Can’t I Be Angry

There is a lot of love in our world. I feel it everyday with my family, friends, in the music I listen to, the art I see, the things I enjoy, my neighbors; I can go on. Yet in America, it is very hard being a person of color.  The structure of this country is built on marginalizing the poor, the colored and the different. This has to stop. As a Black American, there are days that I find myself angry that in 2016, we still struggle and live in an unequal society. It infuriates me that blacks are continually losing their lives because of skin color. It pisses me off to hear that our pain and struggle is dismissed because slavery is over, segregation was abolished, laws were put in place and we have black president. If anything, these things show that racism and equality is not something that can be changed by just law. I find myself angry and I question it. Why am I angry? Should I be angry? 

Blacks' history in this country has constantly been about getting freedom, equality and being treated as human beings. To obtain these things, we fought with non-violence, spirituality and black power. We made many strides and have been successful in many ways, but there is a reality. As we fought and discussed how to get our freedoms, as we protest, changed laws, and integrated schools we did not change hearts. Not fast enough to extinguish the beliefs and narratives America created about what blacks are and deserve. Those toxic tales successfully spread and rooted itself in the fabric of America and seeped into American systems – education, housing, career, and prison. We see more blacks in prison than in schools. There are more homeless men of color on the streets than taking care of their families. These are more than the results of bad choices made by these individuals. This is also the result of racism, inequality and irresponsibility of America of the choices it made centuries ago. That should make us all angry.

The negative narrative of the Negro was not just believed by whites; but by many, even black people. Those words. Hearing them and living them daily and being treated like third-class citizens cuts into your soul, making some of us hate ourselves and in turn, teach that self-hatred to next generations. The outcome is a world that everyday, rather it knows it or not, makes me, and others who look like me, face and fight racism daily. 

It makes me so mad that people cannot see that America has taken so much from blacks and others of color, dehumanizing us for so long and when America was pushed to change its ways, it was done with little or no reconciliation, repentance or repayment. America is too arrogant to truly be sorry.  To live in a country that ignores my pain; to be told to pick myself up from my bootstraps, when you took them and burnt them the day you met my forefathers. That truly makes me angry.

I am tired of being angry, so I know you are tired of the guilt, but it ain’t going away until you stop benefitting from it and we stop struggling because of it. Talking and understanding from all sides must be done. Many things in this world are mimicking what is happening in the good old US of A and I truly believe the world would be different if America was a more loving place. As I am writing this, we just had another mass shooting in Florida, killing 49 people. It was a hate crime against LGBTQ and the Latin and Hispanic communities.  Hate. That is what America teaches. We learned through people like Martin Luther King Jr. to oppose hate with love. That is what we are doing, but how long can you love when things do not change? Minutes? Days? Years? Decades? Centuries? I don’t want to be angry, but I cannot deny that I am. I am also open to talking and being part of real change and doing it in a productive and loving way. 

 

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Neighborhood Naming

What part of Detroit do you live in? When I was younger, there were only two answers to that;  West Side or East Side. That was it. It is different today. You can get all kinds of answers that are a lot more specific than west or east. Corktown, Northend, Jefferson-East, Woodbridge, Grandmont-Rosedale, Brightmoor, Springwells, Downtown, Midtown, and the names go on. Take a look at this map:

 

DataDrivenDetroit-Map

 

My West Side status has now become Northend. Nothing's changed but language and narrative. This is a definite sign that Detroit is in the midst of gentrification.  First, let me say that neighborhoods and even some of the names of the neighborhoods you see in the map have existed for some time.  Conant Gardens, Boston-Edison, Indian Village, Corktown…but these names were not used by the majority of Detroiters to explain location, where they live or who they were.   Again, most Detroiters used East Side and West Side. So where did East Side and West Side distinctions come from? Well, talking to older Detroiters, that language came out of segregation, redevelopment and racism.  I learned that East Side and West Side were used to really signify the area where blacks predominately lived (East Side) and the areas where whites predominately lived (West Side). After the riots and white flight, poorer people, mostly black stayed East and those with more  resources took advantage of white flight and moved West. It didn't seem that it mattered what side of Detroit you grew up in when I was growing up. By the 80s most of Detroit was equally struggling  regardless of what side you lived. Those West Side and East Side walls were seemingly coming down and we were all Detroiters, struggling together. 

Today, different walls are being built as new people and energy come to the city and redevelopment happens in more areas. This new energy has created new language to describe the vast-ness of a Detroit that they are not familiar with.  Those of use who have lived here a while might feel some kind of way about the new language that is used to describe our city.  Why do we need to segregate and dissect the city any more than it already is?  Why do we need to rename neighborhoods? For someone new or unfamiliar, a name of a neighborhood becomes way more important than generalizations like west and east. It's human nature and it is kind of understandable. 

From a developers point of view, branding or rebranding is key to successful investments in the neighborhoods of Detroit. Rebranding areas so that they are seen differently; giving neighborhoods a new story and a new interest is part of the business of making money out of a city that has become a place of opportunity. But sometimes rebranding and changing narratives cover up old things that are still good and valuable. 

Naming neighborhoods may seem small, but replacing someones language with your own can be seen as initial steps of replacing one group of people for another. I am sure that most of this is not done on purpose (for most of us), but if we do not address it, will continue. I do not think that is honorable way to do things.   Change is needed but honoring history as we change is needed to. Talking about why things are the way they are and why they need to change is part of progress. When we replace, remove without conversations, we cause fear, animosity, jealousy, hate. 

Personally, I do not want to be known as living in the Northend of Detroit. I don't even want the status of Westsider. I want to be known as a Detroiter. The imagery that comes up when I tell someone I am from Detroit is most important. This means I am a hard worker, creative, raw, open, honest. I can withstand hardships and come out looking beautiful. I am as complex and simple as things can be. I can make something out of nothing. I can play but I don't play.

As we move on, more neighborhoods will be named, but I hope that developers and new Detroiters talk with the standing community and make sure that they are supportive of the new language and narratives that are created or we are no better than some of our forefathers and mothers who have come to lands without honoring and recognizing those who already reside in them. 

SaveSave

No Make Up

13288503_10154156845434780_152368267_o-1-617x800Editor: Miles Holder l Photographer: Zoltan Tombor @ SeenManagement

I read a couple of articles on Alicia Keys this week that inspired me and made me feel even more comfortable in my skin.  I hope more people read them. One was in Fault magazine, but the letter in  Lenny Letter Magazine moved me. It was about her decision to no longer wear makeup. Please read it here. 

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of. And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect. One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women. The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you're plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked.

I wear little make-up. Occasionally eyeliner, mascara and a light lip gloss when I go to work. Foundation on my face when I go to events where I know I will be filmed, photographed or where I am presenting.  It is a social must, but, normally, I am makeup-less. Growing up in a Pentecostal church makeup wasn't really allowed. From the perspective of the church, makeup was worn for temptation reasons and could lead to sin.  I'm older now.  The rules of church are more relaxed and anyways, I no longer attend church, but I continued to wear little to no makeup. Partly out of habit, but mostly there was a deep part of me that did not want to. Makeup made me feel like I was hiding. It is another thing that trap women, no, people, into a world that really does not exist and I did not want to be part of that world. I did not want to pretend. 

It has been difficult growing up around women who look amazing with colorful lips, highlighted eyes and rosy cheeks. It is even more challenging seeing men seemingly more attracted to the made up faces than my more natural state, but, even though I could have made my life easier and been more accepted with MAC or Maybelline cosmetics, it wasn't me. It is not me. Those colors that women adorned on their faces, lived inside of me. Maybe not as easily seen, but there none the less. We have gotten lazy and no longer take the time to look at the souls. Our focus on the outer shell makes us miss so much. 

I am not condemning makeup or things that enhance our beauty. I've seen master pieces that makeup artists have created on faces. It is not different than me painting a canvas, expressing myself. But most of us do not use makeup to enhance or express or create. We use it to hide physical features that society have deemed imperfect or not beautiful.  

We are asked to wear so many mask in this world. As a black woman the masks are many and are heavy. I believe Alicia Keys knows this more than many of us and I am proud of her for removing one more. Even if it is for one year or one day. I am proud of her. I think the biggest thing to know is this. Makeup does not make you. Even when you wear it, know, that it is not making you beautiful. You already are that. Know that you do not need it to leave your home and be presentable. You do not need it to catch a mate. You do not need it to take your selfie. You need nothing but to be you. Once you know that fully, where what you like, when you like and how you like.  Or don't. Either way, stand in your truth. 

 

Beauticians Be Bull S**tting

 

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We all want to be beautiful from the inside out. Outer beauty sometimes takes regular trips to the barbershop or beauty salon for manicures, pedicures, waxing and hairstyles that make us feel like our best selves.  It is probably mainstream knowledge now that the barbershop is not just a place for men to get their hair cut and beard trim, it is a social setting. Same goes with beauty salon, but there is this additional thing that happens in beauty shops that many women deal with in order to be beautiful and that is appointments that take many hours. I know you heard comedians talk about women being in the salon all day. It sounds absurd because it is, yet this crap is true. 

Yesterday, my niece had a 12:45 appointment to get her her styled. It was for her prom. Do you know what time she got out of there? It was going on 6 pm. That some shit right? Do you know why she was there for almost 5 hours? No, it wasn't that my niece hair is abnormally long or thick. No, it wasn't that she was getting it braided. No, it was not some other logical reason like getting several beauty treatments in one day. It was simply bad time management. Her hairstylist, double and triple booked appointments causing her customers to have to be there for some absorbent amount of time. It is almost extortion in a way. This is what happens as a customer.  You get there and they wash your hair. You sit for 45 minutes and then they put you under the dryer for 30 minutes. Next you sit for another hour waiting for the beautician to call you over to sit in the coveted chair. Finally they call you over  to the chair and you are thinking, "It's almost over." Ha! As the beautician curls, braid, color or whatever to your hair, (s)he's holding conversations, stopping to finish the conversation, doing things that completely take them away from the task at hand. You try to stay patient and not blow up because you know you gonna look amazing after all of this. Another two and a half hours and $125 later and you are FINALLY done. Was it worth it? Ladies, is it worth it? No. Hell no. It is not. 

I want every woman in America to know that your time is valuable and if someone you are paying does not value your time, they should not get your business. There are some situations where 5 hours is needed to get the acquired outcome, but many times it is poor business practice that cause us to sit in a locations for several hours, mad and upset, pretending that we are not. Some of you may not agree. You have submitted to this process and feel it is part of the salon experience. I say phooey. That kind of service is some bullshit.  

Let me share my own story. I moved back to Detroit from Kalamazoo where I was attending college.  I needed to find someone in Detroit to do my hair now that I was back home. This should be easy. Detroit is the hair capital of the world.  My sisters suggested I go to their stylist. Sure, why not. Both of them have healthy long hair that looks great. I get there and very much the process of sitting and waiting, sitting and waiting and being ignored was what I experienced. By hour three, I called my parents to pick me up and I left out of there with my hair partially wet looking all of crazy. At that point, I did not care how I looked, I was not about to stay and be treated that way. I told my sisters they were insane to keep going to that woman under those conditions. Not too long after that, they both start going to a family friend who, I must say, values her time and her customers. She should teach a class. 

Beauticians, I know you want to make the most money you can. That is the American way, but find ways where the customer isn't paying for it twice (money and time). It is unfair. Women, you need to speak up and tell your beautician that you need them to honor your time as well as your hair. 

Now that I am natural, I do a lot of styling and management of my hair at home, but when I go for trims or twisting of my hair or other beauty regiments, I meet the person and tell them what I expect. It has made my experiences so much more pleasant. 


NOTE: This post may sound like a blanketed statement. If you are a beautician and this is not you, please do not be offended. That is not may intention to offend great and business-minded stylists. This is to bring awareness to those who may not know that their business as usual is not usual business and it needs to change. 

Deontae Mitchell

Deonate

Yesterday,  the citizens of Detroit learned of the death of a young man named Deontae Mitchell. His body was found in a field. I heard the news on the radio as I drove to my parents home. My heart ached and I shook my head. How senseless and heartbreaking. A couple of days ago, this young man was kidnapped in Detroit. He and a cousin were at the corner store purchasing a "pop." While there, a man who was urinating near the store dropped some money and Deontae picked it up. Once the man found out he lost his money, he pulled out a weapon which made all of the people around the store run. Unfortunately, Deontae was caught by this man and his acquaintances and placed in their vehicle. The next time Deontae was seen was in that empty field, lifeless. At the time of this post it is unclear exactly how he was killed. You can read details here.

How can a man take the life of another young man. How can a black man, knowing the challenges this little boy already have ahead of him, hurt him so? Why not reach out and teach him? Why not be the man and not a bully? It is the horrible patterns of our society and of that individuals experiences that created this.  

This is a parent's biggest fear and the worst part of our  society. There is a part of us human beings that have put more value in money than in human life. It is a part of us that allow anger and madness to take over us and extinguish the light of a young soul. This energy is in our society and can only be removed through love of ourselves and others equally. 

Love. We saw it, even in this horrible event. We saw the love of a family as they shared their hurt and pain. We saw the love from the Detroit Police as they look for the young boy. We saw love from the community as they provided all the information they could to find they perpetrators. We saw the love of the community as we heard the news we did not want to hear and we supported the family in their grief. Let us continue to love. Love children that are growing up now so that they will become loving adults and will not become monsters that take lives senselessly. Love each other now and let people know how important and amazing they are. It is important to our society, our humanity and our future.