Black Women’s Expo (Chicago) Recap

This past weekend, I was grateful to briefly check out the annual Black Women’s Expo in Chicago. Events like this always inspire me to work harder at my goals and to dream bigger. I love to see beautiful black women in a positive environment, celebrating their culture, and serious about their various hustles. There were all types of wares to purchase that were produced by ebony hands–T-shirts, stationery, natural hair products, lotions and other potions, new inventions, earrings (my favorite), and too many other items to name. Although I wasn’t able to partake in any of the workshops or performances, I had a good time and was encouraged nonetheless. I just want to share some of the treasures I came home with.

1. More earrings

My new "kinky hair don't care" earrings

My new “kinky hair don’t care” earrings

As you may have guessed by now from the earrings I showed you all in my last post, I’m not a “regular” type of earring chick. For the most part, I’m not really into hoops and sparkly earrings unless it’s a special occasion. I like my earrings quirky (like me) or different. I love that handmade, one-of-a-kind look. I didn’t plan to buy much of anything at the Expo, but I did find some earrings that I had to snatch up. I’ve been wanting some afro/natural hair pride earrings for awhile and I finally got me some from the MBellished Accessories & Gifts booth at the Expo. After looking around on their website, I see some even cuter earrings that I wish were on display when I purchased mine!

2. Things I’d like to check out/purchase

Out of all of the various T-shirt vendors that were at the Expo, there were only a few that caught my eye and would have got some money from me if I’d had it to spare. One of those vendors was Pretty Girls for Christ. We all know how Christian T-shirts can be kinda cheesy, but these were actually CUTE. They have cute graphics and a little humor sprinkled in there. One day I hope to purchase one. If you have a moment, check out their website.

Gotta check this out!

Gotta check this out!

While talking to a different T-shirt vendor, Asadah, I learned about a book that she wrote called Beating Black Kids. In her book, she discusses the negative effects of beating black children as a form of discipline. When I asked her what her alternative to spanking is, she said, “To use your mind.” This book is on my radar now a.k.a. on one of my Pinterest boards so I’ll let you all know my thoughts once I’ve read it.

Spanking is a hot and divisive topic, but it needs to be discussed. Although we are a spanking household at the moment, I’ve always had plenty of doubts about the practice. A part of me does think it’s lazy parenting because it is a hellava lot easier to spank than come up with other forms of discipline. A part of me also associates spanking with our ancestors being horribly beaten in slavery as one of the many forms of abuse used to control them. My struggle is finding an effective alternative. Some people that oppose Asadah’s beliefs may argue that the lack of spanking or discipline in general is the reason why the younger generations of kids are out of control now. I’ll just have to grab Asadah’s book and see if she sheds any new light on the issue.

3. I bought a new book for Little L!

While speaking to Asadah, she told me about her 11-year-old daughter, Patience, who has been writing books and engaging in photography since she was 9 years old! I was reading copious amounts of books at 9, but definitely wasn’t writing and publishing them! I told Asadah that I have to get a copy of the book for Little L and fortunately she had a few copies with her.

Can't wait to read the other books in this series!

Can’t wait to read the other books in this series!

I’m always happy to see young girls utilizing their gifts and empowering others by sharing those gifts with the rest of us. Patience not only wrote Urban Girls: Adventures of Little Ladies in the City, which chronicles her travels to school and other parts of New York City via different forms of transportation, but she also shot all of the photos for it except for the ones featuring her. Asadah and Patience have inspired me to not only expose Little L to new skills and experiences from an early age, but to always keep learning and growing myself. Something about those New Yorkers! I love their hustle! It’s both contagious and convicting at the same time!

Any thoughts to share? As always, let me know in the comments or on Facebook. Keep it poppin’ folks 😉

I Hate Change. Oh, and a 101 in 1001 Update!

Change. I don’t like it. I can talk all day about how I want certain things in my life to be different, but the reality is that growth requires change. And I don’t like change. Yes, I have my spontaneous moments when I’m around friends that bring out my whimsical side, but for the most part I love routines and predictability. But the thing about routines is that they have to start somewhere. Before my toddler started associating milk and storytime with sleep, I had to teach her that. It’s no different with me. New routines can be unsettling, but once I get used to them, they just become the norm.

This yearning for growth, but fear of the change that must take place for me to grow, makes me grateful for stumbling on the 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge back in January. Although most of the items on my list may seem minor or even trivial, they represent stepping stones of change for me.

A couple of the items on the list are in the works, but I do have a little update to share! I’ve completed two more. As you may remember:

36. Dye my hair and/or get a hair cut
100. Buy a needed item from an African American-owned business

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Yours truly next to the River Thames in London shortly after my last Big Chop in 2009 #TeamNatural

Soooo…I DYED my hair y’all! While this may seem minor to some, I have been deathly afraid of putting any chemicals in my hair since doing my last Big Chop in the summer of 2009. (Before that, I had honey blonde highlights on my relaxed hair in high school.) I remember the day like it was yesterday, I was on summer break from college and about to study abroad in London, England for 6 weeks. I knew it was the perfect time to cut the last of my relaxer off. I made a natural hair salon appointment and never looked back. Since going natural, I used henna several times. I noticed a slight reddish tint which some of my coworkers seemed to notice, but it wasn’t bold enough for me to get too excited about it.
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All that to say…on March 13, 2015, I dyed a front portion of my hair with Clairol Textures & Tones in Cherrywood. It took me so long to decide on a color, that I just picked one and hurried to the check-out line in the store before I changed my mind and put it back. My heart was beating fast on the day when I decided to apply the color. Would I look a hot mess if I don’t dye all of it? Would I look a hot mess if I DO dye all of it? I don’t want to have to tint my eyebrows. Will folks look at me crazy? Lord, how is this color going to look on my head because I look nothing like the lady on the box?! I decided to just jump in and embrace the change with the thought that if it turned out to be a disaster, I could always get a cute hair cut and just be free. Aren’t we just either sick and tired of our hair or either overprotective of it depending on our mood? Smh. I didn’t like the results at first, but after a week or so, I really liked it!

My "I don't know about this" face

My “I don’t know about this” face

Now on to #100 on my 101 in 1001 list.

Little L and I took a stroll in the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, which is where I purchased some much needed earrings from a Black-owned cultural arts store called Kilimanjaro International. I’d lost the only pair of earrings that I could find and felt naked without any. I headed to a spot that I’d purchased from a few times before, but not since a couple years ago. I purchased some beautiful handmade earrings: one is a depiction of an Igbo tribal mask while the other is a symbol of prosperity (once I remember its origin, I will let you all know).

My new earrings from Kilimanjaro International in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago

My new earrings from Kilimanjaro International in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago

That’s all I got for you all today! How do you view change and/or what’s new with you? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook. Stay positively optimistic and powerful folks 😉

Empty Bottles

I used to wonder what happened to her. The girl with the gold medals with the yellow ribbons and the certificates of “outstanding” this and “honor” that. I used to think that if I could bring that girl back, I would be happy.

Then I remembered that girl had wet pillows and shadows in her dreams and when she awoke. She had to go and she can’t come back.
She stayed because it was easier to earn straight A’s
Than to earn acceptance and a love that didn’t depend on how many bottles were clicking and clanging on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator. IMG_1809

That girl should have gone on to attain more accolades with a series of titles before and after her name. She could have been anything. If anyone could make it, that girl could. She was going places. But then she left because it stopped being easy and the clicking and clacking of bottles moved from the fridge to her head then to her heart and they were too damn loud.

That sound boomed in the night and hummed during the day but nothing could fill the Black Hole when the bottles were empty. They kept clicking and clanging like Jingle Bells and Salvation Army kettles.

I don’t want that girl back even though I’m proud of her.
Not for medals and certificates, but because she was able to leave
The bottles and turn the volume down on the clicking and clanging in her head so that she could hear
Who she really was.

She was always more than the plated gold medals of silver and paper certificates that almost became toilet paper; they could not Save her. She was more than the sound of the clicking and clanging of bottles that can no longer enslave her. She could just be and still be Loved.

Push It

Janet-Jackson-5

Source: Creative Commons

As I mentioned in my “Control” post, I’ve been into working out lately. After I joined L.A. Fitness, I received a free personal training session from one of the trainers there. Even though the session was just blah really (the trainer was late and the session was pretty short), I learned that I was physically a lot stronger than I thought I was and that I have to push through the uncomfortableness in order to get results. I couldn’t give up even when my mind screamed “Stop! I don’t wanna work out no mo!” I had to keep pushing and remind myself that I could do it. I told myself that the “pain” was only in my mind and that if I could do just one more sit up I would be straight.

After that free personal training session, I was SORE. Every time I laughed or stretched my stomach, I felt the soreness from really pushing myself during the work out. I tried as much as I could to keep stretching and doing the exercises I learned from the trainer on my own. Eventually, after a couple of weeks, I got to a point where I could do the exercises without the soreness. It was nothing. I felt like a Bawse. Then, it hit me that I have to keep pushing myself harder and harder if I want my own version of Janet Jackson abs by summertime (of course I know that’s unrealistic but a girl can dream). I can’t keep leaving the gym without feeling that burn.

It’s the same way in life. We have to keep pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones in order to really become the people we want to be. I can’t keep doing the same routine and expect to grow or experience something new. I’ve been realizing that there are plenty of life lessons to be learned from maintaining a workout regimen. Check out my thoughts below:

1. No pain no gain.

We’ve all heard it before and it’s even a bit of a cliché, but it’s true. You shouldn’t necessarily push through pain, but you definitely should push through those uncomfortable-because-this-is-not-what-I’m-used-to feelings. You can’t transform yourself into a butterfly and still be a caterpillar at the same time. The old things have to pass away so that all things can become new. That transformation can only take place by the “pain” of changing and working harder.

2. Do it even when you don’t feel like it until it becomes second nature.

Supposedly it takes several months to form a habit. Sure, I began this latest workout stint with gusto, but I’ve started similar bouts in the past that only lasted several weeks, but that’s okay because it takes time for a new activity to feel like second nature. These days when I don’t want to go the gym, I think about how fatigued I was before I started working out and how much energy I have now. I tell myself that if I can just get up and get to the gym, I won’t regret it. No matter how tired I feel lying there in bed, I know that this is true. I’m sure we can all relate this to other areas of life where we hesitate to do something, but end up glad that we did it. Eventually, the thing that was a chore becomes automatic.

3. Consistency determines results.

I know that the more I workout, the closer I will get to getting the results that I want. If I work out sporadically, three days this week, none the next, then one day the following week, I may notice a difference, but I highly doubt it will be a big difference. However, if I work out at least three times a week on a consistent basis, I’m more likely to be pleased with the results. It’s the same way in any other situation in life when we are trying to accomplish something. We have to be consistent in order to achieve the outcome we desire.

In order to drive the point home, I want to leave you all with one of my favorite clean and wholesome workout songs (which are few and far between). Yeah, it’s a bit cheesy, but it gets me pumped and the words ring true for achieving any kind of success. Plus I get a bit of curl-envy every time I see Corbin’s gorgeous curls bouncing around 😍

What other activities can you all think of that teach life lessons? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.

Popped Books: The Black Girl Next Door

As you may remember from my post about Malcolm Little by Ilyasah Shabazz, I read a lot of children’s books these days, mostly board books. They are really the only books that I get around to reading, but I’m working on changing that. I’ve been reading The Black Girl Next Door by Jennifer Baszile off and on over the past two months and finally finished it during Little L’s nap time today. IMG_1803

I was reading Essence magazine’s Art & Entertainment section when I stumbled on a little blurb about this book. It piqued my interest because it’s about a black girl coming of age during the 70s and 80s in a predominately white and wealthy California suburb. You already know what I did after that. I looked the book up in the Chicago Public Library catalog and placed it on hold. As I said before, ya girl gives her library card plenty of exercise.

Overall, The Black Girl Next Door was a great read! I felt her pain as she described her interactions as the only black girl in the classroom and only one of a handful in her entire school, as well as her dismal dating life because of it. I’ve been there hence why my college friends and I drove an hour away from school for our nights out. I guess it paid off because I met my husband on one of those excursions. But, back to the book…I know that Baszile’s experiences were clearly more uncomfortable during the integration period when a black presence was openly not welcomed more often than today. I applauded her family’s determination to make a path where there was none in a world where they were constantly reminded that they were outsiders and unwelcome. They had to work twice as hard as their white counterparts to achieve the wealth and achievements that they accomplished.

The Black Girl Next Door made me think about racism and integration in general, but the effects of these things on Baszile’s family unit were the most interesting. Her parents grew up during segregation. Both of them struggled with poverty and lack of opportunity in their hometowns. This was especially true for her father who grew up in a small town in Louisiana during Jim Crow. Yikes! Naturally, Baszile’s parents wanted better lives for their two daughters so they worked extremely hard to move their family to the west coast where the tentacles of racism weren’t quite as suffocating. Although, Baszile and her sister grew up without the same obstacles that their parents did. They had an entirely different set of obstacles as they navigated childhood and adolescence away from extended family members and away from many other black people in general. Their parents couldn’t relate to growing up under those particular circumstances. In addition to all of the every day trials that the girls faced, the very pressure of having to be the perfect black family was just too much to bear and eventually caused a strain in their relationships with one another.

As a new mother, like Baszile’s parents who tried hard to give their daughters a better life, it just seems inevitable that my daughter will grow up resenting some form of her upbringing. No matter how hard we try to give her a better life than we had, we will fail in some way. It’s difficult to separate our own desires for the life we would’ve liked from the best lives for our children. Humans are imperfect and fall short. There’s no escaping it. It’s something every parent has to make peace with and just pray for the best.

The ending of this book also made me think about how challenging it is as a writer to be honest about those uncomfortable parts of our childhoods. Some of the things Baszille revealed about her family problems made me wonder how her parents and sister felt about it. Judging from the perfect persona her parents worked hard to maintain for their peers and local newspapers, I’m assuming they weren’t too pleased to have their business aired out in a memoir. It’s something I think about when I write about certain aspects of my own childhood. Yet, I know that as artists, we have to present our perspective as honestly as we can. I’ve heard that there are many perceptions then there’s the truth. Like Baszille, all I, or any writer can do is present the truth as we see it. My experience is my own and no one else has control over my thoughts or interpretations of my past but me. I plan to one day write a memoir and this book gives me courage to be true to my experience whether or not it reflects others as perfectly as they would like to be portrayed.

By all means, check this book out and let me know if you do. You can always find me in the comments or on Facebook. Remember to keep it poppin’ 😉

Women’s History Month Music Playlist

I came across an article on Madame Noire featuring songs that empower women in honor of March being Women’s History Month, as well as another list that they have of songs that specifically uplift black women. I cosign to many of the songs they included and even found a couple that I hadn’t heard before or at least not the original versions. For instance, I think every black elementary school sang “Young, Gifted, and Black” at one assembly or another back in the day. However, reading Madame Noire’s article was my first time encountering Nina Simone’s version of the song.

Attribution: Nemo. Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain

Attribution: Nemo. Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.

Since I not only love many kinds of music–spanning many genres and decades, but I believe it has the power to encourage and heal better than any other art form, I figured I’d compose my own women’s empowerment playlist featuring 5 songs that were not mentioned on the Madame Noire playlists.

1. Mary J. Blige, “In the Meantime”

So I am a huge Mary J. Blige fan. Therefore, it was hard to pick just one of her songs for this list, but I forced myself to pick my absolute favorite one when I need a little pick-me-up. I’ve always loved her because she just comes across as so real and genuine. She has overcome so much and is the epitome of positively optimistic and powerful in my opinion. “In the Meantime” was my go-to song in college. In fact, it was on my iPhone playlist which was called “Shower Party” because I used to bring my mini speakers in the dorm shower room and play my tunes while I washed all the nooks and cranies. Check it out if you’ve never heard this song. It was on the 2001 “No More Drama” album.

2. Mariah Carey, “Make It Happen”

Now this was another artist that really made it hard for me to just pick one empowerment song! Lord knows Mariah got me through many o’ dark days in my teenage years and early twenties! Not to mention she improved my vocabulary by throwing in smart words, like “dissipate” and “ambiguous,” in her songs every now and then. I’m not as much of a fan of the new Mariah, but she will always have a special place in my musical heart. “Make it Happen” has always been encouraging to me because it’s about her start from the bottom to the top and how she made it by faith and perseverance.

3. No Doubt, “Just a Girl”

As I said before, I’ve always loved many kinds of music. I remember a time when I was ashamed of my appreciation for pop and rock (I had a huge punk rock phase in high school. Can someone say Blink-182?!) because it wasn’t cool for a black girl to listen to anything other than rap or R&B. But as an adult, I embrace my specialness and I attribute it to my father because he played Foreigner, Pink Floyd, and other not typical Black people music as well as the Isley Brothers and Rick James in the house when I was growing up. All that to say that I thought Gwen Stefani was the ish way before she started collaborating with Eve and dabbling into “urban music.” This song is the anthem for all girls that are tired of people telling them what they can’t do and trying to keep them in a box.

4. Jill Scott, “When I Wake Up”

What R&B/Neosoul fan doesn’t love Jilly from Philly? She’s the truth. Enough said. This song is from her 2011’s “Light of the Sun”, which was a great album. It’s one you can play all the way through which is hard to find these days. Play this when you’re in your feelings and know that when you wake up everything you went through will be beautiful.

5. Shawn Colvin, “Sunny Came Home”

This is another throwback to a time long past. I love 90s music with a passion. I really like songs that tell a story and this one seems to be about a woman who decides to get out of a bad relationship by burning her house down–in reality or metaphorically I don’t know, but either way it’s bada$$. My favorite lyric is “She’s out there on her own and she’s alright. Sunny came home.”

What songs would be on your empowering playlist in honor of Women’s History Month? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook. Until next time, stay down with the P.O.P. 😉

On Bloggers: An Interview with Popped Black Woman

PBWB Fam, I’m so happy to announce that yours truly has been featured on the Properly Improper blog in the series “On Bloggers.” Please stop by there and read about me rambling about all things POP!

The founder of this blog is the wonderful Shahidah Ali whom you may remember from our February P.O.P. Women feature. Also check that feature out if you haven’t done so already. Shahidah’s spirit inspires me every time I read her words. Much love to you all and keep it poppin’ 😉

Properly Improper

One of the best things about these internets are the many opportunities we get to ‘meet’ new people, read different perspectives and broaden our little bit of the world. I am very happy to have come across Popped Black Woman one day in my WordPress feed and have been hooked on her positivity and good nature ever since. I’m encouraged by her spirit and I’d like to pass that on to all the wonderful folks who follow my blog…we all need a positive, optimistic, and powerful woman in our blogosphere…

Please enjoy getting to know Carla of the Popped Black Woman Blog!

Carla Duckface

I’ve come across some very interesting blog names and I really like yours. How did you come up with Popped Black Woman and what does it mean?

I wanted to choose a name that would be different and memorable. Since my blog is all about empowerment for women…

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