The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #2: It Doesn’t Take All That!

The world loves to tell Black women and girls what they can and cannot do! It loves to define Black women and girls for what they believe they should be. I am not a should-be Black girl. I am not a should-be Black woman! I own all that I have gone through, all I have done, and I want all that I dream of being!

I own me on a level I couldn’t dream of before! I suppose inching towards 40 which has settled me in a way that I didn’t think I would reach yet. Yet, in the intersection of aging, motherhood and adulthood, I find myself confronting the need to hold my own space. There is a need to protect that space, and every footstep that goes into owning that. The lie that I break daily is that I “do too much” or “it doesn’t take all that.” But, it does! It does take all that–it takes every bit of THAT which makes me Black and woman and walking through the world!

There is a different level of moxie, chutzpah and bravado to be a Black girl in a world that either wants to be you, erase you or kill you! It take every bit of your THAT to walk through the world and not be overtaken by it! What is THAT you ask? THAT can be a myriad of things, but here are the three things that I have deduced THAT is: Voice. Style. Presence.

Voice. There is a power, a magic, that Black women have. There is a natural authority and sway we have. When we open our mouths at certain points, God will come out! And in that space, from that place of authority, people who don’t want to see or hear Black women–silence us. We get removed from rooms. We get ‘rescheduled.’ We get delegated. We get told that we ‘too loud.’ We are ‘too aggressive’. And then those accusations are met with rebuttal? Oh, then we are called ‘bitches’. As if that will make the roar soften because you call me a name! No. I’m too told to be stopped by that.

Style. The poet Nikki Giovanni talks about how divine this thing called style that Black folk have. The poet herself even said, “If the Black woman wasn’t born, she would have to be invented.” There is a power in this! There is something to Black women, whom bear Black girls who, too, will become Black women have that is indicative of self-expression. In a world which is bent toward erasure of anything it considers and aberration, Black women still are noticed–we can’t help but to be noticed! From hair, our nails, make up and shoes–to how will pull ourselves together for dinners, weddings or a night out–Black women have shaped, reinvented, and owned style from the first time we discovered color. This was before chattel slavery, dear ones.

Presence. I have been a tall girl my entire life. In quoting my aunt about the state of my body, she says it this way: “All you had all your life was legs and ass!” That’s a direct quote. Now, I stand 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and about 200 lbs. With the right outfit and shoes I am over 6 feet tall–you notice when I walk in a room. My mother tells me that a lady always has presence about her. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s until I realized what that meant. Presence is owning your life, experiences and all that your body is–stretch marks, muffin top, eyeglasses–whatever. The world doesn’t know what to do with a woman they are supposed to be ignore (let’s not forget we aren’t to be lusted after!), and it wants to erase! What do you do with a woman that you can’t help but see?

So yes, dear ones, it takes all of THAT. This life takes you owning your space. Amplifying your voice. It takes knowing who you are, and having your life not be defined by what other people can look or conceptualize you as! You make the boxes and draw outside of them!

Never let the world which can only take you in sips demand you give them a chaser! No! You have every right to be in this world–so be in it. Be. In. It.

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #1: You Are Too Much

The most vicious lie you can tell a Black girl is that she is ‘too much.’

In the 39 years I have been on the planet, I have neither been explained what exactly is the criteria for being ‘too much’, nor have I been advised that being a good thing! So, what is too much? What does to mean to be ‘too much’? But there is a criteria to this! There is a reason that the world loves to call a girl they cannot deal with, who does not conform, a problem. She is a problem, because there is no archetype to the type of woman that she is. Rather than look at the gift that is femininity and ambition, it is the former that is seen the thing that is the aberration. The thing, this entity inside of her that must be stomped out, questioned, ignored or erased on every hand! 

We know the memes and quotes about the ‘quieting women.’ But there is a quote that I hold close to my chest about this idea of being ‘too much.’ The quote goes like this: “Black women will always be too loud for world that never intended to hear them.” We will always be too loud. Too vocal. Too angry. Too quiet. Too smart. Too…Black. We will always be too much. Yet, we go on anyway don’t we? Yet, there is something about this ‘too much.’ There is this indignity that comes with being called this, being classified as this. There are different types of scarlet letters–this I have seen myself. Black women are pushed into cookie cutter molds that cut pieces of us away! We are constantly pushed into these molds which are neither designed by us, or designed for us. Erasure is habit for Black women and girls! It has become easier to tell a girl what she is not, rather than confirm what she is!

What is she?

Can she not be both Black and ambitious?

Black and aware of her Blackness?

Can she not be what she determines outside of the gaze of an unaware public?

It is easier to assign ‘too much’ to a woman that you have no idea how to handle. This is a stigma, a warning to any other less-than man that wanted to be with her—but has no idea what that means? Too much as a woman, means there will be/are a certain type of man that will believe by the justification of his sex–and the superiority that only a phallus can grant–that you should accommodate this inadequacies with the lessening of yourself! And they become indignant when you do not, will not, shall never diminish for their comfort? As Eartha Kitt said, “Compromise? Compromise for what? Respect has to be earned!” Cersei Lannister said you have to earn a Queen–and she will always be whom she is. If you cannot chase her, if she dismisses you because you were not enough–admit that! A woman will always be ‘too much’ for a man that never intended on being enough for her.

Women whom are ‘too much’ change the world–because the world wouldn’t change for them.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 5-How Do We Get Back?

This is not an easy question.

We as people–especially girls–have been taught that to be in love is to suffer. It is to be in pain, and then your prince or king will come. In dismantling this facade that Struggle Love gives, you have to replace and supplant what we have been taught. We do that by pulling this thread: What does healthy love look like?

Healthy love does not mean enduring to the end of something. Love is a journey, it is healing, it a source of hope! Healthy love looks like boundaries, accepting limitations and realizing what you deserve! The broken record that begins with “You have to endure until it gets better,” or “A man just gon be a man,” or “This is as good as it will ever get,” has to be broken!

I believe this teaching begins to be supplanted when we as partners or potential partners decide what we want. And what we want has be definite and defined by what we want, and will not accept! We must have a criteria, and the criteria cannot be shaken for the want of being chosen!

Struggle Love has its roots in trying to be chose!

We begin to believe that love is to be worked for, suffered to get, and worked (often one-sided) to maintain. This is not so! Healthy love, giving healthy love, starts with you, dear one. It starts with who you model yourself after! What relationships you see around you, and what you aspire to become!

I know that not everyone sees these healthy examples around them. I get that people believe abuse is love–because it’s all they know! I know people see relationships every day that seem toxic that somehow magically become healthy overnight. I assure it, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It never happens overnight.

Image may contain: text that says 'Teach your daughters loyalty isn't how much pain they can tolerate from a man.'

The Bible tells us the older women are supposed to teach the younger women. You have to understand, what I am still learning, there is a portion of my experience a younger woman might need. Even if she may need it so she knows what not to do! We as the older women must be guideposts–for our sons and daughters! We have to give them what they need–regardless of our shame!

It is our shame at this generation of children need in order to realize what love is, what love is not, and what it should never turn into! Let us normalize the word “no.” Let us normalize what manhood looks like, and men having emotions! Normalize the intuition of women: the ‘something told me‘ is your first alert system! Normalize the acceptance of something when it can no longer be repaired! Normalize peace and being alone over the desire to be chosen–by people thieves wouldn’t trust.

Normalize respect for one another.

Normalize honor–without the need to test the boundaries of it.

Normalize being together–without testing the boundaries of what it means to be together.

Normalize what it means to be in love, and give that love back.

Normalize expressing counseling, and building save spaces in your relationships.

Normalize knowing what you want–and walking away from what you don’t. Anything you have to fight to get, you will have to fight to keep. Question is what are you willing to give of yourself to keep something that might kill you?

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 4-Heartbeat & Heartbreak

I don’t know what it is about love that makes us endure all types of unnecessary things. I guess it is true what Shakespeare said, “Love is but a madness.” From that, it seems that we as a society are obsessed with the Happily Every After!

We love when the dragons are slayed, the maiden rescued, and the insufferable, impossible plot seen through–no matter the cost. Yes, at any cost. Yet, what cost is that? And how much is it? How much of yourself must you give to get it?! The most glaring thing about Struggle Love is how much it costs you.

It will always cost you the intangible things–trust, hope, healthy love concepts.

Once that happens? Once you are the one whom is totally hurt? This is where you begin to count up what you have lost, Sadly, by this time–at this late in the game–the losses are insurmountable. Having lived this, having seen my friends go through this, I have noticed four things that are indicative of ‘being in too deep.’ What does this mean? It means your heart is telling your head what to do–and the costs are about to escalate.

Blinders. By virtue of its definition, Struggle Love doesn’t focus on microlevel problems. The cheat-forgive-repeat cycle doesn’t matter. The maltreatment doesn’t matter. The insecurities fostered in this relationship. The focus is always the macrolevel goals–stay together at all cost! The thing is–the person with the blinders on is ‘the glue.’ This is the person who is the most invested, with the most to lose. They are the one that keeps everything moving–even if it is in a circle.

Pretending. This is deeper than classic denial. At this point, you believe in what is not there–nor may never be there. You latch on to the Honeymoon phase or phases of the relationship–idealizing those phases–believing that if you just ignore everything else, this ideal will become the reality. Yet, this is not always so. It is on rare occasions between rarer couples that the desire for the ideal becomes the reality for both involved. The key here is both. Sometimes both is non-existent.

Resistant. These are the external forces exerted on portion of the relationship–so that it will end. This force comes from people who see the relationship is neither going to change nor improve. And this force is put upon ‘the glue’ because they have the most leverage! The glue is the strength and foundation of the relationship–once they realize the relationship is doomed, it is only a matter of time. The thing is–it takes a while for this to happen. And sometimes it never happens! At this point of being resistant, the power of pretending all is well is seductive! It is enticing! The happily ever after appears to be not just in vision, but in grasp! At this point, the glue will believe in what they hope is there–rather than what is facing them.

Desire. Oh, this is the ugliest part! With all that has been invested in this relationship, you want something for this time! For women, this is normally marriage. That ring-dress combo is what we as women believe will make it all worth it: we will have been chosen. Being chosen is to be seen. To be seen is to be acknowledged–which is a basic human need. Everyone wants to feel significant. We often make the mistake of believing if we just put up with bad behavior, all the frogs will become princes–because that is what the story says. But it is time that we write a new story. This one, this time, maybe the princess doesn’t have to kiss a frog.

Maybe in this story, the princess remembers she doesn’t need a prince to feel special. Maybe in this story, the princess sees the frog, and leaves him where she found him. Why? He can’t do anything for her but bring issues and problems.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 3-Bleeding Love

TW:  Domestic violence, Intimate Partner Violence

Love you shouldn’t hurt.

Yet why does it seem the culture cannot seem to think of affection or affinity between two people unless there is toxic behavior attached to it. Which is mind-boggling! Yet, it’s idolized! We as a culture idolize pain. We look at what is being torn asunder in people’s lives and retweet it! We make it sport, gossip and all matter of impossible fodder to slop the hogs whom devour suffering! One of the most striking things as it relates to struggle love is the fiasco that is Emily and the manchild Fabolous!

This boy went over to her parent’s house tripping and clowning with her, hit his her in the mouth–knocking her teeth out (and he replaced them!)—and she is still with him! Pro-tip: crazy never improves, it only worsens. Yet, we gobble it up don’t we? We idolize the struggle to be chosen so much that to be in a healthy, non-violent, relationship is considered boring. Think about that. I believe the root of this feeling, this need to be chosen–desire to be chosen–is based in self-worth! That type of trauma is toxic! Yet, we champion it! Society loves the happily ever after at all costs! We romanticize the 50, 60 year relationships that last through fire, wind and water–but we forget the stories that go along with that! And not all of them are good!

The scary thing about those relationships is they are shrouded in myth! They are held up as this standard–an ideal. The goal being to stay together at all costs! Staying together at all costs. The thing about that kind of belief is toxic. Yet, as jaded as the world is–we run after the happily ever after! In the joy of being together, we forget that people are human. Are petty. Can be mean and unforgiving. Ruthless in revenge when they feel they have been wronged! Yet, we tell people (mostly women!) to stay. We tell them to stay because ‘God hates divorce.’ We will tell a woman that it will be okay: “It’ll all work out! Be patient!” For all the frogs that become princes, there are frogs that become demons! There is no amount of prayer, patience or persuasion that can make someone bent on hurting you–whom has shown they have no regard for you (and whom think they know your price!)–to not hurt you. But, there go the whispers of the happily ever after. Those whispers tell you, “It’ll get better.” “They didn’t mean it!” “Your parents/grandparents (whatever list of long married people) stayed together (whatever) years! They went through stuff and they made it!”

We idolize the struggle so much that abuse is explained away. We idolize, dream of wedding dresses, big houses and the desire to build something that is ours–that we endure to get. We endure for the end to come–even if it might kill us in the middle.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 2-How Did We Get Here?

*-not his real name

“So many people want a wedding but no one wants to be married.”

My parents, had my father lived, would have been together 45 years this year. By the time he died, they had been together about 20, 25 years. When I think of all the things they had experienced in that time, I am overcome. I cannot help but think how my mother managed to hold herself together in the midst of what she needed to do, on top of whatever my father and her got into. It is the backdrop of their love affair, that I try to find a map and a light to all of this here.

From my mother’s recollection, she and my father met in the late 1970’s, like 1975 or so. I was born in 1981, and 2 siblings followed. In their 20-some year relationship, I had seen my mother cry over fights they had. I saw her tend to us, her extended family, and work. Somehow in there, she completed her BSN.

I still really don’t know how–until I became a working mother trying to go to school. Yet, that is another matter…

What I saw, and what I know is–my father loved my mother. He loved her with all his might! He, and how my father loved my mother, gave me the blueprint on what to expect from a man that said he loved me:

I expected to be treated well. 

I expected to be valued. 

I expected to be cared for.

I also expected to be heard, not ruled!

I expected to be given the respect of a difference of opinion! I expected to be valued beyond by ability to cook, keep house or rattle sheets! I knew that when grown folk get together, it’s not always smooth–people are different! In relationships, we can have some similarities, yes. But we were not to be the same person. I knew relationships would have disagreements, arguments, slammed doors every now and then! I knew that there would be struggles to preserve us in the midst of the chaos in the world. But, I knew relationships weren’t supposed to be more chaotic than the world outside!

Yet, I knew this one thing: that if a man hit you, you were supposed to leave. I knew that abusive behavior and addictive behaviors were not to be tolerated. I knew those things were deal breakers. And from the template of my parents, I think I can pinpoint what it means to be in ‘struggle love’, and just how one gets to any point of accepting this.

I truly believe this idea of struggle love comes from the need to be loved. The desire to be chosen, seen to be something special. From that hunger, from that want to be loved, we (men and women) will accept anything! We say to this person–through our accepting/accommodating behavior–that the want of being chosen is more important than a real working relationship!

Let me tell you about me and mine. It was this this guy named *Darius. I met Darius when I was 19. I lost three years to this man, to this relationship. After being with this man, sleeping with this man, and having an abortion after this relationship–at 22, I was hurt. I was angry. But from this vantage point of age, I can deduce why I stayed. From that, I believe you can have some idea of how it start–and continues.

I wanted to be loved. I loved Darius. I stand 5’10” and he was 6’8″. No lie. And I felt so safe when he hugged me. In the words of Toni Morrison the sex ‘was as good as it could be from never knowing any other before.’ I loved how I felt when I was with him! I was his girl! I had someone that wanted me! He was there, there for me, and after the loss of my father 2 years before? It was a nice escape to just go and be with him…and be his. No matter what time of day (or night) it was.

I wanted to be special. I wanted to show Darius how good of a woman I was. He was a dedicated weed smoker, and I would put money into my working budget to buy weed for him. I helped him take care of his son–that he barely saw! He disappeared on me twice–leaving no phone number or address. He didn’t work, and his life was a constant source of stress! I wanted him to see that life with me would be easier! I wanted him to see that I could hold him down, lift him up and be that superwoman I knew I could be to him.

Being with him, being in his life, was more important that tending to anything that I wanted. I was going to be with him, because I wanted what he said we were going to do together. Regardless of what that meant. We would make it through anything, if I would just be there.

FULL STOP. This is where the cycle of “I’ll take anything, because he is my everything starts.” RIGHT. HERE

I dealt with him not working. I dealt with him not acknowledging how hurt I was being pregnant and sneaking off to an abortion clinic. I dealt with having to pay or everything. I dealt with it, because he told me I was his soulmate. I dealt with it, because he said he loved me. It was because he loved me, and I felt special when we were together was enough.

I wanted it all to be real. I was in love with him. I loved him as best I could. And I wanted to hang on to him! I had given him my time, my body, my familial relationships–and lost a child. By the time it was over, when I really knew it was over was him being more concerned about how he was going to feel–rather than me crying while I was at work. At work. Let that sink in. I had worked all day (from 6 AM!, and wouldn’t be off until 8PM!) and he said, “How can I go the rest of the day like this?” I cannot even my remember what I said in response to this. But it was over…and I cried in a locker room. Before I had to go back to work.

I fought to make him pay back my time, my tears and my love with becoming the man I wanted him to be. I stayed with him 3 years. I endured this for three years. Three and a half, really. But what I really wanted was validation. I wanted the same love I gave him–to be given back to me! And it wasn’t happening. I stayed with him, because I wanted a return on my investment. He was my investment! Of all I gave him…I left with nothing of the woman I was before.

Nothing.

This is the price of struggle love! It costs you everything! It will convince you that to work for something that should be given to you–freely. Struggle love will always COST you something. Love is never a debt–love pays! It pays completely! I paid for this love, and was left with debt and heartbreak. I was left thinking “What is wrong with me? Why didn’t he want me?” See how crazy that is? Struggle love will have you thinking that you–the person trying to hold something together–is the problem. If you would just do something else better, sexier or faster, it would be better. Struggle love is gaslighting!

The bad thing is, once you see this happening–once you know what it is–it is often too late to redeem what you invested.

Guard your hearts, dear ones. Guard them from the world that wants to break them–or the wolves that will eat them.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 1-What Is “Struggle Love”?

“Every relationship has goes through ups and downs.” This is the lie we are told–especially as women!–that there are things we have to just go through in order to ‘have a relationship.’ This leads to the idea, and idolizing of this thing called ‘Struggle Love’. The best way to explain this is a relationship/potential relationship that is tumultuous, full of drama or potential abuse; the couple stays together because  they want to be together–and they believe that ‘every relationship goes through things.’ More often than not, these relationships have aspects of being domineering, full of gaslighting, and one of the participants of this relationship must continue to endure things that are painful for the sake of the relationship.

I have a friend of mine, whom makes sport of eviscerating those whom come for her with this type of insanity–and it is glorious! Case in point:  there was a man that was in her inbox who was trying to shoot his shot! Okay, nothing wrong with that (she calls these misadventures  Inbox Chronicles). But when he came to her on some ‘If you were my woman you would…” or “I wouldn’t put up with that if you were my…” My personal favorite, “You need to understand that you need to be patient with a man, y’all [I suppose this to mean women born after 1970] ain’t nothing like y’alls grandmas!” For the life of me, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean! None at all. 

I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t need my husband or father (and I have neither) to open a checking account, I can vote, have an abortion, and can go to a higher science class without my womanly assets being such a distraction. But to ask for this level of fairness in a relationship? The word egalitarian is a curse word. There is a this twisted appreciation for the women that endure. The ones that suffer in silence, give everything to everyone and has nothing left for herself! This expectation that –as a woman–you are supposed to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…and smile. Take the case of the relationship between Gucci Mane and his now wife, Keisha. He took this woman through the unimaginable! Just like Emily and Fabulous –he has literally hit this woman in her mouth! And she’s still with him! Why? The illusion of the happily ever after. This promise that says, “If I just put up with a little bit more, cry one more time, believe him one more time, then I’ll get my happily ever after.”

Struggle love always has outlandish requirements–these requirements are often met by the need of one person to be needed and wanted, doing all in their power to appease someone that is (clearly) abusive. Struggle love tells us that love is earned, not given. Struggle love tells us if we just hang on–all rewards will be ours. Even if  we die along the way. Struggle love is what most women have been taught! In this teaching it makes women the mules of the world–not deserving of someone unless they can ‘prove’ they love us; or we must suffer in order to be loved. Love–with God being love—gives it to all of us lavishly, so why do I have to prove I love someone else–by how much I will put up with, cry over, or forgive?

Don’t worry–I’ll wait.  

Cultural Conversations #4: School & Work

As problematic as T.I. is, he had the idea for a TV show on BET. The premise of the show is/was to find out which is better: classic education or street smarts. When I saw this, I wanted to start screaming. This is another form of classism and elitism. Why?

I’m glad you asked.

I have college educated parents. I have a mother that loved books, loves reading, learning and in a last life, she wanted to be a teacher. I had a father that made sure I could write my name and read by 5! I, myself, am dual-degreed and thinking about grad school. I am the mother of gifted children, whose gifts I speak to on a regular basis. Yet, some of the smartest people I have ever come across don’t even have high school educations. With this pandemic, I have remembered the things all the older people in my life have pour into me that has prepared me to survive! You have to understand that learning is eternal, intelligence is not quantified as one thing, and to have a degree does not make you better than someone else!

With that said, I come from a family that values education. Yet, even though I value education–I understand that ‘school ain’t for everyone.’ Yet, even with that, in that, those without that higher education shouldn’t make those with it a target! Don’t you know this a form of classism? You can’t keep telling yourself “Who do they think they are? Going to college don’t make them better than me!” Yes, you’re right! But you cannot knock those that want a college education, want those opportunities that it brings! Conversely, you cannot shame the people that want to go to trade schools, start their own businesses right out of high school with no desire for an MBA–with more sense than a board of folk with MBA’s!

It was my grandmother, with her 8th grade education, who showed me how to survive, garden and be observant of the world around me. It was my college educated father that told me the value of reading, being confident in my intelligence, and using my voice do what I know is supposed to be done! The thing is just like it was in the antebellum portion of history, so it is now!

Education is a tool of achievement and to others its been divisive!

If you get an education, and go around certain (read: white) people, it is seems that the expectations that follow Negro expectionalism apply! They (read: certain white people) don’t understand ‘why everyone doesn’t go to college?’ I would be here all day and until Jesus’s return talking about this!

Everyone should be able to go to college, yes. College should be affordable enough for everyone to go! Yet, there are some people that just don’t want to go! And that is okay. Just like you should be shamed for going to college, you shouldn’t be shamed for not going! We need to normalize the not going to college, as well as going to college! We have to take the stigma off education. There are people that enjoy working with their hands, or doing hair, or fixing cars! It is okay to let people pursue the things they desire–which, too, make them money!

Intelligence is not just ascribed to what’s in a book! It cannot be limited to what can be found in a book. And not all intelligence is associated with common sense! With that, stop telling people (read: Black folk) that to be educated is to try and be white! That is toxic and further emphasizes this divide between the decision vs. the availability to college right out of high school!

There are so many variables between education and achievements. This dovetails nicely into those who decide later in life to go to college, or send their grandchildren. It happens! We must be able to become more understanding of one another, even baring in mind what F. Scott Fitzgerald said when in The Great Gatsby: not everybody had has the same opportunities as anyone else!

We cannot be caught up in such a minor thing when we have white supremacy to dismantle! And we need everyone working together to do so–whether that be driving the car, giving lectures, fixing the meals that we eat after, writing books, opening businesses, mentoring who need it, and giving hair cuts after! We need everyone on deck just like the Avengers in Endgame!

Degreed or no degree–we are all in this together! On my watch, we aint leavin no one behind.

Cultural Conversations #3- Artists & Athletes

There is a stigma in the culture around being an artist. Too often that is just relegated to an default position or career or hobby. Make no mistake–I believe that you need to expand your network to include unlikely people or places–life does not lend itself kind to the unprepared. But it seems there is no value placed on those that consider themselves, call themselves, artists.

They, we, us don’t get the respect we should if we were more prone to athletics.

Tell me I’m lying! I’ll wait.

It would seem the fam that whom battle rap or call themselves rappers have garnered themselves the title of artists for themselves! Yet, when you need a flyer done ‘on a hook up’; hair and nails done for an event; resume done or redone; you have a book you just gotta write but ‘don’t got it all right now’; a beat made for your songs on SoundCloud, YouTube of Spotify–or a video shot to put on YouTube—you know who to ask!

And what do the artists in your life do? They concede. They give. They serve. They create. This is what artists do–give. That is the dual nature of these gifts we have–but no one wants to always pay for them! Yet, anything having to do with being entertained in a gym, stadium, arena or some sort of practice session–y’all support that! The book signings, short film debuts, the series on the YouTube Channels, the nail shop openings, custom tees? Nall. It irks! It hurts! If people in your circle can by a PS5, then they can buy 5-6 copies of your book–and gift them!

The Arts need the same support a high school football team does!

Not everyone wants to play on a team: the gifts don’t fit there! Just like you support the daughter that is on the Dance team–support the one that is getting the writing awards. If you have a son that is good at drawing, support him like you do his cousins who play basketball, football or run track! Spread the support around! The last thing a Black child needs is to feel they are unseen and unsupported. Athletics are one thing, but not the only thing! The Arts need the same support! I feel most often athletics, that type of prowess is attached to whatever possible money is coming in the future. To that end, lemme help you: not everyone gets drafted. Not everybody Mama is going to be on the NFL Draft special. Not everybody’s son is going to the NBA, or daughter going to the Olympics!

It is okay to support the child that would rather draw the sky than run under it.

Cultural Conversations #1: Why Does The Baby’s Hair Gotta Be Straight?

I got my first perm at 8 or 9.

My hair was ‘so thick’ and ‘so nappy’ that my aunts wanted to try something different on my hair to ‘get it straight.’ All I remember is my scalp burning.

Yes. BURNING.

I remember how old it was to start, and how it heated up, and how I panicked. I had no idea why this was being done to me, or what I had done to deserve it. I remember it was a Just For Me relaxer, and it took what felt like hours to make my 4c curls become ruler straight. From there, from age 9, I hated my hair.

I was born in Generation where every Black girl I knew either had a curl, or ruler straight hair. There was no debate, there was no discussion, the hair on your head is never seen as yours. It is seen as something to tame, to subdue–even to hate! I hated my hair. I hated that I had to have straight hair. And now settled in my adulthood, I sometimes have no idea what to do with my hair now that it is just growing as it naturally was supposed to.

The thing that I reflect on is why did my hair have to be straight? Why was my appearance so much of an issue that I couldn’t even see my own beauty? I literally did not feel pretty unless my hair was straight. We don’t even talk about the complexes Black girl can sometimes have with their hair! How they see their hair—a part of them–be seen as something to be removed or altered for the approval of other people.

I am aware of the Brown Paper Bag rule. I know that hair and Black culture is always a divisive topic. I mean, there is legislation 90 years after this suggested tool of how to be a ‘Pretty Black Girl’, that now ‘approves’ of natural hairstyles for Black women. Think about that. Do you know what that does to a Black girl? Having to fight the world just to be you–including how you wear your hair?

I don’t understand, even now, why it was that important to do ‘make’ my hair be straight. I don’t get it. And, to be honest, it is a trauma! It was something that happened to me, and other girls my age, and it does effect you. I mean hair is a big issue in the life of a Black girl–it is our source of expression, and pride.

As a mother of daughters now, whom have never had the inkling to every chemically straighten theirs. I try my best always to tell them to love themselves, to treasure each part of them; their hair doesn’t make them.

Their hair doesn’t make them.

Too bad their mother, and lots of other Black women their mother’s age, are still working that out.