Sep 21, 2015

What I ❤ Today: Lessons In Sisterhood, Starring Viola Davis

Felt some megawatt sisterhood feelings after watching Viola Davis make history at the 67th Emmy Awards last night, where she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, the first time an Black actress has won that award.

Yes...the first time. Just... *sucks teeth*

What makes up for that disgraceful gaffe is Davis waltzing up to the podium to accept her award to spill out this gem of a quote:
"In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line. That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there"
After thinking it over, I'm actually glad Davis was the one to close that gap, because she's one of few Black celebrities that isn't afraid to speak out against Hollywood's notorious need to marginalize and rub out POC's (she's done it before...). Nobody could've quoted Harriet Tubman and brought up Hollywood hypocrisy in one string of word pearls, but Viola Davis, so standing ovation for that. Also great was that Davis shared her winning moment as she exclusively made the speech for and about Black women, recognizing her fellow actresses, and pointing out that Black women can achieve much greatness if we'd only get the opportunities to do so. [Note to self: Begin writing kick ass detective-meets-Southern-Gothic-mystery novel with Viola Davis in mind...] So about that diversity gap, Matt Damon...?

Of course she made some White people uncomfortable with her words --- she got a soap star wading in her feelings --- but she wasn't race baiting, or trying to derail the glitzy glamorous night into a March on Selma moment, no, she was telling the unvarnished truth, utilizing her position as the voice of the voiceless to express universal truth and break that barrier, and still being damn gracious about her win to boot.

Prior to the speech there was also a oh so perfect moment between Davis and Taraji P. Henson: 

The two of them both up for the same award, but hugging it out and showing good sistersportsmanship --- now that's how we win and that's how we grow as a sisterhood.

Take notes, folks. 

Sep 8, 2015

Book Looks: 'Dietland' Throws A Grenade On Diets, Fatness & Feminism

Growing up my mother was sort of the empress of dieting. Every drink, pill, powder, supplement ---what have you --- she either knew about it, had tried it, or was tempted to pop it in, or stir it up. My mother wanted to revive the slimmer image of her younger days, rid herself of the Winnie The Pooh pooch she had, and she believed that if she found the right 'cure', her body was going to 'snap back'. Ultimately I got drawn into this weird world of miracle pills, mixed powdered drinks that resembled bubbling bayou bile and health literature that promised that if you squint and read between the lines you could shed the pounds in 7 days or less!!!!!!!, and while I still had my Funfetti cake and ate it too, my mother was the one who made me aware that even just a thin slice of it would cause my cute little waist to expand. Note this is before I even was influenced by glossy magazines and pop stars; my mother was on the pedestal then.

All of these dieting tricks and gaffes were really code words for starvation. I can attest to this, as one such diet experiment that my mother believed to be the ultimate belly shrinking cure had both of us hallucinating and shaking like addicts trying to kick the habit. We were back to cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes after enduring a concoction of blended carrot juice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and not much else) for four days. Looking back, we almost killed ourselves trying to obtain some unattainable size, and that to me was the wake up call out of my mother's dieting madness.

Diet culture makes everyone play the fool...sometime. Behind every line of "be yourself" and "you’re beautiful the way you are" there is a diet plan, cackling and whispering, "…that is if you do this one small neat weight-loss trick" and we fall for it every time, because 'thinness' is key, 'smallness' is desirable. Nowhere did I mention "healthy diet". Nowhere did I mention "whole foods" or "exercise". Dieting and its programs give the impression that your health and their 'good clean' eating is at the core of their agenda, but it usually opposite. Dieting has a glamorous and quick flavor to it, it doesn't regard sweating it out on a treadmill, or shelling out money for oh so pricey whole foods, thus we flock to it.

Still all the dieting my mother did throughout the Snackwells and Jenny Craig culture of the 1980s and 1990s didn’t stop her from contracting diabetes (she has Type 1 --- genetics are a bitch…) or having high blood pressure, but lessons are never learned because even though she keeps on a steady diabetic diet, she still gets hyped when a new "miracle cure" pops up, her finger itching to strike the key or press the button to purchase. It's a cycle, a vicious obsessive one, and one a lot of people, especially women like my mother, tend to never get out of.

In that regard, my mother and Dietland's Plum Kettle have a lot in common. Plum Kettle flocks towards the same thought, the thought that if you take part in diet programs that offer short-cuts and quick solutions that that thin person will leap right out of you in a snap!, in an instant.

In Sarai Walker's debut novel, Plum Kettle’s got 99 problems and a pre-made plate of low calorie puke is just one.

Jun 29, 2015

Lady Who Rocks: Bree Newsome

Well-behaved women seldom make history --- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich didn't lie about that some 30-odd years ago, and her statement rang with much ferocity this past Saturday when activist and all-around Renaissance woman Bree Newsome added her name to the long list of women who have caused a little mischief in the name of progress after she climbed up the flagpole outside of the South Carolina statehouse and removed its Confederate flag. In an instant she became a social media goddess, liken to social justice warriors like Fannie Lou Hammer and Wonder Woman, and immortalized in photos and artwork for her courageous and bold act that needed to have been done, well, decades ago.

Jun 24, 2015

Impressions: Anita Hill, The Power Of Speaking Up For Yourself & Owning Your Darkest Hour

When Anita Hill sat before an all-white, all-male Senate judiciary committee to accuse Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, I was a mere babe of 4.

As I became older, Anita Hill's name grew leverage, her name tossed around the dinner table at family gatherings as if it was apart of our family's oral history. Still the details attached to her name were still vague to me. My inquiring mind, though, was quelled as the grown-ups around me instead of making attempts to explain who she was clamped their mouths shut, giving that "I really don't want to talk about this" grimace and promptly changing the subject. In school the scandal was lightly touched upon (or really not at all), at times written off as an "oddity" or a marring blip in the country's judicial's track record.

When it came time for me to work in professional arenas, I came face-to-face not only with racial bias but also gender division, and thus, Hill's story, the one so many people around me tried to say I was 'too young' to understand, crept back into my conscious. When Anita: Speaking Truth To Power, a documentary by Academy-Award winning director Freida Mock was released in 2013, I was eager to view it simply because I wanted to fill in the blanks of all that had thinly been taught about the scandal, and understand with more context, more clarity why Hill became almost a 'folk hero' in the feminism canon.

Within just a few minutes of watching the film I began to understand why the grown-ups around me curbed their appetite for conversation about it, why it was so abhorred in political circles, and muzzled in the sociopolitical text. I also re-learned a few things as well, reassessing how sex, race, media influence, and politics collided into a mangled traffic jam of fail that October day in '91, while in turn, gained deeper insight to an ordinary but resilient woman who revitalized a movement just by speaking her unvarished truth.

Jun 23, 2015

What I ❤ Today: Twerkin' Teddy

Wal-Mart, merchandise nirvana for the financially strapped and desperate, sometimes has no chill. No chill whatsoever. I thought I've seen everything that needs to be seen at Wal-Mart --- the good (cheap make-up! costume jewelry!), the bad (rude shoppers! long lines!) and the extremely ugly (all I'm going to say is "soiled tampon in swimsuit" and let you embellish the rest of the scene...) --- but now I've truly seen everything when it comes to these 'Twerking Teddies'.

No joke. These 'Twerking Teddies' are for real (or so the viral Vine tells me so...), and they are apparently selling at various Wal-Mart locations with their plush tushes all exposed, getting their 'wobble' on.

...and you bet your twerk I want one.

I do have questions though: Why do the bears gotta be brown and black? Why so BEAR-ist? Are polar bears not accustomed to getting low? Why does the bear have a tighter, rounder butt than I do? Why does it even twerk better than I do? How is this life?

Jun 17, 2015

Muse: Learning How To Chop Down & Embrace The Hairy Trees On My Face

Excuse my flush, but I have facial hair.

Well, just about every occupant of the female population has facial hair, so special snowflake I am not, but let me speak my truth: Facial hair --- I have lots of it --- and for awhile now, I've been struggling to keep it at bay. No, it's not some cute little peach fuzz, I'm describing a thicket of foliage that rivals the forests of Middle Earth, and all of it resides on my chin, upper lip, and jawline.

There isn't any way I can be polite about f-u-c-k-i-n-g sucks.

My journey with the frustrations of facial hair actually began with someone else's facial hair frustration facial.

Dig the elements: I'm about nine or ten, it's summer time and I'm visiting my Granny, and she needs help tweezing the hairs on her chinny-chin-chin as her fingers aren't nimble and quick anymore due to her arthritis. Since I am her lovely granddaughter, she entrusts me to get the tweezers and pull, pull, pull. So there I go, learning how to tweeze coarse black hair, thinking in my mind, "This will NEVER EVER happen to me. You hear me Dude Upstairs? NEVER EVER!" 

Genetics (and polycystic ovary syndrome) are a salty wicked witch because flash to a decade later, a bumper crop of hair flourishes along my jawline, upper lip, and chin welcoming me to the jungle of womanhood. A flimsy eyebrow shaper will not do --- I need a got damn weed whacker to combat the follicle forest. After years and years of painful waxes (from the pricey salon ones to the microwave sugar kinds), stinky Nair burns, and running battery-operated razors and epilators over my face, I threw money at an at-home-laser unit, and haven't looked back. Two months into the treatment and the pulsed light is...working. The forest is actually being cleared, slowly, but surely.

Still, I refrain from going full tilt Hallelujah! at this point, as the scars of an internal emotional battle over my excessive facial hair remains visible.

Jun 13, 2015

Book Looks: The Quiet Storm That Brews In 'Everything I Never Told You'

The way Everything I Never Told You unfolds is beautiful.

Strange to say considering the novel is about a family that is coming to grips with the death of their teen-aged daughter, but Celeste Ng writes with such eloquent fluidity, with such shivering and minute intimacy that it reads poetic even when the subject matter is filled with anything but.

In her debut novel, Ng introduces us to the Lee family, a Chinese/Caucasian brood of five who live in what is supposed to be a perfect picture-postcard suburban area in Ohio during the 1970s. While on the outset things appear to be calm and orderly, underneath the family is a ticking time bomb as tension simmers and unspoken words are bound and gagged, egging to come out. When Lydia, the middle child, is found dead, floating in the middle of a lake, all that is suppressed finally comes to the surface.

The tone is set from the first page --- really the first sentence --- as Lydia is confirmed dead, her family unaware. From there we work and get swept up in the ebb and flow of death’s aftermath and the hidden lives and thoughts of the “left behind”, the ones who orbited Lydia --- her siblings, Nathan and Hannah, her parents, James and Marilyn, and her neighborhood friend, Jack. Instead of going for the straight sap trap of a Hallmark Movie, Everything I Never Told You places you into the claustrophobic chamber of a deep character study, with each individual given space to unravel, all of their emotions and mental states compressing and inching on you gradually.