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Author Archives: Gwendoline Y. Fortune

On Whitney Houston’s “Home Going”: A Four Hour Observation

A four hour observation


What I am going to write may be seen, by some,  as sacrilegious. I do

not apologize, These are honest thoughts and feelings after being in my

house during the three hour and 45 minutes “Home Going” for Whitney

Houston. Checking channels, I think four television channels broadcast

the funeral.

The governor of New Jersey and the Mayor of the city of Newark were in

attendance. The church was filled with more than one thousand close

friends, with thousands behind a  barricades several blocks away and

millions watching world-wide. I did not watch the entire spectacle, but

a TV was “on” in the background.

Occasionally, I stopped to watch and listen, such as when Kevin Kostner

spoke, or when I heard a singing voice where I wanted to see the

singer.–for a few moments.

I do  understand, empathize with and respect  the emotions and the

experiences that brought this day to being. I do not understand the

impulse that brought about the attention, nor the time and resources that

were expended.

For the past week, the “airwaves,” and I suppose other media, have been

filled with reports on the “unexpected” death of the American popular

singer Whitney Houston.  I do not have words to adequately convey my

thoughts and feelings about the adulation. No such attention has been

given to any of the occasions that are  important to the health and

well-being of the nation and the world–no four hour directed attention

and use of resources for the deaths of citizens in this nation and

around the world, who are being killed, starved, imprisoned.  Regularly,

I see reports of starving children, the homeless, the ill, the

unemployed. No four hour coverage has been offered for the pleas of,

say, Occupy.

The Rev. Winans perturbed me. He began his sermon at three o’clock–in

a ceremony that was, then, three hours long. He performed for the next

forty minutes. I had wondered who was the cleric behind the podium in

the black garment, with the red cummerbund. I did not think he was a

Bishop or Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. They wear hats. My

determination for his contribution to the service is that this was the

biggest “ego-trip” of the day.

My early religious environment was not in the Baptist church.  My

maternal grandmother was Baptist, and on visits I attended service with

her. There was a difference between those services and the Presbyterian,

USA congregation of my immediate family–including mother, who

converted. I have attended Methodist-Episcopal-Catholic-Jewish-Hindu-

and Muslim services. My brother-in-law joined a fundamentalist

congregation; Pentecostal, I think. His “Home Going’ was interesting,

joyous and filled with song–for about one and one-half hours. He was no

celebrity, of course.

I am annoyed by the term “Black Church,” as if that is a denomination.

There are protestant churches of various denominations, Baptist, being

only one.  I’ve had whites say, “I just love Gospel Music.” I say,  “I

don’t; I did not grow up hearing Gospel Music.” Surprise!!!

Because of my religious upbringing, Presbyterian USA, I have a different

perspective. I respect the beliefs and practices of the people who were

involved in the Home Going, today–everyone.   My experience differs. I

like the Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist; I am comfortable.  It

is a “cultural thang.”

I heard somewhere, “I like the quiet church.”

I am, deeply, concerned with the attention to a very talented,

accomplished woman of color, who brought pleasure to many people, and

lots of money to some.   I do not deny the experience. I simply wonder.

The Reverend Winans spoke on the theme of “priorities.” I did not

listen, carefully; I was not drawn-in by his demeanor, nor remarks. I do

comprehend PRIORITIES.

Gwendoline Y. Fortune

Author; Growing Up Nigger Rich and Family Lines


Smart or Dumb? Howard Schweber: The Catholicization of the American Right

Smart OR Dumb?


I refer to the issue in the article, Howard Schweber: The Catholicization of the American Right which indicates a sorely misunderstood issue in American life–that of  what RELIGION is and its role and influence in personal, and corporate/communal) life.

Religion is the ground-of-being from which human actions  are conceived and from which thoughts and actions proceed.

Religion–as I understand it–is the crux of a value system for individuals and communities, tribal to  national, to global, to COSMIC. its root is re-align, to re-connect with what is, presumed lost.

What one believes to be true in its essence, as in “Where did I come from?” What is my purpose here?” and “Where am I going?” are the bases for religion. Religion/re-align can be pantheistic, belief in many manifestations of existence as cause and effect called Gods,. We have pre and historical examples of this,   recently being the Greek and Roman pantheon.–and the wee-Celtic folk. This approach to ALl That Is exists in ongoing cultures, such as Hinduism. The embodiment of one source of All That Is, as  God/Allah, even, Buddha, who was not a God, but an enlightened being-teacher, and others named Supreme Being, Essence/Energy and words that may be designed to move beyond the limitations of personification.

It is innately inherent in the human animal to accept–or seek–answers to profound questions whether the questions are grounded as spiritual, scientific, philosophical or metaphysical… The pursuit of the unknown–and efforts to make “it” known–is similar. “What the H—is this thing called me, and everything?” A closely following  question often seems to be, “What can I do to escape its wrath and gain favor for me and mine?”

Throughout history, humans have concocted answers-results-beliefs in  facsimiles, usually forgetting (not knowing) internal sources of the questions.. Fear is often the driving force–fear of punishment, as the fear of the disposal of  books of the Koran in Afghanistan demonstrate. Within this re-action is a sense of loss of respect for self and the self’s world that must be retained by deification of objects/relics/customs/dress–name on, and antagonism-war toward the “other.”

Today, humans on planet, Earth,  continue, as ever, to express diverse varieties of spiritual-religious concepts.  Today, instantaneous communication makes possible the bombing of “The World Trade Center” and symbols of power by those who resent–rightly so–those symbols. Why do I say, “rightly”? Because “right” is in the eye of the beholder. The history of hegemony, domination and discrimination make for “right.” The same, oppositionally, make for “wrong.” Both views are relative, conditional, and perceptual in “reality.” We are witness to torturous antagonism between three of the Deist–One God–traditions, with two being popularly prominent, Christianity and Islam. Ironically, all spring form the identical source.

I won’t digress into that history, today. I refer to the issue in the article, Howard Schweber: The Catholicization of the American Right

At the national level, Catholic politicians have emerged as leading figures in the GOP… and evangelical Protestants are flocking to follow their lead. Why?

I hope you can retrieve it. It is in today’s HuffPost Daily Brief.

I have been aware of this issue as the Republican candidates, Santorum and Gingrich dominate the political landscape–with hush-hush-on the Mormanism of Romney. The recent fire around Christian fundamentalism, that is primarily Protestant, has been the focus of the rise in religious conservatism–labeled “social issues- a red herring.

People say, never discuss religion and politics. These are the only–and linked issues– to be discussed. All else can be subsumed under this linkage.

I itch to be in my old class, “Th Individual in Modern Society” where students engaged the study of the role of religion, in personal and social aspects, as social science.

Not having that, I am pleased for this article, and hope that the matter can be plumbed as it is needed.

For me, the confusion, and lack of knowledge of why the USA is as it is, a secular society born of the flaws of religious-monarchal Europe, (The Enlightenment) that, supposedly, respects religion, but is not dominated by religion–especially one– is generally–and essentially–unknown.

My favorite observer and commentators have shied from the topic. This is the first engagement I have read.

It is vital to the life and health–and death–of society. this discussion requires deep, honest, thoughtful, awareness and discussion. Oh heck, when has this nation ever engaged in meaningful dialogue on anything important?  The one on slavery endures. other forms of slavery continue.

I do not “believe,” I “think.”


Author; Growing Up Nigger Rich and Family Lines

Individual and Collective Tension

 A smart person, an engineer, once told me, “I don’t ask ‘why’ questions.” I replied, “Really. For me, those are the only questions worth asking.” Given this polar opposite in world-view, I wonder if there is any conversation worth having, people want to communicate and reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. If one person says the sky is blue, and another says it is black, and a third says it is grey, what are the meanings in the varying perceptions?

To the viewer of daylight, behind the statement is the observation of the sky when one-half the planet earth is turning away from earth’s sun. The black sky is seen when the planet has rotated one-half turn, and the sun is not a major factor in the view. The person who observes a grey sky is “in daylight,” but under a canopy of clouds and rainstorms.

I watched three TV broadcasts that inform the public, and encourage individuals to draw conclusions, and make decisions in their best interest. An NBC Sunday morning presentation, “Meet the Press,” is  longstanding, and makes an effort to invite informed citizens across different persuasions to expound and discuss ideas on society—in this case, the conglomerate of geographically assembled citizens in the US of A. Two newer programs are a few clicks away: MSNBC, a cable presentation of NBC recently began programs hosted by a bright, young, Chris Hayes, and political scientist, Melissa Harris Perry. Both “fresh faces” have gained media presence because they are informed, articulate, and physically appealing—a necessity in this society. Hayes’ program has been around for a few weeks, Harris-Perry began new weekend program.

Both programs “schedule” a number of liberal-progressive guests, unlike the network that I have heard schedules, almost, exclusively conservative-reactionary guests. Theoretically, the public has access across a spectrum of social, political, and economic ideas. In theory, this is so.

Across that spectrum I uncovered basic grounds for understanding and evaluating these programs. I have limited time, and do not want to waste it in comprehending and deciphering copious information-material. What is a fair perch from which to follow arguments and evaluations? For me, this perch is what is the image, role and   of the relationship of people in and as a society-culture-tribe-nation?  Civilized citizens, we operate as individuals within the conglomerate, that is made of governed and governors.

Perception, comprehension, and acceptance of what those roles, vision, adherence, loyalty and support means to us, flows upward to the governors, outward—or downward–to the governed.. The aspects that undergird the support and nourish this flow hinges on, or is determined by whether a society-tribe is open, accepting, and committed to those who are governed, or whether the governed deny admittance.

Curiosity, lack of fear, openness to the governed fosters organization, laws-rules, and processes that are people oriented and directed. Fear, self-involvement, and hostility flow in the opposite direction. The second predisposition can, currently be called “privatization.” Code for what’s mine is mind, what’s yours is mine, or will be as soon as I can gain control of it. This tendency is seen in the “privatization” of schools and jails, the primary structures of control in a society, the loss of privacy in a “Homeland Security” status. Other facets of the tendency reside in male domination, control by the minority of the species. One would think that the only authority principles among humans are a trinity of male-God philosophies, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Male domination is found in non-deist cultures in, now, remote areas of the planet. The authoritarian concept is, in the view of many observers and scholars, a major component of the widespread war status, degradation of the physical planet, and diminishing of cultural variety. The assumption that emerges in the three watched televised programs is that one or a variation of the male dominated philosophy-belief structure is all there is. The ease with which this assumption holds across cultures is the tension that denies, controls, and is defeating its polarity, a feminine, open, accepting, supportive curiosity that, on first impulse would be like many animals, an approach, and smell.  Scent is the natural odor of self-presentation. The body part inspected is the orifice of mouth to genital. I have watched many episodes of the Cesar Milan show, “Dog Whisperer,” on National Geographic Wild. This is what I have learned about fellow animals. Approach or withdrawal depends on the sense of self that the stranger presents at the most basic level, nose, and mouth to genital area.

The removal of body odors for inspection has destroyed the opportunity to “get to know” the other. This lack reinforces a deep instinctual fear. Humans have lost a prime, essential means of communication. I am not suggesting that humans must literally approach our seeming adversaries, Chinese, Muslims, jails, schools, etc. sniff them and gage interaction on those bases.  Most of us have decided that these odors are unpleasant. A project called “Tribal Wives,” where European and American women reside in tribal villages in places like South Africa and Ethiopia to learn how their women cope with life. An initial comment is always on “the odors.” By the time the visitors return to their comfortable homes, they no longer are repulsed by the unusual odors. All people keep their bodies clean, by their standards, like a cat or dog grooming themselves. The visiting women do not convey to the tribal wives as “smelling good—Chanel $5. Our problem is that humans have not developed an equal coping mechanism to replace the initial “sniff.” The privatization of all things private is destroying the species, and we do not learn from nature or technology.

Growing Up Nigger Rich

Gwendoline Y Fortune

I would like to share with you a novel that I have written and published. It is one of three novels that I have written and published.

By Gwendoline Y. Fortune

Click on Image to Purchase

An intricately crafted novel of homecoming and the South.

Born to a family of relative privilege, Gayla Tyner is everything that defines the “upper class.” She grew up as a daughter of medical professionals, possessors of education and property. In protected places, she was special, a young woman of poise and intellect. In other places, she found she was “just a nigger,” an African-American female who was viewed as one who put on airs, the subject of envy and ostracism: she was “nigger rich.” As an adult, Gayla is haunted by the South, what it means, has meant, and what is becoming. A professor at a major university in Michigan, the daughter of a prominent M.D., a dutiful wife and mother, she seems to have everything going for her. Memories of her past haunt her as she struggles to find her place as professor, mother, wife, and daughter. Nothing is as simple as black and white.

Selections from Growing Up Nigger Rich placed in the top twelve entries of the annual Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society competition and second place in the National Black Writers’ Conference Awards.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2012

Early today I went to the drug store (CVS) to get a refill of a prescription. Because the day’s order had not been inventoried I was told to “take a seat and wait a few  minutes.”

I sat in the area assigned–wondering why the store did not have someone clean the floor. The area was littered with the same debris I have noticed  during the past four day,  during which I have tried to unravel a mistake in my order.

A display of mass magazines, “People” and “US,” I think,  set atop the counter. I pulled a “People.” I seem to remember that at its initial publication it was supposed to be a replacement for LIFE.

I thumbed through the magazine, expecting to be called to the counter in a few minutes. I was able to read the entire issue before hearing my name–mispronounced. “Letters to the Editor” began with three letters thanking the magazine for a spread on the Obama family.

The fourth letter asked why did they publish stories on the Obamas. I kid you not, the e-mail writer said that there had been coverage of the Obama family a number of times. She wrote, “I buy “People” for stories on celebrities, not politicians.” Luckily, I was sitting down. The issue included a story on the British royal family. I dare say they are not political. Whoever heard of King Henry VIII?

I have no memory of any of the fancy dresses, announcements of “Golden Globes,” etc, only that I was able to pass the time without it seeming to be hours, only twenty-minutes.

At home I opened the daily Internet news reports.

1. truthout <>    Articles (essays) by Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, David Wren, and nine more–researched, grammatically accurate, well planned and presented, as well as seven “Buzzflashes–titled but not summarized articles. I appreciate not having to wade through one, or more, newspapers, advertisements, and inane “news.”

Next, I opened,

2. nation of change <> with articles by Nick Turner, Aron Mehta, and ten additional.

I haven’t gotten to “Democracy Now.” “The Daily Digest”  is in the queue. I’ll watch it at 6 PM on LINKTV. If I didn’t–or someone telephoned, it awaits..

There is no reason for anyone to be ill-informed or for a person to have no time to “keep-up.”

I  watched “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning. Joe Scarborough is a former Congressman, so I do not neglect other “sides.”by the Republican candidates at MSNBC this AM. Morning Joe, with Joe Scarborough, former Republican representative.  More than enough. You may wish-care enough to pass along-share– these, and similar concise, informative sources.

A Matter of Trust

Gwendoline Y Fortune

This is another of my occasional depth-oriented explorations–a sharing.

Like many with an inquisitive spirit controversy invigorates me. Due to life circumstances I developed  my way of viewing and assessing the world, as does everyone. A difference is, I venture, that some are consciously aware of this facet of themselves; some are not.  All components of the developed/evolved perspective and perception are not available to conscious inspection. The workings of the human psyche (soul-spirit) are multi-layered, unavailable to consciousness. But, even this awareness i of value.

What I think I “know” is that discrepancies-contradictions and juxtapositions that my vision perceived from early childhood 1000 were, often, at odds with a communal conception and philosophy offered to me and those in my “world.” For example, my childhood friend, “Baby Thomas”/Julius and I, regularly, discussed our Sunday School lessons with question, dismay and disbelief.

The lessons of love, God, Jesus compared with the behaviors we experienced in our South Carolina town, tended to not jibe  in our “racial )(sic) community, and across the “racial divide.” There were churches galore; some might say,”One on every corner.”  I watched a church “split,” and the dissenting members built a new edifice next door.

Unlike most children, I did not outgrow our questioning natures.  My friend made greater accommodation with the religious institution of our childhood questions, becoming an “Elder.” I refused the honor. He withdrew in later life when a beloved daughter died, prematurely. Unable to resolve his questions, my dear friend “buried his sorrows” in alcohol, never resolving his pain.

Differently from my buddy, I found myself following a complex pathway of 1. academic instruction, 2. non-standard experiences, pursuing my curiosity to a larger, more satisfying degree.

The turbulent period that engulfed the 1950s-60s  Civil-Human Rights explorations brought opportunities to meet and interact with other “seekers,” in the Chicago area. The contact platforms were constantly moving, the people, intriguing, with the trajectory of experience guided by unknown forces.

I  continued membership in a liberal church of our childhood identification, more liberal than ever, in that the congregation and leadership at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago invited freedom fighters to interact with us from the socio-political/economic upheavals in  Asia, Africa and South America. The University of Chicago-Hyde Park environment was fertile ground for free exploration.  In retrospect it seems, the people and experiences were, unconsciously and consciously  focused and acting in unique existential universes.

An important landing place, for a while was OASIS, Human Growth Center, In Chicago, where I became a regular at weekend retreats. Coming within the views of “thinkers” like George Leonard, Jean Houston, Robert Anton Wilson, Fritjof Capra, communicating-interacting in small groups  speared mind-enabling experiences.

An opportunity to participate in a two week experience, under the auspices of “National Training Labs,” brought interest and ability fostered by the progressive school District where I taught. A weekend retreat of our faculty and the trainers is well remembered.  Several faculty rejected the experience–in what I now know was abject fear of the possibility of changing ingrained viewpoints.  The trainer asked, if we had our fondest desire what would we want? I heard myself say, it would be to organize and operate a human growth center founded on the body-emotion-mind-spirit ideas and experiences to which I was being introduced.

For some years I tried to make the Center a reality. The “Plan” sets in my file cabinet, under the title, “ALL-Way Center.” The name allude to a desire to have a sanctuary where learners and teachers gather amidst unlimited spheres of free thought and spirit to experience and expand human growth on all levels.

The US  center, Esalen continues at Big Sur, California. IONS, and various others can be located across the nation.  The communal growth concept is an old one. Socrates’ classes were similar centers. Occupy… is a new variant. I searched the world for such places, spent time in several: Options, Ojai Valley, one structured on the Lindisfarne model, on both coasts, and south to north borders. Some of these communities are called Intentional.  When I investigated the possibilities I found a catalogue of more than forty in the US. A Google search today finds under “Intentional Communities”  scads of them, world-wide. Some are established, others in formation. Discontent with the status quo is varied and ongoing.

I realized that I do not want to live communally–at least as close and interactive as I once thought. Community close, but not too; sharing, yes, but not too.

When I enrolled in a course through U Mass, and lived communally for two weeks I remember becoming aware of my need for autonomy when a cup in the dorm bathroom held a large number of toothbrushes. I am too much of what my father called,”Miss Nice Nasty” to be that close.

Another life-changing encounter came when a former student, a creative, brilliant young man dropped  his mother’s copy of Jane Roberts’ The Seth Material on my desk.  This was an eye-opener, a woman of my generation–not some ancient, esoteric seer, who followed her curiosity and produced writing that is beyond easy explanation. How interesting life can be, when one is open to possibilities.

For several years I was enrolled in a spiritual development program that led to the title,”Ordained Ministerial Counselor.”  Incorporating non-standard spiritual-healing techniques, self-growth practices, in Illinois, and North Carolina, there came a period of satisfaction and expansion.

I became disillusion when, in answer to a question as to whether the college followed a particular curriculum–one I had studied and found wanting–the answer was,”No,” it did not. But, the curriculum departed from what I considered an open, seeking orientation to the confines of one particular dogma. Finding this “path”  to be not as I had been told led me to reject the organization, although, as in every situation, there was value to be gained.

Why this? If what we have in this physical world is  ALL there is I find “it”questionable. If the imaginings of human thought, over time, has validity, that there is “X,” the unknown, there may be  different and more. Like the mentally challenged boy who kept digging for the pony in the stable, why not? For this entity (of nano proportion) no philosophical-religious-spiritual-scientific findings, EXTANT, are sufficient.  YOU???

All in all, what now? Who knows? I heard, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. If they cold do better, they would.”

Still, the notion of being with and interacting with cohorts who are exploring values, similarly, and are willing to act on those values, is a dream. Years after contact with “growth ideas,  I dare, on rare occasions, to wonder how parallel universes really  work (See Seth.) meanwhile, carry-on.