Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Newly Discovered Writer

Low self-esteem and laziness have kept me from exploring my talents as a writer. Ideas would come to me but would never end up on paper. I was not a storyteller, I was a writer who never wrote. Perhaps insecurities stemming from my bouts with depression caused my lack of motivation. A few months ago, I decided to reverse my inactivity. It is possible that all the ideas I had were lame, and my style actually sucked. Those worries obsessed me. However, I could not determine my quality as a writer if I did not, well, write.

I do not like to write - I like to have written.

~Gloria Steinem

Years ago, my sister saw a flyer about free youth creative writing workshops in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. Hosted by the New York Writers Coalition (NYWC), I was a little hesitant about participating because journalism is what I wanted to pursue. I decided to try it out. At the end of the summer the other participants and I read alongside the poets Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka at the Summer Literary Festival. The experience was fantastic. I participated in a few of their readings after the festival but never got into the habit of writing.

That somewhat changed at the beginning of this semester when I fought my way into a creative writing class at the college I attend. Its now summer break but this is my first time having a collection of writings. I still am unsure about my ability but I am proud to now some shit to show for.

Yesterday, my fellow sister lemonswithsalt came out to support me at an open mic hosted by NYWC. In spite of my insecurities, my writings were well received. It is possible some people were being polite but I genuinely believe that my writing has potential. With a new found sense of promise I now possess the urge I was previously lacking. There are a few open mics in the near future I hope to hit up including one tomorrow when sister Zipporah Pearce and honorary sister Miss All Ass* will be there supporting and shit.

I tell my students that the only way to surely improve your reading and writing skills is to read and write more often. You can't give advice you don't follow.

*She selected the alias, not me

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dove: The New Conspiracy Against Blacks?

I've been a user of Dove products since as long as I can remember. My mother and sister have very sensitive skin and Dove products have always been a cheap and satisfactory remedy. I've become pretty partial to Dove since it's what I know and I have to admit it works better than all the other bath products I've tried.

So when I began to see reports and posts about Dove's new add campaign (pictured below), I was interested in what all the hooplah was. Especially when titles like "Dove body wash turns Black Women into Latino Women into White Women" and "From Dark to Light: Is Dove's 'Visible Care' Ad Racist?" started popping up all over my blog feed. When I read the second article and saw this photo I immediately shrugged it off as some Black people once again looking for racism in things that just weren't there. 

Ok, the progression from dark to light with the model placement in front of two contrasting skin types of cracked and smooth is a bit cringe worthy. But I chose to look at it more as just poor model placement rather than racism. Most of the commenters agreed with me in that it really wasn't a big deal and people where looking for racism in something that wasn't there. However one particular comment from that article struck me:
 I got sense! (commenter)
MAY 24, 2011 AT 11:25 AM
“The advertisement comes quite out of character for the brand, which is widely seen as an industry leader for its “Real Women, Real Beauty” campaign.”
This is it isn’t out of character. Unilever (the parent brand) uses racism all the time in other countries. This company promotes and advertises skin lightening. This is why you have to know who you are giving your money to. And their “Real women, real beauty” campaign is B.S. too. They lightening and photoshop women all the time. I haven’t purchased any Unilever brands in months. There a whole series on YOUTUBE about it.                   
After reading this, I decided I needed to do a bit of my own research just to see what "I got sense" was talking about. Now in the past Dove has done really well of advertising "real women" who don't fit into one particular size and are usually diverse. 
But after scanning some of the many brands that Unilever, the company which owns Dove, also promotes, I can see where some would say that this new add has an undertone of racism. Two products which immediately attracted my focus where Lux and Fair & Lovely. Both these brands are skin care products promoted in various international markets, but seem to target Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian demographics. And in these brands, key marketing targets skin whitening/lightening. Unilever even describes Fair & Lovely thusly:
Fair & Lovely’s brand-essence of ‘Rescripting Destiny’ has played a decisive role in its noteworthy presence in over 30 countries. Today, 250 million consumers across the globe strongly connect with Fair & Lovely as a brand that stands for “beauty that empowers a woman to change her destiny”. The brand’s commitment towards empowering women has inspired the initiation of Fair & Lovely Foundation. Time after time the foundation initiates various education & employment-related programs that give underprivileged women the power to overcome all barriers & change their lives. 
Now if that doesn't sound even the tiniest bit racist- well I don't even know what to tell you. Here you have a brand basically saying that your darker skin is keeping you from that destiny you deserve. That by lightening your skin you can become empowered and change your life for the better. Therein lies the racism. The very fact that someone must change their skin tone to improve themselves and their life. Sure this is bigger than just skin care manufacturers making money off of communities affected by racial inequality and persons who see the fairer skin as the ideal form. But it sure isn't helping the problem.

Take a look at this video.
And tell me that there isn't a bigger issue going on and that these skin-care manufacturers are feeding into a problem and making it bigger.

After finding that Dove is connected to these brands through Unilever, I can see where undercurrents of racism shine through in this add. That may have not even been the marketing strategy. The cameraman might have just seen the models and decided he liked that placement the best. I don't know and that leads me to the bigger issue I have with all of this.

Should I still continue to buy Dove, and by doing so, support a company that markets such racially tinged products like Lux and Fair & Lovely? I really don't know. One the one hand Dove has been a staple in my house and has been the best bathing product I've found for my family. However, on the other hand, it really goes against my sensibilities to keep supporting something that promotes racist mindsets and skin bleaching. After all taking my families support away from Unilever is only a drop in the ocean for them, but it's doing something.

What do you think? Do you find the Dove campaign racist? Would you still support Dove and other Unilever products even though it promotes skin bleaching?

Oooo Chile! Things Will Get Brighter

Few songs move me like this jawn here. I sometimes become very emotional when I listen to music, especially ones with inspirational messages. I play this song when I'm going through the motions and I need to clear the clutter in my mind. When I'm anxious about my future or depressed about the present, few songs can get me to believe and shit. Ooo chile!

With that being said, I dedicate this Throwback! to the victims of the past tornado disasters. Keep your head up brothers and sisters, because things will get brighter!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Tornado Disaster, Death Hovers over 100

My Goodness! Another deadly tornado has ripped through the southwestern city of Joplin, Missouri yesterday evening leaving 116 dead and 400 injured. The damage caused by the storm is tremendous in the city o 49,000. Several schools were damaged, three completely destroyed including Joplin High. An estimated 2,000 buildings were destroyed.

I have shared my frustration with the poor response given to the victims of last month's major tornado disaster. There are many cultural and political differences within our country, divisions being more pronounced amongst the North and South. Hopefully all citizens can come together and help our brothers and sisters affected by the recent disasters.

I'm thinking about organizing a clothing drive for the victims. Is that too small? I would love to partner with an organization like Habit for Humanity and do reconstruction work but funding is problematic. What to do, what to do?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Getting out of Your Comfort Zone

Now all my friends will probably look at me crazy for saying this, but I consider myself an inherently shy person. I used to be way worse to the point where even in groups with people I knew, I couldn't bring myself to talk. That's why everyone always thought I was angry in high school. Nope. I was just too shy to talk with you.

Luckily I've turned into my grandmother and am now able to just start random conversations on the street. I've met some very interesting people that way. It still takes a lot of effort to really just start mingling with people I don't know but I think I'm really learning how to balance my friendliness with my shyness.

Now last night was a big challenge for me. I recently became an elite Yelper and as such am able to go to exclusive events, if I'm lucky enough to get on the list. Luck was my lady last night and I was able to attend an event that went above and beyond my expectations.

As a new Yelper I actually don't know many other Yelpers and before last night I knew no Elite Yelpers. The catch with this event was that you couldn't bring a guest as most other Yelp events allow you to. So I was going on my own to an event where I knew no one, and I'm shy. Talk about a challenge. But I debated and debated and finally decided it would be a huge waste if I didn't just go out on a limb and do it.

When I'm with people I know I'm comfortable and very outgoing. I have stories to tell and jokes to make. But on my own it takes a lot of effort (and some liquor) to loosen up. But lady luck stayed with me through the night. As soon as I got there I met a fantastic fellow new Yelper who also didn't know anyone else at the party. We hit it off right away and decided to team up to mingle. It worked. We went around talking, myself targeting those who stood alone, and her taking that extra step to introduce us to groups. And 99% of the time the people where extremely welcoming and gave us both a confidence boost. It also helped that there was free wine and beer on hand (I still tipped of course). I even broke away at times and mingled with people on my own.

The best part of the night was at the end. After we had really gotten the party going and ended the night dancing to fantastic party music, the veteran elite congregated trying to figure out what to do next. And when one of them asked me what I was doing next, I felt that tingle of excitement that comes when people do something so unexpected but so welcome. I unfortunately had to go home, but just being asked really iced the already delicious cake. It was definitely a 6/5 star evening.

But the most important thing for me is that I got out of my comfort zone and did something that I wasn't entirely confident about and luckily everything went extremely well. I am definitely motivated to attend other such events now, even if I don't know any or many people there. It may be helped by a bit of liquid courage, but I'm going to jump out of my comfort zone and hopefully keep meeting such fantastic people and having a great time.

Well there you have it. Do you have any anecdotes about times you stepped out of your comfort zone?

MLK died for this shit?

Sure New Orleans bounce is typically crude and hyper-sexual. However, the sheer buffoonery of this nonsense is outrageous. And yes, I know I am part of the problem by even posting this shit. Whatever. Sue me.

The Lack of Rapture

So the world didn't end. Unless you believe these people.

But really, I wonder what Harold Camping and his believers will have to say. Especially as his site has been down since 6pm. Coincidence? I think not.

As a Christian I've been entertained by this whole thing. I don't have anyone missing that I know of, but I guess I'll take count tomorrow when I'm sober (had to get my VIP status on ya dig?)...

Oh how the sheeples will weep. Guess there may be quite a few atheists coming out of this.
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