Comment Response to Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man

I previously stated that I wouldn't be posting here anymore. I've concentrated all my blogging efforts on my new blog, But there's been a new comment added to my review of Steve Harvey's book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, that I want to address. I knew I'd have alot to say in response so I might as well write a full post about it.

Anonymous said,

BWAAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Love the review and the comments. I can't even count on my fingers and toes the number of clueless black women who bought into this nonsense. What kind of MAN refers to a woman's sexuality as her cookie? What kind idiot tells her to wait 90 days as if that's some magic formula that's going to make a man stay with you. All that guarantees is that YOU will be without sex for 90 days. It guarantees NOTHING on the part of the man. Instead of telling women "beware of all the dogs", "change yourself so you might be lucky to tame the dog", why not write a book to tell all the dogs to GROW THE F*CK UP!!! It is only in the black community where the women blame and tame themselves. That's why it will go down the toilet where it's headed now.

First of all, thank you for your sarcastic compliment of my review. I knew you meant it to be funny, but I take it as praise instead.

Clueless black women bought into the nonsense
So we're called clueless because we find value in what Steve wrote. Honestly, Anon, there's not much pop culture advice for black women to reasonably follow. Clearly, from the number of out-of-wedlock births, black women need sound, practical advice on how to conduct themselves in relationships. And I'm not just blaming black women here - the semen that impregnated them didn't just fall from the heavens like manna. So yeah, maybe we are clueless for listening to Steve.

Whats more likely is that we find value in what he's written because it makes sense. There really isn't much to Steve's book that we haven't heard from our grandmothers, mothers and aunts, but that we no longer listen to. We've discarded the old-fashioned advice on how to date as outdated and impractical. But how is our present way of doing things working out? I disagree with you on the premise that he's advocating women to change in order to tame the dogs out there. He's advocating change because the way we've been conducting relationships is not working. Black women know this - and thats why we've 'clulessly' embraced his book. Those of us who've analyzed our success rate and want to improve our chances are looking for ways of doing so, and find that Steven's methods are conducive to our goals. Furthermore, we are not men and don't know how men think. So for a man to step out and say 'hey, ladies, this is how we think' and then put forth advice that gives us a measure of protection in the dating realm, well, I just don't see how its clueless for us to listen. I'm not a man, I admit that I can guess how men think, but the only people who I generally get advice about men from is other women. And yeah, they don't necessarily think like men either.

Woman's sexuality is a cookie
Perhaps Steve referred to the vagina as a cookie, because he doesn't have one and is refraining from calling it something vulgar, like a coochie, poonannie or p*ssy. Or, perhaps, he views the vagina like a dieter would view a sugary treat - he knows he must put in work on the treadmill in order to receive one. He feels that its something to look forward to, not to be consumed freely whenever he gets the urge, that he's not entitled to all the time. Or maybe he's just trying to be cute.

90 Days Is The Magic Formula
This number isn't given to ensure that the guy will stay. Steve never says that in the book and I frankly don't know why critics of this book keep harping on that. I'm not even sure where that assumption comes from. And if a woman goes without sex for 90 days, I guarantee that the world will not end. Don't run outside to check that the sky is falling on that one. I mean, she could even do something constructive with that energy, like go to the gym, set and pursue goals for herself, redecorate her apartment or read a book.

What he was getting at in the first place is that dating is no guarantee of any future action from a man. He gives the 90-day guideline as a chance for a woman to evaluate a man's intent and judge for herself whether he's worthy to receive entrance to her body and emotions. Men have an emotional separation from sex that women don't have - no matter how we rationalize it away. The vast majority of women are just not wired like that. Once a woman becomes intimate with a man, a part of her is emotionally and irrationally invested in how that man treats her. She begins to act with her feelings and cookie and not with her head. So instead of jumping into bed with someone we think is attractive, hey, why not get to know him first and allow the first-impression facade to drop before our panties do?

Yeah, I can see why you'd be opposed to that.

I admit that I don't live in the best neighborhood. And in my 'hood, there are 3 McDonalds restaurants (I shudder to call McDonalds a restaurant) less than a 5-minute drive from my house. But instead of eating there, I'll dress less casually than normal, spend gas and effort driving across town to a much-fancier eating establishment, and pay twice or three times as much for a burger, french fries and soda. In fact, sometimes I'll wait upwards of 20 minutes before I can even get a table. Doesn't this just boggle your mind? I mean, those McDonalds restaurants are right there. I don't have to wait and I have easy access to those burgers....

You see where I'm going with that.

Beware of all the dogs
We've gotten enough advice of how to beware of dogs. But we still don't know how to make a relationship work. And who better to tell us what doesn't work, than a man who hasn't been successful either. Who, in fact, admits to having been a dog. In fact, he describes how to evaluate whether a man is a dog or not and outlines questions to ask to cut through the crap and protect your feelings from being abused.

He writes that giving it up sooner than 3 months doesn't work; that not having criteria for this man to meet before getting to know us doesn't work; and that not having expectations for how we are to be treated doesn't work. I'd rather someone tell me how something works instead of telling me to avoid the broken model. Steve could write a book to tell dogs to grow up - but how many would read it? Would you pay $24.99 for someone to tell you to stop doing something you find value in? Dogs behave the way they do because they find women receptive to their behavior. So if we stopped being receptive, then they wouldn't have anyone to dog. Makes sense to eliminate the source of their mistreatment instead of telling them to stop mistreating women. Hell, they already know they shouldn't do it, but treat women poorly because we allow it.

Only in the black community....
Now I think you're 110% correct on this point. This is the only place where women are blamed for our (the black community 'our', not black women) sorry state of affairs. This is the only community where men are not openly called on the carpet for being lazy, shiftless, and menaces to society. I've complained before about the ways in which thug behavior is applauded in the black community, along with countless other black women. So I agree with you that something's wrong with that picture.

I could dwell on what was written in this book as black women being admonished and blamed. Or, I could see it as a roadmap of how to conduct any future attempts at a relationship and add those tools to my dating repetoire. Frankly, I don't need someone to soothe my ego and tell me that its not my fault. I need a game plan on how to be successful. I need advice on how to find the type of man I'm looking for. I think this is what Steve Harvey wrote, and I'd rather have something I can utilize than empty words that make me feel better.

50 Black SheRoes and Why We Love Them

Black History Month was originally instituted as “Negro History Week” in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson. By the time I entered high school in 1994, Black History Month became a time to recite the same often regurgitated facts about Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X and a small number of other black history makers. I’m not even sure if kids today include all of these days in their black history month facts.

We have such a rich history as a people. I decided to highlight 50 black women whose contributions to black history and history overall are substantial and various. We love them because of their examples of perserverance, innovation, sacrifice and ultimately success. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed putting this list together.

50 Black SheRoes and Why We Love Them

Part 1: Political and Activist SheRoes

Shirley Chisholm – In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress; in 1972 she became the first major-party black candidate for President and first woman to run for the Democratic nomination.

(the rest of the list is at Motivated Sista...)

A Change In Perspective

Hello ladies and gents, I know its been a while since I posted here. I wanted to let you all know what I've been up to. The purpose of this blog is to discuss issues relevant to the self-esteem and beauty standards of black women and girls. This blog is also linked to my online t-shirt business, Black Girl Tees. Because I'd framed the subject of my blog this way, there are topics that I'd like to discuss with you that are outside of the scope of my blog.

What I decided was to start a new blog, At that blog I'll be discussing ways we as black women can stay motivated to reach our goals. I hope that you join me over at my new blog and continue the discussions we've been having here. You'll see that some of my favorite posts have been moved to that blog, and that I've begin to write new ones as well.

I've loved the interactions we've had here over the last year, but now its time to move on to something else. I really appreciate you reading and commenting on my posts and look forward to more interaction with you in the future.

Until then...

How much is a girl worth?

I was happily chatting on Google Talk today, when In love with a stripper: When Corporations Target Young Girls came into my inbox. How in the holy hell did someone think this was a good idea? Like, seriously, WTF peoples?

The author of this article highlights how corporations are profiting from the susceptibility of children, naming Disney as an obvious example. The question remains, though: when does censorship end and accountability for these corporations begin? It might be enough for a conscientious parent to ensure that their child does not play with a toy like this, or like this… but why are toys like this being made in the first place? In my mind, its just as easy for a research and development team to create a toy that emulates a newscaster, model or other glamorized occupation for girls. But a stripper? For real? With a pole? What is capitalism coming to?

At some point, it would be good if toy companies, distributors and retailers would draw the line between what is acceptable or not. I’m not looking down on strippers per se, but on the corporate mentality that sex sells, even to impressionable young children. Sex does sell, I’m not denying that, and honestly someone is going to find a way to exploit that fact. But when does the innocence and importance of children take precedence over a unique idea or an emerging niche?

I’m so disgusted y’all, for real.

The author states:

In The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, Dr. Giroux took to task the mega-corporation for its promotion of unsavory ideals to kids. He contended in his wonderful text that kids who watch Disney are raised on a number of values that, often, are detrimental to their emotional well-being. The values being imparted upon them, Giroux wrote, are constructed through a Eurocentric Male Supremacist prism. Thus, young Black girls, whose TV schedule might be entirely devoted to Disney, luck out on all counts.

Young black girls don't have to rely on the Disney channel for the sole source of their corruption, just turn on BET, MTV and VH1 (Flavor of Love, anyone?) and let them form their own, unguided opinions about the value of women, a black woman's image or what society's expectations of women are.

The author further says: Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney co., once revealed in an internal memo: "We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective." I mean, I get that. I can’t fault Eisner. His job was to ensure the profitability and market dominance of his company. At what price, though, should children’s souls be sold? At what cost do young girls learn that their bodies are a commodity and they should aspire to this type of career?

Along with these questions, I’m asking myself how much of the blame should parents receive for products like this hitting the market? Because the ultimate profitability of this type of toy rests with the consumer. Just as sex sells, money talks. If these dolls aren’t purchased then companies get the picture that this is not profitable in the marketplace. But I can just see a girl whining and crying in a toy store that she wants this doll, and her mother caving in and buying it. And thus the consumer wheel keeps on turning.

The bottom line is, if we’re concerned about the well-being of our girls, we as consumers should not allow companies to dictate the acceptability of toys. We hold the purse strings and the success of big business in our hands. Our girls are more important than a doll.

Open Letter to my Single Sista

My Dear Beautiful, Single Sista,

I wanted to write you this letter today because you've been on my mind lately. I've been thinking about you because I, too, am single. So I know what its like to walk a step, a mile, and beyond in your shoes. There are so many messages of discouragement out there for us but today I wanted to send you a message of encouragement.

I'm not going to repeat any of the cliches that people generally deliver to you - you've heard them all. And if we're around the same age then I know, by this point in your life, that you're tired of hearing them all. I also know you've had enough of the well-meaning but misplaced intentions of coworkers, friends and family who don't understand how you feel. They've been paired up for years and don't know what its like to date in the information age. They can't relate to the disappointment and frustration of online dating, of being courted via email and text message, or of attending parties and events in order to 'put yourself out there'. I know that that gets old, and sometimes you feel like there's no longer a point.

I know what it feels like to be lonely. Girlfriend I know that sometimes you just want to stay at home, watch tv on the weekends, and not have to worry about constantly putting your best face forward to the world. And part of this letter is to let you know that someone feels your pain. Because when you look around, sometimes you don't see that. When the sweet old lady at church tells you to keep praying, to hold on and wait for the Lord, yet her man is there, I know what that feels like. When your girlfriend who always has a man - you know the one - tells you to stop sweating it and do you, girl I know what that feels like. And when you think about your dreams of companionship and children, yet don't see how in the world its going to become reality, you should know that I feel that too.

This letter isn't about faith. I'm not going to suggest you pray, work out, go out, asked to be set up, or post any online profiles. This letter is strictly about you.

Now remember I said I totally know where you're coming from, sista. So from this mutual place of singlehood, my encouragement for you today is for you to live the best life you can. Use this time to really love YOU. Not to prepare for a man, not to lose weight for a man, not to get your credit straight for a man - but do whatever you do simply for you.

I think the problem that we face is that we look outside ourselves too much. Instead of focusing on how we feel, on the now that is in front of us, we dwell on past relationship mistakes and hopes for the future. Sometimes we think about the present - but only to notice that the person we are hoping for has not yet arrived. And repeatedly doing that to ourselves is making us miserable.

So sista, I advocate for you to stay home and not force yourself to go out, if you're not feeling it that night. But really treat yourself to a night in. Paint your toes, take a bubble bath with your favorite product, watch your favorite movie (my fave is the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice) or a movie you've been dying to see (and maybe don't want to admit to anyone else that you Really enjoy you. Be the best lover you can to yourself. Ok ok ok... I said I'd stay away from the cliches, but that one is really helpful for us, if we truly understand what it means. If we get so wrapped up in being good to ourselves, thats less time to dwell on being lonely.

And when you do go out, don't focus so much on going places to meet men. Lets start going to those places we've been dying to go to, like a new club or restaurant that we've been eyeing. Lets not wait until someone takes us, lets start taking ourselves. And everything doesn't have to be a girlfriend outing either. Sometimes two single gals together will drive each other up the wall. Like I said, do what you want for that evening. Don't always feel like you have to have a friend or a crew with you. Take yourself to dinner, a movie, a play, or even a club (with safety in mind). Because whether you meet the guy of your dreams or not, it'll be a shame to look back on this time when you're older and wish you wouldn't have wasted it. All we really have is now, so lets start living in it.

I hope this helps sista. Take care and treat yourself better than anyone else can.


Missing or Murdered Sisters

There's an interview over on Black and Missing of Stephanie Jones, founder of M.O.M.S. One passage particularly stuck out in my mind:

10. Why do you think it took the media so long to talk about this? Do you think race or social class plays a role?

I feel that race and social class play a part in this but more social class than race. I say this because if one white person goes missing you hear about it everywhere. There was a murder about a year ago [around the same time of the NC serial killer murders] to two [white] Christian women who participated extensively in their communities. One was shot, and the other killed. The police blocked all the streets off, had press conferences and they quickly caught the guy. I don't have a problem with that and they should have done that, but at the same time when they found the second [serial killer victim’s] body in the same area and both women fitted the same profile why didn't they have a press conference? Why didn't they block those streets off? When the parents first reported the girls missing, the police did not get a search crew, and no police officers walked the streets with the missing girls photos asking if any one seen them. I know this situation is different because it’s a lot of people involved, but the officials could have done more to help the situation. I just want all people to get the same treatment as anyone else. It shouldn’t matter your color, income or where you from.

Last summer, I remember being a little surprised to see missing black women being featured on CNN. We've been saying for a while now that missing black women don't get the same media coverage or attention placed on their return. Kudos to Stephanie Jones for spearheading efforts to make sure our sistas make it back home.

Dare to dream, my sistas

So I'm sitting here eating butter pecan ice cream, beating myself up for all the indulging I've done over the last week, and trying to motivate myself to jump back on the fitness and healthy eating wagon next week. I was brainstorming ideas for a new post... but my mind keeps wandering to Paris.

You see, my ultimate dream is to be my own boss, travel the world and write fantasy novels. If there's one place in the world that I'd live, it'd be Paris. My only time in that city was 4 days during a study abroad trip in 2005. But I've been in love with it ever since.

I'm hard to see, but that's me in the red tank top.I could've made the move happen by now. But me being young and naive, I let the criticism of others overshadow my dream. "You're too old," some said. "How will you earn money? When will you come back?" Others asked me. Having to have all the answers now became very daunting the more and more I talked about my dream. Then there were those 'friends' and acquaintances who poked holes in the answers that I did have, or who were quick to remind me that I was likely to get kidnapped and sold into modern-day slavery by human traffickers. You know, since its so safe in the States and all.

But the love of close family and friends helped me to cultivate that dream again, and join my desire to live in Paris with my desire to be my own boss. And voila, the genesis of those two ideas led me to start Black Girl Tees. The mission of my online store is to help other sistas believe in themselves, see themselves as beautiful and to feel good about what they wore.

The hardest part of starting on the road to a dream is sometimes taking the first step. But after you've taken a few steps, left your starting point behind, what do you do then? I'm kinda at that point.

My affirmation for today is that I vow to take things to the next level, to keep reaching for my dream, and to tune out the voices of the naysayers. What's really ironic to me is that I've received more help, support and words of encouragement for my business and my dream of living in Paris from people who are not black, than from black people! This is not the first time I've experienced this but I'm still shocked and disappointed with every occurrence.

So my sistas, what are your dreams? What do you aspire to? What is that thing that keeps you awake at night with excitement, fear and anxious anticipation? I'd love to hear your stories and encourage you to keep striving. Leave me a comment and let's continue to dream and reach together.

Finally -- a story that doesn't just reiterate 'black women looking for their Barack'

Marriage eludes high-achieving black women
Many remain single and childless, according to new research

Michelle Obama appears to have it all, but marriage and family eludes many highly educated black women.

By Brian Alexander contributor

Michelle Obama may have become an archetypal African-American female success story — law career, strong marriage, happy children — but the reality is often very different for other highly educated black women.

They face a series of challenges in navigating education, career, marriage and child-bearing, dilemmas that often leave them single and childless even when they’d prefer marriage and family, according to a research study recently presented at the American Sociological Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Yale researchers Natalie Nitsche and Hannah Brueckner argued that “marriage chances for highly educated black women have declined over time relative to white women.” Women of both races with postgraduate educations “face particularly hard choices between career and motherhood,” they said, “but especially in the absence of a reliable partner.”

And there’s the rub. As noted in a recent Sexploration column, contrary to old media reports, most educated, professional women who want to marry can and do marry. But the picture is less bright for high-achieving black women because “marriage markets” for them have deteriorated to the point that many remain unmarried, the researchers found. Since these women also feel pressured not to become single mothers, they often go childless as well, the researchers found.

In the study, Nitsche and Brueckner used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of 50,000 households dating back to the 1970s to tease out data points on race, gender, education, marriage and fertility.

Among black women with postgraduate educations born between 1956 and 1960, the median age at which they gave birth for the first time was 34 years old. This was about the same as it was for white women in the same demographic. But once white women reached their 30s, many more of them did give birth, often more than once. Many black women did not. The rate of childlessness among this group of black women rose from 30 percent for those born between 1950 and 1955, to 45 percent for those born between 1956 and 1960.

The rate of childlessness does moderate somewhat in highly educated black women born between 1961 and 1970. In this group, 38 percent have remained childless.

Beyond the personal interests of individual women, the trend is significant because “in terms of American society, this is one additional obstacle” to the broadening of the black middle class, Brueckner said. Fewer highly educated black people having children means that they cannot pass on those advantages and knowledge.”

This defeats the goal of affirmative action, argue some demographers. The idea behind assuring that blacks had access to higher education and graduate school was that after a generation or so, African-Americans would reach a kind of achievement parity after generations of suffering educational and career restriction. But if black women, who comprise 71 percent of black graduate students, according to the census data, do not have children, the rate of achievement reaches a kind of familial dead end.

Another Yale sociologist, Averil Clarke, who has written a soon-to-be-published book called “Love Inequality: Black Women, College Degrees, and the Family We Can’t Have,” sees the impact of this demographic trend in a slightly different, and more romantic, light. It’s not about passing on economic and educational advantages, though these concerns are valid, she said. It’s about love.

“I think this inequality can be construed around outcomes in love,” she said. “We are very caught up right now in [the controversy] over gay marriage. Well, what are we arguing about? Whether people can have these kinds of emotionally satisfying experiences and if not, if that is unequal.” She also believes that these demographic facts, and the reasons for them, constrain the sexuality of some African-American women. She has found that many more are celibate than are white women with similar education levels. “So for me it matters because love matters.”

Declining marriage chances
One big reason why these women remained childless is, as one might expect, that they go unmarried, experts say. Among highly educated women of both races, about 22 percent between the ages of 20 and 45 were single in the 1970s. But then that number diverged. It has remained the same for white women, but now 38 percent of black women have never been married.

“Their marriage chances have declined,” Brueckner explained. “This may sound trivial but one reason is that they outnumber men in this education group.” The disparity in education is important because Americans have a strong tendency to marry those with equal levels of education, a trend that has only grown stronger since World War II. “So since there are fewer men with the same education,” Brueckner continued, “you either have to find another group you can marry or you are out of luck. You have nowhere to go.”

Highly educated black men tend to “outmarry” (marry outside race, religion or ethnicity) at a higher rate than black women, researchers say. Think of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates or Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Both married white women.

Black women are either much more reluctant to marry outside their race, or do not have the opportunity to do so. The answer is both, Clarke said.

In interviews with a large number of black women, she found that community pressures on black women to marry black men can be more intense than the reverse.

“A greater negative reaction falls on them,” Clarke said. “Some women in my sample told stories of African-American men on college campuses getting upset if they dated outside the race. There seems to be a sense of some policing of women’s sexuality. I think women are more controlled by these community and family pressures around who they should date. Men have greater freedom.”

But it may also be true that even highly educated black women who are willing and able to pursue a relationship with a man of another race won’t have the opportunity. A sociological line of inquiry called “exchange theory” suggests that in the piggy bank of goods each of us brings to a possible relationship — money, smarts, sense of humor, looks, family background, education, gender — African heritage is devalued compared with European or Asian heritage. African-American females, even with lots of education, do not fetch as much “value” in the marriage market.

That may be a cold way to look at love, romance, and sex, but studies dating back to the 1980s support it.

Of course if highly educated black women felt free to have children outside of marriage, they could still have a family. When some white women make that choice it is often seen as a kind of liberal empowerment.

But according to Clarke, black women are concerned about looking "ghetto." Public interpretation of our actions matter for everyone, but especially for black women, Clarke explained. “When it comes to the issue of black women and should or should they not make a choice to have a child alone, these women are very much aware that the decision to do it makes people question their class status. We associate single unwed child bearing with poor African-American women.”

Not all women who remain unmarried and childless are unhappy about it. But for a set of sometimes complex social reasons, some high-achieving black women find themselves disappointed. “That this is something being denied to people is important in and of itself,” Clarke said.

Focus on Self vs. Activism

It is no secret that I want the 'strong black woman' image to die a swift and permanent death. My feeling is that black women had to be strong in the face of our changing communities in the 80s. After Reaganomics, drug epidemics, HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, black-on-black crime, raising fatherless children, and the general burden of racism, we've evolved into women who are frequently separated from notions of femininity. (Just writing that sentence made me tired...whew!)

I want this image to die so we can fully step into our femininity. There's nothing wrong with being strong, but we are not allowed to be tired. Even bodybuilders have to take a break from their training programs and let their muscles recover. Black women are not allowed that same luxury. What did Atlas do after the world was no longer on his shoulders? What can we do, as black women, to give ourselves a breather from the worries that plague us day-in and day-out?

That topic is for another day and another post. In my mind, the strong black woman has now manifested two other phases of black womanhood: those who tirelessly and selflessly work to uplift the black community and those who blissfully ignore the struggle.

I remember pondering this question in college at FAMU. There were the race-conscious natural sistahs who immersed themselves in politics, activism and positive upliftment of the black community. When I think of the strong black woman, this is generally the image that comes to mind. The flip side of that coin are the 'glamour girls', the model-type chicks who pranced around those highest of seven hills in 3+ inch heels, fresh wraps and the latest fashion statements. As a young woman, I struggled to define where I fit into that continuum. I think I'm somewhere in the middle: I love shoes (but won't break the bank for them); I've been natural before and understand the politics of how black women wear their hair in the workplace, community, church etc. But it was when I stepped from behind an image, and stopped trying to fit into a mold, that I found you could be both at the same time.

Here are two examples:

Ms. Activist - Blaqueindigo
Her About Me: I am about revolution, cultivation, grow and change in our community locally and globally. "i dont want no peace. I need equal right and justice."-Peter Tosh

Ms. Glamour Girl - Lovher989
Her About Me: wasn't filled out, and she's only done a few videos. But her video is a great example of the mindset I'm discussing.

These two women are not allowed to be the same person. Blaqueindigo would be discounted as an activist, if she made videos discussing clothes, fashion and makeup; presumably, its ok for her to do loc vids because locing is seen as a form of freedom from the oppression of chemicals. But why couldn't she be an activist and wear her hear how she chose? If she is working to uplift black women and the black family, why can't she do both things at the same time?

And that is the root of the problem I have with the Strong Black Woman image - the strong black woman is not allowed to look inward and indulge in her own interests, because everything is about taking care of others. For alot of us, we practice our makeup, read celebrity news and scour the internet for great shoe bargains as our respite from having to carry so much. But as soon as you go from every day black woman to Activist, you aren't supposed to care about those trivial things anymore. Why? Who made that rule? Methinks it was a man...

Anyway, these two images frequently enter my mind. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the ways that women can do both, or even if you think I've missed the mark on what these images mean.

"She's pretty for a dark-skinned girl" by Tameka Raymond

I am a dark-skinned African American woman with features that reflect my ancestry. Debates regarding Light vs. Dark and other biases have plagued our race for years and continues to impact millions of Black women. The deeply rooted intra-racial contempt that lies beneath this inane "compliment" is the reason I've chosen to spark dialogue surrounding the topic of self-hatred in our culture. It saturates every aspect of our lives, dominating the perspectives of our generation as a whole. We culturally are so influential, at times inadvertently, that we affect all with the words we utter and the images we portray. It lends to the theory of systemic racism. I'm authoring this piece because I'm miffed by this reality and would like to share my views on these subjects.

It is a fact that many African-Americans are often mixed with an array of other ethnicities (as am I), which allows for the spectrum of our features to be as distinctive and special as we are diverse. Why is it felt that the more diluted our traditionally African features become the more aesthetically acceptable we are considered? It was said in the 1960s and the sentiment seems to be forgotten, "Black is Beautiful." Wow, nearly 50 years later and is that now only meant for a specific shade? Nonetheless, I believe the beauty of our people and splendor of every individual is reflected in our varying features and hues.

Often dark-skinned women are considered mean, domineering and standoffish and it was these very labels that followed Michelle Obama during the campaign for her husband's presidency and which she has had to work tirelessly to combat. I was appalled when I heard a Black woman refer to Michelle Obama as unattractive. The conversation turned into why President Obama picked her as his mate. No one in the witch-hunt made reference to the possibility that Michelle Obama was smart, funny, caring, a good person, highly accomplished or brilliant. Nor did they mention that she previously was President Obama's supervisor. If she were fair skinned, petite with long straight or wavy hair, would the same opinions be linked to her? I seriously doubt it. It is believed that for the dark skinned, dreams are less obtainable.

(con't over at the Huffington Post)

I still don't really understand why Tameka Raymond receives the hate she does on the internet. We dig into black men who date light-bright-damnnearwhite women, or interracially, saying that they should choose women that look like the men's mothers. Well, Tameka looks like Usher's mama... In any event, this is a side of her you won't see on the gossip blogs, next to stories of her lipo surgeries. I find it an interesting, albeit familiar, read.

RIP to Naomi Sims

Naomi Sims, 61, Pioneering Cover Girl, Is Dead

Published: August 3, 2009

Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and who went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died Saturday in Newark. She was 61, her family said, and lived in Newark.

She died of cancer, said her son, Bob Findlay.

Ms. Sims is sometimes referred to as the first black supermodel.

“Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”

Ms. Sims often said childhood insecurities and a painful upbringing — living in foster homes, towering over her classmates and living in a largely poor white neighborhood in Pittsburgh — had inspired her to strive to become “somebody really important” at a time when cultural perceptions of black Americans were being challenged by the civil rights movement and a renewed stress on racial pride.

When Ms. Sims arrived in New York on a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1966, there was very little interest in fashion for black models and only a handful who had been successful, like Dorothea Towles Church, who starred in the couture shows in 1950s Paris, and Donyale Luna, who was named Vogue’s model of the year in 1966.

In need of money, Ms. Sims, with her heart-shaped face and long limbs, was encouraged by classmates and counselors to give it a try. But every agency she approached turned her down, some telling her that her skin was too dark.

Undeterred, Ms. Sims decided to approach photographers herself. Gosta Peterson, a photographer for The Times, agreed to photograph her for the cover of its August 1967 fashion supplement, then called Fashions of The Times.

The agencies were still not interested, so Ms. Sims, showing a dash of enterprise that would later define her career, told Wilhelmina Cooper, a former model who was starting her own agency, that she would send out copies of the magazine to advertising agencies with Ms. Cooper’s number attached. Ms. Cooper could have a commission if anyone called back.

Within a year, Ms. Sims was earning $1,000 a week and had been hired for a national television campaign for AT&T, which showed her and two other models — one white and one Asian — wearing fashions by Bill Blass.

“It helped me more than anything else because it showed my face,” Ms. Sims told Ladies’ Home Journal the following year, when she appeared on its cover, the first time a black model was featured so prominently in a mainstream women’s publication. “After it was aired, people wanted to find out about me and use me.”

Ms. Sims was suddenly in high demand, modeling for top designers like Halston, Teal Traina, Fernando Sánchez and Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, and standing at the vanguard of a fashion movement for black models that would give rise to runway stars of the 1970s, including Pat Cleveland, Alva Chinn and Beverly Johnson.

Two images of Ms. Sims — one from the 1967 Times fashion magazine cover and the other from a 1969 issue of Life — are in the current Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “The Model as Muse.” In a catalog, the curators Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan wrote, “The beautifully contoured symmetry of Sims’s face and the lithe suppleness of her body presented on the once-exclusionary pages of high-fashion journals were evidence of the wider societal movement of Black Pride and the full expression of ‘Black is Beautiful.’ ”

But Ms. Sims, in interviews, often said she held the industry in low regard because of the way male executives treated her and, more generally, she said, “because people have the idea that models are stupid.”

After five years, she gave up modeling and started a wig-making business with styles designed for black women. It eventually expanded into a multimillion-dollar beauty empire and at least five books on modeling and beauty.

“There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model, and there are many models who have nothing at the end of their career,” Ms. Sims told The Times in 1969.

Naomi Ruth Sims was born on March 30, 1948, in Oxford, Miss., the third of three daughters of John and Elizabeth Sims. Her father was a porter. Her parents divorced shortly after she was born, and all she knew of her father, she told Ladies’ Home Journal, was “that my mother told me he was an absolute bum.”

The family moved to Pittsburgh, where her mother became ill and Ms. Sims was placed in foster care. She remained close with her sisters, and followed the next oldest, Betty, to New York after graduating from Westinghouse High School.

Her 1973 marriage to Michael Findlay, the Manhattan art dealer, ended in divorce in 1991. Besides their son, Bob, who lives in Seattle, she is survived by Betty Sims, who lives in Manhattan, and a granddaughter. Doris Sims, her oldest sister, died in 2008.

In addition to pursuing studies at F.I.T., Ms. Sims took night courses in psychology at New York University but gave them up when her modeling career took off and she became a celebrity, running in a glamorous crowd that included Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.

She retained, however, the sense of propriety that her foster parents had instilled in her. In 1972, the producers of the movie “Cleopatra Jones” sought to cast Ms. Sims in the title role, but she turned it down because, she said, she was offended by its racist portrayal of black people. (The role went to the model Tamara Dobson.)

In 1973, Ms. Sims decided to start her own business. As a model, she often did her own hair and makeup, since many studio assistants were unfamiliar with working with darker skin. And she noticed that most commercially available wigs were designed for Caucasian hair, so she began experimenting with her own designs, baking synthetic hairs in her oven at home to create the right texture to look like straightened black hair. Within five years, her designs, produced by the Metropa Company, had annual sales of $5 million.

She also began writing books, including “All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman,” “How to Be a Top Model” and “All About Success for the Black Woman,” as well as an advice column for teenage girls in Right On! magazine.

In the 1980s, she expanded the Naomi Sims Collection to include a prestige fragrance, beauty salons and cosmetics, but by the end of the decade she had become less involved with its daily operations. Many images of Ms. Sims from that period are still used to promote the products that bear her name.

Ms. Sims often attributed her success to using her race as an advantage.

“It’s ‘in’ to use me,” she said early on, “and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.”

A Brief Discussion on Nationality and Race

I stumbled onto Black Girl In Paris the other day, and saw her post including this video. I consider myself a budding Francophile so information about French language and culture is right up my alley.

Jessy Matador - "Décalé Gwada"
Jessy Matador is a musician from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who recorded this French song last year. Its classified as part of the Coupé Décale genre, a form of popular music played in African clubs in Paris. This song was very popular in Paris last year.

Then, there's this video, which sparks the point of today's post.

First of all, before we touch on aspects of race and nationality here, lemme just say that lil mama ROCKED IT. At first when she was just standing there, before the music started, I thought "aweee she's so cute. She's gonna do some lil dance steps." But when her legs started moving, I had to force myself to close my mouth so flies wouldn't come in. You go lil French girl!

When I went to the Youtube page for the 2nd video, there were the usual ignorant comments you'd expect when you see a nonblack person with exceptional dance skills. People always jump to the conclusion that only black people can dance in this manner, and that anyone who is of another race is extraordinary and rare if they can dance 'like us'.

I'm not gonna touch on the origins of modern music and how African sounds influence the majority of the music performed today... what's significant here is the fact that there's a young girl performing a dance she learned from a music video... and it didn't make me sick to my stomach. Now I admit, on the parts where she started popping her back I cringed, but lets not forget this little show of ability as comparison (explicit lyrics):

The differences in the little girl's video are sexual to me, not racial. This is not a teenage girl dressed in a bra top. This is not a song with explicit lyrics (at least I don't think... I don't speak French). Its just a young girl having a good time. It doesn't feel raunchy, that she's trying to be sexy or seek the wrong kind of attention. But at the same time, I wonder if I would have been offended if she had been black? Were you offended when the little girl danced in the original Jessy Matador video? I wasn't, because her inclusion didn't feel exploitive, just demonstrative of the fact that everyone could have a good time when listening to Décalé Gwada.

We could say that girls in the US are more exposed to sexuality. I mean, lets be honest here - how many times does a sexualized tv commercial, soap opera, music video or movie appear on tv? Lets not even talk about Super Bowl commercials or the programming on cable. While viewing these are fine for adults, what happens to a child that is repeatedly exposed to these images? Speaking for myself, one starts to form the perception that a woman's body holds more value than her mind. That her physical beauty outshines her mental capacity. And when you add race to that equation, stereotypes can overshadow a person's actual perception. Like a black woman might assume that she's sexier than a white woman, just off general principle. Or vice versa depending on how she's been socialized.

We've seen that race and nationality in France is not a smooth terrain either. But how does sexuality tie into a woman's concept of self there? Do the French see this video and automatically think, as alot of African-Americans would, "she can dance for a white girl"? And how sexualized are the French socially? I've seen that other countries are not as prude as the US, and sex is a part of their popular culture also. But the difference is, from what I've seen in my (brief) travels, women don't base their value on their body. They seem more comfortable with their bodies and believe in their inherent value as women, without having to live up to a social image of themselves. This came across in the way French women carried themselves; they were more self-assured, more comfortable in their own skin and with their clothing, no matter their body shape.

So I ask, why does sexuality mean different things in different countries? I'm not gonna even ask how sex affects race, because thats a history lesson and discussion that is better discussed on another day. I would just like us to question why we react to certain images in certain ways, and why we make the assumptions that we do regarding those images.

I hate to admit it, but I wanna see this...

When Madea, Americas favorite pistol-packing grandma9 (*eyeroll*), catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer and her two younger brothers looting her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands and delivers the young delinquents to the only relative they have: their aunt April. A heavy-drinking nightclub singer who lives off of Raymond, her married boyfriend, April wants nothing to do with the kids. But her attitude begins to change when Sandino, a handsome Mexican immigrant looking for work, moves into Aprils basement room. Making amends for his own troubled past, Sandino challenges April to open her heart. And April soon realizes she must make the biggest choice of her life: between her old ways with Raymond and the new possibilities of family, faith and even true love. Coming to theaters September 11th, 2009.

Lawd Sandino is fine!! Yumm-o!

CNN's Black In America 2

What are your thoughts on this series? Did you find it more or less illuminating than last year's offering? Or did you skip it altogether?

Yesterday's Twitter conversation

ReverendDrDash Is it really wrong to want my Princess Charming to magically appear and sweep me off of my feet?

prosechild@ReverendDrDash not wrong, maybe not 100% realistic though. Women have been waiting for that for yrs

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Men have the numbers advantage that women don't.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash true... But quantity doesn't always = quality.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild But a deeper pool of applicants increases the chance for Princess Charming actually existing.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash very good point. But if she's a princess, shouldn't you be doing the sweeping? Is that why u asked if it was wrong?

ReverendDrDash@prosechild It's 2009, and I think it is time for the princesses to start putting in work for a change.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash good luck with that. There are too many men with that mentality nowadays IMO. 2009 doesn't mean a lady should pursue.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild And why not? If men and women are equals, women should also pursue their men.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash b/c the goals aren't the same. Guys I know with that attitude are playas. Women I know who pursue want to settle down.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash call me old-fashioned but some gender roles shouldn't be done away with.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Gender roles should be malleable in my opinion. Women seem to want things the way they were in some cases but do not bring..cont

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Bring a lot of the skills to the table that their foremothers did.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash but that goes both ways. Most men dont have same skills as their forefathers AND we have to pursue you now

ReverendDrDash@prosechild I think it gets exaggerated on the male side. I know few men who can't take care of home, but women who can't boil water are...

prosechild@ReverendDrDash taking care of home isn't just cookin and cleanin. Also keepin it in ur pants and bein strong head of household.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild The current generation can't even play house let alone, actually make a home with willing man.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash what age r u talkin about? I have tons of friends who can do better than just 'play'

ReverendDrDash@prosechild My crew is mid to late 20s.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash ok. Couple yrs older than u. Our problem is not lack of skills but willing partners

(this reply after I had signed off:)
ReverendDrDash@prosechild The interpersonal skills are often an issue as well.

This is what I get for holding a discussion across the internet with someone I don't know.

I felt like I didn't really get my point across... I also feel like I'm looking at relationships and dating in the wrong light. I happened to talk to my older brother after this conversation, and of course he hit me with "focus on God and everything else will fall into place". I'm not saying that that advice is not valid... I just feel like we've been socialized to 'work' for the things we want, so sitting still and trusting that the man for me will just walk into my life takes a degree of patience and faith that I have yet to cultivate.

I dunno... I wish that relationships weren't on my brain so much. But I'm getting to the point where I'm tired of being single, and want the best for not only myself but also for my single girlfriends.

Black in America Part 2

Are you planning to watch? After the epic fail of part 1, I'm not too sure about this one. I guess it depends on how I'm feeling and the feedback that circulates after the 1st episode.

Saving black marriages: Does it take a village?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- From the outside, Johnny and Shanna Woodbury looked like the perfect couple. They had been married 13 years, owned multiple properties and were successful managers. They also had four beautiful children -- a son and a daughter fresh out of college they had prior to getting married and a 12-year-old daughter on the cheerleading team and an 8-year-old son on the honor roll.

Together they had built and moved into their 7,200-square-foot dream home in Prince George's County, Maryland, with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two sunrooms and a basement. Both were Christians who regularly attended the New Samaritan Baptist Church.

But privately, the Woodburys' marriage was in turmoil.

"I love my husband" said Shanna Woodbury of their marriage. "But I feel so overworked and underappreciated. I work full-time like my husband, but if I don't maintain the domestic responsibilities of the house, nothing gets done. Added to that, I manage our rental properties and take care of everything for our kids, alone."

Her husband started to echo similar frustrations.

"I'm faithful to my wife, I give her my whole paycheck but I work the late shift and my job is demanding. When I come home, I don't need to hear her mouth -- I just need to watch my favorite football game in peace."

Shanna grows more overwhelmed, tempers flare and the two begin arguing more and listening less. Tension took over their home and their fighting began to take a toll on the rest of the family, resulting in disciplinary issues with the kids.

"I realized my family was dysfunctional," says Shanna Woodbury. "But we also knew that divorce was not an option."

The Woodburys knew they needed help. So a friend introduced them to Basic Training for Couples -- a class that had helped pull their friends' marriage back from the brink of divorce.

Shanna and Johnny Woodbury enrolled.

"Marriage is one of those entities that you have to know going in, it will be hard, but you're not alone," says Dr. Rozario Slack, speaking to an audience at a couples graduation.

Slack, a pastor and relationship consultant, is the co-creator of the "Basic Training for Couples Curriculum" and co-author of "10 Great Dates for Black Couples."

"I grew tired of the statistics and when I look at my children, I knew I had to do something to prevent marriage from becoming a dinosaur in our community," says Slack.

There are many influences that have shaped, affected or strained black marriages, according to marriage and family experts. Among them: African tribal traditions, the horrors of slavery, racial integration in the U.S. that paved the way to more freedoms and the migrations of thousands of African-Americans that fractured or reshaped communities. Trace the historic migrations of black Americans

"Moving from one community to another could affect marriage because it disrupts social ties," says Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University and author of the landmark book, "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today."

"Migration separates people from friends and relatives who could help them through family crisis," says Cherlin.

Black couples in crisis inspired Slack and Nisa Muhammad to create Basic Training for Couples. The free eight-week program educates dating, engaged or married couples in groups of five to 15. The lessons cover the value of commitment, responsibility to the black community, psychological differences between the sexes, sexual intimacy and conflict resolution.

Slack created the male-friendly portion while Muhammad, who founded National Black Marriage Day and the Wedded Bliss Foundation, created the female-friendly portion.

"Marriage belongs to the community," says Muhammad. "An unhealthy marriage relationship gives children an inaccurate representation of marriage, which they in turn replicate for generations."

In the program, couples also learn about the history of the African-American marriage and many for the first time plot their family tree to trace marriage and divorces. See the class rundown

"We do this to help them understand: Is there any support for their marriage in their family?" says Muhammad. "Who are the role models? Do they see women who are great successful wives? Are there men that are great successful husbands or a brotherhood of husbands? If not, the members of the class become their community of support because we all want the same thing -- successful marriages."

The group support is key in Basic Training. Occasionally the facilitators divide the class into gender groups. This encourages the men and women to openly express their struggles without inhibitions and gives them the opportunity to offer advice and hold each other accountable.

And, the lessons don't end after the eight-week course. The couples are empowered to go back to their communities and bring awareness to other couples. They also plan outings, from game nights to sleepovers for the women.

Since taking the class, the Woodburys have gone from co-existing with each other to having a marriage that is stronger than it has ever been. They have also met friends and other couples that will help them stay strong.

"We have become better parents because for the first time we are on one accord, and there is far less arguing for our children to witness," Shanna Woodbury told CNN. "At the end, our children have been the biggest benefactors and for that we are grateful."

Its about the journey, not the destination

Toya over at Black Girls Like Us posted this video, and I found it to be an inspiring start to my day. It also sparked the thought that led to this post.

I know the title of this post is a cliche quote, but its really true. So often we work so hard to get to a particular place, that we don't enjoy the process of 'becoming'. We're always looking ahead, crossing tasks off our to-do lists and anticipating the time when things will 'get better'. Well, what about enjoying life right now? In this moment? This very second? Being present in every moment really changes one's outlook on life.

Most people aren't programmed this way. We're taught to set goals, be persistent, work hard and be go-getters. That mindset causes a person to always look forward to something. But rarely do people talk about looking from right where you are. Black women are some of the hardest working people in the world (I'd like to think we are the hardest workers, but I'm biased...). From juggling family, romantic relationships, friends and social contacts, careers, church, community groups and volunteering, most sistahs I know carry full plates. In all of those activities, there comes a time when a woman is tired. Tired of working, tired of waiting for what she's wanting and tired of holding her head up to see what's coming on the horizon.

So I say to you, dear sistah, to take a moment from time to time and enjoy where you are right now. Thats advice that I have to constantly implement for myself, because I get caught up in my goals and aspirations too. But the purpose of attaining your desire is not just gettting it, but the process of getting where it is too. Whether that be the board appointment you are seeking, the weight loss goal you're striving for, or finding a compatible mate, there's always a bright side to what you're involved in and a way to look at things in a positive light. That perspective comes from appreciating where you currently are and what you currently have. Let's try to look at the now more often, and not just at what's coming.

Single Black Women and Adoption

Single Black Women Step Up and Adopt

There is a well documented racial imbalance in the child welfare system in the United States. A Black child is many times more likely to be in foster care or state custody than a white child. (For example, in New York, a Black child is 10 times more likely to be in state care; in Chicago, 95% of the children in care are Black.) And though scholars like Dorothy Roberts have shown that this racial disparity is a result of children of color being removed from their families at a much greater rate than white children living in identical circumstances, the fact remains that a disparate number of Black children are in need of adoptive parents.

Into this breech step a growing number of single Black women. Many are well educated professionals who have not found the right partner with whom to begin a family. Some have the same fertility troubles as the general population of professional women who’ve delayed child bearing. All are committed to motherhood and their children, however they arrive and whatever the sacrifices required by single parenting.

What’s stunning to me is the criticism these women are facing for becoming single parents by choice. As with single mothers everywhere–by accident or choice, rich or poor–these women find themselves criticized for going it alone.

CNN profiles Kaydra Fleming, a 37-year-old social worker in Arlington, Texas, adoptive mother of Zoey:

“Zoey was going to be born to a single black mother anyway,” Fleming says. “At least she’s being raised by a single black parent who was ready financially and emotionally to take care of her.” In Fleming’s case, too, the adoption was arranged by Zoey’s birth mother and is open, giving both women, and Zoey herself, more loving family yet. And more loving family–biological, adoptive, single, married, rich poor, Black or white–is in the best interest of any child.

I don't agree with the slant of this article. I admit that I'm not of an age to face infertility issues, so I don't mean to be insensitive to women who have those challenges. But seriously, when did single become synonymous with bearer of burdens? We get so much slack for not being married: we are questioned about our financial practices, when people assume that a single woman has more disposable income (even though people overlook the fact that there is only one income, and not two like in a marriage); we are questioned about how we spend our time, when people assume that we go home at night and have numerous hours to spare that married women don't have; and we are questioned as to how we spend that time, because surely, in our free waking hours we should be doing all that we can to find a man.

I applaud any woman who decides that motherhood is one of her chief aims and that she does not need a mate to enter this union with a child. I was raised by a single mother and have no desire to follow in my mother's footsteps or subject a child to a one-parent household. I think I was raised exceptionally well, but I did not have the baggage of a father who left me or a mother who was desperate to replace him. However, it is not easy to observe your mother struggle financially when you know what it means to have two parents in the home. So at 29 I can't honestly say that adoption would be the route for me if, in 10 years, I have not married.

I read CNN's profile of this topic, and of course they did not disappoint:

Some of the infertility issues may be related to advancing age or health issues, she says. But the result of not being a mother for many older African-American women is the same: panic.

"Their doctors, friends and family are telling them the same thing: 'You're not getting younger; you better hurry up,' '' Oliver says.

The unfulfilled desire to be a mother can damage a woman emotionally, Oliver says. Her agency provides counseling to prospective mothers who have invested so much of their self-worth into being mothers.

"In many cases, it [the pressure to be a mother] begins to set up feelings of unworthiness, poor self-esteem and the feeling that 'I'm not fully a woman,' " Oliver says.

That pressure can cause some African-American women to rush into a marriage with a man they should not partner with, says Kenyatta Morrisey, a 34-year-old mother of three adopted children in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Morrisey wants to be married, but says she'd rather become a mother now and wait for God to guide her to the right man.

"I am not going to settle and get married just for the sake of being married," Morrisey says. "I'd rather trust God to fulfill all of my dreams instead of relying on a man to fulfill my dreams."

I guess for Morrisey, and women who follow this same logic, God can fulfill the dream of motherhood more easily than the dream of marriage.

It just irks me to no end that getting married is now a 'dream' for black women. How did we get to this place? When will things get better for us?

On top of these questions, the CNN article implies that single black women are turning to adoption as a cure for loneliness. Adoptive mothers will always have someone to love, someone to care for and someone to love them in return, the author writes. That doesn't make the prospect of adoption more attractive for single black women; on the contrary, its almost like you could insert a pet into the equation and save money on clothing and daycare. And I find it telling that no one questions the mental and emotional stability of children that are removed from their homes. Surely, if the home is not a safe environment for a child to live in, so much so that child and protective services must step in, then that child has scars that the new mother must attempt to heal.

I prompt my single sistas to look closely at these recommendations that others deem to make on our behalf. My heart goes out to the children trapped in the foster care system who are desperate for homes. But at the same token, there are only so many burdens that us single women care bare. Choose your burdens wisely ladies. And choose them for you, not based on outside pressure from family and friends who don't always have your best interest at heart or can empathize with your situation.

OMG! I'm so surprised! *not*

Chris Brown Avoids Jail Time in Rihanna Assault
By Ken Lee,,20286732,00.html
Originally posted Monday June 22, 2009 05:00 PM EDT

With Rihanna set to break her silence in her assault case, Chris Brown reached a plea agreement that spared him jail time, it was announced Monday.

Brown, 20, will be sentenced to five years probation and 180 days of community labor to be served in Virginia. He will also complete a year of domestic violence classes, and pay fines. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to felony assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury.

"Mr. Brown, I think it's commendable that you took responsibility for your conduct," said Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg.

Brown also was ordered to stay at least 50 yards away from Rihanna – except at industry events, when it's 10 yards – despite a request from Rihanna's lawyer for a less-restrictive order [why am I not surprised]. For now, Brown was also ordered not to have any contact with her, which includes phone, email and text communications.

Brown Very Thankful
"He's very thankful to all the people who've been very supportive," said Brown's attorney, Mark Geragos. "This is a kid who's never been in trouble before, who wants to move past this and make sure that the message gets out that these kinds of things, of domestic violence, are not acceptable. And that he has accepted responsibility and continues to do so and embraces this as an opportunity for him to get his life back on track and his career back on track."

If he violates probation, Brown will face four years in prison. His formal sentencing is set for Aug. 5, when the court will drop a second charge of making criminal threats.

Noting that Brown pleaded to a felony, Schnegg said, "I want Mr. Brown to be treated the same as any other defendant who would come into this court. That means something like Caltrans [trash pickup] or graffiti removal."

Brown had been charged with two felony counts – assault and making criminal threats – in the alleged fight that left Rihanna bruised and bloodied.

The plea deal was reached shortly before Rihanna, 21, was to testify under subpoena in a preliminary hearing.

Brown, wearing gray suit, off-white tie and matching handkerchief in his front pocket, entered the courtroom shortly after 1:30 p.m. About 10 of his friends and family members, including his mother, were seated in the audience.

Rihanna In Courtroom
After the judge addressed him, Brown left the courtroom and Rihanna, wearing a black dress and pearls, was brought in for the judge to explain the plea deal terms to the singer. The two were never in the courtroom at the same time. She stood before Judge Schnegg, who told her that the court will consider reducing the stay-away order to the least-restrictive one after he's sentenced. Rihanna's only words in open court were: "Thank you, your honor," before she was led out through a side door.

According to a search warrant, Rihanna was assaulted during an argument that began when she read text messages from another woman on Brown's phone as they were driving in a Lamborghini in L.A. the morning before the pair were both scheduled to perform on the Grammy Awards.

An enraged Brown allegedly tried to force her out of the car, hit her head against the passenger window, punched her in the eye and drove away while steering with one hand and continuing to punch her with the other, says the detective's notes in the search warrant.

As blood filled Rihanna's mouth, Brown allegedly told her, "I'm going to beat the s--- out of you when we get home. You wait and see!" Rihanna then faked a call to her assistant, saying, "I am on my way home. Make sure the cops are there when I get there." The police notes indicate the statement prompted Brown to reply: "You just did the stupidest thing ever. Now I'm really going to kill you."

We *hear* Clair Huxtable

Echoes Of TV's First Lady
Michelle Obama's Last True Cultural Antecedent Is 'Cosby's' Clair Huxtable

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 19, 2009
Link to article

So far, the first lady has chosen to be a food bank volunteer with an outsize entourage and an education activist with the largest soapbox imaginable. But Michelle Obama also fills a role that is not of her choosing but that may, in fact, be the most influential: She serves as a symbol of middle-class progress, feminist achievement, affirmative-action success and individual style.

And she has done all this on the world stage . . . while being black.

Time and again, observers grasp for adjectives to describe Obama's combination of professional accomplishment and soccer-mom maternalism. It's no wonder so many eye her with awe and disbelief. Or why a minority still view her with suspicion. There have been few broad cultural precedents for what she represents.

Historically, television has been more progressive than reality, preparing a society for the moment when what only existed in the shadows surges into the spotlight. From "Soap" to "Will & Grace," TV helped people envision gay couples living picket-fence lives. "Maude" and daytime soap operas raised the topic of abortion before it became a political wedge issue. Television made the case for the first female commander in chief. And popular culture has more than once suggested that the idea of an African American president wasn't so far-fetched. But it rarely introduced viewers to anyone like Michelle Obama.

The last similarly accomplished and wholesome black woman to enter the homes of TV audiences -- both black and white, in small towns and big cities -- was Clair Huxtable, the matriarch of "The Cosby Show." It is a cultural comparison more apt than the one made to Jackie Kennedy, which is rooted in little more than the two first ladies being mothers of young children and their affection for sleeveless dresses.

Television, in particular, speaks to viewers intimately, in the privacy of their homes, building long-term relationships and weaving complicated narratives. People discuss the lives of TV characters -- from soap opera stars to reality-show contestants -- with the kind of emotional empathy normally saved for family members. Syndication allows characters to live forever and connect to multiple generations, whether it is the blended family of "The Brady Bunch" or the codependent New Yorkers on "Seinfeld."

Even as viewing habits have become more fragmented through cable and DVRs, TV still serves as a lingua franca. It can gently and affably prod disparate groups toward greater tolerance and acceptance. TV builds kinship.

But most of the prominent portrayals of black women on television are men in corpulent drag ( Madea), strutting tarts ("The Real Housewives of Atlanta") or emotionless law enforcement officers (Lt. Anita Van Buren of "Law & Order"). In its most enlightened moments, popular culture presents black women as strident taskmaster with the heart of gold -- see Dr. Miranda Bailey of "Grey's Anatomy."

In a recent essay for the Nation, Columbia law professor Patricia Williams shared her frustrations about popular culture's failure to present more images of the sort that Obama reflects. Black women -- and women of color, in general -- still are dogged by the tropes that have haunted them for generations, she wrote. But instead of images such as Mammy and Prissy from "Gone With the Wind," contemporary women must deal with "the adventures of Flavor Flav and Strom Thurmond" as well as "depictions from Don Imus and the minstrelsy of Tyler Perry."

"Where, for heaven's sake, is a picture of black femininity (in particular, that of darker-skinned, non-tragic femininity) that might signify beauty, chic, elegance, vulnerability, sophistication?"

Where are the images that celebrate the educated black woman? "The jurisprudence of the entire 20th century was about black people trying to get into school," Williams said in a telephone interview. "That's invisible." Niche media have tried to showcase the black professional class -- from the stories of uplift in Ebony magazine to "Harlem Heights," a reality show about 20-something buppies that debuted this spring on BET, a rarity on a black-oriented cable network often criticized by viewers for pandering to the worst stereotypes of African Americans. There have been shows that have spoken knowingly to a predominantly black audience, such as "Living Single" and "Girlfriends." "Soul Food" and "Lincoln Heights" address the small segmented audiences of cable.

Only Audra McDonald's character on ABC's "Private Practice" -- a divorced, stylish doctor with a young daughter, a vibrant social life and a healthy relationship with her ex-husband -- really reflects a generation of black women with advanced degrees, solid self-esteem and no anger issues.

But TV audiences have to go back to "The Cosby Show" to find a close facsimile to what Obama represents both professionally and personally, and that's going back more than 17 years. Clair Huxtable -- the stylish mother, wife and lawyer -- remains a lonely figure in popular culture.

As Seen on TV
"The Cosby Show," a sitcom about a black American family with five children, a lawyer-mom played by Phylicia Rashad and comedian Bill Cosby as the doctor-dad, ran from 1984 to 1992. Inspired by Cosby's monologues on child-rearing, the show was an anomaly when it premiered in the wake of TV series such as "Sanford and Son," "Good Times" and "The Jeffersons," which told the stories of down-and-out black Americans and upwardly mobile ones with equal parts slapstick and buffoonery.

"The Cosby Show" was doggedly upper-middle class in its sensibility. Every detail, from the choice of artwork in the Huxtable living room to the use of jazz in its opening credits to references to historically black colleges, spoke of the "Talented Tenth," a functional, culturally proud segment of the African American community that did not make the evening news.

In its first season, "The Cosby Show" finished third in the ratings. For the next four seasons, it was the top-rated series on television. Over the course of its run, it revived the situation-comedy format, resuscitated a flailing NBC, sparked conversations about race and made Cosby into America's dad.

Author Susan Fales-Hill, 46, began her career on the show as an apprentice and then a writer. Later, she became executive producer and head writer for the spinoff series "A Different World," about life on a fictional, historically black college campus through which viewers could see work-study students and trust-fund babies.

"There's something that happens when you validate the existence of someone by visually representing them," she says. "What people see, they believe."

And what they do not see on a regular basis, they assume to be rare or even nonexistent.

Fales-Hill could write from her own experience. She is the biracial daughter of actress Josephine Premice, a contemporary of Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne. She is a published author and comes from a background of private schools.

During her time on "Cosby," Fales-Hill remembers people telling her that families like the one on the show didn't exist, but her rejoinder was her personal story. "I had people tell me this is like a white family," Fales-Hill recalls. "But 'Cosby' brought the dirty secret of America -- the black bourgeoisie -- out of the closet."

When "Cosby" went off the air, the lesson Hollywood took was not that stories about functional black professionals can have broad appeal. It was that Bill Cosby has broad appeal, that stand-up comics could sustain entire sitcoms and that situation comedies can draw large audiences. "The Cosby Show" opened the door for "Grace Under Fire," "Home Improvement," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Cybill" and "Roseanne." And Cosby went on to star in another self-named comedy, which ran from 1996 to 2000. (And once again, Rashad played his wife, although the role was a modest one.)

By the end of the millennium, white, angst-ridden yuppies and white, wacky singles were dominating the airwaves. "Survivor" debuted in 2000 to launch the reality-show juggernaut. And women like Fales-Hill largely vanished from popular culture.

"There's a generation with very little exposure to the black professional class, and they stand in amazement," Fales-Hill says. "People say, 'You're so articulate.' And it's because I can string a sentence together!"

In a culture in which every white woman is presumed to be Everywoman until proven out of the mainstream, Obama has brought the normalcy of black women into the broader social consciousness. All it took were her two Ivy League degrees, a six-figure boardroom salary, a Norman Rockwell family, soccer-mom bona fides and an ability to dress herself without the aid of an entourage.

In many ways, the first lady has made people see -- really see -- black women for the first time. For example, when a black model appeared on the May cover of Vogue, news articles credited the "Obama effect," ignoring the concerted lobbying by fashion industry activists that began long before Barack Obama was even a presidential contender.

The role of style in defining the first lady might easily be dismissed as a distraction from more substantive issues. But Williams says the fan magazine breathlessness is significant because "it implies a kind of parity we really needed."

Enthusiasm over glossy-magazine beauty as defined by a darker-skinned black woman has to be seen against the backdrop of history, when black women's appearance was used as a tool of oppression. High culture rhapsodized in love sonnets about ivory complexions, flaxen hair and ruby lips. And today, black women still mostly surface as sidebars in beauty stories.

"Somewhere in the core of it is the question of whether black really is beautiful," Williams says. "That's why I think it's not about superficiality. It's a precarious moment. Only a minute ago, she was Angela Davis."

Fighting Stereotypes
In the NAACP's most recent report on diversity on television, the civil rights organization noted in December that "it is hard to draw any positive conclusions." And in particular, it pointed to "The Hills" and "Gossip Girls," which are aimed at a youth market. Viewers in their teens and 20s live in a more diverse society than their parents did. But little had changed since what the NAACP called the "whiteout" years of shows such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld" -- and more recently "Sex and the City" and "Lipstick Jungle" -- which were situated in the melting pot of New York City but seemed to exist in a parallel, nearly all-white universe.

Hollywood producer Mara Brock Akil was a regular "Sex and the City" viewer. "They were able to show women as layered and flawed -- and spending obscene amounts of money on accessories -- and still empowered and smart women," Akil says. "I related to it, but I longed to see myself physically validated, which they rarely did."

Akil, 39, grew up middle class in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles and in Kansas City, Mo. But unlike television viewers who find themselves disappointed by network offerings and can only blog about it, Akil had the ability to alter the landscape.

So she created "Girlfriends." It debuted in 2000 on UPN, a new network that was aggressively courting a black audience. Among black women, it was appointment television. The ongoing saga of Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her trio of friends gave professional, stylish black women a voice on television.

"I almost felt like a documentarian," Akil says. "I wanted people to know what's on our mind."

The show talked about romance and work, and it poked fun at the assumptions about black culture vs. white. Joan, for example, was a huge fan of Celine Dion -- because Akil is -- as well as more soulful singers such as India.Arie.

"I also wanted to combat a stereotype on TV that black women are either the sister-girl or the asexual judge with no life. I can be fearless at work, but I can also be stupid over a guy. I can be all those things at once. I wanted to show how fashionable we are. The fashion and the femininity, I really wanted to talk about that," Akil says. "My agenda was to speak to the widest audience possible, but I knew the core would be the African American audience."

"Girlfriends" ran for eight seasons -- eventually moving to CW. In that time, it was a favorite at the BET Honors and the NAACP Image Awards, winning at least five times. It was nominated for only one prime-time Emmy -- in 2003, for cinematography. It lost to "Will & Grace."

The show didn't have the broad cultural impact of "The Cosby Show," which, during its eight-year run, won virtually every award possible except a Nobel prize. No other show about the professional black class has made the inroads that "Cosby" did. None of pop culture's most enduring archetypes of funny, smart, professional, pretty women -- from Mary Richards to Murphy Brown to Carrie Bradshaw -- have been black.

And Clair Huxtable, despite Rashad's successes on Broadway, is now most often seen by middle America as the latest Jenny Craig spokeswoman touting her weight loss.