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.

Kelela

I’m a big fan of 90’s r&b. It was a such great time for Black music. There was a diversity of looks/talent, particularly with Black female singers. Once r&b merged with hip hop, it opened the door for young Black women’s swag.  Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Aaliyah, En Vogue, Zhane, SWV, etc. ruled the charts. Black women singers from the 80’s (Angela Winbush, Miki Howard, Stephanie Mills, etc.) were able to hold on and crossover into the new beats driven sound, up into the mid-90’s.

Eventually, these old school Black female singers, would be pushed out. It was due to record companies recognizing the power of r&b/hip-hop. They hooked their claws into the music, and repackaged it with more palatable images for mainstream America (white folks).

By the late 90’s-2000s white female singers Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus etc. were promoted as the latest flavor of r&b, which by now had been watered down to “r&b lite.”

Since the mid-2000s, Black female singers have struggled. For over a decade, there’s only been two spaces given to Black women. Largely occupied by Beyoncé and Rihanna.  It’s been hard for other Black female singers to break into the box. There’s been upcoming Black female singers who have generated buzz here and there (Janelle Monae, FKA Twigs),  but most Black female singers continue to be marginalized.

Recently, I went on a music site to check out the latest tunes. I try to stay hip to what the kids are listening to. It was amusing to scroll through the r&b section and see a sea of white faces.  The music industry has successfully been able to hijack Black music to showcase white singers (Sam Smith, Adele, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran etc.)

This has contributed to the stagnation of Black female talent. There hasn’t been a buzz on a Black female singer for a minute…until now. A couple of months ago, Kelela’s page popped up on my timeline. I decided to check her out. I was pleasantly surprised. She’s an interesting/innovative musician. I also find Kelela’s honesty about being a Black woman in today’s music scene, refreshing. She’s not running from the topic. She understands how the intersections of race/gender impact her career.

I was excited when I learned she was coming to my city. Sadly, something came up and I had to cancel. I was bummed as hell. But I was happy I was able to support by buying a ticket. It’s time for the Black female singer to make a comeback (especially Brown/Dark skinned ones, but that’s another post 😉

Kelela’s debut album “Take Me Apart” is good. It’s experimental/Afrofuturistic r&b. She just released a new video for the song “Blue Light.”

As she said on her page, she’s having sex with her hair. Well, okay, go girl.

Missing Black Girls

When I first read about the tragedy of Kenneka Jenkins, like a lot of folks, I got caught up in the sensationalism of the story. Did her friends set her up? Who spiked her drink? Was it her voice calling out for help, during a sexual assault?

Unfortunately, the confusion that has accompanied this story has been exacerbated by the incompetence of the hotel, the indifference of police officials, and social media conspiracies.

Once you shift through all the chaos surrounding this young woman’s death, one of the bigger issues that emerges is how mainstream society deals with missing Black girls.

The stories of young black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide manhunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-accident-hear-missing-black-girls-article-1.3005609

I became aware of Jenkins through the Facebook group, Black and Missing, But Not Forgotten. The story may have received more press coverage in Chicago (where the incident took place), but I haven’t noticed much mainstream media attention to this case.

I can only imagine the hoopla if a white girl, was found dead in a freezer in a fairly upscale hotel.

I was angered to read when Jenkins’s mother, after reaching out to police officials to report her daughter missing, had the police called on HER by the hotel. Jenkins’s mother decided to take measures in her own hands with family. They went around the hotel, knocking on doors, asking guests if they’d seen her daughter. A reasonable action, most parents would take.

Yet, the hotel had authorities remove her for “disturbing the peace.” It’s hard to believe they would’ve done the same thing to a white mother, frantically searching for her lost daughter.

The police, once involved, were no better. They initially refused to take seriously the disappearance of Jenkins. Perhaps, if they would’ve reacted faster the young woman would still be alive. Once they did find her in the freezer, they pretty much wrote it off as a “drunk girl” who foolishly locked herself in a freezer.

There was reluctance on their part to do any real investigative work. It was only the outrage of the Black community, that they were forced to do something. Once again, I don’t think this nonchalant attitude would’ve been used towards a white family. The criticism of the police,  has been reduced to “keystone cops” antics. No, they just didn’t give a damn.

As of 2014, 64,000 Black women were missing in the United States–March For Black Women

The calling of the police on Jenkins’s mother, shows that even when Black folks are the victims in need of help, we are still treated like threats. It’s reminiscent of the Seattle police shooting of Charleena Lyles, who called police for help. Lyles believed someone was breaking into her house. The police killed her instead.

A few days ago, the hotel released videos of the last hours of Jenkins’s life. It was alarming to watch the young woman desperately trying to figure out where she was. It was hard not to get upset, knowing the end result. If I was traumatized by the videos, I’m sure Jenkins’s mother is devastated. Her daughter went to a party (as most 19 year olds do), and will never return home. For her to be treated like a burden by the hotel and police, is a disgrace.

The mysterious circumstances of Jenkins’s death, will hopefully be resolved. Her family deserves proper closure.

March For Black Women

On Saturday, September 30, 2017 the Black Women’s Blueprint is hosting a March for Black Women in Washington, DC.

The purpose of the event is to highlight issues affecting Black women across the country.

  • State violence against Black women
  • The criminalization of Black women
  • Rape culture/Sexualized violence
  • Murders of trans Black women
  • Addressing missing Black girls and women

and much more.

A few weeks ago, I sent in a form to their main website hoping to get more information about the event. The organizers are encouraging sister marches in other cities. I didn’t realize I was signing up on the spot to lead a march! 🙂

But it’s fine. I love planning events, especially something that seeks to empower Black girls/women. Also, I try to be a woman of my word and when the organizers contacted me via email, I decided to push forward.

Support the work of these amazing women in DC or if you know about a similar gathering in your city. If you are a Black woman in Portland, come on out to my event. I’ve decided to host a townhall, since it’s too last-minute for an actual march. We are in precarious times, and Black women have to make sure we don’t continue to be marginalized/silenced.

If you can, contribute to the main March For Black Women’s fundraiser and/or my event. I believe strongly in paying Black women for their time and labor.

march march

 

 

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”

Black Mothering Over 40

My little one will be turning two soon. It just seems like yesterday,  I was holding him in my arms for the first time.

I’m an old mama. I had my son when I was 41.  I never wanted children. I didn’t think motherhood was for me. I liked being on my own. Life happens, though.

It’s been an interesting experience. I tend to liken my parenting skills to an episode on The Simpsons.

Homer realizes he has been a horrible parent. He decides to make it up to Bart and Lisa. Of course, he bumbles his way through, making things worse. Finally, Bart fed up with the shenanigans, tells his dad “Your half ass under-parenting was better than your half ass over-parenting.” Homer replies sadly, “But I’m using my whole ass.” 

Once you decide to become a parent, you will be making a huge sacrifice. This sacrifice is even more jarring when you are older. You have spent the majority of your life doing whatever the hell you wanted to do. Those days are over. I’ve learned to accept these things since becoming a mother.

  1. You will always be tired. A good friend (also an older mom), warned me that I will never sleep again. When you are having your child, you roll your eyes at folks who tell you this. After all, YOU will be different. You will have that kid on a schedule. Ha, ha! The joke’s on me. I haven’t slept well since, uh the kid was born.
  2.  You will constantly be in battle with patience. While pregnant, I reassured myself that it would all work out. I’m older. I would be more patient. I would never be like those moms in the store with bulging eyes and throbbing neck veins, frustrated with their children. That lasted 2.5 seconds. Kids are not an extension of you. They are their own people with their own thoughts emotions, etc. They can and will work your nerves.
  3. You will question why you did it. In our society, mothers are expected to romanticize parenthood. Nope. The truth is, I question all the time if I did the right thing.  When you have a child, it’s not just about cute clothes, Disneyland trips, etc., it’s about raising a well-rounded human being. What’s messed up, despite giving your all, the kid could still grow up to dislike you. I know so many folks who don’t talk to their parents. You never know how it’s going to turn out.

Continue reading “Black Mothering Over 40”

The White Privilege of Employment

A week or so ago, I saw this posted on the internet:

master's

When I saw it, I had a good chuckle. I thought “ain’t that the truth, Ruth!” Then I grew somber.  It really was the truth.  The job market is ridiculous right now, and because there is still a significant amount of people desperate for work, employers literally have the pick of the litter.

It’s even worse for Black folks, as the saying goes we are the last hired, first fired.

Under Trump, unemployment rate rises for Black workers

Since, I’ve gotten a graduate degree,  I’ve been hustling to find steady work. There was a period where it was hard to find work due to being pregnant, but I was still open to answering phones, something. What I’ve come to realize, despite the rhetoric leveled at Black folks to get an education, stay out of trouble, etc. Is that, we still have to show up to interviews Black (if you get that far, sometimes they discard your application on name alone).

It’s always been amusing to me that white folks (and some non-Black folks) who are anti Affirmative Action, accuse the practice of favoring Black folks. Studies show it is actually white women have benefited the most from Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone

I see this truth every time I have an interview.  The majority of times I’m sitting in front of a white woman manager/supervisor.  In my city, Portland, usually this means they are a self-described hipster/feminist/alternative/progressive who are for the empowerment of all women.  Ironically,  these white “progressive” women can be the worst. In that, they tend to take a paternalistic approach towards women of color…particularly Black women. Because Black women have historically been used as the antithesis of white womanhood (to justify our abuse/rape/exploitation during slavery),  the majority do not know how to engage with Black women as equals.

I have sat in interviews with white women who had smirks on their faces, looks of amusement, or surprise that I was friendly/open. The stereotype is that Black women are rude/combative/joyless people.  I have a friend who is a full-figured, dark-skinned woman. She once shared that her employer told her she couldn’t believe how sweet she was. My friend stated, “I guess because I’m a fat Black woman they expected me to be mean.”

Continue reading “The White Privilege of Employment”