I’m Lawana Porter, a Black woman thinker and writer in Dallas, Texas. Why blog? It’s a good question, one I’ve pondered a while.

There's much to think about in this time in the U.S. As a Black woman, I crave to be part of the conversation. I want to share thoughts that matter and hopefully spark conversations that can shape who we are as a people and who we aspire to become.  2021 was an incredible year with so much change and heartbreak. In some ways, it was the epitome of the best of times and the worst of times. I'm desperately hoping for a better year in 2022--for my own people and those everywhere. I think we deserve better and I want to be part of the solution. 

If you’re a curious thinker, I invite you to seek me out and share your own views.

I’m worried about the direction of our beloved state of Texas

We need to talk about the direction of our beloved state of Texas. I mean, we really, really need to talk about the far-right takeover of Texas. Is it just me or is anyone else worried that we’re falling off the political deep end? 

EXAMPLE 1: During the last legislative session, at the behest of the governor, a cohort of mostly white Republicans passed an anti-abortion bill that incentivizes citizen vigilantes to go after anyone who helps a woman end an unplanned pregnancy–early in the first trimester before most women even realize they are pregnant. The legislature pushed this unpopular bill through to passage despite widespread public condemnation from voters.

The mean-spirited abortion bill is just the beginning. There’s the push to resurrect the former president’s border wall; the fraudulent and financially wasteful audit of the 2020 election; new laws repressing voter participation, which were allegedly passed to combat the non-existent problem of voter fraud; a ban on schools imposing mask mandates to safeguard the lives of children and educators; a law barring educators from teaching students the facts of Black history and racism; and God help us, even a bill blocking transgender kids from showing up as who they really are to play school sports. 

These repressive laws and the negative impact on the lives of the broad population of Texans are painful and dangerously authoritarian. I’ve lived here all my life, and yes, I realize Texas has a long history as a right-leaning (dare I say repressive) state, but it’s my feeling that the state’s current political direction reflects a serious and frightening turn for the worse. 

Why is this happening? I doubt the majority of the state’s electorate took a sudden drastic turn to the right. Some pundits blame this out-of-control rightward tilt on Gov. Abbott’s future political ambitions. Given such aspirations, he might keep in mind that the Texas electorate and that of the country at large is becoming more racially and politically diverse. And fortunately, under our current democracy, the entire body politic has a say in general elections. If he does make his party’s ticket in 2024, I predict there are lots of voters like me who won’t forget Abbott’s authoritarian and repressive track record of governing. 

Meanwhile, I believe the governor is doing Texas–and possibly the entire nation–- a great disservice by shaping his entire political agenda to reflect solely the views of those who share his far-right political views.

How The Word is Passed: a grim lesson in the cruelty of slavery

Clint Smith’s How The Word is Passed features important information about the places and personalities that fed the slave trade, including how cities like New Orleans played major roles in the growth and maintenance of the slave trade.

Smith takes readers to New Orleans, the Whitney plantation and other southern locales and explains how these places and their leaders contributed to the horror and how some of the vestiges of that sad time can still be seen and visited today.

“The rape of defenseless women represented physical power against them, but also the power of the state, the power of patriarchy and the power of a society and resulted from uncontrolled and vicious power.”

author Clint Smith

For example, in his retelling of his visit to the Whitney Plantation, Smith introduces readers to Yvonne, one of the plantation’s tour guides. Yvonne’s family has roots in the Mississippi Delta where the Whitney is located. She left a career in Chicago to return to Mississippi and join the staff of the Whitney to “do something more meaningful and attached to the community.” Smith and Yvonne walk readers through the horror that was plantation life and the remnants of the Mississippi plantation featuring a Wall of Honor memorial documenting some 354 people trafficked to the Whitney in the 1800s. Some were brought directly to the plantation in the transatlantic slave trade while others were born into slavery in the U.S.

In his book, we learn about the plantation’s church where two dozen lifesize clay sculptures represent children who once lived at Whitney. The Children of Whitney was designed by artist Woodrow Nash as a reminder of the impact of slavery on children who, after the formal end of the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, bore the weight of the institution.

Reading how women were designated as plantation breeders and impregnated solely by white men to renew and grow the labor supply is heartbreaking. To say the system of breeding was inhumane is an understatement, but it’s hard to disagree with Smith that the rape of defenseless women represented “physical power against them, but also the power of the state, the power of patriarchy and the power of a society” and resulted from uncontrolled and vicious power.

A 1851 quote from an enslaved woman, Julia Woodrich, recorded on the wall at Whitney gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. “My ma had fifteen children and none of them had the same pa. Every time she was sold she would get another man.” Slavery was cruel to men, women and children alike, but for women, who had absolutely no agency over their bodies, it was beyond heartless. When I think of this kind of maltreatment of women to supply black bodies to power the economic engine of capitalism, I’m more persuaded than ever that reparations are the minimum America owes the descendants of those who routinely suffered such inhuman treatment. I also have to say that recent laws outlawing a woman’s right to choose are reminescent of the cruelty dealt to enslaved women.

Smith’s exploration of slavery and its legacy is painful to read but it certainly deserves to be reviewed by all Americans, most of whom, like me, will realize how gaping a hole exists in their knowledge of the subject.

The patter of little feet: the magic and joy of babes

Throughout time, parents, grandparents and those who aspired to become such have waxed eloquent about the pitter-patter of little feet in the house. Those of us who never had children (like me) have probably wondered what all the chatter is really about.

I’m a great aunt now, and spending time with my young niece has taught me the sense of the joy young children can bring to your life (along with lots of tears and drama).

My great-niece is named for my mother, Forest, and her maternal grandmother, Alberta. She is as unique as her old-fashioned name. When the family gathered a few months ago to celebrate my retirement, she was in the number. And, boy, did she make her presence felt. She moved with grace among the adults gracing us with her kisses, hugs, and smiles as she liked, pausing to take a bite from your plate if she saw something inviting.

Without question, she made the gathering more joyous just by her presence and innocence. I took it as a lesson that you can always learn something new about the things that can contribute to the joy of life–which I count a true blessing at any age.

Children need our help to learn to value and respect others

I recently read a news report about a 10-year-old girl in Utah who died by suicide. Her mother said the young girl, who family members and friends called Izzy, was tormented in school by peers who made fun of her autism.

The family blames bullying and lack of response on the part of Izzy’s teacher and school leaders for Izzy’s deadly despair. It’s heartbreaking to read news of children dying by suicide for any reason, let alone bullying because it’s so senseless. Let’s be honest. Bullying is a common problem in schools. It damages children’s self-esteem and the ability to respect and get along with other children. It’s especially harmful when directed at those who are different in terms of physical or emotional differences. So who’s to blame for this problem? Where are children learning this dangerous and ugly behavior?

Bullying is real. Most adults know it. As someone who worked in schools for a decade, I admit it’s difficult to eradicate or control for lots of reasons. Not the least of these reasons is that kids see so much of it in their environment. TV show characters that belittle and make fun of others is daily fare. Often in our homes, we speak of others in ways that are clearly unkind using the excuse that we’re “only kidding.”

It’s past time for all responsible adults to see that behavior as inappropriate and to turn down the volume on teasing and unkind references to others. Let’s remember that our kids are looking at and learning from us and that the life we save by controlling our behavior could be our own child’s.