Monday, March 30, 2009

I Love Buddha, Money, Tough Love
and Black Karaoke

If your coffee didn't wake you up this morning, I'm sure this shot of Buddha from VH1's reality shows I Love New York and I Love Money 2 could get your blood pumping. I saw this picture on one of my favorite gossip blogs The Young, Black and Fabulous. You can go to the website to see more photos of Buddha getting his run on in Malibu. He is definitely a Cocoa Hottie.

VH1 reality shows are my guilty pleasure. Every season "Flavor of Love" or "I Love New York" aired I swore I wouldn't watch them. But I did. I watched every season. I was good and didn't watch "I Love Money 1" but somehow I just got caught up on I Love Money 2. Who do you think will win? My friend thinks It will will in. That's not a typo, the guy's name is "It." I think Frenchie is going home with the $250K. Right now, I'm ready for Buck Wild to get the boot. She is annoying.

Update: What the heck was going through Cali's head, voting in the vault when she didn't have to? Bad move. Now she's gone and I must suffer through another episode with Buck Wild. Just great.

I'm really feeling VH1's Tough Love. The show is about eight single women who go through a dating boot camp led by matchmaker Steven Ward. He gives good dating advice and the women have interesting activities. In last night's episode they posed individually for a sexy and tasteful photo shoot. Well, most were tasteful. And they had a lingerie dating party, which was also tasteful. Except for a few. There's a Cocoa Fly sista on the cast--Abiola Abrams. She's a writer and journalist like me so I'm cheering for her to find a boo. And Abiola seems so sweet and classy. I don't know what my sista was thinking when she decided to pose with cupcakes and a tiara for her sexy photo shoot. But, I'm still pulling for her. My other favorites are Jody, the workaholic jaded from past lovers. And Stasha, the Alpha-female ballerina from Serbia who is quick to tell you that she was a three-time Playboy Playmate of the Year in Croatia.

From reality TV to my weekend reality...I have to give a shout out to Gable House Bowl in Torrance, Calif. On Saturday night I went there with sorors and friends for Karaoke night. I've gone to Karaoke bars before but this one stands out. I had so much fun. The audience was 99.9% black and you know when it comes to performing black folks always have to take things to another level. The music was great--Kanye West, Sunshine Anderson, Gnarls Barkley, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, even Keith Sweat. The places I've been to don't have such a wide hip hop and R&B selection. There were performers who worked in the bar and they could sing and dance. I'm not talking about doing a little 2-step dance. I'm talking about some serious pop-locking, hip-hop, spinning and sliding on the floor dancing. For a second it was starting to turn into the club. I can't describe a few of the dance moves because my momma reads this blog. But let's just say somebody sang R. Kelly's "Feeling On Your Booty." My favorite performers were these two little old Asian ladies. How did they get in the mix? I have no idea but they were cute and the audience gave them love. One sang Alica Keys "No One." I still can't believe they stayed out past 1am partying with young black folks. Only in Southern California. I sang Destiny's Child "Bootylicious" with a soror and Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name." The host gave me props for singing Bon Jovi to an all black crowd. LOL! But folks were feeling it.

My only complaints are the place needs to do a better job on keeping the bathrooms clean. And $10 for Karaoke is a bit much especially since people are buying drinks at the bar. Aside from those things I look forward to going back.

Note: Pictures were not displayed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cocoa Bits: John Hope Franklin
and Oakland's Cop Killer a Hero?


John Hope Franklin
1915-2009


I was sad to hear that historian John Hope Franklin passed away today at 94. He died from congestive heart failure. Dr. Franklin's research focused on the history of the Southern United States. He wrote about the African American struggle to civil rights. And he taught the South's history, examining both the black experience and white experience. Dr. Franklin earned his bachelor's degree from Fisk and his doctorate from Harvard. He and other scholars worked with Thurgood Marshall to win Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The brotha was deep and it's because of people like him I was able to go to good schools and get a quality education. Dr. Franklin was born in Oklahoma and lived in the South when segregation was legal. Can you imagine what he had to deal with? Read his book From Slavery to Freedom and his 2005 autobiography Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin . Go to the National Visionary Leadership Project website to learn more about him. He's somebody that all Americans should know about it. What a blessing that he lived long enough to see a black man become President of the United States.

Thank you Dr. Franklin.
Cop Killer Or Hero?

I saw this image over at New America Media. The site looks at news through ethnic media. I like the site, but I have to disagree with some of Mr. Kevin Weston's commentary on Lovell Mixon, the man who killed four Oakland Police Officers this past weekend. Mixon was killed in the gun fight. In his article, "An Infamous Legend is Born and a Community is Under Siege" Weston describes the late 26-year-old as a rebel and compares his legacy to the likes of Nat Turner and Huey Newton. Black men who used violent methods to fight for the rights of African Americans and demand justice. Weston is making this argument in light of the anger going on in Oakland surrounding the New Years murder of an unarmed black man by BART police.
Lovell Mixon is not a legendary hero. He was a criminal. According to an interview with Mixon's family in the NY Times, he resorted to pimping to make money. They say he couldn't find a job because he was a felon. He served five years in prison for carjacking with a deadly weapon back in 2002. And, AND, his DNA was linked to the rape of a 12-year-old girl last month. Police say he may have committed five other rapes in the victim's neighborhood. I'm from Oakland. Ain't no carjacker, pimp or alleged child rapist is a hero of mine. I understand Kevin Winston's point that this act may have risen over the murder of Oscar Grant. He was the young brotha killed by a BART policeman. I'm angry just like others in the Bay. But for those who rejoiced over the cop killings, two wrongs don't make a right. There are good cops and there are bad cops. I don't know what kind of cops these four OPD officers were, but killing cops is not going to solve the problem. I agree with Weston that it's only going to create a nasty backlash. The last thing brothas need in Oakland are P'd off cops.

Tonight a vigil was held for Mixon. People were calling him a hero. I still don't understand. Yes, the man was troubled. He got caught up in the prison system and it didn't reform him. Instead it drove him crazy, like it has done so many other brothas that we lose to the streets. And the prison system needs reform because Mixon complained to family members that he could never get an appointment with his parole officer. But Mixon could have lived a different life. So why are people hailing him a hero when we have teachers, real activists, mentors, counselors, etc. who are doing positive things in the hood? But a felon, pimp, carjacker and alleged rapist is a hero? We don't even know why he killed the cops. Oscar Grant may not have been on Mixon's mind when he pulled the trigger.

I don't excuse what Lovell Mixon did. But something went wrong in his life. Was he not loved enough? Did somebody hurt him as a child? His family members said he seemed depressed during his final days. Did he have a mental illness all along and no one thought to get him psychological help? I say this because what we do and how we raise our families affects others. I don't know what happened in Lovell's life to gear him down a violent path. But it cost four other people their lives. And that's not right.

Give Pres. Obama a Break


Yeah I said it. Give Pres. Obama a break. The president has been in office a little over 60 days and he's been criticized on a range of things from his proposed budget to of all things, his frequent use of the teleprompter. Seriously, a teleprompter? The man is juggling a nose-diving economy, two wars, a jacked-up health care system, crooked Wall Street execs, a failing car industry, national security, rebuilding our image overseas, global warming, our dependence on foreign oil and other things we probably don't even know about. Don't forget the man has a wife and two kids. And he really hasn't had time to morn the death of his grandmother. I understand people on the right and some in the middle don't agree with his approach to the economy. They have a right to their opinion. Our president inherited a mountain of problems that will take longer than 60 days to fix. It took us more than 8 years to get here. It's going take a long time to get out of this mess. I've heard some economists say we may not get out of this until 2012. Some even say 2014.
I saw the president's press conference and people are saying the honeymoon is over with Pres. Obama. It is over. But he did a good job in the press conference. Pres. Obama checked CNN's Ed Henry when he asked repeatedly why the president waited a couple of days to react to the AIG bonuses.
"It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," Pres. Obama said.
When I say people should give Pres. Obama a break that doesn't mean reporters shouldn't ask him tough questions. I'm talking about the talking heads and politicians who are challenging him for the heck of it but don't have a concrete plan of their own. I'm also talking about people like former Vice President Dick Cheney who didn't say diddly squat for 8 years. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I saw Cheney do an interview. Now he wants to criticize Pres. Obama on national security. I'm with Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R)--save it for your memoir Mr. Vice President. You had your turn.

I'm also tired of the opposition saying Pres. Obama is a socialist and going to ruin the country. HELLO. Things were messed up before he took office. Whether you believe the economy took a bad turn because of decisions from the Clinton administration or the Bush Administration, it happened BEFORE Pres. Obama took office. Where was this sentiment that the country was going to fall in a black hole when Americans were drowning and dying post-Hurricane Katrina because our government took their sweet time to rescue people? Where was this outcry when troops were giving their lives for weapons of mass destruction that were just about as real as flying unicorns?

I wish our leaders from all sides could work together instead of attacking each other. Speaking for myself being unemployed is stressful when you don't have a lot of money. And I imagine for all those people losing their homes, living in shelters, struggling to take care of their families, or burying fallen soldiers, the last thing they want to see when they turn on the news is politicians bickering. Or listen to Rush Limbaugh say he hopes the president fails. I didn't vote for the last Pres. Bush but I sure didn't want him to fail. More of Washington needs to come on Main Street. And more talking heads like Rush should stop trying to boost ratings with their attacks and come out of the comfort of their studio to see what's really going on with the people. By the way, Fox News' Glenn Beck needs to take a chill pill. Even his boy Shephard Smith clowned him for crying about how he "fears for our country."

Everyone, including myself, is not going to agree with everything Pres. Obama does. But he's the president we have. Like my conservative aunt told me when the second Pres. Bush was "elected," give him a chance. He may not have turned out how I would have liked, but she was right. I should give him a chance before judging harshly. People need to do the same with Pres. Obama. I didn't agree with Pres. G.W. Bush but I do believe he loves our country. And I believe Pres. Obama loves our country and wants the best for us. But I highly advise Mr. Obama to get a dog soon because with all the hating on Capitol Hill and the airwaves, he's going to need a best friend quick.

Indiana Love Sweeps
Long Beach Step Show




This past weekend there was a whole lot of stepping going on in California. I attended t he 19th Annual Long Beach Step Show. The Pretty Poodle All Star team, representing my lovely sorors of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. took 1st place again for the second year in a row! EEE-YIP!! And a Bay Area team representing Kappa Alpha Psi Inc. took 1st place for the men. Both orgs were founded in Indiana. Congrats to both teams.






Up north in Sacramento the Millerizm Group's 3rd Annual Step Show took place. Special shout out to my sorors from the Bay who took 2nd place. They stepped in the rain. I have a press so I have to give them their props. My name would've been AfRHO if I was performing that day. LOL! They should have won for being the only team to step while it rained.


Hopefully both step shows won't be on the same day next year. I'm just saying....

If you want to get an idea of how the Pretty Poodle Step Team gets down, check out their award-winning performance from last year.








Photo Credits:
1. Nichole Bonner
2.Nichole Bonner
3. Cherilyn Gibson-Lewis

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fly Read
Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

I'm almost 30 years old and my mother still calls to tell me to watch Oprah because there's something on the show I need to learn. Steve Harvey's brief appearance on Oprah a few weeks ago convinced my mom that she and I should both read his book "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." I have not bought the book. My mother has the book and swears by it. She says it has good relationship advice. My mother even read excerpts to me over the phone. Don't you love moms?

Oprah gave Steve Harvey a full hour on Monday. He talked about how women shouldn't lower their standards. Also, don't expect something from a man that you're also not willing to offer.
This one 37-year-old sista wrote on her list that she's looking for a God-fearing, African-American man who's a millionaire, can dance, and I believe she said he has to be between 5'7 and 6'2. I may be off with the height.
Harvey said, "Are you willing to be the same thing to him that you're talking about on that list?" A lot of women are not."
Then they featured these pretty, successful sistas from NYC, in their 30's who are looking for love. Oprah said women like them and Gayle are intimidating to men because men like to feel needed. And if you're successful woman, some men think they may not be able to afford to take care of you. Steve said men express their love with the 3 P's.

"We profess, we provide and we protect," he said. "A man has got to see where he fits into the providing and protecting role. If you've got everything, you can do everything, you've got your own car … you've got a guard dog and a handgun. The guy is thinking, 'Where do I fit in here?' You've got to make a space for him to fit in so he can come in and do what men do."

Steve has this 90-days until sex rule. This one sista from DC on the show doesn't have intercourse because she's a Christian and saving herself for marriage. BUT, she receives oral sex and does heavy petting with her partner. The woman emphasized received. She wanted to know if the 90-day rule applied to oral and foreplay. If that woman in DC could only hear me from my bedroom in LA. Sex is sex. Whether it involves a penis, finger or a tongue. Sex is sex. People like her crack me up. My mom said the young sista sounded like Bill Clinton. HA! Good one mom.

I'm going to read Steve's book. I tried to check it out from the library but I would've been number 340 on the waiting list. I guess this book is in high demand. If you read it tell us your thoughts. And if you missed Steve on Oprah, he'll be on Tyra today. You can read about Monday's show on Oprah.com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thank You News & Notes!!!!

Today NPR's News & Notes shut off the mic for the last time. News & Notes was my first job out of j-school. I first worked as an intern and was later hired to be a producer. The show explores various news stories through the multiple lens of the black diaspora. I say multiple because all black people don't think alike. The staff was small and worked hard to deliver a show to their audience everyday. I listened to the show before and after I was an NPR employee. I'm sad to see them go.
I enjoyed working with the staff. Our schedule was hectic but many times we laughed. The cool part about working at NPR West was you never knew who would walk through the door: Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson, Russell Simmons, Kirk Franklin, Smokey Robinson, then-Sen. Joe Biden, Kelly Rowland from Destiny's Child, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Angela Bassett, Cornell West, Tom Petty...I could go on.

Black news shows that are intellectually engaging like N&N are missing in broadcast journalism. That's unfortunate.

Well, I wish everyone at "News and Notes" the best. As a former-producer I thank them for teaching me the ropes in radio. As a listener I thank them for keeping me informed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Whipped Cream in My Cocoa? Part 2
Disney Chooses White Prince for First Black Princess

Please read Part 1 before reading this post.


We may have our first black U.S. President and First Lady but Disney put the brakes on creating a black prince. According to the U.K. paper the Mail, people are criticizing Disney for choosing a white prince to play the love interest of their first black cartoon princess. Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Princess Tiana in Disney's upcoming "The Princess and the Frog." The story takes place in New Orleans.

Singer Brandy is actually Disney's first black princess. Remember when she played Cinderella in a multicultural version of the story back in the '90s? Her prince was Filipino actor Paolo Montalban. So this isn't the first time that Disney has cast a non-black prince opposite a sista.

Princess Tiana's man is named Prince Naveen. I read Naveen is an Indian name. For my Indian readers out there, please clarify if that's correct. So lil' Tiana from the Big Easy like whipped cream in her cocoa? This guy looks white. Or could he be Creole? He does have a bit of a brown tint to his skin.

I have mixed feelings.

One one hand Disney has never featured a black regal male. The closest is King Mufasa from "The Lion King" and he's a lion. Mufasa's son Simba was voiced by a white kid. That didn't make any sense because James Earl Jones was the voice of Mufasa. Would've been nice to hear a black boy, especially since the story is based in Africa. Although the Broadway show cast black actors to portray Simba. Black men are constantly stereotyped as being no good. Not featuring a black prince could be interpreted as black men aren't prince material, just white men.

On the other hand, for years we've seen countless multiracial black female characters in movies or on TV who play the love interests of black men. Some you couldn't tell had black ancestry. Look at Will Smith. The lovers in his last two movies weren't black. "The Princess and the Frog" is the first instance I've seen where the black female love interest is clearly a sista and her lover's race is questionable. Both the black and mainstream media are flooded with images that say black men are desired by women of other races. That's not necessarily the case when it comes to black women. This movie may show black girls that their beauty can be appreciated across racial lines. I don't have a problem with that. Also there are children whose parents look like Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

Why is this such a big deal? Because whether we like to admit it our not media images have a strong influence on how many people feel about themselves. Just ask Lil' Kim.

I say that with all of the black millionaires who are playing ball, making songs and acting we should make our own cartoons and movies. Don't let the TV or movie screen teach your children their value.

I'll write another post on interracial relationships in the future. Not sure when. It just depends when I'm moved to write about it. What you think about the Disney's choice?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whipped Cream in My Cocoa? Part 1
Author's Comments on Black Women and Interracial Dating Stirs Debate



Last weekend author and music-marketing executive Jacqueline Rhinehart was in LA to promote her book "My Organic Soul: From Plato to Creflo, Emerson to MLK, Jesus to Jay-Z--A Journal to Help You Discover Yourself through Words of Wisdom." Very long title. I interviewed her and for the first time in my career I lost an interview. The brand new tape I used to record the interview was damaged so I only got one-third of our discussion. I will post a book review and what I can salvage from the interview soon.

A few weeks ago Dime Wars.com and AOL Black Voices was buzzing with reactions to comments Rhinehart made about black women dating outside of their race. You can catch Rhinehart's comments in the video above. There was some outrage over her support for crossing color lines. I looked in the comments sections on websites and they referred to her as a sell out, anti-black love and someone who believes that white men are better black men.

Rhinehart's opinion doesn't justify her being called a sell out, anti-black, etc. If that's the case Venus and Serena Williams, Alfre Woodard, Halle Berry, Eve, Iman, Naomi Campbell, Tina Turner, Kim Wayans, Sanaa Lathan and Kerry Washington are sellouts? They are or have dated outside their race.

What about Quincy Jones, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods daddy, Pres. Obama's daddy, Michelle Obama's brother, Russell Simmons, Seal, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jordan, Puff Daddy, Terrence Howard, Sidney Poitier, Ice T, Prince, Reggie Bush, Tiki Barber, Kobe Bryant, Taye Diggs, David Allan Grier, a good chunk of the both the NFL and NBA, etc. Are they sellouts?

Rhinehart, like me, probably sees that 70 percent of black women being single is a serious problem. That's waaay to many sistas who aren't getting enough love. And I wonder how many of those women are lonely. As I've said on this site before, just because we have strong black women in our community, that doesn't mean they don't need some lovin'. Are there good black man out there? No doubt. But once you subtract the ones that are either married, gay, in jail, or straight and don't date sistas then the pickings are slim. And just think about how many brothas we are losing to the graveyards because of black-on-black crime. I live in LA where the number of black people is relatively small compared to places like the ATL or Chicago. So the number of available black men is smaller. If there are not enough black men to go around what are sistas to do? Wait until our eggs shrivel up like prunes and be lonely? If a sista finds a good man who treats her good whether he's black or not, why shouldn't she date him?

When I was in graduate school there was one brotha in my class. He was smart, a good writer, and cool to kick it with. He was a great guy. I couldn't date him because he was gay. Nor could the five black women in my class. I have nothing against homosexuality. That's just the truth of the matter--there weren't any available brothas in my program. I expanded my dating pool by going out with men outside my race and dating brothas off campus. Just like any co-ed I had fun. My dating life was better in graduate school, than undergrad. The black female ratio was bad when I was an undergraduate at UC San Diego. A few of my college friends swam in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico if you know what I mean. But many of my friends, including myself, did not date outside of our race. Guys from other races would flirt with us but we just couldn't go there. For some of us interracial dating was like selling out. For me, I thought I would experience a culture clash if I went out with someone from another race. So we didn't date much at all in college. However, many of the brothas on my campus were dating all kinds of girls--Filipino, Mexican, white, etc.

Which reminds me--I notice when black folks dicsuss interracial dating in our community, people automatically jump to black and white. Interracial dating is not just black/white. Going out with Asians, Latinos, people of Middle Eastern decent, etc. is interracial dating too. But our sexual history makes interracial dating with white people an extra touchy subject in the black community. During slavery and post slavery black women were racialized as being hypersexual and sex kittens. White men used this to justify rape. Many black women, against their will, had children by white men who wouldn't claim them. And black men were stereotyped as brutes on the prowl to rape white women with their huge penises. This justified the murder and lynching of black men. Today SOME people still hold on to these negative beliefs about black sexuality. We as black people understandably can't let this history go. We shouldn't forget this history. However, I don't think all white people feel this way. If I did come across someone of any race that carried these prejudices, I wouldn't date them.

I'm not telling sistas who to love. Too many of my friends, relatives, and colleagues are single. Whether the sista is a cashier at CVS or a producer for CBS, she deserves a good mate. I don't think white men are better than black men. Nor am I against black love. I'm single and I haven't given up on brothas. As I said before I know there are good black men out there. Pres. Obama isn't the only brotha taking care of business with his family. But being open to other men doesn't hurt. It increases your dating pool. I'm not going to settle with just anyone because he's black. I'm in my late 20's. I've traveled and befriended people off various nationalities. All I want is a good man to treat me right. And who knows what Prince Charming God has in store for me. He may be Prince Charming Hernandez. Prince Charming Pakowski or Prince Charming Jenkins. As long as he's good to me, that's all that matters.

Speaking of Prince Charming check out Part 2 of this discussion in the post above.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dancing With the Sexy Stars

I am a huge "Dancing with the Stars" fan. I love writing but because I do it for a living sometimes it's not always a joy. Just like any relationship. But my favorite thing to do in the world is dance. When I'm stressed out from writing an article or script, I may throw on one of my old Madonna CD's and start dancing in my living room. Keep that between us. But my joy for dancing coupled with my girly-girl fascination with the sparkly costumes is why I love DWTS.

This is one of the sexiest seasons of DWTS. Gilles Marini from the "Sex and the City" movie is crazy, hot. Ladies, you remember this French hottie who played Samantha's beach house neighbor. He was the one who liked showering outside in the nude. I don't think he spoke the whole movie but Good Lawd he fine! Gilles was a fireman from the French army before coming to Hollywood. And he's keeping the fire burning on dance floor. He is a good dancer. I'm a comic book fan so when he and partner Cheryl Burke did this Clark Kent and Lois Lane-themed quickstep to 3 Doors Down "Kryptonite" I was digging it. Especially the end when he took off his thick black glasses, slid across the floor on his knees, ripped open his shirt and flashed the Super "G" on his chest. I was throwing them. See for yourself. Cheryl Burke usually gets the hot partners. I ain't mad at her. In case you couldn't tell I'm voting for Gilles.

Gilles isn't the only one keeping it steamy. There's real-life couple Julianne Hough and country star Chuck Wicks. They're a cute couple and you can see the love and passion they have for each other in their performances. Also, there's Ex-Playboy Bunny Holly Madison and Lil' Kim.
The Queen Bee is doing a good job. I see she's trying to tone down the raunchy image and show a classier side. I like Lil' Kim. She's not a role model for young girls, she goes against some of my feminist beliefs. But she says things in her music that some of us good girls want to say but are too scared. I'm not feeling all the plastic surgery and skin lightening. I thought the skin and face God gave her was pretty enough. I remember reading magazine articles in the late '90s where she talked about being self-conscious about her looks and how she wanted to look like a Barbie Doll or thought they were so beautiful. Don't quote me on that. It's sad because no scalpel, injection or skin-lightening cream is going to help what's going on inside her. Regardless, I think she's doing a good job on DWTS and I'm voting for her also.


And finally I imagine being dumped by the Bachelor a few weeks ago was the best thing that happened to Melissa Rycroft. In case you don't know the story Melissa got the final rose on "The Bachelor." On the followup show, homeboy changed his mind and picked someone else. A few weeks after getting kicked to the curb Melissa was called to replace "Access Hollywood's" Nancy O'Dell after she injured herself. Talk about when one door closes another opens. Melissa is really shining on the DWTS. She had a few days of practice before the first show and kicked butt. In all fairness she does have a dance background. She took ballet and was a Dallas Cowgirl. I voted for her too. Normally, I don't think it's fair for people with dance backgrounds to compete because that's an unfair advantage. But since it was a last minute replacement I'll give them a pass.

So that's my DWTS. I had no intentions of writing this much. I can't predict who will make it to the finals just yet. Who are your favorites?

Photo Credits: ABC

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Interview with Iyanla Vanzant on Losing Her Home

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I spoke with Iyanla Vanzant about losing her home. You can read the interview on The Root. Feel free to leave your reactions there and on my blog. It's a good interview. Vanzant was honest and open. I know a lot of people are going through hard times because of this economy. I'm struggling too. When she announced at the State of the Black Union that her home went into foreclosure I wanted to know what happened. She was filled with hope and confidence that she would survive this ordeal, I thought the interview would be informative and uplifting for people in similar situations. Thanks for reading and for all those people new to Cocoa Fly. Welcome!!


Photo Credit:
Jenee Darden
Iyanla Vanzant pictured backstage at the State of the Black Union with with Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, from "The Secret" video and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rihanna, You Better Think
Chris Brown and Rihanna Record a Duet

CNN is reporting that Chris Brown and Rihanna recorded a duet days after the alleged beating. Come on Rih Rih! Ladies, next time you flush the toilet think about Rihanna's career because that's where it's headed. As I've said before, staying with CB puts her safety in jeopardy. But recording a song with him is going to do some serious damage to her career. I like Rihanna's music but it would be very hard for me to buy her next album. Every time I hear it, I'll think of her getting beat up. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the music. And to some parents out there, they'll interpret her doing this duet as validating domestic violence. I don't believe she condones domestic violence, I just think the girl seriously needs counseling. She worked so hard to be on top and now she's about to mess up big time. I don't know about you my Cocoa Fly sistas but I have bills to pay, I need food to eat, and I like to treat myself to nice things once and a while. So aint no man's foolishness worth me ruining my income or career. Rihanna lost an opportunity to perform at the Grammys because of this mess. She had to cancel tour dates because of this mess. Some people are talking about boycotting her music because of this mess. How much money has she lost so far? Rih Rih, the ball is in your court now. You have to make the best choice for you NOT him. He didn't consider your well being that night when bit and punched you. Rihanna if your career does a Titanic at this point in the game, it'll be your own fault. And trust me sista, Chris Brown aint the only man on Earth. You can do better. You deserve better.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Fly Ladies of the Day "
Afghan and African Girls

Two of my favorite places as a child were school and the library. Yeah I was a nerd and proud of it. Actually, I'm still a bit nerdy. The library and school were my heavens because I loved learning. I grew up in East Oakland and I may not have traveled to Europe or Asia like some of the wealthy kids in the Oakland Hills or Piedmont area. But I could tell you about these places thanks to a book I checked out or my social studies class. Some girls in other countries don't have the privilege of waking up in the morning and going to school. In some places, learning how to read could cost a girl her life. Today's "Fly Lady of the Day" are actually groups of girls. Young women in Afghanistan and parts of Africa literally risk their lives to get an education. In Afghanistan the Taliban doesn't believe women should be educated. Above is a photo from the New York Times taken in January. The girl with the scar on her face is 15-year-old Shamsia Husseini. She and her sister were walking to school when a man pulled up in a motorcycle, asked them if they were going to school and sprayed their faces with acid. There have been other cases like this, but according the Times, the Taliban denies responsibility. These girls have endured acid burning their skin, school bombings and other forms of violence, but they they want to learn so bad, even if they are killed as a result. I'm tearing up just thinking about them.

In some African countries women are also forbidden to learn. When civil war breaks out school buildings are often destroyed. Maryam and Aminata, are eight year old girls from Cote d'Ivoire or the Ivory Coast. UNICEF repaired the school in their community after it was damaged during civil conflict in 2002. And there are other obstacles African girls face. Remember Oprah's special about her South Africa school for girls? I still remember listening to the students talk about how they travel hours by foot and bus to get to their schools. Their journey to the schoolhouse was dangerous because of sexual predators. Girls are getting raped on their way to school. Some have even been raped by their teachers and classmates on campus. But there desire for learning fuels their courage to keep going.

We in America are going through really hard times. Trust me, I know personally. But if these young girls and women can have the strength to get up everyday and go to school, not knowing if they'll be killed or raped--we can keep going. And we can be thankful for what we have. These young girls have incredible drive and spirit. It angers me that we live in a world where they can't learn to read or write in peace. Literally, in peace. It frustrates the heck out of me that some parents here in the U.S. haven't taught their kids to value education.

Being a woman isn't easy. Sometimes it amazes me how much stuff we endure. But I'm even more amazed by how strong we are.

"If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation."

---African Proverb

Photo credit:
1.New York Times/Danfung Dennis
2.UNICEF/Bruno Bioni

Monday, March 9, 2009

HELP! I'm Addicted to HGTV

Hello, my name is Jenee Darden and I'm addicted to Home & Garden Television.

Granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, double vanity sinks, curbside appeal, hardwood floors. Whew, I'm getting excited!

I took my first hit of HGTV about six months ago. It was a cold Sunday night. I was channel surfing while chatting on the phone with my sorority sister Jo. You always remember the ones who got you high the first time. I couldn't find anything good to watch.

Channel 5--nothing. Channel 130- "How Do I Look" re-run. Hmm, what's on TLC? Awww come on. I've seen this "What Not to Wear" episode twice already.

I settled for watching the last half of "Cold Case." Usually I don't watch mystery shows if I missed the beginning, but I was desperate for some entertainment.

Then Jo said, "You gotta see this. Turn to the Home and Garden channel."

"The Home and Garden channel?," I asked. "I'm not turning to the Home and Garden channel. Only old ladies watch the Home and Garden channel."

"Just turn to it. You gotta see this guy decorate this house. He's crazy," she said.

I reluctantly did a search for this HGTV channel to find the dial number because Jo and I don't live in the same city. I pressed 7-4 on my remote control and a young Canadian dude popped on my TV screen, wearing an outfit that looked like something from the "The Breakfast Club." His name is Matthew Finlason and he's a home stager. I couldn't turn away as he arranged lamps on glass table tops to bring attention to the living area's large window. Matthew moved so fast the camera could hardly keep up with him. His method of decorating is frantic and free-spirited. Yet he follows the rules of how to stage a home to draw buyers. I was hooked on this show called "The Stagers."

It gets worse. I kept the dial on 74. Next up was "Property Virgins"(love ya Sandra Rinomato!), then "House Hunters," "My First Place" and "House Hunters International." Why was I slightly obsessed with watching people buy homes?

"Pick number two, number two!," I yelled to the young couple shopping for a home in Ann Arbor. If only they could hear me.

"No they're going to pick number three," Jo said.

"It makes more sense for them to pick number two Jo, " I argued. "They get more bang for their buck because the bedrooms in the second house are bigger."

The couple made their pick. Jo was right.

Hours passed and by the time "My Big Amazing Renovation," came on, it was 1:00 AM. Jo and I called it a night. But this HGTV channel felt good. So good that I tried "Color Splash" the next day. No one can make a room pop with a lime green accent wall like David Bromstad. Don't worry, I didn't start sniffing paint.

A few days later I was happy to see black decorators. I love watching my fly sista, Kim Myles show off her endless talent on "Myles of Style." Lauren Lake is another fly sista bringing flavor to her show "Spice Up My Kitchen."

I thought I could ween myself once the winter/spring TV season started in January. So I tried talking myself out of pressing 74 on my TV remote.
I can watch other channels. There are good shows on TV that don't involve installing
cherry- wood cabinetry. Right?
It was just my luck HGTV then debuted "Dear Genevieve" and I got a bigger buzz. YES! I mean, Lord help me.

It took me a while to recognize my addiction. I knew I had a problem when I watched "My First Place" one night and recognized someone from college buying a home in Denver. I've watched HGTV so much that I'm starting to see people I know. That's not good.

I've done some soul searching on my HGTV craze. Want to know why I really love this channel? I'm a dreamer. When I see people shopping and decorating their homes I think about how one day that will be me. One day I will make enough money to buy that 4-bedroom house with the two-car garage, wrap-around porch and plush backyard where my roses and greens will grow. One day I'll write articles for O Magazine from my home office. My clothes will hang in a spacious walk-in closet with custom shelving built for my shoes and hats. I'll take bubble baths on rainy days in a jet tub that rests under a skylight. And I'll relax to the sound of raindrops dancing against the window.

One day I'll have a husband and we'll spend summers in our London flat or Costa Rica beach house.

Maybe one day someone will yell at their television and tell me to pick house number two.

One day.

Photos from HGTV.com

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rihanna Drama &
"Fly Lady" of the Day
Tina Turner


March is Women's History Month. Funny how I haven't seen any articles arguing we don't need Women's History Month, but soon as February rolls around all the anti-Black History Month talk starts. Anyway, you know my thoughts about that.

Getting back to Women's History Month, I will be recognizing women I respect and admire throughout March in my "Fly Ladies" series. The women are entertainers, artists, activists, fictional characters and everyday ladies doing something positive. Originally I was planning to kick off the series with Josephine Baker, but this Rihanna and Chris Brown stuff changed my mind. I read the affidavit and was shocked. Not only did Brown allegedly beat and bite Rihanna, who is referred to as Robyn F. in the affidavit. The documents also reads that Brown "placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F's. left and right carotid arteries causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness."

IF this alleged action is true, he could have killed her. Let's keep it real, he could have killed her. And I still can't believe when I hear people, especially women, say, "She probably deserved it" or "They're just young." That's bull. If Chris Brown the award-winning singer, was Chris Brown who lived off Crenshaw Blvd. by the car wash, I don't think they would be saying the same thing. I don't care how cute Chris Brown is or how well he can sing or dance. Nor do I care what Rihanna said to him that allegedly sent him into a violent rage, and that's exactly what happened-- a violent rage. What Brown allegedly did was wrong and disgusting. If he was that P'd off he should have taken her home and went on his way. Now his career is in the toilet and possibly Rihanna's.

As for Rihanna, I really wished she left Brown. Many of my friends and family warned me that she would stay. I volunteered at a domestic violence safehouse one summer so I'm not surprised they're seeing each other again. Some of the women housed went back to their abusers. I feel bad for Rihanna. She's so pretty and talented but she must not think she's worthy of respect. And I bet a lot of those people critical of her wouldn't be saying "she deserved it" if some dude put their mother, sister, aunt, daughter or niece in a head lock and was beat the crap out of them. It doesn't matter if you're a pop star or a janitor, no woman deserves this and I hope for Rihanna's LIFE and career, she moves on. They both need to move on.

You've probably figured out why I chose Tina Turner. She's one of my favorite singers of all time. This month she's a Fly Lady because she got out of an abusive relationship. She had the strength, courage, and heart to save her life and LEAVE. Now look at her. The woman lives in Europe, is in a relationship with a younger man, looks 20 years her junior and at 69 her legs are still simply the best. Ms. Tina will be 70 this year. I also must acknowledge Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, Fantasia, and all the other women around the world who escaped abusive relationships.


I also love Tina for stepping out of the box in the 1980s and going rock. That's not a genre of music where you see black women. I remember when I was a little girl my grandmother would blow dry my hair before pressing it. I had a lot of hair so it flew all over my head when my grandma blew it out. My aunt, who was more like a big sister, would tease me and say I looked Tina Turner as I bopped around the house. I took it as compliment because even as a little girl I knew Tina was fierce.



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why I Can't Hate on Tyler Perry


I was one of those people who viewed Tyler Perry's work as coonery. I couldn't understand why black folks go out in droves to see a grown man dressed up like a foul-mouth grandma who keeps one hand on her cigarrette and the other on her gun. Yet, won't pack a theater for an August Wilson play. I refused to support Perry's plays. One day my co-worker in Oakland convinced me to watch some of the plays she had on VHS. I figured I might as well see what the hoopla was all about. My mom and I watched "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea's Family Reunion," and "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"all in one weekend. I was hooked. I loved Madea, bad diction and all. She's the friend you call when it's about to go down because you know she'll have your back. She's the sista that tells it like it is and isn't afraid to do it. She's the relative that needs Jesus but you love her anyway. Sometimes when Madea goes off, you feel her anger and wish you could snap off on somebody just like she does. Madea cracks me up.
I couldn't tell anyone about my guilty pleasure. I studied these images in my ethnic studies college classes back in the day (not too far back in the day though). Aren't these the kind of images that only reinforced negative stereotypes of black people? Or are they okay because Perry's work is for our black eyes only?

Once Perry started making films I confessed to loving his work. I can't hate on Perry. His movies are funny and they carry a positive message. Plus, he's giving black actors work --something desperately missing in Hollywood. Will Smith, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington are great artists but I'm sure they're not the only black actors who can read a script. I understand those who don't like Perry's work. My issue is not with him, it's with Hollywood. If movie producers and directors were more open to casting black actors in roles that weren't stereotypical--Perry wouldn't be a problem for some black folks. I know he has said he's tired of playing Madea. Judging by "The Family that Preys" and "Madea Goes to Jail" I can see Perry in the near future creating good black dramas. I'm not crazy about his TV show "House of Payne" but I would love for him to produce a black TV drama. The only black TV drama on is "Lincoln Heights" on ABC Family. The last one before that was Showtime's "Soul Food."

With that said I'm not surprised "Madea Goes to Jail" is #1 for the second week in a row. Reuters reports Perry is set to shoot his next film this month--"I Can Do Bad All By Myself." He's also working on a sequel to "Why Did I Get Married?" Hallelujer!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My State of the Black Union Experience



Finally! My apologies for posting this late. My allergies got the best of me the last few days. I hope you watched Tavis Smiley's 10th State of the Black Union on C-Span. It was sooooo good. I had a hard time getting up at 6am Saturday morning to make the 8am taping but I did it. When will I ever be in a room where I can see and hear Cornell West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Iyanla Vanzant, Julianne Malveaux, Randall Robinson, Michael Eric Dyson and so on? The conversation was stimulating. On one hand it felt like being back college and discussing world affairs with your classmate. But it also felt like church too because panelists like Michael Eric Dyson and Washington Post finance columnist Michelle Singletary were teaching and preaching. When they said something on point, the audience was clapping, shouting and waving their hands to the Heavens. I was proud that black people packed the LA Convention Center. I estimate there were probably 1,000 people there. That's my own estimate so don't quote me on it. It also felt like a family reunion because I ran into a few people I hadn't seen in a while. I liked the theme of "accountability." The panelists addressed holding our president accountable for the promises he made during the election and we as Americans practicing personal accountability. Rev. Iyanla Vanzant brought up personal accountability when she revealed that she lost her house in 2006. Based on what she said, it sounded like she had an ARM because she said her mortgage ballooned. She couldn't make the payments after losing a book and TV contract. I guess when it rains it pours because Vanzant is taking care of her deceased daughter's teenager, had surgery on her foot, but can't afford health insurance. That totally caught me off guard. I spoke to her backstage later on and will have some details from that interview by the end of the day. That woman has a lot of faith because her spirits are high and she told the audience that she was going to make it.

Speaking of backstage, let me tell you I was in the zone. I hadn't been to a press conference in so long. I enjoy the chaos, the excitement, the fight to get that good shot and question. One of the many reasons why I love journalism. Above is a photo from the press conference back stage. My camera went out of focus for some reason. But you can see Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al, Bennet College President Julianne Malveaux, etc. Later on I also got a good shot of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He has been in the press a lot lately but I'll go into that some other time.
The very last panel was about blogging. That aired on Tavis Smiley's website. I think blogging and the digital divide should have been folded into the other panel discussions. The digital divide is a term that refers to how certain groups don't have access to technologies while other groups do. In 2003 a study from the Department of Commerce found 54% of black folks don't go online. And 62% of Americans earning between $15 and $24 Grand don't go online. I know we as black people are dealing with the economy, poor education, high incarceration and I could go on. But it seems just about everything is going digital.And black bloggers are playing a role in informing the community.
Another topic missing from the discussion is the AIDS crisis. The disease is killing the community, especially sistas but people are afraid to talk about it.

I'm not sure where the next SOBU will be held but if it ever comes to your town, go. Whether your black, brown, yellow, white--go check it out. You don't have to agree with everything said, but you may learn something. It's free too attend.

For those who missed it you can see it online at C-Span. The program was good because I didn't leave until 5:30pm. That's a work day. Somebody should pay me. :)

Photo Credits:
Both photos taken by Jenee Darden

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