Friday, May 27, 2016

It's Not About Mental Illness, but Mental Health

I love the month of May because it' Mental Health Awareness Month and International Masturbation Month. I hope you are honoring both by taking care of your mental health and treating yourself to some kind of fun and safe sexual pleasure. It doesn't get any safer with masturbation. But I'll write about self-pleasuring a little later.

The video below is from an acceptance speech I gave after being acknowledged for a mental health podcast I hosted. The discussion on mental health is usually dark and heavy, I tried to bring uplifting content to that show. That show is the reason why I shared my diagnosis of depression. I didn't feel right interviewing people about their mental health and not sharing my own challenges. Thankfully, over time I learned how to manage my health condition. My good days are far more than my bad days. But when I start feeling the blues, I know I need to go to therapy, get out of the house, exercise, change my diet, change my thinking, etc.

I share this so those of you with mental health challenges are not ashamed. I hope we focus more on caring for your mental health.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Hate on Ayesha Curry For Living the Good Life?

The cover of Ayesha's Curry new book
Ayesha Curry has been receiving a lot of unfair, sexist comments and misogynoir in reaction to her new book, upcoming TV show and restaurant. She responded to one idiot on Instagram who attacked her for being domestic and benefiting from her husband's fame. This idiot said she should be encouraging young women to go to college and build their success without a man.

I'm surprised she responded to this foolishness. But I've seen other people attack her for this on social media. I wonder if these same people attack the wives of famous men like Jerry Seinfeld, Donald Trump. John Legend and countless others whose husbands fame helped give them even more visibility. Probably not.

I made a video responding to the jealous, bitter, crabs who think Black women shouldn't be happy. Some people have a problem when we're living the good life. I hope Ayesha takes those crabs out of the barrel and roasts their pathetic behinds in garlic and butter on high heat. Click on the video to watch and PLEASE SHARE IT.

Watch my Facebook video! 

Monday, May 16, 2016

When Love and Hugs Are the Cure, But You Don’t Know How to Ask For Them

Photo from
One of my favorite interviews is with psychologist Michael Cornwall. He also writes for the mental health blog Mad in America. He inspired me with his recent post “The Elusive Emotional Wounds of Omission That Our Culture Inflicts On Us-and the Healing Balm of Love That Can Heal Them.” It’s about how love and care can treat people in emotional and mental health crisis. Yet our culture’s idea of competition and equating strength with individualism causes us to suffer.

Cornwall wrote, “Fear, shame, guilt, despair and anger take up so much of the emotional space in the collective and solitary rooms we live in. Those painful emotions are the emotional currency of a culture that long ago lost its way from the ideals of altruism and justice. “

He later shared how he helped psychiatric patients who were mute open up, by expressing love and compassion for their suffering.

Sometimes the therapy we need is love and affection. After dealing with a number of deaths, betrayal from people once close to me and praying I wouldn’t have a stroke when I walked into my abusive work environment—-counseling wasn’t enough. My therapist is great and she gave me the right tools and support. But I got to a point where I needed someone to hold me. If you grew up in a loving household as a kid, adults were always giving you hugs or consoling you when you fall. Where do you go when you’re a single, grown ass woman with bills and responsibilities? Where do you go when the people who would console you are part of the reason why you need love and affection? Or the people you usually turn to are going through their own problems? I was embarrassed to ask for a healing embrace. When friends greeted me with a hug, I took as much in as I could.

During a peer counseling training at my job, we split up into groups to practice tactics we learned in role plays. My group was in the office’s small, windowless kitchen. It’s funny how God works because two people did a role play scenario that was almost exactly what I was going through. One person needed counseling because she was taking care of her dying grandfather and a family member was being a jerk while she was suffering through the loss. It was like watching myself. I felt the kitchen shrinking. My body temperature rose from struggling not to cry. It triggered the hell out of me. The people who made up the scenario had no idea what I was going through. That’s why I think it was a divine intervention. I jetted out of the kitchen to my office and cried. Who gave me the hug that I was dying for was my younger co-worker. It was a sobbing, snotty, ugly cry with a lot of venting. But my co-worker kept encouraging me to let it out.

My co-workers healing touch and compassion was the emotional remedy I needed. We rock and hold our babies, but we still need to do that for each other in adulthood. Even embracing a pet helps. There are so many people walking around like everything is fine, like everything is under control and they are filled with so much pain. I usually post on my Facebook page to check in with people, even the ones you think have it easy. Most of us are dealing with some kind of challenge in life. But, whether life is storming with problems or bright, we should be getting love on the regular.

I think some of us don’t ask for affection because we fear being seen as pathetic or needy. In the hook to Rihanna’s “Love Song” featuring Future, he says:

I don’t wanna give you the wrong impression 

I need love and affection 

And I hope I’m not sounding too desperate 

I need love and affection 

I was bumping this song in my car after leaving a Prince party, and I questioned why Future thought saying he needs love and affection makes him come off as desperate. Babies die from not being held and loved. And I believe a lot of adults do too. We turn to booze, the pipe, sex, food, violence, etc. to make us feel good. Needing and wanting love and affection is nothing to be ashamed of.

The lesson I learned from my breakdown was to reach out. I know there are people I could’ve called and said, “Hey, I need a hug.” But my pride stopped me. If one of my friends called me and said they needed a hug, I would be right there. I wouldn’t judge them. So I shouldn’t judge myself. I’m human. Lesson learned. Thankfully my life is much better and the storm has passed.

Still my heart goes out to the people who have no one. We have to reach out to each other.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What bell hooks gets Wrong/Right about Beyonce’s Lemonade and What Fans Don't Get About bell hooks

bell hooks
Photo from wikicommons

I had no idea what to expect when clicked on bell hooks critique of Beyonce’s Lemonade on my Facebook newsfeed. Especially since she went overboard and called Beyonce a terrorist a couple of years ago. I love Lemonade. Beyonce had me drunk in my Black woman feelings and Black girl magic. Still I read hooks’ review “Moving Beyond Pain” and I actually agree with some of her critique. Not all, but some. hooks comments are in bold- italic.

Obviously Lemonade positively exploits images of black female bodies—placing them at the center, making them the norm. In this visual narrative, there are diverse representations (black female bodies come in all sizes, shapes, and textures with all manner of big hair).
My first thought—can you positively exploit something? I had to look up the definition of exploit to put it in hook’s context because it seemed like an oxymoron. But if exploit also means to advance or further through promotion, then I can see how she argues Bey is using Black female bodies to get her message out about Black women.

What makes this commodification different in Lemonade is intent; its purpose is to seduce, celebrate, and delight—to challenge the ongoing present day devaluation and dehumanization of the black female body. Throughout Lemonade the black female body is utterly-aestheticized—its beauty a powerful in your face confrontation. This is no new offering. Images like these were first seen in Julie Dash’s groundbreaking film Daughters of the Dust shot by the brilliant cinematographer Arthur Jafa. Many of the black and white still images of women and nature are reminiscent of the transformative and innovative contemporary photography of Carrie Mae Weems. She has continually offered decolonized radical revisioning of the black female body.
Yes, Lemonade challenges the dehumanization of the Black woman’s body. And I definitely agree that some of the cinematography is not innovative. There are scenes of Lemonade that made me immediately think of Daughters of the Dust and Beloved. Is that a bad thing? No. Maybe it’s Bey’s way of saluting these works. What’s even more important is that Beyonce has us talking about these artists. It was just announced since Lemonade that Julia Dash’s film will be re-released. I hope younger people can learn about the artists that influenced Lemonade.

However, this radical repositioning of black female images does not truly overshadow or change conventional sexist constructions of black female identity.
The problem I have with this argument and similar in her post is I don’t expect Lemonade to solve or change patriarchy, gender inequality, etc. I don’t expect it to change constructions of black female identity. Beyonce is an artist. Her work can influence us to change. But to knock her for not changing social and sexist construction of black female identity is a bit much.

Even though Beyoncé and her creative collaborators daringly offer multidimensional images of black female life, much of the album stays within a conventional stereotypical framework, where the black woman is always a victim.
I agree with bell hooks 100% here. I get tired of Black women’s stories constantly being about us in pain. While I agree that being a Black woman in this world is not easy, there’s more to our story than the struggle. There is victory, love, innovation, intelligence, joy, travel, family, good relationships, education, spirituality. But much of Lemonade is about the struggle. That’s why I say this is not about THE Black woman’s experience but PART of the experience.

Contrary to misguided notions of gender equality, women do not and will not seize power and create self-love and self-esteem through violent acts. Female violence is no more liberatory than male violence. And when violence is made to look sexy and eroticized, as in the Lemonade sexy-dress street scene, it does not serve to undercut the prevailing cultural sentiment that it is acceptable to use violence to reinforce domination, especially in relations between men and women. Violence does not create positive change.

Slow down bell. “Hold Up” is my song and my video. Beyonce wasn't encouraging violence through bashing up cars. She was angry and wanted to express her anger. Which for Black women, sometimes we hold back as not to be seen as the “angry Black woman.” All of these visuals Beyonce show is telling us we have a lot of shit to be angry about. We should be angry about the dehumanization of our bodies, unjust police killings, slavery, racism and sexism. As Malcolm X said, we’re the most disrespected person in America. And she’s bashing shit because she’s being disrespected by not just white men, but her Black man too. Yes Bey, swing the hell out of that bat. As for her emerging from water in the sexy gold dress, people are saying it represents the goddess Oshun. In the Yoruba religion, Oshun represents love, beauty, femininity and sensuality. But she doesn’t take well to being offended. Hence why Beyonce was all gorgeous, sexy and pissed off. I don’t see that scene as being a sexualization, but some kind of acknowledgement of a BLACK goddess. Often when we talk of goddesses they are Greek or Roman. There are African goddesses.

Even though Beyoncé and her creative collaborators make use of the powerful voice and words of Malcolm X to emphasize the lack of respect for black womanhood, simply showcasing beautiful black bodies does not create a just culture of optimal well being where black females can become fully self-actualized and be truly respected.

Again I don’t get why bell hooks is expecting Beyonce to change the world entirely.

Monday, May 2, 2016

My 5 Success Strategies

Jenee Darden giving a presentation 

I was a guest on on the Blog Talk Radio Show Game On with host Jerry Jacob. We talked about my own five strategies that have led to my professional success. It's a short interview, that I hope inspires you. Listen below.

Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Game On With Jerry Jacob on BlogTalkRadio with Game On on BlogTalkRadio

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I See the Old Me in the New Lil Kim

Rapper Lil' Kim shocked people with these unrecognizable photos of her on Instagram. The photos made me sad that she didn't see her God-given beauty. She has totally erased herself. In those photos I saw what used to be me. I saw what I wanted to be in middle school. I understand Lil' Kim's fight with self-hatred. What concerned me more about Lil' Kim was an old Newsweek interview she did where she said neither her father or the men she loved told her she was pretty. "Being a regular Black girl wasn't good enough." And she openly admitted to having low self-esteem. I give her props for being so open. Above is my video response to these photos and the senseless death of Delaware teen Amy Joyner-Francis. She was killed in the girls bathroom at her school during a fight over a boy. We must uplift our Black girls.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How Could I Forget to Post This Special KTVU Interview?

I posted this interview all over social media but forgot to post it on my blog. Why was this interview with KTVU's Keba Arnold and Mike Mibach so special? It was my FIRST live television interview. I'm a radio girl so I always get nervous for TV interviews. With radio, I can be in my doo-rag and house slippers, but still sound good. With TV, you have to step it all the way up on image AND sound good. You only get one shot when it's live. Keba and Mike made me feel very comfortable. By the way Keba Arnold is even more gorgeous in person. Thanks to KTVU for having me. I'm very proud of this interview. Check it out.

One more thing. People have been asking me if I do public speaking. Yes! Here is a list of the things I speak about if you're interested in booking me.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Interview on the BBC Radio Manchester Show 'The People'

I did this interview within an hour of finding out Prince died, which is why my voice sounds more mellow.  The music on this show is great and I will be listening. I talk about my life during the O.J. Trial, but my heart was on Prince that morning. And the same goes for co-host Karen Gabay. We were shocked. Thanks to Karen for having me on.  You can listen to it here. I'm on at around 34:00. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

What I'm Going to Do Instead Of See Nina

No I'm going to see that pathetic excuse of a Nina Simone biopic. Like others, I was offended and disgusted with the casting and make up job of Zoe Saldana. Her skin looks like it was caked with cheap press powder. And her afro wig sits on her head like a black ball of styrofoam. My disappointment with Saldana being cast has nothing to do with her being Afro-Latina. There are Afro Latinas who look like Nina Simone. And there are talented black actresses who resemble Nina (Viola Davis, India Arie, Adepero Oduye, Uzo Aduba) that could've been cast.

One of the reasons why The People v. O.J. Simpson was so believable is the the casting. The show's creators not only sought good actors, but they cast people who resembled the key players from the trial. As a family member of someone portrayed in the film, I liked that Sterling K. Brown's costume and makeup made him look very close to my dad. I totally understand why some of Nina Simone's relatives are upset with the casting and her appearance.

We know this is an issue of colorism, or discrimination against a person because their skin complexion or hue. For those who don't get colorism, watch the Dark Girls documentary and listen to my story. Also watch Light Girls because colorism affects them too. It's sad that the filmmakers found Nina to be so extraordinary, yet her dark skin wasn't good enough. Basically it's like they said to her, "You're great, but you would even be better if you were lighter." "We want to celebrate you, but a lighter version of you." They're lack of understanding why people are upset, including Zoe Saldana, tells me they didn't understand Nina and her racial politics. It also tells me they don't even get Black beauty and couldn't honor her dark skin, full lips, wide nose and kinky hair. All features that aren't considered beautiful in mainstream, white culture.

Nina Simone was an amazing, complex woman. Her issues with racism, sexism, mental health, abuse, love, etc. are not something that anyone who wants to make a movie for the hell of it should tackle. If the filmmakers are going to misrepresent her appearance, then I don't trust them to tell her story. Plus I take issue with them portraying her nurse as her lover, when the family says he was an openly gay man. So they invisibilized a dark-skinned black woman and a gay black man.

Instead of spending a movie ticket on this disgrace, I'm supporting black women artists. I bought a book of poetry by a Bay Area poet named Mk Chavez. Her work is beautiful and I've admired her since the first time I heard her read a year or two ago. Her collection Mothermorphosis is about growing up with a mother who has schizophrenia and mothering. Also if you're in the Bay Area check out Echo Brown's Black Virgins are Not for Hipsters, which is playing at the Marsh in Berkeley. Buy a sista's book, album or artwork. Go see a play at your community theatre that portrays black life with dignity. Go to a poetry reading or a book signing. Buy a Nina Simone album.

The good thing about this backlash is that I hope it inspires a filmmaker who truly cares about Nina Simone to do her story justice on the big screen.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince is Gone

My Ultimate Prince CD collection 
I'm kicking myself for not seeing Prince when he was in Oakland last month. I've never been to a Prince concert and wanted to go. I heard he was singing slow music. I didn't buy a ticket because I wanted to see him really rock out for my first concert. Big mistake!

I saw photos of friends on social media who went to his last concert and they looked like they just came from having good sex. LOL What do you expect? It's Prince.

I'm still in shock over his death and will have more to say later. My first blog post was about Prince. We lost a genius. We lost a man who didn't give a damn if people thought he was weird. We lost a man who lived by his own rules. We lost a courageous man who fought the music industry for ownership of his art. We lost a philanthropist who spoke out against injustices. We lost a brotha like no other. We lost a beautiful, sensual soul. We lost a king in music who reigned in purple. An icon who showered our souls with Purple Rain. We lost an icon. We lost a prince at 57. We lost Prince.

Here's an interview on Prince's philanthropy, that many of us didn't know about.


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