Like You Went to Yale, But You Probably Went to Howard…HBCU Love: I’m So Glad I Went to Howard U. What About You?

Reprinted.  Latest at Madame Noire.

Source: Fashionbombdaily

There is something about attending a historically black college or university that isn’t always easily summed up in words.  There is something special, reverent that—if you are fortunate enough to have attended and graduated from one—you can’t always explain to someone who explored different higher education options.  Some people doubt the relevance of an “all black” school in a “real world” that is far from all black.  Some dismiss the caliber of education received at HBCUs as sub par.

For those who chose to attend an HBCU when they very easily could have chosen their pick of the litter, you know what others do not.  You know that there is no place that can embrace you, challenge you, love you, frustrate you, prepare you and propel you into destiny quite like the right HBCU.  You, like I, didn’t reserve your alma mater as a back up plan.  You surveyed your myriad options and decided that it, hands down, was the best choice.  When others tout their degrees from other institutions they deem more rigorous and acceptable, you smirk because—without taking anything from their accomplishment—you know the truth…and the truth never needs to be argued.  It stands alone.

There seems to be a kinship shared amongst graduates of historically black institutions.  If you’re out and you come across someone else who graduated from an HBCU, it’s as if there is an immediate commonality, even if he or she attended a different school.  “You went to Spelman?  Man, I went to Hampton.”  And so the conversation goes.  It’s almost like we’re all a part of this overarching fraternity.  Yet, at the same time there is unending rivalry as well.  It is understood that not all HBCUs are created equal.  As such, it is common for alumni to one up each other in a quest to solidify their institution of choice as the best.

I recently attended a fundraiser where another attendee asked what school I graduated from.  When I responded, he followed with a quick, “Ok, so you graduated from the second best HBCU that exists huh?”  Baffled, I asked which institution was considered the best.  He informed me that his alma mater, FAMU, was.  I chuckled because, again, the truth never needs to be argued.

You see, I am a proud graduate of Howard University, the place we alums affectionately refer to as the Mecca.  Like many HBCUs, Howard feels like home.  In fact, as you walk onto the hilly campus, you are greeted by a sign that literally says “Welcome Home.”  You are surrounded by a sea of beautiful blackness.  And while it may seem sometimes that it’s just about looking the part, Howard’s campus is filled with brilliantly beautiful minds.  As you walk through the hallways of Douglas Hall, you are reminded of legends who walked those very halls centuries earlier.  It is difficult to not be humbled by the sheer weight of the importance that such an institution, and other institutions like it, has played in the history of people of the African Diaspora.  It gives me great pride to be associated with such a legacy of excellence.

I recently saw a poster that said that the first African American Supreme Court Justice, African American U.S. Senator, female mayor of a major city, African American female lawyer, African American U.S. governor, African American U.S. Ambassador, African American General in the U.S. Army, and I could go on and on, were all graduates of Howard University.  That is what an HBCU education will get you, for those who were wondering.  To all of my fellow Bison, I send an “awwwww HU” your way.  And to my HBCU companions who didn’t choose Howard, I love you too.  But like Kanye, when he hopped on stage and interrupted Taylor Swift, I submit to you “No disrespect to your school, Howard is the best; in fact, it’s the standard.”  I kid.  Not really.

While I am clearly biased—I unabashedly, indubitably, and unequivocally herald Howard as the best—I am sure that if you are a graduate of a historically black institution that you have a similar pride in your alma mater.  Let’s talk about it.

Are you proud that you attend or have graduated from a historically black institution?  If so, what sets your school apart from the others?

Their Hearts Say Move Along, Their Minds Say Gotcha Heart, Let’s Move It Along…As Good As It Gets: The Problem With Staying in an Unhappy Relationship Out of Fear

Reprinted.  Latest article at Madame Noire.

Source: madamenoire.com

It’s been said that love is a dangerous necessity, a world class mystery.  No one is its master. Perhaps one can suppose that as doctors practice medicine and as attorneys practice the law, that individuals merely practice love.  As people hop in and out of relationships in search of love, it can certainly be said then that there is no one right way to behave in a relationship.  But while we acknowledge that no cookie cutter formula exists and that no absolute, definitive road to successful relationships has been paved, let us not be remiss in thinking that there are not approaches to relationships that we can absolutely and definitively file in the dead wrong department.

I’ve listened a lot lately to people speak about their relationships.  And while I, frankly, am much more comfortable in the platonic lane these days, I love love.  It creates great joy in my heart to see people who truly desire to be in committed relationships hopelessly and effortlessly in real love with people they’ve entrusted their hearts to.  As such, I’ve been struck by how frequently people are admitting that they remain in relationships not out of love but out of fear—fear that although they are not truly happy, that what they currently have just might be as good as it gets for them.

Some women remain with men who they aren’t excited about because they treat them well and have the ability to be great providers for their families.  Some men remain with insecure women who lack emotional maturity because they possess all the physical attributes that keep them visually and physically stimulated.  I’ve had women admit that there isn’t much compatibility between them and the man they’re dating, but say, “But I’ve never had anyone treat me this well before.”  I’ve also had men admit that it is hard to get past their woman’s childish and insecure ways but say, “But I’ve never had a woman who was on my level professionally AND came in a package that looked like this before.”  These same men and women have been extremely apprehensive to walk away from relationships that really aren’t working because they’re afraid that they may not be able to find the highly desirable traits they have in their partners with other people.

I certainly understand that there are those who come along and break the mold.  They are game changers, and once the game’s been changed, there really is no going back.  But ladies and gentlemen, we have to acknowledge that the mere fact that someone is a good catch does not always make them a great catch for us.  You can’t hold on to someone because they are the best you’ve had so far and you’re afraid that you won’t find someone comparable if you let them go.  Well, you can, but you probably shouldn’t.  Happiness is paramount, and if you aren’t truly happy…you can’t force it.

I am a firm believer that people can have whatever it is they believe they can have.  If you believe a person that you really should leave is the best you may ever have, it’s likely you’ll never have better.  But imagine what possibilities would exist if you’d rather choose to believe that if you had it once, you can have it again…and maybe even better?  Imagine who could come into your life if you’d simply change your perspective?  Instead of having the attitude that you may be losing out on a good thing, use your experiences with this man or woman as proof that people like him or her do indeed exist and that they happen to be attracted to you.  Although your current relationship won’t last, you know now that a relationship with a man who treats you extremely well is possible.  Or, you recognize that your bad chick game has just been upgraded.  You can rest in that and move on with joyful anticipation of what is to come.

When you find the person who truly melts your butter, we’ve agreed and voted that you make your own rules in your practice of love.  But, let’s agree right now that this whole staying in relationships because you’re scared of the what-ifs business is wack and should be filed away in the dead wrong department we talked about earlier. Why? So you can give yourself a chance to truly be happy.  Pinky swear?

Let’s Flip the Track, Bring the Old School Back…My Momma Used to Say: Mother’s Day Love for the Old School Mama

Reprinted.  Latest article over at Madame Noire.

madamenoire.com

As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly upon the woman I will be eternally grateful to have called mother.  As I grow older, I appreciate her more and more, and even her antics become more endearing.

My childhood was probably not the most typical for the time period in which I grew up.  You see, my mother was 44 when she gave birth to me.  Which means that while I was busy growing up in the 90’s, my mother was comfortably settling into her 50’s.  My friends had young, urban parents who were still trying to find themselves—not to mention most were also trying to figure out what the mom thing was all about.  Me, I was being raised by a woman at least 20 years their senior who had already raised most of her kids (I’m the youngest of a large family) and knew the major pitfalls to avoid.  Let me add that my mother was from the South.  Now, I’m a city girl and would not have it any other way than to be born and bred in my native Chicago all over again.  But, I’ll be the first to admit that there are probably a few pointers that us Northern women can take from our Southern sisters.  But I digress.  I said all of this to say that despite growing up in the 90’s in the inner-city of Chicago, I had an old-school Southern upbringing.  For that I am tremendously grateful and this is why…

My mother’s rules were sometimes ridiculous, but all the time purposeful.

She made it clear that what I chose to do as an adult would be my own business but while I was in her home, we’d serve God.  The one of the Black church persuasion.  If church was in session, we were in attendance.  Sunday School, first service, second service, YPWW, Bible study, choir rehearsal, prayer night, Vacation Bible School, revival and on New Years Eve…watch night service!

My mother was intent on not only raising me to be a certain kind of woman, but to be a lady.  She taught me to have such high respect for myself that it commanded respect from others.  She taught me to depend on myself and not wait for others to do for me.  BUT, now to each its own, my mama taught me that women also cook and clean.  She’d say “you don’t be inviting nobody to your house and it ain’t clean,” and she was something serious about a woman knowing her way around the kitchen.  She was the kind of mother who taught me to make everything from scratch.  And ladies, may I just tell you that this cooking thing scores me mad points with the fellas when I’m not even trying to win.

I learned from my mother that ladies dress like ladies and not like, well, whores.  She made sure that things were properly shaved, I wore stockings and a slip, and that she was never EVER able to determine what kind of underwear I was wearing. She taught me to work on the kind of inward beauty that draws people to you rather than attract attention by being scantily clad.  I remember when midriffs started becoming really popular amongst my age group; I had this Calvin Klein number that I loved.  I’d make sure to pull it as far down as possible when my mother was around, but I must have moved too swiftly one day and my mother caught a glimpse of my bare stomach.  If she didn’t almost fall out!  She promptly informed me that either my shirt was too short or my pants weren’t high enough.  In fact, she added that any pants I owned should cover my navel!  My navel???

I can imagine that we’ve all heard older folks talk about the days when they had to be in the house when the street lights came on.  Try 1998!  I have siblings who are much older than I am, and a couple of nieces who are about the same age as me.  One of these nieces came to live with us when she was a preteen.  Now, when she became a teenager, my mom gave her a curfew of 10:00 p.m.  We were close but different kind of people, so we didn’t always hang out together.  She had her friends and I had mine.  But, I vividly recall this day we decided to kick it.  We had all kind of fun in the sun and made it home in time for “our” curfew.  I walked in the house and my mom appeared out of nowhere and hit me with the “just where do you think you’ve been?”  I explained that I was with my niece, who’s a year and a half older, and that we weren’t too far away.  She promptly read me my rights and informed me that while Trice’s curfew was 10, she fully expected me to be on the block the minute the street lights came on.

I should also say that my mom did NOT play when it came to boys.  I was 15 before my mom let a boy CALL me!  And probably a year older before she “allowed” me to have a boyfriend.  As a grown woman, I still remember the day she first let my boyfriend darken our front door.  Both he and I thought that there must be some kind of ambush that lay in wait.  Luckily for us, she was just trying to cut us some slack.

I know not everyone’s parents were as strict as mine and realize that this kind of upbringing is not one that everyone would relish.  However, I am so appreciative that I was raised the way I was raised.  I’m not knocking young and more progressive mothers who successfully raise balanced kids.  But…if you had an old school mama who didn’t play and you’re a better woman because of it, will you join me in a standing ovay for that right there?

And if you had an old school mother, then I know I’m not alone in these embarrassing my mother didn’t play that stories. Do tell.  What was your mother simply not having when you were growing up?

U.N.I.T.Y. That’s a Unity… Who You Calling a Bit**? A How-To On Properly Addressing Women

Reprinted.  Latest article over at Madame Noire.

Source: nwso.net

“Who you calling a bit**?” Yeah, here we go.  Apparently, I gotta let you know I’m not a bit**, a broad or a ho*.”

This is not a feminist manifesto.  A strongblackwoman rant it is not.  It is not a compilation of musings to be dismissed as chick logic.  This is no angry/bitter woman’s monologue.  A Mz. Independent, you better r.e.s.p.e.c.t. me, nag fest this ain’t.

To my Polo wearing, cool is forever, in search of Clair Huxtable, steeped in hip-hop culture brothers (whom we love), THIS is an open letter from colored girls who’ve abandoned suicide in favor of homicide when recounting daily doses of misogyny and declaring ENOUGH.  Let us acknowledge that a bit** is a female dog, a ho* a garden tool and broad an adjective used to describe things that are wide and of great breadth and extent.  And while some are indeed wide with supple rolling hills of wonderment, neither of the aforementioned terms is an appropriate moniker for a woman.

Now, I understand the politics of respectability and I agree that by and large women can do better in respecting themselves and thus garner greater respect from men.  With that, I can already anticipate the argument that not every girl is a woman, but before we go down that road of differentiation—let me submit one thing.  Let’s be real, some of your mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins and friends have or will exhibit the same kind of behavior that promptly causes you to label a woman a #yourchoicewordhere.  Is it okay then for me to use this same term when referring to your mother?  Are you planning to use similar language for your daughter whose behavior WILL be influenced by the culture you continue to architect with your mouth?  Would it not be a more honorable and affirming practice to do away with vile and violent terms and to refer to the fairer sex as women instead, albeit calling those things that are not as though they were at times.

Let us have another frank moment.  I have not seen such display of unfaltering loyalty than that displayed by the black woman on behalf of the black man.  Even in the face of so many all out media affronts that would have one believe that there are very few dateable black men available for black women, black women continue to express their preference for black men rather than date outside the race.  Black women continue to herald such preference amidst very vocal proclamations of some black men that they prefer to date women who are indeed not black.  Black women will accept a man’s baggage and will embrace and treat children their men fathered with other women as their own.  In some extreme cases, black women will accept collect phone calls, deposit money into commissary accounts, and make the trek to prison to visit black men they love.  Many of us know women like the one Lupe Fiasco references.  You know, “the down baby mama who he really had to honor ‘cause she was his biggest fan,” the one who even let him use her Honda to drive up to Dallas when he opened up for amateurs and “let him keep a debit card so he could put gas in it.”  Man!  That’s a black woman for you.

I’ll leave the painful conversation that includes the bitter truth that black men simply are not as loyal, are not as devoted, are not as committed to black women as we are to them for another day.  But, today I will ask that you do not repay our stalwart allegiance by calling us bit**es, broads and ho*s.  It is disrespectful; it is painful; it is outright unnecessary and uncalled for.  My mama named my Sheena…you should call me Sheena.  I am someone’s daughter, sister, the aunt that nieces and nephews look up to.  I am the friend who affirms those around me and gives them the liberty to be themselves, the companion who is committed to remaining the object of your desire, who makes sure that your stomach remains full, your intellect tickled and your spirit fed, the one who understands your struggle and vows that you will be respected and built up rather than torn down by the words of my mouth.  It is from my bowels, my womb that all of civilization was birthed.  I am a (black) woman.  Call me that.  And for those whom you do not think worthy of the term, call them women anyway.  Call them women until they begin to behave as such.

May I go further?  Don’t call me a female.  Yes, I understand that I am indeed female.  I have two X chromosomes, a vagina that I am quite fond of, a uterus and ovaries.  I’m not denying the obvious.  I am, however, pointing out that calling me a female is another instance where you’re neglecting to acknowledge me as a woman.  How many times have you heard a woman say “I tell you about males” or start a sentence with “males today” while simultaneously shaking her head?  Chances are, never.  You may not understand this, but referring to a woman as a female is usually seen as pejorative.  And despite whether you understand it, if I express to you that I find it disrespectful, you should probably just refrain from using it.  Men arguing for the use of female in place of woman is like white people insisting upon calling black people colored or negro instead, thin people calling overweight people fat, and those who believe they themselves are actually sane referring to mentally ill people as retarded.  While a small case can be made for the use of some words, all of the people in favor of making said case should just take several seats.

Cues U.N.I.T.Y.  Can I entice you my Polo wearing, cool is forever, in search of Clair Huxtable, steeped in hip hop culture brothers—whom I love—to simply love a black woman from infinity to infinity?  She’s not a bit**, a broad or a ho*.  And though she may be female, don’t call her that!  If you can’t call her by name, by all means call her woman.  She just might be the Clair you covet and in turn call you Brother to the Night…let you be the blues in her left thigh and become the funk in her right.  Alriiiight?