OWN UP

April 29, 2013

You don’t get very far in helping people who have addictions when they are not ready to receive the help. In a recent FIX MY LIFE IYANLA episode which aired on the OWN network, Iyanla was quite determined to produce some kind of breakthrough with DMX. He seemed, for the majority of the time, to be rejecting her help. Even when she agreed to back off, she did not. Even when it was all said and done, she came up with some sort of twitter site to ” SAVE DMX”. I thought this was so patronizing. In fact, I thought the airing of the show was exploitative of him. He is obviously in pain. Offer your support, then back off. When and if he is ready he will get help.

It is understandably hard for the people around a person with addictions to watch them deteriorate. This is painful business. But there is no magic answer. Often the addicted person has to have very unpleasant consequences like severe illness, or incarceration to stop them. Addiction is mind bogglingly powerful and illogical. Sometimes “hitting bottom” doesn’t even work.

So, I say to OWN and Iyanla, you cannot FIX everybody. I actually think you cannot FIX anybody. You can only offer support and guidance when they are ready to help themselves.

For people who are ready there are many ways to get started in recovery. Not everything works for everyone, but motivation to stay clean must be at the bottom of any approach you choose or you will waste time and or money.

There are self-help meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. There are detoxes if you have physical addictions and have withdrawal signs like shakes, tremors or flu like symptoms when you stop using.

There are rehabilitations and multitudes of treatment programs. If you are ready it can be done.

LINCOLN

February 24, 2013


Dear Mr. Spielberg:

There is a lot about your movie that I found entertaining. However, there is something about the movie that I just cannot get beyond. This is the fact that the Black people in your movie, with the exception of S. Epatha Merkerson, seem cognitively limited; well, retarded. Unfortunately we only see Merkerson for a few minutes on the screen.

It was startling as well that you did not feature any of the Black intellectuals of the day, such as Frederick Douglass, who had actually developed a close relationship with Lincoln at that time. Seriously? Are you trying to convince us that all the Black people of the time were docile and their freedom was about the rebelliousness of one guy. It’s unfortunately the same story that was told for decades in history books and perpetuates the same ideas, no matter how unlikely and absurd. The ideas are that African Americans for the most part are limited and unable to advocate for themselves or do anything for themselves. These ideas derived from some history books hypnotized generations into thinking this was/is the case. Were you hypnotized?

For me, Lincoln was this season’s opposite of Beasts of the Southern Wild, where if you add a few Caucasians to the movie maybe nobody will complain about African Americans living like savages in a modern world. With Lincoln. maybe if you add a few African Americans then maybe nobody will complain about the fact that they most seem to be quite slow, and had very little to do with accomplishing their own freedom. They were simply not capable. Unfortunately, in terms of their portrayals of African Americans, we come out losing in both these movies.

For my money, Lincoln, The Vampire Slayer, was a better movie (and I don’t even like Vampire movies for the most part). But the screenplay was was smart and creative and the Black characters seemed to have more depth and intelligence.

Sincerely,

makeitplainonline

Look to Aspire

September 24, 2012

I hadn’t heard a doggone thing about it.  I’m talking about Magic Johnson’s new ASPIRE network.  However, I am so glad I found it.  I was scrolling through the television guide and noticed “Flip Wilson” was on.  Okay.  Had to see that.

Three hours later my television was still tuned to this channel, and I don’t even watch that much television.

I have always been a fan of TV One because it seemed that it mattered to them what kind of material they were feeding to us.  It seemed that they were careful about it.  I thought this was so critical in a world where images of us in the media have historically been a massive onslaught of stereotypes.

I think ASPIRE is doing the same thing but they have what seems to have a bit more of a focus on the Arts.  I spent three hours watching Black independent films on ASPIRE that day.  Just prior to the discovery of the channel I had been wondering how to get more access to these films.  Then, there they were.

Check it out.  You will not be disappointed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/aspire-network-launch-earvin-magic-johnson_n_1635238.html

One of A Kind

February 18, 2012

In my opinion there are just a few singers in modern history that are great.  They are great because they seem to transcend time, space and genre.  You can be taken to another place just listening to them.  These voices are very rare.  My list goes like this:

Louis Armstrong

Ella Fitzgerald

Billie Holiday

Frank Sinatra

Stevie Wonder

Whitney Houston

So it does seem here lately that people want to know what Black women think. I mean there is so much hype today over “The Help”. Look, I appreciated the movie. And Viola Davis was extraordinary as usual. But there were no surprIses there AT ALL. Did you think the Black maids would say they were kicking up their heels to be degraded everyday? I don’t think so.

On the contrary, “The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl” offers something very different. Developed by Issa Rae, it gives a voice to a Black woman who tends to be invisible altogether in the media, an awkward Black woman, just trying to make it through her awkward life. Now that is a big surprise.

It is a comedy and I actually found myself laughing out loud. That almost never happens with me watching any sort of sitcom. The writing is crisp and smart and you feel this woman’s pain. We are laughing at her and ourselves for those times that we have all felt at least a little awkward.

It is an internet program that almost halted production because they ran out of money. They were able to raise money through an online donation service to keep it going. They exceeded their goals in terms of the money they raised, because so many folks did not want to lose this great show.

In a way it is powerful because it represents the freedom to be awkward or to be anything other than a stereotype.

Run to your computer. Check it out and tell me what you think:
awkwardblackgirl.com

 

We have covered reasons why Black people tell me they don’t want to go to therapy in:  Top 3 Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy,

And we covered the historical perspectives related to why we as a group avoid therapy in: More Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy.

Now, I am going to give you an opinion based on 20 years of Clinical Experience about this avoidance:

TRAUMA AND DENIAL OF TRAUMA

We underestimate the effects trauma has had for us as a group.  I think the initial trauma of leaving behind our homes, families, names, cultures in the Middle Passage was too much.  Then you had Black families chronically separated from one another during slavery.  How could anyone cope with these losses?  It would surely have been detrimental for a person (a matter of life and death to be exact) to not get up and work as a slave because you were feeling depressed because your child was torn from you the day before.   

I believe those issues went unprocessed for generations.  This pain continues to affect people in subsequent generations if you believe in the collective unconscious (Asante, 2003).  American Indians call it historical trauma and intergenerational grief (See:  http://www.whitebison.org/magazine/2005/volume6/wellbriety!vol6no6.pdf).  I see too many cases of people emotionally detached from their children and I wonder if this is related to our history in this country. 

We have recurrent traumas.  In some of our neighborhoods there is too much violence.  And there are a host of too many other everyday pressures of work and negotiating life.

The style of coping:  “Keep it moving and deny there is a problem,” was probably passed down through the generations as well.

Sucking it up may have gotten us through some very rough times,  but we are surely not living at our best in too many cases today.  Sucking it up and ignoring the issues just means that we have to put energy into that denial.   Sometimes we find unhealthy ways to  due to what I see as unprocessed grief.  I have talked about them before: violence toward our own people (which too often looks like hopelessness and or misplaced anger), along with alcohol and substance abuse to name a few.  At lot of us seem to walk around on edge because we are not handling our stress adequately.  This can sometimes lead to physical illnesses and early death.

And the reality is we do not have to rely on sucking it up as a way of coping anymore if we do not choose to. 

What was the thing about Tyler Perry?

People, I find, love his movies because they tend to scratch at the surface of our trauma enough to produce cathartic responses.  I have witnessed grown men breaking down at some Tyler Perry movies, those movies with heftier emotional content.  The Madea character often takes the edge off some of the painful parts when she is present.  Tyler was pretty brilliant for including her most of the time because nobody just wants to cry for two hours, right?

In a way it becomes safe to cry at his movies because you know you may be laughing again in a few minutes.  Honestly, I think this is why “For Colored Girls…”  may have not been the commercial success that was anticipated, no Madea (not that she would have at all been appropriate for this film).

But the cathartic responses are not really grieving.  They provide an opportunity to let go of some tension, but there is little to no acknowledgment of what the tension is about.  Without that acknowledgement, you are not healing anything.

My point is we apparently need to grieve more.  I know that doesn’t sound like very much fun.  But not doing so may in fact be preventing you from having fun.  If you are carrying a burden, how can you possibly have fun? 

Sucking it up is not grieving and it is not moving on.  Grieving is about letting go.  Grieving for us may be on different levels.  It may be very personal as in the losses of people we know.   However,  it may also be broader, and include deeper feelings about a lack of freedom, and feeling unseen or unimportant, and inadequacies.   These deeper feelings probably come from generations of ancestors not being seen as full human beings.  That is a painful frustrating existence.  The healing comes with the greatest acceptance of oneself in all his or her fullness now.

How can we accomplish this?  Well, I think the healthier ways to do it are by trying to talk about any painful or overwhelming feelings when they come up with somebody you feel safe with, or if you do not have a person you feel safe with try to write the feelings down. I think about Celie in the Color Purple and how her letters to God were ultimately healing and strengthening, but she had to a tremendous amount of grieving. 

Your feelings deserve to have validation.  They will be less overwhelming and less likely to produce unhealthy responses if you acknowledge them.  Of course, if they are too much and you are having difficulty with day-to-day functioning, it may also be helpful to find a mental health practitioner. I think part of a good therapist’s role is to help the client grieve the past.   See: How to find a Therapist:  https://makeitplainonline.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/how-to-find-a-therapist-part-i/

Grieving provides the opportunity to transcend the trauma.

____________________________________________________________________

Asante, M. K. (2003).  The Afrocentric Idea. Temple University Press.

Gina Yashere: Pretty Funny

January 29, 2011

 

I just happened to catch her stand up on  a Showtime Special.  It had a freshness to it that reminded me of Margaret Cho when she started.  She handles cultural identity so beautifully as she is a citizen of the world, Nigerian, English, and American. A true woman of the diaspora, she has seen a lot and is able to integrate it all.   With her comedy, you can laugh at yourself without feeling insulted at the same time. 
she said it. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9DmtmpaDw

The Santa Claus Bag

December 12, 2010

 

When I was very small my mother transformed all our Caucasian Christmas figurines to African Americans.  The Santa right down to the elves.  I did not witness her doing it but I could tell she’d painted them.  And the thing was my mom was no Black Panther.  She was not the rebellious kind by any stretch of the imagination.  But something about her very young child looking at all these representations of joy and none of them appearing to look like her daughter bothered my mother.

Now that I have a child, I know what she felt.  Is it alright to have children of color looking to the Caucasian Santa as the source of all the goodness and excitement.  I say no. Especially since the real Santa Claus bag essentially belongs to me, and I don’t look anything like a fat, jolly white guy.  I am saying the source of the joy is really in my hands.

I think children need to experience the possibility that Santa can be from any group.  On a subconscious level it is dangerous to believe that only white stuff can be good stuff  and yet I still see so many people, young and old falling into that trap.  I plan to teach my child that Santa Claus looks like him when he enters our home, and he looks like others when he enters theirs. 

Why participate in the Santa thing at all if it has to be this complicated?  Why don’t we just do Kwanzaa instead?  Well I remember believing in Santa was great fun, and it is a chance to believe in magic which I think is good for the imaginations of little children.  But I want to  handle this consciously, in a way that is sensitive to self-esteem development.

And by the way, these days you don’t have to put your figurines into blackface (although I used some brown powdered foundation on one of my decorations and I think it turned our pretty good).  You can buy them already Black. There are several websites I found on line including: 

http://www.itsablackthang.com/AfricanAmericanChristmasDecorations-Black-Santa.html

I also love this post from a couple of years ago where a journalist interviewed several Black Santas:  http://weekendamerica.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/12/13/inside_blackness_black_santa/

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See: The King’s Speech

December 1, 2010

Add King George VI of England to our list of famous people alive or deceased with a learning disability.

I am usually so disappointed with movies that I expect very little from them. 

The King’s Speech, however, shattered my beliefs about going to the movies these days.  I actually could be entertained and maybe even learn a little something.  The cast included people you may be familiar with including  Geoffrey Rush whom I predict will get the Oscar for playing the king’s speech therapist. 

It also evokes acknowledgement of something I left out in previous discussions of learning disabilities and that is that some learning disabilities may have an emotional piece (either triggered by or exacerbated by emotional stuff.) 

The movie may be good for teens, especially because it helps to know learning disabilities do not discriminate.  I would not go younger as some of the language can be inappropriate. 

You may think,” How could I possibly relate to a King;  even if he never had to utter a word, all his needs would be met; he doesn’t have to face the real world with a learning disability?”.   King George could have withdrawn from his life and from service,  but he chose to do his best in spite of his limitations.  It is a story of courage and that is relevant to anyone who is feeling hindered by circumstances outside of their control. 

See Colin Firth’s  interview on Charlie Rose:  http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11313

See Related Post:  Learning Diablilities 101:  https://makeitplainonline.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/learning-disabilities-101/

Angelique Kidjo

November 21, 2010

 I had a surreal experience a few weeks ago; I was in a room with so many African American celebrities all at the same time. I am talking about a ton of these people.   Some of them people were people you may have always wanted to be close to or ask questions of or would simply just want to scream your head off when you saw them; Black people on tv, and in movies, and who sing. 

Out of this sea of many people of whom I could to approach, I chose Angelique Kidjo.  Probably for two reasons: 1) she seemed approachable, and 2) her music has meant a great deal in my life.

When I approached her just to say that her music has meant a lot to me, she gave me a hug and started talking to me like we were old friends.  An unbelievable experience for me.

There is something about Angelique’s music that is soothing and spiritual.  She sings in many languages, but tends to transcend them all.  She is a unifying priestess with her music. 

Last week I caught her show at Carnegie Hall.  She brought together African descended people from throughout the diaspora to show the path of the drum from Africa throughout the world, and the power it has had for not just African diasporans but for the entire world.   Her guests included Diane Reeves and Yousou N’Dour.  A wonderful event.  I think the drum (and music, really) lives inside of us and we have carried the drum around the world in this way. 

I saw her this morning on Nickelodeon, Jr.  She is everywhere.

And how timely since I have talked recently here about the connection between the drum and IQ (See: https://makeitplainonline.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-back-to-school-series-iq-and-you/  and http://ppstix.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-benefits-of-being-a-drummer/ .

If you do not know Angelique, get to know her.  In a world full of  studio-manipulated bad singing she has a power that will grab you and keep your attention. She will put you in touch with the music inside of you.