Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mrs. Obama's White House

Jolene Ivey's commentary on Michelle Obama's future life in the White House brought back images, discussions, and movies that captured the essence of the "Mammy" caricatures that managed to dominate the representation of Black women in the media. In her commentary, Ivey says, "From the time when Africans were dragged to these shores as slaves, one of the jobs that fell to these women who weren't working in the fields was caring for the children of their owners" and even after slavery, "it was common for black women to leave their own children at home to fend for themselves and go to work for low wages as domestics in the homes of well-off white families."

Ivey clearly brings to mind characters like "Mammy" in Gone with the Wind, "Aunt Jemina" on the Pancake box, "Lucrezia Borgia" in the film Mandingo, and "Annie Johnson" in Imitation of Life. I like to think how often these characters and other real women of color had to anticipate the mood of their employers/masters in order to keep the peace. Do you not recall that Mammy knew exactly what to say to keep people in the home happy? Sometimes she placated her owner's moods with food or kind words. Do you remember the sacrifices these women made and how they always helped things come together?
Michelle Obama is intelligent, progressive, caring, and nuturing. I would argue that Mammy, Aunt Jemina, Lucrezia Borgia, and Annie Johnson were too. These women created a tradition in the Black community of making a way out of no way. In many ways, Michelle Obama makes change happen out of no way too.

Ivey beams with excitment about Mrs. Obama's future life in the White House because it resonates with her own privileged background as a woman of color. Although Mrs. Obama's experience will be one of privilege, the fundamental drive to succeed that comes from within Mrs. Obama is something that she shares with her foremothers. Just as the Mammy, Mrs. Obama will have to nuture the wounds of others' children. She will have to anticipate potential problems and respond in a thought provoking manner. As much as Ivey appears giddy over the thought of Mrs. Obama's ability to be Black, educated, and at home with the children, the truth is that in so many ways the American public is her new baby. Although Barack will be the President, Mrs. Obama will become the First Lady, a role with its own set of spoken and unspoken responsibilities.

But I am more excited about Mrs. Obama's image in the White House defying the negative images of the Mammy caricatures. For once, we will witness healthy images of Black women. We will witness the truth of a Black Woman's ability to be loving, smart, sexy, fun, beautiful, strong, independent, beautiful, fashionable, honest, attentive, driven, and happy.
The Black woman's allegiance to her community has been expensive--overworked, underpaid, inconsiderate male counterparts, health concerns, media scrutiny, legal lynching of her children, and a scapegoat for both community and institutional problems.

Mrs. Obama is a refreshing outlook for the future.

Meeting President-Elect Obama Halfway

Now that the 2008 Election season has passed, I am challenging all of you to meet President-Elect Barack Obama half way. On election night Barack Obama said he needed each of us to assist him in making change happen in America. I believe one of the most important ways of making change possible is by actively participating in the lives of children.

We have all heard the alarming statistics measuring the success rate of children living in both urban and rural America. Billions of donations have been made for many years to aid neighborhoods in crime prevention, educational, and life enrichment programs for these children. Yet, far too often we find that many of America's youth continue the family cycle of drug use, involvement in crime and incarceration, teenage pregnancy, etc.

My challenge to you is to be more active in your community.

Although non-profits love receiving your donation dollars, especially in these difficult economic times, the value of pairing up with someone who could benefit from your experience goes beyond words. Community mentors are pivotal in communities that continue to see high crime rates and poor education programs.

I have been a community mentor since my Senior year in High School. That's right. I was a part of programs on campus that catered to Elementary aged students, including reading programs and drug education programs that visited area schools. My involvement in youth programs continued while working with organizations like the Salvation Army, and even now a program out of Atlanta called Fifteen. I am committed to making sure that my success is not in vain.

See my mentee's story on Essential 2 Life's Website.

This is just merely one example of meeting President-Elect Obama half way.

I know plenty of family members who assist other children in the family on different needs. Sometimes helping those really close to you is an easier way to transition in to being actively involved in the lives of others. So if mentoring a "random" child/teenager in the neighborhood does not sit well with you, perhaps helping another family member could be sufficient. And by the way, this does not necessarily translate into loaning people money. I am more concerned with loaning time and fellowship.

There are numerous ways to get involved with your community, contact the local community organizations in your area to find in what ways your talents/experiences could better assist your neighbors.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

All of this means....

That it is ok to live in this skin I'm in.

I can walk down the street with my head a little higher.

Having an amazing example of a Black Family, Black Manhood, Black Womanhood, and Black Girlhood on the national scene....

As much as his Presidency would be about the people and our quest for change, it will be about Black people and our ability to persevere and somehow move forward despite adversity.

This election is so racial for me because for years we've been bombarded with negative images of our Brothers and Sisters and this is the ultimate redemption of all of those images.

A part of me wants to wrap him up and keep him to myself for the "Black Community", but I am just too proud and cannot wait to share him with the rest of the world.

He will not be just the Black President, but the President of the United States of America.

No matter the outcome of this election: NOTHING will bring me down today.