Where Have All of The Big Mamas Gone?


Do you remember Big Mama? Every neighborhood had one.  It did not matter if you lived in the country, the city, or even in the forest, Big Mama was everywhere.  She was that one who always had good smells coming from her kitchen (and would sneak you a taste when your parents weren’t looking). She had hugs for you when you passed by her porch. Her eagle eyes saw every time you cut up and would tell it to your parents in a heartbeat.  She knew before you did, how you were doing in school. Big Mama had a good ear for listening  and words of wisdom when you needed them. And she had great stories. Big Mama was every parents’ dream. A mom could ask Big Mama to keep her kids a bit while she ran an errand or went to work and knew that they would be safe as houses. And Big Mama would gladly do so because she just loved the kids as much as they loved her. She didn’t replace Mom, Dad, or your grandparents – you  love and cherish them. But Big Mama just was a part of the village that raised us. Maybe even several generations of us. And you never knew how old she was, she just always seemed to be there.  The thing is because she loved everyone, you forgot whose Big Mama she actually was. Big Mama belonged to everyone. Now she belongs to no one because Big Mama is gone.

Where did Big Mama go? Well, she went the way of the residents, the Mom and pop stores, and neighborhood hangouts that were priced out of the neighborhoods by gentrifiers.  She went to the nursing home while her real family moved to the suburbs. A gentrifier bought her house and renovated it into an open concept, stainless steel appliance and granite counter topped kitchen, master with spa en suite addition, painted inside and out, masterpiece you now see before you  (The new residents are now appealing to have a Trader Joe’s and Starbucks brought to the neighborhood.) Big Mama died and no one else could fill that role in the neighborhood because the neighborhood you once knew is gone.

All the above and more has happened to Big Mama. This is why it is important to Gentrify Your Own Self! When the neighborhood was destroyed, so was the village.  The neighborhood is more than just buildings.  It is the people and the culture that has been established for generations. Young people need to understand the value in that because if they they don’t, they’ll grow up and ask this very question: Where have all of the Big Mama’s gone?

Gentrification will occur. More importantly, gentrification needs to occur, so it important that people who want to maintain their way of life be a part of this process.  And holding a gun to someone’s head… well, that won’t get the neighborhood back. Not at all. But in order to hold on to these neighborhoods, you can’t let go of them in the first place.  It is important to return, rehabilitate, and maintain the culture that has been a part of these places for generations. And that includes protecting our Big Mama’s because we need her.  The impact of the destroyed village is evident in how our children behave, in how they perform in school, regard their parents and peers, and what they value.

Hard as it is to witness, I cannot make people hold on to their neighborhoods, Lauren taught me that lesson.  All I can do is expose what has been lost in the hopes that people understand these losses also.  And that they are huge.  So now that we know that we have lost Big Mama, the question becomes: How can we get her back?


Rent Em Spoons!


So everybody is going crazy over the altercation between Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s sister, Solange. Well I’m not here to go through the wherefore and whys of this spectacle. I will let the other bloggers do that. I am however, more focused on the physical aspect of the attack itself, which to me was quite amusing. If you were like me, you may have watched the melee…a couple of times… Solange really wanted to get to Jay-z. Really wanted to. So much so that when she couldn’t put her hands on him due to the bodyguard holding her back (He really earned his paycheck that evening), she began kicking him. She was reaching for every part she could with her feet. I laughed hard watching this. Not because of the beating that Jay-Z received from his very, very, very, very, angry sister-in-law, but it reminded me of this television episode of Martin. There is this particular episode when Martin; his girlfriend, Gina; and their friends Pam, Tommy, and Cole were brainstorming ideas for a business they wanted to open with Martin’s $4,000 IRS refund check. Well dear Cole, who has proven on more than one occasion that he’s not too bright, came up with the idea of “Rent Em Spoons.” Basically, you give out free soup, but you rent out the spoons 🙂 ! This explanation immediately put Martin in fight mode. In spite of the violence that it ensued, Cole was determined to get his idea across. The third time Cole yelled out “Rent Em Spoons,” his friends, anticipating the imminent attack, had to hold Martin back to where only his feet were free, using them to try and kick Cole. View here.

I mean Martin was desperate to beat Cole down. Like Solange. And like my two-year-old. Yes, like my two-year-old. When I try to pull my little boy away from the object that he desires like food, a toy, or his blanket, he can’t vocalize his frustration, so he will kick and stretch to try to reach the object with his feet. His father and I call these antics, “Rent Em Spoons!” While I don’t condone violence, I think the Rent Em Spoons fighting method can be cathartic. Even if you hit nothing (Although Solange managed to land a few blows), I think it’s an effective way to let someone or something know that if you could just get your hands on them… Anyway, there are some community issues that make me just want to go, Rent Em Spoons! Count them down with me:

6. Big Box Stores – Admittedly, I love Target. However, the Big Boxes in general make me crazy. It requires so much land to build one. Not only for the actual store but for parking as well. Then there is the runoff once it rains that pollutes our rivers and streams. Even if you are not an environmentalist, you must admit Big Box Stores have killed their share of small businesses. And every time you look around, someone thinks it’s actually a good idea to put one of these up. And you can best believe this is after an old store has been abandoned, leaving a shell and a lot wasted land. Rent Em Spoons!

5. Subdivisions without Trees – When I was working as a planner and preparing my rezoning reports for the subdivisions, I would always give the stipulation that the developer only remove just enough trees to place the house. Unfortunately, not all jurisdictions require a “no clear cutting” clause. When I pass subdivisions with endless rooftops and not one tree, it makes me want to completely Rent Em Spoons!

4. Gated Communities – To you, it’s security. To me, it’s promoting exclusivity. Rent Em Spoons!

3. The Continuous Building of Schools Waaaaayyyyy Out in Suburbia – I hate it when there are schools closer to the urban center that are falling apart and need to be rehabilitated, and yet, all of the money goes towards building state-of-the-art facilities way out yonder where there is only like 50 people. Again, it’s such a waste of land. And money. Then when there aren’t enough students in the older schools, they are the ones that are closed, leaving behind rundown, unused eyesores. Rent Em Spoons!

2. Applebees – Nothing personal against Applebees. I enjoy the occasional 2 for $20 menu as much as the next person. I am actually more opposed to the concept of Applebees and similar restaurant chains. They keep us out of downtown and keeps us from enjoying the community’s indigenous culture displayed in food, arts and crafts, and music. You can’t enjoy those in suburban restaurants. Rent Em Spoons!

1. Deteriorating Neighborhoods – We grow up. We get money. We leave. We don’t return. We want to head for the gated community, with no trees, near the big box retail and the Applebees, and send our kids to the brand new state-of-the-art schools. Two things here: First, Gentrify Your Own Self! and Secondly, Rent Em Spoons!

So there you have it. The things in the community that make me go all Rent Em Spoons. What about your community makes you go all Rent Em Spoons?

Gentrify Your Own Self: The Hubby Edition

Please welcome guest blogger and my husband, Kevin Edward DuBose, who has some insight into this recent winter snowstorm and why it is becoming increasingly important to Gentrify Your Own Self! I expect he will be gracing us more with his blogging talent in the future. Without further ado, I would like to present Gentrify Your Own Self: The Hubby Edition.

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

The snowpacalytic events of the past couple of days have motivated me to jump in on the Gentrify Your Own Self! movement and put in my two cents. I think the missus is on to something with her recent blog posts. Be warned, I am not the writer she is. However, like my better half, I am a trained city planner. And I too see something incredibly wrong with our American Dream. In fact, symptoms of the problem are being played out live and in color on CNN as I type this. Yes I am talking the weather but I am also talking about our lifestyles.

Poor Atlanta! They are the poster children of dysfunction today. And the rest of the country wonders how two inches of snow can shut down the Capital of the South. The Governor of Georgia is blaming the weatherman. The CNN anchorwoman is ‘tryna read’ the Mayor of Atlanta (Notice my quoting the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) there…) Ms. Anchorwoman should proceed with caution, because Mayor Kasim Reed don’t play (excuse the grammar please). His neighbor is Khandi Buress and she will send Momma Joyce and her aunties up there to tell her something. Meanwhile, in the midst of this madness, people are stuck on the highways and kids are disconnected from their families while they ride out the situation in their school lunchrooms.

Would we have this problem, if we truly had neighborhood schools like we used to? Let’s face it, the neighborhood school thing is dead. We keep sending our kids further and further away to school and we continue to move further away from the urban core. Back in the day, if a kid was stuck at the school or in route home, no problem. Momma or Daddy or someone would strap on the timberlands and hike up to the school. Problem solved. A snow day used to be a grand thing. We are getting out early? Cool! Let the cabbage patch dancing begin! Now we are terrified about our buses sliding off a rural road or children being stuck miles away from home.

So who is really to blame here? Well the problem is us. Yes you and me and everyone else trying to make the Joneses green with envy. My wife has discussed the HGTV house hunter mindset that is destroying our urban core. I won’t rehash that. But please note that our neighborhood busting ways are causing major problems with regard to urban services. Our kids don’t go to school within 2-3 miles anymore. We don’t have sidewalks (in most communities) any more. Thus, the simple task of getting kids home on a snowy day is a bigger challenge than it should be.

So what is the answer? How can we fix the problem? Urban schools are being closed by the dozens every year while new state-of-the-art schools are being built in the suburbs. Families who live in the urban areas drive by closed and abandoned schools to take their kids to whatever is left. Suburban kids have 45-minute bus rides to and from school. I feel like Dap on School Daze, as I scream “Waaaaake Uuuuuup!” people.

Unlike my wife, I am not suggesting that you consider the incredible cute cottages and Victorian houses in the old neighborhood as places to raise your family. Forget about those split level houses and 1950 ranchers that dot the neighborhoods around downtown. You don’t want to live where schools are in walking distance and sidewalks connect the commercial areas and parks. You deserve a big 5000 square foot house for you and little Fluffy the Poodle. You deserve that three car garage and double tray ceiling. Stay where you are. In fact, move even further away from the City. Meanwhile, I have got a fool proof plan to fix everything. Drum roll please! The way to fix the problem is real simple people (Why do I have to think of these things?) Here is the concept: Let’s put the schools inside of WalMart. I guarantee there is one of those close to everyone in the suburbs. And we can always get to Walmart. The road to Walmart is the best salted road in the entire neighborhood.

And as Ne Ne Leakes of RHOA would say after she makes her point, Boop!