Friday, September 12, 2014

#WhySheStayed

She was a strong black woman who worked hard to support her family and herself. She always put others first, even when it meant neglecting her own needs. She had two children- a son who thought she was the coolest mommy ever, and a daughter who thought she was Super Woman. Her children adored her.

And then there was him. He was a has-been, jobless moocher. He didn't deserve her, but he was really good with apologies, had an s-curl and used to get all the ladies back in the day when he was in a singing group, you know, before he ended up in rehab.
Her parents hated him. Even his friends told her that he was no good. He was worthless, but still managed to find women on the side who would give him the time of day, although she was giving him the world.

He lived with her and her two children in their small, two bedroom apartment. It wasn't much, but it was enough for her and her kids to call home. He was smooth, so he'd earned the affection of her children...taking her son to WWE wresting matches and teaching her daughter singing techniques because she aspired to one day be a singer. The children loved him so much, they even sometimes called him "daddy". He was the most consistent man they'd seen their mother with in a while and their actual fathers hardly ever came around- they needed a father figure and they felt safe with him.

Until it started...
...the yelling...
...the fussing...
...the cussing...

Mommy would cry sometimes and they didn't know why. Mommy would disappear for hours sometimes and they didn't know why. Mommy would take them on "secret missions" and "field trips" and they would spend the night in hotels sometimes, instead of staying at home, but they didn't know why.

One night, her daughter woke up out of her sleep from the yelling and crying she heard outside of her door. She crept out to the kitchen to see her mother pinned up against the wall in a choke hold, crying and asking him to stop. He told her that he'd kill her and that she'd never find anyone else to love her. The daughter, no longer able to watch, yelled "Stop it! Leave my mommy alone! Why are you doing this?!" He turned around and told the little girl to go back to her room, assuring her that she hadn't seen anything. But the little girl just couldn't believe that. All of the things she wondered about before, she now knew the answer to. She knew why mommy cried. She knew why mommy disappeared for hours. She knew why mommy would take them to stay in a hotel in the neighboring city on random nights... she knew. What she didn't know, was why mommy stayed.

Why did she stay???
She stayed because he was "daddy".
She stayed because he'd broken her down from the strong, black woman she always knew herself to be, to an abused and batter statistic.
She stayed because he wouldn't leave.
She stayed because she couldn't go home...going home would mean that she'd failed and that he parents were right.

That lasted for a year. After that year, my mother sent my brother and I away for the summer and when we returned for school, we no longer lived with her in our cozy little two bedroom apartment on Palmetto Court. We were living with my grandparents and my mother had moved to another city to start over and once she got back on her feet, she would come for us. She couldn't stay where she was and she didn't want to put us through an experience like that ever again. I didn't understand then, but I do now... I understand why you stayed and I understand why you left. And to me, mommy, you are still Super Woman.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Still a Gem

Three days. I had three days to take in the great city of Cleveland. And let me tell you- it was a lot to take in. Before arriving in Cleveland, I had no idea what to expect. I had no expectations, only the hopes that I would get to meet new people, eat yummy food and try new things. When I arrived in Cleveland and checked into my hotel, the woman at the front desk asked me where I was from. I told her I was visiting from Kentucky, and she paused, looked at me and grinned. It was the kind of grin that said, "Welcome to my city" and also, "I hope you're ready to have a good time". That was comforting, because again, I had no idea what to expect of this city. About an hour after I checked in, I met up with Ryan, a local Cleveland blogger who would be the Clyde to my Bonnie all weekend. Ryan and I had been paired up by Positively Cleveland, who asked us to support them with their outreach to the LGBTQ community. Fun, right? Right! Shortly after meeting up, Ryan and I were on our way to dinner when Beyonce came on the radio, and an impromptu mini-concert ensued. I'm pretty sure that moment set precedence for the entire weekend. I mean, doesn't every great weekend start off that way?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#ForThoseWhoHaveBeenGunnedDown

If you watch the news or troll social media at all, I'm sure you've seen multiple postings, link shares, pictures, and status updates regarding the recent shooting and killing of black people in America. The most recent trend that has really caught my attention, is the "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown" posts. These posts showcase two or more photos of young black people, asking which photo would the media use if they were gunned down, hence the hashtag. In comparing the pictures, it is interesting to see the difference a simple change of clothes and posing can make in perception. Most of the postings showcased a less formal  picture, in which the poster is wearing casual/street clothes, and the other is a more formal picture in which the poster is wearing a graduation gown, suit, dress or uniform of some sort. I suppose the latter is supposed to showcase a more "respectable" side- the side that we often feel is not publicized enough by the media. But the more I looked at the postings, the more concerned I became. I found myself concerned because the more I saw the pictures, the more I came to realize that the issue of the portrayal of black people in the news is not about the clothes we wear or the pose we choose; it's about the skin we inherit and the associations and societal implications that come with it.

(left) "Wiz Khalifa"- Halloween 2013, (right) Miss Kentucky, Miss America 2011

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Do You Say to the Girl Who's Not Pretty?

"The photos are nice, I just think they made you look so masculine... You're just so pretty. I wish they would've captured that."
Photographer: Steve Squall, Stylist: Megan Wilde, Set Design: Gunnar Deathrage, Make Up: Isidro Valencia

The afore mentioned comment was made in reference to my photos in STORY Magazine. As the comment was made, everything in me wanted to roll my eyes, puff my chest out and give a piece of my curiously progressive mind. Instead, I took a moment to pause and think...deep breath in and out...and I responded, "The photos are exactly what I wanted."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Secret Recipe for Time

Time. We all want more of it right? We try to fit as much as we can into every hour, minute, and second of the day, and it seems that no matter how much squeezing we do, there is always more to be done.

Lately, I've had quite a few people ask me, "How do you do it?" And interestingly enough, I find myself wondering the same thing. So, I figured I'd write out some thing to share! Here we go!



Thursday, July 17, 2014

East End Barbershop Talk

Last week, I went to the barbershop for a haircut, for the first time. I walked in and was greeted by two barbers sitting in the front of the shop, talking and looking out the storefront window, people watching perhaps. Mr. James was the barber I was there to see. I'd attempted to cut my own hair earlier in the week and while I did an okay job, I definitely needed a professional touch to clean it up. Mr. James took me to his chair in the back of the shop and got me all prepped for the cut/clean up that was about to happen. He was great. I showed him pictures of what I was going for and we discussed it a bit. I felt comfortable and I trusted him and his clippers.

Well, if you've ever been to a (black) barbershop, you know there is always a conversation going. These conversations can be about anything, from Beyonce vs. Kelly Rowland to immigration reform. I didn't expect much "barbershop talk" considering it was only me and Mr. James- I was the last client of the day.  I figured we would have the general "Where are you from? What do you do?" type of talk...nothing really substantial enough to carry out a full blown conversation, but at least enough to break an awkward silence and show interest in someone other than yourself and whatever form of social media you may be scrolling through on your phone. The conversation started out that way, with the typical questions and answers, but it did not take long to escalate into something beyond the usual small talk..

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream

When I was a little girl, going to McDonald's for a happy meal was one of my favorite things. Getting a happy meal was a big deal! It was a meal, especially prepared for me, with a prize/toy inside and happiness included? Oh Mr. Ronald McDonald, you have really outdone yourself sir. How could he have been so genius as to put a smile in a box, in the form of a cheeseburger, french fries, orange hi-c, and miniature figurine or beanie baby (do y'all remember how crazy people got about those?)??? GENIUS, I TELL YOU! GENIUS! At least to me, at the time, it was. Going to McDonald's to get a happy meal was something that I always looked forward to, however, I did not always get the experience I'd hoped for. The experience I hoped for was what I saw advertised, which generally included a smiling, happy-go-lucky McDonald's employee who was glad to put the "happy"  in my happy meal. But often times what I actually got was no eye contact, no smiles, no "happy"...just a meal. This did not sit well with me, at all. I didn't even care about the food. My greatest concern was that the happy people that I saw in the commercials were not the happy people that I met in the drive-thru. I felt cheated...so...I decided to do something about. One day, I told my mom, "When I grow up, I am going to work at McDonald's, just so I can smile at every customer that comes through the drive-thru." I don't remember my mom's response, but I'm sure she was praying, "Dear Lord, please let her grow out of that." Well...I didn't. I didn't grow out of it. As a matter of fact, as soon as I was old enough to work, my first job was at McDonald's on Veteran's Parkway in Columbus, Ga. I was excited to have a job and proud to be working at McDonald's. It was time to make my dream come true!