Kanye said slavery “was a choice.”
The only real choice here is to disempower Kanye
Before he successfully re-delivers us into the hands of the current-day would-be Massa.
Kanye said slavery “was a choice.”
The only real choice here is to disempower Kanye
Before he successfully re-delivers us into the hands of the current-day would-be Massa.
So, I am finding myself smack dab in a conversation that centers around baby names. It is an exciting conversation; but also an intensely provocative one. “Provocative” because without one doubt, the naming of a baby is fraught with just toooooooooooooooo much emotion and imposed obligation. There is the desire to stroke the father’s ego by making him a ‘JR’ (as if he hasn’t already been “stroked” enough. That IS how we have all gotten to this point, isn’t it?!). Then, there are those who feel names should carry some fascinating or deep-seated meaning, in the hope the baby lives up to same. There’s the desire to be original; evidenced by the Blue, Sir, Chicago, True and Stormi of late. And then, there is the insistence that one’s heritage must shine bright and scream loud in that name; this is where I get good and scared. My fine folk at times hail their blackness by combining first three letters of mother’s name with last three of baby-daddy’s name and saddle the poor child with a name no one can pronounce (not even the damn child!). Or, we get real creative and decide to announce to the world just-what-we-were-doing-when-we-oops’d and Voila! Here come Hennessy, Alize and Chardonnay. When we get dreamy and dare to “speak it into existence” we give birth to, Diamond, Sparkle, Sapphire, Garnet and Barack. And in all of this potential wreckage, we forget two very important things: (1) the reality of the world we live in and (2) you are choosing names that are exclusionary, not inclusionary.
Now, before you “I am black and proud!” folks try to rise up, remain seated, massage your bellies and give me a minute. Truly. Chill. And, let’s address this…
This is not a knock against black pride; I too am quite black and very proud. What this is is a conversation that will hopefully bring awareness to those of us currently expecting and those planning to be so in the future. The awareness that pride and wisdom do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is absofuckinglutely possible for them to play very well together. One can (and should) be quite proud of one’s heritage (regardless of that heritage) while also being fully cognizant that it is not [always] necessary to place those jarring markers along the way. I know some of you may object to that statement; let me be clear.
I am black. All day. Every day. And sometimes I have found, twice on Sundays (I go to a black church… they get the ‘good’ black me and at times it is necessary to introduce them to the ‘badass’ black me!). No matter where I go, city, state or country, this fact will never change. In fact, it is so much a part of me, so ingrained in me, so intrinsically me, so much the best and most effortless accessory I carry, that I am often surprised when someone points it out. Truly. Because you see, it is not something I don for effect, or because it is trending, I cannot take it off or put it on at will, it stays with me. My blackness shows up long I do and it announces my heritage, my legacies, my strength, my purpose, my will and my scars. Long before I open my mouth to introduce myself, the beauty of my color has heralded my existence.
And then I say my name. My given name is Diane. Yes, some may find it nondescript; I do too at times. But, I answer to it proudly to my family as it too is part of my heritage. However, you all know I was given the moniker, Fury and at this stage in my life, it is the name that embodies more of whom I have become and it demonstrates, well… Let’s go back to Diane. Could my name have been something more ‘black’? Yes. It many ways is it quite bland and easily straddling of the black or white fence? Yes. Could my parents have incorporated one of the notable options in the opening paragraph and come up with something that denoted their pride in their reality or their Africanness? Yes. I, ladies and gentlemen, could have been named Carib, after the most popular Trinidad beer; that would have shown the world!
But show what? Name aside, I am still black. But the difference between Diane and Carib is profound. Diane gets all doors open to her. Carib, well… I am able, because of parents that understood that first we had to be included before we could be instrumental. Understood that if our desire was to dance, we would have to be invited to the party. Parents who recognized that there was not one damned thing we could do about the color of our skins and that despite the reality of the world, every morning we wake up, get up, go out, show up and show out, we do it black. But we do it from the inside… of boardrooms, classrooms and hospitals. Neither our blackness nor our names got in the way of our goals.
Listen, I am not saying that meaning and significance matter not. Not at all. I am saying, be wise. I am saying that as a black woman in the position of authority to interview and hire, names matter. Every once in a while I drink Chardonnay; at no time do I want to work with one. I just feel that in naming a baby, as in all things, we should do so responsibly. And that means remembering that at one point, that baby will grow up and step outside of your home and run smack dab into this great big world that is still being run by those determined to stifle as much of our voices as they possibly can and leave us outside standing on the doorstep begging to come in. Do not help them.
Understand that the choices we make can silence the voices of those we love long before those who hate us do.
A friend whom I trust explicitly, in lesser part because she is a psychologist, professor and assistant dean and more because she never wastes time on bullshit and weakness, who felt the dean at my college missed an opportunity to assist me in symbolically honoring my friend Gloria (who passed away last year and was also a student at Hunter College) by allowing my request to choose as my remaining electives those classes Gloria needed to take to satisfy her requirements for graduation (we had already hatched our plans for grad day and they included the purchase on my very first red-bottoms), encouraged me toward Plan B. “Plan B” was to involve my becoming Valedictorian and, at that podium on that day, repeat my dear friend’s name as often and as eloquently as I chose. What she reminded me was, as the West Indians say, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”
Amazingly, subconsciously and thankfully our minds and hearts receive messages continuously and hold on to those that matter (and yes, even the troubling ones that matter as well). Thankfully, this reminder from my friend resonated, sprouted and determined to show its ass… even while handing me my ass! School is tough; but more than ever, I am determined to show it I am tougher.
I do not yet know whether I will be standing behind a mic in front of fellow students on graduation day as Valedictorian, or whether, knowing how absolutely gangsta my God is, I would be up there for any other reason. But this I do know, I will finish. And, I will finish very well. I will continue to mind my business, show up for class and do my thing. I will learn, write, cry and pray. I will graciously accept all accolades they realize I qualify for (Phi Theta Kappa, Graduation with Honors, Dean’s List, thus far)… while I mind my business. And “my business” now on this academic journey is Gloria Foster.
Continue to rest in peace my friend. I got you.
“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living…” Cicero.
You already know that sadly I too can lend a survivor’s (thankfully) voice to the #metoo and #timesup movements. Movements where it seems we can tell each other’s story through our own… because only the names change. The emotions – anger, fear, distress, resolve – mirror in each recounting, evidencing a global epidemic. Finally however, we can add ‘vindication’ to that list of what we experience as victims. And, as survivors. Finally we are able to step way past the confines of shadows – even the self-imposed ones – open our hearts and mouths and place the blame and the shame where they belong. Where they have always belonged.
Recently however, I found out that even as we are able to use the words ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ interchangeably, we still inhabit a world where that one, ‘victim’ will always remain dominant.
Let’s address this…
Yesterday as I waited for the train to head to school, on a rush-hour crowded platform a man approached me. He complimented my shoes (they WERE fly!), incorporated an overall compliment of my ensemble and told me I was beautiful. I said, “thank you”. Then, he handed me a piece of paper and told me it was for me. Now here is where and why I started this conversation with those worthy movements. In the moment he extended his hand to give me the slip of paper, quite a few things flashed through my mind in rapid succession: (1) I did not want whatever it was (2) it probably was his number and again, I did not want it (3) if I were to refuse it, how would he react? I took it. I took it because that last thought more than any other was the deciding factor for me. I relinquished my right to my rights, erring as far as I was concerned, on the side of caution. I saw myself as I was standing close-ish to the edge of the platform, and envisioned a response that included my being shoved. I saw myself as I was amongst other people looking on at this interaction, hence being privy to a public rejection of a big black man, and envisioned a response that included my being pushed. So I took the slip of paper. The young lady standing next to me, seeing my distress, kept an eye on the man as he walked away and informed me when it was safe to discard the slip. I did. My train came, I went to school.
From that moment of approach till now, I cannot shake the feelings of fear… and anger. Fear, because of all those scenarios I envisioned if I had indulged my authority and autonomy to reject anything other than his compliments and anger because we live in a world/time where my thinking about my response is both valid and prudent!
You know what? One of the sickening fascinations with the #metoo movement is its staggering numbers. Daily, we are being introduced (or is it, re-introduced) to women and men we thought we knew. Women and men with debilitating secrets they have been carrying around in solitude for fear of reprisals – whether emotional, physical or economical. Victims and survivors forced to make choices based on the arrogance and authority of others. Based on the careful perusal of possible options and finding themselves vulnerable. Victims and survivors forced to take the unwanted slip of paper…
There are those, I know, who would scoff at my reaction of yesterday, even going so far to consider my reaction (inclusive of writing about it), an overreaction. People who, unless something happens to them or those they care about, lack empathy and understanding. To you I say, “I thank God you were never victimized!” Yes, the gentleman yesterday could be a perfectly lovely man who, if I had politely refused to accept his offering could have simply wished me a great evening and gone on his way, respectfully. Absolutely plausible. But, I have also encountered those others for whom a rejection of either their subtle or overt advances resulted in my being called a host of derogatory, degrading and at times, debilitating names. And, I have read of those encounters where some have even escalated past the name-calling. So, I took the slip of paper.
I am grateful that in my (and my daughter’s lifetime) there are conversations that are exposing the rampant nature of all types of abuse. I am grateful that victims have been given back their voices… and are using it. As a victim and a survivor I feel empowered and am finding strength in the very sad reality of the growing numbers. It is time. It has been time. And finally, thankfully, gratefully, miraculously, joyously… #timesup. A man slipped me a piece of paper and it sparked this post. His gesture may have been well-intentioned. My reaction to it lets me know that still living in me somewhere is a legacy of victimization. I used to think that it was only loud noises, raised voices and slamming doors that triggered remembered trauma; now I know that I am positively, completely and unquestionably traumatized by the notion of my right to exercise my will being usurped or eradicated.
A man slipped me a piece of paper and it slipped me right back to that time… #metoo
I was asked yesterday why I had not yet written about that “shithole” Trump and his latest foolishness and my response was this: “What is there left to say that hasn’t been said or isn’t being felt?” Truly. I feel that throwing my two-cents into the ring and vomiting all that I feel with regard to that vile excuse for a man will be redundant, as I KNOW it mirrors your emotions. So, I choose to keep a watchful and disgusted eye on him, keep on writing to our President Obama, begging him to come back or send his wife to save us all, pray to God to protect us from his (Trump’s) ignorance, racism, narcissism and dangerous rhetoric and move on.
I am in Trinidad. I am in the country of my birth and where my heartbeat, my daughter, lives. It is incredibly hot here (WhooHoo!) and thus, I am wearing little pieces of things (solely in deference to the weather 😉). But listen, this post is not about the shithole and it is not about my daughter – one I hate and refuse to waste either of our time on and the other I adore so much that I tend to protect her privacy fiercely. This post is about those “little pieces of things” I wear. This post is about fashion yall (yes; I know).
Since starting this blog, I have been periodically but consistently asked why I do not write about fashion. Why, given my past career and my obvious delight in getting dressed (up), I seem to steadfastly steer away from addressing this conversation. In fact, in the years I have been addressing those topics I hope you have been interested in, I have written about fashion once; and that was under duress. Ha-ha. I have steered away from fashion predominantly because I found the topic, addressed by me, would be just too obvious and perhaps, even clichéd. I never would want anything I offered you to have the, well, “du’uh” reaction. But lately I have been thinking that my steadfast avoidance of this conversation is just fattening up the elephant in the room. So, let’s address this…
Lesson number one: there is a difference between fashion and style. (I kinda feel as if that is all I should have to say; but alas…). I believe the first mistake we make is confusing the two. A very simple explanation in differentiating between the two has already been given: “Fashion is what you buy. Style is what you do with it…” Simple. True. Gospel. Oftentimes, some amongst us believe that their ability to recognize and afford the latest trend to hit the catwalk will instantly transport them into the realm of stylishness. This is as untrue as your sitting in a garage making you a car. People, one is materialistic; the other organic. We must become very comfortable and honest with who we are. We will need to discern whether our sense of fashion and our sense of style have been introduced to each other or whether they continue to be estranged.
Lesson number two: just because it can be reproduced in your size, should it be. Simply put: not everything is for everyone! And I am speaking to both my fuller readers and us skinny-ass ones. Knowing and more importantly getting comfortable and accepting what you look like figure-wise is fundamental. Rejecting a celebration of the “one size fits all” reality will get you far in your quest to be considered a ‘stylista’. Too often there are some of us who seem to have, if not a distorted image of self, certainly a distorted mirror and who seem to see ourselves as the person we wish to be/become and not the person we really are; and then, we dress that future self… now. Stop. There are very flattering styles for both us fuller people and us skinnier ones. Embrace your truth and rock the style to suit!
Lesson number three: what you wear must be intimately tied to what you are wearing it for. In other words, the occasion must affect your fashion more than it does your style. In this instance, what you pick becomes a tad more important than what you then do with that choice. Respecting the dictates of: black tie, formal, semi-formal, informal/casual, garden, professional, church-wear, “meet-the-parents” wear, funeral, beach, lounge, honeymoon-night and for those of us it affects, season-appropriate for all those afore-mentioned, is absofuckinglutely essential! Showing up to a wedding – even a garden wedding – in jeans is inappropriate. Meeting the parents in your shortest club gear is guaranteed to make the father a fan and the mother not (and make no mistake, mom’s is the only opinion that matters!). So, determining the occasion and knowing your audience is essential. Trust me, no one will be appreciative of your supposed-style-sense by flaunting your knowledge of the latest fashion trend or your ability to afford same if you are dressed in fuchsia at the funeral!
Lesson number four: trust me when I tell you that you can get away with most anything if you wear a fantastic pair of shoes with it! Trust me! Now, I am not saying to ignore any of my above directives and go all size or occasion inappropriate and then wear fantastic heels. Nope. What I am saying is, for the most part, you can shop at thrift or vintage stores, your favorite boutique, Macy’s, shit, even Target (yep; have done that!) and top (or is it bottom?) off that outfit with excellent quality, well-made shoes and kick some style ass! I have worn a fifteen-dollar dress from Target with a six-hundred-and-fifty-dollar pair of heels and everyone complimented my dress! Yes. Those heels had everyone asking: “whose dress is that?” in that very obnoxious brand-whorish sort of way. Hahahaha. I delighted in telling them “Target!” So, ladies and gentlemen, skimp on the cost of the clothing if you like, but when it comes to shoes, put your money where your toes are!
There are more lessons, but this is all for today (must save some for subsequent posts) and a very good start. Trust me or try me. Truly. Let me know how you do. Listen, I do not know all things. I at times do not even know many things. But people, I do know style 😊
Who does it better?
Happy New Year.
Like you, I have been reflective for the past few days, contemplating, assessing and making plans for the year ahead. But unlike some of you, I believe I am being realistic in determining just what I would like to do and marrying that with just what I am capable of doing… not based on ability, but based on availability.
One of the major and most common of mistakes we make at this the start of a brand spanking new year is setting these unrealistic goals for ourselves. The reason they are branded as “unrealistic” is because we seem to set them based on a life and a lifestyle that is the antithesis of our own. We vow to work out five days a week when we know (1) we cannot afford a gym membership because we only work three days a week (part-time) at best (2) we have never worked out one day of our lives thus far, so five? (3) not only do we have a full-time job, but it is sooooooooo full-time that we start at 6:45am and finish at 10:00pm (on a good day), that finding time for the gym is damned near impossible when most times we cannot even find the time to eat (4) it is frigid out; who the fuck are you kidding?! But, we make them and our good yet highly delusional intentions last until mid-February when we say to ourselves that we survived last year as is, so “if it ain’t broke…”
But the truth is, the passing of each year into the dawn of another is supposed to manifest growth. We are, if we are committed to doing this life correctly, to set the groundwork that allows for the potential for the successful manifestation of yet another rung of achievement. Each new year should bring us closer to the actualization of the fulfillment of those dreams and goals we have planned for ourselves. And, as each year passes our list should never get shorter; on the contrary, it should always maintain either the same number of aspirations (not to be confused with the same aspirations) or more. You see, as we cross one achievement off, another should replace it. We should never stop dreaming, planning, pushing, growing or striving.
My name is Fury.
Twenty-plus odd years ago my modeling agency sought to immediately address the “elephant in the room” that was my bald head and provocative/challenging personality. Instead of pretending I didn’t exist as is, they sought to celebrate it. We came up with the name together as I felt it was truly the personification of all I am – the bold, simmering, provocative, in-your-face, transparent, fiery, sensual, unfailingly honest, challenging, fiercely loyal, dedicated, creative young woman I was that also housed this woman I have become.
2017 was a wonderful year for me. Not always easy, at times heart-breaking, exhausting, but wonderful. It was the year I laid more crumbs down that now point me in the direction of the next chapter. 2018 will see the manifestation of the grueling work I have invested and the tears I have shed. It will unfurl even more transparency in my unwavering quest to leave this world just a bit better than I met it. I will meet you and it with the strength of a survivor’s spirit and the heart of any warrior you have ever known. I will be accountable to you, in my speech, my words and my actions. And, I will continue to fight, through my words, speech and actions for those who are unable to fight for themselves.
It’s a new year. It’s the same new me (no, not a typo; think about it). I have made new plans, set new goals, dreamt new dreams. But, I am still and forever, your Fury. People, it’s 2018… let’s address this.