A Hot CocoaMama

I said I was going to do better. Since the new year I’ve been waking up my eyes with my favorite Lash Extract mascara and some black eyeliner. I found a new “formula” for my hair that includes Miss Jessie’s curly pudding, and Carol’s Daughter’s Hair Milk and Twi Leave-In Conditioner. It is, admittedly, the first time my natural hair hasn’t looked (as) dry since my Momma was doing my twists, lovingly and meticulously, with B&B.

I’ve been hot recently 🙂 I presented a paper at MLA in some cute black leggings, my favorite purple dress and the mandatory tweed blazer; my version of the academic staple was fitted, and had the cutest coordinated hues of purple, pink and white. I even rocked my purple snakeskin pumps just to shake the boys up a bit.

Truth is I’ve been back and forth lately about how to “dress the part.” I spent the last three years on my feet/game in D.C. public schools, where jeans and sneaks often get you in the mood. Comfortable and relaxed I approached my day, energized, organized and with my sleeves rolled up, getting dirty with the best of ‘em. I was never as fly as my artsy, fashionista students, male and female, or as “professional” as my suited up veteran colleagues, but my look got the job done.

Over the winter break, in anticipation of my first class as “Dr. Me,” I cashed in on a merchandise credit at Tiffany’s and bought “everyday jewelry,” because I’ve found that looking plain has its perks. I am often the younger teacher that gets “mistaken,” for the student at work. Furthermore, the Plain Jane mommy routine does numbers when you are trying to get medical professionals to class you as warm, caring, educated and motivated, and you really need them to stop stigmatizing you and give the expertise your children need. I know . . . crazy!

All that being said I wish I was still turning heads, particularly mine, and then my husband’s, in that order 🙂 I have this homegirl who has been putting me to shame for years!!!!! The other day I needed her bad, and she always comes through. My daughter was admitted to the hospital for “failure to thrive,” my two-year-old son was tearing up the place with “failure to stop cutting the f*%K up,” and my husband and I needed him gone! She came and rescued both of us on green stiletto pumps, in cute tight jeans, and with a full face of perfectly applied/neutral makeup. Her hair was in an upsweep, cause she knew she didn’t have that kind of time, but even the upsweep was still as eye-catching as the A-line on her trendy, grey coat.

She and I have talked about this!!! A few months ago, while driving cross-country, I confessed how boring and tired I think I look, and told her truthfully how I admired how absolutely flawless she always is, even though I have known for forever that it takes her waayyyy tooooooooo long in the bathroom. She told me, like a true friend, that I needed to take more time to care for myself, and that I was probably putting too much time into caring for my kids and my book project. She also told me what the hell she does for that long in the bathroom, and though the details are now fuzzy, it had something to do with exfoliating and pumice stones.

Often when I go to the barbershop to take years off my face with a razor blade eyebrow arch I tell my barber, Omar, and longtime friend, that I remember when I was cute. It’s normally couched in some conversation about how adorable his new wash girl is, or a tender quip at his receding hairline. He tells me that I’m still cute, which I know is to make me feel better, but thank God it works. I would love to feel that good all that time, and know that I really brought it on.


Homegirls Just Aren’t Hand Grenades

I’m a tick . . . tick . . . tick. Boom!!!! kind of person. After a series of repetitive injustices committed against me, I respond in the loudest, most unruly manner imaginable. Often times the person who executed the offense is caught off-guard. I am convinced it is not because they are incapable of evaluating their behavior as malignant, but because they thought they were “getting away with it,” with me.

I often say that I wish I was more like my sister, who assertively checks anyone right at the door when they do something offensive. From the deliberately inattentive “customer service” representative to the occasionally biased Mom-Mom, everyone catches her quiet, controlled critique at the appropriate time, every time!!!

Last year I faced clear (and documented) gender discrimination at my former workplace. A few years before that, I was subjected to it at school. My husband and I “argue like cats and dogs” and the only negative relationship with a woman that I have had in the last eight or nine years is with . . .  you guessed it . . . my mother-in-law. I find myself now, more than ever, grateful that homegirls are not hand grenades.

It took me until college to fully value and integrate, irreplaceably, sisterhood in my life. I have also been blessed with longer female friendships that have grown over the years to be awesome, mutually beneficial, supporting, nonjudgemental relationships. Sometimes I wonder why it is that these unions are run with such ease.

This week I went to lunch with one of  a few “grown and sexy” (50+) sistagals I am fortunate to have. I call her Mommy Nett. I “dated” her son in the seventh grade 🙂 He and I weren’t meant to last but I am so grateful she and I were. Yesterday I had my first spa massage, a belated birthday present courtesy of my BFF who I can thankfully go to to relieve stress, fully assured not to have any undue stress returned on to me.

Are black women the models for sisterhood among other races? Are these “sisterhoods” the model minority or majority?

Tanji is a wife and mother of three. She has two boys and one girl. She lives in Philadelphia, her favorite chocolate city. She is an educator and her first “baby” is now a Howard University graduate and a Cocoa Mama.

To The Left

“Every mother deserves a daughter.”

– Melissa Harris-Lacewell

I had already heard some of the criticisms, feminist and otherwise. “Why does the princess have to turn into a frog?,” “Why do the character’s sound like that?,” and my personal favorite, “Where is her magical kingdom?” If any little black girls deserve their own hometown princess, Post-Katrina New Orleans black girls do.

I know, I know, I know . . . this is the moment of the black girl. Indicated first and foremost by the “hope,” and eventual realization, of a black First Lady and two black First Daughters, and followed by several Vogue covers with black women, including the controversial Vogue Italia . . . hell, even Pottery Barn Kids had more varieties of black dolls in Holliday 2009 than I could find at my local Target. However, I went to see the movie anyway, with my little princess in tow.

Two and a half-decades and running/supposedly ending? Oprah, voices Tiana’s mother in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Is this our mother’s fairy tale? She wants her daughter to marry, give her some grandkids, stop “dreaming” and start courting. Tiana solely desires to open her own swanky New Orleans restaurant instead. She starts off the movie with savings (as well as a penchant for her profession)! This is not a Cinderella story.

All the men in the movie, at least those survived by Tiana’s late father, are uninspiring. Dr. Facilier, the villain, is a capitalist conjurer who wants to run the city. The Prince himself is “lazy,” as Tiana rightfully admonishes. Even Bruford, Tiana’s dayshift co-worker riffs, “You have about as much chance of getting that restaurant as I do of winning the Kentucky Derby.” However, Tiana puts on her superwoman cape and keeps truckin’, believing firmly, “the only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”

Is Tiana truckin’ or trickin’? After all, she only kisses the frog because she wants him to turn human, marry someone else with money and share the wealth. Though she does wish upon a Disney star, she also digs into some deep pockets. Her mother is a seamstress, her daddy is dead. According to Mark Henn, supervising animator, “A lot of times in fairy tales the leading character is a little more reactive, things happen to them, with Tiana, and some of our other leading ladies, they were more proactive.”

The “problem” with Tiana is that she wasn’t loving, as her fairy godmother, Mama Odie, instructs. If she can find it in herself to follow in the footsteps of her father, who was both a dreamer (however unrealized) and a devoted father/husband, then she can live happily ever after. Of course she gets married at the end of the movie. However, her running her own restaurant is the final scene.

Legend has it that actress Anika Noni Rose, voice of Princess Tiana, asked the animators for her character to be left-handed like her. Let’s here it for “left-brained” learners/creatives! This may very well be my daughter’s feminism, a little to the left.


I Forgot To Pray For Good Health For All Babies

Recently my family has been challenged by health issues. My oldest son has an “undiagnosed” learning disability that is once again being “discovered” by a new school. This is a hard thing for me to handle. Education has always come easy for me. However, with all my degrees and experience, not being able to figure out how best to help my son learn is very much a crisis for me and has been for some time.

My daughter is nine-months and she weighs 11 pounds. I have taken her to CHOP, supposedly the best in the area, and her liver and kidney are fine. However three months later, she has lost an ounce. She will start at a Grow Clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital this month.

I have been praying a lot these past months and I am so grateful that my children are here with me each new day. I trust that with God’s help, we will figure out how to overcome our health issues soon.

This weekend however I learned that a dear couple friend lost their child to SIDS. I have since sent them my love and prayers but I can’t help feeling like I should have stopped to pray for all the babies in my life recently, to pray for the health of all children.

I became an educator years before the birth of my oldest child. Teaching children has inspired me to think broadly about family and my door is pretty wide open. My mom is another important model for this. I joke that there was always someone else at my house for Thanksgiving. I have a whole “Play” family. Play cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. that adopted my family when my parents moved as a young couple with kids into my hometown.

I thank God for all my extended family. I pray that this new year brings good health to everyone. I encourage others to think broadly about family and to protect children in service somehow as well as with prayer.

Tanji is a wife and mother of three. She has two boys and one girl. She lives in Philadelphia, her favorite chocolate city. She is an educator and her first “baby” is now a Howard University graduate and a Cocoa Mama.