Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hey err'buddy! An article I wrote on marriage is up on Black and Married With Kids

Check it out here. 

For those of you that followed my work at We of Hue, it is spin off of a piece I wrote titled, Raising a Single Mom a few years ago. If you enjoy it, please comment and share it with your friends!  If you don't, tell no one and keep it to yourself :-).  Thus far, the feedback has been amazing! I have read every comment and feel empowered knowing so many of you share my struggle!

Love and Light,

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eatin' the day away with the husband, tiny humans and extended family.  So grateful that I am warm, fed and surrounded by love.  I hope you and yours have a wonderful, wonderful day!

Love and Light,

Friday, November 22, 2013

(c) Matt Small

 You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.
James A. Baldwin

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a day I decided to do what I love.  It was more of a collection of days.  A collection of events.  It was a collection of circumstances that removed the price tag from my life.  Love, loss, my penchant for natural hair… whatever it was, I changed. As I basked beneath the ambient light of my dull, gray cubicle and watched as the heavy arms of the clock made its painstaking journey from nine to five o’clock… somewhere between wishing the day away and forcing my heart to care about what my mind did, I realized what I was doing wasn’t working.  I couldn’t survive off the promise of happiness at the end of my journey.  I needed to be happy now.
For me, this commitment meant a torch lit path to the journey of a writer.   A writer since I was six, words have always been my shit.  I love the way they look, sound, and feel.  Words have the power to lift you up and just as easily snap you apart.  Crafting words, creating universes, weaving together stories and creating paper-life is an orgasm for my soul.  Simply put, I love writing.  My chemistry would have it no other way.
I am an artist. 
I am also black. 
I’ve always been black.  Always will be.  When I was born, the doctor put black on my birth certificate and it kind of stuck.  My curls are tight, my skin actually does resemble chocolate and when I stare at it long enough under the light, it has subtle highlights of red and gold.  This has been a reality for me for as long as I remember, and it has always been okay.  In fact, more than okay.  I am proud of my heritage, the advancements of my people, and I escaped any life-threatening color issues by being raised in a family that always made me feel beautiful. 

However, in this society, when I enter a room, being black speaks louder than anything else about me.  My humanity, my individuality, my personal past and present aren’t even close seconds.  The label brings with it a litany of expectations and beliefs about me that often stifle the freedom inherit in being an artist.  As a black artist, I am expected to be sitting on an urban hood story, burdened by the enslavement of my ancestors, and sure enough fighting to survive poverty and incarceration due to the vestiges of colonialism and white privilege.  My heart must constantly ache to tell, see and experience this story again and again.  I am a consummate victim. I am fighting for equality. I am using my art for strength. The labels carry some truth. One must never underestimate the black experience in this county.  I don’t buy into post-racialism, and I likely never will.  However, a constant focus on societal labels that define us can cheapen the experience of our soul and thus detract truth from that which is so beautiful about being an artist.  We have complex, diverse experiences, likes, dislikes, loves and heartaches that have nothing to do with our identity as black folks, but no matter how hard we try to prove it, that pesky blackness seems to get on everything.

Here’s an example: 

As I am sure most of you heard, USAToday published an article this weekend citing the shocking success of The Best Man Holiday as a “race-themed” movie. Black Twitter was ablaze with rage, including myself.  There were no slaves in the movie.  No maids.  No butlers.  No sad colored people considering suicide and flinging babies out of windows.  How could a movie about eight friends dealing with love, success, and loss be “race-themed?” I found myself replaying the movie in my head.  Had they discussed being black?  Was “the man” hovering over all of their achievements, holding the friends down and sending them to jail? Had Morris Chestnut accidentally spilled blackness when he took off his shirt and suddenly it was all over everyone in the movie?  Why couldn’t these phenomenal actors be recognized for their multilayered performances outside of their identity as black?  Why did mere blackness make race a theme?  “It’s just a movie,” black twitter cried.  “Call it a movie.  Listen to the story.  See the tears.  Hear the laughter.  Recognize the humanity.  We are people too.  We are just like you.  We are just like you.” And so goes the plight of the black artist.

If we are honest, we’d realize a white run society isn’t the sole defendant in this indictment.  We have perpetuated the line in the sand just as readily as good old Scott Bowles at USA Today.  For example, I was having a “race-themed” evening with my husband recently.  We were watching Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Hollywood, and Chris Rock made a guest appearance.  True to the self-deprecating nature of the show, Rock was belittling Kevin Hart’s fame in a series of jokes:  Rock can leave a restaurant without paying, Hart couldn’t.  A perfect stranger would give Rock their car if he needed, Hart couldn’t.  It culminated in Rock saying to Hart, “I’m famous.  You’re more “black” famous.”  My husband and I laughed.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  But suddenly, in the middle of my laughter, I looked over at my black husband and down at my clapping black hands (because we all know black people do the “clap laugh”) and wondered, why is my affection, my dollars and my support less than?  I've been riding with Rock since he was Pookie in New Jack City and the mailroom guy in Boomerang.  Well before he "arrived" as Marty, the zebra in MadagascarYou would never hear Seinfeld say to Seth Rogen, “I’m famous.  You’re more white famous?”  What would that even mean, right? White famous is famous.  I thought a lot about Chris Rock’s words during the whole Twitter/USA Today debacle and my own struggles with identity as a black artist.  In the past two years that I have pursued writing professionally, I have grown to resent the label.  I found myself shouting to whomever would listen, “I am more. I have mainstream appeal. My white friends like my work, too.  If you just give me a read, you’ll realize, I can crossover.  I am just like you.”

Except I’m not.

And that’s okay.

It’s not to say that I fully embrace the stereotypes and expectations of being a black artist.  My art is informed by my humanity first, and that may not always fit into a box of what society expects black to be.  My husband and I have nights were we rock out to Radiohead, drink red wine and eat hummus and pita chips which, by definition, may not be expected of a black married couple.  However, maybe I’m not the only black person that doesn’t fit into a box.  Maybe I am not alone in my belief that we are multilayered, multifaceted individuals living a human experience that is sometimes, but not always informed by our blackness.  It seems as though a part of this collective cry for the recognition of our humanity from the white community stems from the belief that our uniqueness is an exception to the black rule.  I’m special, right?  I have advanced degrees.  I shop at Whole Foods.  I read words.   I’ve never knocked a bitch out (which, according to television, most black women can’t help but do).  I am different from those other black people.  You know the ones.  Sweet Brown.  The stars of most black reality television.  Kayne West.  That fried chicken-selling lady from the Popeye’s commercial.  If you are a black person who has ever articulated an intelligent thought, it has likely been ingrained in you that you are some kind of exception.  You are black and attractive? Rare.  Black and well-spoken? Even rarer.  Black with money in the bank? Holy shit! Are you even real?  Remember that Chris Rock comedy special back in the day where he drew a line in the sand between black people and ni$$as?  Remember the joke?  “I love black people, but I hate ni$$as… Ni$$as will break in your house… Ni$$as don’t read… Ni$$as sing welfare carols.”  I remember watching that special years ago and laughing, thinking, thank God no ni$$as went to see this Chris Rock show because surely they would find this joke offensive...

It’s this distinction that leads perfectly decent black people to work tirelessly to convince couldn’t-care-less white people that we are “just like them.” Remember the whole, “Stuff Educated Black People Like” phenomenon?  From the way we wear our hair, to the way we walk, to the way we dress, to whom we love, we are becoming a walking, talking, neon-blazing billboard chanting, “I am just like you! I am just like you! I am just like you!” Play the token long enough, and you actually start to believe you are an exception. 

The USA Today article cited Think Like a Man12 Years a Slave, The Butler and Best Man Holiday as part of a growing trend of race-themed diverse films that were breaking box-office barriers.  Proof that maybe, just maybe, black people enjoy seeing themselves on screen.  That maybe, just maybe, there was buying power in black and brown communities that didn’t need the white stamp of approval.  That maybe… MAYBE… being “black famous” actually meant something.  That maybe, just maybe, black people see themselves as multilayered and mutli-faceted and are interested in seeing and telling human stories, outside of everything we were taught black meant. 

That maybe there are no ni$$as.

As an artist joining in the collective cry for The Best Man Holiday to just be considered a movie about humanity first that just happens to have black actors, the question becomes will mainstream white appreciation always be necessary to validate my art? Does my ability to have non-black and brown people rock with me make me matter more?  Considering the twitter-rage, the box office performance of The Best Man Holiday and even the performance of Scandal, I am learning that the answer is no.  Being black famous matters.  Our money matters.  We matter.  Our humanity has never been the exception. 

It's the rule.   

Love and Light,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It’s such a strange life we writers lead. 

For the past few weeks, I have been working hard refining Yellow Belt.  Yellow Belt is the next story in the Dani’s Belts series which follows my protagonist, Dani, as she struggles to survive the zombie apocalypse. It is unlike anything I have ever written.  My writing is usually very literary and heavily grounded in reality (for better or worse). Oddly, however, out of all the many, many characters I have created (written and those that dwell in my head), Dani is probably the most like me.  She appreciates a good shoe, loves hard but not always wisely, perpetually underestimates herself, and when it’s all said and done, is happiest hiding under a blanket next to someone she loves.  The creativity lies in placing someone like that in the extraordinary situation of the zombie apocalypse.  Something I have, thankfully, never lived through.

Recently, someone on Twitter asked me why I titled the first story, White Belt.  This fall, I enrolled my six-year old in Karate.  My husband is a black belt so it has always been important to him that our sons follow in his footsteps.  We knew it would be a challenge because although our son is intelligent, funny, creative, and compassionate, he inherited my penchant for daydreaming and my unshakeable, highly-embarrassing and often times tragic, clumsiness.  The first few classes he giggled more than he focused, did impromptu Michael Jackson moves more than kicks and all and all, was pretty bad at it.  However, as time progressed there was a change him.  Albeit subtle, the spins lessened, he didn’t fall after attempting kicks, and he listened when his Sensei spoke. I can’t really recall an impetus.  Some pivotal moment were it all came together (“There is no spoon”).  But it did.  He started to try.  He started to focus.  He started to want it.  I think it was just his own growing desire to keep up and not get left behind.  The day he earned his white belt, he stood straight and accepted it proudly.  He didn’t earn it because he was the best kicker or the most skilled blocker, he earned it because he wants to be.

“Tough times go away.  Tough people don’t,” his Sensei said.

“Yes, sir!” he shouted.

I was already writing White Belt while I was witnessing this.  I originally called it Chesapeake House after a rest area in Maryland, which is the setting for the first story.  As I was writing, however, I noticed Dani’s journey was mirroring my son’s journey.  In fact, it was kind of mirroring my own.  She started out not believing she could make it, not believing she could do it and in the end, she was trying.  She was silencing that voice inside her saying, “You are in wayyyy over your head, girl” and fighting anyway.

Like any imperfect human being, she may regress.  She is currently making some questionable choices that I’m not too proud of.  I’ve tried to talk her out of it but I tell ya, you give these pesky characters life and those ingrates stop listening to you. However, it’s her journey (I told you it’s a strange life writer’s lead).  I’m just grateful for all of you that are taking the ride.

Love and Light,


Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm giving I've given away 3 FREE Copies of my short story, White Belt!!

 A college student ditched by her boyfriend braves ground zero of the zombie apocalypse in BCBG platform wedges and a sundress.
Enter here to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be announced Friday, November 15th!
 Congrats also to Angelica J.!

You can still purchase a copy of White Belt for only $0.99 on Amazon now!

Remember, you don't need a kindle to read White Belt! Download the FREE reading app for your PC or Smartphone here!

Love and Light,

Friday, November 8, 2013

1. The sun is far too bright.

2. I randomly pump myself up to stay awake. 

3. I find myself waking up when I didn't know I was asleep.
4.  I overreact to any sign of conflict.

5. Everything is funny. 

6. And yet, everything is sad.
7. I almost never make it to the bed.

Raise your hand if you're taking a nap this weekend!!! Oh yea. I'm doing it big, folks. 

Love and Light,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A week ago today, I took my first big step into the world of a published author by self-publishing my short story, White Belt.  I sought to prove three things to myself:

  1. I could meet a deadline.
  2. I could write horror without peeing in my panties or writing "just kidding" at the end of every sentence.
  3. I could find an audience.

BOOM on that first one!

#2 also gets a big fat check of success.  I LOVED writing White Belt. So much so, I am turning it into a series.  My protagonist, Dani tripped into my fraidy-cat heart with her clunky shoes and horrible taste in men and I fell in love.  I am rooting for her and I can't wait to see where her journey takes her.

#3 is still in progress.  Over the past week, I have found a ton of people on GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and the good old fashioned world wide web.  Crazy Zombie lovers like me.  A whole seedy world of the Black and Nerdy.  New Adult authors who write to escape.  Local bloggers looking to find and support other local bloggers.  A bestselling author who gave me a how to guide on how to market (it's a marathon... not a race). And an awesome Chick Lit blogger who shared my affinity for fall boots.  It has been AWESOME.  People have been so willing to support While Belt and me.... and share their tips and tricks to success.  The sense of community and solidarity has been absolutely amazing. 

The only problem is, it is really, really time consuming!

Between my day job, my spouse, my munchkins, my writing and marketing, I barely have time to take a deep breath. 

There... I took one.

But you want to know a secret?
I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thanks for follows, the tweets, the emails, the downloads and the love!  There is only one thing on that list that I would want to stop doing...and its not this!

*Stepping firmly into my shoes and smiling, I am a writer :-).

Download White Belt here for only $0.99! Don't 4get to leave a review!

Love and Light,
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