I Admire…

My Maternal Grandparents & Paternal Grandmother
Despite so many restrictions my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother owned their own businesses and homes. They all came from rural areas of Louisiana and didn’t know the meaning of not working. Coincidentally, my maternal grandparents had 9 daughters (YES, 9, count ’em!) and my paternal grandparents had 9 children (5 boys and 4 girls, with 1 twin-boy dying at birth). I know my grandfather had a hard time finding private bathroom time with 9 daughters and 1 bathroom!

My grandfather was the kindest man you could ever meet. The days I spent reading the Bible with him didn’t mean anything at the time then because I was too young and restless to understand, but now are part of those treasures in my heart that can’t be destroyed. His smile just went right through your heart. Their house is still looking sharp on Feliciana St. in New Orleans. Thanks to my grandfather, I was reminded that not all men, especially black men, are bad.

And both grandmothers were just two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. Beautiful inside and out. And it would be fitting that one of my grandmothers, Martha, owned a beauty salon. She died when I was 12 and it still hurts because she was one of my first friends and there’s so much I never got to ask her. (back to top)
My Friends
The best things in life are free. It’s funny how the ones you think are your friends really aren’t and the ones you least expect become those quiet souls who lift you up when you can’t go through another day. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have good people to have simple, happy times with, to me, you’re really missing out on building priceless treasures.
Friends include:

Joy, Kathy, Monica, Dana, Naga, Richard, Patti & Larry, Lisa “my girl” Clouatre, Terri R., Melissa, Xin, Laura C, Carolyn, A’leina M., Bobbi Barges, Rodney C., Shareen, Rod P., Claudette, Masa, Margo, Dutch, Mike H., Richard S., Frank & Sandy, Derek Briggs, Robin L., Michael G., Mary B., Barbara H. B., Jacqui H, April May, Jeff Williams, Vincent L., Tanya Treistman, Irina K., Richard Peattie, Doris, Marty & Samantha, Brent & Amy, Will G., Dax, Bob S., Pandora, Keith G, Ingrid & Michelle E., Mack M., Samantha F., Jerome B., Trina W., …

and here’s hoping I’ll be blessed enough to meet more like them. But they are going to be a tough act to follow. (back to top)

Joy J. Jackson
I’ve known Joy since junior high school She’s always been this wonderful and beautiful person who tells it like it is and provides the reality check you need when you’re thinking “it must be me!”. She wasn’t into all the high school peer pressure b.s. and used common sense daily. Her values became my values to live by. The best times I’ve had have been when we’re all just sitting around doing nothing and laughing, playing cards or just talking until we fall asleep. Her mom is also like my mom. There will probably be more of her family at my wedding than my own. Joy has seen me at my best and worst and always helped guide me through the rough times. There isn’t anything that I can’t talk to Joy about and knowing that she’ll always be there for me reminds me that I’m not alone.

And Joy always knows when there’s something wrong because she always calls at the right time, and there’s one time that I’ll forever be grateful to her for. Her strong faith in God and the teachings of Christ made me decide to continue going to church and take my grandfather’s advice. I even decided to officially be confirmed at 18. Luckily I lost the battle I had going with God, probably because He put someone like Joy and other friends in my life as a reminder that He’s listening. (back to top)
Dana D. Garza
Dana had no idea as to how she saved me during my grade school years because I never told her about what was happening in my home. The times that I spent with her and her brother, Dennis, who was my prom date, were a blessing because they kept me away from the nightmare I had to return home to. We had so much fun. We were good kids, free to experiment with life, yet be smart about our decisions. Of course, her mom would have killed us if we’d done something stupid. (Her mom was also a hard-working woman. She bares a striking resemblance to Dorothy Dandridge.) Dana also taught me how to lose the training wheels and ride my banana seat bike. Dana was just always this beautiful, honest and fun person who could do no wrong. She taught me the meaning of be yourself and don’t worry about what other people say because in the end, you’ll only have to look at you. Dana did her thing and always made you feel proud to be around her. I’m just so sorry we lost touch after high school. But now she’s back and it’s good to know she’s grounded in her faith in God and has accomplished so many wonderful things. (back to top)
Kathy P. Wallace
Ms. Kathy. I was so honored when Kathy asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I have always admired Kathy since our days at early Netcom. She was always smiling and always had me laff’g about the office “sitcoms”. What I love about Kathy is that she’s a woman. She isn’t a girl who forgot she’s a woman and needs to grow up. She knows what she needs to do and does it. She has so much strength and character. She doesn’t pretend or b.s. people. All you can see when you look at Kathy is a beautiful woman with a beautiful heart. At the time I began working with Kathy, I wasn’t too keen on letting new folks into my life, but Kathy defines “friendship” and reminds me of Joy, Monica and Dana. One would think that because she’s going through a difficult time that she doesn’t have time to worry about others, but she knows when something is wrong or lets you know she’s always there for you anytime.

The funniest thing was her wedding day, which was also the Memorial Day weekend of my birthday in 2000. All the bridesmaids were so nervous, but Kathy was just as calm as ever and had everything together. I couldn’t remember where my dress was and it was hanging right in front of me. I completely forgot about my birthday and when I remembered it wasn’t even important because we were all having so much fun. I was like “Oh, today’s my birthday” almost at the end of the day. I was all teary eyed watching her walk down the aisle at a fairy tale wedding at Wente Winery in Livermore, CA. It was such a beautiful day and fit for a beautiful person. And she even came through on my wedding request: a niece or nephew. Her newborn daughter, Sarah, is going to be awesome, not to mention lucky to have her as a mom. And to the future teenaged boys, you can just be prepared for a, ummm, “humbling” question and answer session from her mom and aunties, that’s if you make it past her dad, when you try to pick her up for a date when she’s 16! She’s gorgeous, has blonde hair and ocean blue eyes and is going to have long legs. What?! Do you think we’ll just let some loser pick her up?! Boy, I sure hope Blair Underwood1 JFK Jr.2 Malik Yoba1 Cress Williams1 Boris Kodjoe1 Colin Farrell (well, damn, can a sistah girl get a break here?!) proposes soon so we can start a family and raise our kids together! (Yeah, that’s the ticket.)

1Married; 2Married and gone (back to top)
Monica Smith
Monica and I attended college together. Monica will also keep it real and not worry about what others think. She also gets me to see beyond my fears and not give up. Monica is beautiful, smart, funny and just one of the few people from New Orleans I’m glad I stayed in touch with. She’s a wonderful mother and loving wife. She can go from a formal evening with her husband to a wild night out with the girls and still make sure everything at home is taken care of. I am so proud of how well she is raising her children. They’re smart, funny, fearless and definitely know the meaning of love. People don’t realize how important this task is, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, the children of today will be the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow.

She’s too far away now in Japan, and we need her here!! But she’s a military wife and it’s understandable. But I may have to cancel the military all together, because this ain’t working for me. I miss my friend. Monica listens without judging and always has something good or funny to say in reply. And you know you’re around good friends when you can just hang out and have the best time. I’m still waiting for another UNO rematch. That was hysterical with her, her kids and a friend of theirs, and me and my niece in Japan. I laughed so much, I forgot I was in Japan and wanted to keep it going instead of venturing out to sight-see. (back to top)
Lisa Clouatre
It’s so true that the people who “knew you when” are real friends. There’s no level of pretense, mistrust, or concern other than for their well being, which is always a first concern. There has not been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about Lisa. I’m really bad about staying in touch by phone or letter. But it’s not like life doesn’t take you in so many other directions that you forget about the simple, yet important things in life. Lisa and I attended high school together. We hit it off right away and became sisters. If I wasn’t at her house with her family, we were always out having fun with other people. Even when we were doing absolutely nothing, we were always laughing and having a good time. Someone could pass by us on the street and something funny would start. We were good, or “good enough” kids, and given the freedoms we had, we all could have done some damage to ourselves and others. But our friendships kept us looking out for each other always. Someone once told me, “A good friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body.” That’s some serious friendship for you. And Lisa is a really good friend. But thank goodness we haven’t had to move any bodies yet. When I look at the blessings of the past and now, I always count Lisa as one of them. People like Lisa keep me going to the next day (especially at a time when a child shouldn’t have to live in fear in their own home), allowed me to relax enough to think about the future and have fun (what kids are supposed to do), and most important, help spot out the cute guys for me. And it’s a blessing that more than 20 years later, we’re still part of each other’s lives and connected like sisters. (back to top)
I worked with Naga at Apple. We just clicked right away and became friends. Naga is so funny and her smile is contagious. She’s also very smart. She’s even developed patented products for Cisco. YOU GO GIRL!!! For support, Naga even came with me to get a belly button piercing at Anubis Warpus in the infamous Haight & Ashbury area in San Francisco. It was, of course, a funny experience. While waiting for my stabbing, Anubis had the most interesting outfits. I remember we were talking about showing up Monday to a staff meeting with one of the midriff shirts which had just the word “Bitch”, a pair of the leather hot pants, and no doubt the platform shoes and fishnet stockings on display. We’d just walk in the meeting and sit down as if nothing was wrong. But when we were not thinking about getting ourselves into trouble, we are always there for each other in good and bad times. Naga’s family has become a part of my family. She’s now married to a wonderful person that I’m glad she realized was right under her nose, and I’m glad I was there for her to find out about it. The funniest thing was she called me to come over because she was nervous about our favorite topic, men! She was worrying that he wouldn’t feel the same way. I just kept thinking, “please, how could he not?!” They are such a great couple and have the basis of a long standing relationship: friendship. And now there is a new addition to the family, a son, Prathik. (back to top)
Larry & Patti Hamel
I met Larry at Apple. He was one of the people that made the group a lot of fun to work with. (I still can’t believe I worked with the people including Naga and Anthony and Jeff Williams who developed the OpenTransport software for the Apple OS. It was one of the best experiences of my life.) Larry has a great deal of integrity. And so does his wife, Patti. It’s like when I see Patti, I see Larry and vice versa. It’s like they can read each other’s thoughts, and already know what to do. And they really take care of each other. You know “THAT” baby you see and think I can’t wait to have kids, well, they’re “THAT” couple you see and think I can’t wait to find my soulmate (oooh, a scary thought, someone for me out there!). They’re both so intelligent, so can you imagine their child will be a future giant in something that benefits everyone. And they’re not just “book smart” intelligent, but knowledgeable and understanding of so many personal issues, including a big one — ME! I remember calling Patti & Larry at about 3am, just crying. I would have expected to hear “click”, but instead they woke up and wanted to help in any way possible and even called back to make sure I was ok. NOW THAT’S A FRIEND FOR YA!!! The only thing I don’t like is when I go to their house, they have all this health food stuff, including healthy snacks. You know I’m coming ahead of time, stock up on the Snickers, soda and pizza. They’re not budging on this one, so I have to eat healthy every now and then. It’s starting to grow on me because I’m trying to eat healthier now! (back to top)
Anthony Parks
Whenever I hear “sistas” running down black men, I think of Anthony and use him as a counterpoint to say “no, sista girl, you are wrong!” Anthony was my first QA boss and if not for him, I would have been like so many backwards thinking QA organizations. Anthony is a positive brother, and a good father who’s concerned about his daughter’s upbringing and morality. Anthony’s smart and very wise, yes, there’s a difference between the two. Silicon Valley is known for not having many managers and executives who are women or especially black managers. Anthony is one of the few, and regardless of race and gender, he’s one of the best managers there is. Anthony doesn’t just tell people what to do, he does it too. He leads by example, unlike many managers, who chose to lead from a throne, which someone will eventually knock them from because they’re out of touch. Anthony’s style of leadership makes you respect him more as a leader. He would ensure no product goes out the door that shouldn’t go out the door, regardless of a marketing date, because a customer who gets the product doesn’t care about marketing dates, they just want it to work like it’s supposed to and like they paid for it to work. Anthony always makes sure that before a product is released, he can stand behind it with integrity, which he doesn’t compromise. He also personally reminded me how not to give up so easily because of other people’s dramas and games and focus on what can be done. (back to top)
Father McElvoy
My priest and friend from St. Maria Goretti in New Orleans. With all the bad press regarding priests in the church, I guess I’ve been blessed to meet priests like Father McElvoy and the priests and nuns from college. There were times when I couldn’t even say anything about some worldly matter, but the look on Father McElvoy’s face said he would beat down God’s door to take the pain and tears away, which was comforting enough for me. There were times when I just wanted to scream and he’d just listen and wait for the chance to say something profound or funny. I had so many doubts about God and Yeshua (Jesus) because of all I’d been through, but never doubted the church, which was always there and available 24/7. I still don’t doubt the church because of the actions of bad priests that I think either joined for the wrong reasons or whose soul was used by the one would love to use any opportunity to destroy any church. I’m sure Father McElvoy would say that Satan will use every power and trick he can, and even place his own inside the church to further separate man from God. And I know he’s praying like I am for everyone to understand the situation. He’s now in Ireland and is surely missed. I can’t even thank him to let him know I listened and took all of his advice. But more important, he was there for my confirmation, and so was I thanks to him. (back to top)
Sue & Tom Hunter
Another great couple. I love Tom & Sue’s humor about life and misfortunes that don’t stop them. And more than anything else, I admire their integrity and willingness to stand up for what’s right. Sue & Tom also get to enjoy building a business together and anything they touch turns to gold, as evident by the success of their current business. Whereas anything they leave behind because of those who didn’t take their advice, falters in more ways than one. (back to top)
SIA Members, Santa Cruz, CA
You’ll have to read the book to find out about how I came to know this group of individuals. They were people from all walks of life, poor, rich, black, white, latino, asian, etc. who were struggling to better themselves to avoid further bad experiences and repeat the cycle of victimization. Who I worry about still is one person that I was afraid would end her life any day, but she kept going. Every time I’d show up for a meeting, I was worried that if she didn’t show, I wouldn’t be able to come back because it would have confirmed that our only true chance of survival was death. She was there for every session I was there. Just seeing her and hearing her cry put so much life into the room.

Most survivors can’t see the beautiful soul within themselves. It’s hidden behind so many years of abuse. But I can see it and just hope that with organizations like SIA across the country, the layers of abuse will be removed so that another beautiful person can step forward and take their rightful place in the front. What was interesting was seeing a man. I just assumed there wouldn’t be any men there. And I assumed he was gay or a pedophile trying to change himself. He was neither. He was a strong man who was making sure that every day he wouldn’t be like the father he knew. He was funny and genuinely loved all people, but had no time for bad people. Holidays were the worst for them because many of them lacked families to share the holidays with. But together, they became a family and taught me that family isn’t just the people you’re related to. (back to top)
U.S. Slavery & Post-Slavery Survivors
And get ready for my personal rant…They survived the unwilling removal from their families, home, culture and land. Then, under British ruled slave trade, a long horrific boat ride to a strange country. A perfect example is “The Middle Passage” recently aired on HBO. Then, survived the conditions of slavery with their heritage being stripped one generation after another. Yeah, I’d like to hear the response from Irish, Italian, Asian, and other immigrant Americans when you tell them they can’t be Irish, Italian, Asian, etc. in the U.S. effectively immediately. They can no longer speak or teach any known language other than English, cannot keep or speak their native name and dammit, you can’t have a say about it or anything else either. I’ll have my popcorn bag waiting because it’s going to be better than “Jerry Springer”. A few years ago, I began visiting plantation homes in the south and I was shocked at both the living quarters of slaves and the plantation owner. Even more shocking is the still visible mentality of the plantation owners as well as the United States government, which profited from slavery by taxing and/or owning slaves as property.

Oh, wait. . .the United States government and European immigrant Americans say there’s no one left to sue for reparations, it was so long ago, or they’re not responsible. Yet many Europeans migrated from areas primarily involved in the British slave trade for profit. Slavery ended in the late 1870’s (supposedly ended in 1865), but the mentality and treatment existed over 100 years after. World War II was in the early 1940s. So a person born during slavery could have lived to see the start of WWII, so it wasn’t that long ago. First and second generations of freed slaves are also still alive. Or the other common excuse used to forget about reparations is “their own chiefs sold them into slavery”. Yeah, some were sold as repayment for debt or were captured tribal leaders. But the vast numbers were “stolen”! And since when did two wrongs add up to right?! Maybe in a crack house. Oh, wait, now I can understand the justification: “Sorry I killed your daughter, but you left your door open, so it’s not my fault. Get over it!” But even if you multiply the wrongs, it still doesn’t make the slave institution for profit and sex the right answer.

And since there’s no one “left” who’s at fault, when did the United States government disappear? How many U.S. Presidents, elected officials and government workers owned slaves and supported the post-slavery “separate, but not equal” treatment, all the while taxing slaves and post-slaves for every penny earned. When did the New York Stock Exchange disappear? JP Morgan, which still exists today, flourished from the slave trades. Other WELL KNOWN FINANCIAL institutions still EXIST TODAY. Aetna, became an insurance giant by insuring the losses of slaves who perished during the transport, while being held as slaves or as runaways. And what about the “runaway” slave? Isn’t that a “negro” trying to better his or herself? And isn’t that a common European immigrant complaint about blacks, as in they should better themselves? Instead runaway slaves or Afro-Americans up until the 1970’s who simply wanted civil rights were treated as U.S. criminals and hunted down only to be further demoralized, maimed or murdered. But shouldn’t they give all profits and land back to descendants since there’s nothing left to show proof of profit? I also found out that many landmark structures which still exist today were designed by as well as built by slaves. Commonly as compensation, the slave contractor would receive another slave, the gift that keeps on giving, I guess.

And my favorite, favorite, “excuse” of them all: “my European family immigrated here in the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s”!! Oooooh, so lemme see if I understand this: their family chose to come to a place where African-Americans had little or no rights. And their family chose to sit in the “whites only areas”. And their family was allowed to have that menial job which allowed their family to be supported, the same job “too visible” for the African-American. “Sorry, you can’t have that job, education, home or civil right, but I can.” Wow, I can feel the love and understanding now.

But why not immigrate to Germany? There were plenty of job openings and housing being made available by Hitler, who basically treated jews in the almost the same manner as the United States treated African-Americans? Why not South America? Why not Spain, which helped fund and support the slave trade? Why not other parts of Europe which were flourishing from the profits of slavery? Why not Africa? Why not Russia/Asia? Why not Canada? Hmmm….because America was the land of the freedom and opportunities, but not for:

    – my own white family members who weren’t allowed to associate with my black family members, including wives or husbands, without the consequence of death and destruction of their property, some of which existed since the 1700’s;

    – Rosa Parks; Marion Anderson (who was forced by our government to sing outside on the steps NOT INSIDE); Jackie Robinson (while serving HIS own damn country); Dr. Martin Luther King; Medgar Evers; Emmett Till; James Chaney; Michael Schwerner; Andrew Goodman;

    – and COUNTLESS others who were treated or died inhumanely simply for being black or associating with blacks. And many died at the hands and support of local legislature and law enforcement. It’s been stated that 600 million died in the British ruled slave trade. Of those lost and perished, they were insured, so that the slave master was compensated. But who the h-e-double sticks compensated African-Americans for their loss of humanity, freedom and basic rights?

And their family couldn’t wait to get here to enjoy a better quality of life because America was considered the land of wealth and opportunities for “their family” while knowing of the treatment of African-Americans, who were pushed further back for whatever opportunities made available to their family which immigrated here during the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s. So who cares about African-American struggles and civil rights, right? Thus, their reasons for who cares about reparations, I guess.

What I can’t get past is the basic right to have your child feel safe. I can’t even fathom what slave parents or Afro-American mothers and fathers of the 60’s in the south felt knowing their child (boy, girl, man or woman, depending upon the master’s mood) was available for sex or murder just because the slave master felt like having fun, with a wife who also knew what was happening. Then to continue to try and make a life in the same country, which never welcomed them, against so many heart-wrenching restrictions: Ku Klux Klan (supported by congress), lack of law enforcement, a US Government which didn’t recognize slaves or Afro-Americans as citizens, lack of jobs, housing, food, and other basic necessities. It is mind boggling as to how survival has been possible. But as someone once told me, only the strongest and smartest slaves were kept alive, and the weakest were destroyed. So I guess that has a lot to do with it. But now wondering about the degradation of African-American communities in urban areas? How is that those who lived with less did better and lived with self-respect, and no matter where living, had respect for their home or property?
Check Out The African-American Timeline Presentation  |  Race In America  (back to top)
Civil Rights Workers
All those known and unknown men, women and children who fought and died in Civil Rights movements everywhere in the world. There are just far too many to mention. We’re all aware of the most common names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Geronimo Pratt, Huey P. Newton, Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela. But we have somehow forgot about countless unknown people and what they gave up, including their lives, for what women, Afro-Americans and many others have today. Now you can’t put two people, especially black people, in a room together without some petty drama occurring. (back to top)

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