Friday, November 29

Why We Love Da Kink In Vanessa's Hair

Are you kidding me! A child chooses to wear her hair natural and faces being kicked out of school?!
The story of 12-year-old Vanessa Vandyke facing expulsion for her natural hairstyle has gone viral and made national headlines. Attention was brought to Vanessa's hair when she reported to the school that she was being teased because of it. 

It was originally reported that Vanessa was told she had a week to decide whether to cut her natural hair or leave Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Fla. Now the school is saying they would just like her to style it differently with claims that is doesn't meet the guidelines of the school handbook. Sabrina Vandyke, Vanessa's mom said she will fight for her daughter's freedom and originality. Most recently the school said Vanessa Will NOT be expelled because of her hair. Singer Elle Varner also wrote a poem "Hair Care" dedicated to Vanessa.

A few months ago 7-year-old Tiana Parker from Oklahoma faced the same issue. Journalist Melissa Harris-Perry had some powerful words of encouragement:

"to all the little brown girls who rock their hair in all its many styles, you are perfect just the way you are and don't be confused, it's whats in your head, that's way more important than whats on your head."

Vanessa loving and embracing her natural beauty is wonderful. Support, Support, Support! Please share the link as well. Kudos to her! Continue to stand firm in your uniqueness.

Check out the video below:

Wednesday, November 27

Did I Mention That Ours Is An Interfaith Family?

It’s official; the Christmas holiday season is upon us.  Our school aged kids are learning Jingle Bells and The Twelve Days of Christmas to perform at the school Holiday (CHRISTMAS) Concert, so naturally, the questions have started about Santa and Christmas.  How will Santa get into our house; we don’t have a chimney?  When will we get our get Christmas tree?  Is Santa going to come into our room like the tooth fairy because I don’t want him to?  (I totally agree about the weirdness of random made up people coming into my room at night.  Creepy!)  It is at this time that I have to explain to the kids that they are Jewish and that we have a Jewish home and therefore don’t celebrate Christmas at our house but instead celebrate Christmas at Nanny’s house.   We don’t have a tree and Santa won’t come to our house.  As I’m explaining all of this to the kids, I’m preparing for some heavy duty “it’s not fair” tantrums, but luckily the kids are pretty chill about this.  After, they clarify that Santa knows where they’ll be and they will, in fact, receive their presents at Nanny’s house, they go about their business.  Discussion done.  ...For them. 

I find this interfaith family thing a little more challenging.  I am Christian - not A Christian but I grew up celebrating Christmas and Easter.  And I’m still the first one up on Christmas morning ‘cuz well, it’s Christmas people!  My partner Lisa is Jewish.  She grew up more as a cultural Jew than a religious Jew. 
When we met, I was all “If God had a refrigerator, my picture would be on it!”* and Lisa was all, “I’m going to meditate at the local Buddhist temple.”  When we started planning to have kids, I said that I want to raise our kids to believe in God and Lisa said she wants the kids to be raised Jewish. Regardless of the biological technicality that none of our children were born to a Jewish woman and therefore are not recognized as Jewish, it seemed like a good option to raise the children to believe in God in a Jewish way.  Cool, right?  Wrong.  As it turns out, Lisa doesn’t really know much about finding God in the context of Judaism and I pretty much use God as a tool in managing behaviours.  Basically this leads me to saying things like “God doesn’t like it when you blow out the Hanukkah candles!”  Jewish God, with a side of Catholic guilt!  Not at all what we had intended.  

So every year- Jewish and Gregorian, we promise to bring more religious spirituality to our family life.  We light candles and say blessings on Friday nights.   It is true that on some Friday nights, we bless the sushi we’ve ordered in rather than a traditionally blessed Challah, but the kids get it – we thank God, farmers and Sushi Island for our food.  Our eldest goes to Jewish religious school once a week.  (We are late for religious school too by the way).  This week, we gently suggested that he not take his picture of an elf decorating a Christmas tree with stars of David to show his teacher.  We excitedly teach the kids to spin dreidels while they excitedly sing Christmas carols.  This happened.  I am not making this up.  And we explain, to anyone  who asks, that the reason why we haven’t cut our youngest boy’s hair is because we are following the Jewish custom of letting a boy’s hair grow until he turns three before having a celebratory chalakah (Jewish hair cutting ceremony).  The actual reason for keeping his hair long is because he’s crazy cute with long hair!  Obviously we pick and choose which customs to follow and which traditions are meaningful to us.  Truth be told, right now our kids may be more Jew-ish than Jewish, but we’re getting there. 

Hanukkah starts this week we have placed our menorah in the window so that when we light it on Wednesday night everyone will know that ours is a Jewish home.  This week we will also practice the Christmas songs in preparation for the Holiday (seriously, call it like it is – Christmas) concert, because no kid of mine, Jewish or otherwise, is going to be in the back row of the choir pretending to sing! 
I am confident that when the teacher asks if anyone celebrates Hanukkah, my kids will raise their hands and say “I do!” and then proceed to have a lengthy conversation with their friends about the travel pattern of Santa on Christmas Eve.  Clearly the kids have this interfaith family thing down! 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to all those celebrating this week! 

xo Ajike

* Quote by Max Lucado

Monday, November 25

Monday Motivation: F%^&*4ing Namaste!

I’ve been on my spiritual path for some time. I’ve devoured all the standard new thought thinking books.  I sign all my emails with Namaste and Blessings.  I practice yoga, I read Oprah,  I meditate, I chant, I have an altar, I manifest,  I daily send love and light to others. I secretly  smirk inside when people refer to me as enlightened, spiritual, and peaceful.  And I nearly pee my pants, whenever I overhear people say, "Trey is so Zen!" 

Yes, I’m the poster child for new thought thinking!  At the rate I’m going I think The Universe/god would definitely assign me a seat up there with all the angels!  I feel my wings already growing! Yet, recently my new Zen attitude was tested.   I had asked someone close to me to do something very important and their response was not what I had wanted.  I was angry, hurt, and  very, very, very disappointed.  And my first response was to fire off a defensive, yet dismissive email and also to regress to my deeply rooted belief that, “No one does anything for me, that’s why I don’t ask anyone for s&&%!”  This is a thought pattern that I have desperately been trying to change through meditation and also through personal therapy.   

Deep down, I knew this person did not mean to intentionally hurt me  and did not mean to let me down, but I felt justified to sit with my anger and hurt.   I sat with this anger and hurt for a few days until I suddenly came to the realization that, it is in the most difficult times that I need to call on my spirituality and beliefs.  And I must function from a place of love, forgiveness and acceptance. I also went back to the very core principal of what Author,  Don Miguel Ruiz shares in his popular book,  The Four agreements,   "Don’t Take Anything Personally".

"Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. -The four agreements. 

I realized that I had taken this person’s response personally therefore I was now suffering.  I had made their response become all about me. I didn't want to see that perhaps they had struggled with their response to my request. I didn't want to see what was their reality, what was their own dreams.  No,  I immediately went to my hurt place and started an inner dialogue about what “inferior” place I must occupy in their lives.  

But, I had to really put myself in check!  It’s easy to practice spirituality and love when all is well and everyone is doing what you want them to do. But the real testing of your faith comes when you feel hurt, disappointed and betrayed.  So I began to meditate daily and place this person in my heart. I daily sent them love and light.  I daily meditated on the fact that I forgave them. I daily reminded myself that this was not about me.  And I also called the person to say that I still loved them.  This was a huge step for me because usually when I’m hurt I go into my defense mode of cutting folks off, and creating physical and emotional distance to keep my heart safe.  But I realize it’s easy to love and be nice to nice people.  The hard part is to love and forgive those who challenge us. 

So today I ask you, to ask yourself, who is it that you need to send love and light to?  What hurts are you wrongfully holding on to?  What have you taken personally?  

We can’t be convenient in our  love, forgiveness and spirituality.  And all the Oprah reading and yoga isn’t going to enlighten you, unless you decide to remain spiritual in the path of difficulty.   Now stop Namaste-ing  and go pick up the damn phone and say, “ I love you!”

Friday, November 22

Kanye West Debuts New Video with Kim Kardashian

This week Kanye West premiered his new music video exclusively on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He talked about his relationship with Kim Kardashian, his proposal, and baby North. So How exactly do we feel about "Kimye"? Is it a love/hate thing? They're the most talked about couple in the world and now they have a video. Kanye was heavily involved with the concept and editing of the video. The visual for his song "Bound 2" with vocals by singer R&B singer Charlie Wilson includes Kim happily riding topless on a motorbike. The new video is creating a lot of buzz.  I must admit I wasn't that impressed with it and didn't like it all that much.  

What are your thoughts about it?

Check out the video below:

Wednesday, November 20

A Letter To The Late Slip Lady

Dear Late Slip Lady,
We’ve gotten to know each other quite well over the past few months and I feel I owe you an explanation for our rampant lateness.  I know, I know you don’t care WHY we’re late; you just want us to arrive on time.  But just in case you are wondering what could be preventing us, day in and day out, from arriving at school on time, I am writing to you today.  If you could just consider things from my point of view, you will realize that our lateness is not my fault.  Like every parent, I am doing the best I can with the kids I’ve got!
So one morning back in October, my 2 year old twins discovered a full tub of Vaseline and applied its entire contents to their pyjamas, faces and hair.  Their timing was lousy – 8 am on a school day, but really their curiosity about the properties of petroleum jelly and it’s spreadability shows their commitment to the scientific process – hypothesize (I’m sure they did this pre-application) and test.  After a loud “What are you doing?” followed by “It feels pretty cool, eh?” I had to do the motherly thing, and clean them up.  I am sure you can imagine how long it takes to clean up after pint sized scientists.  And anyone who saw them for days following this incident can attest to the fact that I didn’t even waste time washing their hair because I knew you were waiting.  We tried to get to school before the bell, but we were late.  Not my fault.

And there’s Z.  While he is older (six) and more accustomed to the school routine and the insistence that children respond to bells as though they have been trained by Pavlov, he has recently discovered skinny jeans and seems to believe that there is a direct correlation between his wearing them and his obvious coolness!  He is not above crying (sobbing really) for a remarkably long time about the fact I have chosen some jeans for him that appear baggy.  This is why we were late that cold November morning.  I was trying to get the kids to school on time.  I actually chose his clothes that day to save time.  There was no way I could have known what would happen when I handed him his clothes.  Let the record show, that after I mopped up his tears and coaxed him off his bunk bed where he had thrown himself, head buried in a pillow, he put the jeans on and discovered that the jeans were, in fact, skinny.  We were late, but Z looked fabulous.  Clearly, not my fault.  
The problem is, that after so many of these unexpected incidents causing our lateness,  even on the rare occasion when we are able to leave the house in enough time to arrive before the morning bell, I hesitate because the key to good parenting is consistency.  Children need to know what to expect from their parents and my children expect their parent to get them to school late!  Just because occasionally the stars align, and my children choose to take a break from their usual antics, I don’t think it’s a good idea to throw off their routine and drop them off at the same time as other kids with show-offy, on-time parents!  And besides, if the children are at school on time, it’s probably because I’ve screamed so much and so loudly that my heart beat is visible to the naked eye.  I don’t think this is a good way for them to start their day.  I’m a good mom and I keep reading that we need to stop yelling at our children because it’s harmful.  I’m good, but I’m not an over-achiever so I’m not trying to stop yelling all together, I’m just trying to limit my yelling.  If I use up my flipping out quota in the morning getting them to school on time, what the heck will I do at bedtime?  You understand right?  Not my fault.  
So there you have it.  You now understand why we are late every day.  Try not to hate us and if you must give “the look” can you give it directly to the children, because this late thing, is so not my fault!  
With love,

Late Mommy

Sunday, November 17

Happy Motivational Mondays:  STOP the crap in your life!

Hey blog family. I recently read an article by Jim Collins, where he studied companies that went from good to great. He shared that instead of creating a to-do list, companies that went from good to great started to prepare a STOP doing list.  I found this quite insightful being that I’m the Queen of endless to do lists!! (I’m sure some of you can relate!)  So I sat down Sunday morning and thought of the top 5 things that I will now stop doing, personally, emotionally and also in business.

My Five-STOP Doing:   ** I cheated and did six!
     1.     I will STOP making my health and well being a low priority.
     2.     I will STOP adding new projects to 2013-14 without really considering if I have the time to 
          complete them.
     3.     I will STOP comparing myself to other womyn, be it dress size, beauty, success, hairstyle etc.      
          Instead I will affirm my own beauty and my own success.
     4.     I will STOP ignoring my gut feeling about things in my life, new opportunities, folks that I    
          meet, etc. I will listen to my gut instincts on things and trust that I’m right.
     5.     I will STOP “leading a busy life, and instead lead a disciplined life!”  I read this quote 
          somewhere and it really resonated with me.
     6.     I will STOP being judgmental of my loved ones, friends, and family and be more forgiving.

What 5 things would be on your STOP doing list? Please comment and share to inspire others.

Tuesday, November 12

Our new ~ trey anthony Modern Day Blog family!!! Welcome!

One of the things I love most in the work that I do is being able to give a platform to fun, quirky, talented women to share their stories. Thus, I'm excited to be welcoming, Ajike Akande who will be blogging every Wednesday for my blog! Ajike is a wonderful, black queer mom of five kids, all under the age of six! Which include two sets of twins! And she raises these wonderful little kiddies with her amazing wife Lisa Silverman. They are a funny and exciting bunch and I know you will fall in love with this family as much as I have!
Please see below Ajike's first blog!

"Kids mommy has a new job!"

I haven’t had a non-parent related deadline in years.  Seriously.  I think my last deadline was in 2010.  Given my vacation from non-parent related deadlines, you can imagine the panic that I felt when Trey asked me if I wanted to contribute to her blog.  I allowed myself 60 seconds of “Wow, this is so cool!  Yay, somebody (like a real funny, creative somebody) thinks I’m funny.  This funny thing is big for me, because growing up my sister was the funny one and I was the cute one and while I’m totally still adorable, I’m pretty sure cute just doesn’t carry the same weight at 38 years old.  Anyway, so after 60 celebratory seconds, I returned to my default setting – panic.  Now what?  You don’t say no when Trey Anthony asks if you will write something for her blog.  I HAVE to do this.  Up until this point I was riding on the fact that the only two things I HAVE to do, is stay black, and die.  Now I have to stay black, die and write something for Trey Anthony’s blog.  So from my dining room, wearing leggings and wool socks (Yes, leggings are legitimate pants for a grown woman and no, I’m not quite done with dressing like a 14 year old), I am writing my first blog post. 

My name is Ajike Akande and I am mother.  That’s not all I am.   Don’t forget, I am adorable and a whole host of other good and less good things.  But mostly, right now, I am a mother.  Whenever I speak formally as a Mom (like once every few months at a course for lesbian and queer women wanting to raise children), I introduce myself as a bereaved mom, an adoptive mom, and a multiples mom. 

The day I became a mom for the first time, I held our baby until she died.  The second time I became a mom, our baby was delivered to us from a rural community two hours from our home in the city.  The third and fourth time I became a mom I held my breath until I was wheeled into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to meet our twin girls.  The fifth and sixth time I became a mom, our boy / girl twins were handed to me (not to my partner who had not just had two lives torn from her abdomen) as I was wheeled out of the operating room.  If you are good at counting, you now realize that I am a mom of 6 children – five, who I hold in my arms every day and one, who I believe, is watching out for her brothers and sisters from a special place. 
I didn’t include any timelines but I’m talking about a 6.5 year old boy, 4.5 year old twin girls and 2 year old boy/girl twins.  That’s five kids, six and under.  Not nearly as scary as the five under five we had when the littles were born which, of course, also meant that we he had four under three! 

I hang with this cast of characters full-time and am so grateful when my partner Lisa returns home from work so I can glare directly at her with resentment in my eyes for having left me in charge of these small people all day! 

I adore my kids and have all the appropriate Mama Bear instincts when it comes to keeping them safe and happy, but life with 5 small children is eventful.  Things happen when we’re trying to get from 7 am to 7 pm in one piece.   Things like being late.  I could actually write a whole book about why we are always late for everything.  When we’re trying to be on time (‘cuz we have goals like regular sized families) things go wrong.  Terribly, terribly wrong.  The little ones discover the consistency of Vaseline.  The middles find their individual and collective voice – vacillating between their whiny voice and their demanding voice.  Both, equally perfected.  Both,  equally good at holding us up.  And the big, who feels left out because he doesn’t have a twin, takes it upon himself to have the energy of at least two six year olds and chooses to pirouette rather than walk through the house.   I write about these adventures in lateness and life in general with a lot of kids because on the same day that I call my partner to tell her that I can’t stand the kids and she needs to come home immediately, I sheepishly confess that I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have been there the moment each of my five kids discovered their shadow or heard their echo.

I can’t keep these stories about my mommy life to myself.  If I did, thinking about them would scare me and keep me in bed for days!  When the stories are more stressful than funny, keeping them to myself would make me feel alone and defeated.   I share the stories of our wacky family, from my crooked perspective, because they’re funny and frustrating. And because being a stay at home mom is the most intense, boring, wonderful, isolating thing I have ever done.  I write because I care about connecting with others who may be in their own personal trench – parent or otherwise, because it makes me feel less alone and because when I’m writing, my wife feels guilty interrupting so I actually get a few moments of peace – until she has a burning question about how to manage the inmates, I mean children.   

So if you want to read my stories, I’ll be sharing them here.  I hope you will check back and read about my life as downtown, queer, black mommy who loves leggings.  I’m a looking forward to returning to the world of non-parent related deadlines. 

Thank you, Trey for making it impossible for me to say no and introducing me to your blogging family.   

Friday, November 1

Andrea Lewis Debuts ‘Black Actress’ Web Series with Issa Rae

I always admire womyn who just do it! I love artists who don’t groan about the lack of work opportunities for us, but put on their big girl panties and just make it happen! That’s why I’m so excited about Andrea Lewis’s new web series, ‘Black Actress’. It’s produced by Issa Rae from the web series ‘Awkward Black Girl’.  I look forward to the debut of ‘Black Actress’ and to standing behind it 100%. Us sista’s have to support one another! Community is important. The only way we make our stories stay relevant, is if we make them relevant by showing our support! 

Black Actress is also co-produced by Actress Tatyana Ali who has been a strong advocate for cultural empowerment in the industry. It features appearances by Jenifer Lewis, Essence Atkins, “Da Kink In My Hair” star Melanie Fiona and many more cameos.
The project was created, written by, and stars Andrea Lewis. As an Actress and Entertainer herself, she understands the issues and difficulties black actresses face in Hollywood.  Andrea used the crowd funding website IndieGoGo to launch the web series and successfully reached her starting goal. Kudos to her! The word is out and the trailer is quickly going viral.
The aim and purpose of ‘Black Actress’ the web series is to show black women as more than stereotypes.  “The message I want people to take from Black Actress is that the journey is the same for all of us. No matter what your color or gender is, we all just want to live our dreams. But the opportunities are not always there for women of color and it can affect you in more ways than one.” "We're in a great time as an artist or creative person, because you don't have to wait for anyone to give you the 'ok' to do something you want," Andrea said in an interview.  
Black Actress the web series debuts on November 5th 2013 and airs on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel. Here is the first official trailer. Support, Support, Support! Please share the link as well. Let’s stand behind our sistas doing big tings!
Check out the trailer below: