Women of Substance

She’s A Lady

‘Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.’ Nicolo Machiavelli

My daughter has one of the best imaginations. I can send her to her room for a “punishment” but no matter how or why I send her up there, she always ends up having a blast. One of her favorite things she likes to pretend to be is a teacher or a secretary- two of the career choices that she has seen me perform. She likes it better when I play along with her, but she can have the time of her life without my presence just the same.

Yesterday was such a great day that we decided to play a new game- investigation.  Let me tell ya, this girl could put Horatio out of business, she really looks for all of the details. I was to play someone who was getting investigated. So, my first character was a mild mannered woman who had never been investigated and she was absolutely terrified of being around an investigator. During the theatrics, I had to step away for a moment, but when I returned, my daughter the director was ready for me to change my character’s position.

“Mommy, I know I’m a kid, but I need you to woman up for me.” she declared.

“I am playing a woman.” I respond.

“No mama, I need you to woman up. Don’t be afraid. You know how kids tell other kids- be a woman about it.” she responded.

I was taken aback by my daughter’s orders, how would she or any child ever know about being a woman at such a young work_at_home_momsage?

Then it hit me- I thought the same thing when I was her age. Growing up in a single parent home taught me a lot about the roles I would soon play in life. Though my mother worked hard to take care of my siblings and I, she also felt like her home was incomplete without a father figure.This made me view my mother as a weakling. By the time I was in the third grade, I was learning about how women could do anything that they wanted and here was my mother sitting around crying over a man not being present.

Television also made a huge impact on my views of womanhood. Many of the images that I saw were of middle class European women who were in control of themselves and big corporations as well. They made the bacon and also cooked it without shedding a single tear or murmuring a complaint. The images of  African- American women were of either strong, and driven women or highly paid prostitutes.

These many  images became the seasonings that created my contorted jambalaya of what womanhood should have been and my mother was not holding up that standard. She was the urban version of June Cleaver- nurturing, loving and repulsively submissive. It was like she was stuck in a 1950’s musical and  I was a 90’s hiphop video. I knew that I was going to be the leader of the pack and no man was going to out do me. I would never allow a man to tell me when to come and go and most definitely not tell me  to cook him supper. I was a material girl living in a material world and I wanted to know what have you done for me lately.

“It’s so disappointing to see some of these young girls that will never know what it’s like to be a woman. Not in age but in actions.” – Maurice Johnson

My perception of my mother changed when I became a mother and it continues to change daily with the many women I come into contact with.  With each passing day I become more and more aware of how my actions impact my daughter’s frotasticdaily interactions and I begin to change my patterns slowly but surely.

One of my biggest patterns is pretending to be strong when I am faced with adversity. This thought has been the driving force of my life. I must be tough and show the world that I can make it without anyone’s help- especially a man’s help. I don’t have to depend on a man to pull me through my hardest times, I have the power within to make my life complete.This thought I have found to be true to a certain extent: Though I believe that women can do anything that they put their minds to, I cannot deny the fact that men are needed in this world. No matter how liberal one may feel, babies cannot be produced without egg and sperm- point blank.

As I have grown I have learned that being submissive is not being weak, it is actually strength. It takes a lot to keep calm and cool when someone is getting on your last nerve or seems to be barking orders at you. Though my mother chose to be humble it did not subtract from her inner strength that rose to each and every occasion that presented itself. My mother worked hard to ensure that her three children attained a quality education and that they became productive citizens.

Strength is not being able to win every fight it is being able to decipher when to fight.

Let us not underestimate the “plain Jane” women who choose to devote their lives to raising their families with humility. Not every woman is fist fighting or breaking dishes at the dinner table. There are women who honor their husbands  and find it not strange to ask for their guidance. These women are also hard workers and some are even business owners. They are not primitive nor are they weak. They are my mentors, teachers, aunts, and mother. Their Divine wisdom illuminates my ever growing path.

 If you like this or any other posts on this blog and would like to read more please check out our magazine edition: Find A Way The Print Magazine http://madmagz.com/magazine/full/446229/kdwha

 

* Images found on http://www.google.com

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Before She Leaves Series: Cicely Tyson

“A person is wise if he listens to millions of advice and doesn’t implement any of it.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Everyone seems to want to be famous by any means necessary. With the reality television sensation that is sweeping the nation, it doesn’t seem hard to achieve. It does not matter if you are a house wife, a rapper or a member of a sorority, if you have drama, the media wants you to bear all for entertainment purposes. Anyone  has the opportunity to make it big on television, as  long as you are willing to fight, tell secrets and ruin other lives.

Though this source of entertainment is riveting, the impression of the urban community is left more tainted than it was Ms. Tysonalready perceived to be. These shows depict our communities as uneducated sex fiends with little or no moral standards that are obsessed with money, cars and clothes. We are illustrated as a generation that is preoccupied with the mirage of the body instead of the intelligence of the mind, causing us to only glorify the movement of hips and how much money it costs to attain them.

In spite of the fact that media seems to show the less graceful and sophisticated  side of the urban community, one can imagine a day where the residents refuse to endure such demeaning roles for pretty accessories.

The 1950’s were the pinnacle of racial tensions forcing the nation to view  social structure differently. This era birthed the Civil Rights Movement that introduced the urban community to the ideas of pride and unity to put an end to inequality. At the forefront of the speeches were urban artists, actors, actresses and models who made it their business to not portray systematized characters.

Born into a family of hard workers, Ms. Cicely Tyson was once a typist. When her mother discovered that Ms. Tyson was going to be an actress, her mother kicked her out of the home in fear that Ms. Tyson would indulge in an immoral life. new newThough the majority of roles for black women at the time were waitresses, hookers and other inglorious depictions, Ms. Tyson refused to accept them. One could assume that although Ms. Tyson and her mother were not on speaking terms she still remained determined to bring her family honor. With this determination, Ms. Tyson began to receive more dynamic roles that allowed her to show her true ability as an actress. The decisions that she chose to make paved the path for her to go on and receive numerous accolades including two  Emmy Awards and co-founding  the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Although Ms. Tyson could have had more screen play if she had accepted any role, she stood strong in her beliefs and decided to only accept the best.

Before she leaves the earth, I would like to say thank you to Ms. Cicely Tyson. Thank you Ms. Tyson for showing me that I never have to settle for anything but the best. Thank you for creating a standard for women around the world by exemplifying grace. Thank you for not giving into the illusion of fame and glamour by striving to recreate the image of the urban community.

I am forever grateful.

* Images found on http://www.google.com

 

Before She Leaves Series: Nikki Giovanni

“I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.” -Nikki Giovanni

I know how to throw a pity party. On my worse days, I can sit around and think of all of the reasons why I am not who I want to be. For a while, these parties were my time to place blame on others for my current situations that had led me nikki gdown the path of failure. I played the victim role as if I was auditioning for an episode of CSI: Miami and Horatio was going to find my assailant within the next 45-minutes so I could move on with the life that was intended for me.

If someone asked me why hadn’t I reached my goals that I had set for myself, I could rattle a long list of excuses of why I hadn’t attained the things that I wanted out of life. I could justify every one of my short comings with so much ease and conviction that people would begin to actually feel sorry for me and pardon my actions.  I was worse than the captured bad guys on Scooby-Doo- “My life would have been better if it wasn’t for those meddling people.”

Playing victim only gets us so far in life. After a while, people are looking for us to overcome these obstacles and actually do something with our lives.

One of my favorite excuses was that I couldn’t be a writer because I was a single parent trying to make ends meet. Another was that I was just a black girl from a small town and that no one could possibly relate to me. I used these excuses to somehow protect me from failure and embarrassment.

Though writing was something that I loved to do, I couldn’t imagine being anything more than what I was at that moment in time. It was not until I began to read The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni that I began to realize that my nikki bookexcuses, not my conditions,  were the only things keeping me from success.

Ms. Giovanni was a black girl from a small town that became a single mother at the age of 26 years old. Though odds were against her, Ms. Giovanni decided to follow her passion of writing and decided to speak out on inequality and injustice. She refused to allow  her circumstances to hold her back from helping others  and following her vision of success. She took those things that may have been valid excuses and turned them into beautiful poems and words of encouragement to inspire others that faced similar situations.

Before she leaves this world, I am taking this time to thank her for being a beacon of hope and inspiration to myself and other writers.

Thank you Ms. Giovanni for making it safe to make fudge and pick my nose. Thank you for showing me that my situations will only remain the same if I allow them to. Thank you for all of your many works of poetry and prose that cause me to not only think, but to act upon my dreams and goals. Thank you for being a true muse of encouragement and creativity.

When we begin to view our failures  as objects to cultivate our growth, we realize that we have the ability to improve and transform into something wonderful.

* Images found on http://www.google.com

A Post For Mama

“Sometimes the poorest woman leaves her children the richest inheritance.” ~ Ruth E. Renkel

For years I wanted everyone to be my mother but my own mother. I would compare her to images that I would see on television or women that I thought were cooler than her. I would be the best child for everyone but for her and it effected our relationship for years.

At the age of 21, my mother was a single mother of three children, she came back to her hometown after a divorce and was determined to succeed. She received a  job as a paraprofessional and worked hard to save enough money to leave her mother’s house. Less than a year later, she had accomplished that goal.

My resilient mother

My resilient mother

Though she received a monthly check from the Board of Education, it was hardly enough to pay bills, feed and clothe three children and herself. She began to work an extra job to provide these things for our family coming home tired and drained from her 12-hour days to clean after her children.

She looked for the help of a man  to assist her in raising a family but each one fell through- some stealing, some lying or even hitting. She wanted so desperately to give her children a life that had no limits and tried her best to attain that life.  Most of my anger derived from this pursuit because I  remember her, cooking, cleaning and being the best wife that she could be- only to be crushed repetitively by men who did not deserve to even hold her hand. The men would eventually leave taking a piece of her heart each time.

There were two consistent things in my mother’s life that she is so very proud of: her relationship with God and her children.

I appreciate her most for teaching me how to pray and encouraging me to sing. Every Sunday morning without fail, my mother would wake up and fix the best breakfast- grits, eggs, buttered biscuits and sausage. The aroma would wake anyone up out of the bed and bring them to the table. After breakfast, she would do mine and my sister’s hair and would make my brother tuck in his shirt and brush his hair making sure that we looked our very best for church.

When we arrived she led devotion (praise and worship), raising her voice to the Heavens and praying for a blessing. I would study her, watching every move that she made practicing singing to make my voice sound like hers. I wanted to lead devotion just to mimic my mother, just to sing like she did and does.

My mother faced hard times, but her faith in God and her children pushed her to keep moving and never give up. I remember listening to my mother cry for hours thinking that she would never come out of her room ever again, but the next morning she would be ready to do it without hesitation.

my mom and little sister

my mom and little sister

In retrospect, I can see how I underestimated my mother’s true strength. It took  a lot of resilience  to face co-workers who pick on your misfortunes, lovers who betray your trust and a daughter who did not appreciate your love for her. Her persistence and faith ushered her into a ministry that she did not see at the time, but has now come into fruition.

Despite the stereotypes placed upon my mother, she is able to say that all three of her children are high school graduates and productive citizens in society. Her prayers have brought my older brother home safely from the United States Air Force  without harm, helped my sister graduate Magna Cum Laude with a degree in nursing and have encouraged me to press towards my dreams.

In 2013, she received her doctorate in theology and has gone on to speak in numerous churches. Her consistency in her faith has inspired myself and my siblings to never give up on ourselves or our Creator.

She does not live in a mansion and may never be a millionaire, but my mother has given her children some things that no one can take away from them: faith, persistence, a love for education and a wonderful mother.

Dr. Cheryl Knight

Dr. Cheryl Knight

The Heart of the Matter

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

As a mother, a teacher and a pastor- Commissioner Felicia Harris is a bona fide woman of substance.  With an unwavering faith in God and a zeal for change, she compels one to become more active and aware in one’s community.

“We must become educated about our value- the worth of ourselves and our community. It is through this education that we begin to realize who we truly are.” Harris conveys.

A native of Brunswick, Georgia, Commissioner Harris attended Glynn Academy  high school where she excelled in academics and sports. CommissionerShe was also actively involved with the parks and recreation in the City of Brunswick.  This drive led her to enroll and graduate from Bethune- Cookman University , located in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was there that she pledged to the sorority of  Delta Sigma Theta Inc., an African-American organization that cultivates  service and leadership, where she is an active member and serves as chaplain.

After receiving her education, she came back to her hometown of Brunswick to help others attain success in a plethora of ways. She has served as a youth counselor, mentor and sponsor to many – including myself.

As an avid supporter of the Roosevelt Lawrence Community Center, Commissioner Harris serves as a volunteer coach. She uses this dais to bring awareness to the community, letting the residents know that she is a city official that truly cares.

“We have to be proactive to situations instead of reactive to situations that arise in our community. One of our objectives here at the Center (Roosevelt Lawrence) is to be preventive and implement programs that keep our children engaged and involved.” says Harris.

An authentic woman of grace and humility, Commissioner Harris understands that a dialogue must begin in our community to help overcome the boundaries that silence creates.

“We have to communicate with our children. Honestly. We must speak to our children with honesty, remembering where we were when we were their age. We cannot forget the struggles that we had. These struggles help us to have open and honest conversations with our children.”

It’s hard to not become a little nervous when given the opportunity to interview a person in whom they admire. Though I have had the honor of being one of her miss harrismentees, I still become star struck when I am around her.  Commissioner Harris is an example of what one can do when a concentrated effort is applied to goals that can help not only self but the community as well.

 

Learn more about Commissioner Harris: http://www.brunswickga.org/city-commission

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you cannot change it, change your attitude” – Dr. Maya Angelou

For a long time, I complained about my life. I would gripe that I didn’t get to do what the other girls my age were doing, or that I wasn’t as pretty as they were or that I was overlooked because I was the middle child. I had it made up in my mind that I was not a person worthy of love or true friendship.

This disdain for life started to grow into a vicious bubble full of self-hate and self-defeat. Nothing seemed to go right for me and I began to overtly and covertly lust for the lives of others around me. I was a pity party waiting to break loose and get deep into a depression. It became a crutch for me.

I had an excuse for every thing that I wanted. One of the many: “I can’t be successful without a college degree.”

In fact, it’s still an excuse.

Poet laureate, civil rights activists, Queen Mother

Poet laureate, civil rights activists, Queen Mother

It’s not that I haven’t tried. I went for a year and was like, yea…..no.

I want to be a writer! Can someone tell me why I need to know how to do binomial equations if I know how to conjugate a verb? Deliver a story. That’s what I wanna do! Do I really have to go?

In comes the heroine of my story, Maya Angelou.

Dr. Angelou did not graduate from college. She faced trauma at an early age leaving her speechless. She, like myself, was an unwed teenage mother. She worked as a Calypso singer, ran numbers, dabbled in prostitution and had some abusive relationships.

I can imagine that Dr. Angelou faced the same problems and questions that women like me are faced with: eating or paying a bill, new shoes for the baby or pay the loan.  Who is going to love me? Why can’t I be happy like everyone else?

Dr. Angelou took these feelings and wrote about them. She took what she did not like and changed things. She left the abusive relationships and cleaved to her son. She worked diligently reading books, meeting different people, fighting for the equal rights of her people.

She took the things that she could not change- being molested, growing up in the Jim Crow south as a black woman and being a single mother and changed her attitude about it.

She began to embrace her weaknesses and honed them as the catalyst of her wonderful life. She knew that there were others like her and she began to pour out her soul onto paper.

She awakened the souls of women around the globe, creating a cipher of poets, artists, television hosts, and single mothers that were willing to change what they could and if they could not- they wrote something prophetic about it.