obsessive demands about how his Diet Cokes and bottles of ketchup should be opened in front of him. He insisted on “a tray of junk food” with every meal that included “Lay’s potato chips (specifically, sour cream and onion), Milky Way, Snickers, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Tic Tacs, gummy bears, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Nutter Butters, Tootsie Rolls, chocolate-covered raisins, and Pop-Secret.” He got the same meal every time: shrimp cocktail, well-done steak, and fries. “Popovers—make it a double for the President—had to be served within two minutes and the crustaceans ‘immediately.'” In one notable incident, Trump’s dining partner got a slightly bigger cut of well-done steak than he did, which apparently caused a furor. It brings to mind the Two Scoops Policy that so entranced everyone back in the early days. Oh, and nobody was allowed to sit at Mr. Trump’s booth except for a few of his Knights of the Dolt Table, like Mike Pence or Rudy Giuliani.

But back to that “lucrative” element. It turns out that the job of seating people who are clambering all over each other to get close to power comes with a number of performance-based incentives.

Michel Rivera, a former bartender at the lobby bar, says he pulled in more than $100,000 a year with tips (at least $30K more than he made at the Hay-Adams). He says it’s the best-paying job he’s had in his 25-year career, with generous health benefits to boot—a comment echoed by many other ex-employees.

“People would literally come up to me and give me $100 bills and be like, ‘You must be the best bartender in the world if you work here!’ ” Rivera says. “A group of three or four guys would come up, have a round of drinks—I could easily sell them over $1,000. You don’t see that at too many bars.” One restaurant manager says she’s never worked anyplace else where guests would so often try to grease her palm “like the old Mafia days,” angling for proximity to power. “I’d have people try to palm me to get closer to someone’s table, if a politician was in, or try to sit at Trump’s table, which is a big no-no,” she says. “I declined, obviously. I would get fired if we moved someone to Trump’s table.”

In a way, this is a microcosm of the whole damn thing. The former president’s Great American Heist was built around the essential sham of his relationship to his business—that is, the idea he’d separated himself from his personal business interests while serving as, and wielding the powers of the president. He pantomimed this separation with a press conference featuring a comically large stack of manila folders  that he claimed contained documents that would disentangle him from his businesses, but which the attendant members of the media were not allowed to examine. This was a joke from the very beginning, when a Saudi-funded lobbyist marked Trump’s election victory by paying for 500 rooms at the D.C. hotel. For his first international trip as president, Trump ventured to Saudi Arabia to place his hands on The Orb. Then he sold them all the weapons they wanted and excused away the assassination of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggii, which the CIA concluded was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Saudi enthusiasm for Trump hotels continued at his New York property, where a visit from MBS and his entourage reported boosted revenue for one quarter there by 13 percent.

washington, dc   january 19  a view outside trump international hotel washington, dc one day before the inaguration of donald trump january 19, 2017 in washington, dc hundreds of thousands of people are expected to come to the national mall to witness trump being sworn in as the 45th president of the united states  photo by noam galaiwireimage

Palms were greased, martinis were drunk.

This played out over and over again with Trump’s properties, including with huge hotel reservations where many of the rooms ultimately went unfilled. They were paying him not to stay at his hotel! Since these folks were putting money in Trump’s pockets without even using the services they were putatively paying for, you have to wonder what they were getting in return. Maybe it was something he could grant using the vast powers of the American presidency—which is, of course, why we have public ethics laws and the Emoluments Clause, even if it seems the latter has been stripped of all teeth. In another incredibly shameless example, T-Mobile executives marked their proposal to merge with Sprint—a move that would require approval from Trump’s Executive Branch—by dropping $195,000 at his D.C. hotel. John Legere, the incessantly grinning CEO, could be seen waltzing around the lobby in full T-Mobile regalia. If only politicians had to wear the logos of the companies backing them this way, NASCAR-style.

And that’s what’s at play throughout Jessica Sidman’s entire examination of the Trump International Hotel in Washington and its BLT Prime restaurant. Everybody is there to curry favor with the big man, because everybody understands what’s going on here. You pay the toll, you ride the ride. If you want Executive Branch approval for something, you spend some money and make sure the right people know it. If you want entry to the upper echelons of MAGA power, you grease the maître d’s palm to be seated near Larry Kudlow, or whatever. That’s another sad indictment in the Washingtonian piece. It’s a stunning look into the utter mediocrity of right-wing celebrity.

Regulars such as Florida congressman Matt Gaetz and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell were always around the lobby taking selfies with fans. In the restaurant, some top White House officials including Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders preferred more private booths in the back. But generally, the place to be was a table along the balcony rail on the mezzanine, overlooking the lobby and its soaring ceilings. That’s where you might spot Meadows, or American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, or then–Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler.

Personally, I would grease some palms to avoid catching a glimpse of Matt Schlapp, whose path from the Brooks Brothers Riot to MAGA apparatchik now feels inevitable. It’s a shame that we handed the country over for four years to some of the least scrupulous and even less impressive people we could find. It’s incredible that this all played out with relatively minimal consequences, a testament to the closed right-wing information ecosystem and the strange power of doing things right out in the open instead of behind closed doors. At least that friendly bartender, Michel Rivera, was able to syphon off some of their ill-gotten gains, one martini at a time.

African American Woman from Chicago Moved To Italy For Love


In Italy I kept meeting guys' - Northwest

This story was orginally published in the New York Times Febuary 2020. Its about an African American Women who moved to Italy for a man she met on Tinder.

Original Title: ‘In Italy I Kept Meeting Guys’: The Black Women Who Travel for Love

 African-American women are looking for love in Italy, despite its recent troubles with racism. (Debra Cartwright/The New York Times)
 1 of 5 | African-American women are looking for love in Italy, despite its recent troubles with racism. (Debra Cartwright/The New York Times)
By: Tariro Mzezewa\New York Times

Italy, a country known for its language of love and for its men who publicly shower overtures on women like a centuries-old art form, is often associated with romantic encounters of the kind portrayed in the movies, from “Roman Holiday” to “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” So some black women ask, why shouldn’t it be the same for them?

Latrese Williams is one such black traveler. When Williams goes out in Chicago or pretty much anywhere else in the United States, she said, she often feels ignored by men who seem to barely register her existence. But when she walks into a room in Italy, all eyes are on her — and to her, that’s a good thing. These polar reactions occur, she said, because she is black.

“Even though I would behave in the same way at home and abroad, in Chicago I felt invisible,” Williams said in her home in the Monti neighborhood of Rome. “But in Italy I kept meeting guys.”

In November, she moved in with her Italian boyfriend, whom she met on Tinder in Rome.

In recent years, Italy has become known for widely publicized episodes of racism against African migrants or dark-skinned people perceived as migrants, and even racial abuse toward Italy’s own black soccer players. It may be surprising that there is a steady stream of black women who travel to Italy in search of amore.

Perhaps less surprising is that, amid the new crop of travel companies catering to black travelers and black women, in particular, there’s a growing group of tour providers, blogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups that encourage black women to travel to Italy to find love. Unlike traditional tour operators, companies like Black Girl Travel and Venus Affect provide dating advice and assistance finding a romantic partner, along with sightseeing

Online, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr posts show photos of black women with Italian men or black women with white men in Italy; Facebook groups and YouTube videos contain lengthy discussions about Italian men loving black women. Many of the posts are tagged with the word “swirl,” a popular term describing a black person and a white person in a relationship.

Self Love Before Love

Fleacé Weaver, the founder of Black Girl Travel, said that she felt early on that African American women “do better in Italy,” so, in 2006, after traveling to the country several times, she moved to Rome from Los Angeles and created Black Girl Travel, which offers romantic and nonromantic tours.

At the time, she felt that she was filling an empty spot in the travel market.

“No one was servicing us doing tours that were targeted solely to African American females,” she said. “In fact, when we started, everyone in the industry was telling us it was impossible to do. Now you look ahead 13 years, and we have basically inspired a whole subculture of international travelers.”

Weaver describes Black Girl Travel as a concierge and private club rather than a travel or dating agency, but her clients consider it to be both. In more than a dozen interviews, women who have been on her tours called her “the dream weaver” and the “black woman’s Italian love guru,” thanks to her ability to connect people and help women love themselves and find romantic love. Black Girl Travel has welcomed more than 1,000 black women from across the world to Italy, Weaver said.

She insists that her main goal is to encourage black women to love themselves first. In addition to the sightseeing, “I also always work in girlfriend talk time where we stop as a group and we talk about like: ‘Why do you think your life is not going in the direction you want to go in? Why do you think that you’re having problems with men?’”

Williams, 44, who felt ignored in the United States, had studied abroad in Germany during graduate school and recalls visiting Rome and hating it at the time. She went home to Illinois to establish her career and, she thought, a relationship. Twenty years later, frustrated with her job and her romantic life, she booked a Bella Italia tour with Black Girl Travel. The tour cost about $2,500, excluding airfare, and visited popular cities and landmarks. There were about 50 other black, primarily American, women on the 10-day trip, and at its end Williams was seriously considering the idea of looking for love in Italy.

Three years later, Williams went on a second tour with Weaver, and each time she’d return to Rome she would see Weaver and seek advice about dating. Many women who go on the Bella Italia tour return for Weaver’s Roman Holiday tour, a more personal experience that involves staying with Weaver while she helps with all aspects of dating. (The tour is named for the 1953 Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck movie.) She manages her guests’ dating profiles on apps like Tinder and “weeds out” the bad eggs. When a client goes on a coffee or dinner date, Weaver might be at a table nearby, observing, taking notes and planning to give feedback to the client afterward.

Weaver has an innate ability to spot quality, Williams said. “She knows if a guy is running game or if he’s quality, and she can figure out his motives from jump. She’s spectacular at filtering.”

We are told in the U.S. that we are too aggressive and too bossy and too loud … you know who else is bossy and loud and aggressive? Italian mothers.” — Diann Valentine

Venus Affect, created by celebrity wedding planner and event designer Diann Valentine in 2014, works exclusively with wealthy women and matches them with men who are well-off. Seventy five percent of Valentine’s clients are black; the rest are Hispanic or Middle Eastern, she said. In 2018, Valentine’s company was the focus of a short-lived Bravo show, “To Rome for Love.”

“As black women, we are told in the U.S. that we are too aggressive and too bossy and too loud and all these negative stereotypes we hear all the time,” she said. “But you put us in Italy and we’re perfect because you know who else is bossy and loud and aggressive? Italian mothers.”

La Dolce Vita? Not for Everyone

Fleance Weaver, the founder of Black Girl Travel, in Milan, Jan. 30, 2020. (Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times)

But what these companies are selling — amore and la dolce vita — is at odds with the everyday experiences of a number of black people who live or travel frequently in Italy. They point out that this is a country where populist politicians like Matteo Salvini have campaigned on the argument that illegal migration from Africa poses a threat; in 2013, the country’s first black minister had bananas thrown at her. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, between 2014 and the first six months of 2017, Italy had a 600% increase in the number of potential sex-trafficking victims arriving in the country by sea. In 2017, a majority of those victims were black, from Nigeria.

“The whole idea of marketing Italy to black women as a place where they can find love is so problematic for so many reasons,” said Moni Ufomata, who is black and has traveled to Italy and runs the blog Miles and Braids, about her adventures. “I loved Italy because of the food, the monuments, the history. That’s the stuff that should be the goal of your travels.”

Ufomata said the companies also seem to be promoting simplified and perhaps dangerous stereotypes about black women, Italian men and Italian culture.

“I don’t think that we should promote this idea that black women have a hard time finding love in America, so they should go to a place where men love them for their complexion,” she said.

Italy is also not a place where people are willing to have a conversation about race, according to Francesca Moretti, 31, a black Italian contributing writer at AfroItalian Souls, a magazine that focuses on stories about black people in Italy.

“Living here is not like in the movies or the postcards, especially for black people,” Moretti said. “If you have the money, maybe you can live some kind of Italian dream, but it still won’t be the dolce vita.”

A Numbers Game

For decades, the misleading idea that black women in America are the least likely people to find love has been the topic of books, movies, television specials and countless news articles. In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that black men are twice as likely as black women to have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity

PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE – ONLINE OR IN PRINT – BEFORE FEB. 16, 2020. —  Fleance Weaver, the founder of Black Girl Travel, in Milan, Jan. 30, 2020. African-American women are looking for love in Italy, despite its recent troubles with racism. (Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times)

And a widely reported OKCupid study of U.S. users of the dating app found that in 2014, most men on the site rated black women as less attractive than women of other races and ethnicities. The sense of being undervalued or not admired and pursued by men as a black woman in the United States is what Valentine and Weaver are capitalizing on.

“Dating in America as a black woman is like playing musical chairs,” Williams said. “If there’s 10 people and six chairs, somebody’s going to have to sit on the floor. There aren’t enough black men for black women in America.”

In fact, although interracial marriage has increased for all Americans, black men and women still marry each other most often; less than 10% of black men and 5% of black women were married to a spouse of another race in 2010, according to census data.

Another number often cited in the conversation about black women finding love — and also criticized as misinterpreted — is a number that was popularized in a 2009 ABC News/“Nightline” broadcast titled “Single, Black, Female,” which said that 42% of black women in America have never been married, twice the percentage of white women who have never married.

By going through census data and conducting their own research, Ivory Toldson, a professor at Howard University School of Education and a research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Bryant Marks, a psychology professor at Morehouse College and faculty associate at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, found that although the “42%” number is accurate, it has been oversimplified and misinterpreted to fit into a negative narrative about black love.

“The often-cited figure of 42% of black women never marrying includes all black women 18 and older,” Toldson said, “but raising the age in an analysis eliminates age groups we don’t really expect to be married and gives a more accurate estimate of true marriage rates.

Beware of ‘Ciao, Bella’

In many cases, even as black women search for love in Italy, they fear negative interactions with Italian men.

A recent search for “Italy” in a handful of Facebook groups for black female travelers, each with thousands of members, shows that some version of one question is asked every few months: “Is Italy safe for black women?” Most women say it is safe but to be careful of the men. (“Be careful of those ciao bellas, they’re not always as friendly as they seem,” one commenter wrote).

 Gichele Adams with her partner, Matteo La Cognata, and their two-year-old son, Aris, at home in Miilan, Jan. 27, 2020. “I fell in love with her smile and the happiness that I saw in her eyes,” La Cognata said. (Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times)

Many share stories of being solicited by men who assumed they were prostitutes because they were black. One woman said this happened while she was on a street corner waiting for friends outside of Rome. Another said it happened in a store in Naples. Another said while studying abroad she was walking to an exam and was approached by a man who simply asked, “How much?”

Black women who move to Italy for love say they have been told that they are being fetishized by Italian men intrigued by black culture and physical features but not interested in understanding more about being black or really connecting with the women as individuals.

Gichele Adams, a black woman who lives in Milan with an Italian partner and runs the short term rental company the Ghost Host Retreats, said that argument is a tool to shame black women from dating outside their race.

“You’re trying to downgrade the value of women of color when you say the only reason Italian men are attracted to them is because they are black,” Adams said. “When you’re attracted to a certain kind of person, you’re attracted to a certain kind of person.”

Latrese Williams and Giacomo Cannas, who met on Tinder, in Rome where they live together, Jan. 27, 2020.(Susan Wright/The New York Times)

But Alicia Rozario, a black woman who lives in Seattle and is traveling to Milan for a month in April to decide if she wants to move permanently, said that she thinks some skepticism is valid. “I’m well aware of the fact that Italians are intrigued because we’re black — there’s a little bit of exoticism with that, so you have to filter like when you date anywhere else,” she said.

An Emotional Availability

Among the reasons the women said they found love more easily in Italy is that Italian culture encourages men to be up front about their emotions, something men in the United States and other countries are discouraged from doing, Adams and others said.

Three years ago, after moving to Paris with a partner, Adams found herself unhappy in her relationship, so she decided to go on a solo trip to Italy for a few days. While in Milan, she met Matteo La Cognata, a man who spent two days showing her the city. Before she left Milan for Venice and Rome, he invited her to stay for good. She thought he was “completely crazy” she said, and passed.

When she returned to Paris, she realized that she didn’t want to be there anymore. She ended her relationship and flew to Milan. She met La Cognatas family and moved in with him. They now have a 2-year-old son and are expecting their second child in the spring. The directness of La Cognata’s approach was at first perplexing but, ultimately, refreshing, Adams said.

“There isn’t a lot of hesitation, whereas in the U.S., people are always trying you out, even if they like you,” she said.

La Cognata said that although he has always been more attracted to non-Italian women, he didn’t “have any particular thought about African American women” until he met Adams.

“I fell in love with her smile and the happiness that I saw in her eyes,” La Cognata said. “She’s a beautiful woman, so I was obviously struck by that as well. Over time I was also attracted to her sense of independence, strength of character.”

He added that they do get comments from Italians who assume Adams is a migrant from Brazil or Africa who somehow does not belong in Italy. The comments, he added, are worse when she is out alone.

“Luckily I tend to not give too much attention to these idiots,” he said.

Texas is Corona Free?


Greg Abbott's move to fully reopen Texas bucks science but mollifies GOP  base

Greg Abbott the Governor of America’s second largest state may believe it is, as he is lifting the mask mandate next week. He is also allowing businesses in the state to open at 100% capacity.

Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%,”

“Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends and others in your community,” Abbott said. “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

Is it a distraction? hmmmm, Texans are still unhappy with Gov. Abbott as he sits on top of the the power grid scandal.

Mayors and county judges in some of Texas’ largest urban areas criticized  the Governor over his decision to lift the statewide face mask mandate next week, saying it contradicts health officials advice as infections continue to spread throughout the state, which averaged over 200 reaported deaths a day over the last week.

Perhaps the Governor has insider information, instead of bleach, its lysol.

CityFella

Kitty sends Ex-Con back to Jail


March 1, 2021, 1AM  Largo,Florida

56 year old Wendi Hird and her 73 year old roomate, were having a intense late night argument.

Power of the Pussy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flyingcat21.jpg

Wendi, reportedly took their cat and threw her or her on her roomates face, causing the pussy to scratch the victims face. 

Tag Team?

After the cat did it’s business, Wendi struck her roomate in the face.   Police said her roomate suffered minor injuries during the incident. Wendi was arrested for domestic battery on a person over the age of 65, which is a felony.

Wendi, Wendi, Wendi

Wendi is right back where she started from. She is being held in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $4000 bond and had been ordered by a judge to have no contact with her roomate.  The “roomate” was once her boyfriend.  In 2018, she allegedly smacked him around and was arrrested. Which may have played of a part in the change in status from boyfriend to friend. Prosecutors in 2018, subsequently declined to pursue a felony charge against Hird.

Wendi spent time in the big house for smacking a law enforcement officer, that cost her five years.

She’s Quite a Gal

Before that ,she sucessfully escaped from police custody.  She been convicted of theft, battery, drunk driving, possession of drug paraphernalia, prostitution, and probation violation.

Her roomate and the semi innocent Kitty’s name and information is being withheld.

CityFella

Parents: Your Kids Don’t Owe You Anything


Parents: Your Kids Don't Owe You Anything

Photo: Getty Images

Mr: Elizabeth Z Pardue/YourTango

Recently, I watched a horrible woman loudly bemoan her choice to conceive to a mutual friend, her justifications for voluntarily bringing new life into the world being, “Well, my husband really wants kids, and I’ll need someone to take care of me when I’m older, so, you know, what the hell? It’ll pay off eventually.” My heart ached for the fetus she was carrying alongside her apparent resentment toward parenting.

While this incident is obviously among the more egregious I’ve heard, she’s hardly the first parent I’ve encountered with predetermined roles established for her kids.

I hear it all the time — the idea that, because a mother carried a person for 40 weeks in her womb (which, is, incidentally, still the only way we have to manufacture people at this juncture although a trope of material munipulation  is to repeat this fact ad nauseum), or that a father was there to raise a child, that progeny is now forever indebted to their parent.

This leverage is used to manipulate children of all ages into meeting the demands of their parents for years, and the older I get, the more I am convinced it is complete and utter BS.

It is paradoxical for a parent to provide a list of demands while also giving someone the gift of life. I honestly can’t believe this needs to be stated outright, but a person should not ever be created to be of specific service to any other person. That’s not how humans work.

I’m the proud mother of one totally awesome daughter I love more than anything else on this whole planet, and I’m still appalled when people suggest that I should have another child “to keep the first one company”As though creating a whole extra human being as an accessory to a preexisting one is not inherently dehumanizing.

Listen, I understand that we as humans have a history of creating offspring for the sake of helping around the house — particularly in rural communities where children were expected to pitch in at the family farm. And, to draw parallels to modern households, I definitely believe in teaching children that we all have to share functional efforts within a communal environment, and that we all have to pitch in to keep a household going.

This article is not debating the merits of teaching kids personal responsibility  within a group; I believe teaching children how to proactively coexist with others instills a sense of competent independence when they are ready to take on the world as adults.

My point here is we desperately need to dismantle the belief that children owe parents anything at all.

Children do not automatically owe their parents phone calls or grandchildren or long-term care or financial success or even happiness just because these parents opted to bring them into the world. Period. To argue otherwise is to endorse the indentured servitude of those we claim to love and value the most.

Perhaps my favorite statement on the matter comes from the poet Khalil Gibran, who poetized my thoughts beautifully, years before I was born:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

We can never own people, even — and especially — if they biologically came from us. No matter how much a parent may want to control the thoughts and life of his or her child, that child is still a person and deserves autonomy.Create your button.Adding a shareable Donate button to your site can help you access 300+ million givers.Ad by PayPal See More

I terrified my dad recently when I told him I don’t have to take care of him when he’s older just because he’s family. He looked shocked and deeply hurt until I explained, “I will take care of you forever because I love you. You have always loved and cared for me unconditionally, but those were not favors, so I don’t feel the need to repay you for anything. Anytime I show love by caring for you, it is an expression of how I feel toward you.”

The difference is a small nuance, but it is imperative to understand when dealing with people. No matter their relation to you, if you treat a person with respect and love, they will be compelled to mirror that. If you raise a child with resentment and selfish expectations for their life, you will only breed more resentment in return.

It’s disgusting to see so many parents of grown children continue to use manipulation to coerce their offspring into tending to their needs. The inherent lack of respect is overwhelming, particularly when I’ve heard about parents using possessions or wealth as leverage to guilt other adults into action.

I was recently part of a conversation in which a disgruntled grandmother non-jokingly told her friend, “Well, if she won’t let me see my grandchildren more often, I’m prepared to let her know she’s no longer in the will.”Create your button.Adding a shareable Donate button to your site can help you access 300+ million givers.Ad by PayPal See More

My mouth dropped open in flagrant disdain and I poured wine into it only to stop myself from blurting, “Gosh, I can’t imagine why your daughter is actively keeping her kids away from such a delightful Grandma. They’re missing out!”

If it sound like I’m super-judgemental of terrible parents, I absolutely am. Whether hyper-controlling behavior comes from a mother or father, I’m enraged by the lack of respect in addition to the outright refusal for parents to accept that this sort of manipulation is destructive to their children in ways that affect them their entire lives.

It is infuriating to watch adults whine to their friends that their children are “rebelling” just because they’re expressing desires for lives that divert from the agenda the parents have in mind, and even more irritating when those children become angry, anxious, distant, or depressed while the parent insists it isn’t their fault.

I gave my daughter life and I’m raising her the best way I know how, but I have no expectations as to how our relationship should be when she is old enough to make her own choices, and I think it would be cruel of me to start.

I wouldn’t dare attempt to place an agenda on her life, even by planting seeds that one day I should become her responsibility. (I shouldn’t, by the way. I’m an adult. I’m my own responsibility. Frankly, the best gift I could give my daughter is to never burden her with trying to manage my care when I have plenty of forewarning that that time in my life is approaching.)

Similarly, she does not owe me companionship, emotional support, grandchildren, or a marriage under that antiquated lie that “settling down” means she’s “taken care of” for the rest of her life.

My daughter doesn’t owe me any of those things. She deserves a life of freedom and choice, and while that’s sometimes a challenge, I owe it to her to do my part to facilitate that.Create your button.Adding a shareable Donate button to your site can help you access 300+ million givers.Ad by PayPal See More

Of course, I have hopes for my daughter’s future. I hope she is happy with the life she has and I hope that, when she is an adult, she and I can be friends unlike we are able to be in this current parent-child dynamic. But if I nurture her through her youth with love and respect, I believe that, not only will we have a better shot at a real friendship, but she’ll become a stronger, more self-realized woman than if I spend her life attempting to coerce her into meeting my arbitrary list of standards.

I have my own life to work on; I don’t need to hijack anyone else’s. Full stop. Just because I facilitated another person’s existence on this planet doesn’t mean I own any part of her, even though I’m responsible for her well-being until she’s old enough to maintain it independently. That’s the whole point of being a parent, by the way: taking care of a person until he or she is old enough to do it herself.

If you’re not prepared to grant another human being a life of self-assertion and autonomy, you should consider puppetry — not parenting. 

Elizabeth Z Pardue is a creator and polymath based in the South. Her words have appeared in Huffington Post, Time.com, XOJane, Ravishly, and in a bunch of Letters to the Editor columns. 

Vaccinate before opening,Teachers First!


American Lakes in Sacramento, CA | Online School Store

For many years my wife and I volunteered to help at our childrens school. We assisted in the class rooms and where ever needed in the school.

We’ve seen the good and the bad. Misbehaving children, interfering with your childs ability the learn that day . We have heard parnets assigning blame, insisting part the teachers duties is rearing their children.

I’ve seen good teachers inspire, bad teachers who just didn’t care and didn’t want parents or witnesses in their class rooms. Overwhelmed and underfunded teachers, who dug in their pockets to insure students had paper, pencils and crayons before their students arrived to class.

Teachers are often nurses, counselors, sometimes referees and every morning they are there to greet our children.

We’ve also witnessed parents dropping off their visibly sick children with runny noses, fevers at school as they leave for their work day. Infecting, teachers, students and their familes.

Teachers are first responders, we intrust our children with them. Teachers also have families and people who love them. I have a great admiration of public school teachers. At the very minimum ,teachers should be vaccinated before returning to class.

CityFella

The all of “y’all”: On finally embracing my voice, country twang and everything


To fit in with my peers, I changed how I spoke. Now, in the name of inclusivity, I’ve come back to my roots
main article image

By: Justin Quarry/Salon

The summer I was 12, my mother and I moved from a tiny Arkansas farm town to a university city, Jonesboro — home of Arkansas State — and from the first minute of the first day of seventh grade, when I uttered my affirmative to the roll call of homeroom, my unrefined Southern accent unwittingly marked me to my new classmates as “country.”  Though I had never thought of myself as such, I’d spent nearly all my life up until that August 40 miles away in Walnut Ridge, a fundamentalist agrarian community my mother and I had left to escape the blowback of her divorce of my father, where the vast majority of my family had worked as sharecroppers for as long as anyone could remember. And so to that extent, it was true. I was country.   

But apparently that wasn’t my only oratory fault. When I corrected teachers all morning and afternoon on my last name — my paternal family doesn’t pronounce “Quarry” the primary way, but the far less common tertiary one, rhyming with “scary” — some of my peers conspiratorially took note that it sounded not unlike the adjectival form of a homophobic epithet (a word that actually does not exist, but one that junior high schoolers were delighted to invent for torment). This, plus my status as an outsider, convinced them I was the worst thing they, or I, could imagine

Though I had never thought of myself as that either, it, too, I would discover, was true, however not until college, when I came to care so much for a gay classmate that I finally launched from the depths of my shame and, as I soared in my affection for him with abandon, didn’t care to admit that, wrong as my former persecutors had been in my treatment, they’d been right in my sexual identification.

But in the ten years leading up to college, I spent much of my young and anxious life trying to flatten and deepen my speech into a complete collection of sounds that to my peers — to most Americans, I was already absorbing — registered as neither deviant nor dumb. Into a steady pattern of talk that read as nothing beyond the norm, that spoke only to worthiness of belonging.

Indeed, recent studies have discovered that Americans with Southern accents, like me, have lower incomes and job attainment outcomes than those who speak with the Standard American English accent.  However, for many Southerners — for many people from any part of rural America, I daresay — such statistics only confirm what we’ve always known: that our regional identity is a queerness, a foreignness in its own rite, conjuring for our listeners imaginings of the most garish stereotypes.  Long before we’re employable, many rural Southerners learn, just as I did, the cost of the very sounds of our words — forget their content — even in the South itself.  

Ultimately, I failed in my decade-long efforts to remake myself for the aural approval of others. For one thing, the ubiquitous Standard American English accent I observed on “General Hospital” and “The Young & the Restless” was all I could ever hear when I spoke. Also I excelled in my accelerated English classes. I knew my grammar was near, if not entirely, perfect. I loved rules, such as those of syntax, and clung to them. I took pride in my practice of them, both as a means of stabilizing myself amidst my parents’ still-frequent feuds and attracting positive attention from adults. I thrived as a perennial “pleasure to have in class.” If someone had issued me specific instructions to make my vocal expression, or any other aspect of myself, more palatable to people with whom I wished to gain favor, or at the very least acceptance, my 12-year-old-self would have strived to master them.  

Years before, as a child, I’d recorded on a brown Fisher-Price tape player the most guttural and raspy death threats I could muster, replaying them to myself as I sat alone in dark and suffocating closets, in attempts to terrify myself. I had never succeeded. But one day in the fall of seventh grade, I recorded and replayed my plain voice for myself to try to detect my apparent flaws so I could correct them. I was mortified by what I heard. There it was, undeniable, like the aural equivalent of a cheese grater or sandpaper: my rough-edged, backwoods accent, the adolescent voice shaping it more Ellie May than Jethro. I could hear why, when answering the phone, callers sometimes mistook me for my mother. Forget trying to emulate the actors on soap operas set in affluent faraway suburbs — I didn’t even sound as polished as the bit-playing carpenters or salesmen of Atlanta on “Designing Women.”

I detested what I heard on my boombox that day. I never recorded myself again in all of my efforts to renovate my speech. Puberty would deepen my voice soon enough, I prayed — and it finally did, I realized, when calling customer service representatives stopped referring to me as “ma’am” or, most alarming, “the lady of the house.” Until then, when I spoke in class, I squashed my tone in such a way that must have made me sound like an android.

What I did instead was simply made certain to enunciate the -g on all my participles — I was never “communicatin'” and always “communicatingG” — and I rooted from my tongue the most telltale word in the Southern lexicon: “y’all.” In its place came “you guys,” the most stereotypically Northern phrase I knew. “Y’all,” as I began to understand it, put a target on my chest, identified me as outcast; “you guys” obscured me, added a layer of armor to my heart.

And so as I ultimately made friends, it was “you guys” I asked to see “Goldeneye” and “Romeo + Juliet” and “Never Been Kissed” and “Titanic” with me. “You guys” with whom I compared taste in music, “you guys” whom I told I would meet at the mall in front of Sam Goody’s. “You guys” with whom I condemned the mobs of rednecks, as we classified them, who trekked to Jonesboro — from places like where I once lived — on Friday and Saturday nights to cruise one of our city’s thoroughfares in a creeping clog.  Advertisement:

By the time I left Arkansas as a first-generation college and then graduate student, I’d internalized all the negative assumptions of people who speak with Southern accents, and in particular the coarser incarnations like mine: their probable lack of education and sophistication, their poverty and their naiveté and their xenophobia. The same assumptions that indeed lead many managerial Americans, even fellow Southerners, to pay such speakers smaller salaries, to hire them less frequently. The assumptions that, in me, had festered and warped into self-loathing of my regional and sexual identities — assumptions that led me to assess anyone who reminded me of me, be they ostensibly country or gay, as less worthy.  

Once the belief that my voice might inadvertently signal my inadequacy had become second nature, I policed it on high alert well into adulthood. After all, though in both my post-secondary educations I remained in the South, in each case I emerged into a larger, wealthier, far more cosmopolitan city than Jonesboro, into the elite institutions of Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia, where most of my peers had no idea that sharecropping, in which a number of my family continued to labor, still existed, believing it to have ended along with either slavery or Jim Crow.

Socially, I thrived among greater diversity and its unlimited buffet of accents, in which mine was but one of many. I took others’ occasional labeling of me as “country” — if not “damn country,” if not “goddamn country” — with the playfulness my designators now meant it. To some, my accent was even an object of fascination. But I still overenunciated my participles — “enunciatINGGG.” And by habit I still asked “you guys” what borough of New York City they were from, if they’d seen our dormmate drain his microwavable macaroni and cheese water directly onto the hallway carpet,  if they’d heard about the labyrinth of secret tunnels supposedly under campus. In graduate school I asked: what are “you guys” writing, who are “you guys” reading? Advertisement:

Far more problematically, in the classroom, rather than continue trying to pronounce my words as dialectically neutral as I could, most often, I chose not to speak at all. Rather than make myself vulnerable in such public, cultured discourse, not only with my ideas, but also the mere sound of them, I chose the invulnerability — the intellectual and emotional isolation — of silence.  

In fact, of the nearly 40 classes I took in college, I only spoke willingly, with any regularity, in five. And in these, all creative writing courses, I only did so because after the critique of my first short story, my professor held me after class to tell me he thought I had talent for words. And if I tried hard, very hard, he said, I might be able to do something with it.  

Though a simple observation, and only tentatively affirmative, in the hibernation of my inhibition, this sentiment registered to me like the last and loudest call of spring that finally stirs the creature that might otherwise sleep through its starvation. The professor couldn’t have known the full force his nudge of encouragement would carry. But in the paralysis of my shame, it struck me as the animating permission to speak that I hadn’t even known I’d needed.  

Over the years after that moment, writing offered me the supreme control of the presentation of my words that I’d long coveted, to produce as perfect and precise of a verbal expression of myself as I could manage. Furthermore, it served as my means to create tangible proof, if only for myself, that even if my voice wasn’t standard or neutral or normal, its strangeness might nonetheless someday — if I tried hard, very hard — add up to something of value and wonder. The practice of writing gave me greater and greater confidence in my written voice, which in time gave me greater confidence in my spoken voice — freeing me, even if only by degrees, to speak more openly, more publicly, less scripted. 

Simultaneously, the resolve required to come out of the closet minimized all my other fears, including my fear of my own voice, in comparison. Nothing, I venture, is more mortifying than revising the label of one’s sexual orientation for one’s mother, knowing that, as she watches your lips move, delivering the information, all she must be able to imagine is what amounts to you as a protagonist on every page of a homosexual Kama Sutra.

Nonetheless, I still never fully shook self-consciousness of my speech in what I perceived to be high-stakes settings until I switched roles from student to professor. Then, given how ultimately affirming and transformative the classroom had been for my life, the sacred duty I felt to impart the best of myself to my own students — a largely performative act that allowed me no time to overthink, if I were to do it with any grace — eclipsed this ingrained social survival instinct. I strive to shake the connotations I carry of the sound of myself, of the sound of “country” — not only from my own mouth, but in the rare instance it shows up in the form of one of my university students, or when I hear it with regularity just outside Nashville, where I now live.

And yet “you guys” remains a staple of my vocabulary.

Years ago, a student in my course on monsters in fiction, one of my most popular classes, asked me why I teach on that topic. The simplest answer, I told her, is that it’s an introductory writing course most take to fulfill degree requirements, and so I want to teach it on a subject that might interest even someone who doesn’t like to read — as well as interest me. But the more I thought about it, I realized that monsters interest me because for years I’d searched for beings, for ideas, that were stranger, odder, more alien, more horrific than my perception of myself. And I often identify with their quests to belong, their struggle to ascertain self-realization and meaning in a world often hostile to the  sight and sound of them, to their very existence.   

As American culture inches closer toward full inclusion, with academia often at its forefront, it heartens me to witness greater space open in the classroom not only for my younger gay self but also that younger working class self, that first-generation college student self. That country self. While this more and more hospitable space continues to flourish years too late for him, it’s arriving just in time for my more and more diverse students, his proxies.  

In doing my part to accelerate its expansion, I strive to create a classroom dynamic that invites students to speak and, even more, to simply be. It begins with the first few minutes of each course term, in which I go around my classrooms asking students to answer a ridiculous, inconsequential ice-breaker question — exactly the sort of thing that would have sent my younger, insecure self into a panic. That obligation to speak, the shortage of time to formulate and deliver an ideal answer.

“If you guys were WWE wrestlers,” I’ll ask, “what would your entrance songs be?”

“If you could have one superpower, which would you guys choose?”

“If you guys could dispense a condiment from your navels, which would you serve?”

“If you guys had to write a one-word autobiography, which single word would tell your story?” 

Another thing that would have made him squirm: breaking the rules of grammar, especially, of all places, in an English class. But I, like most professors, now sometimes employ the third-person plural, “they,” to address a singular subject, in order to recognize and embrace people who are nonbinary. After all, why not? Especially when it costs me nothing to welcome someone to be who they are, to be who they’ve always been — which in turn fosters a world in which I am ever freer to be who I am, who I’ve always been, myself.

Most recently, though, after 15 years of teaching — and now that I give little thought to, nor do I have little care about, how I sound — I’ve come to realize the gendered way my old habit of saying “you guys” — which, in my association of it with the North, I once glamorized as urbane, perhaps even chic — in fact excludes at least half the world. And in one of the most ironic insights of my life, I realized the most obvious and inclusive solution was, in fact, to start using again the word I’d once believed to be its inferior, the one I’d once identified as my most obvious, most isolating problem.  

Y’all.

In the last months I’ve tried to sow “y’all” back into the landscape of my speech, often with the awkwardness of self-correction, similar to the aftermath of having called a student or colleague or friend by the wrong pronoun or name. “Excuse me” or “sorry,” I’ll say—”y’all.”  

That single word, often freighted and fraught with the worst racist horrors of a whole region when it comes out of a white Southern mouth. Its class implications, too: the highest rates of poverty and illiteracy and obesity and teen pregnancy in the country.

And yet, “y’all” is a word that in and of itself integrates rather than segregates. In this so-called New South, in this new century, it holds the potential to acknowledge and accept the entirety of a population, both rural and urban, in one of the most rapidly diversifying regions in the nation, and beyond.

Y’all. A word that, for me, in my renewed usage of it, both honors the difficulty of my familial and personal histories, and expresses hope in the complexity of my region’s present and future.  A word that exemplifies my belief in the transformative power of knowledge of oneself, in the alchemical strength of intimate experience with the unfamiliar.

Y’all.

I don’t know how to describe what I sound like anymore. I only know that no one in Arkansas thinks I sound like I’m from Arkansas, nor does anyone in Nashville think I sound like I’m from Nashville. I only know that on occasion one of my students, almost always from the West coast, can’t understand what I’ve said — a long vowel unintentionally held for a beat too long is almost always the culprit. I know that strangers often trust me far too much, far too soon, and I’m convinced it’s not only because I’m short, not only because I’m gay, but also because I sound, as they might describe it, “country” — each quality, based on nothing but stereotypes, casting me as less and less and less of a threat to those I encounter. In this way, I sometimes wonder if I might have missed my calling as a spy or hostage negotiator — but I’ve learned, too, that there are just as many ways as a writer or educator to make this underestimation work to my advantage.

I don’t know what I sound like anymore because, still, I shiver to think of repeating my self-recording experiment of seventh grade. But I do know that, now, if I had a choice, I might well opt to sound more, not less, country, in order to elevate the sound of “country” from the pits of stereotypes to the influential fronts of elite classrooms, where I now often stand. To demonstrate who and what the sound of “country” might actually be to my students, the majority of whom will repopulate America’s upper echelon, and many of whom will go on to do America’s hiring.

When asking my students ice-breaking questions at the beginning of each semester, I always answer each first myself — after all, if I’m asking students to make themselves vulnerable, however minutely, it only seems fair for me to make myself vulnerable as well. For years, when sharing with them my single-word autobiography, I said “anxious.”  In subsequent years, I admitted that while in truth my story was still probably “anxious,” I was, at least, working on revising it to “open-hearted.”

But now if I ask myself what one word encapsulates me, encapsulates both of those sentiments, what one word dramatizes my thus-far journey? “Y’all,” I might well say.

“Y’all,” I am permitting myself to say. 

“Y’all,” I am working and working to say.

JUSTIN QUARRY

Justin Quarry teaches English and creative writing at Vanderbilt University and is working on a novel and collection of essays.

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