For colored girls who live for snap filters and a little bit of cleavage

So let’s talk about this feature image…

I participated in this personal project called Scars of our OWN by Sarah, owner and photographer of OWN Boudoir.  It is a project where participants are exploring there external and internal scars. These photos were done in March and I had been going back and forth about whether I should share them or not. But I returned to the poem below (which I wrote back in January) and knew this was the perfect piece to share with this image. So first shoutout to Sarah for making this experience so amazing. What are my Scars? A part of them is dealing with my body image. I have many assumptions about what my body says about me and how I operate in the world. Some of them are valid and others are things I need to work through. More about my experience with Sarah will be shared on her website so stay tuned there, but in the meantime, enjoy this piece.

For colored girls who live for snap filters and a little bit of cleavage

This poem is for you.

For you women whose thighs rub together and have jeans that are proof of the friction.

This poem is for you who have love handles that need to be appreciated daily.

For you still learning to appreciate those handles.

This poem is for all the BS you put up with

The frustrations , the questions, the triumphs

This poem is here to lay it all out.

This poem doesn’t have answers

But it has truth, and to be honest, I like to sit in the truth.

I like to sit in the uneasiness and vulnerability and boldness of it.

So this is for colored girls trying to lose weight to reach their full bad bitch potential

Who have reached the point where their motivation is to stunt on these niggas

Just to prove a point

For colored girls who wear sizes 16 and up and still want to be sexy in what they wear.

Thank Black Jesus that Lane Bryant and Target have answered our prayers

And that there are online boutiques like Monif C and Elloquii, but some days how our bank accounts are setup, we stay in our prayer closets for better deals and stretch pants

For colored girls who are good enough for late night rendezvous, but not good enough to take home

Cuz in reality our big bodies don’t get real love

They get half assed intimacy in our inboxes after midnight

In reality our big bodies don’t get fawned over, they get overlooked

And it’s a daily battle to tell ourselves you are beautiful

You are worthy so fuck these niggas and their superficial standards

For colored girls who manipulate the shapes of our bodies with Spanx and tights to smooth out rolls and have scars where the material rolled up or stayed on too long

But this dress has to have the Spanx so we deal

For colored girls who aren’t considered “thick” because we don’t have an ass

We have stomachs and thighs with stretch marks

So we are looking for the word that describes our shape and it’s a word or words that we are proud of

For colored girls whose breast cups extend into threes and into the alphabet past Ds into Fs Gs and Hs

And even then we still want to buck the system and not wear a bra

And trust me, these triple D’s don’t always have a bra holding them hostage

They need to be free

To be free colored girl… I sometimes get there

Like that one summer I put on a two piece bathing suit without a wrap to cover up my thighs and let my stomach out.

I snapped photos of myself in the sand and in the water

And felt free

Cuz there is something about cleansing and freedom in water

I felt invincible and beautiful and loved all by myself

I shash shayed past thinner women with bigger confidence

I sent photos to friends and potential baes

To be free colored girl, I sometimes get there

When I take nudes of myself once I get out the shower

There may or may not be a collection in a private app on my phone

There may or may not be folks who receive them in their inboxes

On those days, Instead of shaming my body and trying to hide it

I spend time admiring it

And yet sometimes I am uncomfortable in my nudity

I suck in and twist to paint a better picture, a better image

To be free colored girl it can be uncomfortable

But this is for colored girls who, despite being uncomfortable,

Smile anyway

Rock that dress with the right fit for our curves

Shoot those shots in DMs

And take those selfies with good filters

with of course a little bit of cleavage

BCB 1/16/18

Want Your Birth Control Delivered? There’s an App for That!

Thanks to the ever-evolving intersection between women’s health and mobile app technology, you can now have birth control pills delivered to your home faster than the next book on your Amazon wishlist!

One of the most important health achievements in the modern era has been the ability for women to decide when or if they want to become parents. Contraception has allowed for women who want to become parents to space their pregnancies for optimal maternal and child health outcomes.  It’s also allowed women to help support themselves and their families through educational and career advancements.

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But often women who want to prevent pregnancy, encounter issues that make it difficult or impossible to get the care they need. These issues include:

  • Difficulty taking time off school or work to get to a doctor’s visit
  • Getting enough medication to last until you can get back to a doctor or pharmacist
  • Paying for transportation to/from a doctor’s appointment
  • Paying co-pays
  • Finding a doctor that prescribes the type of birth control you want

These barriers to accessing health care can exist for anyone but they have a much larger impact on women in rural locations, those with limited financial resources, and Black women who simultaneous experience racism within the healthcare system. So, now that the technology industry and women’s health have converged to help women overcome the many challenges we face in accessing health care, it’s essential that we support Black women by getting the word out.

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For some time now, pharmacists in many states have been providing emergency contraception (EC) to women without a prescription. Now, many women’s health experts believe that other forms of birth control are safe enough to be sold without a prescription. In fact, several states, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon, trained pharmacists can prescribe birth control so you can skip the doctor’s visit and get the medication at the same place you purchase condoms and feminine hygiene products.

Although no smartphone app will ever completely replace the valuable experience of meeting face-to-face with a clinician, these apps do offer an alternative to those who want to avoid many of the pitfalls of the traditional healthcare experience. And although women must visit a clinician to get access to the most effective forms of birth control, research suggests that for Black women,

the ability start/stop birth control that comes with less effective methods like birth control pills, the patch, and the ring, are important to Black women. Here’s the scoop on a few options to have your birth control delivered to your doorstep:

NURX

They are committed to disrupting the traditional healthcare model that too often leaves women of color with poor outcomes. Perhaps the most popular of the mobile health platforms, Nurx also provides the widest range of birth control, with over 50 options that include the patch and the ring.

Nurx also prescribes pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to women at risk for contracting HIV, making it unique among the online options. It’s available in 17 states and expanding to offer services in other states.

PRJKTRUBY

PrjktRuby aims to break the cycles of generational poverty by empowering women to decide if/when they want to become parents.

PrjktRuby is available in 48 states, giving it the widest reach of any of the platforms. Also, they demonstrate a commitment to their mission of halting generational poverty by donating 25 cents of every $20 pack of birth pills purchased, toward the provision of contraception in developing countries.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD DIRECT

If you live in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, or Washington, you can order birth control online through Planned Parenthood Direct. They offer delivery of 5 different birth control pills through the app. You can also get information on more effective birth control like IUDs and implants. Consistent with their provision of comprehensive care in person, they also provide treatment for UTIs. Unique to this app is that you always have to option to turn your online visit to an in-person one if necessary.

LEMONAID HEALTH

Lemonaid Health’s mission is to provide ultra-low cost healthcare to everyone in America. Birth control is just one of many medications the deliver. They offer a wide array of birth control pills and although you can skip the doctor’s visit, you will need to go to the pharmacy to pick it up the patch or the ring.

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Photo Cred: thoughtcatalog.com

In general, the mobile health platforms require an online medical assessment, which most women are capable of completing quite accurately. Licensed clinicians then review your responses and meet with you, usually via telephone or video. No physical exam needed so the mobile app options may be most appropriate for women who have no pre-existing health conditions. And there is no substitute for the experience of meeting face-to-face with a licensed health care provider so it may be a good idea to visit the doctor’s office if you’re just getting started on birth control and use the online option for refills. Without insurance, prices start as low as $9 per cycle, depending on the birth control method and the platform you use. In most cases, that’s less money that it takes to take the train to the doctor’s office!

So what do you think! Have you tried either of these platforms? Do you think ordering your birth control online s something you’d be willing to try? Let me know in the comments below!

 

#IllAlwaysLoveMyMama #ShesMyFavoriteGirl

Mama was the first sista I ever cited and was my introduction to Black womanhood and Black Feminism. Long before I took up room in the academy, Mama taught lessons about agency, an ethic of care, resistance, joy, and love. Mama’s words and experiences were legitimate sources of knowledge and her ideas were my tools for analysis. As I’ve grown into my own person, our ideologies have diverged at many points and the way we do our work looks different, but there is most often a profound respect for each other as mother and daughter and as grown, independent people. IMG_3236
Mama did a perfectly imperfect job of teaching my sibling and I the balance of independent decision-making and community interdependency. She was intentional with us, and regardless of how lessons or manifestations of those lessons showed up, she (for the most part) would talk us through them.  Because of her commitment to us being our own, but connected person, my sibling and I live across the country from her while still being purposeful in our connections and in our grounding.  She’s proud of us, thankful that her investments paid off “in adult children who can make decisions on their own, who know who they are, who advocate for themselves, and who will be alright when I leave this place.” We’re proud of her too. She’s such a cool kid. B9F85A77-9689-4F39-A445-7C7C1614FC78

Mama played short and long ball with advocacy, agency, and resistance. My sibling and I are her long ball, but getting us to adulthood was short ball. Her advocacy showed up in the small moments, like her advocating for therapy as a general practice as I entered adulthood because, as she put it, no parent, regardless of intention, was perfect, and that this world didn’t care about Black girls’ and women’s trauma or parent issues. Mama had strict parenting practices. That’s what parents who love you do when they don’t have the economic or other capital to leverage/negotiate on your behalf if/when things go left. She was honest in that she told us that she didn’t have the luxury to raise children who couldn’t advocate for themselves and who couldn’t be resilient. Again, this world wasn’t created for Black girls and women. I appreciate that she told us that the world wasn’t fair, but would raise hell when folks acted unfairly or unjustly toward us. That’s how she rolls. #IGetItFromMyMama

IMG_1053As an adult child and someone who still considers and desires parenthood for myself, one of the realest things Mama taught me was through her commitment to herself as a person. In a society that requires and idolizes sacrifices by mothers’ (and other caretakers), she resisted the narrative as much as possible. She made time for herself in the midst of raising two kids and keeping all the parts to life moving (as smoothly as possible, when possible). She did small things (that I hated when I was little lol) like telling us to not come to her bedroom door before 8 AM on weekends and telling us “no” she was tired and needed to rest, as well as committing to her daily power walks and sending us outside to play so that she could read in quiet. These things were subtle, explicit, and efficient ways for her to prioritize herself, a practice that I value dearly as an adult. She often reminds us that she chose to make personal sacrifices for her children, and while I hear her agency in that, I think of all the things she chose/”chose”/had to release (in the immediacy and in the long term) in the name of motherhood. As a society, we’ve got to do better by mothers, parents, and caretakers.

1956922_10101440386061807_7369559418859423826_o I use the captions #IllAlwaysLoveMyMama #ShesMyFavoriteGirl for our pictures/selfies. She really is my all-around favorite. She’s this extrovert’s favorite social introvert (that’s code for she’s friendly but she don’t fool with a bunch of people lol). She’s this pay-full-price-for-convenience shopper’s favorite  thrifter because she always finds the best deals at estate sales. When we get on each others’ nerves, because that’s what happens with two grown, independently thinking people, I still wouldn’t trade her for anything. We don’t look much alike, but if my soul had a face, it’d have her nose, eyes, and lips. I am who I am because of her love, her commitment to me being my own person, and her fierce advocacy from Day 1. I don’t like to imagine life without her, but I know that it is eventual. So, I give her her flowers while she yet lives. She’s my boo. I love me some her. I’ll always love my mama. She’s my favorite girl.

“Check Up On Your Strong Friends” & Negotiating Feelings of Failure

This school year was hard and somehow I survived!

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During the spring semester, I made the idiotic decision to take three classes, complete a teaching internship, serve in a graduate assistantship, present at a national conference (too many times), apply for dissertation fellowships (and not get them–see I lose a lot), complete and defend my dissertation proposal, and try to have a life.

L. O. L.

Every graduate student in America who reads that is laughing to keep from crying at the idiocy. It was a bad decision, and one I’ve certainly learned from… And now I know the word NO is a complete sentence and I will use it as often as I am able pushing forward.

I don’t write any of this to brag… Seriously, if you’re a student: DO NOT BE LIKE ME, BE  BETTER THAN ME. But in the process of all of this, I have also managed to support several friends with job applications, reading things they’ve written from grant applications to dissertations and book chapters, donating money/time, and generally being a support system for people around me because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Not only that, these are things I love to do. Since latching on to the moniker childfree, I think some people may have inadvertently assumed I’m not nurturing, supportive, etc.,but the labor I’ve (tried) to put into my friendships would certainly suggest otherwise and I am happy with that. Shoot, I even recently provided resume assistance to a young woman who has disrespected me in an online space because I thought it more important to help a Black woman get a job than to worry about my feelings and ego.

But as of late, I have found myself wondering what support means and looks like for me.

I saw a tweet the other day that said something to the effect of “Check On Your Strong Friends” and I felt both seen and invisible when I read it. I believe the tweet is circulating due to a Royce Da 5’9 album, but this concept isn’t new. I grew up knowing my mother was a strong woman (strong friend to others). In our lives, this often meant she carried on even when things hurt, even when she needed a break, and even when she didn’t have it to give, she’d still try and offer.

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In thinking about this tweet and why it has been weighing so heavily on me, I’ve wondered how many people in my life consider me to be a strong friend. I have listened as people praised me for pressing through my degree despite heartbreak, as people assume I have it together because they saw my name on some sort of conference material, and even as people unintentionally downplay my concerns around dating as a Black woman with a (soon to come) Ph.D.

Being a strong “friend” means I never want to actually talk about the roots of my problems and what’s really going on because I don’t want to bother people. But receiving a text, phone call, email, something showing a modicum of thought beyond “can you help me with” can be seriously affirming.

I write all of this to say–do heed to the advice of checking up on your strong friends.

Sometimes we suffer in silence because we wrongly believe no one cares about what we’re going through. Sometimes we fail to tell the whole story out of fear or frustration because we believe we “should have seen it coming”. And sometimes, we don’t know when we’ve internalized something and only our friends can force us to confront it by looking in the mirror.

Where people have seen strong, I’ve felt failure. Every good thing I’ve done over the last few months (and school year more broadly) has been overshadowed by things I’ve failed to do or have done–

  • I accidentally hurt someone I was getting to know and have come to like
  • I got my feelings hurt trying to date and nearly internalized that I should have seen it coming
  • I never heard back from a pre/postdoc I should have been competitive for (don’t worry, I’m reassessing and thinking about ways to improve myself/ my work)
  • I’ve only lost 15 pounds despite feeling like I obsess over every. single. thing. I put into my mouth
  • I failed to submit some writings for publications that should have gone out a long time ago
  • I didn’t get to take my mother on a birthday trip
  • I didn’t get to take my sister on a birthday trip
  • A former friend stole money from me and I couldn’t bring myself to have them charged, but I’m still harboring anger about it
  • Someone I trusted used me/ information about me to get ahead
  • I never sent thank you cards to people who deserved them although they’ve been sitting on my desk forever
  • I’ve been walking around as a shell of myself

Some of this is my fault. Some of it is directly tied to my relationships with other people, but in the midst of all of this, I would have preferred to feel like someone was there to check up on me (aside from Laila) and make sure I was okay. I know that I made a decision to go to graduate school and that I asked for this life, but the school things I can manage. It has been the personal moments of failure and frustration that I’ve found most difficult to navigate and simultaneously felt like there was no one there to listen. Let your strong friends know you’re willing to be an ear or lend a helping hand. Being a strong friend doesn’t make us invincible.

So, please, help a strong friend out when you can by checking up on us…