27Sep

The Subjectivity of Beauty: Viola Davis & Shoes

So this “less classically beautiful” comment about Viola Davis has me thinking; however, I do think as a part time gig.

So I have this friend who loves to comment on the ugliness of my shoes.  This has been an ongoing phenomena for years.  Even this past summer she caught hold of a new pair of shoes and said you have outdone yourself again.  She rips on my shoe collection.  So when I purchased a pair of shoes yesterday, I could hear her voice and her disapproval ringing in my ear.  They were ugly? They were also leather and comfortable which is a value I prize over look and style.

The average person might not know it but I like shoes.  I look for shoes that treat my feet well but there are also certain styles that speak to me.  Like most people if I had more money I would invest in more shoes.  There are some styles that really grab my attention.  I do not buy ugly shoes at least as far as I’m concern.  I don’t walk in a store and say let me pick out the ugly shoe so my friend can have something to say.  Like most people I choose what is appealing to me.  And even though this new shoe is different there is something about the shoe that speaks to me.

I grew up with a mother similar to my friend.  She has very finite opinions about what is nice looking and what is not.  She loves heals and colors that shout.  She also likes fish net stockings and they are  signature of hers.  In addition, she comes from a generation of women who wear hats.  I’m talking about hats that you put in layaway and pay on because they are specially made.  These hats talk and the rest of one’s outfit follows.  She is a different kind of woman.  She believes every time she steps out the door she is making  a statement.

And last but not least my partner.  She too is a fashionista of sorts.  I look at her some days and say not over my dead body.  She loves tie up antique looking shoes and scarves even in 90 degree weather.  She likes vintage.  She mixes all textures, colors and types.  Sometimes this is art and sometimes it’s a collision course according to this blogger.  I like her eye for color.  She has taught me to see the multiple hues in one color.  So really I can take a shade of green and blend with grey.  It’s amazing how you can even change the color of something by the way you blend other garments.  I see clothes with more complexity.

So where am I going on this Saturday morning.  Beauty is subjective.  I have wanted to badly tell those who have so many opinions about my shoes and clothes what I think about what they wear as retribution.  But instead I’m using my blog to vent and explore further this whole notion of how some folks just do not look sexy such as Viola Davis.  I listen to her story.  This girl had to struggle.  You can look at her skin and know she had to struggle.  Is she beautiful or not?  Meryl Streep has got to be the ugliest woman alive (of course I’m exaggerating) but it has not stopped her from playing all kinds of roles including sexy and worthy of love.  While looks matter in our world, her gifts as an actor make her sought after.  I would think our limitation on beauty, our inability to see beauty, would be challenged and not those we find “less classically beautiful.”   Viola Davis thank you for finding your way own way; I hope others can follow.

26Sep

Less Classically Beautiful: A Reflection on Colorism

I have a lot of cousins.  One of my uncles, in particular, has four girls.  One is light complexioned, one is caramel, and the other two are dark.  The caramel complexioned daughter, when we were young, was always told about her beauty.  As a child I actually agreed.  She look more attractive than the other girls.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that a eery experience force me to rethink my thinking on beauty and complexion.  I was looking at a picture when I commented how pretty Cheryl (fictionalized name) looked.  It would have been great but due to the photographer and lighting the picture was actually a picture of her sister, Anita, one of the darker skinned sisters.  With the lightening of the darker skinned sister, Anita looked just like the sister we had all considered so beautiful.  They practically looked like twins and are close in age.  I had to do a double take.  I not only saw my caramel cousin differently but I saw the beauty of my darker skinned cousin.

I think as a society the saying, “if you are black get back, if you are light stick around, and if you’re white you’re alright,” holds more truth still than many of us would like to publicly admit.  The color of skin makes a difference, and while characters like Lupita Nyong’0 have helped us, her beauty is so striking you’d have to be blind to miss it.   Most of us are simply not on that scale of stunning beauty.  And in that case a person’s complexion can impact the range of beauty we see.  In fact, I have seen some light skinned people be viewed as pretty when really the focus was on their skin complexion and not necessarily their physical traits.  But this is not a black or white conversation, and I do not want to oversimplify something much more bigger in scope than I can give adequate attention.

So a recent NY Times journalist chose to describe a actress I admire, Viola Davis, as less classically beautiful and the twitter community has gone up in an uproar.  To be fair to the journalist, she did offer a nice writeup of the producer Shonda Rhimes and Mrs. Davis.  And to be more honest, I have struggled with Viola Davis appearance ranging from silence to a growing like.  I personally like her natural look and I struggle with the fake wigs that mimic her face, but that’s personal preference.  That said, I would not have used the words, “less classically beautiful.”  I agree with Viola Davis that’s basically saying she’s ugly.  Viola Davis beauty does not scream out at me but there is something in her eyes, her mouth, her complexion and her dialect that invite me to see beauty.  I will keep looking.  I do not watch t.v. shows due to my hectic life so I won’t see her new show.  But when I can, I love to look at Viola Davis and listen to her musings.  I’m glad she’s no longer letting how others define her limit her.  She has done the work.  She has been on a journey.  And I personally, as a black sister striving, love what I see.  Shonda Rhimes please give me more.  Viola Davis you rock!

24Sep

The Psychological Traume of Spankingville On One Black Girl: Why I Am Against Corporal Punishment

I really didn’t think I could do a blog on spankings and the whole Adrien Peterson situation, but I’ve read one too many black person’s talking about the good old days in Spankingville and how it made them the phenomenal individual they were. I’m so grateful to Big Mama for taking that switch off the tree and breaking it over my ass. It really knocked some sense into me. It set me on the right path in life. It kept me out of trouble. And it is a part of the core reason why I am who I am and where I am today. Gosh, salutations to Spankingville.

So let me fast forward and then reverse. I was walking some years ago with an elected official in our denomination. We were taking a walk along the lake as we reflected on my new position as pastor. We saw some kids outside playing. They appeared to be active. We had a few words about the kids. Then this elected religious official said they remind me of you. I imagine you never visited Spankingville in your day. It was as if I had not been properly endorsed by the tried and true measure and this could be seen on me even as an adult. I experienced the comment as slightly offensive and inappropriate. That said, I have been to Spankingville and I’m qualified to talk about my visits.

Let me say, I did not get the fine quality spankings many of my peers received that left welts, marks, and one unable to sit down. My mother was more refined and resorted to the belt and/or in the moment her fist. They rarely left physical marks, but this blog is about the psychological scars that I still fight and try to move beyond even now. You can’t see them and some would even declare I turned out to be a fine individual. But before you judge the impact of the results of having been in Spankingville, at least, hear my story.

As an adult, my mother would love to share the following story with anyone who would listen including me. It is the funny story she remembers of backhanding me so hard that I fell over into the potato chip display. This story is hurtful and painful because it reminds me of the fist that I never saw coming. This story shames me and makes me want to retreat inward. It reminds me of how many years beyond that I would jump in anticipation of the fist that never came. It reminds me of how fearful I was and how even now I am still cautious beyond a fault. It reminds me of how Spankingville left me afraid to live my own life. It reminds me of a place that was damaging and how much I yearned to get out. A disclaimer: I am more free today.

So somewhere in my adult years and feeling more empowered (maybe because I didn’t get the switch treatment), I told my mother that that was a story she need not share with others or me anymore. I told her that story was not funny. Hitting someone when you are mad and out of control with their behavior or your life is not a laughing matter. Hitting someone as a form of punishment to teach them not to do it again shows them the short cut to dealing with conflict strike. Hitting a more vulnerable part of God’s creation because you are the adult is abuse. So I’m sorry I can’t join my people on this one and talk about the good old days in Spankingville because Spankingville was never fun.

11Sep

Janay Rice Strikes First: Does It Justify Ray Rice Punching Her Out?

So Whoopi Goldberg is getting heat for saying, if you hit someone, then you have to be prepared to get hit back.  She concluded with that’s why she personal does not hit because she does not want to be hit.  And so there has been a little heat under Whoopi’s behind.  It’s not the first time Whoopi has said something unconventional.  What I do so appreciate about her though is her ability to have an independent thought.  She raises a point and a reality I had not, heretofore, considered.  The person who strikes first has a responsibility for their actions.  After you hit , you have to be prepared for consequences.

So I looked at the video again.  I watched to see this hit that came from Janay.  Honestly I saw her touch him but a hit I did not see.  My own partner argues it was a hit and so does Whoopi and various other people.  They experienced it as Janay violently reaching out to her partner.  And so if Janay threw the first strike, which we can hardly call a punch, does that change the game?  If Janay was the first one to make it physical, does this new information change how we think about the incident?  Does it change my belief that Ray was totally out of line?  It may not change my opinion, but it changes the layout of the field.

I remember a friend telling me she hit her husband.  I said what happened.  She said he hit me back.  And then what next?  We found other ways to communicate she replied.  I know her husband was not abusive.  He did not hit her in other instances, but he made it clear, if you decide to cross that boundary, I have something for you.  Now fortunately they are both slender in build.  And fortunately this one time encounter forged a different path.  But I always remember thinking that she did hit first.

I’m still a proponent of 0 tolerance as it relates to violence.  Ray was wrong.  But if Janay put her hands on Ray in the midst of the argument, she was wrong too.  And if she did physically strike out first, then it puts in perspective her apology.  And if she did strike first she’s not only a victim.  And if she did strike Ray first then my 0 tolerance policy applies to her.  This new information slows me up.  It makes me ponder maybe there are more sides that the larger audience does not know.  But at the end of the day Ray is a football player that partnered up with Black Barbie, and if he had punched me like he hit Janay I would have went out for the count too.  And something about him hitting her still doesn’t sit well with me.

10Sep

Are Women a Woman’s Worse Enemy?: Janay Rice & Domestic Violence

It’s my third day writing on the knock out of Janay Rice.  While this happen some months ago, only this week was the video released by TMZ.  In the video you see Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer Rice.  The elevator door opens and he drags out an unconscious Janay.  The world had a strong reaction and it wasn’t long before his professional team let him go.  It’s one thing to hit someone but his punch is unacceptable violence.  It pushes the buttons of women.  It pushes the buttons of domestic violence survivors.  It pushes the buttons of daddies of girls.  It pushes the buttons of those who are against violence.  It pushes the buttons of those who are peace agents.  It just doesn’t sit well with most sane human beings.  Shame on Ray Rice.  That was Monday.

On Tuesday Janay comes out defending her husband.  She says she woke up mourning the death of her best friend.  By the end of her instagram she has turned a significant number of people against her.  I sees the tweets and Facebook statuses ripping into her raw flesh.  If she wants to stay with someone pouncing on her, then she’s stupid.  If she is defending a coward then let her be.  You can’t help someone that doesn’t want to be helped.  If that’s how she feels, then she deserves whatever he gets.  The once sympathy cup has dried up.  But that’s the way the crowd is, here today upset tomorrow.  The tables can turn that quickly.  And thus far her loudest critics are women.  An afterthought is maybe men don’t care.

I have fought hard and long this notion that women are a women’s worse enemy.  I have fought this belief that when a woman is trying to do better her opponent is usually another bitter jealous woman.  I have fought the notion that we are petty, emotional, and quick to talk about one another in certain circumstances.  I have tried to fight this sense that we are powerless and so that rather than box with men and abusive powers we will fight a sister.  But listening to women quickly dismiss Janay because she defends her husband is a challenge to such stereotypes.  Being mad one day and dismissive because she stayed the next day is bothersome to the spirit and camaraderie of sisterhood.   There’s something to be said for being present in difficult times.

Janay does not determine my actions just as Rihanna did not determine my voice.  I do not know Janay’s journey. I do not know what she’s been through or even what she’s going through.  I do not know how many times she’s been hit by someone bigger and much stronger.  I do not know if she has been exposed to abuse and what kind of relationships she was exposed to by her parents.  I know less and so I think that’s  a very healthy thing to admit to myself.  So I want to keep my hands and accusations off Janay.  I want to listen to her but what Janay has to say doesn’t effect my convictions around violence.  I want to listen but also be aware that abuse can color the eyes and cloud the mind. Again I do not know Janay’s life story.  I feel no need to judge her.  I think Janay could use a few sisters in her corner that are there no matter what she says.  She could use our support, our voices, our minds, our backs, and our prayers.  Perhaps women are constrained in how to be there for each other but I’m clear that today Janay and others need all of us.

09Sep

5 Reasons Why Janay Palmer Stays: The Ray Rice Saga Continues

So Janay Palmer… my mistake, Janay Rice woke up this morning feeling bad (see link below) because of how the world has responded to her husband punching her out.  She stated on Instagram she feels like she’s mourning the death of her closest friend.  She lets us know they have tried to put this behind them.  They want to move on with their lives.  Well we just saw the video and we can’t move quite as fast.  I’m not sure if she’s moving on either but she has had a few months, a knock, court hearings, and a marriage the day after court, and who knows what else to move on.  It’s not everyday we see a celebrity punch someone unconscious and drag them out of the elevator.  So forgive us Janay if we cannot move on and be quite so forgiving.

Some have asked why would Janay stay implying she’s stupid for putting up with Ray in the first place.  As someone who has been certified in domestic violence, #1 reason women stay is fear of their life.  Statistics support that actually a woman is in more danger to flee the perpetrator.  I recall just this summer, not with pride, hearing a distant cousin in argument with his girlfriend who had left him shoot her dead.  By dead I mean he didn’t drag her out of an elevator but a week later there was a funeral.  Her two kids heard the shots.  He’s in jail but she’s dead and she was one of the ones who didn’t stay.  So one reason women do not leave is because it’s dangerous.

Another reason women stay is because religious leaders have told them to stay.  I’ve heard this one a few times.  My own cousin said when her mom was being beaten by my uncle, the church insisted she stay.  She went to the church for help.  Instead of helping her they gave her the pentecostal way –  pray and be faithful.  And she stayed and stayed.  And he beat her and beat her.  He treated her so badly both sides of the family, ours included, came to the conclusion he was absolutely no good for her.  Perhaps the only solace for me is that 70+, yes just a couple of years ago, she left him.  She didn’t consult with the pastor this time.

Another reason women stay is because of investment.  When  you’ve invested in someone/something, it’s hard to just go.  Some women believe him when he says he will change, he will get help, or he will never do it again.  Besides they have kids together.  They have friends and family.  They have a life.  They have been in this thing for a minute.  And so women push aside our doubt and try to make the relationship work.  Besides real relationships take commitment and working through difficult times.

Another reason women stay is because of low self esteem.  They have been beaten down or maybe they were never up.  They do not think a lot of themselves.  They do not value their worth.  Sometimes, they may even blame themselves for the abuse.  If I can just be this person or that, maybe he won’t hit me.  They are not sure they can make it on their own.  Some are financially dependent and fear not being able to support one’s self.  They do not have much faith in their own ability to survive without the perpetrator.

Women stay because they are embarrassed.  Getting your but beat is humiliating.  Wearing bruises on your body because of what someone did to you is shaming.  It’s hard to not feel like you are partly responsible.  It’s hard not to punch on yourself more.  And you simply do not want others to see your face.  You don’t want others to know you took this.  You don’t want the judgment.  You don’t want the scorn.  You don’t want everyone looking at you.  It’s a pain many women would rather bare alone in isolation.

There are lots of reasons women stay is my point.  It gets frustrating to hear over and over people asking why would she stay with someone who knocks her out.  So for those of you that went there here are 5 reasons women stay.  Maybe one of them is the reason Janay not only stayed but chooses to defend the wrong actions of her now husband and say she is to blame as well.  Let’s continue to hold all people who perpetrate violence on others accountable and not get so distracted by why women stay.  A more noble question is why do perpetrators use violence as a form of power over others.  As we hold perpetrators accountable maybe, just maybe, Janay will get help.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11493042/janay-rice-defends-ray-rice-criticizes-media-instagram-post

09Sep

Zero Tolerance: Ray Rice & Domestic Violence

Until today, I did not know Ray Rice.  I am so not into sports and I’m even less into celebrities of any type.  But as part of social media, I saw the video.  Dude punched Janay Palmer out.  Well he punched her once.  She moved towards him, some say lunged.  And he punched her again.  The next image we have is him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator with one shoe on.  She is unconscious.  He has a little struggle getting her and her belongings out.  Some employee eventually enters the picture which looks pretty awkward.

There is a zero tolerance for violence in some schools.  In essence that means when you do any of the things on their list that qualify as violence you are automatically expelled.  You do not get a first chance.  You do not get a second chance.  You do not get a third chance.  There are no chances.  There is no discussion.  Based on zero tolerance you are immediately and forever expelled from the institution.  It is extreme in it’s stance but it also gets a point across.  It lets you know that this institution absolutely does not tolerate violence.

I am one human being that has zero tolerance for domestic violence.  It is why I listen to no music by Miles Davis or Chris Brown.  I could care less about your childhood.  I could care less about the absence of a parent.  I could care less about all your apologizes and excuses.  I could care less about your crying before cameras.  I could care less about your promise to gain back the community’s trust.  I could care less about the fact you married the woman you used for a punching bag the day after you were indicted (how convenient was that?).  I could care less about you being dropped by your team because the video went public as if they knew absolutely nothing about you being a perpetrator.  I could care less about the people who endorse you.  And I could care less about all those who want to point a finger at your wife and point out that she’s not pressing charges.  I could really care less.

I have a zero tolerance for domestic violence period.  And punching someone in an elevator once qualifies.  Punching them twice qualifies.  Punching them to the point where they are unconscious qualifies.  And dragging her unconscious body out qualifies.  And apologizing for you and her (btw wtf did she do but be in the way of your fist) qualifies.  And not owning up to what you did, without including her, qualifies.  You hit another human being, God’s creation.  You hit her with force.  You hit her because you were angry.  You used power in one of the most abusive forms I know.  And you can say absolutely nothing to explain those facts.  I now add you to that list of people who I withdraw supporting in any form.  And as far as I’m concerned I have zero tolerance.

04Sep

UnGrateful Challenge: 3 Things I’m not Grateful for

I am a libra and part of that sign involves balancing the scales.  If you go too far left in a argument, I’m bound to be on the right side and vice versa.  Lately a lot of folks have been picked to do the ASL ice bucket challenge and now the gratitude challenge.  This is great.  It’s really positive.  I’m loving it but it feels like an imbalance.  And lets be honest, I’m having a rough day (another blog entry).  So to be fair to life and our range of experiences I wanted to open the door for others to share what they are ungrateful for… it may be hard but stick with it.

I am ungrateful for the road construction going on in Chicago that made my commute to school this morning over one hour.  I believe in traveling through the eye of the storm and did so for most of our school trek.  But towards the end I believed the local streets would serve us better.  This was a bad move on my part.  Every 8 blocks there was major construction turning two lanes into one lane with lots of stop signs and stop lights.  And the real plus was a road closed with detour signs.  I hadn’t really anticipated all of this construction and I think Chicago can do a much better job of spreading out, planning differently, how it wants to go about road constructions.

Second I am not grateful for rain on a work day.  It increases car commute.  I had several errands today and I did not appreciate having to get out in the rain, and then plop umbrella up and dash to store.  Same procedure coming out of store.  And when you are wearing sandals that little bit of water gets between your toes and shoes and your feet start sliding in your shoes and it’s just the most uncomfortable feeling.  Rain really is a nuisance when you are out and about.

And last I am ungrateful for mail.  It’s a real nuisance sifting through 95% of junk mail to retrieve bills.  How many times does Comcast have to send me literature for it to dawn on them that I’m not going to sign up with them ever again.  Every week I get two pieces of mail on the same day advertising the same thing which means they’ve managed to get me down in the database two times which is more than scary.  I know where you are.  I know how to find you.  I do not understand how someone who makes so little gets mail from so many places wanting it – get your hands off.  And I would talk about emails but that’s #4 and maybe I’ll save that for day #2 of being ungrateful.

03Sep

We See What We Want to See: Reflections on Race

So my play mom was at a jazz concert.  Due to age she arrived early so that she could secure a comfortable seat.  She took a book to keep her occupied.  Shortly, a white woman and man came up.  The white woman asked could she sit next to her.  My play mom says okay.  The white woman puts a piece of paper in the seat and proceeds to put her husband in another section for handicap wheelchairs.  When she returns she says to my play mom can you watch my purse while I go to the bathroom.  My play mom is shocked because this white lady does not know her.  They have not talked nor have they ever seen each other before this day.  She is black and this woman is white.  She says sure.  When the lady returns my play mom goes to the bathroom.  She takes her purse.  She shared this story because it shocked her.

Lately, I have heard several stories opposite this one that imply another person, because of their racist thinking, acting cowardly.  Recently a colleague, black male, was waiting on the elevator.  When it opened a petite Asian woman jumped holding her purse in fear for several seconds.  This is his story and I believe it.  Another person shared if we’re honest, most of us are more scared of a black male than a white male when we encounter one alone.  We’ve been socialized in such a way.  I use to feel slightly alarmed when there were several young black males with sagging pants hanging on corners talking loud and using a lot of profanity.  I am guilty.  And it’s sad because people such as my colleague experience something that his hurtful and not reflective of a whole group of people.  This is a bad rap.

I share the story above because I think in a post racial era racism happens, but on the other hand, sometimes we see what we want to see.  Lately, at least with my educated friends, we’ve been on a frenzy reporting all the injustices happening to blacks in the world at the expense of a racist society.  The scale is tipped heavily towards injustice.  And in no way do I circumvent the horror of Michael Brown and other’s who were killed unarmed.  I hate murder.  I hate when a life is cut short.  And I hate that when we see a black male of a certain proportion allowing our minds go there.  We cut him less grace.  And we somehow as a country thinks it’s okay.  So let me, for the record, say a racial tragedy is happening in our country.

That said I think we have gone too far to the left and/or right.  We simply see everything through glasses that may need changing.  We see what we want to see.  So in the sea of wrong doing what really happened to my play mom.  If we wanted to push it, we could say they saw my play mom as a mammy matriarch ‘the help’ and therefore trusted her but I’d like not to go there.  I think maybe, and this too is a speculation,DSC_1068 they saw another human being.  This white woman had to go to the bathroom and she saw the good in the woman with the book waiting to see the same jazz concert.  It’s all a speculation right?  Whatever this woman saw in my play mom I wish more of us saw it in each other.  I wish and hope as one passionate about racial reconciliation, which include both love and justice, that we can see each other’s humanity more and more.  I think all sides have a lot to learn but this interaction between my play mom and this unknown white woman leave me hopeful.

31Aug

Is Marriage Overrated?: Living Without

Is the whole marriage thing overrated?  I saw this couple who had lived together for 20 years.  They were cruising as it relates to their relationships.  One had proposed to the other because he knew how bad she wanted to get married.  In our meeting, this and more came out.  Actually, all the people he knew who had gotten married were divorced and the ones who had simply lived together were still strong.  So for him marriage was a precursor to a ruined relationship.  At least that’s what he said.  So the ‘to be married couple’ ended up not getting married.  They are still together today.  And they are perhaps making it work.  They have built a life together.

Marriage has not been a reality for me but now that I find myself on the path of a serious relationship it’s not as far off as the distant sunset.  All sorts of things come up when you talk about marriage versus just being a couple.  I’m amazed at how stuff can come from left field.  Is this the one?  Can I live with annoying habits?  And differences?  And values?  How do we move beyond stuff maturely?  What does all of this mean because I too have seen some folks go haywire after marriage.  For the rest of my life can I promise to only partner with this person building a mansion of richer lived experiences and none else?  Doubt is here.  Fear is here.  Every obstacle raises it’s head.  And so one ask is the whole marriage thing overrated?  What do you say?  It’s not like a whole lot of people were successful at this venture.  And lets not even mentioned the ‘unhappily gonna stay in it folks.’  When I look around, really look around, it’s a rare minority of individuals that make marriage look even faintly remotely desirable.  Marriage makes you think harder about total commitment.  #honestfeedback

There’s a lot that sways me away from marriage but there is one thing that keeps it in the periphery.  If what sways me away is, “can I live with this person?” then what makes me consider the act of marriage is, “can I live without this person?”  It creates a different dynamic reminding how much our heartbeats are connected to each other.  It reminds me of the life we’ve built.   It reminds me of the interdependency of our relationship.  It reminds me of how much we have grown together.  It reminds me of the room we made for each other to be with each other.  It reminds me of the invaluable aspect of companionship and that no matter how good or bad my day is it ends in your arms.  And I don’t want to lose that connection.  So maybe marriage is overrated and maybe not.  But if the opposite of marriage is no you, then I would marry you today.

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