Archive for Love

Missrepresentation—what we need to see on TV!

As soon as the link popped into my Twitter timeline, I was compelled to see what MissRepresentation was all about. I watched the trailer and immediately recognized this documentary was speaking to me, about me and for me. For goodness sake, what woman has not felt slighted and exploited by media because of her gender? In today’s society one of the most powerful forces in the universe, feminine energy and perspective, are discounted and played cheap by media powers that be.

But I think the world had better get ready to reckon with women everywhere as Missrepresentation has remixed our view, put the spotlight where it belongs. The film made its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently picked up by the mighty Oprah Winfrey Network as a part of its documentary Club. Before January 2011, there has not been a space for this kind of film on network television. That is not until a woman owned a television network. Marinate on that thought and absorb the powerful impact…

I can hardly express how excited I was when I was invited to screen the film on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, taped here in Chicago at Harpo Studios. Without giving away too much, I will say the statistics that are revealed in the film, the incredible testimonies, pull you out of the graphic haze of American media. It forces us as viewers to give a critical eye to the portrayal of women in the media and how this shapes our society.

Missrepresentation is a conversation-starter. Yet, beyond the revelations, shocking stats and information, the take away is that everyone who watches will have clear direction on next steps. It is a film that empowers with the knowledge and belief that we can make a difference to change the media landscape to be better for our daughters and future generations of boys and girls alike. Each viewer understands it is our individual responsibility to do so.

So much of the film resonated with me, but more than anything there was a phrase from one of the doc’s sources. It struck me and held me captive. It is because of the implications of this phrase is what pushed me to create my program Girls Like Me. I caught my breath in an Oprah “aha moment,” that I’d been given a name, a way to articulate what I have felt since I was a little girl watching television.

It was so powerful for me, that I jumped up to ask the first question when Rosie opened the floor to the audience. If I don’t get left on the editor’s cutting floor, you’ll be able to hear for yourself what struck me so.

Still, my question is but among the millions you and others will have after watching. I know you will hear the call of action, too. So take a moment to view the trailer, then be sure to tune in to OWN, Thursday, October 20 at 9/8 CST. I can’t wait for us to watch it collectively and move the discussion forward!

In the meantime, take the first steps in challenging the media’s portrayal of women:

Like the MissRepresentation FB page

Follow MissRepresentation on Twitter

Now take the pledge to represent!

Troy Davis-Why I care pt. 1

All the way up until the announcement that the state of Georgia had indeed killed Troy Davis, I prayed and hoped against hope for a miracle. That miracle being that the United States of America would prove itself to be everything she has ever claimed to be in the name of justice and humanity. I had scanty logical reasons fueling my hope. After all, our Country has paid major lip service to being the home of the free and the brave; yet all too often our actions just don’t measure up. Yet I am human, and with my humanity comes an inherent hope for the good and righteous to prevail.

The following post is merely my first and most base reaction to the tragedy that has befallen us all.

Let me state upfront how impossibly catastrophic it is that a human being lost his life simply doing his job as Mark Allen MacPhail did in 1989. My heart hurts for his wife and children who never got to rush into his arms when he returned home that fateful night.

While we know Troy Davis was the man convicted for taking Officer MacPhail’s life, I don’t purport to know Troy Davis’ full history. Admittedly, from my limited familiarity with this case dating back only three years ago, it may appear his alleged activities and personal choices on that monumental day of August 19, 1989 put him in a place that ultimately may have been the determining factor in his fate. This is all debatable, and really neither here nor there when getting to the heart of the matter.

And where does the heart lie in this matter? Well, all over the place actually.

First, it is in the fact that the most industrialized country in the western hemisphere, a land that proclaims to be a republic for the people by the people; and with the might and money to rule the entire world, citizens are legally murdered at the hands of their own government. It is a practice borne centuries ago for us, one as inhumane as any atrocity we can imagine on distant shores.

As much as we like to pretty up history, conveniently ignoring the deep scars on our historical psyche, the truth is America has reigned supreme in executing the calculated and deliberate murder against its own citizens. In fact it has been given a very strident name, “capitol punishment,” surviving variations of its delivery methods throughout history, the practice that had first been used by law-enforcers as punishment soon became widely used by extremists for revenge and as domestic terror.

There was a time, that children growing up in post Civil War America through our Civil Rights victories in the 1960s had at the least a very valid fear or even greater an intimate understanding of a loved one or neighbor accused of a crime (real or imagined; just or exaggerated) taken from their homes to be found dead later, body swaying from a tree with toes, fingers, genitalia or ears missing. Sometimes a faint wind would blow the stench of burnt flesh that gave away the scene of the crime.

Alleged victims and their families ceremoniously gathered along with those seeking blood for sport and overall disdain for Blacks (those who were overwhelmingly on the other end of the rope) watched the lynching and celebrated.

It’s no secret or great historical find. It is common knowledge. In fact, my shero, Ida B. Wells, dedicated her life to advocating around the globe to bring attention and an end to that particular brand of barbaric insanity heartily adopted here.

But this is where I find myself choking back tears at the insanity. Where I have to put the laptop down and walk into my kitchen to wash a lone dish, or drink a glass of water attempting to drown reality. No matter the strides Ida B. Wells made along with others like Walter White and the NAACP; Leonidas Dyer; and press outlets like the Chicago Defender, the system always finds a way to mock what is right and just…to shake a stick at our presumption of freedom.

Never did I expect that my children would be witness to the same sadistic blood hunt reminiscent of the terror which prompted the second wave of the great migration from the south. Today, sitting “up north,” none of us can escape the ugly embarassment that our moral compass remains stuck in the woods of hate as more than half of these United States still uphold capitol punishment….modern day lynching. It finds a way to add satire to our view of patriotic pride.

Because, after this latest tragic misstep, we must ask ourselves are we really free? Are you truly proud to be an American?

Secondly, the real painful heart wrenching reality is that I have to take a deep breath and despondently answer those questions with a sheepish no. No, I am not free when I walk everyday in the recognition that my husband can be stopped by a police officer for mistaken identity, accused of an unspeakable crime, then taken to prison- and in our current economic station, not afforded a fair and just trial. Same is true for my son at just 13 years of age.

My space as a Black mother provides the inherent understanding that I have to arm my CHILD with tools that will help navigate away from unsolicited contact with the police, lest be wary of wrongful charges and subsequent conviction. That more than likely his expereince with law enforcement will not yeild a favorable interaction. That justice in this country will elude him most of the time.

There is not enough bandwidth to list ALL the names of the wrongfully convicted held captive in the penal systems of this country. An overwhelming majority of them are there simply because of a lack of good counsel and a fair trial. The sadder fact is that so many layers of state law and federal meanderings and policies and damn near any convoluted sentence structure can be used as justification to deny justice.

So what is the point of all this. I don’t know where I’m going. It is hard to see through the tears. Even harder to think through the rage and mourning. Trying to add weight to the emptiness I feel. But make no mistake, what I do know is Troy Anthony Davis was yet another victim of our justified killing system. They lay him down strapped to a gurney, shot toxic chemicals in his body that took away his living breath. In my mind, they may as well have hung him from a tree, sent him to a guillotine, or placed him in a building with suicide bombers. It all paints the same savage picture, and America still has the blood on its hands.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on how a mother explains the unexplainable; the death penalty; acting out activism; and what happens when you don’t know Poli-ish or Poli-Sci.

Stay tuned.

For mow, please continuing fighting in Troy Davis’ name.

Join your local chapter of NAACP

Support independent media like Democracy Now (who has covered this case and others like it extensively for years)

Support Amnesty International Troy Davis Campaign

Learn more about Innocence Project and wrongful convictions

Register AND vote in all elections

And heed Stevie’s words…

22nd Annual African Festival of the Arts

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Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise Part II

It seems like this story has been written for us since we were forced upon the shores of these United States of America. A grotesque picture book with chapter and verse depicting African men, who before being sold away or savagely beaten to death, granted only the freedom to breed Black children with the African women that would be left alone. The story, ripe with illustrations of these women held hostage by the sweet pain of mothering past loneliness-struggling to survive the harshest realities, the umbra of birthing babies void of hope.

Seems like the story was a grand mastermind of intentional design…and today the story lives on, yet told in epic portrayal.

So I instantaneously connected to that story when I began seriously contemplating the fate of Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for teen mothers and their children. To catch up on the struggle of CFA, read my previous post. But as I was saying, CFA is a school for teen mothers and their small children. We know from any evening news broadcast, the whereabouts of the fathers are highly likely behind prison walls and in detention centers, the new American plantation.We know this because our tragically failing education system disproportionately cripples our children, driving our boys into the prison pipeline and our girls into teen pregnancy and welfare dependency.

A hopeless cycle that has repeated itself unto our community so many times it has become the norm for too many across the African Diaspora. And so it is in Detroit. Yet, when vested and progressive educators got back to the basics, enhancing core curriculum by teaching economic development, agriculture and farming; honing affirmative parenting skills; encouraging breastfeeding (as we know the nutritional and research-based cognitive and sociological benefits this provides both mother and child); the results have stagnated the cycle of destitution and dependency. Now that the village of Catherine Ferguson Academy has found a way to slowly reverse a generational legacy of teenage pregnancy and dropout rates that buoy functional illiteracy, the system that created the “grand mastermind of intentional design” is interrupting progress and success.

Threatening the school with closure.

Now, granted not all Black girls are experience teen pregnancy or consider dropping out of high school. Many flourish, from being recognized as the brightest in their class to being accepted into distinguished universities to receiving Gates Scholarships. And so it may be very easy to separate the girls in our family on our block from those attending CFA. Maybe…

CFA girls and others like them may live a harsh life that when glanced at seem perpetuated by bad choices. However, we know inherently these are our little sisters…and we know their children are our children and future. What they become has strong implications on our community. We also know what plays out at CFA, is but a microcosm of the greater plan (call me a conspiracy theorist) to destruct the moral fabric and cultural fortitude that are implicit in our contributions to this country, and moreover the world. So much is invested in exacerbating vicious cycle of poverty and culpability to government. Many pockets are lined from the devastation of the poor. Jailhouses are built with the poor in mind, grants are written to big foundations, checks cut to lobby for the vices of the poor (tobacco, alcohol, gambling,). Poor people are preyed upon for the almighty green dollar. No question.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

But here is where I become angry and a sinister dread hangs in my spirit. It is because of the obvious silence, or dare I say total disregard, in relation to the struggle of poor black girls by other Blacks.

Now, the Black community turned Jena Louisiana into a Mecca for the quest of justice when Back boys were damned into the bowels of a racist judicial system deep in the heart of Dixie. I was right there, so I know how we chartered buses, posse’d up our motorcycle clubs, and stepped into the fight with our sorority sisters and frat brothers. We braved KKK deep back roads to free our boys. Let us not forget the countless public voices that gave their platform to rally the community and urge us to keep up the fight. No proof or discernment was necessary. We fought the good fight.

Add to countless times we have swooped in to rally around Black boys in trouble. The Tookie’s and Genarlow’s and Troy’s.

I can even point out the cries of anguish as black boy after black boy is gunned down in our inner city streets. We cry hard when we’ve lost our fearless warriors. Oscar, Sean, Derrion, Amadou.

When we are threatened to lose our Black boys, we lose our collective minds. And this is as it should be.

Yet, on the other side of that, why is it, that the squalid life prospects we are losing our sisters to only renders us silent.

Where is the outrage? Yes, we hold a few conferences and have intellectual intercourse over subjects from films like Precious and Colored Girls. We wax poetic when a verbal injustice is done to our revered celebrity sisters. And we seem to come alive in all our fiery colorfulness if we discuss domestic violence of a high profile sister.

So why can’t we muster a single sentence or tweet or Facebook status or magazine spread for the sisters among us who struggle with some very real shit every single day of their young lives? How cheap do we play ourselves, and these sisters, who if not by the grace of God we could be sitting in their shoes. The little sisters at Catherine Ferguson Academy and ghettos across the country, Black girls like me and you, are living straight out of the Good Times theme song. Keeping their heads above water. Water that in their lives is a cesspool of abuse, broken hearts, hopelessness, neglect, welfare, toxic and temptation of cigarettes and alcohol, debris from failed education systems, and all the dank funk of poverty.

I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that CFA being a village of promise, where young mothers are given the tools to become self-sufficient with a vision of the future, is set to close yet I’ve not read or seen a single mention across my social networks dedicated to this issue. Is it because no one cares? Or have we too lost hope for our girls. But how can we? We’ve seen this story before… we know Maya Angelou, poor teen mother without a father for her child, high school drop out. We know Oprah, molested as a teen and left pregnant. What hope did they have…who pulled them along?

Our living legends give us a dazzling example as proof that the future can be bright for these girls, who among their alumna has produced doctors and PhD students. Let us not dim it by ignoring the present fight that we must engage. It is the responsibility of us all to put on the full armor. Put some gloss and add real shine to our lip service. Save Catherine Ferguson Academy. Save our community!

So I know the reason is not that there is no love for poor Black girls. It has to lie in that I am just not connected to the right folks in my virtual network. It’s simply because I have not reached you, but now that this has made its way to you…please take it personal. Catherine Ferguson Academy needs you to see the connection it has to you.

We need action! Many are gathering for a protest rally at the school today. Still, others around the country can support from afar. Sign the petition. Spread the word. Write letters to congressman and legislator, Detroit city officials and Detroit Public School administrators.

Beyond this travesty, let us please make meaningful connections to our little sisters in the struggle, before they ever believe they can walk a college campus. Join the National Cares Mentoring Movement in your city. Volunteer at a public school in your area. Invite a group from a girls’ home to lunch with you and your colleagues at work. We have more work to do. Need to add some shine to our lip service. For real!

Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise

NOTE: This post has been updated since its initial posting.

 

Here’s your friendly announcer, I have serious news to pass on to everybody. What I’m about to say, could mean the world’s disaster… could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain…” Stevie Wonder-Love’s in Need of Love

I’m so feeling Mr. Wonder on that, cause this piece here, more than anything I’ve ever took pen to, needs to get your attention. In past weeks I’ve seen sister bloggers and academicians  go hard to defend Beyonce and Rhianna’s respective artistic and creative prerogative.  Then too, there’s been much commentary clouding the internet with the age-old dark-skinned vs. light-skinned schism.

Even still, Black-focused magazines have posted countless pictures of Halle Berry and little Nahla, they’ve got really adorable piccs of JHud cuddling with her baby. They’ve spent loads of bandwidth flaming trite, yet popular discussions.

Alas, like Stevie sang, my news announcement is not fluffy and pretty. Nope, I’m here to interrupt the beauty salon flow and girlfriend rhetoric, boldy stating it is time to stop and desist with the mindless chatter. Though passionate and definitely tied to some serious “issues,” it is time to reshape our girl talk.

We can start by getting familiar with the young sisters who attend Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for young mothers and their children which is on the brink of closing.  Repeat-the school, Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, is schedule to close June 16, 2011.

I recently attended the screening for Grown in Detroit, a documentary examining the implications of a learning environment that promotes urban farming; taught healthy parenting skills (including benefits of breastfeeding); mandated college admission as a prerequisite to graduating; and encouraged self-sufficiency. That was just for the teen mothers.

Their babies are also attending the school in a nursery/preschool developmental center. If there were a tag cloud for this school the words would include nurture, belief, hope, persistence, resilience, tenacity, strong, open, energy, village, fresh, direction, counsel, practical, free.

It is such a powerful concept, everyone who attended the screening wanted to literally and figuratively plant it in every impoverished community. Obviously that has been the overwhelming sentiment of  folks who have seen/heard about CFA, as the school earned the Breakthrough High School award in 2004 given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals for outstanding achievement among schools with high poverty rates.

Even Oprah took note and featured the school in the April 2008 issue of O Magazine

So how could closing be the fate of this nucleus of hope and promise for many of Detroit’s most marginalized youth? Girls who dropped out of other Detroit Public schools now maintain a 90% attendance rate while at CFA, a notable feat as the school’s location requires many students to take 2 buses and travel more than one hour each way…with babies and strollers.

Young sisters who would otherwise be left discarded by society, have flourished in the village of CFA where they’ve been given the basic yet most important tools for success.

Yet it is scheduled to close this week. In two days from the posting of this blog. But, we can help save this school and the fate of these mothers and babies. This is where our lip service needs some real gloss.

In April, some of the students were arrested in the halls of CFA after silently protesting the closing.

Rachel Maddow has dedicated a significant portion of her MSNBC airtime to this travesty.

http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/23/6517421-more-about-the-catherine-ferguson-academy

Let’s join her in using our voices to get folks moving to advocate for the children.For more information on what you can do to help save Catherine Ferguson Academy, call 855-ASK-BAMN or emaildonna.stern@bamn.com.

UPDATE: Catherine Ferguson Academy was saved from closing. Detroit Free Press reported on the decision and next steps.

Still let’s continue this discussion, we should begin building this very same model in our cities. Would you be down with that?

Stay posted for part II. I have much more to say on this.

Jumping the Broom: Landing on Mar(s)-riage

Hubby and I finally got a chance to go see Jumping the Broom. So much things to say, I hardly know where to begin. So, I’ll have to go into this piece like a multi-tiered wedding cake. And I warn you, there will be spoilers. (Although spoilers never stopped me from seeing for myself what happens). But you’ve been warned.

I must say, the first act had me a little perturbed and almost overshadowed my entire interest in the film. Let me note, I completely understand, that just like all genres of creative storytelling, many self-proclaimed and financed storytellers are not necessarily gifted in their chosen profession.  They do ‘aight. But literary or cinematic geniuses you obviously don’t have to be in order to have a box office hit. (Tyler Perry)

I mean, for crying out loud, is the working-class, Black family really synonymous with ignorance, cultural confinement, ebonic-laced tongues and malicious motives? And the safe assumption is that upper-crust Black families simply must have homes in the Hamptons, speak fluid French, have great appreciation for opera, detach themselves from Black cultural traditions and are righteous people, with the exception of financial indiscretions, who save the wayward.

And is it a stretch to believe there are healthy Black marriages where love is evident and sincere honor dominates?

This premise is what kept poking at me as I sat watching the plot thicken on screen. I couldn’t shake the irritation with the contrived and trite characters, so flat and one-dimensional, I kept hoping for more depth. Credits were rolling when I accepted that it was not to be.

Still, the movie was entertaining, though I wish they had allowed Mike Epps his comedic freedom. Everybody knows Angela Bassett’s acting can give a mop life and Loretta Devine’s passion is contagious. Notwithstanding the abundance of eye candy that kept me focused on the screen.

Needless to say, I got over my irritation and enjoyed the film after all.

As I mentioned, my husband and I saw the movie for our date night, something we’ve learned during these last ten years makes all the difference in our married life. Yep, we jumped the broom ten years ago, June 16, 2001. And while we will celebrate this milestone and all its infinite blessings, watching the characters grapple with many of the issues most couples deal with (finances, sex, family, professional advancement) I couldn’t help but be transported back in time.

Mr. and Mrs. Sewell jumping the broom June 16, 2001 (I had hops...lol)


Come to think of it, the intense focus on weddings this year has prompted me to go back to our beginnings (the inevitable wedding following the 8 year courtship and two babies, but I digress). Weddings have definitely been the major focus this year, what with the Brit family across the pond commandeering everyone’s attention with their opulent ceremony. Then too, I was a bridesmaid to one of my closest sister friends just a few months back. And I might add, her ceremony was just as royal as Kate and Willie’s soiree.

So this film, and everyday life, highlighted some very fundamental values and considerations people need to hold when building the foundation to a healthy marriage.

Here are a few truths that I have come to claim:

Cool kids…

Marriage is an institution, a serious partnership not to be entered in because your friends are all married, you are lonely, you want children, or you get drunk in Vegas. You are establishing a life that requires structure and emotional accountability; linking finances and visions. You have to be intentional about your love. Those vows are the bylaws that ensure the institution remains sound, viable AND profitable…in ways a checking account can never compare.

Power of love…

Love is the least of the things you’ll need to have a healthy marriage. Love is merely 40-50%. Now, let’s be clear. You should love your mate 100% all f the time. But that’s a mere fraction of the WORK!  Communication. Honor. Respect. Trust. Attraction. Sex. Patience. Encouragement. Humor. And Sex (I already said that right? Well, satisfying sex).

Grown Folks…

I love the scripture in the Bible, Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5: 25.

Marriage is for grown folks. If momma and daddy are still paying your bills and calling the shots in your life, you might need a little more time to develop in the real world, then give it a go.

Family Affair…

At the same time, be very clear, people are who they are in large part because of their family. Whether a huge clan or an only child, when someone detaches themselves fully from their family, it causes some hurt on all ends. Marry someone and make demands, trying to manipulate them so that they have limited interaction with their family, I guarantee a storm is brewing.

Beware of the person who has absolute disdain for their families. That is not healthy,

and you could be dealing with someone with serious, unresolved issues.

Happy ending…

Sometimes, when you’ve given it your all and then some more of your best, plus all of the prayer you have, you’ve got to deal realistically. In the film, the bride’s parents stayed in a lifeless and unfulfilling marriage. When you find vows flagrantly broken or you have dismissed your values, remember divorce is an option. I think it is more damaging to children to live in a household with false love than to live with divorced parents. Provide healthy examples, otherwise they believe dysfunction is normal.

And remember, the law requires court papers to make it official. You’ll need court papers to end it. It cannot be absolved by mere words or packing of bags. Ask Frankie Lymon’s widows.

Finally, there’s no way to put it better:

I Corinthian 13: 4-8

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Lighting Unity Candle (another tradition) June 16, 2001

Rocking and Whipping into 2011

Last year, or the year that ended yesterday, I crossed paths with so many remarkable sisters either on a personal level, virtually, or through their craft. The gift of these women was ever more awe-inspiring when I got to meet many of them in person and form authentic, enduring connections. These women and their voices have empowered me in my work moving into this New Year, new decade. Their voices honor community, invoke a spirit of self-love, and celebrate the power we all have in common. I salute them all and share their gifts with you so you too can connect to your purpose in 2011.

Divine Purpose…
Surprisingly, my most profound moments of 2010 came for me at the very beginning and end of the year. Both are testaments of how divine spirit navigates our lives and fulfills our wildest visions. Going into 2010 when I was called to lead the Chicago/Windy City Cares Mentoring Circle of the National Cares Mentoring Movement, I gave only a fleeting thought to the possibility that I’d get to meet, let alone become a true comrade with its national founder, Susan Taylor. You know who she is, but if not get your history lesson on. While I’d dreamed all my life of writing for Essence Magazine, this current work is beyond anything I imagined myself bold enough to take up. But Susan has proven to be committed to work that touches and saves the lives of our children, thereby saving our community. And her solution to our most alarming plights is all so simple, mentoring our youth. To that end, Susan’s work ethic and passion for our people is selfless and sets a standard for what we owe our community. Her motto, ‘Not on our watch.” Find out more about NCMM or connect with a mentor opportunity in your community.

A New Way Forward…

Then in early December I attended the inaugural healing retreat and release of A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America. Side note: ANWF manual was also edited by Susan Taylor. That’s just a minor detail when you take into account the power of this weekend. The experience awakened something in my spirit that had been shut down since the violent and senseless murder of my good friend/brother in March 2010. After that tragedy, I closed off unconditional love for my community, for my people. But sharing in the trainings, hearing the testimonies, and seeing the abundance of love from others who have been wounded while giving to others allowed me to open my heart. Adding to that were the numerous powerful sisters I met like Dereca Blackmon , Oakland Bay Area spiritual/community activist and member of Oakland Cares Mentoring Circle; Tracey Bell Borden, who moved fashion forward in the fight for justice in the Oscar Grant murder, using fashion to amplify the message during demonstrations you could spot her designs of Grants endearing face and freedom phrases on T-shirts and art; then there was funny lady Meshelle Shields who is not only a comedienne, but SWB (Sister with a brain) She’s on leave from her doctoral studies in Psychology at Temple University. The chance to reconnect with the wonderful Asha Bandele was also a highlight of the weekend further cemented by the simple fact that she understood the relevance of the date we all convened to begin a historical healing. It was also the anniversary of the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton, Sr father to our mutual friend Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr.

Dereca Blackmon fighting for justice in Oscar Grant murder

Funny sister, Meshelle Shields, the Indie-Mom of Comedy

But here is some more sister goodness!

I have to be honest and put it out there. Tracy Taylor is my best friend, my closest confidante outside of my hubby for the past 13 years. It is because I am privy to her personal struggles and challenges that I am so in awe of her ambition and tenacity. Tracy moves against all odds and creates the reality she dreams of and subsequently dreams of creating the best visions of Blacks on screen. This year she took her web-series, The New 20s, to new heights. From major screenings including Writer’s Guild Of America Web Series Screening, LA Web Fest; and featured in film festivals such as Mid Atlantic and the Texas Black Film Festivals; not to mention the awards and commendations. Still, the web can’t hold her, The New 20s made its television debut in New York during the series’ run at the New York Television Festival’s Spotlight Series. Major moves indeed. Be sure to check out The New 20s and look for the next season coming Spring 2011. So yeah, I am her unofficial publicist and president of the Tracy Taylor fan club.

Digital sisterhood
You’ll probably see a common theme in this write-up and that is “connections.” Ananda Leeke is definitely connecting sisters through her research for her memoir coming Dec. 2011. I love how she defines digital sisterhood and how she helps other women stand in their own power. I can’t wait until the book is published. But then again, I don’t have to because I’m following her on Twitter.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting nor virtually connecting to these ladies, but their work has touched me deeply. Check them out…

When I heard Majora Carter’s feature on Democracy Now back in the spring, she reaffirmed my vision of changing the vacant lot a few doors from my house into a community garden. Because of her, I marched into my Alderman’s office with a plan for transformation. Proud to say we are building the blocks to have the garden started in spring 2011.

Watch her TED Talk on Greening the Ghetto

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf


Turning the page…
I’d taken my kids to the bookstore to browse, see what new books they wanted. My daughter spotted a new novel by Jewel Parker Rhodes. I surprised her with it for Christmas. It’s about a girl living in Ninth Ward-NOLA and how she pulls from the best of her to survive Katrina. Powerful story. Needless to say I fell in love with it myself.

It was purely accidental that I came upon Alisa Valdez Rodriguez’s acclaimed Dirty Girls Club which has a pretty robust cult following. I admire her fight with big media corporations to keep the integrity of her work and above all for her commitment in honoring the historical context of the African Diaspora, especially as it relates to the connection Blacks and Latinos. I love a Latino sister that celebrates her roots from the Motherland for sure!

Keepers of the culture

It was a bittersweet year for black art and culture, especially here in Chicago when we lost the mother of Black Art, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who founded the Dusable Museum of African American History. Though she passed at the age of 95, she lived a full and giving life. The saving grace is that her legacy is being carried forth by Dr. Carol Adams whose leadership of Dusable Museum is fortifying the collection of works birthed by the African Diaspora. community If you visit Chicago, be sure to Du-something for history!

Let’s Move

FLOTUS Michelle Obama kick started the campaign that put America’s big problem front and center with her Let’s Move campaign, the fight against childhood obesity. Not that I’m biased (wink wink) but this sure beats “Just say No” and “Stay in School campaigns.” I’m most proud that she is bringing much needed resources to communities that are dealing with food deserts and how her work helped get the Healthy, Hunger Free Act passed.

Whip it real good!
Willow Smith. With just three words this pint sized girl made whipping your hair the coolest thing to do in 2010. I Whip My Hair is the anthem for her peers, and heck even pushed the confidence level of grown women off the charts.

Black Girls Rock

There was so much buzz following BET’s special programming, Black Girls Rock. The vibe was contagious and seemed to be an extension of the pervasive spirit evident of 2010. The founder of the organization and executive producer of the special programming Beverly Bond is a visionary and is filling an indomitable void in the media’s display of how awesome Black women are.

There was no other moment this year that shored up my definitive faith that I can step out and devote my entire lifestyle to the development of all black girls growing up in Urban America.

But of all the honorees, one voice rang with clarity, a trumpet call for the life work we are charged with doing as human beings. Mrs. Ruby Dee gave us this precious gem in her acceptance speech:
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:media:video:bet.com:1429791

I was a lucky, lucky little kid because I was engaged very early with words and ideas. One of the jobs of an artist is to try to make real that force that you don’t really see it except when you look in the mirror. You don’t really see it until you look at somebody else…All through the dark ages of racism in America you will find women in the forefront of so much. When I think of Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary McCleod Bethune, Ida Wells Barnett, and the white sisters who joined them and helped in their struggle…all of those human beings, were just doing what they were supposed to do. They were clearing the path for the people who were to come after them. That’s what we supposed to do as human beings…we make it better.

I’m not where I’m supposed to be, then always becoming!”

And with those words, I enter into 2011!