The Legacy of Mentoring Lionesses: From Mary McLeod Bethune to Dr. Dorothy Height to Dr. Marian Wright Edelman

“Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race.”–Mary McLeod Bethune

“As more women enter public life, I see developing a more humane society. The growth and development of children no longer will depend solely upon the status of their parents . . . Though children cannot vote; their interests will be placed high on the political agenda for they are indeed the future.”–Dr. Dorothy Height

“Children don’t vote but adults who do must stand up and vote for them.”–Dr. Marian Wright Edelman

As the world mourns the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height, I am overwhelmed by the tributes that herald her life and whisper her legacy. She’s godmother . . . matriarch of justice . . . civil rights pioneer . . . unsung giant . . . and mentor. She’s president of the National Council of Negro Women . . . women’s rights activist . . . unmovable force . . . and mentor. She was unafraid to tell it like it is, “Yes, mam Dr. Height” and mentor. She was a mentor, a woman who like the mighty Mississippi poured herself into the lives of many including Dr. Marian Wright Edelman who’s work daily ensures that “No child is left behind.” Yes, there is something to be said about the power of mentoring and the making, hewing, shaping, and fashioning of lionesses. Yes, I said lioness women who with ferocity pursue justice and equality to make change evident in the lives of black women and children. As I think more about the work of Dr. Height and the countless number of women who were empowered by the National Council of Negro Women activities and programs, I realize a part of her legacy is the mentoring of lionesses.

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.

The Old Black Woman says: “Do you got yo big girl’s drawls on? Can you stand a fight?”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwEOigT2GWM

I really love this Huggies’ commercial because it shows a little girl professing she’s a big kid because she knows how to wear pull-ups which is the first step toward wearing big girl panties drawls. [Song in the tune of the Huggies’ commercial] So, she’s a big girl now.

At this very moment, I am in the process of learning all that I can about Michelle Rhee who is the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C. For better or for worse, she is a woman who knows how to wear big girl panties drawls. Not only does she know how to wear them, but she seems to keep a variety of them—red, purple, cerulean, and verdant—nearby just in case she has to do a quick last minute improvisation in order to get school wide consensus for her performance based teacher pay policies.

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.

Women’s Her-story Month: Why Not Sex Workers (Sofia Maldonado’s Mural)?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thzHCAjOgAI

There is a “moral panic” that Keysha Whitaker highlights in “Latin Female Artist draws criticism for Times Square Mural” brewing on the streets of Times Square where Sofia Maldonado, a young Puerto Rican-Cuban woman, is under fire for creating a mural that for many embodies the sins of rap videos . . . big booty black women . . . exotic looking Latina women . . . crouch mesmerizing poses . . . and at the end of the day “un-respectable” images of black and brown women. One incensed passerby said the mural harkens back to a time when 42th Street was a “red light” district . . . a place where prostitution . . . drugs . . . and un-catholic like debauchery reign supreme. People are mad not ordinary mad, but “witch-hunt” mad. Men of color are mad not ordinary mad, but I need to protect “my woman” mad. But the question is: why? Why are they mad? Why are they Mad Men?

And all that I can think of to answer this question is that these images are not “respectable” images. They do not paint black and brown women are Supreme Court Judges—Sonia Sotomayor—or as First Ladies—Michelle Obama—or as multi-billionaires—Oprah—or as activist— Linda Chavez-Thompson—or as writers—Sandra Cisneros. Nope . . . as one mural viewer said, “They look like prostitutes.” And in response to this I say [silent drum roll], why not sex workers? Why not a mural honoring sex workers during Women’s Her-story Month? Of course, this is not to say that the mural showcase sex workers, but the way in which people are talking about the images of the mural gives substance to the claim that people see the images as such.

Women Her-story Month: Do You Have a Chosen Sister?

I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.

We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”

I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral

So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.

Women’s Her-story Month: A tribute to Old Black Women Healers

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

–Maya Angelou

So, how do you make a little black girl believe that all she has gone through does not determine her ability to take flight? How do you “teach” her that her wings are beautiful and that the risk of flying is a marvelous growth enriching endeavor? How do you make her see that her cadged song and flight will one day inspire others to freedom? How do you “teach” a black girl to fly?

You see, it’s not an easy endeavor because so many things seek to clip their wings, silence their voice, and keep them cadged. It takes a special kind of spiritual intervention to release little black birds. It is not a task for the faint of heart or for those who benevolently (i.e. good white women) “swoop” in to save de Negro children from the pathology of their colored communities. Hmmmm . . . it is a task well suited for wise black women like Baby Suggs in Beloved who said, “Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it . . . No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands . . . You got to love it,” and Minnie Ransom in The Salt Eaters who said, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well,” and my 8th grade colored school teacher, Mrs. LaVern Colvin, who said, “Now listen here, Fallon, if you do not know by now how much I love you . . . you will never know, dearie.”

Vanity Fair's Racism Sings: Don’t Cha Wish You Were White Girl Like Me. Don’t Cha.

Cover Girls March 2010

“Mirror . . . mirror on the wall who the fairest of them all?” In most fairytales, the mirror would reply, “Snow white is the fairest of them all.” However, in the case of Vanity Fair’s March cover, the names are Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick . . . all up incoming young white Hollywood actresses. According to Shine’s writer, Joanna Douglass,

Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz calls out the young cover stars by their best attributes: “downy-soft cheeks,” “button nose,” “patrician looks and celebrated pedigree,” “dewy, wide-eyed loveliness,” “Ivory-soap-girl features.”

Clearly, Evgenia Peretz has over-dosed on the proverbial white supremacist poisoned apple. I know what you’re thinking. Do such apples exist? Yes, they do just ask Pat Robertson what he thinks about Haiti or ask the producer and director of Couples Retreat about taking the black comedian, Faizon Love, off the European posters.

It's better than money: It's FOOD STAMPS!

 

 

FoodStampsI read the New York Times article titled “Food Stamps Usage Soars, Stigma Fades.” The article is about the lessening of  stigma regarding the use of food stamps. What comes to mind when you think of the U.S. welfare system, specifically food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?

 For me, I remember seeing black single mothers with multiple children (read: more than 3) in the grocery store handing multi-colored slips of paper across the counter to the cashier. Others, like President Ronald Reagan, associate with this program certain women, like Linda Taylor, Barbara Williams, Arlens Otis, and Dorothy Woods. As defrauders of government sponsored welfare programs, these women’s public “transgressions” aided Ronald Reagan to stir the public imagination and create the “welfare queen. ” In his most famous of quotes regarding the welfare queen, He said:

Ronald-Regan “She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husband. She’s got Medicaid, getting food-stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.” 

 
 
 

The Princess and the Frog, but what about the White Frog's Hunters?

Today the Princess and the Frog opens across the nation. Of course, I’m going to go see the movie, however like most cynics I wrote a blog about the movie before it premiered approximately two months ago to  be exact. So, if my argument is proven wrong by actually seeing the film, I will write another blog saying I was wrong. However, I do not think this will be the case. Also, I hope bloggers, writers, teachers, critics, etc. are equally critical of this movie as they were of the movie, Precious.

The original title of the blog was, Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh, My.