Becoming Cultured

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As a society, we can sometimes become wrapped up in what is acceptable actions, religion, music, activities, etc according to our nationality. Not realizing, what makes us different and what another culture does can sometimes unify the different races. Over the last few weekends, the togetherness I have seen amongst those I have encountered at Comicon and Renaissance Festival have been a reassuring sign that there is still awesomeness amongst us.

Fantasy Does Exist!!!

I went to Comicon and immediately became overwhelmed by the hero’s, the cosplay, the artist who cater to our need to escape reality. I met legends, saw Vader (I wanted him to say ‘Luke, I am your father.’ but jumbled my words and could only say ‘LUKE!’), purchased pieces of art that expressed me. I was amongst my people – not “black people” but, my people, those who enjoy comics and movies and fantasy. The cool thing was, there was no shaming, no judgment of the color of your skin; it was meant to be fun and fun was had.

Then, I had my first experience at the Renaissance Festival. It was full of pirates, wenches, nymphs, fairies, and pride and guess what?!?! Again, the crowd was diverse. We came to enjoy the artist and be entertained. Again, I was amongst those who luved fantasy, the era of the Renaissance, amongst culture; I was amongst my people.

Look at Me Becoming Cultured!!!

So, what does this mean? Experience is what drives perspective, gives new outlooks on life. Being cultured is not just about learning the history of your race but also, being willing to learn things from other cultures. We don’t have to stick with only “black culture” because that’s the only thing we know or that’s the color our skin. As a society, you can’t grow that way and have a full understanding of what life is through just one set of eyes. Accepting differences, interacting with other communities is what makes the human race great. And for the first time, I finally understand it completely.

My challenge to anyone who reads this: just as you would go to the museums to experience pieces of history, read the required books while in school – don’t stop there. Find local festivals to attend, don’t be afraid to try something different because it’s not apart of your comfort zone, if your children speak to you about religion or other cultures, don’t dismiss them; rather encourage their inquisitive nature. You never know, you too may find something fascinating – I know I have.

Next stop…New York Comicon

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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).

afro

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?

Perfection

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Endlich and his beautiful garden

Perfectionism: Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.

Hello! My name is Danielle and I am a perfectionist. I will take on a project – do it to the best of my capability and if I don’t feel it is complete then; I ponder until “I am one” with the final product. I am like this with work, home, the arts and anything else I tap into.

When I began blogging, I read successful tips on how to write a blog; writing from the heart, have a common theme, be truthful, and own everything you publish; a code you should abide by. Again, as a perfectionist, I do write from the heart, I own what I say and still try to have a common theme. However, with everything taking place in the world today, my focus shifted. My want to be perfect, transparent, true to me, while being politically/un-apologetically correct took over. News clouded my artistic writers form. I realized, I had to take a hiatus – to self-reflect on the overall reason of my blog. I needed to make sure that it is and will be for its intended purpose. To give others a perspective they never thought of, to educate, to be a joyous read, to hopefully help others in areas they may have needed an unbiased opinion in. I took a hiatus because I needed to hone in on my purpose and not fill people’s mind with my anger.

Ta-Nahisi Coates wrote a book, Between the World and Me, in the book he writes, “The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking and honest writing.” In the sense of my life, my dream is to be perfect when it comes to art of writing and trying to convey a message that I don’t want to be interpreted negatively. I have to let that dream go but, I also have to separate some of my strong personal feelings too. While I work on this, I will continue to write the traditional way, pen and paper. And, I SHALL RETURN.
Dunh dunh dunh
1-Luv

D

Loveee Pt. III – Family

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Over the weekend, I witnessed a beautiful union of friendship, luv, respect, companionship, truthfulness, and security and was honored to be a part of it alongside friends and family.  As everyone gave their speeches and congratulated the couple on their union and as the bride and groom thanked everyone, it got me to thinking what it means to be a family.  According to Merriam – Webster family is:

  • “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
  • a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage.
  • the children of a person or couple.
  • a person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy.
  • a group of people united in criminal activity.
  • Biology – a principal taxonomic category that ranks above genus and below order, usually ending in -idae (in zoology) or -aceae (in botany).
  •  group of objects united by a significant shared characteristic.
  • Mathematics – a group of curves or surfaces obtained by varying the value of a constant in the equation generating them.
  • all the descendants of a common ancestor.”

However, none of the definitions speak of friends being family.

I come from a huge family, I have 11 aunts and uncles and 40+ cousins…and that’s just in Maryland.  I am not including those in other states because the numbers would increase tremendously and still wouldn’t change the fact I feel closest to a single handful of my fam.  For some of my family members, I feel like we are associates more than anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I luv my family and wouldn’t trade them for the world however, there are times when it feels as if my handful of family and my handful of friends are the only family I have.  I have friends who would go to the end of world and back for me and I them, when some of my family would rather take advantage. 

So, as I witnessed the union over the weekend and listened to the bride speak of her friends being her family, again, I realized definitions are frameworks to be enhanced by one’s interpretation of their life.  In this instance, she spoke of bonds between her best friends who when told that she was getting married, they stepped up and asked “what do you need from me?”  Their joy and excitement for her happiness surpassed what she expected and that spoke volumes during the event.  Those who are mother’s to other’s became her adoptive mother in a single moment, and “sister’s in law” lost the “in law” title because they are more than what society has deemed her to be, instead she became a true sister/and supporter.  And, the wondering of why “true” family did not receive invitations faded away from my mind and an understanding of her definition of family became the truth.  This was and is not to say that she luvs her family any less than she luvs her friends; rather to say, family comes in many forms.  She chose those have always been there to support, luv, guide and nurture her to be there to witness her union.

As I end, family is what you make of it, friends, unions (marriage), pets, and/or your true family as defined by Webster.  After seeing a different definition of the word “family,” I have come to respect all aspects of what my family is the good, the bad, the ugly, the dysfunctional, and the wonderful.   

Three Musketeers