Havana Dreams

Ahem.  *Sophia voice* Picture it.  United States. 2013.  High school students campaigning for integrated proms.  Legislators threatening U.S. citizens with 10 years of imprisonment for choosing Cuba as the backdrop for their anniversary trip.  The name of the movie?  Real life.  In the land of the free where we proudly tote our first and second amendment freedoms to do, well, just about anything, we find ourselves with government-imposed highly restrictive guidelines on how to travel to neighboring lands.  Not because of concern for our safety, but because . . . *insert your own cynical response*.  Sure, at least the complete ban has been lifted; however, the guidelines are so restrictive it will prevent most who desire to travel to Cuba to do so.

Enter us.  As we’ve looked in recent months to add Cuba to our destination list, I realize that one of two things happened at the time the ban was lifted: one, I may have been guilty of reading only the first paragraph of the New York Times article missing all the details outlined in the next 9 paragraphs *don’t judge*; or two, I did not realize all that would be involved in meeting each requirement.  I mean really, I as a human just want to travel to another land inhabited by humans and experience life as they know it.  Of course it would include indulging on authentic arroz con frijoles (I can no longer order the arroz con pollo), sampling mojitos throughout the island, walking the streets of Havana, viewing a Cuban cigar being rolled *promise to not inhale* *side-eye*, be swept up by the conglomeration of the Caribbean, African and Spanish influences that comprise the Cuban culture and dance to some Afro-Cuban jazz.  More importantly, my desire is to learn about its history specifically the lives of the portion of my ancestors, Africans turned to slaves, who were taken to Cuba as well as witness what life is like for their present day descendants who struggle and protest against what some have named the country’s ‘callous disregard’ for them.  Isn’t that what many of us desire of our travels – the freedom to roam on our own and allow ‘the land’ and its inhabitants to guide us?

Today, I dedicate our Travel Tuesday segment to the day when we can tour Havana in our Havianas without a teacher having to direct our every step.



 malala yousafzaiI can admit that I am often more inspired by those younger than I am than my elders.  It’s the simplicity of their message, resolve of their conviction and resilience that moves me.  So when I heard the amazing news that Malala Yousafzai returned to school today to resume her education I couldn’t decide to laugh, cry or smile!  I chose all three.  Just months after Taliban extremists attempted to mute the voice of this 15 year old advocating that all girls receive a quality education, she boldly continues her journey making those first steps back to a classroom.  May we all raise daughters and sons with Malala’s strength, bravery and relentless pursuit of education for all.  May we as adults mirror Malala’s resolve as well.

Hear Malala’s words as she made her trek to school today-

How does Malala inspire you?



Why I Don’t Shop At Walmart

More than 112 people lost their lives this past weekend while working in a clothing factory in Bangladesh. It’s indeterminable how many lives could have been saved had it not been for nonexistent fire escape, inoperable fire extinguishers and piss poor government regulation. One corporation benefiting from this factory’s production is the world’s largest retailer – Walmart.

Walmart is a corporation owned by the Walton family whose members place #s 6, 7, 8 and 9 on the Forbes list with a combined wealth of more than $100 billion. *let that resonant* And I know that on Monday Walmart claimed they had no knowledge that some of their clothing was still being produced at this particular factory. It may be true; however it’s unacceptable when you are one of the largest corporations in the world and have the resources to understand exactly what is occurring at each link in the chain. In fact, since Bangladesh has and continues to have great safety issues in its nearly 4,000 garment factories it’s unacceptable that Walmart continues to partner with any factory in that country. Given the current economic state of our country, it’s unspeakable that they haven’t opened factories here, in the United States, to not only employ the very people whose money they desire to be spent in their stores, but whose regulation would ensure the safety of its employees.

Truth be told, I didn’t need an additional reason to not shop at Walmart. I haven’t purchased an item from its stores in years because its employees earn a minimum of $8 an hour forcing those very workers to require federal assistance to survive all while its corporation continually produces record profits and its owners are among the richest in the world; Walmart employees have filed numerous charges of unfair labor practices; and healthcare remains unaffordable for many of its employees. It disgusts me and I cannot allow our hard-earned dollars to continue to increase the wealth of a few at the expense of far too many.

Are there any companies you refuse to financial support?

P.S. – I know Walmart isn’t the only corporation with despicable practices.  IKEA, we know you also benefit from Bangladesh factories as well.

Election Day

I woke up this morning at 4 am and simply began reflecting on the weight of our right to vote.  As I walk hand in hand to my neighborhood polling place with my husband in a few minutes, we continue the stride of many of our elders and ancestors who were denied the right to democracy.  We continue the stride of non-violent marchers like Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Reverend Shuttlesworth, the beaten on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents.  We shall not forget the “strange fruit,” as Billie Holiday called them – the many who were lynched in our nation’s collective fight for reaching a true democracy.  We don’t take this right lightly.  We stand on the strength, vision and determination of our families, our elders and our ancestors and with great pride and responsibility, we vote.

Today is a triumph for freedom
as huge as any victory that’s
ever been won on anhy battelfield.

Today we strike away the last major shackle
of fierce and ancient bonds.”

-President Johnson, 1965
signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965

For those in the United States, did you participate in early voting or are you voting today?


Say It Ain’t So

Did you hear that the first Presidential debate was last night?  I know, it was pretty top secret.  A part of me didn’t want to watch because my tolerance for bull ish is minimal.  Dang near non-existent.  Husband insisted we watch so I chose to do so with his support and that of social media.  Everyone’s ears, or rather tweets and statuses, surely perked up around minute 30 when moderator Jim Lehrer, a PBS employee, asked each candidate to share specifics about their plans for reducing the deficit.  Former Governor Mitt Romney responded, “I’m sorry Jim. I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m gonna stop other things.  I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”   Gosh, in a Presidential debate focused on our economy and getting folks back to work, I’m not sure it makes sense to prematurely pink-slip the moderator as well as the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Yep, that includes the cast of our nation’s beloved children’s show Sesame Street.  Especially when that subsidy to which Romney referenced comprises a whopping .01% of the federal budget.  That should be a full drop sprinkle mist in the bucket to create a ripple in improving our economy.

Few things still unite our increasingly divisive society.  We witnessed one last week with Replacement-ref-mageddon.  Sesame Street is another.  We ALL grew up watching Sesame Street, learning number order with Count Dracula – ah, ah, ah -, how not to behave from the Grouch, the power of questioning from Big Bird and the deliciousness of cookies from Cookie Monster.  Its characters, muppet and human, come in an array of colors and sizes teaching us all tolerance without preaching.  And if one person began singing “sunny days” right now, the rest of us would chime in “sweepin’ the clouds away” as the first theme song we all learned encouraged us to ask for directions to Sesame Street.  It is a part of our united culture.  It’s a unifying show that is inherently good, innocent and educational.  The mere mention of abolishing it is criminal.  Ugh.  *checks PBS television schedule* Gotta get in all my Dr. Gates documentaries and news, not infotainment, from Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill while I can.

This rant was brought to you by the letter Rrrr and the number 5 trillion.

Who’s your favorite Sesame Street character?