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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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.

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:

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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”

The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 1

My housing problems started three years. It was December 2014. I was about to graduate with a Master’s degree. It was an exciting time. It had taken 2 1/2 years of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. I was finally going to be free from the rigors of graduate studies. However, I made a mistake. I didn’t have a back up plan for my after college life. I relied heavily on student loans and an on campus job for living expenses.  I was so focused on my final project for my degree, I didn’t devote enough time to job hunting. Plus, I figured I would find a job easily, anyway. I had a Master’s degree, right?

I was in for a rude awakening. I found myself dead broke when school money dried up. I lost my job since it was for students only. I applied for several jobs, but nothing came up. I couldn’t afford to pay my half of the rent with a new roommate. The roommate tried to be patient, but I knew I had to be fair and leave so they could find a more stable roommate.  It was during this time, I found out I was pregnant.  I couldn’t believe it. I was older, and never really wanted children. Also, I thought my childbearing days were almost behind me, as my cycles were thinning out.

I moved in with someone I thought was a good friend.  It turned out to be a disaster. I was living in a hostile situation and the stress was too much. I decided to give my city the finger, and move back to the south were the majority of my family resided.

It went fairly well the first couple of months. I stayed with my biological father. Soon it turned another dramatic situation. I’ll just say, I’ve gots no love for my step-mother. Four days after the birth of my son, we moved into a homeless shelter for women and children. We lived there for seven months.  I was forced out after a new director thought I should be doing X,Y,Z since I was “highly” educated compared to many of the women in the shelter. But she didn’t take into account I was a single mom with a small baby, struggling with childcare issues like most parents. I was “highly” educated in a mostly service-industry town, where most people barely had GEDs. I was seen as over-qualified. I had nowhere to live if she kicked me out. What good is a degree when you are in crisis mode?

What if the problem of poverty is that it’s profitable to other people?

Continue reading “The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 1”

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”

It’s summer…

Man, I can’t believe it’s June already. It feels like we just started 2017. Yeah, I’ve been gone for a minute. But life happens (I think I said that in my last post :). I’ve been busy with a youngin, moved, and getting back into the swing of things in my city. Normally, I would be off to blogcation right now. But since I’ve been letting the blog lag a bit, I’ve decided to post throughout the summer. So, get ready.

Plus, with all the tomfoolery going on with the Trump administration, I doubt this will be a peaceful summer. Trump’s blatant support of all things racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., has brought out the evil in folks. I think the hot heat is going to rise hateful shenanigans.

The summer of 1919 has been dubbed the “Red Summer.” It was named this due to horrifying race riots that happened across the country. The killings of Black folks were at an all time high. The majority of these attacks were initiated by white folks. Brutal beatings, lynchings, and fires/property damaged that destroyed Black homes/communities.

With the alarming outpouring of white supremacists/terrorists (my city has seen a huge influx of them) it is not far-fetched we may live to see another “Red Summer.” Particularly, in the case of outright murders of Black folks by police.

Recently, a young black mother was killed in Seattle, WA when she called the police for HELP. If this isn’t a bad omen for the upcoming summer months, I don’t know what is. Rest in peace Charleena Lyles, and stay vigilant Black folks/folks of color.

To support Lyles children…https://www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg

New Year’s Giving #2

Sorry about that y’all. I’ve been a bit neglectful keeping the blog updated. Thank goodness the holidays are over. That was such a stressful time. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (I hope you got your spoonful of black-eyed peas 🙂 Unfortunately, we are starting 2017 with the inauguration of a President who has made it clear he is anti-people of color/women (don’t be fooled by the celebrities of color who are kissing azz for their own benefit). I encompass both, so Trump will be no ally to me.

It’s more important than ever to support marginalize voices/communities, as these groups will not be able to look to the new administration to align with those who aren’t  white, male, and wealthy.

As someone who is a big lover of DIY (Do It Yourself) culture…I urge folks to financially/promote alternative forms of media/activism, as we will need these resources to keep ourselves safe and heard these next four years.

Here are a FEW to connect with:

Black Girl Dangerous: “Amplifying The Voices of Queer & Trans People of Color.”

Black Women’s Blue Print: “Black Women’s Blueprint envisions a world where women and girls of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race and other disparities are erased.”

Feminist Wire: “The mission of The Feminist Wire is to provide socio-political and cultural critique of anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics pervasive in all forms and spaces of private and public lives of individuals globally.”

Brown Recluse Zine Distro:“Zine culture is not white culture. D.I.Y. culture is not white culture. Punk is not inherently white culture. So in the spirit of resistance, in the spirit of visibility and in the spirit of celebrating our cultures and intersectionality: Brown Recluse Zine Distro.”

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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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