PHOTO BY STEFAN BARNA

Photo by: Stefan Barna |
barna.stefan@yahoo.com
This photo was taken during the Belgrade Marathon. Thank you Stefan Barna for allowing bloggers from all over the world to freely use your photo.

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

THE DISSONANCE OF DENIAL

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I can barely keep the up-coming  re-naming of this blog a secret.  I so want to tell you today, but I am going to wait until Thursday September 1 which is my birthday and  which will also be the birthday of the blog’s new name.

Today, however, I write about my “re-constructed” past and how in my attempt to redefine it- redefine myself. When I was growing up in Northwest Washington D.C. in the 1960’s my reality was the neighborhood that went from the top of one block down to the alley where my parents bought a second house. In that half of a block my parents and relatives owned three of the four houses on that half of block.
I played only with the children who lived in the houses directly next to ours and those that bordered our 3 properties. I rarely looked at television because where I was born, Guyana South America- there was no t.v. As a result, I didn’t grow up in front of a television as a toddler; it wasn’t used as a pacifier.

Because my world was so small my reality was equally small. I did not know whether as a child  we were rich or poor. My grandmother and aunts bought my sisters and myself beautiful clothes. My mother who worked at time at the Hecht Company bought us beautiful clothes. We ate  very well and we traveled. So, I thought I was rich and life pretty much went that way  until I was about 12 and then things took a  dark turn. There was a radical change in my family’s financial picture. At 12 I found myself living in abject poverty and squalor.  There was no running water in the kitchen and the dishes were washed in a tub. The remaining food particles and dishwater was thrown outside the kitchen window.

I am not sure how my family went from  parties at Embassies to living in a broken-down house running with huge rats- yes I said rats.  In my denial until yesterday, I had blocked out the rats. Did I know there were rats? Yes. But I emotionally buried that fear of rats- so that I could survive. As a child I was mortally scared of rats as I am still today.  Now as I recall, the rats were every where- sleeping in piles of unwashed laundry in the basement.;living under piles of wood that had spent months piled out side one side of the other house that we owned; feeding on the food thrown outside in dishwater. There were rats because we gave them lots of food to eat.

As an adult, I have tried to piece together the history of the events that lead to living in that house on Northwest 9th Street in Washington D.C. I remember a  Triple Crown  Horse Race where money was bet on a South American horse called Candenero and it came in second. I remember, our first house, with its rose bush fences catching on fire one cold night in January,  a night when my sister and I were at a party for the daughter of an ambassador from a country whose name I have forgotten.  I remember a police raid at my Aunt’s house next door to our middle house where a small pistol and pharmaceutical drugs were found. Those were some, if not all of the reasons that my family and I ended up in the broken down row house when I was 12 going on 13 years old.

 I remember sitting on the back steps of that awful house when I was 13 and sobbing my heart out.
I have blocked out- completely forgotten my fourteenth year spent at that house, except for two horrible related events- which I will not go into during this blog.  I only remember my California reprieve when I was 15. It was in California that I became legally emancipated from my mentally ill parents. In my mind, my life starts in California. Those early years with my grand parents from six months to almost five years old, created a little girl who thought she was a princess  and who continued to believe that she was a princess until  I turned 12 years old and the darkest episode of my life began.  

The importance of owning my entire past provides me with the true distance of my journey to where I am today. I realize  I have come a long way. What are you blocking out or hiding or forgetting, that if you remembered and owned it, would help you understand the distance which you have traveled? I ask  that you think about it. If you have something to share, share it with us, after all we are are fellow journeyers on the road of life.

With Peace and Love and Joy,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes.

A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN

 

VIEW FROM A MOUNTAIN TOP IN ASSISI, ITALY- August 17, 2016
PHOTO BY: Brianna S. Clark

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Today our blog is a one year old.  During the past year the blog had 10,000,61 views.  Thank you  all, my loyal readers and friends.

During this year, I have grown in all aspects of my life. This blog began on my return from a trip to Paris last year. After that trip I had gained 3 pounds, had over-drafted my  bank account and couldn’t afford to turn my cell phone on.  I had to use my sister’s credit card, which she had inadvertently left with me.

I was so embarrassed by my out of control and irresponsible behavior regarding money that I wrote about my shame publically in my first blog and vowed to do something about it.  In 2015 I had  $2,310 in overdraft fees. The prior year I had $154 of overdraft fees. This year $77.  Not perfect, but certainly in the right direction.

Also, last year right after I began the blog my father died.  His death marked the end of my hope that my father would have apologized for his illicit, immoral, damaging sexual abuse towards me.  He died without ever being able to say my name.  In retropect, I did not give him the chance to say he was sorry because I stayed away from him the entire two years that he had been living in a nursing home.  I visited him once on Mother’s day in 2015. He had had a stroke that left him unable to speak. This was exactly what happened to his mother, my grandmother. The next time I saw my father he was unconscious and on life support. I stood with my four siblings and my mother and aunt while we watched him officially die and pronounced dead.

The funeral and its preparations brought out the worst in some of my family members. Powerful emotions were in play towards this man who had hurt so many. During the days leading up to the funeral, I refused to participate in any planning of my father’s funeral. I did not care about him in life I did not care about him in death. I left what ever had to be done to those who felt that he had not harmed them or those who felt duty bound. I did not.

Not only did I not want to participate in his funeral arrangements, I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend his funeral.
It was only on the morning of the funeral did I decide to go. I remain grateful for my friend Jeffrey who drove me to the funeral services and left me in the gentle caring hands of my older sister, Beverly.

A gracious thank to my sister, Beverly, and her husband who shared their anniversary dinner with me on the evening of my father’s funeral. It was our way of ending a sad and bitter history.

My 59th year would be highlighted with many firsts and growth opportunities:
1. a proof version of my book, Cracked.
2. A health scare that led to a permanent diet change.
3. A fledging legal practice in Baltimore
4. New friends and deepening of friendships.
5. A greater sense of independence
6. Financial stability and responsibility.
7. Speaking engagements.
8. The  beginning of my new book, Twisted.
9. My trip to Italy with six other women.

It has been a great year.  In the next week I will be reformatting my life and this blog.  How the blog will change will be a process of collaboration with friends and paid collaborators. My intent is to create a blog which educates and entertains.  Stay tuned.

I close with love and good vibrations and growth to all,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

WHY OUR CULTURE DOESN’T HONOR THE ELDERLY.

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I began to ponder the “concept” of old in our American society. Overall, my sense is that as a culture, we feel old age is the time to give up, let go of our dreams, our health, our sexuality.

This is not a mind-set that I wish to embrace. I feel as if I have finally figured it out-that I have accepted my authentic self. I have the spectrum of sixty years to reflect upon to determine  what works for me. However, this culture tells me that I should be preparing to hang it up. What is the thinking behind a culture that says the goal to life is retirement? What is the cultural thinking and background that would promote the carrot being retirement?

According to researchers our society in the  United Stated values the ability to work. This is unlike other cultures who venerate the elderly. However as I look at this country’s history of work I see a culture that wants people to work for as little as possible for as long as possible and in the worst case scenario using slave labor for more than 200 years.

 But what about us who love our work? We  want to do more of what we love. We want to be in the best shape so that we can do it as long as possible. This is a paradigm that I hope will infiltrate our culture so that we can begin to look forward to a life that is fulfilling until the day we die.
This is not the time to give up; it is the time to up your game, afterall, it’s the last quarter to be your best self. I do not want to retire. I want to live out my dreams. If they don’t come true,  I will die trying.

When I say  “trying”  when you are passionately seeking something it does not occour as work. Life is joyful when play and work are intertwined.

 I know I cannot run as fast or as far as I once could, but physical strength is not my greatest contribution at this point of my life. I offer wisdom, experience  and insight.  There are young people for physical work and activity. There is no substitute for experience. Having overcome adversity is a skill.
We should honor our elderly and utilize their wisdom.

The photo that I begin and end this blog is what I aspire to be. 
With all of my love,
 Brianna S. Clark 
The Addict Writes

PROGRAMMED TO FEAR YOUNG BLACK MEN

My Dear Friends and Readers,

This morning I was in an urban grocery store in downtown Baltimore. The store caters to the high-end employed in Baltimore’s business district. The rest of the folks get to shop there as well, but you won’t find bargains or specials there. You will find unsweetened organic soy milk and gluten free brownies. Back to the point. This morning I saw an African American male child about age 9 or 10- tall for his age,  wearing a Batman mask and costume. For a moment my heart leaped. “I hope they don’t think he’s here to rob the store.”  A few seconds later, the child’s well dress parents walked in the store behind him. I was relieved.

However, it bothered me that, I too have become a victim of “black scare”.  In the few minutes that I remained in the store, I pondered my own prejudicial reaction.  As I was leaving the store, the boy stood at the entrance, and he had removed his mask to expose a well nurtured and cared for young man. I walked out the store and then walked back in ” I forgot to say Hi, Bruce Wayne.”  He smiled and I reminded myself to check my “already always thinking.”

What has caused me to jump to this conclusion? If it were a white child would I have reacted the same way?
I don’t think so. I have become conditioned by the media to expect the worst of young black men and at the same time fear for them.

As I pondered further, I realized that tomorrow I will address an audience of social workers and therapists who work with incarcerated youth.  The statistics that I will present to them are the following:

 Last year’s police  arrest records indicate  that young people under the age of 25  represented  51% of the arrests for violent behavior.
 The same age  group  under the age of 25, made up 49% of the
weapons violation arrests. 

This group is also the victims of trauma. When last year’s murder rate in Baltimore rose to 344, so did the rate of young people entering emergency rooms. The rate of gunshot and knife wounds rose by 5% last year.

We also find that young people in Baltimore have the same out look out about their future prospects as young people in third world countries like Nigeria, New Delhi, India and Johannesburg ,South Africa.

This should come as no surprise because these young people are the victims of trauma induced by  living in poverty; in high crime communities, in homes with domestic violence; drug use; drug sales; incarcerated parents or missing parents. The day to day toll on our youth, 30% which live in poverty is showing up in violence on our streets.

We know that locking up young people, or people in general does not work. In 2005 100,000 thousand Baltimoreans were arrested. That number equals 1/6th of the city’s population.

11 years later, today, we know that the Baltimore police racially profile and violate the rights of African Americans. Now that we have this information, hopefully, the rate that which  young  black people are illegally stopped and detained will decrease. Hopefully.

Last year our young people rioted. The city reacted. They allotted 2.9 million dollars to trauma prevention and 40 million dollars to the Baltimore Police Department for violence prevention. The forty million dollars should have gone to to help our young people and perhaps we wouldn’t need to so much money to prevent violence- induced by trauma.

Finally, in our city of unequals, where the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington D.C., found that Baltimore is one of the most “unequal” cities when it comes to income earnings, let’s hope that
with all of this information in the hands of our politicians and leaders  there will be meaningful change in this city of two cities. Let’s vote for real  change in November and keep close watch on the actions of our elected officials. Let’s make them keep their campaign promises.

Praying for Baltimore and Voting for Equal Opportunity,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

A BATTLE ON TWO FRONTS SEXY AND SMART

 My Dear Friends and Readers,

I have been a walking mass of contradictions my whole life. My 1950’s Catholic up-bringing has always been in contradiction with my natural sexuality- yes, I am owning it. I am sexy.

This has been  a very hard thing for me to accept-  to own my sexiness. There was something else as well. I believed that it was my full 12 year old  breasts and a sundress was what drove my father to rape me. No matter how many times I have intellectually told myself that it wasn’t my fault, buried deep within my heart, somewhere in a tiny little crack, I blamed my sexy curvaceous body. As a result I fought to starve my curves away and to prove I am smart- all the while using the body that I “hated” as a tool.

At 19, when I was in my Junior year  at U.C.L. A. the war exploded. I was attending U.C.L.A on a full academic scholarship. I was living at  an all white sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta , which is about two blocks from the East Gates of Bel Air. “Old Men” – forty and over were trying to pick me up in their luxury convertibles and the tight-end on the football team was trying to “date” me. I HAD TO STUDY!

 I did not have time for fraternities, beer pong, and for college sorority life. I felt old and foolish, although younger than most of the Juniors on campus. I tried to be your typical college student, however, the guys driving in their luxury convertibles through the East Gates of Bel-Air and down Sunset Boulevard seemed to offer far more enticing activities. To short-circuit to the end of my college career, my grade point average was 1.9. down from a 3.7 from the Junior College I attended when I was 17 and 18.

 I dropped out during the third and final quarter of my Senior year at UCLA when I was 20. My reasons were personal and painful and stemmed back to my family of origin who failed to acknowledge that I was graduating from one of the most prestigious schools in the country. In the six years afterward, I would pose for  a Playboy center fold, shoot an album cover, work on two popular television shows and  perform in two plays one cast and directed by by the famous actor and director, John Cassavettes. The other play which was reviewed by the Hollywood Reporter said  “Pretty, but she didn’t know what to do with her hands”. I played the sexy nurse in the second play- the one where I did not know what to do with my hands. For the life of me, I did not know “what to do” to be the sexy nurse. I could not conjure what sexy meant for me -it was so automatic for me. This is one of things that can happen when you are sexualized at an early age. You think you are an object to be used sexually.

The war continued through my twenties with a stop at the Playboy Mansion as a Playboy Bunny. From that low point, I applied to graduate school at Northwestern and The Goodman School of Music. I interviewed with both was accepted to one.  Neither felt that I was right for them. I took my next best option and went on air as a radio news writer. Seven years  and four television stations later, I ended my television career as the first woman of color at KOIN the CBS affiliate in Portland, Oregon.

Alas, was I still just a pretty face, where someone else wrote the words? And why wouldn’t the television station let me air my piece on gay women making a difference.? So, once again I needed to prove how smart I was. I was not just a pretty face on a  woman with large breasts!  So, I applied to law school and was accepted. The cost of law school was my first marriage to a man who wanted to keep me as his private brown Barbie Doll and ultimately my six and eight year old sons.

As I got older in my late forties, I was amused that men found me “sexy”.  What did that mean? Were they reducing me to an object? Couldn’t they see that I was smart?

Here’s sex·y

ˈseksē/
adjective
  1. sexually attractive or exciting.
    “sexy French underwear”
    synonyms: sexually attractive, seductivedesirablealluringtoothsomesensual,sultryslinkyprovocativetempting, tantalizing; More

Now, at 59 and less  than a month from my 60th birthday, I can say I am sexy and I am smart. I am both and I need to prove neither.

In Growth and Self-Love,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict  Writes

I DID NOT WRITE NOTES

My Dear Friends and Readers,
I loved everything about the Democratic National Convention. I really loved the last night, however there was one speaker who created some angst within me. That speaker was Chelsea Clinton.

 I listened as Chelsea Clinton lauded her mother who was First lady and Secretary of State and Senator from the state of New York. I cringed   as I heard Chelsea relate how her Mother wrote notes and put them in envelopes with the dates on them so that her daughter could read them in her absence.

From a personal standpoint I never had a mother who did anything  like that for me. For those who never knew their mothers or lost their mothers, there was an unknowingness about what Chelsea was talking about. I was envious. In comparison, I had fallen remarkably short as a mother. I also realized there are millions and millions of mothers and daughters who had no idea about the kind of relationship that Hillary and Chelsea seem to have. How were we to relate to this fairytale mother daughter relationship? Were we simply left to wonder what this kind of relationship was like and imagine what our lives might have been had we had a mother anywhere like Hillary Clinton?

I realized that Hillary Clinton had a lot of help  being a great mother.  If every mother had someone to drive them everywhere;  if there was someone to prepare your meals; clean your house do the laundry and the dishes you too could have had the time to write those little notes  so that your child could read them on each successive day of your absence.

 To all the mothers out there who felt that  they could not keep up to the standards of our Presidential nominee First lady; Senator from the state of New York, forgive yourselves. It is a hard World out here for working mothers.  You are  the one doing laundry, making lunches, cleaning the house and driving your kids.There’s little time for writing and doing special things. That doesn’t mean that you’re not great. You are the norm, Hillary is the exception. For every kid who  wondered how come their mom wasn’t like, Hillary, I know your mother would have done the same thing had she had all the help and all the staff that Hillary Clinton had. I ask that we put Chelsea and Hillary’s rerelationship in perspective. As we look   and evaluate the roles of mother and women in these days and times, it’s a hard life out here for  women and mothers.

While I’m glad that the relationship of Hillary and her daughter was not damaged by Hillary’s public life, all mothers should be held to the standards of the circumstances they are in and not compare or judge themselves to Hillary Clinton or any other mother in circumstaces different from yours.

Love,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

GOOD BYE RAG DOLL

My Dear Friends and Readers,
The above photo is of my mother and all of my siblings.  It was taken in 1964.

When I first arrived from my country of birth,Guyana South America, I was four years old. My mother made most of our clothes. They were easy to make clothes with elasticized sleeve bands, an elasticized neckline and elasticized waists. She usually added a piece of lace around the neck or the sleeves but for the most part our dresses were fairly simple.

My first experience with needing a dress came when I was 5 years old. I was chosen to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in our school’s Christmas play “The Nutcracker.”
I was scared when I got that role and I decided I didn’t want it, partially because I was scared but mostly because I did not believe my mother could make the Sugar Plum Fairie’s costume,so I gave the role away.
I took the role of the rag doll. The rag doll wore a simple yellow dress with patches on it. It was not a speaking role and I/she lay on the stage half upright for most of the play. As I sat there and watched the Sugar Plum Fairy I had moments of regret.

Since then I have been very concerned about my clothes and my appearance  in general. As soon as I could work I got jobs in clothing boutiques. However, I  realized that my then salary of $2.20 an hour would never allow me to buy  the beautiful clothes that I sold. But that’s another story for another day.

Since I have been a widow for the past six years it is only on the special occasion that I dress up. It is only on the special occasion that I wear my jewelry. It is only on the special occasion that I put on makeup. I intend to change this. I am going to dress as beautifully as possible every day of my life for the rest of my life. Why not?

I invite you my readers whether you are male or female to begin to take a special pride in the way that you look.
In this generation of jeans that hang below your butt, leggings, sweats and other casual wear “dressing up” is a way to stand out from the crowd. Today I am announcing I’m bringing well-dressed back. I hope that you will join me in a special effort to look your best  each and every day no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Send photos. I promise to post some of my “everyday” outfits.

With all of my love,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes