Impression

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We search for acceptance from our friends, family, co workers, children, husband/boyfriends, the person walking down the street, the waiter at a restaurant, not realizing that an impression has already been made.  A person has already looked at you and assessed your actions based on their standards.  It’s not until one decides they want to know you that their initial impression ranges from dislike, content, and/or admiration.  Questions: “So why?,” “Why should you care?” and “What is the fix?”

So Why?

Why do we try to make an impression? Why do we care so much? Why? Why? Why? My five cents…we do it because we were conditioned this way.  Think of when you were a kid; before you left the house your parents would warn you not to “act a fool,”  “your actions are a reflection of this household,” they would say.  What about your first date?  The unwritten rule, “Don’t show him/her who you really are.  “Wait a few dates/months’ or the crazy one “until you are married and he’s trapped.”  You go on a job interview, wear certain clothes, you speak and conduct yourself in a manner that is so uncommon that you have to coach yourself days before the interview; then you get the job and the first few months you are on your best behavior and once you feel comfortable you become a little more relax.  Restaurants – same thing, there are even social etiquette classes on how to conduct yourself in a social setting; as we speak, there is a format on how to engage your audience when blogging – “Social Norms” we call them.

So…why should we care?

I have a coworker who wants a James Jean “Crayon Eater” tattoo, however, is hesitant because of the social stigma that blinds our creativity and individuality.  She’s not sure how she would be perceived.  In speaking with her, this is one of her favorite artist, his work describes perfectly what is in her head.  Why should she care?

My son, a young black boy growing up in a “free”  but racist, discriminant, world.  Why should I care? Especially when, as much as you try to ensure they speak /respect others, peoples hate can sometimes affect how they treat people of color.  Why should I care?

The Fix

If we were meant to be the same, we would all be the same color, height, weight, sex; we would speak a certain way, conduct ourselves as a “Collective.”  My response to my coworkers hesitancy about getting the tattoo, “Tattoos are extensions of art, an extension of you.  If this is something you luv, do it.  When you luv it, you don’t regret it.”  In her situation she should not care what others thinks.

Me, I am 7 of 9.  I was once part of a collective: I had to think, act, and dress a certain way until I realized there was a way to construct my social etiquette without losing sight of who I am.  As I mature, I realize there is a need to “instruct” others on how they conduct themselves.  Every action will have a reaction.  We as individuals choose how our first impressions to others will be and should accept the reactions given.

My son, I should care.  I want him to make an impression, his impression.  So, what do I do?  I explain to him what I have learned, show him what happens when he goes left, or goes right, I teach him to think for himself, I provide him with the good, the bad, the ugly; I explain to him my idea of life and what it’s about, and as he grows/matures I pray that his impression is a positive lasting impression.  I pray whatever path he chooses, he thought about it and accepts the journey he will take.

As long as we are aware of our actions, impressions though needed should be our own.

Conviction

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Conviction: a firmly held belief or opinion.
I guess you can say growing up I was not raised to see color; instead people’s actions are what constituted how you should act towards them. In high school I knew I was discriminated against but never fully comprehended it. When I began working, segregation was created in an unconventional way but in order to get your check, you dealt with the conditions you were in unless you lucked up in your position and found a group of coworkers who treated each other as equals and gave respect. In the meantime, you do what you have to do in order to get to where you want to be. It wasn’t until a few years ago I found my conviction, my beliefs, my voice, my passion, my purpose with caveats. Now, how do I hone in? Relay my truths? Affect the masses in a positive way? Reach the youth? Keep my sanity? Keep my mind clear? Stay balanced? Support my family? And be true…to me?
I wrote a while back that being an Aries is a tough job, because we want to succeed and accept any challenge life gives us. We want to take life’s lemons and create a wonderful lemonade to share with others but, it’s a tough/daunting process. And sometimes trying to reach that zen like feeling especially, when you have dual hats – family provider and a want to be the voice of the community becomes a struggle. How do you choose? Or, do you have to?
So, before I go so far off the beaten path that I lose you, let me explain. Over the last few weeks I have asked various people  “What it meant to be black in America?”  The further I did my research, it should come to no surprise that there are others who have sought this difficult and unyielding quest. I tried anyway because again, I like the challenge.  And while the answers received were somewhat no different then other answers or views I’ve read, I still found them to be unique. I realized this is an open ended question because, answers can change from one persons experience to the next. I also listened to several interviews to give me another way of looking at the reality; giving me another perspective. For that, my eyes have widened and my plate is now the size of a Thanksgiving dinner.
With that being said, over the next few weeks, I will be posting people’s opinions, questions and truths. Conduct more research in hopes that I can condense people’s truths, make it palatable, and the work towards figuring out how we as a
whole can come together and show those who do not believe in unity that unity is as not as bad as you think it is.
Something for you to think about, “What do you think it means to be ‘Black in America’?”

Single Black Female

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Being me is not easy.  I am supposed to speak a certain way, dress and date conservatively, wear my hair “traditionally,” and succumb to societal norms.  I am not defined by my actions and character but, my outer appearance or the tone of my voice.  I am told I have to work twice as hard as any other race.  And no matter how much I tried to concede to the provided standard, acceptance never chose me.  So…what do I do – I go back to the drawing board, the real me.

What did she say?

You go to school and taught to speak properly, annunciate your words and speak with diction and conviction.  Subjected to peer pressure, you defy what authority states you do and become creative with your words.

In 1999, Aaron Peckham created the Urban Dictionary for fun but, unbeknown to him, it became more than just fun; it became life.  In 2012 there were more than 6.3 million untraditional words defined – proving urban terminology carries as much weight verses the conventional way of speaking.  Proving vocabulary is meant to be colorful and explored.  I say “Good Morrow” or when asked how I am doing, I say, “Well” and mocked in return.

Which is it, do you want me to speak properly, speak with urban dialect, merge the two or…? I sure as hell don’t know.

What is she wearing?

I could never dress the way society would socially accept me because of the contour of my body.  I learned what best fit my figure and made it work for me.  However, if I wore a pencil or skater skirt, I was condemned or said as being too racy for the clothes I wore. “Oh! She’s trying to get a promotion.”  The only way I could get away with appearing professional was by wearing clothing twice my size and who wants to do that. The same with the African American female teacher in Atlanta, who wears bodycons to work with sweaters and is still chastised where as others wear body cons (no sweaters), mini skirts and see through shirts and they are viewed as professional.  Still confused.

Why does your hair look that way?

As I began to embrace the skin I am in, I also began to luv my hair in its natural state.  The versatility it yielded.  But I had to be different; it wasn’t enough to have natural hair, I also had to dye it red.  How dare I?  My cousin said one day, “My mom won’t allow me to dye my hair red because she said it is ratchet and ghetto.” Hmmm.   I guess I am ratchet though none of my actions exemplify it.

Then, I arrive to work one day after I changed the style and color of my hair and my coworker says, “Oh! Your hair is nice.  The color is more inviting/welcoming. (My current color is more of a natural “dark brown” color with burgundy/auburn highlights)” versus my fire-engine red hair.

Basically saying that I should succumb to the standards of society – blend in. However, Marc Jacobs can appropriate our culture of having all white females on the runway with locs because if “black females can appropriate their hair by straightening it then, why can’t I do the same.”  Oh! Aight.

Doesn’t she want to succeed?

If she wanted to succeed, she should listen and do what is asked of her.  “Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture.  Do you your job.  No more, no less.” He said, “As long as you are providing steady income, what does it matter if you are right and they are wrong.” He exclaimed definitively.  “You will not elevate your success if you keep ‘bucking’ the system.”

Okay…

Well you know what?  “I reject your reality.”    I’ve tried fitting in and “keeping up with the Joneses.”  It failed.  I am not your ideal truth.  I am a black female, with curvy hips, natural hair, poetic speech, determined mind, and person who does not accept no as answer.  I grind, for what I want, I have conviction for right vs. wrong.  I may not always make the best decisions but, I try to a fault.  My hair is red, my skin is a beautiful chocolate brown, my accent has a hint of urban in it but, she speaks proper; this does not define me.  What defines me is my humble personality, my luv to help others, my thirst for knowledge, the want to make a change – a positive change, the need to laugh and in doing so, make others smile.  I am a single black female who is succeeding on her own terms.  It may not be the traditional way but…I am doing it my way (in my Sinatra voice).

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picture courtesy of Pinterest

Arrogance

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We weren’t allowed to get married

So, we jumped the broom

As a sign our union.

We weren’t allowed to read

It’s okay,

We found other means

Our strengths and resilience is what you hate

Our innovation swept under the rug

You want us to be stripped of all sense of dignity and pride

You take our music

Our swag

You enhance your shape

To reflect what we always knew was great

And yet, you chastised it once before

Why should we not be arrogant?

All that we are is what you secretly idolize

Appropriation or acculturation

Pick one

You hate us for our arrogance

And wish we would tone it down

But, why?

Daddy’s Girl

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Defying Stereotypes

I grew up in household of a mother, a father, a sister and a dog.  We were not the perfect family by any means. We were a middle – hardworking class family who struggled with debt; the “bird and the bees” conversation consisted of “You betta not come home pregnant (with enough force that you knew what you should not do if you wanted to live).” There were ups and downs however my parents made sure food was always on the table, the lights were on, manners and respect to our elders was always given and you worked hard for what you wanted in life.

Growing Up

I was never allowed to take the easy road out of anything.  If I wanted to know what a word meant, I had to look it up in the dictionary and to show I knew what it meant; I had to give the definition/use it in a sentence.  When I began my first job, a 15 and 9 months, the only way I was going to get my license and a car was if I kept a job.  And so, I did.  When I turned 19, responsibility was solely on me. My mom helped me with a career change, I moved out of my parents’ house and started the process of becoming an independent woman.  Did I have a few setbacks? Yes but, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Thinking I was Grown

One Thanksgiving I decided to challenge my father…I thought I was grown and he should have respected my opinion and I his.  Instead, the conversation was one sided and in return placed a huge strain on our relationship resulting in us not speaking to each for several months.  It was tough on me because, I lost a huge part of my life; my dad, someone who was always there for me. Results of that one event affected other aspects of my life in a negative manner.  It changed who I was and I how I treated others, especially men.

Fast-forward to My Now

I never truly remember how my dad and I began speaking to each other again however; I know our relationship has blossomed into an unbreakable bond.  When my son was born, my dad showed up to the hospital – showing his grandson and I so much luv, when I was struggling to buy my sons formula – he purchased some from Amazon for me, when my house was flooded – he gave me a place to stay until it was fixed, when he sees his grandson he makes sure he has chocolate chip cookies for him, when I said I wanted to build a Jenga Set we spent all day cutting and sanding wood, when we hang out with the family he makes sure I am enjoying myself and not solely focusing on my son, when we talk on the phone – we are able to talk about politics, family, life, sports, etc.


So…yes I am a Daddy’s Gurl.  My mom and my dad have always been there for me, my mom to teach me how to be a woman but, my dad to teach me how a man should love me and take care of his family.  He was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and no man or woman ever is however, when it counted he always there.  Daddy’s Gurl does not mean spoiled or overly attached to her father in my eyes.  Rather, what you should expect in your future husband.

 

The Wind is My Friend

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My hair free and of natural flow wanders aimlessly in the wind.  As she whispers go left, my hair sashays left, as she whispers go right, my hair trots right.  In this environment my sight is obstructed, she has disengaged from the effort of being previously styled, she is thanking the wind because now, she is free.  The wind was her liberator, her way of saying she would not be tamed. This was how my hair was when I had a relaxer.

For those who are often confused to the difference between relaxers, perms or being natural.  Relaxers chemically alter (relax) the natural curls in your hair, perms are also chemically altering products giving volume and curls to once straight hair, and natural is a state in which nothing has been used to chemically alter the state of hair you were born with.

For so long, I was addicted to the “creamy crack” called a Relaxer.  My hair was free and easy.  I luved her and she luved me.

Fast forward, to my pregnancy.  An experience forcing me to give up the creamy crack.  WHAT THE HELL!!!  We as women give up so much during pregnancy and the ease of taming the beast or learning how to style natural hair was never an easy feat.  My hair no longer blew in the wind so carelessly, it felt like no matter what I would do to my hair (when I did do something) she would battle with mother nature and mother nature would always win.  The woes of going back to a natural state of mind and body.
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In my early days of being natural, I had no idea what I was doing.  I hadn’t been natural since I was a kid and even then, it was my mother was doing my hair, not me.  If I did not keep it curled, I wore weaves.  I did not want to be bothered and when I wore my hair naturally I always felt self conscious.  This was a new life for me; it almost brought back a little insecurities of being accepted in “Corporate America?” However, breezes of wind blew in my ear and whispered that I was not alone.
I began networking in a completely new way…finding other groups of women who were having the same problems as me.  Ways to style and keep your hair healthy was becoming second nature to me however, I still did not accept nor understand the true meaning of being natural.  In all truth, most who go natural are never truthful as to why they went natural and if they are…they glamorize it to make seem like they are connecting to their roots.  I began my natural journey because I was pregnant and stayed with it because my hair began to thin ( a side affect of my munchkin being born).  Being natural and keeping my hair curled allowed me the volume I needed.  If I still had thick hair after pregnancy I would have went back to the creamy crack.  Much easier.
It wasn’t until my fourth 3rd year of being natural that I began to have a true appreciation and respect for being natural.  I began to luv it’s versatility, and in a way it made be become more healthier.  Because I use a lot of natural products in my hair (olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, Jamaican black caster, vitamin e etc) have a wonderful stylist, and began doing my research on how to grow healthy hair- pinterest and youtube became my best friend, the food I prepared also became healthier.  And now, in my fourth year, I still luv being natural and I also luv my protective styles including wearing weaves or “tracks.”  The wind and I have come to a truce.  She showed me another side to her silly yet helpful ways.  Now, when she flows through my hair, I no longer hide from her assertiveness but accept her with open arms.  She adds more volume to my hair; she gives her life.  I once thought the creamy crack was the best thing in the world…not so much.  I once thought wind was my enemy now, we are best friends.
I have become naturally me!

Glass Half Full

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True or False – Am I scared of the times we are living in?  True.

True or False – Am I scared for my son? True

True or False – Does racism still exist? Hell mutha-cussing yeah

True or False – With all that is going on, would I change the color of skin? – False

True or False – Would I change the times I live in? False

True or False – Do I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel? True

 

The Past

The Civil Rights Movement was a myriad of needed changes for women, minorities, the disabled, gay rights, and or otherwise discriminated.  “The most important achievements of African-American civil rights movements have been the post-Civil War constitutional amendments that abolished slavery and established the citizenship status of blacks and the judicial decisions and legislation based on these amendments, notably the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”  http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (the major faces of the African American Civil rights movement) while different in their methods wanted a better life for generations to come.  We, black people, overcame some obstacles and thought we won the war.  We became complacent because we were able to get jobs and were treated “equally.”

The Present

Because we never overcame our pass we didn’t understand what it meant to respect and luv each other.  Now, we have issues with black on black crime, an internal problem that only we, black people, can correct.  Yes, we have a lot to work on in our community however, with the recent shooting caught on video and extremely difficult to watch, I fear for my son.  Those who have done right, died.  Those who were in the wrong were never able to be tried by a jury of their peers, died. And, these shootings took place from those who swore to protect and uphold the law.

#BlackLivesMatter.  Everyone gets upset when black people say, Black Lives Matters but, guess what?  They do.  We say it because, guess what? We are black and we can only speak of something that is happening to our community.  Two wrongs don’t make a right and there is an issue in the black community of needing to be united however, we did not swear under oath to protect and serve.  Officers did, and the strings of incidents taking place are showing SOME officers being the judge, the jury, and the executioner.  I am not a statistician by no means but, when you have websites being created to map “Police Killings” whether they were right or wrong makes you wonder about SOME who chose to protect and serve and if you are truly safe. http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/

The Future

The Civil Rights Movement came about because of the inequality and unjust behavior amongst people of color and rightfully so now, the Black Lives Matter movement has come about because inequality and unjust behavior amongst people of color.  Tupac said, “We don’t need more rappers, we don’t need more basketball players.  We need more thinkers.”  The Black Lives Matter movement can be a beautiful thing if we work together, if we set plans, goals, and proper courses of action to ensure equality for all.

I think the recent string of events is finally awakening the eyes of our celebrities to stand up for the true meaning of equality.  I feel as though, those who did not know where they stood in life are accepting their calling and answering it with, “What do I need to do?”

And Me

It use to be a time when I would wake up in the morning and thank the Lord for allowing me to see a brand new day…lately, I have been praying to keep everyone safe from harm.  I am waking up scared of what may happen to the “man” standing next to me.  I am scared that I could be the next Sandra Bland.  Change needs to happen.  We don’t need instant satisfaction but change that will last a lifetime.  Don’t give us the crumb of hope but, the full loaf that we’ve always asked for.  Equality and Justice for all.  People questioned Jesse Williams speech…let’s question officers who are never brought up on charges for killing innocent lives, let’s question the judges who do not give fair sentences to suspects who black or white committed a crime, let’s question those who hate “people who are different” so much, they shoot up churches and clubs, or shoot people without hesitation.   Let’s understand the real reason why your Jesse Williams, Martin Luther Kings Jr, Officer Tommy Norman, are standing up for us saying there has to/will be another way.  Let’s understand they were and are one of many willing to stand up for what they believe in.  Let’s respect their courage and embrace the truth.  There is a lot of work needing to take place in this beautiful country.  If we are supposed to be “Big Brother” why aren’t we acting like it?  Change needs to and will happen.

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P.S. If you are stilling wondering why Black Lives Matter and couldn’t understand it before and still don’t get after this weeks recent events, then I don’t think you will ever get it.

And, for those idiots who are taking matters into their own hands killing innocent police officers, please have several seats, you are not helping the cause.   You are hurting it.  I understand you are angry but, there is always another, peaceful way.  The peaceful march/demonstration in Dallas was meant to show that we must unite and demand justice.  Instead, it was turned into a massacre of innocent lives, innocent cops who were doing their job by protecting, serving and ensuring the safety of others.

Taking life is never the answer.  That is what we are fighting for, the respect of life.