Living in the inner-city will take the joy out of your life if you let it. Who wouldn’t be depressed about being surrounded by ignorant male youth lounging aimlessly on the corners bragging about the women they used to have, foul-mouthed, uncouth young women fighting over unemployed men, and older folks so beaten down by life that they spend their remaining days drinking their lives away, and no job opportunities? Everyday I see desolation, grit and grime but I still manage to see beauty in my surroundings. The beauty of seeing a grandmother who takes her great-grandchildren to school at time when she should be chilling out somewhere in Florida but like the good solider she is, knows her duty. The beauty of working mothers taking their daughters to work with them during summer vacations, reminding me of the times I went to work with my mother. The beauty of the innocent faces of children, alight with the wonder and joy of being young and carefree. The sadness I feel knowing in a few years, some of these children’s faces will have hardened into hate and apathy.
Urban decay is abundant in my neighborhood and several other communities throughout America. Vacant lots filled with trash and foreclosed, boarded-up properties are on every corner and you have to travel thirty blocks to find decent food to cook for your family unless you decide to settle for food markets in the area that will sell you rotted vegetables and fruit with no problem because no one cares. Not the politicians who gloss over the plight of the poor people in this country and blame them for their unsavory lifestyles. Not the so-called middle-class, who are so afraid of being lumped with the poor that they have turned their backs on them and have taken on the beliefs of the oppressors instead of aiding them, not understanding that everyone in this country is one paycheck away from being in the welfare or unemployment office unless you are of the one percent that owns everything in America.
This is my reality of living in the inner-city. Although I am surrounded by some of the bleakest parts of human nature, I know that there is beauty in my world and refused to believe otherwise. American society has all but written off the plight of the poor but we are here and we are not going anywhere. We are not nameless, faceless statistics. We have the same dreams and aspirations that everyone has in this country: a chance to be a part of the American Dream where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and make a positive contribution to society. A chance to be somebody. Is that asking too much?
In America, some still have difficulty facing up to the truth about our history. We brag to other countries about our glorious past, but when it comes to our dirty little American secrets, we tell those whose ancestors have suffered to “Get over it.” I do believe that America is still the best country in the world, but we must deal with our past, all of it, and teach it in school in total (confess, repent, teach, then and only then move forward). Unfortunately, our country refuse to do so, thus continuing a never ending circle of ignorance.
As I sit here contemplating my broke-ass life, I keep going back to the things I learned in college. I am currently out of work (almost two years), graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and a 3.8 grade point average, several years of administrative/clerical experience, and an ability to work with all types, assholes and all. However, even with all those wonderful qualities, I cannot find a job to save my life but others with less education and funky attitudes have lost their jobs and found new ones. Feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy run through my veins on a daily basis and a rage is building. A rage against a society that tells individuals that a college degree is the path to a better life, but does not disclose how centuries of stratification, racism, ageism, and gender bias have kept and will continue to keep the best and brightest out of the workforce. A rage against myself for waiting so long to get my shit together and therefore, having to deal with the consequences of being considered passé in the workforce.
I have two children graduating next year, one from high school, one from college, and I do not have a job! I walk a tightrope of insanity every day and I feel as though some people are laughing at me because I went to college at the age of thirty-one, earned a degree, but cannot find employment. I am from the ‘hood and being college educated is looked upon as less than nothing in ghetto. People told me I was too old to be going back to school, but I did not give a fuck. I wanted to be an educated woman who can converse almost on any subject with wit and objectivity. However, sometimes, I think they may have been right.
The devil has been whipping my ass as of late and has been telling me that I was fool to go to college. I am talented with some curlers and have the skills to become a licensed cosmetologist but I wanted a college degree. I love to read, think, and debate about life but it is hard to find jobs in those categories. What happens to people like me? I am not math and science oriented so majoring in business administration or engineering would have been a waste of time. I took an introduction to sociology class and was hooked from day one. Sociology explained so much to me and made me want to make a difference in the world. I have to live in this crazy shit: why not help out?
I guess I am just a broke-ass, frustrated intellectual trying to find her way in world where mediocrity is rewarded abundantly. But, fuck the devil! Martin Luther King and W.E.B Du Bois are two of the greatest figures in African-American history and they both majored in sociology, and had to deal with more obstacles than I will ever. Hopefully, some day soon, my time to shine will come. Until then, I will continue to take care of my children and pray.
Most people in our society are desperately unhappy with the state of their lives. How do I know? By reading the comments of individuals who comment on various blogs. The commentators are vicious, cruel, judgmental, and plain old mean. The media is no help with their biased views and its ability to sell their brand of morality to billions.
Michael Jackson died and the media and some individuals are dragging his life through the mud. Their justification is that Michael led a unconventional lifestyle, which, according to them included, sexual molestation, his skin color, plastic surgeries, the race of his children, etc., etc. I thought Anna Nicole had it bad. Even in death, he cannot get the peace that he had been so obviously seeking. Why do individuals get a thrill out of desecrating the dead?
But that doesn’t answer the question. Why are so people so unhappy in American society? How can unhappiness be allowed in a country whose very principals is based on the pursuit of Happiness? How can a country whose very premise is based on happiness have more than forty-four million illiterate and barely literate people? Ignorance is not bliss and someone who cannot read and comprehend cannot be truly happy.
“We have made up a God in our image. Because we are angry and judgmental, we have projected those characteristics onto Him. But God remains who He is and always will be: He is the energy, the thought of unconditional love. He cannot think with anger or judgment. He is mercy and compassion and total acceptance.”
Two days ago, I was minding my business, stressed as usual from not having a job when my eldest daughter called me and announced that she would be dropping out of college after the spring semester ended. Her reasons? She was tired of school and an an education does not mean shit. She also stated that having a degree does not guarantee automatic job placement and I had a degree but no job. Those words cut me to the core for many reasons. Number one: she saw me struggle against all odds to get a degree while raising three children while receiving welfare and never once did I consider dropping out. Number two: after everything African Americans have gone through to hear a young black talk so stupidly and carelessly about an education not meaning anything sickened me. My children have been surrounded by books from the time they were born because I am an avid reader and made sure to buy them books. Number three: she’s twenty-one, no children and endless opportunities. Why not go to school and finish? Thank goodness she’s come to her senses and is now contemplating graduate school. But there are a lot of young adults with that same gutter mentality and something needs to be done about it.
The last two years of my life has been particularly difficult. I lost my mother to diabetes complications and although I have tried to pretend that everything is okay, it’s not. I will never get over the fact that I will never see my mother again. Her death was my greatest childhood nightmare and it came true on December 6, 2006 at 4:45pm. I was on my way to the hospital from work to visit her when I received a call on my cell, informing me that my mother had expired. Such a cold, clinical way to tell someone that their mother was dead. I remember silently crying on the bus and people staring at me as if I was some crazed individual. I wanted to scream, “My mama is dead, dead, dead!” but of course I didn’t. As usual I kept my pain and my thoughts to myself. I got off the bus and slowly walked across the street on route to the hospital. It was cold, dreary and snow was everywhere and my mother was dead. I remember calling the father of my children, telling him that my mama was dead. I remember calling my eldest daughter and telling her that her granny was dead, the lady who helped raised her. I remember walking into the lobby of Michael Reese Hospital and the nice security guard telling me to sign in. I remember getting into the elevator on route to the tenth floor and getting off. I remember the blank looks on the faces of the nurses on her floor. I remember walking into her room and seeing her laying on the bed with her eyes closed and her mouth open, just like she was asleep, just like she always slept. But she wasn’t sleep, she was dead, dead, dead. I remember touching her and noticing that she was still warm. I remember leaving the room and speaking with physician and passively listening to her explanation for my mother’s death and asking for a place to still down and think. I remember calling my boss to inform her that my mother was dead and did not know when I would be returning. I remember calling various family members and friends to talk and cry and putting the phone down. Memories of my childhood come back to me. Of going to work with her during the summer when I was off from school. Shopping on State Street with her for school clothes, Easter clothes, books, and toys. Meeting her at the bus stop when she got off work. Of going to the Clock with her, a neighborhood juke joint on some Saturday afternoons and drinking orange juice while she had a cold Millers. Memories of her when I was in the hospital having my eldest child and my mother screaming at doctors, telling them that I was in pain. Of sitting beside her listening to stories of ghosts and hants that her mother had told her when she was a little girl. Remembering how hard she worked as a single, poor mother making sure that I never missed a school trip or a function. Of the time when she was in the hospital with the same disease that took her away two weeks before Christmas back in 1978 and how she made Christmas happen for a little girl who so afraid and marvel at her strength. Hoping that I become one-tenth the woman she was. Rest in peace Ms. Gertrude Allen Henry. Although I will never get over you, I will always have my memories.