Tag Archives: women

Talk to Your Daughters

Asia Graves, a former teenage prostitute

Disclaimer: I’m from the hood which means I know what it is to go without. What it means to have your lights or water turned off. What it means to see your single mother rob Peter to pay Paul and try to stretch a dollar thinner than the paper it was printed on. So I understand Poverty and the soul killing, ambition stealing nature of it.

I stated the above to stress that I understand hustling and what people in poor communities have to do to make ends meet, even when their actions sometimes puts them on the wrong side of the law. Even as a Christian man, I can’t knock a person in their battle for survival .

However, there is one hustle that I personally never appreciated or condoned, which is pimping, where a man uses force, mental coercion, manipulation, material possession or whatever to convince a woman to sell her body for his financial benefit. And to be honest with you, it upsets me every time I read or hear about it, especially when a young girl is turned out and either forced or tricked into this soul-crushing lifestyle.

But it’s happening everyday right up under our noses and it happened to Asia Graves the beautiful young woman whose picture is at the top of this article. Like a lot of black girls from the hood, Asia had a rough childhood which consisted of a drug-addicted mother, and being bounced back and forth to different relatives homes.

Until at the tender impressionable age of 16, she found herself broke and homeless on the streets of Boston. One night while she was out on the streets, broke and cold, a well-dressed man approached her smiling as if he had the world at his beg and call. He told Asia that she was pretty and much too beautiful to be outside with no place to go. Encouraged by his nice words, she accepted what she naively thought was the man’s kindness. Kindness that consisted of food, clothes, money and a place to stay. To tell the truth, she felt like she had been rescued by a nice wealthy man whom she had no idea was a pimp.

After a few days of providing her a place to stay and feeding her, the man told Asia that it takes money to live in this world and that she had to start earning her keep — pimp talk for whoring.

But he told her not to worry about it, that he would take care of it by setting her up with a “date”. Only this date involved Asia having sex with men in exchange for money. Soon this one date turned into two and three, until Asia found herself having sex with multiple men a night for money. Money that she had to quickly turn over to the man who has supposedly “rescued her”. Asia said, “If we didn’t call him daddy, he would slap us, beat us, or choke us.”

For nearly two years Asia found herself stuck in this destructive lifestyle as a result of her need for material support and a place to stay, and fear of what her pimp would do to her if she tried to leave. And because it was Asia along with some other girls that he had selling his body for him, he was able to convince them that they were all one big family and used them to recruit other girls for his “stable”.

”It’s about love and thinking you’re part of a family, a team. I couldn’t leave because I thought he would kill me.”

Fortunately with the help of the police and FBI, Asia was able to break free of her pimp after he nearly killed her and she had to be hospitalized for her injuries. But not every girl is so lucky – too many wind up dead, or strung out and on the streets for life.

Today Asia works with “Fair Girls” a D.C. organization started by Andrea Powell that offers a four hour curriculum entitled “Tell Your Friends” about how young girls in general, but especially black and Hispanic girls from single parent households are these predators number one target.

Since it began, “Fair Girls” has reached thousands of teenage girls. However, that is still a drop in the bucket compared with the millions of young girls in these predator’s crosshairs .That’s why we all each individually have to do something. We have to talk to our teenage daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and neighbors. Don’t think it can’t happen to anyone who you love and care about. Girls have been exploited from the suburbs to the Subway and from the Penthouse to the Poorhouse pimps and sex traffickers don’t discriminate.

Asia Graves put herself out there on the front page of a national newspaper so we call could see the face of teenage prostitution.

Now the ball is in our court talk to the teenage girls in you life, don’t assume it can’t happen because it can and is happening everyday all around this country.

My First Brush With A Killer

Back in 2006, I struck up a correspondence/friendship with a Ebony bachelorette by the name of Crystal Brown-Tatum, who, in addition to owning her own communications company and being a published author, had also been named one of Houston’s top female executives.

As our friendship blossomed, I cheered as she went from a most eligible bachelorette to a happily married woman, and aspiring actress. And was frequently overjoyed when she would write me about her latest exploits in the movie industry, or send photos with her newest celebrity pal.

Therefore I was caught off-guard when I received a letter from her informing me that she had discovered a lump in one of her breast and her doctor had diagnosed it as cancer. I reread her letter a second time to make sure I wasn’t tripping because I’ve been known to get things twisted.

But there it was in black and white; Breast Cancer. How in the world could that be? Here was a beautiful, college-educated woman who seemed to be on top of the world. And here she was saying that she had been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease.

As much as I pride myself on being well-read and having at the very least a cursory amount of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, I am still a man, and like a lot of men I had paid scant attention to this disease that seemed to mostly affect women.

But now I knew someone who was personally stricken with breast cancer. It was no longer just an article in a Essence magazine encouraging women to get mammograms. Here was my wonderful, dynamic, successful friend telling me that she was scheduled to take chemotherapy and daunted by the prospect of losing all of her beautiful hair, and asking me if I would pray for her.

Of course I would. But what else could I possibly do? In addition to praying I tried to keep her encouraged with uplifting letters and by sending her positive articles from other breast cancer survivors .

I also became a breast cancer supporter and began to pay much more attention to this health menace that was affecting women of all races, but especially black women at a alarming rate. I learned that when black women are diagnosed their cancers tend to be worse, more difficult to treat, which results in a higher mortality rate.

It was these alarming and dismal statistics that I believe led Karen Jackson to found her organization The Sister Network (sisternetworkinc.org), a national organization dedicated to black women and breast cancer.

For me the more I learned not only did I become more concerned, but I eventually arrived at the realization that breast cancer wasn’t just a woman’s disease. Simply because if Moma, wife, sister, daughter, niece, or girlfriend is affected, then it affects all the men in their life just the same. Making the fight against breast cancer and the race to find a cure all of our problem, both male and female.

Fortunately for my friend, God smiled on her and after 12 weeks of chemotherapy, she’s completely cancer-free and living life to the fullest. She has even gone on to write a book about her experience to encourage and help other women by sharing her story.

 

Black & Missing

According to the FBI every year 273,985 people color are reported missing with 8 in 10being African-American, of the 58,000 children who are victims of abductions, 65 percent are black. However, when Phylicia Barnes, who was a 17 year old college bound teenager came up missing a few days after Christmas in 2010, or Stepha Henry, who was a recent college graduate on her way to law school, disappeared while visiting family in Miami, they never got the national press or constant media attention that Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart did. Why?

Race was undoubtedly a factor as both Phylicia and Stepha were black while Elizabeth and Natalee were white. But another factor was classism, as America is essentially a stratified society in which the lives of some are valued more than that of others. But while society as a whole may be slow

change, we all can do our individual part to bring about the changes we want to see. As a father of two teenage daughters, I was disturbed when I learned just how little media attention was dedicated to people of color who go missing more than any other race in this country every year.

How many of us had heard the names of any of the 11 Cleveland women who went missing before their bodies were found in convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell’s house? Exactly. They were poor black women, from a poor black community, many with a history of drug addiction, and as a result they were treated as nobodies with the bulk only receiving media attention when their bodies were found.

As a victim of injustice I feel a personal connection with all those who have been wronged and have a strong desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Whether it’s seeking justice for Trayvon Martin or marching with Occupy Wall Street, my spirit is forever on the front lines. With my weapon of words organized into a verbal sigh and protest, I find myself repeatedly turning to my pen to express solidarity with these causes that are near and dear to my heart.

I know that in some way, no matter how small or insignificant, we can all do our part. Because if anything matters, then every thing matters.

To learn more about how you can do your part, check out the Black & Missing Foundation at www.blackandmissinginc.com

Girl Gone Natural

Disclaimer: Being a man I hesitate to wade into the murky waters of offering my unique take on an issue related to black women and hair care. Why? Because as a man I’ve never had to wake up with a crook in my neck after trying to get a night’s rest with a head full of rollers, nor have I experienced the scarring heat of red-hot metal on skin from a straightening comb gone astray, or sat for hours with the harsh chemicals of a perm made out of God only knows all in the  name of beauty. All of this makes me an outsider looking in regarding exactly all what black women go through and deal with concerning their hair.

But as a black man with two black daughters, a mother, sister and as someone who loves and supports black women, I was excited when I read articles in Essence and USA Today about the many African-American women who have decided to go natural. Choosing to exchange the chemical based relaxed/perm, hair weave, extension look for their own unique natural hair – rocking dos ranging from TWAs (teeny-weeny afros), large ‘fros, braids, coils, and other all natural dos.

I couldn’t help but exclaim – YES!!! As I feel that this is an idea whose time has come. Marie Lourdes Price, owner of Braid Elite in Washington D.C. said, “I see ladies really embracing their natural hair.”

And on CurlyNikki.com, a natural hair website, several celebrities are also in on the phenomenon, including Esperanza Spalding, Corinne Bailey Rae, Wanda Skyes and even teen sensation Raven-Symone.

While I’ve never personally been a black man who has had a problem with a woman wearing weave or hair extensions—simply because I recognize it as a current trend and I acknowledge that there are certain styles that some sistas chose to wear that require the extra hair –

I’m not going to lie and say that there hasn’t been times when I’ve felt, especially in the last couple of years, that some black women have gone a little too far with a good thing.

I mean, come on, a dark skinned cocoa brown sista with platinum blonde hair down to her hamstrings? What’s up with that? Being instyle is one thing, but that’s something else all together.

I know Nikki Minaj does it and also rocks her do in every color of the rainbow. Yet, since she is trying to cultivate an outrageous persona and be like a hip-hop version of Lady Gaga or Madonna, I get it, I really do. But what about the average woman holding down a job, raising a family and shopping at Walmart?

That’s why I am 100 percent down with the natural hair movement. In my book, all black women are beautiful, irregardless of how they wear their hair. But to me, it’s especially refreshing to see sisters who are comfortable in their own skin with the looks and hair that God gave them.

Viola Davis rocks the Oscars in a natural do

 

 

A Dream — Deferred

For longer than memory will let me recall I’ve been somewhat of a fashion connoisseur. And I have always loved to see a well dressed woman — especially if she had that particular shape certain women have coupled with a outfit chosen specifically to accent it – I can’t say exactly where this aesthetic sense of beauty originated, but growing up as an only child and late addition to the family (l have one sister who is much older and was therefore already out of the house). My mother was still young and good looking with a flattering shape and in those days she loved to step out on the town. As she would be getting ready for one of her numerous jaunts, I often found my seven-eight year old self acting as her personal stylist offering subtle and not so subtle suggestions like, “I don’t like that one, you should wear the red one instead.”

Upon entering my teenage years growing up in an urban environment (the hood), a portion of this fashion-forwardness was suppressed. And I adopted the personal dress styles and taste of my environment. Which resulted in me never paying much attention to the fashion scene, especially not the upscale side of it.

That changed when I winded up incarcerated. Now that I had time I began to read the multitude of magazines that were constantly floating around. In prison guys will do or read just about anything to drown out the mindless soul stealing day to day humdrum of prison life. Name it and somebody has a subscription to it from Robb’s Report and Dupont Registry to other magazines featuring products and services a gazillion times beyond most inmates current or future financial stations— to weeklies like Jet, The Week, Newsweek etc. And there is always a ton of women’s magazines within easy access Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Essence, Lucky, Seventeen, Vanity Fair, and Allure.

Initially I was perturbed as to why so many guys were subscribing to these women publications. Eventually I concluded that apart from looking (and lusting) on the models that the second reason came from what’s called the scarcity syndrome. Which means that whatever unmet needs a person has, that need becomes paramount. Since heterosexual men like myself are prevented from having the loving intimate and sexual relationships with women as we desire to as a result of being incarcerated. All things WOMAN become of immense importance and interest. It’s like oxygen few of us give much thought to its’ importance, but that would change in a heartbeat if we suddenly found ourselves without it.

At first I began to look at these fashion magazines just for something to do. Soon I found myself appreciating the designs of designer like Michael Kors, Valentino, Tracy Resse, Marc Jacobs, and many others. In that instant the old fashion bug that I had long forgotten began to stir. It was then that I began to believe that I had the eye and creativity to be a fashion designer. Motivated I subscribed to several fashion magazines, (funny huh? At first I was a critic of other guys getting all those women magazines and ended up subscribing to a half dozen myself. What’s that old saying about the pot calling the kettle black?) and began to sketch my own designs. Designs that I shared with family and friends and for which I received mostly positive feedback. By then I was hooked and began to have Project Runway dreams.

Along the way, I dabbled in urban design, tennis shoe design, women’s ready to wear, as well as couture. But decided I liked designing women’s ready to wear the most at least in the higher price points. But being that the state of Texas wasn’t about to let me travel to New York, or Parson’s School of design any time soon. I slapped images of Heidi Klum out of my head and scaled down my ambition. Because of my unique circumstances, lack of capital, or fashion experience, decided that trying to launch my own line was probably out the question. And set my sights on finding a small established designer with a in-house seamstress who I could contribute seasonal designs to be integrated with their existing line. Kinda like a nameless, faceless ghost designer.  Dream Deferred Design 1 Dream Deferred Design 2 Dream Deferred Design 3 Dream Deferred Design 4 Dream Deferred Design 5 Dream Deferred Design 6 Dream Deferred Design 7 Dream Deferred Design 8 Dream Deferred Design 9 Dream Deferred Design 10 Dream Deferred Design 11 Dream Deferred Design 12

Do Women In Relationships Get A Raw Deal?

In my search for the perfect mate, this was a question I had never actually given any serious thought to. Like a lot of singles who desired to be a pair, I had naively assumed that two people who were attracted to each other met, got to know one another, fell in love, then set out to build a life together. Sometimes it led to “Happily ever after” and sometimes it didn’t.

But reading Judy Brady’s essay “Why I Want A Wife” forced me to challenge my naive assumptions about the equality of relationships and exactly what each partner brings to the table in a successful relationship.

In her essay, she so succinctly pointed out the many, many things that women do for the men in their lives that so many men, including myself, take for granted as just being a natural part of the relationship. For instance, I don’t recall any woman I dated expecting me to cook our meals, do the laundry, take her mother to the doctor, or to have sex when I didn’t feel like it or wanted to. Yet, all of the above are things women readily do. But I needed Judy Brady’s to help bring them to my attention.

Of course, since Mrs. Brady wrote her ground breaking essay in the early 60’s, there has been a great push toward equality of the sexes, nevertheless there is still work to do.

So, I confess that I do still want a wife, fortunately not for the stereotypical reason Mrs. Brady pointed out.

Why I Want A Wife

By Judy Brady

I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife, and, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.

Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?

I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturing attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.

I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife .to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.

I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.

I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the babysitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guest arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guest so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed hors d’oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.

I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.

If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.

When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.

My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?