Monday, April 06, 2009

Martin Luther King jr., Tionna Smalls and Me


About month ago, I cut my hand with a razor sharp stainless
steel Japanese cutting knife at about 6:30pm.
I was cutting green
onions for a fish soup when
I sliced through my finger and finger nail. Ouch.
Snapper, bell peppers, turmeric, red potatoes and cracked pepper. Delish.

At 11pm, Filthy called to check on me. I told him the wound was discolored
and still bleeding a little,
so he insisted that I go to the hospital.
I didn't want to. He was in another
city, my momma is in another
state, and I didn't want to be in
at the hospital alone.

Rather than pout like a big baby, I grabbed a pillow, some Cheez-its
and got a ride to ER.

I don't have health care.

While sitting in ER, I began reading Martin Luther King's Why We Can't
. We pay a lot of lip service to Dr. King, but that man has
a way with words that can make you want to commit. I was particularly
moved by,

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness
of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta
and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an
inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can
we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.
Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an
outsider within its bounds.
I hope you can see why was moved by his words. Given the state
of our economy, these words resonated with me.

So, I left ER at 2 am and was struck by the fact that there were so more
people many in the waiting room, about ten, most of whom where young
men and women.

Something changed in me.

Every since that night I have had this profound feeling that I should
be doing more.

I think it has something to do with the fact that
the day before I cut my finger, I learned about Tionna Smalls.

Tionna is that deal. She is straight 'hood, committed, action oriented
and completely unashamed of who she is and where she comes from.

Tionna had a column on Gawker
, which is known for its NYC media
incrowd snarkiness. Apparently, Gawker fired her by e-mail
and then turned around and reprinted her statement. What I loved
about the statement was her matter of factness. She writes,
On December 31, 2007, Gawker's owner/managing editor, Nick Denton, informed me through an email that Gawker was going into a different direction and that my beloved column, "Ask Tionna", was no longer being published on the site. He left his number for me to call and emailed me the news twice, incase I didn't understand what the email meant.......

I received the job from Gawker after I wrote an email to them regarding featuring me on their site because I was a motivated black girl from East New York, who wrote this fabulous, self-published book that had plenty of grammatical biscuits in it. To my surprise, they featured me the next day and made fun of my ass so much that it made me laugh (even though I was the subject). The commentators made so much fun of this "ghetto ass black girl" that the editors of Gawker stalked my blog site Talk Dat Ish ( I think it was amazing to them that this girl from the ghetto would write an email about herself and act as if it was coming from someone else. People were just outraged and excited about me, all at the same time.

I must admit when I started my column, I was a grammatical-mess (still am) but my voice was unique and my advice was real and soon the uppity folks at Gawker welcomed me with open arms. My pay at Gawker was minimal but I thought and still feel that it was a great opportunity. If it wasn't for Gawker, many of you would never know who I was. I mean, you would have found out sooner or later, but it wouldn't have been so quick. I learned that I was Gawker's little secret when my column came out on Tuesdays at 6PM, but it didn't bother me because my numbers always stayed between 8,000-20,000 views. That is an awful lot for someone who has never had a job in the industry. I know I got the job because Gawker knew that it would bring numbers and people would laugh at the little Black girl that could but let me explain something. I am the one who is laughing. I now have great connects in the media industry, a contract to sign tomorrow for a reality show of my life on the come up and in the entertainment business, I have genuine fans who loves me and my work, and I have dreams that cant be erased by no one not even Gawker.

Gawker didn't make me, it only made me better. Sure they didn't give me any notice, and leaves me to save up the little $1200, I have in the bank but you know what I have other bigger problems that the CEO who resides in SOHO could never understand or relate to. My cousin just died of AIDS and cops just killed a man (in a buy and bust ordeal) right around the corner from my house. I may rock Gucci sneakers and aviator lenses but listen, I am still bounded by the hood and I cant move out of it until my money get right and I am ok with that because without struggle, there isn't any success but listen no one, not one person in this entertainment industry can stop me because I am a serious person to play games with.

What struck me the most about her was how real she was
and how she wouldn't let anyone shame her.

I saw myself in her.

This became clearer to me after I read the closing to her Gawker
statement. She writes,
Most of all, I am a born leader who understands that it's not where you're from, it's where you going baby. I can sit and beg for a chance to show my talent; hell, I could be like other woman who is trying to make it big in the world and blow balls for cheddar but that is not what my ancestors died for...

They died so we could go out there and make it for ourselves. They died so many of you people who never stepped foot in the ghetto could say, Tionna Smalls lives in East New York, and so it can't be that bad. It is for that little girl that says if Tionna Smalls wrote a book, so can I. So as Robert Frost would say, there's two paths (roads), which one are you going to take?

And my answer would definitely be the road on top because this black girl is going places. So please watch out for me and remember, I am still here to answer your advice, just hit me up and I will help you out.

Wishing you nothing but Hard Dick and Bubblegum,

Tionna Smalls

I came across Tionna at a turning point.

I have been struggling with the process of self promotion,
with relaunching the blog, with writing under by given name,
with marketing myself as a writer and web content manager.

Its hard. Holding oneself out publicly to be something requires
both humility, discipline and courage. It also, and perhaps most
requires the willingness to accept criticism
the way I accept praise. I have the capacity to do these things
most of the time but not all the time. When I don't, I pray for it.

When I read about Tionna, I realized that we are similar in that
we see the work that we do as being important because
we want the girls who come from where we come from to see
that they CAN do something.

My whole crew, Jonzey, TR, Latoya,, Filthy and Ann have all
been crazy supportive in getting me to recognize that I have
a voice and to step out on faith and claim it.

On the other hand, there is a lot of money in the game of
trashing Black women. When I look at my bank account,
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I haven't thought
about running a site like that

But when I think about MLK's words, I can only think,
that ain't me. I need to embrace my lane and stop playing.

Thank you for reading, for commenting and your support.
It is in this blog that I have learned to develop my voice.
Feel free to digg, retweet or just ask questions.

This post felt good.


the prisoner's wife said...

you know we got you, sis.
name it & claim it. it's yours.

M.Dot. said...

Thank you.

M.Z. said...

Face is out, so name is only a natural progression.

UP said...

maaaan... modern faith, and i'm holding onto my own TIGHT: there IS a purpose bigger than us to our lives. feeling inspired off of this post. thank yoU!

Nexgrl said...

I almost sliced my index finger in the exact same way that you did. Stanless steel knife, slicing lemongrass, for lemongrass chicken.

I think that you can do whatever it is that you desire. You writing both informs and challenges. I believe that you will be surprised by your reach.

Model Minority said...


Listen here YOU KNOW we got plans, lol.
I am glad you are inspired. Thats my job.

I think you are one of my oldest readers.
Thank you for commenting. You made me smile.
I am thinking of starting another site about Books...let me know if you are interested.


The Face is out Boo, is it? LOLS.

Nexgrl said...,
Just let me know about the new spot. You dubbed me "Treghetto" a while back, so you must know that I mix my reading. A little fiction/urban fiction, and non-fiction.

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