by guest blogger, Kai Wall
Recently, I stood my ground against individuals who were in positions of authority over me. They were disgustingly abusive, frighteningly racist and seemed to expect me to respond to their frequent attacks on my dignity with a compliant timidity. As it seemed with Sandy Bland when she encountered the rouge state trooper in Waller County, Texas my initial thoughts were these people have got to be kidding. The experience was surreal. As things escalated I used my intellect, reasoning and "strong black woman attitude" as my tools of protection. My tormentors only became more venomous, just as the trooper had become with Sandy. As I witnessed Sandy's encounter, specifically the contrived stop followed by his mean-spirited, condescending tone and confrontational attitude, my barely healed wounds began to reopen. When he pathologically informed her he would "light her up," I felt terror because that was the message I more or less received at my point of no return. My spirit meshed with hers as I understood the doom that awaited her. My tears flooded as I knew she would not be okay. My heart ached as I knew she would not make it out of this one alive. As I returned to a clear state of consciousness I thought I am wounded. I've been greatly harmed, but I am still alive, while Sandy is not. I owe it to her to pick up the pieces and become whole, because I am still here. I have a chance to begin anew, while Sandy's fate has been permanently sealed. Sandy, what happened to you was not fair. The irony is not missed that your death was caused by the very same conditions you fought so valiantly and honorably against. I will pick up the pieces not only for myself, but also for you. Your death will not be in vain. ©2015 KCW
I am inspired. So much insight and awareness and at 16 years of age . . . I'm impressed. Amandla Sternberg taught many this week through a video she originally posted on Tumblr from a school project, "Don't Cash Crop My Conrows." In the video, she eloquently explains cultural appropriation:
"What is so complicated when it comes to black culture, the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred. But here's the thing: Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture that they are partaking in. Hip hop stems from a Black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues, styles of music which African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity."
Unsurprisingly, Billboard Music, a well-known international publication covering the music business reduced her poignant, educated message to one of immaturity and anger as they tweeted, "Hunger Games" star Amandla Stenberg criticized Taylor Swift and Madonna for "rampant" appropriation of Black culture." However, the 16 year old response was as inspiring as her original message (tweets shown below.) Again, as we often do on this blog: block out the negativity and noise to pay attention to the lesson at hand. Amandla Stenberg asks a question that has been asked on social media for years now:
When I see young people taking a stand for what they believe, I'm intrigued. Let's support and show her love. Be sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram and "Like" her on Facebook. Also, share this and let me know what you think!
Since 2010, many Black women and girls have gathered in front of their televisions relishing in an award show highlighting the achievements of other women and girls who look like them. Here, these women are awarded for their accomplishments in science, philanthropy, activism, arts and entertainment, politics, business, ministry and education. They are finally celebrated in an inspiring and deserving way for their excellence and their contributions to the world whether globally or in their local communities. This year's event was monumental as we witnessed the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, take center stage proclaiming, "Black Girls Rock." As a rocking Black girl myself, I could not have been any prouder. Not only was I proud for the Black girl in me, but the women and girls I advocate for, my 13 year old daughter who is becoming a young woman before my eyes gracefully as well as my newborn niece whose eyes gleam in curiosity of the world around her.
"No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful. You are powerful. You are brilliant. You are funny. Let me tell you, I am so proud of you. My husband, your President, is so proud of you. We have such hopes and dreams for every single one of you. Now, I know that this isn't always the message you get from the world. I know there are voices that tell you, you're not good enough. That you have to look a certain way, act a certain way... that if you speak up, you're too loud. If you step up to lead, you're being bossy . . ." —First Lady Michelle Obama
Seeing beautiful images of ourselves matter.
Hearing meaningful messages of affirmation also matters.
Black Girls Rock! awards show is the most inspiring show for Black women and girls airing today in my opinion. Unapologetically, it shows the beauty and sisterhood shared among Black women.
However over the years and since it's received more publicity, the show receives criticism for the title, "Black Girls Rock," mainly from White people. Judging from the all too common and repetitive comments, these critics wouldn't understand diversity and inclusion if it sat in their face, crossed its legs and stared them in their eyes. I'm certain you have noticed the same comments on social media as well. You know those who act as the teacher's pet receiving most of the attention, yet will throw a tantrum when that teacher finally calls on another student??? ..crying out, "White Girls Rock too!" Or those who leave their message a little more subtle and appeasing (as if they really care about "all women and girls") --inserting "All Girls Rock!" into the conversation OR those who take more extreme measures misconstruing what racism is in the first place, "if there was an award show called White Girls Rock, it would be considered racist". . . conveniently forgetting how the images of White girls continue to dominate media and popular award shows. Where's the "All Girls Rock!" mantra then?
Why criticize the title of the show without attempting to understand its relevancy and history. Some of these same individuals will entertain or idly sit by when degrading comments are publicly made in the media or from their social media friends about the First Lady (or any Black woman.) Yet, they will call the First Lady 'racist' for uplifting women who share her story. How can anyone question the First Lady's appearance and words encouraging a room full of women and girls who look like her without questioning why is she the first First Lady who share their features or understand the impact her presence must have on them in the first place? Are we so lazy to think that opting to call the first Black First Lady of the United States racist for her appearance and encouragement without looking to our nation's past and even the disparities related to Black women currently?
Thanks to studies conducted and information gathered by organizations like The African American Policy Forum and National Women's Law Center, we see more data involving matters concerning Black women and girls. In fact, studies show that majority Black girls have a strong desire to lead. However, statistics also show Black girls are the most punished group in schools and are increasingly becoming the largest group in the juvenile (and criminal) justice systems. And, as discussed during this week's webinar and Twitter chat: #HerDreamDeferred hosted by @AAPF, Black women are the leading group enrolled in colleges, yet collectively the median net worth of Black women is $5.00 (the lowest of all groups.) From education to justice systems to health and wealth, there are many more disparities that may be linked to systemic issues that should have everybody concerned more than the title of the show. And, need I detail the biases in media when it comes to acknowledging the beauty of Black women with our classically beautiful selves?
But, I digress.
I'm learning to stop defending the obvious. When we continue responding to negativity on something great and positive, it depletes our energy and distracts from the greater purpose. Misery loves company. Therefore, to all Black women and those who sincerely care about our well being of all races and genders, please save your energy. Continue to celebrate, encourage, uplift and advocate for us and block out the noise.
Black Girls Rock! airs Sunday, April 5th 7pm|6pm CST
For more information about the non-profit organization, Black Girls Rock! Inc. click here.
We're often resilient because we have no other choice.
"Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and you will be given your heart's desires. Quiet down and be prayerful before God. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top." (Psalm 37)
Last week, comedienne and host of The Talk, Sheryl Underwood revealed a secret during the show's Week of Secrets. Well-composed, she recalled listening in on a conference call in preparation for the Queens of Comedy Tour with fellow comediennes Sommore, Laura Hayes and Adele Givens (unknowingly to them.) The show aired this past Thursday, September 18, 2014. I saw it the following day as it became viral. The ultimate message (and lessons) inspired me enough to share it on social media. After watching, I believed it was a message every woman needed to hear and a concept every woman needed to grasp and put into practice. The response I witnessed from other women were overwhelmingly in support of Sheryl Underwood's account of the conference call. They, too, were encouraged (and inspired) after watching. Some women found her words comforting and her experience a reflection of their own experiences with other women in their lives, particularly in their careers.
We have all come across women who chose to discourage us instead of encourage us; to harm us rather than help us and prey on us instead of praying for us. We have encountered women who treated us as though we were out of place and didn't deserve to be in that elevated place where God called us to be all along. These women were so busy looking at our appearances and abilities (or the lack thereof) that they remained in one place. That's what negativity does. When we have evil in our hearts toward someone so much that we prefer speaking negatively behind their backs, there is a root. The root more than likely is self-hate, envy and bitterness and it has the power to block our very own destiny.
Ideally, women (in our nurturing make-up) will choose to come together and support one another to break every glass ceiling that persists, but we don't. We are often our own worse enemies in a world where we make up over half the population globally, yet we are seen as less than. From owning a significantly less than amount of land and sitting on the boards of Fortune 500 companies in less than numbers, we have a long way to go. Yet, we consume the most and studies even show that women enroll and graduate from college in record numbers in comparison to men today. Even if "coming together" seems far-fetched to some, we definitely should avoid tearing one another down. Without dwelling on the negativity of the event further, let's discuss the messages in Sheryl Underwood's reaction.
"Sometimes it's better to react with no reaction." (Unknown)
What do you think of Sheryl Underwood's revealed secret? Should she have said anything at all? How do you think the other comediennes should respond? Let me know in the comments.
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oftentimes I highlight the work and service of women under the category: #sheSpeaksUP! Today, I highlight someone who speaks up not only in her accomplishments, but her service to her community:
Upon meeting Karen Cecile Wallace, I knew she had IT. What is IT? It is that 'thing' I encounter upon meeting people who are selfless and work to build a better community locally as well as abroad. They have a story and through their service, we listen.
Karen is a part of floWERS! (focused ladies of Worth, Excellence, Resilience and Strength!) She is the epitome of what floWERS! represent: Ambition. Service. Drive. Selflessness. With a significant amount of pro bono hours (free legal service hours to the community), she continues to give. Karen has a background as an adjunct professor, youth mentor and a corporate attorney. Her foundation in public policy and nonprofit organizations prove she has what it takes to accomplish the mission of her latest endeavor: The Violence Prevention Funding Campaign.
Karen currently resides in her hometown (Chicago) and is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ. She is highly regarded in the Cook County Bar Association and has worked with various school systems, organizations and churches in her community throughout the years. Along with the heart of teaching, advocating and mentoring, Karen’s work is admirable and meaningful. She gives back with excellence. Just recently Karen launched the campaign fund for violence prevention in Chicago that I will follow and update you about toward the attainable goal of $200,000.00.
We need your help. With its crime rate, Chicago is seen as the most unsafe city according to a recent study.
There is always hope. By the time you read this, I hope you join me and Karen in doing more for your local communities as well as giving back in service to other communities. As we often see, in times of injustice (e.g. police brutality in the Black community), many people hark upon the 'lack of attention' that ‘black on black’ crime receive throughout the nation. Usually this argument is counterproductive as well as a distraction. It seeks to support the notion that no one cares about the violence happening in our own communities which is untrue. It further gives rise to questioning community activism in these areas. Please note that nationwide, there are several organizations, churches, activists, community leaders, teachers and parents serving in this capacity. Let’s not discount their work and service, but join them in the fight against violence while speaking against different injustices.
Now, let me tell you about Karen’s campaign that I wholeheartedly support. Karen is seeking funding for an initiative that will help different churches and organizations with established programs for the youth in Chicago. The purpose of this campaign is to reduce gun violence in the city. Contributing to this campaign will help fund these established community based violence prevention programs that have a proven track record and assist them in expanding the reach of their programs. With her experience and commitment, I know that Karen and her committee will be successful in finding the organizations and churches to assist through this heartfelt mission. They will conduct due diligence in researching these programs by identifying groups that have been effective with their violence prevention programs. The funding will essentially help improve the lives of both boys and girls. The approach of the programs may be anywhere from home and school visits, mentoring and other types of outreach.
What you can do to help?
Thank you for stopping by.