The Cleveland Indians' "Chief Wahoo" (Photo by Najah Lee)
2016 has been a crazy year for Cleveland fans. We've been on an emotional roller coaster — from thinking our chances to "end the 50-year curse" was diminished when the Cavs were down 3 to 1 in the NBA finals, to coming back and winning in an epic-like Cleveland fashion. Yes, this year has been exciting. Our beloved Cleveland Indians picked up the torch LeBron and the gang lit and continued to parade it through our hearts. Baseball analysts could not have predicted we would be where we are right now; and that is in the ALCS in Toronto, Canada. They have by far out-performed my level of expectation and hope for the team. As we prepare for more suspense and thrills, others are preparing to add "drama" to this already intense series.
So, the emotional rollercoaster continues...
Common Negative Thoughts About Feminism and Feminists
In my casual observation of culture, I've found that the words Feminism and Feminist are disturbing to people. For some reason, lots of women would rather be called a "Bad B_" than to be called a "feminist". Unfortunately, the negative connotations surrounding these unpopular terms are not gender specific. There are men who constantly use "anti-feminist rhetoric" as a way to further their patriarchal agenda. How did this happen? I believe people are misunderstanding the definition of feminism. Through my own self discovery, I've found that feminism, in its most simplistic description, is women uniting and demanding control over our minds, bodies and spirits; demanding respect and equality in the work place and at home - from the church to the bedroom - women want to, and should be, considered equal to a man.
So why all the hurtful depictions of feminism? Why all the hate?
I'm not here to play the blame game; I want to call out individual attitudes that is the protagonist of the feminist theory.
One popular attitude is this...
So many times, black men, want their black women to turn down their "feminist ideals" so that they can walk in their God-given authority. I find this to be very demeaning and belittling. I want nothing more than for the black men to embrace their authority, WHILE allowing ME to be equally dominant and powerful! Women were also given authority and dominion. To note, I can be ALL WOMAN at the same time a man can be ALL MAN! These two things are not counterproductive. They are not mutually exclusive. This is not oil and water.
Intellectual women of all races and economic status' often criticize what a feminist should look like and how they should act. I'd hope, after all the battles we've faced as women, that we could at least agree to there beings levels to feminism. My definition may differ from yours; it is subjective to a each feminist and what he or she has witnessed or endured. [Sidenote: men can be feminists too]. For instance, some would argue that Beyonce and Shonda Rhimes are great examples of black feminism in this era while others firmly disagree. To my point, regardless of your definition of feminism, however narrow or broad, feminism exists across a wide spectrum.
While there are many other negative themes related to feminism, how do we begin to repair its bad image?
Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. The root of it lies in the overwhelming presence of patriarchy in the world. Feminism, much like civil rights, is a threat to dominant power structures. The hopeful optimist in me believes that one day we can break these strong hold of oppression. Conversely, the realist in me knows how impossible this is. I think we can be more respectful in our womb circles, the people closest to us, in not degrading their views of feminism. As the late great Audre Lorde said: "It is within our differences that we are both most powerful and most vulnerable, and some of the most diffi cult tasks of our lives are the claiming of differences and learning to use those differences for bridges rather than as barriers between us." (Read more Audre Lorde here: Am I Your Sister)
I want to thank all the men and women who are not antiquated in their thinking; those who love powerful women; those who were raised by powerful women; those who have powerful wives, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends!
Thank you! Remember to spread the good word and spread the love!
Dear Little Black Girl,
Today is your first day of school. I know you're scared. I know you're nervous. I've been there and I understand your fear. Today is the beginning of your future. Stay strong. Stay encourage. School is important and get all the education and knowledge you can! But remember, don't let them brainwash you into thinking you're not beautiful and that you're not royal. You my dear, were perfectly crafted by the hands of God.
Beware of bullies, big and tall, girl or boy. Bullies see something in you that you may not see, that's why they want to knock you off your game. They will try to diminish your glory and steal your joy. Bullies WILL come in the form of teachers telling you you're answers are incorrect or blatantly overlooking you when your hand is raised. They may even say you're dumb. Ignore them. Keep pushing.
School is designed to feed the black child lies about your history and heritage. Listen, you come from a lineage of power, excellence, and brilliance. We are Queens and Kings. We built this country with our blood, sweat and tears and we have influenced, shaped, and molded the world with our culture and sacrifices. Don't forget, slavery was not your beginning.
Question everything! Like when they tell you Christopher Columbus discovered America or that the Pilgrims and Native Americans were friends OR the treatment of black slaves "wasn't that bad"...question it all. Read as much as you can for your own undertanding.
Today is the first of many hurdles. Be kind. Be humble. Be determined. Be grateful. Be encouraged. Be cautious. Be concerned. But most importantly, be you. With your braided hair and pink beads, with your witty personality and your loving nature. Stay true to you.
The idea of art being a vessel of self-expression in itself is freeing. However, most artists can admit that it is difficult not to put limitations or restrictions on your art. Mass media, current trends and pop culture has the innate ability to distort our perception of what is acceptable art. There are artists, like myself, who makes the conscious effort to be true to their art knowing that this liberation can and most likely will be overlooked and ignored.
Where do we go from here?
In order for our culture to sustain itself and progress through time, we have to embrace all types of art, including the radical eclectics and the commercially normal. Both means add too the culture even though we may not recognize its benefits in the present. Most of our artistic heroes did not make an impact until after their death. This is when the masses began to understand the true meaning behind their art. As artists, we cannot be deterred from expressing ourselves using our God-given tools to do so. We cannot allow ourselves to be boxed-in and succumb to the pressures of being ordinary or predictable. We have to push the envelope, see past the trends, escape the wilderness of familiarity and be agents of the unexpected. This culture, our culture, depends on the voices of all types of artists to establish and uphold the definition of being a creator.
Destiny is in arms reach...at least that's what they say. You know that little voice that whispers in your ear in the wee hours of the morning when the moon is still shining bright like the sun?? Your inner being repeating over and over "all you have to do is simply reach out your arms...reach past the insecurities...push through the obstacles...ignore the naysayers...be who you are called to be...." Yea that voice. Sometimes that voice is encouraging, but most times it's annoying. Not because I feel like I can't achieve, but more so because I want too sooooo bad that it's really all I think about.
Overcoming every negative statistic and proving everyone wrong consumes my thoughts and actions. I can't be the only one right?? I mean what do you do when your looking out the windows of your future?? You know where you're going but there is still distance and various obstacles standing in between you and your dreams. A great person (me) once said, "grind hard, and then grind some more." I guess that's the secret to success...never stop. Even when you think you've plateaued, pick up another skill, read more, strengthen a weakness....NEVER STOP! So I guess that's the moral of this story. Let your work speak for itself. Work until you can't work anymore and then pay someone to work for you (haha!!) No seriously, just keep working.
Written exploration of ALL THINGS CREATIVE curated by Najah Lee -- writer, emcee, photographer, critical thinker and brand consultant.