Thoughts on Fried Chicken

It’s Saturday morning and I should probably be doing something other than sitting on my computer, so this will be a quick post. In case you missed it, NBC studios according to many this week dropped the ball. See, it’s Black History Month and the NBC cafeteria decided in honor of Back History Month to offer a special meal that is eaten by Black Americans. So they chose a meal that included fried chicken and collard greens and well shit hit the fan.

Turns out quite a few of my brothas and sistas felt that such a meal choice was demeaning and playing into bad stereotypes. I consider myself an enlightened Black woman, but I have to be honest, its fucking fried chicken and greens. There are a great deal of Black Americans especially those with southern roots who eat fried chicken and greens, hell plenty of folks period who love this type of meal especially if they hail from the South. If anything I am mad about the fact that things like collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are often shown as Black things when in fact they are more what I consider southern.

As far as charges of racism, there is plenty of racism that is upfront and in our faces and I am sorry but getting pissy over a food choice is just silly and takes away from the real racism out there. It really is not unusual to celebrate an ethnic or racial group by eating meals related to the culture…hell, I am going to a Chinese New Year’s Party and everyone has been asked to bring an Asian dish. I have gone to Cinco De Mayo celebrations and eaten Mexican food.

I hardly think it’s insulting to want to celebrate Black History Month by serving dishes common to Black folks…the reality is that while fried chicken may be seen as an insult, fact is its one of the few items along with collard greens that is universal among Black folks. No, we don’t all cook em the same. I have friends who cook ole skool style with fatback, lard and a grease extravaganza , I know folks who oven bake their chicken and cook their greens to keep em crunchy, green and healthy.

So in choosing such a dish while it may have a mixed history historically the fact is it is a universally eaten food more so than creole dishes you might find down in Louisiana. Or say the Caribbean based dishes that are common place among Blacks in New York and parts of the East Coast.

So I say if you don’t like fried chicken and greens that’s cool but let’s not act like it’s an offensive dish. No, an offensive dish would have been a plate of chitterlings, and pigs feet…something that that very few Blacks still eat in part because the art of preparing them has been lost. But let’s be honest there is nothing healthy about such items and really they do represent the scraps our slave ancestors were given and were able to thrive on and beat the odds. Yet at the end of the day, I know of very few Black folks who would eat these items in any fashion, so yeah a plate of chitterlings would definitely be seen as offensive- never mind they are rather offensive smelling.

No, leave the chicken alone and pass me the hot sauce.

18 years old

This is the kind of post that when it first popped into my mind, I thought it too personal to write but I think it needs to be shared. If only because as a Black woman raising kids, I hope another sista can find encouragement. 18 years ago today I gave birth to my son, its been a long crazy trip and that is a understatement.

I was barely 19 when I gave birth to him which meant I was 18 when I learned I was pregnant. I was a married high school dropout having decided when I turned 18 that school sucked and that since I was an adult I was free to make my life choices. To say my parents were mad was a understatment but they understood they could not force me to go back to school, instead saying if I chose to live under their roof I needed to at least work since I refused to back to school. Well I agreed to that and for those first few months of being an adult, it felt good to work, well long story short I fell in love, we ran off and got married and just as the dust settled I discovered I was pregnant.

Um….having a kid was not part of my adult fantasy but as anyone who has been an adult any length of time knows, life happens. When I first got pregnant, I didn’t even have health insurance instead having to go to a free clinic on the south side of Chicago where I will never forget how the staff treated ame as if I was just another statistic. Young uneducated Black girl, most likely looking at a lifetime of poverty and a flock of babies presumably by many men. After all even though I was married, surely such a union would not last.

It was those experiences that on some level I am sure made an impression and led me to the work I later chose but that is another story. I remember the day that I gave birth, I was overdue and anxious to give birth though scared as hell…after all I didn’t know jack about babies. Obviously I learned about them quick fast and in a hurry since my folks had made it clear that even then it did not look like my fledgling marriage was going to survive but that they had no desire to be raising babies. So going home was never an option. Regular readers and folks who have known me in real life in later years are aware that my son has lived with his Papa for a while but in the early days it was him and I. Even with his Dad, I have always been around so never have I not been in his life and mothering is a job that can still be hands on even if you are not in the same physical space.

Today though I reflect on the past 18 years as my son officially enters what we call adulthood in this society and think about how in many ways we have gone against the odds. He just submitted his last college application and at the last moment decided to audition for several prestigious drama programs, we don’t yet know where he will be in the fall but I do know where he won’t be. Locked up. See, the odds say that based off where I started this journey my son who while technically biracial is considered Black in the eyes of many should not be on the journey he is on.

Recently my son shared a sad tale about one of his boys, a kid he met a couple of years ago when he moved out to the Midwest who got caught up in some bullshit. This boy was one of the first friends my son made, a good kid who life dealt  a rough hand and now he sits in a cell. My son as he shared this story was visibly shaken wondering how a kid could end up in such a place. As I reminded my son, it’s all too easy it seems for Black boys to end up that way which is why his father and I have always been hyper vigilant in raising him. Hell, just a couple years ago here in Maine my boy had his first run in with the police coming home from the local sandwich shop. Cops stopped  him and thought he fit the description of a suspect who turned out to not look a damn thing like my boy starting with the fact the suspect was white and my son is not. It was a scary few moments but after the cops brought him home and talked to the Spousal Unit, it was cleared up. Of course not before my son had to endure his first and I pray only ride in the back of the cop cruiser. We have often talked about how when you are a young Black man even a simple walk to get a cheese steak sandwich can take a wrong turn.

No, in this society raising a young Black man who can reach 18 and have his head on straight and direction in his life is not something gets nearly enough attention. Instead we hear about the cats who do bad or we think Drake and Lil Wayne are examples of young Black manhood. I know there are plenty of boys like my son at 18 but we just don’t hear enough about them. Young men raised in a variety of ways who don’t end up in jail cells or as rappers which seems to be the most common media perceptions of young Black men.

I am reminded that just because we start this race in last place though does not mean we will continue the race in last place. In some ways I am still the same girl I was 18 years ago today but in many ways I am not. I have grown, my son’s birth and presence in my life was the initial flame that made me reach for more. I had to choose did I want our lives to be the  prophecy many thought it would become? Of course not.  On the other hand I also know we did not get to this place alone, despite the ups and downs of our relationship, I strongly believe the presence of his father in his life has been a key ingredient. My own father was the one who told me he needed his Dad and I do think its true. I know his father loves hom and while not always right has tried to do the best he can.

Anyway enough of the personal ramble, as a Mama I am in full weepy mode today but I know this is only the beginning of a new journey for my son. I look forward to what I am sure will be an evolving relationship filled with its own ups and downs for him and while as Mama I never want my babies to hurt, I know its part of life.  But for today we see joy and happiness.

Time to talk hair

Yes indeed, it’s that time again. Time to talk about my hair, now if you are not a Black woman there is a good chance this post might not be your cup of tea. On the other hand it could be enlightening, so consider sticking around. Regular readers know its been a while since I have written about my hair, after all last year after years of growing dreadlocks I decided to cut them. Well the small fro I had after cutting off inches of hair has now grown out and I am at that place hair wise I hate to be. Long story short, my hair is a mess and its a length that really I find it difficult to do much of anything with.

The truth is I really am not a hair person. Let’s see, I went natural (that means no chemical straighteners have touched this head in over 10 years, and the last chemical color was about 7 years ago) and the first couple of years of being natural I rocked a short fro. It was a total wash and go and I loved it; but then we moved to Maine and I decided to grow my hair out. That lasted for 2 years and was what I look back on as the ugly period since there really wasn’t a lot I could do to my hair until it had some significant length which it did by the time I decided to loc in 2004.

Well the locs were good for a while but living in Maine with no one to help me hands on with my locs led me to free form and eventually led me to say buh bye to them as well. It was really lack of good maintenance that killed my locs, in fact looking back on my decade in naps I can say that barring the times I have rocked the TWA my hair is generally not as healthy as it can be. That may sound silly but when it comes to doing my hair those skills passed me by, perhaps it was because I was well into high school before my Mom let me actually start managing my hair. Seriously, she refused to have me going out with a raggedy head as she would call it, so she often would oversee my coif. The result being I barely can braid and when I do you damn sure ain’t going outside in it and well my attempts at twisting, etc…um, it sux. I suspect if I had someone up here who could sit down and show me it might come together but honestly even looking at you tube videos doesn’t seem to help.

So you are probably asking um…where are you going with this? Well until yesterday I figured I’d keep living with my hair situation but I went to my local Aveda salon for my eyebrow waxing and we ended up talking about my hair. Long story short they explained they have a process of thermal straightening that could loosen my curls to make my hair more manageable.

I’m going to be honest, at first I was like hell to the naw, I am happy to be nappy, no chemicals here…all the things that good nappy hair disciples do. Some of ya’ll might be asking what am I talking about but I know some of ya’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Going natural as a Black woman is liberating, it really is, at least in the early days you feel like you have a new lease on life. You feel like you have instant camaraderie with other natural sistas, you feel amazing, freed…oh its a beautiful thing. 

Well 10 years into this journey, what I am about to say is blasphemy to nappy heads but really its just hair. Yes chemicals are bad, and by all means you should avoid them if at all possible. But sometimes being natural ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either. See, the reason I went natural initially was because I knew I was moving to Maine and figured there would be no one to do my hair. That is really what prompted me to give up the creamy crack, my relaxed hair was always healthy, no breakage, no issues.  I admit I did not like feeling in bondage to the hair salon for that weekly maintenance but lets keep it real, too many naturals are always looking for that elusive product to “manage” their curls. Ya know you know what I am talking about.  They trade one addiction for another, I have seen it too many times. In the past decade I have seen many sistas embrace being natural at least on the surface but deep down they are grappling with how beautiful they will be perceived as, if they rock a TWA, locs, etc. I know, I was there and man I fought those demons, days when I just knew I looked ugly. But guess what? I didn’t care, for me being natural at least in the early days allowed me to see true beauty in myself but at this stage in the game, I will be honest. I just want hair that is manageable. I am not a fan of super short hair…can I tell you on cold days I miss my locs.

I would consider going back to locks but I truly believe they have a spiritual component and I am not there yet. I found what I needed with that first set, peace and acceptance in so many areas of my life but I am not ready to return. I keep saying just let my fro grow but then I keep coming back to grow into what? Last time I let it grow eventually that path led to dreads.

So I will be honest, I have no idea what direction I am about to take on the hair path, could involve chemicals, could be braids, might just say fuck it and crop it again. Yet no matter what I  do, I am more than just my hair and while my journey to me may have started with my hair it does not end with my hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t even decided whether I am going to have my hair treated, last night I was pumped up about this. This morning the $300 price tag has me thinking a trip to the sista who trimmed my fro is in order so I can explore more reasonable options that might keep me natural but I will be honest no longer am I am militant natural.

I have enjoyed the journey but I am not defined by my hair…hell I define me.