Sunday, May 22, 2016

Black Girl Magic in Real Time

It begins on an early Sunday afternoon when my flight lands in Phoenix, Arizona. I am waiting for my luggage when I hear it—the unmistakable voices of Black women followed by laughter--not loud and obnoxious, but the rich laughter of women on the verge of an adventure. Without really knowing, I know we are probably headed to the same destination—the Sedona Resort and Spa.

I am right. The women on the Shuttle (except for one) are all headed to the same place. We are on a Southwest Journey going to Sedona to spend a few days then traveling by train to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the second leg of our trip. We are part of the Literary Sisters, a group founded by Ruth Bridges, which brings women together from all over the United States who share a love a of reading and traveling. Two authors, Phyllis Dixon, Down Home Blues, and Raynetta Manees, All For Love—The Superstar’s Lady join us to discuss their books.

The women in this group come from all walks of life. And there is something special about traveling with them. We share cultural experiences which bond us. We make jokes or just talk about a multitude of issues and there is a nod of understanding without having to explain ourselves. There is a Sunday dinner kind of comfort. What I especially like is that we are who we are—unashamedly and unapologetically Black women. This is not an easy feat in a world that does not always respect women and girls, and people of color—and we are both.

And while we may share the same race and gender, our lived experiences differ which make for lively conversation. We are thought provoking; we are naughty; we are funny. We are educated. We are talented. We are gorgeous. We are wise . . . and the list goes on. It is a trip filled with fun and laughter from beginning to end!

When 30+ African-American women converge on one place, that place is never the same! After the initial shock of seeing so many of us together, the cats give the people back their tongues and a thousand and one questions come tumbling out, Where are you from? What’s the occasion? What’s the last good book you read? What are you reading now? And no matter where we go, we have questions of our own for the tour guides. They need to know their stuff. Many of us have done our homework before we’ve come. We are a force to be reckoned with no doubt.

There is a hash tag, #blackgirlmagic# which celebrates all of the ways Black women and girls continue to thrive in a world set against us. I read many of the stories associated with the blackgirlmagic hash tag, and it’s wonderful to read these stories. But what’s even better, is to be in the room and watch blackgirlmagic unfold. That is what happened in Sedona and Santa Fe. We brought the magic to every place we showed up, and we also shared that magic with each other.

Over dinner, or during plane rides and train rides, we gather and talk about everything under the sun. We share stories; we laugh. And we learn. We leave richer than we came, and many of us will come back again. We create blackgirlmagic in real time. 

What about you? Do you believe in magic? Tell us about your magical experience in the comment section.

Today I Am Thankful

Author's note: We spend a great deal of time complaining, worrying and regretting which can cast shadows over our blessings. Today I am taking the time to look beyond the clouds directly into the sun that is pouring into my life. Today I am squinting at the brightness of it all. Today I am feeling the warmth, and I'm thankful.

Today someone’s eyes closed—
Never to open in this life time again
Today my eyes are open
And for that I am thankful

Today someone is battling pain—
Mental, physical, emotional anguish
Today I woke in my right mind—pain free
And for that I am thankful

Today someone is out on the street with no place to go
Today I woke up safe and in my own bed
And for that I am thankful

Today someone is hungry with nothing to eat
Today I felt the rumbling in my belly
And I had food to quell it
And for that I am thankful

Today some is alone
 Someone is afraid
Someone feels uncared for and unworthy
Today through thought and action
I felt the love of family and friends

Today someone somewhere is struggling
With something
Today I am not that someone
And for that I am thankful

Did I leave anything out? What are you thankful for?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Post Mother’s Day Musings

The food is put away, and the last guests are gone. Another Mother’s Day done. My mother had a great Mother’s Day. A simple woman, she doesn’t ask for much. She wants to see our faces. She likes cards (with money in them) and flowers.  The table is filled with vases of flowers, and the cards are tucked under her pillow for later reading.

Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday in May to honor the women who are mothers. It is the 4th highest grossing holiday. An article posted on CNBC Business News Financial website estimated spending for Mother’s Day  in 2010 at $14.88 billion. We don’t mess around when it comes to our Mamas.

Mother’s Day also serves as a reminder to women like me who are not mothers that we don’t quite measure up because we are not members of the Mothers’ Club. We still live under the notion that every woman should be a mother. Yes, there are honorary awards for the “other” mothers in our lives, but the top awards go to Mothers. Even “bad” mothers get a plug on Mother’s Day. 

It’s not to say that mothers don’t deserve recognition; they most definitely do. Parenting is a difficult job, and not for the faint of heart. Every woman that can be a mother should be a mother we are told. But membership should require more than a functioning uterus. And we should recognize that many of us love celebrating mothers, the holiday is not a joyous one for everyone. 

While many people love Mother’s Day, there are those who loath it. My neighbor was sitting out on her porch, and I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day. She asked me if I had another joke. At first I didn’t get it, then it dawned on me. None of her children or grandchildren had even bothered to visit her for the day. My sister and another neighbor took her plates so she’d have something to eat.

For every Happy Mother’s Day uttered with good intention, there are countless women struggling with the holiday for any number of reasons: some are fighting infertility, some have mothers who have passed away, some are the mothers of children who have passed away, and some are the children of mothers who were the carriers for their children being here and nothing more.  And some children, like my neighbor’s, don’t honor their parents.

What’s especially ironic about the Mother’s Day hoopla is the history behind it. The founder of the holiday as we know it in the United States was not a mother, and rallied against the commercialization of the original intent of Mother’s Day.  In the 1850s Ann Reeves Jarvis set up Mother’s Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary conditions, reduce infant mortality and later help wounded soldiers al civil war. She later created a Mother’s Friendship Day. 

After Anne Reeves Jarvis passed away, her daughter Anna Jarvis organized the first formal Mother’s Day in 1908 to honor her mother. It was a small event celebrated in churches in her hometown. Jarvis wrote to clergy men, politicians and educators encouraging them to recognize the day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first official Mother’s Day. Its popularity grew, and  retailers seized the moment by selling greeting cards and flowers to honor mothers. 

Jarvis hated what Mother’s Day had become, and spent the rest of her life fighting against the holiday. She never married nor had children. So, it’s funny because those of us outside the club can take solace in the fact, that the founder of Mother’s Day was an outsider, too. 

What are your thoughts on mothers and/or Mother’s Day? Please feel free to share in the comment section.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lessons From the Little Mermaid

My sister has poor night vision. She wanted to take some girls to see The Little Mermaid performed live. So, I agreed to be the designated driver for the evening. It was another dateless Saturday night for me, so why not?

It was cold and rainy Saturday, but that didn’t stop people from coming out. The parking lot was full. Families dodged raindrops as they ran for cover in the theater to see the tale Ariel, the mermaid who falls in love with a human. According to folklore, a mermaid is part human, part fish. Mermaids are known for their beautiful, alluring voices, and also for shaking things up in the form of tornadoes, and floods and such.

We settle into our seats, and a group of men came and sat in the row in front of us. One of the men was dressed like Ariel complete with flowers in his flowing red hair, an aqua necklace and a bra in the shape of a two sea-shells covering the chest. He/She had on a long, floral skirt. I guess he/she is a big fan of Ariel. And true to the mermaid’s legend, he/she was definitely shaking things up!

On the way home, the girls were happily chattering in the back about the show, when the subject of the man/woman or woman/man—I can’t remember exactly what they said. There was a past-the due-date pregnant pause in the car. Neither my sister nor I said anything. Transgendered people don’t bother me. I’ve been to quite a few shows with female impersonators, and I had a great time. So, it would be hypocritical of me to act as though the mermaid’s presence offended me; it didn’t.

My sister and I listened as the girls talked. These were children unrelated to us. Two of the girls were the grandchildren of my sister’s friend, and the other girl is my niece’s stepdaughter. Knowing how strongly people feel about where transgendered people pee, it was not a conversation, I wanted to have. My opinion is one thing, but I have to respect how people choose to raise their children. The girls made some comments about the mermaid’s attire, and then they went on to debate which of Ariel’s sister was their favorite and if the boy who played Flounder was cute. 

The girls’ conversation made me think of how much we project our thoughts and feelings onto children. Growing up, one of my friends had a flamboyantly gay uncle. His “gayness” was never an issue because as children we never talked about it. He was—as they used to say back then—a sissy, but I don’t remember it being said in a judgmental way. It wasn’t until I got older that I begin to understand how people who we see as “different” from us are treated. 

The girls knew the mermaid was a man/woman, but it didn’t matter. She was not the focal point of their conversation. They enjoyed the play and that’s all that mattered. There are lessons we can learn from children about how to get along in the world.

Traingles - Part 2

1.       triangle  - noun – a group of three; triad (
2.       triangling – verb – to form a triangle (my own created word)
This picture has been circulating on social media. I read a caption that said: Learning to be a player early punctuated by a smiley face emoticon. Some think it’s cute; not me.
A triangle has three sides. For the purpose of this blog, a triangle is three people involved in a relationship. Now, I don’t think that the children in this photo are in any type of “relationship”, but I do think that this picture speaks volumes on how we view relationships.  The actions are indicative of what these children may do when they are old enough to date and/or marry. We are teaching children early that triangling is ok.

The little boy is situated between two girls. One of the girls has her arm possessively wrapped around him. The message is clear: He’s mine! Her back is to the other little girl, so she doesn’t even know that he is in a sense “playing her” because he’s not really all hers. The second little girl is content to hold his hand--to just be in the picture somewhere. 

We teach boys how play between girls, and we support them. We lie and cover for them all the time. I know a woman who was dating a man. He took her to meet his father. Her guy said he and his father shared a house. One day, her guy dropped his checkbook in her car. When she looked at it, it had a man and woman’s name on it. She couldn’t believe that he was married, so she did a drive-by and found out that not only was he married, his wife was also pregnant. Why did the father lie for his son? The father claimed that he could see how much his son cared for this woman.

The second little girl is a side chick in training. I’ve said it a thousand times; sometimes the side chick gets put on blast unfairly. We teach them how to settle for second place and then we get mad when they do! I know women who tell their daughters and granddaughters that unless he’s married, no man is off limits. It doesn’t matter if he’s engaged or living with a woman, unless he’s said, I do, he’s fair game. This really makes me scratch my head because if he can’t be in a committed relationship before he ties the knot, how is he expected to do so once he gets married? How does a marriage license change behavior? I thought practice makes better. 

And then there are those who think that to have a piece of man is better than to have no man at all. I’ve heard women say that there’s always one going out as another one is coming in, so it stands to reason that at some point, a woman is either going to be the one being cheated on or the one being cheated with. Is monogamy even realistic?

What’s problematic about the implications in this picture is that it encourages possessive and deceptive behaviors—neither of which are healthy. Triangling always goes bad because someone gets hurt—mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Sometimes triangles are deadly. I am still disturbed by a news story that happened a couple of years ago in Georgia.  A man was having an affair with a woman. When the mistress found out that he was taking his wife on a trip, the mistress showed up at the house and kidnapped the wife at gun point. The mistress killed the wife and then turned the gun on herself.

A female who thinks a male belongs to her will stop at nothing to keep anyone from getting what she has because she has claimed ownership. (I know the same things applies to males, but we’re talking about women right now) A woman thinks that the paper, the baby, the fact that they live together, great sex or empty promises means that he belongs to her. Confronting another woman doesn’t change his behavior. 

To be honest, I have don’t have answers to any of the questions I’ve raised. I’m trying to understand why we claim to hate triangling yet we encourage men and women to form these triads. Are love triangles par for the course? Do you think we encourage these types of relationships? What did you hear growing up that supported the idea of shared relationships? Share your thoughts in the comment section.