October is Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness: But Are We Truly Aware of Both??

So, I am sitting here trying to understand why during the month of October Breast Cancer Awareness gets more media attention and corporate sponsorship than Domestic Violence Awareness which is also remembered during the month of October. I know that most women have breast irrespective of their size, pigmentation, and function. And, I also know 1 of 8 women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. However, what I am having a hard time trying to understand is why it seems to be favored, if one could favor one personal disaster over another, over domestic violence especially when 1 of 4 women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime meaning women are more likely to be exposed to domestic violence than breast cancer.

This acknowledgement is not to reduce the level of attention Breast Cancer Awareness’ initiatives receive because it is important. And, evermore important to me because a couple of months ago my “beloved” godmother was diagnosed with it which caused me to become a consumer of all things related to curing Breast Cancer. However, as a survivor of domestic violence—lived through my mother’s daily beatings—and goddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I see the interconnections and similarities between both issues and why they must be addressed simultaneously.

Is Nicki Minaj In An Abusive Relationship?

These days, it seems like all Nicki Minaj does is win, win, win.

Pink Friday is still selling like hot cakes, “Super Bass” is currently the number 3 song on the Hot 100 chart, and (by most accounts) she nailed her supporting slot on Britney Spears’ massively successful Femme Fatale Tour. Even today, news broke that Nicki has signed on to provide vocals for a character in the upcoming animated flick “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” alongside Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar and Young Money cohort Drake.

Nicki Minaj is the definition of a rising star right now. And that’s only made the persistent rumors regarding a violent, July 12th confrontation with (alleged) boyfriend Safaree all the more disturbing and distressing.

Nicki has denied repeatedly that any abuse occurred. But a 9-1-1 tape that leaked yesterday tells a very different story.

Says Seven year-old, “Big Sister let them Rape Me:” Trenton, Irresponsible Black Girls, and Savior Russell Simmons

TRENTON — City police have charged a 15-year-old girl as an accomplice to the gang rape of her 7-year-old sister. Police said they believe the older sibling was paid for having sex with multiple partners Sunday night during a party at the troubled Rowan Towers apartment complex, and that she then sold her sister to others at the party.

My heart grieves not only for the seven year old black girl who was gang raped, but also for her 15 year old sister who sold her body and her sister’s body for money. Yes, my heart grieves even though many people are angry with the older sister for not protecting her little sister calling for “the book to be thrown at her.” To say the least, the big sister is going to jail for a very long time. But yet, my heart weeps for her as it wept for Precious’ mother, Mary. It weeps because it says something about the level of sexual abuse she herself must have experienced to make the idea of being complicit in her sister’s rape plausible. My heart moans because she like other girls knows that they can make a living by selling their bodies. It wails and weeps because no one stepped in to stop her first sexual abuse. My heart grieves.

The question is: Can we really be angry with the 15 year old sister for what she did? And I am having a hard time answering this question because a part of me wants to be angry at her for not protecting her little sister. However, I have to assess how much of my sadness and anger is in response to the crime of rape and how much of it is in response to her not being a good big sister. You know the type of big sister my older sister was forced to be completely responsible for raising me when she was only a girl herself because . . . momma had to work late . . . momma did not like being tied down . . . daycare is expensive . . . momma had a second job . . . momma was gone . . . momma had to party . . . daddy was gone . . . so she became responsible for raising and protecting “us” her younger siblings.

Seven Women at the Cross: A Black Feminist Speaks of Widows

This week I had the opportunity to speak at Spelman College’s 8th Annual Seven Women at the Cross. For those who are not familiar with Seven Women at the Cross Services it is a time when women preachers and speakers recount the last seven days of Christ living on Earth through the stories of the women he met on his way to the Cross. So, I thought I would share with you the speech I gave about the widow woman in Mark 12:41. Of course, it is a black feminist interpretation of the text.

“A poor widow came and put in two small cooper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciple and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 41)

The story of the widow woman in Mark 12:41 is fundamentally a story about women pursuing their purpose . . .  their most burning desire  . . . that which calls them back to their center . . . irrespective of what it may cost them. And because they are widows the cost is high. You see, it’s a miserable existence to be a widow woman in a patriarchal culture because you are not valuable. To make you valuable in Biblical times as a woman you had to fulfill your purpose of first being a good daughter then a good wife, and most importantly being a good mother meaning you spent most of your time catering to the wishes of your father, your husband, and your children. That was your purpose.

Beyonce Says Big Ego, but Ruth says, “Eat your [damn] eggs, Walter Lee”

So, why is it that every time I talk about black women’s lived experiences feeble-minded always on the black woman’s titty black man hollers in his best tonka truck voice, “We got it hard not black women?” Wow. My first immediate response is, “Did I say anything negative about the black man?” No. My second response is, “Did I even use the male pronoun in any part of my statement?” No. So, how is it that you, Mr. Beans and Rice eating barefoot and pregnant needy black man, are offended, wounded, and betrayed by my acknowledgement of black women’s stories? You see, Beyonce calls it your big ego. I simply refer to it as your broke-down Napoleonic black male privilege having @$s. I know the tone of this blog seems reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s Tyrone and Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, but my intent is not to lyrically serenade you with all the ills black men have visited upon black women, but to say that I am sick and I am tired of the, “I am black man and the world is on my shoulder boo who who” whine every time I mention anything about black women.

I mean, I can say, “I as a black woman sneezed today,” and the black man would counter, “I have a sinus infection.” I as a black woman could slip and fall and the black man would argue for dear life that he invented the slip then fall movement. I can say, “As black woman I love my vagina,” and the black man would say, “Not as much as I do (hearty John Coffy from the Green Mile’s laugh).” I can say, “I scraped my knee,” and the black man would moan like an old southern Baptist minister, “I am quadriplegic . . . I am so oppressed.” Really, is it that important that you, Mr. I am an Endangered Species, be the center of attention all the damn time?  When I go to the bathroom, I have to seriously think about how my brown poop will oppress you. When I sleep at night, I have to think about how my dreams will challenge your manhood and rival your oppression. I am so over, “The world is against me” black man’s dirge. Go sing that song to a group of people who care, people like Tiger Wood’s wife and even they are tired of your big ego.

I saw the movie Precious, but what about her mother, Mary?

I am my mother’s daughter and my mother is the daughter of my grandmother. And both their stories and silences speak through me.

I begin with this mantra because spiritually and mentally I desperately need to understand why tears stained and wrinkled my cheeks as I watched the movie Precious. Yes, I am a Cancer and have been known to wear my heart on my sleeve, but there was something so violent and painful about how Lee Daniels portrayed Precious’ mother that tears could only convey my ill ease and anger. Mind you, there are many critiques I could write about the movie. However, I think summer’s Lost in Translation: A Response to Precious gets at the root of why so many people like myself wanted to storm out of the theater babbling among many things, “I can’t stand Tyler Perry’s @s$ who makes millions off of black women being damaged.” So, if you want to read a good critique, please read summer’s Lost in Translation. I guess I should also say that I have not read Push by Sapphire and all my comments are in response to the movie, Precious.

So, I begin by asking the question, what if the movie Precious was not told from the point of view of Precious, but told from the point of view of Mary. I know many of you are scratching your heads asking, “Who’s Mary?” Well, Mary is Precious’ mother. I think it is important that we know the name of the woman who is “solely” responsible for making her daughter overweight, infecting her daughter with HIV, allowing her father to rape her, and forcing her to quit school to get welfare. Given all of this, I think it is important to know the name of Precious’ mother, Mary.

Yes, I know that the purpose of the movie was to tell the daughter’s story. But, as I watched Mary silence, physically abuse, and sexually sodomize her daughter, all I could think about as tears flowed was Mary’s story and how she became who she was. What were the political, social, cultural, and economic forces “intersecting” to shape how she saw her daughter and how she saw herself? Mary is not one dimensional in the sense of simply being organically evil. But, Lee Daniels—as he also did in Monster’s Ball—did a good, downright extraordinary job of painting her as such, ignoring the many structural and cultural forces at play during the 70s and 80s that made the image of the black welfare queen palatable and punitive.

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!