What Living Without Running Water Taught Me

Superdome_shelter via creative commons

This week I had no running water for four days. I never realized how delicate life could be without water. Simple tasks, like taking a drink, bathing and washing dishes became exceedingly difficult.

I coped the first few days by purchasing bottled water (which thankfully I could do), trying to perfect the art of a sponge bath and doing my darndest to ignore the dirty dishes and smell of filth that filled the house. By the fourth day, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I finally snapped.

The reality is, I had it easy. As my mother said, think about the people in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, who endured weeks and months without water or electricity.  I definitely feel especially sensitive now to people who don’t have access to water and many people around the world don’t, whether in crisis or not.

The first lesson I learned from this situation was to not take water for granted, the second was to help those who don’t have the privilege of being able to buy water when they have no running water, so I donated to the Fund for the Virgin Islands. Honestly, that’s not enough, I could and should be doing more to help others. I’m ashamed that when I watched the trauma and emergency unfold in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico , I didn’t do more to help. I regret it so much.

The third lesson I learned was the importance of being prepared. If I had known how to purify water, take a sponge bath, build an outhouse and wash dishes the old-fashioned way, my few days without water would have been more bearable.

There are many communities of people who devote their spare time to preparing for emergency or crisis. Not just firemen or police officers, but everyday, normal people who learn survival skills, build shelters and “go bags.” They are called “preppers.” Everyone should be prepared for an emergency, whatever your color is. However, being an African-American, you especially need to be prepared, not just for an apocalypse, zombie-invasion or the end times, I’m talking about things like Hurricanes, floods, and water scarcity. Think about Hurricane Katrina. Think about how countless people were left to fend for themselves for weeks, while the government did little to nothing. Think about what happened in Flint, Michigan with the foul water.

The reality is, if a major crisis goes down, the poor, Black people and other people of color are most vulnerable.

Recently, a false alarm in Hawaii, which said that a missile attack was imminent, sent people into a panic.

The false alarm in Hawaii shouldn’t be taken lightly. In this climate, in this political time, you never know what may happen. Would you be ready to grab a bag and head for shelter? Take the necessary precautions to be prepared.

At the bare minimum, put together a “grab and go” bag. In case you need to evacuate, make sure you have a plan, enough water, food, a light source, blankets, maps, emergency contacts, first aid kit, non-electric radio, utility tools, pen, and paper.

My survival goals are to:

  1. Learn to purify water
  2. Build a get-out-of-dodge bag
  3. Learn to grow my own food
  4. Learn to bathe and clean without running water

We, especially as people-of-color, unfortunately, cannot always rely on the government to protect us, if an emergency occurs. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

Here is a website for Black preppers, check it out. 

Elizabeth Johnson Harris: Who Was She?

Her name is Elizabeth Johnson Harris. * She wasn’t a well-known woman, like Ida Wells Barnett or Rosa Parks. She was just an average woman, who kept a record of her life, as an African-American in the 19th century. She was a poet, journalist and a mother. She came into the world in 1867,  in Augusta, Georgia. She was the daughter of formerly enslaved people and for a time, she lived with her Grandparents, who had also been enslaved. In many ways, she was an average African-American woman of the 19th century.

What I find fascinating about Harris is that she kept a memoir, 85 pages of memories and perspectives about her life. She wrote about seemingly normal things, like going to school, caring for her family, and she also recorded her perspective on race in her time.

An excerpt:

Mamma and Papa would often come to see me and bring me nice little things of various sorts. They would often ask if I wanted to go to their home and live with them where I would see more pretty and lovelier things in the city. But no, I was always proud to see them come and hated to see them go. But I had grown so attached and devoted to the older folks that there was nothing to attract my attention from them.

When I was six years old, they started me out to school and although my Grandfather had been a slave, yet he managed to learn to spell and read and from this he taught me of the little that he knew, which gave me a precious start

read more

This entry about learning to read from her grandfather dispels the myth that African-American culture does not value education or learning. What does it say when one of the first things a formerly enslaved person does is learn to read and write, then pass that lesson onto their grandchild? Despite all the brokenness, despite the terror that her grandfather would have endured during slavery, he still desired to learn. He understood the value of education and in teaching his granddaughter, gave her an invaluable and healing gift. When you’re educated, you can tell your own stories and narratives and you can free your mind and spirit.

Harris lived during a time when history was often told from a white male perspective. Yet, Harris’ memoir speaks of history from the perspective of an average, African-American woman. In this respect, her memoir is a form of resistance to an oppressive time period. Harris writes of some of the most normal aspects of 19th-century life and transforms what might be taken for granted or regarded as mundane today into elaborate and significant facets of life. In telling her story, she resisted the common notion that Black people have no history, no collective story or connection to the past, no reverence for our ancestors or where we come from. So many of us have had our history re-written or ripped away, but when we tell our own story, we’re countering the historical re-write narrative that says we have no history.

It’s important to understand that every woman has a story and so many Black women, especially in the 19th century haven’t had their stories told.

Think about the women and people in your lives, are they famous? Some of the most interesting people aren’t famous, but they still have stories worthy of being shared. Think about your own story. Who will tell the story of African-Americans in the 21st century? What’s different and what’s the same for African-Americans 150 years later?


Elizabeth Johnson Harris Memoir, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.


Sarah Rector, an African-American girl, who came from an enslaved family background, but became the richest little Black girl in the United States. 


*I have read excerpts from her memoir and this is my impression based off of those excerpts. I aspire to read the memoir in entirety.


Remember the Sexual Assault Survivors Who’ve Been Silenced…

Last night at the Golden Globe awards, sexual assault and harassment was a theme.
Women wore black to express their solidarity with the women who endured sexual assault, harassment, and injustice. The #metoo movement was prevalent.
 Oprah gave a speech:
I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
Oprah broke tradition when she mentioned Ms. Taylor. No, not Taylor Swift. The late Ms. Recy Taylor, an African-American woman who was gang-raped by six white Men in Alabama in 1944. Jim Crow customs made Black women unrapeable, so Taylor was never allowed to be a rape victim. The six white men were never arrested or charged. Taylor’s Story wasn’t unique. While black men were lynched for looking at a white woman, Black women’s bodies were violated by white men routinely. Many African-Americans carry this legacy of sexual assault and injustice in our blood.
Taylor died without justice, but at least she didn’t die in silence. Her story was told and that matters. Let’s remember that sexual assault happens to all women, not only white celebrities. This is not to minimize the pain of those white celebrities, I feel for them and I also feel for those who were forgotten and made invisible. Remember Indigenous Women, who are assaulted at a disproportionate rate and should have been in Oprah’s speech. Remember trafficking survivors and remember the women who are exploited through prostitution and pornography (I no longer accept the term sex work).  Remember the poor women and working-class women. Remember and tell their stories, feel the same outrage for them as is felt for these celebrities.
Related Post: https://blacknotwhitedippedinchocolate.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/black-women-history-the-dark-end-of-the-street-book-trailer/

My 2018 Book List

Happy 2018 everyone!

Every year, I try to set reading goals by developing a book list and reading as much as I can. Admittedly, I’m not as disciplined as I could be, I’m easily distracted by the internet and my reading and writing are sporadic, but my goal this year is to develop a writing schedule and reading schedule.

I must do this if I want to improve my writing, so…without further ado, here is what I hope to read in 2018 and  what I read  in 2017:

What Will I Read 2018:

1.) Lays in Summer Lands by John Willis Menard: Published in 1879, this Gilded era book includes poetry about the life and dreams of the first African-American elected to Congress, although he wasn’t seated.

2.) Brown in Baltimore: School Segregation and Limits of Liberalism by Howell S. Baum. This nonfiction work describes how liberal, post-Brown v. Board of Education policies in Baltimore City, which included optional integration, contributed to present day – re-segregation and inequality in Baltimore City public schools.

3.) Brown Girl Dreaming: This work of poems by Jacqueline Woodson shares the experience of Woodson, growing up in the southern and northern United States and chronicles her experience in the Civil Rights and Black Power era of the 1960s/70s.

4.) Pudd’ nhead Wilson by Mark Twain: This short novel by Mark Twain tells the story of a desperate, enslaved woman who makes a fateful decision to spare her mixed-race child from the dangers of enslavement. It takes a look at the complexities of race and society in the 19th century.

5.) Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil: This is a non-fiction book about the use of data and how it fosters social inequality.

6. Cold Running Creek by Zelda Lockhart: This novel, which is set in the Civil War period, tells the story of a young woman from the Choctaw Nation, who must flee persecution and forced relocation. She manages to survive, but her daughter, who is of African-descent must endure racial mistreatment and enslavement.

7.) A Streetcar Named Desire: A play by Tennessee Williams, is the story of Blanche DuBois, who is considered promiscuous, and the influence of her brother-in-law.

8.) You Can’t Touch My Hair and other things I have to explain: A book by Phoebe Robinson tells the story of a Black woman’s experience with prejudice, microaggressions and tokenism.

9.) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Two lovers flee Nigeria, which is military-ruled and the young woman comes to America, where she must cope with the racism and dynamics of a post 9-11 America.

10.) The parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler:  

This dystopian novel is set in the future and centers around an African-American daughter of a pastor, who must battle to survive the chaos of a failed economy and economic crisis. Quite relevant to our current time.

11.) Rose Madder by Stephen King: This is a horror novel about a woman, who must leave a marriage, which is engulfed in abuse and mistreatment.

12.) Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell: This classic novel is a story, which was originally written as a serial from 1864-65. The story centers around a young woman in England, who is the daughter of a doctor. She falls in love with a man and must contend with a rival.


If I can get through the other reads, these are other books I’d like to read.

This Bridge Called My Back

I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle

The Cellist of Sarajevo 

How Many Books from my 2016/2017 Book List Did I Read?

Overall, I  read 13 new books, which is pretty good, that’s about a little more than 1 book per month. It’s notable that most of my reading, I did as a full-time graduate student. I would read at least 10-15 pages a night and it added up over time. I am working full time so my 2018 list may not look like this next year, as I do most of my reading on the weekend and I have a short attention span.

  1. From Poor Law to Welfare State: I skimmed this and learned quite a bit and hopefully will be able to use the material for future posts.
  2. Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye 
  3. The Subterraneans
  4. Cutting for Stone 
  5. Go Set a Watchmen
  6. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  7. Souls of Black Folk
  8. Citizen by Claudia Rankine 
  9. The Beautiful and the Damned by Fitzgerald
  10. A History of How Love Conquered Marriage
  11. Montford Point Marines by Melton McLaurin
  12. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
  13. How Porn Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines

More about the books I’ve read here and here.

I still need to write posts for  The Beautiful and the Damned, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, From Poor Law to Welfare State. My favorite book was a tie between I know Why the Caged Bird  Sings and Book of Night Women. I may do another post on both of these books as well.





Black Women, Roy Moore & Being the Backbone of It All…

Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because  led us to victory. Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we can’t take that for granted. Period ~ DNC Chair, Tom Perez

Mary_Garrity_-_Ida_B._Wells-Barnett_-_Google_Art_Project_-_restoration_crop via creative commons

In case you haven’t heard, Roy Moore, the Republican, Trump-backed, accused serial child sexual assaulter, has been defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama Special Election. Black women are being hailed as the heroes of the election, as perhaps they (we) should be, since 98% of Black women voted against Roy Moore, while 63% of white women voted for Moore.

In a state where not too long ago, Black women would have been threatened with death, for even trying to vote, Black women turned the tide of the election. Well, this is what Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks would have wanted.

My heart is humbled by the activists & grassroots leaders who rallied people to come and vote. I feel a mixture of pride and sorrow that despite the voter restriction policies, designed to deny Black people & other people of color, their right to vote, Black women and Black men overcame, took a stand and turned out to vote against a man who views the antebellum slave time as the ideal era for the [white] American Family.

People are touting Black women as being the saviors of the democratic party, but I don’t see it that way. When I think of the outcome of this election, the first thing that comes to my mind are women like Recy Taylor and the four little girls of the 16th street Baptist church. All of these women grew up in the Jim Crow south and faced intimidation, violence, sexual assault, and murder. Black women were essentially powerless, yet Black women forged ahead as teachers, nurses, mothers, sisters, lovers and civil rights leaders.

I don’t believe this was about saving the Democratic Party, this was about standing with the Black women, who came before us, and protecting rights of vulnerable people (just like us), who would undoubtedly suffer more with someone like Moore in the Senate.

Roy Moore, who reminisces about the “good ole days,” of slavery and who stands accused of sexually violating teenage girls, would have been the embodiment of every tool that’s been used to oppress Black women for centuries.

Roy Moore, slavery was not the ideal time for Black people or white people. As Harriet Jacobs so eloquently wrote, slavery turned white people into monsters. Monsters who tore apart families…  Black mothers, and fathers sold apart from their children, brothers and sisters separated.

Even white women of that time acknowledged that slavery wasn’t the ideal time.

 Perhaps the rest of the world is as bad. This is only what I see: like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives & their concubines, & the Mulattos one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children-& every lady tells you who is the father of all the Mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own, she seems to think drop from the clouds ~ Diary of Mary Boykin Chestnut, A Confederate Lady 1861

Sound like a happy white family to you?…

I can’t imagine how it must’ve felt to be a Black woman in the antebellum south, to be so powerless, to be in fear of speaking out against your abuse, your rape, to have your children sold off. I stand in awe at all the Black women, who put their lives on the line, just to be able to vote and study in school. I stand in awe of the Black women who pioneered the right of women to work, without being sexually harassed by their employers. Some of the first sexual harassment cases were brought by Black women against white male employers, the original #metoo movement.

We are not in the clear at all though. We still face disproportionate rates of poverty, have a shorter life-span and endure discrimination in the criminal justice system. We will face still more troubles if the GOP tax bill passes and the removal #NetNeutrality will strike a blow to advocacy, which has been strongly shaped by Social Media too. There is still more work to be done. Don’t count on white women or Democrats, they’ll lean on Black women when it’s convenient, we can only count on each other and a few good Samaritans who have the emotional intelligence and empathy to understand that no one’s humanity should be priced more than another’s or even priced at all. We are all humans and we are equal.

The Montford Point Marines

The Montford Point Marines by Melton McLaurin: This is a non-fiction book about the first African-American Marines, who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Prior to 1942, the Marines had a policy of not accepting African-Americans. However, when Pearl Harbour occurred and the country went to war, President Roosevelt signed executive order 8802, which resulted in the Marines being opened up to African-Americans. However, the executive order allowed the Marines to segregate African-Americans from other Marines. So, the first African-American Marines arrived to serve at the segregated Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina. McLaurin does a great job of detailing the history and impact that the Montford Point Marines had in the United States.

They often endured ill-treatment from local residents, who put up signs that African-American marines were not welcome in town. Initially, the African-American Marines did not have barracks but had tents that were located in a rural area where there were snakes and other wild animals. Initially, the African- American Marines all served under white officer, but eventually, they were trained by African-American officers. Both the white officers and African-American officers enforced rigorous and intense training standards on the African-American Marines. Later, the first African-Americans Marines were sent to the Pacific where they formed two combat battalions, which garrisoned islands and they also served in depot and ammunition units, which played a crucial role in providing support and ammunition to their fellow  Marines. They served in notable battles, including Peleliu, Iwo Jima and others. The Montford Point Marines served so honorably that not long after WWII, the Marines were integrated and by the Vietnam War, the Montford Point Marines were fully integrated into the Marine Corps. McLaurin does a great job of detailing the history, national and personal impact that the Montford Point Marines had in the United States. They were true Patriots and despite the discrimination they face,d many of them viewed the Marine Corps and the United States with great respect and admiration.