Friday, April 25, 2008

Robin's New 'Do

I’m not sure if you caught this mini-milestone buried deep beneath the news of the PA primary, and the candidates as they move from PA to the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, and the ongoing saga of the children separated from their mothers living on the polygamist compound in Texas, but earlier this week, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts shed the wig she wore since shedding her own hair due to chemo treatments.

Roberts, who’s been quite public with her battle with cancer and even strutted her stuff, sans wig and in all her grand baldness, down the runway during Isaac Mizrahi’s fashion show during this year’s Fashion Week in NYC.

But Miss Robin took it to a whole ‘nother level on Tuesday morning and announced it was time to bid adieu to the wig and explained she’s come to fully understand Indie. Arie’s I Am Not My Hair, and with that, she slipped off the wig and underneath she’s sporting the cutest close crop ‘do ever seen on morning television. She looks FABULOUS! The cut accentuates her cheekbones and her gorgeous eyes.

Now, we all know how deep the issue of hair runs with Black women, so the significance of Robin’s pronouncement should not go unnoticed, because I for one, am sick and tired of Black women and the prevalence of our long, cascading weaves, helmet-head wigs and here in Philly, we're overrun with those damn Pocahantas braids.

Although Robin's short hair is a byproduct of her cancer treatment and she’s not necessarily sporting it by choice, she’s taking short, natural hair a huge leap forward in terms of expanding the scope of both the standard and versatility of Black beauty in America. This simple act illustrates Robin’s commitment to staying true to her self in spite of how others may react or despite the public’s expectations of what’s an appropriate hair style for a morning anchor. She’s demonstrating self-love and acceptance, traits many of us need to exercise a bit more in our own lives.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Primary Day

Well, here in Pennsylvania, today is the day we finally get to end all of the speculation and cast our vote for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. I’m so excited, because I do think Barackis going to better than anticipated. I’m also thrilled I’m able to share my primary experience with the readers of The Root. After the polls close this evening and all the votes have been tallied, attention will turn from Pennsylvania and move on to the remaining primaries in states like Indiana, North Carolina and Mississippi.

I’ll admit, I’m itching to get to the next phase of this process. I understand and support Hillary’s right to stay in the race, I just wish she’d chill with her kitchen sink strategy and stick with focusing on her own agenda. I’m also sick and tired of her “more experience” platform and if given an opportunity to speak with her directly, I’d explain that what she’s had is greater access, not more experience than Barack. Her role as First Lady provided her an invaluable first-hand view of what the President faces on a daily basis, but that access may not translate to ensure a successful presidency.

Bottom line is, it’s time for a new day and with the enthusiasm I’ve seen by the voters here in Pennsylvania, we are well on our way.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mango Goes Obama

This weekend started on Friday night when the Mango tribe headed down to the Obama rally at Philly’s Independence Mall. This was the first time we’ve checked him out in person and it was an unforgettable experience. According to the Obama camp, we were 35,000 strong, his largest rally to date.

It was also reminiscent of my childhood when my activist grandmother, Veronica, would take me on her journeys as a civil rights worker. Veronica was beyond progressive and was on the front lines of demanding equal opportunity for all people. She worked tirelessly for both of Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns and was elected as an alternate delegate for Jackson in both 1984 and 1988.

As we approached the rally site on Friday, I couldn’t believe the number of people standing in line to get into Independence Mall. I began to see so many people I knew, especially from the kids’ school. The school’s principal was there with her family. Diversity doesn’t begin to describe the crowd. It was beyond diverse. The vibe was warm and festive and I was both overwhelmed and affirmed to see so many folks coming together to check out and celebrate Barack.

I, like millions of others, am fed-up with the current tone of the opposition's campaigns and the orchestrated manipulation of the media. During the antics at last Tuesday’s debate, a dark, dense cloud positioned itself over my spirit and I again began to doubt Obama’s chance to win this nomination. But now I’m happy to report, my Mango tribe and I are not alone and a shift is underfoot and as long as Barack keeps his head up, I will too. Friday’s rally proved there are more of us than I realized and if I didn’t know, I bet there are lots of others who have underestimated our numbers, just like they initially underestimated Obama’s ability to take it to Clinton, and the element of surprise may be one of our greatest assets.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What my Birthday Says About Me

Your Birthdate: May 24

You understand people well and are a natural born therapist.

A peacemaker, people always seem to get along when you are around.

You tend to be a father or mother figure to friends, even to those older than you.

You enjoy your role, and you find that you are close to many people.

Your strength: Your devotion

Your weakness: Reliance on others for happiness

Your power color: Lilac

Your power symbol: Heart

Your power month: June

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Big Ups!

A couple of days ago I read an incredible post over at The Prisoner’s Wife. She’s a teacher and she wrote about her frustrations with one of her female students. The Prisoner’s Wife cares deeply for her students and felt as if she lost her temper and needed to apologize to this young lady. The Prisoner’s Wife is obviously a talented and committed teacher.

The third Tuesday of every month we host an interactive poetry workshop, Rock the Pen!, for middle and high school students. The program features a different guest poet every month and includes an open mic session for the kids who are interested in sharing their work. We get kids from all over Philly, South Jersey, Delaware, private school, public and charter schools. What really drives the program are the teachers who go the extra mile to get their students to the program every month. This is no easy task since most teachers are under extreme pressure to teach to the test and receive little to no incentives to go the extra mile for their students.

Yolanda Wisher is different. Yolanda is an extremely talented teacher and poet and every year she not only brings her students from Germantown Friends to the program, but she also swings by Germantown High to pick up another group of students and they all head down like one big happy family to participate in the program together. I won’t even go into the huge disparity between the two schools, except to say that one exists with vast abundance and the other exists in a constant state of lack. Yolanda’s also the driving force behind the second annual Germantown Poetry Festival, so not only is she talking the talk, but she’s also walking the walk while setting an example for her students that will serve them far beyond their days in high school.

Big ups to The Prisoner’s Wife, Yolanda Wisher and teachers everywhere who do great work day in and day out and receive very little fanfare and insufficient pay.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sick as a dog

Bronchitis, sinusitis, allergies and an ear infection. My doctor couldn’t believe I was still standing, but what can I say, I’m a mom. The drugs she prescribed cost more than 75 bucks and that's with a prescription plan! I do feel rotten (and broke) and my head feels as if it’s three times its original size. So, with that said, I’m shutting down this machine and getting some rest.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Do You Choose to Self-Identify?

This week I’ve been working with D’Lo, a performance artist presenting his solo piece, Ramble-Ations at the Bride this weekend. I’ve been communicating with him for at least 8 months, but we hadn’t met face-to-face until Tuesday.

D’Lo is by gender a female, but self-identifies as a man and I wasn’t aware of this until his director pulled me aside and asked me to refer to D’Lo as he, not she. I immediately replied, “No problem,” but to be honest, it’s been more challenging than I expected and I’ve slipped up quite a bit over the last few days. Thankfully, D’Lo and his crew has been patient with me and the rest of our staff as we’ve haltingly tried to adjust our perception and respect the fact that this is how D’Lo has chosen to self-identify.

Although we present gay/lesbian/queer work throughout our season, it wasn’t until this week that I’ve knowingly interacted with someone who self-identifies other than how they physically appear to me. Yes, in many instances, D’Lo may be mistaken for a boy, with her shaved head, hip-hop swagger and baggy pants, but once he opens his mouth or you look closely, you can definitely sense the female form.

D’Lo’s choice of self-identification may sometimes put him in precarious situations. Fortunately, he’s not living in a back hick town as depicted in Boys Don’t Cry, but even in metropolitan or urban areas, you find dangerously ignorant folks who want to make their point by putting their hands on you. D’Lo seems to be innately aware of potential dangers that may abound and his demeanor is thoughtful and understated.

The process of self-identification reaches beyond sexual orientation. We all do it. We all have a choice. Most of us simply assume the identity thrust upon us via our family, friends, society, but imagine the strength and resolve necessary to self- create your identity. Right now, I self-identify as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, arts worker, storyteller. I’ve always self-identified as an African-American, but in today’s society, we do each other a disservice to simply look at the color of someone’s skin, the kink of their hair or their choice of wardrobe to assume how they may self-identify.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of the Box

Last Sunday was Yannick’s birthday and instead of throwing a big party like we did last year, we decided to invite three of his buddies and their families to a performance by Tamagawa Taiko & Dance. They were performing at my job on Saturday and since Loverman and I are trying to dissuade the kids from expecting a major soiree every year, but still think its important to honor their day with some sort of special activity, this show seemed like an ideal fit.

Students from Japan’s Tamagawa University have traveled to the U.S. for the last few years to perform throughout the east coast celebrating the blooming of the cherry blossoms in early spring. My kids have seen them perform the last three years and love the show and I knew the huge thunderous taiko drums would mesmerize Yannick’s little crew of 6yr. olds.

About ten days before the show I contacted the invitees’ parents with the details for Saturday’s activities and all seemed psyched and ready to go, but a few days prior to the concert Jack’s* mom called and asked if it would be o.k. if she opted not to attend the show with Jack? She wanted to drop him off and pick him up after the performance. She explained her brother would be visiting for the weekend and she’d rather spend the time with him. I assured her that would be fine. When Saturday afternoon arrived, Susan,*Jack’s mom, and her brother dropped Jack off at the appointed time, but asked if they could come in and look around the theater and our gallery. “Of course,” I countered and went on to explain the history of the organization to Jack’s uncle. The lobby was filling quickly with our usual diverse patron base and Jack and Yannick ran off with Loverman to check out what was happening back stage. Susan went on to ask me to remind her what type of African drumming would Jack be seeing this afternoon and I must have looked at her a bit funny because I never mentioned African drumming in any of our exchanges about the show. I told her that the performers were Japanese and they would be playing taiko drums. I couldn’t believe it when she went on to say, “Well, if I knew it was Japanese drumming, I would have changed my plans.”

Oh really? What exactly did Susan mean by this comment? Is she saying that because we’re Black, we only solicit African/African American cultural experiences? We’ve known this woman for at least three years, had quite a few play dates during that time, and although I often find her to be a bit scattered, I’ve never found her to be vacuous or limited, but damn, does she just automatically place folks in their little boxes, only to be shocked when they reach beyond her stereotypical assumptions?

Am I making too much of this, was it simply a misunderstanding?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Learning To Take Good Care

Well, we finally located the book---- The Care & Keeping of You. This is the tome Miss Olivia and her BFF, Kai, have been pouring over in school, learning all about the impending changes of their pre-pubescent bodies and psyche. We found it at TargĂ© and I must admit, it’s quite comprehensive and thankfully emphasizes the need to take good care of your body and it will take good care of you. This is a lesson I often need to be reminded of myself.

Olivia’s pleased as punch to have a copy of her own, but every day since purchasing the book, she confronts me with what she’s convinced is undisputable evidence of the advent of her changing body.

The other day she informed me that she needed deodorant because her underarms smelled funky. She whipped her arm in the air and instructed me to sniff her armpit. I smelled nothing. She then dug two fingers into her armpit, then thrust them in front of my face and asked me to sniff her fingers. I refused. I promised to be the first to let her know when I caught a whiff of her underarm funk. This morning while getting dressed for school, she inspected her nipples in the mirror behind the bathroom door and asked me if I, too, could see her breast buds. Again, I had to play the role of the naysayer and inform her that, no, her nipples look the same to me.

Again, I’m happy Olivia is comfortable coming to me to discuss these things and I’ll work hard to foster these ongoing exchanges, but I can see now it’s going to be a memorable ride.