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”

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.

Dating Violence

A few days ago, I was shocked to read about the death of Dr. Jeannine Shante Skinner. Dr. Skinner was murdered by a man she was dating. I was further appalled by some of the comments I read on the Internet, regarding the killing of this beautiful woman. It was the typical rhetoric leveled at Black women who are victims of interpersonal violence. It wouldn’t happen to them if they didn’t love “thugs.” The pictures that I’ve seen of the couple together, is that of a polished/professional man. Most likely, he is a sociopath who knew how to camouflage who he really was, well.

11 Signs You May Be Dating a Sociopath

Initially, I was going to title this post “domestic violence (DV).” However, after reading more about the case, I learned that Dr. Skinner had only been with the guy a couple of months. The couple did not live together. She took him to church to meet friends and family. She seemed to be taking her time getting to know him. All the “right things” we tell women to do, when they begin seeing someone. This wasn’t a long-term relationship, were there were incidents of recorded frequent violence. That’s why it’s disturbing so many folks are chalking up Dr. Skinner’s death to a DV situation…of a woman who didn’t leave when she had the chance.

It can be argued, Dr. Skinner saw something that DID raise a red flag and she decided to end the relationship. It was probably what triggered the guy to kill her.

While we have gotten a bit better talking about domestic violence, we don’t talk enough about dating violence, particularly for older women. Usually, the focus of dating violence tends to be on teens/young people. Regardless of age, abusers will latch on right away during the dating stage, pushing for full-blown relationships.

Black Women and Dating Violence

Currently, there is debate if whether a fellow who has decided to win his ex back by playing the piano everyday in a park until she comes back, is romantic or abusive behavior. When I first saw the story trending, I thought it was odd, but figured he must really miss her. After reading why many women felt his behavior was abusive and controlling, I had to agree.

Continue reading “Dating Violence”

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”

Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”