Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How I Loved Teena Marie

So two days ago I found out that singer Teena Marie died and my world was just devastated. I think I may be more harshly affected by her passing then when MJ died, mainly because she inspired me so much as an artist. She was a songwriter, an incredible vocalist and was a very strong woman on top of all of that.

There are so many things she accomplished that I don't even think people associate with her. She is the recording artist who brought to creation the law that record companies can't bind an artist by contract and not put out any of their music after she sued Motown when she was on their label early in her career. Of course, she is one of the only white women to have longevity as an R & B and soul singer and to be so fully embraced culturally. I think that is significant given how race and class obsessed we are as a culture.

Teena Marie snagged me as a fan as early as I can remember. I remember being 6 years-old and grooving to her duets with Rick James and listening to the gossip of the grown-ups who were shocked that this petite white woman was (a) the very same person who grooved us with "Lovergirl" and "Square Biz" and (b) gave such freaky live shows when she performed onstage with Rick James. My kiddie ears were fascinated to eavesdrop on grown folks talking about how she and Rick James would do "Fire and Desire" with such sexual intensity that it was plain to see the passion between them. When I was in college, when my cassette tapes were becoming outdated and I had to switch over to CDs and a CD player, her greatest hits CDs were among my first CD purchases. "Dear Lover", "Out on a Limb", "Portugese Love", "Oh La La La", "If I Was a Bell" and "Square Biz" were played endlessly. "Deja Vu" changed my spiritual beliefs. No lie. When her self-distributed CD Warm As Momma's Oven came out the year after I graduated from college, I played it relentlessly. That is my favorite CD, from start to finish from her. My spouse is the only man I've dated who loved Teena Marie as much as I do. I told him that before her death and teased that that is probably what made me adore him as I do. He is familiar with even more of her hidden gems than I am.

I wrote about her album Ivory this past month, as the album turns 20 years-old this year and I learned even more about her strength. She produced that entire album while also playing many of the instruments, arranging the music, and, of, course, singing all of the songs. She was amazing. She always reminded me of my mother somehow, too, which I think added to my love for her in general. Short framed and sassy like my mother, appearing to look one way but undeniably born from Black culture in consciousness and tastes, she and my mother share similar attributes that I think made her really familiar to me. I will never ever get over how incredibly hyped I was when she tweeted me last month after I shared my SoulBounce piece on her album Ivory and mentioned how much me and my family are groupies of hers.

I can go on and on with why I loved her so. I am so sad she has transitioned, maybe selfishly so, because I'll never meet her in person, but inwardly, I know that death is not the end, but a new beginning. As Lenny Kravitz said in a YouTube share when he heard the news of her passing, "Thank God for Teena Marie".

Monday, December 27, 2010

Spirits of Christmas

the MJ glove that comes with the Michael Jackson Experience Wii game

A remarkable thing happened. I managed to have an incredible Christmas holiday with my sister, daughter and her dad despite the craziness going on in our world right now. To even begin with the craziness, I would have to start with before Christmas.

On Thursday, may great-aunt died. My mother got the news in the  harshest way possible-- via voicemail in a message that said "Kaye, I'm calling to tell you your Auntie is dead."

No lie.

While the news was shared in such a harsh manner, the details of her death-- finding out she had cancer and no one in the family had shared that with us prior to her passing, was even worse. Finding the meaning in it all has been my challenge ever since.

But the Christmas spirit was not to be thwarted on our house. My spouse has the Christmas spirit all up, through and around him. He is Christmas spirit incarnate. While typically laid-back and unassuming, my partner becomes an entirely different person around Christmas time. I imagine him to have the spirit that the legend of Santa Claus is based on, where generosity and kindness just abound in large doses. He decorates our house each year and basically takes the helm with gift purchasing, wrapping and distribution. He finds the best soulful Christmas music and turns our home each year into a virtual Christmas wonderland of coziness. Without his energy this season, I don't know what I would do, because this time of year always drains me.

Our Christmas was delightful. While gift-giving was at a minimum this year, we still shared gifts that we thought the other needed and would love. On top of that, I was able to spend time with my second youngest sister on Christmas, just she and I, for dinner, as she stayed home as she recovered from illness. I was truly blessed on Christmas.

Today, the day after Christmas, was perfect, also. I can say this honestly, even though it decided to snow and I dislike snow greatly. But, waking up about thirty minutes ago to learn that one of my all-time favorite singers, Teena Marie, had just passed in her sleep was devastating to learn.

I am going to post something later about her. Right now, I'm just reeling. So much is going on.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Preparing for the Myth of Giving

This Christmas is probably my hardest financially since I became a Mommy. My pockets are very empty and I haven't bought even one gift yet. May buy some for my daughter next week, but they will be things like clothes (her belly is starting to look like Winnie the Pooh's in her uniforms and weekend clothes as she gets taller and the clothes get smaller) and art supplies for her to draw. She sneaks into my office and nabs my printer paper and I have no idea how to discourage that without sqeulching her love to draw. We've bought easels, given her notebooks and drawing journals, but she always takes my dang printer paper. So, that just might be what winds up in her stocking this year. We'll see. I want, most of all, to take her on a community service activity or something the day of Christmas or day before. I've wanted to do that every year since she turned 3, but something always came up that I did instead. I regret that a lot, because I think it's denied her the opportunity to grow with a sense of empathy for those who aren't as well off as she is. You can't teach empathy. Not in a conventional sense at least. Empathy is born from giving and service.

We've done good with immersing her into the arts, honing her cultural side. I can say that, at least. I took her with me on Friday to perform at the Hillyer Art Space and I am really glad I did. Since she is a visual artist and the reading took place in a gallery, there was visual art everywhere. The owner of the gallery was so taken with the fact that she was there (she is often the only child at the events I perform at), that he took us on a tour of the Hillyer building, viewing art donated by the man who owned Hechinger Mall. All the art depicted tools or contained a tool in its make-up (i.e. one sculpture was made of paintbrushes that were painted and decorated).

Here are some of the pictures we got. Or, rather, I got. She was supposed to take photos of me performing, but, instead, she was taking self-portraits of herself and videotaping the wall.

My self-portrait taken while in the bathroom. The only one of me taken that night. (sigh)

Self-portrait by Khari. I call it "Mommy's poems were boring the hell outta me"

Fred Joiner, the host of Hillyer Art Space's HOME series. He is awesome.

Khari gets the tour of Hillyer as well as a gift of an art book. She slept with it that night.

Second Khari self-portrait.I call it "Mommy thought I was going to take a picture of her, but, I can't see her from my seat and she told me to stay seated. So..."

Totally awesome sculpture made of paper mache

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow Be Damned, The Show Must Go On

So, yesterday, it snowed. I absolutely dislike everything about snow. It's cold. It's get dirty quickly. It can turn to dangerous ice. It covers up stuff. It signifies that Fall is over. And, I love Fall. Snow sucks. Yes, I am poking my lip out like a petulant child as I write this.

I tweeted yesterday my disdain for snow and how I don't understand it's purpose and one of my Twitter friends informed my ignorant self that snow helps the earth rejuvenate itself. Well, my thing is why is it necessary, I mean, places like Southern Cali and Florida seem to do alright without that type of rejuvenation. I guess I could move though, really if I hate it that much. I guess I'm just lazy.

But snow still sucks.

So, schools were released early and since I am the family chauffeur and pick up my spouse from work, I begged him to come home early on Metro so I wouldn't have to drive far to get him. He nicely agreed though I know he was annoyed. He doesn't get my fear of driving in snow. All I can say is is that I hit a parked car in a snow storm once, as I was parking the car, determined to not drive and instead walk to my destination.
As I was paralleling parking, BOOM, my car slid into the car in front of me. I had been driving for a week legally when this happened. I haven't been right since.

Inclement weather makes me nervous when driving. After my daughter came home on her bus yesterday--which got stuck on a hill in the snow-- she and I got in the car to get her dad and the roads were awful. Folks were literally driving  5 miles an hour. I was good until I neared the station to pick him up. The car swerved and slid on slush and ice and my stomach dropped. Thankfully, no one was beside me on the road or an accident would have happened. When I picked him up, I told him that we were staying in the rest of the week. He just laughed and patted my arm like you do to people who are slightly off.

So, today, I was pleased to notice that most of the snow had melted. I had taken a picture yesterday of the snow on the fence dividing our yard from our neighbor's and realized that while I can't stand snow, it does make some things look better. The fence, which is in tatters, actually looked rustic or something like that with the snow on it. I posted the photo on Fox 5's Facebook just as something to do (they were telling folks to share winter photos of the snow) and they aired my photo this morning on the tv broadcast. The anchor Guivir Dhindsa jacked my name up, but that didn't stop people from emailing me about how they saw my photo on the news.  Here it is. Not much to it, but *shrugs* eh. I'm just happy the snow covered up the leaves we were too lazy to rake up. Now we have to find out who owns that fence so whoever owns it can replace it once the snow melts.
So, I type this as my spouse and daughter have taken the car to do some last-minute Christmas shopping at a mall in Virginia that I think is entirely too far to be driving to in this weather. So, they left my scaredy -pants butt home. No problem. I have to do some last minute touch-ups to my poem I wrote yesterday that I'm including in my reading tonight at Hillyer Art Space. Hope you can make it if you're in the area! Here's the flyer:
And yes, I will be there even if it snows. I'll get a ride if I have to. Snow be damned:-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Birthday Weekend Highlights & What's UpThis Week

My sweetie took me to see FELA the musical in New York on my birthday this past Saturday and I had a ball. The play was simply amazing. As a playwright, my dream, of course, is to have at least one of my plays make it to Broadway in my lifetime, but even if FELA wasn't on Broadway, it would be a play to see. Good lord this play was phenomenal. The actor Kevin Mambo is worthy of a gazillion awards for his portrayal of Fela Kuti. I've watched documentaries and old footage of Fela performing and speaking and Mambo had it down pat. Phenomenal actor. Fela Kuti was such a character that his life amazes me on so many levels. Here you have a polygamist who said at one point that having more than one wife made sense because if you're married, you're going to sleep around, so you might as well just bring all the women in the house! He said that. And, he married 27 women. But, then, he created Afrobeat and was such a strong leader, almost fearless, you can't just think one way about him. He was an incredible figure and so worthy of a play in his honor.

We took the bus to see the play and the rain didn't come during the day as was forecasted, so we stayed dry and was able to enjoy a bit of NY before heading back home. Didn't take my 7 year-old, and she was amazingly well-behaved regarding the fact that she wasn't coming with us to her favorite city. My baby is growing up! She actually called me from her grandparents house to wish me happy birthday and told me to have a good time in New York. You don't understand how major that is. (This kid is a NYC groupie).

Before we caught the bus, we stopped at 7-eleven to get some bottled juice and picked up some chicken wings. Yes, we were in line for Fela eating chicken wings. (And, they were damn good, too).

Show This Week

This Friday I will be at Hillyer Art Space as part of the HOME series, hosted by DC poet Fred Joiner. I'm excited! Will be reading and performing a mix of my written work and there is an open mic that follows. Hope you can make it! Visit my website at for details.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reflecting on My Birthday Eve

Me @ 16

So, today is my birthday eve. Yup, tomorrow, December 11 is my birthday and I'll be 37. When I see that number, its slightly surreal to realize that it corresponds with how long I've been on this planet. I've been alive more than thirty years. That sounds like I should be a lot more experienced with this life thing and getting "it"-- whatever that may be-- right a lot better than I feel like I am, but when I start thinking like that, I realize I may be chastising myself a little too much. I mean this country is way older than 30 years and there are so many glaring areas in which it hasn't gotten better, or equitable or truly diverse where it counts, so it brings me back down to earth, realizing that age is really all but a number. But, damn. 37 is a pretty big number.

When I was 16, I was so sure that by 21 I was going to be a successful actress, screenwriter, author, singer and business owner that you couldn't have told me otherwise. At that time, my idealism is what mobilized me to go to college and believe that I had more control over my choices then I did. I mean, even upon graduation at 21 with a degree in a liberal arts field, I was optimistic, even when I didn't have plan the first in place. I guess that's around when I started making plans and lists and learning that goals were met by a lot more structure than just wishing them so.
Me @ 20 in college

I started graduate school at 21 at Towson University (when it still had "state" in its name then) and got an assistantship position with the Student Activities office managing a campus venue, a staff of students and 10pm-2am parties on campus. I worked under a woman named Marcie Ermer who will forever be the first work mentor who I ever had who largely created the business oriented woman that I am today. She was so organized and professional but always empathetic. She was great at creating systems and watching her and modeling her work patterns taught me the importance of structure. What I learned in that unassuming position is what I've applied in every job situation I've had in the fifteen years since that I feel has made me successful and made my work replicable which is important.
Liberate Your Muse Card I made last year

As a literary and performance artist who is also a producer, knowing how to navigate and create systems has been invaluable in sharing and monetizing my work. It has also been helpful in reaching many of the goals I set for myself at 16. While I haven't done a screenplay yet, I've written many stage plays and produced two of them as executive producer and director. I've authored work and acted and sing regularly, so those goals were met, too. But what I've done also, that I couldn't have fathomed at 16 is that I've created a meaningful space for me in the world of work based on my integrated skills. Meaning, I'm not just a singer or a writer or a business woman, I'm all of that. I have found value in what my gifts are and have been lucky to be a fit for positions that interest me because my skills are well-rounded.

On this birthday eve, all of this reflection will surely impact the lessons that I share with my 7 year-old. While she currently declares that she will be the first successful artist/vetinarian who will run an art school for pets, I will be in the wings ready to support her if and when that dream changes or if she just needs a mentor who can model for her how its possible to transform wishes, dreams and hopes into reality.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sending Her Into Chaos

2010 will not be missed when it's over. This year, for real, has been incredibly hard on so many levels. While I am so proud of a lot that took place over the year-- my play debuted in the Fringe fest, I had some incredible contract work and opportunities to meet artists in other states-- the tough times have been abundant. What has really been a challenge just in the last four months has been my daughter's start in a public school.

While I've written past blog posts talking about instances at her school that have been of concern, nothing compares to last month's situation that stemmed from a parent-teacher meeting we had with the teacher. Needless to say, it wasn't good. At all. The teacher didn't have a gradebook with her, didn't have Khari's portfolio with her to speak from and was literally chatting and shooting the breeze it felt, unable to convey any info of substance about our daughter's progress. A red flag for us also was when we discussed with her a situation Khari had alerted us about where a boy had been kicking and messing with her and the teacher pulls out a note of help that Khari had written her that she didn't show the counselor or really respond to. We wrote a letter that day to the principal, requesting a meeting, indicating that we were not sending her to school until we met with the principal. Let's just say that we had to go to the area superintendent before a meeting was scheduled at the school and then it was with the Vice Principal and a pupil personnel worker that they had brought in because, at this point, Khari had been home nine days because they had not met our request for a meeting and we felt it was a matter of safety sending her to school and we hadn't met with an administrator yet.

We had the meeting and the Vice Principal appeared very accomodating and willing to remedy the situation, but we learn today that our daughter will be penalized and given a zero for the time she was out, even though I had requested the classwork during the week and the request was not met. The teacher sent the classwork home last week in a stack, giving the impression that if Khari does it then she would have made up the work, only to inform us today that she will be given a 0 for the work and she sent it home just as a study guide.

What is wrong with this picture? A lot.

I sent a message to the Vice Principal via email citing student code of conduct indicating that she has the authority to make Khari's absence lawful and allow her to make up the work. We are waiting to see if she makes that decision. But, I question the integrity of a school staff that makes that even an issue. Advocating for your child basically means rubbing school staff the wrong way which will, ultimately, harm the academic success of your child. I live in Prince George's County, Maryland and this is the caliber of schooling that is being offered. When we made the decision to try PG County Schools, it was after a hard decision of taking her out of the private school she was in that, honestly, was not that much better in terms of instruction quality, though the small classroom size was ideal. PG County Schools are the worst in the state of Maryland and given our experience so far, it is by no means surprising. When you have teachers who don't take their jobs seriously, administrators who support said teachers and have limited skills in customer service and handling conflict, you have chaos. I feel like I am sending my daughter into chaos each time I send her to school. Pray for us.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankfulness Continues after Our Nation-Sanctioned & Societally Supported Shout-Day

My cutie on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was last Thursday and I'm still basking in its glow. This year was really special for me. My brother wasn't with us, but, thankfully, he wasn't overseas in the war this time. He is in North Carolina with his wife who is expecting their first child. I am so happy for them both and thrilled to know that my brother is safe. I pray each day that he is not sent overseas. My youngest sister is in Mexico, studying a semester there for her minor in Spanish.  So, she was absent as well, so, my daughter, her dad and I spent Thanksgiving with my mom, two sisters, nephew and second cousins.
My honey & my nephew as we played charades
Some of the Whole Foods lemon cake I didn't have room to eat

The easy atmosphere was new to find and it was refreshing. Though I did miss the opportunity to make a turkey this year (check out the photos from last year, remember my bird?) being with my family was so very nice.

My mother and I have been spending a lot of time together lately, more than we have in years, and it has been so rewarding. We've been providing each other support through difficult challenges that we both are going through and it has been so beautiful to have our relationship flourish. Those with rocky mom relationships know what I'm talking about. I think the space I'm in now is a good one to do my thankful list that I do annually year (check out last year's). Here goes:

1. I am thankful for my indomitable spirit. "Thank you spirit for giving the strength to keep getting up."
2. I am thankful for my flexible health. "I will continue to listen to my body as it speaks and shares its needs."
3. I am thankful for my shelter. "In this day of hardship and struggle thank you spirit for providing abundance."
4. I am thankful for imagination. "Thank you spirit for continuing to speak your stories & joy through my soul."
5. I am thankful for my family unit. "Many thanks for allowing me to see the people here for me to meet, know and grow with."

On another note, I would like to thank those who actually read this blog and would like to ask your support in coming out to at least one or two of my upcoming events in the next few months. All of them are so very diverse. From readings of my poetry, to a writing workshop to a staged reading of my play, I have some great things in store. You can visit my website calendar here for details.

Oh, and did you see this?

Well, it's my first chapbook called Revisionist Tale. Yes. Crazy how I've edited an anthology, scripted plays and authored numerous short stories but had yet to put out my own chapbook of poetry. Putting this together myself was so cathartic and enjoyable. It reminded me when I was little and used to staple two sheets of construction paper on top of a stack of white paper and make my own books and declare I was going to be a writer. I see my daughter do that now--making her art books and magazines this way and I beam with pride knowing that her dream is going to become true like mine did. This collection is a collection that represents the very dimensional shadings of my life as a mother, woman, Black person, writer, spouse, leader, daughter, sister, etc. I chose the photo you see for the cover because I think the black and white almost serene look of it is a bit misleading as is some of the life options we have at our disposals at time. My mom took that picture on a photo shoot she did with me the year before my daughter was born.

This chapbook contains poems just from the last seven or so years that have appeared in publications and performances from the last few years (and some that haven't) and a few ten sentence short stories featured in the newly released book Pen 10 Scribes, edited by Rhonda Smolarek. Selling it for $7. So, if you picked up a copy, you would be supporting independent artists! Thanks in advance in your support.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jay-Z & Tyler Perry--More In Common Than Realized

You know I thug 'em, fuck 'em, love 'em, leave 'em
Cause I don't fuckin' need 'em
Take 'em out the hood
Keep 'em looking good
But I don't fuckin' feed em
First time they fuss I'm breezin'
Talking 'bout what's the reasons
I'm a pimp in every sense of the word, bitch
Better trust and believe 'em
In a cut where I keep 'em
'Til I need a nut
'Til I need to be (in) the guts
The it's beep-beep and I'm pickin 'em up
Let 'em play with the dick in the truck
Many chicks wanna put Jigga fist incuffs
Divorce him and split his bucks
Just because you got good head
I'mma break bread
So you can be livin' it up
Shit I part's wit nothin
Y'all be frontin'
Me give my heart to a woman
Not for nothin' never happen'
I'll be forever mackin'
Heart cold as assassins, I got no passion
I got no patience and I hate waitin'
Hoe get your ass in


The offending litany of  words that I've posted above is from Jay-Z's classic song "Big Pimpin" that was way popular in the late 90's when it came out. I remember this song clearly. I was in my early to mid 20's, about to finish graduate school (I got my MA in 2000) and was a Resident Director at an urban university in Baltimore. Childless, I was already, by this time, fairly done with the radio, always pissed that when I turned it on, there was, yet another song that offended my sensibilities as a self-loving female. The song above was one of the top sellers when it came out so that meant it was played on the radio at least 100 times a day. And, even though the radio and video versions had most of the profanity bleeped out, you still had a clue what was being said. Despite its infectious beats and Jay-Z's mesmerizing vocals (yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic), I managed to avoid becoming a slave to rhythm and allowing it to marinate in my airwaves. I turned it off whenever I had the power of the dial. But, my early censoring of Jay-Z is really not the point or topic of this post. My point in even reminiscing about the song came up after reading an interview in which Jay-Z regretted the words he used in the song "Big Pimpin" after he was taking a look back at the lyrics of some of his past successful albums. Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal interview:

WSJ: You're famous for not writing your lyrics down as you compose them. What changes about them when you see them on the page like this?
Jay-Z: Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not "Big Pimpin." That's the exception. It was like, I can't believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.

Harsh? Huh, to say the least. But, I guess, one can say that Jay-Z was feeding into what was the norm and has continued to be the norm of much of music on urban radio. If a woman is not defiled by being called every negative name one can imagine, then the song becomes an ode to the great sex she provides or how great her ass looks in the club while she's dancing. But, my attitude towards Jay-Z with this admission that he is bothered by his own lyrics when looking back is one of anger when I think of how much he has capitalized off of the music that contains lyrics and sentiment such as this.

It's all great and well Jay-Z that you NOW realize that the lyrics were terrible and offensive, but look at the money, attention and fame that you've garnered from such sentiment. Look at all the mini pimps you validated by this type of song and how in record time, you popularized the word pimp as being something not just boys, but little girls, aspired to be in their own little sphere of the world.

You did all that Jay-Z, I would shout if he were in front of me. But then, of course, I would step off of my soap box and realize that it's necessary to put a pause on it for a second.

For, yes, while Jay-Z has amassed an incredible fortune, one that makes him worthy enough in the first place to be interviewed by Wall Street Journal, he didn't do that by praying for pennies and nickels to drop from the sky. He had an audience to support him, pay for his music and support his musical agenda to become the legendary rapper that he is. There are men AND women who have been willing to look past his lyrics and focus on other things that impress them-- from his uncanny freestyle flow to his clever use of language that has not been replicated since he's emerged onto the scene. Jay-Z could rap about hoes and bitches and 99 problems that don't entail having to be a responsible and loving partner to a woman, just as long as he looked cool and sounded cool doing. Just as long as folks emulated and wanted to be him and bought his records, then he was a win all day.

Jay-Z's fame has not been accidental. He sold us the pimp game and we bought it time and time again. And, we still buy into it, because, shoot, look where its taken him. He owns corporations, makes deals with Microsoft and,  married Beyonce.  To be real, it was probably more risky for him to admit publicly that he had a problem with his own lyrics from the song "Big Pimpin" then it was to even create, perform and promote the song in the first place. But on that same note, while Jay-Z only makes a personal remark on how animalistic ONE song of his is/was, he's not out trying to promote a peace concert, fund a school or camp for girls and self-esteem or any other thing that would appear counter-active to the misogynistic music he's flooded the market with.

So, when we look at someone like Tyler Perry, what do we see that is so different? While Perry is a filmmaker and not a rapper, an actor and not necessarily a lyricist, his past work has been viewed by some with contempt (like Jay-Z) but largely accepted, earning Perry millions at the box office. His career was born from his stage plays that revolve around the drag character Madea who is a foul-mouthed, unattractive and over -the-top stereotype of Black women. Despite cries over the offense of it all, folks be flocking to see Perry's movies. He's ousted Spike Lee as the most financially successful Black filmmaker. But, what are the films he makes? Well, it's up for debate. Some call them Jesus flicks-- a plot that exists only to have main characters talk about Jesus and how He saved them. Some call them warped depictions of Perry's own personal demons, particularly the storylines that revolve around the male abuser and docile woman victim. But, it's his latest film project For Colored Girls, based on Ntzoke Shange's 1974 choreopoem has been met with criticism, and with ire. "Stay in your lane", the most conscious and socially astute of us yell with a certain sheen of elitism on the surface, yet, the reality (and irony) is that the lane he wants to move from is the lane that is paying the most money.

Kevin Powell speaks of this regarding Tyler Perry and his production of For Colored Girls in an eye-opening way that is bound to open minds of even the most hardened critic of Perry. He writes:
That is the challenge for Mr. Tyler Perry, as "For Colored Girls" continues to make money and continues to be both debated and disparaged. That is, can Tyler Perry-or will Tyler Perry-strive and struggle to transform the one-man economy his films have manifested, and use his voice, and his power, to push the envelope to make films, Black films, that not only show the vast complexities of the Black experience in America, and on this planet, but to also be spaces, simply by virtue of the genius of the work he produces and endorses for others, that can be healing circles for as many of us as possible?

That's a perfect question that I would also direct to Jay-Z as well. As he comes out with his new book that drops next week, how much of it will share with us how he hopes to transcend and right the very negative energy he perpetuated early in his career and create healing spaces for the very people his music denigrated? Is that even a goal of his as he continues to earn big and live richly off of a legacy borne from misogny? We'll see. But, to be frank, until that happens I probably won't be supporting anything financially that he does, continuing a trend that has been ongoing since the late 90's. I'll also try my best to monitor (and control) my daughter's radio habits, making sure that music like Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin" and its abundant clones don't make it in to her airwaves. Knowing that, in all realness, though, I'm sure he could give a damn.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Choose Friends Wisely & Hide Your Food

Children who beg for your food when they see you eating (even though they had food in front of them), always irked me. Somehow, I always reasoned, they had no one around to tell them that was rude and made folks uncomfortable. I'm not talking about a hungry kid who has no food. I'm talking about the child who sees what you have and wants it for themselves even though they have something in front of them that is theirs. When my own daughter does this, I tell her she can have some after I've eaten all that I was going to eat. With typical ceremony, she pouts and then forgets and finishes what is in front of her. Recently, she started just taking my food when my back is turned. I don't like that.

"Why did you just take the last of my sandwich?"
"Because I wanted it."
"But, I did, too. It was mine. You had your sandwich that you picked out and didn't even finish it. Why would you eat the last of my food?"
"Well, Mary Joy eats my food at school. So, I was just doing it, too."

Ah ha. I knew there had to be someone, somewhere telling her that this type of behavior was acceptable. What I didn't expect was to learn that the little girl she eats lunch with eats most of her lunch during lunchtime. Of course, I wasn't thrilled about it. Upon closer investigation, I learned that my kid is most likely is a willing participant in her own bullying.

"So, does Mary Jo have food at lunch time?"
"Yes. She has food. But, she likes mine better. Oh, and her name is Mary Joy."
"Oh, ok. My bad. Does she ask for your food or just take it?"
"She usually just takes it. But, that's ok. She's my friend. She lets me be her friend if I give her my food."

Oh hell no.

So, of course, I'm floored. My 7 year-old is feeding a bully she calls a friend. Apparently, there are other girls that my daughter is grateful to be friends with because then, they won't be mean to her. So, she is willing to not only give them what they want to leave her alone and call her friend, but she hides who she is-- she doesn't sing and share a lot of herself-- so they will like her. I found that out when she told me that her friends wouldn't know what to do with me.

"What do you mean your friends wouldn't know what to do with me?"
"Well, they would probably think you were weird because you sing all the time and do different voices and stuff." She's talking about my "acting" voice.
"Um, well you sing all the time, too. You sing with me half the time. If you like you, they should like me, right?"
"Well, they don't know I sing. They make fun of people who sing."

Oh c'mon now.

So, after reading all of my damn parenting books, mentoring other kids and teaching workshops on how to advance youth development and all that jazz, you are telling me that my kid can just go to school and be bullied into being less than the star that she is? Well ain't that some malarky.

Of course, I knew this day would come, when she would be peer pressured and friend desperate and all, I mean, don't we all go through that? But, the pain of it all to watch and hear is just, well, it is just overwhelming. I mean, where do you begin? I start with telling her dad who then pulls her aside and says,

"Don't be friends with mean people."

Gee, thanks Dad.

And, so then I come next. I tell her that she shouldn't be friends with people who need to take things from her in order for them to consider her a friend. I tell her that if she doesn't think that someone will like her if she is being herself, then, they are not worthy of being her friend. But, then, she reminds me that she is a big girl. She tells me that she knows how to say no. And, she says, after all, "I probably won't be friends with them that long anyway."

Hm. I guess she gets it better than I do. I'll be waiting in the wings to shake a kid, though, if she needs me. I guess, that's what us mommies are really for anyway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Great Time at the Mosaic Literary Conference in Bronx, NY

I facilitated a workshop on how to engage youth in "Story Quilting" in 2009 at the conference

So, as I told you earlier, this past weekend was the Mosaic Literary Conference, and I was traveling to the Bronx in NY to present for the third time. I presented in both 2008 and 2009, meeting wonderful educators who work with young people. This recent visit was, by far, my most enjoyable group so far. The diversity of the participants was amazing and this time, I actually chose to forgo a powerpoint presentation to accompany my workshop and just focused on implementing the lesson activities for the group, instead of telling them about them. My session was about using plays and dialogue in novels to spark discussion that ultimately aids young people in synthesizing information and critical thinking about themes that are in the work they are reading.
In 2008, I facilitated my first workshop for the Mosaic Literary Conference, Called Re: Verse then.

The workshop participants were composed of writers L'Oreal Snell, Lora Rene Tucker, and Luis Bernard, two teachers-- one currently teaching English and one who is a former teacher, a marketing specialist, Rochelle Hill, who works for Precision Plus Communications which does community work, and two high school students who decided to take my workshop and who I didin't realize were high school students until the end of the workshop. They gave me thumbs up on the workshop and were the most participatory out of the group, letting me know that my lessons that I shared with the group were actually engaging enough to connect youth to literature. That really made my day! To learn more about the work I do as an educator, visit my other blog site, So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA). I will be posting photos from my workshop there as well as additional links and information for folks interested in implementing some of my ideas in their classroom or after-school program. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

SoulBounce Wins a 2010 Soul Train Award

This past January, I started writing as a contributing editor for the music site The SoulBounce gig was something to do to keep my arts writing skills fresh as I transitioned from my four year gig as arts columnist for the Washington DC-based East of the River newspaper (wanted to do something different-- still have love for EOR...wasn't fired, lol). I didn't realize how much of a big-deal Soulbounce was until I joined the team and within my first week, my post on Donnie Simpson leaving WPGC was picked up and linked by the Washington Post Express blog. Later, a post I did, reviewing the free Stevie Wonder concert at the Verizon Center was commented on by the owner of the Verizon center who produced the concert and other articles I've written have seen comments and incited discourse that I hadn't seen before writing mostly for print media and blogging at leisure. Also, while my articles for as the DC Community Examiner have frequent trolls and occasional posts usually written in ire, it was nice taking a break from writing news and being a music blogger for a site with dedicated regulars who like to discuss their love for new and substantive music.

I am grateful to be part of the SoulBounce team which consists of four other contributing writers and the Editor-in-Chief Kimberly "Butta" Hines and Creative Director Sary "huny" Young who co-own the site. We were notified yesterday that we won a 2010 Soul Train Award for Best Music Site (tying with the music site which comes less than three months after winning a 2010 Black Weblog Award. Now, that's awesome. Thanks to those of you who follow me on Twitter and cast a vote for SoulBounce when I announced that voting had begun. You rock! I probably won't be joining Butta and Huny in Atlanta to accept the award during next week's taping of the award show, but I will definitely be basking in the afterglow of part of the winning team. You can read my articles for SoulBounce at .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wee Women: My Take on the post by Maura Kelly for Marie Claire

Skinny as a teen, I (on the right) endured criticism when I gained weight

I read the post by Maura Kelly for Marie Claire when the controversial post hit cyberspace on this past Monday on Oct. 25. Like Maura, I had not ever seen the television show, Mike & Molly, she was making a comment about. But, I was surprised with her unrelenting diatribe that she had written against those who are obese. I mean, she not only wrote how grossed out fat people made her, she also wrote a paragraph-long how-to guide on how to eat healthy and lose weight. Yeah, as if it were only that simple.

Though I am a plus-sized performer, my shock at the post was not because I was offended, however. Instead, my surprise really stemmed from the fact that her editor allowed it to be published. From jump, it sounded like Maura was a woman who had her own weight issues. I was surprised that her editor didn't see red flags when the copy was sent to her. For a magazine that had been amassing popularity with women of all shapes, sizes and colors, it was shocking that her editor didn't see this as being risky to their target audience. I've been a writer for years now, and my editors over the years have censored edited even minute phrasings that could possibly be deemed offensive to a potential audience group. I would see this being on her personal blog. Shoot, I'm sure many folks have written stuff like this on their own personal blogs. I was just really surprised Maura Kelly's piece made it to print with such a callous tone. I think this paragraph is what pissed most people off and it went downhill from here:

So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

Folks were not having it. On Twitter, blogs and Facebook, post after post popped up to demonize Maura's post for its offending message that fat people are gross. What I think the post succeeded in showing, though, is that the people behind the scenes at magazines have opinions that have, over time, defined the media industry. Through Maura Kelly, we got a personal look at someone who is creating the opinions of what mainstream personal beauty is and, while doing so, we are met first-hand with their own personal struggles. In the later apology that Maura Kelly posted beneath her intial post, she admitted to having anorexia and all types of body issues.

UPDATE: I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either...To that point (and on a more personal level), a few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we’ve been carrying on in the comments section, I think that's an accurate insight.
 For me, this was obvious before the apology was even presented. Over the years, I've interacted with many women who have such low self-esteem that it bleeds into the way they speak about other women-- and Maura Kelly's post reeked of this positioning. This controversy, if anything, should encourage folks to stop getting their social cues, sense of self and personal choices from ideas advertised to them from fashion mags, television shows and films.  These industries would not thrive if people as a whole had a better sense of self. With great irony, my poem "Wee Women" which is featured in Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul was the poem that I performed in my recent trip to Chicago.

The poem, which you can read below,  is perfect response to the Marie Claire post which, in a whole, relegates the value of a person as a sensual being worthy of love based on their physical size. I wrote it while in my mid-20's when I was no longer slim and people had begun to make comments about my size. I didn't get it. I felt I was the same person and actually enjoyed my fuller figure. A late bloomer, it was like I had finally reached puberty. Always concerned about how women were mostly only commended for visual attributes, demure personality traits and parenting traits, I, after while, became conflicted between wanting to slim down and wanting to stay the same size to prove that my beauty is intangible. I still struggle with that now, as I gained even more weight during and after my child's birth and sedentary work positions. Ultimately, I keep at the helm the desire to have a holistic health regiment that is beneficial to me physically, mentally and spiritually.

Wee Women

Wee Women Struggling to shrink our girth
in sizes of 3 and 4
until the outside shape of our blossoming bodies
become to be
no more
We Women of stature
and majestic size
seek acceptance to be
model citizens
in our society`s stiff eyes
and in anorexic spoutings
magazines clamor day to day
to conform our images of
self and spirituality
into a slimmer
more concise way...
we are to believe that as our glorious bodies
shrink our esteem will gradually grow
but is this new psychology that is being fostered
one that only magazine editors and ad execs know?

Will our hearts and intelligence factor suddenly increase and
will we finally as women be respected as equals rightly
at least
or will our shameless
swallows of xenadrine cocktails
and obsessive calorie counting behavior
determine that we will become a motley assortment of blinded women
who inevitably need
a male saviour

regardless of our size
5`9 with heels or
petite, barely 5 feet tall
we are not truly recognized for the greatness we embody as women
at all

downsized to visual trophies
we forget Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Nzinga, and Ida B.
we scoff at Fannie Lou and Mary McLeod because Beyonce is all we see

Our minds are beginning to shrink to match our diminishing space and size
until We women flourish no more... left on to exist with downcast eyes
(and Wee Women take over with jubilant stares and, of course, a pair of slimmer thighs...what our destiny shall be
shall be a surprise...what our destiny shall be shall be a surprise...)

ee Women
by Khadijah Ali-Coleman© 2001

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Sweet Honey Girl

So, I realized recently, upon returning from Chicago, that my most favorite travel buddy is Khari, my 7 year-old. Perhaps its because she shares this incredibly mature yet youthful view of traveling ("I love seeing new things, Mommy") or because I just prefer her with me rather than away from me, but, whatever it is, the kid is the best person I've ever traveled with. As I plan for a trip to NY again  for the annual Mosaic Literary Conference that I've been blessed to have been selected to present at again, for the third year in a row, I've been racking my brain on how to take her with me and may kick it in NYC again like we did during the BlogHer conference. But, alas, as of this writing, hotels in NY are booked out the wazoo, the hostels that have availability don't allow kids and I'm just not feeling staying in NJ for such a short trip-- commute will cut into fun time. Oh well. Looking like my little honey girl will be staying home with dad and I think I will be Mega Bus-ing it alone again this year. So, I guess I just need to save my pennies so me and the kid can do LA or maybe Chicago again, but, this time, together. We may even convince her dad, who does not dig travel to the degree that we do, to tag along. We'll see.

Here are some shots I took of my princess with my iPhone and edited with the Photoshop app. I love them, so I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chi-Town Memories

Whew. It's been a long while since I last posted. Seemed like it was only yesterday, but the weeks have kinda breezed by without any warning or care. That No Woman, No Womb business that I wrote about two posts ago seems to have come and gone-- but not without its drama, of course. I wrote about its first three weeks, trying to stick to a journalistic tone in this post for I was contemplating for the longest about whether I was going to write a follow-up blog piece here on this blog, further elaborating on my position, but I thought against it. I decided that its best not feed into what I had long suspected was an attempt for media attention with very little substance behind. When the organizer of the campaign, Christylen Karazin, publicly admitted that she has very little background in policies regarding black families and children and quotes Daniel Patrick Moniyhan to make points about what black women should be doing regarding having children, then I realized that it would be a waste of breath trying to speak the language of rational when referencing this so-called campaign. Also, intelligent women who I've admired for some time as writers and thinkers-- like Tichoana Chinyelu, Kimberly Ellis and others on Twitter-- have been more than holding it down-- they have been schooling folk while they combat the foolishness through the #NWNW hashtag. So, I gave that a rest-- albeit for an occasional RT of something that I found witty in regards to NWNW in my timeline. I had other things in the forefront of my mind, particularly my trip to Chicago.

Chi-Town Vacay

So, by now, if you follow this blog at all, you know by now that I usually vacation or take family field trips to places I'm slated to perform. Last week, I went to Chicago, and it was one of those two-for-ones that I tend to do so often. This time, however, I didn't take my family.

I performed this past weekend in Chicago at the Little Black Pearl on Friday and on Saturday at the Black Age of Comics Convention that was founded by visual artist Turtel Onli. I had a blast. I don't think I intended to have so much fun.

On Friday, I performed at Little Black Pearl, an artsy cafe in the Bronzeville community of Chicago. I performed while tours of Bronzeville were taking place. The tours were stopping at about five art galleries in the area and my performance was the only one taking place during the tour. I did about three sets before running off to catch the tour myself. In case you didn't know, Chicago has 77 neighborhoods! I was mouth-wide-open surprised when I learned that. And each neighborhood has a level of distinction that makes it special in its own way. I stayed in the Hyde Park community while I was in Chicago, staying with an art collector who was friends with Turtel Onli who allowed many of the illustrators and performers for the event stay with her for the entire duration of our stay. Her place was incredible. Overlooking Lake Eerie, you were always able to see one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever laid eyes on.

Hyde Park is also Barack Obama's old neighborhood. When Turtel took me by Obama's house one night, we were forced to keep it moving instead of slowing down when lights started flashing furiously as we slowed down by the house. It was so scary that I told Turtel that I will recount this story to anyone who would listen.

Here are some of the people and sights I saw and met while in Chicago:

sunset on lake erie

turtel onli in his studio

One of Turtel Onili's creations

Me and my business partner and buddy Maceo Thomas

me and illustrators and performers of the Black Age

Author LA Banks

Illustrator Arie Monroe. Bought stuff from her for my daughter. Arie and I were roommates.

Read more about our Chicago adventures HERE

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pen 10 Scribes Submissions Sent Off, Planning to Head to Chicago

I sent off this morning my last batch of stories for the upcoming anthology Pen Ten, to be edited by Rhonda M. Smolarek also known as Olive Rosehips. The anthology will feature stories written in ten lines/sentences are less. Here is one of my stories:

Benson’s Release
“Ok, have a good day-- love you,” Benson pecked Glynda on her cheek and then jumped out of the car in front of the construction site he worked as an engineer. He stood on the curb and watched as his wife drove away in the family’s dusty mini van before pulling out his cell phone; he dialed Vincent’s number by heart.

“Where are you,” he asked, his voice husky with intensity. It had been three weeks since he had been with Vincent and he wanted to see him--the last few weeks had been spent convincing his wife that his interest had not roamed, but, now, he was getting antsy and needed some release; Vincent  provided his outlet of choice.

Chiseled, handsome and cavalier, Vincent, an art teacher, had entered Benson’s life at the very moment that Benson was contemplating how far he had gotten himself wrapped up into a life that was more of what his parents wanted and less of what he wanted or needed. While he was grateful for his two children and the friendship and loved he had found with Glynda, his marriage had never cured him of what he knew about himself since he was a teenager. Benson turned the corner behind his job and walked toward the coffee shop where Vincent would meet him, the spot where they met. Scanning the faces, his eyes rested on Vincent who was engaged in conversation with a woman who was holding a painting canvass. Walking to the table where they sat, he greeted Vincent and Sarah and pulled from the tube he held a scrolled drawing that he had worked on last night. 

“That is beautiful;  we’ve missed you in art class, hope this means you’ll be there tonight,” Sarah said, with Vincent nodding in agreement, tracing with her fingertip the pencil etching of Benson’s wife, drawn with delicate clarity.

I was drawn to this anthology's call for submissions because I have an interest in writing small works that tell a story in a way that a lot is told without saying much. I love vignettes and enjoyed writing them when I was with the Saartjie Project and watching them in movies like A Good Day to be Black and Sexy and Nine Lives. I'll keep you posted on when the anthology comes out!

Right now, I'm buying my plane ticket to Chicago for the 13th Annual Black Age of Comics Convention taking place on Oct 16-17. I'm going to support my boy Turtel Onli who is a member of Liberated Muse's online family and who was featured in the book I edited-->Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul. Turtel is an amazing artist-- so talented, he draws, paints, designs clothes, teaches art and works with youth. I can't wait to head to Chicago. It'll be my first time there. What should I make sure I check out when I get there?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Focusing on the Art of the Matter

So, I closed down my Ning art community LiberatedMuse and maintain just the Facebook, Twitter and Blogger sites for Liberated Muse. The Ning network was started in 2008 with the intent for folks to network, post in forums, blogs, etc. and create relationships on-line. What was happening, and its a good thing, was that folks were coming to the events and networking and linking up, but not so visibly online. So, to save myself work (and money) I decided to just focus on the events, getting the word out about opportunities and such via micro-blogging and blogs and conserve my energy to focus more on my own art. Focusing on me takes some getting used to.

As much as I declare I'm going to focus on developing my own art skills, its been pretty hard putting it into practice. This is particularly true when it comes to doing work with other people. I feel like somehow I always wind up in a position where I'm either in charge, responsible for details that take away from focusing on my own stuff or I'm asked or expected to "assist" where I'm helping someone else get shine for their art or get their art off the ground. While I have been able to monetize my services successfully this year as an editor, publicist and writer, my involvement in collective art activities have usually required I provide these services for free, which have been draining and left me demoralized-- for its like being stuck in a role you are trying to move out of while everyone is trying to pin you back there. This new group I'm working with will hopefully be different.

Artist Take Back

So, I put a call out last month for artists interested in producing their own project to come out to join with other artists to put together something where we are promoting our individual work under an over-arching theme, helping with cross-promotion. We met this past Saturday and the energy seems so positive, I hope that momentum happens. I want to produce my play again in the Spring through this venture with, perhaps, some activities prefacing it that engage working mothers in a arts-educational activity that is therapeutic/healing in nature. I'll keep you posted on the details. I'm siced about this group because I put out there early that I'm not looking to be in charge this go round and everyone seems so interested in taking ownership of their art. One of the artists who showed up was a woman I had met last year in Georgia at the Songwriter's Soul Kitchen that singer Vinx holds in his home each year. She drove all the way to our meeting last Saturday from South Carolina (the mtg was in Maryland). Her dedication inspired me tremendously. I can't wait for us to pull this project off!

Beating To a Different Drummer

Speaking of focusing on art, my daughter has decided that the drums are her thing. Her dad has actually been teaching himself to play drums this past year and so she wants to get in on the action. Check her out in this video doing her thing before we walked her to the bus stop for school. Isn't she awesome? Her feet are not long enough to touch the pedal, but she is so excited and passionate about drumming that I don't think her height is going to discourage her.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"No Wedding, No Womb!" is Not and Can Not Be My Mantra

I worked for a Catholic-based organization many moons ago when I was in my late-20's after getting my MA in Mass Communications. About a year and a half after working at this organization and getting promoted and awards for work, I got pregnant with the child who is often the topic of this blog. She's 7, so, that was about almost 8 years ago. I got pregnant by the lead guitarist of the band I was a part of. We weren't married or even courting, if you want to be technical. The dynamics of that relationship is for another blog post. (Note: Today, we live together, did not have a wedding, refer to each other as spouses and refer to our unit as a family). But, the reaction from my job is the topic of this one, as is the "No Wedding, No Womb!" initiative that has been building in fervor on the internet. 

Back to the story: 

So, that organization-- the heads, including my immediate supervisor, had a meeting about my pregnancy and to discuss if I should continue working there and how to discuss my pregnancy to the youth I work with. I can only assume what was discussed because I was not asked to participate. At 29, I was discussed as if I was a problem-child. A disobedient girl who was knocked up by Roscoe down the street and now needed a place to stay. I guess I would have needed a place to stay at some point if they had decided to fire me and I was unable to pay my rent. But, I was ok by their standards. Perhaps they surmised that with a graduate degree and as a supervisor of a youth program, I may have had a little sense. Maybe they felt that I had a enough intelligence to share with the youth that though I was unmarried, it probably wasn't a good thing for them to run off and get pregnant. Whatever they decided, the point is that they decided. They made a decision about my future without as much as two words from me. As an unmarried mother-to-be, they assumed that my daughter's father and I were not in cooperative agreement on the fact that we were going to raise her together. They assumed he was triflin from jump. They assumed that I wanted to get married. They assumed that I was in trouble because I was not married.

This type of behavior by my job is the mentality that empowers folks to believe that they have the right to give "advice" and start initiatives like "No Wedding, No Womb!" Because statistics are spewed out by government agencies and the media, alluding to things like an achievement gap when black children are compared to everyone, then someone or something has to be blamed (not the racist thinking that creates these assessment measures, of course), and, most times, it's us, Black mothers. We've become scapegoats in a patriarchal society that has used the family model as a marketing tool since Biblical days.

What I get when I read blog posts for "No Wedding, No Womb" is judgment cloaked in good intention that assumes that there is a problem with Black people and our inability to parent and work cooperatively. What I hope my own personal story shows is that our social construct in general perpetuates a stigma that is attached to any relationship that is not within the strict template of how family has been defined. And, we know this. Anything out of a nuclear family model is automatically deemed dysfunctional from jump. No father? Oh, you must be f-- up. No mama? Oh, heavens. Then you hate women, right? What, your grandma raised you? Oh, then you must be gay. These ridiculous assumptions wouldn't be so offensive if they weren't how folks responded to the very real and abundant instances of people being born, raised and nurtured within a non-nuclear family construct. These assumptions wouldn't be so sad if they weren't meted out by, sometimes, the very same people who were born from such environments. But, I won't go there just yet. @Blowthetrumpet had asked me on Twitter if I support the elimination of black fatherlessness, and if so, to share solutions and mine starts with telling dads who don't want to parent, "bye". I don't believe that any woman can know for solid sure if her mate will be a good father or not. I've seen men love up on the kids they have by one woman and totally neglect children by another. Why get into the psychology of all that?  I want us to consider how revolutionary we would be if we moved away from the idea of fatherlessness, low marriage rates in our community as a trigger of acheivement risks and economic downfall and turn to the institutions that we exist within that are not accomodating to our roles as mothers-- whether married or not.

How revolutionary would it be, then, to accept the fact that some people won't get married, but will have sex and have kids? How revolutionary would it be also to let a person who does not want to parent walk away and not be judged while the remaining parent, family members are supported, uplifted and rallied around to raise the children in a space where they are acknowledged, cherished, encouraged and supported? How revolutionary would it be to shift our focus from trying to make parents who abandon or neglect their children financially or in any other way "feel" bad and "pay" for their inability to parent and focus on putting in place measures where jobs are providing work/life options that support working parents and encourage their employees to be the best parents AND employees they can be. For, let's be real. It all boils down to economics. 

We are afraid that these kids being raised by moms with no time to fully nurture are going to grow up and knock us in the head b/c, of course, they'll be criminals. We think the moms are going to be on welfare or in some dead end job. We can't imagine that, perhaps, that the moms could possibly be working in a job that is not compatible with her role as a mother-- whether she is married or not.  We can't imagine that perhaps, regardless of whether that woman is married or not, there is someone at her job that knows that she is a mother and assumes that she is not up to par with those around her who are not parents, thus sabatoging her efforts. 

Folks, the war against moms-- whether single or married...but mostly when unmarried, is a vicious one.We still picture unmarried Black women as poor and uneducated when study after study indicates that while socio-economic status impacts sharply whether an African-American woman is more likely to be married or not, this status is not impacting the choice to become a mother.  In a Harvard study of over 170 countries, the United States was one of only four nations without any form of paid leave for new mothers. (The others were Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea).  

Another fact finds that discrimination against hiring mothers and paying mothers fairly is rampant. Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same experience, and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay for the same job as equally qualified non-mothers. And God forbid you try to embark on a career or better yourself career wise upon becoming a mother. In our country, mothers earn less than everyone.  Married mothers earn 73 cents to a man’s dollar. Mothers who are non-married earn about 60 cents to a man's dollar. Lastly, when the question of flex time comes into play, it is found that women with low income jobs also need flexibility, yet are the least likely to have flexible work options—these are also the very moms who are more likely to struggle with access to affordable childcare, and who are least likely to have paid family or other leave.

So, it's clear to me that enabling folks to feel comfortable to talk about unmarried Black moms as less intelligent humans who are supposed to just accept this unsolicited analysis of our situation is a bad thing. So, I publicly state that in no way is  "No Wedding, No Womb!" my mantra, and never can it be. For, while it deconstructs me into no more than a breeder, it also deflects our attention from the very real trigger of inequitable work options that ultimately impact everyone.

Khadijah Ali-Coleman is a blogger and playwright. Her play Running: AMOK speaks to the challenges of 21st women facing motherhood amidst the challenges of relationships, economic struggle and work balance.

NOTE: I had not a clue about the craziness which is the "No Wedding, No Womb" when I wrote this. I had actually met the creator of this movement via Twitter, exchanging niceties and thought she seemed nice enough to network with as a fellow blogger. When I followed conversation about this initative on Twitter, however, under the hashtag #NWNW, I got a taste of what was some of the machinations fueling this and became disheartened.  What was particularly shocking was how I was "blocked" by Christelyn Karazin, shortly after tweeting this blog post, not allowed to converse w/ her on Twitter, though, she had touted in her interview on the Michael Dyson show that she was interested in starting a "conversation" regarding this topic. The blogger who introduced me to her on Twitter also "unfollowed" me, accusing me of misrepresenting myself, when I NEVER indicated that I was in support, but, instead, was interested in being a part of the dialogue.

 My heart gets really sad when Black women start making assumptions about Black families where the parents aren't married. To blame non-married and single mothers for the ills of our community is reckless. To do so for celebrity is criminal.


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