Sally is sick with a fever today, so she hopes you take this opportunity to catch up on some old posts.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, this past December to speak in celebration of Human Rights Day. Human Rights Day honors the moment in 1948 when, after several years of debate and deliberation, the UN voted to ratify a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming that all human beings on earth are "born free and equal in dignity and rights," and that governments cannot remove or assign those rights, but instead have a responsibility to protect them for ALL citizens under their care.
Every so often, we call on all of you to send us your guest posts and some of you take us up on it and generously share your story.
I have a friend who is in an abusive relationship. It started off with emotional bullying, and has moved forward to some physical roughness. If my friend still lived in the United States, I would report the incident even if they didn’t, even at the risk of losing a friendship. I believe that living in fear and dread of the person sleeping beside you is something unbearable. I dealt with it in my own family circle, and had a good friend and former teacher die at the hands of her abusive husband. I worry about those I love and care for when they are in positions like this, because I never want to feel like an enabler. My family friend who was killed had a neighbor who knew all about the abuse and never called the police. My mother happened to run into her soon after our mutual friend’s death and found it hard to contain her anger towards her. I think she felt guilty; I know I would.
I find that when friends share troubling information with me, they are not usually looking for advice. I have often felt like an emotional dumping ground for people’s problems in the past. Now, if friends or family keep sharing the same problems with the same people without changing their methods of dealing with it all, I call them out on it in the firmest and most respectful way possible. Sometimes I am told to back off, and when I am, I respond by saying that if they don’t want my input, they should stop confiding in me. Tough love is hard to dish out, but I find that I must do it at times.
I hope my friend will protect herself and her baby. Since she is on the other side of the world, all I can do now is pray that she will not become just another statistic.
How do you handle abuse when it happens to people you love?
As I write this, I'm trying to find a position to sit in that doesn't cause me pain. I've been going to the gym regularly for the last couple of weeks and last night I had one of the most intense workouts I've had in months. And today I'm feeling it!
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, working out and doing yoga has helped keep me sane as I try to figure out my next step. As the weeks go by and my savings take a bigger hit, I feel the stress of joblessness even more and need something to focus on.
Before now, I never really saw fitness as something therapeutic, but it really can be. I'm not trying to lose weight or fit some sort of ideal body type (other than perhaps my own). I knew before I started the year that I had a goal of getting in the best shape of my life, but now that I'm pretty much there, I've started to feel the other benefits of regular physical activity, like providing a release, helping clear my head, etc.
I'm not sure if I'll keep this up when I don't have as much free time, but I'm hoping that I do, at least as long as it makes me feel this good.
Well, last week, in honor of Dr. MLK Jr. Day, I went in for some shameless self-promotion. I guess I'll follow it up this week with a little bit more of the same:
I'm excited to report that my second novel, CAMO GIRL, was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award. You may remember that my first book, THE ROCK AND THE RIVER, received a similar honor two years ago. Well, let me tell you friends, it does not get old!
I'm looking forward to going again to Los Angeles in February to rub elbows with celebrities of various stripes, and to get a glimpse of a world that seems so far removed from my own. Last time, I was really nervous about every aspect of this adventure--the red carpet, the movie and television stars that I might encounter, the overall Hollywood feeling of it all. So incredibly nervous, in fact, that I didn't let myself enjoy it all nearly as much as I should have.
This time, I feel better equipped to deal with the randomness of my upcoming Image Awards journey. I've grown a lot in the last two years. Personally and professionally, I know who I am and where I fit in the world, and I feel much more confident that I can take the red carpet by storm!
Stay tuned for more updates on Kekla's NAACP Image Awards Adventure, Chapter TWO!
Have you ever gotten a second chance to overcome a big obstacle or face an unusual opportunity? How did it feel?
Sometimes all we need is a little break -- a day home alone with nothing but our thoughts.
With bitterly cold weather and shorter, darker days for the next few months, and no set getaways planned for the near future, I escape into books, good movies, and television when I can. My new favorite television show that helps me escape when I want to is House Hunters International. There is an American version of the series, but I prefer seeing how people from all over the world buy or rent properties from countries other than their own. The locations can be beautiful, mediocre, or horrible, but none of these details deter me; I am interested in what motivates people to live outside of their comfort zones.
I know what it is like to live outside of my comfort zone; living in Indonesia in a rented house was definitely a challenge. I became accustomed to the extremely hot climate, mosquitoes, and battled food poisoning on and off for the first six months of my stay there. When I rented the house, I had to pay my rent for one year in advance, which was something I had never heard of before. I remembered this when I saw an episode of House Hunters International based in Indonesia, when a very uninformed expatriate grappled with the inevitability of paying all of her rent up front. Of course, the rent for one year tends to be much lower than in the United States; as an ESL teacher, I was given a housing allowance that equaled $10,000 US dollars, and paid $2,000 extra of my own money to rent the house I wanted that was walking distance from the school. The advantages and disadvantages of living in another country unlike my own made me more open-minded, even more so than I was before. House Hunters International reminds me of the education I received about these matters.
Of course, I will not be satisfied with “arm chair” escape only. These distractions sustain me while I get used to 2012 and make plans for it. I am definitely getting many ideas!
What are your favorite vicarious escapes from the daily grind?
When I look back on it, figuring out a resolution for 2011 was one of the easiest tasks I've been given. My life was a little all over the place and I had several short- and long-term goals in mind, but the one thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to jumpstart my love life and keep it up through the year.
Three-day holiday weekends don't quite take on the same significance when you work from home. When these Mondays roll around, it's really easy for me to forget things like the post office being closed, or that friends might be free to hang out. Last night, someone casually reminded me that most offices would be closed today, and I admit I felt a little ashamed that I'd forgotten it was already Dr. King day. That's one special Monday I do try to make note of every year.
To celebrate, I am going to post the link to my newly updated website, which went live at the beginning of the month, and show off my new book covers. Fire in the Streets, due out in August, is the companion to my first novel The Rock and the River. Set in 1968 Chicago, the books follow teenagers who participate in the civil rights movement there, and later contemplate joining the Black Panther Party.
In addition, I have another book coming out in May, a contemporary young adult novel about a girl dealing with difficult friendship and family circumstances. It's called 37 Things I Love.
In 2012, I'll begin research on a non-fiction book exploring the history and impact of the Black Panther Party, written for young readers. I'm particularly excited about this project, as an extension of my interest in studying the civil rights movement and the various dynamics of social change that went on during that time period. (Dr. King's time period, as it happens.)
It might seem that the proper thing to do on someone else's birthday (observed) is to talk about him, but I don't think Dr. King would mind me horning in on his limelight. After all, he lived his life the way he did largely so that people like me could have new opportunities. I'd like to think that, however small my contributions to the world might be, Dr. King would be proud of me for making them.
This weekend is a long one for some of us, thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In honor of the holiday, Monday is also a National Day or Service, giving us an opportunity to get out and volunteer and be active in our communities.
It's our first link love round-up of the new year, and it's a good one. We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we did.
I am currently fighting a cold, and during times like these I do not like myself very much. My nose is red, my energy is low, and I feel like I am moving in slow motion. As a child I recall enjoying being sick (or pretending to be so) because it meant being home from school and watching all of the television I wanted. Now I find it to be a great hindrance, because there is so much to do and when I am sick I cannot accomplish as much.
When I start to feel unwell, I usually unleash an assault on the infection consisting of medication, tea, and plenty of rest. This usually works, but sometimes the bug is too strong that I have to weather through it, while still attempting to shorten my illness. Even though I feel mostly useless during this time of recuperation, I keep myself occupied when I can focus on anything in particular, telling myself that I will get through the haze to become more productive again. Sometimes I feel like I will be sick with a cold or flu forever; then I kick myself for being so self-centered, when I know there are people who suffer from much worse ailments.
Being sick temporarily is perhaps my body’s way of telling my mind to rest and slow down, even when I really don’t want to. When it happens, I try to remember that and hope that I do what it takes to get better as soon as possible. I find that keeping a positive outlook also helps; when I can do that I find my sickness to be much shorter.
How do you handle colds, flus, and other temporary ailments?
It's now the start of my second week without a job, and it's been a bit strange so far. I've learned some things about myself, starting with the fact that I don't seem capable of sitting still for very long. I don't know if it's because I'm freaking out about not having a job or if I just don't know how to relax, but apart from a couple of days when I took one nap, I haven't given myself much down time.
I'm spending my days applying to jobs, interviewing, looking for side gigs, talking to recruiters, and staying active (and sane) with hot yoga and the gym. In the next couple of weeks, I'll also be working on an application for a grad program at the American University of Paris.
This is not at all the image my friends have of how I'm spending my time. When I talk about how tired or sore I feel, they look at me like I'm crazy and make comments about how easy it is to not have to work.
I don't know how much longer I can go without having a job and feeling like I actually have a purpose, but I'm hoping this doesn't have to last long enough to make a difference.
Have you ever had downtime from work (by choice or not) that kept you as busy as you were at work? Did you ever take a real break?
When I go home to the place I grew up, it's always nice to see familiar things. To eat in familiar restaurants, shop in stores that don't exist elsewhere, and generally re-experience the best sights, sounds and flavors of my childhood.
One of those flavors happens to be DeBrand Fine Chocolates, a small (you guessed it) chocolate maker based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Best. Chocolates. Ever. I say this as a person who isn't always a big chocolate fan. I always choose vanilla ice cream. When it comes to candy bars, I'm more likely to go for sweet and fruity Skittles rather than bitter dark chocolate. But I do love DeBrand. They make everything, from simple filled chocolates to elaborate mounded truffles and exotic designer chocolates. All tasty.
Despite appearances, I'm not trying to be an advertisement for DeBrand here. As a kid, I didn't even know DeBrand was a local company that people might not have heard of. I assumed they were everywhere. So when I grew up and learned that this special treat was Fort Wayne-specific, I was a little disappointed. They always seemed bigger than that to me.
I'm especially fond of DeBrand's new Faces of Diversity chocolates, which feature light to dark chocolates molded in the shape of faces. About a year ago, I saw these particular chocolates featured in O magazine in their "Look What We Found" feature, which shows off little novelty gifts and accessories.
I remember feeling so proud of seeing a Fort Wayne thing appear in a national magazine. Unaccountably proud. I remember thinking how neat it was that something from my hometown had come to the attention of someone as influential as Oprah. (Okay, that might be a stretch--it's doubtful that she takes note of every detail even in her own magazine.) But I was having a particularly rough day, as I recall, and it meant something to me, to see a little box of chocolates I knew well had made it to the big time. It sounds cheesy, maybe, but it gave me hope.
At home over the holidays, I received a Faces of Diversity box for Christmas. I'm still savoring them, bit by bit!
Is your New Year's resolution to write more? No? Well maybe it should.
As 2011 ceased to be and 2012 took its place, I felt a sense of optimism for the future. I think I was just glad the holidays are over, so I can get back to moving forward with my career and general life plans. I also lost two people during the course of the year, and these events continue to sadden me to this day. Perhaps it is getting away from 2011 that allowed a wave of positivity to wash over me as the clock struck midnight to begin the brand new year.
Then, in just a matter of days, I received two reports from my family that seemed to happen all at once. The worst of these is that some of my maternal relatives were involved in a serious accident due to a collision with a truck. Thankfully they survived the gruesome accident, but my uncle will need major surgery on his hip in a few days, which is something he dreads considerably because he dislikes hospitals. I was shocked to discover that the incident happened early on New Year’s Day, which made me a little superstitious at first.
Will this be a nail-biting year too? I really cannot answer that question, since I don’t possess a crystal ball or any other mechanisms that would allow me to see into the future.
All I know is that 2012 started with a bang, figuratively and literally speaking.
So while I don’t claim to be superstitious by nature, I could not help but wonder what this year will be like in general, especially after such a disruptive accident. Hopefully it will just get better as time goes on. I sincerely hope so!
Are you looking forward to the days, weeks, and months ahead?
The following was originally posted on October 4, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
Why do we stop ourselves from doing the things we love? I’ve been struggling lately (and by “lately,” I mean at least a year) with this question.
I have a friend who wants to be an actor and moved to New York partly to pursue that. When I ask him about it, he’s never much closer to taking his acting seriously than he was the time I asked before that. Another aspiring actor studied theatre in college and hasn’t gone on any auditions or even gotten headshots. I also have a friend who used to dance and was quite talented but had to stop years ago. Even though she now has some time and resources to start dancing again, it’s too emotional for her to even try.
All my life, I’ve loved to sing. When I stopped singing regularly with a chorus (or “for real,” as I like to call it), I lost confidence in my ability and eventually it became harder and harder to think about doing it again. Similarly, for the past few months, I’ve found it harder to sit down and write something substantial – one of the things I love doing most. I write here once a week, but it’s nothing like what I used to write when I used to write “for real.”
So I have to ask why it is that we stop ourselves from doing the things we love. I wonder if we don’t think we’re good enough, but it doesn’t seem that simple. I think maybe we don’t think we’re worthy of doing something we truly enjoy – something that has the potential to make us truly happy. Whatever it is, I’m trying to get us all out of our funk. However big or small our steps are, I’m hoping my friends and I can all get back on track… I imagine we’d all be at least a bit more fulfilled.
The following was originally posted on July 11, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
I spent several hours last weekend watching YouTube videos of black women dealing with natural hair. They offered style tutorials, product reviews, and general advice and support for one another other. I studied their advice closely because I've been wanting to try new things with my hair lately. I stumbled upon a New York Times article that sparked a renewed interest for me.
It was a relief to find these videos, because it demonstrated that I'm not alone in my various hair woes, wondering how to manage the texture, the volume, the unruliness of these locks, which I'm convinced could be quite pretty if I could just get a handle on things. It's been a lifelong struggle to get my hair to behave in the way I would like it to, and I haven't really figured it out yet.
Growing up, no one was able to give me adequate advice, because I was raised in a predominantly white community. I had access to a few African women, but it seemed they always wanted to slap in some braids, and while that was always nice and manageable, I wanted more variety. I dreamed of wearing my hair "down." (The caveat there being that my hair doesn't really stay "down.") I suppose the word I should have been looking toward back then was not "down," but "loose." I wanted to wear my hair loose. Which usually meant, no matter how ideal it looked in the ten minutes after my shower, it would swell as it dried into a virtual 'fro. Granted, some women are very comfortable wearing a cloud of hair bigger than their head. I'm not one of them. I vacillate between thinking it's a matter of comfort and a matter of preference. It bothers me to think I’m so uncomfortable with my hair in its natural state, but when I gear myself up to try it, I realize there are other factors, like not wanting to constantly be pushing it out of my face. So….what’s a girl to do?
Any natural hair ladies out there with brilliant solutions or even just suggestions?
|Join Our Mailing List|