culture

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The Inner Conflict of Being a Black Gentrifier

I’m from the part of San Francisco James Baldwin dubbed, “The San Francisco America pretends does not exist.” Gentrification in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood is likened to the despair and plainness that happens when Christmas decorations are taken down and the tree is left barren, shrunken, abandoned and unremarkable.

While I mourn Bayview and its neighbors that once were, I find myself a transplant in someone else’s neighborhood contributing to the reason generations of locals are being displaced.  Many young Black professionals find ourselves journeying from college to a new socioeconomic status that has landed us in a place where we have become the modern day “invisible men”— Black gentrifiers criticizing gentrification for its polarizing effects on hometowns we left behind to attain the American Dream, though benefitting from the effects gentrification has on the neighborhoods in which we’ve chosen to live, work, and raise families.

Being a Black woman at a time when so many women who look like me are silently dying with no one being held accountable, I have no choice but to stay “woke.”  To be anything less than conscious is dangerous. And so here I am simultaneously awake and invisible, disheartened by the recent headlines from my hometown about the racial tensions, cultural, economic, and class divides that are becoming as much a part of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet, I find myself 3000 miles away, living in a historically Black neighborhood and somehow removed from the struggles of longtime residents who are being displaced because of the very tensions and divides that ravage my hometown.

Read more at Ebony.com

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A Woman Is A Man’s Best Accessory?

Can men survive, or thrive, without women? Methinks not.

Years ago I decided to boycott music videos not only because I was hard pressed to see a lead woman of my complexion, but also because I was desperate to avoid video images assaulting senses other than my vision. Watching horrible, degrading music videos totally impacted how I heard the song.

It is no secret that the heavily male dominated rap culture cannot survive without women. The culture of this new era rap genre is dependent on the female body to create music videos and alleged tales of sexual exploits and conquests in their lyrics. Women are the consumers of rap music, the muse, and the abused of the misogynistic customs adopted by rap culture, even if only for public display and consumption.

What has now become evident to me is that men in general can’t seem to survive without women. I reached this conclusion a few times in my life, but most notably on a recent trip to Miami when my girlfriends and I were offered seats in the club’s VIP section paid for by a group of men who seemed to be “collecting” a female entourage to sit pretty on the sectional while tapping our pointy toe stilettos and sipping on whatever was being offered.

Had I not been so bored that I began creating a mental list of the many reasons why I am no longer about that “club life,” I would not have noticed how the ladies drafted to the VIP section served as ornaments on a Christmas tree. The particular brand of men who use women as accessories serve as the metaphorical Christmas trees:  dry, overbearing, with a definite shelf life, and ever welcomed in the home past a certain time.

Sitting in the club I began to feel a little disgusted at the thought that we, not just my friends and I, but women everywhere are so commonly used as accessories. Without us many men are incomplete, and not a fairytale love kind of way.  They are fully dressed but without shoes, a watch and tie. Needing women to make oneself look and feel better is seemingly an issue of low self-esteem and envisages the lame and destructive “pimps up, hoes down” concept. 

Should we be flattered? I’ll admit that being arm candy and being “shown off” isn’t so bad when that man who is showing off the beautiful woman in his life recognizes and treats her as if she is more than just a cardboard cutout offering of an image fulfilled. But being used as a shiny ornament or for the benefit of a nice ass shot in the latest tip drill-esque music video negates whatever sense of flattery that may have been intended and felt. 

That night in the Miami club VIP I realized that 1) the drinks are pretty watered down when being shared among an entire harem in a Miami nightclub, and 2) men truly cannot survive or thrive without women.

via GIPHY

“This is a man’s world. But it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.” ~James Brown

 

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Breaking With Tradition: Jesus Isn’t White & Student Activism Should Be Encouraged

Much like political affiliations and whether you prefer Target to Wal-Mart, religious beliefs are very much learned and passed down from generation to generation—a precious heirlooms, though treasured, may not be real.

As the mother of an inquisitive 5-year-old, it is now my time to continue the tradition of gifting my daughter with the same religious foundation that was given to me by a mother who held firm in the belief of training “a child in the way he should go.” Only I’ll upgrade my family’s heirloom with a shiny new gem: Jesus, like Santa Claus, is not a white man. Nor is He a convenient chameleon that morphs into whatever ethnicity, race or gender of the person who seeks Him. My understanding and belief is that He is a feeling that cannot be accurately illustrated despite the centuries-long depictions perpetuated on paraphernalia and stained glass windows in places of worship.

CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2015/03/15: Jesus on the Road to Emmaus: Beautiful stained glass windows at the Church of the Redeemer in downtown Toronto. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

via Getty Images

My mother, who received the same ideals from her parents, gave my religious beliefs to me, only she didn’t explain to me that the porcelain-skinned brunette on every other page of my Sunday School book was merely an illustration—a single perspective, an image cultivated from the imagination of someone with something to gain from the image, be it money, power, or both.  Overlooking the discrepancy between the imaginative physical concept of Jesus and the interpreted directive of the biblical scripture in Deuteronomy 4:16 (NIV):  “…so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman…”– caused me a great deal of confusion and severed my prayer life and spiritual connection for many years.  My experience with being “churched” in such a way that resulted in my spiritual inadequacy has served as the catalyst for laying all the cards–the ones I hold, at least–on the table and visible for my daughter to see. 

At age five, many children still view parents as the apples of their eye.  The raggedy robe that I don the moment the day’s work ends and my bra hits the floor, is nothing less than queen’s garb to my daughter. That said, wielding the words and recycled beliefs of her father and I as her shield and armor, my little one will go to battle with anyone.  As she is currently enjoying her first fall as a kindergarten student at an Episcopalian school, I keep my phone nearby in anticipation of the day I will receive a call from an insoluble school chaplain telling me that my daughter has started a riot (with Jesus’ birth approaching, I’m expecting that phone call in the upcoming weeks).  I imagine my little one waging war on decades of inaccuracies, misinterpretations and traditions.  She’s been known to upset an entire pre-school class by telling classmates  that McDonald’s fries are poison. Good. Dang, good. But poisonous. Her father–the health and wellness coach–taught her about pesticides and agriculture and that was all she wrote…

So yeah, I’ve practiced my speech, polished up my inflections and rehearsed my facial expressions in preparation of the day that the roles will reverse and I will have to back my daughter’s words up and treat what have become her beliefs as the truth, the gospel and the way. 

There are so many horrid examples of what it looks, feels and sounds like to be accused of hating another individual, group of people or sets of beliefs for simply exercising your right to believe, to love, to think, to have a perspective, to just be. If you tout that #blacklivesmatterthat somehow means you hate law enforcement and any person who does not identify as black. If you support, or better yet, if you do not loudly condemn gay marriage you are unequivocally rejecting Christianity and making reservations for a seat in hell. Similarly, if you teach your child that Jesus is not an image meant to be drawn, duplicated and idolized and can instead be felt in your heart, in music, in a flower growing through a crack in the cement, you may be accused of intentionally teaching your child to hate, to cause disruption and confusion.  

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But alas, the beauty of perception, individuality, freedom of speech and thought, and prayer–much, much prayer–has allowed me to feel at peace with teaching my daughter to question what she is being taught. Question third-hand knowledge and when able, seek the answer for herself. Accepting others’ truth, including the heirloom of truth passed down from generation to generation, is not a pressure she has to suffocate from.

In honor of activism and student activism and not accepting behaviors and traditions because “it’s how it’s been done for years,” I salute the students at the University of Missouri who aren’t afraid to demand change, to confront history and to spark a movement. I salute my daughter, the 5-year-old activist who fearlessly questions “truths” until she finds comfortable resolve. 

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For now, I await that phone call…

 

 

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#MasculinitySoFragile

#MasculinitySoFragile: ‘And That’s Why They Call U A…’

There are so many ways for a woman to be called a bitch without the word ever escaping the lips of the accuser.

Before Twitter confirmed what I already knew about being called the “b-word,” I learned all about the endless ways of being referred to as everything but a child of God by the boys and men on the streets of San Francisco. From being soaked with water guns to having my purse taken and held as ransom for my “real name and number,” I’ve seen what it means to be called the “b-word” without an actual parting of the lips.

Today this type of behavior goes by popular terms like shaming and street harassment and the streets have expanded to include virtual pavements by way of social media and texting, but the lesson is still the same: Wielding the word no in response to a man’s advances is a capital offense punishable of up to 100 ways of being called a bitch, with at least 99 of those problems not using the actual word.

Despite Jay Z’s avouchment of having “99 problems and a bitch ain’t one,” even his wife, thee Queen Bey has, and is currently experiencing the punishment of brandishing the weapon No. In a recent interview, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, responded to Beyoncé’s independence, her beauty and her choice to bare cleavage with a public criticism of her wardrobe choices and her husband’s perceivable agreement of her independence. Minister Farrakhan charges Beyoncé and other women with being the keepers of the sanity of men. He asked, “How can a man think straight, looking at the beauty of Beyoncé? Help us to be more sane.” Because…#MasculinitySoFragile.

It amazes me how some respectable men can genuinely love and respect their mothers, sisters, daughters and most any other blood related female, but can so easily scroll through their timelines or woman gaze on Any Street, USA (and beyond) and proudly declare their lust or abhorrence—usually a hybrid of the two–accentuated by the “b-word” towards someone else’s daughter, sister or mother. Reject a man’s unwanted attention or disregard his demands, and while he may not call a woman the “b-word,” his lust may quickly turn into abhorrence trying to question you with, “Who do you think you are?” and convince you that “You’re not all that cute anyway.” Women keep walking, ignoring both his advances and his misguided assertion. A woman’s polite silence is usually the key to stave off further comments. Because…

Women generally exercise a great deal of decorum in the face of male insults because the oppressed are always taught to love and respect the oppressor. But this isn’t just true for women. It’s also true for the black lives that are devalued by people and systems that oppress but expect a thank you sir and ma’am while unjustly flexing their authority. It’s true for the boy wonder who demonstrates ingenuity, but due to his cultural makeup and religion, is racially profiled and oppressed. It’s true for the aging population who have paid into a system that places them on an unlivable fixed income and demands that they be satisfied with the poor conditions. It’s true for the homeless and mentally ill veterans. It’s true for every oppressed person and group of people who consistently find themselves on the wrong end of right.

#MasculintySoFragile is a reminder that the war on racism, xenophobia, and homophobia is a war fought alongside sexism. We’ve made great strides in how far we’ve come, but we may still need a few more decades, catchy hashtags and newly coined terms for those strides to be long enough to make us a nation of equals.

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