Archive by Author

The Wait of the Nation

24 May

So everyone has been talking about the childhood obesity epidemic, particularly since the four part HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation aired.  Having recently completed my dissertation on the framing of the childhood obesity epidemic on television, I wanted to take a break but after watching Part Three, “Children in Crisis,” I feel the need to respond.  In many ways the one-hour program provide precisely the type of argument and evidence lacking in typical mainstream narratives.  Focusing attention on the difficulties parents have to contend with such as the barrage of food marketing on multiple media platforms and availability of a variety of food products developed specifically for youth consumers is good.  However, in each family segment there was an “obesity clinic” at the center of the solution narrative. 

I am not arguing that families may not need particular support regarding health and nutrition choices in their homes, but I do question the motives of the healthcare industry, the second largest industry in the nation, conflating weight/size with health consistently.  Can we have a much needed discussion about diabetes without making obesity the umbrella crisis?  Can we recognize that the BMI categories are flawed knowing they are consistently used out of the context of family medical and personal medical histories?  Can we also acknowledge that a diversity of body sizes and shapes is biologically normal and that there are significant numbers of healthy “obese” and “overweight” people as well as unhealthy “normal weight” people?  Can we address fatphobia, discrimination, and bullying as  contributors to poor emotional health?

I am “waiting” for the nation to have a frank discussion about food production, labor, leisure, and human rights, but somehow the narrative is fixated on shaming parents into taking their children to the doctor and/or weight-loss programs to “fix” their bodies.  I was waiting for at least one explanation for why Tea, the eight-year old black girl, was bigger than her classmates and seemed to be developing early.  I was waiting for a discussion about hormones in milk, eggs, and meat.  I was waiting for some acknowledgement of genetically modified foods (food science).  But no, the solutions were framed narrowly within single-issue policy-making for stronger regulations on marketing or food or for fitness programs.  In the meantime, the solution is to visit obesity clinics and research centers, and don’t forget your health insurance card or your credit card because unless you have cold hard cash these “card” industries stand to gain a lot in this weight crisis. 

Nevermind the fact that many youth regardless of their size are eating similar diets of high fructose corn syrup, yellow lake 5 or 6, red lake 40, and salt.  I for one am tired of doing workshops with kids where they cannot identify common fruits and vegetables, the components of a basic meal, or read the ingredients in the foods and beverages they eat daily.  But I am clear that this level of illiteracy does not happen on a national level by mistake.  The under-education and underdevelopment of this nation has been strategically deployed through marketing which functions as our primary public pedagogy.  We used to have cooks in school kitchens, now we have underpaid servers/contingent labor forces, typically women.  We had cooking classes in school and now we have extremely well paid advertising executives and recent college grad interns using all their creativity to market crap to my kid to pay their student loan debts. 

If I am going to be called to fight this battle, I want to be clear that I am fighting to win peace for the nation.   Peace means parenting that is not in competition with multinational unaccountable unregulated industries.  It means addressing widespread food and environmental illiteracy for people “at every size and every weight,” we have had enough food product (brand) literacy to last a millennium. 

Peace means affordable afterschool programming so that youth can be actively engaged in their communities with adult supervision at currently underutilized parks and recreation facilities.  Peace means job security for mothers (of color)/parents broadly and explicit recognition that leisure time (evenings, weekends, vacations) is a human right.  I’m still waiting for my nation to roll out the peace and corporate accountability strategy for improving my community’s health.  For me this is the “wait” this nation can no longer afford.

LIVE @ 9am “Images In the River: Black Girls Dialogue”

30 Mar

Good morning CFC community,

After our Feminism 101 for Girls report many asked for more information about the organization and implementation of the workshop.  Well Tami Harris and Julia Stevens of the parenting blog Love Isn’t Enough have arranged an online discussion with five panelists to discuss how to introduce feminism to black girls.  The panelists include educators and activists: Mashadi Matabane, Bianca Laureano, Asha French, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, and Ruth Nicole Brown. Bios for the panelists are listed on the Love Isn’t Enough website. 

Join us for what promises to be a fantastic and necessary discussion.  We look forward to “hearing” from you.  If you have difficulties accessing the discussion from this site click here.

http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=a47a755c8a/height=550/width=470

Images in the River-Black Girls Dialogue

22 Mar

Nina Simone’s haunting ballad “Images” based on the poem by Waring Cuney tells a story about black girls we know all to well.  Not knowing our beauty and not seeing our images; for many of my friends and family it has been a struggle for us to see ourselves as beautiful, worthy of love, and major contributors to the world around us.  However, when we found Audre Lorde, Ella Baker, Angela Davis, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, Darlene Clark Hine, Alice Walker, Faith Ringgold, Toni Morrison, Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Smith, Shirley Chisholm, June Jordan, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu and so many more we saw our image in the river and we knew…

Currently black girls are under attack, on display, and undereducated. Cyberbullying on FB, actual bullying at school, constant surveillance by school security, heterosexism and homophobia all contribute further to the marginalization of black girls.  There are no palm trees in the streets, but they have to deal with unwanted sexual attention in public, and sometimes private, as well as fat-hatred on billboards and tv commercials.  They are not getting adequate general health education or sex education.  Neither their public or private education tells them of the streams of powerful black women and girls in their lineage.  As black feminists, womanists, Afrafeminists, women of color scholars and activists we cannot wait for them to come to us.  We must seek them out and as we guide them to the river we must listen to what they have to say.

Last year the CFC learned the power of our community when we reached out for support with our Feminism 101 for Girls workshop and we received an outpouring of love.  The workshop was a success and we provided a report back in good feminist form, but it was just the beginning.  Since then bloggers Tami Harris and Julia Stevens from Love Isn’t Enough contacted the CFC and workshop facilitators to participate on an online panel and we agreed.

Join us for a live panel discussion, Images in the River: Black Girl Dialogues, at 9 am ET, Saturday, March 31, featuring Sheri Davis-Faulkner, member of the CFC and American Studies PhD Candidate; Mashadi Matabane, Fem101 facilitator and PhD Candidate into transformative agency; Bianca Laureano, founder of the LatiNegr@s Project, who has worked with and taught youth of color and speaks at national and international organizations advocating sex-positive social justice agendas; and Asha French, member of CFC and Doctoral Student in English to discuss planning, funding and facilitating feminism 101 discussions for black girls. The conversation can be accessed on Love Isn’t Enough, Crunk Feminist Collective, What Tami Said and Cover It Live.

This conversation is about sharing best practices and learning from one another.  It is also a call to action so after the panel we encourage participants to schedule dialogues with black girls in your communities and report back.  Specific details for joining the discussion are forthcoming.  Tweet using the hashtag: #blackgirlsdialogue.

It’s time we see our images in the river.  It’s time to talk about black girl problems.  It’s time to talk about black girl joy.  It’s time to talk.

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Today I Remember

6 Feb

First I want to congratulate the New York Giants for winning the Super Bowl and both teams giving us a good game, particularly in terms of defense.  I also want to shout out Madonna for putting so many women of color dancers to work last night and featuring two very different female emcees.  I must say I wasn’t very surprised by all the crotch shots, particularly after having watched a Nicki Minaj video marathon, but I was shocked by M.I.A’s “da Brat moment.”  I’m assuming she was giving the U.S. the finger because she was previously banned from entering the country.  Either way, good times, good food, good beer, a good end to the weekend.

The beginning of the weekend was not so good.  I went to the memorial service for childhood peer, Stacey English, the beautiful Atlanta woman who was missing for nearly a month.  Stacey English

Her body was found in the woods.  She was my age.  She had been in my class in elementary school.  I attended the service with my mother, who attended church with Stacey and is close friends with Stacey’s godmother. The entire time I simply wanted to leave the room where her closed casket was placed.  I did not know what to say to her parents.  I knew if I allowed my feelings to rise to the surface I would lose control and all of the fears and anxieties I hold daily would spill over.  So I stayed quiet and comforted my mother.

For a while I thought this was the first time someone close to me had been murdered.  It amazes me how much the brain can suppress until triggered.  Well Stacey’s death was certainly a trigger because I remember now.  I remember the last memorial service I attended for Jason Bowser, a high school student who was shot in his car.  I remember Johnny Johnson, a senior in high school who committed suicide thinking he might be sent to prison for stealing a pair of sneakers.  I remember Brandon Williams, a senior in high school who was shot at a high school football game.  I remember Sharon Davis, my stepmother who was shot during my father’s basketball game when I was eight years old.

I often think how blessed or privileged I am that I have not suffered as I believe others do.  Upon reflection I think I do not allow myself to suffer, which means that when it is time to feel I do everything possible to avoid it.  This is not self-care this is denial.  Last week I cried because I saw a powerful connection in my work, but it was not tears of joys, it was just uncontrollable tears.  I know tears are for healing, but I rarely feel I have time for my own tears.  Today I choose to cry.  Today I choose to heal.  Today I remember.

Umoja means Unity!

26 Dec

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa and I am having a few friends and family over to celebrate Umoja, which means UNITY.  I was first introduced to Kwanzaa as a child when my mother volunteered me to work the slideshow at a black arts museum in Atlanta.  I was so irritated then, but I am so thankful now.  Now that I am a full grown Black feminist I want to take the opportunity to reflect on CFC posts from 2011 that I think of as part of Nguzo Saba–Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.

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Image taken from http://www.lasentinel.net/UserFiles/File/122211/1Kwanzaa-kinara.jpg

UMOJA means Unity and it is my favorite day because it is simple.  Gather together and rejoice, remember, and recommit yourself to your ancestors, friends, family and community.  There are four posts highlighting this principle of unity on several levels from the very intimate to mass organizing.  They demonstrate the power of unity to change our world and our-selves.

Feminism 101 for Girls A Report Back

The Revolution Televised

Somewhere between Black Power and White Rage

KUJICHAGULIA means self-determine/self determination and this is my second favorite day (you will start to see a pattern) because I love saying koo-jee-jha-koo-lee-ah.  I also love it because I believe that is the greatest gift of black feminism.  Through Audre Lorde I learned the importance of naming/defining oneself and the power of determining your path for yourself.  The following are posts that I admired and taught this year precisely because I believe they express this principle.

Praise the Lorde

The Zen of Young Money

Ode to Dark Skinned Girls

UJIMA is really my favorite because I am a fan of collaboration and service in all areas of life.  It means “collective work and responsibility” and this is something we at the CFC truly believe in.  It is not enough to think about change, we must act! Whether is it recognizing the importance of care/self-care, the necessity of organizing, all of our responsibility to support mothers (parents) in childcare, or fighting to defend our right to exist—we must Act!  Troy Davis we continue to speak your name.

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The Immediate Need for Emotional Justice

Musings on the day after Mother’s Day

Lynching Remixed

UJAMAA is cooperative economics and this year it wins my CFC “top choice award” because without this community supporting our vision for doing a workshop specifically to introduce feminism to girls we would not have been to do it (meaning provide resources, goodie bag, and a healthy meal) for 10 teenage black girls in Atlanta.  When there are so many people undervaluing the importance of girls, particularly black girlhood, you supported us and let us know that there are many around the globe that do value girls.  For that we sincerely thank you.  We must continue to support one another financially and emotionally in our immediate communities as well as our virtual ones.

Feminism 101 for Girls

A Love Poem for Single Mothers

Help Support “To the Other Side of Dreaming”

‘Tis the season for a different type of giving”

NIA means purpose.  My mother took this name a few years ago (favorite).  I believe that this day is about being bold, being reflective and being open to listen to voices that you may not usually hear in order to move forward with “inclusive” political purpose for advancing justice in the lives of so many people who are marginalized and exploited.

Conflict is forever

Confessions of a Backslider

From Margin to Center: Health for Brown Bois

KUUMBA is the best because it means creativity and the only way to be a united, self-determined, collective, cooperative, purposeful, person is to bring your full creative (free) self to everything you do, and I do mean EVERYTHING!

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How talking to your girls can liberate your sex life

Sexy, Self-conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single

It Gets Wetter

10 Crunk things for spring

IMANI means faith.  Faith is what I wish for each of you as we journey into this brand new year.  Have faith in yourself and your abilities and your community and your spiritual source.  You have everything that you need.  Trust yourself.  I feel blessed to be part of this community and I have faith that in this community we are doing good work.

The Joys of Being a Black woman

We Created A Circle

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Reed-ing Gender Between the Lines

1 Dec

So if you need a break from job applications and dissertation writing try watching The Original BET series Reed Between the Lines; it has me hooked.

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I particularly like the progressive gender politics and the representation of a “blended” family.  Kasi and Kenan are Carla’s teenage twins from a previous relationship and Alexis is the youngest child of Carla and Alex Reed.  As co-producers, Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner are definitely modeling alternative gender roles.  Carla is a working mother and initially Alex was a stay-at-home/working dad.  For a minute I wanted to be like “Alex you ain’t got no job” (shout out to Martin) because he was home-schooling his daughter Alexis and not working as an NYU professor.  To be clear, I know home schooling is work, but he was introduced as a professor, so I he must have been on sabbatical.  But I digress.

For the first few weeks of watching I was perplexed because I’m so used to the male being the central person in family sitcoms I was shocked that his character seemed underdeveloped.  The more I thought about it I realized I just wanted to know more about his work because I expected to see scenes of him at work.  Alex being at home and not “working” outside of the home or explicitly working from home threw me off.  In a world of formula television this depiction of black masculinity rarely never happens and it’s nice.  The fact that the writers deliberately developed Carla and the children’s lives before actually delving into Alex suggests that the show is not about Alex and “his wife and kids” (still got love for Damon Wayans).

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Now I’m clear this is A (Hetero)Black Feminist F(ordin)airytale, but I can’t remember seeing a television show this deliberate about promoting progressive gender politics and good communication between partners.  Alex prepares all the meals including lunches for his wife and kids.  He helps Alexis with homework, joins Kasi in a school protest against her principal, is active with the “mocha mom” crew, and supports his son doing rhythmic gymnastics.  This is really pushing it for BET, they are really going there.  I also love that Carla and Alex present a united front with their kids, but that they also have disagreements, miscommunications, hurt each other’s feelings, hold each other accountable, and throw in a few sexual innuendos to let you know they really like each other.

It is a twist for the family sitcom to follow a professional woman to work each episode.  Carla, a psychiatrist, is the primary breadwinner in the family and usually the professional black women we see in the workplace on television do not have a supportive partner and children at home.  Speaking of the workplace, there’s Gabby the Spanish-speaking acupuncturist who can switch from sweet to looking you up and down like she switches between languages (aka badass Afro-Latina who rocked in The Best Man).  Then there is Ms. Helen, the administrative assistant who provides  “old-school” wisdom to round out the all-black female workplace.

Reed Between the Lines is definitely corny but I love it because I’m corny and I feel like I show up because I see a bit of myself in Alex, Carla, and their oldest daughter, Kasi.  It’s a refreshing break for a working feminist mommy such as myself.

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Reed Between the Lines

1 Dec

Reed Between the Lines

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