A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Monthly Archives: December 2009

An Open Letter to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)

**Here’s is a letter that I submitted to the CBC. Feedback is welcomed.**

FACT: As of November 2009, the unemployment rate for Blacks/African-Americans was 15.6%, while the rest of the nation was at 10.0%. (Source: United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics).

FACT: In 2007, 19.5% of Blacks/African-Americans in comparison to 10.4% of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured; 49% of Blacks/African-Americans used employer-sponsored health insurance; and finally, 23.8% of Blacks/African-Americans relied on public health insurance. (Source: United States Department of Health & Human Services, The Office of Minority Health).

FACT: The total number of black students enrolled in higher education in 2007 was 2,383,400. The number of Black men in undergraduate programs in 2007 was 870,000, while the number of Black men incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons was 837,000. Percentage of all high school students who graduate on time who are black equaled12.1%; while the percentage of all students who drop out of high school in tenth grade who are black equaled 36.7%. Between the 1997-98 and 2007-08 years, college tuition rates rose a total of 30%. (Source: United States Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics).

Given these dismal numbers, I understand your frustration with our President during this time of economic strife, as you feel he is not taking a special interest in the community which you were elected to represent. However, I feel that you are unfairly placing blame on his shoulders. Keep in mind that President Obama has only formally served in this capacity since January 20, 2009. Since taking his oath, he has accomplished considerable feats. Nine days after taking office, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which overruled the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and so eased the requirements for filing employment discrimination lawsuits. Five days later, he signed the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover an additional 4 million children currently uninsured. He nominated current Justice Sotomayor in May of 2009 to replace the retiring Justice Souter and she became the first Latina and third woman to serve as a Justice. He also signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act this past October.

I highlight these key acts, a few among many, because the legislation focuses on two key minority groups: women and those most likely to suffer from hate crimes. The importance – the majority of your constituents can be identified as belonging to those groups, so celebrate those acts.

Finally, and this is arguably the most important point that I can make. The most significant piece of legislation that our President signed, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, became a law in February of this year. As you are aware, this was a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening worldwide recession.

I’ve drawn your attention to these few things because I want to remind you that now is not the time to be unreasonable in negotiating with our President, as well as the rest of Congress. Change your scope from exclusively focusing on what you feel to be the shortcomings of our President. Help your constituents by pressuring states to remember their stressed communities. History has shown us that even at a President’s urging and support of legislation with an emphasis on minority communities, especially that of the African-American community, the call for equality and humane treatment can fall on deaf ears of the state. Your tactics in playing “hardball” with our President will only further hurt the communities that elected you to representation.

As a constituent who considers herself fairly informed about issues, I would like to offer my suggestions on how you can help our community by highlighting a few key issues:

With the African-American unemployment rate being almost double that of the national unemployment rate, special attention should be paid to economic policies. With regards to these policies: encourage and lobby states to focus on improving urban communities (i.e., paving roads, painting buildings, maintaining street lights, etc).  Remind them that their Black constituents are vital to a thriving economy and convince them that businesses with a large minority employee base should be recruited to serve as contractors in these endeavors. This will in turn create some of the jobs that your constituents need.

With regards to health policies, stand firm and support a public option! One of the fastest ways to accrue debt is to accumulate medical expenses and not be able to pay for them. In the expansion of health care debate, it is critical that you support the BEST option for your constituents, even if this means that a special focus is not placed on them. Remember that 19.5% of the African-American population is without coverage and that another 23% of your constituents rely heavily on government sponsored programs. Additionally, 15.7% of our youth lack necessary health coverage, a statistic relayed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and their KIDS Count Initiative.

With regards to educational policies, push for increasing Pell Grant amounts that are sent to schools and discourage states from freezing or reducing the amount of money set aside for higher education. Instead, persuade states to continue to implement programs that will keep students in school at all levels (from Elementary to College) and remind them of the words of former President Kennedy, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” With the cost of higher education continuing to rise and available financial aid remaining the same, students who do not have the personal economic means to pay for education may face the decision of continuing their education or relinquishing this opportunity with the hopes of “something better”. Remember these students. Remember that they are your constituents.

In closing, I would like to applaud your collective efforts and the things that you have been able to accomplish. Now is NOT the time to present a fractured picture of our Black congressional leaders to our nation. It’s best that you show your support for our President and his goals, and admonish him ONLY when necessary (preferably in private).  Finally, encourage states to take a special and vested interest into their struggling communities and remember that the fate of the Black community is inherently tied to the well-being of our neighbors. This is a fact that you must understand and keep in mind as your continue to fulfill your duties in the D.C.

Once again, thank you for your service and commitment. I hope that these words are met with serious consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

Courtney J. Hardwick
A Concerned Citizen

© December 14, 2009.

Moment of Clarity

*Note: This post is super personal in nature. If you don’t feel like reading about trials and personal (internal) battles, then by all means, take a gander over to Explosm.net or any of my other buddies that are linked in my blog roll. You still counted by clicking this page. Thanks.

The problem with setting a goal that not many people around you has attempted or accomplished is that there is no one that you trust to tell you how hard it will be. You may have an idea but to experience it is something altogether different.

Many of my friends have said 2009 was a tough year for them and I can relate. The hell that I experienced in 2009 was just a continuation of the craziness that existed in 2008. Starting in 2008, my grandparents passed away (my final living grandparents) within 3 days of one another. I never thought I would take those deaths as hard as I did. Looking back now, I realize that my pain came from the fact that my Dad and his siblings were so fractured at the funeral. They barely sat with one another. I didn’t want that for my siblings and I made a decision to attempt to bridge whatever gaps existed between us. I quickly came to realize that we were all battling our personal demons (as it concerned our parents) and that there was no way that I could help them.

Beginning with that (the realization of those issues), I slipped into something worse than a depression and I reached out to the wrong things and other damaged people. The crazy thing about a damaged person is that they don’t realize how hurt they are and that even if you are able to offer some sort of clarity, they have to want to see it. The damaged people I knew did not want to see it. I clinched and held on anyway. Those relationships going sour, I also took that hard.

To deal with that pain, I started to party. I mean, I’d probably gone out more in my final semesters of undergrad than I had my entire 5 years at CMU (which really isn’t saying much because I wasn’t a partier). But I saw a trend. I drank. I started to hang with the wrong people. I allowed people to use me. And I used other people. I started to hate myself for who I knew I was becoming but because it felt “nice” to have all of those people around, I just continued down that road.

The first turning point came in February of 2009 (it’s sad that I’m realizing this mess went on for as long as it did). I was forced to move out of an apartment and even though I still had trouble coming up with the rent every month, I began to see the people who TRULY cared for me. The folks that let me stay in their rooms, sleep on their couches, use their showers, etc. See, that shit was humbling. It reminded me of exactly where I’d come from. But it did me a huge service. I graduated because of my period of “semi-homelessness”. I started to stay in the library more and I didn’t go out as much. I was also forced to take better care of my health because I had a serious case of pneumonia (felt the effects of that cold from Feb 14, 2009 – March 19, 2009). All of the time that I stayed in the library, I worked. I made better grades my final semester than I had the two preceding semesters.

I was also accepted to graduate school, which gave me something to look forward to. Looking back, I remember the exact emotion I had when I opened my letter saying that I was a student: relief. There’s nothing scarier than attempting to move forward in your life when you feel it crumbling around you. I felt like I had trouble with everything – family, friends, health, everything. But that letter gave me life. Granted, I was graduating in May and that was a great accomplishment. But in an odd way, it felt as though someone was nailing a coffin shut. I had nowhere to go (I felt). I had no job offer on the table. I hadn’t heard from any other school (and when you apply for early admission, that makes you question yourself). I had no money. I was on the verge of losing my job.

But that letter gave me life.

I finished out my final semester and graduation was really a celebration for me (I literally danced down the aisle…I kid you not). I was going on to something better. However, when I moved out to Providence, I felt LOST. All of the people that I’d come to know for the past five years were everywhere but Providence. That’s when I began to recognize my problems for what they were.

See, the thing about a damaging cycle is that when it goes on for so long, that’s what you want to return to. It’s what you know. And you can believe that I wanted to run back to dysfunction. I wanted to run back to arguing with my parents. I wanted to run back to fighting and being belittled by friends. I wanted to run back to drinking and partying (with others or alone). I wanted to run back to darkness.

All because I was alone and I had no clue how to face the world.

My program started in June. Not a lot of people know this, but I moved out to Providence for two reasons: (1) it was my goal to get into this program; and (2) I was defying expectations and what people thought I needed to do. The sad part about that was that I let reason two guide every move that I made concerning graduate school and I planned poorly for my transition. The result: having to ask parents to pay for a plane ticket out to Providence and moving with two suitcases of clothing and “housewares”. That’s right. I moved halfway across a country with a bookbag, a carryon and my large suitcase (from my set). Let me tell you how smart that is NOT…and it was 3 days before my program began, nonetheless.

You can’t say I didn’t have guts. But remember, I’m still operating in a frame of mind that’s dangerous. With no money for books, clothing, food, or any other real simple shit, I started to play the “everything will be fine” game. It was pretty similar to the one that I played in September of 2008. Summer goes by without much incident (if you don’t count the whole fiasco of finagling money for school or the fact that I got sick) and it hit me hardest that I was alone on our summer break. We had an entire month off from school and most of my cohort (most as in ALL) went home or somewhere else. So, I was stuck. Feeling alone. And decided in my mind that I wanted to go home. I didn’t need a degree, I needed to feel like I was around people who loved me (even if we were damaging each other). Anyway, I never raised enough money to go home for the summer and I really only made it through with the help of two “counselors.” After my money was situated and I felt like I had a chance to succeed (really succeed), I began the Fall term with high hopes and (dare I say it) happiness.

However, when you have issues that you fail to deal with, they find ways to pop up. And pop up they did. I don’t think I’ve experienced so much illness or depression in one semester. I found myself hating (that’s a strong word but most appropriate in this situation) everything about myself and the people around me. I found myself questioning whether or not I deserved to be attending an Ivy League school and I felt fraudulent. I found myself wanting to drink and/or take a pill to help me sleep because that was the only thing helping me sleep at night. I found myself becoming that same person that was showing up the previous September.

I also questioned if that person was the real me.

Was I really damaging? Was I really evil? Was I really spiteful? Was I really the person that everyone dreads to be around? Did I really suck the life from others?

That person. The one that people despise in fairy tales and real life. That person that can’t be trusted. That person that will always hurt you because they hurt themselves. That person that I didn’t want to be.

My moment of clarity came while I was sitting in a library lobby and on the phone with my Advisor this past Friday. I had gotten behind on my work and I felt swamped. I had been sick and missed important classes. I was behind on some of my work for my internship and I felt that I’d let them down greatly. I was lonely. I was tired of moving forward and I wanted to leave. After sending an email to my Advisor, she called. First time that a person had done that. Called instead of communicating electronically. She calmed my fears and offered me encouraging words.  She let me know that I deserved to be here, otherwise I would not have been accepted. She told me to take one day (one task, one assignment, one minute, one moment) at a time because I could only accomplish so much. She helped me (there were others too, but in that moment, she was instrumental to my peace of mind).

She gave me a piece of myself back. The part that was shut up when the caskets closed at my grandparents’ funeral. That part that I started to give away to other people who were hurt because I wanted to help them so much. That part that I needed returned to me, yet others held onto it or threw to the side. That part that was often forgotten. She reminded me of why I was here in the first place. Why I decided to do all that I had set forth to do. She was a voice that reminded me of a whisper I’d heard once before. She reminded me of all of the people that care and aren’t here to hug me today. Her words were a salve, a balm that I needed immensely.

See, in my troubles, it became too easy for people to offer a cliché response to what I was going through. I thank them for all of their responses for I’m truly grateful. The thing that was hardest to deal with was that I knew other people had been told the same thing before. I’d been told the same thing before. And those words were just band-aids to my soul and I felt that my soul was still seeping away from me.

Painful.

The most painful experience in my mind was to be within myself and still feel as though I was losing my essence.

Anyway, I sit here. December 7, 2009 at 12:44 am and I type these words. I had a moment a clarity.

I know why I chose to continue on this road. Each day that I work, I may have to relive many painful things, but I’ll do it with the hopes that no other person has to go through similar situations. I’ll have to remember being belittled for being smart by peers that looked like me and then going on to being belittled by peers for not looking like them, and I’ll do it so that other smart children who may or may not look like me don’t experience that. I’ll have to remember the homeless shelters, the degradation for going to a school that failed to educate its students adequately, and the long trips home after school, and I’ll do it so that other youngsters don’t have to do it. I’ll remember wondering where my next meal or the next month’s rent payment while I was an undergraduate student, and I’ll work so that no other undergraduate student has to experience that.

I know what I feel. I know why I’m here. I know who I am. I know what I am.

In my moment of clarity, I remembered that I’m all things good. I’m hurt, yes. I’m damaged, yes. But I’m all things good. I’m not my circumstances or what happened to me. I’m all things good.

I can feel it. And it feels good. I haven’t felt a thing this good since before September 2008.

Dream.Hope.Believe.