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!

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!