I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Friday, July 12, 2013

Making Sense of Sisterhood: A Retospective on Delta Sigma Theta!

As Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrates their centennial anniversary this week, I'm muddling through still trying to make sense of the meaning of Sisterhood.

I remember the day that I was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta, I walked that aisle with tears streaming down my face. Never in my wildest imagination did I think my dream of being a Delta would come true.

I always wanted to be a Delta. It's just that my first two years in college I was so busy in politics registering my classmates to vote, boycotting the university's foundation because of it's investments in apartheid South Africa, that I never got around to pledging. Then I quit school to hit the road to work on Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns and by the time I went back to school I was 27 and then I made a transition to AIDS. When I made a transition to AIDS, I knew that I would never be a Delta. Back then, the life expectancy was 2-3 years at most for someone living with "full-blown" AIDS.

Even as my health was failing and I crisscrossed this country trying to educate, telling my story to as many as I could before I died, I still had Delta in my heart. College students would ask me if I pledged and I would respond, "No, but I'm a Delta Wanta Be." I would joke and say, "Ima have them engrave that on my tombstone, "Delta Wanna Be."

Then as I rose to fame in my HIV/AIDS activism, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. was the first to call. It was an unofficial /official call to see if I wanted it. It was a done deal I was told, if I said yes. I took a deep breath and said, while I respect your organization, I cannot accept. I have always wanted to be a Delta and it wouldn't be fair to you for me to wear your letters. Delta didn't call for another 4 years, but they called.

The Day I was Inducted!
As the convention open's today, the thought that I am not walking down that aisle with other Honorary members is beyond my understanding. The rescinding of my Honorary Membership on May 1, 2012, 12 years after I was inducted, is still baffling to me.

 I've been to every convention since I was inducted but two. One I missed because it was around the same time I graduated from seminary, and the other I missed because I never got a return call from the national office. I had been struggling with my health and got a late start.

The 12 years that I was a member of Delta, I went to conventions and I hung with Soror's and gave my support to the sorority as best as I could. Often coming home so wiped out it would take over a week to re-group with my health.

While some will say get over it. I say, this is not your life and it's easier for you to dismiss my pain. Delta has always been in my heart. I had Soror's tell me that they had never seen Honorary members until me, stay the entire convention and hang out with Soror's. I attend even the collegiate events. That was me, I was all in!

Hanging with Soror's the day I was inducted
So today, I'm trying to make sense of the meaning of Sisterhood. I'm sure many Delta's want me to stop talking about this. I get it, who wants to face the reality of what the national executive committee has done.

Be clear, I'm never going to stop talking about this ever because I understand when we stop talking about something, we silence history. Just like pledges have to know who Honorary members are and their accomplishments, I will continue to tell my story of this sad and painful ending.

Me and other Honorary Members 
This blog is a year retrospective. For more details about my relationship with Delta Sigma Theta and the events that lead to my Honorary Membership being rescinded, you can view the video below or read this blog post Here!

For sure, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has written me off like I NEVER existed! They have shut me out like I'm dead. It seems like I'm a memory that they would rather not have, like I was the worst thing that ever happened to Delta and maybe for some I am.

Understand, as an Honorary member I was held in high esteem. The collegiate's loved me because I showed them love. They had never had an Honorary member that was willing to come to the Delta House on campus to hang out or to go out to lunch/dinner with them, while speaking in the area. I gave love and I felt loved.

at convention 2008
I often talked about not having any family and Soror's would say, we are your family now; we got you Soror. In fact, I became such a popular Honorary member both in the sorority and outside the sorority that I was told often, that during sorority membership intake my name was one of the most mentioned of notable Delta's.

I was told by girls on college campuses that they had never considered pledging until they learned that I was a Delta and saw the high esteem with which I regarded my sorority.  Coping with this abandonment and lost has been hard for sure.

As I reflect today, I could have never imaged that my truth telling tweets on February 16, 2011, would have ended in my expulsion from Delta.

May 1, 2012, the day that I received the call from the national president, Cynthia Butler McIntrye I felt like life had been kicked out of me. I felt like a hollow shell and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to restore myself. The sorrow that I felt around Delta's decision was so fucking overwhelming and all consuming. 

Me and Soror's at FAMU
At the center of the debate was what kind of woman I am. Can you image what it feels like for other people to assign worth to you, especially women? For Delta to have told me that I was worth something and then change their mind over some tweets. Can you imagine what it felt like to have women in private chat rooms on Facebook of which I belonged, to talk about me like I was a freaking dog but who had been calling me Soror, Sister for years?

 Shit, if cursing defined me, then I was dome from the beginning. Delta should have just passed me up. I think I came out of my mother's womb cursing and if I didn't, I should have and first off  asked my mother, "What the fuck was on her mind shooting heroin with a baby growing inside her womb?

When I look at this picture that prompted the phone conversation with Rose McKinney, this picture of happy times, of me and other Honorary members my heart hurts.

These pictures were on my business website in a page dedicated to Delta. I wanted to show my Delta pride and did every chance I got. Who would have thought this would cause me to no longer be a Delta. To think I'm not hanging out with my partner in love Sheryl Lee Ralph this weekend. She was inducted into Delta as an Honorary member after me, but we had worked together around HIV years prior. We hung tight at convention and it was a special bond of our work in HIV and Sisterhood.

When Rose Mckinney informed me that "Delta reserves the right to publish all pictures in ceremony robes" then asked if I could I take them down. I said, "Absolutely Soror." That in my opinion should have been the end of the conversation.

Rose had a couple of opportunities to say, Ok Soror, I understand that you are on the road, will you take them down as soon as possible and let me know that they are down. 

That was all it really took to bring closure to that conversation. But she kept hollering at me, "They need to come down now." After I hung up on her, she continued to call me back to back to back... then she text me.  Delta has sent a message loud and clear, that it is O.K. to be treated any kind of way by the national headquarters, by women who call you Sister.

 I find it distressing that I was left powerless by an event that did not originate from me. What message does it send to undergraduates pledging, that they cannot tell of infractions? Does my expulsion send a message that you must hurt or vent in private?  I'm really trying to understand Sisterhood. And while some would say that my problem in understanding is because I didn't pledge, I will say to you, I went through the same induction ritual and my heart felt the same joy as yours the day you were inducted. 

I look at this picture of these three very accomplished African-American women and I can't do nothing but hurt. On the far left is Bishop Vashti McKenzie the national chaplain of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her grandmother was also a founding member of Delta. She carries a rich legacy of the organization.

 She is also the first female Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. As an Honorary member of Delta, I was in close quarters with Bishop McKenzine often at convention. She often showed concern about my health and extended herself to me as our chaplain and a woman of God. 

I look at her and I wonder why she never picked up the phone to offer me some pastoral care in the midst of my world collapsing. Was Delta more important to her than offering a woman you called Soror, Sister for 12 years, a fellow clergy and most importantly, a child of God in pain, some comfort? Not even a call to pray with me as I hurt.

My hurt was obvious. The pain was visible to anyone who saw it. 

Then I look to the far right. That's Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd. She became the national president of Delta Sigma Theta, the year that I was inducted into Delta.

When she was national president, her agenda for both terms was HIV/AIDS. This is probably the reason I was asked to be a member of Delta; so that the President's agenda could be furthered by use of me. As I explained in my book, The Politics of Respectability, it is a long standing practice of Delta Sigma Theta to bring in honorary members around their national agenda.

Inducting me was a big move. It gave the appearance that Delta was doing something about HIV/AIDS. Those four years of Rev. Boyd's term, Delta used me across this country. I spoke at International Day of Service year after year, chapter after chapter, sometimes two cities in one day, as well as, Founder's Day. I was a highly sought after speaker in Delta, doing what I do, raw, uncut, transparent, honest, candid and cursing like a sailor.

Bringing me into the Sisterhood was a win win for Rev. Gwendolyn Boyd, with her focus being HIV/AIDS, but now I think about her, I ask was it all for show? I mean, she has not reached out to me in anyway. I mean, did her concern for me as a black woman living with AIDS, her pride in my work cease when my membership in the organization ceased?

 I'm wondering is there any love afforded me now that I don't belong to your Sisterhood? Does, who I stand for or my contributions mean anything? I was called  Sister, Soror for 12 years, was it all a lie? Most importantly, I still have AIDS. I still do the work of HIV.  Does that mean anything? Is there any concern for the my work in HIV and my health in HIV?

Finally, the current seated national president in the far back, Cynthia Butler McIntrye. I'm still blown away by her approach to this matter. She is an expert in Human Resource, yet she dropped the ball on me.

The first conversation I had with Cynthia Butler McIntrye was the day, February 16, 2011, I made those tweets. We aired out the drama that passed between me and Rose McKinney, the director of the national office. Cynthia and I ended the conversation on what I thought was a conclusion to the matter.

In spite of the fact that I felt like I was being dealt with, I believed Cynthia to be fair. I was expecting the President of my sorority to call me back, maybe bring me and Rose together in someway to call and make-up, to equally apologize for her nasty ass attitude and approach to me and my nasty ass tweets, a respond to her nasty approach.

I must say this over and over again, the day that I talked to Cynthia, I wanted clarification, and the last thing I asked her in the conversation Feb 16, 2011 was, "Soror, am I being put out of Delta over this?"

Cynthia, replied, "No Soror, no one is putting you out of Delta over this. I'm going to ask that you don't talk about it publicly anymore. I just need time to smooth things over."  I kept my Word and that was the last conversation I had with her.

So this Human Resource expert, in 14 months didn't see fit to call me again to inform me that the matter was still being discussed. Is this how we treat women we call sister? Is this how we treat women we say we love. In 14 months, no one from the leadership thought to discuss this matter with me in anyway.

 Now a year and two months later, nothing has changed, no one in the leadership has called me. I still haven't received anything in writing. I'm so trying to understand Sisterhood. How can these same women stand for 12 years when I enter a room and then drop me like I'm a plague?

Maybe one could argue that they are mad that I went public. But I trusted my president and my sorority's leadership to do what was right by both me and Rose. I will say it again, I trusted Cythina, I removed the tweets, I accepted silence out of respect for her and I was a woman of my word.

This second time around, I could see no reason to be quiet. To save who's face? As it stood, my face was the one bloody and bowed. The damage was already done!

How, Delta has dealt with me leaves a painful bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that I have not heard from ANYONE in the leadership is painful and it makes me question Sisterhood at its core. In fairness, I have had countless Soror's reach out to me to offer words of encouragement and support. Maybe the leadership can learn something from the masses. And of course Sheryl Lee Ralph and I continue our friendship.

In retrospect, I can sit back a year later and be even clearer than I was on May 1, 2012, Delta invited me into their Sisterhood because of my service and commitment to HIV work that started long before that invitation.

In those 12 years of membership my methodology, nor did my personality, change. At the end of the day, Delta rescinding my membership was some small, petty shit. I don't know who lead the fight to get me out, but I hope they are happy.

 It's all good, at the end of the day, this kind of venom makes me question Sisterhood. A Sisterhood that can throw you away like trash over some tweets. A Sisterhood who does not give you voice, instead meet behind your back in the name of Sisterhood.  

I continue to go back to this quote in my book, from past national president Lillian P. Benbow-1971-1975

"When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if that be so, then it is I who need you either because I do not understand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am."

This quote rings true for accepting women for who they are, rather than who you want them to be. People, I believe are their best when they are able to shine in who God crafted them to be. I never want to be a better anybody, I just want to be my best me.

I address this issue in my book,  Just like David couldn't fight the giants in Sauls Armour, nor do I operate in the decorum of what others deemed "respectable." God gifted David with a sling shot and David was at his best when he operated in his gifts.

That's what I do everyday, I operate in my gifts crafted out of my journey. At the end of the day, that's all we should strive to be, one crafted out of our journey for the task, just for your design.  God told Jeremiah, "Before I made you in your mothers womb, I choose you. Before you were born I set you apart for a special work. "(Jeremiah 1:5)

 I may never be "respectable" by your standards, by Delta's standard and I'm good with that, because all I really need to please is God and me.

As I look back on that rainy day in May and the immediate weeks that followed, I thought my life had flatlined. This sisterhood had took the life out of me. Now, a year later, I can look back and say it didn't kill me. Duh!!!!

God's plan for my life didn't change because Delta changed their mind. So, I don't get invited to speak by any Delta chapters anymore, but God will make room for my gift. As has been obvious this year. I've even been told Delta's who are in authority at a couple of colleges I spoke at this year questioned the organizers about bringing me and were told by the organizers that my work transcended my issue with Delta. Thank God for that!

In this year, I was reminded yet again. What don't kill you, makes you just a little stronger? I was reminded yet again, that in every situation there is something to learn about yourself and others. I was reminded that the Lord instructed us to have no other Gods before us. I had placed Delta on a pedestal and it came tumbling down on my head and heart. Leaving the one and only God to put me back together again.

I have more perspective than I even had. This issue with Delta, made me soul search! I have become even more comfortable in my skin. My entrance into this world has defined me. I spent my first 6 months of life, sucking an umbilical cord laced in heroine. I was born a stray dog,  dressed myself up in designer clothes and  got 27 years of education, but at my very core, I'm still a stray dog. The goodness in this is that God can use a stray dog, even if Delta can't.

Post Script: My book The Politics of Respectability was written 22 days after Delta rescinded my membership. To have a better understanding of my full relationship with Delta, my work and my methodology you should read my book.

You can get an autographed copy of my book, The Politics of Respectability! Link Here! It is also on Amazon, paper back and Kindle HERE

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