Author Archives: Janice Fuller-Roberts

Sophia’s Sunday Uplift (Good for Every Day of the Week)

I know someone needs this message today.

Listen. You’re way too precious to beg for time and attention, Sis. Maybe you’ve simply forgotten your worth. Maybe you’ve been so caught up in “survival mode”, trying to keep your loved ones safe and healthy, that you’ve forgotten how wonderful you are. Is that why you’ve been accepting less than you deserve? Could that be the reason you’re letting someone get away with neglecting your needs? Have you forgotten that you’re lovable and deserve only the best?

Stop accepting scraps from people who don’t appreciate your value. Notice I didn’t say they don’t recognize your value. Because they do. They know full well how amazing you are. They’re just counting on the fact that YOU don’t. They only do the bare minimum for you, knowing that you’ll gratefully accept it from them. So, stop it.

No, really. STOP IT.

First of all, let me remind you that you are more than enough just as you are … flaws, and all. You’re more than enough even with those extra pounds you picked up during quarantine, and even before you’ve completed that degree. You’re enough even though you’ve been out of work for a while, and you’re still not back on your feet. YOU ARE ENOUGH! You’re worthy and deserve only the best: the best treatment, the best loving, the best of EVERYTHING! So stop settling for less, and stop putting up with the bullshit!

Secondly, you need to take responsibility for your own happiness, Sis. It isn’t up to him, her, or them to “make” you happy. That’s on YOU. You’re more in control of your life than you realize, even now, when the world is literally burning. Seize that control and create your own joy. And when you do, you’ll realize that you don’t really need approval from all those people who underestimate and undervalue you. And the people who truly appreciate you and all your magnificence will only enhance the joy you’ve created. Never, ever depend on someone else to make you happy.

Finally, you need to make your mental and physical health a higher priority. Not only do you need to protect yourself from the pandemic, but from all of the other illnesses and ailments that can affect your quality of life. If you lack insurance or are under insured (as so many of us are), get online and research what free or low-cost services are available to you in your state, county, or city. Network with your friends and family to see what resources they use. As Black people, we really need to stop keeping all this stuff so secret, and share what works so that we can all thrive and be healthy. So go ahead and start those conversations with your loved ones. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from others who may be having the same hardships as you.

The bottom line, Sis, is that you’re too precious to let anyone, even yourself, treat you any old kinda way. You, and you alone, have the power to create your own joy, and divest yourself from people and situations that don’t appreciate your value. Stop accepting bad or even mediocre treatment from the people in your life,  stop looking to others for your happiness, and prioritize your mental and physical health so that you can thrive and live the life you deserve. Now, straighten your crown, hold your head high, and get out there and walk in your purpose!

 

SOPHIA’S UPLIFT: Radical Self-Acceptance, Pandemic-Style

We talk and write a lot about how this current pandemic wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health. But have we really addressed how the isolation, stress, and uncertainty of these trying times affects how we feel about ourselves? I’m not just talking about how COVID-19 has affected depression, anxiety, and other disorders, either. I’m talking about how nearly SIX MONTHS of this mess has changed the way we see ourselves.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who have used the lock-down to complete a gazillion household projects, learned a new language, or baked thousands of loaves of bread. Or you may be one of those enterprising entrepreneurs who parlayed their job uncertainty into a lucrative side hustle, making more money than ever. It’s quite possible that you eat healthier, exercise every day, lost 50 pounds, and can now bench press your living room couch. You may even be proud of everything you’ve accomplished since mid-March, and your self-esteem is better than ever.

If this is you, then congratulations! And I mean that sincerely.

But, if you’re like me and millions of others, you’re more stressed, significantly fatter, and maybe even a little disgusted with how little you’ve accomplished since binge-watching The Tiger King back in the early days of this never-ending pandemic. And if you’re like us, your self-esteem has taken a beating. That’s why we all need to get back to practicing radical self-acceptance and self-care.

Radical self-acceptance doesn’t mean that you stop trying to improve yourself. It simply means that you love yourself as you are, flaws and all. It means you stop beating yourself up over the 17.7 pounds you’ve gained, and start embracing the fullness of your body. You can love yourself deeply and accept every inch our yourself fully, and still work at getting, looking, and feeling better.

Radical self-acceptance means that you’ll strive to do better today than you did yesterday, but also that you’re still proud of the person you were yesterday. It means that you love yourself out loud, because you can recognize where you need to improve, and still adore who you are right this minute

Speak affirmations to yourself throughout the day. Take time to pat yourself on your back for the little things you accomplish, as well as the big things. If all you managed to do today was the bare minimum of what you need to do to survive, then allow yourself enough grace for that to be okay. Be kinder to yourself. Give yourself a break. You really are doing the best you can at any given moment during any given day. And sometimes, that has to be enough.

When you get back to deeply accepting and loving yourself, you’ll no longer accept the things that don’t serve you. You’ll disengage from disrespectful and harmful people, and you’ll only embrace those who truly love and honor you. Some people will accuse you of being selfish when you love yourself enough to make YOU a top priority. They’ll resent your self-acceptance and confidence. But that’s okay. Let ’em go, Sis. Your real friends and family will be proud of you and encourage your self-love.

The people in your life who truly have your best interests at heart will celebrate your happiness and progress, not be jealous of it. So let those others go. They weren’t for you, anyway. Putting yourself first is an important step towards radical self-acceptance. Anyone who begrudges you that isn’t good for you.

You may not be where you thought you’d be by now, but you’re still here. And that’s something, especially during a pandemic. You’re here and you’re beautiful, and smart, and at ALL times, more than enough. Whether you’ve mastered working from home or not; if you’ve lost 20 pounds or gained them; or if you parlayed your side hustle into a well-paying job or you’re trying to survive on unemployment; you’re still here and you are amazing exactly as you are in this moment.

Don’t let the fallout from this pandemic or any of the other craziness happening in the world rob you of your self-esteem. Put yourself first, love yourself deeply, and accept who you are, flaws and all.

Stay safe out there and wear a mask!

#SophiasUplift #Uplift #selflove #selfacceptance #upliftBlackwomen #Blackwomen #radicalselfacceptance #radicalselflove #loveyourselfdeeply

 

SOPHIA’S WEEKEND UPLIFT: How Ya Doin’, Sis?

Hey, Sis! How ya doin’? You good? I know it’s been a minute, but I just wanted to check in and see what’s what.

These are some crazy times, right? A pandemic, mass protests, political unrest … there’s so much going on, right now! The economy sucks, the current administration seems hell-bent on killing us and stealing the election, and we can’t even get together with our friends (in person) and commiserate! I know it can be overwhelming and scary, so I hope you’re taking good care of yourself.

No, really. Are you taking care of yourself? Because I know you’re taking care of everyone else: your kids and family, your job and friends, your faith community, and all the other causes and organizations you give your time and talents to. But are you taking care of YOU?

I hope so! I know we talk about self-care a lot here at SuzyKnew! But the importance of self care can’t be overstated, especially now. Are you drinking enough water? Getting enough exercise? Enough rest? Please, Sis. Do whatever it is you need to do to take better care of you. Because we need you. The world needs you. Your loved ones need you.

We need you to not just survive, but to THRIVE! Listen. I know you’ve already been through a lot. You’ve endured so much during your short time on this planet, more than most people could ever bear. And your pain and struggles have shaped your strength and your beauty. Your survival is a testament to your fortitude.

But you’re more than just the sum total of your past pain and heartbreaks. You’re more than just a survivor and a “beater of the odds”. You are a fully-formed person, deserving of all the good things this life has to offer. Your dreams matter and you deserve to have them all come true. You’re not just here to make the world a more beautiful and loving place (though you do that so well), you’re also here to reap the benefits of that beauty and experience pure, unadulterated joy! You deserve this!

So go ahead and put yourself first for a while. Because it’s up to YOU to live a vibrant and meaningful life, filled with wonder and bliss. So use your time wisely, choose your friends carefully, and remember your dreams and your purpose. Hydrate your mind, your body, and your soul. Always be your most authentic self. And never settle for ANYTHING less than what you truly deserve.

Before I sign off, I want to talk a little bit about rest. Taking care of yourself means getting all the rest you need; not just exhausted sleep, but real, restorative REST. Your body needs rest. Your mind needs rest. And your spirit needs rest. If, in order for you to get the rest you need, you have to shut yourself off from the rest of the world for a bit, then do so. Even if it’s only for a few hours alone in your favorite room.

I know your family needs you. I know you can’t afford to miss work.  But you know what? I bet if you ask a trusted friend to watch the kids or take care of your mom for a day or so, they’d gladly step in and do it. I bet if you actually took the time off your job probably already owes you, the place will still be standing when you get back. You just have to ask: for help, time off, a break. So go ahead and ask. You deserve this.

I hope you take this advice in the loving spirit for which it’s intended. Because I do love you. You are me and I am you. And most of the time “we all we got”. I love you, Sis. So take care. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And please … be well.

All My Love,

Sophia

#selfcare #selflove #upliftBlackwomen #Blackwomen

 

ASK JANICE PODCAST SPECIAL: Can We Talk About Mental Health?

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, formerly known as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month! For those of us a little late to the party, BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, & People of Color.

As you know, here at SuzyKnew! we’re all about TOTAL health and wellness for Black women and women of color all over the world. Obviously, that includes mental health and wellness. A few weeks ago, I joined my dear friend, Monique Guest, on her awesome podcast, Be My Guest, to talk about it. To hear “A Conversation on Battling Mental Illness”, click on this link:

http://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-um5f3-dee3a1#.XyHNP_L5HlM.email

Go easy on me, y’all. It was my first time doing a podcast.

Black people and POC need to talk more openly about mental illness, especially these days with so much going on in the world. I don’t know about you, but between the pandemic, 45’s messy mishandling of the pandemic, as well as his minions’ refusal to follow the CDC’s basic guidelines to slow the spread of the virus, my meds have had to work overtime!

And I know I’m not alone. Months of isolation, fear, and uncertainty would adversely affect even the healthiest of people. But even without COVID-19 being a factor, far too many people suffer in silence because of the stigma associated with mental illness. We all know someone sick who refuses to get professional help or take medicine that could help them lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Untreated or under-treated mental health issues account for so much of what is wrong in our communities, and result in so many unnecessary deaths. That’s why it’s so important to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. And that starts with having conversations … openly, freely, and without fear of shame. BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is as good a time as any to get those conversations started.

By the way, Monique and I go waaaay back (maybe one day I’ll tell y’all about a trip to Europe we took as teenagers) and I think she’s awesome. You should check out her other podcasts, which you can find on her website at  https://www.bemyguestllc.org/.

Photo Source: Pixabay

 

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Are You Celebrating JUNETEENTH 2020?

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!!

Juneteenth, celebrated on the 19th of June, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas FINALLY learned they were free. Presumably, they were the last ones to learn of their freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War, a full three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated by African Americans for 155 years, the holiday is finally getting the “mainstream” attention and respect it so richly deserves in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Major companies now offer paid time off to their employees to celebrate. Virtual and socially distant parties have been planned all over the country. And there’s even a call for an international celebration where NO ONE spends a single dime.

Full disclosure: I was a full-grown adult when I learned about Juneteenth. I never learned about it at the PWI schools I attended; and my family, which is largely in Michigan where I was raised, didn’t celebrate it. Even after I learned about it, I never really “celebrated” it. My friends didn’t plan cookouts or parties around the holiday. I never bought or received a Juneteenth card. Other than a few social media posts, I never personally celebrated the holiday.

But, for me, all that changes this year. Why? Because as “down” and “woke” as I profess to be, I finally get it. Juneteenth starkly reminds us of a simple truth: none of us are free until ALL of us are free. Chattel slavery in the United States did not really end until the enslaved souls in Galveston, Texas were finally freed.

I get it now.

Here in the United States of America, that self-proclaimed bastion of liberty, justice, and equality, we’re in the midst of a reckoning with our white supremacist beginnings that’s been centuries in the making. As I write these words, cities, towns and communities clamor to remove the racist symbols and statues that dot our landscape. After three straight weeks of protests, people demand greater accountability from not only the police, but from institutions and individuals (see all the “Karens” and “Chads” loosing their jobs over racist behavior). On the surface, we have much to celebrate.

However, Black folks partying on June 19th doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten all that still needs to be done to dismantle the structures and institutions that uphold patriarchal white supremacy in this country. In what’s likely the most important election of our lifetimes, voter suppression efforts threaten our ability to exercise our hard-won right to vote. Anti-Black violence and hate crimes run as rampant as ever. Black unemployment continues to rise, while Black wealth continues to drop. And COVID-19 still threatens us all.

But we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth anyway, because we’re still here, and we’re still fighting. We’ve reached a critical moment in our history, as a nation and as a people. Whether we’re marching, donating, teaching, or organizing, we’re working hard to ensure that America lives up to it’s promises to all of her citizens. And for that reason alone, we deserve to celebrate.

I may be late to the party, but I plan to celebrate Juneteenth 2020 with bells on. Well, maybe not bells. More like with a mask on and from the safety of my socially distant home. But I will celebrate.

Because NONE of us are free until ALL of us are free.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! Stay safe and healthy.

#Juneteenth2020 #BlackLivesMatter #AskJanice

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Ya Doin’, Sis?

How ya doin’, Sis?

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? It’s as though we’ve entered a weird, combination of 1918 (global pandemic), 1929 (economic crash), and 1968 (civil unrest) all at the same time. We opened with the untimely and tragic death of NBA star Kobe Bryant; saw the Republican-led Senate vote to acquit the current occupant of the White House on two counts of impeachment; became completely obsessed with the antics of Joe Exotic and his arch-nemesis, Carole Baskin (Netflix’s The Tiger King); and the ENTIRE world caught a deadly virus which shut down EVERYTHING.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus, the economy tanked, causing millions to lose their livelihoods; states issued “stay-at-home” orders to stem the spread of the deadly virus, forcing us all indoors; then, armed civilian militias stormed state capitols to protest the stay-at-home orders; murder hornets are headed to the U.S. and a giant asteroid is headed towards earth; and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of racists and George Floyd at the hands of (under the knee of) racist police officers sparked massive protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality WORLDWIDE.

And it’s only June! I mean, really, 2020 has been a wild ride!

So, I ask you again: how ya doin’, Sis?

Because we all know that Black women, in particular often bear the brunt of all the craziness going on in the world. For example, the racial disparities in health care alone make us more vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. We all know Black women who either couldn’t get tested or were denied quality care during this pandemic. And don’t even get me started on the covert and overt racism we experience on a daily basis. From the irritating microaggressions we grin and bear from our white colleagues to the “Karens” who want to call the manager/police/anyone-in-charge on us for simply existing in our Black skin, we catch Hell even during the good times. And these are not good times, are they, Sis?

So how are you? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you drinking enough water? Are you exercising and eating healthy? How are YOU?

I ask because I know you, Sis. I know how hard you work for your family and your people. I see you out there at these protests making sure people have enough water and masks, keeping track of everyone’s kids, putting yourself between the police and your husband, brother, son. I see YOU!

I see you driving around making sure your elderly relatives and friends have enough food, water, and toilet paper when they can’t go to the stores because of the virus. I know you’re helping the kids keep up with their schoolwork so that they don’t fall behind during the pandemic. I see you using what little spare time you have left to sew masks for your friends and to donate.  I see you out there taking care of everybody.

But, Sisters! If ever there was a time to make your own well-being a priority, it’s NOW! Because this is a marathon, not a sprint. We Black women already know that without us, this entire society that’s really a house of cards built on a shaky foundation would crumble. Or get burned to the ground. So we have to stay strong and be ready for the long haul.

That means you MUST take care of yourself. Drink more water. Exercise. Meditate and pray. Eat right. Laugh with friends. Make love. And take time out of every single day to center yourself and YOUR needs.

You can’t pour from an empty vessel, Sister. You’ll be no good to the people you love if you don’t take good care of yourself. So, if that means you have to skip the next march, then so be it. Let others march in your place. If you need to unplug from cable news and social media for a while, then do it. I promise, it’ll all be there when you get back. If you have to turn off your phone for a few hours every evening, then do so. Give yourself permission to stop, be still, and find some peace.

We’re only halfway through 2020, and there’s still so much work to do. Here in the U.S., we have an election coming that will determine what our country will look like for decades to come. We don’t know if our kids will be learning online or returning to the classroom. We have an economy to repair, deaths to properly mourn and funeralize, and a lot of healing to do. We’ve also got to keep the momentum from these protests going and set about making real and lasting policy changes. And that’s just a partial list.

So please take care of yourself, Sis. Put yourself first for a while. Take a break. Take a nap. Take a bath. Take a breath. Take care of you so that you can be battle-ready for the days, weeks, and months ahead.

I know 2020 has been a lot … but we got this. We will win.

Stay healthy and safe.

#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForBreonna #SayHerName #BlackWomenMatter #BlackGirlMagic

 

SOPHIA’S INSPIRATION: Self Forgiveness by Sophia Ned-James

Ladies! Let’s talk about Self Forgiveness!

For many of us, the forgiveness of others and the forgiveness of our God are the cornerstones of our belief systems. We’re taught from a very young age that to forgive is divine, and that we should forgive others as God forgives us.

But what about forgiving ourselves? What about showing ourselves a little grace for our stumbles? I’ve noticed that, for women especially, self forgiveness is a lot easier said than done.

Why is that, though? Why is it so hard for us to forgive ourselves? Why do we, as Black women, spend so much time beating up on ourselves for the mistakes we made in the past?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, though I’m pretty sure the reasons are layered and deeply rooted in the perpetuation of white supremacy and patriarchy. Because everything seems to be layered and deeply rooted in the perpetuation of white supremacy and patriarchy. But that’s a discussion for another day and another column.

The point I’m trying to make is that whatever our reasons for holding these forever grudges against ourselves, we need to stop! Black women especially need to learn to forgive ourselves as readily as we forgive others, and as completely as God forgives us. Period!

Sisters, it’s so important that you make peace with your past, and then let it go. You are so much more than whatever awful things you did back then. Your mistakes don’t have to define you, so stop giving them so much space in your head.

Listen. Everyone messes up, sometimes! So stop being so hard on yourself! Learn from your errors, do better next time, and move on with your life. Focus on where you’re going, and leave where you’ve been in the rear window.

2020 has been hard enough, already. A global pandemic is wreaking havoc on humanity and you’re doing the absolute best that you can. So show yourself a little grace and let those past mistakes and stumbles go. You’re not the same person you were, so love and forgive yourself for who you are in this moment. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Stay safe and healthy. And be kind to yourself!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Black Women Already Understand Racial Bias In Medicine, Why Don’t You?

I just had a brief Facebook exchange with a white woman (a friend of a friend) that perfectly shows why Black women must always fight to keep our voices and experiences from being erased. Our mutual friend had posted yet another article about a Black woman who was denied COVID-19 testing THREE times, and ultimately died from the virus. These stories have been popping up all over the place, especially in the hardest hit areas. And they clearly show the rampant racial bias that has always existed in our health care system.

The conversation that followed the article was mostly about how this current pandemic has truly highlighted the huge disparities between the medical treatment of Black people, and Black women, in particular, and everyone else. We all lamented the fact that too often, Black women’s pain and symptoms are ignored because of the implicit bias of medical professionals; and how this happens to Black women regardless of their education levels or socioeconomic status.

In fact the original poster is one of my best friends, and is a highly educated physician who lives in a wealthy neighborhood. But when her COVID-19 symptoms became life-threatening and she had to call an ambulance, the EMTs tried their hardest to talk her out of going. They repeatedly dismissed her symptoms and kept telling her that the hospital would probably send her home. It took another physician friend who was on speakerphone to convince them to take my friend to the hospital, where she was admitted, after all. Thankfully, she was released after a few days, and is recovering comfortably home. Praise God.

Anyway, I pointed out how frustrating it is for Black women to basically have to submit a resume and bank statement when recounting these experiences. It’s as if, for the benefit of the white sympathy, we have to prove our “worth” as humans to get them to understand that we get discriminated against because we are Black and female, regardless of our backgrounds and income. As if it’s okay to discriminate against poor and uneducated Black women. Which, of course, it isn’t. No one should face discrimination when seeking medical care.

It’s the same thing that happens when a young Black, unarmed person is murdered by the police. We always feel compelled to point out that he was a good student with a promising future. In reality, no one deserves to be gunned down, regardless of how they do in school, or where they live, or how much money they have.

But I digress.

Where my doctor friend’s white friend (whom I’d met years ago when they were in medical school together – she’s very nice, btw) made me grit my teeth was when she said,”I think that women, in general, are often dismissed and being a woman of color magnifies that”.

Y’all.

She just “All Lives Mattered” the very specific discrimination that Black women face in health care! Not only that, but she lumped Black women in with all women of color, which is another HUGE pet peeve of mine (more on that in a second).

Listen. I will be the first to admit that all women face discrimination. Full stop. How-some-ever (as the aunties used to say) … there is absolutely no scenario, situation, or circumstance where white women face the same level of discrimination as Black women. Not here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and not ANYWHERE else on this planet!! I don’t care how much Becky and Karen have to deal with, it pales (see what I did there?) in comparison to what Black women face EVERY SINGLE DAY.

(In fact, have y’all seen how, all across the internet, white women have been claiming that them being called Karen is the same as a Black person being called the n-word? Whew! The nerve! But that’s worthy of a whole separate post, because there is so much to unpack and discuss. Again, I digress.)

And people really need to stop saying “women of color” when they mean Black women. Because again, Black women face way more discrimination than women from any other racial or ethnic group. And more often than not, those other groups treat Black women like shit, too. All while appropriating our vernacular, our style, our swagger, and everything else that’s glorious about us.

That is why I never refer to myself as a woman of color, anymore. Not when those other colors treat me just as badly as some white folks do. No thank you. I am a Black woman. Period. And when you are referring to any kind of statistics, trends, studies, or whatever that measure how women are treated, you need to make sure you separate the experiences of Black women from every other category. Because our experiences are not that same.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe in solidarity with ALL women on many issues, like equal pay, reproductive freedom, and any number of important things. I’m all for gender solidarity as long as Black women’s voices are heard and heeded. But what I won’t do is allow for the erasure or dilution of Black women’s experiences. Nor will I let ANY comment, turn of phrase, or post that attempts to do so go unchallenged.

I’ll close with a quote from the late Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” He said that in 1962, and it has never been more true than today.

Wash your hands and stay healthy!

 

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Have You Cyber-Partied With Your Girlfriends, Yet?

As we wrap up another Women’s History Month amidst a global pandemic that has us all doing some form of “social distancing”, I want to celebrate the tenacity and ingenuity of friendships between Black women. Even in the face of “shelter in place” and mandatory quarantines, sistas are gonna find a way to celebrate each other … together.

That’s because Black women have a long and storied history of “making a way out of no way”. So if we decide to co-opt various teleconferencing apps to have cocktails and dance parties with each other in the face of impending doom, then that’s what we’re gonna do!

Listen. We’re all stressed these days. This latest coronavirus, COVID-19 (or “the Rona”), has changed everything. Every single day, we’re losing our loved ones to this insidious disease. Here in the U.S., thanks to the abysmal response of the current occupant of the White House, we’re seeing our death toll rise exponentially every day. Of course it’s hitting Black communities especially hard. You know that old saying, “When America gets a cold, Black people get pneumonia?” Well, that’s never been more true than now.

At this point, I don’t even know anyone who hasn’t been personally touched by this virus. It’s bad, y’all. Really bad. And the fact that we haven’t even peaked yet is terrifying! So it’s more critical than ever that we all abide by the “shelter in place” rules so that we can stop the spread. Which means no Happy Hour meetups, no brunches, no in-person socializing with our favorite friends.

But … what that Rona NOT gone do is stop a sista from getting that all-important, rejuvenating, re-charging, gut-busting-laughter-filled time with her girlfriends! We have the technology to stay connected, even as we responsibly “social distance” ourselves from each other. And Black women everywhere are taking full advantage of it!

This past weekend, my social media was absolutely buzzing with women sharing pictures of their Zoom cocktail parties, their Skype brunches, and other online group events. Also, thanks to a few famous DJs going viral with hours-long Instagram and Facebook Live parties, folks were having full-blown dance parties with their friends, all from the safety of their own homes!

And boy, do we need some fun, right now! I mean, there’s only so much gloom and doom we can take. It’s been a relief to turn off the president’s lies and cyber-party with my girls. We’ve shared cocktails, danced, laughed, and cried together … even though we’re forced to be apart. These virtual get-togethers have given me LIFE, and I can’t imagine doing this quarantine thing without them.

So if you haven’t done so yet, check out platforms like Zoom or other web conferencing options, and gather your girls for a cyber-party! They’re easy to use and totally worth the effort. We need our girlfriends, ladies! Remember … in today’s world, sometimes “we all we got”!

Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy!

#datrona #COVID19 #sistafriends #girlfriends #cyberparty #getyourgrooveon #blackwomen

ASK JANICE: Reflections on Black History Month 2020

It’s the last day of Black History Month 2020, and what a month it’s been! We started the month with the much debated Gayle King/Snoop Dogg kerfuffle following the untimely death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in late January. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but suffice it to say, “misogynoir” was in full effect, as were the ongoing debates about celebrity, legacy, and redemption.

We’re ending the month facing a global pandemic in the form of a deadly new coronavirus which, if it spreads as fast as some experts predict, may prove to be the end of us all. Countries are issuing travel bans, Japan has closed all its schools for a month, they’re talking about postponing the 2020 Olympics, and even the stock market is freaking out. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, folks!

Amidst all the drama and fear, the looming U.S. Presidential election is on everyone’s mind. Despite what the current occupant of the White House’s propagandists and minions would have us believe, the majority of African Americans fear another four years of this Administration almost as much as the coronavirus. Except for a few outliers like Diamond and Silk (or as I like to call them: Cubic Zirconia and Polyester), and the 14% of self-hating Black dudes who voted for him, most African Americans want to send that orange menace back to the swamp from whence he came.

Which brings me to the point of this Black History Month reflection: the right and responsibility to VOTE.

It’s fitting that this year’s Black History Month theme is “African Americans and the Vote”, which recognizes the struggle for voting rights among Black men and women throughout American history. I know we say this during every election cycle, but the 2020 Presidential election really is one of the most important elections in our nation’s history. Especially for Black people.

Especially for Black people.

From the time the first stolen Africans were brought to the U.S. in 1619 to now, any rights and privilege of citizenship have had to be violently wrestled from the hands of the white supremacists who’ve ruled. This is especially true when it comes to voting rights. Following the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved persons, Black men were constitutionally given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870. The Amendment stated that “voting rights could not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Of course, we know that even though Black men could vote legally, there were violent forces in place that suppressed their votes, effectively silencing their voices.

It would be another 50 years before women were allowed to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. However that Amendment did not initially include any women of color, and most certainly not Black women. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed 45 years later in 1965 that Black women were officially allowed to vote in the U.S., a full 95 years after Black men got the vote. NINETY-FIVE YEARS!

1965 wasn’t that long ago, y’all.

Anyway, that brings me back to this very important 2020 Presidential election, and how it’s more critical than ever for Black people to exercise their hard-won right to vote. I know Black women will turn out in droves to vote, because we always do. And when we do vote, we tend to vote in our best interests (96% of us voted for 45’s opponent in 2016 – a statistic that is forever burned into my brain).

What I’m worried about is voter suppression. Several states have been purging their rolls of legitimate, eligible voters in record numbers. Deliberate misinformation and propaganda from everyone from Russian bots to Republican operatives are being fed to Black and brown communities via social media, television, and radio. And I fear we’ll see the same slippery and violent tactics used during Reconstruction come election day.

So we must remain vigilant, watchful, and deliberate in making our voices heard. We need to double and triple check our voter registration status, and encourage our friends and families to do the same. We need to keep up our voter registration efforts and educate as many young people as we can, so that they will become engaged and participate.

And most importantly, we cannot forget our history when it comes to having the legal right to vote. Black women were only officially allowed to vote in 1965. Think about how hard our foremothers had to fight so that you and I could have a say in how we’re governed. Think about the voter intimidation, literacy tests, and other obstacles our foremothers faced even after the the Voting Rights Act was passed. And think about how even in the 21st century, there are strong forces out there seeking to take this fundamental right away from us.

Think about it and VOTE.

And wash your hands.