All Articles Tagged "Struggle"
Confession: Believe it or not, the reality of America’s racist past didn’t become real to me until college. (Insert gasp!) And I live in Georgia. (Insert disbelief and head shake.) While I grew up knowing about Martin Luther King Jr.—as my elementary history books glossed over the depths of slavery and segregation in America and presented him as the great savior that made all people get along now—I didn’t know much else. Stories of Malcolm X, W.E.B., and others came across my eyes by way of my mother, but my shallow understanding of racism and my upper middle class status left me thinking racism was a thing of the past that had no real effect on the present or future. Yes, I was downright ignorant.
It wasn’t until I went to college and practically minored in African American Studies (Why didn’t my counselor tell me I was one class away from having that credential?) that I found myself in my dorm room crying as I viewed pictures of lynchings and read articles that addressed racism as an institution whose effects have been deep and wide. America’s veil was torn. I realized that by those stars and stripes, we were not healed. But I was also awakened to the legacies of brave souls like Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, and the countless individuals whose stories haven’t been told but to whom we owe our current freedoms. I’d never been more excited about academia than I was then, because I was discovering my own past. And a sense of responsibility, dignity, pride, and accountability to my ancestors filled my heart. There’s something about knowing scores of individuals either had to fight for or never had the opportunities you currently have (and possibly squander) that inspires greatness.
Seeing Jackie Robinson’s life depicted in “42,” this past weekend did just that. Watching the Major League Baseball player turn the other cheek while being barraged with racial slurs, letting the example of Jesus instruct him in the face of persecution, was nothing short of inspiring. But I couldn’t help but leave the film wondering whether my generation is too far removed to be inspired by such a film. Do these films become mere one-time experiences that have us reflecting for roughly a week but then going on about our business as usual afterward? I might sound like an old timer, but I think we’ve forgotten where we came from. And many young people have no real clue where that even is. We are growing up with a black president — dare we think we have arrived?
As I was also remembering MLK’s assassination on April 4, I couldn’t help but wonder how we’ve gone from a people who fought for our dignity and right to be educated — with our greatest threat coming from outside — to a people whose youth don’t see value in education or one other. Of course this is a generalization of a people of great accomplishment, and I realize that the effects of racism still stain us and affect our betterment, but is our culture headed for doom? Are we stuck on N***a Island? If so, how did we get here and is there any hope for getting off?
While “42″ finds Dodgers’ president Branch Rickey quoting Bible scriptures left and right, what the film doesn’t highlight is that it was Jackie Robinson’s own faith that gave him courage, and it’s what truly made him great. Perhaps that element of our culture has been lost, and we need to get it back. While he is keenly aware that there are no quick fixes to the many issues that plague African Americans, Sho Baraka (an artist whose Talented Xth album draws from W.E.B. DuBois’ work on how black culture can be uplifted), believes the decreasing importance of the black church has played a role in our decline. “I don’t believe the church is a important as it once was. Mainly because of the lack of a universal Black problem. Once Black people could comfortably live in suburbs with whites, their problems changed and we no longer have a common struggle.” Well, we know what Frederick Douglass had to say about that: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Am I saying we need to enter back into the chains of racial degradation? Heck no, we won’t go! But perhaps we have forgotten the lines of those ol’ negro spirituals that sung of our Great Emancipator as we find ourselves floating in that vast ocean of material prosperity MLK spoke of — unaware that we are headed towards a fool’s paradise. And our youth are paying the price. We need to remind ourselves of the struggle and educate our young people on our history. I don’t say that as a passing statement; I believe it plays an integral role in combating our current trajectory. We are as grateful for what we have today as we are cognizant of what we didn’t have the days before. We must remind them, because it will give them hope to become more. And we need them to have this hope because if “there ain’t no hope for our youth, then the truth is there ain’t hope for the future,” as 2pac so eloquently told us. They need to know that while entertainment and athletics are worthy arenas to aspire to thrive in, they can be more than rappers and athletes. They can be leaders and role models.
Jackie Robinson breaking into major league baseball is much more than a story of athletic prowess. It is a story of claiming and maintaining one’s dignity and having the guts to fight not with carnal, but divine weaponry. We must embark on that same fight for our people’s dignity. We owe it to those before us and behind us, and we owe it to ourselves. But most importantly, we owe it to the God who created us all equal.
I recently read a feature that you did in the October issue of Essence with Kelley L. Carter entitled, “No More Drama,” in which you discuss your new reality series, “Keyshia and Daniel: Family First.” Although it was a brief article, it made my heart smile. The fact that your show is described as a celebration of “your new life as a wife and mother” is absolutely amazing and not even just for the obvious reasons. These obvious reasons include the idea that your show is adding to the positive images of black love and black families on television. It’s even deeper than that though. Your new life is worth celebrating because you are a living, breathing, walking, talking, singing testament to girls and women everywhere that it is possible to overcome challenging obstacles that seem to surface with the intention of robbing us of all future success and happiness.
The first time I ever heard you sing, passion and soul bled through your song lyrics so naturally that I knew you had a story to tell. It wasn’t until I watched your reality show “The Way It Is” that I learned how gripping and powerful your story actually was. You were so open and honest about the things that you felt that you lacked growing up, being adopted, having a substance abusing mom who would later go to jail, coming from somewhat of a broken family and other things that people usually find so easy to sweep under the rug and never speak about. I’ve always admired the way that you could discuss your mom’s struggle. In the aforementioned article, you discussed how you are still dedicated to keeping your mom sober. Having dealt with my share of substance abusing family members, I know how hard that can be to even speak about. Talking about it makes you vulnerable and deep down inside you want to protect yourself and that family member from the judgmental eye of others. I understand that certain things are painful to talk about, but I appreciate you allowing your life to be an open book in some ways and telling your story without regard for critics. The naysayers can say what they want but the truth of the matter is that through your transparency you’ve provided some young girl who possesses dreams and aspirations of her own but similar troubles with a glimmer of hope that says, Hey, you know that obstacle you’re facing right now? It is possible to surpass it. Your life tells her that her past does not have to dictate her future and that she shouldn’t give up or feel defeated by her circumstances because there are better and brighter days ahead if she just hangs in there.
In one of the last episodes of ”The Way It Is,” you shared with a couple of your friends with strong affirmation that someday you would have a beautiful family to go along with your beautiful career. You went on to declare that this was simply the direction that your life was going in and refused to believe otherwise. I am so overjoyed that in your return to reality television, you have exactly what you declared that you would; a beautiful family and a beautiful career.
I am too thrilled about your current success and I await with much anticipation and excitement all of the other wonderful things that God has in store for you because the best is yet to come. As someone who has gone through my own share of similar struggles, I say thank you for being a great example. Thank you for not giving up.
All photos are courtesy of WENN
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Before I go any further, I want to say that hair has been a very hard topic for me to grasp. Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to take my hair and put it in a ponytail ALL of the time. Easier said than done.
But as we get older, we learn more about ourselves and how hair is in general. It’s funny sometimes. I often see moms with their biracial children, hair frizzy and in bows, beads that are clearly weighing down their possibly thinning hair, and gelled down curls. If they catch me looking at their child’s locks, they give the look, one seeking confirmation that says, “Hey, this doesn’t look bad does it?” No matter what I really think, the truth is, I can’t tell others what to do with their hair or what looks right, because guess what? I don’t even know what to do with my own hair. But if you read the comments on stories about biracial hair or listen to people every day on the streets, folks would think I had it so easy. Many people believe that because a person is “mixed,” they don’t have issues with their hair or that there aren’t different types within that spectrum. WRONG.
I’m a happy biracial butterfly: African American and Puerto Rican. Although I have four older sisters, my younger brother and I are the only mixed kids in my family. Growing up, I was constantly frustrated with my hair. It would take my sisters about an hour or so to finish their hair, but it literally took forever for me, and whatever style I chose would only last for a minimal amount of time. However, they used to tell me that I had nothing to complain about, and they had these delusions of versatility about how it was easy for me because my hair could be worn wet or blown out. (Fortunately my grandmother never really let that happen-if they had cornrows or box braids so did I–a funny but weird sight.) Easy wouldn’t have been my word of choice.
It wasn’t until I was in high school and college that I noticed the many types of hair textures that make up biracial strands. I met girls who were in the same ballpark as me. Either they couldn’t control their hair, or damaged it from experimenting too much. I knew that it wasn’t just me who had a problem with the politics of hair either. There’s the hair that never curls, curls that can’t be controlled, and hair that is either too dry or too oily. The combinations are endless and I can go on forever about it…but I won’t. In that time I learned from my friends and other women what I was doing wrong and how I could keep my hair nourished and healthy.
A lot of that nourishment and good heath starts with the products we use for our hair. Sometimes “mixed” products are too weak for the hair and you could just be harming it rather than helping it. Some of the best products are the ones you may be ignoring, like Aussie’s Deeeep Conditioner or Miss Jessie’s products (that is one investment I wouldn’t mind making because it really works!). It took a while after dabbling with different products, but with time comes growth.
I’m not ashamed, or feel bad about my hair anymore. I used a little gift that works for ALL types of hair in the end–patience! You’re going to run into a couple of dead ends, but those mistakes just show you how to improve. Yet and still, while I do appreciate my hair more these days, I don’t have this over-the-top sense of pride that my sisters thought I would have. You know, the mindset that because my hair is wavy it’s better than anyone else’s hair. In fact, I hate the term “good hair” with a passion, especially since no one’s hair is “bad.” In this day and age, if you still believe in good and bad hair, form your own opinions and don’t take definitions like “good hair” for face value because if it’s healthy and beautiful to you, then baby, it’s indeed good.
All in all, I share my story of struggling with my strands to say the following to those like me:
1.) Hair isn’t your identity: Many people who aren’t mixed are often targeted for saying things like my sisters did, but sometimes you are to blame too. Just because you’re mixed or you believe that your hair is “good” doesn’t mean it is. Step down from the high hair pedestal that society has given you and look around. You’ll see that everyone has awesome hair.
2.) Embrace your curls: If you’re a mom out there reading this, just know that you don’t have to kill the curls (flatten or press them to death) so your children don’t look different from other people. Different can be good, but just remember to mix it up!
3.) Don’t give up on your hair: At one point I did, and I realized I caused more damage (physically and emotionally) to myself and my locks by ignoring them. There are tons of tutorials online, and you can also request samples for products before you make a serious investment. While it’s a struggle, with patience and effort, your hair will surely be your crowning glory.
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When one hears the term “low self-esteem” their minds frequently take them to the extreme images of a woman who walks around with her head held down or the woman with a eating disorder. Our minds rarely go to the well-dressed woman sitting across from us on the subway or the no non-sense businesswoman we see gallivanting around the office. These false assumptions are where our society has failed us in some ways. The truth of the matter is that low self-esteem knows no race, social class, or age group, nor does it hit a specific kind of woman. Even the woman who looks like she has it all on the outside could be doubting herself a great deal on the inside.
It does however, seem to be familiar with gender because it appears to impact women at a higher percentage than men. Studies show that 90 percent of all women want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. But, why? The blame for poor self image among women in the United States can be blamed on a variety of different factors from pressures from the media to sexual objectification to internalized negative comments, and the list goes on. However, the true question should be: What is being done about it?
One thing that we should not overlook is that low self-esteem rarely just shows up during adulthood, but is something that is deeply rooted within many of us from childhood. According to a study conducted at the New York University Child Study Center, Dr. Robin F. Goodman writes, “Girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are nine years old, then takes a nose dive.” Studies show that 75 percent of eight and nine year olds like their looks; however, that figure drops to 56 percent once girls reach ages 12 and 13.
What happens between the ages of nine and twelve to make these numbers drop so drastically probably varies by case, but what we do know are the high-risk behaviors commonly associated with low self-esteem. These behaviors include but are not limited to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders and the list goes on. But what can be done to protect our girls? How can we somehow intervene and somehow rescue our girls from bearing the same burdens and battling the same demons that many of us have battled for large portions of our lives? While building up a child’s self-esteem by letting them know how important, smart, and beautiful they are is important, it is also imperative to communicate. Don’t just tell your child what you think of them, but also find out what they think of themselves and why. If you are able to uncover what the culprit is early on, chances are you can reverse its effects. Often times children are impacted by low self-esteem before they are old enough to even grasp the concept.
I was about 20 years old when it finally dawned on me that I had some self-esteem issues. Sadly, these were issues that I had been grappling with since I was about four years old. My mother whom I always shared just about everything with was shocked when I shared this revelation with her. She and my father had always been sure to share with me how important and beautiful I was, yet, somehow low self-esteem still crept in. There are many credited groups and organizations that are dedicated to the building up and empowerment of girls, but the truth is that the war on poor self-esteem begins at home. According to Crosswalk.com, “Girls are craving better communication with adult figures as they struggle with challenges in their lives. The top wish among girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, including more frequent and more open conversations, as well as discussions about what is happening in her life.” So, the next time you look at that special little girl in your life and think about how great she is be sure to share that with her, but don’t hesitate to get in her head and find out how she feels about herself. Start asking the right questions such as what she likes about herself, what she doesn’t like about herself, what she believes others think about her, etc. and listen closely. The first step to solving a problem is uncovering that there is one.
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I remember my first true encounter with the green-eyed monster known as jealousy. It was summer 2006 and I was one-year strong in my first “mature” relationship. The relationship had been going so well that I was sure I had been living out some Disney fairytale, until this one day, which seemed like any other. I had just gotten home from a job I’d snagged for the summer, I raced to my bedroom to call my Prince Charming whom I hadn’t heard from all day. “Hello,” I said eagerly as soon as I heard him pick up the phone; however, something wasn’t quite right. I heard a female’s laughter in the background. “Who’s that?” I asked twisting my face up, hoping he would say a cousin or relative. “Oh, that’s Shamika, the girl from across the street.” I sat on the other end of the phone silently. My heart sank. I felt like my face was going to crack and I was overcome with an intense feeling that I had a hard time identifying. I’d later come to know this intense and overwhelming feeling as jealousy. My logic told me that there was probably nothing up with this girl from across the street, but my imagination and emotions went running in a completely different direction.
Jealousy is one of those erratic and unreasonable emotions that can transform a fairly mild-mannered woman into a ranting, probing, lurking lunatic. A jealous woman can be like a terrorist to a man in a relationship. You know the deal: checking cell phones, cracking voicemail codes, Facebook passwords, Twitter passwords, cell phone company records, etc. You name it, I’ve done it. Little did I know, jealousy would be a frequent visitor in my relationships.
After my second or third encounter with this feeling, I began to realize that I had a problem. The crazy part is that I knew something about it was off and would’ve traded almost anything to get rid of those feelings. They were practically consuming me. It was as if a “Shamika” had been assigned to every last one of my relationships and just when I thought I had overcome it, the overbearing and suffocating feelings of jealousy would resurface. I would always try to work through it, convinced that this time I would beat this feeling. Each time I failed. I had no peace. After awhile I began to realize that these feelings were stemming from something internal, and if I were to ever truly overcome them, I would have to start addressing the issues that lie within. It was a quest that I would have to take on alone.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget the struggles of black women around the world when we’re dealing with so many issues here in the United States, but there are some who actually admire the experience of African American women, particularly black Britons.
An article on the tvcollective.org recently hired a previous CNN program discussing black britons’ struggle to be heard and how they’ve looked to black women in the U.S for inspiration. Making up only 3% of the population in the UK, black women there say they struggle with everything from negative representations in the media, stereotyping, and political discrimination to not being able to find appropriate cosmetics or products for their hair, with ethnic beauty products representing just 1% of all new hair care, skin care and makeup launches.
“Minorities aspire and have bought into the American ideal that if you work hard, you can reach the top. But in Britain, it doesn’t always work that way,” says Heidi Mirza, a professor at the University of London and author of Young, Female and Black.
“The British stereotype of black women is that we are the loud ones and we are overly sexualized or eroticized,” says Zena Tuitt, a 37-year-old British Caribbean. “We don’t want to be seen as that, so in Britain we have a tendency to try to fit in and not stand out. In quite a conservative society, in order to get on, you need to fit in and to keep your head down.”
While that phenomenon sounds all too familiar to us, black women in Britain say they admire the way African American women have taken these issues on.
Simone Bresi-Ando, a black British woman of Ghanaian descent, says African-American history has had a strong impact on black British women in helping them realize their own inner strength to join together and fight for racial and gender equality. In 2009, she created the “I’m Possible” group as a platform to help push black British women’s voices into the public eye and highlight achievements for women of color in Britain—a move she was inspired to take after witnessing two American programs: Oprah’s Legend Luncheon and Black Girls Rock.
“I admire the black experience in the States because of the sense of community and ability to sing together from the same song sheet on important political issues,” Bresi-Ando says. “We lack those networks here, and we don’t know how to connect in a positive way because we don’t want to openly address the issue.”
Kehinde Olarinmoye, who is of Nigerian descent, says she thinks the struggle is similar and different:
“America has experienced racism a lot longer than we have. And (American) women have a platform set for women of color, and that’s what we are trying to create.
“We’ve had to dig deep in order to find our history, and we’ve had to look up to African-Americans to see what models we can replicate here and give a British identity.”
Using the same argument as many black women in the U.S., Desiree Banugo, a member of “I’m Possible,” says black women are also partially responsible for the images that are portrayed and they need to take ownership of them.
“We have the opportunity to share and educate others about our culture and experience so they can see it for what it really is — rather than from the voices of people who don’t know, or from the media, which distorts what we’re saying, thinking and how we live.
“The important thing in terms of diversity is to engage in the conversation on race. We are a long way off from being in a place where the issues are tackled head on.”
What do you think about the similarities and differences between black women in Britain and in the U.S.? What do you think African American women can learn from their experience?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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