Author Archives: SuzyKnew!

About SuzyKnew!

SuzyKnew! is dedicated to improving the sexual and reproductive health and sexual pleasure of women of color.

MSNBC: “Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret”

 

Last December, MSNBC aired a documentary produced by Sheinelle Jones on infertility among women of color. The film follows five women while they navigate infertility. It’s not everyday, our struggles to have a family are told.

Sheinelle explains:

For years, I have watched some of my closest friends struggle with infertility. I’m 43 years old now, at the height of my career, married with three elementary-aged children. Decades ago, I can vividly recall late night conversations with my friends in college, and even high school, about how we wanted our lives to unfold. Little did we know at least half of us would begin to have fertility problems after graduating and starting our careers. Personally, the problem appeared to be much worse among my African American friends.

 

 

The Best Of SuzyKnew! From 2021

2021 Review concept. White movie clapper on a background of a dark chalk board.

As we try to do every year,  we are re-publishing the articles that received the most views during 2021.  Take a look to see what SuzyKnew! readers found important in 2021 before we move on to 2022:

Last Day To Watch “The Business Of Birth Control

Ladies, today is the last day to watch the documentary The Business of Birth Control, which was the subject of the last  SuzyKnew! post.

The documentary sheds a harsh light on hormonal birth control. Hormonal Birth control was and remains revolutionary. SuzyKnew! features posts and information on different birth control options including hormonal as well as non-hormonal.

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Fertility Friday: Do You Have Low Progesterone?

Ladies, this weekend SuzyKnew! shares Fertility Friday’s podcast on how to deal with low progesterone.

The majority of the questions Fertility Friday receives via emails and DMs are related to progesterone issues.

How do you know if you have low progesterone?

Below are the most common ways low progesterone shows up in the menstrual cycle:

  • Short luteal phases (10 days or less)
  • Premenstrual spotting
  • Moderate to severe PMS symptoms (during the week prior to your period)

Other possible symptoms include heavy periods (menorrhagia), low basal body temperatures, and even recurrent miscarriage.

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ASK JANICE SPECIAL: We Have A Black-Asian VEEP, And She’s A Woman!

Vice President Kamala D. Harris. Writing and saying those words will never get old.

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the United States of America swore in former Senator Kamala Harris as the 49th Vice President. For the first time in its 245 year history, the nation known as the world’s greatest democracy has its first woman seated just a heartbeat away from the presidency. And not just any woman: a Black and Asian woman!

This. Is. HUGE!

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Short Christmas Stories By Famous And Everyday Black Women

Below, SuzyKnew! republishes a post from December 2019 sharing a radio broadcast, a couple of poems, and news stories on Christmas by famous and everyday Black women

Looking For Black Santa, Leoneda Inge, WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio December 2011

Durham, North Carolina is one of the most diverse communities in the state. Mayor Bill Bell likes to say it’s the city with NO racial majority. Then why is it so hard to find an African American Santa Claus?

….Two years ago, I found the cutest 1970s photo of me and my younger sister sitting on a white Santa’s lap. I loved the photo so much, I decided to make it my annual holiday card. But before the copies went out – I asked a friend to do a little photo-shopping – to give Santa a tan. Now that really made me smile. I mailed it to black friends and white friends, relatives and co-workers – they loved it!

Click here to  read more and listen

 

Short Christmas Stories By Famous And Everyday Black Women

Below, SuzyKnew! republishes a post from December 2019 sharing a radio broadcast, a couple of poems, and news stories on Christmas by famous and everyday Black women

Looking For Black Santa, Leoneda Inge, WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio December 2011

Durham, North Carolina is one of the most diverse communities in the state. Mayor Bill Bell likes to say it’s the city with NO racial majority. Then why is it so hard to find an African American Santa Claus?

….Two years ago, I found the cutest 1970s photo of me and my younger sister sitting on a white Santa’s lap. I loved the photo so much, I decided to make it my annual holiday card. But before the copies went out – I asked a friend to do a little photo-shopping – to give Santa a tan. Now that really made me smile. I mailed it to black friends and white friends, relatives and co-workers – they loved it!

Click here to  read more and listen

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem (First shared during the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony.)
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Peace.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

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Choose to be Happy, Ayesha Karim 2012

I am happy because I choose to be; my life is far from perfect.

Others are content but I make conscious choices to be Happy and to be a positive person.

You don’t have to be rich or have a lot of money and material wealth to be happy.

Many wealthy people are poor in Spirit with all the money, fame and things that they have.

This Christmas Eve night as I write this poem I think about how I manage my money focusing on my needs first and then my wants.

I ask myself: Can I afford that? Do I need this? Can I wait for the store price to go down and get that dress on sale?

I hope that once I am financially stable with a decent job I can have a coat drive for kids age 1 through 16 in Trenton, New Jersey when every boy and girl gets a cute new coat and I hope that my story inspires others my battle with mental illness over 19 years…

 

Finding Black Christmas figures in getting harder.

 

Last Day To Watch “The Business Of Birth Control”

Ladies, today is the last day to watch the documentary The Business of Birth Control, which was the subject of the last  SuzyKnew! post.

The documentary sheds a harsh light on hormonal birth control. Hormonal Birth control was and remains revolutionary. SuzyKnew! features posts and information on different birth control options including hormonal as well as non-hormonal.

Today, we have more information about how hormonal birth control effects women’s bodies and know that some women don’t tolerate this as well as others. We can also see more clearly in hindsight the backstory on the role of pharmaceutical companies’ advancing birth control, in spite of serious side effects. (Truth be told, pharmaceutical companies advance many drugs that have serious side effects in addition to their benefits.) But, at the end of the day, it’s important to chose what works best for you and your life situation, once you have all the facts. SuzyKnew! supports a women having an informed choice in family planning.

Fertility Friday Lisa Hendricks-Jack was interviewed for this documentary film. It’s nice to see a Sista’ so prominently featured, especially as women of color aren’t always made aware of all their fertility choices and have been used as experiment subjects for pharmaceuticals, including birth control.

Click here for Fertility Friday’s post as well as Lisa’s interview with the film producers Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein

Keep it sexy, Ladies!

Keep it healthy!

 

Holly Grigg-Spall Introduces Her Documentary: The Business Of Birth Control

Ladies, reproductive health is in the news a lot.  SuzyKnew! is exposing the attack on abortion rights and its negative impact on women of color, and how black women, including Serena Williams and Beyonce, aren’t getting the maternal healthcare they need. Black women are dying disproportionately due to reproductive health and pregnancy-related issues. Women of color are not receiving the comprehensive information on reproductive health we deserve and need.

Let’s change that.

Holly Grigg-Spall, a SuzyKnew! contributor, is introducing her new documentary The Business of Birth Control. The documentary produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein reexamines the pill, which was revolutionary in the way it provided women autonomy over their bodies but also has an ugly history using women of color as guinea pigs in its development.

A message from Holly Grigg-Spall:

I thought you would like to know that my documentary The Business of Birth Control (inspired by my book Sweetening the Pill, and on which I am a producer) is finally premiering at the Doc NYC film festival next month!

Tickets are available for the Manhattan movie premiere AND to watch the film online from the comfort of your own home.

Link: https://www.docnyc.net/film/the-business-of-birth-control/

This has been a long (7 years+) journey in making this film! Many of you have supported in different ways and thanks so much for that.

At that link above you can also watch the official trailer.

I hope you can see the film, let me know what you think. And, of course, please share! I hope this movie makes a difference.

The film will be made available internationally online in December and I will let you know details when I have them.

Thanks again for reading,
Holly x
More SuzyKnew! articles from Holly can be found here and here.

ASK JANICE Special: Tips For Mental Wellness During The Holidays 2021

 

Another holiday season has arrived, and for the second year in a row, our nation faces rising COVID cases. If you’re anything like me, the holidays, in a good year, can be stressful. But during a pandemic? I don’t know about y’all, but these rising COVID numbers have me SHOOK!

This year, we also have high inflation. So, we’re spending more to meet even our most basic needs, while many of us continue to struggle financially. Plus, supply-chain disruptions and staff shortages mean empty shelves in stores and longer waits to get the things we order online. It’s a mess!

As someone who fights hard to maintain both my physical and mental health, I’m trying to be proactive this year when it comes to managing my holiday-induced anxiety and depression. Because sharing is caring, I’ve come up with a few suggestions on how you can navigate the season with your mental wellness relatively intact.

Here they are:

  1. Tweak or Re-Up Your Meds: If medication is part of your mental wellness regimen, this holiday season is not the time to run out or continue using ineffective meds. Talk to your medical team NOW if you need refills and get those scripts filled ASAP. Or, if you’ve noticed your current meds are no longer effective, talk to your team about tweaking the dosages. Bottom line is you want to make sure you have everything you need before your medical team goes on vacation. You don’t want to have to wait until after the New Year to get your meds right.
  2. Plan for your Therapist’s Vacation: Work with your therapist to come up with a plan for you during their vacation. Is there a backup person you can call if you go into crisis while your therapist is gone? Can you sneak in an extra session before they leave? Just make sure you have a plan in place ahead of time.
  3. Alert Your Support Network: If you have trusted friends or family who’ve supported you well on your mental wellness journey, you need to keep them in the loop during the holiday season. Remind them of your struggles and let them know your concerns. Suggest clear and concrete ways they can help you in a crisis. Be honest with them and keep the lines of communication open. Having wellness allies to help you cope will make things a lot easier for you.
  4. Watch Your Diet and Alcohol intake: We all tend to over-indulge during the holidays. But we all also know what we put into our bodies deeply affects our mental health. Instead of viewing the holidays as a chance to “let go” and throw out your meal plans, recognize that your health is more important than a few hours of fun. I’m not telling you to abstain. Y’all are grown. I’m just suggesting that you indulge in moderation and remember what’s at stake. No, a slice of sweet potato pie won’t kill you, but SIX slices may affect your mood. Toasting in the New Year with a little champagne is fine, but more than that may adversely interact with your medications. In other words, have fun, but don’t go crazy (pun intended).
  5. Don’t Over Plan Your Time: You don’t have to accept every holiday party invitation, Girl. It’s okay to politely decline. You can use COVID as your excuse, but honestly, you probably shouldn’t be hanging out all that much, anyway. We’re still in this pandemic and it’s not really safe to socialize the way we used to. Besides, over planning will definitely increase your stress and anxiety. So be prudent and scale back all those big holidays plans you’re making. It’s what’s best for you both physically and mentally.
  6. Be Sure to Rest: This is obviously closely related to number 5 above. Even if we’re lucky enough to get time off work at this time of the year, we often run ourselves ragged with holiday preparations, parties, shopping, and planning. But lack of sleep and exhaustion usually exacerbate mental illness. Your body and mind need rest, Sis. So be very stingy with how you spend your time, and make sure you schedule enough time for you to just chill. Yes, get your sleep. But also, make sure you spend some of your awake time doing absolutely nothing productive. Do some binge watching or catch up on your reading. Whatever it is you do to relax and escape from reality, do it! Rest and relaxation are necessary for good mental health.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. I’d love to hear from you, though. Do you have any suggestions to add? How are you managing your mental wellness this season? Comment below and let us know.

In the meantime, I hope you have a safe, healthy, and prosperous Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year! Happy Holidays!

Calling All Saints

November 1st is All Saints Day, and November 2nd is All Souls Day. Early November is a time for remembering saints and loved ones who have passed away. Staying connected to your ancestors and honoring saints whose lives demonstrated love can strengthen your ability to have healthy relationships.

If you are remembering and honoring saints this November,  remember Saint Martin de Porres, who was the first Black saint from the Americas.  Born in Lima as the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and freed Black or indigenous Panamanian woman, Martin died November 3, 1639. Martin lived in Peru where Blacks and Indians were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. He was known for caring for the sick and downtrodden, especially African slaves.Martin performed miracles, curing the sick instantaneously and feeding many through alms he collected. It was said that when Martin prayed, light would flood the room. Click here for more about his life.

 

Remember Saint Josephine Bakhita. She was the first African woman saint. Born in the mid 1800’s in Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped and taken into slavery by Arab traders.  She was bought and sold several times over a period of twelve years before was placed in a convent in Venice, Italy. Click here for more about her life and love for all.

Venerable Henriette Delille may become the first Black American female saint. A French-speaking creole born in 1813 in New Orleans, LA, Henrieette founded the Sisters of the Holy Family. The religious group was created to care for the sick and educate the ignorant, focusing on educating slaves, which was illegal at the time. Like her mother and other relatives, Henriette lived in “placage” or in concubinage with a White man. Interracial marriage was illegal at the time.

November is Black Catholic History Month.  Click here for more on leaders of African descent and here for the Black Catholic History Calendar in the Washington, DC area. For Black saints you’ve never heard of, check out Madame Noire’s post.

 Click here for more All Saints Day posts from SuzyKnew!

This article was originally published November 5, 2017

Fertility Friday: Low-Fat Diets And Testosterone In Men

This weekend we are sharing Fertility Friday’s podcast on how diet affects testosterone in men. Discover why low-fat diets are terrible for both testosterone and sperm production in men in today’s episode with Joe Whittaker.

Joe Whittaker is a clinical nutritionist and researcher. He holds a master’s degree in Nutritional Therapy, from the University of Worcester. His research has been published in top academic journals, and widely covered by the media. His academic research is focused on men’s health, particularly testosterone and sperm health.

Here’s a link to Joe’s research study: Low-fat diets and testosterone in men: Systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies

Topics discussed in today’s episode:
  • How nutrition relates to sperm health and testosterone production
  • What men can do to support their testosterone and sperm health
  • How calorie restriction effects men
  • How men and women’s bodies are affected differently by intermittent fasting
  • Correlation between men’s testosterone production and sperm production
  • Why would a vegetarian and vegan diet not be optimal for reproduction

GO HERE: For the podcast!

 

ASK JANICE: TRIGGER WARNING – GABBY PETITO, ABUSE, AND RACE

Dear Janice – What do you think about the whole Gabby Petito thing? What does it have to do with us?

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Dear SuzyKnew! Reader:

My answer isn’t going to be another piece railing at the “Missing White Woman Syndrome” following the tragic and preventable death of Gabby Petito, the 22 year old white woman whose disappearance dominated recent news cycles. By the way, that phrase “Missing White Woman Syndrome”, was brilliantly coined by the late, great Gwen Ifill (RIP). There have already been dozens of well-written articles and thought pieces about the stark contrast between the nonstop coverage of the pretty, blonde, white woman who went suspiciously missing and the dearth of coverage of the THOUSANDS of missing Black, brown, and indigenous women (and men).

What more can I say that you don’t already know? Everyone reading this knows that Black, brown, and indigenous women go suspiciously missing EVERY SINGLE DAY in this country, without so much as a backward glance from the media. More disturbing is how little attention these cases get from actual law enforcement. But this isn’t new information.

Black women, especially know how little our safety matters to the general public. Just look at how long it took to convict R. Kelly! On Monday, September 27, 2021, the R&B singer was FINALLY convicted of nine federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges after actual DECADES of raping, kidnapping, and abusing Black girls and women. DECADES!!! And to be totally honest, these convictions wouldn’t ever have happened without the relentless, grass roots efforts of Black women activists who, slowly and steadily, kept up the pressure to bring this prolific pedophile to some inkling of justice.

The fact of the matter is the United States is a deeply racist, violently patriarchal society that does an abysmal job of protecting the rights, autonomy, and safety of women. Full stop. It’s at least 100 times worse for Black, brown, or indigenous women. As I type this, individual states actively seek to dismantle our hard-won reproductive and voting rights. Incidents of domestic and intimate partner violence have escalated to record levels thanks to the pandemic. And according to recent headlines, the country recently recorded the largest annual increase in murders in six decades.

So, things are grim for women of color here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. But you already knew that. That’s why I didn’t want to turn this into a Gabby Petito versus women of color type piece. Because what happened to Petito does warrant our attention. Not because she’s white. And not because the thousands of other missing Black, brown and indigenous women don’t warrant our attention, too. They do.

But I don’t want that to detract from the fact that violence against women continues to go largely unchecked in this country. Gabby’s case perfectly illustrates this. From what I can discern from all the information shared about her situation, what happened to Gabby happens to far too many women far too often:

Just over two weeks before she went missing, witnesses reported a violent altercation between Petito and her boyfriend/fiancé Brian Laundrie. The witnesses told law enforcement that they’d seen Laundrie slapping and hitting Gabby. But when the police came, they simply separated the couple for the night, presumably so that they could “cool off.” The couple were adamant that they were in love and didn’t want anyone charged with a crime. The police officer reported that Gabby was “confused and emotional.” He went on to report that “After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.”

So, you get reports from a witness who says that a man was slapping and hitting a woman. You investigate and learn that the couple did have “a physical altercation following an argument”, but they are “in love” and don’t want anyone to be charged. Then … and here’s the kicker for me … the officer says the woman (Gabby) is “confused and emotional” and that problem isn’t domestic assault, it’s a mental health crisis.

A mental health crisis.

And the officer’s solution was that they should just separate for the night and that’s it? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF TRAINING DO THEY GIVE POLICE IN MOAB, UTAH??? Because even if she was having a mental health CRISIS, on what planet do you simply let her sleep in her van for the night instead of getting her some mental health HELP??

If Gabby was “confused and emotional” following a violent altercation with her boyfriend/fiancé, where witnesses saw him HIT HER, why would your only solution be to just separate them for the night, allowing her to sleep in her van alone?

And now Gabby is dead, presumably murdered by Laundrie, who remains missing.

Both as a mental health crisis case and a domestic violence case, this kind of deep systemic failure happens all the time. Especially to women. That it happened to a pretty, young white woman who seems “worthy” enough to warrant wall-to-wall news coverage ought to tell you how bad it is for Black, brown, and indigenous women in similar circumstances.

The police mishandled the whole thing, imho. I don’t know how things work in Moab, Utah. But even I know that whether he saw a mental health crisis or a domestic violence crisis, that police officer failed Gabby Petito miserably. He should have insisted she get checked out at a hospital, at the very least. Let medical experts determine the problem. Let a medical exam show if there were signs of physical abuse. Let a medical team intervene if she was, indeed, having a mental health breakdown. Maybe, alone with a medical professional, Gabby Petito would have had a chance to tell her side of the story.

Instead, Gabby spent that night alone in her van. A month and a half later, her remains were discovered after an exhaustive search, and Brian Laundrie got to go home to his family. Now he’s missing and is sought in connection to Gabby’s murder. What a horrible story.

Every single day, Black, brown, and indigenous women get abused, have mental health crises, go missing, and get murdered without dominating the news cycles for weeks on end. These girls and women leave behind families and friends who love them and desperately seek their safe return. But those families, our families won’t get the closure, albeit tragic, that Gabby Petito’s family gets. We rarely do.

Here are some numbers you should always keep nearby, either of which, that officer in Utah could have used and possibly saved Gabby’s life. I hope you never need them, but if you do, they could save your life.

Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE(7233)

Mental Health Crisis/Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK(8255)