Thursday, August 27, 2015

Don't Let Your Job Make You Snap: Discrimination, Mental Illness and Reactions to the Shootings of Virginia Journalists

Shooter Vester Flanagan's on-air name was Bryce Williams
I was absolutely shocked when I went online Wednesday morning and read that someone killed two journalists live on air and the gunman was a former co-worker. My prayers go out to the loved ones and colleagues of WDBJ reporter Allison Parker, 24 and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. What they all endured was inhumane.

According to various news sources, the motive for Vester Lee Flanagan killing these young journalists was racism. Flanagan was a gay black man. He alleged that Parker made racist remarks, and after reporting her she was later promoted. Ward reported Flanagan to HR after one day of working with him. BuzzFeed reports a year after Flanagan was fired he filed a lawsuit against the station for harassment, racial and sexual discrimination and retaliation. Memos from the station claim he was difficult to work with and made others feel uncomfortable and threatened. They referred him to get help. WDBJ fired Flanagan two years ago and his anger was stewing ever since. Flanagan also settled a race discrimination lawsuit with Florida station WTWC in 2000. 

I don't know if Flanagan's allegations about WDBJ are true or not. I don't excuse his rage and I certainly don't agree with fighting racism, with hatred and violence. However, I do want to discuss racism in journalism. It's not uncommon in this profession. I’ve experienced both racism and sexism in the newsroom and other media jobs. I had one job where I pitched ideas during a meeting and no one responded. Yet, when a white guy suggested the exact same thing minutes later, everyone raved. One time a Black male colleague tried to hug me and then told me to sit on his lap. I’ve been underpaid by, self-proclaimed “feminist” supervisors, despite having more education and work experience than other co-workers.  My point is racists, sexists, jerks and morons exist in every race and gender. And yes they work in the newsroom.  Thankfully, I’ve also worked with wonderful men and women of all races who continue to support and uplift me. Still, I understand how incredibly frustrating it is to experience racism and sexism or be held back by them, when all you want is to work and grow in your career. Sometimes it’s not your job duties that annoy you, but the people you work with.

When people are driving you so crazy on your job, that it’s taking a toll on your mind or body, it’s time to leave.  I wanted to write about this even before this recent shooting.  My last job became stressful because of office politics and disorganization. Some of my co-workers were hospitalized due to stress.  Working there made me physically sick. I developed fibroids and digestive problems. The daily drama was toxic to my body. Budget cuts to my department was the best thing that happened to me. I believe if I stayed, I would’ve had a mental breakdown or a stroke. I know of a few people that died from the stress of their jobs. A relative told me that a friend of theirs was found dead at his cubicle hunched over his keyboard. No job is worth losing your life or sanity over. If you don’t think the workplace is going to change for the better -- get the heck out of there. Figure out a plan, look for other jobs, get training, go back to school, do something.

Journalists and victims Allison Parker and Adam Ward. 

Oprah shared in this great interview with Stanford Business School that when she was co-hosting a local show with a male, she made less. She asked her boss for equal pay and he said no because she was single and didn’t have a family. Her co-host had a family and therefore was entitled to more money. Oprah didn’t fight it, she left the station. And look at her now!  I’m not arguing against fighting injustice at the workplace. During that time, gender discrimination was taken as seriously. Oprah said she knew the situation wasn’t going to get better. She could’ve allowed the job to get the best of her; instead she sought out another place to work.

And after you leave that job, let that stuff go. Flanagan admitted to carrying a lot of anger after being fired, and in his life. He said that he endured homophobia and racism from other people. Anger can be consuming whether you have a mental issue or not. He wrote that the shooting in Charleston was a tipping point. I imagine those people who died in that church wouldn’t agree with him killing, especially out of hatred. He killed Allison Parker and Adam Ward, but inflicted more pain on their loved ones and his loved ones. Killing them didn’t solve anything. Flanagan was from Oakland and I’ve seen his relatives on the local news here since the shootings. I cannot imagine what his father is going through. I cannot imagine how the parents of Allison Parker and Adam Ward are feeling.

As for the mental health component to all of this:
All of these major shootings have been at the hands of men. We need to encourage men to express their emotions, feel their emotions. Discouraging men from feeling sad, hurt, etc. by saying they’re less than a man is damaging. Some of these men are in emotional pain, and their solution is a gun. I guess that’s because expressions of anger and violence are considered more manly. To me it takes more strength to work through your pain.  I’m not sure if Flanagan was going to therapy. Some of these killers have mental illness. But people kill whether they have a mental illness or not.

Marginalized communities need more emotional support and tools in how to handle the psychological impacts of discrimination and stay mentally healthy. Oppression can take a toll on your mind. We hear so many stories of gay and trans youth killing themselves because family or peers do not accept them. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. can impact others psychologically as well.

I heard in a news story today that Vester Lee Flanagan texted a friend after the shooting and said he did something stupid. Stupid is not the word. What he did was wrong and sad.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When A Writer Hates Writing

Just the thought of typing one more word...
Photo By Channah

I don’t want to do this crap, I thought to myself a few times while sitting in my office.  I stared at the blank template that I magically turned into an article or press release. I say magic because my heart wasn’t invested. For the first time in my life, I lost my love for writing.  

The nonprofit I worked for became a toxic, drama-filled environment that sucked the passion out of me. Simple projects turned stressful when funders with zero understanding of media production called the shots. This was beyond irritating for a person like me who came from the newsroom with a master’s degree in journalism. I was paid much less than my superviors/editors who did not match my level of experience and education. All but one really knew about reporting and writing in AP Style. Oh the joy of receiving a two-paragraph email about my “misuse” of comma placements when my To-Do list could've filled a toilet paper roll. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good editor. A good editor enhances your piece while keeping your voice.  A bad editor adds run-on sentences because they think adding lots of words with semicolons ;;; in a long ass, anaconda-length sentence will make it come off more intelligent. I enjoyed working in the community but the bad outweighed the good. I  was so burnt out that I got to a point where I became a robot and wrote whatever my superiors wanted.  

I pushed myself to write for my job because I needed a paycheck. I lacked the energy and desire to write for myself. The last thing I wanted to do at home, after an exhausting day, was open Word. I liked blinking cursors as much as geeks like the movie Catwoman. I stopped blogging on my website. I tried working on a book proposal, but had difficulty concentrating. The most I could do was write in my journal about how miserable I was feeling. Even walking down the stationary aisles at Target and Office Max didn’t excite me anymore. Writing, with the exception of journaling, wasn’t fulfilling my spirit like before.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Do Something for YOU! Listen to Carlos Santana, Sing, Dance, WORK IT!

Jenee/Cocoa Fly is hanging out at the
Carlos Santana Concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Photo by CocoaFly

One of the best concerts I've been to is Santana at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. The House of Blues is in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the Vegas strip. Oh. My. Oh. MY I had so much fun! And Carlos Santana still got IT.  When I'm at home and I need to pick up my spirits or I want to dance, I throw on Carlos Santana. His guitar takes my body all over the living room. And especially when I play "Smooth" featuring Rob Thomas. By the end of the song I'm sweating and feeling great. One time I was listening to Smooth on the BART train. I thought to myself, boy if there weren't people on this train and camera phones, I would get turnt up. LOL

I know people are going back to school but summer is still here. The sun is out. The weather is still warm/hot/scorching, depending where you live. Get some good music into your soul. Go to a concert in the park. Do the Nae Nae and Cupid Shuffle at your family barbecue. Heck, do it in the den with your family. Sing at a karaoke bar. Play some good music, roll the windows down in your car, and just cruise.

Have a great weekend and celebrate life!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Macy Gray Sings Her Heart Out to Her Vibrator B.O.B. and Encourages Women to Self-Pleasure

From Macy Gray's video B.O.B.
With all of the crazy, evil stuff going on in the world, I needed this laugh. Yes, singer Macy Gray made a love song about her Battery Operated Boyfriend or BOB. 

In this cheesy, adorable, cartoon music video that carries a lot of truth, she tells us what makes B.O.B. so great.

He gets me so excited. I turn him on. We go baby GO.
Start the fire and lightening, oooh ahhh oooh
I love my baby BOB…
He can go all night
Dark until the night
And we stop when I want to

I understand why she adores BOB and released a cartoon video with happy BOBs of different colors and batteries frolicking through her bedroom.

The song is catchy and the video is entertaining. Another reason why I like it is because it’s about masturbation. And a lot of women are uncomfortable talking about masturbation. Men are more open to talking about it than women. Macy Gray told Elle magazine, “I hope it opens women up to talk about what's really real for them. Women always have to be so private about [their sexuality] and their periods, whereas guys can just talk about their penises and whatever. Girls always have to be so ladylike about it. I hope girls can start talking...and just say the crudest stuff. 

I feel her, and I would also argue that women talking about masturbation or periods doesn’t even have to be crude. It can just be what it is. If you want to be crude about it, do you.

Self-pleasuring is healthy and it’s the safest form of sex you can have. Masturbation releases stress and anxiety. There are also studies that show women who do their “one-woman shows” have higher self-esteem and a more active sex life. You can read more about this at Women’s Health Magazine.

When I co-presented a workshop to women on pleasure after trauma, there were women in the room who had never masturbated. And some women said they were heading to Good Vibrations right after the workshop (Good Vibrations gave us a discount code for attendees). Some of these women were in their golden years and had never gave themselves pleasure.  I hope they found a new friend in B.O.B.

***Macy Gray joins a list of other women artist who have sang praises for self-love, including:
Tweet featuring Missy Elliot “Oops (Oh My)
T-Boz Touch Myself
Cynic Lauper, “She Bop”
Britney Spears “Touch of My Hand”
Janet Jackson made some kinky sounds on an intermission on The Velvet Rope album that strongly implied masturbation

What songs did I miss? 


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