The Beauty of Perserverance

As I was perusing twitter the other day, I came across the following link that was posted by @afrobella. The video is of Lauryn Hill performing at the Apollo in 1987, getting boo’d off stage (yes back in the day you could boo at kids).

As a person who has chosen writing as her lifelong profession, I spend a lot of time encountering, healing and bouncing back from rejection. Its just the nature of this business.

However, when I watched this video, I couldn’t help but be struck by the way in which Lauryn kept pushing on. Through the song at the Apollo, through her career with the Fugee’s and Miseducation, and even today as she fights for autonomy to sing what she wants, however she wants.

It seems that Lauryn has an invaluable lesson for us all. Often, genius isn’t something that you are inherently born with, genius is created, persisted after and fought for.

peace.

a.

Sonia the Radical?

We are only moments away from the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice and months into the first tenure of America’s first black President and I’ve become a bit inundated by Facebook fan pages, tweets, yahoo groups, swelling crowds, celebrating feminists, hardcore nationalists, just groups in general.  Hell, I’m exhausted.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand the excitement over well-behaved minority public officials.  One needs only to look to Marion Barry, Ray Nagin, Cynthia McKinney, and Kwame Kilpatrick to understand that there is a drought in reliable leadership.  However, it is this very list of elected officials that leads me to believe public excitement and desire for visual diversity has severely crippled people’s ability to critique public officials.  Just how many of us actually take the time to do what we as minorities ask of others—look beyond race and gender.

Just moments after Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination was announced, calls for public support and adoration overflowed.  But just who is Sonia Sotomayor?  According to various news media and disgruntled politicians, she’s a radical, an activist, and someone so rooted in her heritage it would be a struggle for her to be impartial.  In short, she is a woman of color from the projects in the South Bronx, a neighborhood famous as the birthplace of hip hop, the home of the Yankees, and notorious for its poverty.  Let’s just say, she’s from a radical place.  She, on the other hand is less so, but as popular narrative would dictate, we should all be proud and maybe a little stunned when a poor person of color does something significant enough to land them in the company of white people.

In reality, her record is very moderate.  She has voted against funding abortion by upholding a 2002 ruling which disallowed funding of pro-choice organizations in Mexico City. Besides saving baseball, she is perhaps most famous for her ruling in Pappas v. Guiliani where she ruled in favor of an NYPD employee who was fired for sending hate mail. Her ruling was based largely on the protection of first amendment rights.  From what I can see, she isn’t some woman bending the rules to push minority cases through nor is she using her position to highlight injustice in the world.  She is simply doing her job and upholding the constitution.  She actually believes in and upholds the constitution.  (My belief in the constitution is an entirely different blog, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say it’s iight.)

For many, Sotomayor warrants respect not simply because of where she is from, but because of how she has gotten where she is.  She has come from many worlds; poor and rich, colored and non, Republican and Democrat.  She is radical, but not because she’s Latina.  She is radical because she’s played the game and won.

Dealing with Stress

One of the interesting things about graduate school is that it becomes a crash course in how to take care of yourself. With the constant pressure of deadlines, work, classes and glimpses of a social life, self-care becomes the lynch pin of daily survival.

While many may note the ways in which graduate school becomes unhealthy in this way. I tend to think that it is a challenge that can promote education in critical life skills, particularly for women of color. Instead of burning out later in life from the pressures of work, family and love, graduate school provides the perfect opportunity to educate folks in healthy self-care skills that they can carry for the rest of their lives.

So as I enter my third year of graduate school, I thought I’d share some of my self-care skills that I have learned along the way.

1. Always Get Eight Hours of Sleep

Sleep is probably one of the most critical aspects of my day, without it I can barely focus, let alone articulate an intelligent thought. To often, sleep is viewed as the most “optional” part of our days, so we cut out a couple of hours in hopes of getting that “one last thing done.” The problem is, is that skipping sleep not only tends to make one less focused, it can also compound problems like stress, anxiety and weight gain. My suggestion? Make 6-8hrs of sleep a priority everyday.

2. Make a Schedule/To-Do List and Stick to It

In order to make sure I get enough sleep everyday, its important that I schedule my day in such a way that I am able to get everything else done. Every night, I assess what it is I have to get done, and make realistic and manageable choices about what I will include on my to-do list/schedule for the next day.

By going to bed with a plan of attack of the next day, I wake up in the morning, calm, refreshed, and ready to work because I already know what is in front of me. Cut down on your anxiety by making a plan and then working that plan.

3. Eat Right and Exercise

Healthy eating and exercise have a number of benefits. Primary for me is that both decrease anxiety.

Cutting down on your sugar and caffeine intake in particular decrease anxiety. Increasing protein and cutting out unnecessary carbs will also increase your daily energy and productivity. By taking the time to go grocery shopping and exercise, I cut down on stress, as well as bills. Hospital bills from an unhealthy lifestyle and eating out every night starts to add up!

4. Spiritual Balance

Critical for me is taking some time everyday to acknowledge a Higher Power (whoever that maybe for you). By taking a time out to simply breathe, sit in peace and acknowledge how much I actually have to be grateful for (a job I’m passionate about, a home, family, friends, food, health), I’m able to put everything else I’m stressing out about in perspective.

5. Having a Life

Whatever point you are at in your life, its easy to just get caught up in that moment, whether it be your marriage, your career, or even friendships. One of the most critical things I’ve learned is the importance of carving out and defining your own individual life.

Figure out what brings you joy. Remember to take time out to just play. Find your true passions in life. Be grateful for the person that you are. Prioritize taking time out to meet new people and make friends. Building a support system and an awareness of self will allow you to have joy in your life no matter what other ups and downs may be going on in your life.

The bottom line? My key to dealing with stress is maintaining constant joy and gratitude in my life everyday.

peace.

a.

The Meltdown: Judge Sotomayor . . . It’s Okay to Cry??

Surrounded by white men in suits. Cameras flickering then flashing. Hands laid flat upon table. Nodding pensively. Swinging pendulum of opinions “we are happy” to “we have many reservations.” Judge Sonia Sotomayor listens as senator after senator summarize their thoughts about her appointment to the highest court in the land . . . a court that is in desperate need of cultural diversity. Judge Sotomayor is a woman of color who worked her way through various obstacles to become a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She now stands upon the precipice of being the first Latino and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Given her speeches and public record, she seems to be committed to a more radical agenda for marginalized communities then most sitting Supreme Court Justices. Can you feel my excitement?

However, as the constitutional sanctioned witch hunt her senate appointment hearings commenced on Tuesday, Republican after Republican sought to second guess her judicial decisions, paint her as a racist, talk to her as if she was a simple child just learning about the Bill of Rights, and make her “cry” or as Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican) put it, “have a meltdown.” I find myself asking questions: What would happen if Judge Sotomayor cried? What would happen if she wept for all the lies Republican Senators spewed as they talked about the founding “fundamental” freedom to carry guns even though they used them to kill indigenous people, the quality of life even though they don’t fund policies that enrich the lives of children once they are here, the colorblind justice of judicial process which always favors white men, and the essential ethic of hard work even though it does not guarantee success for all? What if she like newly appointed Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, shed a tear or two on national television? How would we respond to a woman of color leader weeping in a public arena?

Would we respond as so many responded to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tears during the Democratic Primary races? Would we question her strength, her ability to lead? Would we say she’s being manipulative trying to garner sympathy? And the answer to the previous questions is yes, but with an added level of scrutiny because she is a woman of color. Given the intersectionality of racism and sexism, we often expect if not down right demand women of color—African-American or Latina—to be strong. Of course, this characterization is simplistic at best. However, there is much evidence to say that this idea of strength serves cultural, racist, sexist, and capitalistic agendas from using the image of the strong black woman to empower black women while denying them “help” to painting Chicanas as women who can endure harsh and exploitative work without US citizenship.

Growing up I was taught not to cry because my mother says, “There ain’t no point in crying over spilled milk chile . . . you got to do what you got to do and plus black women don’t cry we ain’t weak white women.” This idea of “you will always have” responsibility coupled with not being Miss Ann greatly shaped how I saw Judge Sotomayor confirmation hearings. I found myself yelling at the TV, “Please do not cry . . . Don’t let them see you sweat . . . You can do this keep it together . . . you’re strong, baby, you’re strong . . . if you got to cry do it in the bathroom on break.” Yes, even I would have a problem with her crying publicly which shows how pervasive sexist thoughts are about women in male public space. Of course, Judge Sotomayor did not cry even though her face showed a wee bit of discomfort as Republicans gave their opening remarks.

In general, it’s unfair that she cannot weep and not be considered a capable judge. It’s unfair that she cannot show any emotion for fear of being seen as “a feisty Latina.” In order to pass the racist and sexist litmus test she must be as Senator Tom Coburn (Republican) said, “very well-controlled.” However, what type of damage does this do? I think it reinforces the rules of a very unfair game where women, LGBTQ, and people of color constantly have to ignore, overlook, and sanction white male hetero-supremacy. This is not to say that crying is the ultimate evidence of feeling because it is not. However, what I am trying to say is that weeping should be taken as a sign of strength and not as a womanly sign of weakness. So, how radical would it be if she did cry . . . cried for the injustices of the appointment process . . . cried for her self as an act of self-care . . . cried because she really would like to call Senator Lindsey Graham every expletive under the sun (which I did as I watched him speak) . . . and cried because tears can only convey the totality of this experience in her life. And what if  her “melt-down” became the basis for redefining strength and leadership in male public political spaces . . . . oh how exciting and down right revolutionary crying can be!

Why I want(ed) to be a Disney Princess

 

Declaring possibilities!!

Declaring possibilities!!

What I find hard to process about the previous post about not wanting to be a Disney Princess is that the author belittles “traditional fairytales.” She [the author] claims that “they are limited and untrue for poor working class black girls like [herself].” She asserts that “Prince Charming does not come,” and “that happy endings are not promised especially when there is an intersection of various devalued social identities [i.e., when you area a poor, black, woman and etc you get no happy ending].”  What she fails to see is that all of these endeavors particularly for the Little Mermaid happened inside of Ariel taking action and living with a purpose.

Original Poetry…Epidemics

I want to paint a picture,

I want to use an image

so you can visualize the torment

that only few can make concrete in their minds eye,

I want to give you the opportunity to use your eyes,

as I explain to you, yet another teenage issue…

but God has not given me the gift of an artist,

 

I can’t paint,

I can’t sketch a silhouette out of coal, 

I can’t even draw

All I have is my words, and with these words,

I want to word my sentences and phrases

in a way that will penetrate thru your vocabulary

and changes how you select your words,

when dealing with an infectious disease as this one.

 

This disease strikes

fear in the hearts of millions going

to school everyday,

this disease causes people to stand by

when they see their peers about to kill each other,

this disease put guns in our schools,

anxiety is our lives,

and makes the death rate rise amongst youth every year.

 

Violence is the number one killer of man-kind.

 

Joshua is 10 years old and

skips school everyday because he

knows the minute he shows his face

he will be faced with the decision to fight or flight,

his face is stained with the expression of avoidance;

he wishes not to stare in the face violence. 

A wall on the corner of my street is stained

with the graffiti of bloodlines that define

the reason why parents don’t want

their child to walk down the street.

 

Headline:

Innocent Child shot while standing

in front of her own house…

Headline:

School Riot in Cleveland, 10 students expelled

Headline:

Success Tech shooting, many shot, one killed.

Why are their so many headlines that outline

this disease and make violence a celebrity?

Why when you open a newspaper,

switch to the radio,

or turn on the 6 O’clock News

Violence is there once again being interview?

 

How does one stop an epidemic

When people find the disease so attractive?

Till Death

from the Chicago Sun-Times

from the Chicago Sun-Times

till
v. – to labor, as by plowing or harrowing, upon (land) for the raising of crops; cultivate.
n. – a drawer, box, or the like, as in a shop or bank, in which money is kept

I’ve been thinking about death a lot this year, both personally, with the death of my beloved great-grandmother, and publicly, with the deaths of Steve McNair (I thought my cheers would give the Titans the one yard they needed.), Bea Arthur (if you cannot grasp or appreciate the genius of The Golden Girls, there’s no need for us to be friends, internet or otherwise) and Michael Jackson (still waiting for Moonwalker on DVD).  Despite the emotions it compels, death often feels like a really abstract thing to me, like having a real job or money in my bank account.  But I know death elicits tangible, visible responses, and I saw some of those reactions when I looked at a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

Equal Opportunity Finger Pointing

 

As a youngster my father always told me to never make excuses. He stressed that habitual “excuse making” leads to defeatism. He spoke of defeatism so pejoratively that I began to think it was some sort of plague. When he even uttered the word excuse his face would contort in an ugly cringe as if he had just swallowed a lemon. Years later I found my father’s lessons to be very helpful when I was faced with adversity. The great thing about my father’s lesson was that he taught all of his children the same thing. My older sister and brother could not escape the long lectures and sermons my dad gave, because we all belonged to him. I wish Barack Obama would do the same.

The Cry Heard Around the World…He was the Best Father

It was the cry heard around the world when 11 year-old Paris Jackson said, “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine . . . I just want to say I love him so much.” From coast to coast, eyes wept for her sorrow and tears trickled down faces as a poignant realization set in, Michael Jackson, the icon the alleged pedophile was a father. Not just a father of one child, but a father of three. Wow. All of this says that Michael Jackson celebrated Father’s Day. He made sure his children had a capable if not loving, nanny, Grace. He played games with them like dangle infant Blanket from the balcony. He even willed his children to his mother knowing she would love them unconditionally. Michael Jackson was a father. I know what many of you are thinking not another post about Michael Jackson. True, there are countless blogs and news articles about the King of Pop’s death. However this post is more about redefining masculinity than about Michael Jackson.

Holding constant the many allegations surrounding Michael Jackson’s indiscretions with children, I find myself ruminating if not secretly obsessing over the question of whether men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children without physically, sexually, and psychologically violating them. I know many people reading this blog would say “Yes, men can.” But before you answer this question, let me restructure the question: Do we believe that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children without physically, sexually, and psychologically violating them? And I would venture to say if we are honest with ourselves, the answer would be variations of no’s and conditionalities “of yes, but . . .”

Perhaps, I should restructure the question even further: Do we see men loving, nurturing, emoting, and innocently embracing children without thinking to ourselves, “Something is wrong with that man, he must be mentally unstable, a pedophile, or gay?” Once again, if we are honest with ourselves and recognize how we internalize sexist thoughts, the answer to the question is quite evident. Given patriarchy, I believe it is difficult for us to believe that men can L-O-V-E children and greatly desire to be in their presence. We are okay with men providing material and financial support for their children (especially the government), but when men move into the territory of radical love we question their motive and their manhood. Well, what do you mean by radical love? I am glad you asked this question.

My feminist academic jargon definition would define it as men who challenge hegemonic definitions of masculinity and disown privileges garnered through proper masculine behaviors. However, my colored school teacher ethos would define it as men seeking to be unconventional in their approach to rearing children. They are the dads who “choose” to stay at home with their children while their partner labor outside the house. They are the fathers who endure years and years of therapy to deal with their emotional immaturities. They are the men who are unafraid to show affection, care, and love for all children irrespective of the child’s biology. As bell hooks states in Communion, these types of heterosexual men threaten the foundations of patriarchy because they show “that sexist, masculinist behaviors once believed to be innate not only is learned, but also can be unlearned.”

Perhaps, my obsession with this question of men loving children stem from my own absent and abusive father issues. Of all the heterosexual men I have encountered in my 26 years of life, I have only met one man who exudes this radical type of love. This is not to say that other men in my life are hopeless patriarchal barbarians because they are not, they like most men unquestionably enjoy the rewards of male privilege. This one man I know who’s seeking to exude this radical idea of love is a man married to a woman who’s well known for her feminist concerns and beliefs. One day as I sat in his study talking with him, he said, “Its taken him many years of therapy to understand the power and the need of emoting and that sensitivity is not weakness or unmanly and that men now-a-days lack initiation into embracing their emotions because everything around them tells them they are not suppose to emote and show love because if you do than you are not a man . . .  you are something else.” After hearing this and observing his care, concern, nurturing, and non-dominating love for his partner, child, and congregational children, I was left completely baffled asking the question, Can we [can I] believe that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children and non-dominance in their intimate relationships? I don’t know, however, this one man makes me think that it may be plausible.

So, when 11 year-old Paris said she loved her father against the backdrop of the media’s desire to let it be know Michael Jackson was an alleged child molester, I caught myself asking the question, given how we are socialized to see men as the bread winners and non emoting patriarchs, can we fathom let alone conceive of the idea that Michael Jackson was simply a man who loved children in ways that women are allowed to love children. I can not count the many times I have laid in the bed with the child I was babysitting either to put them to sleep or to settle them down to rest. And let’s be honest about our sexist thinking, women are no more capable of radical love than men, but yet we trust women with the care of children.

Does all of this mean that I am saying Michael Jackson is innocent of his alleged crimes? No, because I do not know, but what I am saying is that it’s difficult for us to believe and to accept that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children. It is far easier to believe that men like Michael Jackson are child molesters, gay, and mentally unstable than to believe that they are men who simply love because it goes against the very fiber of what we have been taught about men.  Yes, it was a cry heard around the world, “my daddy was the best father ever . . .”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-VbIFtW6so

Some Black women and gays love denegration?

DOing IT Big (I guess?)

 

As we prepare for CNN’s Black in America 2 (July 22nd & 23rd), let’s “keep it poppin’” with a discussion about some black women and black LGBT folks. In my experience, some women and black LGBT folks are into being disrespected. Disrespect for me ranges — from dancing and signing songs that screams: bitches, punk, sissy, battyman and hoes if you are a black woman and/or a member of the LGBT, —to public physical, emotional and political acceptance of being valued by someone as less than or as a sexual object (i.e., being humiliated).   For me, acceptance is when you allow someone or somebody to humiliate you in public spaces.  In writing it out, it sounds crazy to suggest that anyone is accepting of publicly being reduced to jokes and sex objects, but I have seen it and at times have allowed it.