Monthly Archives: June 2011

Rebel Spotlight- Good hair is healthy hair.

“Women of other ethnicities, their hair falls by nature. It drops, and drapes, and hangs loosely. But a Black woman’s hair rises by nature. It blossoms against the current of life. At its best, it swirls and spins like the earth, or the sun – a supernova of sublimity and strength. And like any other heavenly body, a Black woman’s natural hair demands nothing less than orbit: total praise from every physical thing within her influence, all revolving around her omnipotence – instinctively, humbly, and altogether. Whether dynamically drifting, or stationary and rooted, every living thing that finds itself before a Black woman’s natural hair is designed to stare and wonder.”

Women who rock natural hair are claiming their natural beauty and showing the world that curly, kinky, loc’d and braided hair is beautiful too. These are Rebel women that are breaking the mold about what society believes to be ‘good hair”; straight, soft and long hair. These women are lawyers, doctors, actresses, teenagers, mothers, everyday women. For years black women have been told that their natural hair is not good, not worthy to be worn. Now black woman want healthier hair and are shedding the perms and weaves. No more chemicals causing burns, hair damage, or temporary to permanent hair loss. Natural hair is fun and versatile.

In 2007 it was reported that Ashley Baker, a fashion editor at Glamour Magazine told a group of female attorneys at a law firm that African / Black-oriented hairstyles were a fashion ‘don’t’ – “no offense, but those ‘political hairstyles’ really have to go.” Society is uncomfortable with ethnic hair, and it is uncomfortable about race. We have been socialized to believe that straight hair is the preferential “professional” look of choice for woman. An undertone that natural hair is unacceptable, unprofessional and even ugly continues to exist. Society associates natural hairstyles with black empowerment, and with women of color standing up for themselves and for their rights.

Going natural is an outward expression of a woman’s inward journey to her wholeness and wellbeing. For many women it means embracing fully who you are, including a head full of hair not traditionally regarded as beautiful. Natural hair for many is about confidence, a journey of self-discovery, and an overall healthier relationship with their hair as it naturally grows. We should encourage our daughters to embrace their own natural beauty. We need to be mindful of the images we parade—or allow to be paraded in front of them. We need to drop the mentality that you must have a certain kind of texture to go natural. Learn to embrace whatever hair grows from your scalp! Good hair is hair that is healthy and makes you feel beautiful. Women wear natural hair with a crown of honor. 

  

“Don’t remove the kinks from your hair; remove them from your brain. —  Marcus Garvey

A rebel company promoting positive images and outlets for natural hair women: “The Curly Girl Collective (CGC) strives to create innovative experiences that foster acceptance and celebration of curls, kinks and everything in between. Through targeted events, a unique web portal, and focused digital marketing initiatives, CGC connects women internationally and serves as a tangible resource of information within the natural hair movement. CGC aims to create a platform ripe for conversation, affecting more than just hair choices, but addressing the spectrum of subjects that start with hair, and end with self-actualization.”

Natural Hair Resources

-There are many sites, Blogs, Vlogs like Youtube to educate you.  We all have different reasons for wanting to have natural hair. Get excited about what you want! Options for different styles and hair care routines… (http://shatterproofglassdolls.com/, http://www.afrobella.com/, http://www.curlynikki.com/)

– There is a whole world of natural hair care products locally and overseas. They are ‘natural’ with the ingredients they put IN the bottle! You can even make your own..(www.goodhairblog.com, http://motowngirl.com/)

-Be Bold! Be Confident! Be Proud!

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Natural since creation… No chemicals here…

The other day a young man approached me about an idea he had for a documentary about women and the journey they take to become natural. He asked about my transition to locks and how many years I have been growing them.  I was perplexed and my face let him know exactly what I was thinking.  Hiding my true feelings has always been difficult because my face usually tells on me.  So to clarify I said, “I’ve always been natural. I don’t know anything else”  and he understood.  I don’t know anything about the transition or the obstacles people go through to embrace their natural crown.  Thank God my parents had enough sense not to be like the others who put that creamy crack or any other chemicals in my hair.  No offense to those who did. I’d like to think all of our parents did what they thought was best for us.  Even my grandparents on both sides were pro natural.  In fact, I use all natural products and am partial to Jahbulani’s Hair Care products which can be ordered online at http://www.jahbulaniproducts.com/index.html  .

I grew up in a house where my parents and all 9 of my siblings had locks.  All family members weren’t fond of locks but they didn’t encourage me to cut my hair and have it processed like the rest of the world. A few months ago I participated in a video shoot which featured women with natural hair.  I was so shocked to hear the stories about their journey to become natural. I seriously can’t even remember seeing a comb in my house as a child.  Some of these beautiful women had horrible experiences that led them to cut the chemicals and rock a fro, locks, braids or press.  The conversations we had that day were random but eye opening.  Some were teased because of their natural hair.  Others hated having their hair done because it was difficult to manage.  Most just wanted a perm to look “pretty” according the society standards at the time. I mean the list went of reasons went on and on.  For the first time in my life I thought about what it would have been like if my parents had taken me through the same process.

When I was growing up I thought my hair was normal.  It looked just like my brothers, sisters and parents.  When I went to school at P.S. 36 on Morningside Drive in New York I don’t recall anyone teasing me because of my hairstyle.  But when I moved to Florida I was teased all of the time!  No one else looked like me.  People would drive by our house and stop in front of the yard and stare.  My classmates would call me names like Madusa, snake lady and thought I was dirty.  They didn’t know that my mother was a clean freak and assumed that I didn’t groom my locks.  My mother would not have tolerated anything other than clean hair.  While at school I often had to defend my younger brothers who also had long locks were harassed.

My 9 year old nephew is currently enrolled in public school in Florida and he wears his locks proudly not only because his hair looks like his aunts, uncles, cousins and parents, but also because his classmates, teachers and other people in the professional world wear them as well.  I wore my locks in a turban when I was his age.  Today he sees his mother, aunts and other women sport all kinds of hairstyles just like the other women without locks.  He has watched us regularly groom and style our locks. We have up do’s, coils, twists, braids, curls, you name it. I style his hair every time I see him.  In college my locks grew so long they were past my knees.  But it was so normal for me and my nephew as well.  I NEVER saw these things as a child when I was his age excluding a few relatives who had long locks.  I am glad to share these experiences with my nephew.   My mother even wrote a children’s book entitled, “I Love Locks” for my nephew and other children so they would know how different locks may look.

Back to the young man with the idea for the documentary… I didn’t give him all of this information.  I’m just sharing a piece of my hair journey with you.  Let’s continue to make our children comfortable in their skin so they are proud of what they were naturally given.  I love my locks and can only imagine being natural.

This video was directed by Shannon McCollum, Director of Photography and editor, Ari J Johnson, Artistic Director Jamila Crawford for Dead Prez’s latest song “Beauty Within”.  The official video debuted at the 15 project.  The show was hosted by an amazing fine artist Fahamu Pecou and the featured guests were Lil John Roberts (Master Drummer), Stic.Man (Dead Prez), Angie Stone (Singer/Songwriter-Musician) and Shannon McCollum (Photographer).   I know what you are thinking.  What a line up! Backstage and the green room was just as exciting as behind the scenes on this video shoot. If you missed this edition of the 15 Project no worries. Subscribe to our blog so you can see the posting for the next one.  Now watch this phenomenal production in celebration of natural beauty.

I embrace my natural, do you?

*Thanks to Carlos Bell and Yemi Toure for capturing the pictures above.

Questioning Your Faith

As children we were told about God and religion in a very vague sense. We read the bible together as a family every Saturday. We knew morally right from wrong and what was right and wrong within Rasta. But I don’t remember ever feeling like I really knew God or what religion meant. My relationship with God really came to be when I was 8. I needed answers, so I prayed and I asked God “why do good people have to die?” My answer started my relationship with God. There was no parting of the heavenly skies, thunder and lightning or this big omnipresent being coming to talk to me. It was the subtleness of my own inner voice saying “when people die we realize how precious life is. We see its value and their value to us.” From then I knew that God was inside of me. I have never had a spirit of fear towards my God. I talk to God as openly as I do with any friend. I am in tune with the God within me so much that I am drawn to the God within others. It was the God within that drew me to the first man I ever fell in love with. His inner strength and compassion was palpable.  

Growing up I asked questions about the Rastafarian faith and sometimes I was given a direct answer I could understand. As I got older I stopped believing myself to be a faithful practicing Rastafarian. I didn’t agree with everything nor did I follow the exact same lifestyle. I had no idea about the different Christian denominations so in college I visited non-denominational, Baptist, Seven-Day Adventist, and African Methodist Episcopalian churches. I went to my first Baptist church and left feeling scared saying never again. The pastor touching foreheads, people dropping to the ground shaking, speaking in tongues and being covered in cloth was quite an experience and not for me. I didn’t mind hearing a good word that actually motivated or inspired me. But I did not like hearing a pastor say “no matter what you’re going thru Jesus is the only way.” That was my cue to get up and leave and say never again.  I had a college friend that did not believe in Jesus and it made me question if I really did. We never prayed to Jesus. Regardless of the simple letter change we called out to Negus or Jess-us. To me Jesus and Jess-us were two different people. This contributed to my Rasta confusion. Were we Christians or not? We had church services that resembled Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.  So I decided I didn’t want a middle man to God I would go directly to the source. I read lots of books on the history of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddha, and Yoruba. I spoke with deeply religious persons and atheists. I could relate and understand both sides to a degree.  I still have much to learn but I decided that all religions were pretty much the same. Did not see religion holding woman in an honorable, respectable position but rather saw bible filled passages of misogynist authoritarianism and patriarchal societies. Any religion, group or persons that feels like women are to be subservient and degraded by men was not worthy of my devotion.  

I am not interested in converting anyone’s religious or non-religious beliefs. I want people to test their own beliefs, ask questions, and seek out information that will affirm your foundations and faith or maybe cause you to make new ideals. How can you truly believe, or love something that you’ve never investigated? When you start to date someone you ask them a million questions, you ask a friend if they know their background. Question your religion. I believe in something called the “glass slipper theory”. It’s my theory that your faith, your religion is personally fitted onto your soul, your spirit. We should follow our intuition and trust ourselves. What fits someone else won’t always fit you. Personally for me it is hard to follow any religion especially ones that were forced upon my ancestors to “humanize their savage ways”. A man comes into your home and rapes your wife and children. He steals your home and car then tells you to respect him and learn his ways, his religion. To me that doesn’t make any sense. I believe long before slavery became an issue in Africa the religions and way of life that was practiced was authentically their own. I believe that the Christianity practiced in certain parts of Africa centuries ago has now been weakened by man’s constant interpretations. I don’t believe in religion. I believe in a God, a higher power. People ask how I can have faith in someone who I can’t see. But I have seen him in my own way that satisfies me. I have never felt the presence of God in any church building or gathering the way I do when I am at the edge of my sanity, my peace. It is the place where earth meets water, where I stand still and he washes my feet. It is my place of solitude, fortitude and security, my church is the beach. I am comfortable and confident in my spiritual relationship with my God. I do not believe God judges me because I wear pants, pays respect to the moon and nature or that I curse in my prayers( my mother doesn’t agree with my unconscious occasional curse word in prayer). I don’t pray in a monotone, rehearsed manner, I talk freely and openly.

Challenge your preconceived notions about religion, about God, about yourself. Don’t just accept what’s been handed to you regardless of who it comes from. Read something other than the bible. Reason with different opinions and beliefs. Don’t be afraid of not knowing. I know nothing still but in my learning I have gained some knowledge that forces me into action of creating a better self.

Southern Fried Poetry Slam 2011

If you were in Atlanta and did not attend the 19th Annual Southern Fried Poetry Slam or The 15 Project you missed two monumental events.
Southern Fried was held June 8-11.  It is the 2nd largest poetry competition in the nation.  As community liaison I had the pleasure of inviting members of local organizations to participate and observe the festivities.  Many of the first timers had no idea that Southern Fried was such a huge event and wish it was held in Atlanta each year.  Fortunately, this poetry slam is designed to travel from city to city each year so poets and lovers of the art can partake in the festivities all over the country.  I enjoyed observing each of the bouts at the four different locations in the Castleberry Hill area.  The level of talent and diversity was just incredible.  Jam packed days with events such as yoga, children’s workshops, community service, cook out etc made this experience very memorable for the attendees. For some, the Will Bell Tribute made the poetry slam official.  150 poets and 30 teams came from all over to compete for the bragging rights and $7,500.  The team winner was Atlanta’s own JavaMonkey. Check out the official page for updates for the 2012 Southern Fried Poetry Slam.

http://southernfriedpoetryslam.com/

My Top 3  Highlights
1. Sacred Sounds  from Tampa, Fl
2. BackTalk from Tallahassee, Fl
3. Singing a Boys II Men song with random participants and volunteers while driving down Fair St in the golf cart .

Many thanks to Paul D, Shadow, Keith Rogers, Bethsheba and all who worked so hard to make this event happen.

Group piece from some of the members of BackTalk

Police Brutality Against Minorities

Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police officer was released from the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail at 12:01 a.m Monday morning (6/13/11).  He was caught on video cameras fatally shooting and killing unarmed train passenger, Oscar Grant. Mehserle was convicted by a Los Angeles jury in July 2010 of involuntary manslaughter for the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting of Grant. He was sentenced in November to two years in prison, which was the minimum sentence for his conviction and acquitted of murder, the most serious charge he faced. From the days after the shooting to his release today Mehserle has only spent 1 year in prison. The early release angered members of Grant’s family and others, who protested Mehserle’s release at two rallies held at the site of the shooting and in front of Oakland City Hall Sunday evening. There is a demand for police accountability and justice in police involved shootings.

Mehserle’s defense argued that the shooting was a mistake. Mehserle had intended to use his Taser gun against Grant, but mistakenly drew his pistol. Oscar Grant and several others were detained by Oakland police in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2010. The Oakland PD were responding to an alleged fight taking place between some of the men in the Fruitvale station of the BART system. After detaining the men for almost an hour, questioning and arguing with them, police officers moved to handcuff several of them and Mehserle restrained Oscar Grant by kneeling on his back while he lay stomach down on the platform. Officer Mehserle then drew his gun and shot Grant in the back at point-blank range. Grant then screamed “you shot me!” and died several hours later from his wounds caused from a bullet that ricocheted off the ground and punctured his lung.

It’s been said that “Grant has become the Lil’ Bobby Hutton of his generation—a young black man, killed by a police bullet, who has become representative of a larger struggle for self-determination.” Grant’s memory has been kept alive by the efforts of numerous graffiti artists; the motto “I Am Oscar Grant!” began appearing all over Oakland, along with aerosol versions of Grant’s face.

This is just one of the many recent incidents of police brutality that has outraged communities across America.

  • Danroy “D.J.”Henry Jr., the Pace University football player from Easton who was fatally shot
    by police in New York in the fall. Henry was unarmed and shot while driving his car. He was handcuffed and placed on the ground, where he lay dying. He was left on the street for 15 minutes without any medical attention.
  • Arizona SWAT team shot 26 year-old José Guerena, 26, 71 times, as they executed a search warrant on his home. The former Marine who served two tours in Iraq was killed while protecting his family from what he thought to be intruders, men with guns advancing on his home. Police confusion lead to Guerena bleeding out and dying in his own home. Police refused to allow medical personnel in to help save his life.
  • This past Memorial weekend at least nine officers shot Raymond Herisse, 22, and injured four bystanders in the process. Police claimed Herisse hit an officer with his car during a traffic stop and then took off and started shooting at them. The police initially stated that they did not find a gun in
    Herisse’s car. However, two days after the shooting they reported locating a semiautomatic pistol in the car. Several witnesses had been placed in handcuffs and had their cell phones smashed for recording the incident.

Police have a history of aggressive tactics in poor communities. Racial profiling and systemic police brutality against minorities stems from a system in which ordinary people do not control the police, and the police act like an army in communities of color. The incomprehensible day-to-day police abuses create a hostile and racially charged environment that allows the more extreme cases to occur. “Racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately” harmed by harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and false arrests. Through education, public and legislative action it is important to mobilize public awareness about the causes and effects of racial profiling and police brutality. Know your rights! (click)

Netflix Fix… When We Were Kings

I LOVE Netflix. I’m not really a cable TV girl unless Breakout Kings or The Game is on.  More often than not I tend to fall asleep in movie theaters.  So I appreciate being in the comfort of my own home with the ability to rewind if need be.  I love watching old favorites, documentaries and musicals.  And this is why I love Netflix.  I was looking through new arrivals and found an old favorite of mine.  I think I see a favorite. I select the movie to make sure I’m not seeing things. My face lights up! EXCITED!  When We Were Kings!!!  A documentary about a fight in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The fight was also called The Rumble in the Jungle.  This documentary is great because of the content and the memories of where I was in my life when I first saw it.  I spent summers with my family in Harlem after we relocated to Florida and I would watch this movie with my brothers and my cousin Kute. I was usually the only girl watching.  My little sister was not interested at all.  I really can’t blame her, we were watching a movie about a three time Heavy Weight World Champion.  She was more interested in tea parties and jump rope at the time.  Kute was a clown and always has been.  He would get up and imitate sayings and movements throughout the movie.  Since I was watching this on Netflix I could pause or rewind when needed since I didn’t have the Blue-ray/DVD.  This made my day!

I may catch a Pacquiao fight every now and then but I am by no means a huge boxing fan.  I just enjoyed the story, musical performances and commentary included in When We Were Kings.  Ali was on a mission to prove to the world that he was the greatest of all times, once again.  He also spoke about African unity and appreciation for the African culture from an African American perspective throughout the documentary.  In the beginning of the film he stated that his plane ride was the first time he had ever seen an all black crew… pilots and all.  The expression on his face was priceless.  He believed in the greatness within us.  And spread this message every where.  Check out the film.  It is a must for anyone who enjoys a great storyline about competition and triumph.

The documentary doesn’t show much from the concert held in Zaire, so here is some footage of President Mobutu, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and performances by B.B. King, James Brown, and Miriam Makeba.

Rebel Spotlight on Lyrical Genius Will “Da Real One” Bell

So I Run…

Mental Miming.. A letter to the artist in me.

In order to be considered for the Rebel Spotlight, one must have done something epic, something that resonates in the souls of many and inspires positive change.  Over the last few weeks we have felt many greats such as Gill Scott Heron and Elmer “Geromino” Pratt former Black Panther Party member transcend to the next level.  Both were rebels and revolutionaries  in their own right. The cause of the deaths are unknown.

This weeks spotlight, however, will feature Will “Da Real One” Bell.  He transcended on May 29th in the early morning hours. Bell was walking to his car when another vehicle pulled up and opened fire.  I know it took some time for reality to set in and has yet to do so for others. We are acknowledging this literary soldier because his movements, thoughts and words touched the lives and hearts of so many.  His story is truly inspirational.  Bell’s grind from the bottom to the top is an example that we can make it and assist others along the way.  He was an activist and also focused on advancement for battered and abused women. He participated and initiated many fundraisers to support this cause.  Will “Da Real One” Bell is missed and we are grateful for those who knew him personally and gave him flowers while he could still smell them.

Home going Services will be held on Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 1pm @ Upper Room Ministries (formerly Cooper Temple, 3800 NW 199 Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33055). The viewing will be on Friday, June 3 @ Wright & Young Funeral Home from 9am-9pm (15332 Northwest 7th Avenue, Miami 33169).

“I”
by Will Bell on Thursday, April 21, 2011

I used my pen, to escape from the pen,

fixed myself among broken men,

I was broken then,

so I wrote from with in, self confession produced hope in the end,

had to walk away from most of my friends,

and it seems that life has me walking again,

hopelessness like a crazy ex is stalking again,

voices in my head is talking again,

vivid memories of the coroner chalking my friend,

I take sleep medication hoping to see my Mother again,

hug my woman only to wish to be her lover again,

and you knew me when?

By way of smile not produced by joy but by amazement of my ability not to cry,

my level of faith not allowing me to ask God why,

you register the times I fail yet forget to credit me when I try,

do you know that on most days i don’t even care if I die?

Therefore who cares if you lie in the mentioning of my character, when the ear that listens is just as foul as the mouth that speaks it,

your life is what you sow so dont be a bitch when its time for you to reap it,

and your apology you can keep it,

because i forgave you long before you knew that I was even aware of your wrongful judgement against me,

and i still wish you peace…

Promised God upon my release that I wouldn’t be back,

so i’m using my pen to escape again,

walking away from some friends all over again, so i can mend,

and I prayed the whole time writing this so i guess, the end,

Amen…

(This was his last Facebook note.)