Monday, November 30, 2009

The MyBrown Baby Happy For the Holidays CHILDREN'S BOOK GIVEAWAY!

My daughter Mari was just a little peanut in my belly when I gave her her first gift— copies of Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day,” Faith Ringold’s “Tar Beach,” and “More More More Said the Baby,” by Vera B. Williams. They were—and still are!—beautiful books with incredible stories—about the simplicity of a little brown boy and his dog enjoying a cold, winter day; about a little brown girl’s love of New York City and a party with the neighbors on the rooftop of her apartment building and; about a multiracial cast of toddlers getting smoochie hugs and kisses from their adult loved ones. It was important to me as a mom-to-be to surround my daughter with books—works that would spark her imagination and encourage her to dream. Just as important to me was that those books feature characters that look like her so that she could see herself in those stories and know that brown babies’ lives are worthy of documentation—their culture worthy of celebration.

Mari is 10 now, and she’s a wicked little book lover—she rips through one chapter book per day—and I know this is so because she’s been taught since the womb to revere the written word and the authors who share them. For years, we gave books as birthday presents to all her friends—I think we’ve single-handedly purchased and given at least a dozen copies of Debbie Allen’s “Dancing in the Wings,” and “A Snowy Day,” and “Tar Beach”—and we’ve amassed a serious collection of children’s books that we treasure.

Indeed, the gift of reading is transformative, and to kick off the first annual MyBrownBaby Happy for the Holidays Giveaway Week, some of my author and illustrator friends graciously donated AUTOGRAPHED copies of their books for the incredible collection of children’s books in the picture above. Included in this 18-book, $200+ gift package are:

Olu’s Dream, by Shane Evans. My girls and I are HUGE fans of Evans’ work; he’s the artist whose illustrated more than 25 books, including the gorgeous girl pie faces in our personal favorites: Home Made Love, by bell hooks, Jean Marzallo’s Shanna series, and; My Brother, Charlie, an upcoming picture book I wrote with Holly Robinson Peete. But these days, Shane is all about Olu’s Dream, a new series he wrote and illustrated, about a little boy who dreams B-I-G! Olu and his Oluizms are absolutely addictive. In addition to Olu’s dream, Shane autographed No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, a picture book he illustrated for author Doreen Rappaport.

March On!, The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, illustrated by London Ladd. London is an astounding artist who made his book debut with the impressive Christine King Farris-penned March On! the definitive tribute to her brother, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the march and speech that changed our nation. A video rendition of the book, featuring London’s illustrations and performed by Lynn Whitfield, recently won a prestigious 2009 Andrew Carnegie Medal. His next project, Oprah: The Little Speaker, will be in stores March 2010. In addition to March On!, London autographed a poster portrait of President Barack Obama.

The Ruby and the Booker Boys series, by Derrick Barnes. I. Super. Heart. Derrick. Barnes. Period. With seven books to his credit, he marched right into my heart when he introduced the super spunky, super smart, super fly cutie pie lil’ Ruby to the world. The series is absolutely adorable (see my review HERE), but even more, Derrick is just a good brother. We’re FaceBook friends, and on his page, he’s always singing the praises of his college sweetheart/beautiful wife and their three breathtakingly gorgeous sons (see Derrick’s MBB Father of the Month profile HERE), which just makes me love him more. Who wouldn’t love a man strong enough to father three boys, but tender enough to breathe life into the perfectly delicious Ruby? In addition to Ruby and the Booker Boys: Brand-new School, Brave New Ruby, Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme, and Ruby Flips for Attention, Derrick autographed two of his earlier works, Stop, Drop, and Chill, and The Low-Down, Bad-Day Blues.

Catwalk, by Deborah Gregory. The cheetalicious author of the bestselling Disney franchise The Cheetah Girls has a new amazing series—Catwalk, about a foursome of friends who work together to rip the runway with their own fashion line, the House of Pashmina. Wake up and smell the catnip! The second in the Catwalk series, Strike a Pose, hit bookshelves in September, and further proof that Deborah is on her grind, Catwalk has been optioned by Teen Nick network for a TV series, with Deborah attached as the executive producer and co-writer of the pilot episode. Work, Deborah! In addition to Catwalk, Deborah autographed a Cheetah Girls poster and donated a Cheetah Girls t-shirt and a picture of The Cheetah Girls, autographed by the four stars of the best-selling TV movie series.

Boycott Blues, Peggony-Po: A Whale of a Tale, Jackie’s Bat, We Are One, and Abraham Lincoln: Letters from a Slave Girl, written and/or illustrated by Andrea and Jerry Pinkney. This celebrated husband-and-wife team is downright iconic, and their books were quickly added to Mari’s burgeoning collection when she was a baby. Even when books featuring black characters were at a premium, it was the Pinkneys—she writes, he illustrates—who dedicated their careers to bringing great stories about African Americans to the bookshelves. Biographies, fairy tales, sweet stories about friendship, tall tales about little boys and whales, real-to-life stories about Civil Rights icons—you name it, the Pinkneys have done it, and with a style and grace I absolutely admire (see my review of Boycott Blues HERE and Andrea’s MBB Mom of the Week profile HERE). They are, in a word, incredible. In addition to autographing the five books mentioned above, the Pinkneys donated Harlem Summer, by Walter Dean Myers; Sassy: Little Sister Is Not My Name, by Sharon Draper; Crow Call, by Lois Lowry, and The Sound of Kwanzaa, by Dimitrea Tokunbo.

WHEW! Is this the hook-up or what?! That’s 18 books featuring characters and stories your child will flip for, with AUTOGRAPHS OF THE AUTHORS AND/OR ILLUSTRATORS! This is a $218 value, but the autographs of each of these rock stars is absolutely priceless, and would make an incredible holiday gift for the special children in your life. You absolutely cannot and will not find this gift anywhere but right here at the MyBrownBaby Happy for the Holidays giveaway. Want it? Here’s your shot:


• Visit at least three of the authors’ websites (though I encourage you to visit all of them!) and leave one comment telling me what you learned about each of them.

• Be/Become a MyBrownBaby follower.


• TWEET “I just entered the @MyBrownBaby Happy for the Holidays giveaway for over $200 in autographed children’s books"

• BLOG about this giveaway

• BUY one of the books featured in the giveaway, and email a copy of your confirmation order to (2 entries!)

• BECOME a MyBrownBaby email subscriber (you MUST verify your email subscription to qualify) OR get the MyBrownBaby RSS feed HERE (leave a comment letting me know you’ve done so, and include an email address so that I can contact you if you win).

• ADD my button to your blog

THIS CONTEST ENDS AT 11:59 P.M. on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2009. THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10th, 2009. It is open to residents in the continental U.S. and Canada.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

20 Things: I'm Grateful...

• for my Nick, who loves me and our children to the marrow, even when we get to trippin’. This doesn’t happen often. But oh, when it does… let’s just say he’s a trooper.

• for my Mari’s intelligence, tenacity, sensitivity, and focus. She’s more responsible at 10 than I was at 30. This comes in handy. Real handy.

• for my Lila’s free spirit, sense of humor, antics. She’s scary smart, but more than willing to be the practical joker. This works for me most days.

• for Mazi, who’s huge bear hug on the field after the last game of his football team’s playoff season told me that we’re cool like that. I thank God for him and his beautiful mind.

• for my parents and my brother, Troy, who gave me life and triple dog dared me to take advantage of and use it to its fullest.

• for our dog, Teddy, especially when he rolls over on his back—belly up. Perfect for rubbing. He’s such a dirty little blonde…

• for my Nikon D-50, snagged fresh from a financially desperate… er, strapped college student off of Craig’s List. Her loss. Truly my gain, especially with the awesome tips I’ve picked up along the way from I Heart Faces.

• for my BFF Angelou’s shoulder (perfect for crying, complaining, and dreaming) and her ridiculous purse and shoe game (always ripe for borrowing).

• for my nephews Miles and Cole’s smiles, sense of humor, and perfectly delicious hugs. They’re all boy, but they don’t have a problem giving auntie the love she craves.

• for my brother-in-law James, a no-holds-barred brother who takes great pleasure in making me think—and even great pleasure in bonding with the hubs in a way I wish more black men did with one another.

• for My Ambassador of No, Gretchen, who is Chris Rock funny, super sensible, awesomely helpful and unabashedly able to suggest on many occasions that it’s okay to turn down ridiculous requests every once in a while, like watching the neighbor’s 11 animals for almost two weeks. (I didn’t listen. Next time, I will.)

• for my new Gap skinny jeans. Seriously. I could fit “all of this” into skinny jeans. Thank God for stretch material. Thank God The Gap is using it.

• for my co-authors Steve Harvey, Nene Leakes, Mitzi Miller, Holly Robinson Peete, and Angela Burt-Murray—all of whom have helped keep money in a sistah's pocket.

• for my MacBook, Blackberry Curve, iTouch and portable Bose speaker, Wi-Fi, DVR, Law & Order SVU, gummy bears, and Double Bubble Bubble Gum. Seriously, wouldn’t nan word get written if it weren’t for these nine things. Not nan word.

• for the March of Dimes, a terrific organization that helps keep the most vulnerable among us healthy, comfortable and loved, and, for its commitment to uplifting the self-esteem of our little girls (and their moms, too!), and Parenting, for giving me a forum to say what I want to say exactly how I want to say it.

• for Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway and Maxwell and Angie Stone and Ledisi and all the other soul artists who constantly remind that good music is possible and necessary, and The Dream, Soulja Boy, and for reminding me why I have an iPod and pointer fingers—perfect for turning off black radio and punching up music I can actually, like, listen to in front of my babies.

• for Nick’s kick-ass ribs, and home made fruit smoothies. One word: Addictive

• for my bloggy friends—too numerous to count.

• for MyBrownBaby, which has opened doors and inspired me in ways I never imagined.

• and for Him, who wraps me in His mercy and grace, even when I falter.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here’s to hoping you have much to be grateful for…

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Beautiful Mind Contest Winner!

We’re celebrating great writing here at MyBrownBaby today with the announcement of the first winner of The MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest. Thank you to my guest judge Tameka of the lovely Tea & Honey Bread, who not only read all of this month’s entries on the topic, “Peace,” but donated the prize for this month’s contest—a stunning, handmade 19” copper ladder link necklace with a 2” wooden focal embellished with a Czech glass and oxidized copper blossom that she created for her Pretty in PeaceEtsy site. I encourage you to follow/subscribe to Tea & Honey Bread so that you don’t miss a word of Tameka’s stellar writing, and, if you didn’t win this gorgeous necklace, don’t fret: She’s got a plethora of beautiful pieces on her Pretty in Peace site—put one on your holiday wish list!

Finally, thanks to everyone who participated in this month’s contest; there’s nothing harder than to put up your writing for someone else to judge. I thank you for trusting MyBrownBaby with your words.

And the winner is…

The Mama Spot with The Quest

Talibah is a ridiculously talented writer whose blog was one of the first I subscribed to when I found my way online last year. Ironically, she used this contest to find her way back to blogging; she’d stopped for quite some time to focus on her other site, WeParent, an incredible resource for single moms and dads who co-parent. About Talibah's essay, Tameka said: "As I read, my inflections changed, my pace slowed with empathy and understanding... I felt a sense of peace within myself from her words...I was moved." You will be, too. Here, a snippet of Talibah’s “The Quest”:

My name means seeker of truth. All my life, I have been seeking, constantly in search of everything: my soulmate, a deeper connection with spirit, my purpose…that “it” that would have me finally certain about something, would end the search. My journey has carried me through all types of adventures, beliefs, careers, concepts and relationships. And, every time, along every single journey, I do reach a point at which I am almost certain that I have reached “it”. But inevitably some clue emerges that this isn’t quite “it”, and my search continues.

To read the rest of Talibah’s powerful essay on “peace,” click HERE.


Here, a list of the other wonderful entries (in no particular order, with links to blog posts where available):

1. MoonWritings with Clean Underwear.
I never imagined that I would leave the house in dirty underwear every morning once I started working from home, but, alas, that has become my fate. Wait. Before you begin to judge me as being nasty or the queen of TMI, I have to preface the comment with the fact that I don't just work from home, but I parent, too. And I have a spouse, who, contrary to popular belief that two makes it easier, does not help the workload when it comes to getting ready for the morning rush.

2. Yolanda Smothers with Reservation of Peace.
Peace is a place reserved for us; set aside. Just as a husband would reserve a table at a four star restaurant for he and his wife’s Anniversary or for Valentine’s Day to make the evening go smoothly. There is nothing worse than going to your favorite restaurant on that special night assuming that no one else maybe there celebrating the same thing. If everyone made reservations that would eliminate the needless wait for a table. Peace is planned.

3. Black Girl From Outer Space with Peace… I’ve finally found it.
As I sit here basking in the warmth of this glorious fall morning, sipping on a mildly cooled mug of deliciousness that is Chai Latte with just a bit of vanilla and sprinkle of cinnamon to taste and smelling of heaven trapped in ceramic. The shade of my mother’s awning keeps the sun from blinding me, and the comfortable breeze of this fall day caresses me. Often I wonder how I became lucky enough to find peace while persistently being pushed and pulled into the cold arms of chaos.

4. Yolanda Smothers with Peace Is…
Peace is waking up another day on top of the soil than six feet underneath. Peace is being closer to 36 than I was to 35 and being alright with the inevitable reality that I am growing older. It is also seeing what the old folks like to say “you wonder where the time has flown”. It is soon to be my 20 Year Class Reunion, yet it feels like I just graduated five years ago. Even some of my class mates have children who are 20 years old.

5. Mama Shujaa with The Peace Teacher.
Edith was a tall girl with a bosom the boys admired. Every day, the swish of her skirt lapped around her legs and stirred more than the boys' imaginations. Every day she allowed her jet black hair to cascade freely around her neck, framing a brown face that revealed God's mastery; everything on it perfectly structured, and eyes that suggested.

6. My Other Blog Is a Hybrid with Peace from Monkeys.
In my yoga workshop last month, I became reacquainted with a savasana pose I had probably not done since I had Marie. Years ago, I remember the instructor saying something during that pose, the exact substance of which I do not remember, that caused me to imagine a lake on my chest and control my extraneous thoughts enough to keep the water calm. (Oh god, I have no time to prepare for this, calm lake...Do my armpits smell a little?, calm lake....) I remember feeling especially proud of myself for conjuring that lake, and then I gradually forgot the exercise.

7. Selassie Fynn with Peace.
I have been wrestling with the definition of peace for the past six years. It is a word that pops up in my mind everyday. I pray for peace of mind, I ask for peace of mind from friends and family members, and I even question what peace of mind is all about. The 8th of November will be the six-year anniversary of my husband’s passing. During the first two years, I couldn’t sleep for more than four hours at a time. I cannot begin to tell you what I did or thought of during my waking hours, but I can tell you I prayed endlessly for peace of mind.


I’ll be announcing a new contest in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep using your beautiful minds!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

ARRRGH! What Do You Mean It's Only 32 Days Before Christmas?!





But come next week, MyBrownBaby is going to help get YOU ready for the holidays. One word: GIVEAWAYS.

A week's worth!


I'm setting it off on Cyber Monday, that glorious day when online holiday shopping kicks off. Be sure to check back in next week to see all of the wonderful giveaways I've got in store for you. If you're not following MyBrownBaby or you're not an email subscriber, you should become one—not now, but RIGHT now, so you don't miss it!

It's. About. To. Go. Down!

Whoo hoo!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

On the MyBrownBaby Table: Candied Yam Sticky Buns


In addition to November being my birthday month, I have many reasons to love this time of year—particularly because of all the goodies I get to create and consume. Between Halloween treats, birthday dinners, Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas gatherings and New Year's Eve galas, I often find myself in culinary heaven. In past years, my offerings have been confined to my friends and family, but these days, I share my creative foodisms with the world via NaturiBeauty Blog and MyBrownBaby guest posts, and so my inner creative food genius is demanding I. BRING. IT. And BROUGHT IT, I have, with this special recipe, the perfect compliment to winter chills, comforting warmth, and that lovely holiday spirit. I've combined the spice of cinnamon, the sweetness of brown sugar, and the comfort of candied yams and rolled it all up into a nice, spicy, rich November treat: Candied Yam Sticky Buns—vegan style. Dig it...


Dough Ingredients
*1 15oz. can of candied yams/ 1/4 cup reserved liquid
**2.5 cups self-rising flour
4 TB caster sugar
4.5 TSP Ener-G Egg Replacer
3 TB warm water
8 TB melted vegan margarine
Pumpkin Spice

Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 TB caster sugar
Generous dash of cinnamon

Glaze Ingredients
1/2 cup sifted powder sugar
2 TB vegan cream cheese, softened
1 TB vegan margarine, softened
about 2 TB boiling water
1 TSP vanilla extract

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
2. Mash candied yams with pumpkin spice in separate bowl.
3. Add flour, sugar, salt, more pumpkin spice in large bowl
4. Mix yam mixture in two parts with flour mixture (it will be crumbly)
5. Mix Ener-G Egg Replacer with 3 TB warm water; add to yam flour
6. Mix melted butter with reserved liquid from canned yams; add to flour mix in three parts as you continually mix dough.
7. Once it resembles dough, shape into a ball
8. Flour clean, flat surface and rolling pin; roll dough into an oblong shape or rectangle about 1/2 inch thick & about 10-12 inches wide

9. Mix brown sugar, caster sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle/spread evenly on rolled dough.

10. Start rolling form longest (length) side, careful not to break the dough, until completely rolled like a jelly roll.
11. Once rolled into a log, cut into eight even sections.
12. In an 8: cake pan, arrange pieces cut side up in a circle starting around the edge of pan and working toward the center.
13. Bake at 350 deg for 30-35 minutes.

14. Sift powdered sugar into bowl; make a well in the center.
15. Place cream cheese and butter in center.
16. Pour boiling water over the cream cheese and butter and stir to mix (add in more water if necessary), until glaze coats the back of the spoon.
17. Stir in vanilla.
18. Drizzle glaze over the rolls; serve warm or cold ( I like 'em hot!) and ENJOY!

*If you prefer not to use reserved liquid, you may use 1/4 cup almond milk or soy milk (vanilla flavored is best)
**If you do not have self-rising flour, you may substitute 2.5 cups of all purpose flour with 1 TB of baking powder

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Shelley Chapman is a culinary artisan whose passion for "natural, from scratch, quality ingredient meals" led her to consult on meal preparation, planning and holistic consumption as a personal chef for her company, Naturi Beauty Concepts. She offers private culinary services in the Atlanta area, specializing in Vegan and Vegetarian cuisine with a global influence. For more tasty vegetarian/vegan recipes, please visit Shelley at Naturi Beauty.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Come Check Out the ATL Screening Of "Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage."

It's no secret I stan hard for Lamar and Ronnie Tyler, the dynamic duo behind the fab, award-winning site; they're eloquent, smart, and an incredible example of the beauty that is black love. Indeed, the couple is so passionate about the need for African American men and women to figure out the love thing that they made a movie about it—a ground-breaking documentary set to challenge negative stereotypes surrounding marriage and parenting in the black community. In their film, Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, they feature couples and experts discussing topics such as the image and portrayal of black marriages and families, the effect the Obamas have on marriage in the black community, and the importance of parenting.

Yes, that is me and Nick in the video clip, giving our own take on love, marriage, child-rearing, and the special issues we and many other black couples face as we try to make this love thing work. And tonight, we'll meet up with Lamar, Ronnie, and a few other experts featured in the Tylers' documentary for a FREE screening of "Happily Ever After," followed by a panel discussion on the film and love and marriage. If you're in town, check out the film at The Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe, ATL. Door open at 7:30 p.m.; the film begins promptly at 8 p.m., with the panel discussion immediately following.

Of course, if you can't make it out, then check out their recent TV news feature HERE and stop by the dedicated website for Happily Ever After to show Ronnie and Lamar some love and especially to buy this poignant tribute to strong black love.

See you tonight!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: How Not To Talk About Africa

I just adore this video, a satire piece by Binyavanga Wainaina of Kenya—and not just because it stars the absolutely delicious Djimon Hounsou. Wainaina uses this thought-provoking, at times comical commentary to point out the more ignorant attitudes that find their way into Western literature and other written stories about Africa. Personally, I think we could sub in pretty much any group—black folks, Latinos, other developing countries, poor people, urban and rural folk, teenagers, women—and make the same point. At the base of it, Wainaina's video is commentary on stereotypes, and our need to open our eyes, dig a little deeper, and suspend judgement before we pretend like we can claim any authority over subjects with which we're only minimally familiar. Really think about what Djimon is saying, and pay attention to the beautiful images that flash in the end. Really, really smart.

(With nods to Kiss My Black Ads, the terrific advertising blog where I first saw this video. Keep doing what you do!)

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Styling a Black Girl's Hair Is No Job For Daddies!


My daughter, Nee, has absolutely no confidence in my ability to do her hair. Whenever I attempt to style it, she becomes more obnoxious than Rush Limbaugh.

Recently, my wife, KayEm, had to run an errand and I thought I would surprise her by combing and styling Nee’s hair (even though, Nee prefers KayEm to do her hair, it’s not a pleasant experience for either party. If you’ve ever bathed a cat, you can understand how these styling sessions go). I gathered all of the tools and materials and set-up a styling station at the kitchen table.

“Nee,” I said. “Come and sit down so Daddy can do your hair.” A looked of horror covered her face.

“No!” she yelled. “You’re NOT doing my hair.”

“C’mon,” I said. “Daddy, can do it. I’ll make you look beautiful.”

“NO!” she yelled again. “I want Mommy to do my hair.”

“But Mommy won’t be back for three weeks,” I said.

“I’ll wait,” she said as she crossed her arms and dug her heels into the ceramic tile.

When Nee was younger and couldn’t voice objections, I did her hair periodically. Although I had absolutely no experience, I think I managed to make her look presentable. I always stuck with my two default hairstyles: Afro with a head band or one single pony tail. Whenever I tried to get fancy, it was a disaster. Nee wound up with crooked parts down the middle of her head and two lopsided ponytails. Who knows what would have happened if I had attempted three.

Because of my hairstyling shortcomings, KayEm relieved me of this duty.

“I’ll handle Nee’s hair from now on,” she told me. “You just take care of the boys.”

“What’s wrong with the way I do her hair?” I asked. She smiled and gently patted me on the back.

“You just take care of the boys,” she repeated. “Because I don’t want my daughter going out looking crazy.”

“She’s my daughter, too,” I protested. “I would never let me little princess look crazy in public.”

“You’re right. She is your daughter too so we’ll let her decide,” said KayEm as she beckoned Nee over to us. “Who do you want to do your hair? Mommy or Daddy?”

“Mommy!” she said.

I was hurt. My little princess had rejected me in favor of cute hairstyles.

Nee is in third grade now and I know that things such as hairstyles and fashion are much more important to her now. In her world, it’s uncool to wear daddy-inspired hairstyles. I know my baby is growing, but I miss the days when a single ponytail was good enough.

Stay Strong,

Mocha Dad

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Mocha Dad, a.k.a. Fred G., is the founder of, a blog he started to chronicle his life as a husband and father of three, and to counter the negative stereotypes surrounding black fatherhood. His goal is to give a firsthand account of a black father who is intimately involved in his children’s lives and motivate other fathers to be more actively engaged and involved with their children. This piece originally ran on, where you can find many more of Fred's delightful stories on fatherhood, as well as his new e-book, Mocha Wisdom, Volume 1.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Black Moms ARE Different—and That's OK.

So, after yet another white mom stomped onto MyBrownBaby accusing me of "segregating" myself for writing about issues affecting black moms, my homegirl Akilah over at the fabulous Execumama told me that I should "never freakin' explain again" why I do what I do. She's right, you know; if people bothered to look around and read the actual content on MyBrownBaby, they wouldn't get hung up on the name. But I felt like I needed to break it down so it'll forever be broke just one mo' gin, and this week, I did it in a much more public forum—on The site. Here's an excerpt:

'You’re so vain, you probably think this [post] is about you.'

But it’s not.

It’s about me.

And a bunch of other African-American moms who are tired of being ignored. Stereotyped. Put in a box. Left to wonder what, exactly, they’re to do with the unique circumstances that come into play when they’re raising black children in a society that all but ignores them, until something horrible happens.

What’s got me all in a tizzy?

Yet another white mom stomped onto my site last week, questioning why I write for and about moms of color. Apparently, the word “brown” in my blog title made her feel some kinda ways about my posts, subject matter, and intent, and she questioned why, if “everyone wants to be celebrated and recognized as ‘equal,’” I would “segregate” myself with a blog about skin color.

Um, you really want to make my nostrils flare? Tell me that you “don’t see color.” Or that we’re all the same—no matter the color, race, income level, background, origin, beliefs. Or that by simply acknowledging and speaking to issues that affect black moms specifically, I’m “segregating” myself.

To read the rest of this essay and the wonderful dialogue it's stirred up, head on over to The Parenting Post by clicking HERE. If you're so moved, leave a comment.


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Friday, November 13, 2009

Home Made Love: Mari's Chocolate Sticky Bread


To start this off I just want to say that CHOCOLATE STICKY BREAD IS THE BEST DESSERT EVER! Just trust me: once you taste it, you will agree with me, and you will tell everyone that you know that it's your favorite.

I first learned this recipe at this awesome summer cooking camp [my mom has probably written about it] called Young Chefs Academy. We get half of our dinner, lunch, and dessert dishes from that place! This recipe is one of them.

Now I bet that at least one of the many people reading this is thinking, "Well, what if I don’t want chocolate in my bread?" There is a solution for that. I just replace the Hershey kisses with small apple slices. Easy as that! And if you don’t want the apples either, then there are, like, a billion other things that you could substitute for the filling! Peaches. Pears. Bananas with cinnamon. Name it, put it in.

Mommy, my sister Lila and I make this for special occasions, but sometimes we make it for no reason on Monday nights! If you could make a dessert this delicious on a Monday night then you know that it is extremely easy to make.

Now that you have heard this and your mouth is watering and you suddenly have this weird craving for biscuits and chocolate—or apples, the way I like it!—you probably want to know the recipe. Well you’re in luck, because I've written it out for you. Here it is (adapted from the Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, GA):

What You'll Need:
*4 cans of refrigerated biscuits
*3/4 cup of sugar
*1 tablespoon of Hershey’s cocoa
*1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
*1/2 cup of margarine, melted, divided
*1/2 cup of light brown sugar
*1/4 cup of water
*80 Hershey kisses, unwrapped [optional]; can replace with small apple slices from three apples.

How To Make It:
1. Stir together cinnamon, cocoa, and sugar in a small bowl.
2. In one microwave-safe bowl, whisk together ¼ of the margarine, the brown sugar, and the water. Heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds until the mixture is smooth when stirred.
3. Divide the mixture into two and pour each half into two loaf pans.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Cut each of the biscuits in half. Slightly flatten and wrap around one kiss to make a ball. Keep repeating this until all the biscuits are gone.
6. Dip each ball in the remaining ¼ cup of margarine then roll in the cocoa-sugar mixture. Put half of the balls in each pan with the margarine-sugar mixture.
7. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan then convert to a serving plate. This recipe makes 12 servings. Eat up and enjoy!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is "Precious" Realism or Poverty Porn? Help Me Figure Out If I Should Buy A Movie Ticket

I'm feeling some kinda ways about the new movie, Precious, and the jury is still out over whether I want to plunk down my $10.50 to check it out. I mean, I get that the movie, about a Harlem teenager who is physically, mentally, and sexually abused by her parents and ostracized for being obese, has incredible buzz and folks are already whispering that a few of the cast members should get their gowns ready for next year's Oscars. And if Oprah's co-signing it, it has to have some kind of context and deeper meaning, seeing as she was the executive producer of a few flicks I liked that were equally disturbing/revelatory—Beloved, The Wedding, Their Eyes Were Watching God. But the idea of watching a mom try to bash her daughter's brains out with a frying pan, or a father make babies with his child, or an overweight kid suffer seemingly insurmountable nastiness from practically everyone she comes in contact with, doesn't exactly float my boat. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, I couldn't stand to see children suffer—still can't read newspapers stories about it, can't watch it on the news, gotta turn away from it when it shows up on my favorite TV shows. It's a no go.

What's more, I'm having a hard time supporting a flick that shows yet another poor, uneducated, rough-mouthed, hard-living black mom working through her screwed up pathologies. (Actually, usually, black moms aren't shown in movies at all, are they? Mostly as side-kicks who play the back while their super husbands save the world/have an affair/do something deep/find their way back home. But I digress.) I'm just afraid that folks with take the snapshot the film gives of a certain segment of the African American community and make it the sole picture of black motherhood. We all know better. Unfortunately, though, not enough folks—of all races, sadly, even our own—know this picture isn't in all of our albums.

Anyhoo, seems like somebody—or a whole lot of somebodies—were willing to see it; Precious made close to $2 million this weekend, even though it was shown in only 18 theaters nationwide. That's considered an impressive showing for an independent film that got hardly any theater play. And I have to admit that I'm curious to see Mo'Nique completely flip the script in her role as Precious's abusive mom, a role the late-night talk show host told me was a difficult but rewarding star turn for her movie career (I interviewed her for a story that ended up on the cover of Uptown magazine, see up top).

I don't know—help me out, sweeties: Have any of you seen it? If you haven't, do you plan to? Holla back!

AND, if you so please, come on back tomorrow to check out a new Home Made Love recipe written by my sweetie pie, Mari. She's going to hip you to her favorite dessert. Please, please, please show my baby some comment love!

In the meantime, for those of you who haven't seen previews for Precious, check out this one...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Word(ful) Wednesday: Grooving to New "Princess and the Frog" Music with Anika Noni Rose and Ne-Yo

Oh man, when Dreamgirls hit movie theaters on Christmas Day a few years back, Nick and I hosted a huge gift exchange and brunch at my house, and then we all rolled to the movie theater—25 people deep—to see Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose light up the screen. What we saw was magical; I mean we danced and laughed all through the movie, and when we got home, my girls relived the experience every time they popped the soundtrack into the CD player. Both Lila and Mari love them some Beyonce, but they identified with Anika Noni Rose—thought she was pretty and funny and a great singer and all things generally awesome.

So when they saw that she's the voice of the lovely Tiana, Disney's first African-American princess in the upcoming film, The Princess and the Frog, let's just say they lost their natural born minds! And Mari and Lila, both HUGE fans of Disney movie music, have been w-a-i-t-i-n-g
on pins and needles, needles and pins for The Princess and the Frog soundtrack, which includes original Disney music sung by Anika, Jennifer Lewis, Keith David, and even Ne-Yo, all wrapped in the sounds of jazz, zydeco, blues, gospel, pop, and more. When they come home from school today, I'm going to give them a sneak peek at the video featuring Anika (up top) and Ne-Yo (below), and let them listen HERE to snippets from the upcoming soundtrack, available in stores November 23—just a few weeks before the December 11th nationwide release of The Princess and the Frog.

AND if you're in the ATL area AND you have a little girl under age 12 AND she's willing to wear a princess costume and tiara out, she can get into the Georgia Aquarium FREE on November 21, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the establishment will be celebrating the Georgia Aquarium Princess Day: A Benefit for Frog Conservation. There'll be parades, games, and fairytale fun (frog kissing is optional!). Click HERE for more info.

Woot woot—score! (I'm sorry, y'all, but this movie with the African American princess really does make me giddy!)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Babies and Bubbles: Natural Ways To Care For Your Child's Delicate Skin


When my first son was born, I didn’t think twice about running out and purchasing the usual fare: petroleum jelly, baby oil, and the moisturizer that we all associate with that magical "baby smell.” I had about seven or eight baby bags already packed with all these products—everything I thought I needed to take care of my baby. For sure, I believed that the products everyone else was using would be best for my new baby.

It didn’t occur to me that the typical baby products would contain harsh, toxic, or carcinogenic ingredients, but I was wrong; when I finally started reading the labels, my eyes were opened to another reality entirely. It really snapped me out of my new mommy daze and made me remember that I was born knowing everything I needed to know about how to incorporate more natural products into my baby's skin care regimen. After all, the wise mothers who came before me embraced nature as they cared for their children, and an internship in the bush of Cameroon, Africa, inspired me to start mixing up natural and organic shea butters and essential oils and herbs in the lab, a.k.a. my kitchen. I've long created natural, simple, freshly made, healthy products for grownups who shunned ingredients that were deemed toxic, irritating, or cancer-causing (and believe me, there were thousands of them).

Right then and there, I got “the wake up call” and started fashioning some of my grownup products for my baby's delicate skin. Everything I blended for him was natural and had no more than four or five ingredients. When it was bath or bedtime, he would coo and ooh about our annointing rituals using the wonderful, safe products that I made especially for him—one of the best, most powerfully nurturing gifts that I could offer him. I could rest easy knowing that I was massaging his skin with healthy, nourishing baobab fruit seed oil instead of coating it with a by product of gasoline and kerosene (mineral oil, also known as baby oil). It did me and my baby good to soothe his mild eczema with shea butter and lavender instead of flammable, chemically-treated hydrocarbons (petroleum jelly). He and I were happier cleansing his tender little arms and legs with a wash made from olive and coconut oil instead of antifreeze and solvent ( 1, 4 dioxane is found in more than half of the baby washes on the market and is an ingredient used to make coolant and bubbles).

Now that all of my boys are past the baby stage—my youngest is 3, yeah!—and I no longer blend baby care products in my kitchen, I literally make it my business to share what I know with other mothers and encourage the blending of something sweet and beautiful for babies. Now I host Honey B.U.N.S. (Babies Use No Synthetics) gatherings where a bunch of us mothers get together around our sacred blending pots and add a lot of love, blessings, and super simple ingredients to create some of the most incredibly nurturing baby washes, oils, and lotions for special, spiritual and most perfect beings—our babies!

Here, a simple but special recipe you can make all on your own—safe for you and your babies. It's simply delicious. Enjoy!

Basic Recipe for Gentle Massage Oil

What you'll need:
16 oz. jojoba oil (this oil is most similar to the components in human sebum, our inherent moisturizer.)
16 oz. sweet almond oil (moisturizing and gentle; easily absorbed)
16 drops of lavender essential oil (this is not fragrance, but a pure essential oil for soothing any skin ailment)*
8 drops of Roman chamomile (this is not a fragrance, but a pure essential oil for calming)*
4 4-ounce bottles
1 32-ounce jar

The mix:
Pour all ingredients into the 32 ounce bottle or jar; shake well and pour evenly into the four, 4-ounce bottles. Enjoy massaging your baby with this special, delicious elixir.

Note: Natural does not always mean best for your baby. There are some babies who are sensitive to many things, including ingredients that come from the Earth, such as essential oils. If your baby is prone to allergic reactions or has sensitive skin, simply use jojoba oil without essential oils. Also, please note that all ingredients with the exception of the jars can be purchased at Whole Foods or your local health food store.

About our MyBrownBaby contributor
Karen Peters is founder of The Peace & Beauty Project, a nonprofit organization that encourages girls to honor natural beauty while making health conscious decisions. On Wednesday, November 11 at 5 p.m., she will host a "Babies & Bubbles Baby Care Workshop" to help moms learn about the ingredients that are safe for babies' skin. To learn more about Karen's organization and her workshop, click HERE or call 407.339.7529.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Joys (and Pains!) of Kinky, Curly Black Girl Hair


The torture usually came on Saturday evenings, in the kitchen. I’d be sitting on a stack of thick yellow phone books and a pillow, squished between my mother’s knees; she’d be perched on the hard wooden kitchen chair, bent over and leaning in at some ungodly angle, trying hard to tame the kinky curls at the nape of my neck with gobs of thick grease and a scorching hot comb.

I can still hear the sizzle of the comb on my hair and smell the thick, greasy, burnt hair scent clinging in my nose. I can’t tell you which hurt worse: The fire-red hot straightening comb or the pop my mom would give me with the wide-tooth plastic comb for not being still or screaming out in pain or breathing while she tried to “straighten my naps.”

From there, it just got worse. Like when my Aunt Sarah would braid my hair into cornrows so tight I couldn’t see straight. And when my mom paid a professional hairstylist to have my hair “relaxed” with skin-burning lye. And then there was that unfortunate time when my dad, left in charge of my hair while my mom spent a few weeks in the hospital, gave me a jherri curl. He read the directions off the box and went to work right there in the middle of the linoleum floor, just me and him.


This is the story of all-too-many brown girls everywhere—a story that some of us African American moms are desperately trying to change with our generation of daughters.

Which is why there was such an uproar recently when Newsweek’s Allison Samuels openly criticized Angelina Jolie, a white mom, for letting her adopted, Ethiopian-born daughter, Zahara Jolie-Pitt, sport hair Samuels said was “wild and unstyled, uncombed and dry. Basically: a ‘hot mess.’”

Now, I’m not going to jump in the middle of the raucous debate sweeping like wildfire through the internet; there’s been enough piling on from both sides of the issue without me adding to it (Should Zahara’s hair be wild and carefree? Should Angie take a black hair care class or two so she can “tame” Zahara’s hair? Why are we criticizing a 4-year-old’s hairstyle anyway?)

But I will say that even as an African American mom, it’s not easy being in charge of two heads of kinky, curly hair—not including my own—with little information, great trepidation, and horrible memories of the Saturday night torture. There were no books out there to help me figure it out when my girls were babies; all of the information in the parenting books focused on hair and skin that didn’t look or feel like my girls’. I mean, I knew everything there was to know about how to care for a baby with thin, blonde hair, and it seemed like every product in the kids’ shampoo section was made specifically for them. But what was I supposed to put in my baby’s hair? What would keep it from drying out? How was I supposed to comb it? What was I supposed to do as the texture changed, sometimes just on one side of her head? Was it safe to braid it? Pull it into puffs? Put barrettes in it? And what was a nice, curt, way of telling my mom’s friends that my kid’s hair was in an Afro, sans braids/puffs/hairclips/lye because I liked it that way and it was actually better for her?

To read the rest of my take on this whole Angelina/Zahara/Black Girl Hair Care saga, click HERE to check out my latest blog on

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Help MyBrownBaby Support the Greening Youth Foundation

It’s no secret that I’m a total stan for my sister-in-law, Angelou, and not just because she’s smart, accomplished, passionate and fly. I can’t say it enough: She’s an inspiration (and she lets me rock all her shoes, purses, and cute tops!). An attorney by trade, Angelou founded a little over a year ago her own non-profit environmental education program for kids, GREENING YOUTH, to help encourage and teach children—particularly kids in communities of color—how to be stewards of our Earth. She’s got literally a rainbow coalition of kids from the third grade through college preaching the virtues of recycling everything in sight, taking two-minute showers to preserve water, shopping with recyclable bags, learning how to clean up and preserve everything from historical sites to unused green space, and, most importantly, learning how to appreciate the lands that God made.

To further her mission—and to raise funds for her FREE six-week, hands on program that takes environmental education directly into classrooms throughout Georgia—Angelou is having her second annual GREENING YOUTH FOUNDATION GREEN CARPET FUNDRAISER. This year’s fundraiser honors the next generation of leaders in the green movement and highlights the myriad of partnerships the foundation has formed over the past two years to help enhance its work, including the Atlanta Job Corps Center’s Culinary Arts Institute, the Georgia State University AmeriCorps, the Atlanta Job Corps Center, the National Park Service, and Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

Green Carpet attendees also get to hear from Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli, who will be announcing the winners of the Ovie Mughelli "Eco-Challenge," in which participants in GYF’s 12 school-based programs were asked to present creative campaigns to tackle an environmental challenge in their community.

The Green Carpet fundraising event, which is being sponsored by REI, promises to be a fabulous evening with great food, live music and basket giveaways. The November 14th gala will be held at the Georgia Tech Student Success Center, 19 Uncle Heinie Way in Atlanta.

Tickets are $55 per person; $500 to sponsor a table of 10. To purchase tickets, make a donation, or get more information, click HERE, call 678.252.2187, or email Catina Fynn at cwhite97 at aol dot com.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest

The written word is sexy as hell to me. I mean, I adore writers and their turns of phrase like a car lover does the fine, sleek lines of a Porsche—like an art lover does the passion and intricacies of a Romare Bearden collage. When I worked in an office, I used to clip magazine articles, quotes, and turns of phrase by some of my favorite writers and hang them up on my wall for inspiration. They were tattered, yellowed paper reminders that I was in an industry full of people who wrote incredible prose—writers like Karen Good and Asha Bandele and Lola Ogunnaike and Toure and Paul Beatty and Junot Diaz and dream hampton, and Kelefa Sanneh and Joan Morgan.

Writers with beautiful minds.

Imagine my delight, then, when I ventured online and found an incredible community of bloggers who, too, love to express themselves through the written word! I was—and am!—consistently amazed by the amount of talent flowing all up and through the internet; I can get lost for hours just enjoying the thoughtful posts of my bloggy friends.

To that end, I want to celebrate great writing by kicking off The MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest. Each month, I’ll post a topic for MyBrownBaby’s readers, and invite participants to write an essay/post inspired by that topic. You’ll have two weeks to write your entry and email to me the URL to your post (or a simple copy-and-paste of your essay if you don’t have a blog); I’ll share your posts with a guest judge who will read your entries, and pick a winner! The winning essay will be featured on MyBrownBaby, and the winner will get both a beautiful prize and a nifty “I'm A MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind" button for her/his site. I’ll also post links to each of the entries so that MyBrownBaby readers can enjoy the prose of each of MyBrownBaby's Beautiful Mind contest participants.


I’m. Geeked.

So, without further ado, I’m going to kick off the first MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest with the topic “Peace.” My guest judge is Tameka of the lovely Tea & Honey Bread; she’s an incredible writer who not only has a beautiful mind, but an incredible gift of creativity. Indeed, she is donating the prize for this month’s contest—this beautiful handmade necklace. It’s a naturally oxidized 19" copper ladder link chain with a 2" wooden focal embellished with a Czech glass and oxidized copper blossom—a stunning piece Tameka is donating from the collection of handmade jewelry she creates for her Pretty in Peace Etsy site. The retail value for this stunning piece is $32.

Here's how to get in on the action:

1. Write a post on this month's theme then email your post's permalink to me at MyBrownBabyBeautifulMind at (The permalink is the URL of the individual post—not the URL of your blog; to find it, click on the post title or time stamp and copy the URL in the address field. I’ll accept entries through Friday, November 20. If you miss that deadline, I will still publish your link with the list of entries, but it will not be judged. Submissions that fail to meet the topic or that contain objectionable content will be disqualified. Please look for a confirmation email from me saying I received your entry.

2. Publish a link to this MyBrownBaby contest page in your entry post—as a courtesy and to let your blog readers know about the contest. Who knows—maybe they’ll want to join in on the fun!

3. Check back here on Tuesday November 24th, when I will post a complete list of the entries along with the MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Winner and three Honorable Mentions.

4. As a “thank you!” I will list all entries along with the first two sentences of each post to give MyBrownBaby readers an idea of what you’ve written. (Please note: To assure you that the judge picks the winner solely on the writing, I will show her only the text of your post—no blog name, no pictures, nothing that might identify you to the judge.) In addition to the featured prize, the winner will get an “I’m A MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind” button to post on her/his site.

Happy writing!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Cousins In a New York State of Mind

This is, for sure, one of my favorite pictures of Lila, Miles, Mari, and Cole—taken in the middle of Times Square on the first day of one of our family vacations to New York City. We're native New Yorkers, and when we were living there, it was way too hokey to get caught doing the touristy thing. That's for, like, tourists. But then we all moved South, and when we visited home for the first time, we lost our natural born minds doing all of the most touristy stuff we could—horse carriage rides through Central Park, ice skating and a visit to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, a romp through FAO Schwarz, (window) shopping on Madison Ave., lunch at Serendipity, and a ride up to Harlem on the A train. The best time of all, though, was watching the kids cut up in the middle of traffic in the busiest, loudest, brightest, tallest, most famous intersection on the planet—Broadway and Seventh Ave.

New York, New York!

To see more Worldless Wednesday posts, click HERE and HERE.

To see today's Wordful Wednesday posts, click HERE.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check Out MyBrownBaby On The Rachael Ray Show!

Exciting news! Today, I'm one of four mommies kicking it with the celebrated chef/author/magazine editor
Rachael Ray on her fabulous afternoon gabfest, The Rachael Ray Show. I joined Rachael, actress Rikki Lake, and three other moms via Skype to talk about all things motherhood—and, true to form, I gave my own unique perspective on what it means to be a mommy in 2009.To get a sneak peak, click HERE. To see show listings for your area, click HERE.

Of course, after you watch, come back to MyBrownBaby and share your thoughts.

And if you're visiting for the first time after seeing today's show, please come on in, kick off your shoes, and get comfortable here at my place. Here’s the quick and dirty on MyBrownBaby: I’m Denene Millner, a 16-time author, contributing editor and Mom Squad member at Parenting and Essence magazines, a featured Parenting Post blogger at, the Real Talk mom at Momtourage, and associate editor at the travel magazine, Odyssey Couleur. My latest book, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” which I wrote with the comedian Steve Harvey, debuted No. 1 on The New York Times Hardcover Advice Best Sellers List and remained there for 39 consecutive weeks; it was featured on Oprah twice. I also penned a memoir for Nene Leakes, star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

More importantly, I’m a mom of three beautiful kids, the wife of Nick Chiles, an awesome Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who is penning a book for celebrated gospel artist Kirk Franklin, the proud owner of a spectacular Goldendoodle, Teddy, and ridiculously giddy for no good doggone reason. Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist, but I try to remind myself every day how blessed I am for good health, a sound mind, strength, and above all else, the good, hearty, everlasting love of a beautiful family.

So come on in and take a look around. Check out what I do to FIND ME-TIME, and how me and my girls KICK IT OL' SCHOOL. Check our what legendary actress DIAHANN CARROLL whispered in my ear, how I feel about BLACK DADS, PLAYING IN THE SUN, and SOLO VACATIONS. You’ll also find some great music here, too, including videos from artists like INDIA.AIRE, ANGIE STONE, and LEDISI, as well as some great recipes from my daughters’ “Home Made Love” cookbook. You’ll find, too, that I don’t mind speaking my mind, particularly when the NEIGHBORS GO WILD, BET GETS LOW, and I get nervous for my AFRICAN AMERICAN SON. No conversation is off-limits, and sometimes it can get a little ROWDY around here. But every post is meant to give voice to black moms looking to get in on the parenting debate, and certainly to invite ALL moms, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or background to talk about what we love to talk about most: motherhood.

So check out the site, introduce yourself in the comment section, and please SIGN UP FOR FREE EMAIL UPDATES, become a MYBROWNBABY FOLLOWER, or SUBSCRIBE TO MY RSS FEED. I’m SO happy you stopped by!

Have a fantastic day... I'm off to cook some of that delicious pork Rachael served up on the show!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

A LETTER FOR MY FATHER: A Daughter Reaches Out to the Dad Who Never Was


Dear Daddy,

Mama told me your were dead.

Except that was way before you actually died.

But when I started acting up around age 16 or so—you know, the age when girls start “feeling their oats,” as Mama used to say—you suddenly came alive again, and next thing I knew, I was talking to you on the phone and not much later, I was on a plane to see you. I’m not mad at Mama any more for doing that. Mamas have all kinds of reasons for lying about the men in their lives. I don’t know, maybe she did it to protect me. I mean you walked out on her. Maybe she felt you would do the same to me. (At least that’s her side.) But I’m old enough to know there are two sides to every story. And then there’s the truth. Too often, people lie—first to themselves and then to their children and then to everybody else. I just know that I would never do that.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I met you. No one gave me the blueprint. Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I think I was messing up her relationship with her men. Don’t get me wrong: Mama didn’t have a lot of men. But I had a problem with the ones that she did have. So there I was at your doorstep. Unsure. Frightened. Awkward. I could tell that you felt the same way too.

You seemed confused—unsure whether to treat me like a little child or a young adult. You let me do what I wanted, even smoke. At 16, I thought that was so cool. I don’t think that’s so cool any more. I guess that was your way of making up for being absent my whole life. We both tried hard to forge a relationship out of nothing. No history. Only DNA. It was tough.

I went back home not sure if I was all the better after making your acquaintance. But I was glad to at least be able to say I “know” my daddy. We wrote, talked some more. But it was difficult. I tried. We would skip a couple years and then connect again and then skip a couple. This was not the way I thought it was supposed to be. But it was the way that it was. The tears are pouring down my face as I write, daddy. I guess I watched too much TV. I expected more.

And so I tried harder. Called more often. Made promises to visit soon. Then you went and got cancer on me. The kind that left a hole and a different voice in your throat—a stranger’s voice talking to me. I was so mad at you—couldn’t understand why you had to go and do that.

I think you knew that you would eventually die. Soon. At least that is how you acted. You acted like you didn’t care anymore. Like you didn’t care about me. That’s how I felt. We grew apart instead of closer together. I thought death or the threat of death was supposed to bring people closer. I was wrong about that, too.
But there was something I wanted to tell you while you were here with us, Daddy, and it is this: Every girl needs her daddy. By her side. I know things were difficult between you and mama. But so what? You should have made it work. You should have been there for me. You should have been at my first recital, at my graduations, at my suspensions, and at the birth of my daughter. That’s what little girls want—to look up and see her daddy smiling. We don’t ask for much. You should have tried harder.

Maybe if you were around, I wouldn’t have been molested. Maybe I wouldn’t have stayed out late at night and partied a little too much. Maybe if you were here I would have made better decisions about relationships. Maybe if you were here, I would have been a straight-A student instead of holding a B average, because I would have wanted to make you proud. Maybe if you were here, you would have sat your grandbaby on your lap and schooled her about life’s lessons.

Your grandbaby and I still made it, Daddy. You’d be proud. Your daughter kept her legs closed and only opened them up when love was present. That love gave birth to your first grandbaby, Kenya Jordana James. I went on to graduate college, got a big job in the music industry and then left to be a mother and entrepreneur. I know you’re smiling right now. I know you would love that part,‘cause you always went against the grain. Hell, now that I think about it, that’s where I got it from.

I understand, now, that that life sometimes takes us on twists and turns that we didn’t plan for—that time flies and there are things that we’ve all wanted to do that never got done. I’m not mad anymore.

I am still here.

And I’m working on making myself better. Still working on releasing the thoughts that could cripple me, kill me or even give me cancer. Still here making a better place for your granddaughter, whose father was killed when she was 3 years old. Know that while Kenya no longer has her biological father physically with her, she has been fathered by many who have given her what you were not able to give me. I made sure of that.

As for me daddy, I have decided that I’m not gonna give myself cancer or let these damn fibroids get the best of me. And I’m gonna let go of the pain and the past. The bitterness, too. And I’m gonna let you run free in the ancestral world so that you can be a daddy to me again.

As my angel.


Your daughter, Karen

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Karen Marie Mason, a mom of one, manages recording artists, hosts a radio show, promotes shows, is active in her community, and is finishing up her first book about motherhood. You can find her at HONOR MUSIC GROUP.

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