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.


Weekly Wisdom: The Shoulders We Lean on Need Love, Too

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”

Martin Luther King, Jr. posed a great question – a question that we often look outward for the answer. We want to do for others in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, a disaster-stricken state or in an entirely different country that’s still developing.  But what about the people close to us? The friends right around you? The family in your own house even? What about the people that are always there when you need them?

I had to do a family history project a few weeks ago for a class. I asked my mom some questions for the assignment, and a lot of things came up.  She’s been through a lot (and has been through most of it on her own) and I felt overwhelmed – partly because of what all she’s had to overcome – but mainly because I felt that for a long time, she’s been there and then some for everybody else, but in the grand scheme of it all, she hasn’t had her own shoulder to lean on.

I have 2 sisters and between the 3 of us, you can imagine the ups and downs we’ve had, and the brunt of it all has been on our mother. It takes a special kind of woman to even fathom dealing with the stuff we’ve brought our mother’s way over the years.  And on top of that, my mom is a therapist and a substance abuse counselor, so she helps people fix their lives both on and off the clock.

When I ask my mom about dealing with the bumps in the road she’s encountered in life, she said “I dealt with it, you know, I got over all of that stuff on my own eventually.” But it shouldn’t have to be that way.  If the people we love can be there for us, we can surely be there for them.

I see it all like this. As we grow older, we learn that the amount of people that we can really trust and that truly care for us tends to get smaller and smaller. And once we’ve figured that out, we hold on to the people that are truly on our team really tight. And we lean on them. We lean on them so much, we may forget about their well-being. They may have stumbled and fallen themselves. But for many of them, virtually no one is there to catch them.

It may be your parents, a best friend, your long time mentor or your wise older cousin – whoever the people are you lean on, make a conscious effort to think about them. Be there for them. Let them know that they’re loved.  Just because they are our relatives, our friends and our familiars doesn’t mean they don’t need looking after. And just because they support us through our rough patches doesn’t mean they’re immune to rough patches of their own.

Next time you call up your best friend to complain about your dead end job, next time you ask your sibling to get you out of one of your numerous stints with the law and next time you whine about the partner your momma been tellin’ you was no good, think about that “urgent” question Martin Luther King Jr. asked of us all.

The shoulders we lean on are just as good as we treat them.

Peace, Love & Consciousness



Throwback Week: What Happened to Sisterhood?


Staring a girl down and rolling your eyes at her because she has the car you always wanted. Judging a woman on her past and putting her in a box because of it. Not speaking to someone because you think she thinks she is better than you because of her complexion. What happened to sisterhood? Flirting with another woman’s significant other to spite her. Belittling someone’s accomplishments because you want what she has. Gossiping and spreading rumors about someone in hopes to ruin her reputation. What happened to sisterhood?


            Ladies, we have ALL got to do better. So many times, we fail to embrace our fellow woman. So many times, we rather see a woman doing bad than to see her doing well. It’s disgusting. But why do we do it? Out of curiosity, I decided to ask a few people I know about their thoughts on our cattiness. One woman says “Women are very jealous – like crabs in a barrel.” Another woman says “Women just want what other women have, especially when men get involved. That’s why we can’t get along. We don’t stick together.” And a man I know says “We [men] don’t do that.”

I stumbled across a wonderful quote by an American journalist that seems to get at an answer- “To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, dissatisfaction with self.” I firmly believe this is the root of our problem. We aren’t happy with ourselves. When there’s something lacking with ourselves, we tend to compensate for it by putting someone else down – this is the wrong way to go about solving the problem; it’s YOUR problem, not theirs. Look at your self for a solution. If you aren’t happy with yourself, take the necessary steps for improvement. Make yourself better. And, let’s not forget to be each others loudest cheerleaders. Like Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I think we can do better, ladies. Don’t you?

Let’s Talk: Colorism, Revisited




The elephant in the room. It’s the reason your cousin around the way wants a light-skinned man to have babies with. It’s when that man starts feeling insecure because the rest of his brothers are much darker than him and because of the scars of his daddy telling him he wasn’t his daddy. It’s when “black,” no matter how light or how dark it may be, is abused, discriminated against, left out to dry and devalued. Not by white folks, not by any other group, but our own. And this elephant, our elephant, ain’t leavin’ the room any time soon. But why?


Yes, colorism has been around for years and years and years. Yes, the institution of slavery is the culprit. Yes, media outlets and other means perpetuate this dogged –ism. These are well known facts and go without question. However,  no one seems to be able to answer this one: After so much awareness on colorism as of late, after years and years have passed since the dawn of the Willie Lynch age (slave owner mentality of dividing and treating slaves based on color, among other things, that colorism can be attributed to), why are black people still perpetuating this evil?


I know I’ve talked at length about colorism. Ya’ll may be thinking “the children’s book, the documentary, the CNN spot and your big mouth haven’t said enough?” A conversation with a friend of mine over lunch the other day has (for me) shed some light on the daunting question. And got my gears grinding even harder.


“I haven’t been working out as much as I planned to. I love the spring time. It just feels so good and its better for working out outside,” he said. Your average lunch time small talk, right? “It’s so so hot this summer you know, I’m not trying to be out there and get any darker,” he added. My heart dropped and my skin grew goose bumps all over. My body reacted as if he had some disease I didn’t want to catch and my mind went into overdrive. Next thing I knew, my lunch turned into an interview. “Why don’t you want to get darker?” I asked. He told me he likes his skin the way it is and doesn’t want to change it. Your skin gets darker in the sun…that’s you and that’s how your skin is. Mine gets darker in the sun too.


Then he turned the tables and started asking me questions. Which I didn’t mind at all. “When you see a black person and you look at them as attractive, what shade have they been most often?” Ha. As if people of all shades aren’t attractive. He went on to tell me how he has always associated light-skinned people with attractiveness and how a lot of brown-skin people can be attractive. “How often do you see a dark-skinned person and think ‘wow, they’re really attractive’?” He is my friend but boy oh boy, does he not know me that well! But this isn’t about me. Keep in mind that the friend I’m referring to is dark brown-skinned/ dark-skinned himself.


And then we started talking about features. He said “dark-skinned people have more pronounced features. You know, big lips, big noses. Like look at my nose. And you see all these people getting nose jobs. Changing their body. Because people don’t like those features. How many times did Michael Jackson get a nose job?” And later, we talked about exoticism. He told me that “light-skinned people are more likely to be exotic, to have more culture in them and you know people really like that. Again, keep in mind that he is not light-skinned nor does he have a small, European nose.


You know I was on my soapbox. I told him about self-love. I told him about the history of slave rape in the African-American bloodline we’ve been taught to value and a few other things. I told him that I go outside and go to the pool with the intent of getting dark and getting my summer glow. I told him how I have big ole thick lips that I love. I schooled him on colorism and how light-skinned people are also discriminated against because of it. And I also told him about my short-lived childhood hair complex – when I was 4 or 5 I walked around saying I wished my hair was “straight and long” and I showed my mom magazine pictures with white women with straight long hair, asking her to make my hair like that instead of its natural look and texture. But yet and still, he was not moved. His argument in the conversation was that colorism doesn’t exist, and that our color issues are really preferences that are being over-exaggerated.


My revelation from this conversation simply put: Many of us don’t like being black, and most of us that don’t like being black don’t even know it.


People are thinking What’s the remedy? Where’s the cure all? What class do we sign up for to treat this? Where do we buy the book that teaches us to love our black bodies, our skin (whether it be light, dark or in-between) and everything else we have to offer?


It’s not that easy. Black people need a COMPLETE overhaul. Our standards, our comparisons and our constructs of beauty need some reckoning with. It’s easy to sit back and critique society (I know, I do it a lot too), but what are we DOING to make it better?


Lena Horne said “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Many of us don’t even know the extent of the load, and even more aren’t aware of the load, period. We gotta do something, ASAP, because too many of us are walking around loving to hate ourselves.




Weekly Wisdom: Love Yourself Girl…Or Nobody Will

J. Cole may have said it in Crooked Smile…but everybody and their momma needs to not only be saying it…but living it as well.


People always say in a romantic sense that you can’t expect to have a significant other love you if you don’t have that same love for yourself. But this notion of self-love can’t be limited to romance.

Self-love means a lot of things, to me. It means caring about you, inside and out. Acknowledging your true feelings, indulging in things you’re truly passionate about and respecting your morals, no matter who or what tries to persuade you to go against them. On the outside, it means putting time (although not too much time) into your outward appearance and taking care of your body, among other things.

It’s not always easy and we all slip up from time to time. But with time and some self-reflection (time by ourselves), we can do it. We’re all capable of loving ourselves. If we don’t do it, if we don’t love and respect ourselves, those around us (not just significant others/ love interests) won’t do it, either.

And what does that look like? Being called out your name. Becoming objectified and minimized to a sexual object. People losing respect for your space and your personal time. Those you care about ignoring your opinions and belittling your views. Negativity and doubtfulness being spewed out of the mouths of the ones you thought loved you the most…or even from complete strangers. You may not treat those around you so callously, but the way you approach yourself gives them the okay to treat you in such a way.


Don’t want to be treated like that? Look upon yourself with worth and with dignity. Do yourself a favor before you do anything  for anyone else, and love. Not the person you’ve been seeing, not your friend, not your neighbor or your co-worker…but the person staring back at you in the mirror. Nobody else is going to do it for you.



Peace, Love & Consciousness

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