A Nightmare in Poverty

2:30 am: I woke up from a horrible dream. I couldn’t breathe. I was being suffocated. I woke up gasping and crying. I realized it was a dream and tried to go back to sleep.

3:00 am: No use. May as well get up. The dogs probably need out anyway. Better take care of that while I’m awake. I put the young dog on his runner and let the old blind dog make his way around the yard. He doesn’t go far because he can’t see.

I go back inside to clean up his mess. His bladder doesn’t work anymore and he’s left a trail of drops all over the floor. Get the mop. Get the bucket. Get the bleach. Be silently grateful that I don’t have carpet.

Now the real nightmare starts.

The door is open and a car drives by. No one drives through this neighborhood before 5 am. The young dog starts barking. This is a different bark than the one for when he sees the neighborhood armadillo walking by in the morning.

It wasn’t a car. It was a tow truck. They are here for the car. Seven years of payments wasn’t enough; and this last year has been impossible. We no longer have a car.

Of course the truck driver is “sorry” but he still takes everything from us anyway. Because he actually isn’t sorry. He’s grateful because his family doesn’t eat unless someone else’s family is stripped. He helps us get everything out though. His partner is a dick who really doesn’t care. But I can tell the driver hates himself a little.

I try to push the suicidal thoughts away but they invade too quickly. I’m a screaming, sobbing, weeping mess. I am crying so hard that I can’t breathe. I’m suffocating in my own terror. I want to wake up but I’m already awake.

The nightmare is real.

My husband is calm. Calmer than I can be right now. And I’m thankful that he’s there. I can’t even think. My primitive brain has recognized that there is a threat and is reacting by pulling back everything that isn’t a survival need. I’m no longer thinking. I’m lashing out and screaming and crying and not doing anything at all productive.

But my husband is here. At least we have the truck. At least he can think enough to remember that. But the battery is dead and it barely runs anyway and the tags aren’t right. But at least we have it. At least this can’t be taken. Yet.

We have no home. We were evicted again. The second time in three months. I can’t get my husband to work this morning. I can’t get our stuff to storage. I can’t get my pets to the no-kill shelter. I can’t get to my appointments. I can’t get my daughter to school. I can’t do anything.

I’m trapped.

The nightmare is real.

My mom can’t take all three of us.

We have to leave Florida.

Oh god no.

1763

My family landed in St. Augustine in 1763. That’s 252 years. We survived disease, pestilence, war, famine, racism, terrorism, economic depression. We survived everything. We stayed. We held on. We’ve been here for 252 years; 179 of those were in the same town. A town that we helped start.

And now I’ll never see it again.

We are too deep to fix it in our lifetime. We’ll move to Kentucky, where his family is. We’ll never have enough to make it back to Florida. I’ll never see my older children again. I already haven’t seen my son in two years. I’ve seen my daughter once in the last year. My youngest daughter will never see her brother and sister again.

Why?

I want to wake up.

Why? Why is this happening to us? Why can’t we get just one win?

Why?

We did everything we were supposed to.

Why wasn’t it enough?

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Jodi and Randy Speidel: A completely avoidable tragedy

27AC980B00000578-3043895-image-a-17_1429291534969

Recently, a story hit my social media feeds about an Ohio couple who committed suicide. Stories like this always bother me. It would have been such a simple thing to save this couple.

That they committed suicide doesn’t bother me. I know why they did it. Their continued existence had become little more than the rapid accumulation of debts that they can’t pay and won’t ever be able to pay. Honestly, I don’t know many poor people who haven’t had the “would it be better to just leave?” argument with themselves. I know couples who have had honest conversations about which one of them would be the better suicide candidate so that the other would get at least a little sympathy help. I know someone who has a plan in place for when their debt reaches a certain level. We all know there’s only one way out of this pit.

The Speidel’s did it fairly responsibly too. They weren’t just thinking about themselves when they did it. They let their cats out so they wouldn’t get hurt. They put a sign on their door warning about the carbon monoxide. They even used carbon monoxide so they didn’t leave a mess. They just lit a couple of grills and went to sleep. For them there was no other choice. The only way they saw to end their situation was suicide.

The whole story pissed me off beyond measure because of what happened afterwards.

After it happened, friends and neighbors started saying things like “if we had only known we would have helped”.

To those friends and neighbors I address the following statement:

YOU ARE FUCKING LIARS!

YOU KNEW! You fucking knew and you ignored them because of it. In fact, it’s likely the entire reason you were ignoring them. This couple was screaming for help for a long time. They were overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control and the only way to fix it was through money. Which they had no ability to generate; and which no one else was willing to let go of. They tried multiple fundraisers to try and get a little support from their friends and neighbors. But their requests fell on deaf ears.

Now those same people who ignored them want to pretend they cared?

Fuck off!

You’re the reason they’re dead. They came to you for help and you ignored them because you DID NOT CARE. Do not insult them by pretending you care now. If you had wanted to help, you would have.

They were dead already. They needed $20,000 to come back to life. They needed 2000 people to be willing to give them $10. That’s it.

But that’s not what you saw. You didn’t see a small burden that could be easily disbursed throughout a group. You saw something someone else might get that you weren’t getting. You saw that they were asking for $20,000 and judged them greedy, lazy, and selfish. You weren’t going to help because you weren’t going to “just give” someone $20,000. And guess what: That’s what killed them. Knowing that, not only could they not earn the money, they had no support to do anything about it because no one else cared; that’s what killed them.

The problem isn’t that people don’t know.

They know.

They just don’t fucking care.

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Poverty, there is no escape

I’m intelligent. I have educated myself. I’m lucky enough to have been born fairly attractive. I have a wonderful smile. I have a fairly nice personality. I’m driven and passionate about things that interest me. I care about others. I generally fit all those things people attribute to people who are successful.

I’m not successful though. Instead I’m poor. And there is no escape.

Over the past year I have been blessed with several opportunities. I am more grateful than I can sufficiently verbalize to have been blessed with these opportunities.

But they are opportunities which I should never have accepted. The reason I should not have accepted them is because, as simple as they are, I do not have the means to follow through with them.

Here’s an example: A couple of months ago I was given the opportunity to transcribe a book for someone. It was a simple task. Type about 300 pages of text. The task involved little more than sitting in front of my computer for several hours a day…which I essentially already do.

It took me three times longer than it should have because my simple task was impeded by constant poverty based interruptions. Everything from being evicted to being arrested to simply not having enough fuel/food to concentrate on the task at hand piled up at once. Even worse, I can’t even afford to send the book I was transcribing back to the person who sent it to me.

Even though they are willing to let me try again, I know that I will not be able to sufficiently complete any future tasks given to me by this person. No matter how much they want to help. No matter how much I want to take the help. My poverty will be a constant pile up that will keep me from completing even the simplest tasks.

Because of that, I’m going to end up refusing any future work I am given so that I won’t keep embarrassing myself. I want to do the work. I’d give anything to be able to make a living (or even just a little money) doing the things that they need done. But all of the crap that comes with poverty won’t allow it.

I had someone offer to help me with a bill here or there. I’ve accepted the help. But then they offered again. And again. Always working under the assumption that if I could just pay this one bill I could be back out in front again. And that’s how it is for a lot of people; so I totally understand why they think it would be that way for me too.

But I’m behind, not just by a light bill or a few traffic tickets. My current debt is about $50,000 once you factor in student loans, medical bills, and all the penalties that I’m collecting due to these things. For me, “caught up” means that I’m only behind on all my payments by a month. Meaning that, since I never had enough to begin with, no matter how many little things someone else takes care of for me, there will always be more problems.

Since it will never be enough, I can’t allow someone else to end up in this same trap by continuing to try and help me. Poverty just drags everyone else around you down.

I really should have remembered all of that before I agreed to let yet another person help me. But I didn’t. Instead, I was so excited at the opportunity that I never stopped to think of how completely impossible it would be for me to follow through.

And this is a freaking amazing opportunity too! It’s a trip to the Florida Historical Society Annual Meeting in St. Augustine. Even better, the subjects this year are basically everything that my work is based on! There’s even someone presenting the other side of one of the events that is central to my research. I’d die to have the opportunity to hear that. And now the opportunity is just being handed to me! Someone shelled out their own cash to let someone who is essentially little more than an 8th grade dropout/mechanic/cashier spend a weekend at a resort rubbing elbows with smart history type folks. Why? Because they think I’m smart too!

How freaking insane is that!?

I feel like a kid who just found out they were going to Disney World!

And I let that blind me.

I’ve had a year to back out, and I should have.

I should have done so before I let them pay for everything. But I was convinced I could manage it. And why shouldn’t I have been able to? I’ve experienced hardships my whole life. I lived homeless and eating out of garbage cans for two years. I finished mechanic school completely homeless.

I am fearless!

But being fearless doesn’t pay the rent. Or the electricity. Or the car payments.

And it doesn’t allow me the financial stability to be able to sit at a resort for a weekend while my family sits home and starves.

I accepted because I thought it would be a breakthrough for me. And really, it probably would have been. I enjoy the history I study so much that I go full fan-girl over the people who write about it. Add that to the “talking dog” novelty of a semi-homeless woman with no real formal education who gets passionate about a subject most people consider dull and dry, and I had this shit in the bag. If nothing else, I’d get to spend a weekend around other people who are just as passionately dry and boring as I am.

I was so focused on taking advantage of the opportunity that I forgot reality.

Reality is that I can’t even make the trip to the resort because I can’t leave my family without a vehicle. Without electricity. Facing another eviction. And even if I got the ride part fixed, my husband can’t miss another day of work to stay home with our daughter so I can go traipsing off to St. Augustine on a Friday. He’s already had to miss a day almost every week for the past two months because of my bullshit. How do I justify piling something so frivolous on top of all of that?

I should have never accepted. Being given opportunities isn’t enough. Being driven isn’t enough in the face of reality.

Reality is that I was being completely selfish when I accepted and let someone else spend their money on me without fully thinking things through.

Reality is that I’m poor.

And, no matter how many opportunities we are given, no one escapes that.


Update: Apparently, some people actually do choose to support you no matter what. As of the time I am writing this update, I am still going to the Historical Society thing.

 

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Poverty is Violence We Choose to Allow

Our current worldwide population is estimated at around 7 billion. Of that 7 billion, 85 of them possess a share equivalent to 3.5 billion of us. In total, less than 1,000 people control the means by which the other 6,999,999,000 are expected to survive.

Greed is when less than a thousand people control the survival of the other 7 billion.

In the 1940’s a study was conducted as to the effects of food insecurity on the brain. Self harm, self destructive behaviors, and violence were the observed reactions to poverty/starvation. My, admittedly biased, observation of my own family supports their findings.

We move from one financial stress to another with no end in sight, and no means to change what is happening. We never stop running from the predator.

Poverty/starvation cause stress. Stress is processed in the human brain as being chased by a predator. However, our brains and bodies are not designed to withstand a constant predatory threat. The human brain is not cut out to function under our current social and cultural structures because there is no break in the chasing. No break in the chasing means that we feel trapped; you know, because we are. Violence is one result of this.

For the past few months I have been starving myself. I’ve learned how to survive on as little as a few strips of bacon and a couple of refrigerated biscuits a day. Last night, dinner was one four inch pancake. My total food intake yesterday was a few handfuls of dry cereal, a snack cake, a leftover biscuit, and a pancake. (And there are people in this world that eat even less than that a day) We can only afford a limited amount of food per week. Sufficient food exists, but few have the means to access it.

My brain doesn’t understand what’s happening to it. It can only continue to react. It has no understanding of the physical representation of the thing causing stress; it simply reacts to the stress itself. The brain will react to each threat the same way, no matter what that threat is. It doesn’t differentiate between an eviction notice and a tiger chasing me, it reacts to the stresses, not the stressors. And it isn’t designed to do this constantly.

Stress is what initiates the fight-or-flight response. But the purpose of this response is to stop or otherwise remedy what is causing the stress reaction. It is meant as a short burst, not a sustained reaction.

For example, at the time I am writing this sentence, I have been without food for approximately 20 hours. During those 20 hours, I spent 15 hours struggling to figure out how I am going to handle dozens of different financial stresses, including trying to figure out how to purchase enough food.

My brain is interpreting this as my being chased by a large ball of fur and teeth that is trying to eat me. Since the means to remedy these stresses (financial stability) are beyond my control, my brain never stops reacting to the stress/threat.

But it gets even worse.

Because my brain is using the largest part of its processes to control the physiological changes needed to sustain the means to act upon/escape a threat (without also receiving the additional fuel needed to support the process) my other mental abilities have been reduced. The combination of the constant threat response and my attempting to articulate complex human brain functions has caused an even greater amount of stress on my system.

Right now, I am struggling to write because my brain is hyper aware of its surroundings. I hear every sound in my nerves. My brain is telling my body to flee. I am feeling an increased physical need to escape; a compulsive need to move my body away from this place. My heart rate has noticeably increased. I am beginning to tremble and no longer want to sit still. This is why we see higher levels of hyperactivity in children living in financially insecure households. One part of their brain is telling them to ignore the flee signals being sent from another part.

Making things even worse is that my brain needs a huge amount of energy to be able to keep this up. Energy that I am unable to resupply. Very soon I will be forced to stop writing because I will no longer be able to concentrate on the threat response and the additional burden of abstract thought. As an escape, I will  likely resort to distracting my brain functions into thinking I have evaded the threat by watching tv.

I just defined escapism.

I delve into information as a way to hide. I’m more flight than fight. Most people aren’t like me. Humans are still animals. But most annoyingly, we’re stupid animals. We ignore our instincts. We create ways to trick our brain into thinking it has temporarily avoided/remedied the threat/stress. But we can’t trick it for long and soon it picks the stress/threat reaction back up again. Eventually, it will become apparent that the means of true escape (again, financial stability) are far beyond your control.

Your brain processes this as being trapped; caged. Anyone who has watched a nature show knows how violently animals react to being trapped. Being trapped is the prelude to being eaten. And no one wants to be eaten. Survival means not being trapped. Not being trapped means fighting. At this point, the brain puts as much energy as it can into fighting to escape; significantly reducing reasoning functions.

We often mistakenly attribute this reduction in reasoning with a lack of overall intelligence. This is not the case since the theory does not take into account the physiological changes that occur within the stressed brain. It’s not a lack of intelligence; it is a lack of means to sufficiently support the mechanisms which allow for the higher levels of reasoning which we choose to call intelligence.

Escape from this stress is required for a properly functioning brain. Escapism is a way of distracting the brain into thinking it has escaped, even though it hasn’t. True escape, in the form of financial stability, does not exist so we use escapism in its place. But this only keeps the trapped feelings at bay. It does not end them.

Since the entrapment is still there, we will eventually react violently because our brains cannot stop processing our entrapment no matter how hard we try to distract them. On the small scale, this entrapment makes us lash out at those closest to us; domestic violence, neighborhood violence, etc. On a larger scale, it makes us lash out at entire races, countries, social classes, genders, religions, cultures, etc.

Our world is like this because the means to control enough resources to sustain the entire population are in the hands of very few. A handful of people have decided that they are somehow more deserving of survival than the other 7 billion of us. All of our conflicts are essentially fights over who is going to control resources that should otherwise be shared with everyone.

There are enough worldwide resources for everyone to get a comfortable share of everything. There is enough for everyone to be able to experience every human innovation and every comfort. More than that, we have the intelligence and innovative thinking to be able to do this with very little human effort.

We have the ability to allow every human on this planet live a completely comfortable and worry free life, with very minimal effort.

Instead, we allow less than 1,000 people to control the means to support the entire world population. We lash out at each other for being greedy, while ignoring how far we outnumber the ones who are behind the root cause of every human conflict on the planet due to their greed.

Bill Gates, for example, at $79.2 billion, owns nearly 12 times more billions of dollars than there are people on this planet. Less than half of his money would end end world hunger and he’d still have enough left over to end homelessness in the United States. There is no reason to allow one person to hold 79.2 billion of something; while the rest of the population fights over scraps or gets nothing at all.

There are approximately 7 billion of us occupying this planet. We outnumber them by billions; but have chosen to allow them to hold the results of our labors for themselves.

Humans are stupid animals because we have chosen to settle for this way of life. Currently, there are less than a thousand people in control of the means to comfortably support the entire human population of this planet.

Instead of demanding the return of our share of the results of our labor,  which created that wealth, we choose to fight over what scraps they allow to trickle down to us.

But I’m tried of being used.

Greed causes violence.

And there are 7 billion of us, against 1,000 of them.

Do you think they really stand a chance?

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The Florida We Should Be Teaching

In the past three years I’ve picked up a super power. I have the amazing ability to connect almost anything that is happening in the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, with something that happened in Florida’s history. And I mean Florida’s actual history; not the stuff we were taught in school.

Take our history with lynching for example. During the early part of the 20th century Florida saw a huge number of lynchings; both fatal and non fatal. The KKK were out of control in deed…and in control of state and local politics. But did you ever wonder how it got that way? You should, because it’s kind of important.

Florida’s “official” history reads schizophrenicly. We first show up in European history as a dangly bit of land hanging out between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean that was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492-ish. Then we mention Ponce deLeon. Then we skip a few centuries worth of history. We lie about how Florida was obtained. Then we gloss over the Civil War. Then we start really talking about things when we get to the part where a bunch of rich white Americans, like Henry Flagler, start doing things. We do touch on the Seminoles; but only so we can ooh and aah over all the parts of their culture we have shamelessly appropriated. Then we gloss over a bunch of other stuff and pretend we’ve learned our history.

But it turns out that those centuries we skip between Ponce and Flagler, and the ones we gloss over later, were really, REALLY, important to understanding the history of Florida, and the rest of the country.

Like, did you know that all of the biggest slave uprisings in what we now call the United States can be directly attributed to Florida? Or that Florida was one of the Underground Railroad’s destinations?

Until 1790 any bonded servant that escaped from the north and came to Florida would be freed. After the 1790 repeal of the sanctuary policy, bonded servants still came to Florida, they just joined the Seminoles instead of getting the legal sanctuary. Florida was also home to two, black controlled, military outposts and all kinds of small free black settlements. Florida’s frontier guards included black cavalry that pre-dates the Buffalo Soldiers by more than 100 years.

Did you know the people of Florida hated the American version of slavery so much that they fought against US takeover for seven years; and then continued to fight it for another 100 years after that?

This is the history of my state, and my family, that I study. This is what my blog is full of. I’m completely obsessed with this stuff.

Learning about it all helped me open my eyes to the bigger picture.

The US took over Florida in the 1820’s; but it takes almost a century of racist violence, terrorism–and a constant flood of white supremacists moving into the state–before it is finally beaten into that bastion of racism we all know and love today.

The accepted Florida history narrative is full of either white saviors or rich white people. There is very little representing the varied colors and cultures that made up Florida before statehood. And even less documenting the victories many free people of color were able to obtain during those 100 years.

Accepted narratives about the transition between Spanish Colony and US state are always surprised that free people of color, and even slaves, knew how to utilize the legal system. It was even lamented in the newspaper editorials of the time that Florida seemed overrun with free people of color who wanted to go into politics instead of field labor.

This situation wasn’t nearly as surprising to long time Floridians. Spain used a less worse version of slavery than the US…not better, only less worse. Everyone had a legal voice under the Spanish…to varying degrees. The most well known examples of bonded servants exercising these rights shows up in the histories of Dr. Andrew Turnbull and Lord Denys Rolle. In both cases their bondsmen brought their cases for neglect, abuse, and forced starvation to the authorities. And in both cases, the men lost their bondsmen. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that because these people had lighter skin they were treated better. Don’t be fooled by them being historically known as “indentured servants” instead of slaves. Several of the families who came with Denys Rolle were refugees from India, Africa, and the middle east, that he picked up in London. And the crude term used for the Mediterraneans who came with Turnbull were “Turnbull’s darkies” or “Turnbull’s niggers”. (Many of these people will later go to violent extremes to separate themselves from the stigma of having been bonds-persons; but that’s another story entirely.)

Under Spain, slaves were conscripted to help guard the frontier. Yes, you read that right: Spain freely gave slaves guns. So what stopped slaves from just taking those guns and turning them on their captors? Well, for one thing, military service was a fast track to being granted freedom without having to purchase it. A day’s skirmishing could accomplish what it normally took years to obtain. For another, slaves were allowed to have guns anyway. How else were they going hunt?

In addition, there was a faction of Spanish elite who were so lenient with their slaves they were often mistaken for abolitionists. These were guys who did weird things like freeing the enslaved women they had children with and providing for the women and their children. These men also advocated keeping enslaved families together and allowing slaves to keep their cultural and religious practices. They also employed the “task system” as opposed to the American “gang system”; which meant slaves had a task to complete by a certain time, usually around 2 in the afternoon, and were given the rest of the day to themselves. They also left trusted slaves in charge of their plantations and other business affairs when they were absent. 

Not to mention that Florida ends up being home to one of the Haitian Revolutionaries, Georges Biassou…who leads one of the aforementioned militias, and whose men are the bulk of forces fighting off the Americans during the 1812-1819 conflict.

Florida’s multi-cultural history has opened my eyes to an entirely different view of my state; and my own family. Once you learn the history of the state, you discover that Florida is a state because of people of color.

I started studying it when I found out that one of my earliest Floridian ancestors was a slave named Flora, who was the mother of a slave named James, whose daughter was a free black woman who helped start a new county in Florida in the 1840’s. I discovered the seeming fairy tale of Flora being purchased and freed by the wealthy white man who fathered her children. He bought her a house, working land, and provided a comfortable life for her and their children.

I thought this was something that was completely rare and unusual. Turned out, Florida’s history was actually pretty well stocked with similarly created families. And these weren’t secret families either, they were fully recognized for who they were. From 1812-1819, members of these families were part of the free black militias who fought off the US invasion of the Spanish colony. Between the 1820’s-1840’s they took their fight to the legal arena and won several victories. They even had a racist head tax repealed for a few years.

These victories created an insane level of anger and resentment. American Floridians did everything they could to forced these uppity black folks into their “proper place”. The violence and brutality Americans used against people of color is evident in events like Andrew Jackson’s decimation of what was known as the “Negro Fort”; and in the Civil War’s Battle of Olustee.

During Reconstruction, this hate and resentment just keeps getting stronger. After Reconstruction ends, the KKK, and their political cronies, just continues to make things even worse for…well…to this day.

Florida’s early history shows how hard people of color were already fighting against the racist policies America.

So why wouldn’t we teach this?

I bet you can figure it out if you think about it.


I linked my Goodreads account to my blog; the books that make up my research are listed there.

 

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The Poverty Pile Up

My family lives paycheck to paycheck. Every week, by about Wednesday, we’re scrambling to make it through the last few days of the week. This happens even though both of us bring in paychecks. It happens even though we both have degrees and other certifications. It happens even though my husband makes “good” money by making about double minimum wage.

We are as frugal as we can possibly be. We’ve cut back on everything. We don’t buy paper towels because they are a frivolous purchase. We buy the best toilet paper for a septic system because we can’t buy more than one ply at a time anyway. I even wash my hair only once a week to save money on shampoo and conditioner. (Which has actually turned out not so bad for my hair) We spend next to nothing on food. Seriously, how many of you can feed a family of three on half a pound of bacon and five refrigerated biscuits? And we take care of our shit too; that way we don’t have to buy new shit. How many of you have flip-flops that are six years old?…that you have worn daily for those six years?

We go without. We go hungry. Our youngest has never been to a dentist and has only seen a doctor when she needed her vaccines…she’s 9. We have next to nothing to show for all of our efforts. The only thing we will pass down to our kids is a mountain of debt.

And, no matter what, we will NEVER come out of this.

Here’s an example of why:

Towards the end of February we got our tax return. It was significantly smaller than previous years. We used almost all of it to catch up on rent that we were behind, then breathed a sigh of relief that our rent was caught back up and we were finally going to able to nudge a little ahead again.

Two weeks later we get a visit from our landlord telling us he is evicting us. We have 30 days to move….but he still expects us to pay rent for those 30 days.

We don’t.

Instead, we use the next month’s pay, plus the little we had left over from our tax return, to move. We found a place for under $500 a month, and pay triple that to move in. Since the place is half the size of our old one, we also have to get a storage unit for all of our tools and books. We then have to spend another $200 for a month of extermination services before we can actually move in. The deposit to change the electricity to the new place is $455. Phone is $200.

During all of this, while we are waiting for the extermination to conclude, I get pulled over for my tag lights being out; then arrested for “resisting” during the stop. Any money we had left over from moving, plus a lot more, has to be used to get me out of jail and start paying off all of costs, fines, and fees that we keep getting hit with. Including a $50 charge for the public defender I am constitutionally guaranteed if I am too poor to afford an attorney.

While this is going on, we spent three weeks without a functioning septic system because our new landlords told us to fix the problem ourselves because they don’t fix basic clogs…we had only occupied the house for 8 days when everything clogged. We spent another $200 on a plumber who told us that our “just pumped” septic tank is now 75% full and that our clog was caused by the cast iron pipes…which will continue to clog no matter what we do because that’s what cast iron pipes do. We also had to spend a lot more money than we actually have because trying to live without running water for almost a month is super expensive.

Now, because of all of that, we are about to be evicted again since all of those costs piled up at once and we had to spend our rent and the money we were going to use for few other bills to fix these new problems.

Our electricity is going to be cut off because the cost of the deposit was more than three months of electrical use, and we didn’t make enough in time to recover that loss. My phone is going to be cut off because I had to use the phone money to get through those three weeks without water. My storage unit might be lost because I won’t be able to pay all of the late charges on it. Of course, I can always let my car be repo’ed to keep the tools and books that are in my storage unit. If we lose those tools we lose any chance of making extra money…but if we lose the car we lose any chance of making our current money.

Now let me go over some of the less visible consequences. Not having running water or electricity risks child protective services coming in and taking our daughter away from us. She already lost her spot on the school honor roll because we lost track of half of her school supplies during the move. Her grades are slipping fast because she is starting to reach that point most poor kids reach where school seems pointless in the face of what she’s been through over the past few months. If we don’t get our income stabilized she’s not going to make it through school and will probably have a record (or a kid) before she finishes high school…if she finishes high school.

And things are not going to get better for us; they will only get worse. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, this is all going to cost us even more money that we don’t have and put us even further behind. And what sucks the most of that all we need to get out of this and stop having costs pile up on us is comparatively little.

All it would take for me to avoid jail, us to avoid eviction, and being able to keep our kid, is the equivalent of a month’s pay. An extra month’s pay ($2,000) and we’d start breaking even again.

But what’s going to happen now is that, since we can’t manifest that money, we’re going to keep getting further and further behind; which is going to cost us more and more money. We’ve already sold everything we could con people in to buying so we have nothing left to sell. I’m even considering going back into webcam porn to try and make a few extra dollars…but I’d have to spend money to make myself presentable enough to make any money at it, so that’s out too. We, literally, have no options left.

And we’re not alone. This isn’t something that’s happening to just us. When I went to court, I watched people plead guilty to charges they should have fought (and could have won) because they couldn’t pay the $50 to get a public defender. People were copping to jail time because they couldn’t afford the “one will be appointed to you” attorney. I watched a kid with a first time shoplifting charge, for stealing an item worth $3, leave the courtroom with almost $500 in fees and fines. I was the only person to walk out of that courtroom with less than $300 in additional fines…and that was only because I asked for a public defender. How is this justice?

All of this is stupidly unnecessary. Hard working people are making so little that they can’t even make enough to be able to keep working. They are forced to cut corners until they end up in jail/court over bullshit like having an expired license. Then, we you can’t buy your way out of those unnecessary consequences, you’ll be hit with more and more until you end up as part of our overpopulated prison system. Of course, once that happens, you won’t be able to get a job because you’ll have a record.

And it all just keeps going.

It never stops.

It just keeps piling up.

76% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck. More than half of us are one minor problem away from being homeless. 46% of Americans have less than $800 in savings. 22% of those have less than $100. 21% have $0. Leaving only 3% in the up to $800 in savings category.

How do you do what you are supposed to like this?

And how are we ok with this?

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Putnam FL’s First Free Black Settlers, Corrections

Previously, I posted a list of the first free black settlers of Putnam County Florida. There were 12 households; totaling 35 individuals. I obtained the names from the 1850 census that I found on the Putnam County Florida Historical Society website.

Although I took all 35 names from their book, the cover information only lists 10 individuals as free blacks.

1850 Census Cover

1850 Census Cover

I was quite confused as to how I could go from having 35 names to having only ten. That was when I finally remembered that the original boundary for Putnam County was the St. Johns River. Today, Putnam includes some of the eastern side of the river. But in 1850, the St. Johns marked the county’s easternmost boundary. Putnam doesn’t get the eastern bank of the St. Johns until almost 1870.

I found the missing families in the St. Johns County census.

It must have taken quite a while to sort out which families in St. Johns County had become residents of Putnam County after the modern boundary was established. Someone had to spend a lot of time with the local land records to sort all of that out. And since this was done before Google and Microsoft Office, I really admire their dedication.

I’m a bit of a narcissist so I’ve decided to focus on the families who were living within the original 1849 boundaries, for now.

This reduces Putnam’s first “free black” families down to 3 families, in 5 households.

FATIO, Rose Ann 45; FATIO, Edward 12 (Black)

The Fatio family may have left the region soon after this census. Between the 1850 and 1860 census several free black families left Florida for the Caribbean, or basically anywhere else. I found what could be them on the 1860 New York census. That they moved to New York is plausible since several other families they knew had already gone.

HILL, Carlos 50 (Mulatto)

Carlos may have been a former slave of the Hill family, or may have been born free. There was another Carlos Hill on the previous list, but I still have not established any connection between the two. Unfortunately, I do not find him on the 1860 census so he may have left or died before that census.

CLARKE, Amelia 29 (Mulatto)

CLARKE, Susan 30; COLE, Mary “Laura” 7; COLE, John Henry 4; ROSSIGNOL, Susan “Lucy” 2 (Mulatto)

CLARKE, Philip 26; CLARKE, Alexander 23 (Mulatto)

These three households are all members of the same family line. Susan Clarke is the daughter of the former slave, James Clarke, whose parents were George J F Clarke and Flora Leslie.

Flora was a slave (and possible daughter) of George J F’s employer, John Leslie of Panton Leslie and Co. James Clarke was their oldest son. Susan is James’ oldest child, and Flora and George J F’s granddaughter. Laura, John, and Lucy are Susan’s oldest three children. The father of Laura and John is Archibald H. Cole. The father of Lucy, and the rest of Susan’s later children, is Louis H. Rossignol. Both are white residents of Putnam County; although at this time Cole’s property is east of the river and not part of the county yet.

Philip and Alex Clarke are Susan’s uncles through her grandfather’s later relationship with the slave Hannah/Anna Benet (Hannah/Anna Clarke). In his will, he made arrangements to secure the freedom of Hannah/Anna and her children, including Philip and Alex, who were also slaves.

Amelia Anderson Clarke is the wife of Susan’s younger brother George; who was, at this time, away with two of his brothers helping to create the state of Washington.

All of the individuals listed above are considered free blacks and are subject to the slaves codes, and later black codes and Jim Crow laws.

This is the only surviving picture of the free black Susan S. Clarke (1817-1906)

Susan S. Clarke (1817-1906) Her father was born into slavery; making her legal status “free black”

Siblings Mary Laura and John Henry Cole

Siblings Mary Laura and John Henry Cole; they were classified as being free blacks for most of their lives.

You may have noticed that these first free black settlers aren’t what we would consider black today. During Susan’s time, the whole concept of “white” and “black” hadn’t quite been fleshed out yet. Jane Landers (Black Society in Spanish Florida) and Daniel Schafer (A Class of People Neither Freemen Nor Slaves) have both written on this subject. I strongly suggest reading their work because they explain all of this much better than I do.

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