Who said black isn’t beautiful part 2

Sigh. Black people, black people. When will we collectively realize that “The Man” isn’t the only one dividing us and tearing us down? We do it to one another all the time. We get outraged when bigots like Don Immus call us nappy-headed hoes, yet we call each other far worse without any pause. I know the philosophy of “We can say it to each other, but no one else can,” is true in many regards, but being hung up on skin color and hair texture does nothing but intensify century old wounds inflicted by the institution of slavery.

Why we as black people still abuse one another over physical traits is beyond me. Even with all the education available and the droves of beautiful, successful black women dominating various areas of society, we are still hindered by the slave-bred mentality of skin color and hair texture.

Light skin, dark skin, house nigga, field nigga, good hair  bad hair, mulatto, octoroon, quadroon, mixed, biracial etc. The list is damn near endless, but the common thread there is that each term can in some way reflect peoples of African descent.

As people of color we are all children of the Diaspora and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking like it! Even with a perm I always  held those with strong African characteristics on a pedestal as the epitome of beauty. I just didn’t have the sense to realize that I was capable of exhibiting that kind of beauty and pride at the time. Now I know.

Our ethnic characteristics are part of what make us special and unique as a people. Black Americans descended from those who survived slavery. That strength is reflected in our features so why do we consistently find ways to rid ourselves of them?  Jim Crow is dead, yet bleaching creams are still sold and used by black women for more than just fading scars.  We have been told that black is beautiful for a while now, but we are still paying billions of dollars annually on silky weaves and plastic surgery to achieve more European appearances.  To each his own, but we can’t ignore the underlying issue in all this and expect to advance our community.

When African people arrived on American shores they were stripped of their culture and had to fight to retain even the smallest semblance of who they were. Now, we are doing it to ourselves willingly; merely to fit standards of beauty implemented to exclude people of color as a means of their continued oppression and inferiority.

Many people probably don’t think it’s that deep, but it is to me and this is my blog.  I believe we must ask ourselves why we like what we like?  “Why is it that I prefer a relaxer to my natural hair? Why do I prefer hair that is clearly not what I was born with?” “Do I really view dark and light skinned black people in the same light and if not, why?”

In another discussion a friend told me “Girl I couldn’t go natural. I can’t have people looking at me like I’m straight off the boat fromAfrica.” Damn right? That hit me hard and deep.

Our society has created such delusions regarding what constitutes beauty. As a black woman,  regardless of what I do to myself, I am always going to appear ethnic. My perm was never a magic potion that made me appear white.  If I bleach my skin, get plastic surgery, perm my hair or wear contacts I will always look black because I AM BLACK!

Looking “African” is something I don’t have a problem with, but sadly, so many women do because of the idea that African and beauty aren’t synonymous in America.  Granted, we have come a long way in that respect,  but comments like those listed above prove we have a long way to go.

I wish we could just erase the generations of self hatred and assimilation-type behavior exhibited by black women because we are so tremendous. I would never, ever want to be anything other than a black woman. I’m not standing on a soap box preaching either. I’m not a hypocrite, I have just seen the error of my previous ways. I have my own insecurities and hang ups like everyone else…many of which this blog is helping me with. But never have I thought despairingly about myself or my people on the basis of skin color. Black is beautiful, end of story. Maybe one day before Jesus comes, we won’t have to deal with these kinds of issues. But until that time, we have to start breaking down these ill-conceived perceptions of skin color, hair texture and ethnicity on step at a time. Harambee.


Who said black isn’t beautiful Part 1

So I think I’m officially weaned off the creamy-crack. I still get the urge-to-perm on the days my two-textured hair shows its naturally kinky behind; however, I’ve stayed the course. I’m learning so much about my hair and about myself…cliché’ I know.

I’ve been thinking about this experience holistically. Over the past few weeks I’ve read a lot and had conversations that jolted my mind to new trains of thought. I’m not only seeing my hair change, I’m seeing people’s perceptions of me and what it means to be “natural” change as well.

I currently live in an extremely homogenous environment (Morgantown,WV) and the black community is  small. This means that the natural hair community is even smaller. No salons, no hair stores… just a few dozen natural women who go out to town to get their hair done and or make their own products to do their hair at home.

In the very beginning  I feared I wouldn’t have anyone to help me with my transition, but then I remembered that with the click of a mouse I can learn from the experiences of other sistas all over the world. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Youtube, I won’t ever be alone in this journey that much is clear and I’m glad.

One thing I didn’t really consider when I decided to go natural was how my friends, family and co-workers would actually react when they realized I was serious about kicking my perm habit.

I knew that my dad and brothers wouldn’t like it. “What’s wrong with yo head you lost your comb?” “You look a mess why would you want your hair like that?” I wasn’t at all surprised by their narrow-mined male comments and didn’t let them bother me…I know they love me they’re just simple as my mother says.

Now my mom and sisters are beautiful, conscious black women. They aren’t ready to go natural yet, but they definitely respect my decisions are being very supportive.

As for my colleagues, they are keeping their mouths all the way shut.  I can tell they notice something’s different, but they won’t dare ask or say anything (to my face) in fear of offending me or coming across ignorant and or racist. But then, there’s my girl Lindsay!

Lindsay, a columnist/editor in my office, is very open-minded and sweet-spirited. Even though she’s white and fromWest Virginia, we have a lot in common (hair woes included). She noticed my hair was changing daily and I could tell she wanted to know what was up. I explained what I was doing and why. She thinks it’s great and that I should stick it out. “Yes! No perm,” she said. I was pleased and surprised by her willingness to listen…even when I said things that I knew were hard for her to hear.

The real shock came from one of my friends who’s ride or die relaxer. She noticed I was weeks past due for a relaxer and brought it up in general conversation. I said “I’m seriously going to do it this time. I won’t ever put a relaxer in my hair again.” Her response really upset me. “Oh, that’s what’s up. You’ll look good with natural hair I think it looks better on ‘light skinned’ women anyway.”

“Hold up, did she really just say that to me?” I asked myself.  I was stunned. “Excuse me, what does skin color have to do with anything? Being natural is a personal decision to embrace your hair’s natural beauty and texture regardless of what it may be,” I said.

It’s so sad that some of the most hateful and racist things said about black women are said by black women.  Sometimes we are our worst enemies in the realest sense and that friends, can is a hard pill to swallow.

The start of a new journey

Well, it’s officially on and popping. I’ve joined the movement.

It took me a long time, but I’m here. No more perms, damaged hair or conformist Anglo-Saxon perceptions of beauty. I’m officially abandoning my relaxed hair and embarking on a natural hair journey.

I attempted going natural years ago, but I never had the patience or the desire to stick with it. What changed in me? I really can’t say. But awakenings come in different forms for different people. Being a woman of color is something I take great pride in. I’ve spent most of my young life learning and educating others about black culture and trying to eradicate the negative perceptions that still perpetuate in our society due to the residuals of slavery.

I don’t preach black power per say, but everyone who knows me knows that I truly believe being black is wonderful, and that the strength and greatness that dwells in our people is epic and unparalleled.

One day, three months overdue for a perm, I looked in the mirror and realized I really liked the way my hair looked, felted and behaved without one. It was fun, it had more character and truthfully, the seemingly-kinky new growth made me feel good. I stared at my reflection and asked myself “Why the hell are you still relaxing your hair Chelsea?”

I’ve long known the truth about relaxers and why many women of color still chemically alter their hair. I knew that perms are poisonous to our bodies and our self images as women of color in a society stricken by Eurocentric standards of beauty.

I felt like a fraud. How could I knowingly do this to my hair and to my body? How could I claim to be proud of who I am as a black woman in public, but then go home and chemically rape my hair of its natural texture just to achieve a style that in no way reflects who I really am? Enough was enough.

That day I made a decision to stop being a hypocrite and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

I know there are millions of blogs and videos chronicling people’s natural hair transitions, but I want mine to be different. I want this to stand as a reflection of who I am and how I feel right no and as time goes on.  I’m already transitioning physically, spiritually and emotionally and I just started a few months ago. I think this is just another step toward becoming the Chelsea I am supposed to be.

I also want this to create a dialogue surrounding the  natural vs. relaxed hair debate.  So here we go, let’s see how this works out.

Black Americans deserve more credit, Cal Thomas

Obama has been president nearly four years, and we are still listening to people squabble over his citizenship, his intellect, his policies, his overall character and his race. Now, if all that is not daunting enough, we must endure editorials and televised rants by people like Cal Thomas, who attempt to guise their true feelings and intentions by standing behind the color-blind politically correct platform: President Obama should be judged by his performance not his race.

To those who don’t know of Cal Thomas, host of Fox News’s “After Hours,” that statement would appear to be logical, fair and true. Obama should be judged by his performance and not his race. However, anyone with any cultural consciousness would read a mere three paragraphs into his editorial entitled “Thomas: Those urging blacks to back Obama because of  his race offer bad advice and understand that Thomas’ is not seeking fair and just treatment for Obama and he surely does not have the black community’s best interest at heart.

Thomas is lampooning the black community and the history of its people by attempting to rationalize things he does not and cannot understand, while using the quotes of a few to speak for and generalize a multitude. How ignorant. How racist.

Mr. Thomas soars through his editorial making assumptions and spouting falsities as fact as though he was born and raised a black American. He reprimands black people for wanting to re-elect Obama because he is black despite the fact he hasn’t kept all his promises.

He notes that the black unemployment rate was, at that time, 16.7 percent and that black voters are overwhelming in their loyalty to the Democratic Party even though it isn’t loyal in return. He said that black people need a reality check, but it appears that Thomas is the one who needs to be checked.

Mr. Thomas needs to be reminded that he is not a black American and his opinions of the black community are just that, opinions…ill-formed ones at that.  He is in no position to reprimand a whole race of people or impose “reality checks” upon anyone, especially black Americans.

Thomas uses quotes from ‘Shock Jock’ Tom Joyner, host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show as the basis for his argument. Joyner’s show reaches 8 million radio listeners. That means the show reaches one in four black adults.

In reference to Obama’s re-election, Joyner encouraged his viewers (via his blackamericaweb.com blog) to “Stick together, black people. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride—and loyalty. We have the chance to reelect the first black president, and that is what we ought to be doing. And I am not ashamed to say that as black people we should do it because he is a black man.”

That of course is not all Joyner said, but that is what Thomas chose to include.

Now, call me crazy, but I don’t believe quotes from a popular radio host with a convoluted reputation amongst his own people is substantial or valid enough to stand as the basis for an argument that chastises an entire people.

If Thomas knew anything about the black community, he would know most black people respect Tom for his contributions to the advancement of the community. However, he is not revered as a supreme beacon of consciousness and rationality by all black people.

Another indicator of Thomas’s ignorance is the underlying accusation that black people do not have the political aptitude or common sense to know that a presidential vote should be based on more than race…even in the case of our beloved Obama.

Give us more credit Thomas, if all we wanted was a black president we had the numbers and the influence to elect Jessie Jackson years ago. Now that would have been a true disservice to the nation. No disrespect Jessie. You and Al keep hope alive.

Thomas claims the Democratic Party is disloyal to black people as if the betterment of the black  community is a top agenda item for the GOP. Nice try Thomas, but a great many black voters are sophisticated and educated enough to recognize exactly what the  GOP and its candidates want from and think of Americans of color. Sorry to tell ya, we were not fooled by Herman Cain’s shuckin’ and jivin’. Nice try though.

Many black Americans do want Obama, but not more than we want a good president. He has fallen short several times… this is true, but no president in the history of this  country has kept every promise they made. Obama has accomplished some tremendous things during his time in office. He cares about the advancement of minority communities and those suffering from the economy far more than any Republican candidate. Obama inherited a real mess courtesy of Lil Bush and  he is doing the best he can under the circumstances.

There are times when our leaders let us down. But that doesn’t mean you just jump ship. Dr. King’s methods and messages were not always well received, but even those who didn’t agree with him, respected him. Obama deserves that same respect. OBAMA 2012!

Bin Laden’s dead… But patriotism lives!

It is 2:47 a.m. The streets of Morgantown, W.Va., were just filled with smoke and fire from burning couches. Blaring sirens from fire trucks and police cars mingled with the sounds of people chanting and singing “I’m Proud to be an American,” set the scene for a night no one will forget.

West Virginia University students gather on High Street early Monday morning to celebrate Bin Laden's death

This kind of unity usually occurs only on game days, but people came together in celebration of something long awaited…the death of Osama Bin Laden.

For more than ten years, the al Qadea leader has terrorized various nations and taken the lives of thousands of innocent people. May 1, 2011 will forever be recognized as the day the world was rid of the worst terrorists since Adolf Hitler.

Yesterday, a small team of American soliders shot and killed Bin Laden in a mansion outside of Islamabad, Pakistan during a top secret mission put in motion by President Obama and the CIA. Obama announced the news to the world during an emergency press conference at the White House.

Read the full text from Obama’s speech

Obama called Bin Laden’s assassination “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.” This is without a doubt, the truth in the most earnest sense. Americans are still mourning the deaths of the 3,ooo innocent people who lost their lives on September 11th. We have not forgoton that those people died at the hands of Osama Bin Laden and his al Qadea drones.

Last night, all across the country, American citizens were re-energized with a new-found sense of patriotism and hope. We have watched our service men and women fight and die overseas in efforts to keep us safe. Though the fight against terror is not over, we at least have the solace in knowing that the man who brought terror to American shores has finally been served the justice he deserved. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been fought in vein. September 11th was the worst terrorist attack to ever occur on American soil, and our troops are the reason there has not been another domestic attack since.

Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed Sunday in Islamabad, Pakistan

While we rejoice in Bin Laden’s death, let us not lose sight of the issues still at hand. We are free from Bin Laden, but al Qaeda is still strong…and now they are surely enraged beyond belief. This tremendous victory should not result in the lowering of defenses.

Obama said “his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

We should use this moment as momentum to propel us through these next few months – after this, we may find that they are trying times.  The unity displayed last night should be channeled and continued. It should not take a victory or a disaster to bring us together because there is still much to be accomplished. Obama and his administration have been under attack since the inauguration, but the president proved something to us last night. He may not have kept every promise he made during his campaign, and no one should have expected to keep them all within his first term- that is unrealistic and unfair. However, he showed us that he was serious about the safety of the American citizens.

Obama told us he would find Bin Laden and kill him and he did just that. It wasn’t Bush…it was OBAMA.

The 2012 election season is on the horizon. Let’s hope the American people are able to keep this fire burning throughout the campaign and the election. Our nation is going to need to remain united because there is a strong possibility that attacks on our nation and our troops overseas could ensue.

Bin Laden’s death means many different things to many different people. Regardless of how you feel about Obama or Osama, realize that this is a moment that will go down in history. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would want to look back at this moment and remember feelings of patriotism, pride and justice because those are what being an American is all about.

Public Relations should definitely be a two way street

This semester, I have been working with an up and coming businesswomen in town. For the most part, she has been very easy to work with until now.

I am coming to realize that P R is not easy work, but it can be almost impossible when you are working with individuals who feel that it is all give and no take.

Let me give an example. The young woman I work with is a beautician. She  had a very hard time getting to where she is now and has had a lot of people take advantage of her throughout her career. When I offered my services to her (free of charge), she welcomed the idea and was very excited to work with me.

For months I prepared, while she gathered the necessary materials for her press packets. I worked tirelessly promoting and advertising via press releases, emails and word of mouth.

I did not anticipate any problems. I was naive in this situation because I completely ignored the fact that I was doing all this work for FREE and didn’t ask for anything in return. This my friends, is a mistake I will never make again. I assumed (worst thing I could have done) that in return for doing all of this marvelous pro-bon PR, she would do my hair for free or at least a discounted rate. We never officially discussed it, but there were comments made such as ” I will hook you up” and “Don’t worry…I got you.”

So, last week we had a meeting/hair appointment during which I viewed her portfolio and did other WORK, while she did my hair. I had the intention of paying her on my own…but I did not anticipate her becoming the demanding stylist who rudely demands money before you even open your purse. I was not expecting to be treated like considering how much free work I had done over the months…I was offended and felt very taken advantage of.

The price she charged me was more than I would have paid at a high-end salon and all she did was trim my ends in her kitchen!

Foolishness, thy name is Chelsea! I learned that as a professional, you must have everything regarding reciprocity outlined before beginning the work. Never assume that just because you helping someone, they will have the same philosophy. This situation happened because she has no real idea how much work public relations is.  For those of you in PR, make sure your clients understand that it is a time-consuming job!

Journalist should learn from Senator Sander’s mistake

Earlier in the week, Alabama senator Hank Sanders  interviewed with CNN’S Anderson Cooper regarding a robocall Sanders released during the midterm elections.

The call was created to garner support for two of his fellow Democratic colleagues, but the message did far more than that.

Link to Sander’s interview with Anderson Cooper on “Anderson 360” http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/02/video-race-baiting-robocall/

Senator Sanders said that voting Republican would put black people “back in the cotton fields of Jim Crow.”  This statement was very passionately made, but unfortunately, Senator Sanders failed to defend his claims with the same amount of clarity and enthusiasm.

When Anderson Cooper asked Sanders what evidence he had to back his claims, Sanders stuttered and appeared confused. He tried to come up with a logical argument, but his attempts were futile.

In an agitated response, Sanders told Cooper he had lived through Jim Crow and that he was trying to persuade the people of Alabama to do something positive. Needless to say, he was inferring that voting democratic was the only way to keep black people from being thrust back into the days of Jim Crow’s legal disenfranchisement.

Anderson Cooper asked Sanders the same question repeatedly in hopes he would either say something to validate his claims, or explain the rationale behind them. Sanders wasn’t the only frustrated one, Anderson Cooper became flustered as well.

I don’t think this was because he disagreed with the statement Sanders made, but because he had made an insidious claim  that he couldn’t explain or defend at all!

As a journalist, I understand Anderson’s pain. There is nothing worse than dealing with someone who has made strongly opinionated claims, even worse… accusative claims that they can’t defend or even explain.

People have the right to say and believe as they please; however, no one has the right to regard claims based on opinion and cultural theory alone as fact.

Sanders lived through the Jim Crow era and  feels that if Republicans are in control of the government, there is always a chance that the country could slip back into that kind of oppressive infrastructure.  This is compelling and relevant to his argument, but it isn’t enough…there must be facts behind every argument.

So the lesson is… If you want people to believe what you say, at least be able to explain it!