Friday, June 26, 2009

Moving and Thangs...

Hey peeps! New posts coming soon, I'm moving next week so I've been busy with that, work, and my summer class. If you're on Twitter, find me!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Child Murder

Last weekend I saw this episode (forgot what channel) of a documentary-style series that CBS does called 48 Hours. Featured on this episode was Eric Smith, who at the age of 13 murdered Derrick Robie who was 4 years old. The episode traced back the story and focused on the parole hearings of Eric, now an adult. He has been denied parole 4 times, so he has been in prison since he was 14 (he is now 29) for a crime committed at age 13.

Eric Smith, age 13-14, on trial for murder

Derrick Robie, murdered at age 4.

Eric Smith as an adult and prisoner. He is 29 now.

Here are some facts about the case, as excerpted from the 48 Hours episode, in italics. I have bolded lines that stuck out to me and/or that I will address toward the end.
During the summer of '93, Smith attended a recreation program held a block from the Robie home. Derrick also attended the program. On Aug. 2, Derrick was ready to head out to the program, but his mother wasn't ready to take him. "Normally, I would walk him to the end of the driveway, but Dalton that morning was very fussy," recalls Doreen Robie. "Derrick says, 'It’s OK, mom. I’ll go by myself.' … He gave me a kiss and I said, 'I love you,' and he says, 'I love you, Mom,' and he went hopping off the sidewalk." He had only a block to go, and no streets to cross. The park was on a dead-end street. "It was the first time I've ever let him go anywhere alone," says Doreen Robie.

On Aug. 2, 1993, Derrick's body was found in a small patch of woods, halfway between the park where he was headed, and his home. Evidence showed that Derrick was lured from the sidewalk and strangled. "He discovered and dug up one very large rock and one smaller rock. And he battered Derrick with those rocks," recalls lead investigator Charles Wood. "He went into Derrick's lunch bag and he smashed a banana and took Derrick's Kool Aid, and he actually poured that Kool-Aid into the – that had been made by the large rocks. And he sodomized Derrick with a small stick that he had found."

"At one point, he turned to me and he said he did it. I lost control," said Smith's mother, Tammy. "I asked him why, and why he did it. And he was just saying, 'I don't know. I don't know.' And he cried." The jury heard that as a toddler, Smith threw temper tantrums and banged his head on the floor. He had speech problems, he was held back at school, and he was relentlessly bullied. When he asked for help with his anger, his adoptive father did not seem equipped to give it to him. "He was really upset. He was crunching his fists and shaking and told me that 'Dad, I need help,'" said Ted Smith. "I said 'Hold it. When I got angry when I was your age, I just grabbed a bag in our barn and started beating on it until I was too tired to do anything else.' "Then, Ted Smith said: "I heard a door shut, and I turned around and he was gone. And as I got to the window, he was coming back in the door and he was calm. And I looked down and I noticed his knuckles and his hands were kind of skinned up and bloody. I asked him what happened, and he said, 'I hit the tree a couple of times.' Seemed to be OK."
When coming up for a parole hearing:
Smith has made the case that he is uniquely qualified to counsel bullied children, and one day sees himself as a forensic psychologist, doing research on children who kill. "You may think I'm a threat to the well-being of society," says Smith. "And I can understand why you would feel that way. The fact is that I'm not. I'd be an asset to society."
Full story here. So, what is your opinion? Should minors be sentenced as adults? What is the age cut-off if minors should be charged as adults? Does it depend on the crime? Do you believe Eric has been punished enough for his crime?
I think what Eric did was horrendous and I also believe 13 years old is not a "child" mindset when it comes to this type of crime. If you read what exactly Eric did to Derrick, it truly seems as though he had some serious mental problems and needed psychiatric care. But would you think the same thing if it was an adult that committed this crime? It could be true that he has mental problems; it could also be just as true that he is simply a sociopath (there seem to be elements of both spur-of-the-moment, out-of-control rage and cold-blooded calculation). But a competent psychiatrist should be able to make that diagnosis. Since Eric has also gone through intensive counseling, it does appear that keeping him behind bars is done for the sake of Derrick and his family rather than society and legal justice that is supposed to be part of the foundation of this country, it seems that morality and emotions are taking precedence over justice and rehabilitating criminals into positive contributors to society.
The bottom line is that we are not sure how to treat children and minors in the criminal arena. It's easy to point to the law for other issues such as statutory rape and other decisions that minors cannot legally make, but when a crime occurs, ESPECIALLY murder, that line is blurred because it is difficult to keep your emotions out of cases like these. If Eric's psychiatrist/counselor does believe him fit to be among society, i think it is doing other troubled children and society as a whole a grave injustice to keep him imprisoned.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Suggest A Song Monday-Bachelorette

Hey peeps! How was your weekend? Regulars, newbies, and lurkers are you ready to drop a song recommendation? Welcome back to Suggest A Song Monday.

I suggest a song that I love and that I think you would love. You listen to it. Tell me what you think in the comments. Then, you also recommend one song to me and I will listen to it and tell you what I think. You don't have to limit yourself to a particular genre, just any one song that you love.

Today we have Bachelorette by Bjork. This song makes me think of old literature about scorned women haunting their lover from a dysfunctional relationship. I see blackness, fire, ghostly wisps, glowing rage, etc. This song communicates love, obsession, anger, hurt, all of that. I love it! Even if you don't like the melody of the song I bet a lot of us can relate to the lyrics. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is featured on the sidebar of this blog. I bolded the lyrics I really like below. This is a powerful song. If they remade Medusa, this song should totally be on the soundtrack. Killer.

Bachelorette (Family Tree Version) - Bjork

I'm a fountain of blood/In the shape of a girl/You're the bird on the brim/Hypnotized by the whirl/Drink me, make me feel real/Wet your beak in the stream/Game we're playing is life/Love is a two way dream/Leave me now, return tonight/Tide will show you the way/If you forget my name/You will go astray/Like a killer whale/Trapped in a bay/I'm a path of cinders/Burning under your feet/You're the one who walks me/I'm your one way street/I'm a whisper in water/Secret for you to hear/You are the one who grows distant/When I beckon you near/Leave me now, return tonight/The tide will show you the way/If you forget my name/You will go astray/Like a killer whale/Trapped in a bay/I'm a tree that grows hearts/One for each that you take/You're the intruders hand/I'm the branch that you break/Hum-yeah!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Detroit and Other Notes

HOLA! I flew into Detroit last Friday evening and got back Tuesday morning. My sister graduated high school. I was so grateful from the brief respite from work and responsibilities and I love hanging with my siblings. The plane ride itself was inspiring. As we descended into Detroit, I looked out the window and it was just this grid of sparkling lights almost as far as the eye could see. When you fly at night, it's like everywhere is Christmas. The city lights were hypnotizing and for a few moments I felt suspended in time and unbelievably happy. I knew at that moment that I have to maintain and cultivate this feeling, and for me, the excitement of traveling, even from city to city just does something to me. Do you ever get these feelings? Or do I sound like I'm on acid? A little bit of both, you say? Very well then.

Anyhoo, I am always fascinated by different cities and the tapestry of the streets. I rode by the old house and neighborhood that I used to visit during my pre-teen and teenage years when my stepmother and father were married, and that my siblings grew up in. We used to ride bikes up and down the street, take a walk a few blocks down to the drugstore, everyone knew each other and all had kids around the same age, it was a very positive street for families. Now, the house is boarded up, various other houses on the street are either boarded up or in a terrible state of disarray. It was really sobering to see that. Driving down Detroit's streets, everything seems gray (partly due to the weather), many buildings are delapidated, there are more individually owned stores and fast-food restaurants than chains, etc. But it definitely has a unique character, as do many other cities. I didn't get to see the African-American museum, but I will surely see it next time. Stopped by the Motown museum, downtown, Riverfront, Detroit's Breakfast Club, and other small restaurants. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens to this city in the upcoming years. Census numbers have been under 1 million for several years. I know one of the people running for City Council and let's just say this person is certainly not what Detroit needs but I think voter will be able to see through this person easily.

BTW, my sister's graduation was so ghetto and cunty. The administrators need to be slapped for not having better control and decorum. The funny thing is, her school is actually one of the nicer schools in Detroit. The class treasurer made a speech where he basically started giving shout outs to individual students, called out students to come get their T-shirts, then straight up broke the law. As many know, it is illegal to have prayer in public schools. This mothafugga acknowledged that while they couldn't pray, they would have a "commemorative moment" instead and straight bust into a prayer thanking the Lord and thangs. The administrator (I think the principal) instructed him to do so in the introduction so she's just as bad if not worse. The graduation was not organized very well, with long pauses and awkward moments. One of the speakers I had to look around to see if it was a joke. To sum it up, he may have been retarded and/or blind, and spoke about completing a 4 year degree in a year and a half, then going on to get 2 Masters degres, and then completing a Bachelors of Social Work at one school and a Masters of Social Work at the same time. Yeah. Needless to say, my face was like this: -_- the whole time. There was an excellent keynote speaker though, a black man who is a professor of Comparative Literature. He gave great, applicable college curriculum advice and was proficient in many languages. I just reminded myself to look him up...think his name was Derek Collins or something. Then, the diplomas had the students' names on them which theoretically was nice, but in application, jammed up the whole procession of calling students names while they frantically tried to match diplomas tostudents. At the end, the students were heard chanting, "09, bitch!" while their loving and devoted family members looked on. SMH.

So anyways, I'm back. Welcome and hello to my new followers, regulars, and lurkers. I need to go through my archives but I think this month might be my blogiversary...been blogging for a year now hooraaayyy! I want to leave you with a video of Amel Larrieux performing live last Friday in New York at the Greene Space. Click here for the link. Amel comes out and gives a short interview at the 5:30 mark. Her songs are from the 12:00 mark to the 53:00 mark. The songs she sang (in order) are We Can Be New, For Real, Magic, Down, Gills and Tails, Have You, and I Like the Sunrise (she tears it down for this song). Check it out and tell a friend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Arab, Middle-Eastern...White?

I have always been fascinated by multicultural studies and racial/ethnic classification. One under-studied facet of race has been the racial/ethnic identity of Middle-Easterners and Arabs. The United States officially classifies people from these regions as white. However, I have never thought of them as what we consider white (although some do "look" white), and I am willing to bet many of you haven't either.

Discussions on race/ethnicity are of course always based on the foundation that race is a social construction. We know this, accept this, and move on. But operating within and under this social construction, there are still many valid points and feelings because self-identity is a crucial component of individual and societal development.

I recently read an article about Middle-Eastern and Arab students applying to UCLA and not having an option to check the racial/ethnic classification they were looking for. Most did not identify with being "white" so some checked other options. Here are some quotes from the article, in italics:

For years the federal government has classified Arab Americans and Middle Easterners as white. But confusion and disagreement have led some students to check "Asian" or "African," depending on what part of the Middle East they came from. Some, like Salame, simply marked "Other."

This is interesting to me because if you think of countries and regions usually associated with the Middle East (including but not limited to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen), you rarely hear them in the context of the continent they are situated in; they are usually mentioned as a totally separate entity from Africa or Asia.

The UCLA students said having their own ethnic designation goes beyond self-identity and has real implications for the larger Arab and Middle Eastern communities.

The "white" label can hurt them with universities and companies that use the information to promote diversity, they say, and can result in the gathering of little or no statistical data on important issues, such as health trends in the community.

The Arab American Institute estimates that including Middle Easterners in the white category on the census has led to a population undercount of more than a million, said Helen Samhan, who works at the institute. There are more than 3 million Arabs in the United States, the institute says.

I also feel it's important to make a distinction between Middle Eastern and Arab people because not every Middle-Easterner is Arab and not every Arab is a Middle-Easterner (North Africans, etc.). Also, people further assume Middle Eastern and/or Arab equals Muslim and that is not always the case either.

I feel that we, especially in the United States, have a lot to learn about the nuances and distinctions between people of Middle Eastern or Arab descent and issues of racial and/or ethnic classification and self-identification. What comes to your mind when you think of Middle Eastern people or Arab people? Do you agree with their classification in the United States as white people? Why or why not? I also welcome any discussion/enlightenment from people more knowledgeable than me on this subject.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Interview with Black Girl Long Hair

In my continuing quest for natural hair world domination *insert unnecessarily long evil laugh here* I was interviewed by the blog Black Girl Long Hair, which is a wonderful, glorious blog community centered around natural hair, about my experience being natural. Read the interview here! Drop a comment there if you like. You can also use this post on my blog to ask me any questions about natural hair in the comments. I know some people from there are now following my blog here, so welcome to you! Thank you for reading!

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Left My Heart in San Francisco...

I just had the best 1-day trip ever, lol. This trip has taught me that it really is good to get away, even if only for a weekend. Don't rule it out if you want to see certain cities. You can see a lot in a weekend. Anyhoo, flew in to San Francisco. Gorgeous city! Mountains in the distance, the bay, the steep, roller-coaster like streets, historic charming feel, walker-friendly. Great city. I was struck by the significant Asian population there. All of the airport workers, most of the cab drivers, every other restaurant was Asian. It was cool seeing the diversity. Houston is extremely diverse and has a large Vietnamese population, but Houston pretty much has a large everything population. We probably have a large unicorn population if you know where to look.

View from the plane. Over some deserty looking state. I wish the pilot, flight attendants, SOMEBODY would update the passengers on what we're flying over. Some of us are fascinated by it!

View on the way to the hotel

We stayed in the Hotel Carlton, a cute, eco-friendly boutique hotel with an Arab aesthetic theme.

In the elevator

Love the decor, especially the side table

View from the hotel the mountains on the horizon

The hotel room key card. Looks like a Tunisian woman, maybe?

So we ate, shopped a bit, walked, got cursed out by calf muscles and foot arches, then got ready for the concerts. Both shows were sold out. The crowd was extremely diverse, all ages and races turned out. I didn't get any pictures or video (except a couple of audio clips) inside the venue, but let me tell you, Amel Larrieux is a living legend. This woman is an entertainer with a capital E. Her voice is amazing. She hits the high notes like Minnie Riperton, her voice sounds even better live than on the track, she uses a live band, she involves the audience, and she really just has an open, positive vibe, aura, etc. During one song she freestyled the sound of a trumpet with her voice and her hand cupped over her mouth. It was crazy awesome.
I am a member of her fansite, Blisslife, and somehow she knows and remembers the members on there and seeks them out at her shows. After a song she asked if any Blisslifers were in the house and my arms shot up. She looked at me, smiled and said "Gem! From Texas!" She told everyone that I flew in from Texas to see her and how I had sent her some lavender lotion to New York. She left the stage, came out into the audience, held my hand and sang Stevie Wonder's All I Do (Is Think About You) to me. I bought tickets to both the 8pm and 10pm songs and I am so glad I did. I got the personal experience at the 8pm show, and at the 10pm show she performed different songs so I really got to experience a full concert with her. Then, I got to meet her afterward. She signed my concert tickets, took a picture with me, and we chatted. I had requested that she play a song on the Blisslife forums and she did. She thanked me for requesting it and said because of my request she had the band learn the song because they didn't know it. Elated, was I! She told my husband I was a precious angel and hugged me. We chatted a minute more, and that was it. I floated to the cab back to the hotel.
To have had this personal experience with my favorite artist is beyond amazing. I love that she has been able to find success as an independent artist. I encourage you to check out some of her songs and especially to read the lyrics. Look her up on Youtube to see some of her live performances. Here are the songs she performed, all clickable links to either the recorded song or her live version (although not Saturday's live versoion). Best. Birthday. Ever!
Songs Performed:
Trouble (this is the song she freestyled the trumpet at the end with her voice...she went above and beyond the recorded version)
All I Do (Is Think About You) by Stevie Wonder. She came out in the audience, held my hand and sang this TO ME!
We Can Be New-album version here. Live version here. This is one of my FAVORITE all-time songs.
For Real (love the lyrics)
Down (this is the song I requested that she thanked me for requesting. This is 1 of my favorite songs, so underrated.)
Pop Life by Prince
Keep Tryin' (I still jam this song on the IPOD. Love it)
Have You (she hasn't even recorded this song yet, so you can only hear it live.)
Gills and Tails (another favorite)
Bravebird (this song is about a woman who experienced female genital mutilation)

Map of the venue. The circle is where our table was and at the top you can see the stage. We were basically right smack dab in front of the stage.

My signed tickets by Amel. The 1st one says: Love you my lil sis and the 2nd one says: You know how I feel bout you.

Amel and I. Hair cousins!!

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