A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Tag Archives: African American

Single Black Female: Is Something Wrong With You? (#31WriteNow)

NOTE: This was a private post written in 2010. Funny…it still applies even though I’m 27. I decided to update it and share it with some of my more current thoughts (in italics).

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I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that question or how often I’ve heard it hidden within some other backwards compliment, but I hear it often. It’s now to the point where I change subjects rather skillfully (if I’m up to the challenge) or I forget all of my Southern upbringing and charm classes and cuss someone out.

Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m a Black woman. No, there is nothing wrong with me.

I understand why people become so up in arms when I take the opportunity to describe myself. It usually goes something like this:

“Oh, I’m 23 (now 27). I have my BS and MA. I hope to go on for my PhD. I want to work in Education (the policy/administration side…not teaching). I hope to…” and so forth and so on. However, in taking the time to describe myself I face these questions later:

1. Do you have a boyfriend/Are you courting? No./No.

2. Why don’t you have a boyfriend? I don’t leave my house? I don’t know.

3. What are you going to do with all that education? Use it.

4. Don’t you know a woman’s place? Yes. It’s her address right?

(Updated Note: I’m probably single because I have a smart mouth and unintentional snark.)

Wait…whoa…what in the fudge sticks?!?!

You see, when I get around family and this topic is always brought up, I’m left feeling like an outcast. Of most of my cousins from 15-26 that identify as a “woman,” I’m one of TWO that are single/uncoupled (three years later and it still applies). That can be a self-esteem killer, and until recently, it was.

I had an interesting conversation with a Sista of mine. She posed the two questions: “What are 10 ways a man could charm you?” “What are 10 ways a man trying to charm you would annoy you?” I gave her my reasons and quite honestly, it was an eye-opener for me (I’m actually going to answer these questions for myself again). The more that I thought about it, the more I thought about how these things impact my “dating” life. I mean, it’s really hard to walk around as a young, seemingly successful, Black woman who is single AND remain confident in yourself when there are so many things out there telling you why you’re still a failure. There are “experts” who release books on why Black women can’t get, keep, and marry a (Black) man. There are nightly “specials” that devote time to harp on the connections we make with each other, our accolades, and then pose the question (usually by non-Black people) why can’t we find, keep, and marry a (successful Black) man. (Sidenote: HA! I’m watching One-On-One and would you know, this is an episode about how a successful Black woman has managed to step on a Black man’s ego and that’s why she lost him).

I say one thing to these specials and experts:

Spare me the story of the tragic Black woman that happens to be successful and goes to sleep alone at night because she can’t find a successful Black man. And here’s why.

I’m 23 (now 27). I’m (still) being told that I need to start looking for a man. I need to settle down and have some babies (okay…now I want to. Then I wasn’t ready). That’s great. It’d be nice if I weren’t alone (if only it would cut down the chatter at my family reunions) and it’d be nice if I knew of multiple successful Black men aged 22-27 (let’s move this on up to 27-33-ish or something) looking to settle down. The fact is, they aren’t. MEN MY AGE ARE NOT LOOKING TO SETTLE DOWN (hmmm…this isn’t true so much anymore cuz I’m older now). Besides the countless male friends that I have (okay, 6 so as not to sound like a floozy), I also have 5 brothers that were raised by BOTH parents to play the field and put women through the wringer before they put a ring on anything.

So yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m Black. Yes, I’m a woman.

And there is nothing wrong with me….. I still want a boo though. LOL

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African-Americans & The Myth of Mental Illness

This series on mental illness began with my story. I wasn’t sure of the approach that I would take for this post, but I’ve decided after very recent conversations to state (simply) why African-Americans should worry about Mental Illness.

Mental Illness? That’s a “White” thing!

This phrase is what started it all. By “it,” I’m not only speaking of this series but also why African-Americans are less likely to seek services that deal with behavior and cognitive issues. Given our history in this country, it isn’t difficult to understand the apprehension behind getting professional help (counseling or whatever). Historically, science was used by the “Majority” as a justification for the maltreatment of non-Whites. The study of evolution was used to justify the separation of racial/ethnic groups, as well as the subservient status of non-Whites (a theory known as Social Darwinism). Those who were associated with these theories were the leading voices in biology, eugenics, medicine, philosophy/psychology. Additionally, the United States has a notorious history behind using African-Americans for trial studies, health, and social experiments (see the relatively unknown Tuskegee Experiment; Human Experimentation in the US). This has led to a distrust of those outside of our community, as well as the thinking that what affects “them” can’t affect “us.” With respect to Mental Illness, this can’t be further from the truth.

Mental Illness Has a Look

Unfortunately, many of us seem to believe that you can look at someone and tell if they need psychiatric help. We believe that if you are well put-together (your hair, clothes, and shoes look nice), drive a nice car, live in a nice place, and have a job, then you are happy and have no problems.

 This can’t be further from the truth.

Mental health agencies (such as National Alliance on Mental Illness) acknowledge that as a group, African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their chances of developing a mental illness (source). We need to be aware of the indicators and risk factors that lead to mental illness as it has been shown that a mental break can be a culmination of life experiences (sudden onset of a disease are often triggered by a major event but experiences increase susceptibility to disorders).

What does this mean?

Besides the obvious “any one of us can suffer,” it means that we need to be aware AND actively work to change the stigma. Some facts to be aware of:

  • tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support, rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary.African Americans
  • Across a recent 15 year span, suicide rates increased 233% among African Americans aged 10 to 14 compared to 120% among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.
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  • African Amemicans comprise 40% of the homeless population and only 12% of the U.S. population. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American. Prison inmates are at a high risk for developing mental illness.
  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45% of the public foster care population.
  • Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25% of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

As a community, we need to move towards a mindset of acceptance and open communication. Rmember that mental illness exists and it can happen to anyone.

I Was Told “No”

There’s an innate need in every one of us to feel as though people care for and about us. Many of us face darkened periods and don’t know how to get out of slumps in our mood. For some, the slumps can be quite devastating. My most recent episode with my “problem” has scared me in a such way that I’m once again seeking help.

*Before I go any further, I’ll say this: If you experience a “slump” in your mood that lasts an extended period of time, seek help! Go to a professional, someone at your school, in your church, or wherever. Go talk to someone. If you have a friend that experiences depression, give them a hug or a message every now and then to say that you care. It’s deeper than a bad mood.

On Tuesday February 23rd, 2010, I went home and I wanted to die. I walked into my place of residence and felt like it didn’t belong to me. I felt as though my possessions weren’t mine and that I served no purpose in being here. Although there was light outside of my window, I felt as though I was standing in the darkest place that could exist. Something had come upon me and swallowed me whole. My essence. My reason for being.

I went to sleep.

I made up my mind that this was just a funk and that I was having a “bad day” because of the stress from my life. I went to sleep. I dreamt of nothing. Even my dreams were void of life. The following morning, I got up. I thought, “I just need to meditate more and I’ll be okay.” After I finished that meditation, I felt as though something had come to swallow me again. This left me in a pool of tears on my floor.

I hadn’t experienced that reaction in some time. I knew to be afraid.

But I kept going. I put on my clothes and my happy face. I made my way to class. I remember thinking, “The weather matches my mood.” It rained the night before and would continue to rain until the following day. That’s what I remember about last week. It rained. The joy that I got out of that was that I could wear a pair of rain boots that my Mom graciously bought for me. It was almost like a piece of home.

That day went by and I felt myself growing more disconnected. I started to miss little things. The smile of my brothers. My Mother’s voice. Hearing my Dad laugh. A random message from my best friend. Blindly, I tried to reach out to all of those people…hoping that maybe this would shake me back to a place of happiness. It didn’t work. That night, I prayed harder than I’ve prayed in a while. I asked for help.

Then I slept.

This night, I had a nightmare. Images that I’d imagine the mind of a prisoner’s mind flashes back to when they reenter into society. There were screams of pain, women being abused, men being murdered, and the sorrowful cries of children who were starving. Where these images had come from, I’m not sure now. I don’t want to know. It was a reminder of the suffering that exists and I awoke with a start.

Drenched in sweat and feeling as though my chest was caving in.

The following day, I felt empty. I felt so empty that nothing could fill me. And when you feel that empty, what’s your reason for living?

I went to class. I hoped that being around people would help me some. I hoped that their moods would rub off on me. That somehow, they’d be so overflowing with happiness that I could begin to fill myself again. I smiled. I joked. I laughed. On the outside. Inside, I wept. Inside, I raged. Inside, I felt as though I could feel myself dying.

That night, I went home and I thought of suicide. I had a moment of clarity while my back was pressed against the floor — there have to be some people who want me here and even IF I can’t see it, it’s only fair to try to get help.

Friday morning, I called a center. They couldn’t fit me in. I asked for a referral. That person couldn’t fit me in. I then began to talk to the counselor on-call. I felt like I was beginning to get a grip…for a moment, I felt like I had a grip. But that “Why live?” though flashed again.

I decided to see if I could be kept somewhere overnight (at this point, I was having trouble sleeping…I hadn’t made it through an entire night yet). I called the hospital. They told me to come in. I went in and was “evaluated” to be turned around and told to go home. My problems weren’t serious enough to warrant a bed and besides that, I didn’t have insurance (I’m guess their whole issue was that I was “calm” and “coherent”). I called another place, their intake period was already closed. I tried. I mean, I had tried. I had to face the darkness alone.

I began to count the minutes. The seconds that passed. I practiced breathing and I prayed. I wanted to the sunlight to come swiftly. Only then would I feel “safe”.

Well, the sunlight came. I was brought out of my shell by a good friend. We went out and a had nice time. I laughed and met new people. I felt revived. That night (Saturday), I slept. There were no dreams but I began to feel a peace. I thought to myself, I just need to make it to Monday. That’s all I’m asking for. To make it to Monday. A new week. A new beginning. A new start.

That night (I believe), a friend of mine was at work. Saw that I was up and started to talk to me. I began to confide in her. It felt good to get some things off of my chest. I can honestly look back and say that the conversation that night was a REAL turning point. It ended just as the sun was rising and it felt like my sun was rising. I was okay. I knew it and I felt it.

To know and to feel something is an entirely great feeling. To know that even if someone tells you “No” that there will be someone who will listen feels amazing. To know that when you’re hurting and can’t fully explain why that there is another person who can validate what you’re feeling while also offering a helping hand helps to make you feel whole.

I felt like a person again. I felt like it wasn’t a mistake that I was here. I felt that someone other than my Mother and Father loved me just because. It wasn’t obligatory. They don’t have to. But they do. And that’s what counts in this world.

As Bassey Ikpi would say, “Love someone and mean it.” (By the way, she’s great. Really inspirational too.)

Dream.Hope.Believe

You can follow me on Twitter: @Complex_Smplcty

© This post was originally written March 3, 2010. All thoughts contained in this post belong to that of the author. Don’t steal. It’s not right or fun or nice.

Influential African-American Women

With the announcement of the passing of Dr. Dorothy I. Height (Civil Rights leader, long-time President of  National Council of Negro Women), I found myself both dismayed by the lack of familiarity my peers showed for her and the seemingly brief discussion of her life. She was a visionary and continued to influence change for our larger community, but most importantly for African-American Women.

With her passing, I saw something that happens once we lose a leader: my generation begins to acknowledge the contributions of women of color (most notably African-American) to our cause for civil rights. I’ve decided to do a quick post of influential African-American women and their most notable accomplishment. I hope that you all learn something from this.

-Miss C. Jayne.

 

Dr. Dorothy I. Height – (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010) was an African American administrator, educator, and social activist. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

ROSA PARKS, who is often called “The Mother of the Freedom Movement,” triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56) when she refused to give up her seat a Jim Crow bus.

DAISY BATES(November 11, 1914 in Huttig, Arkansas – November 4, 1999 in Little Rock, Arkansas) was an American civil rights activist, publisher and writer who played a leading role in the Little Rock integration crisis of 1957. She received the Spingarn medal because of her contributions to the cause.

PATRICIA R. HARRIS (1924-1985) was the first Black woman cabinet member (secretary of housing and urban development, 1976) and the first Black woman ambassador. She was also the first Black to hold two cabinet positions.

LENA HORNE, America’s first real Black movie star, was featured in numerous films and was a popular nightclub singer in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. She paved the way for Black men and women in Hollywood and was an active foe of discrimination.

SHIRLEY CHISHOLM was the first Black woman in Congress. Elected in 1968 from Brooklyn, she became in 1972 the first Black to organize a serious campaign for president.

JOSEPHINE BAKER (1906-1975), St. Louis-born singer and entertainer, became an international star and captivated audiences in Europe and America. She also focused attention on U.S. racism.

MARGARET WALKER ALEXANDER, poet, novelist and educator, is best known for her influential poem, For Aly People, and for her critically acclaimed novel Jubilee.

MARIAN ANDERSON (1902-1993) was a major concert artist and the first Black singer signed by the Metropolitan Opera. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in A Masked Ball in 1955.

MAYA ANGELOU, poet, author (I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings) and social commentator, electrified the nation with her reading of the poem she wrote for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

MARY McLEOD BETHUNE (1875-1955), the first Black woman to receive a major U.S. government appointment, was the mentor and mother-figure for generations of Black male and female leaders.

GWENDOLYN BROOKS was the first Black American to in a Pulitzer Prize. She was cited in 1950 for her collection of poems, Annie Allen. The Chicago-based writer has been a mentor to generations of writers.

DOROTHY DANDRIDGE (1922-1965), Hollywood’s first Black sex symbol, was the first African-American to earn an Academy Award nomination for best actress. She was cited for her performance in Carmen Jones.

ELIZABETH CATLETT has been called the dean of Black women artists. The painter and sculptor has won many awards for her interpretations of the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans.

RITA DOVE became the first Black poet laureate of the United States in 1993. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for her book of poetry, Thomas and Beulah.

KATHERINE DUNHAM, internationally renowned choreographer and dancer, made the world recognize the unique rhythms of African-American dance. Her work laid the foundation for contemporary Black dancers.

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, the founder and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund, is the major advocate for American children of all races and genders.

ELLA FITZGERALD helped redefine American popular singing and was in the front ranks of the entertainment industry in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

ARETHA FRANKLIN, who made R-E-S-P-E-C-T a national anthem, is a perennial favorite who won the 1994 Kennedy Center Honors Award for her contribution to the world of music.

MYRLIE EVERS, an integral part of a historic team, played a major role in the Medgar Evers story and led the successful struggle, to bring his assassin to justice.

LORRAINE HANSBERRY (1930-1965), an uncompromising foe of racism, was the first African-American woman to write a Broadway play (A Raisin In The Sun).

BARBARA HARRIS, the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church, was consecrated in the Massachusetts diocese in 1989 and became an international symbol of the struggle for gender equality in the church.

ANITA HILL, a law professor and activist, became the defining symbol of the Sexual Harassment Movement and was centrally important in redefining the role of women in politics and business.

ALTHEA GIBSON, who broke the color barrier in professional tennis, was the first Black to win the U.S. Tennis Association Championship (1957) and the Wimbledon singles’ title (1957).

ZORA NEALE HURSTON (1901?-1960), anthropologist, novelist and pioneer scholar of Negro folklore, was one of the most widely read authors of the ’40s. She later became a major symbol of women’s liberation.

HAZEL JOHNSON, the first Black woman general, was appointed brigadier general in the U.S. Army on Sept. 1, 1979. General Johnson retired from the Army in 1983.

FANNIE LOU HAMER (I.) (1917-1977) was a major figure of the Freedom Movement and the pivotal Freedom Democratic Party. ELLA BAKER (1903-1986) helped organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

MAHALILA JACKSON (1911-1972) transcended her field and became a national treasure. The internationally known singer helped make gospel music an integral part of the American vocabulary.

BARBARA JORDAN, one of America’s most admired women, was the first Black Southern congresswoman and the first Black to give a keynote address at a major party convention (1976).

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE was the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic heptathlon competition in the 1988 and 1992 Games. She has been called the world’s greatest woman athlete.

LEONTINE T. C. KELLEY, the first Black woman bishop of a major U.S. denomination, was named bishop of the United Methodist Church in 1984. She retired in 1988.

SHARON PRATT KELLY, the first Black woman mayor of a major American city, was elected mayor of Washington, D.C., in 1990. She is a lawyer and former utility company executive.

TONI MORRISON, novelist and essayist, was the first Black American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was cited in 1986 for her novel Beloved.

CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN, the first Black Democratic senator and the first Black woman in the U.S. Senate, helped redefine the role of the American woman in politics and national leadership.

MAE C. JEMISON became the first African-American woman to travel into outer space on Sept. 12, 1992. The physician/astronaut was one of the seven-member crew aboard the NASA space shuttle Endeavor.

CORETTA SCOTT KING, a partner in the Martin Luther King Jr., story, and the longtime head of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, led the movement for a national holiday in honor of her slain husband.

HAZEL O’LEARY is the first Black woman to hold a cabinet position outside traditional fields. She was named secretary of energy by President Clinton.

RACHEL ROBINSON, the other half of the team that gave us the first Black player in major league baseball in modern times, keeps the dream alive as head of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

WILMA RUDOLPH (1940-1994), the first woman to in three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympiad, triumphed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400-meter relay in 1960.

EDITH SAMPSON (1901-1979) was the first Black delegate to the United Nations. The Chicago attorney was also the first Black to hold an appointment with NATO.

BETTY SHABAZZ was an integral part of the Malcolm X story. After her husband’s assassination, she became an education administrator and the keeper of his flame.

MABEL K. STAUPERS (1890-1980) almost single handedly changed the status of Negro nurses in World War II and afterwards helped integrate Black nurses into major organizations.

CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY, the first Black woman federal judge, was a member of the historic team of attorneys who won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended legal segregation in public schools.

CICELY TYSON, actress and activist, helped redefine the Black woman – and the White woman – and gave a new impetus to the movement for cultural change.

SARAH VAUGHAN (1924-1990) helped redefine popular singing in America and was a major cultural icon in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

LEONTYNE PRICE, the first Black international diva, paved the way for classical artists Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman and other African-American opera stars. Some critics said she was the greatest soprino of her era.

ALICE WALKER. novelist, essayist, poet and leader of the women’s movement, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1983 for her book The Color Purple.

FAYE WATTLETON, the former president of the Planned Parenthood federation of American, almost singlehandedly redefined critical women’s issues in the ’70s and ’80s.

OPRAH WINFREY, actress and producer, redefined the talk-show format and day-time television. she is one of the most powerful women in entertainment.

Source: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n5_v50/ai_16536449/?tag=content;col1

Untitled*

Imagine that you’re standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look out before you and you see the ocean sparkle as though under its surface lies a million gems. In their finest form. Truly precious. You look around you, everything is tranquil. Then you feel a slight breeze. Something, a feeling of sorts, creeps up your spine.

Quickly, that picture of serenity is destroyed as that breeze becomes a gust of wind so strong it knocks you from where you are standing. You begin to fall. That picture of beauty is becoming an illustration of destruction. You’ve been tossed into the sea. You can’t swim. And the sunlight that so gently warmed your face just a few moments before begins to fade.

Now you’re caught under the waves. You kick as your instinct begins to take over. You try your hardest to break the surface, but it feels as though something is holding you under water. Suddenly, you’re thrown from the sea of destruction that wants to claim you and you’re thrown on to a jagged rock. Something you couldn’t see from your vantage point earlier. You’re stuck here. In the darkness. You begin to wonder, “How could something so beautiful hurt you so much?” That sea that once sparkled and beckoned for you to calmly wade out a safe distance has at once become a prison.

The winds still whirl around you and in the midst of your tears, something tells you to look up. You can see something that beckons you. Something strong. Something safe. You realize it’s a person. It’s a human. Someone you’ve hoped would help you. You stand on that rock as the water continues to swell around you. You outstretch your hand, foolishly, hoping that by some miracle, that person who stands above you will reach down and pull you up. You begin to scream. You realize they can’t hear you above the winds. You wonder what you must look like to them and all at once understand. In a moment of clarity, you see this person smiling down upon you. That picture of beauty that you looked down upon must be the same image they see when they glance down.

You’re caught in the midst of  storm.

They see you surrounded by beauty.

A wind comes by and knocks you down on to the rock again. This time, it’s so strong, you can’t stand. So you lie there. You’re vision is once again blurred and this time, you can’t tell if it’s your tears or the stinging from the water as it hits your face. This time, you begin to bargain. If you make it out of this storm, you’ll never get close to the edge again. You’ll exist. You’ll cease to live, but you won’t cease to have a life.

In the midst of your bargaining, things get worse. You don’t remember how long you’ve been where you are. It can last anywhere from moments to days. But no matter how long it goes on, you struggle. This battle is intense. It’s even harder because you know that there is nothing that you can really fight. This is something that you have to go alone. Once again you look up. This time, you see the person is concerned. You wonder again, “What must I look like to them?” And you bargain still. You think, “Am I the only person here?” Again, you look up and realize that it’s now a crowd. There are those that you love. They are worried. There’s no way to reach them. You bargain still. You want this to end.

And then…..

There’s a stillness.

You can get up now. As you do, you realize you’re back where you were in the beginning. In the clearing. Standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look down at that sea, sparkling in its beauty and you wonder, “How could something so wonderful cause so much harm?” You turn around to face the people who you’ve wanted so desperately to touch. They are gone. But it’s fine. You’ve found a peace and you feel that you can go on.

So, you begin to walk. You remember to dream. You go on. You don’t lie down. You don’t die.

But you always wonder, “How soon before I come back to this clearing again?”

I’ve thought of ways to describe my daily life. This was the best that I could come up with. Most days, the storm is light. Something that I can handle. Other days, it feels like the worst thing in the world. I feel like I’m powerless over anything…even the simple things that I should be able to control. On those days, I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t eat. And I always wonder, “What must this look like to others?”

I have depression.