Tag Archives: deep in thought

SHUT UP: Quieting The Voice That Tears You Down

Overthinking is a helluva drug. Self-criticism is even worse.

I often fall into phases where I overthink, overanalyze, and push myself to attain the goals that seem just outside of my reach. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it often fires me up to run harder, lunge farther, and hit the finish line first. Competition with other folks usually isn’t my issue. My biggest competitor is myself, so if I hit a goal before I thought I would, or before others thought I could, that is the ultimate win for me.

But on the flip side – overthinking can bring out the nasty side of self-competition: that little voice in your head that starts as a whisper and rapidly escalates to a banshee scream. It’s that voice that tells you that you can’t do it. It’s that voice that cackles at you when you stumble. It’s that voice that verbally assaults you like an overbearing drill sergeant when you think you’re doing your best – but it’s quick to tell you that your “best” just isn’t damn well good enough. Lately, this voice has been winning.

I’ve been overthinking a lot. Am I happy at my job? If I’m not, what am I going to do about it? How good is my writing? Do I have any potential to do anything of substance with this thing that I’m so passionate about? Should I cut my cable bill to throw more dough on my student loan payments? Am I spending enough time nurturing my relationships? If my next follow-up goes well in September, baby makin’ will get the green light. But is that a good time to start? If I conceive by…, that means the baby will due in…and that means I’d take maternity leave in…and so on and so on.

Overthinking in addition to that self-deprecating voice isn’t a good mix. That voice will have me thinking that I have no talent. That I’m never going to find success. That I’m going to be a friendless old hack with a miserable husband who wonders why we STILL don’t have cable and why I’m STILL paying off OSAP loans. That voice is saying I’m going to have kids too late. That I’ll never find a way to make a positive impact on the world. That I’m irrational, invisible, and really don’t matter all that much.

I’ve decided to push past this voice. Here’s how:

I took a look at my vision board, with the reminder to “be your own biggest supporter, not just your biggest critic!” I peeked at the calendar and noted that we’re halfway through 2012. I chose to be excited for 6 more months to make this the best year event, and rejected the idea of mourning the 6 that had already passed. I printed out a kind email from one of my staff and folded it up in my desk, a reminder that I do make a difference for someone. I signed up for writing workshops and networking events to work on my craft and make moves. The icing on the cake was when I visited the newly revamped Malton Moms site – you may remember that I did two workshops with the group in the spring – and I was ecstatic to see that the ladies have taken my teachings and ran with them. It felt so good to see that I helped someone to make a change for the better. That feel good came right at the perfect time. The voice screaming in my ear started to stutter, then choke, then faded back into the shadows.

So, I’ve quieted that voice for now. I’m chillin’ out on the excessive overanalysis of any and everything. I work hard, do well, and plan to succeed. I’m definitely not without my mistakes and failures, but the only way they define me is by the lessons I’ve learned from them. Thank God for those feel good moments that help to silence my biggest critic – myself.

Are you hard on yourself? How do you keep the self-deprecation in check? What are your tricks for handling disappointment, failure, and those ugly moments of insecurity? We all have them at one point or another! Share your thoughts!

 

Stress Management: Easier Said Than Done – But It CAN Be Done

Photo source

How good are you at managing your stress levels? I’ll be honest with y’all – I’m HORRIBLE at it.

As I’ve gone through life, I’ve been able to recognize that I’m good at a lot of things – but stress management is something that I struggle with constantly. It’s not until you begin to suffer the physical and mental consequences of stress that you realize how vital proper management is, but it’s definitely something that is easier said than done, isn’t it?

The consequences of poor stress management are never-ending. Migraines, chest pain, insomnia. Anxiety, depression, anger issues. Over/under eating, panic attacks, drug abuse. The negative effects of stress attack you across physical, mental, and emotional spheres, but what can we do about it? Even better, is there a way to minimize the amount of stress we feel in our day-to-day lives? I’ve been reading a few articles from the Mayo Clinic, and found them to be very helpful to me in improving my stress management.

The first step is to identify your sources of stress. Stressors are all around us, and there is little we can do to completely eliminate those factors from our lives. However, identifying what your particular stressors are is the first step in proper management. Take a pen and paper and think about what stresses you. Write the first things that come to mind, then review your list. Do you have acute (or immediate) stressors, like work annoyances or stress around unexpected events? Do you have chronic (or longterm) stressors like money worries or family problems? Are your stressors external or internal? Once you’re able to categorize your stressors, you can start to do something about them.

Categorizing was always the easy part for me. Doing something about them? Therein lies the struggle.

I used to fall into defeatist mode with my stressors. There was a time when my stressors either seemed entirely out of my control, or played a cruel game of “one step forward, two steps back” when I tried to tackle them. Managing my stress became just another source of stress, and I worked myself into an unhealthy pattern with really bad after-effects. Panic attacks. Heart flutters. A pseudo-epileptic episode that turned out not to be epilepsy at all – but left me with a propensity to have strange muscle spasms when stressed. Shedding hair, erratic mood swings, and migraines all added to the mix, which made me a not-too-fun person to be around. High stress can also lead me down the road to depression, so when I realized I was isolating myself and choosing to sleep instead of live my life, I knew I had to find some kind of coping strategy.

I’ve since implemented a few different strategies in managing my stress:

  • accept what you can’t control, and change what you can: I hated my job, so I started looking for a new one. I couldn’t stand my boss, but while I worked for her I used other coping methods to get through the day. The same idea goes for toxic people, environments, or situations. Accept what you can’t control, and change what you can.
  • focus on what you have, not what you lack: it was way too easy to fall into depression or anxiety when I focused on my problems. When I started embracing the good things (starting off with not getting out of bed until I felt real gratitude that I woke up that morning), things got a bit easier. When I focused on the good, I started seeing more good in my life, which minimized the bad.
  • remove emotion and think logically: there are many times when I have to take a step back from the stress-induced sadness and anger, and really think rationally about my situation. This is when I’m able to do the best planning for how I’ll get myself out of the situation that’s stressing me. Trying to make a plan in the midst of emotional overload leads to the most over-the-top solutions that will NEVER work in the real world, but WILL make me laugh after the fact.
  • find your sanctuary and cry: I’ll admit it – there are days when it gets to be too much, and I just have to let it out. I sit on my balcony, I sit in my car, or I walk down to a park down the street from my office and let it go.
  • talk to someone: I have my mom, my husband, and 3 close girlfriends that I turn to when I’m stressed. Not only do they give me new perspectives that help steer me in a new direction, but they also just listen to me when I need nothing else but an ear. Talking to someone can also mean calling a crisis line, utilizing your company’s Employee Assistance Program, or speaking with a counselor or other mental health professional. Never be ashamed to seek help.
  • get physical: when the going gets tough, the tough get going – sometimes you just need to blow off steam in a physical way. Yoga is great for rejuvenating and calming you. Kickboxing is awesome for imagining your boss’ head on the pads working out your frustrations. Sex is amazing for…well, sex is just amazing. Get it (safely) and get it often.

For me, things like having a good cry and getting physical help in the short term, and the accept/change and the have/have not models help in the long term. I’ll be the first to admit, however, that it’s much easier said than done. In order to realize how important good stress management is, you sometimes have to cross that line into scary stress territory and see what your alternatives are. Hopefully, by identifying your stressors, using coping methods, and plotting strategies to deal with or overcome your stressors, you’ll be able to get on the path to good stress management. I never think of stress management as a destination to be reached, but a journey we’ll be on for the rest of our lives. You never know what’s around the corner, so develop the tools now in order to handle whatever life may throw at you later.

Are you good at handling your stress? Have you ever suffered from negative after-effects due to severe stress? What are your triggers? An example of my acute stressor would be any kind of mess (dishes in the kitchen? clothes not put away? yeah, NO), and a chronic stressor would be navigating my career path. I’ve got to do different things to manage the different kinds of stress…what do you do to deal with your stress?

Thursday Thoughts: Turning It Around & Flying High

May 2007: Mount Fuji from my airplane window. Flying high.

“This morning I tweeted “2012 is starting off as the year of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.” Now I realize that nothing will change if I don’t change my train of thought. I’m making a serious effort to indulge in more gratitude, more positivity, more intention and action…less fear, less anxiety, less negativity and complacency.

I was complaining about work yesterday and immediately got a text that a friend had passed away from cancer. The lesson I got wasn’t so much “be glad you have a job…sh*t could be worse” – it was more life is too short…don’t waste your time.” I’m grateful for opportunities to turn things around.”

~ yours truly

This is my 100th post (or it 101? WordPress is conflicting at times). I promised it would be about my cousin Mike, but…..I’m just not ready to publish that post yet. Please accept this little mash-up of thoughts I’ve been having recently – go forth and prosper in positivity and all that good stuff :)  

What Would You Say To The Younger You?

Image: Tom Hussey

Did any of you watch the Black Girls Rock Awards on BET last week? If not, you know how BET is – they’ll run that joint over and over, so I’m sure you’ll be able to catch it some evening when they aren’t playing Soul Plane or that Christmas movie with Gabby Union and Morris Chestnut. Anyways, I digress. Black Girls Rock is an initiative started by DJ Beverly Bond – click here for more details.

In honouring “Black girls who rock” like Taraji P. Henson, Angela Davis, and Laurel Ritchie (president of the WNBA), the audience learned a lot about their achievements and goals for the future. One award recipient took a look back into the past, and it made for one of the show’s most poignant moments.

Tatyana Ali read a letter she wrote to her younger self – click here to see a clip of her acceptance speech. While I loved her words, I wondered, “What’s the point?” I’m used to the childhood games of writing letters to our future selves, sticking them in a time capsule or burying them away in a notebook, then unearthing them years later to see how much things have changed or stayed the same. I thought, “What could you get out of writing a letter to your past self?”

I figured that on a large scale like the Black Girls Rock Awards, it would be great for younger girls to gain some words of inspiration from a woman who has been there. What would regular ole me gain from writing a letter like that to little Bee? Reflection, perhaps? An acknowledgement of how much I’ve grown and learned? Something more? I’m not sure. However, I’m always up for something new, so I wrote my own short letter to little Bee. Like to read it? Here it go:

Dear Bee,

The first thing I have to tell you, is that life gets really, REALLY good. It will make everything worthwhile. Not fitting in has always been a problem for you – but this is what you will come to love about yourself. Don’t waste time trying to be like everyone around you. You will fail, and for good reason. Embrace your quirks and your awkwardness – the sooner you accept these things about yourself, the better things will get.

Travel and see the world. Learn to save your money. Once a month, do something that scares the crap out of you. And stop relaxing your hair – ’cause chiiiiile, if you had gone natural at the age I imagine you to be right now, my hair in the REAL now would be ridiculous!

Say what’s on your mind – if someone hurts you, don’t let it slide. Stop being afraid that people won’t like you if you tell it like it is. In fact, stop trying to please everyone! Don’t be so hard on yourself either. You’re your own biggest critic, but you need to be your own biggest defender.

Like I said, life gets really, really good. Follow your instincts, and love the people who truly love you. You know deep down who is faking it and who isn’t. Keep family (both blood and chosen) close – you don’t know how much you will need them. And live your life! You’ll learn time and time again how short it is…

Love,

Bee.

Interestingly, as I read this to myself again, I realized that some most of these things are things that I still need to work on…I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same…

What’s one thing you would say to the younger you?

Jumbled Thoughts: I Hope You’ll Understand

Photo via Women On The Fence

I’m struggling, y’all.

What I wanted to do was finish up a blog post about my (too short) time volunteering at the Balata Government School in St. Lucia, and how I’ve since been inspired to do more global charity work. I wanted to tell you guys about how the Principal of the school whispered to me that she was extra happy we came, because “the children never see anyone come here who is the same complexion as them”. I wanted to have a discussion on global volunteering and the perceived lack of minority participants…but for the last few days, I’ve been dealing with the loss of my cousin, who passed away late last week from leukemia.

I haven’t dealt with a death this close to me in a long time, so I’m not sure what to do with myself these days. Compounding this is that part of me is still on Cloud 9 from the honeymoon, which means that my mind is everywhere except on concrete things like work, school, and blogging. It’s a weird place to be in.

Anyways – I put it on Oprah’s OWN channel and was watching the last half of her Life Class episode.  She featured a clip of Dr. Randy Pausch, the famous college professor who gave a “Last Lecture” in 2007 after he was diagnosed with recurring pancreatic cancer. I had heard of Dr. Pausch, but never watched his lecture, which went viral and has since been viewed by millions. I just found it ironic that today, when I’m going through what’s been the toughest day so far, Lady O reels me in just in time to catch a bit of this lecture – by an amazing man whose thoughts and demeanour mirrored that of my cousin so well.

I hope I get my focus back soon. You may or may not see regular posts from me in the next little while, since I’ll be heading out of town to join my family and celebrate my cousin’s life. I love this little blog though, and since writing is my catharsis, I hope I can post something, even if it’s something superficial :)

I want to write about my amazing cousin. I learned too much from him not to share with y’all. In the meantime, please check out Dr. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” – it’s about 75 minutes long, so set aside some time. And don’t worry – it is NOT depressing!

YouTube Preview Image

Thank you guys for reading – I really appreciate the comments, tweets, Facebook messages, and even just running into someone who says they read this lil blog :) I hope you’re inspired by Dr. Pausch’s lecture!

Culture Clash: Growing Up (Kinda, Sorta) Canadian

(source)

This past weekend, I watched a documentary called Rasta: Then and Now featuring Toronto’s own Nation Cheong. Aside from being an eye-opening and exceptionally well produced education of Rastafari, there was a discussion held between Nation and one of the Ras elders that hit home for me.

I didn’t catch the exact quote quick enough to write down, but the discussion was about the identity of Black youth in Canada today. The Ras elder mentioned that many Black youth today are confused. Born in Canada to parents who emigrated here from other countries, they are “Canadian, but not fully Canadian, but they don’t know enough about where they’re from (to loosely quote from the documentary).

I don’t know about you out there, but my head started nodding. I recall growing up feeling like I was in some kind of cultural purgatory. I was born in London, ON to Jamaican parents who emigrated to Canada in their late teens/early 20s. London was not the most diverse place in the world, but everything about my home life was Jamaican. Fried dumplin and jerk chicken. Bob Marley and Super Cat 45s played on Dad’s turntables.  We didn’t watch football or hockey, we watched cricket. When I needed help with homework, I was taught the “Jamaican way” like my parents were when they were kids. However, I was constantly reminded that I was Canadian. If my aunt said something in patois and I said “Pardon, Auntie?”, she’d think it was the fact that I didn’t understand her patois, not that I just couldn’t hear her.  If I didn’t want to eat Grandma’s cornmeal porridge, she’d kiss her teeth and ask if I’d prefer Canadian food like nuggets and fries. My parents always told me how lucky I was to be born in Canada, but I was so envious of their stories of growing up in Jamaica. When we’d go on trips to visit my Dad’s family (he was the only one to leave the island), I’d always cry when it was time to go back home. My cousins were so interested in learning about Canada, but to me it seemed so boring. While they were in awe of my life, I was so envious of theirs. I would go to Jamaica and feel so connected, but as soon as I complained about a mosquito bite, I’d be reminded that I was a soft Canadian. Back home in Canada, I’d be again reminded of my difference when my friends would sleep over and ask why my Dad talked so funny, or turn their nose up when my Mom offered them ackee and saltfish to try for breakfast.

I remember my two cultures coming to a head in elementary school. Working on a project about homonyms, the teacher gave us free rein to use any words we wanted to, simply to drive home the lesson. I worked hard on that project, and when I got it back, I got 29/30. I was baffled, so I flipped to the page with the offending homonym. On one page, I wrote, “My friend’s name is Chris.” On the opposite page, I wrote, “My Dad says his new car looks criss.” I personally thought that was a genius pairing, but my teacher didn’t seem to get it.

As I’ve grown, I think I’ve found my own way to meld my two cultures. In high school, I met a number of 1st generation Canadians, who I now know struggled with their dual identity, but in person seemed to completely reject their “otherness” in favour of their Canadian self. University is when I began to come into my own. Meeting LOTS of people both born in other countries and born here to immigrant parents opened me up to new perspectives. However, moving to Toronto was a major catalyst. Compared to London, there is a much better merging of cultures here. There is no either/or, but there is more of a symbiosis of being Canadian and being something else.

I no longer feel that same divide and envy that I did when I was younger. I can appreciate the history of friends whose families go back generations upon generations in this country, and I can appreciate the stories of friends who have just arrived here. I’ve got my own little niche somewhere in the middle. Instead of feeling like I had to make a choice, or resenting one culture in favour of another, I know I’m blessed to posses both perspectives and identities.

What say you? Have you ever felt anything similar to what I did? If you are a ????-Canadian, have you ever had issues reconciling your two cultures? 

Remember Playing ‘Oregon Trail’ On A Mac? RIP Steve Jobs

Photo via apple.com

I just became an iPhone-carrying member of the Apple World Domination sect this summer, but cannot deny that Steve Jobs was an incredible, amazing visionary. The world has lost one of its most creative, genius minds, and it’s yet to be seen how things will go from this point on.

Watch the video below to see Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. I just watched this, and felt him speaking directly to me…maybe you’ll feel it too.

Some notable quotables:

“Sometimes life’s gonna hit you in the head with a brick – don’t lose faith.”

“Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked – there is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Funny how, all due to this man, I went from playing Oregon Trail on a Mac in elementary school to having my period tracked on my iPhone. Technology, art and life will never be the same.

Thank you, Steve Jobs – for your words and deeds. Rest in peace.

Old Spice Makes You Smell Good, But Won’t Cure Self-Hatred

Self-hate is running rampant, folks. If this wasn’t already apparent to you, here’s a story about the latest victim, Isaiah Mustafa, aka The Old Spice Guy:

Photo via huffingtonpost.com

Mustafa was being interviewed by the E! channel recently, and was asked about his relationship status. Stating that he is currently single and ready to mingle, the anchor asked what he was looking for a woman. He listed nice things like athleticism and honesty, and wrapped it up with “good hair“.

The anchor asked if the “good hair” had to be real hair (maybe he just wanted a chick with a fly lacefront to look good on his arm?), to which he stated replied:

“Yes, it does have to be real hair. I want my kids to have nice hair so she better have good hair. Cause, I don’t know if you’ve checked my hair out lately. Aside from today it’s normally nice. Today it’s slightly nappy.”

I read that and thought “What a poor, pitiful, self-deprecating man.” Are we really still doing this? Are we still acting out the “good hair vs. bad hair” meme like shyt is sweet?

Mustafa isn’t the first Black man to speak on wanting a chick with “good hair”, and I’m sure he won’t be the last. What tickles me about his quote is that he uses his future children as an excuse. I presume he meant that he wouldn’t want his kids to be teased over the texture of their hair, so his quote is some kind of honourable way to protect his seed. Really and truly, that’s a transparent trick. I would bet money that even if Mustafa was impotent, he would still want a chick with “good hair” to call his lady.

I used to get angry with statements like these coming from Black men, especially when I was transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. Why weren’t my natural curls good enough? Sexy enough? Why couldn’t these dudes learn, as I did, that “good hair” was “healthy hair”, regardless of the texture? Why were they proud to walk around with a chick lookin’ like this:

Photo via blog.myhairstylingtools.com

Photo via essence.com

*sorry Bey – I love you but that day truly was a bad hair day, boo.*

Photo via olanessabuzz.blogspot.com

…just because her hair was straight and not “nappy”? Did he not realize that if his partner couldn’t (or didn’t know how to) take care of her own hair, she’d probably have their kids running around out here looking like they stuck their fingers in a light socket?

Eventually, I realized two things. One, I was wasting my time trying to figure all that nonsense out. Two, it was never about me, or any other natural, nappy haired chick anyways. It was all about HIM and how he viewed himself, which evidently, was not in a positive way.

Self-hatred presents itself in many ways. One such way is exhibited by Mr. Mustafa himself – how can you want to avoid and run away from something that is intrinsically part of you? Has he harboured some sort of resentment towards his own parents for not having the same foresight and saving himself from this nappy-headed Hell? Did he feel like he was ugly that day, because his hair was “slightly nappy”? And what would he have done if he woke up that morning and his hair was *gasp* ACTUALLY NAPPY???

I have some family members that think the same way as Mustafa. Constantly seeking the affections of women who look nothing like their mothers, aunts, or cousins, and for what? Your spouse or partner is supposed to bring the best out in you, not mask what it is that you hate about yourself. One family member would only date White women, and even had a nose job to make his nose smaller….but I always thought, ‘so what happens when you have a child and they inherit your ORIGINAL nose?’ Let me just tell you – he did have children, and their non-Black mother didn’t help the kids to avoid the inevitable.

Ladies and gents, love yourselves. Teach your children to love themselves. School anyone who needs to hear it that “good hair = healthy hair” so that we can eliminate this self-hate the same way Mustafa is trying to eliminate his naps from his bloodline. There is nothing wrong with having your preferences – but if you seek certain partners and avoid others simply because you don’t like something about YOURSELF – you might need to re-evaluate things.

As for Mustafa, he did what all celebs do when they make ignorant, head-up-azz comments – he apologized via Twitter:

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Isaiah Mustafa
I want 2 apologize wholeheartedly 2 anyone out there who was offended or hurt by the irresponsible comments I made on E! News. #ignorant
 _______________________________________________________________________________________________
Are you surprised, angered or even phased by comments like Mustafa’s anymore? How can we heal self-hate in the Black community? Do you struggle with personal flaws, or do you love yourself in spite of your imperfections? 

Retro-blog: “I’m Being Tested” (Dedicated To All The Parents)

I don’t have kids yet. God willing, I’ll have a nice little brood of healthy mini-Bees running around at some point, but for now, I’m living that selfish newlywed life. However, I have had enough experience with chirrun to know that it is NOT a cake walk. Here is a post of mine from April 21, 2009, where I detailed the stress of being “Mommy” for the weekend…enjoy!

So, for the past few days, I’ve been babysitting a friend’s little girl. I’m just in the middle of my tour of duty, and I’ve learned so much more than I thought I would have…let’s just say, I’m exhausted.

First of all, she’s a GREAT child. A very well-mannered, smart, and happy child, which I love. However, going from my “bachelorette” lifestyle to one of a temporary mommy has had its eye-opening challenges. As a teen, back when I wanted to be a paediatrician, I surrounded myself with kids every chance I could get. Working at summer camps, volunteering at children’s hospitals, you name it, if it involved kids, I was down. Since moving on from those days and those dreams, I’ve been a pretend adult faking it amongst real adults, and seem to have lost my kiddie vibe. I for sure thought this favour was going to be a disaster.

Let’s just say I never knew how hard it was to put a child to sleep. My mom had the bomb “hushing” skills, but I’m fairly rusty. Kid-friendly food portions? What are those? It’s a big guesstimate of how much will be enough to fill her, but not stuff her. And it seems like every day and every meal, that amount changes. Grr.

Add to that, the picky eater. I almost cried from hurt feelings when I slaved to cook dinner the way she likes it…not too spicy, not too hot, just right. Then, after 2 bites, she whispers to the BF: “I don’t want anymore”. Thoughts of my mother explaining “how much food costs” and “don’t think about wasting that food!” zoomed through my head. NOW I know what she was talking about all those years ago when I just pushed food around in my plate, or purposely chewed up a huge bolus until she made me spit it out for fear that I’d choke.

Why do kids always want to chat when you’re in the bathroom? That seems like prime discussion time. And kids always want to ask you to do something that you can’t possibly do while on the toilet or in the shower. Then when you come out, they don’t need you anymore. What’s up with that??

Now I’ve had a taste of how my mommy friends are livin’. I have to throw my hat down to all of them and bow, because I don’t know how they do it! I can’t just pick up and go to the movies. I’d like to go out on Saturday night, but who’s going to watch her? Shyt – can’t watch Family Guy this evening because some little eyes are too curious for their own good! Plus, I’m the “getaway” temporary replacement while Real Mommy is away. That means kids have higher expectations of you – you have to be just as fun, just as cool, and just as awesome as all those times you were in their presence for a short period. It’s hard being consistently cool to a 6 year old! I’m pooped. I’ll try to post again and document some more, but we’ll see if I can find the time :S

Big-ups to all the parents out there, and a special holla to the ones doing it on their own…phew. Y’all are good. Everyone tells me when I have my own, my personal momma instincts will kick in, and it won’t seem so foreign and hard. Right now, the BF has more mommy skills than me, and I’m kind of doubting myself. Ah well…when the time is right, hopefully I can still be a cool, bathroom-chattin’, perfect meal cookin’, bomb-azz putter-to-bedder mommy, and still be a fabulous, sexy chica in every other dimension as well :)

Artsy-Fartsy Reviews: Dark Girls

Capping off my weekend, and symbolizing the end of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, my lady friends and I hit up the last screening of the documentary Dark Girls on Sunday. What an mind-bending couple of hours that turned out to be…

The theatre was packed. Old, young, Black, White, men and women were all in the house. In case you don’t know what documentary I’m talking about (directed/produced by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry), here is the trailer:

Now, I was happy to see that the film encompassed more that what I deduced from the trailer. It started from a historical and metaphysical point of view, with a featured psychologist speaking on the level of cellular damage that is carried from generation to generation after a significant trauma – in this case, slavery. The point made was that the colourism we deal with today could be attributed to the damage caused by slavery that has not yet been healed over the years. An interesting take, and a new perspective for me…

The film touched on family – women who received love and affirmation from their loved ones, and women who were told “you’re so pretty…but you’d be BEAUTIFUL if you weren’t so dark…“; love and relationships – showcasing women who felt “invisible” due to their darker tone, and perspectives of men (and boys) who expressed their preferences for either lighter-skinned or darker-skinned women. An interesting scene showed two dark-skinned guys, and one who said he preferred dark-skinned women because he wanted his children “to look like pharaohs…and queens…and with a light-skin girl, that won’t happen.” He then added, “I sound real ignorant right now.”

The film touched on the global aspect of colourism – statistics on the worldwide sales of skin-bleaching agents showed exactly how far-reaching this phenomenon is, and how it directly linked to the after-effects of colonialism. A scene showed a Korean-American girl who spoke about a visit to her parents’ homeland. Because she was more tanned than the rest of the population, she was viewed as an outsider – the Korean ideal of beauty was (is?) to be as white as possible. It was almost shocking to me to hear this girl express some of the same sentiments that I and other friends have had, and look so different from us…

All in all, the documentary made me think, get angry, laugh and tear up – but more importantly, I left the theatre looking at the world and myself with new eyes. Up next for Duke and Berry is a documentary around the colourism issues that Black men deal with, and also a documentary on the topic from the perspective of lighter skinned Black women (called “Yellow Brick Road”). The latter was inspired by a featured ‘Dark Girl’ who recounted a story from high school, when she and her friends would beat up lighter skinned girls, and throw Nair in their hair “just because”.

I do have to say, possibly the most thought-provoking part of the afternoon was the Q&A session with Duke and Berry. Among polite questions of “what was your inspiration?” and “what was the biggest lesson you learned?“, were questions inquiring about the class of the women featured in the film (not sure if this mattered as strongly as she seemed to insist), and a comment from a female viewer that caused a great deal of friction in the auditorium. She stated that she was speaking from her own perspective, but insinuated that a Black Canadian female’s views on colourism would be drastically different from a Black American female. This is not a direct quote, but she basically stated that we here in Canada don’t have the same colourism issues as the US. Perhaps she was functioning off of the meme that Canada is a multicultural melting pot and therefore doesn’t share the same harsh racism that seems to be prevalent in the US. However, as I’ve always said, the idealistic Canadian multicultural embrace is a false comfort. In my view, racism in the US is overt and in your face, while racism in Canada is a covert mission.

Bill Duke disagreed with the young lady in the audience, as did most of the women in the auditorium when Bill asked anyone who experienced any kind of colourism to raise their hands. Interestingly, the commenter (a Black female) did not….and I kind of wished I lived wherever she did.

You can keep up with the comings and goings of the documentary via the Dark Girls website here. I definitely have to say, I’m proud that Toronto was chosen as the world premiere for Dark Girls – TIFF is great for showcasing our city to the celebrities that visit, but I’m even happier that Toronto is recognized as a launching pad for ground-breaking documentaries that provoke thought and discussion around the world.

Did you see ‘Dark Girls’ at TIFF? What did you think? Have you experienced any form of colourism in your life? How much of a role do you think class plays today in the conflicts between darker and lighter skinned Blacks? Do you see a difference between racism and colourism in Canada versus the US? Tell me what you think!

Bonus: Click here to read another perspective on  the documentary and topic of colourism by Rowena aka NubianSoulsLocks!

%d bloggers like this: