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Your black auntie is here.

She’s last, but she finally made it to the family reunion carrying a bowl of potato salad because she swears hers is the best and she can’t eat just anybody’s potato salad. Actually, she can’t eat just anybody’s food – period – because she doesn’t know how everybody else keeps house. She also has packets of hot sauce in her purse (right between those peppermint candies, a trial size hand lotion, a pack of tissues, and a mini perfume stick of White Diamonds) just in case the food ain’t seasoned quite right.

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She’s last, but she finally made it to the family reunion carrying a bowl of potato salad because she swears hers is the best and she can’t eat just anybody’s potato salad. Actually, she can’t eat just anybody’s food – period – because she doesn’t know how everybody else keeps house. She also has packets of hot sauce in her purse (right between those peppermint candies, a trial size hand lotion, a pack of tissues, and a mini perfume stick of White Diamonds) just in case the food ain’t seasoned quite right.

You’re not sure what her real name is, but it says “Tweety” on her license plate, so you call her Aunt Tweety. That’s OK though because she can never get yours right either.

“Uh…Brian…uh Brandon…uh Benson…”

“Aunt Tweety, it’s Marcus.”

“Yeah, Marcus, honey run out to the car real fast and bring Aunt Tweety her sandals in the back seat. I need to get these shoes off.” She’s only been there five minutes and hasn’t helped with any of the cooking, but her feet hurt. You do what she says even though you are not her child.

Aunt Tweety is driving a champagne-colored Mazda, but you’re not sure if she bought it or if it’s a rental since her son wrecked the black Altima she used to drive. Your cousin Junior is 32-years-old and still lives at home with Aunt Tweety, his only occupation being going down to the corner to buy Kool cigarettes for her. She’s always complaining to anyone who’ll listen that he needs to get up out her house and move in with “one a dem lil gals” (but not the fast-tailed one she told not to come by there again unless she’s bringin the granbabies with her).

The Mazda is just outside the front door because no matter the occasion, Aunt Tweety always has the best parking spot. She’ll wait for 20 minutes behind someone getting ready to leave instead of parking 2 spaces further from the door. There’s a Christmas tree air freshener hanging from the mirror, but the car always smells like swap meet incense. You grab her sandals – kitten heels – but at least they kind of go with the capri pants she has on (with her t-shirt tucked into the elastic waistband, obviously). She put on her nice pants today because she just got her hair done, but didn’t comb out any of the curls.

You go back inside to hand off the shoes, which she will put on over her stockings.

Aunt Tweety is in conversation with Aunt Sheila, so you put the shoes under the chair holding her purse – black aunties never put their purse on the floor.

AT: You been doin good?
AS: Can’t complain, can’t complain. You?
AT: Oh, blessed and highly favored.
AS: I tried to call you the other night, Thursday…
AT: Oh we took the grans out to Applebee’s.
AS: Oh that musta been nice!
AT: It was, it was. Me and Otis wanted to go to the Red Lobsters, but not with the chirrn.
AS: I been had a taste for some cheddar biscuits truth be told, we should go one weekend.
AT: Y’all should come on down to our church one Sunday and we can go after. Just let me know when.

You always have to let Aunt Tweety know when you comin to visit the church ahead of time because she ain’t always there herself. Sunday is when she usually catches up on her stories and all the week’s programming featuring Steve Harvey. You remember that from the last time you spent the weekend there, sleeping on the couch because the extra bedroom is her exercise room. It’s really just a treadmill and then a whole lot of bags from Kohl’s/Macy’s/Burlington Coat Factory sales, plus random things from every flea market in the area, but she calls it her exercise room anyway.

The living room is fine though, even though the TV is always playing the Temptations movie on VHS. Or the Jacksons movie. She has a big earth tone sectional sofa on the main wall below a “black art” picture.

At one end of the sofa is an end table with decorative giraffes. The other end has a decorative elephant on the floor. Those coupled with the African masks on the wall almost make you think she knows her roots, but her only connection to Africa is the fake kente tablecloth she puts out during Kwanzaa.

The dining room and kitchen are one big room, the only decoration being the Footprints poster (you know the one) above the dining room table and a ridiculously oversized wooden fork and spoon hanging near the stove. When she’s cooking, no one is allowed in her kitchen until everything is done, which means you have to stay out from 8am when cooking starts until 2pm when dinner is served extremely early. She cooked all day, but she won’t eat – she just sits down with a piece of chicken on a paper towel.

Unless she’s on a diet. In that case, she won’t eat all day, sitting down for dinner with 6,000 calories on the plate, too much salt in the food, and wine with ice in it.

Obviously no food is allowed in the other living room, the fancy one that no one ever goes in, with the empty candy dish on the table, the floor model television that doesn’t work and is just there to showcase old pictures of your aunts and uncles from back when photos were all shades of red, a black Jesus hanging on the wall, plants – every plant in the world, the *new* furniture that’s been there since you can remember (covered in plastic), and this wicker chair:

This is the room where she keeps all her CDs too. She really likes Mary Mary. This is also where she keeps all of her Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey books, along with the biggest Bible you’ve ever seen. In white.

Back in the present, Aunt Sheila and Aunt Tweety are still making summer plans, probably involving Frankie Beverly & Maze lawn tickets at an outdoor pavilion. You sneak away before anyone mentions how much they miss Luther Vandross and how nobody makes music like him and Teddy Pendergrass and Peabo Byrson anymore. You try to find your mom to let her know Aunt Tweety is here before she runs into your dad. Aunt Tweety is your mom’s sister and she fights with your dad, especially after a few wine coolers. She’s usually ok, but certain situations set her off:  waiting in a line that’s not moving and saying to no one in particular, “This don’t make no kinda sense”; making commentary about a conversation she wasn’t invited to join, with “Let that been ME…”; or just refusing to comment at all, letting her true feelings known with a side-eye and a grunt. No, we don’t want to see Aunt Tweety turn up, so keep her away from Dad.

It’s the end of the reunion anyway. Once the music comes on, she’ll be the first one to get up and start line dancing. She’ll also be the first to leave the dancefloor to fix a plate for everyone at home who didn’t come. She won’t be cooking tonight because she has a spades game Uncle Otis organized. He’s a barber (or thinks he is) and only wears casual linen short sleeved suits with shoes like this:

They’ll play spades (maybe some bid whist), but not too late because they both have work, starting the day with The Tom Joyner Morning Show and a reminder to tell Junior to go find a job.

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Thank a librarian.

Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going!

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I spent a lot of time at the library as a child because I didn’t have any friends.

Just kidding! I had lots of friends and was totes popular, but I was basically an only child since my older sister was off to college before I was even forming memories. She taught me how to read, my parents encouraged it, and since they both worked, books were an easy way for me to entertain myself.

Parenting Life Hack: If your kids have a quiet hobby, you spend less money on Excedrin for migraines.

My hometown had about 400 people and only 17 of them could read, so we didn’t have a library, but just across the river in the bustling metropolis next door where 9,000 people lived, there was a library staffed with nice ladies and one old gay man who basically raised me while my mom did errands. A librarian is not a babysitter and they don’t get paid to watch your kids, so please don’t just drop your kids off in front of the bookdrop and hightail it outta there. However, my parents were really relaxed about leaving me places, because they were very old and the Scary News Stories didn’t phase them. There was a higher chance of your child being abducted in the 1940s than the 1990s, yet our parents and grandparents were out all day by themselves from sunup to sundown while we were expected to be tied to our parents at all times. My folks pretty much functioned under the premise that nobody was going to take me out of a library — I would have to actually follow them, and I wasn’t stupid (and I didn’t/don’t like people).

So I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the library while my mom was running errands and my favorite librarian, Ms. Greer, would actually entertain me….by putting me to work. Had I known I was doing her job for her, I would’ve asked for a cut of her paycheck, but 3rd Grade Me was very excited to ink the inside back cover of all the new books with the fancy library stamp. I felt super important being trusted with the task of taking the returns and putting them in their proper spot on the shelf (thanks, Dewey Decimal training!). She had me take Lemon Pledge and wipe down the study corrals and I did it with gusto.

When my mom asked me to pick my socks up off the floor, it felt like the end of my life, so I guess she wasn’t asking me nicely the way Ms. Greer did.

I spent more time in the library growing up than any other building that wasn’t home or school, so when I saw this story about some Australian librarians checking on their senior citizens during COVID, I wanted to tell y’all about it because librarians are truly underappreciated.

When Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries first went into lockdown in March, shut the doors and left the remaining unborrowed books on their shelves, staff were sent home with a phone.

“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” said Lisa Dempster, Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation.

“The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”

So the library staff pulled from their database the phone number of every library member over the age of 70 – a total of 8,000 records.

Then the librarians started calling those members. All of them.

(cont. The Guardian)

I lived next door to a little old lady 6 or 7 years ago and I would do errands for her and do her grocery shopping and sit with her a couple of times a week.  After I moved, I used to take her to church once a month up until last year. Her daughter moved in with her and thought it was “weird” that a former neighbor would still check up on her, but I like her. She’s like a Bonus Grandma and her kids weren’t checking on her. She spent most of her days alone in her apartment, and since she was right next door, I could go over there and sit on her couch and do what I would normally do on my own couch — watch TV and play on the internet or crochet. Her daughter is/was convinced I was just spending time with her because I wanted to get into her will. It just didn’t occur to her that I would want to look after my neighbor or look after a lonely old lady.

Not to generalize, but Western cultures don’t care for our elders the way other cultures do and we don’t look out for our neighbors the way other cultures do. We don’t build community the way other cultures do. Librarians do that! Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going! Librarians get to know the people in their community, like the nerdy little kid who sits and reads quietly on Sundays while mom is at the beauty supply store. Librarians care about that community, like these senior citizens getting calls from their local library to make sure their faring well during a pandemic. Think about adding libraries to the list of causes you look for when choosing a politician to champion. They’re always under attack and they need our help to keep serving communities quietly and constantly without any gratitude.

I did thank Ms. Greer though. Before I went off to boarding school I bought her a nice card and sent it to the library.

 

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What would Dianne do?

Tomorrow, I’ll try to press Reset (for the millionth time this summer!) but today we finna eat good and pretend I don’t have any problems. If y’all got some good gossip, feel free to drop it in my inbox. Dianne would.

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Seven years ago today I was in my hometown for my mom’s funeral. It’s not really “a thing” for me anymore and I usually just commemorate the day by reading funny things I’ve written about her.

Everything just feels worse when you’re already down though. Like, I lost my phone Sunday. It felt like the end of the world. I’ve lost my phone in the past, and it just felt like an annoying inconvenience. Last year around this time, I breezed through just fine. This year, I wish she could help me laugh at some of my misfortunes and then cook for me.

My mom didn’t cook as often as some moms did because she worked and she ran a business and I had so many extra-curriculars to be shuttled to and from. Plus, my parents were both really social and cooking dinner wasn’t super high on the list of priorities. When she *did* cook though, we had a ball in the kitchen. Sometimes my dad would be sitting at the bar working on something of his or helping to shuck corn or shell peas. I would generally be in the way between picking the music. And my mom would be in charge of directing the topics of gossip, because both of them were messy and lived for drama.

So. Given my current emotional state, what would Dianne do for me?

First, she’d tell me to pray, and I’d let that go in one ear and right out the other. Then she’d ask me what I wanted to eat. I can’t fry chicken like she could and my salmon croquettes never come out right, but there’s a crock pot in the kitchen, so I just made some BBQ sauce and threw some chicken in it. Also, the grocery store by me has Lipton, so I bought some bags and some sugar, and we finna have sweet tea. I haven’t made cornbread from scratch in years, but I went over the recipe in my head and I think I still got it. I bought me some early peas and some sweet potatoes, and I’m bout to cook like my mama.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to press Reset (for the millionth time this summer!) but today we finna eat good and pretend I don’t have any problems. If y’all got some good gossip, feel free to drop it in my inbox. Dianne would.

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Working for Anti-Vaxxers: Week One

How did I get here?

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How did I get here?

Short re-cap in case you missed my summer blog…

The publishing company I worked for laid off a whole bunch of people in May because print media is dying and y’all hoes don’t read shit. I didn’t qualify for unemployment because I got a crappy lil retail job last fall for the holidays and kept it to work a couple of days a month because of the discount and the extra drinking money. NY State said since I have a job, I’m not unemployed.

Add that to moving expenses and the cost of just existing in New York City, and I was so excited about the prospect of a paycheck after living on fumes all summer, I didn’t really do any research about the non-profit foundation that hired me.

I’d signed on to work for an autism foundation run by anti-vaxxers.

The goal was to keep applying for jobs and to keep interviewing until I found a better position and hopeful I’d get another job offer before my start date, which was last Monday. But alas. That’s not how my life works, and I reported to work last week full of shame and angst and apprehension, but with the very real need to buy groceries and pay my phone bill looming overhead.

Whatever you’re thinking about a foundation full of anti-vaxxers is probably correct. There is a lot of nervous white woman energy all over the office. I only saw two non-white people all last week, and one was mixed. It’s like working with a parody of Jenny McCarthy, and luckily for y’all, Emma Stone did that for me so I don’t have to explain any further.

They’d just had a huge fundraiser, and since I was hired by the fundraising and events team, most of my time was spent crunching numbers and learning how to allocate money. The rest of my time was a lot of training about the company…and signing a lot of NDAs. Apparently they’ve had problems with people being hired under false pretenses, “spies” from other organizations infiltrating their barn of crazy to then go back to the real world with dirt. So there is a lot of paperwork about what you can and cannot say about your job.

One day last week, I’d just finished up some training exercises with two other new people, and I saw my trainer browsing through Instagram.

Emma: Oh it’s okay. Using your phone and stuff during down time is no big deal. There are ebbs and flows throughout the day, especially on this team.

Me: Oh that’s cool.

Emma: As long as your work is done or whatever, nobody really cares what you do. What’s your Instagram? I’ll follow you.

Me: I don’t have IG.

Emma: Really? Why not?

Me: **shrug** I just don’t use social media. I’m more of a private person I guess.

CLEARLY that is a lie, but my Instagram is “rafidangelo.” If you Google “rafidangelo” you can find anything I’ve ever written. I’ve always used the same handle on every social media platform because I used to make a lot of money doing this and you want to be easily searchable when your income depends on traffic to your site or sites. It’s impossible to erase a social media history like mine, so my employment strategy is to make sure I’m not searchable. The name I use on my resume is a name that does not appear anywhere on the Internet. So, on my application, the spots designated for social media are blank.

Anyway, it’s hard working for an organization that is directly and unquestionably making the world worse, but I have to set it aside in a corner of my mind because the most immediate pressing issue is keeping a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I can’t save the world if I’m hungry in a gutter somewhere, so I figured I could just keep my head down, keep booking interviews, and sooner rather than later, something will break and I’ll land a job elsewhere.

Friday I went to work for a halfday because the office empties out around 1 for Summer Fridays, and on the way out, the HR lady called me into her office.

Y’all. She had two blogs I’d written about vaccines.

When you’re the kind of organization worried about “spies” making their way in, having no social media imprint of any kind is a red flag. When I told Emma I don’t use it, they went back to my file and decided to start digging, which they should have done in the first place. When Susan from HR put my words in my face, I came clean and told her I wasn’t a spy, I just needed a job. I didn’t do my research on them the same way they didn’t do their research on me because we were both excited about the way the interviews went and what I could bring to fundraising and events planning. They needed new energy, I needed a paycheck, and we were both sloppy about doing our homework.

I couldn’t convince her I wasn’t a spy, but she said even if I wasn’t covertly working for another organization, my feelings about the topic were obviously at odds with the beliefs of the foundation, so I couldn’t work there.

So that’s how I got fired from a job I didn’t want a week after I started.

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