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~ With ♥ from Halima
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Black Lives DO Matter

I'm publishing a day early this week because Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I don't want to let a week go by without capturing my feelings about Darren Wilson not being indicted for the murder of Michael Brown.

Initially when I heard the news on Monday evening, I was numb.  That's the best way to describe it.  I say this because I was sad for the unjustified loss of life and the unimaginable pain of his family.  But after Trayvon Martin and countless others like him, I was not surprised.  It was kind like the grand jury was saying, hey we all know nothing is going to come of a trial, so let's just skip the charade this time.

But by Tuesday night I was a mess. I mean, stomach upset - tears welling up in my eyes - had to take my earrings off at work - mess.  I attribute this to two things. 

The first was the complete insensitivity and obliviousness of media coverage paired with the reactions it evoked from my coworkers and social media circle.  The best example I can give is when CNN aired the video of Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, reacting to news the Wilson would not be indicted.  Instead of the media capturing the real story - a grief-stricken mother trying to understand why she not only lost her child, but why she doesn't deserve to get justice for him - it focused on Brown's stepfather, Louis Head.  I'm not a man, but I can understand Head's anger at not being able to not only protect his stepson's life, but also protect his wife from the pain of her loss.  And as a human, I can understand people being upset about the riots and looking for someone to pin as the instigator.  In this instance, Head is a visible and thus easy target. 

But by doing so the media overlooks the fact that the riots are symptomatic of a larger problem.  The problem that young, black lives are being lost everyday and the black community is being asked, through lack of action, to take it quietly sitting down.  Do I agree with the riots?? Not necessarily, but I understand them.  There's only so many times you'll be silenced while trying to insert yourself before you do something to take the attention you need and deserve.  The fact that mainstream America doesn't get this is maddening. 

I sat by silently on Tuesday (at the risk of speaking up and becoming the mad, black woman) and witnessed people in my office watch this video and make comments like, "Look at [Head's] pants," is reference to his sagging jeans.  Completely oblivious to McSpadden's grief and Head grasping to try and fix it for her the best way he knew how in that moment.  Completely overlooking the roles of mother and man.  Completely missing that though they are brown people, they are still people what have emotions that are relatable if they could just be seen as such.

The second thing that had me messed up on Tuesday (and I apologize for the length of this post, but I HAVE to vent) was the reactions of my friends who have children.  They are now tasked with explaining a monumental event to little people who see life in black-and-white, fair and not fair.  And that's not fair.  It's not fair for my friend, the father who has to explain to his son that he can't wear his hat backwards like his white friends because to do so may be a life and death decision. Or my other friend who just taught his son about slavery on Monday and assured him that everything was much  better for us now, but has to go back and add a caveat.  It's not fair to any parent who has to raise a child to not only be successful, but also how to appear non-threatening and how to stay alive. It makes me anxious about considering having my own children and taking on that task.  Even more so, it makes me anxious about the state of our country.

I don't know what's going to come next and what it's going to mean for us or for me.  What I do know is I'm going to support a push for justice by contributing to the Legal Support Fund for Justice for Mike Brown.  This fund is being used to provide legal aid to those who have been arrested in Ferguson while protested Michael Brown's murder.  I urge you to join me.

~ With ♥ from Halima

This Thanksgiving I'm Thankful for Last Thanksgiving

We're coming up on Thanksgiving and I'm pretty sure you know I'm ecstatic. Not only because it's a holiday, but because it's a holiday that brings good food. Lots of good food. 

But similar events trigger memories and I can't help but think about last year's festivities.  I spent Thanksgiving day with BF and his family; the plan was to drive to my family's beach house in Delaware the next day.  Of course I still called my family on Thanksgiving, but didn't get an answer, so I left a message.  Hours later my mom returned my call, leaving a voicemail as well.  I thought it was strange, but chalked it up to her being upset that I wasn't spending the holiday with my family.

After an eventful drive up (that's a story for another day), BF and I pulled up to the house, said Happy Thanksgiving to my Dad who was outside doing yard work and rushed into the house screaming "Happy Thanksgiving."  We were met by an empty, silent house.  I ran upstairs expecting to find my Mom in her room, but again was met by emptiness.  I came out of the room and bumped into my brother who was sporting a very strained smile.  I asked him where Mom was and he said she wasn't feeling well and had stayed in Maryland.  Of course, I jumped on the phone with my Mom and discovered she was in so much pain, she couldn't move. I told her I was driving back down to Maryland to take care of her, but she said she didn't want that.  She wanted the family together for Thanksgiving and she knew if she told us before we arrived, we wouldn't have gone.  Ever the matriarch. 

That weekend, my Dad showed  he can be quite the host.  Not only did he do his regular yard work, he also warmed up most of the food and insisted on cleaning up after dinner so my brother and sister-in-law could have some time to catch up with BF and me.  We even had time to decorate the house for Christmas.

Here's Dad putting up the tree, with BF and my nephew who is always photo ready lol
This was a good reminder of what a blessing not only a family, but a good partner is.  My parents have been married for 42 years and at times it seems all they do is annoy each other

[Like the Thanksgiving after I graduated college and my parents ditched us to go on a cruise of the Mediterranean.  But not before my Dad forgot his passport and had to drive home from the airport leaving my mom to fly to Venice and enjoy a romantic hotel suite by herself.  Boom.  There you go, two Thanksgiving stories for the price of one. You're Welcome.]
But when it comes to making this life work, they've mastered putting in the effort to make things happen. 
Lame as it is, I was watching a Lifetime movie, A Day Late and a Dollar Short, earlier this week.   In short, Whoopi Goldberg and Ving Rhames are parents to four kids (Kimberly Elise, Mekhi Phifer, Anika Noni Rose and Tichina Arnold) who have families of their own.  All of their families are dealing with something from physical, sexual and drug abuse to unemployment, teen pregnancy and marital unfaithfulness (I know, it's a lot. You know Lifetime gets extreme) on top of the familial problems they have within the core family.  Goldberg wanted to keep peace and bring the family together, but in the end she dies and in true motherly form is able to smooth over all the family tensions through her final instructions.  The last scene is Rhames standing at the head of a dinner table with his family all around. 
It was all so very corny, but it still caused me to tear up thinking about my own family.  Although we all have our own problems, we're able to come together to find support and love and that's what it's all about. 
~ With ♥ from Halima
What are you thankful for?

Being the Token

On the list of things I'm passionate about, race relations and dance rise to the top. So, it's no surprise that both of these areas played an integral role in shaping who I am today. And having done ballet for most of my life, it doesn't surprise me that the two intersect. See, ballet is infamous for being one of the least diverse dance forms.  I have my share of stories about this, but even though you all have let me know that you really like my dance stories, I'm only going to tell you the two that truly burned themselves into my memory.

The first happened when I was about 10 years old. American Girl had finally released an African American doll, Addy, and I had been begging my mom for her for months. Christmas morning came and so did Addy. And my mom even outdid herself by getting me my own cowrie shell necklace that matched the one Addy's great-grandmother brought from Africa. I was happy to have Addy, but also understood how special it would be as an African American to have something like a necklace to tie me to my roots. So, I wore my cowrie shell necklace with pride every day of Christmas break. But during the pliƩ combination of my first ballet class after break, the teacher spotted my necklace and in front of the whole class told me to "take that crap off my neck." I was so embarrassed and confused. My mom had me wear jewelry almost from the time I was born, so I regularly wore necklaces to class without being directed to remove them. The only difference was this one was an African style and therefore "crap," not worthy of being worn or seen by those in a ballet studio.

The second instance came as I was entering my teen years and my body [finally] started developing. I was doing an exercise facing the barre when a different instructor came up behind me, placed either of her index fingers on each of my butt cheeks, poked both and matter of factly said, "Your butt is getting fluffy." You can only imagine the body image problems I developed after not only having to deal with my changing body, but also being concerned that my butt was getting too large for ballet.

There are a couple of occurences I credit with giving me the confidence I needed to continue dancing through these and other horror stories. The first, of course, was my time spent studying with the Dance Theater of Harlem. But that's to be expected when you're studying with dancers with similar body types and experiences. More undexpectedly and therefore probably most helpful in boosting my self-esteem was a class I took the Kirov Academy of Ballet. After class, the instructor told me and my mom that I had the perfect body for Russian ballet!! I was blown away. Russian ballet is not only difficult, but also the standard for ballet. And I was perfect for it.

Even now, out of a ballet class of about 30 students, I'm the only African American dancer present. I handle it by remembering two things: the first is what my mom told me when I was younger, to be seen as an equal, I have to be the best. And the second, that I am perfect for this.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Can you remember a time when you were discouraged from pursuing a passion? How did you handle the situation?

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