On Black Motherhood and Constantly Mourning Our Sons and Daughters

There is something about life that changes when a person becomes a parent. Specifically, for the person who carries a child and brings them into this world, the resulting event is far greater than just a physiological change. For me, I became a different person after having my first child, my oldest son. As a Black mother of Black children, I started a process of frequent mourning that I simply wasn’t prepared for. Continue reading “On Black Motherhood and Constantly Mourning Our Sons and Daughters”

The False Virtue of a Vagina ‘Certificate of Purity’

First, yes. The title of this article has the word “vagina” in it. I’m going to say it a lot because that’s what this post is about. I’m also going to talk about sex and penises and more sex and stuff. Calm down. You’ll be alright. Now, onto the topic at hand.

This month, a young Maryland bride named Brelyn Bowman presented her father – a pastor named Dr. Mike Freeman – with a certificate from her gynecologist confirming that her hymen was “intact” on her wedding day. The images of this presentation have since gone viral. While many have lauded this young woman’s fortitude, I find that this whole story is riddled with patriarchal and misogynist undertones that many Black Christians really don’t want to acknowledge.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

We’re Done Being Polite: A Reflection on the Mizzou Protests

Social movements over the years have taught us that politeness and respectabiility rarely result in lasting social change. When 15-year-old Claudette Colvin first resisted public bus segregation in Alabama on March 2, 1955, she did so knowing that she’d be classified as unruly, dangerous, and a threat to the very fabric of American society. Nine months later, when Rosa Parks did the same, it was groundswell effect of women like Colvin’s actions which helped to shift the public’s attention to the nonviolent but very disruptive actions of Blacks in Montgomery, Alabama. But these women, their fellow organizers and their tactics weren’t polite. So, why is anyone demanding politeness from young Black organizers today?

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

To be a Black, Queer, Unrespectable Christian in an Era of Unrest

I got a “Monroe” piercing yesterday. I got it for my 31st birthday. Several times – after geeking out about how cute it is – I reflected on the words of my very staunch Christian Pastor and maternal Grandma growing up. When I was 11-years-old, I told her I was interested in ministry. In reply, she said “If you want to sit in a pulpit, you’re going to have to stop getting all those holes in your ears.” This was the first time I realized how much of my Christianity was wrapped up in performance. It was also the moment I started dismantling and unlearning the man-made systems of control meant to delimit my personhood while masquerading as “proper” Christian faith.

My mom and I chuckled about Grandma’s warning about earrings on several later occasions. First, we laughed as we drove to get my first nose piercing just about a year later. Then, we chuckled again when we drove to my favorite piercing and tattoo shop in Berkeley, California to get my first eyebrow piercing for my fourteenth birthday. We laughed again around my 28th birthday when we got matching eyebrow piercings just because we could. Frankly, we’ve been laughing ever since at the idea that piercing my body makes me less of a Christian.

Anyone who has read the Bible knows that ceremonial laws and rituals were abolished when Jesus Christ died on Calvary (find this in Romans – throughout especially 3 and 7, Galatians 3:20-25, Ephesians 2:15, and Hebrews 7 and 10: 1-9). This includes dietary rules, bodily restrictions (i.e. tattooing and piercing), and other performances of worship. Instead, God gave us moral law in the form of the Ten Commandments to guide our Christian walk. And, given that the Commandments mention nothing about sexual orientation, gender, nor bodily accessorizing, any messages from anyone which suggest otherwise are simply unfounded. This also extends to sexuality.

Read the full article at WCC.

“All Lives Matter” but the KKK is Marching in 2015

I wonder if the words “All Lives Matter” get caught it people’s throats when they realize that the Klan is still marching in 2015. Yes. In 2015. The Klan is still marching.

I mean, I wonder about that but I don’t really wonder because I know it doesn’t happen that way. The events of last week alone sum up how difficult it has become to be Black and free in America. And, they’re further evidence  that the “all lives matter” narrative is meant to pacify rather than empower Black people.

Last week, a young Black woman with a new job, a bright outlook, and a life ahead of her was found dead in a Texas jail cell after a “routine” police stop for her failure to use a traffic signal. Her name was Sandra Bland. She was only 28-years-old. Within days, another young woman named Kindra Chapman was found dead in an Alabama jail cell just over an hour after she was booked. She was arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone and was just 18-years-old.

Both women’s’ deaths have caused many to question how this happened. Many on Twitter struggle with placing themselves in a similar position. The hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody has given voice to the fact that many Black people face the reality that they are one traffic stop or petty arrest from death in this country. But, you know, “all lives matter.”


Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

What if We Loved Black Women Like We Love Black Male Rapists?

When I was seventeen, I was groomed and preyed upon by a high school basketball coach. He told me to stop wearing panties if I wanted to get a ‘real man.’ He invited me to drink, smoke weed, and hang out with his twenty-something year-old friends. He explained to me that part of becoming a woman was wrapped up in how men viewed me. For months he did these things. Then, when I had ongoing issues with my abusive dad, he coerced me into sex (an act of statutory and coercive rape) after I asked for his help and called him on a school day seeking safety.

Oddly, even though this happened to me over a decade a ago, I was only able to admit and come to terms with it just before my 30th birthday. This is mainly because his actions, taking advantage of, manipulating, and coercing a teenaged girl at his place of employment (a public high school) into sex, are normalized in a country consumed by rape culture. In fact, they’re defended especially when the rape survivors are Black women.


Read the full story at Water Cooler Convos.

Black Death, Camera Lenses, and Race Beyond McKinney, Texas

11401035_837034976385473_7721217889258483423_nI saw a post on Instagram yesterday which evoked a visceral response from me. The image, by artist Kiakilli (@3rdPharoah), shows an outstretched Black hand, reaching for life out of troubled waters while one White hand points a gun squarely at it and another extended White arm focuses a cell phone’s camera lens. The image captures what has become a narrative in the daily state of affairs in the United States: the commodification of Black death and dying and its spectacular consistency in contemporary American life. But, the illustration’s implicit messaging captures even more than that.

The powerful image was obviously born out of the events inMcKinney, Texas last week where an irate officer drew his weapon on bathing suit clad Black and brown teens at a pool party in a Dallas suburb. At the party, no one drowned to death. That is why the symbolism of the image is so striking.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

The Racists Are Winning: Why I Can’t Say ‘Micro-Aggressions’ Anymore

I realized today that I don’t know how to be a carefree Black girl. I think part of me wants to be. But, most of me can’t for reasons (read: White Supremacy).

Between the omnipresence of Black Death displayed via the very public execution of unarmed Black bodies  (as most recently reproduced in the case of Walter Scott), and the perpetual anti-Blackness I experience every single day in academia, I’m finding that I do care. I care a lot. Yet, I’m growing so weary of it.

This weariness is the exact goal of modern racism. Just wear Black people down until we have no fight left. Just bludgeon us on all sides until we can’t even figure out a plan or mode of attack (or defense). I feel like they’re winning at it too.

I used to use the term “micro-aggression” to describe my daily battles with Whites and non-Black people of color (NBPoC) who reproduce White Supremacist oppression. But, I have grown and matured. My race-related lexicon has expanded. I have more flowery words to describe this limited term now. Truth is though: microaggressions aren’t micro at all. They are a part of a macro-level system of White supremacy and White privilege which systematically isolates and excludes Black folks from equal access to justice, representation in politics, respect in the public sphere and from institutions, and opportunity for social mobility.

Read more at WCC.

In Defense of Nene Leakes’ Femininity

Let me start by saying: Nene Leakes is incredibly problematic. She has said terrible things about LGBTQIA folks, she called a biracial woman a “half-breed”, and she may have distributed t-shirt designs that weren’t her own work. She isn’t perfect. But, this piece isn’t in defense of her actions. Some of those are indefensible. Instead, it’s in defense of her right – as a tall, dark-skinned, outspoken cisgendered, heterosexual woman – to be feminine. That’s something, to me, that shouldn’t be up for questioning. Ever.

I was parousing the internet last night and was reminded of how often Leakes’ gender takes center stage both on RHOA (which I still watch) and in general. Last year, when Leakes got into an argument with Marlo Hampton, someone who was once her dear friend, Hampton pulled the “you look like a man” line with ease. It wasn’t the first time Leakes’ gender and femininity were questioned.

Kim Zolciak and Sheree Whitfield – ex-cast mates on the show – also questioned Leakes’ gender and physical appearance with reference to her femininity. A simple google search yields hit after hit of questions on the web about Nene Leakes’ gender. Like Wendy Williams, another tall, Black, outspoken woman, there seems to be this perception that taller than average Black women with large personalities are “manly” or less feminine than other women. Unfortunately, this is an issue I can relate to.

I have been tall for as long as I can remember. I have been over six feet tall since middle school. In elementary school, I frequently saw the tops of the heads of my peers and teachers. I towered over all the girls and the boys. And, coupled with my outspoken nature, billowing voice, and forward demeanor, I was often called a “tomboy.”

I never really knew what that meant. I wasn’t a boy. I didn’t feel like a boy. But, then again, I didn’t know what being a boy felt like. I just felt like me.

For one reason or another, other children and society in general separated me. I had to play basketball with the boys while the girls played Four Square. I played tether ball (and whooped everyone) while the other girls jumped rope. By fourth grade, there was a clear distinction between me and the “cool girls.” Whenever one of them felt threatened by me, they’d say, “Jennifer, why don’t you just go do ‘boy’ stuff?” To which I’d answer, “Why don’t you shut up?” A reply that almost immediately landed me in the principal’s office at my very parochial Catholic school.

Read more at WCC.

My Final Goal for 2015: I am Going to Not Care

This sounds rash. I know. But I mean it. One of my greatest flaws is my inability to not care about situations or people who set out to harm or otherwise negatively impact me. In 2015, I am letting that go.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to just be “carefree”. I like the goals of the “carefree Black woman” movement – to show that Black women do things beyond stereotypes like riding bikes, eating brunch, and hanging with friends. I’m just not overly concerned with perception here. I am making this goal an introspective, self-centered one. On purpose.

I definitely think we need to care about plenty of things like social (in)justice, economic wealth disparities, unequal access to healthcare, or increased unemployment across Black communities in this country. I plan to continue to devote my intellectual abilities to asking questions about Black women’s self-making and politics in this country. And, I don’t plan to abandon my research in post-racialism or media framing of violence against Blacks. I support the notion of self-care, but I am not seeking ambivalence here. Instead, I just want to stop caring about how others feel more than how I feel about myself. I want to stop caring so deeply for people that I support hostile or unjust social groups and institutions in the name of solidarity.

This is something I struggled with at my first job out of college. I had grown up adoring Disney. My favorite childhood movie was Cinderella. I knew all the words. I knew all the songs. And, when I was asked to interview on those hallowed grounds, I felt beyond honored. But, what I wasn’t prepared for –  in my naiveté – was the fact that everyone working there was human. Deeply human. They weren’t princesses or princes. There were plenty of villains but no fairy godmothers. Well, maybe a few. In my blind devotion to the few people there who I cared deeply for and to the brand itself, I lost sight of myself.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.