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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Am a Woman

I am a woman.
I understand models because I too know how to embody self esteem.
Confidence, a stride in a woman’s hips, the glance of a sister in control is very, very sexy.
I feel it in fading slowly, morphing into this womanly figure, the child, the girl I used to be.
She’ll remain in the realms of my heart to remind me of the dreams I’m chasing…
This woman is taking hold of me.

I am a woman
With time I am going to leave the world a little sweeter than when I came.
My voice will speak to little girls all over to overcome their worst fears.
I’m learning to deal with the adversity life brings.
My family is my rock, but I’m carving a life of mine own.
This woman is taking hold of me.

I am a woman.
My man holds me as if I was the softest silk in the world, I respond with the same tenderness.
I compliment his success and pray for his strength. because a real woman knows to stand by her man.
In public I hold my man by the hand, gently pressing my body against his, sneaking sweet kisses in between steps.
There is no insecurity, other women can look, hell they can stare.
This woman smiles inside because I have no insecurity that is man is mine.
This woman is taking hold of me.

I am a woman.
Adversity pushes me to work harder.
Papers, stories, and ideas pile on my desk and slowly I breathe in and smell the sweet aroma of a hard day’s work. 
 Bit by bit, piece by piece I climb small mountains and when it’s all done I feel a sense of success that is unmeasured.
I congratulate my co-workers on their work without letting jealous take ahold of me.
Team efforts lighten the load and I’m more than happy to share the credit for a job well done.
Office gossip does not interest me and my work is my motivation.
This woman is taking hold of me.

I am woman.
Finally able to embrace this brown skin
Slipping into a sassy tube top and skirt that hugs all the right curves
Strutting down the street, meeting up with girls for a night on the town
Shaking my groove thing and when the music fades, the night is done
Slipping into the arms of my strong man, laughing about the night I had.
He’s happy I’m home safe and I’m safe in his home.

I am a woman.
Stronger than I knew possible
Ready to conquer the world
Open for love and affection
Smart, gifted, and talented
I am ready for the woman to take hold of me.

My Past Beef with Rap Music

  Hip Hop's birth is often characterized as an explosion. At it's emergence, it embodied youthfulness, rawness, and innovation. Hip Hop rappers such as LLCool J, RUN DMC, and Dougie Fresh combined a movable beat and message that appealed to a youthful audience begging for a venting outlet. It was healthy and cathartic. In the years to come the innocence of Hip Hop was lost. The same venue that allowed so many youthful minds to express themselves began exploiting them. With the advent of gangsta rap came the destruction and commercialization of the once innocent Hip Hop culture.

 When gangsta rap began it set out to enlighten the world to the pains of the inner city life.  It connected to so many black people in peril. The artists of this genre had a mission, that no matter how harsh and cruel the message was, they were going to spit about the realities of inner city life as black person. The same is not true today. Rap has gone Hollywood. It is this combination that makes Rap music and Hip Hop culture so harmful. Artists no longer care what the implications of their records bring, but how much money it amounts to. It is through the world of Hip hop we have taught our children the main goals in life are materialism and greed. It's through Hip Hop that stereotypes of black men and women are continuously manipulated.

A lot black people were insulted when celebrity Bill Cosby criticized parents for letting the media raise their children. It's not that Bill Cosby was being offensive or cruel; plain and simple, the truth hurts. The well known comedian made a point of citing Hip Hop artists influence on not only black communities but, also the white communities around them. He was basically saying rap music portrays the black community in a negative light; and African Americans feed into that self image. It's almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. And,  white communities embrace the images of black people through the eyes of Rap and Hip Hop artists. The result is a wider gap amongst the white and black community.

Rap music is laced with so many mixed messages it=s hard to decipher what the artists are trying to say. At one instance, a song will depict the troubles and hardships of living in the ghetto. On the next spectrum a song will down right slaughter the image of women, and black men. Women are often typecast as sex objects, gold diggers, and deceitful back stabbers, often using the baby mama card to manipulate the black male. Black men are depicted as relentless, thugs whose only choice is to break the law to get ahead.  Somehow this is justified in the Hip Hop/Rap world because the system of the so called normal society is not helping them. It's victim rationalization that rap music has been playing on this for quite some time. This rationalization describes Black men as mere victims of society and the blame is not on them but the world they live in.

The essence of infidelity in the Hip Hop world is all too common amongst black men. Almost all of them cheat but, that too is justified because women are simply trying to take advantage of them financially. How can these rap songs claim to being helping the black community? What do songs like 50 Cent's P.I.M.P have to do with cultural need for change? By depicting what the inner city black person is like? Is that what these songs think they accomplish? Not only does this destroy the image of the black communities but it adds to an already huge pile of stereotypes, black people are still trying to overcome. When does it stop? What is also interesting about this type of music is that it sells greatly among white consumers. No wonder they hold so many misconceptions about black people. If a foreigner were given one type of music to describe the African Americans race in America, I pray it would not be rap music.

The music is not the only factor of the Hip Hop culture that stifles the black community, the artist all too often play into the roles Hollywood has set for them. Rap music is a profitable business, the more realistic the artist, the more profitable their music. Artists who claim to be only story tellers of the inner city all too often live the life long after they are famous. The deaths of rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur are a huge examples of how many artists get caught up in the hood from which they came. This is not to say they should forget where they came from entirely. But, what was the struggle for, if not to escape the hood ? Why are rap artists constantly emerging themselves in the cross fires of violence?  Are they in need of more material?  What a impact it would make if a rapper admitted, 'Yes I came from the hood, but I don't have to stay there.

It is no surprise that the spending potential of Black America is powerful. It'ss for this reason so many Hip Hop fashions and apparel companies target blacks communities. In a census done in 2001 it was shown that African Americans spent a whopping 24.7 billion dollars on apparel and services. While expenses like computer equipment were only 1.6 billion, books were 356 million. Blacks spend more money on apparel and image products than educational tools. Don't you think rap artists know this? Of course they do. They claim to be helping their hood, how are they helping the hood by focusing on materialism to motivate social status?

Rappers parade around with name brand clothes and drive expensive cars. Through music videos and television they send the message that these things are synonymous with power and respect. It's often this element of hip hop that separates the youth. In inner city schools, lower income black families have children pleading to have the latest Baby Phat or Sean Jean , and for what? By having these fashions the children feel they are like the rappers they admire. The hip hop industry has made a killing on encouraging blacks to succumb to these guilty pleasures. At a time when black ownership of houses and literacy rates among children are extremely low, fashion should be the last concern of the black community.

Rap music depicts a image of the black community; that is harmful to communities of all economic status. It has almost become a signature of what is and is not black. As a genre of music that is supposedly representing the black culture it is doing an awful job. What about all those black people who are succeeding in America?  Where is their credit? Why are things like violence, sex, and drugs glamorized and not more important things like college, abstinence, and awareness? What is the rap community doing about all of this? It is fair to say there are some artists doing something positive. Artist such as Russell Simmons and Sean P. Diddy Combs are making waves in encouraging the black community to vote this coming election. Sadly, their efforts are overshadowed by all the damage rap music has left.

There is no doubt that rap music has had a negative effect on the black community. This can be seen in the increasing rates of teen pregnancies among black youth, increase in violence, and  illiteracy rates. If statical factors aren't enough it is seen in the eyes of our children, in black schools, and inner cities where raps impact among black youth is undeniable. This is not to say all the blame is on Rap music and the hip hop culture. We as parents and as Black Americans need to wake up to the ever increasing crisis in our communities. We are losing our children to the wrath of the media a.k.a rap music. It is now time, more so than ever to strengthen the family unit, inform kids of the dangers and precautions of sex, drugs, and violence. It is time to come together as a community to raise our children, It takes a village.  It's time to pull our children away from materialistic vices, such as hip hop fashion. These things do not build character or personality. It is now time to talk to our children about what they hear in rap music.  Rap music has become a kind of video game, where we all are having a hard time deciphering what is fantasy and reality. Let's un-blur those lines. To fight back on rap's influence, it's going to take a village.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eight Lessons from the Bench: How to Avoid the Friendzone

I learned a lot about relationships sitting on the bench of the love game. Occasionally, I'll dust myself off, get up from the bench, and try to go after a player myself.  Somehow I mess up the moves, and end up right back on the bench with a friend card. You know the card. The ones your crushes, love interest, or player gives you to let you know that you're strictly platonic. Damn, I hate those cards. I have a lot of them. I admit I've given out a fair amount myself. I have a good handful of guys friends that I love, and support me through the skinny, thick, quirky, and sassy. I know a few of my guy friends would love to trade in their friend card with me for something more. But, going from friends to lovers is no easy task. I've complied a few tips I've learned from my time on the bench, tips on how to avoid the friend zone. These tips or rules are certainly not the only ones out there, they are just the ones I've learned a long the way. They are in no particular order.

1.) Make your intentions known early, and directly.  People who are habitually put in the friendzone make this mistake a lot. I agree that friendship is a good foundation for love, but if you ever want your love interest to see you as more than just a friend they need to know how you feel. This means saying clearly, "I like you, and I see you more than a friend. I'd like to get to know you better." You don't have to use those exact words, but somehow you need to convey that your feeling are more than just platonic. If your friend doesn't take the bait, their loss, at least you know how they feel. And, at least you know you tried. I hate the wondering and waiting.

2.) Playing the Friend Card is a Gamble- I won't say playing the friend card doesn't work sometimes, because it does. One of my best boyfriends was my best friend first. We had the most intense, incredible love because we knew each other. We told each other everything, and I felt completely safe with him. But, when the love turned sour so did our friendship. We can't even speak to each other now. And, there are times I ache for my old best friend. Using the friend card to get a lover is risky for another reason. It could very well keep you in the friend zone. The more time you spend playing the friend card the more time your lover sees you as just a friend. If your friend is talking to you about other lovers then you know you've played the friend card too long. At some point you have to make your feelings known. This rule is not set in stone, but it is often very hard to get out of the friend zone once you've been put in there.

3.) Confidence is Golden. I am the queen of self-deprecating humor. I love to poke fun at myself, but I admit I may do it too much. If you keep telling your love interest you're "an old lady", fat, or undesirable then guess what that person will see you that way. Joking oneself can be cute but limit the jabs to your ego. It is one of the quickest ways to get put in the friend zone. There is nothing more sexy than a woman or man who carries themselves with confidence. If you don't believe in yourself why should your love interest? And, if we keep the sports analogy going - who wants to pull someone off the bench who is unsure they can score or play the game? I want a confident, strong player on my team. So play up your best qualities, and if you don't know what those are may you should not be in the game. Take time to learn about yourself, and learn to love yourself. You can't expect anyone to love you if you don't even see what is lovable.

4.) Careful not to Confide Too Much Too Soon -  I am terrible about this. I am an open book, and sometimes I give too much away too soon. This is important for two reasons. First, why give away all of yourself on the first date, meeting, or encounter. You want that person to keep coming back for more. Spread a little of those awesome qualities of yourself over time so the person has a reason to keep coming back. Secondly, I should not have to say this but stories about your exes, past lovers, and mates should maybe wait til at least the third or fourth encounter. The first date should be all about showcasing how freaking awesome you are.  The minute your date turns into a therapy session where your love interest is consoling you, comforting you about past breakups... you know you have gone too far.

5.) Fun is Contagious - If you are naturally funny or witty you are way ahead of the game. People underestimate how sexy and attractive humor is. If you look in most women's magazine surveys or articles, women say they want someone who can make them laugh. The same goes for men. Life gets hard, monotonous, and stressful. It's incredible when you can find someone who helps you laugh at yourself, and life. I've learned players who are funny, and unafraid to enjoy themselves spend less time on the bench. People are drawn to fun people so don't be afraid to let your hair down, and have a good time.

6.) Save Your Goodies - There is something to the whole saving yourself thing. Sex is one of the most beautiful things two people can share when they are in love. If you don't want to be someones "goody buddy"  shall we say, save the goodies for when you are committed, or in love. I've heard from far too many girlfriends who thought that giving up the goodies early would lead to love or a relationship. In my experiences it is very rare. And, as Steve Harvey says in is book, 'Act like a lady, Think like a Man,' when you give up the "cookie" to soon men usually feel they have nothing else to work for. Before long you will end up as the late night "goodie call." I've seen several girls who only get called off the bench for the "goody calls", and it can be very damaging to the heart. After a while they realize the love they are seeking is even further out of reach. There is power in saving the "goodies."

7.) Ask for the date soon. This kind of goes with rule number one. I believe the longer you wait to ask for a date, the more likely that person will place you in the friendzone. I've seen far too many people play the "do they or don't they like me" game. Rather than leaving your love interest waiting and wonder pursue the romantic venture early. By asking for a date early in the game you are showing that person you want them romantically, not a hug, pat on the back, or smile. You want to kiss, embrace, touch, and love.  It's all about making your intentions very clear.

8.) Pull Out All the Stops - If and when you get the date, don't be afraid to show them who you are. The date is your first impression. Show your love interest what they will be getting if they date you. Show them you are romantic. You want to listen to them, you care what they have to say. Look at the date as an opportunity to sell yourself, and you want your love interest to know you're the best out there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bench Warmer

           For most of my adolescence I had a front row seat to the inner workings of the love game, on the bench. I did not receive a lot of looks, flirtatious exchanges, or steamy make out sessions. I sat watching, wondering, and hoping someone would pick me from the bench to play.

To help pass time on the bench, I learned to laugh at myself, and even poked fun at my silly quirks to make others on the bench smile. I have perfected self-deprecating humor. When other players would come by the bench during a breakup or needed help I was always there for a little pep talk.

 I have to say my time on the bench was well spent. I learned a lot about guys, and girls from the sidelines. I learned how to enjoy naughty jokes with the guys, and learned to appreciate video games. Because of that time on the bench I'm good at making guy friends. When my girlfriends were crying on the bench after being dumped, cheated on, or mistreated I was always there to show them the better options out in the game. I have even doubled as a team nurse sometimes. I helped more than a handful of girlfriends mend their broken hearts, and sent them back into the game. Now I'm in my late twenties, and I'm proud to say I don't spend as much time on the bench as my high school days. But, somehow I haven't quite shrugged off my bench warmer mentality. And, sometimes I wonder if that's why I'm finding more guy friends, and dates, and not the love I crave.

Recently I was at a bar, chilling with some of my guy friends when three cute, young guys approached my chair. Their boyish faces, and unpolished swagger showed me they weren't quite my age so I will call these guys 'Pretty Young Things" for the purpose of this story.  I could see from the corner of my they were trying to get the attention of the bartender with no success. I knew the names of the bartenders, and shouted for one of them to assist the 'pretty young things.'  They seemed to be impressed by this. I then introduced myself to all of the 'pretty young things' and striked up a conversation. Then I said, "Hey, you guys needs to get your game, cause the honeys are out tonight." I actually said this. I even pointed to the row of skinny girls sitting at the bar next to me.  
One of the pretty young things said, "Well I was actually trying to mack on you." I stood there dumbfounded for a second.
And, then the bench warmer in me said, "Why would this pretty young thing be trying to mack on you? You barely did your hair, this is not your cutest outfit, and you aren't nearly as cute at these other girls."  But, I decided to ignore the bench warmer in me for a second.
I blushed, and said, "Well then, I don't know if you can handle all this."
We ended up exchanging numbers. Long story short things didn't work out with the pretty young thing, but I almost missed the opportunity to get to know someone because I didn't have enough confidence. I believe my time on the bench is to blame.
While I learned a lot about guys and gals as a bench warmer, I think I also started selling myself really short. Each time I was passed up for another skinner, prettier girl, I began to think I didn't deserve to be chosen from the bench. When I was chosen, sometimes I settled for some pretty lame players just to be in the game.
For example in middle school I had my first big crush on this guy on the track team. He had glasses, dark skin, and a smile that made my heart skip a beat. My best friend had a crush on him too. He then asked her out to the middle school dance, but for some reason she declined. With no one else to go with, he asked me, and I said yes. I was totally sloppy seconds, and the insecurity in me wouldn't let me say no. What if I didn't get another chance like this? Needless to say, it was not a good middle school dance experience.
 The bench warmer mentality has followed me into my adult love life. I once I dated a guy who picked me up outside my parent’s house by honking on his car horn for me to come outside. I finally introduced him to mother after six months of dating. He he told her he and I were just kicking it, he wasn’t trying to catch feelings. True story! I have too many stories like this. 
I have learned to love myself since those adolescent days sitting on the bench. I know I am a beautiful, strong, smart woman who has so much to offer someone. But, I'm not sure I've quite left the bench warmer in me completely behind. And, I can't explain why I'm holding onto it so tightly. It's as if something in me is fighting my desire to let it go. There is a part of that believes, if I truly embrace the idea that I'm sexy, beautiful, maybe gorgeous even I will lose my modesty, my compassion to others on the bench, and my warm heart that always wants to give someone a chance. Being a bench warmer is part of me. I have found solace with other underdogs like me, and I don't ever want to forget that I was indeed the ugly duckling in high school. It has taught me to appreciate all ranges of beauty. But, maybe it is possible to remember my bench days, but also enjoy the play time I'm getting in the love game now. Can my past and present self exist together? I am not sure. But, this I do know if you are currently warming the bench, spend this time learning to love yourself.  When you are confident about yourself and what you have to offer, you will be called off the bench. Trust me guys love a confident partner. It won’t matter how long you sat on the bench or how poorly you did the last go round, they will only want to learn more about this newly confident, refreshed woman in front of them. So get out there and join the game, and don't be afraid to play with your heart.