Not Angry Just Tired: Thoughts on BET’s Being Mary Jane

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I have watched the trailers of the new series on BET “Being Mary Jane” starring Gabrielle Union, that will air on July 2nd and I will be watching. I watched all of the trailers and then scrolled to the comment section about the series. Almost all of the comments stated that this was another show that will contain the stereotype of the angry Black woman just like series and movies created by Tyler Perry. Well I did not get that interpretation  when I watched the trailer, I saw a Black woman whose was balancing work, family and love and was tired not angry.

The angry Black woman stereotype live in the idea that the said Black woman is constantly angry at the world and is never happy or have a happy moment. 95 percent of the time she is angry and everyone feels her wrath. Now with that being said about “angry Black women” I did not see the character Mary Jane as angry. She was tired of taking care of a family that did not want to do better for themselves and who felt she would take care of them because she has a great job, no kids of her own and makes a nice living for herself. I also noticed that she wasn’t angry when it came to her love life, but aren we told if we get our stuff together a good man will come. So being educated, financially stable and easy on the eyes, then you should have a good man that complements you. Right???? Then while at work, the scene that it shows is her having a discussion with her boss about a segment she wants to do about a magazine that insulted the way Black women look. Even then as much as she wanted to discuss the magazine her boss talked her out of it so she would not come off as another angry Black woman to the audience.  She was angry but in order not to be seen as such she agreed not to discuss it. (Now I am interested in how that plays out).

So with all of those aspects to her character, she has the right to be angry at times because she is tired. She is tired of being the responsible one in the family, who feels like she has to do because of what she has accomplished in her life and how little her family has not accomplished. You know we have a hard time telling other people no and even harder time telling family no. She does not want to leave her family and she is capable of helping them but she seems tired of the things that happen and how she has to overlook the wrong and still be the responsible one because others choices. Her love life consists of a married man, the man that got away, and a current love interest, but even with her having options she seems tired of her not so committed love life. Their are probably times when it is exciting but for the most part she is a single woman who has to deal with loneliness. Work, in and of itself will make anyone tired, whether you are superwoman or just a regular woman with an 8-5. So many things happen that make you tired of your job and angry sometimes as well.

So to all the people who state this is just another representation of the “angry Black woman” and in the same category with Tyler Perry productions, I beg to differ. I see the potential and will definitely be tuned in to see how this series turns out. Hopefully it will show the complexity of a Black woman who appears to have it all but in reality has to give so much of herself in return for very little. Hopefully it will show her strength and vulnerabilities to the people and things that happen in her life.

For a look at the trailer and some thoughts and reviews of the series, click here

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You are Known by the People you Hang Out With (Even Family)

ImageI am a fan of SOME reality TV shows. I must say that some of my favorites are about families. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of Keeping up With the Kardashians, The Braxton Family Values and Mary Mary. Now I know those three shows really have little in common, but to me the main commonality is that they all have a way they want their family to be seen as. I get this idea from listening to their individual commentary throughout the show. They don’t want people to think they don’t love each other or doesn’t want the other sibling to be successful, they want you to know the opposite and that sometimes as siblings they disagree. When you think about the idea of family branding, do you think about the meaning behind your family name, how people treat you because of your family name and associations and or how people distance themselves from you when you mention who your relatives are? Well the three shows that I enjoy watching all have achieved a high level of family branding.

When I think of the Braxton Family Value, I think of musical talents among sisters who each possess something completely different.  When they sing together it is wonderful, but you also see that they don’t always agree with each other.  They have their own mindsets, but at the end of the day all of the sister’s are musically talented and some want to be known for those talents. You see the things they go through with their husbands, kids, and balancing music, family and sister duties. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is honestly one of my favorite family reality TV shows. Kourtney’s idea of being a great parent but also working hard, with a fear of marriage because of her parent’s failed marriage is a great example of how complicated some situations can be. Khloe’s inability to get pregnant but she does not to let her inability to conceive put her in a standoffish position with Kourtney, who doesn’t try to get pregnant but has two children. Kim, is just now finding herself in my opinion. Now that she doesn’t work as much and has a new man in her life you  can see a change in her. This show in my opinion is the best example of family branding. Although some people do not like the show nor the family, you can’t deny that they don’t have the hustle and make it happen mentality, all while still being family centered. My new favorite show is Mary Mary. All I can say is that their family reminds me of my own (to a certain degree). You see them argue, disagree, threaten to take time out from the group, deal with daddy issues, and balance being a mother and good wife all at the same time. This while showing the world their family life.  As I started watching Mary Mary, it made me think of a more religion centered Braxton Family Values. Did they hide their faith, no but they did let everyone into their life to see how their faith plays a big part in the success and family life, yes.

With all of that being said, I love those shows and it makes me think about my own family and how do people see us. I can say with certainty that when people ask me who my mama, grandma, and granddaddy are and I tell them, they expect so much from me. They expect me to be able to sing my heart out, be in the church every Sunday and live by every word in the Bible, aspire to have a big family, and be a hard worker. Now those things are not bad but when I do things that are not within that line of thinking (which I do a lot), people  look at me like I should be ashamed of myself. Well I am not. I think they feel this way because they don’t really know what message my family wants to send out. Some people take the fact that we don’t socialized much with people who are not family as us thinking we are more than everyone else. In actually. it is because we have always had each other when we had nothing or no one else. They take that we go to church and are active in every auxiliary possible, as we must live by the Bible at all times and that singing just comes second nature because my granny and granddaddy did it.  Well, we do work hard and are never ashamed of anything that we have done (I honestly get that from my granny). I think if a family really wants to brand themselves on a smaller scale than the Braxton’s, Karadashians’s and the Mary’s then you really have to put forth the effort. Really look at how the things you do and say affect how people will perceive you and how you can shape the message then.  

All I know is that, when I was told you are known by the people you hang out with, my mama nor grandma did not lie about that. I know they meant it as friends, but family is the same thing. I will always be known as Jennifer’s little sister or Frankie’s granddaughter. I can’t change that but I can work to help how people see my family through the messages that I communicate.

We/I the People/Person

We the PeopleAs I begin my life after college, I am really beginning to see that their are more “I” people than any other type of person. I must say, I pride myself in helping others whenever possible and I am happy when others help me. I guess it comes from the way that I was raised. Their was no such thing as only looking out for self, you took care of your family and close friends. So as I begin this journey into the real world, I realize this is not my mama’s house or my family circle, I am beginning to see that when the Constitution said “We the People”, that wasn’t completely true. People are now more concerned about themselves and having more than others than helping others who need help.

This whole idea has been on my mind for a while now. It began with the conversation surrounding the President’s Inaugural address. As I listened to the pundits, dissect the speech piece by piece, I began to notice more of the “for businesses”, and “taking care of everyone” sort of speech began to develop. I began to worry about whether, people really did feel like they were more as individual than as a nation. That helping others who need help, was not as important as making more money than you are able to spend. Their is nothing wrong with wanting a better life for yourself, but once you obtain a better life don’t forget that someone helped you when you needed help.

Well this gets me to a few things I learned in Intercutural Communication, while I was in graduate school. Cultures can be divided in:collectivist and individualist.  Collectivist individual are people who see themselves in relation to their social roles, family, and ethnic group. They do not see their accomplishments as something that they accomplished for themselves, but instead for their entire family or ethnic group. Individualist cultures are more focused on their person accomplishment and how they accomplishments will affect them.

Now as a whole, the United States of America would be considered an individualist culture because people are more concerned about their own welfare and taking care of themselves, than taking care of the nation and the people who are less fortunate than themselves. Although the nation as a whole is very individualist, their are cultures inside of America who are quite collectivist. Two prime examples are most Black and Hispanic cultures. Being that I know first hand, in my family we look out for each other, regardless. You are more likely to see Black and Hispanic families taking care of several generations of people at once. It is not unheard of to know someone in either culture who takes care of their parents or live in a small community with just their family members. 

Overall, it seems that people (specifically some/most Americans) are so concerned with what they have that they are unwilling to see how they can help others and see certain people’s perspective. It is sometimes hard for people who are able to assist others to do so, because it requires looking at the situation from their perspective and not your own. Am I saying you should give your all and/or last to people who are less fortunate, no. I am saying that if you are able to help someone even if it is not financially, you should. We should look outside how someone can help me, and see how you can help someone else. Although American society has made it difficult to think this way, it is not impossible. America has a past of only taking specific groups of people welfare into consideration, but that doesn’t mean that the principles that the nation was founded upon should be the same premise that we live on now. I wish I could say we are completely pass looking at our own benefit, but I would be lying. Is it really horrible that we as a nation want to assist people who needs assistance, or is it really to much to ask of you. So is America really “We the People”, or should it say “I the Person”? 

 

What Legacy will you Leave Behind?

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Today is not only the holiday that we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday but also the 2nd inauguration of President Barack Obama. This means so many things for so many people. As I sit here and watch all of the festivities, I think about the legacy of these 2 men and the numerous people who participated in the ceremony. Everyone who participated in this ceremony, is now a part of history. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice and the first Hispanic to administer an oath office in U.S. history. Now, if that is not history then I don’t know what is (Just thought I would throw that in there). Not overlooking the contributions that everyone made today, most of them are building a legacy to leave behind. As I think about their legacy, I can only think about my own. As a grow older, what will be my legacy? How will people remember me? What contribution will I make to history?

As I think about my journey to becoming a part of the academic environment, I also think about whether my research will have an impact on history, in even the smallest form? I think about all the Black women who came before me who put in the work, but did not have their work acknowledged until after their death. They worked so hard to make a difference in the world around them, and were sometimes not able to see the change they were looking for. The one thing I learned is that they never gave up. They continued on their journey to a better world around them, regardless of what other thoughts or garner the recognition they deserved. I guess all that is left for me to do is to continue on my journey and do the work I think is important to me and my community. 

What legacy will you leave behind????

Listening and Support is all some people need

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As the holiday season is upon us, I can only think about all of the people who will have relationship issues. Not large issues but enough for them to want to vent to someone else. Well if I haven’t learned anything else in this journey to becoming a better person and friend, it is that sometimes people just want you to listen to them and support them. Now this sounds really easy, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

Think about the part in Waiting to Exhale, when they were all sitting around talking about their problems with men and how none of them were judgmental (maybe because they had been drinking) but they were listening and supportive (in their own way). Sometimes all we want to do is offer advice instead of listening to what the person has to say. Sometimes you just need to vent to people, because you don’t want to say something to the person that upset you.  It is sometimes better to vent to other people, instead of just getting upset about everything. It may not be as large of an issue as it appears. 

So how can we go against our natural instinct and just listen and offer support? I have two suggestions. First, when someone is having a problem let them talk without interrupting them with what you think and what they should do. You will need to give them some cues that you are listening such as nodding, eye contact and the occasional “yes”, “um-huh”. For some of us (women), this is easier because we do it more often than men.  It is okay to interrupt, but only if you need clarification. It is not okay if you want to offer your opinion and the person is not finished explaining the situation.  Also, try to listen mindfully and don’t let your thoughts wander.  You may think people don’t know when you are not listening, but don’t you remember that time when someone was pouring their heart out to you and you weren’t listening and they asked you what you think and you didn’t have an answer or gave the wrong response. People DO know when you are not listening and it is quite insensitive to not listen. Plus, it is easy for you to think about other things when people are talking but do you like when people are not listening to you but instead are thinking about other things. I don’t think you like it, so don’t do it to other people.

Second piece of advice that I have is, be supportive. Now this can come in different ways. You can be supportive by recalling the incident and saying that whatever decision they make you are there for them. Now if you think what they are doing is not right, then say so, but be sure to tell them why you don’t agree with it. Don’t assume they should understand because if they did, then you wouldn’t be having the conversation. You can also be supportive by offering a different outlook on the situation. Now this does not mean you need to tell them what they need to do, but instead you can offer them a different perspective on the situation. This includes saying that you understand their point of view and if you don’t have them explain it further. Once you let it be known that you understand their point of view, they may not take your advice and may even become angry, but that is just an initial reaction for some people. Then you can offer a different outlook and explain it. Depending on who you are talking to (woman or man) they may expect a different type of support.  

I know this advice seems so simple, but sit back and recall the last time someone spilled their heart out to you and you did not try to tell them what they should do. You probably don’t have to think hard about the situation. Just know that listening and being supportive is what most people need not judgmental and a pity party. 

When is Honesty too Much?

Everytime you ask someone what they want in a relationship, whether it is romantic or not, one of the responses is always: honesty. Honesty has become one of the things that people can’t live without. I am not arguing with that fact but I do want to pose a question. How much honesty is to much honesty?

I have asked several people about their relationships, specifically friendships and they all say they want honesty. The thing about honesty though is that the level of honesty they expect differs based on the relationship. According to the people I spoke with, the only people who can be completely honest with them are their best friends and family. This does not mean that they don’t get offended, but they are at least willing to listen.  What you must know is that they don’t feel like all family members and friends can be completely honest with them. They only want people who they feel have their well-being at heart and who will not purposely hurt them. So this did not include everyone. The people that are honest with them the most, are the people who they are closest with.

So a person they don’t disclose to, does not have the right to be completely honest to them. They don’t want a person they consider only a friend to tell them their honest opinion about their current relationship or their opinion about a major decision they are about to make.  They only want as much honesty as they give to them. This amount of honesty is normally quite superficial and most likely will not hurt anyones feelings. Does this apply to everyone, of course not.  Some people want others to tell them the truth regardless of their relationship. I have not encountered too many people who feel this way.  Honesty is one of those traits that we ask for, but we don’t really explain how honest we would like other to be with us.

Another thing about honesty is that we don’t always respond to it in a constructive way because it may not be what we want to hear at the time.  The thing we have to remember is that if we can’t mindfully listen and consider what others are telling us when they are being honest, then it could get to the place where people are no longer honest to us. You will have to set boundaries about topics and areas where you feel that person can be honest with you.  If no boundaries are set and that person offers their opinion on the situation, you may respond negatively and potentially damage the relationship.

So the question that asked when is honesty to much? The answer is that it is up to you and how you respond to it. If you don’t want everyone being completely honest with you, then you have to set boundaries. You also do not need to disclose information to people whose honesty will not be valued. So if honesty is important to you and you do not want everyone to be completely honest to you, then you have to control who you disclose to.

Black in America After Thoughts

Last night I watched Black in America. This installment in the series was great. It really looked at something that people don’t talk about but it happens on a daily basis. Colorism is often overlooked as something that is not as serious as racism. It is overlooked because people do it everyday and don’t give it a second thought as to whether what they are saying is offensive. The thing with colorism is that, it is just as dangerous as racism. It places a hierarchical nature on who is beautiful and who isn’t and how people view themselves. The worse part is that just like racism, colorism is taught. We don’t come out of the womb thinking “Oh she is pretty because she is light skinned and I am not because I am dark skinned”. We only start to make these statements as we grow up and hear other people say them. A very good example is when babies are born and they have a light complexion and people are like oh she/he baby is cute. Then turn around and see a very cute baby that has a darker complexion and give a hair compliment instead, as if because the baby is darker she/he is not a cute. You know they say when people think a child is not cute they will compliment something else about the child other than the looks, i.e., hair, outfit, eyes. So this installment made me think about my own journey with colorism.

As a Black person with darker skin, I can say watching Black in American really resonated with me. I, just like the little girl thought a light complexion was beautiful and that I wasn’t because of my complexion. It impacted how I wore my hair, how I talked, and the friends I surrounded myself with. I was accustomed to being darker than some of my family members and also being called out about it. The only good thing is that my mother didn’t play those games.  She emphasized that we were all beautiful and that your complexion did not make you beautiful. She, having a darker complexion did not bite her tongue when it came to people saying a person was cute because of their complexion. She was very vocal about people who she thought was cute and people she didn’t based on their attitudes and how others treated them.  Most of the time the people she didn’t think were cute, were the people everyone else made a big deal out of and treated them differently because they had a lighter complexion. Although I grew up knowing this, it did not change how I viewed myself. Outside of the house, I still had to hear comments and jokes and my complexion or people who were darker than myself.  My mother, father, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephew, and my great niece all either have a medium or dark complexion.  So you would think we would never call each other Black or ugly or things like that but we did because that was what we knew and heard other say. That was what other people said, excluding my mommy.

It took a while for me to realize that the color of my skin did not make me beautiful but the spirit that was within and how I treated others. It became more apparent as I got older and people who were of a light complexion suddenly became ugly, (and some of them still are) because of their attitudes and how they treated others. It still frustrated me that as much progress I made with my attitudes towards people of different shades of Blackness, I still would heard the same attitudes and words that made my progression difficult.  As I began to gain more confidence in myself and my skin, I began to see a change in how others viewed me. True, most of the time people knew me as the smart girl but I became more than a smart girl when I started to realize that I could be smart and beautiful. 

Now I am not just that smart girl anymore . I am that natural haired girl that talks a lot and wants to teach others about the impact of communication,specifically Black people, who has a really pretty smile and really smooth skin, and who marches to her own beat. True, some people will still characterize me by my complexion and I will still be discriminated against because of my complexion, but I am okay with the person I am. It has taken a long time for me to get there and a few people telling me I am beautiful and redefining what beauty is, for me to get here but I am here.  

So Black in America rocked last night and really made me think about my journey to becoming okay with my complexion and the person I have become!!!

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