Frivolous Entertainment Disguised as News

 Jet magazine touts itself as the number one African American newsweekly in the world. It had been decades since I last read an issue.
     In New Jersey, having an African American magazine on the coffee table was common. When I was a pre-adolescent, my father’s reading influenced everything I read. He read the newspaper and Jet magazine while my mother lived vicariously through her favorite romance novels. While it would be many years before I picked up a newspaper or a romance novel, I found myself seduced by the glossy pages of magazines early on. I often cherry-picked which Jet articles to read, but as a maturing young girl, I always looked at the beauty of the week feature. I would analyze her and if she were worthy, I would rip the page out and save it like baseball cards. Jet was the only magazine where I could see women of color celebrated for their beauty. As an adult, I had forgotten about this long lost ritual until recently when the first issue of my gift subscription arrived.
        Now over 20 years older, I looked at Jet magazine much differently. I read every article and when I came to the Beauty of the Week feature, it seemed so out of place–almost inappropriate. The little tidbits about the lives of the weekly beauties, tried to make these everyday women seem accessible while conveying the intelligence behind the smokin’ bod. It also told me as an adolescent that you didn’t have to be a model or a celebrity to be beautiful. But it also said, Not only do these women have it together at home, at work and between their ears but they look good in a skimpy bathing suit too.
      I didn’t think of Jet as a newsweekly. Yes, it had news articles about events that affected the African American community, but certain aspects of the weekly seemed more like an entertainment magazine. Actually, as a child, I skipped over the boring news articles. I went straight for the celebrity articles, the marriage announcements, the beauty of the week and the music rankings. I still remember reading about the death of Marvin Gaye in Jet magazine. Reading it as an adult, I took Jet’s articles on African American celebrities, socialites, and business folk, less seriously.
      When I think of newsweeklies, I think of Time, Newsweek, The Week and magazines along those lines. While there are usually celebrity features, the articles are still heavy on economic, political and world commentary. Jet still has an important mission to fulfill and serves a purpose to the African American community, but it doesn’t really fit my idea of a newsweekly. It appears to target the common denominator, delivering interesting news but not seeking to elevate its readership. After reading the National Report, the Health, Business and the Black History sections, it left me feeling intelectually starved. If I was looking to feed my sweet tooth, there was plenty of cream puff articles about marriages, celebrities, entertainment, and more celebrity activities disguised as newsmakers. Even the cover story was celebrity-oriented. After reading Jet’s fluffy 50 pages, I felt like I had just eaten lettuce drenched in salad dressing–deceptively healthy, but not very filling.

Courtesy of Sable Lit

The Power of Hair

Over the last week or so, hair has been a running theme. Like many African American women, hair is a recurring issue in my life. I go through spells of trying to grow it out and episodes of impatience where I cut it all off. Tired of being in between hairstyles and trying to hold out long enough for it to grow past my shoulders, I found myself contemplating how to change it again. During this time of hair indecisiveness, I shared a meal with two bald men who expressed the reluctance to accept the loss of theirs.
Each man, one African American and nearly thirty, the other Caucasian and a few years away from 40, shared how they came to embrace being bald. The younger one had vowed years earlier that he would shave his head the moment his hairline began to fade. The other gentleman shared his experience in the military and how the ritual of having his head shaved affected how the hair grow back from that point on.
I listened as the men exchanged their scalp maintenance rituals in much the same way women share how they keep their hair shiny or what techniques they use to achieve the desired style. As I sat there with my hair clipped up off my shoulders, a sort of mock-baldness, it wasn’t long before the men offered to change the subject for my benefit, assuming I had nothing to contribute.
At that moment, I took a chance in sharing the contemplation of having hair extensions added to my hair styling arsenal. Being a purist, anything fake, whether it is nails, boobs or hair never really appealed to me. My hair grows long, only if I am patience enough. Much to my surprise, these men urged me to abandon my pure hair bias.
In prep for the transformation I visited a wig/extension accessory shop. Afraid to fully commit to sewn-in extensions, I resolved to get temporary real hair tracks that clip in among rows of my own hair strands. Waling into that store felt natural. It was a black owned and operated business. Being very successful, it was one of two locations the family owned. As my friend helped me pick out the hair, the other works asked why a black girl would buy clip on hair extensions. My friend reassured them that clips-ons were best for a hair extension virgin like me. They were struck by the idea that a black woman over thirty had never worn hair extensions before. My friend laughed, “Hell, she only started wearing fake ponytails over the last year.” Needless to say, I am not the usual customer at an establishment like that.
That weekend with those wavy hair clips in place, I felt like a different person. I was more confident than before. I felt more feminine than before. Certainly, women with short hair are no less confident or feminine than those with long hair, but after having shoulder-length hair for so long, having hair that swung against the middle of my back affected how I reacted to others and now they reacted to me.
While not real important, I noticed that the glances of men lasted longer and women of other ethnicities recognized the equality of my beauty in relation to theirs. In the workplace my knowledge lends to a feeling of power, but even that power was given a surge with my long wavy locks. No longer did I feel like a teenager with my hair pinned to the back of my head in search of an identity. Now I felt like a woman with purpose and a solid grasp of my existence.
The last time I encountered these feelings was when I returned to work after having my hair cut into a layered bob. That cut conjured such feelings because I was no longer hiding behind my hair but I was willing to put myself in the forefront and compete. With long hair, I am still competing but embracing what a softness that long hair represents. This experience as well as the conversation with those bald gentlemen taught me that confidence and self-assurance have nothing to do with the length of hair or the presence of hair. It has everything to do with how we feel about ourselves and our hair.
So whether I wear my hair short, long or enhanced with extensions, my power rests in how I feel about myself and how I project that feeling toward others.

What Ever Happened To Black Love? (Column: Motivation Extends My Soul)


I can remember the time, I can see it, the love we shared

Pickin’ up that cotton together, chained together, bound in true holiness together,
On our hands and knees we were on the ground praying to GOD together
Even looking in your eyes while we were hung together
It was strong
It was based off the struggles we’ve dealt with
It was based off the honor we gave
It was true, it was real, it was down to earth, and it was deep
Couldn’t any man break that bond- It was tight and it was right

What ever happened to Black Love?
What is Black Love?
When I stand by your side, when the world is trying to destroy you undercover
I am your best friend and I am your lover

When I give birth to your children, so that they may represent who you stand for as Black Man and who I stand for as a Black Woman, and have meaning on this earth
So I may know you are down for me, and that I am down for you all the way
My Black beauty is what you are attracted to and love
You are my Black King and I am your Black Queen,
So let’s go raise our Black prince and princess into the same,
Baby we ain’t got no shame in this Black love game

What ever happened to Black Love?
It’s like, non-existent sometimes, it’s like scarce, it’s like, he just my baby daddy or, she just my baby mama,
Its like, you embarrassed to tell your boys you in love with this Black woman, you’d rather say, she just my friend, nothing more.
You telling everybody, even your own mind that you don’t want nothing more from that Black woman
But ain’t that kind of strange, when all she will do is love you and use her own strength to pick you up, when she see you slippin’ and expect nothing less from you
She will stand by your side till death,
And you don’t want that?
Black man why you embarrassed to be in Love???????
Why?  You think being a real man doesn’t involve being in love or showing your love?
So that you see my Black face, and have misconceptions mixed in with your made up annotations that Black women are this or that, mama dramas, and round about attitudes

What ever happen to Black Love?
When the respect that is lost and thrown out the window for this Black woman or Black man
When the prejudging of a Black Man is not only being degraded by the White Man, but also by his own Black sister too
And the Black Man is saying: Black Woman don’t hate on me, when I already got the White man and sometimes the other Black men hating on me too
And Black Women, he’s absolutely right….

Love sees no color; I would have to agree with that
But it’s not stupid either, and knows color exist, Love feels it
And when love is hating its own and treating it as though something else is better,
Cause you’d rather be with Heather
Or maybe Ms. Ramirez, cause you think that’s the fairest

No, Brotha’, there’s a problem, solve it!
Cause I see you looking at Shaniqua with doubt
Black Man, what’s that all about ?

Isn’t your mother Black, isn’t your sister Black, isn’t your very daughter and son Black?
Are you dating her because she has long straight blonde hair, or easier; so you have stated?  Or are you dating her because you really love her?  

Are you not dating her over there, because you think she got an attitude and hair is too short or kinked up, and hips are too big, and the skin is too dark?  Or are you not dating her because you honestly don’t match character-wise.
There are plenty of beautiful Black woman with many shades and shapes
But regardless, whoever you date make sure love is the basis for it all

I love my Blackness, I love these big hips and round ass, and I love the thickness of my hair, And all of the styles that I can work with
Because nobody else got all these beautiful characteristics, not like me.  Don’t you see?
GOD pictured us, and then made us and said, “Black women, I’m going to make you beautiful, Black and unique.
Cause brotha’, why you tryin’ to play me, when she over there tryin’ to be just like me.

My Brotha’s…. What ever happened to Black Love?
Your own brother you talkin’ about like a dog to the world, and you won’t even help him
And the White Man is sitting back loving it all

But when the White man does the same, it racism
Y’all better cut out all that haterism
What is that really going to accomplish, for real?
Y’all better start making this a big deal
Cause just remember the White man will help his own kind before he helps you, if anything he probably gonna use you for all your hard work, don’t get it confused… OK?
Cause ain’t that what he did to you back in the day?
Understand that, remember that, just go ahead and place it in your mind in case you ever forget

My sisters…. What ever happened to Black Love?
Have we forgot how to respect ourselves?
Cause you know if YOU don’t, the man sure the hell won’t
Now, I’m gonna say this once and maybe once more, because even sometimes I forget and I don’ wrote it:

“Having a man in my life will only influence my happiness, not decide my happiness.
My happiness will be chosen by myself and will depend upon my attitude about who I am as a Black woman and life in general.”

Don’t just totally rely on a man to get you where and what you want
Set goals, set dreams, and be the strong Black, unique, woman that GOD made you to be
And if a man does come around to welcome you something, that’s fine
Just remember you can get yours even if he don’t come around

And lets help one another out and build each other up instead of down
We have to keep this world together Black ladies
Act like you love yourself and your children,
Men will respect that
And make them men wait before you just go around given’ it up
Treat your stuff like its diamonds and gold
Make them pay some kind of price before you give it up
And NO….. that price is not all about money, or what they could buy you
Although don’t get me wrong that is nice, But in reality, you can do that your damn self
Unless you don’t really care… Maybe you just need to get you some
But use condoms and don’t be dumb
Unless you want a baby or a disease
And if you are in a relationship, hey… that’s your call
But reach into your mind for a moment before you let them panties fall

And reap the consequences that’s all I’m saying
And think about that, while you on that bed or floor laying

And yes we’ve all had to learn the hard way about feelings getting hurt
I know I have, but now I know I’m on alert
Black women, you have to start using your mind,

Cause If you don’t, then guess who they going around calling a HO?
And you looking like you didn’t even know
If you like that title, then go ahead and do the damn thing Fo’ show!
What ever happened to Black love?
Why are you putting him down as a Black man all the time?
Yes he has flaws, but so do you
Even though Black Men do get on my nerves sometimes too
I can feel you on that and I can relate
But I love my Black Men, I must admit, and I want him as my mate
And I’d rather be with a Black Man any day, and have his children
Because in my book, that’s just the way to do it

Black men have had struggles like no other man, and he has conquered endeavors in front of the entire world
They be frontin’ on him, but they wanna be just like that Black Man
That Black Man is strong in body and in mind
They don’t know his strength, and NO, they can’t have his strength

Why are you dwelling on his jail times, and bail times
And if he doesn’t change, then you know what you gotta do
But let me just remind you, there’s more Black men who got it together than you think
Don’t let the news confuse you

But he’s trying to do something with his life and needs your support as a Black Woman
These Black men have come a long way
And they are here to stay
And they are reaching limitless boundaries and I am loving it…OK!

Stand by his side, and take care of that Black King
So you can teach your little prince to be just like that Black King
So that we may raise our little Black prince and princess up, so that they know who they are as a Black woman and Black man
And not become confused, thinking that Whiteness is better than Blackness
So they may represent and present what Black love is

Don’t get me wrong, we should love all races
But not love all other races and hate our own Blackness.

What ever happened to Black love?
Black love is a beautiful thing
Being Black is a beautiful thing
We need Black people to represent the Black love, because if we don’t, who will?
The man who is White?          Yea, right….

Black love is needed in order to built the self-esteem of Black people and to keep the generation going and going and going
Its lacking sometimes, it’s shedding a little
Who told your mind that White skin is better than Black ?
Who told your mind that course hair is bad, and straight hair is better?
Who told your mind this nose is unattractive and that narrow straight nose is better?
Who told your mind these big lips are unpleasant and those thin lips are better?

The person who has that White skin told you that!
That person who has that straight hair told you that!
That person who has that narrow straight nose told you that!
That person with those thin lips told you that!
GOD never told you that!!

And you believed them like a fool, because it was more of them than you!
And why did you listen????  Ok, so now they GOD right? NO!
They told you that, because that’s what they have and they like who they are
But you actin’ like you don’t even like who you are,
GOD created me and told me and showed me that I am beautiful
And I don’t know what you talkin’ bout
But I love my Blackness, It is beautiful, And you can’t have it, And you ain’t got it, And you ain’t never gonna take it,
And NO, I ain’t going to exchange my Blackness

What ever happened to Black Love?
When I see more White people in love than I see Black people – That’s what it seems
And for the Black people who are in love, I raise my fist in the air for you

When I see you disrespecting that Black Queen, and then you walking down the isle with that White one
When I see you neglecting that Black daughter of yours, but raising that new mixed daughter of yours, But ain’t she Black too?
Who told your mind that the light is better than the dark?
Who told your heart that the loving was easier?
Who told your soul that you would rather be in a committed relationship with her rather than me?
Why are you letting your ears listen to those White words, when he doesn’t even like who you really are. And sees you as negatively different?
And even wants to see you be more like him, because he thinks he is better, and wonders why GOD even made you in the first place

What the HELL ever happened to Black Love?
Because you don’t even like who you are,
So now you trying to change me, rearrange me, and than exchange me

My sisters and brothers, What ever happened to Black love?
Let’s make it grow some more with force
Spreading it out is OK, let’s just remember our own as well
Let’s keep it intact, so there won’t even be a question as to:

What Ever Happened to Black Love

Written by Tinisha Nicole Johnson
Author, Writer, Poet