Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Stuff That Girl Power Is Made Of (I Mean... I... Can Fly Like A Bird In The Sky...)




My parents didn’t really read books to my brother and I when we were little; I don’t know if it’s because they were too busy, or didn’t feel like being bothered, or if it was just something their generation didn’t do. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get hyped on books until I was able to get myself to the library—that magical, beautiful building where there were books a plenty, each waiting to take my imagination places I couldn’t conjure up all on my own. I was a huge Beverly Cleary fan, and Judy Blume could do no wrong, and I literally wore out the pages of my favorite Frances Hodgson Burnett books—“The Secret Garden,” and “The Little Princess.”

I never considered that none of the characters in those books didn’t look like me; they were fantastic stories that made me laugh out loud and wonder. They were my friends.

Still, when I had my Mari, I knew that I had to do better by her—that I needed to surround her not only with stories and music that spoke directly to my little brown baby, but to stretch and bend and reach for material that moved beyond the obvious. Sure, I adored reading books by authors like Andrea Pinkney and Ezra Jack Keats and Vera B. Williams, each of whom made clear that stories featuring children of color mattered and were meaningful and lovely. But I was trying to raise a baby who would love listening to opera (Kathleen Battle’s “So Many Stars”) and jazz (Tony Bennett’s “Playground” and Louis Armstrong’s “Disney Songs The Satchmo Way”) as much as she did the Teletubbies and Elmo, and who wouldn’t be afraid to raise a fist in the air when it came time to rep being a beautiful, strong, smart little black girl. So she might catch a little Alice Walker up in the glider, or a word or two of Toni Morrison whispered in her ear while she dreamed in her crib. I adored reading poetry to her most of all—particularly anything by Nikki Giovanni, long a hero of mine. For her audacity. For her fearlessness. For her straight up love and dedication to the African diaspora. Her poem, “Ego Trippin,” was—and still is—a staple. It’s girl power at its finest.

Today, I could use a little girl power to get me through.

Maybe you can, too.

Enjoy.

Ego Trippin (there may be a reason why)
By Nikki Giovanni


I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built the Sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star that only glows every one hundred years falls into the center giving divine perfect light.
I am bad.

I sat on the throne drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe to cool my thirst.

My oldest daughter is Nefertiti
The tears from my birth pains created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman.

I gazed upon the forest and burned out the Sahara desert
With a packet of goat's meat and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift--so swift--you can't catch me.

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son Hannibal an elephant
He gave me Rome for Mother's Day
My strength flows ever on

My son Noah built a new ark and
I stood proudly at the helm as we sailed on a soft summer day

I turned myself into my self and was Jesus
Men intone my loving name
All praise, all praise
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels delivered uranium
The fillings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels

Once on a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
my nose, giving oil to the Arab world
I am so hip my errors are correct.

I sailed west to reach east and had to round off the Earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid across three continents.

I am so perfect,
so divine
so ethereal
so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean....I....can fly
Like a bird in the sky....





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Monday, March 30, 2009

My Puberty Story Was Featured On The Today Show!



So, you all know by now that I'm a part of Parenting magazine's "Mom Squad," a group of "mom experts" who dispense monthly advice to moms looking for help raising their kids, strengthening their relationships, getting their finances in check, getting organized, and being better to themselves, and then some. Occasionally, as a contributing editor for the magazine, I'll also write feature-length stories about childhood development, relationships, and child-rearing, and, thanks to the magazine's awesome publicity department, occasionally, my stories will get picked up by national TV shows. This morning, The Today Show did a segment based on a piece I wrote for Parenting, titled "What To Expect When Puberty Hits," featuring executive editor Lisa Bain and Dr. Ivor Horn, the Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician I quoted in the story. (I wasn't on the show because, as I pointed out in my "Little Things" post about my girl Gretchen last week, I'm super swamped, Nick's been out of town, and I couldn't be in New York this morning. But they did ask.)

Whether you're staring puberty in the face or have a ways to go before your little one gets boobies and stinky under arms, check out the story; in my research, I learned so much about my daughter's changing body and how I should respond to it as a thoughtful, in-the-know parent (read: handing her a copy of "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret," and a box of sanitary napkins is not enough info to help her deal). The story breaks down the signs for when your child is going through The Change, how to help them through it, and sound advice from moms who've been there. Check out The Today Show clip above, too, for helpful info.

Enjoy!



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Friday, March 27, 2009

A MyBrownBaby Weekend: Jill Scott and Idris Elba On HBO--Get Into It



Reason #2080 why I love me some HBO: On Sunday, the cable station that kept me mesmerized with The Wire, The Sopranos, Entourage, and Sex In The City, is debuting its latest series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Based on the best-selling novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the series chronicles the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, an African private eye who helps her fellow townspeople solve mysteries. Jill Scott, who's expecting her first brown baby, stars. Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose is Scott's sidekick. Idris Elba is in the first two-hour episode. It's filmed in its entirety in Botswana. And reviews of the series have been kinda the fire.

From Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ken Tucker:

The American singer [Jill] Scott plays Precious Ramotswe, who, having split from an abusive husband, decides to open up a one-woman detective agency in the small, dusty neighborhood of Gaborone. She doesn't earn much money, but then, neither does anyone around her, and that doesn't stop them from having problems (infidelity, fraud) that need solving. She's not just a businesswoman, she says, she's there to help ''the lost and the frightened.''
 Precious hires a new assistant, Mma Makutsi (Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose, all bespectacled eyes and brainy forehead), who blinks back 
incredulity when presented with a manual typewriter whose keys don't all work properly.

In the series' two-hour pilot, directed by The English Patient's Anthony Minghella (his last project before his March 2008 death), Precious applies common sense and a 
Sherlock Holmes-y gift of observation about both telltale clues and human nature. Scott speaks in an English without contractions; 
it gives even her simplest sentences — ''I will give you a try,'' or ''I sincerely agree with that'' — the quiet force of wisdom.

Minghella's direction sets the tone for the series, placing Scott's boldly colored dresses against warm green walls and sand-brown buildings. Scott provides big love, but Big Love this ain't: For a show set in a bustling little city, the pace is so leisurely that the low-key adventures of Precious risk becoming merely precious. (It's a bit jarring when 
The Wire's Idris Elba — Stringer Bell! — shows up as a glowering crime boss.) Ultimately, however, the charm is disarming; No. 1 Ladies is overseen by exec producer Richard Curtis, who specializes in jaunty fare such as Love 
 Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. I'll be interested to see whether the gentle, genial No. 1 Ladies can carve out a regular Sunday-night audience amid amazing races, 
cold cases, and desperate housewives.




Um, I'm sold. And that's not just because Tucker's review is convincing; HBO has a long history of making some pretty solid, diverse must-see programming—from the cable adaptation of Terry McMillan's Disappearing Acts, to The Wire (ha' mercy, Idris Elba, dammit!) to Spike Lee's brilliant and elegant "When The Levees Broke," HBO has shown it's dedicated to bringing quality stories about, for, and by folks of color to the masses. Which says a lot in a day and age where it seems we're more likely to elect another black president before we get another quality black flick on the big screen, or a worth-the-half-hour show on prime time TV. Hell, it's still up in the air whether the last of the good black TV shows, Everybody Hates Chris, will be renewed. What's that all about? What, pray tell, will my brown babies watch if the only prime time show I feel okay letting them watch, besides America's Next Top Model, gets taken off the air? I mean, around these parts, we're still devastated from the canceling of The Bernie Mac Show—clinging to reruns and whatnot, wishing somebody would give Mac (RIP) some credit for hooking up funny, down-to-earth, loving, spot-on family fare.

Of course, the best way to send a message to networks that they should care about quality programming for and about and by black folks is to show them that, well, we care about quality programming for black folks. And we do that by tuning in. So come Sunday, March 29 at 8 p.m., I'll be making a statement to HBO—saying "thank you for caring"—by watching my girl Jill and my boy Idris (!) make it do what it do on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.



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Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's The Little Things That Mean Everything In True Mom Friendships


Little Things - India Arie


See, here's the thing: I have a serious problem saying "no," and I'm even worse at asking for help, and so I tend to paint myself into ridiculously impossible corners, much to the peril of those closest to me. Take, for instance, the fact that just two weeks ago, I agreed to write a book--an entire book!--by April 3. And another one by May 15. And take the kids to see their Papa Jimy for spring break. And help rep my kids' school at my sister-in-law's huge and wonderful Earth Day Fun Festival. And coordinate the neighborhood progressive dinner. And doesn't Easter fall somewhere in there?

I know. I'm officially a crack head.

And all of this stuff piled one on top of the other means a lot of stuff is falling through the cracks: The girls' twists are looking a little raggedy, my hair looks like a bird's sloppy nest, we're all about to fall into a pasta-for-dinner-every-night-induced coma, the laundry has officially become another piece of furniture in my bedroom, and my poor dog, who hasn't been to the groomer since (I'm embarrassed to say), smells like ass.

Simply put: I'm overwhelmed and everyone's suffering.

And like a knight in shining armor sent to save a damsel in distress, my friend Gretchen intuitively sensed all of this, and in the past week, took extraordinary measures to save me from myself. She took in my kids after school. She fed them dinner. She even bought my Lila an outfit for her star turn in tonight's talent show, in which she and Gretchen's daughter, the ever lovely Maggie, will perform a comedy skit telling knock-knock jokes. And when Gretchen wasn't babysitting/feeding my kids/running around town for me, she was calling me on the phone, giving me welcomed and much-needed comedic breaks from my lap top, which has seen more action these past two weeks than an Elliott Spitzer call girl.

This is all to say that I love me some Gretchen--not just because she hooked a sistah up this week, but because she saw me, a fellow mom, drowning. And without hesitation/asking, she threw me a lifeline--several, actually. And did it with a smile and that all-knowing, mom-to-mom/girl-you-know-I-got-your-back sentiment that goes unspoken, but is felt in the most visceral of ways..

Understand that these kinds of friends are rare. Life gets so busy and we all get so consumed with our own work/families/responsibilities/stuff that we move through the day with our nose to the grind, unaware that someone is in need of that helping hand--and maybe a little too proud to ask. Gretchen is selfless--never waits for me to wave the white flag or ring the alarm. She just makes it do what it do.

And for this, and above all else, her friendship, I am truly grateful.

For sure, it is the little things that mean everything.

Thank you, Gretchen, for the lifeline(s).



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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And Here I Was Thinking The Chris Brown/Rihanna Incident Was A "Teachable Moment."



So, I’ve been pitching in as the "Real Talk Mom" over at Momtourage, doling out, well, real talk to moms looking for help dealing with their parenting dilemmas. Recently, a mom wrote asking for advice on how to talk to her kids about the Chris Brown/Rihanna domestic violence incident, and I think I did a pretty decent job giving her some solid talking points—talking points I had to give my own daughter to help her make sense of all the gossip and innuendo she’d been hearing about the incident in her 4th grade class.

Now, I expect tweens and teens to say dumb stuff like what the kids were talking in last week’s New York Times “Teenage Girls Stand By Their Man” story; 9th graders, whose mamas are clearly falling down on the job, were flat out saying Rihanna got what she had coming for making her boyfriend mad, and that Brown shouldn’t be punished because he and his girlfriend had kissed and made up. “So he shouldn’t get into trouble if she doesn’t feel that way,” one girl said. “She probably feels bad that it was her fault, so she took him back.”

Lord.

Imagine my shock, then, when I got a gander of the raucous e-shouting match over at Momtourage, where presumably grown women—mothers!—are suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Rihanna got what she had coming because she hit Brown, and that she was equally culpable for the whipping that allegedly led to her looking like this:



What in the world is wrong with people?

The fact of the matter is that while none of us ever wants our child to have to face such heady issues at this young of an age, they ARE talking about the incident, and it's our duty as parents to help them understand how to process the stories floating around. I feel reasonably confident that I've taught my daughter that she shouldn't ever physically hit ANYONE—girl or boy—in anger, and that it is NEVER acceptable for a boy/man to hit a girl/woman—period. No matter who said what/who hit who in that car that night, the bottom line is that Rihanna should NOT have emerged with her face looking the way it did. NOBODY deserves that. And I especially don't want my son thinking it's okay to do that to a woman, or my daughters to think a man who would do that to them should be forgiven and taken back.

How many little girls are learning different—from their mothers? And why would any mother think it’s okay to have her daughter date/love/stay with/defend a man who settles arguments by beating his woman like a grown ass man? What happened to the "teachable moment" thing--you know, when you use an incident like this as an example to impart your wisdom and family values on the kids? Can someone please help me make sense of this?


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MyBrownBaby MOM OF THE WEEK: SHEENA WILLIAMS



One of my daily must-visit destinations is MommyDaddyBlog, the online home of Mommy (Sheena) and Daddy (Greg), junior high sweethearts who've been chronicling their adventurous journey through first-time parenthood on their fantastic site. Their son, Jayden, who turns a ripe old age 1 next month, is an absolute stunner—cute as a button and, if he's anything like his mommy, bright as a ray of sunshine and sweet as a red velvet cupcake. Jayden is the star of MommyDaddyBlog; every toy/educational product/tech gadget/piece of clothing his parents evaluate for their readers gets a working over by Mr. Jayden, making the testing at MommyDaddy blog authentic and trustworthy. But it's Sheena's wonderfully warm, giving personality that won MyBrownBaby over. No question is a dumb question to her, and her hand is always extended to help pull up newbies like me who are still trying to find solid footing in the blog world. I absolutely adore this self-proclaimed Disney fanatic, who, in addition to being the head-mommy-in-charge of her blog, is one of Wal-Mart's Elevenmoms; she's a proud, beautiful, strong sister with a giving spirt--everything we wish for in a true friend. I absolutely adore her, and I know you will, too. Here, I present Sheena Williams of MommyDaddyBlog as MyBrownBaby's Mom of the Week.

My name is… Sheena Williams.

I live in… Chicago.

My brown baby is… Jayden Elijah.

I make a living… as a blogger and a social media consultant.

The last time my kid cracked me up… was last night, when he grabbed my face and gave me a big drool-drenched smooch.

The last book I read with my baby was…"EeBee's Adventures Bath Time."

My favorite place to take my child is… outdoors. When it's warm, we go to the park or walk around Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. We also like to take him in the stroller on a trail nearby. Generally, we'll take him wherever there's grass so that we can get photos of him.

My proudest mom moment was… during labor, when all the nurses nicknamed me Super Woman because I remained relaxed, despite the trauma of my ridiculously strong contractions. I know they probably say that to all the moms, but it gave me such a feeling of pride knowing that that cute little dumpling was mine and i worked hard and smart for him to have a great first day outside my belly.

My most embarrassing mommy moment was the time when… Jayden pooped on me at the Walmart checkout. Get the gory details HERE.

The thing I most want my child to know is… well, as canned a response as this sounds, that he can achieve anything with a little determination.

The one family tradition I hope my child continues when he grows up is... aw man, we suck. We don't have any traditions. Well, except that I can make a mean apple turnover. Maybe Jayden will learn how to make them with me one day, and then pass along the recipe to his family.

If I could invent one thing to make being a mom easier, it would be…time in a bottle!

The kid snack I’m most likely to get busted eating is… teething & biter biscuits.

The most important life lesson I want my baby to learn is… sometimes it takes enduring failure to reach success.

The one thing no one knows about me is… I eat Campbell's Soup At Hand in the shower. Yes, I'm the ultimate multi-tasker.

The thing I lost as a mom that I wish I could get back is… silence.

My “I’d Rather Be…” bumper sticker would say… vacationing in the tropics.


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Monday, March 23, 2009

Crocs, Muffets and Parent Spies—To The Left



By BASSEY IKPI

E is a very friendly little boy and I know that most mothers are jumpier than I am about whom their kid speaks to or plays with. So I stay calling him back from every kid he tries to turn into a new friend. I love this about him, but I know that not everyone understands it. Kids in the pediatrician's waiting room are even trickier. There are stark differences between the flushed, concerned, exhausted faces of the parents with the ill children and the sunny, yet no less concerned and exhausted faces of the parents who are just in for a quick check up. I'm still perfecting the demure, distant smile that reads, "He's not contagious—he just likes to hug people." It seems like it's working until E sneezes on the little blonde girl in the pink, puffy vest and her mother hustles her way.

We're the only black people in the room. This isn't important but it's something I notice. I quietly wonder if I'm also the only one without a ring. These things don't matter but they do.

After pulling E away from another nervous looking kid across the room, I make a mental note to start teaching him the difference between who is "huggy" and who is not. That woman and her kid? Definitely not "huggy," E.

I watch the woman next to me shift her eyes slyly. She appraises me quickly, then turns her gaze to E. She's not as slick as she probably thinks she is. She's the kind of mother that makes me nervous. She looks like she bakes and likes it. Like her children and family consume every waking moment and 80% of her sleeping ones. She probably has a recipe box and a system for removing stains from various things. She looks at me like maybe I'm here because I broke my kid. I shift uncomfortably in my grey, knee-length, cable-knit cardigan and black leggings. My black suede Pumas next to her olive green Crocs tell the real story about who we are. I want to make sure that E's energy isn't mistaken for ill behaved. I know it shouldn't matter, the boy isn't feeling well, but I've been the "black kid" enough times to know that it does. I don't spot her child. Small waves of panic start to erupt as I wonder if she's the Parent SPY I made up in my head one night.

The Parent SPY is someone who to the casual observer is just the man making a deposit at the bank or the old lady weighing melons in the store or this lady... sitting next to me in her judgmental Crocs trying to figure out if I'm a good parent. I haven't quite worked out whom they report to or why. No, scratch that, they definitely report to my mother.

I decide to sit up straighter in my chair and readjust my ponytail. I look over to make sure that E isn't trying to force a tiny embrace on anyone. He is watching the fish in the tank and counting them, "One, two, three, five, eight, double you, auntie, Elaiwe... " I smile to myself and look down at my vibrating cell phone.

"Well, isn't he a charming little man," The Parent Spy sniffs, her Crocs pointed in my direction.

"Yes. He's a good boy." I reply. There's a "handmade Halloween costume" inflection in her voice. I think quickly about a way to slide in that I read to him every night... every other night... okay, when he asks me to, but she has already moved on to her next line. "And he's dressed like a little teenager!" I look up because now I'm certain she's not using the words she really means...

"He likes to dress like a big boy," I say. I'm a little puzzled by the "thing" I detect and I'm not quite sure where she's going with this so I play it safe and go back to ignoring her and her ugly ass shoes.

"Oh look at that! His little jeans are even sagging underneath his diapers."

There it is.

In our rush this morning, I forgot to belt his pants. Considering, that A) I was going to let him go out in his pajamas and B) a few hours before, his fever was so bad that I could almost see the cartoonish heat waves rising from his body, whether or not his "little jeans are even sagging..." was about as important to me as what he plans on majoring in if and when he goes to college in 16 years.



It took me a few seconds to process what she was implying but when I did, my brain began to speed up in a manic rush of words and insults. I took in the aforementioned Crocs, the suffocating mom jeans, the shapeless bob, the ill colored and thin, pursed lips. I had my head cocked and the neck in half roll before I remembered the space I was in. I got heated thinking about all the times I felt I needed to apologize for my choices as a single mother—the times I wondered if the unsure, uncomfortable decisions I’d made over the two years I’ve been a mom would somehow be detrimental to E's development. And this run of emotions was only compounded by the fact that I was paying for this visit out of pocket and praying that the card swiped would print out a receipt and not a notice from my bank.

And then I got tired of explanations and excuses and reasons. And my precious little sicky, huggy boy was sagging and he was counting fish all wrong. And he had pulled his hoodie up to cover his big head because that's what his uncle Kebe does. And he was laughing hysterically at the fish that kept hiding in the castle. And I just sat there relieved that he wasn't slumped over and radioactive and I turned back to The Croc Bitch and I inhaled and smiled.

A brown haired little boy, whom I’d noticed earlier, sitting in a corner reading a worn book, came skipping over to Croc. He looked to be about 8 or 15 (I kinda suck at figuring out kid ages), wearing a pair of brown corduroy high water slacks, an oversized fuzzy sweater and a purple ski cap with a green, fuzzy ball at the top. He began pulling at his mom, screeching, "It's time to go! I want to go!" His mom tried to hush him and get him to sit or keep his voice down. He pawed at her and whined.

I was glad I didn't fire off any of the thousands of quips I could have. I refrained from the "Dear Bitchy Lady" status update. I smiled to myself, re-tied my Pumas, stood up with an audible, "Woosah!" and walked over to E. His pants needed to be pulled up.

When I got to him, E turned and said, "Hiiiiiii, moooooomy!" and hugged me like he hadn't seen me in awhile.

"Thank you, Boogie Butt!"

"Welcome! No! Pull up pants? I do it!"

"OK! You do it... But just a little bit. Mommy will not have her child dressed like a Muppet like some other mommies."

Hey, I can be bitchy too.

About our MBB Contributor:
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic. She’s half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the left over bit is a caramel creme center. She’s also the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi, who, as you can see in the picture above, be flyer than most, even on a sick day. Get more Bassey at basseyworld.com

If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.


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Friday, March 20, 2009

MyBrownBaby IS PARTYING AT THE 5 MINUTES FOR MOM ULTIMATE BLOG PARTY 2009



Yup—it’s a par-tay over here y’all! It’s Spring, life is good, and MyBrownBaby is droppin’ it like it’s hot at 5 Minutes For Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party 2009! There are a bunch of new bloggers to meet. Lots of prizes. Recipes. Music. Drinks. Definitely my kind of party! Stroll on over there to list your blog or sign up for prizes (be sure to read the details on how to participate) and then click away to meet new blog friends.

If you’re new to MyBrownBaby, here’s the quick and dirty on the site: I’m Denene Millner, a 15-time author, contributing editor at Parenting and Essence magazines, 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, is at the top of The New York Times Best Sellers List, and was featured on Oprah a few weeks ago.

More importantly, I’m a mom of three beautiful kids, the wife of an awesome magazine editor/writer, 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. Mary put it best:




Feels so good,
When you’re doing all the things that you want to do
Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new
Keep your head up high
In yourself, believe in you, believe in me

Having a really good time, I’m not complaining
And I’m a still wear a smile if it’s raining
I got to enjoy myself regardless
I appreciate life, I’m so glad I got mine

So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
when I’m walking past the mirror
Ain’t worried about you and what you gonna do
I’m a lady so I must stay classy
Got to keep it hot, keep it together
If I want to get better
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just…
Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine… WHOO!


Yup—I’m just fine. If you’re new to MyBrownBaby, 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 to talk about what we love to talk about most: motherhood.

So crank up the tunes—Mary J. Blige is getting it hot up in here! Then check out the site, and introduce yourself in the comment section. If you're interested in contributing posts to MyBrownBaby, email me at denenemillner at gmail dot com. I’m happy you stopped by!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009


When you’re done, go on over to 5 Minutes For Mom to check out the swag. I’m offering up an autographed collection of five of my books, including “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” (#USC 24). And I'm going to go for a few prizes of my own, including:

1. #58 – Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer, from Moms Who Think
2. #INTL 19 — $130 Sponsor spot on Tip Junkie, from Tip Junkie
3. #37 — Omron HJ-112 Digital Premium Pedometer, from Fat Loss Chronicles

My other favs are: 15, 2, 50, 8, 19, 21, 22, 26, USC48, USC49, and USC47

Have fun!

PHOTO CREDIT: "Jitterbug," by the brilliant Harlem Renaissance artist, William H. Johnson.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Home Made Love: Gamma Bettye's Shush Cake



By MARI and LILA CHILES

This is our Gamma Bettye's recipe for her Southern Lemon Pound Cake. It's thick and delicious and full of lemony goodness! Here’s the thing, though: You have to be very quiet when you’re making this cake so that it won’t fall and be flat when it’s finished cooking. Flat cake is not cute. It's still tasty. But not cute. And when we say you have to be quiet, we mean really quiet. Mommy won’t even let us open the refrigerator when this cake is cooking—that’s how quiet it has to be. If you can’t handle this, we suggest that you go out and play now.



Here are some things we like to play when we’re making shush cake: We like to play on the swing set and climb in trees; we like to play on our scooters; we like to play hide-and-go-seek; we like to play soccer and football and basketball; we like to ride our bikes, and; we love to write on the driveway with chalk.



Oh, and we take our dog Teddy with us so he can be quiet, too.




This pound cake is really easy to make, and the best part is that Mommy lets us lick the bowl after she pours the batter in the round cake pan. Quietly? That's the best part. The cooked cake is really perfect for a special dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you don’t need to eat it just on special occasions—having it on a Wednesday night is just fine, too, especially with a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:
3 sticks butter
1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
6 eggs
½ cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp lemon extract
No-stick spray with flour
(Note: You’ll also need a round cake pan with a tube in the middle.)

Directions:
Use the mixer to mix all the ingredients together in the order given; spray a round cake pan with the no-stick flour spray, then spoon the batter into the cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 25 minutes.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MYBROWNBABY IS ADDICTED TO THIS CHOCOLATE HIGH

Watch more Chocolate High videos on AOL Video



I love India.Aire and Musiq Soulchild for many reasons, most certainly for their song-writing talent, their incredible voices, and their dedication to their art and their culture and their people. The two of them make beautiful soul music, universal in its appeal, but so extraordinarily meaningful to those of us who appreciate solid songs about self-empowerment (Aire's "Video" and "I Am Not My Hair"), the excitement of new love (Musiq's "Buddy," and "Girl Next Door"), divine power (Aire's "God Is Real") and responsibility (Musiq's "Betterman" and "Motherfather").

I especially love that India and Musiq have repped black love to the fullest on each of their albums—unabashedly, beautifully. And not just black love between men and women, but black love between mother and child. For sure, I found a different kind of meaning in Aire's "Beautiful Flower," when I sang it to Lila each night at bedtime:

You are everything I ask for in my prayers
So I know my angels brought you to my life
Your energy is healing to my soul
You are a beautiful surprise
You are an inspiration to my life
You are the reason why I smile
You are a beautiful surprise

As far as I know, India isn't a mom and those lyrics were intended for a man, but I found that every note, every word resonated with me as a mom, who, even with the second baby, was still astounded by the "beautiful surprise" God had sent my way. Still am, really.

My latest musical obsession, though, is a new song my two favorite artists recorded together—one that unabashedly celebrates black love, the kind between a man and a woman. It's sexy and super sweet, and I'm totally addicted; this song makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a teenager tucked away in her room, rewinding the sweetness of the first kiss. The chorus alone gives me butterflies:

There is somethin' about your love
That makes me just want to open up
Your flavor is the sweetest thing in life
I'm addicted to your chocolate high
Cause i want you, and i know that you want me
So let's stay close like we supposed to be
And just get high off our own supply
I'm addicted to your chocolate high

Addicted indeed.

Press play—I'm sure you'll enjoy it. In the meantime, I'll be somewhere hugging my husband—my own personal chocolate high!



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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SAVE A BABY'S LIFE: BUY A BOX OF PAMPERS (PLUS: GET $50 WORTH OF PAMPERS ON MYBROWNBABY)



My daughters think their pediatrician, Dr. Roberts, rocks. It's the nurses, with their finger prickers and their blood-sucking tubes and their needles full of mysterious liquids, that they don't care for. Indeed, news of a trip to see Dr. Roberts inevitably is met with a fist pump and a "yes!" and then quickly followed up with, "do we have to get shots?" Last year's visit was a mess; Mari cried the moment the first of the three needles she needed last year hit her thigh; Lila took off running down the hallway and hid under the desk in the nurses station, only to be dragged off by her mother kicking and screaming and crying to her doom—four needles were waiting for her back in Exam Room 3.

Not exactly our idea of a good time.

But I thank God every day for my children's health, and for our ability to afford our overpriced insurance (even if it works more like a discount healthcare coupon rather than the kind of health insurance we used to get working for The Man), and for the resources we have at our disposal to make sure that my babies get the best chance at leading healthy lives. They don't realize how blessed they are.

And that so many little lives exactly like theirs are lost because their mothers can't afford or don't have access to something as simple as the few ounces of liquid and a needle that could help them see many more days.

That's why MyBrownBaby is teaming with Pampers to help promote its "One Pack=One Vaccine Campaign,” a global initiative with UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), a preventable disease that claims the lives of approximately 128,000 infants and 30,000 mothers in less industrialized nations each year—approximately one death every four minutes.

Tetanus can be contracted during childbirth in developing countries, where women often must give birth at home in unsanitary conditions without access to adequate health care. The disease rages through newborns within days of their exposure to the tetanus bacteria and almost always leads to a swift and painful death.

And this fatal disease can be eliminated with a simple vaccine.

But YOU can help save a baby's life: By simply purchasing something you'd buy anyway—diapers and wipes—you can help wipe out tetanus. From now through May 1, 2009, buy the specially-marked "One Pack=One Vaccine Campaign” packages of Pampers or wipes, and Pampers will donate money to UNICEF to help provide one tetanus vaccine to a pregnant woman or a woman of child-bearing age in the less industrialized world. These specially marked packages of diapers and wipes cost the same as traditional products and are available wherever Pampers products are sold. For more information, click HERE

In addition to Pampers, parents can also redeem this special campaign baby body suit using "Gifts to Grow" points though Pampers.com; each baby body suit triggers a life-saving vaccine. To purchase one, click HERE.



Pamper's 2008 North America campaign provided funding to UNICEF for over 50 million tetanus vaccines to help protect moms and their newborn babies against tetanus. This year, Pampers aims to raise funds for another 30 million vaccines; it hopes to provide more than 200 million life-saving tetanus vaccines over the next three years.

Of course, MyBrownBaby has a little incentive for its faithful followers; add your name to the roster of moms supporting Pampers' efforts (it's easy enough—just click on the widget below and add your name) AND leave a comment below, and your name will be placed in a random drawing for $50 IN PAMPERS COUPONS and the special baby body suit. Earn extra entries by becoming a MyBrownBaby follower, an email subscriber, faving MyBrownBaby on technorati, or rating MyBrownBaby on Top Sista Sites.

Please be sure to leave your email addy so that I can contact you if you win. A winner will be chosen randomly on March 31.







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Monday, March 16, 2009

MyBrownBaby: Where No Question Is Considered A Dumb Question



I started MyBrownBaby on a whim last September—back when the presidential election was in full gear and the Bristol Palin teen pregnancy fiasco was setting the news cycles on fire. My first post questioned how lil’ Miss Bristol’s pregnancy would have been viewed if she were, oh, say, a black teenager—a conversation that was being had by black moms everywhere, but was virtually ignored in every news story/analysis from here to Wasilla.

It was an observation that combined the two things I love writing about most—black folks and parenting—and I thought it a fitting debut post for MyBrownBaby, which I created to be a space where black moms could lend their critical voice, a voice that all-too-often is missing from the parenting debate. My intent was to make MyBrownBaby irreverent. Funny. Full of posts that make you think. Maybe even say, “Amen,” because it reminds you of what’s going on behind your closed door, with your family.

A place where African American moms—and their opinions—matter, and are heard, respected, and revered. For their poignancy and strength. For their intelligence and authenticity. Because they deserve it.

While I intended for black moms to call MyBrownBaby home, I certainly hoped that ALL moms would feel comfortable sitting on the MyBrownBaby stoop and commiseratating/learning/teaching about their views on motherhood, too. It never occurred to me, though, how difficult such a union would be—how it would feel, some days, more like a shotgun wedding than a uniting of minds and the sharing of opinions.

Nothing was truer this past weekend, when a post I wrote about a Today Show segment on Nadya Suleman, and a subsequent question I posed about the difference between how black moms and white moms viewed it, had a few folks coming thisclose to calling me a racist. It seemed that just posing a simple question—one that sought understanding, sans judgment—was enough to make people either cower in fear or lash out. Accuse and point fingers or fall dead silent.

A post I wrote a few months back, about a steamy conversation I had with a few white mom bloggers I met and became friends with on a Disney Wonder cruise, lays out pretty clearly how I feel about the need for us to get comfortable with asking and accepting questions without judgment. But the craziness of yesterday made me dig back deeper, to an email conversation I had with a dear blog friend of mine I met on the Mom Bloggers Club, back when both of us were fresh and new on the blogging scene. She came to me in confidence, so I’m not going to name names, but she reached out to me to tell me that while she loved my blog and reads it daily, she felt uncomfortable commenting on it:

Her: Your blog is one of the most professional-looking blogs I have ever seen and it's easy to see what a blessing you are to those who visit your site. 

I usually don't leave comments on your blog though because my fear is that I would be intruding. I am hoping and praying that that doesn't sound offensive in any way, because I truly do love your blog. It's one of my "must-read" blogs that I go to every day. At the same time, I don't want to intrude on what the purpose of your blog is (since I am obviously a very white country gal) and offend any of your readers either by posting my thoughts on issues that might not even pertain to me…. I really have enjoyed getting to know you and reading the thoughts of someone who has a different view on some topics than I might have and yet very similar views on other topics… your blog opens up a world of issues to me that I wouldn't typically encounter on a daily basis here in "Nowheresville."

Me: It has been such a pleasure getting to know you, too, and I appreciate your honesty and candor. I hear where you're coming from and understand your hesitancy in commenting, but I need you to know that your comments/thoughts/opinions are WELCOMED with open arms, a lot of love, and the deep belief that though we may come from separate places and have different backgrounds, we are ALL moms who want the same things for our families, and especially for our children. Sure, there are going to be times when you won't necessarily agree with the MBB posts/writers or identify with where we're coming from, but there will certainly be many more times than not that you'll be able see something in the posts that you can relate to your own life. What I'm most happy about is that you're coming to MBB to learn something you didn't know--to see perspectives that are fresh and different and interesting and eye-opening. That tells me a lot about you—most important that you're my kind of friend.

These days, she comments sans embarrassment or fear, much as I do on her blog. And we learn from one another every day—about family and motherhood, love and relationships, and especially what it feels like to walk in each other’s shoes. Judgment is checked at the door. And the only entrance fee is an open mind.

What a beautiful world this would be if we all could be more honest, open and ready to receive. I know I’ve got work to do. But I’m willing to work.

Are you?


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Friday, March 13, 2009

But Seriously: Who Put THIS Chick In Charge?



I thank sweet baby Jesus every day of the week that there aren't hidden cameras and microphones in the places I parent, because I swear to you, you would think my mothering skills questionable at best if you saw me and my crazy kids in action. It. Is. Not. Pretty. There are times when I'm out in the street with my Mari and Lila, and I'm literally pulling my hat down over my eyes so that nobody can tell it's Denene Millner—author and alleged mom "expert" for a national parenting magazine—yelling at/threatening/begging/ignoring/thisclose to swatting her daughters like they stole something. And that's out in public. Catch me standing over the girls in the morning, when they're sitting down for breakfast exactly 30 seconds before they're supposed to be at the bus stop, or clapping and hollering behind them when they're still in the bathtub/undressed for bed/stalling their goodnights well past bedtime, and you'd think I was a downright lunatic—that maybe a visit from a government agency might be helpful for all involved. For sure, my house is what looks like crazy on an ordinary day.

This is all to say that I'm not a perfect mom.

I'm really clear on this.

And because I know how tough it is to be a mom, the last thing I want to do is judge another mom for how she does it in her house, particularly when no one is looking. We all say ugly words we wish we could take back—do things that, later, we wish we would have done better. We question whether we're doing right by our kids practically every second of the day. It's a mom thing. And the international Mom Code is to avoid at all costs pointing fingers at other moms for how they're raising their kids. Because dammit, if I'm pointing my finger at you, three more are pointing back at me.

Which is what I was screaming at the TV earlier this week when The Today Show invited Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of "Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay," and purveyor of the popular blog Baby on Bored, onto its couch to give her opinion (read: violate The Mom Code) on Nadya Suleman's "controversial," frantic 911 call, in which the mom of 14 repeatedly says, "Oh my God, I'm going to kill myself" when she thinks she's lost her son. I swear, the Sippy Cup chick had more venom than a damn King Cobra—accused Suleman of being overly dramatic, irresponsible, and downright nuts because she panicked during her 911 call.

"I’ve lost my son in a bookstore and I didn’t lay on the floor and start going, 'I’m going to kill myself,' until the paramedics arrived," she snipped in the segment, as seen in the clip above.

The hell?

Who decided Wilder-Taylor is the friggin' arbiter of motherhood perfected? Exactly on what day were they handing out "I'm The Best Mom Ever And You Suck" badges, and who's responsible for giving her one? And why, why, WHY did we have to be assaulted by her whiny, unreasonably accusatory voice so early in the damn morning? Even the mom sitting next to her had a look on her face that read, "Damn dude, be easy—pop a Xanax or something."

I mean, I'm no Octomom fan—you won't find me pushing the PayPal button on the Nadya Suleman Family Website, adding a Millner/Chiles cash infusion to the tax dollars we already contribute to the government "help" she's getting for all those damn kids. I know doggone well, too, that Denene wouldn't have laid up there and had all those babies knowing she had no job, no money, no help, and no plan. But I wouldn't ever assume it's my right to get all up in Suleman's womb and her wallet, or presume to know what she should have said, how she should have acted, or what she should have been feeling when she thought her child had been snatched.

Because that's breaking The Code.

Sippy Cup: That thing you heard in Suleman's voice, sweetie? It's called e-m-o-t-i-o-n. You know, that feeling some of us—particularly those of us with hearts—express when we think something terrible has happened to our kids.

Maybe you ought to have another sip of Chardonnay, baby, and sit on down.



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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Mighty Worthy Cause: Cheerios Is Giving $25,000 in Grants For Sisters Saving Hearts



She hadn't felt well from the moment she stepped onto that plane, but my mother didn't let the flu-like symptoms or the sore back or the pain in her jaw stop her from going to South Carolina for her family reunion. She had rheumatoid arthritis and slipped disks in her spine--she could handle a little discomfort. Besides, she wanted to see her sister, and reconnect with her brother, and go back to the house that she was raised in--the house she called home. That was a Thursday.

By the Sunday, she was so lethargic, so out of it, she couldn't move from the couch or get out any words--just slurs. Still, she insisted she'd be fine and she didn't need anybody's emergency room visit. Until, that is, my auntie thought to get my Dad, who was back home in New York, on the phone. He's quite persuasive, my Dad. But minutes after he convinced his wife of 38 years to go to the hospital, it was too late. My mother died right there on the floor of her childhood home, in practically the same spot her own father died some 20 years earlier. EMS workers revived her long enough to get her to the hospital, where a respirator kept her alive for only a few hours longer. And just like that, she was gone.

The cause of my mom's death was a heart attack.

None of us knew she had heart problems, and clearly none of us were hip to this one true thing: Women tend not to have the classic Hollywood-style "clutch the heart" symptom when they're suffering an attack. Indeed, had my aunt, my uncle, my mother, or anyone else who had been tending to her during those four days she was sick known that the heart attack symptoms women face are much different from those that men tend to have--the back and jaw pain, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue are classic female heart attack symptoms--perhaps my mom could have received life-saving treatment.

Bettye Millner is gone from here, but we need to use her story to be smarter about our bodies--and especially the risks we face as black women. According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases that lead to heart attack and stroke among black women is a whopping 49 percent, and we have higher death rates from them than our white counterparts. And the difference in the way our female bodies send us warning signs for heart attacks is astoundingly different from those typical of males, including each one my mom experienced before she passed. Earlier this week, I wrote about how our reluctance to protect ourselves in the bedroom is driving up our HIV/AIDS rates; now, I'm imploring us to be smarter about keeping our hearts healthy.

I promise you, I'm not going to be standing on the soapbox, slamming us over the head every other day about our health issues, but doggonit, sistahs, we gots to do better. We're too fly for this mess here.

Cheerios recognizes this, and it's created Cheerios Sisters Saving Hearts, a grassroots grant-giving initiative that will honor five heart-inspiring individuals or service organizations who have gone above and beyond to help fight the war against heart disease in the African American community. The chosen ones will receive a $5,000 grant to the charity of their choice.

Do you know anyone who fits the bill?

If you do, head over to www.SistersSavingHearts.com to nominate your heart hero. YOU MUST DO THIS BY MARCH 14, 2009 in order for your heart hero to qualify. I know your friend will appreciate the $5K for the hard heart work!

Also, now through January 31st, 2010, for every code entered at www.cheerioshelpinghearts.com, Cheerios will donate $1, up to $200,000, to raise awareness for heart disease and provide free cholesterol screenings for women in need, through its partnership with WomenHeart. Codes will be featured inside specially marked boxes of Cheerios cereal.

Need some extra incentive to hook up your friend (or yourself!) with the Cheerios Sisters Saving Hearts grant? I will send a fresh water pearl charm bracelet (like the one seen in the picture above) to the first THREE MyBrownBaby readers to pass along the link to this blog to five of your friends--particularly the community organizers who might be or know folks doing healthy heart outreach. Be sure to cc me at denenemillner at gmail dot com; I'll announce the winners next week.



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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MyBrownBedroom Conversations: The Dress That Gets My Man Hot




So Nick announces that he's going to whisk me away to a much-needed overnight stay at The W (funded by a gift certificate that's been burning a hole in his wallet for quite some time)—no kids, no friends. Just us. This, of course, makes me giddy. There will be a nice dinner. And dessert. And drinks. Perhaps an in-room movie. Great hotel sex (don't front—you know what I'm talking about!). And sleep. Lots of sleep.

He barely gets the announcement past his lips before I'm running to the closet, trying to find something to wear to our hot night out. Alas, practically every last one of my cutest outfits are in the "needs to go to the dry cleaners" hamper, and only one dress—the one I wore to our last hot date night—is striking the right notes.

Me: Aw man, I want to wear something nice, but the only thing I have is this blue dress.

Nick: I like that blue dress.

Me: But I wore this one out with you already.

Nick: I don't care—it's a hot dress. Especially if it means you're not going to buy another dress.


Damn men.



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Tuesday, March 10, 2009



I was young, which means that I was prone to doing stupid stuff, and so it made perfect sense that I believed that dumb boy when he said it was okay to sleep with him unprotected because there was no way he could have The AIDS. "When I get a cut, it heals, so I can't have it because when you have The AIDS your cuts don't heal."

That's all he had to say to get me to drop my insistence that he wear a condom.

My cuts heal so I can't have The AIDS.

Now this was back in the late 80s, when information about HIV/AIDS was scant and we college girls thought that the only protection we needed was from becoming mothers before we got the college degree and a wedding ring. The Virus was what homosexual men passed from one to the other—them and drug addicts. Regular girls—girls who weren't fast or taking needles in their arms or sleeping with gay men? Well yeah, we had some secret "regular girl" potion in our blood that automatically dismissed us from catching The AIDS. So it was safe to pop The Pill to ward off pregnancies and pay no never mind to making a boy wear a condom. Especially if he protested.

Well, in 2009—some 20 years later—men are still protesting, and we women, particularly black women, are still, overwhelmingly too naive/stupid/afraid to make our men use condoms, get tested, and share the results. Clearly, the statistics tell the story. This from the CDC and The Kaiser Family Foundation:

• According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but account for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.

• HIV is the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years, the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years, and the fourth leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.

• The rate of AIDS diagnosis for black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women

• In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.


What's most alarming is that a whopping 83% of new HIV infections among African American and Latina women are contracted through heterosexual sex. Which means that an enormous amount of us are STILL willingly playing Russian Roulette every time we have unprotected sex with men.

This, of course, isn't so much about stupidity as it is about politics—the fear we women have when it comes to legislating in the bedroom. We swaddle sex in a soft, warm blanket of emotion and love, and then tip toe around the politics of intimacy, afraid to rock the cradle lest the baby—our man—get upset and book up. All too many of us reason that it's simply easier to sleep with him unprotected than to suffer the consequences that come with demanding he use a condom—or, God forbid, telling him he's not going to get any because he won't wear one.

But what's the alternative?

Check the stats.

Print them out if you have to.

And then attach them to a box of condoms and set the box face-up in the top drawer of your nightstand. In the glove compartment of your car. In the hideaway pocket in your purse. In your teenager's backpack. And her top drawer, too.

And remind yourself over and over again that using condoms for sex isn't about insulting anyone or not trusting him or inviting promiscuity or going against God's will.

Using condoms is about saving lives.

Namely, your own.


MyBrownBaby is Rocking the Red Pump as part of National Women/Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, with the hope that this post, and dozens more spearheaded by Awesomelyluvvie and The Fabulous Giver of The Red Pump Project, encourages women to protect themselves. A great way to do this is to know your status; click HERE to find a low-cost, pain-free testing site near you. You can find out more information, too, by visiting this special page on the United States Health and Human Services website, or checking out local programs today in your area, including:

A free viewing and discussion, led by actress/AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, of the hard-hitting documentary "All of Us," about the impact of HIV/AIDS on a group of African American women in New York City's South Bronx. At the Camille Cosby Academic Auditorium at Spelman College; 350 Spelman Lane, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314. Hosted by Sisterlove, Inc.

The Red Pump Project "Happy Hour," to network, socialize, and raise funds and awareness about the effect of AIDS on women and girls. If you're in the area, drop by:

Chicago, IL

Plush Restaurant & Lounge
1104 W. Madison
6:30 - 9pm
Hosted by Karyn & Luvvie

Kansas City, MO

The Bulldog
1715 Main St.
5:30 - 8pm
Hosted by GlamStarr




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Monday, March 9, 2009

The UniverSoul Circus: Hip Hop Under The Big Top = Great Family Fun



I’ve never been a big fan of the circus; though the soaring acrobatics and death-defying stunts were fun to watch, the clowns always seemed to be more freakish than funny, the music was a snore, and I kinda felt bad about the animals, seeing as elephants and tigers are meant for the jungle, not a 20 ft. ring in the middle of a boisterous crowd.



Boy, did the UniverSoul Circus change my mind about The Big Top. Over the course of more than two hours, my family and I experienced just about every emotion imaginable—glee, excitement, fear, joy, pleasure, unbridled humor. Oh, the humor. Our sides were all aching by the time we staggered out from underneath the big top. What UniverSoul manages to do is present all the expected elements of your class circus—think Ringling Bros. or Big Apple—with an enormous amount of down home flava. Some might call it swagger, to borrow a phrase from Kanye. What an amazing assortment of talent assembled in one show! Freakish, unforgettable, death-defying talent. Like the two dudes who jumped rope 100 feet in the air on top of the two giant rings of death that swung around and around in a huge ferris wheel-like circle.



And the young kids from South Africa who contorted their bodies in so many unimaginable positions that those of us in the crowd were moaning in sympathy pain throughout their entire act.



And the troupe of Chinese foot jugglers who effortlessly tossed each other in the air.



And the troupe of Caribbean dancers, stilt walkers and limbo ladies from Trinidad and Tobago, who had the packed crowd doing jump up like it was in the middle of a wild Carnivale.





A few of the regular circus animals were there, too—elephants that danced, horses that slung their “Rough Riders” all around the ring, and even a few tigers that magically appeared in cages during a comical magic set.





But it was the people who were the stars of this show: Ringmaster Maggie kept it hot between sets, entertaining the crowd with her pot-bellied, knee-stocking “Single Ladies” dance, church call-and-response songs, and the profession of her love for Soldier Boy.



And, as usual, when you get a crowd of black folks in the room, hilarity will always ensue, especially when soul train lines, kid dance offs, and lip synching to old school and new school songs are involved. Toss in a few tributes to President Barack Obama, an attitudinal clown, some of the hottest R&B and Hip Hop songs on the radio, and a bunch of side-splitting humor, and you’ve got an incredible evening of family entertainment that can’t be beat.

Each of us thoroughly enjoyed the show and left wondering why we’d taken so long to go see the UniverSoul Circus. Totally gorged on funnel cake, cotton candy, hot dogs and popcorn, the girls collapsed in the back of the car and managed to stay awake long enough to A) beg to go back before the show left town, and B) ask one too many questions about how they could actually be in the circus the next time it came.





Sorry girls, the circus has left The A. But the next time UniverSoul Circus comes to town, we’ll definitely be in the house again.

And again.

For more info on The UniverSoul Circus and its tour dates, click HERE. If you’re a blogger in LA, NY, CHI, or Philadelphia and you’d like to review the show, leave a comment below with your contact info.


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Friday, March 6, 2009

IN THIS ECONOMY, WHAT'S YOUR PLAN B?



At the top of 2009, I told you about my girl Kimberly Seals Allers over at The Mocha Manual, the hot new online destination for moms of color. She’s been doing the doggone thing, using her popular maternity book, The Mocha Manual To A Fabulous Pregnancy, to inspire, teach, advocate for, and honor moms of color on her new site. The Mocha Manual is Kimberly’s baby—her passion—and she’s working hard over there to create a space that not only speaks to us, but fulfills her incredible entrepreneurial spirit.

And now, to celebrate her second book, The Mocha Manual To Turning Your Passion Into Profit, she’s about to show us how we, too, can, well, turn our passion into profit. On March 14th, she’ll be hosting the “Get Your Plan B” boot camp—a series of workshops designed to help people like you and me start or grow a small business “with less time, effort, and money.” Workshops include, “The Essential 8: The Skills Every Business Owner Needs For Success,” “Brand Building, Marketing and PR on a Shoestring Budget,” “Online Marketing for Newbies,” and even one-on-one business coaching and strategy sessions for folks who’ve decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge.



All sessions, save for the free “Where To Start” session, are $24; discounts are available if you purchase a day-long pass. And though you can attend Kimberly’s business bootcamp live in New York City, she’s arranged for online access so that those of us who tend to stick close to home on Saturdays can watch it live via the internet.

Hey, in this kind of economy, in which job security is about as sure as snow in Nigeria, it certainly wouldn’t hurt each of us to craft a “Plan B” for figuring out how to start our own small businesses. We moms are doing it; the question is how well are we doing it? I’m not mad at some insider tips on how to turn my passion into profit.

For more information about Kimberly’s boot camp, click HERE. Or register by clicking the button below.



Have a fabulous weekend, kids!


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Thursday, March 5, 2009

UniverSoul Circus Is About To Put A Ring On It! Plus: Calling All Bloggers In LA, NY, CHI, and PHI For FREE Circus Tickets



Yup, tomorrow is the big day: We're taking the girls to see the UniverSoul Circus!

I’m totally stoked because, though I’ve heard some incredible things about the show, I’ve never been before, and neither have my girls. To initiate us, the good folks of UniverSoul Circus are hooking up my entire family with tickets and exclusive backstage access as part of its UniverSoul Circus Blogger Experience—a family night out to help the circus celebrate its 15th anniversary.

I’m told there’ll be 10 new acts from around the globe: A three-man comedy trapeze troupe, 14 male acrobats performing daredevil tricks between two vertical poles, kid contortionists, acrobats on horseback, gospel miming, clowns, and lots of audience interaction—all set to R&B, Hip-Hop, Gospel, and Funk music, in keeping with the Newsweek proclamation that this show is “the only place you can watch… a bungee-jumping troupe sailing through the air to the hip-hop grooves of Outkast.”



Clowns, acrobats, tigers and elephants, cotton candy, my favorite music, and my favorite girls and guys—I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night with my family. That’s what’s up!

Atlanta, UniverSoul Circus’s hometown, is the first stop in its 27-market “Jabulani: Joy, Laughter, Happiness” tour, which will include blogger nights in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia.

If you’re a blogger in any one of these cities and you want to check out the UniverSoul Circus Blogger Experience, leave a comment below, and I’ll reach out to my people at USC to see if I can get you the hook-up. Free tickets are limited, so it’ll be first come-first served kids—just sayin’.

I can’t wait to tell you all about our big night out under the UniverSoul Circus Big Top!



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