I’m a lawyer, but I’m still terrified by the police.

About two years ago, I experienced police intimidation firsthand. Prior to that date, I had only been pulled over by a cop once and didn’t actually get a ticket because he didn’t have his speed gun out to know how fast I was going. (#Blessed.) I had been in the car once before when my husband got a speeding ticket, but it happened in Macon, Georgia, a city with a significant black population, and the cop was black too. These things make a difference. The cop was brusque, but not threatening.

This time was different. We were road tripping our way back from Austin, Texas for a friend’s birthday. We had reached the area between Austin and Houston where the highway dwindles down to two lanes on each side, and we passed more cows and horses than other cars. Gerald was speeding, and so we weren’t surprised when we got pulled over by the state trooper. But the events that unfolded will haunt me forever.
ST: “License and registration, please.”
G: “Sure, officer. I need to get them out of my glove compartment, is that okay?”
ST: “I don’t know why you’re asking me.”
G: “I just want to make sure you know what I’m doing, officer.” (gets out license and registration) “May I ask why I’m getting pulled over?”
ST: “Sir, get out of the car.”
G: “Sure, I just want to know why I’m being pulled over.”
At this point, things escalated. The cop went from zero to raging maniac instantaneously, he was yelling so loudly and intensely that he was damn near frothing at the mouth. “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR RIGHT GODDAMN NOW!” Gerald opened the door and before he could get one foot on the ground, the cop put him in a bear hug and hauled him out onto the ground. “YOU’RE RESISTING ARREST! STOP RESISTING!” In a flash, he had handcuffed Gerald, frog marched him to the squad car and slammed him face down onto its hood.
All I could do was scream silently, inside.
At this point, the state trooper’s buddy had pulled up to the scene. He put Gerald in the back of the squad car and the “arresting” officer (I put that in quotes because you’ll notice the conspicuous absence of Miranda rights recitation) came back to talk to me. Now that he had established dominance he was calm, confident, in charge of himself again. He grinned at me jovially, putting all his pearly whites on display and smacking on a piece of chewing gum like it was the only sustenance given to a starving man.
He turned on his good ol’ boy charm, asking me how I was doing, if I was in trouble, if Gerald was on drugs and that was why Gerald was so “agitated”. “If he would just act reasonably like you, this could have all been avoided,” he declared. The words stung, given the fact that at no point had Gerald raised his voice or pulled a punch–he merely had the audacity to exercise his Constitutional rights and ask the officer why he was being detained. Meanwhile, my so called reasonableness was me doing my best impression of a docile house slave in attempt to get us both out of the situation alive and uninjured. After some time of back and forth–it felt like an eternity, but the clock showed just 45 minutes–they let Gerald go and wrote a ticket for speeding, something which could have been done without ever having him out of the car.
I’ll be the first to admit that this account is an approximation of what happened. I was so afraid for my husband’s life that I couldn’t think straight. You can argue all you want about how we should have handled the situation. But there’s the law, and then there’s real life. When you’re on an unpopulated road in the middle of nowhere, facing down a power tripping cop with a gun, you do what you have to do to survive. In that moment, I was more concerned about not watching my husband bleed out on the side of the road than I was recording the incident and getting the officer’s name and badge number. So once again, the bad apple gets away with it. But I wake up next to my husband, whole and well, every day so I have no regrets about how I handled the situation.
The coda to this story is a conversation I had a few weeks ago at the hair salon. Much like barbershops, beauty salons are a place for all types of conversations. One of the other clients in the shop that day was a black, female police officer. She was talking about her job and of course that led the dialogue back to police brutality. I shared a brief version of the story above and was met with unbridled skepticism. She interrogated me about the details, damn near accused me of lying, and told me that we should have just complied without questioning because “Miranda rights are just what they show on television. Nobody really does it in real life.”
I understand that being a police officer is a hard job. They deal with people in crisis situations and people are rarely happy to see you–at best, you arrived just in time to stop something horrible from happening to them. Usually, the police show up after something terrible has occurred, or to tell people that they’re doing something wrong. But it’s also a job that they knowingly chose. And because police officers literally hold the power of life and death, it’s their responsibility to be better than the average person. More empathetic. More thoughtful. More careful. A barista who’s having a bad day can’t do anything worse than screw up your coffee order. A cop who’s having a bad day can kill you. Yes, they put their lives on the line. But it’s a hazard of the profession that they chose. Given these unique circumstances of the job, I don’t feel bad for cops who complain about their public image problem. They’re worried about popularity. We civilians are afraid for our lives.
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Idle hands are the devil’s workshop

You remember that old saying? As I’ve grown up, I see it’s true. When you’re living right, you literally don’t have the time to be up to no good. I honestly  wish I had the time to be in somebody else’s business. This is my typical weekday:

  • 7:00a: Wake up, get dressed
  • 7:45am- Drive to work. Listen to music or a podcast.
  • 8:30am-5:30pm Work. I always take a lunch break because there’s no way I’d survive an open office set up without it. But I actually do work at work. It’s not crazy hectic like it was at my old firm, but I keep busy.
  • 5:30pm- Drive home in traffic. More music/podcasts.
  • 6:30-8pm: Assuming I meal prepped over the weekend like I was supposed to, this is my time to myself since DH usually gets home a little later. I do a work out, browse the internet, etc.
  • 8-10pm: Eat dinner, watch tv with hubs, read a few chapters.
  • 10-11pm: I shower and do my nighttime beauty routine, and read a few chapters to wind down before bed.

Now look at this schedule and please tell me, where in the world do I have time to worry about anybody that’s not me or mine? Some of y’all out here can’t be living right. It takes a LOT of time to strive at a career, maintain a relationship, cook healthy meals, stay in shape, and de-stress so you don’t go crazy. And yes, I’d have more free time if I was single but not that much more free time because I have hobbies. I’d read, write in my journal, probably work out more, go to the movies, hang with my girlfriends, travel and find other ways to fill up that time real quick.

I guess some folks really don’t have anything better to do.

Capricorn Season

Hey y’all. It’s that time of year again, the best time of every year- Capricorn season! From December 22 to January 19, the world is blessed with the birth and celebration of individuals who are the leaders of the zodiac. Strong, persistent, visionary, and classic are all words that capture the Capricorn mystique. Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Diane von Furstenberg, Denzel Washington, Ellen Degeneres, and the G.O.A.T. himself, Muhammad Ali, are all Capricorns. Not to mention that Christmas and New Year’s both fall during this time. It’s magical!

I wouldn’t say I’m a die hard astrologist– but more than any Meyers-Briggs personality test or Buzzfeed quiz, the Capricorn profile fits me 100%. And this year my energy is different. I don’t know if it’s the Saturn return to Capricorn, turning 30 and not giving a f*ck, or having survived a full year of the worst President we’ve ever had along with peak White Foolishness, but this year my energy is different. I’m trying to elevate myself in every way and I’m prepared to make radical changes to do so. I want to be happy and healthy from now through the rest of my life so I can’t keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. I’m pulling on my goat spirit of motivation to scale my personal mountains because nobody else can do it for me.

2018, you’ve been warned.

#MOOD: Above it all.

Shine Time

“All this good, I don’t feel bad for it. When you see me smile, you can’t be mad it.” #Mood

2017 has been a hell of a year. Our government may be in shambles but God is faithful, and in the midst of the chaos He brought me safely through a natural disaster and blessed me with what? A NEW JOB! GLORAAAYYYYYYY!

 

The BIble says there is a time to sow and a time to reap. I feel like I’ve been in sowing season for a mighty long time but now I’m finally getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor. PEr my plausible deniability policy, I won’t be too specific about my new position, but I can give a general idea. I’ve left the drudgery of document review and the crushing grind of private practice for the sweet Elysian fields of public interest law. No job is perfect–serving a population that is lower income and generally less sophisticated about the law has its own unique challenges. But the sense of fulfillment I get from doing my job more than makes up for it. I have a female boss who’s really laid back, nice coworkers (I finally see how people have work friends!), pay commensurate with my qualifications and benefits. Your girl has paid vacation, sick days, and holidays, y’all! Plus health and life insurance! It’s everything that I was praying for. Can I get an amen?!?

Things are doing better on the family front too. I’m pulling back on babying my parents, so I gave we flew in on Monday afternoon and back out on Friday evening, to have the weekend to recover. I only had one visit with each parent and they didn’t die, LOL. My grandparents are clearly getting older so I make a point of seeing them when I can. They’re such a joy and I don’t want to have any regrets of not spending time with them when they pass. I saw my younger cousins for the first time in a couple years too. They’re all in college and think they’re grown and I can’t cope…I’m pretending they will all go from kindergarten to gainfully employed, happily married adults. Alcohol? $ex? Nope nope nope, I don’t know about any of that.

I stayed over at my big sister’s new house, which was #goals. It’s beautiful. Hardwood floors, new appliances, three bedrooms, a patio, and a basement that’s ready to be converted into a den or an apartment. I can’t even be jealous because I’m so happy for her. She’s been wanting her own home for several years now, and their homebuying process was fraught with tales of undisclosed defects and mold. So much mold at literally every place they liked. She and her husband are both teachers and wear themselves out doing right by those devil spawn known as middle schoolers. It was great to see how relaxed and comfy they are at home.

Now that my career is finally starting to go where I want it to go, I can think about the things I want from my personal life. Namely, kids and house. Over the Thanksgiving break, DH* and I had a frank conversation about our baby timeline and finances. We hope to start looking for a house by the end of next year (because with both of us working full time it will probably take another year to find one we want), so it’s time to redo the budget and tighten our belts. I’m not disclosing my baby timeline because I don’t need  y’all (and yes I mean specific people, you know who you are) getting all excited about the thought of Baby J.D. before I’m good and ready. I need some more time. But I’m glad to be settled enough that the thought of having a child is only somewhat terrifying, rather than the worst thing that could happen to me. 🙂

 

*DH = dear husband. I’m tired of writing hubs so I’m trying something new.

Put your name on it

DISCLAIMER: The below is not intended as legal advice or counsel and should not be followed as such. If you have an intellectual property law issue, consult with an attorney because this blog post does qualify as legal representation and is written for informational and entertainment purposes only.

I’ve seen it time and again. A hashtag or tweet goes viral, white people start making money off of it, and a Black person pops up to say “Hey, I did that first! Where’s my credit?” Then I sigh deeply, and make this face:

 

It’s true that most people have no legal training. But I didn’t think you needed to go to law school to understand that if you get a product or service for free, YOU are what’s for sale. So that means: Snapchat owns your snaps. Instagram owns your ‘grams. Twitter owns your tweets. Facebook owns your statuses, photos, videos, messages, and whatever else you put on there. There’s also this neat thing called “the public domain”. Anything that isn’t copyrighted is part of the public domain, and can be used by anyone, whether or not they give you credit.

Not everything can be protected under intellectual property, and there are three different layers. A copyright protects the original expression of an artistic work, e.g. a book. A trademark protects a brand name and accompanying logos. Both “Coca-Cola”,and the cursive script it’s written in are trademarks. Patents protect physical inventions that make the required “innovative leap” from already existing devices.

So how does this apply to social media. Hashtags are not copyrightable because they don’t qualify as an artistic work. A poem in your Facebook status could be copyrighted, however. Hashtags can be trademarked, but only if you’re using them to sell goods as part of a business (ie, coffee mugs or t-shirts). The business part is important, because that’s what tripped up the creator of #BlackGirlMagic. (In my opinion, the fact that her shirts said “Black girls are…magic!” rather than #BlackGirlMagic is also part of it).

Even if you have a trademark, you can’t stop other people from using the hashtag in their tweets. For instance, a Black woman came up with the “Me Too” sexual assault awareness campaign ten years ago. She wrote a blog post about but didn’t get the credit. In my opinion, she has no right to be mad. If she had a website or a nonprofit called “Me Too”, then fine. But social media has a very short half life. When I googled”me too sexual assault”, Ms. Burke’s blog wasn’t even on the first page of my Google results (and let’s be real, nobody goes past the first page unless it’s for a school assignment). Get your SEO search together and hush. Some things you have to be okay with not getting credit for. There’s so much information out there that you’re basically shouting into a void unless you take proactive steps to stand out.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. The money is all in the execution. If your tweet goes viral on social media, your best bet is to go write a buy the website domain name, blog about it, and start selling something with your hashtag on it. (Shout out to the women who came up with #BlackLivesMatter and started an actual foundation.) Otherwise, a random white person will swoop in and start profiting off of it. Black Twitter hasn’t been just us since about 2013 so conduct yourselves accordingly. Otherwise you’re going to be scrolling through your timeline and see an ad with the hashtag you wrote on it going, “Hey! I thought of that!”

 

LeToya Luckett is a hidden treasure

It seems like every year, there are fewer and fewer artists I’m really checking for. Maybe it’s because as I get older, I’m less concerned with the new club jam and prefer music that has longevity. The artists I loved as a child who were considered “old school” (Anita Baker, Earth Wind & Fire, etc) are still in my regular rotation. Now the acts I loved in middle school are considered throwbacks and the music industry has undergone a sea change.

One thing I always have been, and forever will be, is an R&B junkie. Right now, the culture is all about trap music and besides Beyonce and Trey Songz, there’s not much R&B to speak of. John Legend drops a rehash of second album every few years, and Anthony Hamilton is still making his trademark gospel love songs. But there are no true successors to singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, who gave us songs to dance to, power ballads, and everything in between. Mariah Carey can deliver a hit, but she very much straddles the line between pop and R&B. While she’s good for featuring a rapper (as evidenced by her recent collaboration with YG), you’ll never get anything close to a trap beat from Ms. Carey. But Ms. Luckett, on the other hand? She’ll bring the fire.

 

LeToya Luckett was, and remains, the most underrated member of Destiny’s Child. LaTavia pretty much fell off the face of the earth, nobody expected much from Michelle, and Kelly started getting her just due when she released her third solo album in 2011. However, LeToya’s lack of notoriety in the music world is partially her own fault. She released a solid debut album in 2006 which had a fairly popular single with Slim Thug (“She Don’t“), but otherwise was largely forgotten by everyone except me. 2009’s Lady Love was better because it established that LeToya was giving up on pop crossover songs and committing to the R&B genre. In the 8 years between albums LeToya has acted in three movies, three tv shows, and several gospel plays. While Kelly and Beyonce have both dabbled in acting, since Destiny’s Child final split they consistently put out albums every 2-3 years.

Still, Back 2 Life was worth the wait. LeToya has delivered a quintessential R&B album that’s fun, relatable, catchy, and easy to sing along to. It’s current, but LeToya doesn’t just mimic the trends. She takes the elements that work with her sound and makes them her own. She also put her acting skills to use by tying together the music videos for her three singles (Back 2 Life, Used To, In the Name of Love) and created a mini movie. LeToya clearly put a lot of thought, effort, and intentionality behind this album and it shows. If you like good music, give it a try!