April 23, 2014

Real Talk Wednesday: Where’s my GPS? We are SO lost

Unless you’ve living on a deserted island, had your head in the sand over the past few weeks, or just didn’t visit any one of the 100’s of web-sites geared toward the African-American market, I am quite sure you heard about the “uproar” in the Black male community over the latest movie by Tyler Perry entitled For Colored Girls. This new updated version of “Hollywood/Tyler Perry Hates Black Men” sentiment harkened me way back to my sophomore year in high school when a little movie called The Color Purple (which coincidentally just had its 25th Anniversary special on Oprah) hit the screen. I was like, “Wow, same song, just 25 years later!” Just as things were back in the mid-80’s with The Color Purple, brotha’s were UPSET over their portrayal in For Colored Girls (as many of my brethren are about most Tyler Perry films, yet our anger and disgust was/is pretty much non-existent when the discussion of the numerous movies/reality shows/videos that denigrate BLACK WOMEN are brought to the table…but I digress).

The truth of the matter is that, I don’t want to debate the validity on the claim that all Tyler Perry movies denigrate or don’t denigrate Black Men, nor I’m I here to make the argument that The Color Purple did (did not do) the same thing 25 years ago. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t; personally I enjoy a couple of Mr. Perry’s movies (especially Daddy’s Little Girls) although his tv shows are a bit too coonish for my tastes. And when it comes to The Color Purple? Well, easily on my Top 5 all-time movie list. But my question to all of the men out there is: For Colored Girls?? Seriously!?! THIS is what it takes to get us “mobilized”, fired up and pissed off!? When did a handful of movies by Tyler Perry become Public Enemy #1 in the minds of Black Men? When did a movie other than let’s say “Birth of a Nation” become the apocalypse? When did we as men lose our way and get off the beaten path to find ourselves in this predicament? I mean, c’mon when did we become so damn sensitive? Better yet, when did we take our eye off the ball to the point where a movie could actually define who we are as men, husbands, and fathers?

With all the issues we face in our community none of this Hollywood or celebrity dribble should EVER crack our Kasey Kasem Billboard Top 100 countdown! At the end of the day, does criticizing and being up in arms about a handful of movies address our failing schools? Graduation rates? Poverty? Teen pregnancy? Foster children? Single parent households? NO, it surely does not! Sorry my brothers, we do not have the luxury of wasting our time, energy, and talents complaining about such nonsense. Our families and our communities expect & demand better of us (notice I said US!).

Do I have all the answers? NOPE! But, we must start somewhere, and if that means at minimum reclaiming our households, so be it. It is paramount for us not to just be present in the lives of our children and our spouses/significant others, but we must also be active and engaged as well. It was just this past weekend when I literally lost count on how many little Black faces I saw at a holiday event for kids; plenty of Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, and Grandmothers, but I could count the number of Black Men on one hand. And don’t get me started on the countless times I hear brotha’s say, “I have to babysit my kids today.” Um, Babysit? You don’t babysit YOUR kids! There is a mentality that many of us can’t shake, and it’s about time we did. Ask yourself, when was the last time you went to your child’s school, read them a book, gave them a bath, feed them dinner, took them to the doctor, or picked them up from karate class? If you can’t answer any of those  questions correctly, then I’m talking to you. And before you ask, “Well, aren’t you a stay-at-home Dad? So obviously you have plenty of time to do all of this?” it’s not about being home all the time, because trust me I was at school, doctors appointments, bath time, etc… before I was laid-off. It’s about making time for what is TRULY important.

I can hear the choir now, “Yo Bruh, you need to get off your soap box!” Well, maybe I do, BUT me getting off of my soap box isn’t going to change our collective state of affairs is it? For years, our priorities have been all out of whack and now, somehow, a handful of movies are to blame for our lot in life?  I’m not buying it! The fact is the poor choices we have been making are now coming back to bite us in the a%^. It’s time for us to stop blaming the messenger and get to work earning the respect of our wives and our children. Leave the trivial nonsense/blogging of being “dissed” in a movie to others and let’s get to work fellas. It’s due time, and time is way past due…

Next time on Real Talk Wednesday’s, “Boy, I Just Said NO!”

James Higgins

James Higgins

Nothing special about me at all, I'm a happily married, college educated (Go Bison!), stay-at-home father of two wonderful children. Just trying to keep myself, my wife, my children, and my cats sane as we navigate through this journey called family life.

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Screaming children will NOT be tolerated

I like to consider myself a cool mom… and despite the innate uncoolness of that previous sentence, I really do.  I married fairly young at 24 years old and had my first child at 26.  So now, at 29, with one foot in my twenties and most of my girlfriends still doing their “Samantha Jones” thing, I like to think that I am still aware of the world outside of my married-with-kids universe.  However, an article I recently read on MSNBC has finally forced me to choose sides.

According to the article, the owner of a restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina is raising controversy after posting a sign saying “Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated”.  The restaurant’s owner claims that since the sign has been up, the restaurant has seen a noticeable increase in business.  Naturally, the article has sparked a great deal of controversy with debates heating up all over the internet.  One article on Shine, notes that movement spreads far beyond North Carolina borders.  A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York recently banned babies after 5.p.m.   As further evidence of the growing anti-kids sentiment, the article points to a group on facebook titled, “Ban Kids From Restaurants!” where it seems extremely bitter individuals lament about how the behavior of children has yet again ruined their peaceful meals.  The group has over two-thousand members.

Now, the empathetic side of me understands that there is a certain degree of unspoken etiquette I must practice as a parent.  No. I won’t be taking my children to a 9pm six-course meal at a wine bar.  Moreover, I have even been known to leave a restaurant early if I think my three year old has a tantrum brewing.

However, what strikes me the most about the ensuing debate is the bizarrely heightened degree of passion from the “movements” supporters.  I was stunned at how easily words like “brat” and “bastard” were thrown around.  I made the mistake of visiting the facebook page and was disgusted at how easily the sites creator referred to one such disruptive child as a “little sh#tbag” and a “wailing little insect” among other things. 

Reading these comments brought back memories of last year’s controversy over the stranger who slapped the crying two year old little girl in Wal-Mart.  Remember that? Apparently, the child’s mother wasn’t handling the situation – which seems to be another complaint of these individuals.  Bad parents.  You know… because the children of good parent’s never have tantrums. 

I am being ridiculously sarcastic.

Legal arguments aside, what is it about children that makes these self righteous, grossly misinformed individuals so intolerant? Why is it so socially acceptable to engage in anti-child rhetoric?  Why are children who act out and the parents who raise them last on the list to receive a little dose of empathy? What about the group of drunk and belligerent twenty-somethings whose loud and profane antics at their table interrupted my family on our night out? Or teenage girls whose cell phones went off again and again throughout my meal? Or that family at the table beside mine speaking loudly in another language? Or that blind man whose walking cane hit the side of my chair on the way to his table? Or that guy who can’t stop sneezing? Or hey, how about that ugly couple facing me from across the room?

No matter how much courtesy we all exercise, there is a certain amount of discomfort one must expect in public.  Unpredictability.  Diversity. Strangeness.  If you want to eat a meal strictly on your own terms, stay home.  Until then, my money is just as green as yours.  So if I am at a restaurant at the table across from yours and my kid starts to cry uncontrollably because his chicken nugget fell on the floor and for some reason this means you can no longer enjoy your meal.  My advice? Take a bite of your Caesar Salad, quit whining, be a grown up, and suck it up.  At least my kid has an excuse. What’s yours?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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The rumpus room: co-parenting with my brother

by Catherine Anderson

When I invited my oldest brother Marc to live with us, it was not just because my mother was worried about her grandchildren not having a father figure-even though she never said as much. He didn’t have a job, and I was a single mom raising two boys under the age of five on my own. He landed in the United States a year before after his twelve year European chapter ended in divorce. He had no kids, and a 12×18 color picture of the beloved sail boat he had to sell when he moved stateside. Stateside could have meant Virginia, where we grew up, and where he has a zillion connections. Instead it meant Maine, where they have a zillion sailboats and two boys who call you Uncle-Daddy and say; I love you Uncle Rabbit Will You Play Airplane With Me Now Silly Head after they give you the bump, and lunge into their footy pajamas because you want them to explore their own “gravitational pull”.

That room off of the playroom in the damp basement apartment that was going to be my writing studio, my office, was just not being used. I prefer to write on my laptop near the boys, and the heat. But my brother likes the cold, and loved the idea of living rent free in exchange for playing with his nephews a few hours a week. Well, that isn’t exactly how I presented the idea, but that was the gist of it. He was eating through his savings faster than he hoped, and wasn’t ready to give up on the Maine dream yet. He was also growing very attached to those to boys, and said yes faster than he could toss Marcel into the air.

The boys were thrilled. From day one they were told that this was Uncle’s apartment, and not just a cold room downstairs.  Uncle had to agree when and if the boys could come down, as he had his own life too.  “Can I can come down now Uncle?” was practiced with animated repetition. From the onset, that we had things pretty well figured out, considering the lack of sibling co-parent models we had to follow. Clear limits and expectations were discussed for all of us. He’d have his life, I’d maintain some of my single mommy autonomy which I love, and we’d have a lot of shared time in the middle.

Alone he was just a single guy living in an apartment. In the basement, he became transformed into a super hero. What we offer, is relationship. He is living with his biological family, two nephews, and a sister, who need him, share meals with him, are entertained by him, cherish him, engage him, and redefine him. Being the Uncle who can teach you how to swing a pizza dough in the air, who can be the rough-house filling of a Sammy-Uncle-Marcel sandwich, and be the most important man in your life, is an obligation that makes you feel herculean just for walking up the basement stairs. Or at least that’s how it looks to me. [Read more...]

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On raising multi-cultural children

by Michele Dortch

I was born in a 1972 to a Japanese mother and Black father. My father was stationed at Misawa Air Base and it was during his service there that he met my mother. And it was there that I was brought into the world.

But we didn’t stay in Japan long. As a military family we moved frequently and headed to the United States around the time I was three or four. I didn’t speak English when I arrived, but it wasn’t an issue. I didn’t have an expansive vocabulary and quickly learned English. It’s a shame though. Today my Japanese language vocabulary is about the same as it was when I was three or four, but that’s another post.

As my mom struggled to acclimate to the US culture, I was unequivocally raised to be American. But, I was also raised to be a Black American woman, more than a woman of dual nationality. I’m not sure when or how this occurred, I just remember always being referred to as “Black” or “African American.” I struggled with the over-simplification of a person (me) that I felt was more complex. Even as I prepared for college, I needed help (or confirmation?) so I asked my dad, “What bubble should I fill in here?” He responded without hesitation, “Black/African American.”

Of course, my Japanese heritage wasn’t completely ignored. My mom always prepared Japanese foods and when I was school-age, I spent weekends at the San Diego Japanese School learning the language, culture and more. Though, not much stuck because at the end of the day, I was always labeled, “Black.”

I never felt totally comfortable with that. Not because I didn’t appreciate my ethnicity, but because I struggled with the idea of labels. I was frustrated with people’s innate need to categorize me into a single category of people. And when they couldn’t figure me out, I was asked, “So, what are you?” Every time those words fell upon me, I felt diminished to a check box. I wanted to be defined by who I was on the inside, not the assumptions people formed based on the outside.

Today, I’m the mother of three beautiful, multi-cultural children. Though, my kids are just one-quarter Japanese and three-quarters African-American, their ethnicity always remains a mystery for people outside of our family and friends. Often, they are mistakenly labeled Puerto Rican, Filipino, Indian, and more. My insides turn when I’m getting to know a new mom and she looks at me and my kids with a puzzled curiosity, then asks, “So, what are you guys?”

An immature version of my former self wants to curtly reply, “We’re human. How about you?” But I hold back and politely describe our cultural make-up. At which point I usually hear, “Oh…interesting…” and we’re left with an awkward pause as each of us tries to figure where to take the conversation from there.

Despite my irritation over ethnic labels, I also recognize its value. Everyone wants a place to belong, and for better or worse, we build communities around our cultural identities. And there is confirmed value in that. I want my children to know and love the richness and diversity of their ethnic background; it’s important.

So, as with everything in motherhood, I take it day by day. And I trust that as life unfolds, my focus on raising confident, responsible and contributing children will be enough to manage the conflict I feel with labels.

*image credit: Flickr/? kacyphoto

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We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

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