International Women’s Day: Wakanda and the Vision for Women in Africa

The female warriors of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje in Marvel’s 2018 film, “Black Panther,” are revered for their strength and beauty. This portrayal of these women has been heralded for its empowering message to little girls, particularly little Black girls.

Based on the recounts of many online, viewers have been emotionally swept by the images of bold, brave, kick-ass women, leaders in their own right. And although this is a powerful experience to have, we mustn’t forget that it isn’t real. Wakanda is a vision of an African nation we want to birth, not an African nation that currently exists.

“The harvest is now. We lack nothing. We are here and we are ready to determine our OWN destiny.”

And then Danai ended her speech with commanding us ONWARD in Wakandan like she would the Dora Milaje and so I am now inconsolable. #BlackWomeninHollywood

— Sylvia Obell (@SylviaObell) March 1, 2018

It’s true that many African cultures are perceived to be matriarchal, and certainly many follow a matriarchal lineage when it comes to status and ethnic identity. However, the status of women all over the continent is a far cry from those of the fabled Dora Milaje.

In 2018, women in Africa suffer higher rates of poverty, are significantly less educated than their male peers, hold far less political positions than men, and lack access to capital, a vital component for economic empowerment. Violence against women is rampant, including female genital mutilation, and little girls are still married off as child brides in alarming numbers.

Continue reading “International Women’s Day: Wakanda and the Vision for Women in Africa”

The Sweetness of Social Entrepreneurship

Who doesn’t love chocolate? This yummy confection has been driving us mad for eons and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Chocolate is so yummy that when you meet someone who doesn’t like it, it’s enough to make you wonder if you should like them. It’s serious business both culturally and economically.

Source: Oxfam International

Few of us probably know that 90% of the chocolate we consume comes from cocoa grown in African countries. However, when we think about chocolate most of us think about European countries. Swiss, Dutch, and German chocolates are considered by many to be the best. It’s very easy for many Westerners to shell out $2 for a good chocolate bar and not even realize that $2 is far less than many people involved in growing and harvesting cocoa earn per day. As a matter of fact, many are living below $1 a day. To make matters worse, the chocolate industry has historically been wrought with human rights abuses, including child labor, and indentured servitude. (See Sackett, Marjie. “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa.” Human Rights & Human Welfare. 1 March 2014) Continue reading “The Sweetness of Social Entrepreneurship”

Blackout: Solar Eclipse 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

I’m starting this post in the middle of my morning, waiting for the eclipse to come and remind us all why nature is totally amazing. To say that I’m excited about the eclipse is an understatement. I don’t really know why. I just am! It might be that this is something so rare and special that it only happens once in a lifetime, or it might be that I’m free to enjoy it on my own terms. I didn’t have to work, I didn’t have to get permission from anyone to go and enjoy it. I woke up and decided that I was going to an eclipse party, and I did. Continue reading “Blackout: Solar Eclipse 2017”

Girls Trip: An Incredible Reminder of the Value of Sisterhood


Fresh from the tattoo parlor, flaunting my first ink, 18 years old, and frantically waiting for my childhood friends to come visit me in Hotlanta for Freaknik ’93: I was filled with complete bliss. I was free, I was happy, and I was ready to party! This is but one of the memories that come to mind when I think of my college years. I was always a little awkward in my teenage years. I had a crew that I hung around but no one that I ever felt comfortable being my true self with. For me, there was something liberating about the independence of being on my own, far from my parents, and in charge of my own life. It took a while for me to settle into my new skin, which is why I was still waiting for childhood friends to come hang out with me, but it didn’t last long.

College was a time of self-exploration and a time for bonding with women who would forever be near to my heart. By the time Freaknik ’95 rolled around, I was firmly settled into what I like to call the Atlanta Bad Girls Crew. I had my circle: ladies that knew me, good, bad, and ugly; friends that were daily fixtures in almost every area of my life. School issues, boy issues, daddy issues, you name it; they were there. When it came time to party like rock stars – yep, they were there for that too. Little did I know, it would be the last phase of my life when I would have the opportunity to grow AND learn, AND share in such a way as to produce the types of bonds I shared with my girls.

Girls Trip centers around four college friends, who have drifted apart over the years, and decide to take a trip together down to the Essence Fest in New Orleans. Once all four are reunited, the drama quickly ensues and so does the viewer’s emotional roller coaster.

“When four lifelong friends—Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish—travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush. James Lopez, head of motion pictures for Will Packer Productions, and Preston Holmes, executive produce.”

This movie had me so enthralled with each character. I laughed, cried, felt on-the-edge-of-my-seat rage, as well as flushed with lust drooling over the hot male characters on screen. I was taken back through memories of times forgotten by the buffet of cameos from bands and performers that provided the soundtrack of my youth. I almost got out of my seat when New Edition came on the screen, and let’s not forget Doug E. Fresh. Talk about “Teach Me How To Dougie!” Smoldering chocolate men, with velvet voices: yes, please!

Girls Trip reminded me of just how meaningful these times were and how special the women are that shared them with me. Most importantly, it reminded me of why it’s important to maintain these bonds, no matter where life takes me.

I was fortunate to be invited to a private prescreening by Universal Pictures and I am beyond grateful because I probably would have missed out on an incredibly amazing film. It’s no secret that I am no lover of comedy flicks. As a matter of fact, I avoid them like my life depends on it. I’m a notorious action junkie and especially have a thing for movies that contain shootouts in space. Girls Trip was a movie that I really thought I would hate. You can’t imagine my surprise to find myself sitting on the edge of my seat grinning from ear-to-ear through almost all of it. Girls Trip was just the right dose of funny, hard-hitting laugh out loud at just the right moments, and snicker under your breath funny at other moments. It had enough slapstick physical comedy to keep you on edge without feeling campy. Just when you think a character is going to seriously injure herself with some crazy antic, she gets up and the whole theater laughs with her.

Girls Trip was definitely funny, no question! However, the icing on the cake was that it oozed with positive Girl Power and left you with an “I am woman, hear me roar” rejuvenated zeal to go forth and conquer the world. I could probably write an entire book about how much value this movie will bring to any viewer. It’s one of those powerfully moving films that sort of sneaks up on you. I can honestly say the trailer does not even begin to express how good this film is and why I gladly recommend that all my readers go see it.

Girls Trip will be released July 21! Get tickets now! 

The Right to be Unpretty

For years my social media feed was a stream of nothing more than pic after pic of me screaming, “I’m pretty look at me and click like.” It occurred to me today when I was looking at my female cousins’ feeds that this is the same for almost all of them. I asked myself, “Why are we so consumed with having random people in the cyber sphere validate our beauty?”
All of my life I’ve taken great pleasure in being “a pretty girl.” I light up every time someone says to me, “You look good.” And, I dedicate a great deal of my time every day to making sure I look good. I have a beauty regimen that takes no less than an hour at night and an hour in the morning. The morning regimen can take as much as two hours depending on what I decided to do with my hair. I work out religiously (dedicating about 2 hours per work out, 5 days a week) and feel like crap when I fall off the wagon. I monitor every drop of food that goes into my body and truth be told it really is more about how I look than my health.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think our bodies are important and maintaining it is vital to being our best selves. However, why we do what we do is equally important. So the question I find myself asking is, “Are we women striving to be pretty because we think we are obligated to be?”

“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend / spouse / partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” —Erin McKean

When I don’t feel like I’m looking good, either my face has a blemish, I’ve gained a few pounds, I don’t really like my outfit, I chose the wrong shade of lipstick, my hair is too short, whatever…it completely throws off my entire day. I find that I am easily angered, I find little pleasure in the people around me, I have little motivation to do my work. There have even been days when I have refused to leave the house because I felt hopelessly unpretty! Nonsense right. I know this intellectually but there is a definite gap between what I know and how I feel and act.
So the question is why do we torture ourselves when we know better. I was raised to value my looks highly. Beauty in my family is very much an indicator of significance (although no one would admit it). Who has the lightest skin? Who has the straightest hair? Who has the roundest butt? Who has the smallest waist? Who has the straightest nose? All these questions and many many more have surrounded me my entire life. They are sometimes directly stated and other times snuck in with innuendo. “Have you seen your cousin’s baby? She’s dark but she’s pretty!”
As I grow older (almost the young age of 41), I find that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to, my skin seems to have a mind of its own (dry over here, acne over there, wtf) and the clothes I want to wear don’t always sit quite right on my changing body (squats are a must past 30 if you dare wear jeggings). The pressure of being compared to girls 20 years my junior is very real. And I’m now asking myself, “To what end does it even matter?” For who am I working so hard to be pretty and why?
As I continue on this path of introspection, I hope the answer leads me to accept that it is okay to not be pretty all the time. That I can walk out the door without full makeup and if I gain a few pounds I don’t have to feel like an utter failure in life. Make no mistake I value every bit of me, inside and out. I believe in being fit, in carrying myself with pride and dignity, and always putting my best foot forward. I just know that for me it must be a choice. It can’t be a societal mandate ushering the terms of my compliance. I can’t continue to live my life as if I’m obligated to be “a pretty girl.”
Well, that’s my rant for today!