I’m Running For Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia! #goodforgood

CAMPAIGN POSTER

Wait… you’re running for what?

I’m running for the office of Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia. No, it’s not a “real” office. West Virginia wasn’t a “real” state before we decided we were going to be on June 20, 1863. I’m creating this office – by speaking it into existence – to address real issues.

As Social Media Senator, my job will be to aggregate the voices of the people – as expressed in the “digital district” of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels – to decision makers in state and national government, and to show the people the results of my “lobbying” efforts through a transparent, social media-driven process.

Watch my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OMXIK8VR6M&feature=youtu.be

How do you “win”?

In order to win the “election,” I need you to visit my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/crystalgoodnet, and sign my petition! I need at least one vote from every county, and representation from expatriates (native West Virginians currently living outside the state) and anyone that cares about West Virginia! 

What is the “point” of your campaign?

The most recent election showed us that West Virginia is ready for a change! I believe nothing is going to change until we change the conversation. The primary goal of my campaign is to leverage the power of social media for civic engagement on a mass scale.

There is a silent majority of West Virginians who care about the future of our state, but believe that they can’t make a difference in the political process. And, in a way, they’re correct. Right now, it’s a full time job to be a good citizen! Most folks don’t have time to go down to the capitol and lobby, or write their representatives about every issue they care about. Furthermore, there’s no channel for citizens to introduce new ideas into the process – we can only say “yes” or “no.”

I want to create an online “digital commons” where people can meet, converse, and express their ideas on issues that impact West Virginia’s future. I will aggregate those ideas, take them to the decision makers in Charleston and Washington, DC, and then use social media to educate the public about what actions their representatives decide to take.

What’s your platform?

The people are tired of yes or no, Republican or Democrat, pro this or anti that. I’m for GOOD ideas that move West Virginia forward. With that in mind, I support:

Technology – increasing access to it, and leveraging it to help people participate in the political process

New Industry – to revitalize our state’s economy

Civic Engagement – bringing the process to the people and encouraging ALL West Virginians to make their voices heard

Human rights – access to clean and safe drinking water

How will you “take office” after you win?

Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

In other words, I’ll speak it into being, and it will be so. Stick with me and see what happens next!

Please support the #GOODFORGOOD campaign: 

(1) Like my Facebook page (facebook.com/crystalgoodnet) and share the campaign videos and pictures I post!

(2) VOTE FOR ME by adding your name to this action.

(3) Donate to my campaign – even $5 would be a HUGE help. Your donation goes to spread the word about this campaign and help us build the infrastructure needed to execute on developing the digital district “Congress of Ideas”.
If you have any questions please contact our Good For Good campaign manager, Courtney Forbes 304-767-0093 or goodforgoodwv@gmail.com
Keep Good,
Crystal 

good for good

Affrilachian poet brings sympathy toward nature

How and Who can “Vote” in the Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia “election”?

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Who can“vote”?   ANYONE who cares about West Virginia!

How do you “vote”?  Click and share this link:  https://actionnetwork.org/forms/good-for-good-crystal-good-for-wv-facebook-senator

Now have a listen to my idea and decide if you are Good For Good! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OMXIK8VR6M&feature=youtu.be

Polls are open 24-hrs a day until April 2, 5:00PM. No voter ID required.

Join the conversation. We appreciate the #goodforgood tweets and Facebook engagement.

business card

Photos by Chris Gosses
Campaign image and design by Mark Wolfe

Appalachianish

Have you heard of the new ABC TV Show Blackish ?  In my Twitter, Facebook and list serve worlds it’s a frequent topic.  The show is loved and hated. It’s debated.  And, it’s creating dialogue that challenges our pop and media cultures.

Blackish is about a upper-middle class “black” family, with a father who is intent on raising his kids with some sense of black cultural identity. This comes in the face of contradictions and obstacles from various directions that insist his children be color-blind. Blackish is a good sitcom, I’m a fan. It hits home for me. blackish-e1410440798804

The show looks right into stereotypes not creating them – at least not to me. Blackish for the most part is superficially similar to parts of my life.  I connect to the show. I understand what it’s like to be the shows wife whose name is “Rainbow” all too well; to be the butt of family jokes on my blackness, my whiteness – or lack thereof.  I know what it’s like to live in a predominately “white” community and raise “black” children with a “black” man. My kids say they have a black and white mom. The standing joke is I order black but cook white.

I could give Rainbow a few tips, every now and then. Because you see there’s a lot more to my story that makes me very distinct from Rainbow’s family, the Huxtable’s or the Brady’s. You see, I’m West Virginian, a Mountaineer, as we say (Yes even if you went to Marshall University, you‘re still a Mountaineer, but that’s a whole different comedy)

Blackish challenges me to think about the images Hollywood portrays. Would Hollywood or Broadway writers even believe or imagine a professional black “hillbilly” female as the lead of a show or play? I doubt it.  But if we remove skin-color and all it’s superficiality and just imagine a upper middle class Appalachian family on your Thursday night sitcom, or in a Broadway play, it would seem far-fetched if not impossible.

I look at the world very differently and I feel stereotypes from many  different angels.  I know they come in black and white, in shades of class. The greatest of these stereotypes and experiences I feel is often in my Appalachian-ness.

“Are there really black people in West Virginia?”

“You sure are pretty to be from West Virginia.”

Ish- like that.

Most Americans impress me when they know that West Virginia is a state. There are many unknown facts about West Virginia that inform our American identities and icons.  For example, did you know many of the American cultural icons are Affrilachian (African American Appalachian) from TD Jakes, to Henry Lois Gates, Bill Withers and Steve Harvey and the famous Bricktop. They are not just Appalachian but with roots in West Virginia, my home state who left West Virginia, with all their teeth in tact. In fact, have you seen Steve Harvey’s teeth? He’s got the best choppers in the business.

Entertainment is one way for those living in Appalachia to get out of Appalachia. The list is long of folks who have contributed to the cultural landscape of America and equally long is the list of cartoon, sub-plots, characters and TV shows that perpetuate a stereotype of Appalachia as backwoods, poor, toothless and racists.

Entertainment is also an escape for those of us living in Appalachia to have a voice that reaches a broader audience. The problem, our stories rarely meet mainstream ideas of culture and if they do they don’t always foster a positive wider perspective of the Appalachian identity.

We need an Appalachianish.

In my world as an entrepreneur, poet and perhaps a bit of a local gadfly I can’t find any examples of a strong Appalachian family in pop culture.  The Clampets certainly don’t count. Although they do reflect some of the positive aspects of Appalachia it’s always as a sidebar to their ignorance and backwardness. A black Appalachian family?  Never. Not yet.

Yet, our American history is full of  examples of black Appalachian families. Legends like Nina Simone and Nikki Giovanni represent a Appalachian identity, place and family structures that have yet to be embraced as Appalachian heritage. In fact I think America would rather not embrace these cultural icons as an Appalachian. It might make them too complex. It doesn’t fit the mold of the identities with which people are familiar and comfortable.

The terrain to write new Appalachian American stories is a vast and wide as a mountain top removal site (did you know that some MTR mines like the Hobbit mine are as large at Manhattan?).  It seems impossible, too far-fetched to create a dialogue about the prosperity of Appalachia, its opportunity about as far-fetched as seeing a professional “Black” family on TV (post Cosby) yet that just what Blackish is giving us. In that, it’s not to far-fetched to expect to see Appalachian culture on display minus a Buckwild, Hew Haw or Deliverance theme one day on TV.

Shows like Blackish are challenging what it means to American in America.

As I listen to the social media debate about this show I see that many audiences are truly missing what this type of positive family imagery creates across cultures, how it informs underexposed white Americans that black American families are not all alike and that the American dream is for everyone. Blackish creates aspirations and supports the idea of healthy families and prosperity. It challenge excuses and seeks to create these ambitions for all families.

Black affluence is unsettling and even threatening to some Americans, just as Appalachian affluence threatens.  I’ll speculate here but I would wager this perceived “threat” of black wealth was the real reason the thriving black suburb of Tulsa, Greenwood, was literally bombed and burned to the ground by a “white” mob.

We are at tragic crossroads in America.  We can no longer continue to be distracted with the political conflicts of race, gender, religion and sexual preferences, while ignoring the universal needs of healthy families and the environmental issues around clean WATER.

Who gives a Ish what race you are or where you are from if you can’t drink water.

Ebola needs clean water to be eradicated. I can go on.  “Cause EVERYBODY needs clean water.

I don’t care what cultural identity you claim, or don’t. Raven Simone can be whatever the hecks she wants to be, she’s still a RICH American but and even she can’t escape the question of race or the environmental consequences of our energy extraction culture. As we say in in West Virginia, Well… that’s a deep subject. 

Fairy tales rarely come out of Appalachia but stereotypes often do and the latest adaptation of the James Dickey novel “Deliverance” to a Broadway play is a perfect example of how easy it is for others to profit from an Appalachian slander.

deliverance

The play presented by Godlight Theatre Company is described as an adventurous canoe trip that spirals into a nightmare of horror and murder. Men stalk and are stalked by other men and the treacherous river becomes a graveyard for those without the strength or the luck to survive.

We all know what Deliverance is about and why it appeals, then and now, to American audiences – it takes extreme, slandered generalizations about an “other“ or a “them“, so that “we“ can judge “them” and feel better about ourselves.

Will we ever get out of our fear of positive sitcoms like Blackish or our fear of exploring the complexities of Appalachia as a way to see our American identities as a collective whole?

Deliverance on the stage does nothing for West Virginia, or Georgia, where the movie was actually shot, at least not my West By God Virginia self.  In fact, I fear it may hurt our currently healthy tourism industry, as well as hinder our ability to attract young professionals and families of various backgrounds.  Dickey’s novel is brilliant but it’s a shame that the film and it impressions have fueled a fear of West Virginia and other parts of the South, instead of highlighting the riches that are here too. To quote a line from Deliverance:

“I just believe,’ he said, ‘that the whole thing is going to be reduced to the human body, once and for all. I want to be ready…. I think the machines are going to fail, the political systems are going to fail, and a few men are going to take to the hills and start over….

Start over. When America is ready to start over and craves space and landscape, the mountains I see today will be more valuable than all the wealth coal has produced.  But will there be any hills or clean water? That story will be left for another poet to tell, perhaps in Appalachianish.

Are My Hands Clean?

The song, Are My Hands Clean from Sweet Honey and the Rock, tells the story of the making of a shirt from the picking of cotton to its purchase at Sears and all stops in between. It’s a song that helps you realize the human cost of where your clothes come from and asks, are your hands clean?

Watch video here

To a native of the heart of Appalachia like me, the song calls to mind how easy it is to forget when you flip your light switch, where your power comes from and the generally unknown and conveniently overlooked journey of coal.

Coal’s journey often begins in impoverished communities like Mingo County, West Virginia, where the chamber of commerce is made entirely of coal. Ironically, the sign in front reads, “Home of the Billion Dollar Coal Field”.

CG-SliderImages-LG-CleanHands-1

During the “boom years” in southern West Virginia several communities of educated and affluent black folks flourished. The boom eventually busted with the advent of Mountain Top Removal (MTR) or strip mining. In MTR mining the costly undertaking of messy work of digging underground is replaced by decapitating the mountains leaving landscapes that look more like the Moon than Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

Upon extraction the coal is hauled away to be cleaned by chemicals. These coal cleaning chemicals, like the thousands of other industrial products are stored across America are in tanks. If storage tanks are left unregulated, they could present a future threat to the communities around them.

The Elk is the main water source for 300,000 people including the Governor as well as the majority of West Virginia’s black residents.

On January 9, 2014 in Charleston, West Virginia, a tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked a chemical called MCHM into the Elk River. The Elk is the main water source for 300,000 people including the Governor as well as the majority of West Virginia’s black residents. For several days we adapted and overcame the annoyance and dangers, like our forebears did for generations. Although the water ban has lifted many of us remain skeptical and fear the most fundamental resource for life.

This industrial “accident” in West Virginia can become ground zero for America’s renewable energy conversations, debates and solutions, especially as it relates to job opportunities, education and breaking poverty cycles.

This region has been plagued by a mono or duo-economy and an equally entrenched allegiance to this perilous economic state.

This region has been plagued by a mono or duo-economy and an equally entrenched allegiance to this perilous economic state. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunities in Appalachia and across America with a eye on renewable energy innovation. There is also opportunity for energy leadership diversity in these traditional industries.

My alma mater, West Virginia State University, is an HBCU neighboring a chemical plant that once produced one of the world’s deadliest chemicals – MIC, of Bhopal India fame. I often wonder if African Americans had been more involved with environmental activism would that plant have been built beside our institution? I wonder where are they now?

Our history is expressed in the coal industry tag line “COAL- It keeps the lights on!” Indeed it has, but the future belongs to diverse energy strategies that can wash our hands for more entrepreneurs, advocates and leaders whose hands are clean.

A Picture By DJ D Nice Is Worth A 1000 Verses

It is foolish to say we are destroying the earth ~ cause everything we’re doing destroys us first.

– KRS ONE, The Gospel of Hip Hop

Crystal and the 9th grade crew, with boom box
Me and my 9th grade crew, with boom box

I was in the 9th grade when I first heard “Self Destruction” produced by KRS-One and D-Nice, members of the iconic hip hop group Boogie Down Productions. The charity single became the anthem of the Stop the Violence Movement, started in response to violence in the hip hop and African American communities.

Click here to read more at OHVEC.

Boom Boom The Poem Video

First came the Boom a video shot by Jeff Getner
and then the Boom Boom shot by Paul Corbit Brown and edited by The Web Theater.

The Web Theater

I hope you will watch these videos and be moved to share your voice in the dialogue for environmental “rights” and women’s “rights”.

One poem at a time. Small things matter….

Boom Boom,
Crystal 

Poem In Progress

I’ve been “crowd-sourcing” this poem Facebook and invite your edits. Please feel to post your thoughts, suggestions or rejections. I welcome your perspective.
crystal@crystalgood.net

POEM IN PROGRESS

POWER TO THE PEOPLE.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE he chants.
Seventeen times
the age of a son.

It is his prayer a tarry of sorts
for the seventeen phone call he has yet to dial,
the seventeen games he didn’t attend,
the seventeen birthday cards he never sent.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
seventeen times he chants mourning
the death of someone else’s son – 2012
dead at seventeen.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

He weeps his own loss, for what it costs, he chants.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
with his fist held high, he chants in the BLACK rally call.
Drawl string hoodie, he knows he is in a race.

He shouts it louder & LOUDER seventeen times to forgive himself for missing seventeen years.
How could I? He cries.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

Signature on the petition – his name, reminding him of his fathers name
He shouts POWER TO THE PEOPLE in outrage and change.
He stands alone among thousands of fathers remembering the most unthinkable of tragedies,
in the dead
this dad, this beat…
POWER TO THE PEOPLE

This is his prayer for protection — to his own, seventeen times he calls it out.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE

He stops and pulls out his phone, he starts to follow, his own.
Reading seventeen times

It could have been me #justicefortrayvon

POWER TO THE PEOPLE he takes a step before he starts to run – he just wants to go home

It Started In A Car Ride

I wrote my first poem around age 12, I think. I rode my first motorcycle at age 8, I’m sure. I love twists and turns, throttle and words.

I’ve always been driven with a journalist sort of mind. I have always known I would write and be in these mountains, these West Virginia mountains. Even though as a girl I dreamed of myself as a writer – a war corresponded, a fashion editor, a script writer – I wanted to be interviewed on Merv Griffith as a writer perhaps with my fellow West Virginian Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton (in fact that was the last time I remember watching Merv was when Mary won) I imagined Merv would ask me about where I’m from and I would share all my ideas and then, he would complement me on my shoes.

The idea of being a poet came later.

I’ve learned sometimes writing can be prophetic. As an adult poet I was given the assignment to write about quantum physics and Randy Moss (the West Virginia native all-pro football player it didn’t turn into a book, not quite but the idea, or part of it is a TEDx Talk (for now) http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u2ocBoGBWSo.

My journey to merge these two topics – Moss and Quantum Physics, in a poem is as windy as the road from Richmond, VA to Charleston WV. It’s an over the mountain through the woods kind of story about Affrailachia and following your dreams and it started — long before I knew I would write poetry – or my first book Valley Girl that I would dedicate to the folks who taught me how to drive.

It started in a car ride.

When I think of myself between the ages 15-16 my main priority was getting the privilege to drive — legally.

Growing up in West Virginia I knew the freedom of being on a go-cart or a four wheeler. I knew what it felt like steer a boat and gallop a horse. From mopeds to the lawn mower. I knew I liked to drive – but the real freedom I craved was in a car.

My Daddy – a man I wouldn’t meet until age 12 and then again at age 15 when I was delivered to him at gas station somewhere between Tallahassee and Richmond, VA. My Dad said I was just like my Momma – I could drive anything. I have no memory of them together but in this statement I knew he knew my Momma well.

He shared this after I hopped out of my Granddaddy’s Cadillac with more suitcase than could fit into his 4 cylinder no air-conditioning Chevrolet. That day, my Dad let me take the wheel of his Chevy. I was 15 — it was illegal but it was his way of offering me what he had – the keys. For me I knew right then we were kindred spirits– my Daddy gave me freedom and a highway. He calls me a Gypsy to this day, Gypsy Girl.

My oldest son is 15 (he’s now 18 geez, this blog post took me a long time). I let him drive – with his permit – it’s legal. My son is the same age when I first fell in love and found a connection with God and with the mountains. That love has stayed with me.

I’m teaching my son to drive now — check your rear viewon occasion. Signal, it’s polite. You’re too close to the curb. Driving is a life metaphor.

They say boys pick women like their mother. My son has a girlfriend. She’s bright, beautiful — and biracial (he has a different girlfriend since the time this was written but, still bright, beautiful and biracial). I’m afraid to ask if he is in-love so while I’m teaching him to drive I say things like keep your eyes on the road, wear your seat belt, no texting even at the stoplight. I haven’t asked him, can she drive?

I can drive.

Two months after I turned 16 after living with my father for 8 moths — I decided to go home to West Virginia. I had a burning desire to be with my mother and younger sisters. I missed the familiarity of my town – the railroad tracks, Dairy Queen Mister Misty’s (grape and cherry mixed together), and eating dinner at least three of my neighbor’s houses. I have never been shy about getting my plate and as model-skinny as I was back then my bottomless pit eating was a neighborhood joke. I would always arrive at my neighbor’s doorstep hungry and barefoot

I grew up in the suburbs of sorts in a nice quiet town – middle class. At my Mother’s house I certainly had plenty of food and shoes – in fact I had two closets – but I’ve always like to feel the earth underfoot, barefoot.

When I decided to “go home”. My mother had divorced my step-father– and I had transitioned in my town from mixed girl to a black girl. At least this was the report from my friends in St. Albans, West Virginia – I was black, now.

I had a new style and confidence. This attitude was different from what I had learned as a model in New York. I started modeling at 12 and by 15 I had already worked for major fashion designers – but returning home from Richmond, with my Dad, I had learned a new walk and I carried with me the new rhythms of hip hop and coconut hair lotions.

I finally learned to do my hair.

While living with my Dad I often took the train from Richmond to Charleston on these yearnings be back home — I was always on a mission to get back to West Virginia. In my Richmond high school (Meadowbrook) the kids talked as if West Virginia was like some other planet. I’ve learned since most of the world does too. I couldn’t wait to drive. To be able to get myself from here to there on my own time.

At my Dad’s I had one pair of tennis shoes — I needed a new coat and I knew that all the amenities for a teenage girl – especially a teenage girl that had been a professional model in New York were at my mother’s house. My father certainly provided what I needed — a roof, food and love but he struggled to provide me with Clinique lip-gloss and moisturizer and the connectivity of fashion and fun. At my mother’s I always had a spread of new clothes, shopping and girl time.

I needed train fare. So, I got a job. Not a modeling job but as a telephone sales operator job at Olin Mills. I landed the job sharing my photography vocabulary — I explained that I had worked with Ralphs Lauren and such. I imagine they thought I was lying – they just needed me to answer to call people and sell their photo packages. I sold them and I sold them well – I made the hour’s fun pass by practicing different accents and characters on the phone.

It was at Olin Mills that I met a woman who was from West Virginia, my supervisor. She and I traded West Virginia stories. Our conversation made me miss home – not just lip-gloss. We talked about the beauty of the mountains, waterfalls and the Mountaineers. I shared about the long walks I would take with friends and my baton twirling.

One day she said she was going home. Without hesitation or permission from my mother or my father I asked for a ride. She said sure and that there would be no charge. I was glad to save my money – I was ready to go shopping.

I finally asked my Dad – he agreed – and I painted a very reliable picture of the woman I had been working with for two weeks. My father dropped me off in the parking lot to meet my supervisor. I remember it well – he was wearing tube sock and dress shoes with shorts. I was teenager and embarrassed at his attire – and then I looked the car I would be riding in for the next 8 hrs.

It was an old car – big like a Delta 88 with Bondo and no bumper. It was in this car that I had a life-changing trip home.

My supervisor was sitting with Jack – her husband in the front seat. I call him Jack because the two of them reminded me of the riddle –

“Jack Sprat could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean,

And so betwixt the two of them

They licked the platter clean”

Jack was the skinniest man I had ever seen and she was the biggest. She must have been over 300 pounds. He was not only skinny but the mean – his meanness I discovered with ever turn of the car – he told her about her weight the way she shifted the car. There are a lot of turns between Richmond and Charleston. It’s a windy road.

I was anxious to get home and nothing was going to stop me. Not this car or the puppies I discovered I would be sharing the back seat with.

I waved good bye to my Dad and noticed the back seat floor board was rusted – there was a big hole and you could see the road. This was dangerous – certainly for me but for the puppies roaming. I discovered I would be traveling with a litter of puppies. It was my job to keep them from the hole in the floor board.

I knew this was going to be a long ride home.

Sharing a back seat with puppies was cute until they peed – or worse pooped. Luckily the car broke down – at least three times. I say luckily because during these breakdowns I was able to clean the car and me up. Jack was cruel – he chastised his wife for everything. I cringed at the cruelty and clung to those innocent puppies they offered me comfort. He was also uncomfortable that I was Black, I could feel it. My supervisor refused to let him say nigger even though I knew it was sitting there like another passenger on his tongue

I took my mind home to the dogwood tree in my mother’s front yard – wandered myself back to New York City and Central Park. In that ride I dreamed of being a scientist of exploring things that I could not see. I had plenty of places to go in my mind and I imagined one day I would be driving myself in a fine, fast and fancy car.

The closer we approached Charleston, I realized my mother would be furious at my Dad for letting me take this journey with Jack and his wife. The car by this time was smoking. As soon as I saw West Virginias gilded gold dome capitol glowing like a beaming beacon, I knew I had made it!

They dropped me at the Go-mart. I stood at the pay phone with my bag, smelling like dog, hungry.

I was home.

I had grown up in what is known as the Kanawha Valley, I knew the seasons of life. I knew you had to cross bridges daily. For me then and now those bridges represent how you get over the challenges of life. My journey with Jack, his wife and the puppies was no different. It was full of challenges – race, socio-economic, landscape – but was driven by the knowing and safety of home.

My Dad called to make sure I had made it home. He shared that he too was going to be coming home. He was a native West Virginian who had spread his wings in Richmond and had now decided he was coming home and was going to live in Rand, WV.

I had been raised Baptists, I knew how to pray. I prayed a lot on the car ride home with Jack – for him to stop his cruel verbal attacks on his wife. I felt like my prayers were answered as soon as we hit the Welcome to WV sign. He – magically stopped.

My adolescent indeed was challenging – It intersected the American standard of beauty in modeling, my body image, being bi-racial and a host of family dysfunction and abuse.

My Mother was still young when I came home from my Dads– she had me as a teenager so often family friends helped in my rearing. I understand this now – as the mother of three the value of the village.

One family friend took me to church – this wasn’t a Baptist church as I was used to but a “spiritual” church. Here I learned about affirmations and how to think about your thinking. She taught me Bible verse and that lesson stuck with me.

For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

It was in this church that the map of my mind would alter – I felt that we all me and Jack, my father in his tube socks, my mother – all of us have something in common.

Life started connecting for me – I could see that small town and people are all interrelated like the parallel tracks from Rand to St. Albans.

I knew if I wanted to I could walk from my Mothers to my Dads new address in the unincorporated town of Rand. I knew where Rand was because – we passed it often on the way to my Mothers Credit Union.

The West Virginia breeze blew my imagination and memory often. I learned to listen to the wind. I listened as an adult as I did as a child to the wind and often heard the familiarity of the train.

Amtrak always moved the wind fast — passing like the moment when the Oprah Winfrey show called my NYC agent to request my appearance on a special show about up and coming young models. Oprah was my hero.

My Mother refused the request because I had skipped school that day – my Mother would later discover to her horror why.

I didn’t know that Oprah was going to call the day I skipped school, I was most concerned about missing my first appointment for braces. Oprah called before my mother sent me to my Grandfathers in Tallahassee with a big Cadillac – before I would be sent to my Dad’s with the Chevrolet and the roll down windows, before anyone knew of the terror I was living in.

The day Oprah called I was on my way to school — my white step-Father naked and aroused – again – said good morning to me asking for me to look, to touch him, complimenting my developing hips . He had a way of subtly reminding me that nobody would ever want my mother –because of me, because I was Black.

I walked out the front door that day wishing I could drive – and just keep driving. Instead I walked the train tracks. I’m not sure how far I walked that day, but I paused to autograph my name with a rock into a utility box on the tracks. I was going to sign books one day. Last I checked my signature is still there.

I am a writer.

Childhood dreams, like an Amtrak train, passing. I watched fashion models and thought of model trains, model ships, model behavior. Everything had specific directions and rules.

I knew that West Virginia – The Valley was special. It was healing in so many ways. I wondered if the Valley created entanglements. Was the Valley giving us all the same “spin”? I knew as that things exist in duality until you decide.

My opportunity to go on Oprah is gone. I kept the dream and hope alive until I watched the Oprah show go off air I realized that it will never be.

I grew up.

My teeth are still crooked teeth from skipping school and that missed orthodontist appointment. They remind me of windy roads – and that our childhood dreams, losses and experiences shape us – they sharpen us, they don’t define, we define us. We have that power – the power to decide how we see things.

I remembered the hole in the car floor with Jack and his wife. How I watched it like a black hole and the road moving underneath pass– how I created a future in that hole that would get me home, again and again and as many times as needed to a place that was safe and sometimes – out.

When I arrived at the Go-mart — my mother hugged me. She didn’t ask any questions then she told me about my gift. She was proud of me – of my grades of writing for the school paper for being strong and telling the truth.

She had a car for me. A blue Subaru Legacy – stick shift. It was time for me to get my license.

I drove myself, with a cool lean and my Uncle Boy in the passenger to take my drivers teat. I passed made the decision to be an organ donor then signed my name – in my mind this was my official second autograph.

The Sheriff handed me a lamented card, it said West Virginia Wild and Wonderful.

I could go and be anything. I could drive.

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Many thanks to Elizabeth Gaucher for driving this essay. I was nervous to publish because at the time it was written I was in the process of prosecuting my step-father for sex crimes against me and others. He has since been found guilty of sexual abuse and I am free to not only write what I want but free to live a richer and fuller life having accepted not only my crooked teeth but all of me.