Root for Kaia & Thomas!!

After figuring out that I needn’t actually watch reality TV shows to know what happens (just catch the replays on YouTube or eavesdrop among the honeybees at the office), I haven’t seen an episode of a reality show in years. That might change after tonight. I just glimpsed a preview of an upcoming episode of “Here Come the Newlyweds” and this cute couple caught my eye.

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Kaia and Thomas Jacobi hail from Washington, D.C., and they are newlyweds. Read about them here.

I hope they win this contest and snag a beautiful house somewhere in Georgetown, Dupont Circle or any one of D.C.’s other great neighborhoods. Maybe they’ll be adventurous and settle in Adams Morgan. With its gor-geous brownstones, walkability and selection of restaurants, Washington, D.C. is definitely one of my favorite cities to visit.

I am feeling ABC these days. Shonda Rhimes, producer of the hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” is a black woman, plus there are interracial romances (all involving black women) on the following hit programs: “LOST”, with Rose & Bernard; “Big Shots”, features Katie & James; and the ABC Family network has “Lincoln Heights”, with a couple of high schoolers whose names I cannot remember right now. (Hey, I don’t have cable, so I can’t keep track!) I’m sure that several daytime soaps have features these kinds of storylines, too, but I never keep track of daytime soaps.

This is a refreshing spurt of programming on ABC. How nice it is to see them acknowledge this emerging pattern in American society. I also love the fact that they write the stories without the level of preachy, didactic dialogue that can sometimes drag down love stories. I also realize that this might not assuage some of the annoyance that I’ve seen and heard others express over how networks seem to treat beautiful black women like they are invisible, and rarely put their characters to work in entertaining, classy situations.

Leave the clicker on ABC for a day or so, and you’ll see what I mean. Now, I don’t expect the network to flood the airwaves with love stories between black women and men outside their race, but if they continue a this pace, we’ll have to call it ABC, the Ascendant Black Channel.

No? OK, moving on, then.

Keep Your Raggedy Good Morning!

A few weeks ago I had an awful experience with a black guy while commuting to work in the morning, and I wonder if I’m the only one who takes my point of view on this. A guy who seemed to be a street merchant stepped onto the train car that I was riding in, pushing a huge bundle covered in a blanket. After he settled into his seat, he called out to me from across the aisle.
“Good morning, miss!”
I ignored him. I didn’t want to buy anything and I didn’t know him, so I ignored him.
“Hello. I said hello!” He persisted in trying to strike up a conversation with me, but when he realized that I wasn’t going to respond at all, he became belligerent and bitter. He started to loudly berate me for not talking to him, even as I quietly stuck in my iPod ear buds and opened a newspaper. After a while his insults subsided, but not until he carried on and on, causing people to turn and look and forcing me to glare at the newsprint in front. I wasn’t going to change cars, respond to him, or do anything else to validate his ridiculous behavior. I would stand my ground and let this clown know that his behavior was totally unacceptable and that he would not, try as he might, get a response.
At length, he spat out: “Fine then! I take my good morning back!” I wanted to tell that moron that nobody wanted his raggedy good morning in the first place.

I don’t know how anyone else feels about this, but I don’t think I’m obligated to answer to every Hakeem and Tyrone – or any strange man, for that matter — who bellows at me from across the street, down the block or across the aisle of a train. It’s slack. It’s coarse and it’s not the kind of behavior that I or any other woman, should have to tolerate in public. So what if you actually needed to speak to me? What would be the big deal of approaching me in a civil way and saying: “excuse me?”

The fact that he was a street merchant didn’t bother me at all. I’m all for people making an honest living.

It also burns me up that I’ve never noticed any of these Tyrones become openly aggressive and nasty toward white women, at least not to the same degree that they’ve ripped into me. Let me be clear: I don’t want any woman to be harassed in public, and I’m sure that in other parts of America and worldwide, women of all races and nationalities get their fair share of crap from out-of-order men. But why is it that in the New York/New Jersey area, only the “brothers” take that kind of liberty with black women? Further, why do they reserve their loudest and most public insults for us? Are they kept in check by the fear retribution should they offend a white woman, but not if they are profane and belligerant with a black woman? If that’s the case, then American society needs some major pruning.

I also wonder: Do Hispanic or Asian women get similar dressing downs from their men? Even if that were the case, it would be unacceptable.

Now, before anyone is tempted to think I’m being overly harsh on black men, just know that I won’t hedge my comments by saying that there are good black men milling around in public. Of course I know that! I’ve had plenty of brief and pleasant chats with black men who looked decent and have approached me accordingly. If they politely hold a door open for me or offer me a seat on the train, I accept politely and we each get on with our day. Anyway, how stupid would it be to write a post complaining about respectable black men?!

Obviously, I have a problem with the guys out there who act like idiots, and those people are the focus of this post. I want to hear what you all think. Am I asking too much here? Shouldn’t the Tyrones of the world get some damned social skills so that women will feel at ease while riding the trains, walking the sidewalk or what have you?

Finding Love in Spain

After reading an interview about Lori L. Tharps in the March issue of Ebony magazine, I felt a minor kinship with her. We’re both black women writers who considered attending Smith College in Massachusetts (she actually graduated from Smith). We’ve both travelled to Spain. We both have white husbands.

The article introduces Tharp’s new book, “Kinky Gazpacho”, a memoir of her travels throgh Spain during her junior year at college. “Gazpacho” explores some of the lessons that she gleaned from the 200-year-plus period during which Spain held West African slaves within its borders. And we all know that Spain was tremendously influenced by the long occupation of the Moors, who trekked into the country from North Africa. Lori’s journey and her marriage are closely linked. She met a Spaniard there, whom she later married.

My Spanish experience was much shorter. I went to Barcelona last June for work, and after I wrapped up business, I took four extra days to explore the city. I took a day trip out to a town that dates back to the Medieval period, Girona. My entire trip spanned just eight days, but it was enough time for me to be struck by the landscape and architecture, and the juxtaposition of Spanish history, tradition, and modernism. The study of Spanish history is unavoidable in high school and college, but seeing the country makes one appreciate Spain’s contributions to the development of civilization. If you all ever get the chance to visit Spain, please take as much time as possible to absorb that magnificent place.

I’ll pick up a copy of “Kinky Gazpacho,” because I want to read about Lori’s take on the country that sparked an infatuation in me when I saw it. There is just one drawback to her book: the title. I hear what Tharps is saying about the blending of her heritage with her husband’s, but the thought of hairy soup — no esta bien!

Hair-Raising Adventures

Check out the picture on the PDF below. Doesn’t it warm your heart? Just two little girls chillin’ out on a sunny afternoon, letting the wind sweep through their manes of curly, curly hair. If I remember correctly, it was part of a Polo Ralph Lauren spread in a magazine aimed at homemakers. What struck me was the sheer volume of hair on each girl. Jamaicans would say of each one: “She have ‘nuf hair!” How do their moms keep their hair so healthy and lustrous-looking?

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This brings me to a Web site that I heard about through a publicist who set up a midday interview with me and some of her clients. Shortly after returning to the office after wrapping that meeting, I noticed an email from her and she included a link to a Web site called NaturallyCurly. She figured I might like some of the articles about maintaining textured, naturally curly hair. It’s not a Web site that caters exclusively to black women, or women raising biracial children like the girls in the picture above, although it certainly includes us. It’s for black, Latino, white women and any other woman looking for tips on how to care for and style curly hair.
It took me a while to get into it at first, because I’ve taken everal wrong turns trying to manage my thick spongy hair. But after checking the site regularly, and trying some of their product selections, (Shea butter is excellent, by the way) I find it to be very helpful. It’s also good because the it gives you options for styling black hair or provides links to other sites that do the same. I mean, not every black woman who goes natural wants to wear dreadlocks, OK? Today I found a couple of posted articles about Diane Da Costa, a beautician who specializes in hair with curly and coiled textures. Da Costa’s scheduled to make an appearance in New York on one of her promotional tours. Maybe I’ll find the time to stop in.

Genevieve Darling … You Look Sensational!

If you like to keep track of New York high society, or if you’re like me and can catch up on a years’ worth of obsessive trolling with one hour of deft Internet searching, then you’ve definitely heard of Genevieve Jones. She’s a woman of style, taste and – as some New York social scribes call her – ‘mystery’.
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Apparently, Ms. Jones is the child of a British father and Trinidadian mother, which is why I considered writing about her on this blog. More importantly, she’s just launched a line of jewelry, which touches on one of my favorite subjects – consumption!  

Anyhoo, Ms. Jones casts rings, earrings and safety pins in white and yellow gold embellished with colorful diamonds. One of her pieces, black diamonds on white gold, reportedly goes for $895 at Kirna Zabete, a high-end boutique in Soho, according to the New York and fashion press. 

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I’m much more interested in the fact that Ms. Jones is a black woman, probably of mixed parentage, and is running a business. Everything I’ve read described her as a do-nothing party girl who *gasp* led New York bluebloods to believe that she was one of them, when in fact she came from a middle class family and apparently fibbed about her age. As the story goes, according to The Wall Street Journal, which did a front-page profile on her in September 2006, Ms. Jones landed in New York in 1998 and “sidled up to the fashion crowd”.

The Journal investigated Ms. Jones just as thoroughly as it would have the boardroom tactics at Microsoft. At one point, the Journal reported:

“Unlike many of her friends, Ms. Jones isn’t an heiress and she lacks the Ivy League credentials and social pedigree of Manhattan’s largely white society set. An African-American, she grew up in Baton Rouge, La., and didn’t go to college. Some personal details, from her job to her age, remain sketchy. Ms. Jones says she is 27, but according to a database of public documents, her driver’s license and voter registration put her at age 31.”

   Yikes! And the follow-up coverage was searing, except for a few side-splitting comments on Gawker.com.Well, not being from any highfalutin, exclusive social circle (unless an insular immigrant community counts) I couldn’t understand why people let loose with the sort of catnip usually reserved for the pages of Vanity Fair. By “exposing” Ms. Jones as an outsider with a middle class background, the implication is that being born into money and using one’s energy to perpetuate that lifestyle deserves merit. Ms. Jones — Genevieve if you’re fabulous — used all the talents and abilities in her arsenal to launch a business and make some money! Sounds good to me. Hopefully everyone has loosened up and gotten some perspective since that spate of articles first appeared 17 months ago. Genevieve Jones is my real-life satirical hero, a sister’s version of Becky Sharp.  And dears, if you don’t know who Becky is, pick up a copy of the novel “Vanity Fair,” by William Makepeace Thackeray. Aside from being a literary masterpiece, it’s a scream!   

He Remembered

Hubby is a simple guy. Usually, he doesn’t go along with the crowd and make fanfare of feast days like St. Valentine’s Day. And since we had, ahem, ‘had words’ just a day before, I didn’t think St. Valentine’s Day would get much play at our house this year. Well, I was wrong!I worked late tonight, and on my way home, a good friend called me up.  As we talked about this and that, I went upstairs to our bedroom and was startled find a HUGE bouquet of flowers sitting on my vanity. I flicked on a light, and blinked a few times, trying to take it all in.  To top it off, he got me some essential oils and goodies from L’Occitane, one of my favorite stores.  I should mention that before I left for work in the morning, I left behind a sweetly written card for him.  I mean, he is a nice guy, and after three years, it’s finally dawning on me that even after having words, I need to keep my eye on the big picture as it relates to this relationship. We’re in this together!  Well anyway, this is the second time that Hubby pulled a St. Valentine’s fast one on me.  I’d tell you all about the first, but it’s getting late and I want to try some of this mint/lemon/rosemary oil. Don’t forget to squeeze the one you love. And make sure you love the one you squeeze!  drawn-heart.jpg 

America’s Emerging Minority Group: Whites

Every now and then, especially after hearing news reports of African-American men being victimized by police brutality or overhearing a remark about how blacks should just get over the social effects of slavery and the Jim Crow era, I wonder: what if whites were the minority in America? They wouldn’t have to necessarily be disenfranchised or victimized by whoever happened to be in the dominant culture, but what if more of them had to deal with growing up in the only white family in town? How would they respond to being one of a handful of whites in their newsroom or in another profession where blacks are not relatively well represented? What if people asked curious questions about their hair, mispronounced and misspelled their names all the time and how would they deal with growing up seeing dark-skinned women dominate the pages and covers of fashion magazines, television shows and beauty pageants?

This news report adds a dose of plausibility, if not humor, to those musings. The Pew Research Center estimates that immigration will drive the population of the United States sharply upward between now and 2050, and will push whites into the minority.

Here’s the link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080211/ts_alt_afp/uspopulationimmigrationethnic

What would Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln think about all this? Would they suppose that white perspectives on history, values, and social customs had become staid and irrelevant? Would they check the constitution to see if Americans had abolished the requirement that presidents be native born?

The Hispanic population, currently the largest minority group, will triple in size and double in percentage terms from 14 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2050, the report said.

The Asian population will roughly double in percentage terms, from five percent to nine percent, while the black population will remain static at around 13 percent.

This is interesting. I wonder why the black community, depending on how one defines black, stays static in percentage terms while other groups at least double their percentage representations of the population. I remember reading another demographic study that suggested America was the only post-industrialized country that responded to prosperity by choosing to have more children. Assuming that is the case, and there is a strong correlation between prosperity and the choice to have more children, does this suggest that by 2050 blacks will not have made any social and economic progress? I hope not!

Let me end on a light note. The thought of whites as a minority group in America makes me shudder, and I say this selfishly. As it stands now, I can’t deal with what passes as writing from the slew of upper middle-class, white female columnists and novelists whining about their lives. Essays about pressures to be a ‘super mom’. Shameless confessions in the Daily Mail about how their children bore them! Imagine what reading the The New York Times or Newsweek would be like if they laid claim to being racial minorities, too.

She Ain’t Scuurd

Nia Long is a cool actress, in my opinion. She comes across as polished and accessible. And her expressive eyebrows add loads of character to an already beautiful face. Long is no stranger to interracial love story lines. She was Ted Danson’s and Whoppi Goldberg’s possible daughter in “Made in America”; Colin Firth’s leading lady in the indie “The Secret Laughter of Women”; and Jude Law succumbed to her charms in “Alfie.”In her latest gig, Long plays Katie on the ABC drama “Big Shots”, and at the moment, Katie is the object of James’ affections, as portrayed by Michael Vartan. This episode builds up to a long awaited kiss between the characters. I think the episode is old, but it nicely displays the easy, flirty dynamic of their relationship. The script and storyline do not make an issue of Katie’s ethnicity, which is refreshing in a way. But why are the writers avoiding the obvious? One outstanding question that this episode doesn’t get into: why is a total package like Katie having such a hard time finding a great guy to spend her time with? The script is a tad trite, which means they’ll probably break up at least once before the season is out. I try not to think too hard when I watch shows like “Big Shots”. It is quite enough to watch slick yuppies like Katie and James make eyes at each other and engage in raillery while strutting around Manhattan in designer clothes!This video runs 5 1/2 minutes.

Yes, We Can! Yes, I did!

I know that Super Tuesday has long past, but I’m still excited by Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s amazing performance in the February 5 primaries.  When we have a strong field of candidates that prod people to tune into intellectual debates about the future of our country, the fatigue is worth it. When an electorate shatters turnout records, especially one that has previously been described as apathetic, it makes the race all the more worthwhile. Barack Obama is inspiring for so many reasons, which I’ll detail later. He is a wonderful combination of intelligence, seasoning and sound judgement. I am hoping and praying (and nagging my cousins to get out and vote!) that this country wakes up, does itself a huge favor and embraces the future with him as our leader.

I just wish I had the time to post my thoughts and excitement during Super, Big Fat, Mega Tuesday. Alas, I have a demanding full-time job, another full-time job at home, and I have plenty of professional pundits out there to compete for your attention and give you much fuller and better analysis.  Anyway, I know this race must be exhausting for the Obama’s but it’s worth it! In the meantime, enjoy this video. And don’t say I never gave you anything!

The M-Word

I recently had the pleasure of having dinner and lunch, on separate occasions, with a couple of friends and a cousin whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. We all have busy schedules so a few weeks had passed since we were last in touch.

These are all-around fantastic women. My oldest, dearest friend Lena is a social worker who specializes in geriatric issues. She is also taking care of her mom, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Hannah is as an accountant in one of North Jersey’s inner city schools and is pursuing a graduate degree in counseling. Sharon is a senior accountant for a major firm specializing in corporate tax. Aside from all of their degrees and interesting jobs, they care deeply about the people around them and put in a lot of their personal time to ensure that their parents, future charges and, in Sharon’s case, her teenage nephew, are properly looked after. I am the only married one in that bunch, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Many women, like my friends, are capable of being fulfilled without a husband, and they should be applauded.

So why am I extolling their virtues? I’ve noticed a recent groundswell of vitriol among other black female bloggers, who use the word mammy to describe some black women, and I couldn’t help but think that they could very well be taking digs at people like my near and dear friends. According to these bloggers, many black women have neglected their overall vitality to bury themselves under an avalanche of duty and obligation. Worse still, they insist, these women are wasting valuable time tending to other people’s needs when they should be mining for a husband — perhaps white — and a family. Therefore, say some, their efforts are all for nothing!

This is unacceptable for many reasons and the use of that word needs to be beaten back with the same fervor that it is being pushed on us. The word mammy is just as offensive as the word nigger. It has its roots in the Antebellum South, originally describing a rotund, unattractive black nurse maid for the plantation master’s children. Al Jolson also shored up the negative connotation in our pop culture while performing “My Mammy” in black face! While waiting for our food at a downtown restaurant the other day, I asked Sharon what she thought of the word ‘mammy.’

“Slavery,” she said.

Trust me, Sharon is no one’s slave, her single status, hard work and devotion to her family notwithstanding. She travels. She loves her job. The same applies to Hannah, who has visited India and is planning a trip to South Africa. Yet these bloggers are willing to defame awesome single black women with this word, especially those who show no particular inclination to ‘date out’ or recommend that their black female contemporaries do the same. All in the name of the so-called dating out movement. Using the word mammy and its variations to describe these women — or any other black woman who hasn’t taken up the ‘dating out’ banner — is narrow and ill-informed. It is thinly veiled name calling and a rather bratty way of dealing with people who hold different points of view.

I think this whole ilk should spend less time ripping into good people who are not doing bad all by themselves and make allowances for the fact that black women have made significant social and economic progress in the last five decades. The stigma of being single has been lessened significantly, so it is a mistake to try to turn back the clock on black women’s accomplishments. The alternative is to bray the same shrill message to an increasingly insular audience, until what is left is not a movement, but a bad idea, stagnant and marginalized.