Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Beyonce a Feminist?

Beyonce in superhero stance at the MTV VMAs. 
UPDATE: Since the Lemonade album,  I have since changed my opinion on Beyonce being a feminist. I still disagree with the "eat the cake" line from Drunk in Love, but support her feminism and I would even say womanism. I love Lemonade and that beautiful project did it for me. So go 'head Beyonce with your feminist self. 

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racism and injustice leave mental scars. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Jenee Darden with reporter John Fowler 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the interview here

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BlogHer 2014: One of the Flyest Conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Daniel Tsi Photography /Artistic Shutter Photography

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

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

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

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

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

Below are a few other cool photos from my experience. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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