"I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live" -Francoise Sagan Novelist, Screenwriter


Friday, November 6, 2009

I Am Not My Hair!

So, I don't know if posted a PSA, but I have come to a cross-roads in my life...more like a 4-lane highway. I've decided to transition my hair from permed to it's natural state. What started off as part of a simple healthy hair maintenance regime has now become a full blown project and life style change!  I've turned to some of my sisters who wear their hair natural or whose strands are twisted or locked and what I received from our conversations were the laws of hair dos and don'ts: absolutely no shampooing, wide-tooth combs only, NEVER comb when hair's dry, silk scarves, not cotton please, use this cream, condition with this daily, make sure the product doesn't have mineral oil in it.  I've found myself reading websites and blogs, watching videos on Youtube, subscribing to magazines, reading product labels, conducting polls.  I feel more like I've joined the research department...or a cult!  I hope I don't have to sacrifice a 3-legged virgin goat before I can become a part of the club.
     Over the past few years, I have definitely noticed a divergence of the sisterhood - the permed hair and natural hair wearers.  Sort of similar to this...(to silence currently playing music, go to the right margin and hit the Yankee girl's pause button on her iPod Shuffle)

This has only been heightened by the popularity of Neo-Soul music and it's artists.  Singers like Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott have made it more fashionable and socially acceptable to rock a natural do.  When I go to the concerts, I've definitely received sideways glances from my afro-wearing or locked haired sisters.  Like "How dare you still conform to that European look!  You're not a real fan!  India.Arie wears an afro!!" 
     But not even my alligence to Jill Scott would sway my decision to completely go natural.  It just seemed like there was too much work I'd have to put into untreated hair.  The ease of styling and up-keep is the reason I got my hair permed in the first place.  Those who attended Girard College with me may remember I didn't have a perm when I first started.  Here I was 12-years-old, 95 miles away from home at a boarding school,  playing sports, running wild and without an adult to care for my hair.  There were many a-night I sat between someone's legs getting my hair cornrowed for the week or "rocked rough and tough with my afro puffs" like Lady of Rage.  I begged my mother for a relaxer just for the leisure of quickly slicking my hair into a ponytail and heading out the door to school as opposed to the hour-long beating I'd have to give my natural hair in order for it to have the discipline of staying in a barrett.  All these bad memories came up in conversations with friends when I was asking for advice about "going natural."  Sensing my frustration, and my urge to give up, go to my Dominican beautician and have her give me a touch-up, a friend of mine suggested we go see Chris Rock's movie, "Good Hair."  I needed a little follicle comic relief and I'd heard friends say great things about the movie.
     The premise of the film is an exploration of a topic that has been discussed in the Black community for generations now: "good" hair.  That was a phrase I remember being thrown around so often in my childhood and I always despised it.  Good hair, meaning without kinks or curls, long and silky like a doll's synthetic mane.  In the 90s, Blacks started saying "have Indian in your family" in lieu of "good hair."  The phrases are so demeaning.  To say that any part of a race's body in it's natural state, whether it be large or thin lips, noses, hips, rear ends, etc., is not good is unhealthy for the mind of society.  How could something passed down from my the blood line of my people not be beautiful or meet your standard thereof?  A host of female celebrities interviewed for the movie all state how getting their hair relaxed as youths made them "look beautiful" and "feel pretty, like Farrah Fawcett."  I cringed listening to that in the theatre.  I grew up with so  many girls whose self-esteem was low because their hair was not straightened or didn't dangle down their backs.  And worse yet, other kids would tease them about it. 
     Chris Rock delves into the rise of the hair care industry's remedy for short, kinky hair - the wig and weave.  With costs ranging upwards of $1000, weaves are an expensive quick-fix - sort of a new age plastic surgery for women of all races.  The major source of most human hair used in weaves are the from the heads of innocent Indian women.  This, to me, was the most disturbing of all facts in the film.  The natives of India believe that hair is a suggestion of vanity.  It's a great sacrifice to God if one forfeits her hair.  In a tradition, whose name I can neither remember how to spell or pronounce, women are going to the holy temple and having their manes shaved off with a razor similar to the props used by a barbershop quartet.  Almost every woman in the country has had her head shaved at least twice in her life, even as a toddler.  What concerned me most was the irony of the holy duty of removing an Indian woman's hair and the multi-billion dollar a year business that is transporting that hair to America and using it in weaves and wigs.  Capitalism at it's finest!  The love of God is being used to get women "good" hair.
     For me, what the documentary really brought to light was the rousing that we suffer through all in an effort to, amusingly enough, relax our hair.  From straightening combs to perms, it's a form of self-inflicted torture.  Forget waterboarding, the government should give terrorists a perm in order to get them to talk.  Better yet, scratch their scalp first, then administer the perm.  I think I am going to try going natural, if only to give my follicles a break from chemical warfare with Dark'n'Lovely.  Sure it will be a lot more work than I'm used to.  I just may be bald within a week because I don't have the green thumb of hair care.  Aside from grooming utensils like combs and brushes, I have 0 hair products in my home and the only style I know besides the result of taking my hair out of a wrap, is the ponytail.  Pray for me.
     "Good" hair is healthy hair.  Well taken care of hair.  Whether you're making weekly trips to a salon (being subjected to the telenovelas on constant rotation) or performing Pilates stances in your grandmother's kitchen to get your head underneath the faucet, let's make sure our procedures are promoting healthy hair growth.  It doesn't matter if it's short and kinky-cremed or long and free-following like the Pantene girl, please don't let society decide if you have "good" hair or not.  I refused to be defined by what adorns the crown of my head and am determined to be defined by what's in it.  I am not my hair.

And uh, I don't even have to say it, do I?  Ah, what the hell.  WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!  Great series boys!  Hats off to the Phillies - definitely the defending champs.

Just some reflections from my heart.  Love is contagious, spread it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

De Todo Un Poco - A Little of Everything

Yo quiero saber    I want to know
de todo un poco   a little bit of everything
Yo quiero tener     I want to have
de todo un poco    a little bit of everything
Yo quiero gozar,    I want to enjoy,
yo quiero bailar,    I want to dance,
y quiero cantar     and I want to sing
de todo un poco    a little bit of everything
Yo quiero probar   I want to try
de todo un poco    a little bit of everything
Yo quiero lograr    I want to get
de todo un poco    a little bit of everything
Yo quiero vivir,     I want to live,
Yo quiero reir        I want to laugh
y quiero sentir       and I want to feel
pero de todo un poco just a little bit of everything,
De todo un poco    A little bit of everything (repeat)

     I was sitting in my room last week, toying with my blog and fighting writer's blog like Mike Tyson in 1990.  I figured I needed a little musical distraction. I happened upon my Spanish playlist and it was on! It was like Old San Juan up in here. The only thing missing was a white, sandy beach by my door, and an old man selling mangos at the foot of my bed. Celia Cruz? "Azucar!" Check. Jerry Rivera? Check. Selena? ABSOLUTAMENTE! Check. 
     After doing some solo Salsa moves in my mirror, another song popped in my head.  As I mentally translated the words into English, I suddenly realized what my next blog would be about.  Writer's block just got TKO'ed.  It was a tune I remembered from my childhood, "De Todo Un Poco," the song so pleasantly sung for you now by Michael Lloyd and Le Disc.  For those from my generation, you'll know it's the tune from Dirty Dancing.  I've taken the liberty of translating it for my non-Hispanic readers. 
     The words really got me to thinking: all everyone wants is...a little bit of everything!  We want to be loved,  have a great job, a nice home, a family, be rich, independent, cared for, well-fed.  Content in all areas of life.  As I'm day dreaming and analyzing life, I hear items falling off my table and crashing to the floor.  I knew automatically...Shadow Rascal.  I had to put down my imaginary Margarita and leave my mirage of Mexico that was my room and go see which of my possessions I'd have to glue back together.  Shadow (because of his color) Rascal (because of his actions) is the kitten I'd gotten from my mother as a birthday gift last month.  Only a few weeks old when I received him, he could fit in the palm of your hand and was an adorable ball of gray fur.  Now, he's a terror, instilling fear in all who enter my home, like a four-legged Chucky.  This is the fourth kitten I've had and he's by far the worst.  I walked into the livingroom and surveyed all the broken candlestick holders and vases that were now refuse on my floor, adding the cost of them all in my head.  I couldn't get mad.  I smiled slyly, laughed and thought to myself  Shadow Rascal has de todo un poco, a little of everything.
     Since becoming our newest housemember, Shadow Rascal has turned our lives upside down.  At anytime, you're likely to hear "STOP SHADOW RASCAL!!" or "Get down from there Shadow Rascal!" or "Shadow's tearing ____ up!" or more than likely "I'm gonna kill this kitten!!"  I know he's not intently trying to sabotage what we have.  But he's living without borders, without restrictions and what's great is he doesn't even know it how great that is. 
     Any little thing makes his tail wag.  We got him some kitten toys with bells, whistles and some that makes noise when you squeeze them.  Sure, he enjoys them.  But give him a balled up piece of paper, and his tails wags just as hard.  He has many loves in his life.  He's a leg man!  Being as though that's about as far as he can reach from where he stands, he loves to grab legs.  He doesn't just grab, but jumps on a leg with all fours like a fireman rushing down the pole.  Please don't wear socks!  It's like you're taunting him with mobile, colorful baubles.  He thrusts his body on a passer-by's foot with the might of Crocodile Dundee wrestling a gator. He loves my 10-year-old cat, Cocoa Leavio.  He wants to sleep where Cocoa sleeps, scratch when Cocoa scratches, even eat what Cocoa eats.  I have a box of kitten food in the cabinet that's still about 3/4 full.  After being with us a week, Shadow decided he would only eat Cocoa's food.  He's completely full of bliss and enjoys the life he has.  Why aren't we this way?
     Having Shadow Rascal around is much like having a child in the house.  Children too have a little of everything find happiness in it.  Once an adult, you realize how grand life was when you were young.  George Bernard Shaw said youth is wasted on the young.  You don't understand how carefree life is and how good you have it as a child until you become an adult.  The only job you have is going to school, you may be assigned a couple of chores.  And for that you get an allowance.  My 7-year-old godson, Joseph's, latest gripe with the world: he wants to be allowed to cross the main avenue in my neighborhood by himself so that he can go to the park alone.  Having a "big person," as he likes to say, hold his hand makes him feel like a baby.  How many of us wish someone would hold our hand in public?    Joseph doesn't like to have to eat the dinner prepared for him.  He doesn't understand why can't cook his own food or order pizza every night.  Ladies, wives, single mothers: how many of you wish dinner was cooked and the table was already set after coming home from a lonnnggg day's work?  Boys for some odd reason have the toughest time wanting to keep up with their hygiene.  Joseph despises the fact he has to wash, brush his teeth, put on deodorant, go to the barber with regularity and wear his coat when it's cold, keep his shoes tied, go to school, do his homework, etc.  How many adults wish someone cared enough about them to want to protect them, keep them healthy or assist them with daily tasks?  My aunt made a joke the other day while we were all sitting at my grandmother's house.  She's newly single and we were talking about dating.  She turned to my mother and said, "Remember those days when we were young and didn't want Momma to meet our dates cause we thought she'd embarass us?  Man, now I wish I could take Momma on a date with me!  She'd be able to tell me things about him that I can't see.  She always could, I just didn't  listen then."
    Why aren't we appeased by what God's given us?    You may not live in a mansion, but you're not homeless.  You may not be swimming in gold and riches, but you have yet to starve.  You may not be married to Denzel Washington, but...wait...that's my dream.  Sorry!  You may not love your job, but at least you're not unemployed.  What we want and don't have, we must work hard, and pray harder, to achieve or obtain it.  The wonderful thing is, everyday God blesses us with, we get a chance to go out and get what we want. Yesterday my mind was so swamped with all the things I want to do, don't have the money to do, don't have the opportunity to do, don't have the ability to do.  You know, the devil was working me overtime!  But I woke up this morning and realized the only limits that exist are the ones I place on myself.  And even if I'm not able to do any of the things I want like travel, buy a home, marry Denzel...oops, I did it again, I still have de todo un poco.  That's my wish for you all.  Realize you may not have it all that you want, but you have a little of everything you need

PS - LET'S GO YANKEES!  Have a safe and happy Halloween all.
Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where Is The Love?

Romance is dead
is what they said
while sittin around cheating at pool
The very last frame
of this nine ball game
the cat who had the date
on the top of the empire state
is the one who got hustled
like a fool

"They say chivalry is dead. I think it just has the flu!" - Meg Ryan

This time that I've been without a 9-5, has been a blessing in that I've been allowed to be still. I don't have to do the early morning shuffle to the plantation (a family friend's nickname for the job site), nor skate around the office building fulfilling end user's every request. No longer am I beaten down by the battle that is enduring MTA rush hour traffic at the city's work dismissal time. I've virtually stopped all the hustle and bustle and listened. I've had time to catch up with my gurls during hours-long conversations and head to the library to hsee what topics people are writing about these days and what they call a "good read." I've sat still and caught all the new shows on television. In other words, I've been paying attention to the world. What I've been able to infer is: people feel that love is dead!

For the first time in the history of this country, there are more single (including divorcees) than married people. The only show on network television that starred an African-American family, Everybody Hates Chris, has been cancelled. It seems that even Hollywood has veered away from showcasing wholesome families, which is supposed to be indicative of the pulse of our country. Reality TV and all its "if you can outlast every person in this obstacle course, I will give you a rose and I'll have fallen in love with you" are ruining the essence of what love truly is.  If you're paying attention to these outlets such as TV, it would appear that there is a void of love in this world.
Now, I cannot use personal experiences to combat that statement because my last date was...well does the phrase "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind" give you an idea of the time period? My dating history reads more like a haiku than a story; I really wouldn't need all 17 syllables either. It's not because I've been hurt, which I have (that's a different blog post). I just don't feel like I've come across that guy yet. The guy I want to "happily ever after," or even "happily until the wine wears off." I've never been into dating as a sport. Insert all my homegurl's scoldings and badgering comments here __________________.  Just seems like a waste of time to continuously go out, trying men out like pairs of shoes, to see which one fits best. 

The one thing I don't do, and I encourage my single friends to prohibit themselves from doing, is saying love doesn't exist because I haven't found the Prince Charming yet. A lot of times, we're looking for this perfect person - I'm guilty of doing that myself. That I can tell you does not exist. I read an article about the Guiness Book of Record's longest married couple. Married 85 years, as of May, 2009, Zelmyra Fisher only had these kinds words to describe the first introduction to her husband Herbert, "He was nice to me." She said that's what made her marry him.

I do believe that love lurks in the atmosphere around us, just waiting for it's next victims to pounce on and attack. My entire faith base is supported by my belief that God so loved the world and thought enough of us to give his only begotten son. He created a love so strong that eventhough I sin daily, He forgives all my transgressions from yesterday, and today allowed me to start anew. To me, that's the greatest testament to the power and existence of love. I have been witness to the great power of love's charge. 

I remember years ago, when I lived in Brooklyn, my grandmother used to be the home aide for this elderly woman, Mrs. Williams, a few days a week.  Mrs. Williams lived with her husband in the same development where we lived.  She was in her late 80s-early 90s, had gone blind from glaucoma (I believe), had lost all control of her bowel and urinary movements so she wore sanitary undergarments which constantly needed changing, she spoke only a few words in hushed tones, Alzheimer's had left her with only bits and pieces of the memories of her life or people most important to her, and had to be carried because she was too weak to walk.  Her husband Mr. Williams was a 90-something-year-old, 6'0" tall man, who, despite time not being on  his side, still drove his car everyday and went to work for the majority of the week (hence the need for there to be someone to care for his wife).  By listening to Mr. Williams speak about his wife, one would never know that most of the time, she didn't even recognize him.  With all her ailments and just the toll time had taken on her body, he still spoke of her like she was a covergirl.  He still used terms of endearment like "Mama" and would say things like "She's still just as beautiful as the day I married her."  When he was home during my grandmother's visits, he'd watch her and tell my grandmother, "Uh, make sure you be gentle Mrs. Burton.  Mama doesn't like her hair brushed that way...don't do it too hard...put this dress on her, she looks so pretty in that dress."  They'd been married about 70+ years.  In his eyes, it was as if he were just courting her all those years ago.  He said he felt that same spark in his heart for her that he did when they first met.

Even before love has matured and has the staying power of lasting generations like the Williams', you have puppy love.  The wonderful feeling that comes to those who are young in mind and age and who are ignorant of life's hardships.  When we first started dating, my high school sweetheart would write me letters just about every period.  And eventhough there were only 3 minutes between each school period, we'd HAVE to meet each other at one of our lockers or the restrooms or the stairwell just to see the other's smile or maybe steal a kiss.  Afterschool, we'd seperate so that we may attend sports practice but by dinnertime, we'd reconvene at the cafeteria hall because it'd been hours since we were together last.  As the years went on, we weren't always together but we didn't have to be.  Because whenever I'd see him, I still feel that jump in my heart that I felt from the very beginnging.

I was in Times Square this week and I walked past a teenage couple.  We were walking towards each other and I couldn't tell how old they were because I couldn't see their faces that well.  But I knew they must have been teens because it was written all over the young lady's face.  Her arm was linked into his and she was looking up at him with such contentment, like what he was saying was so profound.  She was smiling from ear-to-ear, wearing that puppy love grin I wore so many times years ago.  I know the look.  Ahh Puppy Love: When she feels like he's the greatest being in the world and he doesn't want anyone to say anything bad about her - not even Mom or Dad - and they both think they're going to be together forever.  He was holding a couple of Happy Birthday balloons and carrying take-out from a restaurant.  If they knew how fast that time moves, they'd want to walk in slow motion and hold on to those moments.  Once they actually walked by and I could see the glow beaming off of them up close, I got a little misty, wishing I could have that good, innocent time back.  "Enjoy it kids!" my heart was screaming at them.  

I don't believe that people actually question if love really exists or where to find it. The million dollar question is: How the hell do you stay in love?

The only way to maintain love is for both parties to work on it.  I always say relationships are such hard work because it's taking two lives and welding them into one.  No two people are alike and as long as you live, your feelings, thoughts and emotions will constantly change...sometimes about the one you love.  I can remember sitting through countless football games with an ex of mine.  I didn't even understand the game.  I was more of a Superbowl commercial-watcher than a fan of the sport.  But it was something he liked to do on lazy Sunday afternoons, so I thought once in a while, I could enjoy it with him.  Plus who doesn't like to see buff guys in tights beat the hell out of each other?  I'd go on trips with my little brothers and their camps every summer.  Did I not have anything else to do with my summer than going to see the Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo again, or visit Lady Liberty for the 1,000th time since my childhood?  Of course I did.  But I knew they loved having me there.  Plus, they could syphon money out of me for souvenirs and junk food at the concession stands.  I absolutely abhor being the first to apologize after an argument, especially when I know I'm right...which is most of the time, lol.  But have I done it in the name of love?  Sadly, yes!  The benefits received from doing those simple things for the man I loved, or the brothers I love as my own children, were astronomical. 

One thing I did realize while in love was that I was so glad I got a chance to know and love myself first before I entered a relationship.  Lots of times we neglect getting to know the man in the mirror first.  Get to know you and what you like, be ok with being by yourself.  Date you!  Whenever I feel like it, I go to the mall or movies or even to dinner by myself.  It's wonderful to enjoy a nice seafood dinner and not be bogged down with a dinner partner's meaningless conversation.  Kind of difficult to savor good calamari AND pretend to be interested in what someone's talking about.  You must learn about yourself and your dislikes, turn-offs, wants, dreams, etc. before you can begin to take interest in someone else.  Only then will you know what you will and will not tolerate from someone else.  You'll know what you deserve and what you're worth!  Soooo important.

Once you've gotten to know you, learn about and listen to the other person.  I've never been in a relationship with a person who I just met.  We've always been friends for months, sometimes years, before beginning a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.  By the time we'd fallen in love, we already had love for each other.  I could tell you a boyfriend's favorite things, something about his family, finish his sentences and vice versa.  Courting makes for a  stronger bond.  You will also find out if you and this person should or should not be with each other.  Maybe your views are too different, you don't want the same things.  Find out these things before investing your time and your heart.

Where is the love?  Wherever we make it.  We spend a lot of time looking for love that we already have.  Maybe you haven't met Mr. Right yet.  But you have a great relationship with your family.  You and your mother have a tight bond, you have a wonderful set of friends or just one or two good friends you've been close with for years.  Love comes in so many forms in this life.  A lot of times we neglect to cherish the love that's already around us. 

Learning to compromise, forgive and love someone as you love yourself are sometimes the hardest things to do. But they're the ingredients to perfecting and keeping a relationship.  Even when we do these things doesn't always mean we'll get to meet the person we're made for or have a relationship that lasts long enough to get you in the Guiness Book of Records.  But you will be prepared for when s/he shows up.
Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!
~ Ms. P

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rapper's Delight

With the recent influx of reality trash TV, I have given up some of my favorite channels, cold turkey.  MTV, TLC, Oxygen - this means you!  ABC redeemed itself with Dancing With The Stars.  How many shows can snatch Cloris Leachman from next door to Mary Tyler Moore in '75, jump to the 80s and kidnap her from the Eastland School where she took over her sister, Edna Garrett's, job of babysitting Tooti, Blair and gang, put her in a time machine, fast forward 20 some-odd years and have her in a studio ballroom, dancing the Flamenco-infused Tango to Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" at age 82?  But I digress.

Every station you turn to while channel surfing has some sort of eat-a-bug, resist-committing-adultery-on-a-ship-of-singles, you-are-the-weakest-link so vote-your-teammate-off-the-island-out-of-the-house-off-the-game-show, lose-weight-lose-your-run-down-home, swap-wives-husbands-children-homes-genitalia-type of show and my eyes and brain are on strike for lack of substance to view! 

But around this time every year, I get a little bit excited about TV.  Amongst all the rubbish, there is a gem of a show.   On the night it airs, I cut all means of communication and make it "me" time.  Then I grab a pair of baggy Girbauds, a rope chain, matching door knockers earrings, a dude with a high-top fade, a pair of scissors and give myself an A-symmetrical cut, a pair of Reebok Classics (that's $54.11s to some of you), a Coke and a smile and prepare for one of my favorite shows:  Vh1's Hip-Hop Honors.

Now, Vh1 and I once had a little love affair going on.  Being the musicmonger that I am, I loved the network's spawn like "Behind The Music" (moral= basically all 80s rockers got high, got laid by Kelly Bundy-looking chicks and are now upstanding husbands living in Surburbia, USA, taking their daughters to school - that's you Whitesnake and Twisted Sister);  "Where Are They Now?" ("Right Said Fred" is not too sexy to work the drive-thru..."You want fries with that?"); "Pop Up Video" with all it's breaking news like, Did you know before starring in Lars and the Real Girl, Ryan Gosling was joined by Justin and the fake girls, Britney and Christina Aguilera. Yes, that's right, he was a Mouseketeer, performing horribly choreographed dance moves and singing songs that'd make even Barney puke!; "I Love the 80s" which made me go "Hmmm, America should have suspected Doogie Howser, M.D. was gay because Vinnie tipped through his window just a little too often; and it's sister network...the mother of all that is good and pure...Vh1 Soul.  That's just good ol' American fun right there.  But I took Vh1 off my DVR list and put it on my DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)  list once the buffonery of Flavor of Love and it's trainwreck trail of shows began to air.  However, after the first airing of HHH, I was in love again. 

What a concept! A 2-hour testament to the theory many people had almost 30 years ago: this Rap thing just may be around for a while.  At first, I was angry.  I couldn't fathom why one of "our" networks couldn't have toyed with this idea.  Especially since Hip-Hop music, it's artists and videos are the driving force behind BET.  "Uhh Bob Johnson, you dropped the ball...and sold out so you could play with the ball in Charlotte with those ragedy Bobcats!"  TVOne?  "Cathy Hughes, ummm hellllooooo!" 

The timing of HHH debut a few years ago was so right on.  We're living in a time where Hip-Hop is under attack, and rightfully so.  The vulgar language, the glorification of violence and crime, the complete lack of respect for women.  The videos are mere infernos of G-strings, liquor and backsides for men to slap and hump.  I have a one-year-old nephew and I wouldn't dare allow him listen to that mockery of music.  I don't want him to think because the lyrics rhyme and it has a good beat, it's ok to shoot a gun and demean a woman.  I prefer he have better instructions as to how to lead his life.  I am grown and it's very rare that I tune into the local Hip-Hop radio station on any given day.  Eventhough all four of my eyes have witnessed some of the truisms about which rapper's speak, my brain cannot stand being bombarded with the goings-on of the 'hood.  I lived it.  It's not as glamorous as a Gucci Mane song.  Sorry!

I grew up during an era when Hip-Hop was called Rap and it was initially about raising awareness about the poor and down-trodden.  Bringing the social inequalities suffered by the minorities to the masses through the vehicle which "we" have been using since Slavery: song.  Thank you South Bronx!  Then it morphed into a healthy competition of sorts for the teens with ADD and a rhyming dictionary.  Thank you Biz Markie and KRS-ONE!  Rap was fun then and HHH celebrates that.  Thank you Viacom!

Please allow me to take you back...way back, back into time when...

-The only entourage a rapper showed up with at an event was his DJ and his Addidas suit-clad break dancers. 
-The only producers rappers had were their DJs (RIP Jam Master Jay).  Sorry Puffy!
-The only show that displayed rap videos (for those of us NYers who didn't have cable) was "Video Music Box" on Saturdays.  Back down MTV!
-When Herbie "Luv Bug" managed just about every rap group from NY.  Move over Violator!
-When all you needed was skill, a microphone and a turntable.  Eat your heart out autotune!
-(like it's predecessor in the 50s, Rock'n'Roll music) There were no skin color barriers if you had actual talent.  Thank you Beastie Boys, uhh...where are you Vanilla Ice?  3rd Bass, you get an honorable mention because "Gas Face" was funny.  You may enter stage left Eminem and crush and destroy any White boy heard before you.

This was one of my favorite performances of the night.

Moreso than me being a huge fan of the HHH show, I am a fan of the epoch in which it reveres.  The 80s were a civil time of Rap.  Yes, there were beefs but they were mostly fought on wax.  There were no gang affliations (not publicly known anyway), colored bandanas worn, tatts on the face or threats on the other's life.  You simply grabbed the mic and rhymed about how much better your lyrics were and how more expensive your clothes are.  Thank you Big Daddy Kane!  There were strong, feminine voices on the forefront too.  Ladies who wanted to shed stereotypes rather than clothing.  Thank you Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, sit down Lil' Kim and Foxy!    You may rise Lauryn Hill, if you can take a break from making babies and make an appearance at a concert on time!  Despite the fact that it was a competition, a business if you will, the artists were friends and fans of one another.  You'd hear rappers applauding each other in radio interviews and complimenting each other's styles and success in records.  Two years ago, I believe, one of the honorees was Big Daddy Kane.  Of course, along with accepting the honor, you must perform one of your songs.  BDK hit the stage and the magic appeared.  The crowd went wild, his cocky persona....er...I believe it's called swagger now, was relit and it was on.  And although he's quite a Big Mac and milkshake meal from being the size he was in '88, BDK executed all his old dance steps - even flipping in the air.  As spectacular as that was to witness, it all paled in comparison to seeing LL Cool J, a legend in his own right (like it or not) and an honoree himself if I'm not mistaken, out of his seat, bopping his head back and forth, smiling from ear-to-ear and mouthing ALL the words to BDK's hit.  That's love!

Rap is my generation's rebel music, it speaks to us because we lived it!  I am a lover of Hip-Hop and I won't stop loving it until it's healed.  I got the remedy.  I want to grab DMX and give him a hug!  Wait...first a bath, then a Tic Tac, then a hug.  I want to put Method Man and Redman back in the studio, take away the marijuana, give them some Ritalin and watch the magic happen.  I want to sit and talk to the guys from Onyx, tell them they can't act, give them some Rogain and stand back and watch the talent flow.  I need to get in touch with Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Busta Rhymes, get them out of Church's Chicken and back into the church because they need Jesus.  You  know Diabetes runs rampant through the veins of us minorities brothers.  The obese thing is not cute!  I want to grab a hold of Lil' Kim, take her to the factory where her mannequin was produced, melt her down and hopefully her former shell will emerge.  I want to take Lil' Wayne and put him over my knee and beat the platinum out of his mouth.  Now, it's true that Black mothers prescribe 'Tussin for everything.  But Wayne you KNOW your mother didn't mean take that much syrup!  And you have the nerve to be procreating?  UGH!

Hip-Hop is the Darwinist fusion of Rap, R&B, Blues and Soul.  No one could have predicted that Hip-Hop music, even liquified to it's purest elements, would be around this long.  Nor would there be a record label dedicated to publishing rap recordings that would withstand 25 years (thank you Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin for believing in Rap!).  I adore that there's a medium to commemorate Hip-Hop's achievement - even if surviving is it's most noted and only accomplishment.  I'm so appreciative that this generation can get a glimpse of what the art form used to be.  Not corporate whoring for a sneaker deal, or a clothing line or hawking liquor to your underage fans just so your picture can be on featured on a poster in every liquor store window.  Sit down Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Diddy!  Now, I shot'cha!  It was a platform  used to raise the level of consciousness of the people (thank you Public Enemy!) and also to spread good dance music (thank you Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance"!).  I hope this younger generation of rappers are taking notes during the HHH ceremony.  The lives and minds of our youth are being senselessly taken away because of the words someone says in a record (RIP Tupac and Biggie!).   I love that HHH are trying to keep the art alive.  But if we don't act now to reverse the destruction we've caused, there will be no music, nor any fans, left to save.

Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!
~ Ms. P

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Queens Shouldn't Swing, If You Know What I Mean...

The title of this blog entry came to me last December, well before the contents of the story did. My initial thought was to write a little commentary about sisterly love and how us descendants of Eve should cherish one another. Of course my brain's "to do" list is a scroll a thousand miles long and this blog got pushed to the side, as did the others. Low and behold, a friend of mine sent me the following video as a funny forward - something we should look at and laugh. (There's a 15-second commercial prior to the video)

Prior to that debacle, the following video of some high school cheerleaders in Lakeland, Florida made headlines across the country:

Well, I can't explain how mortified I was after watching those moments of gross hatred and rage. I was horrified, disturbed, angered...I don't think the thesaurus hosts enough adjectives for me to list to emphasize how enraged I was.  I think I was more appauled that this was something being glorified on the world wide web. I browsed through some of the viewers comments and some choice words range from Chris Tucker's infamous Friday line: "[She] got knocked the f--- out man!" to thoughts of semi-concern: "That's terrible. Dag, where was her girls to back her up?" 

For those of you who don't know me well, one of my favorite lines is "Am/Was I high?" when describing a moment I missed or something I don't comprehend. I call these lovely axioms Prannie-isms, if you will. My blogs are colored with them so grab a pen and enjoy the ride. But I digress.  Was I high when the memo went out stating that degrading every principle women were raised on is socially acceptable and forage for knee-slapping laughter, hand claps and meaningless conversation?  Like a Dilbert desk calendar?  After doing a little digging, I found that outlets such as Youtube are littered with these kinds of videos: girls, young ladies and/or women pounding at each other's faces, clawing at each other's throats, ravening for each other's blood with the ferociousness of a wild animal on it's prey.  It's almost as if there's a visual fixation for this lunacy.  Are we gathering our habits from snippets on the Discovery Channel? 

Having just turned 29 proves that I was not born in the Stone Age.  However, the time I came up in seems light years from today.  As a child, growing up in a family where the carriers of estrogen outnumbered the carriers of testosterone, I was raised with such a heightened sense of the unparalleled exquisiteness that is being a woman, I wouldn't dare disgrace it by marring another young woman.

Of course, as with all children, there were arguments over dolls or whose turn it was to control the tv.  And naturally there was hair-pulling at times when the debates got a little heated like if my friends and I were discussing which one of us would marry "the cute one" from KrissKross.  In East New York, Brooklyn, not complying with the strict rules of double-dutch would definitely get you mangled in fisticuffs and possibly chased home.  But never did we harbor the anger I see displayed in these videos.  And for what reason?  Apparently, the young cheerleaders from Lakeland, Florida wanted to gang up on the victim and record it just so they could upload the video onto Youtube and become world-reknown.  Like they were going to be crowned WWE Champions.  Had I ever been in the street fighting to the death like some of the battles I've seen on the net, it would have been my last venture outside, and also the last time I could sit down comfortably, after my parents got a hold of me.  

If these young women are not fighting, they're stripping!  A couple of weeks ago, I went to a parade here in the city with my mother.  There were a host of marching bands, complete with dancers, both pre-teened and late teenaged groups.  Well, they were doing some dance steps and gyrations that made me shame!  Already half-nude wearing nothing more than leotards and a smile, these babies were shaking parts of their bodies they weren't even familar with yet and lifting their limbs high in the air, displaying their mother nature to an audience of oggling, drooling, hormonal young men.   One poor young lady's corset shifted during a dance move and slid down below her breats.  She was unaware and both she and her exposed breasts continued to strut to the syncopated rhythm of the drum masters.  You could see the expression of bufuddlement on her face as she watched cameras and camera phones flash in her direction. 

After being devastated by the sea of thighs and breats of tender-aged young girls, I decided to go home.  Had I stayed a moment longer, it would have been mere seconds before I ran out into the mouth of the parade, grabbed every one of those young women and pulled them close to my bossom like a mother craddles a baby.  I wanted to tell each one what resplendent, young, creations of God they were.  Explain to them that their insides were too precious to be paraded around outside.  I had this urge to yell at them that they were beautiful and needn't have to take off their clothes, nor swivel their midsections, to receive attention.  Treat a man to the ultimate thrill by exposing to him 3 pounds of flesh that will really leave an impression of you...your brain.  And to expose that, you will have to shed nothing but self-doubt and gain self-esteem.  In my mind I could hear the voice of the incomparable Ms. Jill Scott crooning these befitting lyrics, "Lord, let [them] recognize the magnificence You created!  She’s been degraded, exploited, NOT celebrated.  Saturated with self hatred!"

I remember one day during my freshman year of high school, the seniors gathered my entire class together so that we may air out any differences between the sexes.  The topic was how the guys treat the girls.  One gentleman said, "Yeah well, some of these girls don't even respect themselves.  And that's how they get treated sometimes."  I can remember boiling with anger and saying "You must respect a woman even when she doesn't have the wherewithall to respect herself!  Even if she's a bum on the street or a prostitute and YOU don't feel she deserves to be respected!"  I felt like one of the students from EastSide High yelling at the mayor in defense of Joe Clark in Lean On Me, lol.  But again, I digress.  A woman is a lady and by being just that, she's earned the right to have your respect.

My prayer for these young women is to realize their power, for only then can they see the worth of themselves and other women.  Equipped with this knowledge, maybe they'll think twice before taking a swing or stab at another female.  A woman is such a delicate, emotional being, created from only the rib of man, yet we bring forth life.  And because of that, bear most of the world's pain.   A lady is to be celebrated and adored, admired and worshipped because we are creative,  stalwart in mind and body, refined and rugged, intelligent, astute and confident, and oft-times misunderstood because of these complexities.  And we're the weaker sex.  So men, imagine what you are capable of?

I get so perturbed by topics such as this because I know how I feel about beings of the female persuasion.  I have been raised by, befriended,  lived in close proximity to, studied with, worked with and by happenstance have just run into some of the most amazing women roaming Earth!  That's right, I mean you reading this blog.  Yes, you gurl!  My wish is that each of you worship yourself today.  You're a gorgeous, magnificently sculpted creation by God!  Remember that!  Bask in your femininity.    And after your self-glorification process is over (take as long as you like...let it spill over to tomorrow...heck, the weekend too), please exalt another woman you know.  Call your mother and tell her what a wonderous, she-ro she is.  Tell your daughter she's irreplacable and unique!  We let life's trials interfere with our purpose.  Your life's purpose is to be the best YOU you can be. 

A young lady I used to work with passed away this week.  We didn't work in the same department, I hadn't seen her in a long while, not since she left the company, and hadn't really thought about her much since seeing her last.  That is until I received the news of her passing.  Then the memories of her began to flood my thoughts.  Whenever I'd see her, she always complimented something about me - "I love those shoes!...Where do you buy your eyeglasses?...The color of that blouse looks great on you!"  Never phony, always genuine, rarely frowned eventhough I know she worked her tail off, carried a pleasant demeanor.  Every year we would dance like maniacs with each other to all the 80s songs at the company X-mas shindig.  I'd tease her name whenever I see her and she'd always giggle.  Today, I miss her laugh.  Didn't think the last time I saw her would be the last time I saw her.  Wish I could've told her simply, "Thank you for being so kind to me."

My message today is the same as it is everyday, we don't know how much time we have on this earth.  To those awe-inspiring women who I've had the pleasure of being raised by, befriending, neighboring, working/studying with or just running into I just wanted you to know that I sincerely love you.    Together, we have laughed and cried and bickered and vacationed and worked long hours, and chatted for longer hours, been together for the birth of children and the death of loved ones, survived puberty, marriages, divorces, illnesses, prayed, sinned (lol) and much more.  Just in case this is our last correspondence, I want to thank you.  For, while God is responsible for my being in existence and putting you in my life, you are responsible for me being me.  Thank you for being so kind to me through it all!

Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!
~Ms. P

Monday, September 28, 2009

If You Only Knew

"Huh?!" "I don't know about that Pastor..." "How long?"
There aren't too many times that a leader of a church gets resistance from his congregation, but today Pastor McCann isn't so reverend to his followers. He's prepared though.
I heard him make this statement on a few Sundays last December. Instead of the usual uproarious "YES SIR!" or "We're wit'cha Pastor!" the mood in the pews was "Let's hope he forgets about that."

"...Beginning January 1st, we're going to start a 21-day fast for 2009." The words rattled over the pews after leaving the pastor's lips. He stood back and let his eyes rove over the crowd of people he oversaw, looking for a reaction. Sporadic, hushed grumbles could be heard from all corners of the chapel - loud enough to show that the members were not pleased but low enough to show the pastor respect.

After a deliberate moment of silence, and a hush fell over the members, Pastor McCann's voice silenced the hum of the audio visual equipment when he spake into the microphone. "Watch this, if God could show you just a glimpse of what your life will be like in '09, believe me you'd want to pray and fast." What a devastating moment for Princess... revelation!

If we had an inkling of what the next 365 days will be like, or even the next day for that matter, God knows we'd want to ask God for mercy, pre-emptively. If you knew that in a month from now your doctor will tell you the percentage of fat in your body is a level just beneath obese and will surely bring about Diabetes, heart trouble, and other maladies, you'd start exercising immediately! Why do we have to wait for God to test us before we show Him gratitude and praise?

From time to time, I am guilty of waiting for the storm to call His name instead of thanking Him for the days filled with sunshine and rainbows prior to the storm. There are days I wake up and my mind is filled with all the errands I have to run or projects due at work. I sometimes forget that there are many who are ailing or are simply no longer a resident of this Earthly field. Most mornings before my feet hit the floor, I open my eyes and thank Him for His unparallelled mercy and overwhelming love that is undeserved of a wretch like me.

Pastor McCann followed with: "Don't think fasting is going to change the circumstances that are sure to come. Fasting doesn't change God. It keeps us covered with His grace and mercy and prepares us for God's tests and trials that are down the road." Amen! Being as though we're born into sin and continue to sin daily, our lives will be filled with trials and tribulations. None are exempt. But with sacrificial offerings to God, such as fasting, we can show Him that we're appreciative of the life He's allowed us to live and beg for His mercy. However, His will shall be done. I can't say that because I began the year off joining the church in the aforementioned fast, my path was clear from hurt, harm, troubles or strife. I've had issues just like anyone else. But I sure can't imagine how I would have steered through the storm and made it out alive if I didn't have His covering.

When deciding to write this blog, I was going back and forth about what my debut topic would be: love, life's experiences, family?? In the middle of the night, it came to me that there's one subject that embodies all of those subjects: GOD! I'm not sure what you needed to hear today but I know I needed to hear me say these words today. My new year began last week on the 24th, my birthday. Your 20s are supposedly your "learning years." I can definitely use some direction as to how to begin the end of my 2nd decade of life. What better instruction than to give a little sacrifice to God in order to receive a lot of blessings?

A couple of days before my birthday, I had someone ask me, "How do ya feel about turning 29? Is it the number? You afraid of getting old?" Let me emphatically state how appreciative I am of aging. I feel getting older is such a blessing, for if you're not getting older, you're DEAD! There are many who are six feet under the terrain who wish they'd seen 29 or 44 or 62, etc. I've recently had the dreadful experience of witnessing a neighbor and two former schoolmates have their lives cut short by gratuitous violence. None of them were over 25-years-old. This brings to mind the opening line of the sermon Rev. Al Sharpton delivers annually at my church. Paraphrasing, it reads something like: "You didn't do anything so special yesterday, for God to grant you the opportunity to wake up today. Nor did you do anything much different [yesterday] from many of those who didn't wake up today." Is my body starting to talk to me? YES! Dare I say I'm starting to alternate between my flat and high-heeled shoes, thanks to a little intermittent complaining from my right knee. I can't eat junk food latenight like I used to. I'll have heartburn all night and have gained 6 pounds by the morning (I know, I know, I have an upcoming date with my Mari Winsor pilates DVD and my living room floor). However, ailments aside, I am not now, nor will I ever be ashamed of getting older. I thank Him for each day because tomorrow's not guaranteed.

I just pray that this year is better than the previous ones and worse than the ones to come. Ohh boy have I had my share of ups and downs (still waiting for someone to grab my hand and help me up), good friends and bad acquaintances, good jobs and bad career choices, lonely nights and overpopulated days during the past 28 years of this life playing the part of Princess. I'm anticipating experiencing the myth that is how glorious it is to be in your 30s. Hopefully as I age and acquire wisdom, I'll be able to obtain more of the wise and have less episodes of the dum! Here's to health, wealth, stability, great support, keeping the faith and humility to aid me in persevering the journey ahead and tackling the obstacles life surely has ahead. Man, if I only knew...

Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!
~ Ms. P