About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

In a similar way, I want this blog to be a space for fun, spirited and light-hearted discussion on issues regarding black females, our bodies, our hair, our men, and our images. But I also want it to be a forum for intelligent and respectful dialogue as well. Like Jill's poem, this blog will tackle some real topics, and they won't always be light-hearted. They will, however, be about lifting each other up. I welcome such discussion, but if you have nothing positive to contribute, please don't participate. Otherwise, join in!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music Appreciation

When was the last time you heard a song that made your heart skip a beat? For me, it was about ten minutes ago when I listened to Cassandra Wilson’s rendition of “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” I’ve heard this song at least 50 times, but as I really listened to it, I felt the pain she put into those notes and felt that same pain in the accompanying guitar. I was appreciating music, real music.

Now, I’m an R&B and jazz girl. It’s just in me, so in recent years I’ve been lamenting the virtual disappearance of the likes of Anita Baker, Nina Simone (R.I.P.), pre-1996 Whitney (am I the only one who gets a little teary upon hearing “All the Man I Need”?), Ella Fitzgerald (R.I.P.), Regina Belle, and even the great Cassandra Wilson (I’m a huge fan). Now, some of these women are still performing, but do we hear them? Are they getting radio rotation? No. I have to go to my CDs, old-school R&B stations and Pandora to feel something in music.

India.Arie performing "India's Song" on Oxygen's
India.Arie: Up Close and Personal in 2002
When I’m not time-traveling, I remember that I am so lucky to have been introduced in my pre-teen and teen years to Erykah Badu, India.Arie and Jill Scott. I still start singing “Certainly” from the Baduizm: Live album at the drop of a hat, and India’s playing on my mp3 player every other day. While reading about the slave trade in Savannah during my trip there this past weekend, “Too much hypocrisy in this old Southern town for me. Way back in 1619 began this tragic story..." flowed into my head. If you don’t know “India’s Song,” check it out. Jill’s always in my rotation too, and I just saw her on tour with Maxwell. *Sigh* These truthful artists are still doing their thing. If you haven’t heard New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, you need to get on it. And I am impatiently waiting for Jill's Light of the Sun to drop. India, I’ll give you a little more time on your next one since Testimony Vol. 2 dropped in early 2009, but try not to keep us waiting too long, eh?

Now, there are some younger artists out there who can blow. I can’t deny Beyoncé’s talent (she’s a notable songwriter, producer, and entertainer too). Keri Hilson has a nice voice, but her music leaves much to be desired. Jazmine Sullivan’s husky voice is alluring, as are Melanie Fiona’s powerful pipes. Chrisette Michele is a cool breeze in the R&B game, with a killer voice and a devotion to the greats: “I've been studying Miss Billie, Miss Ella, Miss Sarah Vaughn and Miss Natalie Cole.” Esperanza Spalding and Janelle Monáe are two young, very creative artists who are doing their thing too. Corinne Bailey Rae is excellent, and I love her new album, The Sea. I can appreciate the fact that most of these women are not playing into the commercial titillating aspect of the music biz. Instead, they can rely on their talent—how refreshing.

Maybe there are some I’m missing, but that’s probably because they don’t get enough attention! (If I hear Nicki Minaj’s pitiful Annie Lennox sample one more time, I might throw up a little bit in my mouth. This is why I don’t listen to the current hip-hop and R&B stations.) Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my old-school R&B stations, CDs and Pandora to get my music fix. If I can’t get it elsewhere, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Yeah, it’s that important. After all, if music doesn’t move you, what’s the point?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Resources for the Ladies Considering Going Natural

I've been having so much fun this past week looking for a new product/technique that will increase my hair's moisture. (Thanks for the new products, Heather! I'm especially looking forward to trying the Frederic Fekkai conditioner!) In the process of researching, I've come across a number of very helpful blogs (like Knapsgirl.com) and YouTube videos with great product reviews and tips. You might find some of these useful too!

One helpful source has been The SistahChick, who has her own blog and YouTube channel. Lots of women have already been inspired by her lively, positive personality. She's part of what some people are calling a "Natural Hair Movement." As you read and surf more and more, you'll see that there's a lot of passion out there--and lots of willingness to share information. It's great!

There's even a growing community dedicated to nurturing children's natural hair. The SistahChick has featured her own daughter, the Little Chick, on her blog and channel to demonstrate all kinds of styles and techniques on her daughter's head of thick, beautiful hair. Another great site is Our Natural Kids, whose mission is "to share ideas & resources while promoting healthy hair care and maintenance for children with kinky, curly, nappy or multi textured hair."

If you're thinking about going natural, there's so much to consider, but I think it's good to see the possibilities of what you can do with it once you make the transition. So many resources are out there, with the express purpose of helping a sister out. ;-) Good luck as you weigh your options, but know that there's lots of help.

So the first new product I'm trying, before I try the Frederic Fekkai shea butter conditioner, will be Kinky-Curly's Knot Today leave-in conditioner and detangler. There's been a lot of conversation about this Kiny-Curly product, sometimes in conjunction with KC's Curling Custard (which I may not try...it's more expensive than the Knot Today). We'll see how it goes!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Little Changes Can Go a Long Way

When I've written in a post or two about the possibility of broadening our views of "pretty," I've imagined an actress here and a model there with different textures of hair, not just long and straight. Such a one-dimensional view of beauty is problematic.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised today when I saw a Regions Bank ad featuring a sister with hair that looked similar to mine. I'm not saying I necessarily want to see hair like mine more frequently, but the broadening is what's important to me.

Granted, banks are a bit suspect these days, but what made me smile when I saw this ad is that it features an everyday woman in an everyday situation: trying to get an education and figuring out how to make it happen. This isn't a hair product ad or fashion ad; this model could be any young black woman in school.

Like other images here and there, it shows that there is a range of possibilities for beautiful hair. A simple ad like this could possibly contribute to broadening the "pretty" horizon. I can definitely appreciate that, and I imagine other women can too. :-)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Handshake of Trust

I don’t quite remember how it goes, but it was a left-handed shake that involved a lot of finger work and even a little thumb war. After having matched wits with my hubby, a regular occurrence, he says, “OK, let’s do the Handshake of Trust.” I follow his lead through the complicated, made-up maneuver, all the while laughing my behind off. It was one of those silly moments that make our marriage fun.

I’m still a matrimonial novice—just celebrated four years!—but I do know that marriage takes work. Any married person will attest to this. It’s not always lovey-dovey fun and games, and bills, jobs, emergencies, children, and life make stuff get real—really real. How that realness works out, however, largely depends on who you marry, in my humble opinion.

I just happened to marry my best friend, and he still manages to surprise me with his ideas, creativity, and silliness. “You’re really weird” is one of my daily remarks to him. But he also gets on my doggone nerves sometimes—love you, babe! *MUAH*—and we both have to find ways to let off steam. Again, any married person can attest to this realness.

I think life’s realness also works out in a marriage depending on the “character” of the two people in it. For instance, my hubby and I are two creative, silly people, so our interactions (on a good day) are characterized by creativity and silliness. It’s why a Handshake of Trust can crop up in an otherwise ordinary conversation and why my hubby laughs at me Every. Single. Day. And I have friends whose relationships have completely different characteristics. The commonality is commitment, though.

As my girl Quisha and I were just discussing recently, so many people get married because they’re in love—I know I was head-over-heels when I got hitched. We’re not that old, still twenty-something, but we know that too many marriages have been done in by the myth that “love will keep us together.” After tossing around the idea, Quisha and I came to the conclusion that some of this disillusionment can be avoided with a reality check: a beautiful wedding has no bearing on the marriage, marriage is not easy, and love alone will not make it work. Commitment is the glue that keeps it together.

What does commitment look like? Well, I’d love to get my J. grandparents’ perspective on this. They just celebrated sixty-four years of marriage—a lifetime!—so I’m sure they can preach on this. (Note to self: ask Grammy and Granddad about this.) From my measly four years, I can say it looks like remaining a team in the midst of financial disagreements, illness, emotional strain, journeys to self-discovery and job uncertainty, along with date nights, dinner at home, impromptu dance sessions and silly little moments involving silly little handshakes.

I won’t even presume to know all the reasons some people’s marriages end. Sometimes it has to be done; sometimes it doesn’t. As a novice, I have more faith than experience: faith that commitment is the glue that will keep mine together. Matrimonial veterans, whatcha got for us babies?

With that, I’ll close with a song I’ve been playing a lot lately, Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Wait Till You See Her,” because the hubby has inspired it in my mind these past few days:

Wait till you see him, see how he looks. Wait till you hear him laugh. Painters of paintings, writers of books never could tell the half. Wait till you feel the warmth of his glance, pensive and sweet and wise: all of it lovely, all of it thrilling. I’ll never be willing to free him. When you see him, you won’t believe your eyes. You won’t believe your eyes.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One Thing I Want My Daughter to Know: "Good and Bad Hair" Revisited

All right, I'm gonna talk about hair again, and then I'll leave it alone (until I get moved to talk about it again. That's right. I said it.).

I was watching a rerun of The Game on BET—don’t judge me—when an ad for Motions Silkening Shine Relaxer came on. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard “Get pretty.” Then my ears perked up. The line continued, “…with shiny, make-them-stare hair.” Then it hit me hard: this is why little girls grow up thinking the hair they were born with needs to be fixed. Otherwise, it’s not “pretty.”

This ad reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my pastor, when he told me that we partly form our identities based on the models before us—that is, both fashion models and everyday examples. Little girls, for instance, grow up knowing what’s “pretty” without having to have it blatantly stated (although this ad is pretty blatant). We have Barbie dolls, TV, magazines and movies to tell us.

The thing is: the “popular” models, as opposed to the everyday ones, get more pull as kids grow up. We know this. And if we’re talking about models of “pretty” hair, the view is pretty one-dimensional. For black girls growing up today, their models are the likes of Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, and the model in this Motions ad: beautiful, influential women who relax their hair. I imagine the message for a little girl is that “shiny” hair like this model’s is the only way to “make them stare.” This type of hair is necessary to be considered beautiful.

I’m aware that these are arguably trite ideas--we all know that trying to be Barbie has screwed with quite a few minds--yet these ideas about "pretty" keep being recycled. In spite of all the conversations about multivalent versions of “pretty,” we’re still getting “pretty hair=straight and shiny” coming through the tube. To a little girl, who may have few, if any, models of naturally textured hair that is “pretty,” this ad provides the key to “pretty”! Shiny, blow-in-the-wind hair that correlates with all the other models out there.

I think we’d see a lot less negativity surrounding nappy hair if black females in their girlhood, where ideas about “pretty” firmly take root, can actually see more than one type of “pretty” hair. If they can see hair that looks like theirs as “pretty,” not just at home or in the neighborhood but on TV and in magazines, then maybe we can add a few more dimensions to the idea.

I’m not naïve, however. I know that part of kinky hair’s lack of visibility has to do with its paltry level of acceptability in the fashion, TV, and film industries. But we’ve seen kinky hair featured in the worlds of fashion and entertainment, as in this photo of Beyoncé. (Granted, I don't believe this is her hair, but the point is that the afro is getting some play!) World famous model Alek Wek is also an example of kinky hair in the fashion world. Kim Myles, of HGTV’s Myles of Style wears her hair in its natural texture. Jazz, blues, and folk icon Cassandra Wilson has been wearing locs for decades, and soul singer Leela James has a very prominent afro.

There are models of black women with naturally textured hair out there, but they’re nowhere near as prominent as models of straightened and relaxed hair. Where are the Carol’s Daughter, Miss Jessie’s, and Kinky-Curly TV ads? Maybe they’re on their way. They’re fairly new companies, after all.

With all this in mind, if I ever have a daughter, I’d want her to know that she’d be pretty no matter what she did to her hair, that there’s more than one type of “pretty” and that she wouldn’t have to change the texture of her hair in order to get it. But she could if she wanted to. It's one option and not the only one.