Friday, April 30, 2010

Beating A Dead Horse: It's Just Hair!

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I honestly can't believe that it's 2010 and we are STILL on the topic of Black women's hair. Well, I'm lying actually I can. We talked about it ALL 2009, and the year before that AND the year before that. So no, I really didn't have the expectation that we'd be over it by now. I actually think it's worse now, when we begin to throw into the mix all the self conscious Black women out there. Don't get me wrong, I'm natural myself but I think there is such a thing as being TOO natural.

The "TOO" natural women are from the lineage of Sampson and believe their self worth is in the coil of their locks. They are the women who still believe that a perm is a kin to hatred of self. The TOO natural women have replaced the bullies of "Straightened Hairs' Past." They are fascinated with the thought of them being rebels, while those who perm their hair are conformist. Paradoxically, in my opinion, the journey to be natural has become consumed with the journey to be contrary. In the same way in which women who straightened their hair were seen to do so for approval, natural women are pushing so hard for their own approval.

Top: Me rocking my natural hair, blown out straight. Bottom: My curly weave that I used to transition to natural.

Nevertheless, in their search they begin to implement coping mechanisms that are intimidating and darn near oppressive to women who chose to straighten their hair. As a natural woman who wears my hair curly, in twist outs, blow-dried straight, or weave I like the variety that my natural hair affords me. In the same token, I think it's counterproductive to judge those who desire to have their hair permed. It is very simplistic to assume straightened hair is equivalent to selling out.

Natural haired women who use their hair as a statement, create a double standard that contributes to the difficulty Black women have dealing with their locks. Stop using your hair as a statement. Our hair should be a personal choice not a political proclamation. Stop focusing on how the next chick's hair looks and we'll be better off. What you eat don't make her hair shiny. At the end of the day why can't hair just be hair?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size...

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More times than not, when I come across photos of Jay-Z he is dressed in urban wear. The other day I was on a website that shall not be named, looking at celebrity photos. When it came to pics of Jay-Z and Beyonce, several comments focused on his attire and a desire for him to dress like the 40 year old man that he is. Yet as a rapper and creator of Rocawear, I don't understand why his attire is so perplexing to some. Not only that, but when he's mingling with moguls Jay can clean up very well. Perhaps, I'm biased though because Jay can do whatever he wants. On the other hand, a lot of ya'll ain't Jay. o__O

I'll be the first person to say that adults over the age of 30 who constantly wear name brands such as Dereon, BabyPhat, Rocawear, Apple Bottoms, etc get the Terry McMillan side eye from me. Maybe, in some manner I am a little more old school than I thought. Having an almost thirty year age difference between my parents and I, seeing and observing them and the crowds they associated with, I had an ideal of how 30-40 year old adults should dress. I grew up around men who wore slacks and dress shoes, button ups and trench coats and weren't 37 with cornrows in their heads o__O. There were jeans but they were few and far in between and worn with casual shoes. The women I grew up around didn't wear fitted tees and jeans with apples on their butts. I'm actually sad at the decline of casual wear. Oh and no, I'm not suggesting linen suits and Stacy Adams.

Frankie, Keyshia Coles' mom with her Jordan's on...dressing like she doesn't have like 10 adult children o__O

Is it over saturation of the hip hop culture? Obviously. I mean because let's face it, outside of trying to be young and actually being young there is no reason why people would habitually wear those clothes. Perhaps, there's irony in this now refusal to grow up and 40 year olds trying to be 30 were once 15 trying to be 25. The loss of being a teenager is now manifested in these undergrown adults walking around looking like urban youth. I guess the overarching moral of the story would be to inform that 40 is NOT the new 30 and 30 is NOT the new 20. Grow up, dress your age and not your shoe size. *heavy eye roll*

***Sidenote: This is a WHOLE other post in itself, but while I'm on the subject of being too old for something... If you're forty years old, stay yo tail out the club with 20 year olds. Go to a lounge or something. There's nothing worse than seeing a grown man/woman partying with people that are young enough to be his/her children.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Teach Me How To Love...

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What does it mean for a man to be a protector and a provider? What does it mean for a woman to be a nurturer? Who are the men protecting and providing for and who are the women nurturing? If supposedly our stereotyped role as a nurturer forces us to be emotional and therefore open to the idea of monogamy and his nature forces him to stray, then can we ever really be compatible in relationships? I mean it wouldn't be possible, unless that is, one always has to give up something. Sadly, to some extent we have been taught that a man can never act naturally in order to have a compatible relationship. That it is somehow unnatural and irregular for a man to want to settle down because it's not his nature. What Does It Profit A Man to Gain A Woman, But Lose His Freedom?

Gendered roles relegate a man to be a protector of his property, which chauvinistically include his woman, but what does he protect us from exactly? So often when we think of the man, we think of his duties in terms of physicality or finances. We tend to think of the woman in terms of emotional availability. The problem in many cases is not that a man isn't a protector and provider via material assets but that he often fails to protect the most important asset of all: his woman's heart. If a man expects his woman's greatest job is to nurture and be there for him emotionally then why wouldn't it make sense for his job to be the compliment to hers? This is the hope of reciprocity.

Onto the woman. If we are nurturers, who are we supposed to be nurturers of exactly? After all the word nurture means "to care for and encourage the growth and development of" and is often contrasted with our nature. Is it our maternal instinct that allows us to be nurturers? Is that reserved for our children? What happens when grown men expect that nurturing gene to work in their favor? I mean if nurturing is caring for and encouraging the growth and development, what exactly would we be trying to develop in a man that supposedly already sees himself as grown?

This is a real question, especially within our Black community where we have the misconception of the "emasculating Black woman," the asexual, non-nurturing Black woman who isn't sensitive enough and therefore makes the man feel as though he isn't needed. When manhood is forever juxtaposed to womanhood and womanhood becomes demonized, how does that leave men to react? A woman who supposedly wants monogamy but is typecast as someone who is untrustworthy will yield a man who doesn't want to be in a monogamous relationship. So instead of writing all of these books trying to get black women to change the way they act in order to get a man, perhaps our focus should be on breaking down gender stereotypes instead of reinforcing them.

Monogamy is responsibility. It's a joint commitment to care for someone other than yourself. I mean I have heard many men say they didn't become a man until they learned to love and be loved in return. For the man that CHOOSES to settle down into the monogamous relationship, maybe that is the benefit. The benefit of understanding that the nurture of the woman, the nurture that he expects, is the nurture that is necessary for him to complete his role as a protector and provider. After all, if a man never allows himself to care for someone in that way, then he will never get to the point where he feels it necessary to be her protector or provider.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby Mama: Badge of Honor?

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Cause nowadays, it's like a badge of honor, to be a baby mama - Fantasia, Baby Mama

***Disclaimer: I abhor the term baby mama, it just has a nice ring to it for the purpose of this post, lol.

When Fantasia's first album came out and I first heard her song "Baby Mama" I LOVED it! No, I have no kids but I gave Fanny the church clap all up and through those four minutes and fifteen seconds. I was *fist pumping* and saluting all the baby mamas out there who, as Fantasia put it, "don't get no help, gotta do everything by yoself." Oh, but now that song has taken such a new meaning to me. It could just be the curse of Twitter and FaceBook that yields to the infatuation people have for putting ALL of their business online. In any event, I am SO sick of hearing women talking day in and day out about ain't sh*t baby daddies in order to get some approval of people who have NO input in rearing their child. Not only that, but women, teenagers and all in between STOP letting your girlfriends gas your head up talking about "yeah babymama you don't need him, I'm your baby daddy." Um, NO!

Being a willful participant in absolving a man of the responsibility of raising his child for a badge of honor is not cute. Not only that, but realize sometimes it's not that you're dealing with a man that has no intentions of stepping up and being a good father, it's just that he needs the opportunity to learn. I know you Norma Rae baby mamas are out there like "What the hell does she know?"

Awhile ago, when a friend of mine had her child, she had to deal with the child's father not quite being ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood. Although her maternal instincts kicked in, he was still going out when he wanted and coming in when he wanted. Basically, she was doing all the work, feeling under appreciated, fed up, and burnt out. When she came to me for consolation, I advised her to calmly and rationally talk to her beau let him know her position and work to get him to understand that life as he knew it, simply could not continue. The most important thing was to not create a self fulfilling prophecy in making him feel like less than a man and incapable of raising his child.

Okay, I understand that you can't make a man change and step up and accept responsibility, but YOU can control how you react to it. Constantly talking about how you don't need this "b*%&h ass man" in your life does NOT make you look like the prototype for a strong woman. There are far too many single mothers out there gloating about how they do everything for their child, they don't need him in their lives, and they can do everything themselves. Call me naive or whatever you want, but I simply do not believe that every single mother is the result of a man that wants absolutely NOTHING to do with his child. With that being said, make sure you're not cheating your child from having a relationship with both parents because you've created a situation where the man just doesn't want absolutely ANYTHING to do with you. #YeahISaidIt...and stepped in it too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Soaring to New Heights...

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“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.” - Dr. Dorothy Height

On April 20, 2010, the world lost an AMAZING woman. Dr. Dorothy Height, a civil rights activist for more than 70 years, who was heavily influential in the fight for African American women and African Americans in general died after being hospitalized less than a month ago. She was an instrumental part of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), where she served as president for 40 years. The NCNW was crucial in arguing for the inclusion of black women into the professional working sphere. Under the leadership of Dr. Height, the NCWN showed the ways in which black women played a quintessential role in leading black radical organizations. She was also involved in the YWCA and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

It wasn't until my junior year of college when I heard about Dr. Dorothy Height. In fulfilling a prerequisite for my African American Studies minor I took a Black Gender Women studies class. I remember being in class and watching my teacher jump around the classroom with enthusiasm as he spoke about pioneering leaders such as Dr. Height. In another class, I would be asked to research several leaders, Dorothy Height included, using History Makers. Along with leaders such as Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Height was my inspiration to pursue a concentration in my minor for Black Gendered Women's Studies.

Dorothy Height, was not great because of her accomplishments, but because of all that she overcame. May she soar to new heights and land amongst the angels. She will be truly missed.

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, March 24, 1912 - April 20, 2010
"The Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement" -
President Barack Obama

Do You Know Where Your Child Is?

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“We've got to work to save our children and do it with full respect for the fact that if we do not, no one else is going to do it.” - Dr. Dorothy Height

It was a nice day in Chicago so I decided to take a stroll. On my way home, my walk took me past a park where I noticed a large number of children playing. Due to the violence in Chicago, people spraying bullets into crowds and parks, I have been more cognizant of children playing in open areas and hoping they don't turn into targets. The kids playing in the park were about 5 to 11 years old. Under normal circumstances, this really wouldn't warrant my concern outside of the recent violence. However, what struck me was with all of the kids playing, there was not one adult.

I scanned the park three more times to make sure that I hadn't missed the one adult, possibly responsible for all the kids the result of maybe an after school program. Nope not one. Here is was 5:30 in the evening and these children were in a playground located on a busy street in a neighborhood where violence was becoming more and more prevalent. Why weren't they in the house doing homework? Granted, the children didn't have school the next day because of report card pick up day. Or they may have done their homework from 1:30pm to 5:00pm. Nevertheless, the real issue wasn't that they were outside, but they were outside alone.

When I was that age, if I wanted to go outside, my mother came with me. The playground I played in was located within the scope of the gated apartment complex I lived in, but that didn't matter to my mother. If she was well, she came outside with us and if she wasn't we didn't go outside. Now this is not to romanticize my childhood, but even when it came to walking my sister and I to catch our school bus in the morning, my mother made the trek with us. Not only that, almost every morning my dad would drive from his house to mine and wait with us for the school bus to come. When we got older, he would drive from his house and take us to school. Nowadays, I see children that look as young as 7 years old getting on CTA busses by themselves.

Yet as I looked at those children in the park by themselves, I had to wonder what conversation allowed them to be in that situation. Was it a child asking their parents for some kind of attention and their parents telling them to get out of their face and go outside? Was it a child simply asking to go to the park and their parents obliging? This seriously bothered me. I know some people may not think it a big deal, but children allowed to play without the auspices of adults become teenagers who roam the streets. They become teenagers whose parents don't care where they are at all times of the night.

Was I being dramatic? Eh, maybe. Nevertheless, I had to assess the situation now. The fact that these children are 5 to 11 in a park by themselves is just not kosher AT ALL. I don't know why I was surprised though. I see children walking light years ahead of their parent all the time. Or children pushing strollers while their parents talk on the phone. It's trifling. Parents need to accept more responsibility for their children. Parents need to know who their children are playing with at that age. Additionally, parents need to know who the parents are of the kids their child plays with on a daily basis.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and that doesn't absolve parents from their individual responsibility. If a parent doesn't care enough about their kids to take them to the park, it will eventually manifest in some way in their lives. Basically, letting your child play by themselves outside, sends a message that you don't mind the letting the streets do your job. How shameful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dying to Live...

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The Vigil outside the home where four people were murdered and two others shot in Chicago.

In the past two weeks the headlines have been chock full of news stories about the increasing violence in Chicago. The rise in gun violence, a correlation to the higher temperatures, are leaving ridiculous amounts of people wounded and several dead in small windows of time. But this is typical Chicago right? Last year, in the midst of a cooler than usual summer a few of my friends and I joked that God was punishing Chicago with bad weather, because people here don't know how to act when the weather is nice.

I mean warm weather and violence have gone hand in hand in sociological studies since I don't know when. Yet and still, something is different here. Contrary to popular beliefs this is NOT typical Chicago. The violence here has just become excessive. Unfortunately, with violence headlining on a regular basis we are becoming increasingly desensitized. I typically read stories regarding the shootings and killings on Chicago Breaking News. While on there yesterday, I was horrified by a comment I read asking why coverage of a shooting was considered "Breaking News" since it was becoming such a regular occurrence.

So many times, more than not, we read these stories, shake our heads, and go about our day. I can't say this hasn't been my reaction as well. Not only that, but I would be wrong to omit my own hypocrisy in dealing with this violence. I have to admit, the same person I read about in these stories could probably be the same person I wince at when I'm on the bus and they board dressed in all black EVERYTHING. Not only that, but I purposely shied away from a lot of the "we shall overcome talk" from this post, because I admit my only real solution to this violence in Chicago has to do with me packing up and moving.

I think there is something in this damn water and I want no more parts of it. Folks are losing their minds! Oh and I am a part time conspiracy theorist, so I really do think there is something in the water. A chemical imbalance coupled with not enough hugs as a child will surely make someone snap. **Sidenote: Check out Dick Gregory if you need a little history regarding the potential effects of chemicals in our drinking water.

iDigress. I am seriously afraid for my life! My only hope is that this fear doesn't paralyze me, any more than it has. There is a fine line between cautious and paranoid and I know I'm treading on it. I've already decided to become a hermit for the summer. No, I don't engage in any high risk behavior, I don't tend to walk the streets past dark, and I'm not a young African American male. Only NONE of that matters anymore. I can no longer afford to be so aloof as not to notice my own vulnerability. None of us can. Something seriously has to be done about this violence. *sigh*

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Abandoning My Blog

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Almost a month ago I posted my last blog post. It was a three part "series" detailing my experience with guilt, depression and my mom's death. I had intended to go into a discussion revolving around the very real issue of depression in the African American community. It was really my reason for opening up.

Then something happened. Even in the midst of reading the compliments, confessions, and consolations from those who had read my blog, I had a feeling of "Did I go to far?" I had been wanting to tell my story for some time and at first, it was a relief. A relief that I would be able to help someone, who may have went through the same situation or was going through it now. People were telling me how courageous I was and I felt good about it. Then the vulnerability hit me. Maybe I wasn't as brave as I thought I was when I typed my heart onto my blog. "Had I said too much?" "Had I let way too many people into the intimate details of my shame?"

It was hard to come back to my blog the moment I started doubting myself. Not to mention the fact that my life was spiraling in all kinds of directions. There was school, The Red Pump Project's Fashion Show and before I knew it, my intentions of why I created those blog posts was forgotten. And now I find myself almost two years to the day that my mother passed, April 24th and those feelings have been coming back. So I came to my deserted blog and read. Read the posts and the comments, the compliments, confessions, and consolations and it made me feel better.

There's something about having reinforcement in the midst of self doubt. So I decided, for good, to throw away those feeling of resentment I had for myself as a result of those posts because I realize on some level it was bigger than me. With that being said. I'm back...again...iThink, lol o__O
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