Feature Friday: Afrika Book Café

Feature Friday: Afrika Book Café

I hope all of you had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, I visited the Afrika Book Café, located at 404 Mitchell Street in my hometown Jackson, MS.  This much needed black-owned book store is in the Fondren area and has books, African inspired jewelry, African clothing, music, incense, and oils at great prices.  I had the fortunate opportunity to talk at length with one of the store owners Dr. Sizewe Chapman, who is originally from Jackson and wants to see and help the city of Jackson grow and prosper.  After discussing economic development in Jackson, he recommended I read Black Labor, White Wealth by Claud Anderson.

Another book, The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke, caught my eye, so I purchased those two and look forward to reading them.

Now I wish I were flying back to Atlanta so I could get started!

After browsing through all Afrika Book Café has to offer, I sat on the porch with the store owners (a beautiful married couple!) and Skipp Coon and his wife (another beautiful married couple! Black love lives!).  One of the things I miss most about home is the simplicity but profundity of sitting on a porch learning from each other and talking about the world and what we can do and are doing to make it better.  Skipp, Sizewe, and I talked strategy, history, our reality, and dreams.  Sizewe, a former African history professor at Jackson State University, really inspired me to keep reading and finding historical significance and lessons as I move forward in trying to affect positive change in the black community.  Skipp, who is a rapper who speaks the truth (and someone whom you should support!), and I finished a conversation we had awhile back about colonies, and we shared stories about our experiences as blacks traveling in Europe.

Lemme tell you, my visit to Afrika Book Café is one of the highlights of my trip home.  If you’re in or near Jackson, I encourage you to check this treasure out.  It’s still a new business, so let’s make sure it stays open, serving our community by providing educational and mind-expanding resources and a space for community interaction.  Go support this small business! And while you’re at it, support Skipp Coon!

Feature Friday: Green Building

Feature Friday: Green Building

In preparation for our New Orleans’ volunteer trip, one of my group members helped me tremendously (and graciously!) by creating a card that gives green tips in building to give to organizations and residents who may be interested.  As a Feature, I’m giving Sirobe a shout out (soon to be one of less than 300 black women architects!!) and the tips in case any of you are doing any home improvements over the holidays.

Here are a couple of the tips:

  • Since appliances and electronics are responsible for 20% of the average energy bill, it pays to make your home more energy efficient.  You could receive up to $500 in rebates or $1500 in tax credits if you purchase Energy Star appliances.  Visit www.energysavers.gov for more information!
  • If you’re moving any time soon, remember that large trees are your friend.  They can help to shade your home from direct sunlight as well as block cold winds.

If you know any one building a house or anyone who is rebuilding on the Coast (or anywhere else), send them to my page.  They can contact Reads and Reels for more information.

I rock!

I rock!

Sunday night, BET aired Black Girls Rock, and it was so awesome!  It’s about time we see some positive, inspirational, motivational, strong images of black women in the media.  BET did this one right.  Working with Beverly Bond to give more exposure to the positivity her initiative exudes, this program did wonders for grown black girls and small black girls alike.  If you missed it, I encourage you to watch it, whether you’re a black girl or not.  You can catch it online at the link above.

So let’s spread some love on my page today.  Share with me why YOU rock!

Why do I rock?  I rock because I’m a risk taker.  I dream and then I go after them.  I rock because I’m a M.A.D. black woman–one who’s making a difference.  I’m a change maker.  I rock because even though I’m a rough and tough with my afro puffs at times, I’m versatile–I’m also a softspoken, sensitive southern belle who loves alliteration and all things vintage and frilly.  I rock because I know my style and I love myself for it.  I rock because I want to be an influence on those around me.  As Iyanla Vanzant said Sunday night, I rock because I have no other choice.

Here’s one of my fave parts of the show.

Why do you rock?  Tell me!

Have you voted?

Have you voted?


If you haven’t voted already, what are you waiting for? Here are links to some previous posts about voting.

Are you ready for the midterm elections?

GA Primary: Election Results

Are you ready for the primary?

Here are some other useful links.

MoveOn.org Election 2010 Voting Info

CNN Election Center

Washington Post Vote Tracker

Usually I’m a little impatient when it comes to standing in lines, but this morning, I was very happy and gleeful to stand in line to vote. It was really encouraging. I hope the expected turnout is surpassed greatly. Some ask why I didn’t early vote–there’s just something about voting on Election Day that makes me feel empowered. I only early vote when I know I can’t fit it in on the actual day, but I totally support making voting more accessible.  I just like being in the thick (or thin, in which case I frown) of things.

I’m also very very ecstatic to see that people have been following my suggested links to the Secretary of State website, the layman’s version of the proposed amendments, and info about candidates.  🙂

Anywho, if you’ve voted, ^5!!! If you haven’t, you have till 7 pm. Get it done!!

Almighty Debt

Almighty Debt

So last week, Reads and Reels along with TEO hosted an advance screening of CNN’s Black in America: Almighty Debt, which is airing in full tomorrow night. The event was well-attended, and people definitely had lots to say about the segment.  Here are some highlights.

  • Many people in the group, while they appreciated the topics touched on in Almighty Debt, felt that there should have been an added focus on those who have triumphed over debt.  They expressed that instead of showing all our problems, showing people who have overcome debt issues would have provided some hope to the watchers.  Some people thought the segment was realistic, and some thought it didn’t represent enough of the black diaspora.
  • In the piece, Pastor Soaries said that debt is a bigger problem than racism.  Some agreed, but others did not.  One attendee said that this debt problem is a byproduct of racism, and that there are still systems that encourage a disproportionate affect on our community in comparison to others.  She even made reference to a quote from the first Black in America: “When America has a cold, Black America has the flu.”  In essence, financial issues affect us greater–as Julianne Malveaux said during her interview, many of us are middle class by income, not by wealth.  So when stuff happens, we don’t have as much cushion, and we’re more easily knocked out of middle class.  It’s troubling that the wealth gap between whites and blacks is $75,000.
  • One point that was made over and over again in the segment as well as in our discussion is that we get emotionally attached to our stuff.  Due to a long history of not having much, it was said that we spend a lot of our money trying to catch up and show that we’re worthy of having stuff — stuff, as in houses, cars, clothes, designer purses, etc., that we can’t or won’t let go of when times get tough.  I shared with the group that in 2007, black buying power was $845 billion and was expected to top $1.1 trillion by 2012.  What are we doing with this money?  Why aren’t we leveraging it? Why are we buying tons of stuff instead of investing in our communities, in black businesses, in our education systems, in programs that will help us?
  • One very important topic of this new segment of Black in America is the church’s role.  Should the church be focused on salvation–getting people to heaven–or should it also be teaching and advocating for our communities–helping people on earth?  (Y’all know I think it should be doing both.)  The church, which used to be the single most important institution in our communities, should be investing in building up our communities.  I am in support of those churches, including the one in the documentary, who have community foundations that buy property and help people find jobs and teach financial literacy and help people get out of debt and hold entrepreneurship workshops and the like.  We need to think beyond our individual selves and get back to thinking long-term for our community.  We know what many of our problems are–so let’s get to fixing them.

There was so much more that was said, and there is so much to be said–and to be done.  Overall, I think the screening, and I’m sure the complete show tomorrow, fulfilled an imperative purpose: to get us talking about what we need to do become better financially.  It’s a personal and community problem–we each have a responsibility to get our own lives in order and make better decisions; and we all need to chip in and do something to position future generations to be better stewards of money and to understand how to build wealth, not just increase income, or as one participant said: “make money while we sleep.”

One thing that I’d like to see expanded and implemented to a wider audience is our ESP Kids Club, where members of TEO along with some brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha teach middle school kids on Saturdays about financial literacy.  The program is so enriching that some parents have asked to sit in because their kids were going home sharing information that the parents didn’t know!

There’s an information gap from which our community suffers gravely.  We need to fill it in order to empower the black community economically.  We have to have the foresight to ensure that our $1.1 trillion will be spent creating products, innovating, and growing assets, not just being consumers.

Feature Friday: Small Businesses

Feature Friday: Small Businesses

I’m no stranger to the pros and cons, benefits and trials of owning a small business.  In addition to my own small endeavors over the years, I was exposed to entrepreneurship as a child.  My granddaddy opened Robinson Shoe Shop in 1957, and it is now operated by my daddy and one of my uncles.  I’m sure this is one of the major reasons that the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act this week was important news to me, besides the fact that statistics show that small businesses are the source of a large chunk of the jobs in this country and are important to economic development.  They are also necessary in the community development of black communities.  Part of economic empowerment is generating and producing, not just consuming.

So today, my feature is two-fold: The Small Business Jobs Act and the film Harlem’s Mart 125: The American Dream.

I saw the film in late August on a Sunday afternoon at Central Library.  Not knowing that I had just said excuse me and stepped over the film’s creator, I sat in my seat and through the grainy cinematography (which I understood is an byproduct of a one-woman budget!! How passionate and awesome is that?), learned about an establishment that was not only the lifeline of several hard-working black business owners but also to the entire community in which it was located.  The film chronicles how the Harlem’s Mart 125 in New York became to be such a force and how the business owners were let down by the society and government that tells us that we have to get up and get our own.  It saddened me to see the disinvestment of the building, despite the fact that the businesses had been there for years, attracting and maintaining customers and staying relevant to a degree through the times.  Then came the gentrification of the area, which led to the government supporting new chain businesses while not providing support for the anchors that had been holding the community up the whole while.  The creator, Rachelle Salnave-Gardner, showed us that sometimes we really just get the short end of the stick–and that short end begets so many other implications for the business owners, their families, their customers, and the culture of the community.  If you get a chance to see or host this film, I encourage you to take it.

So what does the new bill that President Obama signed this week mean?  Additional loan availability, increases in the loan amounts, a higher tax deductible  for start-up businesses, tax deduction on health insurance expenses, and lots of other stuff.  Here’s another link with some info.  I hope that people, especially black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, will take advantage of some of these newly passed opportunities.  We can’t control all the circumstances, but creating strong businesses and supporting those businesses hold much promise for the future of us all.

Happy Friday, folks!

My Thoughts on the Case of Eddie Long

My Thoughts on the Case of Eddie Long

Yesterday, this story hit the airwaves (and Twitter) like wildfire.

I am one of those people who tries not to come up with my own conclusions before facts are presented (I said try!).  I almost wish that lawsuits were kept secret until right before the trial because the court of public scrutiny can be a major bitch.  So here are my thoughts on the story, which are unrelated to what I think about the case itself.

1. While we should reserve judgment until more facts are made available (please remember Shirley Sherrod), we must see that there are two sides of the coin.  These are allegations.  Which means Long is innocent until proven guilty.  However, we must be careful to not cast judgment on the accusers.  This morning, the head of PR at New Birth said in an interview on V-103 that we must remember that these guys have been on the other side of the law.  I have two problems with that: a – It’s a common tactic to criminalize the victim.  Many victims don’t have pristine backgrounds, but that shouldn’t bar them from speaking out when they’ve been harmed. b – I would just expect a little more from a church.  If you’re not ready defense-wise, then just say “he didn’t do it” and leave it at that.  Trashing these guys who have been members of the church, participants in the programs, and on the church payroll isn’t a good look.  So I said all that to say–to be neutral is to stay in the middle.  Jumping on the accusers/possible victims is still picking a side and is just as bad as jumping on Long’s case before he has had the chance to defend himself.

2. This case immediately made me think of Juanita Bynum getting mollywhopped in a parking lot and all the backlash that caused.  We church folk have to remember that we go to the House for the Word and to worship God, not bask in the pastor’s fervor.  They are not superhuman.  They are people too, and when we keep that in mind, it’s easier to swallow when things happen.  Yes, they are spiritual leaders, and we must believe that God will lead us to where we’re supposed to go to hear His message and to fellowship with other believers, despite whatever imperfections the pastor has.

2b. There are folks who love when stuff like this hits the media so they can talk about how religion and spirituality are irrelevant and the church is full of fake people.  But as we all know, the church is full of sinners, and that’s the point.  No one is perfect, but we can all be saved under the perfect love of Christ.  So, stay strong, folks.  Especially you guys on Twitter and Facebook who may be inundated with defending your faith.

3. Regardless of whether or not Long did it or not, I hope people in power positions everywhere are taking note that you have to protect yourself from even the appearance of malfeasance.  Of course, it’s not always preventable, but be aware of rumors and take heed to not feed into those rumors.  Also, know that what is done in the dark will always come to the light.  I say that as a tribute to all these politicians (who have a duty to the public just as spiritual leaders do) who keep getting caught because they thought they were invincible then end up resigning.  People who are in public leadership roles are held to a higher standard, so just know there is only so much privacy to be expected. Which is sad, yes, but it’s reality.  So this is to you and to me, just be careful out there.

I’ll be watching the news and reading the paper just as you will.  Just keep Long, the two young men, all the families involved, New Birth, and this entire society in your prayers, as I will.

By the way, happy last day of summer!

Say It Ain’t So – Quality Film to Come?

Say It Ain’t So – Quality Film to Come?

I will admit, I had really (and by really, I mean extremely, intensely, immensely, extraordinarily) low expectations of Tyler Perry’s upcoming film translation of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which hits the big screen in November. It just seemed too paradoxical.  While I regret that I haven’t yet read the book by Ntozake Shange (though it is on my shelfari list), I have seen the play, and I wasn’t moved.  Not because of the content, but because of the delivery.  My attention just wasn’t captured, and I found myself dozing off, which I usually wouldn’t freely admit.  I always wondered “am I just not deep enough?”

Now, place that with the other end of the spectrum.  Most know I’m not a Tyler Perry fan.  I find his productions pretty shallow and redundant.  While I admire his tenacity and success, I’m just not an avid fan.  So when I heard Tyler Perry was going to be the leader of this film adaptation, I thought this was simple math.  Too deep + not deep = #uberfail.

But then the trailer hit Twitter yesterday morning, and I’m pretty intrigued.  I hope the trailer isn’t just a ruse because it definitely changed my status of not-planning-to-see-it-ever to maybe-I’ll-go-see-it-opening-weekend.  I’m really excited about seeing Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad on the same screen.  From the flickers of various scenes in the trailer, it looks like the film may actually be something relatable, engaging, and impelling.

It seems that just maybe too deep + not deep = just deep enough.  Do  you plan to go see this film?

36 Things for the Single Ladies

36 Things for the Single Ladies

Today, I read this post, which was a result of a blogger stumbling across this list.  Every leader should know how to be a good follower, right?  Well, I’m following suit and sharing what I’ve done in this list (by bold type). To all you single gals (and guys) out there, how much of this list have you conquered?  **I think it’s important to note that at some point, you have to consciously enjoy/bask in/take advantage of being single.  Time and place for everything. Don’t look back one day and wish you had seen the benefits of being single.**  Now that that is said, do you think anything is missing from this list?

36 Things Every Single Girl Must Do Before She Settles Down

**To Build Your Confidence**

1. Go to a movie alone. [I am a movie fanatic. I’ll probably always do this from time to time!]

2. Lift weights. [Now ask me when the last time I lifted weights was, and you may think I need to unbold this one.]

3. Try surfing, water-skiing, or some activity you don’t already know how to do. Could be riding a bicycle. [Wouldn’t everyone logically be able to bold this one? I mean, the first time you did any activity, you didn’t know what you were doing yet, right?]

4. Take out the trash, set a mousetrap, do your taxes, build a bookcase. [I’m good on the mousetrap…]

5. Live alone, or at least move apartments in NYC without the help of family.

6. Train for (and finish) a huge physical test like a half-marathon. [Does playing coed softball count?]

7. Go to a scary doctor’s appointment by yourself. [I’ve done this, and it was because I was too proud to ask someone to come with me and hold my hand.  Luckily, one of my friends had the graciousness to surprise me and be there when I got back to the lobby leaking tears.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing this just for the sake of it.  There’s nothing wrong with single folk asking their friends or family for support.]

8. Quit your job.

9. Fly to a foreign country by yourself. [I wasn’t by myself technically, but I was with a group of people I didn’t know, so I’m counting this one.]

10. Learn to stand up for yourself.

**To Be Able to Look Back and Say “I Had Fun”**

11. Witness something once-in-a-lifetime, like Jokulsarlon, a lake next to a melting glacier in Iceland. [errr… I mean, I don’t really remember so I’ll go with no?]

12. Revel in being able to watch all the TV you want.

13. Get drunk during the day, just because you can. Attend Santacon, the convention for santas, or similar. [I’ve never gotten drunk in the daytime, but how ladylike is that? I’ve had drinks during the day, though.]

14. Go on a date with someone who actually makes you nervous. [:)]

15. Go out with an older man who takes you somewhere nice and makes you feel like a million bucks.

16. Go out with a guy who makes you laugh ‘til it hurts.

**To Get Perspective**

17. Be a good wingwoman. It’s not always about you.

18. Chill with your widowed and single grandma. She knows “alone”! [Since my grandfather passed last year, this one isn’t so lighthearted for me as it comes across in the wording.  Don’t know how I feel about this one, but yes, I’ve spent quality time with her since then.]

19. Volunteer. [Y’all know I do plenty of this.  But lemme tell you why I think giving your time to someone who needs it is a huge one.  It’s good for you and your soul, and it’s good practice in sacrifice (which I hear is, in moderation, necessary for healthy, long-lasting relationship).]

**To Make You Appreciate the Next Guy**

20. Do at least one Valentine’s Day alone. […I mean, ok. I can’t say this was necessarily on purpose, but I’m pretty comfortable with giving myself, my family, and my friends love on Love Day.]

21. Attend a wedding (or 15) alone.

22. Date the creeps. You’ll really value the nice guys afterward. [This was not by choice though. Again, wouldn’t recommend anyone do this on purpose… C’mon now.]

**To Make You Feel Sexy and Attractive**

23. Buy yourself some flowers.

24. Invest in a LBD (little black dress) and some sexy stilettos.

25. Sit at a bar by yourself and drink a martini. Cool. [I have a sneaking suspicion that I have done this. But since I can’t recall a specific time, I’ll leave it.]

26. Buy something frivolous and expensive that you LOVE wearing.

**To Make the Most of Your Free Time**

27. Finish all your schooling if you can. [I’m bolding this, not because I’m “finished” but because I already have 4 degrees so if I decided I were done, who would question me? I’m not convinced I’m done though. I absolutely love learning.]

28. Throw yourself into something time-consuming, like learning a foreign language. You may not have time to do this again until you retire and the kids are off to college. [I could write a whole blog post about all the time-consuming stuff I’ve delved into. Anything that’s worth doing probably isn’t all that quick, right?]

**To Make Yourself a Better Partner in the Future**

29. Make a list of all your faults. [I’d like to refer to them as my areas for improvement. I also listed my assets. Focus on positivity.]

30. Learn to cook well. [And bake too.]

31. Get some hobbies. Something’s gotta keep you occupied—plus it’ll make you seem interesting. [Reading, playing softball, going to the movies, crocheting, blogging, etc.]

32. Let your married friends edit your online dating profile. [If I had an online dating profile, I’d probably do this.]

33. Get your finances in order. [This isn’t a concrete thing. They’ve been in order before. Headed back in that direction now.]

**To Appreciate Being Single**

34. Babysit someone’s baby for an hour. [Hey, I have 2 nieces and 7 nephews, so…]

35. Help a friend through her divorce or a bad break-up.

36. Host a girls-only night. I think some coupled-up women forget how much we need each other. [I’ve done girls-only nights, days, trips–who doesn’t like hanging with the homies?]

**Things not on this list but on Nada Dee’s list**

37. Road-trip alone. I think this is a true test of how comfy you are with yourself.  I’ve taken myself places just because I wanted to be unencumbered by anyone else’s schedules, timelines, and desires.  Great way to sort out thoughts too.

38. Maintain a roster. I know several people who believe that once they meet someone, they must devote all their time and attention to that person, even before any semblance of a conversation about exclusivity occurs.  To each her own, but as my mom told me as a youngin learning the dating ropes, until you’re married, you’re single.  So without established boundaries, I never assumed that I should behave like I’m in a committed relationship.  Have some fun, meet new people, enjoy getting to know them, and really make an educated decision about who you want to pursue something deeper with.

39. Create a vision board. Where are you going in life? What do you want? Can you really merge your life with someone else’s if you don’t really know the value of yours? Sit down, write down all your dreams and short-term and long-term goals, then make it plain by creating a board that you can hang up and look at regularly, reminding you of what you need to be working on to achieve your heart’s desires.

40. Romance yourself. I dunno what your idea of romance is, but whatever it is, do it for yourself.  Go get a massage, make yourself bubble baths, light candles during a self-prepared dinner, sleep in something that makes you feel good about yourself, etc.

What else should singles do before they settle down?  Any other ideas?