All Articles Tagged "black women"

Black Women In The Ivy League: “Everything’s Not Always So Pretty At The Top”

April 14th, 2014 - By Rana Campbell
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This month, countless high school students across the country will be answering college acceptance letters making the difficult decision of what college to attend in the Fall.

If you asked my 17-year-old self the impact choosing to attend Princeton University would have on me, I probably wouldn’t have known how to answer. When I first got accepted into Princeton in the spring of 2009, I was both wildly excited yet undoubtedly naive. I thought I had all the “prep” I would need, having attended a well-regarded college preparatory school in Englewood, NJ for six years. I’d already experienced the doubts from my fellow high school classmates as the news spread that me and my best friend Amina (also a woman of color) had been the only people to be accepted into Princeton from our school. I’ll never forget how one girl made the inauspicious suggestion that we both got in only because we were black. In essence, I thought I had already experienced the “culture shock” and racism that occurs when you take a girl accustomed to a majority minority classroom and throw her into a world where she is the outlier, one of only a few people of color in her class.

I envisioned Princeton as being a place for self-discovery. A place to explore new interests. A place to meet lifelong friends. While all these turned out to be true, I didn’t expect how much pressure it would mean to be part of the country’s elite or one of the “future leaders of the world”(as I had been primed to think of myself during Princeton’s freshman orientations).

The common narrative regarding men and women of color getting into prestigious institutions such as Princeton and the other Ivy Leagues is often guided by words of congratulations, praise, and accomplishments. For the skeptics and naysayers, notions of affirmation action, discrimination against “better-suited” candidates, and non-worthiness often take premise. Take the recent media attention Kwasi Enin, the Ghanian-American New Yorker who got into all eight Ivy Leagues, garnered. I am proud of Kwasi but as an Ivy League alum, I know that whatever decision he makes, he is about to embark on a long journey which may be filled with  justifying his presence to both himself, his peers and outsiders. I can only imagine how this will inform his sense of self. Even more, he is still a black man to larger society (despite how he self-identifies)… and we all know being a black man in America is difficult enough.

As for me? I do not regret attending Princeton. I made some of my best friends there. I had the opportunity to take classes with the great Cornel West. I helped revamp, run and grow the Princeton Caribbean Connection, a major student organization within the Black community. I tutored inmates studying for their high school diplomas, studied Sociology with the greats, and wrote a 112 page senior thesis on a topic dear to my heart: policing in my hometown of Orange, NJ. But most of all, I rediscovered and lived out my passion for dance when I joined BAC Dance Company my freshman fall. I worked hard and graduated cum laude.

Through all of this,  I experienced some of the hardest moments of my life while a student at Princeton. I dealt with personal tragedies, sickness, and familial troubles. Though I always tried to carry a smile, I often had bouts of loneliness and crippling self-doubt, unbeknownst to even some of my closest friends. I had to learn how to navigate and often exclude myself from the dominant social scene that I had no desire to join. But should I blame Princeton, the institution, for this? That’s something I often find myself grappling with. I know that the social isolation and exclusion I faced here is not only inherent to Ivy League universities. Countless women of color across American institutions find themselves in situations like this.

One of the hardest things for me was having to face my dual realities. While at Princeton, I lived in the “Orange Bubble” shielded from life’s every day harsh realities. Yet, whenever I went home or saw my friends  who “hadn’t made it,” I had to come to grips with the realization that not everyone is given such opportunities in life. I often struggled with the feeling of not exactly knowing how to give back to my community (and those who had built the way for me), especially feeling like I had to live up to the fact that people saw me as an “inspiration.” At times, it felt like too much, like there was no room to fail. That I had to always perform to the best of my ability. Sometimes I found myself wondering what the purpose of this all was.

Attending an institution such as Princeton can bear a lot of weight on the soul with little opportunities to share experiences with those beyond one’s inner group. I side with I, Too, Am Harvard’s statement that black students’ “voices often go unheard.”

These are the stories several women shared with me  about what it feels like to be a woman of color at an Ivy League institution. I am not sharing these stories to say that these are the only important stories relevant to being a student at an Ivy League university. However, I do believe they highlight and share a common thread, which is similar to many college students nationwide: self-discovery. While we praise students of color for accomplishing such great academic feats, we must not forget about the personal journeys and experiences with academia, sexuality, mental health, class, race, gender, and self that will undoubtedly come next for them in their college journey. These women bring up issues that are important for all to consider when we think of what it means to be have a college education or be a college-educated woman. From the classroom, to the dorm room, to the inner-being, while not all negative, everything’s not always so pretty at the top.

Scroll through the pages, read and respect these women’s stories.

Black Congresswomen Chime In On Army’s New Hair Regulations

April 12th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Source: US Army

Source: US Army

From Essence.com

This week, female members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking him to revise the recently released Army Regulation 670-1, which featured updated standards for female grooming. AR 670-1 went into effect on March 31, and included a ban on certain hairstyles, such as two-strand twists and dreadlocks. Other styles, like cornrows and braids are permitted if they’re under 1/4-inch in diameter.

In their letter, the 16 congresswomen say that the regulations are “discriminatory” and “[target] soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair.” The letter comes at the tail end of a wave of criticism by soldiers and civilians who’ve voiced concern about the new standards. A petition on the White House’s wethepeople.org has garnered more than 15,000 signatures from people who want the regulations retracted. Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, a Black woman who wears her hair in twists, created the petition on March 20 in order to protest the changes. She told the Army Times that she’s “kind of at a loss now with what to do with [her] hair.”

You can read the rest of the story at Essence.com.

Is It Possible For Single Black Women To Talk About Something Other Than Wanting A Man?

April 7th, 2014 - By Brande Victorian
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Single Black Women

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I’m no financial analyst, but I want to offer you this piece of advice: If you don’t have stock in Tinder, I’d suggest you go get some. Tinder is a social app that basically allows you to scroll through thousands — if not millions — of men on Facebook, offer up a yay or nay based on their photo, and hope that your yay will be reciprocated with a yay on his part and you two will meet up, get married, live happily ever after, and have lots and lots of babies and grandbabies, yadda yadda yadda. Despite MN having written a guide to getting your Tinder on a little while ago, I hadn’t given the dating app a second thought — mostly because I still don’t believe in online dating, though I’ll write more about that later. Nevertheless, on three separate occasions this weekend I heard black women raving, yet mostly ranting, about the app as they sat around discussing two of their favorite topics: men and being single.

It all started Friday night when I went with a co-worker and her friend for drinks. Once we finished mulling over the menu and griping about work, the conversation turned to dating with the friend asking me whether I was single. I don’t know why that question annoys me. OK, yes I do. It’s because I am single and one day I want to be able to answer that question with a “no” and for years I’ve been responding with a “yes.” But also for a person like me who only shares my innermost thoughts in articles as opposed to ladies’ gatherings, I find that question to be rather intrusive because there’s no way you’re getting off the hook with a simple “no.” The follow-ups always run along the lines of “why?” “Are you putting yourself out there?” and my least favorite question,”Have you tried online dating?” And those just aren’t discussions I’m trying to have with women I barely know.

But low and behold I found myself engaging in that same tired dialogue Friday night and the first half of Saturday at a media brunch where, as soon as I walked in the door, ladies were gathered around griping about Tinder and whether they should keep their profiles on the app or be done with those men. I resorted to my favorite tactic in these situations, which is asking the other person so many questions about their life that they have no time to ask me any. But by the time the brunch was over and I hopped on the subway with another attendee and she asked, “so what’s going on with your dating life?” I proceeded to tell her nothing and said, “I’m sorry but I cannot sit through another conversation with a bunch of black women about being single. I just can’t.”

Though she agreed with me, her reasoning was a bit different from mine. This particular attendee felt the topic of discussion was depressing because you find out dating really doesn’t get any better the older you are when so many fabulous black women in their late 30s and 40s have the same complaints as you. I actually found the topic exhausting because it seems to be the only thing black women are interested in talking about these days. In all fairness, single black women was not the focus of the brunch I attended, but that topic rarely ever is. It’s just the subject we tend to fall back on whenever two or three black women are among us. Maybe it’s out of a sense of comradery and the desire to say “girl me too” that we bring up the Where’s Waldo-type topic of finding a man, but I can’t help but also feel this topic comes up so much because of an underlying desire for women to be affirmed. I’m personally just as tired of paying Sallie Mae every month as I am being single, but I don’t walk into events talking about “girl, It’s so hard out here. I just can’t seem to make these student loan payments” because surely someone would tell me pick up a side hustle and get my ish together. And yet when we complain about the single life, in return we are met with affirmations that we are worthy and men just don’t appreciate hard-working, career-focused Alpha females like us because everyone else is telling the same story. And that’s better than wallowing in our sorrows solo, right?

I certainly get the benefit in that but in my mind it tends to do more harm than good when you hear about a bunch of women in the struggle and not a one has reached the promised land. It also reinforces what is clearly our greatest fear, which is that we’ll all be single forever. So, when I sit there and sip my Bellini in silence and suddenly find myself grilled about my dating life, that hysteria that we claim we don’t want our friends and family putting on us because we’re not married or don’t have children still gets passed on, it’s just masked as friendly conversation.

I appreciate sisters trying to build one another up and fight the good fight together in the race to get down the aisle, but it just might do us a little good to stop thinking and talking about what we claim isn’t a problem so much and in turn making it into one for not just ourselves but those around us who are trying to become comfortable in their singleness and retain some ounce of hope for the future! Now excuse me while I go update my Tinder profile. JK.

Serious Question: When’s The Last Time You Asked Your Friends About Getting Tested?

April 6th, 2014 - By Brande Victorian
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Getting Tested

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I’m pretty sure you’re aware HIV/AIDS is affecting African American women at an alarming rate I’m also going to assume you, the reader, are an African American woman and you probably have some African American friends who are also aware of this trend. What I’m not certain of, though, is whether you’re serious about doing anything about it.

Yesterday I attended a blogger brunch hosted by OraSure, the makers of the in-home oral HIV test OraQuick which detects HIV antibodies in your system in as little as 20 minutes. Hosted by Jacque Reid, the purpose of the bruncheon was to brainstorm ways influencers can get the message of safe sex, and more so self-empowerment, to the people who need it most, and as the ladies sat around talking about this initiative an interesting point was brought up. For as much as ladies who lunch enjoy sitting around and talking to our friends about men and how they just got their back blown out or are thinking about giving so and so some, we often drop the ball when it comes to asking our girls how careful they’re being when they give it up.

As one woman went on about how a lot of friends don’t talk to each other about putting our sexual health first I thought, who are these women she’s talking about? And then I realized I just might be one of them. Just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was catching me up on her life since I’d last seen her three months ago and part of that entailed informing me that she’d been pregnant by an 0n-again off-again something of a partner and sharing other promiscuous tales. Not wanting to damper the mood of the reunion, I hit her with a light “you need to do better,” but instead of really asking her what’s going on and telling her she needed to be careful (and invest in some condoms and an OraQuick test) I lamented to my other friend how I felt guilty for not saying more.

Ironically enough during the brunch another friend texted me joking that I wasn’t a good friend for not helping her pick out new makeup the last time I saw her. Feeling like there was no time like the present, I responded “While you’re calling me out, let me be a good friend now and ask when’s the last time you’ve been tested and do you and your husband get tested every year?” After asking whether I was implying her husband is cheating, which I was not, she said “Honestly, getting tested hasn’t crossed my mind in years which is soooo crazy because of the number of black women who get it.”

Crazy is most definitely the word to describe her thoughts, but I think common might be another one as well. Though we’ll go hard trying to find a friend a man and get all up in her business then, for some reason it can feel too personal to make our girls’ health a priority, though when she tells us about how some guy put it on her we’ll want all the juicy TMI details.

The reality is a conversation about sexual health with our girls doesn’t have to be super deep and it most certainly shouldn’t be awkward. Most times all we need to do is drop a little hint like “Hey I’m planning to get tested Tuesday, wanna come?” or “Just got back from the doc; I’m clean as a whistle.” Just the sheer mention of HIV/AIDs is usually enough to plant the seed and get people’s minds wandering about whether they really know their status, let alone that of the person they’re sleeping with. Let’s all agree to do better together and make it a priority to remind our girls to be safe.

#Facts: How A Man Knows He’s Dating A High Quality Woman

April 4th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

 

From Single Black Male 

I came across an article over on Thought Catalog titled “13 Ways You Know You’re Dating a High-Quality Woman.” Here are some of my favorites or most cosign-able items from the list, and a few thoughts to go along with them:

4. She has a part of her life that doesn’t involve you. Friends, hobbies, career — whatever. She’s confident and independent enough to not need your involvement in everything she does.

You really don’t need to do everything and be everywhere together. In fact, I don’t even think that’s healthy. Men still like to hang with the fellas, and we’d like to hope that our sig others would still want to see their girls. Besides, what else is there to talk about when you know everything because you’re always there?

5. You wouldn’t think twice about inviting her into different parts of your life: a barbecue with your college friends, a dinner with your parents, a fancy work party — she knows how to handle herself in different settings. She’s mature enough to make a good impression with your colleagues and wise enough to know letting loose with your friends and having fun doesn’t mean she’s immature.

7. When she is in a situation where she doesn’t know people, she introduces herself confidently. She doesn’t cling meekly to your side waiting for you to facilitate every social interaction.

These two go together. A high-quality woman makes our lives easier. If even for a few minutes at a time. It can be difficult when you’re out at an event and trying to network or catch up with people, but you can’t focus on the conversations because you’re worried about her in the corner, or you’re constantly trying to weave her into chats. Don’t get it twisted; it’s polite and we should be proud to introduce her to people. However, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. This is another time where independence comes in handy.

Read more about dating at SingleBlackMale.org 

Still We Rise! The State Of Black Women In America Is A Mix Of Bad & Good News

April 3rd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Every day, black women struggle with various issues from inadequate health care to inequality in pay. The Black Women’s Roundtable has issued a landmark report that examines all the major concerns of African-American women today. “Black Women in the United States, 2014″ was created to assess the overall conditions of black women in the U.S.

“Here we examine virtually the full spectrum of the black woman’s contemporary experience in America. And though, we find that on many accounts, significant progress has been made since key historical markers such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Brown v. Board of Education, and the onset of the War on Poverty, there are many areas that remain in need of dire national attention and urgent action,” states the report.

Here are some of the key findings.

Have You Ever Let Your Self-Esteem Sabotage Your Natural Hair?

April 1st, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

 

From Hello Beautiful 

Hello Beautiful: When did you first fall in love with your hair?

Tamara of Natural Hair Rules: It was a Sunday afternoon…just joking! I don’t know the exact day and time. But I do remember feeling this sense of accomplishment because I had a natural hair breakthrough. I had just discovered the Denman Brush and Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner. With that duo I had achieved my first perfect wash and go. “This is what I went natural for…”, I thought to myself. I probably even screamed it out loud.

HB: What’s some hair advice you’d give to your 14-year-old self?

Tamara: My 14-year-old self had a professional stylist that she called mom. So I don’t really have any hair advice for 14-year old me but I do have self-esteem advice. “It’s ok to be…” At that time I believe my ‘be’ was to be unique. I tried so hard to fit in but I still stood out. Tried to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I was the girl with long, pretty hair. I put a lot of pressure on myself and began to identify with my hair. It wasn’t until I decide to go natural, did I shred everyone’s perception of me. I also found myself delivered from other people’s opinions. (Or so I thought. You know, it’s a daily battle I believe all women fight.)

Read more about natural hair at HelloBeautiful.com 

From Janie Crawford To Sula: Black Female Characters In Fiction We Love And Hate

March 24th, 2014 - By Zainab Karim
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There is an array of black female characters in fiction that are great topics of discussion — some for good reasons, others not so much. Here are some of the most controversial leading ladies from our favorite novels that we love and hate.

Source: Lionsgate

Source: Lionsgate

Rue, The Hunger Games 

Though Rue was little and often seen as no competition, she proved herself to be agile and full of surprises. It was her small stature that allowed her the ability to get close to the competition to find out their strengths and weaknesses. Those who read the book before seeing the movie were well aware of Rue’s fate, but we still rooted for her until the end. She was a character that helped us learn about trust, love and sacrifice.

 

Is Racism Making Black Women Fat?

March 13th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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racism making black women fat

Source: Shutterstock

According to new research, Paula Deen’s famous Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding might be laced with a secret ingredient, which might be also helping you to pack on the pounds: racism.

The research, which was conducted by investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, has found that black women, who frequently experienced racism also had a higher risk of obesity than their less disenfranchised and oppressed counterparts.The findings, which currently appear online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, are based on data from a previous study, which survey 59,000 African-American women under the age of 40, over a course of 12-years about various lifestyle factors including height, weight and experiences of racism.

According to MedicalXpress, participants were asked in 1997 and again in 2009 to rate the frequency of “everyday”racism, including experiences like receiving poorer service in restaurants and stores, and if they had been treated unfairly because of their race on the job, in housing or by the police. Researchers found that women, who rated high frequencies of everyday racism in both 1997 and 2009 were 69 percent more likely to become obese compared to those black women, who rated low levels of racism.

According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, black women on average have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to any other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women, or about 80 percent, are overweight or obese. Another recent study suggests one of the reasons behind the obesity disparities in black women is that, on average, must work harder to lose the same amount of weight than their white counterparts (seven pounds to one to be exact).

However this is the first time a study has tied racism to weight. According to research, racism does offer other health disadvantages including stress, depression, high blood pressure, cancer and even the common cold. According to this article in The Root, two recent Emory University studies show a connection between the stress from experiencing racism and high child mortality rates as well as learning disabilities among African-American children born prematurely. And according to this 2009 article in USA Today, the findings for one study, which first appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that fifth-graders, who feel they’ve been mistreated because of their skin color are much more likely to have symptoms of mental disorders, especially depression.

Granted, the white man didn’t tell you to eat the whole dish of that Krispy Kreme bread pudding. However Paula Deen did invent it so…IN all seriousness, it is not unlikely to assume that racism can play a role in your weight. Stress eating is real. And so are food deserts and racial disparities in diagnosis, treatment and follow up of patients. Plus racism effects other aspects of your life including economically and socially, so why not your heath, in particular your weight?

 

5 Tips To Avoid Career Burnout

March 11th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

 

From Essence 

Dear Lovely Dream Chaser,

Congratulations on your ferocity! If it were up to the world, you would be too paralyzed with fear to push into the unknown and too reliant on the comforts of routine to compromise your professional stability. But here you are—launching a business, pursuing a promotion, carving an entirely new position where there’s never been one before—fully immersed in the vision that takes up too much space in your heart to be ignored.

Mornings find you excited about advancements, however small, that entice you forward. Nights aren’t really nights at all, but a blur of working hours strung together with intense focus on the goal. You’re getting better every day and in the process, you’re getting closer. It’s happening as we speak.

When a woman is a go-getter in her professional life, she’s a go-getter all the way. Rare is she who can straddle the line of kinda sorta being passionate about her career. She either is or she isn’t. And when she is, she has where she wants to go clearly mapped out in her mind while she works an alternate plan in the meantime or she’s actively doing the thing, inching, stepping, maybe even rocketing toward the end game, but making some kind of movement ahead.

As exhilarating as chasing the dream is, it doesn’t come without potentially damaging sacrifices to your holistic health. Much attention is being paid to the benefits of physical care and that is inarguably essential. But your mind and your spirit, the core of who you are, also need to be preserved, even bolstered, as a gauntlet of unforeseen issues and problems challenge your internal peace. There’s no way you can weather the highs and lows of certain uncertainty and enjoy increasing levels of achievement when you’re offering your mental and spiritual health as a living sacrifice to the very objectives you need them intact to carry out.

Read more about ambition and energy at Essence.com  

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