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.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Game

My wonderful sister-friends continue to be inspired! I'm happy to share the latest inspired piece by my dear friend Jan. She raises some important points about what dating has morphed into--a game essentially--and exposes the inherent problems in the concept, especially for someone who's tired of playing. I encourage you to continue the discussion below. Enjoy and ponder!

~Moka B.

I was listening to a radio show this morning when the hosts started talking about “The Game” of dating.  The discussion revolved around how men and women should avoid showing too much interest initially in order to ultimately gain the interest of the other party.  As a single female who has had my fair share of unsuccessful attempts to develop a relationship with great eligible bachelors, I paid close attention to this discussion because it is a situation with which I am all too familiar.

From my widely varied and extensive dating experience, I’ve always been intrigued by the strong interest that I receive from men to whom I do not reciprocate the interest.  Contrarily, the men that I do show interest in do not express the same feelings towards me, or they show interest long after I've become disinterested (like 5 years later).

I perceive The Game as actions--or should I say ‘a lack of actions’--that essentially require one to avoid taking action and to avoid appearing too interested in the other party. Some of the rules of The Game include waiting on the man to make the first call, never contacting him twice in a row without a response to my previous contact attempt, waiting on him to ask me out for both the first and second date before initiating a date, being the one to end conversations on the phone, not being too available, avoiding long text responses, etc. (You get the point)…In order to be a good player, I must do these things despite my innermost desires to do the opposite.  Hence, by properly managing my lack of interest, I should be able to keep the man interested long enough to actually get to know me better and not be turned off by my interest in him.  It’s funny how being interested in someone is actually a turnoff.

There’s one trick: during my game-restricted and limited time with my potential match, I must establish a connection and attract him.  The one assumption is that this man would be otherwise attracted and interested in me if he was not turned off by my expression of interest and availability.  All I’m essentially trying to do by playing The Game is buy more time and allow him to judge me for who I am and not perceive me as being desperate, demanding, or lonely.  Don’t ask me why breaking any of The Game rules I mentioned above is perceived as desperate, demanding, or lonely because I have no idea.  I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if I knew. ;-)

Maybe it is true that withholding my interest initially may be beneficial.  After all, I want to be pursued and I wouldn't want my interest to get in the way of his opportunity to show me who he really is and what he wants from me.

Maintaining my attractiveness and attraction to a man while being uninterested and unavailable at the same time is a challenging concept and an act that I have not yet mastered.  If I'm acting uninterested and unavailable then it is probably because I'm actually uninterested and I'd rather not be available to spend time with you.  I find it difficult to be honest and genuine when I’m putting up a front and playing hard to get.  I mean, once I get in a relationship I’ll be breaking all those rules anyway.  So why front now?  Just so I can be accused of “changing” later?  What do you think?


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Reverend Dr. Seuss (for Paula Deen, Dark Girls, and Haters)

A Star-Bellied Sneetch assuming superiority over a
Plain-Bellied Sneeth.
courtesy of hilobrow.com
After reading Dr. Seuss's Sneetches on Beaches to Mini Mo last week, I thought to myself, "Dang! Dr. Seuss brought a word right there!" In essence, Star-Bellied Sneetches thought they were better than Plain-Bellied Sneetches and went out of their way to showcase their superiority over the Sneetches without stars. They excluded them and put them down, to the point that the Plain-Bellied Sneetches paid money to change themselves in order to fit in with the Star-Bellied Sneetches. When the Star-Bellied Sneetches realized that they could no longer distinguish which Sneetches were "better" than the others, they then paid to change themselves! Getting the picture here? Hatred and prejudice (and wasted money) over that which is superficial.

I read this book to my child right around the time the bomb dropped on a bigoted Paula Deen--and some of her supporters!--and right before the premiere of the documentary Dark Girls and the start of George Zimmerman's trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin. This reading also took place weeks after people went H.A.M. over an adorable Cheerios ad. While it's been easy to wax hopeful after reflecting on the truths of this children's book, I'm conscious enough to know that the forces of prejudice are many and varied: long established institutionally in some cases and deep-rooted within families in other cases. (Btw, Crunk Feminist Crunkadelic makes similar big-picture connections in her post "Girl, Bye: Why This Moment is Bigger than Paula Deen." Do check it out.) Mini Mo's father and I are planning to teach her early and often that she is not better than anyone else, nor is anyone else better than she is. The teaching's got to count for something, methinks.

At 66 years old, Paula Deen is perhaps too old (and too deeply Southern?) to have had The Sneetches read to or discussed with her. Maybe those who have tormented dark girls all over the globe, even within their own families, didn't apply the book's themes to themselves. Whatever the case, it's no secret that, even when children go through stages of rebellion and alternate influences, the fundamental teachings they grow up with have lasting impacts--for better or worse. I guess that's what gives me a little hope. Yes, bigots continue to teach bigotry to their children, but people with good sense are teaching their children, too. People with good sense, TURN UP! And, consider reading The Sneetches to your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, etc. The Reverend Dr. Seuss excellently highlights and preaches about the ridiculousness of prejudice. In the end, after all the wasted money and confusion about who's better and who's lesser, "the Sneetches got really quite smart" when "they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches / And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches."

If you're unfamiliar with The Sneetches (celebrating its 50th anniversary), here's an awesome video version of it, submitted by YouTuber m7a7b725! Enjoy and share!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Definition of a Man

Just in time for Father's Day, I'm happy to share a new guest blog post by my oldest friend and dear sister, Darlita. As the mother of a son, she probably didn't have to stretch her mind very far to apply the themes of a romantic comedy to her growing boy. While the film she contemplates isn't about fathers instructing sons on manhood per se, it does tackle a common definition of manhood--one that needs challenging. Check it out!

~Moka B.

 – ©
What is the definition of manhood? What does it mean to be a man? I pondered these questions recently while watching the movie Crazy, Stupid, LoveThere is a scene in the film where Jake (Ryan Gosling) is talking to Cal (Steve Carrell) about his sad lot in life, specifically the demise of his marriage. Jake assures Cal, "I'm going to help you re-discover your manhood." After this declaration, their interactions revolve around Cal meeting lots of women and building up his confidence so he can sleep with them. Is this what manhood means?

Growing up in a single-parent home with my father, manhood, to me, meant taking care of your family: paying the bills, keeping food on the table, making sure homework and chores were done, keeping your family safe. It had nothing to do with sleeping with multitudes of women. I know there is a culture (and double standard) in our society where a man is expected to be a "real man" and thus, a "ladies' man." I pray, however, that our young boys are reared to be more than that. I pray they are reared to be responsible, productive members of society, men who respect all women to the utmost.


What does manhood mean to you?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mommy Moment: Thinking about Mini Mo

There's a spark of magic in your eyes.
Candyland appears each time you smile.
Never thought that fairy tales came true,
But they come true when I'm near you.
You're a genie in disguise
Full of wonder and surprise...

If you're a soul head like I am, you recognize those lyrics from "Betcha By Golly Wow" by the soul group the Stylistics (also nicely covered by Prince and Phyllis Hyman). I've been singing this song to Mini Mo for months now, to the point that she can now sing along (as much as a 21-month-old can). We often sing this song together during her bath time, as we did tonight. 

During our duet, I couldn't help but look at her happy, smiling, singing face and reflect on how blessed I am to have her in my life. Those lyrics are so true for me and my baby, and it's not always easy to remember that when she's showcasing the "fiercer" of her personality traits. I wrote on this blog a while ago that I would tell you all about Mini Mo's developing personality; now we're approaching two years! Late as I am, here's a list of words I often use to describe my child:
Exhibiting "strong-willed"
  • strong-willed
  • assertive
  • diva
  • happy
  • smart
  • funny
  • silly

Exhibiting "silly" on Memorial Day

Exhibiting "happy," right after being silly with Mommy

That was right off the top of my head, and the top three are generally the ones I use most frequently. This is a habit I want to watch out for, as it could demoralize her as she grows. The thing is: these traits are highly problematic when this toddler's antics are preventing us from making progress, whether it's getting dressed, getting fed, or getting out of the house. These antics cause us to "bump heads" sometimes--because some of these traits are exhibited by the other lady of the house (ahem).

Still, when she's not a toddler (and even while she is, kinda), these traits will represent a very strong young woman. I'm already proud of my amazing girl, but I will be so proud of this self-assured woman who knows what she wants and won't take any crap from anybody, especially some knuckle-headed boy. (That was another mommy moment. Ha ha.)

So, as I work on finding the silver linings in my child's sometimes challenging personality, it helps to think about the fact that, for me, she really is a fairy tale come true--full of wonder and lots of surprise. 

Check out the Stylistics performing "Betcha By Golly Wow" in 1975 (courtesy of YouTuber HAYASEZA0602):

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spotlight On: Valenrich Wellness, LLC and Dr. Nadia M. Richardson

From a recent Valenrich Wellness flyer
I'm happy to share the first installment in what I'm hoping will be a fruitful, insightful "Spotlight On..." series here on the blog. As I've thought about the women I personally know--those who are making strides to positively impact Black women's issues and wellness--I decided to learn more about them through conversations and to share their work with as many folks as I can.

Thus, I am excited to feature the first spotlight on Valenrich Wellness, LLC, founded by Dr. Nadia M. Richardson. Nadia and I took some time to chat about her work and what she hopes to accomplish. What ensued was a revealing discussion about the stigma of mental health concerns among young people, particularly college-aged Black women at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Here's our conversation:

First, tell us a little about your organization.

Sure. My professional background is a bit diverse. I came out of the nonprofit sector and went into education; specifically student affairs within institutions of higher education.

What kind of nonprofit work did you do?

I worked with the Institute of International Education and the United Negro College Fund Special Program's Institute for International Public Policy. Those were the two big nonprofits I worked with professionally but I've been involved in the nonprofit sector as a volunteer for as long as I can remember.

I've always participated in programming or research that explored issues of diversity and focused primarily on issues of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. I developed courses about social justice, diversity, and identity development. While teaching a class, I incorporated hidden disabilities (specifically mental illnesses) into a lecture on diversity and, after the lecture, I had a student disclose her mental health status to me. It made me wonder how many students over the years I had interacted with but who did not feel comfortable disclosing their mental health concerns. Or worse, how many students with mental health concerns did I interact with who were silently struggling or feeling unsupported by their campuses? That curiosity led to my research on the experiences of college students with mental health concerns. Valenrich Wellness sort of came out of my research findings and the expressed interest of campus professionals such as faculty and student affairs staff.

Hmm...So even campuses with student counseling services...you noticed some lapses with available services and students' feelings about getting help for their hidden disabilities?

Absolutely.  I heard several different stories. Some students did not know that their campuses had a counseling center. Some felt guilt for experiencing mental health concerns and relied on informal forms of support such as religion, friends, denial, or substance abuse.

Others went for perhaps a single counseling session and felt as though they didn't have anything in common with their counselor and so there was little they were able to get from the interaction. But what I really learned was that there were different layers as to why the women that I spoke to in my particular study experienced mental health concerns the way they did.

In my study, I combined my established interest in traditionally underrepresented communities with my emerging interest in and commitment to mental wellness. With that in mind, I interviewed Black female college students with mental health concerns at a predominantly White institution.

There already exists a good amount of research on the experiences of Black students at PWIs but few that focus on their mental wellness and experiences with mental health concerns.

What are some of those layers which seem unique to Black women on these campuses, regarding mental health concerns?

What I learned was that various forms of discrimination (institutional, covert, micro-aggressions, etc.) encouraged the study participants to commit to mentally distressing performances of identity. Some of the layers that are unique to Black women is this idea that you have to be strong at all times; an idea that is historically rooted in the justified inhumane labor of Black women and has been passed down through generations as a socio-cultural rite of passage into Black womanhood.

Ah, yes. I've heard about this idea. Joan Morgan calls it the "strongblackwoman" idea in When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.


So, how did you go from your interests in underrepresented communities and your research to creating Valenrich?

I am a believer in participatory action research. I don't want to just publish work; I want that work to inform community efforts that can have a positive impact on various communities. During the course of my research, I repeatedly heard from colleagues that this was information that needed to be shared. Through Valenrich, I develop specific training, lectures, and advocacy workshops that use research to make issues of mental health, discrimination, and diversity link in a way that is understandable and accessible to everyone.

It is a way to assist universities in fostering student mental wellness by actively addressing issues of diversity on their campuses and providing faculty and staff with the tools they need to support students with mental health concerns. It is also a way to dismantle the fear and stigma that many have regarding mental health. If professors are fearful of students with mental health concerns, they are much less likely to be of any assistance to [the mental health concerns'] persistence.

Now that you're Dr. Nadia Richardson, are you working with Valenrich Wellness full-time, or are you working on a college campus too?

Valenrich is my full-time gig right now but I am still looking for the right position. Perhaps a faculty position.

Students definitely need you in the classroom, and they need to know that mental wellness is of the utmost importance. That leads me to my next question. In the grand scheme of things, what's the most important thing you want people to know about the work you're doing?

I believe that stigma about mental health continues because we don't allow ourselves to be honest about how we feel and proactive about addressing those things that truly threaten our mental well-being. Racism, sexism, ableism, classism and all the other -isms that are too abundant to name in this conversation all threaten our mental health. Speaking our truth, valuing ourselves, letting go of the guilt that we accept for not being some unreachable form of 'perfection,' and actively addressing the various forms of discrimination continue to exist are crucially important to ourselves and our communities.

Yes! I wish we had more room discuss all of those things! Given your emphasis on college students, though, would you say that there's something about that kind of environment that either exacerbates or concentrates those -isms you pointed out? Are young adults particularly vulnerable to those forces that threaten mental well-being?

It is both important and useful to address mental health concerns in college students because it is during the traditional college-age years when students are away from home for the first time and adjusting to a new environment that mental health concerns surface. I believe that universities fall short in fully equipping students for our increasingly diverse world or to think about diversity in complex ways that would, for example, allow someone to understand mental health socially rather than medically. If a person has bi-polar depression for which there is no 'cure', that diagnosis for all intents and purposes impacts their perspective and informs their identity.  However, universities continue to graduate students who have never so much as had a diversity and/or social justice class and are therefore ill-equipped to be reflective contributors to society. I hope I'm making sense.

I think what I am trying to say is, in order for the fear and stigma of mental health to be dismantled, we have to be willing to see and understand mental health in different ways and consider how our society contributes to mental distress by turning a blind eye to discrimination.

Yes, that absolutely makes sense, especially since we're talking about hidden disabilities. It makes sense for institutions of higher learning to train academically, vocationally and socially.

Just as progress has been made in terms of accommodating and learning about disabilities we can see (though much more progress is necessary), we need awareness for mental health concerns, too. What an important mission.

How can people find out more about Valenrich Wellness, and how can they reach you?

Thanks. I'm excited about the possibilities and very passionate about the work.
Thank you again for thinking of me and inviting me to be a part of your series. I am so excited to share this information with you.

You're so welcome! I love it, and I love that you're tackling such a traditionally taboo issue. Our communities need this kind of awareness, and it's great that you're tapping into higher education to do that.

Valenrich Wellness has a website in the works - www.valenrich.com. If people are interested, they can also connect on facebook (www.facebook.com/ValenrichWellness) or twitter (@ValenrichLLC).

I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Nadia and tapping into some of those issues which continue to stigmatize the active pursuit of attaining mental wellness. Nadia is passionately fighting that stigma. Be on the lookout for Valenrich Wellness events!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"We Just Don't Want to Know" About Others' Pain

While attending a wonderful panel by members of the Crunk Feminist Collective a couple of weeks ago, I was inspired by a particular idea surrounding self-care. One way that we can care for ourselves is to acknowledge that we need to lean on others sometimes. I'm blessed to have a wonderful circle of sister-friends, and I have invited them to begin sharing their thoughts on this blog as guest bloggers. The first to do so, Kemobi, touches on the very ideas that 1) sometimes we need to reach out to others and 2) sometimes we need to take the time to hold someone else when they reach out. Enjoy and contemplate her heartfelt message below.

~Moka B.

Good morning....So I am sitting at work going through some paper work and jammin' to one of my playlists. I haven't listened to this particular playlist in a while, so I forgot the rotation of the songs. One of my FAVORITE songs comes on..."You Just Don't Want to Know" by Marvin Winans (see video below from YouTuber Shaun Peck). I love the lyrics to this song....they are so POWERFUL!  If you have time, I suggest that you look it up and listen to it, but if not, it is a song that talks about pain from the absence of not being able to go to someone to talk to about pain, hardships, mistakes made, advice, etc. It specifies that, many times when people are hurting, they don't reach out for help because they are scared of what others may think or the judgments that may come along with their confession. However, when someone does get the courage to speak up and expose whatever it is going on in their lives, often times many of us are "too busy"--thus "We Just Don't Want to Know." Now the roles that are taken on in life are numerous: mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, our titles on our jobs, our roles and responsibilities at our places of worship...Trust me. I know the list can go on for miles. So I know how busy we can be.

In this journey called life, I have learned that "THINGS HAPPEN," that no matter how perfectly planned and subconsciously in control of our lives we think we are, things happen. I can hear my childhood pastor saying now, "If you haven't had hardships in life yet... just keep on living." He was sooooooo right.  I believe that GOD has a plan for each and every one of our lives (if we submit), plans not to harm us but to prosper us and to bring us hope and a future (paraphrasing Jeremiah 29:11). I will be the first to admit that sometimes I have gotten caught up with the busy pace and the pressures of life and have stepped on GOD's toes!! Sorry GOD! (Sorry, I digress..Lol. So many thoughts and typing fast!!)

Anyways, when things happen to people close to us (and people who may not be as close), and they choose to share, let us (myself included) not blow them off because "I'm so busy." Let's take a minute and be there for that person. I feel that this can be done in so many ways with today's modern technology. Whatever method works for you...make the pledge to be there!!! Let's change it to "We Want to Know, We Care, and We're There"!!!! Yes it is true, we might be "SO BUSY," but I shudder to think that we are "TOO BUSY" to be there for someone.

Romans 15:1: Now we that are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak....(paraphrasing again) LET'S KEEP EACH OTHER LIFTED, LADIES!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beyond Lil Wayne: Maybe More of Us Need to Feel Sick

When I glanced at what were clearly side-by-side images of Emmett Till, assuming the caption would reference the Lil Wayne controversy, I had a feeling the image next to the cute, smiling boy's face would be from his funeral. However, I did not expect it to actually show his unrecognizable, brutalized face, which his mother so famously wanted the world to see. After all these years of knowing the story and reading accounts of the events, I have intentionally avoided seeing that face, knowing what it would do to me. Now, here I am, fighting back tears and nausea, as I knew I would.

Rapper and musician O'hene Sav├ínt posted the following image and caption on his Facebook page on February 16, 2013, in response to Lil Wayne's lyric and apparent ignorance:

"“beat that pussy up like Emmett Till.”-Lil WayneI've TRIED not to say anything but I'm a revolutionary so some things I can't tolerate! THIS is what happens when you have ignorant heroes young people...and don't think for a second that this matters to someone who has a majority white demographic. If you're BLACK, Wayne doesn't rap for you. YOUR heritage doesn't matter to him. YOU are disposable. It matters to me though, I'm a soul brother from the lineage of Curtis Mayfield and Langston Hughes artistically. It's UN ACCEPTABLE, and part of the reason that I am just about through with Hip hop. Sorry but I just am... Hip BOP, will be my life from now on MAINLY because Hip hop has been taken over FOR TOO LONG by fools! I'm sick of grown men and women, defending and ignoring disrespect and disloyalty to my community. The CULTURE of Hip hop is dominated by a bunch of bitches and hoes. Bitches who are scared to speak up, and hoes who are willing to do anything for money. Well, I'm not one. Choose your "here-hoes" better. Choose who you support with your money more wisely. That is all...for now.

Read this if you don't know about Emitt Till.
...they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later".

Do you feel sick too? I hope you do, and I hope you take that feeling and pass it on to the children in your lives, whether they're students, nieces, nephews, offspring or neighbors. I don't want to disturb or frighten these children, and I don't want them to believe that knowing their history should be limited to the ghastly aspects, of which there are many. Instead, I want them to understand that all of this history, good and bad, should be respected, and they should be proud to know it. If that involves some repulsion, then maybe that repulsion will help them to grasp the seriousness of the legacies that make their lives possible. I imagine that not feeling sick about these events and the society that made them possible allowed Lil Wayne to say the ignorant ish that he said. Otherwise, he could not have opened his mouth to say it, no matter his creative process. (George E. Curry shares a similar sentiment here.) 

One day, when I think she's ready, I'll have to share stories like Emmett Till's with Mini Mo. Maybe she'll feel sad like I did the first time I saw Roots. Maybe she'll feel angry. Perhaps she'll even have nightmares, but I'll hold her if she does. I'll tell her that, while things like this still happen, our world has made some important changes. Because these things still happen, I'll tell her that we can't forget and that we can't let our children forget.

Bob Dylan shares this same message in his "The Ballad of Emmett Till" (video courtesy of YouTuber leonehistory):

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Natural Isn't for Everybody"...Er?

My crew and I represent a range of looks and preferences,
and we love and respect those preferences! Here we are in
October 2012.
Look, sisters, I respect the fact that "our hair"--kinky, curly, nappy, kinky-curly, whatever you want to call it--can accommodate a broad range of looks, styles, textures, you name it. It's very cool to witness this spectrum of looks.

When some sisters cry, "Natural isn't for everybody," then, I have to wonder what they mean. I just want to throw these tidbits of agreement out there (but I don't think it's what some of them mean):

  1. Taking care of natural hair is not for everybody--so true. Some sisters have no idea how to comb, moisturize, style, or otherwise maintain kinky, coily hair. They never had to learn, so learning as an adult is overwhelming for some women who'd rather dispense with the drama of learning. Hey, I hear ya.
  2. Certain styles are not for everybody--amen. Maybe a fro-hawk on one lady is not so cute on another. Maybe one woman's texture is perfect for a huge halo of hair to encircle her head, but maybe another woman's hair doesn't kink up enough to achieve the same kind of halo. Everything doesn't work for everybody.
What I really think some of these ladies are suggesting, though, is that sporting the natural texture that grows out of one's head is not for everybody, that some women "need" relaxers. To that, I cry, "Ridiculous!" How can wearing one's hair the way it naturally grows not "be for" that person? That's the way it was growing before relaxers touched it, yes?

To each her own in 2013 and beyond, ladies. You want to loc it up, weave it up, fry it up? Cool. We all have preferences, but let's embrace the diversity we see in each other, a diversity that is just now becoming acceptable in many ways. That is a beautiful thing, so let's respect it and each other.