My Holiday Wishlist – Gifts Under $100

As adults, the holidays are more about spending time with family, friends, and loved ones than receiving gifts. In fact, in my family, we do a Secret Santa gift-exchange so that the focus isn’t on fighting through the massive crowds at the mall and stressing out, trying to find the perfect present for each and every family member. So, because of this, I usually don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I want for the holidays.

But this year, I decided to go old-school, if even just for myself, and make a holiday wishlist just like when I was a kid. All but one item is under $100 and there’s a good mix of practical and fun stuff too. So if you’re still stuck trying to find the perfect gift for your impossible-to-buy-for loved one or if you’re looking for a holiday gift for yourself, check out my list!

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Melanin Poppin’ – Afropunk Brooklyn 2017 with My Girls

For those of you who don’t know what Afropunk is, in just a few words, it’s a two-day alternative music festival that incorporates fashion, art, food, activism and other creative expressions of blackness. It originated in Brooklyn but now has festivals in Paris, London, Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa. Afropunk is a huge event that is a convergence of many different interests, but for me, the dress-up aspect is the most exciting part. Just do a Google search for “Afropunk fashion” or “Afropunk street style” to see what I mean. Or better yet, continue reading!

Last year was my first time going to Afropunk, although I had been wanting to go for several years. When I finally made it there, I ended up having so much fun and decided that I would definitely go again next year. This year rolled around and I was able to get my ticket early, thank goodness because the prices go up as it gets closer to the date. This is an issue for some since prior to 2015, the concert was free of charge. But one thing to note, whether you consider it a good or bad thing, once it stopped being free, the acts moved closer and closer to being mainstream. The concert still features alternative acts, but I think one difference is that Black alternative music is becoming more popular, as I mentioned in my post, “Is Alt-R&B a Thing? (What I’m Listening to These Days & a Review of Ravyn Lenae).”

Anyway, I was super excited about this year’s show, which would have, among other acts, a Saint Heron Stage that included performers curated by Solange herself. So I got a group of 6 of my closest friends and family together to go with me. We were going to have a mini girls trip! I even created a What’s App group chat for us to plan. For weeks, the seven of us chatted and laughed about what outfits and hairstyles we would be rocking for the big event. We sent each other Pinterest pictures for inspiration and thought of DIY ideas for accessories and anything else we could think of.

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“Chill out, it was Just a Joke.” – Is America Getting too Sensitive?

 

I get so annoyed when people complain that America is “getting too sensitive”. What does that even mean? Is it wrong to respect humanity so much that we get upset if anyone commits mental and emotional violence on others with their words and actions? Is it wrong to be concerned that negative ideologies, beliefs, and stereotypes are being reinforced by the media or people who simply like to hear themselves talk?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fun and “ratchet” music and TV or a (thoughtful) satire or a sarcastic joke as much as the next person but sometimes humor and entertainment value are used as excuses to continue to cast a blind eye on how marginalized groups are treated and viewed in this country. Sadly, the unwillingness to learn about others takes precedence over understanding others’ experiences in order to simply treat people better. And it doesn’t stop at entertainment and social media. There are many offensive things that take place in our everyday lives that have been so accepted that it is hard to convince people of their harmful nature. Things like work and school micro-aggressions, exclusionary practices, and cultural and ethnic erasure and homogenization are just a few ways we have ingrained ignorance into our existence.

 

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part II – The Black Woman)

Just like the Black family, Black women have had a similar struggle to be represented positively and accurately on TV. It’s important that Black women are not only given more roles but that these roles are accurate and positive, thereby making them for us, not just about us.

But throughout the years, it has seemed like too much to ask to see TV shows that were both about Black women and also made for Black women. Black women have been awkwardly inserted into TV shows as the token on mostly white shows or as incidental characters on shows with Black ensemble casts (e.g. if the star of the show is a Black man, he will most likely have to have a Black girlfriend, wife, mother, etc.) These characters don’t always necessarily speak to our real experiences as Black women and that is usually not the purpose that they were created for.

I believe that for these shows and characters to be not only about us as Black women, but for us, the shows must be created by Black women, or at least feature our writing or direction so that we can have more control over how we are portrayed. Then we can create characters that exemplify attainable #BlackGirlMagic as well as the relatable girl-next-door persona. We don’t need any more characters who represent the gamut of negative stereotypes; from being fetishized to being the best friend with no love life to being the angry Black woman. In addition, it’s important to note that depending on the era, the face of the Black woman and how we want to be portrayed on television changes.

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You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: The Urban Novel

 

Something that I have been wanting to write about for awhile is the plight of the urban novel. I love a good urban romance or street lit book, but there are so many nowadays that it’s a challenge to find ones that are written up to a certain standard. Even so, there’s the common misconception that poorly written hood fiction is a direct result of the skill level of the authors who write them, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Urban novels often get a bad rap, not only because of their “hood” content but because some of them are not written well. As I have been toying with the idea of self-publishing my own books, I’ve realized that much of this has nothing to do with whether an urban novelist is less capable of forming a grammatically correct sentence than a mainstream fiction writer. Instead, it has very much to do with the self-publishing process or, in the alternative, with underfunded publishing companies who sometimes can’t afford to hire a good editor.

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part I – The Black Family)

 

Everyone can agree that representation of Black people in the media is a huge issue, but our reactions to the attempts made to be more inclusive vary depending on each of our own experiences. It’s obvious that there is not enough representation of Black people on TV in general, but the other concern is that the representation that we do have is not always positive or accurate. The argument over what positive and accurate representation looks like is an argument that we have been having for decades, especially when it comes to the portrayal of the Black family and the Black woman.

Often the argument comes down to whether we as Black people disagree with the constant barrage of stories with a slave or house servant narrative or whether we are annoyed by stories featuring characters with almost superhuman qualities or “unrealistic” excellence. Do we feel alienated by upper-middle class Black families on TV or do we feel offended by the stereotype of poor Black families on TV?

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#MillennialGirlMagic

As far as I’m concerned, people in my generation are the only true millennials. I mean, I graduated from high school in the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium (by popular opinion, if not the actual beginning). They said that those in my class represented the future. It was an honor, yes, but it also came with very high expectations. Apparently, now there are two decades of people, most of whom are younger than us, who have been dubbed millennials and for whatever their reasons, older generations look down on millennials as a whole today. I guess things have changed.

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Freedom: The Fight isn’t Over

I have been avoiding writing about this topic ever since November 9th. But in a few days, our nightmarish fate will be sealed. People say not to have a defeatist attitude but it’s hard not to.

After the election results surfaced I was devastated, as many of us were. I couldn’t express my feelings in full sentences but the one word that did come to mind was, “Angry.” I tried so hard to make some sense of what had happened by writing. All I could think of to write were these words, “An open wound, salt, never been more woke, beaten and beaten, we are being tested.” I couldn’t get any farther than that incoherent string of words. As I bring my mind back to that day and weed through the foliage of my thoughts, I think this is what I was trying to say:

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The Top 10 Books on My Holiday Wish List

 

As I have said before, I used to be an avid reader growing up. Even now, I absolutely love reading. But, as I got older I’ve had less and less time to read. Or maybe I just wasn’t making the time. Either way, adulting definitely distracted me from my favorite hobby. Thankfully, I have started to get back into it.

Here’s a list of books that I have on my Christmas wish list. Some of them I have been hearing great buzz about lately and others are books I have known about the past few years but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This holiday season, I hope to get all of the books on this list, and more!

1.

Another Brooklyn, By Jacquline Woodson

This book speaks to me because I remember when I was younger there were so many coming-of-age stories for white children and not many for young women of color. So when I did come across any, I would be so excited to read them. Another Brooklyn is about a woman reflecting back on her experience as a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 70’s. This seems like the perfect adult coming-of-age story and I can’t wait to read it. 

2.

Purple Hibiscus, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This is the debut novel by acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, so I’m a bit late. But better late than never. I knew this book had to be on my list because I really enjoyed reading Adiche’s other work and the story, about a young Nigerian woman’s internal struggle for autonomy from her family, was something I think many people can relate to. 

3.

Underground Railroad, By Colson Whitehead

I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger but, as an adult, I haven’t found any that sparked my interest. What struck me about this book was that not only is it set in pre-civil war America, but Colson added his own spin – the underground railroad is an actual railroad and not just a metaphor. It tells the story of a courageous young woman who escapes slavery via the railroad and all of the adventures that come with that voyage. I’m sure this book will be just as heartbreaking as it is exciting but I’m looking forward to the entire experience. 

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The F!@#$%&* Word

7d3dae0986567e077ab4d6679d2acc33At first, I was only going to write about what feminism means to me because after all, everyone these days seems to be a feminist and yet so many people have different interpretations of feminism. But recently, I have noticed that people are still struggling to grasp what feminism is at its most basic definition. There is still a significant stigma behind the word and there are many people going around explaining (and mansplaining) what they believe that it is.

I don’t have an issue with most of the varied interpretations of what feminism means to people who identify as feminists because it is usually related to how each person practices or displays their feminist views in their own lives. But I do have a huge problem when people who aren’t feminists decide that they know exactly what feminism is when, in fact, they don’t. I have heard the usual – ‘feminists are women who hate men’ and ‘feminists are lesbians.’ Sadly, I’ve heard these definitions from just as many women as I have men.

But the other day I found out that some men are in the practice of swiping left when a woman’s profile reads, “feminist.” While I’m sure the women are better off without a date with these men, it was still puzzling to me. But my confusion turned to disgust when I learned some of the reasons why a woman identifying herself as a feminist would be a turn-off for some men. But, to protect the innocent, I won’t even get into those reasons. Just know that they are gross.

For all of those who don’t know, feminism is the belief that women and men should have equal rights. That’s it. It isn’t a hard concept. I guess it’s difficult for people to understand in the same way some people will never get that #BlackLivesMatter means that Black lives are just as important as White, Yellow, Purple, Brown and even *gasp* Blue lives, so we should start acting like it. More and more every day I wish that some people would just pick up a book and read it.

Anyway, I like to believe that I was a feminist before it was the thing for “strong, independent” women (and men who were ‘down for the cause’) to be. Even though some people still think of unshaven underarms and bra-burning when they hear the word feminist, today you hear one celebrity after another claiming to be a feminist. I’m not hating on that at all, I’m just saying it has become a bit of a fad, complete with its own key phrases – “lean in”, the “shine theory”, and even “pop feminism” (think Taylor Swift).

I’ve always had kind of off-center ideas about what a woman should be expected to do and how women should be expected to act. But before I knew exactly what the word feminist actually meant, I just figured I was thinking as if I was a man, which just goes to show that I was still being constrained by traditional, stereotypical gender roles, despite my liberal ideas. It wasn’t until two of my male friends called me a feminist that I began to look more into feminist theory. Sure, one was playfully mocking me, but the sound of the word in reference to me sounded very fitting.

Today, I know that feminism is the belief that women should have the same opportunities and rights that men have. But to me, more specifically, feminism is also the belief that women should have the freedom to be the kind of people they want to be, just as men are able to do so without question. Our personalities and our dreams shouldn’t be stifled or drowned out by what society expects from us solely based on the fact that we are women. Continue reading