Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So you want me to say No to drugs...

Recently my boyfriend had a splitting headache that just wouldn’t go away. No I wasn’t the one who caused it. But being the caring humanitarian I am, I instantly offered my sacred bottle of extra strength 250 mg aspirin laced 250mg of acetaminophen and 65 mg of caffeine (sorry no brand names here). “Here, take one. It will knock the pain out instantly,” I told him. Although the tension he felt was evident by his dazed eyes and puckered brows, my pain stricken boyfriend simply declined my remedy with the flippant responds, “no thanks, I don’t take drugs.”

Needless to say, I was kind of taken aback by his comment. Not some much by his refusal, but the unintended implication of me being a drug pusher. Although I had “experimented” with marijuana in my twenties, I wouldn’t classify myself as a drug addict. But a quick survey of my medicine cabinet may suggest that like so many of us, I have a dependence on over-the-counter medicines. Every summer, I rely on a daily dose of 10 mg of Loratadine for relief of sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and other allergy related symptoms. And having a cold or flu turns me into a big whinny baby. So I’ll sucked down pints of cherry-flavored cough syrup until my cold is either gone, or I’m firmly secure in coma. I also have a bottle of ibreprophen for toothaches, a pill to relieve the cramping associated with menstruation and a bunch of other kinds of medicines, which I can’t remember what they do. My medicine cabinet may seem perfectly normal to most Americans, who like me, can’t stand to be in any kind of pain longer than we have to. But what about the true addicts among us, those who’s pain runs deeper than a tension-filled headache or a tear in the flesh. We as a society tend to cast a deeper shadow of ridicule and guilt on those addicted to illegal drugs such as crack cocaine and heroine as oppose to those who may need a little extra every night to help them fall asleep faster. So why are some drugs perceived different from others? I often wonder how different are those young boyz, dressed in oversized white-tees and fitted caps, pedaling “green” five for $20 on street corners compared to the pharmaceutical executives in tailored expensive suits and briefcases, who hawk tiny pills on television with claims to relieve the restlessness in your legs.

Today, Opioid prescription medications such as oxycodine, vicodin, methadone and morphine are being abused at rates much more prevalent than crack cocaine and even heroine. According to the White House’s own policy page (www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov), “While overall illicit drug use is declining, the abuse of prescription drugs, particularly narcotic pain killers, remain disturbing high.” Additionally, “Abuse of prescription drugs to get high has become increasingly prevalent among teens and young adults. Past year abuse of prescription painkillers now rank second—only behind marijuana—as the Nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem.” Some even more alarming figures show that in 2000 alone, 43 percent of those who ended up in hospital emergency rooms from drug overdoses, which equals nearly a half million people, were there because of misusing prescription drugs.

While I’m not trying to discount that there are benefits to many of these drugs. After all, painkillers do relieve pain for those suffering from physical ailments, chronic diseases and mental instabilities. But clearly as we dive head first into this new epidemic of drug abuse, we have to begin thinking differently about how we as society reacts to this problem. There is no way that we can lock up every prescription drug user – all 6 million of them, who have admitted using prescription pills for non-medical uses. Besides the beds in our correctional facilities are already being occupied by the tens of thousands crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana users we arrest annually. Truth of the matter is this war on drugs isn’t quite working the way we all, or at least some of us, had envisioned. Since it began, this “prohibition” has cost taxpayers billions and we yet haven’t put a dent in the illegal drug trade. In fact, the illegal drug trade is flourishing, so are the crime, the violence and the death that usually goes along with it. Maybe it’s about time we begin seeking out new solutions.
On August 11th, the Marijuana Policy Project will be a guest on People, Places & Things and their goal is quite simple: to work to change U.S. policies and remove criminal penalties for marijuana use, particularly making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their physicians. I personally believe that decriminalization of marijuana is a great start. But I also believe it needs to go further. We need to remove criminal penalties for ALL drug use and encourage, NOT FORCE, rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. Like it or not, we are a society under the influence - whether it be drugs, alcohol or something else. I’m not saying that using drugs for non-medical use is okay but it already is an acceptable norm. And pretending that we are some puritan version of ourselves continues to do us more harm than good. Until this happens, it will be hard to remain drug-free in this over the counter culture. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's wrong with Black people In America

So I just concluded watching the second installment of CNN "special" report on what's its like to be Black in America and all I can say is good thing I don't own a gun because I'm about ready to shoot myself in the face. Who knew that being Black in America was so depressing, so bleak and so problematic? The only thing that was missing from this series was the theme from the television show, "Good Times" playing in the background.

For the record, I can tell you that Black folks doesn't particularly care for being prodded and picked at like some indigenous rare breed of animal found deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. And personally, I not really sure I understand the rest of America's new found fascination with "understanding" Black folks (maybe it has something to do with Obama's chances of becoming the next president). Nevertheless, the previews for this special proclaimed that it would provide some insight to the Black experience no other series on television would have. I have to admit that prior to watching the series I did have some reservations this would be the case. But I sincerely hoped that CNN, a so-called liberal 24 hour news channel, and more importantly Soledad O'Brien, who is a woman of mixed heritage, would go beyond the exploitive nature of what seems to be commonplace on the nightly news.

But to no surprise, as a 30 year old Black women, who has lived in America ALL of her life, I saw no parts of me, my family, my friends nor my Black neighbors in this series. Instead I watched sound bites of bad punditry and the same parade of racial stereotypes we read about everyday in newspapers; The educated and successful Black woman who can't find a husband; the poor, uneducated single mom and the out-of-work baby's daddy; the drug addict turn preacher; the dangers of rap music; the teen on the road to prison; the upper class Black family, who just isn't convinced that racism still exist. Was this the best they could come up with?

What's even more disturbing is that all weekend, CNN had the nerve to pat itself on the back about how "revolutionary" and "groundbreaking" this so-called in-dept bullshit was. Finally, someone dared to turn the mirror on Black America and put "our issues" on Front Street. Groundbreaking? Not even close. Revolutionary? More like revolting. Why weren't the voices from the other side of the Black community, the Black America that I love and live in, reflected in this dialog? Their were no mention of growing popularity of Islam in our community; the continued need and success of HBCUs [that's Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities; why Black folks celebrate Kwanzaa in addition to Christmas; the Black gay, lesbian and transgendered community; the cultural differences between American born Blacks and Blacks here from other countries [yes, there are differences]; The arts; the culture; even the food – all of these items we're never mentioned in the discussion.

No other races of people are expected to justify for White America their existence as much as Black folks have. Are we that much different than the rest of America? Do we not put wake up every morning, shower, eat and go to work just like everyone else? Have we not contributed anything to the progression of American society that warrants mentioning at all? If CNN was really interested in being "groundbreaking," maybe they should have cleared the air and answered some of the questions that Black folks have been asked by curious White folks at least five times in their lives. Questions such as "Why don't we wash our hair more than once a week?" or "Why do Black folks name their kids those funny names?" or "Can all Black people really dance?" or my favorite, "Did O.J. really do it?" Or maybe their lack of Black folks in their newsroom (yes, because I do count the heads of Negroes in the background behinds the anchors desk and I have yet to see one. You don't believe me, check for yourself) prohibited them from really knowing for sure where to begin on discovering what it is truly like to be "Black in America."

And what was up with that little Black dude in the old Boys-to-Men get up spouting bad poetry during the breaks, anyway? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Perfect Summer

EVERY year around March, I began my usual ritual of proclaiming just how sick and tired I am of the snow and the cold! Do not get me wrong I love the winter. In fact, I might be one of a handful of persons who will readily admit to being a winter baby. Maybe it has to do with me being born in the early fall. Or perhaps loving the combination of frigid chill-you-to-the-bone-temperatures and knee-deep snowfall, which present the perfect excuse to cower beneath a stack of blankets and be as lazy as you want to be. But it's something about that time of year, in between spring and winter, when I fall into a slump of boredom an anxiety, ready for something new and different to come into my life. Usually, I would chalk this feeling up to my loathing for the long summer months. For this winter baby, I equate summer to big nasty bugs, allergies, loud-noises and excessively hot days, which no matter how many clothes you shed off, you're still hot.

It is a well-known principal among some theologians and earth conscious folks that we are one with the universe, taking our rhythmic cues from the environment. And just like the seasons, our bodies, mind and spirits runs on a human circadian clock, evolving us through seasons of rest and reflection to seasons of renewal and vigorous action. Very recently I began to understand and appreciate that principal as once again, March came around and I felt the same feeling of world-weariness. So this year I tried something new. This year, I learn to listen to what my body was telling me and sought out the perfect internal summer day. You know, when the days are warm enough to wear your prettiest sundress, sit out on the grass with some ice cream and a good book. And the nights are cool enough that you can leave your windows open and still get underneath the covers without breaking into a massive sweat. For me, that meant seeking out balance in my life, learning to give my creative, spirited side of the brain a chance to shine, while telling my overly analytical left side of the brain to chill for a bit. And just like summer, it also meant learning to tide those hot and sticky heat waves as well as those chaotic thundering and lightening summer storms, which tend to stifled the mind, force your creative side into a drought and cloud judgment, until those perfect days could come around again.

This summer, I sought out new challenges to write, create and love more than I had ever done. I put myself in situations where I was forced to learn something new about myself and the world, meet people whom I'd never thought I had anything in common with and achieve something I never thought I could do. I took up bike riding (something I haven't done since I was a teenager), produced a talk show, co-wrote two scripts, took a belly dancing class, started a garden, gave up smoking and learned to let go of situations where I was seeking the approval of others and not my own unique purpose. I also challenged myself to exist in peace and enjoyment. Letting go of the need to fill every waking minute of the day with activities and learning to exist in stillness. From the many endless city festivals, where I would find the most pleasure in sitting back and absorbing myself in the music and company of others to just maxing on the couch with my boyfriend and watching bad reality shows. It was about bringing a balance, creating that perfect blend of challenges and calm, which made me become a better writer, a more understanding girlfriend, a caring sister, an appreciative daughter, a more pleasurable aunt and an overall better friend to myself.

While not perfect (who is), my journey has taught me some new skills, which will make my mind rest easy for the winter season. And when next March comes around, I will have already reaped the fruits of this newfound knowledge of myself and my internal grounds will be shifted again, ready to plant, sow and harvest some new challenges. As I began the second season of People, Places & Things, which begins this August on Gtown Radio (shameless plug), I'm curious of how other people view their perfect summer. What does this time of year mean for you and more importantly, what do you mean to this time of year?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On more thing about Monday's show...

I'm unveiling a NEW segment:


LISTEN for the list of meetings, events and other community happenings,
FIND me there,
and WIN a cool prize!!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sk8board parks in Philly

Okay, I have to be totally honest, I am not a thrasher. I 've never hit a switch and to be real honest, I always thought a 50/50 grind was half hoagie, half cheesesteak. In fact in my younger years, I used to stand on the porch of my rowhome, pelt rocks at the heads of kids on boards and laugh as they went crashing down onto the hard asphalt (I am not condoning this behavior).

However, when the City of Philadelphia (i.e. former Mayor John Street) announced its plans back in 2003 to create a skateboard mecca in hopes of replacing the one it "greened" over in Love Park, I had to admit I was pretty siked.


Because it was the right thing to do (unlike throwing rocks at little kids' heads).

Philadelphia used to have an international reputation as a world class skateboard destination, bringing millions of "thrashers" to the city just to pop a wheelie off of the head of the famous Thinking Man statue. Putting aside the millions in revenue these skaterboys and girls would bring annually to our city. Philly also benefitted from a even greater reputation of being a major city that is not only welcoming to young people but acccepting of young folks who are often viewed as being on the fringes of society.

Of course, that was five years ago. And the dream of a skater haven has yet to be fullfilled. Funding, placement and space had all been reasons cited as to why the project had stalked for so long. And with the city undergoing a "revitilization," which seems to focusing alot of its energy on high priced condos and casinos, many people were beginning to feel that the project might get filed in the back rooms of City Hall under the tagline, "never going to happen."

So Was it all talk?

Maybe not.

Last December, the city's Commerce Department awarded a $1 million grant to the Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, a non-profit organization which has been raising money for this much anticipated City Park designed for skateboarding, events and general public use. So far, a preliminary plan will have the skatepark located at the north end of Schuylkill Banks, it
will add an exciting outdoor recreation site on the popular 1.2 mile venue along the lower banks of the Schuylkill River.

Jamie Elfant, organizer with Franklin Paine, will be my guest on People, Places & Things, this Monday at 8 p.m. on Gtown Radio (http://www.gtownradio.com/) Those new to Gtown Radio should know that listening is for free and all you have to do is click the "Listen Low" or Listen High" button on the upper right hand corner of the web page.

Call in and ask question you may have about the progress to get this skatepark finally build. The number is 215-609-4301. Please, no rock throwing.