Self Care in Color

A few weeks ago, I attended a virtual self-care retreat for Black women (how cool is that!) It was an amazing experience. The only drawback, the daily videos were scheduled 8 am eastern time, which meant I had to be up by 5 am Pacific. Of course, it wasn’t that difficult for me to get up.  I have a toddler. Those with small children know kids are usually breathing in your face at the crack of dawn. So, I was semi-awake for this inspiring event.

I enjoyed all the guest speakers, but especially the conversations on what is self-care (Tara Pringle Jeffersonand Black motherhood and self-care (Danielle Faust).

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Bloom Beautifully Self-Care Box

Jefferson talked about the importance of thinking deeper about self-care practices. The rhetoric tends to be go get a manicure or go to the spa, and all will be well. Jefferson encouraged Black women to take a more holistic approach. It could mean getting rid of toxic people in our lives. Or cutting out destructive habits (overextending ourselves, smoking) etc.

Faust discussed the challenges of finding time for self-care, especially as  Black mothers. In/outside the Black community, there is expectation of Black women sacrificing themselves for everyone else. The pressures triple, once we have children. We are raising Black children in an anti-black world. We have to protect our children differently than non-Black mothers. How can Black mothers indulge in self-care without feeling guilty or judged?

Recently, I celebrated my birthday. A good friend gave me a gift card to one of my favorite stores. I had to force myself not to buy my son a new outfit. It was a struggle to only spend the card on myself. Honestly, I kind of failed. I did get him a t-shirt. It’s this dilemma as Black mothers of knowing it’s okay to self-indulge, sometimes.

The self-care retreat was interesting and fun. When the organizer asked about ideas for next year’s gathering, I suggested more interactive opportunities. But she did a wonderful job for her first time!

She sent a link of Black women owned businesses that include coaching, counseling, products, etc. Personally, I’ve got my eye on Jefferson’s self-care boxI will make self buy it. I will make myself buy it… 😉

Support Black businesses this holiday season!!

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#metoo

The last few weeks the public has been inundated with shocking revelations of predatory behavior in Hollywood. So much so, I needed time to process before writing about it. Some folks have been skeptical of the allegations, as many of the women have waited 5-10 years (if not more) to share their stories. While I’m sure most folks figured there were shenanigans going on in Hollywood, I think it’s been hard for people to grasp that it’s on such a wide scale. Especially, with celebrities they admired. I think it speaks to the fact, that this country has not really addressed the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women.

Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics

Recently, I came across a post that pointed out that we need to make a distinction between sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just asshole behavior. I thought this was important, and probably what’s contributing to most of us feeling overwhelmed. The mixing of incidents, is creating confusion. Ellen Page shared that Brett Ratner “outted” her on set. While offensive, and the way he did it was vulgar, it’s not rape. Lupita Nyong’o wrote an article about her interactions with Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein lured Lupita into several uncomfortable situations, one that resulted in her having to give him a massage, for her own safety. She experienced harassment, but it wasn’t rape. Other women (and men) talked about incidents they’ve endured, while disturbing, many were asshole antics…but it wasn’t rape.

This is not about oppression olympics, all of these scenarios feed into the larger issue of rape culture.  However, it’s making me a little anxious folks are lumping a outting story (as Kevin Spacey also tried to do), or someone giving a perverted sneer, with rape.

Black Women and Sexual Violence

Continue reading “#metoo”

The Tale of Four

A few days ago, actress Gabourey Sidibe released her short film “The Tale of Four.” The film is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology film.

The purpose of this series is to highlight films by women directors. This is Sidibe’s directorial debut.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the film. “The Tale of Four” is a take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Now, folks who know this song, know this is one of Simone’s most iconic gems. The song stays on rotation in Black women’s playlist for revolution. Folks still get chills from Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott,  Ledisi rendition of this song at 2010 Black Girls Rock. Ledisi appears as “Aunt Sarah” in the film.

Well, the joke was on me. By the end of the 20-minute short, I was near tears. Sidibe managed to bring a contemporary spin on the characters of  Simone’s song. She portrayed the women as complex people. No one is all good or bad.

Aunt Sarah-is taking care of her sister’s children after her sister goes to prison for shooting Sarah’s abusive partner.  Despite this sacrifice,  Aunt Sarah struggles with keeping the children or placing them in foster care. She feels obligated, but overwhelmed. She loves them, but wants her life back.

Safronia-is a light-skinned biracial woman. She’s harassed by Black peers for her skin color, but she gives as good as she gets. She refers to one of her tormentors as a “burnt bitch.” Safronia demands her dark-skinned mother tell her who her father is. The mother breaks down and tells her daughter how she was conceived. She was raped by a white man. Safronia goes to her mother and hugs her. It was a powerful moment. Black women sexual assault survivors rarely get unspoken love/support.  Also, it wasn’t the cliché story of the “confused” biracial, rather acknowledging the pain of the mother.

Sweet Thing– is a sex worker. She’s not ashamed of what she does.  She enjoys it, but would like respect from her client.  She’s a talented woman. She sings with a husky voice, plays the piano. When she picks up the phone and apologizes for an argument. Of course, it’s the client. The man she really wants to be with. Or so you think.. When she opens the door to a Black woman holding flowers, and they bashfully hold hands. You realize Sweet Thing wants a different kind of love to fill her heart.

Peaches-is the Black mother grieving her child killed by police. She represents Black Lives Matter, the protest of the flag/anthem, the resistance of white supremacy. Peaches is Lesley McSpadden, Sybrina Fulton, Samaria Rice, Geneva Reed-Veal, and more (sadly). More importantly, Peaches is the symbolic revenge of Black mothers. I recently read an article how the narrative of Black people abused by the police/white oppression is that of forgiveness. We are expected to forgive the transgressions against us. Peaches rejects that notion. She knows she will suffer when takes her revenge, but it helps her heal.

“The Tale of Four” was wonderful. It makes the Nina Simone film with Zoe Saldana in blackface, even more insulting.  This brilliant songstress deserves more than that. Sidibe redeems Simone’s honor with her film.

Colorism in the age of Trump

The Trump administration has ushered in such chaos in our country, it’s hard to know what to bash first. Trump has pretty much confirmed that he is incompetent, as well as cold-blooded. I’m still tripping off the fact he said “good luck” literally with his thumbs up, regarding the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey. He has also used it as an opportunity to peddle his wares.

So, talking about colorism can seem out-of-place, even insignificant. However,  it actually connects to the bigger issue facing our nation. The resurgence of white supremacy rhetoric, a hostility that Trump has not tried to squash. It highlights the importance of tackling the problem of colorism. Black folks need to get hardcore about calling out folks who engage in this behavior. Their antics contribute to the overall oppression of the Black community.

Those who espouse colorstruck comments are no different from white supremacists. Hell, they are white supremacists. When you position lighter-skinned folks as better, more beautiful, more worthy…essentially you are upholding anti-blackness.

Colorism generally tends to be aimed at darker-skinned Black women. Probably, because women’s status in an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, is based on attractiveness. Black women, in particular are valued more if their looks align closer to white standards of beauty. This summer quite a few folks have shown who they are. Folks like Gilbert Arenas, Kodak Black, and Amber Rose have made it clear that they are white supremacists.

Arenas’s colorist attitude has been especially disturbing. He’s fixated on actress, Lupita Nyong’o He has attacked her several times in the media. Arenas’s public degradation of Nyong’o skin tone speaks to an alarming display of misogynoir.

Gilbert Arenas says Lupita Nyong’o ‘ain’t cute’ in tirade about dark-skinned women

Arenas married and divorced a light-skinned woman of color. He has treated her like crap via social media. That is what I find interesting about men like Arenas. They trash darker-skinned Black women, but mistreat their trophy light women. There is obviously something lacking within themselves. They have a hatred for all women, but they zero in on darker-skinned Black women. Probably because folks recognize dark Black women are the least protected in our society. They know they can humiliate us with little recourse.

I didn’t even know what a Kodak Black was, until he made headlines for disparaging darker-skinned Black women. The rapper has been able to elicit some sympathy from folks. Besides, emphasizing his disgust for dark Black women he shared about disliking his skin tone. Folks have argued that explains his contempt for darker-skinned Black women. Meh. If Black felt such pain about what he has gone through as a darker person, why would he then turn around and inflict that same pain on people he doesn’t even know. These people insist on making HUGE public announcements about why they loathe dark-skinned Black women. We’re out here minding our business, when these fools come with the nonsense. Getting loud, telling us how much they dislike us. Okay, well f*ck you too.

Amber Rose expressed sadness for Black, but it wasn’t long before she was making her own insulting comments about dark-skinned Black women. Albeit, she was a bit subtler about it.

Amber Rose Makes Questionable Comments About South Philly Women

Continue reading “Colorism in the age of Trump”

Chasing Destiny

One of my favorite girl groups is En Vogue. They were the quintessential 90’s girl group with their beautiful harmonies, sleek fashions, and attractive but attainable looks.

I was pleased to see Kelly Rowland give homage to the group in her new show “Chasing Destiny.”

Rowland, one of the key members of Destiny’s Child, hopes to find the next generation’s “it” girl group.

The first episode was interesting, if not tedious. You know the cliche tryouts, backstories, and repeat singers from other reality shows who are still trying to catch a break.

However, Rowland brings charm and cuteness to the show, so it’s worth tuning in. She also has a vision for the group which is appealing. I had to smile when she said “give me my chocolate” when looking over photos for potential group members. Rowland recently talked about the importance of “chocolate” black women in the music industry.

One of my pet peeves with shows like this, is that so much effort is put into finding people, but often the groups go nowhere.

Sometimes it’s because they really aren’t all that great to begin with, but a lot of the times folks are extremely talented but not properly promoted.

I hope Kelly’s group actually make it. Especially since she does seem to want to expand the images of black women in music. This is needed as black women singers have become pigeonholed if they aren’t dipped in the Rihanna or Beyonce prototype. It’s why phenomenal singers like Jazmine Sullivan, Fantasia,  and others have struggled so.

Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

Dark Black Beauty

Last week, my baby and I came down with serious colds. Then I found myself mixing various concoctions trying to deal with a mysterious bump that popped out on my neck.  Life is rough, y’all. But I’m back and in full effect. The little one is better too 🙂

One of the things I had planned to write about, was the video floating around of the Brazilian beauty queen who was stripped of her title for being “too dark.” I was reminded of her plight after reading about a dark skinned model whose luscious lips were subjected to racist attacks on MAC Cosmetic’s Instagram page.

Despite the increase of folks of color in America, the beauty standard hasn’t evolved all that much. Let your eyes gaze magazine covers while standing in the check-out line. It’s still mostly white women who are featured. Occasionally, a woman of color will be tossed on the front page for the “diversity” issue. And that’s only if they fit the white standard somehow (light, skinny,  narrow nose, etc.).

As a darker black woman in her 40’s, I have had to fight “all my life” to love my skin tone/fuller lips. I find it fascinating that folks think it’s perfectly okay to treat darker people with such disdain. Anti-darkness is a sickness that needs to be treated in this country. We need to call out folks who engage in this behavior. All day, everyday. We don’t want a color caste system like Brazil. Brazil is a great example of what happens when white supremacy/internalized racism regarding beauty/social status is allowed to run amok.

It’s important we provide younger black folks with positives images of darker skin/”ethnic” looks. And be willing to challenge ourselves if/when black beauty standards also become stagnant.

Photo from:  jezebel.com

‘Skinned’

LisaRaye McCoy looks at the issue of  colorism in her new film ‘Skinned.’

“For her directorial debut “Skinned,” LisaRaye McCoy is pulling out the punches tackling a controversial subject that is plaguing people of color: skin lightening. In a world where people are preaching self-love and not holding to the media’s standard of beauty, colorism is still an underlying issue in the black community. The movie is about a woman named Jolie (Jasmine Burke) who was always ruthlessly teased when she was younger for being dark-skinned. Jolie believes the only thing that will make her more beautiful is if she bleaches her skin to snag the perfect man, but years later, when she does get married, the skin bleaching comes back to haunt her.”  http://www.accra.io/blogs/p/129591/trailer-lisaraye-mccoy-tackles-colorism-skin-bleaching-in-new-movie-skinned

What’s interesting about colorism is how clueless white people tend to be about this issue. Yet, it is because of white supremacy/the push of whiteness as the ideal why it’s so pervasive.  White folks created colorism. Regarding the Black community, what’s frustrating to me is that this issue tends to be framed only as a problem with darker-skinned Black women.  If we would just love ourselves more rhetoric. It’s more complex than that. Also, these types of films (like Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s “Dark Girls”), tend to gloss over the fact that Black men have been harshly affected by white supremacist thought regarding beauty. When we look at the current entertainment world, it has been Black men who have pushed light/biracial/non-black women into the spotlight. I’m sure LisaRaye herself has benefited greatly from colorstruck Black men in the industry.

I’m waiting for someone to make that film. Anyway, good for LisaRaye and her venture into directing.