Saturday, July 27, 2013


This week has driven me to distraction. As the right continues to murder Trayvon’s memory, pass laws that are constitutionally questionable, and make fun of President Obama’s impromptu talk on race in America, my sensibilities are electrified by disbelief and outrage. I’ve put together a list of things we can do to become a rational, compassionate nation that supports the equality of all its citizens.
1.              Stop. Stop hating. Stop blaming. Stop thinking some people, like you, are better than others.
2.              Learn empathy. Everyone will face adversity at some point in one’s life. Money will not save you. Smugness and superiority will not save you.  God will not save you. So you’d better learn to feel compassion for the person who is down and out, because you might be next.
3.              If you are white and you think racism goes both ways, the most important role you can play in the conversation about race is that of listener.  You’ve already given your opinion one time too many, and it was off base, offensive, ignorant, untruthful, and dangerous.
4.              If you think you know what it is like to be black in America, and you are not a person of color, stop right now. You have no idea what it is like to be black in America. I have spent almost forty years of my life with a black man, and my children are interracial, yet I do not know exactly what it is to be black. I will never know, because I will never be black. Period.
5.              If you are a minority, any minority (black, Hispanic, female, LGBT), even though it may feel scary and difficult, speak up when someone is being offensive. Let people know, as kindly as you can, that what they said is damaging to you, to them, and to society. If you don’t tell them, they’ll only keep on doing what they are doing and tell the next person that their [black, Hispanic, female, LGBT] friend doesn’t feel that way, so s/he must be wrong. Be the first to let them know their thinking is wonky, and then offer to help them understand. And if they don’t want to speak to you after that, that’s their loss.
6.              Report abuse, harassment, discrimination, and favoritism to your employer, the business you are paying for goods and services, at school, at church, or anywhere else it happens, else how will it ever stop? This is for every person, even if you were not the receiver of the action. Peer pressure can positively affect people, too.
7.              If you do not consider yourself a racist, stop voting Republican. The party has been recruiting racists since Nixon, and they are more and more blatant in their appeals to hatred and paranoia to keep the country divided and advance their agenda that benefits the wealthy and creates a plutocracy.
8.              If you do not consider yourself a misogynist, see number 7.
9.              If you think LGBT citizens should be treated equally under the law, see number 7.
10.          In fact, if you believe all people should be equal under the law, see number 7.
11.          If you are a fiscal conservative, stop lying to yourself. History shows that the Republicans tend to grow government and increase the deficit. See number 7.
12.          If you are truly a Christian, stop supporting laws and policies that hurt the poor and the underserved. See number 7.
13.          If you are pro-life help the children who are already here and give women equal access to quality reproductive health. See number 7.
14.          If you know for sure that corporations are not people, see number 7.
15.          If you are female or identify as an ethnic minority in our country, see number 7. They only want your vote, but they will not represent you.
16.          If you believe socialism is scary and dangerous, you need to think again. The roads you drive your vehicle on, the sewer system your home is connected to, the police department, the fire department, the military, social security, the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits are all socialist programs. You benefit from those programs, as should all citizens.
17.          If you believe the Affordable Health Care Act is a socialist program designed to assist people who don’t deserve assistance, see number 16 and number 2. Also know that it is good for society overall that people receive proper health care, because it will prevent the epidemic spread of diseases such as TB and people will be healthier overall and not be a burden to others.
18.          Vote. Vote in every election, including local elections. People died fighting for the inalienable right to vote, so the very least you can do is read up on the issues and the candidates and get your ass to the polls. If you vote, you have a right to complain and ask for representation. If you don’t, shut up, because you are part of the problem.
19.          Help someone else to vote. Drive people who don’t have transportation to the poll. Hold their place in line if they are too old or too tired or too infirm to stand there and they need to sit down.
20.          Do not be a one-issue voter. Nothing is more dangerous or insidious, because if you only vote on one issue you are ignoring all the other issues and voting in candidates who may have terrible agendas and they are relying on you to be ignorant and fervid for your single issue.
21.          If you hear anyone speak disparagingly about another, whether it is about our President, or the black child walking home from school, or the Mexican family waiting in line at the grocery store, or the little girl who is overweight, or the gay or interracial couple who want to enjoy an evening out, tell them you do not agree with them and ask them why they are so mean spirited. Then wait for them to answer.
22.          If you think murder is wrong, stop supporting Stand Your Ground laws, and let people all around you, including your gun monger friends, know that Stand Your Ground is simply a legal get-around to commit murder and you are going to expend your energy getting the laws repealed and fighting for more stringent gun control laws. Then run before they shoot you.
23.          If you believe your child deserves to be safe at school, at home, and in your neighborhood, then support the same for children who may live in neighborhoods and go to schools that are different from yours. Every child deserves that right. Find a way to personally support that belief.
24.          Do not paint a group of people with a broad brush based on one attribute, like skin color or socio-economic status. Every person is an individual, and if you want to be treated as an individual, you ought to treat others the same way. All white people are not the same, and that is true of everyone of every ethnicity, race, gender, and socio-economic class.
25.          Understand that this is America, and that all Americans have the right to be where they are: walking down the street, standing on the walkway of a community, buying Skittles at the convenience store, and going home to watch the second half of the game. Stop thinking some people are more deserving of our freedoms than others. We should all enjoy the freedoms we share as Americans, and you should fight hard for that concept or one day you may find yourself on the wrong side of freedom.
26.          If you are a man, treat women as your equals, not as a sex objects, property, or a baby vessels. Stop supporting legislation that controls women’s reproductive rights. Fight for equal work for equal pay. Don’t support the sex industry because it exploits young women.
27.          If you are here in America because your family migrated here sometime in the last 600 years, support immigration reform. If you don’t support it, you are a hypocrite, and perhaps you should follow your own advice and go back to your country of origin if it will take you.
28.          Do not spend one dime to support the economy of red states that pass laws that are constitutionally questionable, let businesses buy their politicians and political leaders, treat some of their citizens as less than equal, and allow their citizens to be irresponsible gun owners. Your children will grow up just fine if you don’t take them to Disney World.
29.          Teach your children to care for others and to have empathy and compassion for people who may be different from them. Empathy is our greatest equalizer because it opens the mind and squashes irrational judgments.
30.          If you identify as a white American, teach your children about race and ethnicity. Talk to them about white privilege and tell them that it is unfair and that everyone should be treated equally in every circumstance. Teach them to challenge privilege when they benefit because of it. The world will be a better place.
31.          Stop watching Fox News. They are not a news station; they are an entertainment station paid by the likes of ALEC and the Koch brothers to spread the lies and the agenda of the extreme right. Not one word uttered on that station is truthful or newsworthy, so protect your brain cells.
32.          Stop thinking that you are more American than the rest of us. We are a country that willingly took in people other countries didn’t care about. Let’s celebrate our diversity and understand that America has many different faces and perspectives that make us a great country.

Moral Monday at the North Carolina Legislature.

A photo from my local paper depicting counter demonstrators at the Trayvon Martin rally in Winston-Salem, NC.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

To Trayvon, with Love

Dear Trayvon,
I am so sorry that we let you down on the night you died. I am so sorry that you did not receive justice in our court system.
I signed a petition seventeen months ago when I first heard about your death, your murder, Trayvon. I wrote five posts about you in the weeks after, trying to sort out just how America found itself at this place in our history where people not only carry guns but use them and then get away with murder, and at this place where being a black male is STILL dangerous and often fatal. Then I spent the last five weeks following the trial as if my own life depended on it, and, Trayvon, my life did depend on it.
We got home last night and the first thing I did was turn on the TV and flip through the news channels looking for an update on whether or not the jury had come to a verdict, and within minutes I saw the breaking news banner at the bottom of the screen. Ronald and I held our breaths while the court reassembled, all except for your parents, and I felt their absence keenly though I understood why they were not there. I know I would not have been able to hear those words as your parent.
I could only shake my head as the verdict was announced.
“Five white women,” Ronald said. “I told you they’d acquit.”
I hadn’t wanted to believe that the all female jury would acquit George Zimmerman. I wanted to believe, all along, that George Zimmerman would stand up in court and ask for the lies to stop, as first his mother, then his uncle, then his father testified that the screaming on the 911 call was his voice and not yours. I wanted him to admit that he had made terrible, fatal choices that night based on his own biases and hatred and that those choices will forever echo through history and the universe as a reminder of our inhumanity.
But Ronald thought I was naïve.
I began to cry when he told me there is no hope for black people in America. There is nothing left to do, nowhere to go, he said, because nothing will change. I believe so much of what he says, because he has such wisdom about these things, but I know in this case, Trayvon, it is his survival as a black man in this awful, racist country, in spite of his many brushes with other people’s potentially fatal decisions, in stark contrast to your short-lived life, that has left him full of despair.
“We can’t give up,” I said, sobs choking my words.
And I won’t, Trayvon, because you can’t have died in vain.  For every George Zimmerman out there, let there be three or four or eight or thousands who learn how to see you, and all black boys and men, as the person you are, not just the color of your skin. Let there be ten or a hundred or a thousand or millions who know that you belong and have a right to belong and will fight for your right to belong at the store, in the rain, on the walkway, in the gated community your father lived in, in Sanford, in Florida, in the United States of America. You belonged here. You had a right to be here. George Zimmerman was in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing. He acted like a thug that night, because thugs are people who have ill intent and who carry weapons to hurt and kill others, and it doesn’t matter what their skin color is or what clothes they wear, because that isn’t what makes them thugs.
We failed you, Trayvon. Not because your parents didn’t talk to you the way my husband Ronald talked to our daughters, just as his father talked to him and his siblings, and his grandfather talked to his father.
“You can’t do what they do,” Ronald told our daughters. And I know your parents told you that, too, because they were good and loving parents and they wanted to keep you safe from a country that hates you because of the color of your skin.
We failed you, because we allowed the rising tide of racism to crash over our country unabated. We failed you, because we let gun legislation through that supports irresponsible gun ownership. We failed you, because we sat on the laurels of the Civil Rights Movement and grew complacent. We failed you, because George Zimmermans exist everywhere in this country and will continue to profile black boys like you and shoot to kill them.
But we won’t fail your memory, Trayvon. You will be remembered, as the Martin family lawyer, Benjamin Trump, said last night, and “forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all.”
Know, Trayvon, that there are white people who get it. Not all of them, not even half of them, probably not even a third of them, but there are white people, like me, who understand what it is to be black in America because we have been fortunate or unfortunate enough to experience what you experienced as, in my case, a wife and mother and daughter-in-law and sister-in-law and aunt and friend.
I, for one, will pledge to fight on your behalf.
I just signed a petition for the federal government to re-open their suspended investigation. I wrote the following comment:
This is a socially important case. It cannot be the precedent that it is okay to shoot and kill black boys because they are perceived through the lens of racism. Trayvon Martin did nothing different than millions of other boys his age do every day -- he went out to buy a snack and was talking on his cell phone as he walked back home. He had a right to be there. George Zimmerman had no right to profile him from a distance, pursue him, not identify himself [to Trayvon], and then shoot Trayvon at point blank range in the heart. Please investigate this fatal act that denied Trayvon his fundamental civil rights and his life.
Know that men like my husband, though crushed by the disrespect and humiliation they have endured in their lifetimes as they trail-blazed the way toward equality, will continue their fight for justice, even at their personal peril.  They will push through their depression and weariness because they don’t want you to live the life they did. They want it to be better, like when my father-in-law moved from Sanford, FL (where relatives still live) up north so his children would not grow up under Jim Crow laws.
And white people like me will be at their sides, just like whites marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr.  We know it is wrong. We believe you when you tell us how it is for you as a black boy living in a racist country. We’ve even experienced it vicariously, like when the Southern white man stood in our garage when we had a neighborhood yard sale a few weeks back and told us how all blacks live off the government. He said that standing in the garage of our newly constructed home, looking directly at our Infiniti G37S parked in the garage along with Ronald’s motorcycle, and our CRV and our daughter’s Mazda 3 parked at the curb so our driveway would fit the lawn tractor, refrigerator, and chandelier we were selling. I guess they were all bought with food stamps, Trayvon, because, according to him and many other white people, all black people are on the dole and too lazy to work. I slipped into the house, and Ronald told the white man, “You have to go now.”
I wish someone had been there the night George Zimmerman decided you didn’t belong in his neighborhood, even though it was obviously multi-cultural and multi-racial. I wish just one person had stepped out of his or her house and said to Zimmerman, “You have to go now. Let this boy return safely home. He belongs here.”
Trayvon, we will continue the fight for the right of all Americans to belong, to be equal under the law, and to be judged by one’s character and not a physical feature or clothing. We cannot rip racism from a person’s brain, but we can fight the good fight and remove the racism from our institutions and our systems and our laws. One day, people like George Zimmerman will be just a memory, but unlike your memory, we will not remember his name but only his deed that reminded us how far we had to go.

With love and hope,

Trayvon, for your parents and your brother and for all of us who love you and who won't forget you, this is how you will be remembered, in this photo taken just ten days before you were murdered

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Here We Go Again – Elbert Guillory (R) Switches Parties

I am so pleased to introduce Melissa Prunty-Kemp, M.A., M.F.A. I invited some other writers to share their race and culture experiences, and Melissa is the second writer to guest post. If we cannot view our experiences through the lens of honesty and forthrightness, we cannot begin to heal our shameful history of racism and look forward to a new unified America.

Perhaps recent storms, bridge collapses or the trials of Jody Arias and George Zimmerman distracted you from this recent earth-shaking announcement by former Democratic Senator Elbert Guillory, now new R-Opelousas, Louisiana; that he switched parties and is now a Republican.  Not only has Guillory experienced this “Apostle Paul” moment, you should as well, especially if you are a Black American.

In this statement originally sent to me from a Facebook friend as a YouTube video, Guillory purports to show many misguided African Americans “the way.” Fortunately for me especially (because I hate video), I found a transcript of Guillory’s speech.

If you are a person who believes political parties have any real purpose different from each other (I do not—they all want the same thing in my opinion, which is security for monetary and military interests but they each have a different method of fostering that security), then it makes sense for you to pay attention to what the parties do and who is affiliated with which party.  If you think race has something to do with how the parties operate, then it makes sense to pay attention to which racial/ethnic groups affiliate with which parties.  I, however, believe that political parties, like race, socio-economic status, age, gender and other demographic delimiters serve one purpose only—to distract and divide people so that they never pay attention to the real problem—the wizard behind the curtain.

So what’s Guillory’s premise in his speech?  He believes the Democratic Party is in favor of “public” welfare and that the public who receives such is being insulted with it.  He states, “You see, in recent history the Democrat Party has created the illusion that their agenda and their policies are what’s best for black people.”  The operative words in this sentence and in the whole argument, which weakens it and makes it irrelevant, are “recent history.”  What’s recent is a matter of when you are born.  My son and my own “recent history” are radically different.  It amazes me that Guillory could be his age and make the statements he’s making, considering the “recent history” he experienced in Louisiana.

He could be right with the rest of his contention, however: there is no shortage of parties, groups, doctors, politicians and a host of others who know “what’s best” for black and any other people, whites included.  I’d define that as “parochialism” or “paternalism,” both of which are faulty.  It presupposes the belief that ethnic groups and their individual members are incapable of deciding what’s best for themselves and that they need the great hand of someone smarter than they to do it for them.  Guillory should be slapped for continuing to perpetuate such a statement.  I definitely don’t need anyone to tell me what’s best for me.  My brain and critical thinking function quite well, thank you.

Guillory’s speech then continues to posit that Republicans are much more humane and have been such since 1854.  Presumably, he thinks they are the best party to know what’s “best for the people.” He then goes on to prove the accuracy of this statement.  It would take me a week to demonstrate how wrong-headed it is for any group of people in the USA to discuss the humanity of Democratic or Republican parties toward minority groups or women. We could all be smashed flat by the weight of publications to the contrary.  Both parties are guilty at various times in history of inhumanity and grand hypocrisy from the beginnings of this country until today, and the same will be the case tomorrow.  Individuals do and have done great things.  The parties often have not.

Some of Guillory’s proof of the great good will toward blacks at the hands of Republicans is pretty shaky:  Abe Lincoln, while a great president, was no saint.  Most people know these days that the abolition of slavery was not his purpose in the Civil War, nor anyone’s purpose.  It was a convenient and happy circumstance for slaves that Emancipation became a political tool, and most of them were grateful for freedom.  But if you read deeply, you will find that some were not and were “happy” with the “security” of their slave existence - wrong-headed and misguided—yes. 

But if you consider that a slave was a person ripped from their home at the hands of their own countrymen and relocated several thousand miles away across an ocean which they (perhaps) miraculously managed to survive being transported over; if you consider that a slave might have been purposefully BRED here after the slave trade was abolished (after all, why engage in the expense of transport or even of purchase on these shores when a slave owner could just make as many of his own slaves as he desired); it’s not difficult to imagine that one tortured and terrified in this manner wouldn’t want to be released to “freedom” into the wilds of an unknown country never travelled, with little or no idea really how to negotiate travel, not to mention all those murderous whites who might kill you still (reference the 1890s, Red Summer of 1913, the rise of the KKK and other hate groups, and subsequent Jim Crow Laws.) 

Guillory’s next example of Republican largesse is “voting rights.”  This is another problematic issue as stated by Guillory, who says, “It was the Republicans in Congress who authored the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments giving former slaves citizenship, voting rights, and due process of law.”  Republicans did sponsor the 14th Amendment, but it was in reaction to the Supreme Court’s (also mostly Republican) Dred Scott Decision.  So in fact, it wasn’t Dred Scott himself that was the reason for the 14th Amendment; it was quelling a corrupt Supreme Court (see Anastaplo’s Lincoln biography, 1999.)

It’s also well worth noting that the 1965 Voting Rights Act wouldn’t have been necessary had the first rights to vote been enforced.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act was a bi-partisan sponsored bill and signed into law by a democratic president.  Guillory writes, “It was the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who championed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but it was Democrats in the Senate who filibustered the bill.” Eisenhower, a Republican, was a great president, but unfortunately, he couldn’t get the Civil Rights Act passed.  It would take the bully-muscle of a Democrat to do that.  Had not Kennedy and Johnson been in office, and had not Johnson been in need of establishing his might, I don’t think the act would have been passed without much more bloodshed. Consider the numbers reported of blacks mostly and some whites who were killed or injured from 1954 – 1968 during the Civil Rights movement (89 murdered and 176 injured that I could find from various sources). Had not Johnson intervened in 1964 when he did, I really believe things might have devolved into all-out civil war or another instance of genocide in the USA.

Guillory switches in his speech at this point to talk about government.  He writes, “You see, at the heart of liberalism is the idea that only a great and powerful big government can be the benefactor of social justice for all Americans.”  What exactly is “big government?”  Where is it actually stated what size our government should be other than what the constitution implies, keeping in mind that times and situations call for adjustments.  Our country has chosen to use government as a means of operation.  We have 315 million+ people in the US as of December 2012.  Who and how are we to manage all those people and their needs without government of a reasonable size to perform operations? 

We’re doing a terrible job at actually managing the needs of the people.  Reference the recent bridge collapses as one example of how well we are not doing.  According to the USDA, 47,558,164 Americans, or roughly 15% of our total population, are receiving food stamps, an increase of 2.8% since last year. They are not having their needs managed either. I promise you, none of this 15% woke up and decided they wanted to try to feed their families on $45 - $100 a month.

Yes, of course, Americans tend to complain about “social programs,” which is ridiculous, especially since many of those programs are benefitting the people who complain.  Take welfare for instance.  The current statistics show that there’s a 1% difference in the numbers of blacks and whites who receive welfare at around 39.8%.  Only around 16% of Latinos receive it.  We spend
·      $139.1 billion on welfare and our current total spending budget is $3,803.4 billion.
·      3.65% of our budget on welfare. 
·      $916.1 billion on healthcare
·      $901.4 on defense
·      $875.3 on pensions. 
I hope you see a problem here.  Less spending on social programs (almost none) and more spending on defense and healthcare. If you don’t eat well, you will become sick sooner or later. We could fund the welfare budget 8 times over with the defense or even the pension budget, and subsequently reduce spending on healthcare if our government had different priorities. We will spend ever-increasing amounts on healthcare at this rate due to our inability or disregard for our responsibility as humans to care for people who make up our society.  Or, we will just decide to let people die in the streets.

Guillory targets welfare as a program intended to keep blacks in poverty and not lift them from it.  He writes, “Programs such as welfare, food stamps, these programs aren’t designed to lift black Americans out of poverty, they were always intended as a mechanism for politicians to control the black community.”  Since Guillory himself is black, I presume this is why he has only talked about blacks in this sentence.  However, his contention is true for ALL people using the service.  It’s not meant to be a way of life but a bridge to a better life.  But, what does one do if the bridge is collapsed, has been blown up, or simply doesn’t exist where you live?  Consider here the demise of manufacturing in America.  Some of the arguments heard are that skilled laborers should train for other jobs. What if those other jobs aren’t there? 

Here’s Guillory’s one (mostly) accurate statement: “The idea that blacks, or anyone for that matter, need the government to get ahead in life is despicable” (2013, para. 6).  I agree.  However, as we have allowed ourselves to devolve over time, and given in fully to our terminal interest in profiteering, there’s just too much money to be made by having people dependent on government, one way or another, whether it’s for job creation, protection of our finance and banking system, oversight of our corporation operations, and the list goes on.  Things should not be this way.  I’m not a happy capitalist; this and other economic systems, along with individual greed and desire for power, corrupt all that should be had in any economic system.  None of them work as long as power-mongers are in charge.

Guillory mentions how “freedom” is tossed around and has lost its punch.  I agree.  I also think that virtually no American wants real freedom.  And nowhere on the planet does true freedom, or, for that matter, democracy, actually exist. We have pseudo versions of these ideas. Freedom is regularly suspended in situations like these:  (1) you are a group of youth, regardless of race, who are congregating and making some other people nervous because you are congregating; (2) you are a homeowner who needs a mortgage modification, but Bank of America and/or Chase are practicing fraud which impedes your progress and can substantially affect your freedom to resolve your financial situation; (3) you’re a black youth [read and then fill in the blank of the exhaustive list of things that can impede your freedom that you actually have no control over, like being shot inside your house from a bullet meant for someone else, or being forced through hazing into activities that lead to your death (definitely not only occurring in the black community)]; (4) being hit and killed as a child while sitting in church from celebratory gunfire; (5) your government is afraid of terrorists and thus decides it needs to monitor and record all communications of all Americans.  This list goes on.

In short, Guillory is free to choose whatever party he wants and to switch at will.  That he does so has absolutely no bearing on what I believe will ultimately save this country, and that has nothing to do with politics.  In fact, when we pay less attention to politics and more attention to compassionate humane treatment of everyone, regardless of color, creed, gender or party affiliation, we might have a chance.  We need a great deal more respect for difference. 

In fact, it never ceases to amaze me how this nation, of all nations, can be so recalcitrant and xenophobic about difference.  The indigenous peoples in America are not the ones currently in charge—the start of the problem.  Perhaps it’s time that the USA should split up into smaller units where people of like minds can live in peace.  If you want to hate whomever, not feed whomever, keep your women barefoot and pregnant and your citizenry wholly ignorant about certain things, there ought to be a place for you in these United States.  You should be able to practice what you want, and you should NOT be able to impede me from doing the same.  In your area, your own individual citizens will easily abide by the cultural will of the people in your area, or they will have to leave and go to another one where people live as desired.  If I want to play the violin, be gay, levitate the Pentagon, manufacture, drink and sell raw milk and non-GMO vegetables, consume no pharmaceuticals, drink clean water, write poetry, smoke weed, have group sex, watch porn, gamble, drink and do drugs, have academic conversations, write books, I should be able to do that with like-minded people and not be attacked or impressed into behavior I don’t espouse.  If I want to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Yoruba, Wiccan, you should be able to be so and not have others attack you for it.  That’s what America is supposed to be.  So we waste our time trying to police others into being like us because in fact, that’s against the principles of freedom.  I hope America shits or gets off the pot.  Either be the free society your constitution says you are and work out a reasonable way to do so, or stop lying and be the fascist, communist, dictatorial beast this country is fast becoming. 

Melissa Prunty Kemp is a 27-year English professor and former General Education department chair.  Her education background is varied—she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and was the second African American to earn a M.A. in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA. She studied Early American and Harlem Renaissance literature at Kent State University.  Her final degree, a Master in Fine Arts Creative Writing, was earned at from Queens University of Charlotte, NC. 

She wrote her first poems at age 13, which were published in the junior high literary magazine, The Bagpipe, and in yearbooks.  She says, “I knew no other way at that time to extol the love I had for an unknown Cheyenne Indian in Wyoming; a poem had to be it.  I have been writing and attempting to publish ever since.”  Her love of writing drives her to write and publish academic and technical articles and online publications about art, race, politics, black history and local history of African Americans in Salem and Roanoke, VA.  Her poetry and articles have appeared in The Journal of Women and Language, California Poetry Quarterly, We Used To Be Wives (anthology),, Callaloo Journal and Art & Understanding Magazine.