Monthly Archives: March 2012

Save the Teens


So y’all have probably noticed I didn’t post anything last week.  That’s because I’m tired.  The thing pressing on society from all sides the past couple of weeks is the murder of Treyvon Martin.  I’d already posted a couple of times about race and I didn’t want to do it anymore.  I’m tired of speaking for “all black people.” Tired of keeping up race relations.  Just plain tired.  But it seems that the world is tired of thinking about people as individuals and I’m compelled to come out of my hideyhole and speak.  Speak for Treyvon and for the children in my own neighborhood.

I propose to you the murder of Treyvon Martian was more than just a racial thing.  He was wearing a hoodie. The hoodie along with baggy pants, an oversized T-shirt and sneakers signals more to the observer than the color of the person wearing the clothes.  It says urban culture.  Now urban culture is often used as a code word for black people.  For black people who wear those things, listen to rap music, are loud, violent, uneducated, and disrespectful.  You might say, “Hey there Billie Jean.  Hold on now, wait a minute.  That’s not right.”  It isn’t right.  But it’s the truth.

This is how George Zimmerman, a latino, can have close loyal black friends and still call a stranger a “fucking coon.”  I have had friends look at me in the face and say that they don’t think of me as black.  Don’t think of me as black?  Now I’m not a dark chocolate but I’m definitely no creamed coffee beige either.  I am black.  That’s my racial identity.  For grown people to look at me and say I’m not black means that to them, being black does not mean the color of my skin but how I act, talk, and dress.  It’s true I’m not the least bit “urban.”  I was raised in the suburbs and ever since then have lived over 90% of my non-family life as the only black person in the room.  Sadly, I had to borrow the hoodie I wore for my twitter photo from my mother.  But I am black.  I’ve been called an Oreo, black on the outside white on the inside.  But I’m just black and for people not to see me this way because of the way I present myself is a problem.

Yesterday, I went to talk to sixth graders at my former junior high about screenwriting.  Stepping through those doors was like walking into an alien world from the one I remembered.  The kids looked older and taller than I expected but what really got me was all the color everywhere.  Black kids, brown kids,  Asian kids, white kids.  A mural sprawled across the wall stating the word Diversity in large letters.  Odder than that, the faces passing by it reflected the message.  It kinda freaked me out.  When I went there we had no more than four black kids in the school for the entire three years I went there.  There were also a few Hmong and about ten to twenty adopted Korean kids back then.  The halls were loud and as a 34 year old woman I felt incredibly out of place.  I gave myself a pep talk.  I was prepared, I could do this.

The classroom was smaller and the children were wilder than I remembered.  As the kids entered they immediately started climbing the walls, literally.  The tiny ledge used for dry erase markers became a balance beam. Tables and chairs became launch pads or elevated runways.  The teacher said nothing but the class had not begun yet.  I was shocked, but if they wanted to excise their inner Olympic acrobat before the bell rang who was I to judge.  Then the bell rang.

Most of the kids sat down, some on top of the table which I didn’t approve of but it wasn’t my class.  The others continued to roam around the room and in and out of the door.  I waited for the teacher to say something to these kids but she didn’t.  She just told me to start.  I did, thinking that once they knew something was going on they’d pay attention.  In less than a minute, the roamers recruited half the sitters into their pursuits of mayhem.  Still nothing was said.  And that’s when I noticed.  The only ones sitting down were white and Asian kids.  I kept talking even though my heart started to sink.  What I can only assume to be the disciplinarian of the school came in and took some kids for a talk about things that happened earlier that day.  I know this because he was not quiet about it.  The way he opened the door without knocking, did not excuse himself for the interruption, or adjust his volume to accommodate my presentation was startling.  After the kids he borrowed returned to resume their antics, I broke when one of  the girls stood in the open door and proceeded to shout down the hallway.  “HEY! YO!”  She turns around, “Did you just say ‘Hey yo?'” “Yes, I did.” She sat down taking a handout.  Before my next sentence was completed her friends start talking to her and she’s up and running again.  It killed me.  The discipline guy comes back and takes five of the girls out.  Then one kid opens the window and climbs out of it to run around the parking lot.  Still the only response from the teacher was to close the window.

The black Mama in me was ready to fight.  To get in all their faces and physically sit their black asses down.  But I’m not their Mama, or their teacher.  So instead I told my story.  The one that I was not able to share until recently, especially with white people in the room.  How isolated I felt and how much pressure I shouldered to be the perfect example of a black person for the white race when I was in school.  I told them I didn’t want them to feel like they didn’t have to be anyone else for anybody else but that respect of all people was crucial.  The room was quiet as I spoke.  The quietest it had been the whole time.  Then one of the white girls raised her hand.  “I don’t like that you said that because I am a person of color too.  Just a different color.”  I wanted to tell her that my story was not for her and her neediness to be included in everything, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so instead I told her that yes, she did have color.  A kind of pink.  She smiled as did the rest of the white kids and with that I lost the black kids again and the noise and the climbing started again.  The last few minutes of class was free time.  One of the white girls started walking on the table and she was told to get down (which she did after being told a third time.)  By the end of class I was angry and wounded.  I asked the teacher what had happened in there.  She basically told me that the trouble makers were going to be moved to a single classroom environment at a different facility next year.  I wanted to scream.  All these black kids were going to be segregated because people had given up on them.  Had decided they were not worth the trouble of teaching or even telling to sit down and shut up.  Is that what we do now, give up on people who seem to be troublemakers?  Are they just bugs to be shooed out of the house or exterminated because they might infect the people who wear jeans and T-shirts that fit?

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.  But I’m going back to that school.  Children should be fought for at all times in all circumstances.   They deserve us to have hope for them even when they don’t have hope for themselves.  Pray for me.  I’m gonna need it.

Good Twittimes

Circle of Life

Circle of Life (Photo credit: ChimPo)

That’s right.  I had nothing for the title.  Maybe because this week, I only want to tell you how grateful I am.

I started this blog at the same time I started twitter.  I’ve been amazed at what a beautiful thriving community of screenwriters it has.  So many things it took me years and money to learn, laid out to the world for free.

Recently, I decided to volunteer to read a writer’s script who was asking for help on #scriptchat, a weekly twitter talk about screenwriting.  The whole two hours I trudged through writing comments on his script,  I was thinking how much of a waste of time this was.  He would be like so many other writers whom no one can tell anything.  This man asked for brutal honesty and I gave it to him.  It really sucked.  What astounded me was how well he received the feedback.  I got lucky, (<– St. Patrick’s Day reference) he listened, he asked questions, and he thanked me.  It was wonderful.

He didn’t know it but he opened my heart to reading more scripts for people.  And a lot of the screenwriters on twitter don’t know it, but they teach me how to be a better writer every day.   Which then makes me a better help to those whose scripts I read.  It’s The Circle of Life!  Humma ba ba, heh, a humma ba ba.

They say everyone can learn from their mistakes but the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.  Keep sharing your mistakes and your knowledge.  It’s a beautiful thing to help others be wise.

It’s Either an Island or a Dairy Queen Special



KONY 2012

Those phrases started popping up all over my computer earlier this week.  My twitter and Facebook feeds were inundated with pleas that I didn’t understand.  Who the hell is Kony and what the [toe jam] did I care?  At first, I thought it was a joke. Some republican made up by Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert to challenge Mitt Romney for the nomination.  Then suddenly, it got real.

I clicked on a tweet that led to this video.

Pretty powerful stuff.  All that video needed was a puppy in a pound and it would have officially pulled on every available heart string I had.  I was in.  I retweeted the video and thought about giving my time to the cause (no donation because I didn’t want to wear one of those lame bracelets.)  Then, the opposition started pouring in.  Articles questioning the validity of the cause, here, and the organization running it, here.  The article bashing Invisible Children, the organization behind the video, was promptly responded to in this statement.  But the question of will arresting Kony change anything still hangs in the air.

When I was in junior high, in 1989, experiencing a mild version of integration backlash, I wondered why the civil rights movement stopped after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  Why couldn’t this structure of people built over a decade carry on without one person?  My question was answered in 2002 when Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash in Minnesota.  Every weekend, I had campaigned with Paul.  Going to rallies, making phone calls, and door knocking.  I even appeared with him in one of his commercials.  The Wellstone movement was going to change things.  Then the plane crashed.  During the ensuing fallout, I realized how important a leader is.  The bubble of hope and possibility we were in burst.  It was like everyone was suffocating on what could have been and what we refused to be without him.  So yes, taking out the head of a movement can destroy an infrastructure from the inside out.

Is it the same with armies where everyone has power in the shape of a gun?  Is Joseph Kony still the figurehead he used to be? How many other Kony like figures will we have to take down before all the people in the world feel safe?  I don’t know the answers to any of those questions but I do know we have to try.

I haven’t been a part of any campaign or worked for any political party since a month after that plane crashed.  Maybe, just maybe, if those who support warlords saw them disabled one by one they would start to back other causes.  Maybe those looking to take their place will find a safer, less destructive way to build power.  And maybe, in a generation, no one will have to secretly fight institutionalized oppression because the fight will be all of ours.

Stop Pooping in my Stall!


Warning:  The following post contains startling information such as women poop.  So for those men who would rather not know that, Too Bad.  Chicks poop.

Today, I am coming out of the proverbial handicap bathroom as a disabled person.  This is hard for me.  Harder than talking about religion or politics.  This is a mental root canal.

Shortly after I moved back home to help my mother with the care of my grandma, I got violently sick.  It was Christmas Day and I was basking in my thoughts of double time and a half at work when I suddenly threw up all over my keyboard while talking to a customer on the phone.  I went to the bathroom as quickly as I could (No, this isn’t the pooping part.) and ended up spending  the rest of my work day sitting on the bathroom floor.  Just an observation, no matter how you get on the floor of a public bathroom the day will just go down hill from there.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the end of my remission.  When I was sixteen I was diagnosed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.  Both are auto immune forms of arthritis.  Which means my immune system attacks my body and could kill me if not treated and controlled.  You probably noted that it was serious business when I said remission, a word that is usually used for other such fun things like cancer.

So, I am now one of THOSE people.  One that the politicians fight over, a drain on the system. In the three years it took before the government approved my Social Security Disability payments and Medicare, I was a woman in my thirties living off my mother.  We were stretched to the limit since she had been laid off and only had her retirement.  I swallowed the elephant pill of my pride and applied for food stamps.  Getting that EBT card was incredibly freeing even though every time I used it I tried to hide what it was from the cashier.  I’d feel guilty if I paid money for entertainment.  I was afraid that if anyone saw me out having a good time they would think I was OK when I knew I was not.

I upgraded the walker, which I relied on sometimes, from a metal and tennis ball number to one with wheels and a seat.  My therapist directed me to get out of my house for something than doctors appointments.  So I went out to restaurants and ate.  Without the ability to exercise and limited funds for healthy foods, I gained eighty pounds.  I didn’t recognize my life.

About a year ago, I decided I needed to stop trying to regain the life I led and make a new one for myself from the salvaged bits of my previous life.  I started writing screenplays again.  I went back to LA to pitch my scripts while sitting in my walker and kept writing.  I explained I can’t sit in a writers room all day due to my condition and I kept writing.

I write in my Panera office a lot but I have one major problem with it.  When I go into the bathroom, there is always a woman in the handicap stall.  I sit in my walker outside of it looking at the two empty regular stalls wishing I could use those.  Eventually, the toilet will flush and she will come out, sometimes with a mumbled apology.  I shuffle in leaning on my walker and get hit in the nose with the fragrance of post poo.  It makes me grumpy.  Why they gotta poop in the only stall I can use!?  I can poop in it ’cause I don’t have a choice, but not you.  One time I came out of the stall to see a woman in a wheelchair waiting.  She was shocked the woman blocking her from her stall actually needed it.  I knew exactly where she was coming from.

For those of you asking did she just write this painful and entirely too personal blog to tell people not to poop in the handicap stall.  Yes, I dd.

If you need more to take away then that, I give you the following advise.  If you see a sixteen year old suddenly collapse one day saying he’s in so much pain he can’t get up.  Give him the benefit of the doubt by helping him instead of watching as he claws his way along the floor.

That’s it.