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A Smattering of Mattering

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014
blacklivesmatterAfter far too many deaths of unarmed black men AND women at the hands of law enforcement, the motto of the movement to fight against this enduring injustice  is “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Folks have seen this phrase on protest signs, t-shirts, hats, Facebook cover photos, as twitter hashtags, etc… Usually, there is some brown person iterating the phrase and trying to convince this disjointed society the sentiment is indeed true, despite all the bloody evidence showing too many folks in positions of authority do not believe it. Though I am saddened by the thought there is even a need for black folks to advise the world of their worthiness to live, I support the campaign wholeheartedly and often repeat the phrase for my benefit and the benefit of those with whom I come in contact. Despite the absolute truthiness in this phrase, there is now an effort to minimize the poignancy of the phrase by simply saying, “ALL LIVES MATTER.”

Look, the value of life has been touted by the majority since the beginning of time. Respect for human, animal, and plant life is always discussed through popular media, activism, and other information avenues. There are sit ins, shut ins, and die ins all focused Riceon informing the public and protesting against “the establishment” in the interest of protecting what matters. People are assaulted, arrested, and vilified in their efforts to protect the sanctity of that which is relevant for the greater good. In all this protest and activism, there is finally a phrase that embodies the sentiments of black and brown folks everywhere – that our lives have meaning, that we are people, not animals, that we live, breathe, and bleed, and that we, like every person, every plant, and every animal- MATTER. Now, there is an effort to detract from that movement by simply reminding the world that ALL lives matter.

First of all, of course they do. One would be hard pressed to find someone within the BLACK LIVES MATTER camp sans respect for life in general, but that isn’t the issue here. The problem is those opting to gloss over the terrorist-like actions of certain law enforcement entities snuffing out the lives of black folks because they do not believe BLACK LIVES MATTER. Those who murder us when our hands are up, when we are on our knees, when we sit in our cars, or when we dare to simply be existing on the street do not believe our lives matter. They look at black folks and see problems instead of people and therefore, it is imperative we remind them the black lives they so cavalierly take MATTER.

Secondly, the world already knows white lives matter. Let’s face it, when folks change BLACK to ALL, it’s really a whitewashing of the belief BLACK LIVES MATTER. It is a reminder of what anyone in this country was raised knowing – white life matters unequivocally. From TV shows to school history books, we all know white is relevant. What isn’t apparent is the equally relevant value of black life. A hundreds of years old history ofhawkins being treated as less than has a way of convincing others black life really isn’t that valuable. BLACK LIVES MATTER exists to chip away at that flawed thinking. Just as we’ve all been told repeatedly how much white life matters, we must ingrain that same thinking in the world when it comes to black lives.

Lastly, black folks do not have to explain why their lives matter. The fact we are humans is reason enough to know we matter. The fact our lives are often disregarded is evident when we are questioned about why we insist on reminding the world we matter. The very fact we need a campaign to spread this very basic and innate fact is evidence our Crawfordexistence is devalued regularly. If going out into the world and launching a campaign to let all people know what they should have always known is required, so be it. I will continue to write, text, tweet, and status update my way through to promote the relevance of black lives and I will do so without apology.

The harassment, assault, and murder of unarmed black folks, the lack of indictments for those murders, and the ensuing claims that we are thugs, criminals, and intimidating figures and therefore deserve to be murdered, armed or not, is indicative of the need to spread the message that BLACK LIVES MATTER and folks should shout this fact until their voices are hoarse and fingertips bloody from typing. No apologies and no take backs. ©

Word Up

words1

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yes indeed, that is often one of the first little mantras one learns in life and generally chants on a playground in response to other children being mean. From the time we are small, our parents tell us what other folks say about and to us really doesn’t matter and it is really all about who we believe we are. As we grow older and get into the dating and professional games, elders and friends tell us not to listen to what folks say, but to instead focus on what they do. “Talk is cheap.” So, we go out into the world with this very definite idea about words being irrelevant, but is talk really as low budget as we like to imply it is? Are we really the “rubber” we learn about as children that makes us impervious to cruel words or are we at times forever affected by the glue of what we hear?

words3I’ve always been a thinker. I am constantly mulling over what happened during the course of my day and sometimes, the course of my life. I often think about who I spoke to, what we discussed, what I read, what I would have said to the person who got on my nerves during the course of the day had I been given the opportunity, what I should write on this blog, etc… I still remember words people said to me in childhood, good and bad. Both play in my head and can alter my mood in that moment and every now and then, the way I feel about who I am. Because of this, I have a really hard time imagining myself as that rubber repelling the glue of other folks’ ugly words. I’m just not buying into it.

I think at one point or another, everyone has been injured by words. Unlike a bruise or Words5blackened eye that will heal and disappear over time, words stick. I hear them in the moment they are said and hear them resound loudly over time. I have been called stupid, ugly, fat, stuck up, and a know-it-all, among other things. Despite knowing those adjectives don’t truly define me, how realistic is it for folks to think I can forget those words and pretend they are meaningless?

Granted, I do not condone wallowing in words and allowing them to cripple me. However, to accomplish that, I have to make a conscious effort to see past insults and look inward for the ways in which I believe myself to be awesome. That isn’t always easy when outside forces are focused on the negative, but it is imperative for my self-preservation. Once a hurtful person utters cruel words, it takes a while for me to process it, refuse to lend any validity to it, and move on from it. Regardless of the length of time, I have to take every step to assure I end up in a good place unaffected, or at least minimally affected, by other folks’ foolery.

The main way to remedy the long term hurts words can cause is to be mindful of what one says. I make it a point to think about what I say before I say it. I don’t want to be one of the voices someone carries around in his/her head becuse I said something mean I can’t take back and the other person can’t forget. I don’t want to cause the kind of pain that resonates for years. Words4

So, yeah, sticks and stones break bones, but doctors re-break and set them. Words are something else entirely. They echo and they stay. A cast, sling, or a few band aids won’t fix what words can do so building an emotional armour that reinforces everything good about oneself is paramount in this life fight. In the meantime, I continue to make sure I don’t spew glue all over anyone else’s self-image.  Words can hurt worse than any stick or stone.

 

If you would like to learn more about the weight of words, like the Words Hurt Campaign page on Facebook.

Lupita For the Win…Or Something.

PeopleSo, I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and saw actress, Lupita Nyong’o, made the cover of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People edition. I glanced at the picture, smiled because I think it definitely bodes well for her, and kept scrolling. The next day, a Facebook acquaintance posted People’s article about Nyong’o with a caption that said, “Black Women FTW (For The Win).” Though I certainly think pulling the cover of People’s famous issue is a wonderful move for her career, I am unable to concede Lupita’s present popularity trickles down to the average black woman like me and I don’t believe I need it.

When Halle Berry “won” the Academy Award for best actress, I sat in my living room clapping confusedly and wondering how and why it happened. She graciously accepted the award, spoke of how honored she was, and called the names of the black women who paved the acting road before her. It was a really historical moment, but the next day at work, nobody cared about Halle’s win. My boss didn’t treat me differently, my coworkers didn’t throw down any rose petals to cover my path, and I still had to do the same work I’d been doing for years. What it boiled down to was  that award was really only a benefit to Halle. It didn’t really work for me despite my black woman status. The same thing applies to Lupita.

A wonderful reminder and living example of black women’s beauty, Lupita’s presence has been a welcome change from the status quo of celebrity black beauty. With her dark skin, short natural hair, and slight frame, she is showing mainstream America a display of beauty black folks have always known existed. I see Lupita every day. In the grocery store, at the hair salon, in my workplace – everywhere there are beautiful black women who live outside the small parameters of the definition of beauty we never created and by which we  should not have to adhere. All heights, body types, skin tones, hair textures and colors,  clothing styles, etc…are represented whenever I leave the house and every last one of these women possesses that same type of unfettered beauty Nyong’o exudes on each red carpet she graces.

So, since I’ve touted the goodness of Lupita and her People Magazine cover, it probably sounds like I think she is helping to expose the mainstream world to the beauty of black women thereby making all our little black lives better, but I don’t think that’s the case and even if it were, I wouldn’t care. Though I believe her presence has sparked some previously uncommon conversations among some, I do not believe her success is a win for black women overall. For me, to concede that would mean black women have just been sitting around for  years waiting for mainstream America (white folks) to think we’re pretty, to value our beauty, and to recognize it in the media and on the runway and I just don’t think that’s true.

Beauty among black women is not new or rare. It is a staple of our makeup. We were beautiful as rulers of nations, as slaves oppressed by the indecent and hateful, as maids and nannies caring for white children while sending our own to babysitters, as teachers, attorneys, lawmakers, cooks, and any other profession. That beauty did not need, and still doesn’t need to be validated by white folks. It is real and always will be. So, to me, Lupita’s popularity and visibility on the red carpet and runway isn’t a win for black women, though I love seeing here there. It is a win for everyone else who refused to see our beauty and is now faced with its reality. Now they know what we always did.  You’re welcome. ©

 

 

That’s Really How You Phil?

So, this happened –>http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/19/showbiz/duck-dynasty-suspension/ . Phil Robertson, a pivotal member of the Duck Dynasty show, did an interview with GQ during which he was really candid about his thoughts on gay folks, folks who whore, folks who cheat, folks who steal, folks who don’t worship properly, and, of course, black folks.  Because no tirade would be complete without some sort of out of pocket statement about the blacks.  Now, a bunch of folks are upset.

A&E is upset about Phil’s disparaging comments about gays, The NAACP and The Human FieldworkRights campaign were upset about the comments on gays AND black folks. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin are upset because of what they see as hypocrisy from political leftists and intolerance of expressed opinions that do not seem to go with the mainstream. Well, I figure, why let these folks be upset alone? I think I will join them and take my ire up a notch as well.

As a black woman, I suppose most people will think I am upset with Phil for his comments about black folks and how growing up in the Jim Crow south, he never “with his own eyes” saw black folks mistreated (maybe he was using loaner eyes while his eyes were out for repair). After all, those black folks had no time to be angry because they were far too busy hoeing the fields while singing and being happy. And, to be honest, what black folks don’t like to do back breaking work all day as indentured servants while crooning a little ditty? I mean, I can hardly write this without jumping up from my chair, dancing a quick jig, and singing about how great it is to be black, female, and equal. But, I digress. No, I am not upset about Phil’s comments. I haven’t ever watched Duck Dynasty, but the commercials alone let me know he is someone whose opinion is completely irrelevant, though I know there are many folks who probably share his sentiments. What has me a little annoyed are folks like Jindal and Palin who think those who are offended, A&E included, are unfair and hypocritical in their offense. To that, I have to say there is a reality with which folks have to deal when it comes to the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech DOES NOT mean freedom from consequences. Sure, everyone can say what she likes, but what makes one think she does not have to deal with the repercussions of her words? This Duck Dynasty nonsense and the conservatives referring to  the pushback as “intolerance” haven’t a clue. Then again, if folks who think like Phil had their way, this little brown woman wouldn’t even be able to read so I could make this point. I have had a few jobs in my day and not even on the most menial of them was I free from parameters on what I could and could not say at work. I didn’t always like it, but I ultimately understood the job was not mine, but simply an offer extended to me by the business that owned the job. That idea made it easy to choose my words carefully because the thought of damaging my pockets just for the right to say something rude, disrespectul, or incendiary for incendiary’s sake just never seemed worth it to me. Technically, I can always say what I like, but I know I can also be fired if what I say appears to veer away from the ethics I agreed to uphold as an employee. There has to be some accountability in there somewhere.

I am also a tad miffed at A&E for stating they were “bothered” by Phil’s statements about gay folks but seemingly not bothered by his statements about blacks and how “godly” and chipper we were before all that equality gobbledegook came into play. Really, A&E? You all couldn’t even pretend to care? I mean, it’s what everyone else does. Come on and get with the politically correct program and make a tiny effort to shine us on. Sometimes, we appreciate that kind of thing.

I tell you who I am not upset with at all – PHIL. He is exactly who I would expect him to be, he spoke his mind, what little of it there is, and he was just being honest. Phil does not seem like the brightest bulb, but I will always support his right to make idiotic statements because the minute I protest about what Phil cannot say is the minute I start to lose my right to speak my mind. However, just as much as I support Phil,s rights, I equally support the rights of every viewer, offended party, TV network, media outlet, sponsor, and special interest group to protest Phil’s foolery verbally and in writing, pull their money from his show, write to the network, and suspend him for the words his employer felt misrepresented them. It is simply the way accountability works.

As this story gets bigger, I really hope Phil won’t become dishonest and pretend he is sorry for what he said. I think he should absolutely stick to his convictions because it is his truth and I appreciate knowing where I stand with folks from jump. However, as long as Phil opts to share those views with the public, he will have to accept the results. So, during this time of rest, reflection, and relaxation, I hope Phil takes a moment to draw some conclusions over a nice plate filled with his own well-seasoned foot.

 

Here She Is – Miss. (Real) America…

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman

Growing up, I would always let my grandmother sucker me into watching corny “beauty” pageants, or as they are now called, “scholarship programs”. Back then, all I saw were  young, blonde, long-haired white women with super white teeth, skinny bodies, and random “talents”, like bell ringing, competing to win money for college, free travel, minor prestige, a car, and whatever other prizes were offered. As a five or six year old, I even found myself in a pageant. But things were not quite so complicated then.

Back in the day, when I watched those pageants, it was a given the contestants would be white and mostly blonde. Sure, there were a few women of color and some brunettes sprinkled through the group, but one always knew the winner would look like America’s myopic standard of beauty despite the occasional anomalies like Vanessa Williams. NinaDavuluri

Over twenty five years after the days I would sit and watch those pageants, I can see not much has changed. If anything, the short-sighted perpetuation of one way to be beautiful has gotten worse. This was evident by the racist rantings of tweeters upset the 2014 Miss. America winner, Nina Davuluri, has the nerve to be brown-skinned and dark-haired. Of course, her Indian roots have made her the victim of all sorts of stupid allegations and insults, including the one that says she isn’t American and is probably a terrorist of some kind because she is Indian. I wish I could be surprised by these responses, but sadly, they are par for the course for most black and brown folks in America. In this faux post-racial society, racists are emboldened and have taken their attacks to another level. The more people insist we live in a colorblind society, the more racist bigots rear their heads via social media sites like Twitter to let everyone know they are still very much alive.

I suppose I could get all self-righteous and start talking about how there is only one true race; the human race, how we should all see each other for what’s on the inside, how we all bleed red, and how we are all Americans despite our skin color, but I’m not really into that stuff. As a tackler of life’s tomfoolery, I feel inclined to just speak the truth as I see it without any sort of sugary coating to make people feel better about swallowing it. I actually like folks to know what I’m giving them is medicine. SO, what I really think is Americans need to stop closing their eyes to our ugly parts and start a dialog based in truth about race and citizenship in this country.

Brown and born and raised in America? You’re an American. It is just that simple and those wrapped in a blanket of ignorance and intolerance need to be shamed in much the same way they tried to shame Miss. Davuluri for being born too dark and with ancestry in a country dummies clearly cannot locate on a map. I do not wish to live in a colorblind society. I actually enjoy the idea of many races inhabiting one world and coexisting in the most amazing way. I love and respect the idea of different races, ethnicities, and cultures. That’s what makes the world in general, and America, in particular, so wonderful. However, there is always that subset of douches aiming to homgenize the world to suit their narrowminded ideals. My advice is for Miss. Davuluri to put up her figurative middle finger and keep it moving. She is gorgeous, she is talented, and she won that pageant fair and square without tattoos, military fatigues, blonde hair, or a penchant for hunting wildlife. If she isn’t proof there is more than one way to be an American, I don’t know what is.

Early in life, I realized beauty pageants…CORRECTION: scholarship programs were kinda wack and corny and seemed to imply looking good in a swimsuit or being good at tapping glasses of water with a stick made a woman well-rounded and smart. I don’t knock the hustle, but it isn’t my thing. Nonetheless, any woman who wins fairlydeserves the respect that accompanies the title, so today, I salute Miss. Nina Davuluri for trailblazing through the manure and staking her claim to the Miss. America title. Congratulations and don’t forget that middle finger, Nina.

Have a Seat, Miley

So, yeah, it happened. Little Miley Hannah Cyrus Montana got on an international stage, put her nonexistent ass on a married man’s crotch and proceeded to bounce her would-be hind parts. Ugh, just thinking about this long enough to write something makes me cranky and acknowledging it even happened makes me feel like I am giving credence to it on some level, but I believe I have to speak my mind.

Nope, Miley was not the first young woman to ever get on a stage and behave like a two dollar crack ho. Sadly, she will not be the last, though she may be the worst. Gyrating for a crowd is nothing new. I mean, one would be hard pressed to find a male or female pop/rock/r and b/rap, etc… artist who has not resorted to dry humping the air or shaking his/her ass for viewers, followers, and “likes”. So, for me, it wasn’t really the movement of her pre-pubescent boy body or the foam hand she used to simulate masturbation. It wasn’t even the fact she disrespected her upbringing,  fan base (whoever they are), Robin Thicke, or his wife and child that have my dander up, though all of those are pretty legitimate reasons to be disgusted. The source of my irritation comes from a much different and far more personal place.

For me, it is not just Miley. It is also that white woman in line behind me at Walmart with her slicked back ponytail, extra dark Wet N’ Wild lipstick, and hoop earrings calling me “girl”  in that extra familiar way because she thinks her trips to the hood, her black boyfriend, and that lipstick make her able to relate to me. It is Robin Thicke stealing from the legacy of Marvin Gaye, one of the most amazing musicians in the history of soul music. then suing his estate to protect his right to thievery. It is the taking of the worst parts of us and using them in a way to tell their white followers that this is indeed the way to “be black”.

People say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I suppose one could opt to view Miley’s fledgling efforts at “onstage hood rat appeal” as some sort of compliment for all the other crass women who came before her. I, however, do not choose to see it that way. Instead of a compliment, I see Miley’s actions as yet another example of the way non-blacks (read that to mean mostly white folks) like to take the most dire parts of some black cultures and subcultures, bastardize it just a little bit more, and use it as a blanketed expression to describe ALL black folks for a profit. It really turns my stomach. Miley can tell you how she learned to twerk, but she probably doesn’t know who Madam C.J. Walker is, what the Voter’s Rights Act of 1965 meant and still means to black Americans, or even the significance of commemorating the March on Washington this week. Naw, Miley does not care or know about any of that because she is more interested in repeatedly presenting her skewed view of what “black” is as if there is only one tried and true way.

Truthfully, I have no issue with anyone adopting certain aspects of black culture and subcultures because they are fascinated by it, feel connected to it in some way, or just respect the artistry, construction, or thought process behind it. The problem I have is when one pretends to adopt it out of genuine interest, profits from it as if it is their own creation, then denigrates it and throws it away when it gets old. Taking a tiny section of a population and relegating an entire race to that small group’s set of behaviors is the ultimate form of racial stereotyping.

Cyrus said she wanted to make music that “sounds black”, but I keep wondering what black sounds like. In my world, black sounds like B.B. King, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, and Leontyne Price. It also sounds like Darius Rucker, Trinidad James, and Talib Kweli. Black folks are as broad in our musical stylings as we are in our politics, religious views, thoughts on relationships, and fashion. Black folks are not all one way. We do not follow The Black Handbook that provides us guidance on what to wear, what slang terms to use, and how to shake our behinds for the masses, but for some reason, a group of non-black people seem to have gotten together and written it without our knowledge.

As far as I am concerned, Miley can faux-twerk until her heart is content, but those sad little gyrations will never define who I am, no matter how hard and fast she tries to twerk it. I will not continue to be objectified and pigeonholed by a group of people who are just arrogant enough to believe they have the right to say who I am without my input. I will never understand how the need to make a mockery out of black folks’ legacy of creativity is acceptable as a marketing ploy so more teenage white girls with vivid imaginings of life in the hood will buy more records and concert tickets. This imitation is not flattery, it is foolery of the very worst kind.

It’s Just a Piece of Paper

A couple weeks ago, I came into the office to find my coworker posted her newly earned graduate degree right at the entrance of her cubicle. Knowing it was yet another of her thirsty cries for attention, I kept walking to my seat and never said a word about it even as others gathered around with questions, kindness, and kudos. I didn’t keep quiet out of disinterest. I think education can often prove invaluable in the pursuit of career advancement. I kept quiet because she finished school about four months ago and those of us in the unit already got a card and wished her well. More than that, I kept quiet because the hard work was over and the degree, after all, is just a piece of paper.

How many times have we heard that? Whether it is a college degree, a marriage certificate, or some other touted document, there are always those who will poo poo it and relegate it to “just a piece of paper”. But it really is more than that, isn’t it?

A deed to one’s home is a sign of the hard work, penny pinching, sacrificing, unexpected repairs, and good times spent in the house. It represents memories, and most importantly, ownership. It is the same way with a college degree or a marriage certificate. They all legitimize life changing events and validate those who hold them.

Were these documents just pieces of paper, no one would risk life and limb or a piece of freedom to get them. There would be no movement of gay folks asking to be given equal rights in matters of matrimony. Adults wouldn’t be moving home with their parents at great peril to their autonomy with the goal of paying off credit debt and saving money for the down payment on a house if a deed was just a piece of paper and people like me wouldn’t go into debt funding an education if a degree was just a piece of paper.

I suppose there are many reasons people try to downplay the relevance of certain “pieces of paper”, but I believe the main reason people do it is to make themselves feel better for not having the relationship, feeling, sense of pride and accomplishment, or professional prosperity attached to that paper. It is like touting the virtues of sleeping on a sidewalk under the stars because one is homeless. Whether we want it to or not, paper matters.

I am NEVER going to comment on my coworker’s advanced degree because its presence in her cubicle entryway instead of in her place of residence on the wall of a home office like normal people is obnoxious and pathetic. I will, however, always respect the work she put in to earn it because it is more than just a piece of paper.

 

Hi There, Hair There

The adoring smile, the slight head nod, and the respectfully spoken greeting, “How you doin’, sista?” have become part of my reality. Though I would like to attribute it to an awakening among black folks leading them to be kinder to one another, I really know it’s about my hair.

I have been “natural” for over seven years. For the past four and a half of that, I have been locking. From the earliest part of my natural hair journey, I have experienced some of the most interesting, odd, and sometimes outright ridiculous reactions. From comparisons to celebrity women with natural hair (even though I don’t look like ANY of them) to the “Can I touch its” and the “Are you really going to stop straightening its”, I think I have heard it all. For some reason, I’m either insulted or revered based on my hair choice alone. My interactions with others since I’ve been wearing my hair in its natural state have lead me to take a little time to dispel many of the myths that accompany the natural hair stigma.

Yes, I Still Wash My Hair

One of the more annoying responses I get about my hair is the combination frown and point. With a twisted up mouth and an accusing finger, people ask me if I still wash my hair. I would feel a lot better if I knew they were kidding, but the looks on their faces and their eagerness to pump me on the mysteries of natural hair assure me their ignorance is very real. In all my years of living (never mind how many years it’s been), I have NEVER come across any  hair that didn’t need washing. Of course, I’ve come across many people who pretend their hair isn’t dirty and wreaking of all things stinky, but that doesn’t negate the fact all hair needs washing. My hair is no exception and I wash it regularly, locs and all. Anything less would be uncivilized.

If you have ever asked a person with natural hair if he/she still washes it, consider giving yourself an open-handed slap across the cheek, picking up a hair magazine or two, and spending some time online learning a little more about natural hair. Natural doesn’t equal nasty.

I Only Burn Incense Because it Smells Good

For some reason, some people see my hair and assume I get up before sunrise each day, light some incense, then meditate, pray, write poems, do yoga, and eat something that doesn’t have a face. Though I do love incense and prayer, I don’t do any of those things because my hair is kinky. I burn incense because it makes my house smell good. I try to eat well because I want to look hot in my clothes. I love just about anything with real PIG bacon on it, and I work out for pretty much the same reason I try to eat well. I don’t have a spiritual awakening whenever I put fire to wick. I just want to light a candle because it’s pretty. Upon knocking on my door, you will not find me sitting cross-legged with my palms facing upward and my eyes closed. Aside from the trouble I would have trying to get up once my legs have fallen asleep, I would inevitably start thinking about bacon during the meditation process. This hair doesn’t come with special abilities. Any I have were present pre-locs.

I Am Not a Singer

People always look at my hair and ask me if I can sing.  Apparently, there is a large population of people who don’t know this, but natural hair doesn’t make one artsy. I like to put pen to paper and engage in laptop lovefests, but I’m not a musician. I don’t sit around with the aforementioned candles and incense writing songs and strumming my acoustic guitar. Sure, I put in several years of piano lessons and spent some time in the church choir, but I am nobody’s aspiring songstress and it is not a requirement for natural hair. I know an E from a B, but I learned that when I had pigtails and the barrettes with the cat playing the fiddle. This hair doesn’t make me a singer anymore than a toe ring makes me a fortune telling hippy.

I would quote India Arie, but that would be a bit trite. However, I will say the woman had a point. I am pragmatic, spiritual, and creative in many ways. However, I’m also in love with makeup, fashion, super short dresses, and stilettos. Those preferences may not fit into the neatly wrapped stereotype of a woman with natural hair, but I’m really too big to fit into something gift wrapped anyway.

If Worse Comes to Even Worse

Sometimes, life drama seems to take over leaving me feeling busted and disgusted. The car accident that left my car totaled, the two weeks and counting without my own transportation while I wait on an inept claims adjuster to send me a check, and the early morning walk in the cold and dark to the bus stop because of the aforementioned are just recent examples of how non-self-inflicted drama has seeped into my existence leaving me feeling all sorts of ways about it. For me, one of the best ways to feel better about the kind of circumstances that run me over and provide me with a new set of unexpected circumstances is to rant about them. I fuss, cuss, scream, and write just to make sure friends and the universe hear me right before I start to think of a plan to change my new and unfortunate circumstances. And though I’ve found this course of action to be almost fool proof, there are always a few people who ruin my ranting sessions with that band-aid statement steeped in guilt; “It could always be worse.”

Now, I know no matter what I’m experiencing, in theory, there is some schmuck somewhere getting what I’m getting times infinity. And yes, I know complaining about not having shoes can be relative when coming across the man with no feet, but damnit, there are times when complaining is the very therapy one needs before she can see the silver lining, solution, or greatness in her life. There are times when the only way for the healing to begin is to scream out loud about the issue. Something about keeping it bottled in, pretending I’m not upset, and holding myself while rocking back and forth and mumbling, “It could be worse” makes it ten times worse.

My spiritual upbringing, in addition to the many people around me who firmly cling to the half-full glass of whatever life offers, have taught me to look at the bright side, consider how my situation could be exponentially worse, immediately seek out some part of the situation for which I am grateful, and skulk off into the darkness pretending I’m not bothered by not having shoes because, after all,  so and so doesn’t have feet. And though I believe embracing gratitude and finding things for which to be grateful in one’s everyday life is imperative, I also believe we are all better when we have the opportunity to release the never quenched complaint monster inside of all of us.

Maybe it seems silly and counterproductive to some, but I like and need to complain about my boss, my coworkers, my bills, and my newly deceased car. I more than realize I’m not the only one experiencing such temporary setbacks, but sometimes what the doctor ordered is a steady stream of curse words mixed with a touch of whining to take off the edge. The last thing I want to hear right in the moment is, “It could always be worse.” Yes, I know it could always be worse, but does that really matter when what is happening to me in that moment is so tangible? Believe me, when my car was hit by another car, I did NOT immediately think, “It could be worse.”  I thought of the damage, inconvenience, potential injuries, and the possibility the guy who hit me could be uninsured. Somewhere mixed around in there, I thought about how glad I was to still be alive, but I absolutely DID NOT think about how much worse it could be. Know why I didn’t think that? Because I didn’t care! What I cared about in that moment, and during this time of countless inconveniences that has followed, is my loss and the time and energy it would take to get me somewhere close to where I was before the dreaded accident.

Telling a person how her situation could be worse is like trying to make her feel guilty for disliking her present circumstances. Whether bad circumstances be self-inflicted or beyond one’s control, it is a dislike for those circumstances that leads to a course of action to escape them. Without the ranting and raving, one would simply implode from the lack of expression and the guilt carried along with the “it could be worse” theory.

Now, I don’t condone endless wallowing as a way of life. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer always hanging around whining and whimpering and carrying on. However, there are times a giant hissy fit can be just the setup one needs to start on the road to recovery.

At the risk of sounding like a terrible ingrate, I have to admit I often focus on the things and circumstances for which I’m grateful and I really do consider  how my life is at least 80% fantastic and only 20% craptastic. But, despite all this, I still firmly believe in an indignant, this-is-some-old-bullsh*t, shaking fists at the sky kind of rant so the healing can begin.

So, yeah, it really could be worse, but who cares? When we hurt – we hurt. And, our ire, pain, resentment, etc…is not ever lessened in the heat of the moment by the thought somewhere else someone is suffering just a tad bit more than we are. In that moment, how one feels is all that matters and the only words one needs to hear are those that validate that anger then encourage one to spring into action. Guilting someone into pretending she isn’t angry is like taking Tic-Tacs for a head cold.

If you’re pissed off, sad, or hurt, feel free to own it. Hell, even take a few moments to roll around in it and linger a few minutes. Just don’t linger too long. Reveling in the drama should be used as one of the best ways to move past it, not as a crutch to keep one stagnate. Maintaining a balance between rightful rants and sad sack Sally can be a challenge, but the rants are well worth it to help one get back to her happy place.

Red Tails Tales

I let the opening weekend of Red Tails come ago without my attendance and shockingly, I woke uptoday with the same brown skin I had before I went to bed last night. I know, I know – it seems strange that I could actually fail to attend the movie yet still remain black. It wasn’t easy, but somehow I managed. Before anyone gets too angry with me, I must say I only had one reason for avoiding the movie (initially); it looked corny to me. Despite the primarily black cast, the subject matter, and the historical significance of the Tuskegee Airmen to American History, I took one look at the previews and immediately made a note to reconsider it after its arrival on Netflix.

Granted, I know I’m saying one of the most unpopular things a black person could say this week, however, I believe the hype took away from anything that could have possibly been good about the cinematic experience for me. A combination of the hulabaloo, and several other factors, lead to my decision to keep my dollars to myself.

Faux Activism

In various online articles and on social networks like Facebook, countless black folks were posting statements imploring every other black person in the country to attend the movie. It was as if the thought was one could solidify his or her blackness by simply purchasing a movie ticket. Now, I’m all for supporting black films with black dollars (whatever that means) but I can’t bring myself to pay for something that doesn’t appeal to me in some way. I mean, bottom line, ten dollars is ten dollars.

Attending a movie isn’t really about making a statement anyway -at least, it isn’t for me. I know buying tickets in the first weekend helps with overall ratings but buying a ticket to Red Tails, or any other film with a predominately black cast, does not turn anyone into a mini-Malcolm X. It just doesn’t work that way.

The White Guy Told Me To

Though I saw a trailer on television a couple times, I wasn’t interested in seeing the movie and I never heard anyone I know make mention of any sense of urgency to purchase a ticket until George Lucas started hitting the interview circuit. He said some magic words that often catapult black folks into action, “The white folks didn’t want to fund my  movie because it’s about a bunch of black people” (<—- my paraphrasing). Upon hearing their cue, black folks suddenly felt the urge to go see a movie they didn’t seem to want to see in the first place just because a white guy said white folks didn’t like it or want to pay for it.

Is that really what it takes for black people to support something? To me, that’s a poor excuse to see a movie or to spend one’s money on anything else, for that matter. If people saw Red Tails simply because it appealed to them on some level, the reasoning seems valid to me. However, seeing it because of one white guy’s claims of  financial racism isn’t a valid reason to me. Besides, it seems just as well that George Lucas dug into his own coffers to pay for the film. Through his interview statements and touting of himself as the great white hope that could singlehandedly save black filmmaking, he was able to make his money back and then some from all those kindly black folks who rushed the box office on his behalf. It must be nice to be George.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying tickets and enjoying a few hours watching Red Tails just as I see nothing wrong with watching the 1995 film about the same subject featuring the likes of Laurence Fishburne, reading the numerous books written about these phenomenal men, or watching the many documentaries that exist about them (yes, I know it’s shocking, but this story was told a million times before George Lucas came along). I just believe folks will be best served to use their heads instead of being lead to do something because they were manipulated with words and innuendo. As for me, I’m still opting to pass for now while hoping my Red Tails Netflix experience will be a good one.