Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This month has been going by so fast, I almost forgot to pay homage to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an annual designation observed in October. For many, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort. It’s somewhere that you know you will be surrounded by care and support, and a nice little break from the busyness of the real world. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.” https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-domestic-violence-awareness-month-october/

It is especially important to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the current administration has made it clear its disdain of women. The absurdity that surrounded Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings is an example of this hatred. The whole situation was alarming, because if a white upper-class highly educated woman could be treated with such venom, what hope is there for women who aren’t as privileged. Particularly, Black/women of color.

I thought about this when I recently attended an event focusing on domestic violence in communities of color. Black/women of color often face unique challenges when trying to deal with the issue of violence in their lives (interpersonal, sexual assault, etc.) They are forced to rely on institutions that have historically oppressed, ignored, or exploited them (healthcare services, law enforcement, etc.) The workshop I participated in, the speaker discussed the need to create resources for Black/women of color outside these dominant systems. This can look like building underground networks for these women.

As the speaker noted, “Since the days of slavery, we as a people have been resourceful in creating safety amongst ourselves because safety historically has not existed for us within dominant culture. As enslaved peoples our ancestors created and learned to use codes and underground avenues to create safety and community amongst themselves. This same concept applies for DV survivors of color today; safety and support is sought in unconventional ways.”

We also watched a video featuring Bernadine Waller. Waller talked about the stereotypes and assumptions about Black women that make it hard for them to be taken seriously as victims of violence. She urged professionals to see Black women, to REALLY see us…to see our humanity.  Waller’s speech was moving, and highlighted how much work needs to be done in ensuring that Black women are living whole and healthy lives.

 

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The Stress of Black Motherhood

Recently, the article The Strained Relationship Between Black Mothers and Their Daughters was trending on my newsfeed. I didn’t pay much attention to it, at first. Then it popped up again in an online group I’m in. Initially, I felt an immediate need to reject it. I always get anxious when I see articles like this.  I feel that Black mothers tend to already be overly criticized, so why add fuel to the fire. However, I decided I needed to be open-minded and read the article.

While I have mixed feelings about the article, I had to acknowledge that it was the author’s truth and the story for many Black daughters. There are some Black mothers who lack affection for their daughters. They have never dealt with their own unresolved issues. There are some who are simply narcissistic and even see their daughters as competition.

I felt the article was missing something.  I think it’s important to examine the complexities of  Black motherhood. Of course, this is not to condone emotional/physical/mental abusive behavior. There are some parents who are just rotten people. But there are certain stresses that Black mothers contend with that may affect their relationships with their children.

Being a Black woman in America means realizing that doing everything right may not be enough

Black motherhood has never been valued in this society, and is always under attack. Since being brought here as slave labor/breeders, Black women had to quickly redefine what was being a mother/motherhood. This has contributed to a long, shaky journey of trying to figure out what is the “right” way to mother. Mothering outside of white ideology.

A few day ago, I came across a social media platform, where the male host highlights stories of domestic violence/and other traumas in the Black community. I thought this was admirable, especially since we need more Black men thoughtfully discussing these issues.

Continue reading “The Stress of Black Motherhood”

4 Years Forgotten

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan ranks right up there with Hurricane Katrina as one of the most deplorable acts against the Black community. Only slavery in America has them both beat, and that’s not saying much. All three events represent this country’s continued genocide attempts on Black people.

It’s been 4 years since Flint has had clean water. Not only do residents still don’t have drinkable water, they are being forced to pay for the tainted water.  It’s a disgrace.

Back in March, I came across the campaign “4 Years Forgotten.” It was started by 10-year-old activist, Mari Copeny. On the website, she states:

“My hometown has been in a water crisis since April, 24th 2014. Yes, for 4 years. Thousands of kids and adults were exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals in our water. When word of the crisis first broke we had media from all around the world shining a spotlight on Flint. But now, the cameras are gone and this crisis is far from being over with. To mark the 4 year mark of the Flint Water Crisis I am hoping to sell as many of these shirts for people to wear on April 24th to bring attention back onto Flint. Four Years Forgotten.” https://www.bonfire.com/4-years-forgotten/

When I think about the 2017 Women’s March, I don’t reflect on white women wearing pink pussy hats. I think about a picture I saw of three Black women standing by themselves. They were holding signs that read “DON’T FORGET FLINT.”

I was happy to support this fundraiser. It looks like Copeny and company have restarted it, so don’t miss your opportunity to get a shirt!

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I never know how to take selfies. Repping my 4 Years Forgotten t-shirt 🙂

 

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to support women’s organizations/businesses. Here are some of my favorite Black women led groups:

Pay Your Teachers: How to Compensate Black Women and Femmes on Social Media for Their Emotional Labor

A Long Walk Home

Black Lives Matter

Black Women’s BluePrint

Bloom Beautifully

Divine Dark Skin

#metoo

Safety Pin Box

SisterSong

The Feminist Wire

PDX Black Feminism 😉

 

Self Care in Color

A few weeks ago, I attended a virtual self-care retreat for Black women (how cool is that!) It was an amazing experience. The only drawback, the daily videos were scheduled 8 am eastern time, which meant I had to be up by 5 am Pacific. Of course, it wasn’t that difficult for me to get up.  I have a toddler. Those with small children know kids are usually breathing in your face at the crack of dawn. So, I was semi-awake for this inspiring event.

I enjoyed all the guest speakers, but especially the conversations on what is self-care (Tara Pringle Jeffersonand Black motherhood and self-care (Danielle Faust).

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Bloom Beautifully Self-Care Box

Jefferson talked about the importance of thinking deeper about self-care practices. The rhetoric tends to be go get a manicure or go to the spa, and all will be well. Jefferson encouraged Black women to take a more holistic approach. It could mean getting rid of toxic people in our lives. Or cutting out destructive habits (overextending ourselves, smoking) etc.

Faust discussed the challenges of finding time for self-care, especially as  Black mothers. In/outside the Black community, there is expectation of Black women sacrificing themselves for everyone else. The pressures triple, once we have children. We are raising Black children in an anti-black world. We have to protect our children differently than non-Black mothers. How can Black mothers indulge in self-care without feeling guilty or judged?

Recently, I celebrated my birthday. A good friend gave me a gift card to one of my favorite stores. I had to force myself not to buy my son a new outfit. It was a struggle to only spend the card on myself. Honestly, I kind of failed. I did get him a t-shirt. It’s this dilemma as Black mothers of knowing it’s okay to self-indulge, sometimes.

The self-care retreat was interesting and fun. When the organizer asked about ideas for next year’s gathering, I suggested more interactive opportunities. But she did a wonderful job for her first time!

She sent a link of Black women owned businesses that include coaching, counseling, products, etc. Personally, I’ve got my eye on Jefferson’s self-care boxI will make self buy it. I will make myself buy it… 😉

Support Black businesses this holiday season!!

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Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

It’s summer…

Man, I can’t believe it’s June already. It feels like we just started 2017. Yeah, I’ve been gone for a minute. But life happens (I think I said that in my last post :). I’ve been busy with a youngin, moved, and getting back into the swing of things in my city. Normally, I would be off to blogcation right now. But since I’ve been letting the blog lag a bit, I’ve decided to post throughout the summer. So, get ready.

Plus, with all the tomfoolery going on with the Trump administration, I doubt this will be a peaceful summer. Trump’s blatant support of all things racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., has brought out the evil in folks. I think the hot heat is going to rise hateful shenanigans.

The summer of 1919 has been dubbed the “Red Summer.” It was named this due to horrifying race riots that happened across the country. The killings of Black folks were at an all time high. The majority of these attacks were initiated by white folks. Brutal beatings, lynchings, and fires/property damaged that destroyed Black homes/communities.

With the alarming outpouring of white supremacists/terrorists (my city has seen a huge influx of them) it is not far-fetched we may live to see another “Red Summer.” Particularly, in the case of outright murders of Black folks by police.

Recently, a young black mother was killed in Seattle, WA when she called the police for HELP. If this isn’t a bad omen for the upcoming summer months, I don’t know what is. Rest in peace Charleena Lyles, and stay vigilant Black folks/folks of color.

To support Lyles children…https://www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg

Holiday Giving #1

On Black Friday, instead of going shopping, I decided to make donations to groups whose work I support. It made me feel so good, that I’ve decided to continue giving in December in the honor of the holidays and all that jazz. It’s important, especially now, to help grassroots organizations as we prepare for battle next year when Trump takes office. It’s going to be a looong 2017.

This week I gave to SisterSong

“SisterSong is a Southern based, national membership organization; our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.”

While mainstream/white feminism focuses on the issue of abortion, for women of color the struggle tends to be on the right to keep our children. From forced sterilization on reservations/lower-income communities of color to being able to indulge in alternative prenatal/post care (midwives, doulas, etc.)  Also, having equal access to birth control.

The organization asks for no more than $5 dollars in contributions. But more is always nice 🙂 Give if ya can!!

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Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

Women of Color and Motherhood

“So, how do you like being a mother?” somebody/anybody asks me. I pause slightly and look up to the sky. I’m trying to formulate my words. The somebody/anybody eyes start to glaze over and they begin fidgeting.  I am not answering fast enough for them.  I am suppose to be happily extolling the virtues of motherhood, not pondering it deeply. Finally, I say it’s “interesting.”

I love my baby, I do. But like many new mothers I got the baby blues after he was born. There have been many late nights I have wrapped myself with my arms, rocked back and forth and muttered “what have I done?”

Becoming a parent means sacrificing your time, money,  goals, etc. It’s not that you will never have these things again, but it will be harder.  And when you become an older parent like I have (over 40), you really wonder if you will make it. While other folks will be done with raising a child, you will be dealing with a moody teen in your 50’s/60’s. Oh joy.

For mothers of color, there tends to be the typical parent concerns, plus cultural/community expectations. In the article “An Honest Conversation With Women of Color About Postpartum Mood Disorders,” mothers of color talk about their struggles  with motherhood. There are not a lot of opportunities for women of color to share these kind of stories. For many it’s the fear of not living up to stereotypes of being a Model Minority” or a “Strong Black Woman.”

The article was a moving read and made me realize how important it is for mothers of color to build a supportive network. Having a child can be a wonderful thing, but it should never be at the expense of our mental or emotional health. It’s okay to tell folks that being a mother is “interesting.”  We shouldn’t have to fake the funk to keep other folks fantasies of motherhood alive.

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My new love.