Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Black Does Crack

I’m a month shy of another birthday and I still get the “well you don’t look it” comments followed by a quick side eye. Not sure if it’s my stature, face or choice in clothes that lead people to say what they say, but I take it with a grain of salt. Flattery gets you nowhere with me. A young client said she looked me up on Psychology Today and her friend asked “Well how old is she?” My client’s response was “You know Black women. Their black don’t crack. She can be anywhere between twenty and eighty years old for all I know!” That made me laugh. Close enough. I’ll be forty-three and proud of it.

But it got me to thinking. For the most part, they’re right. Black does not crack. Women of other cultures (albeit reluctantly) agree that there’s something about our skin that belies our age. Our energy speaks to that of younger years. We’ve got that “go getter” aura about us. No wilting flowers here! What we project to others lead many to think we will one day be just like Elijah, where God will simply pluck us up from the earth in a blaze and carry us to glory.

But our black does crack. There are cracks in our collective spirits as women of color that go unseen. Our husbands and children are oblivious to it. Our parents have no clue. Our closest friends would be shocked to see the leakage taking place in our lives.

Yes our black does crack. Each time you have to over advocate at the doctor’s office for a mammogram a few years earlier than your insurance requires, a crack is created. You fill each cancer question with a yes and they still want to deny you the biopsy because “you’re not old enough”. You come in with twenty questions about your health and damned if only two get answered! The minute you start “WebMD-ing” your health care provider, their eyes glaze over and you stop because your mama raised you to be polite and not cuss.

Yes our black does crack. Each time we have to overcompensate in leadership positions. There’s that impatience from others when we speak. We are too intense, too serious, too angry. What do we know? We’ve only been educated and qualified to do our jobs. The suppressed looks of surprise when we talk through doors for the first time and our voices don’t match the locs/hair weaves/or mountains of curls on our head. Bill collectors voice meets Black skin and the world screeches to a sudden halt.

Yes our black does crack. Each time we have to teach our children how to protect themselves from the evils of this world; to know the difference between overt and subliminal attempts to demean them. Each time our Black husbands come home with yet another story of how he was passed over for something or other and you can’t help but wonder why. Where you have to be his number one cheerleader each and every day because the media and society (as the slave masters before them believed) say he should be good for nothing but breeding and breaking his back in the fields.

Yes our black does crack. When we’ve committed to living in our communities but the health food store is way out yonder. You drive and see everything that can be fried is just a few dollars within reach and everything that’s broiled or baked is not. Knowing that just one generation before, your ancestors plucked what they needed from the earth and needed no modern medicine to heal them. Fast forward to now and everything’s suddenly become “holistic” and suddenly out of reach. Them same leaves grandma used to mash up in the bowl before she boiled and gave to you now cost a pretty penny sitting in pretty bottles–in the store.

As our faces continue to age backwards, our body, mind and soul continues to come under attack. There is nothing easy about being a Sistah in a world that loves you via appropriation of your natural beauty. Your hair looked like Medusa when you were growing out your baby locs; it now looks like something cute and fashionable on someone else. Nostrils and lips that were once parodies in cartoons are now the number one requests at the plastic surgeon’s office. The derrières of our mothers which were (honestly) earned from heavy lifting and hard work are now what sends many in droves to the gym! All poor and lackluster attempts at seeking the eternal youth they believe we possess.

Where are the cracks in your life? Is your soul barren? Is your health compromised? Is your spirit suffering from the silence that’s threatening to snuff it out? Don’t spend your lifetime perpetuating a lie.

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Eating White 

I will never forget the time I was working at a local high school as a school social worker. Sometimes the students would come up to my office and chill during lunch time. I’d usually take a break and eat with them. I don’t even recall what I was eating this particular day, but there was a lot of greens/veggies-no rice or French fries in this particular lunch meal. One of my students took it upon herself to ask “Ms., why you keep eating white people food?” My brain stalled on that one and years later I’m not even quite sure what to say to the countless curious Black folks who ask the very same question in different ways when they see me eating kale, quinoa, bulgur wheat, chicken that isn’t fried or whatever they just can’t readily identify on my plate. 

This whole notion that eating healthy is a white people thing or a “bourghie behavior” actually leaves some people *insert health conscious Black folks* feeling some type of way. That if salmon trumps ribs as your choice on a menu you’re just being extra. That eating healthy is other people’s habits and people of African descent only acquire this taste in food once they earn a couple of degrees and take flight to other parts of town. 

I’m Haitian. So I’m quick to remind folks, our ancestors ate and Haitians are today still do find their sustenance from the land. Our juices are made fresh. Our vegetables are a melange of eggplant, chayote (that’s militon for my Zoes), carrots, scallions, onions, garlic, parsley, bell peppers–all to create the legume meal that I love so much. I don’t need meat in mine. Some crab maybe. Some lambi (conch) maybe. With some white rice. And “sauce poi blanc”. Mezami, my tastebuds just took a detour! 

I remember being raised in a home where neither pork nor any shellfish was permitted in my diet. Part of that was my mom’s personal Levitical biases and part of that was that she knew better so she did better with our meals. Olive oil was a staple. Except for the time we lived with another family and overdosed on hotdogs and bologna, she preferred sliced meats from the deli that didn’t have all that salt added. Oh! Did I mention my mom wasn’t white and that we didn’t live in some uppity neighborhood? So it irks me to no end when people make broad stroke comments about diets being white or black. Granted I do maintain that Haitian food is THE best food in the world-and since this is my blog I’m only stating facts. Lol! Digressing again. 

So I got me and the hubster back on a juicing plan. I dragged out my Breville juicer and it is holding court right next to my smoothie machine on the kitchen counter. One bottle per day. Nothing major. He’s 45. I’m 42. Our bodies demand extra attention and what better way to do so than to make a concerted effort to get some extra veggies in our system the raw way. So we got celery, carrots, ginger, apples, lime, strawberries, kale all up in this latest batch. The celery gives it this refreshing taste. The ginger spikes it up a notch. The carrots and apple balances it off with some sweetness. And the lime, believe it or not, brings it all home flavor wise. 

There are some of us who didn’t grow up with the best cooks or best diets in our lives. And if you’re like me, living on my own in college caused all types of rules to be broken. I went from eating no pork to eating the Friday night griot. Every Friday. Of every week. These days I probably eat it once per quarter (yes I mind my junk food intake in terms of quarters) cause it takes about that long to leave your system anyway! 

Circumstances may not have allowed for healthy balanced meals. We all joke about the red juice that causes ADHD to go undiagnosed in many households. Food deserts is a reality. For me to get a juice on the go, I would now have to leave my predominately urban community and head either east towards the beach or west towards the Everglades. It takes effort to do right by your temple. It takes money and time. The first time I got back juicing I promise you I burned 1500 calories between the setting up, breaking down, washing and then mopping my sticky kitchen floor. Then you think of the time and energy you take to do some random activity and you realize the return on the investment really does beat out the annoyance. 

I have had non-Black colleagues quickly hide their amazement when I ask about the nearest vegan option or plant based option eateries. Once they get over the shock that I’m not asking for the nearest bbq joint (and no offense to them cause I can gets down with some ribs too), they are more than happy to share in the love of healthy foods. 

So next time someone makes some off color comment about your coconut black rice, adashah, kale, toasted coconuts and avocado lunch (and it’s usually some poor, misguided brotha or sistah) don’t give them the side eye. Take the time to let them know what’s on your plate and point out the health benefits of your meal. They may roll their eyes and go about their high cholesterol, diabetic living or they may dwell on your comments and who knows? You may have gained a convert to eating healthy–not White. 

Our ancestors would be honored to know that you too are eating off the land and honoring the food traditions that transcend race and yes even color lines. I’m Black. Been eating Black since 1975. Whatever that is. 🙄😂

Current Events, Uncategorized

Black On Black Racism

My psyche has been slammed in every direction these past two weeks by reminders that I am Black, I am Haitian and I am irrelevant. 

A recent trip to Negril, Jamaica brought me back to my island roots. A group of us took our trip off the “all-inclusive resort” beaten path in search of some adventure. I was reminded of being in the “yard” or “lakou”, buying drinks from a shanty-looking building held up by a few pieces of wood. Eating curry crab from a woman on the side of the street. Getting fresh lemon grass to make tea with back home. A heat so palpable that only an ancient, bat-ridden cave with cool spring water can be the remedy.  To feel welcomed not because I’m a tourist but because I look like them makes all the difference in the world. A country that has strived to live in its motto of “out of many, one people.”

Now to hear that not one but two island nations, Dominican Republic and now Turks and Caicos, have basically told me that I am not wanted makes me feel just that–unwanted. A recent reflection activity laid bare the memories of the Center for Disease Control accusing Haitians of being the bearer of AIDS. I didn’t give blood until I was 31 years old. And then it was only for my preemie niece. Years and years of being told directly or subtly that “you are Haitian, so your life doesn’t matter.” 

I am curious to see how the DR can determine whose a person of Dominican ancestry. Their complexions are like mine and when I hear my dad speak of his Dominican grandmother, I understand why he and my brother share the same curl pattern on their wavy close cropped head. I understand my dad’s fluency with Spanish. I understand the history of a people who co-mingled and made a life sharing an island for centuries. 

Turks and Caicos has jumped on the idiocy band of racism and prejudice. I am not even sure if you call it racism between people of the same race. But to call it prejudice, to call it bigotry just isn’t enough. An example of yet another one of humanity’s methods of degrading each other just because. 

I’m searching for age-old answers to the why’s and the how’s behind what DR and Turks Caicos has now laid bare for me to see. I’m searching for ways to cope with these feelings of inadequacy. Why my people? Are we not clean enough for you? Is our hair not straight enough for you? Are we not light enough for you? Are we not smart enough for you?

We set the trend and wrote the book on how to unseat your slave masters. We, the Pearl of the Caribbean, now tarnished and set aside. 


Current Events, Family, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

Little Black Boys

I have always been a sucker for little black boys with beautiful eyes and gorgeous smiles. Something they all seem to have at that age. When they grow up to be handsome young men I am thankful to say I knew them when.

Not all of our little black boys are making it into full manhood safely these days. Of the many that came through my doors in my years as a school social worker, I can count on only a few set of hands how many made it to post secondary education. College education for me isn’t the litmus test but it represents a safe haven and a sifter for the many black men who have managed to beat the odds that are stacked against them. College is that holding place where I would know that both learning would take place and that for a moment in time, our black males can be held safe.

I spent half my time jamming common sense and wisdom down my youngest brother in law’s throat during his adolescence years. Angry the day he came home wearing a long baggy white shirt instead of the uniformed ones that were waiting freshly pressed in the closet. You look like a thug crossing that bridge to school on Miami Beach I said. Me and his brother, my husband, would have knock down drag out debates on how to best reinforce pro social behaviors. Society won’t be too friendly to him and we have to prepare him now I said.

He spent most of his days rubbing elbows with children of TV executives and diplomats and most of his nights on the football field. We kept him too busy and too tired to care about much of what was taking place on the block. Yet on that winter break when he was home from college and tied up with other friends, detained by police down the street, we would remind him that you can’t take everybody where you’re going. When a friend of his, another college student, would witness a childhood friend shot and killed right next to him, we remind him yet again, you need new friends.

No child should have to be told that they have to forsake their childhood friends. No child should have to be told to stay away from their running buddy, the friends who they rode bikes with and enjoyed living out their youth with. Yet it’s become our reality.

I worry about my brother in law sometimes. I worry that he is losing his core identify as he slowly loses friends. They aren’t all dying but they are dying little deaths in the form of drug abuse, a life of violence, and social immobility. Relationships he formed are slowly losing their depths as his quest for personal achievements and dare I say survival takes precedence.

Our roots are what keep us grounded and as more of our young black boys’ blood seep through these concrete streets, those who are left behind begin to stand alone.


Grisham Got In Our Grits

I had the pleasure of sharing in what educators call some “higher order thinking” type conversation the other day. It’s a monthly book club of ladies who meet in exquisitely furnished restaurants and discuss all things bookish. This was my first go around with the “Divas” and I scrambled to join because they were reading one of my fave writers, John Grisham.

Admittedly, John (we’re on a first name basis) had not written anything that caught my attention of late. Imagine my delight in finding that he brought back Jake Brigance of “A Time To Kill” fame for a second round. Sycamore Row, his latest venture into southern law and intrigue starts with a suicide and takes us on a pick up ride through the sweltering heat of Ford County, Mississippi. This story teller for the ages doesn’t disappoint as he brings back some old characters and hurls at us many new ones, unrepentant in his descriptive tale of the south, circa 1980’s.

There is a scene in the book where Lucien Wilbanks (picture a grisly Donald Sutherland) reprises his role as Jake’s pseudo-mentor. Back on the wagon and excited about this new case that Jake has, he proceeds to explain why having blacks on a jury to decide whether a black woman should gain the $20 million left to her by her white employer would be a bad idea. To paraphrase he says, “I know black folks more than any other white person in this county.” He stands his ground and maintains that everything is about race in Mississippi.

Grisham got real deep into the grits of the Black conscience. A black woman who stood to be the wealthiest woman in Ford County (black or white) would find no blacks in her corner. After all, they would still be poor and she would be living high off the hog.

The crab in the bucket mentality still rears it’s ugly head in small towns and big cities alike. Wherever there are black folks there will be envy and divide. How many times have I heard someone say, keep your business to yourself cause the haters out there are like vultures waiting to tear it down. I, in my naïveté, still think of people as essentially good for the most part until I see them cut a brother or sister down professionally or personally with no remorse.

In my own professional ventures, I have had a Polish Jew and a Cuban woman give me more support in moving towards goals than some Blacks I just thought would have my back. It is in my nature to share what I learn and know, friends remind me not everyone does the same. Lucien Wilbanks, in one a gloriously sober moment spoke some sense.

Yessiree, Grisham is back. Totally unapologetic about his tale of race relations in the South. He could have time stamped it 2014 rather than 1988 and would have still been in step with the times. Yes John, everything is about race everywhere.