2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 510,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 22 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Black Lives: Can We Save Ourselves?

For a while, after Ferguson, I had a difficult time taking a stance regarding the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I chose to remain silent on the issue until I could at least wrap my head around my own thoughts. There is no doubt that black lives matter; but when pondering on the solution I struggled with where to begin. Our judicial system has been corrupt and oppressive since the beginning of time so it makes sense that we think judicial reformation is the solution. Maybe. There is absolutely no excuse for innocent lives to be lost due to ignorance and fear. Period. Black. White. Or others. What is most disturbing to me and many others is that no one has been held accountable for these careless and ignorant acts.  I’m biased because I am black and I have four younger brothers who currently reside in predominately white communities. My body temperature increases at the thought anyone- law enforcement, civilians, whites, blacks…it doesn’t matter – causing harm or possibly death to either of my siblings. I cannot imagine the pain caused by the incredible losses of unarmed Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others. These young men lost their lives at the hands of white men who either received a “not guilty” verdict or were never even indicted.

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I honestly believe it boils down to ignorance and mostly fear.  I don’t think it’s as simple as “white people don’t value black lives”, or that they take advantage of every opportunity to kill a black man. I think it stems back to as far as the 1800s [or earlier] when black men were often characterized as brutes, needing to be “tamed” and controlled for the sake of greater good to society. You know, kinda like how we now think about infectious diseases and sex offenders for example. Do we not think these things must be regulated/monitored in some manner to protect society at-large? Why? Do you not have a belief about how infectious diseases will affect you and your family? What about sex offenders living next door? When Ebola showed it’s face on American soil everyone panicked! Why? Because every time we turned on the television we were taught by our trusted news reporters that it is a fatal disease and that maybe we weren’t equipped to manage it medically. They showed the videos of people wrapped up in body suits, getting escorted by a medical team and police officers. They talked about the number of deaths caused by the disease in and outside of the country. Scary, right? At the height of it, we all became more cautious in public places; God forbid if someone had a common cold. We ran for dear life. Everything that we do begins with a belief/thought. We don’t have feelings without first having a belief. We do not act without first having a belief that’s usually followed by a feeling. As screwed up as it may be, I honestly believe the three cases mentioned earlier was ultimately about fear, not a conscious hate crime.

Not much has changed regarding how black men are portrayed in our society. I know you are probably thinking “here she goes again, blaming the media for everything”. But think about it. Are they not hypermasculine – almost always? Physically strong, aggressive, and sexuality heightened? Violent and dangerous? Insensitive? When they do show emotion they yell, curse, and throw things. In movies, music, sports, and television shows? Think about their appearance – big muscles, sweat, tattoos, deep voices. And the roles they play in films and music videos [or better yet, listen to the lyrics]. We live in a society that really buys into whatever the media puts out. Other than having an educated black man running the country right now, how are black men NOT characterized this way?  We used to be able pull the old faithful “Cosby Show” card, but now even that has been tarnished with several recent allegations of rape. So let’s see…. Anthony Anderson maybe? On Black-ish? I’m talking about mainstream media here so don’t get all extra, digging under rocks for names that most won’t even recognize to say “oh this guy isn’t a thug” or “such and such never did this or that”. The bottom line is black men are, more often than not, portrayed in ways that are less than favorable – as brutes, animalistic, not human. White people are not the only ones who buy into this stuff though. We do too and this is our problem. We start trying to keep up and compete with everything we see on television and hear on the radio.

What gets sold in the media about Black men and women, followed by our behaviors that continue to perpetuate these stereotypes, leads to fear and a lack of understanding in our counterparts.  Fear does it’s job well; it typically causes us to make decisions, impulsively, based on emotion rather than logic. I’m not saying this justifies their actions by no means, but what is the solution? What is our part in all of this? What can we do to illicit change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, and in society at-large?

I think we start by first educating ourselves and honestly acknowledging that we do play a part in what’s going on around us. We need to be aware of how we contribute to our own oppression and bring this awareness to others’ attention; then be the change. When one part of any system changes, the entire system changes. Rather than focusing on how others are unjust and don’t value black lives, let’s start with ourselves individually and collectively as a community and a race of people. Below are a few things we can do to be the change, starting today:

  1. Take pride in your brand – How you present (how you talk, what you stand for, and with whom you surround yourself) is important. People need things like social cues and labels so they know how to interact with you. That’s just how it is. Know how to code switch. Your brand begins on an individual level, but let’s be clear – whether we like it or not, we ALWAYS represent something greater than ourselves. We represent our race, our gender class, our family name, our church family, our jobs, our community, our schools, and our country. Be proud of who you are and what you represent. Do it well.
  2. Get involved & Vote! – Learn about what’s going on around you in the grand scheme of things, not just in your personal bubble at home and at work. Learn about your local government and vote for candidates who are most likely to care about your brand and work for you to protect it.
  3. Obey the law-  Laws are not meant to be broken. Sorry. Do the next right thing. You don’t have to fully agree with the law, but there’s something you can do about that without risking your freedom or your life altogether. Write letters to legislators/congressmen. Refer back to #2.
  4. Learn the proper way to deal with law enforcement – So what you didn’t do anything wrong; if they say stop, stop. If they say put your hands up, do it. Work with them to keep your community safe, even if that means you have to prove your innocence. If you are doing #3, it will work out. If you are mistreated, there is a protocol in place for you to report the incident. See legal counsel if necessary. Do not take matters into your own hands. You will not win.
  5. Teach your children/siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins –  Train your children up the way in which they should go! Have these conversations with your little loved ones. Ask them what they think about certain policies. Challenge their thinking. Talk to them about their brand and how to protect it. Teach them the importance of voting. Teach them to obey the law by your actions and through dialogue. Talk to them about what to do if they are every stopped by the police.
  6. Demonstrate with purpose and a plan – I’m all about doing what needs to be done to raise awareness to issues that need to be addressed. Let’s march. I’m with it, but be sure that we are bringing awareness to the right things and that we also come with solutions to the problem. Let’s not exacerbate the issue

Lost & Found

Lately I’ve been listening to my “R & B Favorites” playlist as opposed to my usual “turn up” tunes (sometimes you just have to switch it up a bit). I listen to music when I shower in the mornings and I’ve had this song by Lianne La Havas, “Lost & Found”,  for about two years now. I’ve listened to it several times before and even sang along with it – almost every word. But the other morning I heard it differently from any other time before. This time I felt something; before it was just a nice song.  I had downloaded it after hearing it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

“You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself. Unfold me and teach me how to be like someone else”  ( see video below)

It was these words in particular that struck a nerve. I jumped out of the shower mid scrub to hit the repeat button. I wanted to listen a few more times to really reflect on where I had been and thank God for delivering me from relationships that did just that. I had allowed my spirit to be broken at the hands of infidelity, lies, deception, and stealing. But what has been most difficult to come back from are the messages that cut deeper than a knife ever could.  I wasn’t fun enough. I didn’t drink enough. I didn’t smoke enough. My clothes weren’t tight enough. I thought I had to become someone else.  After a couple of years of that, I took my brokenness to one who I thought would lick my wounds and nurse me to health. That thought in itself was sick, but anyway….in this new chapter, my accent was too southern or sometimes I was too “black” or “ghetto”. My body wasn’t fit enough. I was too emotional. I wasn’t smart enough. I just wasn’t quite enough. So, again, I learned to how to be someone else.

For a while I blamed and resented these friends of mine for “what they did to poor little me”. But in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t think much of myself before either of these guys came into my life. My self-esteem was already at an all-time low. I didn’t think I was smart enough or pretty enough. I was ashamed of what I did and didn’t have. Society has always had a way of telling us how we should be, what we should have, and how we should look. There were other factors that played a role, so I’m not blaming society or the media 100%. I had been [figuratively] self-mutilating for years – since I was about 13 years of age, by telling myself these things and internalizing everything that was going on in the world around me. I was doomed from the start. It was never about who these gentlemen were, but how I perceived myself. This kind of thinking led me to believe that I didn’t deserve better so I subjected myself to emotional torture and self-hate. Long before I met them I had learned to hate myself and I became a chameleon, meaning whatever I needed to be in a given situation. I was just putting that kind of energy out and I attracted people like myself.

I’ve learned to take responsibility for my part in things that affect me. I could write for days about all of the things they did or didn’t do, but then it would be about them – and I’m not responsible for them. After engaging for so long in self-hate, self-pity, self-will, and self-destruction, a time came when enough was enough. I needed to take action.

Last week I wrote The Worthless Black Woman ; I guess I could express myself so passionately on the issue because when I watch these women –  Mimi Faust, Joseline Hernandez, Tahiry, K. Michelle, Erica Dixon, & others- I see a little piece of Dre’ in every single one. I have fantasized about cosmetic surgeries and other things that I believed would make me “better” or more competitive as well. So to address some of the backlash regarding my self-righteous stance on the media and black women, here I offer another perspective. I do not judge these women. I suffer with them and other women around the world who can relate. Today I thank God that I can see it all for what it is – vanity, and separate what’s real from what isn’t.

I’ve reached a level in my relationship with God that allows me to see my true value and worth more and more every day. I no longer live in fear of not being “good enough”.  I am learning to no longer depend on self and others to “fill the void”, or dictate and validate who I am. I catch myself from time to time in such a relapse – wanting to please and prove to others that I am worthy and that I can be whoever they want me to be.  This spiritual sickness only progresses if we do not take action.

If you have read anything about yourself and you want to join me in this journey by taking responsibility for your life, see the 10 suggestions below to get started:

1. Forgive yourself – we have all done things that we regret or allowed things to happen in our lives because we were living in fear (fear of losing love; fear of neglect; fear of abuse; fear of being alone; fear of ___________.) Forgive yourself for whatever it is and begin a new chapter. You are the author; you can start a new book if you want.

2. Set yourself free from the hurt and resentments of the past – It happened. You cannot change it. Give the person who hurt you the benefit of the doubt – is it possible that he or she did what they thought was best at the time? If not, maybe that person is/was spiritually sick and needs compassion rather than your wrath – which hurts you far more that it will ever hurt them.

3.  You MUST determine your own worth and value – because if you don’t someone else will.

4. Do not get into a new relationship until you have done #1 and #2

5. Continue to focus on yourself in relationships – because when you stop, YOUR value goes down. Why? Because you stop doing what it takes to keep yourself up mentally, emotionally,  physically and spiritually. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

6. Know the signs of stagnation or regression (dying) – for me, it’s the little things like not keeping my apartment tidy (making up my bed or dishes in the sink); not going to the gym like I should; my body starts nudging me with stress-related symptoms such as tightness in my jaw and tension headaches; I stop praying and can’t remember the last time I did; my attitude changes and I am easily agitated. This may look different for you.

7. Know that expectations are premeditated resentmentsOften times I expect others to think, feel, and do as I would. That is not fair to the person of whom I have these expectations, especially if I haven’t told them what my expectations of them are. It also sets myself up to be hurt when they do not meet my expectations.  Resentment and anger are deadly. One of my favorite quotes is: “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.

8. Check yourself -remind yourself daily (maybe a few times a day) that are the only person responsible for your emotional state and  well-being.

9. Live and Let Live – know that you can’t control another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. You shouldn’t want to; it’s too much work. You are not God.

10. Pray daily  – for strength, courage, direction, redirection, and that HIS will be done. When we operate solely on self-will, we will find ourselves feeling like fish out of water – desperate for what we need to survive. Turn it over to him daily. I take back my will often and every time the things I shared in #6 become my reality and my life is unmanageable.

The Worthless Black Woman

Blac-Chyna-13Earlier today I received a text message from a friend requesting that I read an article he posted on Facebook and to give him my “view” on it once I read it. Of course my curiosity was stricken so I indulged. When I saw the title of the article I knew exactly where this was going; it was entitled “Why Black Men are NOT ATTRACTED to Nappy Haired Black Women” .The article was written by a black guy who obviously appreciates the “natural black woman”. In this particular instance they focused on natural hair, which means without chemicals such as a relaxer to straighten the hair. He shared the dialogue between himself and a room full of other black men, some of which were unable to appreciate a black woman’s natural kinky hair. I won’t do a review on this article; if you are interested, click the link above.

As I read through the article I was reminded of recent conversations that I’ve had with friends about this topic. As I stated in my response to his post, I am tired of defending black women to black men. For as long as I can remember I have heard –  “black women don’t know how to act”, “black women think they don’t need a man”, “black women don’t know how to treat a man” and so on and so forth. It has gotten old and it’s just flat-out ignorant.

I am far from a black heritage guru so I will leave the origin of this social issue in the black community to whomever that may be, but I would like to bring awareness to the media’s role in this matter as it continues to perpetuate this notion of the worthless black woman. “Crooked Smile” by J. Cole is the only current song I can think of that honors black women in a positive light. While he doesn’t blatantly specify that he is speaking to black women, I believe it’s inferred. Trey Songz, on the other hand, has a song titled “Foreign” wherein the entire song is about the overwhelming desire to pursue a foreign woman. Tupac is quoted in Ebrahim’s article, from a 1992 interview, saying  “black females are held lower of the totem pole than anybody” – did you catch the year? Before foreign women were the commodity it was white women. Chris Brown’s “Loyal” is also degrading to women by suggesting that we are so power/money hungry that we have no sense of morales (and dignity) and that we are undeserving of love or any form emotional attachment. Lil Wayne’s verse suggests, “why give a bi*ch a heart when she’d rather have a purse; why give a bi*ch an inch when she’d rather have nine….” I could go on and on, but my hope is that you smell what I’m cooking by now. The music industry is a primary contributor to the worthless black woman. 

Another media genre that contributes to the worthless black woman is black entertainment television; not BET, but black entertainment TV in general. How many women on reality television these days, or on television in general, are actually 100% natural (not including makeup)? The Basketball Wives? Housewives of _______? Love & Hip Hop? I can’t think of any. Look at Nicki Minaj and K. Michelle. These women have gotten surgeries left and right to achieve these unrealistic body images, and for what? To compete with one another for the attention of misogynistic men – the ones who write and rap lyrics such as the one mentioned above. As for the true talents like Nicki and K. Michelle, I guess that’s what it takes to make it in the cruel industry of hip hop and R & B music. Which says something in and of itself, that basically their talent alone isn’t sufficient. The housewives and hip hop girlfriends are the culprits of perpetuating the “black gold digging” stereotype because they show the world the abuse they are willing to endure and inflict on themselves for the sake of being with a certain caliber of a man or as they may say “for the check”. These women are sadly the face of black women in America. If not these women, it’s Olivia Pope of ABC’s Scandal who is, despite her intellect and beauty, a white man’s mistress.

Because this is what black men often see and bob their heads to, they believe this to be the true essence of the “real” black woman. I challenge black men to change their people, places, and situations if they are looking for a “real” black woman. The black women who are gentle-spirited, intelligent, maternal, ambitious, self-sufficient, self-disciplined, mentally healthy, who have the ability to submit, and know how to be supportive –  are probably not in the club every weekend. She is not showing her body parts on social media every five minutes. She is not spending every dime that she doesn’t have on Brazilian hair, acrylic nails, and the latest designer purse. She may be studying to further her education or learning how to better herself in general. She may be sleeping on Saturday night because  she has to go to church Sunday morning. She is surrounding herself with others who will help her grow into the woman that she wants to be.

Remember: You attract what you put out or promote…so if you seem to only attract a ghetto, uneducated, unsupportive, gold-digging, weave slinging, disloyal, black girl, it’s not because she’s black. It’s because you are a hood a**, social media flexin’, uneducated, fake watch wearing, disloyal black dude.  I will be called a black male basher for that last sentence despite what’s been said about me, considering the fact that I AM A WORTHY BLACK WOMAN