So, as descendants of terror (slavery) many of us still engage in behaviors that are understandable in terms of having been traumatized.  We continue to reconstruct the terror in many of our communities.  Psychoanalysts would call this reenacting, which is a common, understandable response to being traumatized.  It is a way for the traumatized individual to gain mastery or control of a situation where there was a feeling of powerlessness.  Unfortunately, the methods used to reenact the trauma are usually unhealthy and cyclical, resulting in nothing but further trauma for the individual and the community.  An unfortunate example of this for us is the violence plaguing too many of our communities.  However, the core issues go ignored generation after generation.  Trenton, NJ has hit a new record for deaths by violence.  Are we going to let this continue?

There is a failure I think for most people to acknowledge that the he behavior comes form somewhere.  It’s not just that the perpetuators are just bad people. They are often behaving like victims of trauma.  What’s the answer?  Empower them in other ways. Let them find their strengths  through the family and through the community.  No matter your feelings on the church, it offers a place for just that in many of our communities. There are often programs in and outside of churches that amazing people start that are empowering and strengthening for our children and we need to seek them out.  If we give up on them or blame them or continue to lock them up like animals or “stop and frisk” them like second class citizens, we will have the same problems.  These tactics haven’t worked.  They will not ever work.  They further destroy any real sense of strength or power, that people who are productive in communities need.

I attended a meeting with a group of mental health practitioners last month.  The meeting was spearheaded by a group of Black Psychiatrists.  It wasn’t just a boring presentation as too many of these meetings tend to be.  It was a group of mental health professionals trying to move toward healing in our communities.  I must say that up until that point I was very disappointed in the Black Mental Health practitioners.  I’m sure the desire for community action was there for so many but there was no movement toward organizing.  I will do my part to try to make sure it doesn’t stop with a meeting.

Here is some info on what to do if you are stopped and frisked:  http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/stop-and-frisk-practices

ONE example a program supportive of youngsters: http://teemgateway.rutgers.edu/

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

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

Black Marriage Success

July 25, 2011

In Together We Are Strong: A Qualitative Study of Happy Enduring African American Marriages, research was conducted with 30 married Black couples to assess challenges and resilient features in this group with an average of 26 married years.  The authors of the current study note that many African Americans experience well-functioning marriages, yet little research exists on positive mental adjustment, happiness and satisfaction.  They are addressing that void.  This is strength-based research, as opposed to most of the deficit-based reasearch pumped through the media that focuses on problems and pathology.

The findings of this study revealed Three Areas of strengths or resources for this group.

A:  INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL RESOURCES

The researchers found that often two happy people made for a happy marriage.

There was a willingness to work on individual-level strengths; so you may develop strengths along the way (such as better listening skills) that you did not have at the outset of the relationship.

B. INTERPERSONAL RESOURCES

Knowing that you can rely on your partner.

Trust.

C.  SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RESOURCES

Having witnessed “strong” marriages in the immediate or extended family.

In most of these enduring relationships, both spouses were gainfully employed.

Sharing similar attitudes about religion or being “equally yoked”.

The article notes many of the challenges faced by these couples, but the above-stated strengths were often essential in persevering through the challenges.

The entire article is found here:

Together We Are Strong

The attached link says everything that needs to be said on the subject of the “Black women are less attractive..” topic that set the internet ablaze this week.

The premise of this so-called research is absolutely ridiculous. There is really nothing to argue about there.

Based on what I have learned about the psychologist who performed this stupid study, he seems to be seeking his five minutes of fame by executing studies that are as provocative as possible.

I don’t like to spend too much time on such rubbish but it does drive home a point I’ve made in the past; psychologists have issues and biases of their own. And just like with any other product you consume (even research), please shop carefully.

In addition, the absence of jugdment on the staff’s part at Psychology Today is also of concern, and in my estimation pathetic.

All research, even legitimate, thoughtful research, has limitations. All research. The fact that the psychologist fails to mention any limitations also tells you something about his credibility. The attached article outlines only a few of the apparent flaws of this so-called study. See:
http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/18/satoshi-kanazawa-black-women-psychology-today?cat=commentisfree&type=article

P.S. I was looking for an image of a beautiful African American woman and landed on Tracy Chapman.

Happy

April 16, 2011

Something to smile about!  Recent research from the University of Michigan found that: as an African American, the more strongly you identify with African American culture, the happier you may be. 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110304115003.htm

When I get my hands on the actual study, which should be very soon, I will let you know exactly how they measured these “constructs” such as:  How did they define “happy”  and how did they define “identify with” for example?  I’ll let you know what it says.  But for the time being, this is good news.

The point may be obvious to many but I do not think to all as some people spend so much time trying to identify themselves as anything but African American.

An interesting finding was that the relationship between racial identity and happiness was stronger for women that for men.  This finding is consistent with my own research that found that racial identity was associated with less stress for African American adolescent girls, but not for adolescent boys  (Arrington, 2001: Dissertation Abstracts).   Therefore, the relationship between happiness and racial identity, as well as for stress and racial identity is more complicated for males.   The researchers from Michigan speculate that the sense of  “belongingness”, may be the key factor for women.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.  MLK, Jr.

 

Who is MLK Jr. ?  I never thought I would get blank stares when I asked this question to anyone.  However, many young people I talk with are really not sure.  I would say that about 8 out of 10 African American 18 to 24 year-olds I interviewed in a large urban area, either are not sure or they believe he was the president at some point. 

While I am happy that some the younger members of our communities have the self-esteem to believe that a Black man could have been president in the past, I am frightened that they do not really know their history, even the basics.  Some of them have high school diplomas.  I thought to myself, “What the heck did you do at school all day?”.  

The bottom line is we are not teaching our youngsters history.  The cost is outlined above in King”s quote.  We are doomed to repeat the past if we don’t know the history.  We are not understanding our true value in history.  Some of the people I interviewed were living in very dangerous communities where the value of their own life and others’ lives were extremely minimized.  The cycles of violence in many communities have endured for some time.

So, do we need Black History Month?  Yes.  Some people argue that Black History is American History, and I wholeheartedly agree.   Some of the same people further argue that it should be integrated into any American history curriculum. Of course.  But we still need Black History Month.  It’s like Valentines’s Day.  It doesn’t mean we don’t love the people we love the rest of the year.  It’s just a day to do something special.

We need this month to do something special.  Take a youngster aside and make certain they have access to their history.  We are responsible for what happens next. 

See:  http://www.blackhistory.com/

Southern Exposure

December 31, 2010

 
 

The few trips I have had to the South were mostly pleasant experiences, such as meeting my maternal grandmother’s family in South Carolina at a reunion in 2000.  There were some unpleasant experiences as well that I will address in the following blog:  ” Southern Discomfort”.

This year, for my summer vacation which did not occur until November, I had the pleasure of spending some time in Savannah, Georgia and Sea Islands (Islands off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina) known for their beauty, but less well-known for the exquisite culture of the Gullah people.  

My grandmother would try her best to distance herself from this massive group, but I suspect that our heritage is closer to theirs than she really wanted to admit.  Some of the language she used was just too similar and some of the recipes were EXACTLY the same when I looked in Gullah cookbooks.  I think the close linkage to Africa that is clearly accepted in Gullah culture and maybe some of the religious differences and beliefs may have been the point of concerns for my grandmother and her family who were trying very hard to just be “American”.

Africans in this region during slavery, were often left without a Caucasian presence, to tend  land in the “lowcountry” where their Caucasian owners found the weather difficult to bear.  This made it possible for them to retain many aspects of their African language and culture.  To this day, many are able to trace their history directly to Africa, many from Sierra Leone. 

The language is what many linguists would call a” pigeon” which is a mixture of languages, like Creole, or West Indian dialects.  The culture is also mixed and this is evidenced in the religious practices which tend to be Christian, but outside of the church sustain a African based belief structure on healing and how to learn life’s lessons.  These beliefs coexist in the same way they do for those who practice Santeria (which is fundamentally African) in Latin cultures.

There was representation of this culture in 90s cinema and on television with the movie Daughter’s of the Dust by independent filmmaker, Julie Dash which was a story about a Gullah Island family at the turn of the last century.  I think the movie has some of the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen.  Take a look: 

Ronald Daise and his wife Natalie have shared about Gullah culture through their very popular 90s children’s television show: “Gullah Gullah Island” which continues to air on Nick Jr. in the middle of the night.  The videos are available through their website http://gullahgullah.com/, and on Amazon.  Their delightful show focuses less on the language and more on the way of life and spirit of community in Gullah culture.  Ronald Daise also has some children’s books that I find beautiful in their presentation of this little talked about and little understood area of the world.  These books have positive Black imagery and relationships for African American youth.  They would make great Kwanzaa gifts.

The power in all of this is the recognition that we come from somewhere, and there is a link to whence we came, as much as we try to deny that at times.

For more information on the subject see: http://www.penncenter.com/

I also like this blog about the subject:

http://www.rosalindcummingsyeates.com/blog/labels/Gullah%20Culture.html

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.

What do you do when the school suggests that you have your child tested with an intelligence measure?

#1.  Arm yourself with information!

The best thing you can do is first understand that these tests have limitations.  At best, they are measuring your child’s current capacity to use typically Euro-American ways to process information.  Many of us are very good at this.  If your child scores at least within the average range on an IQ test as they are currently designed he or she will probably function in typical school settings.  If your child scores lower, he may need more supplemental help at home to bolster weaknesses.  You do not have to rely on the school to provide the extra help (i.e., special education) you can give the support yourself. 

Also, know that African Americans score about 15 points on average lower than their Caucasian counterparts.   However, unlike many Euro-American analysts in the past that attributed this to weaknesses in thinking for African Americans,  (See:  Scientific American’s Debunk of Hernstein and Murray’s  The Bell Curve, maybe the most racist book written in my time.  http://www.mdcbowen.org/p2/rm/sciam1.htm ) other analyses are more plausible in my opinion.  Many of these past analysts like to argue that IQ correlates with “success”, but until we eliminate racism this is a flawed argument. 

There are two main issues here.   First, our current measures for IQ are weak and are susceptible to environmental influence, so whether or not they are measuring “IQ” (a supposedly “fixed” attribute in a human being)  is still a problematic question. 

Second, and in some ways most important, statistical analyses of these tests suggest that they do not tell the entire story of IQ even for Euro-Americans.  I think their ability to predict general brightness for children of color is even worse.  Many African Americans have different ways of processing information that are often neglected in discussions about IQ, I think for fear that we may be considered too different. 

Do not be afraid.  If you understand the limitations of the tests you have more power in what the educational planning will be for your child.  You do have a right to refuse testing by the Board of Education and get private testing done.  Private testing is usually more thorough and thoughtful (and MORE expensive, but worth saving for).  Then you can make a decision about whether or not you would like to share the results with the school. 

Oh, oh !! I almost forgot.  No test of IQ should be considered alone, without other information about the child.  So, I am saying it is not commonly accepted to label a child as Mentally “Deficient” with these tests alone.  Information about how the child is functioning in her everyday life is essential.  Adaptive behaviors and degree of normal developmental f are essential considerations in any determination of this kind. 

In summary, the proof that we are measuring actual IQ and that it is genetic is very weak.  The predictive properties of these instruments are weak for everyone.

Conceptually, these tests are limited and based on Euro-American values at their core and may be missing rich areas of processing and intelligence in other groups. 

#2.  Have a Meeting with the School to Establish the Reasons for the Testing and to Discuss Any concerns you may have.

I want to mention here that it seems to be standard in my part of the world to test preschool age children for entry into certain preschools.  This is really baffling since most of the research supports that “IQ” is not “fixed” until age 6. 

#3.  Know That Just Because Child Scores Lower than Desired Does Not mean she Cannot succeed with the Right support.

You will be supplied with a report after an assessment which should outline your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Very few children score poorly in every area of the test.  Bolster the child’s self-esteem by reminding them about things they do well.  This will help them use strengths to address weaker areas.

If your child scores lower than average, try to bolster their learning experience by exposing them to other modalities of learning. Varying modes of learning through visuals like field trips, and even music can do wonders if you want your child to compete in this society.  I learned my multiplication tables through song and sometimes I still have to sing the songs to remember some numbers, but it worked!  

There is a great article on drumming and how it improves IQ (more evidence that” IQ” is not “fixed”): http://ppstix.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-benefits-of-being-a-drummer/.  Drumming, that our ancestors brought with them from Africa is still woven into our existence every time you listen to jazz, hip hop or turn on that R and B station.  The kind of genius that floats around in that music AND in the appreciation of that music I would say is an element of our IQ that is avoided along with many others.

It is not out of the question that your child will need extensive help that is beyond your capacity as a parent to give.  You may have tried everything possible.  But all other methods of support can be explored before deciding to bring in professionals.