FREE TO SPEAK, SEEK, AND SEARCH IN THE AMERICAN DREAM CITY

You would have thought the kids and I were headed to Mecca by the way we bolted out the door to head to the library yesterday. I was partially ready to see the newly finished Abrams street and all the other buffing and polishing that had taken place in Downtown Arlington. When we found out the new East branch library wasn’t open yet the bibliophile in me was confident that there would be new gems awaiting us at the other location. I decided to decline in finding out why no one sent me the memo that the new east branch doesn’t open until November.

While the library staff was kindly explaining this to me over the phone, I realized that information had indeed been shared all over the Arlington city website, library website, You-Tube channel, excreta as I was squinting my eyes to fact check on my crack screened laptop. I apparently just really didn’t get the memo. Yet, sourly there was still a part of me as a ghetto-geek that just personally feels like I should be notified on matters regarding the local athenaeum but I digress.

As I actively chose to ignore my 5 year old kicking the back of my seat while driving I began to talk about the special presentation that PBS-kids aired the night before. I had text as many people as I could from my contact list in my phone about what a brilliant job KERA did explaining race and racism to young children. I was also wishing I wasn’t such an introvert because I only text about 4 people but the point is, I had never seen anything like that before.

In a very guided and knowledgeable way the half hour special talked about subjects that can be very heavy and difficult for us parents to explain. The host and National Youth Poet Laureate Gorman sweetly pulled us in every time she flashed that gorgeous smile and incorporated the differences between what race is, what a racist is, and what racial justice is all about.

By the time we made it to the promised land-wait, I meant the library we were so excited to be in the most magical place in the universe. Searching for my typical transformative non-fiction books my eyes happened to land on Say Her Name by Zetta Elliot. I was not familiar with the author but I was confident that the book was congruent to the tragic murder of Breonna Taylor.

In addition to that, the book was a book of poetry and pose. I have not been so moved by poetry in years. I wept, I laughed, and before you knew it I had read the whole thing while my boys were pretending to be “book bandits” and asking the children’s librarian if she sanitizes her hands before and after touching the books.

The truly ironic thing is that the book somehow in that moment made me feel so connected to everything and everyone in spite of social distancing. That book made me feel proud to be an American citizen who just so happens to be African-American. Yes, ethnicity is never first on the list of identity.

That book made me recall of how shocked I was to see that most people at the Martin Luther King celebration at the beginning of the year in Arlington didn’t look like me. I thought wow, this was really his dream. I love my city because I feel safe to dream, I feel included, heard, and well before it was “trending” to do so might I add. I love all the diversity and cultural inclusion because it seems so effortless. There wasn’t a shelve or table I could walk pass and not see books written by Asian, Black, or Hispanic authors.

Here in the American Dream City I feel free to speak, seek, and search. Apparently the universe sends more of it your way when your intentional about speaking up, seeking, and searching. I wasn’t look for that book on Saturday.

I think that book was looking for me.

Say her name.

Welcome to The A!

Somewhere mid-apocalypse sorry, pandemic, I realized that the most important and powerful thing that I could do as a committed global citizen was right in front of my nose. Instead of focusing on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue I decided to focus on where I lived. By the time premature re-openings of non-essential businesses began I narrowed my view to the American Dream City only.

As I have shared before, I had been off of social media since 2019. When the lockdowns started I was totally disconnected from mainstream influences, marketing ads, calculated algorithms, etc. I allowed family and close friends to be my filter and “ear to the streets”. Granted I was never asking or even wanted to know what “everybody else” was doing or cared to share or post myself.

However they (family/close friends) would vent or share somethings that they were disturbed by. For instance the high school girl and her boyfriend that got on tic-toc and made the disturbing “How to make a n____” video or how some kids had started making sick parody videos of them kneeling on someone’s neck after the death of George Floyd. I knew then I could not afford to return to social media.

With that being said, I have grown in how I handle and process things that bother me. So I would either change the subject or just flat out tell them that I did not want to talk about anything negative out of respect for my own mental well being. I would further express to them why I wasn’t on social media. More often than not they understood and would scale things back about what was on Facebook or Instagram. Being a mother of two young black sons brings a special set of fears and added frustrations were not healthy. The ironic thing was it made us closer because now we were forced to have more intimate conversations which was a win in my book.

I decided to only focus on what I felt was most important. In all honesty, Arlington, Texas had a big transformational impact on how I was viewing the rest of the world. Simply put, there is leadership I can respect and support in my town. I could careless about party affiliations. When I personally graded my city on how I felt things were being handled the A plus on my eBook cover: The Single Mom’s Guide To Not Fully Ignoring Your Kids During a Pandemic (available on Amazon/Kindle) was for Arlington. From the Coronavirus to race relations I gave Arlington an A-plus compared to what I was hearing from my loved ones in other cities and out of state.

In addition to peaceful protest that took place here in the city, it still overwhelmed my heart to see that people of all races and backgrounds were present. I did not attend any protests out of health concerns of the outgoing global pandemic but hats off to all the PEACEFUL protestors here in my city and the police who supported their efforts.

I was also very moved by Mayor Williams signing an official proclamation in recognition of Juneteenth. I literally cried seeing that. I have always felt like the A was not only a welcoming diverse city but inclusive as well. For instance, earlier this year I was amazed at how most of the people at the Downtown Library’s Martin Luther King celebration didn’t look like me. I remember thinking wow, this was his dream. MLK was one of the most brilliant unifiers of our time and the American Dream city is a growing representation of that. Not to mention as of now, the city of Arlington also has the highest number of residents who have completed the census in the state of Texas.

Granted our city is not perfect. Despite what the city represents, you will still see a few folk every now and again that could careless about including or welcoming others. You can see it on their faces and smell that hate through their bones. It’s something that I can truthfully say is rare but it’s truly always lurking and that’s any city. The plus is that the city of Arlington is intentional about diversity and seemingly committed to equality.

It is for this reason that I’m always trying to figure out ways to pour into a city that has poured into me. Despite my plans to be a full time teacher after passing my exams back in February, I focused on things I could do.

As a result I created a free online support group/meet-up group The 1st Single Mom’s Club of Arlington, started taking better care of myself, and wrote three books during this challenging time. My advice to others would be to focus and learn on your local elected officials and a little less on Washington. I’m a firm believer that learning your local community and being active in it not only gives you a since of purpose but it’s a wonderful anecdote to easing national anxieties.

Nonetheless early voting in Texas is October 13-30 so be well, be you, be ye red or blue. Just vote.

Namaste.