We Just Make the Hits Like a Factory

This week I had the opportunity to attend of several tapings for the next season of The Kandi Factory, which will air next spring (I specifically heard it would be March 2013). You may have seen the Bravo show The Kandi Factory air last spring, sometime around the end of the last season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  It’s named for one of its stars, Kandi Burruss. She’s my age and like me, is the single parent of one child, a 9-year-old daughter, but that’s where the commonalities end. Kandi has lived in Atlanta all her life, and has a long, successful career of singing and songwriting. She also owns two clothing boutiques in the area (one of which opened in Buckhead this year).

I’ve been an audience member of a couple of shows in the past when I visited L.A. last year, but this taping was TOTALLY different. No one let us know what was going on–no idea what the run of the show was, or what to expect. There was actually a warm-up emceed by Funky Dineva that included local talent, which some of us mistook for The Kandi Factory contestants, including a spoken word artist, a comedian, and a few singers. Kandi’s mother–affectionately known as “Mama Joyce”–was in the building, so I knew Kandi wasn’t far away. However, she didn’t take the stage until about an hour before it was time to go. Continue reading “We Just Make the Hits Like a Factory”


The Struggle and The Triumph of Black Girls and Black Women in America

So often we are faced with the question of images regarding African Americans in the media, Black women in particular. I know it has become a big concern of mine not only as it pertains to the world view of Black women (and men), but more so how my daughter and other Black girls are affected by the images they see.
Some take the position that Black women should not be held to a higher standard than White women. That white women argue, shout, fight and act a fool. That other women are allowed to be sexual, fun and free, so why can’t Black women?
I actually don’t disagree with those arguments. My concern is this; for every image we see of white women fighting, screaming or carrying on, there are at least ten images that portray them as thoughtful, intelligent and drama free. For every image of White women shaking and showing their stuff, there are a multitude of images that show dignity, grace and often times an even pristine-like character. Essentially, there is a balance. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can say the same about Black women in media. In fact, I would say for every so called “positive” image we might see of Black women, we might see 8 images that might be considered “negative”.
Fortunately, we do have the option to choose.
A few weeks ago I watched as Octavia Butler won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help. A character that showed dignity, fortitude and courage during a time when collectively we had less. Weeks later I saw the beneficiaries of women like those portrayed in that film.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to see a screening of a documentary entitled, For Our Daughters. It is a 2 1/2-hour film that is unapologetic-ally made for Black girls and women. It is a collection of interviews with an assortment of Black women and girls, who share invaluable truths of growing up Black and Female in an often-times racist and sexist society. It is a refreshing educational tool for Black girls and an inspirational one for Black women.
Black women, we need to support this film, particularly if you have a Black girl or a young woman in your life or if you have the desire to see a broader representation of us.
The For Our Daughters documentary is available for $19.95. By ordering through this link*, $5 will be donated to The National Council of Negro Women… the house that Mary McLeod Bethune and Dorothy Height built.
For more information, contact: info (at) 4ourdaughters [DOT] com
*affiliate link

Still Missing Aaliyah

Today is the 10th anniversary of R&B singer Aaliyah Dana Houghton’s death (pronounced ah-LEE-yah). So many people have talked about the impact her death had on them. I mourned her quite a bit until the 9-11 attacks that followed a few weeks later took my attention.

The most disparaging thing I’ve ever read about her was with regard to her alleged marriage to singer R. Kelly. At the time she was 15 and he was 27, and sadly we know those weren’t the last allegations involving him with under-aged girls.

The most profound and reassuring mention of Aaliyah I ever read came from rapper Pepa (of Salt-N-Pepa), who wrote in her memoir about being a seer and having dreams about Aaliyah being at peace and wanting her loved ones to rest.

To us it may seem that she was gone too soon… the void of a lost loved one never leaves, but may peace abide in your hearts.

We still love and miss you, Aaliyah. (cue Jay-Z’s remix of “I Miss You“):

Now Star is mad I won’t grant him a interview
Now he’s dissing me cause he dissed you
Can you believe the nerve of this dude?
Cause of your memory I won’t bring it to pistols
But he got issues enough of that lame
I never seen pain like your parents pain
But I know God protecting you
You used to read Seed Of The soul I know God perfecting you
All the extra hues, the darker texture you are the more intellectual
You are so professional our little purple star
Too good for earth you are (I miss you)

*  *  *

I, can’t, breathe, no, more (We not remembering y’all death though!)
Since you went away (We celebrating your life)
I don’t really feel like talkin, don’t wanna hear you love me (Nah mean!)
Baby (Yes!) do you understand me (Yes!)(yes!)(yes!)
I can’t do a thing without you

“Unthinkable” Break-Ups

Moses Robinson/WireImage.com

See, we could act out like Will and Jada
Or like Kimora and Russell makin’ paper
All in the family like the Jacksons
And have enough kids to make a band like Joe and Katherine

She ain’t no different from me
And he ain’t no different from you
So we got to live our dreams
Like the people on TV

We gotta stay tuned
Cuz there’s more to see (Unbreakable)
Through the technical difficulties (Unbreakable)
We might have to take a break
But ya’ll know we’ll be back next week
Singing ‘This love is unbreakable’

–Alicia Keys, “Unbreakable”

Celebrity break-ups and separations are hardly news, but I thought there just *might* be something special about these couples of color that I’ve been rooting for ever since I first heard of them:


The latter news came as most shocking to me, and ironically, I learned of it during a collaborative brainstorming session for a book on failed Black marriages from the Black male perspective. In a nutshell, the Black American family has deteriorated so much in the past 50 years, and we’re suffering because of it. Divorce and baby mama/baby daddy titles are the norm for too many young people today. But I’ll talk more about that as the concept develops.

What are your thoughts on these most recent separation announcements?

You’re Not “Eliminated”… You’re Moving On

youre-moving-onCelebrity choreographer Laurieann Gibson was on The Mo’ Nique Show recently, talking about her latest reality dance show, Born to Dance, where 20 young women compete for $50K and a strong start to a professional dance career. Y’all know how I love to dance.  I was surprisedly inspired by her profound statement regarding female self-image and the negativity that comes with the competitive, “cast-off”-types of reality shows:

“We collectively decided that I would not use the word “elimination,” because when you say, “you’re eliminated,”… I didn’t wanna speak that into their spirit–into their purpose. Eliminated means to cease not to exist, to go away. Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate…. When you’re young and you’re pure, that gift that purity… you know it’s like if that little doorway opens up with such a word as “elimination…,” “you’re eliminated…,” it begins to chop away at your gift, at your desire, and it starts to attach negativity onto your purpose. So we don’t say “eliminated” on this show. We say “you’re moving on,” and in moving on, God continues to cover you and prepare a way. Yes it’s only that this situation will only allow me to give one girl the money and the opportunity, but in moving on, you’re moving on fulfilling your dream and when you leave, you’re moving on with lessons, with information, with a sense of self, with the idea that there is no shortcut. And you must never sacrifice your self-worth as a young woman for any man or any career or any opportunity.”

I agree that it can be very discouraging to get so close to a dream and then be… eliminated. We have to be careful of the things we speak into someone’s life, and to choose our words carefully.

Teachings from the Temple of Tyrese

Tyrese Gibson's book cover

Yesterday, Spelman College and Written Magazine  presented “A Conversation with Tyrese” at the Sister’s Chapel at Spelman. Written’s publisher Michelle Gipson conducted the 80-min interview with singer/actor Tyrese Gibson about his new book, How to Get Out of Your Own Way (Grand Central Publishing, 2011), a memoir/self-help book. Journalist and CNN commentator Jack Johnson joined them onstage as well. Gipson encouraged audience members (Spelman students, grown women, and a few men!) to submit questions on notecards or tweet with the hashtag #WritMagAskTyrese.
Note: This post is written almost like a full-featured magazine article, except that I’ve also included my own thoughts and explanations to provide context. So it’s long, even though I left some things out. . . but I think you’ll enjoy it regardless.

The Entrance

It’s no surprise that when the tall, dark, and dapper 32-year-old Tyrese appeared onstage, the girls went crazy with screams and frantic camera-phone picture-taking. It took awhile before he could speak–partly because of the love from the crowd, and partly because he was nervous. But after his initial “Hello,” the girls (and Tyrese) were able to collect themselves, and I was able to take more than three pages of notes to capture teachings from “The Temple of Tyrese,” as Jet magazine called it in their April 4, 2011 issue.
Continue reading “Teachings from the Temple of Tyrese”

A Little Talk with Uncle Rush

On my next-to-last day in L.A., I was excited to see hip hop icon and mogul “Uncle Rush,” a.k.a.  Russell Simmons, 53, up close and personal.  He and author/Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum Robert Santelli (who interviewed Motown godfather and mogul Berry Gordy the day before) sat in director chairs on the stage and talked in a small theatre-style room at the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live. Simmons drove himself to the venue on that rainy evening and talked about his new book, Super Rich, coming up in the hip hop game, race, and relationships (in music and in life). Continue reading “A Little Talk with Uncle Rush”