A Letter From a South Side Apartment

A couple of years ago, I read Dr. Martin Luther King’s A Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was mesmerized by the passion and anger in his words and although we are in the second decade of the 21st century, his words still resonate. This letter I am writing is my tribute to him for giving his life for me and other disadvantaged and disrespected groups in America. It would sadden him to no end that nothing has really changed in American society in regards to race and economics. Perhaps one day, we will be truly free from the chains of racism and economic selfishness that enveloped America since its inception.

28 March 2012

My Dear Mr. Gingrich & Other Republican Presidential Candidates who believe that the Poor Blacks are the Scum of the Universe:

While confined in my lower class existence, I cannot help but think about the words you put into the universe about Black people who receive unemployment compensation, food stamps and other government benefits, people whose lives have been touched by the mean specter of poverty. Since I am very stressed out about receiving $318 per month in public assistance, I normally would not have time to think about your condescending self-serving words since I am too busy trying to find a job in a dying economy but I had to speak to you about this. The current discourse on the lives of poor Blacks in this country has been taken over by well-dressed, well-fed career politicians like yourself and I thought you needed some enlightenment.

First of all, no one wants to be poor. I know that you believe that little Black children spend their time discussing ways to be indigent and homeless by the time they are eighteen, but the children I know have big plans for their future. My ten-year-old daughter’s plans for the future change on a daily basis: One day she wants to be a fashion designer, the next a mad scientist who is going to take over the world. The one thing she has made clear is that she does not see motherhood in her future because in her words, “Being a mother takes too much work.”

I know that you like to believe that the children of poor Blacks are a drain on society but you are so wrong. I was a teenage mother at the age of sixteen and had two children by the age of twenty-one. According to statistics on teen mothers, by now my daughter should have had a slew of kids by different men and my son should have dropped out of high school and is currently imprisoned for numerous drug offenses. Not! My daughter graduated from college last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and my son is in college studying Communications. My children watched me work for various corporations who paid me very little money and proudly watched when I walked across the stage at the age of thirty-five to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with honors.

But I realize that you probably do not know too many Black people personally so when you chose to discuss them amongst your constituents, you like to use tired, worn-out stereotypes about them. According to you, Blacks have no work ethic and like taking baths in the piles of food stamps they receive on a monthly basis. Blacks have been in this country since 1619 and still have not made any progress, although White people have given them everything! What is wrong with these trifling Black people?

It is very easy for you and your kind to sprout these words, snugly enveloped in your cloak of White-male privilege but what you do not realize is that although Blacks were freed from the chains of slavery, they were never made equal, financially or mentally. Throughout the years, American society had every opportunity to make amends to African-Americans by giving them same economic advantages as Whites, but it never happened because that would mean Blacks would be on the same economic playing field as Whites and that is a no-no.

It is funny how you like to blame the media for everything wrong in your world but the media in all actuality is your best friend. The media, owned by the ruling class, has played a major role in distorting views about social economics by pretending the ruling class does not exist and poor Blacks are the dregs of society. The media with its ‘magic’ can make the historical legacy of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow laws vanish by pretending it is their fault that they are poor. By doing this, upper and middle-classed Americans learn to fear and loathe poor Blacks and refuse to make the connection between systematic racism and high poverty levels amongst African-Americans.

The dominant culture has succeeded in making African Americans subhuman to other groups, who passively accept these bigoted views. In your speeches and in the Republican debates, the message that you and others have given is to degenerate Black people at all costs and to keep poor working-class Whites in a constant tizzy about the so-called advantages given to them.

Mr. Gingrich, I feel sorry for you and wonder what you would do if Blacks did not exist in this country. Race and class was socially constructed for the advancement of Whites and the making up of a social class of poverty-stricken African-Americans who could be blamed for everything wrong in society. Take away the pretensions, the feelings of superiority that comes with having the “right” skin color and people like you in this society would be loss. No more scapegoats to blame and you would have to face up to the fact that you have no plans for making the economic system in America more equal. But it is easier to blame Blacks, who unlike your ancestors had no choice when they were brought to this country as chattel and broodmares to make the lives of the ruling class easier.

Sincerely,
Kathy M. Henry

A Mother’s Love From the Grave

In the days leading up to the anniversary of my mother’s death, I am usually filled with melancholy and dark dreary thoughts. But this year, I can smile a little bit because my mother reached out from beyond and assisted me with a problem I have been dealing with for several weeks.

I am currently enrolled in Welfare to Work, a program in which welfare recipients have to work for their monthly check and it has been frustrating to say the very least and I actually walked off from the job back in November. I knew the consequences of my actions but like the rebellious teen I used to be and who is still buried somewhere in my psyche, I said to myself, “Fuck it! I deal with that hand when it comes to me.”

So I have been waiting on pins and needles for the shit to hit the fan.  I know it was stupid as hell to walk off from the only income I was receiving but damn, I do have my dignity if I don’t have anything else. I imagined my meager benefits being sliced to less than nothing and begging Peter to pay Paul and all the apostles to put some money down on the large stack of bills that is constantly accumulating and squeeze out some more Christmas presents. My son, who is nineteen understands my financial situation and was not expecting too much but my little one is just a little girl of ten and although she said understood too, I knew that she did not and how could I break her heart? Christmas has turned totally materialistic but I get a kick out of seeing the joy on her face on Christmas morning, tearing into her presents, gleefully and greedily, remembering the child I used to be.

I had almost resigned myself to not receiving a check for the month of December when I received a call from my case manager from the program. She scolded me gently about walking off when I had no income and instead of tearing into my ass like a lot of case workers would have done, she told me to go back to the job site and to come see her when I got off work. When I jokingly asked her would I receive a check for this month, she replied “Would I do you like that and Christmas is coming?”

I almost broke down and cried over the phone but I held it together. However, when I got off, I cried like a baby and remembered that tomorrow was the anniversary of my mother’s death. Although my momma was not with me physically, she was still making shit happen for her little girl. I am not the most religious person and at times have wondered about the existence of God, the Devil and all religious dogma but I do know that I received a Christmas miracle from beyond the grave. Some of the more cynical and jaded might look at my story as mere coincidence but a mother’s love for her children can break all earthly boundaries and I know that my mother reached out for me.  I love you Ma.

Working for Pennies- The Harsh Realities of Being a Welfare Recipient

One of the biggest misconceptions in American culture is that welfare recipients are living large at the taxpayer’s expense, receiving thousands of dollars per month while driving Cadillacs and other expensive cars. This myth is so not true and how do I know? Because for the past two months, I have been on welfare and let me be the one to tell you: being on public assistance sucks.

August 3, 2011 will be a day in infamy I will never forget because it was on that date that I received my last unemployment check and officially became one of the 99ers, a term for unemployed people in the United States, who have exhausted all of their unemployment benefits, including all unemployment extensions. After applying for over two thousand jobs, I found myself in the position of having to apply for Public Aid or be faced with disconnection notices and phone calls from bill collectors who cannot speak English. If someone had asked me five years ago would I be in this position, back on welfare, I would have laughed because I went back to school and received a Bachelor’s degree and people who have degrees are supposed to be protected from economic turmoil. I graduated five years ago from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a 3.6 grade point average and I am proud of myself for that accomplishment. I know that some folks turn their noses up at people who pursue a liberal arts degree but I learned valuable critical thinking skills, how to analyze and solve problems in a creative manner, and most importantly about social stratification and inequality and I have no regrets. I also have over ten years of transferable experience in the administrative/clerical field and an ability to work with all types, fools and all. However, even with all those wonderful qualities, I cannot find a job to save my life.

When I made the decision to apply for welfare, I tried to keep positive about my situation. Millions of Americans are suffering from either being unemployed or underemployed so at least I was not alone in my troubles. But I cannot lie: Feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy run through my veins on a daily basis and a rage is building in me. A rage against a society that tells individuals that a college degree is the path to a economic prosperity, but does not disclose how centuries of social inequality have kept and will continue to keep the best and brightest out of the workforce. A rage against rich, clueless politicians who believe people that receive unemployment and welfare benefits are sitting on their butts swigging alcohol and smoking dope. A rage against myself for waiting so long to get my life together and having to deal with the consequences of perhaps being considered passé in the workforce.

I was a teenage mother who did not get my GED until I was twenty-six and my Bachelor’s degree until I was thirty-five. The entire time before both these changes took place, I was told by society that if I educated myself, I would get myself and my children out of poverty. Guess what? It did not work because I am back on welfare receiving $318 dollars per month. I did everything society told me to do and I am in the same position I was in nine years ago when I made the decision to attend college and that is a shame.

If I did not have children, there is no way in hell I would have applied for welfare. But when you are a mother, one has to make sacrifices, so I swallowed my pride and applied for cash benefits. By signing the Personal Responsibility contract in return for public assistance, a welfare recipient in essence signs her rights to being an adult away. Recipients must work for their cash and going to school is not an option.

Yes, welfare recipients must WORK for their cash benefits. I know that people believe in the myth of women laying up on welfare, eating bon-bons and spitting out a baby every year while collecting those fat government checks but that is a load of malarkey.

On August 22, 1996 in the Rose Garden of the White House, President William Jefferson Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, better known as welfare reform, dismantling the sixty-one year program of federally guaranteed cash assistance to needy families or what is known as welfare. Welfare recipients have five years to receive cash assistance and after that, it is a wrap. The debate surrounding welfare reform was dominated by white male politicians and journalists and focused predominately on minority women and their families living in poverty because minority women are the only ones in America who received Public Aid (sarcasm). Although President Clinton had the right idea, he and others did not take into account what would happen if the economy collapsed and finding a job would be the equivalency of hitting the lottery.

It burns my soul that I am back on the dole, working for $318 per month which is equal to $79.50 per week at six hours per day after everything I went through to better myself. If I refuse to go to any of the job sites my caseworker sends me to, I will be sanctioned, meaning that my monthly benefits will be cut in half to $159. So the next time, a hardworking tax payer complains about welfare recipients and how they are living good, eating lobster and shit, think about me, the college educated single mother who took care of her children, saw two of them graduate from high school, one from college, only to find herself and youngest child still poverty-stricken and broke as hell.

Also, if anyone knows of any job opportunities in the Chicagoland area, please let me know.

No Wedding No Womb Launches “Map Your Future” Campaign, Over 100 Writers Participate in Blog-a-thon, SPEECH Thomas Premieres New NWNW Single and Video

No Wedding No Womb Launches “Map Your Future” Campaign, Over 100 Writers Participate in Blog-a-thon, SPEECH Thomas Premieres New NWNW Single and Video

Living in a Garbage Can

For the past two years and two months, I have resided in a garbage can. The smells of old garbage, urine, and human funk permeate the air of my surroundings, and stray cats yowl in the middle of the night. The garbage can where I live actually has a name and it is Parkway Gardens Apartments, a federally subsidized low-income housing unit on the South Side of Chicago.

How did a college educated individual like me end up living in a garbage can? After getting laid-off in August of 2007 from my job as an administrative assistant, it seemed like the Furies of Greek mythology were after me. Other than temp work, I could not find a job, full or part-time, and I could not afford the rent at my previous residence. I decided to look on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website for subsidized housing.

This is my second stint in subsidized housing. The first stint was from 2002 to 2007. During that time, I went to college, received a Bachelor’s degree and maintained a 3.6 average, obtained a full-time job and my eldest daughter graduated from high school with a 4.2 grade point average, and then I moved. While receiving help from the government, a multitude of men did not live with me, nor did I have any more children, the stereotypical things that those poor, trifling black single mothers who receive government assistance are supposed to do. There is a concept amongst the common consensus that low-income housing is not supposed to be permanent, but rather a stepping stone to a better life and that is true. However, I did exactly what society told me to do (bettered myself and my children) and I almost ended up homeless. I was faced with the choice of residing in a shelter or Parkway Gardens, and I chose Parkway.

I have resided in some real flophouses during my lifetime but Parkway Gardens takes the cake. As a native South Sider, I have known about Parkway Gardens my entire life, but one has to live here to understand the madness that is Parkway. The stuff that goes on in Parkway is unbelievable considering that it is right down the street from the University of Chicago. Drug dealing, gang-banging, whoring; everything goes in Parkway Gardens! The filth is insidious and pervasive, the kind that follows you because no matter how hard you clean your apartment, the smell is there. At least it is to me. My son says that our apartment is fine but I am so paranoid, it is ridiculous.

But this story is not about me, but about how HUD is the biggest slumlord in the United States. There is no accountability for the owners of the properties that HUD gives monies to for rent payments. These owners are receiving millions of dollars from the government but put very little of said money into the general maintenance of the properties, leaving people to live in abject squalor at the taxpayers’ expense.

I have called the multihousing unit hotline number that HUD has on its website several times to complain, but I was told that HUD has nothing to do with the upkeep; all they do is pay the rent. It is up to the owners and property management to take care of everything. I just want to know what stupid individual came up with the idea to take accountability from HUD and give it to the property owners who just want to make a buck.

The Tea Partiers and the Republicans are constantly carrying on about government waste and trying to slash Medicare and Medicaid, but they need to look into the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development because millions of dollars are going to waste. And by the way, Parkway Gardens Apartments has been sold to a real estate in New York for forty million dollars. Yes, forty million dollars for a 694 unit garbage can that houses over one thousand families. It is also rumored that Parkway makes over eight million dollars a year from rental subsidies all thanks to the largesse of HUD. Rather than looking for ways to cut and divert our attention to systems and programs that, while not always perfect, provide a benefit for the public good and well-being, politicians should actually take a closer examination at programs and systems (e.g. HUD) that need to either be amended or gentrified or the management carved and served in time for Thanksgiving.

If I was White, Female and Privileged for One Day

First of all, before I write this essay, I would like to state that I love being a black woman.  I love the beautiful brownness of my skin, my hair which is a crown that has anointed me Queen of my universe, my full lips, slanted eyes, and the strength of my ancestors who have dealt with much adversity during their journeys here in America and whose blood flow proudly in my veins.  But I have to admit, I wonder what it would be like to be a white female just for a day to see what it would to be like to be considered Aphrodite rising from the sea because at times, it is hard being a black women in a society that is sexist and has placed women who look like me on the bottom rung of every ladder in American society from economics to beauty.

White privilege is a critical race theory I came across in college during an African American history class.  I had to read an article entitled, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh and it opened my mind to some concepts I had never thought about before.  According to this article, white privilege can be defined as unearned advantages enjoyed by white people beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, and economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.) just because they are white.

White privilege is a topic most whites do not want to talk about because in admitting they are privileged because of their skin color would mean admitting that racism still exists and is not a figment of black folks’ imaginations but I digress.  It must be nice living in a world where almost every image of your kind is thought to be good and pure and I would like some of that privilege just for one day.

Just for once, it would be nice to go on a job interview and not have to worry about the texture of my hair and wonder if the person I am interviewing with has a problem with afros, two-strand twists, or any other “black ethnic” hairstyle I might be wearing that day.  If I was a white woman, I could toss my silky, long hair around with no problems.

Just for once, it would be nice not to be labeled an angry, bitter, black female who is filled with hatred just because I happen to have an opinion different from the black man that I am debating with.  If I was white woman, I could be as argumentative as I want and be told that I am merely feisty.  Black men would swim through a river of snot for me and tell me that black women are just too combative to be considered “wifey” material and that is why 40% of African American women remain unmarried.  As a white woman, I would be able to date freely and not be told by my peers to lower my expectations or else die a lonely and miserable spinster with five kids with five different fathers.

Just for once, it would be nice to see someone who looks like me on a regular basis on the covers of high fashion magazines and playing the role of the leading lady in movies and television shows. As a black woman, I am constantly scolded by the media and some of my people for being too dark, too nappy, and too fat and that I will never be placed on that anointed pedestal as the standard of beauty and loveliness for American society.  If I was a white woman, this problem would be null and void because I would be considered the crème de la crème.

But alas, I am a black woman and that is nothing to shirk at.  The strength and tenacity of black women who can make something literally out of nothing is something to be admired than scorned and I am proud to be one.  I actually feel sorry for white women sitting upon that fabled pedestal because it is a lonely tour of duty filled with unrealistic and shallow expectations and most fall swiftly and hard from that same pedestal.  Better to be me with all my flaws, real and imagined than to be the poster child of impossible beauty. But I can keep it real; sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a white woman. In my world, black women are called everything but a child of God and for once, it would be nice to be the anointed one.

Being Without a Label in American Society

For many years, I considered myself to be a liberal and a democrat because for the most part, I agree with the platforms of both groups. However, several incidents have led me to disown my affiliations with both parties. I cannot be a part of organizations whose views are diametrically opposed to mine.

First the liberals: One of my favorite websites is Huffington Post. I came across Huffington Post in 2005 right after Hurricane Katrina and became big fan of Arianna Huffington. I wish she could run for President because she is one of the smartest, most articulate individuals I have run across while surfing the Internet but alas, she cannot because she not a natural born American citizen. I really used to enjoy the commentary on Huffington but now there is so much arguing and nitpicking, it has become depressing and tedious.

I was truly disgusted when Roman Polanski was finally arrested (but let go) for his rape and drugging of a 13-year-old girl and thousands of commentators on this website defended this piece of shit on this asinine basis: he was an Oscar winning artist, the crime was over thirty years ago, his victim has moved on with her life, and you know how these young girls are.

As a mother of daughters, any man who drugs and sodomizes a little girl deserves to be castrated, horsewhipped buck naked, and salt should be rubbed in his wounds. I do not give a fuck about his movies and the joy he has brought to thousands of movie lovers around the world: Roman Polanski is a pedophile and should be treated accordingly. I lost all respect for Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar winning actress and social activist, and mother to a daughter and granddaughters when she stated what Mr. Polanski did was not considered “rape, rape”. Some of these same liberals will get upset when conservatives attack liberals for being morally bankrupt, not understanding defending a child molester is morally bankrupt.

I was also disgusted with liberals when several white liberals blamed blacks for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Although blacks are clearly the minority in California, some white liberals jumped on blacks in Cali like they stole their last pair of draws. These individuals were angry because since they voted in masses for Barrack Obama, blacks were supposed to vote against Proposition 8, not understanding that blacks are basically conservative when it comes to religion and are extremely homophobic. The racist rhetoric that was spewed by whites on several liberal websites was astounding. It let me know that although some whites claim to be liberal, they will toss minorities to the wolves when they do not vote the way they want them to.

Now the Democrats: How can I respect a political party that has the majority but cannot get a bill passed? Republicans are trifling as hell but they have balls. Democrats have no balls and they do not care about their constituents at all. They need us when it is time to vote but after the election, we are tossed to wolves.

In America, a person has to have some type of label in order to be accepted by mainstream society. I have decided to say fuck mainstream society. I refuse to be labeled any longer. Dumbocrats, Libertards, Republikkkans. All this name calling is silly as hell and while people sit around and argue over ideology, the rich is fucking the American public up the ass with no grease.

The Racist Next Door

When most people think of racists, images of angry white men in white robes and hoods burning crosses in the yards of terrified blacks come to mind. However, since the advent of the Internet, a racist might actually be in the cubicle next to you at work or happen to be the person that will interview you for a job and that is a really scary thought.

Since the election of the first black President of the United States, racist rhetoric about minorities, particularly blacks posted online has risen to all time levels according to my own polling results. Anytime there is an article about crimes committed by black people posted on various websites such as the Suntimes.com or Yahoo, angry whites filled with fear and loathing spew all types of stereotypical nonsense. To be perfectly honest, any articles posted online about blacks bring out all the crazies. However, when a crime is committed by whites in a predominantly white area, one can almost hear the crickets chirping. Hell, it can be a positive story about minorities and some fool will write something ignorant in order to make their miserable lives better

Hispanics and Muslims have taken a beating online also. According to the unenlightened masses online, illegal Mexican immigrants are taking over America and Muslims cannot wait to bomb America to hell. Anybody other than white and Christian is suspect and will be tossed to the lions.

Most of this racist rhetoric is based on fear. According to statistics, whites are going to be the minority in this country by 2050, so some whites are running around like foxes in the henhouse, worried about keeping their notions of white superiority intact.

What these individuals do not understand is that they have nothing to fear. Institutionalized racism and notions of white superiority are deeply ingrained in American society and regardless of if whites do become the minority, nothing is going to change. In inner-cities throughout America, black youth are killing and shooting each daily and they are not concerned about white people. I cannot speak for other minorities but I would bet my last dollar that other minorities are not concerned about harming whites either.

What I fear most is in today’s economic turndown, some of the best and brightest are going to be locked out of the job market due to their ethnicity and someone else’s insecurity about changing demographics. It is hard enough trying to find a job without worrying about the color of your skin.