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Sunday Soliloquy: Afrocity’s Hellfire and Dalmatian Sermon September 6, 2009

English Oil Painting of Dalmatian

English Oil Painting of Dalmatian

On Friday I went out of town, hoping to avoid the bumper to bumper traffic, I decided to take the side street which cut through an old neighborhood I grew up in. I was both horrified and disappointed. It should not have been surprising to me because I had seen the streets just six months earlier. But somehow I can’t go back there without hoping to look at things with fresh eyes. I would have no such luck on Friday. African Americans were in the streets, literally in the streets, confronting cars asking for money, cursing. Huddles of gray haired men were playing dominoes with their pants hanging below their butt cracks.
dalmatians
It was hard to believe that I walked these very same streets during the 1980’s. Most of the stores I remembered are now closed. The signs are still there but the building facades were hollow shells. Even the police station I used to drop off abandoned kittens in was now boarded up and occupied by derelicts clinging to paper bagged bottles.

What was my local supermarket had turned into a “Dollar Tree” store. No need to worry about boycotting your local Whole Foods in this neighborhood. I would argue that even the marijuana is not organic. Does Odwalla make Tang?

On Friday, the prize for the neighborhood’s healthiest food selection went to Jimmy Chan’s Chicken Wing shack. 12 fried chicken wings for $3.I could see a young mom standing in Jimmy Chan’s plopping hot sauce on top of her chicken wings as her toddler son grabbed at her strawberry blond hair weave. Finally she stuck a wing in his small but grabby hands.

A chicken wing meal is okay every now and then but seriously, where are the grocery stores?  A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a sad and troubling term – “food desert”.

From Wikipedia:

A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet, but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.

The concept of ‘access’ may be interpreted in three separate ways.

‘Physical access’ to shops can be difficult if the shops are distant, the shopper is elderly or infirm, the area has many hills, public transport links are poor, and the consumer has no car. Also, the shop may be across a busy road, difficult to cross with children or with underpasses that some fear to use because of a crime risk. For some, such as the disabled, the inside of the shop may be hard to access physically if there are steps up, or the interior is cramped with no room for walking aids. Carrying fresh food home may also be hard for some.

Map showing food deserts in Chicago. My old neighborhood is district 25. From Chicago Tribune.

Map showing food deserts in Chicago. My old neighborhood is district 25. From Chicago Tribune.

‘Financial access’ is difficult if the consumer lacks the money to buy healthy foods (generally more expensive, calorie for calorie, than less healthy, sugary, and fatty ‘junk foods’) or if the shopper cannot afford the bus fare to remote shops selling fresh foods and instead uses local fast food outlets. Other forms of financial access barriers may be inability to afford storage space for food, or for the very poor, living in temporary accommodation that does not offer good cooking facilities.

Thirdly, the mental attitude or food knowledge of the consumer may prevent them accessing fresh vegetables. They may lack cooking knowledge, or have the idea that eating a healthy diet isn’t important.

In some urban areas, grocery stores have withdrawn alongside residents that have fled to the suburbs (see urban sprawl). Low income earners and senior citizens who remain find healthy foods either unavailable or inaccessible as a result of high prices and/or unreachable locations.

In rural areas local fresh food outlets have closed leaving shoppers without cars in these areas with difficult access to healthy foods, as rural bus services have also declined. Whilst the idea of ‘food deserts’ in the early 21st century has mainly an urban flavour, the first case studies into difficulties faced by consumers accessing healthy foods were made in rural English villages. The Women’s Institute looked at the plight of elderly car-less widows left stranded by closure of village shops and withdrawal of bus services as far back as the 1970s.

dalmationAside from the hunting and gathering nourishment issues, I wondered where the children went to school and even more importantly, where are their leaders?

Here my use of “children” also extends to adults.

Where are the political leaders in this neighborhood?  Chicagoans elect an aldermen for every neighborhood. They are usually Democrats. There are no term limits. Once elected, they often do nothing for the districts they represent.

It is also not uncommon in Chicago for an alderman to be caught living in a wealthy part of town while serving a “ghetto”. Is this presently the case with my old neighborhood? I must say that things have certainly NOT improved since I left in 1989. Red roses used to bloom in front of some of the homes that are now condemned.  Street gang insignia has replaced the hopscotch chalk drawings on the sidewalks I used to play.

Now bevies of soon to be teen-aged moms were on the prowl. In the inner city, a common form of after school recreation is walking the streets with your girlfriends looking for boys (trouble). I tried it a few times myself when I was that age, though don’t think we were dressed as scantily as they are now.  Still, I only lasted the excursion for several blocks as my middle school friend Nan was far more boy savvy than I. Nan had proudly lost her virginity at 9 years of age while watching the movie Popeye in her cousins house. He had Showtime cable and all she wanted was to see a movie. She left that day with a lot less.

Nan’s mother, a welfare hound with 5 kids and no job was perhaps more beautiful and ambitious than my mother but not nearly as encouraging of Nan’s future out of the ghetto. If there was such thing as being ambitious yet a lifetime welfare recipient Nan’s mother was good at stealing men from their wives and getting half of their paycheck and a new gold chain. Nan admired her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and  once told me that she knew the same thing would happen to her and it did. In college, I learned that Nan had three kids. We were only 20.

dalmation2

Now snapped back into 2009, I stopped at a red light. I kept my gaze off the man in the car next to me who was making eyes as two kids were fighting in the back seat of his rusty Toyota. At the corner, a boy was pressing his body against a girl that looked no older than 13. They were in an abandoned store front filled with nightclub fliers and empty beer cans. The girl’s hair was uncombed and kinky, her shorts were tight. She shoved the boy away but it was a teasing game. I wanted to approach her and say “please practice abstinence, stay in school” but the light turned green and it was not my place anyway. She will most likely be a mom by next year.

Children having children. Again where are the leaders? Again the police station once there was closed. A pretty good indication that you have officially slid south is when your own police station believes your neighborhood is too bad to stay in and the Mayor lets them leave.

The "Blue Light Special" in Chicago. These are boxes installed  by the city police to indicate high crime areas in Chicago's inner city.

The "Blue Light Special" in Chicago. These are boxes installed by the city police to indicate high crime areas in Chicago's inner city.

The only authority in sight was the Chicago Police Department’s “blue light” special cameras installed on the light posts. No sight was a suitable place to anchor my lust for a tiny moment of nostalgia until I saw the fire station. It was the place where I saw my first dalmatian.

dogs_17Wanting a puppy was a major part of my childhood, being homeless was a unfortunate situation Mother and I were in that did not lend itself to responsible  pet ownership. The fire station was the first place where I saw my dream, dog breed. On hot summer days there was an old woman who would sell snow cones. The 25 cent cups of shaved ice and coconut syrup would cool my mother down just enough to get us back home after carrying bags of groceries as far as 10 blocks. Stores had switched from paper to plastic bags. They were easier to carry but the plastic would stick to my skin while canned goods and boxes of powdered milk and eggs banged against my ankles. Taking the bus was not an option. We did not have the 50 cents, even for my reduced student rate. Eventually after trudging several blocks or so, we would stop to rest at a bench or sidewalk curb. Nearing the fire station meant that I may get a snow cone and take a peek at the Dalmatian who worked with the firemen. I never really knew much about the breed, just that I wanted one someday when I had a place of my own.

By now, I was back in friendly territory, with each passing block the neighborhoods got whiter and whiter. I had gone from African American neighborhoods to Latino neighborhoods, to the grunge hipsters of Wicker Park, to Michigan Avenue where the Chanel stores and Gucci handbag carriers resided. My apartment building was blocks away. Collecting my mail, I said hello to my friendly doorman and the urban professionals who I once watched from afar, now my neighbors walking pedigreed pups as they carried Starbucks iced coffee beverages and briefcases.

Francois and I

Francois and I

Despite the safety and serenity of my stainless steel applianced apartment, I could not take the images I had just witnessed back in “da hood” for granted.

My pal Francois greeted me with a wagging tail and nudge for food. There was a time when it seemed impossible that such a blessing would be within my grasp. Something I had always wished for was sitting right in my lap, a Dalmatian. She is my testament that we all turn a corner in our lives where we are responsible for materializing our  own happiness.

Saturday in an email battle, an impassioned Obama supporter labeled me as a hater and white person who was “hiding behind a black face” . Now successful and a Republican, I have somehow lost my membership in the black club.

The woman in the email seemed to have little idea about me or my past struggles. With a barrage of incoherent liberal talking points which she proudly declared as giving conservatives a dose of  “whup ass”, the woman tells me that GOP party chairman Michael Steele would “not be where he is today” if it were not for Barack Obama.

This assumption is beyond laughable. Michael Steel was destined to be everything Michael Steel he is and was before Barack Obama came onto the scene.

To suggest that the GOP only made him chairman of the party because of his race is highly hypocritical, especially coming from a liberal Democrat. This is further evidence that African Americans in the Democratic Party are beholden to the same old myth that blacks need Caucasians to hand us something in order to be successful.

This is why affirmative action is paramount to the livelihood of so many liberal minorities. Whites can never be trusted to actually hire a person of color on their own merits. At the time when Nixon enacted affirmative action, it culminated out of the days of segregated schools and civil rights demonstrations. Now the 40 year old government imposed system of quotas needs a face lift.

This woman’s remarks are a prime exemplify the psyche of the Democrat who is fixated on what blacks can’t achieve without the DNC or what I call on the plantation mentality.

Francois and IThere is no inspiration to be found in such ideologies. Shrewdly, though, the woman was quick to point out that I had left my blackness behind because I had left the Democratic party.

The dog in front of me was perfect. A blending of black and white all living on one body. A beautiful white background with black spots. Why can’t we be like this? A whimper and sad blue eyes told me that feeling chastised for being an African American Republican was the least of my worries. My dreams had turned into a living breathing reality. The spotted canine companion did not care who I voted for, she just wanted to be fed.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

franny and I


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21 Responses to “Sunday Soliloquy: Afrocity’s Hellfire and Dalmatian Sermon”

  1. manbearpig68 Says:

    David Horowitz hit the root of the problem the other day on Beck

  2. Dogs never notice their own–or others’–color, size, or ‘prettiness’. They just sniff to figure out a person’s or another dog’s temperament. We should do that, too–haha! And they are such grateful creatures–you pet them, talk to them, give them treats, come home to them, and all they show you is gratitude for it.

    Dogs are a lot smarter than some people I know!

    OT–how did you find them and how did you end up with 2 (as seen in a previous post)? They are lovely!

    • afrocity Says:

      I used to show Dalmatians then I began to rescue them. The other Dalmatian in the photo from before passed away in March.

  3. FurryOldGuyJeans Says:

    A dog shows more of M.L King’s philosophy in one paw than all of the DNC and the race baiters.

    Nice pictures, afro, thanks for sharing.

  4. Nancy Says:

    Afrocity, I’m sorry you have to deal with those who accuse you of not being black enough. What does that even mean? It’s sad that, for some people, being black seems to mean being ghetto, or dependent on others. Why is it considered a bad thing to raise yourself up, to achieve something from your own hard work? This is true also coming from very small, rural towns, regardless of color. The second a person decides to become more than they are, they have turned their back on something. I have been ridiculed for turning my back on my roots due to all of my “fancy book learnin'”.

    This isn’t about race, it’s about class. It’s about laziness. Those who would chastise you or anyone for achieving something are only pissed at themselves for not working to achieve the same. They know darn well that they could have had the same opportunities but that would have meant they would have to get up off their butts and work for it.

    Afrocity, if I were you, I wouldn’t give a crap what those people think. They are small minded, lazy people who would rather drag you down to their level because they are too lazy to climb up to yours.

  5. IslandLibertarian Says:

    About twenty years ago, I asked my then fourteen year old daughter what direction she would take in her career and life as she entered high school. Her mother and I were divorced. I wanted to be as much a good influence in her life as possible and I was troubled because she was hanging with kids that were more interested with the “Mall”, Rap Music, and wearing “colors”. My daughter told me, with all seriousness, “Dad, all I have to do is get pregnant and go on welfare.” Her best friend’s older sister was living at home with her fatherless child and getting that welfare check right on schedule. What an example.
    I was stunned. No matter what I said, I could not get through to her to see the nightmare into which she was heading. As a father, I was crushed. How the F**K did this happen?
    Well, soon after that, my daughter was forced to live through a natural disaster of epic proportions. No electricity for weeks, no running water, armed National Guard in the streets, people completely homeless, and everyone forced to pull together to survive. You don’t work? You don’t eat! A real life lesson.
    Today, my daughter is a college grad, career woman, Republican, wife, mother, home owner, and productive member of society. I could not be more proud. That was a “Change” I could believe in.
    It’s not about race. It’s about personal responsibility.
    There is no excuse for laziness. An enabling nanny state is at fault as much as anyone for people not taking care of themselves.

    • LJSNAustin Says:

      What a great story, Island. I’m so happy your daughter turned out to be the self-sufficient, proud woman she is.

    • afrocity Says:

      Island, that story is one worth repeating. Sometimes it takes some hard knocks to get us on the right path.

  6. Throbert McGee Says:

    Saturday in an email battle, an impassioned Obama supporter labeled me as a hater and white person who was “hiding behind a black face”

    Did she mean that you were literally a white blog owner using pictures of an attractive black woman found on the Web or scanned from a fashion mag? Or was it more of an “Oreo” accusation, suggesting that although African-American, you are white on the inside?

    The latter is, to my way of thinking, far more obnoxious, since it’s a next-door-neighbor to “you must be self-loathing,” and is equally difficult to disprove, so it just sits there like a flaming bag of dog crap. (Of course, one can always retort — “Oh, I like myself well enough, but I loathe YOU, because you set such a poor example for other black people.”)

    Anyway, as a “HomoCon,” I can at least partly relate — although the problems of the Black Community™ and the Gay Community™ are far from identical, both groups have been plagued by the scourge of liberal do-gooderism and what I call “lethal non-judgmentalism.”

    (And when the black demographics and gay demographics overlap, so that homo/bi African-American men are subjected to the soft bigotry of low expectations from two different directions, the markedly high HIV rate is a tragically predictable result.)

  7. Throbert McGee Says:

    P.S. What a cute doggy Francois is! I recently became a pet owner again with the acquisition of a white (albino) female rat named Ramona. I decided on an albino because I’ve found that their pink-eyed cuteness can be disarming for people who are rat-phobic (which is 99% of the population). PetCo also had rats with black-and-white coloration (not with little Dalmatian spots, but more like a Holstein cow), and some all-white rats with black eyes, like Miss Bianca in The Rescuers. But if one is going to risk social ostracism by keeping a rat as a pet, one might as well get one that resembles an adorable magician’s bunny as much as possible.

    The reality, of course, is that no matter what their fur color, domesticated specimens of Rattus norvegicus tend to have highly social, inquisitive, and gentle personalities, and bond very quickly with humans. Doggies are my favorite pets, mind you, but if or when your circumstances make it impossible to have a dog, rats are in some ways more appealing than cats — and about a million times better, in my opinion, than other small caged mammals like hamsters or gerbils. And I’m speaking as someone who had dogs, cats, canaries, hamsters, and gerbils growing up, and was past 30 before I took a chance on rats!

    P.P.S. Rat cages do get stinkier faster than a hamster or gerbil’s cage does, but they’re nowhere near as bad as a cat’s litterbox!

    (Okay, now I’ve got the off-topic pet talk out of my system.)

  8. johninca Says:

    I don’t always agree with this blogger, but… I can’t look at that iconic face without thinking that perhaps this country chose the wrong person as our first black president.

  9. Leah Says:

    I love your writing. You have such and amazing story of courage.
    God Bless America, what a country where you literally rose from homeless to success.

    Love Francois. feel free to put up more pictures of her.

  10. Jeesh… Where the hell are the “Vice Lords” when you need them?

    I’m a Lab man myself.

    This story was heart breaking Hon…

  11. MrDarek Says:

    So far, this has been a soliloquey of approval, but let me be the first to be a loving critic. You are a beautiful person and I respect the way you have uplifted yourself.

    You have left the black community because, in a sense, by being a Republican, you are out of step with today’s black ethos. As it stands now, the republican is not alligned with a progressive, community centered view of political outcomes. Rather, the Republican view is more hyper capitalistic and individualistic.

    During my college years, I progressed through a black republican phase to come back to the mainstream of the black ethos of my own free will. Now, I am 38 yrs. old and in your approximate generation and it is good that we can choose for ourselves. Let me state for the record that though I am a registered democrat, I like to evaluate individual politicians against what I am describing as “the black ethos”

    I was a fan of the late Jack Kemp for instance who did great work with HUD in his Home Ownership for People Everywhere initiative. If he would have run for Prez, I would have considered him. I’ve also read parts of Newt Gingritch’s book and I like his “solutionist” brand of conservatism. To some of the perplexing problems–health, energy, economy, he gives some interesting proposals that avoid a hyper capitalist stance like so many Republicans or Conservatives. Overall though, I feel that at present, the democratic platform is closer to “the black ethos”

  12. MrDarek Says:

    Here are some links to articles further working with this concept of black ethos, if you are interested:

    Putnam, Aric. “The Ethos of Pan-Africa: The Rhetorical Visions of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 94th Annual Convention, TBA, San Diego, CA, Nov 20, 2008 . 2009-05-23

    Black Civil Society’s Leadership Burden by Martin Kilson
    http://blackcommentator.com/154/154_think_kilson_leadership.html

    Southern ethos / Black ethics in Toni Morrison’s fiction
    Studies in the Literary Imagination, Fall 1998 by Fultz, Lucille P
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3822/is_199810/ai_n8813398/?tag=content;col1

  13. bob Says:

    If you want to save a dog, consider a Greyhound from one of the race tracks around the country. I don’t have the place for one right now, but I’ve sure thought about it. Make great loving pets, though they’re a little hard on the Alpo budget.

  14. phoenixgirl Says:

    hey {ac} another great post.

  15. Australian Says:

    Leah told me about your blog. This is one of the best blogs that I have read because you write with true passion. Your description of your old neighbourhood was interesting. You did not mince words when describing what it is like.

    These people are “the poor” for which the POTUS wants to shower upon them more and more welfare. That much is obvious from what you wrote.

    What is more interesting though is the fact that these folk vote Democrat and those same Democrats do not in truth help them one iota. They are without incentive within their poverty caused by the welfare state.

    I loved the picture of your dog. What a great way at looking at the Dalmation – the blending of black and white. Also, you are one very beautiful woman. It is “within” that is shining in your smile.

  16. Peter Says:

    Pardon me for being a pore dumb country boy but just who, exactly, is in charge of telling folks what they have to do to be “black enough”? What are the qualifications for the job? What does it pay? What are the penalties for not being black enough? Considering that you are quite a bit darker than Obambi does he have to pay a higher not black enough tax than you?
    Think I’ll just stay out here in the country so I don’t have to worry so much about it all.


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