Category — book reviews

Interview With Lady Godiva, Author of “The Lady Godiva Hair Extreme Length Program Guide”

I welcome the opportunity to do written interviews with Black women authors about their books. This interview is with Lady Godiva, author of The Lady Godiva Hair Extreme Length Program Guide.

Khadija Speaking: Lady Godiva, before I say anything else, let me thank you for graciously taking the time to respond to these questions. As I warned you when we first discussed the idea via email, not all of the questions will be “softball” ones. There will be at least one challenging, “hardball” question—the sort of things that I always wonder about when I read books dealing with certain topics. Let’s start with some basic questions.

Question: What made you decide to design a program and write a guide book about growing Black hair to extreme lengths?

Answer: Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss the program! As a longtime reader and frequent commenter, I’m especially honored to be here.

When I see black women out in public with broken, dry hair or even balding, it makes me so sad. I used to have damaged, rough and unkempt hair myself, so I remember exactly how painful it was to get dressed to the nines, but still feel unattractive because of my hair. I remember the shame I felt over it.

I felt then and continue to feel now that long hair is a universal hallmark of femininity. I know that many other black women feel the same way I did… they struggle with growing out their hair and could benefit from my advice.

On a larger level, you know that I care deeply about the condition of black women in America. Nothing pleases me more than to see a black woman looking fabulous, feeling confident, and accomplishing her goals. I want to contribute to that success, to the degree that I am able. I want to help women to grow healthy long hair that they can be proud of! How wonderful would it be if 90% of the black women in this country had long healthy hair down their backs? There would be a lot less hair flipping from other races of women going on then, that’s for sure!

Question: How long did this project take from idea to publication?

Answer: I first got the idea that I should write this book from reading one of your blog posts about ebook authorship! I did a period of research about the different ways I could pursue this… and the actual writing of the guide took me less than 90 days. The other elements, such as getting the website complete, and getting the supplements formulated etc took longer than I expected. From start to finish it was about six months.

Question: Did you look to other Black hair care books for inspiration?

Answer: I had read some black hair books in the past, but to be honest most of what I found there was not helpful to me. I had learned bits and pieces of healthy hair advice over the years from several sources. Some things were helpful, others detrimental. It took me years of effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. I then tested, tweaked and combined these disparate elements along with my own discoveries into one cohesive program. Women don’t need to reinvent the wheel like I did; they can just read my book!

Khadija Speaking: I notice that, in your book, you repeatedly emphasize the impact that dietary factors have on hair growth, in particular the importance of fresh produce and specific nutrients.

Question: Why is nutrition so important in terms of hair growth and length?

Answer: Nutrition is essential because the body can only do what it has the raw materials to do. Many products exist that claim they will give long healthy hair. Some of these products may well be useful in caring for hair that is already healthy. The very first step, though, that cannot be omitted, is nutrition. If the body lacks access to the nutrients and protein it needs, then growing a head of long healthy hair will not be possible.

As an aside, one reason why long hair is so attractive is because it is an indicator of good health. Men look for healthy women who can bear them strong children. This is a biological imperative. Women who wish to increase their appeal to men will be well served by growing long healthy hair. In order to do that, they need to first remedy nutritional deficiencies.

Question: What do you say to the audience members who feel that they have no practical ways of accessing the level of nutrition you recommend in your book?

Answer: I would say that they are mistaken. I have the Greens ‘n Berries and the Hair Vitamins for sale on the site. I worked with a national laboratory to create a balanced and complementary pair of supplements. For my own growth, I had been taking a cocktail of various pills to fulfill the nutritional quality that these two products provide. I believe the price is extremely fair and affordable. In all honesty, most of us spend more on our morning coffee than I ask for the super nutrition available in these supplements.

Beyond the supplements, I have included directions for growing your own organic food. This information is also useful for women who want to cultivate self-sufficiency and insulate themselves from fluctuations in the price of food. The expense is low, and the time investment is not so high either. It’s all about making your health and beauty a priority in your own life.

Khadija Speaking: One annoying thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that a number of Black hair care products deliberately and misleadingly use hair models who have naturally wavy and loosely-curled hair. In other words, hair texture that is not the “typical” Black woman’s type of hair. This sort of deceptive practice often has consumers of those products looking for the product to do something that it simply can’t do (such as make their hair like the model’s hair).

Question: Since you’re half nonblack, how does the consumer know that the methods you propose in your book are equally applicable to Black women with the “typical” Black hair texture?

Answer: I have seen also that many natural hair products have that deceptive practice. I do not believe that is fair or right for companies to mislead customers that way.

It is no secret that almost all of the black population in America is genetically mixed with the European-American white populace. It is an uncomfortable reality, but it is reality nonetheless. So while I am mixed with European descent, so are almost all of the customers I serve. Many of these women have two black parents, and yet they have a looser hair texture than mine. I have the “typical” black woman’s texture of hair.

What is most relevant to the hair growth techniques in the book is not genetic admixture, but rather hair type. My hair type is 4a. This is very, very common among the black American population and is not appreciably looser or curlier than most black women in our country have.

However, I did go to great pains to specify the potential problems and pitfalls that women with a tighter hair texture of type 4b or c-nap could face. I made changes to my methods to prevent those customers from potentially suffering matting or locking up of their hair. This is a greater risk for women who have that tighter texture. I would hate for anyone to go through matting or dredding. That is why customers MUST follow the book’s directions exactly as I have written them. If a reader tries to make changes to the methods, they run the risk of matting or breakage.

Question: You make the point in the guide book that it’s “more than just hair.” Why do you say that?

Answer: It’s more than just hair because it’s also a tangible aspect of our femininity and our health. The way we care for our hair is a reflection of our self-esteem, and a manifestation of our personal power. As you have pointed out on this blog, beauty is power, and our beauty is a weapon. It is a tool that will either be used in our favor or used by others against us. This is why other women flip and fling their hair in our presence; they are showing dominance over us by showing off their length.

When I unfurl this long hair, let me tell you… I see men just melt. I can have them dangling from a string around my pinkie finger. White men, especially, look at me almost hypnotized. I love the feeling of power I get from my hair. Apart from anyone else’s reaction, I feel beautiful and powerful because of my hair. When I’m in the shower and I feel my hair sweep against my hips, I feel such a sense of accomplishment! I feel so beautiful, and very powerful. I feel like I can do anything on planet Earth that I set my mind to. Every black woman should feel like that.

Question: What do you hope The Lady Godiva Hair Extreme Length Program and Guide Book will accomplish for those who use it?

Answer: Most importantly, following the program will boost readers’ health. Readers will learn how to care for their natural hair and come to appreciate how unique and beautiful it is. They will see their hair accumulate length for perhaps the first time in their lives. This can be a wonderful change for those who have always thought that their hair was a hopeless case. There are a great many of black women who have given up even trying to care for their hair. This is a sad state of affairs indeed. Your hair is a part of your body; it should be cared for and maintained just as the rest of you is.

In addition, women who follow the program will enjoy a boost in their pride. I hope that the sense of accomplishment will give readers a springboard to use for success in other parts of their lives. Just as taking your supplements and following a healthy hair regimen every day will yield hair that grows and grows, doing other daily healthy things will build a healthy life. Working out and cutting stress will whittle your body into a beautiful condition. Working diligently on your studies will build a degree, and working assiduously on your escape plan will create a bountiful life. If you can grow your hair from an inch long to all the way down your back, then you can do anything.

Question: Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to mention to the audience?

Answer: Yes, in addition to the book and supplements, I have created the Extreme Length Lounge. This online forum is where the tutorial videos are posted. There are boards for all of the aspects of the Extreme Length Program in the Lounge. Nutrition, Moisture, Strength, Protection and Styling are covered from all angles.

The Extreme Length Program addresses all of the factors that go into hair growth. These are not restricted to the care you give your actual hair. Surely many readers here have known of a black woman who suffered hair loss during a stressful period in her life. Reducing stress is critical to growing and retaining beautiful tresses. The Extreme Length Lounge has sub-forums for the other aspects of health that will impact your growth and retention. This includes careers, exercise, romantic relationships, family life and education.

The lounge is a place for BWE minded women to talk to one another, support each other and to work on all of their goals. Members can share and learn together about resources and methods to create a fulfilled and amazing life. I believe the Lounge is the best part of the Extreme Length Program. Membership to the forum comes with purchase of the book or supplements.

Khadija Speaking: Again, thanks so much for taking the time to inform me as well as the readers by giving this interview! I truly appreciate it.

FULL DISCLOSURE ABOUT THE REVIEW COPY

Lady Godiva unexpectedly and graciously sent me a free review copy of her program guide book. This didn’t affect my review; I had already planned on buying and reviewing the book when I received the surprise review copy. And now, onto the review portion of this post:

BEAUTY IS SERIOUS BUSINESS; IN FACT, IT’S A WEAPON

As I mentioned in an earlier post,

Since we’re all adults, we know that looks matter in all areas of life. A lot. In the real world, we are all judged by our appearance. Especially women. For women, beauty is a weapon. A weapon that disarms men of means, power and influence. A weapon that opens doors of opportunity that might otherwise be closed. A weapon that is either working for—or against—each individual woman.

Over the centuries, there’s been a curious reversal. Most marriages were solid structures and only love affairs were ephemeral. Men of influence chose and remained married to their wives for reasons that had very little to do with the woman’s individual attributes. Instead, powerful men chose their wives based on the political status and wealth of the woman’s family.

Generally, as long as her father and brothers maintained their wealth and influence, a wife was relatively secure in her marriage. The political and social price of divorcing or abandoning a wife was prohibitively expensive in earlier eras. Only royal mistresses and courtesans absolutely had to master the arts of capturing and holding powerful men’s interest and desire in order to live well.

There’s been a reversal over the centuries. In the modern West, marriage is fleeting and a woman’s ability to live well is determined by two (sometimes interlocking) skill sets: her ability to provide for herself, and her ability to attract and hold quality men’s interest and desire. A woman who has to do every, single, thing in her life without any man’s help is a burdened woman. Such a woman is operating under a disadvantage in any context, whether it’s at work or at home. Even when there’s no expectation or even serious desire for a liaison, men are more inclined to help a beautiful woman.

Since modern marriages are based on the ever-shifting sands of emotion (and nothing else), it behooves modern women to study the timeless strategies used by women from previous eras. Women whose livelihood depended on their ability to utterly captivate men of means who were surrounded by an endless array of other beautiful women. A woman who wants to:

  • marry,
  • stay married to, or
  • if necessary, quickly replace a husband with another quality husband

would be wise to study the ways of the courtesan.

It goes without saying that a courtesan’s hair was a significant part of her arsenal.

IF YOU’RE SERIOUS ABOUT CULTIVATING YOUR BEAUTY, YOU’LL ABANDON THE “HAIR WARS”

If you’re serious about cultivating your beauty, you’ll abandon the Hair Wars of natural versus relaxed styles, and choose the type of hairstyle that’s most flattering for your face and head. Natural hairstyles are not automatically flattering for every Black woman. During an earlier blog conversation, one reader gave the example of Black woman top chef (Carla Hall) who has a long, thin face. Wearing a round afro made her look like a muppet from Sesame Street. A hairstyle that was oriented more downward than out (and emphasized hair length) was much more flattering to her facial structure. Choose your hairstyle based on what’s most flattering for you, and not ideology.

THE REVIEW

Proper nutrition—before problems become entrenched—can do good things for a woman’s beauty. Good things that no amount of after-the-damage-is-done interventions can recreate. A wise woman will learn as much as she can about keeping her hair healthy. The Lady Godiva Hair Extreme Length Program Guide can help you do that. I strongly recommend it!

April 3, 2011   178 Comments

Interview With Nathalie Thandiwe, Author of “The Yummi Cookbook: Delicious, Healthy, Affordable Meals without Meat, Dairy, Wheat or Soy & Nut Free!”

I welcome the opportunity to do written interviews with Black women authors about their books. This interview is with Nathalie Thandiwe, author of The Yummi Cookbook: Delicious, Healthy, Affordable Meals without Meat, Dairy, Wheat or Soy & Nut Free!

Khadija Speaking: Nathalie, before I say anything else, let me thank you for graciously taking the time to respond to these questions. As I warned you when we first discussed the idea via email, not all of the questions will be “softball” ones. There will be at least one challenging, “hardball” question—the sort of things that I always wonder about when I read books dealing with certain topics. Let’s start with some basic questions.

Question: What made you decide to write a cookbook?

Answer: I’m an herbalist by training. Herbs and supplements are wonderful, but food is your first medicine. Many of us eat at least three times a day and in a much greater volume than any herb, supplement or drug we might take. As an herbalist, I worked with clients on their diets, knowing that if you choose foods that promote health and prevent disease, you have a sustainable way to create health. Research indicates that plant based diets in which the majority of calories come from plant (vs. animal) sources appear to have the capacity to prevent and even reverse disease.

Even once clients understood the connection between eating and health, most found it difficult to make lasting healthy dietary changes. They thought healthy food tasted terrible. When I would demo my cooking or give them samples they would always say something like, well, if my food tasted like that, I’d eat healthy all the time too. I shifted from consultations to writing books to share helpful self health information with more people. I started with the Yummi Cookbook because so many people don’t really believe that healthy can be delicious everyday, every meal from our own kitchens. Our eating habits have gotten really damaging in the United States, and we’re passing them on to our children. We now see diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases in very young children. We can turn around this dietary health crisis starting with ourselves, our families and those around us who are also interested.

In addition, food allergies are on the rise and diagnoses of conditions like autism and ADD/ADHD, speech and developmental delays are increasing in children. Interestingly one of the dietary approaches that many physicians and families report being helpful in alleviating and sometimes eliminating the symptoms associated with these disorders is a diet free of dairy, wheat, soy and other allergens.

Yummi can help people learn how to cook food that is “Delicious, Healthy and Affordable” and free of major allergens.

On a personal note, in my family we have issues ranging from gluten and soy intolerance, as well as dietary preferences including vegan and omnivore. I had developed a style of cooking to accommodate all of this with really tasty, healthy, filling food that meat-eaters can be happy with. I was sure that others would find this helpful as well.

Question: How long did this project take from idea to publication?

Answer: The Cookbook took about 6 months from start to finish and that included documenting the recipes I cook and making a companion demo DVD. I cook improvisationally- not from recipes or with specific measurements, so I had to get the food out of my head and our plates and on to the page. That was kind of challenging- cooking is like art or jazz for me- I get a muse, maybe something I’ve eaten and know could taste even better so I “make it over” using my culinary senses to create a recipe.

Question: Did you look to other cookbooks for inspiration?

Answer: Kind of, but reverse inspiration. I find cookbooks really frustrating– I have a a high-flavor palate and I expect food to be fabulous, as in delicious. Many cookbooks are filled with tons of recipes but a lot of the recipes are just ok. Given this, I find cookbooks most useful for getting recipe ideas, skimming the ingredients and then putting it back on the shelf and just doing my own thing from there.

I wanted to give people a cookbook in which if they follow the recipes faithfully they get delicious meals. I took the approach of quality over quantity for the Yummi Cookbook and every recipe delivering high value in terms of adding to your ‘Delicious, Healthy, Affordable” plant based meal repertoire.

I also wanted to give people a cookbook that would train them in strategies for eating healthy on a budget and the methods for cooking various types of foods so they could not only master these recipes but have the info they need to improv or create other healthy recipes of their own. Hence the 101 Guides including Grains 101, Beans 101 & Spice 101, which some readers have described as an easy crash course in how to cook the basics. The Spice 101 Guide is great for learning how to recreate certain flavors and cuisines you may have at restaurants but are not sure how to reproduce them on your own.

The recipes are organized so that a more creative cook can look at the format and easily figure out how to improvise changes to the recipe or create a new dish using the flavor building and steps/technique.

I actually found some inspiration in the movie Julia & Julia about a young woman who cooks all of the recipes of Julia Child’s The Joy of Cooking and blogs about the process. I watched it at a moment of utter “omg…what have I taken on” project overwhelm. And I saw that both Julia Child and Julia the movie character had the exact same sort of moments in the midst of their respective creations. It was an affirmation of sorts from the universe- as if to say, yes love, this feeling is part of the process and look these other women who took on and succeeded in such endeavors had this feeling too- you are on your way!

Khadija Speaking: I notice that, in your cookbook, you repeatedly emphasize strategies for food affordability (such as preparing meals from scratch, getting produce from farmer’s markets, and from food co-ops).

Question: What do you say to the audience members who feel that they have no practical ways of accessing such things?

Answer: Great question! Let’s assume you’re working with the neighborhood bodega/corner store. Bodegas usually have dried rice and beans, frozen vegetables, tomato sauce, spices, frozen fruit, bananas, onions, garlic and maybe even a fresh vegetable or two. You can actually make some tasty and healthy meals with that- soups, burritos, chili, rice, green veggies and beans platters, smoothies, etc.

But I want to examine this issue of no access. I’ve noticed that many of the same neighborhoods that are called “food deserts” for lack of fresh food grocery purveyors also have none of the clothing and electronic goods retailers found in malls and well developed shopping areas. Yet the residents somehow find the name brand sneakers, clothes, accessories, electronic gadgets, etc. of the outlets that refuse to open stores in their neighborhoods. Clearly retailer abandonment has not stopped people from acquiring other goods they desire. People will have to take the same approach with healthy food and goods-where there’s a will and a demand, there’s a way. The first step is to asset map–find out where the closest sources of healthy, affordable foods are–farmer’s markets, food coops and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)–look online or ask around. Ask if they offer any satellite services near you or on your commute, such as drop off/pick up sites or reselling via other locations near you. If they don’t, ask them to do so. If they won’t, collaborate with others in your area to get the foods you need from the most convenient location(s). Assume no one is coming to save you and get busy saving yourself and your family and work with others you meet already on the same journey.

Khadija Speaking: In your book, you explain that the Yummi Cookbook meals are made without meat, dairy, wheat, soy or nuts. And that the Yummi Cookbook’s meals are made from vegetables, beans, grains, seeds, spices, and oils. Here’s what makes me nervous about vegetarian and vegan nutritional practices: Too often, there are alarming parallels to religious fundamentalism in how many self-professed vegetarians and vegans approach those diets. As the blog host of the paleo diet blog, Free The Animal, says in his post The Vegetarian Menace,

And then there’s the enviro-crap, which is just original-sin religion in disguise. You’re a guilty sinner (destroying the planet), you must repent (eat unfulfilling food). and atone (sacrifice your values and desires to the diktats of “authorities”). Same con, different day.

Khadija Speaking: He also raises the concerns I have about the numbers of infant and child deaths that are caused by vegetarian and vegan zealotry. As he points out in the same blog post, when you google the phrase “vegan baby deaths” you get page after page of news stories of vegan parents inflicting malnutrition and death on their children with what these parents claim are vegetarian and vegan diets.

Question: How are the Yummi Cookbook’s meals different from the dietary practices that allegedly led to the deaths of various vegan and vegetarian parents’ children?

Answer: I’m going to address the preamble to your question as well. I find it suspect when people are super emotionally charged or fundamentalist about “THE Right Way to Eat” no matter what their position is–wether they are advocating for meat eating or veganism. It’s a privilege to be able to even contemplate how and what we eat in terms of choices- many people on the planet simply do not have that luxury.

In reality the U.S. factory farming practices require vast mounts of resources–water, topsoil and fossil fuels; it also produces environmentally contaminating waste, and disease promoting food products. That is simply an unsustainable model for feeding ourselves. If we look to earlier indigenous cultures or even a couple of generations back to our great grandparents for more sustainable food production models, at the end of the day it boils down to eating lower on the food chain–more plants, smaller game and less meat for the majority of our sustenance.

When I would visit one of my grandmothers for the day when I was a girl, eventually a family member would ask If I was hungry; if I answered yes, I had to stay put several more hours while a relative snatched up a chicken from underfoot, broke its neck, defeathered, butchered and stewed it. When you deal with the reality of that “you want it then you raise it and pick it/kill it to eat” model, as compared to the McEverything I McWant McNow model, you understand with a quickness that this devouring of all in sight as if it’s an infinite resource wether it’s meat or fossil fuels will hit a wall and all of us relying on it will hit that wall with it.

I was raised eating meat and am a plant-based omnivore; I have also been a vegetarian and a vegan–I began experimenting with meatless eating in my childhood. My diet is 90% or more plants at this point in my life.

I don’t think it’s really about veganism, it’s about finding a way to eat as healthily and sustainably as we can. I would argue that the soy-based model of veganism is also problematic–with cash crop soy production displacing forests and indigenous crops, the genetic engineering of soy, the allergenic and hormonally reactive aspects of soy–just some of the obvious conundrums of the “Soy is THE Answer” chorus.

The pendulum has swung so far in one direction that balance will inevitably involve changing how we cultivate our food, and for many people eating less meat, with high and rising meat prices forcing the adjustment for some.

As far as parents malnourishing their kids, honestly, I see that across the spectrum from meat eaters to vegans. Most parents, like the rest of us, don’t get any training in nutrition or an education in public interest health and food policy. I see meat and dairy eating parents making complaints such as their kids have had painful ear infections since infancy, tubes, surgeries, allergies, asthma, sinus infections etc. When other parents and physicians point out that dairy is often a problem for children with these health issues, in reality only a fraction of these parents will respond by even testing a dairy elimination diet. Are they child abusers? The same goes for overweight, insulin resistant and diabetic children and their parents. These are widespread problems directly linked to diet and much more statistically significant that vegan-triggered wasting of children. People who allow children to waste or die from malnourishment have mental problems. It’s really not about the particular diet they try to hide behind or use. It’s important that we try to remain rational and calm when we are confronted with different eating philosophies and practices and really pay attention to what are the most prevalent sources of harm when it comes to diet, rather than witch hunt people based on exceptions, letting corporate interests shape the dialog and gaslight the public from behind the curtain.

Research studies indicate that children can be successfully reared on a vegan diet providing that their diet is adjusted for the reality that vegan diets can be lower in calories due to higher fiber volume, don’t provide B12, and are often low in calcium and iron. These issues can be handled with higher calorie intake if necessary and supplements or fortified foods. Interestingly, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) formally states that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” The ADA notes that a vegetarian diet is associated with lower weight, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer than that of nonvegetarians. The ADA also provides helpful information on what you need to do to implement a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.

In that vein, the Yummi Cookbook advises readers to speak to their health care provider and do their research regarding their nutritional needs and make adjustments to accommodate them. Yummi Cookbook meals are free of soy and use beans and seeds for nutrient rich protein sources. Yummi recipes also use healthy fats (oils), a critical nutrient for growing bodies and brains. The many vegetables and spices in Yummi recipes are rich in phytochemicals–nutrients associated with preventing and healing disease. While Yummi recipes are nutrient-rich, the delicious meals also are a hit with young kids as well as teens!

Question: You mention this in the book, but could you share for the audience some of the tips you give for busy people who want to eat well at home, but don’t have a lot of time for food preparation?

Answer: Yes! You have two primary strategies for time saving when it comes to making food- do it or delegate it. If you’re going to do it–cook food from scratch–then you can use batching and freezing to be most time-effective. Make and freeze food in batches–both staples like grains/beans and fully prepared meals like lasagnas and chilis. This means when you’re ready to prepare meals or eat you have time-saving ready to go ingredients or heat and eat meals on hand. If you’re going to delegate food preparation then you can delegate in-house or out. In-house can mean using existing household labor, like other family members or hired help to complete meal preparation steps like grocery shopping, measuring and chopping ingredients or making the whole meal. If you’re going to delegate outside of your home/help that means buying already prepared foods and meals from healthy prepared food providers. This is the most expensive strategy and potentially gives you the least amount of control over your food preparation; the trade-off is you get to preserve your time for other priorities.

A time and money saving tip to simplify cooking is to plan meals that have shared ingredients and cook fewer meals per week but larger volume per recipe so that it can provide food for a couple of dinners and lunches. I like this because it means I can cook just 2-3 meals that can be used for a whole week of lunches and dinners. I do a lot of “Yummi Remixes” or leftover make-overs, which I explain in the Cookbook. I repurpose ingredients, like lasagna ingredients might become pizza for another recipe later that week, so often people don’t realize they’re eating the same food!

Question: What do you hope the Yummi Cookbook will accomplish for those who use it?

Answer: I hope the Yummi Cookbook will help people interested in eating healthy by giving them more options for delicious meals. I also hope it will help people who have been told to adopt a diet free of wheat, dairy and/soy, expand their meal options. As I mentioned this is often part of the dietary protocol for treating developmental delays, ADD/ADHD and autism and other conditions like ear infections and asthma, and it can be overwhelming for families to implement these changes.

Question: Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to mention to the audience?

Answer: The Yummi Cookbook does include recipes for soy-free tofu substitutes, so if you are really attached to tofu, but want to “diversify” it can help with that as well!

I also want to make it clear that a healthy plant based diet is something that everyone across eating preferences can adopt and adapt–even meat eaters and low carb eaters. You can only eat so much meat; it’s plants–vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds–that offer the highest levels of nutrients, antioxidants and protective phytochemicals. A healthy meal that includes meat should still have a majority of its calories coming from plants. By choosing high-fiber, complex carbs like leafy greens as a foundation for meals, meat eaters can still keep their diets lean, low carb and plant based. The Yummi Cookbook makes that taste a lot better than it sounds!

Khadija Speaking: Again, thanks so much for taking the time to inform me as well as the readers by giving this interview! I truly appreciate it.

THE REVIEW

At the end of the day, anybody who wants abundant, healthy life is going to have to transition away from processed, “dead” foods. And move toward a way of eating that heavily incorporates natural, “living” foods such as fruits and vegetables. It’s easier to make this transition if you know how to make healthier meals that are also delicious, and The Yummi Cookbook can help you do that. I strongly recommend it!

March 20, 2011   87 Comments

Review: Fascinating Womanhood

We recently had this important conversation about the heavy price African-American women pay in a patriarchal world for allowing themselves to become defeminized. After that conversation, I decided to review the ebook, The Feminine Arts of Charm and Charisma, by Melina, blog host of The Art of Being Feminine. However, the more I’ve read of her blog, I realized that many of her opinions about the nature of femininity are grounded in the book Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin (which she offers on her site). So, I decided to read Fascinating Womanhood to better understand the background context of the blog host’s ebooks and opinions.

AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE BLOG AUTHOR AND THE AUTHOR OF FASCINATING WOMANHOOD

In the first blog post where I mention the Art of Being Feminine blog, I advised readers not to let the things they don’t like about that particular blog stop them from picking up pearls of wisdom that can enhance their lives. A woman having feminine skills plus 21st century freedom of movement (especially in the Western world) is an extremely powerful combination!

I would also caution readers not to make assumptions about the blog author based on her avid support of Fascinating Womanhood. From what I’ve read of the blog, the author recognizes there are some men that women need to get away from. See her post from November 7, 2009 entitled My Boyfriend is On Adult Dating Sites and Looks at Pornography as an example. I believe she gives her reader excellent advice in this post. By contrast, the author of Fascinating Womanhood doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on this idea. In the revised, 1992 edition of the book that I read, she kept the following so-called “success story” testimonial from a reader who said:

My husband was drinking heavily, away from home almost every night, hardly speaking to me, and I believe he was seeing other women. He told me I might as well leave because he didn’t need me. One night he locked me out of the house and told me to come by in the morning for my clothes. When I did he had my bag packed, met me at the door, and told me he would think about letting me see our six-year-old daughter. Later that day he called me from work and said he wanted me to talk to someone. Then he put some girl on the phone. This kind of thing went on until I became desperate. I was ready to leave him when someone told me about F.W. I thought they were crazy. No book would change my husband, I was sure.

After some suffering I sat down and read it and when I did I got so excited. I started the very next day and within weeks there was a dramatic change in him and in our marriage. He started staying home, taking me out, buying me things, and his drinking almost completely stopped. . .

. . . I could go on and on but the thing I would like to mention is this: He told me that I was suddenly a different person, that something happened to change me. Our little girl is a different person now too. She had become so withdrawn and nervous that I suspected she had an ulcer. Now she is happy and outgoing and her father spends time with her.

Fascinating Womanhood, pgs. 31-32. I won’t bother to note the many, many things that are dangerously wrong with this so-called “success story.” I wouldn’t be surprised to read something like this dating from when the book was first published in 1965. However, I was surprised the author still felt this was an appropriate, positive testimonial in the revised 1992 edition of the book. By itself, this particular choice says a lot about the author’s views.

A WORD ABOUT THIS REVIEW

If you check out the readers’ reviews of Fascinating Womanhood on Amazon.com, you’ll notice how polarized the opinions are about this book. Since I’m not going to bite my tongue, I expect this review to also be fairly polarizing, and offensive to some readers. I will also note that reviewing this sort of work inevitably requires a multilayered discussion, so please take the time to look at the various other materials that I’ll link to during this review. Also note that my decision to link to any particular material does not mean that I necessarily agree with it, or endorse the author’s views about anything. I’m simply using the material to illustrate the issues under discussion.

THE REVIEW—FASCINATING MORMONHOOD

I’ve been surprised at the level of fury this book has generated among so many people. Not because of the advice given in the book which, frankly, can be deadly for a woman in a domestically violent marriage. In fairness, the women in violent relationships that I’ve encountered while working as a former prosecutor and defense attorney were more invested in maintaining these relationships than any other consideration—such as staying alive or their children’s survival. These sort of women will use any material (scripture, pop psychology books, slogans like “put God in it for a minute,” anything at all) as a justification for staying with a physically abusive man. [Personal bias note: I’m not automatically particularly sympathetic to battered women. This post mentions in greater detail some of the reasons I feel that way, and the dynamics that I’ve observed about violent relationships.]

The book’s critics’ fury seems misdirected. To me, it makes little sense to get upset with the puppet instead of the puppet master. Relatively few of this book’s fervent critics openly discuss what I believe is the root of what’s wrong with the book: the author was a Mormon wife who was spouting Mormon-influenced beliefs about gender roles. I believe Mrs. Andelin was merely speaking her indoctrination. What else would anybody expect a Mormon woman born in 1920 to say? I don’t understand why so many of the book’s critics sound shocked by her opinions. Instead of directing their ire at her, angry critics should direct it at the male Mormon clergy who fed her these beliefs.

Before somebody says that to consider the author’s religious background is always bigotry, I suggest you perform the following thought experiment. If the author was a woman named Fatima Abdul-Aziz writing the same opinions from Saudi Arabia during 1965 (which is when the book was first published), would the Western women who love this book still love it? Would they have the same uncritical acceptance of these opinions from a “Fatima Abdul-Aziz”? Or would they factor in the religious indoctrination (especially around 1965) that most likely formed the fictitious Saudi woman author’s opinions?

It was amusing to read Mrs. Andelin state the following about the Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal (favorite wife of Emperor Shah Jahan in whose memory the Taj Mahal was built in India): “And take note of this thought: Mumtaz was of a culture where women were subservient, dependent, and kept their place in the feminine world. It was not a culture where women dominated, demanded, and tried to be equal with men.” Fascinating Womanhood, pg. 10.

It’s comical that Mrs. Andelin originally said this in 1965 as if she and other Mormon women were so much more free and autonomous than the women in 17th century India. Haven’t Mormon women traditionally been “subservient, dependent, and kept their place in the feminine world”? Other types of American women have always had much more freedom and autonomy than women in the Muslim world. Mormon women? I think not.

I believe that some of the self-professed Christian women who uncritically gush over this book need to step back for a minute. And consider exactly what it means that the author was a Mormon woman who first wrote this book in 1965. The Mormon church is not a mainstream Christian denomination. To put it bluntly, it’s not even a Christian group.

Let me stress that what I’m saying is different from the ignorance that I often hear from large numbers of African-American Protestant Christians. I hear them say phrases like “Christians and Catholics,” as if Catholics are not Christians. The profound ignorance embedded in these sorts of statements irritates me. It’s irritating because when I ask them, these same African-American Protestant Christians have never heard of Martin Luther or the Protestant Reformation. It’s irritating because they don’t even know the historical origin of their entire Protestant branch of Christianity. They don’t know that unlike the Coptic Church and the various Orthodox churches (Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and so on), the Protestant branch has its origins in a breaking away from the Roman Catholic church that began in the 1500s.

Let me also note for the record that I’m irritated by the smug attitudes that I’ve observed from more than a few African-American Protestants about the ongoing pedophile scandal within the Catholic church. Meanwhile, I don’t hear these people admitting that it’s not just the Catholic church that has institutional and systemic issues with sexual predators. See this post about the various pending sexual abuse lawsuits against a number of Church of God in Christ (an African-American Protestant denomination) clergy and other personnel. I don’t hear them talking about incidents like the COGIC in Toledo that allegedly had four, count ‘em FOUR, pedophiles on the payroll with the pastor’s knowledge. See this post for details.

Nor have I heard them talk about the behavior of celebrated individuals such as Rev. James Cleveland. I believe that part of what goes into this is that, unlike their coverage of the many atrocities within the Catholic church, the media report these stories as isolated incidents as opposed to a systemic problem when this happens among Protestant clergy (Black or White).

[Personal bias note: My mother’s family is Catholic, so despite my own differences with the Catholic church—I never believed in it and I accepted Islam as an adult—I’ve been annoyed by hearing ignorance-based, anti-Catholic prejudice since adolescence. A legitimate, well-considered difference of opinion is something that I respect. But not mindless slogans from people who don’t even know the history of their own denomination.]

Anyway, I say that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination because there are common sense ways to distinguish groups that are within the broad family of a particular faith tradition versus groups that are not within that same faith tradition. One way is whether the group under examination is using the same scripture, and holding the same basic beliefs about the origin of the universe and humans as the rest of the denominations within that particular faith tradition. When a new so-called “denomination” is using scriptures and/or a cosmology that are unknown to the “parent” faith, then it’s not really part of that “parent” faith (despite typically loud protestations to the contrary). These sorts of differences are several orders of magnitude larger than doctrinal differences.

To put it simply, when a “Christian” group is talking about scriptures and core beliefs that no other Christian denomination has ever heard of, then it’s probably not a Christian group. The same applies to “Muslim” groups that are referring to core doctrines that no other denomination of Muslims, past or present, has ever heard of. I’ll mention two example of this: the Mormon church versus mainstream Christianity and the Nation of Islam versus mainstream Islam.

All Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, the Coptic churches, the Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches) are grounded in the Bible. And they have the same understanding of what source material constitutes the Bible. The Bible is the Christian scripture. Historically, none of these various Christian denominations mention, use, or have heard of the Book of Mormon. Meanwhile, the Mormons use the Book of Mormon as scripture. They refer to it as “another testament of Jesus Christ.” See this.

The introduction to the Book of Mormon states, “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” See here.

In terms of Muslims, the Nation of Islam similarly has core beliefs that no Muslim denomination (Sunni, Shia, or anything else), past or present, has ever heard of before. One example is the Nation of Islam belief that God “appeared in the person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July 1930—the long awaited ‘Messiah’ of the Christians and the ‘Mahdi’ of the Muslims.” Message to the Blackman, pg. 164.

Another reason I mention all of this is because the author refers to “Celestial Love” (which she describes as the highest kind of love between a man and a woman), and has a chart of “Angelic Qualities” that she says women should cultivate. But yet I don’t recall seeing any biblical citations for these assertions in the book. Could it be that what she’s talking about is NOT biblical, and is instead rooted in the Book of Mormon? I don’t know. I’m not going to invest the time into researching the Book of Mormon to find out. But if I were a Christian reader who was serious about my faith, I would be concerned about that.

I’m not saying I believe that Christian readers should avoid reading the book for that reason. I’ll read heretical material that, despite claiming to be “Muslim,” does not fit within my faith tradition (such as Elijah Muhammad’s Message to the Blackman). But I do so with my eyes wide open. And with that, on to the book’s main points.

A SUMMARY OF THE BOOK’S SUGGESTIONS TO WOMEN

In terms of a woman’s direct interactions with her husband, the author recommends the following:

(1) Accept your husband as he is, don’t try to change him.

(2) Appreciate your husband as he is, overlook his faults.

(3) Admire his masculine qualities.

(4) Put your husband at the top of your priority list (Khadija speaking: I find it interesting that honoring God is not the first priority. What if what your husband wants is directly contrary to God’s will?).

(5) Obey your husband and have a girlish trust in him.

(6) Don’t wound his sensitive masculine pride.

(7) Let your husband function as your guide, leader, protector and provider. Don’t work outside the home, and let him handle all the finances.

(8) Understand that once you apply Fascinating Womanhood principles, your husband will feel more secure in your marriage and he may start venting anger and other hostile feelings on you. Accept this, and allow him to empty his “Pandora’s Box” of negative emotions.

(9) Be sympathetic to your husband’s problems, but don’t offer to help or solve his problems—at least not in the beginning (as I understood the book, the author is arguing that trying to solve his problems might imply that you’re not overlooking his potential errors in judgment that helped create the problem. See pgs. 177-178).

The author then goes on to give detailed instructions in how to best function as a “domestic goddess,” and how to acquire and enhance a feminine appearance. The author states:

A noticeable characteristic of the feminine woman is that she gives careful attention to her appearance. She doesn’t neglect her hair, face, figure, or clothes. She looks as pretty as she can at all times. This is instinctive in her nature. An ideal woman, however, doesn’t focus unduly on her looks. She doesn’t spend endless hours on her appearance, and in so doing neglect important duty. She devotes herself to those things which need her time and attention, but manages to find time to look attractive.

Fascinating Womanhood, pg. 248.

THE TAKE-AWAY POINTS OF THIS BOOK

I believe that a savvy woman with healthy boundaries and healthy self-preservation instincts can learn much from this book. For example, I believe the problem of women trying to change their husbands usually reflects the woman’s failure to properly vet and screen the man before getting heavily involved with him. Women need to identify in advance what their “dealbreakers” are in a relationship. And refrain from getting involved with a man who has “dealbreaker” traits. I believe that between the heavy doses of obvious madness, there are huge chunks of useful advice in Fascinating Womanhood that can be a corrective for modern illusions about gender relations.

Meanwhile, this same book will contribute to the downfall of an emotionally needy woman who lacks firm boundaries and a healthy instinct for self-preservation. It all depends on the reader’s preexisting mindset and inclinations.

Equality is not the same as uniformity. Men are not the same as women, and generally don’t have the same emotional priorities or needs. Often, nonverbal communication is superior to verbal communication. Actions say more than words. Indirect actions are often more useful in shaping other people’s behavior than direct confrontations.

I also believe that more modern Western women need to get it through their heads that acquiring and maintaining an attractive, feminine appearance works to their advantage. Instead of trying to pretend that men don’t respond differently to different women’s appearance. Or trying to browbeat men into pretending that they’re not visual creatures. That doesn’t work.

What happens is that men learn to stop talking in women’s presence about their preferences. Overall, this is a losing strategy for women. See the illustration in this post for an example of what many men think about women’s appearance. Note the sense of entitlement embodied in the illustration: there’s no realistic portrayal of many Western men’s similarly overweight silhouettes, but yet these similarly less attractive men feel entitled to have what they consider to be the most attractive women.

Ladies, I hope you’re not getting yourselves agitated about this particular author, his subject matter, or the illustration he used. What this man is saying is simply an extreme version of what many other, healthier men feel to varying degrees. The point is for you to leverage these particular aspects of male psychology to your advantage! Look at the increased leverage you’ll have with men in the Western world (outside the African-American subculture) if you get yourself physically together, and into the “attractive” category of women!

Don’t waste a moment on being angry about that author. On a patriarchal planet, any man who can’t compete within the context of his own native culture is a loser and an undesirable. Who cares where such men go, or what they do? I know I don’t. I also don’t waste a single moment on being upset about what those sorts of men think about anything. I don’t care about them. Incidentally, I found it interesting that this particular blog author felt it necessary to ‘fess up that a large percentage of the men interested in his subject matter are looking to beat the foreign women they date and marry. See this post.

Anyway, it’s a better strategy for a woman to do what she can to maximize her leverage. As that particular blog author notes in this post, different areas of the world (and different cities and subcultures) have different leverage distributions between the genders. As anyone reading this blog knows, the African-American subculture is a male-empowerment zone. For the long list of reasons that we already know, such as a huge preexisting numerical imbalance coupled with a high African-American male incarceration rate, and so on. Any African-American woman (especially a dark-skinned woman) who restricts her dating life to African-American men will be at a severe, life-crippling disadvantage.

Ladies, take what’s useful from whatever source, and discard the rest. A woman having feminine skills plus 21st century freedom of movement (especially in the Western world) is an extremely powerful combination!

THEMES FOR DISCUSSION

Since the themes in the book touch on so many different underlying issues, I don’t think it’s helpful to try to isolate or limit this conversation to one main theme. So, please feel free to discuss whatever points that you want that were raised during this post.

With one big exception: I won’t publish comments that whine about or analyze male privilege, the prevalent male sense of entitlement, or male dysfunction. We already know all about those things. Those things are what they are. And the men who are heavily involved in that sort of distorted thinking are undesirables—they’re the sort of men who shouldn’t even be on a sensible woman’s radar. My main point in all the conversations here is on what strategies savvy, self-actualizing African-American women can use to maximize their enjoyment in life.

COMING NEXT IN BOOK REVIEWS

The next book review will feature the ebook, The Feminine Arts of Charm and Charisma, by Melina, blog host of The Art of Being Feminine.

April 25, 2010   36 Comments

Review: Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom

Actress Janet Hubert is best known for portraying Aunt Vivian on the 1990s NBC television sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Being a working actress on a popular television show is often presented to the public as a dream come true. Even more so for the African-American actresses (especially dark-skinned ones) who have limited opportunities in Hollywood. In Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom, Ms. Hubert has written a memoir describing the seamy realities involved in working on that particular show, and the toll it took on her life after she was terminated and replaced with another actress.

THE REVIEW

Several words come to mind when I think of the experiences Ms. Hubert describes in her book. Harrowing. Heart-wrenching. Ms. Hubert describes the many ways, large and small, in which Will Smith allegedly sabotaged her career and those of others on that show:

Smith’s contract provided that none of the cast members except him could appear on The Tonight Show during the sitcom’s first season.

Hubert was told to stay in her dressing room after finishing her scenes. This was because she didn’t laugh at Smith’s jokes, and he complained that this made him uncomfortable.

Smith wanted the actors and writing staff to take unsolicited advice about the show from Bill Cosby.

Smith “only gave male directors props” and wanted the cast to “give the brother a shot” when the then-inexperienced-as-a-director Malcolm-Jamal Warner directed an episode of the show.

Meanwhile, Smith openly disrespected and undermined the work of more experienced Black women in the television industry, including a Black woman who had produced Cosby’s show for several seasons.

By the sixth year, Will Smith wanted the entire cast of family characters discarded except for his character and Carlton, and make it more like the show A Different World. NBC refused, and told him to seek a better deal elsewhere. Smith approached CBS, but wasn’t offered a better deal, and returned to NBC.

Hubert was ultimately terminated from the show and replaced with another, (much lighter-skinned) actress. She also describes the long years of career and emotional turmoil that followed her termination from the show. Including the turmoil resulting from her own bad decisions.

Ms. Hubert’s book is a needed antidote to the naive fantasies that so many artists have about the nature of the entertainment industry. Ms. Hubert gives the following good advice near the end of the book:

“Let my experience be a guide for all young women, especially African-Americans, who want to pursue a career in this business called acting. It is only make-believe. Acting doesn’t cure cancer. It will not change the world. So if this is something that you really want to do please learn from my mistakes, and there were many. Hold your tongue, or you may lose it. Only play the game if you can win it, and so few can. Keep a sense of humor no matter what. Sometimes you may have to give up what you really believe in for the sake of a check. Try to have a backup career. I believe that one day people will finally tire of Reality TV and talent will make a comeback. For those of you who long be in the limelight, be wary—while it can be wonderful, it can sometimes be blinding.”

THEME FOR DISCUSSION: THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING YOUR OWN PLATFORM AS A CREATIVE ARTIST

About career strategy, two main points stood out for me as I read Ms. Hubert’s book. First, her naiveté about her work environment. Why didn’t she know that a refusal to brown-nose the male rapper-star of her tv series would have serious negative repercussions on her career? I’m not talking about right or wrong; I’m talking about the reality of working in that industry. If you’re not going to brown-nose, then you need to have a plan to deal with the predictable backlash. You also need to understand that there’s never any guarantee of safety, even if you do brown-nose! Often, African-American artists are so frantic to get onto these tv shows and into these record deals, that they never plan for the possibility that somebody on that show, at that network, in that record company might launch a mission to damage their careers.

The second lesson of her experience is the importance of creative artists working to build their own platforms. We’ve discussed this before in the context of authors, but it applies across the entire entertainment industry. A huge part of what gave Will Smith more leverage is that he came to that show with a preexisting fan base from his career as a rapper. It’s best to work on building a fan base from the beginning of your career. Fans can help blunt some of the industry blows that come an artist’s way. For example, fans can launch campaigns to try to save a tv series; and sometimes it works. The existence of an active, vocal fan base can also help propel an artist’s career to the next level, or free them from having to deal with some of the industry’s “middle men.” Here’s an example of an independent musician who has built a platform for her work.

COMING NEXT IN BOOK REVIEWS

The next book review will feature the ebook, The Feminine Arts of Charm and Charisma, by Melina, blog host of The Art of Being Feminine.

March 12, 2010   40 Comments

Review: Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions that Keep Black Women From Dating Out

THE REVIEW

Much has been written about African-American women being one of the demographic groups in the US who are least likely to be married. However, little of it has explored why so many African-American women are hesitant to increase their odds of finding a suitable husband by dating and marrying interracially. In Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions that Keep Black Women From Dating Out, writer Karyn Langhorne Folan offers a penetrating look at the various misguided “notions” that prevent African-American women from expanding their dating and marriage pool to include quality White men as potential husbands.

In a book that is beautifully written and meticulously researched, Karyn Folan refutes each self-defeating taboo about interracial dating and marriage that serves to keep many African-American women unhappily single. Along the way, Ms. Folan paints unforgettable portraits of little-known persons and incidents from African-American history, including:

(1) The dark-skinned, 15-year old Black girl who refused to give up her seat to a White passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing. This brave teenager was deemed “too dark,””too feisty,” and too poor to be the representative plaintiff for the civil rights movement.

(2) The 1959 Tallahassee, Florida case where an all-White jury convicted four White men of gang-raping a young Black woman named Betty Jean Owens. This is especially significant when viewed in comparison to the current “stop snitching” culture among many African-Americans that allows sexual violence against Black women and girls to go unpunished.

(3) The esteemed 19th century White geologist who pretended to be a light-skinned Black man in order to marry a Black woman.

In her clear and elegant prose, Ms. Folan addresses the fear that underlies many African-American women’s reluctance to expand their dating and marriage horizons. Fear of how Black men will react. Fear of being socially ostracized from the African-American community. Fear of exploring the previously unknown social experiences and settings that interracial relationships can bring. She also poses an important, potentially life-altering series of questions to readers that every African-American woman needs to consider:

“Who is living in your skin: you or the brothas? You or the entire Black community? You or the fears of the resentment of others?”

In short, Ms. Folan’s book is a refreshing and long overdue examination of the misguided taboos that hinder African-American women from exploring all of their dating and marriage options. A world of expanded options for happiness awaits those Black women who read this book and take inspiration from it.

THEME FOR DISCUSSION: THE DANGERS OF BELIEVING HISTORICAL FAIRY TALES

During my vacation last December, I listened to a lecture by an American professor who had been sent by the US Army to serve as an exchange officer in the French Foreign Legion. [Among other topics, I enjoy military history and I’ve always been fascinated by the French Foreign Legion.] This happened near the end of the Vietnam War. I was horrified by one of the points that he made. He said that most Americans learn their history from historical novels (many of which are made into television miniseries). This is why he wrote a historical novel (instead of a straight history book) about the Vietnam War.

I was horrified because he’s right. And even worse, the same observation applies to how most Americans learn about current events.

People hear sound bites from blow-dried television news anchors, bits of dialogue from a miniseries, and then become emotionally invested in believing that this is an accurate representation of historical and current events. This often skewed material becomes the basis for cherished historical fairy tales.

Every culture and subculture has its own set of cherished historical fairy tales. I’ve had the experience of watching White Americans become enraged when it’s mentioned that their beloved “Founding Fathers” were slaveowners, and most likely slave-rapists. I’ve watched African-American men become enraged when anyone mentions the many Black male civil rights activists and Pan-Africanists who were preoccupied with (and married to) White women. I’ve watched the disappointment and disgust that many African-American women feel when they learn that Dr. King repeatedly cheated on Coretta Scott King. Like real life, real history is filled with nuances and shades of gray. Historical fairy tales like the ones that form most African-Americans’ understanding of their history are sufficient for small children who are too young to understand nuances. However, historical fairy tales are not sufficient for adults. And they’re not a sufficient basis for making important life decisions.

African-American women have bought into a series of historical fairy tales. Unfortunately, too many Black women use these historical fairy tales as justifications for making self-defeating, life-damaging decisions. Meanwhile, Black men have never let their history of being lynched because of White women slow them down from marrying White women, and leaving the Black community to live in White areas.

One of the main historical fairy tales that many African-American women believe to their detriment can be summarized as “I must limit myself to dating African-American men because Black men and Black women are all in it together.”

Well . . . umm, no. When you take the time to read a range of history books and memoirs, you see that Black men and women were never consistently “all in it together.” That’s a fairy tale that most Black women believe to their detriment.

Ms. Folan’s book mentions several incidents that challenge the mass fairy tale of “Black men and women were all in it together.” I referred to one in the book review (the dark-skinned teenage girl who was pushed aside in favor of Rosa Parks as the civil rights movement’s model plaintiff). Ms. Folan’s book also mentions the sordid and grotesque episode regarding Rev. James Bevel.

I can think of some other incidents. Let’s see: There were the complaints from Black women that W.E.B. DuBois only used light-skinned women with naturally wavy hair as cover models for Crisis magazine. There was Walter White of the NAACP abandoning his Black wife of over twenty years in favor of a White South African woman. There was Elijah Muhammad cheating on Sis. Clara Muhammad with dozens (if not hundreds) of light-skinned women (and allegedly, some underage girls). Min. Ishmael Muhammad, who is Elijah Muhammad’s illegitimate son by one of these light-skinned secretaries, is married to a Mexican woman.

[Some readers may wonder why I often cite Elijah Muhammad’s statements. I do so because I can appreciate the many things that he was correct about, without hero-worshipping him. He was a vile and corrupt individual who was also brave. He personally went to prison over his refusal to register for the draft or fight in the US Army. He was also wise about many things. Especially about the peculiar psychology of most African-Americans. Again, adult ways of understanding have to consider nuances.]

Oh, there was the Black Panthers’ focus on having sex with non-Black women, as well as their extreme misogyny. (See Bobby Seale’s autobiography A Lonely Rage for the details of the Panther leadership’s exploits while chasing non-Black women. ) There’s Rev. “Baby Daddy” Jesse Jackson who cheated on his wife. There was Ben Chavis paying out NAACP money to settle a sexual harassment suit from a female employee. There was Kweisi Mfume’s scandal at the NAACP involving his womanizing.

When you know the personal histories of the NAACP’s Black male leaders, and the silly Black women who have worked for the NAACP (like the ones who physically fought over Kweisi Mfume’s affections), then you’re not surprised by anything that organization does. This includes the annual madness of the NAACP Image Awards. This includes the West Palm Beach, Florida NAACP chapter’s original support of some of the now-convicted Dunbar Village gang-rapists. [For those who don’t know, the Dunbar Village gang-rapists were a group of Black youth who gang-raped a Black woman and forced her at gunpoint to perform oral sex on her 12-year old son. The mother told police that, before leaving, the assailants looked for a lighter to set the two on fire but couldn’t find one. Most of the approximately ten assailants involved in this crime against humanity are still roaming free. Yet another bitter fruit of the “stop snitching” culture among African-Americans.]

From the beginning, most African-American organizations have been rotten to the core when it comes to Black women’s interests. Meanwhile, many Black women blindly support these organizations because we believe in the historical fairy tales that have been woven around them and their past leaders.
The modern list of episodes showing that Black men and women are not all in it together is nearly endless. But this pattern of Black men not “being in it together” with Black women didn’t start with the modern era. There’s an episode I came across while reading a biography of 19th century Black Nationalist, Martin Delany. The author mentions some quotes from Mr. Delany’s letters about Liberia:

“While he hailed the Liberian Declaration of Independence a week later, Delany declared that he regarded, ‘Liberia in its present state as having thwarted the design of the original schemers, the slaveholding founders, which evidently was intended, as they frequently proclaimed it, as a receptacle for the freed colored people and superannuated slaves of America; but we view it in the light of a source of subsequent enterprise, which no colored American should permit himself to lose sight of.’

The reverse of the coin? The head of the judicial system in independent Liberia was a Judge Benedict who was ‘a person of no force of character or fixed moral principles.’ It seems he had bought his wife out of slavery, and when she objected to his taking some mistresses, tried to sell her back into slavery.” Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism, pgs. 100-101 (emphasis added).

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL WHEN IT’S HYPOCRITICAL AND EXPLOITATIVE

When these sorts of things are mentioned, there are many African-American men who will enter the conversation to proclaim that “the personal is not political.” I’ve noticed some patterns to how many Black men use this slogan. Their use of this slogan is selective. The personal is not political as long as the “personal” activity is: (1) something that many Black men have done or are doing; (2) something that many Black men want to do; or (3) something the individual Black man using the “personal is not political” slogan can envision himself doing.

It’s amusing to see how quickly the personal becomes political for many African-American men when the “personal” activity doesn’t fit within these parameters. The primary example of this is anything involving gay men. A textbook example of this was what happened to Bayard Rustin. From what I recall, other Black male leaders drummed Bayard Rustin out of the SCLC because he was gay. Bayard Rustin’s personal life became extremely political for these other Black men at the time. Womanizers such as Adam Clayton Powell did not allow Bayard Rustin’s personal life to remain apolitical. Other Black male civil rights leaders, many of whom were serial adulterers, gave Bayard Rustin the bum’s rush out of the mainstream civil rights movement. Even though Mr. Rustin had a lot to do with organizing Dr. King’s March on Washington. And the excuse of “he was setting up the movement for blackmail” doesn’t apply because so did these other Black male leaders with their extramarital affairs!

It’s obvious that this common Black male activist behavior was hypocritical. Here’s why it was also exploitative. African-American women were encouraged to support Black male activists for the goal of advancing the African-American collective (which includes Black women and Black children). Not for the goal of supporting womanizing Black male activists so they can sexually exploit Black women. Not for the goal of supporting Black male activists so these men can take the resources gathered with Black women’s help to the non-Black women that many of them chased and married. These particular scenarios do not advance Black women’s interests. Nor do they reflect reciprocity.

PUT AWAY HISTORICAL FAIRY TALES AND OTHER CHILDISH THINGS

Some fairy tales are harmless. Others can have extremely destructive effects on the lives of those who believe them. African-American women are facing unprecedented circumstances and can’t afford to believe in historical fairy tales. Black women especially can’t afford to limit their marriage options based on fairy tales. And there’s no excuse for believing in fairy tales considering the information that’s available if you look for it. Let go of the historical fairy tales. Stop learning our people’s history from historical novels and television miniseries. Take the time to read the historical research that has already been done. You might feel differently about some issues after doing so.

COMING NEXT IN BOOK REVIEWS

The next book review will feature the memoir Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom by Janet Hubert, an actress who starred on the 1990s television show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. You can also buy the book directly from Ms. Hubert’s website.

March 2, 2010   51 Comments