Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome, New York Magazine readers!

Apparently I got a shout-out in New York magazine - fantabulous!

Welcome to all new readers.

I'm in an all day meeting planning reproductive justice activism for 2012... bitchitude is on hold until later today!

And many thanks to Emily Nussbaum for the shout-out.

I can't wait to read the article... 

Congrats to the Cardinals!

Congrats to my hometown St. Louis Cardinals for winning the 2011 World Series!

May the rally gods continue to bless the sports clubs of St. Louis for months to come...

A bitch is back, damnit!

Okay, y’all…I take a week off, disappear, and don’t even post about what’s what and daaaaaaaamn if some of y’all don’t get your conspiracy theory on!


No, the man didn’t kidnap me.

Pause…check out room…continue.

I’ve just been so busy practicing the fine art of bitchitude offline that I haven’t had the energy to blog about that shit online.

But I’ve caught my breath.

Thank the gods….

Monday, October 24, 2011

On coverage…

I was going to post about something else.

But I read In a tiny town just outside Joplin, a landmark adoption case tests the limits of inalienable human rights in the Riverfront Times and…well, I’m going to focus on something else today.

I’m a news junkie. I cruise through masses of stories each day. And I’ll confess that I often take the news for granted…just assume it is going to be there…and tend to forget the work that goes into researching and writing a story.

But my friends at the Riverfront Times have a habit of covering the stories other outlets take a pass on…

…and reminding this news junkie that the "news" can still stun me.

I highly recommend that y’all read this story…share it.

By the time I finished reading it I was shaking.

I just wanted to share it…didn’t want y’all to miss it the way I feel I missed it even though this case happened and is happening in my home state of Missouri.

But for coverage…but for the news…but for questions and focus and editorial decisions, so many things would happen without us even knowing about them.


And immigration policy debates would remain political theatre even as the application of immigration policy rips families apart... the dark, behind closed doors, harsh and ugly and efficient and painful and oh so fucking often that it takes your breath away...leaves you shaking, quaking, and rocked to the core.


***a fluff of the Afro to the RFT and writer John H. Tucker***

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A not so “special” special legislative session…

This year Governor Nixon called for a special legislative session after the regular session ended in May so that state lawmakers could tackle some important business that could not wait until next year. Many Missourians are getting a good look at what political junkies like me see session after session…the inability for the Missouri House and Senate to legislate things that don’t involve jamming government in between women seeking healthcare and their doctors.

This has been a not so “special” special session. Lawmakers were tasked with passing legislation to facilitate St. Louis leaders' plans to turn the Lambert airport into a China trading hub, gain local control of the Police Department, and seduce the NCAA Final Four basketball games to come to town. Unfortunately, extending the session meant extending the juvenile infighting within the controlling GOP and the public displays of private feuds that seem to plague the assembly.

The Senate has taken their ball back and left the playground.

The House is still hanging around the kickball field fussing about how the Senate took the ball and left the playground.

Governor Nixon is fixin’ to head to China.

Important legislation that could bring jobs and money to the region gathers dust while gazing anxiously at the paper shredder.

And it’s all just another case of history repeating.

Behold, the dysfunction of the Missouri General Assembly when tasked with legislating something other than denying access to reproductive health care or denying Missourians our voting rights or protecting animal abusers ability to operate puppy mills.

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

I suppose this is what happens when folks elect too many people to government who don’t believe in government.

And I wonder if this not so “special” special legislative session cost taxpayers money.

I’d ask for a refund but that’d probably require a special legislative session and…well, did I mention that the Missouri General Assembly is legislatively challenged?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Solving the problem of free-range black women…

Let’s jump right on in, shall we?

Yes, I know…we sistahs are nothing if we aren’t a dangerous, hypersexual, unhealthy, emotional, and enraged mass of unmarried drama.

But worry not!

The Economist article has a solution to that unmarried part. And, since everyone knows that nothing settles a woman down like the guidance and leadership of a man through the sanctified institution of man-on-woman marriage, marrying black women off will likely address all of our other “problems” too!

Fuck the audacity of hope…let’s shoot for the audacity of being saved by a man!

Before you let those feathers get ruffled, please note that the editors at the Economist made a point of stating that they didn’t come up with the latest and greatest solution to the problem of free-range black women – wait for it…a “black male professor” wrote a something or other about it and HE is the one who “kicked up a storm”, so just chill that ass out and don’t blame the Economist for making sure that storm doesn’t die down.

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

Professor Ralph Richard Banks has a book out titled “Is Marriage for White People? How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone”.

In the book, Banks makes a point that others have made that black women are less likely to be married. Black women are less likely to marry someone who isn’t black and apparently our unmarried free-range status has a negative impact on society, so everyone and their lap dawg should encourage unmarried black women to seek out men regardless of race and get our stubborn difficult and in need of marriage asses married.

Pause...consider the issue several times…continue.

Allow me to retort.

The term “unmarried” assumes that the natural state of adult human beings is “married”.

The economic argument is that the lives of women are more stable and secure when married…my argument is that the only fix to economic instability for black women is equality - in education, hiring practices, and wages.

The theory that “unmarried” black women are a drag on society assumes that marriage is a solution, but I’m here to tell ya that marriage is it’s own worst marketer.

With a 50% failure rate…and assuming that Banks is right in asking whether marriage is for white people…why the hell isn’t anyone asking why white people can’t get the marriage thing right?

Divorce costs money…it takes a toll on families and has a huge negative impact on the lives of women…and yet Banks and those who enjoy chewing on the bone du jour of black women’s integrity aren’t turned on by exploring the impact that has on whether women consider marriage or on society at large.

I get it, though.

If a body starts an intellectual exploration with the assumption that marriage is the natural state of things and assumes that women who are not married should be married then that body’s intellectual exploration is narrowed to a conclusion that seeks to solve the problem of unmarriedness.

But Banks apparently has a heart. He doesn’t want sistahs seeking to solve our unmarriedness to marry down or have to share a man. His solution is for our own good…so we can have our own man to lead us out of the darkness of trying to live life on our own.

And never you mind that this shit would deny black women romance...that it reduces the union of marriage to a transaction…that is leverages black women’s agency to a hunt for a provider…that in assuming marriage is a solution it absolves society of the multitude of inequalities facing women…or that this exploration on top of the relentless study of black women as mothers, as reproductive vessels, as troubled and at risk and a drag on society and unhealthy and violent and irrational and difficult thus in need of taming…

…that this shit situates black women as the subject, our lives naked and on display, studied like the Hottentot Venus, and presented with the false choice of leveraging our womb and sexuality for the promise stability and safety.


Well, shit…if that doesn’t get sistahs off our lazy asses and out there in the dating scene looking for a cure…um, err…a man, I don’t know what will.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the failure to report…

Shall we?

The Kansas City Star has a story up about misdemeanorindictments handed down over a failure to report child abuse perpetrated by aCatholic priest. The Star reports that on October 6th a Grand Jury secretly indicted both Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse in a case involving a priest facing child pornography charges.

Rev. Shawn Ratigan faces state and federal child pornography charges.

The indictment alleges that Bishop Finn waited five months before he contacted authorities about the Ratigan’s child pornography collection.

But this story is far more complicated and disturbing than that.

In 2010 a technician who was working on problems with Ratigan’s laptop found the child pornography.

The tech contacted to Diocese…

…but failed to contact authorities.

The Diocese then waited five months after that to contact authorities.

In those five months - Ratigan tried to kill himself and was hospitalized. The church turned the computer over to their tech who copied the pictures and then gave the computer back to Ratigan’s family…who then destroyed the laptop. The church eventually described the photos to a police officer and showed them to an attorney. Church officials claim that they were told the pictures were disturbing but not child pornography.

But it is important to note that the police officer serves on a church committee.

Eventually a disc containing the pictures was given to authorities and they determined that the photos were taken by cell phone and digital cameras. They determined that the photos are evidence of crimes.

Ratigan was arrested…and authorities began to untangle the wretched web of who knew what when.

But wait…it gets worse.

The Star reported that the diocese had been warned about Ratigan a year before the computer tech discovered the images on Ratigan's laptop. A school principal warned the diocese by letter about teachers' and parents' concerns about Ratigan's "inappropriate behavior with children." A lawsuit alleges Ratigan engaged in sexually explicit conduct with a female toddler from 2006 to 2010. The lawsuit also alleges that Bishop Finn and the diocese hid a 2006 report of suspicious behavior by Ratigan with a 4-year-old girl in order to avoid scandal.


As I read through the articles about this story I can’t help but wonder when, if ever...during those five long months...Church authorities reached out to parents to express concern over the welfare of the children in these photos.

For all the claims that these new indictments are historic and send a message...

…I’m left wondering if Bishop Finn and the Church are being investigated for obstructing justice.

In a way, this entire story is a about failing the victims...

By the Church that was warned of inappropriate and likely criminal behavior by Ratigan years before child pornography was found on his computer.

By the tech who first found the pictures by ran to the church instead of toward justice.

By the police officer and attorneys who the Church brought in to review the material.

By Ratigan’s family, who likely knew something about the material on the computer because they destroyed it.

By Finn and his minions, who opted to take five months before contacting authorities.


Bishop Finn, in the diocese statement about the indictments, said, “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

It seems that the Grand Jury felt Finn and the church should have applied “steady resolve” to mandatory reporting of child abuse and “vigorous defense” to protecting children under their care.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The wrong priorities take their toll…

Longtime readers know that I follow Missouri state politics. As a reproductive justice activist, I know which committees in the Missouri House are likely to excrete legislation designed to deny women access to reproductive healthcare under the guise of “protection” and which legislators are keen to pander to special interest groups who pump up their campaign coffers even as they lead their devout herd of single issue anti-choice voters to the polls.

One such committee is the Committee on Children and Families, where former State Representative Cynthia Davis once ruled and once said that the committee would super focus on abortion hinting that all other issues could take a hike.

That disturbing focus on abortion came to mind when I read this piece this morning on…about the lack of regulations for home day care centers, the lack of enforcement for the few rules that exist, and the toll taken in children’s lives.

Abortion is the most regulated medical practice in Missouri.  Every session there are new medically inaccurate bills introduced, each heavily laced with insults challenging women’s ability to think and make decisions.  And I’ve often wondered about all the other things that need additional regulation but go unaddressed…about the regular things every person could or would participate in that are never discussed under a dome determined to not trust women and eager to pass legislation proclaiming that lack of trust.

My heart sunk when I read the article about home day care centers and children who have died in care at sites that should have been shut down years ago, but for the lack of regulations and enforcement.

And my mind immediately went to that committee with the deceptive title…the one that many Missourians probably think focuses on things like home day care providers and stuff like that…the one that spent an entire legislative session focused on generating legislation to pass more regulations for the most regulated medical practice in the state and gave a pass to hearing legislation that would have helped children and tightened day care regulations.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch piece on home day care abuses did not reference an earlier piece on Cynthia Davis and her abortion focus…a piece published May 2, 2010…a piece that begins with the following…

“Not long ago it was common to find lines of people waiting to testify before the Missouri House Standing Committee on Children and Families.

"Speakers addressed subjects as diverse as child immunizations, day care quality, child abuse, foster care, safety hazards, adoption and abortion.”

And then went on to add…

“But advocates for children's issues and day care safety have quietly grumbled that under Davis' rule, a once vital committee charged with child and family issues has been so focused on abortion that it has avoided other important work.”

That May, Davis refused to hear "Sam Pratt's Law," a childcare safety bill named in honor of an infant who died at an unlicensed home day care provider. The Post then sparked a discussion about legislation that would help protect children if only conservative legislators care for the born as much as they fear women.

Fast-forward to now, and the Post has published this article about home day care neglect…covering the death of Tyler Brody as a result of neglect at a day care.

Tyler died in July of 2010...some 2 months after the 2010 legislative session ended.


The most dangerous place for legislation protecting children and families is in a legislative body that believes women are dangerous and our bodies in need of regulations, let everything else be damned.

The wrong priorities take their toll.

Not "if"...but "when".

Friday, October 07, 2011

A sistah is weary…

…of the assumption that people of color possess unlimited quantities of understanding and forgiveness.

I’m weary of the never ending circle of over the top insult followed by defensiveness followed by frustration with folk for being offended by offensive shit followed by apologies for “if anyone was insulted” that contain dismissive language about “intent” followed by calls for dialogue that assume people of color possess unlimited quantities of understanding and forgiveness.

Pause...sip coffee...continue.

I’m not eager to explain or teach or rant or school or listen to explanations about what people were trying to do when what they actually did landed them on the list of bigoted assaults on my soul.

I’m not excited about the prospect of engaging in dialogues that so often end up with folk expecting people of color to grant absolution and then "let it go".

I’m not inspired by public displays of prejudice, be they signs at rallies or inappropriate analogies or racist bake sales on college campuses or billboards calling upon black men to step up and dictate to sistahs ‘cause we obviously need to be led.

I’m tired of calls for inclusion from non-inclusive spaces populated by people who define inclusion as assimilation.

I’m weary…

…and I wish I had the talent to express just how much fucking work it takes to engage, over and over again, when my spirit screams in resistance and my soul calls out for self-protection.


Lawd, give me strength because I believe in social justice though I doubt, though I resent...

...even as I am weary.

***logs off and prepares to do the work it takes to engage again***

Thursday, October 06, 2011

On Shuttlesworth…

Shuttlesworth was a Civil Rights legend…one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

He wasn’t perfect.

He didn’t always get it right.

Shuttlesworth wasn’t patient or easy…he shaped with rough pressure rather than smooth grace.

Shuttlesworth was an activist’s activist…an organizer for social change who witnessed much of the change he organized for.

Not all of it.

The Prize is still on the horizon.

But Shuttlesworth’s fingerprints are all over many of the rights we take for granted today.

I’ve often thought that a person is lucky if they can touch one life; inspire one person to work against injustice in this world.

The work of Shuttlesworth inspired thousands if not millions…

…and the world is better because he once dwelled in it.

Let us march on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Thoughts on the exoneration of Amanda Knox…

My first thought upon hearing of the exoneration of Amanda Knox was of what Meredith Kercher’s family and friends must be going through.

For all the recent American news stories proclaiming a miscarriage of justice for Amanda Knox, it was a young woman named Meredith Kercher who fell victim to a murderer’s knife.

There can be little doubt that the trial of Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher was a mess.

There can be little doubt that no one, sans the murderer(s), will ever know definitively what happened the night Meredith Kercher was killed.

I’ve followed the trial, conviction, and now exoneration on appeal of Amanda Knox mostly because the coverage has been such an over the top example of sexism and sexual repression. Knox isn’t the only woman to face that shit, but if I had a dollar for every time some report on the case mentioned “she-devil” I’d be able to afford living abroad for a year to study Italian. The coverage and the behavior of the prosecution were disgusting.

Not that I think justice has now been done.

I’m uncomfortable with the fact that Knox initially tried to cast blame on her employer, a black man named Patrick Lumumba. Knox claims that police physically assaulted her and that she did not make those statements willingly. As with most of this case, the truth is elusive, but I'm not one to give the same police who messed up every angle of this case the benefit of the doubt. What I do know is that if I had a dollar for every time a black man was blamed for a crime and then later found to not have a damn thing to do with it I’d be able to afford to study abroad for a year in Italy.


With so much of this case left tainted and tangled in rumor, stereotype, and stigma what can we learn from this?

We can learn that convictions by juries, no matter where they take place, are not always accurate.

We can learn that the death penalty requires a certainty that legal cases rarely, if ever, provide. Knox did not face the death penalty in Italy and, now that she is heading home free, we would do well to note that there are Americans on death row with the same kind of flawed convictions…those folks have the misfortune of facing a legal system that errs on the side to the verdict, justice be damned. 

We need to acknowledge that, had Knox been convicted in America, the appeal would not have been the same...she would not have been able to retry the case here, only appeal on legal errors. So, if you cheer Amanda Knox being set free you should also mourn our own system where the things that led to her exoneration would have been barred from appeal.

We can learn that sensational bullshit, police brutality, and sexism benefit no one.

Meredith Kercher is dead.

The police have a case with more questions than answers.

Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are free after years of incarceration.

Rudy Guede, who was convicted of sexual assault and murder in the case and incriminated Knox and Sollecito in exchange for a reduced sentence, will go free in 16 years.

And justice?

***cue crickets***

Monday, October 03, 2011

Pondering public displays of ignorance by debate audiences…

Shall we?

I just read this piece on Talking Points Memo about the latest public display of ignorance at a Republican debate and it got me thinking about the benefit of live debates and the public behavior they often capture.

Used to be that debates captured shit like President Nixon sweating out his nerves or President Bush the 1st looking bored as hell and checking his watch.

But in recent years debates have become televised shows where a bunch of people wait for their chance to toss in a quotable zinger that they hope will give them an edge…and trust a bitch when I say that these people practice the zingers like a tennis player practices her serve.

The result is boring as hell if watched live and only sorta-interesting if consumed in sound bite form.

With one notable exception – the natural reactions from the audience.

Back in the day, GOP minions worked their asses off to make sure audiences were packed with loyalty oath screened folks who presented a positive frame for the party to showcase their candidates and eventual nominee.

Now…well, um…hmmm.

As Evan McMorris-Santoro points out in his TPM post, the GOP debates have turned into Home Training Fail case studies. GOP debate audiences have enthusiastically cheered the fact that Texas has executed 234 people while Rick Perry has been Governor and screamed their support of allowing a hypothetical uninsured cancer victim to rot and die.

And now we have GOP audience members booing a soldier currently serving in Iraq because he is gay and asked a question about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

My people call that disgraceful.

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

My first thought was that the GOP minions have lost their touch and that clearly they have not been screening audience members they way they used to.

But then I gave this outbreak of boorish GOP audience behavior some additional thought…and I cruised through some websites and blogs favored by those who adore tea, where I noted that contributor and comment-makers were thrilled by these outbursts…and it occurred to me that the GOP may be letting the audience send a message to the base that they don’t want their nominee sending lest she or he disgust the rest of the electorate.


Aretha Franklin is amazing…and the Peabody Opera House is too!

Happy Monday, y’all!

This past weekend I was thrilled to be able to attend the re-opening of the Peabody Opera House featuring the fantabulous Aretha Franklinin concert. The re-opening gala concert extravaganza was also a fundraiser for the John L. Trotter Multiple Sclerosis Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

St. Louisan Ellie Kemper of "The Office" guided guests through the presentations, speeches, and presentations about speeches.

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

Oh…um, yeah…Jay Leno was there too.

Confession – I’m not a Jay Leno fan and he touched a few nerves Saturday trying to be edgy, but for the most part he managed to be sorta-funny. 

Anyhoo, the Peabody Opera House is a beautiful building that had fallen on bad times like far too many buildings and homes in St. Louis city. After being abandoned for 20 years, investors pumped millions of dollars into an exhaustive rehab and the results are stunning – restored to its original 1934 glory, the Peabody Opera House was truly the star of the show Saturday.

Twas fitting that Aretha Franklin headlined the event. The fantabulous Ree Ree has had a tough year or two…plagued by health problems and a fiendish press eager to report about her health problems.

I don’t need to know Aretha Franklin’s personal business regarding her health to wish her well or to be thrilled to see her on stage looking gloriously happy and putting on a Queen of Soul clinic.


The Gumdrop Stage of Grief ...

So many of you have shared condolences and support after the death of my beloved brother Bill from COVID-19. I wish I could thank you indiv...