My Reality of The Frankie and Neffe Show

Like many loyal fans of Keyshia Cole’s show, The Way It Is, I watched the premiere of Frankie and Neffe with bated breath hoping to see black reality drama at its finest. Of course, when people learn of my guilty pleasure many people are downright appalled that I, black feminist girl advocate Fallon, would want to watch these shows because of how they pathologize black mothers as absent, drug addicted, selfish, sexually promiscuous, and at the end of the day simply irresponsible. And my response is I watch these shows because in many ways Frankie and Neffe remind me more of my mother and sister than Claire Huxtable and Denise or Claire Huxtable and Rudy or Claire Huxtable and Vanessa. Furthermore, where else on television am I able to see a black mother and daughter tear into each other driven by their love for each other. Yes, sometime their love is explosive, like when Neffe is ready to fight Frankie’s new lover because he mistreats her and sometimes it is downright toxic like when Frankie becomes jealous and angry at the other women who have mothered Neffe and Keyshia because she was strung out on drugs for 20 years.

Of course, this is not to say that Frankie and Neffe are “perfect” models for talking about black mother-daughter relationships. But it is to say that their story is important even if it reifies dominant notions of black mothers because at the end of the day it’s my story. Unlike Frankie, my mother did not leave us for long periods of time to get high. But, she did spend a considerable amount of time psychologically not present and at times physically absent from us because she like the wife in the Selkie (Seal) Myth was never meant to live on land and wed. You see the Selkie is a mythical creature who lives in the sea. However, sometimes the Selkie would shed its seal skin to walk on land as a woman. Well, one day as she walked on the beach a fisherman stole her seal skin making her forget who she was and where she lived. So, to make a long story short she married the fisherman and had several children, it was not until she accidentally found her seal skin that she remembered who she was and where she belonged. I say all of this to say that my mother was created to swim in the sea. However, she like many women was tricked by the belief that one could live happily ever after on land by simply being a good black mother and a good black wife. Yes, living away from your home (i.e. the sea), your center, and your purpose could drive any woman crazy even the beloved and iconic Claire Huxtable.

So, Frankie and my mother are not that dissimilar meaning they are the causalities of an unjust system that privileges whiteness, wealth, maleness, and heterosexuality forcing them and their daughters into a type of land locked madness a madness that shapes how they love and struggle with each other. Ya know, I think Alice Walker understood this idea of land locked madness when she wrote the essay In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. She states that our mothers were “driven to a numb and bleeding madness by the springs of creativity in them for which there was no release. They were creators who lived lives of spiritual waste, because they were so rich in spirituality—which is the basis of art—that the strain of enduring their unused and unwanted talent drove them insane.” And, by default shaped how they mothered their daughters. I say all of this not to render black mothers without agency as if systems of oppression are just acting upon them because there is always an element of choice.

But, I mention these systems—racism, patriarchy and heteronormativity—to shed light on why Frankie and my mother, Sandy, have trouble understanding why their daughters are angry with them and also angry with themselves. It hurts Neffe to see her mother, Frankie, used by men and it doubly hurts my older sister and me to see our mother at the mercy of some man because she needs his help financially. But the hurt goes both ways because our mothers are deeply wounded when we are closer to other women who have stepped into our lives to mother us when they were seeking short-lived freedoms to compensate for the soul enriching freedom that was stolen away when they took off or was forced to take off their Seal Skins to walk on man’s land.

At this point, many of you are thinking that this reality is only true for a certain class of black women. But, it’s also evident in Alice Walker’s and Rebecca Walker’s mother-daughter relationship. All one has to do is read Rebecca Walker’s Baby Love and see how even a mother’s adamant critique and rebel against patriarchy (i.e. resisting being land-locked) can also create difficulties when relating and loving her daughter. In many ways, this shows how pervasive and enduring patriarchy is that even a mother’s resistance of it can still create pain for both parties.

All in all, there are few shows on television now where I can see black mothers and daughters dealing with the difficulties of being in relationship with each other. It is the intensity of Neffe’s love for her mother that sears my heart. It is Frankie’s wavering desire for her daughters’ acceptance and forgiveness that makes me think of my mother. As much as I want to celebrate the happiness of our mother and daughter relationships I have to be conscientious of the hurt and pain that comes from living in a society that forces our mothers  to live their lives metaphorically on land when they are destined to swim in the sea.

Interracial vs Intraracial dating, loving and fucking: Part 1

 

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ8RyR6_cJQ&feature=related

 

Let’s begin the conversation with the clip by the chocolate enthusiast herself, Kyla.  She starts this clip with an ode to chocolaty goodness. She says, “Hi, I like chocolate, and I am not talking about the candy, ok.” Kyla, goes on to say, “I love chocolate; I love chocolate men; I love them.” I think Kyla’s statements are somewhat problematic, but Kyla’s comments aren’t alien to my ears. I hear black women using the same metaphors and implicit implications. Regardless of the person’s race, there is a problem with the idea of a person being like a purchasable item for consumption. 

16, Black, & Pregnant…The “Trifecta” of Poverty

……………16…………….

………….black……………

……….pregnant…………

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YFoDte6hh0

I got a chance to go back to one of my community high schools and perform poetry. One of the poems that I performed in the national poetry competition was about a women being barren. When performing this piece at the high school, one of the girls—no more than 16—started to cry. After the program, I approached her and started a conversation.

“Are you ok?”

“No”, she exclaimed trying to dry tears in what seem like embarrassment.

“What’s wrong?”, I asked.

The girl was silent.

I told her “I might be able to help.”

She said, “I don’t think so.”

After a couple minutes of probing, she dumped her life onto my shoulders. And I welcomed every word. I wanted her story to be my burden, so possibly, even for a second she would feel that her life was a little easier.

blog #10 black pregnant teen

She started by saying she wishes she could be the barren women in the poem. She went on to say that she was 16, pregnant, and the 19 year old father of her baby just went to jail for armed robbery. She finished her story by saying she doesn’t want to go home because her mom (who is only 15 years older than she is) cares more about her boyfriend, who recently was released from jail, than she does about her own children.

I don’t know if the similarities between her and her mom can be called a generational curse, the cycle of poverty, or just a coincidence, but I know the different aspects in this situation are not rare to hear in my neighborhood. As a matter of fact, in East Cleveland (AKA EC) stories like this are quite normal. I’m not a fan of phrases like “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” or “everyone is just a victim of their environment,” but when this girl was sitting in front of me crying in a room full of screaming students, both of these phrases were regretfully stuck on my mind. All I felt I could do is encourage her to be strong.

Anytime a baby is created, I consider it a blessing from God, but this girl considered it to be a curse. I can only imagine her thinking how much her life would change with this baby. How the baby would be born into a world surrounded by graffiti walls, boarded up houses, and a broken home. Inherently born into poverty.  blog #10 house

I never want to pretend as if I understand what a woman goes through when she is pregnant, but seeing this girl’s tears and pain unveiled from her face forced me to think about the whole process. Nevertheless, primarily I am concerned with “this cycle.” It starts with grandparents in poverty, producing children that remain in poverty, who produce grandchildren who stay in poverty. In a world where education is usually the only way to break out of this cycle, it is just our luck that usually those of us who live in poverty have some of the worse education systems in our neighborhoods.

This is my plug to stress the importance of teachers in our inner city school systems. The teachers that go far beyond their obligations because they care about the students they encounter. The teachers who see potential in the 14-year-old student that is starting to sell drugs and skip school. The teachers who encourage the 15-year-old gang members to join their after school debate practice to keep them off the streets, and the teachers who give hope to the 16 year old pregnant black girl who is afraid that she is going to turn out like her mother. Teachers like this are rare, but in a world that throws kids away, they are pivotal. When parents can’t, good teachers get students out of poverty. This is the story of my life.

blog #10 teacher

Summer Explains it All: Jail Time for Dummies

Any of you following the NFL might have been slightly shocked when the details of Plaxico Burress’ sentence became public.  Even I was surprised by the severity of his sentence, and I’ve been watching NFL players tango with the (in)justice system since well before, um, Ray Lewis?  For those of you who have not diligently observed the latest parade of black (American) footballers marching from locker room  to lock down, here’s what happened: Plaxico Burress, former wide receiver for the New York (football) Giants and quasi-legend of Super Bowl XLII (he caught the game-winning touchdown and predicted a Giants win) turned himself in to authorities in December 2008 for unlawful possession of a handgun.  According to reports, in November 2008, Burress, though not licensed to carry a firearm in New York City, brought a gun with him to a New York City nightclub.  While on his way to the VIP section of the club, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg.  Burress then checked into the hospital under an alias (he claims someone else registered him under an assumed name); though the hospital was required by law to notify police when treating the result(s) of a shooting, it was never reported, and NYPD wasn’t aware of the situation until it became news.  Unlawfully carrying a firearm in New York City is very, very illegal.  Consequently, Burress was indicted on two weapons charges.  Due to NYC’s mandatory minimums for unlawful gun possession, Burress’ lawyers reached a plea deal, and last week he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Trouble the Water on DVD

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to add Trouble the Water to your Netflix queue, or rent it–people still do that, right?  It was released on DVD today.  I wrote a response/review of the documentary after seeing it at the Black Harvest Film Festival last year.  Trouble the Water, which follows the before, during and after Hurricane Katrina experience of ninth ward residents Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband, Scott, got nominated for an Academy Award, but I guess a French guy on a wire–voluntarily danger–was a lot more compelling than being reminded of this country’s EPIC FAILURE during the disaster.  That shit is a movie-going buzzkill.

The other week, my dissertation writing partner and I were talking about extreme sports.  Neither one of us could understand why folks find watching and/or participating in them so much fun, so fascinating.  In response to our lackluster feeling about the genre she quipped, “Being black is an extreme sport.”  Remembering Trouble the Water, maybe she’s right.  Check it out.

Happy Birthday, Connected!: More than Beats, More than Rhymes

I can’t believe it, but five years ago today, The Foreign Exchange (@nicolay and @phontigallo) released their album, Connected.  It’s pretty amazing stuff–just great hip hop.  What makes this album even more amazing is the fact that these cats instant messaged, e-mailed, and snail mailed beats and vocals back and forth to each other.  (At the time, Nicolay, who was living in the Netherlands at the time, would compose the beats and send them to Phonte [of Little Brother fame], who was in North Carolina.)

Save the Polar Bears, Save the World?

i guess that i am what you can call an environmentalist, or at least a mild one. i believe in reducing, reusing and recycling. i believe in and practice buying locally. Each and every day i make an effort to reduce my waste and consumption. i am concerned with global warming and all of that jazz, i promise i am.

But the plight of the billions of people in the world who struggle to acquire the basic necessities of survival like food, clean water and shelter is an even greater concern. That’s why i find the WWF’s Climate Change campaign so ridiculous and disturbing. Whenever one of those damned commercials comes on TV, i cringe.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMLJD-mantE

All of the hunger and devastation in the world and they want me to donate money to save some polar bears?

Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit.

Mandela's 8 Lesson's of Leadership

In honor of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday last year, Time Magazine published an article on Mandela’s Eight Lessons of Leadership

a_wmandela_nv_0721I encourage you to read the article… But I thought I would share the lessons that I found most poignant

No.1: Courage is Not the Absence of Fear, it’s Inspiring Others to Move Beyond It

Mandela talks about how necessary it was to “pretend and, through the act of appearing fearless, inspire others” during his tenure at Robben Island.

Although he was constantly afraid in the prison, he knew that his fear would only function to instill fear in the people who were risking their lives everyday to fight against apartheid outside of the prison.

Sick and Tired: Being Black, Woman, Poor, Sick, and (Uninsured)

In 1964 at the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer said, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired . . . Now, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Even though these words were distinctively about Southern racism, I find myself unconsciously gravitating to these words to talk about the current health care debate and what it means for poor women of color, like my older sister, Trina. Right now, my heart is heavy because for the last eight years my sister has battled various infections, muscle diseases, fevers, weight loss, weight gain, swollen hands and swollen feet, relentless body aches and chills while working at jobs that either did not provide health insurance or provided health insurance only after 12 months of full time labor.

Not only has she battled infectious and muscle depilating diseases mostly uninsured, but she also has to contend daily with the demands of her pink collared job and the invasive downright dehumanizing practices of the welfare agency that says, “You cannot make a certain amount of money and receive food stamps.” So, my sister like many poor women of color must make tradeoffs meaning only one parent can work and the other must stay at home and watch the child because daycare is expensive and to receive food stamps and health insurance for your children you must live on the poverty line. Isn’t this maddening. Isn’t sickening. I feel sick. I tell you, there are days when I do not even have to look at my sister to know she’s sick and she’s tired of having to negotiate the demands of living at the crossroads of poverty, labor market’s demands, blackness, femaleness, being a wife, being a mother, being a recipient of governmental aide, being a survivor of parental domestic violence, and at the end of the day being the uninsured sick.

So my heart is heavy.

So, my question is what do you do when you’re not only sick, but tired, black, woman, poor, and uninsured? How do you survive? What is your fate?

Perhaps, it’s my sister’s fate enduring the inconsistent findings of clinic doctors who are often over burdened with caseloads. Or, perhaps it’s my mother’s fate where you simply ignore the pains and pretend your weight loss is because of your new diet and that it has nothing to do with the boil on your leg. Perhaps, it’s the fate of my aunt who simply uses other people’s prescriptions to ease her bodily pains. Or, perhaps it’s the fate of countless numbers of black women who die from Cancer because they catch it too late and can’t afford premium healthcare. Perhaps, these examples are tad bit dramatic and may deviate from most black women’s everyday reality. However, it seems quite likely that these examples are widespread. You ignore your sickness. You find cost effective strategies to buy medicine. You simply die because you don’t get treated. It’s pretty unfair that only those who can afford health care should be healthy.

Well, I started this post by talking about my sister because for the last week she’s been in the intensive care unit and I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around how she got to where she is . . . always fighting for dear life. And it finally dawned on me that it was not just that she was uninsured most of her life, but that other variables are at play like how her receptionist job exploits her labor making her work long hours without “adequate” compensation, like how society looks at her as if she’s a bad mother because sometimes she feeds my niece and nephew McDonalds, like how her social welfare caseworker test her truthfulness every time she walks though their governmental door, like how she had to grow-up way before most children do to become a surrogate mother for me and my siblings often neglecting herself, and like how she had to endure an education system that prized her athletic skills and not her ability to excel academically, and countless other “like how” variables.

Yes, some of you are saying that this post is about healthcare why add other variables? My response is simply this: “Walk a day in my sister’s shoes and tell me what you see. As you walk burdens weigh down on you making you more susceptible to disease perhaps even becoming sicker than she.” Yes, this is a wee bit dramatic, but the point is simply this that many oppressive things converged to make my sister in the timeless words of Fannie Lou Hamer, sick and tired.

Perhaps, this national health care debate is not simply about granting governmental run health care, perhaps its about examining the mutli-layered physically oppressive nature of being at the intersection of poverty, sexism, and racism.

MICHAEL VICK…the dawg[sic] killer

 

 

Dogfight1

 Michael Vick, who was once the highest paid man in the NFL with his 135 million dollar contract, is back with the League as a Philadelphia Eagles (according to ESPN).  In this First Take clip , one gets the opportunity to hear from some expert NFL commentators about how they felt about Michael Vick’s 60 minutes interview. The question which is posed by the host, Jay Crawford, of the show is do you think Michael Vick was sincere or coached for the interview. Ryan Stewart of “2 Live STEWS” comes immediately to the defense of Michael Vick saying “this guy was once the face of the entire league. After doing [time] in jail, after admitting to drowning dogs and killing dogs he better be coached!” Doug Stewart of “2 Live Stews” also seconds the defense that Michael Vick was coached, but still Doug Stewart “definitely believes [Michael Vick] is sorry.”  The First Take clip goes on, but this is where I want to start our conversation about Michael Vick.