Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

All that Good Hair

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Thanks to those of you who’ve been sending not so gentle hints nudging me to weigh in on the buzz surrounding  “Good Hair” Chris Rock’s take on black women’s hair drama. The film opened this past weekend in select theatres around the country. Rock was inspired to do the film after his young daughter Lola asked him one day “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” Now that’s one of those questions that sends a thinking parent out into the streets wanting to know who in crapola put that kind of thinking into a little brown girl’s head.

Black women and their hair. Whew! What can I say? There was the flap a few months back about Tyra Bank’s “real hair” episode.  And then there was all the the hoopla over singer Solange’s decision to shave her tresses (both the real and the fake tresses) for a close crop natural look. (”What got into that girl to cut off all that good hair?”) And then Rock’s appearance on Oprah a couple of weeks back and the schmoozing that went on around black hair. And let’s not forget that Michelle Obama’s hair, and that of her daughters, are a regular topic of consternation for conservatives and one black women feel the constant need to come to the defense of the Obama women and rationalize to the ignorant masses.

I try to stay away from talking about black women and their hair.  But it’s not possible always to keep silent about our hair if you’re black and female. I try to steer away from the topic because there’s no way to talk about it and not offend if you’re someone like me who’s been natural almost all her life and think natural hair is a no brainer. I’ve never had a perm. Never crossed my mind.

good hairNow we all know that black women are serious about our hair. The beauty supply and distribution business knows it too. Black hair care is a nine billion dollar industry. We buy relaxers,wigs, weaves, detachable ponytails, hair color, hot curlers, ceramic flat irons, shea butter, pressing combs, etc.

With all the beauty supplies in the hood and all the black women flocking to buy hair products, who profits the most from the sale? Certainly not black women.

Just look around the neighborhood. I refuse to go into the Korean owned hair supply store in my neighborhood, and it’s not because I have anything against Koreans. The building’s outside looks like it’s owned by people who  don’t care much for their customers and know that their customers don’t mind as long as they get to come in for their fix.  The building looks like an armored tank with beauty posters plastered all over it. I can’t for the life of me figure out how people work in a building all day where no natural light filters in. Nor I can figure why folks would  go into a store where you can’t get a peep at what’s going on outside.

Madame C. J. Walker must be turning over in her grave. After suffering back in the 20s and 30s from hair loss, she experimented with various concoctions and made her first million dollars in the 40s selling hair growth products to black women and teaching them how to care for their hair.

That said, instead of posting just another blogpiece pissin’ and moanin’ about “woe is us wimmins” and complaining yet again about how capitalism (free enterprise) exploits my people (and our beloved naps) I thought do the empowering thing and close by sharing the names of a couple black hair companies I believe in and support. While I’m at it also offer some of my favorite natural hair care websites that offer great tips on caring for black hair.


Whipped Pudding
Burnt Sugar Pomade
Juices and Berry Mist

I love the fact that when I buy from Oyin I’m supporting wife and husband, Jamyla and Pierre Bennu, and their natural hair product business in Baltimore. Jamyla is the mixtress and Pierre the creative media mind behind Oyinhandmade. The two are quirky, fun, but, oh, so serious about making quality products for natural hair.  It takes a couple of weeks for their products to arrive in the mail. That’s because they make the products fresh and by hand there in their studio. What I also love about Oyin (which is Yoruba for “honey”)  is that almost all of the hair products can be used on both the hair and the body.

Qhemet Biologics: Love it! Love it! 

Alma & Olive Oil Heavy Cream…hmmmmm….

While I get a kick sometimes out of mixing my own hair care potions (shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera gel) I rely mostly on others for my hair care fixes.

Now for my favorite natural hair care sites where you can find smart women writing about their hair journeys and offering lots of hair care tips, hair and beauty product reviews, hair care discussions, and fun stories on “a funny thing happened on my way de-frying my brain”:





Going Natural

If you want to suggest other natural hair care sites, speak up.
If you have thoughts about Rock’s “Good Hair,” share them.
If you take issue with anything I’ve said here about black, speak now.

“If You Knew” says Nina

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I could write about Nina Simone all day long and never get tired. I could write about Nina, and other women like her, Dinah, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Betty, Abbey and risk losing most of my sanctified readers. Yes, I love Mahalia. But when I was looking around for role models in those early years as a woman in ministry I looked to women like Nina and Dinah as my role models. I preferred stories about women who were not saints. As I said in a previous post about women singers:

Reading stories of women living out of their suitcases night after night, singing under sometimes impossible circumstances, expected by their audiences to bring down the house every time they sang despite whatever was going on in their personal lives, the sexism they faced in the music industry, the betrayal of managers and record companies who cheated them, living with the label of being “difficult” women when they spoke up and spoke out, the multiple marriages they had but never really finding true love, the solace many of them found in the after-hour meals with their band, all of this sounds familiar to me.

After living out of my suitcase for the last couple of weeks speaking here and there, trying to remember my lines and hoping, with God’s help, to live up to my part of the bargain and give audiences what they came looking for and needed desperately to hear, I stumbled on this video this morning of Nina sitting at the piano in a dark supper club under a lone light singing, sweating, and giving her audience what they came for without giving them more of herself than she could afford to spare. What I admire most about Nina is that she learned how to use her aura to her advantage. Her striking black African looks, her unconventional physicality, which were supposed to be her undoing, became  her greatest assets. She made her audiences look at her, really look at a woman who looked like her, something they weren’t accustomed to doing without turning away, and notice the beauty. I like when women performers who don’t look like what women performers are supposed to look come out and make liars and bigots and idiots of their audiences– with talent that leaves audiences crying for more.  Isn’t that what made the Susan Boyle video a Youtube hit?

I’m a sweat-er too. Always have been. Even before “the change”. LOL. So when Nina pauses in the middle of singing “If You Knew” to wipe her forehead with her hands–and looks around the set with an expression that says “why the freak doesn’t someone bring me a towel?” and continues on with the song as though the gesture and expression were part of the song — I smile knowingly. “Pay attention,” Nina says in the video.  There’s something to be learned for you who aspire to be public speakers, orators, poets, preachers, teachers who stand everyday before a class full of students. A lesson in confidence, experience, and self-possession. Sweat and keep singing. Make the sweat work for you. Sing so that they remember the song and appreciate all the passion you put into delivering it.

Those Healing Women: Nurses, Witches, and Folk Healers

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I began this post thinking I’d give a shout out to nurses. I sathawthorne still long enough last night to catch a new medical drama television series about nurses starring Jada Pinkett. The series is called HawthoRNe. Hawthorne is one of three new medical dramas debuting this season centering on hospital nurses, this one starring Pinkett who plays hard-a** head nurse Christina Hawthorne. (Anyone here old enough to remember actress Diahann Carroll playing the first professional black woman and nurse on TV  more than 40 years ago on the series “Julia”?) Okay, so last night debut of “HawthoRNe” was a bit hackneyed with Pinkett playing the most hackneyed role of all as the competent, compassionate, caring, conscientious, no-nonsense, workaholic head nurse who has little tolerance for administrators, doctors or rules that come between her and her care of her patients. But I’m willing to give the show time to find its identity and work out its kinks. After all, any show is better than the current line-up of sorry TV shows starring black actresses and black actors. If “HawthoRNe” hasn’t improved by the end of the summer, I’ll come back on and pan it.

For now I’m happy that there’s a TV medical drama that focuses on nurses. I’m happy because I have a daughter who dreams someday of becoming a nurse,  and I’m looking forward to watching the show with her every week. And I’m especially happy, for my daughter’s sake, that she grows up, like I did with “Julia”, seeing a black actress starring in her own series as a nurse. No, I’m not a big fan of Jada Pinkett. But that’s not the point right now.

So you see why I started out wanting to write about nurses. But then I changed my mind.

Here’s a special shout out to women healers everywhere.

Nurses come from a long line of women healers. From the beginning of time women have performed the role of healers. Natural healers, in fact. As caretakers and homemakers, those assigned to care for children, the aged, and the infirmed one might say that women were in all likelihood the first healers in the world. In fact, women have always been healers, unlicensed doctors, herbalists, abortionists, midwives, roots women, doctors without degrees travelling from home to home and village to village caring for the sick. Having studied the body and having learned the healing mysteries of plants and nature, women healers were called “wise women” by common people (Jeremiah 9:20).  But they would soon go on to be called “witches” and “sorcerers” when men begin elbowing their way into the profession and sought  to demonize and put down women practicing without license in order to convince patients to trust male health professionals over self-taught women healers .


Thinking more about the matter, here’s yet another shout out to a woman with healing hands from my past: Victoria Franklin (affectionately known at church as “Ma Franklin”). She did what I want to believe my own mother would have done had she still been alive at the time. Ma Franklin came over to my house to see about me after I gave birth to my daughter.  I was alone with a newborn. (Did you know that only in the industrialized West do new mothers  return home with newborns and and no female support system to help her?)

Fresh from the island of Trinidad and in the states visiting a daughter who’d had a baby a month earlier, Ma Franklin came when my husband (also from Trinidad) called to say that I was still having pains weeks after our daughter was born. Ma Franklin showed up at my door with her “medicine bag” with her. She took one look at me and instructed my husband to find a bucket, place it in the bathtub, and run hot steaming water in the bucket. The two of them then helped me to the tub whereupon Ma Franklin poured the contents of a bottle she had in her hands into the bucket and instructed me to climb in and sit over the bucket for as long as I could. And I did. With a Ph.D. hanging there in my study and despite the fact that I was a seminary professor at a local university, I climbed in that tub naked, stooped and sat over that bucket of steaming water with its soothing menthol scent rising in me and released myself to the healing ministrations of a woman with centuries of wisdom about what to do about postpartum complications.

And then I cried– for all the wisdom that gets lost in the pursuit of knowledge.

The gouging cost of health care in this country and the uberprofessionalization of our medical personnel tell me that we need more women in our neighborhoods like Ma Franklin. Wise women. Natural healers. Women (and men) who carry within their buxom the secrets of natural healing and folk medicine, knowledge of herbs and plants and common sense healing practices needed to treat headaches, menstrual pain, morning sickness, asthma, allergies, diarrhea, burns, ear infection, flu and cold, hair loss, bee sting, and the heartbreak of unrequited love.

healing black womanGod bless you Ma’ Franklin there in heaven. God bless women healers, folk healers, and everyone woman who fretting over what to do about the sick neighbor down the way were mislabeled witches, sorcerers, roots women, devil worshipers, country healesr, silly old women, and quacks for consulting God and nature and stirring up potions.

Join me in celebrating the folk healing practices of our ancestors by sharing some natural healing remedies you know about. (Cough. Cough. In the litigious society in which we live it must be said that no one on this blog is responsible if these home grown remedies do not work for all who apply them!)

Get Thee Fitted

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Suggestion to my loyal male readers: this blogpost is intended for the women in your life.

Come closer, sister. Let’s be honest. Perhaps the reason you can’t keep your mind on the sermon on Sunday morning and the reason you’re in a bad mood all the time is because –your bra doesn’t fit. A well-fitted bra will improve not only your posture and body image. A well fitted bra will improve your personality and spiritual outlook.

I hear better when I have on the right bra.

right bra

A friend gave me permission to post here on the blog her email from last week.

Renita, today I decided to do something for myself. I have, for quite a while, needed bras. A couple of days ago I saw an ad on the television that said a famous “bra fitter” was coming from NYC to a little bra store here (Bra-vo) and that, but appointment only, she would be professionally fitting bras. I jumped on it and actually arrived 30 minutes early for my appointment.

The little skinny (elfin actually) white lady seemed to suppress a scream when I pulled off my shirt. “My goodness,” she said. “Where do you buy those?” What she seemed to be referring to were the pull over the head bras I had been fond of wearing for the last six or eight years. They were light and comfortable. Sure, there was not a lot of support involved here but…….I tried to always move slowly and deliberately.

Somewhere over the last decade or so some very odd things have occurred. I have somehow gone from a nice C cup to a genormous F or double G cup! What is that about? She tried to tell me that something called “breast tissue” is now under my arms and has to be pushed forward and wrapped into the cup in the front. Where did that come from? Is this something else that age brings. Again, I was not informed. Breast tissue growing under my arms, almost around my back. Odd. Anyway, she showed me how to pick it up and put it where it needed to be. It took a while though.

Two hours, 40 bras, and 11 brands later I walked out of the store with three new bras! They cost me $199.32. I had no idea bras were so expensive! Still, that is a small price to pay for my new look. I am now walking taller and my head is held higher because I have reached down, around and under and finally gotten it all back to where I guess it used to be naturally.

Ask yourself these questions:

• After a few hours on, is my bra uncomfortable?
• Does the back of my bra ride up?
• Do my shoulder straps dig in and leave impressions?
• Do the straps fall off my shoulders?
• Do I have pain in my shoulders, neck and back?
• Am I bulging out of the top of the cups or is breast tissue pushed under my arm?
• Do I need support, but find underwires uncomfortable?

For years I wore bras that didn’t fit. And even though I’ve been known today to plunk $50 or more down for a Wacoal bra, I gotta admit that I’m beginning to think it’s time for me to go in for a new fitting. I’m turning into my mother. She was always calling me to come into her room to undo her bra for her. I’m beginning to do the same to the teenager-in-my-house. “Your daughter will be doing the same for you one day,” I warn as she rolls her eyes and lifts up the back of my blouse. After reading my girlfriend’s email it’s dawned on me that perhaps calling your daughter into the family room to undo your bra as you watch television is not a normal mother-daughter ritual.

hudson I shouldn’t have to tell you well-endowed breasted-ones that you should do your girls a favor by strapping them down in the  right bra. But I do. Lord knows, I do. But the same goes to all women. Women’s bodies are constantly fluctuating from diets, hormones, exercise, having babies, breastfeeding, menopause, etc. which can cause changes in the size of our breasts. And then there are those of you who have actually had breasts implants, breast reductions, and various types of breast surgery. Experts recommend that women should make an appointment for a bra fitting an annual part of their routine. And when we’re fitted, that we should buy the bra size that’s recommended. Not the bra size you think you wear.

So you see,  this blogpost is not just for those of us whose boobs have migrated with age, but my 20something years old readers could benefit from a bra fitting too. Placement is everything when it comes to those plunging necklines you all like to sport. Do your girls a favor and put them in the right bra. Repeat after me: Victoria’s Secret  makes bras for dolls not women.

Now before you run out to buy a push-up, demi-cup, balconette or seamed deep-plunge bra, says the experts: Get thee a proper bra fitting first.  And then get thee at least one good bra. Preferably two or three.