Destiny

It’s 4 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

Destiny paragraph jakes

Currently reading, Destiny: Step into Your Purpose by T.D. Jakes to try to make sense out of my past, my present, and my hope for the future. I’ve never been into T. D. Jakes’ teachings and sermons as much as I have been during my current grief journey. Grateful for The Bishop.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Are Girls Sexualized Too Soon?

I don’t know if you all have read Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans, but it’s been on my “to-read” list for a while. (It was released back in 2010.) I’m still working through it, but the first short story, titled “Virgins,” really engaged me because it made me think about how sad it is that in most cases, it’s very hard for our children to not only hold on to their virginity, but to hold on to their innocence, for as long as they desire to. It seems that they are pressured from an early age to grow up as soon as possible—casting away things of childhood for more adult things.

In “Virgins,” Evans portrays a pair of 15 year-old girls in Mount Vernon, NY who are coming of age in a world where peer pressure and sex surround them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Even though the narrator desires to make losing her virginity special, she avoids one situation of carelessly giving it away (and possibly being passed around to a few random guys she and her friend meet at a club) only to find herself in another random situation shortly afterwards when losing her virginity seems inevitable. I love the sad, but deep line, “…I did understand then that there was no such thing as safe, only safer; that this, if it didn’t happen now, would happen later but not better” (Evans 25).

The story really makes me think of how hard it is for young girls to hold onto childhood and innocence for as long as they desire to; instead, they are almost forced to let go of childish things when society or their peers tell them to. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with maturing. We all have to grow and mature. This never stops. However, it seems more of a problem to me when we have kindergarteners wearing as much weave as 30-year-olds and preteen girls wearing clothes to their school dance that are more suitable for a 21+ club. What’s happening here? Why is it so uncool to look and act like a kid anymore?

Yours truly at 9-years-old

Yours truly at 9-years-old

I’ll never forget the moment when I first realized that it was no longer cool for me to play with dolls. My mom and I were in a hole-in-the-wall storefront fast-food place on the Westside of Chicago. I can’t remember how old I was, but I know that I definitely was not in my junior high years yet. Honestly, I don’t think that I was even 10 years old yet. If so, I was a fresh 10, but more likely 8 or 9-years old. I was standing next to my mom with my favorite doll in my hand when this perverted old man walks in looking at me crazy—with a slight hint of lust in his eyes. (I think every young girl knows that look that you can’t quite put a finger on, but you know it’s a look that a grown person shouldn’t be giving a child.) He makes a comment to my mom about how pretty I am and how it’s good she’s got me still playing with dolls.

I stood there thinking, “Wait a minute. What’s he trynna say?” After that moment, I felt a little more hesitant to take my doll places. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Was I too old to play with dolls now? Did that make me a baby? At that time, I knew what sex was. I knew that I would get a period soon. I knew that my classmates would touch each other behind the coat closet in our classroom when the teacher wasn’t paying attention. I knew there were other girls that were more into boys than I was. Yeah, I had crushes, but some girls were more serious about boys, if you know what I mean. But, it wasn’t until that moment in the dingy-looking fried chicken spot that I started to really question if I was too far behind.

It’s a feeling that I dread for my daughter to have, but I know that it’s probably inevitable that she will. I just hope that when she’s ready to trade her dolls for nail polish and tinted lip gloss that it’s because she wants to and not because some stranger told her it was time.

Do you think there’s anything we can do about our kids growing up too fast? How do you think we should prepare them to confidently into their preteen/teenage years? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook! 😉

Popped Books: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae

I don’t remember the exact moment when I first saw an episode of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube. (I think maybe I was in college and a like-minded awkward friend put me on to it because she knew I would like it.) However, I definitely remember cracking up during basically every webisode. I could see so many snippets of myself and even a few of my awkward friends in J that I was hooked.

The web series was beginning to become popular back then, but not nearly as popular as it would become. “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” catapulted the web series’ creator, Issa Rae, into the spotlight and made mainstream media aware that black/awkward/nerdy people exist and want to see themselves represented way more on TV and in film.

My love for Issa Rae and everything that she represents put her first book, a collection of funny, autobiographical essays appropriately titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, on my radar as soon as it was released earlier this year. However, I let the dust settle a little so that I could get me a copy for the free from the library.

I started reading this book on my recent plane ride to NOLA and finished it shortly after I returned home to the Chi. It was a light and enjoyable read. I smiled, chuckled, and nodded with understanding as Rae entertained me with a wide range of topics—from how she can’t stand public displays of affection to how the idea for her web series came about. She even delves into personal topics like how her parents’ divorce shocked her world as a teenager and what it was like growing up half-African. I absolutely, positively loved the opening sentences to many of her essays, especially this one which comes from the essay “Leading Lady”: “Several months ago, I was blocked on Twitter by a disabled, white stripper” (Rae 35). Doesn’t that sentence alone make you want to read this book?

I’m just gonna discuss a few sections of this book that I really enjoyed and think you will too once you get your copy:

1. The Struggle

Part of being an awkward black girl is dealing with the age old issue of what it means to be black enough, which is the result of other people questioning if whether you are indeed black enough. Issa Rae delves into this topic in her essay, “The Struggle.” She writes about how she slips in and out of her “black consciousness” (160). She describes having moments when she “can’t see anything outside of the lens of race” (160) and other moments when she feels pretty apathetic about race and would rather not talk about it. It points to one of the biggest conundrums of our time in my opinion. On one hand, I want to teach my daughter to be proud of being a black girl and to care about issues relating to the African Diaspora, but on the other hand, I don’t want her to limit herself, her experiences, or her worldview by always seeing everything in relation to her blackness. I want her to be able to just be a girl, not always a black girl. Racism and white supremacy make this beyond difficult but I don’t think that we should stop striving for the kind of world that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about.

2. New York, NY

Doesn’t every creative-type fantasize about heading to the Big Apple to pursue their dreams at least once in their life? In “New York, NY,” Issa Rae writes about her often bleak time in NYC when she was a broke, recent college graduate working two jobs and trying to grow her own nonprofit, which consisted of “filmmakers of color determined to reform the image of black film” (187). I really felt her angst in this essay, but I love that this period of uncertainty in her life led her to create the web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” She writes, “It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being ‘black enough,’ my desire to reframe the images of black film and television…these were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness” (191). Sometimes certain doors have to close in our face so that we can realize our true purpose. I love this section because it’s something we all can relate too. I can’t imagine too many twenty-somethings that don’t have some kind of quarter-life crisis before they turn 30. Her story just proves that our trials really do sharpen us and may possibly even push us in the direction we are meant to go.

3. ABG Guides

Lastly, a major plus for me about this book were the funny “ABG Guides” interspersed between the more serious essays. These are sections of the book where Rae gives the awkward black girl reader seasoned advice on various topics such as the various kinds of blacks and how to interact with them (read the essay “Connecting with Other Blacks”) and how to deal with practically every type of coworker (see “When Co-workers Attack” for more info). These silly guides got a lot of chuckles and maybe even a few LOLs out of me!

So I’m not going to give all the goodies away because I do want you to check out this book and support my girl Issa Rae even if you simply pick this book up from your local library like I did. If you don’t have an awkward bone in your body, you more than likely will still get a few giggles and inspiration out of this book. If you are indeed an awkward black girl, I don’t know why you haven’t went out to get this book already. We have to support each other; we’re all in this together! (Did you think of “High School Musical” when you read that last line? No? Well, I guess we can’t be awkward sister-friends then…)

Have you read The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or do you plan to? Any other cool or funny memoirs/autobiographies that caught your eye lately? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook!

Popped Books: “On Becoming Fearless” by Arianna Huffington (Thoughts and Giveaway!)

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Source Athena Letrelle via Flickr 10/13/08 CC BY-ND 2.0

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve just finished an entire book. Yes, I actually read it from beginning to end even though it took me several months to do so! It’s so hard to buckle down and read in our world of “go, go, go.” It’s so much easier to waste my spare time checking my news feed on Facebook.

On Becoming Fearless…In Love, Work, & Life is written by Arianna Huffington, founder of the wildly popular Huffington Post. After the online blog was acquired by AOL, she became the President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. She’s also known as a prominent political figure and ran for Governor of California in 2003. Huffington reflects on fearlessness in relation to her professional experiences as well as from the lens of being a mother of two girls.

Shout out to Shahidah from Properly Improper for sending me her copy of On Becoming Fearless. It was on my “Boss Books” Pinterest board after I read an article about it so I jumped at the chance of winning it via a book giveaway that Shahidah had on her blog. I feel that it’s only right that I pay it forward to my positively optimistic & powerful readers! If you would like the Shahidah-Carla special edition of this book after reading my thoughts on it, peep the giveaway instructions at the end of this post.

So…Shahidah wasn’t in love with this book when she read it and I have to admit that it was a struggle for me to get through the first half of it. I think the primary reason why it was a struggle to keep reading it is because there were so many other things competing for my limited entertainment time–reading blogs and blogging, watching Being Mary Jane, Scandal, and Empire, and the greatest distraction of them all, Facebook.

IMG_2079Once I actually pushed myself to sit and read after Little L was put to bed for the night, I felt like I couldn’t really connect with the book because there were so many stories being told at once. Huffington includes A LOT of quotes and short essays from other prominent women on being fearless in relation to specific topics. This annoyed me at first. It read more like a research paper than a self-help book. However, after I got used to the writing style and forced myself to stick with it, I gathered quite a few inspirational nuggets from Huffington and the accomplished women that she quotes.

I’m just going to share with you all some of my favorite quotes and thoughts from the book by section.

From the “Introduction…”
“Trapped by our own fears, we then pretend that we’re incapable of having what we want, forever waiting for others to give us permission to start living” (Huffington 7).

This made me want to holler and throw up my hands because sometimes I feel stuck or limited because of my situation in life, thinking that being a wife and mother restricts me from pursuing certain passions. Inwardly, I feel like I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me it’s ok to try new things that are just for my own well-being that aren’t necessarily related to fulfilling my role in the family. But, the only restrictions are the ones I set in my mind. I have to stop waiting for someone else to give me permission to pursue my goals.

From “Fearless About Money…”
“The point is that my mother’s real wealth was the fact that she never made decisions from a place of lack..she always radiated abundance” (125).

This is another point that I’ve been trying to stay mindful of. If I approach life from a state of lack or not having enough, I will never have the fearlessness it takes to make big things happen. Instead of approaching a situation from a negative place, from a “I can’t afford/do that,” I want to ask, “What do I need to do to obtain/do X,Y, or Z?”

From “Fearless About Aging and Illness…”
“But when we stop holding on to things we’ll never use and stop struggling to be who we are not, we discover newfound energy and strength” (143).

For way too long, I’ve let myself feel bad for not being more like this person or that person when all I needed to do was accept and embrace who I was in order to have real power to create a life that I love.

From “Fearless About Leadership and Speaking Out…”
After describing how her mother took a job as a “house manager” for a family in Santa Barbara, Huffington writes, “She had taken the job with no sense of inferiority, and so it never occurred to the family to treat her as inferior” (191).

This passage really made me reflect on how my attitude towards my position in life matters more than how I feel others perceive me. In fact, my opinion about myself affects other people’s opinion of me. This idea makes me think about several jobs I’ve had in the past where I felt really small and insignificant. Looking back, I know that my negative attitude was just as much to blame if not more to blame for my unhappiness than actually having what I considered crappy jobs.

Overall, I’m grateful to Shahidah for sending me this book. It was definitely worth all the energy it took to read it from cover to cover. This edition also includes a reading group guide at the end.

In order to receive your copy of On Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington:

1. “Like” the Popped Black Woman Blog Facebook page and follow yours truly on Twitter.
2. Write a comment on this post about your thoughts on what it means to be fearless, how you act fearless in your daily life, or simply write, “Gimme that book” below.
3. If there’s more than one person interested, I will draw names randomly out of a hat (or wine glass) and announce the winner Friday in my weekly “Fearless Friday” post. Therefore, the deadline to enter the giveaway is Thursday morning, May 21st. Unfortunately, I’ll only be able to ship the book to a shipping address in the U.S. Good luck! 

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 😉

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’ 😉

Popped Books: Malcolm Little by Ilyasah Shabazz

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Sorry for the sun glare!

When I found out that I was pregnant with Little L, one of the things I was most excited about was reading stories with her. I remember wobbling through Barnes & Noble at the mall full of excitement about having a reason to be in the kids section again. Nostalgia swept over me as I remembered how much I Ioved going to bookstores as a little kid. Images of Goosebumps, Fear Street, The Babysitters’ Club, too many V.C. Andrews books to count (although not exactly child appropriate but I loved them), and so many other books that I can’t remember off the top of my head came to mind. But of course, out of all of the other books, it was something about the Harry Potter series that made a sista reserve a copy of the latest one at the Oak Park Border’s and ride her bike through both the hood and suburb up there to get it. Growing up, books just gave me life and saved my life in so many ways and I couldn’t wait to share a love of reading with my own daughter.

At our most recent trip to the library (because I hardly ever actually buy books anymore), I stumbled on a book about Malcolm X as a child. It’s called Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X and it’s actually written by one of his 6 daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz. The cover jumped out at me because I love Malcolm X. I love his passion, intelligence, and the fact that without his efforts my life would probably be a whole lot different than it is today. Plus, I think his picture should be next to the words “handsome” and “swagger” in the dictionary 😉 I couldn’t wait to read this book, which makes it clear that I choose kids’ books that are really for me instead of the little one!

Malcolm Little is a beautiful book. I mean that literally. The illustrations are reasons enough for me to recommend this one to all the parents out there, to anyone who likes children’s lit, or simply to anyone who is a Malcolm X fan. Also, it’s full of positivity and reiterates over and over again the importance of universal equality, justice, self-reliance, and love. It really communicates the environment of love and strong values that Malcolm grew up in despite the racial hatred that his family endured from the world outside of their home. Despite the heartbreaking things that happen to Malcolm, the book manages to stay hopeful. However, I wish the encouraging messages were a bit more subtle at times, but it is geared towards 1st through 5th graders after all. They would need things to be made a bit more plain for them. I also feel that there are so many questions that the book leaves me with about Malcolm’s upbringing and personal tragedies that this book could’ve been a series instead of just one book, but I guess there are plenty of other biographies of Malcolm X for both children and adults out there looking for more details.

This book touched me on many levels beyond the text. Among other things, it highlights the importance of strong, nurturing family relationships and the importance of keeping the memories of our deceased relatives alive through the uplifting and comical stories that we tell about them. Ilyasah Shabazz was only 2 years old when her father was assassinated in front of her so it was the stories told by her mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins that introduced her to her father on a personal level outside of the textbook and media versions of him. I hope to take this example and conjure up as many positive memories of my father and other deceased loved ones that I can to share with Little L one day.

What are you all reading? Do you think you will read or recommend Malcolm Little to a child you know. Let me know on Facebook or in the comments below. Stay poppin’ 😉