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!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Remembering is Not Enough"

Somber and moved. 

Those are the primary emotions I felt on the cold afternoon of December 12, as I walked out of the small theater at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Yes, I knew the horrifying story of Emmett Till's murder. I knew about Viola Liuzzo, Medgar Evers and Bloody Sunday. I even knew about the memorial dedicated to them and about 36 other people who had died as a result of Jim Crow racism.

What I didn't expect was the challenge placed in front of me after viewing the film Faces in the Water, a film that tells the story of the memorial and the people and events that inspired it. As the film closes, various voice-overs provide people's responses to the film and the memorial, the most striking of which (to me) states the following: "Remembering is not enough."

It's not enough to remember the hundreds of murders that went unsolved during the Civil Rights era and beyond strictly because of hatred and bigotry. It's not even enough to feel bad about those hate crimes and instances of discrimination--racial, gendered, religious or otherwise--that occur today for those same reasons. As I proceeded from that theater into the next room, deep in thought, I came face-to-face with the Wall of Tolerance, where I was invited to take this pledge, to do more than just remember:

By placing my name on the Wall of Tolerance, I pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance. I will work in my daily life for justice, equality and human rights - the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.

Thinking about my daily life--my children, my nieces and nephews, my work, this blog--I knew that I might not ever participate in a Selma-to-Montgomery type of march or risk my life to ensure that others can vote. But I can step in when I see the children and the adults in my life subscribing to and spreading bigoted ideologies. I can use my classroom or cubicle or wherever I work to infuse "work-related material" with ideas that oppose prejudice and bias. I can use this blog to continue spreading the values of inclusion and people's inherent dignity.

My name added to the Wall of Tolerance

With these thoughts in mind, I added my name to the wall, and its largeness was convicting. I then walked outside to see and touch the memorial itself. I hesitated to put my fingers into the chilly water, but I did it anyway and thought about the immeasurable sacrifices those martyrs made in the name of doing what is right. In 2013, I will seek out ways, even small ways, that I can carry on that legacy. I hope you will too. Our children need us to do so and to teach them to do it as well.

I'm intrigued to know: what are some bigoted ideas you've seen from children lately? Where do you think they got those ideas, and what do you think can be done to counteract them?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hair Length: Who Does it Hurt?

"Every time a woman cuts off her hair, somewhere a little black girl cries!" 
-The Game's Tasha Mack

Tasha Mack uttered these lines when Melanie spontaneously chopped off some of her famously long hair. I grew up with a similar sentiment, in that I was threatened by friends and several family members throughout the years regarding my hair: "I'll beat you if you ever cut your hair!" That kinda thing. Of course, I never took these threats seriously, but they were meant to communicate that my long, "good" hair was important to people other than myself. That hair apparently meant something, and I dared not touch it.

Well, on November 1, I did touch it, after thinking about it for a long time. The experience brought those old threats back to mind and made me reflect on the various do's and don't's surrounding black women's hair. If I had long hair, I owed it to other people to maintain that length, but it only reinforces--in my humble opinion--more problematic standards of beauty that many black women have internalized: this idea that we have to strive for straight hair or long hair. I'm just going with healthy hair.

While I don't completely agree with the idea that "I am not my hair," I do believe that cutting my hair doesn't harm me or anyone else. It was, in fact, a liberating (if slightly scary) experience. More importantly, it was my experience to have, and I captured pictorial evidence of the whole thing! 

Freshly shampooed and conditioned hair

The actual length of my hair--some serious shrinkage!

It's about to go down.

First cut, off the top. I cannot lie, the result (considering shrinkage)
was shorter than I intended. My heart picked up pace at this point!

All the cut-off hair...that's a lot of hair.

The finished look

Back view of the finished cut

Conditioner rinsed out and leave-in applied, I headed out for the day
with the least amount of hair I've ever had in my life. I'm liking it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Confederate Flags and Consumers

I know. I've been gone for a minute, and I've missed writing my ideas down. As an idea magnet, I've struggled with balancing my time as a working mommy to a 1-year-old (post forthcoming about Mini Mo's debut into toddlerhood!) and a now-16-year-old and blogging. To those who have the balance down, give me tips!

As for today's post, I need to make it clear that I am a native Alabamian. Therefore, Confederate flags are as common to me as sweet tea and hearing/saying, "y'all." From t-shirts and jackets to vehicular vanity plates and full-sized flags in front of buildings, Confederate flags are ubiquitous. Hey, even the Alabama State Flag itself incorporates the Confederate Flag.

However, it's the flag I noticed in front of a business site for a local marble and granite shop and a trailer seller that raised questions for me, one in particular: What is this flag supposed to communicate to a potential customer?

I don't know which business is sporting this flag or who owns it, but in pondering this question, I thought about what that flag connotes in general, for a wide range of people:
  1. For many black people I know, it means racism, period, and calls to mind lynch mobs, white hoods, and burning crosses.
  2. For other people I know, it means Southern pride and heritage and recalls a history of states defending their rights. (Rights to what? That's debatable, kinda.) The Alabama state motto is Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere, Latin for "We dare to defend [or to maintain] our rights."
There may be other connotations, but these are the two most common, in my experience. Yet, there are entities today, classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), that use this flag to represent their causes as well.

Kirk Lyons at neo-Confederate rally
Kirk Lyons marches at a 2003 neo-Confederate rally in Richmond, Va.
Check out the interesting participant on the right side of the photo.
Courtesy of splcenter.org
A prominent one is the League of the South (LS), identified by the SPLC as a Neo-Confederate organization. Check out some sentiments from LS members, as reported on the SPLC's website within its "Intelligence Files":
“Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery. Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?”— Jack Kershaw, League of the South board member, 1998
“[T]he Southern League supports a return to a political and social system based on kith and kin rather than an impersonal state wedded to the idea of the universal rights of man. At its core is a European population.”— Michael Hill, essay on League of the South website, 2000 
Now, these statements from LS  members seem to contradict this statement from the LS's official website, DixieNet.org, on its FAQ page:

Q:What is the LS position regarding blacks in the South?
A: The LS disavows a spirit of malice and extends an offer of good will and cooperation to Southern blacks in areas where we can work together as Christians to make life better for all people in the South. We affirm that, while historically the interests of Southern blacks and whites have been in part antagonistic, true Constitutional government would provide protection to all law-abiding citizens — not just to government-sponsored victim groups.
These few examples illustrate, to me, that the placing of a Confederate flag in front of a business location sends mixed signals. Does the owner anticipate only certain kinds of clientele? Should the potential customer interpret the flag's presence to mean only "Southern pride" or something else? I don't have the answers, but I bet many folks find it alienating. Given our state's history, I'd be inclined to look elsewhere for my granite countertop or trailer. What does the Confederate flag mean to you?

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Our Love for Each Other": Gabby Douglas & Another Look at the Life Balance Conference

Really, this is not another Gabby Douglas post although I do want to congratulate Douglas's history-making accomplishments! Way to go, and keep doing your thing, young lady--correction: Gold-Medal-Winning Olympian!

Though this post is not about Douglas or her hair, the haterism about which has been covered here, here, and here in particular (where she directly addresses the silliness of all the talk), it is about black women's love for each other, and we'll start with this hair discussion briefly.

I mean, check the hardware!
Black women know all too well how sensitive the issue of our hair is, and the rest of the world is learning quickly. However, no matter where a woman stands on perms or gels, we have got to learn how to treat each other with love. For instance, I have a preference for chemical-free hair, but I don't begrudge anybody their choice to embrace relaxers. One of the wonderful things about living in the 21st century is that, while we still have a way to go, we're enjoying a time in which great strides in gender and race politics have been realized. That means we're increasingly able to rock perms, 'fros, locs, and sew-ins, and it's all becoming acceptable.

Yet, we still have women within our communities policing other women's choices and effectively causing division where there should be love. Why did we have black women taking to Twitter to tear down another black woman who was representing her country on the world stage? Where is the love and support for a woman seeking to make history and otherwise do something positive? As Douglas puts it in the HuffPo, "I'm like, `I just made history and people are focused on my hair?' It can be bald or short, it doesn't matter about (my) hair." Priorities, people. Priorities.

To return to insights gained from the Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness Conference, an important part of that weekend had to do with black women choosing to lift each other up in love--and it is a choice. As we performed the exercise in which we gazed at each other in pairs, as I described in my last post, Alexis Gumbs said something powerful: "This is a historic moment in the context of our love for each other." It was profound because we were taking time out to really see one another, without judgment, and only with spirits of affirmation.

If, then, we can support each other's endeavors and really see each other, how much could we accomplish together? If we could put aside the petty differences (like hair preferences) and cultivate "our ability to see the brilliance around us," as Alexis put it, to what extent could we change our world for the better? Ladies, please, let's cut the foolishness and love each other.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Overwhelmed and Grateful: Reflecting on an Amazing Weekend

We began by staring into each other's eyes for a whole minute. Silently. We were strangers, and this was awkward, to say the least. We giggled, fidgeted, shifted nervously in our seats, and glanced around the room. Eventually, we got down to business and tried to focus on staring at each other. When the interminable minute was up, we revealed what we had seen in each other during that time. I saw an amazing beauty; she saw kindness and warmth. We were one pair of women in a roomful, and we were beginning the end of an overwhelming weekend in Atlanta.

I still haven't really processed it all. I mean, it's taken me a week to get myself together and write about it! I was blessed enough to attend the 2nd Black Women's Life Balance & Wellness Conference in Atlanta, GA, held July 13-15. As the conference's website states, the planners of the conference "acknowledge that endeavoring to achieve career, family-life, and personal life balance is an ongoing challenge!" So, a group of talented, intelligent, beautiful black women converged on the Atlanta University Center's Robert W. Woodruff Library to encourage, inspire, and support one another. It was awesome! There's really too much to talk about; I'm probably going to cover aspects of it over several posts. However, I'll begin with the end.

Our closing session on Sunday was conducted by Pauline Mckenzie-Day and Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a mother/daughter doula team. Instead of helping to birth babies, however, they used this session to nurture the new selves that were birthed over the weekend. After discussing the gazing session, Pauline and Alexis asked us pairs to share with each other the visions that we have for ourselves, our hopes and fears. We followed that sharing by crafting haikus of affirmation for our partners, based on what we'd learned from them. My partner wrote such an insightful piece for me:

The intent is yours
You know what needs to be known
Content in intent

Yeah, it's definitely taped onto my bathroom mirror. I read it every day, and it sticks with me because it's true: I do know what needs to be known as I come closer and closer to discovering my passions and putting them into action. Meanwhile, I strive to be content--and no longer anxious or disappointed!--with the process.

Finally, we closed by forming a large circle and, one after another, expressing sounds that would create the ideal situation for a baby to be born into. As the sounds cascaded with each added voice, I smiled to hear, "Yes!" and "Welcome" and "Thank you," along with singing, humming, and sighing. It was the perfect way to welcome our new selves into the world, and I look forward to implementing some of the ideas those wonderful women shared. Step 1: make an important phone call that might transform my ideas into the tangible. More on that later. ;-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Anti-American" American History

When I logged onto Twitter last night and searched for the official page of Melissa-Harris Perry's eponymous show, I saw cries of "anti-Americanness" and "socialism" surrounding her July 1st show. The particular segment in question was geared toward the 4th of July, its history, and what it means. Check out the segment below:


Many Tweeters took issue with the very idea that Harris-Perry would even mention slavery and genocide in a discussion about the nation's birthday, her doing so deemed "trashing America." Is it untrue that our nation's founding also coincided with the taking of land that belonged to others? Is it a lie that our nation was built by shackled hands? No, that's all true. Why, then, is it anti-American to state these immutable facts?

What I gather is that these irate Tweeters and others have a problem with these national stains being highlighted or foregrounded on a day that should be spent celebrating. Harris-Perry's choice in "celebration," then, is considered inappropriate or in poor taste.

Is she raining on the Independence Day parade? Perhaps, but I believe the lack of such discussions do a major disservice to us all, especially our children. It does them no good to learn about the Declaration of Independence and fights for liberty and equality if they're getting only part of the story. It seems so many people want to pretend that these stains never existed, but they're integral to the founding of this country--just as integral as the signing of the Declaration on July 4, 1776. If it is a worthy tradition to acknowledge, each July 4th, the ideals of liberty and equality that the Founding Fathers espoused, then it is just as worthy and even responsible to acknowledge the hypocrisy inherent in those ideals.

Yesterday, my 10-month-old, Mini Mo, wore a "My First 4th" onesie that was embossed with red and blue stars and an Uncle Sam hat. And when she's old enough, we'll pop firecrackers and grill out on the 4th, but we'll also discuss the reasons that everyone didn't have cause to celebrate on July 4, 1776--or for that whole next century. That's not anti-American in the least. It's history--American history--and that won't make my child a "slave" to the past. It will make her educated.

I'm not out to defend Harris-Perry. (She's a grown woman--and a scholarly, brilliant, eloquent one at that. She needs no back-up from me.) As she indeed points out in her Independence Day segment, though, she is proud of her country, imperfections and all. We can all be patriotic and honest at the same time, striving for those 18th-century ideals in the process.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Book is a Toddler!

My toddler!
Happy 2nd birthday to my book, Getting Hair "Fixed": Black Power, Transvaluation, and Hair Politics! As I reflect on my 2-year-old, a historical and literary look at the various politics surrounding the afro before, during, and after the Black Power Movement, I think of transvaluation and present-day implications for the concept. Regardless of apparent trends associated with kinky, afro-textured hair these days, it's clear that transvaluation is still very much part of the picture.

As I explain in Getting Hair "Fixed," I use the term transvaluation in the same way that Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. does when he describes it as "a fundamental psychological and cultural conversion from [black people's] socialization as a subordinate people to a self-determining nation."* Indeed, Glaude provides this description in the context of freedom struggles that fomented many Black Power initiatives, and I apply this term to the embrace of afro-textured hair during the Black Power era specifically (roughly the mid 1960s to the late 1970s).

In spite of the historical contexts and current trends, I'm noticing that transvaluation does creep up in discussions surrounding natural hair and transitioning in particular. One interesting example is Zina Saro-Wiwa's insightful NY Times op-doc titled "Transition." (Sorry! There seems to be no way to embed the video!) As Saro-Wiwa explores various types of natural styles and the women who've chosen them, she herself embraces her natural texture and comes to this transvaluative conclusion:

While so many naturals I’ve met are happy to be part of a movement, almost none I encountered consider it political. They back away from any talk about "black power." I can see why a highly individuated movement characterized by joy, self-discovery and health concerns doesn’t at first appear political, but in a post-racial America, this quiet, internal shift toward self-acceptance is, to my mind, the most potent and political act of all.
It's not necessarily an in-your-face, fist-in-the-air approach that makes this growing natural hair movement political or transvaluative. For many women--not all--it is about self-acceptance, which is why it is often so life-changing. Saro-Wiwa notes that going natural changed the way she viewed her whole body, even her diet, and made an initially temporary decision (cutting off her hair) a permanent one. For the naturals out there, do you see your decision as at all transvaluative? Thanks for reading and celebrating my book's second birthday!


*You can find Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s take on this concept in his introduction to Is It Nation Time?: Contemporary Essays on Black Power and Black Nationalism. Ed. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002. I discuss my use of the term in Getting Hair "Fixed": Black Power, Transvaluation, and Hair Politics. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010. 5-6.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Reppin' Our HBCUs' Nerds

I remember when Dr. Iyegha mentioned the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) in Honors Geography during my freshman year in undergrad. I immediately became excited by the idea that I could BE A NERD with a team again! See, I am a nerd--and proud. Ever since I was in elementary school and got a taste of Knowledge Bowl, I knew that I had a thing for pressing a buzzer and answering questions, exercizing all the "useless" information I had in my brain. That progressed to Scholars' Bowl in high school and then to HCASC in college.

Me (left) after a game with my teammate (and twin) during our senior year
HCASC is an academic competition program, sponsored by American Honda Motor Co., that pits 48 teams from our nation's historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) against each other every spring. Teams buzz in and answer questions on any subject you can imagine. Think Jeopardy! This year's national championship tournament marked the 23rd year of the program. Having played all 4 years of my undergraduate career and having volunteered with the program for the past 3 years, I am so thankful that this awesome program still continues, promoting scholastic rigor and creating "Friends for Life"--the program's tagline that might sound cheesy but is so real.

To say that I get sentimental about this program and all those who make it happen is an understatement, which is why I was so disappointed to see a silly argument about the program's being "racist"in the comment section of this promotional video on YouTube:



  1. The term racism indicates the superiority of one race over another. How is this the case when a) HBCUs are not "all-black" and b) are not barred to any race? Anyone who checks out the team photos will see all the colors of the rainbow represented at the competition--and thus in its participating institutions.
  2. It's not as if HCASC is the only program that gives our nation's nerds a chance to showcase their brain-skills. HCASC began in 1989 and is a College Bowl company. As the HCASC website states, "In 1989, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. approached the College Bowl Company and asked them to create a special version of its world-reknowned game for America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities." College Bowl goes all the way back to the 1950's with a radio-broadcast competition, and the first televised tourney was in 1978.
  3. Both College Bowl and HCASC participants have benefited greatly from these programs, as millions of dollars have been granted to institutions in each program. Beyond the financial institutional grants, these competitions offer wonderful networking opportunities and the enjoyment of nerds locked in intellectual battle.
I want to take this opportunity to shift the attention to the coaches, players, and teachers who keep getting students into this program. I especially want to shout-out the volunteers who take time off work and away from their families each year strictly because they love what this program represents and enjoy helping the students experience an amazing few days each year. A hearty thanks goes to American Honda, College Bowl, NAFEO, and ACUI for continuing to believe in this endeavor and promoting academic achievement in our HBCUs. To all of you and my fellow alumni, let's continue to show that this program cannot be reduced to a fallacious "argument" about racism. Let's keep doing what we've been doing for the last 23 years, for as long as we can, and spread the word. Nerds unite!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Not Our Intentions": Kroger's Response to My Letter

Well, I'm not surprised at Kroger's reply to my letter criticizing their use of stereotypes during Black History Month. As I expected, they wanted to assure me that they didn't mean to offend at all, but that's just it: without trying to, they were appealing to tried and true caricatures of black people. Hot sauce, chicken, and ribs are just the go-to marketing ploys, I presume. Indeed, I was informed that my concerns had been sent to the Advertising and Marketing Department.

The full letter appears below. Note that while the author of this letter repeatedly uses the first person ("I"), the author's name doesn't appear once in the letter. The letter isn't even signed. What if I did want "further assistance" from this person? Hmmm....

Dear Ms. B.,

Please allow me to thank you personally for contacting The Kroger Executive Office. We always appreciate comments and suggestions from our customers regarding the Kroger Co.

I apologize if you found the Black History month edition of the My Magazine to be offensive in anyway [sic]. It is not our intentions to use stereotypes or offend any of our customers. Our only intentions were to acknowledge Black History month and offer in store savings with coupons.

Again, I apologize for any concern this may have caused you. Please know your comments have [been] forwarded to our Advertising and Marketing Department for their review.

Thank you again for contacting us. Please let me know if I could be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Ref. #11730896

What are your thoughts on this letter, folks?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Each One, Teach One--So Proud of My Students!

The homepage for True Love Conquers All, my students'
website for a discussion of "Desireé’s Baby"
I don't write much about my day job, but I teach college English (mainly core composition and world lit courses). For the last few years, one way I've tried to eject some fun and creativity into my lit courses is to have students do "Remix" presentations: come up with a creative, original spin on an aspect of the day's reading. They do this in pairs and prepare it to present on the day that we discuss whatever text they've signed up for.

Today, we discussed Kate Chopin's short story "Desireé’s Baby." (If you've never read it, think "tragic mulatto" + 19th-century Maury Povich. You can read it here; it's very short. It's got a pretty nice twist at the end!) I was so pleased to have a student pair get so into the subject matter, an important aspect of which is the idea of miscegenation, that they created a whole website with relevant 20th-century material and 21st-century perspectives on biracial children. I was and am so proud and thought you might like to see the product of their hard work.

Because of these students' efforts, their classmates (and others, I hope!) will be able to refer to a concise little collection of material to place this 19th-century story into current perspective. It might even help them to better understand the story. This group really did aim to teach their classmates: something I've always wanted this assignment to accomplish. *Proud teacher*

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kroger, Please Do Better: My Letter to the Grocer

I've been reflecting on the fact that just about any holiday or (not so) special event--I still don't understand why we observe a holiday for a man who was trying to get to India and ended up in the Bahamas--can indeed be turned into an opportunity to make money. It's just the world we live in: MLK Day sales, President's Day sales, Columbus Day sales, New Year's greeting cards, etc.

A cover of the mailer alongside coupons
I was put off to learn that my grocery store of choice, Kroger, has joined the retailer masses in a pretty insulting way: "celebrating" Black History Month by advertising sales on chicken and ribs, among other things. This "celebration" prompted me to write a letter to the chain, presented in its entirety below:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a faithful Kroger customer, and I have always enjoyed the environment, savings, and service that I receive at my local Kroger. However, I was disconcerted to learn that the Black History Month issue of your MyMagazine™* relied on stereotypes and caricatures of blacks in order to attract consumers. I hope that you will reconsider this line of advertising as ill-advised and ill-received in the future.

To be more specific, you include coupons for chicken, ribs, Aunt Jemima® pancakes, hot sauce, and hair relaxer in this pamphlet—items which have historically negative associations with black Americans. There is nothing wrong with these items in and of themselves, of course. I know that plenty of black people use all of these things. What I take issue with, though, is the presumption that these stereotypically-conceived coupons are somehow related to a celebration of black history and achievement.

Please do not get me wrong: I think it’s commendable that you have acknowledged in this pamphlet the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by highlighting the unveiling of his memorial in Washington, D.C. I also like your interview with the very talented and inspirational Patti LaBelle regarding the memorial, important health issues, and her cooking experiences as a diabetic (along with a couple of her tasty-looking recipes!).

Still, if your goal is truly to “[reflect] on the African-American story and [honor] the men and women who helped to write it,” then I hope that you can appreciate the offensive nature of the images you have conjured up. Such images represent a very negative part of that story and certainly should not be directly or indirectly propagated in attempts to make profits. Please know that you can attract black clientele, like my family and me, without depending on such unenlightened associations with “blackness.” 

Sincerely,

Moka B.
A Kroger shopper and proud black American

It would be awesome if the company took heed, but we'll just have to see what happens. In any case, I'll let you know.

*MyMagazine is the mailer of exclusive savings sent to Kroger's "best customers."

Monday, February 6, 2012

National African American Read-In

I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the 23rd Annual National African American Read-In today at Auburn University. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long before leaving to teach a class, but I really enjoyed the excerpts from Charles Blockson (Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile) and Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God—classic!) that I got to hear. Created by the National Council of Teachers of English, the program encourages reading as an instructive and revealing activity while also promoting the appreciation of African American literature, during Black History Month and beyond.

I read from Trudier Harris’s “Cotton-Pickin’ Authority,” an essay from her collection of autobiographical pieces titled Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South (2003). Harris is a native Alabamian and reflects on growing up in Tuscaloosa in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In “Cotton-Pickin’ Authority,” she raises the particular topic of inter-generational conflicts, what she calls the “then” generation (of those who barely got to go to school and had to work in the cotton fields) versus the “now” generation (of kids who had the luxury of going to school all day instead of picking cotton). The older folks invoked cotton-pickin’ authority at every turn, whenever it came to letting the younger folks know how good they truly had it. It’s very funny and very insightful about a way of living during an interesting time of change in the South.

What I liked most about the Read-In is that I got to use it as an opportunity for my lit students to sit in and learn about some writers they had never heard of. For a few extra points, I’m asking them to think about why something they heard might be worth exploring in more depth. I hope they really let their minds work on this one. :-)

This event was just one of hundreds occurring at various, colleges, universities, libraries, and other organizations across the nation throughout the month of February. Be on the lookout for a Read-In where you live, and join in this celebration of African American literature and history. See the National Read-In’s official site for more info!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Black History Fever--Web 2.0 Style!

The intricacies of social networking can get downright infuriating at times--worrying about privacy issues; being exposed to pure, unrestrained idiocy and bigotry; etc.--but I also love that we get to share good things with so many people instantly. For that, I am truly thankful and excited.

This brings me to the Black History fever I've been feeling and seeing since yesterday, as evidenced on none other than Facebook! A number of users, including me, have been using their status updates to share with their comrades various facts that involve African-Americans. Here are just a few from Feb. 1-2, 2012:

  • Day 2: Gotta throw my boy in here. - August Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005) was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.
  • Francis Cecil Sumner was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology...known as the "Father of Black Psychology"
  • One of the most gifted writer of the last century, Richard Wright is a Natchez/Jackson MS native. From humble beginnings to the toast of Paris, two of his books, Black Boy and Native Son, are essentials in anyone reading library. Using his characters to describe the terrible treatment and conditions, many blacks faced in the 1940's and 1950's, he put into words what very few had the ability to do. We salute you..this 1st day of Black History Month.
  • It's Black History Month!!!! - Moses George Hogan (March 13, 1957 - February 11, 2003) was an African-American composer and arranger of choral music. He was best known for his very popular and accessible settings of spirituals. Hogan was a pianist, conductor and arranger of international renown. His works are highly celebrated and performed by high school, college, church, community, and professional choirs across the globe today. He died at the age of 45 of a brain tumour, and his survivors include his mother, a brother and four sisters. His interment was located at Mount Olivet Cemetery and Mausoleum.
  • Originally a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius recognized that in the late 1960s there was no television venue in the United States for soul music, and introduced many African-American musicians to a larger audience as a result of their appearances on Soul Train.
  • Factoid for the day: Garrett A. Morgan, born to former slaves in Mar. 1877, was the first inventor to apply for and acquire a U.S. patent for the three-position traffic signal. The patent was granted on November 20, 1923. Morgan later had the technology patented in Great Britain and Canada as well. So, if you appreciate the traffic light, thank Garrett Morgan for that! :-)
  • On this day [Feb. 1] in 1960, students from North Carolina A&T State University staged a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, beginning the first of the historic sit-ins of the 1960s.
Some of you know that I am passionate about educating the babies, but I'm passionate about education in general. What a fun way to do it! So catch the fever: it's good for you! Happy Black History Month!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Hey, Beautiful": Daddy's Words are Precious

I tell Mini Mo that she's beautiful several times a day, every day: "Good morning, beautiful!" "Hey, pretty girl!" "What's my beautiful girl doing?" I often follow one of these greetings with, "You're beautiful, but that's not the most important thing about you. What's in your head and heart count the most, and remember that your beauty doesn't make you better or more special than anyone else." Mini Mo's only 4 months old, but these lessons must start early! Lol.

So Mini Mo hears these things from Mommy all the time, but I don't often think about the fact that Daddy's doing the same thing. This morning, when Daddy first saw his daughter, he kissed her and said, "Hey, beautiful." It was so sweet to watch them greet each other and bond, Mini Mo touching Daddy's face and smiling. *Sigh*

A 2-week-old Mini Mo, holding Daddy's hand--well, finger :-)
It's so important that our girls know that they're beautiful, and I think it's especially important that they hear it from their fathers. After all, if they're blessed to have their fathers, these men will be the most important males in their lives for years. Daddy's affirmations, then, and the lack thereof, can speak volumes in terms of these girls' self-esteem. When a loving father lifts up his daughter every day, I bet it'll be harder for some knuckle-headed boy to tear that down later on. She'll know how she should be treated and loved and hopefully won't accept anything less than that. Keep it up, Daddy!