Monday, December 15, 2008

Gifts & Books That Celebrate Our Children


When I was young my mother used to get out the crayons when it was time to send Christmas cards (or any kind of card for that matter). You see we had to color brown the cherub-faced angels that did not look like us. These days things are a lot different. TheRoot.com has gathered lots of gifts that celebrate children of color in these lists. And there's some book picks for adults in here, too. Thanks Meera and Felicia. Happy holidays, jd


The Ultimate Santa Gift Guide
By Meera Bowman-Johnson | TheRoot.com
Choo-choo trains, Obama coloring books, Mancala and other gift ideas for kids.

Dec. 15, 2008--Santa might be a little strapped for cash this year, but if your kids are anything like mine, they won't be trying to hear that on Christmas morning. It's true; it's the thought that counts, and many Americans just might be on the verge of busting out the depression glass this year.

But most kids I know today aren't programmed to take nicely to handmade gifts in the same way that Great Aunt Mattie might take to some homemade bath salts. Kids these days are savvy enough to know what came from the 99-cent store and what didn't. They have a knack for knowing when Uncle Jr. really wasn't trying. And some can even tell what's been regifted.

But don't give up just yet—with this handy gift guide, you can put smiles on the faces of the important little ones in your life. Best of all, you can do it without emptying Santa's pockets entirely or racking your brain to find just the right thing.

See the list at The Ultimate Santa Gift Guide

The Root's Holiday Book Guide
By Felicia Pride | TheRoot.com
Gift ideas for adults, teens and kids.

Dec. 12, 2008--Books are fool-proof gifts. Not just because they virtually last forever, unlike that fruitcake or sweater that shrinks after one wash, but also because they're affordable in these tough economic times. And, just think, you can take care of everyone on your list with one trip to your local bookstore. That alone should relieve some of the pressure of getting through this holiday season.

There really is a book for everyone and especially for the person who has everything. To get you started, here are some ideas for adults, young people and children.

See list at The Root's Holiday Book Guide

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beyonce, Booty Shaking and Child Raising


So I was having this conversation with a friend the other day about Beyonce's new video for Single Ladies. And I was telling her how much the hip rolling, the grinding, or whatever that pelvic action is, was bothering me. And of course the conversation turned to our toddler daughters. While I have nothing against dance (took all kinds for more than 10 years in my youth), I cannot imagine my child dancing like that and it being okay. My friend said that she could not judge how Beyonce was dancing, but of course she wouldn't necessarily desire for her child to be hip rolling in a video.

The conversation got me to thinking about being judgmental. Am I judgmental if I'm disappointed in my child for choosing a career where part of it required her to straight booty-shake (like Beyonce does in Check On It)? Honestly my daughter is a remarkable looking girl. And I can say that because I had nothing to do with her looks. It was all God, of course. I call her the girl with the golden eyes because they literally are. Anyhoo, even though I've been encouraged to enter her into modeling a kazillion times, I've always shied away from this path because I want her to respect herself, command respect, and place more value in her intellect and creativity than her looks.

Is this wrong? Am I short-changing her for not capitalizing on her looks? I mean college ain't cheap and some catalog modeling wouldn't hurt her education fund. She already gets an inordinate amount of attention (which I sincerely appreciate, but keep in perspective). The way she looks is a blessing, but I don't want her to value that more than any other part of her that is not as visible. There are lots of things I like about Beyonce. I think she's one of the hardest-working women in the show business. But its not necessarily the life I'd want for my child because of the overwhelming emphasis on physical appearance.

If my daughter were Beyonce's attorney, the vice president of her record label, or a songwriter, would I still feel the same even though she'd be supporting a career that I feel has a something to do with booty shaking? I probably wouldn't feel the same serious objections. Is that wrong? Am I controlling? Am I a hypocrite? Honestly, I feel like I'm all of those most of the time. I did my time in the clubs (fa real) and in my 20s I certainly wore some things and shook some things sometimes that might have showcased more than my intelligence. But you know what? I can't help how I feel now. And just as my parents steered me to do more with what was inside my head than my appearance (although I can't hold a candle to my striking child), I plan to do the same for my precious gift from God.

Whatever she feels about the decisions her father and I make for her over the next 16 years, I hope she realizes that they come from loving and caring parents who just want her to be able to take advantage of all the positive opportunities available to her. And if she's as pissed as I was for most of my youth, I hope she'll forgive me as I eventually forgave my parents.

Love is hard. JD

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BET's Bob Johnson Launching a New Network?



He's baaaaack....I wonder what type of programming will really be included in "public affairs, lifestyle and health programming along with some entertainment fare" as described below. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out... jd

Johnson Sets Sights On New Urban Cable Network
BET Founder Eyes Must-Carry Under 'Share-Time' License With Ion Media

By R. Thomas Umstead -- Multichannel News, 11/25/2008 7:16:00 PM

Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson is looking to get back into the cable network business.

Johnson, along with the Ion Media Networks, is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to grant a newly formed, Johnson-owned, African-American-targeted digital network must-carry status under “share time” licenses.

According to the petition, Johnson’s RLJ Companies, LLC would own 51% of newly created Urban Television LLC -- Ion would hold 49% of the venture -- and the service would operate as part of ION’s digital channel offerings in 42 markets. Ion currently offers kid-targeted Qubo and lifestyles-oriented Ion Life as multicast digital stations.

According to an Ion and RLJ joint statement, the proposed share-time arrangement would allow Urban Television to operate “a continuous television program service aimed at serving the needs and interests of urban viewers and traditionally underserved minority communities. Urban Television will be a new addition to the current broadcast channel lineup, and Ion Media Networks will continue to operate its own broadcast networks.”

Further, the petition reads: “In order the avoid disputes with [cable and satellite distributors] that would undermine any realistic opportunity of Urban’s fledgling station group to survive, the parties respectively request that the Commission confirm, concurrent with the grant of this application, that Urban … would be entitled to carriage under the Commission’s rules.”

Although the network has yet to finalize its programming plans, Traci Otey Blunt, vice president of communications and public affairs for RLJ said Urban Television will most likely offer public affairs, lifestyle and health programming along with some entertainment fare.

“We want to create programming that will respond to what the marketplace is seeking,” she said. “We’re not locked into anything yet, but if we’re successful and move forward I don’t think there would be a lack of [programming] opportunities focusing on the urban market.

The venture would mark Johnson’s return to cable after he sold BET -- which he founded in 1981 -- to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000.

“The thing about Mr. Johnson is that he never turns down an opportunity and he’s a very strong entrepreneur,” she said. “In the end it’s an opportunity that will benefit the consumer, so he’s moving forward to see what the FCC will do regarding this process.”

Otey Blount would not say whether Johnson would go ahead with the venture if the FCC fails to grant the service must-carry status.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wash Post: Black women see themselves in Michelle Obama


Interesting piece...the personal conversations that black women are having, at least the ones I've been having, seem to be getting into the national press.

Check out some excerpts below or read the piece at Washington Post: Black women see bits and pieces of themselves in Michelle Obama - and let me know what you think...jd

..."I have no doubt that she is prepared for the challenge," said Lani Guinier, a Harvard Law School professor and onetime Clinton nominee for a top Justice Department post. "She and her husband embody a very healthy relationship. That in itself is quite a public and political statement."

For Portia Pedro, 29, a third-year student of Guinier's, the hope "for young black professional women that's embodied in Michelle Obama is a bit different from the hope invested in Barack Obama." "There is a not-so-silent concern that you are less likely to get married and less likely to have children," Pedro said. "The career part is not in question, but can you do that and be married and have a family? If she can do that, then it opens possibilities for other black women."

...It would be too trivial to say that she is smashing stereotypes of black women, because the stereotypes are so flat, so unreal, that smashing them would be like punching a cloud.

"There's the stereotype of the powerful black woman, the aggressive black woman; there is the stereotype of the over-sexualized, overly sexed black woman; there is the stereotype of the mammy," says Aziza Gibson-Hunter, 54, of Washington, a conceptual artist and mother of four.

What she sees in Michelle Obama is strength: "I saw it in my mother. When I was a kid, I saw it in the women in the church, this dignified strength. I think that is real...

"What this whole situation is doing is inviting people to look behind the projections in their own minds and maybe begin to do some work to deconstruct some of that and find the truth."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Joyce in the 80s: A Curl, A Weave and Asymmetrical Stacks Made Me the Ultimate Fly Girl





Yep, I had 'em all in the 80s — a curl, several weaves and the all important asymmetrical stacks. If you caught me in the 70s, you would have seen my Stevie Wonder-Patrice Rushen braids. I moved into the 90s with my Halle Berry-Anita Baker cut, then I showcased my Janet Jackson braids, a Caesar, a Bahamadia lined-up 'fro, and more braids, braids and more braids. I snuck loudly out of the 90s with a sunfire fro, started the millennium with a braided weave and have been locking for 5 years and counting...its been a journey...who knows whats next...

I got in the throwback hair mode because someone mentioned Fly Girl in a meeting I had today. And since my Monday was waaaay too Monday, I went on an 80s binge and that did that trick.

So get out your gold chains and your fresh kicks and wop it out!

jd
(still 3 times dope)


The "U Ain't Fresh" Playlist

Fly Girl - The Boogie Boys

You Ain't Fresh - The Boogie Boys

LA Dream Team - Dream Team Is In The House

Jam On It - Newcleus

Play At Your Own Risk - Planet Patrol

Just Buggin - Whistle

Sally - Stetsasonic

Top Billin - Audio Two

Criminal Minded - Boogie Down Productions

I Ain't No Joke - Eric B & Rakim

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cooking Goddesses: Help Please


Hey Culinary Artists,
So I created a pretty good dish tonight while watching all the DNC speechifyin, but I think it needs something and I'd love for you guys to try it and tell me what you think it needs. I think like some cous cous (which I have no idea how to prepare) or something...

Spinach, Shrimp & Sundried Tomatoes

5 oz package of spinach
half a pound of shrimp
sundried tomatoes - big handful
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons I Can't Believe Its Not Butter
garlic powder - more than a couple of shakes
adobo seasoning - couple shakes
salt-couple shakes
pepper - couple shakes
lemon juice - couple shakes

My shrimp and spinach were frozen so I thawed the spinach with the auto defrost in the microwave and just threw the shrimp in the pan frozen on medium high heat. When the shrimp was about 3/4ths cooked, I drained the liquid, added the salt, garlic, adobo, butter and olive oil. I sauteed the shrimp in all that for about 90 seconds, then I added the spinach (thawed but still a little cold). I sauteed that mixture for about 2 minutes, then added the sundried tomatoes and tossed it around for about 2 more minutes. Then when I tasted it, I felt it needed something else, so I added the pepper and the lemon juice, took it off the heat and tossed it around for like 10 seconds. It was fan-freaking-tastic then!!

I ate and totally enjoyed it, but I think it could use some kind of something, not rice, but something in that vein...

If you can, try it and let me know what you think...

Thanks for helping me out in my cooking adventures.

You know they are few and far between. Holla, jd

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I ain't got time...I ain't got time...


Since I'm writing, writing, writing my book, due in a bit more than a month, I hate that I don't have time to attend to this blog, which I love. So I thought I'd plug you into some writers that I am loving.

First up is Meera Bowman-Johnson, a former co-worker from a young black woman's mag from some years back. She's got great perspective on all things colored (pun intended). She writes for TheRoot.com. Check her out...and send me some writing good wishes...I'm 100 pages down with at least half that to go...holla, jd

Skin Deep
By Meera Bowman-Johnson | TheRoot.com
Yes, Beyoncé's skin looks lighter in the L'Oreal ad. Here's why you shouldn't take it personally.


Aug. 21, 2008--In a past life, I was the associate art director at an African-American women's magazine, responsible for hiring beauty photographers, and then using the images to illustrate the stories. From covering braid trends to microdermabrasion, it was a beautiful experience. (What other job would let me get a way with spending the day at a spa and still pay me for it?) One of the biggest perks was working with celebrities who trusted my judgment to help make them look good....more at Skin Deep.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Told Andre Benjamin That I Wanted To Have His Baby


Back in the day, I was a brave girl when it came to approaching men. All through my 20s (when I frequented the NY and DC club scenes) I had a surefire way of getting the attention of a man that I had eyes for. I'd buy him a drink. No one ever turned me down. And nine times out of 10 if I wanted to keep him around after our one-drink conversation, I'd have him all primed and ready to buy the next round or two or three (I said this was my 20s, remember?).

My confidence with men was really a spill over from how well I was doing in my professional career through the nineties and the fact that I had to beat the men off with a stick during all 4 years I attended Howard University.

But by age 30, people were coupling up, getting married, and I'd cooled off on the clubs. Being an entertainment journalist, I still had to check them out every now and then. When I moved back to Atlanta right after 9-11, I had to reacquaint myself with my hometown, which was a bit more sophisticated than I'd left it when I went to college in 1989. So big head (from cool new gig at a national mag) in tow, I frequented every listening party, backstage event, and invite-only thing in town.

And at every other event, I'd run into a man that left me speechless—a pretty hard feat. Now like many Atlantans, I went through a 10-year period when Outkast was the end-all, be-all of hip hop. And probably like lots of women, I had some pretty explicit fantasies about Andre Benjamin. This was Georgia-bred boy (yes ma'am, no sir), a writer, who was just nasty nice—on the mic, on the screen, and fa sho' in person.

They brought some sweet tea-peach cobbler home to my New York life when they blew up the charts in the late 90s and took the hip hop scene south. I'd see kids singing all the words to Ms. Jackson, but they knew nothing about Southernplayalistic. By the time I made it back to Atlanta in 2001, they were huge. Doing my job, I'd be at some event all mellowed out and in Andre would walk, or should I say glide, dip, stroll—all that. My whole demeanor would change. This was a brother I really had a hard time being in the same room with.

Several times I was introduced to him and all I could get out was something stupid like, "Hi." Well, and y'all know what’s coming, there was this one night at Visions, the most poppin club in ATL (besides Club 112) at the time. And a co-worker and I had had a couple of martinis, the DJ had spun about 4 or 5 Outkast songs in row, and I was "feelin it." You know, I had my eyes closed, dancing with no one in particular—in my own world.

I opened my eyes to find Andre standing right in front of me. And no, I was not dreaming. He was actually there, talking to one of his boys. I don't know what came over me, but before I knew it, I'd grabbed him by his arm and pulled him to me, whispering in his ear, "Now you know you should go on and let me have your baby."

What is so wild is that this joker did not miss a beat. He leaned over to me and, smooth as silk, said "Let me go and get a drink first." I'm sure I didn't move an inch, watching him walk to the bar. In my mind, he could have done with me whatevah evah evah evah he wanted right then—in the club.

I wish I could tell you that he came back and we danced the night away, got married, and had a slew of creative babies. But of course you know that's not the way it turned out. Maybe hitting the bar was his getaway line, but regardless, his people took him somewhere and I didn't see him anymore that night. When I came to (so to speak) I was so distraught and embarrassed that the impression I'd left with Andre was of a straight groupie, something that no self-respecting entertainment journalist can ever allow themselves to be.

Okay, so I was not raised to act like this. My momma always told me that sex should happen between two people who have a deep and abiding love for each other. And I really believe that. How could I just propose procreation to a man I didn't even know? But sometimes we all take leave of our senses, right? Well I'll speak for myself. At that moment in time, when I asked Andre to be my baby daddy, not a soul on this earth could make me believe that I wasn't as serious as collard greens and cornbread.

Thank GOD I don't feel that way about Andre anymore, mostly because I'm finally a grown up (I guess). And thank GOD even more that he didn't come back to me from the bar. This story might have been x-rated.

Practicing "Da Art of Storytellin," jd

Oh and check out a couple of interesting and kind of opposite viewpoints about Obama.

Places, Please! Arrogant is the new uppity.—The Black Snob
"And Massa said, "Who let you in here? Yes, you. With that inconveniently independent mind armed with facts. With your standing up straight and talking white, looking The Man directly in the eye. Just who do you think you are? Because you're not me. You're nothing like me who is better than you. So you are an insult to me. You refute my long-held beliefs about you so you must be proven wrong."

What Camp Obama Has in Common With the Bushes—TheRoot.com
The Cool One's campaign thinks anything off-message is aiding the enemy. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Writing in the Heartbreak Hotel


Tuesday, August 11, 2:06 p.m.: Why is it that when your personal life goes all to hell, you either write the best shit you’ve ever written in your life, or you stare at the blank computer screen like its the MF you felt wronged you? I don’t know. But I’ve been alternately in both places for the past 4 hours. One moment, the ideas are flying so fast, my fingers can barely keep up. Then half an hour later, my emotional drama creeps in causing mind-numbing, creative-blocking interruptions along with bouts of tears that my sap-hating personality is sickened by. I’m a mess. But I’m gonna keep on writing. Something good has to come out of all this heartache. If you can, send some good vibes my way and pray I don’t take a sledgehammer to this damned laptop before I can get my emotions back in check.

Tuesday, August 11, 11:22 p.m.: What a difference nine hours can make. So I did not murder my laptop. As a matter of fact, I reeled myself back to reality by:
1. Being productive (very important for Capricorns) by writing 9 pages in my novel to add to the 9 I'd written the day before.
2. Treating myself to a delicious Rainbow Roll and the biggest $4.50 glass of plum wine I've ever had (@ the sushi bar at Camp Creek Marketplace for those of y'all in the ATL)
3. Listening to NPR's Farai Chideya interview Lalah Hathaway about her slamming new album
4. Soaking for hours in bubbles and baby oil, while forcing myself to read a self-help (aghast!!) article on finding happiness in Essence (July 08 issue for those in need). Those of you that know me know that all things self-help send me running in the opposite direction. But these days I'm finding them useful, and this particular story was GREAT.
5. Coming up with some wild ideas for this blog. Just wait. On tap are stories about me and Andre 3000, how I'm feeling about black love, and the bizarre things my child is doing.
6. Counting my blessings, especially the one where my daughter turned 2 at a birthday party on Saturday attended by 40 people who love her dearly.
7. And having several side-splitting and thoughtful conversations with close friends and family.

These may sound corny, but they worked for me. Hopefully I won't have to do them all again tomorrow. I don't think I have the energy.

Hey, did I mention that I wrote 9 pages today!?!?!?!

Take good care of yourselves, jd

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jumpin Into the Fray


So I have been hesitating about talking about the presidential campaign because, frankly, it's painful. I mean it literally hurts my heart to even imagine what the Obamas must be going through in their selfless and brave undertaking. I pray every day that they will have enough armor to withstand the crap that is being hurled at them incessantly. My mother tells me all the time that when she speaks to those prayer warriors (you know the ones that go in the closet to pray), she puts in a prayer request for the Obamas. 'Cause Lord knows they can't be covered enough in The Blood.

Now I'm not the "religious" type. I mean I don't normally end my conversations with "Have a blessed day," and I have nothing against those that do. I was raised in the church, went to Sunday School, bible study and vacation bible school; sung in the choir, was an acolyte and a member of the church youth group. My parents made sure I had a good foundation, so good that I ended up singing in a gospel choir for the first two years of my college career. And even though I did go astray for some years (basically my 20s), I never pushed the envelope too far because I wasn't a fool. I was taught right from wrong and I wanted to go to heaven. Still do.

These days I make it to church about twice a month, but I find myself praying all the time, anywhere, out loud, to myself and with my child (who says "Amen" like she's catching the spirit). Praying is comforting and necessary. And it's an integral part of who I am.

Hmmm...somehow I thought that this post was going to be about the Obamas and the presidential campaign. I guess it is because it's all interconnected. After I read this article in the Chicago Sun Times by Mary Mitchell, and then the racist and ignorant comments from one of the respondents, the first thing I did was say "Lord protect the Obamas." And now there's been some crazy racist in Florida arrested for threatening to assassinate Obama. We knew it was coming, didn't we?

But I'm staying hopeful. No matter what happens in the race, the Obamas will be a force to be reckoned with and they are empowering others by their example to STEP UP and be positive and progressive in our lives.

Check out this Chicago Sun Times article by Mary Mitchell, who puts it all out there. Now you know what black folks are saying in their homes around kitchen tables about why Barack is not further ahead in the polls. Mary Mitchell ain't afraid:

"Yet anyone who thought Obama would whip past McCain like an Olympic speed skater was being naive about the state of race relations in this country. I wouldn't label as racist every white Democrat who switched to McCain after Hillary Clinton was dispatched, but acting as though racial prejudice no longer exists in this country is also wrong.

Obama tries to avoid talking about race, as do his surrogates, staffers and supporters. But when a cable network interviewed Virginia voters during the Democratic primary, a white woman didn't stutter when she said she couldn't vote for a "Negra." Does this woman represent a large percentage of the white voting population? Probably not. But there are still enough people like her out here, and they are giving the Obama campaign the flux."

And make sure to check out the response from one poster who calls himself "euro american." Here's an excerpt:

"Just like those serial killers and pedophiles that deserve instant death, they [African Americans] have something inside their system that is evil and can't be repaired. Sadly, the black culture has a large portion (and growing) of the same. Sad enough they have no self accountability, but the good people of the community are being steamrolled by this spreading cancer. And I sure as heck am not guilty. I am embarrassed that a part of our society has every benefit and privelege at their doorstep and they don't have the GOD given sense or self accountability to take advantage of it. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Blame whitey. Blame the government. Blame racism. Sorry, that don't fly."

I mean this is just mean spirited and ignorant. Keep praying for the Obamas. 'Cause the crazies are just starting to get ramped up. JD

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Was Ready For The World In 1984


In the past two months my past has jumped up to slap me in my face more than a few times. A girl I hadn't communicated with since 7th grade hit me up on Facebook. A few weeks later I was, unbelievably, in a real club at 2:00 a.m. (in one of those, got childcare, haven't been out in forever, don't wanna go home scenes) and a girl walked past me in the dark, turned around, and recognized me from our second grade class, which was the last time we'd seen her. And then, a few days later, I was picking up my daughter and noticed a yard sign for another person I hadn't seen since elementary school who was running for office.

Needless to say, I've been a bit spooked about who else might pop up. And memories of the 80s have been peppering my thoughts, including one about my first "real" boyfriend, Veon. Now I wasn't allowed to date or have boyfriends in my early teens. At 13 all I could do was meet guys on the phone. Decatur, Ga. Strict parents. No transportation. Whatcha gone do? Rely on other people's 3-way, cause my momma and daddy sure weren't fooling around with call waiting or 3-way or anything that cost more to interrupt conversations already in progress.

Anyway, I was introduced to Veon over the phone by another boy, Monte, I was just cool with. They had a group where they played those electric keyboards that were all the rage back then. And believe it or not, Veon used to call me up and sing Ready For the World's "Digital Display" to me in his best imitation of the group's lead singer Melvin Riley. And when he would bust out with a line from their first hit "Tonight", "Oh, oh oh, oh oh..guuuuuurrrrlll tooooniiight," you talk about somebody swoonin!!! And Monte would be playing that electric keyboard in the background. I had my own little telephonic serenade going on! I'm surprised I didn't pass out.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Now of course by the time I met Veon, two years later, we had broken up (over the phone), Monte had introduced me to his friend-the incredibly intelligent 10th-grader Billy (over the phone), I'd found some way to meet up with Billy once, and we'd broken up. Veon and I ran into each other at a basketball game, and don't you know that boy looked JUST like Melvin Riley? I mean down to the jheri curl and everythang. But having cut mine off, I was over jheri curls by then, so it was a bit awkward.

I wonder what Veon is doing today. If you know a guy who looks like Melvin Riley, but is not Melvin Riley, tell him I'm down for another telephonic serenade anytime....

JD

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Black Mom Blogging


I'm new to blogging, well relatively new. I did have a blog a few years back called The Joyce Journal, which was mostly a way to disseminate information. This go 'round I'm writing about more personal stuff. It's hard, but good for me. And I know other black mothers who are doing the same. And no we don't write all the time about being a mom or even about being black. But I think we have a unique perspective because we are black and we are mothers.

In a recent Star Ledger article, Black Moms Who Blog, Michel Martin muses on why there aren't more parenting bloggers of color or black blogging networks for moms or dads. She says that black women already feel they're in a limiting group just by being labeled African American women and that black moms don't have enough leisure time to blog (I'm guessing maybe because many of us are single and doing it all). She also says that many of the black women who do have a lifestyle that allows them to blog are upper middle class and childless.

I guess I can see all of her points. And I prefer to look at them as opportunities. No I don't always have the time to blog, but for some unknown reason, it's become one of the main reasons I can't wait until 11 o'clock at night. I know that I'll be able to get out my feelings about something. And I know that even if no one else reads it, I got it out and by doing so, I am strengthening my voice as a writer. I gotta work on my craft.

I've also been reading lots of other blogs these days, some penned by black mothers. One I visit a lot is Wifey's House. Nothing profound from me tonight. Just happy that I got another chance to write in my online journal. In fact, my mother gave me my first diary when I was in elementary school. You writers know the kind I'm talking about - it was small, a funky shade of green, and had five days on a page, as well as a gold lock on it that had a key.

That diary turns up every few years when I'm digging in the archives (my wreck of a garage) for something. Sometimes I'm brave enough to I peek inside. Its weird to read your thoughts as a child - juvenile angst is real. The next time that diary appears and I have the courage to peruse a page or two, I'll know that I'm reading the beginnings of black mom who's now blogging. Not writing an objective article for her career, but putting herself out there in a revealing way. And I think that's just cool. jd

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Sex Talk-Do It


I can't believe that one day I'll have to talk to my little baby girl about sex. And it will probably be sooner than later, at least it should be. What got me thinking about this was this Newsweek article, Talking the "sex" Talk to Tween and Teens. There were some good suggestions in there about ways to talk to your child about sex. But of course, being the journalist I am, I had to go and look for some facts about black girls and sex. Google led me to this article on one of my favorite sites, TheRoot.com. An excerpt below of statistics was scary enough for me to be happy that my child is just about two, and hopefully at least 4 or 5 years from our initial discussion. Although I'm already telling her not to let anybody touch her in her private places. Ain't it sad that you have to tell a 2 year old that? From TheRoot.com's Black Girls and STDs:

"African American girls are at particular risk for a lifetime of maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies leading to higher abortion rates, and the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Black women are nearly four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Black women are 23 times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS and 14 times more likely to die from the disease. The numbers of black girls receiving abstinence-only instruction instead of comprehensive sex education has significantly increased as compared to white girls. This means young black women are not being taught about contraceptive use for preventing pregnancy and protecting against sexually transmitted diseases."

This piece also had some great suggestions about how to help the plight of our black girls on a larger scale, like demanding that your congressional representative fight for better access to health care for women of color. Sorry to end on such a heavy note tonight, but better to be aware and proactive than ignorant and regretful.

Talk to your kids,
JD

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First Day Jitters for the Youngest Freedom Sister To Be


This is my baby. Next week she'll be two. Tomorrow is her first day of school—well, early learning center. She, of course, is not nervous. Me? I'm a bit on edge. I stayed home with her for 15 months and since then she's been in home environments with people who loved her. Now, she's going off to school with strangers, well-meaning as they may be. And its time. She ditched the sippy cup about a month ago, has been able to sing her ABCs and count to 10 for months, points out doggies, birdies, daddies and mommies in every book we read, and says her grace before eating and her prayers at bedtime.

She'll even tell you that she'll be right back when she leaves the room with one finger in the air. You know how the old folks do sometimes when they tip on out of church early. How about my mother just informed me that this behavior dates back to slavery when slaves had to raise a finger before walking out of church to let other white folks know that their master had given them permission to leave. Talk about the vestiges of slavery!

So back to my baby. Yep. Its time for learning for her. But to me, this is the official end of the baby stage. And I guess I'm just not ready for that. Not to mention the whole researching the types of schools, programs and extracurricular activities (dance, music, art, sports)to which I want her to expose her. The mind reels. But I'm exited, too, because my child is about to begin her life's journey of learning, something her mother loves so much that she became a journalist just to ensure she'd could do it forever—and get paid for it.

So I'm gonna look at her first day of school as a wonderful beginning to an exciting and informed life. I'll get to see her fall in love with learning and the world of opportunities that brings. Who knows? My child may turn out to be the next Ida B. Wells, Charlayne Hunter-Gault or any one of the 20 black women featured in the Smithsonian's Freedom Sisters traveling exhibit. Okay, I feel better now.

JD

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Detroit Lee & ATL's New Tuskegee Airmen Parkway


I'm so sleepy that while I was trying desperately to get some writing done on my novel, the back of my head hit the back of my couch like 10 times before I straight gave up. Heading to la la land, but before I go, I wanted to give a big up to the ATL for naming a stretch of Camp Creek Parkway (near the airport for those who ain't from 'round here) Tuskegee Airmen Parkway.

Both of my parents attended Tuskegee back when it was an institute (think I look like my mom?). I spent every summer in that town with my grandparents until I was about 15. And my grandfather, a righteous rabble rouser, spent years knocking down doors for all of us: suing for jobs they wouldn't let a black man have and bringing the lawsuit, Lee V. Macon, that led to the desegregation of all the schools in Alabama. He sure earned his bad ass name—Detroit Lee. This August he would have been 92, and the biggest Obama supporter this side of the Mississippi River. Here's to you granddaddy! Lord, I miss you. Love, jd

Friday, August 1, 2008

Laying Hands on Obama


At the end of a wild week of insane news coverage about who's playing the race card and ridiculously juvenile attack ads from the McCain camp, this photo and Obama continuing to stay on message are keeping me hopeful. Prayerfully, JD

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vernon Jordan is not the only black man who should be able to read...


Of course everybody should read and even better appreciate being educated. But clearly that's not the case, especially among our young black males. I've been so affected by the number of black young men not graduating from high school (check this piece on the 20% who graduate on time in Detroit) that I had to find some folks who are doing all they can and some to support and encourage our black boys to take their education seriously. Pass these on and on and on to anyone you know that may benefit from their missions. Please send me more to add to the list. A mind is truly a terrible thing to waste.

Shot above is from the filming of the MLK Jr. biopic The Boy King filmed in ATL circa 1985. My brother is on the end. I'll stop putting his past on blast after this post. I'll give it a rest, man. Love ya.

And I did have a good reason for not posting yesterday. The dog did not eat my adapter cord, but it nearly did burst into flames. It burnt out. But thanks to a heck of a friend who hooked me up with a new one in exchange for my copy of the graphic novel, Nat Turner (read it and you'll be angry, informed and amazed), I'm back on the grind. Power to the writers! JD

Resources for Educating Black Males

Center for African-American Male Research, Success and Leadership
The CAAMRSL's aim is to address the challenges faced by African-American males in post-secondary institutions by stimulating civic responsibility, developing brotherhood, promoting integrity as well as academic excellence.

Boys Who D.A.R.E
Boys Who D.A.R.E. reading program that offers the male child a full and equal literary opportunity, regardless of background, education and income of parents. A group of concerned parents, community leaders, local businesses and writers have partnered with boys who d.a.r.e. to provide monthly literary events. Each month, young boys are introduced to a new book by a different adult male role model.

100 Black Men
With a mission to improve the quality of life and enhance educational opportunities for African Americans, members of the 100 continue to serve as a strong force in the world by overcoming the cultural and financial obstacles that have limited the achievements of some African Americans, particularly young African American males. Members of the 100 have made outstanding progress, proving that Blacks can, and do, excel as corporate leaders, community leaders and as independent business owners.

Korey M. Dawson Scholarship
We offer financial support for youth offenders who plan to go to college and to vocational trade school.

African American Youth Leadership Program
Each year the Research and Policy Institute of California hosts the African American Youth Leadership Program. The annual conference invites high school juniors and seniors from throughout the state to participate in a week-long conference in Sacramento. During the week, participants are exposed to training in leadership and personal development and are shown the tools of success in education, business, and government.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sometimes you just need to laugh


You can see that my brother and I were getting our laugh on a few years back. I pulled this picture out tonight because I needed it. Today was a bizarre day for me — quite a roller coaster of emotional mess brought to the surface by everything from personal crap to lamenting the 50% of black kids who aren't graduating from high school (what the HELL are they doing?!?!?!). So luckily, I was able to get some writing done. And I found myself laughing out loud at the scenes I was writing. Strangely enough, I remembered that I'd done the same thing the day before, while writing in Barnes & Noble. And I didn't even care about the weird looks I was getting from folks reading nearby. Then I came home and at my mom's behest, I watched the opening monologue of Jay Leno, who compared a real life praying-at-the-gas-pumps prayer group to Bush's energy plan — and I laughed some more. Earlier in this evening I was in the deepest despair, but just laughing helped me become more optimistic about the future. So, feeling down? Here comes the corn: Turn that frown upside down. Ciao, jd

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who knows why I started this blog?

I guess I do. I'm a writer and writers write, right? Now this blog is supposed to encourage me to write about something, anything, everyday. Lets see how long I can keep this up. I'm on deadline for my next teen novel that was due many moons ago and I fear the procrasination devil is doing whatever he can to keep me from completing that book. Even if that is part of the reason I started this blog, I'm determined to turn lemons into lemonade. Lord, I hate how corny I am sometimes. Okay folks, welcome to me. Lets hope we all enjoy the ride. jd

Children's/Tween's Book List - From Joyce's Folks

A while back, a friend of mine asked me if I had any recommendations for children's / tween's books with African American girl characters that her advanced first grader could read. I got an incredible response from friends, associates and family members. Below are some great books (described in the responders own words). Many of these offerings have African American lead characters. If you have suggestions, please add them as a comment. I'd love to keep this list growing. Keep reading to the young folks. It works. jd

Children's/Tween's Book List - From Joyce's Folks

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So of course have you stated the beverly cleary books? my daughter is reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8. She has read a bunch of Junie B and a couple of Whilemina too. there is a "chapter book" section at our library so I check out what is there. Her teacher has suggested branching out to some non-fictions, so during women's history month I picked up a book about women inventors. Also she likes to collect rocks so she has been reading a kid's book about rocks. I browse the non-fic section and try to get her to check out at least one when we go to the library. Also while aat here classroom last week, I saw one of the girls with a Sweet Valley Kids book. I read Sweet Valley High as a middle schooler but hadn't seen this series.

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Please consider Born in Sin, Freedom Train and Shadows on Society Hill by Evelyn Coleman

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try the Newberry collection

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As a former children's librarian (now a bookstore owner) I'm gonna make a few suggestions for books that I think that would be great reading but not to mature/or complex in nature.

1) Akimbo series by Alexander McCall Smith (African boy)
2) author Patricia Mc C. Kissack has a series of books that are readers
ex: Scraps of Time, some biographies of famous African Americans.She also writes folk tale picture books that you can read together.

3)American Girl Addy series-they now have long versions called
An Addy Mystery--- plus the old series of Meet Addy.....
4)Stories that Julian tells series--
5)Danitra Brown series
6)Wilhemina series

Hope this helps

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I'm VERY late to this but send her a copy of "Black Books Galore! Guide to Great African American Children's Books about Girls" I have the boys' version. It' organized by reading level.

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Do you already have the Gloria, Huey, and Julian books on your list?

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http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2008/05/10/books/authors/index.html

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STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE, an extremely talented, African American (Atlanta-based) author who has a number of teen/tween girls books in series form; too numerous to count!
With more than 15 books in print, "her groundbreaking series Payton Skky is the first African-American Christian teen series in the country.

Then, in 2007, "Moore broke new ground" by bringing readers a young man as the main character with the Perry Skky Jr series (Dafina/Kensington).
Her other teen series books include: Laurel Shadrach, Carmen Browne, and Faith Tomas. Have your friend visit her site at stephanieperrymoore.com for the books/series that best suits her child's age.

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In reference to your friend maybe refer her to the American Girls books...they are interesting and have an African American, along with an American Indian, and Indian character also other nationalities as well...she might be ready for something like that, also I loved the Nancy Drew stories as an avid reader kid, even some Hardy Boys....

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You can try the Everybody Hates Chris series of book.
http://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Hates-School-Politics-Chris/dp/1416949372/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209660243&sr=1-4

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Cam Jansen - Adler (there's a series for younger readers as well as a more challenging set)
Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs - Draper (although about a group of boys they're fun reads)
Addy - Porter (part of the American Girls series)

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Please check out Briana’s Neighborhood written by an African American female from Brooklyn named Sahar Simmons. http://www.brianasneighborhood.com It’s all that, great illustrations, awesome stories and valuable lessons!

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How wonderful! My youngest daughter really enjoys the Andrew Clements series http://www.andrewclements.com/ (although there are no black characters).

When I was a teacher, I used to compile a reading list for advance middle school and high school readers, so I'll have to ask my kids for recommendations for the younger age group.

In the meantime, perhaps she can check out this Web site: http://www.blackbooksgalore.com/
Another good suggestion is to pull the reading list for private schools in the Atlanta Independent Schools system: Westminster, Lovett, Paideia, Pace, the Atlanta Girls School, the Atlanta International Academy, the Ron Clark Academy, etc.

By now, they have published their summer reading lists, but their school year lists are probably available as well.
For reviews, try Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Things-Hoped-For.html?gclid=CKvWvo-4hZMCFSZtkgodr023EQ

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Tell your friend to use this link and there is a resource for all kinds of books for all age levels.
http://childrensbooks.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/africanamerica.htm

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Tell your friend to look at the Magic Treehouse series. My Language Arts and Reading teacher allow her students to read these books.

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The Curious George series is good. All of the classics we grew up as children. Below are mostly books for 8 and up.

Here are some of their favorites (mostly for ages 7-11):

The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set): The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda's Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Maizon at Blue Hill by Jacqueline Woodson

Last Summer with Maizon by Jacqueline Woodson (any books by her and Walter Dean Myers are good)

Between Madison and Palmetto by Jacqueline Woodson

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff by Walter Dean Myers

Cousins by Virginia Hamilton

Time Pieces by Virginia Hamilton (Author)

Zeely by Virginia Hamilton

Cheetah Girls: Off the Hook!: Bind-Up #4 (Cheetah Girls, 4) [Paperback] by...
Sold by: sortfloorbooks

The Cheetah Girls 2 [Enhanced] [Soundtrack] [Audio CD] The Cheetah Girls

Cheetah Girls Supa-Dupa Sparkle: Books 5 - 8 by Gregory, Deborah

The Cheetah Girls [DVD] (2004) Raven (VII); Adrienne Bailon; Kiely Williams...

Cheetah Girls, The: Growl Power Forever: Bind-Up #3 - Books #9-12 (The Cheetah

Cheetah Girls Livin' Large: Books 1 - 4 Gregory, Deborah

The Cheetah Girls [Enhanced] [EP] [Soundtrack] [Audio CD] The Cheetah Girls

I Like Being Me: Poems for Children, About Feeling Special, Appreciating Others, and Getting Along

Spin a Soft Black Song

Stevie

Zeely

The Wiz [DVD] (1999) Diana Ross; Michael Jackson; Nipsey Russell; Ted Ross...

The Ramona Collection, Vol. 1: Ramona the Brave / Ramona and Her Father/Ramona the Pest/Beezus and Ramona

The Ramona Collection, Vol. 2: Ramona Quim... by Beverly Cleary

The Ralph Mouse Collection by Beverly Cleary

Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume

Double Fudge by Judy Blume

Superfudge by Judy Blume

Blubber by Judy Blume

Judy Blume's Fudge Box Set by Judy Blume (Author)

Best of Judy Blume 4 Copy Box Set

Cheetah Girls Livin' Large: Books 1 - 4 by Deborah Gregory

Cheetah Girls Supa-Dupa Sparkle: Books 5 - 8 (Woff, There it Is - It's Raining Benjamins - Dorinda's Secret - Growl Power) by Deborah Gregory

Dorinda's Secret (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

Growl Power (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

In the House with Mouse (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards) by Virginia Hamilton, Leo Dillon, and Diane Phd Dillon

Cornrows by Camille Yarbrough

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Shades Of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney

My Aunt Came Back (Harper Growing Tree) by Pat Cummings

Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Cliffs Notes) by Robinson, Mary (for MUCH older)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (for MUCH older)

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The good news is that Scholastic is putting out a series this summer called Ruby and The Booker Boys, by Derrick Barnes, a brother out of Brooklyn who has done some other children's books. The series is about a precocious little girl with three big brothers, who has to learn how to make her mark on the school where her brothers are famous. I believe two of those books will be published come June or July. He has a website and a myspace page; the books look delicious.

That said, there are some series out there that are fun reads:

The Judy Moody series

The Stink series (this is Judy Moody's funny, crazy little brother)

Clementine, by Sarah Pennypacker (there are follow-ups to this book, too)

The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie (all of these are books her mom may have to read with her)

No Talking, by Andrew Clements (and anything else by him, though she may need a little help with these, too)

Judy Blume has a new series aimed at the younger set; the first in that series is "Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One."

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney (there are two). I read this one personally--it's hysterical, but if she's a rising 1st grader, her mom may want to hold off on this one. My 6 year old daughter thought it was really funny (she read parts of it, and my 9 year old read some of it to her) but some of the situations may be a little extra for the younger set. Just be aware.

The I, Freddy series. I didn't really care for this one, but my 9 year old seemed to like it--but only a little. By this point, she'd blown through everything and really just wanted something to read.

I would also recommend Shel Silverstein's books. They are perfect for a first grader--complicated enough for an advanced reader, but accessible enough for a child who is just starting to understand the meaning of words... it's poetry, but it's a lot of fun. To this day, these are my 9 year old's favorites. Think Dr. Seuss, but on a much more intellectual level. She'll love them, and her mom will, too.

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