Monthly Archives: November 2014

“Black Women Fight Back”


That may sound like a positive statement. But as it left the lips of my husband this morning as we watched the GMA report of Carlesha Freeland Gaither’s rescue and video footage of her fighting off her abductor, I objected to his statement on the grounds that it was made generically, based on the experience of one Black Woman. Ideas like these can potentially reinforce a stereotype about the strength of all Black Women and be dangerously interpreted as “Black Women fight back. So they don’t need help.” Angry Black Women, Strong Black Women, they don’t need us.

I know this was not my husband’s intent. And I was careful to explain that I was not trying to be argumentative. When I heard him say it, I could tell he meant it as a triumphant compliment. But I heard it as yet another reason to engender Black Women in the media as “Strong” in ways that in fact, do not  empower them. It only empowers an already racially biased system to further marginalize and devalue woman of color as strong angry beasts who do not necessarily need to be protected and rescued from danger the way that White women do.

My point is simply that all Black women who identify or are identified as strong need and deserve compassion, rescue, respect, rights and value. I think it’s great that Freeland-Gaither fought back and that there is video footage to prove it but I remain perpetually and reasonably suspicious of the media’s depiction of Black Women. And I’m very wary of the way in which the coverage of this “heroic rescue” story is a potential opportunity to make others feel like my dear husband and innocently declare “Black Women Fight Back!” The declarations beg the question “As opposed to whom?” White women? And if so, then who gets to be seen as the “Damsel in distress,” another stereotype which illustrates weakness and helplessness in women yet demands immediate attention in major news networks whenever a white woman goes missing? To say that white women don’t fight back would be just as offensive, but not quite as dis-empowering.

Many women fight back against perpetrators, probably more than we know. I hope that Freedland-Gaither is an example of many more strong women whom the police force deem worthy enough to take immediate action towards rescuing from dangerous perpetrators regardless of race.

Master Chef Jr. Makes my Ovaries Ache

My husband and I have been hooked on Master Chef Jr. since its first season last year. It’s one of the few shows we actually watch together and try to never miss. We also watch Master Chef and have viewed all 8 seasons of Cake Boss on Netflix streaming. Obviously we love food but we also love the technique, creativity and science that go into making delicious dishes. But on Master Chef Jr., it’s something extra.

It’s the kids.

They are so full of excitement and ideas and kindness and support for one another, that it just makes my heart melt. They have such discipline, sophistication, manners, confidence and candor, that it fills me with hope. They’ve only aired the first episode and already there’s so much to talk to consider.

Does Oona age 9, wrinkle her nose under pressure because it’s a nervous tick or is it strategic because she’s so gosh darn adorable?

During a pressure cooker challenge, Abby age 8, attempted to lift an appliance that was almost as big as she was. One of the other kids helped her get it to her table. Already, I’m tearing up.

When they ran around the pantry collecting ingredients for the challenge, Sean age 12, could barely carry his basket. Chef Ramsay helped him out there. They should probably get them shopping carts.

When Isabella age 12, started crying because her dish was found to be undercooked and poorly executed, all the kids and I mean all of them rallied around her with words of support and kindness. Even Ramsay was teary eyed.  Oh my God. My heart.

Even grumpy ass Bastianich appears to be a nicer person when he’s judging MCJ. The kids repeatedly disarm him and he actually breaks out in these big uncontrollably genuine smiles. All the ice just melts. All of the judges are continuously blown away at the sophistication, authenticity, innovation, expertise, and killer plating styles of these gifted children and you can see it on their faces.

Occasionally the camera will pan around the room while the judges are explaining something and you’ll see them with their little heads peeping over their counters or with their chins resting on their hands all eager and beaming with anticipation. They complement each other all the time and they own up to their mistakes as well as their strengths.

“I think I have a pretty awesome palette.”

“My dish was too spicy”

“Her dish looks really good”


I need to pop out a Master Chef. LOL!!

Street Harassment or Public Flirtation? How do we define it?

“God Bless you darling”

“Have a good day dimples.”

Those are the two I’ve heard addressed towards me this week and I thanked them both politely and went about my day. I imagine that these comments might be unwanted by a different woman walking down the street and I can appreciate and respect that. But I would hope that she could also open her mouth and say, “No thank you.” or “I don’t appreciate that, will you please stop?”

Ever since the video of Roberts’ recorded experience of being addressed by strange men in the street was released, my nerves have been somewhat on edge whenever an online conversation flares up which generalizes or defines what occurred flatly as “Street Harassment” that should be criminalized. What is “Street Harassment” please? Who does it and what does the face of a possible campaign against it look like? Who would it serve?

“Hey Ma, my man over there thinks you’re cute and wants your number.” That’s one I used to hear endlessly in High School.

If you think the guy is cute, is it still “street harassment” because thousands of hook ups and even marriages begin this way.

When single women go to bars to meet men, those men are strangers. This game the sexes have always played has required men to be the initiators and for women to be the ones who decide whether they will respond affirmatively or with displeasure for what ever reasons.

For me, harassment whether in the street or in the office or in a bar, club, or wherever is what occurs after you have expressed the desire to no longer be pursued. Men will pursue. That’s what they do. That is what we have required them to do. And I don’t care how anti-feminist or offensive this sounds but it’s what many women like them to do.

I was hanging out with a male friend of mine yesterday and I asked him he felt about this issue. Interestingly he is the second Black male who told me he didn’t really care about it but started paying attention when he noticed that most all the men in the video were of color.

As to the question of how men would respond if it was the other way around and woman were always cat calling, whistling and making kissy noises at them, please! Does anyone need to take a poll or do a hidden camera segment to know what the overwhelming response to that would be?

That would save men like 80% of their time!

I’m not saying I haven’t had men say things to me in the street that I haven’t found infuriating. But I always chalk it up to that one particular guy or incident, not all men and certainly not all Black men. I can’t even imagine how I could! I guess I’ve just never found it to be an issue for me.

Now I get how patriarchy plays into our internalized normalization of this occurrence but as women with intelligence, voices, and power, we also have to be aware of the ways in which we contribute to the appropriation of gendered social cues. Because to me, there are situations in which the same women who hate to be called out in the street, require this same amount of assertion in a setting where they crave attention and flattery. Again, if the attention is unwanted and this has been made clear but still continues, you are now dealing with a harassment case.

Do I think a man is wrong or bad mannered or a rapist just because he says something to me I don’t want to hear in the street? No. But if he pursues me after I have made it clear I have zero interest, then he has a problem. And at that point, I have to do what I can to protect myself and my rights.

And finally, compliments from men I don’t know in the street have yielded feelings of positive reinforcement for me on several occasions. I’m not saying I know who is harmless or who is potentially dangerous. I’ve also gotten compliments from women in the street and love those as well! What I’m saying is, I wish there was more carefulness around the definition of “street harassment” and not this dangerous lumping in of “How are you today”s and “God Bless you”s and “You’re beautiful”s with a general sense of being made to feel unsafe.

Roberts also makes a general statement about places where people don’t experience harassment.

“People don’t put up with harassment at work, at school, at home. And we shouldn’t have to put up with it in the streets. I have a right to feel safe.”


Women get harassed everywhere and have been for ages! They’re being harassed this second. If she only gets harassed in the streets and not at school or in the office than good for her but that sounds kind of like a generalization to me. Who are these people who don’t get harassed at work or in school or at home? What strange new world does she live in and can I visit? I just feel like this issue has become about about one women’s experience and I don’t seek to undervalue her experience or her feelings but I worry that her testimony speaks for the experience of other women in ways that are not accurate and I hate it when one person speaks for others in even the smallest ways without checking in on them. There has to be an attempt at balanced and fair reporting that includes opposing viewpoints in order to have a truly constructive conversation about this issue.

Inspiring Envy

When I was a girl in the 80s I can remember when I first started hearing stories about kids in the Brooklyn getting killed over their sneakers. In the 90s I wrote a story for New Youth Connections about many of the items made in America that supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa. These issues heavily influenced my decision not to buy sneakers, at least not popular ones, period.

A few months ago this year I was in my local AT&T store in Harlem upgrading my iphone 4 to the 5s model. As I was sitting there at the table waiting for young lady attending to me to check on a few things, I looked around the store at the standard set up. I noticed the motto in large print against one the walls opposite from me for the new HTC phone. It read “Built to inspire envy.” My immediate reaction was, why would you want to inspire envy? The two words put together are the evil genius of advertising. Naturally I was implicit in all of this because here I was upgrading my phone, a phone that my husband would repeatedly warn me to never expose in public because of stories in the news about rampant theft of iphones, particularly in the subways. And yes, I realize that the intent of Big advertising has been evil for some time. But for some reason, reading that logo in the AT&T store that day made me realize that we as consumers willingly contribute to the inspiring of envy to a staggeringly larger degree than the inspiring of creativity and self knowledge without even really thinking about it. Our whole society screams out, “Look at what I have! Don’t you want it too? Want what I have! Aspire to look like me and live like me, talk like me, smell, look, dance, dress like me!”

Advertising is smart, sexy, and seductive and as a rule plays on our greatest weakness, the idea that we are not enough. I’m no exception. I may be selective about my vices but I still have them. I don’t watch television very much (except on Scandal Thursdays) but when I get online, that’s when I really have to curb myself. There is just so much information coming at you at speeds impossible to process, and you’re taking in stuff, you’re not even aware of. Because of the ways in which online and television media speaks to stereotyping and trendsetting, definitions of beauty, sex, entertainment and object worship, we as human beings are often walking advertisements ourselves. So advertisement also inspires isolation, because a culture of people who cannot engage with one another beyond the compatibility of product placement on our bodies can never truly connect at all.

Overall, it made me a bit panicky. It was like having someone tell you that although you never pulled the trigger to kill Bambi, you actually made a donation to the foundation of killing Bambi when you bought your cell phone. Do people still care about Bambi? Is that a dated reference? The point is we live in a country that as Chris Rock says commercializes everything. That doesn’t surprise or bother me as much as the desensitization. It would be different if the things we acquired made us happy, jumping up and down like kids and making us want to share that happiness. But that’s not often the case.

More often we buy stuff that makes us feel good, inspires envy in others which by the way is not good, and then we get bored or feel empty and unfulfilled again and need to consume more. This cycle never ends.

I was reading something recently which said something to the effect that a large percentage of people as they become much older, say in their late 60s or 70s no longer fall for the trick of advertising. They know what they need, they get the basics and every once in a while will splurge on something special or impractical. They are not necessarily more fulfilled than younger people. They just don’t fool themselves as much, particularly since advertising targets youth and relies on the idea of “Forever young” in order to get people to spend and invest hard earned dollars in the promise that never pans out. Turns out we get old, not matter what we buy.

I don’t know. I still upgraded to my iphone 5S. I needed more space. Because that has become the new issue in our world. Running out of space on “The Cloud.” God forbid I can’t stuff one more shot of really cute donuts onto my instagram account. Tragic. And while I didn’t feel the need to get the iphone 6 (because I simply didn’t need to) I’m also aware that the promotions for this phone didn’t inspire enough “envy” in me to want to buy it. So I guess the question is, where does the line between the desire to acquire things out of practical necessity and or joy and the need to make others envious emerge and how aware are we of it as a symptom of debilitating inhumanity?

My Prince…

Prince SNL
Prince on SNL 11/1/14

My mom was the huge Prince fan in my family. I remember when I was a girl and she went to see Purple Rain when it first came out. It was one of the few movies I remember her seeing that I wasn’t allowed to see because I was under age.  When I was an adolescent I was kind of a prude about sex in music and I looked down my nose at music like “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “Let’s Get Ill” by LL Cool J and “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael. They all made me uncomfortable.But the first time I saw Prince perform I was blown away and continue to have that experience watching him to this day.

I was watching “Solid Gold” the way I did every weekend when Prince was introduced. It was May of 1983. There was darkness and when the lights came on there was Prince. What was Prince? He started into one his biggest hits ever, “Little Red Corvette,” quiet and still and then he broke out into yelping and dancing and splits and tricks with the mic stand I had never seen before. He ended as quiet and still as he began and the lights came down and it was dark again before the audience burst into applause. And I just sat there in awe.  What was that hairstyle? Was he Puerto Rican? What was he? What was that? His mystique drew me in and has never stopped since.

The first time my mother took my brother and I to Trinidad in the 80s, I remember listening to her “Purple Rain” soundtrack on cassette over and over again to fight off my homesickness. I still hadn’t even seen the film at that point and I was already so attached to every track on that album, it was pretty ridiculous. “Darling Nikki” was a foray into a sexuality I did not find uncomfortable at all. Go figure. I mean there she was masturbating in a hotel lobby with a magazine. How that went down easier than “Like a Virgin touched for the very first time,” I cannot tell you. LOL! Needless to say I became a huge fan of Madonna, George Michael and LL Cool J as I got older but none of them have been able to outlast Prince’s place in my heart. It’s hard for me to be objective about Prince. My BFF and I share a very similarly diehard love for him that I believe has also informed the bonds of our long friendship. There are also certain Prince albums that hold within them seminal moments of my coming of age so much so that at one time, just listening to tracks from the Symbol album or the soundtrack to “Under the Cherry Moon” could trigger memories that were transcendent, sweet, painful and melancholy all at once.

I saw Prince perform for the first time ever a few years ago with my best friend in 2011. It was like a great big love reunion with someone you’ve never met before but have loved for so long. It was amaze-balls. You could feel in the energy all around that many of the serious day one fans were there. We would have stayed with him until daybreak.That night I bought tickets to see him again at MSG with my husband! I am not a big concert goer at all but I swear I lost my mind after seeing him for the first time that night. I had to see him again.

His performance on SNL this past Saturday brought part of that feeling back but with something new. Prince gets older as all of us do but his spirit, his dedication to his craft and the evolution of his talent is beyond my words to describe because I can’t be objective when it comes to Prince. How is it possible for someone to be around that long and still manage to have tricks up his sleeve no one has seen before? I’m not saying that I’ve loved everything Prince has ever done. And I’m aware he was a Grade A asshole during some of the most formidable times of his early rise to fame.  But I’ve never been bored by him. I’m always curious to see what he will do next. I love the way he seamlessly blends, interprets and incorporates a love of spirituality and sex in his music. I love his personal style and his love of play. He’s also one of the most disciplined Gemini I know and I still hope to be like him when I grow up. LOL!