Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Black Love Renaissance

I absolutely LOVE this picture of Barack and Michelle. No matter what your political leanings are towards Obama,  his health care plan, the Noble Peace prize, the Afghanistan war, etc. there is no denying  that the Obamas have brought Black Love back on the scene!     In this  picture we can see the tenderness in his embrace, the joy in Michelle's face and we know that it's about to be ON after this shoot. Can't you just imagine what that brother whispered in his wife's  ear!?!  WOW, it must be nice!!!!!

Well it's almost February and Black Love Day (aka Valentines Day) is almost here.  Being the genuine "Love Ambassador" that I am....I have decided to put out a nationwide call for a Black Love Renaissance in 2010.  That's right, I want to bring that blue-lights-in-the-basement-hugged-up-in-the-corner kind of Black Love back. Let me explain..........
  • The kind of love that makes you want to cook your man some hand picked collard greens, fresh skillet fried corn, fried chicken dipped in buttermilk and then bake a 3-layer chocolate cake from SCRATCH!
  • That kind of love that makes you sing a Luther song at the top of your lungs to your lover; even knowing darn well that you CAN'T sing.   
  • The kind of love that your man can stand across the room and give you that look which causes you to go get your purse, tell your friends bye and leave your OWN birthday party.
  • The kind of love that will make you TURN-OFF the game during the play-offs (And yes, brothers this has been documented to have happened before. I know it's hard to believe, right? ) 
  • The kind of love that makes you have flashbacks about the night before while you are in the middle of your presentation at work.
  • The kind of love that makes you go in the closet/bathroom to call your girlfriend just to say, " I absolutely LOVE This Man!" (Some of y'all know exactly what I'm talking about)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, the kind of love that makes you stop in the middle of whatever you are doing and PRAISE God for blessing you with your soul-mate. 
Well, I am quite sure you get the point. In 2010, Black Love is making a comeback (not that it ever really left) but it has taken a couple of hits in recent years.  Black Love has been the key to our survival as a community.  Of course, black love also encompasses loving our families, loving our culture, loving our selves, loving our community,etc.  However, in this article I am focusing on the cornerstone of black love in our community; black couples.  Below I have listed 5 simple strategies for couples to get started in re-igniting the Black Love Renaissance movement in our community.   

 #1. Dust off the albums and bring out the black love classics

Luther, Donnie Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, the Isley Brothers, Anita Baker, must I say MORE?  I haven't seen the actual studies to support this yet, but I know from first-hand experience that there is some type of chemical reaction that happens to black people when we listen to black love songs.  We start getting starry eyed, our hips start swaying, brothers' voices start getting deeper, sisters start batting  eye-lids, and then some type of MAGNETIC pull starts bringing couples closer together!  It's true. Don't take my word, just try it!   

#2. Talk to each other; not at each other. Talk.

Communication is key to helping couples understand each other.  True understanding brings security; security heightens intimacy; intimacy strengthens relationships.  Please don't try to read your partner's mind unless you are a certified "mind-reader"! What would our community look like if we stopped assuming that our understanding of male and female roles was the same as our mate? Matter of fact, just stop assuming that your concept of  the other sex's role is even right or practical. We are ALL trying to figure this thing called life out. Take some time to learn, discover, discuss and define your roles together!  Healthy relationships seek to make each person feel like their voice, feelings and opinions matter. Stop assuming and start talking.

#3. Please TOUCH each other more!

Scientific studies show that human beings require touch to grow, develop and even survive during the development stages. Human touch is necessary and critical for the survival of a healthy relationship.  Sometimes when we are having challenges in our relationships the first thing we take away from our mates is the gift of touch. We can also give off energy that sends out a message to our partner that "touching me is not allowed".  Yet we will turn around and complain of a lack of intimacy. Touch is a form of intimacy and is not limited to pre-sex. Try touching your partner more while watching TV, cooking, driving, etc.  Just a gentle touch can say to your partner,  "Baby, I love you and I care about you."   

#4. Support your mate spending time with others.
Give your partner the space and support to spend time with friends and family even without you.  Gender bonding is important for your mate. In some indigenous cultures, gender groups go off for months together leaving their spouses behind for greater gender bonding. Let's respect that the brothers may just want to chill together, watch the game, eat some snacks and have a couple of laughs without us sometimes.  And Brothers, it's equally as important for sisters to spend time with our girlfriends in a "man free zone". Fortifying yourself helps to fortify the overall relationship.

#5. Pray together.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God!  God's love is never changing and is all encompassing. Regardless of what's going on with your relationship the foundation of any true love IS God.  As you and your partner place God as the core of your relationship, all types   of possibilities can open up in your thinking.  Love is about surrendering and not controlling. (Whew, I just stepped on my own toes that time!) God's love can sustain those that HE has brought together. As the scripture says--Love Never Fails!

*BONUS TIP: Get Out of the BOX!!!!!

If you haven't seen Avatar yet, please go to the movies.  Personally this is one of my all time favorite love movies.  I think this movie is packed with so many lessons that can be applied to our  love relationships.  The beauty of the movie is that the main characters are driven by their love for nature, love for their community, love for the wonders of life, love for adventure, and ultimately their love for each other.  The ultimate lesson I got from the movie is that we can chart our own course in our relationships.  We can teach each other, we can learn from each other, we can follow each other and we can both lead each other.  Sometimes chartering a new course requires adapting new methods and letting go of preconceived notions about relationships.  If you want better results in your love experience, then  maybe you should try a different approach.  Stop judging, start loving and GET OUT OF THE BOX!  

Stay tuned for A Black Love Renaissance Part II........

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love Unrealized: Desiring a Father's Love

About a week ago I was listening to Steve Harvey's morning radio show in which  he and his co-host "Nephew Tommy" staged a phone prank on the father of one their co-workers.  The  phone prank consisted of "Nephew Tommy" (pretending to be a 47 year old work-release  felon at a local college) calling the father of a 23 year old young woman to inform him of plans to wed his young daughter.   After the first 10 minutes of the prank call, the very reserved and corporate-trained African-American  father quickly morphed into a cussin'-meet-me-in-the-street-bout'-it-bout it-Daddy that was about to kick some butt!   

The phone exchange was absolutely hilarious!  Although it was quite entertaining, I thought it was particularly remarkable how protective and extremely endearing the father was of his daughter.  Clearly, this young woman was "daddy's little girl!" Even as I laughed myself to tears listening to the prank call, I thought about how blessed the young woman was to be so loved by her father. As I reflected on the dynamics of that particular father-daughter relationship; I was led to reflect on my own relationship with my father (or should I say the lack thereof)

We often hear about the impact of a father's absence on a male child but I believe it is equally  as difficult for a girl child.   I feel that it is equally as damaging but perhaps it manifests itself differently.  For years, I have personally struggled with a deep sense of loss due to my father's absence in my life.  Because I have always had a strong male figure in the home, I really thought that I was free 0f any "daddy's issues." It has taken me years to finally recognize how my father's absence has impacted my life and relationships. It's only been recently in the last two years that I could even acknowledge that I had "daddy's issues".  But acknowledging my issue was just the beginning; it has taken me 15 additional months to build up the courage to face this issue head-on and seek to begin a process to heal from my past pain. 

Below I have listed the 7 reasons why I have decided to begin the work towards healing myself  of "daddy's issues" and work on building a relationship with my estranged Dad.  

Reasons Why I Want To Heal From My Daddy's Issues....

Reason #1: I want a full and liberated life without fear!
Although my life has been extremely blessed and full, I have struggled with a deep sense of loss and fear of rejection due to my father's absence in my life. It has taken me 35 years to finally recognize how this has impacted my romantic relationships, my need for constant approval and acceptance and even my determination as a single mother to make sure that my only son would have a relationship with his father- at whatever expense to myself- just so my child would have his father in his life.

Reason #2: I want to heal from my fear of abandonment and stop feeling unworthy and stuck!
Most recently, I have discovered that some of my feelings of being stuck have result from a tremendous fear of abandonment. For many years, I have hated being by myself for long periods of time. I have loathe the idea of being alone, being still and being in silence.

Growing up I always had a great relationship with my father's family. I never understood why my father had abandoned me nor why it seemed as if he didn't love me like his own family loved me.  How could he not love me, EVERYBODY loved me, right? But deep in my heart I felt that his absence was some indictment that I was not good enough, lovable enough, or pretty enough to be a "daddy's little girl".  As an adult, I  now recognize that my father's absence didn't have anything to do with my value.  His actions had more or less to do with the bitterness of my parent's break-up that may have caused my father to distance himself from me.   However, as a child  I couldn't process that reality.  As a little girl, I assumed that I was rejected because something was wrong with me and those feelings followed me even into adulthood. For most of my life, I have sought out acceptance and oftentimes the validation of others.

Reason #3: I want to embrace a Love Supreme with my partner without a constant fear of  rejection!
I am an "EXTREME" romantic!  When all is said and done, I truly believe in a romantic love that is magical, passionate, spiritual and secure. It is my desire to attract that type of love in my life. Therefore, I deeply desire to repair my relationship with my father so that I can move beyond my struggle with feelings of unworthiness as well as my fear of rejection. Over the years, I have guarded my heart and took an approach to relationships as "love them and leave them first ."  My thinking was grounded in my fear of rejection.  I positioned myself in my relationships to "leave them before they leave you".

The blessing of my life is that God has always placed great men in my life.   I have dated some wonderful men (well..maybe 1-2 of them were busters) but overall my ex's are  very good men.  However, the common denominator in my past boyfriends is that they all have been emotional unavailable to be in a marriage. Based on my belief in the law of attraction, I must accept the fact that there is obviously something in me that attracts that kind of energy in my life?  I believe that we attract our reflection in many ways, therefore I have to take ownership for the part in me that is also afraid of emotional commitment.  I  will no longer be a slave to a love that is based on "he accepts me" but I want a love that is rooted in fearlessness, truth and a willingness to grow together.

Reason #4: I desire to take my life's work to the next level and live a life of truth!
I have been a social justice activist and leader for  more than 20 years. My life's work has been dedicated to helping those that have been marginalized and broken yet at the same time I have discovered my limitations in this work due to my own brokenness.  As I grow and develop to the next level personally, I know it will impact my life's work.

Reason #5: I want to move out of my state of self-denial and anger.
Two years ago as I was listening to a Mary J. Blige song in my car in which she sang about her brokenness  from not having a father.  As I listened to the song, I arrogantly thought to myself, "Why would a grown, successful woman like Mary really worry about that at this age? C'mon Mary you are just TOO old for that!" I thought to myself, "Why do women worry about having a father?  Well, I am glad that I certainly don't have that issue." Ironically, two days later I received an out-of-the-blue phone call from my father (up until that time had he NEVER called me and I had only seen three times in my life)- informing me that he was coming to Atlanta to visit me. Oh boy! did the universe open Pandora's box and FORCE me to face my biggest fear. I had "Daddy's Issues". This interaction with my Dad uncovered an emotional issue that  was buried so deep that I denied having it in the first place. I really didn't know that I had "Daddy's issues".  I know that at this stage in my life, I want to forgive my father so that I can move forward and replace years of anger with the power of love.

Reason #6: I want to feel like Daddy's Girl before my life journey is complete! Needless to say, I think all girls want a father's love and approval. All of us imagine having a Daddy to walk us down the aisle, to screen our dates, or make us feel protected. As old as I am ,I still desire to feel the love from a father. Most importantly, I desire to fill this emptiness so I can expand my love for myself.

When I was young my father's family would show me pictures of him on visits down south with my sister that was a only a year older than I. Although I pretended to enjoy seeing the pictures of my father and sister, the images were actually very painful for me to see. I remember thinking to myself, "Why does he not want to see me? What' wrong with me?" In some way or another I think that family experience has had me continuing to ask that same question all of my life. "What's wrong with me?" The fact of the matter is there is nothing wrong with me, but there has been something seriously wrong with my interpretation of the experience. I now recognize this is part of the foundation of my faulty thinking around feeling stuck and unworthy. 

Finally, my understanding of being "daddy's little girl" has shifted. and expanded.  My TRUE father is really God.  I am a child of the living God. In the midst of a brokenness, due to my earthly father's absence,  God 's love offers me true acceptance and liberation.  However, I know that my relationship with my father mpacts me greatly.  There is a wound in my heart that must be healed. Fortunately, I feel that as I learn to forgive and love my biological father it will strengthen me spiritually, thus deepen my relationship with my heavenly father God.  Forgiveness opens a space for healing to take place.

Reason #7 I want some sense of closure from my childhood pain!
I feel that developing a relationship with my father will allow my spirit to feel more liberated in loving myself as well as helping me to be more open to embrace the love of a man. I know that it is time for me to resolve my feelings of brokenness, rejection and abandonment from my father's absence. I know that this relationship isn't my only struggle but it is may be able to open up my process of self-healing since it is the issue that I have feared the greatest.

In 2010, I plan to live a life of truth and liberation.  Truth for me means dealing with my life's challenges as well as the blessings.  I hope that maybe as I  share my deepest fears and vulnerabilities in such a raw and public way this process will help me transition my life to that which I truly desire-a life without fear.

Maybe I will discover that it's not that my father didn't or doesn't love me but it just may happen to be -A LOVE UNREALIZED. 

I will keep you posted as things develop.... 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Fate of the Sisters!

Recently a study was released that stated more than 42% of African-American women were single and unmarried.  To make matters even worse, the study also gave statistical data that many black women had a slim chance of ever marrying due to the shortage of available African-American men.  Now being that I am one of those women included in the study data (you, single, never married, and pushing 40) this information can be rather disturbing and disheartening.  Like so many other women that were noted in the study,  I truly desire to find my soul-mate and become happily married.  But also like many of my sisters, I have consistently had to face the harsh reality that "there are FAR more of us actually ready and available for marriage" than our male counterparts. Are we really shocked by the study?

Since my college days, I have always heard the (16:1, 13:1, 10:1, etc.) ratio of black women to black men in black urban centers like Atlanta, DC, Baltimore and Chicago.  There were several brothers that I knew who claimed to have chosen certain HBCU colleges based on the "high ratio" of the sisters on the various campuses.  Matter of fact, people have advertised parties, special events and night clubs based on the abundance of women.  Even the infamous FREAKNIK attracted hundreds of young brothers to Atlanta because of the high sister ratio. (If you're under 25, you're probably not familiar with the Freaknik...but if you consider the name...well..... you get the point)

Unfortunately, most single sisters know that  "it's hard out here for a sister". The study all but confirms that  our men are facing extremely challenging circumstances.  We also know that the impact of this reality poses a special and serious hardship for our entire community.  Our families are suffering as a result.  However, we have lived in this country long enough to know that if black people were to base our faith and hopes on some statistical study there would have never been a Prince inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame (if you really know me, you know why I choose Prince), nor would Oprah be the richest woman in America, nor would Barack Hussien Obama be the President of the United States!  Quite frankly, the stats in this country don't support those accomplishments and are never in our favor. However, somehow WE keep beating the dire prognosis.  So what can we learn from this?

The fact of the matter is that our whole existence as black people in America has been based on perseverance, faith and resilience. The shortage of available black men is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet marriages are still being planned, babies are still being born and folks just keep on falling in love.  We will make it through. I don't know the solution to increasing the number of available black men in my generation.  The truth of the matter is that it's probably too late.  We can't make a "magic number of men" appear that should have been raised, prepared and nurtured more than 30-40 years ago!  But we can help future numbers. Below are 3 quick pick "Tosha Thoughts" that may help us turn things around to collectively increase the number of men for our daughters. 

#1. Parents please raise your sons to honor family, love themselves and respect our women. 
Special Note ONLY for the sister in the love triangle right now: Even if that chick is getting on your very last nerve...just don't call her a h*, b#%@h, skank or any other degrading names in front of Lil Man. Just Don't Do It! Take a deep breath, get a massage at Kimochi Spa and get your nails done.  You will feel better... I promise you!

#2. Brothers, stop talking about those boys on the corner don't want to be anybody. 
Besides, how do you know that? Have you asked "any of them" anything lately? It amazes me on how many "so-called successful" brothers will easily write off and marginalize young men in our community.  So Bro, help out the sisters and mentor a young man. Your daughters and future grand-daughters will appreciate it; they need you to seed into some male child other than your own son.

#3. Sisters, stop being ONE of his many women.
Y'all know most of our men are not paying attention to a study. Stop letting them know how desperate we can get. I don't think they would even know that the male-female ratio was so high if ALL of the sisters took a "Support for the Sisterhood Oath" that stated:  "I will solemnly swear that I will not participate in any  love relationship involving more than two people including all marriages and committed relationships. I also declare that after six months of any type of courtship, the man will have to make his intentions to marry me be known or face the consequences of never seeing me again.  Additionally, I also promise to participate in any collective nation-wide "love shut-down" actions that the sisters feel are reasonably necessary to get our men back in line."

Seriously sisters, as much as I love the brothers (and Lord knows I do...the way they walk, that bass in the voice, the glistening sweat from basketball, the way they smell, the way they think....Denzel....Dwayne Wade.....WHAT?!!? I love the BROTHERS!) yet my desire for companionship and true love is actually greater. Of course, I am believing in God that my husband will be a brother and that we will squeeze a little chocolate girl child (to be named Princess) on this earth while I'm still on the fertility clock. However, I have opened my spirit and mind to ask the universe to lead me to a beautiful man that will enjoy and share the rest of this beautiful life journey with me. I am no longer debating loyalty to race vs.  relationship or form vs. substance. I know the substance of what I want. The benefit of age is wisdom..and I finally know the evidence of a GOOD MAN! Most importantly, I am no longer going to make my companionship decisions based on my fear vs. my faith.  I choose faith. I truly believe that God is moving me closer to my love supreme. 

Soooo sisters, while I appreciate Beyonce's Single Ladies theme song, I ain't trying to keep singing that tune much longer! As I pondered on this topic, I did the math and realized that there are currently more than 6 billion people in the world!  Let's say only a little less than half of them are men, another large portion are too young, another portion simply aren't available, and another portion "JUST AIN'T RIGHT"....well that still leaves us with at least 1-2 billion male choices.  As for me, I just need MY ONE. That's it...just one!

Sisters, so what is our fate?  Fact is this is a new reality that means we are faced with a new set of circumstances and new choices. However, sisters are the masters of being resilient, adaptable,and full of faith. Maybe more faith is required of us during these circumstances.  Perhaps we need to believe more, invest more, seek more, heal more and work more to bring the kind of love we want into our lives.  And the Brothers are going to have to STEP-UP and work a little extra hard as well. For the sake of  love....I am willing to do the work... because I desire the mutual reward.  As the scripture says, "To whom much is given; much is required."

So c'mon girl, don't get discouraged by some depressing study. Somebody is always studying us and trying to tell us our fate. God is good because he's given us the power to determine our OWN fate! Sisters, let's shift, adjust and get ready for the ride. 

AT THE END OF THE DAY........ it only takes ONE!   I AM A SOLDIER OF LOVE.