Get Out…Vonn’s View

Get Out

I saw Get Out a little later than everyone else, but I did manage to see it in the theatre.  And yes, that was purposeful.  A few friends mentioned they wanted to hear my opinions on it after my viewing. Well, when I left the show (in Chicago we call the movies ‘the show’) I was so angry I couldn’t formulate my words right.

I took my daughter, who’s a graduating high school senior this year, with me as a girl’s night out. She attends a diverse school where there’s a substantial population of Latinx, white and some Chinese students as well.  I’m happy for her that she gets to know and learn diverse backgrounds early in her maturation, before heading off to college to further explore this world.

I present that as a foreground to how we saw the movie so vastly different, and not just due to age.

Get Out pissed me off.  I mean, blood pressure raising, headache giving, sho nuff made me mad.  I believe that Jordan Peele’s purpose in the movie was to show the hardships of being African American, in a different venue that may be more readily received by multiple ethnicities. Horror is not genre I watch (at all) but it’s popular enough across ethnicities that you’d get a wide audience.

My whole summation of this movie is:  They want to be us, without the burden of being us.

Darker skin, stronger bodies, coolness, athleticism, creativity; these are straights mentioned by the characters at the “auction”. And make no mistake, you can wrap it up with bingo cards, but it was an auction nonetheless.  One woman had the audacity to touch Chris and I about leapt out of my chair!  And while we may chalk it up to “it was just a movie”, how many African Americans have felt ‘sized up’ when we walked into a room full of whites? Had conversation stop upon entering that same room? Had someone invade our personal space by trying to touch our hair without permission? We’ve had to deal with the micro aggressions of ‘well, they are just built differently’ when their team loses a game to our team. Then there are the macro aggressions of “he probably got in because of affirmative action”, and not his 4.0 G.P.A. and stellar references.

I think this is Peele’s look into the hypocrisy of wanting the attributes of the very people you marginalize and sometimes dehumanize.  As I’m putting it “they want to be us, without the burden of being us”. Taking the best, but remaining in privileged bodies.  I was furious.  My daughter, however, was not as enraged as I. She’s only had good racial experiences in her high school.  Friends sharing experiences going to quinceaneras and back yard bar b ques at each other’s respective neighborhoods.  Sharing coffee and homemade tamales. Bringing each other candy from Chinatown, and those little frosted cookies sold in the hood.  Hers is a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ experience and I’m mostly glad about it.  She felt Rose was crazy, and that some mental illness must run in her family (not altogether untrue). She was able to view it as a movie, not unlike the Matrix or Thor, where there are villains and good guys and you always root for the good guys.  She didn’t internalize it like I did.  She’s attending a PWI in the fall, and I imagine (and simultaneously dread) that her views will change over the next year or two. Maybe they won’t; I’d love to be wrong about that. But I’ve lived long enough to know the world of “they want to be us, without the burden of being us”, and I’ve known the ones of us who so desperately wanted to be them, they put away all semblance of what makes us beautiful in the first place. And I get pissed off about both. Still.

Let me not forget to praise the acting.  The actors were intense and subtle and impressive.  Being able to showcase fear, longing and desperation only using their eyes was Oscar level acting in my opinion.  Betty Gabriel, the woman who played Georgina, should get some special “Eyes Only” Golden Globe because I felt everything she didn’t say the entire move.  Personal love to Bradly Whitford, only because I’m a diehard West Wing fan and it was good to see him acting again.

Get Out is worth seeing. I will take my son to see it, and gage his reactions as a burgeoning young black man to see if it’s any different.  And I’ll buy a copy to watch over Christmas break after my daughter returns home from her first semester at college.  As I said, I’m half hoping she does feel the same, and half hoping she doesn’t.

What did you think?  Post in the comments and let’s discuss!

 

Coffee in my Left, Political Analysis to Paralysis in my Right.

Coffee in my left hand…Political Analysis to Emotional Paralysis in my Right
Hey Y’all. I’m about a week behind in saying hey to you. I hope you didn’t forget me: I know you did, and I’m side eyeing you this very moment. Buy me some coffee and all is forgiven. The reason I’ve been gone is that I haven’t been able to write. In my mind, this is a humor blog; life, love, coffee, and all things through laughter. But my mind has been heavy lately. Everything I started to say, I just couldn’t get it out; nothing flowed. And that is sooo not like me.

My friend Toni (one of the reasons that ATL forever rocks!) told me on FB “Vonn, you’re going to give yourself a heart attack”, referencing yet another article I’d posted on 45. He’s 45, and that’s all I can call him within the boundaries of remaining ‘decent and in order’. Toni was right. In my quest to stay woke (every time I say that now, I hear Childish Gambino’s voice singing ‘Redbone’; thanks Donald.), I’ve been reading every article, watching news programming nonstop, staying on top of all my political pundits on Twitter, and of course, sharing it all on FB. For the past five months, it’s almost been consuming, but these past two weeks have been exhausting. I know more about dead Russians than folks in Russia do, the key congressional leaders positions on the wire taps (spelled correctly of course), the latest budget outrages and what every guest on Meet the Press had to say on Twitter, after their taping of Meet the Press; which I watch as well. Conversations with my kids often morph into “did you hear that? That may affect your Pell grant next year”, or “see, this is why ancestors died so we can vote and stay vigilant and…” when they just want to listen to music on the way to school in the morning. But I can’t seem to help myself.
I’ve felt myself cursing more (which I gave up, mostly, in 2011), staying up later, and being generally easier to upset in the past five months or so. I’m afraid that if I miss any information, it’ll somehow be worse than knowing every hateful, deceitful, and perilous detail of this administration and our nation’s fate. But what ingesting all of this has done, is alter my disposition. A constant diet of nuclear footballs in tiny satanic hands has truly vexed my spirit. Did you just recite that line from Barbershop about not meaning to vex you Mr. Wallace? No? No worries, it’ll hit you later. The phrase ‘analysis to paralysis’ was coined by some wise person to describe that feeling when you’ve reviewed something so long, you just aren’t productive any longer. My emotional paralysis has stalled me in a negative, everybody take cover sort of place.

And so when Toni wrote that, I took her seriously. Sometimes people can see from afar what you just can’t name or label when you’re too close to it. So, for the rest of the month, (maybe into April) I’m not posting any armageddon articles and no prognostic posts about the state this nation, and therefore our world, is in. I will do my best to turn the channel from political programming (except for Meet the Press; MTP is always and forever each moment with you, TV bae). Scripture says to think on those things that are good, and lovely and of good report. And even though it feels hard to see those lovely things with all that is politically going on in our world today, I have to be more diligent in trying. Tonight I’ll start with some good candles and a lovely Merlot. I’ll give you a good report next time; promise. Toni; sticks and bourbon on the deck next time I’m in ATL, my friend.

Why I love Chance the Rapper like an Adopted Nephew

If you are anywhere on social media, you’ve by now heard about Chance the Rapper (from Chicago, hey Chicago!) and his most generous gift of $1,000,000 to the Chicago Public School system foundation to help preserve arts and music education.  I follow him on Twitter and watched the press conference live. 

Why does a single Mom of 2 follow Chance?  I’m glad you asked.

About 2 years ago, my son E. who’s always listening to some form of rap/hip hop, got put on to Chance.  That’s right in line with the life a teenager: eat everything in my kitchen, and listen to hip hop. But after the release of Chance’s Coloring Booking mixtape in 2016, E. started coming to me asking could he play this song or that one for me.  Now I’ve requested to hear what he’s listening to, and I’ve been grateful for the old school hip hop I already knew and could sing along to, but he had never been excited for me to hear “his” music. Until Chance.  Chance was hip hop he could blare with his Mom. It was music he could be proud of. It was music he knew, even if I didn’t like all the language, that the message was one I could get with; and he was right. It was music a good kid could relate to. Chance rapped with a message and integrity, and it was something my son wanted to share with me.  And that is when Chance got me; initially.

Flash forward to August of 2016, and I agreed to take my son and his friend to the Chance Coloring Book Tour at White Sox Stadium (yes, I know that’s not the official name, but I’m a south sider and you’re lucky I didn’t call it Comiskey). It was the longest concert of my life, even longer than that time I saw Parliament at the Cubby Bear December 1993; them old dudes have endurance!  I saw everyone from Kanye, Tyler the Creator, 2Chainz and Weezy, Common (sigh) and…Chance.  And he was more phenomenal in person than on his mixtape.  He put effort into telling his story, showing himself and exuding gratitude. His music had grit, street, hood and faith and I was there (screaming and singing) for it.  That was when Chance became “Nephew Chance”.  Shout out to my real nephew, who I think is a true soldier in his own right. 

So when this 24 year old young man, with no record deal and probably not yet baller money, uses his Grammy opportunity to speak with the governor of his state, I wasn’t surprised because he’s always talked about Chicago, and the kids and opportunity.  When he pledged $1,000,000 to a broken school system, entrenched in mismanaged funds and the most heinous political environment ever, in order to help Chicago’s most valuable resource, I beamed with pride.  At first. Then the adopted Auntie in me was a little angry that a young citizen, successful though he may be, felt he had to dig into his personal money and help where it seemed no one whose actual job it is (#doyourjob) was helping.  Chance has called upon other famous Chicagoans to “return my calls”, and pitch in some too.  Again, pride for my adopted nephew, and anger at the system that requires all of this altruism and philanthropy.  Chicago is the 3rd largest school district in the country, not some ballet troupe in need of a new practice space. My property taxes, your lottery tickets and millions in federal funding are supposed to cover the cost of public education, not Lil Chano from 79th.  But he’s trying, and Auntie is proud. And my 15 yr old son is proud: and to me, that’s everything.

Follow Chance @chancetherapper on Twitter, or visit his foundation, SocialWorks at socialworkschi.org

Follow me at that Starbucks on 35th , or @coffeeinmyleft

Communication

Coffee in my Left hand…Communication in my Right

One of my readers (wow, that sounds so good, like free Ethiopian roast coffee with cream) suggested I write about communication, since it goes hand in hand with Love.

If you are over 30, chances are you have sat in on, listened to, or read about the communication between men and women. If you are over 40, I can promise you that you have; at either a college rec room, or a bookstore community room, or some nightclub disguised as a forum for building up relationships instead of their profit margin. That last part may be a Chicago thing, but trust, it’s a thing. If you are under 30, well just let Auntie Vonn teach you something about the challenges you’re going to have up the road, once you stop DM’ing each other. You’re welcome. Today’s views surround the question “why is communication so difficult with our partners and how do we make it better?” I use the word partner intentionally, because no matter your sexual preference, communication in a romantic relationship can be harder than that problem on the blackboard in Hidden Figures!

Now if you think you haven’t engaged in discourse about communication, perhaps it was wrapped in “men vs women; why our relationships are failing”, or “women who nag and the men who tune them out”, or “what’s wrong with relationships in the ____” insert 80’s, 90’s, millennium, etc. here. Regardless the title, many problems with relationships  boil down to COMMUNICATION.

If the problem is money, it’s really the secrets we keep about money and how we speak and make the other feel about money. I can only hide those Louboutin shoes for so long before the credit card bill hits. Fellas, dropping $200 every weekend buying rounds is an $800 “what you mean you’re low on money, you STAY in the club all the time” conversation waiting to happen every month.

If it’s sex (ok, if you’re reading this and you’re my daughter, stop. Mommy doesn’t know anything about sex and neither do you.), either someone wants it a different way, more often, less often, or at all. Often times the “your hair is always on the sink!” argument is really a conversation that needs to be held about the bedroom.

Nagging, the silent treatment, passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive; these are all forms of mis-communication. So, what do we do to make things better?

First and foremost; trust the relationship. Often we don’t say what we feel out of fear of hurting the other person, or appearing vulnerable or just plain ole getting broken up with…lol. If you’re in it (for real, not like the one I have with Idris; hey Driis!), trust that you agreed to be in it because there’s genuine feelings there. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m concerned about the amount of money you spend. Let’s talk about it once we get the lights turned back on”, or “last night, you slept through all my new tantric, ‘A’ game, guaranteed to make ’em holler moves; what gives?” Seriously, we avoid small situations that turn into huge episodes of Snapped because we didn’t trust our love or our mate enough to bring it up early on.

Next, watch your tone. I know I drape a lot of things in humor, that when I’m angry can come off as snark, sarcasm and cutting. Jesus is working on me; don’t send me any “Amen” emails. BUT since I know this, I try to edit my speech in my head before it comes flying outta my Chris Rock-ish mouth. You too know what your tone violations can be: loud, speaking through clenched teeth, sassy, condescending, etc. If I didn’t name yours, you’ve already named it and just didn’t see it. Treat your relationship like it’s something that matters to you, speak like you want to be spoken to. Lots of those panel discussions boil down to feeling dissed and dismissed. If your sentence starts with “Imma keep it 100” or “Don’t take this the wrong way”, or their equally destructive cousins, just stop and start over. You have a right to be heard, but your vitriol is not guaranteed you by the constitution. Matter of fact, we’d all better check that consti…never mind, I’ll save that for another time.

Last: try not to sweat the small stuff. If everything in your day has to go your way, you are in a relationship with a very difficult person: you. Disconnected electricity and coma sex are big things that need to be worked out ASAP. Toothpaste caps and popping gum are probably things you thought were ‘charming’ in the beginning and have lost your eternal right to complain about. When new issues come up, ask yourself “If I were being filmed right now, what would the kinder version of myself say or do?” then say or do only that. Ask yourself “self, does that hideous tie or her talking during the movies really matter in the long run?” Pause. Okay, that talking in the movie thing drives me insane; you will not go to a movie with me twice if that’s your thing. But, that aside, you get where I’m going.

Crappy stuff happens in life, and it spills over into our relationships daily. Growing apart happens, falling in and out and back in love happens. Disagreements happen in every relationship. The quicker you learn to communicate with each other, decent and in order, the quicker you’ll learn how to be with each other peacefully. And when necessary, argue then come back together peacefully. Driis and I can’t stand to see you all fighting like that…

Vonn

 

 

 

 

Love

Coffee in my Left Hand…Love in my right

Let’s talk about Love (there’s a song lyric there, did you catch it?). It amazes me that the thing we are commanded to do above all, the thing we internally crave and desire, is one of the most difficult things to find, achieve, or sustain.  And if you just said in your head, “I like love, but I don’t need it”, you my cynical beloved are exactly the point I’ll be making. Grab your coffee and give me a few minutes…

Whether you believe in a sovereign creator (shout out to God; Hey Father God!), or evolution, or bangs of a big nature (scientific, not Texan beauty queens), you have to admit we are hard wired to love.  The very basis of the world continuing is men and women coming together, egg and sperm meeting. Now, I hear you saying, “Vonn, you don’t need love to have egg and sperm hookups.” Yes, you are right.  However, the draw, the pull, the belly flop that gets the egg/sperm carriers motivated is the desire for love; connection. Before you get riled up, yes, I believe in adoption, in-vitro and all other forms of getting a bouncing baby here, but to date, it still takes an egg and a sperm.  I have to spell that out, because I can already tell you all will fight over a Now Later if I’m not careful.  My point is, we are hard wired to want to connect, copulate and populate.

Lately though, it seems our world has placed a stigma on the desire for love.  We’ve labeled those who are open to finding it thirsty, or desperate. Those who are committed to making it work hen pecked or caught up.  It’s as if we’ve decided that love is the nerd in the corner that none of us want to be seen with.  Love has become persona non grata.  This, friends is not good.

Yet while we say out loud “Ew, I don’t need love” dating sites like Black People Meet, Tinder, EHarmony and Match are multi-million dollar companies.  Match Group (which holds Match, Tinder and OKCupid) saw quarterly earnings of $268 million, which was a 12% increase.  A lot of people are on the love-downlow and I need you to bring all this love searching to the light!  The divorce rate in America is high, yet we’re still getting married.  Not one chapel in Vegas has closed down due to a lack of business, and the wedding gown industry alone could fund a small country with their yearly earnings.  We’re looking for love, and we’re taking that ultimate leap to forever love.  So why all the cynicism and love shaming?

Vulnerability.  It’s not love that we shun; it’s the avoidance of vulnerability. We have become major love sissys who are afraid of rejection.  We’ve become afraid to step out there, own what we want, and seek it freely.  I see a whole lot of #livefree but not enough #lovefree.  We lift up and worship ‘our grind’, shout our independence to the rafters, place every activity above love, and then secretly pray for and pursue it in the dark places of our mind and heart. And Tinder.

We use to slow dance and play Lenny Williams love songs when our paramour didn’t feel the same way. Dudes would brag about a woman they were pursuing, and women about a man they were going to let catch them “any day now”.  It was sweet, it was a little game we willing and unashamedly played. Now our music doesn’t speak of love, our get togethers and ‘panels’ are full of “why we can’t get together”, and “the problem with (wo)men is…”.  We rehearse our failures and war stories to the point that we no longer want to participate in the battle.  We’ve packed our vulnerability on the shelf and replaced it with armor. Or, we pretend to on social media, then go home and make Match Group rich by looking for love on our phones and tablets. There is a sweetness to allowing ourselves to be open to the ‘what ifs’ and risks of love. There is valor in being vulnerable.

I want to us to start placing value on love again.  Start giving love it’s propers (did I just date myself there?). Start high fiving those around us who are fearless in their pursuit of love.  Yes, my cynical beloved, you do need love, and I’m officially making it the cool kid at school; go sit with love. Let’s make the pursuit popular again. Let’s let ‘open noses’ once again be something we smile and tease about, rather than scoff and ridicule.  Vulnerability and love are what set us apart as humans. It’s the best part. Go be your best.

Let me know if you feel me, or if you can’t quite reach me.

*Dedicated to the memory of LaKita Garret whose personal motto was #LoveWell: Rest in Power Kita*

Friends

Coffee in my Left Hand …Friends in my right. I want to talk today about your friends. What about your friends? Will they stand their ground, will they let you down again? Okay, if you read me say “about your friends”, and that song verse didn’t automatically pop into your head, just wait; it’ll catch on and so will you.
Today I’m laughing about and loving on my friends. Since you and I are still in the introduction stage, I thought I’d bring them in early. You’ll definitely see one of your own friends, or realize that you ARE the friend for someone else.

The Fighter: There is always one Mike Tyson/Layla Ali in the group. Who hurt you? Let’s eff ‘em up! All hell n’all, you don’t have to take that. Listen, I know some people, we can make this quick and easy. Dude, you wanna roll up on them? Now, if your friends don’t say “roll up on”, you are probably not from Chicago. Because in Chi, we ‘roll up on’. The Fighter is down for whatever, whenever, on your behalf. Questions of your innocence are secondary, maybe inconsequential; if a fight needs fighting, they are all in. And, they’re willing to push you in if you’re acting squeamish. Oddly, this is a comforting kind of love. Knowing that your Dude or your Girl has your back like that feels good.

The Preacher/Evangelist: Can’t pay your bills? Let’s pray. Ex-wife acting up? Dude, I was reading this one scripture. Madea going in for her court case? I’m going to fast AND pray for Madea! Anything from open heart surgery to a frustrating line at Walmart can set the Preacher/Evangelist in motion! Doesn’t matter if they are Muslim, Christian, Yoruba or a HBCU born hybrid of the three (trust, that’s a thing), every situation calls for intercessory prayer, scripture, theological reference and a detailed description of the time “the Lord brought me through.” Now, don’t sleep, this friend is as powerful and “down for whatever” as your Fighter, they just fight on a different playing field. You want a friend that can get a prayer past the ceiling, especially if you aren’t sure your own prayer Wi-Fi bill is paid.

The Holistic: Dude, you still eating that? You ain’t woke yet? Girl, I have this essential oil you can put on that. Herbs, oils, ‘mixes’, and the “head remedy in charge” shea butter are this friend’s world. While the Fighter is mapping the plan, and the Preacher is praying you out of that whole situation to begin with, the Holistic is doing a sage burn through your apartment, to cleanse the bad aura out. They have quickened a rub of cumin and honey for your forehead, got a soak ready for your feet and hooked you up with this kale/quinoa/rocks salad that will get you right, right now. We hate tofu, but we pretend to eat it just because we love them, because we know there is love in that rock salad they made.

The Centrist tries to stay level headed, and rationally talk you through the insanity that is your life. They don’t judge, ask probing questions, and try to get you to see your own way through. When the Fighter has you ready to assault the next person through the door, the Centrist will bring you back around to the horrors of prison and why bail money doesn’t grown on fighting trees.

The Mind Reader is that one friend who always knows what you’re thinking. As you are fixing your mouth to say it, they come right in with “nope, that ain’t right, Dude.” You can give them 45 minutes of conversation, and venting and the Mind Reader simply says, “okay, yeah, but what you’re really mad at is…” The Mind Reader knows you, the lies you start to tell but then decide against, and loves you anyway. There is a level of comfort in the Mind Reader; they make you feel understood, known, and seen. If you are self -actualized at all, you know the importance of feeling known.
Centrist and Mind Reader are core in your Village. If you don’t have them, you need to make them your #2017SquadGoals and quick.

In reality, most of your friends fall into different categories on different days. I have friends who can be all of those in one conversation! And we need that. In order to be the best you, you need to have a crew of people who fight for, pray for, help you heal, and walk with you through the ebbs and flows of life.

And whichever drinks the most coffee, is my favorite.