Once upon a time there was an internal refugee ban in America. Well, I guess you can’t really call them refugees since they were brought to the New World unwillingly. Let’s just say there was an internal ban in place in America, a quota filled by immigrants. Well, I guess you really can’t call them immigrants because they were chained and dragged to the New World. When they were brought over, before the Mayflower, they were labeled chattel and were viewed as such because their humanity was blithely denied. Eventually, 200+ years later, after much destroying of families and taking of lives enforced by the internal American ban, the war between countrymen broke out and then victory and then freedom (so they hoped and prayed) for the once stolen, a period of reconstruction, a renewal and rebuilding (so they hoped and prayed), a discovery of self and voice (always in place) but then the Feds left and the old attitudes, the old guard, seized power again and though they could no longer shackle the bodies, they built a wall of hate between them and those people. The wall, the internal wall of hate, the created in America internal ban, was even more rigorously enforced and the Feds left the local yokels to their own devices. Black codes morphed into Jim Crow and Jim Crow policed the ban with self-righteous polity.

“You can wash our dishes but you can’t sit at our lunch counters. You can raise our children but you can’t marry our daughters. You can sing those good old spirituals for us but you can’t sit in the pew next to us. You can cook our food but you can’t dine in our restaurants. You can wash our clothes but you can’t share the same water fountain. You can clean our houses but you can’t sit down and eat your lunch in our family dining rooms. You can be a teacher but not in our schools. You can be a preacher but not in our pulpits. You can be a student but not with current textbooks. You can buy our gas for your car at our stations but you can’t leave your gas in our restrooms at our stations. You can buy clothes in our stores but you can’t try on clothes in our stores. We demand your respect but don’t you dare try to look us in the eye. Bow and scrape and stay in your place until we need you to do what we deem beneath us to do.”

Yeah, there’s always been an internal American ban in place, a wall of red, white and blue hate embellished with a white cross. It went underground for a while, or so we thought. It was silent but it was still rooted in the hearts of those who never got over 1964, 20 years before Orwell’s 1984, but Big Brother (in his mind) was watching, waiting for the moment to seize power again.

2017 and everything is still everything.

They learned from their history.

Have we?




She walked into the church on Easter Sunday morning dressed in a light blue “church” suit and a silver ornate hat on her head. I watched her from across the room and as she walked to her seat, I noted how she stood out against a backdrop of Sunday casual.

I grew up in the era when clothes had a category. There were work clothes, school clothes, play clothes, church clothes. On special occasions there were party clothes, Easter clothes, Christmas clothes.

Church clothes were aka Sunday Best and everyone, kids to adults, wore their Sunday Best every Sunday. Often, Sunday Best was the same outfit every Sunday, but it was always pristine, freshly cleaned and ironed.

I think about those days in light of the casual ambience of today. “Come as you are,” almost looks like “ready-roll.” For those of you not familiar with this term, it means an individual rolls out of bed and rolls out into the world just as they are, “ready-roll.”

Church wear is pretty much casual wear these days and I get it. Following Christ has nothing to do with the clothes one wears into the sanctuary. Fellowship with the saints is more about the blood of Christ than the red sole of a shoe.

But, my Sunday observation got me to thinking. Here are my thoughts, my “Afterwords:”

Back in those days when there were church clothes and work clothes, my grandparents and parents needed that distinction. The work week for them was tedious and back bending. More often than not, they had no authority, no power. They were subject to the whims of the system that defined how they could be, where they could be and who they should be. Those work clothes reminded them of just how powerless they were in a world that demanded so much of them as it did its best to drain them of value and self respect.

But, Oh, those church clothes! Those church clothes, that Sunday Best ensemble, welcomed them with open arms. Those clothes reminded them of sanctuary, that place where they could celebrate one another and rejoice in the presence of a God who loved them beyond their reality. Those church clothes strode proudly into a place that was 100% their own.

Those church clothes, plain and simple, were worn with a regal posture as the saints greeted one another before walking into a house whose doors were always open to them. Hats were crowns worn on heads held high in the presence of the King of Kings.

I never saw my grandfather in anything other than a blue suit jacket, a khaki shirt and khaki pants on Sundays. But, dressed in his Sunday best, he was the superintendent of the church, and in that place he was that intelligent, self-taught, learned man he always was.

His work clothes were farm laborer clothes, but his Sunday clothes spoke to who he really was from the inside out. His Sunday clothes kept him sane and insulated from the wretched demands of those work clothes. His Sunday Best was his best and in them he was always at his best!

No, clothes don’t seem to have categories anymore. But, for some of us, those yesterday clothes categories remind us of just how far we have come by faith!

I must remember this the next time I see someone dressed in their Sunday Best!



Photograph from the book CROWNS.



“Look at her ears. What color are her ears?”

Melanin in America has always been and continues to be an issue in America. Skin Color too often assesses value, accessibility and class.

Skin Color in my community has always been and continues to be an issue. In my day, when a newborn was born, the first thing inspected by the good sisters in the community was not the number of toes or fingers. It was the color of that newborn’s ears that was the litmus test. The color of a newborn’s ears was the rule of thumb for where he or she would rank on the melanin scale of beauty and acceptance.

My newborn ears were dark.


“Is that your baby?”

My mother was very fair skinned. My father was very dark skinned.

I, of course, do not remember any of this, but my mother would tell me that often, when she went out with me in her arms, people would ask, “Is that your baby?”

A friend, who is also fair skinned and is married to a man who is dark skinned, told me of comments people made to her after her daughters were born: “I’ll bet you are happy they took their skin color after you.”


“Girls like you don’t usually have hair like that!”

My guy-friend meant it as a compliment and I suppose I accepted it as one even as I thought about the double consciousness in his statement.

Hair Texture and Length of Hair (short hair can be forgiven if it is wavy or curly) is the other point of contention in my community. Once ears are inspected and ranked, hair texture is watched closely as the baby hair relinquishes its newborn state to the natural forever texture.

Heaven help the dark skinned child whose hair dated back to its African ancestry.


It has taken me a minute to get over the rules of being dark skinned, of not liking a light skinned boy, aka color-struck, or wearing colors that are too bright, especially red.

I married a dark skinned man, I like to think because I loved him (I did), but there are times when I also wonder if it was, subconsciously, because he was “safe.”

My wardrobe is a lot of black, a little white and some muted color usually covered by a jacket or a coat. I used to think that this was my color style. Now I wonder if, subconsciously, I am still in bondage to that “no color” rule of yesterday.

In spite of the color/hair journey, in this season of life, I am very comfortable with my dark skin and my natural roots.

What others think is on them!


My Place, His Will!










I may have mentioned that I watch food and home reality shows. One of my favorite food reality shows is “Master Chef” where home cooks compete against one another for the grand prize.

Now I am a great home cook but I do not cook like those contestants. They are like gourmet home cooks. I don’t know any home cooks who cook like they do. I often wonder if they are given recipes on the show for those fancy schmancy five star restaurant dishes they create.

But, this is not the point of this post. A few months back, a woman won “Master Chef.” At the end of the show she proclaimed herself “The first Latina Master Chef.” This is the point of this post.


In my limited observations, it appears to me that almost every culture openly and unapologetically celebrates its culture except, for the most part, African Americans. It is almost as though we feel we have to hold back a little on the celebration lest we offend someone, that we too often feel as though we must apologize for our presence or our right to “sit in the living room.”

We do not always declare our pride in our history, our traditions and we are, too often, the first to apologize for being too visible. It is as though we learned the rules of assimilation all too well.

The woman who won “Master Chef” that night stuck to the recipes of her culture just elevating them from rustic to gourmet. She never moved away from, in her words, “who she was.” In fact, every other contestant whose ethnicity would be considered minority represented and celebrated, for the most part, their culture in their cooking. The African American “chefs” sometimes offered “me on a plate,” but not very often and often with calamitous results.

The time has come for me to just celebrate me, to celebrate the pain and the traditions of my history, individual and collective. It us time to celebrate the “Overcomers” inherent in my history, in my culture, in my nature.

I will celebrate the pain for it has taught me how resilient African Americans truly are. Trace the timeline of our history and recognize that no matter what we endured (and we gave and endured a lot), we have survived. It may be true that much our pain today is because we have not come to grips with the pain of our past, but we must learn to celebrate the tenacity inherent in that pain. I will celebrate!

I will celebrate the traditions passed down to me from ancestors who created their own from scraps, who learned to lead while shackled in servitude, who clothed themselves in their Sunday Best after celebrating Black on a Saturday night. I will celebrate!

I will not apologize for the natural locks or the darker melanin.
I will code switch without explanation.
I will not back away from the conversations that assume I have no voice or opinion about my place.
I will be visible in unexpected places.
I will sing my song of difference and dance my dance of uniqueness in homogenous venues.
I will celebrate ME with no apology!