A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Tag Archives: African Americans

The Benefit of Humanity

Last night, I tossed and turned hoping that sleep would welcome me into its embrace. No such thing happened and I decided to write.

It’s hard to rest when your heart and spirit are weary. It is hard to breathe when it feels as though your chest has filled with water. I came to understand that my weariness was the realization that I could awake tomorrow to news of another “tragedy” and the feeling of it being hard to breathe was grief complicated beyond measure.

In Charleston, in a place of worship and refuge, nine Black American citizens gathered to safely study and learn of the grace and gift of God. They welcomed a stranger, as Jesus commanded many to do before them. They offered this stranger a place to sit and share and breathe and live. For an hour, this stranger did just that. And in an instant, the stranger became a terrorist.

Nine of those gathered within a holy space were murdered for merely existing.

As news of this tragedy spread along with the description of all victims and the sole perpetrator, I could see this to be a calculated measure spurred by the deeply entrenched notion of Black people as something to be feared.

Something. Not someone.

Like clockwork, media began to ask questions that I am sure are considered hard-hitting and cutting-edge to someone. Questions such as “What could these Black people have done to prevent this?” and “Should white people now be afraid of black people?” Absurd questions when you think of it because who would think that you would ever need to protect yourself in a place of worship that sits in a land built on freedom of worship?

Unfortunately, we then heard the questions, comments, and suggestions made about the man who murdered these innocent people. Things like “What would possess him to do this?” and “Maybe there is a mental illness that we don’t know about.” Most ludicrous of all were the statements “Allow him due process under the law.” and “Let’s not judge him in the court of public opinion.

This adult male, aged 21-years old at the time he coldly executed people in a calculated fashion, was given the benefit of his humanity.

Black Americans watched as many defended this many and simultaneously deflected the notion that it was a terrorist attack with racial motivations EVEN AFTER he admitted this to be the reason he murdered these people. Black Americans learned that there were people who knew about this plot for months but dismissed it as just “talk.”

Most offensively, Black Americans watched as the police apprehended him peacefully.

You see? Because of the benefit of his humanity, this man will see his day in court. And when he does, they will uphold it as evidence that the justice system is fair.

And so I write this as a reflection of what it means to be Black and a Woman and American and operate daily within a system that was built on the backs of my ancestors.

People do not care that I must grapple with my Black identity as I walk on streets named after Confederate generals who fought wholeheartedly to keep the institution of slavery as we learn about it in school in place (the North will have a day of reckoning behind their involvement in slavery).

No one bats an eye at the thought that we frequent financial institutions that descendants of slaveholders were allowed to open with wealth amassed while Black bodies were treated as chattel.

We are given weak apologies from some of the finest educational institutions in the world for their involvement in the dehumanization of Black people.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to move on and act peacefully in our grief as we point out that this is always about the fear of Blackness.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told these instances of terrorism that make the news are isolated incidents when in actuality they support the system of disenfranchisement upholding the status quo.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to erase our culture and identities as that is what makes us animals while being expected to swallow the offensive performance of Blackness executed by those who benefit from White Privilege.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are expected to go along with the “program” of acceptable outrage that demonstrates that you can be upset someone would wear fur but not that police will murder your children in the streets and let their blood run into the gutter.

Be quiet, Slave.

In the many institutions that make up the complex fabric of the United States of America, Black Bodies are seen as expendable, yet necessary, to move the wheel of systemic and systematic oppression forward. And we know the reality is we are not even viewed as human enough, worthy enough, to warrant outrage behind being slaughtered like animals. We are not seen as human enough to warrant the removal of offensive reminders of the past.

We are not seen as human.

The sad reality is that many who benefit from White Privilege view our mere existence as trivial. They do not see us as we walk down the street. They do not place money in our hands when we serve them in our jobs. They do not acknowledge the idea of personal space belonging to a Black person. And while there are a few brave allies willing to put their good names on the line for what it right, many of them unknowingly uphold the system that invaded our countries, the bodies of our mothers and fathers, and our psyches.

I sit with this heavy on my heart as I count down to another birthday, something the nine victims of an attack spurred by racism can no longer do. I have come to understand that my Blackness, as amazing and divinely inspired as it is, serves as an iron veil that would never allow me the benefit of humanity.

And so, I write their names below with the idea that it is just another reminder that they did matter. More than melanin and blood and bone, they were spirits who touched the lives of others. They were mothers who gave birth to children. They were fathers who molded the minds of those under them. They were neighbors. They worked. They loved. They hurt. They laughed. They cried. They welcomed strangers.

They prayed.

They were human. They were people. They will be remembered.

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.

Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 54.

Myra Thompson, 59.

Tywanza Sanders, 26.

Ethel Lee Lance, 70.

Cynthia Hurd, 54.

Daniel L. Simmons, 74.

Suzy Jackson, 87.

Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49.

Single Black Female: Is Something Wrong With You? (#31WriteNow)

NOTE: This was a private post written in 2010. Funny…it still applies even though I’m 27. I decided to update it and share it with some of my more current thoughts (in italics).

***

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that question or how often I’ve heard it hidden within some other backwards compliment, but I hear it often. It’s now to the point where I change subjects rather skillfully (if I’m up to the challenge) or I forget all of my Southern upbringing and charm classes and cuss someone out.

Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m a Black woman. No, there is nothing wrong with me.

I understand why people become so up in arms when I take the opportunity to describe myself. It usually goes something like this:

“Oh, I’m 23 (now 27). I have my BS and MA. I hope to go on for my PhD. I want to work in Education (the policy/administration side…not teaching). I hope to…” and so forth and so on. However, in taking the time to describe myself I face these questions later:

1. Do you have a boyfriend/Are you courting? No./No.

2. Why don’t you have a boyfriend? I don’t leave my house? I don’t know.

3. What are you going to do with all that education? Use it.

4. Don’t you know a woman’s place? Yes. It’s her address right?

(Updated Note: I’m probably single because I have a smart mouth and unintentional snark.)

Wait…whoa…what in the fudge sticks?!?!

You see, when I get around family and this topic is always brought up, I’m left feeling like an outcast. Of most of my cousins from 15-26 that identify as a “woman,” I’m one of TWO that are single/uncoupled (three years later and it still applies). That can be a self-esteem killer, and until recently, it was.

I had an interesting conversation with a Sista of mine. She posed the two questions: “What are 10 ways a man could charm you?” “What are 10 ways a man trying to charm you would annoy you?” I gave her my reasons and quite honestly, it was an eye-opener for me (I’m actually going to answer these questions for myself again). The more that I thought about it, the more I thought about how these things impact my “dating” life. I mean, it’s really hard to walk around as a young, seemingly successful, Black woman who is single AND remain confident in yourself when there are so many things out there telling you why you’re still a failure. There are “experts” who release books on why Black women can’t get, keep, and marry a (Black) man. There are nightly “specials” that devote time to harp on the connections we make with each other, our accolades, and then pose the question (usually by non-Black people) why can’t we find, keep, and marry a (successful Black) man. (Sidenote: HA! I’m watching One-On-One and would you know, this is an episode about how a successful Black woman has managed to step on a Black man’s ego and that’s why she lost him).

I say one thing to these specials and experts:

Spare me the story of the tragic Black woman that happens to be successful and goes to sleep alone at night because she can’t find a successful Black man. And here’s why.

I’m 23 (now 27). I’m (still) being told that I need to start looking for a man. I need to settle down and have some babies (okay…now I want to. Then I wasn’t ready). That’s great. It’d be nice if I weren’t alone (if only it would cut down the chatter at my family reunions) and it’d be nice if I knew of multiple successful Black men aged 22-27 (let’s move this on up to 27-33-ish or something) looking to settle down. The fact is, they aren’t. MEN MY AGE ARE NOT LOOKING TO SETTLE DOWN (hmmm…this isn’t true so much anymore cuz I’m older now). Besides the countless male friends that I have (okay, 6 so as not to sound like a floozy), I also have 5 brothers that were raised by BOTH parents to play the field and put women through the wringer before they put a ring on anything.

So yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m Black. Yes, I’m a woman.

And there is nothing wrong with me….. I still want a boo though. LOL

African-Americans & The Myth of Mental Illness

This series on mental illness began with my story. I wasn’t sure of the approach that I would take for this post, but I’ve decided after very recent conversations to state (simply) why African-Americans should worry about Mental Illness.

Mental Illness? That’s a “White” thing!

This phrase is what started it all. By “it,” I’m not only speaking of this series but also why African-Americans are less likely to seek services that deal with behavior and cognitive issues. Given our history in this country, it isn’t difficult to understand the apprehension behind getting professional help (counseling or whatever). Historically, science was used by the “Majority” as a justification for the maltreatment of non-Whites. The study of evolution was used to justify the separation of racial/ethnic groups, as well as the subservient status of non-Whites (a theory known as Social Darwinism). Those who were associated with these theories were the leading voices in biology, eugenics, medicine, philosophy/psychology. Additionally, the United States has a notorious history behind using African-Americans for trial studies, health, and social experiments (see the relatively unknown Tuskegee Experiment; Human Experimentation in the US). This has led to a distrust of those outside of our community, as well as the thinking that what affects “them” can’t affect “us.” With respect to Mental Illness, this can’t be further from the truth.

Mental Illness Has a Look

Unfortunately, many of us seem to believe that you can look at someone and tell if they need psychiatric help. We believe that if you are well put-together (your hair, clothes, and shoes look nice), drive a nice car, live in a nice place, and have a job, then you are happy and have no problems.

 This can’t be further from the truth.

Mental health agencies (such as National Alliance on Mental Illness) acknowledge that as a group, African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their chances of developing a mental illness (source). We need to be aware of the indicators and risk factors that lead to mental illness as it has been shown that a mental break can be a culmination of life experiences (sudden onset of a disease are often triggered by a major event but experiences increase susceptibility to disorders).

What does this mean?

Besides the obvious “any one of us can suffer,” it means that we need to be aware AND actively work to change the stigma. Some facts to be aware of:

  • tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support, rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary.African Americans
  • Across a recent 15 year span, suicide rates increased 233% among African Americans aged 10 to 14 compared to 120% among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.
  •  

  • African Amemicans comprise 40% of the homeless population and only 12% of the U.S. population. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American. Prison inmates are at a high risk for developing mental illness.
  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45% of the public foster care population.
  • Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25% of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

As a community, we need to move towards a mindset of acceptance and open communication. Rmember that mental illness exists and it can happen to anyone.

Finding Our Minds: Mental Health and African-Americans

There are many things that remain unspoken in the African-American community. It’s as if these things will simply disappear if we refuse to give our time, energy, and thoughts to them. One such topic is that of Mental Illness. In our community, we operate on the belief that all that comes our way (be it good or bad) is that of Divine Intervention or Planning. It attempts to offer rational thought to many instances in our life. It’s always the answer to our question, “Why?”

 However, in my life, there has been the constant question: Why must I have a mental illness?

 This blog will be part of a series on Mental Health. My hope is that we can begin talk about these issues and break down the barriers of communication. Too many people in my community deal with a mental illness of some sort and there really isn’t the space to speak openly about it. There is no room for us to really be ourselves. To ask the necessary questions. To live without fear of judgment.

 To the reader, I hope that these posts open up something within you and that you become more accepting of others. I hope that you find the necessary strength to reach out to someone you may think suffers from a disorder. That’s all we want as people…to feel a safe connection with another person.

 ~Miss C. Jayne

My Story

 I’ve always wondered if there was something about me that just made me different. To say that I was sensitive would only have been the tip of the iceberg. As a youngster, I remember that I could pick up on the emotions of others; and it’s something that I’ve grown to feel is a gift and a curse. My sensitivity to others (and intuition to some degree) allowed me to build close relationships with others but it often left me feeling drained. As I grew older, this trait became something more of a burden. When I started middle school, I went through many transitions because of family issues. Lots of things had to be held inside because I operated with the intention to protect my two younger brothers. But even then, I noticed something wasn’t quite right.

 I became withdrawn and many of the adults that I trusted wrote it off as my becoming a “Young Lady” (whatever the hell that meant). I became angry and I wanted to lash out. I figured out ways to hurt myself because I was in pain. I would go days and even weeks feeling as though I couldn’t do anything the “right” way and much of that “down” time was spent contemplating my death. Then there were the days that I was up. And when I was up, I was way up. Most people just wrote this off as me being my regular “goofy” self. I could always find silver linings and offer great advice or tell just the right joke that made someone else feel better.

 But inside, I knew it would be a matter of time before I was thrown back into that dark space. For a while, I hid it. I hid it well. Since I’d always been the “Sensitive Child” and the child that loved to read in my group of siblings, my parents didn’t think it was odd that I would lock myself in my room. And stay there. Because I was the “Goofy Friend,” close friends and acquaintances would assume that I was simply having a bad day and that I would come around soon.

 I always did.

 I managed to float along in high school and get through life. I joined organizations. I followed a strict schedule. I worked hard. I was able to cover up my insomnia by saying that it was the school work or practicing for whatever cheerleading competition was coming up. In hindsight, I managed to handle my “illness” and I felt that I had finally overcome whatever it was that plagued me. Then I went to college. I had a break. In the worst way possible.

 Freshman year of college was when my depression started to spiral out of control. Many people wrote it off as homesickness but I started to attend counseling sessions. Just to talk it out. I didn’t want to admit to the counselor, who was white, that I, a Black woman (who is supposed to be strong and is more than capable to handle life), felt as though I was losing control of my mind. This scared me. I was so afraid of becoming like the people who I’d seen in homeless shelters coming up or the people on the street. I remember the jokes that would be told in my group of friends about mental illness and I’d hesitate to even ask if it were possible to have an illness. I remembered the many church sermons that made it sound as though the people afflicted with mental illness had committed some unspeakable sin and this was their punishment.

 My depression only got worse. It got to the point that I lived for my “up” days. I tried to cover these extremes up and bring some form of happiness into my life through organizations and other student groups.

 My final year in college, I broke. My grandparents passed away. I went to their funeral and came back a different person. I drank…heavily. I did things that I’m not too proud of. I attempted suicide (landed me in the hospital). I took painkillers. Whatever. Just to feel something other than hurt.

 I knew then that I had “something.” I just didn’t want to admit what it was. I was still in counseling and it was obvious that I was crushing from the weight of my problems. So, I looked for an out. I left Michigan. I moved to a place where there was little family around me. I went to graduate school. I threw myself into my work. I got sick. I stayed sick. I had migraines every other day. The depression was intense. In a day, I could go back and forth between depression and mania almost twice a day. Three days before finishing my courses for my program, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore. I took 3 sleeping pills (with an alcoholic drink) and I drank an entire bottle of wine. When I woke up, I was sure that the Universe hated me.

 This thing that I had…it had to be some punishment, but for what, I didn’t know.

 I didn’t want to talk about myself anymore. I didn’t want to focus on myself anymore. I started once again to focus on others. If I could get them through the day, then I’d have gotten myself through the day. But it was hard. It was lonely. It was the scariest thing I’d ever confronted about myself. One night, I finally decided that it would be okay for me to admit that maybe, just maybe, I had a mental illness. It would be okay to admit that it was something that surpassed depression (even though this is what I felt most of the time).

 I graduated in May. I flew home the following day. When I saw my therapist for the first time, I cried. It was all I could do. I sat in a chair across from a white guy who seemed caring and I cried. Then I explained everything that I was feeling. The confusion. The depression. The fear. The almost happiness. The panic. The mania. I explained myself.

 When I left his office, I felt freer…but I was more afraid that I’d ever been in my life. I was no longer a young Black woman with an education and a bright future.

I was bi-polar.

 To be continued….

*Image courtesy of Google Search. I’m not the young lady pictured.

Counter-Narrative: What’s Behind African-American Views on Swimming?

I have a habit of reading news articles and blog postings in the morning. It’s my way of staying abreast of “hot” topics and I get to hear others’ opinions on issues that I deem relevant. So imagine my surprise when I saw @BlackInformant tweet of a blog posting entitled, “Hair or History: What’s Behind African-American Views on Swimming?” I thought, “Oh, someone is taking a look at why African-Americans (largely) don’t swim.” I clicked and immediately became disappointed. In keeping with the current trend to garner readers and generate hits to blogs, this author immediately took the spin that African-Americans don’t swim because women are afraid of their hair reverting to its pre-relaxed state. *yawn*

 Before I get into my opinion on this matter and offer to you all a different perspective as to why African-Americans don’t swim, I’ll say that this is tired. This angle (let’s lambast African-American women and their choices about themselves) is old news. Can we let it go already? Please.

 To begin with, my initial reaction to this piece was negative. Since when did African-American women become synonymous with African-Americans (as a whole)? Our designation, racial or otherwise, includes two genders: male and female. This point alone cannot be argued and the fact that the author chose to focus only on African-American women devalued whatever point they wanted to make. In keeping with the misleading focus, the only “historical” evidence is the connection drawn between the European standard of beauty (e.g., straightening one’s hair so that it’s less African). In my opinion, this perspective, while valid in a sense, is indirect and doesn’t lead to a critical analysis of the topic at hand.

 Now the question is, “What should have been said surrounding this issue?”

 It is true. African-Americans, in large part, do not swim and our children are put at an increased risk of “accidental drowning” (a death that is very preventable). According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), “in 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging ten deaths per day; more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger; and the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans across all ages was 1.2 times that of whites.” Studies also show that 6 out of 10 African-American children are unable to swim. This is the reality that we live with today, but why?

 In taking note of our historical record in the United States, it is no surprise that we are largely unable to swim. I’m of the opinion that children do as their parents have done – if a parent can swim, there is an increased likelihood that you can. This seems common sense to me. So why haven’t our parents learned to swim?

 If we examine largely segregated neighborhoods TODAY, we’ll see that many do not possess the facilities that would allow daily, or even weekly, swimming. Our high schools, by and large, do not have swimming pools, so there is no need for a swimming team or the need to swim. If a child does attend a school where there is the requirement that they swim for Physical Education credit (and subsequently a passing grade), there are ways to get around this issue and many educators/facilitators of this class readily sign slips because it’s hard to teach a person how to swim.

 If we examine the racial housing practices in the 80s, we see that a large number of African-Americans were relegated to “red-lined” neighborhoods (this practice had gone on for quite some time but it was brought to prominence as the Black middle class began to grow). Again, these neighborhoods, while a step up, may have lacked the facilities.

If we examine the practices of Segregation in the 60s (and before), we see that community pools prohibited African-Americans on the grounds that allowing a non-White person to swim in the pools would lead to water contamination. I commend the author of the original article for mentioning this briefly, but more has to be said about this.

 I’ll pause here and note that I’ve already gone back about 3 generations. So is it fair to say that African-Americans don’t swim because of something as simple as “hair care” issues? Isn’t that “blaming the victim” in some ways? Back to my argument.

 If we examine racial tension prior to the 1960s and dare to go back to slavery, we’ll see that there was no reason for African-Americans to swim. Largely, we were not given the opportunity for free time and I’m pretty sure that there weren’t very many swimming holes in the South…that were safe. For any person that is familiar with the landscape of the South (or the North before industrialization), you’ll realize that swimming holes were in isolated places…and it was never a safe bet for a Black person to be caught alone and/or having fun during these times.

 I think that I’ve made my point, but in the even that I haven’t, I want you all to take a few points with you:

1. We should encourage our Youth to learn how to swim properly. There is nothing more exciting in the summer than to cool off at a local pool and given the rates of accidental drownings in African-American youth, the ability to swim is a necessary skill.

2. Don’t reduce (or mislabel) a topic that applies to an entire diaspora to one sect of that population. If you want to write on African-American women, be up front about it. If it’s your intention to generate critical thought about the racial group as a whole, then speak on the group as a whole. I speak for many women when I say, we’re sick and tired of being the scapegoat simply to generate hits to your blogs/articles.

3. Finally, if you wish to analyze an issue historically, then do so. Provide evidence that backs you up. Provide anecdotes from older people. Look up statistics, it’s not that hard.

 But remember: be pure about your intentions. As a writer, the only thing that you have is your name.

Original article: Hair or History: What’s Behind African-American Views on Swimming? 

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

Despite Olympic Gold, Swimming Statistics Are Grim. Author: Tara Parker-Pope

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.