black. mother. womanist. queer. writer. veg. lover

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Health in the Black Community

So, this is kinda a free write I’ve been thinking on and hopefully I could get some tumblr feedback to help me shape what I hope will be a longer piece on the food/nutrition crisis in Black America. *Hopping on to the pedestal for a moment* <clears throat>

It is quite clear there is a health epidemic going on in America. The epidemic has to do with food and nutrition, but some of the symptoms are obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. As a Black person I have more family members suffering from one or more of these symptoms than fingers to count on. I know this is true for many Black people and many Black families. Is it acceptable for us to let our family members suffer and be put on high regiments of medicine without addressing the root cause? Do we continue to let our cycle of poor nutrition impact our children?

Who am I to judge, but then again who am I not to? I was too aware of these illnesses that “ran in my family” and had at the age of 18 proclaimed proudly, “everyone else has diabetes I guess I probably will too.” I continued to devour foods with names I couldn’t pronounce, having no real consistency to what foods I chose and how I prepared my foods. To be honest if you asked anyone I went to school with a favorite food of mine most likely they’d name a candy. Of course I knew I wasn’t making healthy choices, but the true impact didn’t really hit me.

For most people, especially younger people, nutrition is typically paired with weight and physical appearance. If you look good on the outside and you are not viewed as overweight most people never question your dietary choices. How many times have you heard people snicker at overweight people at the McDonalds when a thin person at McDonalds is clearly making similar unwise nutritional decisions. This was true of me. I never really thought much about my own nutrition until I had my son and was having trouble getting rid of those post-baby lbs. My body was definitely not bouncing back like all the women that are plastered on magazine covers touting 40 lbs. of baby weight lost in 6 weeks (damn them and their personal trainers)! For me this signified a need for a dietary change and the more I did research and changed my diet the more I was able to see that I too was suffering from this nutritional epidemic that challenges the Black community.

To be fair, this is an American epidemic, but as a Black woman and mother I am most concerned about the impact on Black America. We have been behind the times in many lifestyle changes because of the desire not to be perceived as “uppity” or “acting white.” So be it. I’ll be the uppity Black woman living healthy and happy into old age. I can’t fully express my nutritional views in one post and I definitely won’t try to, but Black people, my people if we can take it one step at a time—give up processed foods. Yes, they are cheaper, but they are cheaper for a reason—-they are barely food. Good food costs more, yes, but it is worth it. I am not saying you need to break the bank and buy 100% organic everything, but look at what foods you buy and think about them critically.

We are one of the few races that regardless of class will drop $300  or more on a hairstyle. And please believe that Black women and men both will spend good money (even money they don’t have) to make sure they are wearing the newest Jordans, designer clothes, expensive acrylic nails, etc. If you can afford to maintain your outer appearance then you can afford to maintain you, your children and your family’s inner “appearance” because that is in fact what truly will make the difference.

*Whoo*

Rant on Womanhood & Motherhood

If one more person side-eyes me or makes a snarky remark about me being a “young mother” [read unmarried, young, uneducated Black woman] I will lose ittttttttt. YOU DON’T KNOW ME! Even in my teens when I was with my niece ppl would assume that at the age of 13 I had a 1 yr old & some old white lady even had the nerve to lecture me.

Please don’t jump to conclusions

1) I’m older than I look, but even if I was a teen mom it really isn’t your concern.

2) I have a baby AND a college degree, I just blew your mind with that one huh?

3) Yes, I am unmarried, but I’m pretty sure my marital status is none of your damn business.

4) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop assuming my child does not have a father. To assume that all Black children raised primarily by single mothers don’t have fathers is ignorant as hell.

5) By making these assumptions about me YOU are letting your ignorance show in these forms: racism, sexism and classism & YOUR assumptions say more about YOU than about me.

This isn’t just white people who jump to these conclusions, but men & women, old & young who look at a young Black woman with a baby and automatically decide they know her “story.” If you actually cared to know you’d ask and if you are a stranger then keep your judgments to yourself cuz WE don’t give a damn.

http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m239yb0b0s1qgwi7to1_400.gif

*Drops the mic*

Black Americans vs. Africans, Caribbeans & Afro-Latinos

So I saw a post (or two) yesterday about Black Americans having disparaging feelings towards their African diaspora brethren. Clearly this is nothing new to me nor to the Black community, however it has increasingly bothered me. I can’t speak from the point of view of African, Caribbean or Afro-Latino and the way some Black Americans have treated them is indefensible.

However, Black Americans have ALSO been on the receiving end of prejudice and cruelty from Black people who can trace their roots outside of America. While I was in school I was one of the few “plain ole Black” people and was subject to Ghanaians telling me, “My mother would rather I date a white man than a Black American” as they espoused the same views of Black American men that white people have been throwing at us for centuries.

I have heard from Jamaicans, who had never stepped foot in Jamaica and for the most part are culturally American that they rep their flag and claim their Jamaicaness because they “don’t want to be seen as Black Americans.” I have heard claims from Haitians darker than anyone in my family that they “don’t see themselves as Black, but as Haitian.” These denials and conscious separating speaks more about these individuals’ personal issues than anything else, but it is hurtful to many Black Americans who already have a complicated view of themselves.

While Black Americans have a rich and beautiful culture paired with a turbulent history in America we have been degraded by people who upon first glance are perhaps identified as us. Our work ethic has been questioned, our culture (or lack thereof) has been questioned and we have been positioned as not only the lowest on the rung of American races, but the lowest rung within the African diaspora as well. Clearly culture separates us, but at the end of the day we face many of the same obstacles. When you are racially profiled or subject to racial epithets we face the same discrimination and opposition from white people.

Would it be too much to celebrate our differences and learn from each other, while recognizing that in the American eye we are the same and it benefits us all to join together rather than tear each other apart?

Happy Mother’s Day

There are many things you are mentally prepared for when you have a baby:

  • Sleepless nights
  • Shifting priorities
  • Body changes
  • Hormonal changes

Etc, etc. But one thing I was NOT prepared for was the heartache of not being able to protect your child from these racist, ignorant assholes. As my second mother’s day approaches & people keep asking me if I’ve received _______ (stereotypical mother’s day gift: flowers, candy, breakfast in bed, etc.) what I really want to answer is that there is nothing I can be given for mother’s day to lessen the ache I have for my son knowing that I soon am going to have to give him to the world and send him to daycare.

I have been more than lucky. I have been blessed & given the privilege many women don’t have (esp. women of color) to stay home with my son for the first year of his life. This was crucial for us. My son has changed my life and I honestly think he has given my life a new direction and inspired me to be the best me and the best mom (similar but not the same thing). How can I knowingly send him to daycare while acknowledging that due to my lack of wealth he will not be given the best and I will have to fight for him  to make sure that they give him what he needs. I will have to fight to ensure that he is challenged, but loved, given room to grow, but within a safe space, be allowed to be himself, but appropriately guided.

It might seem like I’m asking for a lot out of a daycare, but aren’t these the same that the people who live in Georgetown or Bethesda or other affluent communities ask for their children? Why do I have to worry that when I go to work or school that my son isn’t receiving the best because my pockets aren’t deep enough. I looked into some of these daycares in Georgetown & the like to see if perhaps I could stretch my budget….but most were around the $15-$20,000 range.

$20,000 for daycare.

You gotta be shittin me. This is that shit I wasn’t prepared for. To know that no matter how many hours I clock or how many degrees I get I just won’t be able to give my son the best. And like every parent I know that my son deserves the best. I will have to continue to fight for his education and his safety as he becomes a Black man, which was something I was prepared for, but I didn’t know that it would be this soon.

And for the first time as my second mother’s day approaches I know what it means to be strong and to internalize the pain of not being able to give as much as you can to the person you love the most. And I reflect on my mother and what she was and wasn’t able to do. WoC are effin magicians and I hope to be able to make my son as happy and healthy with the little I have to give him.

love, Love, LOVE

I am trying to live my life in a more loving way. I am trying to hold things in less. I hypothesize that if I love myself, my life, my friends and family more—then there is only so much hate that can affect me. No longer can allow negativity into my life—whether you are family, friend or foe I can’t accept anything that takes me out of a loving state of mind. I deserve better. I want to be able to positively engage in discussions without fuming for days about the ignorance, the racism, classism etc. I can fight the war without letting my body & soul be at war. I am at peace & all I want to do is love. Love will help me to win the war for people who look like me, think like me and value what I value. If I show my son the value of living life with love at the root of all he does then maybe he will be a better person than me.

7 Tips for Shopping on a Budget

I have had a couple people ask me and seen a few discussions talking about eating healthy on a budget. This is something I do every week, I am a vegan, my son is a vegan and his father is a flexitarian. We try to eat with our nutrition in mind and stay away from processed foods. We also are pretty broke & have a limited monthly food budget.

I plan to do more in-depth posts on specific shopping trips & how I twerk my money to get the most & best out of it. Anyway, here is a post I did on my blog about some tips I have found useful for shopping on a budget & eating well.

http://feedingtheprince.blogspot.com/2012/05/7-tips-for-shopping-on-budget.html

Black Americans Culturally Appropriating African Cultures

So, I have seen these arguments going around tumblr and haven’t engaged really because I was off and on my phone all day. I don’t necessarily agree 100% although I would say that Black Americans with the face paint and what-not need to go head and stop it.

The question I have is what do Africans or Caribbeans (or really anybody from the African diaspora aside from Black Americans & Black Europeans) feel about 2nd, 3rd generation children whose parents/grandparents have immigrated repping their homelands, yet never having lived there.

It seems that there really has been no outcry of Africans or Caribbeans on the many people who are really more culturally similar to Black Americans than the people where their roots come from. HOWEVER, this does not take away their right to celebrate their heritage and culture.

While pretty much no Black person can lay a claim to a specific country I see ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Black Americans who want to explore West Africa (or really any part of Africa) searching for some perceived connection. Most will probably find nothing more than symbolism, but as people sold off & forcibly removed (oftentimes by other tribes or fellow Africans) I think we have a right to explore what came before the shackles. While Black Americans have a history of struggle and oppression in America (and Europe) many Black Americans wish to see themselves in their history as flourishing and empowered. Our history in America is marked by our creativity, hard work, strength, ingenuity and ability to overcome, but it is problematic to think that our history has largely been erased before the Atlantic slave trade. 

I think that it is problematic to try to embody a specific culture that is not your own, but for reasons of power and lack thereof I would not call it cultural appropriation. There are certainly some issues to be tackled, but I think that this whole divisive attack I see on Black Americans is unwarranted and unnecessary.

College Students

Friends/Followers/Etc. I laugh at your college posts. Not because I know so much more, but because I thought that way once too. College is….an experience. But in my personal experience (as well as many people of color I know) it isn’t the end all be all that it is painted as. Go to college, get your degree (if you want!), but know that there is a much larger world of issues and problems that will [possibly] be dumped on you like cold water when you graduate.

You may get a great job straight out of college, but more likely than not….you won’t. You might find yourself 100% ready to maneuver through society….or you may not. You might find yourself in competition both with High School graduates (who have more full time work experience) and people with graduate degrees (who have more school & life experience). Your financial situation might be worse than when you are in college even though you are getting paid substantially more.

I wish someone had told me these things before I buried myself in debt to go to a “top tier school” and when I graduate the economy is in the toilet and everyone is saying, ‘you can’t get anywhere with just a BA.’ Wha……? Anyway-not trying to be Debbie Downer, but I wish someone had come at me in a realistic way and let me know that college doesn’t guarantee anything, except debt (unless you were smart enough to twerk the system or your family is rich enough for it not to matter).

A Perspective on Veganism/Vegetarianism in the Black Community

Today, as I sat with my sun at the Children’s Hospital I couldn’t help but become increasingly frustrated with this white man doctor. I came for a specific reason, but the doctor chose instead to take a tangent off the note in my sun’s file that said he was being raised vegetarian.

Looking at me and raising his eyebrows he said. “What country are you from? Is this something your people practice? I know there are areas in India and China where vegetarianism is part of their cultural beliefs.” Clearly so eager to flaunt his ignorance.

"I’m from here." I responded, not caring to elaborate or enter a discussion on my choice of lifestyle with him.

"That’s….so strange. You don’t see too much of that in….Hmm. Well it’s funny your son’s B12 and Iron levels are right on target, I wouldn’t have expected that," he said looking down at his chart.

I sighed, “Yes, I am very careful about his diet and try to ensure that he gets a good amount of green vegetables for iron as well as drinking enriched [rice] milk and taking vitamin supplements.” No need to further disclose that I in fact feed my son a vegan diet.

This has increasingly become a topic of fascination for people that I’ve never seen before as a reaction to white vegetarians or vegans (parents or not). While for the most part their values and beliefs are not questioned in their decision making process mine constantly are. Have I made an informed decision? Am I ruining my sun’s life? In white vegan/vegetarian circles I am lauded for “being brave,” or “breaking the cycle.” However, as bad as the “uniqueness” or “oddness” that I feel both within white circles and even mainstream vegetarian/vegan circles, the exclusion I feel from my brethren is far more hurtful.

I knew becoming vegan & vegan parenting would be a difficult transition socially, but I didn’t realize how disrespectful & unwilling to accept my decision (as if I need their acceptance) people would be. My sun’s adult cousin thought it would be funny to feed him some ribs (although I’ve never even had pig in my life). I’ve gotten “lectures” from older Black people with high blood pressure and adult onset diabetes about my “dangerous” nutrition choices. Family members have told me that it isn’t right for me to make choices like this for my child (I guess their choices of feeding their children a “standard American diet” or feeding them religion are better).

It has been very trying to have to constantly have people act like “I don’t eat anything,” or am too boughie to eat some chicken [read: not culturally Black anymore]. I am often treated as if I don’t exist or am an impersonator of a “white thing.” I don’t expect anyone to go out of their way to make me something different (I always bring my own food anyway) or to even subscribe to my same beliefs. Honestly, I don’t care—but if you want to eat a cheeseburger in my face, please don’t try to give me a bite and PLEASE don’t tell me that my food would probably taste good if it had some meat in it.

Don’t get me wrong there DEFINITELY have been positives. Other family members have shown a lot of interest and willingness to try foods and constantly ask me for health/nutrition advice. I’m not trying to convert any of them and I doubt any of them would really commit, but I love being able to cook for them and have them completely fall in love with a healthy plant-based meal. I made my sun’s grandma & great-aunt dinner the other week and they tore it up :)

Black vegetarians/vegans have their own unique set of issues that differentiate them from “mainstream” vegetarians/vegans (as PoC do within any group). I do not have the resources to buy many items aimed at the vegan community, but I want better for myself & my sun than what is typically targeted at poor Black families. I straddle a difficult line which I am not fully embraced by either community and often either mocked or forgotten.

There is an ever growing Black vegan/vegetarian community & support system, but I think more important than that is for Black omnivores to stop forcing the false connection between Black [American] culture & fatty foods. Our culture is what we make of it—if “soul food” was cultivated in the 1960s as a tool for Black unity then why can’t our children’s soul food be fresh fruits & vegetables? To paraphrase Bryant Terry, ‘the original soul food was fresh fruits and vegetables cultivated in the gardens of sharecroppers.’ I think what Black vegans/vegetarians represent is a revolutionary shift from the notion of “taking the worst part of the pig and making it a delicacy.” Why do people feel that our Blackness is tied to foods that were (fairly recently) decided to be Black? Let’s have a conversation about food and be honest about it.

Aghh [I need to edit this for my other blog, but this was just kinda an off the dome free write.]

Happy Father’s Day Black Fathers

…who are so often ignored. To the Black fathers who dodge the barbs of both women and men, Black and white for the sins of others—happy father’s day. To all the men who I see taking their children to school who are asked, ‘are you so-and-so’s Uncle?’ To all the men who raise children that are not biologically theirs. To all the men who are doing it by themselves, but get zero credit because they are thought of as anomalies. To the men who haven’t ever had an example of what a father is but is doing the best job they know how. To the men who are out there working 2-3 minimum wage jobs & trying to keep food in their child’s mouth & the lights on. To the men who put up with your child’s unfit mother but do the best to maintain a positive relationship for your child. To the men who go out into the world to be dehumanized everyday, but still come home & don’t bring the hatred from the world to their children. To the men who hear people telling their child’s mother “happy father’s day” because people assume that you aren’t present in your child’s life.

Happy Father’s Day.

Class Struggles on tumblr

One of the things I have noticed most about tumblr is that people rightfully shun others for speaking for groups they are not a part of (trans*, queer, Black, Latino, WoC, etc.) I agree that people can be allies, but they have no right to speak on behalf of a group they don’t identify with.

However, most likely due to the lack of representation of low-income individuals on tumblr, people feel that they can take up the cause for the poor. It is okay to want to be an ally (especially if you grew up poor or are some paychecks away from being poor), but please don’t try to speak on behalf of those of us who live and struggle daily with poverty. Like any group of people we are also not homogeneous; there are things that affect different people based on geography, race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. When you make wide claims that things are impossible (like getting a good education, eating healthy foods, raising a family, etc.) based on someone’s class it is degrading. Both sides of the spectrum from the very conservative who decry the “government handouts” to the very liberal who infantilize the poor are harmful. It is insulting and most often you are incorrect in the assumptions you make.

The further removed you are from poverty the less valid your opinion is regardless of if you once were poor or have poor family members. Low-income families are judged every time our children wear something that is considered nice, when we buy food with our WIC checks, when we apply for SNAP (food stamp), Medicaid or childcare vouchers, when we dare to treat ourselves to anything and when we tell people where we live. So stop talking & start listening because we’ve been judged enough and by speaking on behalf of someone else’s struggle you are showing your privilege.