Saturday, September 13, 2014

Janay Rice Attacked the Public

Silly hoe, stupid bitch, dumb ass, gold digger, in it for the dick, thug... 

These are some of the words I've seen people use to describe Janay Rice, wife of former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice.

I don't understand how people can blame a woman for being knocked unconscious on an elevator by her 212lbs, professional football player husband. I don't understand how people can wish for her safety and then in the same sentence call her a "dumb ass" or a "stupid bitch."

As I've said on Facebook and on Twitter, I don't agree with her staying either, but I don't know why she's staying with him. She may be in love. She may be afraid he'll kill her if she leaves. She may not have anywhere to go. I don't know. And if she is staying for love, which is common for women who have battered wife syndrome, I don't see how further degrading her with vile names is going to help  her.

I volunteered at a domestic violence safe house when I was in college. In my current job, some of the women who use our services have been abused. And I personally know of beautiful, brilliant women who were in abusive relationships. I could not imagine calling any of them a "stupid bitch" or "dumb ass" while they were being hurt or not ready to leave their abusers.

I believe a lot of people are saying they don't feel bad for Janay because she's wealthy and they think she's taking the beatings for the money. I can't but help feel bad for the mother of a baby and the wife on a man who knocks the shit out of her on an elevator and then drags her body out like trash.

I'm disappointed in the many women who are victim blaming Janay Rice. I think a lot of us have internalized our sexism, misogyny and gendered oppression.

And I'm disappointed with so many in the black community who are victim blaming Janay Rice. It's Rihanna and Chris Brown all over again. We march, scream, protest, and make hashtags for black men when they are assaulted. But let a black woman get attacked by a black man and there's crickets. Or, they find some reason to blame her. We invisibilize our own women's oppression as an act of racial loyalty and to protect black men. I know many black men have it hard, but so do a hell of a lot of black women.

I feel bad for Janay Rice. I hope she does leave her husband, unharmed and alive. I feel bad that her baby is being raised in a violent home. Black women are 3 times more likely to die by their partner or ex-partner than any other racial group.

I feel bad for the many women in violent relationships who have seen some of the ignorant, hurtful, harsh, sexist posts and tweets from their loved ones and are probably now even more hesitant to tell someone they're in their danger. One in 3 women in the U.S. have experienced violence in an intimate relationship. Chances are you know someone who has been abused.

As I've been saying in social media, to people talking down about Janay Rice -- you don't know WHO is reading your posts. You don't know WHO grew up in a violent home or is a victim of an abusive relationship. Some people I personally know slamming Janay Rice online, have friends that I know who have been in abusive relationships. But those critics don't know about what their friends experienced. There may be a certain reason why your woman friend, cousin, girlfriend, aunt, mom etc. has been pretty quiet about Ray and Janay Rice fiasco.

The violence against women must stop. Misogyny and sexism must end. Defending abusive men because their famous must stop. The NFL needs to do better.

And black folks need to stop defending men we know good and damn well are abusing, misusing and abandoning our women because "brothas have it hard." That kind of thinking is killing our women. And yes, Janay Rice getting beat is OUR problem. Domestic violence is OUR problem, just like police brutality is OUR problem.

Lastly have some damn compassion for the woman and pray she and her baby get out safely and alive.

Here's an article about people who personally know Janay Rice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Beyonce a Feminist?

Beyonce in superhero stance at the MTV VMAs. 
There she stood in all of her pop goddess glory at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA). Bootylicious, Independent Woman, Diva, Queen B, King Bey, Destiny’s Child, Flawless—all adjectives and nicknames we’ve called Beyonce over the years. And near the end of her MTV performance she stands like a superhero in front of a new word to add to the list, “Feminist.” 

I’ve watched MTV for a long time and I can’t recall a time where anyone mentioned or displayed the word “feminist” on the VMAs, let alone with such pride. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but if it did, it’s been a long time. While so many women were excited about Beyonce once again proclaiming feminism, I’m still not sold entirely sold on Beyonce being a feminist.  

I’ve been following Beyonce’s career since she and Destiny’s Child did the “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” remix with Wyclef Jean back in 1999. I bought her new self-titled album Beyonce and  was hella excited to see her and Jay Z during their “On the Run” tour.  Beyonce has always been pro-woman and taken pride in her womanhood. I’ve thrown my hands up to “Independent Women.”“Survivorwas one of the songs that fueled me in college. I’ve shaken it to “Run the World (Girls).”  And if I ever dated a guy who was slow on getting on bended knee, I sure would tell him to “Put a Ring on It.”  Her sampling of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’sWe Should All Be Feminists” Ted Talk  in “Flawless” is what really ignited this feminist discussion. That is why I was so, so, so disappointed with Beyonce when she allowed Jay Z to compare himself to woman beating, misogynist Ike Turner in her song Drunk In Love

I’m Ike Turner, turn up
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said eat the cake, Anna Mae  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Michael Brown and the Mental Scars of Racism and Injustice in Ferguson

Michael Brown
So much has already been said about the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri and the unjust killing of Michael Brown. I’m tired of unarmed black men being brutalized and killed by law enforcement. I’m tired of unarmed black women being brutalized and killed by law enforcement. I’m tired of people saying we live in a “post-racial society” because we have an African-American president. I’m tired of living in one of two Americas—one for them, one for us. In one of two Americas, black people pay double the price and treated twice as bad. To paraphrase a meme I saw on Facebook—I’m tired of black people calling for justice when a black person is shot by a white person. But when a black person shoots another black person, and someone reports it, they are called a snitch. I’m tired of fearing for the black men in my circle and family. 

Racism can and does have psychological effects on people who are oppressed. From the images I’ve seen in the news, parts of Ferguson look like a war zone. The heavy police presence, gun fire, tear gas, tears of the people, marches, curfews,  protestors being assaulted, journalists silenced—I can’t help but not be concerned about people’s mental wellness. 

There were people who saw Michael Brown be shot to death. I’m sure there are people living in fear in Ferguson. Parents are worried about their black children, especially their sons. When you’re exposed to so much turmoil, and witnessing back-to-back traumatic events, that can be seriously disturbing to your mental wellness and peace of mind. 

I’m concerned about the people’s minds. I’m concerned about the children being exposed to the violence and chaos. I’m concerned about the loud boom noises that are scaring them at night. I’m concerned that they’re scared when their mommy, daddy or Uncle June leaves the house because they fear they won’t return. I’m concerned they fear they may end up like Michael Brown. 

May people think PTSD or trauma mainly affects soldiers. You don’t have to be fighting in a war overseas to have trauma. There are people in the USA suffering from trauma due to violence in their neighborhoods.  So I hope that the people in Ferguson are taking care of their mental wellness best they can. I hope when the smoke clears, there will be counselors available for children at schools to process all of this. I hope people are praying, meditating, tuning out the loud noise with music, supporting each other, loving each other and doing whatever they can to mentally survive, and not be left with too much scarring. I hope people get help and have access to help if they need to talk to someone. Racism and injustice leaves mental scars. 

Emmitt Till didn’t deserve to die. 
Latasha Harris didn’t deserve to die.
Sean Bell didn’t deserve to die. 
Mitrice Richardson didn’t deserve to die. 
Oscar Grant didn’t deserve to die. 
Trayvon Martin didn’t deserve to die
Renisha McBride didn’t deserve to die. 
John Crawford III didn’t deserve to die .
Michael Brown didn’t deserve to die.
The countless others who stories didn’t make headlines-- didn’t deserve to die. 

Racism and injustice leave mental scars. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

I’m Taking Arianna Huffington’s Advice and Sleeping My Way to the Top

Photo by Xautumnx 
Somehow I missed Arianna Huffington’s bedtime call to action in 2010, which is to get more sleep. At the BlogHer ’14 conference I attended, she shared how passing out was her wakeup call. 

The incident is described in the “Sleep Challenge 2010” Huffington Post article by Glamour magazine Editor Cindi Lieve, who wrote, “…as for Arianna, she had a rude (and painful) awakening two years ago when she passed out from exhaustion, broke her cheekbone and got five stitches over her eye. Ever since then, she's been working on bringing more balance, and more sleep, into her life­ with varying degrees of success.” 

At BlogHer we all laughed when Arianna said she told the Smith College graduates during her commencement speech that sleeping their way to the top was the key to success. Part of me laughed and another part wanted to scream AMEN!. 

Prior to arriving to BlogHer,  I was tired as hell. Not tired from a tough day or week. I was
Arianna Huffington tells BlogHer to put in close to 8 hours
in bed. 
tired from years of exhaustion. For the last three years I wasn’t getting enough sleep. It started when I was helping my grandfather with cancer. Sometimes there were calls in the middle of night when he was sick. And then there’s bracing yourself for that call you don’t want to get when someone is ill. Living at home was stressful. Work was stressful. Anxiety kicked in full gear.  The internet and Craig Ferguson’s Late, Late Show were my comforts. I was going to bed on average 1am every night and waking up at 7am. Six hours. That’s not enough sleep.

“Americans are increasingly sleep-deprived, and the sleepiest people are, you guessed it, women,” Lieve reported.  “Single working women and working moms with young kids are especially drowsy: They tend to clock in an hour and a half shy of the roughly 7.5-hour minimum the human body needs to function happily and healthfully.”

Single working woman—that’s me! Six hours a night—that’s me! That was me. Sleep deprivation caused me to be cranky, irritated, sometimes less focused. And I believe it played a part in how I developed fibroids, gained weight and was easy at contracting bugs. Plus, sleep deprivation is horrible for people living with depression. I knew better. I needed to make some changes immediately. 
Even after moving out, laying my grandfather to rest, and getting rid of other stressors I was still tired. I kept telling myself I needed to sleep more, but didn’t listen. 
Finally, right before BlogHer, I decided to start getting at least 8 hours of sleep. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep because there’s so much to do during the conference. But when I got back to Oakland, I started sleeping more during the week. I was just tired of being exhausted. 
Before, I would catch up on sleep on Sunday mornings. Then I’d start the bad sleep habits Sunday night. No more. 
Now I try to be in bed by 11pm. I wasn’t sure if I could do it because I’m naturally a night owl anyway. But since going cold turkey on staying up about a month ago,  most nights I’ve slept at least 8 hours and it has made a difference. I have more energy and I’m feeling sharper. Luckily I get sleepy around 11:00, unless I’m out partying.

At BlogHer, Arianna Huffington spoke about how our culture values putting business before sleep.  And she mentioned how we brag about having very little sleep but accomplishing things. When in reality, we probably would have more or better accomplishments if we had more sleep. Our bodies need sleep to replenish itself. 
I’m over the “I worked 12 hours and got 4 hours of sleep” mentality. It may sound cool, but the bags under people’s eyes tell another story. Yeah it’s hard not to stay up late and write a blog post or watch Craig Ferguson bust jokes with his skeleton robot. But a girl has to get her beauty and brain sleep. A girl wants to get back into her jeans. A girl wants to be her own boss, full time. 
Sweet dreams. 
Photo by mmagallan

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Compassion for Robin: My TV Interview About Robin Williams, Depression and Suicide

"I kind of see myself in this glass box, surrounded by darkness. And through that glass box I can see my healthy self. I can see my happy self. And I’m trying to push through it." 

Last Tuesday morning, I was not feeling well. But I threw on a dress, put on some lipstick and dragged myself to work. About 30 minutes after I arrived to work, the interim executive director asked me to return a call from KTVU news reporter John Fowler. He was looking for someone to talk about depression and give their thoughts on actor Robin Williams, 63 ending his life. Within 45 minutes I was on camera

People were, and still are, terribly upset over Robin Williams’ death. There was so much speculation throughout the internet. Of course, there were the people calling him a coward, selfish, etc. But they don’t understand how depression works. I’ve lived with it for about 21 years, I know. 

One of the reasons why I did the interview is I  wanted people to have compassion for the man. Forget the rumors, the speculations, the trolls. Forget those who are not knowledgeable about depression and are saying cruel things. The man was in deep, emotional pain. We don’t know what his life was like when the cameras were off. We don’t know what struggles he endured before he became a star. No, I didn’t want to see him go out like that, but for him to be in such agony that he would leave behind the fame and his family, I can’t help but have compassion for him. Depression doesn’t care about your race, gender, class, hair length, eye color, favorite NFL team, if you’re a Trojan or a Bruin. Depression can affect anyone. 

Jenee Darden with reporter John Fowler 

Reporter John Fowler was very understanding. He made me feel comfortable. He didn’t do the story for sensationalism. He wanted people to get an understanding of how depression feels for people. Plus, he has loved ones living with mental health challenges so he came to the interview with compassion. 

Another reason why I spoke on camera is because I know there are people living with depression, watching television thinking they’re the only struggling with this condition. They may think they’re the only one whose life sucks and is gloomy. I wanted them to see they are not alone in their struggle. 

Thank you to everyone who sent me a kind message about the interview. I have received majority positive feedback. I’ve heard through my family grapevine that some people didn’t approve of me disclosing on camera. I expected some to react like that, but I didn’t do it for them. Plus, this isn’t my first time disclosing. I've disclosed on the podcast I host for work, social media, and Huffington Post. It's not a secret anymore. 

Feedback like this from a college professor that follows me on Facebook, make me happy I went on air:  
"One day I will summon the courage to publicly admit that I, too, have been diagnosed with depression. Until then, I will just stand back and let those more courageous than I speak." 

 I  also spoke up because people shouldn’t be ashamed about something they didn’t ask for. Trust me, I’m not jumping in line with my hand raised asking God to activate my depression. I hope that when a friend or loved one tells you they have any kind of mental illness, that you listen to them. What those of us experience with depression is not easy. Luckily, it can be managed. 

I strongly believe in education. I hope people learned something new about depression from my interview, even if it's just that you can recover from it. 

For those living with depression, reach out to people. Reach out to your loved ones and tell them how they can support you. I’ve reached out to people recently and it felt good. Don’t be ashamed and have compassion for yourself.

One of things I said that was left out the interview is that I have more good days, than blue days. Thankfully, most of my days are bright, or average. But it takes some work. Aside from exercise, I have to make sure I eat healthy and get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is so not good for my mental health. I practice mindfulness to keep my mind from racing. I have books and methods I use to keep me thinking positively. And when I need to go, I'll see a therapist. 

Robin Williams left smiles on many faces during his lifetime. Hopefully his death is raising mental health awareness and saving many lives. 

Watch the interview here

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BlogHer 2014: One of the Flyest Conferences

My selfie at the Selfiebration. 
My journey to BlogHer 2014 began with a 2-piece chicken dinner from Popeye’s Chicken (see the very bottom). It really did. I had NO desire for Popeye’s Chicken, until I stopped at the grocery store on the way to San Jose for BlogHer and saw a restaurant. 

My chicken dinner was great but BlogHer was even better. I was very grateful to join their “Selfiebration” and participate in the 10th annual conference. I’ve wanted to go for a long time. I went there open with no expectations. I didn’t see everything, nor try to,  because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Plus I wanted to catch up with some blogger buddies I hadn’t seen in a while. And I’m glad I took this approach because I had a great time. I met great women and left praying for the day I could do this full time without a financial care. 

I got my BlogHer weekend started right with the Sangria Sundown Soiree hosted by Eppa Sangria. The dress code was, get this… yoga clothes! Yes, yoga and sangria. I took off my work clothes, slipped into my black yoga pants, and enjoyed my glasses of sangria, surrounded by palm trees in the summer sun. I was getting my Soiree on with my rookie, respected blogger, life coach, yogi  and soror pictured above-- Ananda Leeke. Their party was my favorite. Eppa knows how to chill and party. Their white Sangria is delicious, very refreshing. I missed the swag bags they were giving out, but I didn’t go home thirsty. 

BlogHer conference is very large, I believe around 3,000 people. But the good thing is that most people are friendly.  And they’re really friendly to newbies. I only attended one workshop because most of the workshops being offered, I already knew the information. I’ve been blogging since 2004. But I’m planning to write a book, so I attended a workshop on publishing. From what I heard from those new to blogging, the BlogHer workshops were 
extremely beneficial. 

Kerry Washington!
Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography

Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress has saved many lives.
Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography
The speakers were GREAT! Both the bloggers and celebrities delivered awesome messages. Arianna Huffington, Kerry Washington (Ahhhhhhh! I’m still excited), bloggers Deb on the Rock and Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progreess were some of my favorite speakers. Kerry Washington was in new mommy mode. She stopped speaking mid-sentence when a baby started crying. 

Deb Rox of Deb on the Rocks kept it real
about bloggers using our voices.
Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography
BlogHer is great for networking with other bloggers and friends. I still feel like many of the brands are more for parenting bloggers. But there are still plenty of opportunities for people who don’t blog about parenting. 

On the final day, there was a discussion of diversity and intersectionality. I thought it was great that BlogHer wanted to address this issue. I was disappointed that this was on the last day at the end of the conference. There were a lot of attendees at the discussion,  but could’ve been more. People were tired and we had a light lunch so I imagine people were either resting or eating during the panel. But I loved the panelists and am glad we had the discussion. 

Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography

Rev. Run on the ones and twos.
Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography
BlogHer knows how to par-tay. We ended with a party hosted by McDonald’s. Rev. Run from Run DMC brought the old school jams. I was getting my dance on! So my journey started with Popeye’s chicken and ended with Chicken McNuggets. Just so you know, I rarely eat fast food.  All you can eat Happy Meals is dangerous but I didn’t get too out of control.  

After the show some of us kept on partying in the Marriott Hotel. There I met a man who told me I was beautiful. He was traveling with friends who were cameramen for UFC matches. When I asked him what he did for a living he said, “I have a job but just don’t know what it is.” 

Sigh and BYE! I finished our dance and headed back to my room. You get a lot out of BlogHer, just maybe not a love connection. 

If you’re serious about blogging and have never been to BlogHer, it’s a must do. BlogHer is fun for everyone, whether you have 100 followers or 100,000+ followers. BlogHer Pro which is a smaller conference that’s more narrowly focused on business is a great conference too. My only complaint is that there's so much to do in so little time, but I imagine a three-day conference would be really pricey.

Fingers crossed I’ll be taking a sponsored trip to BlogHer 2015. 

Below are a few other cool photos from my experience. 

The fruit tarts were soooooooo good. 
I met tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki. 

Great theme and message from the all-female rock band
The Mrs. Yep, I'm enough. 

A beautiful time with black bloggers at the conference. These
women are all doing amazing things in media. 

The dream I keep working on. It will come true.
Or maybe it's in the process of coming true. 

Actress, comedian, blogger Franchesca Ramsey is funny and
sweet. A few years ago her hilarious video "Shit White GirlsSay to Black Girls" went viral.  
I couldn't resist snapping this photo. Twisted Shotz
gave free shots to BlogHer attendees. 

All of the free goodies I brought home. Big thanks to
Angel Soft for the free toilet paper!  I was down to 1/2 a roll. 

And this is where the trouble started. So wrong, but so good. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Blessings to Being Bullied

Cocoa Fly proudly hanging out with a Klingon that kinds of look like Cee-Lo
at a Star Trek Convention. Live your life and be yourself! 

A young sorority sister I follow on Facebook shared past pains of being bullied and inspired me to write this post because I was bullied as a kid.  If you’re looking at the title and thinking, “What the —?”, don’t get it twisted. Being bullied SUCKS. It is awful, horrible and psychologically torturous. I wish it on no child. However, I took the lessons from abuse and put it to good in my own life. 

When someone has a birthday coming up at my job, we go around and say one positive word about them at a staff meeting. I will be turning 35 this week. The word our executive director used to describe me is “nerd” and she meant in a good way. She said it was because I’m not ashamed of my love for superheroes and other nerdy things. Later on other co-workers told me that they noticed I am unapologetic about who I am and had a “take it or leave it” mentality. Like Mary J. Blige sang, “So take me as I am, or have nothing at all.” Coming to embrace myself took time. This personal acceptance was a result of being bullied. 

Like many kids, I got bullied for being smart and nerd. I went to a predominately black grammar school and was sometimes bullied for having long hair. I was bullied because I spoke proper English and people thought I was trying to be white. First Lady Michelle Obama knows what I’m talking about. But the bullying that hurt most was for being dark skinned. My story about experiencing colorism won me my first journalism award

It was after my first of year of college that I decided to hell with not loving me, because of other people and their issues. I met so many other unique, smart and talented people in college  I thought were awesome. And they saw the awesomeness in me. So I began to embrace myself more. 

I remember coming home from elementary school crying because of something mean another kid said or did to me. My mother would say, “They’re just jealous of you.” I didn’t understand how that was possible. Those kids were popular, respected, even feared. Why would they be jealous of the nerdy, scrawny girl?
I began to understand as I got older. People young and old will try to dim your shine if your light is bright. Those kids saw a brightness in me that I didn’t recognize in myself because it came naturally to me. 

I’m not on here to brag, because like everyone, I have my own personal issues. I love myself but I’m still working on being a better Jenee. A lot of kids are bullied and it hurts. It’s sad when I see kids take their lives or other lives because they’re rejected and/or harassed by their peers. And it bothers me that some schools and parents of bullies aren’t taking action. 
The bath towels in the back give the photo more effect. 

 I saw a meme on Facebook that said something to the extent, be yourself because life is too short to be anybody else. That’s so TRUE. I’ve even come more into my own because I’ve lost a lot of people in the last few years. Most recently, my 22-year-old cousin was killed in a car accident. He had just graduated college about two to three weeks prior to the accident. From all of the loved ones I lost, I learned to value life and LIVE IT UP, LIVE IT UP, LIVE IT UP! And do what you want because you never know when it’s your time to go. You only get one life. Why live your ONE life for someone else? 

As for the bullies, I eventually learned from their taunts that I must be special and blessed because they wanted to make me feel inferior. I think bullies even see that in kids who may have some kind of disability or different issue. Often those are the kids who are stronger. Being bullied has also helped me see signs in people I probably shouldn’t trust. I’m also very compassionate toward people who are mistreated. 

I hope bullied kids know it will get better over time. Everyone is not going to love you. That goes from the day you’re born until you take your final breath. But you’ve got something bright in you that those see. It’s something they don’t have.  Don’t let them dim your shine. 

I was the skinny girl who got called, “nerd”, “talk like a white girl,” “chalkboard,” “hella black.” And what do ya know: my nerdy ways led to a master’s degree; someone likes the way I speak because I've reported on the radio and am a paid speaker; my chocolate skin and healthy hair made it to a popular magazine’s website

Sometimes the best middle finger to give someone is success. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beautiful, Brown and Baring it All: Rihanna and Venus Williams

Remember when pop star Rihanna caught some flack for the sheer gown she wore to the CFDA Awards? The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) honored her with the 2014 Style Icon Award. Some people thought she looked tacky for baring it all under the glittery fabric. I know I’m late to commenting on her attire but I thought she was stunning. Yes it was sexy. Yes it was revealing. But it was a sophisticated sexy. People called her trashy, but a trashy woman could not have pulled this off. 

What I loved most about what Rihanna wore, was her attitude. Some people who were offended questioned why do female celebrities feel the need to show so much skin. And I can understand that argument. But Rihanna wore that gown and owned it. There was no apology in her eyes. You can see the pride in her smile and she knew she rocked the hell out of that gown. 

She also wore it in tribute to Josephine Baker, whose birthday was around that time. Baker opened the door for black women to have that type of sensual expression under their own definition. Also, Rihanna wasn’t the first. Late actress Pearl Bailey did it back in the day.  Cher has gone sheer too. If I was a young, successful pop star with a body like Rihanna’s, I would wear it to. 

Actress Pearl Bailey beautiful and bare. 
As I tweeted, i think people have more of a problem with Rihanna with her being unapologetic about her sensuality than what she wore. The same thing applies to Beyonce. I don’t agree with everything on her latest album, but I can see that she’s owning her sexuality and body more. Some people don't want to see Beyonce doing that. We forget that people are sexual beings too.  

Venus Williams carries her name well. She’s definitely a tennis goddess. But like the Roman goddess of love, beauty and sex who shares her name—Venus Williams embodied all of that in her photos from this year’s ESPN Body Issue. Venus looks AMAZING! She made me proud of my chocolate skin and bootyliciousness. She’s 34 and 6’1. I love it! There's a great interview with her on about her sport, the shoot and living with Sjogren's syndrome. I find it interesting that Venus hasn’t received the same amount of criticism as Rihanna. I don’t know if feel people differently because she’s an athlete or her sister Serena Williams posed a few years ago. 

Venus Williams is a goddess for this ESPN Body Issue.
Pick up the magazine in stores now. 

 I’ve studied black erotica and black sexuality for some time. And sometimes when artists pose like this, the criticism that arises is that the women are being exploited or fetishized. Jada Pinkett-Smith received similar critique when she posted a gorgeous nude photo of herself on Facebook. But that’s not always the case. In all of these instances I listed, these women are celebrating their bodies and sensuality. And think that’s okay to celebrate our bodies. That goes for women of all races.  Big, small, tall, short, old, young, limited ability or athletic—it’s okay to honor our bodies.  It’s okay to honor one of the Creator’s best artwork—the human body. 

By the way, Rihanna still isn’t listening to ya'll.

Check out my thesis on black erotic literature and sexuality

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jean Kwok On Unleashing the Beauty, Power Within and Her New Novel 'Mambo in Chinatown'

Author Jean Kwok and Jenee aka Cocoa Fly at Book Passages in San Francisco
Receiving a tweet from an author you admire is cool. Meeting that author in person, who also remembers your Twitter handle, is even cooler. 

I recently met New York Time Bestselling author Jean Kwok at Book Passage in San Francisco. The Bay Area was the last stop in her book tour to promote her latest novel Mambo in Chinatown. It’s about a young, Chinese woman named Charlie Wong.  She’s a dishwasher turned ballroom-dance studio receptionist. Ballroom dancing appeals to her and she learns the art. But she keeps it a secret from her father who wouldn’t approve of her exposure to this western dance. As she gets more immersed in the dance world, her sister becomes seriously ill.  

Jean Kwok hooked me with her first novel, Girl in Translation. That book is about a Chinese girl who immigrates to the United States with her mother.  It follows her trying to survive in America, while attain the American dream. Kwok is very passionate about telling the story of working-class immigrants’ experience because they’re often invisiblized. 

“There are so many nobody sees, like the people you pass in the taxi, “ she said.
“Or the girl who hands you your food.” 

Both stories have elements from Kwok’s own life. Kwok, the youngest of seven, immigrated to the U.S. with her family from Hong Kong when she was five. She said her family was wealthy in China but fled because of a communist revolution.  Their hope was to land in America, a place they thought, where the streets were paved with gold. After arriving to New York City, the  American Dream seemed more like a myth. 

“Instead of finding ourselves in the skyscrapers of Manhattan, we were in the slums of Brooklyn,” she told the San Francisco audience. 

Her family lived in a building that was not legally up to code. They were the only tenants in the building. Their apartment was infested with rats and roaches. Add to that, the building was unheated.  If you’ve been to the East Coast during the winter, you know how brutal the winters can be. 

Jean Kwok shares her story with the audience 

Kwok and her family worked in a sweatshop, making $.01 per garment. One of Kwok’s brothers gave her a life changing gift, a diary. 

Kwok said her brother told her, “Whatever you write in this will belong to you.” 

Monday, July 7, 2014

I'm Good Because of Karyn Washington Founder Karyn Washington

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. In 2008 the White House added the late author Bebe Moore Campbell's name to the title because of her advocacy. Campbell's daughter/actress Maya Campbell lives with a mental health challenge. 

Normally I don't write about my job, but back in May I led an online blogging campaign project called "I'm Good." May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You can read about why I started the campaign here.  Around the time I was planning the campaign, I learned that blogger Karyn Washington took her life.  

I wrapped up the campaign with this blog post below about her: 

While in the middle of preparing for the launch of this blog campaign, the stress from planning peaked.  We were not only getting the blog together, but organizing a kick off event for the I’m Good campaign.  My team’s outside workload increased, which led to us pushing back meetings. And we still had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. I was so frustrated that one day I asked myself, “Why did I even suggest we do this?”
That same week I questioned what was I thinking, blogger Karyn Washington’s beautiful face was all over my Facebook page. Karyn, founder of the website For Brown Girls, took her life. She was only 22 years old. Friends say the loss of her mother to cancer was too much for her to bear. Karyn Washington advocated for black women and was an up-and- coming young talent and voice.
How I learned of Karyn Washington was through her Dark Skin, Red Lip Project. I wanted to wear red lipstick but felt nervous about doing so. In the Black community, many of us have issues with colorism or shade discrimination. I’m of a darker hue, and many times I heard growing up that dark-skinned women shouldn’t wear bright colors. And I also heard that red lipstick didn’t look good on dark skinned women. But those are all lies we’ve been telling people in my community.
As I gathered the courage to rock red lips, one of my sources for inspiration was the website that Karyn launched. It was filled with everyday dark-skinned Black women who submitted beautiful photos of themselves wearing red lipstick. I know it seems like a such a simple act, but it empowered a lot of women. Karyn’s website and singer Janelle Monae are two of the reasons why I proudly wear red lipstick today. Unfortunately the domain has not been renewed since her death and the site is down.
When Karyn died, I thought, “Could I have done something?” I never met her but I wished something I wrote or produced, or an interview I did with someone on depression could’ve reached her. I was saddened to see so much potential...gone. Yet I still had compassion for her pain and prayed she was at peace now.

Karyn’s death revitalized my reason for wanting to do this campaign. Maybe my post didn’t reach her. But maybe the posts on this blog helped someone.  My team and I worked really hard, but if any of these posts gave even just ONE person hope, then we did our job.

Cocoa Fly rocking red lips in honor
of Karyn Washington #RedLipsforKaryn

After Karyn passed, I thought about that question I asked myself, “Why did I even suggest doing a blog campaign?” I did it for people like Karyn. I did it for people who are struggling so they know they’re not alone or not weird for having certain thoughts, feelings or experiences. I did it because I’m so tired of the constant depressing, hopeless, negative stories in the news about people with mental illnesses. There are so many other stories out there to tell. I did it so people out there know they can overcome anything.
Karyn Washington uplifted a lot of people through her work. And even in her death, she continues to encourage people like me to keep going, keep spreading hope.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this campaign by sharing their story. I know you touched someone out there and I appreciate your openness.  Thank you to those who read and shared posts. Keep reading and sharing posts!  Thank you to my team who started this journey with me back in October of 2013. I couldn’t have done this without you.
We’re keeping this website up because you never know how one person’s story could be a blessing to someone else.
Remember, that no matter what you’re going through, or your diagnosis—just remember you’re good. You’re good because you’re trying. You’re good because someone cares. You’re good because you’re not the only one on the planet with this hardship. You’re good because someone understands. You’re good because there’s hope. You’re good because someone else probably went through the same thing and if they made it through, so can you. You’ve Struggled. You’re  Growing. You’re Good.

**You can read more posts by visiting Please,  if you need to talk to a counselor or therapist, don't be ashamed. Do it. **


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