Adjusting my Posture with Elaine Welteroth’s “More than Enough.”

After I graduated from college, confidence exuded from ever pore of my body, and I believed that there was absolutely nothing I could not conquer. I thrived on competition and sought new challenges. Then at 30, I moved away from my small suburban pond into an urban ocean where for the first time I encountered more competition from people as qualified as myself. Although I was a little rattled, I simply readjusted and kept pushing with a continued since of invincibility. Then I got married and had my son at 35. My confidence wasn’t shaken this time, it collapsed. Being responsible for the well-being of another person completely dependent upon you in a city without any family is terrifying. Being a first time mother without a bank of parenting experiences to draw from for encouragement left me stumped and without direction. I constantly doubted all of my decisions. Writing a 30 page paper didn’t really help me when it came to sleep and potty training, or childhood asthma attacks. The responsibilities of teaching full time were added problems that left me periodically crying in a corner during my planning period. Although I maintained a convincing exterior in my power suites, heels and exemplary work reviews, underneath I had lost my luster and above all my confidence. I felt that at any moment everything would come tumbling down.

My confidence somewhat rebounded within the last two years; however, I continued to lament at the fact that the self-assured women I was in my 20’s and early 30’s had disappeared forever. For a time, I unsuccessfully and superficially searched for her until I read Welteroth’s More than Enough. I was slightly reluctantly at first because I am almost a decade older than Welteroth and I thought that her advice or experiences would be out of reach for a proud member of Generation X.

I could not have been more wrong. I could relate to so many of her life lessons.She had aspirations of attending Stanford but settled for a state school to be close to her “First Love” who held little to no ambition and eventually flunked out. She was a chronic over achiever who worked hard to reach the level of success and notoriety she always wanted but along the way had to learn how to carve out her own space in places where she was the only African American woman in the room. When working alongside big names in the fashion and journalism industry, she had to learn to hold her head up and constantly remind herself that she was just as deserving of an opportunity to make a name for herself as her prep school, Ivy league, vacationing in the Hamptons counterparts. I was also inspired by her continued hustle and honesty in detailing events in her life that did not always go as planned.

There was one sentence that resonated with me the most. “Walk like you have the strength of your ancestors and community at your back.” It helped remind me of the blood that runs through my veins. Their struggle and sacrifice is my birthright to my spot in “the room.” Their DNA makes up every muscle fiber in my body and gives me strength to not just preserver but tear down mountains.

I realized that the person I was when I graduated college and before I became a mother never disappeared. She simply stopped dreaming. All of her dreams where centered on her son and her son only. I stopped believing in her. I believed in everything else except her. I believed in the abilities of others but not my own. I believed that others deserved more but not myself. I believed others deserved a seat at the table while I had to stand.

Welteroth’s courage to pursue new experiences and challenges reignited that spark I haven’t felt in years and had me looking in the mirror to remind myself to stand straight, keep my chin up, and walk like I have a right to a space in the room.

Review of Lalita Tamedy’s Red River and a History Lesson on the Difference between a Riot and a Massacre

Reconstruction has always been an era in U.S. History that has intrigued me the most. For a period to have held the most promise for the United States to work towards living up to the principles and ideologies espoused by its early designers, it is also the darkest period in U.S. history which is given the least amount of time for analysis in most U.S. schools. I speak from experience, for it was the smallest chapter in my 11th grade U.S. History textbook and was conveniently skipped by my much esteemed U.S. History teacher who confidently told me that I wouldn’t amount to much 😉

Since I learned about it in college, I continue to devour any additional information I can obtain on the subject whether it’s held in a textbook, historical novel, film, or piece of art.

I was first introduced to Lalita Tamedy through Cane River, her first breakthrough novel published almost twenty years ago. She held a pretty successful career in corporate America but left it to pursue a literary career writing historical fiction. Cane River primarily was based upon a story of the different generations of the women in her family in antebellum Louisiana. This breakthrough novel had many of us, including myself, rummaging through my family’s old photographs and documents to reconstruct my own history. I started this blog decades after I first read it and I have to eventually write a review because it still remains my all time favorite book.

Red River picks up after Cane River in Louisiana during Reconstruction. Unlike Cane River, the men of her family are the primary subject of this story. The book begins when some of the men of Colfax decide to defend the local courthouse. Members of the Lost Cause have refused to acknowledge recent election results in which Freedmen were able to cast their ballot for the first time. The men of the town have decided to force open the doors of the courthouse and defend their newly elected sheriff who just so happens to be a carpetbagger with little to no roots in Louisiana. It is clear throughout the entire novel, that their willingness to risk their life is not on behalf of the new sheriff but for the defense of their rights as American citizens and as men, and their children’s dreams.

Harper’s Ferry 1867 publication. “The First Vote.”

They wait in vain for reinforcements from the federal government and although they put up a valiant effort, are soon defeated after white supremacists from outside towns and parishes with weaponry used in the Civil War force the men to surrender. The author’s great great grandfather participated in defending the courthouse and was able to get out alive. However, that was not the case for most. Those who surrendered were systematically tortured and murdered. According to Tamedy, over 150 African American men were killed for simply asserting their rights as American citizens. Prominent historian Eric Foner labeled this day “one of the most bloodiest acts of carnage” in Reconstruction.

The first half of the book details the massacre and Tamdey’s ability to wisk you away to that night amid the same emotions that permeated the air in 1873 is noteworthy. I literally couldn’t put the book down and I loved that as I read I could feel the fear, resolve, helplessness, and hopefulness the men experienced at the court house. I also enjoyed her window into the emotions the women felt, for it reminds her readers that the defense of this courthouse was based on the courage of both the men and women of the town. Unfortunately, it took me a while to finish the second half where she detailed the life of her great grandfather’s children. Their fight to build a school and assume their positions as leaders in the community among stories of who married whom was hard to maintain my interests after the massacre and it felt at one point like the story was dragging.

However, I will say that this book is worth a read. It taught me the difference between a massacre and a riot. Although these men valiantly fought back, the level of unjust and unwarranted cruelty exemplified by the white supremacists of Louisiana can not be defined but as a massacre. It has led me to start reevaluating how I will refer to late 19th and 20th century race riots this coming school year. The sign below is the only marker that exists today where the newly freedmen of Colfax chose to sacrifice everything for their constitutional rights. Their story incenses me today when I hear Trump supporters attempt to define what patriotism looks like and who can only be labeled as true patriots. The “150 Negroes” who died in Colfax on Easter Sunday 1873 are the prototype of true patriots.

This marker is a disgrace. There is no mention of the bravery of the 150 “Negroes” referenced in the sign or their cause.

“Good Hair”

Tips for loving and caring for natural hair

I grew up in a family where my parents constantly reminded me that the hue of my skin was not a curse but an honor that held stories of men and women who came before me and triumphed over unquantifiable obstacles. As a result, I largely escaped the thorns of colorism that still pierce so many people of the African diaspora today, and I will forever be grateful to my parents for that. However, growing up, there was one insecurity that I did fall victim: the issue of hair. Ever since I was a child, I had what so many people in the Black community would label as “bad hair.” My hair was ridiculously thick, dry, and tightly coiled. Not knowing what to do with my hair, my mother permed it when I was seven years old. I grew up being allergic to sweat and water and a slave to what many of us jokingly deem “the creamy crack.” Even with countless hours in a salon chair trying not to cry from the burning sensation on my scalp caused by the chemicals on Saturdays while I watched my non-black friends go to the beach , I was just grateful that I could get a comb through my hair .

And then the 90’s hit. I immersed myself in the neo-hippie movement. I would have traded my left kidney for Lisa Bonet’s locs. I also started seeing women with short afro’s and I fell in love. I fell in love with the beauty of their natural hair, but more importantly I fell in love with the freedom they enjoyed. They were free from chemicals, salon visits, and a fear of their hair reverting back to their natural state.

Queen Lisa Bonet

It was a long rode until I gathered the courage to chop of all of the chemicals. But when I did, I felt the most beautiful I had ever felt in my life. I have been natural for over 16 years and I have never once looked back. I have rocked short and long, black, brown, and auburn tresses.

7 day old twist out
Rocking my little afro in London and Beijing. I absolutely loved my short afro and wore it like that for over 10 years.
Trim day… Just call me Cousin It
My shrinkage is real!!! I love going to an unsuspecting beautician who thinks that straightening my hair will only take 30 minutes. It takes me at least 1 hr to 1.5 hrs to get through all of this .

A day does not go by where I am either stopped by strangers, my coworkers, or students and asked about the products I use or my regiment. I am still a tomboy and keep my regiment and products pretty simple. If there is any advice I would give to someone considering going or is currently natural it would be to deep condition on a weekly basis and find your hair type. I have low porosity which means my hair does not maintain moisture easily. I need the assistance of heat to penetrate my hair shaft. Deep conditioning under the dryer does wonders for my hair and assists with moisture retention. I also realized that my hair abhors proteins. As a result, the first thing I do when I consider trying any new product is to look at its ingredients. I run if I see any protein variant. I rarely straighten my hair, get regular trims, and eat a nutritious diet. Twists outs are my friends and I always sleep with a satin bonnet. My go to products are listed below.

My go to deep conditioner. I comb it through my hair after a wash with a paddle brush, cover with a plastic cap , and sit under the dryer for 30- 45 minutes every Saturday night.
I always mix my conditioner with olive oil for an added boost of moisture .
After I rinse the conditioner out of my hair, I comb argan oil through my hair before I apply my leave in conditioner below.
This leave- in is the truth for people with thick tresses like myself.
Learning to love your hair
Nothing holds my hair like pure African Shea Butter . I use this to twist my hair. I have tried countless other twisting agents but my hair only responds to pure shea butter. After I twist my freshly washed and deep conditioned hair, I let it air dry over night, leave it in twists the next day, and take them out on Monday and fluff for work 🙂

Feel free to email me if you have any additional questions. A review of Lalita Tamedy’s Red River is coming soon.

Because Mommies Run Too!

Finding time to work out when you work full time can be stressful, but when you add the responsibilities of motherhood you find yourself working with even less viable time. I have worked out five days a week since I turned 18 for numerous reasons. First, I recently took author Gretchen Rubin’s personality quiz and realized that I am an “Upholder.” According to Rubin, Upholders are those individuals who rise to inner and outer expectations. Looking back, my dedication to working out makes sense. When I graduated from high school, the state of Florida had just implemented a new law that required all freshman college students to take a health and wellness class. Needless to say, it was the first real health class I had where I felt the professor really broke down the science between living a healthy life comprised of effective nutritional choices and purposeful exercise.

I quickly set my own inner expectations to live a healthy life and 22 years later have not looked back. I also love a routine and my gym is less than two miles from my job and home. Membership dues are quite reasonable and include extremely small classes with personal trainers. As soon as class ends for the day, I bolt out of the door, change sometimes in my car on the way to the gym, workout hard for 40 minutes, jump back in the car and dart towards my son’s daycare.

Finding time to run is a little more difficult because there are not any tracks or trails on the way to my son’s school that I am familiar with. The weekends are really the only times I can run and I am usually so tired and just want to sleep in. However,I regret not engaging in some type of physical training , because the deep sleep that I enjoy the nights that follow a hard workout during the week elude me on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, I absolutely hate running and I would like to feel like I accomplished some obstacle by getting myself on a track or trail on at least one of my days off.

This Saturday I tried a new strategy that worked. I woke up at 6:30 am which is about 45 minutes earlier than I normally would on a Saturday. I cooked breakfast while my son was still sleeping so when he woke up his food would already be waiting for him. My husband wakes up at the crack of dawn on his days off and was already headed out the door to run errands. Normally, I plan my Saturdays around everyone else but today I got suited up in my workout gear while he was out and met him at the door when he returned. Today I did not ask “If he would be free to watch our son so I can run.” Today I said, “I’m going running and will be back in X time.” Breakfast was cooked for everyone and he already ran his errands. Thus, there was no excuse for me not being able to go. Although the run was hard, the weather was exquisite and I had time to focus and distress. All it took was 45 minutes -a 15 minute drive back and forth to the track and a 30 minute run. Afterwards, we took our son to the local farmer’s market and then to see ” A Secret Life of Pets 2.” When we returned home and ate lunch, we all took a nap, but my nap was the deepest 1 hour sleep I have had in a while on a Saturday. Mommies suit up and set your time because mommies need to run too!! 🙂

Toni Morrison’s “Home” Forced me to Remember Home.

Toni Morrison portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Final Exams, teacher end of the year evaluations, and a community historic preservation project I am currently spearheading has me wishing lately that there were 48 hours to a day. As a result, I have not had time to read as much as I normally would but that is expected this time of the year and I know that rest and relaxation are only eleven days away! I did manage to squeeze in, Home, a novel last week by the queen Toni Morrison.

Home revolves around the story of Frank Money, a Korean War veteran and modern day African American Odysseus wandering through the South trying to find his way back home to Georgia following the war. However, unlike Odysseus, the only gods he encounters are the gods of the American South in the 1950s: Segregation, Poverty, and White Supremacy. I love Morrison’s subject matter and her ability to create characters and settings that remind me of places, family members, and experiences I have and have never been nor had. She is able to recount the African American experience in such vivid and emotional details with her choice of words and an uncanny ability to convey emotion that she always strikes a cord with me. I love her stories for their depth and development but I love them even more, because I feel that she is telling my story and my mother’s, father’s, grandmother’s, and great great grandfather’s story in this country. I feel the ability to appreciate and connect with her stories because the characters and their experiences flow through my very veins.

Picture of African American soldiers during the Korean War from americanradioworks.publicradio.org

The story begins with Frank Money daring to return to Lotus, Georgia a place with few opportunities with the intent of finding his sister Cee who he heard was in grave trouble. Along the way, he is plagued with some pretty horrific flashbacks from his tour of duty in Korea that often curbs his ability to decipher reality. In the end, you finally get a better idea of what part of his flashbacks were rooted in true past events or fabricated to help him deal with his past sins. I also really enjoyed the tender but despondent chapters where Frank and Cee reminisce about about their relationship. Frank was Cee’s valiant protector and Cee’s innocence and naivete gave Frank’s life purpose even during childhood.

Gordon Parks
Segregation Story Series

However, it was the women who come to Cee’s aide when she was horrifically violated in a incident that too closely mirrored the real actions of James Marion Simms, the “father of gynecology” that I loved the most in this story. Their determination, dedication, solidarity, and strength warmed my heart and made me pick up my phone to check on my 80 something year old aunt. Everyone with a female loved one from that era can find comfort and nostalgia in the way they called on the old remedies that would earn the ridicule of modern day doctors but were the only element of salvation poor African American women in the South could depend on to save or treat their children and spouses.

Gordon Parks, Untitled
Taken in 1950 in Ft Scott, Kansas

As you can see from the pictures above, I am currently trapped in a Gordon Parks vibe. However, looking at these photos from the 1950s really made me feel like I was in Lotus, Georgia while I followed Cee and Frank as they learned to come to terms with their past and become the masters of their own destinies and how they saw their own purpose in this world. Home forces to me to remember home and was definitely worth a read.

Field Trip to the National Museum of African American History

Came across the quote on the museum wall. It was so powerful. It temporarily stopped me in my tracks.

Today I took my African American History students to the National African American History Museum. My lesson plan was motivated by two quotes from Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Negro History Week which later evolved into Black History Month”…. to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching” and “The thought of the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies.” I wanted my students to better understand how access to artifacts and inclusive museum exhibits help people obtain a more complete understanding of history and their place in American History. Students were given a structured assignment which guided them through the museum but gave them the freedom to choose exhibits they found interesting to complete their project. After I got over the anxiety of taking 40 students out of the building on public transportation, made sure all of my students were set, I used my remaining time to explore the museum solo.

This is my sixth time visiting the museum , second time within the last three months. I was starving and didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast so I first sat down to order some shrimp and grits, my absolute favorite dish in their delicious cafeteria, and then ventured to see the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit. I have been reflecting on three artifacts I saw ever since. I saw a concrete block used both in a slave auction in antebellum Virginia and as a stump for general Andrew Jackson and Senator Henry Clay to give speeches to adoring crowds. I also saw a crib built for an enslaved baby on a South Carolinian plantation and a 19th century sack with an embroidered message sewn by an enslaved woman named Ruth. The message explained that the sack which originally contained three tattered dresses and a handful of pecans was given to her 9 year old grandmother by her great grandmother just before she was sold away and never seen again. She sowed the story behind the sack on the front so she wouldn’t forget.

Since I have become a mother, there are very few and rare times in a day where I am allowed to forget that I am responsible for the well being of another human. I couldn’t help but imagine the anguish all three of these women experienced. Whether they were suffering from the feelings of being utterly helpless while their child was ripped from their bosom on the auction block in a room full of profit driven speculators, relentlessly praying their baby survive the haphazard conditions of the slave quarters with insufficient clothing and food, or hoping their child who is being sold away will somehow remember them despite knowing they will never see them again, all of these women and mothers suffered heartbreaks that should have crushed their very will to live. It really shook me to realize that in the end it didn’t, because I am here today and I realize that I am only here today because they did not give up or give in.

There is no lecture I could have given in class that would help my students understand the history of the people contained in this museum.I strongly believe that there is no other monument or museum in D.C. that can capture the complete history of America than the stories contained in this museum. If you are ever in the area, you should definitely pay a visit.

Don’t get me wrong. There are an equal number of exhibits that spread joy and bring smiles to your face. I almost completely got swept back in time with a permanent koolaide smile on my face in the Arts and Culture exhibits.

I didn’t know how to act while in the presence of this holy artifact. I was standing in front of Jimi Hendrix, the G.O.A.T’s tattered amp and vest
Although I made it to George Clinton’s mothership, I couldn’t get on. I guess I lost my ticket 😉
And of course I had to take a pic of the Purple One’s Wardrobe
Can’t wait until my son is old enough to bring him here so he can see an artifact of the man he was named after 🙂


Running for my Life

This past weekend, I ran for the second year straight in the D.C. Prince v. Michael Jackson 5 K race. All of my close and not so close friends know that I am a Prince fan to the 100th degree and have been since I was a little girl. Before I go on, I have to admit that I neither love nor like running. I would much rather be on my bicycle riding through the Everglades or any of the many creeks where I currently reside. However, I love fitness and I love physically pushing myself. I had eagerly registered for the race four months ago and had my Prince playlist ready a week before to get me hype for the run. But, when I woke up the day of the race, the winds were clocked at 40 mph and it was 53 degrees outside. Such conditions were not ideal for this born and raised South Florida girl. In addition, my 4 year old son was just getting over an annoying tussle with an asthma outbreak and recently diagnosed with an ear infection, my husband was making me feel guilty by complaining about being unable to go to a martial arts class because the time conflicted with the race, and my bed looked like my only place of solace after a really hard week at work.

After rolling myself out of bed and making my cup of tea, I decided I was going to tell my husband forget it and I would just do it next year. But then I remembered the quote I had recently written on my chalkboard by Eleanor Roosevelt which says, ” Do something everyday that scares you.” I rushed and cooked everyone a breakfast, packed my son’s inhaler and new Star Wars light saber, and husband in the car. I made it there minutes before the race began and literally had to run to the starting line. I finished in 34 minutes.

I know for many avid runners, a 5k is child’s play, but for this soon to be 40 year old it meant everything to me. I purposely did something for me and added another memory to my “you are one bad little momma” bank. I am realizing that it is not the new pair of shoes, dress, jewelry, car, or bag that gives you confidence. I firmly believe that confidence and an undeniable glow comes from life experiences and events that serve as proof that you can presevere and finish strong. Don’t be afraid to try something scary, something new, something no one else is doing, or something you thought you could never do.

Saturday I ran for my life. I ran for my happiness. I ran for my confidence. I ran for me 🙂