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FULL OF YOURSELF: The Audacity of Self-Confidence

 

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“You can’t wake up looking for the recession.” – Jenifer Lewis

While doing some research, I came across an episode of Black Actress featuring the incomparable Jenifer Lewis. As soon as I heard that quote, I internalized it in a way that told me something I needed to hear that day: “Bee – stop looking at the things you lack. Stop claiming your deficits and ignoring your gifts.” It’s easy to fall into a self-confidence recession, and sometimes I have to ensure that I don’t fall into that hole.

There’s an air of audacity around self-confidence in women. From birth, it’s drilled into us that it’s more noble to minimize compliments and to not toot our own horns. We’re taught that it’s preferable to be more sugar than spice. We try to embody “everything nice” until we see that the jig is up – “everything nice” usually serves others at our expense, and that realization sometimes comes too late. To buck those trends – to accept compliments, to celebrate ourselves, to stop worrying about being nice and start busying ourselves with being authentic –  breaks the mold of what “good girls” do, thereby fragmenting the view of what a “lady” is.

You’re more malleable when you aren’t self-aware. You’re easier to predict and control when you aren’t self-assured. People know what to expect of you and how much space you’ll take up when your words and actions show that the answer is “not much.” I realized I didn’t want to be malleable, predictable, or controllable. I wanted more than the basics and more than the small space I allowed myself, and the key to that is through self-confidence.

There’s levels to this, though. For me, self-confidence is rooted in the fact that there ain’t nobody else out there like me. No one with my skills, laugh, height, skin tone, hair texture, voice. No one with my past. No one awaiting the gifts that are coming specifically for me in the future. There’s no one who possesses all these things the way I do – and for that fact alone, how can I not revel in the fact that I’m a 1 of 1?

I work damn hard, too. If someone compliments something I’ve done, I’d be a gotdamn fool to act like my merits are minuscule. And trust me – I’ve been that gotdamn fool. I’ve said “Oh, that was just a thing I did,” or “Gosh, it’s nothing big” when I’ve actually wanted to heartily say “Thank you!” and bask in the fact that yes, I did that.

I love me. I didn’t always – I didn’t hate myself, but I was indifferent – but I do more and more as the years pass. I love me enough to bounce back when someone else doesn’t. Or when I’ve failed and had to remind myself I’m worth the effort to try again. I love me enough to say “I want more” and follow up with “You deserve it. Go get it.” I love me, so it makes bouncing back from “I’m not feeling me” to “I’m dope as a muhfucka” a bit easier.

When did we start to believe that any step into self-confidence equated to arrogance? When did we start to believe that it was more important to make others comfortable than to take up our rightful space in the world? When did we decide to wait for someone else to confirm the things we already saw in ourselves? When did it begin to matter that other people sometimes don’t like the fact that you like yourself?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: low self-esteem is an epidemic of massive proportions. Playing yourself small under the guise of “being humble,” denying yourself the opportunity to be enriched by others, not celebrating the things that make you you – I don’t know about y’all, but acting like this starves me. I like feeling full, and when someone tells me it’s bad to be full of myself, I remember another necessary quote from Nikki Giovanni:

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
    and i’ll show you a hungry person
Fight the recession. Be full.

MONDAY RANDOMS: A Mish-Mash Of Thoughts

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So, I’ve started this post about 3 or 4 different times, erasing and re-crafting new opening statements that speak to whatever particular topic I feel should be my go-to for this week. The problem is, my mind is so all over the place that I want to equally speak on 3 or 4 different things, and I figure I’ll just do them all instead of trying to choose one.

Bee The Yogi

Last week was a really rough week for a few different reasons. I had a particularly tough day on Thursday but found solace in an unlikely spot – my neighbourhood yoga studio.

I’ve always been a sporadic yogi, mainly due to cost and the fact that yoga studios were often too far out of the way to make them easy for me to attend. I’ve always loved how yoga made me feel, so when we moved into our new ‘hood over the summer and I realized that a yoga studio was within walking distance from my house, I was curious about the possibilities of signing up. Instead of doing my usual investigative process before attending any fitness class, I simply Googled the studio, found a class starting in 30 minutes, grabbed my mat, a towel, and a bottle of water, and showed up.

I’m so glad I did. Moving my body, sweating, challenging myself, and focusing on something other than my problems worked like magic. After a day where I felt like I could do absolutely nothing right, the “Good job!” I earned from the instructor as I held the eagle pose meant everything. At the end of the class, I cried all through Savasana to release my remaining stress, then signed up for the newcomer special. Let’s see how this goes…

Sights Set On Spring

I’m not sure what it is, but winter 2015 is feeling like some ole bullshit for myself and a number of people I’ve spoken with. It seems like a lot of us welcomed this year in the midst of major flux – people are looking for new jobs, searching for new places to live, dealing with health issues, managing family issues, assessing current relationships, and are generally trying to just figure things out.

I’m calling it now: spring/summer 2015 is about to be amazing. With all of the trials and tribulations people are experiencing right now, I’m clinging to the belief that all of this chaos is just shifting the best parts of our lives thus far into place.

One of the quotes I live by in times like these is from Pearl Cleage:

The Buddhists believe that sometimes when everything is in turmoil, it’s because something wonderful is ready to be born and that thing is distracting you so it can have some privacy during the birthing process.

Here’s hoping that springtime gives birth to wonderful things.

Accountability Is Key

Are you working on something? Trying to achieve a goal? If you don’t have an accountability partner, do yourself a favour and get one.

I have accountability partners for various things. A group of veritable strangers on Twitter make up one group – if you follow the #GetCreative2015 hashtag there, you’ll find a gang of creatives who are using Twitter to keep each other working, learning, and growing, and it’s been SO helpful in these first few weeks of the year. I have a girlfriend who lives in Texas who keeps me in check and inspires me on various levels, including my goal to be more physically active (she was super proud when she heard of my yoga adventure the other day). Having even one person that you can check in with and who keeps you on track with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve makes a huge difference in productivity.

I’ve talked about mentorship and sponsorhip (two practices I wholly believe in), but having someone who keeps you accountable is another piece of the puzzle. Try to find that person for yourself, or offer to be that person for someone else – it’s truly a gamechanger.

 

Whew. It feels good to get those mini-thoughts out. At this point, I’m just hoping for a week better than the last – and I wish the same for you.

2015 FEARS: When You Can’t See What’s Next

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2015 is here, and I have to admit something – I’m a bit scared.

I usually welcome the new year with anticipation or more aptly, vorfruede: (n) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures. Especially since 2012 – which was one of the worst years on record for ya girl – I’ve tried to muster as much courage and optimism as I could with each new year, willing it to be better than the last.

And that’s generally what’s happened.

2013 was about rebuilding after enduring the traumas of 2012 (which I’ve sorta talked about but never written about). I started reconstructing my self-esteem and did the work to really begin figuring out what I wanted my life to look like. 2013 was my personal “Pheonix rising from the ashes” year, and I went through it dusty but determined to get back to who I knew I could be.

The work paid off in 2014. That was the year I felt I really started to step into being the woman I’ve always dreamed of. I took personal and professional risks, I practiced forgiveness, I found success, and I accomplished things that have been present on my vision boards for years now. I became a mother and in that role have found a new opportunity to mold this woman called Bee, who now has a girlchild looking to her for love and guidance.

2014 was a lot. I’m still trying to catch my breath and let all the wins, losses, and changes settle in, but now we’re in 2015 and it’s go time again. What scares me is that much more change is afoot and the year is beginning with me in a fuzzy haze, unable to see my next step, unable to find a map to help me get to some unclear destination. After a few years of working in set goals and absolutes, maybe 2015 is about letting go of control a bit…letting the change wash over me…focusing more on who I want to be and how I want to feel about life than merely working towards the acquisition of things. What scares me is that despite having goals for the year, I don’t really see anything. I can’t remember a year filled with more unknowns. On the positive, I try to view the unknown as the sign of an open road, of possibility. On the negative, it makes my stomach tight, my breath short, and my sleep disturbed.

I want to be consistent with blogging, continue to earn my stripes as a freelance writer, and work on some other new creative projects. I want to put on great events. I want to travel. I want to read more. I want to make money. I want to continue to work towards fulfillment in my professional and personal lives. So, the intentions are there, but this 2015 haze has perfumed the air with the scent of trepidation, watchfulness and assessment. Was 2014 a fluke? Will I make the right decisions when it comes to my career? Will I take good control of my health? What will my shifting priorities mean for my life? How am I going to balance the various identities that jostle against themselves in my body like atoms do? How will I handle all the changes in my life, knowing I’ve never been good with it at all? Too many questions make me nervous, but all I see are the questions and all I feel are the nerves.

I know I’ve grown, because even through the nerves and fear, I still carry a tiny sparkle of hope that everything will be alright. In fact, one of my personal mantras (that always makes sense to me if it doesn’t for anyone else) is “Everything will be alright, then it will be better than alright” and I’m carrying that with me. Old Bee would allow this fear to paralyze her, to cause her to shut down when things get too hard, to crumble with even the slightest touch of negativity, to fuel a never-ending game of “What If” where she tries to control every possible outcome of a situation. I’m not 100% removed from that girl, but this year I’ll attempt to let these nerves be the energy that propels me while embracing the fact that “I don’t know” is an answer I can give myself. “I don’t know” doesn’t mean “I’ll never know,” but it gives me time and room, allowing me to be a bit kinder to myself in what will undoubtedly be a year that requires self-care.

So, 2015 is here and we have no choice but to be present and make the best of it. Hopefully this haze will dissipate and my way will become a bit clearer – but until then I’ll just float along, letting go of things that don’t serve me well, grasping the things that do, finding the beauty in “I don’t know,” and making an effort to simply do my best every day.

INHALE/EXHALE: Reflecting On 2014

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After writing my last post (nearly a month ago – Lawd!), I decided I really needed to step back a bit to address some of the things I wrote about – feeling overwhelmed, being addicted to achievement, and not taking a moment to let all of life’s changes sink in. I’ve been trying to work on all those things, and I think I’m starting to make some headway. 2014 has been a hell of a year – both personally and with society overall, I feel – and now that we’re here at the end of it, I figured that I’d use this post to continue to aid in my aim of self-preservation and reflect a bit on what was before thinking about what will be in 2015.

I think 2014 was the first year in a while that I didn’t make a vision board. I had all intentions of doing so – I even started one on my favourite vision board app on Oprah’s site. I never got around to finishing it, and part of me wondered if this would, on some supernatural level, equate to me having a year without direction. Funnily enough, now that the year is closing out I feel that I have more direction than I could have ever imagined. They say “to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been” – so I feel that this moment of reflection is akin to the drawing back of a bow before the arrow is launched at its intended target. Draw back with me for a moment, will you?

2014 was the year of excess. Not in any kind of hedonistic wealth-driven kind of way, but in the way of having so many decisions, so many changes, so many risks, and so man achievements. 2014 has made me exhausted in some of the best ways possible, and 2014 has transformed me in ways that still haven’t settled themselves fully in my spirit.

Achievements/Lessons Learned

I learned (yet again) that my big mouth can and will get me into “trouble” – voicing my opinions about a TV show hosts’ misogynistic blog post on women in media earned me a spot on his show, giving life to the Rick Ross lyric “F*ck a blog, dog, ’cause one day we gon’ meet!”

I got to meet one of my girl crushes – the awesome Yendi Phillipps – not once, but twice, and tested out some new interviewing skills in my first set of ’83 To Infinity videos. That experience taught me not to sell myself short – I almost didn’t email her management for an interview request because I thought I was too small-time. Had I not, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity and would have stunted my own growth. And I’m all about growth.

I learned that pregnancy/motherhood can slow your roll, but it doesn’t have to. From hosting events to being a featured panelist to facilitating workshops to speaking at conferences, I somehow found a way to keep myself more than busy this year. I also found time to start/continue 3 “signature” events – Brunch With Bee in March, Curls, Coils & Cocktails in July, and Mirror Images in October. Don’t ask me how I did it – I think I’ve been running on adrenaline for most of 2014.

I stepped my freelance writing game up in a big way. From writing some great pieces for my current outlets to being nationally and internationally published, I’m growing into my writing skills daily.

I can now call myself “an award-winning blogger” after taking home the Best Blogger award at the 2014 Black Canadians Award. My mantle now has a bit of extra sparkle to it, but the recognition of my hard work is even better. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, I launched The Brown Suga Mama. It’s been fun juggling my two online spaces, and both have seen awesome growth.

New Identities

I tried on a bunch of new roles and titles this year, some because I believed in myself enough to succeed in them (like my Community Health Ambassador role), and some because other people have believed in me to succeed (like some new projects I’m working on that I’ll share soon!). The one new role that merges both is the new identity of mother. My Little Magician is almost 6 months old at this point, and life has changed immeasurably since she’s come into it. She’s made me tougher and softer at the same time. She’s caused me to rearrange some of my priorities and re-evaluate what I think is/thought was important. She’s made me want to know myself more than ever before, because everyone (including myself) sees me differently now. Those who previously saw me as a wife/daughter/sister/friend now see me with a new dimension added, but for her, I have always been this entity, this icon, this person – so I’ve kinda gotta get it together and be honest about it in the process.

It’s not easy. I’m not good with change. I put too much pressure on myself. I overthink things. I struggle. A lot. All of this is a recipe for disaster when getting acclimated to a new addition to the Venn diagram of self-identity, but such is life. I’m still figuring out how to do this, how I want to do it, who I want to be – but through her birth I’ve also been reborn in a way, so one day I’ll thank her for allowing me to grow with her.

Reset. Renew. 

Though we often get in the habit of reviewing the past year at this point in the calendar, I always have a bit of a reset period in May leading up to my birthday. This year I happened to write: Hello, 31: that curious point in life where – if you’re blessed – you not only feel like you’ve lived a full lifetime already, but you also feel like you’re just getting started. I’m blessed. If I felt that in May, I feel it tenfold now – especially the point about just getting started. Remember that earlier point I made about having direction? So many things this year have given me clarity on what I believe, where I stand, what I want, and how I’m going to get it. There is so much out there for me to immerse myself in, to taste, to touch, to discuss, to learn – and I refuse to waste any more time with self-doubt. My goal is to wrap up 2014 with gratitude, and enter 2015 feeling renewed and ready. Drawing back that bow is like taking a moment to inhale deeply – but it’s almost time to exhale, let go, and let that arrow fly.

DIAMONDS & DUST: Succumbing To Pressure You Put On Yourself

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I had to do something really uncomfortable the other day. I had to sit down with someone I really cared about, look them in the eye, and tell them, “Hey. You’ve really gotta cut the bullsh*t and get it together.” I knew this person was avoiding the conversation, and I knew they didn’t really want to hear it, but it had to be said.

That person on the receiving end of this reality check was me.

Though I’ve maintained a steely exterior, fault lines have been forming below the surface for some time now. I’m always reminded that diamonds form under pressure, but I’m quick to note that things crumble under it too. I always err on the side of being sparkly, beautiful, and conflict-free, but I finally had to admit that if the products of pressure were laid out like a fork in the road, things were actually heading down a dire path.

I’m a true Taurus in that change is very difficult for me. Becoming a mom, physical fluctuations, moving and becoming a homeowner, leaving my 9-5, having more time for passions, having some passions lose their lustre and turn into burdens – things have changed so much that sometimes I look in the mirror and have a hard time recognizing myself. Being a chronic overachiever, self-critic, and overthinker do nothing to help with my identity shift, either.

I see now that there are things I’ve done, things I’ve agreed to, more for the purpose of proving I could do them than actually wanting to do them. I’ve tried to hold on to parts of life that were familiar, and I’ve tried to mold something magnificent with these new compartments – but the way I feel much of the time shows me that I’ve gone about it all wrong. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve done a good job of internally dealing with all these changes, and I’ve been using external things to pretend like I have.

How common is it to hop, skip, and jump over things that need to be addressed by just layering something else on top of it? Sometimes retail therapy is my chosen cloak of oblivion. Sometimes I get very vain and focus wholly on the external – feeling “together” if the outside is shiny, painted, and pretty. Other times – like now – I get high on achievement and doing things. Doing things keeps my mind busy. Gives me something goal-oriented to focus on. Lets me know people still value me when they ask me to be somewhere/do something. Achievement and accomplishment get a bit addictive, especially when someone even slightly insinuates that there’s something I can’t do. So instead of taking a break, checking in with myself, and giving myself time to adjust to everything swirling around me, I’ve been pushing through, masking my insecurities and poor adjustment skills with doing more and more.

I sat down with myself the other day and said, “Self, this cannot continue.” I had heard it from those near and dear to me, but didn’t take it to heart until I said it to myself. It’s time to assess why I do the things I do, what I may be missing in the constant noise, and how I’m going to proceed. I’ve only gotten as far as that conversation with myself and this blog post, so I have some work to do.

Sometimes the hardest conversations are the ones we have with ourselves. I believe that they’re also the most transformative ones, so here’s to being real, being honest, and coming out as a more balanced and well-adjusted person on the other side.

WISH/CREATE: Why I Created #MirrorImages Ft. Black Canadian Women In Media

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There’s nothing more liberating – and frightening – than deciding to create instead of wait.

Let me explain.

I tend to get myself into trouble (good trouble) when I open my mouth or mind and say “I wish…” I’m usually wishing to see something, do something, have something, or visit somewhere. And I’m usually waiting for someone else to do the leg work in order to grant me my wish.

Lately, I’ve taken a bit more of a proactive approach to making my wishes come true in two big ways.

One day, I openly lamented the scantiness of parenting blogs run by non-White moms and dads in Canada. The next day, I stayed up til 5am buying domains, picking themes, setting up emails and social media accounts, and writing posts for The Brown Suga Mama.

One day, I read a piece about natural hair in the eyes of Canadian media from one woman’s perspective, and openly wished to attend an event featuring Black Canadian women in the industry. Two hours later, Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media was born.

The presence of Black women in media has been a major talking point of late. Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, black-ish, Suits, and Sleepy Hollow frequently come up in discussion, opposing the images of Black women offered via reality show vehicles. Here in Canada, the recent Globe and Mail gaffe mixing up Traci Melchor and Tracy Moore led to discussions on the cross-race effect, or other-race bias. Arisa Cox’s earlier-mentioned piece on being ordered to straighten her natural hair (and her decision to quit instead) was the final catalyst to the creation of Mirror Images. These points and more inspired me to forge a space to have an authentic conversation about the issues around diversity and representation in media, particularly from the perspective of Black Canadian women.

I find that the majority of conversations I engage in around race and media come from an American lens. Having those kinds of discussions here in Canada seems rare, but is not something we should be shying from. As I’ve said before, Canada’s PR team is GOLDEN – we often snuggle under our cozy blanket of multiculturalism, but far too often we pull that blanket over our heads and refuse to discuss the nuances of that multiculturalism in various contexts. I’m hoping that Mirror Images will help us to pull that blanket down and bring light to a variety of issues from a Canadian perspective – this is a conversation that EVERYONE needs to be a part of.

I have an incredible panel line up:

Tatiana King: Radio Personality, G 98.7FM’s “The African Groove Show”
Arisa Cox: Freelance Journalist & Host of Big Brother Canada
Kim Johnson: Producer, CityNews
Nneka Elliott: Reporter/Anchor/Co-host, CP24 Breakfast
Ingrie Williams: Stylist & Editor of HOLR Magazine
Namugenyi Kiwanuka: Columnist & Videographer

These women are all representing various arms of Canadian media, and will all bring rich perspectives and experiences to the table. With these women, I hope to foster an important discussion and allow room for new connections to be made. If you’re in the media industry, aim to be, create content, or consume media, this event is for you. Mirror Images sponsors Harlem Restaurant, R Flavour, Soulafrodisiac, and Caribbean Vibrations TV all believe in the vision of the event, and the support has been amazing. Like I said at the start of this post, creating the things you wish for is liberating yet frightening – but genuine support helps to alleviate some of those jitters.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to show support as well – if you’re in the Toronto area, please join us for Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media on Sunday, October 26th from 1:30-5pm at Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond Street East)! Tickets are $10 and available here on Brown Paper Tickets.

Mara Brock Akil’s acceptance speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock award show has stuck with me since I first heard it. She stated “My work is driven by my belief that the human spirit needs validation,” and continued to let us know, “Even if no one else sees you, I see you.” With Mirror Images, I want us to be seen, to be heard, to be validated, and to be respected. That’s what I wish for.

FEMININE FOUNDATION: Lessons From My Mother’s Room

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about womanhood and my understanding and expression of it. I recently wrote a piece about how my Caribbean heritage played a role in my development from girl to woman, and a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of another way in which my womanhood was molded – by visiting the sacred space known as my mother’s bedroom.

Someone on Twitter threw a question out to the timeline the other day – “How old were you when you realized your mom was fly?” I couldn’t remember the exact age, but I recalled being in Jamaica one night when my parents were prepping for a night out on the town. I remember sitting on the bed watching my mom in the mirror, painting her lips red while fixing her curls. She wore a pretty gold dress and slipped her feet into black pumps before floating out the door in a cloud of perfume, and I swore she was magic. After that moment, I loved being able to sit in my mom’s room and soak up all things grown woman (cue Beyoncé).

My closet was full of little girl clothes, and my drawers filled with little girl undershirts and underwear. My toiletries were pink and purple bottles, marked with cartoon princesses and other accoutrements that signified my youth. My “nail polishes” and “lipsticks” were kid-friendly lacquers that didn’t compare to the real thing, and I knew it. And everything was plastic. Plastic could be cleaned, could drop without shattering, could be refilled when the familiar wheezing sound alerted us to its emptiness. Plastic wasn’t precious.

Meanwhile, everything in my mom’s room had a presence that demanded respect and the utmost care. Waxy lipsticks in rich reds and deep burgundies. Clothes that shimmered, that exposed brown legs and décolletage. Satiny, silky, lacy undergarments folded carefully in drawers. Shoes that my feet swam in, but that pumped me up a few inches when I slid them on. Jeweled hair clips and glass perfume bottles with vintage atomizers glittered on her dresser, and everything begged to be touched. Some of the most fun I had in my childhood was the time spent in my mom’s room, getting lost in her take on beauty and womanhood, and daydreaming about what my own expressions of the same would look like. My childish trinkets weren’t enough for me, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to be a grown woman just like her.

Well, I’m gettin’ grown now and I’m my own woman. Like my mom, a good red lip and black eyeliner are among my beauty staples. I appreciate the power of a hypnotic fragrance, and agree that some of the best fashion statements are made in the small details. Unlike her, my hair and earrings can never be too big. My style isn’t as refined and classic as hers, and we have differing boundaries on what’s ‘too sexy’. She gave me the starting point with which to build my foundations of femininity and womanhood – but even more importantly, she gave me the freedom to develop into the kind of woman I wanted to be.

Time is a funny thing. It can crunch years into a tight coil, making a decade ago feel like a day ago – or, it can take the span of a month and stretch it into what seems like forever. Now that I have my own daughter, I wonder what lessons she’ll learn from nosing around my dressers and closets – and it feels a bit surreal that history is already repeating itself. No matter how much I may be solidifying my own definitions of beauty, femininity, and womanhood, there’s nothing like tiptoeing into Mom’s room and running my finger along her dresser to make me feel like a little girl again.

DON’T BOW DOWN: Thoughts Inspired By Michael Brown & Ferguson

via Cleveland.com

via Cleveland.com

It hurts to say this, but I had a moment last week where I looked at my daughter and wondered, “What did I do? This might have been a mistake.”

Not because I regret her presence. Not because I think I’m a terrible mother (well, I have had those thoughts, but that’s another #BROWNSUGAMAMA post for another day). No, I looked at my daughter’s face as she slept and wondered if I made a selfish mistake to bring her into this world, because I wonder what “surviving while Black” will look like for her. In the case of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Renisha McBride and so many others, it’s quite clear that there is still a critical struggle to see the value in Black lives.

I’ve been glued to all things #MikeBrown and #Ferguson since the news started trickling down – then flooding –  my Twitter timeline on August 9th. The fact of the matter is this: Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, was shot multiple times and murdered by Darren Wilson, a White cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

Both victim and killer are gone.

One is waiting to be laid to rest after laying in the street for hours post-shooting, after enduring autopsy after autopsy, after using science to shed light on the truths his body holds.

The other has seemingly vanished behind a protective wall of blue, on paid leave while receiving over $100,000 in GoFundMe donations from other police officers, bigots, and racists alike.

Through it all – the mishandling of Brown’s body, the attempts to assassinate his character, the lies told by Wilson and the police department, the treatment of protesters in Ferguson, the mixed messages between mainstream and independent media, and the brazen boldness of racists with internet access – I’m not sure how anyone can cling to the claims of living in a post-racial society. If the jig was ever present, it is now up.

It seems that when Black bodies aren’t being seen as curiosities to be prodded and examined, they’re being seen as threats to be exterminated. Some remain under the belief that respectability politics around pulling up our pants and not dressing like “thugs” and “hoes” will save us, but that negates the fact that Blacks have been harrassed, attacked, beaten, lynched, and shot wearing their Sunday best for decades. Others say well-intentioned yet erroneous statements like “I don’t see colour” or “We’re all just one race” when neither colour nor race is the issue. The beauty in our differences gets marred by the ugliness of bigotry and racism – and it’s that evil that is the real enemy. Do I want to be colourless and melt into one overarching race? No. Do I want to be respected as the brownskinned Black Canadian woman of Jamaican descent that I am? Yes. Frankly, you’ve got me f*cked up if the only way I can earn my humanity is to erase any flavour of individuality that has been handed down to me by my ancestors.

I’m tired of feeling like I have two strikes against me as a Black woman, and I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter to feel the same. I’m tired of worrying about my husband, my brother, my father – living/working both in Canada and in the States, being harassed by police both in Canada and in the States, being feared and having to prove their humanity both in Canada and in the States. I’m tired of snatching the rose-coloured glasses off of people who think we live in a utopia; who think that racism will disappear when victims of racism stop talking about the abuse they experience at the hands of racists. I’m tired of people demanding perfection from Black folk – a perfection that is killing some of us in attempts to attain it, and finding many of us dead in spite of it. I’m tired of deceased Black men and women being put to trial for their own murders, being convicted with harsher penalty than the real criminals. I’m tired of helplessly mourning lives taken by cowards who hold the weapons yet play the victim when face-to-face with skin darker than theirs. I’m tired of being tired and refuse to bow out of the fight. Joining the ranks of Black motherhood in this day and age requires a new burst of energy to protect my child and initiate as much change as possible to make her world a bit better, more liveable, more survivable.

Michael Brown’s death will not be in vain. The mobilization and consciousness around the realities of what’s happening will undoubtedly lead to some level of change. A conviction in his murder? The end of racism? That, I don’t know and highly doubt. But some change is coming. I feel it.

My daughter’s life is not a mistake. The enemy will not take my happiness, as was attempted months ago during my pregnancy. Walking down the street, I had an encounter where I was pushed and called “a n*gger with a n*gger baby” by an Asian couple. I will not fear the decision to bring her here, and will teach her to be fearless and unapologetic in her expression of self.

Not sure what more I can say. Rest in peace, Michael. Stay encouraged, residents of Ferguson. Citizens of the world, I’m praying for us all.

RACE IN CANADA: Where American Media Went Wrong With Justin Bieber

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Being a Canadian blogger/writer with a majority American readership, I sometimes struggle to balance topics that I’m genuinely passionate about with those that will resonate with the lovely people who read my words.

I feel at times that the voices and experiences of Black Canadians get lost in the roar of our cousins to the south. Working to uncover our own histories and cementing our own identities is hard enough – we’re either sucked into the cultural vortex (i.e., being called “African-American” by Whites, which they think is PC but we know is geographically incorrect), or our experiences are negated because we live in ‘Canada’ – a land whose name has apparently come to mean “blessed nirvana where social ills cease to exist.”

The latter was all too apparent this week, as Justin Bieber – or La Bieba, as I like to call him – was seen on two leaked tapes (the first, and the second) dating 5-6 years in the past, referencing “niggers” and singing about joining the KKK.

Rocsi Diaz (of Entertainment Tonight) said that La Bieba “didn’t know better because he’s Canadian,” and granted him a pass.

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Whoopi Goldberg (of The View) tweeted that “Canada didn’t have the same history” with the word as America, and granted him a pass.

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Don Lemon (of CNN) wrote about his soul-burning question – “Are we to blame?” (before editing the original title) – asking if African-Americans and AA culture was the cause of La Bieba’s ignorance, and gave him a pass.

If it wasn’t enraging enough that these media figures were finding ways to paint La Bieba as a poor victim of circumstance or an unaware patsy, they did it while simultaneously minimizing or ignoring what I feel is the true grievance – the prevalence of racism in Canada.

Allow me to enlighten you all in simple terms.

I am a Black woman.

I was born and raised, and still live in Canada.

I spent my first 23 years of life in a small town very close to the smaller town La Bieba is from.

And lastly – get ready to clutch your pearls – racism is alive in Canada. Don’t let our Olivia Pope-level (seasons 1 & 2, not 3) PR fool you.

Covert and overt racism exist here. From being hit with bananas thrown at me from passing cars as I walked to school, to having teachers keep me separate from classmates because their parents didn’t want us fraternizing, to being followed in stores like a thief or outright ignored due to my perceived lack of finances, to most recently when my physical space was violated and both myself and my unborn child were called niggers – I’d love the Rocsis and Whoopis of the world to recognize our reality.

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Visiting my father’s friends – migrant farm workers – who lived in the country surrounding my and Justin’s hometowns, I distinctly recall having to leave before sundown to avoid “trouble.” Ku Klux Klan activity was known and accepted around my town, and it was commonplace to hear young White children holler “Nigger!” from their front yards as Blacks passed by, to the delight and pride of their parents. I see La Bieba in the same light as these children from my past – absorbing learned behaviours and sustaining those lessons as they move through life. To the Don Lemons of the world, please understand that for many of these children, hip hop and African-American culture were not their introduction to racist terms. The red carpet to that entranceway was rolled out by families and communities who instilled in them the ideologies of racism, White privilege, and Black inferiority, long before a sing-along to Jigga My Nigga or connections with YMCMB gave them any level of permission.

Canada’s spectacular PR team laid out the most delicious of cookies and Kool-Aid, and people like Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don took the bait. Canada is not populated by unsuspecting yokels who sing Kumbaya with their multicultural neighbours. Canada is not a place lacking in its own ugly, painful history (and present, to be honest) of disastrous race relations. Canada is not an idyllic oasis that can solely blame the American influence for the soils and stains on its pristine image. Canada is a place where the intent and emotional effect of hurling racial slurs is the same as it is in America, and it is a place where there is no room for the excuse, “He didn’t know any better.”

To Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don: I hope this helps straighten things out.

Signed,

Your neighbour to the north

THE GAP: Where Are The Black Canadian Mommy Bloggers?

Photo via Huffington Post

Photo via Huffington Post

With Little Magician about to make his or her grand entrance in just a few weeks (where the hell did time go?), I’ve been spending more time online – getting info on Braxton Hicks contractions, finding prenatal yoga videos on YouTube, and sticking my toe into the unfamiliar waters of mommy blogging. Up until now, reading parenting blogs was done with an air of general interest and curiosity, but these days I find myself more drawn to the words and experiences of other moms in the digital sphere.

Sites like My Brown Baby, Mater Mea, Baby And Blog, and Black And Married With Kids have given me awesome insight to the complexities of modern African-American parenthood – but that’s part of my current conundrum. I’m not African-American.

Searching for parenting blogs by Black Canadians has been extremely difficult. On lists like Savvy Mom’s 75 Most Influential Canadian Mom Blogs, Yummy Mummy Club’s 24 Mom Blogs You Should Be Reading, and Reader’s Digest’s list of Canada’s Top 10 Mommy Bloggers, I could only readily identify 2 blogs by Black moms – Peg City Lovely and Globetrotting Mama. I haz a sad.

Visiting the aforementioned African-American blogs often makes me feel like I’m at a summer BBQ with the people who “get” me – those Black moms (and dads) who are navigating the ups and downs of raising Black children in today’s world. However, every once in a while, a post here or there will remind me that I don’t quite fit – like that distant cousin who brings the questionable potato salad to the festivities. Simply put, the African-American experience doesn’t always resonate with my African-Canadian one, and I yearn to balance that with digital offerings this side of the border. That’s proving to be quite difficult, though.

I attended a Canadian blogging conference a year and a half ago, and found that mommy bloggers rule the world up here. I met one Chinese-Canadian mommy blogger and one Sri Lankan-Canadian mommy blogger, but aside from them, the rest were White. Now, I know that that was just my finding at one random conference, but Google searches and requests for referrals from others have yielded very similar results.

Where are the Black Canadian mommy bloggers? Where are the mommy bloggers to discuss how provincial government cuts affect the statistics around Black children and education? Where are the mommy bloggers that have the scoop on cultural programs and events in the city? Where are the mommy bloggers who’ll write about the first time they introduced their babies to cornmeal porridge, yam and fried dumplin? I understand and acknowledge that there are a multitude of motherhood topics that transcend race, but damn – sometimes I want to read about the experiences of parents who more closely share my cultural identity.

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I was having a conversation about this with another mother of colour, and she stated that she’d love to start a mommy blog, but wanted it to be just that – a mommy blog, not a Black Canadian mommy blog. Concerns about alienating potential readers and brand partnerships were at the top of her list – “You’ve got to be careful not to make things too Black up here – I don’t know if people are ready for that,” she said. My response was, “What is ‘too Black’? And how will people ‘get ready’ for us if we don’t make our presence known?” Similarly to people who think that racism will go away when Black people stop talking about race, I feel that Canadians think we’ll truly embody our happy multicultural identity when we stop drawing so much overt attention to our multiculturalism. I could go down a rabbit hole on thoughts around diversity, representation, appealing to the mainstream, access to business partnerships and much more (both within and outside of the digital sphere), but I’ll hold off – for now. All I know is, if I can visit a Canadian mommy blog and be intrigued by a kids’ DIY featuring a Scottish family crest and tartan, why can’t someone visit another Canadian mommy blog and be intrigued by a recipe for a healthy kids’ snack using ackee and saltfish? As a Black Canadian woman, I’m inspired by things totally unrelated to my culture all the time. We do ourselves a disservice when we place a label of normalcy on one cultural offering, and assume that our offering is too different to be accepted – leading us to seek acceptance by assimilation. You (yes, you, reader!) may disagree with me, but I don’t think that should be the blueprint. And if I choose do go down that mommy blogger road, I don’t think it’ll be mine.

Ah, yes. If I choose to go down that mommy blogger road. While searching the web for that particular blog niche, a familiar voice popped up in the back of my head saying, “Be the thing you’re looking for.” Many of the goals I’ve accomplished and risks I’ve taken have all happened because I started out wondering when someone else was going to do them – and this mommy blogger thing might be the next task on that list. Now, I haven’t fully committed myself to the idea or conceptualized what it may look like, but I do know that the best things come to me when I identify a gap and fill it myself. As ’83 To Infinity is already my digital comfy couch, it’s a given that I’ll be posting about the journeys with my Little Magician from time to time – but how far do I want to take it? Until I figure that out, I’ll continue to dabble in the digital offerings on both sides of the border and beyond, and see what other mommies have to say. I’m sure I’ll add my own voice in my own way soon enough.

Who are your favourite mommy/parenting blogs? I’d love to check them out! 

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