the truth is in there somewhere

It isn’t easy to dispute popular opinion, especially when that opinion is idealistic. Yet those are the concepts that need delicate dissent to understand the balance to the idealism. the pitfalls to the practice. Often, popular opinion fits the era it grows in and goes out of style as the environment changes.

Shine a light on it VPopular thought can be confusing, and become useless. It’s learning to discern the core of truth behind the thinking that’s important, and forget the fluff others will use to distort the issue. When you get down to the foundation of a belief, everything you hear about it becomes easier to sort through.

That’s when you start the debate, the discussions, the conversations with those whose heart is turned to helping you. You’ve created your own basis for belief and can build on it through the wisdom of others.

It’s also the time when you look at that core belief critically. Take a step back and think, “if everyone told me this was a lie, would I still believe it was true?”

At that point, of course, you’d have to consider why they might think it was a lie. Always good to play devil’s advocate with your own thinking. If you don’t do it, at some point someone else will, and it can get really messy if you’re not used to it.

There are multiple reasons for deeming something true, and we each have our own tolerance for these various ways. Experience, science, faith, because your parents told you so are some of them.

Just for the record, hearing it repeated as a fact on a sitcom, or any form of mass entertainment, probably isn’t a good basis for belief. In fact, anytime you hear someone state something that’s clearly intended to evoke a reaction, consider whether the reaction is most important to them, or the response. The motivation behind words is important.

Generations have survived the time & tide of trendy thinking, parental influence and bad polling. Anytime someone gives me a ten- or twenty-word conclusive summary, or worse yet, pithy quote, of their philosophy about an important issue, I consider it worth a penny for every word. Abbreviated comments shouldn’t summarize a belief. They should launch it.

Intriguing debate, courteous disagreement, and the discretion to know when to walk away, literally or figuratively (and sometimes it takes the bigger person to do it only figuratively) help hone thoughts and ideas. A word of caution, don’t act like you’re willing to die for your beliefs unless you actually are, and decide ahead of time what those beliefs might be.

How did I come to these conclusions? I took my own advice, and this is what I’ve come to believe.

Image Credit: magnifying glass © mudretsov; script © orelphoto both —

hold your child’s hand, talk a little longer

Last week, our hearts were broken.

In response, my friend Wanda organized this silent vigil in our community for the victims of the Emanual AME Church shooting.

Silent Vigil at Crystal Bridges Museum
Silent Vigil for Victims of Mother Emanuel AME church shooting, June 24, 2015. Photo by Ali Wingood

Wanda has two daughters, ages 12 and 14. They’re learning what it means to be black in America. They’re black, so there’s that, and then there’s the bigger picture Wanda is helping them understand.

More to teach everyday, no doubt. It’s hard to be a parent.

In November of 1960,

Ruby Bridges made history. Many of you know the story. Six-year-old Ruby was one of the first black children to cross the lines at an all-white school in New Orleans to claim her right to an equal education in the public school system.

U.S. Marshalls with Ruby Bridges, November 14, 1960
U.S. Marshalls with Ruby Bridges, November 14, 1960

U.S. Marshalls escorted her & her mother to the classroom that first day amidst rioting protesters, including one woman who put a black baby doll in a makeshift casket and shoved it at Ruby as she walked by.

Ruby was brave, no doubt about it. But when I saw this picture all I could think was how much courage her parents had, how deep their conviction and love must have been.

Her mama probably didn’t sleep much the night before. She likely ironed and starched that dress until it could stand up by itself. There may have been a petticoat, given the same care.

The little white anklets, perhaps with flowers embroidered on them. The patent leather shoes, polished until light bounced off them at every step. The bow pinned firmly in the hair.

When I picture Lucille Bridges, I see a woman who believed in what she and her baby girl were about to do. Ruby was going to shine, inside and out, as she changed history.

And she did change it. Today, countless doors have been opened for children everywhere, and each of us has benefited at one point or the other from the education they’ve earned.

All in my lifetime

Ruby’s story never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Abon & Lucille Bridges, her parents. I wouldn’t care so deeply if not for my parents, who raised three children in the turbulent ’60s and taught us about equality and justice as best they could.

We stumble through, work together and listen to each other.

That’s all anybody can expect, to teach the best way — and words — we know. Perhaps down the road we learn our lessons were somehow off the mark. Yet we stumble through, work together and listen to each other.

I’ve kept my heart, mind and eyes open for increasing understanding because of the foundation my parents laid. Whatever mistakes they may have made, at its heart, their message was right. They believed in equal opportunity. They saw people as individuals with value. They recognized the problems and knew the solutions were bigger, but would take time.

It’s hard to be a parent, but you make a difference. May it change your child’s world, and that of those around you, for the better.

Thanks to the Ruby Bridges Foundation,, for facts on her story.

a little less class, a little more kitsch

If we’re lucky our homes will never look precisely decorated, because along the way we’ll accumulate campy pieces of kitsch,  treasured objects that speak to our hearts, and we’ll have to display them.

Ah, FranciscoFor me, it was an ashtray given as a joke by some family member, probably my mom or brother. It had a black plastic base with a hand-painted metal flamenco dancer screwed into the middle. Joke was on them. I loved it.

I don’t smoke, and guests in my home aren’t allowed to either, so instead I loaded it with red cinnamon candy and proudly set it on my coffee table.

No one, but no one, saw the beauty in Francisco the Fleet-Footed Flamenco Dancer that I did. It was frequently suggested I replace him with something a bit, shall we say, classier. I really didn’t see how Francisco fell short. (Okay, I did, but love is kind.)

Then I got a roommate. She was appalled, and went as far as trying to enlist my mother’s help to “get rid of that thing.” Mom warned her it was useless. Thus began a minor battle between my roommate and me.

“People will think it’s okay to smoke,” she’d say.

“That’s why there’s candy in there.” I’d reply.

“The colors aren’t right in this room,” she’d try later, standing in the living room as I walked down the hall.

“It’s so small, it’s an accent piece, it doesn’t matter,” I called back.

I never feared for Francisco’s safety, however, until I came home one day while she was on a business trip. He lay on his side on the coffee table, completely twisted off the base.

“Ooooh NOOOOO!” I cried. She forever denied it, but all the evidence said that woman had hired a damn assassin to do her dirty work while she was away.

I immediately called my friend Bud and asked if he could solder the pieces together. Within hours, Francisco sat upright in his proper place again. But I was resigned to the fact he needed a new home, at best somewhere safer in the apartment.

My kitschy little ashtray went into a box and stayed there for I don’t know how many years. He resurfaced every time I moved, but never made it onto the coffee table again. Eventually he disappeared.

I miss Francisco. Everything in my living room now is so…classy. It could use a little lesser art.

Image credit: (shadow image) © adrenalinapura –

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