Category Archives: Health

Holiday Giving #1

On Black Friday, instead of going shopping, I decided to make donations to groups whose work I support. It made me feel so good, that I’ve decided to continue giving in December in the honor of the holidays and all that jazz. It’s important, especially now, to help grassroots organizations as we prepare for battle next year when Trump takes office. It’s going to be a looong 2017.

This week I gave to SisterSong

“SisterSong is a Southern based, national membership organization; our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.”

While mainstream/white feminism focuses on the issue of abortion, for women of color the struggle tends to be on the right to keep our children. From forced sterilization on reservations/lower-income communities of color to being able to indulge in alternative prenatal/post care (midwives, doulas, etc.)  Also, having equal access to birth control.

The organization asks for no more than $5 dollars in contributions. But more is always nice 🙂 Give if ya can!!

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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.

 

Women of Color and Motherhood

“So, how do you like being a mother?” somebody/anybody asks me. I pause slightly and look up to the sky. I’m trying to formulate my words. The somebody/anybody eyes start to glaze over and they begin fidgeting.  I am not answering fast enough for them.  I am suppose to be happily extolling the virtues of motherhood, not pondering it deeply. Finally, I say it’s “interesting.”

I love my baby, I do. But like many new mothers I got the baby blues after he was born. There have been many late nights I have wrapped myself with my arms, rocked back and forth and muttered “what have I done?”

Becoming a parent means sacrificing your time, money,  goals, etc. It’s not that you will never have these things again, but it will be harder.  And when you become an older parent like I have (over 40), you really wonder if you will make it. While other folks will be done with raising a child, you will be dealing with a moody teen in your 50’s/60’s. Oh joy.

For mothers of color, there tends to be the typical parent concerns, plus cultural/community expectations. In the article “An Honest Conversation With Women of Color About Postpartum Mood Disorders,” mothers of color talk about their struggles  with motherhood. There are not a lot of opportunities for women of color to share these kind of stories. For many it’s the fear of not living up to stereotypes of being a Model Minority” or a “Strong Black Woman.”

The article was a moving read and made me realize how important it is for mothers of color to build a supportive network. Having a child can be a wonderful thing, but it should never be at the expense of our mental or emotional health. It’s okay to tell folks that being a mother is “interesting.”  We shouldn’t have to fake the funk to keep other folks fantasies of motherhood alive.

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My new love.

 

Black Women and HIV

Folks were shocked when Charlie Sheen confirmed his HIV status. I don’t know why. HIV/AIDS is still wrecking havoc in this country, despite the diminished attention given to the issue over the years. Women of color, Black women in particular, are the majority of new HIV cases. Yet, their plight has been virtually ignored in mainstream media.

“Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in this country.  Yet the impact of HIV among Black women and girls is even more startling.  Nationally, Black women account for 66% of new cases of HIV among women.  HIV/AIDS related illness is now the leading cause of death among Black women ages 25-34. As the national dialogue focuses on strategies for addressing the HIV epidemic in this country, the need is greater than ever for a heightened among Black women in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care.” http://www.bwhi.org/issues-and-resources/black-women-and-hiv-aids

A lot of these cases tend to be attributed to heterosexual relationships. It has been argued, due to our patriarchal society, women tend to be pressured to bend to the sexual whims of men and/or forgive infidelity, numerous sex partners, etc.  This imbalance of power in intimate/sexual relationships between men and women make women more vulnerable to getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Alice Keys has been one of the few celebrities who continues to put a spotlight on the experiences of women/women of color living with HIV.

Freddie Gray’s Mom

A few days ago it was reported that Freddie Gray’s mom may have attempted suicide. Gray was killed by police when they failed to give him proper medical attention and contributed to his death by shattering his spinal cord. While scrolling the Internet, I came across a person who asked why Gray’s mom would do such a thing. Well, probably because her son was basically tortured/murdered, she was under enormous pressure by the Baltimore police/politicians to contain the rightful protests over the incident, and there tends to be a lack of support for black parents whose children are victims of police brutality.

I believe the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice reached out to her, but it may have all been too much.

The world is not kind to a black mother’s pain.

Recently, a friend shared a conversation she had with a white woman. The woman declared that black folks don’t cry as much as white folks. Wait…what? Rewind. Yes, she sincerely believes black folks don’t cry.

Initially, I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her comment, but the woman’s sentiments support a study done a year or so ago that white people tend not to recognize black people’s pain. It’s even worse for black women as we have to contend with strong black woman rhetoric. It makes me wonder about some white folks sometimes. It truly does.

In any case, sending love to Freddie Gray’s mom.

Yes, black folks cry too. Photo from:
Yes, black folks cry too.

Black Woman Heal Day 2015

Last week, I attended the first national Black Woman Heal Day with an event held in my city.

Lilada Gee founded the day as a way for Black women to address sexual violence/other issues that have impacted our lives. In a society that is very hostile to Black women…how can we stay emotionally/mentally/physically healthy. Gee was inspired by her own life experiences.

“Lilada Gee was 6 years old the first time an adult family member sexually abused her. Throughout the ensuing years, she struggled with issues related to the abuse; including clinical depression, post-traumatic stress and low self-esteem. Now, as an adult, she is committed to helping girls and women who are victims of child sexual abuse, heal. Lilada’s Livingroom began in the living room of Lilada’s home, after she publicly shared her tumultuous journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse. Girls and women who were in the audience started showing up at her home, in her living room to find a safe place to heal. Since that time, Lilada has traveled from coast-to-coast and abroad, creating safe places for women and girls to rid themselves of the shame, secrets and stigmatism of abuse.”

http://lilada.org/

The organizers at my event provided a creative space so that attendees could express themselves any way they needed to. Whether it was making cute African dolls (with just fabric/wire!!) or painting our hopes/dreams…it was a cathartic event. And of course there was lots of food. You always have to have food 😉 Gee Skyped in. She was lovely, of course. I could tell she was moved by our participation.

Inspirational African dolls made by attendees.
Inspirational dolls made by attendees.
I was eating everythang :)
I was eating everythang  😉
I tried to get my paint on!
I tried to get my paint on!

Hopefully, this national event will continue on. It’s important work that needs to be sustained. Check out this great interview with Gee. You will get tears in your eyes. Rock on Black women!!

A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde

March is Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on October 18.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women’s_History_Month

While we tend to be a bit more open talking about racism in this country, we fail to discuss the hatred of women that permeates in our society. It’s not hard to pick up on the loathing via mainstream media.

As a Black woman, I often have to navigate high levels of anti-blackness/femaleness in my daily encounters with white folks/men.

Black feminist scholar Moya Bailey coined the term “Misogynoir” to speak to the unique form of hostility that is geared towards Black women simply for being Black and women (Yes, Madonna and Patricia Arquette you can be both).

While I haven’t been able to do too much for Women’s History Month, I was able to attend a film showing of “A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde.”

Audre Lorde tends to be revered in feminists communities. After watching the documentary it became clear why the self-proclaimed “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” is loved. Lorde was a great creative spirit/orator/intellectual.

It was hard to watch the latter years of her life, as she battled cancer. There was one scene (I can’t remember if she was with her daughter or a friend) but even as she could barely speak/was weak from cancer, she was brainstorming how to put an activist conference together. Her daughter/friend told her “No, I wanted us to talk about you doing something fun.” Lorde titled her head slightly and let out a soft sigh.  She had a small smile on her face. She was a thinker/organizer until the end.

I highly recommend the film. The documentary made me realize that Black women intellectuals don’t get enough shine in or out the Black community. Pop stars, actresses, fashinonistas do…but not our Black women intellectuals. Black women pretty much still have to be oversexualized or playing Mammy to get some love.

If you do nothing else this Women’s History Month, at least check out this documentary 🙂

Happy Black History Month (BHM)!

I know, I know…where the hell have I been? My bad.  I got extremely sick near the end of January, had to move last-minute at the beginning of February, and then my laptop crashed soon after. Or so I thought. I was fiddling around with it last night and all of a sudden it wheezed on. It’s the only reason why I’m able to churn out this post today 🙂

I just wanted to peek in and wish folks happy Black History Month (BHM). I normally like to dedicate the blog to all things BHM, but just couldn’t get it together this time around. I hope folks have been able to partake in events in your area. There’s been some great happenings in my neck of the woods (an amazing feat since I live in a predominantly white city).

While BHM is all about celebrating the fabulous contributions of Black folks to this country that has treated us like crap, there is one VERY important issue that I feel often gets left out of BHM conversations…soul food 🙂

“The term soul food became popular in the 1960s. The origins of soul food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa. Foods such as rice, sorghum (known by some Europeans as “guinea corn”), and okra — all common elements of West African cuisine — were introduced to the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They became dietary staples among enslaved Africans. They also comprise an important part of the cuisine of the American south, in general. Foods such as corn and cassava from the Americas, turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal would play an important part in the history of African-American cooking.[1]”   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_food

A couple of months ago, I met a friend at Starbucks for drinks and homegirl talk. She decided to also get a salad. After we sat down, she opened the package and picked through the dish, then pushed it away with a frown on her face.  “What is it with white folks new obsession with kale?” She asked. “It’s so annoying and they don’t even cook it right!” I looked at her food. It was a raw kale with a few tomatoes tossed on top.

I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about.  It’s been interesting to see white folks (particularly white hipsters) carry on about kale, mustard greens/collard greens, watermelon, chicken and waffles, etc. foods they have historically looked down upon because it’s been associated with Black folks (ie soul food).  Now many are acting like they discovered these cuisines (kind of like how Columbus thought he discovered America) and are going extremely overboard with it.

Of course, no props are given to Black folks for cultivating these dishes and making them an American favorite comfort food. If anything Black folks choice to eat soul food has often been bashed as unhealthy.  Initially, I was reluctant to watch Byron Hurt’s “Soul Food Junkies” documentary that came out a few years ago. I thought “please no more dissecting of black folks eating habits.” While I did roll my eyes at some parts of the film, overall I thought Hurt was fair. I recommend it for folks interested in learning about what soul food means to Black folks. It’s not just about the eating, but a way to say you love/care about kin/but not kin folks too 🙂

**This will probably be my last post for this month. I will get back into the swing of things in March. I still have some life happenings going on…but let me leave you with this chicken and waffles recipe to get you through. You know I love a good recipe 😉

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  • 1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating overnight

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/food/Soul-Food-Recipes-Brown-Sugar-Kitchen-Recipes

Patient.

I follow a group of amazing women of color writers. I love the group because I get introduced to their latest work.  “Patient.” is a new release by Bettina Judd.  The book of poems was the 2013 winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2013 Hudson Book Prize. Go girl!

“A researcher lives with the ghosts of enslaved women after they visit her hospital bed. To appease them, she traces the stories of Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy, three of the women who were subject to experiments by the father of American gynecology and finds that she is entangled in a history of medical subjection and display.” http://www.patientpoems.com/

I’m usually not a big purchaser of poetry books, but this is one I will definitely be adding to my collection.  🙂

 

Black Girl In Suburbia/ Spent: Looking for Change

This past weekend I attended a showing of the documentary “Black Girl in Suburbia.” It’s a revolutionary film, in that, it focuses on a segment of the black population that tends to be ignored. The film features middle school to high school black girls.

“Black Girl In Suburbia is a feature documentary that looks into the experiences of black girls growing up in predominately white communities. This is a different look into suburbia from the perspective of women of color. This film explores through professional and personal interviews the conflict and issues black girls have relating to both white and black communities.” http://www.blackgirlinsuburbia.com/

Initially, I was skeptical of the film.  The host of the film stated, there were several people who were resistant to the film being shown. Perhaps the people who were against the film, thought it was going to be a bunch of middle class black folks moaning about how hard it is to be black. I know I did.

But the young girls/women who spoke on camera were diverse in their voices, identities, and experiences. I particularly liked their honesty when discussing issues of hair and dating as a black girl in predominately white communities.

“Black Girl…” is a unique film and one that I recommend. I look forward to more films from director Melissa Lowery.

Another thought-provoking film, was posted by ColorLines, a few days ago. “Spent: Looking for Change,” chronicles how many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Or check cashing loan to check cashing loan.

“Spent” is a rare look at the nearly 70 million Americans residing in households that either don’t have a regular checking account (unbanked) or that rely on a combination of traditional checking and alternative services like payday or check cashing loans to get by (underbanked).” http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/06/Paycheck_to_paycheck.html

I related a lot to this film. Despite having no children and being fairly educated,  I am part of the working poor. It’s bizarre because someone like myself should be living it up. However, I am constantly struggling.

Of course, things always tend to be worse for black folks. We are the last ones hired first ones fired. But really so many of us are suffering.

I’m shocked there hasn’t been anarchy yet, because things are getting worse not better.