Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Busy Black Woman Gift Giving Guide 2018

Another Christmas has come and gone and I survived! This year, I decided to do most of my holiday shopping with small businesses, so in the spirit of sharing, here is the premier Busy Black Woman Gift Giving Guide for 2018.

Here's an interesting tidbit: one of the very first posts to this blog way back in 2010 was a gift guide. Yes, this blog has been around for that long...and it is interesting to look back on that old post and to realize how much has and hasn't changed. Anyway, I wanted to provide an index of all the businesses that provided me with gifts for my loved ones this season (I also posted pictures to the Facebook and Instagram pages earlier this week). The uniqueness of this list is that most of the items featured here were purchased from small businesses owned by women and people of color. Where possible, I included a picture and/or link to a website.

Another timely tidbit: Even though I do not personally celebrate Kwanzaa, I do want to highlight that this index is offered in the spirit of the fourth day when the focus is Cooperative Economics or Ujamaa.

BZB International, Inc.
Back in 2012, I began attending this annual holiday pop up bazaar that takes over the Family Life Center at my church every weekend in December. Because it reminded me so much of the Market Fridays that used to take over our Student Center on campus, my first impression was that it would be a cool place to do personal shopping for jewelry and maybe some stocking stuffers. Well, every year I've found more unique gifts and have managed to do some serious shopping, so it sucked that I was only able to go once this season, but here are a few of my finds (past and present):

Black Pack Playing Cards
I saw these and immediately thought of my younger brother, who has been a card shark since the age of four. Seriously, he would play spades and bid whist with our grandfather for hours, and by the time he was a teenager, he had graduated to black jack and poker. This probably isn't the type of deck he would want to use, but it is definitely a collector's item that I hope he will display.

Lisa McFadden Millinery
One of my favorite vendors at BZB is Lisa McFadden, who is making quite the name for herself these days. One of her designs is on display at the MET. I met her when she beckoned me over to her table and styled one of her signature CRUSH hats for me. I bought two hats that year; this year, I bought three, one as a gift for my mother. And I can tell you that the hat pictured here kept my head nice and warm on a recent trip to the city via the Staten Island Ferry.

Persona Luggage Tags by Helena Deneen
This is one of those gifts that I should have bought for myself, but in the spirit of the season, I bought one in every color for each of my sisters-in-law last year. I put it in the category of gifts that become practical when you realize that you need something like it, so I can't wait to find out if I can get one personalized for myself.

Handcrafted Pens by Marjorie
Here is another gift that I should have gotten for myself because I am always digging down into my bag in search of my car keys. I bought seven of these clips for my sisters-in-law this year (two married into the family on both sides). Such a cute idea!

Agape Dolls
There is always some crafty person who can turn everyday items into works of art. I came came across this vendor of hand-crafted ornaments this year and thought that some would make nice additions to someone's tree. I bought two ornaments made of natural materials and one doll.

Woodcrafts by Obanion
I had a lot of time to really browse last year, and this is one of the artisan vendors I discovered. I bought this piece, along with a mirror for my niece and her husband last year as a housewarming/wedding gift.

Bases Loaded Authentic Clothing and Kaps (B.L.A.C.K. 4 U)
This is another one of my favorite vendors; alas, I missed them this year because of that stomach bug that grounded me the weekend before the holiday. They have been my go-to for Negro League baseball themed gifts for the Hub and my brother. Last year their offerings expanded to include merchandise for the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Pictured below is the first jersey I bought the Hub:

Izzy & Liv Brown Sugar Box
Everyone has a subscription box these days, and this is my second year of membership with Izzy and Liv. The great thing about this box is that it offers its own name brand tees and accessories, but it also includes various products from other small businesses. I had a lot of options for all the women in my family as well as several friends. And believe it or not, I managed to keep several cute items for myself as well!

Businesses on Social Media
I discovered Izzy & Liv thanks to an advertisement on Facebook. Many of the businesses listed below were also advertised on social media, and after placing initial orders at other points in the year, I was pleased to patronize them again during the holidays:

Mented Cosmetics
One of my line sisters suggested this brand to me, and I believe that it was before Rihanna introduced Fenty Beauty. I was unsure if I wanted to repeat my brown matte lipstick phase of the 90s, but I bought the Fall trio in 2017 and now wear Nude La La practically everyday. They have expanded their offerings to include glosses, shadows, and blush, and I can't wait to try new some new colors. I gave the lip gloss sets to my nieces.

Blended Designs
I was introduced to this brand in an online group when someone posted a picture of a travel bag that had been created for Spelman alumnae. Another member of the group raved about the quality of the backpacks, so the next thing I know, I'm ordering this adorable lunch box for the Kid last summer and a backpack for the Niece. I had to buy a replacement lunch box this Christmas for the Kid (mommy mishap), so I bought myself a tote bag that I cannot wait to show off in the coming months.

Puzzle Huddle
I saw this company advertised on FB this summer right after I had placed an order for a set of puzzles by another brand on Amazon. Those puzzles were too easy for the Kid, who had suddenly advanced to more pieces, so it worked out for me try this out this company's offerings. I ordered two puzzles--one box was the size of a cell phone, but the other was normal size. I gave the smaller one away and ordered a few more as birthday gifts. Pictured is the puzzle the Kid received for Christmas, and yes she insisted on wearing her leotard while putting it I think this answers any questions you might have about the impact relatable images have on children.

Mess In A Bottle
Someone referred me to this Baltimore-based brand, and just on the social media feed alone, this is an interesting company. The owner has a compelling personal story, but what's more intriguing is her 'each one teach one' philosophy of offering classes on how to start a tee shirt company! I've ordered a couple of shirts, and my only complaint is that when I purchased multiple shirts in one order, I only saw the option to include a bottle with one shirt for a $9 shipping up-charge (check the FAQs, which I neglected to do). However, that is a minor issue and I will happily buy other tees in the future.

Copper and Brass Paper Products
This is one of two paper companies owned by Spelman alumnae that feature Black Santas (I am placing an order with the other company, Midnight Reflections, as well). I saw a congratulatory post on Facebook based on an Instagram posted by a local Atlanta celebrity, so I placed a quick last minute order thinking that I could just save the bags for next Christmas. My Sister not only responded immediately with my order, but she also has interacted with me on social media, and I appreciate that personal outreach. Most of the photos I took of my gifts were taken with the C&B Santa design in the background. I look forward to seeing what other design options are available throughout the year.

Christmas in Color
This is another company that is owned by a Spelman sister. I saw something posted in one of our Facebook groups, and also saw a recommendation by another friend to check out their Black nutcracker decor. Initially, I could not think of anyone to receive these (because everybody I know has way too much Christmas stuff), but at the last minute I decided to order them for a neighbor and they arrived just in time. I bought the ornaments for my parents, so I am excited about adding some new colors to the tree.

Melanin is Life
I saw this company mentioned in an article about Black-themed tee shirts. The same younger brother who is a card shark also collects unique tee shirts, so I picked out the classic X tee from their Black History 365 Collection. I saw a few other shirts that I liked, so I shall return.

Scotch Porter
A bearded friend told me about this brand, so when I saw the advertisement on Facebook, I thought about my other brother who has a beard and is always concerned about ingredients. The promotion was for 50% off, so I bought the travel size Beard Collection and the brush. It's a little pricey for me to give to anyone other than a close relative as a gift, so this is a recommendation for other Busy Black Women to consider as gifts for the gentlemen in your life.

Rapid X Charger
Technically speaking, the Rapid X 5-port charger is included on this list because it was recommended by the Oprah on her list of favorite things for 2018. And something suggests to me that until Oprah made that fateful choice, this company and its products were better known among techies than the masses. But they delivered on time, the brother-in-law who received it spends a lot of time driving his kids places, and he was really excited about putting it to good use.

Brick and Mortar Local Businesses
I wanted to distinguish these businesses because they are actual brick and mortar stores that I have visited (and plan to visit again in the New Year).

Hunny Bunny Boutique
I drove by this cute boutique every week for almost two years before I ever ventured inside. When I did finally go inside, I met the owner who was very courteous and helpful. Then I returned to replenish some product with the Kid in tow, and she remained patient and courteous in spite of...she also carried handmade soy candles by Freres Branchiaux, which I bought as gifts for my teen nieces.

Petals, Ribbons and Beyond
This card, gift, and flower shop is run by a Spelman sister and is literally down the street from where I live. I've been buying flowers there for years, beginning with the arrangements she designed for my wedding back in 2002. On a recent visit, I bought two Spelman umbrellas as gifts for friends to support the fundraising efforts of her class, which will celebrate 50 years in 2020.

The Spice Suite
For our 10th line anniversary this Spring, the Spice Suite was one of the sponsors of the festivities. I don't recall what that entailed (possibly one of the activities I skipped), but I began to follow her on Instagram this Spring. In addition to having a unique concept, the space also hosts other small businesses for a weekly pop-up. I finally found my way there, and met the owner who was very friendly and helpful while assisting me with my selections for my sisters-in-law.

Toys, Babies, and More
I went into a Toys 'R Us for the first time in decades in for the record, count me as one parent who, despite the nostalgia for the store that was, shed no tears for the chaos and crazy it had become. I saw this article on Facebook and made it my business to check out this new offering (but didn't make it to the actual store until Christmas Eve). Thankfully the owners were genuinely patient and helpful, and the toy Santa brought has been appreciated. I plan to return in the future because good customer service will always make up for other shortcomings like a limited selection.

Independent Bookstores
In an era when it is so much easier to order books online from Amazon, it takes real effort to venture into a bookstore. It takes more effort to find an independent bookstore, but somehow we're seeing a return of those small shops in the city. Thanks to the East of the River Book Festival, I bought several children's books from some really cool authors as gifts for some of the new little people in my life. I finally made it over to Mahogany Books, where I bought a nice gift for the Hub and for a few other young people. And though I went to Busboys & Poets to buy a him gift certificate for lunch/dinner, I ended up buying a book for my Dad and for the Kid instead. I need to include an honorable mention for Politics and Prose, where I intended to buy a book for the Kid's classroom book exchange (but the location I visited was closed on Mondays).

Dawn Price Baby
This local store just announced plans to close its doors in the New Year, which is sad. I don't remember when I first shopped there, but one of my fondest memories occurred the day after Easter in 2015 when I was nine months pregnant and hanging out with my then five-year old Niece. I waddled in and watched her play with everything from the classic Fisher Price toys to the toy trucks. My daughter has done the same thing many times, and the staff has always been tolerant and helpful. My last purchase there was the aforementioned book for the Kid's classroom exchange, and perhaps I will make it there before the doors finally close at the Capitol Hill location.

Beyond Christmas
So guess what, Christmas comes only once a year, but entrepreneurship is a year-round thing. Below are several other small businesses I patronized at other points in the year (and hope to do so again soon):

African American College Alliance
Ask Me Tees
Bailiwick Clothing
Beaded Souls
Brown Girls Do Ballet
Buffalo Dallas
I'm So DC
Jacq's Dolls
Loren Statianery
Mann Made Designs 
On Us Tees
Oyin Handmade
Popcorn Queens
Sugarfoots Dolls
Waju Designs on Etsy
Urban Intellectuals
Your Destination Day Spa

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Salty Pretzels: Baby, It's Stupid Outside

The Great Christmas Debate of 2018 has been much ado over a song. A song that features a duet between a man and a woman wherein the two exchange flirty banter over whether the woman will spend the night with the man. A song that was written in the 1940s when such a suggestion was completely scandalous. A song that includes a vague reference to there being a spiked drink that might lower the woman's inhibitions and protestations. The song, as depicted in this scene from Neptune's Daughter, that won an Academy Award back in 1949:

A song that has essentially become the latest indication that people are committed to arguing over utter stupidity, especially at this time of year when we already have more than enough to keep us preoccupied. Nothing says Christmas quite like an argument about writing "Xmas" or whether to say "Happy Holidays" to your non-Christian neighbor or whether it is sufficiently festive to drink your over-priced coffee in a red recyclable cup.

A radio station in Cleveland banned the song from its playlist after receiving a few complaints. Then there was a station in San Francisco that polled its listeners for a decision on the song after it received backlash for a similar decision. A station in Denver stopped playing it too, so I guess that is why the daughter of the song's composer lamented that her father's legacy was being tarnished by association with Bill "say what's in this drink" Cosby. Thus, we find ourselves in the throws of a pop culture civil war, with the decision by a radio station in Louisville, KY to play the song for two straight hours serving as a Ft. Sumter moment.

Over a song that was deemed problematic by three (3) radio stations. Mind you, there are other radio stations in Cleveland, San Francisco and Denver that probably did not remove the song from their playlists. And if you don't live in any of those cities, then it is safe to assume that you still had access to this song at least six times or more per day (as is required by the special FCC rules that mandate how often we are to subjected to various versions of the same Christmas song in a 24 hour period). So there was no nationwide effort, just a highly publicized decision made by a handful of program directors.

I am sitting here with a bag of special sour dough pretzels dusted with peppermint bark because in response to local programming decisions, the snowflakes have declared that #metoo has gone too far. All because of their sentimental attachment to a 1940s ditty about a guy begging for some booty. 

Never mind that no one has taken to the streets in pussy hats or tiki torches. Apparently I missed all of the furious organizing behind the scenes that called for boycotts of the radio stations that opted to keep the song in rotation. I'm assuming that women will be asked to wear their best LBD in protest to the office Christmas holiday party. Because my God, what else is next on the hitlist #metoo???

In the same week that folks were whining that #metoo is spoiling life as we know it, former CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves found out that his sexual harassing azz could not pass Go and thus, could not collect $120 million in severance. In the same month that a victims' event for R. Kelly accusers was shut down by a fake bomb threat, a major Black media outlet was hosting a poll to determine if he deserved to be honored as a King of R&B music. (I guess the real movement to #MuteRKelly doesn't matter, so feel free to keep this remixed version of that song on repeat this season...somehow I'm sure he would approve.)

Look, I am of the opinion that this song has issues (and plenty of people hold that same opinion), yet it's harmless, and I acknowledge the slippery slope arguments that have been offered in its defense. It is a legitimate question though, when does seduction become coercive? And maybe the hoohaw caused by this faux controversy will give us an opportunity to contemplate an appropriate response. It isn't #metoo that has gone too far; it is our acceptance of sexism, even in its so-called benign forms, as tolerable. Because if you have ever been alone with someone, you can attest that this "harmless" scenario could easily veer into a dangerous, life-altering tragedy if the other person ignores your requests to stop. If no means no, then it shouldn't matter if the person is singing it, saying it, or shouting it.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Santa Maybe?

To all of the ruiners out there (and you know who you are), this is a special message from the Busy Black Woman aka, the The Grinch who kind of likes Christmas (for the most part):


I don't know what you should tell your children. I don't know what I plan to tell my child. Right now, she seems to be uninterested in the idea of Santa, but that could change. Last week at a kiddie party, Santa made an appearance and she avoided him. Thus, I expect that if we decide to take another mall photo this year, we might not do much better than this --->

Yet, I don't plan on shattering her innocence by telling her not to believe. Because I don't want her to be that kid whom everyone remembers years later as the killjoy whose parents thought it blasphemy to cede credit to a mythical fat white guy who somehow never gets arrested for breaking and entering.

Yes, I know that it means I have to devise a credible cover story with various contingencies for the inevitable questions that will come as she gets older. Maybe I can sell my version as a children's book to help parents explain why Santa Claus is depicted as white in popular culture, but is Black at the mall.

Until the Kid was born, I had never given much thought to what children thought of Santa. My nieces and nephews accepted whatever explanation their parents offered, even if it didn't account for the fact that the big family gathering occurred on Christmas Eve and lasted well past midnight. They woke up the next morning to the same excitement that I did without any doubts that Santa had come at some point while they were asleep.

Honestly, I didn't intend to give it this much attention, but in several of my parenting groups, this topic has arisen as a point of contention between the believers and the non-believers. There are folks who are insistent that Santa doesn't deserve to exist because their children ought to know how hard Mommy and/or Daddy work to provide for them. Then there are the true-believers who feel that children should be allowed to maintain a willful ignorance about the ways of the world because real-life will disillusion them soon enough. There are the hard-line Christians who fault Santa and Frosty for X-ing out Jesus, which has led to teen pregnancy and red disposable coffee cups. And then there are the ecumenical secularists who gave us Festivus and Chrismahanukwanzakah.

You know what, this generation of kids is much smarter than we were. They know how to use technology. They will just ask Alexa or Suri. They will quickly realize that the Santa on the Coke bottle looks very different than the Santa in those Rankin-Bass specials or in every modern cartoon. Or they will come across one of those lame made-for-TV movies that offers an inconsistent back story. Or like me, they will figure out that something is off because there is a bunch of random stuff under the tree like puzzles and books that weren't on my list.

Until that day, why spoil the fun?

Your children can still believe in Jesus and the Elf on the Shelf. Or if you are Jewish, then they can go with the Mensch on a Bench (which really seems a lot like the Hanukkah bush, but I'm not judging you). The Black Santa at the mall is not there to acknowledge Kwanzaa, so do not tell your kids to greet him with Habari gani?

Just go with it because there are children in this world who would love to believe in everything Santa symbolizes. Those bins that collect Toys for Tots and those Angel Tree projects go to children who do not the have luxury of magic in their lives. The children who have lost everything to massive wildfires or whose families are still trying to rebuild after devastating floods. The migrant children who have been separated from their families. The homeless children and those caught up in the foster care system wish they could believe in Santa.

I'm not trying to bring anyone down, but Santa Claus is harmless. If you need to receive appreciation for being a parent, then I sincerely hope that works out for you come Mother's/Father's Day because kids who get everything rarely appreciate anything. I have no idea how this is going to unfold for my daughter, but I hope she chooses to believe in Santa because I did and still do. In spite of all my complaining about Christmas, I derive great joy from giving, which is the essence of Santa Claus mythology and the point of the season. There is some guy who selflessly chooses to bring joy to children once a year. Why be cynical about that? Why not just believe?

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Black Girl (Revisited)

Recently two friends, both Spelman alumnae, posted the same article to the Book of Faces about the experience of being a Black girl in a private school. While reading it, I was transported back in time to nearly 30 years ago when some of the incidents recounted in this article could have been mine. Days later, I am still trying to process the impact of those memories.

Let me offer some background: I attended an all-girls' Catholic school in the 80s. My alma mater, founded in the 60s, was located just outside of the city. I had cousins who attended the school years ahead of me, including one cousin who was still there when I arrived in 1986. The school closed in 1992, after a rather controversial period of time when several other historic single-sex Catholic schools inside the city closed and merged.

Like many Catholic schools that operated in this area at that time, my school was integrated, meaning there were no racial restrictions on attendance. There was a display case of senior class photos near the main office which I recall looking through and noticing a gradual increase of brown faces. By the time I enrolled, I would guess that the ratio was about 65/35. By the time I graduated, that was still the ratio but the demographics had flipped. The explanation that had been given for the school's closure less than two years after we had been assured that our future was intact was the decline in enrollment of Catholics.

Of course, none of that addresses the issues that were raised by that article, but at least that offers some context for some of what I perceived during my high school tenure. It brought to mind this piece I wrote several years ago after reading about an incident at a Texas high school (which apparently took place in the same time frame as the experiences shared in the Madame Noire piece).

I hated high school, and despite the fact that was a lifetime ago and we're all Facebook friends now, I am sometimes angered by those memories. I do not hold my peers accountable for the various micro-aggressions I endured, and I am pretty sure that if any of them read this piece they might interpret things differently. But my blog, my truth.

I was accused by a science teacher of cheating on an assignment with no real evidence and for no reason that I can recall. I was told several times that I could not keep up with my peers in the Honors English class. I was accused by the school principal of damaging my school uniform so that my mother could scam a refund from the company. All of that happened during my first semester in the 9th grade.

Eventually, I found a way to fit in better as my awkwardness subsided and my grades improved. There were still incidents, though, like the time a nun complained on the school intercom about us applauding in church because white Catholics didn't do that. Or the time that our Black History program got rescheduled to the evening because of too many snow days. Or the time that we were warned not to be seen attending services at the rogue Black Catholic church (led by an ex-communicated renegade priest whose new church now happens to be in the building behind our old school).

Given that I am reflecting on an era in the mid to late 80s when there was rapid change in every direction, it might be easy to overlook the impact of demographic shifts in the county where my school was located. Until the late 70s, the county had been predominately white, and without making any inferences about why that might have been, the county had also been under-developed and more rural. But as more Black federal workers and military retirees settled into newly constructed suburban tract communities, the school became an attractive prospect for their daughters too. And from what I remember, the school eagerly recruited students from my inner city Catholic middle school, so there was no reason to believe that I would be entering a hostile environment.

In hindsight, it was never overtly hostile. I just believe that no one was adequately prepared for what would happen when suddenly, there was this influx of non-Catholics (mostly Black) in an environment that had been built around a 50s happy homemaker ethos. Our presence forced too much change on a school whose alumnae were expected to become good Catholic wives and mothers. It didn't help that the 80s brought rapidly changing gender norms and expectations as well. I arrived in 1986 with dreams of going to law school...can you imagine how ridiculous that must have seemed to a bunch of old-school nuns?

When I started writing this piece, I did not expect that I would come to any revised conclusions about my high school experiences, but it seems that I have. The article that prompted this reflection recounts the fate of two young friends, one who unfortunately self-destructed; thankfully, none of my peers suffered that same fate. For the most part, we've all done very well so maybe I should blame those nuns for some of our successes.

Because I definitely had a chip on my shoulder that propelled me to defy what I felt were their low expectations. I was never disrespectful and I never caused any trouble, but I stood my ground and stayed in those Honors classes. By the grace of God I went to Spelman--a school that I had been told was out of my reach. When I graduated from law school, it felt like the ultimate repudiation. I not only survived private school, I thrived.

Indeed, not all Black girls survive private school, and a lot of the reactions I have seen to that piece confirm that so many of us can relate. It is also true that there are spaces in this world that are difficult to navigate regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical attributes, ability, socioeconomic status, and I could keep going until I tick your box. Adolescence was brutal for practically everyone I know, but what helped us to survive was the hope that things would improve.

If you are a parent, aunt/uncle, older sibling, teacher, mentor, or neighbor to a young Black girl the message you need to share with her is that this too shall pass. It might be rough going right now, but stay the course. Do your best. Be yourself. Dream big and shoot for the moon. If you're lucky, one day you will look back on this time and smile.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Mommy Card

You know how some folks tend to complain about certain cards that get played in uncomfortable situations, like the 'race' card? (You know, because it totally makes sense to get defensive whenever race is an issue in an obviously racial situation.) Or the 'woman' card because somehow, being a woman comes with all of these perks and advantages like pay inequity and monthly periods.

During a recent job interview, there was a crucial moment when I got stuck trying to think of an appropriate response to an important question. First of all, let's mention the fact that I had my first job interview in yearzzz. Second, let's celebrate the fact that it wasn't at a fast food restaurant. And finally, let's reflect on all of the reasons why it might be a big deal for someone like me at this moment...because:

<--- THIS has been my life for the past three and a half years. Before that, I'm sure that I was sufficiently civic-minded and engaged, but I forgot about all of that because it was so long ago. Before I spent my downtime on a family trip doing laundry. Before I stopped caring that my house is really messy. Before I drove an SUV. Before people stopped calling me by my given name. Before my TV options included PBS Kids and really bad Disney sitcoms. Before I became susceptible to the type of embarrassing brain freeze that causes one to forget an entire chunk of relevant life experience.

Before the Kid. Here is my Mommy Card.

Alas, no one is all that interested in hearing about any of the nonsense I endure on a given day. Like the fact that my child appears to be rejecting all of the potty training that she has received, so it makes perfect sense that she would be wearing her ballet tutu when I arrived to pick her up from school. It is not at all strange that she can recite the list of items that come in an Old McDonald's Happy Meal but cannot tell me where she hid the toothpaste tube. It is just another normal day when she shouts 'Christmas' in response to a request to clean up her toys.

Unfortunately, the Mommy card doesn't pack the same punch as the others. And it doesn't help that there are people in this world who peddle foolishness disguised as biblical truth. You know, people who preach the gospel of selfless contentedness. The type of person who might not appreciate why I would want to work outside of the home after all of these years. The person who posted this ---->

What makes her so happy? Why don't I share in any of the joy she lists here? I love Jesus too, so what the heck is my problem???

Suddenly I feel like I'm back at that interview and this is the instant replay of that pivotal question. Before my brain freezes and my mind trails off to wonder about the unidentified stain on this suit which I haven't worn in two years, I sit up straight like a seasoned poker player and put my cards on the table:

I am the Busy Black Woman. I have a three year old Busy Black Child. To the extent that my attendance at various civic and community activities was possible (i.e., stroller accessible, didn't interfere with her sleeping/feeding schedule, kid-friendly, or child care was available), I participated. Now that she is older, I hope that I will be available to do more during those hours that she is in school. If that works for you, wonderful. If not, then I appreciate your time and you can validate my parking.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sundowning, Birthday Blues and Other Side Effects of the Season

It is December 1st, and y'all, I am really going to try this year...despite my Grinchy inclinations, despite my annoyance with various family members, despite my exhaustion, and despite the fact that this time of year exposes all of the flaws in my life (all the proof that I am really just a Busy Black hot mess). I am really going to try not to give in to end of the year despair.

But it doesn't help that once my birthday comes in a few days, I will have truly hit that point where there is a lot more life in my rearview mirror than in my windshield. Maybe. Because I could live to be 90 years old or more, and I hope that I could live that long in good health and in my right mind. Maybe. And with something to show for all of that time.

Maybe this book that I started writing this summer, but have not revisited since September, will have been a best-seller at some point in the next 45 years and I will get a New York Times profile article that acknowledges my body of writing. Maybe I will get to talk about my writing process and share how I kept at it for years in obscurity until one fateful day. Because every writer dreams of being able to share that journey, and so it is my hope that I will get that opportunity at some point.

But can I be honest?

When it is a few days before your next milestone birthday, and you are surveying all of your nonaccomplishments and unfulfilled dreams, it is really easy to get depressed. It is so easy to see the carefully curated lives of your peers and acquaintances and still be envious, even though you suspect there is a lot hiding in plain sight that you just aren't noticing. But even if you did notice their imperfections, you would still convince yourself that yours are more obvious.

So you take on tasks that you hope will help you to achieve something. You keep trying, in spite of the fact that for years you have felt like a fraud. You have been writing for yourself. That success is illusory. That whenever you thought you had the chance to ascend to another level, life intervened and you failed to overcome the obstacles. That whenever life intervenes, it is in service to someone else's needs, definitely not yours. That it often feels that those voices that urge you to support others are only speaking to you. That those encouraging memes and sayings and motivational posters and stuff--all nice for decorating empty walls, but not much else.

But you've realized a few truths about life in the last few years. Never say never. Expect the unexpected. Just when you are about to throw in the towel, you have to use it. And that graveyards are full of bones and stones. As long as you are among the living, you can still pursue your dreams.

I can still pursue my dreams or can dream new ones if I have outgrown the old ones. I can see this birthday as a starting point. I can be proud that I have the means and ability to support others, which is a blessing. I can look in that rearview mirror and smile about a lot of what is behind me. I can choose the road ahead of me. Here I come.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Dispatches from Disney - Wednesday and Friday

On Thanksgiving, after we sat through one of the shortest timeshare presentations on record, after mofongo and pernil at a local Puerto Rican spot, and after I had spent about an hour or so working on my first post-Disney recap, we headed out for dinner. And by the time we finished with that, took the Kid to dance off her Thanksgiving burger at Disney Springs, and then returned to the resort, I was too tired to finish writing all of my assorted gripes about our first venture to see the Mouse.

(So I will give you an out right now. If you are looking to read a heart-warming account of our wonderful and magical trip to Disney World with three generations of happy, grateful people, you can go back to watching whatever sticky sweet powdered sugar-covered holiday movie currently airing on the Hallmark channel with Candace Cameron Bure. I've got none of that for you here.)

I have posted the pics to the Busy Black Woman Facebook and Instagram pages in case you are interested. As is always the case with what gets shared on social media, those are the good pictures of us having a good time. Here, because I see no need to offer any pretensions, is the postmortem of our #BusyBlkFamTrip:

1. Tiring. It was the equivalent of a military exercise that required about 20 pounds of gear and rations for half a day at the amusement park. So by the time we made it to our destination, watched one parade, and then stood in line for one attraction, it was time to feed and maneuver the troops to another park. And by the time we arrived just on time to see the closing fireworks, I was so very cranky and salty and disappointed by all of that effort. Only to wash, rinse, and repeat all of that for a second excursion on Friday minus my parents (we brought them back to another park later that evening). I am still sore and exhausted.

2. Expensive. So I knew this from the outset, but when I tell you that it is easily an entire month of salary just to get into the park, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. The happiest place on earth is also the most costly entertainment racket on the planet. There is no cheap way to do Disney, which means that you are going to pay one way or the other. Our punishment was that early morning timeshare presentation, which saved us $150 (even though they authorized nearly $600 extra on my credit card to ensure that we would show up). Yeah.

3. Time-consuming. Disney is most proficient at creating the illusion that they are efficient. This same illusion is also effective at building anticipation for rides and attractions that last two minutes, at most. We stood in line for 45 minutes to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, and during that wait, I attempted to use our Fast Passes to schedule other attractions, which only worked time-wise for us once. By the time we made our way from Adventureland to Fantasyland to ride in the Tea Cups for 90 seconds, we thought that maybe we would have time to ride something else before making our way to the castle for the parade. Wrong. EVERY attraction had a 65 minute wait or the Fast Pass options were unavailable. Even the Dumbo ride. And the parade, which was scheduled to start at 2pm, began at 2:20. So by the time we left the park, caught the monorail, found the car, drove back to the hotel, ate mofongo leftovers for lunch, gathered my parents, returned to visit a different park, found a parking space, and made our way to the entrance, it was dark outside. And everybody stops pretending to be happy once the sun goes down.

4. Expensive. Yes, I know I addressed that previously, but let's revisit that topic for a moment. Because these folks really know how to make people want a lot of unnecessary isht like this and this. And these headbands that practically everybody was wearing. All of the cheaper/generic trinkets like tee shirts, postcards, and keychains were sold elsewhere in stores off-property like Walmart and at these tourist trap superstores that function like outlets where you could buy authentic outdated merchandise at half-price. Or, you could just buy whatever you want from your local Disney store at your local mall and save a month's salary.

5. Inadequate. Which is why going to Disney is a lot like eating potato chips. You can't go just once. You will never see everything in one trip, even if you get the park hopper passes and spread your visits out over several days. We made it to three of the four parks, but didn't get to see much at Epcot or the Animal Kingdom. We rode three rides at the Magic Kingdom in two visits. Obviously, we could call it done and let the Kid get back to Disney on her own because there is no rule of parenting that requires multiple trips. I was in law school the first time I went to Disney World with the Hub when we were first dating. I went again ten years later while in Orlando for a sorority convention. In all honesty, I had a lot more fun going there without the pressure of having to create memories.

6. Artificial. Judge me for feeling manipulated by aspects of this experience. Judge me for complaining about the admission cost. Judge me for recognizing the elaborate con of building excitement by having each transition point to the park spaced to draw out the experience of 'arrival'. Judge me for not wanting to buy stuff after disembarking from a ride, especially when said ride lets me out inside of an appropriately-themed gift shop. Judge me for refusing to stand in line to take pictures with furries. Judge me for my frustration with the Kid for still not wanting to wear that damn Uma Halloween costume.

Go on and judge me, because God-willing I would do it all over again. Not because of the memories that I'm pretty sure my Kid won't form because she is three. Not because my parents were good sports and paid for half of this trip. Not because the Hub has the patience of Job. And not even because this Busy Black Woman now believes conquering Disney is her great white whale. I would do it all over again because life is short and imperfect, and sometimes even pretend magic can produce real joy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dispatches from Disney - Monday

I had the bright idea to take a family trip to Disney World for Thanksgiving this year. Then I got the bright idea to blog about it...because how else can I scream at the top of my lungs and expect that someone will actually hear me?


I promise not to provide too many gory details, but this hasn't unfolded as I had hoped. It has been a mix of the usual insanity and nonsense, with the unfulfilled promise of a cherry on top. I remember what I was thinking when I concocted this wonderful idea, but I can't even imagine how I expected for things not to be as ridiculous as they have been (and it is only Monday just after midnight). It is really hard to have high hopes and expectations dashed by the harshness of reality. Children catch colds unexpectedly. Parents who aren't all that mobile at home are even less so on vacation. Husbands that drive you insane in normal life just find new ways to be annoying away from home. A trip to Disney costs the equivalent of at least month of bills, and somehow it didn't occur to me that we would be spending all of this money a month before Christmas...

But in spite of everything that has gone wrong so far, there have been little fireflies of light swirling around me. My child got a taste of the Disney magic this evening, and it was so exciting and overwhelming for her that I'm not the least bit angry that she made me take her to the bathroom no less than four times in a half hour span of time. My Dad was super psyched that he had his favorite take out Chinese food dinner at a restaurant owned by an Iron Chef. My Mom, over whom I have fretted endlessly for three days, suddenly got very stubborn this evening...and while that frustrated the hell out of me in the moment, it reminds me that she is still with me (even when she is at her most difficult). And the weather here in Florida has been absolutely gorgeous.

I still win the Busy Black Woman Anal Retentive yes-I-plan-for-everything-because-no-one-else-ever-does Award for this trip because even when I do mess up, forget things, and get overwhelmed, I still manage to manage. Yes, that might mean that I will miss part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning because we will be stuck in yet another useless timeshare presentation that definitely will not last for only 120 minutes. But we will get to see the Mouse with Grandma and Granddaddy because dammit, that was what I envisioned! My parents haven't been on a vacation since 2012, and they need to spend quality time with their grandchildren. For all of the various challenges, there will be some great memories captured (or some funny stories to share).

We're here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Be the Best of Whatever You Are

Today could be a good day or a bad day or a great day as we await the midterm Election results. Like a lot of people, I have been anticipating this day since November 9, 2016 after I woke up at 2am to what I thought was my worst possible nightmare. So I wrote this declaration as a promise that I would dedicate myself to the effort of voter participation and engagement.

As I reread that piece, I recall the defiance and the despair I felt that day as I snuggled with my then-toddler daughter. How I had to comfort the Hub when he returned from his work in the fields as an election monitor, because he was so distraught about the world that had just been upended. How I became addicted to cable news again. How I then kept writing over the next few days and weeks: (1) a postmortem of missteps from my #busyblack perspective; (2) a pep talk to restore my sanity; (3) skepticism for the post-inaugural Women's March; (4) gratitude to the Obamas; and (5) a renewed sense of inspiration and optimism after attending the Women's March in New York City.

My goal after the Women's March was to do everything I could to help change the political tide that had knocked so many of us down on Election Day 2016. But, let me start by listing a few of the things that I haven't done as of today, November 6, 2018. I did not get to work a shift on the Election Protection hotline because of scheduling. I won't be able to do any mobile election monitoring because my daughter has the day off from school for parent-teacher conferences. I did not get to travel to Georgia to stump for my Spelman Sister, Stacey Abrams because I didn't go to Homecoming (again). I haven't been able to attend that many political events on weekends or in the evenings because of varying commitments for parenting, caregiving, or otherwise.

I could look at all those things I haven't done and wonder if later this evening, I will be blaming my inability to do more as the reason why I'm drinking heavily and crying. In fact, I had intended to upload a very sad picture with a post to my Facebook page to that effect because I was feeling a little depressed yesterday (Monday) about my inability to make my life fit to meet certain objectives. I mean, I am the Busy Black Woman, dammit!

But as I sat at my computer to write about what I was unable to do, I remembered the title of a poem that I had memorized as a child (which is also the title of this piece). Here is a link to it, and as I recited/read it to myself, I realized that I had no reason to wallow in a malaise of unaccomplishment (and surprise, that really is a word). No, I didn't do several of the things I had hoped I would have a chance to do. Some of the projects I attempted did not gain enough traction or momentum. And yeah maybe I am feeling a little less than because I am comparing myself to others, but let me restate my title--I am the Busy Black Woman, dammit!

I didn't sell any Busy Black Women vote tees, but let's be honest, I am not a tee shirt vendor. My blog isn't set up with any e-commerce capabilities, and I don't know enough about promoting and marketing because I am a writer. And I have written a LOT over the past two years, so I feel very confident that I have stated my case about the need to participate in this election cycle. As for my inventory of unsold tee shirts, well, they will still be available. I will continue to promote my message, which I have been doing since this summer. And true to my word, I made a $50 contribution to National Voter Registration Day anyway.

Speaking of National Voter Registration Day, no I wasn't out in the streets as I had intended. Instead, I joined with members of my sorority to support their planned voter registration effort at a local high school where we were able to register four young people. I take great pride in that number because after 30 minutes of sitting idle waiting for students to come to us, I just began to solicit them. We also gave away several forms to students who expressed interest, so that is encouraging to me. By 2020, we will have a better plan.

I led the Voter Engagement Project at my church which included the panel I organized for our Social Justice Weekend, the articles I wrote for our Social Justice Defender newsletter, the presentations I gave to a various groups of members, and the reflection I quasi-bungled back in January (because I overthought my remarks in light of having to follow the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II). I wish I could have been more successful at implementing some of the outreach plans I had outlined at the beginning of this programming year, such as the adopt-a-precinct project; however, I am satisfied that I can take a few months off knowing that I did all of that on my own.

I really wanted to help my Spelman Sister out by taking to those Georgia streets, but I've been donating to her campaign every month since earlier this year. I also donated to other campaigns and causes, so I feel pretty good that I was able to support the work of other who are on the ground doing the grassroots work.

Although I can't work a physical Election Protection shift this year, I can send a few text messages to voters today. I can continue to tweet messages about the Hotline and inform people how to contact them if they encounter problems at the polls. No, I won't be able to attend any campaign events this evening with my daughter in tow, but we can watch the election returns at home together.

I had to be reminded what my best is supposed to be. My best is to show up when I can. My best is sometimes a solo project that impacts a small number of people. My best isn't to be an eloquent preacher; it is to provide an honest reflection or to write an article. My best isn't to create a viral social media campaign or to sell a lot of tee shirts--making the effort and trying might be enough. My best may never result in seeing my name as a candidate on a ballot (because I have a big mouth and a past), but I can always chip in a few dollars. Finally, my best is to VOTE and to encourage others to do the same.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Red Beans and Rice Monday: Black State of the Union

I was in the house all day Saturday while a lot of my friends were out celebrating that great HBCU revival known as Homecoming. So I was a little salty. And since I was not at Homecoming (and could not spend the entire day liking pictures of my friends enjoying Homecoming), I decided it was my civic duty to devote a block of time to sorting laundry and watching Candace Owens deliver her  Black State of the Union address.

What is that and who is she? Glad you asked.

To offer some context, I have written about Ms. Owens previously back when she issued a challenge to debate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which I found to be an insulting publicity stunt orchestrated to give Owens some political street cred. She is one of several young GOP pundits who came of age in the Obama era. I am unsure of her exact political evolution, except that when it happened she released a YouTube video that explained her 'coming out' to her parents. And somehow, she has a job as the communications director for Turning Point USA, which is a glorified post-graduate political fellowship of sorts for the College Republican crowd. Thus, it was no surprise to see her cheek to cheek in a video with the First Named Son of the POTUS.

Nor was it at all shocking that she believed she could produce a watershed moment for Black America at 4:00pm on a Saturday afternoon during the weekend of several major HBCU Homecomings. Not at all delusional.

To her supporters who might be reading this, you can dismiss my critiques as shade, or you can ask the same questions I have posed here. Let's begin with why her big speech did not begin on time. And then why it was not streaming on Twitter as she had advertised. And then why she had to tweet out a link to her Periscope channel with footage that looked like my Kid was streaming it live by accident. And why the sound quality was also bad, so I had to use my imagination to fill in all the gaps that were audibly indecipherable. And why for at least ten minutes, she ceded the floor to some guy whom she felt would augment whatever case she intended to make, but again because of the poor sound and video quality, it looked a lot like Kanye West snatching the microphone from Taylor Swift...

Here is the gist: she is a young black conservative who is offering the same rhetoric that I have heard for years. In fact, I attended one of those Young Republican dinners as a college student, so I can assure you that she gave the same general speech beginning with the plantation imagery to the denouncement of Planned Parenthood to the welfare state being the reason why so many black children are born to single mothers. All of that is the fault of black voter loyalty to one political party.

I could go into the contrasting arguments that provide the foundation of the conservative appeal to black voters and while none of that has any impact on my political leanings, I recognize that there are some people who find that end of the ideological spectrum compelling. And that's cool. I have been friends with black conservatives and thought they were decent people. But we disagreed and in this current political climate, I struggle to understand their alignment with a man for whom values are currency, not policy. So I regard Candace Owens and her conference room full of followers with the same skepticism that people of a certain age look upon optional technology. Google glasses sound like a interesting concept, but no one needs them. I'm sure that there are black people who need a reason to justify their decision to join the GOP, but the rest of us really don't care.

I am clear that Owens and Company actually believe in the conservative ideology of free markets and personal responsibility--what the GOP used to espouse. However, in my experience, what these folks want is a way to stand out in a crowded field where simply being different is enough to advance. These same people decry affirmative action as reverse racism against their white friends without recognizing that they contribute to that same alleged preference for black, brown and/or female voices to serve as mouthpieces for white mediocrity.

And quite honestly, I was offended that Owens had to stage her announcement without the bells and whistles that should have accompanied such an important cause. She was hosting this event, so why couldn't she even get a FOX News production intern to ensure that her big speech got the attention she clearly felt it deserved? Let me point out that the President's address to the summit got C-Span coverage, while she got to upload a fuzzy cell phone video onto Periscope (I did see some better quality footage on Breitbart, but I'm not linking to that). Thus, consistent with what I have observed over the years, the GOP isn't really interested in cultivating black and brown voters except on the margins.

It is legitimate to point out that for all of its lip service to diversity, the Democratic Party has a lot of baggage with respect to supporting black and brown candidates who vie for public office without coming up through the traditional party structure. It is an ideological difference of opinion that government safety net programs have enabled poverty and contributed to the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family. The founder of Planned Parenthood might have been a racist eugenicist. And once upon a time, because of the GOP's past support for civil rights, black voters like my grandparents could be swayed to vote for Republican candidates.

But you won't win folks over to your side if your opening salvo is the suggestion that people are mentally enslaved or somehow incapable of the critical thinking ability to make pragmatic political choices. Or if you ignore the ideological and demographic shifts that made one party more attractive to specific groups of voters. Furthermore, if your ideas are so much better, then they would prevail without having to resort to tactics that suppress the vote or attempt to undermine the process. Because if the issue really is about the freedom to choose, then it should be your business to ensure that everyone has that right.

Finally, just take this advice with whatever you choose (grain of salt/shot of bourbon), but black people are wary of folks who have been designated as black leaders by outsiders. We've got to believe in you on our terms, so unless you and Kanye can do better than market a new clothing line with a unoriginal hashtag and a familiar corporate logo, you aren't leading a movement, just another parade.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

We Bleed Too

I started to write a very different post the other day, but I only wrote half of a sentence and then life happened, so I had another idea, but I didn't get to write anything on that topic at all, so I am here with a third idea that will attempt to connect all of my earlier thoughts along this theme: Black women are not superhuman.

This past Saturday was a classic Busy Black Saturday in the mold of what I used to post on the Facebook page--a recitation of my activities with a hint of look at me, I am able to juggle multiple tasks and attend several events in a single day bombast. My initial idea was to write about the evolution of this blog from that I-can-do-it-all-in-a-day to my current Dear-Lord-are-you-for-real situation. I took pictures. It was going to be a funny take on the Black Girl magic I have lost since having a child, which I have traded for sleep, stillness, and sanity.

My second idea was to write about how I often feel like a failure as a black mother. Since her third birthday, my daughter has gone through phases when she has explosive tantrums. There was the day when she insisted that we needed to go to my parents' house and refused to leave the car. Or the time when she made the same demand, and after dragging her into the house, I forgot to close the car door. Or the time when I left her backpack on top of the car after the same replay, and one of my neighbors knocked on the door. I have pictures from those wonderful explosions of emotions too, but posting them might lead to her hating me in ten years, and then maybe for the rest of our lives.

My third idea: I learned of the tragic death of a childhood friend. I was initially told that she died in a car accident. That was not the case...she was murdered. I do not know enough details, so all I have is my suspicion that her very tragic death might have been the culmination of a horrible situation.

How do these three distinct ideas connect? For me, it is the common misconception that black women are strong, magical, and powerful. Black women can do anything. And too many of us believe that nonsense to our detriment. Black women may save the world but we cannot save ourselves.

And I mean it. I could not sustain the pretentious facade that I could manage everything when it became obvious that was not the case. I am not that black mother who can avert a meltdown with an icy stare at my child. Not every black woman has the power to walk away from a dangerous situation.
We have vulnerabilities. We have blind spots. We have weaknesses. We bleed.

Do you understand that in order to save the world, Jesus had to die? It wasn't enough for Him to be born and to perform miracles and to speak truth to power. HE HAD TO DIE. Is that what we expect from black women?

Black women suffer and die because the world presumes that we are impervious to pain. Did you know that modern gynecology was developed by using black women as test subjects? Did you know that black mothers have high maternal mortality rates? Did you know that black women develop deadlier forms of breast cancer? Did you know that black women bear the brunt of preventable infectious diseases, such as HIV? Yes, we are educated. Yes, we are strong when the situation demands. Yes, we can endure all kinds of pain and suffering. Yes, we are more loyal to the notion of global sisterhood than some of our white sisters. Yes, we voted to keep a pedophile out of the Senate.

But dammit, I don't want to die and I don't want my friends to die. I want us to live.

And I want us to affirm each other in ways that don't stigmatize women who can't quite live up to the I'm every woman hype. That song is a great anthem, empowering and inspiring, but it also represents the paradox that being everything to everybody can have disastrous consequences (because Whitney is dead y'all). And this notion that in order to be regarded as worthy, we have to sacrifice our health and safety is ludicrous. Because if we only offer the world an illusion instead of reality it can be fatal.

So I am indeed a proud Busy Black Woman who is working on 'the look' that is supposed to keep my child in line. And I am mourning the loss of my childhood friend, praying for her family, and hoping for justice. Allow us the same vulnerability and imperfection that everyone else takes for granted. Let us be human.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Stolen Thunder

It must suck to be Princess Eugenie of York right now because the weekend of her big wedding, the top news stories (at least on this side of the pond) have been about EVERYBODY but her. So I plan to remedy that by allowing her to take the lead in this piece. She was an absolutely lovely bride. Best wishes to her for a wonderful life with her groom, Jack Brooksbank.

But, Meghan the American Princess is preggers and that pretty much means there is nothing another royal can do between now and next Spring (except die) that will ever be more important.

I had been waiting all day for someone to declare that the H&M breached protocol by sharing their big news with the family at the wedding. Of course there is no way this would have stayed a secret for long since folks have been all up in Meghan's uterus since June, but there had to be some other way to camouflage it better than a bulky overcoat that practically screamed "I've got something in here!" No matter though, because it is pretty clear that the other royals seem resigned to cede the spotlight to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan pulled a Rachel and totally stole Eugenie's thunder!

And until our fabulous ginger brown royal baby is born, no one else matters. Not Pippa Middleton's newborn kid. Not the kid royal cousin Zara Tindell had weeks after Harry and Meghan's nuptials. Not even Prince Louis, born weeks beforehand. We don't care about Brexit. We don't care about that hot air balloon of the American President as a crying baby. We don't care that his wife finally spoke up for herself, but had nothing to say.

I recall how a certain Sarah Ferguson stole the thunder away from the Princess of Wales some thirty years ago and that for a while, it went back and forth between the two women until Diana's tragic death. According to legend, it was Diana who brought Fergie into the royal fold, but then she got jealous over the press attention paid to the shiny new royal. The two became rivals and I'm guessing that royal rivalries are a lot like commoner family drama, except there are tiaras snatched (instead of wigs) and tell-all books to be sold. Or put another way, it is like having two versions of potato salad at the family barbecue sitting side by side, and you have to eat a serving of both or all hell will break loose.

In this case, Meghan is the shiny new royal who also happens to be American and also black, so our fascination with her should be understandable. These are dark times in America, so anywhere in the world where a black woman's pregnancy announcement is a big effing deal is a ray of hope. I've got friends who have publicly prayed for this child to have curly red hair and freckles. I haven't even checked in with my Dad who I'm guessing is excited as if this baby is his fourth grandchild (because he and Harry share a birthday).

But we are very happy for you Princess Eugenie as well because it is a good thing whenever young people get married. And even though Meghan and Harry are total cheeks for allowing their baby news to get more coverage than your wedding that only aired over here as a reality TV special on TLC, we know that in the royal order of things, you have the advantage of being an actual princess. And yes, while Meghan's kid will push you down a notch in the royal lineup to the throne, it isn't like any of your children will ever sit on the throne (except to play on it).

And here, I want to give you this as a wedding present, for you to use at some point in the future. I don't suggest using it against Meghan, but there are plenty of other lesser royals that you can outshine with the right timing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Activate the Prayer Circle

I forgot that Kanye was scheduled to meet the Whizard of Orange yesterday. Actually, I didn't forget I just chose not to remember. I busied myself with other activities, but then happened to turn on the news and BAM, there it was--that scene from the Wizard of Oz when everyone is getting their wishes granted. But instead of giving them the things they really want, he lies to them and gives them a lot of useless crap. Except for Dorothy, to whom he makes the empty promise of getting her home to Kansas, only to get accidentally/on purpose whisked away in the balloon.

I'm guessing the Trumpet wished he had some kind of elaborate exit strategy planned for that nonsense. At least that is my initial impression upon seeing his face at the beginning of this clip.

I'm going in. I didn't want to watch it earlier, but I'll do it now so that I can report back.

(Here is some soothing elevator music to enjoy while you wait)


Well, my only joy at watching that unfold was seeing the Trumpet try to blink a message to his staff to shut that joint down, but they didn't. Congratulations Mr. President, this is a foretaste of the afterlife you've earned!

As for Brother West, we definitely need to intercede for him. Lord knows, Kim K ain't a praying woman...she a preying woman. Yeah, I said it in my church lady voice, so you already know how this is about to go down.

While the rest of the Saints gather, I will just set the scene for you. We're going to do this old school, so I pulled out my good white suit and a prayer scarf. I couldn't find my old pill box Deaconess hat with the tassel, so I'm going with the beret. I've got my church fan with the picture of the Obamas from the first Inauguration and I brought my Grandmother's green hymnal and her Daddy's Bible. The choir is still assembling so we've got Aretha Franklin and James Cleveland playing softly in the background. I gave my daughter the tambourine. And I brought the good snacks.

The call went out to all the good church folks, so we've got some Catholics with the holy oil, some Episcopalians have brought the readings, and a few Methodist bishops to preside over the proceedings. The Baptists have filled the pool and the COGIC ushers are manning their stations. The Full Gospel praise dancers are in place and the ecumenical choir has rehearsed the great hymns. If your denomination doesn't have a designated place on the program, it's all good because all are welcome to contribute and we're going to let the Spirit guide us. This is an old school altar call/prayer circle/mourner's bench/revival, and it might take all night, but we ready.

Now let's be clear, prayer is only the first battle in this fight to redeem Kanye's mind, body and soul. He's going to need therapy, medication, a 12-step program, attorneys, financial planners, bodyguards, and constant supervision for the rest of his life, but we've got to start somewhere. Right now that brother needs Jesus, Mary Mother of God, all the Saints, all the ancestors, Moses, Buddha, Mohammad, and every praying Grandmother that ever lived. Deliverance is serious business, and we're going to give it our best effort.

But Jim Brown, you're on your own.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Black Like Who?

Casting announcements for upcoming projects tend to generate a range of reactions. Recently I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and saw that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was slated to star in and produce a project for Netflix on the life of John Henry. The reactions I saw were mostly negative based on the opinion that there were better (darker-skinned) actors more suited for the role.

The Busy Black Woman has a LOT to say about all of that.

First, Dwayne Johnson is Black. His Daddy is Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson, a former World Wrestling Federation tag team champion. His Mama is Ata Maivia Johnson, daughter of famed Samoan wrestler High Chief Peter Maivia (and in case you are color-blind, Samoans are brown-skinned). So why are there questions about his racial identity? It isn't like he made up some clever portmanteau to disguise his ethnicity, like Blamoan...

Second, now that The Rock is retired from wrestling, he is acting and producing and generally doing what famous people in Hollywood do which is to use his star power to get projects made that might not otherwise see the light of day. If folks had bothered to read the article, they would have seen that he is also going to produce this project. Thus, he will probably be putting a lot of black folks to work.

Third, John Henry is a folk legend. Which means he might not have been a real person. And that means every past depiction of John Henry is based on what someone thought he looked like. So the animated John Henry project that was released by Disney in the 2000s is the standard we're using? Seriously?

We are quick to proclaim that 'Black is beautiful' in all of its various shades, until we are confronted with a person of mixed ethnic heritage, and then we start to judge how black we perceive him/her to be. We've done this with plenty of famous people: Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, Meghan Markle, Tiger Woods, Soledad O'Brien, and now Dwayne Johnson. We judge their upbringing, we judge their speech, and we judge their partner choices. Then we make arbitrary pronouncements based on these criteria.

But who are we to determine how black someone else is?

A similar circular firing squad cropped up a few weeks back when culture critic Luvvie Ajayi made the mistake of dissing Tevin Campbell on Twitter. At first, it was funny because she has made a career of dragging folks, so when it was her name tied to that cart she went radio silent. When the tone changed to full on attacks of her blackness because she was born in Africa, I just shook my head. She wrote about the backlash and I am still trying to understand how all of that devolved so rapidly into something so mean-spirited.

And that wasn't even about colorism. Both of my parents are black, yet as a lighter-skinned black woman, I have had my blackness challenged because my parents were married, we grew up in single-family home, and I didn't speak with a discernible DC accent. I am already dreading what my daughter will face as an Afro-Latina (so y'all are on notice that asses will get kicked).

The problem with the who-is-black-enough-for-this-role discussion is that it never ends. There will always be questions: was Will Smith the best choice to portray Muhammad Ali; was Denzel Washington light enough to be Malcolm X; or did Diana Ross look anything like Billie Holiday? I'm sure a lot of Africans who saw The Black Panther wondered why half the actors were American, which came up in the alternative with Selma and Twelve Years a Slave (because half the actors were Brits). Everyone is entitled to have opinions about casting decisions, and maybe some of y'all are right that Winston Duke would make a better John Henry, but this isn't his project (and if you had to click on that link to know who he is, that tells you that he isn't a big enough star...yet).

The better question is whether The Rock is good enough to portray John Henry, which is best judged by his body of work (all puns intended). Chadwick Boseman doesn't look anything like Thurgood Marshall, but he's an actor so his job is to make us believe that he could be Thurgood Marshall. An actor is supposed to so embody the character s/he is portraying that we focus on the performance. So, just asking for a friend--why isn't a light skinned Black man Black enough to recreate a fictional Black character?