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!”

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.

Enacting the Code of Silence: A Lesson from Mrs. Phaedra Parks

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article inspired by Tichina Arnold that discussed the importance of the “nice-nasty.”  Today’s article shares a similar format, but it is an entirely different, yet just as useful, lesson.  This week I was inspired by none other than RHOA’s Phaedra Parks.

For those of you who don’t watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA), then you may be unaware of the drama that has befallen Mrs. Parks’ household.  Recently, Phaedra’s husband, Apollo Nida, was sentenced to eight years in prison for mail, wire, and bank fraud. Essentially, he was using other people’s identities to open accounts and gain access to funds.  While much of the drama on these types of shows may be manufactured, this, right here, is the real deal. Not only does Phaedra have to lose her husband during the time, but the couple also has two little boys, both under the age of three.

Throughout the show the couple has dealt with many issues, mainly Apollo’s inappropriate dealings with another female cast member who just happens to be a former beauty queen, Miss USA to be exact, as well as his own professed views on cheating in a marriage.  These tidbits made many of the viewers, as well as some of the other cast members, question the strength of their marriage.  This recent charge, however, is starting to look like the proverbial nail in the coffin, and Phaedra just appears to be over it.  (Or is she?)  For those who think that she is, here’s the evidence to suggest that.

First, she hasn’t made any statements confirming their solidarity as a couple to the media.  (Not that she has to, but that’s generally how it goes once your spouse gets into legal trouble, especially if you are a public figure, but whatever.)  Secondly, she was noticeably absent from Apollo’s sentencing, instead choosing to party with her other superstar friends on a girl’s trip to Mexico.  Ouch!  Finally, she gave no response to Apollo’s media rant concerning her absence.  Let’s take a moment, here, to discuss the rant.

When Phaedra pulled a no-show at his sentencing, Apollo referenced it in the media twice.  The first time was more cryptic, as he posed a question on social media, asking who was going to “ride” with him, which is a slang term for being there for someone; it’s implied that the person who needs a “rider” is in some form of trouble and needs support and/or assistance.

The second message, however, was very direct, in which he expresses his disappointment with his wife concerning her absence, adding that he doesn’t believe that the marriage will last through the time served.  Since his words were very inflammatory, all eyes (and ears) were on Mrs. Parks, Attorney at Law, to catch her counter move.  Her next moves detail the major points to be made within this article.

Though that recap of Apollo’s story was interesting, it isn’t the focus of this article; it was merely to provide context. The focus, conversely, in on what I like to refer to as “The Code of Silence.”  This code operates on two basic tenets:

1.) One cannot argue with one’s self.
2.) Silence cannot be misquoted.

This code is one in which Mrs. Parks used skillfully in today’s lesson and is also one that is essential to master in life.  While Apollo was busy bumping his gums to the media, Phaedra maintained space and silence.  People can assume that she’s ready for a divorce, which would explain her actions, but there is no definite footage to link to her.  In short, we’re all just left to speculate.

This relates to tenet #2: Silence cannot be misquoted. Though Apollo is airing their dirty laundry to anyone who will listen, no one has a firm grip on Phaedra’s intentions because she has remained silent. Think of the Miranda Rights, where they say, “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can be used against you.”  Phaedra, an accomplished attorney, knows that this rule also applies to the media or the grapevine, in general, and has opted to, instead, utilize the Code of Silence.

This is important in the office and in most relationships because angry or hurt people will make statements to you to get you to respond in like manner. When you enact the code, then they are left with themselves and cannot use you as a dumping ground for their emotions. Why…because of tenet #1: One cannot argue with one’s self.  In other words, if you maintain silence, then they can’t continue the argument, at least not with you.

This Code of Silence is especially effective against an abrasive individual because those types love to argue.  Once they realize that you don’t want a fight, they will often attempt to bait you into an argument with inflammatory language, designed to generate an argumentative response.  That’s when you hit them with the code.  It’s not the silent treatment, which is a different tactic, one that we may discuss later. The Code of Silence doesn’t mean that you will be silent forever. It does, however, mean that you refuse to discuss the matter until the environment has become non-toxic.

Once the other person realizes that they can no longer act a fool to generate a response from you, then s/he changes his/her method of communication.  It takes time and diligence, but it is a very effective practice.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Nida, he will have more than enough time to work on such communication skills.  As for you and I, we should take a lesson from Mrs. Parks’ play book and learn to effectively enact the Code of Silence.

Much Love,

Jenene

Ladies, We Need to Talk: Women’s Town-Hall Meeting

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Ladies, we have some things to discuss.  Things have gotten completely out of hand in a number of different areas.  Because of this, I have decided to call a town-hall meeting.  Now, I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, “Who is she to get us together?  Did we vote her into office or something?  If so, then I demand a recount!”  I’ll address those concerns now.  No, I was not elected into office, and I certainly don’t speak for all women, which is why this is an open forum; please leave your comments in the comment section below.  I am, however, a concerned member of the community of women, and as such, I felt it my duty to bring these concerns before you.

Concern #1: Unity amongst women. If I hear one more woman make the statement, “I just can’t hang around women because they bring too much drama, so I just stick with the guys,” then I’m gonna scream.

Message: Men do not see you or any other woman as just “one of the guys.”  While it is true that men may be able to carry on platonic relationships with women, the women in these relationships don’t share an equal position with their homeboys.  Men regularly practice the “bros before hoes” mantra.  If you don’t believe me, then see who’s back your homeboy has if his boy is caught cheating.  Even if he’s friends with the girlfriend, your homeboy will be loyal to the guy.  Why…because the fraternity of men is stronger than the sorority of women.  We need to change this.  If they wanna live by the “bros before hoes” creed, then we need to take up the “chicks before…” well, you get the point.

Concern #2: Stop antagonizing our single sisters. This sort of builds on concern #1.  Being single is a choice and not a disease or disorder to be treated, so we need to stop treating our single sisters as if there’s something wrong with them.  After all, everyone was born single.  Some may want marriage; others may not, but it is their choice, not their burden.  Additionally, married (and coupled) sisters should stop treating single sisters as if they are all desperate, immoral pariahs; in other words, stop treating every single woman as if she is checking for your man.

Let’s keep it real, half the time you’re not even checking for him, so what makes you think that someone else is?  Although there are always women who prey on taken men and vice versa, everyone isn’t like that, and it causes a strong division amongst women when single women are isolated and unfairly branded with the scarlet letter.  Let’s get it together, ladies.

Man Eater (1)

Concern #3: Respect other people’s relationships/situations. This is gonna sound like I’m backtracking from my last point, but I believe in addressing both sides of any situation.  While I do hold that single women get a largely unfair share of criticism from married/coupled women who believe that they are trying to steal their men, I also believe that many women aren’t respectful of other women’s relationships.  This goes for single, married, and coupled women–all of us can share in this disrespect.  For example, I often hear women say, “Don’t get mad at me; I’m not in a relationship with you. Get mad at your man.”  This is stupid, and we need to stop.

Yes, the person who’s in the relationship has the greatest responsibility, but that doesn’t absolve the other person.  Truth is, that other person was interfering and disrespecting their relationship.  Period.  We can argue back and forth about this, but the truth is that every woman reading this would see it my way if they were the one being disrespected.  To see it differently is to be selfish and disrespectful.  It doesn’t uplift women, and it encourages cheating.

The truth is that we have been bamboozled and fed lies by some self-serving and selfish man.  This man perpetuated a lie that there was a man shortage and subliminally encouraged us to “share.”  When the truth is that there are six billion people in the world, and slightly less than half of them are men.  There are men everywhere waiting on the woman of their dreams, and we pass by them every day.  The man shortage is a scam designed to benefit men who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be a playa.  It’s ridiculous, and we shouldn’t buy into it because it is harmful to our community of women.

Quite frankly, there are many more concerns that I have, but I only have the platform so long, so I’ll take this moment to pass the mic to the next sister.  Please address these concerns, and also add any additional concerns of your own in the comment section.  Thank you and have a great day.

Much Love,

Jenene

The De-Feminization of the Black Woman

YUV Contributor Jenene
YUV Contributor Jenene

 

Within the past week I’ve seen CNN report on two separate instances where a male law enforcement officer has been caught on video beating a Black woman. I’m not talking about a light slapping or shoving, even though that would also be inappropriate; I’m talking about a man wrestling, punching, and manhandling a woman in something similar to an MMA or UFC cage fight. The words “difficult” and “horrifying” don’t even begin to describe how tough it was nor the emotions that I felt watching both videos. It was shocking to say the least.

What was more shocking, however, was, both, the justification given for this violence and the seeming lack of outrage over these incidents. Ironically, both incidents involved pedestrian jaywalking. Pause, and let that marinate in your mind for a moment. Yes, I said jaywalking, not murder, drugs, or any act of violence or terrorism, but jaywalking is the crime that prompted such a violent response from the White male law enforcement officers. I make a distinction, here, because I believe that it is relevant. In both cases, the law enforcement officer held a distinct size advantage over the woman, besides the fact that the officers were male and both citizens were females.

In both cases, the person introducing the news story warned viewers of the horrific nature of the videos before airing them. It is immediately clear from the videos that both cases involved the use of excessive force, yet the anchors and the organizations responsible for the officers both maintained a falsely objective stance when discussing the actions of the officer(s). They even seemed to side with the officers in speaking of each case in its totality, thus prompting my use of the term “falsely objective.”

In the first case, which involved a doctoral-level university professor who was jaywalking as she walked home from the university after teaching her evening class, the university stood behind the officer, even going as far as to issue a statement on the officer’s behalf. Both the officer and the professor were both employees of the university, but no such support was given to the university professor even though a video clip of the officer literally slamming the 5’2″ woman into the ground was visible proof of his aggression.

The second incident, occurring on a California highway, was so similar to the first that it looked like a copycat case. Again, a Black woman was accused of jaywalking and approached by an officer. Again, the officer slammed the woman into the ground without being physically provoked. This time, however, the officer went a step further, punching the woman in the face and also repeatedly slamming her head onto the concrete. Again, the organization in charge of the officer issues a statement in support of the officer in the face of visible evidence that suggests otherwise.

This doesn’t end the similarities between both cases. Additionally, both cases failed to even address the severity with which the officers defended a somewhat minor traffic violation. Now, I want to be clear; I do believe in following the law. In fact, I’m often teased by those who know me because I am a staunch rule-follower and am often annoyed when people don’t follow the rules. I do, however, believe that the punishment for violating said rules should fit the crime, and in both cases, such was not the case. Getting caught jaywalking by an officer should never result in getting the living day lights beaten out of you. There’s no justification for that, especially if there was no violence to or endangerment of the officer during the initial confrontation.

In the interest of objective journalism, I will also share that the university professor did kick the officer that punched her and slammed her on the ground AFTER she was restrained and placed in handcuffs, which was also after he had repeatedly beaten her. There was, however, NO VIOLENCE from her (nor the other woman in the second incident) BEFORE being physically assaulted by the officer. This prompts me to ask the question that no one seems to want to address, the proverbial elephant in the room. Why do these law enforcement officials believe it’s ok to use such brute force on Black women for such minor infractions?

I ask this question out of sincerity and not out of a desire to be a shock jock. I have seen, throughout my life, a huge disparity in the way that Black women are treated in American society, as opposed to other women. I wrote an article earlier about Black beauty and Eurocentric standards where I addressed some of these same concerns. In essence, because Afrocentric features and cultural practices are almost the polar opposite of Eurocentric features and cultural practices, Black women aren’t valued on the same scale as others in American society.

This valuation system pervades every area in society.   For example, in terms of beauty, Black women aren’t celebrated as beautiful to the extent that White women or non-White women who possess European features are because of Eurocentric standards of beauty in America. This belief also affects how the American psyche views Black femininity.

Again, because Black women are seen as the polar opposite of that which is beautiful, that which is European, Black women are often assigned a harder, de-feminized, and pseudo-masculine role in American society. In short, America has created an image of the Black woman that is hard, harsh, and manly, while women that have European descent and/or features are preserved as soft, delicate, and in need of protection.

This is not to say that women should be seen as weak and defenseless. It is, however, a statement about the injustice and discrimination that Black women must face within a society that has characterized Black women as less than women, as brute and evil monsters who deserved to be attacked for even the smallest indiscretions. In watching these news programs, I had to ask myself, “Would the response from the officer had been the same if the citizen would have been a White woman?” Sadly, my answer was a firm and honest, “No.” Why…because the American psyche sees White women as soft and delicate, as a prize needing to be treasured and protected. This is not to say that White women don’t experience discrimination, but it is not the kind of discrimination that would result in over-aggressively violent responses by an officer for jaywalking.

Black women in America, however, are not seen in this delicate light. Black women in the collective American conscience are seen as slightly (if at all) above animals. If you think that I’m spouting conspiracy theories, look at how the media characterizes First Lady Michelle Obama. Even though she has been tapped as a fashion icon, the media repeatedly attempts to paint her as an angry, almost animalistic figure. She is almost never characterized as soft and feminine even though she is the first First Lady since Jackie O, decades earlier, to be painted as a notable fashion icon. Why…because that does not fit into the role played by Black women in the American narrative. It is this same narrative that allows Black women to be beaten, unjustly and unmercifully, without the collective outcry of her fellow countrymen. Why…because she is not viewed as a woman and thus not afforded the same sympathy and protection of her counterparts.

It is truly sad that near the time when America celebrates its independence, it still holds some of its earliest inhabitants captive. I guess American society is less like utopia and more like Animal Farm.   All Americans are free, but some are more free than others.

Jenene

My Hypocritical & Totally Unsolicited Marriage Advice to my Single Friends

For a little less than a week now, I have been a married woman. I met the love of my life and married him in front of all of our family and friends. To be honest, I still haven’t truly come down from all of the events: bridal shower, bachelorette party, wedding, and reception. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this piece on our honeymoon, while my husband sleeps; it’s really been a wild ride. Between all of the pictures, presents, and posts on social media, one could get a little caught up and forget about reality. What do I mean by being caught up? Please allow me to explain. I’ve found that a lot of people turn into relationship experts on being single once they become married. The woman who has only been married for five seconds suddenly has the key to being “single and satisfied” (ugh I hate that phrase), and is full of unsolicited advice for all of her single girlfriends on how to land a great husband. Well, at the risk of being hypocritical, I’m going to attempt the same feat and offer every single person my unsolicited advice on marriage, and here it is. WAIT.

Yep, two days into my honeymoon, fresh off my wedding week, I am giving that type of advice, and here’s why. When people first meet someone, the representatives are in full effect and few people are being their true selves. In short, you’re not meeting the real person; you’re meeting who that person wants to present to the public. This isn’t new information. If you’ve been dating for any period of time, then you’ve figured this out already.

Having a “representative” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People do it all the time, even outside of the dating scene. For example, if you’re on the phone with your girls (or boys) talking about your plans for your getaway to New Orleans, then the conversation would be very relaxed and informal. If, however, your boss (or a prospective employer) called on the other line and you clicked over to take the call, the conversation, even your tone of voice, would change to a more formal and professional manner. We’ve all seen mothers do this while fussing at one of the kids, only to change to a calm tone while answering a business call. It’s called code switching, and it’s perfectly normal.

The only problem with code switching as it relates to dating is that often, we fall in love with the representative and not the real person. We start buying the cover or the “code” and are completely blindsided once the real person is revealed. We start hollering, “Oh you’ve changed,” when the truth is that they just couldn’t keep up the facade any longer.

And don’t get me wrong; I’m not dogging people and discouraging relationships. (Hello, I just got married!) What I’m saying is that everyone should wait before committing their emotions to a person and a relationship. Why? Because in the words of my daddy, Apostle MJ Carter, “You gotta give crazy a chance to show up.” Everyone. And I repeat EVERYONE has a bit of crazy. Everyone has some things that aren’t all the way straight. Everyone has a bit of game, and everyone (to a certain extent) is selfish.

The thing is that most people aren’t gonna show that up front. They’re gonna give you the lovable representative that’s easy to fall for, so that you end up committing all of your time and energy to the relationship. Then, 3-9 months later, after you’ve put in a serious investment of your time, emotions, money, and so much more, then they’ll hit you with the real. Something will happen that will literally knock the wind out of you (and not in a good way). But because you will have invested so much into this relationship, it’ll be hard to walk away. Additionally, you may even believe that this behavior is just a fluke, just a one time occurrence because, after all, you’ve never seen this type of behavior from this person, so it must just be a fluke. But you’re wrong. It’s not a fluke. It’s the beginning signs of the representative exiting the building. Like my dad said, “You gotta give crazy a chance to show up.”

What does this quote mean? It means people aren’t gonna come straight out with the crazy, and everybody has it. Instead, they’ll put on their best manners, and be on their best behavior. The good part of this is that people aren’t able to keep up this facade forever. Eventually glimmers of the true person will show up before the full on truth comes out. This is why waiting is so important. You have to wait long enough to see what type of crazy that you’re getting (because believe me that EVERYBODY has it). After you’ve seen exactly what you’re getting, then you can make an informed decision.

The problem with most people is that they make the decision to commit to a person and fall in love BEFORE the crazy is revealed. Then once the final shoe drops, they’re too invested in the relationship to walk away even if the crazy is something that they hate. That’s why waiting is important.

I don’t say this as some recently married woman who has now become the oracle on dating and single life. I say this as a serial monogamist who frequently committed way too early in relationships, only to find myself romantically attached to a monster. If I were to chronicle the drama and the war wounds that I’ve collected because of my behaviors, it would be a best seller. (In fact, one day I might lol!) The truth is that I am writing this out of a moment of self-reflection. People tried to give me this same advice earlier in life, and I didn’t listen. Because of it, I had to endure much more than I should have.

Now, in my moment of reflection in my time of peace and happiness, I am looking back on my past and hoping someone will be smarter than I was and heed my advice. Wait. If you need any further proof, remember this. No one ever complains about taking too long to marry someone; the opposite can’t be said.

Much Love,

Jenene

In Defense of Fatherhood

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Last week, actor Terry Crews caused a stir on The View with his statements (made online and also during the show) about fatherhood.  His basic point was that every child needs a father because there are certain things that only a father can provide; he went on to describe, in detail, what he meant by that and what specific things that fathers provide.  Additionally, on the show he made an interesting quote, “In this day and age, people care more about organic food than they do organic families.”  While watching the show, I reflected on this quote, realizing that people will argue someone down in defense of their gluten-free and/or organic diets, but often fail to see the value of fathers within the household.

As I reflected on the response that Crews received, both on the internet and also on the show, I was confronted with the reality that in American society, and more specifically in the African-American community, everything seems to be geared towards the mother. There are examples of this everywhere in American society.

Except in extreme cases (a la the recent Halle Berry court case/decision) courts tend to favor the mothers in custody hearings. Also, Mother’s Day is generally more widely celebrated than Father’s Day.  The disparity in the celebration of mothers versus that of fathers is quite possibly most often witnessed with athletes, actors, and other performers in giving their acceptance speeches when receiving specific awards or honors.

One of the most recent examples of this is the now viral MVP acceptance speech by Kevin Durant, where he pays homage to his mother with a long and passionate narrative, ending with the now equally famous quote, “You’re the real MVP.”  Durant does mention his father, but neither with the same length nor emotion that he mentions his mother. This may be because of the relationship with his father coupled by the impact, or lack thereof, that his father had in his life. Such may also be the case for most people who show huge disparities in how they praise their mothers versus their fathers. That is easily understandable.

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The damaging part of this super mom narrative (which was not created by Durant nor by other entertainers but by the American media), however, is that it has painted a picture in the American psyche, and more specifically within the African American community, whereby fathers are valued on a much lower level, if at all. In short, the role of a mother is valued at the expense of valuing that of a father. It is for this specific reason that Terry Crew’s comments about fatherhood can cause such a huge uproar, whereas Kevin Durant’s speech earns him greater respect and praise.

Don’t get me wrong, it is quite understandable for anyone, including KD, to give more praise to the parent who spent the most time and exhibited the greater amount of influence. I do wonder, however, if his speech would have been received as well or praised to the extent that it was had the roles of the parents switched, with him heaping the praise largely on his father and only a mere honorable mention for his mother. I wonder, in America and (more specifically) within the African American community, are we more programmed to accept and respect the narrative of the absentee or less involved father and the super mom?

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The story of Russell Wilson also helps add to my suspicions.  With Russell Wilson, the most recent NFL Superbowl championship quarterback, his story, and countless interviews show him paying the most homage to his father in helping him to become the man that he is today, even though he was raised in a two-parent home.  In researching Wilson, I found that his father did exercise considerable influence (positively) over Russell, as well as the rest of his siblings.

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His mother, however, was also an active parent but isn’t mentioned nearly as much as his father in interviews.  In short, Wilson honors his father in the same manner that Durant honors his mother.  The interesting part of this is that even though Wilson is a superstar athlete who has reached a level that most athletes (or anyone for that matter) will never accomplish, the story of his father (who is now deceased) has never received anywhere near the acclaim as that of Kevin Durant’s mother, even though Wilson is a championship quarterback, while Durant has yet to receive a championship ring.  Clearly the issue is not about the success of Durant over that of Wilson.

One must then ask the question of why Durant’s message and story is so compelling with the American public, and that of the African American community, compared with that of Wilson’s.  Have we truly bought into the narrative of the absentee father and that of the supermom to the extent that we are unwilling to even notice or esteem additional stories that don’t exist within that narrative?  In short, is it impossible for us to accept stories that include fathers into the scenario because we’ve been programmed not to see that as an alternative?

The Importance Of The Nice-Nasty

The lesson for this week is brought to us by the actress, Tichina Arnold. You may remember her from the very popular 90s sitcom, Martin, as the feisty, yet funny, Pam. In recent times, you may remember her as the mother on the sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, starring actor Terry Crews and produced by comedian, Chris Rock. At any rate, this week Arnold delivers a powerful message, what I have titled as, “The Importance of the Nice-Nasty.”

To understand why the nice-nasty is important, one must first know exactly how to define the nice-nasty. The nice-nasty, quite simply, is a way of responding to a negative situation, more specifically, a comment, which is equal parts nice and nasty. So you might be reading this and wondering why someone would even want to respond in this way. Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s why. In life, people can be rude. Really rude. How many times have you had a co-worker or even a family member throw a casual verbal jab at you? In these moments, the person being jabbed is usually upset and wants to respond with a jab of his/her own. The problem is, if the person responds in kind, then the situation can be flipped to make the responder look like the initial aggressor.

As always, I have an example to illustrate this. I remember being in a staff meeting a few years ago with my co workers. On this particular team I was the youngest person, so I frequently got all of the baby comments and treated as such, as well. The person on our team who was most senior was always making these snarky comments towards me because she had been in education for the span of my entire life, and she took every opportunity to remind me of that. As I saw it, I only really had two advantages: One, even though she had worked for many more years than I had, she and I were hired for the same position as peers, which made us equals. Two, I had a graduate degree, and she had only completed undergrad, which is somewhat important in the field of Education. Additionally, I had experiences outside of the field of Education.

In this particular meeting, she and I disagreed on how to proceed with our project. In voicing her disagreement, she became so frustrated with me that she literally began yelling and cursing at me in front of the entire staff. I was livid to say the least. First, I was tired of her always picking on me because of my age. Secondly, I was angry that she was allowed to make such disrespectful and unprofessional comments without someone saying anything. I realized that I had had enough, so I decided to verbally confront her in the moment. Although I refrained from cursing, I did raise my voice. I felt that I had earned it based on how she acted, not only in this meeting but throughout the course of our experience working together. But she, a seasoned professional and an expert manipulator, pulled the ultimate bait and switch. She immediately began crying on cue and whimpered a glorious speech about how her entire heart was in her work and only wanted to do what was best for the team without the fear of being attacked for her passion. And even more to my surprise, it worked. She won the sympathy vote from the office, and I now appeared as the aggressor.

That incident was a defining moment for me because I learned that although I was right in my beliefs, I needed to improve my approach. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have responded by raising my voice; instead, I would have given her the greatest nice-nasty ever and proceeded with my day, winning. But I didn’t know. And my lack of knowledge and experience cost me. This is why the nice-nasty is important. It allows the person who uses it to address the situation at hand, while negating the other person’s power to play the victim card. As such, a person who uses the nice-nasty effectively is able to avoid looking angry or flustered, both of which are characteristics that would signal aggression to any audience members at the time of the incident(s).

If you are reading this, you may not understand how Tichina Arnold plays a role in this week’s lesson. Well, here’s how. A couple of weeks ago, the rapper known as French Montana posted this picture about Arnold to his Instagram account.

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The instagram post that ignited the controversy

Like the aforementioned comments, those made by Mr. Montana were rude. Very rude. And for making such a comment, it would be quite normal for most people to respond in like manner, maybe to post an unflattering picture of Montana and throw additional verbal jabs. Mrs. Arnold, however, did no such thing. Instead, she hit him with quite possibly the best version of the nice-nasty since Claire Huxtable debuted it on the Cosby show. If you haven’t read her response, please see the following link: http://thegrio.com/2014/06/09/tichina-arnold-destroys-french-montana-in-instagram-caption/.

Let’s break down the elements of Mrs. Arnold’s response, and in doing so, the way to administer an effective version of the nice-nasty will become increasingly clear. In her response to Montana, Mrs. Arnold is nice in that she phrases her words as if she is genuinely concerned for Mr. Montana. She doesn’t post an unflattering or demeaning pic of him or anything of that sort. In fact, she doesn’t even outright insult him even though he clearly did that to her. Instead, she asks him what he does for a living and offers to help him advance in his career, citing her 30 plus years of experience as proof of both her longevity and credibility. In the same breath, however, she hits him with the nasty by pretending as if she doesn’t know what he does for a living. In truth, although she knows that French is a rapper, she also knows that he’s not really famous (a pseudo-celebrity) and is lacking in longevity and overall relvancy, two areas where she holds a clear advantage. Because she has created a name for herself, she uses those two things to hit him hard, all the while appearing to be just writing her post out of concern for him. There’s a snarky undertone to her entire post, but she doesn’t outright insult him so she can’t be labeled as aggressive or inappropriate. In the end, she delivers the ultimate death blow by suggesting that he join her team and possibly contribute to her charity work! Ouch! It was brutal, but it was packaged so neatly that she couldn’t be accused of being messy. Now that’s how you deliver a quality nice-nasty!

As I stated earlier, delivering the nice-nasty is a necessary tool for advancement. In climbing the ladder to success, someone is going to say (and possibly continue to say) inappropriate and rude comments to you. But you can’t respond with the same energy, or you will pay dire consequences and possibly be labeled as aggressive and rude, even in rightfully defending yourself. The opposite of this, just ignoring it and being a doormat, is an unattractive situation, as well. As such, in order to respond in a way that let’s the other person/people know that you’re not a doormat while not coming off as aggressive or defensive, you must perfect the art of the nice-nasty. When done right, it will make even the rudest person humble him/herself. Don’t believe me? Just ask French Montana.

Much Love,
Jenene