Breakdown Beyonce’s bow down

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I’m late. I know. But back during Women’s History Month in March I was sorta pre-occupied with building Black girls’ sense of self-worth and appreciation for Black women’s history when I heard through the Twitterverse that Beyonce, er “Queen Bey,” was a little busy herself making them bow down…and calling them bitches to boot. Oh my.

She offered a sneak release to her upcoming album with the single, Bow Down Bitches/I Been On where she sings, ” I know when you were a little girls you always dreamed of being in my world. Don’t forget it Don’t forget it. Don’t forget it. Bow down bitches. Bow down bitches.”

Hmmm… Well…

When I heard these lyrics I thought perhaps there had been some mistake. Surely this was not ingenious artistry of the grown and mature Mrs. Carter who less than two months before had graciously performed for the inauguration in this nation’s capitol and promptly followed with a commandeering Super Bowl half-time show that not only held the world captive, but was delivered with such an electric force it is rumored that she caused a 30 minute blackout of the stadium.

But so much for dignity and excellence. I guess street cred trumps all of that when you want to silence haters, or force your contemporaries to deem you the “queen.”

No doubt, Beyonce Knowles Carter is an entertainment icon. She will forever be listed in the herstory books as one of the greatest performers in America’s history. A living legend indeed.

In fact, she would have fit perfectly on the legacy wall I created for the Girls Like Me Women’s History Month Pampered Power Talk.

Girls Like Me Project's Women's History Month Pampered Power Talk Legacy Wall

Girls Like Me Project’s Women’s History Month Pampered Power Talk Legacy Wall

This legacy wall included photos of legacy-builders such as Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dorothy Height, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Maya Angelou, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Marian Wright-Edelman and Oprah Winfrey.

Powerful women who have been pioneers and set standards of excellence in their respective fields. The legacy wall was a wall of inspiration for little girls who dream of being in the worlds created by the women exhibited.

I try to imagine Mary McLeod Bethune demanding Dorothy Height to bow down. My mind wonders what transformative spirits amongst the ancestors lorded over those behind them with mockery. I mean I am so grateful I have never heard Mother Maya Angelou publicly decry her contemporaries or those little girls like me who were looking up to her with pride and ambition in our eyes.

One has to ask…what is the intention?

Many have come out advocating in defense of Beyonce and her lyrics to this song. Artistic expression and what not.

Yet, I am not a Beyonce advocate…I advocate for those little girls who are dreaming of being in Beyonce’s world. The little girls who believe Beyonce’s world of celebrity, fame and independent wealth are their saving grace, a world away from the poverty and marginalization they face in their own realities. As much as some entertainers would love to believe their music is in some sentry-guarded airwave where children’s access is limited, the reality is children are the majority of those listening to corporate owned-media, the entities through which artists relay their products. The truth of the matter is our girls are looking to us for the tools to help them navigate their real worlds. Like it or not, we (adults) are their models for the appropriate behaviors and response when interacting with other girls/women…our sisters.

I am in awe when I think of the backlash had Bow Down Bitches/I Been On been written and performed by a male artist. Come to think of it, I shudder to know the production team surrounding her during the making of this song was male-centered. What if there had been a circle of creative sisters who could have assisted Mrs. Carter in articulating her stance in a much more uplifting message.

But then again, everyone does not embrace their responsibility to uplift.

Still the girls are dreaming of being in our world…what kind of world are we creating for them?

Am I overreacting…what kind of message do you believe the song sends to girls?

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I Got 99 problems w/POTUS, his Chicago Speech ain’t One!

CT-MET-OBAMA-VISIT-JMP_CTMAIN 0216 SRPresident Obama answered the demand for his to visit Chicago to address the violence plaguing his hometown.
Although an online petition garnered more than 45,000 collective signatures from across the country, the reception for such a visit by actual Chicagoans was mixed. Some who simply wanted validation that the hundreds of lives lost to violence be recognized as a national concern welcomed the attention POTUS’ presence would bring to the city. Others, who think of themselves as radicals for the hood, wanted no parts of the politics that surely would accompany the POTUS.  Still, there were those who believe the death of Hadiya Pendleton should no more warrant a reaction from the leader of this nation than the other children who lost their lives prior. Then there were those like me, who fully grasp how the POTUS’ presence would yield the demand that the lost lives of Chicago’s children be included in the national discourse on child welfare and violence, as well as abide a common-sense acknowledgement that whatever work we desire to see, whatever healing required to heal our city wracked with so much blood shed and pain, requires on the ground organizing and work.

While acknowledging the above sentiments, it is kind of perplexing to me that the ones who seemed to have the most vocal outrage and disdain for President Barack Obama’s speech to Chicago are not even from Chicago. Go figure.

I find the outrage quite disheartening for a number of reasons.
1. People seemed to be disappointed that gun violence wasn’t his main focus. But didn’t he tell us what he came to discuss?

Further more, everyone wants to focus on gun violence and thrust Chicago into that conversation. Yes, we should have a bookmark. But our problem is beyond gun violence. It is stifling segregation that plays out in housing and education which feeds into joblessness and poverty. It is classism. It is loss of mental health care. It is the inertia of political will and fortitude. Violence, whether by gun, knife, pipe, fists; is yet a manifestation of it all. He addressed all of that.

“That’s what I’ve come here to talk about today…raising our kids. I’m here to make sure we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life. Building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond. And most importantly keeping them safe from harm.”

Now, I did not paraphrase. That is the exact words of POTUS.

2. I completely understand there are those who resist the traditional view of family and what they consider to be “hetero-normative.” But puh-lease! This was no ivy-league, university campus sequestered lecture debunking feminism nor a woman’s right to be an independent single mother. But  since some lead us down that road, I must ask…how’s that working for us?

The President was speaking to the issues in the hoods of Chicago….the various communities where households lack ANY resolute male presence, for generations inclusive of fathers, grandfathers and uncles. He wasn’t specifically addressing marriage (though if he were what is wrong with that?) But yes, if you want to discuss heterosexual privilege…um let’s ask how many of the single mothers how their children came to be?

I cannot count how many of the girls who are in my programs share that they have either never seen their father, haven’t seen their father in more than a year, or don’t have any respectful relationship with their fathers.

Now for those who had a problem with the POTUS remarks, when’s the last time you spoke to a group of Chicago youth and asked how they feel about their father’s presence in their lives?

In his words, “No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless acts of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that  government can’t fill, only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.”

Is this flipping the script on what we have known, and subjectively purport; that is starts at home? That we learn our values and sense of self from family/community first, then school, media, etc?

Y’all mad because he said families and solid parenting are the foundation to setting a child on a path that does not lead them to hopelessness and destructive behaviors? Don’t claim that he “blamed” single mothers for violence. He spoke on the unfair and unforgiving policies that penalize young people. He spoke about lack of jobs. He spoke about education reform…

It sounds like folks cherry picked the points they wanted to hear and ignored the others. Before President Obama even mentioned fathers, he said, “There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding.”

I don’t know. Watch for yourself.

3. What really gets to me is that this address was local…folks had the privilege to see it via a livestream from a “local” ABC affiliate. From the very beginning I think he made that clear…I mean do you know the relationship between Woodlawn and Hyde Park high school? Can you decipher the dynamics of those communities? Do you have an inkling to the generational ties to street organizations that sprouted from Woodlawn? Do you know history of federal funding that has come into this city to solve this very problem more than 30 years ago and the outcomes? These small details are a HUGE part of what is happening today.

Listen, POTUS was not providing the blueprint for the Nation. This was not for you, really. It was for Chicago. A do-for self reminder. Or is Kwanzaa only relevant in December? People only seem to be able to handle the truth when it’s in a lie. Or only when Minister Farrakhan marches a million Black men into the Nation’s capital to tell them they need to step it up as fathers and keepers of the community.

What I’d like to offer is this. As a nation, if you care about Chicago’s violence and the and continuing decline in moral fortitude of our people across this country, then let’s do this. Let’s halt the reactionary impulse to get caught up in the semantics of the message. Let’s focus on the truth. The truth is we are far off the path that our ancestors laid for us. We are even further from the inherent greatness our Creator has instilled in us. The truth is we are not living up to our Divine principle. The truth is , while we live under oppressive systems that teach us to hate our selves and inflict harm on one another, WE KNOW BETTER. And the truth, plain and simple is that far too many are not doing their part to transform. They’d rather pontificate on the problem and the words of a messenger. While you are dissecting POTUS address for your next “university” lecture, how much time will you spend serving the youth in the hood? How much time are you giving being a mentor to a young person?

It’s almost a level of poverty pimping. Yes I’m going there. Folks will do mad lecture series around the country visiting cities like Chicago and never once go to a struggling school while there. Nope. Nice hotel, straight to campus where your “topic” is not even present. Or how about those amongst us who have college degrees, abc’s behind our names never been out of a job or homeless in our adult lives, travel the world, yet we continue to perpetuate and sing that sad song to brothers and sisters struggling that the system ain’t fair and won’t let them succeed. Hell, how did you make it?

Folks want to stay in the misery talk of how oppression is the culprit and it’s the “man’s fault” that we don’t love ourselves and make bad choices. Yeah. The man playing his part. Still, you know the song and still do the dance. So…

I’m ready for real solutions.

How about we all build a unified voice of demands that result in a federal probe into the root causes of inner-city violence. Then we can really get to the crux of poverty and hopelessness.

What if we all supported inner-city youth programs with our time, finances, gifts? Are you a journalist, attorney, accountant, professor, entrepreneur? You are needed in the hood!

Let’s just stop talking about it, stop tweeting about, stop commentating and BE about it!

Thought I’d share a little Goodie Mob with you….The Experience!

Where do we go from here?

The World's Fallen Angel, Hadiya Pendleton
The senseless murder of Hadiya Pendleton finally captured the attention of the nation. Heartbreaking and tragic, her death attracted thousands of mourners to her home going celebration. The sanctuary filled to capacity included First Lady, Michelle Obama; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and a host of “dignitaries.” There had to be a designated standing-room only overflow section, while still hundreds more lined the street outside to pay their respects. It was a ceremony fit for a princess…our sweet angel Hadiya was laid to rest in a royal purple gown, her high school band playing for her ‘til the end.

Initially, outrage and frustration at the lack of urgency in response to the senseless violence taking the young and innocent from Chicago as well as countless urban cities around the country prompted me to ask How many dead Black Children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

And the Black Youth Project started a petition to summon President Obama to come home and deliver a speech on gun violence. garnering more than 45,000 signatures, the petition seemed to have worked. POTUS will be in Chicago on Friday, February 15, 2013 to answer the call.

If we know our POTUS, we know the man is eloquent with the wordplay. His speeches can ignite the most stubborn will, inspire hopeless apathy, and challenge the harshest critics. This is what we come to expect from the 44th President of the United States.

But what happens after the speech.

Where do we go from here? It is commendable for BYP to demand POTUS address gun violence, yet we know all too well that what has cost us the lives of so many of our young children is much bigger and drastically more complex than gun violence. For the last time all eyes were on Chicago for the brutal murder of one of our babies was in 2009 when Derrion Albert was beaten to death and speeches were given, funds proposed. No gun play involved in that heinous homicide. In fact, let’s really look at the crime stats of homicides in Chicago. Lives are taken by those wielding deadly fists, knives, boulders, pipes, sticks, and yes guns.

See gun violence is symptomatic of the myriad of social issues infiltrating the poor Black and brown neighborhoods of Chicago. Systematic injustices designed more than 50+ years ago are now manifesting. It’s a spider web of oppression which has turned in on itself.

So yes, the POTUS should definitely come to Chicago and hold up the mirror to our nation…force us all to peer at the ugliness racism, segregation, forced evictions, criminalization, war on drugs, unemployment, failed public education reform, and host of human rights violations that our governments sanction with failed policy after another. Gun violence, then, should be but a fragment of the conversation.

Still after we gaze purposefully in that mirror, how about we come back to the table with intentional change. There needs to be a federal commission to research and investigate what causes urban violence in concentrated areas of our major cities. The answers won’t be so pretty and neat, I can guarantee.

Then there absolutely must be infrastructual supports in the form funding for jobs; recreational zones; urban youth development.

A major component that absolutely cannot wait is support for mental health prevention/treatment. Our babies have been through trauma! Living under siege of gun fire where a walk to school can result in death of you or a friend; seeing blood splatter from a body sprayed by gun fire on your corner? Can anyone deny our children are dealing with PTSD?

And then the people. Our people. Those who have lost sons and daughters to the madness. The victims….and the perpetrators of crime. The everyday people.

It is time to be our own vanguard. It is time for us to build our own institutions with education and culture at the forefront; where every Black youth-serving organization/agency synchronizes and collaborates to bring about effective and SUSTAINABLE investment. We are overdue to reinstate the village concept where every stable minded adult is mentoring and nurturing at least one young person outside of their immediate family. The time is now for churches to move their private “classist” ministries (undercover social clubs) from within the four walls of their “sanctuary” to the streets. The clock has struck on the hour for the college-educated business folks to show up at work in the community. It is high time our academia with its scholarly debates to move the dialogue beyond the college campuses and lecture halls to the classrooms in the hood. Time for mothers and grannies to practice tough love. And we are almost out of time for fathers to repent and restore their homes.

The alarm is ringing!

Don’t ignore, or else you will soon answer that dreadful call saying this time it has touched your household.

Please, let us not allow this child’s life to have been in vain. Let her death be the catalyst that shines light through the oppressive fog we find our community today so that we honor all of our children, the fallen and the survivors.

 

Shawty Lo’s Baby Mamas ain’t the problem…You are!

all-my-babies-mamasI’d been debating with myself for weeks whether or not to write this post. But then in the middle of the night the entire post  came to me fully written out…it was concise. It had the most perfect transitions and its prose rang with clarity. Of course this was all in my head sans pen and paper or laptop. So here I am trying to serve up something remotely as good to express my two cents on this Shawty Lo fiasco…and all the damnation that is Reality TV.

Early last year, along with Bessie Akuba of the She is Me Program, I co-founded #girlsmediachat. It was to be a Twitter chat to dissect and dialogue about the media images portraying and shaping girls’ identity. A few weeks in and it was the same…passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sisters would tweet to death all that is wrong with media. Invariably reality TV was our angst. For obvious reasons. But if you need illustration, please reference any episode of Basketball WivesReal Housewives of AtlantaLove and Hip Hop or any variation of the aforementioned. There’s this trending word that the kids label it… Ratchet. Yes it is quite appropriate.

Well. I grew a bit weary of pointing out the ratchet on television. I’m so beyond it. It is taxing on my nerves, and makes me want to act out in ways that are so not befitting a passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sister. Hmph…so I simply refused to watch the witchcraft. Thus what I am tagging the latest travesty to hit the airwaves titled Baby Mamas, and all ratchet forms of reality TV…it is witchcraft.

And seeing that I cannot realistically reach through my television, put a hex on their spells of ignorant pageantry nor shake some sense into any of these characters, I will do what my life assignment calls for. That is to lift up the ones I can touch, show them affirmative ways to communicate with other girls; be an example of how to honor their bodies and beings; and present tools that help them navigate the weird world of relationships sans mental manipulation, patriarchal oppression, misogyny, or physical abuse. Because my investment and energy moves beyond getting a show pulled. The bigger picture is to interrupt the behavioral patterns little girls are exhibiting today that lead them to become implicit in the witchcraft….go from girls to women behaving badly. We must touch the ones within our reach daily: that means the young sisters riding beside us on the buses/trains, baby girl who lives next door, your daughter’s playmates…and some of us need to check the little girl still inside of us. Ahem. Yes. I went there. Truth is what is on “reality TV” is played out live in living color in many homes with young girls as audience to adult women acting stupidly and making foolish, misguided decisions. I promise you I attended an event just last weekend with women who are college educated, many members of sororities with successful careers and who are MOTHERS refer to each other (out loud) using the B word as a term of endearment. For real. Who does that? Still in the midst of this was baby mama drama to boot. For real.It was all quite fascinating in a Discovery-Channel watching sort of way. But, sadly it was not a television show. It was indeed real with no cameras.

So again, I’m less frustrated with the tube these days. I want us to fix the everyday sister who believes its okay to address another girl/woman in any derogatory fashion. It is reckless dishonor to share a boy/man and engage in unprotected sex…no SEX PERIOD, knowing he shares his goodies with another. It is outright flagrant indecency to put your hands on another to express your anger or insecurities. Geez. The list of ratchet behavior is much too long…and quite frankly unproductive.
If the objective is to transform lives of our girls, this must be our priority. If not, we have only our real life selves to blame for what they see/hear in media.

Change the Game:

Sign the petitions like this one to get shows pulled from the air
Support organizations like Girls Like Me Project, Inc. book the workshops for your school/org.
Join the #notbuyingit movement to let advertisers really know how you feel about their endorsement of such foolishness

And on the last note, I have heard many people excuse the “entertainment industry” and “celebrities” of all accountability for being role models or accurately portraying the complex telling of the Black American experience, especially as it relates to our women and girls. Well. That is arguable, for some. What I do know for fact is that the “entertainment industry” is  yet a politically correct misnomer given to what we know is an exploitation monster. Given that, we should only expect the entertainment industry to exploit our lowest lows for profit. It is simply time we raise the bar.

How do you think we should raise the bar for our girls?

Chicago organization adds local flavor to International Day of the Girl

Chicago Day of the Girl: Moving Beyond the Block Press Release & General Information

The Girls Like Me Project, Inc. will host a local event in honor of the inaugural International Day of the Girl, October 11, 2012. The free event will take place from 5:30-8p at the Africa International House, Inc. located 6200 S. Drexel, Chicago, IL 60637.

October 11, 2012 has been declared International Day of the Girl by the United Nations. On that day, Girls Like Me Project Inc. invites Chicago-area girls to join the collective movement of  millions around the globe to advocate for, as well as, educate girls. This day is also a day to shed light on social and political injustices impacting girls.

“So often, urban girls of color are marginalized and confined,” asserts La’Keisha Gray-Sewell, urban youth advocate and founder of Girls Like Me Project, Inc. “And while their issues are identical to those faced by other oppressed female populations around the globe, urban girls seem to be disconnected from the global conversation on empowerment. As stakeholders, it is time for their voices to be included in this movement.”

Locally, the Girls Like Me Project, Inc. is set to host Chicago Day of the Girl: Moving Beyond the Block, an event that celebrates Chicago’s inner-city girls and advocates for their success beyond the myriad of injustices they face including poverty; environmental, education and health inequities; media stereotypes; and violence among others.

The event will convene a group of inner city girls ages 13-18 to build community through thought-provoking programming which will feature information and resource sharing, food, interactive fun games, video presentation and discussions, as well as intentional engagement with prospective adult mentors.

Windy City CARES Mentoring Affiliate of the National CARES Mentoring Movement has partnered with GLMPI to recruit adult mentors for Chicago area girls during the event.

Media are invited to attend and cover as a feature. Lots of photography opportunities. Follow event on Twitter using hashtag #DayofthegirlChi. For more information about Chicago Day of the Girl: Moving Beyond the Block, please email GLM@lakeishagraysewell.com or call 773.599.3490.

About Girls Like Me Project,Inc.
GLMPI turns girls into leaders, legacy-builders and global change agents. With a focus on inner-city girls ages 11-18, GLMPI programs help them think critically about the world around them and prepares them to overcome socio-economic challenges like poverty, violence, low self esteem, teen pregnancy, poor school performance, and truancy to name a few.

About Windy City CARES Mentoring Affiliate
Windy City CARES Circle of the National Cares Mentoring, Inc. is committed to recruiting mentors with a goal of connecting them to engagement opportunities that positively impact the lives of underserved youth in the Chicago-land area and ultimately reverse at-risk behaviors as well as trends in illiteracy, dropout, and teen pregnancy rates.

Visit dayofthegirl.org to find background information about International Day of the Girl. Also view the official U.N Day of the Girl resolution here.

Babies Having Babies: Preventing teen pregnancy for Girls Like Me

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Doing our part, we are featuring a guest blogger to spread awareness and prevent more Girls Like Me from entering motherhood too soon.
Teen Pregnancy: Decisions, decisions and your support system
Becoming a parent, exploring adoption, or thinking about abortion are all issues of complexity for adults. Imagine having to make one of these decisions as a teen; it becomes even more frightening and complex. That was and is my reality still today. Growing up in Gary, Ind., girls like me didn’t get stimulated by schoolwork. As a matter of fact, I was an ‘A’ student. So in the midst of “kickin’ it” and doing what I viewed as no big deal, I found myself in a tight situation. Pregnant at 16.

While teen pregnancy has decreased in the past decade, the numbers haven’t dropped enough. Recent research shows that 39.1 of every 1,000 births are to that of teen mothers. Additionally, three out of 10 young women become parents before the age of 20. I became a part of that statistic several years ago when I found myself a teen mother twice by the age of 18. At that age, one should be focused on furthering their education, finding employment and gaining the tools necessary in order to function in the real world. National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month focuses on the need to continue to increase the awareness of both teens and adults during the month of May.

One of the most vital parts to increasing awareness is to offer teens real-life examples and experiences such as mine to nurture the thought process of understanding that SEX HAS CONSEQUENCES! While pregnancy is not the only risk associated with having sex, it is one that I have learned has one of the greatest impacts. Becoming a parent at 16 left me with an array of decisions to make. For starters, how would I be able to provide for myself and a child at such a young age? As a teen parent I had to learn through trial and error. One of the most important elements in being able to have a chance at successful parenting is your support system. A strong support system can better equip you in making the right decisions. At the time, I had a weak support system. My parents did very little to help me. However that lack of strength in my support system motivated me to do more to help myself and my child.

Times change the same as societal views. It’s no longer taboo to be openly sexually active. Teens are usually misinformed by friends, television, music and so on about sex or just don’t take time to acknowledge the repercussions that exist. Dealing with the decisions that arise if one becomes pregnant requires a level of maturity, so does the choice to have sex. But why create such a burden for yourself when there are so many alternatives? It is unrealistic to believe that teens aren’t having sex, hence the need to continue to promote and strengthen awareness among our teens. I lacked the maturity level, the education, and resources to effectively handle the situation. With that being said however, once it’s done, it’s done. You have little time to think of what to do and explore options. The bottom line is that the choice to engage in sex is a decision that has to be made with a level of maturity. As a teen you usually are not equipped to make the right decision. My advice to all teens is to educate, educate and, educate some more. Educate yourself and your peers. Be your own person. Never do things because your friends are doing it or out of fear of being rejected by your peers. Succumbing to peer pressure is for lames. Remember, only you will be left with the consequences. Familiarize yourself with healthy alternatives to sex. If you decide that you are ready to have sex, make sure that you educate yourself on ways to protect yourself. And in the event that you are faced with becoming a young parent, use that as tool to motivate yourself to succeed and build a better future for your child. That’s what I did. I love being a parent; it is one of the primary motivators for me becoming a better person every day. Life’s challenges and experiences help shape the individuals we become.

Don’t just increase teen pregnancy prevention in the month of May, increase awareness every day.
PhatPhat writes on her blog, phatphatmemoirs.blogspot.com, regularly and continues to learn and live each day while sharing her experiences to help us all become better people. The PhatPhat Memoirs book series will be published Fall 2012.
You can do your part to help in the cycle of teen pregnancy.

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

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Watch Part 3

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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