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How Dare You Come For Michelle Obama?

I recently penned an article for Jet magazine (that was picked up by EBONY magazine) in response to an offensive cartoon of FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the links: How Dare You Come For Michelle Obama? by M. Michelle Derosier for Jet magazine and How Dare You Come for First Lady Michelle Obama! by M. Michelle Derosier for EBONY magazine.

michelle obama-610x250

Full disclosure in the spirit of transparency: I STAN as hard for Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama as the Beyhive works to keep Queen Bey (aka Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter) in honey.

As a nose-in-the-book Black girl who grew up in Flatbush when Brooklyn was still too hood for gentrification, I am here, present, and on time for her rise from the South Side of Chicago to become an Ivy League lawyer, and now First Lady of the United States. As a tall girl whose height was a source of constant ridicule, I am also here, present, and on time for the regal and dignified way she carries her 5’11 frame.

While I fully admit that she’s BBF M’Obama in my head, you don’t have to be a fan – or even like her – to find Ben Garrison’s cartoon, comparing a “masculine” Mrs. Obama to Melania Trump in incredibly poor taste and disrespectful.

offensive flotus cartoon

Other than a pathetic attempt to gain publicity, what’s the motivation behind it? What message is it trying to send?

Are we supposed to be disheartened that yet another Black woman is found lacking when measured against white beauty standards? Been there. Done that. And you don’t have that power over us anymore. We’ve been growing the list of Black beauties and #CarefreeBlackGirls who reflect who we really are. In addition to the Michelles and the Oprahs, we’re adding the Violas, the Lupitas, the Tracees, and the Yaras, too.

Is this yet another reminder that to be Black means to achieve twice as much and receive half the credit? Don’t worry. That lesson is branded in our DNA. There’s no forgetting it.

As FLOTUS, Mrs. Obama has spearheaded four successful nationwide and global initiatives: a campaign to address childhood obesity; a call to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families are properly supported; an effort to inspire young people to dream beyond high school; and a movement to educate and empower young women.

Additionally, as a fashion icon, Mrs. Obama has done what Kim Kardashian only wishes she could – directly impact the stock price of the commercial fashion industry. According to David Yermack, a professor of finance at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “For just a generic company at a routine event, it was worth about $38 million to have Mrs. Obama wear your clothes.”

Someone please call POTUS to drop the doggone mic.

obama.mic_.drop_1.gif

Sadly, in the face of all this Black Girl Magic, we still find an America who would prefer as FLOTUS a woman who posed naked on a white fur rug inside a private jet for British GQ, instead of an Ivy League trained lawyer.

Am I surprised? Not at all.

Honestly, I’m not even mad at Melania. It would be too easy to go down the road of mud flinging and pitting the two women against each other, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Our problem runs so much deeper, and so far beyond America.

Black female beauty in this world has often been ridiculed, oversexualized, or both. This fact comes into particular focus when I think of Sarah Baartman, an African woman who was tricked into leaving the continent to move to Europe, only to be paraded around “freak shows” to exhibit her ample bottom. Like Mrs. Obama, White cartoonists also ridiculed her figure in the name of satire.

Ironically, according to the 2015 report from the American society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), on average, a butt related procedure (implant or lift) was performed every 30 minute in 2015. And I’m sure we can guess who’s shelling out for that.

Instead of getting angry at this cartoon, I choose to celebrate the woman that’s being ridiculed. The woman who has spent eight years in the White House tirelessly serving and advocating for many of the same citizens who hold her in such contempt.

Like Beyoncé, Michelle Obama chooses to rise above her haters. She wins.

 

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Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward.

It’s Monday, yay! No, I’m not crazy to be happy about Monday. Just very glad I can almost breathe properly again.

Sooooo…. this evening I discovered this gem of a show on TLC called 90 Day Fiance. The show profiles several couples where one person travels to the U.S. to live with their overseas partner for the first time. The couples must marry before the visa expires in 90 days, or the visiting partner will have to return home.

Initially this post was going to discuss my suspicions about three of the six couples. I’m convinced the international partners are scamming the American ones. But I changed my mind and shifted the focus after watching the few couples that seemed as if they truly loved one another.

To leave your family and your friends, quit your work, and move away from the only home you’ve ever known, just to take a chance on a relationship that may or may not succeed, is a decision that requires courage. You’re coming to a country where you’re not familiar with the culture, you may not speak the language (as is the case for one of the partners), you will be unemployed for an indefinite amount of time, and your sole support system is someone that you’re still learning about and adjusting to. Someone you’re still working on building a permanent relationship with. That’s nerve-racking. But at least they’ve taken a chance. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. They can move on knowing they tried.

Watching this show I couldn’t help but think about the times I didn’t take a leap of faith. What would have happened if I’d done so? If I hadn’t allowed fear to keep me from applying to Emerson, would I already be established as a writer? If I had taken the job in South Korea upon graduating college, what direction would my life had taken then? What if I had accepted the opportunity to join AmeriCorps and moved to Maine? I make a conscious effort not to dwell on what-ifs because I don’t believe in coincidences, but what would my life had been like if I had taken any of these opportunities?

As I move closer to my self-imposed deadline to figure out my next career move, I’m praying that I won’t continue to shrink away from opportunities because I’m second guessing my ability to succeed.

I could stand to follow Tina Fey’s thought process when it comes to the next open door around the corner: “Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward” has helped me to be more adventurous. It has definitely helped me be less afraid.

What about you? Take the poll and then share your story in the comments section.

SAYYES

NaBloPoMo_November

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Teenage Memory

This #TBT post is from a 2011 post about a memory from my teen years.

misfit

***

I was a gangly *no curves to save my life* and dark-skin teen who always had her head buried in a book. Not exactly the Kim Kardashian beauty of teenage boys’ lustful dreams. Their rejection hurt, but what really cut deep was being rejected by boys who should have liked me – black boys. But they didn’t. There was nothing special about me in their eyes. I wasn’t fair, I did not have light eyes and my hair wasn’t especially long. I was JUST black. Nothing exotic in my genes. Greater than the sin of being homely and black, I had no butt to speak of. No junk in my trunk. No “onion” booty: described by Urban Dictionary as a “booty that looks so good, it makes grown man want to cry.”

Those awkward teenage years were exacerbated by the bully who made it his business to torture me. My bully was an overweight and and pitch-dark boy who girls found unattractive and tended to overlook. As author Richard Sennet points out in Respect in a World of Inequality, the condition of “not being seen” had produced in him “a desire to avenge.” And I was the target of his vengeance because he saw in me his most hated feature. Every day he was forced to confront the thing about himself that caused him the most grief – his skin color.

As a teen I didn’t have the foresight to understand that his problem was not with me. I was simply an easy target. His anger was rooted much deeper. His real issue stemmed from generations of black self-hate that was encouraged during times of slavery when the darker slaves were relegated to picking cotton and working in the fields while the lighter ones (those who more closely resembled their European masters – usually as a result of interracial rape) were able to remain in the house as servants and had the opportunity to be educated. Why we play the game of who carried the heaviest burden is beyond me. Slavery is slavery is slavery. But that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, I internalized his treatment of me and spent years chasing the standard of beauty that I was sure he and others would value. I used skin bleaching creams religiously, seared my hair straight with hot combs and relaxers, and prayed fervently for the type of butt that black boys would appreciate. Imagine being God and listening to those heartfelt prayers.

It wasn’t until years later (hello Black Studies classes in college!) that I had the strength to confront my demons and work through the self-hate. While I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, I’ve often wondered whether my bully had the same chance. I hope so, but who knows. You can’t combat issues you never acknowledge. As they say in AA (or so TV tells me), the first step is admitting you have a problem.

***

What’s a memory from your teenage years?

NaBloPoMo_November

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Quick Review: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

A good read at a time when I’m struggling to figure out the next step in my career.

However, it falls short on a very key point –actually on two key points: race and socioeconomic status. This book reminds me of the difference between ‘feminism’ and ‘womanism’. When it comes to gender inequality ‘feminism’ fails to appreciate the added unique challenges of race and socioeconomic status, whereas ‘womanism’ does not.

There wasn’t much Ms. Sandberg could do to really present and discuss these other matters – though she made brief mention of race. This book is well researched but that research is in line with the privilege of life as a rich, white woman. It’s nothing to hold against her because she’s speaking her truth from a genuine place. Unfortunately, as an early 30s black woman trying to establish my career in a male-and-white dominated world, it’s unlikely that I will have the luxury to follow much of her advice.


Lean In

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A Grandfather’s Sacrifice.

Speaking of mentoring, here’s a note I wrote a few years ago on Thank Your Mentor Day in honor of my grandpa – the original mentor in my life. The man I lovingly refer to as #TheHaitianGodfather. 🙂

Who mentored you? Please share your story.

I am a true representation of the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.” I was that child and my village consisted of my family, my church, my teachers, and a sprinkling of strangers throughout the years. These individuals were instrumental in providing a foundation for the development of my values and beliefs.

The most important person in said village was (and probably still is) my grandfather – the man who nurtured and mentored me throughout most of my life. My grandfather is a man who “could have been somebody” in the materialistic sense of the statement. He is perceptive, clever with numbers, and annoyingly adept at learning new languages.

However, my grandfather spent most of his adult life working menial jobs and catering to those who are “somebody.” He did so not because he lacked focus or determination, but because he chose to surrender his success for that of his family.

Instead of going to school when he arrived in the U.S. from Haiti in the 70s, he spent decades working to afford to bring his children and extended family members to America for a better life. His desire for higher education was never fulfilled, but his labor paid for countless degrees and full access to the American Dream.

As I watch the state of Haiti today I am especially thankful for my grandfather’s sacrifice and overall guidance.


grandpa raise hand

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Accepting Feedback

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

I always experience this feeling of incredible vulnerability when giving others access to critique my work. The feeling is akin to handing someone the key to what belittles my value, makes me cry and makes me second-guess my talent. But it’s part of the process of becoming a published author, so I respect its purpose.

Helpful article about accepting feedback.


submitting work

 

 

 

 

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Thank you, Ms. Maya Angelou.

I hope you somehow knew the value of your words to a shy teen with her nose always buried in a book. Thank you for encouraging me to speak my voice through pen and paper. You will be missed.


untold story

 

By Maya Angelou 

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
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