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Christian and Socially-Conscious…One Woman's Expression

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Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl—Part 5

A LOLLIPOP GIRL!!!???!!!!  My eyes quickly shift to her mother who is obviously mortified.  The giggles from the audience ring out.  An Around The Way Girl?  Returning my attention to the five-year-old, I wonder if she understood the question.  There she stands so innocently smiling, ignorant to her naiveté.  The teacher is noticeably uncomfortable.  She simply asks the next student the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Excuse me little “Black” girl, we need to talk.

Soar

What’s going on?  No really, what is happening?  What messages are you receiving–about yourself, about women, about life?  What television shows are you watching?  What music do you hear?  What conversations do you overhear?  What messages fill your head?

Sad Girl

When you play, what do you pretend to be?  When I was your age, I played with dolls and teddy bears.  They were my students.  I was the teacher.

What!  You don’t play with dolls?  Teddy bears neither?  Really?

Well, when did that get old?

Let me tell you a story.  Last week my assistant told me that every day, several times throughout the day, she sees a woman walking by the window.  One day, this woman approached my assistant’s friend and asked to be his lollipop girl.  He said, “No.”  Then, another man walked by and she asked him the same question.  Again and again, she did this–all day, each day.  Sometimes she would walk up to men sitting in cars.  Sometimes she would get inside the cars, but not long afterwards she would be seen walking down the street.  Every man does not say, “No”.  The woman, however, always looks really tired.  Still, she continues to walk up and down the street like she is on a mission—all day, back and forth, forth and back.  She walks.  She walks to find a yes, only to walk some more.  Does that sound like something you want to do when you grow up?

Listen to me.

1 girl looking

Ask your parents to take you to the library.  Ask them to check out books for you.  Fall in love with books.  Look at the pictures.  Listen to the stories.  Study the letters.  Read the words.  Understand their arrangement.  Books are treasures to be valued.

little girl reading

Allow your mind to crave knowledge.  Imagine unwritten success stories about your life.  Can’t you see you winning?  I can!

girl with book looking

There will be times when your feet will hurt.  They will feel like you have walked for days.  People will see you and know you are on a mission.  Along the way, you will hear more noes than you will care to count.  Do not become discouraged.  The yeses you receive will be well-worth it.

Listen.  They say lollipop girls are the world’s oldest professionals.  Although that is not true, you will show the world that you are no suckerLittle girl, go get ’em!  I’m rooting for you!

 

Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl—Part 4

Ponytails.  Afro Puffs.  Hair Clips.  Barrettes.  Beads…with foil tips. 

Yes, you know! 

Braids. Jheri Curls. Candy Curls.  Hair Rollers.  Hot Dryers. Hot Combs. Ouch!  Protect your ears!  Wash and Press.  Perms.  Just Wash?  Nah! Excuse me little “Black” girl, let’s talk hair.

little girl smiling

Since I was your age I knew I had good, thick hair.  Hair dressers would routinely tell me that my hair was a lot of work, but it was what other people wish they had.  Thank God for hair dressers who have loved on my tresses!  My reward for sitting hours in those styling chairs and sweating under those roasting dryers were tons of compliments from the awaiting public.  

“Mom,” I recently asked, “why did I start getting hair relaxers?”

perm on girl

“Convenience,” she simply said, and with that I remembered the words of my many stylists.  Your hair is a lot of work, but it is what other people wish they had.  Convenience made sense.

Sad Girl

An interesting thing happened to me in exchange for this convenience.  It took a while, but I can now realize its onset shortly after my first perm.  You see, while waiting for my mom to blow dry my hair I would let my towel hang down and pretend that my hair was longer and stringy.  I wanted it to shake when I moved my head like I saw girls hair move on television.  I wanted to wrap it into a ball and tie it back.  I wanted one side of it to tuck behind an ear and hang down my back.  How convenient it must be to just wash your hair and it be naturally straight?  I did not have that luxury, so I pretended.  Have you ever done that? 

press girl

At the time, I did not realize that I was buying into the idea that the desired look was long and straight and movable.  I did not understand that obtaining this look came with a cost, a cost I could not afford.  So in my naiveté, I would prolong my mom blow drying my hair by leaving the towel on my head and walking around the house imaging that it was my hair.  Oh, the innocence of a child’s imagination.  Convenience.

Shhhh

It is only now that I realize the importance of the honesty and the positive messages I received from my stylists which preceded the hair compliments I frequently received from the public.  I never stopped loving my hair no matter what state I choose to wear it and a lot of that unwavering love is because of the hair stylists I have had over my lifetime.  In their own ways, they have always and without question instructed me to love my hair.  Unfortunately, however, I had begun to devalue it.  Make sure, no matter how you wear your hair that you never shortchange its value.

me upside down

As you can see, I have returned to wearing my hair without the addition of relaxing chemicals.  Go ahead! You can smile!  It has been an absolute joy rediscovering the texture and behavior of my hair.  And to think, I last saw it when I was your age.  Oh boy have I missed it, and the messages that it reinforces within me.

What messages, you ask.

Oh, we will talk more about them later.  I need to go and wash my hair.

Just wash?

Yes!  Just wash.  I am about to do a wash and go…and in case you are wondering…I still receive numerous compliments, from all shades of people although now I don’t actually need them.  My hair is a constant reminder to love and value my whole unique self, even in the face of convenience which may convey otherwise.  

me hand up

Love yourself little girl!  In short, that is what my hair messages me.

Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl—Part 3

A school teacher….Maybe?  I do love learning.

A nurse….Nope!  Needles make me queasy.

An attorney….Can I really be one?

Left alone….  You smiled!  I saw you.  Sorry though.  Excuse me little “Black” girl, but I can’t afford to do that.  You can’t afford for me to do that!  One day you will better understand.

Soar

“You can become whatever you want,” they say.

“Dream big and believe bigger,” they cheer.

“Work hard,” they instruct.

Then what?

Sad Girl

Where are people talking about unfair situations that occur because of your gender and race?  How do you make sense of discriminatory practices that are systemic when so many continue to buy into the social construct designed to define you as property, on both counts?  How do you maintain your innocence about people and possibility when news outlets make a lucrative business by branding the worse of mankind—of all shades and both genders?  Then, of course, there is that day when you realize that the Pledge you excitedly learned to recite in pre-school seems to have loss its meaning to so many who:

  • question the idea of we being one Nation,
  • disagree about being under a —and/or the same— God, and
  • …well, the idea of liberty and justice for all continues to be a hard pill for the masses to swallow.

Although your parents try to shelter you, unfortunately that day is still being introduced to you.  So, what is a girl to do?

Cute little African American girl wearing a ballet costume

Recently, an elderly Black woman heard me talking about some concerns.  I did not know her prior to my presentation, but afterwards she said something so heartfelt.

“Sorry,” she gently whispered, “we dropped the ball.”

WOW!  I was speechless.

“You, however,” she continued, “must keep doing what you are doing and we will help.”  She then shared with me some networking information.

Me 12.30.15 talking to group

So to you, when you ask what is a girl to do?

I respond by relying upon our elder’s instruction, YOU MUST keep doing what you are doing and we will help.

Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl—Part 2

Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top….  Excuse me little “Black” girl, I wonder about you.  YES, YOU!  I wonder how many of you have experienced a period of peace, a time when you had no worries and was carefree.  I wonder if you have two loving parents, parents who often tell and show you that they love you.  Do you tell and show them that you love them?  YES, I mean ACTUALLY SAY  the words:  I-LOVE-YOU-Mom-Dad.  Do you come from a loving home, a place where you are valued and protected, encouraged and supported, challenged and taught?  Is your foundation solid or is it shallow?  I wonder…about you.

Sad Girl

When the wind blows the cradle will rock…. Have you experienced bullying–on the playground or in the classroom?  Have you ever been picked last because you are a girl?  Has a teacher overlooked your raised hand to call on Jim, not that his hand was raised but because he should know science?  Have you ever been teased for being too light or too dark, for not being Black enough?  Have you been told that you think you are white, talk like you are white, act like you are white?  Have you struggled to understand what this means, and what this really means for you?  Do you embrace your uniqueness or do you try to fit in?  When the wind blows, what do you do?

Unique

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall….  I wonder if you are aware of the injustices that await you in this world–injustices related to your gender, to your race, to your gender and to your race.  I wonder about your preparation for being a healthy, well-balanced being operating in a world that defines so much around gender, race, and economics.  I wonder about your preparation as I think about my own.

Mom and Daughter

 

You see, there is a need to introduce race and gender scenarios to you in safe environments so you can ask questions and get answers, so you will learn to analyze matters for yourself without depending on media messages and mainstream citations to parrot.  As you go forth to be boldly brilliant, you will see some heart aching events.  Some, you will experience firsthand.  Allow yourself to grow in maturity, to experience a range of emotion.  Grow in patience and in perseverance.  Being you, being Black and female, is not a bad thing.  It is a blessed thing.  You will gain insight and strength unlike no other.  You will see that storylines have been created for you, but that you are created to create headlines.  Write your own script once you have captured their attention.  Be open to diverse friendships.  Live outside of confined narratives.  When the bough breaks, change the ending.  Surprise some people and soar!

Soar

Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl—Part 1

Excuse Me Little “Black” Girl,

Sad Girl

Yes you.  I am talking to YOU!  I know, I know….  You want to know, “Why?”  Believe me when I say, “I understand your skepticism”.  I have confidently interrupted you for no reason other than that you are female and black.

Is that a crime?

No…well, some may think so on two counts but in this case NO!  To the contrary, I have stopped you to encourage you to continuously set goals and envision achieving the impossible in this crazy world.  Its manifestations are indeed possible!

girl dreaming on laptop

I get it!  I GET IT!  Achieving goals is hard.  No one said it would be easy!

The ability to overcome stereotypes about who you are—or who you are expected to be— combined with societal hindrances, both inter-and-intra-culturally, does not come with a manual.  BREATHE!  Life is not that easy.

These breaking-barrier conversations, in number and in depth, to obtain guidance are not readily-accessible.  We are not mythical, however.  Living examples of us are in fact around, but you (and we) are being conditioned to overlook our essence and devalue our worth.

“Your turn will come,” they will say, “after his and hers.”  Time does not stop.  Remember, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”  Your turn is now, just as his and hers.  Truth is, our worth is your worth.  Collective value carries weight.  It is either relieving or burdensome.  Be conscious and careful about what you cart.  No one said it would be easy.  You must push on and push through.  Your dreams will resuscitate you.  You will learn to trust that your help, meaning help that is specific to you, will come.  Time will teach you to expect and to accept it in whatever form and time it appears.  Experience will sharpen your ability to identify it.  In turn, you will become aware that you are being shaped to be the help for others of which you seek.  It is a process.  Excuse me little “Black” girl, you are being transformed.

Me 12.30.15 talking to group

Allow yourself to learn your SELF.  Be patient.  This is a never-ending process.  It must be embraced with (at times stubborn) determination.  Media messages will tell you, and those around you, who you are.  Songs and television shows will do the same.  Religious interpretations and authority figures will have a say, as will community leaders—if you are mentioned at all.  Find appreciation in the knowledge of other’s misperception of you, then confidently introduce yourself.

peace

It was nice meeting you.  Now you know WHY.

 

WNBA Players: Platform and Power

Me 12.30.15 talking to groupHave you ever been the first to advocate for issues of primary concern to others even when those issues fail to make your top ten?  No one would know it though because your passion for justice moved both you and the crowd.   Have you ever taken a step back to notice who stood along side of you when matters of your heart needed a louder voice?  Who is there—just those in your community or are your neighbors joining the party?

As I write this, I am inspired by what a number of teams and players in the WNBA are doing to show support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.  Unfortunately, many continue to assert that this non-violence stance is in opposition to the work of good, honorable, and honest law enforcement.  Apples and Oranges are not the same.

Admittedly, the number of WNBA games I have watched…ever… can be counted [probably] on one hand.  When I discovered, however, that these players and teams are being fined as a result of wearing black warmup shirts, I became conflicted between wanting to support these women by watching their games but not wanting to support the institution of which they work.  See:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/07/22/wnba-players-refuse-to-talk-basketball-in-protest-of-fines-for-black-warmup-shirts/  What’s a woman to do?

When many think of the Black Lives Matter Movement, they think of police brutality against Black men.  Interestingly isn’t it…that loud sound of crickets coming from the NBA and the NFL.  [No pressure though. She’s got now.”]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8E_zMLCRNg

Again, many think of Black males when they think of police brutality because they do not know the stories of women like Miriam Carey, Shareese Francis, Shantel Davies, Rekia Boyd, Breaion King, the pool party in McKinney [Texas], and Sandra Bland—stories of Black women that many say are victims too of the same. These storylines fail to fit the familiar narrative and quickly fade into the night.  Could it be that the WNBA players wearing those black warmups know about and identify with these women issues because they are women?  Could it be that they are advocating for themselves in an it-could-be-me (or my daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, or one day granddaughter) sort-of way?  Yes, they could be supporting their Brothers, but have you thought that maybe they are supporting their Sisters too—first and foremost?  Lean In for Women and Equality, does anyone remember that?  Why should these women be penalized for being a voice to a very real issue affecting their community?  Just as the WNBA’s organization supports Breast Cancer Awareness and Pride, where is the support for your players here?  After all, these college-educated players—who are already underpaid and in many ways make tremendous sacrifices to invest in building your brand—are commended for going into the community to give back, isn’t that what this is???

I applaud these women for using their platform for something much bigger than themselves.  I hope they are an example to others, in other industries.  They are certainly an example to me.  Still, I am left to wonder how to support them minus their employer.  Now, that’s power!

Those Lyrics

I ended my relationship with him because his music of preference degraded, devalued, and denounced women.  How did we get to this place?  When did I become his enemy?  Surely, he did not think of me as a friend!

“Oh, the lyrics are not about you,” he would say.

Ughhhhhh, my frustration rose with every point he missed.  Of course the lyrics are not about me specifically, but its collective implication is placed squarely upon my shoulders.  The weight is heavy.  The conversation is lacking.  Maybe if I were not a professional woman, I would not notice?  Maybe if my life did not require me to be in situations where I am the only one, I would not be bothered?  How have we gravitated from R-E-S-P-E-C-T to O-P-P?  Perplexed and tired, I ended the relationship.

If you are wondering, yes we are still friends—the one, he says, “that got away “.  What an interesting choice of words when considering the bondage his ideology would have placed me under.  Walking away, I was left wondering if he would ever know A Woman’s Worth.  I can only hope so, but I still don’t know.

peace

Unless empathetic, people only seem to understand “a thing” if it has a direct impact on them.  Have we become so desensitized that we only have empathy when catastrophes occur?  Don’t we know that by the time we see the physical manifestations of inequity, inequalities have already run rampant?  Many seem to think that if they do not have a dog in the fight, then the fight is simply theater.  “Get over it”, they say.  “It’s not that serious”, they insist while attempting to bully via shame.  “You are too sensitive”, they sing.  Their perspective, however, does not change your reality nor how such attitudes affect your life.

“Oh, the lyrics are not about you” become about me when I show up to defend someone in court and have to check a dude who calls me honey.  They become about me when I am in a meeting and the males are addressed by their respective titles and I am by my first name only.  They become about me when the salary being offered to me is less or when I am overlooked for a promotion, not because of my work product, but because of this rule that a man—and many times a white male—is simply worth more.  How could he not be worth more, right?  People like to do business with people like them and most big business deals are done between men—white, wealthy men.  Now, you know like I do that most people are not white and wealthy and male.  Yet, the oppression amongst those of us who are not continues to pit ally against ally.

Women Sitting Across From Each Other

Although at times slow to make mainstream rotation, songs empowering women are being written and played.  Their vehicle is not limited to the radio, but more readily seen in life.  So, what songs do you turn up…or turn off?  Are the lyrics being sung about you?  The big picture, most miss.

Commentary On The Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave

Am I the only one disturbed about the female, (societally-labeled) Black student being yanked —-wait, no…that is too mild of a description—ripped from a desk while seated, body-slammed, dragged, and….well, was she tossed by a much bigger, stronger, male School Resource Officer who appears to be (societally labeled) “white”?  For some reason, I mistakenly thought that this would be a hot topic today.  Maybe it was….somewhere?  This is heartbreaking; This is real news.  Oh well, maybe tomorrow this storyline will broadcast more.

Forgive me if Lamar and Khloe’s marriage is not of interest to me.  I am sorry not sorry that political talking points bore me when those talking points do not ever seem to point to the injustices within The Land of the Free, The Home of the Brave if such points offer no dividends, fail brown paper bag tests, and struggle to value its women and girls.

In a classroom full of people, just one reportedly attempted to come to the helpless student’s defense.  That one is said to have been another female, (societally labeled) Black student.  I am not surprised by this.  Consciously or subconsciously, she identified with the victim.  Now I ask you, “Why are we, humans, failing to identify with each other?”  Generation after generation, beliefs go unchallenged which keep people divided.  At the end of life, how silly these things must seem when real matters find priority.

As I sit here, I wonder if I am the only one asking myself, “What kind of culture are we living in where people are conditioned to just sit and watch atrocities occur without so much as a consideration?”  Have we become desensitized as a people, of people?  Then, I think of history.  We can send people to the moon, but seem to struggle with tolerating respecting accepting loving one another.  Millions of people attend faith-based services weekly where love is the taught foundation, yet their acts of love are…….well, where are they?  I want to hear more of those stories.  I want to smile while watching the ripple effects of small acts of kindness.  Am I alone?

Several times, I have watched the video of this excessive force against this young, female student who happens to be (societally labeled) Black.  With each viewing, thoughts surface about the ill-treatment of people based on race, on gender, on ageism, on power, or the lack thereof…..  These thoughts surface, but the perpetuated silence on these topics will hold their posts in keeping The Land of the Free, The Home of the Brave paradoxical.

3.26.15 Instant hand on neck - Copy

SPEAK Your Successes

I read something so troubling yesterday that it pained my soul.  Why?  Well, it was a description of a community by a writer who does not know that community, to an audience (who I would like to think is) genuinely curious.  The article I read was one of two things, truth or blatantly offensive.  Either way, the commentary is sad, but it sells.

Unsettled, I actively pulled up the perimeter of the community of focus.  I did so to compare, in fact, the picture painted  in the article with the one in my head.  Maybe I was being too optimistic in thought?  It is possible.

Actual people and families living within this targeted area flooded my thoughts.  I began to identify (by name) residents within these boundaries who, contrarily to the writer’s depiction:

  • live with their spouses,
  • parents who take care of their children,
  • are educated and believe in the value of education,
  • work and work hard,
  • are faith-filled and faithful,
  • are respectful and respected,
  • actively strive for success,
  • are not criminals,
  • are not receiving any form of “free” governmental assistance,
  • and so and so forth.

I began to list residents who, if you are in distress, they will take a moment to listen, and to help.  I began to note people of and from that community who have done and are doing positive and amazing things.  The list is long and growing, and silenced.  The sadness of my soul grew heavier.

You know, people have their own agendas when telling your story.  Far too many times, far too many people consent to other people’s versions about their lives because they do not know (for themselves) their assets, their value, their history, their truth.  Once you understand that your very presence is a miracle, that alone should give you life.  Once you accept that your life is one of purpose, that your value is too great to be measured, that your destiny is greatness, you will understand that your responsibility to be great is owed not only to yourself, but to those who sacrificed before you and to those who will follow.  You will recognize that the inspiration and focus which lives within you is intentional, disallowing you to accept another person’s truth about your circumstance.  You will know you for yourself.  It is for them to accept, or not.  Either way, you are not deterred.

A few years ago, I learned that there is a language of success.  SPEAK it!  Insecurities may tempt you to hide the good of your life.  People will be jealous.  Oh well.  People will talk about you for being true.  Shrug.  People will attempt to be stumbling blocks.  Rise above them.  These people should not be walking close to you anyway.  Be thankful that you can recognize them.  Do not be bitter.  Be better!

Speak your successes!  People will be happy for you!  Some you will see.  Some you will not.  Be encouraged.  People will help you!  People will watch you.  People want to see positive manifestations in both people and in situations.  Be honest.  You want to see it too!

Speak your successes!  SHINE and SHINE BRIGHTLY!  Do not apologize for being your best self.  You will draw onto you new associations, new experiences, new opportunities which will challenge you to be all you can be.  You will challenge theirs.

Speak your successes so that when others share their versions of you for their gain, the audience will have a rebuttal.  One rebuttal may be considered an exception.  One rebuttal will make a truth not absolute.  Just think…..a non-absolute truth presented in an absolute way…well…..that is a lie.

Be Well,

3.26.15 Instant hand on neck - Copy

A Generation’s Responsibility

In my profession, it is not uncommon for me to know someone whose parent is an attorney or a judge.  This may be the same for you, or maybe you know of  similar situations.  Do you know someone in the military whose mother or father was in the military?  Maybe you know someone who is a teacher whose parent taught; or maybe a police officer whose parent was also; or a pastor, or a doctor, or a business owner?  Surely, you can name an entertainer whose child is an entertainer.  Many times children follow in the footsteps of their parents, good or otherwise.

For a long time, I looked at this passing of the baton from the standpoint of struggle.  This made sense for someone like me.  You see, I could easily see the number of obstacles in place to halt me as I pursued dreams not of my family’s business.  I did not have a relative (or family friend) introducing me to this person and to that person for professional advancement.  I had limited opportunities to overhear conversations for avoiding certain workplace pitfalls.  They were limited because you can only be proactive when you are aware of the potential hindrance.  As you know, life can be challenging.  Now, add the additional component of discovering the ropes without a tangible roadmap.  There are real trials and frustrations when you are the first to….do…..anything.  With no mentor, how can you not see struggle?  How could I not see it?

This morning, however, my viewpoint expanded.  As I was sliding on my business jacket, a series of images came to mind: businesses, land, and sacrifice.  I began to think about my ancestors and about the property they owned, the structures they built, the obstacles they overcame to make life better for those of us who have come afterwards.  Driving to work, I thought about the times in which they lived.  My thoughts grew to include the ancestors of others.  I began to think in general terms.  I wondered if our ancestors would weep or rejoice.  It was then that I understood, on a deeper level, that every generation has a responsibility.

Before this morning, I thought that every person has a responsibility to make things better for the next generation.  This is true, but it is finite.  Better, after all, is subjective to an individual’s moral and ethical beliefs.  It is also confined to one’s ration for another.  Now, I am aware that this responsibility is bigger than one person if we truly want to leave a viable legacy for those in succession.

Who wants the best of the best; the cream of the crop; the pick of the litter?

I DO!  I want it for me and for you.

“But how can we both have it,” I heard someone ask.

How can we both not?

Expand your mind to grasp the notion that we are all living at this time.  We are a generation, living.  Epidemics kill because we are connected.  Blessing multiply because we are connected.

Individually, we are each a part of a larger whole.  Our responsibility as individuals, as with our ancestors, is now and will be bigger than our sole selves.  Our ancestors understood this, many giving their lives for this truth.  Many cultures understand this, many passing down belief systems that emphasize its importance.  So here, today, I wonder……how many of us get it.

Mother-Daughter

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