Who Is Chauncey Bailey?

Who is Chauncey Bailey? Have you ever heard of him? Well Thomas Peele’s Killing The Messenger will tell you exactly why you should know him.

Chauncey Bailey was an American journalist assassinated on American soil because of a story he pursued about a bakery going into bankruptcy. A BAKERY’S BANKRUPTCY? That doesn’t sound like something for which you should kill or die. Chauncey Bailey’s assassination was about much more than that.

His murder was an assault on our First Amendment. His story could have begun the process of exposing a cult in Oakland, CA run by an insatiable pedophile (he molested and raped his own kids, y’all), that terrorized a community, while defaulting on tax-payer backed loans, defrauding the welfare system and exploiting some of our country’s most disenfranchised, dangerous and vulnerable people. That seemingly innocuous bakery was the base for the cult. That cult racked up quite the crime resume.

This story begins in the 1920’s and follows the rise of the Nation of Islam; paints a picture of a sect in North Oakland that decided to stand alone; and ends with the prosecution of Bailey’s assassins.

Bailey was shot execution style on an Oakland street in 2007. This is before President Donald Trump posted tweets featuring video of him beating up CNN because he didn’t like their coverage. This is before the 2016 election exposed just how much hate and ignorance drove a wedge between Americans. Yet, if we had paid more attention to Bailey we could have seen 2016 coming.

Bailey’s murder should have been front page on every paper and the lead story on every evening newscast, a la Daniel Pearl (check out the Angelina Jolie movie) in my opinion. Sure, one journalist called, “Bailey’s murder an assault on the bedrock principle of free press, the American way of life.” But it wasn’t covered that way. One woman said, “that the killing didn’t get as much media attention as it would have if Bailey had been a white reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.”

Bailey’s assasination and the decades leading up to it expose the impact of America’s attempt to exclude African-Americans from mainstream freedoms; the blind-eye politicians, courts and police use when it benefits them; and how being disenfranchised can leave all people vulnerable to unspeakable evils disguised as acceptance. (Think David Koresh and the Branch Dividians or Jim Jones and The People’s Temple)

Simply put: this book is an eye-opening history lesson and a true crime story far better than any fiction John Grisham and his contemporaries could dream up.

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Orphan Train: A Book Review

I lose control in bookstores and blow entire budgets. About a year ago, I picked up a stack of books that included one entitled Orphan Train. A former co-worker suggested it and I wanted to read something outside of my wheel house.

Needless to say it was the last book in the stack. I simply didn’t want to read it. I bought others while it sat collecting dust on a surface in my bedroom. Well, honey, I finally ran out of money and had to read what was already in the house.

I opened the cover and was thoroughly unimpressed. It’s the story of a Irish immigrant who becomes an orphan after most of her family is killed in a fire, and a parent-less teen she meets 80 years later who helps her revisit her past and connect with her future.

I felt it was cliché all day. The teen, Molly, lost her parents to a car crash and addiction. The Irish woman, Vivian, managed to become a wealthy woman living in a cavernous home in Maine. I’ve been reading really harrowing stories like that of Coretta Scott King, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and about once a month I read my son a children’s book based on the childhood of Congressman John Lewis. I am not here for clichés and fairy tales at this moment in my life.

Well I couldn’t afford another book, so I kept turning the pages. Guess what? I got over myself and absorbed the words. I “watched” as Molly and Vivian connected. I became enthralled by Vivian’s tale of being packed on a train with other children and taken to the Midwest, where they were given to people who pretty much wanted slaves. Then I began to realize that what she endured was still so similar to Molly’s modern tale of living in foster care – people taking you in for the cash and treating you like you are less than a person.

This book touched me deeply as a member of the adoption community. This history of children being rounded up, sent to the Midwest and turned into indentured servants is just one of the many reasons there are negative connotations attached to adoption.

Ultimately, I fell in love with this book. Vivian with her gentle, but steady fight to stay alive and chameleon-like abilities, will stay with me. I’m not sure how I feel about Molly, but I don’t hate her. Her story just didn’t pull at my heart. Maybe because she’s a modern teen?

This book does a good job of introducing you to another one of America’s shameful secrets from the past. I’d give it a 7 out of 10, if I were into scales and such:-)

Puffs & Apples

My son is making big boy moves. After days of appearing to be on the fence about puffs, he very slowly, yet deliberately picked one up, put it in his mouth and “chewed” it. HOORAY! I was beyond happy with this development. My kid won’t sit up and won’t hold his bottle, but he will pick up bite sizes pieces of food and eat them.

THEN! Things got even better. For lunch, he tackled a slice of apple. While I would like to rejoice in this moment, I can’t. It’s because it was MY apple slice. He took his attention away from puffs, stared at my apple and did a grunt-shout. My FaceTiming mother demanded that I share. No one told me that mothering would mean sharing so early in the little guy’s life (I pray that at this point, you realize I am being facetious). That adorable, cherub looking baby didn’t stop at one apple slice, he wanted the next one on which I’d slathered peanut butter. My FaceTiming mother again forced me to hand it over. She has so much power.

We laughed and squealed so hard. Who knew something so simple as watching a kid begin the process of eating chewable foods would cause extreme joy. This boy is already teaching me so much. I have to learn to let go. Had it not been for my mother’s encouragement, I never would have given him a piece of the apple. I was too afraid of him choking. Well, I’m still afraid of him choking. However, I am learning that I cannot let my fears hold this child back. I should proceed with caution, but I should not block him from his next steps. He is on track to becoming a well-fed good citizen of the world.

Lord knows I am definitely not trying to block him from holding his bottle and sitting up. As luck would have it, he is showing absolutely no interest in either one.

Adoption

“I think his diaper is wet. You have to change him.”

With those two sentences, my husband and I became parents. We met our son’s other mother a little over a month before his birth. It all began with a phone call – a call I thought was a prank.

Our home study was almost done. Emphasis on ALMOST. I emailed the agency I wanted to work with to let the owner know that we were ALMOST DONE. My message was oozing with excitement, but her reply was short and terse in my opinion. It said, “Contact us when your home study is complete.” I was crestfallen. When a number with her area code popped up on my screen, I debated whether to answer, but something told me to hit accept.

She – let’s call her Mrs. S.- enthusiastically greeted me. I thought I was being tricked. I reminded her that she already replied to me via email. That’s when she told me that a case had arisen for which she thought my husband I would be perfect.

Say what?

An expectant mother wanted a family with at least one person of color to raise her son!!! Why the exclamation points you ask? Because that’s how excited I was.

It all seemed too good to be true. We sent our adoption book and got a call back days later, as my husband recovered from emergency surgery. The mother,who we will call EM, wanted to meet us in person. She was in the south. We were in the northeast.

As luck would have it, we were headed to the region for a wedding. We added an additional stop to our trip. We flew more than two hours and drove about two hours to meet EM.

When I saw her, my heart stopped. She looked like she could be my child. When she spoke, I could hear her already-growing unconditional love for her baby. I was off-kilter.

I feel like my husband answered most of the questions and I spent the time staring at EM, telling her how beautiful she was and that she did not have to do this. No one could make her do this.

Ten years after my husband and I married,

five years after we started actively fighting infertility,

five months after we began our home study

and five weeks after we met EM, she texted us to tell us she was in labor.

EM announced the baby’s birth and my husband booked our flight. As I showered, the phone rang. I could hear the tone and I knew…

Mrs. S said EM was changing her mind and we should stay home. My husband…I don’t have the words to describe my husband, but he was not ready to hear what Mrs. S was saying.

As I tried to get through to him, EM was trying to get through to us. She told us to come, but she wanted her two days with her son – our son- because we were all family now.

We met him on a Thursday. Just moments before my husband and I smiled for our first family picture with our son, we nervously changed our first diaper at EM’s request.

I was not prepared for the moment EM was released from the hospital. I wasn’t prepared for the way her tears and anguish shook my core. I wasn’t prepared for the insensitivity: the nurse ready to wheel her out before she could kiss her sweet child, whom she arrived with, but would leave without.

Here lies the conundrum of adoption: as my heart broke for her, it swelled for us.

We left the hospital as Mother, Father and Son. We hilariously struggled to get our son snapped into his car seat, clinched our teeth as we drove with him for the first time and marveled at his presence when we made it to our hotel room.

EM had five days to change her mind. She visited our hotel twice during that time, always saying she was sure and she was ok. I wasn’t ok. I worried about her. We worried about her. I’ll worry about her for the rest of my life.

Our adoption is open. We will see her once a year. I post pictures on social media for her daily – at first willingly, then reluctantly, then happily because being a new mom and digesting adoption is hard. Our goal – her’s, mine and my husband’s – is to raise a good citizen.

In The Wild

Baby E and I have ventured into the wild over the past two days. We hit up story time one day and a lunch date the next.

If you think people watching from a restaurant is fun, try story time. Little E and I watched as the toddlers stormed in, chose their spots, took off their coats and dove into their snacks (they come with copious goodies. I was jealous). Some sang their ABCs, while others negotiated with their parents. I was sure none of them would pay attention when the “story-time-man” made his appearance. Too my surprise, I was wrong.

This guy whipped out two books and tons of terrible accents to capture the attention of these kids, and they couldn’t take their eyes off of him. They chewed, smacked and took in every word.

The best part? My baby stayed calm and was quite observant. He gave a repeat performance the following day on our lunch date. He flashed his best smile at my friend and reluctantly digested puffs and yogurt melts, while I stuffed myself with pizza and good ol’ gossip.

This is huge for me. I’m feeling more confident and I pray that when my baby melts down, I’ll take it in stride. I’m attempting to make sure that we get out at least three times a week. I’d prefer for him to see some other kids during most of those outings. If we master exploration, I may never want to return to work again. We had so much fun.

Here’s what seems to work for us thus far:

  1. Traveling after the afternoon bottle
  2. SNACKS: I’m transitioning from all bottles all the time, so this takes some getting used to for me. I don’t have to pump him with formula. I can give him a few puffs and he’s cool. Things should get more fun when he eats more things, but we’re just learning to chew at the moment.
  3. My thumb: Sure, I pack teething toys for the boy, but he prefers my thumb. So…yeah…as long as those little teeth don’t poke me, I let him have at it.