Jenny Joseph wrote, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.” Her poem explains many of the things an old woman should/can do. Others have written similar challenges to women as they age. But none answers the question I want answered: when am I an old woman? I hated my thirtieth birthday – felt like an old woman, and I’m of the generation that could never trust anyone over thirty. Forty wasn’t bad – I still had hopes of many-miled backpacks and some rock climbing. At fifty I could out walk, out carry and out climb all my friends but one. Thank God I had someone to walk, carry and climb with. Ah ha, then came sixty and a hip replacement. I’d hit a wall. Two years to recover – or not – passed by. Now I have a decision to make and I’m wondering which me I should make it from: the pre-sixty mountaineer or the post-sixty old woman.
On April 18, 2010, the banner “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” welcomed the audience to a performance at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia. Written by James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Ev’ry Voice” is considered the African-American national anthem, and Mr. Johnson would have enjoyed the evening’s celebration of life. The program was a choir concert fund-raiser put on by the ATTF or the African- American Teaching Fellows whose mission is, “To recruit, support, develop and retain a cadre of African-American teachers to serve the schools of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.” (http://www.aateachingfellows.org/)
“I thought all white women woke up with their hair perfect in the morning,” my black friend responded to my praises for Pantene Root Lifter. I thought it was a joke, but she was serious. I’ve been hanging out with her family for over forty years and I was stunned by her comment, having struggled with thin, lifeless hair until I discovered permanents in my forties. The point is that we didn’t know each other nearly as well as I thought we did. I’d slept in her bed, eaten at her table and showered in her bathroom and she still thought my hair was perfect in the morning! What we had was a misunderstanding between thinking we knew one another and knowing one another.
We watched Chef Mario Batali on Jon Stewart a couple of nights ago. He said something I thought important: “Generally cooks that yell at other cooks or chefs that yell […]
“Do you want your children to live the same life you have lived?” This was the final question we asked when we were encouraging black Americans to vote in 1965. […]
“This is Dan Poynter calling from South Africa.” That’s how my first virtual Nonfiction Writers Conference began. It is incomprehensible to me that I can be sitting in my kitchen […]
It wasn’t my intention to spend several blogs on the idea of community. I got carried away because I’m passionate about how empowered nurturing, support, and teamwork make me feel. So, how do we create community. I’ve borrowed an idea from my friend Eleanor Wolf who thinks we all need the three As: acceptance, attention and appreciation. These three concepts are sure community starters.
I did not know then that I was preparing myself for my own personal crusade against racism, prejudice and hatred. By the time I was a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, I’d backslid quite a bit, but I knew God called me to fight for black Americans’ right to vote. So I entered the Civil Rights Movement by joining Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1965. This conversion was easy. Just as at church, the songs we sang were mantras to the world we desired. In fact, many songs like “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” were spirituals. As with my family and the church there were rules about appropriate behavior. These new rules were designed to keep us alive as we walked the dirt roads of Pineville, South Carolina, encouraging those who picked cotton, grew tobacco and harvested corn to register to vote and be part of the American Dream. In the trenches, fighting a battle against bigotry, we were shot at and beaten, our church and a grammar school were set ablaze, and we lived with a siege mentality. The young white men and woman from California who had volunteered with me and the young and old black men and women of Pineville who supported us, braved the retribution of the Ku Klux Klan and a southern power structure that supported it. When we closed our meetings with our arms crossed holding the hands of the folks on either side to sing “We Shall Overcome” it was a statement of our dedication and a prayer for our survival. Many of the people I knew and worked with that summer are lifelong friends because we endured terror and were committed to changing a nation together.
I’m good at delayed gratification, how about you? If there’s something I want, I can wait for it – if that waiting is necessary. However, I have one craving that, if unsatisfied, leaves me as edgy as a fly wound up in a spider web.