Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stuff on My Mind

I have been neglecting my blog posts in favor of creating YouTube Videos. Another creative outlet that I have discovered in the Third Chapter of life. Being a very visual person and loving music, it's a medium that I enjoy manipulating. Also, I've been rendered speechless by much of what has been going in the world of late. Nevertheless, there are a few issues that have cause me to rant or at least sit up and take notice.

Here we go:


HEALTH CARE REFORM AND PRESIDENT OBAMA:



Health care reform has produced craziness that I think no one could have imagined. Accusations of death panels and that America is heading toward socialism. Comparing our Commander and Chief to Hitler. Of course there have been loud cries of racism from even unlikely corners; former president Jimmy Carter. Though I believe race is indeed a common thread it is not the only issue. What we are seeing has more to do with the constant battle between the half and have nots. Meaningful health care reform is an attempt to reduce health disparities. Let's be clear, the legislation will not reduce the cost of health care. That would require radical regulation of the both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Of course this is not going to happen. Too many people have benefited financially on both sides of the legislative isle.

If the bill passes without the Public Option there really is no reform. It's just business as usual. Millions will continue to be locked out of the opportunity to have quality and affordable health care. In the meantime, we must exercise agency over our own health. Though not a panacea, eating right, exercise and believe it or not, reducing the number of toxic relationships you have will all aid in improving your quality of health and overall quality of life. When you don't have your health, nothing else really matters.


CUSTOMER SERVICE:


You would think in a time of high unemployment that customer service would improve because businesses would value your return patronage. Not. There seems to be an epidemic of rudeness. People in these positions take themselves too serious rather than the jobs they are doing and the people that keep them with a job. Now this does not refer to all, there are exceptions. However, we know the bar has been greatly lowered when we are in awe of the clerk or cashier when they ask us if we found everything we needed or if they speak to us in pleasant tone, rather than the gruff, what the hell do you want tone we so often hear.

My dollars are too hard to come by. I expect the person waiting on me to at least pretend that they like me as I'm handing them my hard earned money. When I leave you can call me whatever you want. I think many would agree that customer service has almost become an ugly word.


Tiger Woods-


Am I the only one who feels like, enough already on the TW. Tiger is a rich, nerd, dummy. Yeah I said it. He might be the best in golf, but he has failed miserably in the game of life and relationships. I don't go along with the whole sex addict thing, but clearly dude's got major issues.

Tiger has some valuable lessons to learn and sadly his wife and children will have to attend the classes with him. Tiger thought his honorary white boy status would protect him. Not. As one writer said, Tiger is the new O.J. He was allowed acceptance into main stream culture and afforded all the perks, including a "nice" blond girl (OTFL) and he showed his natural born Caublasian ass (it's rumored literally). For this my dear boy you will have to pay the price.

Tiger, I don't know if the black community will allow you to come home in that:  a) you never embraced your blackness and b) some claim black women are mad because you didn't cheat with any of us. Now I disagree with this.  Sisters, this is one hot mess we should be thankful we were left out of.

At the end of the day, Tiger, his wife and all his jump offs will be just fine. Everybody will get a least one check to clear. Now the rest of ua must return to more pressing matters, such youth violence, homelessness, foreclosures, health care access and our children's ability to compete in a global economy.


Obama's Approval Rating:


Lastly, I want to speak on the drop in approval ratings for President Obama. Many of you may have heard that even the Congressional Black Caucus is giving Obama grief. My comments on this issue are brief.

Liberals, blacks you were not listening. The man has done exactly what he said he would do. He has made changes. Now is it change you can believe in? The verdict is still out on that one.

Let's look closely:

1) Obama said he would strategically pull troops from Iraq and refocus efforts and military force in Afghanistan. This is what he did.

2) It was only when faced with the possibility of loosing due to Jeremiah Wright did Obama remotely address the issue of race. He has portrayed himself consistently as transcending race. Let's face it, Obama probably would have won with or with black folk. He must now repay the folk who provided him with the cheddar to get in office. More importantly, he does have to function as a servant of all the people, of which black people make up only 12%.

3) We must not be naive enough to think a man of any race, not to mention mixed- African heritage would have risen to the level of president if the establishment thought for one millisecond that he was going to actually challenge the status quo.

Let me be clear, I still maintain the highest level of respect for the president and the historical, cultural and sociological significance of his presidency. I do believe that this is indeed his time and his divine assignment at this epoch in human history. And last, but certainly not least, special kudos to the First Lady of the United States, who continues to shine as a beacon of class, intellect and an excellent representation of black womanhood and the black family unit. We love you Mrs. Obama.

Well I feel lighter having had the chance to share some stuff that's been on my mind. Hope we can engage in mutual dialogue.

Until next time, love, peace and hair grease.


AkaziaJ







Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I remember in my mid-twenties a family member telling me I should be ashamed of myself for something I'd said. I quickly responded, "I have never done anything that I am ashamed of. I am proud to say that some 23 years later I still have the same feeling. I have no regrets about the life I have lived or the choices I've made. Now don't get me wrong, there are choices that I made that when I look back I realize I could have possibly been more willing to compromise or more open to hearing another point of view. But at the end of the day, as old "blue eyes" would say, “I Did It My Way."

Of course doing it my way didn't come cheap. I have the bumps and bruises to prove it. I paid the cost to be the boss. What I know for sure, is that every person and every experience that comes into our lives has the potential to serve our higher good if we allow it. The problem often is we are so caught up in what is happening or appears to be happening that we miss the magic and the lesson of the moment. Now having lived a half century, I have learned how to except the bitter with the sweet and keep it moving. When I reflect back, not with regret, but bought and paid for wisdom and maturity I know I wasted a lot of time and energy on things and people that were not worthy of my time and talents. I also, know that in my often self-righteous stance, yes, I can be self-righteous at times, but I'm getting better: I now know that I could have been more willing to cut the other person a little slack. About six years ago I read a great book called, The Four Agreements by Ron Miguel Ruiz. Simply put, the four agreements are as follows: 1) Be Impeccable with Your Word 2) Don't Take Anything Personally 3) Don't Make Assumptions 4) Always Do Your Best. Without previously having a name for it or a conceptual framework, this was and is how I've lived most of my life. Which I suppose, has allowed me to live without regret. Now I must confess agreement # 2 is a really hard one on the road of life. However, once you understand that what most people are reacting to is not about you, but instead their own hopes, wishes and fears it becomes a bit easier. What I know for sure is that it is vitally important that we managed our emotions. Manage being different from controlling. When we manage our emotions, we allow them to flow, yet we are keenly aware of their impact on us personally and possibly the impact they may have on others. Given the fact that by nature I am a person of extremes; either very hot or very cold, I've learned to keep my emotional thermostat at room temperature. This allows me to manage my emotions quite well in that I tend not to go too far in either direction. Unfortunately, Queen Peri-menopause has come along and threatened to throw my emotional and body thermostat completely off course. As a result, it is much more challenging to maintain that room temperature. Nevertheless, I work on it every day. Some days I get it right and some days I surrender to the Universe and Queen menopause and pray that none of my family, friends or colleagues have taken anything I've said or done personally. (The Second Agreement).

Initially, upon turning 50, I was feeling a bit uneasy. You see the day after I turned 50, Michael Jackson died suddenly. Then there was Billy Mays and most recently E. Lynn Harris. They say there is nothing to remind you about your own mortality more than seeing those in your age or peer group make their transition. For a brief time I found it all so unsettling. I was asking myself, what's up with all the 50 something people passing away. However, recently, I was listening to the video of blog of Cassandra McShepard (fashion designer for the late Phyllis Hyman). Cassandra made the statement that "death reminds us to live". That statement resonated for me. I realized that what I was witnessing was my wake up call to be even more on purpose about my physical and emotional well being. To protect my body temple from the crown of my head to the soles of my fit. I realized that I was literally in a fight for my very life. If I am not absolutely on purpose about how I live The Third Chapter of my life I could find myself in serious trouble. Now though I am very conscious about my eating, nutritional and herbal supplements, I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to exercise regiment. As a result of having lost about 25lbs last two years, I'm feeling like I don't look too bad for a grandmother of 50. Confession, I've been a slacker on the exercise. This is where I will have to put in the work. If I am not absolutely on purpose about this issue of moving and exercise, I could find myself for the first time in my life, with huge regrets. Okay, I've put it out there and now I have to be accountable not only to myself but to my blog readers as well. Stay on me; I want you to, really.

After years of self-work and some professional therapy I can see myself and others so much more clear. I absolutely love and adore the wise woman I am becoming. I step into this Third Chapter of life wiser, more relaxed, more willing to listening, able to go with the flow, whatever the flow may be. I'm realizing that at this stage of life, the only person that I am even remotely in charge of is me. Time to really exhale. Everyone is on their own personal journey toward wholeness and no one but God has the right or the responsibility to interfere with that process. I plan to ride this thing call life still the wheels come off. A wise woman once said, "Death will have to find me". When the Creator calls my number, I hope to be laughing, dancing and if I'm really lucky getting down right naughty with a fine young man that is at least 10 years my junior. LOL.

Non, je regreette rien- I Have No Regrets.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Phyllis Hyman: A 13 Song Playlist for You

Dedicated to Phyllis Hyman fans.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 60th Birthday to the Late Phyllis Hyman

Had Phyllis Hyman been alive today she would have turned 60 years old, July 6, 2009. Her life was cut short by a myriad of complex issues that we can only speculate about and that were probably even unclear to Phyllis herself. I have been a true Phyllis Hyman fan for over 20 years. Throughout this piece I will refer to Phyllis Hyman as simply, PH. Her sultry contralto voice has ushered me through break ups and feelings of being head over heels in love. Songs such as Living All Alone, Old Friend and my all time favorite, You Just Don't Know.

I always felt a connection to Phyllis, we share the same zodiac sign, Cancer. Yes, sweet but very complex and extremely sensitive. Through the literary genius of biographer, Jason A. Michael, who I feel has written the definitive and what may come to be the only biography written about PH, combined with countless hours of reviewing interviews, I have come to believe we share much more. Like Phyllis, I have a weakness for the cafe' au late, pretty boys with facial hair and dreamy eyes. We shared the tendency to speak our minds and live out our convictions even when it might be to our own personal detriment. We stand steadfast to our perceived truths. We also shared the often painful experience of seemingly not quite getting it right with intimate relationships. Our inability to compromise or settle and more important, our fears often being at the "heart" of the matter.

On a more deeper and personal level, we both shared the dark demons of clinical depression. Phyllis was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I thank the Universe, family and friends and my unwavering commitment to living in a new way, for the fact that I have not had a clinical episode in 20 years. However, I still take one day at a time.

As a side bar I'd like to note that there is no medical test to determine a chemical imbalance in the brain. The diagnosis is based
solely on a series of behavior traits outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): unlike the tests we have for diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. As a result of bad brain chemistry gone a muck, there are large numbers of people going around under and over medicated. Now before anyone starts to slam me, I am in no way suggesting that if you are taking medication and it is working for you that you stop. However, I am saying that in my opinion, we are not born with faulty brain chemistry and that there needs to be more emphasis given to the environmental factors that contribute to depression and other mental illnesses.
Please excuse me while I step down from my soapbox, clearly I digressed.

PH and I also shared an intuitive quality that is characteristic of many born under the sign of Cancer. We tend to feel the pain of others and to take that pain very personally, often to our own detriment. PH experienced several loses: her grandmother, then mom and a personal friend within the span of a few months. In addition, she was keenly aware and troubled by the plight of the world in general and the black community in particular. She also had serious financial problems, many due to her own poor judgment and addiction. The IRS was one of her debtors. Despite the focus on PH being an uncontrollable diva, she was at her core a very giving and compassionate person.

As most of PH's loyal fans know, she took her life on June 30, 1995, 6 days before her 46
th birthday. Many have speculated as to the reason for her suicide; anywhere from mental illness, substance abuse, not receiving her just due in the music industry, failed intimate relationships, weight gain, the list goes on. Best guess says it was all this and more. Many question why didn't Phyllis get help, why didn't she take medication, why didn't her friends and family intervene. The challenges PH faced were extremely complex and intricately linked. Not only was there the possibility of losing her creative muse by taking mind numbing medications, she also was the breadwinner for a staff of people. Though I don't know this to be fact, I doubt if Phyllis had a nice health insurance plan that afforded her the luxury of an extensive stay in rehab. Please note that according to her biography, she was in short-term rehab several times. The time off from the road and the financial resources to get the help she needed just weren't there. PH saw suicide as the only way out and that it was her choice to make. In her suicide note, she simply said, "I'm tired".

Author and journalist, Jill Nelson recently offered a commentary regarding the untimely death of musical genius Michael Jackson and his possible drug addiction/lethal overdose. She states: "When you are in pain, excruciating pain(emotional or physical) drugs are your friends. Sometimes the only ones you have. I honestly believe human beings DO have a finite limit on the amount of pain they can withstand at any given moment or period of time, and no other person can tell another what their limit is, should be or how long that pain should be endured" (http://www.niaonline.com/ggmsblog/?m=200906).

Those who knew PH personally and those of us who came to know her through her music still mourn the lost of one of the great vocal divas of the twentieth century. While she may not have experienced the records sales, she joins the ranks of great vocal divas such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Minnie Ripperton. Thanks to the TV One series Unsung: The Phyllis Hyman Story, a new generation of music lovers haven been introduced to the musical genius of PH.

While I applaud the effort, I personally felt that Unsung failed to capture PH in all her diversity. Instead,
TV One and the Hyman Estate, it would appear opted to focus on her emotional pathologies, rather than the kind, complex and yes emotionally troubled individual she was. Absent was the mention of her strong social, racial and gender consciousness and her belief in black economic empowerment. The fact that PH gave her time, star status and resources for HIV/AIDS activism and for the rights of women and the GLBT community. For those interested in a more holistic view of who PH was, please purchase Jason A. Michael's biography, Strength of a Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story.

As we celebrate the birthday and musical legacy of Phyllis Linda Hyman, we can best honor her life and her untimely death by being vigilant in maintaining our physical and emotional well being and reaching out to those around us who may be crying out. Be a true friend, don't wait until your sister or brother friend burst into flames before you notice they are in trouble. Remember to take time out of each day to rejuvenate your spirit. Be it prayer, meditation, exercise, whatever works for you. Lastly, remember the body temple is one perfect unit connected to both the inner and outer cosmos. Be careful how you treat your mind, body and spirit. Love yourself and that love will radiate to others. Glenda Gracia, Phyllis' manager and sister friend stated that it was not that Phyllis didn't know that she was loved, it was Phyllis' inability to love herself. Gracia goes on to say that if you cannot love yourself unconditionally then you will not be able to fully give or receive love. (Paraphrased from Strength of a Woman).


Phyllis Linda Hyman on this your 60th birthday we honor your musical legacy and your life serves as a blue print for how to live and how not to live. May the readers of this posting see it as a declaration of the will to survive in spite of our circumstances.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY... R.I.P.




Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Ode to Phyllis Linda Hyman

In Loving Memory

July 6, 1949- June 30, 1995

(This ode was written on the day after Phyllis's death)


Your smokey voice helped me through so many rough times. You gave me understanding of love lost and found, you reminded me "What You Won't Do for Love".

I know you must be singing in heaven with the other divas: Bessie, Sara, Billie and Minnie. All sisters taken away too soon by the bitter sweet of life that asks too much and gave too little. It must be like a gathering of
"Old Friends".

Your intense eyes, full lips and voluptuous six-foot Goddess stature left men wanting and dreamy eyed. You had them "Under Your Spell".

Your lyrics reflect both the joy and pain of love. I so wish you had found true love "Somewhere in Your Life Time".

Now you're gone at age 45, just at the peak of realizing your worth and possibilities.
"You Were in the Prime of Your Life".


On June 30, 1995, you chose to removed yourself from this earthly plane. Life got to be too much, you
"Just "Couldn't Take It Anymore".

Missing was a true sister and brother circle to hold and protect you when the going got tough. Someone to insure you got the help and support you needed. Someone to say,
"This Too Shall Pass Away"

You sang such sad songs of love. Always searching for someone to love you, but never really learning to love the person within. "The Answer Was You".

So long Phyllis, we love you and we honor you. " You Refused to Be Lonely". May you now find comfort in the arms of God. As long as we speak your name and play your music your legacy and shining spirit will live on.



* copyright 1996 all rights reserved.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Take the Phyllis Hyman (PH) Triva Quiz


1. What was the name of the neighborhood where Phyllis grew up?

2. In what southern state does PH have ancestral roots?

3. Who is Phyllis named for?

4. PH is from a family of 7. What is her birth order?

5. What is the name of the music teacher that first discovered and cultivated PH's musical talent?

6. What was the name of PH's first boyfriend?

7. Who is the jazz musician that gave PH her first successful recording?/What was the title of the song?

8. What was the name of the band PH started in Miami?

9.
What record label was PH signed with at the time of her death?

10. What female jazz vocalist had the greatest influence on PH?

11.What famous guitarist played with Phyllis in the early days?

12.
True or False - Vocal stylist, Rachelle Ferrel sang backup vocals for PH.

13. What astrological sign was PH born under?

14. Name the song writer that penned the tune "Living All Alone"?

15. Name the 1989 movie where PH played a singer and prostitute?

16. What Steven Spielberg movie was PH considered for a role in?/What character?

17. True or False - PH was offered $100,000 to perform in apartheid South Africa in the 80's and she refused.

18. Name the designer that created PH's signature fashion look?

19. What is the name of PH's former husband?

20. What were the three haunting words found in PH's suicide note?

21. What was the major humanitarian cause that PH contributed her time, talent and resources to?




Answers:


1) St. Clair Village 2) North Carolina 3) Her father, Phillip Hyman 4) The oldest
5) David Tamburri 6) Richard Wall 7) Norman Connors/"Betcha By Golly Wow
8) The PH Factor 9) P.I.R 10) Nancy Wilson 11) Hiram Bullock 12) True
13) Cancer 14) Cynthia Biggs 15) The Kill Reflex 16) The Color Purple, in the role of Shugg Avery 17) True
18) Cassandra McShepard 19) Larry Alexander 20) "I'm tired". 21) HIV/AIDS

* Primary source: Biography- (Strength of a Woman- Jason A. Michael 2007).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Turning 50 and Traveling Lite/Light



I approach this posting with tremendous gratitude for a life that so far has been filled with tremendous opportunity and blessings. As I approach 24 June 1959: twelve midnight, a half a century ago. WOW! It's more than I can wrap my brain around. A life that can best be described as a roller coaster ride of the Third Kind. I have seen tremendous highs and experienced lows that I thought I would never recover from. Yet, with God's amazing Grace and the kindness of Angels that the Universe has sent my way I approach this day wiser,stronger and a better human being. Be sure to checkout the video clips highlighted throughout this post.

In my youth, I never imagined myself living long. Maybe 50, 52 at the most. Who knows what the future holds. However, as I step into 50, I have a tremendous desire to live. I have (2) beautiful grandsons who I absolutely adore. It is my desire to see these boys grow to become exceptional men among men. I take one day at time, knowing that each day is another opportunity to witness Grace realized and another chance to get it right.

What I know for sure is that none of us gets out this life alive. I'm living every moment like it is absolutely Golden. I'm traveling lite. Leaving the baggage behind. Whomever has hurt me or I perceived has hurt me in their quest for self-actualization is forgiven in full as God has forgiven me. For those who I may have hurt with my actions or words, please know that hurt or harm was never my intention. One thing that I know for sure is that every person and event has the potential to serve my higher good if I let it. Turning 50 and traveling lite means just that. No baggage, (Bag Lady be gone) no pain. Just pure Joy. I know that there is only One Presence, One Power: God the Good, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent. Everything else is a manifestation of my own faulty thinking. My E.G.O. ( Easy God Out).


As I navigate through this 50th year, I want to be more selective in how I choose to use my time, talents and energy. Careful about the people I allow to occupy my time, energy and space. These days I live for
Love Alone.

Though the essence of true unconditional love from that special man has not found me as yet, I give thanks for all the wonderful men who have come into my life and taught me so much. I'd like to give a special thanks to my former husband who gave me a wonder son who has went on to become my greatest teacher. (Love you Nico). A special thanks to the late, Reginald Renaldo Williams for guiding me through my mid-life journey. R.I.P., I love you baby. Mad props to the late Brother Jahti Jackson Maasai for showing me what a real warrior King looks like.


As I move forward... My desire is to listen more and talk less. I hope my life reflects a life that has been spent in service to others; especially our youth. Though my journey has not yielded a lot of material success, I thank God for a life well lived. A life spent in service to humanity and for the cause of social, economic and environmental justice. GREEN FOR ALL!!!

As I move forward it is my hope that I will continue to serve humanity and provide wisdom to the young. None of us gets out this journey alive. I'm going to ride this thing called life until the wheels fall off. In the meantime, I'm FABULOUS, 50 and traveling L.I.T.E. (Loving, Inspired, Tenacious and Enduring). Keeping the faith and sharing light and love.

Wishing you love and best Intentions,
AkaziaJ (a.k.a. junee').

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Objectification of Black Women: From Michelle Obama to Lil' Kim

It has been a minute since I posted a blog. I have been listening more to what others have to say. I feel that being a good listener is critical to being a good writer. It was my hope that this post would be brief, however, I must say that when the Divine touches my pineal gland, thoughts and words rapidly flow to the tips of fingers and on to the keyboard. Let me begin by acknowledging that I am well aware that women in general are objectified and that black men are objectified as well. The focus here is on black women. I would also like to point out that black women have made significant strides in all areas; home, work and community. That said, sit back and take this ride with me.


Now I know many of you may immediately become alarmed that I am using Michelle Obama and Lil' Kim in the same sentence. However, we must give Lil' Kim her props, she brought it on DWTS. In fact, it was LK that inspired me to write this blog post. Lil' Kim played the Becky (White girl) role to the max. She had the language, the gestures and even the misty doe eyed Barbie look. Yet, in spite of this and the fact that she did a great job to have not had prior ballroom dancing experience, she was still reduced to raw sex appeal and the girl with the "bionic booty". Yes, Lil' Kim has in large part has been duplicitous in this objectification of black women, but we will speak to internalized oppression later.

From FLOTUS ( First Lady of the US) to Lil' Kim black women are seen as sexualized beings, rather than the complex, multifaceted human beings that we are. Even the FLOTUS, despite being Princeton and Harvard educated, a loving mother and devoted wife can not escape an obsession with her biceps and buttocks. Many would argue that the feminization of the first lady is a welcomed change from what usually happens with black women. While I too celebrate the fact that Michelle has chosen to focus on her role as loving wife and mother, I think the media in some way trivializes her role when they focus almost exclusively on what she's wearing and if she is showing her arms. By the way, loved CAC's (Commander and Chief) joke about the FLOTUS right to "bare arms".

Historically, black women have been objectified and dehumanized. Archetype female representations such as Jezebel, Sapphire and more recently compliments of "hip hop", stank hoe, chicken head, gold digger etc. It is true that white women are equally objectified, however, their images tend to be that of virtuous, pure and even slightly frigid, while black women have been portrayed as innately promiscuous, seductive, alluring or lewd.

One of the most heinous examples of the sexual objectification of black womanhood was seen in the 19th century with Saartjie Baartman, The Hottentot Venus. Put on display in a circus for her large buttocks and labia, the Hottentot Venus could not escape sexual objectification and humiliation even in death; her skeleton, genitals and and brain were placed on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Upon his election as president of SA in 1994, Nelson Mandela petitioned the French government to have her remains returned. Baartman was returned to her homeland of South Africa in 2002.

Women's suffragist, Sojourner Truth asked in the 19th century, "Ain't I a Woman". It was only recently that the works and deeds of this inspiring leader of women of all races was honored with a bust of her likeness that will be displayed at Emancipation Hall at our nation's capitol. It is also worth noting that it is the first image of a black woman to grace our nation's Capitol.

Venus and Serena Williams, the best in the world of tennis bar none in my humble opinion are constantly referred to by their brute force and of course Serena's ass. Seldom does anyone mention that these talented women are also entrepreneurs and are fluent in several languages. The most of what we hear aside from the physical/sexual presence is that they grew up on the mean streets of Crenshaw in LA.

To think that the first woman to win a best actress academy award was Halle Berry for Monsters Ball. Berry played a tricked out grief stricken, drug addicted mother, who look to Billy Bob Thornton to make her "feel good" in a very sexually explicit down right trashy sex scene. This is in no way intended to demean or minimize the talents of Ms. Berry, however, I argue this was not her best performance. But it fed into the historical stereotypes of black womanhood.

Sadly, the sexual objectification is most prevalent in some facets of hip hop music. Far too many music videos and rap lyrics are laced with misogynistic representations that further perpetuate negative stereotypes of black womanhood. As I stated earlier some black women have been duplicitous in this sexual objectification. Lil Kim along with fellow female rappers like Remy Ma and Foxy Brown to a name a few. These misguided young sisters believe that they are hip-hop feminists in that they are claiming their sexuality. Lil' Kim has so internalized her oppression at the hands of mainstream America as well as the world of hip-hop that she has mutilated herself with surgery and skin bleaching to the point that she is almost unrecognizable as her former self. LK and MJ could indeed be the poster children for self-hatred and internalized oppression.

Most recently, we see the talented Ciara in a music video with none other than I knew nothing about the "wardrobe malfunction" - Justice Timberlake. As black people have spent our whole life trying to break the chains of white oppression and now a black woman is allowing a white boy to sexually objectify her in her own video. You draw your own conclusion, check out the article and video Love, Sex and Magic . Not to appear to pick on Ciara, I must say that lady Beyonce' needs to balance her act as well. I have no objection to the celebration of the female black body in all it's beauty. All I'm saying is "Back That Thang Up".

While I strongly believe in personal responsibility, I must also acknowledge that white men still control the distribution of what we see and hear on the air ways. Nevertheless, as a community and one of the largest
U. S. consumer groups, we can collectively change our images by not buying or supporting products that demean our people as whole and our most priceless jewel, our women.

Well, as I rap up my latest rant, I close by simply saying, we've come a long way from the out house to the white house, and we've still got a long way to go.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

African Americans in the Obama Administration: The Brown Paper Bag Test




Now I know with the state of the economy and US foreign policy there probably are a lot more important things I could be writing about. Well I figure there are enough bloggers out there to keep up on those issues. I've held off on writing this piece for about a month now. Yet, it still had a nagging presence and I just had to get it off my chest.

Has anyone else noticed that the hand full of African Americans Obama has selected for post within the administration, all pass the brown paper bag test. In case there might be one or two white people reading this or some black person who has really been sheltered, see the urban dictionary's definition of brown paper bag test. The long and short of it is , back in the olden days and maybe even today, if you were darker than a brown paper bag you were not considered an acceptable member of the black elite. Of course there were exceptions: Madame C. J. Walker, a self- made millionaire broke through the intra-racial color barrier. We all know enough money can get you pretty much anything you want. Remember Pele' bought himself white racial status in Brazil. The phenomenon is even present in Atlanta politics. Despite the fact the city has had a black mayor since the 1970's, there has never been a dark skinned mayor. Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Bill Campbell and Shirley Franklin all easily pass the brown paper bag test.

But back to the matter at hand. As I look at the African Americans that have been appointed to prominent positions; I'm not talking about the brother who shoots hoops and was his personal assistant on the campaign trail. I'm talking about the real movers and shakers. Let's run down the list: Eric Holder
(Attorney General), Melody Barnes (Domestic Policy Advis0r), Valerie Jarrett (White House Senior Advisor), Rob Nabors (OMB Director), Susan Rice (Foreign Policy Adviser), Lisa Jackson ( Director of EPA), Desiree Rogers (White House Social Secretary). All of these individual fall in to the category of light or at least brown skinned. Definitely passing the brown paper bag test. If I missed a Kwame Kilpatrick kind of dark skinned person please bring it to my attention.


I know by now you are yelling at me saying, "but his wife is dark skinned. Yeah that's right. He indeed selected a highly educated, chocolate sister with strong ties to the Chicago community, which certainly didn't hurt in giving him the "hood cred" he needed to build his political career on the Southside of Chicago. Which makes this seeming slight of more darker skinned African Americans for his cabinet even more disturbing. It can't be said that in 2009 dark skinned blacks aren't just as smart and educationally advanced as lighter skinned blacks. So what's up. Could this be a part of the post-racial, Obama era. Is it necessary that Obama appoint individuals to his cabinet who like him, are not perceived as threatening to white people as darker skinned blacks. Could it be that we are not as advanced as we would like to think. There were a lot a people who weren't feeling Michelle in the beginning. They wanted to paint her as the angry black women and anti-American. Now since she's the First Lady, they obsessed over her sleeveless arms and her taste in fashion: all but kissing her black ass.

Now I know many of your are saying that the light skinned/dark skinned debate is antiquated and reflects narrow thinking. In a perfect world where race and representation all shared an equal playing field, I would be in full agreement. However, there are studies that suggest that internalized racism is alive and well even in our children. Kiri Davis, a seventeen- year old film student demonstrated this in her "doll test" , the test was a recreation of the doll test performed in the 1950's by husband and white psychologist, Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The 2006 doll study had results that were similar to the 1950's study. The children thought the white dolls were prettier and preferred playing with the white dolls rather than the black dolls. A more recent ABC study done post-Obama shows the numbers closer and that a broader range of ethnicities.

Nevertheless, young children's views of power and beauty still seemed to be shaped by the perception that the white person is the person most likely to be in charge or to be rich. Our youth still believe that to excel academically or speak the King's English means you are "acting white". So in spite of Oprah, Obama, Ben Carson, Beyonce, and Jay Z, internalized racism still exists. What message does it send to our children who now believe they can become president, when they look at the staff of the Commander and Chief and there is not a single dark skinned face in the bunch. Am I jumping to conclusions? Being just plain petty, or could Obama actually be " color struck" to borrow a term from Zora Neal Hurston. I welcome your feedback.

Thoughts on Death and Dying

My last remaining blood elder pass away several months ago. She was my moms only sister. My mom passed away about 10 year ago. While of course it's always sad for the survivors for a love one to transition, the person is in a better place in every regard. And as we stand on the nadir of our economic and possibly social and moral epoch, I feel certain that Aunt Clay is in a better place.

They often say that weddings and funerals bring out the worst in family members; for this reason as a rule I attend neither weddings or funerals. Of course when it's a close relative it's kind of hard to avoid. The rest of my family made its way to B'ham and are prepared for the pomp and circumstance of a funeral. My Aunt has requested a grave side service. I don't what this means, but anyway. I waited for the roads to clear up because there had been horrible storms here in Atlanta and neighboring Alabama.

My dislike of funerals is rooted in my childhood when it seems I attend so many funerals of people that were really important in my life. It would always leave a deep sadness within me. The process itself seemed morbid. Of course as a young child I lacked the vocabulary to articulate my dislike for the process. More importantly, as a child, nobody gave a damn about what you might be feeling. You just went along with the process and kept whatever it was you were feeling safely locked within your inner sanctum.

I don't attend weddings for somewhat different reasons but in some ways the same reasons. I married at 19 and the wedding felt like a fairy tale. Of course there is always the day after and the day after that. I remember crying at my sisters wedding who married several years after I did. At first I attributed my tears to the fact that I was about 4 months pregnant at the time. Later I would realized that it was because I felt a profound sense of disappointment from my own experience, that a day that can start out so beautiful can go oh so wrong. Her fairy tale lasted much longer than mine, but the end result was still the same. The Prince eventually turned into a frog.

I digress. Back to the issue of death and dying. I have come to realize that the grieving process is a very selfish process. Instead of our viewing death as a natural progression of living those of us left view it as abandonment. We think mostly of ourselves. Our unfinished business with the person or our guilt that we didn't do more or that we didn't say all we wanted to say. Well thankfully, I have a very different idea. I try each day to show those who I profess to love, love in action. Now of course none of us can love the way folk think we should love. We can only love within our capacity. Some of us have a capacity so wide and consuming that it can literally suffocate the receiver. Others of us are so emotionally detached from our authentic feelings that it's almost impossible to love another person because we don't love ourselves. Of course there is another kind of person, who is so self-absorbed that it is difficult for the person to see beyond their own self interest and needs. All of us possess the potential to be any of these types. It's finding the balance that allows us to love healthy and be fully present for the object of our love without being over baring.

When I leave this earthly plane it is my desire that I sleep away quietly without fanfare and hopefully limited or no pain. I don't want a funeral or that those left behind to feel sorry for me and more important to feel sorry for themselves. I hope they will know that I lived a full life with plenty of laughter and joy. That I always saw the glass as half full no matter how difficult things got. That they will know that even as I breathe my last breath I visualized a world of laughter, dancing and love.

And so it is.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Black Love in the White House


In the absence of black love on movie screens, music videos and magazines, there is black love. At a time when it is more likely to find a real representation of a unicorn than black love, black love is in full effect in the most unlikely place: the White House. President Obama and his beautiful wife Michelle bring black love into full view for all to see. Many European Americans seem to think that black love has never existed. Their reference for black love or the absence of black love is framed by slavery and more recently the often misogynistic representations seen in rap music videos.

For those of us who still have memory of when momma and daddy loved each other, when daddy would give mom a kiss on the cheek or a pat on the rear as he went off to work, black love is not a novelty. However, for many African Americans and main stream America, the Cosby Show was the first glimpse of black love within families. Not since Cosby and Phylicia Rashad has there been such a positive representation of black love and relationships. The blessing is that, Mr. President and the first Lady are not characters on a TV screen. They are real people, who know the price one must pay to maintain family, profession and now the highest office in the land.

The first family offers the opportunity to deconstruct the view of black male/ female relationships and to transform the meaning and representation of black love. President Obama seems to have the ability to step outside his position of power and give props to the mother of his children and his life partner. The Obamas appear to have loved themselves beyond their respective Ivy League degrees, and career accomplishments to find a Love Supreme. This is indeed a revolutionary act.

President Obama and Mrs. Obama present a new vision of love, not just black love, but for all America. The first lady acknowledges that theirs is not a perfect marriage, but that they share a commitment to making it work. In photo after photo we see the Obamas with a look of love, respect and mutual admiration that is hard to fake. There is no doubt that there will be plenty of love and love making between the sheets at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years.


As the first family navigates its way through the next four or hopefully eight years, we must keep them in our prayers and intentions that their union will continue to grow stronger with each passing day and each new challenge, and that at the end of the Presidency, they will be more in love than ever. I dedicate this song by Oleta Adams to Mr. & Mrs. Obama. "Just Before I Go to Sleep".

There are many examples of black love all around us. We only need shut off the negative images of black relationships that bombard us and look around us to our parents, sisters and brothers and friends who have shared a union of black love for 25-50 years or more. Is black love easy, of course not; nothing worth having ever is. Yet if we are to rescue the souls of our children from consumerism, narcissism, and greed, love with be the healing balm that will re-unite and heal our families, our communities and our nation.


BLACK LOVE IN FULL EFFECT!

Friday, February 20, 2009

50th Virtual Birthday Bash!!!

Dear Friends:

I need your help in creating a world wide day of celebration for folk born June 24, 1959. We turn 50 this year. While sipping a little Chardonnay I thought what fun it would be to create a virtual birthday bash for people celebrating their 50th birthday this year around the world.

Using the power and reach of the Internet, all I ask is that you circulate this message among your many social and personal networks. Have folk email me and give their input as we Cancerians recognize a half century of loving, laughing and living. My goals is to create a network of folk who want to create a vision for our shared celebration.

Emails to: divagodd6@yahoo.com. Let's get this party started!!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Etta James and Beyonce: No Fool Like and Old Fool

There's "no fool like an old fool" and "imitation is the highest form of flattery" are phrases I have heard throughout my childhood. However, I never thought it would be attached to some of the greatest icons of music. The most recent in this chain of fools appears to be the legendary singer Etta James (At Last). I thought someone was kidding when I first heard the blurb that she was threatening to "whip Beyonce's ass" and exclaiming that "the guy with the big ears was not her president". Etta were your meds not adjusted that day or did they take your common sense along with the pounds of fat from your weight loss surgery?

I'm baffled and a bit embarrassed in that I considered women like Etta James to be part of the generation that is suppose be the keepers of integrity, pride and common sense. James has joined the ranks of Aretha Franklin; you remember how she spewed hateration at Beyonce', who seemingly innocently referred to Tina Turner as the Queen on an awards show. Prior to that outburst, there was Jennifer Holiday hattin’ on Jennifer Hudson for singing " her song", I'm Not Going. Someone should make a video called "Old Divas Gone Wild", featuring Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Holiday and Etta James. Did I leave anyone out?

I challenge these ladies who clearly must be bitter as hell despite the fact that they are respected and revered by people around the world. Nobody can sing R.E.S.P.E.C.T. like the Queen of Soul, but that doesn't mean it isn't room on the throne for other Queens. Etta, Aretha and Jennifer Holiday get over yourselves. I only hope that Beyonce’ and the youngins’ will take a lesson from all this. They live in a time when they don't have the luxury of being the "it girl" for 15 or 20 years. In today's fast pace, short memory society you're the "it girl in the morning and Rhinanna has replaced you by the afternoon. If you notice, there is a new King or Queen of Hip-Hop every year. Luckily these young people understand the nature of the game. They either step aside or keep raising the bar so that who ever steps up to take their reign will have to bring it. They invoke a "ride a die" attitude to their craft that I applaud. Now don't get me wrong, they have their share of beefs between artists, however, it's usually more about creating hype to sell more records than anything else.


As for the "old fools" who let all of their stuff show (sometimes literally... ReeRee). I ask you to take a lesson from the "Timeless" Miss. Patti LaBelle. Though forever and a day, I will always think of LaBelle when I hear Lady Mamalade, Miss.Patti was not only the epitome of class and grace when Christina Aguilera, Little Kim and Mya performed the song in what I think was one of the worst musicals I've ever watched, Moulin Rouge. (Please note that my feelings about the movie are not a reflection on the performance of Aguilera, Little Kim and Mya). Miss. LaBelle applauded the sisters and encouraged them to keep up the good work and carry on the legacy. The love that the hip- hop generation has for Miss. LaBelle was recently displayed at the UNCF Parade of Stars- Salute to Patti LaBelle. In addition to Fantasia, singers like Chrisette Michelle, and Jennifer Hudson performed musical tributes to Patti LaBelle and had nothing but praise for the example that she has set with her music, but more important, with her generosity and willingness to mentor and cook for up and coming entertainers both male and female. LaBelle seems to always try to take the high road. In a recent interview she was asked why she didn't sing at any of President Obama's inauguration events, she graciously replied, she was not invited to perform, but gave mad props to Aretha Franklin for her performance.

I call upon Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Holiday, who all clearly got caught up in the moment, to not allow their historical legacies to be tainted by a moment when they allowed the worst parts of themselves to show, rather than being a reflection of the Divine gifts to the world that they were born to be.

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but truly, there is no fool like an old fool.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Your Son and Daughter Probably Won't Grow Up to Be President

I am little more than positive that I won't make any new friends and may even lose a few old friends by what I'm about to write. However, that's okay. I only asks that you hear me out before you start throwing the stones at me. I too watched in awe, though maybe not as euphoric as some at the swearing in of our nation's 44th president of the United States of America. Some call him our first black president, first African American, first bi-racial. Well you get the picture. As Princeton scholar, Melissa Harris-Lacewell stated, president Obama's selection of Michelle Obama as his wife and the mother of his children is probably one of greatest indicators of his black identity. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand. For the past week I've looked on as black mothers and some fathers wept on the evening news that they now can tell their children that they too can become anything they want, even president.

Now while this sounds really good in a sound byte, little Ray Ray and NeNe probably have a greater chance of winning the lottery than becoming president of the U.S. What we need to remember is that Obama had some very unique opportunities, some of which include having a white mother, a continental African father and white mid-western grandparents. In addition, he grew up in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia. A very different cultural legacy and experience than most Black children in America. Now let's also add the fact that Barack Obama is one smart guy bar none. In addition, his intellectual genius was cultivated in some of the best schools in America. Add that to practical experience in community organizing, Chicago boot camp political training and being in the right place at the right time (The U.S. literally in the toilet) and you have President Obama.
The point I'm making is that we can not ignore the role that intellect, cultural legacy and opportunity play in creating greatness. So while we are telling our children that they too can become president, we must be equally diligent in investing in their academic future at the same rate that we invest in the latest designer fashions. If you really want little Ray Ray and NeNe to become president, parents must attend PTA and parent teacher conferences on a regular basis. We must turn off the TV and Xbox and encourage our children to read and critically think. Now when I say read, I don't mean Zane or Carl Webber's latest urban lit offering. Future presidents need a knowledge of world affairs, they need to be able to speak the language of commerce which is not project English, but the King's or at least the Queen's English. Obama can do barbershop brother to brother talk, but it is his oratory eloquence that won the hearts and minds of Americans across race, class and political ideology.

Though President Obam's election is truly historical, we must couple our excitement with a dose of reality. One out of one hundred Americans are currently behind bars. Approximately, 35% of those persons are of African descent. This sobering reality tells us that our work is just beginning. I am in full agreement that we should not place limits on our children because of race or class. However, the "black tax" (twice as good to get half as much) has not been lifted just because we now have a Black president. In fact, the bar may just have been raised a bit higher.
The Keepers of the African village must get busy providing little Ray Ray and NeNe with the tools they will need to navigate a global, multi- racial, multi cultural America. Our children must have at least an intermediate grasp of math and science. More importantly, our children must be emotionally intelligent. We talk about how cool president Obama is, well that coolness is really emotional intelligence. He is a genius at managing his emotions, even in the most complex circumstances. Obama probably learned at an early age that he would not be able to control the actions and attitudes of those around him, but he could control how he responded to those attitudes. The audacity of hope is indeed alive and well and the dream lives. However, faith hope and dreams mean nothing without hard work. The next time you tell your child they can become any thing they want to be including president, remind them that president Obama is a graduate of Harvard law school where he graduated in the top of his class. That it was was hard work, perseverance, service and being prepared when opportunity presented itself that brought president Obama to the White House.