The Goddess Walk and MORE!!!

Hi Folks!  I’m organizing the 2nd Goddess Walk an Anti-Street Harassment Rally.

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SATURDAY AUGUST 24th 

FULTON PARK

BED-STUY, BROOKLYN

12pm-4pm 

*walk Starts at 1pm

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO

 

A little Background: I started this Blog & all of the events related to it in response to my personal need to address the damaging effects racial stereotypes had on my sexuality as a Black woman.  I realized these stereotypes even played a role in how I was harassed on the street.  Because I aslo Identify as a Queer Black woman, when I decided to dress in a way that was non- gender conforming, the harassment I received changed as well.  From being physically assaulted on the street, to threats of rape & even death.  I simply refused to be afraid in my own neighborhood anymore.  This walk is for all who are down for the cause of course, But I stress that it is Anti-Street Harassment rally for Black Women & LGBTQ folk & our Allies:)  That detail is important to me, I can only trust that folks will understand.

WAIT, THERE”S MORE….

I’ll also be organizing a few events in relation to anti-street harassment leading up to the Goddess Walk.  Including TWEET CHATS,  Collecting Photos &  Stories of women on the street.  Details COMING SOON!



 A few pics from last year’s Goddess Walk:

Goddess Walk 2012

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THE GODDESS WALK

Since my last post I have been practicing focusing on my strengths and the truths about myself, rather than on the worry and angst of possible street harassment.  I noticed that it hasn’t happened as much.  Perhaps because writing that post allowed me to release a lot of the fear and frustration I was holding around the issue.  As I continue to stay mindful of how I choose to operate in this world, which is as a Goddess!  Free of stereotypes, labels, boxes, or restrictions on my sexuality whether in my community or simply walking down the street.  I invite Black women, LGBTQ folk and our allies to walk in solidarity & sisterhood for RESPECT in the streets & END STREET HARASSMENT!  Join me for:

THE GODDESS WALK

SATURDAY JULY 14th at 12pm

~FULTON PARK~

BROOKLYN NY

  Participants are encouraged to *Dress in Whatever* makes them feel like a Goddess.

Bring ROSES (we’ll drop the rose petals along our walk:) Signs, Posters, Banners that EXPRESS your desire to be respected regardless of your gender, race, color, or sexual orientation!!!  We will start our walk in Fulton park at 12pm, then walk through the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn.  Following the march there will be Spoken WORD, Live DRUMMING, SINGING, DANCING, & Small Group Self -Defense Demonstrations in the park!

*FULTON PARK *

1691 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11233

NEAREST TRANSIT: A,C  to UTICA AVE

FREE EVENT

Street Harassment & Race: A Sliding Scale

Is it just me or has street harassment reached an all time high?!  Granted, as women we learn pretty early on that men will “cat call” us at any given time they deem appropriate once we’ve walked out of our homes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in the car at a red light with your mom, or if you’re a mother with your child in hand, at foot, in stroller, or on back, these factors will not deter some men from their quest to get your attention.   Unfortunately,  it has become common place that cat calling or street harassment is something that as women we “have” to deal with, preferably in silence.  Those of us who identify as LGBTQ are also subject to street harassment, especially if we refuse to wear clothes that are gender specific.  I personally experienced the most vicious street harassment, as a queer woman of color.  From threats of rape & even death threats simply because I was walking with my partner.

Because the disrespect of women, especially Black women and LGBTQ persons is so widely accepted in our society, this treatment of us is normalized.  All you have to do is turn on your  TV,or listen to songs on the radio.

My encounters with street harassment have ranged from the laughable to emotionally crippling.  Take today for instance, when a guy decides to tell me,

“You are very attractive but  need to do 7 sit ups a day to be fine, especially since the summer is coming up.”

  Now, this ridiculous comment was meant to shame me for not acknowledging his numerous advances while waiting in line to get my food.  Even though I was upset in the moment, I categorize this type of harassment as laughable.  Mainly because the perpetrator himself was toothless, well at least  all of his front teeth were gone, he had a pot belly, his locs were dirty, and he had B.O.  I need you to resemble Tyson Beckford if you’re going to attempt to judge my physique!  Even then, you still have NO right!   And not to toot my own horn, but TOOT:

Regardless of my physique though, I had to put this guy in his place.  Especially, since I decided this year to stop & respond to the “cat calls”, obscene comments, & loud kissing projected in my direction as a part of my healing process to reclaiming my sexuality.

“Excuse me what did you say to me?!  NO, you need to do 7 sit ups a day!  I’m fine, I don’t need your approval!  And, Why would you say that to anyone?  Especially a woman!  Learn to respect yourself and women because you obviously don’t know how!”

I walked away slowly, or maybe it just felt like I was in slow motion, when you’re fuming with rage time seems to stand still!   Either way, he never said another word.  I’ve noticed that most street harassment offenders don’t expect you to respond at all, so when you do they’re surprised.

For me, each response is a moment of unlearning for my perpetrators.  I tap into my Buddha nature (if there is any left for the day) and find compassion amidst ignorance.  I acknowledge that he has taken the easy road, eaten every spoonful of BS that’s been fed to him on the TV, radio, movie screen, about me & women who look like me.  And once my compassion has registered I explain:  “Yes I am a woman, Yes I am Black, NO I am not pleased by your lewdness, which is a lame attempt to shame me & elevate yourself.  I urge you not to believe every thought that floats through your consciousness, that is not truth.”   Although I must admit, at first it was hard.   Mainly because I didn’t know what to say.

  Besides, my intention wasn’t to add to the shaming or escalate the situation.  I just wanted to be honest and make it crystal clear that I didn’t appreciate what was said to me & at times to even offer some advice on how to acknowledge or compliment a woman in the future.  I found out about some organizations that gave really great advice on standing up for yourself and others in street harassment situations.  One org is HOLLABACK!

I also found some encouraging videos :

HEY SHORTY!  by GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY

& SHIT MEN SAY TO MEN WHO SAY SHIT TO WOMEN ON THE STREET

   Since I’ve been responding to the harassment, some men listen to what I have to say & even apologize for their behavior.  Others become even more obnoxious & vulgar, it depends on the individual.  Unfortunately, most of the harassment came from Black men no matter what borough or neighborhood I was in.  I also observed in my newly gentrified neighborhood that the white women were not receiving the same sort of harassment from Black men.  No one was calling them a bitch or threatening to steal their phones because of not responding to a “hey baby!”  It was more like, “Excuse me miss may I walk with you?   Would you mind if I got your number?”

Stop the presses, what is going on here?!  Are race & color stereotypes influencing how I am harassed too?!  I asked around and found that other Black women in the community noticed that the white women did not have to endure the same type of street harassment as they did.  And a few light-skinned Black women, depending on just how fair they were, seemed to experience “street harassment lite” as well or none at all.  I think this last observation is definitely influenced by the colorism that plagues and divides the Black community.  Which means light-skinned Black women are treated with more grace if you will, because historically they have been labeled as more desirable, attractive and delicate than dark-skinned Black women.

Spike Lee’s School Daze: WAnnabees vs Jigga- Boos

  Due to my constant battle with street harassment, I couldn’t help recall two passages from one of my favorite playwright & activist’s work, To Be Young Gifted & Black by Lorraine Hansberry.  This book has been a source of guidance and wisdom for me over the years but now more than ever!

I began to meditate on the excerpt taken from her play, A Raisin in the Sun : “measure him right child…”  Only I switch the gender pronouns for my own sake  so the line reads:

” When you start measuring somebody, measure her right child, measure her right.  Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys she come through before she got to where she is.”

I believe that the complete lack of respect for Black women, especially when we’re publicly harassed, stems from the fact that our society has never measured us right.  The image of the Black woman is continuously smeared & society has gone to great lengths in order to depict the Black woman as one unworthy of respect.

Since slavery the Black woman’s sexuality has been skewed in order to justify the abuse of her.   So I understand how much strength, courage, integrity, & character it takes not to believe the lies.  Moreover, the time, energy & dedication to unlearn something that has been ingrained in our psyches since childhood and in our society for centuries, is a full-time job in it self.  Yet, its necessary if were ever going to shift to a more balanced way of being & operating in this world.

I’ve found that being mindful of  exactly what message I’m being fed whenever I see a Black woman on-screen, in a magazine, described in songs on the radio, help me to use those moments as opportunities of unlearning.

Angry Black Woman Stereotype Super Bowl Commercial

The simple act of walking down the street as a Black woman and/or a LGBTQ person in America takes guts, takes, courage, takes heart.  My goddess it takes heart & Knowing  the truth of who you really are.  Even though the “strong Black woman” stereotype creates the idea that Black women lack the vulnerability necessary to be affected by such things.  That we can take any abuse in stride, from degrading street harassment to rape & other forms of sexual abuse, because we are that strong.  Or that LGBTQ persons somehow deserve to be harassed because folks have warped ideas of our lifestyle, categorizing us as immoral.  Thank goodness I have taken the time to measure myself right.  I understand that we have been taught to feel shame around our bodies, our sexuality, taught not to speak out when sexually abused or sexually assaulted because nothing would be done.  I have taken into account the hills & valleys Black women & LGBTQ people in this country have been through, thanks to the magnificent propaganda campaign against our very image.  Although I acknowledge that we live in a world of isms: racism, sexism, colorism, classism, along with homophobia & transphobia that make it that much more difficult to measure us right, its imperative that we do.

“…I can be coming from 8 hrs on an assembly line, or 16 hrs in Mrs. Halsey’s Kitchen.  I can be all filled up that day with three hundred years of rage so that my eyes are flashing and my flesh is trembling— and the white boys in the streets look at me & think of sex.  They look at me & that’s all they think… Baby, you could be Jesus in drag— but if you’re brown they’re sure you’re selling!”

Its heartbreaking to feel that Black men need to be included in this passage too.  Its maddening to know that someone who shares my hue, my culture, & speaks of the injustice they too are susceptible to endure on a daily basis, can’t understand the injustice they do to Black women when they harass us on the street.  But I have to measure him right too, he isn’t above being influenced by the propaganda campaign against Black women.  It’s a choice that we as individuals must make in spite of what we’ve learned consciously or subconsciously over the years, to start treating Black women & LGBTQ people with respect because we are worthy.

From EBONY MODELS

EVERYONE LOVES A BOMBSHELL… RIGHT?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “bombshell” used before in reference to a woman with lots of sex appeal and usually with the implied measurements of 34-24-36.  The term was also used to refer to “pin-up girls that were painted on the side of planes, bombers, & bombs during WWII.”  Although I don’t have those exact measurements I have been referred to as a bombshell, a brick house and other terms to describe women with my body type.  Now, thinking of the images that this term invokes; beautiful, classic pin-up girls, one would be flattered to be grouped under this popular coined phrase.  However, when you factor in color & race the term can take on a whole new meaning.  As a Black woman with this body type, I, through no fault of my own besides being born in this country where Black women rank pretty low in the hiearchy of who is valued, fall into the category of the Jezebel.

The Jezebel is one of the many stereotypes that have been ingrained into our society for centuries.  This idea of the Black woman as sexually promiscuous, out to take anyone’s man, and always open to sexual advances goes back to slavery.  It was a tactic used to create a clear distinction between the images of white & Black women.   So essentially if the white woman is considered pure, chaste, beautiful etc, then the Black woman by default is the opposite.

There are many other negative stereotypes that are associated with Black women in our society.  The mammy, the workhorse, the strong Black woman/the Angry Black woman, & the welfare mom.  Whether folks want to admit it or not these ideas are constantly reinforced in social media day after day.  Which to say the least, makes it very difficult to acknowledge any other ideas about Black women.

I also believe that body type plays a huge role when considering how Black women are stereotyped.   As I said before the bombshell is usually a more voluptuous body type, where as the mammy is often depicted as over weight and usually asexual.  These two descriptions alone can have a major effect on how the world views your sexuality and how the individual may begin to internalize their own sexuality.  If you fall under the bombshell  category as a Black woman you become by default Jezebel.

The effects for me were & still are very frustrating.  From the moment I leave my house I am confronted with being my color & my body type in a society that has severely branded my image as “BAD”.  I think that’s why it’s easier for any man and sorry to say it, but especially Black men, to yell obscenities at me whenever they feel when I walk down the street no matter how I’m dressed.  There is such little respect for Black women because of these deep-rooted, relentless stereotypes.

I started realizing how body type factored into how women are viewed, long before I considered race & color as an issue.

The confusion around my sexuality only grew the more my body changed.   In high school I went from being practically invisible until around age 16, when I stopped running track, and my body had a chance to develop.  My breasts grew to a full C-cup virtually overnight!  Everyone had something to say about my new additions:

“Your new name is echo valley AND silicone valley, people think you got breast implants over the summer.”   “You are the sex symbol of our class.”  “Does she even have on a bra?! “someone whispered during my monologue in advanced theatre class.

It was as if I became nothing more than body which was a surreal experience for a drama & latin club geek.  I was still wearing multi colored butterfly clips in my hair and uncool jeans (pleated & stone washed, YIKES!) to school, I wasn’t ready for the change.  I felt like I was on display & no one took me seriously anymore.  Secretly,  I wanted to admire my new additions too but couldn’t without feeling a sense of shame around them and the rest of my body.  To say the least I felt seriously stifled when it came to my sexuality.  It was frustrating trying to remind myself that I wasn’t a whore just because that’s what people were saying about women with my body type.

My love of the theatre & being able to feel completely free on stage allowed me to build a healthier sense of self by the time I entered college.  However, those troubling questions around one’s sexuality are always up for discussion on a college campus.  I   attended a predominantly white University.  There were 25 black people…TOTAL.   Here, I realized for the first time,that race played a huge roll in adding the extra “slut” factor to my sexual image.

I received most of the back lash around embracing my sexuality from the other Black women I encountered on campus.  Although I never really hung out with the other Black women, it was rumored at some point that I was interested in someone’s boyfriend.  I was also usually given dirty looks by the rest of the Black women, be it students or workers because of  the clothes I wore.  I remember a cafeteria worker trying her darndest to embarrass me during lunch,  “…why doesn’t she have any respect for herself, why did she come in here dressed like that, oh my goodness, and they wonder why we can’t come up in the world!”

Now let me set the scene: Florida, summer, minimum 90 degrees.  It wasn’t uncommon to see many students in swimsuits, short shorts, tank tops, or the guys running around shirtless.  I wasn’t wearing anything different from what many white women wore on a daily basis around campus, the only difference was my color/race & body type.

And secondly it was college, we all had some questionable outfits, but who cares?  I didn’t,  at least not then.  I had never felt so good about myself, my body, my life.

But by the time I left college and entered into the “real” world I noticed that how I dressed, what size I wore, how I did my hair and how I defined my sexuality did matter to other folk, a Lot.  I was publicly shamed at a poetry slam for an outfit I wore to another poetry reading earlier that week.  I was constantly being accused of trying to take someone’s man.  I began to notice every look I received from other Black women when I walked down the street, especially  if I had on any garment that accentuated my “bombshell” figure.  I became obsessed with what everyone might be thinking of me:

Should I wear this dress?  Yes its long, below the knee, but it gives me some serious cleavage and I don’t want to shame the race.  Or have people think I’m a whore.

Ok I’ll just do jeans and a t-shirt, that’s classic, all natural, acceptable right?  Well, not with your body, those huge breasts in a white t-shirt, why don’t you just write “Open for business” on the front!

Just a few of the thoughts that occupied my mind & sometimes still do.

I was beginning to HATE my body & my color again!  I wondered if white women or any other women were enduring this type of self-torture because of stereotypes.  I wanted to shout from the mountain top, “WHEN IS IT OK FOR BLACK WOMEN TO EXPRESS THEIR SEXUALITY?! I THOUGHT EVERYONE LOVES A BOMBSHELL, RIGHT???”

Wrong!  I think we like the idea of the bombshell, curvy woman with mass sex appeal & charm.  But in reality we don’t value her at all.   As women we are ridiculed and more often than not, ostracized for resembling a figure that was once glamorized.  Add in color & race and you tack on even more disdain.  Expressing your sexuality as a Black woman to me  can sometimes feel like deciding to get on one of those shoddy rides at a carnival or going to the beach for a swim after red tide: ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Luckily over the years I learned that developing a healthy sexuality is very important to becoming a whole person.  And at some point we have to learn to quiet the voices in our heads & outside, that tell us we aren’t good enough for one reason or another.  Replacing the voices with truths that are affirming.  “I love my body.  I love my color, my race.  I love the many ways I am able to express my sexuality be it through dress, hair, photography, or on stage!”  It is healthy for me do so, which may be a bombshell idea for some folk, but not to this Bombshell:)

Respect while weaved!

I noticed something very interesting this week in the realm of hair weaves;  which ones are acceptable and which ones aren’t.  I’m basing this find on my personal experience.  First and foremost as a woman I have to be prepared for any and every comment that may come my way when I decide to wear certain tresses.  For example I’ve noticed that if I have longer (14-20 inches), straight hair the “cat calls” are a lot more crude and vulgar.  However, if I wear a hair that has more of a curl to it,  the comments aren’t as rude, but imply that I’m of mixed race.  I wish I were lying but I actually have been called “Blackanese” too many times to count this week.  Perhaps it’s because my eyes have a bit of a slant to them, but I have a hunch that the texture of my hair weave factors in a bit.  The hair weave I wore recently closely resembled an afro but on a grander scale, think Erykah Badu meets Dianna Ross.  Now this hair  was BIG to say the least,  and to say it attracted attention is an understatement.  The difference between the reactions I received while wearing this hair and the other varied tremendously.  For one thing multiple women complemented me, which rarely ever happens.  And the men who did say something were respectful!  I was shocked, actually giddy with surprise.  I cracked a smile at the little victory I felt had been achieved: Respect while weaved!

Was I experiencing that black hair discrimination on a different spectrum?  The one that Essence Revealed mentioned in her blog about Black women with natural hair vs processed or weaved,  I wonder?

Earlier this week I had a wonderful conversation with some women of color that centered around hair and beauty.  I admitted my many short comings when it comes to being addicted to the weave, even at times using it as a way to feel better about my looks.  And secretly feeling better about myself if people’s comments implied that I couldn’t be just Black.  This idea that being just Black wasn’t enough, came from so many different experiences in my life it would take the rest of the day to list them!  However there is one instance in particular that really stands out for me.  A story I shared with the group I like to call “mixed girl”.   It was an experience of having been overshadowed by the new girl in my 4th grade class.   She was the only child of obvious mixed race in my elementary school.  Growing up down south, being a dark-skinned black girl was a bad thing. I never felt pretty but I did think myself to be fairly bright.  However, not even my brains could compete with the beauty that this unique looking girl had on our school.  Teachers gave her special treatment.   Other children vied for her attention, just to walk her to class, I was shocked!  I realized she was what people envied so as soon as I was old enough to mimic her “look” I did.  From  wearing wavy to spiral curl weave, even wearing grey contacts.  I was always being asked if was mixed.  I was even scolded by a group of Black men on the street for not acknowledging their presence.   As I passed by with my headphones on, one shouted out “you don’t have to be afraid of us sugar we’re just Black!”  It was trippy to say the least.  What the hell did they think I was?  I was wearing about 18″ of kinky wave hair, once again to give that realistic yet ambiguous look.  Then I realized,  I had become mixed girl!  To those guys and myself.

The only issue is that by assuming this new “mixed girl” identity I was telling myself that the real me was bad, ugly, not good enough.  I wanted to start loving myself.  The me that felt good about her skin color, her hair that was actually really cool!  I wanted to love everything about me.  No more adding the 1/2 cherokee line to my heritage or saying my great grandfather was Asian.  But as with everything else the transition from knowing your truth and living your truth is usually a bit of a process.

I no longer lie about my heritage or feel ashamed of being Black.  I still wear tons of weave, but I know now I do it because I love hair, I love fashion, I love switching up my look.  It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me.  I look in the mirror and ask myself why are you putting this hair on?  I’ve asked myself many variations of that question over the years:  why are you growing your locks?  Who are you growing your afro for?  Why are you thinking of perming your hair again?  If I have any thoughts that say “well you look bad today and this type of hair will make you look better, more afro centric, more accepted,” I have the compassion for myself now to say no & do what feels most loving and nurturing for me.  Now I can accept myself with or without the weave which is soooooo far from where I was a few short years ago.  There is a level of respect & love I have for the person I am now, to consciously act in ways that are in alignment with my truth.

OSHUN IS HERE!

Welcome, I am so excited to share information about The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns!  January 29th will kick off the first event for the festival; an Oshun Returns Session the last sunday of the month.  These sessions are a judgement free &  safe space to explore topics of body image, sexuality, and self-confidence especially as they pertain to Black women.  The sessions include yoga, creative activities, and meditation,  along with different discussion topics each month.

The Oshun Returns Sessions provide a calm & relaxing atmosphere to reconnect with your inner “Goddess”.  I see the classes as a rejuvenation session before starting your week.  Refreshments are offered at each class and end with what I’ve coined the “Goddess Walk”.   All the women walk in a circle around the room as I throw rose petals at their feet.  During the walk we envision ourselves as the Goddesses we are, worthy of love, respect, and joy!  Its proven to be a powerful gesture to remind each woman that they are a Goddess.

Exact Brooklyn Location and Time Coming Soon!

Goddess Walk