- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dinah Washington’s signature song was “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Add 364 days, and you’re assured a world of difference. Or maybe not.

Some things don’t ever change: politicians who talk out of both sides of their mouths, and poor people, especially women and children, getting poorer by the day.

It seems to me that I ended last year railing against that baseball stadium and still find myself stuck on that same tune of the D.C. boondoggle as this year comes to a close.

Guess what the new year portends? More baseball bashing? Prediction: The Washington Nationals are a permanent fixture.

Meanwhile, schools crumble, children’s lunches get cut and grandmothers will go without their medication, all thanks to abominable congressional tax cuts aimed at the most vulnerable members of our society.

Twice last year, I wrote about the “Kids Count” reports with a boatload of statistics that indicate more children nationally and locally are not faring well as their families fall further into poverty.

But is anyone listening to folks such as Derrick Span of the “No Room for Poverty” coalition, which seeks to get anti-poverty legislation passed through Congress? Hardly; what we do hear about instead is “donor fatigue.”

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams became a lame duck while traipsing around the globe as an ambassador for the National League of Cities while support for the baseball edifice evaporated.

This year bought its share of storms, disasters and tragedies. Of course, Hurricane Katrina tops the list. However, it brought out the best and the worst in our nation. Locally, two Arlington children were killed in a freakish school bus accident; one Montgomery County teenage girl was stabbed and killed after a football game; and the number of juvenile offenses continues to rise in the District.

And what do our progressive local leaders have to offer to deal with the metropolitan area’s most pressing problems of gang violence, development of affordable housing and gridlock?

Let’s see: a no “droopy drawers” bill in Virginia; graduated teen driver bills in Maryland; anti-video-game bills and cell-phone driving bans in the District; and tolls, HOT lanes and road referendums as well as smoking-free zones across the region.

Thank goodness Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was able to nix the idea of changing the name of 16th Street Northwest to Ronald Reagan Boulevard. But it’s a wonder the Maryland General Assembly passed the renaming of the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport in such short measure.

Don’t count on a slots bill soon, especially going into this critical election year when black political wannabes will be courted. Prediction: Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele just might steal the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes.

As for transitions, if we call the roll today, a number of significant contributors will not answer. In 2005, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, publisher John H. Johnson, civil rights maven and anti-gangsta-rap advocate C. Delores Tucker, SNCC leader James Foreman and comedian Richard Pryor passed.

On a more personal note, I mourned the loss of my goddaughter’s 15-month-old baby, Leala, who died unexpectedly, perhaps from sudden infant death syndrome, and that of Maydell Belk, a dear neighbor and former baby sitter, who worked with juvenile offenders in Alexandria for decades.

But count one good loss for yours truly. I became a patient of Dr. Denise Bruner in Arlington and shed 25 pounds in 2005. But, believe me, it’s still the battle of the binges and bulges. A goal for 2006? Another 25? Give me chocolate protein bars, doc.

All was not lost, at least for me, in 2005. In spite of the gloomy picture I’ve painted of the world changing too fast outside my door, my family and I have been “blessed and highly favored,” as they say in some churches.

I count among those blessings the honor of meeting the venerable historian John Hope Franklin at Fisk University this year. My mother, Gwendolyn, is faring better. My aunt, Constance, is still able to be the family caretaker.

My daughter, Misti, and I bonded even more during two fantastic weeks in Europe. We spent a summer afternoon “on a terrace under the Roman sun,” as she inscribed a book, discussing writing and literature with one of my favorite authors, Barbara Chase-Riboud.

Speaking of blessed, who wouldn’t envy this American-born woman’s life spent writing in Paris, sculpting in Italy with one result being a slave memorial on Wall Street?

Most recognize Ms. Chase-Riboud’s watershed missive, “Sally Hemings.” But the historical novelist’s latest work, “The Hottentot Venus,” is breathtaking is its ability to tell the story of the South African woman who was sold and displayed naked in Paris and London in the mid-1800s from the minds of five characters, including the tragic heroine Sarah Baartman.

Another blessing: Misti and I stayed at the London Metropole across the street from the Edgeware Road Station, and missed the London bombings by one week.

People invariably will come and go in your life. You meet new friends while some old ones fade away. Some special folks are like revolving doors which bring fun-filled moments while you’re trapped spinning around in that tight space together. Others are the bearers of drama-rama you’d rather live without.

The trick is to be patient and kind with all the saints send your way. And, to remember that family is the constant, good and bad but indestructible. This constant is what makes it possible to bear the difference, a day or a year makes.

Here’s hoping that you will do whatever is necessary and within your power to make yours a prosperous, safe and happy 2006.

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