A Belated Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou

10458903_10152523824654593_247459233218316966_nI still cannot believe that Maya Angelou is gone. I can barely keep up with the passing of our matriarchs and patriarchs who through art, protest, words and actions provided a reference point for nobility, strength and courage.

Maya did for me what she did for many Black girls, she gave me a feeling of belonging. I was so excited when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I cherished every word and syllable, explored the world with Maya, a woman who had overcome odds and challenges and maintained her stride with grace and elegance.

I post her poem here, And Still I Rise, because some days it’s like that old Gospel song, it gets inside you and reminds you that you never walk alone!

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou1928 – 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Loving Her ‘Nappy’ Hair and All

Custom Ethnic Dolls by Karen Byrd

The hair issue continues to resurface. Not only did I come across a short film about the issue of “hair” in the African American community, I experienced, firsthand, some grandmother admonitions about the state of little black girls’ hair au naturel. The issue about the hair is that it’s deeper than cosmetics. Often when we see mixed children or children with “good hair” or not so tightly coiled, aka “nappy”, hair running around with it unkempt, people tend to think it’s cute. However, even in the confines of closed doors, black women of a certain generation will inquire about what is to be done with a nappy ‘do? As a mom of a daughter, I have had to stop myself from becoming defensive in terms of feeling sensitive to the implied criticism. I have, and will continue, to be a defender of little girls’ freedom, mine and all others concerned, young and old alike; freedom to be lovely and wild, as-is beautiful no matter what style the hair is wearing.

I will continue to defend the freedom to be lovely and wild, as-is beautiful no matter what style the hair is wearing. – Joy Simone

It was through watching Good Hair and Other Dubious Distinctions that I was reminded of the history of hair and citizenship, favor and privilege. It makes me tire of the subject, yet is emotionally tied to deeper truths and hurts. There is not enough soap, bleach, relaxer or weave to make me, a dark-skinned black woman, “whiter.” Often the quest for beauty and self-love and acceptance is often akin to an act of rebellion for young black people, surely for young women crafting a self-image that says I am OK.

We spend a lot of time mentoring young people, girls and boys, but I am often compelled to “minister” to older women, grown women, who have buried issues deeply within their psyches. Why drudge up old subjects? Because some ideas and pathos do not need to be passed on to another generation. -JoyS

You can watch the trailer for the documentary here:

Black Hair Articles:

Custom Ethnic Dolls by Karen Byrd
Madame Noire: Sheryl Underwood Shames Natural Hair on ‘The Talk’

President Obama Speaks of Nelson Mandela

Mandela Memorial Service
Mandela and President Obama

The entire legacy of Nelson Mandela can never be summed up in words, but there are lessons we can all learn from the life he lived. Like the Bible, there are lessons about war and justice, love and pain, endurance and courage, patience and faith. President Obama’s address speaks to Mandela’s embodiment of “manhood.” Through perseverance, there is a true testament to the power of self control and the ability to harness anger and frustration to meaningful, revolutionary outcomes.

President Obama’s speech at Tuesday’s Memorial Service puts Mandela’s contributions in context.

Remembering Nelson Mandela: Remarks by President Barack Obama – Nelson Mandela Foundation

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other. To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

Read More: http://www.nelsonmandela.org/news/entry/remembering-nelson-mandela-remarks-by-president-barack-obama

Throughout the memorial celebration, South Africans sang and danced, and exemplified the spirit of Mandela’s people, of his country.
This memorial was attended by dignitaries from more than 100 nations.

Another Assault on ‘Black Girl’ Hair

Vanessa VanDyke
Photo: local10.com

A Florida teen, Vanessa VanDyke, faces expulsion because administrators at her private Christian school want her to “cut and shape her hair.”What is really good? This is the second incident centered around a black girl’s hair.I just don’t get it. Unless the girls at the school are all required to wear buns or their hair pulled back, why is this an issue? It was reported that the administrators insisted on the change because Vanessa was getting nasty comments from classmates. Why not reprimand the students who were bullying her? To see this little girl’s hair and to hear the response from the school makes it clear that there is more going on than hair.

The history of black women and hair is nearly synonymous with the “n word.” Nobody has time for that. This week, we had Rihanna on the American Music Awards with a “doobie” (shamed to say I didn’t know the correct term), but it was wrapped with bobby pins, a “do” normally associated with a nighttime regimen. The threads about that went on and on, discussions on radio and TV followed. Frankly, I didn’t really care. I thought it was OK, not a rousing statement, nor offensive nor a “twerkable” moment. By that I mean nothing as outrageous as Miley Cyrus’s stunt at the MTV Awards. So, here we are a day later (two weeks after another little girl was removed from school for wearing dreadlocks) met with the “unacceptability” of a child’s hair… for being in its natural state.

Girls (of all races) have enough self-esteem hurdles to climb without adding hair issues to the equation.

As adults, black women have to contend with selecting hairstyles that will mesh well in the workplace. Many people start with a conservative/permed style until they have built some job security, and then may move to a more “natural” style, i.e. braids or a short cut, etc. There may come a time when this child has to conform, depending on her occupation, but for now, this should be a nonissue.



“Meeting the Family” – 8 Tips for New Couples This Holiday Season

The holidays can be challenging for couples who have been through the drill many times, but for those in new relationships, it can be doubly stressful. How soon is too soon to meet the family? How do you handle that first meeting? When is “too soon” to tackle holiday dinners with that crazy uncle or an overbearing mother?

Women are often anxious to receive an invitation to “dinner” because it solidifies some sense of commitment (though not always the case), and men sometimes move quickly because it helps to make the woman feel more secure in the relationship. (Though, being smitten is not reserved for women with marriage on their minds.)

Relationship coach and “Reality Expert” Troy Spry talks about ways to handle the holidays and candidly answers questions about dating protocol for couples during this season.

Joy Simone

1. How soon should you introduce your “special someone” to the family? Are holiday dinners the best time to meet the family?

Remember that most times someone introducing you to his or her family implies a higher level of intention for the relationship. People who see you being an important part of their life don’t mind introducing you to the important people in their lives. It is my belief that if one is going to introduce someone new to the family, then they need to first have decided that they see the relationship potentially progressing into something more than just dating. There is no time frame or rule of thumb, it depends more on intention than on time. If you have invested enough in dating each other that there is potential for more or it is “official” and you have a title, then it’s only right to introduce them to the family. I don’t think that the holidays (if you are in close proximity) are the best time to bring your new mate around for the first time. The atmosphere will be too hectic and to intimidating.

2. Are there reasons a couple should never attend family gatherings pre-marriage? Or otherwise?

I don’t believe so. I believe that if they wait until marriage they are doing themselves a disservice. If someone’s family is important to them, then it will be vital that they are able to see how his/her mate interacts with the family. Family dynamics can put tremendous stress on a relationship if not handled with care. Furthermore, your relationship or marriage won’t exist within a bubble, and it’s important for the different personalities to begin to be able to co-exist.

Your relationship or marriage won’t exist within a bubble, and it’s important for the different personalities to begin to be able to co-exist.

3. What goes through a man’s mind when he decides to invite his lady to meet the fam?

What goes through his mind is that he believes that she could play an important role in his life and be his woman. He also is thinking that he hopes that his mother likes her and that they get along. Finally, he hopes that she vibes well with the other women in his family like his sisters. Men don’t worry much about what the other men think. As long as she nice and is attractive they will probably give their stamp of approval.

4. Is the lack of an invite an automatic red flag for the relationship?

It’s only a red flag if they have been seriously dating for an extended period of time and are working towards a relationship. Usually if she doesn’t get the invite to meet the fam after a few months, then odds are he won’t move the relationship much further than it is at that time.

5. Should the woman/man insist on an invite?

I don’t believe the woman/man should insist an invite, and if he/she has to do so then the truth is that they probably already know where they  stand in that person’s life.

6. Should the woman/man ever turn down an invite?

They should only turn down the invite if it is very early on and they are uncomfortable with knowing where they are going in the relationship. I mean, if they have only been on two dates and they are already trying to introduce them to the family, that is a sign that this is a person that is moving way too fast.

Just be authentic and be yourself. Although you may be trying to make an impression, people can usually see right through any facades.

7. Overall, how should new couples (6 months or less) tackle the holidays in terms of gifts, family gatherings, meeting family?

Overall, very new couples shouldn’t feel pressure to buy extravagant gifts. A good rule of thumb could be to just buy a gift that could be used for the entire house, such as wine. Just don’t come empty handed! HA! Secondly and above all things, just be nice and avoid uncomfortable conversations and gossip.  Finally, just be authentic and be yourself. Although you may be trying to make an impression, people can usually see right through any facades.

8. Are there other factors to consider?

One thing to consider is if the other person has children. Be careful trying to replace the other parent too early into the relationship, especially around other family members. That is not your place so always default to the custodial parent or other family members. Secondly, be cognizant of your attire. Keep it classy, not too tight or revealing. You don’t want to be perceived as classless or as a threat around other women in the family. Not only may they feel they have to compete, but keep in mind it’s likely that their men will be there as well. Avoid too much PDA (public displays of affection) as it could be perceived as disrespectful.

As for men, just keep it light and avoid getting into conversations about other women, as many men will try to bait you into those conversations. Don’t be a prude and act like you are above the conversations, just do more listening and less talking.  Leave the arrogance and cockiness at the door and ask people about themselves more than you talk about yourself.

All in all just remember that BASIC MANNERS go a long way.

About the Expert

Troy Spry, a Certified Life, Dating, and Relationship Coach and the one and only “Reality Expert” resides in Charlotte, NC. He created his blog, Xklusive Thoughts, with the intent of putting out a very realistic perspective about dating, relationships, and marriage and using that as a vehicle for inspiration! His mission is to first inspire people to become better people so that they can become better mates, which will foster an environment for better relationships and ultimately help build better communities!

Do Opposites Attract?

A recent study tells a different story about relationships and emotional distance. The Columbia University study of over 700 men and women reveals that the level of closeness isn’t as important as the individuals’ needs.

In religious terms, sharing the desired level of closeness would be similar to being “equally yoked.”

“Our study found that people who yearn for a more intimate partnership and people who crave more distance are equally at risk for having a problematic relationship,” says the study’s lead author, David M. Frost, PhD, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“If you want to experience your relationship as healthy and rewarding, it’s important that you find a way to attain your idealized level of closeness with your partner.”

Over the two-year study period, some respondents’ experiences of closeness became aligned with their ideals. In such cases, their relationship quality and mental health improved. The inverse was also true. Those who increasingly felt “too close” or “not close enough” over time were more likely to grow unhappy in their relationships and ultimately break up with their partners.

In the book, The 5 Languages of Love, Dr. Gary Chapman provides exercises to help couples identify their individual love language.

• What do you complain about most often? When you say to your spouse, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I did not initiate it,” you are revealing that Physical Touch is your love language. When your spouse goes on a business trip and you say, “You didn’t bring me anything?” you are indicating that Receiving Gifts is your language. The statement, “We don’t ever spend time together,” indicates the love language of Quality Time. Your complaints reveal your inner desires.

Tips for Relationship Success

Whether you’re in a long-term relationship that needs a boost or you are in the beginning stages of a new romance, having a clear understanding of your emotional needs is a big step toward a relationship that is mutually satisfying and long lasting.

Weigh in: Do opposites make better mates?

The Wedding Plan: A Collection of Stories

Single Parents and Relationship Success

With the divorce rate often quoted as one in two, or 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s hard to fathom that there could still be a stigma attached to single parents. To be exact, the CDC quotes 3.4 of 1,000 marriages end in divorce. If you combine those single parents with single parents who conceived out of wedlock, that leaves a pretty large number of men and women in the single parent pool.

The reality is that many still pause when they find out that a woman or man has children. It means, automatically, that a third party is in the equation; in actuality, it may mean more, including the child’s father or mother. No one wants to willingly enter into baby daddy or baby mama drama.

In her recent blog post, author Christelyn Karazin addresses the question: “As a single mother, am I considered ‘damaged goods’?” Karazin admits there are challenges. She warns against men who prey upon single mothers who have bought into the notion that they are “damaged goods.” Often it is how we view ourselves that determines how others react and treat us.

In this Askmen.com article, writer Lawrence Mitchell states:

The game you play with other women may not have the same effect. I have always recommended that men be genuine and sincere in their love life but with a single mother, you should hardcode that nugget of advice on your cerebellum.

Concern about dating a single parent goes both ways, and many women do not want to date men with kids any more than single men want to date single mothers. But with our “modern families” and today’s culture, anything is possible. Relationships are unique, and there are many ways to find relationship success.

The benefits of dating single parents

There are some advantages to dating single parents. If you are looking for a committed relationship, a single parent is more likely to be responsible, mature and more likely to know what it takes to make a relationship work. If, on the other hand, you like your freedom and space, this could also be a win-win.

Dating advice for single parents

If you are re-enteringthe dating arena as a single parent, it’s best to keep an open mind, take your time and consider new venues or activities. You don’t have to feel guilty for taking time for yourself, and you certainly don’t need to introduce every person you date to your child(ren). Cnn.com offers more advice here.

President Obama and the First Lady Always a Class Act

Barack and Michelle ObamaThere hardly seems much more can be said about the dignity and elegance of the First Lady and President Obama, but then again, a picture is worth a thousand words!

No matter the opposition or the obstacles, the Potus and Flotus are a shining example of what love and unity can accomplish. They are also examples of characteristics that will take you far in life:

  • Integrity
  • Principle
  • Perserverance
  • Authenticity
  • Courage

Michelle Obama’s advice for a great relationship

Look at the heart. Look at the soul. Look at how the guy treats his  mother and what he says about women.

In her Glamour Magazine cover article, the First Lady offers this:

“Cute’s good. But cute only lasts for so long, and then it’s, Who are you as a  person? That’s the advice I would give to women: Don’t look at the bankbook or  the title. Look at the heart. Look at the soul. Look at how the guy treats his  mother and what he says about women. How he acts with children he doesn’t know.  And, more important, how does he treat you? When you’re dating a man, you should  always feel good. You should never feel less than. You should never doubt  yourself. You shouldn’t be in a relationship with somebody who doesn’t make you  completely happy and make you feel whole. And if you’re in that relationship and  you’re dating, then my advice is, don’t get married.”

– Michelle Obama in Glamour  Magazine