That was around the time Jesse asked me, “What else can white people do for black people, so that black people will finally say: ‘ok you’re not racist, you love me, you’ve given us allllll that we’ve wanted, and we appreciate it, so now we’re going to take control of our own lives’? Is there anything else that white people can do to satisfy black people?”
Like many cities in the US, San Francisco is experiencing a wave of gentrification that is welcomed by some residents and the subject of much derision for others. Often central to the debate is the Mission District, an eclectic enclave whose formerly large working- and middle-class Latino population moves further south as the gentrifiers roll in by the dozens: well-paid, largely young, white, male, and employed by tech companies. Their presence brings higher rents, priced-out renters, long waits and lines at a growing number of trendy restaurants and cafes, and a fear of cultural and historical erasure.
In the past 6 months I’ve received various inquiries into the state of my womb, specifically about the fact that it’s empty.
When visiting my mom* on the East Coast recently, I reconnected with an aunt whom I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I warmed to her immediately; her personality fills a room.
[*I have two moms through a remarriage (dad’s) – one on the East Coast, one in Texas (with dad).]
After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, my aunt said,
“Keisha, you don’t want no husband or children?” It didn’t seem so much a question, but more of a statement of fact. The implication being that if I hadn’t done it by now, I’m not going to.
Years ago, I volunteered on the entertainment sub-committee for my job’s annual summer party. One of my tasks involved coming up with giveaway prize ideas: a few high-value “grand” prizes, and enough door prizes so that almost everyone left a winner.
Before purchasing the prizes, my committee shared our ideas with the larger planning group. The list included gift cards from Target as a few of the door prizes.
One of the alcohol sub-committee members wrinkled her face at the mention of Target.
I met a guy at summer camp during the break between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. His name – I won’t tell you – but, I’ll say that he’s named after an American city. Ok, fine, let’s call him Trenton, just because. I even remember his last name, which isn’t a common one. I couldn’t tell you the name of my first grade teacher, but I remember his name.
The server threw me a questioning look as he observed my half-full plate.
“Was everything okay with your meal, miss?”
“Yes, it’s fine. I’ll just take a box please.”
“Oh, you can eat more than that! You barely touched it!”
I glanced down at my plate, then my stomach. I’d stuffed all that would fit in the compartment.
“Hahaha, no really you can take it,” I said, pushing the plate further away from me.
Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
The beauty shop has never been a place of relaxation or pleasure for me. I associate it with chemical smells, scalp burn, lots of time spent waiting around, listening to catty gossip about the lives of strangers, and hours of sitting in the same chair forced to make conversation with someone pulling my head, knowing that any personal details I share might become future salon fodder.
Once, a braider yanked my hair so hard she PULLED SOME OF MY HAIR OUT OF MY SCALP! It’s been years and that hair still hasn’t grown back right.
When I heard of Keke Palmer’s casting as the first black Cinderella on Broadway, I didn’t imagine I’d end up seeing the show in person!
It was a girls night out: sisters and groups of friends; an adorable Girl Scout troop of mostly pre-tween and tween black girls and quite a few mother/daughter pairings attended. One little girl dressed like a little lady wearing pearls and donning an updo, accompanied by her very chic and sophisticated mother who wore an enviable black cape, melted my heart. I attend a lot of plays and as I snarked to my sister, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many black people at a play in my life.” I’m so used to being one of few.
“C’mon ladies, you can do this! 15 more seconds! Think about all the delicious Thanksgiving food you’ll get to have next week. I just made a butternut squash casserole last night to test out and it was so tasty. There’re sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, turkey – which I don’t even really like…Why do I have Thanksgiving food on my mind?” My bubbly Pilates instructor gabbed on about Thanksgiving as we held our planks what felt like the longest 15 seconds in history. A classmate chimed in: “You have one week and a day!”
What did she say? I cocked my head to the side as we moved on to triceps exercises on the tower.
During the great American spanking debate of September 2014, Elon James White wrote a thought-provoking piece about his experience getting spanked as a child. He writes of the “pain and distress” he recalls feeling during belt-whoopings. As I read it, I wondered:
How does his mother feel about him telling this story?
In a world where neighbors call the cops on parents who let their kids play outside, he “outed” his mom as a former child-spanker.
Does anyone meet anyone in real life these days? Offline? For dating purposes, that is. You know like:
Guy sees cute girl at bus stop.
Guy makes joke about the horrid stench wafting from a black trash bag near the bus shelter.
“Ah, the sweet smell of street funk and human waste,” he cracks.
Girl giggles. She relaxes her street defenses.
They discover they share a preference for puffy Cheetos over crunchy. “This is awesome,” they both think.
When my friend asked if I’d go with her to the Treasure Island Music Festival, I surprised myself when I said, “Yes.” After my one and only experience at the Coachella Music Festival a few years ago, I all but swore off large-scale music festivals. Between the heat, the parades of douchery, the posers (people who literally seem as though they are just there to pose), the flower headbands, the Native headdresses on non-Natives, the spilled beer, sloppy drunken fools, the long lines to get just about anything and my general dislike of unruly crowds, I must have temporarily lost my memory to agree to this. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my friend’s face lit up as she gushed about how much she loves André 3000 of Outkast, one of the headliners of the two-day concert.
You know the film/TV trope of the ugly duckling? Usually she’s got braces or other distracting face gear, as well as a hot mess of a hair situation (easily remedied by a brush and hair products) and topping off her tragic look: hideous, over-sized glasses. She’s a nerd; an outcast. Boys ignore her. Girls make fun of her. People pin “kick me” signs on her. One day, fed up with being a social misfit, she decides it’s time for a change.