Way Back Wednesday Post: Me Time

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messy-living-roomOriginally posted January 10, 2013

6:30 am
My alarm clock goes off as usual. It’s morning. I glance at the window only to notice the lack of sunlight shining behind my wine colored curtains. I begin to go through in my head the normal morning routine that is about to ensue. I have attempted repeatedly to get my sequence down to a science but it never fails that the timing gets thrown off in some way or another. Most often, time depletion in the mornings is caused by my own lingering exhaustion that seems to paralyze every fragment of my weary body. That is, every fragment except for my left arm which musters up just…. enough…. strength… to… hit the snooze button…. Just ten more minutes…

6:55 am
In the far recesses of my brain I hear the faint and distant ringing of a bell. It is steady and getting progressively louder and louder and louder…and It’s my alarm!!! I rub my eyes and roll over to glance at the red lights on the clock. 6:55!!! That was the longest snooze ever! I must have missed the second alarm. I jump out of bed, run to the shower, and try to enjoy the fifteen minutes of quiet time and hot steaming water before I start the rest of my day. I hop out, get dressed and make baby girl’s lunch for the day. I need protein, dairy, wheat, fruit and vegetable. No sweets. No chips unless they are veggie ones of course. “Healthy foods only” is the rule at my daughter’s daycare. Lunch is packed and now it is time to wake baby girl.

7:25 am
“Good Morning, sweetheart,” I whisper as I gently caress the curly black hair off my sleeping child’s forehead. She’s beautiful. She slowly rubs her eyes, looks at me, and rolls over to go back to sleep. This is not her usual and overly energetic for 7 am exclamation of “Good Morning, Mommy!” I smile. Man, I love this kid. I shake my head and giggle as I think about all the fuss and fight she put up before bedtime the night before. I know she is still sleepy. Nevertheless, I manage to coerce baby girl out of bed and we have our routine five minute morning hug before getting her dressed. We brush our teeth, I put baby girl’s hair in two plaits with pink bows to match her dress and polka dotted rain boots. With jackets on, we are out the door with baby girl’s “eat on the way” breakfast in hand…

9:00 am
I pull into my driveway after returning home from dropping my daughter off at daycare. I realize that there is still a week left before I begin another semester of the ritualized rite of passage that we call graduate school. I go over in my mind all of the things that I need to do before then. Meeting with my advisor. A deadline here a few weeks away. Another deadline here a few weeks away. Wash clothes, wash the dishes, and make sure the house is clean before the chaos of the semester commences. I look over my calendar. Hmm… Nothing here significantly pressing. Then it hits me! My child is at school until 5. I am at home, by myself! I am experiencing the rare and quickly fleeting occurrence known as – alone time. Immediately my mind begins to scan and envision the plethora of ways that I could spend the next few hours of my day. The options are limitless. I could…

a)     Run through the house, rip off all my clothes, and do the dougie in my draws! I’M FREE!!!!!!
b)     Sleep. Good ole Sleep. Oh how I have missed you.
c)     Exercise. Whenever I have a moment to exercise I most definitely take advantage. This is the perfect opportunity.
d)    Wait. Did I mention sleep?
e)     Take the time to write down my list of things to do and come up with a plan for how I am going to complete this list effectively. If I have this free time to think and get things done, I need to go ahead and get them done!
f)     Or I could sit and just…relax a bit. I could spare a moment to hug myself or to even cry a tear or two as I allow a few minutes to finally set down that teetering ball that I have consistently managed to not let drop. A ball that I juggle on a daily basis alongside a combination of motherhood, school, family, friends, and the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritually well-being of myself and my child.

I sit on the couch with a sigh. Let’s see if I can manage a combination of a few of these things. The great thing about it all is that it doesn’t even matter. No matter what, these next few hours are mine.

As diverse single mothers, we all have varying levels of support and assistance on the day-to-day. Even with this, many of us know the difficulty in carving out amounts of time that we can dedicate to ourselves. Yet, it is important to find these moments – even if they are small- where we can use our time for ourselves and no one else. This is crucial to self-care and caring for ourselves is also caring for our children.

New Report Examines the Experiences and Challenges Faced by Black Women Entrepreneurs!!

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“The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) unveiled a new report today detailing the struggle faced by many black women business owners and offering a roadmap of solutions to help the next generation of black women entrepreneurs. Black Women Entrepreneurs:  Past and Present Conditions of Black Women’s Business Ownership, prepared for NWBC and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy by Walker’s Legacy, a global women-in-business collective, details the findings of black women business owners who participated in three research events earlier this year…”

The report provides a brief historical sketch and also outlines key motivations, barriers, and challenges for black women entrepreneurs.

I had the honor of not only serving as a consulting researcher on this report but also working with a wonderful group of amazing Black women and the Walker’s Legacy staff on this important work.

To see Walker’s Legacy’s full press release on the report here.

Read the full report on Black Women Entrepreneurs here.

Dr. Cole Speaks at East 12th Street Return and Discover Event.

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The East 12th Street, Return and Discover street festival was held Saturday September 10, 2016 and organized with support from the Austin Revitalization Authority, Six Square, Huston-Tillotson University, City of Austin’s Economic Development Department Soul-y Austin Program, Spirit of East Austin, Eureka Holdings, as well as a number of local businesses and community stakeholders. The event consisted of food, live music and performances, and family friendly and children’s activities.  In addition, tours of the W.H Passon House and historical talks were part of the event. These talks included Dr. Fred McGhee, an archeologist who discussed the history and development of East Austin, Dr. Haile Eshe Cole who discussed the meaning of “home” and “homecoming” as well the Six Square’s upcoming event focused on African-American cemeteries and sacred burial grounds, and Harrison Eppright who reflected of memories of East 12th street in its heyday. In the end, the event culminated with a Hustin-Tilotson baseball game at the historic Downs Field. This event is one of the many attempts to re-animate and draw attention to the important histories and legacies of East Austin.

12th-street-event

African-American Cemeteries: A Story of Neglect and Opportunity

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By Dr. Haile Eshe Cole

In numerous cities across the nation, the condition of African-American cemeteries is a growing issue that communities are attempting to address. Neglected, overgrown, hidden, and abandoned have become their unfortunate deleave-em-restpiction. In fact, a Virginia preservation group listed African-American cemeteries as one of the “most endangered historic places.” The residue of segregation and historic racial discrimination can, in part, be held responsible for the erased histories and failed upkeep of black cemeteries. Yet, there are many who refuse to let these historic sites become completely forgotten.

Efforts to commemorate, clean, and maintain African-American cemeteries are taking off across the nation. In the recent news, states such as Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, to name a few, have been recognized for their efforts to save these cemeteries. In addition to the emotional and familial ties to these places, preservation organizations and communities at large are also acknowledging their historic and cultural significance. On the one hand, there is the issue of the absence and erasure of African-American culture and history from the written historical record. On the other hand, we have contemporary economic, political, and social shifts occurring that increasingly displace African-American families from historically black neighborhoods. This being the case, African-American cemeteries then, become important locales of historic and cultural memory, and key sites in which their maintenance and existence become mechanisms to (re)claim black space.  This is an important piece to all of the efforts to preserve African-American cemeteries but is also important right here in Austin, TX.

With the changing demographic shifts in Austin, and the declining numbers of black residents, remembering the rich history of black East Austin remains increasingly important. Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District seeks to not only contribute to these national efforts to preserve African-American cemeteries with their upcoming “Homecoming” event, but also calls residents to remember the legacies of black East Austin and return home to celebrate these memories.

The Homecoming is a two-part event. The first part scheduled for November 4 will include a symposium with key scholars focusing on sacred burial places and African-American cemeteries. This event is scheduled to be held on the campus of Hustin-Tillotson University. The second part of the event, schedule to be held mid-to-late Spring, will include the ritual  and physical cleaning  of both Plummers and Bethany cemeteries and continues with a processional, concert, and “family reunion” picnic in Givens Park.

To those families and individuals who have left Austin, “Homecoming” offers an opportunity to come home to their cultural touchstone. To all, this event provides a space to help maintain significant historic and cultural sites and to honor  and commemorate the rich legacies of black East Austinites. Although this is not the first community event aimed at maintaining the local black cemeteries, it is another opportunity in the wake of a rapidly changing East Austin, to be a part of a community that collectively asserts that locally, African-African sacred grounds will neither be abandoned nor forgotten.

For more information on this event or to help with the planning, please contact Donald King at donald@sixsquare.org. Families and friends with loved ones laid to rest at Bethany or Plummers cemetery are also welcome to submit pictures or stories to be honored during the event. Please submit photos to eshe@sixsquare.org.

This post has been re-blogged from sixsquareatx. For more information on Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District, visit the site sixsquare.org!

On Coming and Going Home

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By Dr. Haile Eshe Cole

family

Home is where the heart is. This is an all too familiar and highly quoted statement seen hanging in entryways, over fireplaces, and as a caption underneath smiling family photos. As I ponder this statement, a few questions come to mind. For example, what is home exactly? While this may seem like an odd question to ask, I dare not assume that the concept, understanding, and experience of home is something universal. Is home a place? Is it a building? Is it a nostalgic memory, a state of mind, or can it even be a wistful idea of something lingering in our imagination? Maya Angelou is quoted as saying that “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” If one takes this statement as inherently true, two key points stand out.

First, the notion of aching implies a yearning, a pain, or a discomfort. It also exudes the sentiment of something lost. Given this depiction, does home become something that at some point in our lives is gained and then lost, is potentially unreachable, or even non-existent? Second, if home is in indeed a safe place, does it then follow that for some, home is something that may never be found? Surprisingly enough, the purpose of my inquiry here is not send us all into the depths of gloom as we sulk in our inevitable and nomadic state of abstract (or literal) homelessness. Undoubtedly, there are a number of individuals  and peoples who have successfully and happily found their comfort and “home” in a number of people, places, things, and ideas. Yet, what happens if “home” does not necessitate a perpetual state of comfort, safety, or peace. Is home simply the experience or feeling of belonging, however it manages to manifest? I draw on this line of thinking as an entree into considering cultural conceptions and creations of “home,” particularly in the African Diaspora. For the purpose of this dialogue, I will focus on the Black American experience.

I recently read a quote by the Dalai Lama that states that “Home is where you feel at home and are treated well.” Contextualized alongside histories of slavery,  displacement, social inequality, gentrification, and the growing instances of police brutality flooding our social media feeds, the attempt of “feeling at home” for many Black Americans has historically been and continues to be an arduous task to say the least. Although it would be easy to catalog the many ways that Black Americans may feel displaced, marginalized, or like a wandering people without a home, instead I want to focus on a few instances of black collective “home-making” as well as the process of going to or gathering in what I call a communal “home-space.”

While notions of belonging and “home” manifest as complex pieces of the Diasporic experience, there a number of cultural “home-spaces” that have served as key refuges for Black communities. Black churches, schools, and neighborhoods, though existing as a bi-product of segregation, became key sites where people could feel at “home.”  In addition, there were also broadly practiced cultural activities grounded in the rhetoric of coming/going “home.” For example, “homecomings” are celebrated in black churches across the country, in historically black college and university homecoming events, or in memorial or funeral services also coined as “home-going” services. While these examples of homecoming may not exclusively be Black American cultural practices, they have stood and continue to stand as one of the many examples, amidst numerous instances of dislocation, to return and commemorate the cultural spaces that have sustained black communities for generations.

In this spirit, Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural Heritage district invokes the spirit of coming and going “home” with their upcoming “Homecoming” event.  This two-part event calls residents to remember the legacies of black East Austin and return home to celebrate in a reunion of sorts. The “Homecoming” includes a symposium scheduled for early November at Hustin-Tillotson University that focuses on the significance of sacred African-American cemeteries and burial grounds. The second portion of the event scheduled for the Spring includes a remembering and cleaning ceremony at Plummer and Bethany cemeteries, a processional through East Austin, and finally a “family reunion” and picnic at Givens Park. To those families and individuals who have left Austin, Six Square’s “Homecoming” offers an opportunity to come home to their cultural touchstone.

For more information on this event or to help with the planning, please contact Donald King at donald@sixsquare.org. Families and friends with loved ones laid to rest at Bethany or Plummers cemeteries are also welcome to submit pictures or stories to be honored during the event. For questions regarding story collection or to submit photos, contact Eshe Cole at eshe@sixsquare.org

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This post has been re-blogged from sixsquareatx. For more information on Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District, visit the site sixsquare.org!

Birthing Justice Anthology Highlights the Experiences of Black Women

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birth justiceThe recently published book Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth centers the birth and reproductive experiences of black women. The following book synopsis is taken from the Routledge publishing site:

“There is a global crisis in maternal health care for black women. In the United States, black women are over three times more likely to perish from pregnancy-related complications than white women; their babies are half as likely to survive the first year. Many black women experience policing, coercion, and disempowerment during pregnancy and childbirth and are disconnected from alternative birthing traditions. This book places black women’s voices at the center of the debate on what should be done to fix the broken maternity system and foregrounds black women’s agency in the emerging birth justice movement. Mixing scholarly, activist, and personal perspectives, the book shows readers how they too can change lives, one birth at a time…”

While this book will undoubtedly contribute to dialogues around black women’s reproduction, birth, and reproductive justice efforts for years to come, Black Women Birthing Justice also provides a medium for which to read book chapters for free online and discuss them. There is also an accompanying discussion guide that any professor or reproductive justice enthusiast can utilize to initiate conversation on the contents of the book.

The online community of folks reading and discussing online, can be found here.

Links to  the study guide can be found here and you can purchase the book online from Routledge here as well.