Category Archives: Uncategorized

Black Girls Who Brunch!

I recently moved most of my blogging activities to my new blog, www.blackgirlswhobrunch.com !! This blog is primarily a foodie blog which features my foodie travels, my favorite places in my hometown Houston and eventually the occasional KitchenAid Mixer recipe.  Be sure to check it out! IMG_6099

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

Genealogy Pt 2: Ancestry DNA tests

I’ve been meaning to update my blog about my recent genealogy efforts.   For my birthday this year I purchased myself an Ancestry.com DNA test. The results came back a lot faster than I expected.  One thing with ancestry.com versus other websites is that it links your DNA with your family tree on ancestry.com.  It also will show people who are related to you in their system.  When I got my results, the first person on my list was labeled as a potential first or second cousin.  Well after speaking with her I discovered that she was my dad’s first cousin.  I knew nothing about her, had nothing about her family on my tree and yet ancestry.com connected her correctly to me. That gave me confidence that it was pretty accurate.

 

My genetic break down was 77% West African, 13% British and 7% Finnish initially (the rest was unknown), it has since changed as Ancestry.com updated their system.  I loved that my African ancestry was so strong. So often in the black community people assume that more European features or lighter skin means that you have a higher percentage of European ancestry.  I’ve studied my family’s genealogy enough to know that outward appearance is not always a strong reflection of genetic makeup.  Or when you think about African Americans who descended from slaves, we know that all of us have some white ancestry somewhere down the line so complexion and features may not always be a good indicator.

 

My main goal for doing my DNA was the genealogy connections it could provide. I initially did my own and connected with people who showed up as third or fourth cousins.  The problem is I had no clue what side of the family they were on. To help isolate who was who, I also tested my mother and grandmother.  That was a huge help! From there I was able to tell who was from my father’s side and my maternal grandfather’s side as well without even testing them. It definitely has helped narrow down how I am connected to some people and thus enabled us to find our common ancestors.  I have yet to find any for sure common ancestors yet with those who are more distant cousins, but that has not stopped me from trying.  I think eventually some of us will find the connection and if not, it’s cool knowing we are related.

 

This month Ancestry.com update their DNA profiles and provided more details and more breakdowns. Before it would just say West African, now it gives you more specific regions and the modern day country.  I also now have more details on my European Ancestry. Whereas before it only showed British and Finnish, now it’s showing those two plus, Irish, Italian, Scandinavia and Iberian Peninsula. 

 

I remember as a child my dad telling me that there was an Italian ancestor and low and behold a less than one percent of Italian showed up on my DNA profile today with the extended profile. It did not show up on my mother and grandmother’s profile, so I assume that falls in line with the story my dad told me when I was a little girl.  It was great to see that the oral history that has been passed down for generations appears to be supported by DNA.

 

Oh and what you are not going to see is a large percentages of  “Native American”. Contrary to popular belief African Americans do not have the percentages of Native American that we’ve been led to believe.  On my dad’s side, they have pretty well documented Native American ancestry.  I do have small percentages of Asian ancestry, less than one percent, which may be account for the Native American ancestry.  Some theories are that Native Americans in North America came over from Asia forever ago so it’s very possible that is where it comes from.  You hear so many people claim to be a quarter Native American and I can say from the three profiles I’ve done and the others African American profiles I’ve seen on ancestry.com, I’ve yet to see anyone with a  large percentage of anything that can be linked back to Native Americans so I’m going to call that a myth.  

 

I plan on doing one of the more expensive DNA tests through National Geographic or another company eventually.  I will post to my blog when I do.  I also plan on testing a few other family members to see what we find. For example I have a cousin who has African American and Vietnamese ancestry so I will be interested to see if the test picks up on that accurately.   Overall I would say I think it’s worth it.  It may not be as accurate as they claim it is but it’s interesting for a person like myself. 

Tagged , , , , ,

America The Melting Pot

Melting-pot_1208688065-142qagk

 

Yesterday the President eloquently spoke about that Travyon Martin case and what it means for Black America.  For many African Americans including myself it felt as though our truth was being spoken at the highest level possible.  It was almost a relief to hear someone acknowledge what so many of our sons, fathers, brothers and friends have endured as African American men in this country.  For a second I thought, here is a Harvard educated man, raised by his White mother and grandparents, and the leader of the free world, surely no one will be able to refute HIS own truth.  Wishful thinking.
It is mind boggling to me that others have now attempted to disagree with his statements as if to say HIS truth cannot be true. If that sentence sounds odd to you realize it is because this viewpoint is not logical and not due to a poor choice of words.  A reasonable person could cite incidents in history and even current events for the basis of this opinion so it is not far fetched for the President to feel this way. More importantly, no one has the right to question another person’s experiences as an American because we all experience it differently.

 

Our country is so diverse and with that comes vastly diverse experiences.  I cannot tell an immigrant how it feels to come to this country and attempt to assimilate all while trying to hold own to the culture.  Nor can I fully express how it feels for Hispanic citizens of this country to be profiled as illegal or not belonging.  I cannot tell them about their own experiences in this country because they are not my own and are outside of the realm of my own experiences as an American.

 

When I think about this diverse country that I call home I remember as a kid watching the “Melting Pot” episode of School House Rock and loving what it symbolized.  It described how for the most part we all come here from different places, different cultures and even speak different languages but we “melt” together and form this great cultural fabric that is America.  When I think of this “melting “my favorite example is food. Consider the number of Italian restaurants or Mexican restaurants in your area.  These cuisines are so engrained into the American culture I almost forget that they are not labeled American cuisine. Despite that distinction you would be hard pressed to find an American who could not name a staple that would be served at an Italian restaurant.

 

The melting of different cultures is one of the things that I love about this country.  Unfortunately I think we can lose sight of what this melting actually means.  When we melt together it does not mean that we create one homogenous country similar to how many of us view Sweden.  We of course likely share similarities as Americans and value certain freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion.  Citizens of other countries who do not share these freedoms may find this odd but for us it is part of our shared identity as Americans.  Despite similarities we still can differ in many ways and it is our differences that make this country great in my opinion.  Our differences ensure that on a Friday night you can find a restaurant with an authentic cuisine from probably anywhere you can imagine in the world.  It is intellectually dishonest to not recognize these differences as a reality and how they shape the way many of us define being American.

 

As Americans I think we should not only be aware of this fact but be accepting as others open up about their own unique experiences even when it exposes a dark truth about our country.  During his speech the President alluded to our forefathers by stating that we are becoming a more perfect union not a perfect union. These imperfections have various impacts on us all.  If we are not honest and open then that means we are not moving towards a more perfect union as the President describes.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Could the Miranda Warnings Create an Issue for Boston Prosecutors?

Following the arrest of the surviving Boston Marathon suspect, Boston officials announced that the suspect did not immediately receive the standard Miranda warnings.  This of course created a large debate on twitter and on news outlets with many Americans wondering what implications this could have on the prosecution of the suspect.  Now this is kind of a moot point because more recent reports have indicated that the Miranda warnings were eventually given to the suspect. I am guessing that occurred after he was formerly charged in his hospital room.  But let’s just say that he made a few incriminating statements before receiving the warnings, here is a breakdown on what implications it could have during trial.

First let me start by saying that Miranda warnings are not just that catchy phrase that cops on procedural crime shows say in the last ten minutes that of the show after catching the bad guy.  I saw several “twitter attorneys” arguing that Miranda warnings are just symbolic, not true.  The Miranda warnings have real implications in our legal system and serve to advise an arrestee of their constitutional rights, including the right not to self incriminate and the right to an attorney. If you have ever wondered how a failure to apprise an arrestee of their rights could impact a trial, you can look no further than Ernesto Miranda’s case, the namesake for the Miranda warnings.  Miranda was a rapist whose confession was thrown out because he was not made aware of his rights. With the confession now deemed unconstitutional, the state of Arizona was forced to retry Miranda. The state convicted him again during the second trial without the confession.  Their failure to inform Ernesto Miranda of his rights before interrogating him had real serious implications and ultimately could have resulted in a rapist going free.

Another point about Miranda rights worth noting is something we in the legal world call the fruit of the poisonous tree. Essentially if the source of the information was received by unconstitutional means then any and everything that this information led to will also be excluded. An example would be if the hospitalized suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing gave a full confession and stated where the police could find more undetonated bombs around Boston all without receiving a Miranda warning first, then the confession and any discussion of the other bombs could not be used in court. Failure to give this warnings could lead to an the exclusion of viable evidence beyond just a confession.

So how does this all apply in this case? Many assume that the police have more than enough evidence to convict without a confession. The footage from surveillance cameras for example seems to be solid evidence for the prosecution.  As the Miranda warnings states, this information can and will be used against you in court. If the prosecutors decide not to use the information obtained prior to the warnings at all, then there really won’t be an issue. Although the information may not be necessary for the prosecution, it could be valuable information to prevent future terrorists attacks as well as determining a connection between the two brothers and a larger terrorist organization abroad.

During the press conference federal prosecutors cited an exception to the Miranda rights rule called public safety exception.  Now in my opinion the officials seemed to contradict themselves during this press conference. First they assured Bostonians that  there were no more threats to their safety but then cited a public safety exception. Which one is it? On top of that a quick reading of the New York v. Quarles case, the source for the public safety exception raises more concerns.  Frankly the Quarles case does not fit with the Boston situation! In this case an officer approaches an assailant who matched a description he received.  After frisking the assailant he realized that he had an empty holster and asked where was the gun, all before giving him his Miranda rights.  The Supreme Court decided that there was a clear threat to public safety and allowed this exception. The sense of imminent danger we see in the Quarles case was not present here. The suspect was now in police custody and officials stated that all threats were gone.

Although I do not think the current exception fits, I also do not see a court not carving out an exception for a terrorist case. Maybe the federal prosecutors will argue a wider threat to public safety because of their potential connection to other terrorists. ]Whether we agree with it or not laws such as the Patriot Act have enabled law enforcement to use means that normally would be unavailable to them to combat terrorism. I would be shocked if an American court did not allow the use of this exception even though as it stands today it does not work with the previous case. Overall it seems that the Miranda rights issue will not pose an issue for the prosecution in pursuing this case but I do look forward to how the defense attorneys will try to make this an issue.

Tagged , , ,

An Ode to my Grandmother

A twitter conversation got me thinking about the smartest or most influential people I know and what impact they had on my life. My parents came to mind first and then my grandmother.  Now that I am older I can really appreciate the mark she has left on me.  My grandmother mother to eight children, grandmother to seventeen, great grandmother and great great grandmother to more kids than I am willing to count, is probably one of the smartest people I know.  Life took her on a path that did not include much formal education after the age of fifteen but still she instilled in me things that my two degrees never could.

One of the first lessons I can remember was about being black. I learned this before I was old enough to fully understand it.  Her words when I was about twelve are forever imprinted in my mind.  When I asked her about our family ancestral history, if there were European ancestors, maybe even Native Americans she responded, “You are just black” She told me “Some members of our family may be lighter than others but that is because the slave master was raping his slaves, I don’t see that as anything to be proud of, so you are black, that’s it.”   Let’s just say I had not gotten that far in American History just yet but those are words have stuck with me to this day. Whenever I see the color divisiveness in the black community, I’m grateful that I had a grandmother who broke this down to me a young age, very bluntly might I add but I never forgot it.  Also it made me feel confident in saying I’m black and that in itself is something to be proud of.

During these same summers my grandmother spent hours telling me the crazy stories of her childhood and even her parent’s childhood. She imparted on me the mysteries of long lost family members as well. Mysteries that in adulthood I’ve sought to solve doing my own research with some success.  The oral telling of history is how African Americans passed on history for generations and generations. I’m grateful that I got to experience that as a kid.  In college I ended up majoring in History and spent a lot of time in African American history courses.  That summer spent with my grandmother definitely piqued my interest and I cannot imagine that I would have ended up on this path without it.

Then I think about little lessons.  Things such as being strong and independent.  She raised eight kids mostly on her own and worked hard to make sure they had more than she did.  Or having a little fight in you and standing up for yourself when you were  wronged.  Some of her funniest stories are explaining how as a young mother she had to stand up for herself when others tried to walk over her.  Also the value of education formal and informal I would say.  Playing dumb wasn’t considered cute around my grandmother and achievements in education were always praised.  That’s probably another reason why I was never ashamed of being the smart girl. When I look back at all of these lessons it makes me beyond grateful for my grandmother!

We Do Not Need More Guns!

Just a week ago our nation joined together in mourning the loss of twenty-six people to gun violence at an elementary school. Yes an elementary school one of the most innocent places in our society. Twenty of these victims were just six and seven years old, children lost to gun violence. Following this horrific tragedy our nation’s largest second amendment advocate, the National Rifle Association, remained silent. No press releases, no tweets nothing. They even went as far as deleting their Facebook account.  Then earlier this week they released a small statement saying they were committed to helping curb gun violence in America.  For a split second it seemed like NRA was going to have responsible and realistic contributions to the gun violence discussion in America. Oh were we wrong.  Today, in a mind boggling press conference the NRA laid out there plan to stop gun violence in America, essentially more guns.

The NRA is pushing forward with an idea to have armed volunteers in America’s schools.  They picked armed volunteers because they would not put any additional budget pressures on the federal government or local governments.  Armed volunteer.  That sounds a lot like George Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch captain who thought a young Travyon Martin was suspicious.  When all was said and done Travyon Martin was dead and an armed volunteer was to blame.  I do not trust armed volunteers. They often have not received the adequate training that is needed to carry a gun in a policing capacity.  An idea like this, without a doubt could lead to killing people who did not pose a threat to the school. I also find the idea of having armed volunteers policing schools ironic.  From the description it sounds an awful lot like a police state.  Is the NRA really advocating for a police state at our schools in order to defend the second amendment?  I just don’t think that is what our founding fathers had in mind.

In this same argument we have heard a push for more police in schools as well.  Although it is generally outside of the realm of gun violence, the school to prison pipeline raises other concerns. In short, there are students across America who are leaving school for the juvenile and adult justice systems. Often times their “crimes” are things that students for generations were disciplined for in the school through detention or suspension not jail. More police in schools could easily raise the number of students being funneled into the criminal justice systems.  Yes I realize the goals of the additional police are to ward off violent threats but lets be honest school shooting are rare. All these additional police are going to keep busy in the schools by policing students as well.  The current level of police in American schools has made the school to prison pipeline a national issue.  More police will only serve to aggravate this already troubling problem.

In so many words the NRA told Americans that they are okay with the homicidal maniac getting a gun as long as there is an armed teacher or volunteer there to stop him.  Sometimes I wonder if the NRA has a romanticized idea of “how the west was won”, the OK Corral or even when our founding fathers settled arguments with duels. More guns will not stop this problem in fact it likely could lead to more blood shed. When I think about this argument I think about Nancy Lanza an owner of several guns. I think about the armed police officers who patrolled Virginia Tech’s campus everyday. I think about the armed security guard that was present at Columbine High School on that fateful day. There have been more guns present in America and it has not stopped these mass shootings. I refuse to accept a bad guy getting a gun as long as a good guy is there to stop him. No, we need to stop this long before it gets to that point.

Our country lost little innocent children last week.  We cannot ignore this as we did with other tragedies. I will not lie, I would love to see the second amendment changed but I know that is not realistic in America today.  What I do believe can and should happen is another ban on military like assault rifles. At Sandy Hook elementary school, the good guys with guns, as the NRA calls them, arrived quickly after receiving reports of shots fired at the school.  In the short amount of time before the first responders closed in on him, the perpetrator was able to shoot and kill twenty-six people, shooting each victim multiple times. Some victims were shot as many as eleven times. No gun with these capabilities should be in the hands of an average citizen. In my mind they serve no legitimate purpose for everyday use.  I hope that Congress and the President really stand up this time and get this done!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Toure’s post seems to answer the questions I raised. What do you tell your child and how do you prepare them for this? These are great suggestions but still, it’s sad that I even have to prepare my potential son for how the world will treat him.

Ideas

1. It’s unlikely but possible that you could get killed today. Or any day. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Black maleness is a potentially fatal condition. I tell you that not to scare you but because knowing that could save your life. There are people who will look at you and see a villain or a criminal or something fearsome. It’s possible they may act on their prejudice and insecurity. Being black could turn an ordinary situation into a life-or-death moment even if you’re doing nothing wrong.

2. If you encounter such a situation, you need to play it cool. Keep your wits about you. Don’t worry about winning the situation. Your mission is to survive.

3. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re amazing. I love you. When I look at you, I see a complex human being with awesome potential, but some others will look at you…

View original post 550 more words

Tagged , ,

Raising African American Males in America: The Trayvon Martin Case

The Travyon Martin case has truly shaken me to my core.  As an African American woman I think about the potential of bringing African American males into this world and the problems they may face simply because of their race and their gender.  I can tell my hypothetical son to pull up his pants, be polite, follow all rules and laws, and be respectful to authority figures especially cops. I can even provide the best education that money can buy perhaps even an Ivy League education and yet someone will still look at my hypothetical son as a potential criminal or a threat.  Simply walking down the street with a hoodie on a rainy night in his neighborhood could raise suspicions.

After reading this case the thought crossed my mind of how do you prepare your child to go out into a world that has already judged them before even knowing his name?  I come from a law enforcement family and never feared law enforcement like many of my African American peers but I was still taught the realities that African Americans face during interactions with law enforcement.  The ironic thing is despite instilling African American males with morals and encouraging them to respect the laws of the land you have to tell them that despite following the law they still may be questioned as if they are a common criminal. That seems to put young black men in an awkward place that regardless of their efforts to live a virtuous life they may be treated the same as a criminal by the police and even self appointed neighborhood watch captains.

I look at the Martin case and say based on the facts that we know what could Trayvon have done differently?  How could his parents have prepared him for this type of situation, a young black male walking alone with a hoodie in a gated community?  I am at a loss.  In a statement the Sanford police chief stated that George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon, wished he could change his actions that night and he Trayvon probably would as well. I disagree. Trayvon was walking to the store to pick up a drink for himself and a pack of Skittles for his brother.  He was walking in the neighborhood that housed the home he was visiting.  He like Zimmerman had every right to be there.  Zimmerman admits that he was following Trayvon and also stated Trayvon was looking at him.  Is that not what Trayvon would have been taught by his parents? Always be aware of your surroundings are things my parents told me.  From there Zimmerman states that Trayvon began to run.  Toddlers are taught to run away from danger.  I would imagine that Trayvon thought a man staring at him from a vehicle was a potential threat to him.   Trayvon’s family likely told him how to handle interactions with police officers but it is important to remember that Zimmerman is not a cop and Martin’s response to him should not be judged as if Zimmerman was.

Then we know that an altercation ensued between Trayvon and George Zimmerman.  In a statement from his father, Zimmerman claims that he did not follow Trayvon or approach him but from the 911 tape it is clear that the initial interaction between Zimmerman and Martin was initiated by Zimmerman because HE got out of his car and followed Trayvon Martin.   Think back to what your parents told you to do in these types of situations.  A strange man who is significantly larger and older than you approaches you.  Zimmerman may have asked questions or he may have jumped to trying to physically apprehend Martin because it is clear that he thought he was a cop.  First it was instilled in me to not speak to strangers, or answer questions. In addition my parents told me to scream for help, and finally if all else fails you fight off the stranger.  That is what the evidence, particularly the 911 tapes, tells me that Trayvon did.  Trayvon did exactly what his parents likely told him to do; yet he is no longer here.

So again I say how do we prepare our young black males for the scrutiny that they ultimately will face?  They can approach a situation with all the things their parents taught them and still be murdered and the justice system is unable to pursue charges.  I honestly do not know the answer and that is truly what scares me.   So many young black men could easily be Trayvon Martin.  In addition to charges being brought against George Zimmerman, I hope that this case brings racial profiling to the forefront again, encourages changes in Florida’s self defense laws and even potentially regulations for neighborhood watch vigilantes.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Previous Post

Great legal breakdown of the self defense laws that George Zimmerman is trying to use. Without a doubt Zimmerman, an armed self-appointed neighborhood watch capitan, was the aggressor. Stepping out of his vehicle and approaching Martin made him the aggressor! As the article states any action taken by Martin are self defense.

In America

Editor’s note: Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She writes about social issues, parenting and relationships on her blog, Carolyn Edgar.  You can follow her on Twitter @carolynedgar.

By Carolyn Edgar, Special to CNN

(CNN) — Imagine the following scenario:

You are a 17-year-old boy in Sanford, Florida. You are visiting your father and his fiancée at your soon-to-be stepmother’s home in a gated community. You decide to make a late-night candy run to your local 7-Eleven. It’s nighttime and drizzling, so you are wearing a hooded sweatshirt. At the store, you buy a package of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea, then head back home.

As you are walking home, you notice a man in an SUV following you. The man gets out of the car. He’s a big guy who outweighs you by 100 pounds. He doesn’t identify himself as…

View original post 1,016 more words

Tagged ,

My Childhood Idol

Long before I ever wanted to be an attorney, I wanted to be a singer just like Whitney Houston. As an 80’s baby I idolized her! I wanted to be classy like her, as beautiful as her, and most importantly I wanted to SANG like her.  Yes there is a difference between singing and SANGING and Whitney Houston is the epitome of someone who could SANG!  Her voice was so flawless to me, as a child she was what Beyonce is today for so many young people.  Eventually I came to the sad realization that God did not bless me with a unique beautiful voice like Whitney Houston but her music will always hold a special place in my heart.  When I was little I remember fast forwarding (throwback!) to the end of the Bodyguard to sing along to “I Will Always Love You”.  I called my grandmother so she could listen to me sing like Whitney Houston.  I was probably about five or six and oddly enough I thought I could really hit those notes!

Some called her voice a national treasure after great performances like the National Anthem.  I have to agree.   Her voice is a rarity, a once in a lifetime kind of voice.  So many of her songs are the soundtrack to my childhood, and I am so glad that she shared that voice with us for so many years.  Now that she gone, many are speculating on the how and the why and focusing on her demons. I choose to focus on the great music that she left behind for us to enjoy forever.   Rest well Whitney Houston!

Here are a few of my favorite Whitney Houston songs

1. I Will Always Love You- cliché to some but that was my song when I was little!

2. I Believe In You and Me- this was my favorite song from the Preacher’s Wife soundtrack.

3. I Love the Lord- Whenever she went back to her gospel roots it was always good!

4. Count on Me (with CeCe Winans)-  Really no reason other than it’s just a great song by two great artists.

5. I learned from the Best- mainly because of that long note she hits at the end.

6. I Have Nothing- a classic Whitney Houston song. I loved it as a child and still do!

7. When You Believe (with Mariah Carey)- when you combine those two powerhouses, the song is destined for greatness!

8. Who Would Imagine a King- this song was during one of my favorite parts of The Preacher’s Wife

Tagged