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Poem: Why did God make me Black? by RuNell Ni Ebo

Lord, Lord
Why did You make me Black?
Why did You make someone
the world wants to hold back?

Black is the color of dirty clothes,
the color of grimy hands and feet.
Black is the color of darkness,
the color of tire-beaten streets.

Why did You give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did You make someone
who receives the hatred stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt.
Black is the color of darkness,
Black is the color of dirt.

How come my bone structure’s so thick,
my hips and cheeks are high?
How come my eyes are brown
and not the color of daylight sky?

Why do people think I’m useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do some people see my skin
and think I should be abused?

Lord I just don’t understand.
What is it about my skin?
Why do some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are “listed”
when others want to keep them away.
Black is the color of shadows cast.
Black is the end of day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me
and I know this just ain’t right.
They don’t like my hair.
They say I’m too dark or too light.

Lord, don’t You think it’s time for You
to make a change?
Why don’t You re-do creation and
make everyone the same?

God answered:

Why did I make you Black?
Why did I make you Black?
Get off your knees and look around
Tell me, what do you see?
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness,
I made you in likeness of ME!

I made you the color of coal from which
beautiful diamonds are formed.
I made you the color of oil,
the black gold that keeps people warm.

I made you from the rich, dark earth that can
grow the food you need.
You color’s the same as the black stallion,
a majestic animal is he.
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness.
I made you in likeness of ME!

All the colors of the heavenly rainbow can be
found throughout every nation.
But when all of those colors were blended,
you became my greatest creation.

Your hair is the texture of lamb’s wool.
Such a humble little creature is he.
I am the Sheperd who watches them.
I am the One who will watch over thee.

You are the color of midnight sky.
I put the star’s glitter in your eyes.
There is a smile hidden behind your pain.
That’s why your cheeks are so high.

You are the color of dark clouds formed,
when I send My strongest weather.
I made your lips full so when you kiss
the one that you love, they will remember.

Your stature is strong, your bone structure thick
to withstand the burdens of time.
The reflection you see in the mirror…
The image that looks back is MINE.

– RuNell Ni Ebo

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Cupcake vs. Man Conundrum

bitmoji-20160411045333Office small talk gone wrong.

There were left-over birthday cupcakes in the office. I walked over grab a couple and shared with ladies on my return to my desk that there were some goodies around the corner.

One co-worker vehemently protested the cupcakes. She went on and on about how she couldn’t possibly eat a cupcake (miniature or otherwise) because of all the flavorful bites of food she had last week which have since caused her belly to poke out a bit. She continued that she has a trip coming up in a month and half that she wants to look and feel good for.

I said that eating food has an effect on our bodies, but told her I was not trying to force a cupcake on her. I attempted to shift the conversation by mentioning that my personal fitness trainer had texted me the day before complaining about pancakes I had eaten last week and insisting that I not “cheat”. I was chuckling as I shared that I hadn’t responded because I didn’t want to sound cross when I text back that eating pancakes is not cheating when I didn’t agree not to eat pancakes; and point out that I didn’t agree to share my food log to be beaten up about my food choices.

To this, the co-worker responded: “LaShawnda, you will never get a man like that!”

I thought I misheard her. “I will never get a what?”

“You will never get a man. Everything is an argument with you.”

I was flabbergasted. What was I arguing about? I pointed out that there had been no agreement with my trainer regarding what I eat and my response would be about setting boundaries not arguing. She walked away laughing.

When she came back, she walked over to me and said the following while avoiding eye contact, “I didn’t mean to cause offense, but I’ve learned that you have to learn to appease men to keep them and the way you talk will not appease any man.”

“I am not interested in appeasing anyone at the expense of being who I am.”

“Well, maybe I’m projecting a bit. One of my friends just told me that and it sounded like you could benefit from the advice. From my experience, my relationships didn’t work because I didn’t put effort into appeasing them.”

“That’s not my issue.”

“Perhaps not….”

“I don’t need to appease “men.” I always say, I only need one man. My goal is to have a good partnership. If I can partner well with someone, everything else will fall into place. I am not interested in being miserable or changing who I am to appeal to anyone’s idea of who they think I should be. Having a man isn’t that important to me – not at the expense of myself.”

“Well, I have no response to that. I’m not arguing.”

Even having typed this out, I’m still a bit speechless. Perhaps she needed to talk. Perhaps she really wanted to attack me. Perhaps she’s feeling the pressure of being a people- and man-pleaser. Whatever the case, she’s not doing herself any favors. Nor is she doing any favors for women or men in general.

bitmoji-20160411045417I may be a hopeless idealist, but I do believe there is value in being genuine. It’s not automatically antagonistic to state what you will and will not do or what you want, don’t want or what you will and will not accept. What I have learned through my interactions with people is that people who live honestly and fully as themselves will always incite resentment from people who practice hiding themselves as a way of getting people to like and accept them. Hiders will always be insecure, because they do not generally allow for opportunities for others to truly get to know who they are. They only allow for their social representative to be known: the good guy, the nice girl, the charmer and the sweetheart. In doing this, they become stuck and beholden to a false image they created to interact with and please a public they will never really know.

 

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2015 Emmys: A Trifecta of Strong Black Women

“‘In my mind, I see a line, and over that line I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line… but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800’s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

~ Viola Davis on accepting her first Emmy for Leading Actress

Orange is the New Black
American Crime
How to Get Away With Murder

The intention of this post is not to focus on the fact that crime and violence are at the center of each of the shows Uzo Aduba, Regina King and Viola Davis won Emmys for during the 67th Emmy Awards on  Sunday, September 20, 2015… which happens to be the first Emmy program I’ve watched in full since… I don’t know when…. I’ll save that analysis for another post.

The intention of this post is to bask in the glory of black womanhood – in all her collective complexity, grace, humility, gratitude, strength, perseverance, life-giving, life-building forthrightness and beauty.

Source: http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2015/09/regina-uzo-viola-black-2015-emmy-awards.html
Source: http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2015/09/regina-uzo-viola-black-2015-emmy-awards.html

Three black women won Emmys – the highest industry award for their craft – in one night. I was happy for Uzo Aduba – though I only gotten through the first eight episodes or so of the first season of Orange is the New Black. Her character, Crazy Eyes, left an impression for sure. When Uzo Aduba accepted her Emmy, her gratitude was inspiring and beautiful witness.

“Hi. I really just want to say ‘Thank you’ a thousand times! If I could say ‘thank you’ a thousand times, it would not be enough to cover the amount of thanks that I feel for you, Jenji Kohan. I love you so much! I appreciate you for putting belief back in my heart. I love you. Thank you for making this show, for creating this space – for making a platform…. I love you most for your kindness! Thank you…. Thank you everybody! [I want to say thank you to my team] I love you most…mostly.. because you let me be me!”

~ Uzo Aduba on accepting her second consecutive Emmy for the same character, Crazy Eyes on Orange is the New Black, Netflix

Like many other black women of my generation, I’ve grown, aged and matured watching Regina King in countless roles on the small and big screens beginning with 227 in the late 1980’s. Her speech warmed my heart. She’s been a working actress for over twenty years, well-known and acclaimed and during her speech she put motherhood front and center as her greatest accomplishment. That warmed my heart and gave me hope.

“I was not expecting this, so I am just going to listen to God and just give gratitude for all the love that surrounds me. Thank you [to many]…. My amazing mother and grandmother who have taught me the power and the blessing of being a woman…. And this is absolutely amazing… My son Ian [sigh], the fact that I get to share this night with you, the best date in the house… ah, man… you make being a mother my greatest accomplishment. I love you! Cheers!  

Regina King on accepting her first Emmy, for Best Supporting Actress in Limited Series or Movie, American Crime, ABC

I can’t tell you the first time I saw Viola Davis on screen. I don’t know what her first role was or if I saw it in real time. But I can say that I have known her – and women like her – most of my life: her rawness, her emotional honesty and power, her determination to allow her presence to be seen and experienced as equally noteworthy talent no matter her role or amount of screen time. Watching Viola evolve into a Hollywood powerhouse and a dynamic voice has been a distinctly awesome experience.

“‘In my mind, I see a line, and over that line I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line… but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800’s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else, is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people… people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman. To be Black! And to the Taraji P. Hensons, Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Megan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line! Thank you… to the Television Academy.”

~ Viola Davis on accepting her first Emmy for Leading Actress in a Drama Series, How to Get Away With Murder, ABC 

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All that glitters is not gold.

EFF Group shot 2000-2009
I had a great time this weekend. I had been looking forward to seeing and meeting people who had shared the same rare opportunity as me – working for the Johnson Publishing Company as an Ebony Fashion Fair Model (EFF). I had always considered the Ebony Fashion Fair as my sorority – a sisterhood of shared fashion and entertainment memory. Of shared childhood dreams of modeling and becoming part of the history of an iconic American brand (Ebony Magazine) that came to represent everything that was dream worthy to Black America. It has been a joy and a pleasure to have had the EFF as one of the many opportunities God has colored and tailored my life with.

That being said, I want to caution people who praise and over-admire the physical beauty of people.

The first time anyone ever called me “gorgeous” was when I was 25 and they had just learned that I would be modeling for Ebony Fashion Fair. That memory has stayed with me all these years. It has grounded me. I had worked in the same office as that woman for over a year and she had never as much as spoken to me. I didn’t ask at the time, but I certainly thought, “Am I only ‘gorgeous’ because you perceive models to be gorgeous and now that someone will pay me to wear clothes that makes me attractive?”

It was a disturbing idea for me. My time with EFF was discombobulating for that very reason. I never thought anyone ever saw ME. They saw a brand. They saw an image. They did not see, nor did they want to see LA’SHAWNDA.

Many beautiful people buy into the adulation of other people. I don’t consider myself a physically beautiful person. And I’m okay with that. I would prefer for my beauty to always shine from the inside. And with that, people who share parts of my life may describe me as a beautiful person after they have taken the time to get to know ME. After they’ve invested TIME, not blind, worthless admiration, to get to know and appreciate LA’SHAWNDA the person.

I’m sharing this because one question and follow-up question to a few people this weekend caused a cat-storm to rain over my head last night. My question: “How are you doing?”

Each replied in different conversations: “Great!!!”

Each time I asked: “Is that a real great?” It didn’t quite ring true. (Cue cats.)

They each assured me: “I am absolutely great! Everything’s wonderful!”

Last night one of girls, after several drinks, started complaining to a mutual friend of ours, as I stood there, that I was a Debbie-downer. Suddenly everything about my outfit was wrong, I needed a wardrobe make-over, my wig was horrible and needed to be retired. “Why would you ask someone if their ‘great’ was real,” this person snapped at me.

“Why would someone tell me they’re ‘great’ if they’re not,” I replied.

I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it: You can’t have a real conversation with people who are sharing false information.

If my asking someone if their “‘great’ is a real ‘great'” leads to me being attacked, well… the attack sort of answers my question. If my sitting on the floor for a crowded group picture leads to half the women in the photo gasping in horror and a couple of other folks telling me how crazy I am for doing that, then the shallowness of their superficiality is beyond my ability to explain or even understand.

I say this because people who only receive and appreciate validation based on how they look are only ever going to be concerned with the image they portray and how other people view them. There will be nothing more important to them than the illusion they create for their public’s consumption. The illusion of their fabulosity. The falseness of their greatness.

My responses when people I knew asked me how I was:  “I’m good. No real complaints.”

“Do you really mean that?” (Attempt to give me some of my own medicine.)

“Yeah. There’s always the fact that I don’t have a man or children, but life has been good to me. My biggest complaint this week is that I couldn’t take another week off work. Is that really a problem?”

“What do you do?”  

“I’m an administrative assistant.”

End of conversation. They got more truth than they expected. But I had no issue with speaking my truth. i do what I do. I am who I am. It is what it is. And LIFE IS GOOD!

My point here is: Truth and honesty about who/where you are in life contributes more to your life satisfaction than projecting greatness. Once the lights go off, can people still see you? Were you truly emanating light? Or were you only reflecting the artificial light from the depths of your emptiness?

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Stop and smell the flowers…

This is the beauty that stopped me in my tracks this morning! You may have thought I exaggerated yesterday when I mentioned that tulips stop me in my tracks each spring. Well, today there was a witness. 🙂

Tulip

These beautiful blooms were in large planters outside my office building this morning. A colleague across the way saw me stop mid-stride and called out in alarm, “What’s the matter? Are you ok?” By the time I was able to drag my eyes away from the flowers and locate her, she was practically at my side. All I could say was, “The tulips are blooming!” {Visual: me w/dazed and simplistic smile}

She laughed. “You stopped to look at flowers?” {There may have been a good amount of NYC condescension there….}

With big besotted smile, I replied, “Yes, I did! You should pause and take them in too!”

She looked down at the tulips with a bemused grin. “They already look like they’re dying.”

purple flower

Ah! Amazing the different perspectives we view the world from. True, the leaves were not in good shape – many were brown and dry, but seriously, how can anyone fault the color and the freshness of the bloom? I pointed that out to her and she asked if I was going to smell them too even as I leaned down to do just that. Another shocked laugh from her, but she seemed to relax quickly. She even stayed and chatted with me as I framed and took the photos above. I insisted she smell the flowers too! Her scoffing turned into a moment of amazement. 😉

Who would’ve thought I could add “Floral Ambassador” to my list of life roles?  🙂

Today’s lesson: If you’re scoffing at beauty, you certainly can’t be enjoying it! True beauty is not the absence of flaws. True beauty is found in the presence of true appreciation. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings.

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The tulips are coming! The tulips are coming!

image

Spring has been on my mind this week because winter has loosened its grip on the City for the moment. I used to think summer was my favorite season of the year, but I haven’t gotten this excited over summer since I had reason to sing with the rest of the student body, “No more classes! No more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks! Yay, Summer Vacation!” Yeah, apparently summer only represented no daily responsibilities to me back then. Spring however has always represented freshness, renewal, life, beauty. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have watched eagerly for the budding of flowers. The one flower that stops me in my tracks every year is the tulip. Tulips always bring me joy.  🙂

In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate that every season, in its time, is my favorite season. There’s no anticipation of newness in summer, but there is ample opportunity to enjoy the beauty of everything that has bloomed. Autumn illuminates the beauty of change. No one fears change in the fall because the colors of change are so magnificent. Winter covers the dead things that did not survive change in a blanket of white. Washing away some things, burying others and allowing what remains the healing balm of hibernation.

There is a purpose for the season you are in. Make sure you get what you’re meant to get from it.