Archive | June 2013

Revisiting Straightening our Hair

So I stumbled upon this article by bell hooks written back in 1988, which made me begin to reflect on the politics of black hair. It makes me wonder why this is such a hot topic? Anything outside of the norm tends to be constantly debated, thus re-inscribing the norms (Blog post discussing straight blonde hair tbd). I think that everyone makes their own choices, but I can say that this hooks article truly resonates with me. Even if I wanted to say “my natural hair is not a political statement,” “I just wear it this way because it’s convenient,” I would be lying. Whether I want it to be a statement or not, IT IS.  Given the racial and political climate of this country, the way I choose to wear my hair does say something about me. Everyone will have their own interpretations, but more important for me is that I have a solid grounding in the choices I make. It’s pretty simple for me, this is the way my hair naturally grows, it’s beautiful, kinky, big, and has personality. Any employer, school, or person, who cannot deeply value that does not need to play a significant role in my life. As the only black female teacher at a predominantly black middle school for girls, hair was an ever present issue. My girls wanted me to start a natural hair club and were so fascinated by my hair. Yet, at the same time, they could be found stroking their hands down their other teachers’ long blonde hair. I always wondered what do they see/think when they encounter all of these different types of hair? They wanted me to straighten my hair for graduation and I almost did. However, decided against it because: 1. I didn’t feel like taking out my mini twists 2. I looove my mini twists and want to keep them in forever. 3. Why should I contribute to the idea that we straighten our hair for special occasions as if straight hair is any more special than my natural kinks and curls? I’ve had my trials with my natural hair, but all I can say now is I’m definitely feeling myself. I’m so in love with my hair and just a few years back never could have imagined it. All that to say, I want our beautiful black and brown girls to feel the same way, but I do think it starts with us.
Anywho, read the article above. Tell me what you think!

How long will it take you to internalize your fabulousness?

YOU are fabulousness. Yes, fabulousNESS. Not to toot my own horn, but if you are reading this it’s probably because you are in my circle of friends. I should probably rephrase that, if you are reading this and appreciate the contents (though you may not agree 100%) then you are probably within my circle of friends. If that is the case, I know that you are fabulous, but do you know it? While I can say this about you, have I internalized it about myself?

Here’s where I’m coming from. How many times have you doubted your potential or convinced yourself not to do something? “I can’t begin investing in real estate, I need to pay off my debt.” “I’m not ready to go to law school yet, I have other people to support.” “I can’t make this big move at the last minute, I’ll burn bridges with my current employer.” “This presentation is going to suck, I’m so anxious.” “I can’t focus on my writing, I need a job that provides solid income.” “How could that fine ass dude be interested in me?” I’m guessing you get the point by now.

NOW, how many times have you ran this script through your mind or actually verbalized it, but took the risk anyway and you were a success? I ask this because when I reflect on my experiences, probably  9 out of 10 times when I predicted a negative outcome or made an excuse, but went for it anyways, I prospered in the end. Now, maybe it’s luck or God’s favor, but maybe just maybe it could also be that I am FABULOUS! Usually, us folks who were not raised with privilege do not allow ourselves to believe that we are AMAZING and can accomplish brilliant things. My goal isn’t to create a fairytale, we surely cannot ignore that we do not live in a meritocratic society and success is not as easily attainable by us marginalized folks. However, speaking from experience, I’m usually able to accomplish more than I give myself credit for.

Now I will toot my own horn for a second because if I don’t, who will? I certainly have been surrounded by enough messages at work, school, and in the media that Black women are far from the cream of the crop. So…I have managed to successfully pass my dissertation proposal hearing after dealing with serious family issues and juggling multiple jobs. Not only did I have a successful hearing, I did a damn good job and looked good too. Meanwhile, I was nervous and anxious as hell before it all started. I’ve started noticing that when I make eye contact with potential partners, they look back. Who would have thunk that person would be interested in me? I’ve submitted job applications, and wow, they respond immediately! I randomly went out for a run one day and after each mile just kept going until I had ran 6 miles. I haven’t ran 6 miles since high school. Meanwhile, I keep saying I could never build up to running a half-marathon or marathon. I’m always anxious before giving a presentation or starting to teach a new class and then I end up having fun and making folks laugh, it feels kind of like improv. I think I’ll stop tooting my own horn there, well at least online. I’ll allow these positive scripts to continue playing offline.

This brings to the title of this post “How long will it take YOU to internalize your own fabulousness?” I ask this question because I have been proven over and over again that I am the bizness even when I doubted myself. I figure the more I see how I come out on top the less I will fear otherwise. I’m asking you to take a moment to reflect, how many times have you come out on top when you’ve doubted yourself? What can you learn from each of these scenarios? Whenever we hear those negative scripts playing let’s remember the times we prospered. Eventually, the positive scripts will come out on top as well. Be. See. Feel. Believe in your fabulousness!

Looking back and propelling forward: Commitment to self and others

I’m not sure if anyone else has ever reached the point of second guesses. What if we don’t work out? What if I chose the wrong career path? What if this outfit doesn’t look as good as I envisioned it? Well, here I am down to the wire of my doctoral degree and I am having second guesses. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into my education and now I wonder what it was all worth. Yes, my intellectual curiosities have been nourished, but hey, there’s also a thing called self-education. And no, I did not choose an M.D. or a PhD in astrophysics, something that would lead to a lot of money. Instead, I chose the doctorate of education. Why? Well, because of my commitment to social justice and desire to mobilize for marginalized communities. At the same time, academics have their ways of being hypocritical and simply reinforcing the problems our research is supposed to address. Nonetheless, this commitment has led me to job choices that were in service to others or prioritized the work experience over my own well being or financial stability. This is where many of us people who are traditionally oppressed when it comes to class and have a social justice orientation end up sacrificing ourselves. However, a friend of mine who is my senior, once told me that “you can’t help others if you aren’t wearing your own oxygen mask first.” It has taken me seven years to realize this. While looking back can bring us insight, it doesn’t necessarily propel us forward. While I lacked in material wealth, I had experiences that satisfied my spiritual and intellectual hunger. All I can do is move on from here. To other folks finding themselves having second guesses I suggest looking back to learn from what truly were poor choices, but being propelled by the lessons learned and experiences gained in order to move forward with fervor. Pray, reflect, meditate, do what you need in order to find your right balance between a commitment to others and self. Remember, balance does not mean equal. Balance is about equity. As I approach my 30s I’m tipping towards self without guilt. Often in our culture, women of color in particular, are told that prioritizing one’s self is selfish. This sort of rhetoric reinforces the super woman syndrome. I’m no longer buying it. I’ve got nothing to prove. My commitment to my family and various communities is from the heart and soul. I shouldn’t have to defend it because you can sense it. Focusing on my own intentions rather than the judgment of others allows me to take care of myself without feelings of guilt.