Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sesame Street Vs Chris Rock

It took an Italian puppeteer on Sesame Street to do for African-American women and girls what Chris Rock's Good Hair should have done. A brown girl muppet with of mop of curly hair has become a social networking sensation and media darling as a result of 1 minute and 52 second video on You Tube.

Two concerned fathers, two different approaches. Joey Mazzarino, head writer for Sesame Street and father of 5 year-old, Segi, his adopted daughter from Ethiopia said that his inspiration for the song came about when his daughter said that she “wanted her hair to be long or blond like Barbie or a princess.” Rock’s daughter asked him, “Daddy why don’t I have good hair?” which inspired him to create the Good Hair documentary. I was excited about the film, but I left the theater disappointed. What I thought would have been an exploration of the whole notion of “good” hair in the African-American community that still exists today ending up being a not very funny or enlightening look the fact that so many Black women are obsessed with the notion of “good” hair as defined by a European standard. But Rock never explored the “why” behind the longing for what many of us don’t have naturally.

I wear my hair closely cropped sans chemical intervention, and I’m definitely not advocating that all Black women and girls cut their hair off and go natural. I’m happy with the choice I’ve made, but I also know what it took for me to make peace in my head with what’s on my head. I really just want to see us get rid of this ridiculous notion of “grade” or texture and length as what defines “good” hair. No matter what’s on top--relaxed or not, braided or locked, long or short— good hair is simply hair that is healthy.

In my work as an educator I see daily that hair is still an issue. I see the children who worship the long hair goddesses asking for permission to touch or stoke their hair. I hear “nappy headed” and “bald-headed” as insults regularly. Far too many African-American women and girls still believe the lie about the lye (relaxer). I see girls whose hair has been eaten away around the hairline where it is most fragile and broken off and badly damaged by misuse of chemicals. Chemically processed hair requires more maintenance, not less. And this mess that some of us put in our hair is truly unbeweaveable. In this day and age, even with the magic of relaxers and the wonders of weave, far too many of us are still trapped because we allow our hair to hamper our life styles—translation: we are not getting our hair wet nor are letting anyone mess it up. Run your fingers through what?

Rock resigns himself to the possibility of his daughters getting relaxers and wearing weaves, and that’s fine, but I wonder if his daughters saw Mazzarino’s muppet would it make them love their natural hair?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All of God’s Creatures

Halloween is almost here and gone. Hallelujah!

Halloween means decorations that include mice, and I hate mice and any other furry animals that resemble them (gerbils, hamsters, squirrels). I don’t like them because—dead or alive, real or not—the sight of them really does give me creepy feeling that starts at the nape of my neck and moves all down my back at the same time that my heart beat revs up for the Indy 500. Mickey Mouse gets a pass because he doesn’t have fur, but Stuart Little is out and so are any stories or movies that feature the little critters. I watched much of The Green Mile through the spaces between my fingers because my hands were covering my eyes. As much as I try, I can’t get away from them because the little monsters are everywhere including Halloween setups. So, for the next seven days I’ll have to tip around stores and peek down aisles so that I don’t happen upon one of the rubber mice and damn near lose my mind.

I know it’s bad because it’s beyond fear; it’s a phobia. A mouse in my presence paralyzes me, and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. It probably has something to do with my brother holding a dead mouse over my head when I was a child—a charge that he’ll deny to this day, but I know. Sometimes I think it’s getting better because if I see one I only jump five feet instead of ten and I can actually bring my heart back into a normal beating range in a shorter space of time, but I’m not ready to push my luck which is why I’ll be glad when we get to November 1st.

I’ve tried talking to my rationale self. I say, “Self, mice are God’s creatures, too. And they’re excellent way to conduct research that can be used to make human life better.” I even try to explain that mice are probably as afraid of me as I am of them. “Self!” I shout when I run across a dead mouse. “It’s dead.” But nothing works. My Irrational Self dominates the conversation screaming that she doesn’t want to share the planet with them no matter how valuable they are to research. I’ve told her that we need help and she agrees, but she knows that dealing with her fear means that she must face her fear, and she ain’t having not parts of no mouse. So, until my Irrational Self is ready, we pray that God will keep us and the mice outside of each other’s company.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Girl on Girl Love?

I know it can’t just be me, but for the past few years I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend among mostly some African-American women. Sometimes my thinking can be a little unorthodox. This might be one of those times. Recently I was out to dinner with my twin goddaughters, their mother and brother, and I noticed a couple sitting at the table next to us. She was light-skinned twenty-something woman with shoulder length black hair. I wouldn’t have paid them much mind except she had a mustache which kept drawing my attention to her face. Her other half had left and when He returned to the table, I realized that He was a She--slim build, locks at the nape of the neck left hanging and some in the top swooped up into a ponytail. “She” had on a white t-shirt, and slim jeans—a common outfit among African-American males. I asked my friend if she thought they were a couple and she said yes which confirmed my thinking, but there was no proof. They could have just been two friends out having dinner, but this phenomenon was something that I’ve witnessed frequently and there was no doubt that the two were a couple. Now before we get to the part about me being anti gay and anti lesbian, I’m not. People love who they love.

What’s disturbing about this trend is not the same-sex relationships, but the nature of the relationship. In the type of couplings that I’m speaking of, the “male” tries especially hard to evoke his manhood from the haircut, to the style of dress complete with sagging jeans and boxers showing, to the way He takes the lead in the relationship. One couple was shopping. He paid for the shoes and carried the boxes. Another twosome was sitting so close at the table that they only need one seat. This isn’t Nick and Jules in The Kids Are Alright or Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. This is Snoop from The Wire in real life, and they’re trying hard to imitate heterosexual couples. It’s like they’re playing dress-up, only they believe that it’s the real thing.

With all of the negative statistics about the state of black male/female relationships, I wonder if some women have resigned themselves to not having a “real” man so this is the next best thing to one. I’ve seen lesbian couples of different nationalities, but only among African-Americans have I seen this level of hyper masculinity that screams, “Look at me! And that’s what concerns me. Who’s trying to dupe who? Are the “males” transgender or gay? Are the females lesbian, bisexual or something else? Is this self-expression? Is it proof that sexuality is fluid and not stagnant like we’ve been taught to believe? Or is this another way to castrate the Black male image?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Drinking the Kool-Aid. . .or not

Until the recent scandal involving alleged acts of seduction and sexual impropriety, I knew only vaguely of Bishop Eddie Long. I’m not a fan of mega churches. They seem large and impersonal, and I don’t understand why the preachers need things like jets and really expensive cars. Maybe I shy away because as a child growing up in the 70s, my family didn’t do Church. We didn’t start every Sunday at Sunday school and end the day with the evening service. Church for us was Sunday morning radio, Jubilee Showcase and once a year on Easter Sunday. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe in God, it’s just that the path wasn’t straight and narrow. We were raised Christian, Baptist to be more specific but there was a sprinkling of indigenous African religion and some Eastern spiritualism, so I learned that the path to God was a winding one with many forks in the road.

When I was young, I felt that people tried to scare me to Jesus with their Biblical scriptures of hell and damnation, and even though I eventually joined Church and became an active member, something was always missing. As much as I appreciated the preacher’s words, I never became a walking testimonial for the pastor. One of those people who preface everything by saying, Pastor So-and-So or Bishop Somebody said. I never walked in what I think is blind faith. I always had questions. Unlike the Jim Jones followers, I never drank the Kool-Aid. I still don’t. I maybe dip my finger in it, and taste it. I may even sip it, but I never gulp it. I used to feel bad about this, but I’ve come to accept this is just who I am. I respect and admire people for who they are, wherever they might be in life, but I never forget that they are simply people. So, if I sip, I’m less likely to get choked on their humanity. Some of us gulp; some of us sip. Some of us don't partake at all. Drink or don't drink; it's up you.