Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stop Playing Games with Kwanzaa

Yesterday, I was subjected to visual assault by this video:

I really, really wish people would stop treating my beloved holiday as a joke.

As a child of the early 70s, I share a common social history with countless of individuals born during a time of social awakening. Our parents changed their names, cut off (or grew) their hair, and embraced all things Afrikan. We were the vegetarian, communal living, family structure experimenting, arms bearing, organic garden growing, politically organizing, Marxist-Lenninist elite. And we longed for a holiday that celebrated the principles upon which our ideal society could be built.

In our home, we had a Kwanza book. (You will note that I spelled Kwanza with ONE a because at the time, Kwanza was spelled with ONE a, and not two – which would come later to differentiate kwanza the Angolan currency from Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday. I TOLD y’all I’m a veteran at this.) And our Kwanza book, lovingly designed and illustrated by my mother, was our family handbook for the holiday. The meaning and practice of each principle was defined in detail, and we reviewed the book as we lit our candles that sat snuggly in the kinara made by my father.

We decorated our home with colorful masks made by my mother, and all of our Kwanzaa supplies were kept in a wooden window seat that was also made by my father.

You see where I’m going here?

Aside from espousing the values of unity; self determination; economic independence and cooperation; strong community work ethic and responsibility; creativity; purpose; and faith, Kwanzaa challenges us to put all those values into action. We grew our own food. My mother sewed and knitted our clothes. My father made much of the furniture we used in our home.

Our gifts were handmade or were given to increase our intellectual capacity or creative abilities.
Our Kwanzaa decorations were not bought, but a manifestation of our own God-given talents. Kwanzaa time is family time – to reflect on what we’ve done and what we can do better. To have fun and enjoy one another.

And then along comes Sandra Lee, with her “tablescapes” and her “semi-homemade” disasterpieces, basically making a mockery of my holiday!

Aside from the obvious nastiness of the recipe – honestly, who in the world would combine a store-bought angel food cake with tinned icing mixed with cocoa and cinnamon, and then fill said angel food cake with canned apple pie filling (not even WARMED UP!!), and THEN top it all with CORN NUTS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS??????

And yeah, I know that Sandra did not create this recipe for instant diabetes in a plate – you can read about the creator here:

But I’m charging Sandra with full responsibility for denigrating my holiday on a national scale. Everybody with basic cable has probably watched at LEAST one FoodTV network show. This is the network that made Emeril and Bobby Flay household names and catapulted Rachel Ray and her “ee-vee-oh-oh” into the magazine publishing and custom cookware industries.

FoodTV network = big time.

Sandra Lee is the epitome of what’s wrong with our nation. In the span of 3 minutes, Ms. Lee has managed to dumb down, scoop out, mix up, and slather on a facsimile of a conscious and well-thought out holiday for the world to see.

Thanks, Sandra.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


We women are some complex beings. We do a number of things – wearing different hats and super hero capes and all that. We love our families and make it work in amazing ways. Women who are married or in committed relationships with children and careers are often deeply ensconced in their roles. A lot of times, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that our funky moods are because we want and need to get away from it all. Even fewer are the times that we actually DO it.

PERSONALLY – I’ve found that there’s a mental price to pay for “getting away”. Or even THINKING ABOUT IT!! It means saying “I can’t do this today. I can’t be cupcake baking, 3-course meal delivering, event planning, outfit coordinating, spiritual bath making, best friend counseling, hostess with the mostest’ing, hooverlike dick sucking (yeah, I said it) SUPERWOMAN today!”

Then comes the “oh shit! Did I SAY THAT?” reaction from all the talking hats that I wear. And then the superwoman comes out with her big ass cape and says “fuck that shit! (wo)Man up! Suck it up! Yo ancestors had babies in the cotton fields, cut the cord and threw the baby on the back and kept it moving!! What the FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!”

How the hell am I supposed to go to Tahiti when dinner needs to be made? How the hell am I supposed to justify taking care of myself when so many others have such a seemingly immediate need to be cared for and nurtured?

And so I feel guilty, put the credit card back, and log off Travelocity; tucking my dream vacation itinerary back in my junky ass overstuffed purse.

But I want and NEED to get away! I need to see some new scenery from a 12 inch reinforced, plexi glass window with a pull down shade. I need the flight attendant to bring me an overpriced sandwich and some peanuts. I need to get where I’m going safely.

I also need all those people I take care of back home, to want me. I want my man and my children to say, “come back” or “can I go whichyew?” or “don’t go.” I need that, too.

In all my superwomanness, I need someone to encourage and direct me, just like I encourage and direct others. I need to feel appreciated and loved. I need that long “bye-bye” in the airport that says “go ahead, get away, but don’t stay too long because we need you next to us.”

It took a lot for me to admit this. Women are conditioned to value being stoic and immoveable. We’re taught to be strong and gracious in the face of crisis. We’re told that strong women continue to move forward with their heads held high despite any obstacle. I’m a woman. I won’t deny this.

But we’re human, too. And humans need to be needed. Part of being valued is feeling that one brings something to the table. That one possesses something – a quality, a skill, an attribute – that others NEED.

In admitting this rather schizophrenic pattern of thinking – and maybe it’s just Erykah and I who share this, I don’t know – I feel like she removed the layers. She stripped herself of the Erykah superstar, the Erykah with the crazy wigs, the Erykah mother of 3, the Erykah on tour, the Erykah with the legendary punani that makes rappers want to wear crocheted pants. She told the superwoman to stand down for a moment and she breathed without guilt.

I’ve been trying to retire my personal superwoman for YEARS now. She’s got issues, I tell you. Her only words are “yes”, “sure”, and “no problem”. She is a chronic people pleaser, mixing bowl, writing skills, and any other of her 4,080 services at the ready. She’s ironed, coiffed, and lip glossed, with a full tank of gas and a smile.

And she totally has her place. She boots me out of bed in the morning, pushes me past my comfort zone, and makes me a less complacent and more ambitious person.

But she takes some shit waaaayyyy too far. She’s a strong willed, habitual line stepper who doesn’t like to be told to play her position. She drains me. (she’s probably going to kick my ass for this later, too). And I need a break from her sometimes. I need to leave her at home while I take my seat at the window – in the car, on a plane, on the metro…..I just need to get away.

So…that’s my personal interpretation of the song. Shit, Erykah could get wind of this lil piece and say that I got it all wrong. I guess that’s the beauty and the beast of interpreting art.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can I Live?

What do I do as
I sit there shielding my
Being from this beauty that is blinding me?
This shit is just not fair and fuck
A next lifetime cause memories and daydreams
Don’t live and breathe like people do and they
Don’t make me glisten like you.
And I sit here, taking you in
In doses because you
Undiluted is just way too much you
To swallow at one time and I am afraid that I
Might drown – arms so tired – legs
So heavy using them both to wrangle my heartstrings
Back to their rightful home in my chest. But you keep
Talking and smiling and talking
And smiling…….and my strings are
Unraveling like the bottom of a farmhand’s
Jeans and this shit is so
Not fair……because I don’t have to
Drown. I can float on the raft of this beauty
But what of my heart?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mammograms and Pap Smears - What's REALLY Going on??

Hey folks!!

Over the past week or so, there have been "new developments" reported in the areas of health research that state that women under 21 don't need to get Pap smears and women under the age of 50 do not need routine mammography screenings.

What's really good here? Especially in the African-American community where (as reported by the US Department of Health), our women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40, and nearly one-third of those diagnoses are of an especially aggressive type called "triple-negative", which is highly resistant to traditional forms of treatment.

And what of cervical cancer? In the United States, cervical cancer most often affects Hispanic women, where the rate of infection is more than twice than what's seen in non-Hispanic white women. African-American women are 50% more likely to develop cervical cancer than white women.

With these statistics, can we women of color really afford not to be vigilant about our health via routine screenings? Many of us are single parents/heads of households whose families may suffer tremendously - both emotionally and financially - if they have to bear the burden of caring for a terminally ill loved one. And what happens to the children in those families who lose a loved one to such an illness? Are they pushed into a woefully inadequate foster care system?

These revised guidelines around Pap smears and mammograms scare me. And YES, I am fully aware that the advice is different for those who have a family history of certain types of cancers. However, in African American and Hispanic communities, the lack of family history isn't a reliable indicator of possible infection and women are often not diagnosed until it's much too late. Pair that with our higher likelihood of developing more aggressive forms of these cancers and our overall lack of access to quality health care and we're looking at a really bleak future.

Take care of yourselves, y'all. As much as possible, eat right, relax, and get your routine screenings done. As Chuck D. says - "we've got to keep ourselves in check, or else it's - self-destruction, we're headed for self-destruction."

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I love haiku and some days are just the days for them. Here are a few off the top. Happy Wednesday....

The lonliest thing
is three glowing embers and
a loved one’s turned back.


Stilted and formal
it’s the best I could do for
a wall post. Sorry.


Can you pay my bills?
Can you pay my telephone
bills? ….Automo-bill?


I’m not remotely
interested in helping
you feel better now.


I wonder how long
I could go with this writing
of haiku all day…..

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Horse Is Dying...Let's Beat it Some More.....

Sooooo….over the past two years or so, monogamy and the (in)validity of it has been a pretty hot topic amidst people in my immediate and larger communities, especially amongst folks of my age set.

There are many people who believe that based on divorce rates, infidelity, and the general perception of unhappiness and unhealthiness of modern relationships/marriages, that monogamy is an unrealistic construct.

There are also many people who believe that monogamy – the idea of one man for one woman, is the way to build strong families and communities and that healing oneself comes through true and genuine interaction with another person.

And most of these people don’t see eye to eye. And a number of these people are in relationships.

With each other!

So where does that leave us?

Is monogamy the problem?

Is an open relationship construct the solution to the problem?

Are those who remain in monogamous relationships deluding themselves and afraid of change? Are they involved in an archaic game of ownership and forced reciprocity?

Are those who propose a more fluid and open construct living unrealistically? Are they really able to provide a firm and secure foundation upon which to build families and raise children?

Or is the issue something entirely different?

Is it our fear of communicating honestly and openly about our needs? Are we afraid to say “I don’t like this”, or “I don’t want that”, or “This makes me afraid”, or “This makes me feel good”?

Can that level of communication exist in the loving and supportive environment of a monogamous relationship? Or does it only exist in the boundless construct of an open/fluid relationship?

I’m not judging. Just wondering what other folks are thinking about this subject.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Depression Diet

So.......I'm just really trying to make myself less indigo these days. A nice cerulean would do. Honestly.

One shonuff thing about feeling badly (for me), is that it does WONDERS for my figure! Happiness and bliss be damned! My thighs are (gasp) small(ish)!!! My arms are.....less bouncy! All I need is $2,000 worth of airbrushing and I'm making the cover of King magazine. Well....maybe $2500 and an updated photoshop program....and some pancake makeup. For the stretchmarks on my ass......But it would be good!! I tell you.

So my friends and family are telling me to eat and drink. And right now, depression tastes like chocolate cake. No...better than chocolate cake. Depression tastes like Parano cheese and ripe pears, followed by seared salmon on a bed of sauteed spinach and mushrooms, and a glass of sauvignon blanc....or vinho verde. Yes. And butter. Depression tastes like butter - the good, kind. In the foil wrapper. That costs $8.00 a pound.

Depression tastes better than the first ever diver scallops I had in my life at Red Sage in 1999. Depression tastes better than foie gras. And fatty toro, and Jim's steak and cheese with mushrooms and peppers and ketchup.

Depression is DELICIOUS! It's better than tapioca pudding and baklava with lots of butter. And better than popcorn popped in olive oil and seasoned with Fleur de Sel. It's better than dinners at Restaurant Nora, I Ricchi, Makoto, Oceanaire, Black Salt.

Depression is BETTER than VODKA GIMLETS...even the homemade, Vegas diet kind.

Depression is DELECTABLE. It's even tastier than brunch at Bouchon!! It is, I tell you. It's better than dinner at Mesa Grille, too.

It's so filling, depression. Mmmm....mmmm...good. Like Campbell's Soup. No...better....better even than that expensive ass soup that nobody buys because it costs $9.00 a can. The one with the white lable. WHO EATS THAT??? Don't nobody eat that!!! does a mind crazy, but damn sure does a body good!