WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Friday, January 18, 2008

Are You Being Served?

There is a saying, mayhap you’ve heard it, that goes like this: Black people don’t tip. As someone who has been employed in the food and beverage industry, and by employed I mean I had to tap dance for tips to pay the bills, I can say with authority that they damn sure don’t. But here’s something that I would like for you readers to share with the masses: White people don’t tip either. And neither do Latinos. Or Asians. Or East Indians. But no one seems to talk about this...

More often than not, when a group of Black people (especially Black males) would come in, the waitresses would pray that they didn’t sit in their section, and if they did a loud sigh and before-they-even-got-to-the-table complaints would emerge. Now this does not bode well for the customer who will usually be treated with attitude, which will probably lead to a non tip (and they may have tipped in the first place). But often times people (read those in the mainstream) go solely by appearances.

However, I received great tips from Black folk who other waitresses wrote off because of their baggy jeans and their penchant for Courvoisier; gotten a $100 tip (for absolutely nothing) from a scruffy looking white man in overalls (although please believe I had someone walk me to my car when I got off in fear that he would be waiting outside with the hope that I work for that tip) and received a quarter from a group of white men in business suits. So, I learned early on in my waitressing “career” that it’s important to treat everyone the same because you never know who not only has the money to spend but is willing to share it with others. MESSAGE!

Unfortunately this “treat others how you would like to be treated” mantra is not often the norm. At one restaurant where I worked as a hostess, a server would tell us, “send me white people, only white people.” And no he wasn’t joking. If we sat Black people in his section, he would be PISSED. He, and too many other waiters after busting their asses for a table had received messages written on receipts from Black customers that read: Tip: Don’t think you getting a tip… And so the servers had given up, washed their hands of Black folk…. So my questions are these: did a majority of Black people never tip, and thus the stereotype was born? Or was the stereotype created out of thin air, with no facts to back it up, (just something to add to the list of what Black people don’t do) and we “lived” up to the expectations? On some, “you know we don’t tip…” So which came first the chicken or the egg?

As much as we have “overcome” in this country, often times whether we like to admit or not, race can confine us and define us (I’m looking at you Obama). We may try to rise above the stereotype, tipping 15% or 20% (not to prove anything but because we know the deal) but the truth is when we walk through those doors we are often viewed as the collective race, not as individuals. We try to get away from this but are often reminded. I can remember sitting on a plane next to a middle aged white woman from the Midwest and telling her that I was in college and that my brother was on his way to college. She was shocked and amazed. Trust me, it was shock and amazement in her voice when she said, “OH MY, that’s wonderful…” It’s when white people try to tell me about their European trips and I tell them about my time studying abroad. More shock and amazement. It’s when the white people assume that you too live in the county with all the other Black people, instead of in their neighborhoods.

It seems that we can’t shake this load off. Some of us don’t care, believing that we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone. Noble in theory but doesn’t always work in practice. When Bellini wrote earlier this week about certain stars transcending race, it seems that the stereotypes don’t apply to them anymore. Until they do. It’s when Oprah and Co. are turned away at the Hermes store. Don’t you no who I’m is? Why no we don't, sans your makeup and a microphone, you are just another Black woman…It’s when some white news anchor calls an educated Black politician/athlete/entertainer “articulate” in a surprising tone. It’s when the Clinton camp reminds America that Obama is a BLACK MAN and they know the scary images that will be conjured in people’s minds. Aaaaahhh just when you think you have made it to the mountaintop, you look up and the peak has been moved a little higher.

I admire us for taking the strides to “defy” stereotypes. And I am also amused at how we can also “embrace” the stereotypes. We can play the loud, full of attitude Black woman when we need to. We keep some stereotype cards close to our vest, like knowing just when to play your Big Joker in a Spades game, we know when to play those cards to ensure a refund or a free meal, or to scare or intimidate white people. So I wonder if we're really trying to shake this load off all the way...

By the content of their character. That phrase plays over and over in my brain as I watch the 2008 elections unfold. Will we ever reach that day where we are truly judged and treated by the content of our character? And will we know what to do with ourselves if and when it ever happens? Which card will be able to play then?

That's my time y'all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!!

In the D.C. Area and looking for a way to observe MLK Day? Check it: http://www.evite.com/pages/invite/viewInvite.jsp?inviteId=ZBZWGTGZXADERWVZYZJG

Thursday, January 17, 2008

from the belly of the beast

imagine a large room, well-lit but dank, heavy with the misery of those around you. black men and women, ranging in age from the older gentleman with hair graying at his temples to the young woman with the baby dreadlocks crowning her defiant face as she glances around the room, each one seated, some slumped in mix-match plastic chairs. they are all clad in the obligatory orange jumpsuits subdivided into pairs not necessarily partners in crime or friends from around the way but temporarily shackled together, cleaved at the ankles as they await their fate (for the day).

what will be the price on their heads today? how much will their families attempt to scrap together in order to bail them out? what will freedom, even home-monitored freedom, cost today? what will the man do, as he sits in the stately, oak paneled room across town, peering through the peculiar apparatus inserting an ironic touch of technology into this rustic room that looks like the inside of an empty pool or an elementary school cafeteria. if you peer close enough and pay attention to the sheriff in green keeping watch from the back of the room, you'll learn that it used to be the place where police line-ups were conducted. this place, long forgotten after that bitch katrina laid bare the federal government's engineering inadequacies, has been revived.

welcome to bail hearings in orleans parish.

where the magistrate's only link to those whose bail he must determine is a video camera and a flat screen TV up front. a substitute for bringing the accused into the judge's actual presence, lauded for its ability to promote judicial economy and eliminate the supposed inefficiencies of having those whose lives you are so deeply impacting appear before you in real life, real time.

this is how they do it down in the big easy. how they've been doing it for years. the lady sitting at the judge's right hand calls a name. the accused stands. his charges are read. marijuana first. crime against nature. any priors? 96. armed robbery. the judge doesn't miss a best. Bail is set at 5000.

there is no space for the defense attorney to plead her client's case. no regard for the statutory bail factors. the likelihood that he'll return to court for his next appearance. and if one dares to interject, a swift rebuke is sure to follow.

once the spectacle is over, all names having been read, prices set, the men and women in orange are trotted back to their cells to await the next stop on the criminal justice train (wreck).

this image sits with me. reminds me that there are places in this country, the land of the free where every man and woman has certain inalienable rights, that this is the level of criminal (in)justice you receive. sits with me as the election churns on, candidates speak endlessly about their experience in making change, the change they hope to inspire, the change they've spent their life working for. the trail each one is trying to blaze without actually acknowledging that they are this or that, that they don't represent this or that, when we all can see that they are and that they do. no matter who becomes president shit won't change in orleans parish just because [name your favorite candidate] took office. cause these poor people aren't the middle class that so desperately needs preservin' or the rich folks who are searchin' for the tax breaks. talk to these people about the finding jobs that will pay a respectable wage from which taxes can be taken out.

who panders to these people? who sits with them and hears their stories? who truly listens and forces that judge in the little box to consider the bail factors?

who indeed....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

To Transcend, whatever that means

Oprah, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby. . .
What do they have in common?

All are millionaires or even a billionaire – matter of factly, they’re rich. All have been or continue to be media darlings, thereby meaning, they have garnered mainstream attention.
So what is Bellini getting at?

These folks “transcend” race. What does that mean? NOTHING!
It is a poor way to describe mainstream America’s likeness for a black person.

Stay-at-home moms would die if the “O” stopped by for lunch at her home. Damn it! It would be an honor.

The golf aficionado would become weak in the knees if the “Cablinasian” (uuhhh. . . Tiger you’re still black, but whatever toots your horn) performed a few rounds at his golfcourse.

Dr. Huxtable, you are the quintessential dad. Educated, professional wife, plenty of kids, but your rare sense of sensibility had middle America tickled. They could identify with you and your family – the lack of pretentiousness helped.

Thriller! Damn it. From the housing projects to shanty-towns; to McMansions to palaces; there wasn’t a kid who didn’t have memorabilia of the “Man in the Mirror”. Your home either had MJ’s poster and or his Thriller album in heavy rotation. Gotta keep it real, your name was universal language.

“I want to be just like Mike.” – need I say more?

Mainstream enlighten us as to why when a black person hits a certain tax bracket, and you appreciate their extraordinary talent, why is it easier for you to marginalize their blackness? At times you act like they’re blackness is a non-issue, you want to claim you see their person; but damn it – it takes a long time for you to embrace him/her. The “O” has been in the game since the ‘80s (granted you didn’t know her in the exclusive markets of B-more of the Chi, but my point is she’s been around). Plump, small, we’ve seen it all. And now, she’ something like a phenomenon to you all. Even Cosby had been around, but it was The Cosby Show that turned you around.

Let me make this clear, you never forgot about race. Rather you espouse a slight indifference about the amount of melanin in their skin, so that you can take a liking to their being (shallow – indeed). But like Barack told Greta Van Sustern “Once I leave your studio, I’ll have a hard time catching a cab!”



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Introducing a Possible...Courvoisier

Courvoisier: Straight from the islands, I am a married lady living in the United States. I strive for knowledge, innovation and perfection in this world; though I’m keenly aware no one is perfect…not even me. I enjoy the simple and exquisite things in life. I believe every life has a purpose and I am eager to fulfill mine.

Besides being the best birth month ever, January is always the month of new beginnings. It is also the month that we celebrate a great man, Martin Luther King Jr. It seems like we celebrate it the same way every year…take that day off (if your company gets down like that) donate some of our personal items and use this time to remember one of our greatest leaders.

This year I stumbled on an article written years ago “The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV”, which compelled me to look into the subject some more. This article discusses the years of MLK’s life from 1965-68. There are so many points made in this article I could probably post for days.

I am simply going to touch on one point… "The Poor People's Campaign” created by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965-66. It was a campaign designed to address the urban riots at the time and focused on black employment, housing and education opportunities. It is said that MLK believed that economic inequality was the reason that many of us African Americans were suffering. Essentially what he was proposing was a more democratic socialized society instead of one rooted in capitalism.

Was this somewhat communist ideal entertained? What happened to this glorious plan that few people know about? Well, MLK was assassinated April 4 1968 and Rev. Ralph Abernathy took leadership of the SCLC. On May 12, 1968 he led the campaign’s effort to lobby the Economic Bill of Rights which was intended to decrease the poverty levels of all races. The campaign was not considered as successful as the movement had dreamed...

So now that we know even MLK acknowledged that it is more than a black/white issue but economic inequality, what's next people? How do we strengthen our economic power in this capitalistic society to which we have been integrated?

There are so many ways and I plan to work on strengthening our community by supporting more black owned businesses in ’08. All I ask is that we step up to the plate, open up our wallets and support our community.


P.S. Happy B-day MLK!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Dream Is Real

Early morning, April 4.
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life,
But they could not take your pride.
In the name of love,
What more in the name of love.

Pride (In the Name of Love), U2

One of my favorite R&B artists, Raheem Devaughn, shots out “The dream is real” in between songs on his mixtapes. He goes on to say “Be a dream catcher, not a dream chaser.” Kinda corny, but I respect the message.

Last night I started thinking about my dreams and the pursuit, or lack thereof, of said dreams. While kickin it with my mom, I mentioned to her some things that I wanted to accomplish but had put on pause due to lack of financing. My mom’s response was that anything I want to do, can be done. Period. She stressed want being the most important factor. My mother also told me in a very matter-of-fact manner that I have always accomplished whatever I set my mind to. While anything I didn’t care much for… well you can guess the rest. Basically, it ain’t hard at all to walk away from shit you don’t care about.

On the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday [his real birthday is January 15] as I think of the many dimensions of his legacy, there is one word that stands out to me the most. Not freedom. Not equality. Not history. Not pride.

But dream.

Of the many definitions given by dictionary.com, I’d like to highlight:

  • An aspiration; goal; aim
  • A vision voluntarily indulged in while awake
  • To regard something as feasible or practical
  • One that is exceptionally gratifying, excellen, or beautiful.

No explanation is needed for why Dr. King’s magnanimous speech “I Have a Dream” touched so many hearts around the world. We can all relate. We all have dreams that are near and dear to us and that we hope to see materialize one day. There are so many others who have put their lives on the line for their dreams whose names are not mentioned in the history books. I believe that Dr. King was a chosen messenger. He inspired a movement. A revolution. It is our duty to keep that flame ignited.

But how hard are you really working towards your dream? How much faith do you have in your dreams and your ability to make them come true? Are you willing to put your life on the line for your dreams? Can you honestly say that when you put your very best effort forward, you yield absolutely no positive results whatsoever?

I ask these questions of you, as well as myself. Cause I know I got work to do and a legacy to preserve. What the hell am I waiting for?

It’s check in time. Check your dreams. Make them happen.

Not only is the dream real, but we are the dream.

Happy Birthday Dr. King.

Tumultuously Yours,

Dark & Stormy