Treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered

All I know to be my truest, most accessible form of power is my voice…my written voice especially. So tonight I write. Tonight, after yet another American police officer walks away with no punishment for executing a Black life. No punitive measures. No penance or reparation for extinguishing the flame of life in a Black child…all in the name of the law.

 

Yet, so many of us stand in anger and shock that a grand jury has delivered a decision of “no probable cause” to indict Darren Wilson, an officer of the law, for killing Michael Brown in the middle of a street in Ferguson, MO. Anger and shock, even after sworn officers of the law have not been indicted for choking Eric Garner to death in New York less than 30 days BEFORE Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson. Even after a grand jury excused the police officers who shot down John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart just four days prior to Michael Brown’s murder in August. Even as the murder of Roshad McIntosh and those of more than five Black boys were ruled “justified” homicides at the hands of Chicago police over a six month period. And even as tonight’s decision was read matter-of-factly less than two days after police shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice in Ohio and Akai Gurley in New York.

 

Even still…

 

Our anger and shock is understandable…on some levels. On the human/intellectual level, yes a desire to receive justice and live a life of absolute protection under the law is a basic one. As a part of humanity, it is expected that all life will be regarded above animals and fowl that are shot for sport…or out of fear. And when life is not regarded above animals and is instead mutilated, terrorized and hunted for sport out of fear and hatred, well that confounds all human intelligence.

 

Same applies on an emotional level…same applies. It’s understandable the desire to be held in dignity, respected and cherished.

 

It’s all any human wants. So it is understandable that the Black experience in America often is undergirded with complexities of disappointing pain and agony. It is the reason why even after we have endured, and dare I say survived, the atrocities of chattel slavery, domestic terrorism and lynching at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, murders of our human rights change agents, and modern day criminalization, we still hold out hope for protection and validation under the same system that designed all of the above.

But there are other levels… levels we surely must get in tune with to help us navigate these very dark and tumultuous times. Our supernatural “spirit” mind understands that all is in Divine Order. That there is a lesson before and a lesson in dying. When we understand this, we will then come to the real questions…what is the lesson? How is my life complicit and accountable to the lesson? We each were born for this time. Each one of us could have come through this life journey in a different time and space as an entirely different being. Perhaps we were and this is our do over… How will you make this time count?

It is truly hard to articulate all the jumble of emotion pulling on my nerves and soul. Trying to get it all out before I allow the tears to fall. Because I really must know my tears are not for Michael Brown. Nor for John Crawford. Nor any of those whose lives were sacrificed for the wicked ways of this society. And surely I know my tears are nothing compared to the tears that have watered the way our ancestors came. The path we are moving forward on, however painfully slow, has been stained with the blood of MANY of our ancestors. It is in this knowing that I dare not act as if this is the worst for us. I had better not bow and cry, and become so blind with misery that I do not acknowledge this is NOT our worst moment. When we know we have been liberated far less time in this country than we were held captive slaves. Acknowledge that we cry out and speak the names of Michael Brown in global unison with our brothers and sisters on continents across waters, something that could have never been done 80 years ago.  How many have died torturous deaths never having their killer’s face identified? How many have died screaming into the wind heard only by howling dogs and their killers’ wicked ears? Ida Barnett Wells traveled by her lonesome pleading the case overseas about the strange fruit hanging from southern trees in America, one dead Black soul at a time with her humble newspapers and chronicles. I better know it. You had better know it.

The Negro National Anthem informed us quite succinctly. The cost has already been paid.

People are demonstrating and organizing, building coalitions to effect change. A delegation of young people from Chicago have recently returned from addressing the United Nations about police brutality. We Charge Genocide documented their presentation and experience, another piece to the lesson to be shared now and throughout history.

So I will cry. I will feel my pain. And you will too. But let us not get it twisted that just because this may be the cause célébre of our lifetime, it is progression from that which our ancestors knew. And it is because of that truth, that we hold fast to the Almighty universal truth: we are here for a reason. What will you do with this moment? How will we move the needle forward? Use our history as our guide. The chains could not hold us. The dogs and the bombs could not cower us.

May we live through our tears.

Let us use our tears not for righteous indignation, but to water the way across for our future children yet unborn. And when we wipe our tears may we truly see the shining princes and princesses who are living before our eyes daily. May we mentor them. May we acknowledge them. May we love them.

There is yet work we all can do. Join movements:

Dream Defenders

Black Youth Project

The League of Young Voters

 

Follow on OUR news:

Ebony Magazine

Final Call

 

Follow other independent news sources

Democracy Now

The Young Turks

Use social media to get out POSITIVE & INFORMATIVE updates

Document your stories and experiences

We Charge Genocide

 Register and VOTE

Teach young people African American history…ensure they are making their connection to our past and present.

Remember your history

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Take It Back: Huff Post Black Voices promoting Black girl “beef”

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One would think that there are more than enough instances of “bad girl” promotion and instigated “beef” between Black girls and their real or phantom “haters.” Just do a media audit, surely you’ll find an excess of lyrics and images blasting messages that insist on competition, superiority, gossip, and violence amongst girls. From reality TV to music (rap or a tune from your favorite pop divas), to videos and film. Yet, apparently staff at Huffington Post Black Voices  (a curated NEWS platform) felt the need to add their voice to the negativity and pit girls against one another when they posted a very baiting headline on their Facebook page regarding the new film adaptation of the musical, Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.

"How Quvenzhane snatched the role of 'Annie' from Willow Smith?”

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

 

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

Really?!?

There’s no telling what prompted “Black Voices” to use such divisive, antagonistic phrasing as a headline. One can only deduce the reasoning is sensationalism, especially when the actual article, published in Playbill and written by Karu F. Daniels, makes no reference to any competition between the two girl stars. In fact, there is a very minute mention of Willow, simply saying she was originally cast as Annie. It also mentions her parents remain producers.

A moment of shining celebration for the history-making, Academy-Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis was otherwise ceded to the mindless/heartless decision that could have a detrimental impact on the very tone in which our girls consume AND are portrayed in media. The post acquired more than 50 shares and stirred conversation on social media.

Several commenters, myself included, requested Black Voices retract the title and find more affirming phrasing.

I thought it practical that when brought to their attention, an editor or someone on staff there who is sensitive to the influence media has on our girls, their interactions and identity,  would realize how important it is to correct the wording. I even crafted a few recommendations as a  guide: “Quvenzhane Wallis Glows as America’s First Black Annie” “Willow Smith opens lane for fellow girl actors…” “Black Girls rock the big screen; make history…”

We’re still waiting for HuffPost Black Voices  to move in the right direction on this. How long that will be is anyone’s guess as the post has sat for more than 5 days and as of Monday, November 17 remains.

Why make this into a big deal? In a space and time when young girls are bombarded with messages that glorify them into “mean girl” behavior and the internet is saturated with fight videos where girls get a digital audience for taunting and provoking their peers, girls deserve responsible media to share their stories.

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At the same time, as we so often have to all but conduct an anthropological dig for intentional language that affirms our girls, I did want to include here what the director says about Quvenzhane in the original Playbill piece:

“The people in the press have been saying, ‘Wow, there’s an African-American Annie, and why [would] you make such a change?’ and my response to that is, ‘This is an 11-year-old girl who has to shoulder the entire movie with her music, with her singing, with her acting. How many times in history do we have an 11-year-old girl who has been nominated for an Oscar? So we were extremely lucky that she was available and that she existed and that we didn’t have to find someone. ‘The Beasts of the Southern Wild’ found her for us, and we were really lucky for that.”

Perhaps those of us who work closely with girls are more connected to the impact media messages have on their development. This is why we encourage media to truly reflect on the way it narrates the reality of our girls and be mindful of how their messages are consumed.

What do you think, should Huffington Black Voices retract the headline? Should we be concerned about this? If so, how do we hold media accountable for influencing positive interactions among girls?

Thankfully, Essence magazine got it right!


Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

 

By the Grace of God…Here I am!

1459215_10201816861135154_1471421347_nIt’s hard to pinpoint any instance in particular, but this latest tragedy of violence that has taken the life of yet another child in Chicago has to be one of the most senseless and illogical. Endia Martin, a 14 year old freshman at Tilden High School was shot to death as a result to an argument over a boy with her former friend, another 14 year old girl. The argument apparently involved some cyber cat-fighting and eventually played out on a south side street that is all too familiar with gun shots and hopelessness.

While more than 50 children have died by violence this year alone, it is not typical to hear that the suspect is a teen so young…definitely not a girl. This is different. But is it really new?

Like so many, I too have asked the question of just what in the world transpired that would cause a 14 year old girl to shoot her former friend. Is that hate? Is that anger directed at an individual? How much vitriol disregard can you truly have for someone who just months ago you were cool with (in adolescence rationale).

You begin to research, to make a personal connection to the children involved. You hear family anecdotes and friends’ reflections. Facebook photos surface. More questions.

Then you remember what your life was like at 14-15…

This is my story.

I remember the fall day like it was yesterday.

It’d been a long week. Another day walking the halls in a school I abhorred…sitting in classes with only one other person who looked like me, in front of teachers who expected nothing from me, and amongst peers who (in my mind) were so simple (they all believed this stupid bogeyman perception that kids who grew up in the “city” were extremely poor and  deviant. Too boot these “suburban kids were the poorest materialistic folk I’d ever met) it all  felt so pathetic. I only hung out with seniors.

Just as in previous days,while passing one another in the hall I’d  bumped shoulders with my arch nemesis…she liked my boyfriend; and truth be told I know some colorism was at play on both our parts. Too bad for us that on this particular day, my tolerance was on empty. She walked past my locker as I was talking to my boyfriend and made a snarky remark. I told her I was going to fuck her up. Oh yes. No filter… I had a potty mouth and could hang with the best of drunken sailors. We argued on the bus ride back from our predominantly white suburban school to our all-Black suburb. She got off at the first stop. I remember thinking. Okay. Good. I don’t feel like fighting anyway and really just want to go home. But when I got off at my stop (about 3 blocks) I see her and a group of instigators running towards me yelling my nickname (which became infamous against my desires). Oh shit. She is still on this b.s. Okay, she want a fight, a fight she is going to get. I ran home, dropped my book bag at the door, ran into the kitchen got a steak knife and dashed back up the street. She was still there talking big stuff. I let her swing first, then I popped her one good time… then landed a couple of more. The knife connected right below her temple.

I saw the blood. Instantly I felt remorse….I said I was going to fuck her up, but I didn’t consider her blood. All I could think was that I fucked up. I don’t remember what happened…if I walked to the police station that night  myself or if the police came to school the next day (maybe both).

Court date came and went…don’t even remember how I plead but God’s favor was all over me. Case dismissed (I think). But that would not be the end of my woes for the two and half years I lived and attended school in the suburbs of Chicago. Other scenarios filled my teenage angst. I loved NWA and had my mother confiscate my cassette tapes (which I dubbed from friends). I constantly mouthed off to racist/prejudiced teachers and got detentions and suspensions. And more fights…mostly 85%  not as the aggressor.

But that doesn’t matter. Aggressor or not, fighting is still fighting. And in the heat of the moment, especially when weapons of any kind are involved, can end with someone seriously hurt. Or dead.

So I can understand why so many question what leads our girls to this behavior, what is going on today? I keep in mind the times long ago but not far away when even before I moved out to the suburbs and lived on the Low End of Chicago, it was pretty common to hear of girl fights involving locks and box cutters.

WE look at these girls’ Facebook pictures today and question their parents’ involvement and guidance…their morals; yet I can attest to being a girl throwing up gang signs OFTEN, my mother even found a picture of me on a bus full of SUBURBAN Black kids, all “gang banging.”

What I know for sure is this…there but for the Grace of God here I am. Today I am an advocate for urban girls who are growing up in similar environments as me and in a time when NOBODY seems to care about their very being. When the only time Black girls matter is if it is an exotic story from a world away. This is a time when not even the school house can be a refuge full of teachers who fight tooth and nail to educate and give life to your full development. This in a time where local politicians sell out kids for a dollar or even at a price as low as a handshake from the mayor. Today guns  pass through U.S. customs and land in the hands of 14 year old girls in economically stifled neighborhoods but never make it to their polar opposite neighborhoods…even while obscure people like Bin Laden can be found in caves or missing planes can be tracked to ocean floors across the world

See folks LOVE to play the righteous role…like their whole life has been an angel’s walk. Not my story.  lovnd and own their place as change agents in this world…I choose this work over a career that could easily yield me $60K+ a year. This work that I am lucky to earn $10K  a year. Why?

Because I remember. Because they are girls like me and I know what they can be IF we invest in them making it to the other side, successful, wounded healers bettering their community. Feeling loved. Being love.

Stop judging our babies. Stop treating them like they are just another headline or case study of the day. They are still yet babies with a whole lot of growing up to do. See their value. See how you can increase your value by investing in them.

Please. There is no future that we do not nurture.

*I had completely come to a different understanding of my worth by my senior year of high school. I avoided physical conflicts. I spent time with productive friends who had ambition and dreams. I was ALWAYS surrounded by a loving mother/grandmother/father/stepmothers, extended church family….this all made a difference.

Vision Boards: Perfect Project for National Mentoring Month

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It’s a new year. It’s the season of resolutions, planning, vision board crafting, and mastermind building.

This is the time everyone dares to dream. To forecast their futures. Yet what it also has been for so many of us, is a time to truly reflect on our purpose and our divine destiny. By now most of us have seen the magazine articles and  heard tons of motivational speakers deliver their new year talk about “finding your true purpose” and “living out your passion.”

Well, for those who make it a practice to take time to journal and reflect, to meditate, listen to their voice and seek to create their true desires…things have become a lot clearer. Clarity is always a beautiful thing. It helps you distinguish your consciousness from your subconscious. It helps you identify the blocks in your life (lack of goals, relationships, habits, environment, etc.) But mostly it gives you an ability to recognize your power and connection to The Most High…The Creator. God.

It is such a liberating space. You feel yourself. Not in any ego-maniacal way, but in a self-assured and determined way.

The month of January is also National Mentoring Month, so this is a perfect opportunity for some intentional engaged mentoring! As you plan for your year ahead, I encourage you to share the experience with your daughters, nieces, and mentees. Help them to do some self-evaluation, to really dig deep and identify their true desires. Help them to see themselves. Not to mention, this is the best way for you to get to know them a lot better and listen.

Vision Boards can help girls:

  • Develop Goals
  • Evaluate personal choice/responsibility
  • Encourage self-awareness
  • Nurture a sense of hope/possibility

You just may re-new a girl’s love for herself and thereby save her life!

A little inspiration….

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I always enjoy delivering Girls Like Me Project Inc. vision board workshops to girls. I’d love to serve your school or organization. I offer  mommy/daughter or mentor/mentee vision board sessions. Book me and let’s transform a life! Or if you’d like, I will send you a vision board template to help you and your mentee create your own vision boards.

Gift it!

New Moon Magazine

New Moon Magazine is a great investment to inspire our girls to reach higher and connect with a network of ambitious and legacy-building girls. 

Work it out!

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Dove has a great self-esteem tool kit. My favorite is the self-exploration workbook  that helps them connect with role models and strengthen positive self-esteem.

Make this a memorable Mentoring Month. Please share your vision board experiences, or your fun ideas for mentoring month activities!

Chicago Girls stepping out for their Day

GIMPI Facebook Banner final with age

Once again it’s on! The world stage is set to celebrate the 2nd annual International Day of the Girl on October 11 as declared by the United Nations.

For the first Day of the Girl, Girls Like Me Project joined a collective movement to celebrate International Day of the Girl as millions of girls and women around the globe participated in the movement to advocate for, as well as, educate girls. From now moving forward this day remains a day to shed light on social and political injustices impacting girls.

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GLMPI was proud to host a local event to connect inner-city girls to this movement because so often their voices are missing from this international dialogue.

Like the fact that the face of sex trafficking victims are almost always foreign girls, when there is a prevalent majority of cases involving local girls as illustrated in this recent Chicago Sun TImes article by Mary Mitchell.

And there has been low attention paid to the increasing crisis of drop out rates among girls, which the National Women’s Law Center reports Illinois as having 22% of its girls drop out before graduating high school.

Or the discussion around the grave teen birth rate in Chicago which remains one and a half times higher than the national average.

And perhaps the most influential factor of all that needs actionable discourse, is that female characters are disproportionately stereotyped and sexualized in media popular with youth which feeds a vicious cycle of exploitation and paints a false portrayal and devalues what girls bring to their spaces.

This is why Girls Like Me Project, Inc. and our partners are committed to hosting another Chicago Day of the Girl event.

This year’s International Day of the Girl theme is Innovating for Girls’ Education.

Right here in Chicago, GLMPI is hosting 2nd Annual Chicago Day of the Girl: Stepping Out for a limited group of 150 adolescent girls ages 13-18. The free event is scheduled for Friday, October 11 from 6-9:00p at Pilgrim Baptist Church, located 3300 S. Indiana. The evening will feature community resource sharing, food, thought-provoking programming including performance by Ayodele Drum and Dance, spoken word by Def Jam Poet M’Reld Green interactive fun games, raffle prizes and giveaways, plus an engaging panel discussion, as well as intentional engagement with prospective mentors.

Here’s just a sample of the rhythm the night will bring:

Don’t miss out. Add this to your calendar and spread the word!

All attendees must register by October 5, 2013. RSVP by email to glm@lakeishagraysewell.com or call 773-599-3490.

We are thrilled about having Chicago girls step out and dream big for Chicago Day of the Girl!

Follow ##RoadToTheDayOfTheGirl for other celebrations across the country and around the globe!

Tell us what you have planned for Day of the Girl 2013….

Support us!

If you cannot attend but would like to support Chicago Day of the Girl or other GLMPI programs, feel free to make a donation and share the information with your networks.

Summer Hot Reads

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Whether a parent or teacher, if you have had to spend more than 30 minutes in the presence of an adolescent girl, I’m sure you’ve heard these words…”I’m bored…” or “It is soooo boring…” or “It’s nothing to do…”

Well, there is no better time than the “nothing to do” days of summer to encourage our girls to lose themselves in a book adventure.

If getting them out of our hair is not motivation enough to put a book into their hands, perhaps realizing how an unfocused summer can pose a threat to their development will be the reason.

While it is certainly a time for leisure and relaxation, summer is also the season when children from disenfranchised communities experience a detrimental loss of learning. In fact, The Center for Summer Learning shared a report which states young people can lose up to 3 months of learning during their summer vacation.  Irrespective of income level, if young people are not as academically stimulated during summer as they are during the school year, they will not retain what they ended the school year knowing.

That alone is reason enough for me to compile a Summer Hot Reads reading list for Girls Like Me… that and my absolute love of reading. Now I admit, I have a selfish motive, too. I mean, for me there is nothing more appealing than sitting curled up with a book in my hand. I want so desperately to inject the reading bug into all girls…after all, I truly believe reading is power.

Still, not every girl will independently choose turning pages over uploading pics to Instagram, creating dancing vids for YouTube, giggling on stoops and porches with their friends, or hanging at the air conditioned malls. Yet, I am confident if we add some engaging, culturally relevant titles to their reading elixir, they’ll be captivated by stories that hold a space for characters they identify with and connect to.

So without further ado, here is the GLMPI Summer Hot Reads reading list (updated June 3, 2015):

5-8th grade

One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia 

The Skin I’m In, Sharon G. Flake

Standing Against the Wind, Traci L. Jones

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Misty Copeland

Last Summer with Maizon, Jacqueline Woodson

Girls Like Us, Gail Giles

8-12th grade

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rayla 2212, Ytasha Womack

Ship of Souls, Zetta Elliott

Cornered, an anthology edited by Rhoda Belleza

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanan

Assata: An Autobiography

Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

On the Line, Serena Williams

The Other Side of Paradise, Staceyann Chin

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

To make sure girls are getting the most out of their reading experience:

Have girls perform scenes from their book! Or record an video summary and upload to YouTube like like this one:

  • Reading is a great activity to share with you the girl you mentor! Make visits to the library a part of your engagement time.
  • And be encouraged to start a book club with a few of the girls on your block, or youth members of your church/community center.

Happy reading!

P.S. Please share any other hot read recommendations in the comments. Thanks a million!

Three Generations of Girls Like Me

I took the time (had to borrow a few ticks from some research but well worth it) to watch Red Table Tales: the very poignant dialogue between Jada Pinkett Smith; her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones; and daughter, Willow.

As Jada asserted from the start, Red represents raw passion. So when the three generations sat down to talk around the red table we saw all of those things come through.

It amazes me more and more how very appropriate the name of my organization, Girls Like Me, is in relation to the experience of…well Girls Like Me.

I mean here Jada Pinkett Smith is rock star, actress and power-house in her own light; married to one of Hollywood’s blockbuster elite (not to mention Mr. Smith is superfine), mother to superstar children, with a mother who looks young and vibrant enough to be her sister. Yet we can hear the struggle as she talks about growing up on the streets of Baltimore. Her mother’s vulnerabilities as she reflects on her own life-experiences as young mother addicted to drugs. Then there is Willow, a first-name phenom with all the access and celebrity her talents and her parents fame can buy, still she struggles with life.

This is what Girls Like Me Project is all about. In the end we are all connected and experience identical struggles of trying to make our voices heard, freedom to be ourselves without the weight of the world,  and finding fulfillment and happiness on our journey.

I so connected with Jada when she spoke of sacrificing her being for her two children when they were little. This is very much my story. In fact I look back and can now say, though it was undiagnosed, postpartum depression was extremely real for me.

A lot rang true for me as I watched and listened. These were my top six take aways:

#1. You cannot harbor on the past hurts, the challenges of life have to be used as fuel for purpose and motivational power

#2. RE-MESSAGING MOTHERHOOD! Whew. This one hit home. So often happiness is muddled by responsibility for others, overshadowing our own fulfillment and well being

#3. Communication builds partnerships of all kinds

#4. It is a daily struggle to find balance in begin a wife, mother and honor your own being

#5. It takes much courage to open up to your children

#6. Best gifts to give a child is not to get in the way of their “being”. UMPH. YES!

View the Red Talks and let me know what rang true for you or what you found most interesting.

Watch Part 1

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Watch Part 2

<div>http://d.yimg.com/nl/shine/site/player.html#browseCarouselUI=hide&vid=29273950&repeat=0&lang=en-US&startScreenCarouselUI=hide&shareUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fshine.yahoo.com%2Fvideo%2Fparenting-6786932%2Fred-table-talk-part-2-29273950.html</div>

Watch Part 3

<div>http://d.yimg.com/nl/shine/site/player.html#browseCarouselUI=hide&vid=29273956&repeat=0&lang=en-US&startScreenCarouselUI=hide&shareUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fshine.yahoo.com%2Fvideo%2Fparenting-6786932%2Fred-table-talk-part-3-29273956.html</div>

One of the most profound moments came when I viewed the exclusive. It brings clarity to the saying “a child shall lead them…”

Be sure to let @JadapSmith hear your thoughts on Red Table Talks. Use hashtag #RedTableTalks

Girls Like Me…so official!

There are no words to capture the emotions that have swept me up this morning. I do know I’m feeling supremely elated and humble all at the same time. I have wept tears of pure joy, fell to my knees in prayer and rejoicing. Shouted out Glory in my empty house. It was almost like I’d had an outer body experience when I saw myself doing this celebratory fast jog in place…I’m so excited! Why? You ask…well on this day, April 26, 2012, something that I have devoted my life to for the past 3 years has elevated to the next level…The Girls Like Me Project is fully incorporated as a not-for-profit in the State of Illinois!

This moment reminds me of only a few other major life events like giving birth to my children. But then too it is akin to my wedding/marriage. Although I have been dedicated to empowering Girls Like Me through workshops, book clubs and advocacy work for a few years, today is the day when that work gets the solid, legal standing, a position for expansion and influence. Just like my wedding day, I had dated my college sweetheart since I was 18, committed to our love but our wedding day was a day of joy as we continued building the foundation for an institution. This feels the same.

Still there is this critical voice of mine who always whispers to me, that girls like me are small time, not major league. Even as I type, a voice of criticism is sneaking in saying “people establish 501c3’s everyday, what’s the big deal.”

Well, the big deal is that this was the vision I set for myself to actually accomplish in 2012. It was one of the first things to go on my vision board. Today is yet another indication that what we believe for ourselves truly manifests, that if you speak your desires the universe will guide you to it.

Then there is this divine order that answers you and sends you every single person/circumstance you need to BE the Higher Power you claim to believe in…the universe gives you the chance to live in that power.

Why am I so ecstatic? Well because again, this is only one of the visions I have for Girls Like Me, ahem I mean the Girls Like Me Project ( I have to get used to saying that, after all, that is the official name). If this is any indication of how dreams come true, the rest of my visions are mind blowing—world changing. Now I’m in position to play the game.

This shifts things majorly. For instance a grant I was chosen for had to be diverted to a fiscal agent simply because I was not incorporated. Resources can now go directly to benefit programs that serve hundreds and eventually thousands of Girls Like Me around the globe.

And when I think of how far I’ve come, the little, skinny feisty Black girl who has been speaking up and out against injustice since I could talk, often times misdirected until my early twenties, can now empower my daughter to begin advocating for herself at a much younger age than I, with proper training and organizing. She will influence  her generation.  I can give my baby girl a legacy, start her out as the inaugural President of the Junior Board of Directors for GLMP, trained and set to lead an institution.

The things God has prepared are beyond this world’s understanding. So I silence my critical voice and embrace this major milestone and say YES to the universe. Thank You Most High for divine order, grace and mercy.

Oh and what would accomplishments be for a Girl Like Me without the famous shout out moment? Shouting out my husband, my other half who lets me go out in the world to be fearless only cause I know he’s got my back. I don’t have to spend my days doing anything I don’t feel serves my purpose because he provides my safety net. My Granny, who lived 86 long years, for making sure I understood the power of God. And my momma who loved me ferociously, acknowledged my voice and fed my spirit of independence. And my Daddy who was my first safety net, believing in my dreams and paying the price for them. lol

So many more people to name, but I’m too full to think clearly.

Thank YOU for reading this blog, commenting, retweeting, and liking. I hope we stay connected through this journey!

Stay tuned for more information on how you can support the Girls Like Me Project, Inc.

For now just keep me in your prayers…and bring the Girls Like Me Project to your school or youth organization.

Moving forward to serve, heal, transform Girls Like Me all over the world.

I’m not a Nicki Minaj fan on any level, but this song sums it up:

Whitney Houston: Queen of the night forever reigns

I saw the AP Breaking News tweet, but my mind would not allow me to believe it.  I was hoping and praying that it was another of the weekly Twitter RIP hoaxes. Not for many hours after did I accept what the news outlets and social media buzz was saying. Whitney Houston had died in a Beverly Hills Hotel.

The realization has left me somber and deflated. To understand my anguish you have to know what Whitney’s gift gave to my childhood and ideal of love and romance. Fighting back tears while at times writing through, I tried to put it into some sensible words using titles from her hits, but below is the best I can give at this time…please receive with all the love, respect and admiration I had for what God shared with us in human form as Whitney Houston…

The scene from the happy days of my childhood is so vivid. Singing. In the living room. In the church choir. In the bathroom. At the dinner table (before being silenced by receiving a stern look from my mother or Granny, cause it was a cardinal sin to sing at the table).

Yes those memories stand out. I would fling my Diana Ross big hair and wrap fake boas around my neck singing with combs, brushes, brooms or mops as my microphone. But I never had a song.  I mean Miss Diana was old…all her songs were from Doo Wop and disco days. This was the 80s and I had never sang any words that I felt were mine.

Until I heard the voice of Miss Whitney Houston.

That voice. That persona…it connected to something within me. So The Greatest Love of All became my song. The words encouraged me and spoke all the things I wished the adults around me would say. Whitney sang that song as if she was the saving grace for every brown girl child who ever breathed. And that voice singing those words awakened a belief inside of me that has never been shaken since; that the greatest love of all is inside of me, and if it is indeed inside of me I was destined for greatness. I am greatness. That’s what Whitney told me, and I believed her.

But beyond that voice, that pure, sanguine, fluid, yet mighty voice was a girl who was my reflection. In a culture where being skinny (or bony as its called in the Black community) is ridiculed and mocked, yet here was Miss Whitney looking poised and regal, sweet and fun, sexy with all the world watching her. I was a pair of those eyes watching- looking up in celebration and awe. Instantly I recognized Whitney was a girl like me.

So I donned a wardrobe change with my idol as inspiration…. coached along by my step mother I sang at talent and fashion pageants.

I was a swirling motion of high-volumed hair, shiny lip gloss, neon bright singing sensation saving all my love for that one moment in time when all my cares melted and I just wanted to dance with somebody, singing like I knew things, tears streaming from my pubescent eyes, I got so emotional.  Just a girl child but felt like I was Every Woman with the greatest love flowing through me. It was a force, somebody bigger than me had given the world this angel, and I studied and learned from the best what poise and inflection and crescendo and perfect pitch meant.

Step by step of my life, there is a song from Whitney to give peace, encouragement, love, clarity and a good time. I felt it deeply then that we had something in common. I recall the early years of college when things were getting serious with my boyfriend, I’d asked him to listen to the words from Run To You, because if he could truly hear those words, if he  got the song then he’d get me. He got it, no wonder he is now my husband.

I Want to Run To You

Now today is one of those days when the world just doesn’t make much sense. Finding myself so emotional in a different state of being. I didn’t know Whitney, but every time she sang I felt like she knew me. Thinking back on what she gave the world, I marvel thinking didn’t we almost have it all. Maybe she gave us too much, it lead to entitlement. Her voice, relationship and struggles weren’t enough, the cameras and fans and media always wanted more. The queen of the night told us who she was, left herself wide open…she was a miracle of our time. The greatest.

And now Whitney Houston is gone. Something just doesn’t feel right, but it’s okay because we can look to her marvelous works. She definitely lived life with passion and on her purpose. We can listen to her gift and savor that million dollar bill feeling…Whitney made us feel large didn’t she?

So diva, I ain’t got nothin’ but love for you.

Rest in peace and power in your next realm. I pray for peace and comfort to blanket your family and all those who truly shared in your life with you.

There will never ever be another Whitney. Salute!

 

Take a look back at some of my favorite Whitney songs. Please share your memories and songs that touched you, too!

You Give Good Love

Every woman

Miracle

Queen of the Night

All the man that I need

Greatest Love of All

One of those Days

Something In Common

Red Tails…a little off base

Last weekend I headed to the movies, along with throngs of other Black folks, in support of Red Tails, the cinematic Hollywood portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen which is by all measures a blockbuster.

The George Lucas produced film depicts the potent racist struggle Black pilots had to navigate in order to join the U.S. Air Force, notwithstanding the fight they fought just to defend this country in World War II. This story of the Tuskegee Airmen, like much of our little-known and devalued history, deserves to be told. Watching the film (steered by a Black director, writer, and an all-Black cast of leading actors) I couldn’t contain my pride.

We are all sick and tired of seeing stereotypes of Black men played out in media; from the nightly news to cooning sitcoms to big screen flashes of men in dresses. It is a daily fight to resist what we know is NOT the norm of brothas. We know Black men are hard workers who commit to their responsibilities, affectionate and respectful of the women in their lives, proud of their accomplishment, not to mention intelligent and articulate. So for me, seeing that visualized on the big screen as a major production was a glorious moment in time.

I am proud that I saw Red Tails. Proud that my husband, children and I shared the experience as a family. And even still proud that my choice to go out and see it during opening weekend was included in the chorus demanding more positive, full-bodied films about Black life.

Yet, midway through the film I did lean over to my husband and whisper my concern of the absolute absence of Black women on the screen?!!? Now I cautiously pointed this out.  But not before I checked myself and my filters. I mean this was, after all, a film about the experience of the Tuskegee AirMEN. So, no I did not go into the theatre expecting to see women in major roles…I honestly would not have minded if there were no women in the film (well it would bother me just a teeny bit).

However, it is because of the fact that there was only one woman given a major role in this film; a film about one of the most historical contributions Black Men have made in this country, that I am most aggravated. That one woman was Daniela Ruah. A White woman.

This has stumped me. Still I know my person; that I have been viewed as being a little subversive when it comes to Black women and our plight in media. I accept that I am intensely aware of societal “norms” and how those norms are guided by patriarchy and racism. Conversely I questioned every possible filter to find why this bothered me so much, and IF it should.

I must say, all the soul-searching in the world won’t shake my disappointment. Disappointed for a few reasons. The most glaring reason is that there is not a Black man on this earth who can say he has not been nurtured, loved, encouraged, chastised,  or influence by a praying Black woman. Hold my mule right now if I’m exaggerating…

Didn’t think so. Before a Black man even understands the dynamics of an intimate relationship or attraction to women, he is familiar with the love o a Black woman. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot grasp how the audience comes to know the influence of the father of Easy’s character and Black Jesus, but never that of a mother, grandmother, Big Ma, sis, fiance or wife back home…

Beyond befuddled. Especially when considering the real-life stories of Tuskegee Airmen boasts solid marriages with Black women…many were married during their time of duty.

Now let’s factor in the enormous attention this film got after George Lucas, the formidable Hollywood  director (Star Wars Trilogy) who happens to be white, revealed how many rejections he received from studio heads to produce and distribute this film. He was quite literally the great white hope for Red Tails- the Hollywood version.

That speaks volumes to how we had to get this right…this was our one shot. This sets the bar…at what ever level we believe we qualify for. Whatever is in this film will be considered the formula for movie execs when considering Black films. That formula will be devoid of an intimate and sanguine relationship between a Black man and woman. Conversely it will have Black men pining over the foreign (read exotic) love interest of a lighter hue.

Just on the other side of perturbed.

On the brighter side, I wasn’t so miffed that I would discourage other people from seeing  Red Tails. However I do see this as a valid point of discourse about 1.) the image mainstream media is pushing regarding Black male/female relationships; and 2.) the historical shared experience we have had breaking down barriers in America and 3.) last but not least is the consistent symbolic annihilation of Black women by media which in turn erases us from the history books.

Am I off-base?

Please join the discussion during #GirlsMediaChat on Twitter, 9p CST Thursday, Jan 26 (TONIGHT)

Get the real history of Tuskegee Airmen:

Follow the Tuskegee Airmen dedicated Tumblr started by National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Listen to living legends share their stories on StoryCorps

Check out Red Tails Reborn, a PBS documentary