Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Today is the last day of 2011 and I have a list of resolutions that I've actually started on earlier this month. 2011 was very challenging. But, it was highly illuminating. I did a lot.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to try new things and know what it is I want to do and what it is I don't want to do. I realized that I no longer am interested in maintaining an online personal blog. It was fun while it lasted. It was cathartic. It really taught me a lot as well in operating on line-- from using HTML, using photos, etc. But, I think, I have lost an interest in the oversharing blogging requires sometimes. I think I want to focus on writing some books, too.

My website at will remain up and running, of course, to attract clients and document my appearances and work. But, this blog will no longer be updated.

I thank you all who have visited my blog, left comments, retweeted my blog on Twitter, etc. There are tons of blogs online, and you taking the time to read mine has meant a lot.

I hope your 2012 totally rocks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving: Giving and Learning

Happy Thanksgiving. I work at Northern Virginia Community College and in October, I had assigned my class the assignment of making a commercial or PSA about something they are passionate about. The students were in groups of about five and were to create a video to screen in the class. This group decided to begin a community service at the church across from our campus. None of these students had volunteered before and the community service-- giving food to people who are not homeless, but struggling financially, really touched them. They told the class how the people were just like all of us and were "normal", not the stereotype we have of people who are poor and hungry. Thought I'd share their experience.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Infinite. A Poem for Troy Davis

Somehow, I can't fall back into my every day routine without my mind creeping back to the horror of this past Wednesday. I listened on the radio as somehow was executed. That reality haunts me, that we've come to this in our history. That we listen to people being unjustly killed. That radio programs and tv shows count ratings as folks crowd in to stay aware of someone's murder. Wow.

Troy Davis' execution was so highly traumatic for me. I will admit that I never openly condemned the death penalty, but, it isn't because I don't disagree with it. My opinion and advocacy has always been around addressing the corrupt legal system first. A legal system that disproportionately imprisons black people and enforces policy borne through slavery is not something our country should be upholding. Troy Davis' case, infused with all types of inaccuracies, questionable doubt and inconsistencies deserved a fair trial and that never happened. Not only should he not been executed, he should, most likely, not even have been imprisoned.

That's why when folks bring up the executions of other people who have been executed since Davis' death, I can honestly say that I'm not there yet. My issue isn't the death penalty simply, and its morally wrong existence. I am dismayed with our entire justice system, focused on how to assist in its dismantling and rebirth.

A poem for Troy Davis

Bits of information about his life floated like ripped pieces of gossamer
along the wind tunnel formed between mouths and fingers on keyboards,
tap, tap, tapping his name out in full standing

Troy Anthony Davis

lived. unevenly in the minds of those outside
composed from a collage of recanted testimonies, dusty memories and clipped quotes,
he breathed but for a moment on the outside his prison, slowly pieced together,
glued incohesively together from tears, pleas and acknowledgements on his behalf.
His name tethered to the emblem of injustice. Red, white and blue. Stars falling.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Didn't Hear About Troy Davis Before Yesterday? Get Over Yourself.

The tears, avid attention to the Democracy Now! broadcast and twitter sparring last night in the name of Troy Davis didn't stop the man from being executed at 11:08pm Wednesday evening. The hashtag #TroyDavis didn't wield powers to unlatch him from the gurney he lay to await word on whether he was going to be killed or not when his execution, originally set for 7pm was halted. Carefully explaining the details of his court case and his dire situation to my 8 year-old last night after she asked me why I was sad and angry both at once didn't somehow make everything magically turn-out to end on a happy note either. I mean, after all, it was just a day. Building awareness and changing people's minds about something as singularly significant as saving a man's life isn't supposed to happen in a day, right?

If you read any of the posts on social media tweets and Facebook posts, you'll likely hear the refrain that "Who was Troy Davis" or "Why ya'll only talking 'bout him now right before he dies." Every single one of these posts pissed me off, simply because, in this man's final hours, fools were frantically trying to rate his importance based on whether they had heard about him before. For, if they didn't know who he was, then he can't be that big of a deal, right? Wrong. Get over yourself.

Troy Davis hadn't been an item of importance for just a day. While many in the Twitter world had only heard of him yesterday, those on the front lines, paying attention to the emails from desperate relatives, the obscure online postings from frantic loved ones of the incarcerated and the like knew of Troy's story and the many others like him who are falsely accused, imprisoned or punished in extreme ways for simple infractions that don't usually warrant imprisonment.

We knew that Troy Davis' sister Martina has been on the front lines battling for her brother for years. Personally, I've received emails, seen Facebook posts and been in the loop since at least 2008 regarding his case and the others like him. I participated in a rally last year for two sisters incarcerated and doing hard time for a $16 crime and Troy Davis' name came up often and importantly with those there well aware of who he was. I've prayed and fellowshipped in groups rallying around him and shared what I've known with others who would be most likely to receive it and pass it on.

And, that's what I do. That's what the folks I follow online and typically hang with do, too. People like Sista Marpessa, a revolutionary who has mobilized movements online to protest and rally support offline and who I met while covering a story about the Scott sisters. People like the remarkable poet/rapper Spoken Word out of Virginia who is always on the frontlines whether to lend her talents to events that raise awareness about those issues most affecting people of color. Or, groups like One Common Unity that operate by a mission to gather and present programming that is always intended to educate, build awareness and infuse the arts into the common space.

My point is, is that Troy Davis' story wasn't an overnight media blitz that just came out of nowhere. People choosing alternative media options, and staying connected to groups and individuals who care about social justice issues makes a world of difference about what you hear about. If you are relying on the mainstream media to choose for you what is worth paying attention to, then you will forever be out of the loop and continuing to be reactionary to things that only come out and in your radar when the media decides it wants to boost its ratings. So, my simple advice is, you may want to get new friends or change the patterns in which you receive news. Because, if not, you may very well be in the dark when the next important movement hits, because, chances are, if it's something relevant and really important to the masses, it most likely won't be first seen on MTV.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill O'Reilly, Soybeans & Breastfeeding, Oh My!

My baby Khari in 2004

In light of Bill O'Reilly's recent words of stupidity (really, when ISN'T he spouting inflammatory dumbness?) about breastfeeding and how it will cost the government a fortune once breastfeeding pumps are covered by government subsidy, I thought it would make sense to revisit my blogging advocacy regarding breastfeeding. I actually started blogging in 2005 on about being a breastfeeding mom and have had essays featured on and other sites early on sharing my own breastfeeding story. I nursed my daughter until she was three years-old and I believe wholeheartedly that nursing her from birth has positively impacted her immune system.

On the website, you will find the common facts that we all hear about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. Among them are:
  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
  • As a result, breastfed infants grow exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
  • Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
  • Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.
Lips Sealed About Breastfeeding
Maybe it's because breasts have become such a sexualized subject, it's hard to talk about them in connection to babies. Maybe we've chosen collective amnesia given our slave history as nurse maids. Whatever it is, within our community we DON'T talk on a regular basis about the significance of breastfeeding and the long-term ramifications that occur when other means of feeding our babies are given precedence over nursing from the breast. Consumed with the here and now and thinking that the issue of breastfeeding is only significant when a child is a baby, more and more information is pointing to the fact that behavior issues and ailments in adolescence and adulthood stem from the "first foods" fed to a person when they were a newborn.

For many children in the African-American community, that first food is less-likely to be  breastmilk, yet, the statistics are improving a bit. According to the CDC:

  • Breastfeeding rates increased significantly among non-Hispanic black women from 36% in 1993-1994 to 65% in 2005-2006.
  • Breastfeeding rates in 1999-2006 were significantly higher among those with higher income (74%) compared with those who had lower income (57%).
  • Breastfeeding rates among mothers 30 years and older were significantly higher than those of younger mothers.
These rates are the highest recorded since national breastfeeding data have been collected. However, disparities remain between Black women and women of other racial and ethnic groups. With support groups like La Leche and web sites like cropping up everywhere with tons of information on the topic, what is the root of this disparity?  It can't be from lack of information on the benefits. Perhaps its the lack of information on the effects of using formula.

According to the statistic above, if a little over half of African-American women who gave birth in US hospitals in 2001 were breastfeeding, than almost half were feeding their babies formulas. With new studies showing that black children in larger numbers, when compared to children of other ethnicities, develop some type of intolerance to cow's milk, the formula of choice is often a soy alternative that can be brought as easily as its milk counterpart. I fed my daughter Khari soy formula in tandem with breastfeeding when she began daycare and when my expressed milk was not abundant enough to sustain her through the day. How safe is the soy alternative?

 Soy Milk Even More Deadly?
Two studies by University of Illinois food science and human nutrition professor Sharon Donovan show that the soy isoflavone genistein, in amounts present in commercial soy infant formulas, may inhibit intestinal cell growth in babies. In the first study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2004, Donovan treated intestinal cells in culture with genistein in the amount present in soy infant formula and found that the cells "basically stopped proliferating." The intestine-- which aids the body in disposing of toxins and waste in the system-- is adversely affected when babies are fed soy formula.

Dr. Francis Crinella, clinical professor of pediatrics at UC-Irvine, and Trinh Tran, a graduate researcher at the UC-Davis Department of Animal Studies, have described how the soybean plant lifts up manganese in the soil and concentrates it so that its use in soy-based infant formula can result in as many as 200 times the levels found in breastmilk.

These and other experts believe that such high concentrations could pose a threat to the immature metabolic systems of babies up to 6 months of age.


The size of the market for soy-based infant formula is held very closely, yet an independent expert estimates the market for all infant formula to be about $3 billion, with soy-based formula accounting for about $750 million of that, having doubled in the last 10 years.

"The brain undergoes a tremendous proliferation of neutrons, dentrites and synapses during the first months of life," Crinella says. "The brain especially is vulnerable in early life precisely because such rampant growth is taking place, and at that time intrusions by potentially toxic substances like manganese perturbing the emerging neural organization can exert long-term effects. Manganese ingested during a period of rapid brain growth and deposited in the critical basal ganglia region may affect behavior during puberty when powerful stresses are un- leashed on the dopamine neurons, and altered behavioral patterns appear."

These altered behavioral patterns during late childhood and early adolescence, according to Crinella, may be diagnosed as hyperactivity with attentional deficit - or perhaps as "manganese-toxicity syndrome."

Everett Hodges, founder of the Violence Research Foundation, thinks Crinella's case is overwhelming. "Criminals ages 16 and 17 years old today, some of them born to poor mothers between 1983 and 1984, could have received from the government soy formula with enough manganese to disrupt growing brains,  and this may be why adolescents have difficulty restraining aggressive impulses now."

With African-American youth-- namely boys-- being at the top of the list when diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities and a whole host of other "special needs" that often lead to them being kicked out of school or pigeon-holed into special education classes, this news is alarming.

Dr. Stanley van den Noort, a member of the foundation's board, is former dean of the UC-Irvine College of Medicine. He says, "I think the data presented at the conference are convincing that manganese is a neurotoxin. Newborn infants exposed to high levels of manganese may be predisposed to neurological problems. We should exercise strong caution in the use of soy-based formula around the world."

Naomi Baumslag, clinical professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical College and president of the Woman's Public Health Network, says, "Only 50 percent of newborns today suckle at the mother's breast even once. After six months, the number has fallen to only one mother in five. Often mothers for the sake of convenience plunk soy bottles into the infant's mouth. Why do so many mothers in the United States imagine they have given birth to a baby soybean instead of a human child?"

Baumslag goes further: " There is a great deal of scientific evidence that soy formula can be damaging to newborns, quite aside from the manganese."

She says a tablespoon of soy formula can be dangerous both for what it does not have and for what it has.
That spoonful may be deficient in linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, DHA-brain-growth factor, epidermal growth factor, lactoferrin, casomorphin and immune factors such as IgA, neutrophils, macrophages, T-cells, B-cells and interferon - all provided by the mother in breast milk to defend her baby.

And this information regarding soy just adds to the information already out there on milk-based formulas. For over twenty years, a war has been waged between advocates for breastfeeding and those in the formula industry who peddle their product as being the best things for babies, a close second to breastmilk. In 1981, aides to the World Health Organization resigned when the formula industry began to spread their campaign promoting formula to third world countries that revere the practice of breastfeeding out of tradition, economic necessity and common sense (see article at:

You Are What You Eat

Often accused of being a conspiracy theorist, I pass this information on intentionally and with forthright honesty. I do believe that it is a conspiracy but not necessarily one that is aimed solely at our community. I believe that how we feed our children has become as commercialized as everything else we do-- from how we attend school to what types of homes we buy. In order to stay atop of the information machine without being passively led to believe that your choice is indeed your best choice possible, you must consider all of the evidence before you. Look at the big picture of how black children are currently faring physically, mentally and behavior-wise and consider how we can turn things around with how we first begin to feed our children, growing them on the breast.


Check out the following resources to read up more on the topic:


  1. A Well-Kept Secret- Breastfeeding's Benefits to Mothers (Copyright © LLLI) - This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the mother. It includes information on physiologic effects and long-term benefits.
  2. Benefits of Breastfeeding ( Copyright © Linkages Project) - This fact sheet briefly describes the different health benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and babies.
  3. Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) - This booklet explains the health and emotional benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and children. It also gives information on the environmental and economic benefits of breastfeeding.
  4. Federal resource  Breast Milk - This publication contains information on breast milk. It explains why it is better than cow milk, how breast milk is produced, how to establish, maintain or increase your milk supply, and how to store it.
  5. Breast-feeding and Bottle-feeding (Copyright © Kids Health) - This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding, the pros and cons of bottle-feeding, instructions on how to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, as well as answers to common breastfeeding questions.
  6. Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses? (Copyright © LLLI) - This publication contains information on how breastfeeding can prevent some illnesses in your baby.
  7. Federal resource  Close to the Heart: Breastfeeding Our Children, Honoring Our Values - This publication contains information on why breastfeeding is important, benefits of breastfeeding, and how breastfeeding is a value held by Native American women.
  8. Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) - This publication explains the medical and economic costs of not breastfeeding, and it has information on the non-medical costs of artificial feeding.
  9. Federal resource  Feeding Baby with Breast Milk or Formula - This brochure helps parents decide on the way to feed their baby. Breastfeeding is the best, but if it's not possible, there are helpful tips for using formula.
  10. Feeding Your Newborn (Copyright © Kids Health) - This publication contains information on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, the advantages of breastfeeding, limitations of both, and possible challenges.
  11. Got Mom... (Copyright © ACNM) - was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives to provide breastfeeding information and resources for mothers and families. It contains information on why breast milk is best, dispels common misunderstandings about breastfeeding, and it provides a list of resources that can help women and families with breastfeeding, information for employers, and links to the latest research findings.
  12. Mama's Baby: Happy, Healthy and Breastfed (Copyright © Black Women's Health Imperative) - This site encourages women to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. It also addresses the barriers to breastfeeding that women often face and gives tips for overcoming these barriers and having a successful breastfeeding relationship.
  13. The Comprehensive Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © ACNM) - This publication lists the beneficial effects that breastfeeding has on mothers, babies, and society.
  14. What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding my Toddler? (Copyright © 2006 La Leche League International) - This publication describes how breastfeeding your toddler can help their ability to mature and their understanding of discipline as well as provide protection from illness and allergies.


  1. African-American Breastfeeding Alliance

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics

  3. American College of Nurse-Midwives

  4. Breastfeeding Basics

  5. Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre

  6. International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)

  7. Kids Health

  8. La Leche League International

  9. Linkages Project

  10. Federal resource  Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA, HHS

  11. Federal resource  National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, MCHB, HRSA, HHS

  12. National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

  13. Federal resource  National Women's Health Information Center, OWH, HHS

  14. Federal resource  Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, (WIC) USDA

  15. United Nations Children's Fund

  16. World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action
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