Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Carol's Daughter 'Diverse' (wink, wink) Campaign and Why Colorless Marketing Excludes Black Women

By now you’ve probably heard about the paper-bag “diversity” campaign Carol’s Daughter recently launched. Black women of all hues are voicing out on the web, “Where are the brown-skinned faces?” Hopefully cocoa-cutie and Disney Princess Tiana will keep her kids line even though she doesn't have a  polyethnic look the company is pushing. “What’s ‘polyethnic?” you’re thinking. Here’s a quote from marketing guru and company CEO Steve Stoute from the campaign's press release:
What we’re doing now is moving into a polyethnic space. We want to be the first beauty brand that truly captures the beauty of the tapestry of skin types in America. When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities. If you ask them what they are, they’re going to use a lot of different words to describe themselves. That’s in line with the Census data coming out — people are checking much more than two boxes. We believe we’ve put together a shoot that celebrates many different ethnicities, to become a mirror of what America’s really becoming.[...]“They will serve as cultural ambassadors in bringing forth this acceptance that the definition of beauty is now colorless.

Singers Solange (Black and Creole), Cassie (Black, Filipino and Mexican) and Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks (Black, Irish, Native American) are the new spokeswomen representing diversity. All three ladies identify with multiple cultures. All are without a doubt gorgeous. My disappointment with this campaign has nothing to do with their beauty. Nor do I have a problem with founder Lisa Price expanding her brand. Curly heads of various ethnicities use Carol’s Daughter. The company should take advantage of their growing diverse pool of customers. But brown-skinned women buy Carol’s Daughter products too. I mean come on. Chrisette Michelle, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Brandi, Maybeline model Tomiko Fraser—women like them don’t represent diverse beauty? According to the press release, Lisa Price “designed the new campaign ad to reflect the recent demographic shift reported by the U.S. Census.” Lisa designed this? That stings. If it weren’t for black women, of ALL hues, Carol’s Daughter would not be sitting in Macy’s shelves, on HSN, online, etc. Black women backed Lisa Price from the days she was selling oils and creams out of her kitchen. Mind you, her stuff is expensive. Launching a campaign solely with a calablansian,  racially-ambiguous mainstream image excludes many women, especially the customers who first supported her.

It’s no secret that darker-skinned women have always been deemed as “unmarketable” and not beautiful. But why is polyethnic marketing in general so focused on women? Even CEO Steve Stoute said, “When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities.” Why this deterrence away from black women’s features, especially in black media? Of course this marketing doesn’t impact black men. Think about it. If there were a hair and skin line for black men do you think Mr. Stoute and Lisa Price would hire Tiger Woods, Boris Kodjoe, Jessie Williams ("Grey’s Anatomy") to be their ONLY spokesmen? I’ll answer for you. HELL NAW. Black men would have a fit. You know some celeb like Tyrese or Romeo would be up in the campaign mix too.   Nearly every time I see or read something about multicultural marketing, the models are usually mixed-race women. Or when people get upset over a celebrity’s skin being lightened in an ad or magazine cover it’s a woman. Males are rarely the subject of these controversies. Companies using images of biracial people in their marketing is a great thing. Biracial people want to see reflection of themselves just like anyone else. Unfortunately this is happening at the erasure of brown-skinned women. God knows, there are barely a handful of brown-skinned beauties in the media at the moment.

Radio One founder Cathy Hughes said in April’s issue of Ebony Magazine (which is really good by the way) that this type of multicultural marketing is becoming a trend in black media:

If you look on television, look at ads, in print, everything is interracial now. Everything is a Black woman and White man or a Black man and a White woman. There’s this emphasis on a ‘colorless society.’ Why should we give up our Black culture? Are the Asians?... Do you think the Latino/Hispanics are going to give up being Latino or Hispanic because they have married other people? So why are black folks the only culture being called upon to be colorless? That trickles down, [and] greatly impacts African-American media.

What’s next? Women who look like Solange, Selita and Cassie will be considered too dark or too black for cultural products? I’m not saying the three ladies should not be spokeswomen. If Carol’s Daughter is going to push diverse beauty then be diverse. Show a range of colors and hair textures. The only differences I see in the spokeswomen are their hair styles and fashion tastes. Good marketing doesn’t alienate the customers who helped propelled the company. Many women online have said they’re not buying Carol’s Daughter products anymore. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this may have. CEO Steve Stoute is supposedly a marketing wiz so the company may do very well. Until then, I’ll take my rich, brown skin and dark green dollar bills elsewhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Bunny Event for Kids With Special Needs

Can you believe it's Easter already? I'm sure your kids are ready for their eggs, bunnies and baskets.  The folks at the special needs advocacy site Abilitypath.org told me that they are joint-hosting an Easter eggstravaganza where kids with special needs are getting V.I.P. treatment. The Caring Easter Bunny event will be held at Stanford Shopping Center  in Palo Alto, Calif.  this Sunday April 17th from 9-11am, before the mall opens. I told you it was V.I.P The setup is designed just for special needs children.  Here are more details from the release:
“This is an amazing opportunity for families of children with special needs to come out and
enjoy a day that has been specifically designed with their needs in mind,” said Sheryl Young,
CEO of AbilityPath.org, a partner in the program. “Having the event during closed mall hours provides a calmer sensory friendly environment, a number system allows for children with special needs the opportunity to explore other things while they wait for their photo to be taken and simple tweaks to the photo set allow for children who might be sensitive to a camera’s flash,
to still enjoy that special age-old tradition of having their photo with the Easter Bunny displayed on the mantle!”

Parents are encouraged to RSVP on Facebook here. If you can't make it this weekend the Caring Easter Bunny will also be available on Monday, April 18 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for private photo sessions for children with special needs. Or just hop on by anytime between April 12 and April 23.  Mention AbilityPath.org to receive the Caring Package.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Saving Our Girls from Oakland's Streets

Busting Prostitution Myths and Who’s Pimping the Pimp?

Melissa Farley
Photo Credit Jenee Darden
“It takes a village to create prostitution and it takes a village to stop it,” Melissa Farley argued in her presentation. She was one of the speakers at Allen Temple Baptist Church’s community meeting on the sex trafficking crisis in Oakland. Farley is the executive director of Prostitution Research and Education in San Francisco. I applaud her work. I'm sure some of you are surprised that such an organization exists. But someone has to do it to inform and help save lives.  Farley has interviewed johns and women in prostitution all over the world. She changed my stance on legalizing prostitution when she dropped some info about Nevada, where the “oldest profession” is legal.

“Nevada has some of the highest rates of rapes in the U.S. because boys there are taught to see women as natural prostitutes,” said Farley.

Another light bulb moment for me was when Farley asked us what does a pimp look like. Think about it. What face comes to mind when you see a pimp? Is he young? Is he black? Does he rock a gold chain, a cane and walk with swag? Farley showed us a picture of an old white man with a plain collared shirt from Washington state. He ran a prostitution ring through his strip clubs throughout the state. “Prostitution is organized crime a lot of time,” said Farley. She explained to us that mafias partner with local thugs who monitor the girls on the streets. Are the small-time pimps being pimped by the crime bosses? Regardless, Farley said the sex trade is a billion dollar industry, especially in light of the weak economy (Hmmmm...reminds me of when Nola Brantley of MiSSSEY spoke about selling girls on the street has become more profitable than pushing crack)

We know that pimps are bringing in the dollars, but what about the girls and women? Think about the images of prostitutes. Some are high class, others are in poor neighborhoods. According to Farley, there is a hierarchy of prostitution. She said only 2% of women and girls are “high-class prostitutes.” You know the ones whose clients shell out the big bucks like Richard Gere’s character in “Pretty Woman.” “They’re doing it voluntarily. Usually they’re not women of color, they have backup options, class and race privilege,” Farley said. Well Farley killed that “Pretty Woman” fairytale, because that’s not reality for most women and girls. She reported that 48% of women and girls in the trade are those who can’t provide for their families. Often they are victims of molestation and incest as children, they’re trying to escape a violent relationship. I was surprised that some of these women have children with special needs and they need the money for care.

Sadly 50% of women in prostitution are in captivity. On average, a prostitute is raped once a week. It’s a lot to take in. I felt somewhat overwhelmed as I drove home because I had some idea of the story behind those children standing on the corner in tight pants and wigs looking for sex to survive. Little girls are supposed to be going to the mall with their friends and shopping for Justin Beiber posters. We MUST save our girls Oakland. We MUST save our girls.

Saving Our Girls from Oakland's Streets

OPD Officer Says City's Sex Trafficking Crisis Tougher than Duty in Iraq

Officer Jim Saleda
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden
“I spent 14 months in Iraq. That was easier than doing this job on the streets of Oakland, ” Officer Jim Saleda said at community forum on child sex trafficking in Oakland. Allen Temple Baptist Church hosted the event. That’s how dire this problem has become. Serving in war is easier than battling pimps on Oakland’s streets. Officer Saleda has been with the Vice and Child Exploitation Unit for 10 years. The weariness lives on his face. The night before the summit,  he was up until 1am arresting Johns. It doesn’t help that Oakland’s police force is severely understaffed because of budget cuts. There are only five cops in his unit.

Officer Saleda said when he started in the youth services division 10 years ago, officers encountered about 100 girls in trafficking. Now the numbers are approaching thousands. THOUSANDS.  Remember I told you about guerilla pimping, or forcing a girl into prostitution? Here’s one tactic the policeman shared with us:

“These guys were chasing girls down the street with pit bulls, cornering them, terrorizing them with the dogs and beating them into submission. Prostitution is not a victimless crime.”

Why isn’t the situation under control? One reason are the weak laws. Officer Saleda says getting caught with a prostitute is only a misdemeanor. Cops are “stacking” charges against perps. So johns may be charged with buying sex, and lewd act with a minor, and other violations.

A major problem with the law is that these girls are being criminalized when they’re in fact victims. “I hate sending them there but that’s the only place I know they’ll be safe for a little while,” Officer Saleda said. According to him the pimps tell their girls in group homes and juvenile hall “they better” bring another girl into the fold. Even after separation from the pimps, some get back into the trade. Officer Saleda identified Stockholm Syndrome as one factor for returning to their pimps.

But this story about a young woman he tried to save really got to all of us.
She was a missing person at risk. We brought her back to YSD [Youth Services Division]. We called her mom. She said, ‘It’s too far to drive to come get her.’ We couldn’t take her to the [juvenile] hall so we took her to the assessment center. Two weeks later this girl was brutally, horribly murdered and left displayed in Mosswood Park. I’m going to carry that with me for the rest of my life.
This is what is happening to OUR girls. Our daughters, our nieces, our sisters, our cousins, our neighbors, our sisters, our fellow American women. On a good note, something is getting done. Officer Saleda’s testimony in a recent case helped land a slave owner pimp a 25-to-life sentence.

Saving Our Girls from Oakland's Streets

Nola Brantley Explains How Pimps Recruit Girls

Nola Brantley speaks to concerned
public at Allen Temple Church
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden

“When you been molested your whole life, sometimes these girls be hoes. They do it to cover up the pain of what happened to them. “ --Former prostituted teen

Nola Brantley wants you to keep one word in mind when talking about the girls traded on Oakland’s streets, “children.”

“We don’t realize they’re children because of the word ‘prostitution'” said Brantley, executive director of MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth). The non-profit helps victims of sexual exploitation transition to stable lives. More than 70 people from the community packed the meeting room at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland on Saturday morning for a summit on human trafficking. Brantley, 35, can personally relate to the girls she helps because she is a survivor of child trafficking.
“My exploiter was a police officer and so my exploitation experience is unique,” Brantley told me after her presentation.

According to Brantley the children being pimped are between the ages of 11 and 17. Guess the average age a girl starts prostitution in the U.S.A. Give up? The average age a GIRL enters prostitution is 12 YEARS OLD. Most of the girls sexually enslaved are poor, prior victims of sexual abuse and black or Latino. Brantley told us that there are girls of all races out there but nearly 100 percent of her clients are African American. Half of all the girls they help are in foster care. Brantley thinks the boom began in Oakland seven years ago.

“The influx of child trafficking in Oakland probably dates back to 2004,” she told me. “We can look at lots of factors in society. What I attribute to it closest are two things. One is 9/11. All of our national resources targeted towards homeland security and away from social services and mental health. Number two is the increased penalty and sentencing around crack cocaine. That made it too risky and less profitable to sell crack and less risky and more profitable to sell little girls.”

I gained so much from Brantley’s fiery and moving presentation. One component of her talk that especially struck me was the process of how pimps recruit and brainwash the girls. It starts off with the girls thinking they’re in a romantic relationship with the pimp. Brantley broke it down in 5 stages that I HIGHLY recommend for parents and guardians to read:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Child Sex Trafficking Outside My Front Door

Photo by Mike Linksvayer  
Prostitution in my Oakland childhood neighborhood is nothing new. I remember seeing the same, few women working corners near by for years. My neighborhood was no Beverly Hills, but for the most part the streets stayed quiet and the working-class families all knew each other. But the neighborhood has changed since I returned and not in a good way. Those women who worked the corners when I was kid have been replaced by children. You read right, CHILDREN. Just the other day I saw two girls in miniskirts, looking no older than 13, standing on the corners peeking inside cars driving by. One was black and the other I believe may have been white or Latina. Girls like them and a bit older are sprinkled throughout a 40-block stretch of International Blvd. known as “The Track.” How did my neighborhood, where I learned to ride my bike and attended Catholic high school, become a hot spot for child sex trafficking? It makes me sick that as I type this, a young girl who should be doing her homework or going to softball practice, is selling her body to make money for some pimp. And it disgusts me that some man or men are exposing these girls to STDs, rape, malnutrition and God knows what else. Many of these girls are forced into the trade through a tactic called “’guerilla pimping.” Girls are kidnapped, gang raped and beaten in prostitution. The children are in fear of their lives and don’t leave. And even if they “chose” to go that route, it doesn’t matter. They’re kids and from what I’ve been told by experts, don’t have family. Pimps prey on kids in foster care and group homes.

Pimp culture has always been a strong stitch in the fabric of Oakland’s ghetto culture. Rappers like Too $hort and Dru Down often had some sort of "pimps up, hoes down" theme in their songs. The whole situation makes me sad, but there’s hope. People have held protests. This weekend I went to a community summit on human trafficking at Allen Temple Baptist Church. I could write a dissertation on all of the information I learned. Three people spoke: Nola Brantley, executive director of MISSSEY; Melissa Farley, executive director of Prostitution Research and Education and Officer Jim Saleda. My mouth hit the floor when Officer Saleda said serving in Iraq paled to what's happening to girls in Oakland's streets. Our society finds money to pay athletes and reality stars. But when it comes to our women and children, especially those who are poor and minorities--it's a battle. We MUST save our girls from Oakland’s streets. WE MUST.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WonderCon 2011
How Jeremy Love Went From Self-Publishing to DC Comics

Jeremy Love creator of Bayou at WonderCon
Photo by Michael Pleasent

Jeremy Love. Sounds like the name of a late night DJ taking song dedications. Jeremy is no DJ, in fact he is down with DC, as in DC Comics. Superman’s publisher carries Jerry’s comic series Bayou. I read a sample of it online and it is really good. I mean really, really good. Jeremy tells me how a little luck and a lot of hustle made his self-publishing dreams come true.
How did you get into comics?

I’ve been drawing all my life, making little comics when I was in elementary school and selling them so it just became natural. Once I found out I could make a living do it, it made me happier. So I kept practicing and kept my skills up.

How did you figure out you could make living doing it? there are artists out there trying to do the same thing but haven't made it.

It’s all about the initiative, the drive you put into it. I self-published my first book and that got me the notice I needed to start this professionally.

When you self-published, how many copies did you sell?

I only sold 600 or 700 copies but it got into the right people’s hands.

Bayou is about a black girl named Lee and her white friend Lilly. There’s some kind of Loch Ness Monster type character who lives in the swamp water. But he’s good?
Bayou is a benevolent, good swamp dweller. He helps Lee as they look for her friend Lilly who’s lost in this fantasy world that is set in 1933 Mississippi. It’s kind of like Alice and Wonderland with a voodoo and African-American folklore flavor to it.

Photo Credit: Michael Pleasent

What is Gettosake?Me and my brothers have an art studio and that’s our studio name.

Where did the name come from?

I had a friend when I was in high school who did graffiti and that was his graffiti name. When he retired I asked if I could use it because I liked it so much.

When I see Gettosake I’m thinking the hood and booze. What does the name mean to you?

It has a number of different meanings. People bring their own meaning to it.

What's next for you?
Bayou volume 3 comes out next year.

WonderCon 2011: Super Artists Couple Beth Sotelo and Joel Gomez

Joel Gomez and Beth Sotelo
Photo Credit: Michael Pleasent

It must be nice when you and your hubby are in the same line of work. Joel Gomez is a freelance artist for DC Comics but you'll learn more about him later. He had great advice for people trying to get through the door. Let's shift the spotlight to his wife Beth Sotelo.  Just as I was on my out of WonderCon Beth Sotelo greeted me with the biggest smile from her table. I can't turn down a friendly face and I'm so glad we got to chat. Beth is a colorist for Aspen Comics and is working on "Fathom: Volume 4 which is set to be in stores this month. "Fathom" is the company's best-selling series. Beth is ten years in the game, but it took super drive and thick skin of steel before an employer told her to paint on. Get it? Like when Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four shouts, “Flame On!” …… Well, I thought it was cute. For anyone trying to make it any field, Sotelo's story will motivate you.

Cocoa Fly: How did you break into this industry?
Beth Sotelo: My background is in painting. I was doing murals, nothing like storytelling or comic books at all. My husband knew about coloring comics and when I was introduced to the whole industry I just fell in love. He got an internship at Top Cow. I got a job in production and I just started begging any artist to let me color any pinup or trading card they had. I practiced. I asked everybody with any sort of knowledge to look at my work. Nobody cared. You just have to keep bugging and have a thick skin because you’ll hear a lot of no's. I just listened to everything they said when they told me to correct. Ten years later I’m working on “Fathom” which is the book that I thought I would be working on. It’s a really a nice kind of book end.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New ThunderCats Cartoon Trailer

Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats! HOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Those who grew up in the '80s know what's up. Here's a sneak peek at the new ThunderCats cartoon premiering on the Cartoon Network. Warner Bros. debuted the trailer Sunday at WonderCon. Cheetara has extensions and Lion-O looks really young. Actually, they all look really young. Where is Panthro and Snarf? Mumrar looks like his creepy self. I hope the series is good. Watch and tell me what you think.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cocoa Fly Takes Over WonderCon

Cocoa Fly & The Hulk
Photo by Michael Pleasent
You're looking at the newest member of  The Avengers--Cocoa Fly. Armed with her secret Afro powers, kinetic energy gold hoop earrings and sorority tote bag loaded with indestructible weapons, the Hulk and Cocoa Fly are ready to fight evildoers and kick some boo-tay. Don't mess with Green and Black. 
Oh my goodness, I had soooooo much fun at the 25th WonderCon in San Francisco this weekend. Twenty-five years for them, and a first for me. You don't understand. I love comic books, super heroes and fantasy stories. It was fun meeting people who share my borderline obsession. I was with my people this weekend LOL.  With all of the activities, panels and vendors I was overwhelmed. There was so much to see and do. Thanks to my intern Michael Pleasent, I was able to cover a lot of things. You know I'm always on the hunt for influential women. The comics biz seems like a boys club. I wanted to meet women bringing their own color to the industry. I interviewed really cool women, including Batwoman and Supergirl DC Comics artist Amy Reeder. Of course I was a Cocoa Fly on the wall and got you the latest on what's happening on upcoming films like the Green Lantern and Immortals.  I take back what I said about Ryan Reynolds, he's much cuter in person. Oh and peep this, I was at a press event for Immortals which stars Henry Cavill, also the next man to play Superman. He's a cutie too. That's an understatement. He is hella fine.  I don't know what's with me and men in tights possessing super powers. Look at a few photos below from my adventure and check back throughout the week for interviews.

How does Supergirl fight crime in that top?
Photo by Michael Pleasent

I couldn't let Supergirl have all of the fun.
Photo by Michael Pleasent

"Cocoa Fly, I told you to stop acting up."
Photo by Jenee Darden

"Hey Mr. J!"
Harley Quinn and Cocoa Fly
Photo by Michael Pleasent

Deadpool posing at a Marvel costume contest. He also
does a mean running man. Seriously, he did the running man on stage.
Photo by Jenee Darden
Bishop of the X-Men visits from the future
to chill with Spidey.
Photo by Jenee Darden

How does Elvis concentrate with all of Catwoman's cleavage?
Photo by Jenee Darden

But the queen of cleavage and horror outsizes Catwoman.
Doesn't Elvira look great?! Watch those claws Wolverine.
Photo by Jenee Darden


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