spiritual healing

No Fear Zone

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Today, I am reminded of God’s Word in 2 Timothy 1:7. “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” Often, when we hear bad news, the enemy (or satan, lucifer, the devil, or whatever name you call him) fights us in our thoughts. Here’s a typical scenario that illustrates how the enemy works.

You are getting ready for work one morning when you notice a mysterious lump on your breast. You don’t panic because you know that it could be nothing, so you check your other breast. You notice that the lump is only in the first breast, and here’s where the enemy begins his assault. I call it an assault because that’s exactly what it is–a premeditated ambush on your mind to get you to speak negative words out of your mouth. (We’ll address the power of words later.)

You start thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Do I have cancer? What if I have cancer? I’m not ready to die! What about my husband? What about my kids?” All sorts of thoughts start to barrage your mind, except they’re not really your thoughts. Nope, not at all. Instead, they are strategically placed messages spoken in your ears (in a voice sounding like your own) by the enemy.

You see, the enemy is the ultimate con artist since he’s hustled people for years into believing (1.) that he doesn’t exist and (2.) that the negative and damaging thoughts that they are thinking are their own thoughts instead of his words.

Because of these tricks, people have been duped into believing the negative. And here’s the problem with negative thoughts: our words tend to mirror our thoughts. This is exactly what the enemy is counting on when he launches his mental assault.

The enemy knows the power of words, so he is desperately trying to get us to agree with his message. He knows that the world is operated by words. Consider this: The entire world was created in seven days by what? Yep, you guessed it. By Words. God SAID, “Let there be light,” and light appeared. The same happened with everything else.

As such, the enemy knows that if you can say, “I have cancer,” then the spirit of infirmity has legal grounds to attack your body. Sounds scary right? But I was reminded of 2 Timothy 1:7 today, and it ignited a fire within me.

When the enemy comes to us and tries to fill our minds with what looks like scary facts and logic, which brings on anxiety, we can recognize that the message is not from God and choose to ignore it. Using the scenario mentioned earlier, if we are the ones with the lump, we can recognize it and make the Dr. appointment (which is very necessary in all health concerns) without fear and anxiety, knowing that it is God’s good pleasure to take care of us. We can stand on God’s Word concerning whatever fiery assault the enemy throws our way–understanding that whatever happens afterwards is just part of the process that God is using to fulfill His promise to us in His Word. (Here is a good time to also remember that God is not like us; He is completely incapable of lying. So if He said it, he’s good for it. Remember, He honors His Word even above His name.)

I want everyone who reads this to know that even though the enemy wants us to respond with fear to his assaults, we can look to God’s Word and respond with faith. Here’s how: Actively monitor your thoughts. If they don’t match what God promised you, then they are not from God, and you don’t have to accept them. Instead, you can replace these negative thoughts with what God promised. When the enemy tries to scare you with threats of sickness, you can remind him that “by His (Jesus’) stripes, you are healed.” You may not feel better initially, and the thoughts may continue to come. But God’s Word says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Translation: The more you hear the Word of God, the more your faith in what God promised increases.

God wants us to live a life of freedom, not one that is trapped in a prison of fear by the enemy. I encourage everyone who reads this to practice these principles, and watch God move and the enemy back up. Welcome to the No-Fear Zone.

God Bless,

Jenene

Reflections of 2014 & Why I Now Support Segregation

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(Source: Facebook.com/sancophaleague)

2014 was a strange year to be Black. We had Ferguson, Eric Garner, and so many others that I’ve officially lost count. There were marches, demonstrations, and riots. Some protests were peaceful; some, not so much. Through all of this hurt, pain, and mass confusion, I realized something very controversial, yet powerful: I believe in segregation.

I know you’re probably reading this and wondering if you misread what I wrote. The answer is, “No, you didn’t.” I said that I believe in segregation. I believe that the only way for Black people to not only survive, but to thrive, is for us to segregate. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no racist, and I certainly mean no harm or ill will towards any other race. I am, however, more concerned with the health and wealth of the Black community than any other community, and I do not see it as racist to love and care for oneself above all others. I see it as wisdom. Besides, every other race does the same thing anyway; we (Black people) are the only ones who haven’t gotten hip to the game. Instead, we’ve let others manipulate us into feeling bad about choosing our own above all others. We’ve foolishly fallen into the lie of reversed racism, a lie that dooms us to inclusion and accommodation at our own expense. In short, we’ve been bamboozled!

I read an article awhile ago about an Asian businessman in the hair care industry. He was speaking about how he often heard complaints from Black people about him (and other Asians) shutting them out of the hair care industry by only choosing to conduct business with other Asians. His response completely changed the lens in which I viewed the situation. In responding, the man said that he had no issues and meant no harm towards Black people. He said that he was simply looking out for the best interests of his people; he called it practicing “Asian love.” He said that he could have done more business with Blacks but doing that would be at the expense of other Asian business owners, which, according to him, would not be practicing Asian love. Finally, he dropped the greatest nugget of knowledge in the entire response. He said that Blacks should help and support each other, in effect, practice Black love, instead of complaining about other people not giving them opportunities. After reading this article and seeing the current state of the Black community at large (not the small pockets of affluence that some like to tout as wholly representative of the race), I began to craft my beliefs about our need to segregate.

Consider this: The Greenwood community in Tulsa, OK, known as The Black Wall Street was the most affluent Black community that America has ever known prior to the 1921 Holocaust that destroyed it. (If you don’t believe me or haven’t heard, then do a quick google search, and you’ll see.) Within this community, Blacks owned every type of industry, even their own airplanes in the early 20th century. It was bigger than Atlanta or any other chocolate city that you’ve ever imagined. The Black owned industries were so affluent and top flight that White citizens in the same city had to come to the Black community of Greenwood to receive quality services. And this was all prior to 1921!

The important part of the Greenwood model, however, is that all of the Black people fully supported these industries. They ate at Black restaurants, watched movies in the Black movie theaters, bought their clothes at the Black retailers, and supported every other Black industry/service in Greenwood. (Of course, during this time, they had to because of segregation.) In being segregated and, thereby, exclusively supporting their own, however, they were able to accrue wealth for their community.

This is exactly what the Black community needs to do today, but not because the government has forced us to do it. We should do it for the health and wealth of our community; we should practice Black love. An economist once told me that a dollar has to circulate seven times in a community in order for that community to gain money. That means that a person would need to frequent seven establishments in one community to contribute to its wealth. So take a second and think of how many Black owned establishments that you frequent. No shade, but nearly every time I see an Asian, they are driving a Honda, Kia, or a Hyundai. Why…because they are supporting Asian brands. They are practicing Asian love, and they are not the only ones to do this. Nearly every other race of people supports its own, but we have been tricked into believing that doing so is racist.

Those who have been behind this lie have a vested interest in it. Just think: The buying power of the Black community would make it the 11th richest nation in the world. Presently, we are using those resources to advance the communities of those who oppress us. In short, we are funding our own oppression by not investing in our own communities and, instead, investing in others. Think about how our communities would look if we invested in our own, if we practiced Black love. Think about how it would look if it spread from America to Africa and other Black communities in the diaspora. Imagine the power. We wouldn’t worry about cops in Ferguson because we would have our own police departments staffed with people who have a vested interest in our community. We wouldn’t have to fight for equal rights because we would have our own seats at the table and control our own destiny.

So, yes, I say it loud and proud. “I believe in segregation.” In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need it. We would truly be judged as Dr. King outlined in his “I Have A Dream” speech. The world, however, is far from perfect, and I am a realist. So in the words of George Wallace (although for an entirely different purpose), I say, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Finding Your Purpose

It has always been my belief that the things that one consistently fights against are the very things that the person is called to change or, at least, to challenge. For me, one of the things that has bothered me, throughout my life is ignorance.  Anytime I was faced with ignorance, it would affect me so much that, at times, I would be physically bothered. Because of this, I became an educator and used my platform as a teacher and my skills as a writer to try to dispel ignorance wherever I encountered it.  This is my calling.  It will, undoubtedly, be my legacy.  It is the gift that God gave me to change and influence my corner of the world.

With this same thought, I would like to pose the following question to you: What is it that God has given you to change or challenge within the world? He made each of us unique and with a purpose designed to effect change.  My prayer is that you will find your purpose, run towards it, and achieve all that God has for you.

Much Love,

Jenene

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Behind the Color Lines

colorism

Last week I saw one of the ugliest tweets that I have seen in a while, and for the first time in a long time, the comment didn’t make me angry. I’ll admit that I was irritated but not irate, which shows that I am growing and learning to take ignorance just for what it is—a lack of knowledge. The tweet that I am referring to is the infamous tweet written by singer/songwriter/producer Tank.

For those who may be unaware of the story, allow me to fill you in on the details. Apparently Tank, an African-American music artist, posted a picture of his girlfriend, a light-skinned African American woman on his social media site. According to Tank, when he posts pictures of his girlfriend, he gets a lot of shade (i.e., negative and unfounded, derogatory comments) from dark-skinned African-American women.  Because of this, Tank apparently was fed up and wrote the following tweet: “I have an honest question.  What do dark skinned women have against light skinned women? Aren’t we all black at the end of the day??”

When I read the tweet, there were a few things that registered in my mind. First, I thought about how insecure he must be.  He is a dark-skinned man, yet he seemed to vilify the female version of himself.  While he maintains that his statements were made in defense of his girlfriend, he did not limit his attack to those who he felt had attacked his woman.  Instead, he placed the blame on all dark-skinned women for the actions of a few.  This is a terrible overgeneralization, but even worse, he mischaracterized an entire group of women—women who probably resemble his mother during her earlier years.

Second, I thought about colorism and the cultural evolution that is taking place within the Black community. It seems that you can’t turn on the television, log into a social media site, or read an internet page, in general, without hearing about how the Black struggle has changed.  So many people are rushing to claim that we have reached a post-racial society and that the struggle is no longer.  They cite Barack Obama’s presidency and a number of other Black firsts and notables as proof of their stance.  They speak of all of the evolution that has occurred.  When I read the tweet, I thought, “If we’ve evolved so much as a community, why are we still holding an ideal as antiquated as colorism?”  Everyone wants to scream about how far we’ve come, yet there are many celebs—black male celebs in particular—who are quick to make off color jokes and/or disparaging comments about dark-skinned Black women.  Need I remind everyone of the Kevin Hart tweet?  It’s just ridiculous.

Finally, I thought about why I wasn’t upset with Tank. To be honest, I know that people who make such comments do it to get a rise out of people, but I didn’t feel angry.  Even though I fit into the demographic that Tank wrote about, I wasn’t upset because I truly felt that his comment was more about his own insecurities and not about my self-worth.  As I alluded to earlier, if a person can make hateful comments about someone that closely resembles him/herself then s/he is insecure.  In short, no one who is secure puts down someone/something that is reminiscent of him/herself.

While I realize that his comments would have made me angry years ago, I can, now, recognize that I have turned a new leaf. I am no longer as offended by the ignorance of others.  Though he is a somewhat successful artist, writer, and producer who has grown a career with the support of the very women that he bashed during his tweet, he is still capable of ignorance, which showed in the hastiness of the tweet (done in anger) and the overgeneralization of his comments.  As such, I couldn’t feel anger but, rather, sadness and compassion.  He is an insecure man who has to denigrate others in order to validate himself. It’s sad.  He’s sad.  So instead of being angry at him or his tweet, I felt sorry for him and how misguided and insecure he was.  In the end, I was torn between two emotions—happiness and sadness, happy about my personal evolution in this matter, yet still sad to see another man in our community play the colorism game with Black women.

What Do We Want? An Opportunity.

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In 1969, James Brown released a song entitled, “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing,” which also included the words, “Open up the door; I’ll get it myself” in the chorus.  It was a very powerful song with an equally powerful message about opportunity.  Unlike the message that social conservatives would like many to believe, every impoverished individual is not looking for a government handout; instead, many people are looking for a chance.  Hearing this song and thinking about the current state of the economy, and even my own life, I am reminded of the power of an opportunity.

In the late 90s, during the Clinton era, it seemed like all a person had to do to be successful was to go to school, get a degree, and land a job which came with his/her plot of land firmly affixed within the American dream.  Those were the good ole days.  Then came September 11th, the Wall-Street collapse, and a host of other economic failures.  Suddenly a college degree didn’t seem so sure.  Students who were once excited about graduation were now engaged in hotly contested battles with recently unemployed businesspeople 20 years their senior for the final positions in graduate schools across America.  Everyone was doing everything that they could to avoid economic ruin, even if that meant hiding out in grad school until this mess blew over.

Suddenly the power of an opportunity became clear to me.  It wasn’t that the graduates or even the unemployed businesspeople were lazy or wanting a handout; they were all searching for an opportunity.  Opportunity, however, can be a tricky thing, especially in the job market because it’s not about how hard you want a job; it’s about who chooses you.  It’s kind of like wanting to get married but struggling to find a significant other.  You can work on yourself all day and try to transform yourself into an eligible choice, but until someone finds it in his/her heart to propose to you (or accept your proposal), then you’re left being single, which is only bad if marriage is your goal.  Such is the case with opportunity; you have to keep moving, but you may be stuck in the same (or a very similar) situation until opportunity knocks on your door.

People often see those who are unemployed and assume that they’re not working hard enough, must be lazy, or want someone else to do the work for them.  Such, however, is not always or even generally the case, especially in this economy.  The same thing was true in 1969 when James Brown penned this song.  He was talking about African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement, barely 100 years removed from slavery.  Contrary to the message from social conservatives, African-Americans weren’t looking for handouts; they were looking for opportunities.  45 years after the writing of this song, it is not only the cry of African Americans; rather, it has been recently etched into the American narrative.  From the shrinking middle class to those fleeing their country to find a better life, we are all looking for the same thing—opportunity.

American Privilege

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As I watch the news, read various blogs, and listen to the radio, I am reminded of one of my favorite songs by Bob Marley, “So Much Trouble in the World.”  Now Bob died in 1981, a few months before I was even born, yet his words are still so accurate today.  From stories about ISIS to the very streets of Ferguson, MO, there seems to be so much trouble in the world, and, sadly, I think I’ve developed what some have termed as the “classic American attitude.”  I am tired of hearing about all of the trouble and seeing no change.  I am tired of hearing of so much despair; I just want to be happy and focus on the things that make me happy instead of focusing on the world’s drama, so I’ve tuned out.

This is a luxury that many Americans (and well as citizens in the West) have enjoyed for decades.  While Western Africans cannot turn a blind eye to the Ebola crisis, and Nigerians cannot ignore the fact that many of their sisters, cousins, daughters, nieces, and friends are still held captive by Boko Haram, many Americans can simply turn the channel on the television or read another blog.  We have enjoyed the luxury of tuning out; it is a luxury of the privileged, and I have fallen victim to it.

I have found myself becoming annoyed when people around me want to watch the world news; instead, I’ve wanted to watch sports or reality TV–anything that would take my mind off of the troubles in the world.  It’s a selfishness that is only afforded to those of us who were born into the privilege of living in Western nations, and it is why so many other countries in the world despise America and the West.  Our fears of ISIS, the Ebola virus, Boko Haram, and many other worldwide crises are issues that plague their daily lives.  They don’t have the option of tuning out; it is a part their world, intrinsically woven into the fabric of their nations, communities, and tribes.  Though they are tired and fearful, they cannot ignore it, even though we do.

As I thought of what to write for this week, I thought about how tired I was of writing and reading about injustice and how this very feeling marked my own privilege and selfishness.  I, a person who claims to champion the fight against injustices both domestic and abroad, have fallen into the trap of privilege, the trap that says, “Let them worry about it today; I’m tired.”  In thinking this very thought, I was reminded that my geographical privilege is no different from the privilege of another.

The world, however, is changing.  Gone are the days when America and the West can afford to approach the world with an isolationist view.  The very danger that we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to has reached the shores of our own nation. Americans have contracted the Ebola virus; ISIS has captured and beheaded Americans and threatened further attacks.  Our very own streets are burning with rage concerning police brutality, and it seems as if it is only a matter of time before we have turned into a police state.  The luxury that we once had seems to be slipping through our fingers, and it seems as if we have no other response different from that of the ostrich–ignoring the problems and hiding in plain sight, hoping that the issues will go away on their own.

Who You Callin’ Ghetto?!!

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I am what some people would call a “wordsmith” and who my sisters would jokingly refer to as the “word police.” Although I am not one of those language snobs on social media that spell checks everyone’s posts; I do, however, pay a lot of attention to the words that people use and the context in which they use them.  To quote one of my favorite podcast hosts, Crissle, I believe that, “Words mean things.”  As such, when people make statements, I tend to analyze (some would say over-analyze) the meaning behind them.

One such incident happened the other day.  I was having a conversation with a colleague who was upset about a money issue and threatening to “go in” on the parties involved.  In explaining how the situation was about to happen, he said, “I know ya’ll think that I’m nice and all, but I’m five seconds from turning into a huge, ghetto b***h!”  While I was initially amused by the whole scene, my mind soon went to his use of the word, “ghetto.”  Almost immediately I posed the following question in my mind: “When people, today, use the word, “ghetto” are they also tacitly referring to Black people or, more specifically, how they perceive Black people’s behavior to be?”

I turned this idea over in my mind, and I begin to think of other times when this word was used and in what context. In the scenario with my colleague, he used it to mean, “angry.”  The words that he spoke conjured up images of someone that you would see on a day time talk show, i.e., Maury or Jerry Springer.  But those women aren’t always Black, so why did I automatically take it to mean Black people?

I thought of other instances where the word was used. Another colleague had used the term in a similar fashion, explaining how she had to get aggressive with someone who was disrespecting her; again, the word, “ghetto” was used to explain the intensity of the aggression that she used.  But this wasn’t the only way that I was used to hearing the word.

One of my friends was talking about grocery shopping at a certain chain, explaining how she would never shop there again because it was too “ghetto.” When I asked her what she meant by that word, her answer somewhat shocked me.   Her interpretation of the word “ghetto” differed from my colleagues in that she used it to mean defunct or substandard.  That part didn’t shock me.  What shocked me was her answer when I asked her about the meaning of the word and if it possibly had racist undertones.  When asked, she replied, “Sure, people use the word to refer to Black people, like when they say ‘ghetto fabulous’ or refer to styles that were influenced by usually impoverished Black neighborhoods (i.e., her hair is ghetto), but words change meanings all of the time.”

It was at this point that I began to look at the use of this word differently. Although etymologists struggle with the root of the word “ghetto,” it is widely known that the word did not originally refer to African-Americans; in fact, for a long time it referred to Jewish people who were segregated to certain sectors of society.  It wasn’t until the 20th century with the large scale segregation of Blacks in America, along with the creation of the suburbs from White Flight, that the term “ghetto” was used to apply to Black people.  This made me think.  If Jewish people could evolve to the point where the word “ghetto” no longer applied to them, then why are we, as Black people still so tied to this word?  Why do we still see it as a “Black” word, when that wasn’t its origin, nor does it apply to our current predicament?

While it is true that a disproportionate amount of African Americans live in low income areas, this state does not describe us as a whole. Furthermore, it is not a condition that we MUST face, as it once was during our history.  There are generations of African Americans who know nothing about the “ghetto,” so why is this word still used to define us exclusively?  I understand that the term isn’t applied to every African American, but it seems that it is only applied to certain groups of Blacks or certain characteristics that have become associated with Black people.  (Ex: Poor White people aren’t generally referred to as ghetto.) The question is why?

When I posed this question to another friend, she gave further insight on the situation, by stating, “Words change. Just as the word once exclusively referred to Jewish people, it also once referred exclusively to Black people.  Now the word doesn’t refer to anyone exclusively.  When people use it, most often, they mean something that isn’t too well put together, which isn’t racially exclusive, at all.”  In short, her belief is that Black people no longer have to claim this word or feel offended when people use it with its negative connotations because it is not referring to Black people or any particular race.

To be rather transparent, I can say that I don’t know who’s right. I guess it would depend on who’s using the word and the context.  While I’m not ready to say that we’ve reached a post-racial society, I also don’t want to police every word and interpret everything as a racial onslaught.  I must admit, though; I’m still confused about this word.  What about you?

Black Women, It’s Time for a Revolution

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I’m starting to feel as if I sound like a broken record, stuck on a specific line in a verse, repeating that line over and over again.  That’s how I feel, week to week, as I write about how America treats its Black women.  I know that some of you are going to read that first line and  tune out, thinking, “Here goes another angry, Black woman on a blog,” and you are partially right.  I am angry, Black, and a woman who is writing a blog.  ( I do, however, find the Angry Black Woman description as a label to be offensive for a number of reasons, but that’s another blog for another day.)  I am tired of the way that America is treating Black women, and I will shout it to the roof tops and connect with others until real change is actualized.

I look at America today, a country that I love with all of my heart, and know that she does not feel the same way about me, simply because I am a Black woman.  I did not emigrate here, and neither did my ancestors.  We were brought here by slave ships, enduring the harshness of the middle passage and forced to work, for free, in conditions that would make the thirstiest worker’s comp lawyer salivate.  Even after freedom was granted, other forms of oppression, institutionalized slavery and gender discrimination emerged, to keep us behind the starting point.

I know that some will read this and say that these forms of oppression are not limited to Black women, and I can certainly see how someone would want to make this claim because it seems so true without further examination.  Yes, White women face gender discrimination, but they are also blessed with White privilege and receive additional privilege by their mere association with White men.  In short, they don’t feel the full brunt of discrimination because, at the end of the day, they are still White and will likely marry White men and have White children.  Black women don’t have the luxury of their race bailing them out where gender discrimination fails them; it’s the age old double negative.

Then there’s the question of Black men.  Aren’t they also Black?  Aren’t they discriminated against very harshly?  I won’t deny that Black men have had their struggles in America; that would be foolish to deny that.  Black men, however, are also men, and as such, are partakers in the system of patriarchy, a system that they employ readily when its time to dodge advocacy efforts that would benefit Black women.  Here’s exactly what I mean.

Since Black people began organizing in this country for social change and advancement, Black women have been on the front lines (and in the background) offering support and advocating for change on behalf of Black men.  Black women have even been used, mightily, to effect change for the cause (e.g., Rosa Parks, etc.).  When it was time, however, to recognize Black women (and the issues that Black women face) on equal footing, Black men have been silent. Take the March on Washington, for instance; Black women were good enough to be jailed, sprayed with hoses, and killed for the cause, but weren’t good enough to even march down the same street as the men or even to share the podium, despite their support and significant work and influence.

This patriarchal attitude towards Black women in the Black community didn’t just end in the Civil Rights era; consider the many issues that have erupted recently in terms of police brutality: Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown.  Each of these cases have received national attention, and there have been significant marches and demonstrations in their honor.  When similar cases happened with Black women, barely anything was done, as if it wasn’t important because it happened to Black women.

The recent fall out from the Ray Rice video has been even more sickening.  When Rice admitted, months ago, that he hit his, then fiancée and now wife, Janay Palmer Rice, the NFL only deemed two games as sufficient for his punishment.  In short, what they were saying is that if you hit a Black woman and a video shows you dragging her out of an elevator, then two games is punishment enough.  As a Black woman, that vexed my soul.  To add insult to injury, a great number of people blamed Janay for the event, believing that she must’ve done something to provoke such behavior from Rice. Few were willing to stand up for this Black woman despite the images of her being dragged out of the elevator by Rice on the first video clip; instead, she was painted as the villain, while he was viewed as the innocent victim at the hands of the Angry, Black Woman.

Once the full video surfaced, the NFL backpedaled and wanted to fake concern–ridiculous!  And even still, with visible evidence that he was in no danger and, instead, struck her repeatedly without concern for her health or wellbeing, many are still choosing to defend his actions and demonize Janay.  And I know why; it is simply because she is a Black woman, and in my Kanye voice, “America doesn’t care about Black women.”

My final example for this week is the Black actress who was handcuffed after kissing her White, male significant other in public because the police officer believed that she must’ve been a prostitute.  Pause.  She was in public in broad daylight kissing her man, and the police came to the conclusion that they weren’t a couple; no, instead, this had to have been a prostitute soliciting sex from this White man. This shows that America places such low value on Black women that it was inconceivable for the police officer, the very member of society who takes an oath to serve and protect the members of the community, to believe that a White man could find affection for a Black woman, especially in public.  As a result of his beliefs, the officer handcuffed the Black woman, placed her in the cop car, and treated her like a prostitute.

To say that I am angry is an understatement.  This mistreatment of Black women has happened far too many times to believe that it is a mere coincidence.  America, we need to do better.  Black community, we need to do better.  As Black women, we are no longer evoking the “wait your turn” attitude.  We have adopted the “Ladies First” mantra and claimed Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. as our theme song.  We are tired of waiting.  There will be change, and we are poised to employ the same passion that we used to lift our people through the Middle Passage, the enslavement period, the Civil Rights Movement, and today’s struggles to ensure that change comes now.  We have been serving as grassroots organizers for centuries, and today, America will not only hear our voices; she will feel our impact.  Get ready, America, a change is coming.

#LadiesFirst

The Corruption &; Crisis of Black Leadership

, Robert Mugabe, King Mswati III, Thabo Mbeki, Morgan Tsvangirai, Jakaya Kikwete, Armando Gebuza, Hafikepunye Pohamba

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Pan-Africanist, which means that I am concerned with the plight of people of African descent from all over the world.  I’ve always really cared about my people, but I haven’t always been the most aware, and even still, there are things that I just don’t know.

Since all of my known ancestors were born, here, in America, my view of the world often centers on things here.  (Note: My last name came to me through marriage for those reading this with raised eyebrows.)  I have been fortunate, however, to have people in my life who can school me about such things.

In learning more about Black people from around the world, one thing that I have noticed within almost all of the countries is what I will refer to as the crisis of leadership.  To be clear, it is not that we are lacking people who are willing and capable.  People of African descent are some of the brightest and most industrious people on this planet.  Ability and intellect aren’t areas where we struggle with our leaders; instead, it seems as if those who are in leadership positions are using their talent(s) to defraud our own people.

I understand that this is a generalization and that not all of our leaders struggle with corruption, but, many do, a statistic that can’t be ignored.  I will also add that while many non-Black governments and institutions are dishonest, the corruption that has become prevalent under Black leadership threatens the vitality of Black people, the group most often served by these organizations.  There are many examples of different types of corrupt practices under Black leadership throughout the world.

One of the most recent examples of this was during the most recent World Cup.  I am not a soccer/football fan, but my husband, a Ghanaian-American, is a huge fan; as a result, I watched a lot of World Cup games and subsequent news coverage.  Though I didn’t grow up regularly following soccer, I have always known how serious the rest of the world took these games.  I’d always heard stories of players being killed for missing or failing to defend a goal.  What I saw in this particular World Cup from the African nations was not about violence, but it was still disturbing, to say the least.

Of all of the five African nations that qualified for the World Cup (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Algeria), three of them were saddled with corruption issues concerning the mismanagement of funds, fixing matches for money, and the like.  There were only two countries that didn’t have those types of issues, Ivory Coast and Algeria, and of those two, only one of them is a “Black African” team, Ivory Coast.  It was ridiculous, especially in Ghana where there were alleged physical altercations over such mismanagement, leading to an early exit from the cup.  Similar cases involving corruption charges occurred in Nigeria and Cameroon.  None of the other continent groups had such sweeping allegations and challenges.

This corruption, unfortunately, extends beyond soccer and into everyday politics.  In many of these African nations, the rule of law is not clearly defined.  As such, militaristic, dictatorial style governments are often the norm, and the people suffer.  Similar assessments can be made about Caribbean governments under Black leadership.  The wealth gap is tremendous as corruption runs rampant, leading to more Blacks suffering under the weights of poverty.  These claims of fraudulent behavior are not limited to Africa, the Caribbean, and Afro-Latin America.

To find this crisis of leadership in America, we need to look no further than our own government and institutions of higher learning.  While no legitimate links to corruption can be made concerning President Obama, there have been instances of corruption in non-federal areas of government run by Blacks.  Do the names Kwame Kilpatrick and Ray Nagin ring a bell?  What about Jesse Jackson Jr.?  While I do understand that corruption has no color, the practices of these leaders disproportionately affected the well-being of Black people in the regions where they served.  If you don’t believe me, then look at Detroit, New Orleans, and Chicago.

Additionally, our own colleges have been plagued with so many scandals that corruption has literally become a characteristic synonymous with many of our HBCUs.  There seems to be no end to the corruption charges and poor leadership that have befallen many of these institutions.  To this day my soul still grieves for the graduates of Morris Brown, all casualties of our own corrupt practices.

This scenario, and others like it, saddens me because I do not believe it to be an accurate reflection of our ability to lead, yet it has come to characterize many instances of Black leadership.  Some would say that we should, instead, focus on the positive, and I think that’s great. I also, however, believe in cleaning up the negative.  There will always be corrupt politicians and leaders because of the old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The problem with our corruption is that it is leading to a lower quality of life for Black people or, at the least, not allowing us to ascend to the heights to which we are capable.

As hard as it is for me to write this, we need to clean up this mess: in Africa, the Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin America, and in the U.S.  To do that, we have to acknowledge the corruption and establish rules that will protect us from those who would put their own selfish interests above the group.  Additionally, we need to hold all of our leaders accountable.  Finally, we need to unify for the benefit of our people worldwide.  I could write more about that final point, but, alas, that’s another blog for another day.

Reality TV & The Angry, Black Woman

Angry Michelle Obama

Not too long ago, I watched a rerun of an episode of America’s Next Top Model; it was the season with Eva Marcille and YaYa Dacosta.  On this particular episode, Tyra had to pull Eva to the side and have a heart to heart with the young model because of some of her mean girl actions with the other models.  In the conversation, Tyra was direct, telling Eva, “I don’t want to cast another Black bitch this season.” 

Her words struck a chord with Eva and even resonated with me.  While the language that she used to convey her message may have been a little colorful, Tyra’s point was that she was tired of the media trying to make this another reality show about that all too familiar stereotype, the one of the Angry, Black Woman.  After watching this rerun, I thought about how many times I had seen this stereotype replayed on my television screen.  I asked myself, “Why are we, as Americans, so comfortable with the narrative of the Angry, Black Woman?”

Having watched my fair share of reality TV shows, I can say that the media execs have definitely created a prototype that fits this stereotype.  From NeNe Leakes on RHOA, to Tamar Braxton on Braxton Family Values and many other women in between, there seems to be an abundance of reality shows highlighting a loud, rude, and angry Black woman as one of the majors draws to the show. 

Trust me; I get some of it.  People watch these shows as an escape from their own lives.  The drama on these shows is almost always bigger than the drama in the lives of the viewers, so it gives people an opportunity to be judgmental while being entertained.  I get it.  I guess my question is why is it that we find so much entertainment in that particular stereotype?  We tend to gravitate towards the loud, rude, and angry Black woman, and make her the star of the show.

While I understand that drama is often more entertaining than class, I do often wonder what the implications are in casting Black women on multiple shows that fit this particular stereotype.  Does it make this stereotype seem real, or do people generally recognize it as fun for the camera?

Part of me wants to say that people are more evolved today and can surely recognize that this stereotype does not define all Black women or even a majority of Black women, but I have seen people frame their opinions of Black women (and Black people in general) based on what they have seen on TV.  In one such incident, I had a conversation with a Latina.  When we met, she was very shocked and kept saying that she expected something different.  After hearing her say this multiple times, I asked her what she meant, to which she ignorantly replied, “I just expected a hoochie.” 

While I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that she did not know how offensive and ignorant her comments sounded, I was more intrigued by the fact that she had created these expectations of Black women based on television, since she grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, where the population is almost exclusively Mexican.  In other words, she had never interacted with Black women, especially not the point to have developed such a negative conclusion.

Although I know that her preconceived notions nor her exposure to other cultures is not fully representative of all people, I do wonder how these shows form other people’s perceptions of Black women.  I try not to be too concerned with what others may think because I cannot fight the loads of ignorance that one must face simply from being a Black woman; I am, however, concerned about how our image is being shaped with the media and why it is so easy to frame us in such a negative light.

Some may read this and think that it’s not that serious.  These shows are fun, and the women that I am speaking of give these shows the bulk of their entertainment value, and such may be the case.  It is also true, however, that people learn by repetition.  When a negative image is associated with certain people in a repetitive fashion, then others who are watching tend to associate that image with those people.  In accordance with those images, stereotypes are formed. 

If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself why you don’t hear the term, “Angry White Woman,” to refer to White women who have gotten upset.  Is it because it is impossible to anger White women?  Hardly not; it does however speak to how the media, amongst other things, has socialized us to view White women, as opposed to Black women.  We know that the stereotype of the Angry, Black Woman is out there.  I just wonder how much the media and these reality shows play a role in that narrative.