Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Father’s Painful Reality: It Takes a Village to Protect Our Daughters


Before I make my case, let me get something out of the way: I think we can say without much argument that a vast majority of the serious harm inflicted on women in our society—hell, our world—comes at the hands of men. I’m almost tempted to say ALL the serious harm, but I’ve seen enough of those crazy YouTube girlfight videos to hedge a bit, to add the “majority” qualifier. As the son of a mother, the brother of sisters, the husband of a wife, I suppose I have always been something of a womanist. (And no, I don’t mean womanizer.) But the role kicked in like a strong drug when I became the father of daughters. In womanist, I’m talking about a person who is devoted to fighting for the rights, freedom and respect of women. I don’t see how any dad could not be a womanist. But clearly, especially considering my statement in the opening sentence, some of us have gone astray.

My daughters are age 7 and 10, still live under my roof, and I spend many hours of the day thinking about their mental, physical and emotional state and ensuring that they as much as possible are floating on cloud nine. It aches me to think about that moment when I have to send them out in the world, when I will be reliant on others to help keep them out of harm. Because I know that once they walk out of my doors, they may never find another man who cares as deeply about this as I do. And this brings me to Michael Richardson. I’ve been thinking a lot about Michael Richardson lately. He’s the father of Mitrice Richardson, the beautiful 24-year-old African-American woman who disappeared two weeks ago after being let out of a Malibu police station in the middle of nowhere—a deserted industrial park— at 1:25 am. Mitrice was arrested after a dispute over an unpaid bill in a Malibu restaurant led police to discover less than an ounce of marijuana in her 1990 Honda Civic. Michael Richardson and his wife Latice Sutton have been on television praying for their daughter’s safe return and wondering out loud how the police could have let her walk out of the doors of the police station with no money, no cellphone, nothing, at 1:25 am. The police department’s response was that she was an adult and they couldn’t “force” her to stay. As if that’s the only other alternative: put the woman back in a jail cell or let her wander around on her own in the middle of nowhere in the dangerous wee hours, the time of night when good tidings tend to be scarce. I can’t even fathom what could be going through a police officer’s mind. Clearly not a care about Mitrice’s well-being.

Two things jumped out at me when I heard Mitrice’s story: She was described as “not street smart” and “afraid of the dark.” Upon hearing that, my seven-year-old asked how a 24-year-old woman could be afraid of the dark. Being afraid of the dark herself, she considers herself something of an expert on the rules and regulations. There is nothing in there about membership being extended to 24-year-olds. But what’s clear is that Michael Richardson likely did one helluva job in protecting his daughter. Maybe too good a job—his overprotectiveness might have left her without the tools to protect herself when she needed them. But I can certainly understand Richardson’s motivations. In order for a 24-year-old woman to get to 24 and still be afraid of the dark, somebody had to indulge her fear to the extent that she was never forced to overcome it. That means many nights of walking her back to her bedroom and assuring her that nothing lurked in the closet or under the bed or in the halls. Letting her know that Daddy was there whenever she was in need of protection or assurance. And as for the “not street smart” part of the description? I can imagine that there may come a day when somebody might describe my daughters as “not street smart.” Because I’m not ready to have it any other way. Now, surely my girls will be smart. I will make sure they are equipped with the ability to read people, to read situations, to know when it might be necessary to remove themselves from potential danger. But “street smart?” Having a working knowledge of and familiarity with the elements of the “street?” Nah, not happening to the Chiles girls, not as long as I have anything to do with it. The “streets” will always remain a distant presence to my girls.

I do acknowledge that one day I will have to let go of my daughters. I will have to allow them to drift out there among the gargoyles and the demons. I must pray that the Lord will watch over them. But I’d also like to think I might get some assistance from others. Say, for instance, law enforcement officials who are paid by taxpayers to protect and defend. You know that old biblical verse, the so-called Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31)? Well, I would like to add an addendum to the Golden Rule for all the men out there: “Do unto other women as you would have others do unto your daughters.” If we all live by that adage, if ever we come across a woman in distress or in need of some type of help or protection, we do the quick mental gymnastics to allow us to imagine that woman as our daughter. Because she IS somebody’s daughter. Clearly the Malibu police did no such thing. They let that girl wander out of that police station with nothing to protect herself. If they were thinking about their own daughters, perhaps somebody might have suggested a police escort to wherever she needed to go, perhaps her parents’ house. If there were a lack of police cars that night, maybe call her a cab, lend her $20. Her mother says the police knew that someone was on their way to get her, and still they let her leave the station. Shame, shame on the Malibu police.

My daughters must leave the nest, but at least I can give them one piece of sure-fire advice: if you sense trouble on the horizon, stay the hell out of Malibu.

STORY UPDATE: As of October 26, 2009, Mitrice Richardson is still missing. Her family has set up a website to keep the public posted on any developments in the search for their loved one. Click HERE for updates and information on Mitrice's disappearance.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

I ♥ Faces “Blue” Photo Challenge: Scary Cole

This is my nephew, Cole—fiery, funky, super scary, and all awesome. I super ♥ taking pictures of this child. Could be because he has the most amazingly expressive eyes. Or that he gives good camera face. Me thinks it's probably because he's my adorable nephew who, when he isn't flirting with my camera lens, is an amazingly intelligent, thoughtful, huggable little boy. I do adore him so!

This picture is part of the I ♥ Faces “Blue” Photo Challenge, over at I ♥ Faces, the photo sharing website co-founded and co-run by my bloggy buddy, the amazing Angie of The Arthur Clan. Click HERE to check out some of the other amazing "Blue" photos being shared around the blogosphere.

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My Little Glamour Dolls and Their Pink Polish

I don’t know where they get it from, these chocolate little girl pies with their affinity for baby pink fingernail polish and glossy lips and butterfly necklaces and cute shoes. It’s certainly not from their mother. Most afternoons when Mari and Lila tumble off the school bus and up the front stoop giggling, twists flying, pink fingernails slicing through the air, I greet them in shorts and oversized t-shirts, hair barely combed, lips crackling, finger nails chipped and in serious need of a manicurist’s intervention. Some days, Lila pulls out her strawberry lemon lip balm (she calls it her lipstick) and gently pushes it in my face as I lean in for a “welcome home” smooch. Apparently, the 7-year-old’s got a problem with chapped lips.

Whatever. Clearly, getting red-carpet ready for the after school rush of homework, activities, and dinner isn’t really all that high on my list of priorities.


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Friday, September 25, 2009

Home Made Love: Nick's Easy Like Sunday Morning French Toast

My baby is the grill master, okay? Ribs, chicken, fish, vegetables, Cocoa Puffs—whatever Nick cooks over charcoal always comes to our dinner table perfectly crisp, insanely juicy, and super flavorful. I mean, The. Boy. Is. Bad. (And plus, everything tastes better with a little smoke on it, and definitely when someone else is cookin'—I'm just sayin'.)

But dig it: Nick also has quite the special gift when it comes to breakfast foods, too. Home made waffles, bacon, grits, biscuits—when your boy wakes up and starts knocking around pots, pans, and the waffle iron? Right—everybody in the house gets really emotional. There's lots of fist pumping and jumping around and stuff, and when he calls us all down to the breakfast table, we do lots of happy dancing. We put our backs in it when he whips up his Early Sunday Morning French Toast, which is, in a word, amazing. Usually, he holes himself up in a corner of the kitchen, next to the spice cabinet, and, like some evil scientist, tosses together a potion of cinnamony, sugary goodness to dip bread into before he splashes it in a hot pan full of butter. Ha' Mercy. But Nick very generously figured out his Early Sunday Morning French Toast recipe so that I could share it with you. *Inserting pictures of you doing the happy dance here!*

Nick's Easy Like Sunday Morning French Toast


6 slices bread
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon gttround nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar
sprinkle of salt


Beat together egg, milk, salt, desired spices and vanilla.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle of skillet over medium-high flame.
Dunk each slice of bread in egg mixture, soaking both sides. Place in pan, and cook on both sides until golden. Serve hot.

About three servings.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

MyBrownCauses: Help BabyMakin(g) Machine and Allstate Serve Others

I’ve loved her blog, like, forever and when Jennifer, a.k.a., Future Mama of the fertility and mommy-to-be blog, Baby Makin(g) Machine, hopped in the Chevy to road trip to BlogHer ‘09 with The BlogRollers and me, my instincts about her were cemented: She is an absolute sweetie pie—smart, inquisitive, and well on her way to being a terrific mom.

I told you last week in my MyBrownTribe post that Jennifer decided in the last few months to try for her first child; she’s been chronicling the joys, challenges and frustrations of trying to get pregnant on her site, and, in her short journey, has found that making a baby isn’t as easy as she thought. To lift her spirits while she and her husband of five years keep trying, Jennifer decided to follow her mom’s sage advice: “There’s no better way to lift yourself up than to serve others.” So now, BabyMakin(g) is turning her thoughts and deeds to helping a wonderful charity whose goal is to help women make and keep healthy babies: the March of Dimes.

March of Dimes Fundraiser

Jennifer’s hope is to raise $1,000 in 30 days; with the support of a bevy of outstanding sponsors, she’ll be raffling off prizes to those who donate money. Every single penny she collects will go to the March of Dimes.

Won’t you support Jennifer as she works to raise money for this most worthy cause? I can’t think of a more generous gift than that which goes toward helping mothers and their children. If you’d like to donate or show your support for Baby Makin(g) Machine, click HERE.


If you’re feeling in an extra benevolent mood today, won’t you consider, too, helping to raise cash for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, in support of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities? For every auto insurance quote Allstate receives during the month of September, they’ll donate $5 to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. To make the quote count, you have to click to Allstate through THIS DEDICATED LINK; if you’d like to post this fundraiser on your own blog, tweet it, or simply email your folks and encourage them to help out, use the following link: This program runs through September 30th.

MyBrownBaby is so very honored to support these two great causes; as you consider chipping in, I hope that you, too, take Jennifer’s mom’s words to heart: “There’s no better way to lift yourself up than to serve others.”

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Gonna Check Me, Boo? The Hazards of Putting 'Em In Their Place

She played rugby and was big as hell—one of those corn-fed, meat-and-potato girls who looked like she spent her summer vacation stacking potato sacks in the fields, then eating her weight in carbs at dinnertime. That didn’t stop me from getting all up in her face, though—all 101 lbs, 5’ 1” of me.

She had taken my wet clothes out of the communal washing machine in our dorm laundry room, see, and put them on top of the dirty dryer so that she could wash her own load—and, um, yeah, homie didn’t play that. And that’s basically what I said, give or take a couple dozen cuss words and a call for her to bring it outside if she kept insisting on not apologizing.

Let’s just say the girl wasn’t phased.

Let’s just say I was happy she didn’t take me up on the call-out, because she would have Whooped. My. Ass.

Still, though I came thisclose to being squashed like a bug, it didn’t stop me from breaking bad whenever I felt wronged—speaking up and out when I thought someone had crossed the line and needed to be checked. Though I’m not nearly as loud as I was at 18, I assure you that I’m still not one for mincing words—which pretty much makes me no different from a host of other black women who haven’t a problem saying what’s on their minds, and wielding their words like a weapon.

But a racially-charged assault in Morrow, Georgia last week really made me take pause and reconsider just when, where, and how I should be using my Wu Tang Clan-styled, Samurai word swords. A young Army reservist mom, who had politely asked a stranger to excuse himself after nearly hitting her 7-year-old daughter in the face with a door as he rushed out of a Cracker Barrel, was brutally punched, stomped, cursed, and called all kinds of “nigger” and "bitch" by the man she checked—in front of her child!—an assault local NAACP officials are demanding be considered a hate crime. Troy D. West (that's him in the picture up top), the nut that assaulted Tiffany Hill was charged with misdemeanor battery, disorderly conduct and cruelty to children — a felony cruelty to children charge was dropped — but the Clayton County district attorney says she may file more felony charges. The FBI is also investigating whether a hate crime occurred. West is free on bail.

By all accounts, Hill was respectful and polite when she told the man to watch out. I know plenty of women—specifically, African American women—who would have cussed him out for nearly hitting the baby and not apologizing. Ditto for the guy who repeatedly slapped a crying 2-year-old in a Wal-Mart in Stone Mountain, Georgia after warning the child’s mother that if she didn’t “shut up” the little girl, he would. You don’t get to hit/slap/look hard at a black child when her mama is lurking somewhere nearby, just waiting for a reason to open up a can of verbal whoop ass.

Thing is, with all the snarling, angry, half-crazy, desperate, on-the-fringe nuts parading across my television screen and newspaper everyday, it’s becoming painfully clear that all-too-many people are on the edge and willing to jump—no matter how big the bark being lobbed at them, no matter the consequences. The world increasingly is becoming one full of crazies who, provoked or no, aim to hurt others for no reason other than that they can. What’s worse is that they’re doing it in front of—and in the case of the Wal-Mart incident, to—children.

I have to admit that after reading about these two incidents, I’m a little bit more loath to pop off at the mouth at people who transgress against me and mine. Because now that I have babies to protect, I’m pretty clear that there are plenty of nuts out there who might be more than willing to hurt us, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I can’t fight all of them in any meaningful way (despite the stereotype that in-your-face, angry black women can kick ass, you can rest assured a vast majority of us don’t have the physical fight to match the decibels we reach in our good, old fashioned cuss outs). Not saying that the Army mom was in the wrong or had the beat-down coming; clearly, she was respectful and had every right to speak up without being hit for it. But really, is it ever safe to demand manners from a stranger who angrily stomps past and almost hits a child with absolutely no care in the world for the girl’s safety and well-being? Similarly, is it ever safe to stay in the aisle with a crazy who threatens to “shut up” your child “if you don’t?”

I mean, my balls just don’t hang that low. (Unless Nick is with me. But he’s been warning me for years to stop depending on him to regulate after I pop off at the mouth.)

I don’t know—just food for thought: The world is full of can’t-get-right people just itching to do you and the babies harm; better to let them stomp off and exert their crazies somewhere else while you explain to your children that he/she is certifiably insane, rather than let the babies see it first hand.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Finding Great Joy In Gamma's Home Cooking

I don’t know that my mom loved to cook as much as she dug the reactions she got from her standout meals. A daughter of the South, Bettye was renowned for her southern dishes, and her macaroni and cheese was the stuff of legend. People heard she was whipping up a pan, and they’d get into car accidents and break stuff and whatnot trying to get in line for a heaping serving before it was all gone. It wasn’t an easy dish to make back then; the grocery stores didn’t have those glorious pre-shredded bags of cheese, so she had to scrape countless blocks of sharp and mild cheddar over her beat-up hand-held shredder to get the right amount of cheese she needed for ginormous pans of mac and cheese, which should explain why she wasn’t a fan of the cooking part.

As a kid, I didn’t quite get my mom’s foot dragging in the kitchen; I’d beg her to let me help, and on the days when she’d hand over a block of cheese for me to shred, I’d handle it with great glee. I loved helping out in the kitchen! But as a mom charged with cooking three squares for a family of five most days of the week, I kinda get it now. After the writing and the chores and the homework help and the after-school activities, I barely want to think through what to cook, let alone stand over a hot stove. It’s plain exhausting.

Which is why I’m training my girls how to handle themselves in the kitchen. Oh, it’s not a game: I’ve had Mari and Lila cracking eggs, seasoning chicken, slicing fruit (with kid-friendly knives), and buttering biscuits practically from the moment they were able to walk themselves into the kitchen.


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

MyBrownTribe: Who Are The Bloggers In Your Neighborhood?

Back by popular demand, MyBrownTribe, another in my occasional series spotlighting all of the wonderful blogs in my blog "neighborhood." These favorites make me stretch and reach and open my mind; they're fresh, entertaining, inspiring, educational, thought-provoking, and, above all else, well-written. I encourage you to check out my fantastic tribe and leave comments if you're so moved; make sure you tell them MyBrownBaby showed you the way. Also, leave a comment here telling me a few of the blogs in your tribe—I'd love to meet them! Without further ado:

I so super heart Future Mama, a.k.a. Jennifer, the sweet, smart, super funny TV broadcaster-turned-wanna-be-pregnant writer of the incredibly insightful Baby Makin(g) Machine. Future Mama doesn’t have any babies—yet. Rest assured, she’s working on it with her husband of five years, and in the process, chronicling all of the joys, fears, frustrations, and hopes of taking the journey toward becoming a mom. Her always joyful posts explore everything from how she’s preparing herself mentally, physically, and emotionally for a little one, to how she’s preparing her husband for the push gift she’ll be looking for once she gives birth, and every doggone thing in between. Check out her super sweet post on her decision to get preggers HERE.


Mama Shujaa site is the brainchild of Hana, a Kenyan mom of three living in the states but holding fast to the beauty and history of her native land. The beauty of Mama Shujaa is the stories and especially the writing; Hana has a way with words that bends and stretches and whispers and weaves melodies—her posts practically sing! Simply put—Hana has a gift, and I’m so happy that she shares them with us in poem, short stories, and essays that intertwine words from her native tongue with some of the most thoughtful writing on the web. Witness Hana’s gift in this, a tribute post to her mother, an incredible writer in her own right. Click HERE.

When you go to my friend Angie’s site, be prepared to drool. The Arthur Clan is her personal photography blog—an incredible tribute to her love of images and the beauty of her family, home, and simple life. Angie, co-creator of the fantastic photo sharing site,, jokes all the time that she lives in the middle of nowhere, but trust me when I tell you: her pictures make nowhere look like paradise—and those kids of hers, with their big brown eyes and mischievous grins and eyelashes long enough to strike up a cool breeze on even the most sweltering of days, are the stars of the show. But just as magical as the pictures is Angie’s giving spirit: Not only does she share her pictures, but she also gives tips on how we novice photographers can capture the look. I’ve been taking notes and trying my best to keep in mind her advice as I experiment with my Nikon D-50, but I’m a loooooong way from capturing images like the ones she took of her kids’ first day of school, seen HERE.

If you decide to visit the folks featured in the MyBrownBaby neighborhood, please do tell them MyBrownBaby gave you directions!

[Photo credit: The beautiful, colorful neighborhood illustrating this post is by the talented artist Maria Cavacos. See more of her work HERE.]

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Fish, Two Fish: Out On the Lake With a Bunch of Trout and the MyBrownBaby Crew

I don't do fish. I mean, I'll eat 'em. But I'm not baiting hooks—ew, worms!—and I'm definitely not pulling those suckers out of the water and watching them flap around in a bucket and then taking them back home to be beheaded, scaled, and filleted. Uh uh, no ma'am—not me. (Honestly, I don't know how I would have survived the olden days on the farm—shout-out to Ms. Sharon in the fish department at my local Kroger for making it so all I have to do is rinse, season, and toss the tilapia in the pan. I'm just sayin'.)

Anyway, I don't have a problem standing around and watching other people fish, especially if it involves watching kids who've never been. On a recent weekend visit to my mother-in-law's brother's house, Nick's Uncle Marvin took the entire family on a fishing trip to a fish farm, where the bass and trout were hoppin. Here, a recap of our Sunday morning fishing jaunt:

The fish farm, in the suburbs of the city of LaGrange, GA, was so beautiful and peaceful and serene. Though there were 11 of us there, Uncle Marvin had only two fishing poles, so he borrowed some bamboo sticks from the fish farm owner and MacGyvered them into working fishing poles. My brother-in-law James, Angelou's husband, also purchased $2 worth of worms and let the kids make quick work of ripping them in half (to make them last longer) and skewering them onto their fishing hooks. Of course, no fishing trip is complete without a friendly wager: Everyone put $1 in the pot; whoever caught the biggest fish would get all the fish and the loot. Game on!

The kids were amazingly patient—who knew they could stand quietly and perfectly still for so long? Of course, neither Mari, Lila, Miles nor Cole were fast enough for the little buggers, which kept eating the kids' worms and getting away before they could tug them out of the water. James even replaced the wiggly worms with a tub of slimy liver—supposedly harder for the fish to grab—but it was of no use: the kids had no luck. My mother-in-law, Helen, on the other hand, is a fishing pro. She caught three fish—boom, boom, boom, just like that. Wherever her bamboo poll was, the fish seemed to hop on—so much so, that even Uncle Marvin abandoned his favored spot for Grandma Helen's much hotter one. Yeah—didn't work. Alas, Grandma Helen was the one who took home all the fish and the pot of cash. (BTW: We're not really clear why, but the fish farm housed a small fence full of Emu. Strange. Very, very strange.)

When it was all said and done, everyone seemed to have a fantastic time—including me and my father-in-law, who sat back, watched the action and proudly proclaimed our "city roots" a little too, um, delicate for the country life. (Frankly, I'm still a little traumatized by our camping trip with Angelou's Greening Youth crew.) But Papa Walter was going to be privy to some good eating, courtesy of his country girl wife—the Fisher Queen.

To read more "Wordful Wednesday" posts, click the magical button!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time For You: Nourish Your Inner Lusciousness



The other day I was having a conversation with my friend about being busily productive. We both were making strides in our academic and entrepreneurial pursuits AND we were both exhausted! How easy it was for us to describe our lists of daily tasks, to-do-lists, upcoming events to attend, penciled in meetings, appearance-only engagements and our accomplishments of the week. We were painting a total picture of success, right? NOT! How is not taking time for yourself success? We were both missing our personal time, fully overloaded, sleepy and gasping for air!

My mom always told me, "how you care for yourself is how you care for others." *Gasp* Here I am thinking that I'm offering all that I have and being of use. Well, I'm definitely offering all that I have. As far as being of use? Yeah, not so much. So, I took it as my cue to realign myself with the very core of my being and my business, Naturi Beauty, where I offer products and services by promoting radiance from crown to core by encouraging three concepts: nourish, nurture and grow.

For some of us this doesn't always come easy. The reasons—I mean excuses—are innumerable, from not being used to putting ourselves first, to not having enough money to do what we want, to not finding time. Well, I say there is no such thing as not enough! We create time, not find it. Get used to putting yourself first; there is nothing wrong with it. You deserve it! For those that live on the other side of prosperity, never let what funds you think you don't have stop you from having the most precious gifts we could give to ourselves: time and attention.

There are enough "Stop and Smell the Roses" self-care tips. Naturi Beauty takes it a step further and encourages you to "CREATE the Roses!" So with that said, I have taken the dutiful liberty of creating a starter self-care list. You can do it by yourself or with a delightful partner of your choosing. Dig it:

Naturi Beauty's Suggestions to Nourish, Nurture and Grow

1. Celebrate Your Body
Create a spiceful, intimate evening with your partner. Reserve an area in the house and transform it into an art studio. Lay down a protective barrier for the floor (an old sheet or painter's drop cloth will do the trick). Lay down comfortably and allow your partner to decorate your nude temple using sensuous brushstrokes with varying degrees of pressure. Do not direct the experience, allow him/her to be creative and enjoy feeling your body being worshiped. Once the master piece is complete, hand your partner the camera, strike a sexy pose and model away!

2. Indulge in Scrumptious Delights:
Gone are the days where cooking is a chore and a bore! Step into the new millenium and sign up for a Girls Night Out Cooking Class! What more fun can it be than to indulge in some serious grown, sisterly, unadulterated food play for your self! No husband, no children, just your own tastes to fulfill while sipping on a glass of wine. Sounds good to me. Many cooking schools offer Girls Night Out cooking courses; check Viking Cooking School for your local classes and times. (Of course, you also could gather up your girlfriends and your own favorite recipes and take turns teaching each other how to cook them in your own house.) Get dressed, travel to a culinary destination with your girls, cook and indulge in global cuisine with all the prep work done. Enjoy without the guilt, the calorie count and the budget check. Celebrate each other, savor the bite, relish in the feeling of consuming pure deliciousness and swallow heaven. Yummmmmmm!

3. Dance! It's the Feminine Art of Sensuality:
Dance is a healing universal gift and language. It speaks to our souls, our bodies, our minds and our WOMBS! Yes that's right, our wombs. Movement is a feminine art and is sensually expressed in dances such as Belly Dance, Salsa and Soukous. Feeling the sexy sway of our hips, the undulations of our curves and the subtle arches in our back bring about a desirous and powerful feminine force! Put on your waist beads, your "come hither" threads, let your hair down and embrace the part of you that is soft, willing and open. Your mind, body, heart, and womb will thank you. (So will your partner—wink, wink!)

To celebrate the grand opening of Naturi Beauty Concepts, MyBrownBaby is teaming up with Naturi's founder, Shelley Chapman, to give away a jar of her all-natural Naturi Quench, an intense moisturizing cream with Hemp and jojoba oils, aloe and honey—designed to rejuvenate dry hair and restore moisture and sheen. It's great for daily moisture, smoothing edges and styling touch ups, and works wonders for braids, twists and braid-twist outs. Akilah at Execumama speaks highly of the product, and I'm going to buy a coupla jars for Mari and Lila's hair, for sure.

Want a jar of your own? Here are three ways to win:

1. Go over to Naturi Beauty Concepts and become a follower and then leave a comment HERE on MBB telling me you did.

2. Check out the Naturi Beauty Concepts website and leave a comment here telling me something good about what you learned there.

3. Tweet about this giveaway, and leave the link to your tweet in the comments section here on MyBrownBaby.

This contest will run until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, September 17, 2009. The winner will be picked via, and announced on MyBrownBaby on Friday, September 18, 2009. The prize, which retails for $20, will be sent directly from Naturi Beauty Concepts. Good luck!

Photo credit: The beautiful picture illustrating this post is from the luscious site, Gorgeous Black Women

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Girls Are Made of Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails, Too!

My God, I can’t stand bugs—never could. I mean, I grew up in Long Island, in a house with a grand, green, immaculately-maintained backyard, and I think I might have gone out there all of, like, three times. By force. There were spiders and mosquitoes and bees and stuff out there. Denene didn’t play that. So I stayed inside with my dolls and my books and far, far away from the creepy crawlies. Those unfortunate buggers that actually made it to the inside? Well, all it took was a full-on, high-pitched “Daddy!” and my father would regulate. We were a team, Daddy and I. I’d scream. He’d kill for me.

I’m not sure how I made it through my single and independent years without my personal bug slayer. It’s all a frenetic, heart-stopping blur. I do know that my Nick took up the Official Bug Killer mantle when we moved in together. For this, I was grateful. But I made a pinky-swear pact with him that when we became parents, I wouldn’t transfer my fear and disgust of my most despised critters—and there are many!—to our kids, especially if they were girls.

Fast-forward to me frantically sprinting through my house, to a corner far away from something with what’s easily 1,000 legs crawling across my kitchen floor—my baby crawling after me, giggling and wondering just what in the hell is wrong with mommy. Centipede. Tarantula. Snake. Gnat. Didn’t matter. I saw. I screamed. I ran.

Trying not to transfer extreme fear of bugs to girl child = epic fail.


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Friday, September 11, 2009

Papa's Little Girls: Long-distance Loving On Granddad for National Grandparents Day

I told my mom first. I mean, I’d been with Nick for four years and married for two of them, so it wasn’t any secret that we’d “been” with one another, but I just couldn’t fix my mouth to tell my Dad I was pregnant. That’s the burden of Daddy’s Girls; no matter how old you are, no matter what you’ve done, you want to maintain that innocence.

For his sake. For yours.

So I let my mom break the news that Daddy was going to add the word “Grand” to his title. To say he was thrilled would be the understatement of life. I can barely describe the joy my father found in watching my stomach morph and shift. He got a kick out of seeing my unborn baby’s foot tickle and stretch across my belly; he’d let out deep, bellyaching laughs when the baby stuck her little butt out, and especially when she’d poke him in the cheek when he’d hold his face next to my stomach. It was he who totally ganked my ultrasound picture of Mari—he framed it and put it on the shelf in the living room so he could see it everyday. He also confiscated the tape and recorder I used to record my baby’s heartbeat—would just sit and listen to the incredibly fast “thump, thurble” for the longest stretches.

Papa Jimmy loved his Mari long before she made her debut. Lila, too. He’d hold the two of them in the palms of his thick hands and smell their necks and tickle them with his mustache—whisper his sweet “I Love Yous” in their tiny little ears.

And now, he spoils them rotten—much like he did to me when I was a kid. But he doesn’t spoil them with stuff, though. Quite the contrary, Daddy gives my girls the best thing any man could ever give a girl—his time. That precious gift comes on long morning walks to nowhere, the three of them exploring and feeding ducks at the local park. The gifts come, too, on bumpy drives in his pick-up truck to the gas station to play the lottery, and in his much nicer ride when he’s visiting us here in Georgia and taking the girls somewhere special, like our local Carvel. They sit and eat soft serve vanilla and just laugh like they haven’t a care in the world. Oh, how I love to see them laugh!

One of these days, we’re going to be successful in our hard sell to get Papa Jimmy to move to Georgia. We need him closer. The five-hour drive is much too much. We want to walk down the hallway to see him. Yeah. For now, though, an in-person visit every few months and every-other-day phone calls have to do.

We also found a really cool tool on that allows the girls to email personal voicemail messages to Papa, so that even when they’re in school, Papa can hear their voices and get tickled by his granddaughters’ antics. Last night, they recorded a special greeting for him to celebrate National Grandparents Day this coming Sunday. It was super-easy to do; all we had to do was call in to a special number (on the website), giggle, laugh, and say “I Love You” a million times into the phone, and then put his email addy into the website. Then—voila!—the giggle girls are in his email.

Want to hear Mari and Lila’s special message to their papa? Click HERE.

And if you want to let the kids send a special message to their grandparents to celebrate National Grandparents day, or hip your parents to a great resource for grandparents looking for ways to bond and connect with their grandchildren, skip on over to

Happy Grandparents Day!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wish Upon a Star With Disney and Steve Harvey

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you. . . "

That's the message Disney and Steve Harvey are spreading to teens, with the hope that they'll pack their bags—and their dreams—and head to Walk Disney World Resort to participate in the Disney's Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey. The event, created to inspire and enrich high school students, invites 100 kids to participate in workshops with Disney cast members and executives, hear inspirational stories from entertainment celebrities and professional athletes, and enjoy the Disney theme parks – where they can see, first-hand, the results of people who turned their dreams into careers as "Disney dreamers." They'lll learn about careers in everything from culinary arts to animation, set design and show production to the business of sports and more. Indeed, during the 2009 Disney's Dreamers Academy, some of the guest speakers were Chef Jeff Henderson, National Football League Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, pop/R&B recording artists Fantasia and Keyshia Cole, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith and, of course, Steve Harvey.

Nominations for the Class of 2010 are being accepted from now until Oct. 2, 2009; young dreamers—who must be enrolled in high school for the 2009-10 term—can be nominated by anyone, including parents, guardians, teachers, church members, social organizations—even themselves. Although a high GPA is not required, students must exhibit a desire to learn, perhaps needing only additional motivational support to excel.

Take it from Steve: This is a fantastic program meant to inspire young people who normally don't have a chance to be exposed to a variety of job skills and job opportunities and meet with people in the fields they're interested in. "We want to give our young achievers the tools to become overachievers—to make their dreams a reality," he said.

Amen to that, my brother. I can't tell you how inspiring it was for me when I was in the 11th grade to attend and volunteer at a National Association of Black Journalists conference, where black writers and broadcasters from around the country gathered to talk about careers in journalism. I left that conference convinced that I just HAD to be a writer—and it was all because someone took the time to just talk to me about it. That's all it took—exposure.

Won't you help a teenager in your life realize his/her dream? All it takes is for us grown-ups to take the initiative to fill out a form—a simple form. WE can potentially change a kid's life. I have a few kids in mind that I'd like to nominate. If you know someone who would benefit from the Disney's Dreams Academy with Steve Harvey, click HERE to fill out the nomination forms.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take It From Me, Someday This Brown Mom Will Be Free


When I was getting ready to go to college in 1996, that was the big interview question we couldn't wait to be asked from a potential employer. We had whole sessions about the appropriate answers to give, interview gems and catch phrases that would wow the interviewer and land you the job. Yep, that was during the boom years of the Clinton presidency. I fully expected to get a job earning $45-50K, right out of college, with little more than a bachelor's degree, as my predecessors had done. Most likely living it up in some fast paced cosmopolitan metropolis with my equally cosmopolitan friends. I had lofty goals in those days. I'd be a svelte size 10, with a weave down to my butt, driving a red Mercedes Benz convertible. 10 years after graduation I'd be in Ghana as the head of my own media company. I couldn't wait to hit the real world!

Fast forward 10 years later.

I don't even think most corporate human resources reps ask the question, "Where do you see yourself if five years" anymore. Most Fortune 500 companies' balance sheets are riddled with more holes than a pitted pomegranate; many of them don't know if they will be in business next month. The dot com bubble burst, making paupers out of millionaires overnight; Al-Qaeda decimated the stock market when they took down the World Trade Center, and; the freaking Pirates in Somalia and Nigeria finished up the job by affecting the oil supply and jacking up prices. No one saw this coming.

And I certainly didn't foresee myself where I am today, either.

Nearly 10 years after graduation, I am a tired mother of three. I have an afro puff and am a hefty size 18. It has taken me six hours to sit down and write this note, because I can't get a private moment to myself. Even now, someone screams "Mommeeee!!" incessantly in the background. My lofty goals of media domination have been reduced to just being happy if I can crank out one good story for my online newspaper sometime during the week. I pray daily that readers will find it in their hearts to click on a few ads to beef up my Google AdSense and generate some revenue. No one is on my payroll. In fact, I am vulnerable to the whims of the federal government, who at any time can stop my unemployment payments, leaving me gobsmacked and one check away from homelessness.

What is the point of this drivel? It's to ask myself again, where do I see myself in five years. I see nothing but blue skies. I have note one iota of doubt that I'll be one of the happiest frikkin' women on earth.

In five years, my oldest child will be 10, able to do laundry and make a mean pitcher of Kool-Aid. The second born will be eight and able to read a book to herself. Both will be in school all day. The youngest will be beginning kindergarten and I can feign the sort of sadness at his departure that make your kids truly believe that you "wish they could stay at home with you all day, you really do, but the system won't allow them to."

In short, I'll be a free woman. Free to write. Free to think. Free to go number two without someone bursting through the door and standing between my legs while I try to deliver a sinful payload to the porcelain throne below.

Free to dream again.

Ms. Celie couldn't have said it better: I may be black, skinny (hopefully), and ugly (most likely), but dear God, I'll be here... and FREE!

About our contributor:
Malaka Grant is a “hybrid Ghanaian” who lives in Roswell, GA, with her husband, Marshall, and their three kids—the very dramatic and inquisitive Nadjah, 4, the rambunctious Aya, 3, and the "too-sleepy-to-tell-what-disposition-he-may-have-yet" Stone, 3 months. Having been laid off five times since graduating in 2000, Malaka has given up the pursuit of a stable corporate gig to be a devoted full-time mother. In lieu of drinking, she uses her spare time to write for, Africa’s version of The Onion, and co-authors an African sexuality blog with best friend Nana Sekyiamah. On weekends she works at DSW to fund a compulsive and insatiable shoe addiction.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MyBrownBaby Won TWO Black Weblog Awards!

Aw, sookie, sookie, now—Miss D and MyBrownBaby are TOO excited about the wonderful news: Over the long weekend, MyBrownBaby won 2009 Black Weblog Awards in two categories—Best Parenting and Family Blog, and Best Blog Design! I know I couldn't have done this without you, my fantastic followers and subscribers, who helped log enough votes to help MyBrownBaby win over some stiff competition.

I'm absolutely thrilled by the news, and so glad to be counted as a winner among some fantastic websites and blogs, including some of my daily must-reads: spelhouseLOVE, which won the judges' vote for best parenting and family blog, The Black Snob, Very Smart Brothas, Naked With Socks On, and Fresh Xpress.

*Insert picture of Denene doing The Running Man here.*

(Wait, I was never good at The Running Man. Like, ever. I was killer at The Wop, though. Could put a back out in a battle. Yeah, let's go with that.)

*Insert picture of Denene doing The Wop. And a soul clap. To Eric B and Rakim's "Eric B Is President.*

Oh yeah.

Click HERE to see the full list of 2009 Black Weblog Award Winners.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

For My (Pro Union) Mom and Dad On Labor Day

For working hard

And toiling long hours

In hot factories

On sore feet

With tired hands

But peaceful hearts

For not enough pay

And a whole lot of sacrificing

So that Troy and I could have what we needed

And even a little of what we wanted

I thank you

And love you madly.

Happy Labor Day.

(Rest easy, Mommy)

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Check Out MyBrownBaby's New Blog At's The Parenting Post!

My smokin' hot job as a columnist and Mom Squad panelist for Parenting magazine just got hotter! As of today, I'm the newest blogger of's The Parenting Post. I join four other moms—Rocks in My Dryer, Mommy Needs Coffee, Daring Young Mom, and Mighty Maggie—in the Parenting blogger line-up; I'll be contributing the Friday posts there, blogging about the subject I absolutely adore the most: my beautiful, scary smart, wacky, goofy, lovely kids. Here, a sneak peek of my first Parenting Post column, which will be up later this morning:

I’m the Smart One, No Matter What My 10-Year-old Thinks

I am not an idiot.
I mean, I may have some bouts of momnesia every now and then, and my math skills may be a little questionable sometimes, and, admittedly, my geography kinda sucks… but still, with almost 41 years under my belt, a bachelor’s degree, and a thriving writing career, I assure you, I’m no dummy.

Now can someone please tell this to my 10-year-old? Because my Mari’s under the impression that she’s actually smarter than me.

Oh, she hasn’t come right out and said it, but it’s crystal the moment she pulls her homework out of her knapsack. Witness yesterday’s “My Mom Is Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” homework exchange...

To see the rest of my new blog column at The Parenting Post, click HERE. If you feel so moved, please leave a comment to let know that MyBrownBaby's girls are in the house!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Get In2Books To Help Kids Fall In Love With Reading

When I was little, new books weren’t easy to come by: My teachers never seemed to have time to take the class to the library, my parents worked, so rides to the public library were few and far between, and though they recognized the importance of books, my mom and dad didn’t really have a lot of cash to spend on them. Needless to say, my love affair with stories would come in fits and starts—a Judy Blume book here, a Beverly Cleary book there, a few Nancy Drew mysteries cobbled from friends. When there was nothing new—which was often—I’d reread old favorites; I wore out “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden,” both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. They made me laugh. They made me dream. They comforted me.

They were my friends.

These days, I collect children’s books—mostly titles for, about, and by African Americans—and I’m constantly trolling stores for great books for my girls, particularly Mari, who is as voracious a reader as I was at her age. I don’t care how much the book is or how little I have in my pocket, books are going to get bought. I recognize this is a blessing. There are way too many children who, for many reasons, don’t have access to quality books, and so they never get the chance to appreciate the beauty of stories well told—to find laughter and dreams and best friends in the pages of a good book.

But a program my friend Gretchen hipped me to aims to change that. The program, In2Books, is a non-profit organization created in 1997 to help get kids in low-income, culturally diverse neighborhoods reading, discussing and writing about great children’s literature. The way In2Books works: The program connects students with carefully screened adult pen pals, and then the two read five books and exchange online letters about the books they’ve read. Teachers then reinforce and extend the learning with in-class book discussions and related literacy teachings.

On the In2Books website, notes from teachers who participated in the program testify to the beauty of the organization—especially how it touches the children’s learning lives. Witness:

“The most amazing thing was how everyone supported my students and helped them to grow not only academically and personally. So many of my students did not want to say goodbye and wanted to write all summer long.” — Gwen Kitzan

“I had one little boy that couldn't believe that he actually got to keep the first book. He kept trying to return the book to me. I kept telling him over and over again that the book was his to keep! His comment was, ‘You mean I get to keep it forever?’” — Sherry McMahan

“Many times your letters caused them to revisit their books and think about them in ways they had not thought of before. Most of all, students enjoyed reading about your lives and connecting with a positive adult. Thank you!”— John Bingea.

I can’t think of a better way to touch a child’s life through the power of words. Gretchen is participating for the second year in a row, and I’m signing up to be a penpal—it’s free, save for a $6 donation you make to help cover the background check In2Books will conduct to make sure you’re an adult who doesn’t hurt kids. A small price to pay for helping a child to a lifelong love of reading.

Won’t you be a part of this wonderful program? To learn more about In2Books or become a penpal to a young reader, click HERE.

Thanks, Gretchen, for telling me about the program and encouraging me to share it with MyBrownBaby readers!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordful Wednesday: Our Friday Night Lights

Around these parts, football and Fridays go together like hot BBQ and cold beer at a tailgate party. And after three years of watching my stepson, Mazi, play for his high school team (and a pretty intense Football 101 For Moms session with his coach), I'm finally starting to actually understand the game—and like it. Which is big. Because I much prefer the TV show Friday Night Lights to actually sitting under real ones. It's amazing what you'll start liking when your kid is involved! (The funnel cake at the concession stand certainly helps!) Here, my favorite shots from Mazi's season opener. Go South!

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