Black Community

Permission To Love and Care

As tomorrow is Christmas, I find myself really reflecting on this year. This year was one for the books. So much of this year was and became about me learning more about myself, who I was and what role I played in romantic and non-romantic relationships and how to take care of myself mentally and physically. Self care was really important this year, but this year really challenged my idea of what self care looked like for me and what I wanted and expected from it, but also how I expected to show up and love myself. Self love I realized was a difficult task to undertake when you’re use to putting others before yourself. It was difficult for me to become comfortable with it as well. Putting myself first this year was the hardest part, to realize and see I don’t have to carry everything on my shoulders and that I can give my shoulders a break and take the weight of the world off. I had to prioritize myself again and that was new to me.

“Prioritize” was the word for me last year and I really did prioritize myself. I took yoga for the first time because I wanted too. I went on more dates, dated more people who I was actually attracted too and not people I wanted to change, and took more risks. But 2018, I didn’t do that, I played it safe, I fell out of the habits I had built for myself that made me better, kept me sane, and bettered my overall health. I stopped doing yoga, I stopped writing or even taking a tablet with me if I had any ideas on the go. Hell, I didn’t even attempt to write down anything I was thinking about. I would have an idea for a piece to pitch and immediately cast it aside and let the thoughts of the day take over. When my therapist stopped practicing, I didn’t even attempt to look for another one. I couldn’t even be bothered to care for my mental health at the time. Work, friends, relationship, bills, everything else took over my thoughts and energy of doing anything else and I let it. I didn’t try or attempt to keep doing the things I was doing before to help myself. 

I started to feel more self doubt about everything I was doing, at work and in my writing to where I stopped writing all together. I didn’t feel like I was good enough and didn’t understand why I kept going. What's the point? I kept asking myself, I forgot the happiness and the reason why I begun writing. I forgot how yoga made me feel and how it made my body feel before I began doing it. I forgot how great and wonderful it is to have a therapist, someone to talk to outside of your friends and family and to have that consistency to depend on. I remember a friend of mine, he was a light in my life at the time, but he also like me was always trying to find ways to balance loving yourself while also loving others. He taught me the motto of loving myself and putting myself first. His voice rings through my ears as I constantly have to remind myself there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first. As a Black woman, as Black women, we are accustomed to playing the role and putting others first, forgetting who we are in the process. We are the wife, the mother, the friend, the partner, the employee, we are everything to everyone else, but how do we show up for ourselves? I feel we as Black women so rarely give ourselves permission to be ourselves and to love ourselves. To fulfill our goals, our dreams, and I want that to change. I want that to change for myself.

I’m still learning how to balance it all. I’m still trying to figure it out. I am still on the journey of putting myself first and making sure I show up for me. If there is a book to ease or crack this mystery of showing up, but also still loving yourself, I tell you I would have figured it out by now, but there is no book. I’m just trying to figure this out like all the Black women before me, day by day.

Let me know in the comments below how did you learn to love yourself, how did you learn to put yourself first and show up for yourself, and what are your methods towards self care. 

HipHop44

#HipHop44 is today, August 11th, the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop. Hip-hop has become one of the most profitable and consumed genres of music with more people consuming hip-hop and r&b then even rock music. It’s so crazy to see so many people listening to hip-hop now and really what I mean by that is it’s really crazy to see young white kids listening to Tupac, Biggie, 21 Savage, and many other rapper’s day in and day out. When I think of hip-hop, it’s something that was created to tell the story of black people and our circumstances. It tells our interactions with police officers, it tells the story of the effect of drugs on our communities, but rap songs can also be a love story. It’s where artists can talk about their rela/situationships easily, using vernacular that their main audience will understand. But somewhere along the way our stories have become everyone else’s stories and have been put on a worldwide stage where they are all consumable. But I think my question, well my dilemma with hip-hop now being the main genre of music everyone wants to listen to is that this genre was created by black people, but has been co-opted by white artists with less love and respect being given towards black people or our culture. The influx of white people consuming hip-hop has not changed how white people view black people. It does not make them more sympathetic when they hear of another black man being killed at the hands of a police officer. It does not make them more empathetic of our communities, not having access to healthy food, or having to sell drugs to provide for our families. We are still seen as drug dealers, hood rats, ghetto, radicals, a danger to society.

 

One for us

All my niggas in the whole wide world
All my niggas in the whole wide world
Made this song to make it all y'all's turn
For us, this shit is for us

-Solange “A Seat at the Table”

 

I wasn’t able to listen to hip-hop when I was a child. It was not music my mom allowed for me to listen to by myself or otherwise because growing up she always said, “you’re too young for that. You wouldn’t understand.” I didn’t believe her of course, I wanted to be grown, hell I thought I was and fought her all the time when I was able to listen to a song by Snoop Dogg and would bob my head to the beat of the music. She would look at me and smirk saying, “you don’t know what he’s talking about” and I would reply, “yes I do!” But I really didn’t, at least not in the way I knew. My father died when I was 18, Halloween morning, 3 weeks before my 19 birthday. When I lost him is when I fell in love with hip-hop music because it was then that hip-hop truly resonated with me and I’ve been in love ever since. I can still remember the first time I fell into the words and I felt like I was speaking back to myself.

 

See I be riding, just riding alone
With my daddy on my mind
Like you gotta be kidding
How the hell you ain't here

-Lil Wayne, “Hustler Musik”

 

I listen to hip-hop every day now, in some way shape or form, maybe for a couple of minutes or for a couple of hours. And I still feel the same way that I felt when I heard that verse as if the music and the artist are speaking back to me. I love hip-hop and I love that more people are loving hip-hop as well. I just hope more people realize the history and story behind hip-hop. 

R.Kelly Should Not Have Support In 2017

At this point, I'm sure you've read or should have read the report released by Buzzfeed detailing the abusive cult led by none other than R. Kelly.

*sigh* I'm tired of hearing about a 50-year-old black man who has preyed on black girls for years but because they are black they are deemed invaluable so nothing has been done. This is the same man who was taken to trial when video evidence was released of him urinating on a 14-year-old girl and when documentation was also released of him filming other young girls in sexual acts as well. So when I read the Buzzfeed report, I see red, because this situation – parents losing their children and girls being sexually abused on an almost constant basis – could have been avoided years ago. While the report of R. Kelly's abuse, mental, emotional and physical is sickening to read in detail, reading black men and women defending him is even worse. I am exhausted from black people defending problematic entertainers and artists because they feel like they do it for the "culture" or in this case because R. Kelly is viewed as an R&B connoisseur. R. Kelly is not an R&B connoisseur, he's a grown man preying on black girls. Period. People who are still supporting R. Kelly after having the information given to them single handily, after countless trials are choosing not to care. Black people supporting entertainers who are known to be abusive, rapists, or sexual predators is nothing new, but every single person who still listens to R. Kelly, buys his music, any music executive or venue who stages his shows, and the music artists that continue to collaborate with him enable his behavior. The support he continues to receive makes him think that this is okay and that nothing will be done.

Photograph from PicNoi

R. Kelly is not an R&B connoisseur, he's a grown man preying on black girls.

The adultification of black girls is a problem, that countless reports and studies have shown is a problem in how black girls are perceived in society and the problems it creates daily for black women, such as receiving medical care and in schools. But this is not only with how white people view black girls but also how black people, especially black men view black girls as well. In the black community, if a young black girl does not adhere to the "good girl" stereotype they are viewed as "fast." Being "fast" means that this girl is now no longer viewed as a child, but as a grown woman as she was not acting a child in the eyes of that adult. For example, if you spoke up or disagreed with something in your household to either your momma or grandmother you would not only get popped but you would be viewed as acting grown. In the black community, we are quick to strip black girls of their innocence and vilify them if they do not adhere to our expectations. Black girls are expected to live up to the racial stereotypes that have been placed upon them by society of being loud, angry, and sexually experienced. Black girls are viewed as being sexually experienced by the time they are 12 years old because of the adultification of black girls, they are not able to be children. They are not able to grow into their own and learn.

Photographer: William Stitt

Black girls are viewed as being sexually experienced by the time they are 12 years old because of the adultification of black girls, they are not able to be children. They are not able to grow into their own and learn.

The support of R. Kelly is the same support black families give the family member that is also sexually assaulting our children. It is the same support given to sexual predators at the family cookout when you force the same child that uncle or cousin was inappropriately touching to get close to them or sit on their lap. That child still has to be around that person and relive these experiences and the most we give these families, either from the church or the grandmother, a deacon of the church in most families, is, "go to church and pray it away." We as a community have to do better of holding these people accountable who prey on our communities. In the case of R.Kelly, he has been preying on young black girls for decades, there is no reason he should still be receiving the support of anyone, let alone the black community. We have to start valuing black girls and black women, their lives, their contributions, and who they are as people to stop these things from happening. If R. Kelly was treating and hurting white girls or white women like this, he would have been in jail and probably received a life sentence. But because these are black women, because these are black girls being treated this way they are viewed as less than, no one to save. We as the black community have to work to change this narrative and show that black girls and black women matter. 

I am honestly hoping that more people will read this report and the articles that have been written by black women on the impact of his actions on black women and the black community that R. Kelly will lose his support and earnings, but I won't hold my breath. 

Mental Health and Hip-Hop

mental-illness-in-the-hip-hop-community
mental-illness-in-the-hip-hop-community

Photo Credit: Joel G. Mwakasege

In the first week of October, Kid Cudi released a statement informing not only his fans, but the general public that he was checking himself into a rehab after spending years battling with depression and anxiety. In April, in an interview with Billboard, Kid Cudi revealed his battle with depression and using drugs as a coping mechanism. During this interview, Kid Cudi also mentioned how his last album Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven would be his last album where he would be the “dark depressing” character that people knew regarding the artist and his work. That part of the interview stuck out to me because whenever my friends or people, in general, would discuss Kid Cudi to or with me, they would always make him out to be this dark and depressing character. As if, that is the only person he was or is.

The presence of mental health and mental illness has always been discussed and talked about in hip-hop. Hip-hop is an art, it is music, and for these artists, their music, this is how they discuss how they are battling with their mental health. Their music is the conversation of their daily struggles with their fans, with society, to educate and let people know what they are dealing with. I think the problem is, many consumers, CEO’s and owners of record labels rarely pay attention to the mental health of their artists or what their music is talking about or discussing. I think the lack of respect for hip-hop artists as true artists causes for many not to pay attention to their words, to their pain. Hip-hop artists become known for the popular persona, for the character that they have created through their music. It’s the person that’s always turnt, always sipping lean, taking a battle to the head, these are the people we dismiss as consumers and as friends.

Jordan Simpson (Twitter handle: @a_JBsoprano) discussed how hip-hop has always talked about mental health and mental illness in hip-hop, but how people commonly overlook these artists’ words. Check out a few of the quotes Jordan Simpson provided on his Twitter timeline below:

In the examples listed above from Jordon Simpson’s timeline, you are able to read and see lyrics from prominent artists whose songs and lyrics we have listened to time and time again, yet these are lyrics that are overlooked. These are lyrics that are glossed over and unseen by many. There was an article that came out when Kid Cudi announced checking himself into rehab where the headline said, “Why don’t hip-hop artists discuss mental illness more” or something similar to that. It is extremely infuriating when writers at prominent publications write headlines similar to this because this is coming from the perspective of someone who is not in tune nor listens to hip-hop. There is clear evidence that hip-hop artists are discussing and talking about mental health and mental illness, but the people who write articles such as these are choosing not to listen.

I’m glad that more and more people are discussing mental health and mental illness on a national platform, but also that there is more of a conversation regarding men of color and their mental health. From here this creates a bigger discussion that will allow for people to be educated on mental health and provide resources to others.

You can also read my post Mental Health in The Black Community.

Lack of African-American Donors

Lack of AA Donors One day as I was listening to one of my podcasts (I listen to quite a few so forgive me because I do not remember the exact podcast) and one of the hosts mentioned the lack of African-American donors. Because I have never had to experience a family member or friend need an organ donation I did not know that there was a shortage of African-American donors. I know, I know how did I not know when this is a problem that has been talked about and discussed before, but to be honest because this is not something that has affected me personally I was not educated on the issue.

For bone marrow and organ transplants patients are dependent upon finding a donor who shares a similar genetic makeup. For a bone marrow transplant, a treatment typically for blood related cancers where the bone marrow from the donor is used to replace that of the patients, hopefully in the likes of the patient getting better. But when you’re African-American or a person of color in general, there are not as many donors to choose from and your odds may become slim. There are millions of donors who are registered with the National Marrow Donor Program, but out of the millions of donors registered only 8 percent are African-American. When receiving a bone marrow donation it is closely linked with an individuals race, which means that African-Americans who do need a bone marrow donation have an extremely tiny pool of people who could be potential donors. A few experts have stated that African-Americans have rare genetic make-ups than Caucasians because their genes tend to be more racially mixed which makes finding a donor with a precise match that much harder. Dr. Willis Navarro stated during an interview with NPR that, African-Americans are not purely Africans and have a mixture and extremely broad and diverse group of different ethnic populations that will also make it difficult to find a donor. Although, these are not the only issues when trying to find a donor as a person of color.  In a few studies conducted by the Journal of the National Medical Association regarding the shortage of the availability of donors within the African-American community, historically, African-Americans donate organs at a much lower rate than their white counterparts. The study, “Differences in Attitude Toward Organ Donation Among African-Americans and Whites in the United States” studied and analyzed the reasons as to why many African-Americans choose not to be organ donors. In the study, one of the main reasons many African-Americans chose not to be organ donors was a lack of trust in the medical industry, which is not uncommon nor is it unwarranted. Between 1932-1972, a 40-year span, a syphilis experiment called “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service and misled 400 African-American males by withholding information regarding their illness. These men were purposely left untreated to see what would happen. The medical community used the African-American community and these African-American men as guinea pigs and put their health on the line to see what the effects would or could be. Since the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, there has been a strained relationship between the African-American community and the medical community where many African-Americans feel as though an experiment like the Tuskegee experiment could happen again. This idea that the medical community would once again harm or experiment on the African-American community has made many African-Americans choose not to sign up to become donors.

While there is a mistrust of the medical community amongst the African-American community, there is also a miseducation as many, not only African-Americans, do not know what they are in for when being a donor. Many think if they are donors and have to give blood or bone marrow to a person in need the procedure will be extremely painful, but that is no longer the case with an increase of technology in the medical field.

Being an organ donor or a donor in general regardless of if you’re just giving blood is extremely helpful to someone in need. I also urge, if comfortable, for more African-American people to become organ donors as this will benefit and help our community as African-Americans are the least likely to find one potential match. We must do everything we can to help one another.

Additional Resources:

*If you or anyone you know is searching or in need of a donor, the Black Bone Marrow website is an additional source. Link listed below*

Black Bone Marrow