Nappy – The Other ‘N’ Word

Pretty woman portraitI had an argument with a coworker a while back.  We both were so excited that natural hair is not just a trend with many black people, but for many of us, it seems to be a part of our way of life.  But here’s where the disagreement came in:  she said black people’s hair is not nappy.  It’s tightly coiled and actually curly.

OK, I agree that it’s tightly coiled and curly. But how about that’s exactly what the Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists as one of the definitions of the word nappy?  And I quote, “Nappy, adjective, of hair:  having many tight bends or curls.”  See, that’s how we get into trouble as humans, we either use words or stop using words thinking we already know their meaning and don’t.  Further, you can turn any word or phrase into something ugly. It’s all in the way you use it.

For example, Ms. Jealous walks up to Ms. SheGotItTogether and says, “You think you look good.”  See what I mean?  Now, because of one small-minded person, looking nice or being confident seems wrong. I can even remember when I was much younger when one of my older brothers wanted to hurt my feelings they would say with a snarl, “With yo’ blllaacck self!”  My feelings would be so hurt!  But of course after a while I came to the realization that I am black so why should this word hurt my feelings so?  The hurt was gone.

This is true of any word that has been misused to degrade another.  And it doesn’t just start and end with race.  It goes on to include gender, cultural issues and on and on.  Additionally, it doesn’t always come from people who are different from us. Sometimes they are family members like my oh-so-young and immature brothers.  So what can we learn from this?  What will we do when people (who may be black themselves) call us nappy-headed?

Claim it, what else?

Belle is a Beauty – a Movie Review

001_belle_posterOK, I‘ve got to see this picture.  That was my thought after seeing the preview of the movie BelleBelle is a film based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay. If you do not know her story as of yet, please take time to look it up and then go see this movie while you can – in that order.

It makes a strong and beautiful statement about women, race, class, and of course, the power of love.  I will tell you briefly that Dido Elizabeth Belle was a mixed-race lady born into aristocracy.  That was the fact that made me pause at first.  The second was the fact that it was written and directed by black women:  Misan Sagay and Amma Asante.  Yep.  You heard right.

According to Ms. Sagay’s own account, it was a monumental feat to complete – from paper to film.  But the results were well worth it.  The cinematography was sumptuous and the style was Jane Austenesque down to the costumes, hair, set, and sprawling castles.  And lastly, the actors were a complement to all of the above.  Veteran actors such as Tom Wilkinson (Lord Mansfield, Belle’s uncle) and Emily Watson (Lady Mansfield, Belle’s aunt) add layers to each scene and drove the play onward and upward.  And my favorite scene?  When a passionate, young lawyer name John Davinier (played by a talented Sebastian Reid) fought for his love, Belle (played by the equally talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and stood up against Belle’s formidable uncle.

Like I said, I’m giving nothing away.  It is your responsibility as the reader to discover and read the true story of such a remarkable account and then see the movie that was inspired by it.  As you would expect, dramatic license was taken with the latter, but that fact neither diminishes the compelling value of the former.

HOW TO FORGIVE ONESELF

provided by Microsoft

Almost everybody can look back and reflect on things they’ve done and regretted.  That’s definitely one option that many (including myself) have indulged in.  But hey, let’s take this opportunity to do differently.  Let’s start with forgiving ourselves. 

Maybe because we were ashamed of ourselves, brought on by some indiscretion; we allowed someone to abuse us and inwardly we knew better.   Perhaps we were mean to people who were trying to be kind or truthful to us – shutting them out of our lives.  Maybe, because of paralyzing depression, we didn’t do all that we could have or got involved in some kind of harmful addiction(s).  The list goes on.  But now is the time to let it go and forgive ourselves.

Scientists say that you will find it easier to forgive others than you do yourself.   Isn’t that peculiar?  I’ve heard it said this way; treat yourself like you would your best friend.  Would you do or say a particular thing to your best friend?  No?  Well, don’t say it to yourself.  Wouldn’t you give your friend the benefit of the doubt?  Then give it to yourself as well.

A chronic state of anger and resentment interferes with life.  According to Sharon A. Hartman, LSW and clinical trainer at the Caron Foundation, “When resentment is interfering with your life, it’s time to forgive yourself.  It’s been said that forgiving doesn’t mean not being angry with yourself, but it means not hating yourself.”  Because, truth be told, we all mess up.  Just don’t live in that moment perpetually or let one stupid period of your life define your life.

Hartman continues, “It’s about relinquishing a source of pain and letting go of resentment. People think forgiving yourself means you are letting yourself get away with whatever you did.  The pain and anger you are feeling are supposed to be our punishment.”  But the point is that the punishment should fit the crime.  Don’t overdo it.

How?

Of course, there’s therapy; but do you have a small number of friends or family on your side?  Or a deep faith?  Then talk it out.  Many have found grace using these avenues.  Grace is defined as unmerited help given to one, meaning, whether we deserve it our not, some assistance was extended.  It is an act of love.

You’ll know when you have forgiven yourself.  Hartman says, “You know you have done it when the memory gives you no more pain and anger.  It’s as simple as that.  You can say, ‘I am free of this,’” You never forget it, but it doesn’t trouble you as before.  But remember, forgiveness is complete when we are transformed or when we have learned the lesson and will not allow ourselves to repeat the action.

Ultimately, by applying these suggestions, we will have a less troubled life.  We will have a longer and healthier life.  And we will want to live a good life despite our frailties. 

Black History – 15 Interesting Facts

February

If you didn’t already know, February is Black History month.  This month-long celebration started out as the Negro History Week Celebration first organized by Carter G. Woodson.  It was chosen because two birthdays came during this time –Frederick Douglas’ and Abraham Lincoln’s.

I ran upon some interesting facts about Black History and just wanted to share.  Take a gander at the information listed below.

Xavier University, a historically black college in Louisiana, has one of the highest success rates in the country of getting their graduates into medical school.

Spelman College in Atlanta is NOT the only historically black college for women, Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina is the other one.

Victor Blanco was the Black mayor of San Antonio in 1809 – before slavery was abolished, while Texas was still part of Mexico.

Frank Wills, a Black security guard, discovered President Nixon’s cover-up which later caused his resignation as President of the United States. Despite Wills’ discovery, he struggled to find work for the rest of his life.

Benjamin T. Montgomery, a former slave, bought the plantations of Confederate President Jefferson Davis at the end of the Civil War, and became one of the biggest cotton planters in Mississippi.

Rex Ingram, a Black actor, bypassed the stereotypes by playing a meaningful role in the film “The Green Pastures” in 1936.

Sophia Tucker and Harriet Giles, the founders of Spelman College, used just $100 to found this Historically Black College.

The African American advisors to President Franklin D. Roosevelt were called the “Black Brain Trust.”

Vermont was the first U.S. territory, in 1777, to abolish slavery. Pennsylvania was the first state to do so, in 1780.

Dr. William Hinton, a Black physician, is credited with creating a test to detect the syphilis disease.

In 1959, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors in Prince Edward County, Virginia, voted to close its public schools in a show of “massive resistance” against integration.  The vast majority of the county’s 1,700 African American students and some white students went without formal education from 1959–1964.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African American from Sainte-Domingue (Haiti), built the first permanent settlement in what would become Chicago in 1779.

Alonzo Pietro, a Black Spaniard explorer, set sail with Christopher Columbus to the “New World.”

Walter S. McAfee is the African American mathematician and physicist first to calculate the speed of the moon.  On January 10, 1946 a radar pulse was transmitted towards the moon. Two and a half seconds later, they received a faint signal, proving that transmissions from earth could cross the vast distances of outer space.

Henry Highland Garnett, born a slave in Kent County, MD was named Minister of Liberia in 1881. He was also President of Avery College in Allegany, PA.

Rare Disease Day – February 28, 2014

RDD_whiteThere are well-known diseases such as diabetes, cancer or arthritis.  And then there are rare diseases in which the names alone could take up a whole line.  Try saying trimethylaminuria (TMAU) three times.  TMAU, although reportedly not fatal, can be crippling due to extremely unpleasant symptoms like foul breath and body odor due to the body’s lack of ability to break down a certain common chemical found in food.

Not a problem you say?  Try being a nine-year-old kid that stinks to high heaven while going to public school.  Not fun.  And yes, this condition affects young and old.  There is no cure.

Maybe you’re one of many who like to look at shows about strange disorders and diseases.  We as humans have a never-tiring fascination of strange medical conditions that people may develop or are born with.  I can remember watching a show where a young man was growing tree-like warts all over his body.  Another time there was a lady on a program whose legs were so swollen that movement was almost impossible.  Both of these conditions baffled the medical community.  Myself, I was stunned to learn of such ailments.

But it wasn’t until I was personally touched by how rare disease can alter your life that I learned that you not only should feel something, but should do something as well.  That’s why Rare Disease Day, February 28, 2014, is so important.  The US 
Rare Disease Day website states:

“Rare Disease Day is an international advocacy day to bring widespread recognition of rare diseases as a global health challenge. The day is celebrated on the last day of February every year. In 2014, it will be observed on February 28th.  In the U.S., any disease affecting fewer than 200,000 people is considered rare. This definition comes from the 
Orphan Drug Act of 1983 and is slightly different from the definition used in Europe. There are nearly 7,000 rare diseases affecting nearly 30 million Americans. In other words, almost one in ten Americans are suffering from rare diseases.  Besides dealing with their specific medical problems, people with rare diseases struggle to get a proper diagnosis, find information, and get treatment. The rarity of their conditions makes medical research more difficult.”

Anyone can be involved in Rare Disease Day and there are many suggested activities. The day has been established as a grassroots advocacy day and we encourage everyone to participate in some way!

This website focuses on Rare Disease Day activities in the U.S. To learn what’s happening around the world, go to the global Rare Disease Day website at 
rarediseaseday.org.”

If you are suffering with a rare disorder or know someone who is, then this event was created for you.  Additionally, for those who are moved to do something and even if you can’t do much, just do what you can.  
NORD, the National Organization of Rare Diseases, will accept donations as low as a dollar.  Hey, it all adds up.

Remember, Alone We are Rare.  Together We are Strong.

Tips for Easy Tax Filing

taxesAll right guys, it’s that time again.  Tax time!  Don’t everybody jump out of sheer excitement.  For some, these words mean money, for others, not so much.  But the way I view it, it’s like pulling out a loose tooth.  Might as well do it now and get it over with.

Listed below are three points that might help:

This point cannot be emphasized enough:  Don’t procrastinate!  You don’t have to do it all in one day or weekend.  You can do a little at a time.  That way, you are sure to make fewer mistakes and not overlook possible tax savings.

Use Free File or try IRS e-fileFree file:  if you made less than 57,000 last year you can take advantage of free brand-name tax software offered around this time.  Another option is to go to IRS.gov/freefile to access the IRS Free File.

IRS e-file:  This is a very accurate, easy and popular way to file.  On a good note:  even if you file now and find out you owe, you don’t have to pay until April 15th.

And for us that need it, you can always file an extension.  So say your return is not ready and April 15th is fast approaching.  You can request an extension through the Free File program.  This will get you an extra six months to work on your taxes.  For those who want to go the paper route:  use Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return).  You can download the form at IRS.gov or call 1800-TAX-FORM (1800-829-3676).  Here’s the catch:  you still have to pay any taxes owed by April 15th.  The extension gives you more time to work on your tax return; it does not give you more time to pay.

Wrong Number

 

Angry woman on phoneShe clasps her genteel fingers around the receiver
playing with her hair
she smiles deliciously and says

- I don’t know.

Then huskily laughs as she turns
to sit on her quaint little couch
plopping her feet up with her knees bent
she feigns innocence as she retorts

- I told you, I don’t know.

She raises her lanky arm
over her forehead and
closes her eyes
bursting in hysterical laughter
she flings out her arm and
sits straight up like a shot

- You’ll do what? Do it. I dare you.

Her eyebrow is raised in wicked delight
she slowly lies back down
propping one hand behind her head

- Um…that will be the day.

Her eyes suddenly narrows and
with that round-the-way twang
she taunts loudly

- For the last time, he’s not here. And until you
start acting like a father, stop calling
him your son!

With an abrupt fling, the phone flies
to the other side of the quaint little couch
she stares aimlessly until a small voice interrupts

- Momma?

There is silence

- Momma?

She turns to the little figure
bearing the biggest brown eyes
and graceful long lashes

- What baby?

- Who was that?

- Umm…wrong number.