Gotta Love the Copycats


“Don’t set sail using someone else’s star” – African Proverb

Nobody likes a copycat. You do something…and then they do it. You do something else…and wait for it…they go and do that something else as well. It can be like a shadow almost. A dark shadow that intends to steal your shine, and possibly, your identity.

And all at the same time we hear things like ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery,’ ‘haters secretly admire you from afar,’ ‘if you don’t have haters (or beat biters – the slang phrase I grew up with for copycats), you’re doing something wrong. All of these things may very well be true, but yet and still, there is absolutely NOTHING okay about copycat-ism. At all.

Yet, as much as everyone (including myself) despises them, I still got love for ‘em…because they don’t have love for themselves.

To the copycats – the unoriginals, the tryna-bes – I have just a few words for you:

  1. You don’t like yourself or your ideas enough – and it’s a horrible thing. Yeah, I said it. To you, what you have to offer simply isn’t good enough, compared to what others have. You wait and you wait until something or someone comes up – something or someone that you would rather be than yourself, and try your hardest to emulate it. That’s a problem, but it can definitely be fixed. Love YOURSELF and who you are and what you contribute to this earth. Fix your face to like what you see in the mirror and to like who you are deep inside – your opinions, your talents, your brain and your heart. It was never intended for us all to be the same…so why are you working so hard against nature?
  2. We can all see through what isn’t yours. No matter how sleuth you think you are at stealing ideas and identities – 9 times out of 10, you are fooling yourself. Authenticity doesn’t take nearly as much effort as does the tomfoolery of being a copycat. It shines on its own. And more than likely, you’ve got quite a few folks laughing at you behind your back about how foolish you look hating yourself, while in the meantime dope is selling itself.
  3. No matter how hard you try, you will never be someone else. A friend of yours starts an organization and on the sly, you find out everything about it so you can do the exact same thing. That girl you went to high school with is always wearing midriff shirts and you decide to go buy a whole bunch of them because she wears them. But the organization you tried to start doesn’t compare to the one you tried to copy, because you just aren’t passionate about it quite like the friend with the original idea. And you looked a hot mess in those shirts because deep down, they weren’t your style to begin with. Stop trying to force yourself into someone else’s lane and use that energy to make your own lane. This way, you never have to worry about failing because your only competition is yourself.

I’ve had many experience with copycats, as I’m sure you may have. I’ve been fed the ‘if you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong’ lines time and time again. Such realizations are true, but at the end of the day, they don’t make me feel better.

To the copycats – the sooner you feel better about yourselves, the sooner we’ll all feel better.

17 Honest Thoughts of a Black Woman after Watching that Walter Scott Video

Walter Scott 2 EDIT

(Inspired by Darnell Moore’s 17 Honest Thoughts of a Black Man after Watching that Walter Scott Video)

1.   I am extremely thankful for this video, because had this not been recorded, who knows if the truth (the fact that Walter Scott was another fallen soldier in the war on black men) would have had half a chance of being heard.

2.   I also regret that this video has surfaced, because it’s another grim reminder of my reality – more times than not, it seems that a penny with a whole in it may even be worth more than my brown skin. Our brown skin.

3.   The video makes me a little uneasy, because they contain the last few seconds of Mr. Scott’s life. He didn’t leave his house that day knowing a police officer was going to gun him down from behind and try to frame him for his own murder (the cop alleged he fired shots at Scott because he took his Taser, while the video actually shows the officer planting an object next to his dead body…presumably, the Taser). He didn’t say ‘hey, if I’m gunned down like an animal today over a traffic stop while running away from the officer, please share/ do not share the video of my brutal death.’ We don’t know if Scott would have wanted his last breaths posted all over the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. And we’ll never know.

4.   Should I be thinking more about number 3? Do I need to ask my father, nephew, significant other, cousins and friends about it? The question would be something like “In the chance that a police officer decides to treat your black body as a target on the gun range, do you want the video evidence to go viral?” Should this very question be incorporated into every black man’s will and testament?

5.   As a woman, I feel the sudden urge to hug and embrace every single black man I know. Because I want them to know that I love them. And that there is no one else like them on this planet.

6.   His family. I’m thinking about his family. His mother, his father, his brother, his 4 children and more. No verdict or civil suit or amount of money will right this wrong or bring back this man. This is a hurt and a loss beyond my comprehension. I will be praying for them before I go to sleep tonight.

7.   And am also thinking about my own family. My parents get profiled by the police a lot and it scares me. I asked a panel of police officers at a police/ community event if my parents should ditch their foreign cars to avoid being stopped. The officers looked at me like I was crazy – but what’s crazy is that this has to be a legit concern of mine.

8.   What scares me more is thinking about the possibility of something like what happened to Walter Scott happening to one of my loved ones.

9.   But what scares me the most is what I’m capable of doing in retaliation, if such an injustice was put upon a loved one of mine.

10.   I am amazed at the comfort level of the officer that killed Scott. From when he shot him, to when he planted the “object” next to his lifeless body, to when his back up came and saw what had happened, to when he checked his pulse and realized Scott was dead – this guy looks as cool as a cucumber. If that’s not evil, I don’t know what is.

11.   I have a nephew and he’s growing up by the day. He’s one of the smartest boys I know. How should his parents explain this incident (and the plethora of known incidents of ‘death of the black male by open season’) to him so that he is cautious, yet empowered? Enlightened but not defeated? Alert but not afraid? How can a child be a child and feel safe, survive and thrive in a world where people he doesn’t even know and haven’t even met have labeled him a threat to them?

12.   I’m sitting here wondering, as a black woman, how can I be more supportive of black men? You are an endangered species and I’m one of your biggest admirers. Tell me how to be a better advocate. Let’s lean on each other and be there for one another.

13.   Those eight gunshots. That drop to the ground. That agonizing pain. Is Scott’s murderer ever going to feel this pain or anything comparable? Is prison or even the death penalty enough punishment for him and other murderous cops?

14.   I have to then remind myself that number 13 isn’t up to me or anyone else at the end of the day. God don’t like ugly and He will handle it the best way He sees fit.

15.   I hope and pray this is being brought up in classrooms, workplaces and dinner tables across the nation and across the world — especially in South Carolina. Everyone – no matter who you are or where you stand in this case, deserves a chance to vent and process this tragedy. Its therapeutic, it’s healthy and it’s needed.

16.   I wonder how this era – the exposure of the war on black men – will be recounted in schools, in textbooks and in other ways, if it’s even remembered at all. Only time will tell.

17.   I wonder how many more days until time stands still again, when we hear about another Walter Scott.

A Fist in the Air for the Black Professors

college classroom EDIT

“I think she’s the hardest professor in the department,” a classmate of mine said. “I mean, maybe she just doesn’t like me. Maybe she doesn’t like white people or something.”

We were reflecting on our professors while waiting for a class to start. The classmate I was talking to was equating a professor’s challenging and rigorous coursework to discrimination, because to her, a black professor that pushes students intellectually was not acceptable.

I was much younger back then when this conversation occurred. I remember feeling the need to reassure the girl that the professor in question was not racist. We talked about it a few seconds more and then our class started. But don’t think for a second that I forgot about this encounter.

In my experience in education thus far, black and brown professors are far and few in-between, in white-dominated American academia. I cherish the few times I’ve been able to take a class led by someone who looks like me. I look up to these black professors. I commend them.  For me, they help legitimate my place in academia. When I watch them teach, I get a warm and tingly feeling sometimes. In short, their very presence reiterates a sense of black pride.

But my pride takes a hit in the jugular when the ability of the black professor is questioned…simply because he or she indeed has ability. The wound stings even more when white professors known to be difficult are accepted by fellow students while black professors in the same boat are chastised and even reported – simply for doing their job. And my blood begins to boil when, in the midst of all this, the “easy” black professors are put on a pedestal by students. These professors easily become the “favorites.”

After having conversations with students and black professors at multiple institutions, many black professors are at a fork in the road – I either have to dumb down my work and myself to seem less intimidating to students or I can continue to push my students toward bigger and better, taking the risk of being perceived as black and educated by the students I teach. In this instance, who is the racist here?

But it gets even murkier when tenure, accountability and university standards are thrown into the mix, as many black professors feel forced to be as demanding as possible and to dish out the hardest readings, assignments and projects one could fathom, as many black professors are pressured to “prove” themselves to their colleagues, working ten, twenty times harder, simply to be given the time of day.

To the Black Proffesors:

I will admit, in the beginning, I was wrong. I was wrong to admire you, simply because you look like me. Yes, image certainly speaks volumes in this image-saturated world we live in, but image is barely the tip of the ice burg. I am now in awe of you all, because of your plight. You are pushed and pulled in every direction. You are burdened with research, micro aggressions, students who love your failure and hate your fruition, colleagues who doubt you simply because of how you look, students (like me) who hold you to high standards in your work and in your blackness, students who are afraid of you because you know more than they do, faculty anxiously waiting for the day you slip up to call your bluff, and students who look like you waiting in the same line, because unfortunately, they do not yet know that they look like you and then some.

A few weeks ago, I accepted an offer to pursue my Ph.D. in education. To say the least, I will need your guidance and your love, but I also realize you need my support as much as I need yours.

This is why my fist is in the air for the black professors; this is why yours should be too.

When School Hurts More Than it Helps

segregated classroom edit

Go to school. Get your education. Be better and live better because of it.

But what happens when school is imprisoning instead of empowering?

What happens when your teachers tell you of all the things you can’t do instead of what you can do? What happens when good grades become bad and bad grades become good, all in the name of peer pressure, manhood and being “hard?” And how complicated it becomes when grades are no longer black and white – when they are associated with race, when “acting black” and “acting white” and “acting” other ethnicities blurs positive and negative images, attitudes and ideals – full of gray area. Or when you’re too hungry to concentrate…to make the grades to get out the hood that’s keeping you hungry. Or when the school keeps testing you because you can’t pass the tests – but for your failure, they have no answer. Or when in general, school seems like the strangest, most distant foreign land, because nothing about it resembles who you are or where you’re from.

What happens when these things and more not only exist, but are also exacerbated under the school’s roof? What do you do?

You fight back.

If knowledge is power, you have to be willing to fight for it.

Kids don’t know the fight as well as we adults know it, as many of us have been there before, so essentially, the fight for our kids’ education is in our hands.

We can’t take everything for gospel, simply because a teacher, a principal or another official says it. My parents were told that I may be deaf and/or autistic at a very young age because I started to walk, talk and develop in general at a later age than most children. But then, all of that was debunked. But then I started school. I was tapped for the gifted program in school. Then, I got honor roll, and much later national honor society and other honors and today, I’m an author with an advanced degree from one of the best schools in the nation and God willing – it’s only the beginning. So many people I know have eerily similar stories, and they’ve gone on to accomplish a whole lot.

All kids are capable of greatness. We can’t let naysayers dressed up with fancy titles tell them otherwise.

We have to be willing to sacrifice for education, for if we don’t, we sacrifice our children. If he or she is struggling where you’re at and you’re convinced he or she would fare better in another area, do what you have to do within reason to make that move. Before I was born, my folks were young and struggling, and opted to go without furniture for a year to send my older sisters to a private school in Long Island, because it offered them a safer environment and better opportunities. An uncomfortable year it may have been, but the advantages of that sacrifice will last a lifetime. If we don’t buy into education, they surely won’t. Buy into it, no matter how much it costs. Temporary discomfort beats the permanent setback of the generations that follow us.

 Praise them in school. Many scholars reference the transition from third grade to fourth grade as problematic for kids, particularly African-American boys, as the nurturing from the teacher (the doting, the “babying”) drops significantly during that transition and as a result, grades drop . But technically, it’s not the teacher’s job to nurture our children – it’s up to us. The praise matters. We have to recognize their efforts and reward their accomplishments. We have to be active and interested in their studies. We have to be their backbone and their biggest cheerleader, especially during the younger years. The smallest strides need recognition just like honor roll and graduation. Don’t act like you don’t remember how good you felt as a little boy or a little girl when an adult noticed your good work.

When school hurts more than it helps, the story isn’t over. If we play our cards right, it’s simply a bump in the road. If we play our cards right and put up a good defense, we’ll win the fight.

Black Hair Don’t Care

Black Hair Don’t Care


She better stop playin’ that natural hair game and put a damn relaxer in her head!

 You wear fake hair because you’re ashamed of your real hair and yourself.

 You know you need to look presentable for this. It’s important. So slick that afro back and straighten it or something.

 That girl is disgrace. She don’t know what the hell she wants. She got a wig on one minute and braids the next.

 Why in the world did you cut it?! You shoulda never cut your hair! Don’t cut it anymore!

 And she know damn well she need to take that color out her head. All them chemicals. Plus she too dark for that light color anyway.

 Natural ain’t for everybody boo. And it ain’t for you.



This tug of war – also known as the thoughts and opinions on black hair – is everywhere. And it’s getting really old and really tiring. Really quick.


Don’t Mess With My Mane

…and I won’t mess with yours. Naw, but really. My hair…is MY hair. I’m not walking around asking you to fix it, judge it, touch it, or give it a score on a scale from 1 to 10. Does my afro look too unkept? Great. You don’t like the fact that I wear extensions sometimes? Just dandy.

 I like to switch up my look and my hair is part of my look. But the best part of it all? This hair…is on my head. Not yours.

The Natural Hair Movement Should Not Be Divisive 

I am just LOVING the natural hair movement and the paradigm shift that has occurred as a result – that is, the fact that we as black women are embracing our hair the natural way it grows from our heads now more than ever. But just like colorism (or in short, the whole light skin/ dark skin thing), it has caused a great deal of division in the black community. Some naturals turn their noses up to what they deem to be the unconscious weave-wearers and identity-barren relaxer-users. Some who insist on extensions or relaxer look at the naturals as going “overboard” with the history and the hotep. Regardless of our hair preferences, we should be standing TOGETHER as women.

 Thou shall not let weave nor wash and go get in the wayeth of that.

Our Curls in a Man’s World

 Some men – whether they are our boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, etc. – have gotten the idea that our hair belongs to them. Men: if you want to change her hair, aren’t comfortable with what she does with it, or if you define her beauty and her worth by her tresses – grab a mirror and take a peek in it.

 You see that – you see your face? You are NOT her and you do not OWN her, or her hair.

 If you don’t like her natural curls, put some extensions in your hair. Or better yet, throw some relaxer on your low cut. Do whatever it takes to keep you from demeaning the women in your life and putting your insecurities and complexes on their scalps and their ends. Please.

Knowledge is (Our) Power

 The historiopolitical implications of our hair – from the use of hair texture to divide African slaves during colonial times, to the use of straighter hair to help one pass as white and gain access to the  privileges that came along with it, to the association of natural hair (namely afros) with the black power movement – are closely tied to knowledge of self. Some use this knowledge to educate and empower themselves and enlighten others. Other people will use this knowledge as leverage over our hair.  They will use ideas of identity to intimidate and using politics of hair to propagate undue pressure.

 Attempting to control black hair – be it by putting down a woman and pressuring her to change her hairstyle because you don’t like how her hair looks or what she does to it or looking at yourself as better than other women because of how you choose to style your mane and separating yourself accordingly – doesn’t get us any closer to liberation or a true love of self; a true love of tearing others down is what this tug of war has turned into.

The Real Deal 

 I think the root of this entire hair debacle is (drum roll)….insecurity. Maybe my hair is so thick, it makes everyone else in the room feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re jealous because your hair can’t do all the things mine can. Or maybe, you just can’t stand the power, the creative agency or the liberation my hair offers me.

Or, simply put, maybe you have the problem…because I am proud of who I am. Because I am not here to meet your standards. Because my black hair don’t care.

Til They Can’t Bleed No More

Til they Can’t Bleed No More

defeat pic edited

There’s a young black woman somewhere who will never exercise her right to vote because she has absolutely no want or (in her opinion) need to do so. She’s criticized for what most would call ignorance, but what she simply calls living her life. The masses put her down for the slap in the face she’s giving the trailblazers before her, the people who sacrificed themselves, both literally and figuratively for black voting rights. Yet and still, she knows no different, all she knows is that her vote and her voice are mute and moot. Spiritually spent, yet perfectly content.

Defeat is a way of life for her and many many others.

So many people are defeated. Down and out. Out for the count. And it’s easy to dismiss them. They’ve given up, you say. They’ve taken the L, you say. They’ve lost the fight without even trying to get a lick in, you say.

It’s significantly easier to label helplessness as weakness than to take the time to find out what exactly has torn down our brothers and sisters, and how and why they have been robbed of their thunder. The power of oppression, the long lasting effects of history and institutionalized degradation are all underestimated to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis.

The fight for equal voting rights for blacks was (and many will argue, still is) a long and arduous fight. Lives were snuffed out and voices were drowned out. People like Jimmie Lee Jackson were physically shut up – young Jimmie killed and his frail and elderly grandfather nearly beaten to death in 1965 – for rallying for equal voting rights in Selma, Alabama. With the close relationship between advocating for equal voting rights and punishment and even death, who is to question black apathy toward such an alleged natural right? And when this apathy transfers to the 21st century, it can turn into complete disassociation. You have a young woman with no interest to vote…because she never learned anything about it. Her mother never took her to the voting booth…because her parents never took her to the voting booths…because their parents were threatened with lynching if they even spoke of voting or the NAACP or anything related to forward thinking for blacks in the Jim Crow south.

It runs deep.

Some people’s spirits are intact while others have been broken, broken again and beaten, over and over again, ‘til they can’t bleed no more. I’m talking about the broken spirit. Treat it the same way as you would a wingless bird. A wingless bird — full of potential, but also, full of defeat. A defeat as heavy as a ton of bricks.

So next time you’re so quick to judge, chastise and turn your nose up to people you consider to be less progressive, or less conscious or less educated than you, tie a ton of bricks to your back and try to fly.

Dear Black Woman Who is Being Silenced for Having Standards


A popular belief in discussions about equality and justice is that the suffering and atrocities that people of color face are often silenced. Their feelings are often devalued and their experiences are often minimized. Unfortunately, women of color bear the brunt of this silencing. The “angry black woman” archetype is automatically assigned to a black woman who is headstrong, speaks her mind and tolerates little to no bullshit.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: this one is for you.

At a young age, you were taught to have high expectations for yourself, for others and for the men in your life. You go out into the world and all of a sudden, this mentality is deemed invalid time and time again. You voice your opinion on your job about things that bother you, and your coworkers label you the problem – excuse you for wanting to comfortable at work just like everyone else. In a group project at school, when you are vocal about unfair group dynamics, you’re considered a nag, all because you want a decent grade reflective of your hard work and diligence. In the dating world, expecting what your mother and father taught you to expect from men becomes an uphill battle, because once your opinions of how you should be treated clash with your suitor, he turns you into the “see, this is why I don’t date black women” or “(any race other than black) women know how to treat a man and black women need to learn from them.”

You know what I’m talking about and you know it all too well.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: don’t apologize.

If everyone else’s voices are privileged and accepted, yours should be too – and don’t ever let anyone make you believe otherwise. The very moment you doubt yourself, you doubt your self-worth and you yourself are left with nothing. Not a thing.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: take action.

File a grievance at work. Make it known that you’ve worked hard on your part of the project and if needed, debate the grade with that professor. And if it feels like the man is negating you and what you stand for, consider putting him into the “see, this is why I don’t date men who couldn’t give a damn about me or my expectations” file and letting him go.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: you are not angry.

You are simply a being of worth. But the moment you dismiss your worth by letting others dismiss it for you, you will truly become angry – at work, at school, at the man and any and everything else testing your worth.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: you are not alone, because this one is for you and me both.

Love YOU, Too


Every 107 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.  A few years back in 2011, almost 24 million people needed therapy for drug abuse, but of those 24 million, only a fraction actually received treatment (11.2 percent to be exact). Approximately, every 12.9 minutes, a life is lost to suicide.

After hearing about more and more high profile black women  dealing with mental illness as of late (the suicides of Titi Branch of Jessie’s Curls, Simone Battle of X Factor and singing group G.R.L., blogger Caryn Washington of For Brown Girls and others)  I felt compelled to write this. In the black community, we as women are often ashamed of mental health – from addressing mental illnesses to being proactive and mentally checking in with ourselves and our loved ones to going to therapy – but the more we ignore our mental health the more and more we hurt and even kill ourselves.

I’m a tad bit familiar with this stuff, really because my mother and most of my immediate family works in the mental health field. I’m no expert, but from talking with my mom about her work, my interpretation of maintaining good mental health is as follows:

Find a Shoulder to Lean On

As women, we take on A LOT. As women, we are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, entrepreneurs and everything else in-between. All of our “jobs” can be taxing, to say the least. It’s important to have someone you can confide in, someone you can lean on when it gets rough. We all know that we can go crazy in our own heads. You’ve been presented with a particularly difficult problem – you may want to run your ideal solution by some wise listening and CARING ears. You may have one of those “is it just me or is…” moments where comparing ideas with a trusted friend, family member or therapist even may help your own sanity. While you’re leaning on someone, try to be the shoulder for someone else. Be a listener and a soundboard for someone you care about and keep the love flowing.

Don’t be Sick with Secrets

My mom works with drug addicts and this is one of the main concepts encouraged in therapy. Addiction, especially, depends HEAVILY on secrets and lies to keep the addiction going. The same goes for many other things. Maybe everything doesn’t need to be told…but the secrets that hurt you need to get up out that head. If you’re crying over something you’ve kept from someone or stressing about secrets, you’re hurting your mental health. And although releasing a painful secret may seem like the scariest thing in the whole entire world, the refreshing feeling of that release once it’s told outweighs any and all anxiety about the secret itself. Trust me on this one and don’t be sick with secrets.

You are Not Alone

We all go through thangs. I mean thangs. No one is perfect and no one leads a perfect life. But as you can see from some of the stats above, a lot of people suffer from mental illness and other things that affect mental health. Don’t be ashamed if you are bi-polar, you’ve tried to commit suicide, you can’t put that bottle down or if you can’t deal with the past or the everyday stressors. Behind you, there are millions who share your confusion, your pain, your sadness…and most importantly, your strong desires of sound mental health.

Ladies, we love on many, but we tend to love on ourselves last amidst our hustle and bustle. We also fear the stigma of anything mental health-related. Since when has taking care of you been a crime? It isn’t, so stop punishing yourselves – check in with yourself mentally and encourage your sister to do the same, because if you always put yourself in last place, you will never ever win.


Teach the Babies

“Teach the Babies”


Mike Brown and countless other black boys, girls, men and women have been snuffed out of this world at the hands of injustice. The devaluing of black lives has been made precedent over and over and over again. It’s the world we live in, unfortunately. I have come to terms with this and I move around this world accordingly. But I worry about our children, and ultimately, the children I plan to bring into this world someday.

The sad reality of all this is the fact that we have to teach our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and little cousins how to navigate within this oppressive society. And this very teaching tends to be oppressive within itself. In the most horrific way, oppression becomes a way of dying…and a way of living. Some children are taught to get home before dark, or to not hang with a large group of boys, or to not dress in clothes that are perceived as too baggy, in fear of police persecution. Others are taught to limit their aspirations and their dreams in order to fit what parents deem a safe and secure mold.

The answer to oppression is not oppression, but at the same time, keeping our children completely in the dark about the world can lead to some grim consequences.  As we fight the good fight, pushing for the valuation of black bodies, we must also find a way to fight for our children – not just following atrocities like the Mike Brown verdict or in the midst of protests and rallies – but also, daily, in our everyday lives.


One can never be too educated. We gotta make sure the babies know this. Although many social circles may try to make education uncool, we must praise it, glorify it and promote. Read as much as you can and pass this knowledge to your family, your peers and the babies. It’s as simple as sharing an article on Facebook, telling your cousin about a great book you read or filling in the little boy around the way on an issue in the news. As minorities in this society, it’s on us to educate our children on black leaders and causes – from leaders in our neighborhood to people and events from hundreds of years ago. We have to educate our children so that when they face injustice, they know it for what it’s worth. We have to educate our children so they can attempt to use the same institutions intended to stifle us as pedestal for success. Education is power.


We live in a world that values black culture, but that doesn’t mean it values being black. Everyone wants fuller lips and t-shirts adorning their favorite black rappers, but black skin and black life isn’t exactly all the rage. Dr. Kenneth Clark’s famous Doll Test confirmed this notion in 1939 (most black children were found to associate themselves with negative traits in relation to baby dolls– and the results of the replication of this test in the present day assure us that similar attitudes still exist. Forget helping kids to like being black, they must love it. When I was little, I didn’t like the texture of my hair for a very short time. I looked through magazines with Caucasian women with straight hair and asked my mother to make my hair look like that. My mom told me that my hair wasn’t meant to do that, and that my hair was beautiful because I had hair like Jesus – as thick as lamb’s wool. When friends told me that I should try to look for light-skinned guys so that one day, I could have a light-skinned baby, I ignored it because I knew better, and grew up to date men not based on complexion, because all black is good black. Black is black, and black is beautiful. The sooner we own it, the sooner the babies will follow suit.


This world can be quite uninviting, and to facilitate living within this unfortunate circumstance, there is code. Whether it’s working on a job with discriminatory policies, or encountering a racist store employee, code helps us all to most effectively address and circumnavigate particular bumps in the road on our journey. In a store where anger is provoked, even if we want to cuss, holler and punch, it may be more beneficial to tell off the aggressor and report him or her to his supervisor (making sure our grievances are made clear). When a bulwark impedes on an opportunity, we should either find another way to get to that opportunity (all while staying true to ourselves) or use the impediment as motivation for bigger and better. The later has happened to me a plethora of times, but a high school memory stands out. About 10 others students and I were pulled from an English class in high school – we were told that according to our grades, we qualified to test out of AP English for the following year. It was a huge opportunity and it also meant credits toward a college degree. A few days later I went to my teacher about it. After seeing who I was and confirming that I was on the list for the AP Test, she quickly came up with a reason for me not to test out – my spelling, although I had an A in the class and may have gotten a B on a spelling test maybe once. I knew what time it was and so did my family. I took a mental note of this teacher’s character and I used the experience as fodder for getting into my dream school (which I ultimately ended up attending and graduating from).  The code is the map on the path of life – and the way we set up this road map for the babies sets them up for life.


Sticking together is like the icing on top of a cake – it’s sweet, savory and needed for a complete product. Solidarity means education. Solidarity means pride. Solidarity is in the code. We need to buy from each other’s businesses, support each other’s art, be each other’s listening ears and shoulders to lean on. A win for one should be considered a win for all, just as a loss for one should be a shared loss. Stand together or fall apart. Mike Brown’s parents have asked us all respectably to seize from violence and looting – the fact that we are ignoring the wishes of this deceased baby’s parents rips my heart apart, while it has the perpetrators of our oppressive system rejoicing and basking in a mislead sense of self-righteousness – the same ugliness that keeps the status quo, the status quo. The kids must listen, love and learn from their brothers and sisters, and the only way we can instill such solidarity is to lead by example our own selves.

I must warn you. This is no fool-proof method. We live in a country where walking home with candy and a sweet tea can bring you to your demise. Being a child and playing with a toy can cost you a bullet. And in Mike Brown’s case, being black, college-bound, a loving brother and son, and an active member of the church on the wrong day can not only send you to your death, but it could also mean your lifeless body lying in the heat for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 and a half hours, like road kill.

When the world gets too cold, too unbearably cold, don’t let their spirits become numb. Don’t let them oppress themselves. Teach the babies to love all, but most importantly, teach the babies to love themselves, for one day, it may be all that they have.

“It will be hard…but you come from sturdy peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads and in the teeth of the most terrifying odds achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

(For more pieces like this, check out the “Let’s Talk” section of the blog)

Remembering to Forget

remembering to forget PIC

Those who were hurt remember – too often the world forgets. – African proverb

Mass media just got word of a 17 year old boy who was hanged in a small North Carolina town a few months ago. About 2 years ago, a large southern university stumbled upon an abandoned mass grave filled with the bones of slaves who helped build the university and serve its students and staff..

We can’t change history, we can’t undo injustice and damage, but we can certainly do one thing – we can stop remembering to forget.

Lynching was, besides a means of execution, also a way to evoke fear. The display of a dead, motionless body swinging in the wind was a symbol of power. The powerless (those subject to lynching) were meant to be indefinitely afraid of the powerful (the ones that tied and tightened the noose). In most high school social studies classes, the story goes a little something like this: lynching used to be a thing in the slavery and Jim Crow eras, but then came the civil rights movement and in effect, subsequent legislation and lo and behold, all lynching seized.

And what happens when the world gets a whiff of reality – that lynching still goes on, in small towns across the nation? What happens to that story?

Just ask Lennon Lacy’s parents. Their 17 year old son was found lynched on a swing set in a trailer park in August in a small North Carolina town where racial tensions are alive and well. But instead of assessing the area’s current racial tensions, run-ins of the recent past (like when Lacy’s neighbor put up a sign that read “Niggers Keep Out” in front of their home a few years ago) and Lacy’s relationship with a white female in relation to Lacy’s death, officials rather rule it a suicide.

“The family’s lawyer, Allen Rogers, believes that the police aren’t ready to deal with the realities of race, and what really could be going on in this case.” (Uwumarogie, Why You Need to Know about Lennon Lacy)

On another note, as a large university was planning to extend its cemetery, it ran across a big surprise. After clearing through mounds of dirt and trash, a burial ground was uncovered underneath. There were over 60 enslaved men, women and children abandoned and tossed to the side, much like the trash that covered their graves in the first place.

At some point somewhere along the line, someone or a group of someones made a conscious decision to desert the slave burial grounds.

When some universities attempt to sugar coat the institution of slavery on their campuses – highlighting the opportunities for freedom that were available to some slaves, or how they were so beloved in the community or how said official gave his slaves special privileges – what happens when too many skeletons build up in the closet? What happens when the skeletons are given a voice? What happens when history rears its big, fat ugly head?

America’s peculiar institution of slavery and the ways of Jim Crow have been replaced by a way of thought just as peculiar – remembering to forget.

The officials involved in the Lacy case rather deem his death a suicide than uncover its dirty truth.  And the dignitaries of the southern university’s past chose to let the legacy of slavery fade into the darkness. We tend to think of forgetting as a passive act – in other words, we don’t think of people forgetting on purpose. However, events of late prove otherwise.

We choose to forget what we don’t want to remember, what we consider undesirable or simply, what we feel doesn’t fit the image we desire to uphold. But when we forget to remember the oppression of the past for the sake of our present consciousness, it all results in a miscarriage of justice for the future. Today, the descendants of those in the lost mass grave have been abruptly disconnected from their own blood and the family and friends of Lennon Lacy know virtually nothing surrounding the death of their son, their brother, their cousin and their friend – who’s been deceased for months now.

Strange fruit hanging…still hanging…. from the tree (or in the Lacy case, the swing set) and the remnants of the peculiar institution of slavery awakening from the dead all have to be dealt with.  You can have all the selective memory you want, and you can choose to ignore history as much as the days are long – but even skeletons buried under 100s of years of dirt, trash, disrespect and disregard will one day awaken.