Saturday, September 6, 2014

Time for me to get on my soapbox.

As I was scrolling through the newsfeed, I came across the post below. Thank you, Pammy Pam Ward. I was immediately curious about people's opinions.  While this artwork is meant to be a thing of beauty, I knew the ugliness in people was going to come out. Many people feel that obesity should not be  celebrated. As a plus size woman, I'll tell you right now, I am going to celebrate me. All of me. My size. My age. My color. My achievements. My personality. I am going to celebrate me. Am I supposed to hang my head, crawl in a ball, and live like a hermit because I'm overweight? I recognize that excess weight brings a plethora of health issues. For that reason and that reason alone, I have a desire to lose weight. I would never lose weight because society tells me that obesity is unattractive and gross. I would never lose weight to feel more beautiful.  I would never lose weight to have more friends, get a man, get a job, get attention. I have wonderful people in my life. None that would turn their backs on me because I shop in the plus size section.

I am happy with myself right now in this moment. And no skinny people, this is not something I am telling myself to mask some pain you figure I must be in. I love me. There was a time when I didn't even like myself. There was a time when I felt I wasn't worthy of being loved by anyone. And for that reason I made poor decisions and attracted the wrong kinds of people into my life. Guess what? I didn't like that feeling. I didn't like living that kind of down trodden, low self-esteem, self-hate life. By the way, I was a svelte size 3 at the time. Physically, my body look liked  what society would deem as beautiful and ideal. But there were other things going on in my life. Size didn't matter.

It was GOD who saved my life and pulled my out of my funk. I decided at that time I didn't want to be unhappy ever again. So you think that now that I have all this extra weight on my body, I'm going to also allow society to convince me that I should have extra weight on my mind as well? You're wrong. And another thing, that doesn't motivate me to get into the gym. Again I say, I recognize that in order to be healthy I need to lose weight. I'm not going to the gym because someone else thinks I look gross.

Those of you who know my story are aware of the many health issues that I've endured. All of which started BEFORE I was overweight. My first set of health issues started when I was at about a size 6 and was running regularly. My second set of health issues started shortly thereafter. My third and fourth set of health issues started when I was about a size 10. At 5'2" a size 10 was certainly not "acceptable." All the extra weight I have now, I gained AFTER my heart attack in 2009. After my heart attack I spent two years living as healthy as I could. No fried food. No soul food. A diet low in sodium and low in fat, which was difficult to maintain. My grandmother, Marie Anderson kept me on course. I exercised three days a week. Doing what my heart could take. And during that time I PACKED on the pounds. I do not know why, but I did. And here I am today. Big and loving myself.

Just remember that when I say I love myself and I celebrate me, it doesn't mean I am making excuses for my size. It doesn't mean that I do not recognize the importance of living a healthy life style. But until I get to a healthy weight, I will NOT allow obesity to bring me to a place of self-loathing.

And remember another thing. My struggle is with weight. Your struggle is with . . . You fill in the blank. Because believe me we all struggle with something. In the meantime and in between time, I thank GOD for loving the whole me. And I thank Him for surrounding me with people who also love the whole me.

Now, I leave you to freely comment. Agree or disagree. Spread love or spread hate. It doesn't matter to me because I no longer give people the power to make me happy.

Okay. I'm off the soapbox.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why? I know you didn't ask, but if you choose to read on, you obviously want to know the answer.
I find that not all, of course, but many white women OBSESS about MY hair. My entire appearance really. Go ahead. Ask me questions. Just do not put yourself in a situation to possibly lose your fingers. DON'T EVER TOUCH MY HAIR.
It doesn't matter if I where my hair damn near bald, a fro, kinky curly, a natural looking wig, and OH! let's not forget the yarn locs, some white women obsess about my hair. They stare at me like a deer in headlights. They GRAB my hair. They pet the top of my head. When they leave my presence, they must spend their spare time thinking about me, my hair, and my appearance as a whole. They must spend time thinking up questions to ask or imagining how my hair feels. It's like I'm an animal at the frickin zoo. Maybe men do too, but they don't make comments in earshot, don't ask me questions, don't stare, and don't try to touch my hair. Only once did a man (white) walk up to me and tell me that my hair is my beauty and that by cutting it off, I had taken away my own beauty.
It's aggravating. DAMN!
"Having natural hair is political because it’s directly noncompliant with the gendered, racialized beauty standards that tell us having straight hair that lays down is ideal. It’s not easy having natural hair, not because natural hair itself is difficult or unruly, but because having natural hair in a white supremacy oftentimes feels like a battle." -Aphrodite Kocieda
I didn't "go natural." I've been natural most of my adult life. I simply haven't cut my hair in nine months which has produced this short curly afro. I find myself unattractive when my fro becomes “unruly”. My hair isn't very coarse. So that thick-stay-in-place fro is eluding me. I find myself OBSESSING about how to style my hair to avoid the aggravation of being questioned. But also, I find myself falling victim to what society deems normal and beautiful even within this natural state. I've purchased all of these "natural hair products." Why the hell am I putting product in my natural hair? Is that natural? I should just wash my hair, pick it, and go. Shampoo should be product enough. I'm putting product in my hair because inside my noncompliance, I am trying to be compliant.
I didn't worry about that when I wore my hair VERY low, almost bald. My style was still a natural style and non-compliant for most women, white and black alike. It definitely was not society's ideal, but it was me, and I didn't OBSESS over how it looked. Sure I went to the barber to keep it neat. I like to be well groomed. But this natural thing has changed my focus. I focus on my hair as part of my being. I don't like it. I am beautiful without hair. With hair, I am trying to make myself beautiful by styling my hair in an acceptable way.
Sure I love being part of the natural hair movement. I can still be part of the natural movement without a product filled afro.
"Few women had received affirmation from family, friends, or lovers when choosing not to straighten their hair and we have many stories to tell about advice we receive from everyone, including total strangers, urging us to understand how much more attractive we would be if we would fix (straighten) our hair." – Bell Hooks
I will never "fix" my hair. Not into a relaxed style. Not into an acceptable natural style. I will do what I am comfortable with. Be it an unruly afro or a bald head. White women will OBSESS either why. I cannot control them. I can, however control myself. I can stop my own OBSESSION.
Today I will wash it, pick it, and go. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"They can't BE who they can't SEE."

"They can't BE who they can't SEE." 
Compelling quote I saw on the blackboard in the background of a photo.

It was intended to encourage students at Howard University to join Teach for America because we need more Black teachers. Come Black America. There are many ways we can positively influence our youth and set good examples. 

The classroom is just one way. Our behavior is another. We need to watch our language around young people. We need to stop encouraging little girls to twerk. Don't ever let your child see you inebriated.Do not bad mouth your child's other parent in front of your child. We need to read to our child.

We need to Pray for and with our children. TAKE YOUR CHILD TO CHURCH. Be conscious of how you handle conflict in front of your child. Check over your child's homework. Don't send your child to bed. Take your child to bed and pray with him/her. Tuck your child in and then share a piece of Black History with him/her EVERY NIGHT. It will take five minutes of research on your part. Google it.

TELL YOUR DAUGHTER TO ACT LIKE A LADY. Then you act like one. TELL YOUR SON TO ACT LIKE A MAN. Then you act like one. Women, be mindful of how you let a man treat you, and be mindful of how you treat a man. Men, be mindful of how you let a woman treat you, and be mindful of how you treat a woman. Surround yourself and your child with people doing and saying positive things.


I do not have children, but there are young people in my life. I have to heed my own words that I share with you today. I have goals in mind pertaining to this very topic. I am actively working on them. I hope you will too.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

GOD has my back


I am going to share something personal with those who will take a few minutes to read this post. I am in the process of working on a very important project. It’s going to be a long process and going to take a lot of hard work on my part. This morning I was feeling anxious and very scared. Doubt and dread started to creep in. Can I do this? Should I do this? Will I be successful? What will people think of me? What do they think of me right now? Is this what God wants for me?  

As these thoughts were going through my head, a song crept in. “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.” I wasn’t sure why the sing popped into my head, but I told God I was going to listen out for that song.
As I drove to church, I continued to think about my project which is unnamed but requires a name. While I am creative in many ways, I found it challenging to come up with a name for my project. I walked into church thinking of names. Stuff was coming to mind, but nothing felt right. More importantly, nothing spoke to my soul.

Upon entering the church, I tried to clear my mind. I decided I’d think about this stuff later. However, when I went to the altar to pray, I decided to pray about my project. I told GOD that I was scared. I told Him I unsure about taking this unknown road. I asked Him if this is what He wants for me. I asked Him to speak to me directly and give me an unambiguous answer. I wanted blessed assurance.  I also asked Him for a name for my project. I told God that I didn’t want to sense any doubt. I wanted the name to come to me and I’d just know. There’d be no hemming and hawing. Again blessed assurance. 

After altar call my pastor started to preach. He started his sermon by reading Isaiah 41:1. 
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Then my pastor said, “If you’re scared, say you’re scared.” Now remember, when I went to the altar I expressed my fear and doubt to the LORD. And the song “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” was in my head earlier.

So when I pastor read that scripture and said what he said, my eyes welled up with tears. I knew GOD was talking to me. HE was answering my prayers. He was giving me blessed assurance. 

My pastor preached about the promise of God’s protection. So I guess I don’t have to worry about what people think of me. My pastor said  do not let the unknown deny you your happiness or lower your efficiency. So I guess I shouldn’t  let fear rule me. My pastor told us we are protected by God’s hand and unfailing love. So I guess I had better hold to His unchanging hand. My pastor said that God is ALWAYS with us and we should not be discouraged. We are safe. So I guess I can tell that doubt to leave me alone. My pastor said God is equal to every emergency we might encounter in all areas of our lives. So I guess I won’t worry about failing. My pastor said we need to trust God and that God will strengthen us. He told us that whatever we need, God can do it. At that moment, the name of my project popped into my head and I knew. I just knew. This was right. This is it. 

My pastor went on to say that we might not know how God is going to get things done, we just need to know that God will. We have to do our part and He will do His. So I know the hard work I sow now will reap blessings for the LORD in the future. 

My pastor told us that Jesus’ voice says to fight on. He will uphold us with the righteousness of His right hand. Once again he referred to that hand that I should never let go of. My pastor elaborated by saying the right hand is the hand you extend. And when God extends His right hand you need not worry that He is doing something tricky with His left.

There’s one other very important thing that God said to me through my pastor. God instructed me to read the Bible so He can speak to me, reassure me, give me confidence, and call me to obedience. I used to read the word every night. I’ve fallen off. Had I still been reading the Bible I might not have been filled with fear, dread, and doubt.

I will be obedient. I will read the word everyday from today moving forward. I will hold to God’s unchanging hand. I will work hard. I will be blessed.

If you don’t know GOD, please, please, please take a moment and get to know Him. What He is doing for me, He will do for you.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My following thoughts will outrage some and please others. Fortunately, I am not a high profile person who will have to issue a fake, insincere apology after I say what I mean. I will stand by what I say because it is what I mean to say, on purpose. I will write as things come to mind. So the flow won’t be as if you’re reading an article in the New York Times.
This has to do with how I live in peace. Spiritual peace. Not worldly peace. This is my feeling. My opinion. This is my person experience. You may disagree with how I feel, but you cannot disagree that this is how I feel. Catch my drift?
Some people like to convince themselves that so much has changed and things are so much better. Those in power simply became more subtle about their motives, feelings, actions, etc. Do I really have to list the examples that prove my point? Look out the window. Turn on the tv. Read a newspaper article. Listen to the radio.
"Can't we just all get along?" NO we cannot. At least not ALL of us. Man is not perfect and will never be. As long as there is a single soul with malice in his/her heart and another single soul who can be influenced, we will never live in worldly peace. Living in worldly peace with your brothers and sisters means one of two things, we ALL live flawless lives or we ALL appreciate each other, flaws and all. Neither of these things will ever happen on a global scale at least, because we're humans born with original sin. We make mistakes. We feel uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. We have egos. We judge. We're jealous. We're IGNORANT. We say and do things that are harmful to ourselves and others.
Living in worldly peace also means feeling safe at ALL TIMES. Imagine never having to worry about your emotional and physical safety. Imagine knowing that if you find yourself in harm's way any random and I mean ANY random, would extend a helping hand or defend you at all costs. Well, if that were the case, any random wouldn't need to come to your defense because there wouldn't be anyone out there who would cause you hurt, harm, or danger in the first place. We'd walk freely without concern that we'd be racially profiled, mugged, raped, lynched, stoned, spat on, knocked out, yelled at, kidnapped, murdered. We wouldn't desire money or power. We wouldn't lose loved ones in wars, car bombings, school shootings. No slavery. No holocaust. No jealousy.
There are people out there who don't want a peaceful world. Who don't want to relinquish power and level the playing field.  Who don’t want to love their neighbors. Who don’t want to call someone who looks different than they do, their brother or sister.
A quick reminder about power. Being in power does not make someone better than you. I was never told that I am equal to or as good as my white counterpart (who typically holds the power). Why, you ask? Well plain and simply put, white is not what I use as a litmus test (a critical indication of future success or failure). I strive to be the best Andrea I can be. I do not want to be like you. I do not what to look like you. I don’t want what you have. I am happy for you and what you have. What is for you, is not for me and that is all good. I want you to be happy for me when I achieve any kind of “success.” I want you to appreciate me. Value me. Hold me in high regard. Don’t ever tolerate me. Don’t endure or put up with me. I want you to pray for me just as I pray for you. And believe me when I say I pray for you. I pray for people I’ve never met, people I will never meet, people I’ve never heard of, people I do not like.
Understand something. I count myself as human and therefore filled with flaws. I judge. I gossip. I get on people’s nerves. I yell. I tolerate, among many things. At the same time, I love the LORD. I believe in Jesus Christ. This provides me with SPIRITUAL peace. This helps me to see the positive in people and in myself. There are good folks out there. I choose to surround myself, when I can, with positive uplifting people who believe in GOD. GOD is the only peace I can obtain in this world. Through HIM, I have great friends, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, straight, gay, male, female, educated, uneducated, rich, poor, powerful, and powerless. I have a loving family. I have a job and great boss. I have patience, sometimes, when dealing with bigots like Megyn Kelly, Ann Coulter, and Justine Sacco. I tolerate people like these women. That’s one of my flaws. I should love them regardless. Really, I should.
One other thing concerning worldly peace. I am so very very very proud to be BLACK. A woman. An African American woman with natural hair. That does not mean that I am anti anything not BLACK or anti anything not female or anti relaxer. I have the ability to be proud of me and appreciate you and how very different you are from me at the same time. If you do not understand that my being pro me does not me I am anti you, then we cannot get along. We cannot live in worldly peace. We cannot avoid war. We cannot share brotherly and sisterly love.
However, we can ALWAYS choose GOD. We can chose to live in spiritual peace which brings us closer to worldly peace. Ain’t no way I’d make it in this world without the grace of GOD. It is because of GOD that I try to love those who do not like me and pray for those I do not like.
These are my thoughts and my feelings. It may seem like I am being negative. Quite the contrary. I am telling you how I maintain a peaceful life in a turbulent world.

That was a long tweet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ethnic stereotypes

I could write a book answering these questions. However for the sake of time I will be brief and provide a couple of examples for each question. Anyone who has experienced racism due to stereotypes knows these are mild answers.

What are some of the ethnic stereotypes that you have had to deal with?

White people assume black people are uneducated and lazy. They assume we do not speak proper English and live in “da hood.” For those of us who do speak proper English people assume we’re trying to be white as though only white people know how to speak. It is assumed that most black families are on welfare and fatherless. Growing up ALL of my black friends except one lived in two parent homes. Nobody was eligible for reduced lunch and we all went to college. It’s assumed we’re thieves and watched closely in stores even as adults. I’ve been asked extremely stupid questions like “Do you tan?” “Does your hair grow?” “Can I touch your hair?” If I am in public and a black person is being loud and obnoxious, people turn to look at me as though I am responsible for a stranger’s behavior.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of stereotypes that have been projected about Americans of color?

When I moved to Los Angeles my then boyfriend and I were denied several apartments. We were told we’d tear up the apartment and disturb the neighbors. We were also denied purchasing a car despite excellent credit and plenty of money for a down payment.

When I transferred to Lennar in Fort Myers people expected me to speak only when spoken to. When I spoke my mind I was called “a nigger who thinks she’s educated.” People thought I was aggressive and angry simply because I defended myself. White people assume black women are intimidating simply because we are strong. They assume we all communicate by rolling our eyes and necks and sucking our teeth. Watch me closely. I do not speak with me neck.

When I was a child my classmates were white. I was not invited to their homes or birthday parties. The children would not play with me at recess. Over and over again I was told that I was not clean and had germs. Kids would not eat lunch next to me for fear of getting sick. This was learned behavior from white adults.

Where have stereotypes about your race occurred? Like have people ever said anything to you at work, school, etc.?

The only place I have not had to deal with stereotypes is in my home, the homes of my family and my church. No other place is safe. Some places are easier to deal with than others, such as public places. Work, school and friend’s homes can be very difficult. You run the risk of getting fired from you job, in trouble at school and losing a friends. In public with strangers there is less risk for speaking my mind.Ii attended a predominately white, all girls' private high school. my senior there was just over 800 students. 21 of us were black. That year seven of us black girls ended up in the same lunch wave. A teacher approached us in the cafe and with much attitude asked us how we managed to get the same lunch wave. Mind you, we could not choose our own lunch waves.

I applied for a job and the employer wanted to hire a less qualified white counterpart. They even went as far as saying they could save 10k on the first year’s salary if they hired the less skilled, less qualified, less experienced candidate.

Last summer, while at my family reunion, I stopped in Target with my best friend (a white woman). We were wearing my family reunion t-shirt. The cashier asked if we were related. My best friend said we were twins. The cashier followed with how she knew that could be possible because her family owned slaves.

Why do you think ethnic stereotypes exist?

People like to clump people in groups to make it easier for them to understand the unknown. It’s ignorance passed on from generation to generation. Example: Many of the white people I have encountered are descendants slave owners. They’ve been listening to backwards ideas for centuries. They think black people have brought down this country when in actuality we built it on our backs. People witness black people who DO perpetuate the stereotypes and decide they represent us all. In addition, lack of self-confidence leads to fear. Of course I am speculating.

How do you think these stereotypes can be overcome?

EDUCATION! We have to start with the young people to break the cycle. They need to be taught self-confidence, communication skills, appreciation for differences and compassion. We have to teach them a sense of community and inclusion. People need to venture out and meet people from other places. Multiculturalism needs to be introduced into the curriculum, the d├ęcor of the schools and the interaction of teachers and parents. Bullying needs to be quelled. Americans need to learn how to speak multiple languages.

As a multicultural trainer I used a certain technique in my workshops. I would show teachers the stages they much consciously go through to make a difference. Since learning is cyclical, I would show them a labeled circle. At the top of the circle is awareness. If you are not aware of your surroundings and your lack of knowledge about your surrounds you won’t seek knowledge. So next on the circle (moving clockwise) is seeking resources and tools that can help you gain knowledge. Next on the circle is implementation. I provided techniques on how to implement the knowledge the gain. Last on the circle is sharing. I would encourage teachers to share what they learn with other teachers and parents alike.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Young Girls & Foolish Older Women

"If you're not being treated with love & respect, check your price tag. Perhaps you have marked yourself down. It's YOU who tell people what you're worth by what you accept. Get off the clearance rack & get behind the glass where they keep the valuables! Bottom line: Value yourself! If you don't nobody else will!" -Unknown
What comes to mind when you hear the word enemy? I think of someone who is harmful or detrimental to my well being. What comes to mind when you hear the word friend? I think of someone who is supportive and respectful and who has my best interest in mind. With that said who are your enemies and who are your friends? And think about this. Are you an enemy or a friend to those around you, specifically the young girls in your life?

Personally speaking I have been an enemy without realizing it. I've acted so foolishly that my behavior was self destructive. I've been a poor judge of character engaging with people who care little for me or not at all. I have made terrible choices that so effected my life that I am still recuperating today. All of this sounds like I have been an enemy to myself. Well I have. However, it's not just about me.

In my role as an aunt, a Big Sister, a teacher and a coach, I have come in contact with many young girls. These young girls hear my words. They see my actions. They feel the emotions I express. How I carry myself, how I behave, how I act and interact has influence on them.

It is important for us "seasoned" ladies to remember that we are constantly setting an example. We are constantly being observed. It is our responsibility to act responsibly. It is our duty to lead by example. It is our obligation to befriend the young girls and ladies in our lives. They internalize and the imitate our behavior.

Do you think you are being a friend to you niece when she witnesses you being treated badly and continually going back for more? Do you think you are being a friend to your students when they hear about your careless behavior on Facebook? Do you think you are being a friend to you little sister when you are constantly begging for help and are completely dependent on the people around you?

Get yourself straight so that you can be of help to the next generation. What? Nobody helped you? All the more reason to reach out and help another young girl. If you know it will require a lot of work to get yourself straight, fine. You can still set a good example while you work on self improvement. Keep your business out of the street. Do not share everything with everybody. Do not lie to these young ladies by telling them they out to demand respect and go running outside because some man drives up and honks the horn at you.

What comes to mind when you hear the word friend? I think of someone who is supportive and respectful and who has my best interest in mind.
I have the best friend of all, Jesus Christ. HE has taught me to befriend myself so that I may befriend others, specifically the young girls in my life. I have no desire to be a subconscious enemy. An enemy to those around me because I'm living on the clearance rack. Chillin in the clearance aisle. Wallowing in self pity. Mistreating people and allowing people to mistreat me. Thanks be to GOD for 100th chances. Every morning when I wake I am blessed with a new life. A valuable life. In my past I may have convinced people that I was living on the clearance rack. Well it's just that. The past.
"If you're not being treated with love & respect, check your price tag. Perhaps you have marked yourself down. It's YOU who tell people what you're worth by what you accept. Get off the clearance rack & get behind the glass where they keep the valuables! Bottom line: Value yourself! If you don't nobody else will!" -Unknown