No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Coming to HBO

Another score for black women, this time on the small screen - Jill Scott stars in HBO's adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular novel No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I hope this debuts well.

Unusual Sleuth, Unusual Setting

More than a decade ago, in the midst of a career as a distinguished bioethicist, Alexander McCall Smith held himself to a promise to write, as he has since put it, “a book about a cheerful woman of traditional build.”

Set in Botswana, where he used to teach law, his tribute to feminine amplitude became “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” a book that has spawned nine others, resulting in a series translated into more than 40 languages, with more than 15 million copies sold in English. Since his mysteries first appeared, three unrelated series have followed, as well as six children’s books, a short-story collection, an academic text (“A Draft Criminal Code for Scotland”) and Mr. McCall Smith’s continuing involvement with the Really Terrible Orchestra, an Edinburgh band in which he plays the bassoon.

His diffuse curiosity is palpable in the Precious Ramotswe novels, and happily so too in “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” HBO’s serial adaptation of those books, which begins on Sunday with a two-hour premiere that Anthony Minghella wrote with Richard Curtis and directed.

The appeal of the books is not in Chandleresque plotting; it relies on the spirit of inquisitive travelogue that Mr. McCall Smith has cultivated and that HBO faithfully maintains. There is a slow-growth, artisanal quality to the franchise, and the series, which stars an excellent Jill Scott as Precious, remains true to it. Anyone impatient with languorous pacing on television is at orange-alert risk of feeling fidgety.

Place is paramount in detective fiction and, in due respect, the series was filmed on location in Botswana, imagined in accordance with Mr. McCall Smith’s detailed, exuberant vision. Precious Ramotswe, a wounded but evolving divorced woman of 35 who leaves her rural home to set up shop as a private investigator in the capital city, Gaborone, is an avatar of her culture’s tenuous hold on urbanity.

She has longed for the independence of city life, but she loves her printed caftans and bush tea (the equivalent of coffee in a Greek cup on “Law & Order”), contentedly resisting the newly cosmopolitan pressures to remodel her body closer to a Western dictate.

The tension between tradition and modernity is rendered as broad subject and passing detail: in an early scene three young women right out of “Sex and the City: Manolos Below the Sahara” walk by the newly opened No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to ask how a woman could be a detective, and how anyone at all might go undercover who is “the size of a small elephant.”

Feminism is encroaching with the staying power of the Spartans at Attica, a reality that seems to be felt most intensely by Grace Makutsi, who serves as a secretary to Precious in a makeshift office with a manual typewriter. (Recording an outgoing answering-machine message, she plugs the agency’s areas of specialty: “Did your husband go missing? Did someone steal your cow?”)

Makutsi, played with an endearing, ramrod rigidity by Anika Noni Rose, scored 97 percent on her secretarial exam, a fact she keeps repeating, baffled as she is that all the best-paying jobs are still going to the short skirts.

Ms. Scott, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, approaches Precious balancing the innocence of a newborn with the gentle weariness of a woman who has already borne the burdens of an insidiously discriminatory world. The first episode refers to a past, destructive marriage, obscuring the grimmer details of abuse, outlined in the first book, that seemed to have caused Precious to lose her first and only child.

Quietly animating the television adaptation is her wish to find the love of a good and decent man in a place where infidelity comes to seem like ritual. As she demurely explains to a prospective client who can’t fathom her husband’s vanishing: “Sometimes when a man is missing, he has found interest in another woman.”

Precious takes on the cases of those fearing that they’re going to be poisoned, those believing that their dentists are practicing barbarism. This is not the stuff of “The Mentalist,” but in the sense that professional ambition is driven by private loss, Precious is bound to a vast and growing population of contemporary fictionalized detectives haunted by their own dead. The case she cannot shake, in the initial episode, is the disappearance of a young boy, a teacher’s son, who seems to have been kidnapped by practitioners of witchcraft after blood and bone.

Such depictions of primitivism are not meant to impede a view of Botswana as an amusing place, a country whimsically combating its own benightedness. Botswana, so voluptuously shot in the opening moments of the show, is one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, which, to a great extent, shields the whole “No. 1 Ladies’ “ enterprise from serious accusations of embarking on a colonialist fantasia. The series might seem too sweet for HBO, too NPR, too pledge-week PBS, but it doesn’t feel like a walk through Busch Gardens either.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

HBO, Sunday nights at 8, Eastern time.

Premiere directed by Anthony Minghella; Richard Curtis and Mr. Minghella, writers; Sydney Pollack, Mr. Curtis, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein, executive producers; Mr. Minghella, Timothy Bricknell and Amy J. Moore, producers.

WITH: Jill Scott (Precious Ramotswe), Anika Noni Rose (Grace Makutsi), Lucian Msamati (J. L. B.Matekoni) and Desmond Dube (B K).

FOR COLORED GIRLS is coming to the Big Screen

I am so excited about this! Now, granted, I hang my head in shame as I admit I've never seen this play. But its absolutely wonderful that For Colored Girls is being made into a movie. I hope Hollywood does it justice.


SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 25, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ ----

LIONSGATE, a leading next generation filmed entertainment studio, announced today that it has acquired worldwide distribution rights for a planned screen version of the award-winning play FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF. The studio acquired rights to both the 1975 stage play by Ntozake Shange, and the adapted screenplay written by Nzingha Stewart, who will direct the film. The announcement was made by Joe Drake, Lionsgate President, Motion Picture Group, and Co-Chief Operating Officer.
The acquisition reflects Lionsgate's leadership role in producing and distributing a diverse roster of motion pictures about black characters. The film joins an upcoming release slate that includes the Sundance Film Festival triple award winner PRECIOUS; the documentary MORE THAN A GAME; and the next two films in the Tyler Perry franchise, TYLER PERRY'S I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF and TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO?

Said Lionsgate President of Motion Picture Production Mike Paseornek, "FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF was a milestone in modern American theatre, and it speaks as powerfully today as it did when it was first performed in New York in 1975. Nzingha Stewart has written a masterful adaptation of Ntozake Shange's original play, and Lionsgate is very excited about introducing this remarkable work to a new generation via the big screen."

Commented Stewart, "I am delighted by Lionsgate's enthusiastic support for my film of FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF. It is wonderful to know that I am embarking on this journey with this dynamic, innovative studio behind me."

The deal was negotiated by Robert Melnik, Lionsgate Executive Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, on behalf of Lionsgate; Lisa Davis of Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz PC, on behalf of Shange; and by Ryan Nord- Hirsch, Wallerstein, Hayum, Matloff and Fishman LLP and Charles King of The William Morris Agency, on behalf of Stewart. Stewart is represented by Neda Niroumand and Vince Cirrincione of Vincent Cirrincione Associates.


FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF brings to the screen Ntozake Shange's Obie Award-winning play, a poetic exploration of what is to be of color and a female in this world.


Lionsgate is a leading next generation studio with a major presence in the production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment, video-on-demand and digitally delivered content. The Company is leveraging its content leadership and marketing expertise through the recent acquisition of TV Guide Network, one of the 25 most widely distributed cable networks, and partnerships that include the FEARnet branded VOD and Internet horror channel with Sony and Comcast, the expected fall 2009 launch of EPIX, a new premium entertainment channel with partners Viacom and MGM, investment in the leading young men's digital distribution platform, the recent acquisition of the content and navigation portal TV, ownership of the premier independent television syndication company Debmar-Mercury and an alliance with independent filmed entertainment production and distribution company Roadside Attractions.

The Company is an industry market share leader at the North American theatrical box office for calendar 2009 to date, propelled by such theatrical box office successes as TYLER PERRY'S MADEA GOES TO JAIL and MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D. Other recent successes include SAW V, RELIGULOUS, FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, RAMBO and THE BANK JOB. Lionsgate has also forged strong positions in television and home entertainment with the production of such critically-acclaimed television series as "Mad Men," "Weeds" and "Crash," the distribution of Tyler Perry's "House of Payne," "Family Feud" and "South Park" and upcoming shows including Tyler Perry's "Meet The Browns" and "The Wendy Williams Show," as well as market share of nearly 7% and the industry's leading box office-to-DVD conversion rate in home entertainment. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 12,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as the foundation for the growth of the Company's core businesses. The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.

What are we doing wrong?

I will warn you, before you watch this video, that the song contains profanity. The girls have been described as "strippers in training" by a local radio personality.

My first reaction on watching this video was to look at it from the girls' point of view. We already discussed the importance of having a father in the home, and how that influence shapes you as a woman. So I thought about what life is like for a 15-18 yr old girl with no dad around. You are constantly shown that your body is what's important, not your mind. You are constantly shown that models, dancers, video 'vixens' and actresses (how many of us look like Halle Berry, Sanaa Lathan or Gabrielle Union?) are the ones who are 'successful'. The Condis, Michelle Obamas and Oprahs seem like far away and far between icons. So when you're that 15-18 year old girl, this is how you show that you are valuable. This is the type of action that gets rewarded in the black community, not 'talking white', being a nerd or any intellectual achievement regularly strived for by majority society.

When I was around this age, my play-cousin and I would spend hours practicing dance routines from videos: Shaba Ranks' "Flex" video (can you imagine, I was scandalized that he said "Time to have sex"!), making up dance routines to our favorite songs, and just dancing and daydreaming about boys. That was about 15 years ago. We did not have Youtube, Myspace, Facebook or any internet medium to seek attention. We did not have cell phones to make videos of ourselves and share with our friends. It was just us 3. We didn't dare perform our dance routines outside, and our mothers were usually around somewhere close. We could not listen to music with curse words, dress a certain way to go outside or any of a myriad of things that I see girls nowadays get away with.

So before I shook my head at this video, thought "these little strippers in training" or any general condemnation of the girls, my first thought was "where are their mothers?" No, I didn't say where are their fathers, because with 70% (or whatever it is) of black children being born out of wedlock, the sad assumption is that their fathers are not present. And its not to heap all the blame on the mothers, but clearly, where are you when your girls are doing the Stanky Leg on Youtube? Where are you when the girl in white is practicing juggling her booty? They are missing that barrier with the world that filters out immature, unwise and uncouth behavior and training that shows them how to be ladies.

When this video was discussed on the radio, one caller stated that she'd break her daughters in half if they danced like this. She also lamented, "and they wonder why these men look at them! They're advertising their services!" Well, my digression, and reaction to that is -- no I'm not a man. But how nasty are you to look at these girls, and as a MAN, have some kind of reaction? I don't care what their butts look like but you know they're young, they have no business doing what they're doing and that to give them sexual attention is condoning one of the worst types of crimes in society. So blaming the girls, instead of grown-ass MEN, or resorting to violence instead of just teaching the girls what their value truly is, does not solve or prevent this type of problem.

So instead of shaking my head at the girls, I shake my head at parents who don't monitor their children. Its one thing to let your kids dance, have fun, etc. Its another to let them cross the line and broadcast themselves over the internet, to let them seek the wrong kind of attention or believe that their value lies in what mainstream media says it is. If we're gonna fix this, we need to stop using our index fingers to wag at them and instead use them to point to the right path. But most unfortunatley, we as a people are too preoccupied by other things to keep our girls from falling into the cracks.

Womanist Musings on Women in Hip Hop

A great analysis of how women are negatively protrayed in the music industry. Sadly, we've heard it all before though.

Thanks to Hip Hop, another Rihanna is a certainty

My name is Crystal Smith and I'm an editor at I was reading your blog and noticed you posted about Disney's The Princess and the Frog. I wrote a similar piece that discusses the need for more minority leads in children's programming. I thought you and your readers might be interested.

Images of black women in hip-hop culture make it more likely for them to be viewed as targets to be defaced and abused. History has proven it time and time again — women often get the short end of the stick. They weren't allowed to vote, they didn't have control over their reproductive or sexual health and were confined to the house.

Black women have had it even harder both legally, socially and even within the confines of their relationships with their husbands, boyfriends, brothers and fathers. Even as slaves, black women were subjected to the same beatings and work as their male counterparts, but were also raped and forced to breed children.

Today, black women like Rihanna are on the bottom of the social hierarchy, due to their race and gender. They make less, deal with more and are constantly bombarded with images of half-dressed, booty-shaking, loud-talking, over-sexed black females. Either images of black women are sprinkled into the whole, eradicated completely, or made to appear as though they deserve to be treated without respect.

These images objectify the black female body making it easier for men to abuse them.

Look at the world's inability to stop the systematic rape occurring in the Congo and Sudan. Look at Chris Brown's ability to beat up his even more famous girlfriend and the way the media violated her privacy and plastered her picture all over the Web. Look at the statistics.
In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That's an average of three women every day.

Black women are 35 percent more likely to experience intimate partner violence than white women. In 2000, they made up 18.8 percent to 28 percent of all reported sexual assault victims, according to a report by the Justice Department, even though they represent only about 7 percent of the population.

In order to change the volume and frequency of abuse inflicted on black women, we've got to change the images about them. BET is rolling out new shows, hoping to stop perpetuating negative stereotypes, but what about the damage it and other media outlets have already done?
Rihanna's already been beaten. Malika Calhoun has already been kicked and slammed to the ground by the white deputy. Megan Williams was already held captive by six white racists and made to eat rat and human feces. HIV/AIDS is already an epidemic among black girls and women. We want to talk about change, riding high on the euphoric feeling of having the first black president, but don't want to admit our involvement in the abuse and violence being inflicted on women.

Going back to Brown certainly shows Rihanna's miseducation, but her choice also points to the larger question: How can a woman have high self-esteem when the world's perception of who she is is constantly being degraded? In survey conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission, 44 percent of teens said violence was a normal part of a relationship, and 46 percent said Rihanna was to blame for her treatment.

If that doesn't prove my point, I don't know what else can.

Black Women's History: Hattie McDaniel

Jack and Jill Politics highlighted Hattie McDaniel during their Women's History Month daily posts. Even though McDaniel became famous for perpetuating a stereotype, much good sprang from that portrayal. She was able to achieve several 'firsts' and assist those in her community financially. Hattie McDaniel's place in black history, and in black women's history, should be admired and respected.

Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 – October 26, 1952) was an American actress and the first black performer to win an Academy Award. She won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).

McDaniel was also a professional singer-songwriter, comedienne, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she only received screen credits for about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.

Legal case: Victory on “Sugar Hill”Time magazine, December 17, 1945:

Their story was as old as it was ugly. In 1938, Negroes, willing and able to pay $15,000 and up for West Adams, Los Angeles, California, Heights property, had begun moving into the old colonial mansions. Many were movie folk—Actresses Louise Beavers, Hattie McDaniel, Ethel Waters, etc. They improved their holdings, kept their well-defined ways, quickly won more than tolerance from most of their white neighbors. But some whites, refusing to be comforted, had drawn up a racial restrictive covenant among themselves. For seven years they had tried to sell it to the other whites, but failed. Then they went to court. Superior Judge Thurmond Clarke decided to visit the disputed ground—popularly known as “Sugar Hill.” Next morning, Judge Clarke threw the case out of court. His reason: “It is time that members of the Negro race are accorded, without reservations or evasions, the full rights guaranteed them under the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Judges have been avoiding the real issue too long.” Said Hattie McDaniel, of West Adams Heights: “Words cannot express my appreciation.” It was McDaniel, the most famous of the black homeowners, who helped to organize the black West Adams residents that saved their homes. Loren Miller, a local attorney and owner/publisher of the California Eagle newspaper represented the homeowners in their restrictive covenant case. In 1944, he won the case Fairchild v Rainers, a decision for a black Pasadena, California family that had bought a non restricted lot but was sued by white neighbors anyway.

McDaniel had purchased her white two-story, seventeen-room mansion in 1942. The house included a large living room, dining room, drawing room, den, butler’s pantry, kitchen, service porch, library, four bedrooms, and a basement. McDaniel had a yearly Hollywood party. Everyone knew that the king of Hollywood, Clark Gable, would be faithfully present at all of McDaniel’s Movieland parties.

Community serviceMcDaniel was also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho, one of four African-American Greek letter sororities in the United States. During World War II, McDaniel was the Chairman of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers stationed at military bases. She also put in numerous personal appearances to hospitals, threw parties, performed at United Service Organizations (USO) shows and war bond rallies, to raise funds to support the war, on behalf of the Victory Committee. Bette Davis also performed for black regiments as the only white member of an acting troupe formed by Hattie McDaniel, that also included Lena Horne and Ethel Waters.

She joined Clarence Muse for an NBC radio broadcast to raise funds for Red Cross relief programs for Americans, many of them black, who had been displaced by the year’s devastating floods. Within the black community, she gained a reputation for generous giving, often without question feeding and lending money to friends and stranger alike.

In defense of the independent woman

It seems that our discussion of the independent black woman continues.

Anonymous said:
3. as BW we have made money the one thing that is often lacking with our brothers the main requirement to establish a relationship. if a man does not have money he is not worth your time and these men singing such songs are now seeming to say the same. material things have nothing to do with maintaining and sustaining a healthy loving friendly relationship between someone and anyone who thinks otherwise probably deserves to be alone.

Anon, in your estimation I deserve to be alone.

There are several points of discussion I'd like to glean from your words. First of all, I don't understand the sweeping generalization "any person who thinks x, y and z deserves to be alone". Not necessarily singling you out, because I've read it before and I'm sure I'll read it again. I can think of much stronger reasons that a person 'deserves' to be alone, such as knowingly giving their mate an STD, being a serial cheater, or engaging in domestic violence. I can't agree with you that thinking material things relate to forming relationships is a basis to be alone.

I was raised by a single mother. Not because my dad chose not to be in my life, but because my dad passed away when I was 11. My parents were divorced at the time of his death but I still saw and talked to my dad every day and he was almost as much a presence in my life after my parents split than before. Some of the personality traits he taught me were honesty, a strong work ethic, ambition and a reverence for education. I know that alot of people (I don't want to say majority of my generation because I don't have statistics, but its definitely the majority of the people I meet) didn't have those experiences growing up. We are a generation of women who did not have father figures to shape our formative years. We are also a generation who were raised to work hard, strive for whatever we desired in life and believe we can do anything. Now when you mix all those messages together, we were often told to stand on our own two feet, encouraged to believe that we must do things for ourselves, because no one was coming to 'rescue' us from economic and social problems. If it was going to get done, our sleeves were rolled up in preparation to do it. Because our fathers weren't there to take care of things for us.

I definitely remember what it was like to have a man in the house. There was a level of security that my mom and I had, a measure of self-assurance that everything would be ok. We were not middle class at all; in fact, I could only participate in one year of Girl Scouts because we couldn't afford all of the associated costs. Add to that fact that my mother's parents lived with us, which is the case in so many families. But my dad made everything work. He worked two jobs when he had to, and we never lacked for any essentials. He spoiled us in other noneconomic ways, but he was in no way a subservient, emasculated, selfish man. He wore the pants unquestionably. But along with those pants he did not shirk his responsibilities.

I said all of that to say -- when you don't have that, you learn to do it yourself. And my heart goes out to all of us who were raised without men, because now we have to learn to find space in our lives for men to take care of these things. The quandary we face is that alot of men aren't like that. For whatever reasons they weren't raised that way or choose not to live their lives in that way. So we're making space for a situation that does not always exist.

For me, its not about money. Its about mindset. If I can go to work everyday, be expected to run a household and take care of my husband and children, you don't get brownie points for being a 'good black man'. That's what you're supposed to do. If my dad, an immigrant to this country, a man who didn't know English when he got here and only had a technical school education, could take care of us, be the head of our household, be a strong figure in his children's lives and instill in us those lessons we needed to learn, then I don't see why men of my generation, who've had more opportunity, can't do the same.

I meet men all the time who have money. Its not about a salary to me but what you want out of life. I'm not content with the 9-5 rat race and want to instill in my children the same values that were instilled in me. I want them to believe in God, in themselves and know how to treat people. But there are alot of men who don't see that. Its all about a paycheck, those same material things that black women aren't supposed to want, and commitment-free sex. Or, I meet men with no ambition or drive at all, who are struggling to get by and who don't desire to improve their situation. They don't have the practical skills to head a household and are not working to acquire those skills. Why would I subject my future children to that mindset? How can a man take care of a family, when he isn't taking care of himself and his own matters? I don't bank on a man's potential, but what he's doing today. If you're working toward a life that will support a family, then of course I would support such a man. But I don't put stock in hot air or 'coulda woulda shouldas' either.

Anon, I know your comment wasn't directed at women who think like me. You were speaking of women who look at a man's clothes, shoes and vehicle as dating criteria. I understand their mindset too. Again it goes back to a man providing a certain lifestyle (it doesn't have to be a lavish one, but to me a man is supposed to provide) and if he doesn't want or provide certain things for himself, and a woman is already at that level (now if she isn't that's another story) then why should she bring him up to her level? Why should she be the provider, the breadwinner? The black community seems to be the only one where the man is given a pass for being at a lower economic level than the woman.

My issue with those songs is not that they're saying "if a man does not have money he is not worth your time". For one thing, they're not saying that, I don't agree with you. They're saying "let the woman work hard and spoil me. The only thing she can expect from me, since she works so hard, is a stiff one". Just look at the lyrics I highlighted in bold in that post. We can agree to disagree on that one. And what's worse is that they're influencing young, impressionable girls to not have expectations, to believe that they're supposed to do it all alone and its not ok to want a commitment.

What stuck out to me in your quote (and I couldn't tell if those words were a summary of the book you mentioned or your own mindset) was "material things have nothing to do with maintaining and sustaining a healthy loving friendly relationship". You're absolutely right. Material things have nothing to do with that. Me and my best friends don't center our friendly relationships on material things. My platonic male friends and I don't even mention them. And we've already discussed the 'friends with benefits' situation. I'm not looking for another friend. I'm looking for a husband, for a man to share my life, my children, my finances and my dreams with. It seems like nowadays single black women are condemned for having standards, for requiring black men to provide more than conversation and that good jug. Why is that? Why is it so wrong to want a man like my dad, like my grandad?

It seems like we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't. If we've learned to stand on our own, work hard and realize that we can't lean on non-existent men, then we're independent, materialistic, and deserve to be alone. If we proclaim that we want a partner, we have standards and expectations for the men in our lives and we aren't settling for lack of commitment and drive, then we want too much and still deserve to be alone. We can't win, and I've stopped trying to adhere to someone else's standards. Men like my dad aren't rare; I've just come to realize that they're no longer in the majority. And that's unfortunate but that's what I want. What we all deserve.

Have whatevery you like

T.I. - Whatever You Like

(why is it so hard to find songs with the explicit lyrics removed? Geez..)

For some reason, I woke up singing this song today. "Baby, you can have whatever you likkkkkkeeee".

Well, how many of us know what it is that we'd like? Do you know what you want out of life? Stop and think about that for a moment. Not things, like money, cars, trips, and clothes, but feelings. Happiness? Joy? Contentment? Do you know what makes you happy, joyful, and content?

You're more likely to get what you want when you focus on the end result you have in mind. But so many of us are mentally running between our obligations - work, school, children, family, etc - that we don't spare moments to actually think ahead. We're consumed with thinking about the present moment. Or we don't think that thinking of a feeling is realistic. When you have diapers to change, food to put on the table and bills to pay, it may seem unrealistic to think about what gives you bliss.

But until you think about that bliss, you won't have it. You'll have more of the same of what you're getting. You'll continually live the saying "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." Besides, where is the harm in thinking something different? Something that makes you feel good?

Our desires spring from wanting to feel good anyway. We want material things to feel ease, comfort, and stability. Its much better to feel good inside than to lust after things. I'm not condemning the want of material things - on the contrary. What I'm advocating for everyone is to feel good about life in general and strive for those things once that inner happiness is reached.

First things first, though. Start with knowing what it is you really want, not just what you desire on the surface. And from that place you're more likely to have them.

10 Reasons I love being a black woman

  1. When I walk into a room of black women, I see so many versions of beauty - different skin tones, body shapes, unique styles and I know that we are each a creature like no other.
  2. I know that no sistah I meet has has the same history, viewpoint or religious belief as I do. There's always an opportunity for discourse, debate, and learning.
  3. Every time I meet a black woman I hear a stereotype being shattered.
  4. Black women have an outrageous sense of humor. Especially black women over the age of 40.
  5. Most black women have a strong sense of faith, even though we don't all worship the same God in the same way.
  6. Almost every black woman I meet is a go getter, striving for the improvement of her mind, body, spirit and/or circumstance.
  7. Elder black ladies inspire me to greatness with their encouragement.
  8. Young black women make me proud with their intelligence, curiousity and talent.
  9. There a few things sweeter than a black woman's smile.
  10. There are few things more resilient than a black woman's spirit.

Friends Don't Have Benefits

In our discussion of the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident, I mentioned that I don't watch the news and why. I also don't listen to the radio, for similar reasons. I don't want doom and gloom sneaking into my brain while I'm driving. Also, most of the time, the radio personalities are too goofy even for me (the Russ Par Morning Show comes to mind), or they ask questions that don't really have solutions, or at least the discussion doesn't solve anything (like when Michael Baisden talks about black men dating white women).

So imagine my surprise as I listened to the radio this morning on my drive to work (working on Saturday gets a major boo!). I thought my ears deceived me when the first song was announced as "Wayne Brady singing F.W.B.". I just knew it couldn't be that FWB.... right? Wayne Brady? Talking about friends with benefits? What?

Yep. Wayne Brady, talking about friends with benefits.

One line particularly stuck out to me: "You could still do your thing and I'll do mine".

Strangely, this put me in mind of my last job. I worked for a temp agency on a long-term project. I was there for about a year. I worked the same hours as the regular employees, attended meetings, office parties, etc. But at the end of the day I wasn't the same, because I was a temp. This included not getting paid for leave time, no medical insurance, and an at-will status that frequently caused me anxiety. In short, I was there to fill a temporary need but I had no employee benefits.

The same way friends don't have benefits...

Think about it. Friends with benefits status is usually conferred in three situations. In one situation, you start out as platonic friends, then somewhere along the line you develop a mutual attraction that lands you in bed together. Only, you're not really friends with the guy anymore. You have relations sometimes, you have half-hearted conversations because you used to talk. But your friendship erodes and when the 'benefits' are gone, so are you. In the second situation, you meet a man you're interested in pursuing a relationship with. He kinda likes you too (but not at the same level that you have feelings for him) but 'is not ready for a relationship' (which, to me, is manspeak for wanting to find something better). So you stick around, being his girlfriend substitute, until you wear him down and he gives in (very rare) or you finally get the hint and depart with your tail between your legs and your heart in your hand. The third situation is where, you either meet a man and are physically attracted to him, or elect a man you know to the FWB slot. Upon mutual agreement you embark on a mutually satisfying (hopefully) sexual relationship that actually has no friendship basis at all. The only reason for contact is to do the do.

Let's think about this for a second. The FWB situation is attractive for those who don't want any 'strings', or any commitment to the person they're sleeping with. They want the cow for free, as grandma would say. Or, they want sex and companionship (the actual vaguely friendly part where you spend time and participate in activities together) but, again, no commitment. Or, one person wants commitment, the other doesn't, so the commitment-minded party settles for whatever parts of the other they can get. Or... the parties just want to stimulate each other's genitals with no intellectual or emotional interaction at all.

Just like a temp, the 'friend' is there to fill a temporary need. But they don't essentially have any benefits. Sure, sex is a benefit, but not worth the emotional sacrifice. I found that, after engaging in FWB situations, I was more reluctant to get to know men for potential relationships. After all, I could have an instant boyfriend substitute and fully understand the terms of the agreement upfront. I didn't have to wonder if the guy liked me (he did, at least enough to get aroused) and if he'd stick around (he wouldn't). I knew exactly where things were headed, and thus had a relative degree of control of the situation. (Yes I was lying to myself). But an actual relationship... man, that's tricky! You have to figure out if you're compatible, have the same goals in life, hell, have the same goals in the relationship, etc. And face rejection if you don't meet the man's criteria. Why go through all that when you can have some easy booty? But at the end of the day, when the terms of the contract have been met, you're at square one with nothing to show for it.

I've never engaged in an FWB situation with someone I was romantically interested in. But seeing friends go through it, I know the agony a woman feels (and the time she wastes) as she waits for a man to be ready for a relationship, and that readiness never manifests. At least, not with the FWB. Because, really, he was just being a 'friend' until the woman he wanted appeared. On top of that, the woman has to get over the man in the same way as if they were in a real relationship. That's even more time wasted only to end up at square one again. Some women think this is unfair, get angry, get upset and all that. But honestly, you knew the terms of the agreement upfront and agreed to them, no matter if you told yourself the relationship would develop later. Like me with my previous job, the woman in this situation is anxiously awaiting a decision of permanent status that is rarely delivered.

Where's the benefit of giving of yourself - your body and/or your heart - without a man giving of himself to you? Let's be real, men giving their organs are not the same as women giving their cookies. The most obvious reason is that you have to let him in to your body. That in itself is an unequal giving and requires more on your part than on his. And, again, the woman ends up at square one (except in situations when women really and truly don't want a relationship, with the friend or someone else).

My answer: be true to your desires. Don't lie to your 'friend' and yourself by agreeing to an FWB situation when you really want more. Because the only person benefiting from that situation is the man. As hard as it can be, especially when you've been single for a long time, or really like someone, be strong and hold out for what you really want. You're far more likely to get it if you're looking for a real relationship, instead of giving your 'benefits' to someone who doesn't give you the status you deserve.

Question of the Week: Black Celebrity Image

Question of the Week:

Which black female celebrities exude positive images? Which ones do you 'love' from afar?

The Problem with Miss Independent

For the last few days, I've had "Blame It" on heavy rotation at work. The next song on the cd is "She Got Her Own", which has been out for a while now. Its basically the remix for "Miss Independent". If you remember, there was a previous rap song about independent women (I tried to find the video on Youtube, but I won't relay the videos that I actually found) by Webbie, Lil Phat and Lil Boosie (who comes up with these names??). I didn't like the first version, and I don't trust Ne-Yo's and Jamie Foxx's version.

Webbie - Independent

She'll Buy Her Own I Dont Think She 'll Never Look
In A Man Face Standin Waitin For Him To Take Care Of Her
She'll Rather Go To Work And Pay The Bills On Schedule

She Got Her Own House
Drive Her Own Whip
Range Rover All White Like Her Toe Tips
She Got A Pretty Smile
Smell Real Good
The Only Time She Need A Man For That Good Jugg
They Buy The Bar Too
They Superstars Too
They Be Like You Aint Got No Money Take You Broke Tail Home
Baby Phat They On
They Clothes Match They Phone
They Be Like Yea!! When They Song Come On
Leave The Club Kinda Early Cuz They Gotta Go To Work
I Mess Wit Supervisors Who Got Credit Like Big Turk
So Dusty Feet Please Dont Bother Me
I Got Independent Dimes On My Mind Who Spoil Me

Uh huh. Then there's the Ne-Yo/Jamie Foxx version:

I love her cause she got her own
She don't need mine, so she leave mine
There ain't nothing that's more sexy
Than a girl that want but
don't need me (oh!)
Young independent, yea she work hard
But you can't
tell from the way that she walk
She don't slow down 'cause she ain't got
To be complaining, shawty gone shine
She don't expect
nothing from no guy

She plays aggressive, but she still shy
you never know her softer side
By lookin' in her eyes....
Knowin' she
can do for herself
Makes me wanna give her my wealth
Only kinda girl I
Independent queen workin' for her throne
I love her cause she got
her own...
She got her own
I love her cause she got her own
She got
her own
I love it when she say
It's cool I got
it, I got it, I got it

When shorty come around they call
her "I got it"
She won't even let you put your hands in your

And now she wit Loso,
'Case you didn't know so
You can save your money dawg shorty getting dough so
What she care wit his cars, you can call her miss boss
Now all
my ladies that dont need a man for nothing, except some of that good
let me here you sayoooo oooo oooo oooo

My interpretation of these lyrics, in both songs, are that: independent women are expected to handle their burdens with pride and in silence. Don't complain, girl, 'cos you're independent! Independent women are expected to handle everything on their own, be responsible, and not allow others to help them. But what disturbed me about these songs was how men absolved themselves of financial responsibility where independent women are concerned. Its as if they're saying "you're independent, you don't need my money so I'm not supporting you."

I guess that's ok, if taken in the context that men want to avoid gold diggers. But women want to avoid gold diggers also! Especially with the state of black America being what it is - where there are more educated women than men, and in our time of financial turmoil, a high rate of unemployment. I'm not enthused by the idea of women supporting men. And we all probably know a woman who supports the good-for-nothing in her life; she works 2 jobs, cooks, cleans, etc, while he takes advantage of the situation and does nothing. To me, these songs support that situation. These songs are saying, the only reason an independent woman now needs a man is for that "good jug", that "good lovin". Are we really saying that women who earn a good living don't need more than financial stability? That the money they possess makes up for the love, companionship and camaraderie they receive from men? That, ultimately, women who are not independent will receive financial support because they don't have their own? Because they're not as hardworking?

Do you remember several years back when independent women were frowned upon? When the assumption was, independent women didn't need or want men? I feel that the result of women latching onto that mantle is the resultant "only need a man for that good jug" attitude. I won't go so far as saying we've cursed ourselves, but that image is one that's hard to shake. And, I'll admit, a tempting one to have latched onto, if you were a woman who had to have her own, because there wasn't a man in your life to lean on. Now, however, the problem is that, those independent women who don't need money but are looking for commitment from men are kinda stuck. How do you maintain your independence yet be vulnerable at the same time? Not vulnerable in a weak sense, but in a very human, emotional sense. That's a difficult question and as one of those independent women, I don't have an answer. What I do know is that songs like this don't help. You may think I've read too much into the lyrics, that I'm taking things too seriously. But isn't that how images are formed? By assumptions about people being accepted as true? The problem of Miss Independent is definitely real.