Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Salute to 4 Moms

With Mother’s Day 2015 in the books, here is a salute to 4 strong black mothers who knew how to come into a situation, analyze it, take control and diffuse it.

In the aftermath of the Freddie Gray tragedy, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called a curfew in order to squelch the escalating riots in her city. She called the governor and requested the National Guard and that he declare a state of emergency. She has vowed to outfit the police department with body cameras by the end of the year. She is a mayor who is not afraid to ask for help, unlike some big-city mayors.

Major General Linda Singh, newly minted Commander of the Maryland National Guard, enforced the peacekeeping efforts. Linda Singh is the first black and the first woman to hold that post. She has been on the job for 3 months.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, 35 years old and 4 months on the job, took decisive action by charging the 6 police officers connected with the murder of Freddie Gray with second degree murder, manslaughter and assault. She said to the city, “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace, “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”

Marilyn Mosby also said “I’m going to go after individuals whether you’re a police officer or a violent repeat offender. If you break the law and you believe you are above authority, then I will go after you.”

Baltimore’s Rev. Jamal Bryant called Mosby a “rock star” in the black community.

Toya Graham, also known as the Riot Mom, snatched her son out of the full-blown riot and literally knocked him upside his head. Several times. It was the slap seen round the world. When asked about her explosive actions, she said, “I’m a no-tolerant mother. Everybody that knows me know I don’t play that.”

Strong black women. I applaud these bold women in tough demanding jobs.

What if more mothers—and fathers—took such bold, purposeful stands everyday? Snatching their sons off the corner, out of the gangs and drug houses? What if more parents would be that resolute? Can you imagine how much less rioters and looters there may have been, and not just in Baltimore but throughout crime-ridden cities across the country?

Proverbs 23:13-14, New King James Version reads, Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he won’t die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. And, if I may add, you’ll save his butt from jail.

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Message to Mr. and Mrs. Stuck

This is from Sony. Yeah, that’s right, I’m the TV that lives in this house. What, you didn’t know TVs could talk? Yeah, I talk, and so does the dog, cat and all the other so you thought were inanimate objects around here. We talk amongst ourselves all the time. We get along pretty good. We even have parties, when CD Player is in a good mood. The only one we kinda have a problem with is Litter Box.

What do we talk about? A lot of stuff, but mainly about you two. You’re cool; we like you just fine. But you watch waaay too much much of me, and you can be so ordinary. You’re in a serious rut. So we objects have all been thinking. Maybe if you make small modifications here and there, it can lead to other things!

Let’s start with Fridge. Can we change up the salad dressing? French and Italian is cool, but there are so many different kinds these days! Why not try a vinaigrette, or something with raspberries?

Spice Cabinet says there’s plenty of room for some more stuff. Salt, pepper and seasoned salt is so 1970s. What’s wrong with bringing in some other spices, at least lemon pepper. You always say you don’t like real hot spices. Things don’t have to be hot, but a little kick might be okay. Surely you can tolerate a kick! There’s a whole world, literally, of spices! Try some more. It’ll pump up that cubed steak that’s always in Freezer. Speaking of cubed steak, why does it always have to hang out with white rice? It wants to get to know Dirty Rice and Jasmine Rice, maybe even Wild Rice. You might like it.

Now Bed says you put him to sleep. He’s tired of the same two sets of sheets. He wants color and texture! Same with Walls, they want color too.

Here’s the thing—to be stuck in a routine is mind-numbing. Next thing you know, you’ll be watching me from different ends of Couch. How do I know so much, you may be wondering. I’m a TV. I get all the information, whether I’m actually on or not. Change is good! But speaking of change, don’t mess with my NFL Network and ESPN!

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Message to Mr. and Mrs. Stuck

This is from Sony. Yeah, that’s right, I’m the TV that lives in this house. What, you didn’t know TVs could talk? Yeah, I talk, and so does the dog, cat and all the other so you thought were inanimate objects around here. We talk amongst ourselves all the time. We get along pretty good. We even have parties, when CD Player is in a good mood. The only one we kinda have a problem with is Litter Box.

What do we talk about? A lot of stuff, but mainly about you two. You’re cool; we like you just fine. But you watch waaay too much much of me, and you can be so ordinary. You’re in a serious rut. So we objects have all been thinking. Maybe if you make small modifications here and there, it can lead to other things!

Let’s start with Fridge. Can we change up the salad dressing? French and Italian is cool, but there are so many different kinds these days! Why not try a vinaigrette, or something with raspberries?

Spice Cabinet says there’s plenty of room for some more stuff. Salt, pepper and seasoned salt is so 1970s. What’s wrong with bringing in some other spices, at least lemon pepper. You always say you don’t like real hot spices. Things don’t have to be hot, but a little kick might be okay. Surely you can tolerate a kick! There’s a whole world, literally, of spices! Try some more. It’ll pump up that cubed steak that’s always in Freezer. Speaking of cubed steak, why does it always have to hang out with white rice? It wants to get to know Dirty Rice and Jasmine Rice, maybe even Wild Rice. You might like it.

Now Bed says you put him to sleep. He’s tired of the same two sets of sheets. He wants color and texture! Same with Walls, they want color too.

Here’s the thing—to be stuck in a routine is mind-numbing. Next thing you know, you’ll be watching me from different ends of Couch. How do I know so much, you may be wondering. I’m a TV. I get all the information, whether I’m actually on or not. Change is good! But speaking of change, don’t mess with my NFL Network and ESPN!

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All a Kid Wants to Eat

The Prompt: Write about a favorite childhood meal.

McDonald’s. Plain and simple. I RARELY got McDonald’s when I was a kid. I had to BEG to go to MickyDee’s, so when I did get it, it was a serious treat. My mother, excellent cook that she was, was of the mndset, “You got food in the house.” Then McDonald’s was not this huge Zagat-rated sit-down restaurant. They didn’t even have seats. You walked in, placed and received your order, and promptly left. The big thing for McDonald’s at the time was “change back from your dollar.” We would get our food and go and eat in the car. That was fun then.

McD

Ice cream from the truck. The bells would chime, or whatever annoying ice cream truck music  would be heard, and we kids would scramble to our respective houses to beg for ice cream man money. I would get,”You got ice cream in the freezer.” I didn’t want a grocery store popscicle!! I wanted a big, red, white and blue BOMB POP! Or a orange and white dreamscicle! Now I’m not saying I never got these delicacies, but it was rare. I also learned that if Dad happened to be talking to a friend when the ice cream man came, that was the time to hit him up. He didn’t want to appear cheap in front of his friends.

 

dreamscicle

But the best meal I ever had as a kid was the one I had for my 9th birthday. A chicken breast and rice. Finally, a chicken breast all to myself! When my mother would fry chicken, I would covet Dad’s piece, all big, juicy, white and tender. I always had to eat the drumstick. I didn’t want that anymore. The drumstick was alright when I was 5, but now I was in fourth grade! Surely, it was time to move up in the culinary world. So when she fried that succulent piece of prime chicken just for me, I was elated! I loaded up my rice with butter and sugar. From that day to this, the breast is all I eat. Now I only do boneless and skinless, but my 9th birthday meal, simple as it may be, was delicious and truly a heart’s desire.

 

 

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One Day in the Park

The prompt: A man and woman are walking through a park holding hands. An old woman is sitting on a park bench knitting a red sweater. The man sees this and starts to cry. The twist: Use different points of view.

Now Dudette is thinking: I’ve got to do it today. He’s a good guy and all, but I’m tired of all the brooding, the mood swings. I’m tired of these kind of men, with their secrets and all. So he’s got to go. And what’s the deal with the color red? He acts so weird about it. The other night I had on this smokin’ red dress; it made my skinny frame look like Beyonce’. And all he could do was claim that he didn’t feel well all of a sudden? He had the runs? Puleeze. I don’t even know why I’m holding his hand.

Now Dude is thinking: “That lady on that bench reminds me of Mrs. Rose, the cook back at the frat house. Her food was the bomb!” He noticed she was knitting a red sweater. Instantly his mind was transported back to the day, that inglorious day when he ran for that touchdown and everybody was yelling his name! He heard cheers! He heard chanting! He saw the sea of red sweaters waving jubilantly as he scored in the Cardinal’s endzone! He couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Because of his wrong way heroics, his beloved Warriors lost 16 to 17.

Now Old Lady is thinking: I didn’t know it would take me so long to get these orders out! But I’m going to finish what I start! Everybody says I’m nuts for starting this new business, but why not? Just because I’m 79 doesn’t mean I don’t still have goals and dreams for my life. PetSweats, colorful handmade sweaters for dogs, will rule the pet apparel world!

Now the yarn is thinking: I wish she’d finish whatever I’m going to be because this tickles!

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3 Cats and a Dog: The Losses of My Life

My father is the best man I know. He’s the greatest father, and I can write pages and pages of testament to Dad. But there are 3 witnesses against him:

Tammy, Spooky, and Candy.

Tammy was my first kitten, and with her began my love affair with cats. She was a cute little black and white kitty, and the way the black on her face framed her eyes made her look like a little bandit. Tammy and her playful antics would have me, Mommy and Dad cracking up.

Now I don’t know exactly what happened that caused Dad to decide to get rid of Tammy. After all, that was decades ago. I thought it was because my mother was allergic. Dad once said years ago that it was because I wasn’t taking care of the kitten. C’mon I was EIGHT!!!! What did I know about pet care? But all I do know is Dad and I took cute little Tammy to a GROCERY STORE several miles away and LEFT HER THERE! I was so upset. Dad’s thinking was someone would feed her. Well, I hope that was the case. I’d like to think that Tammy lived out her life, fat and content, as the grocery store cat who kept the mice away and was rewarded with delicacies from the seafood department.

Then there was Spooky, an all black kitten with white tips on all four paws. Spooky lasted around the household long enough to grow into an adult cat. Spooky fell out of favor the day she had the runs and pooped all over the couch. Dad didn’t play poop. The black cat was brown when he got done with her, and then was banished to the backyard. He told me to find someone to take her because Spooky would not be allowed back in. So I started going house to house, asking if anyone wanted a cat. Luckily, kind Mrs. Dunbar took Spooky in. She said that I could visit the cat anytime, and I did. Spooky even had a litter of kittens!

Candy was a toy fox terrier that Dad got from a coworker. He brought her home unexpectantly one day. What a surprise! It was fun to have a dog. I would take Candy all over the neighborhood. She would follow me to the bus stop and wait with me. I would be outside at my best friend’s house, and someone would say “Donna, here comes your dog!” Candy knew where to go to find me. Candy was a white dog with black and brown spots, and a big black spot on her side. I wondered why the previous owners didn’t name her Spot.

One night, something strange was going on outside. Candy would not stop barking. I got out of bed and looked out the window, and I saw someone run through the yard. Terrified, I ran down the hall and woke up Dad and the stepmother. Then we heard someone at our back door! My father grabbed his gun and ran downstairs. The stepmother called the police. These people were trying to get in! Turns out the intruders had the wrong house, because they kept demanding to see “Rudy.” Guess my father’s gun scared them off, and they were gone. Who knows what Rudy did to them.

But what they did to Candy was cruel. They cut her, right on her big black spot. When I finally got up that morning, that’s what I discovered. Poor Candy! When I got home from school later, I didn’t see Candy. I asked Dad where was she. Instead of taking Candy to the vet, he took her TO THE POUND! I was so hurt and angry! Candy just SAVED OUR LIVES from the Rudy crooks, and this is how you repay her?!

A couple of years after that, we had intruders of the vermin sort. Mice had got into the house. Dad and the stepmother decided we needed a cat. I was happy when placed with the charge of finding one. Turns out the small drug and grocery store down the block had a litter of kittens, and I got one of those.  Kittycat was white with black and brown spots and a big black spot on her side! She was Candy reincarnate! How ironic that I got her from a grocery store!

Dad really liked Kittycat. He used to loved how she would wait in the window for him to get home every morning. If it turns out she wasn’t in the window, Dad would ask, “Where’s the cat?” Kittycat would come running. When the stepmother nutted up and decided that Kittycat was tearing the house up and couldn’t come back inside until she got declawed, Dad actually paid for this. They say that when cats get declawed, their behavior changes. That must be true, because Kittycat had always hated going outside. After she got declawed, she started hanging out every night. She always came back.

By then I was on my first professional job, and I know Kittycat was home when I went to work one morning. But Dad called me at work later, saying he hadn’t seen her the whole day. He looked all over for her, even in the washing machine. Now I really don’t know what happened to Kittycat, but I have always blamed the stepmother for her mysterious disappearance. Dad is in the clear on this.

Hug your pets, people. Hug your pets.

 

 

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Protected: Writing 101 #3: The Music of My Life

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At My Age

So I fell down in the train station parking lot the other day. I have walked that sidewalk for years now, winter, spring, summer and fall, without mishap. I have ran that sidewalk trying to not miss the train going to work and to be one of the first ones out the lot coming home. However, that day I’m walking and I caught an uneven surface and went sprawling to the concrete. I fell on my left side, my hip taking the impact.

Boy, did that hurt!! A couple of nice ladies helped me up and got my stuff off the asphalt. I limped to the car. For the rest of the evening I sat with an ice pack on my hip, pressing the husband into being my servant.

My Avon rep comes over later. She says to me, “Girl, we can’t be falling at our age.”

At our age? What does that even mean?

Dad calls me at work the next day to see how I was doing. He goes, “I was worried. You know, as we get older, our bodies don’t heal as fast.”

Seriously?

As we get older. C’mon! I’m 54. Only 54. And I’m in better shape today than I was at 24, 34 and 44. FALLING DOWN at any age is not good.

  • When I was eight, I was outside with some of the kids on the block. I tripped backwards over one of the local dogs and hurt my tailbone.
  • At 26 I was trying to be Debi Thomas at the skating rink and fell and sprained my wrist.

I remember other significant falls in my life, but the point is, people fall at any age! It’s not fun! And at my age, I hate when people bring age into the equation. What is the deal with this “old” mindset? The 50s is not old. I’m certainly not an old person. Old is how you look, act, and think. People are conditioned to think that they’re falling apart once they hit their 40s, reveling in every ache and pain and using age as an excuse.

Recently, a fight broke out at a friend’s school. He got roughed up in the melee. “I don’t know why skinny, 53-year old me tried to break up a fight between teenaged boys,” Ron grimaced as he told the story. “There was a time when kids respected their elders!” (Yes, he totally said that.) Another time I was talking to him and he was trying to recall something. “Oh, my memory’s getting so bad…” So Ron is a skinny 53-year old with a bad memory.

Then again, I know kids who are older than that. Once while subbing in a class of 6th graders, the assignment was to write about a favorite activity. Some time had passed and Jason had nothing. “I can’t think of anything,” he said. “You can’t think of one thing you like to do?” “Sleep,” Jason said, with a shrug. An 11-year old boy’s favorite activity is sleeping? That’s old.
I reject “old”! Let’s redefine it. Let’s continue to learn new things, have goals and do cool stuff. Some folks are well into the 70s and 80s and they’re bodybuilding, running races, earning degrees and doing fabulous things. Ernestine Shepard, the oldest female bodybuilder in the world, started training at 71. Evelyn Stolz jumped out of a plane for her 90th birthday, something she’d wanted to do since World War 2. I want to be like them when I grow up!

I was recently talking to a couple of ladies about cats. One lady, who was probably 80 give or take, said she wanted to adopt an adult cat. “I’m too old to chase a kitten around,” she mused. Yes, kittens are tiny forces to be reckoned with. But at my age, I still have a few kittens left in me!

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Watching Me on TV 2015: Reflections of Blacks on Prime Time Past

I’m not old, but I am mature. I’m still in the coveted demographic that advertisers like. I’m old enough to remember when vampires were scary—not “hot.” And I have memories of boxy television consoles as pieces of furniture, only three major networks and local stations with really bad programming. Color television shows were such a major big deal that announcers would actually tell you—“The F.B.I.— in color!

Color TV. That held a different meaning for me. I’m on the cusp of being called “colored” right before we sequed into being called “black.” Back then, it was so rare to see a black person on TV that when we did, we’d get on the phone and call relatives. “Aunt Shirley, quick, there’s a colored woman on channel 2!” In the late 60s I loved watching Diahann Carroll in Julia, a show about a widowed single nurse and her young son Corey. That was a first— to have a black female lead. Bill Cosby had a self-titled show that came on Sunday nights. He was a gym teacher. There was Room 222, where there were several positive black characters in the fictional Walt Whitman High School, like Mr. Dixon the teacher, Ms. McIntyre the guidance counselor, and Richie, whom all the girls had a crush on. Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) graced the small screen weekly informing Captain Kirk “the communication channels are open.

In the mid 70s, things took a stupid turn. Gone were the positive images. We had to endure the likes of Good Times, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons. It still was slim pickings for us, so we laughed at JJ and his endless “dynomite” rantings, and Fred Sanford always calling Lamont a big dummy. George Jefferson may have lived on the east side, but his worldview was Ghetto Ave. I guess TV was reflective of the movies, which at the time was the “blaxploitation” era. The shows were funny then, but as many back-in-the-day reruns that I now watch, those three are and will NEVER be on my TV.

The 70s did bring us arguably the most spectacular mini-series of all time, Roots. Anybody who was anybody in black Hollywood was in it, and the show was grand to see. There were no VCRs or DVRs, so everybody made sure they were in front of the television to not miss a second. (And woe to the person who dared call while Roots was on…) Roots dominated conversations for days afterward in school. And in classes where there was a black teacher, we’d spend the whole class period discussing it.

Bill Cosby was our TV liberator in the 80s. The Cosby Show was loved by all. There were those in the beginning who felt that such a show with black leads was “unrealistic”—we simply did not have two-parent households where the couple was loving towards each other, had professional careers, normal kids and lived in a nice house. ABC passed on Cosby. NBC flourished because of the show. In my frame of reference, Cosby, not Good Times, was the reality. I also loved A Different World, the Cosby Show spin-off. It was fun seeing young black adults in college, and their shenanigans were my life.

The 90s had some decent comedies. At least they portrayed us positively, like Roc, Living Single, and Family Matters. (Urkel was pushing it!)

My beef with programming is there are very few black dramas. Black people are in dramas, but they are not the cast majority. Black-cast shows always had a one-way ticket to Cancelville, hence Under One Roof (1995), City of Angels (2000) Lincoln Heights (2007–2009) and Undercovers (2010).

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Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, is doing very well and now in its fourth season. I absolutely love How to Get Away With Murder, and there are not enough superlatives to describe Viola Davis. But why aren’t there more of us in those casts? The jury is still out for me about Empire. Yes, it’s a black drama. But why, in our shows, is it always Profanity as a Second Language? I like Terrance and Taraji, and the dynamic their characters have. I like the Lucious Lyon storyline and the comic relief. But I have yet to develop an affinity for any of the characters, and I hate that youngest son the most. I watch it if I have nothing else to do, and I’m always busy. It doesn’t have the exalted series recording on my DVR, and it gets watched in real time. I not apologizing that I’m in the minority of black folks who doesn’t watch this show. I feel a little guilty, but that’s how it is.

I have resigned myself to accept that there is always going to be a small number of black folks on television. We may not be the stars in most, but there are excellent black actors on the small screen now and in really good roles. We are savvy newswomen, hospital chiefs of staff, forensics experts, fire chiefs and ghost busters. I tell my friends about the shows I like and call relatives.

Even now, I still get excited about watching “me” on TV.

 

(Photo: IMDb.com)

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Gumballs

Growing up, I felt like I had the best of both worlds. When I hung out with Dad, we were in the car. Dad did the grocery shopping on weekends and we always headed to Western Ave. and parts beyond. Dad rarely went east of our neighborhood to shop.

When I was with my mother, we were always on the bus because she didn’t drive. That, too, was an adventure. Sometimes we caught the bus to the train and went downtown. Most times we went to Roseland, the neighborhood directly east of our Maple Park. Michigan Avenue in Roseland between 111th and 115th streets was as bustling as north Michigan in those days. There were so many thriving businesses and that 4-block stretch was always crowded. There were also 2 or 3 grocery stores in the area, unlike the food desert that exists today. Roseland, also in those days, was pretty much all white.

One day my mother and I were in National Tea, one of the grocery stores. She gave me a few pennies for the gum machines. I scurried off to buy a few colorful gumballs while she waited in line. As I stood in indecision, a white woman walked up behind me with a little girl in tow.

“Move. So she can get some gum.”  images

I deferred to this rude and nasty woman. I ran to find my mother to tell her what happened. The Mama Grizzly Bear rose up in her. “Where is she??!!” But of course, the woman and the little girl were gone.

I think about that incident and I wonder if that woman recalls it. What does she think about herself, bullying a little 4- or 5-year old black girl? Does her daughter remember? How would she replay it?

National Tea grocery store is now a vacant lot by the railroad tracks on 115th street. The heyday of Roseland is long gone. That woman, as a sign of the times, probably flew out of there with all the rest.

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