This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

March 6, 2010

A Presidential View

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 11:01 am

I am still taking something of a blogging break from serious and contentious news of the day. Usually when I feel worn down like this I retreat to music, fiction, or photography. I have been listening to a lot of music lately—and can’t wait to re-join Old School Friday soon to share some of my musical ministry here. I have picked up an interesting novel, and have a couple more on my list. So that leaves photography. These shots I modified from the White House’s Flickr photostream.

They are nothing momentous: Just moments.

I don’t know why I am partial to this image. Actually, yes I do. It shows the President writing with his left hand. I’ve written before about the pride I feel, on behalf of my leftie daughter, whenever I see Barack Obama use his left hand. But I also like to imagine the moments right before this shot was taken, when he asked this brother (personal aide Reggie Love) to hold up a minute so he could write on his back.

This guy’s folks will have this image forever. He’ll show it to his own grandkids one day, should he one day be a grandfather. This young man will never know a United States in which a Black President did not exist as a reality. I know that there are important policy issues that we should be attending to—and holding this president accountable for. But in doing so we should not lose sight of the radical-ness of this president’s very Being President.

This is another one of those captured moments that I want to imagine the moments just before. The kid in the baseball hat really wanted to play this whole thing cool. But you can tell he’s interested. (Though I wish he had taken his cap off.) The President has got his Dad-face on.

And of course, who doesn’t like Bo. The “Snowcopalypse” may have shut down the Capital and much of the rest of the country, but it was all fun and games, apparently, for the First Dog.

January 26, 2010

The Beautiful Struggle

Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 5:00 pm

"Negro going in colored entrance..." Library of Congress,

If you have dropped by this spot before, you know I have a thing for black and white photography, and black and white historical images of African Americans in particular. There is a subset of these images that are of hardship, struggle, pain. Yet many images are still what I would characterize as beautiful—sometimes startlingly so.

Such is the case with these photographs, more from Flickr’s incredible collection of public domain photographs, The Commons.

These may not be famous works of photographic art from their periods, but they masterfully capture important slices of history. But beyond that, they are beautiful works of art.

As was the case of the people in my post “My People and Other People’s Children,” I do not know who the subjects of these photographs are. But I claim them, proudly, as my own ancestors. I am grateful to them, for enduring, and to the photographers who captured their beauty.

"Cultivating sugar cane..." Library of Congress,

"Electric phosphate smelting furnace..." Library of Congress

"Woman carrying bundle on head..." New York Public Library

"Woman carrying bundle on head..." New York Public Library

"Negro laborers..." New York Public Library

"Company stores and offices and clinic of Delta Pine Company..." New York Public Library

December 20, 2009

Roll Out the Holly…

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I cannot take credit for these images of holiday decorating prep: they were all taken by my 9-year-old daughters. I did some editing—made them black and white, played around with exposure, etc. But the initial eye and composition is all theirs. Gotta admit I am proud. Trying to resist buying them One More Thing (their first cameras) as a result.

Hope all your preparations are over and you are finding some moments to relax and reflect.

"Box of Vintage Silk Bulbs." Scribe Daughters

"Unwrapping the Wrapping Paper." Scribe Daughters

"Neon Snowman." Scribe Daughters

"Kwanzaa Man." Scribe Daughters

"Peace Dove at Rest on Staircase." Scribe Daughters

November 24, 2009

“When did you discover you are African?”

"When did you discover you are African?" PPR_Scribe

"MOAD Exterior." PPR_Scribe

That is the question asked at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

While I was in town recently for a conference, I dragged my old college roommate there. Although she has been a resident of the city since we both left Boston, she had never visited the museum. I remember being very excited about it when it first opened in 2005; in fact, I think I even wrote a post about it on my old blog. So I knew I couldn’t visit the city and not visit MoAD.

I am tempted to compare MoAD to the National Underground Railroad Museum and Freedom Center, which I blogged about this summer. That would be, perhaps, an unfair comparison.

The Underground Railroad museum is working with probably 10 times more space for one thing. The exhibits are more emotionally charged at the Underground Railroad Museum just by nature of their content, and are a lot more participatory than the exhibits at the more gallery-like MoAD. There are also probably important differences in terms of ownership of the real estate that the two institutions inhabit that might partially account for how MoAD is able (and unable) to use its building, though I do not know for sure what all these details are.

"Museum of the African Diaspora, exterior." PPR_Scribe

Given these differences, though, I do think that MoAD could better utilize its small space. The exhibit space was small to begin with, and configured strangely—Rule number one of any public space is that it should not be so difficult to find the restroom.

But I was happy to see that the space was being used as a community gathering area: During my visit there was a respectable group there to hear artist Richard Mayhew speak. We did not have time to listen to the lecture but did enjoy the retrospective of his work.

There were creative uses of some of the spaces: Both the stairwell and the elevator were covered in hundreds of images of the people that make up the African diaspora, for example. And the space itself is gorgeous from a design standpoint. The small gift shop was impressive. The staff was welcoming and knowledgeable—the two young Black men working there who tried to talk us into attending the lecture were especially wonderful to see. The place had the feel of an intimate, cozy, vibrant cultural salon. And the on-line museum is user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and educational.

That the museum exists is reason enough to be happy. Hopefully with more time—and more monetary support—the space can be transformed (and maybe enlarged) to better host its important themes.

It was definitely worth the visit.

"Ancestor Image Stairwell." PPR_Scribe

"Ancestor Image Elevator, detail." PPR_Scribe

"Transformation-MoAD Lobby." PPR_Scribe

November 21, 2009

Streets of San Francisco: Jazz Writing on the Wall

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"Jazz Graffiti." PPR_Scribe

The streets of San Francisco are no joke. If I had a few more days of walking while at my recent conference I would erase several years of being out of shape. At least I was rewarded on my walks with surprising wonderful sights, like this wall of graffiti.

"Lady Day Sings Forever on the Wall." PPR_Scribe

Closer shot: Billie Holiday sings urban art.

"And on keyboards, Thelonious Monk." PPR_Scribe

And a closer shot of Thelonious Monk.

"1300." PPR_Scribe

More jazz at the 1300 Restaurant: extremely upscale soul food and two rounds of Bourbon Street Sunrise.

"Fillmore Street, Jazz." PPR_Scribe

I will have to think of way to get back to San Francisco soon—perhaps for the Fillmore Jazz Festival next July 4th holiday.

October 6, 2009

Scenes from the Sidelines: Circle City Classic Parade 2009

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more about “Circle City Classic Parade 2009“, posted with vodpod


They say everybody loves a parade.

If true, then everybody would especially love the annual Circle City Classic Parade.

This year’s musical theme (like the theme of Black Expo) was Michael Jackson. “Pretty Young Thing”—a jam even on a bad day—is even better when played by a full marching band and fronted by an MJ impersonator. You have not seen a “Thriller” line dance until you have seen it performed by about 60 young people carrying band instruments and batons and giant colorful flags. Almost every marching band from middle schoolers to college had an MJ homage.

And Gary Roosevelt High School was one of the main bands representing their hometown hero with a musical tribute.

As I have already said here, my kid got a chance to meet Olympic swimmer, Cullen Jones.

Our governor also came over and said a few words to her, patted the top of her Blues Clues cap, and told her to stay in school. She looked at him strangely (“Why wouldn’t I stay in school, Mommy?”) and asked me who that man was. I told her she had just spoken with the governor of our state. She was not impressed. I guess he is no Cullen Jones.

I must be old. I did not know that Master P and his son Romeo (I guess no longer lil) passed by until a group of young female fans started squeeling and begging to be put in the video they’d be filming at halftime of the game.

All the Black Greeks were in full force, wearing their colors proudly and stepping.

Wendy Williams rode by and was flattered when That One Section (the one who is so organized every year, with their chorus of personal hellos to the passing dignitaries) said in unison “How you doin!”

The Madam CJ Walker impersonator rode by waving a hot comb.

All the beauty queens in their princess gowns waved their beauty queen waves.

Overheard from a first timer from out of town, “I had no idea Indianapolis had this many Black folks.”

Overheard from every other child: “Mama/Nana/Daddy can I get a t-shirt/candy/hat?”

Everybody loves a parade. The firetruck from the Black Firefighters Association rode by, signaling the end of this one, at least for this year. The bands—the Tuskegee University Marching Crimson Piper Band and the Alabama A & M Marching Maroon and White—would meet each other again on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium at halftime for the famous “Battle of the Bands.”

Oh yes. There was also a football game on either side of the halftime show.

See you downtown next year!

September 27, 2009

Give Me Fever

Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 7:13 pm

"Final Score." PPR_Scribe

"Final Score." PPR_Scribe

"Young Fan on the Bam-Bam Sticks." PPR_Scribe

"Young Fan on the Bam-Bam Sticks." PPR_Scribe

"And the Crowd Roared." PPR_Scribe

"And the Crowd Roared." PPR_Scribe

September 7, 2009

Our Daughters, Our Selves

In another part of the country, a mother buries her Black daughter. This mother probably thought this daughter, killed steps from a college library, would be safe. She probably aches from the thought that she could not have protected her better. All over the country, mothers of Black daughters in her age group (15-24) ache for their dead daughters—dead from “unintentional injuries” (#1 cause of death) and homicide (#2 cause of death).

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

No one else seems to ache for their daughters. There does not, for example, seem to be a national feminist organization, or a national Black civil rights organization, whose mission it is to ache—and advocate for—these Black daughters.

So we mothers of Black daughters must advocate for our daughters, for our selves.


Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope. I look around and see who we cry for, who we call into radio programs to show support for, who we march in the streets for, who we file amicus curiae briefs for, who we garner our righteous indignation for. And those whos do not, in most cases, seem to be  Black daughters.

The First Lady must advocate for her First (and Only) Daughters. As must we all. Our nation’s First (Black) Daughters are our symbols. They are our symbols for what it will be to be a Black daughter in this still-new century. Will it be more of the same? Or a New Day? Will the new day be a good new day, or will it surprise us with the creativity and inventiveness of its new-found horrible-ness?

"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

My Black daughters came to me in a pair. And people tend to think of them as a pair. Venus-and-Serena. Sasha-and-Malia.

Yes, my daughters are individuals, not an interchangeable unit. Yet I like their paired-ness. Hopefully the dashes sandwiching the and between their names will remind them that they will have to advocate for each other. To be their own best friends.

Their own most ardent defenders.


I stand in solidarity with other mothers of Black daughters. Many of these mothers are Black daughters themselves. But some are not. Some are White daughters, or identify racially as other than black or white. Some mothers are “actually” grandmothers, or aunts, or older cousins. Some are not even female, but they “mother” their Black daughters just the same. Black daughters are yoked to their mothers by biology and by adoption and by social contract. By necessity and by convenience and by happenstance.

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

These varied Black daughters might struggle to see themselves in other Black daughters. And we as their mothers must release ourselves from whatever bulky and heavy bags we still tote around, filled with random items of wrinkled shit of our own histories with other Black daughters.

It ain’t gonna be easy.

But it is for our daughters, so we will find a way.


I feel a special concern for other Black mothers of Black daughters. There is a saying in Black communities: We love our sons and raise our daughters. I often do see evidence of this. With all respect, some of us need to do more forcing our sons to grow up, and ensuring our daughters do not grow up too soon. I have seen the consequences of some Black mothers’ “loving” of their Black sons.

And it is not a pretty sight.

Mothers of Black daughters: Love your daughters. Fiercely and completely. Love them as much as you do—or should—love yourselves.

"Daddies Are for Fames of Tag." PPR_Scribe

"Daddies Are for Games of Tag." PPR_Scribe


One of the greatest gifts I have given my Black daughters is a man in their life—in this case, their biological father—who loves and cherishes them beyond any other. Even beyond me.

It sounds retro, old fashioned to say it. Maybe “conservative” and “anti-progressive.” Certainly anti-feminist. But.

My Black daughters need at least one man in their life who feels this way about them. All Black daughters do. Black daughters who do not have such a man in their lives as children may struggle as grown women. Many of these grown Black women—straight or lesbian or bisexual or otherwise—will waste years of their lives trying  to find a glimmer of themselves as wonderful beings in the eyes of men, never knowing what it is in those eyes that they should be looking for. They may mistake possessiveness for protection. Violence for passion. Sex for love.

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

Thinking back, I was probably not the Black daughter at adolescence that my own mother hoped for. How can one young woman (i.e., me) be so arrogant and contrary about everything—from spirituality to my bedroom decor, from music to academics, from my treatment of my little sister to the meaning of life?

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

I try to remember my own saltiness as I enter new relationship phases with my own mother, and as my daughters move from little girls to pre-teens. I try to remember—as my mother’s words flow from my mouth, and my daughters hear these words with my former ears—that this is just a stage, just one way station on a long path.

But it is a journey that must be navigated with sensitivity if I want to arrive at the next stage with daughters who respect me.

And who will not cringe when, one day, they hear my own words come out of their mouths.

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe


…Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope….

Then other times, I think otherwise. I may be standing in a hot shower, five minutes past my alarm clock siren and 30 minutes before my first sip of coffee, and my mind chains together several links of good—or at least, not-so-bad—Signs; and in a moment of clarity I realize how much power I have to ensure that my daughters’ world will be a gift and not a curse.

It is important to hold onto those moments, even in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

Especially in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

August 25, 2009


Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 7:37 am

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Shadowlands“, posted with vodpod

August 9, 2009

The Children: Coming to It

Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 6:08 pm
"Little Man, Running." PPR_Scribe

"Little Man, Running." PPR_Scribe

…When we come to it

When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders

"Waves of Joy." PPR_Scribe

"Waves of Joy." PPR_Scribe

And children dress their dolls in flags of truce

When land mines of death have been removed

And the aged can walk into evenings of peace

When religious ritual is not perfumed

By the incense of burning flesh

And childhood dreams are not kicked wide awake

By nightmares of abuse

…When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

"Generational." PPR_Scribe

"Generational." PPR_Scribe

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.

~Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth”

"Merry Go Round." PPR_Scribe

"Merry Go Round." PPR_Scribe

August 3, 2009

Summer Redecorating for Your Computer

Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: — pprscribe @ 11:50 am

I have a new image set at my Flickr site. The images are in color (!) and are intended to be used as desktop wallpaper or as a screen saver. (View the set as a slideshow to see the screen saver effect.) As are all of my images, these are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for non-commercial use and adaptations, with attribution.


July 23, 2009

The Obama Harley and Other Scenes from 2009 IBE

"Obama Harley." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley." PPR_Scribe

Last year’s Indiana Black Expo was all about (then) Candidate Obama. The Obama Harley, courtesy of One Off Incorporated, proves that our love affair with BHO is still going strong a year later.

"Obama Harley Close-up 1." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 1." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 2." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 2." PPR_Scribe

What a way to make a statement rolling down Fall Creek Parkway!

This year’s Expo, however, belonged to the dearly departed King of Pop.

"King of 2009 Expo." PPR_Scribe

"King of 2009 Expo." PPR_Scribe

MJ was everywhere. A DVD of one of his concerts graced all of the screens outside of the Best Buy exhibit. The roller skating crews and the youth dance groups and even the gospel performers skated, danced and sang to Michael Jackson. Every third person had an MJ t-shirt on. And in case you forgot your MJ gear, just about every vendor had MJ-related gear for sale.

Michael Jackson has not been this big since…well, since he was last this big—many, many moons ago.

"Police-Community Relations 101." PPR_Scribe

"Police-Community Relations 101." PPR_Scribe

"And little children and a crime dog shall lead them." PPR_Scribe

"And little children and a crime dog shall lead them." PPR_Scribe

All manner of law enforcement always have booths, giving away plastic state trooper or police force hats and stick-on badges and pop corn and safety coloring books with crayons.

Peace officers roam the exhibition halls—making sure no trouble breaks out, but also serving as ambassadors to the Black community.

The children loved the troopers, police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs. One female police officer was especially the object of young girls’ fascination and respect.

What happens between police and Black youth in the space of 5 years old and 15? Between Hall B of the Convention Center and the intersection of 10th St. and MLK Drive?

"Al B still makin 'em swoon." PPR_Scribe

"Al B still makin 'em swoon." PPR_Scribe

Of course, Expo wouldn’t be Expo without celebrities. If you are touring, or trying to make a comeback, or just released a book/album/movie, you must make a pilgrimage to the Hoosier state’s biggest summer celebration. Al B. Sure! promised to bring real music with real lyrics back to Black radio. Some radio personalities promised to bring President Obama to next year’s Expo.

I cannot decide which is the biggest longshot.

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