The Turtle and the Rocks

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My niece bought a turtle today. She was very happy to have this pet to take care of and taking care of started pretty quickly. She needed to add a rock to the aquarium so that her baby turtle could have somewhere to sleep.  She made me rush to grandma's house to look in her year for a rock. She didn't find one. She asked her youngest sister who has collected rocks since she was two to help her find the perfect rock.  Even with her experience, she could not find anything that could work for the little turtle. Then I remembered. I have rocks all over my house. They are part of my nieces collection that got so vast that different family members had to take some to our various homes.  

I only lived seven minutes away. I told her I would go by my house and see if I have any rocks that may work. We needed a particular size and height so that the little turtle could climb out of the water of the aquarium and sleep on this rock that needed to be well above the water line. My "rock collecting niece road with me to my home.  We quickly got to my home and I let me niece pick three rocks, hoping one of them would work. Seven minutes later we were back at grandmas examining the rocks and making the decision to pick one. After washing it and placing it in the aquarium, we waited. It didn't take long for the turtle to climb up on that rock and rest. 

So many times I thought about throwing those rocks back into nature. I kept them only because my niece lovingly picked them up over the years. But today, one of those rocks was used. It had a purpose. It always had, but today, its purpose become clear. It made me think about life. There is a time an a place for everything. That rock was picked by my niece years ago sat in my home for several more years an at the right time it fulfilled its purpose.  We must be ready and prepared for when our time comes to fulfill our purpose and our visions. I know, sometimes, when we  are waiting like that rock sitting in my window the past years, we may feel like we are not living our purpose and we must do something.  But even in quiet, peace and stillness, things are happening and moving around us, putting things in place to create the perfect moment for our purpose to be revealed and to happen. Our job is to create the vision, be present to hear where we need to be and what we need to do and know that everything else is being taken care of. Right now, I have been waiting for something to occur in my life. I am growing anxious about it. Time sometimes makes believing and staying focus a little challenging to do. I know I am to stay still but some days I fight the urge to do something to try make this thing I desire happen. Acting before an act is needed is just as bad as not acting at all. My saving grace is staying present, listening and being clear on where my place is in this process.  Things are working around me and I must stay still while the universe does its work and put things in place.  Meditation helps me stay still. I learned today from the turtle and the rock.

 

A List of What I Want

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I LOVE LIST.  Every morning I take time to right down what I need to accomplish that day. Sometimes I do the list the night before.  I have been doing this for years and I believe it is a source of my efficiency and success. (The photo above is from a list in 2009/2010). Beyond my daily list, I have a 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goal list.   I think there is a power in writing down things. I believe that it helps manifest them into our reality and for me, it helps me commit. Recently I decided to use my love for list and develop a list of things that I want and desire.  At first I was gonna call it a wish list.  Maybe it is a wish list, but after a lot of meditation, reading and just living I have learned to ask for what you want and know that you are going to receive it. I've also learned that there is no such thing as a big want and a little want. They are all the same to the universe and God. We tend to put values on things making some manifestations and desires seem smaller than others. 

  • 2 GB of additional ram for my Mac
  • All of D'Angelo's music on vinyl
  • 1970 Chevrolet Chavelle in Midnight Blue
  • An amazing mattress for my bed
  • My family members to love themselves which will help us love others even more
  • End of war in the world
  • End of hate in our hearts (which will probably end war)
  • Happy nieces and nephews
  • Continued financial stability and growth (I have specifics here but keeping that between me, God and my book of list)
  • Cure for cancer (I know we have all lost folks to this disease)
  • Decrease in the importance of money in our lives
  • Political campaigns that are not to popularity contest but are about substance
  • Travel two months out of the year in the states and around the world
  • Sit on my porch and read most days
  • Paint every day
  • Meditate every day
  • End to racism and any other prejudice in the world
  • Public libraries that are beautiful, fully funded and used heavily by society
  • A partner that is smart, funny, ambitious, humble, attractive, comfortable in his own skin, open to new things (this can be a list by itself) 

There are other things I want to put on my "Things I Want List" but I think this is a good start. Some of these may seem far reaching. But I truly believe that the world is limitless and the limits we see have been placed my us. I believe all of these things will happen and I will be happy about these things now and look for these things to become part of reality. Write your list. Do not limit yourself and fully believe that your list is as real as the paper it is written (or printed) on. 

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The Struggle is Real

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I am not a huge shopper, but Target is one of the stores and brands that I like. I was in Target the other day shopping for crayons. During the back to school season crayons are super cheap. I use them a lot for some of my drawings so I try to stock up. While walking through the store, my niece came across this novelty light thing that looked like a small window or framed glass with the words "The Struggle is Real." written on it. My niece found a button on it and found that it actually lit up. How cute.  I picked it up and read the words again and I have to tell you, I felt a little bit disturbed about it. 

This statement or saying is used to describe a struggle of life. It is a popular saying in the Black American community. It has deep meaning and  validation of a pain, challenge and life that too many times got ignored by most society. It was a proclamation between Blacks that what you are going through is real but it is also possible to get through it. So, to see that saying minimized into a product for sale? Not cool right?

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I found that there were other items in Target and other places that also used this slogan. I do not want to make assumptions about it. Maybe this statement is now being accepted by a larger audience may mean that more people understand the struggle and want to support it or hopefully eradicate it. Maybe it means more people are struggling and find solace in the statement. Or, maybe it is that the statement is not understood at all and because it is said by black people, it is deemed cool and therefore profitable like many other sayings, dances, creations of Black Americans.  I am not sure. All I am sure of is that when I saw it, as beautifully crafted as the product seem, the feeling it left me was not a good one. 

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I Already Know

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I have been waiting for you to say it aloud or to at least stop pretending. I see the signs. You can't hide them, but you keep trying. How can you not see that I already know. Maybe that is my fault. I want to make you comfortable so I pretend. I pretend that I do not see the realness. I pretend one day hoping that either I or you will get enough courage or stop being embarassed and say what is true.  Say what I already know and you do too. Just think when it is out in the open, how both of us can live more freely. 

FREELY

Right now and until then, I will continue to pretend with you. 

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Is that Art?

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My friend wanted me to meet a young new artist. She told me that this artist's work was different than mine. After asking a few questions to my friend, I learned that the artist's drawings and creations are more realistic than my abstract-figurative style.  Most of what was shared with my friend were school assignments and from her point a view, she did not really see the  drawings as art. You know, we all had to do the school assignments. and go through these critiques where the teacher tells you what you need to improve and what is not working. School subliminally taught me to not be as critical of other people's;le's work because I feared people being critical of mine. What you create is too personal and was hard to detach the critique from a a personal attach sometimes.  I tended to just say, I may like it or may not like it but art is in the eye of the beholder.  But, when my friend so matter-of-factly stated that she did not think of the drawings she saw was art, it made me stop and be more open with myself. I asked that question I was asked on my first day in art school what is art really?  

I truly believe that anyone with time and dedication can learn how to draw, paint, play music, create a film, dance, etc.  But, art is beyond learning how to use these tools and become the expression of ourselves and our experiences through these tools. It is more than technique, which is really what our teachers were truly critiquing in our art classes. Art is something that comes from the heart and makes its way into our hands, feet, voices and eyes moving us to create something unique. This unique expression that comes out of us is still familiar enough for others to understand and appreciate but our perspective makes it our art. Art can be good and it can be bad. It can be realistic in style or it can be dots  perfectly placed in a pattern by the creator. But if these things you create do not connect with people, then it misses the mark and maybe should not be called art. Today you can go to galleries and see art that the average person would not know what the hell it is. Sometimes artists make things to shock or to be so unique that you look at it because you can't help it.  Is that art? I don't know. Art has a magical essence to it that makes it that, even after I have defined it, it is still hard to define. But here is the challenge,  when we want to make a living off of it we must define it to put monetary value to it.

I am analyzing this because I have been dedicating more of me and my time to creating art. I am doing this because I love it. I feel most like me when I am drawing, writing, creating. But am I an artists?  They say if you call yourself an artist, you are an artist. But I cannot call myself a doctor and be a doctor without credentials. I cannot call myself an architect and be an architect without credentials. I believe to call yourself a professional artists, there are some credentials you must hold. Where did you learn your craft? How many shows have I done? How many pieces have I sold? How many write ups have been written? How many tweets and followers?  The monetary value of art takes away its human value. I hate that. 

I walk away from this write up saying this. Art is the true expression of ones self. An artists is one who uses tools to creatively express and to connect with others. I think a professional artists is one that has the credentials of an artists and the rest of us are emerging artists, that includes me and the young lady my friend introduced me to. 


INSPIRATION: There are always others, but here is a small list of artists I am inspired by. I hope you enjoy. 

Kehinde Wiley
http://kehindewiley.com/works/

Shirin Neshat 
http://www.artnet.com/artists/shirin-neshat/

Kara Walker
https://www.artsy.net/artist/kara-walker

Manuel Mendive
http://www.cernudaarte.com/artists/manuel-mendive/

Candy Chang
http://candychang.com

Tyree Guyton
http://www.heidelberg.org

 

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Birthday Conversation #42

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Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't do anything spectacular. I had lunch with my twin and I finish this very awesome painting in my studio. I got a lot of great birthday wishes. It was great. On my birthday, I have to do a few things, update the registration on my car, make my annual doctor's appointment and do a life check up with my twin brother. 

This is the first year in three years we were in the same city to have this conversation face to face.It started out light. We talked about school, work, his kids, my art. Then it changed to heavier stuff. My brother is going through some things with depression, self-medication and just the struggles of life. I have been where he is. Depression is very much hereditary and I have learn how to cope with it and how to accept it as part of me. He is still fighting it. I share my experience. I listen to his. The oddest thing. He cannot see it now, but  he was such an integral part of me moving out of my deepest darkest space. He did not judge me, call me crazy. He did not try to avoid me or make me better like everyone else did. He was open and truthful while I was off the rail. He supported me and I am here trying to do the same. Men are different though. They think they can do it all by themselves. If I was not his twin, I do not think he would listen to half of what I say to him. If he did not see me 15 years ago, he may not tell me half of the things he share. 

I see our lives like yin/yang. There is a lot of positive things going on in my life and he, right now, is the polar opposite. We talked about that. I would openly give up some of my energy to make his life better. Maybe I can. It is hard for me to enjoy my life when my womb-mate is so miserable. I pray and meditate daily for him and my whole family. This conversation ended with him crying, me hugging and giving him encouragement. I look forward to our 43rd conversation. It must be better for him. 

 

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Black Man, Blue Man Solider Man

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Seeing these black men killed was a numbing feeling.  I didn't know what emotion to have. I wasn't angry. I was sad that people lost their lives and sad that this violence is just going to be piled up on top of the other violence we have experienced. Nothing will change. Nothing will change.  I wrote a post about being a person of color in America, but being a black man in America got to be one of the most challenging experiences. 

I see my brothers and father and friends going through this process of living while being a black man. It is a tough life. I see other men wanting the black man swagger, but not their struggles or pain.  Black men are most powerful and many times most hated and tend to be seen as most dangerous in American society.  That is a heavy crown to bear.

It started with the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and not 24 hours later, another killing by an officer of black man, Philando Castile. This violence was not new.  Only that it was caught on camera and shared on such a large platform changed the story and made us have to talk, argue, protest and cry outwardly about it. 

America was taken aback for a moment and were in outrage. People took to the streets, but that energy and desire for change was quickly forgotten once the lives of police officers were taken. First in Dallas, by a black man who was once a solider, then again in Baton Rouge, but another former solider who was also black. I could not ignore how many American issues were wrapped up in these days of violence. Not only the way we treat black men, but the horrible way we treat police officers and our soldiers.

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter seem to really mean nothing matter and the black man who for a moment may have gotten some universal understanding was pushed back into that too familiar place.  

All of this nonsense can be traced to the need of changing narratives about black men, police offices and soldiers and after changing the narrative, supporting these groups as they should be. 

OFFICER NARRATIVE

Officers in my community are seen as protectors, but they are also seen as punishers by some. From the 40s, 50s and 60s, police officers used the power they were given to treat people of color as less than human. They were mimicking what was going on in the rest of America.  Sometimes those encounters ended in violence and even death and too many times those encounters and deaths were overlooked and not questioned. People of color, specifically black people, began to see officers as enemies and people you could not trust. Some blacks tried to change this by becoming part of the force. That desire to protect their own communities and to remove the threat of white police officers in colorful communities moved a lot of men and women of color to become officers. The problem is the narrative about officers did not change and sometimes these people of color that joined the police force were looked at as traders and not as the activist they were, trying to change the system from the inside. Rejected by their community, they connected with the honor and beliefs of the police force. 

SOLIDER NARRATIVE

The Vietnam War created a disdain in the hearts and souls of Americans for war. In the 70s when vets returned, they had to hide their service and their identity and not wear their uniforms for fear of being attacked verbally and physically by fellow Americans. This was the first war where soldiers were not held as heroes. My father was one of those men. How awful that must have be to go fight a war and to come back to ridicule, dislike and distrust.  As we protest war and soldiers we negated supporting soldiers emotionally, ensuring they were taken care of and had jobs and homes and full lives. We isolated this group from American society. Many of them ended up homeless on the streets, in mental institutions, in our prisons, or with their families in silence,  not talking about what they experienced or feel. Many of the wars since then have not been completely supported by American society. We have learned not to blame the solider and treat them unfairly, but what we have not learned is the correct way to transition soliders from war to community and sometimes, we continue to isolate this community, creating soliders that may violently lash out at themselves, at others or at who they see as enemies.

BLACK NARRATIVE

The narrative of the black man can be traced from slavery.  "Black men are dangerous animals" evolve to "Black men want our white women, we must protect our women from them", evolves again into "Black men are criminals, we must jail them to make our community safe." These narratives stay and are repeated until they were stored in the American subconscious and shared with new generations. These thoughts are carried by whites, blacks and sometimes officers and the result is the violence we are experiencing. I saw a particular sheriff from Wisconsin spew a narrative about black on black crime. How much crime black neighborhoods have and how blacks are dangerous, yet he said nothing about why that violence exist. He says nothing about the lack of opportunity in these neighborhoods. He didn't share that inequality decreased the number of persons in black community from receiving education or having the resources to get an education that could pulled them out of neighborhoods like this. He didn't talk about the lack of transportation trapping people because of their financial limitations. Some people of color work hard in spite of all of these challenges and get out of the cycle. This sheriff was probably one of them, but that narrative about black crime coming out of a black police officer again was a blow to changing the narrative of the black man and the blue officer. 

America is a systemically racists place but what I think is worse is that we are not comfortable questioning our beliefs and opening ourselves to cultivating different beliefs when facts, experiences and even emotions tell we should. We suck at that and that is why socially, we are behind compared to other parts of the world.  

What we saw in Dallas and Baton Rouge is the culmination of narrations coming together creating a violent end to a chapter in our America story. An end that we could have stopped if we talked to each other, released old beliefs and supported truth.  

Change the narrative and we can change our nation. 

Get You a Mexican

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It was time for me to move out of my townhome in Houston. I was really sad about it. I loved the location and the neighborhood and my neighbors. Plus, moving is not my favorite thing. My emotions were everywhere.  I wanted to make sure I left the place spotless so that I could get my security deposit back in full. I decided to hire a cleaning service.  I Googled and found some services, but the price was a little steep for my liking. My next steps was to ask friends and see if they had some suggestions.  Some of my friends had neighbors that provided cleaning service but could not do it when I needed it. I started to get a little bit desperate. Then, on my way to a meeting with some work collegues and I kind of mentioned it.  I told them I only got a few days and I still in need of cleaning service. Their response, "Girl, you better find you a Mexican. They will clean your whole house for $75." 

I don't want to get into my thoughts on immigration. That is a different post, but wanted to share my reaction. When my teammate said that, I was perplexed. First thing that came in my head is how the hell am I hearing this out of another person of color mouth? For a black person to say this, knowing our own struggle to this day; that was hard to hear. I know it was not said to harm and to be honest there is truth ot it, but in that instance, my collegue "harmless" statement took a culture and a people and minimize them to one thing; cheap labor.  As a black person, I know the feeling. As deep and complicated as black culture and is, we also were one-noted and labled as less than and cheap labor. Maybe if it was said differently. Maybe if my collegue said. "Hey, you should go to a brown brother/sister and see if they can hook you up."  But why, "a Mexican?" I know why and you do too. Mexican has come to symbolize, cheap labor, immigrant, outsider.  It has become as derogatory as nigger,  dehumanizing a group of people. As Americans do we use people that are different for their talents and take advantage of their situation and then complain of their existence in "our country." And as easy as the words are said, that is what we become. Mexicans, niggers, A-RABS, fags. 

In that moment I also thought about my mom. She use to clean houses when I was a kid. That is back-breaking work and it should be paid handsomely for. There was a time when people in America talked about getting "a nigger" to clean house and it came out of their lips with the same ease that Mexican statement came from my collegue.  It is nothing wrong with the line of work. It is honorable work, but to insist that a particular type of person is built for it, should do it and then get paid little for it is a damned problem. 

In the end, I did the cleaning myself. With all the thoughts I had about it, I figured cleanng myself would give me the clearest conscious. Maybe something as simple as picking a cleaning service won't be complicated by race and class. I don't want Mexican to mean cheap labor. I don't want Black to mean less than. I don't want Arab or Muslim to mean terrorist. I don't want gay to mean abomination. We have to change. 

The Man in the Blue Suit

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We all dream but sometimes we open our eyes and the dreams fo away. They are blurry thoughts that melt into nothing.  Last night I had a dream It was a man in a blue suit. It was well made, taillored. It had small white stripes. Not too vibrant, not too much, Just enough to notice.  It fit him perfectly along with his white shirt.  He was taller than me, bigger than me. I did not see his face, but it was not important.I can tell he was intelligent, kind and beautiful.  I don't know where we were but it was ellegant. The colors around us  were bright and golden. I felt we were at a ball. I looked around in awe and when my eyes finally came down back to the man in the suit, I see his elbow waiting for me to take. What a lovely gesture. I slowly wrapped my hand around it and I felt something amazing. I felt protected.  Just like that I woke up and as teh dream started to disappear, the feeling of being protected lingered. All day, I felt different. I felt stonger, supported, beautiful and loved. Wow. Of course, every blue suit I saw that reminded me of my dream put a smaile on my face. Was that a dream of a real person or maybe an upcoming experience? Was I dreaming of a future that is coming or a desire? It doesn't matter. 

 

She’s Better for You

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Hmmm, I hoped that you pick me, but I took a look at her. She is beautiful. She is a go getter. She is smart, focused and driven. I put her photo next to yours and even I had to admit you look good together. I am on Facebook and I see that you like her status, over and over and over again. I do too. She is amazing and I cannot help but compare. I am amazing too, but I am not good at telling my narrative. Not enough photos, events, posts or successes to brag about. I sit every day in my meditation chair and your face always comes between the gaps of nothing.  I think…one day, when time is right, we will cross paths and share paths – but fear that may never happen with such beauties, like her around. No, I am not jealous. I was disillusioned to think that I had a chance. My beauty only peaks outside of my bodily shell every once in a while. It can go unnoticed and it has. No, I am not jealous. I am sad. My relationship with you is just as real as the one I have created with you and her  but if I was God and I had to use my magical powers to connect people in human bliss. I would pick her for you. She's better for you. 

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:

 

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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.